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

June 17th, 2019 / 9:50 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the House:

agrees with amendments 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12(b), 13 and 14 made by the Senate;

proposes that amendment 3 be amended to read as follows:

“3. Clause 239, pages 90 and 91:

(a) on page 90, replace lines 2 and 3 with the following:

“dictable offence that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, other than an offence listed in section 469, the justice”;

(b) on page 90, replace lines 18 and 19 with the following:

able by 14 years or more of imprisonment, an offence listed in section 469 that is not punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment or an”;

(c) on page 90, replace line 44 with the following:

“section 469 that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment,”;

(d) on page 91, replace lines 20 and 21 with the following:

“offence listed in section 469 that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, the justice shall endorse on the informa-”;

proposes that amendment 4 be amended to read as follows:

“4. Clause 240, pages 92 and 93:

(a) on page 92, replace line 11 with the following:

“14 years or more of imprisonment, other than an offence mentioned”;

(b) on page 92, replace lines 25 to 27 with the following:

“offence that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, an offence listed in section 469 that is not punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment or an offence mentioned in section”;

(c) on page 92, replace line 41 with the following:

“section 469 that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment,”;

(d) on page 93, replace line 20 with the following:

“is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, the justice or”;

proposes that, as a consequence of Senate amendments 3 and 4, the following amendment be added:

1. Clause 238, page 89: replace line 33 with the following

“fence that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment is be-”;

proposes that amendment 6 be amended by replacing the words “an intimate partner – and, in particular, a partner” with the words “a person” and by replacing the words “on the basis of sex or is an Aboriginal person” with the words “because of personal circumstances – including because the person is Aboriginal and female”;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 10 made by the Senate because the Bill already provides flexibility to the provinces and territories with respect to agent representation while also recognizing regional diversity in respect of how legal representation is regulated across Canada, and because the amendment could have unintended repercussions for the provinces and territories; and, the Government continues to work with the provinces and territories to support the effective implementation of these reforms.

proposes that amendment 12(a) in the English version be amended by replacing the words “apply in Bill C-45” with the words “apply if Bill C-45”.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here today to speak to the amendments made by the other chamber 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.

After being examined and given thoughtful deliberation in the Senate, the bill has returned to the House of Commons so that we can review the 14 amendments that have been made.

I would first like to thank all members and senators, particularly the members of the committees of both chambers, for their work to reduce the delays in the criminal justice system.

In particular, I would like to thank the chair of the justice committee, as well as the member for West Nova, both of whom gave me critical advice at appropriate moments.

I would also like to thank all of the witnesses who took the time to submit briefs and to appear before the committee, since they expressed very useful views about their experience with the criminal justice system, whether from the perspective of a professional, an accused, a victim or a family member.

Many of these witnesses echoed the concerns expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2016 Jordan decision.

We all know that delays in the criminal justice system are destructive, and particularly so to some of the most vulnerable members of our society: victims of crime and their loved ones. Delays also impact accused from groups that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Of course, the cost of inefficiencies is also borne by taxpayers.

I learned this lesson very early when I was fortunate enough to be a clerk to Justice Peter Cory of the Supreme Court of Canada. At that time, the Askov decision was heard, which was the predecessor to Jordan.

Bill C-75 presents an important opportunity to take concrete action to reduce these delays and respond directly to my mandate. It is the product of significant consultation over many years, and it would modernize the criminal justice system in ways that provinces and territories, which are responsible for the administration of the system, have agreed would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this system.

All of the proposed amendments have been crafted with a view to the impact they would have on the incarceration rates of indigenous persons and persons who are vulnerable to being overrepresented in the criminal justice system in Canada. Bill C-75 seeks equally to improve the safety of our communities by implementing our government's commitments to toughen criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of intimate partner violence, or IPV, with the goal of keeping women and children safe.

As members will no doubt recall from when the bill passed through this place the first time, it is bold and transformative and contains many much-needed improvements to the criminal justice system. Today I will provide a general overview of the key areas of criminal law reform contained in Bill C-75, as well as some details on the amendments proposed by the other place.

First, I want to talk about the modernization and simplification of the bail provisions.

All stakeholders support the bill's proposal to modernize and simplify the interim release provisions. Everyone agrees that these reforms need to be made right away. This critical modernization of the interim release provisions will be the most comprehensive reform in 45 years. It will strengthen the key principles of interim release, which the Supreme Court of Canada has outlined many times, particularly just recently in 2017 in R. v. Antic.

Moreover, these changes are needed to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people and individuals from vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system. I look forward to the addition to the Criminal Code of the proposed requirement that particular attention be given to the circumstances of aboriginal accused in interim release decisions.

The other place proposed a slight change to the interim release provisions in the bill in response to the March 2019 Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Myers. The Court stated that the detention review under section 525 of the Criminal Code must be an automatic procedure whether the delay was unreasonable or not. This ruling raised some concerns in Quebec over the court of competent jurisdiction to hear these cases, given the unique way the term “judge” is defined for Quebec for the purposes of these interim release hearings.

Amendment 2 would uphold the current definition of this term for Quebec, but will add that only a judge from the Court of Québec may conduct a detention review, except in the case of a decision on the detention issued by the Superior Court of Quebec.

I urge all hon. members to support amendment 2 from the other place since it gives Quebec greater discretion to guarantee more effective use of judicial resources.

The bill amendments are also instrumental in increasing the safety of all women and girls, including indigenous women and girls. Specifically, they would require a justice to consider whether an accused would be charged with an offence involving IPV against an intimate partner when determining whether to release or detain the accused.

The amendments would also require courts to consider the criminal record of the accused, including prior convictions and the context of the offence. In cases where an accused who had a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner is facing new charges for IPV, a reverse onus would be imposed on the accused at bail, meaning that the burden would shift to the accused to justify why the accused should not be detained pending trial.

Bill C-75 proposes other amendments in relation to ensuring that convictions for violence against intimate partners are taken seriously at the sentencing stage.

As passed by this place, Bill C-75 would modernize the current aggravating sentencing factor in the Criminal Code to ensure it would concur with our current understanding of IPV and would specify that it would apply to both current and former intimate partners, as well as the more modern conception of intimate partnerships, including dating partnerships. It would also allow for the possibility of seeking a higher maximum penalty in cases involving a repeat IPV offender.

Informed by the testimony of the commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the other place's amendments 6 and 7 would strengthen these amendments to ensure that violence against indigenous women and girls would be treated all the more seriously at sentencing. The other place's amendment 6 would create a new sentencing objective in the Criminal Code that would direct a court to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence for an IPV offence, in particular where the victim is vulnerable on the basis of sex or is an indigenous person.

The other place's amendment 7 would expand Bill C-75's aggravating factor to include IPV committed against a member of the offender's or the victim's family and would create a new sentencing principle that would require a court imposing a sentence for an IPV offence to consider the increased vulnerability of female victims, giving particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal female victims.

I support these amendments, with a minor modification to the other place's amendment 6 to remove the concept of IPV and replace the reference to a person's sex with reference to personal circumstances and to specifically refer to aboriginal women. This would assist in ensuring judges take into account the increased vulnerability of indigenous women as victims for all offences.

It is also timely in that it would address some of the recommendations in the recently released missing and murdered indigenous women and girls report, recommendations 5.17 and 5.18. Moreover, these amendments would address some of the concerns noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its recent Barton decision, where the court noted that indigenous women faced injustices in all areas of the criminal justice system as well as extremely high rates of violence.

I acknowledge that some may question these two amendments, given that the House did not support Bill S-215 at second reading. Bill S-215's proposed aggravating factors would have applied to only a few offences. This other place's amendment also differs from Bill S-215 in that it would apply to a broader group of victims. It would directly call on the court to consider the vulnerability of female victims, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal female victims. In contrast, Bill S-215 was limited to the fact that the victim was a female person who was Indian, Inuit or Métis.

The second element is enhancing the existing approach to administration of justice offences, including for offences committed by youth. The judicial referral hearing procedure proposed in Bill C-75 is another positive reform aimed at diverting less serious, non-violent cases from the courts so that they may be dealt with more efficiently. This approach will also help reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people and other marginalized groups in the criminal justice system, who are overrepresented among those accused of administration of justice offences.

This area of reform was recommended in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs' final report entitled “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada”, given the significant number of cases involving administration of justice offences in the system and the pressure they cause. It is harder for the accused to break the cycle of crime because of these offences.

The bill gives police officers and prosecutors a new tool that allows them to ask judges to review all bail conditions that apply to the accused. This allows for an assessment of the reasonableness of the conditions and helps promote a culture change encouraging criminal justice professionals to play an active role in reversing the upward trend in the number of charges related to administration of justice offences, when other kinds of offences are declining.

The third point is on restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to the most serious offences. As introduced, Bill C-75 proposed to restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to indictable offences punishable by life imprisonment, roughly 70 offences. The other place agreed that these offences should automatically include a preliminary inquiry.

However, it also expanded their availability on a discretionary basis to all other indictable offences with a maximum penalty of less than life imprisonment, which would have been an additional 393 offences. As per the other place's amendment, preliminary inquiries would be available in two circumstances: first, where one or both parties requested one; and, second, a justice was satisfied that certain criteria were met, namely that appropriate measures were taken to mitigate the impacts on victims for both approaches and, where it was on the request of one party, that it was also in the best interest of the administration of justice.

The amendment responded to concerns that preliminary inquiries were not available for more and serious offences. However, the expansion of their availability, combined with the new complex criteria, would lead, in our view, to further delays and unnecessary litigation; for example, to interpret the proper application of the criteria.

Recognizing, however, that the other place's amendment was motivated by continuing concerns by the legal community and others, I proposed to not accept the other place's amendments 3 and 4 as drafted, but to revise the bill's original approach to make preliminary inquiries also available for offences with a maximum penalty of 14 years, for example, sexual assault with a weapon.

Although this would expand the availability of preliminary inquiries for 86 more offences, the proposal is consistent with the 2017 FPT ministers of justice's consensus to restrict them to offences carrying the most serious terms of imprisonment. A 14-year threshold will still provide certainty and will avoid the delays inherent in the other place's amendment.

I hope you will all will join me in supporting this amendment, as it strikes an important balance in what is a long-standing, contentious debate regarding preliminary inquiries.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 10:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that everyone in this House will join me.

The fourth element is on reclassification of offences. Reclassification of offences is another key element of Bill C-75 that will modernize and streamline the Criminal Code and promote a more efficient and economical use of judicial resources.

Hybridizing offences that are punishable by a maximum penalty of two, five and 10 years' imprisonment gives the provinces and territories greater flexibility to match their resources to the cases based on the offender's circumstances and the gravity of the case.

However, this reclassification would not change the fundamental sentencing principles. The classification reforms do not reduce penalties. Serious offences will continue to be treated seriously by the courts.

The other place's amendments 1, 10, 11, 13 and 14 are about the reclassification of offences and touch on areas for which witnesses expressed concerns about amendments potentially having unintended consequences.

Amendment 1 would allow a court to order DNA sampling for offences punishable by five and 10 years' imprisonment. Bill C-75 would hybridize those offences, and DNA orders are already issued for them. This amendment is consistent with the objectives of the bill, and I urge the House to join me in supporting it.

I would also urge the House to join me in supporting amendment 11, which would amend the Identification of Criminals Act to state that a person accused of a hybrid offence can be fingerprinted even if the prosecutor opts to proceed by way of summary conviction.

Amendments 13 and 14 are consequential amendments relating to the coming-into-force date of the specified provision if amendment 12 is agreed to.

The other place's amendment 10 attempts to respond to concerns that a number of stakeholders made regarding the unintended impact of Bill C-75's proposed amendments to increase the maximum penalty for most Criminal Code offences with a summary conviction penalty to two years less a day.

Currently section 802.1 makes clear that agents, including law students, articling students, paralegals and others, cannot appear in summary conviction proceedings where the maximum term of imprisonment is greater than six months, unless the agent is authorized under a program approved by the lieutenant governor in council of the province or the accused is an organization.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended section 802.1 to allow provinces and territories to establish criteria in addition to their existing authority to approve programs, authorizing agents to appear in summary conviction proceedings where the maximum penalty was more than six months and to allow agents to attend court in place of the accused to seek an adjournment of the proceeding on all summary conviction matters without prior authorization.

These amendments maintain jurisdictional flexibility in this area of criminal procedure while also recognizing regional diversity and how legal representation is regulated across Canada.

The proposed other place's amendment would add a provision that would also allow agents to appear where they are authorized to do so under the law of a province. We are concerned that there might be unintended results to this amendment. As I stated earlier, this bill is the product of considerable consultation with provinces and territories and there has not been sufficient time to analyze and ascertain what the effect of this amendment would be under existing provincial and territorial laws.

Moreover, provinces and territories already have flexibility to quickly address any consequences of the reclassification scheme on agents through the amendments made to the bill in this place last December. Using the proposed new power to do this through criteria or a program established by the lieutenant governor in council is a much faster process than legislative reform.

For these reasons, we do not support the other place's amendment 10.

The fifth element is about strengthening case management. Bill C-75 will strengthen Criminal Code provisions to improve case management.

The sixth element is about improving the jury selection process. Bill C-75 will also improve the jury selection process by eliminating the potentially discriminatory use of peremptory challenges, making the selection process more transparent, promoting fairness and impartiality and making jury trials more efficient in general.

The seventh key area was implementing other additional efficiencies. One of the most widely supported aspects of the bill is the promotion of additional efficiencies, including through the use of technology where available to facilitate remote appearances.

Bill C-75 also includes reforms proposed in three bills that were previously introduced as separate bills: Bill C-28, victim surcharge; Bill C-38, exploitation and trafficking in persons, and Bill C-39, repeal of provisions ruled unconstitutional.

The other place's amendments 5, 8 and 9 respond to the December 14, 2018, decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Boudreault, which struck down the provisions in the Criminal Code related to the federal victim surcharge, used by provinces and territories to partially fund their victim services.

The other place's amendments re-enact a new victim surcharge regime that requires the imposition of a surcharge in all cases, but provides greater judicial discretion to depart from imposing the surcharge in appropriate cases, in order to address the concerns of the Supreme Court decision.

I believe the victim surcharge amendments will restore the necessary judicial discretion to ensure that the sentence imposed in each case is fit and proportionate. I urge this House to join me in supporting these amendments. These are changes that I know my provincial and territorial colleagues are awaiting.

In conclusion, as we can see, this bill contains a number of crucial measures to reduce delays in the criminal justice system. These measures will help modernize and simplify the system, while at the same time providing additional safeguards for vulnerable victims and restoring the ability to collect the federal victim surcharge.

Last, but not least, these amendments represent an important step towards reversing the historically disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples.

We must work together to ensure that this bill is passed before we adjourn for the summer.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 10:20 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister on his speech. I agree, on behalf of the NDP, with the thrust of his remarks with respect to the Senate amendments made to Bill C-75, certainly with respect to intimate partner violence and the bail reform provisions and, in particular, the section 802.1 where law students and agents will again be able to represent people fully in summary conviction matters. I think these are all really important matters and I agree with him.

However, surely, if the issue is about the Askov and Jordan delay principles, the elephant in the room would be the fact that the government has failed to follow up on the Prime Minister's commitment to address to the minister, in the mandate letter, the minimum mandatory sentences provisions. I agree with him that we have a crisis in the over-incarceration of indigenous people, eight times as many indigenous men per capita, 12 times as many women.

Jonathan Rudin and others who work with Aboriginal Legal Services, say that there has to be a change in the mandatory minimum provisions if we are going to change that. Why does the government not get that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 10:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak. This could quite possibly be the last speech I make in the 42nd Parliament. I certainly have a number of things to say about Bill C-75.

Bill C-75 amends criminal law. It is a justice bill. When we look at bills that fall into this area, it is important to remember what we are trying to achieve with bills in the criminal justice system. The first thing we are trying to do is define for Canadians what unacceptable behaviour is. Once we have set that standard, then we are trying to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing that crime. In Canadian federal prisons, we do not do a lot of rehabilitation, so really the main part of the criminal justice system is to assign a penalty that both is commensurate with the crime that was committed and also is a deterrent to keep people from committing that crime, and then to prosecute that charge in court with a fair and due process.

I would like to look at Bill C-75 and compare it to those criteria to see how it measures up.

First, I will talk about defining unacceptable behaviour. I am not sure that the Liberals understand what unacceptable behaviour is. I say that because we are talking about a Prime Minister who is the first prime minister to break a law, which he did when he took a private helicopter to billionaire island. The member for Brampton East was involved in allegations of money laundering. We are currently seeing the member for Steveston—Richmond East in several instances of money laundering, as well as being disbarred. There have been multiple ethical lapses and cases of sexual harassment that caused some members to be out of the caucus, but I would argue there are still some members within the caucus. There is a tolerance for things that, in the minds of Canadians, shows that maybe there is not a good moral compass in the Liberal Party to define what unacceptable behaviour is.

With respect to assigning penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime, one of the most egregious things about the changes in Bill C-75 is that the Liberals have taken a number of crimes that Canadians would consider to be very heinous and reduced them to a summary conviction of two years or a fine. It is important to look at the list of the kinds of crimes we are talking about, so that people can convince themselves whether this is appropriate.

The most heinous crime on the list has to be the forcible confinement of a minor. In the minds of all Canadians, we value our children and we want to protect our children. If somebody kidnapped and forcibly confined a child, I do not think most Canadians would think it is okay to get off with a fine for doing that. That is unacceptable.

Also on the list is forced marriage and forced marriage of children. I am not sure this should be allowed at all in Canada, but I know one thing. If we are talking about forced marriage and marriage for people who are under 16, that is rape. It is clear that it is rape. Therefore, to put that as a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine is unacceptable. We can see in this country that rape is on the increase. One in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. Therefore, it is clear that we do not have the right deterrent to reduce the crime that is happening.

I was the chair of the status of women committee when we studied violence against women and girls in Canada. We had testimony from quite a number of countries, and I was interested to look around and see which countries were doing a better job in the area of rape. There are countries that do not have a big issue with rape. I asked the witnesses why that was, and they said the penalty for the crime was 10 to 15 years in prison, so they have a deterrent for people not to commit that crime. There is also an awareness of the fact that it is illegal. We have a lot of people coming to Canada from places that have a different culture in many cases and have a different tolerance for things like rape. It is important that we educate people who come to this country about those issues. We should be setting punishment for this crime that is commensurate with it, and a fine is not acceptable.

Assault with a weapon is on the list. We sadly saw what happened today at the Raptors parade with people getting shot. This seems to be an event that is on the rise. I think about the Danforth shooting. I think about a number of shootings that have happened. Assault with a weapon should not be less than two years in prison or a fine. That is not acceptable. That is not a deterrent, and I think most Canadians would agree with that.

Originally, there were a number of items on the list that had to do with participating in terrorism activities, or leaving Canada to participate in the activities of terrorist groups. There was some walk-back within Bill C-75 on that issue, but we are still not in the place we need to be on that.

Canadians are concerned about terrorism. A number of events happen but we do not receive any information. I am thinking about the two fellows in Ontario who were caught with explosives and the FBI was investigating. Everyone says there is nothing to see here; all is fine. There is the Danforth shooting, the guy who drove a van and killed multiple people in Toronto. There is the return of ISIS fighters and people not knowing what is happening with them. Are they walking around? How do we know that the public is safe? There is a concern among Canadians that we should take a hard line on terrorism. I am glad to see some walk-back on that, but I want to keep an eye on it.

Another thing on the list is municipal corruption. Corruption in government of any kind is not something that should ever be reduced to a fine. We have seen lots of corruption in the existing Liberal government, lots of scandal. The fact that the Liberals have reduced the severity of the crimes on this list is indicative of the lack of moral compass on the other side.

Maybe “assisting prisoner of war to escape” is not a current issue, but how about “obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman”? This one is particularly egregious to me. I remember when Bill C-51 came from the Liberal government and tried to take what is today considered a crime, to attack or threaten a clergyperson, and remove that altogether. I remember the concern from churches in Sarnia—Lambton and across the country. They wondered why the Liberals wanted to take a protection away from the clergy, especially when cases of that nature had been prosecuted.

As a result of the public outcry and a swing in the polls, the Liberals backed off that, but here it is, showing up again, and this should be a flag to people who are watching tonight. What we see with the Liberals again and again is that they try something and when there is a public outcry, they back off, but as soon as they get another chance to sneak it in, it comes back.

A number of things have been like that. I am thinking of the tax that the Liberals were going to put on dental and health care. They backed off, but I bet it will reappear. It is the same thing with the small business tax on passive assets. As soon as there was an outcry, the Liberals backed off, but this is something to watch for if they get another chance.

Impaired driving causing bodily harm is on the list. This is quite concerning as well. We can think about the amount of work that organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done to raise awareness, to try to get stiffer penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm. We can think of the tragedy of many parents who have lost children or loved ones who have been killed by somebody driving impaired. To reduce this to a conviction of less than two years or a fine is totally unacceptable, especially from a government that legalized marijuana, knowing that Colorado and Washington saw a doubling of traffic deaths due to impaired driving. This is a step in the wrong direction and should be reconsidered.

There is another one in the bill that talks about polygamy, and I am not sure why this one made the list. Polygamy has been illegal in Canada for quite some time and culturally, we would like to preserve that. I am not sure why we would want to lessen the severity of the crime for that.

There is arson for fraudulent purposes. These acts are clearly serious crimes. If I go back to the original premise that says the reason we have a criminal justice system is to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing a crime, I think we could admit that diluting the penalty in the way Bill C-75 does is not going to help us move forward or deter crime in this country.

I want to read quotes of what people have said about Bill C-75. Ms. Markita Kaulius, the president of Families for Justice, said, “Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims and for public safety.” Stephanie DiGiuseppe, a litigation lawyer in Toronto specializing in criminal and constitutional law, said, “Bill C-75 is a massive step backwards for justice reform in Canada.” Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, said, “the signal that [Bill C-75 is] sending is that these offences are no longer as serious as they were before.” It has been recognized across the country that this bill is not going to be good for the criminal justice system and it is not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish.

If I were a criminal in Canada, I would be saying it is a great time to be a criminal with the Liberal government in place because it always protects the rights of criminals instead of the rights of victims. There is a move to decrease punishments. We talk about some of the things that Bill C-75 was hoping to accomplish. One was that the court system is overloaded right now. One way of offloading the courts is to get rid of all the people in line by fining them instead of making them go through the court process. One way to prevent the courts from being clogged up is to hire enough judges to adjudicate the cases.

In the four years the Liberal government has been in place, the court is missing about 60 judges, at last count. That never happened under the previous Conservative government. There was always an adequate number of judges to process the cases in the courts. Therefore, reducing sentences and letting everybody off the hook is not the answer. We do not say that since there are too many people in line, we should allow the murderers and rapists go free, but that is essentially what is happening now because there are cases are waiting too long. According to Jordan's principle, after two years, those cases are thrown out of court. During the reign of the Liberals, murderers and rapists have gone free in Canada. Clearly, understaffing the judiciary is part of the problem and part of the solution is replacing them.

When it comes to enforcing punishments, there has been a bit of a lackadaisical attitude. I remember when we first heard that Terri-Lynne McClintic had been sent to a healing lodge that had no security. She had been convicted of brutally murdering a child and was supposed to be imprisoned with a lot of security until 2030. When we raised the issue, those on the other side did not understand why we were raising it because they thought it was no big deal. It took a public outcry for the government to recognize that this was a big mistake and people who commit serious crimes, like murdering a child, need to be behind bars. The punishment needs to fit the crime. Again, there is lack of a moral compass on the other side.

However, there are lots of protections for people in prison. Mental health supports were announced in the budget for folks in prison. I am not saying that criminals do not deserve mental health supports. I am just saying that since mental health supports are very much lacking for the rest of Canadians, why are we putting prisoners first? There is a program to provide free needles and we are moving to providing free illegal drugs to prisoners. I am not sure why the government is in the business of doling out illegal drugs; we do not provide free syringes and drugs to people with diabetes or everyone who has cancer.

I would certainly argue that when it comes to priorities, the government appears to be putting a priority on criminals, instead of victims and the rest of Canadians. I do not think that is the right priority, and the government should re-evaluate it.

The current Minister of Justice talked about the Senate amendments and the ones that should be included. He talked about the victim surcharge in one of the amendments. The victims surcharge was put in place because victims services were expensive. This was a way of recouping some of the costs, people who had done the harm had to do some remediation of the harm.

I am not sure, then, why the government would remove the requirement to have this victims service charge and to leave it to the discretion of judges. First, they have to remember that they can apply a victims surcharge. Then we leave it to their discretion as to whether they will apply it.

My experience has always been that when it is left to the discretion of judges, we see sentences becoming smaller and smaller over time. It is heartbreaking to me. I think about some of the stories I have heard of rape and been involved with them. In Sarnia—Lambton, for example, there was a case recently, where a 13-year-old girl was gang raped by two men who received prison sentences of months. We absolutely cannot have this kind of thing.

I think of Rehtaeh Parsons who was raped by multiple people. As a result of the ensuing shame that was put on her for over a year and a half, she took her life. It was a wrist slap for the people who were involved in that crime.

We do not have the right balance, and Bill C-75 does nothing to address it.

I want to talk about the previous Conservative government and its record on crime. The Conservatives are known, in general, to uphold criminal justice, to take the rights of the victim, rather than the rights of the criminal, and to try to impose stiff penalties for violent and heinous crimes. People will have a choice in the fall election. They will have a choice to move away from protecting the criminals' rights and move into the space of protecting the victims' rights. That will be important.

One of the interesting parts of the Senate amendments was the Senate trying to add different offences. The Senate decided it would add neglect or interference with a dead body to the list of things we might want to give a fine for or a summary conviction. The Senate wanted to make infanticide, killing a baby, a less than two years sentence or a fine. I do not think that is where Canadians are.

Setting traps, obtaining credit from false pretense, stock manipulation, gaming, fraud, falsification of documents, dealing in counterfeit money, on all of these things, the everyday Canadian would say they are crimes and people should go to prison when they do these things. They should not be given a fine or a summary conviction. I do not think it is right.

The government promised to uphold the rights of Canadians and to protect them. This is another example of where the government has not kept its promise to Canadians. It promised a lot of things. The Liberals promised small deficits. They promised to balance the budget by 2019, and here we are in 2019. They promised open and transparent government, but we have seen gag orders and cover-ups. The privacy legislation, which we just talked about, clearly is not hitting the mark.

We were told 2015 would be the last election under first past the post, another broken promise. We were told there would be no omnibus bills, another broken promise. We were told they would restore home mail delivery. The Liberals have broken 75% of their promises. When people are listening to what Liberals are promising this year, they should keep that in mind, that three-quarters of what is going to be said is never going to happen. We have seen that with the pharmacare promise. The Liberals promised that in 1997, 2004 election and again in the last election.

Then there is the wrong approach to guns. Assault with a weapon has been added to the list in Bill C-75 that will get a slap on the wrist. However, we see an increasing number of crimes involving guns. In fact, 95% of the gun crime in Canada is caused by illegal guns or guns used illegally. The government has not come up with a plan to address that. Our leader has come with a comprehensive plan that will address the real problem, which is guns used illegally by gangs, and bring the right penalties to deter bad behaviour. However, the Liberals are not on that page. They are as always taking the side of the criminals on these things, and we see a further move to decriminalize other behaviours.

I know there is a real push on for the Liberals to decriminalize all drugs. We just did a study at the health committee on the meth problem. We visited across the country. When we went to Winnipeg, we saw the problem with methamphetamine addiction. The response of the Liberals was to decriminalize it and give people free methamphetamine. Police officers are saying that these people are committing a lot of crimes, they are breaking into people's houses and there are all kinds of violent acts going on. Therefore, we have to be doing something that balances the protection of Canadians with the care that we have for folks who are addicted. However, that has not been addressed.

On Bill C-75, I received numerous petitions. I know people across the country are paying attention to this. I received a lot of information from the member for Niagara Falls, who was a former justice minister, as well as the member for Milton, who is very educated in these areas.

I heard the current Minister of Justice talk about indigenous people being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and that is true. We need to get to the root cause of that, but I do not think reducing penalties for serious crime is the way to go about it.

I looked at some of the points that were made on reducing intimate partner violence. It is a great thing to reduce intimate partner violence, but forced marriage is intimate partner violence, especially when it is a child. There is a bit of hypocrisy in the way the bill was brought forward.

I did not hear a lot of conversation from the Minister of Justice on the modernization and simplification of the bail system and I would like to hear more. There is definitely room for improvement, but, again, modernization and simplification cannot mean abdication of responsibility in the criminal justice system.

On allowing a preliminary inquiry, which originally was allowed for serious crimes that carried life imprisonment, and I believe 70 infractions would meet that criteria, the bill would open that up to another 393 that could have access to a preliminary inquiry if one party or the other demanded it. Again, this will take more court resources. If the whole purpose of Bill C-75 is to try to help offload the courts and if the Liberals would let some more serious crimes go with a less than two-year conviction or a fine but then load up the court system again with a bunch of preliminary inquiries for a greater realm of offences, I am not sure that would achieve what they want to achieve.

Overall, when I look back to what we want to do in the criminal justice system, we want to define unacceptable behaviour, and certainly there is a good list, but we also want to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime. The Liberals missed the mark on that with Bill C-75.

We want to prosecute in court with a fair and due process. I do not think Bill C-75 would do that. I do not think it is fair to the victims to have these very serious crimes punished with a slap on the wrist, which is essentially what a fine or a less than two year summary conviction is. I do not think we will increase the cycle time through the courts, because, again, judges are still missing, which is a key part of it. Now the bill would increase the number of preliminary inquiries. Therefore, I do not believe Bill C-75 will hit the target.

The bill should not go forward. I know the government is rushing it through in the dying days of of the 42nd Parliament, but I will not support Bill C-75 and I know my constituents and those across the country will not support the bill or the government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 10:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was quite a bit to that question.

With respect to it being a great time to be a criminal under the Liberals, I am sure many people have seen on Facebook the comparison that says would it not be great if we put seniors in prison because then they would receive the medical care, the food, the shelter and the attention they need. In some cases, we are treating criminals better than we are treating seniors.

This move to focus on less punishment for the criminals and to ignore the victims rights or to take away the funding for victims services is a disservice.

With respect to equality under the law, I absolutely believe in equality under the law and we need to do what we can, but we need to address the root causes of why we have overrepresentation from some groups in prison.

On intimate partner violence, although I want to see intimate partner violence reduced, we see this increasing. Many people coming into the country are coming from places where intimate partner violence is very common and considered part of everyday life. We need to educate those people so we can prevent this from happening. However, we need to recognize that in Bill C-75 there is a total discrepancy between working on intimate partner violence, but allowing forced marriage, especially forced marriage of children.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find that the Liberals are always consulting but never listening, where the Conservatives are consulting and listening to what people are saying. As I posted the information on Bill C-75, I saw huge activity on social media. There were a huge number of petitions and letters and emails from Canadians saying that was not what they wanted. When people have committed serious crimes, they need them to be put in jail and kept there. They want the prison sentence to fit the crime. They do not want murderers and rapists walking away because their case has been before the court for too long. Therefore, I think Canadians recognize there is a problem. This bill does not address the problem. That is the point I was making tonight.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11:05 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise, albeit at this hour, to discuss Bill C-75 and the Senate amendments that have been brought to this place from there.

I agree with the thrust of the Senate amendments on behalf of the New Democratic Party, which supports the thrust of those amendments, but reluctantly have to say that, as amended, we must oppose this bill for the reasons I will describe.

I agree with the Minister of Justice, who spoke earlier, about some of the positive changes in this initiative. The bail reform provisions are exemplary. The intimate partner violence provisions are also very good. I am pleased that the Senate had the opportunity to deal with some of the recommendations by Judge Marion Buller, who, of course, chaired the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. She had the benefit of testifying before the Senate committee and, in turn, it had the ability to reflect her wisdom. That finds its way into the amendments before us tonight.

This improves the bill quite significantly, as I will describe, but there are some very significant issues that remain. I want to commend our colleagues in the other place for the work they have done to improve this flawed bill. We need to thank them for some of the work they had the opportunity to do.

We too, on the NDP side, have done an enormous amount of research and consultation, with people from the criminal defence bar, academics, prosecutors, former deputy attorneys general and others. We have done our homework on Bill C-75. After all, it is a mammoth initiative, the most significant criminal justice reform bill in a very long time. Regrettably, as a result of those consultations, we concluded that we must continue to oppose the bill, for reasons I will describe in a moment.

To be clear, we are in support of the amendments made by the Senate, yet decry the government's inadequate response to those amendments and ultimately have to therefore oppose the final bill as amended.

To begin with, why was Bill C-75 initiated? The Minister of Justice was clear about that in his remarks earlier. He alluded to the Askov case in the Supreme Court of Canada, and then, of course, the Jordan decision. The court said that there has to be a trial within a timely period, and it set down very specific limits for both indictable and summary conviction cases.

The objective was one of efficiency. It was to try to make our courts more efficient to deal with the enormous and, quite frankly, embarrassing backlog we have with our court cases, and to deal with the consequence of the Jordan case. As we know, often people who are guilty of offences walk free because the courts are not able to give them a trial within a reasonable period. That has to be an embarrassment to all Canadians.

Efficiency was the goal of this bill. However, after the consultation I just described, the debate in the House, and the work I was part of on the justice committee, where we heard a great variety of presentations, we concluded it is simply not an adequate response to the Jordan problem.

As I alluded to earlier, there are some good things in this bill, which I will also refer to later. However, sadly some of the deeply problematic things continue in the bill. I want to talk, by way of giving illustrations, of the general concerns that the criminal justice bar has had with this bill. I will start Ms. Sayeh Hassan, who is a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer. By way of summary, she said, “While there are parts of Bill C-75 that have the potential for improving the criminal justice system, many other parts will not only be unhelpful when it comes to reducing delay but will also wipe out numerous rights currently afforded to an accused person.”

The big ugly elephant in the room is the fact that the government chose to completely ignore what so many people have talked about, which is the need to get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing. We had a reasonable hope that it would do so. After all, the Prime Minister told the former minister of justice that it was part of her mandate. Nothing happened.

Sean Fine, of the Globe and Mail, wrote:

As far back as October, 2016, the [former attorney general] told the Criminal Lawyers' Association in a speech that she would change the minimum sentencing laws “in the near future.” Days later, she told The Globe that new legislation would be coming soon, “certainly in the early part of next year.”

It never happened.

Our colleagues in the other place made a similar observation. It is the fourth item on their list of formal observations. I think it is worth repeating what they summarized. Under “Mandatory Minimum Sentences”, it says:

In its Delaying Justice is Denying Justice report, the Committee recommended that the Minister of Justice undertake a thorough review of existing mandatory minimum sentences in order to: ensure a reasonable, evidence-based approach to when they are appropriate; and consider whether persons with mental health issues should be considered for alternative sentencing options or treatment when faced with mandatory minimum sentences.

During its study of Bill C-75, some witnesses expressed significant disappointment that it does not include any reforms to the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. In the Mandate Letter to the Minister of Justice...of 12 November 2015, [the Prime Minister] stated that the Minister...was to “conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade.” In the Minister’s letter to the Chair of the committee, he stated that the Government “is committed to advancing sentencing reform” and that it is “committed to reviewing the mandatory minimum penalties in the Criminal Code with an eye to eliminating many of them and restoring judicial discretion.”

The committee [of the Senate] observes that the Government of Canada has had four years to bring forward amendments to these provisions in the Criminal Code and that, to date, no legislative action has been taken.

I join with my colleagues in the other place in noting that the government's failure to address the often unconstitutional mandatory minimums cannot be understated. It is a serious problem.

This led the Criminal Lawyers' Association to write in its position paper that “Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the Crown’s discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the crowns ability”—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11:10 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was just making the point that the Criminal Lawyers' Association has made, about why mandatory minimum sentences are important. It is because if a criminal lawyer has the possibility, a zero-sum gain, that his or her client will get the minimum sentence that is there with no discretion of the judges to forge a penalty that is appropriate in the circumstances, the lawyer is not going to cut any deals. There will be no plea bargaining. There will be no efficiency. Therefore, the greatest single efficiency gain would have been what the Prime Minister promised us would happen, which is that mandatory minimum sentences, the way the Conservatives did it, would be eliminated. That was the promise that Canadians received over and over again, only to be completely thrown out in this bill.

It is a gigantic reform initiative. To be fair, it is all pertaining to criminal law but is a gigantic effort with this gigantic problem completely ignored. It is not a problem that I alone identify as an obstacle to efficiency gains and to addressing the crisis that Jordan represents, of people walking free from very serious crimes because we cannot get a trial in a reasonable amount of time. For reasons that escape me, the Liberals completely ignored that and did a number of other things, some of which are commendable but do not do what the objective of the bill was to be, which was to address the issue of inefficiency. That is the problem that the Criminal Lawyers' Association pointed out.

The courts have been reduced to simply being, as some people call them, slot machines of justice. They have no discretion at all. If the facts are made out, the penalty is there. It is push a button. Some judges have complained to me privately that they feel like they are simply automatons. That is not what judges historically have done. The Conservatives rendered them in this position that is invidious and, frankly, embarrassing to many judges. What they thought they had the power to do, which was to render an appropriate sentence to fit the crime, was thrown out the window when mandatory minimums were imposed on so many of the sentences in the Criminal Code.

We also have a crisis in Canada with the overrepresentation of indigenous women in particular. To his credit, the Minister of Justice referred to this problem. We all are aware of it. It is another national disgrace. Jonathan Rudin testified to the justice committee. He is a very memorable witness. He is a lawyer with the Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto. He highlighted the government's inaction with regard to abolishing mandatory minimum sentences and its particular effect on indigenous women. Here is what he said:

...we have to look at the fact that there are still mandatory minimum sentences that take away from judges the ability to sentence indigenous women the way [judges] would like [them] to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.

The first thing he urged the committee to recommend was to bring into legislation that judges have sentencing discretion, which the Liberals promised to do and did not.

I suspect the problem is much worse now, but in 2015 the proportion of indigenous adults in custody relative to their percentage of the population was eight times higher for indigenous men and a staggering 12 times higher for indigenous women. Any measure that could address this problem head-on has to be looked at seriously. The government's failure to address what the mandate letter from the Prime Minister told us it would do is a serious missed opportunity.

I would like to turn to preliminary inquiries, which the minister also referred to and was the subject of some of the reform proposals that the Senate brought forward. The Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee passed an amendment to Bill C-75 that would bring back the option for preliminary inquiries for hundreds of criminal offences. Since Bill C-75 was first introduced in the House, the NDP has been advocating that preliminary hearings be retained in criminal proceedings. The Senate is attempting to reverse the government's move to eliminate preliminary inquiries for all offences, except for offences carrying a sentence of life imprisonment.

Senator Pierre Dalphond, a former judge, passed an amendment to bring back the option of preliminary inquiries for most indictable offences, as long as the judge ensures that the impact on complainants is mitigated.

The Liberals argue that this will cost court time, but we heard at the justice committee over and over again testimony that, if we got rid of preliminary inquiries, time saving would actually be marginal and the potential for miscarriage of justice would be great.

While the government has accepted many of the Senate amendments, it is using its motion to continue to severely limit the use of preliminary hearings. We have opposed this measure since Bill C-75 was brought to the House, and our stance, I am confident, remains the correct one.

The Liberals at the House justice committee voted to allow preliminary inquiries only when the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. The other place amended this provision to allow far more judicial discretion, increasing the number of offences that could have a preliminary inquiry from 70 to 463. The minister pointed out that they tried to find some middle ground on this issue.

Overwhelmingly, we heard from witnesses at the justice committee that restricting the use of preliminary inquiries will not address court delays sufficiently and will sacrifice or could sacrifice the rights of the accused. For example, Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said at the committee that preliminary inquiries occupy a very small percentage of court time but “deliver huge savings to the system. Preliminary inquiries deliver these efficiencies in a number of different ways.” They focus issues for trial, reducing trial length; they identify evidentiary or legal problems in a case at an early stage so the parties can ensure that these problems don't arise during the trial; and they can facilitate the resolution of charges.

He was not alone. Time does not allow me to list all the people who agreed with Mr. Spratt, but they include the Canadian Bar Association; the Criminal Lawyers' Association; the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association, the prosecution side; various defence lawyers, such as Sarah Leamon, a criminal lawyer; Professor Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary, and on and on, yet the government did not want to go there. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why.

There is also a huge possibility that with taking preliminary inquiries away, there could be a risk that people will be wrongfully convicted. That is what Bill Trudell, the chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, said. The government says we do not need them because we now have what are called Stinchcombe disclosure provisions, Stinchcombe being a famous case requiring the Crown to provide all the evidence available to the defence witnesses. The government says that, as a result, we do not need preliminary inquiries. That certainly is not what these people have said, and on a risk-benefit analysis they think it is just not right. The possibility of a wrongful conviction seems to be something we should all be worried about.

I know that time is running out quickly, but I said I would comment on some of the positive things in the bill, and I would like to do so.

First, there is the elimination of what are called “zombie” provisions of the Criminal Code, which criminalize things that are no longer illegal. These provisions have been found to be unconstitutional and have no place in the Criminal Code.

The bill would restore the discretion of judges to impose fewer victim fine surcharges or not impose them at all. I commend the government for that step as well.

I said in my question for the Minister of Justice earlier that I commend the government for broadening the definition of intimate partner violence. That is a good step. Creating an alternative process for dealing with breaches of bail is another good step. Codifying the so-called ladder principle, which requires that the least onerous form of release be imposed, is a good thing as well.

I agree with the government, and I confess not everybody does, that abolishing peremptory challenges is a positive step. Also, the routine police evidence provision has been amended for the good.

For the LGBTQ2+ community, the vagrancy and bawdy house provisions that were often used in the past to criminalize gay men have been rightly repealed. I am proud of the role that I played at the justice committee in moving those amendments, and I commend the government for finally repealing these discriminatory provisions.

I wish to be on record as saying that there is much in this bill that is commendable. It is the fact of the missed opportunity that is so disturbing.

I still have concerns about the many hybrid offences created in Bill C-75, because contrary to what the hon. Conservative member for Sarnia—Lambton said earlier, all this does is to push them down to the already overburdened criminal courts at the provincial level. The more hybrid offences, which proceed by way of summary rather than indictment, go to the provincial courts, where 95% of all criminal matters already take place. I have talked to people in my province of British Columbia who are very concerned about the impact of this on the administration of justice in that province. Jordan is perhaps not as much of a problem in the superior courts, but is a bigger problem in the provincial courts. Surely, that was not the intent.

I know that I have little time left, but I want to complete the point I made earlier about Madam Justice Marion Buller, the chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She had the opportunity to go to the Senate committee with her report. A number of suggestions were made for reform in the other place and are now in the amendments before this House. I am very happy that that has happened. However, there are still serious problems with some of the legacies of residential schools and the sixties scoop that still need to be addressed.

I believe my time is almost at an end, so let me just say this. I wish we could support this bill. There is much in it that is worthwhile, but the failure to do what the Prime Minister told us they would do, deal with the mandatory minimums, and the inability to address the preliminary inquiries in a more manageable way, are the reasons we must respectfully oppose this bill.

Bill C-75—Notice of time allocation motionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11:35 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate 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.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings of the bill.

Bill C-48—Notice of time allocation motionOil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11:35 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate considering the 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.

Bill C-75 represents the government's legislative response to reduce delays, modernize the criminal justice system and facilitate the administration of justice by the provinces and territories.

The Senate proposed amendments to the bail, reclassification of offences, victim surcharge and preliminary inquiries provisions of the bill.

I would like to focus my remarks tonight on some of the amendments relating to the reclassification of offences, or hybridization as it is sometimes called.

The reclassification amendments are a key part of the legislative reforms identified by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice to reduce delays in the criminal justice system. They would also modernize and streamline the scheme for classifying offences in the Criminal Code.

There are two types of offences in the Criminal Code, those that proceed by summary conviction or by indictment. Some offences can be either. Summary conviction offences deal with less serious conduct, for example, causing a disturbance or trespassing at night, for which the current maximum penalty is normally up to six months imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. Indictable offences tend to be for more serious actions, for example, aggravated assault, robbery or murder for which maximum penalties range from two years to life imprisonment.

I failed to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Mount Royal.

A hybrid offence allows the Crown to choose whether to proceed by indictment or summary conviction, recognizing that the severity of the conduct covered by the offence can vary greatly depending on the circumstances, for example, uttering threats, assault, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

Bill C-75 would hybridize 118 straight indictable offences that currently would be punishable by maximum penalties of two, five and 10 years imprisonment. It would also amend the Criminal Code to increase the maximum penalty for most criminal offences with a summary conviction penalty to two years less a day. The maximum penalties are being increased for summary conviction offences. The bill would also increase the current limitation period for all summary conviction offences from six to 12 months.

Indictable offences are often heard in Superior Court and generally take longer to process because of their associated procedural requirements, such as jury trials and preliminary inquiries, which can significantly lengthen the time it takes to complete a case. The reason for the availability of more procedural safeguards for indictable offences is that they carry the risk of much lengthier periods of incarceration.

However, there continues to be many straight indictable offences for which, depending on the circumstances, sentences in the summary conviction range are often appropriate and are in fact being imposed.

Cases involving straight indictable offences where the Crown is seeking sentences in the summary conviction range add unnecessary strain to Superior Courts because though they end up with a summary range sentence, they have been eligible for and have used complicated and time consuming processes to get there.

When an offence is hybrid, the prosecutor can elect to have the case heard either by summary conviction or indictment, based on the severity of the case, the circumstances of the offender and the best resources that fit that case. For this reason, provinces and territories have asked for many more straight indictable offences to be hybridized.

More cases being heard in provincial court would leave Superior Courts with more resources to consider more serious cases, thus speeding up the processing times.

Also, other proposed reforms in Bill C-75, such as restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to only the most serious offences, will offset any additional workload on provincial courts that might result.

These proposals are not about downloading to the provinces and territories, as some have suggested. They are about providing provinces and territories with the additional flexibility they have asked for so Crown attorneys can choose the process that best aligns with the facts and circumstances of each case.

Some have claimed that changing the classification of offences will change how seriously these crimes will be taken by the system. This is simply not true.

The best indicia of the seriousness of an offence is its maximum available penalty. The hybridization amendments would not change any of the maximum penalties on indictment.

It is already a feature of our criminal justice system that prosecutors assess the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender to determine which type of sentence to seek from the court. They can already ask for fines and low or no jail time for most of the indictable offences that Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize. As I have already explained, they often avail themselves of summary range sentences.

I have full faith in our prosecutors to continue to seek appropriate sentences. At the end of the day, it will be the judge who decides. Nothing in Bill C-75 proposes to lower the sentences that would be imposed under the law as it is now. These reforms will not change the fundamental principles of sentencing outlined in section 718 of the Criminal Code, which requires proportionality.

The Senate made three types of amendments to address concerns about possible unintended consequences of the reclassification proposals. One of these further amended section 802.1, to also allow agent representation as authorized by the law of the province. However, this is problematic because we do not have any information about how this amendment would operate with existing provincial and territorial laws. As a result, I am not comfortable supporting this amendment.

I am satisfied that the amendment this chamber supported last December to address this issue gives the provinces and territories sufficient flexibility to quickly address any consequences of the reclassification scheme on agents.

I am pleased to be able to support the other two amendments that the Senate made to the reclassification provisions. These are technical and would amount to maintaining the status quo for the collection of DNA samples of convicted offenders and of fingerprints of accused persons. Discretionary DNA orders are currently available for Criminal Code offences with maximum penalties of five years or more when the Crown proceeds by indictment.

Police have expressed concerns that fewer DNA samples will be collected once the reclassification amendments of Bill C-75 come into force. Senate amendment 1 will maintain the availability of DNA orders for those five- and 10-year indictable offences that Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize.

A similar amendment was moved when the bill was before the justice committee, however, that proposal had been much broader and would have expanded the current availability of DNA orders. Senate amendments 11, 13 and 14 respond to police concerns that the hybridization in Bill C-75 will result in police being able to collect fewer fingerprints.

These amendments change the Identification of Criminals Act, to clarify that fingerprints can be taken for an accused who has been charged with a hybrid offence, even where the Crown has elected to proceed by summary conviction. As we can see, Bill C-75 includes many significant tools to reduce delays in the criminal justice system and to better equip its stakeholders and participants to meet the Jordan time frame.

I support the majority of the Senate amendments and I urge my colleagues to support the government's proposed approach to ensure that this much needed bill is passed before the summer recess.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 11:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to follow the remarks from the hon. member for Victoria and the hon. member for West Nova, both of whom have been outstanding members of the justice committee and will be missed in this place for their wisdom, sincerity, honesty and integrity. I will very much miss both of my colleagues.

I am pleased to rise to talk about the amendments adopted by the Senate at third reading on June 13, 2019.

First and foremost, I would like to thank all members of the other place for their thoughtful consideration of Bill C-75. In particular, I want to thank the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for its diligent and comprehensive examination of the bill.

This bill proposes major reforms to reduce delays by modernizing the criminal justice system and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of procedures, while ensuring the safety of Canadians and seeking to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people in the system.

The provinces and territories, along with many members and many stakeholders in the criminal justice system, are looking forward to the enactment of this legislation.

Bill C-75 introduced reforms in seven key areas: modernizing and streamlining bail; enhancing the existing approach to administration of justice offences, including for youth; restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment; reclassifying offences; strengthening judicial case management; improving the jury selection process; and implementing other additional efficiencies.

The other place has proposed amendments to the bill related to bail, reclassification of offences, the victim surcharge and preliminary inquiries.

Although the focus of my remarks will be on the other place's amendments related to the preliminary inquiry provisions of the bill, I would like to preface these by highlighting a few other areas that, cumulatively, will improve efficiencies and reduce delays.

Bill C-75 includes widely supported changes to bail provisions. They seek to enact a principle of restraint for the police and the courts to ensure that the earliest possible release of the accused is favoured over detention, while providing additional guidance to the police on how to impose the appropriate conditions.

The bill would improve the approach used for administration of justice offences, such as breach of bail conditions.

These offences represent a significant volume of Canadian criminal court processing. The creation of a judicial referral hearing would result in fewer charges for these offences being laid, given that the hearing would serve as an alternative for bail breaches and failures to attend court in cases where there has been no physical, emotional or financial harm to a victim.

I would now like to turn to the amendments proposed by the other place to the preliminary inquiry reforms in Bill C-75.

As introduced, the bill would have restricted the availability of preliminary inquiries to adults accused of the 70 offences in the Criminal Code for which they could be liable to life imprisonment. The government's objective has been clear from the beginning on this matter: to reduce the number of preliminary inquiries held in Canada to create efficiencies and limit the impact on those who would have to testify twice. In the jurisdictions that hold the majority of these hearings, the improved efficiencies in the criminal justice process could be significant.

Our committee, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard from many stakeholders from the legal community, including the defence bar and Crown attorney associations, such as the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec, that opposed such a significant restriction on the availability of preliminary inquiries, arguing that they are vital in providing important evidence to the accused of the case against them.

As a result of these concerns, the committee in the other place moved an amendment that would expand the availability of preliminary inquiries, on a discretionary basis, to all other indictable offences, an additional 393 offences, in two situations. The first would be where one or both parties requested one and a justice was satisfied that appropriate measures were taken to mitigate the impact on victims. The second situation would be where only one party requested a preliminary inquiry, a justice was satisfied that it was in the best interest of the administration of justice that one be held and appropriate measures were taken to mitigate the impact on victims.

As proposed, the amendment would add a step in the criminal justice process to justify holding a preliminary inquiry. It could generate uncertainty for the parties as to whether a preliminary inquiry would be held and would likely result in litigation on the interpretation of the new complex criteria, ultimately leading to additional delays.

Even witnesses who came before our committee who believed that the proposals contained in Bill C-75 were too restrictive agreed that they could add to delays. For example, in her testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, one of our most incredible witnesses, lawyer Sarah Leamon, from British Columbia, stated:

Now, we know that when a person does decide to go ahead with a preliminary inquiry, the matter will take significantly longer to conclude and is likely to use more judicial resources. That is supported by statistics from Statistics Canada, as well as The Canadian Bar Association....

Given that the amendment was driven by concerns, which were also echoed by members across party lines in this chamber, that the availability of preliminary inquiries was being too severely curtailed by Bill C-75, and I must note that there were many members of our committee who wanted to try to find a way to amend the bill to expand the scope of preliminary inquiries, I am very pleased that the Senate proposed something. The government, in response, is offering a constructive alternative approach. This would involve making preliminary inquiries available for offences carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years or more of imprisonment.

Although this would expand the availability of preliminary inquiries to an additional 86 offences, it would be consistent with the objective of Bill C-75 as introduced as well as with the 2017 federal-provincial consensus to restrict them to offences carrying the most serious terms of imprisonment. This approach would be palatable to jurisdictions that would have further restricted their availability to the most serious offences in the Criminal Code, such as murder and high treason. It would also provide certainty as to which offences would be eligible for a preliminary inquiry and would avoid the risk of litigation inherent in the Senate amendment.

This proposal strikes an artful compromise and a good balance, and I strongly support it.

Overall, this important bill responds to the systemic problem of delays in the criminal justice system, while introducing innovative measures for driving a shift in culture, as noted by the Supreme Court in Jordan.

I ask all my colleagues to support this very good bill and the constructive approach of the government and the Minister of Justice, who I strongly support, to the amendments from the Senate.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments thereto.

This legislation represents a key milestone on our government's commitment to modernizing the criminal justice system, reducing delays and ensuring the safety of all Canadians. Delays in the criminal justice system affect public safety, undermine public confidence in the administration of justice, adversely impact the rights of accused persons and fails to provide Canadians good value for money.

When proceedings are stayed due to delays, the criminal justice system itself fails. Perpetrators are not held responsible for their actions, the innocent are not given the opportunity to truly clear their name and victims suffer.

Uses of delay in the criminal justice is not a new one. In the early 1990s, tens of thousands of cases were stayed due to delay following the Supreme Court of Canada's historic decision in the Crown and Askov.

As we know, the Supreme Court's subsequent decisions in Jordan and Cody set out a new legal framework for assessing delays. That framework included a transition period in assessing the cases for which charges had been laid prior to the release of the decision.

Given that this period will come to an end next summer, we have no time to lose. We must do everything we can to improve the efficiency of our criminal justice system.

Fortunately, we have many helpful studies and reports including the in-depth study of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Its July 2017 report is entitled “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice”. After hearing from a sum total of 138 witnesses, the standing committee concluded that the causes of delays were wide and varied. It issued a call to the legal community, including judges and federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice and attorneys general to “take decisive and immediate steps to address the causes of delays and to modernize our justice system.” It also called in the Minister of Justice to show leadership “in taking the necessary reformative action”.

I know the minister feels extremely privileged to have been entrusted with the responsibility to address this urgent issue, which also forms part of the mandate letter given to her by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Justice has taken several significant steps to improve the criminal justice system. In total, she has made now 240 judicial appointments and elevations to superior courts right across the country. In 2017 alone, the minister made 100 appointments, more than any other minister of justice in the last two decades. This year she is on pace to meet or exceed that number.

At the same time, the last two budgets presented by our government have allocated funding for an unprecedented number of new judicial positions, which are necessary to allow courts to respond to growing caseloads, including criminal matters. In all, our government has seen the creation of 75 new judicial positions over the past two years.

In fact, earlier this year, chief justices in Alberta and Quebec noted that for the first time in a long time, they were starting to notice positive trends in terms of delays. That is a very encouraging sign. The significant efforts made by judges, courts, governments and other actors in the justice system are paying off.

I will use the rest of the time that I have today to address our government's legislative response to criminal justice system delays.

I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their thorough study of the bill.

The committee heard from 95 witnesses and examined a significant number of documents on a highly complex subject. There were 58 briefs submitted by various stakeholders, including representatives of police forces, Crown attorneys, defence attorneys, legal aid programs, victims' rights advocates, representatives of indigenous groups, and academics.

The discussion on the admission of routine police evidence by affidavit was particularly important, and our government was listening.

Although our intentions were commendable, we admit that our approach, as proposed, could have had unintended consequences, especially for unrepresented accused persons.

The committee gave that concern due consideration, and we accepted its amendment in that regard.

The reforms in this bill were also generally well received by all sides. There were some concerns heard regarding the provision, the proposed reverse onus, in the context of intimate partner violence due to operational issues that some had experienced with what is known as dual charging; that is where both perpetrators and victims are charged after a victim has had to use physical force to defend herself.

Supporting survivors of domestic violence and ensuring that more perpetrators are brought to justice was part of our platform in 2015, and the reverse onus provisions, which do just that, were maintained in the bill after the committee study.

We know, including most recently, from the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Antic that the problem is not the law itself but in how it has been applied. It is important to note that provinces and territories have developed policies and training in this area. We have a solid legal framework, yet a disproportionate number of indigenous and vulnerable and marginalized accused are being denied bail. Those who are being released are being required to follow too many onerous conditions, with a strong reliance on sureties in a number of jurisdictions.

The proposed new process contained in Bill C-75 talks about judicial referral hearings, which will provide an off ramp for administration of justice offences that do not actually cause harm to a victim. This proposal has been supported enthusiastically, both by residents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and by Canadians right across the country, who are concerned about the disproportionate overrepresentation of indigenous and racialized persons in our criminal justice system.

What we have advanced is a shining example of exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada and the Senate committee report were imploring when calling for “a cultural shift among justice system participants that moves them away from complacency and towards efficiency, cooperation and fairness.”

My colleagues will also recall that Bill C-75 includes two proposals in relation to preliminary inquiries. First, the bill proposes to restrict preliminary inquiries for adults accused to offences punishable by life imprisonment, for example, murder or kidnapping. Second, it will permit the judge presiding over the preliminary inquiry to limit the issues to be explored and the number of witnesses to be heard at the preliminary inquiry.

The approach in Bill C-75 with respect to preliminary inquiries reflects the extensive consideration and consultation on various options throughout the years and the best evidence available, and ultimately proposes a balanced approach between various interests at stake. It also proposes an approach that was endorsed and supported by the provincial and territorial ministers of justice during the extensive consultations undertaken by the minister with her provincial and territorial counterparts.

One topic that was a particular focus for the committee was the reclassification of offences. Reclassification will result in amendments to many provisions in the code, both for the purposes of hybridizing existing indictable offences that carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment of 10 years or less, and to create uniform maximum penalty of imprisonment on summary conviction of two years less a day.

The reclassification amendments were supported by the minister's provincial and territorial counterparts, who felt strongly that these amendments would give prosecutors much-needed flexibility based on the gravity of cases before them.

Notably, the reclassification amendments are procedural. They change how conduct that is not deserving of an indictable sentence range can be treated. It is already a well-known feature of our criminal justice system that prosecutors assess the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender to determine which type of sentence to seek from the court.

Importantly, nothing in the bill proposes to lower the sentences that would be awarded under the law. These reforms would not change the fundamental principles of sentencing. We value the variety of perspectives and knowledge that the many witnesses contributed to the Standing Committee on Justice's study.

Bill C-75's proposed reclassification of indictable offences, punishable by maximum of 10 years imprisonment or less, does not treat these offences any less seriously for sentencing purposes.

Nonetheless, this is an important point. The justice committee heard compelling testimony from witnesses on the terrorism and advocating genocide offences. Our government recognizes that these are crimes against the state, against society at large for the purpose of advancing a political objective, in the case of terrorism. In the case of advocating genocide, these are crimes not just against society at large but crimes against humanity.

I say that with some experience in the area, as a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda. I know first-hand that there is no more reprehensible crime known to law then genocide, which is advocating for the destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

The standing committee unanimously recommended that these offences be carved out of the reclassification approach in Bill C-75. We thank the committee for its diligent work in this area, and agree wholeheartedly with this amendment.

On that note, we moved consequential government amendments to remedy an unintended error from one of these committee amendments in order to reflect the committee's objective of removing these offences from the list of those that were being reclassified.

We also welcomed the committee's amendments to section 802.1 of the Criminal Code to allow the provinces and territories to set criteria permitting agents, that is non-lawyers, such as law students, articling students and paralegals, to appear on summary conviction offences punishable by more than six months imprisonment and to allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offence for the purpose of an adjournment.

One of the unintended consequences of the proposal to reclassify offences in the Criminal Code is that agents would not have been able to appear for individuals on most summary conviction offences unless authorized by the provinces and territories. The justice committee helpfully amended section 802.1 of the Criminal Code to enable provinces and territories to establish criteria for agent representation on summary conviction offences with a maximum penalty of greater than six months imprisonment in addition to the current authority to create programs for this purpose as well as to allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offences for adjournments.

This amendment would address concerns over access to justice issues. It would maintain jurisdictional flexibility while also recognizing regional diversity in how legal representation is regulated across Canada.

On this point, I would underscore that access to justice informs not only the core aspect of the bill, but in all of the efforts we are undertaking at the justice ministry and the efforts made by the minister. The minister has brought this issue to the attention of her provincial and territorial counterparts so they will take the requisite prompt legislative action to set the necessary criteria for this important matter relating to access to justice.

I would also like to talk about the jury reforms proposed in Bill C-75. These changes will make major improvements to our jury selection process by abolishing peremptory challenges for Crown and defence attorneys, allowing judges to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice, modernizing challenges for cause, empowering judges to decide challenges for cause, and allowing trials to continue with the consent of the parties in the event that the number of jurors is reduced below 10, in order to avoid mistrials.

The under-representation of indigenous peoples and visible minorities on juries is a major concern. This problem has been well-documented for years. We believe that eliminating peremptory challenges will significantly improve the diversity of juries.

Peremptory challenges give both the accused and the Crown the power to exclude potential jurors without having to provide a reason. They have no place in our courtrooms, given the potential for abuse. Once this bill has passed, Canada will join countries like England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which abolished peremptory challenges in 1988.

We must remember that provincial and territorial laws and processes play an important role in determining candidates for jury duty and the methods used to compile jury lists.

The federal government is just one piece of the puzzle. However, I am pleased to see that federal, provincial and territorial government representatives are working together on a wide range of jury-related issues in order to make further recommendations on how to improve Canada's jury system. I believe that the questions raised during the committee's study of Bill C-75 will help with these deliberations.

I was also pleased to see that the committee was generally in favour of the more technical proposals aimed at reducing delays and improving efficiency in our system, in particular with respect to removing the requirement for judicial endorsement for the execution of out-of-province warrants, clarifying the signing authority of clerks of the court, and facilitating remote appearances.

As well, I wish to highlight the committee's unanimous support of the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal code, a proposal that has been well received in the LGBTQ community, as well as the proposed amendment to repeal the vagrancy and bawdy house offences, which have been historically and improperly used to target consensual adult sexual activity. These amendments continue our government's important work to address discrimination against LGBTQ2 Canadians.

Importantly the committee also supported Bill C-75's proposal to repeal the abortion offences that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down as unconstitutional in the Morgentaler decision in 1988. Our government will always protect a woman's reproductive rights and her right to choose what to do with her own body.

As I have already stated, Bill C-75 proposes comprehensive reforms that will help to ensure that an accused person's right to be tried within a reasonable time is respected and that all justice system participants, including victims and witnesses, do not face delays.

At the same time, we are deeply conscious of the need and have heard the call for sentencing reform, including mandatory minimum penalties. The minister remains committed to advancing change.

The courts have made it clear that many mandatory minimum penalties present serious challenges from a constitutional perspective. The minister has been clear that her view is that judges should be provided the necessary discretion to impose sentences appropriate to the offender before them.

That said, we need to ensure we put in place sentencing reform that will stand the test of time. Mandatory minimum penalties are being litigated quite extensively. There are cases in which the Supreme Court has upheld the mandatory minimum penalty and there are cases in which the court has not.

We want to ensure we have taken all steps and done our due diligence as we continue to work on sentencing reform so the changes we make will stand the test of time.

The bold reforms proposed in the legislation have been the subject of extensive discussions, consultations and collaboration with the minister's provincial and territorial colleagues. Our commitment to prioritize key legislative reforms that we felt cumulatively would have the biggest impact in reducing delays in the criminal justice system remains strong.

This discussion and the consultations have included extensive debate within this very chamber itself. The House has debated Bill C-75 for a total of 14 hours and 45 minutes thus far. Ninety-five witnesses in the course of 27 hours were heard by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during extended sitting hours. A total of 28 members of the opposition benches from multiple parties have spoken out on the bill.

Further to that, we have listened to the standing committee's recommendations and to key stakeholders who have committed to address the issues of delays in the criminal justice system. Bill C-75, as amended, is a result of this commitment and reflects the beginning of a culture change that the Supreme Court was calling for in its Jordan and its Cody decisions. I therefore urge all members to support this important legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary about judicial referral hearings. At justice committee, a concern was raised about the fact that with the judicial referral hearings, a breach of an administrative offence, a breach of an order or bail condition, that this breach would not then be entered into the CPIC system.

In my riding of St. Albert—Edmonton, we saw the consequences of not having that information brought before a justice of the peace when Constable Wynn was shot and killed by someone who had an extensive criminal record, including 38 outstanding charges for failing to appear. Now, with Bill C-75, there is no guarantee that the totality of someone's record will even be entered into the CPIC system. What is the government doing to address that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise once again to speak to Bill C-75. One of the biggest problems with Bill C-75 is that, although the objective of the legislation is to reduce delay in Canada's courts, it actually does very little to reduce delay. For a bill that is designed to reduce delay, the fact that it does not reduce delay is a pretty big problem.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and other Liberal MPs who have spoken on the bill in this place have patted themselves on the back about, as they have put it, the good work of the justice committee, which heard from 95 witnesses, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice just stated, and that Liberal MPs listened to the key stakeholders and acted on the concerns raised by stakeholders.

In the three years I have been a member of Parliament I have never seen a piece of legislation more widely criticized in virtually all aspects of this massive 300-page bill than Bill C-75. Despite the rhetoric from across the way about listening to key stakeholders, the reality is that on issue after issue, the Liberals did not listen. They ignored the concerns raised by key stakeholders at committee. Instead they rammed the bill through committee and, other than a few minor changes, we are largely stuck with a very flawed bill, a bill that is problematic in so many different ways.

In that regard, let me first highlight the issue of hybridization. Putting aside the issue of watering down serious indictable offences, which is certainly a serious concern, from the standpoint of reducing delay, hybridization is going to download even more cases onto provincial courts. Some 99.6% of criminal cases are already heard before provincial courts, and if any member questions my statement about the fact this would result in the further downloading of cases, do not take my word for it. Take the Canadian Bar Association's word. The Canadian Bar Association, in its brief to the justice committee said that hybridization, “...would likely mean more cases will be heard in provincial court. This could result in further delays in those courts....” No kidding. Despite what the Canadian Bar Association said, the government said, “No problem. We'll just download more cases on to provincial courts”.

Then, there were public safety concerns raised about hybridization. One of the concerns raised was by John Muise, a former member of the Parole Board. He noted that offences being reclassified included breaches of long-term supervision orders. Long-term supervision orders apply to the most dangerous sexual predators in our society. We are talking about individuals who are so dangerous that after they complete their sentence, they are subject to a long-term supervision order for up to 10 years, with many stringent conditions.

John Muise said that it is a serious problem to treat breaches of these orders which are imposed on the most dangerous of people and that they should remain solely indictable, mainly because a breach of a long-term supervision order is a sign that these very dangerous offenders are returning to their cycle of violence and exploitation of vulnerable persons. We are not talking about marginalized people here, as the hon. parliamentary secretary referred to with respect to minor administration of justice offences, breaches of orders, which should be treated seriously. In this case, we are talking about the most serious offenders. Instead of heeding the advice of John Muise, the government said, “No problem; we'll move ahead”, forgetting about what a member of the Parole Board of Canada had said.

As well, Mr. Chow, deputy chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department, appeared before our committee. He said that there was another problem to reclassifying some very serious indictable offences as it relates to taking a sample and putting it into a national DNA database. Right now, if someone is convicted for one of those offences as an indictable offence, the Crown could apply to a judge to take a DNA sample to be put into the national DNA data bank. However, with Bill C-75, if the offence was prosecuted by way of summary conviction and the individual was convicted, it would be a summary conviction offence rather than an indictable offence, and no such application could be made.

In talking about the impact that might have upon police investigations, Deputy Chief Constable Chow noted in his testimony that of the 85 offences that are being reclassified, as a result of DNA samples being taken over the last number of years, 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults were solved. However, instead of listening to Mr. Chow, instead of listening to Mr. Muise, the government said, “We don't care. We're moving ahead.”

Then there is the issue of preliminary inquiries. The government is limiting preliminary inquiries to be held if the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, and for all other offences with a lesser maximum penalty, a preliminary inquiry would no longer be available. The government claims that this will help speed up the court process. Witness after witness begged to differ with the government. The brief submitted to the committee by the Canadian Bar Association stated on limiting preliminary inquiries:

This would not reduce court delays and would negatively impact the criminal justice system as a whole.... Any connection between court delays and the preliminary hearing is speculative at best.

If members do not want to take the word of the Canadian Bar Association, perhaps they might be interested in taking the word of the Barreau du Québec, which stated:

The Barreau du Québec opposes this amendment. By limiting the use of preliminary inquiries, some argue that we can speed up the judicial process and thus reduce delays. We believe that limiting preliminary inquiries in this way would be ineffective or even counterproductive.

Then there was Philip Star, a criminal defence lawyer from Nova Scotia, who said before the committee in respect to preliminary inquiries:

They're incredibly helpful, not only to the accused, but to the Crown and ultimately to our system, by cutting down on delays....

So much for the government's assertion that limiting preliminary inquiries is somehow going to reduce delays.

It gets better, because Laurelly Dale, another lawyer, a defence counsel, who appeared before the committee said:

Two major studies have concluded that preliminary inquiries do not contribute substantially to the problem of court delay. Preliminary hearings facilitate the resolution of potentially lengthy and expensive trials in superior court. They are often used instead of rather than in addition to trials. They expedite the administration of justice. It is far easier and quicker to get a two- to four-day prelim, as opposed to a one- to two-week trial in superior court.

Then there is Michael Spratt, who said:

There is a delay problem in our courts, but preliminary inquiries are not the cause of that delay.

Witness after witness, as I said, told the government that this is not going to work. It is not going to reduce delay. Did the government listen? Did the Liberal members on the justice committee listen? Apparently not.

Further testimony on prelims was from Sarah Leamon who said:

...87% of them actually resolve after the preliminary inquiry process. It saves the complainant,—

—in the context of a sexual assault complainant—

—in the vast majority of circumstances, from having to testify again and from being re-traumatized.

While the Liberal members opposite say they listened, the evidence before the committee and the response of the government to the evidence before the committee demonstrates exactly the opposite.

Even if one accepts the reasoning of the government, despite all of the evidence before the committee that limiting preliminary inquiries will in fact reduce delay, it is important to note that preliminary inquiries only take up about 3% of court time across Canada. To the degree that this is going to have a beneficial impact, the fact remains it is a very small piece of the much larger problem of backlog and delay in Canada's courts.

Let us look at the issue of judicial referral hearings, and the evidence that was before the committee on judicial referral hearings. Serious concerns were raised, including by John Muise, a former member of the Parole Board of Canada, as well as from Mr. Chow from the Vancouver Police Department, about the fact that individuals who commit an administration of justice offence, who are referred to a judicial referral hearing, would not have that breach of an order or other administration of justice offence entered into CPIC.

Right now, if someone does commit an AOJ offence, it is entered into CPIC, but thanks to the government's judicial referral hearing process, that would not happen. As I mentioned when I posed a question to the hon. parliamentary secretary, the consequences of not presenting the full CPIC record before a judge or justice of the peace can have devastating consequences. My community learned this when Constable David Wynn was shot and killed by someone who had an extensive criminal record, including an extensive record of administration of justice offences.

Now the government is saying that the court would not even have the benefit, if that CPIC record were to be presented, of the totality of that offender's criminal record because, after all, those offences would not be entered into CPIC. When I asked the parliamentary secretary what the government intended to do to fix this serious public safety issue, which was brought up more than once before the justice committee, he regretfully did not have an answer.

I should note again that in terms of judicial referral hearings, while they will have an impact on undermining public safety because those breaches will not be entered into CPIC, the impact of administration of justice offences on the backlog in our system is actually quite limited. That is because AOJ offences are typically dealt with as tagalong offences. What I mean by that is that they are usually dealt with at the same time that the main or underlying charge is dealt with. Therefore, in terms of the amount of court time and court resources that are being used for the purpose of dealing with administration of justice offences, in fact, it is quite minimal.

Again, members should not take my word for it. They should take the word of Rick Woodburn, the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. Here is what Mr. Woodburn said to the justice committee:

I can tell you from the ground, they don't clog up the system. They don't take that much time. A breach of a court order takes very little time to prove, even if it goes to trial—and that's rare. Keep in the back of your mind that these charges aren't clogging up the system.

Did the Liberals keep that in the back of their minds? Apparently not because they just went ahead with the judicial referral hearing process without a plan, without any thought of the serious public safety issues that were raised before the justice committee.

Then there is the issue of peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges have nothing to do with delay, but they were added to this bill. The basis upon which the government has decided to eliminate peremptory challenges is that somehow it will increase the representativeness of juries. Witness after witness said quite the opposite, but instead of listening to those witnesses, the government just moved ahead.

Taken together, the record is very clear. Ninety-five witnesses gave evidence at committee and on issue after issue, the Liberals ignored the evidence. The Liberals ignored the witnesses and as a result, we have a very flawed bill that is not going to get to the heart of the problem, which is to reduce the delay and backlog in Canada's courts.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton and I sat on the justice committee last year. I certainly appreciated the subject matter we dealt with. It is a committee that demands a lot of responsibility from its members. It requires a lot of maturity, because the subject matter is always very weighty. When we are deliberating on legislation affecting the Criminal Code, there is a real sense that the actions we take when we amend that statute will have real-life consequences for people.

He is right when he talks about the government's slow legislative agenda. I will just correct him, however. Bill C-28 was actually the victim surcharge bill, but it was residing at first reading. Bill C-32 was also residing at first reading. We also had Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. The Canadian public got the feeling that the Minister of Justice, despite coming to power with a bold agenda to reform our criminal laws, was just kind of stringing the public along and giving us little crumbs, saying “Yes we're going to fix this”. Now, we finally have Bill C-75, which I liken to a giant amoeba that has swallowed all of those previous bills, but also added a whole bunch more. We are finally getting to the stage, three years later, where we get to debate this.

I agree with him that some of these bills could have been passed really quickly, like the zombie provisions of the Criminal Code. Scholars and professors have been calling for decades for the Criminal Code to be cleaned up, and we could have passed that bill very quickly, but we are only dealing with it now.

Would the hon. member agree that when we are looking at sections, like section 287, which deals with abortion, and section 159, that they could have been dealt with very quickly by the House and that it is a real shame that we are only doing that now?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I would have thought the Conservatives would be a bit more excited about the fairly comprehensive changes in Bill C-75 that would serve our country well.

Prior to the last election, our government made some commitments, and we are seeing some of those commitments fulfilled within this legislation. That is a positive thing.

I want to pick up on the bigger picture of justice. If we were to canvass Canadians and many different stakeholders about their expectations of the judicial system, I would suggest that they would have three big expectations.

The first would be keeping our communities safe, which is also very important to this government, and I would like to think important to all members. This legislation makes significant strides towards keeping our communities safe.

A second would be protecting victims. When it comes to our justice system, one would like to think there is a vested interest in protecting victims. When I say “protecting victims”, I mean that we should be going out of our way to prevent having any victims in the first place. I will comment briefly on that shortly.

The third priority, or expectation, is accountability for offenders.

These three priorities would be accepted by all Canadians. Bill C-75 moves the ball further ahead on these three principles.

There is a difference between the Conservatives' approach to justice issues and this government's approach. Put differently way, there is a difference between the Stephen Harper approach to justice issues and the approach this Liberal government has taken on justice-related issues, whether in this or previous legislation.

We need to recognize that a vast majority of incarcerated individuals will leave our jails. They will go back into our communities. As such, we have a responsibility to ensure that our system allows for better integration. If we are successful at that, we will prevent having further victims in the future. We on this side of the House recognize that.

Listening to speeches given by members on the other side of the House, whether about this or other legislation, one gets the impression that once someone enters our jail system, that person is never going to return to our communities. There is a very good chance that many of those individuals will not return.

However, we must have a system that will work for Canadians by keeping our communities safe, by ensuring that we protect our victims, and ensuring that there is offender accountability.

It is just wrong for the Conservatives to give the impression that this government is looking at ways of minimizing the consequences for serious crimes.

Under this legislation, opposition members say that we would hybridize too many crimes. As a result, they are trying to give the false impression that there would be less serious impacts for those offenders when it came to the weight of the law and incarceration, fines or whatever it might be.

It is important to recognize that we have summary convictions and indictable offences. However, within this proposed legislation, there would be a third component, that being hybridized. We are saying that here is a list of crimes for which the Crown would have some discretion to help determine whether an offence would be an indictable offence.

During second reading, I had the opportunity to listen in on some of the debate. I recall one intervention that bears repeating, because I think most people who are following the debate could relate to the differences. This is what we mean by discretion. At second reading, I recall a Conservative member, and Hansard will reflect this, saying that “kidnapping is kidnapping” and is a serious crime, end of story. It is indictable, so lock up the person and put him or her away for many years.

There is no doubt that kidnapping is a very serious crime. Canadians recognize it as a serious crime. We as a government recognize it as a serious crime. The Conservatives ask why we would hybridize that particular crime. Let me give members a tangible example. I think the constituents I serve would understand why it is important that this be one of those hybridized crimes.

When we think of kidnapping, the first thing that comes to mind is an individual at a school playground identifying a potential victim, putting the victim into a van and disappearing and taking all sorts of horrific actions or maybe kidnapping an individual for the sex trade. There are all sorts of horror stories about kidnapping. I, for one, want those individuals locked up. However, there is a “but”.

For example, divorces occur every day, and some of those divorces are very emotional and involve young children. At times, with a divorce, there are all sorts of issues a child will often have to deal with. There might be a situation where a child has a bad week or a bad day and decides not to go home to the parent who has 100% custody but goes to the non-custodial parent. The other parent then says that the child has disappeared and has been kidnapped. One parent did not have the right to have custody of that child at that time, but the child went to that parent's home, perhaps in tears, or whatever the circumstances were. The point is, the child should not have been at that parent's house, and as a direct result, there is now a kidnapping charge.

I would like to think there is a big difference between that situation and the first situation I described. If members believe that what I just said is accurate and takes place in real life, they should acknowledge that there is a need to support the idea that for certain crimes, for certain actions, we need to incorporate hybridized crimes.

I have a great deal of confidence in our Crowns and the ability of our judicial system to make good decisions. What we are saying is that if a kidnapping like the first example came before the judicial system, I would suggest that the Crown would say that it was an indictable offence and the individual would have to go through a process where, ultimately, there could be years of incarceration, versus another case where it could be classified as a summary conviction. We have seen a number of those crimes that are now eligible, and I suspect that arguments could be made for each and every one.

When we looked at the legislation, one of the major concerns raised by the Conservative Party was the issue of hybridization. Hopefully they now have a better understanding. They raised the issue at second reading and then brought it to the committee stage.

I am actually quite pleased that we are at third reading today, in the sense that it has been a long process to get to this point. The Minister of Justice has demonstrated very clearly that this has been a project of consultation, working with a wide variety of stakeholders, from the beginning right up to the standing committee. Maybe I should expand on that point for a moment.

Our justice system is a joint responsibility. We do not have sole responsibility for judicial matters in Canada. We have shared responsibilities with the provinces. That means that the minister, with the assistance of the parliamentary secretary, and others, no doubt, canvassed and worked with the different provinces and territories to establish priorities that needed to be changed. Those changes, those priorities, are fairly well reflected in this legislation. The minister even went beyond that, in terms of consultations with indigenous people and other stakeholders, to formulate Bill C-75 so that it was ready for first reading, followed by second reading and committee.

That is where I interjected. My interjection was to comment that even when we, in opposition, brought it to committee, a number of changes were introduced by members after listening to the committee presentations. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended Bill C-75 at committee to, for example, remove the provisions regarding routine police evidence, which had laudable intentions but had some undesirable and unintended consequences, particularly for unrepresented accused. It removed the terrorism and advocating genocide offences from the list of those being reclassified. That is the amendment I thought of when I was talking about hybridized offences.

The Conservatives presented that issue in the form of an amendment, and we accepted it, which was completely foreign when Stephen Harper was prime minister. The Conservative Party never ever accepted an opposition motion. Not only—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, the member was talking a lot about the hybridizations contained in Bill C-75. I was wondering if he is willing to look at that from a different perspective.

One of the concerns we had in particular is regarding the problems we have with access to legal aid right across Canada. The member would be aware of this if he is knowledgeable of the work of the Standing Committee on Justice with respect to access to justice. It is very much a patchwork quilt, because different provinces have different abilities to fund their systems. Often we have cases where paralegals and students of law are coming in to help represent clients who are being charged with offences that could result in a sentence of six months or less. The hybridization of some offences in Bill C-75 is going to bring the maximum penalties to some of these summary offences to two years less a day. One of the consequences of that is that in many provinces, paralegals and students in law school will be unable to represent these clients. Therefore, we are going to have a lot more backlog.

I am wondering if the member can comment on that and why the government was not aware of that particular consequence.

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November 28th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, when I made my speech on Bill C-75 at second reading, I mentioned that we were eager to work with the government to improve the bill. I am disappointed to report not enough was done to enable us to support this legislation. The government's stated goal was to reduce court delays in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Jordan and to continue with trial fairness imperatives. I am afraid the bill comes up short on both counts.

This was a 302-page bill so I will not be able to address in my short time the questions I wanted to. However, I would like to speak on four themes very briefly. First, the failure to address mandatory minimum penalties; second, the hybridization issues we have heard about; third, restrictions on preliminary inquiries; and fourth, the patchwork approach to agent representation. These are among the many issues we heard testimony on at the justice committee.

We heard testimony that the measures proposed would, in fact, make matters worse in many cases. I will elaborate. Most of the action in criminal justice in Canada takes place in the provincial courts, and hybridizing offences and pushing more cases onto to those courts is hardly a solution that is going to make things better.

However, I commend the government for a number of things. I commend it for deleting the routine police evidence provision that was agreed to be problematic at the committee. I am pleased we, at the committee, persuaded the government to change that odious provision. I am also pleased to have moved, along with my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre, a provision that would repeal the bawdy house provisions and vagrancy sections of the Criminal Code that have been used so often to criminalize consensual sexual activities, particularly among the LGBTQ2 community.

However, there were hundreds of amendments brought to the committee and a number of them were not accepted. For example, the New Democratic Party brought 17 amendments to committee designed to help vulnerable people impacted by our justice system. None of them were accepted by the government.

Every day there are real people who are self-represented. They cannot afford lawyers and there is not enough legal aid in this world to represent them. Who are these people? They are primarily indigenous, poor and marginalized. It is our submission that this bill simply does not do enough to address their realities.

Many of the stakeholders we consulted have told us that the key reforms in Bill C-75 are not evidenced-based at all. The stated objective of this bill is to respond to the Jordan judgment, with its mandatory time limits, yet there is considerable doubt the changes proposed would speed up the criminal justice system. Arguably, they would have the opposite effect.

The Liberals claim that this is somehow bold criminal justice reform, yet the elephant in the room is that they failed entirely to address former prime minister Harper's regime of mandatory minimum sentences, despite their political promises and public commitments to do so. Defence lawyers and legal academics agree the reversal of this practice would have been a huge step to unclogging the delays in the system, yet the Liberals failed utterly to even address the topic at all. We believe we need to deal with the root causes of the delays, things like addiction and poverty issues, which are really the root of the crime we are dealing with.

Let me start with mandatory minimums. This is one thing that would have increased compliance with Jordan and alleviated court burden from multiple charter challenges, and it is unfathomable why the Liberals ducked this issue. So many people came to our committee and talked about it. I do not have time to list them all but they included, from Barreau du Québec, Dr. Marie-Eve Sylvestre, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Jonathan Rudin of Aboriginal Legal Services. I could go on and on. All of these people have spoken out about the failure to address mandatory minimums.

There are so many quotes I do not have time to address, but Jonathan Rudin, who is the program director for Aboriginal Legal Services reminded us that even the justice minister herself acknowledged the issues with mandatory minimum sentencing, saying, “This government knows that mandatory minimum sentences do not work.” She spoke eloquently on this issue on September 29, 2017, almost a year ago.

The justice minister said:

There is absolutely no doubt that MMPs have a disproportionate effect on Indigenous people, as well as other vulnerable populations. The data are clear. The increased use of MMPs over the past decade has contributed to the overrepresentation in our prison system of Indigenous people, racialized communities and female offenders. Judges are well-equipped to assess the offender before them and ensure that the punishment fits the crime.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in this bill to address that issue.

I am pleased that Senator Kim Pate has introduced Bill S-251, sponsored by my colleague, the member for Saskatoon West, which provides for judicial discretion to depart from the mandatory sentence when it would be just to do so. Then the opportunities for plea bargaining when judges have the discretion that they used to have, as all the experts have said, would go a great deal of distance to solve the issue of delays.

I do not have time to do much with the issue of hybridization. I think there has been enough said about that, and in the interests of time I will skip that.

I will say that Emilie Taman, one of the witnesses, a prominent lawyer in Ottawa, said this:

Indeed, of the 136 indictable offences that are to be reclassified as hybrid by virtue of Bill C-75, 95 are offences punishable by five or ten years. Consequently, this Bill now gives the Crown, rather than the accused, control over whether trial by jury is on the table for these 95 offences. This is problematic because the Crown’s exercise of discretion is done without transparency and is only reviewable on the very high standard of abuse of process.

In other words, we are giving the Crown counsel of the land the ability to make up their minds about which way to go in the privacy of their offices. Contrast that with judicial discretion, where in open court judges decide whether the penalty fits the crime. How different. How far we have come and how far away we are from justice. The potential for bias is real.

I believe that time will not allow me to do much more, but I am so enticed by what the hon. parliamentary secretary said about preliminary inquires that, in the interest of time, I want to address that issue head-on.

The government appears to believe that restricting preliminaries will save court time and protect vulnerable witnesses. The Canadian Bar Association, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association are among the witnesses that utterly disagree with the parliamentary secretary.

We heard considerable testimony about preliminaries actually reducing court delay. We heard extensive, compelling testimony that preliminary inquiries are a necessary tool to preserve trial fairness.

The Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario said:

Eliminating preliminary inquiries for all cases other than those for which a maximum period of imprisonment of life is available will not further the interests of justice or assist with the orderly and efficient administration of criminal justice. The Committee should recommend that these changes not be made.

I had a dozen quotes to give on this, but I think my favourite witness was Professor Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary's faculty of law. She said that we have to protect people from having a trial where none is necessary and that the “preliminary inquiry, at its core, exists as the legislative 'shield' between the accused and the Crown.”

She gave an example, a story which members may well remember, that of Susan Nelles, a nurse at the cardiac ward at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, who was accused of murdering children. During the preliminary inquiry, they found a complete lack of evidence. The result was the charges were dropped. The result, in Professor Silver's view, was that preliminary inquiries are a vital step in ensuring due process and fair trials.

The other issue I want to talk about involves restricting agent representation. Upping the penalty for summary offences to two years less a day is going to have an adverse effect for agent representation across our country. I am talking about law students, paralegals and other agents that currently represent a large “gap population”, as they are called, in our country. There are many individuals who simply do not qualify for legal aid and are too poor to afford a lawyer.

The government has decided it is up to the provinces and territories to regulate what type of agent can represent what crime. This is not co-operative federalism; this is creating a patchwork effect to justice across Canada. Access to appropriate counsel should not depend on where people live, but now it will. We have student legal aid services, people such as Lisa Cirillo, Suzanne Johnson and Doug Ferguson, who asked the government to reverse the measure that would limit agent representation, and yet nothing appears to have been done on that point.

Let me be clear. An unrepresented accused will absolutely increase court delay and deprive that person of his or her right to a proper trial. It often forces the Crown and judges into an uncomfortable position where they must occasionally advise, assist and support the self-represented accused when this is contrary to their official role in the process.

We proposed a number of changes to increase jury representativeness. They were rejected. Professor Kent Roach talked about the shameful situation of juries, such as the failure to have any indigenous jurors on the Gerald Stanley case, and suggested, as did the Criminal Lawyers' Association that we have the ability to look at the jury and the judge given the discretion to decide whether it was representative or indeed embarrassing. That was rejected by my colleagues.

I am sorry I do not have time to say much more, but I will say this. There is a real opportunity lost. We do not do comprehensive criminal justice reform very often in our country. The Liberals brought in a 302-page bill. Some of the key issues I have addressed will only exacerbate the problem before us, making less justice and further delays. There are some things in this bill we like, but on balance we have to say, sadly, we cannot support it.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation 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, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the said bill and not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill; and

That 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-75 was introduced on the day before Good Friday in an effort to hide from Canadians what was in the bill. Now, after just two sitting days, the government is already bringing in time allocation at report stage. It is absolutely shameful.

At the justice committee, Liberal MPs were right to back down from the reclassification of terrorism and inciting genocide. However, shockingly, the Liberals have doubled down when it comes to the hybridization of what are currently serious indictable offences, including human trafficking, impaired driving causing bodily harm and kidnapping a minor, just to name a few.

Does the minister not agree that these are also serious offences? Does she not agree with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre when he said, “Let's be serious....We're talking about terrorism. We're talking about very serious offences.”? Why does the minister not also treat impaired driving causing bodily harm, human trafficking and other offences as serious offences?

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I appreciate being able to rise to talk about Bill C-75, the importance of the bill and the intent behind the bill.

There is absolutely nothing that our government is trying to hide with respect to the major bold reforms we are seeking in Bill C-75 to the criminal justice system to answer the call of the Supreme Court of Canada in Jordan and other decisions to create efficiencies and promote the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. That is precisely what we are doing in Bill C-75. Since we formed government, this has been considered through very robust consultations.

I appreciate the discussions, the considerations and listening to 95 witnesses at the House of Commons committee on justice and human rights, who provided very substantial feedback.

With respect to the member opposite's question with respect to the hybridization of offences, serious offences will continue to be treated seriously. The hybridization of offences does nothing to change the fundamental principles of sentencing.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree that this is a large and significant bill. The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to answer the call of the Prime Minister to me in my mandate letter and our government's commitment to transform the criminal justice system and create efficiencies and effectiveness in that system.

The member opposite stated that this bill would solve some problems but create others. I disagree with that statement. This legislation and the lead-up to the introduction of this legislation in March of this year was the result of significant consultation right across the country through round tables. I have personally engaged in three federal, provincial and territorial meetings with my counterparts in the provinces and territories, all of whom are supportive of the robust and bold changes in Bill C-75.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, as I reflect back on the campaign of 2015, and sitting in many all-candidates debates, I remember hearing so clearly that if the Liberals became the government they would not bring in closure or time allocation and they would get rid of the practice of introducing omnibus bills in Parliament. Here we have those things being brokered at the same time.

In Bill C-75 there are some serious offences that will be downgraded to hybrid offences which gives the discretion to prosecute them as summary convictions, such as obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman and blood alcohol over the legal limit. We know the scourge of impaired driving on our streets and it is unbelievable that the government would actually reduce this offence.

I am not as concerned right now about those particular items as I am concerned about the fact that the government is intent on shutting down debate on a very serious issue when all parliamentarians should have the option of giving their views and letting their constituents know their views.

Why is the government so intent on shutting down debate on this important issue?

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, our government is committed to working co-operatively with all members of the House.

With respect to Bill C-75, I would point out that there has been a total of seven hours and 45 minutes of debate in the House. The bill went to committee, where there was major discussion among committee members, and I thank them for that discussion. The committee heard from 95 witnesses. Twenty-seven hours of discussion and debate happened at committee. I thank members for the suggested amendments, many of which were accepted by the government.

Bill C-75 is a robust bill which proposes to amend the Criminal Code. It is not an omnibus piece of legislation. It seeks to address Criminal Code changes.

To comments by the member opposite around serious offences, under this legislation serious offences would still be prosecuted in a serious manner.

I am glad the member raised impaired driving. I am very pleased that our government was able to pass Bill C-46, major legislation to create in Canada among the toughest impaired driving laws in the world. I appreciate the member's bringing that up.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, in terms of time allocation, but more important to ensure that Bill C-75 proceeds, we are committed to working with all members of this House. We appreciate the discussion and debate that came from the justice committee and look forward to the discussion that will happen in the other place.

Bill C-75 is about addressing delays in the criminal justice system and creating efficiencies and effectiveness. It is our responsibility to address the call of the Supreme Court of Canada to address the delays that exist in the criminal justice system. Bill C-75 is in response to that.

Yes, this is a large piece of legislation. It has benefited from 27-plus hours of debate at committee. I look forward to continued discussions in this regard.

In terms of the member's question around mandatory minimum penalties, we are continuing to work on sentencing reform. This is a commitment that our government has made and we will continue that discussion and bring forward changes in due course.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, this gives me the opportunity to stand up to acknowledge and appreciate the work that was done by all members of the justice and human rights committee in bringing forward many amendments. In fact, 50 motions to amend Bill C-75 were adopted.

The amendment brought forward to remove routine police evidence by way of affidavit was something our government recognized, along with the testimony of many people who came before the committee. We were able to accept that amendment.

In terms of agent representation, some of the changes that are contained within Bill C-75 raised concerns among many stakeholders who came before the justice committee about the inability to have agent representation because of the increase of offence penalties. We have accepted amendments from committee to provide for that to give provinces and territories the ability to determine agents in terms of representation of various offences.

Again, I appreciate the input on other amendments as well from the committee.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's appreciation of the importance of this legislation and having Bill C-75 move through the parliamentary process and be passed in order to address the delays in the criminal justice system and to answer the call of the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a priority for this government and I would hope it is a priority for all members in the House.

There has been a lot of debate and discussion. As I have said, at committee there were some 27 hours of debate and discussion. I very much appreciate, as does the government, the feedback and amendments that came from committee, the additional amendments requested by stakeholders and voted on by committee members, that would repeal vagrancy and bawdy house offences.

I thank the committee once again for all of its input and the amendments put forward that improve this legislation.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to stand to address the comments made by the member opposite, and I dispute his comments completely.

In terms of not listening to witnesses, that is absolutely not true. My parliamentary secretary and all members of the justice committee had the benefit of hearing from 95 witnesses at the justice and human rights committee, all of whom spoke about their passion for criminal justice reform and made very concrete suggestions about how the bill could be improved. We accepted many of those recommendations that I believe have very significantly improved Bill C-75. I look forward to continued debate and discussion as this bill goes to the other place.

On top of all of the discussion that happened in this House and at committee, we engaged in discussions and consultations right across the country with criminal justice stakeholders. I engaged on an ongoing basis with my counterparts in the provinces and territories, all of whom are supportive of the bold reforms that we are proposing in Bill C-75.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, again, I will stand to speak to the nature of Bill C-75 and the substantial discussion and consultations we have had for the last three years on the very elements of Bill C-75. I understand and recognize the desire of members to speak to this important piece of legislation. Many members from the party opposite have risen in this House to speak to this legislation and during the many hours of debate and discussion that occurred at the justice and human rights committee.

As members in this House, we have an obligation to move forward and answer the call of the Supreme Court of Canada to address delays in the criminal justice system. Bill C-75 would do just that, in a comprehensive way. I look to all members of this House to support this important piece of legislation moving forward.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments on the importance of answering the call of Canadians, the call of the Supreme Court, to move forward with criminal justice reform that would address delays in the criminal justice system. To speak to the member's specific questions about what has gone into Bill C-75, in the lead-up to the introduction in March of this year I conducted, and my parliamentary secretary participated in, round tables across the country. We conducted online surveys and had requests for feedback. We received thousands of responses and we produced a report of what we heard. We benefited from ongoing discussions, as well as reports from years ago by the Senate committee, on what we can do to improve delays in the criminal justice system. We have incorporated many of the recommendations from the other place into Bill C-75. Again, I want to highlight the discussions and debate that occurred in this House, the robust discussion that happened at committee with the 95 witnesses heard, the 27 hours of debate and discussion we benefited from, and improving the bill through various amendments that came from the committee.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I do remember going on campaign stops before the election, talking about doing things differently. In fact, our government is doing things differently.

We have engaged in consultation for the past three years. There was a lot of discussion at committee. There was a lot of discussion in this House. I would be very happy to sit down with the member opposite to talk more about Bill C-75 and the provisions that are contained therein.

Again, we are doing things differently. We have fundamentally changed the way that we engage with Canadians. I look forward to the discussion and debate in the other place. However, we also have a responsibility to ensure that our legislation moves through the parliamentary process so we address the desires and the needs of Canadians, and we address the delays in the criminal justice system. We made a commitment as a government to heed the call of the Supreme Court of Canada to address delays.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, again, I appreciate the comments and the opportunity to respond to the comments.

The member opposite asked what this is achieving. What is Bill C-75 achieving? It is achieving the necessity of addressing delays in the criminal justice system, achieving efficiencies and effectiveness.

Again, I disagree with the characterization that Canadians are not supportive of this. We have done substantial consultation right across the country. In terms of the member opposite's comments about downloading to the provinces, I would like to inform the member opposite that I have been working with the provinces and territories on an ongoing basis for three years, and they are supportive of this. This is not a download on the provinces and territories. This is co-operative federalism at its best, around the administration of justice, to ensure that we do everything we can as actors in the criminal justice system to heed the call of the Supreme Court of Canada.

This has robust support right across the country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-75. I would like to use my time today to discuss the proposed changes to this bill that would affect the LGBTQ2 community, human trafficking and the victim surcharge.

As special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, I am particularly proud of the work of our government in advancing the rights of LBGTQ2 Canadians and the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in making concrete, tangible legislative changes that would improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians.

Today, on the the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we pause to reflect on the lives of transgender people here in Canada and around the world that have been lost to murder, suicide, hatred and discrimination; the lives diminished due to overt transphobia and misogyny; and the daily discrimination faced by trans children, siblings, parents and their loved ones, I am proud, as the first openly gay MP elected from Alberta to the House, that Parliament passed Bill C-16 to protect trans persons in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. I am particularly proud that our government led this charge.

I am also proud of the work of our government in passing legislation to enable Canadians who have criminal records for same-sex consensual activity to have these records expunged, and I acknowledge the leadership of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on this file.

I would also like to thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada for including in Bill C-75 the removal of section 159, which discriminates against young gay or bisexual men. That would now be removed from the Criminal Code with the passing of Bill C-75.

I also applaud the work of the committee and the ministry in responding to expert testimony for the repeal of the bawdy house and vagrancy provisions that were used by police forces to arrest gay men who frequented gay clubs and bathhouses. Men arrested in these police raids, many now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, still face criminal records as a result of these charges. We heard the testimony, and the committee and the ministry responded. Should Bill C-75 pass, these odious provisions in the Criminal Code would be removed and amends could thus be made.

Parts of the bill pertain to human trafficking and the victim surcharge.

I think it is very important to clearly state that human trafficking cannot be tolerated and that our government sees it as a very serious concern. That is why we continue to work closely with the provinces, territories, law enforcement agencies, victim services groups, organizations representing indigenous peoples, and other community groups, as well as our international partners. We are working together to combat all forms of human trafficking in Canada and abroad, to provide victims with special protection and support, to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and to ensure that their punishment reflects the severity of the crime.

Human trafficking is a very difficult crime to detect because of its clandestine nature and victims' reluctance to report their situations out of fear of their traffickers. We heard testimony about that when the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights travelled across the country to listen to victims of human trafficking and to see how we could change the Criminal Code to provide more opportunities for police to work with those organizations that work with victims.

The legislative changes within Bill C-75 would provide police and prosecutors with additional tools for investigation and prosecution. These measures would bring the perpetrators of human trafficking to justice so they can answer for the severity of their actions.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-38 would bring into force amendments that have already been passed by Parliament, but were not promulgated in the former parliamentary initiative, Bill C-452. They would also strengthen the legislation to combat all forms of human trafficking, whether through sexual exploitation or forced labour, while respecting the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.

We heard of heinous crimes being committed not just against those who are unknown to the perpetrators, but also against family members. Family trafficking exists in this country, and we must make sure that police forces are armed with the tools they need to be able to put an end to such heinous crimes.

More specifically, the proposed changes will make it easier to prosecute human trafficking offences by introducing a presumption that will enable the Crown to prove that the accused exercised control, direction or influence over the victim's movements by establishing that the accused lived with or was habitually in the company of the victim.

In addition, these changes would add human trafficking to the list of offences to which the provisions imposing a reverse onus for forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.

I would now like to discuss the changes that would affect the victim surcharge. Bill C-75 proposes to restore judicial discretion to waive the victim surcharge by guiding judges to waive the victim surcharge only when the offender is truly unable to pay. For certain offences against the administration of justice, where the total amount would be disproportionate in certain circumstances, the bill would also provide for limited judicial discretion to not impose a federal victim surcharge amount per offence.

The federal victim surcharge, which is set out in the Criminal Code, is imposed on a sentencing basis, and revenue is collected and used by the province or territory where the criminal act was committed to assist in the sentencing process for funding victims services. Bill C-75 would maintain that the federal victim surcharge must be imposed ex officio and must apply cumulatively to each offence. However, to address concerns about the negative impact of current federal victim surcharge provisions on marginalized offenders, the bill would provide limited judicial discretion regarding the mandatory and cumulative imposition of the surcharge in certain circumstances.

Bill C-75 would provide clear direction as to what would constitute undue hardship. These guidelines would ensure that the mandatory exemption, or waiver, would be applied consistently and only to offenders who were truly unable to pay the surcharge. In addition, the bill would state that undue hardship would refer to the financial ability to pay and was not simply caused by harm associated with incarceration. We are trying to avoid the criminalization and over-criminalization of people simply because of their inability to pay a federal victim surcharge.

For certain offences against the justice administration, in the event that the cumulative surcharge was disproportionate to the circumstances, Bill C-75 would contain provisions allowing an exception to the victim fine surcharge ratio. This exception would apply to two types of offences against the administration of justice: failure to appear in court; and breach of conditions of bail by a peace officer or court order, and only when said breach did not cause any moral, bodily or financial damage to the victim.

Studies show that marginalized offenders, especially indigenous offenders and offenders with mental health and addiction issues, are more likely to be found guilty of offences against the administration of justice.

Under the existing victim surcharge provisions, it is unlikely that much of the money collected in the federal victim surcharges that are paid out to the provinces and territories comes from groups of offenders who are unable to pay the victim surcharge or who are only able to pay part of the surcharge because of their personal situation or because of their multiple offences against the administration of justice.

In addition, offenders who suffer undue hardship as a result of the mandatory victim surcharge are, by the current application of the provisions, hampered in their ability to regain financial stability. This places them in a situation where the surcharge does not allow them to successfully reintegrate into society after serving their sentences or paying their outstanding fines, and they risk reoffending. These types of situations do not help survivors or victims of crime or the provision of services to help them. This proposed exception would be consistent with the principles of fairness and equity.

I am confident that by maintaining a higher mandatory surcharge, this proposed legislation would support the objective of the victim surcharge to provide a source of funding for provincial and territorial victim services while strengthening offender accountability regarding victims and society in general. At the same time, the bill would be in keeping with the principles of proportionality, fairness and respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Not having gone through law school, I can say that it is an honour to serve on this committee and to be part of making Bill C-75 appear in the House today.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I am going to answer the question, if the heckling will stop.

What I can say very clearly is that the hybridization of offences would provide the courts with the tools they need to make sure that we respect our obligations under Jordan's principle. Nobody wants to see criminals on the streets because they did not get their time in court within two years. Principles of sentencing would not be affected by Bill C-75. That is section 718 of the code. Members can look at it.

Hybridization would be another tool for prosecutors, and they would be able to use it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, if the member for St. Albert—Edmonton were to go back on the tape, he would also see that I was very clear about his comment to the committee and said “hogwash and poppycock” on his politicization of a very serious matter in Bill C-75.

I have met with Ms. Arsenault. I have met with George Marrinier. They are constituents. Quite frankly, that member knows, as members on the other side know, that this is not a sentencing question. We doubled the fines for impaired driving to 14 years. I can tell members that this is going to help us respect the Jordan principle.

The member can be upset about this, just like I am, but this is going to help us in the administration of justice.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and put some thoughts on the record with respect to Bill C-75, which is the government's response, we are told, to the Jordan decision, which had to do with lengthy delays in the criminal justice system in Canada. The ruling maintained that cases had to be dealt with in a certain amount of time or the people accused of committing a crime would be off the hook. We have seen across the country instances of people accused of very serious crimes not being tried in court because of a failure to meet deadlines.

It is quite important, I think, that both the government and Parliament take action. This is a long-standing complaint, and not just in some of the most serious crimes and trials. We have also heard from Canadians who have had occasion, one way or another, to deal with court proceedings, especially if they are victims or the families of victims, that they are often outraged at the amount of time it takes to get justice. Of course, justice delayed too often is justice denied. The Jordan decision emphasizes that even more so and raises the stakes in terms of being able to deal with issues in a timely way. If we do not do so now, we will face a situation of people never being tried for the crimes they are accused of having committed.

Our responsibility as parliamentarians is to judge, on balance, this piece of legislation being presented by the government, which was not greatly amended at committee. I know the hon. member for Victoria and the NDP caucus did a lot of great work on this bill and made a lot of proposals at committee that were not accepted by the government, so this really remains a government package of reforms. Our duty as parliamentarians is to decide whether, on balance, this is going to address the issues that were raised in the Jordan decision and expedite our legal processes so that Canadians can expect to get justice through the courts.

One of the ways the government could have done that prior to presenting any legislation in this House would have been to act swiftly to appoint federal judges. It has been an ongoing story of this Parliament in terms of the failure of the justice minister to ensure that the roster of judges is full. We have heard many times in this House that the government ought to have been acting more quickly. Vacancies remain on the bench. The fact of the matter is that even if we have perfect laws, which we do not now and will not after Bill C-75 passes, if we do not have judges to hear the cases, it matters very little what the laws on the books are. It is the judges who hear the cases and the judges who make decisions.

Thus, it is incumbent upon the government to move more quickly on this. It has been three years now. Surely the government is not going to make a case that Canada does not have people qualified to hold those positions. The people are out there. It is a matter of the government making it a priority to actually make those appointments happen. Saying it is a priority is not enough. They have to actually appoint those judges. I do not want to hear government members getting up to talk about how important it is to them. I will wait to see when those positions are filled. That is the true test of how important it is for the government, and so far, it has not been very important.

The other thing we know is that if this is the government's signature justice reform, which it appears to be, a contributing factor to what is at stake with the Jordan decision is the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. That issue was very popular with the previous Conservative government. For a wide range of criminal charges, they brought in mandatory minimum sentences. We know that those are problematic in a number of ways. I think they are problematic in principle.

The fact of the matter is that no two crimes are the same. There are different circumstances depending on the particular crime and who is involved. The people best qualified to make decisions about what is an appropriate time to serve, along with other measures, such as addictions treatment and whatever else is factored into sentencing, are the people who hear the cases. I do not think it is for Parliament to pre-judge, for any case or set of cases, what the appropriate punishment is. That is why we have judges, people who are trained in the legal profession and have seen many different cases and are able to discriminate.

It is appropriate to entrust that work to judges, for whom it is a profession. Mandatory minimum sentences are about taking that away. One of the side effects of that, particularly in cases of smaller charges like minor drug possession and charges of that nature, is that when people know there is going to be a mandatory jail sentence of two, three, four or five years, it is really a disincentive for them to plead guilty. We have tools in order to make sure the most serious cases are heard in a timely way, and that murderers and gang members are not getting off easy because of the Jordan decision. One of those tools is to take some of those smaller cases and plead them out. People are not going to do that if it means serious jail time.

Again, there are people in the courts and the police force who are involved in making those kinds of decisions when they have that discretion. It is important to leave it to judges, prosecutors and the police to prioritize those cases, precisely to make sure that the worst ones and the ones they have the best chance of getting a conviction on are tried. Those people then get justice, and the courts are not bogged down with other kinds of cases without any ability to make a judgment call about what is relatively more or less important.

That was a major problem with changes to the justice system that we saw in the last Parliament. Outside of the Conservative Party and people who supported them in the last election, there was a pretty broad consensus that those things had to be repealed. We do not see that here. That is an obvious thing that is not in this legislation. It would have helped with respect to the Jordan decision, and would have been important to do on principle anyway.

One of the other things the bill does is establish hybrid offences between the provinces and the federal government. There is real concern that this is going to mean we are going to improve federal court wait times at the expense of provincial court wait times. This is classically Liberal, in a certain way.

I do not want to be too partisan about it, but I remember the nineties, when the federal government decided it was going to balance the budget at all costs. It made deep cuts to the health and social transfer. That ended up on the ledger of provincial governments, which now did not have the same funding for health services and other services that they were providing to their populations. Those governments went into deficit or had to take other measures, whether it was cuts to services or raising taxes, in order to be able to maintain what had theretofore been supported by the federal government.

For as much as the federal books looked better, there was only one taxpayer, and those people paid it at the provincial level instead of at the federal level. What looked good on the federal government did not ultimately make a difference to Canadians. They paid for it, either through higher taxes at the provincial level or through serious cuts to service.

Unfortunately, we had a Conservative government in the nineties, and we paid for that in terms of serious cuts to services. We lost nurses and teachers, and the federal government sat pretty while pretending it was not responsible for that. At the end of the day, its budget cuts did that.

We are gearing up for the potential for something similar, where the federal government will say, “Look at us. The wait times for the Federal Court are way down.” However, we have the potential to see those same waits happening at the provincial level, because people who at one time would have faced a charge at the federal level will now instead face a similar charge at the provincial level. We will not get rid of the wait times; we are just shifting the burden from the federal books to the provincial books.

For anyone paying close attention, the Liberals are not fooling anybody. If our job is to make sure those wait times go down and justice is served in a timely way, it is really important that we do it in a way that actually accomplishes that and does not give the federal government a talking point at the expense of the provinces.

I am out of time, but I look forward to questions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to address the House today in discussion of Bill C-75. As members are aware, Bill C-75 represents our government's commitment to ensure that the criminal justice system continues to serve Canadian citizens in the most efficient, effective, fair and accessible manner possible.

Through Bill C-75, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward and modernize the criminal justice system and address court delays. Due to the failures of the previous government, court delays have persisted within the criminal justice system. Court delays are not a new problem.

However, our government recognizes we can and must do better. Since 2015, we have heard from countless stakeholders, community members, lawyers and other individuals regarding the need to reform the criminal justice system.

In fact, the Supreme Court's rulings in the Jordan and Cody cases further support this rationale. As such, through collaborative efforts identified by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, Bill C-75 seeks to remedy these significant gaps and inefficiencies.

Among other reforms, Bill C-75 proposes to limit the use of preliminary inquiries for offences carrying maximum penalties, modernize bail practices and procedures in order to improve access to justice, better protect victims of intimate partner violence, provide judges with greater discretionary tools to manage cases and efficiently bring criminal matters to resolution, hybridize offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, and increase the maximum penalty for all summary offences to two years less a day.

Today, I will be focusing on the hybridization aspect of Bill C-75. Bill C-75 introduces legislation that provides Crown prosecutors the discretion to elect the most efficient mode of prosecution, evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This system of reclassification would reduce court time consumed by less serious offences while allowing limited resources to be redirected to more serious offences. Moreover, this legislation prevents indictable cases from being dismissed or stayed due to the system's inability to try the accused within a reasonable time frame.

Bill C-75 amends over 115 offences punishable by either an indictable offence or summary conviction. Since the proposal hybridizes all straight indictable offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years or less, criminal offences relating to terrorism and genocide are subsequently captured. These are clauses referring to section 83.02 of the Criminal Code, providing or collecting property for certain activities; section 83.03, providing, making available, etc., property or services for terrorist purposes; section 83.04, using or possessing property for terrorist purposes; section 83.18, participation in activity of terrorist group; section 83.181, leaving Canada to participate in activity of terrorist group; subsection 83.221(1), advocating or promoting commission of terrorism offences; subsections 83.23(1) and 83.23(2), concealing person who carried out terrorist activity and concealing person who is likely to carry out terrorist activity, and finally subsection 318(1), which relates to advocating genocide.

Canada is a leader among nations in the fight for universal human rights and the international rule of law. We were one of the first countries to sign the Rome Statute and the first country to ratify its membership within the International Criminal Court. Moreover, on a number of occasions, Canada has publicly denounced the actions of other governments due to their harsh treatment of their citizens, and urged their cases to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation, such as in the cases of Myanmar and Venezuela. Canadians are proud to live in a country that is diverse, with a global reputation as a defender of human rights.

Given the very few times that genocide and terrorism-related charges have been invoked in Canadian courts, the extremely serious nature of the issues, as well as Canada's moral obligation to continue to serve as an international promoter of justice, I am proud to inform the House that all eight clauses referred to above relating to genocide and terrorism-related offences were removed from the hybridization list. Specifically, all genocide and terrorism-related offences will continue to remain as straight indictable offences with a maximum penalty of 10 years less a day.

In its witness testimony, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed its strong support for such amendments. It stated:

...terrorism [is] a heinous and potentially catastrophic phenomenon. Today, terrorist groups around the world, some of which actively seek to inspire recruits in Canada, are often motivated by ideologies infused with antisemitism. Far too many Jewish communities around the world – from Argentina to Denmark, and from France to Israel – have suffered from deadly terror attacks.

Additionally, B'nai Brith Canada expressed its concerns regarding the hybridization of offences relating to genocide and terrorism, stating:

It is inappropriate to allow these offences to be prosecuted in a summary fashion. To be treated with the seriousness which they deserve, they should continue to be prosecutable by way of indictment only.

Following the proposed amendments to remove all eight genocide and terrorism-related clauses from Bill C-75, our government will continue to send a clear, symbolic and moral message rebuking the offensive crimes mentioned above. However, I would like to strictly emphasize that the reclassification of offences does not affect basic sentencing principles exercised by courts. Depending on the severity of the case, Crown prosecutors will be required to consider a multitude of factors and ultimately decide to prosecute either as an indictable offence or summary conviction.

Before I conclude, as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest thanks to all the witnesses for submitting their testimony and appearing before the committee to present their expert opinions regarding Bill C-75. I can assure everyone that all recommendations and appeals put forward were carefully considered and taken into account.

Although there is no simple solution to resolve the issues of court delays, our government is taking action to introduce a cultural shift within the criminal justice system to address its root causes. We are taking important steps forward to act on what we have heard. Moreover, we are taking full advantage of this opportunity to create a criminal justice system that is compassionate and timely, a system that reflects the needs and expectations of all Canadian citizens.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / noon
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy serving on the justice committee with the member for Willowdale. He did appear before the justice committee to provide evidence about why genocide and terrorism-related offences should not be reclassified. His testimony was certainly helpful to the committee.

The member spoke of consultations that took place in the lead-up to Bill C-75. The fact is the government simply took a whole series of offences that were at a 10-year maximum and reclassified them, including terrorism and genocide, which I think the member would agree had no business being reclassified.

The member spoke a few moments ago about the fact that those offences should not be reclassified because they need to be treated seriously and prosecuting them by way of summary conviction would not do justice.

I wonder if the hon. member could speak to why the government does not seem to also take seriously offences such as impaired driving causing bodily harm or administering a date rape drug.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and 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.

It is disappointing to again see the Liberal government bring in a 300-page omnibus bill after the Liberals specifically said in their campaign promises that they were not going to do that. However, a broken promise a day seems to be the order of the Liberal government.

That said, let us think about what we are trying to accomplish in our judicial system and then look at how Bill C-75 may or may not fit into that.

What we first want to do in our criminal justice system is define the behaviour that is criminal. We want to say which things are not acceptable in Canadian society. That would be goal number one. Goal number two would be to make sure that appropriate punishments are established to deter people from perpetrating these crimes. We want to make sure that we have those appropriate punishments defined. We want to make sure that victims rights are protected, that we are not just focused on the criminal but we are also focused on making sure that victims rights are protected. Then we want to make sure that whatever rules we decide, we actually enforce them in a timely way.

I think that is really what we want to get out of the criminal justice system.

If we look at the Conservative record, everyone in Canada well knows that the Conservatives want to be tough on crime. We want to ensure that if people commit crimes, they do the time. We want to make sure that people are not just let off the hook.

If we look at the Liberals' record on this, it is not quite so clear. In fact, I would argue that the criminals seem to be making out very well under the Liberals.

The first issue is the Liberal government's failure to appoint judges so that cases could be tried in a timely way. According to the Jordan principle, if they are not tried in a timely way, within two years, those people will go free. We have seen murderers and rapists having their cases thrown out of court because there were not enough judges being appointed. Clearly, that is a failure of the Liberal government. We are in the fourth year of a four-year mandate and there are still vacancies, which is causing cases to continually be thrown out.

If the government were responsible, at some point it should have taken a look at perhaps more minor crimes. For example, if it thought that it was going to legalize marijuana, perhaps any of the charges with respect to possession of marijuana that were in the system could have been punted in order to focus on prosecuting more serious crimes, like murder and rape. However, that was not done.

The other thing we saw is that the Liberal government is continually trying to soften the penalties for crime.

Today, in Canadian society, it is a crime to disrupt a religious ceremony or to threaten a religious official or cleric. The Liberal government tried to put Bill C-51 in place to take away those protections with respect to worship and the clerics. There was a huge outcry across Canada. I know that all the churches in my riding wrote letters. There were many petitions that were brought forward. There was a huge outcry from Canadians, so the government backed off on that. Now we see that the government has brought this back under Bill C-75 as one of the things the government wants to reduce sentences on to a summary conviction, which would be less than two years in prison or a fine for obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman. It seems a little bit sneaky that the government heard a clear message from Canadians to back off and then it tried to slide it into another bill. That is not a good thing.

Let us look at some of the other crimes that are now considered in Bill C-75 to be minor and subject to a judge's decision on whether or not they get a fine or a summary conviction of up to a two-year maximum.

One is prison breach. Really, somebody who breaks out of prison is going to be given a fine. That should not even be an option. Municipal corruption is another thing on the list, as is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. We have already talked about obstructing or violence to clergymen.

Another is impaired driving offences causing bodily harm. It is unbelievable that at this particular moment in time, when the Liberals have just legalized marijuana and every other jurisdiction has seen a tripling of traffic deaths due to impaired drug driving, they would decide that this crime is less serious and people might be able to get off with just a summary conviction or a fine.

Regarding abduction of a person under the age of 16 or abduction of a person under the age of 14, what is a more serious crime than kidnapping a child? I cannot imagine. To give that person a fine or a summary conviction just seems like there is no moral compass whatsoever.

It is interesting that polygamy is on the list. We have not had a lot of trouble. Polygamy has always been illegal in Canada. Why are we now saying that we would reduce the penalty for polygamy and make it a fine?

What about forced marriage? I was at the foreign affairs committee yesterday, and we had testimony from the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan about the dire situations there and 50% of girls being forced into child marriage and what a horrendous impact that had on their life. The Liberal members of the committee were sitting there saying, “Oh, this is a terrible thing.” However, here in our own country, we have decided that the penalty for forced marriage is going to be a fine or a less-than-two-years summary conviction. It is ridiculous.

Arson, for a number of reasons, is now on this list and is not considered that serious when in fact it drives up the cost of insurance and it takes people's homes. It is obviously a serious crime.

Participating in the activities of a criminal organization is now on here as not being that serious. The government members have been standing up, day after day, talking about trying to eliminate organized crime from Canada. Now if people are part of organized crime, apparently that is not a serious offence.

Therefore, Bill C-75 does not meet what we said we wanted to meet originally in our justice system. We wanted to talk about the appropriate punishments that need to be established to deter crime. That is not what is happening here.

In addition to all of those things, we see that there are other changes recommended in this bill. There is the repealing of the victim surcharge changes that were brought by the Conservatives. It is important that we protect victims' rights and that there is a fund that will help victims in some way after they have suffered a crime.

Removing the power to have a youth tried as an adult is a bit concerning to me. There are some very heinous crimes where the judges still need to have the ability to do that.

Delaying consecutive sentencing for human traffickers was an important law that was brought into place under the Conservative government. We have a huge issue with human trafficking. From my riding to Toronto, there is a huge ring. If someone were caught human trafficking, it would not be just one life that was impacted. There would be hundreds of girls involved. The consecutive sentence allowed individuals to be sentenced for each one of those victims and not get out of prison for a very long time, for what is a heinous crime.

I always like to say what the good things are that I like about the bill as well as the things that I do not like. I see in here that the only increases in penalties are for repeat offenders on intimate partner violence. I am glad to see that because the government has been totally inadequate in its response to violence against women. As the former chair of the status of women committee, we studied and found that one in three Canadian women suffers from violent acts in her lifetime. It has been disappointing to see that the current government, while pledging $400 million in the last budget for StatsCan to steal people's private information, gave $20 million a year to address the problem of violence against women. That has been totally inadequate. At least the Liberals have done something in this bill to try to move forward on that.

In summary, I would say that this bill has not met the objectives. It has not helped put penalties in place. In fact, I would argue that it would erode the penalties that people would receive.

I call on the justice minister to do her job, to appoint the justices who are missing and to put in place punishments that fit the crime. I have brought numerous petitions to the House on Bill C-75 to just eliminate it.

The Liberals talk about trying to get wait times down. They could get wait times down by not trying any criminals and not putting any of them in prison. That would get the wait times down, but it would not achieve what we want in our justice system, which is to define the crimes and to define adequate punishment and ensure that they are enforced in a timely way.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her good work and standing up for victims in Canada. On this side of the House, our priority is to stand up for victims.

In my riding, in the member's riding and other members' ridings, we have all heard from MADD Canada, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has major concerns about the incidence of drunk driving on our roads, often resulting in bodily harm or death. Within the last few weeks in the House, we have heard of family members who have died as a result of drunk driving. We need to take this seriously.

I would ask my colleague to comment on the application of the reduction of the penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm in Bill C-75, what the negative impacts of that could be and, if she has time, comment on whether she is hearing the same thing from MADD Canada in her riding or from other constituents who have expressed concern about the weakening of this provision.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-75.

There is no doubt that we need to modernize our criminal justice system, and in order to do so, we need to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts. Some of the issues that must be reviewed are the lengthy pre-trial delays, changes to how administration of justice issues are managed, legislative changes, as well as judicial case management. However, in my humble opinion, the most important amendment has to do with how the justice system deals with certain accused persons.

Some groups, like indigenous peoples, minorities and people with mental illness or substance abuse issues, are overrepresented in our criminal justice system. These groups are among the most vulnerable members of our society, yet they are sometimes treated unfairly by the justice system. One could even say they are treated with hostility. Our justice system cannot treat different people differently. This is unacceptable, and it has been going on for a very long time.

Bill C-75 allows us to correct these inequalities in the justice system. Complainants who wait years to testify and witnesses who want to move on and get back to a normal life have no choice but to wait because of delays in the system. These delays interfere with their need to feel safe and the justice system's mission to maintain public order. Then there is the matter of the accused who wait years to be declared innocent or those who commit heinous crimes but end up walking away because of the dysfunctional system.

I am running out of time, so I will focus on the issue of bonding. This is an aspect of criminal law that directly affects the presumption of innocence. This fundamental concept is protected under section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter guarantees that any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. Section 11(e) of the Charter provides that any person charged with an offence has the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause. Section 7 of the Charter states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

When it comes to bail, everyone should be fully entitled to their charter rights. Every one of us must receive equal treatment in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other laws. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. For example, defendants who live in remote communities are disproportionately affected by the existing bail system. Statistically, poverty, unemployment and substance abuse are more prevalent among people who live on reserves, and, as a result, they own very little. Bail is also required of people who have to travel from their remote communities to big cities because the judicial system does not serve their hometowns. How are these people supposed to come up with bail? When the financial burden is so great, is that not a violation of people's charter rights?

That is why Bill C-75 is so important. It would allow for less burdensome conditions of release for those who are already disadvantaged compared to other members of society.

This will also help break the cycle of the most vulnerable Canadians being overrepresented in the justice system.

Another reason that Bill C-75 is very important is because it deals with remote appearances. This bill would bring the system in line with current technology and all of its benefits. It would be invaluable to have access to audioconference and videoconference technology, allowing all parties involved in the process, including judges, to participate.

It would be helpful if accused persons could participate via these types of technologies instead of having to fly in from remote communities, which takes considerable resources. These technologies would alleviate the financial burden on society and give accused persons better access to justice. Furthermore, complainants would not have to travel from their remote communities, since they could use these technologies to seek justice.

Courts would have discretionary powers and would consider the individual circumstances of each case, so these technologies could be used for individuals to appear remotely at each stage of the justice process.

The reason for the amendments to remote appearances is to help ensure the proper administration of justice, which includes fair and efficient criminal proceedings, while respecting the right of the accused to a fair trial and to a full and complete defence, as guaranteed by sections 7 and 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If we take another look at plea bargaining, a lot can go wrong. For instance, the accused will often plead guilty in order to minimize the cost of their defence. Those living in precarious situations are less likely to properly defend themselves. This once again demonstrates the need for Bill C-75. It is very sad to think of an innocent person pleading guilty because it is faster and cheaper.

Clause 270 of the bill highlights an important fact. Many vulnerable people are not always aware of the magnitude of their actions and decisions. This can include adolescents, aboriginal people, minorities and people who want to avoid the stress of long delays before the trial. They are more likely to plead guilty for those reasons.

In addition to the provisions set out in section 606 of the Criminal Code, the amendment would require judges to be satisfied that the facts presented support the charge before accepting a guilty plea.

Bill C-75's modernization of the bail system also includes changes regarding intimate partner violence. It is unfortunate that not until recently the matter of intimate partner violence was not given the attention it warranted. The changes to the criminal justice system in this aspect are in keeping with our government's commitment to give more support to those who have faced domestic violence.

Statistically, intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence reported to the police. One in two women face intimate partner violence. This is a dire statistic. It means that 50% of our female population has been victimized while in an intimate relationship. Those who are already vulnerable, such as the elderly, trans, people with disabilities and the indigenous population, face these things in a difficult way. One time is one time too many when people who are accused of intimate partner violence are given bail and go back and attack the very same partner. This reason alone demonstrates to all of us the urgency in having intimate partner violence directly addressed during bail hearings.

The amendments I have mentioned are crucial for the protection of those facing such forms of violence. For all of these reasons, I support 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 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about the reverse onus for offences related to intimate partner violence. That is a step in the right direction. We on this side of the House fully support that aspect of Bill C-75. However, it seems like for every step forward that the government makes, it takes two steps backward.

On the issue of violence against women, could the hon. member speak to the fact that under Bill C-75 offences such as forced marriage or administering a date rape drug are now being reclassified as hybrid offences, in other words, less serious offences? Therefore, yes, one step forward, but it seems many steps backward when it comes to standing up and defending the rights of women.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:35 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 my colleague for her important contribution to the debate on Bill C-75. She outlined an important component of the bill, which is the access to justice component. I would like her to comment on another component of the bill that addresses an issue for the community she represents in Montreal and the community I represent in Toronto, and that is the overrepresentation of certain groups in the justice system. We know indigenous Canadians, black Canadians and other racialized groups are overrepresented in the justice system. The bill would treat administration of justice offences differently. These are offences such as breaching curfews when those curfews do not allow people to get to their places of employment because they have to work at night, for example.

Could the member comment on how we are changing the administration of justice offences so people are no longer criminalized for things such as breaching a bail condition and how that assists the marginalized communities that exist in Montreal and in other cities across the country?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his work on the justice committee. His question is a very important one. It is true that when it comes to administration of justice charges, it is mostly the vulnerable communities that are again disadvantaged, people who are poor, or who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse. They go to work and, by accident, they break their curfew.

For example, they are waiting for a bus and it does not arrive, or it is late or they miss the it and there is no other way for them to get home, so they are stuck outside. They cannot afford to take a taxi. They are barely making ends meet. It is very punitive on them to have an administration of justice that penalizes them for the circumstances of their life, such as being poor, or suffering from substance abuse or mental illness. This is one of the reasons why Bill C-75 is so important to our criminal justice system.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased 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. This omnibus bill is over 200 pages. It includes major reforms to our criminal justice system.

With a concerning level of rural crime in my riding, the safety of my constituents is a high priority for me. The safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government.

While there are some aspects of the bill that I agree will help to reduce delays in the court system, there are several problems associated with it with which I have concerns.

First, I want to talk about the bill itself. As I mentioned, this is a 204-page omnibus bill. I want to remind the Liberals that during the election, they promised they would never table omnibus bills, but here it is. However, 80 other promises have either been broken or have not even started.

This is still on the Liberal web page, which I looked it up the other day. It states that omnibus bills “prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating [the government's] proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.” Yet here we are today discussing an omnibus bill.

It is a mixed bag that amends a total of 13 different acts in various ways. The bill needs to be split into more manageable portions so we can properly study it. What is more is that the government also has thrown in three bills that have already been tabled, Bill C-28, victim surcharge; Bill C-38, consecutive sentencing for human traffickers; and Bill C-39, repealing unconstitutional provisions. Perhaps if the government could manage its legislative agenda more effectively, it would not need to re-table its bills, push through omnibus bills or repeatedly force time allocation and limit debates.

The Liberals are failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. In March they tabled this bill the day before a two-week break period in our sitting schedule. Then they waited a half a year. Now they have returned it when there are only a few weeks left before our six-week break period. This does not give the image that justice is a high priority for the Liberal government.

The government's lack of judicial appointments has resulted in violent criminals walking away without a trial. As of November 2, 54 federal judicial vacancies remained. Appointing judges is an effective solution that is much faster than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I remember in April when the minister talked about 54 more federal judges, yet here we are, almost the end of the year, and still no action.

I also want to talk about what is actually in the bill. Again, some parts of the bill I can support. For example, I agree with efforts to modernize and clarify interim release provisions and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.

Modernizing and simplifying interim release provisions is an important step that will assist many rural communities across the country that do not have the resources to navigate lengthy procedures and paperwork. For that reason, I support this.

However, I wish the stricter release requirements were not limited to offences involving domestic abuse. With an alarming rate of rural crime in my riding and across Canada, which is often carried out by repeat offenders, we need to make it more difficult for all violent criminals to be released. Otherwise, we have a revolving door where they commit a crime, get arrested, get released and start all over again.

I was at a rural crime seminar in the city of Red Deer last Friday. A former police officer from Calgary city police told us about one of the cases he had worked on recently. An Alberta offender was charged with 130 offences, ranging from break and enter to car theft, equipment theft and possession of stolen property.

At the last sitting in Alberta the judge released him. Out the door he went. Where did he go? He took off to B.C. Now we understand they are looking for him in British Columbia, which has 100 similar outstanding charges against him in a very short period of time. This person should not have been released.

These criminals prey on farmers and elderly people. They know that RCMP resources are lacking in these areas and take full advantage of that. What the government needs to do is to provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to stop the revolving door of criminals in and out of the courts. That is happening constantly.

Victims should be the central focus of the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special treatment for criminals, which is why our party introduced the Victims Bill of Rights. The government, unfortunately, does not agree since Bill C-75 would repeal our changes to the victim surcharge and reduce its overall use and effectiveness.

I believe in protecting victims of crime, which is why I introduced my own private member's bill, Bill C-206, that would ensure that criminals who take advantage of vulnerable people, specifically adults who depend on others for their care, are subject to harder, sure punishment.

Last month, a gentleman from my riding of Yellowhead was a witness before our public safety and national security committee. He shared with us his first-hand experience. It was a terrible story. This gentleman, whom I consider a friend, is aged 83. He heard his truck start up one day when he was having lunch with his wife. He walked outside to see his truck being driven out of his yard. He lives about 70 kilometres from the town of Edson where the local police office is located. He picked up his phone and was about to call when his vehicle returned to his yard. Two youths, one aged 18 and one aged 17, got out, knocked him to the ground, repeatedly kicked him in the face, the chest, the ribs, attempted to slash his throat, and then drove off again. This gentleman is 83. This is still being dealt with in the courts despite the fact it happened a year ago. This gentleman has had to attend court 10 times so far and the matter is still not over.

We on this side of the House will always work to strengthen the Criminal Code of Canada and make it harder for criminals to get out.

I am concerned that portions of Bill C-75 would weaken our justice system. Through the bill, the Liberals would reduce penalties for the following crimes: participating in criminal organizations, various acts of corruption, prison breach, impaired driving, abduction, human trafficking, forced marriage, and arson, just to name a few of many in the bill. Participation in terrorist activities and advocating genocide were deleted from this list only because a Conservative amendment was accepted at committee. Those are just a few examples of more than a hundred serious crimes that could be prosecuted by summary conviction and result in lighter sentencing, or even fines.

The government is failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. Reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and to criminals.

I am also concerned about the wording used in the section that would increase maximum sentences for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. I support increasing these sentences but I do not support replacing the language of “spouse” with “intimate partner”. I believe both should be included. I understand that not all domestic abuse is within a spousal relationship, so there is a need to have "intimate partner" included. However, it should not replace "spouse". Rather, both terms should be included.

Another problem I have with Bill C-75 is the reversal of protections for religious officials.

When Bill C-51 was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in January, two amendments were moved by my Conservative colleagues. The first amendment proposed keeping section 176 in the Criminal Code of Canada, while the second aimed to modernize the language of that section. The Liberals agreed to them and that was good, but they need to listen more.

Imagine my disappointment when I read in Bill C-75 that section 176 in the Criminal Code was once again under attack. Assault of officiants during a religious service is very serious and should remain an indictable offence.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my views.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:45 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 hon. member for Yellowhead for his contribution to today's debate on Bill C-75. I would offer two comments and one brief question.

The first comment is that the term “intimate partner” is used in this legislation for a deliberate reason. It is a more expansive term than just “spouse”. Violence occurs, as we have heard in today's debate, against half of all women in this country, and that violence is perpetrated within couples that are married but also in couples that are unmarried or, indeed, just dating.

The second point is that there was a factual error in the comments by the member opposite. He indicated that a reduction in penalties has been provided for a list of offences, and he listed them. Hybridization does not ipso facto reduce a penalty; hybridization allows the Crown to proceed by way of summary conviction or by way of an indictable proceeding. It does not predetermine the sentence.

The member for Yellowhead is convinced of the need to ensure there are tougher penalties for people who are convicted of crimes. On this side of the House, we agree, which is why we are taking the summary conviction limit from the six months it has traditionally been to two years less a day. I invite the member's comment on that provision and on whether he approves of that increase in the penalty for summary conviction offences to two years less a day.

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November 20th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading 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 intend to focus my remarks on sentencing-related issues.

At the outset, it is important to address the continuing criticism by the opposition that hybridizing all straight indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or less—to allow the Crown to proceed by summary conviction in appropriate cases—would minimize the seriousness of these offences. These concerns reflect a lack of trust of the judiciary and Crown prosecutors, who already make these decisions every day. They also represent a profound misunderstanding of what Bill C-75 aims to achieve by reclassifying certain offences.

The proposal to hybridize offences is procedural in nature and is intended to allow prosecution by summary conviction of conduct that currently does not result in a sentence of more than two years. For instance, it is a mischaracterization of the reclassification amendments to assert that by hybridizing section 467.11 of the Criminal Code, i.e., participation in activities of a criminal organization, Bill C-75 is sending a message not to take organized crime offences seriously.

The proposed amendment simply recognizes that this offence can, by virtue of the range of conduct captured, include circumstances where an appropriate sentence falls within the summary conviction range. Proceeding summarily in these circumstances allows for more expeditious proceedings without undermining public safety or impacting the sentence ranges for this offence.

In fact, in 2011-2012 there were 49 guilty verdicts entered pursuant to section 467.11 of the Criminal Code. Of these 49 cases, only 34 were given a custodial sentence. Of those, one received one month or less, six received between one month and three months, 10 received between three months and six months, nine received from six months to 12 months, four received from 12 months to 24 months and the four remaining received a custodial sentence of 24 months or more.

At the time these sentences were imposed, section 467.11 of the Criminal Code was a straight indictable offence, and yet the overwhelming majority of sentences imposed were in the summary conviction range, including 15 non-custodial sentences. It is clear that keeping section 467.11 of the Criminal Code as a straight indictable offence would not in any way prevent the Crown, in appropriate cases, from seeking a non-custodial sentence or a sentence of imprisonment that is in the summary conviction range.

Let me be clear. There is absolutely nothing in Bill C-75 that would suggest to prosecutors and courts that hybridizing offences should result in their seeking or awarding lower sentences than what is currently sought or awarded under the law. Prosecutors would continue to assess the facts of each case and the circumstances relating to the offender and previously decided cases in order to determine which type of sentence they should seek. Sentencing judges would continue to impose sentences proportionate to the severity of the crime and the degree of responsibility of the offender, as mandated by the fundamental principle of sentencing in section 718.1 of the Criminal Code.

The misapprehensions about the proposed reclassification amendments also unnecessarily detract from other notable reforms. For example, the bill proposes to toughen criminal laws in the context of intimate partner violence, IPV, thereby increasing public safety and enhancing victim safety.

Bill C-75 includes a proposal that would impose a reverse onus at bail for an accused charged with an intimate violence offence if the accused has a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner, regardless of whether it is the same partner, a former partner or a dating partner. In this context, to enhance the safety of victims of this type of violence, the accused, not the prosecutor, would have to justify their release to the court and the public. What this means is that the presumption that the accused should be released pending trial no longer applies

This proposal is targeted and reflects what we know about the heightened risk of safety that victims of intimate partner violence face. Victims of intimate partner violence tend to experience multiple victimizations before reporting it to the authorities or police. Based on Statistics Canada data from 2014, 17% of victims of spousal violence indicated that they had been abused by their current or former partner on more than 10 occasions.

I understand that one of the criticisms raised at committee was that the reverse onus could be problematic in jurisdictions where dual charging occurs, a practice whereby both partners are criminally charged, sometimes because self-defence on the part of the victim is confused with assault. I also understand that it is often not the law that is the problem in this context, but how it is applied.

Dual charging is an operational issue that provinces and territories have been addressing through the development and implementation of training and policies. For example, in March 2016, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released the document “National Framework for Collaborative Police Action on Intimate Partner Violence”, which addresses dual charging and provides guidance for cases where charges against a victim are being contemplated.

Knowing that the research shows that victims are at an increased risk of violence in the aftermath of reporting to police, especially in cases where there is an ongoing history of violence in the relationship, I am confident that the reverse onus proposed here is carefully tailored to address the concerns raised.

Bill C-75 would also require courts to consider whether an accused is charged with an IPV offence prior to making a decision to release or detain the accused during a bail hearing. In addition, Bill C-75 would clarify that strangulation, choking and suffocation are elevated forms of assault and would also define "intimate partner" for all Criminal Code purposes, clarifying that it includes a current or former spouse, a common-law partner, as well as dating partners.

Moreover, Bill C-75 proposes a sentencing amendment to clarify that the current sentencing provisions which treat abuse against a spouse or common-law partner as an aggravating factor apply to both current and former spouses, common-law partners and dating partners. What is more, Bill C-75 would also allow prosecutors the possibility of seeking a higher maximum penalty in cases involving a repeat intimate partner violence offender.

I think we can all agree that allowing for the imposition of higher than the applicable maximum penalty in cases of repeat intimate partner violence offenders is a concrete example of Parliament sending a clear message to prosecutors and the courts that repeat intimate partner violence offenders should receive strong denunciatory sentences.

In these cases, where the Crown serves notice under section 727 of the Criminal Code that a higher maximum penalty is sought, a sentencing court would be given additional discretion to impose a sentence that exceeds the otherwise applicable maximum penalty. This will better reflect the severity of the conduct in question and assist courts in imposing sentences that better protect victims.

I urge all members to support this very comprehensive legislation which will reduce delays and make the criminal justice system more efficient and effective on the basis of evidence and not ideology.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today 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. This is an omnibus bill that addresses matters related to the Criminal Code of Canada.

At first, everyone in our society who deals with major justice issues were quite pleased with what the Minister of Justice had to say. There is a clear need for reform. Unfortunately, many in the legal community and elsewhere who are calling for real reform are disappointed.

There is a great sense of disappointment. The longer we work with Bill C-75, the more the disappointment deepens. Michael Spratt, the former chair of the Canadian Criminal Lawyers' Association, has been quoted in this debate before. As he put it, “It all sounded so good. But it has all gone so wrong.”

I did attempt to make improvements to the legislation. Members of this place will know that while my status as leader of the Green Party of Canada does not allow me to sit on any committees, through the work of the PMO, first under former primer minister Stephen Harper and now under our current Prime Minister, I have what some might think of as an opportunity but I have to say it is an enormous burden that increases my workload. It is rather unfair because if it were not for what the committees have done, I could have been presenting substantive amendments here at report stage. That is my right as a member of Parliament and not of one of the three big parties. I have very few rights as a member of Parliament with one seat for the Green Party, but one of those rights was to be able to make substantive amendments at report stage. My rights have been subsumed into what, as I said, was done first by the Conservative government and now by the Liberals, to say that I have an opportunity to present amendments during clause-by-clause study at committee, although I am not a member of the committee. I do not have a right to vote, but I get a chance to speak to my amendments.

It was under that committee motion I was able to present 46 amendments. I participated vigorously in the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-75. It was a very discouraging process as very few amendments from opposition parties were accepted. Most of my amendments went directly to testimony from many witnesses who wanted to see the bill improved and I am disappointed that none of my 46 amendments made it through.

I should say that some of the worst parts of Bill C-75 were changed on the basis of government-proposed amendments. One of the ones that had worried me a great deal was the idea that in a criminal trial, evidence from the police could come in the form of a written statement without proffering the police officer in question for cross-examination. That was amended so that the prosecutors cannot use what is called routine police evidence without having someone put forward to be cross-examined. There was also the repeal of the vagrancy law and repeal of the law about keeping a common bawdy house.

However, many other sections of this bill cry out for further amendment, so at this point I want to highlight those sections that really need to be amended. We are at report stage, and third reading will come in short order. We are already under time allocation. I hope that when this bill gets to the other place, as it inevitably will, the other place will pass amendments that are needed.

It is quite clear that this bill, in some key areas, would do the opposite of what the government has promised, particularly in relation to disadvantaged people, particularly in relation to the status of indigenous peoples in our prisons, and particularly in relation to access to justice and fairness which have actually been worsened in this bill. That is not something I expected to be standing up and saying at report stage, but there it is. It is massively disappointing, and I hope that the Senate will improve it.

One of the things that was done, and I am not sure it was the best solution, but it was clearly a response to the Stanley case where it was a massive sense of a miscarriage of justice. When there is a jury, it is supposed to be a jury of the accused person's peers. If the person is an indigenous youth and his or her jury is entirely Caucasian, it is not exactly a jury of his or her peers. One of the reasons this happens is the use of peremptory challenges. Therefore, I do appreciate the effort in Bill C-75 to eliminate peremptory challenges. However, I want to go over the way in which this bill actually takes this backward.

The effort here of course, as many other hon. members have pointed out, is that this bill is in direct response to the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. In the Jordan case, the delays were so profound that the case could not proceed. Therefore, I think it is very clear that all Canadians feel the same sense of concern with the new trial timelines of 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior court. No one wants people to be freed, who at this point still have the presumption of innocence, because they have not gone through their court case. If the evidence is good enough, the prosecutors bring those people forward. The idea that they are just let out of jail because the trial times and the processing of that person took too long offends our sense of justice. The Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada were given a very quick jab toward justice by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, have we got it right?

In an effort to speed up trials, I will mention one thing first, which is the issue of eliminating preliminary inquiries. There was a great deal of evidence before our committee that the Government of Canada and the justice department did not have good data to tell us that preliminary inquiries were a source of great delay.

I want to quote from one of the legal experts. Bill Trudell is the current chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. He described preliminary inquiries like this, “They're like X-rays before an operation”. That is a very useful thing to have. They do not happen all the time, but when we remove them without good evidence as to why we are removing them, we could end up having innocent people convicted. In fact, Bill Trudell said that as difficult as it was for him to say, he thinks more innocent people will be convicted because we have taken out preliminary inquiries without quite having the evidence that that was a good thing to do to speed up trials.

We have heard a lot from my friends in the Conservative caucus about the question of hybridization. We have the problem that, having changed the range of sentencing, the effect of Bill C-75 is to also increase the sentencing for a summary conviction from six months to two years.

The Liberals have also added in Bill C-75 provisions about the use of agents that I do not think were thoroughly thought through. To give a better sense of agents, and this goes to the question of access to justice, suppose people are not quite poor enough to get a legal aid lawyer but are trying to navigate the legal system and they cannot afford a lawyer. In many of those cases, for a very long time, criminal defendants have had the benefit, particularly if they are low income, of law school clinics, which are young lawyers in training. They are student lawyers working as a clinic to provide legal services to people charged with lesser offences. It is too late to amend as here we are at report stage. I hope the other place will amend this to ensure access to legal aid clinics out of law schools in order to help marginalized groups navigating the legal system. I think this is an unintended consequence. I am certain that people in the Department of Justice did not ponder this and say that one of the problems is too many poor people are getting help from law students. That was not a problem that wanted solving, that was a very good and ongoing process that has been recklessly compromised in this bill. I have to hope that when it gets to the other place, we can fix this and make sure that in the definition of “agents” we exclude law students and law schools running clinics.

There are other aspects of this bill where the Liberals have just failed altogether to deal with the issue of the disproportionate number of indigenous people behind bars. They have taken in some aspects, in taking things into account. However, one of my amendments, that I really regret was not accepted, was we have no definition of “vulnerable populations”, and a lot of the evidence that came before the justice committee suggested we need such a definition. I tried one and it failed. Maybe the other place can try again. I hope that Bill C-75 will see more improvement in the other place before it becomes law.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do recognize the amendment, but it kicks it to the provinces to act and the question is whether they will act to deal with the question of making sure law students can participate in hearings.

The bail issues and not recriminalizing people for things over which they really do not have control go directly back to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Morales. I think we have done a partial job in Bill C-75, but I think we could have done more.

As my hon. colleague will remember, a number of my amendments went to that question of making sure that we really thought through the levels of conditions of addictions or poverty that would make it virtually impossible to meet certain bail provisions. We could have done more, but I agree there are steps in the right direction in Bill C-75 to respond to R. v. Morales.

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November 20th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her contribution to Bill C-75.

She made reference to the limitation of preliminary inquiries only to those cases where the maximum sentence is life behind bars. She is quite right that the evidence before the committee overwhelmingly was that it would not reduce delay and that, in fact, it might increase delay because preliminary inquiries help weed out cases, particularly weak cases.

However, in addition to that, I was wondering if she could speak to this life criteria. It seems to be quite arbitrary, because there are certain offences where the maximum sentence may be life and others where it is not. In terms of the sentencing guidelines of case law, one would expect a similar sentence to be imposed, but yet in one case a preliminary inquiry would be available, in the other case it would not. It seems not to make a lot of sense.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on Bill C-75, which is officially called an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Once again, we have before us another omnibus bill.

Just two weeks ago, I spoke on the budget implementation act, part 2, which was an omnibus bill as well, which of course followed the BIA 1, which was also an omnibus bill. Those bills had sections inside of sections making legislative changes.

When the Liberals were in opposition they railed against omnibus bills, so much so that they actually put it into their campaign pledge. If we go to Liberal.ca, it is still there. This is what it says about omnibus bill. It starts, of course, by attacking Stephen Harper, and what Liberal talking point would be complete without blaming Prime Minister Harper? It says, “Stephen Harper has...used omnibus bills to prevent...properly reviewing and debating...proposals. We will...bring an end to this undemocratic practice.”

When we say that, of course, we put our hand over our heart. However, despite their pledge, here we have another omnibus bill. Perhaps that pledge meant they would prevent others from bringing omnibus bills, but not the Liberals.

If we go to the famous Liberal mandate tracker, what does it say on this promise? Under the “unfair and open government” part, it says they will end the use of omnibus bills. Funnily enough, we have an omnibus bill here, the budget implementation act, part 2, and part 1 is on omnibus bills.

Despite that, under the Liberal mandate tracker under “End the improper use of omnibus bills...” it says it is completed and fully met. Of course, this is the same mandate tracker that is judging balancing the budget by 2019-20. It says it is under way with challenges. The government has stated, its own finance department has stated, we will not see it balanced until 2045. However, somehow it was promised for 2019, and by 2045, it is under way with challenges. It makes me think that if the Liberals were the head of the Titanic, after hitting the iceberg and while it is going down, the Cunard Line reaches out to the captain and asks, “How are you making out on your trip?” and the response is, “Well, we are under way with challenges”.

Moving on to Bill C-75, I agree with a few items in this omnibus bill. With over 300 pages of changes, one has to be able to find a few good things. Bill C-75 would repeal unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code. That is fair and good. It would increase the maximum prison term for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. It would provide that abuse from a partner is an aggravating factor on sentencing. We agree with that and fully support it. It would provide more onerous interim release provisions. Again, we can get behind that. It makes some efforts to reduce delays in the judicial system by restricting the availability of a preliminary hearing, increasing use of technology to facilitate remote attendance, and providing for judicial referral hearings to deal with administration of justice offences involving failure to comply with release conditions or failure to appear.

That being said, I have many grave concerns with the bill, mostly around how it waters down penalties for crimes. The Liberals are claiming they want to push through Bill C-75 using time allocation in order to speed up the court process, and also because of the Jordan ruling. The big problem is, the Liberals are not able to get their act together and appoint judges. It is one thing to make small steps in this way, but until they get their act together and appoint judges, we are going to continue with justice delays and people being released under the Jordan ruling. There have been hundreds of cases tossed due to delays because the government has been unable to do its job and appoint judges.

There are about 2,000 more applications before the courts to dismiss cases because of delays. We had a gang hit man in Calgary accused of three murders, and suspected by the Calgary police of committing 20 murders. He was released from his trial for the three murders he was charged with, because of delays, because we do not have enough judges. We had a man accused of murder, charged in Edmonton, released because of delays, because the government cannot get its act together and appoint judges. We had a killer in Quebec released because of delays. Possibly the worst was a monster in Nova Scotia who took a baseball bat and broke the ankles and shins of his baby. This man was released because the government is too incompetent to do its job and appoint justices. This is an issue that they have to get hold of and they are failing Canadians.

I am pleased that the Liberals did listen to the Conservatives and other opposition members at committee and backed away from having lighter sentences for some crimes, such as terrorism-related offences and advocating genocide. It makes one wonder why it takes us, in committee, to force the government to back away from lightening a sentence for advocating genocide.

Just two weeks ago in the House, we heard the Prime Minister, the opposition leader, the NDP leader, the Green Party leader and members of other parties stand up and make wonderful speeches, apologizing for the disgrace of Canada's not accepting the MS St. Louis and the genocide that happened. The same week, we had a concurrence report from committee about the genocide against Yazidi women, a report that, to the credit of my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill, dragged the government, kicking and screaming, into the light of recognizing that this had indeed been genocide. Despite everything ISIS has done in slaughtering these people, member after government member stood up to say that the UN had not decided it was genocide and that we could not call it that.

At least the government has recognized this and is not watering down the sentences for advocating genocide. However, I have to ask, why does it take the opposition to demand the government make this change?

As I mentioned, I have serious concerns about the watering down of serious crimes in this bill and reduced sentences for many serious crimes, including sometimes just a monetary fine. I want to go through a few of them.

One is prison breach.

Then there is municipal corruption, the influencing of municipal officials. Members will recall a couple of ex-Liberal cabinet ministers who went on to pursue careers in municipal politics who were charged with fraud. Maybe they were just doing a favour for their compatriots.

There is also influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. Actually, we now have the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade being looked at for the clam scam. Perhaps they are trying to do him a favour.

Then there is obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman. This one is especially egregious. The Liberals tried to suspend this under section 176. There were special protections for clergyman performing ceremonies, whether church ceremonies, funerals, or other religious ceremonies. The Liberals tried to take that protection away. The opposition fought back. They promised they would not do that, and yet here in this bill they are reducing that crime.

Let us think about it. Two weeks ago we heard of the massive anti-Semitism that results in the genocide of Jewish people. This is two years after the massacre at the mosque in Quebec and just a month after the defacing of the Talmud Torah School, the Jewish school in my riding, with swastikas. Now we have the government saying that it is okay, that we do not need special protection for religious figures and clergymen.

Other crimes the Liberals are watering down include keeping a common bawdy house. Now, that may be great for parliamentarians, but certainly not for Canadians.

Then there is punishment for infanticide. As I mentioned earlier, we had a gentleman, a monster in Halifax, who was released after breaking the bones of his baby. Here we have a bill that allows for a reduction in sentencing for infanticide.

Another is concealing the body of child.

A further one is driving offences causing bodily harm. Again, we just legalized marijuana. We do not have a proper way to measure the impairment. Police departments have said they are not ready, and here we have the government going out of its way to reduce possible penalties for that.

Others include material benefit—trafficking, abduction of person under age of 16, abduction of person under the age of 14.

There there is forced marriage. Just in committee yesterday, we heard that in Sudan, Somalia and the Congo something like 50% of young girls are being forced into marriage. We have the government saying that we need to do more to prevent that, and we do overseas, but why is it reducing the crime here?

Again, to wrap up, I am sure this bill has wonderful intentions, but the government should look at fulfilling its responsibility of filling judicial vacancies and focus on victims and society, not on making things easier for criminals.

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November 20th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate of Bill C-75. I would like to use my time today to discuss some aspects of amendments to the selection of juries. As we know, jury reform is an area of shared jurisdiction and Parliament is responsible for the criminal law and the rules in the Criminal Code setting out the framework for in-court jury selection. The provinces and territories are responsible for determining, for example, who is eligible for jury duty and the process by which the jury roll is compiled. Bill C-75 proposes several reforms with respect to the in-court jury selection process.

First, is the abolishment of peremptory challenges. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard several witnesses testify on jury reforms. Several legal experts and advocates expressed strong support for their elimination, as it would finally put an end to discriminatory exclusion of jurors.

Kent Roach from the University of Toronto stated:

The proposed abolition of peremptory challenges in s.271 of Bill C-75 is the most effective and efficient way to ensure that neither the Crown or the accused engages in discrimination against Aboriginal people and other disadvantaged and identifiable groups when selecting a juror.

Brent Kettles from Toronto said:

...having peremptory challenges cannot help but lower the public confidence in the administration of justice when members of the public and perspective jurors watch perspective jurors excluded on the basis of no reason, on the basis of no evidence, and without any information.

When those exclusions are based basically on the gut feeling of who is likely to be sympathetic to one side or the other, then that doesn't give the public or perspective jurors a feeling that jury selection is happening in a way that is fair and impartial, and also represents the community.

Legal expert Vanessa McDonnell noted:

It's important to recognize that these challenges have historically been, and can be, used against accused persons to their detriment. We have to balance the perceived benefit of having the peremptory challenge in your pocket to challenge someone whom defence counsel doesn't feel quite right about against the very real risk, I would suggest, that these challenges are going to be used in a way that disadvantages the accused person. My view is that, on balance, the potential harm, not only to the system but to accused persons, is greater than any benefit that accrues.

Discrimination in the selection of juries has been documented for decades. Concerns about the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous people being under-represented on juries were raised in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge with the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry.

More recently, we heard from retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who studied these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario Juries. Having read these reports and after hearing from many experts on the topic, I am confident that Bill C-75 proposes the right approach in abolishing peremptory challenges. It is a simple and effective way to prevent deliberate discrimination and the arbitrary exclusion of qualified jury members.

Furthermore, to bring greater efficiencies to the jury selection process and to make it more impartial, the bill proposes to empower a judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause—for example, because they are biased to one side—by either the defence or prosecution.

Currently, such challenges are decided by two laypersons called “triers” who are not trained in the law. This process has been problematic, causing delays in jury trials even before they begin and appeals resulting in orders for a new trial.

The proposal would shift the responsibility for such challenges to judges, who are trained adjudicators and therefore better placed to screen out impartial jurors. The proposed change reflects a recommendation made in 2009 by the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System, a group established by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice, comprising judges, deputy ministers of justice from across Canada, defence lawyers, representatives of the bar associations and the police. It is also consistent with what is done in other common law countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand.

I am confident that this change in procedure would result in improvements in the overall efficiency of our jury trials.

There are also several proposed changes to modernize and update the challenge for cause grounds. Notably, the proposed change to reduce the number of jurors with criminal records for minor offences who could be challenged and excluded from jury duty would help address concerns that excluding individuals with minor criminal records disproportionately impacts certain segments of society, including indigenous persons, as noted by Justice Iacobucci. It would also assist in improving broader participation on juries, and thus, jury representativeness.

In conclusion, the jury reforms in Bill C-75 would mark critical progress in the area of promoting fairness, diversity and participation in the jury selection process. These improvements would also enhance efficiencies, as well as public confidence, in the criminal justice system.

I call upon all members of the House to support this transformative bill.

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November 20th, 2018 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been participating in this debate quite a bit throughout the day.

The member for St. Albert—Edmonton sent out a message via social media that said that he thought it was incredible that I and others were defending the hybridization of serious criminal offences in Bill C-75 by trying to distinguish which were serious and which were less serious. He went on to talk about kidnapping and said that kidnapping is always serious.

We are not saying that kidnapping is not serious. We are saying that there are a range of ways offences can be committed and therefore a range of ways in which we could look at the seriousness of offences, and we would leave it to the prosecution to make that determination. It is not up to a politician to look from within this chamber and decide what the range of seriousness is within an offence. That happens in a court room. It is up to the prosecution and the judge to make that determination.

When my hon. colleague talks about hybridization, does he think it is fair that we would leave it up to the prosecution to decide the range in which offences could be committed and therefore that the correct sentencing for those offences could be applied within our justice system?

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November 20th, 2018 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this important bill, which affects entire segments of our justice system and is essential to the organization of our society.

However, I have no choice but to start this brief speech by saying that the government's approach has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I am choking on this gag that has been forced on me.

The Liberal government is once again imposing a gag order. It has used this tool over 50 times in the past three years to prevent parliamentarians from discussing and fully debating this type of bill, which will affect our justice system, the way justice is meted out in our country, and the rights of victims and accused persons.

Once again, the Liberal government is refusing to allow us to take the time we normally would to conduct a full and exhaustive study of a bill. It is the same broken record, the same old story. The Liberals promised to restore confidence in our institutions, to restore Parliament's credibility, and to once again allow parliamentarians, MPs, to fully participate in discussions. Instead, the government is once again muzzling us and sweeping us aside.

Bill C-75, which we are debating today, is the government's response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Jordan. The court was examining some very long delays in some complex cases. These delays represented a denial of justice for the accused. The cases were never-ending, going on for years.

The Jordan decision set limits. For a normal case, there must not be more than 18 months between the time when charges are filed and the trial is concluded. There are, however, some exceptions. In some cases, the maximum may be 30 months.

The Jordan decision was meant to prevent justice from being unduly delayed or denied, but it has also led to the release of criminals who essentially escaped justice, an unforeseen consequence of the decision. When cases go beyond the time limit set by the Jordan decision, the accused in these cases walk free and never have to face justice or face the charges that were filed against them.

That being said, the government's response must be to determine how to free up the justice system and ensure that criminals are made to stand trial and cannot escape conviction and be released.

That would not necessarily be a good thing from a public safety perspective. We want to keep that from happening again. We agree with the Jordan decision because it was based on sound reasons and grounds, but it has had unintended and dangerous consequences for our society and our fellow citizens.

Is the government's response adequate? That is where we disagree with the Liberal government. We do not think that the solutions set out in Bill C-75 will meet the objective of speeding up the court system so that any accused persons are duly tried within the time frame set out in Jordan. The simplest and most effective solution would be to put more resources into the system so that more files, more cases and more charges can be dealt with more quickly. There are a number of things the government could do to make that happen. The easiest one would be to appoint judges. If there were more judges, then there would be more trials. If there were more trials, then they would be handled much more diligently and would take less time.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government has been dragging its feet on this for three years, and there are still quite a few vacant seats on federal court benches. We are still waiting for those decisions to be made.

To the NDP, this is not about being tougher. The NDP believes that until the government decides to invest in the judicial system, open courts, appoint judges and hire clerks so everyone in the legal system can meet these deadlines, anything else is just a half measure and could even make things worse.

Before getting into preliminary inquiries and routine police evidence, I would like to take two minutes to mourn yet another broken Liberal promise.

This bill is 300 pages long and covers all kinds of things. One might have thought that, while making such major changes to our judicial system, the Liberal government would have taken the opportunity to keep its promise to scrap the mandatory minimum sentences brought in by the Stephen Harper government.

During the campaign, the Liberals told us they would get rid of those mandatory minimum sentences because they made for a bad system that prevented judges from doing their job properly. They said they wanted to restore flexibility to the judicial system and empower judges to exercise judgment because no two cases, no two situations, and no two trials are identical. There are always slight differences.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, took a right-wing populist approach to mandatory minimum sentences. They wanted to provide a show of force and send a message to criminals that they would not get away with anything. Instead, judges' hands were tied, as legislation took away their ability to determine, based on a full understanding of the evidence presented, the best way forward and the most appropriate sentence for an accused.

This is even more disappointing considering that not only was it one of the Liberals' promises in their election platform, but it was also included in the mandate letter given to the Minister of Justice. The mandate letter said that mandatory minimums were a priority issue for the Liberals, yet the Liberals did not include this important matter in their criminal justice reform legislation. This is a lost opportunity to implement real, meaningful reform.

We are left, then, with the status quo, and judges still have no discretion around sentencing. Defence counsel will have no incentive to negotiate a plea, and the number of cases going to trial could increase. Once again, the Liberals missed the boat. This problem could have been solved.

I would like to take a moment to quote a few people. Amanda Carling, Emily Hill, Kent Roach and Jonathan Rudin wrote an article earlier this year in The Globe and Mail. The authors believe that mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea. They argue that Parliament cannot possibly know all the varieties of offences and offenders who might commit them. Furthermore, such sentencing does not take into account the various circumstances offenders might find themselves in, for example, whether offenders live in abject poverty, have intellectual disabilities or mental health issues, have experienced racism or abuse in the past, or have children who rely on them. The authors added that mandatory minimum sentences do not allow judges to decide whether incarceration is necessary to deter, rehabilitate or punish a particular offender.

I think that is a major point that the Liberals should have included in this bill, but they missed the mark. Let us not forget that the courts are a reflection of the social problems and the social reality in our communities. This bill not only offers solutions that will not help clear the backlog in the system, but it does very little to recognize the root causes of the court backlogs, the myriad of social problems such as poverty, addiction, mental health problems, marginalization, and so forth. Investments and social support are urgently needed to reduce the burden on the courts and address the complex issue of over-representation of minorities, especially indigenous or racialized persons in the prison system.

In closing, I want to point out that the NDP is particularly concerned about the provision authorizing the admission of routine police evidence presented by way of affidavit. In other words, if we consider the fact that this routine evidence is presented through an affidavit, there is no opportunity during a trial to cross-examine the police officer on this piece of evidence. We think this could infringe on the rights of the accused to a full and complete defence.

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise and speak to Bill C-75, which represents a package of bold and comprehensive reforms. This is not the first time that I have spoken to this significant piece of legislation. I did have the opportunity to comment on it previously in my former capacity as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and the attorney general of Canada.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to a number of people who have contributed to Bill C-75. First, obviously, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for her leadership. I would also like to thank members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their close study of the bill, and all of the stakeholders and contributors who through their testimony before committee and their written submissions provided for a very rigorous and thoughtful study of this bill.

Having had the benefit of reviewing those submissions and some of the testimony and seeing the hard work and contributing to it myself by participating in round tables around the country, consulting with stakeholders in conjunction with the Minister of Justice, I am confident in saying that Bill C-75 is a momentous piece of legislation. When it becomes law, it will improve our overall criminal justice system.

I also want to thank the thousands of people who work within our criminal justice system day in and day out, law enforcement, police, members of the judiciary, and all the social services which are wrapped around the criminal justice system. Having worked in it myself for over a decade, I can say without any hesitation that these are individuals who care about protecting our community while also offering the prospect and opportunity for people who find themselves caught within the criminal justice system to reform and to rehabilitate, which is a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system, especially as it relates to our sentencing processes.

There is obviously more to do. The Supreme Court of Canada put into very sharp focus the task that is ahead of us as a result of some of the ongoing challenges which the criminal justice system is confronted with every day. What are those challenges? They range from, obviously, the overrepresentation of marginalized individuals, in particular, members of the racialized community, as well as our indigenous peoples. Far too often, for reasons that are not their fault but rather a result of the systemic challenges which they face on an individual basis as well as the collective challenges that communities face, they find themselves caught in the web of the criminal justice system.

We need to be very candid with ourselves about what those challenges look like. We see overrepresentation of racialized members as well as indigenous peoples in our jails right across the country.

We also know there is an under-representation of those very same groups within the legal profession and within the judiciary. The work that the Minister of Justice has undertaken in appointing a judiciary which is more reflective of the diversity of this great country is in part a sincere effort to address that challenge. Having spoken with many members right across the continuum of our society, I can say that we have made progress, but there is still more work to do.

I also would note that the Supreme Court of Canada in Jordan did point out quite rightly and quite justifiably that there are serious concerns when it comes to delay, court delay in particular, and if not addressed, a denial of the right to have a trial within a reasonable period of time can amount to an infringement of a person's rights under the charter, particularly under section 11(b) of the charter. It was incumbent upon all of us in the words of the Supreme Court to address the culture of complacency which for far too long has shackled our ability to address delay.

Having had the benefit of reflection and having had the benefit of consultation and discourse in the context of Bill C-75, we now have a suite of reforms which will not solve all of the problems, but certainly will begin to dramatically rewire and hopefully create a criminal justice system, a set of processes, which will allow people to have access to justice, have the right to have their day in court, and begin that path to rehabilitation which is so important in order to create communities which are strong, resilient and safe.

I will now highlight some of the important components of Bill C-75, much of which has been debated for quite some time now in this House and at committee. Eventually, the bill will make its way over to the other place and then back.

It begins at the very start of the criminal justice system process when an individual is arrested and is brought before the court for his or her first appearance. It is at that moment the court is then asked to determine whether that person should be released or detained pending his or her trial.

We have enshrined a principle of restraint in Bill C-75, the point of which is to ensure that justice actors who are appearing in court, either representing the Crown or the defence or in their capacity as duty counsel, are not automatically overburdening judicial interim release orders with conditions which essentially are a prescription for reoffending and failure. Rather, through this principle of restraint, we are encouraging all of the parties who are involved in the determination of bail to assess the conditions which are necessary to address one of the three statutory grounds on which an individual is released.

From the perspective of the primary grounds, if the person is a flight risk, what are the conditions that are necessary to secure the person's ongoing attendance before the court? On the secondary grounds, is there a serious risk of reoffending? What are the conditions that are necessary for the purposes of ensuring that the community's concerns are addressed on secondary grounds? Obviously, under the tertiary grounds, we question whether there are additional conditions which are required to maintain the public's confidence in the administration of justice. Again, we look for some nexus between what are the conditions which are being asked for by either party and their advancement of the tertiary ground concerns.

We have, through the principle of restraint, really fostered a much more responsible approach. This is about addressing the culture of the criminal justice system right from the get-go, once a person is implicated with charges at the bail stage.

We have also, in the context of Bill C-75, introduced a suite of reforms that will, hopefully, reduce the number of administration of justice offences which are in the system. Looking at the statistics which are available right across the country, we see, for example in the province of Ontario, that over 40% of the charges in the provincial court system, the Ontario Court of Justice, could be classified under the administration of justice offences.

We are looking to find alternative ways to address potential breaches through the principle of restraint, to actually reduce the likelihood that there will be an unnecessary technical charge which is unrelated to the underlying substantive offence, but also to introduce a concept called judicial referral hearings, where even if there is a legitimate breach, to look for other ways to address it, short of introducing an entire set of new charges.

I would also point out that Bill C-75 addresses intimate partner violence. This is something that I heard very personally and I know the minister did as well in our round tables. There is the need to address the systemic barriers which for far too long have prevented victims from coming forward. How are we doing that? In the case of repeat offenders, people who have been convicted in the past of sexual offences or offences related to intimate partner violence, to put the onus on them to determine whether they should be entitled to bail, and also to look for additional factors to be taken into consideration.

At the back end there are more tools available both to the prosecutor as well as to the court to determine what is the appropriate sentence by lifting the maximum sentences available, again for repeat offenders. That, coupled with the investments which we are making in the victims fund, by looking at other ways in which we can make it easier for victims to be able to come forward to ensure that they are heard, to ensure that they have a voice in the system, is absolutely crucial in order to ensure that there is access to justice.

These are just some of the highlights in Bill C-75. Again, there is no one simple solution to solving all of the challenges which the criminal justice system is confronted with.

I rise with great pride to speak on behalf of the bill. I urge all members to support it. At the end of the day, it will bring the criminal justice system into the 21st century and therefore be a great service to our country.

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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, the hon. colleague across the aisle knows better than to ask such a rhetorical question. Of course, no member on the government side of this chamber is in favour of being lenient and turning a blind eye to human trafficking. In fact, I would point out that under the last Conservative administration, there were broad cuts made to our public safety apparatus to the tune of three-quarters of a billion dollars, which undermined our ability to bring human traffickers to justice.

This government has reversed those cuts. Not only that, we introduced legislation to provide additional tools to prosecutors to ensure that the appropriate burdens would be in place so we could bring human traffickers to justice. To that I would also add that Bill C-75 is precisely about ensuring that we have access to justice by introducing a suite of procedural reforms, which I addressed in my commentary.

Once we get beyond the kind of regrettable rhetoric that we hear from the Conservative benches, and in particular the member who just posed that question, we see we have before us a very strong bill. It is based on evidence and on data. I would encourage my hon. colleague to look at some of that information and vote in support of Bill C-75.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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—

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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.

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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.

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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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Before I begin my speech, I want to thank the hon. member for Victoria for the excellent work he did on this file in committee. He worked very hard. He proposed many amendments, asked witnesses questions, and made some insightful and very impressive remarks. That is what will fuel my remarks today.

Why are we voting against the bill? The purpose of the bill was to respond to the Jordan decision, but it does not respond to it correctly. That is one of the reasons we are voting against the bill. It does not go far enough, and it fails to achieve what it set out to do. That is the problem.

The stated objective of the bill was to comply with the Supreme Court's 2016 Jordan ruling and to clear the backlog in the justice system, which is very important.

The problem with the Jordan decision is that now the Charter guarantees the right to be tried within a reasonable time. That is fine. The Jordan decision set out a timeframe. The time limit between the laying of charges and the conclusion of the trial was set at 18 months, or 30 months in some cases.

If that deadline cannot be met, situations may arise—much like the notorious cases I mentioned earlier in my question—where real criminals who have committed very serious crimes can be let off without a trial. That is awful. That should never happen again. Our government should be ensuring that it never happens again.

That is why Bill C-75 was so highly anticipated. It should have corrected that situation, but unfortunately, it does not.

One of the major reforms in Bill C-75 is not based on sound evidence, and that is very problematic. The stated objective of the bill is to respond to the Jordan decision. However, we have serious doubts about whether the proposed amendments will actually help reduce case completion times in the criminal justice system.

Many of the proposed measures will likely have the opposite effect and could actually add to the delays.

The Liberals claim that this bill is a bold reform of the criminal justice system, but there is one problem, in addition to what I mentioned just now. The Minister of Justice's mandate letter has something very important in it, something we very strongly believe in: eliminating the mandatory minimum sentencing system. All of the leading legal minds and experts have told us repeatedly that mandatory minimum sentencing is bad for our justice system. It is bad for offender rehabilitation and reintegration, and it undermines judges' ability to exercise their judgment in unique cases.

What does Bill C-75 have to offer on that score? This was in the minister's mandate letter, so we expected the elimination of minimum sentencing to be a key component of the bill, but apparently it does not even bear mentioning.

The Liberals broke their promise, and that is a major disappointment. As I said, defence attorneys and legal academics agree that the reversal of this practice would have been a huge step toward unclogging the court system. Unfortunately, the Liberals chose not to tackle this key issue. That is inexplicable. I do not understand why they made that choice.

My first concern has to do with reducing the use of preliminary inquiries, which are essentially dress rehearsals for trials. They are used in only 3% of cases, so eliminating them in most cases, which is what Bill C-75 proposes to do, will not save a lot of time right away. One could argue that preliminary inquiries help narrow the issues to be presented at trial and that, in some cases, they completely eliminate the need for a trial if the Crown's evidence does not hold up. Eliminating preliminary inquiries is a solution that was proposed to reduce delays, but it will actually do the opposite.

My second concern is about the regressive change to summary offences. Imposing harsher sentences on those who commit less serious crimes, namely increasing the maximum sentence from 18 months to 24, is just one element of this reform. Many accused would be better helped by being given more social support, rather than being criminalized. This amendment would disproportionately affect members of racialized groups and indigenous communities, more specifically those with a low socioeconomic status and those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

Another major shortcoming of this bill is that it does not propose any measures to address the root causes of crime, such as poverty. In fact, today is national anti-poverty day. Other root causes include addiction, mental health problems and marginalization. There is nothing concrete in the bill to address those factors. Unfortunately, many people end up in the legal system when their situation is actually a result of social problems that we should be addressing. Sometimes those problems are of long standing. Take, for example, the social problems in indigenous communities and mental health problems.

The government needs to sit down with the affected communities to come up with solutions to these problems and try to improve their situation. Unfortunately, this bill has no plan to that effect.

I also want to reiterate that appointing more judges to fill judicial vacancies is absolutely crucial. We can no longer tolerate all these judicial vacancies. This government has been in power for over three years now. These judicial vacancies must be filled.

Let me remind members of the Nick Chan case in Calgary. Everyone is still talking about it today. This notorious gang leader was accused of murder and other serious crimes, but he was let off because his right to be tried within a reasonable time, as laid out in the Jordan decision, had been violated due to the shortage of judges.

This is a very serious problem that the government must address as quickly as possible. Of course, we have an independent judicial appointments process, but that process needs to go a lot faster. The vacancies must be filled, because we simply cannot let other notorious criminals escape prosecution because of a lack of judges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise 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, which is an important part. I intend to focus my remarks on the sentencing issue.

At the outset, it is important to address the hybrid offence issue, because we are hearing a lot of misinformation coming from the other side about how this process works. This means offences that are punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or less. These reforms would allow the Crown to proceed by summary conviction in appropriate cases. There is the suggestion that this minimizes the seriousness of the offence. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is being said from the other side, and the concerns and misinformation they are raising, shows a lack of trust of the judiciary, of police officers and of Crown prosecutors.

The opposition is the party that pretends to be the law and order party, the party that gets tough on crime, the party that never really talks about significant issues to reduce crime, but will wrap itself in the flag and pretend to go forward based on that. It will spread misinformation about Bill C-75 to build itself up to make it seem like the bill would accomplish nothing. The rules in the Canadian judicial system changed with the Supreme Court decision in Jordan, that justice had to be quicker. We have all heard the phrase justice delayed is justice denied, but it is true. It is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Minister of Justice met with provincial and territorial counterparts of all political stripes, all parties that are represented in the House, to come up with a way to make justice quicker, to get people before a judge as quickly as possible. I think that is something on which we can all agree. If someone is charged with a criminal offence, he or she should be in front of a judge as quickly as possible, that gets to sentencing and an outcome as quickly as possible.

The proposal to hybridize offences is procedural in nature and is intended to allow the prosecution by summary conviction of conduct that does not currently result in a sentence of more than two years. For instance, it is a mischaracterization of the reclassification of amendments to assert that hybridizing, for example, section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code, which is participation in activities of a criminal organization, is sending a message that we do not take organized crime offences seriously. There is not a member of Parliament in the House who does not take organized crime seriously. To suggest otherwise is preposterous.

The proposed amendment simply recognizes that this offence can, by virtue of the range of conduct captured, include circumstances where a appropriate sentence falls within the summary conviction range. Proceeding summarily in these circumstances allows for more expeditious proceedings, without undermining public safety or impacting the range of sentences for this offence.

Let us go back in our time machine to 2011-12. There was, as the Conservatives would call themselves, a tough on crime government. In those years, there were 49 guilty verdicts issued under section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code. Of those 49 offences, only 34 were given a custodial sentence. Of those, one received one month or less. Six received between one and three months. Ten received between three and six months. Nine received from six to 12 months. Four received from 12 to 24 months. The remaining four, less than 10% of offences, received a sentence of 24 months or more. That is from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. This was during the Stephen Harper era of tough on crime.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

We have heard in question period, as my hon. friend mentioned, that belief in statistics may not necessarily be the Conservatives' thing, but I will put that forward.

This bill, Bill C-75, gives the Crown discretion on how to proceed. The Crown knows, when it is going forward with a case, the sentence it would ask for if a conviction happened. The Crown then has to make arguments within the range of sentences.

In my riding, the Crown has been doing this for five, 10, 15, 20 years. The Conservatives say that we do not trust them. We do not trust them to make that call even though—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
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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.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-75. Like other members of the House, I am very appreciative of the study undertaken by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the many witnesses who gave helpful testimony on various aspects of this bill. I would like to use my time today to discuss the jury amendments proposed in Bill C-75.

As members know, jury reform is an area of shared jurisdiction. While Parliament is responsible for the criminal law and the rules in the Criminal Code setting out the legal framework for in-court jury selection, the provinces and territories are responsible for determining, for example, who is eligible for jury duty and the process by which the jury roll is compiled.

Bill C-75 proposes several reforms to the in-court jury selection process. One of the significant changes that I would like to start with is the proposal to abolish peremptory challenges.

The committee heard from several witnesses who testified on jury reforms, all of whom shared an understanding of the importance of representative juries. Their views differed on whether or not peremptory challenges contribute to or undermine that objective. However, several legal experts and advocates, and most notably Professor Kent Roach, expressed very strong support for their elimination, which would finally put an end to the discriminatory exclusion of jurors. Any tool that can be used to effectively undermine the participation on juries of persons of a particular race or ethnicity contributes to a perception of mistrust and lack of confidence in the justice system.

Jonathan Rudin, the program director for Aboriginal Legal Services, also gave compelling testimony before the committee that the use of peremptory challenges has had a corrosive impact on efforts to encourage indigenous people to act as jurors. Discrimination in the selection of juries has been documented for decades. Concerns about the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous people being under-represented on juries were raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the report of the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry. More recently, we heard from retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who studied these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.

I agree with Professor Kent Roach who, in his written brief to the committee, characterized jury reforms in Bill C-75 as being “long overdue”.

Having read these reports and hearing from many experts on the topic, I am confident that Bill C-75 proposes the right approach in abolishing peremptory challenges. It is a simple and effective way to prevent deliberate discrimination and the arbitrary exclusion of qualified jury members.

Furthermore, to bring greater efficiencies to the jury selection process and to make it more impartial, the bill proposes to empower the judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause, such as because they are biased by either the defence or the prosecution. Currently, such challenges are decided by two lay people, called “triers”, who are not trained in the law. This process has been problematic, causing delays in jury trials even before they begin, and appeals resulting in orders for a new trial. The proposal would shift the responsibility for such challenges to judges who are trained adjudicators and therefore better placed to screen out impartial jurors. The proposed change reflects the recommendation made in 2009 by the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System, a group established by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice and comprising judges, deputy ministers of justice from across Canada, defence lawyers, representatives of the bar associations, and the police. It is also consistent with what has been done in other common law countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand. I am confident that this change in procedure will make improvements to the overall efficiency of our jury trials.

There are also several proposed changes to modernize and update the challenge for cause grounds. Notably, the proposed change to reduce the number of jurors with criminal records for minor offences from being challenged and excluded for jury duty would help address concerns that excluding individuals with minor criminal records disproportionately impacts certain segments of society, including indigenous persons, as noted by Justice Iacobucci. It would also assist with improving broader participation on juries, and thus jury representativeness.

While a few witnesses before committee said they would like to see this ground removed so that anyone with a criminal record could not be challenged for cause, I am mindful of the fact that permitting a juror with a serious criminal background to serve on a jury and make the decision as to the guilt or innocence of the accused could greatly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. I would also note that provincial and territorial jury legislation also specifies who is eligible for jury duty and is, in many respects, reflected by what is in the Criminal Code.

Bill C-75 would also allow a judge to continue a trial without the jury when the number of jurors falls below 10 and where the Crown and the accused agree. This change would promote efficiencies because it would avoid mistrials when the jury is reduced to fewer than 10 jurors due to illness or some other reason.

Another key change proposed in Bill C-75 is to allow judges to stand aside a potential juror while other jurors are selected, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, for example, to support the establishment of an impartial, representative jury. The change recognizes the important role that judges can play in improving jury selection at the outset. I believe that the use of this power, where deemed appropriate, would help improve the diversity of jurors during the in-court selection process, particularly in cases where public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined if the jury were not more diverse.

With respect to the representativeness of juries, there is certainly work that remains to be done, especially given the important role played by both the federal government and the provinces and territories in the jury selection process. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that jurisdictions are collaborating to examine a wide range of jury-related issues, and undertaking important work to find further ways to improve our jury selection system in Canada, including to enhance representation on juries.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the jury reforms in Bill C-75 mark critical progress in promoting fairness, diversity and participation in the jury selection process. These improvements would also enhance efficiencies, as well as public confidence in the criminal justice system.

I call on all members of the House to support this transformative bill. I thank the justice committee for its work, and the witnesses committee members heard from in bringing forward this important legislation, including the amendments they proposed.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am always pleased to rise to speak to bills that mean a lot to me or bills that I am not entirely comfortable with.

Today I will be speaking to second 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.

On reading this large, 302-page omnibus bill, many of my colleagues agree or might agree that this bill is quite dense and complex and that it tries to slip important changes under the radar.

I cannot help point out that it was introduced in the middle of day on the eve of Good Friday as the House was about to adjourn for a week. Nice try, whoever was trying to sneak this through, especially when three new government bills were already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to the victim surcharge, Bill C-38, an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to exploitation and trafficking in persons, and Bill C-39, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to unconstitutional provisions and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Given that this bill makes a number of changes to the Criminal Code, most of my speech will focus on the amendments that, I would argue and so would many victims of crime and their loved ones, totally contradict what the Liberals say when they claim that victims are being considered, that they care about victims' rights and that they are committed to upholding those rights. The reality is a far cry from that.

The Liberals are always quick to put criminals first. It seems to be their first instinct.

We do not have to look too far to see some very recent examples of that. Consider the case of the criminal Terri-Lynne McClintic, who brutally and savagely murdered a little girl, eight-year-old Tori Stafford, yet she was transferred to a healing lodge after spending just nine years behind bars and even though she is not eligible for parole until 2031, and Tori's family was never given prior notice of the transfer.

Only after dozens and dozens of interventions in the House by the opposition parties, an open letter to the Prime Minister from little Tori's father, the arrival of many protesters on Parliament Hill, and pressure from all Canadians who found the transfer to be unacceptable, inconceivable and disrespectful did the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally decide to take action.

It was only yesterday, after far too many weeks of waiting and unnecessary suffering for Tori's family and because of all the public pressure in this regard, that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally asked Correctional Service Canada to make the transfer policies more stringent.

However, we do not yet know whether this serious mistake has been corrected. We do not know whether Ms. McClintic is back behind bars where she should be. That is of little consolation to Tori's family and to Canadians.

The minister has apparently also asked Correctional Service Canada to improve its policies for the transfer of medium-security offenders to institutions without controlled perimeters precisely because these changes could help convince the public that our correctional system holds guilty parties responsible.

Canadians were outraged by Ms. McClintic's transfer, but above all they were extremely disappointed to see—

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague may want me to muzzle me, but I will continue reading my speech. I want my words to be heard; I am not here to be muzzled, I am here to speak on behalf of Canadians.

The Liberals were not doing anything and kept defending the indefensible. They said they could not do anything, but in reality, they did not want to do anything. The government could have saved this already devastated family from more hardships, but we know the sad end to this story.

The Conservatives are the voice of victims of crime and their loved ones, and we will never stand by in a case of injustice like this one. We are satisfied that this shameful issue has advanced, but we are appalled that it took so long.

We cannot forget the case of Chris Garnier, a criminal who killed a young police officer. He is currently serving his sentence and is receiving veterans benefits, even though he never served in the Canadian Armed Forces. This week is Veterans Week, which would be an appropriate time for the government to apologize and immediately correct the situation.

Speaking more specifically to Bill C-75, certain aspects can be supported in the interest of victims of crime, such as removing certain Criminal Code provisions that have been found unconstitutional; indeed, the Conservatives acknowledge that this measure will benefit victims of crime and that it will clean up the Criminal Code.

We also support higher maximum penalties where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner, and more importantly, we support the consideration of intimate partner violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing. For that, however, it is absolutely essential that more stringent requirements be imposed on temporary releases in the case of offenders who have committed intimate partner violence.

I think this requirement is especially important because offences related to the scourge of domestic violence are increasing steadily in Quebec. It is important to understand that spousal homicide is often the culmination of violent tendencies that increase in severity and intensity over time. In 78% of cases of spousal homicide committed in Canada between 2001 and 2011, police were aware of a history of domestic violence between the victim and the aggressor.

In far too many cases, offenders that have been arrested and subsequently released go on to kill their spouse anyway. It is crucial that conditional release provisions be strengthened in the Criminal Code; otherwise, increasingly younger innocent victims will lose their lives.

Another aspect of Bill C-75 I strongly oppose is the change to the victim surcharge. The Conservatives support victims of crime and believe that they deserve better. Bill C-75 is a reintroduction of Bill C-28, which was introduced two years ago and gives courts the flexibility to waive or reduce the victim surcharge when a person convicted of a crime convinces the court that such a payment would cause undue hardship.

On behalf of victims of crime, I feel it is my duty to vote against Bill C-75. Despite taking some steps in the right direction, it takes far too many in the wrong direction, I believe. Unfortunately, victims of crime do not yet have themselves an advocate in Canada's Liberal government.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is quite right.

In my opinion, Bill C-75 does not go far enough. It makes some strides, but only small ones. It is time for all Canadian governments at all levels to put themselves in the shoes of victims of crime, who have to deal with criminals day after day with no way to protect themselves.

Our government put in place the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which specifies that, when an offender gets out of prison, the parents of the victim must be informed. In many instances that does not happen, and in my opinion, it shows a lack of judgment. That should have been included in Bill C-75.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise 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.

Before I begin, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their work on this legislation, which is now at report stage. It really would address some of the issues of delay in our court system. It would reinforce and strengthen our criminal justice system to ensure that victims would be looked after in a way that would protect them, our communities and society and. At the same time, it looks at the inequities within the system.

Before I go any further, I will quote Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer in the United States. I have read his book Just Mercy and one line reads, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” I started with that quote because I want lay some context.

I have listened to hon. opposition members speak to the bill. I want to re-emphasize that our objective is not to re-victimize innocent people, but to ensure they are adequately protected. We know there are inequities in the system and the bill looks to improve the efficiency of and equity within the system.

There have been many reports, and it is not just me saying this, about the over-incarceration of our indigenous and black populations within federal institutions across the country. Irrespective of where we are, we see this happening.

I am not a lawyer and this is not my background, but in looking at the legislation, I want people in Whitby to know and understand what the legislation would do to strengthen our criminal justice system, the Criminal Code and increase efficiencies. By doing both, it would increase efficiency.

Bill C-75 proposes to do a few things: modernize and streamline our bail system, including by legislating a principle of restraint to reduce the imposition of unnecessary conditions and with the intended effect of reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous and marginalized Canadians in our criminal justice system. Essentially, when bail conditions are imposed, the proposal is to look at the situation of the individuals in front of the judge and come up with reasonable conditions that would prevent them from re-entering the criminal justice system. By doing that, we would ensure it would not be a revolving door in and out of prison. We want people to be rehabilitated and stay out of the system, but there has to be a thoughtful process throughout the whole judicial system to ensure that happens.

A second proposal is to change the way our system deals with administration of justice offences, including by creating new judicial referral hearings as an alternative to a new criminal charge, with the goal of reducing the burden of administrative justice charges and increasing court efficiency. If an alcoholic is in front of a judge and one of the conditions imposed by the judge is that the person not drink, that is a little unreasonable. Why not have one of the conditions be that the individual seeks treatment? That is a better alternative than telling that person not to drink. Allow individuals to seek treatment and make it part of their conditions so they do not come back before the court. It would prevent that revolving door and increase efficiency.

Another proposal is to strengthen the way our criminal justice system responds to intimate partner violence, including enhancing the reverse onus at bail for repeat offenders. If charged with an offence, it is not up to the prosecution but rather to the defendant to present evidence for why he or she should be released. This makes it harder for the person to reoffend, and it protects the victim. It should be up to the individual to tell the court why he or she will not offend again. It should not be up to the prosecution to do that. It broadens the definition of intimate partner violence to include dating partners and former partners, and it increases the maximum sentence for intimate partner violence.

Another reform is the reform to jury selection processes. This legislation proposes reform by including the abolition of peremptory challenges, reinforcing the power of judges to stand aside certain jurors in order to increase the diversity of the jury selection. That does not mean the person will not have the opportunity to be a juror; it just means that in order to increase the diversity of the jurors who are selected as a jury of our peers, they should reflect those who are living in the community. That component allows for judges to have the authority to do that. Jurors cannot be removed without reason. They cannot be indiscriminately removed; there has to be a reason for that. This also helps to allow and increase equity within our system.

This piece of legislation also restricts the availability of preliminary inquiries to only those offences carrying the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, with the intended effect of reducing the time it takes for each case to go to trial. We know that the introduction of this proposal will allow us to understand what victims go through. We are not revictimizing witnesses by having them testify at the peremptory and also at the trial. It increases efficiency while also, as I mentioned earlier, ensuring that the victim is not further victimized within the system.

I want to talk about the hybridized offences, and a few people may want an explanation as to what this is. There are three ways in which we can convict. There are summary convictions, indictable offences and hybrid offences. The fact that we are increasing the number of hybrid offences does not mean the Crown does not have the ability to decide the appropriate sentence or look at the seriousness of the offence.

My hon. colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton has brought this up a number of times. He is a civil litigator, and during his speech he said we cannot just leave it up to the Crown somewhere in some building to have the ability to indiscriminately sentence. I am sure he has faith in the ability of his colleagues, and I would hope he would know that these lawyers take their job very seriously. Not taking away their ability to decide the seriousness of a crime means they can still go in either direction, whether people are given a fine, or two years, or two years to life. That possibility is still available to our attorneys.

This is certainly not what it is doing. It is not being soft on crime. In addition to these proposals, our Minister of Justice has made significant numbers of appointments. Last year there were over 100 appointments to the bench. We are currently at 235. We are on track this year to keep that number going.

We have the most diversity on the bench. We have judges who look like Canadians. That combination of appointments, plus the proposals in here, increases the equity in our system, and it increases the efficiency of our system.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would start by saying that I do not purport to be a lawyer or to speak for members of the Canadian Bar Association in the way they speak among themselves about this particular reform.

The proposals in Bill C-75 would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to only those offences carrying the maximum penalty of life in prison, with the intended effect of reducing the time it takes for cases to reach trial.

Among other things, this looks at the witnesses and the revictimization of individuals who, at the inquiry and again at trial, have to go through their testimony and some of the very difficult circumstances of what happened to them. That can be a very painful and excruciating process.

When we look at limiting those to offences that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, we are ensuring that we take into consideration some of the issues my colleague is talking about with regard to having the witnesses there to testify to those very serious offences.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to speak to Bill C-75.

We have waited long and hard for these omnibus changes to the Criminal Code, and a number of the changes have been welcomed by our party. Regrettably, a number of changes that could have been made, and that were promised by the Liberals, have not been made. That is deeply disappointing not just to us, but to Canadians and the lawyers who represent them when they end up before the courts.

Many of the reforms and the calls for reform have come from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Jordan case, which many members have spoken about here. That decision put in place a new framework and timeline on the necessity of processing trials through the courts with the intention of trying to resolve the backlog of cases. Many of the impacted cases have involved very serious offences, but charges are simply being dropped because the cases have not proceeded expeditiously, consistent with the charter of rights, and in accordance with the new timelines imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin two years back admonished the government in saying that “The perpetual crisis of judicial vacancies in Canada is an avoidable problem that needs to be tackled and solved.” This has been the focus of a lot of debate in this place in the nine years I have been elected. Repeated calls by the opposition to the then Conservative government are now continuing with the Liberal government to fill those vacancies.

There are other measures that can be taken, some of which have been taken by the current government, to try to address the backlog in the courts and to ensure that justice is done. However, there are a number of significant measures that the justice minister was apparently mandated to undertake and chose not to do, at least not at this time, but maybe after the next election, which is usually the reason given.

Judicial appointments are seen as one solution to the backlog. Other possible solutions have been requested and, as mentioned, not adopted in Bill C-75, despite the calls by my colleague, the New Democrat justice critic, the MP for Victoria. His calls have been drawn from the testimony of experts in the field, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association.

I am a member from Alberta, and in the nine years I have been here, there have been calls by the attorney general of my province for judicial vacancies to be filled, which is the prerogative of the federal government. Hundreds of cases have been thrown out because of the failure to fill vacancies across the country. There is an appreciation that some of those vacancies have been filled, particularly since this past April. However, as I have noted, these calls were made by the opposition to the then Conservative government and the calls now continue to the Liberal government. My Province of Alberta has been calling for federal action to fill these judicial vacancies and is pleased that some action is being taken, but I do want to credit my own provincial government for taking action.

The Canadian Bar Association has criticized the government for the chronic failure to appoint judges, in some cases with a delay of more than a year. As I mentioned, I commend the Alberta government for its action in filling vacancies and creating new positions in the provincial courts “to ensure Albertans have more timely and representative access to justice.” It has also appointed additional clerks and prosecutors to ensure that the cases proceed more expeditiously.

I particularly wish to point out some of the recent appointments made by the Government of Alberta. In April of this year, Judge Karen Crowshoe, the first indigenous woman called to the Alberta Bar Association, became the first female first nation provincial court judge. Also, in this week alone, the Alberta court appointed Judge Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay, who is now the the third first nation woman appointed to the provincial court. Moreover, Judge Melanie Hayes-Richards was appointed to the Edmonton Criminal Court. Finally, Judge Michelle Christopher was appointed as the first female judge in the judicial district of Medicine Hat in the history of our province. Kudos to the Government of Alberta.

There are a number of solutions that could have been taken in Bill C-75 that were not taken. For example, my colleagues have consistently called for the government to cease charging Canadians for the simple possession of small amounts of cannabis. All of those charges, the tens of thousands of Canadians charged for simple possession, have clogged our courts. We could have simply resolved that, even in the past year when the government made it clear that it was going to legalize cannabis, by stopping those criminal charges. However, it chose not to, and so the courts remain clogged.

In addition, there have been a lot of calls, including by Moms Stop the Harm, to address opioid addiction. They have been calling for the decriminalization of small amounts of opioids for personal use and to address it as a mental health challenge. Again, those charges could reduce time in our courts.

On preliminary inquiries, a number of my colleagues in this place have talked to the concerns about the government deciding in Bill C-75 to remove the opportunity for preliminary inquiries. The government has professed that this removal would make the judicial process more efficient, but as has been mentioned, it is a very small percentage, 2% to 3%, of cases that ever go through preliminary inquiry. Obviously, it would not have a substantial effect in reducing the clogging of the courts.

There has been concern at the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers that this may pose a serious risk of more wrongful convictions. We have to remember why we have preliminary inquiries. It was mentioned previously that in some cases, as a result of a preliminary inquiry, the charges are dropped. It is a good opportunity for the defence to review the evidence by the Crown. It is concerning that while the government continually likes to use the word “balance”, the bill is not adequately balancing greater efficiency in the courts and the protection of the rights of the accused.

I would also like to speak to the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, which has been discussed a lot in this place. Based on a lot of expert witnesses testimony at committee, my colleagues are expressing great disappointment that removal of mandatory minimum sentences was not addressed in this 300-page omnibus criminal justice bill. They are disappointed that it was not dealt with, particularly as dealing with mandatory minimums was specifically prescribed in the mandate letter of the justice minister. It seemed logical that this would included in this omnibus bill. Many remain puzzled as to why there is a delay on that. Is it going to be yet another Liberal promise that is delayed until the next election? It is a solution that could genuinely address the clogging of the courts, and we encourage the government to move forward more expeditiously and table a measure on that before we recess for the next election.

Many expert witnesses at committee, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, recommended taking action on these measures introduced by the Harper government. This is a significant factor clogging the courts. The association said:

Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the Crown's discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the Crowns ability to take a position that will foster resolution before trial.

We have been told that the effect has been to increase the choice to go to trial rather than pleading to a lower charge. That is because of the necessity by that law that a minimum penalty will be imposed. Therefore, many who are charged will then say they will go to court and try to beat the rap, because otherwise they may receive a greater sentence. That has really clogged the courts.

I quote Jonathan Rudin of the Aboriginal Legal Services, who has emphasized the need to restore judicial discretion, particularly for indigenous women, as the Liberals promised. He said:

...we have to look at the fact that there are still mandatory minimum sentences that take away from judges the ability to sentence indigenous women the way they would like to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.

I look forward to questions and could elaborate further then.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Liberal government's justice reform bill, Bill C-75. If the parliamentary secretary was worked up during his presentation, I cannot wait until he hears what I have to say. Sadly, I cannot find a lot of good things to report about the bill, to report to my constituents or to Canadians at large.

Like a number of the Liberal government's legislative measures, the purpose of the bill does not always match to what the bill would actually do.

For example, recently in Bill C-71, the Minister of Public Safety used tragic shootings and a gun and gangs summit to suggest he was putting forward legislation that would tackle illegal guns, gangs and violent criminals. The sad reality was that the legislation he proposed never once mentioned gangs or organized crime. It had nothing to do with illegal weapons and crimes caused by them.

Prior to that, the Minister of Public Safety also introduced Bill C-59, a bill he claimed would strengthen our national security and protect Canadians. Again, the reality was very different, as the bill would move nearly $100 million from active security and intelligence work, which actually protects Canadians, to administrative and oversight mechanisms and functions. Worst of all, the Minister of Public Safety made full claim about moving Bill C-59 to committee before second reading to:

I would inform the House that, in the interests of transparency, we will be referring this bill to committee before second reading, which will allow for a broader scope of discussion and consideration and possible amendment of the bill in the committee when that deliberation begins.

When it came time to consider reasonable, bold or small amendments, the Liberals on that committee fought against everything to ensure the bill did not change at all its scope or scale. The results will place the security of Canadians at greater risk and for those who actually work in national security, more people will be looking over their shoulders, tougher rules, more paperwork and few, if any, benefits, as front-line efforts to protect Canadians only become more difficult.

Now, under Bill C-75, we see the same old story. The justice minister made bold claims that she would be helping address the backlog of cases created when the Supreme Court imposed a maximum time frame for them. Some of her claims included that this legislation would improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. She said that it would strengthen response to domestic violence. It would streamline bail hearings. It would provide more tools for judges. It would improve jury selection. It would free up court resources by reclassifying serious offences.

That sound fantastic. What a great bill. Streamlining the courts, strengthening the justice system, domestic violence, improving tools for judges, improving jury selection? Incredible. Sadly, the Liberals are not achieving any of these objectives according to the legal community or any of the knowledgeable leaders in the House.

Does it shorten trials and ensure that we deal with the backlog? The minister appears to make the claim that it will with the elimination of most preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearings, according to the legal community, account for just 3% of all court time. Therefore, with an overloaded court system, eliminating a huge number of these hearings will only have a minimal impact at best. Preliminary hearings often weed out the weakest cases, which means more cases will go to trial, thus increasing the court backlogs under the current legislation. What can also happen with preliminary hearings is that they create opportunity for the defence to recognize the need to seek early resolution without a trial.

Moreover, preliminary hearings can deal with issues up front and make trials more focused. Instead, under this new legislation, many cases would be longer with added procedural and legal arguments.

One member of the legal community called the bill “a solution to a problem that didn't exist”. High praise for this legislation indeed.

It is the changes to serious criminal offences that have many Canadians, not just the legal community, concerned. All members of the House could agree, or at least accept, that not all Criminal Code issues need to be treated in the same manner. Serious offences like homicide and minor offences like vandalism or property damage do not meet the same threshold for punishment. We can all agree with that.

Canadians expect that Ottawa, that government will create safe communities and that the law benefits all people, not slanted in favour of criminals.

Under Bill C-75, the Liberals have provided the option to proceed with a large number of violent offences by way of summary conviction rather than an indictable offence. This means that violent criminals may receive no more than the proposed 12 months in jail or a fine for their crimes, a slap on the wrist for things like impaired driving causing bodily harm, obstructing justice, assault with a weapon, forced marriages, abduction, participation in a criminal organization and human trafficking. There are many more, but it bears taking the time to look at these in particular. These are serious offences. Allowing these criminals back on the street, with little to no deterrents, makes even less sense. These serious criminal issues should have the full force and effect of the law.

None of these scenarios, victims or society are better served when those responsible for these offences serve only minimal jail sentences or receive fines.

The principle is that Canadians expect that their government and the courts will be there to ensure that criminals receive due punishment for their crimes and that law-abiding Canadians and those who have been victimized by these criminals are treated fairly and with respect. In short, the bill undermines the confidence of Canadians in our criminal justice system and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to ensure safe communities. As my colleagues have clearly pointed out already, there are other solutions, better solutions in fact. The minister could address the backlog with more judicial appointments, as an example.

As the former minister of justice said, there was never a shortage of qualified candidates in his six years as minister of justice. Therefore, it is not a failure of the judiciary. It is not that there are too many preliminary hearings. It is not that there are way more criminals, because crime rates overall have been declining. The problem resides almost entirely with the minister getting more people on the bench and in prosecution services.

As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House. It should be above politics so the safety and security of Canadians are put ahead of political fortunes. While the Liberals have said that public safety is a priority, they have said that everything is their “top priority”. To have 300 top priorities, means they have no priorities at all.

Canadians expect that the government will make them its priority. Sadly, the bill fails the test to keep Canadians safe and deliver effective government. The legal community has said that the bill is deeply flawed and will hurt the legal system rather than help it. Police services will likely see themselves arresting the same people over and over again, even more so than they do today, as criminals get lighter sentences or fines. Therefore, the backlog will move from the courts to the policing community, back to the courts and then back to the policing community. How does that help the average Canadian?

Canada has been weakened by the Liberal government. Its wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding guns owners, its lack of leadership on illegal border crossers and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a disadvantage, weaken our public safety and national security and place undue strain on families and communities.

Canadians deserve better. In 2019, I suspect we will get a better justice minister, a better justice bill and a better government.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Gordie Hogg Liberal South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to get up and 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.

My particular interest is the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I spent 25 years working with the Criminal Justice Act in British Columbia, starting out as a youth probation officer working on the streets of Surrey, riding with RCMP officers and responding to calls, particularly on youth violence and domestic violence. I was also a foster parent for a number of youths who had been in conflict with the law. Most importantly, I was the warden of our largest youth jail in British Columbia for 10 years where I worked with youth who were on overnight arrest, remand and longer-term sentences, including a number of very serious offenders. While having that experience, I also went back to university to get a Ph.D. and was appointed an adjunct professor in criminology at Simon Fraser University. It is a position I hold today, and it has allowed me to look at these concerns and issues facing us from a conceptual framework as well as from a practical experiential model.

On the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we have been very good in Canada in being able to reduce the number of youth coming into custody. Our numbers 25 years ago were substantially higher on a per capita basis, but the development of a number of alternative measures has made our system much more responsive to the nuances and needs of young children and youth in particular.

Some good research has been in place over the past 15 to 20 years, particularly the Cracow study, which was originally funded by NATO and has been standardized in Germany as well as British Columbia. It is a longitudinal study looking at the issues that become prevalent when youth come into conflict with the law and the challenges responding to that. As a result of this longitudinal study that has been tracking youths for up to 15 years now, we are much better informed in terms of the actions we should be taking in dealing with them.

There are five profiles or pathways that have become evident in this research that inform the way we should be responding to the needs and nuances of youth. In some instances, we are able to look at and make some relatively accurate predictions with respect to the propensity of a youth to come in conflict with the law, even pre-conception.

There are environmental influences, such as the presence of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, which are overwhelming in terms of the number of youth who come into conflict with the law.

There are a number of neurological and developmental disorders which are precursors, such as ADHD/ADD and fetal alcohol syndrome, and in certain communities these conditions are epidemic. They have been particularly evident within a number of our indigenous communities.

Certainly domestic violence has a strong link as well, and there is alcohol and drug addiction. There are a number of samples in the jail that I was responsible for, but up to 90% of youths coming into custody had been using hard drugs.

There are personality disorders, aggressive disorders, dependency disorders, anti-social personalities, psychopathy. These types of disorders are also very prevalent. In fact, where we were finding youths getting into conflict with the law in their early teens, it is becoming younger and younger. We are finding now that some parents are taking their two-year-old children to children's hospitals saying they cannot control them anymore. When that happens, because of the medical model, we tend to mask it with the utilization of drugs and manage it in that fashion, but later on in life it manifests itself as they come away from the drugs in all kinds of deleterious and negative behaviours.

Also, many youth come from high needs, such as single-parent homes, high economic need, domestic violence, family and child abuse, and 60% to 70% come out of foster care.

Therefore, the proposed legislation we are talking about in terms of addressing the needs through the Youth Criminal Justice Act looks at how we can provide more community-based responses. We can look at alternative measures so that there are more choices provided to the courts and the Crown counsel when youth come before the courts. Certainly, every bit of the modern research being done tells us that we can have a far more profound impact by ensuring that we create alternatives that are responsive to the diagnosis and the needs. However, we have not reached the level we need to in order to ensure that we respond to that.

I think that probably a hundred years from now, people will look back and say that everything was a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. People will look at us the way we now look at the fact that in the past people were burned at the stake or stoned to death and they thought that that was a good response to things.

I think that as we become more responsive to changing our legislation, we will have more creative responses, instead of just saying that we are going to lock people up or put them in solitary confinement and those types of initiatives, which obviously are not working terribly well. I am delighted that we are providing more options within that framework, that we are giving the courts other options and that we are giving communities the chance to respond to the nuances and needs of youth as they come before the court system.

Obviously, we have to maintain safety and ensure that our communities are safe. There are some youths who are identified as being psychopathic and have behavioural issues that we cannot manage adequately without having some type of confinement. That is an important element of the approach that we take. We want to reduce incarceration for those people who are not representing risk to the well-being of our citizens.

That is an important part of the way that these modifications to the Youth Criminal Justice Act are leading us. They are leading us in a very progressive way. In many ways, Canada has been a leader in looking at different models. There was a suggestion and a movement in the 1980s toward total de-incarceration and total community-based response. Massachusetts led that.

There were a number of de-institutionalized models that happened in different pockets of Canada and they were not successful. They were not successful because they were not recognizing and identifying those youths who did constitute a risk to the community at large. Fortunately, this act allows us to hold onto that while developing the other parts of our system that have been shown to be so positive and that research is now supporting in a positive and meaningful way.

Having the public more actively engaged in alternative measures has been an important part of that type of resolution. We have seen the development of a myriad of community-based models for responding to the types of needs that these youths present. Certainly, this act provides again the opportunity for both the Crown counsel and police to screen out at different points those who are at lower risk and do not constitute a need to be put into state custody to do that.

By modernizing and streamlining our system, we are responding more adequately and appropriately to the nuances and needs of our communities at large and, importantly, to the nuances and needs of those youth who are in conflict with the law. We are finding ways to respond to the research, allowing us to provide the services that they need to become actively and positively engaged in our system and in our society.

We have seen many successes of youths who were dramatically at risk committing horrendous offences who are now very positive role models who have changed dramatically. Talking to those youths about their experiences and what they have been through, it is very revealing in terms of supporting what has happened and in terms of the research we are seeing. Their experiences are saying when they made those connections with people who are meaningful and had that relationship with them, structured it for them and held them in a place of support, that they then started to see and become connected with people in a meaningful way.

This legislation allows us a great capacity to do that. It allows us the opportunity to ensure that we provide that support while maintaining the security and safety that we need for our communities, while at the same time providing an empathetic, caring community and society that does respond to those needs.

Therefore, I am delighted to support Bill C-75 with the actions that it takes to ensure that we do have a safe, more compassionate and caring society, which I think is something that we all espouse.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, in the heart of the beautiful upper Ottawa Valley, I appreciate this limited opportunity to contribute to this truncated debate on a piece of legislation that is important to my constituents.

I begin my comments by sharing some thoughts from a group called Because Wilno, and why it reiterates the word “because”. They state:

Because on September 22, 2015, Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam were killed in their homes near Wilno, Ontario.

Because they were killed by a man they knew, who had a history of domestic violence known to police for over three decades.

Because even after violence is reported, people slip through the cracks in the system.

Because advocates have been calling for these cracks to be addressed, for decades.

Because dealing with violence is particularly challenging in our rural communities.

Because coercion and control of women is a spectrum that can begin with words and escalate towards lethal violence including multiple killings.

Because the culture of society, policing and courts needs to be better.

Because women continue to be killed in Canada, at a rate of 1 every 6 days.

Because we couldn’t just sit around doing nothing.

Because we think you can help.

I thank Holly Campbell, who organized the group Because Wilno.

Violence against women is not new. While I would like to believe, coming from a predominantly rural riding like mine in eastern Ontario, that violence against women is a city problem, we know that is not the case. Violence against women continues to be a fact of life in Canada, and in a predominantly rural riding like Renfrew County, Carol Culleton, Nathalie Warmerdam and Anastasia Kuzyk were killed on September 22, 2015. Their killer was known to all of the women and to police as having a long history of violence spanning more than three decades. While the accused had previously been ordered by court to attend counselling for abusers, he never went. He had been released from prison shortly before the murders. The system failed these women. On average in Canada one woman is killed by her partner every six days. The man arrested and accused of their murders had a long criminal history, including charges involving two of the three women.

Holly Campbell, who organized the group Because Wilno, issued this statement to legislators like us:

For too long, Canadians have looked away from violence in our homes that predominantly harms women and children in every neighbourhood, district, municipal ward and constituency of this country.

Like Holly, I am not prepared to let Carol, Nathalie, Anastasia and all the other women who have been victims of violence die in vain. The memory of their senseless deaths is too fresh not to be moved to action. I support the proposal in Bill C-75 that would increase the maximum term of imprisonment for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence and provide that abuse of an intimate partner be an aggravating factor on sentencing, as well as provide for more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.

The Conservative Party believes, as do I, that the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government. We will always work to strengthen the Canadian criminal justice system, rather than weaken it. The Conservatives understand that a strong criminal justice system must always put the rights of victims and communities before special treatment of perpetrators of violent crimes.

My question for the government is this. Does Bill C-75, in its other 300 pages, meet the expectations of Canadians? The fact that the current government has decided to move forward with precisely the omnibus legislative format it condemned so vociferously in opposition suggests to my constituents and to all Canadians that the contents of Bill C-75 are being rushed forward as an omnibus bill precisely because these contents are out of touch with the concerns of average Canadians.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 8th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Dominic LeBlanc Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure our colleagues were looking forward to the chance when I could answer the Thursday question again. It is good news as I am about to do so.

This afternoon, we will continue with the report stage debate on Bill C-75 on the modernization of the criminal justice system.

Tomorrow, pursuant to an order made on September 21, the House will be adjourned to allow members to return to their ridings for Remembrance Day.

As my colleague indicated, next week will be dedicated to working on behalf of our constituents.

On Monday, November 19, we shall have an allotted day.

On Tuesday, we will resume debate at report stage of Bill C-75, the justice modernization bill.

Finally, I know all Canadians are looking forward to Wednesday, because the Minister of Finance will deliver his fall economic statement.

While I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings to revert back to "Statements by Ministers" to permit the Minister of Finance to make a statement; after the statement, a member from each recognized opposition party, a member of the Bloc Québécois, and the member for Saanich-Gulf Islands may reply; after each member has replied, or when no member rises to speak, whichever comes first, the House shall proceed to the taking of any recorded divisions deferred to the end of government orders or to immediately before the time provided for private members' business and then proceed to the consideration of private members' business.

I think that was quite clear. If necessary, I can repeat the whole thing again.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and criminals. The government is failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. Sadly, for Canadian women, the Prime Minister has developed a reputation for obfuscation when clarity is required. The Prime Minister sets a bad example.

The female reporter who was subjected to an unwanted sexual advance by the Prime Minister in her workplace is still waiting for an admission of responsibility. His hypocrisy in lecturing others while failing to account for his own behaviour sets a bad example at a time when members of his own party are lecturing Canadians that bad behaviour is encouraged by the things politicians say or do not say.

The following open letter appeared in a Toronto newspaper this week. I cite it because it is important that the government hear directly from the casualties of its neglect of the rights of victims and their families. It states:

When I was 10 years old, one of Canada’s most notorious pedophiles — Peter Whitmore — kidnapped, tortured and raped me in an abandoned house in rural Saskatchewan after repeatedly slipping in and out of the justice system’s oversight.

And so you might imagine the rush of anger, pain and sadness I felt reading the recent news that Terri-Lynne McClintic — who kidnapped, raped and killed eight-year-old Tori Stafford in 2009 — was moved from a maximum-security prison to an Indigenous healing lodge.

I feel the pain of the Stafford family. The justice system is once again failing to protect our children.

It was the Liberal government that released Peter Whitmore from his eighth time in a federal prison for the abduction and rape of a myriad of different children before his sights fell upon me in 2006.

When I tell my story publicly, I usually ask the audience: “What is the most important thing to us and to the future of our country?” The answer is plain and simple. Our children. How could someone as callous and destructive as McClintic be moved to a healing lodge? How can people who are supposed to ensure justice is done allow this to happen?

This is not the first time the Liberal government or parole boards have failed to keep child abusers locked up. Over the past few months, I have come upon multiple cases of convicted pedophiles and child murderers being released or having their sentences reduced.

For example, Ryan Chamberlin, a Saskatchewan hockey coach who admitted to sexually abusing four young boys after a prior history of sexually abusing children, was released after serving less than four years in prison.

His mother told the media: “It is so sickening to even think he’s going to be back out and I can’t do anything more about it,” adding that men like her son can’t change and the federal government must act to keep them behind bars.

Cyle Larsen, a pedophile who has multiple convictions and has not sought treatment, was released recently after serving 12 months in a Calgary correctional facility. The Edmonton Police Service went so far as to issue a public statement saying they fear Larsen, who plans to live in Edmonton, “will commit another sexual offence against someone under the age of 16 while in the community.”

The striking statement, according to the force, was issued as part of its “duty to warn the public about the risk Larsen poses.”

“Larsen is considered an untreated child sex offender with pedophilic interests towards both male and female children,” police said. “Larsen has a history of opportunistic offending against children known to him, however, (he) is also believed to be at risk of offending against victims unknown to him and has shown he will groom and/or lure his victims if given the chance.”

McClintic, a convicted child murderer, who is anything but a model prisoner, is being moved to a healing lodge intended to rehabilitate prisoners with light sentences. Translation: her punishment for murdering and assaulting a child will now amount to living with minimal security in a facility that receives child visitors.

What kind of person does not understand that these “people” do not change? Predators are predators. A 25-year study of sex offenders in Canada found about 3-in-5 offenders reoffended (based on sex re-offence charges or convictions or court appearances data). That figure increased to more than 4-in-5 when all offences and undetected sex crimes were included in the analysis.

These loopholes are making our justice system look like a game of catch and release with no more than a slap on the wrist for a consequence. The real punishment is handed off to victims and their families.

What makes this such a painful blow for victims and families impacted by these monsters is the failure of the [Liberal] government to stand up for the rights of the victims and survivors.

Some people are offended when victims speak out seeking justice. They appear to defend the rights of predators who destroyed lives. Predators like mine, who raped and abducted many children in his pedophilic career, were allowed to walk free from a federal prison on his way to the front door of my parent’s Saskatchewan farmhouse in 2006.

Eight times the system failed to stop a monster from getting back on the streets. Eight times a family was ripped apart never to be whole again. Eight times he slipped through the cracks and on the ninth time he chose the wrong child and the wrong family; a family who is not giving up until justice is truly served.

I am raising my voice for those who cannot to let the Stafford family, victims and victims’ families know that they are not alone while standing against the failing justice system. I am standing up for the protection of our children. I am speaking out for what is right.

The author of this letter is a farmer and a volunteer firefighter.

Bill C-75 needs to be chopped up to allow for careful consideration and proper debate. Anything less would be to fail Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned in my speech that adding jail time as a consequence and interpreting previous activities of that nature as assault is one action I support in Bill C-75.

However, Bill C-75 is an omnibus bill. That is the very type of legislation the Liberal government promised during the election it would not bring forward.

Speaking of dating, what the Liberals changed from an indictable offence to a summary offence is the application of noxious substances to other people. That says that putting a date rape drug into a person's drink is really not that serious. I oppose that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be on the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights, and I know that our committee did good work in reviewing this proposed legislation.

I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-75 and will spend my time today outlining proposed changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, YCJA, in particular. These changes would focus on administration of justice offences and how they are dealt with in the youth criminal justice system.

As members may know, the YCJA came into force in 2003 and has significantly reduced the overall use of the formal court system and custody of youth. However, despite the overall success of the YCJA in achieving its goals, the treatment of young persons in administration of justice offences has remained an area of concern.

While the YCJA clearly encourages alternatives to charging for less serious offences, approximately 85% of youth accused of administration of justice offences are subject to formal charges, with many of these cases leading to custody. This is despite provisions in the YCJA that require consideration of all reasonable alternatives to custody in the circumstances. These high rates of charging and custody for administration of justice offences contribute to delays in the system and the overrepresentation of vulnerable youth, particularly indigenous youth, in that system for conduct that would not in and of itself be criminal.

The aim of the proposed youth reforms in Bill C-75 is to strengthen aspects of the currently used justice framework so that fewer young persons are prosecuted and incarcerated for administration of justice offences. In this regard, the bill would amend the YCJA to do several things. First, it would further encourage the use of alternatives to charges, such as extrajudicial measures and judicial reviews, in response to administration of justice offences. Second, it would ensure that the conditions imposed on youth at the bail stage or at sentencing are necessary to address the offending behaviour of the youth concerned, and which are required for criminal justice purposes. Third, it would further restrict the use of custodial sentences for administration of justice offences.

Bill C-75 would provide that extrajudicial measures, in other words, informal measures, such as police warnings or referrals to community-based programs, are adequate to hold a young person accountable for breaches of conditions or failure to appear at the bail stage and for breaches of community-based youth offences. An exception to this presumption, however, would arise in circumstances where the young person either has a history of breaches or where the breach caused harm or a risk of harm to the safety of the public.

In some cases, extrajudicial measures may not considered an adequate response to the breach. For such cases, the bill establishes the circumstances in which a judicial referral hearing, as set out in Bill C-75's proposed Criminal Code amendments, or the existing provision for reviewing community service set out in the YCJA would be used.

These alternatives would be the preferred approach when appropriate, and the use of formal charges for administration of justice offences would be discouraged, except as a last resort.

I would now like to talk about the use of conditions as part of the youth criminal justice system.

Many people believe that the problems with administration of justice offences are rooted in the myriad of conditions imposed on youth. The concern is that, in many cases, the conditions set the youth up for failure, leading to new charges and perpetuating the youth's involvement in crime.

Dr. Jane Sprott, a professor at Ryerson University, who has focused her research over the past decade on the YCJA and issues surrounding bail and the use of bail relief conditions, in her testimony before our committee, stated:

there are numerous broad-ranging conditions placed on youths, and many times those conditions appear to be crafted with broad social welfare aims that go far beyond the purpose of release conditions....

The use of these broad welfare or treatment-based conditions is problematic for a variety of reasons...so however well intended...they're unlikely to achieve their desired goals and can actually do more harm in a variety of ways, one of which is setting the youth up for failing to comply.

The youth justice proposals in Bill C-75 would require greater scrutiny at the front end to ensure that any conditions imposed were reasonable in the circumstances and necessary for a valid criminal law purpose, such as ensuring the young person's attendance in court or protecting the safety of the public.

Furthermore, conditions could not be imposed on a young person unless he or she would reasonably be able to comply with those said conditions. Finally, the bill would prohibit the imposition of conditions or the detention of young persons as a substitute for appropriate child protection, mental health or other social measures.

As I mentioned, the use of custody in relation to administration of justice offences committed by young persons remains an area of concern due to the fact that 35% of these cases are resulting in custody. Bill C-75 would modify the criteria for youth custody by providing that custody could not be imposed on the basis of prior failure to comply with non-custodial sentences, unless the prior failures resulted in actual findings of guilt. In other words, evidence alone of prior failures would not be sufficient.

In addition, the bill would provide that if a youth justice court was imposing a sentence for a breach at the bail stage or for a failure to comply with a community-based sentence, custody could not be imposed unless the young person caused harm, or a risk of harm, to the safety of the public in committing the offence currently before the court. These changes would make it less likely for administration of justice offences to lead to custody for youth.

In closing, it is a pleasure to be a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I can assure my hon. colleagues that we did a comprehensive study of Bill C-75. While I know that there were legitimate disagreements between members of the committee, there were also a number of amendments made that were unanimously adopted that strengthened the bill.

I thank the many witnesses who gave their time and expertise to assist the committee through testimony and written submissions.

I am confident that these reforms I have touched on today would contribute to a more efficient youth criminal justice system and a better justice system overall. They would free up court time so the more serious criminal matters, both on the youth side and the adult side, could be dealt with in a timely fashion and in line with the parameters set out in the Jordan decision. That is why I support passage of the bill and urge all my hon. colleagues to do so as well.

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November 8th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House especially to talk about ensuring the safety of my constituents and all Canadians.

Every day since the 2006 election I have had the privilege of being chosen to represent the values that are dear to us in Lévis—Lotbinière. My Conservative colleagues and I are determined to live up to that honour ethically and with respect and integrity.

Generally speaking, the legislation debated and passed in the House moves Canada forward, but since the election of this Liberal majority government, legislation is debated and passed very quickly in the House, which is moving our country backward. The list is long, but consider the marijuana legalization legislation, which is disastrous for the future of our young people, not to mention the bill before us today.

I would like nothing more than to remain positive, even optimistic, or even bury my head in the sand like so many other MPs are doing when it comes to Bill C-75, the 300-page omnibus justice bill.

As the official opposition, we have to once again call out this Liberal government's poor judgment, as it refuses to consider the impact that some of its changes will have on the safety of our children and our country. What is motivating the government? Is it tyring to keep one of its promises at all costs, even if that means setting Canada back? Time will tell.

We were fortunate to have inherited one of the most stable and robust political systems in the world, a model in terms of peace, order and good governance. Of course, things took a turn for the worse with this Liberal government, which wants to liberalize everything that we think should have some oversight.

Making major changes to Canada's justice system should be a judicious exercise, one that is not taken lightly, as the Liberal government seems to have done once again. Believe it or not, rather than taking action to combat terrorism, the Liberals want to get rid of penalties imposed on those who go abroad to join a terrorist group like ISIS.

What should we make of this Prime Minister who believes that reintegration, rather than prosecution, is the best way to treat ISIS fighters? Clearly, in keeping with the usual Liberal opportunism, the rights of victims and the safety of Canadians are not among the Liberal government's priorities to the same degree as they were top priorities for the Conservatives. The Prime Minister wants to lower penalties for serious crimes.

Apparently reason, committee testimony, studies, and plain old common sense just do not matter. If this bill passes, criminals may have to do nothing more than pay a fine instead of serving jail time for serious crimes such as leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist group, trafficking in persons and impaired driving causing bodily harm.

It makes absolutely no sense. All of these crimes are indictable offences and carry with them the maximum jail time they deserve. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard from victims of crime who are angry that the Liberals are again failing them by denying justice for their loved ones.

Recently, the Prime Minister refused to put a murderer back in jail. He decided to pay veterans' benefits to incarcerated criminals who never served their country. That is scandalous.

Canada's Conservatives have always stood up for the rights of victims of crime, and we will not stop now. That is why we submitted over 100 amendments to ensure the continued safety of Canadians and our country.

We called for serious crimes to remain indictable offences and demanded that the Liberals reverse the elimination of preliminary inquiries and peremptory challenges of jurors.

We also called for a reversal on the elimination of cross-examination of police officers for certain offences and an increase to the maximum sentence for sexual assault.

We demanded that the victim surcharge imposed by the courts not be reduced.

Obviously, some of the amendments are commendable. The Conservatives can support some of the proposals set out in Bill C-75. We agree to remove the provisions of the Criminal Code that have been deemed to be unconstitutional. The Conservatives can support that measure because it will benefit victims of crime and it will clean up the Criminal Code.

It goes without saying that we support increasing the maximum sentence where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner as well as the consideration of intimate partner violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing. We also support more stringent temporary release requirements in the case of offenders who have committed intimate partner violence.

It also goes without saying that we support the provisions to reduce delays in our justice system, particularly those that seek to limit the scope of the preliminary inquiry, allow increased use of technology to facilitate remote attendance by any person in a proceeding, modernize and clarify interim release provisions to simplify the forms of release that may be imposed on an accused, and 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.

Finally, modernizing the language used in the Criminal Code to make it non-discriminatory is also a very good thing.

The Prime Minister played the part of the grasshopper who travelled here, there and everywhere around the world singing and dancing. Time has become a critical factor for this Prime Minister, who claims that his government is introducing an omnibus bill so that it can fulfill multiple election promises at once, since this is the final sprint before the next election in a few months.

This is deplorable and a fait accompli. Introducing a big bill such as this one leaves the opposition little time for careful and in-depth study. For most of the session, Bill C-45 on marijuana legalization and Bill C-46 on drug-impaired driving kept the Senate busy.

They are two major pieces of legislation that make good on the Liberals' immoral promise to legalize marijuana, a promise made during the 2015 election campaign.

These delays and poor management of the legislative agenda have left the government short on time to fulfill its mandate. It will be hard pressed to achieve its goals with Bill C-75 and other pieces of legislation that have been languishing for months.

We criticized the government for failing to do anything up to this point to reduce delays in our legal system and we were critical in particular about its approach to judicial appointments.

Can members believe that as of April 1, 2018, or three years after he was elected as Prime Minister, there were 59 vacant judicial positions at the federal level? We believe that it takes less time and is more effective to appoint judges than to impose an omnibus bill on Parliament.

In closing, under no circumstances should checking off an item on their list of election promises compromise the safety of honest Canadians and our borders or weaken Canada's justice system.

It is not just the Prime Minister who will be adversely impacted, but an entire generation that we have been honourably defending for more than 150 years.

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November 8th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech.

I hope that my colleague realizes that Bill C-75, as reported back to the House, makes no changes to the terrorism laws. The member spoke at length about them, but the committee amended the bill so that no changes were made to the terrorism laws.

The member said that he was disappointed that the Conservative amendments concerning hybrid offences were not accepted. For example, their amendment that cattle branding not be a hybrid offence was rejected. Is he disappointed about that? Does he believe that it is too serious an offence to warrant a sentence of two years less a day? What about dislodging a vessel stranded on rocks?

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November 8th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-75 is at report stage. The purpose of this bill, introduced by the Liberals, is to improve the compliance rate with the Jordan decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 2016 and to reduce the backlog in the justice system.

Unfortunately, we have heard many times that Bill C-75 was rushed. Some of the wording is very vague, and the bill does not meet the main objective, which is to improve the justice system so it works better for everyone.

One of the biggest disappointments, which was not addressed in committee, is the lack of bold reforms for the criminal justice system, such as abolishing the mandatory minimum sentences that proliferated under the Harper government. That is a major element, because unfortunately, although mandatory minimums are respected in most cases, there are many unusual cases for which judges would have liked to have some flexibility.

Unfortunately, judges' hands are often tied by mandatory minimum sentences, and they have no choice but to impose them, despite circumstances that can be extremely sad. I am thinking about the rise in “suicide by cop” attempts, which primarily involve police.

Some people reach a point in their lives where they are in extreme distress and feel suicidal. They sometimes threaten on-duty police officers with real guns or paintball guns, fake guns that look real, in order to get themselves shot. These situations are unfortunately known as “suicide by cop” and are a sign of someone who is suffering tremendously.

Gun crimes are often subject to mandatory minimum sentences. During the trial, if the judge recognizes that the problem is not a criminal issue, but an issue of mental illness or distress, and that the offender would be better off receiving treatment than being branded a criminal, this judge has very few legal options. I think it is especially important to give back some flexibility to judges by eliminating mandatory minimums. It is also important to understand that in cases where the accused truly committed the crime, the sentences go far beyond the mandatory minimums.

Mandatory minimum sentences often have a perverse effect on the justice system. They do not allow judges to consider the extenuating circumstances surrounding the events or the accused's past, experiences, personal situation or family responsibilities. Mandatory minimums allow for absolutely no flexibility.

Another problem this bill does not fix, a problem that impacts the justice system, is lack of financial support for victims and their families, as well as for the accused. The poverty threshold for access to legal aid is very low when the accused does not have a family or dependents. One must be very poor to get legal aid.

Some people simply cannot afford a lawyer. They cannot get legal aid because their income is too high. For example, a young man in his early twenties who earns $30,000 or $40,000 a year cannot get legal aid because his income is considered too high. There is no way he can afford $30,000 in legal fees, so he cannot get good legal advice. That young man will find himself caught up in a system that does not allow him access to legal advice.

The legal system also needs to take victims into consideration, because the whole process would go more smoothly if they had better support. In many cases, they get absolutely no support. Many a parent whose child was killed in a car accident, which is such a tragedy, says they have no access to resources of any kind, no financial support to attend court proceedings. They pay for everything out of pocket.

Lack of access to justice for financial reasons is a serious problem that hinders the effectiveness of our justice system. Bill C-75 does nothing to address that. In the case of both victims and the accused, we need to take a more logical approach and be able to support them. We must be able to ensure that they understand what is happening. For instance, when victims' families get completely lost in the procedures, they often have to pay for lawyers out of their own pockets in order to understand what is going on, get advice and figure out all the procedural rules. That is one particular aspect of the bill that could have been explored, or at least corrected, in committee. It still has not been corrected or addressed. I also have to say that, since it was not done at the outset, we were more limited.

Furthermore, if we want to make the judicial system more efficient, we absolutely must separate acts that genuinely criminally motivated from acts committed as a result of social problems. So many charges related to simple possession of any kind of drug wind up in court.

I think we will have to explore whether drug possession is actually more of a health problem. That is a very important issue that absolutely must be addressed.

In order to find a better solution, should we not consider drug possession and ultimately drug use as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue?

Would that not give us more time to focus on serious crimes and free up our judges who have to deal with offenders who have been charged with drug possession? I believe these offenders would be much better off if they were treated at a hospital and given quick access to detox services.

Would it not be better to treat these cases as health issues and save our resources to deal with cases involving serious sexual violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and violence against indigenous women? Many such crimes are committed, and unfortunately, our justice system does not deal with them very effectively.

We could set better priorities by rethinking the way our justice system works. Many offences are related to social problems. People living in extreme poverty will commit small offences to try to survive. Is the solution to criminalize them or, on the contrary, is it to better address those social issues and dedicate our resources to people with truly sick criminal behaviour? I think we would all benefit from that.

Since my time is up, I now hope to provide thoughtful answers to my colleagues' questions.

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November 8th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to address the issue of limiting preliminary inquiries.

The government, in Bill C-75, would limit preliminary inquiries to only when the maximum sentence is life behind bars. Anyone charged with an offence with a lesser maximum penalty would not have the benefit of a preliminary inquiry. However, the government has provided no empirical data to back up its assertion that this would reduce the backlog in our courts.

We heard a considerable amount of evidence before the justice committee that preliminary inquiries help narrow issues. They allow both parties to test their cases. They provide a discovery function, and in terms of data, 86% of cases that have a preliminary inquiry are resolved.

I wonder if the member could comment.

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November 8th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I am really pleased to join the debate. I have been listening for a few hours to what different members believe are the most important parts of the bill, the biggest defects and the biggest advantages given to it.

I thought the member for St. Albert—Edmonton gave one of the best, most succinct rundowns of the bill in terms of its many defects. It is an omnibus justice bill. I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, so we are well versed on omnibus legislation there for three years now from the government, a government that during the last election promised not to ram any more omnibus legislations through the House. It was a promise that they have continuously broken since then. The Liberals failed to lived up to their promise.

The lens I want to give to this piece of legislation is mostly consideration of some of the hybridized offences in it. Like I have mentioned in the House before, I am not a member of the legal profession, so my eyes on it are basically the eyes of any regular member of the public and what they would think are serious offences versus non-serious offences.

We have been told that one of the reasons for this legislation is that it would drastically reduce the bottleneck at our provincial courts, that the court system would be somehow liberated from having to deal with all of these cases that are clogging it up and all the court delays.

With the Jordan decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada, that bottleneck of court cases is even more important now because we have individuals being charged with offences but never seeing a court or going through the system to be judged. I would call this piece of legislation as the Yiddish proverb says, the gift that is not as precious as first thought. There are so many defects that the member for St. Albert—Edmonton pointed out that would actually create an even greater bottleneck at the provincial courts.

Those courts closest to the people are the ones that deal with the vast majority of criminal offences. They deal with family law, young persons aged 12 to 17, traffic bylaw violations, regulatory offences, small claims and preliminary inquiries. The judges are actually doing most of the work. Every province has been set up slightly differently in how they proceed with different types of offences. Many of these would not be directly affected by this legislation, but the ones that deal with criminal offences would be because a great deal of the hybridized ones would be going to the provincial courts. The Liberals are not making it simpler, they are actually creating a greater bottleneck.

I thought that it was the House of Commons and the Senate that together decided what was a serious enough offence to warrant five to 25 years, not prosecutors. It is this House that decides on behalf of our constituents what are serious offences and what is deserving of consideration by a judge, whether a judge should consider the maximum offence of 25 years to life, whether it should be 15 years or 10 years. It is not up to prosecutors, who are not responsible to any constituents. They are not responsible directly to the public. They do not have to go to the public every four years and make a pitch for the retention of their job. Neither does a judge, but we ask judges to consider the particulars in an individual case and determine whether it warrants five years, 10 years, or something in between and to make a judicious decision based on the facts of the case. We would actually be taking away that ability of the justices to be able to render a decision.

I am sure there will be a member of the Liberal caucus who will stand and attack some past Conservative government's record, that we can go back and forth to the 19th century if we want to, to what previous governments did or other previous governments did not do, but we are looking at the record of the past three years. That is where the focus should be.

This piece of legislation comes to us as an omnibus bill. It should have come to us as pieces of legislation, different focus areas that could have been proposed in the House. It is not as if we have a maximum load that we can take on and afterwards we say we simply cannot take on any more legislation in the House. The government has shown a great interest in guillotine motions. The Liberals have used over 50 now, even after saying they would not do so and would allow fulsome debate in the House. There is no reason why this piece of legislation could not have been broken up into different pieces so that members could consider whether in fact criminal acts of sabotage were serious enough to perhaps warrant full consideration by indictable offence, and whether that would be the best way to proceed.

Forgery or uttering a forged passport, the selling or purchasing of an office, and the bribery of public officials are serious offences and there should be no opportunity for a prosecutor to elect to have them hybridized and go by summary conviction. The same applies to prison breach, assisting an escape, infanticide and participation in activities of a criminal organization.

Just this morning, as I was providing a tour for my my constituents through the House of Commons, the Minister of Public Safety was outside announcing that the government would spend $86 million to fight organized crime. On this same day, his government is proposing that we hybridize the offence of participating in the activities of a criminal organization and handing such decisions over to a prosecutor to decide whether the offence is serious enough, even before a judge has a chance to listen to the facts of the case and an individual's particular circumstance or participation.

This is why I used this Yiddish proverb, “The gift is not as precious as first thought”. It is a very good proverb and someday I will be able to actually say it in Yiddish.

If the gift is that we are going to reduce the bottlenecks in our provincial courts and reduce wait times, then we need to appoint more judges so they can hear more cases.

Provincial governments should be looking at more court space. The City of Calgary built a brand new court building expressly because there was a problem with securing court space. Judges needed the space to hear cases.

If this legislation is the government's gift, if this legislation is its attempt to resolve the problem, and it is not worth it, then the government should go back to the drawing board. This legislation could be dealt with piece by piece and the parts that many members of the official opposition said they could agree with could be expedited to the other place.

To their credit, government members on the justice committee agreed that terrorism and genocide are pretty serious offences and, therefore, should not be hybridized. I think members would agree with me that the selling or purchasing of an office, and I do not mean in this case a corporate office, but an elected office, is a serious offence and does not deserve to be hybridized in any way.

It is a matter of process here. Had this omnibus piece of legislation been broken out into its parts and there been an attempt to reach consensus on certain parts, I think it would have passed, because we agree with most pieces of it. That has happened before in the House. I have seen all parties agree that a particular piece of legislation should pass more quickly than another. Maybe certain portions of Bill C-75 could have been passed more quickly. Instead, we are having a more fulsome debate so that members on all sides can explain the concerns their constituents have expressed about the contents of this legislation.

Sabotage is a serious crime. It should not be up to a prosecutor to decide whether it is deserving of a faster process because people are busy. Attorneys general in every single province give direction to their prosecutors. They are told to prioritize certain cases over others. There is only so much time in a prosecutor's day and I understand that cases need to be prioritized, and that is led by the attorney general of the respective province. That is a fair process.

At the same time, however, it is Parliament that is supposed to decide what is or is not a serious offence. What the government is doing here looks like a copy and paste job. It is just taking giant sections of the Criminal Code and dumping them into the bill. It is as if all of those sections should be hybridized in a vain attempt to find some type of time saving for judges. Judges will not have a chance to listen to the contents of every particular case like we expect them to do.

I will not be able to support this piece of legislation. It is simply defective in its content. It is defective in its process. Perhaps the small number of amendments that government members on justice committee accepted is a good step in the right direction. There should be far more amendments to this piece of legislation before it would, in any way, be permissible to pass it through the House.

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November 8th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, during this debate today we heard words such as hybridization, tough on crime and speeding up the judicial system. I will remind the House and Canadians who are listening and are tuned into this debate that it was probably on day 10 of the 2015 campaign that the member for Papineau said that, under his government, he would let debate reign and would not resort to such parliamentary tricks as closure and limiting debate. He also said his government would not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny, such as omnibus bills. Here we have a bill that is well over 350 pages long, legislation that encompasses three bills. I think that probably speaks more to the current government's legislative failure than a lot of other things.

One of the things the Liberals always say is that they are protecting Canadians. I do not feel that Bill C-75 does that. That said, I will preface my speech by saying that I am not a lawyer, nor do I profess to be one, but we have seen instances over the course of the last three years where the Liberals and the government like to say they are tough on crime and that they are standing up for victims' rights, and yet we have seen recently a convicted murderer being transferred to a healing lodge. She had a key to her room and could come and go as she pleased. This murderer had lured an eight year old away from her school and then she and her partner murdered young Tori Stafford. For weeks the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety said that it was not in their power to change that. However, it was done. They probably blame the Conservatives for that, because they blamed us for politicizing this event. Then last week, Tori's father and family came to the Hill and protested on the steps of Parliament. They not only begged the Prime Minister and the minister to change that, but they also shamed them into changing the rules, and today, as a result of that public shaming, we saw the Liberals change the rules, and that murderer is now behind bars.

Why am I bringing this up? It is because we are talking about Bill C-75, which hybridizes certain offences that were previously dealt with by indictment only. Why were they classified by indictment? It is because they include some of the most serious offences. I know our hon. colleague from Calgary Shepard brought this up. Actually, his speech was bang on.

Let us talk about some of these offences that have now been hybridized. There is the punishment for infanticide, concealing the body of a child, abduction of a person under 16 or abduction of a person under 14, administering a noxious substance, and enslaving a male or female into prostitution. Those are some of the crimes that will be hybridized and take away the discretion of a judge to be able to levy serious punishment for some of these serious crimes.

I sat at committee during some of the testimony relating to Bill C-75. I had the opportunity to sit through two sessions of that. Criminal defence lawyers who witnessed at committee offered that, while there were some good changes in Bill C-75, one of the key points that was missing from the bill was the filling of judicial vacancies and how that would help.

I heard the arguments of those across the way who are blaming the previous government. The Liberals want to put their record up against the record of the Conservatives. As our hon. colleague from Calgary Shepard so aptly put it, why are they always doing that?

The Liberals have been in government now for three years, yet they always say we should have seen it when the Conservatives had it or could we imagine if the NDP had it. However, their failures are their own. At times, the Minister of Justice has held records for the most judicial vacancies.

I will offer this for our hon. colleagues across the way who are going to point their fingers at us. The Jordan decision came about in July of 2016. We would think the Jordan decision would have spurred the minister on to fill those judicial vacancies. Why is that such a key issue? In rural communities such as mine and other areas right across Canada, it is tough to get a judge at times. What happens is that those cases get thrown out. Prolific offenders in some of our communities are the ones who are getting out and 90% of the crimes are committed by them.

The Liberals talk about being tough on crime. The Minister of Public Safety could not say the word “murder”. Now it is a bad practice. The people who are crossing our borders illegally are now crossing the border irregularly.

Also, that brings me to another point. With Bill C-75, I cannot call my wife a spouse anymore. The term is “intimate partner”. I have never introduced my wife that way. I think I would probably get slapped. That goes along the lines of the Prime Minister's comments about “peoplekind”. We cannot say “mankind” anymore. It is “peoplekind” He said he was joking. I doubt it.

Service Canada is changing the vocabulary on its forms. It is removing “father, mother, Mr. Miss, Mrs.” I do not know whether my colleagues have ever introduced their partners or spouses as their intimate partners. It is ridiculous. How far we have fallen? It is crazy.

The Liberals said they were going to do away with omnibus bills. Here we have a 350-page document that does not give opposition members an opportunity to fully engage. It does not give the electors who elect opposition members an opportunity to fully have a say.

The government has shown contempt for the House time and again by closure and by continuing to table these omnibus bills. It is quite shameful.

The Liberals like to say that they are consulting with Canadians. By that, they mean they will invite somebody to speak for seven minutes at committee, and that is consultation. They also like to say they work collaboratively across the floor with the opposition and that all parties have a say. However, we know that it is their way or the highway, that they know best. It really is quite shameful. What the Liberals are doing and saying behind closed doors is completely different than what they want their public image to be. I should probably watch what I am saying. Maybe the Prime Minister will not agree to take a picture with me now.

Bill C-75 is flawed legislation. We have heard it is rushed legislation.

I want to go back to some of the hybridized offences, such as polygamy, forced marriage and marriage under the age of 16. If Canadians are listening, that is right. Their government wants to make forced marriage and marriage under the age of 16 a hybridized offence. That is shameful. Canadians should be afraid of that and alarmed at what the government is doing. It is not standing up for victims and it is making it harder for police agencies to do their job. This legislation is flawed.

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November 8th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to add my insight to this very important discussion surrounding 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 am speaking on behalf of the constituents in my beautiful riding of Haldimand—Norfolk.

As we know, one of the core functions of government is to provide a framework and a set of laws to protect those who it governs, whether it be through the creation and maintenance of a strong military to defend us from foreign threats or, as is more applicable to today's discussion, to protect Canadians from domestic threats and administer just consequences for those who break the law. We, as Conservatives, take this very seriously.

Before speaking to the shortcomings of the bill, I agree with the reforms proposed to deal with repeat offenders of violence against intimate partners. I see this as a step in the right direction.

That said, with the few steps forward that are made in Bill C-75, the Liberals seem to run backward with much of the rest of this bill. The Liberal Party, in particular the Prime Minister, seems to jump to the defence of serious offenders and violent criminals, disregarding the rights of victims.

The previous Conservative government worked hard on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of victims. We brought forward legislation designed to reduce the re-victimization that occurred because of shortcomings in our justice system, bills like the Tackling Violent Crime Act come to mind. That one implemented conditions such as a reverse onus on bail, which requires that those accused of serious gun crimes show why they should not be kept in jail while awaiting trial.

Our initiatives aimed at ending the revolving door form of justice that was all too common and put people who had committed serious crimes, particularly serious gun crimes, back out on the street with bail. This law was targeted squarely at organized crime and tackling gun violence. The Tackling Violent Crime Act also introduced tougher mandatory jail times for serious gun crimes, which again targeted organized criminals and gangs.

The truth is that tougher and longer sentences are about deterrence and protecting society from violent and dangerous offenders. Violent and dangerous behaviour cannot be changed simply by prematurely returning an offender to the environment that bred that very behaviour in the first place. Sadly, the Liberal position seems to be quite the opposite.

Of course we all recall the recent transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic from the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener to a healing lodge with no fence around it. Rightly, Canadians were outraged. They were outraged that one of Canada's most notorious criminals, convicted of first-degree murder in the kidnapping, rape and killing of an eight year old, was being moved to such a weakly enforced facility. What was the Liberal response to Canadians' outrage? It was a vehement defence of that decision. Yes, it is sad, but unfortunately that is true.

This speaks to the low position that victims have in the eyes of the Liberal government. It speaks to the undeniable Liberal bent toward making life better for even the most offensive and deplorable criminals. This bill further displays that view.

The number and types of offences that could result in lighter sentencing as a result of the bill, even going so far as to reducing some of them to just a fine, sends a clear message to victims and also to criminals.

I think that most of us would agree that Canadians are largely compassionate, willing to forgive and give second chances to people who might have made some bad choices. That said, the types of offences that the Liberals seem to be making light of in Bill C-75 are well beyond what Canadians would consider just bad choices.

Offences like participation in the activities of a terrorist group and leaving Canada to participate in terrorist group activities may now see reduced sentences. This includes people who have left Canada for the sole purpose of joining and fighting with ISIS. For a Prime Minister who claims to be a progressive and a feminist, it is hard to see how granting a softer consequence for ISIS fighters fits this narrative. This is a group that represents the very antithesis of everything Canada represents and tries to be. These people burn homosexuals alive and throw them from buildings. They take sex slaves. They commit public mass executions, and they have declared war against our own western values, but the Prime Minister and thejustice minister think that perhaps a softer touch is the best way to deal with ISIS fighters.

Again, as concerning as this is, sadly, based on what we have already seen from the government, it is not surprising. ThePrime Minister seems to think that government programming to reintegrate returning ISIS members is a suitable option.

We all remember Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr is directly and admittedly responsible for the grenade attack that led to the death of allied U.S. special forces Sergeant Christopher Speer and the injury of retired U.S. special forces Sergeant Layne Morris. Is Khadr in jail? Courtesy of the Prime Minister, he is now $10.5 million richer, thanks to the Canadian taxpayer. Canadians are appalled, and rightly so.

The bill also brings in softer sentencing for, among other things, advocating genocide, participating in activities of criminal organizations, arson for fraudulent purposes, human trafficking-related offences and material benefit for sexual services. Listening to the list of some of these offences on which the Liberals are going soft, one really cannot help but wonder if some of the stakeholders who were consulted on the bill were actually organized crime leaders.

Municipal corruption, selling or purchasing office, influencing appointments or dealing in offices may also receive lighter sentencing. One cannot help but wonder what the Liberals are preparing for with these types of changes.

In all seriousness, the list goes on and on. Even the abduction of a child, a defenceless child like Tori Stafford, could see lighter sentencing under the Liberals' soft-on-crime bill. Back home in Haldimand—Norfolk, people are shocked to hear that these are the views of the modem Liberal Party and our Prime Minister. They are shocked by the disregard for victims of crime shown by bills like Bill C-75. They are baffled by the doublespeak of the Liberals, who claim in one breath to be opposed to gun crime but then introduce bills like Bill C-71, which provides no meaningful way of addressing illegal gun crime but implies that law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters are part of the problem. They, like Canadians right across this great country, are genuinely concerned that the soft-on-crime policies of the Liberals are going to put their communities and their families at greater risk.

There are some good aspects of the bill, but they are needles in a 300-page haystack of bad policies. I do not recall reading about reduced sentencing for terrorists, child abductors and organized crime members in the Liberals' election platform. I did not see it in the justice minister's mandate letter, and I would wager good money that no Liberal candidates will put that in any of their next campaign literature. I am confident that this is not the mandate Canadians gave them, nor would they in 2019.

I implore the Liberals to take this monster of a bill, split it up into more reasonable-size bills, and set their partisan, self-serving tactics aside so the House can come together and vote in agreement for the good bits that are in Bill C-75. Then we can have a more thorough debate on the merits of the rest of the policies and a discussion about the lack of a mandate from Canadians to legislate the rest of it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-75.

Throughout the day today, we have heard a lot of rhetoric from the other side in terms of what Bill C-75 would actually do. We have heard that this is progressive legislation. It would protect victims, it would strengthen the Criminal Code, it is reflective of what Canadians want to see, and it would create safer communities. However, the bill would actually reduce the penalties for many offences. Over 25 offences would be reduced with the introduction of the bill. I will speak a little more on that later.

Some of the objectionable parts of what is happening today relate to the process that brought us to where we are today. During the campaign, I remember sitting in many all-candidates debates and being told that if the Liberals were elected to government, they would not use time allocation to limit debate on important bills, but here we are today with I do not know how many dozens of times the government has implemented closure.

We were also told that omnibus bills were something to be avoided at all costs. However, here we have a bill that deals with three substantive issues that were actually part of three previous bills. It is over 300 pages long and lumps together all kinds of reforms. Some of them we support, but this omnibus bill is impossible to support in its entirety, and I will outline my reasons for that as I proceed.

This proposed piece of legislation, as we have seen time and time again in the actions of the Liberal government, would actually do very little for victims of crime. It would actually reduce the potential consequences for criminals. It has become a pattern with the government to put the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims.

Thankfully, today one of the government's failures has had a positive resolution, with the re-incarceration of Tori Stafford's murderer, Terri-Lynne McClintic.

When Tori Stafford's father found out that Terri-Lynne McClintic was being transferred to a healing lodge, he raised objections through a number of contacts with individuals and he organized protests here on the Hill, which I was able to attend to hear the concerns of Rodney Stafford and his family and how they had been impacted by the relocation of Terri-Lynne McClintic to a healing lodge. They were very concerned about that, and many Canadians joined them. They showed their concern by coming to the protests here on Parliament Hill. Last Saturday, hundreds of people in the Woodstock area joined together in front of the Woodstock courthouse to register their concerns about the fact that Terri-Lynne McClintic was being housed in a healing lodge, way before the time she was due to be released.

We agree that we need to have rehabilitation, but to have someone put in a healing lodge more than 10 years before their eventual release is certainly an inappropriate way to be treating our criminals and especially to have concern for victims.

I am still disturbed by the government's continuing soft-on-crime soft spot for criminals. Currently I am dealing with the issue of the prison needle exchange program at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in the Waterloo region. This program puts needles into the hands of hardened criminals so they can use illicit drugs in their own prison cells. We are not talking about EpiPens or insulin syringes administered by nurses. We are talking about needles being handed to prisoners to administer drugs to themselves in their own cells.

Rightly, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has come out against this, as it puts their members in danger. They were not consulted at all on the implementation of this pilot project that is being carried out at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. They have held protests outside the offices of the health minister and the Minister of Public Safety, but it seems that the government is just turning a blind eye to this illegal substance problem in our prisons.

Not only do I stand with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers on this issue, I am also very concerned about my community in Waterloo region. These prisoners who are using the prison needle exchange program can maintain an addiction throughout their entire sentences, and their participation in the exchange program will not even be shared with the Parole Board when their application is made for parole. Therefore, it is quite probable and possible that we will have cases of criminals returning to our communities still addicted to substances that may have played a role in the behaviour that led them to commit their crimes in the first place.

I hope my colleagues in the Liberal Party will realize how we in the Conservative Party have a hard time believing that they are tough on crime when they encourage these types of programs in our prisons.

As a Conservative, I believe that the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government. On this side of the aisle, we will always work to strengthen the Canadian criminal justice system rather than weaken it. We will continue to stand up for victims.

That is why today the leader of my party was in Brampton laying out the Conservative plan that cracks down on guns and gangs. This plan has five proposals.

The first is ending automatic bail for gang members. Right now, even the most notorious gang members are entitled to bail. That means dangerous criminals who are known to police often go right back out on the streets. This is a dangerous risk to our communities and wastes valuable police resources. A Conservative government would change that and make sure that arrested repeat gang offenders would be held without bail.

The second is identifying gangs in the Criminal Code. Every time prosecutors go after gang members, they must first prove to the court that their gangs are criminal organizations. This includes well-known gangs like MS-13 and Hells Angels. This makes no sense. It is another huge waste of resources. A Conservative government would create and maintain a list of proven criminal organizations, which would help law enforcement prosecute gang members more quickly.

The third is revoking parole for gang members. Parole is a privilege, not a right. Currently, paroled offenders are required to abstain from drugs and alcohol and promise to keep the peace. A Conservative government would also require those on parole to cut ties with gangs. Statistics show offenders are more likely to reoffend on parole if they are part of a gang. For those who associate with gangs while on parole, the message would be simple: they go back to jail.

The fourth is tougher sentences for ordering gang crime. Right now, gang leaders who order others to commit crimes can receive very short sentences in prisons, often served alongside other gang members. A Conservative government would bring in mandatory sentences in federal prison for directing gang crime, sending a strong message to gang members that they belong behind bars.

The fifth is new sentences for violent gang crime. Gang-related murders, assaults, robberies and other violent acts are steadily on the rise and pose the biggest threat to Canadians' safety. A Conservative government would create new offences for committing and ordering violent gang crime and attach mandatory sentences in federal prison for each.

Conservatives understand that a strong criminal justice system must always put the rights of victims and communities ahead of special treatment for perpetrators of violent crime. The Prime Minister is failing to take seriously criminal justice issues. Reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and criminals. As such, we are concerned with the Liberals' proposal to eliminate consecutive sentences for human trafficking and to eliminate the victim surcharge introduced by the previous Conservative government to help victims of crime.

The Liberals are breaking yet another promise. They committed to keep full protections in place for religious officials under section 176 of the Criminal Code. Assault on officiants during a religious service is a very serious crime and should remain an indictable offence. We have serious concerns with other elements of this bill as well, including the number and types of offences that could result in lighter sentencing, including fines, for what are very serious crimes. Under the proposed changes, several serious offences could be prosecuted by summary conviction and, therefore, could result in lighter sentences.

I want to outline, for the benefit of anyone watching this today, some of the changes in Bill C-75 that would result from the passing of this bill. It is quite probable that the penalties for these indictable offences, among many others, would be reduced. On this list are prison breach, municipal corruption, influencing municipal officials and obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman. I mentioned that earlier in my speech. When there is a rise in many of these crimes across North America, this is not the time to be reducing sentences. There are many others on this list.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Kitchener—Conestoga went through a list of offences that the government is watering down. One he did not highlight that I would be interested in his comments on is a breach of the long-term supervision order. These orders involve the most serious sexual offenders. These are individuals who are so dangerous that following the conclusion of their sentence they are subject to an order for up to 10 years, administered and overseen by the Parole Board of Canada. When these individuals breach these orders, it is a clear sign that they are returning to their cycle of dangerous criminal behaviour.

I would submit this is just another example of why Bill C-75, in terms of reclassification, is so badly thought out, so badly drafted and puts public safety at risk. I wonder if the member would agree.