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

Sponsor

Status

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

(e) restrict the availability of a preliminary inquiry to offences punishable by imprisonment for a term of 14 years or more and strengthen the justice’s powers to limit the issues explored and witnesses to be heard at the inquiry;

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

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

(h) re-enact the victim surcharge regime and provide the court with the discretion to waive a victim surcharge if the court is satisfied that the victim surcharge would cause the offender undue hardship or would be disproportionate to the gravity of the offence or the degree of responsibility of the offender; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

June 19, 2019 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
June 19, 2019 Passed Motion for closure
Dec. 3, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Nov. 20, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Nov. 20, 2018 Failed Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 20, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
June 11, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (reasoned amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (subamendment)
May 29, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

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

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

proposes that amendment 3 be amended to read as follows:

“3. Clause 239, pages 90 and 91:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

proposes that amendment 4 be amended to read as follows:

“4. Clause 240, pages 92 and 93:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here today to speak to the amendments made by the other chamber to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Fine, of the Globe and Mail, wrote:

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

It never happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

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

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

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

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate considering the Senate amendments to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there is Michael Spratt, who said:

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

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

Further testimony on prelims was from Sarah Leamon who said:

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

—in the context of a sexual assault complainant—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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