An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Status

In committee (House), as of June 11, 2018

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) modernize and clarify interim release provisions to simplify the forms of release that may be imposed on an accused, incorporate a principle of restraint and require that particular attention be given to the circumstances of Aboriginal accused and accused from vulnerable populations when making interim release decisions, and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner;

(b) provide for a judicial referral hearing to deal with administration of justice offences involving a failure to comply with conditions of release or failure to appear as required;

(c) abolish peremptory challenges of jurors, modify the process of challenging a juror for cause so that a judge makes the determination of whether a ground of challenge is true, and allow a judge to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice;

(d) increase the maximum term of imprisonment for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence and provide that abuse of an intimate partner is an aggravating factor on sentencing;

(e) restrict the availability of a preliminary inquiry to offences punishable by imprisonment for life and strengthen the justice’s powers to limit the issues explored and witnesses to be heard at the inquiry;

(f) hybridize most indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, increase the default maximum penalty to two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months;

(g) remove the requirement for judicial endorsement for the execution of certain out-of-province warrants and authorizations, expand judicial case management powers, allow receiving routine police evidence in writing, consolidate provisions relating to the powers of the Attorney General and allow increased use of technology to facilitate remote attendance by any person in a proceeding;

(h) allow the court to exempt an offender from the requirement to pay a victim surcharge if the offender satisfies the court that the payment would cause the offender undue hardship, provide the court with guidance as to what constitutes undue hardship, provide that a victim surcharge is to be paid for each offence, with an exception for certain administration of justice offences if the total amount of surcharges imposed on an offender for those types of offences would be disproportionate in the circumstances, require courts to provide reasons for granting any exception for certain administration of justice offences or any exemption from the requirement to pay a victim surcharge and clarify that the amendments described in this paragraph apply to any offender who is sentenced after the day on which they come into force, regardless of whether or not the offence was committed before that day; and 

(i) remove passages and repeal provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, repeal section 159 of the Act and provide that no person shall be convicted of any historical offence of a sexual nature unless the act that constitutes the offence would constitute an offence under the Criminal Code if it were committed on the day on which the charge was laid.

The enactment also amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act in order to reduce delays within the youth criminal justice system and enhance the effectiveness of that system with respect to administration of justice offences. For those purposes, the enactment amends that Act to, among other things,

(a) set out principles intended to encourage the use of extrajudicial measures and judicial reviews as alternatives to the laying of charges for administration of justice offences;

(b) set out requirements for imposing conditions on a young person’s release order or as part of a sentence;

(c) limit the circumstances in which a custodial sentence may be imposed for an administration of justice offence;

(d) remove the requirement for the Attorney General to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances; and

(e) remove the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent offence, as well as the requirement to determine whether to make such an order.

Finally, the enactment amends among other Acts An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons) so that certain sections of that Act can come into force on different days and also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 11, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (reasoned amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (subamendment)
May 29, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

JusticeStatements By Members

June 7th, 2018 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is attempting to reduce penalties for many serious crimes in Canada. His proposed changes are part of Bill C-75, which contains more than 300 pages of sweeping changes to the Criminal Code. I am concerned about the number of very serious offences that would now be eligible for much lighter sentences, or even simply fines. These offences include acts related to terrorism; assault; impaired driving; arson; human trafficking; and infanticide, the killing of infants. These lower sentences send the wrong messages to criminals, victims, law-abiding Canadians, and society.

When virtue takes a back seat to lawlessness, Canadians rely on a strong justice system. Deterrents are necessary. It is a cause for concern that our Prime Minister is changing our Canada from a nation of virtue to one of virtue signalling.

Conservatives will continue to stand up to the creeping changes attacking our social and justice systems. We will continue to place the rights of victims ahead of the offenders.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 7th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue with the report stage debate on Bill C-69, the environmental assessment act.

Following this, we will turn to Bill C-75, the justice modernization act, and Bill C-59, the national security act.

If time permits, we shall start debate at report stage of Bill C-68, the fisheries act, and Bill C-64 on derelict vessels.

Tomorrow morning, we will begin third reading of Bill C-47 on the Arms Trade Treaty. Next Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday are allotted days. Also, pursuant to the Standing Orders, we will be voting on the main estimates Thursday evening.

Next week, priority will be given to the following bills: Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Act; Bill C-59, an act respecting national security matters; Bill C-64, the wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels act; Bill C-68 on fisheries; and Bill C-69 on environmental assessments.

We also know, however, that the other place should soon be voting on Bill C-45, the cannabis act. If a message is received notifying us of amendments, that will be given priority.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 7:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech this evening by talking about public safety and national security matters.

Whenever I stand up in this place, on whatever we are talking about, I always like to think about whether this is the job of the federal government. Typically, in broad sweeps, I can rarely get past the end of one hand when it comes to things the federal government should be dealing with. I usually think of things like border security, the justice system, and the military as things that definitely the federal government should be taking care of.

The issue we are dealing with tonight is one of those issues the federal government definitely needs to take care of. It is definitely something that is timely. Folks from where I come from, in Peace River—Westlock, in northern Alberta, often mention this to me when I am driving around meeting with folks. They are concerned about national security. They are concerned about terrorism issues. It is one of the top 10 things people talk to me about. Therefore, I think this is a timely debate.

I would hearken back to some of the speeches we heard earlier this evening. September 11 was a significant turning point in western civilization. I think every one of us in this place remembers that day. I remember listening to the news on 630 CHED in Alberta. My alarm clock had gone off, and I was listening to the news, when the normal broadcast was interrupted to tell us that the twin towers had been run into by an airplane. I remember that day well, as I am sure everyone in this place does. Since that day, the entire western world has had to look at how we defend our national security. Before that point, we were looking at our national security from the perspective of nation states. However, this brought a whole new protocol. We needed new laws. Frankly, I think we are still learning all of that.

I do not think the Liberals have necessarily taken serious consideration of public safety and national security in this bill. They basically looked at what we did when we were in government. They thought that the Conservatives were aggressive on this and took the bull by the horns, and they would just turn it back a notch. It does not seem to me that they are giving it adequate weight by saying that they just have to change a bunch of things in Bill C-51. The Liberals heard over and over again that Bill C-51 was bad, and they would just turn it back. That does not seem to me to be grappling with the issues we need to deal with.

Public safety and national security is hard work. We need to create a culture in Canada so that people feel safe. That is what I hear over and over again in my riding. They do not feel that the government is creating a culture in Canada where people feel safe. For example, advocating or promoting terrorism is something that has been touched on in this debate. We need to talk about that in terms of what it means when it comes to Bill C-75, which is another bill that will be debated tonight. I believe that in that particular bill, advocating or promoting terrorism, even if one is found guilty of it, would be downgraded as well.

When we look at the bill before us, I am disappointed that the Liberals have not grabbed the bull by the horns. Bill C-51 came out a number of years back, and the landscape has changed since then. I was looking forward to having a robust debate on this issue. I know that it was something in the LIberal campaign and something I was challenged on over and over again. I knew that after the election, Bill C-51 would be up for debate, and I was looking forward to having that debate on some substantive changes that could improve it.

I think we got it right with Bill C-51, but every piece of legislation is open to improvement and I was happy to come here to debate this. I do not think Bill C-59 improves on Bill C-51 at all. In fact, all it seems to do is to just turn everything back a few notches, which does not seem to make an effect. It is the exact same philosophy that we are seeing with Bill C-75. The Liberals say we have backlogs in the justice system, rather than their addressing some of the underlying causes and doing the hard work of digging into it. They say, turn the dial back a little, lower the thresholds, push people out of the system more easily rather than dealing with the actual justice system.

When I do surveys in my riding, people do not think the Liberals are taking our national security seriously. People do not think they are securing our borders properly. All of this plays into the world view of the Liberals.

Whenever I am discussing national security or justice issues, I say that people have the ability to do evil. That is a fact of life and we need to have a justice system that recognizes that. Most people lock their doors at night. Why? Because people are capable of evil. That is the truth. It would be great if we all could leave our doors open and nothing ever went missing. It would be great if we could all give up our firearms and everyone would be safe, but that is not the reality. That is the underlying philosophy that is lacking on the Liberal side. They are not convinced that people are capable of evil and they think that the justice system is being mean to people and that if we just hug the thug, so to speak, everything would be better.

There is a philosophy in this bill that if we just turn down the justice element, if we trusted people a little more, this country would be a safer place. That is definitely not the case. We need to ensure that our police officers and our intelligence community have the resources and tools they need to ensure that Canada is a safe place.

My riding is a long way from the border, and I cannot say that the border crossing issue has directly affected my riding, but it is amazing how many times people in my riding have asked, when is the government is going to do something about the border crossings? Why are the Liberals jeopardizing our public safety? We are seeing that here, as well with the terrorism issue.

One of the things people in my riding are concerned about is the growing threat of terrorism in the world. In this regard, in the bill we see that for advocating and promoting terrorism, the threshold is being lowered, and that in Bill C-75 the sentencing is being lowered. It is being taken from an indictable offence to a summary offence. The Liberals need to do the hard work that it takes to make sure that we have a national security regime that people in Canada trust. That is an important point that I wanted to make here tonight. Whatever the Liberals are doing, people need to have trust in that system that their safety is being upheld, that Canada will remain the safe place it has been in years past, and that people can sleep safely in their beds.

With that, I look forward to any questions that people may have.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Kitchener—Conestoga to participate in the debate on Bill C-75, the omnibus Liberal justice bill.

This bill is over 300 pages long and amends several different acts. One does not have to look too far into the past to recollect some of the comments made by members of the Liberal Party in regard to omnibus legislation. I am sure that many of us in this House remember the promises made during the all-candidates debate in the 2015 election not to have more omnibus bills, and many others as well. I will refer to those a little bit later tonight in my comments. However, it seems as if the Liberals have kept their reputation and have changed their minds to suit their own interests. It is a reputation they have developed quite well.

Not only is it a very lengthy bill, but its timing is also suspect, given that on the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberal government tabled this piece of legislation that would drastically change our criminal justice system and how criminals and victims are treated. We see again in this bill that the needs of victims are discounted and the lighter treatment of criminals is a priority of the Liberal government.

Tabling Bill C-75 on the eve of the Easter weekend, just prior to the two-week parliamentary break, clearly shows that the government knew it would not go over too well with Canadians or members of the legal community. That, in fact, is definitely what has happened since the tabling of this bill, in spite of the best efforts of the Liberal Party to hide these facts from Canadians.

Another interesting fact about this piece of legislation is that it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39 have all been rolled into this new bill, Bill C-75. If anything speaks to the government's inability to handle a legislative agenda, this is surely it. The government has proven to be so badly organized that it is now just combining several previously tabled pieces of legislation in order to make broader changes to our criminal justice system in less time with less scrutiny, and less debate. It is a real shame, especially, as I said earlier, when during the 2015 campaign they promised to allow all members of Parliament to have a voice, and that the government would not use omnibus bills. They also promised that that election would be the last first-past-the-post election, and that they would run small deficits and not use time allocation. All of those promises are out the window with no respect shown for Parliament.

A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, which imposes strict time limits on criminals, has made this objective very important. It is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed.

Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including those involving murderers who have been charged. The reason these charges have been stayed is that the time limits imposed by R. versus Jordan were exceeded.

However, we know that this legislation does not achieve the objective. Do not take my word for it. A number of members of the legal community and journalists have also written about this. For example, an opinion piece in the Toronto Star stated:

On Thursday, the federal government released Bill C-75, an omnibus bill aimed at reducing court delays. Unfortunately, good intentions stop at the preamble, especially for those of us who believed in the government’s pre-election promise to bring a principled approach to criminal justice reform.

The author goes on to state:

However, C-75 reclassifies a myriad of offences, giving the Crown discretion to prosecute them summarily. To further incentivize this option, the bill increases the maximum penalty for summary offences from six months to two years. Summary offence trials, like preliminary inquiries, occur in provincial courts, which are already the most congested courts in our system. C-75 may very well take many preliminary inquiries off the provincial court docket, but it will replace them with many more trials.

What has proposed here are more backlogs, more delays, longer time limits. This justice minister is abdicating her responsibility to ensure that there is a functional justice system in Canada.

We see this inability to ensure a functional justice system with this current legislation, as well as with this Liberal government's extremely poor record of appointing judges.

I have one more comment from a legal expert from McElroy Law, a firm located right in Ottawa. She notes, “Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives justice policies drew a clear line in the sand between criminals and victims. It was an easy sell to promise law-abiding citizens that those convicted of criminal offences will be punished harshly, in order to keep the good guys safe.”

She goes on later to say:

...the government is tinkering with the guts of criminal trials themselves, such as seeking to have police provide evidence by way of affidavit and having an accused person apply to be able to cross-examine them. The changes, if the bill is passed, will not aid in reducing delay, but will instead undermine trial fairness and may adversely affect Indigenous and other marginalized communities that are so often over-represented in our justice system.

Taken from the Ottawa citizen is the following:

Bill C-75 promises to speed up court cases by eliminating preliminary hearings for all but the most serious matters. Also, quietly slipped into the bill is a provision that would allow Crown prosecutors to simply file written copies of police officers’ evidence instead of actually calling them at trial to testify. Not only will these changes waste more court time than they save, they will erode fundamental safeguards of trial fairness.

The number one responsibility of a government is to keep its citizens safe, and this bill is seriously failing in that responsibility. It seems the government, despite all of its comments about “rigid ideology”, is clearly implementing its own rigid ideology without proper consultation with experts and lawyers in the field who are actually going to be dealing with the ramifications of this poor legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I have just been informed that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. I thought I had 20 minutes, but I guess I will have to move quickly.

I have not yet addressed the aspects of the bill that my colleagues and I consider to be the most egregious. I am going to move to those now, as I see my time is elapsing quickly.

Some of the offences that would see penalty decreases include, but are not limited to, leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist group or participation in the activity of a terrorist group. The bill proposes to actually reduce the penalties for these crimes, and it is important that Canadians understand that.

There is a long list of criminal offences that the government appears to think are not worthy of indictable charges: leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group; punishment of rioter and concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; infanticide; concealing the body of a child; neglect to obtain assistance in child birth that results in the permanent injury or death of the child; assisting a prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to, or arrest of, an officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; and impaired driving causing bodily harm. The bill proposes to reduce the sentences for all of these offences.

One of the hybrid offences that the bill adds to the sequence is the obstruction of, or violence toward, an officiating clergyman. This is in section 176. This is the same section that the government proposed to repeal in Bill C-51, the justice omnibus bill. However, eventually it caved in to public uproar and feedback that was carried by our opposition members. Clearly, the government is not listening to the thousands of Canadians who are very concerned by the softening of punishment for this crime. The government is trying to diminish the severity of this crime. The issue is of crucial importance, especially now, given there is an increasing concern about sectarian violence in our world.

I could go on and speak for another 10 minutes, but hopefully I will get a chance to finish later.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the parliamentary rights we have as members of Parliament is that we not need to yield to our whips. The member need not yield to his whip. He could continue to speak for 20 minutes. The Speaker recognized the member and there was no need for the member to yield when he had a 20-minute speech, and I am sure all 20 minutes are important. I regret that the power of whips over individual members in this place is so uniformly accepted. The member for Kitchener—Conestoga has graciously and without any particular reason yielded his spot to someone else.

I agree with him about the elimination of preliminary hearings. We may find that will create more delays. That has certainly been an early critique of this bill, that preliminary inquiries can speed up matters by allowing early decision making about whether there is enough evidence and whether a case should proceed to trial.

I wonder if the member wants to expand on whether he thinks the government has gone too far in Bill C-75 by proposing to completely do away with preliminary inquiries.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me first address the issue of sharing my time. One of the things I had hoped with Bill C-75 was that we would have robust debate and that all members of Parliament who wished to speak to this issue could speak to it. I am thrilled to share my time with my colleagues on my side of the House because we need their input. I have no problem with that.

As to the issue my colleague has raised, I quoted from an expert who clearly pointed out that by eliminating preliminary inquiries and simply shunting them off to another level of court would save some time at one level, but it would clog up the courts at another level. It is on that basis that I am opposed to the legislation.

My primary objection to the bill is the overall mentality of the Liberal government, that somehow criminals are more important than victims. We have to get back to recognizing the needs of victims in our justice system and recognize the severe damage that has been done. We need to leave the kinds of effective deterrents in place that will actually deter these crimes from occurring, and if and when they do occur, there is a punishment that fits the crime.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-75, the Liberal government's justice reform bill.

Sadly, I cannot find a lot of good things to report about the bill to the House, to my riding, or to Canadians at large, for that matter. Like a number of the Liberal government's legislative measures, the purpose of the bill, as presented by the Liberal front bench, does not always match what the bill actually proposes to do.

In Bill C-71, the Minister of Public Safety used tragic shootings in the United States, shootings in Canada, and a guns and gangs summit in Ottawa to suggest he was putting forward legislation that would tackle illegal guns, gangs, and violent criminals. The sad reality is that the legislation he has proposed never once mentions gangs or organized crime, and does nothing to deal with illegal weapons and crimes caused by them.

Prior to that, the Minister of Public Safety had 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 dollars from active security and intelligence work that protects Canadians to administrative and oversight mechanisms.

Worst of all, the Minister of Public Safety made bold claims about moving the bill to committee before second reading, stating:

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 actually consider reasonable, bold, or even small amendments, the Liberals fought tooth and nail to ensure the bill did not change in scope or scale. The results are poor for Canadians and for those who work in national security, more people looking over shoulders, tougher rules, more paperwork, and few, if any, benefits, as front-line efforts to protect Canadians only become more difficult.

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 cases. The minister made these claims. The legislation would improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. It would strengthen response to domestic violence. It would streamline bail hearings. It would provide more tools to judges. It would improve jury selection. It would free up limited court resources by reclassifying serious offences. It sounds like a great bill. Streamline the courts? Strengthen response to domestic violence? Provide more tools for judges? That all sounds fantastic.

Sadly, the Liberals are not achieving any of these objectives according to the legal community nor according to many knowledgeable leaders in the House. Does it shorten trials and ensure that we deal with the backlog? No. The minister appears to make this claim on the elimination of most preliminary hearings.

Preliminary hearings, according the Canadian legal community, account for just 3% of all court time. With an overloaded court system, eliminating a huge number of these hearings will only make a small impact. That impact, unfortunately, will be offset by potentially worse results.

Preliminary hearings are used and can often weed out the weakest cases, which means that more of the weak cases will go to trial if we eliminate the preliminary hearings. That will increase court times. Moreover, preliminary trials can deal with issues up front and make trials more focused. Instead, many cases will be longer with added procedural and legal arguments.

One member of the legal community called this bill “a solution to a problem that does not exist." That is high praise indeed. However, it is the changes to serious criminal offences that have many Canadians, not just the legal community, concerned.

I think all members of the House could agree, or at least accept, that not all Criminal Code issues need to be treated the same and that threshold for punishment should also not be treated the same. However, Canadians expect that Ottawa will ensure we have safe streets, and that the law benefits all people like the law-abiding and victims, not just slanted in favour of the convicted criminals. The Liberals seem to be more focused on making life harder on the law-abiding and easier on 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, crimes such as a slap on the wrist for things like participation in a terrorist organization, obstructing justice, assault with a weapon, forced marriage, abduction, advocating genocide, participation in a criminal organization, and trafficking, just to name a very few.

There are many more, but it bears looking at a few in particular. These are serious offences. Allowing these criminals back on the streets with little to no deterrence makes even less sense.

Assault with a weapon, as we know, is when someone uses a weapon that is not a firearm, such as a bat, a hammer, or any sort of item, to attack someone else. These are not minor occurrences. They are serious criminal issues that should have the full force and effect of the law. Abduction is another serious offence. It could involve children taken from parents or intimate partner violence, or it could be combined with a number of other offences for kidnapping and forced confinement.

In none of these scenarios are the victims or society better served when those responsible for these types of offences serve only a minimal jail sentence or receive a fine. The principle is that Canadians expect that our government and our courts will be there to ensure that criminals receive punishment for their crimes, and that good, law-abiding Canadians and those who have been victimized by these criminals are treated well and fairly.

However, the average Canadian cannot see how making sentences shorter on criminals would meet this basic test. The fact is that it does not meet that test. What it does is address another problem. It potentially reduces court backlogs with the promise of reduced sentences. Therefore, it solves the minister's problem. That is perhaps the part we should be looking at. The Minister of Justice is not here to solve her own problems; she is here to serve Canadians and fix their problems. As my colleagues have pointed out very clearly, there are other solutions, better solutions, in fact.

The minister has addressed the backlog with judicial appointments. I note that 20 have been made this year. However, that is not nearly enough to deal with the problems, as there are still so many more vacancies all across this land. The former minister of justice said, “in my six years as minister of justice, there was never a shortage of qualified candidates”. 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, as crime rates overall have been declining. The problem resides almost entirely with the minister and the government getting more people on the bench and in the prosecutorial services.

As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House and should be above politics, so that 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 else is their top priority as well. To have 300 or more top priorities is to have no priorities at all.

Canadians expect that the government will make them its top priority. Sadly, this bill fails the test to keep Canadians safe and deliver effective government. The legal community has said that this bill is deeply flawed and would hurt the legal system rather than help it. Police officers will likely see themselves arresting the same people over and over again as criminals get lighter sentences or fines on summary convictions. Therefore, the backlog will move from the courts to the policing community and back to the courts. How does that help the average Canadian?

In closing, I am of the opinion that Canada is going to be weaker after the Liberals leave office in 2019, and far weaker than when they entered office. Their wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding gun owners, lack of leadership on illegal border crossers, and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a serious disadvantage that weakens our public safety and national security and places undue strain on families and communities.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am troubled to see that Bill C-75, where it addresses some of the concerns the member raised, specifically when dealing with the disproportionate population of indigenous people in our justice system, does not necessarily deal with that in the way the committee has been studying it. It would not necessarily eliminate the risk of intimate partner violence in our communities, as we would like.

As for the member's question, when I speak to members of my community, the first thing they mention is not what is being promised, but the concerns they have about criminals being dealt with in a manner they do not think is appropriate for some of the serious offences. My friend across the way who asked the first question will understand this. In my community, there are a significant number of individuals who have been criminals previously in their life, and they are still friends of mine. When I speak with them, they consider our justice system to have been incredibly light on them when they were in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, those who continue to perpetuate crimes think that our justice system is sometimes a laughing stock, and it should not be.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:40 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this evening with my friend from West Nova.

I also want to take the opportunity to apologize to my friend from Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner for failing to remember that he had not yet joined the House, and I appreciate very much his remarks.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to join today's second reading debate and speak to the bail and administration of justice offence reforms contained in Bill C-75 to address delays in the criminal justice system.

I am proud to speak to what will be the largest reform to the bail system in 35 years. I believe the changes proposed in Bill C-75 will go a long way toward encouraging a cultural shift in how the pretrial release and detention decisions in our justice system are approached by police officers and the courts, and strike the right balance in reducing unnecessary detention and bail conditions, while maintaining a strict focus on public safety.

According to police and court statistics, over half of the people currently in provincial and territorial detention facilities have not yet had a trial or been found guilty of any offence. We also know that indigenous people and other marginalized groups are overrepresented within that group of people who are being incarcerated before their trial.

During my career in law enforcement, I have witnessed, on far too many occasions, court time and resources being disproportionately allocated to address breaches of police conditions or court conditions for those on bail. Some of these conditions are simply unnecessary, as they are not related to the underlying offence. They are not necessarily related to maintaining public safety. This ineffective approach can perpetuate individual cycles of incarceration and divert critical resources from other cases, including those involving the most serious offences.

The proposed changes in Bill C-75 related to the bail regime would modernize and streamline bail provisions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our bail process. The current bail system has developed over a very long period of time and has become somewhat of a labyrinth of provisions for police and courts to navigate. These complex provisions are being used daily in police stations and courts across Canada.

I am very pleased to see that the bill seeks to reduce the imposition of bail conditions that are unreasonable, irrelevant, and unnecessary, by codifying what is known as the principle of restraint. This change is consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Antic in 2017. The principle of restraint's starting point is that accused persons will be released at the earliest reasonable opportunity on the least onerous conditions appropriate in the circumstances. Clearly laying out the principle of restraint in the Criminal Code would provide a good starting point for providing safeguards for individuals who tend to be most disadvantaged by the criminal justice system. These include indigenous people and marginalized groups that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, including those who live in poverty, suffer from mental health issues, or are homeless.

The principle of restraint would reduce the likelihood that bail conditions would have the effect of unnecessarily criminalizing predictable patterns of behaviour that do not put the public at risk or relate to the underlying offence for which the offender is before the court. For example, placing a condition that a person struggling with alcohol abuse not consume alcohol, even when alcohol was not involved in the predicating offence, creates a set of circumstances that must inevitably lead to the re-incarceration of that individual. These new provisions in the Criminal Code would also require police and courts to consider the specific circumstances of indigenous accused and accused people from marginalized populations at the bail stage.

These types of considerations are often referred to as Gladue considerations. They have been interpreted by the courts in the sentencing context as requiring that the method used in coming to a decision take into account the unique systemic background factors of indigenous people or other marginalized groups, which may have played a part in bringing the particular indigenous person or vulnerable person before the court in the first place.

I would like to assure members that there is nothing in this principle that waters down the requirement for police officers and courts to detain an accused who is likely to endanger public safety. Those who pose a risk to the public will still be detained after Bill C-75 comes into force.

There are also a number of proposed bail amendments in Bill C-75 that focus on maintaining public safety and specifically protecting victims of intimate partner violence. Based on the changes contained in the bill, when an accused is charged with an offence involving violence against an intimate partner, and when the accused has been previously convicted of an offence involving violence against an intimate partner, a reverse onus would apply in determining bail. A reverse onus means that instead of the crown being required to show the court why the accused needs to be detained, the onus will shift to the accused, who will need to prove to the court that he or she should be released. These amendments target serious conduct and will meet our government's platform commitment to better protect victims of intimate partner violence.

Another proposed bail amendment would require the courts to consider the previous criminal convictions of the accused. We believe this captures the intent of the former Senate public bill, Bill C-217, which was in response to the 2015 murder of RCMP Constable David Wynn, without some of the unintentional operational consequences that we felt could result from Bill S-217, including additional delays.

With the time I have left, I would like to speak to the amendments that would provide an alternate approach in responding to administration of justice offences.

Under the current law, when police officers respond to an alleged breach of a bail condition or a failure to appear in court, they currently have two options: they can do nothing, or they can lay a criminal charge. Bill C-75 would create a third option. Both the police and crown attorneys would have the discretion to refer the accused to a judicial referral hearing as an alternative to laying new charges for the breach or failure to comply with conditions of release. This tool would still hold the accused accountable but would be far more efficient than laying new charges for the breach, and it would allow an opportunity to modify and update conditions, as required by the circumstances.

I cannot emphasize enough that the judicial referral hearings would only be available when the conduct had not caused physical, emotional, or economic harm or property damage to a victim. At these hearings, the judge or justice would consider the current conditions of release in light of the alleged breach or failure and could take one of the following actions: they could take no action and have the accused released on exactly the same conditions under which they were previously released; they could release the accused after varying their bail conditions; or they could order that the accused be detained in custody, including for identification purposes.

This reform, in combination with the bail reforms I have previously spoken of, aims to reduce delays in the criminal justice system by reducing the number of conditions that would be breached in the first place and by reducing the number of unreasonable and unnecessary conditions that may be imposed. This reform would provide more efficient ways of responding to minor breaches of conditions and would reduce the number of administration of justice charges that currently clog our criminal justice system.

Since courts would also be required to consider the circumstances of indigenous accused and accused from vulnerable populations in these judicial referral hearings, this new tool would assist in reducing the overrepresentation of these groups within our criminal justice system.

These proposed changes to the bail system and the new tool to address administration of justice offences are long overdue and will go a long way to improving Canada's criminal justice system. They will help direct attention to important considerations related to public safety rather than using the system as a means of warehousing those members of society who are already unfairly disadvantaged by our society in so many other ways.

For these reasons, I urge all members to support this bill, send it to committee for study, and give us an opportunity to make our criminal justice system more efficient and serve Canadians by keeping our communities safe.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on this important bill, Bill C-75. I will be spending my time discussing those aspects of the bill that were previously introduced in Bill C-39. These changes seek to make our criminal law clearer and more accessible, revising or repealing certain Criminal Code provisions that have been found unconstitutional and thus are no longer enforceable. These are important changes, because they would help to ensure that the law as written would reflect the law as applied. This would promote efficiency in the criminal justice system by eliminating confusion and errors. Some might say that these kinds of changes are unnecessary and that the concerns motivating them are more theoretical than practical. However, this is simply not the case.

The Travis Vader trial serves as a recent and concrete example of the repercussions the continued presence of invalid provisions in the Criminal Code can have. We recall that the case involved the prosecution of Mr. Vader for two counts of first degree murder in respect of Lyle and Marie McCann. In finding Mr. Vader guilty of second degree murder, the trial judge relied upon an unenforceable, previously struck down provision of the Criminal Code. The trial judge's mistaken reliance on an invalid provision was quickly noticed, and shortly thereafter, two convictions of manslaughter were substituted for the second degree murder convictions.

I have the deepest sympathies for Mr. Bret McCann and his family, who have endured the loss of loved ones, the stress of a criminal trial, and the trauma that ensued from the mistaken reliance on dead laws. I want to thank him for his continued advocacy in this area. I also wish to acknowledge my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, with whom I serve on the justice committee, who has advocated for the removal of these zombie laws from our Criminal Code and has said that this should be something that crosses all political lines and that he expects will be supported by all sides of this House.

What are these specific changes in Bill C-75? The bill would repeal provisions related to the offence of murder, the abortion offence, the spreading of false news, the loitering part of the vagrancy offence, two evidentiary requirements found in the impaired-driving regime, and a provision that prevented judges from giving enhanced credit for time served in custody prior to sentencing. It also proposes to repeal the prohibition against anal intercourse.

In the time available to me, it will not be possible for me to comprehensively discuss each of these amendments, but I would like to highlight a few of them, starting with the provisions mistakenly relied upon in the Vader trial that I referenced a moment ago.

The Criminal Code defines and classifies murder as either first degree or second degree. In either case, a murder conviction is punishable by a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment and it is accompanied by the highest level of social stigma. In 1990, building on a previous decision from 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada held, in R. v. Martineau, that in order to respect the charter, a murder conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of subjective foresight of death. In other words, the accused intended to cause death or intended to cause bodily harm knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, death would actually ensue.

The effect of this ruling is twofold. First, it means that the entirety of section 230 is unenforceable, the provision at issue in the Vader trial. Section 230 indicates that culpable homicide is murder where it occurred during the commission of other offences, such as robbery, even in cases where the offender did not intend to kill the victim.

Second, it means that part of subsection 229(c) is of no force and effect. Its says that it is murder when a person, while pursuing another unlawful object, “does anything that he knows or ought to know is likely to cause death, and thereby causes the death” of another person. The phrase “or ought to know” is an objective standard that is determined based on what a reasonable person, standing in the accused's place, would have known and not on what the accused actually knew. Therefore, it could allow a conviction for murder even if the accused did not know that his or her actions were likely to cause death. The phrase “or ought to know” was read out of subsection 229(c) by the Supreme Court of Canada, but its continued presence in the Criminal Code has caused delays, inefficiencies, and injustice to the accused where, for instance, a jury is not clearly informed that it should ignore it when determining an accused person's guilt. This can also lead to a waste of judicial resources where such an omission forms the basis for an appeal.

Bill C-75's proposed amendment would make clear that a conviction for murder cannot rest on anything less than an intent to kill, or an intent to cause bodily harm knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, death would actually ensue. Bill C-75 would also repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, an unfortunate vestige of a bygone era in which society passed moral judgment on non-harmful consensual sexual preferences through the criminal law, a section of the Criminal Code that has been declared unconstitutional by several appellate courts because it discriminates on the basis of age, marital status, and sexual orientation.

Additional changes will clarify that historical sexual offences can only be used if the conduct at issue would be prohibited by existing sexual offences if committed today. This approach protects both equality rights and victims of sexual offending, regardless of when the offence occurred. Bill C-75 would also repeal section 181 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits the spreading of false news. This is an extremely old offence, dating back to 13th century in England, and at that time it was targeted at conduct that was meant to sow discord between the population and the king, and is out of place in today's society. In Regina v. Zundel in 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down this offence because it found that it unjustifiably violated freedom of expression, pursuant to paragraph 2(b) of the charter. The court held that the offence lacked a clear and important societal objective that could justify its extremely broad scope.

As we are proposing to repeal this unenforceable offence, some might have questions about whether our criminal laws should target false news in some way. These questions would be understandable, particularly given recent discussions of the spreading of fake news, for example, and concerns about the use of 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 that can be relied upon in appropriate cases.

Bill C-75 would also repeal section 287 of the Criminal Code, the abortion offence, which prohibited the procurement of a miscarriage and was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court almost 30 years ago. It is high time that this invalid provision be removed from our Criminal Code, in part so that women across Canada will not face the additional and unnecessary burden of figuring out what the criminal law currently prohibits at a time when they may be facing one of the most difficult decisions of their lives.

The Supreme Court of Canada's guidance on this point was clear. It stated, “Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus 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 an infringement of security of the person.” I agree, and wish to applaud the Minister of Justice for proposing the removal of this long outdated and unenforceable provision from the Criminal Code.

As I said earlier, these changes and others that I have not been able to discuss in detail tonight are about promoting clarity in the law. All Canadians should be able to turn to the law as written as a reliable and trustworthy indication of the actual state of the law. These changes are consistent with the objectives of other amendments contained in Bill C-75, in that they will make our system more efficient and accessible. These changes are all about respect for the charter, and I urge members of Parliament to support the passage of this bill at second reading so it can go to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which I am proud to be a member of, so that it can be fully examined, studied, and be given thoughtful consideration.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 9:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague for an excellent speech that laid out some of the positive features of Bill C-75.

In response to the last question he was asked, the member raised the issue of the administration of justice offences. Having spent time working in the courts as a lawyer, I cannot tell the House how frustrating it was when we saw cases get delayed, one after the other.

I am curious if the member would like to offer a few comments on how allowing judicial referral hearings, as opposed to a full-blown trial process, when dealing with these minor administration of justice offences, might help reduce that backlog and get more cases through.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 9:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Whitby. I am pleased to rise to speak to the measures that will be beneficial to victims of crime included in 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 aim of the bill is to modernize the criminal justice system and reduce court delays.

As part of the criminal justice review, a round table for victims and survivors of crime was held in Ottawa in June 2017. During that event, a number of victims and survivors of crime expressed their concerns about the delays in the criminal justice system. These individuals emphasized that court delays and postponements have considerable negative repercussions on them and their families because of the continued stress and anxiety they feel in relation to the crime and the testimony.

Court delays can also negatively impact victims' mental health at a time when they are trying to put the experience of being victimized behind them. If victims have health problems or are quite elderly, long delays can also interfere with their ability to testify.

Every time there is a delay or an adjournment, victims have to reorganize their schedule, take time off work, or spend more money on help at home to look after children or elderly parents, for example.

During the round table, several victims of crime also said they were very worried about court delays and especially the repercussions of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Jordan. Specifically, victims are outraged when delays result in a stay of proceedings and the accused not being held responsible for their actions. For example, let's put ourselves in the shoes of parents whose child was murdered. Imagine the criminal proceedings against the accused being stayed because of delays. No wonder parents lose faith in the administration of justice.

I am therefore very pleased that the government introduced Bill C-75 in response to these concerns. In general, this bill sets out measures that will make the criminal justice system more efficient and will have positive outcomes for the victims. Bill C-75 also includes several specific measures to address the concerns of victims and survivors of crimes. In particular, it would make changes to preliminary inquiries, the reclassification of offences, and intimate partner violence offences.

At present, a preliminary inquiry is held if a person is charged with an indictable offence, chooses to be tried by the Superior Court, and asks for such an inquiry. This procedural step determines if there is enough evidence to send the accused to trial. Over time, the preliminary inquiry has evolved and become, among other things, a means for the accused to be provided with all the evidence against him or her. However, with the constitutional requirement to disclose evidence to the defence, preliminary inquiries are becoming less and less prevalent.

During the preliminary inquiry, the crown and the defence have the opportunity to examine and cross-examine witnesses and to assess their credibility. Although the cross-examination is an essential element that guarantees the right of the accused to a fair trial, having to testify first at the preliminary inquiry and then at the trial, sometimes several years after the offence was committed, can be particularly difficult for the victims.

The reforms proposed by Bill C-75 would limit the holding of a preliminary inquiry to offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder, committing an indictable offence for the benefit of a criminal organization or terrorist group, and kidnapping.

The other amendments would also strengthen the powers of the justice presiding at the preliminary inquiry to limit the issues explored and the number of witnesses. The proposed changes to preliminary inquiries would significantly reduce the number of offences for which victims are called to testify multiple times.

This will reduce the impact on vulnerable persons, such as victims of sexual assault, who are often re-victimized during cross-examination. What is more, the changes will shorten the judicial process, which will help reduce the prolonged period of stress and anxiety for victims.

Bill C-75 will improve Criminal Code provisions in order to make victims of intimate partner violence safer. A definition of “intimate partner“ for the purposes of the Criminal Code will be created and will specify that it includes former and current spouses, common-law partners, and dating partners.

If the accused has already been found guilty of violence against a domestic partner, the bill would reverse the burden of proof during the inquiry on the interim release for a new offence of violence against a domestic partner. The amendments would also allow police officers to impose a wider range of conditions on the accused in order to protect the victims.

The courts will have to consider the fact that an accused was charged with an offence of violence against a domestic partner in determining whether the accused should be released or should be kept in detention. Furthermore, the proposed amendments would specify that choking, suffocating, or strangling constitute aggravated assault, in order to address concerns that the criminal justice system has a tendency to underestimate the seriousness of these actions.

Finally, Bill C-75 would allow a higher maximum penalty for a repeat offender found guilty of an offence involving intimate partner violence.

As the Supreme Court stated in Jordan, delays exacerbate the suffering of victims and prevent them from turning the page. The reforms proposed by Bill C-75 would transform the criminal justice system, making it more efficient, effective, equitable, and accessible while protecting public safety.

The different measures that I spoke about today will be beneficial for victims and survivors of crime because they will shorten the process and reduce the number of times victims will need to testify, preventing prolonged stress and anxiety.

I invite all my colleagues to support this important bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 9:20 p.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I am going to start my speech by giving a few statistics. Indigenous people make up 4% of the Canadian population, yet make up 28% of the admissions to federal correctional facilities. Black Canadians represent 3% of the general population and account for almost 10% of the prison population. There has been a 70% increase in black Canadians in federal prisons over the last 10 years. Additionally, according to Statistics Canada's 2012 Canadian community health survey, persons with mental health disorders are about four times more likely to report being arrested than Canadians who do not suffer with mental health issues.

While these statistics are shocking, we need to keep them in mind.

To say that we need to reform the criminal justice system is an understatement. That is why I am pleased to contribute to today's debate on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which proposes substantial reforms to our criminal justice system.

Today I would like to focus my remarks on a particularly challenging issue that I addressed at the outset, and that is the overrepresentation of indigenous people and marginalized groups within our criminal justice system.

Indigenous people are over represented, both as victims of crime and offenders in the criminal justice system. The rate of victimization is twice as high for indigenous people compared to non-indigenous people. Additionally, indigenous people, people of colour, people from marginalized groups, such as those who suffer from mental health or addiction issues, are also overrepresented in the incarcerated population. The data in this regard paint a bleak picture.

The following statistics have been mentioned in this place before, but they warrant repeating to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the magnitude of this problem. The figures I mentioned at the start of my comments have been increasing over the past few years and it is forecast that by 2025, one-third of the population in provincial and territorial custody will be indigenous.

The overrepresentation statistics are even more concerning when we think about indigenous women and we talk about intersectionality. In 2016, this group accounted for 38% of female admissions in provincial and territorial custody.

Indigenous youth are also overrepresented in our criminal justice system, being five times more likely to be involved in the correctional system than non-indigenous youth.

This overrepresentation of certain groups is a systemic issue that begins with the police or courts long before incarceration, and is a result of a failure of various support systems. The criminal justice system has been left to operate as an inadequate fall-back solution.

Bill C-75 proposes a series of measures that will help address the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous persons and persons from marginalized groups within our criminal justice system, particularly through amendments to the bail regime and improved responses to administration of justice offences.

Indigenous people and people of marginalized groups are disproportionately impacted by the existing bail process. The groups are disproportionately represented in the group of accused persons being detained before trial, often because of their inability to obtain a surety, which is essentially like having a co-signer on a loan, or inability to provide a residential address.

When released, these populations are also disproportionately impacted by bail conditions, such as a curfew or alcohol consumption restrictions. Many of these bail conditions are not necessary to ensure attendance in court or to ensure the safety of the public. Indigenous people and people from marginalized groups are therefore more likely to commit administration of justice offences by breaching these stringent conditions. This cycle of injustice leads to individuals being caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

Right now in Canada, as in many countries, accused people are routinely remanded in custody unnecessarily or are burdened with impractical bail conditions that are unrelated to public safety. This is one of the primary ways that indigenous and marginalized offenders are caught in the web of the criminal justice system.

Bill C-75 directs police and judges to use the principle of restraint when it comes to making decisions on interim release and bail. When a condition is breached, judges are invited to look more closely at the reason for that breach and possible ways to resolve the situation absent of laying a charge. Judges must also give particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous accused and those from other vulnerable groups, like the black community.

Our government is doing this because we know that accused who do not have access to the needed supports and services, including housing, health care, and social services, are at higher risk of breaching bail conditions. These breaches can result in bail being revoked and needless incarceration while awaiting trial.

The principle of restraint proposed in the bill will also require that police and courts impose the least onerous conditions that are appropriate to ensure an accused's attendance in court and to ensure the safety and security of victims and witnesses. The principle of restraint requires that primary consideration be given to the imposition of conditions with which the accused can reasonably comply.

All too often, an inability to comply with onerous and unfair conditions causes a downward spiral of repeated contact with the criminal justice system. This self-perpetuating cycle is difficult to escape and disproportionately affects indigenous peoples and people from marginalized groups.

The codification of the principle of restraint in Bill C-75 would eliminate, at the outset, the imposition of irrelevant, unreasonable or unnecessary conditions to help to reduce instances where persons needlessly would become further involved with the criminal justice system by committing administration of justice offences, while maintaining public safety. These changes will improve the efficiency of our justice system and will reduce the overrepresentation of people most impacted by this vicious cycle.

Bill C-75 will also require, throughout the bail process and in determining how to address breaches of bail conditions, that police and the judiciary give particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous accused and to the circumstances of accused from a marginalized group that is overrepresented in the criminal justice system and that is disadvantaged in obtaining bail. Again, I draw attention to those in the black community. This includes persons who do not have the financial resources to secure their release, do not have residential addresses, do not know anyone who can act as a surety, or those who suffer from mental health difficulties and are unable to obtain the resources they need to comply with their conditions once released.

Bill C-75 also introduces a new judicial referral hearing to which the principle of restraint and the requirement to give particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous or vulnerable accused would apply. The judicial referral hearing is a new tool for police officers faced with an accused individual who they believe has breached a condition without causing harm to a victim or property damage. Instead of being limited to laying a charge or to doing nothing, police could refer the accused to a judicial referral hearing to have his or her bail conditions reviewed by a judge without laying a new charge.

This new tool would help address overrepresentation in two ways. First, the hearing itself would provide an alternative to laying a charge for breaching bail conditions. Second, the principle of restraint and the requirement to give attention to the circumstances of indigenous or marginalized accused would apply to this hearing.

Finally, Bill C-75 would amend the plea provisions of the Criminal Code, which would have a particularly positive impact on indigenous persons and persons from marginalized groups.

Multiple complex factors can lead to guilty pleas, including an innocent accused being denied bail and wishing to avoid waiting for trials; unreasonable or unnecessary bail conditions; social vulnerabilities, including inadequate housing, addiction and mental health; and factors unique to indigenous culture or marginalized communities, including distrust of the system. These factors often interact and contribute to false guilty pleas from vulnerable individuals.

With these amendments, Bill C-75 takes important steps in addressing the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized groups in the criminal justice system. I urge all members to support this very important bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 9:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Members are asking “what?” They may not know, but it seems there will be a Progressive Conservative majority government in Ontario. I am sorry to have to break that news to my friends across the way, but the Liberals may still get official party status. It is a harbinger of things to come in a year and a half in federal politics. One of the reasons we are likely to see a similar result for the Liberals in a year and a half is precisely their failures with respect to the justice system.

I will turn now to a much less happy subject, and that is the content of the Liberals' Bill C-75. We can call it a justice omnibus or “injustice” omnibus bill. It is over 300 pages, making various changes with respect to the framework around criminal justice. There are certainly problems with the way the Liberals are administering the justice system, problems in need of solutions. However, the proposals by the government do not improve the situation. In fact, they make the situation much worse.

There are so many different aspects of the bill. It pays to mention to some extent that this is an omnibus bill. The Liberals talked in the last election about not doing omnibus bills. They said that omnibus bills limited the scrutiny that could be applied to individual items, that they forced members to vote all at once on provisions, some of which they may think were laudable and others which they may think were not.

Coming from that election promise, we now find ourselves in a situation in this Parliament where it seems virtually all of the legislation we debate is omnibus legislation. It is interesting that we had previous bills before this Parliament that included many of the same provisions and then the government decided it would roll them all together in one massive omnibus bill. I guess the Liberals felt they were not being as effective in advancing their legislative agenda as they wanted to, but this is yet another case where we see the government going back on its promise. On the one hand is the commitment about how it would manage the parliamentary process, then we see, in practice, the government doing the exact opposite.

The arguments the Liberals use for bringing in these omnibus bills, which go against their previous commitments, are usually something to the effect of they think it is a really good bill, that there are a lot of good things in it, so they want to get it through. Whether it is a good bill is precisely what a robust parliamentary process is supposed to determine. That is why the appropriate level of scrutiny is necessary. There will probably be an opportunity to pull all sorts of quotes from the member for Winnipeg North and others decrying these process elements, which are now being deployed with full force under the Liberal government.

We have in front of us an omnibus bill. There are a number of different elements I want to discuss, as well as more broadly the government's failure to manage the justice system effectively.

Members will understand and appreciate how important the effective functioning of our justice system is, especially in a context where the courts have ruled that cases can be thrown out if they do not proceed within a particular time frame. We have seen very serious charges not proceed, simply on the basis of time and delay. Therefore, the management of the criminal justice system so these delays do not happen, so people are actually brought to justice on time, is critical for the protection of society and for ensuring justice is done for victims, for the criminal, and for everyone.

Why do we have this growing problem of delays? The most obvious reason, and a reason the government has been steadfast in refusing to address, is the government's failure to appoint judges.

The fact is, it took six months for the justice minister to appoint a single judge. The government lauds its judicial appointments on various fronts. I am sure that any justice minister would laud their own appointment choice, but we have to get the job done. It is fundamental to the effectiveness of our justice system that we achieve quality and the necessary quantity so that the work can proceed. Appointing justices should be the easy part. I do not suspect that there is any shortage of qualified people in this country who are interested in the position, yet the government has been very slow to proceed, and this has created a significant concern.

It is not as if nobody was suggesting the Liberals take action. Thank goodness we have a strong opposition, and a strong shadow minister and shadow deputy minister of justice who were specifically calling very early on for the government to move forward with the appointment of justices.

I can hear my friend for St. Albert—Edmonton asking the justice minister when she would finally do her job and start appointing judges. The justice minister responded to those questions day after day in question period, yet despite those questions being posed by the Conservatives, we simply did not see action.

We have this issue with court delays, and the government now seems to believe that one of the solutions to court delays is to reduce the penalty to allow for summary convictions. The effect of that is lower sentences for very serious crimes. That is sold by the government as a solution to a problem that it has created, but let us apply Occam's razor and try and take that obviously simpler solution, which is that the justice minister should do her job and appoint the necessary number of judges to ensure that we do not have court delays.

In the context of justifying itself, the government is saying that we are going to have summary convictions to try to fix the problem that we created. The Liberals are not admitting it, but that is the implication of what they are saying. We see proposals for summary convictions, meaning reduced charges for all kinds of various serious crimes. I think it is important for the House to identify and look at some of these crimes for which they are proposing reduced sentences. This is not an exhaustive list, but I want to identify some of the key ones.

There is participation in the activity of a terrorist group. I do not recall ever receiving phone calls in my office from people saying that we should have lighter sentences for those who participate in terrorist groups. Maybe members across the way have had a different experience. However, I do not think, especially in the present time and climate, that people are looking for that kind of approach with regard to those who are involved in a terrorist group.

As well, there is leaving Canada to participate in activities of a terrorist group. There is a possibility now that going to fight abroad with a terrorist organization like Daesh could be a subject of summary conviction and therefore lower sentences. There are other serious offences, but I would highlight those two terrorism-related offences, which are the first ones on my list for which we are hearing proposals in the proposed legislation for lighter sentences.

Concealment of identity while taking part in a riot would be a possible summary conviction, as well as breach of trust by a public officer. The idea of lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust is interesting. Why would the Liberals be proposing lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust? I cannot imagine why the Liberals are proposing lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust. We might pontificate about that, but I would perhaps risk venturing into unparliamentary territory.

There is municipal corruption. For example, if a former MP became the mayor of London, hypothetically, there is a possibility of lighter sentences for municipal corruption.

There is selling or purchasing office. I want to reassure the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities that this does not refer to selling or purchasing office equipment. This is selling or purchasing an office itself, which is a criminal offence. However, now it would possibly be a matter of summary conviction.

Another is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. It is interesting that so many elements of political corruption are being proposed for lighter sentences in this bill. It is very interesting, but I cannot imagine why that would be.

For prison breach, there is a proposal for lighter sentences. Assisting a prisoner of war to escape is something that I hope does not happen often. It does not seem to me that this offence would be a good candidate for a lighter sentence, but the justice minister, and through this bill the government, is proposing lighter sentences in that case.

Obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergymen is an item I want to come back to. It is something dealing with section 176 of the Criminal Code that we have already had some discussion on in this place. The government made some commitments with regard to not changing that section, and now it has gone back on those commitments by trying to re-engage that section through Bill C-75. I will come back to that and talk about it in more detail in a few minutes.

There are also lighter sentences proposed for keeping a common bawdy house and for causing bodily harm by criminal negligence.

There are three drunk-driving-related offences: impaired driving causing bodily harm; blood alcohol level over legal limit, with bodily harm; and failure or refusal to provide a sample, with bodily harm. Canadians who are concerned about combatting drunk driving and drug-impaired driving should be, and I think are, a bit frustrated by some of the back-and-forth that we see from the current government. It is frustrating to me as I follow the positions the Liberals take on some things and not on others.

A member of the Conservative caucus proposed a very strong private member's bill that included a number of provisions dealing with drunk driving. That bill was supported by, I think, all members of this House at second reading. Then it was killed after committee, yet many very similar provisions were included in the government's bill, Bill C-46. The government has not been able to pass that bill ahead of its marijuana legislation. The Liberals said it is critical we have these provisions around drunk driving in place, and they proposed it at the same time as Bill C-45, the marijuana legalization bill. They said these things were important together, and they are willing at the same time to pass the marijuana legalization bill ahead of the drunk and drug-impaired driving bill.

Many of the same provisions were already proposed by a Conservative private member's bill. I recall the speech the parliamentary secretary for justice gave at the same time with respect to my colleague's private member's bill, when he quibbled with the bill on such trivial grounds as the coming-into-force date of the bill being too soon. They said they could not pass this bill combatting drunk driving officially because the coming-into-force date was too soon. They can propose an amendment to change that. It was really because the Liberals wanted to try to claim credit for some of the provisions there. Again, we have this further question about the government's response on issues of alcohol-impaired driving because they are creating conditions for a summary conviction around that issue.

Let me list some other offences: receiving a material benefit associated with trafficking; withholding or destroying documents associated with trafficking; abduction of a person under 16; abduction of a person under 14; material benefit from sexual services; forced marriage; polygamy; marriage under age of 16 years; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purposes; participating in activities of criminal organizations.

We have a great deal of discussion about the government's feminist agenda, and yet on some of these crimes, such as forced marriage or polygamy, crimes that very often involve an abusive situation targeting young women, the government is reducing sentencing that targets those who commit those kinds of crimes. It is unfortunate to see the government talking about trying to respond to some of these problems that exist, and then when it comes to criminal justice, they think it is acceptable to propose lighter sentences in these cases.

I have a number of other comments I will make about this bill in the time I have left to speak.

There is a proposal in this legislation to get rid of peremptory challenges. This is a provision that we are interested in studying and exploring, but I think that even if there is an inappropriate use of peremptory challenge in some cases, we should be careful not to throw out a provision if there may be other negative consequences that have not been discussed.

Some of the discussion around peremptory challenges suggests, on the one hand, that they can be used to remove people from juries on the basis of racial profiling. Essentially, somebody is racially profiled and presumed to think in a certain way, so they are removed on the basis of a peremptory challenge.

People have countered those criticisms by saying that on the other hand, peremptory challenges could be used against those who express or have expressed or give indication of having extreme or bigoted views. Sometimes the law needs to recognize other potential impacts that are maybe not being fully foreseen.

We think this issue of peremptory challenges is very much worthy of study at the committee level, but I encourage members, in the spirit of appropriate legislative caution, to work out and consider the full consequences of changes to the structure of our jury system, recognizing that even if there may be negative consequences to this provision in particular situations, removing peremptory challenges may create other unconsidered negative consequences as well.

I want to speak about section 176. This is a very important section of the Criminal Code that specifically addresses the targeting of religious officials or the disruption of worship, things that in many cases would likely lead to some charge anyway, though not in every case. It ensures that somebody who is trying to disrupt the practice of faith is treated in an proportionate way. That is what section 176 does.

The government had previously tried to get rid of section 176, to remove it from the Criminal Code. The justification was weak. It said that because the language used was “clergymen”, it was somehow narrow in its definition and applied to only one faith and one gender. The point was amply made in response that although the language was somewhat archaic, it was very clear that it applied broadly to any religious official and to any religious institution.

The section was subsequently qualified. There is nothing wrong with clarifying the language, but it was always clear and never seriously in dispute that it applied broadly and on an equal basis.

It was through public pressure, the work of the opposition in partnership with many groups in civil society in raising the alarm about this, that the government backed away at the time from its proposal to remove section 176. Now section 176 is back before us. The government is not proposing to remove it; it is just proposing to change it to a possible summary conviction, again meaning a lighter sentence.

Again we are raising a question that is similar to the discussion around drunk driving. There is this kind of back-and-forth, bait and switch approach with the government, but it is clear that there is this repeated attempt to weaken the laws that protect religious institutions and the practice of faith. Some of the time the government is very glad to trumpet its commitment—for instance, in its talk about combatting Islamophobia—but when we have a concrete provision in the Criminal Code that protects people's ability to practise their faith without interruption, we see not one but multiple attempts by the government to move against it.

There is so much more to say about Bill C-75, which is over 300 pages, that I could talk for hours, but my time has expired.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 10:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and friend pointed out many of the shortcomings in Bill C-75. Every member in the House either has a family member or friend or knows a close community member who has been impacted by impaired driving.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of reducing the penalty for impaired driving in cases where it causes bodily harm or death. Currently it is an indictable offence, and in Bill C-75, it is indicated as being either indictable or summary. I wonder if my colleague would comment on how it would make the victims of impaired driving and their families feel if we lessened the severity and reduced the deterrent impact of the sentence.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I represent the riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook on the outskirts of Halifax and Dartmouth. It is a very nice community, with a great fishing industry. There are lots of beaches and lakes, of course. It is a nice community to visit. Last week was Tourism Week. I invite those who did not get a chance to get out to that week to come to my community.

It gives me great pleasure to speak today to Bill C-75 at second reading. This legislation seeks to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and other acts that touch on delays in our criminal justice system.

The bill includes much needed amendments and modernizes our criminal justice system to make it more efficient. It proposes changes in six key areas that I would like to address in my speech tonight.

The first changes would modernize and streamline the bail regime. The second would provide an enhanced approach to the administration of justice offences, including for youth. The third would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries for offences carrying life imprisonment. The fourth would group offences and create more flexibility. The fifth would improve jury composition and the selection of jurors. Finally, the sixth would strengthen the judicial case management measures and processes for making rules for the courts.

These reforms would reduce delays within our criminal justice system and make criminal law and procedure clearer and much more efficient. For example, these reforms would support victims by strengthening responses to intimate partner violence and facilitating remorse appearances.

The issue of delays in the criminal justice system has been the subject of significant and sustained attention in recent years, including calls for action by the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the provinces, territories, key stakeholders, parliamentarians, and victims.

This legislation is a priority for our government. We need to move forward quickly, and that is why we are debating the legislation tonight. We want to send the bill to committee as soon as possible so that we can hear from witnesses and improve the bill as we move forward with amendments. That is why our government, with Bill C-75, is taking critical steps in co-operation with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders.

The Supreme Court of Canada in the Jordan decision in 2016 established a new framework for determining unreasonable delays. We need to deal with those delays as soon as possible. As well, in the Cody decision in 2017, the court re-emphasized the responsibility of all criminal justice system participants, including judges and defence counsel, to move cases forward as soon as possible without delays.

As members well know, the criminal justice system is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of a system is therefore also a shared responsibility with our government. This is why the Minister of Justice and her provincial and territorial counterparts have worked collaboratively and have held productive discussions on strategic and broad-based reforms to the criminal justice system.

In recent meetings, following the Jordan decision, ministers agreed on the need to have urgent and bold reforms to reduce those delays. All ministers understand the importance of collaboration and making sure that we move forward as soon as possible.

Bill C-75 responds to priority areas identified by the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers, including reforms in several key areas, such as bail, administration of justice offences, reclassification of criminal offences, preliminary inquiries, and judicial case management.

Bill C-75 also responds to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada's mandate letter from our Prime Minister, in which she was instructed to conduct a review of the changes to the criminal justice system over the past decade, because as we know, there has been very little change in the last 35 years. She was asked to assess these changes and to address these gaps to ensure that our communities are safer and that we are getting good value for our money, and to make efforts to modernize the criminal justice system so that it is more efficient and more effective, and to do so in co-operation with all levels of government. This is a very important task, but one we view as an opportunity.

The criminal justice system review is an opportunity to create a criminal justice system that is compassionate and timely. The conversation began two years ago in round tables with lots of consultation. Our government is taking that information and those steps and using that to implement this important bill.

Furthermore, the bill also responds to a number of recommendations from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the delays in the justice system. The committee's final report contained 50 recommendations, 13 of which were identified as priorities. The committee recommended that steps be taken to eliminate preliminary inquiries or limit their use. Bill C-75 proposes to restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences liable to life imprisonment, such as murder, kidnapping, or arson. By limiting the availability of preliminary inquiries to the most serious offences, it will limit the impact on many witnesses and victims from having to testify twice.

The committee also recommended that court time spent dealing with the administration of justice offences be reduced, as well as ensuring that conditions of release for the accused serve to protect the public.

Bill C-75 responds to the Senate committee report with respect to the administration of justice offences. Under the bill, both the police and crown attorneys will have the discretion to refer certain administration of justice offences, in other words, failure to comply with conditions of release and failures to appear in court or as required, to a judicial referral hearing as an alternative to laying or pursuing new charges. This would not apply, however, to situations where the conduct has caused physical, emotional, or economic harm, or property damage to a victim. At the judicial referral hearing, the judge or justice could take no action and have the accused released; could vary their bail conditions; or could detain them in custody. This reform will provide a new practical and efficient tool to allow bail conditions to be appropriately tailored while ensuring public safety.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-75 are substantive and urgently needed. Our government has the responsibility to act, and that is exactly what we are doing. All components of Bill C-75 will play a cumulative role in reducing delays in the areas where recommendations have been made. This is why I urge all members to support the bill and to send it to committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I assume I am down to seven minutes now, but it is appropriate because I have a speech about rendering the justice system more efficient, which is really a key part of the bill.

As I mentioned during some of the back and forth earlier, I had the absolute privilege of practising law as a commercial litigator for a number of years. I witnessed first-hand the injustices that result when dealing with administrative delays over the course of the court system on a particular piece of litigation. Transposed into the criminal context, many of the issues remain the same.

Bill C-75 purports to fix some of the very serious problems that are causing more and more people across Canada to experience administrative delays that lead to injustice.

In tabling this important legislation, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward with comprehensive criminal justice reform. The bill makes amendments in six key areas: modernizing and streamlining bail; supporting victims of intimate partner violence; enhancing the approach to administration of justice offences, including and in particular for youth; restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries; reclassifying offences; strengthening case management powers; and improving the jury selection process.

Additionally, Bill C-75 makes legislative amendments that build on key areas of reform to promote efficiencies in the criminal justice system. Today, I am going to be outlining some important efficiency measures proposed in the bill, which may not be too headline-grabbing for the public, but are very important because they will enhance access to justice.

These measures would do a number of things, including facilitating remote appearances by way of the use of technology; enhancing the current plea inquiry process; clarifying the signing authority of clerks of the court; amending time frames for an accused to re-elect a mode of trial; streamlining the bail process to ensure swifter access to justice that would help reduce court backlogs; removing the endorsement requirements for out-of-province search warrants; and consolidating and clarifying the prosecutorial authority of the attorney general of Canada.

Bill C-75 responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's 2016 decision in Jordan, and it supports the Minister of Justice's mandate letter commitment to reform the criminal justice system. I will begin by discussing the amendments to remote appearances.

In her mandate letter from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice received a mandate to undertake modernization efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, including the improved use of information technology. The amendments in Bill C-75 relating to remote appearances would assist in achieving this important priority.

Currently, the Criminal Code allows parties and witnesses to appear by audio conference or video conference in specified circumstances and where it is either satisfactory to the court or where the court considers it appropriate in the circumstances. Bill C-75 would expand the use of remote appearances by allowing all those involved in criminal cases, including an accused, witnesses, counsel, judges or justices, interpreters, and sureties, to appear through the use of technology. These measures would increase access to justice, including in remote locations, which is particularly important for northern and rural Canada, and would streamline processes to reduce system costs, for example, by not requiring an accused to be transported to court or a witness to travel and attend in-person in all circumstances.

I will discuss briefly the plea inquiry process as well. At present, the Criminal Code sets out the conditions in which a guilty plea may be accepted by a court, for example, if it is satisfied that the plea is entered into voluntarily. The amendments in Bill C-75 would enhance the current plea inquiry process by adding a requirement that the court also be satisfied that the facts support the charge before accepting an accused's guilty plea.

False guilty pleas are a very real concern, particularly with respect to indigenous accused and accused persons from marginalized groups. I heard this testimony when we recently completed a study on indigenous women in the federal corrections system on the status of women committee, of which I am a proud member. However, the amendment in Bill C-75 would provide additional safeguards to ensure that the court has considered and is satisfied that the facts support the charge before accepting a guilty plea.

Oftentimes an accused person believes it is just easier to get through with the trial process and enter a guilty plea than it is to actually have the trial heard. This procedural safeguard would help prevent those false guilty pleas to ensure people, predominantly from disadvantage backgrounds, do not as a matter of course, for social and cultural reasons, potentially enter a false guilty plea. Resolving cases early by way of a guilty plea would spare victims from testifying and would also save court time.

The amendment would complement initiatives to encourage early case resolution and would avoid concerns surrounding false guilty pleas by ensuring the facts support a guilty plea. This would enhance the integrity of the administration of justice, while making the system more efficient.

This bill also includes amendments that would clarify the existing signing authority of clerks of the court who record judicial pronouncements made from the bench. The act of preparing and signing a court document is a completely administrative task that is often delegated to a clerk of the court. However, only a few Criminal Code provisions expressly provide that a clerk of the court can actually prepare and sign these documents.

To facilitate the administration of justice and enhance efficiencies in criminal court case processing, this bill would expressly provide that clerks of the court can sign documents that reflect judicial pronouncements made from the bench, unless otherwise provided by the Criminal Code or decided by the court. Related amendments to Criminal Code forms will also be made, to add uniformity and clarity surrounding the authority of clerks of the court to sign forms that record such judicial pronouncements.

To sum up this piece of the puzzle, we are going to push the work down to where it can be done most effectively and efficiently, at a lower cost, and in a faster way, so that more Canadians will experience greater access to justice than in fact do today.

The Criminal Code also sets out two time frames and circumstances in which accused persons may change their election or re-elect their mode of trial: 15 days after the completion of the preliminary inquiry, and 14 days before the first day appointed for the trial. Bill C-75 would change both timelines to 60 days. This change would ensure that the accused have sufficient time to appreciate the case against them before re-electing, and it would eliminate additional unnecessary steps required to prepare for trial. This change would also allow valuable court time and resources to be reallocated to other matters.

I will conclude by saying that this bill is really directed at curing certain injustices that exist within our system. In particular, some of the ones that I am most concerned with and have lived first-hand as a litigator in the court system are the administrative delays, which not only make it more difficult for a person to access justice, but contribute to the systemic inefficiencies that slow down the time to trial, add to the cost of systems, and do not serve the interests of Canadians.

This bill takes great steps to cure many of those defects in our system. I am proud to be supporting it, and I hope all members of the House do the same.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

June 8th, 2018 / 12:05 a.m.
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West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on the serious matter of judicial appointments. Since elected, our government has taken significant steps to ensure that the process for appointing judges is transparent and accountable to Canadians and promotes greater diversity on the bench. At the same time, we recognize the challenges courts face with respect to court delays, which have come under heightened scrutiny since the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision.

We have demonstrated that we are committed to responding to these challenges by introducing Bill C-75. This bill promises substantive reform that will fundamentally address delays, and modernize our justice system.

Let me assure the member opposite that the minister is very mindful of the effect judicial vacancies can have on the effective operation of a court. The minister is absolutely committed to ensuring that the most meritorious candidates are appointed to the bench to meet the needs of all Canadians.

Since elected, our government has appointed or elevated 183 judges to superior courts across the country, including five in Saskatchewan, and today, the diversity of our appointments is unprecedented. Under our government, 57% of appointed or elevated judges are women, compared to just 32% under the previous government.

Our government is committed to continuing to strengthen our judiciary. Budget 2017 created funding for 28 new federally appointed judges. Using this funding, the minister has appointed judges to new judicial positions in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, with more such appointments to come.

Through budget 2018, we are creating 46 new judicial positions, including a judge for the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. This new position would respond directly and positively to a request from Saskatchewan. This additional judge would assist that court, the highest court in the province, to address a growing number of civil and criminal appeals as well as increasingly complex matters. The amendment to add this position to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal is currently before Parliament in Bill C-74.

Fundamental to the judicial appointments process are the judicial advisory committees. They evaluate the applications of those who have put their names forward for judicial appointment and provide lists of highly recommended candidates to the Minister of Justice. As a result of the changes we introduced, the JACs are now more balanced and inclusive. We also made changes to help achieve a more representative bench, with a broader diversity of backgrounds and experience, allowing candidates to speak to their own understanding and experience of Canada's diverse makeup. We also increased our ability to validate candidates' bilingual capacity.

JusticeStatements By Members

June 5th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice claims that Bill C-75 has nothing to do with sentencing. Bill C-75 makes serious indictable offences prosecutable by way of summary conviction. Therefore, instead of a sentence of up to 10 years if prosecuted by way of summary conviction, the maximum sentence would be two years less a day or as little as a mere fine. That is right. Under Bill C-75, a maximum sentence could go from 10 years to two years less a day.

Contrary to the minister's claims, Bill C-75 has everything to do with sentencing and everything to do with watering down sentences for the most serious of offences.

Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims, it is a terrible bill for public safety, and it is why Conservatives will work to defeat Bill C-75.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:25 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to provide an overview of some of the key areas of criminal justice reform our government is tackling in Bill C-75.

In broad terms, the amendments in this legislation seek to promote efficiency in the criminal justice system, reduce case completion times, and speed up trials; reduce overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples in our jails; and reduce systemic barriers that for far too long have prevented victims from coming forward, telling their stories, being heard, and being believed. All of these things are wrapped in our core objectives in Bill C-75, which will ensure that we are holding offenders to account, that we are ensuring that victims have their justice, and that we are keeping Canadians safe.

Before moving into the substance of my remarks, I would like to outline the origins and context that gave rise to the bill.

Before our government took office, there were delays and injustices in our criminal justice system. The opposition Conservatives would know something about that. In fact, they contributed to those delays.

It was for this reason that at the very outset of our mandate the Prime Minister gave the mandate to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to undertake responsive and comprehensive reforms to improve our criminal justice system to enhance access to justice.

In undertaking this bold task, the minister has been listening. She has been listening to stakeholders. She has been listening to actors who intersect with the criminal justice system every day, right across the continuum. In fact, much of the bold legislative reform is the result of consultations with her federal, provincial, and territorial counterparts and responds directly to the concerns they have voiced.

Portions of the bill also address issues that were identified by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in its June 27 report “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada”.

Of course, another primary impetus for these bold reforms is the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2016 called Jordan, in which the court stressed the need for efforts by all those involved in the criminal justice system to reduce delays and increase efficiencies.

My observations today will be on five key aspects of the bill: modernization and streamlining of the bail system; improving the approach to administration of justice offences for adults and youths; restricting the use of preliminary inquiries to offences carrying a life sentence; reclassifying certain Criminal Code offences; and improving the composition of juries and the jury selection process.

Now let me elaborate on these five key areas.

First, the bill proposes to modernize the bail provisions of the Criminal Code, which have many outdated and unnecessarily complex or redundant provisions.

The bill would do this by consolidating the various police and judicial pre-trial forms of release currently in the code and simplifying the release processes; increasing the scope of the conditions police can impose, while providing guidance in regard to reasonable and relevant conditions to be imposed in light of the circumstances surrounding the offence and other factors, such as public safety; and imposing, consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's 2017 decision in Antic, a “principle of restraint” so that police and judges are required to consider the least restrictive and alternative means of responding to a breach, rather than automatically detaining an accused, including limiting the use of “sureties”, which are persons who supervise an accused while on bail, ensuring that the release of an accused at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention.

Once the bill is passed, police would also be required to impose the least onerous conditions necessary if an accused is released.

The changes made to the bail system would help modernize and streamline the provisions and save time and resources. They also seek to contribute to mitigating the disproportionate repercussions to accused who are indigenous or those who belong to vulnerable populations by ensuring that courts processing the bail applications and police officers take their specific situation into account when determining whether to detain them and impose conditions and, if so, the type of conditions.

Bill C-75 also includes reforms related to intimate partner violence, or IPV, and in doing so, follows through with our government's 2015 electoral commitments. It creates a definition of “intimate partner” that would apply to the entire Criminal Code, which includes a current or former spouse, common-law partner, and dating partner. A reverse onus will be imposed at bail for repeat IPV offenders.

This responds directly to the feedback that we have received from victims at round tables across the country. It will mean that an accused, rather than the crown, will have the responsibility to show why he or she should be released pending trial. These measures are necessary to take meaningful steps in ending intimate partner violence.

Finally, the bill would require the courts to consider whether an accused would be charged with an IPV offence when determining whether to release the accused on bail. These reforms target repeat offenders who have prior convictions or have been charged with an IPV. These reforms send a signal that our government is committed to meaningful and lasting reform, which protects women by focusing on deterrence.

I will now turn to the enhanced approach with regard to administration of justice offences. Administration of justice offences are offences committed against the criminal justice system after the commission of an initial offence. The most common of these offences is a failure to comply with a set of bail conditions, for example, disobeying a curfew or a failure to appear in court when required to do so.

Often offenders who have committed an offence and are released on bail are subject to conditions that can be challenging or impossible to comply with due to their life circumstances, for example, people who use public transit to get to work and due to the bus schedules would not make it home from work until after their curfew. Then, when these people breach their condition, they are recharged with a breach offence. This generates a cycle of breaching and charging which can result in an increased burden on systemic resources, without necessarily contributing to public safety, and capturing conduct that we do not want to penalize.

Bill C-75 would provide for a new judicial referral hearings process rather than the existing criminal justice process to deal with a charge for breach, to deal more effectively with certain minor administration of justice offences, for example, a breach of drinking alcohol contrary to the bail conditions. However, this could only occur if there were no harm to a victim, for example, physical, emotional, or financial, and it would also mean that rather than charging a person who breaches conditions or fails to appear in court, the police or prosecutor could refer the breach to a court that could in turn either dismiss the matter, vary the bail conditions, or revoke bail.

This new tool would also assist in reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous accused and marginalized groups by allowing for particular circumstances of those accused persons, for example, mental illness, addictions, and homelessness, to be considered in determining how best to address a breach. I submit to the House that those are precisely the types of policy prescriptions which will reduce overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in our jails right at the very outset of the criminal process system at bail.

I will now discuss how Bill C-75 is changing the way we approach preliminary inquiries.

Preliminary inquiries are optional hearings to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit an accused to trial. There is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry, as the Supreme Court of Canada has held in prior cases, and their uses vary across the country. In some instances, it is either complemented or even replaced by an out-of-court discovery process, pursuant to provincial rules of court or policy directives.

Bill C-75 would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences punishable by imprisonment for life. The bill would also allow the justice presiding at the preliminary inquiry to limit the scope of the inquiry to specific issues and to limit the witnesses to be heard on these issues.

Restricting preliminary inquiries in this manner will reduce demands on court resources, have more serious cases heard more expeditiously, and aim to reduce what is often called re-victimization, requiring victims or witnesses to testify more than once, both at the preliminary inquiry and then again, potentially, at a contested trial.

Again, consistent with other submissions I have made thus far, this is what we have heard from victims and communities across the country.

Let me turn to streamlining the classification of offences. I know this is something on which my colleagues across the aisle have commented frequently.

The Criminal Code categorizes offences as summary conviction, indictable or hybrid. Those are three general categories under which one offence will fall. This classification tends to indicate the degree of seriousness of the conduct covered by an offence, the available sentence range, and determines the mode of trial, for example, the level of court and whether a preliminary inquiry and/or a jury trial are available. However, some of these classifications are outdated and not always reflective of our societal values.

For example, only in exceptionally rare circumstances will the offence of damaging documents warrant a prison sentence greater than two years. Therefore, it makes sense for the prosecutor to be able to choose a more efficient procedure if the facts do not warrant a longer-term sentence. In other words, it will make sense to trust the independence of the crown to exercise its judgment in the best tradition of the crown so we save our scarce judicial resources and can get to the more serious trials, like murder and those tragic cases we hear about so often in the chamber. I urge my Conservative colleagues in particular to give reflection to this measure, which will indeed help access to justice.

Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less. It would increase the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences to two years less a day. It would also extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months from the current 6 months.

These reforms provide increased flexibility to the crown to select the most appropriate procedural route in light of all of the circumstances of the case and are expected to result in cases being heard more quickly, thereby reducing delays.

I will now speak to how our government is improving the jury process.

Under section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, accused persons charged with an indictable offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years or more are guaranteed a right to a trial before an impartial jury of their peers. This does not extend to a jury of a particular composition nor to one that proportionately represents all the diverse groups in Canadian society, as the Supreme Court of Canada found in the R. v. Kokopenace case.

To improve the efficiency of the jury selection process and enhance public confidence in the process by promoting the empanelling of more impartial, more representative juries, Bill C-75 would be achieving several aims. First, it would abolish peremptory challenges of jurors by the crown and the defence. Second, it would allow the judge to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice. Third, it would update the grounds for challenging a juror for cause. Lastly, it would allow the judge to determine whether a ground of challenge is true.

Bill C-75 seeks to ensure that our criminal justice system is more efficient, more effective, more fair, and more accessible. The bill demonstrates that our government is following through with platform commitments and it is following through on those platform commitments on the basis of a bedrock of consultation that has been exercised across the continuum. We have listened to victims. We have listened to stakeholders. We have listened to those individuals on the judiciary with whom we work very closely. This has contributed to a very constructive dialogue. More important, for the benefit of all Canadians, it is legislation that is principled, that is based in evidence, and that will improve the quality of the criminal justice system for all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:40 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, while there is much in Bill C-75 that I support, particularly getting rid of peremptory challenges in choosing juries, I am very disturbed by the changes being proposed to section 657 of the Criminal Code. I cannot imagine how this came so far. I hope the hon. member knows I am referring to changes that will mean police officers need not be on the witness stand, available to a defence attorney who sent word to cross-examine those police officers. They could submit an affidavit or previously submitted evidence.

The credibility of a police officer on the stand very often is the difference between an innocent person going to jail or not. This has been universally condemned by the criminal laws. Was there any consultation on this? Is it a mistake? Could it be changed at committee? I hope the answer is that this was a mistake.

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June 5th, 2018 / 9:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for all of her work in this area. I know she was a member of the legal profession prior to her taking office. I always invite and welcome her thoughts and her input on this. However, perhaps one of the most important things she has mentioned is the notion that the problem about the chronic under-representation of indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples on our juries far predate our time in office.

There have been reports that go back as far as when Senator Sinclair was a judge in Manitoba. More recent, retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci submitted a report in 2013 to the Attorney General of Ontario in which it was well-documented that much work needed to be done, including taking a close look at the use of peremptory challenge.

Bill C-75 would enhance the accountability and transparency around the methods by which the parties would contribute to the selection of juries. It would require them to provide a reason. In other words, it would open up that box of thinking that currently is able to be exercised without any review, without any comment from the courts.

We are confident that by doing this, we will see more individuals step forward and contribute to juries that are composed of and are reflective of the diversity of our communities, and that is a very positive thing.

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June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question, if for no other reason than it allows us to take a step back from Bill C-75, and take a look at one of the many other areas that we are approaching reform of our justice system. Of course, in addition to Bill C-75, we have a judicial appointments process, which I am quite proud to say the Minister of Justice has completely renewed, in consultation with her colleagues. By renewing it, I mean that it is now open, merit based, and reflective of the diversity and tremendous talent and experience that we see across the continuum of the country.

In direct response to my hon. colleague's question, I am quite proud to say that we now have, since taking office, appointed over 170 federal judges across the country. My hon. colleagues from the Conservative benches often take the opportunity to criticize this government wrongly and unjustifiably about our lack of progress in the province of Alberta. I would simply point out that there are now five more judges in Alberta than at any point under the Harper Conservatives. That is something we should all celebrate.

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June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did have the great privilege of visiting my hon. colleague's riding to conduct one of the over 20 round tables across the country, in partnership with the Minister of Justice, as part of the criminal justice review. I also want to take the opportunity to thank him in this chamber for his very deft and agile driving to get me back to the airport on time so that I could catch my flight back home. It was quite an adventure and with all the daylight, certainly it helped our navigation through the busy streets of Whitehorse.

However, to his question, in particular when it comes to administration of justice offences, this may be an area that much of the public does not have a lay understanding of. If a person gets charged with an offence and they are on bail, the person is asked to abide by certain conditions. In my remarks, I refer to a curfew, which is one of the more routinely imposed conditions. There may be good reasons why a curfew is needed in some cases to protect the public, but in many other cases it is not required.

There are far too many of these administration of justice offences in the courts. In Ontario, they take up nearly 40% of all judicial resources. We need to reduce those offences so that we can get to the serious cases. Bill C-75 helps us achieve that.

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June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's speech. He is very learned and comes from a profession that understands things well. I did pass through law school at one time, but decided that another profession was of more interest to me, so my speech will probably be a little more the layman's type, and will probably have some rhetoric in it that I am sure he will rather enjoy.

I will be speaking 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. That is quite the title, and it probably should come as no surprise that it is an omnibus bill. It makes massive reforms to our criminal justice system, and in fact, it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, on the victim surcharge; Bill C-38, on consecutive sentencing for human trafficking; and Bill C-39, which repeals unconstitutional provisions.

The government simply cannot seem to manage its legislative agenda. It waited until late in its mandate, and now Parliament is expected to rush through debate on these important matters.

What is apparent is that Bill C-75 is a big, complicated bill that is supposed to fix the issues facing our justice system. It does contain provisions that I could support. Repealing unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code is a positive proposal. Increasing the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in domestic violence also makes a lot of sense.

However, the bill also introduces a host of other issues. This legislation should have been split so we could have debated and voted on some of its parts, rather than as an omnibus bill. There is far too much here to be considered in such a short time. The Liberals promised they would not introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are.

We have known for a long time that our justice system is dangerously backlogged. A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, now known as the Jordan rule or principle, imposes strict timelines on criminal trials: 30 months for the criminals, and 18 months for the indictable.

This objective is very important. Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including murder trials, for going over the imposed time limits. We have seen the stories of individuals accused of horrendous crimes being let off because of massive delays in the court system. The problem is only getting worse, but this bill is finally supposed to do something about this serious problem.

Before I get into the details of this bill, I have to ask: Why has this government not taken steps to appoint more judges? It has been pointed out that the government has appointed many, but we still have 59 vacancies. Let us get them all filled so that we can improve the justice system. Appointing judges may have been a faster way to address the delays in our justice system, rather than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I know that the Liberals have left appointments unfilled in other government agencies, but the judicial ones are critical. At the very least, they need to fill those. I am sure that is something they will do quickly, right?

The biggest red flag in this legislation is the hybridization of many indictable-only offences, done by adding summary convictions as a sentencing option. Simply put, serious crimes deserve serious penalties, but some of the offences listed in the bill are undoubtedly, to me and many of my constituents, serious crimes. These include participating in a terrorist group; impaired driving causing bodily harm; kidnapping a minor; possessing stolen property over $5,000, which is a huge concern in my rural riding; participating in activities of a criminal organization; municipal corruption or influencing a municipal official; committing infanticide; extortion by libel; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purpose; advertising and dealing in counterfeit money; and many more. There are a lot of serious crimes in here that are going to change. Many of these crimes are classified as indictment-only for a reason. They should not be punishable under a summary conviction, with a possible mere fine. That option has been included, and it should not be there.

The bill would also delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers. Human trafficking is a severe crime. There is a cross-party committee dealing with this crime. It is a severe problem and deserves severe punishment. We know it is taking place in Canada. It is an international issue that needs to be combatted with all the tools at our disposal. Why would the government weaken our criminal justice system with these changes? We all need to address the backlogs in our courts system, but some of these measures just do not make sense.

In my riding of Bow River, we have been dealing with serious issues involving rural crime. I am happy that motion by the member for Lakeland, Motion No. 167, was passed last week in this House. I believe it will be an important step toward actually doing something about rural crime. The statistics show that crime in rural areas has increased significantly in all three prairie provinces. However, right on the heels of adopting this important motion, we have this bill taking two steps backwards. This is going to be hard to explain to the constituents in my riding who are dealing with constant rural crime. Residents across the country are going to be shaking their heads in disbelief at this one. I have heard from many constituents who have suffered break-ins, property theft, and threats to person. We have held round tables in locations in ridings across Alberta and heard from many people who are living in fear. They do not have confidence that the criminal acts taking place around their homes will be addressed. In many cases, the RCMP is simply stretched too thinly across the vast rural areas to respond promptly.

I am particularly concerned that this bill would relax sentences for crimes like possession of stolen property and participating in criminal gangs. It is hard enough to catch criminals engaged in rural crimes. In many cases, the criminals are long gone before anyone can show up to deal with them. When it takes police officers hours or until the next day to get to the scene, there is plenty of time to disappear. This is not like crime in a city where people reasonably expect police to show up on their doorstep in minutes. When criminals are caught, there is a reasonable expectation that they will face serious consequences for their actions. It is hard enough to convince people to report crimes when they occur. We encourage them to do so because it is very important for the statistics of the police services. The police need to know what is actually happening in communities, but people are afraid to report crimes, or they say it is a waste of time. The police need the statistics to make decisions related to how to best enforce the law, but my constituents do not always believe they will make any difference in the justice system anymore. It is going to be that much harder to encourage people to report rural crimes if this bill receives royal assent. At a bare minimum, people need to know that if they report a crime and the criminal responsible is actually apprehended, there will be serious consequences for that individual. We need real deterrents, not slaps on the wrist, to keep Canadians' faith in the justice system.

They talk about Alberta judges, and yes, we are short of judges, but here is the other side of it. I have spoken with legal people and they say that the number of crown prosecutors is drastically short. There are few crown prosecutors willing to do it. As the number of crown prosecutors has decreased, there are fewer of them who will work on this huge workload. The average caseload that crown prosecutors have is twice what it used to be years ago. Legal aid lawyers are quitting. The pay they are getting has decreased, or they are not being paid at all. If they are moving to summary convictions, two years less a day, the jails are full. I have seen downloading from governments before; this is a huge download from the federal government to the provincial governments. They are going to download into the provinces' judicial systems by changing convictions from indictable to summary convictions. As the prosecutors have told me, they have been told to clear the docket and keep only the very serious cases and kick all the rest of the cases out, not to take them to court but to get the charges dropped, to kick them out.

There is a joke around the provincial jail system that if there is an arrest for car theft, the officers should make sure their car is locked when the criminal goes out the door, because the criminal is likely to steal their car to go home. With the shortage of prosecutors, the time that is available to put people in jail for two years less a day is a huge download to the provincial system.

It is especially wrong that this bill is being introduced at the same time we are considering Bill C-71. That bill would do nothing to address rural crime and gang violence. Nothing in it would make a difference to the criminals using illegal firearms. All the bill does is target law-abiding firearms owners with new, poorly designed, heavy-handed regulations.

Farmers in my riding make use of all kinds of firearms on their property. Firearms are basic to rural life in many cases. I have heard from many constituents who are very concerned about Bill C-71. Why would the government treat farmers like criminals, while reducing sentences for rural criminals at the same time? Summary convictions and fines are just kicking the cases out, because there is no time to deal with them.

Again, it makes no sense. The government's agenda is looking increasingly incoherent, especially from the perspective of rural residents. Will these measures do anything to reduce the backlog? No. They are just downloading the problem on the provinces. Just as Chrétien did with the transfer payments, the current government is going to do it with the judicial system to download to the provinces.

Our legal institutions are overwhelmed by the number of cases that need to be addressed. The bill could stretch them to a breaking point, as the crown prosecutors in Alberta told me. We could have many more cases thrown out for taking too long. Jordan's principle is going to come in and many people will walk the street because of it. In other words, criminals will walk. That is not a result anyone wants to see, especially when rural crime is involved. It is deeply painful for victims of crime and it is dangerous for the Canadian public at large to lose faith in the justice system, like the rural residents in my constituency.

The government seems to be dumping more problems on provinces and municipalities. It leaves them to clean up the mess. We have already seen how the government has done this with cannabis legislation. Its approach has left provinces and municipalities scrambling to accommodate the new laws and pay for their implementation.

I have heard from town councillors across my constituency how concerned they are about the cannabis legalization and how they are going to pay for it. They do not know how the small towns and villages will handle all the issues that are coming down the pipe, just like the carbon tax. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has expressed grave doubts about how its members are going to get ready for legalization. It has been conveying these concerns to the government for a long time, but the Liberals are not listening.

The federal government simply punts its problems on to subnational governments and claims to have taken action. That is exactly what it did with the cannabis legalization, and that trend is continuing with Bill C-75. We need real leadership, not just passing the buck to the provinces.

The legislation would weaken our criminal justice system by relaxing the sentences for many serious crimes. That list was not even the extent of it. It is a very broad bill. It downloads the delays in our court system onto the provinces. It also changes the victim surcharge, which is a deeply disappointing departure from our former government's priority of putting victims first. It would remove the requirement of the attorney general to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances. It would 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. It would delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers, and that is wrong. It would make our justice system more like a revolving door than it is now. It would make rural crime in my riding and across Canada even harder to deal with, and it would make people not trust the justice system.

We need to deal with the problems in our justice system, but this is not the way to do it. This is simply a huge, poorly designed bill. It would make many changes that I simply cannot support.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, where to begin? There is just so much that is fundamentally wrong in my learned colleague's remarks.

Let us start with the Conservative record on judicial appointments: based on partisanship, and at a slow rate that prevented individuals from getting access to justice. Let us then continue to the member's comments on what this bill would do when it comes to the hybridization of offences. When it comes to Conservative commentary, there is scarcely another area that is more misrepresented and more misleading to the public than the hybridization of offences.

The hybridization of offences is informed by the independent, properly exercised discretion of the crown, the prosecutor. One of the things the prosecutor is required to take into consideration is the seriousness of the offence, whether or not somebody has been hurt. That will determine where the offence goes, whether it goes to superior court or whether it stays in summary court. However, in no way does it detract from the fitness of a sentence, which will be imposed by a judge.

Lastly, my friend touched on a number of other bills besides Bill C-75, one of which is Bill C-46. This is perhaps the most perplexing of all his comments. I hear my hon. colleagues heckling. He wants to keep the roads safe, but his Conservative colleague in the Senate is now opposed to mandatory alcohol screening, the number one deterrent that would keep our roads safer. How does the member explain that?

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

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Surrey—Newton.

I am pleased to rise today to lend my support to Bill C-75, introduced by our government on March 29, 2018. Today my remarks will address how the bill would contribute to eliminating intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of gender-based violence. The term includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner.

I would like to reiterate some very shocking statistics the Minister of Justice shared when she spoke to Bill C-75 at second reading.

In 2016, according to police-reported data from Statistics Canada, over 93,000 people in Canada experienced intimate partner violence. Sadly, intimate partner violence is a reality for at least one in two women in Canada. Women who are indigenous, trans, elderly, new to Canada, or living with a disability are at increased risk of experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.

This data also shows that in 2016, violence within dating relationships was more common than violence within spousal relationships. These statistics are devastating. I believe that we, as a government, must work to continue to strengthen our responses to this complex social problem that so disproportionately impacts women, particularly those who are in certain types of relationships.

During the 2015 election, our government campaigned on a promise to give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and to ensure that more perpetrators were brought to justice. As well, the minister's mandate letter included implementing our platform commitment to toughen criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of domestic assault, in consultation with stakeholders, with the goal of keeping survivors and children safe.

In Bill C-75, we are fulfilling these commitments. This bill would standardize the meaning of “intimate partner” for all Criminal Code purposes by defining the term. The new definition would specify that an intimate partner would include a current or former spouse, a common-law partner, and a dating partner.

These changes are long overdue. As I just noted, the data demonstrates that a substantial number of violent incidents are committed in the context of a dating rather than a cohabiting relationship. Since violence against a dating partner has long been recognized in Canadian courts as a form of intimate partner or domestic violence, the reforms would codify what is already standard practice in many jurisdictions, thereby clarifying the law. Specifying that “intimate partner” includes a person's current or former spouse, common-law partner, and dating partner would reflect sentencing decisions that have considered abuse of both current and former intimate partners as an aggravating factor, even though the existing provision does not specify that abuse of current or former intimate partners should be taken into account. Specifying that sentencing judges must consider any evidence of abuse of current or former spouses, common-law partners, or dating partners as an aggravating factor would not only clarify the law, but as previously mentioned, would support one of our government's platform commitments to ensure that all forms of intimate partner violence were considered an aggravating factor at sentencing.

Bill C-75 would also clarify that strangling, choking, or suffocating another person would constitute the more serious form of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, which is punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment. These types of assaults, which often occur in the intimate partner violence context, have serious and even deadly consequences for victims. However, under existing law, courts do not always recognize this greater harm. The proposed amendment would ensure that this type of assaultive conduct was treated more seriously.

Further, in support of our government's electoral platform commitments, Bill C-75 would also allow for the imposition of a higher maximum penalty where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner. In such cases, the crown would be able to give notice that a higher maximum penalty would be sought. Allowing courts to impose a term of imprisonment that was higher than the applicable maximum penalty in repeat intimate partner violence cases would better reflect the severity of the conduct and assist in better protecting victims. For example, in some cases, the higher maximum penalty would ensure that sanctions other than imprisonment, such as conditional sentence orders, were not available.

The bill would strengthen the bail provisions of the Criminal Code by imposing a reverse onus at bail for an accused charged with an offence involving violence against an intimate partner if the accused had a criminal record with at least one prior conviction involving intimate partner violence. In the context of bail, a reverse onus means that the accused, rather than the crown, would have to justify why he or she should not be detained in custody until the start of the trial, having regard for the safety of the victim and public confidence in the administration of justice. This would ensure that an accused's history of intimate partner violence would be brought to the attention of the bail court at the outset of the hearing, regardless of whether the current charge involved the same victim or a different one. The reverse onus would also signal to the bail court the seriousness of the alleged offence as well as the increased risk of recidivism in this context.

Bill C-75 would require all bail courts to consider, in making any order relating to bail, whether an accused was charged with an offence where violence was used, threatened, or attempted against an intimate partner. Bail courts would be required to take this factor into account when making a number of possible bail-related determinations, including the decision to impose an order not to communicate with a particular victim, witness, or other person; a detention order; or an order to release the accused on bail.

In particular, if the accused was to be released into the community pending trial, the bail judge would have to consider the fact that the alleged offence was against an intimate partner in determining whether bail conditions were necessary, and if so, what types of conditions would be appropriate. Requiring bail courts to consider the safety of the accused's intimate partner before releasing an accused on bail would afford increased protection to victims of intimate partner violence.

Bill C-75's intimate partner violence amendments would provide the courts with the means to denounce intimate partner violence to better protect victims, including prior to trial, and to ensure that the sentences imposed were proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

Concisely put, Bill C-75 would make marked improvements to the treatment of intimate partner violence in our criminal laws. It would establish a higher maximum sentence and reverse onus at bail for repeat offenders, recognize strangulation as an elevated form of assault, and broaden the parameters of intimate partner violence, which would now include current or former spouses, common-law partners, and dating partners.

These reforms are sorely needed. I hope that all my colleagues will join me in seeking to end intimate partner violence and will support Bill C-75.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have touched on a few other aspects of Bill C-75, and I certainly agree with my hon. colleague that doing more to deal with intimate partner violence is critical.

I am troubled that the bill would eliminate preliminary inquiries. A preliminary inquiry is typically a time when the defence gets to test the evidence. It is something of a dry run or dress rehearsal for what is going to come at trial, and it allows the defence to properly prepare and may even lead to deciding not to proceed to trial because the evidence is too weak.

I do not understand the rationale for eliminating preliminary inquiries, all for efficiency. It is trampling the rights of the accused, who may be innocent, in the interest of efficiency. At least that is how I see it right now, standing here tonight.

I would love to know what the defence and rationale is for getting rid of preliminary inquiries.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville for sharing his time with me and for his eloquent speech, particularly on the topic of intimate partner violence, which is a reality in the part of the country I come from. He covered it very well.

I am very proud to rise today to speak on Bill C-75. This legislation builds on our commitment to build safer and stronger neighbourhoods by making necessary investments in our police forces, reforming our criminal justice system, and supporting victims of addiction. As the member of Parliament for Surrey—Newton, I have listened to the priorities of my constituents about being tough on guns and gangs and making sure those deserving of full weight of the justice system receive it, and those needing our support and assistance receive it as well.

We have taken many great steps to accomplish this. For instance, in budget 2018, we announced over $300 million to be spent in the next five years and $100 million per year after that to support the RCMP, the CBSA, and other public safety agencies in cracking down on illegal trafficking of guns and drugs. We have invested over $180 million to help the RCMP recruit and train more cadets that it can continue to keep our growing cities safe. We have also taken action to support victims of substance abuse with the development of supervised injection sites across Canada, a model that began in Vancouver and that shows that with a compassionate and pragmatic approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives and keep our streets safe.

With this bill, we recognize that action must be taken to ensure that our court system moves quickly to hold offenders to account and to protect victims. In the past decade, Canada's court system has been burdened with administrative offences, as well as longer and more complex cases. These delays were cited by the Supreme Court as unacceptable and, therefore, it has established strict timelines that cases have to adhere to or risk being stayed. This is unacceptable to victims, and that is why our government, the Prime Minister, and the minister responsible have brought this bill forward.

This bill would make several key changes to the culture in our court system, beginning with limiting the use of of preliminary inquiries to more serious offences to ensure that criminal cases can proceed more quickly to trial; strengthening our response to intimate partner violence; streamlining the bail process to ensure swift access to justice; providing judges with the more robust tools they need to manage the cases before them; improving the jury selection process to ensure that juries are more representative of the Canadian population; providing more discretion on administration of justice offences; and reclassifying offences to allow courts to deal more efficiently with less serious matters, freeing up limited resources for more serious offences.

I want to touch on some of the key reforms in this bill, beginning with the changes to the administration of justice offences. These are acts such as failing to comply with bail conditions or failing to appear in court. These offences are unrelated to public safety, but, nevertheless, burden individuals with unnecessary and significant delays.

Nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. Therefore, this bill proposes a new approach. Police would retain the option to lay a new charge for the breach or failure to appear where appropriate. However, if the offence did not involve physical or emotional harm to a victim, property damage, or economic loss, the police would have an additional option of referring the accused to a judicial referral hearing.

We are also making changes to protect victims of domestic violence by ensuring that more offenders are brought to justice. Bill C-75 proposes a higher sentencing range for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. It would broaden the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners, and clearly specifies that evidence of intimate partner abuse is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

The last area of reform I want to speak about is selection. The defining value of our country is our respect for equality and commitment to promoting multiculturalism, but we continually need to do more to make sure that this value remains in place, and one of those areas that has long gone unchanged is our justice system.

It is a fact that we have lower levels of representation of indigenous and minority communities in juries, and that needs to change to ensure the integrity of the justice system. That is why we are bringing in this reform. Abolishing challenges and reinforcing the power of judges to “stand aside” certain jurors in order to increase diversity and giving judges the power to decide challenges for cause will bring more fairness and transparency to the system and encourage juries that are more representative of our communities.

In closing, there are few things more important than making sure that our neighbourhoods are safe for families and our children. Whether it is making sure that we have more police officers on the ground, laws that target guns on our streets, or supporting victims of addiction, we need to keep finding new solutions for the safety of our nation. I believe this bill does that.

With a court system that is more efficient, transparent, and fair, we will uphold its integrity, hold offenders to account, and protect victims. For these reasons, I look forward to seeing all members support this bill.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the bill is very disappointing for those of us on the opposition benches who sat through the 41st Parliament. We saw a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system by the previous government in ways that undermined our criminal justice system, overloaded our jails, and passed the cost on to the provinces, and here I speak of the mandatory minimums.

Mandatory minimums were added to many things. I opposed them at the time, and I really did expect that the current Minister of Justice would take on this issue of mandatory minimums head-on. Now we have Bill C-75, which is fairly voluminous, but it ignores this substantial issue that is crying out for reform.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has any idea why we do not see the removal of the mandatory minimum sentences that are sprinkled throughout our criminal system. Many of them have now been struck down by the Supreme Court. Surely we should be acting to remove them.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JusticeStatements By Members

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

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Questions

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

moved that Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, administration of justice offences impose an enormous burden on the criminal justice system, as nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. To respond to these challenges, Bill C-75 proposes a new approach. Police would retain the option to lay a new charge for the breach or failure to appear where appropriate. However, if the offence did not involve physical or emotional harm to a victim, property damage, or economic loss, the police would have an additional option of referring the accused to a judicial referral hearing. This would be an entirely new tool that would serve as an alternative to an unnecessary criminal charge and that would substantially increase court efficiencies without impacting public safety.

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

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

The third area of reform in Bill C-75 is with respect to intimate partner violence. In 2015, Canadians elected our government on a promise to give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and to ensure that more perpetrators were brought to justice. I am proud to follow through on this commitment within this bill.

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

Intimate partner violence is a reality for at least one in two women in Canada. Women who are indigenous, trans, elderly, new to Canada, or living with a disability are at increased risk for experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore, I move:

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my hon. colleague for his comments, which I found to be very constructive, and for his recognition of the fact that Bill C-75 is about addressing systemic barriers for marginalized people, for vulnerable people, and for victims.

To build on that, with regard to the comments he made about preliminary inquiries, I hope on reflection he will acknowledge that by reducing the eligibility of offences for preliminary inquiries, what we are trying to do is avoid unnecessary retraumatization of victims of intimate partner violence.

I would also encourage him to reflect on the fact that when he cites one particular statistic with regard to 3% of charges, it is charges, not court time. It may be 3% of charges, but it represents disproportionately much more expenditure of court time and resources.

The last thing I would like him to do is to expand on his personal support for the abolishment of peremptory challenges, which are inexorably linked the difficulties and the challenges that we have had around under-representation of indigenous peoples and other marginalized peoples on our juries. It is very important that we move closer to a more open and transparent jury selection process. I hope he will take the time and effort to expand on why he supports the abolishment of peremptory challenges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend for Victoria for his speech. It perhaps would not surprise many that as a Conservative member, I would not agree with the member on everything, but nonetheless I think he raised a number of good points in his speech.

The member raised the issue of hybridization of offences and the fact that it would download cases onto the provincial court and onto the provinces. However, one of the purported objectives of Bill C-75 is to deal with the Jordan decision, which imposes strict timelines before delay is deemed to be presumptively unreasonable. It is 30 months for matters in Superior Court and 18 months for matters in provincial court.

How does downloading cases to provincial court by making them prosecutable by way of summary conviction address the issue of Jordan? It seems that instead of reducing the number of cases that could potentially be thrown out, it might increase the number.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, during an exchange with one of the Conservative members, my colleague asked what the record is with regard to consultations on Bill C-75 and the overall criminal justice review process.

I thought it would be helpful to inform the member that we have conducted over 20 round tables across the country; have received 11,400 written online submissions; and have engaged with our federal, provincial, and territorial partners, and with members of the judiciary at every level. It is on the basis of those engagements that we decided to put forward this historic, bold legislation, which is going to cure delay. With that now on the record in the chamber, I am hoping that the member will join us in addressing the culture of complacency that was identified as one of the great challenges by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision.

I also encourage my hon. colleague to address the question that I put to him earlier about his support for the abolishment of peremptory challenges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, another omnibus bill introduced by a government that said it would never introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are again with another 300-page bill.

Quite frankly, there are some provisions in Bill C-75 that I support, but on the whole I believe this legislation to be deeply problematic.

Before I address the substance of Bill C-75, I want to talk a bit about the process surrounding Bill C-75.

This omnibus legislation reintroduces four government bills currently before the House of Commons: Bill C-28, Bill C-32, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. This is the third piece of legislation the government has introduced to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, the unconstitutional section related to anal sex.

With much fanfare, the Liberals introduced Bill C-32. They wanted to take tremendous credit for introducing that bill that proposes to repeal section 159. It was such a priority for the government that a year and a half later, Bill C-32 remains stuck at first reading.

Not to be outdone, they proceeded to introduce Bill C-39, which would remove unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, also known as zombie laws. That included section 159 of the Criminal Code. It was introduced on March 8, 2017, and it was such a priority of the government that more than a year later, Bill C-39 remains stuck at first reading.

Now, for the third time, the government has introduced, with Bill C-75, another attempt to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code.

How many bills is it going to take the Liberal government to repeal one simple section of the Criminal Code? It speaks to the utter incompetence of the government and its complete inability to move justice legislation forward. In light of that record of incompetence and failure, Canadians should be left to ask the question: how it is that the government can be trusted to address delay in our courts when it cannot even manage its own legislative agenda?

The purported objective of Bill C-75 is to deal with the backlog in our courts. It arises from the Jordan decision that was issued by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that there would be strict limits before delay would become presumptively unreasonable. The remedy that the Supreme Court provided in the case of delay was that the charges against the accused person would be stayed, in other words, thrown out of court. The strict timeline that the Supreme Court provided was 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated or actual conclusion of a trial for matters before superior courts, and 18 months for matters before provincial courts.

It has been almost two years since the Jordan decision and in those nearly two years, the Minister of Justice has sat on her hands and done absolutely nothing to deal with delay and backlog. The minister is so incompetent that she could not get around to doing the simplest and easiest thing, which is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner.

Under this Minister of Justice's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. Indeed, the average number of vacancies has consistently been between 50 to 60. In the province of Alberta, where the issues of backlog and delay are most acute, the provincial government tried to respond in 2016, by way of order in council, establishing 10 new judicial positions, nine Court of Queen's Bench positions and one Alberta Court of Appeal position. The government, to its credit, in budget 2017, provided funding for additional judicial positions. All the minister had to do was fill them.

Do members know how long it took the minister to appoint a new judge in Alberta?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

More than a year, Madam Speaker. It was not until December 2017 that Justice Grant Dunlop, my former colleague by the way, was appointed as a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench. He is a very good appointment, but, unfortunately, it is only one. Now that we are in May 2018, the government still has not filled most of those new judicial spots.

Thus, while the minister talks about taking action, her record demonstrates otherwise. This is not just an academic or abstract issue. There are real and serious consequences to the minister's inaction. We have seen hundreds of cases thrown out of court due to delay, and thousands more are at risk. Some of these cases involve the most serious of charges, including murder and sexual assault. We are talking about cases that are stayed or thrown out. The accused person, even when there is overwhelming evidence that he or she did the crime, are free to walk our streets.

In his speech, the hon. member for Victoria alluded to Nick Chan, whose case was was recently thrown out in Calgary. Who is Nick Chan? He is someone who was facing first degree murder charges. He is someone who was charged with directing a criminal organization. Nick Chan is the head of the so-called “Fresh off the Boat” gang, a gang that is linked to more than a dozen murders. Some have called Nick Chan one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, men in Calgary. Today, Nick Chan is a free man.

The minister does bear some responsibility for that outcome by her failure to get judges appointed in Alberta and across Canada. Nick Chan is not the first dangerous criminal who is now a free man or woman. Unfortunately, because of the government's inaction he will not be the last.

After two years of doing nothing, the government has now come forward with Bill C-75. This is really a ramshackle piece of legislation. One of the things the government has touted as doing a lot to reduce delay is the limiting of preliminary inquiries. Indeed, the Supreme Court in the Jordan decision said that in light of the Stinchcombe decision, which is more than a quarter of a century old, that perhaps it is time for Parliament to reconsider the utility of preliminary inquiries. Since the Stinchcombe decision, defence counsel have a constitutional right to full disclosure, and preliminary inquiries are a form of disclosure.

However, at the same time, to the degree that it makes sense to limit preliminary inquiries, and to the degree that that will speed things up, it is important, I think, to know what the hon. member for Victoria stated in his speech, which was that preliminary inquiries account for a very small number of cases.

The Canadian Bar Association has indicated that the proportion of cases that involve preliminary inquiries is less than 5% of cases, and takes no more than 2% of court time.

Perhaps this is a good measure, one measure in this massive bill that is a positive. However, with respect to the larger scheme of dealing with the backlog and the delay, at best, it is a very small step in the right direction.

Then there are aspects of the bill that instead of actually reducing the delays and backlog, they will likely contribute to the backlog. Again, I did not agree with everything the hon. member for Victoria said, but I thought he raised a good point about routine police evidence in the bill, which more than likely will result in defence counsel having to bring forward an application, which will cause delay, an application that in all likelihood will be granted.

With respect to the issue of routine police evidence, it seems that it provides a solution in search of a problem that does not exist, and in so doing has created another problem, a problem that will contribute to delay.

Then there is the hybridization of offences. This the part of the legislation that I, and I think most of my colleagues on the Conservative side, have the biggest issue with, and that is the watering down of sentences.

Before I address how Bill C-75 waters down sentences for some very serious crimes, I want to comment on what this impact would be from the standpoint of the Jordan decision. After all, that is why we are debating Bill C-75.

The hybridization of offences means that indictable offences that are currently prosecuted in Superior Courts now will be prosecutable in provincial courts by way of summary conviction. The timeline that the Supreme Court provides in Jordan is 30 months in which a case must be concluded, successfully prosecuted or a determination made about the guilt or innocence of the accused person, before a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable, upon which it is at risk of being thrown out of court. By contrast, there is only an 18-month timeline in provincial court. It is reducing the time by almost half before the case is at risk of being thrown out.

How does that help address Jordan? It does not. It is a matter of simply downloading cases onto the provinces. It is similar to what the government did with the marijuana legislation. It said that it would throw legislation together, take some political credit, but when it would come to sorting out all the issues, when it would come to the costs related to implementation and enforcement, the provinces could deal with it. The government washed its hands clean.

That is what the government is doing with respect to the hybridization, the watering down of sentences for serious indictable sentences. It is downloading them onto the provinces, onto provincial courts, which already have and deal with the bulk of criminal cases that go before courts across Canada.

It will not solve Jordan, but what will it actually do? Under the guise of creating efficiencies in our justice system, the government is watering down sentences for serious crimes. By introducing this just before Easter, it hoped Canadians would not notice.

What sorts of offences are being watered down? We are talking about participating in a terrorist organization, impaired driving causing bodily harm, kidnapping a minor, forced marriage, polygamy, or arson for fraudulent purposes. Do those not sound like serious offences? The minister said that she was doing this so the serious cases could go to superior courts. I have news for the minister. Kidnappers, terrorists, child abductors, arsonists, and impaired drivers are serious criminals who deserve serious time for serious crime, which the government is taking away, or opening the door to not happening. Instead, it is opening the door to these serious criminals getting away with a fine instead of up to 10 years in prison, which is currently provided for in the Criminal Code for those offences.

The government talks about the discretion of judges. It makes a big deal about the discretion of judges. Under Bill C-75, the government would be taking away the discretion of a judge, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to lift the publication ban of a young offender to protect public safety, when the judge determines there is evidence that young offender will commit another serious offence.

The government is always talking about judicial discretion when it helps criminals, but when it comes to protecting the public, the government does not want them to have that discretion. It speaks to a government which time and again works hard to reward criminals, makes life more difficult for victims, and has no regard for the public safety of Canadians. This is evidenced by taking away the discretion from judges, failing to appoint judges, and watering down sentences for kidnappers, arsonists, terrorists, among other offenders.

In short, Bill C-75 would make it easier for criminals and would download cases onto the provinces. It contains measures that would increase the delay in our justice system instead of decreasing it, resulting in more criminal cases potentially being thrown out of court as a result of Jordan. In so doing, it undermines public confidence in the administration of justice. It is an absolutely terrible bill that needs to be defeated.

With that, I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “and (e) potentially reducing penalties for very serious crimes by proposing to make them hybrid offences, including the abduction of a child under 14, material benefit from trafficking, breach of prison, participation in activity of a terrorist group or criminal organization, advocating genocide, amongst many others.”

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I listened attentively to my hon. colleague across the aisle. He spoke at length about this government's record on judicial appointments. The irony is that when put to him what the precise record was, he acknowledged that one of the most recent appointments in his home province of Alberta was Justice Grant Dunlop, who he said was a very good appointment. I encourage my hon. colleague to not divorce himself from the facts when he speaks about the criminal justice system in our country.

To that one very good appointment, which my hon. colleague acknowledges was a strong one, we have made 32 other appointments in the province of Alberta, bringing to a total of 80 federal judges in the province of Alberta, five more than at any point in time under the Harper Conservative administration.

If the hon. colleague was concerned about victims and about ensuring there were not miscarriages of justice, then he would have supported the historic investments to provide additional judges to the court and to provide training and resources to the members of the judiciary. He chose not to do that. He chose to oppose those investments. Now he has an opportunity to redeem himself by supporting Bill C-75. I hope on reflection he and his colleagues will do just that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, there we have it laid bare for all Canadians to see, that the Conservatives are not interested in debate. They are not interested in having a dialogue about how we can improve the criminal justice system. They are interested in blocking and obstructing the passage of a bill that would bring to justice those offenders who have committed serious crimes, a bill that would reduce barriers and encourage victims to come forward. In the last 15 minutes, we have seen two amendments and subamendments put forward. That is the type of trickery that Canadians have come to see and expect from the Conservative Party of Canada. They have learned no lessons in the last two years. We are going to continue to debate Bill C-75 because we know it is good, evidence-based legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Madam Speaker, I certainly am pleased to stand on behalf of the constituents of Red Deer—Lacombe. If many of them actually knew what the Liberal government was proposing through Bill C-75, they would be up in arms about it. This is why.

Much like my colleagues from St. Albert—Edmonton and Bow River said, Alberta right now is going through some tough times. We are not just going through tough times economically as a result of low oil prices and abysmal policies federally and provincially when it comes to our energy sector, but also as a result of crime, especially in the central Alberta region right now.

The City of Red Deer and the central Alberta area are among the most dangerous areas and communities in Canada to live. Rural crime in Alberta has been an ongoing issue of great magnitude for the past several years. In fact, my colleagues and I who have rural components in our ridings in Alberta have worked with our provincial colleagues to have a rural crime task force over the last six months. We have consulted widely with stakeholders. We have consulted with Albertans. I had three town halls in January. I had influenza and pneumonia at the time, but I still made it to those meetings, where hundreds of people filled halls in our community. I know this would be the same for my colleagues.

I met with the RCMP, law enforcement officers, and virtually every stakeholder impacted by this, including victim services organizations, rural crime watch organizations, and citizens on patrol. All of these organizations gave us clear direction of where they wanted their government to go. If they read and knew about the contents of Bill C-75, they would realize that on virtually everything they advised us to do, the bill does the exact opposite. This is the problem.

Here are some of the things I heard loud and clear from the constituents I represent, and from police officers as well. I met with every detachment, including Rimbey, Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds. I met with city police in Lacombe and the Red Deer city police, who are RCMP as well. I met with Ponoka. I met with everyone I possibly could on this issue.

The problem they face is what happens after police catch criminals. Here I am talking about the current laws we have today, not the watered down version that Canadians are going to get. This is about the current legislation today.

A police officer can arrest someone who is in possession of stolen property from at least 10 different break and enters for theft. They hold these people in cells and take them to their hearings, where they will get bail. Part of the bail provisions these people get is an instruction that they not associate with any of the people who have also been charged with these crimes, and that they not participate in any more illegal activity. They are given a slap on the wrist and off they go.

Five days later, the RCMP or police will pick up these same individuals in the same area. They will find them in possession of stolen property from other illegal break and enters. The value of that property is in the thousands of dollars, and usually motor vehicles are involved either as a tool or to get to a crime scene, or to be stolen. These individuals will be held in cells and will go back before the judge again. Now they are there facing charges from the previous break and enters, now breach of bail conditions, and now more theft and break and enter charges. What does the judge do again? It is a slap on the wrist and away the criminal goes.

I spent a lot of time as a fisheries technician, an angler, and a fishing guide. I understand the value of catch-and-release, but when it comes to crime, catch-and-release is bad policy. This is not working for the people I represent, and it is only going to get worse. It is called the revolving door on crime. The police and the people in the communities know this. It is the same people doing the same things over and over again without consequence. This is a critical problem.

I have a private member's slot coming up and I was going to present a bill to the House that would have created an escalating clause for theft over $5,000 because of the magnitude, cost, and impact that is having on the communities I represent. There seem to be no ongoing consequences for this, but if there were an escalator on a second, third, or subsequent charges of theft over $5,000, or for stealing motor vehicles, there would be consequences for the more crimes someone commits. It should cost them more.

Here is the problem. In Alberta, the current federal government has been negligent in appointing judges. The government cannot say that there are not good, qualified candidates in Alberta. It might have trouble finding good, qualified Liberal candidates to fill some of these vacancies, because there are not a whole lot of Liberals left in Alberta. There is no shortage of qualified people in Alberta to fill these vacancies.

As a result of the Jordan decision, a number of these crimes are pleaded down to bare minimums to advance the court docket.

We hear words from the minister like “efficiency”. Efficiency simply means that they are going to get these people before the judge, slap them on the wrist more quickly, and send them through that revolving door faster. The only thing this bill is going to do for thieves in central Alberta is make them dizzy from how fast the revolving door is going to go around as they go in and out of the justice system. This would be an absolute abomination for the law-abiding property owners in my constituency, should this bill come to pass. To me, it is absolutely mind-boggling.

I will get back to the rural crime task force. They want more provisions to be able to look after themselves to protect themselves and their property in rural areas. They want more serious consequences. They want more police on the roads able to do the work that needs to be done.

There are people who live 45 minutes to an hour away from the police. In fact, I have heard of instances when the police did not show up for three or four days after the actual crime to just catalogue and log what was actually stolen. This is how serious and how far behind the system actually is.

Rather than providing resources, more resources for police, more resources for our prosecutorial services, more resources for the bench, and more resources for our penal system, the government has its own agenda and is spending a lot of money on other things. This is money that is actually taken out Canadian taxpayers' pockets.

The primary ordinance of any government ought to be the safety and security of its law-abiding citizens. That does not appear to be the case with this piece of legislation. The people I represent would be very frustrated to know this.

I will get to a couple of the details. I think most of my constituents would be deeply offended to find out the direction the government is going on some of these things.

First is theft over $5,000. Right now there are basically two different categories of theft in the Criminal Code. If someone steals something with a net value or a deemed value or an instrumental value of over $5,000, that is currently an indictable offence. What that means is that the crown must go ahead and pursue that as a criminal matter, as an indictable offence, before the court, with a mandatory prison sentence of some sort involved, with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years.

Should Bill C-75 pass in its current form, that provision will now basically have the same type of penalties that theft under $5,000 has. Theft under $5,000 right now actually proceeds by way of summary conviction, or potentially as an indictable offence, or as a hybrid offence.

Basically, what the Liberal government is proposing is to treat theft over $5,000 the same as theft under $5,000. In fact, after the changes go through, there is going to be little to distinguish theft over $5,000 from theft under $5,000, which means that a judge could hand out the same penalty to someone who stole a car as to someone who shoplifted a pack of Hubba Bubba. That is where this is going. It is really unfortunate.

We want to give our judges a little discretion. I understand that, but why would we water down the legislation so much, to the point where they actually would not even have that discretion anymore. I would argue that instead of doing this kind of work, we should have provisions in the bill for theft over $20,000, if someone is going to start stealing expensive motor vehicles, or theft over $100,000, if someone has run a string of thefts and has stolen a welding truck, an RV, and a trailer, and so on. Why these things are not being taken any more seriously than shoplifting a package of gum is beyond me. We are heading absolutely in the wrong direction.

I did take a bit of offence. I know that not everyone who ends up in the criminal system has had an easy life, but the justice minister categorized the changes in the Criminal Code to take into consideration a lot of factors, and one of those factors is the result of previous victimization. Let us take a look at what these charges are.

First is participation in the activity of a terrorist group. This does not sound like someone who does not know what he or she is doing and is underprivileged or is having trouble on the street. Second is a prison breach. That does not sound like someone who is underprivileged. Third is municipal corruption or influencing municipal officials. I do not see the homeless people in my riding having a lot of influence on the mayor or the reeve or anyone to that effect. Fourth is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealings in offices. That does not sound like a crime of the underprivileged or of those who were previously victimized.

I could go through most of these: extortion by libel, advocating genocide, possession of property obtained by crime, prohibited insider trading. Yes, these are the crimes of the poor and unfortunate the Liberal justice minister characterized when she made her speech. These are well-organized crimes that are perpetrated by people who know darn well what they are doing, and they are doing it on purpose. This brings me to my point on organized crime.

Right now the current government has two bills in the House: Bill C-71, which proposes to crack down on law-abiding firearms owners and make their lives intensely more miserable; and Bill C-75, which would actually make life far easier for criminals. The hypocrisy and juxtaposition of these two pieces of legislation is absolutely astonishing.

For example, the Liberal public safety minister said that the government is using Bill C-71 to crack down on guns and gangs, yet the justice minister is proposing a bill that says that we are going to hybridize offences in the Criminal Code for participation in the activities of a criminal organization. If we are not living in freaking upside-down land, I do not know what is going on.

The Liberal government is going to penalize law-abiding firearms owners with Bill C-71. Meanwhile, it is going to change the Criminal Code and say that if members of a gang are using guns, we are going to proceed by way of hybridization, potentially a summary conviction offence and a mere fine, for being involved in that criminal organization. This makes absolutely no sense. It makes no sense to the law-abiding firearms community in my riding. It makes no sense to the law-abiding community in my riding.

The criminals and thieves who are operating in my riding are looking at today's legislative agenda and saying to themselves, “My goodness, the smorgasbord just got bigger and better. We are now going to have shopping lists for firearms, because the government is requiring business owners to keep those shopping lists available for us. We are going to be able to go to all the homes we want to and get the property we want.” They will get a slap on the wrist and a trip through the revolving door. Bada bing bada boom. They will thank the Liberals. We know who supports the Liberals. It is the criminals in this country. It is not the law-abiding citizens.

Rural CrimePrivate Members' Business

May 24th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand tonight and talk about the issue of rural crime. I appreciate my colleague from Lakeland bringing forward Motion No. 167. This is an important issue, and we have already heard several of my colleagues speak to it tonight.

Rural MPs from Alberta started talking about this issue in the last couple of years as they heard about it from their constituents. We held many town hall meetings in our ridings over the last year. We visited with staff sergeants and their detachments. We visited with RCMP commanding officers for the province. We talked to a lot of people. It was not hard to get people to come to town halls to talk about rural crime.

My riding, Bow River, is about the size of New Brunswick. It has 60 large and small rural communities. These are not city people who expect the RCMP or the metropolitan police to show up quickly. These people do not expect to see the RCMP very quickly because of the distance. It is very hard to get to them.

There are two groups I am very concerned about: the rural residents and the fear they are living with, and the RCMP members and the professional job they do. RCMP officers know that it is hard to get to reported crimes because of the distance. They want to get there, but there are some issues that are really creating problems.

We are glad that RCMP members have sick leave, maternity leave, and paternity leave. These are rights they should have. However, there is a strong shortage of staff, and they cannot backfill these positions. One detachment has seven members, but it really has only four because the positions cannot be filled, so the detachment is left short. If a detachment that supposedly has seven members but really has only four provides 24-7 coverage and has many miles to cover, that leaves the officers very much at risk. It is not only the stress of the job and the long hours, but the risk they may face being out in places far removed from any backup or support. The RCMP is caught in a vicious cycle.

The province did respond, in a sense, to this growing concern by saying that it would hire 59 more RCMP officers for rural detachments, but the soonest it can possibly get those is in two years, if it gets them at all.

We really have a problem with our professional police service, a service we really appreciate. The RCMP has a long-standing history of service to our country, but barriers are being put up in front of them and the work they need to do to respond to crimes. Upholding the law in our constituencies has become very difficult for them.

Then we get to the justice system. When the RCMP officers go out to investigate crimes, the people are often long gone before the officers can get there. When they do catch them, they appear in court, receive bail hearings, and are gone. The joke among RCMP officers is that they need to watch their vehicles when individuals are released on bail because they will probably steal one to go home. They know it is a slap on the wrist. The RCMP officers are very frustrated when doing their jobs because they will probably catch the repeat offenders another time doing the same crime. It is very hard for the RCMP.

They coach people at town hall meetings to get the citizens on patrol, on active crime watch. They are asking people to go out and help them in the middle of the night. We are talking about seniors on their properties in rural communities. They want them to go out and try to secure their property in the evening, and that is a challenging task.

This leads me to the second thing I am going to talk about, the fear among the citizens. I heard from a mother with a three-year-old child. At three o'clock in the morning, she heard people in her yard, and before long they were banging on her door. She locked herself in a room and phoned the RCMP. There was no chance the RCMP would get there.

In a community, two nights ago, two people attempted to steal a truck, and the resident came out. He is now in critical condition in the hospital, as he was severely beaten by them. They were long gone before somebody discovered this person, who was severely beaten, and called the police. The distances make it very tough.

Living in fear is a severe problem for our people in rural areas. The RCMP cannot get there. As other people have mentioned, reporting crimes is really important, yet people are giving up on reporting crimes because the RCMP cannot get there. Sometimes it has been days later when the RCMP can get there to try to investigate what is occurring. The dissatisfaction that is growing among residents toward their police force makes no sense. The frustration that is occurring among the residents in rural areas because of fear is wrong. We need to be able to provide better service in our rural communities.

We need to fundamentally restructure how we look at the RCMP and its service. Because of the way it is structured, there need to be more officers. They need more support. They should not fear going out at two in the morning on a call 30 miles out from where they live or where their detachment is, because they will be out there on their own with no backup from the unit behind them. They should not fear for their jobs to be able to do that. There needs to be backup. We need to look at how the RCMP works in rural areas. There is a serious shortage, and it is cyclical in what it causes them.

Someone mentioned Bill C-75. This could make it worse, in the sense that it is a revolving door with lesser penalties and fines for stealing things over $5,000. These are crimes of opportunity. These people know that the police are not going to get there. The vehicles found in rural communities are often very expensive. These are farming communities. They have expensive four-wheel drive trucks. These are $50,000 or $60,000 vehicles, and people are out there stealing them. If they know that under the new legislation they would get a slap on the wrist and maybe a fine, that would really exacerbate the situation in rural areas. Bill C-75 may cause this to become a more severe problem. The RCMP will be more frustrated and less likely to solve crimes if people are only fined for this.

Rural crime is a severe issue. In town halls, I see the fear on people's faces, their anger and frustration about the country they live in and should be safe in. This is not right. They have beautiful homes and great properties.

I am glad that this bill is here. We can collect data and information so that Canadians can feel safe in their homes, no matter where they live. This is a really important piece to do.