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.
See context

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.