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

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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

May 14th, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Chair, I think it is important that several things were outlined in the minister's speech. I would like to start with the question of victims.

From the work I have been doing as parliamentary secretary and the work that the committee has been doing on bills such as Bill C-84, where there was an important amendment to implement an offender registry for bestiality crimes, and Bill C-75, in relation to victims of intimate partner violence, I know that addressing the needs of victims is at the core of what we are doing as a government.

The minister mentioned in his remarks that under budget 2019 there is funding for the Department of Justice's victims fund, which is targeted at giving victims and survivors of crime the respect and dignity they deserve.

I wonder if the minister could elaborate on the types of projects these funds will support in budget 2019 to help us achieve our commitments toward addressing victims.

May 14th, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Chair, I will provide 10 minutes of remarks and then I will welcome questions from my parliamentary secretary, the outstanding member for Parkdale—High Park.

I would first like to recognize the Algonquin nation, on whose traditional territory we are gathering this evening.

I will briefly describe how the funding allocated in the main estimates 2019-20 will support our work at the Department of Justice.

I would like to remind the committee that the department strives to promote and maintain a fair, transparent and accessible justice system. The department also helps guide the modernization of the justice system. What is more, it provides the federal government with legal services and support.

The Department of Justice has a total budgetary authority of $744.52 million through 2019-20 main estimates, which is an increase of $46.77 million from the previous fiscal year. This additional funding is for major priorities, including but not limited to innovating and modernizing how regulations are drafted and implemented, enhancing the integrity of Canada’s borders and asylum system, providing Canadians with better access to public legal aid education and information, and supporting renewed legal relationships with indigenous peoples.

Much of this year's authority will support the administration of justice and the Canadian legal framework by directing funding to the provinces and territories, with whom we share the responsibility in this important area.

The funding will also help maintain and support our bilingual and bijural national legal framework. It will also support the department’s ability to transform and modernize the justice system, while protecting and promoting the rights enshrined in the Constitution and the charter.

I would like to outline some of the key funding we have received and the initiatives that it will help support.

First, we are currently conducting a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system in order to determine how effective it is in protecting Canadians. The review, which involved extensive public consultations, will also help ensure that our laws hold offenders accountable, that they are fair and equitable, that they respect the charter and that they show compassion and support for victims.

This ongoing review has already helped inform the initiatives and reforms we have introduced.

For one thing, the review contributed to Bill C-75. With this bill, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward with substantive criminal justice reforms that will have a real and lasting impact on court delays. It will help increase efficiencies and reduce delays for all those involved in the criminal justice system while respecting their rights and protecting public safety. This important legislation is now before the other place, and I look forward to seeing it passed during this Parliament.

We are deeply committed to reconciliation and to transforming our relationship with indigenous peoples.

The directive on civil litigation involving indigenous peoples was released in January 2019. It supports our commitment to reconciliation and rights recognition by providing advice on the approaches, positions and decisions taken in the context of civil litigation involving indigenous peoples and related issues.

I would also add that we recognize the importance of revitalizing indigenous legal systems and the important role that indigenous law institutes can play in understanding, developing and implementing indigenous laws.

To this end, budget 2019 proposes $10 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, in support of indigenous law initiatives across Canada through the justice partnership and innovation program, JPIP, to improve equality for indigenous peoples in Canada's legal system. This builds on the $9.5 million per year we already provide for the delivery of indigenous courtwork services through the indigenous courtwork program. With their knowledge of indigenous culture, language and traditions, court workers provide direct support before, during and after court proceedings.

We are also continuing our efforts to fill judicial vacancies and increase diversity in the Canadian judiciary. The appointment process for superior court justices that we introduced is more transparent, inclusive and responsible.

We have made over 300 judicial appointments since November 2015. These exceptional jurists reflect the diversity that gives Canada its strength. More than half of those judges are women, and 30% are functionally bilingual. The appointments reflect an increased representation of visible minorities, indigenous peoples, people from the LGBTQ2S community, and people who identify as living with a disability.

While on the subject of diversity, it is important to highlight our continued support for protecting the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ2S community. One example is our Bill C-16, which received royal assent in June 2017. It amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to add two prohibited grounds of discrimination: gender identity and gender expression. It also amended the Criminal Code by adding gender identity or expression to the list of identifiable groups that are protected from hate propaganda. Finally, it made clear that hatred on the basis of gender identity or expression should be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for a criminal offence.

We are also very proud of Bill C-78, which is currently before the other place. The legislation seeks to modernize federal family law and put the needs of the child first.

The last time our family laws have undergone significant amendments was 20 years ago. They fail to address a number of difficult issues, including relocation and family violence. I hope the reform will pass quickly.

Completing this legislation is our expansion of unified family courts. In budget 2018, our government funded the creation of 39 new judicial positions beginning April 1, 2019. Twelve of these new appointments were recently made to Ontario's Unified Family Court.

We are also maintaining and strengthening access to justice in both official languages.

Budget 2019 would give the Department of Justice $21.6 million over five years, starting in 2020-21, to support the legislative changes in Bill C-78 that seek to increase access to family justice in either official language.

This funding builds on our efforts in budget 2018, which provided an additional $10 million over five years and $2 million per year ongoing for Justice Canada's access to justice in both official languages support fund.

Another top priority for our government is ensuring that victims receive the support they need.

In 2019-20, the victims fund at the Department of Justice will provide $28.72 million in grants and contributions to support research and innovative pilot projects, as well as front-line services for victims and survivors of crime across Canada.

The Department of Justice is also committed to helping immigrants and refugees. Budget 2017 included funding for immigration and refugee legal aid on an ongoing basis: $62.9 million was identified over a five-year period, with an additional $11.5 million per year thereafter. This funding helps prevent delays in immigration and refugee processes and, most importantly, helps ensure access to justice for economically disadvantaged immigrants and refugees.

Budget 2019 builds on previous investments and commits an additional $52 million over three years, primarily for immigration and refugee legal aid, but also to support the delivery of legal services.

I want to thank the committee for giving me an opportunity to speak to them today. The work of the Department of Justice is complex, and my brief comments offer merely a glimpse of the excellent work done by department employees.

Bill C-84—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2019 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member has brought up Bill C-75. We feel it is an outstanding piece of legislation that goes a long way toward improving the efficiency, fairness and speed, frankly, of our criminal justice system.

The unifying theme of Bill C-75 is, in fact, to make the criminal justice system more fair, more efficient and better working, particularly in light of rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, such as Jordan, which force us to take those matters seriously.

The elements brought up in Bill C-84 do not have that same goal in mind, if I may, and therefore it is appropriate that Bill C-84 be part of a separate piece of legislation. It just did not fit in Bill C-75.

Bill C-84—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2019 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of the minister's argument today has been that we need to get this legislation to the Senate to speed things up. I can understand that. We only have so much time.

That being said, by the same token, Bill C-75 has gone to the other place and it is a much larger bill. Would the member not agree that this particular bill, Bill C-84, should have been wrapped up in Bill C-75, gone to the justice committee and had full exposure to all of the different parts in that omnibus piece of legislation, so it could have maybe left a stand-alone bill for us to have a full discussion on the deferred prosecution agreements, an issue which was in Bill C-74, division 20?

That piece of legislation did not get a full hearing at finance committee. Only one witness from the justice department came to speak to it. I still get calls on a regular basis from people in both the academic and the legal communities who feel that the Liberal government's approach to that piece of omnibus legislation maligned Parliament and denied the proper hearing of major changes to the Criminal Code.

Would the member not agree that this place must be respected? Would he agree that that kind of sleight of hand by the government needs to change?

Bill C-84—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2019 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I share the substantive concern that the hon. leader of the Green Party is raising. I can speak to the bills that I am, as minister, shepherding through the House. Certainly, on Bill C-84, the process has worked in the sense that a number of very good amendments were made at committee stage and there was robust debate.

Both Bill C-75 and Bill C-78 have had a number of interesting discussions in the House. They have gone to the other place. We are thinking about amendments on them based on our work in this House and on what the Senate is doing.

The process is working. I think we are approaching it in good faith. The fact of the matter is that sometimes we run out of time, and we feel we have done that in this particular case.

Bill C-84—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2019 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate that the Minister of Justice has not been the Minister of Justice throughout this Parliament, so he is taking on some legislation he had no role in crafting. However, he is the representative of the government today, and he needs to stand and answer and be accountable to the people and their representatives.

Why such a different approach? On this piece of legislation, we have a stand-alone piece of legislation that has gone through committee process and whatnot, and through debate, yet shamefully, in Bill C-74, an omnibus piece of legislation, the Liberals pushed through a provision for deferred prosecution agreements. They did not have a single witness from the academic community or bar association come for a thorough discussion about that particular regime, which is unlike any that has been used in the Criminal Code before. Why did they do that while giving a stand-alone bill to this, when they could easily have taken that DPA section from division 20 of Bill C-74 and put it in Bill C-75, another piece of omnibus legislation? Why is there such a mismatch in how they present to this place and with where their priorities are?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2019 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-417 and also to state that I am in full support of the bill.

As we know, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has studied this proposed legislation and has reported it back with three amendments. In my view, the amendments to Bill C-417 that were made by the justice committee have improved the drafting of this legislation and will ensure that it will better achieve its stated objective. I encourage all hon. members to support these amendments as soon as possible so that it can go to the other place and be tabled in second reading.

Along with other members of this House, I applaud the small but important change proposed in Bill C-417, which would facilitate better access to mental health support for jurors. As a person who has dealt with mental health issues, I totally understand the need for jurors to be able to have access to professional services so that they can share their story and gain the support that they need.

It became clear through the justice committee's study on counselling and other mental health supports for jurors, which culminated in its May 22, 2018, report, called “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada”, that section 649 of the Criminal Code has been an impediment to jurors seeking support following their service. I appreciate that this bill addresses the serious issue of mental health as it relates to individuals who participate in the criminal justice system.

Our consideration of this bill has been informed by the justice committee's report, which documents the evidence and perspectives of witnesses regarding the impact of the criminal justice system on jurors. As my colleague across the aisle mentioned, a number of former jurors who served on difficult and disturbing criminal jury trials provided testimony before the committee that has highlighted the importance of ensuring that jurors are not left without any means to address the stresses and trauma they may experience as a result of their important civic duty.

In addition, the justice committee heard from a variety of experts, including criminal justice professionals, academics, government representatives of juror support programs, and mental health and lawyers' associations. These experts expressed a common view that the stresses associated with jury service can be prevented or reduced by better preparing jurors, improving the conditions under which they carry out their duty and offering psychological support.

The 11 recommendations made in the report touch upon these issues, including recommendation 4, which calls for an amendment to section 649 of the Criminal Code. Bill C-417 addresses this recommendation, which if implemented will contribute to better psychological support for jurors.

I believe that jurors would continue to feel confident that discussions taking place among them and in the jury room would continue to remain private so that they would be able to continue to engage in full and frank discussions despite the change in the law, yet be able to receive the services they needed once they felt those services were necessary.

As said, we in the government support the objectives of the bill, and that is why our government seeks certain targeted amendments. Those amendments have been identified.

There are three specific amendments. The first one specifically deals with ensuring the health care professional is licensed, as my colleague across the aisle mentioned. The second amendment is a minor amendment making sure that the English and French versions are in sync. The third amendment is basically looking for 90 days after the bill receives royal assent to ensure that all the necessary preparation is carried out for its effective implementation.

I believe that this bill, with the amendments adopted at the committee, strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the privacy interests of jurors and ensuring that jurors can access effective mental health treatment following their service, should they need it.

As I said at the outset, I support Bill C-417 and the amendments adopted by the justice committee, which will ensure it better achieves its objectives. I also believe that this bill aligns with other government initiatives, such as Bill C-75, to improve the juror regime in Canada. I will be voting in favour of this bill.

I thank my colleague for his advocacy for mental health and the great work he is doing. As I have said, I will be voting in favour at third reading of this bill.

As I am the last speaker from this side before the House rises for the next two weeks, I would like to wish all my colleagues and all Canadians a happy Easter.

Criminal Records ActGovernment Orders

April 8th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and yes, I would ask my hon. colleague to be patient. I will get to my point forthwith.

The priorities of Canadians are not the priorities of this Liberal Prime Minister and his government, and this could not be more clear than when two former cabinet ministers were removed from their party. They were banished last week, and there was a breakdown in trust. Sadly, the fault lies clearly with the Prime Minister and his cronies, while the penalties continue to be placed on the members who were removed.

The Prime Minister has offered one falsehood after another trying to it explain away. Quite bluntly, it has been painfully obvious to the rest of the country that he put politics ahead of the best interests of Canadians.

The Liberals have tabled their bill for taxpayer-funded records suspensions. There it is; I am back on the issue. How does this align with the needs of Canadians? In general, how does it fit with public safety? The many issues facing our country in protecting our communities and ensuring a strong, fair justice system go well beyond the Prime Minister trying to interfere with the independence of the former attorney general or the director of public prosecutions.

We know where Canada is struggling with public safety. According to Statistics Canada information, Canada has a gang problem in our cities. We have a justice problem, with backlogged courts and court appointments for judges. We have a rural crime problem. We have a sentencing and recidivism problem, with revolving doors in the justice and jail system. We have evidence-lab challenges and RCMP police-resourcing challenges. Stats Canada has shown that gang-related shootings are primarily responsible for recent increases in violent crime in this country, and to date, the only Liberal response has been unfulfilled promises.

Instead of action, the Liberals' legislative changes, like Bill C-71, for example, went after licensed firearms owners instead of criminals. As the Department of Public Safety noted in its own consultation document, the vast majority of licensed firearms owners are not involved in crime. In fact, statistics provided to the public safety committee suggest that it is under 1%. The Liberals' legislative response to gang violence and illegal weapons has been to crack down on less than 1% of the problem and to ignore the 99%.

What would help? I know a number of items that could help improve public safety and reduce violent crime. First is spending the money the government promised for policing and to go after organized crime. Second is to put more resources into public prosecutions, courts and evidence labs. These have all been shown to be under-resourced, especially with the recent court decision to limit trial length. Third is to stop softening sentences for violent criminals, as proposed in Bill C-75. Serious crime needs serious punishment for reform to work, and all these ideas have evidence to show that they are needed and would have an impact.

What will not have an impact is a taxpayer-funded pot pardon. No one would be safer because of this policy. A very small number of Canadians would benefit from it. The truth, from my experience, is that most individuals likely to seek record suspensions may have a number of other convictions as well. While they may receive a single free record suspension, their other charges may not be so free. Possession might be only one of the many charges on a person's record.

Where would Bill C-93 leave this House and Canada on the constant effort to combat crime in an ever-changing and evolving world? After three and a half years of Liberal mismanagement, we have a strained legal system that sees more and more criminals going free, rather than facing charges, or pleading to significantly less-serious charges.

Prisoners will now have access to needles whenever and wherever they want in prisons. As our correctional officers have told us and have pointed out more than once, even in Europe, which the Liberals claim to be copying, the needles are never in the general population; they are in the hands of medical staff. Rather than dealing with the cause of crime, most often addiction, the Liberal plan is to continue the addiction.

Under the current Liberal government, we have seen a horrific record of protecting communities from returning ISIS fighters. When we asked the committee how many outstanding monitoring warrants were placed on the 60 ISIS terrorists who have returned, the number was zero.

While I have no doubt that teams at CSIS and the RCMP are working to keep tabs on these individuals, and are doing a great job, limited by the legislation from the government, the red tape and oversight rules proposed under Bill C-59 would no doubt make it harder to watch known radical extremists who have participated in horrific, hate-based crimes. To me and many Canadians, a desire to join ISIS is itself an admission that someone supports violence.

The Prime Minister is happy to talk about being opposed to radicals and extremists, but none of his actions suggest that he is serious about combatting the sources of radicalization or the threat of domestic terrorism. Words matter, but actions have impacts.

We have seen a radical and damaging string of policies that have increased drugs in our communities and have not helped make anyone safer. Whether it was the poorly thought-out and rushed legislation on marijuana, which ignored reasonable requests from police and medical professionals, or the unnecessary risk of drug-impaired driving, to my knowledge, we still do not have a reliable roadside mechanism to test for drug impairment or to increase supervised injection sites.

Nothing so explains the potential harm of the Liberal approach to crime as the issue of rural crime, which we are dealing with in rural Canada. My riding has a small city and an expansive rural region. Across Alberta, Saskatchewan and other parts of our country, we have heard from Canadians about the rampant, escalating crime in rural communities committed, for the most part, by urban criminals victimizing rural Canadians where police response is minimal, delayed, or in some cases, nonexistent.

Canadians have told us heartbreaking stories of violent encounters, financial hardship and trauma from repeated thefts and victimization. Canadians have spoken of fear, alienation and abandonment. That is not Canada. That is not my Canada, but it has become an unfortunate reality in the Prime Minister's Canada.

With Bill C-93, the government is proposing a no-fee, no-waiting-period record suspension without any enquiries or reviews of personal history or conduct. The reason we have a Parole Board, both the administration and the regional organization, appointed to conduct hearings is to exercise discretion in the review of individual cases. Parole hearings can uncover vital information about convictions, such as a plea deal with lesser charges despite the person having been involved in serious and violent crimes.

While there are likely to be a very limited number of cases like this, such cases may be separated from simple possession issues. Moreover, some plea deals may have been arranged with lesser charges but with specific instructions, such as an agreement to have no record suspension, as appropriate to the person's personal history.

This means that these pardons would be granted as a matter of process, and the board would take up no inquiry of the person and would have little or no opportunity to exercise discretion. This means that even in cases where it was patently obvious that the person continued a criminal lifestyle but did not have a conviction entered against him or her, a pardon would be granted.

The police in this country have raised some concerns about Bill C-93. They suggest that our officers need to feel confident that individuals who are a threat to public safety and the public order are going to be popping up on CPIC, even if they have been convicted of simple possession.

Here is a scenario as an example. There are many individuals who have been charged with more than one serious criminal drug offence, but once they have gone to court and worked out a plea deal for simple possession for a multitude of possession charges, these charges are then reduced for multiple reasons, such as to ease a court backlog, to save witnesses from testifying or to secure testimony for the conviction of a bigger criminal player, etc. The plea to a simple possession charge would be used by the Crown with the understanding, as I said previously, that the conviction would still be a permanent part of that individual's record, ensuring that any future investigation of a similar nature could be appropriately linked and applied to that person's own personal history.

This does not serve the best interests of officer safety or community safety. It does not promote the rehabilitation of those entrenched in the criminal element, the ones who threaten to be repeat offenders.

I appreciate the fact that we cannot hold unproven facts against individuals. That would be unfair. However, we cannot ignore the circumstances that would lead to the arrest, charging and conviction of individuals using the available laws and the discretion of the day, which is key. The Crown and the courts would not have accepted the lesser pleas knowing the proposal today. This itself would affect the administration of justice.

There are two very different scenarios at play here: one person who is stopped and charged for carrying a dime bag of marijuana versus a person who is caught up in a drug ring and pleads to a simple possession charge. They are two very different people, but the proposed changes would treat them the same way. One is not a danger to police or the community, and the other continues to pose a risk. That is what should be screened. There should not just be blanket pardons.

While the Liberals are happy to talk about there being discretion in our justice system, they have removed the discretion of the public service at the Parole Board as well as the discretion of the Parole Board itself. It is important to keep in context the arrest charges and plea deals, especially since many plea deals would never have considered the possibility of a future government legalizing drugs and imposing record suspensions without any review or context.

The House should consider that no individuals would benefit from this act who would be excluded otherwise, and I can see no way to make that happen without an appropriate review.

I hope that members of the committee are not prevented from making minor and common-sense amendments to the legislation that would ensure public safety. Already we have seen too many pieces of legislation from the Liberals that ignore common sense and public safety in favour of policy and division.

To be clear, I know, and I believe members know, that these are not the public safety priorities of Canadians. This bill would not help victims recover from the trauma of violent crime. It would not prevent criminals from victimizing rural Canadians. It would not stop gang violence or deter youth from joining gangs. It would not address illegal firearms in our country. It would not address the many concerns and challenges faced by prosecutors and police across the country.

I see Bill C-93 as a continuation of the Liberals' plan: more minor gestures without the requisite actions to combat addiction, crime and poverty to improve public safety. It is a plan that would provide a benefit to a select and small group of Canadians at taxpayers' expense, a plan that would double down on legalizing marijuana while ignoring real, serious and important threats to Canada's public safety. These are not the priorities of Canadians. This bill does not address the issues, and from what I have heard from police and prosecutors across the country, it does not address their concerns.

I can only assume that Liberal MPs will once again be called on to vote in blind faith with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, because today more and more Canadians are seeing clearly that the priorities of the Liberals are not the priorities of Canadians.

Criminal Records ActGovernment Orders

April 8th, 2019 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain at the outset that the NDP will oppose this legislation. Over the next 20 minutes that I have available, I hope to explain why record suspension is not the way to go, and record expungement, which I will describe, is the way to go. Record expungement for simple possession is the basis of my private member's bill, Bill C-415, which will be up for second reading debate in the chamber on Thursday.

I have risen on previous occasions in this place to call Bill C-93 a half-baked measure, and I am still of that opinion. Let me explain: It is too little and it is too late.

It is too little, because record suspension is just that, putting a criminal record aside where it could potentially be used again against the individual. It ignores the historical injustice, the disproportionate impact of cannabis possession offences on marginalized Canadians, on blacks and particularly on indigenous people.

It is too late, because it is almost six months since October when we had the historic legalization of possession of cannabis. Here we are, almost at the end of this parliamentary session, starting second reading debate on the bill. It has to go before committee. It has to go to the Senate. It has to go before Senate committees. I am anxious that this will not be law in Canada, as it will die on the Order Paper until the next Parliament addresses that.

It is especially disappointing because the Liberals have had years to do this. Their excuse was to wait until possession was legal on October 17, 2018. Now we are almost six months later, in the dying days of this Parliament, and suddenly talking about it.

I hope that cynicism is not warranted. I hope there is goodwill on the part of the government to fix the bill and move it forward expeditiously. However, I have my doubts.

My private member's bill, which is the counter to this piece of legislation, would require an application process for expungement. In an ideal world, my bill would have had automatic expungement, which is the case in Delaware and California, where officials sweep the records, find out whether a person has a record, for simple possession in effect, and if so, the record is deemed never to have existed. It is gone. It is zapped from the system.

This legislation would require an application. My bill does too, but that is because, as the House well knows, it is a private member's bill, and due to a technicality called the royal recommendation, I could not ask the government to expend money. I was not able to do what has been done south of the border with automatic expungement. That would apply universally and automatically and benefit, disproportionately, indigenous and racialized Canadians.

Let us just stand back from this. We have an activity which is perfectly legal now, but for which hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps that high, have a record for past consumption of cannabis, possession of cannabis, when it was illegal, and now they cannot get on with their lives.

Why does that matter? It matters because blacks cannot rent apartments because they have a criminal record and are on the bottom of the list in a tight housing market. As I will explain later, there are way more people in Halifax who were charged with a cannabis offence and have a record for cannabis than the non-black population.

Believe it or not, it is most glaring in Regina, Saskatchewan. This is government data; this is not me. This is from records disclosed under access to information. An indigenous person in Regina is nine times more likely to have a record for cannabis possession than a non-indigenous person. A black individual is five times more likely in Halifax and three times more likely in Toronto to have the same. An indigenous person in Vancouver is seven times more likely to have a cannabis record. This matters. We would call this law, adverse effects discrimination. We would call this constructive discrimination.

That is why it is so galling that the government wants to bring in a half-baked measure in Bill C-93, rather than doing what is done in California. In San Francisco, there is an automatic intelligence system that simply sweeps the records to make them disappear for those who have a possession of cannabis offence on their record.

Let us contrast this with what the government wants to do today. To its credit, it wants to bring in a bill that says people no longer have to pay $631 for having a criminal record suspended, which is what Mr. Harper introduced, and they no longer have to wait for five years. I congratulate the government for that minor step in the right direction.

In the U.S., a person's record is automatically expunged in the states I have mentioned. These records are deemed not to exist. This matters because it allows people who are asked by a landlord whether they have a criminal record for anything to tell that landlord they do not. When asked by an employer if they have a criminal record, people who have only a cannabis possession charge from several years ago in their background can say they do not, because under expungement, it is deemed not to exist.

The government tells us not to worry and that we do not understand, because there is a human rights statute federally and in all the provinces that says people cannot face discrimination on the grounds that they have a criminal record for which a pardon has been granted. Tell that to an inner city landlord in downtown Halifax or to an inner city employer or small business operator in downtown Vancouver.

It is ludicrous. Why would the government not do the right thing, getting this all done at the same time and done properly, rather than bringing in this half-baked measure? It is too little, too late, which I am sad to say is my theme.

I am not the only one with this opinion. I am pleased to say that the Liberal member of Parliament for Beaches—East York acknowledges the limitations of the bill. He said:

Only full amnesty recognizes the disproportionate impact of cannabis prohibition on people of colour and the fact that cannabis should never have been criminalized in the first place.

Our government’s solution is better than nothing, but it’s not enough to be better than nothing when we have an opportunity to make historic injustices right.

I am quoting a Liberal member, not someone who has an axe to grind, if you will, on this issue. This is a Liberal who realizes we can do so much better.

One of the arguments the Liberals have used to explain why we cannot have expungement is that many people would be affected and it would cost so much money and take so much time. However, that is not true anymore, because we have new data suggesting that only some 10,000 people would be positively affected by the bill. That is not a very large number. Why can we not expunge their records rather than simply giving them this record suspension, after which records move from one filing cabinet to another and can come back and bite people later in a subsequent event if the state deems that they have committed another crime?

What about a crimes such as failure to appear? These are called administration of justice offences. They are not like the actual offence of cannabis possession. They occur when people do not pay a fine or do not show up in court. In these situations the criminal justice system is continually on a person's back, even though the root of it all was a cannabis possession charge.

I have been advised that indigenous women are sometimes affected down the road in this way when they have custody issues with their children. This occurs not because of the cannabis offence but because of the other matters on their record that have resulted from that. It is ludicrous.

The government says our most important relationship is with indigenous people. Here it could make a tiny but critically important change in the lives of so many. Why would it let this opportunity pass to expunge the records of people so they could say they have no criminal record, allowing them to get their foot on the social ladder in order to get employment, housing and the like? I do not understand the government's reluctance in this context.

Professor Kent Roach is one of Canada's leading criminal law specialists. Recently, in the Criminal Law Quarterly, he wrote, “The government's approach to cannabis convictions in the wake of legalization is even more problematic than the expungement act,” which is another bill I will come to.

He continued, “It has announced plans to allow the National Parole Board to grant pardons under the Criminal Records Act. This again requires case-by-case applications. This places challenges on the most disadvantaged people who have been convicted of cannabis possession.”

He goes on, “By not relying on expungement, the government's approach leaves applicants vulnerable to records of convictions and arrest being retained by the RCMP and other federal departments and to questions from prospective employers and landlords about whether they ever had a criminal conviction. It falls behind states such as California and Delaware in terms of reform.”

He then goes on and says about my bill that it “...takes a better approach by proposing to expunge cannabis convictions including the destruction of records of convictions.”

I am not here to score political points. I am not even running again in the next election. I am fully convinced that automatic expungement is the way to go. It is what people deserve. I implore the government to amend this bill and do the right thing by so many people who are affected, whose lives are on hold until we get this right.

Record suspension simply removes criminal records from the main database, CPIC, the Canadian Police Information Centre, and puts the data somewhere else, where it can be used prejudicially later and potentially shared with other departments, thereby having a negative effect.

Expungement means those records disappear for all purposes and for all time. A record suspension or pardon indicates the government is forgiving or excusing individuals for criminal behaviour, and that is all; expungement acknowledges it was wrong to criminalize it in the first place.

At this time, let me give the House the other government excuse for not doing the right thing.

It brought in, to its credit, Bill C-66, which was called the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act. That bill dealt with same-sex sexual activity, which is no longer criminalized but was in the past. The government said it was going to deem those offences to no longer be on a person's record—gone.

I have two things to say about that.

Number one is that since October, from the last statistics, do members know how many people have even bothered to apply, of the 9,000 eligible? It was seven. That hardly gives confidence that this application process is going to make a difference.

Number two is that the government says, “Oh, member for Victoria, do you know what we will do? We will say that this is to be reserved for things that are constitutionally over the line, such as same-sex sexual activity.”

There is no principled reason for that smokescreen. I have talked to criminal law specialists and constitutional specialists across the country who say that this argument is not valid. Second, even if it were valid, which it is not, what about the constructive discrimination I just talked about, the adverse effects discrimination, whereby the policy and application affect blacks and indigenous people dramatically more than others? What about that?

Not doing the right thing for cannabis expungement as for same-sex sexual activity, which the government is prepared to expunge, makes no sense at all. It is another Liberal smokescreen.

I am not here to score political points; I am just trying to persuade the Liberals to do the right thing. Why would they not do it? That is what is so complicated for me to understand.

The NDP has been calling for this measure for years. I will not go through the whole background of it, but there are deficiencies in addition in the bill that is before us today. The Parole Board does not have the resources to do the job, so there are going to be even further backlogs for other applications from people seeking pardons. There is a whole industry, sadly, out there to help people get rid of their criminal records. If members go on the Internet, they will see everybody who wants to help if they give them a few hundred bucks.

The forms are complicated. Members might not think they are, but for a poor person with little education who is living in the inner city, this measure would impose another burden, and I do not understand why, when our friends south of the border figured it out much more readily.

There are also eligibility gaps in Bill C-93. Only those people convicted of simple possession are eligible, meaning anyone with prior record suspensions of crimes related to the simple possession charges will not be able to use this process. I gave the example of failure to appear or not paying the fine or the like. If there is another offence on the record, then they are facing an inability to apply.

Someone pointed out that if a person has a summary conviction offence and then four years down has another cannabis offence, there may be a total wait of nine years to apply under this bill. I do not believe that was intended, but it is a function of the drafting of the bill, according to experts I have consulted. That is problematic.

The Liberals have had six months since they brought in legalization to do this. This bill is maybe four and a half or five pages in English, so how on earth did it take that long? The elephant laboured and brought forth a mouse.

Bill C-75, which was 302 pages, was before the justice committee, and it rammed that one through. This bill is five pages in English and maybe nine pages in total with English and French. It took the Liberals that long to produce this tiny bill, this weak bill. Presumably they can just check it off on the list that another promise was kept, except if the bill dies on the Order Paper, as most people are anticipating.

This is a real problem. This is an opportunity for the government. My hope is that if the private member's bill that I have before Parliament for debate on Thursday goes to the public safety committee at the same time as this bill, perhaps there will be a way in which some of the provisions that I have suggested for expungement could be brought into the bill that is before us and we could get it right for the victims as they are.

It is not just me saying this. The Prime Minister has been quoted as follows: “...there is a disproportionate representation of young people, from minorities and racialized communities, who are saddled with criminal convictions for simple possession as a significant further challenge to success in the job market....” He seems to get it.

The statistics that the government has produced under access to information confirm what I am saying. I am not making up those shocking statistics about overrepresentation of blacks and, particularly, indigenous people. The Prime Minister gets the consequences, so why would the Liberals not do it right? I do not understand.

Professor Doob, the famous criminology professor at the University of Toronto, stated:

There is no justification for forcing those who were convicted to live with a criminal record for behaviour that will soon not be criminal. A procedure for dealing with the problem has been devised by the current government. They should ensure that relevant drug records are expunged for the thousands of Canadians who have them.

Senator Pate, who has been very powerful on this issue in the other place, has made similar arguments, and I hope that those points are taken into account by the Liberals opposite.

I have been working with a very talented lawyer in Toronto, Annamaria Enenajor, who is the director of Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty. She is a prominent lawyer in Toronto and clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She is volunteering for this important cause and she states:

...the government...leaves the impression that restrictions exist on the government's ability to issue expungements for the offense of simple cannabis possession that are beyond its control. This is false. There is nothing in Canadian law that prohibits our government from issuing expungements for offenses that, in their application, unjustly targeted racialized and indigenous communities. It simply chooses not to. This is a policy decision.

That is the nub of the argument. Let us do it right.

There may be some good arguments in theory. I talked about the theoretical ability to apply the human rights legislation when people have been given pardons and so on, but it does not work in the real world. We have an absolute dearth of money for legal aid, and legal aid rarely covers human rights complaints if one has been discriminated against because of one's record. Theoretically, I guess, the Liberals could hang their hat on that, but they sure have not visited many inner cities if they think that is a viable argument in practice. Many small businesses and landlords draft their own applications and may not be aware of human rights legislation.

We have a historic opportunity in the dying days of this Parliament to do it right. Let us expunge criminal records for small quantity cannabis possession and help those thousands of Canadians who need a head start and a chance to get their foot on the rung in the social ladder. Let us do the right thing for those people as soon as we can.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 18th, 2019 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Arif Virani

Madam Speaker, I am painfully aware of the fact that we are debating a subamendment, but I thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for his desire to clarify the record. If he needs to rise on another point of order, I am sure he will feel free to do so.

The point is that the member for Timmins—James Bay stood in the House just moments ago and asked a question of the member who just rose. That question was whether what he sought to do would jeopardize the independence of the director of public prosecutions. Therefore, let us unpack that.

The notion of the director of public prosecutions, if memory serves, was created around 2004 or 2006 specifically to address the need to ensure there was a depoliticization and an arm's-length nature of important matters and decisions that were taken with respect to prosecutions in the country. That is an important feature. It is hallmarked in the rule of law and the constitutional precepts that the member opposite has raised on numerous occasions in this very House.

By bringing that individual before the committee, the member for Timmins—James Bay raises an important point of whether that might be, unwittingly or de facto, politicizing the very exercise and decision-making power of that very individual. I put that to the House for the purposes of returning to this debate.

What is important to outline is that when we talk about the independence of the director of public prosecutions, a critically important role, it is a role that has been created for many reasons and a role that we need to jealously protect and safeguard.

I find it a bit ironic as well, as a prefatory comment to the comments I will be making, that the official opposition is seeking to direct the committees with respect to their work. We know from the record that when the official opposition was in power, which has been alluded to on numerous occasions by the government House leader, it reduced the resources provided to committees and took parliamentary secretaries like myself and inserted them completely within the committee structure and in so doing, ensured they served almost as de facto whips on committees.

What we did, conversely, was campaign on a different role for parliamentary secretaries and a different role for committees. We fulfilled that campaign commitment by providing better resources to committees and by ensuring that parliamentary secretaries like myself and 34 of my colleagues would not have a vote, for example, at committee. Those are important features that enhance the very committee process that the members opposite say we are somehow impugning.

Perhaps most egregious, and Canadians need to be reminded of this, is that on a day when the official opposition seeks to somehow take the side of the committee process, that is the same party that, when in power, circulated a memo to all committee chairs about how to deliberately obstruct committee processes to better manage the committees to do the Conservative Party's bidding. Those are facts and those facts are important so people understand how perhaps ironic and incredulous I find the position currently being taken by the members opposite.

Let us now look at the work the committees have been doing thus far. Official opposition members who sit on the justice committee, on pretty much every occasion I have seen when a justice bill is being debated in the House, have said it has worked in an amazingly harmonious and consensual manner. They have gone to great lengths to point out on many occasions the work of the member for Mount Royal, as chair, who has always sought to produce consensus-based, multi-party reports and have a consensus-based model and approach toward the committee deliberations, which is very important to note. It happened again earlier today, for Canadians watching or consulting Hansard.

Earlier today, we were debating Bill C-84 and the member for St. Albert—Edmonton talked about the member for Mount Royal, his studious chairmanship of that committee and his efforts to build consensus on numerous occasions. At the same time, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton reflected on the fact that he proposed an amendment to Bill C-84. What we did, like any logical government that is taking a non-partisan approach to committees should do and one that is empowering committees to do their work should do, we accepted that amendment, as we have done on other occasions on other bills, such as Bill C-75, the Criminal Code review amendment.

Again, those are prefatory comments about how committee structures operate and committees work. It is very important for people to understand that the justice committee stands out as an example of the great work committees can do on a multi-party basis. It stands out as an example where committees are fulfilling that kind of role.

In this context, what have we heard from the justice committee? We had people questioning their desire to engage in a discussion about the issues. We had people perhaps being surprised that the justice committee was very willing to hear from people.

The justice committee heard from the former attorney general, the current Attorney General of Canada and the deputy attorney general. It heard from the former principal secretary to the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council. I will pause there to particularly acknowledge his 37 or 38 years of non-partisan service to the people of Canada and the Government of Canada and recognize that body of work.

It also heard from important experts and legal academics. That is something that I will confess tickles my fancy, as a lawyer who came here after 15 years of practice in human rights and constitutional law. It heard from people talking about the constitutional precepts that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is regularly invoking here. The member for, I believe Victoria, from the New Democratic Party, who is the vice-chair of the justice committee, has also referred to it on numerous occasions. They have invoked concepts about what we call the Shawcross doctrine, which has been invoked so many times that people are starting to develop a familiarity about it. They have been talking about the importance of the role of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and the fused notion that we have here in Canada, both federally and at every provincial level.

They have also talked, by comparison, about how things operate in Britain. For example, in Britain, there is a divorced role. Each entity is fulfilled by different individuals, which helps to address or alleviate some of the concerns that have been expressed here. That is an important issue. It came up today once again in question period.

These issues are being discussed and entered into the public debate, which is a very good thing. It is a hallmark of the committees and Parliament doing their work, which is an important precept. The Canadians who are watching right now should understand that these issues have all been advanced because the committee has been allowed to do its work.

What has the committee learned or what has come out of the committee process? Let us go there for a moment.

A motion was raised today by the member opposite, when we were meant to be debating Bill C-92, child welfare legislation, which would take indigenous kids out of the child welfare system and keep them in and among indigenous families and communities. Instead, they wanted to raise the issue of committee structure and to compel the reappearance of Ms. Roussel at the committee. However, in understanding our position on that, the members opposite need to understand what has already been heard at committee. What I am hearing and learning from reviewing the materials and watching the proceedings is this.

We heard testimony that the former attorney general stated that the Prime Minister told her this was her decision to take. We heard her state on the record that it is appropriate to discuss job impacts. We heard her say that nothing occurred that was unlawful. In response to a question by the leader of the Green Party, she said that nothing that occurred was criminal. We heard her say that she was never directed. We heard her state that the state of our institutions, the rule of law and the independence of the legal process, are intact.

I want to go to a couple of quotes that arose during the context of the proceedings to illustrate this point. The former attorney general herself stated this at the very committee that the members opposite are impugning. She said, “I do not want members of this committee or Canadians to think that the integrity of our institutions has somehow evaporated. The integrity of our justice system, the integrity of the director of public prosecutions and prosecutors, is intact.”

This position on this issue of the rule of law, which is an important point, has been raised by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills on numerous occasions in the context of this debate. It was also raised in the context of Mr. Wernick's testimony, when he said, “I think Canadians should feel assured that they work in a democracy under the rule of law.”

In the same exchange with the member for Willowdale, Mr. Wernick went on to state, “I think Canadians need to be assured that their police and investigators, with the powers of the state, operate independently, and that the prosecution service, the state charging people with offences, is completely independent. There is a legislative and statutory shield around that, which demonstrably is working...”

That echoes exactly what we heard from the member for Timmins—James Bay. It also echoes what we heard from communications that have been put out by the director of public prosecutions. That office has gone to pains and at length to reassure Canadians that it has not been influenced in this case, nor has it been influenced in any other case with respect to how it conducts prosecutions. That is a critically important point to raise in the context of contemplations by the members opposite about recalling Madame Roussel before the committee.

In the end, what we heard at that committee was that the former attorney general made the decision not to proceed. The law was followed every step of the way. What we have also heard, and what we know, is that the rule of law has remained intact. Those are critical points to be underscored at this juncture.

I want to return to what was raised by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton this afternoon when he first raised the motion about the issue of appropriate versus inappropriate discussion points with respect to the remediation agreement regime. I want to read this into the record so that it is crystal clear for Canadians. The remediation agreement regime exists in the Criminal Code. It is entrenched in the Criminal Code of Canada, based on amendments that were made last year.

The remediation agreement regime was studied at length in Canada-wide consultations. Following that study, it was proposed in legislation. That legislation was then studied by the finance committee and the justice committee of the House of Commons as well as a Senate committee. That remediation regime was then enacted into law and fully gazetted in an open and transparent manner to the public.

As has been stated on different occasions in the context of debates that we have been having over the past five or six weeks, the remediation agreement regime exists in five member countries of the G7. Those include the United States, Britain, France, Japan and now Canada. What we are doing by invoking a remediation agreement regime is harmonizing Canadian law with the laws of many other western democratic nations, particularly many other western democratic nations with whom we have trading relationships, which is an important point.

What is misunderstood here is this notion of what the remediation agreement concept invokes, or more specifically what it involves. There have been active discussions about whether the Prime Minister invoking the necessity and propriety of discussing jobs and job impacts was in fact appropriate. The position of Her Majesty's official opposition, articulated even earlier this afternoon, is that somehow that was inappropriate.

I want to read this into the record so that is is absolutely crystal clear. This is how one would conduct this matter if we were debating it in a much more rigorous way in a court of law. One would look to the statute for guidance.

Section 715.31 of the Criminal Code of Canada says:

The purpose of this Part is to establish a remediation agreement regime that is applicable to organizations alleged to have committed an offence and that has the following objectives:

It then lists six objectives:

(a) to denounce an organization’s wrongdoing and the harm that the wrongdoing has caused to victims or to the community;

(b) to hold the organization accountable for its wrongdoing through effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties;

That is an important point, because much has been made by members opposite about there being no accountability if a remediation agreement even enters the discussion points.

Paragraph 715.31(c) of the Criminal Code states:

to contribute to respect for the law by imposing an obligation on the organization to put in place corrective measures and promote a compliance culture;

That objective is clearly redressing the circumstances or the harm or the organizational capacity that allowed such a problem to occur. The fourth objective is as follows:

(d) to encourage voluntary disclosure of the wrongdoing;

That is to ensure that corporate actors or other actors come forward on a voluntary basis. The fifth point for the remediation agreement regime is this:

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community;

Again, that is addressing the victims. We have repeatedly heard invocations about the harms that has occurred in the context of SNC-Lavalin or other corporate actors in the context of remediation agreement regimes. What the statute itself talks about is ensuring that there are reparations for harm done to victims. That is important.

However, the last point is the most important point. It addresses precisely what has been raised by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton in his comments, which is why government members or the Prime Minister are even talking about jobs. Well, here is why, and, again, I am reading the Criminal Code of Canada, subsection 715.31(f), which says that the purpose of a remediation agreement regime is as follows:

to reduce the negative consequences of the wrongdoing for persons—employees, customers, pensioners and others—who did not engage in the wrongdoing, while holding responsible those individuals who did engage in that wrongdoing.

I will simplify that for the viewers. A remediation agreement is meant to ensure that the people who make decisions at a corporation are held accountable because they committed the wrongdoing, but those who are on the front lines, such as people who work on the assembly lines, answer the phone, stock the water cooler, are not held responsible, nor are people who no longer work at the company because they are pensioners. That is the point of a remediation agreement, which is why it has taken hold in now five member countries of the G7. It is why it has been adopted into law in Canada. It is important. The fundamental priority of any government is to keep its citizens safe and to promote their economic stability and security. That is a critical component.

These are important aspects, and I raise them today because it shows that concepts such as these need to be understood better. We can already understand them better by looking at the committee track record thus far. It has been a robust one. It has heard from a number of witnesses. That committee work is continuing as it should, in a manner that has been forthright and transparent.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.

I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.

I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.

In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.

The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.

I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.

One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.

Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.

Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.

In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.

We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.

One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.

I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.

While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.

In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.

Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.

When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.

Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.

The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.

If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.

The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.

There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.

The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.

A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.

The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.

We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.

When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.

I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.

The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.

What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.

The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.

While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.

The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.

What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.

Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:

With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a re-branding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.

Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.

Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.

Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.

The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.

Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.

Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.

I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.

Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Durham brought up a very valuable point. It will frame how my 10 minutes will move forward on the topic of Bill C-83.

I am glad to see that our hon. colleague across the way, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is not at Rideau Hall right now, being shuffled away. It is nice he is here with us, as the Prime Minister tries to shuffle himself out of a crisis of confidence.

That is where we are. A great emergency debate took place last night, with valuable comments from all sides.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, and I reiterate that the government has used time allocation to once again force closure to limit debate. Why is that? As we have seen time and again, if the government does not like what it is hearing or does not like the message, it is going to force closure on debate. The Liberals do not want to hear anymore.

It was on day 10 of the 2015 election that the member for Papineau told Canadians that he was going to do things differently, let debate reign and not resort to parliamentary tricks such as closure and time allocation. He said that under his government, Canadians would see the most open and transparent government in the history of our country and sunny ways.

What have we seen over the last three years? We have not necessarily seen a lot of sunshine, but have heard a lot of questions. Canadians have a lot of questions, and rightfully so. Today, we are in the middle of a crisis of confidence.

We should always arm our front-line officers, those who we trust to protect us and who serve our country and our community. We should be giving them to tools so they can fulfill their missions, come home safe and sound and remain healthy.

Bill C-83 is another attempt at being soft on crime, making things easier for those who commit the worst crimes in our society. The Liberals want Canadians to believe that these criminals are okay and that somehow solitary confinement or segregation is cruel and unusual punishment. One day these criminals get out of prison and will walk among us.

Let us consider Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, Clifford Olson, Eric McArthur, Travis Winsor and Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff. These are the types of offenders who are in solitary confinement and they are there not only for the protection of officers and other inmates, but for their own protection as well.

The minister talked about consultation, saying that the Liberals had consulted with the union of correctional officers and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The testimony we heard is considerably different from what they have said.

They purport there is support for the bill. There is support for elements in the bill, such as body scanners. However, the union of correctional officers has some serious concerns with it. In fact, the president remarked that there would be a bloodbath behind bars with the implementation of Bill C-83. He said that prisons did not have the resources now for the two hours inmates in solitary confinement were allowed to be out each day, let alone for four hours per day.

It has been said that solitary confinement is used as an administrative tool for both the safety of the officers as well as other inmates. However, 23% of offenders who are in solitary confinement are serving life sentences; 23% of offenders are serving a sentence between two years and three years less a day; and 681 offenders are serving a sentence with a “dangerous offender” designation. Dangerous offenders very likely never get out of these institutions, because they have committed some of the worst crimes.

The Liberals want people to believe the opposition is sowing the seeds of fear, but the government is soft on crime. We have seen it with Bill C-75. Convictions for serious crimes could now be punishable with just a fine. Bill C-83's intent is to bring the prison population down from 12,000.

Prominent witnesses have had serious issues with Bill C-83. They have said it is flawed. As our hon. colleague for Durham remarked, how can Canadians have confidence in any legislation moving forward?

I will go back to the testimony we heard earlier this week from the former attorney general. It was three hours and 40 minutes of powerful testimony. The Liberals are going to spin it each and every way they can. They are going to say nothing untoward happened. The former attorney general has serious concerns. She spoke truth to power in what happened. She was shuffled. She was demoted, fired. Over the course of the following weeks, the Liberals have done everything to tarnish her character, cast doubt in her testimony. This is what they do, and it is shocking.

I challenge Canadians to take a moment to listen to that testimony, three hours and 40 minutes of it. It will give them a glimpse into our country's highest office and the extent to which it is willing to go to subvert justice. It will shock them. It will strike fear into Canadians. Make no bones about it, the world is listening.

Today is not just about Bill C-83. Today is about the crisis of confidence we have in the Prime Minister, his office and indeed his entire front bench. Those in the gallery and those who are watching should pay attention and listen. If they do one thing today, I urge them to find that testimony and listen to it. Hear in her own words how the pressure was sustained. Despite saying no multiple times, there was sustained pressure for her to subvert justice. After all, the Prime Minister was going to get his way one way or the other. That is shameful.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for this informative debate. It is too bad our friends across the way, and I say “friends” loosely, have once again limited this debate. As I said earlier today in this debate, it has to be 60 times that the government has forced closure on debate on legislation.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This legislation has been proposed to eliminate the administrative segregation in correctional facilities and to replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, which I will refer to as SIUs during my speech.

The bill also introduces body scanners for inmates, sets parameters for access to health care, and formalizes exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues, among a few other things. It also expands on transfers and allows for the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.

I have risen to speak to this legislation a number of times and expressed the Conservatives' concerns. Our number one concern is consultation. No matter how many times our friends across the way say they have consulted thoroughly from coast to coast to coast on this, we know through witness testimony that witness after witness expressed serious concerns with this piece of legislation. Some of the comments were that it is flawed to the core.

We always have concerns when we talk about the safety and security of those we entrust and empower to protect Canadians. Imagine that a correctional service guard reports to work and does not have all the tools required to do the job. We need to make sure first responders, and indeed correctional officers are first responders, are provided the tools and resources they need to do their job effectively and securely, but also to return home and remain healthy at all times.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has repeatedly voiced its concerns with this. As a matter of fact, the head of the national prison guards union predicts a bloodbath behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. In a newspaper interview, the union president went on to explain that segregated inmates are supervised at a 2:1 guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their units. He said, “No thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure no one gets hurt.” When he says “no one gets hurt”, he means the correctional officers who are tasked with making sure that Canadians remain safe and secure and that inmates remain safe and secure among the inmate population. He wants to make sure they have the tools to do their jobs.

The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers last year wrote a letter to the minister and said that over the last year, over 140 violent attacks on correctional officers had taken place. Let us imagine being a security guard or correctional officer in charge of over 40 inmates. We heard the flowery language from our friends across the way when they said everybody deserves a chance. Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson are the kinds of people housed in solitary confinement.

With this piece of legislation, Bill C-83, not only does the union have some serious concerns that it is not being listened to, but we also know that this program has not been fully costed out. As a matter of fact, Correctional Service Canada managers have been asked to review spending and find some efficiencies. Regardless of whether the Liberals say there is $448 million going to this program over six years, the managers have been asked to find some efficiencies.

Every day, these officers go to work and their lives are put in jeopardy. They are there to protect Canadians. They are there to make sure that the worst of the worst stay behind bars. Whether it is Bill C-75 or Bill C-83, what we see with the government is that it is getting softer and softer on crime. Bill C-83 also looks at reclassification of certain crimes, to bring the prison population down from 12,000 to even less.

On that point, I want to bring up a case I brought up earlier today to the minister, and that is the case of Cody Legebokoff. He is Canada's youngest serial killer. In Cariboo—Prince George, he is responsible for killing four young women. He killed Loren Leslie, age 15, Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. To this day, the Montgomerys are still trying to find out through the court system if Cody Legebokoff knows where the remains of their daughter are.

He has refused to take any responsibility for this crime. He was sentenced at the end of 2014, yet we found out over the last month that he was transferred from maximum to medium security in early 2019, with very little notice. As a matter of fact, two of the four families did not receive any notification.

In sentencing him, Justice Parrett said, “The injuries caused in each case were massive and disfiguring, the object of each attack appearing to be aimed at not simply killing the victims but degrading and destroying them.” Justice Parrett further said, “He lacks any shred of empathy or remorse,” and, “He should never be allowed to walk among us again.”

Now we know that Legebokoff has been transferred to a prison here in Ontario from British Columbia, and even Correctional Service Canada's website, where it talks about transfers or the safety and security reclassification of inmates, says that assigning security classifications is “not an exact science”.

We should be arming our front-line workers with every tool so that they can make the best decisions, and so they can remain safe and secure at all times. That means physically as well as mentally. How is it that we are now giving more rights to our criminals than to victims and their families, or to those we trust and empower to protect us?

It is quite concerning when time after time we see our friends across the way stand up, put their hands on their hearts and say, “Trust us.” They say they have the best intentions to do well and are looking after Canadians, yet we see this type of misstep.

Bill C-83 is yet another failed piece of legislation. The victims' families and the victims of crime deserve better, and so do our first responders and our correctional officers. All they are asking for is to be heard, yet the Liberal members continue to turn a blind eye and cover their ears when those concerns are being voiced.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

I understand that Bill C-83 is designed to make a number of significant changes to our correctional system. It seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities, replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs, and introduce body scanners for inmates, among other changes.

There have been a lot of problems with the correctional system and Bill C-75 could make it worse. The policies under Bill C-75 include serious offenders receiving sentences of a maximum two years less a day. People who have committed serious crimes to persons and property will be in provincial jails, downloaded. We now will have a system where there will be less chance to deal with serious offenders in provincial institutions. It has become a revolving door, where some know they will be in and out very quickly and will not be provided the help they may need in a prison system.

I know the legislation has prompted some strong responses from stakeholders. I am happy to convey some of those serious concerns.

The CSC ombudsman, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation. Unions and employees have not been consulted. Nor have indigenous groups.

The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, whose members will be directly impacted by the legislation, even said, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody.” It does not sound right that it was a surprise to those who would be affected the most. It is something like the Parks Canada budget that had a $60 million pathway in it and Parks Canada knew nothing about it.

The correctional investigator of Canada told the public safety committee:

All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.

For a government that supposedly loves to consult, it sure seems to have left a lot of people dissatisfied with this process.

Of particular note are concerns we have heard from correctional officers. These are the people who wear the uniforms. These are the people who protect us and inmates. The introduction of SIUs may pose a risk to both prison guards and inmates. The legislation goes further than what was raised in either Superior Court decisions. It completely bans administrative segregation and introduces the structured intervention unit model.

We need to take a lot of care in how we deal with youth offenders or those with mental illnesses or mental disease for which segregation may not be an option. We need to be very careful in how we use segregated models with those people.

This has the potential to make prisons much more dangerous for guards and inmates. Guards will lose an important disciplinary tool. In fact, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told the public safety committee, “by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations.” That is a very troubling statement. In other words, was the consultation there to find another solution? I do not think so.

Guards will be placed in greater danger as they attempt to control extremely dangerous offenders without the ability to fully separate them from other inmates. Who is going to want to be a guard if things continue this way? It is already an intensely stressful, challenging occupation. We cannot keep placing these people under greater strain. Dangerous inmates will be forced together in units with each other. Is that the right way to go?

I understand that this change is well intentioned. Canada has a fundamentally sound and humane correctional system, especially compared to many other jurisdictions around the world. We do not want a draconian system, but we do need to balance the mental health of prisoners with the safety and protection of guards, workers and fellow inmates.

The bill would fail to do some of those things. It ignores the reality on the ground in many prisons. As the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles noted, some inmates request to be in administrative segregation for their own safety. They do not want to rub shoulders with other dangerous offenders.

Legislation intended to improve our correctional system should not compromise safety and security. The government needs to go back and fix the bill. It should not force the bill through over the objections of virtually all interested stakeholders and put lives at risk in doing so, especially the lives of those who wear the uniform.

I am also surprised to find that the legislation does nothing to ensure that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities.

It was just last year that Canadians from coast to coast expressed outrage over Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer to a healing lodge. Only after massive public pressure did the government finally move to address the injustice and send her back behind bars. The Prime Minister personally attacked his critics and accused Canadians of politicizing this issue. Thankfully, Canadians were able to pressure him enough to act so that decision was changed.

However, a prime minister should never have to be shamed into doing the right thing. There was an opportunity in this legislation to take real action to prevent similar situations in the future, but no action was taken on this topic.

One clear positive aspect that would result from the legislation is the introduction of body scanners. If this system is applied properly, it should be helpful in intercepting drugs before they make their way into prisons. It is important that the scans apply to all individuals entering the prison. Drugs simply should not be flowing into correctional facilities and creating even more dangerous conditions there.

However, I am unclear why the Liberals' haphazard plan to supply inmates with syringes would still being implemented if we have scanners. Our objective should be to prevent drug abuse in prisons, not facilitate it. Furthermore, legitimate concerns have been raised over the weaponization of the syringes. It should be obvious that the worst offenders will try to use syringes as weapons. This presents yet another threat to guards who are already operating in a dangerous environment. The body scanners should receive the highest priority, and the needle exchange program should be scrapped.

In summary, this flawed legislation is not right. It does not prioritize the safety of correctional service officers. It compromises the safety of inmates. Almost all of the witnesses the public safety committee heard were critical of the bill. The consultation process was obviously not complete.

Instead of scrapping the legislation in light of witness testimony, the Liberals are pressing forward with it. I join my colleagues in opposing the bill.

Opposition Motion—Transparency and AccountabilityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 19th, 2019 / 3:20 p.m.
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Marco Mendicino Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I am rising to speak to the opposition motion that has been brought forward by the member for Timmins—James Bay.

Before I make some comments on the substance of the opposition motion the House is currently seized with, I would like to take a few moments to thank two individuals. First and foremost is the member for Vancouver Granville. When she was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I served as her parliamentary secretary and I would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude for her work and her contributions to that portfolio. Certainly, it speaks for itself in terms of how we advanced the overall causes toward justice, and her leadership on the indigenous file reaches beyond her time in government here.

I would also like to take a moment to express gratitude for the work of Gerald Butts. I have come to know his family. I am keenly aware of the sacrifices that both he and his family had to make in order to put country before personal time. Obviously, it goes without saying that his loss will be felt by our team. However, we will remain focused on the work he has been committed to in the public interest for many years.

Turning to the opposition motion, as I read it, it calls for two things. First, it calls on the government to waive solicitor-client privilege for the former attorney general with respect to allegations of interference as it relates to an ongoing SNC-Lavalin prosecution. Second, it urges the government to call for a public inquiry in order to provide Canadians with transparency and accountability by the Liberals as promised in the 2015 election.

Going back to those campaign promises, we have indeed made significant strides when it comes to making government more open. I highlight a number of examples, including the introduction of Bill C-58, as well as Bill C-76, which would in fact undo some of the harm caused by the last Conservative government so that we can ensure that every voter has the right and can fully appreciate the right to vote. Bill C-50 would shed more light on political fundraising activities.

As it relates to the justice system, I am very proud of the work our government has done when it comes to ensuring that our judicial appointments process is open, transparent and merit-based. We have also introduced legislation that would improve access to justice. Here, I am referring to Bill C-75, which I know is continuing to be studied by the other place. We look forward to receiving its report back so that we can ensure our justice system is serving all Canadians.

These are all concrete measures that have raised the bar when it comes to open government and having a government that is transparent and accountable to all Canadians. We have supported each and every one of these measures with full and fair debate in the House and in the other place. What did the opposition members do when they had a chance to support those measures? They voted against those measures. That is indeed regrettable, because their voting record, in standing in opposition to those measures, actually speaks much larger volumes about how they feel about open government, as opposed to some of what I have heard from the other side of the aisle today.

The allegations that have been levied against the government are indeed serious. No one on this side of the House takes them lightly. However, as in the case of any allegation, we have to begin by looking at the sources. Who are the sources? Are they reliable? Have they been independently verified? Have they been substantiated?

Here is the truth of the matter. At present, the sources of these allegations are unknown. They are anonymous. They are not corroborated. They are not verified. They are not substantiated. This should be of great concern to not only the members of this chamber who are currently debating the motion. This should be of grave concern to all Canadians. Why is that? It is because in the place of facts, evidence and circumstances that would underlie and underpin these allegations, we have the opposition embarking upon a campaign of conjecture, speculation and a rush to judgment. While indeed I will concede that this does make for good political theatre, it does not advance the pursuit of truth.

The Prime Minister has been clear that at no point did either he or his staff direct the former attorney general or the current Attorney General on the matter of SNC-Lavalin. He has been abundantly clear that at no point did either he or his staff wrongly influence the former or present Attorney General when it comes to the SNC-Lavalin matter.

I understand from the opposition that in answer to those statements made by the Prime Minister they would hear from the former attorney general, the member for Vancouver Granville. It is not for me to speak for the member for Vancouver Granville. It is not for the opposition to speak on her behalf, as I have heard some of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle purport to do over the last number of days.

I understand from media reports that the member for Vancouver Granville has sought legal advice. I imagine she is certainly taking that legal advice into consideration. Coincidentally I would note that the legal advice itself is privileged and I will come back to the importance of that principle in a moment. I want to underscore that it is a decision of her making as to if and when she will make a further comment about this matter in public.

In regard to the merits of the motion, the Prime Minister has indicated today, as has his Attorney General, that he has sought and is in the course of seeking legal advice on the matter of solicitor-client privilege as it applies to the motion. Let me say a few words about the importance of solicitor-client privilege.

This is not only a legal principle recognized in the common law. It is not only a legal principle that has been enshrined in various statutes. It is a principle that has been elevated to constitutional status by the Supreme Court of Canada. It is permanent. It survives the relationship between the parties and it is, as the Supreme Court of Canada has held, fundamental to the proper functioning of our government and to our democracy. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that without solicitor-client privilege, the administration of justice, and by extension our democracy, would be compromised. We cannot take for granted what is at stake when we put into play the questions of when solicitor-client privilege applies.

The Prime Minister and the government, as some of my colleagues will have served in the last administration will recall, some of whom indeed were in cabinet themselves, no doubt understand first-hand the importance of this principle as it relates to the day-to-day functioning of our government. It is required in order to ensure that there is an atmosphere, an environment in which the government can seek legal advice on how best to undertake policy and legislative initiatives so that they are consistent with the charter.

Without that environment, without that space, in order to have a free, fair and flowing exchange of ideas, different perspectives and different voices, there would be an undermining of the proper functioning of government. We place this privilege at the very pinnacle of our justice system and it does not just apply to government. It applies to all Canadians. If at any point in time Canadians have either retained a lawyer and have come into play with the justice system, they will understand the importance of having a confidential relationship with their lawyer so that their lawyer can best serve their interests. Canadians would understand that they would not want their lawyers to flippantly waive that privilege. We need to be sure that we put this issue into its proper context in the debate of the opposition motion that is on the floor today.

It is true that in law there are some limited exceptions to this privilege and I understand that members of the opposition are calling with great fervour for the waiver of privilege in this case as it relates to their allegations and the former attorney general of Canada. To my mind, in order to waive this privilege, we need something more compelling, more confirmed and more corroborated than the anonymous sources that have appeared in a number of media reports.

I look to my colleagues in the opposition, and in particular to those who have been called to the bar who have a deep understanding of and I would hope a profound respect for this principle, to substantiate their claim beyond the hyperbole, the exaggeration and the stretched statements that I have listened very carefully to throughout the course of this debate. I am still waiting.

The second part of the opposition motion urges the government to initiate a judicial inquiry, something that my Conservative colleagues have had some experience with themselves. In some cases, there were obvious social causes for which the public requested, of the last Conservative government, the compelling need for an inquiry and the Conservative government refused. One such case was the call for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. The last Conservative government consistently, in the face of an ongoing systemic tragedy in our justice system, refused to undertake one. I will let members opposite defend that decision, and I will stand here and explain my reasons the call for a judicial inquiry is, at best, premature.

Currently, there are a number of processes unfolding in Parliament and within the law by statutory parliamentary officers to provide a degree of accountability and transparency in response to the allegations that have been put forward by the opposition.

The first comes from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which is meeting at this very moment, if I am not mistaken, to determine which witnesses it will hear from. Once more, the opposition has rushed to judgment. It has made this a partisan matter without waiting to see the full list of witnesses who will be called by that committee.

Respectfully, I would suggest that my colleagues and friends on the other side of the aisle let that process unfold and place faith in the independence of that committee, in which members on this side of the House place great faith, and in its members' capacity to bring their own ideas, their own thinking and their own principles. I suggest they see where that committee takes this, rather than claiming that on the one hand the committee should do its business, and on the other hand, it is essentially fraught with partisanship. It is either one or the other. Either members of the House will come to that committee with an open mind, an appreciation of independence and an understanding of the importance of this work, or they will not.

Certainly for my colleagues who work on that committee, I have faith in their independence and integrity. I speak on behalf of all members on this side of the House when I say that we all look forward to their ongoing work at committee.

We have also heard from the opposition that we need to have a judicial inquiry because the Ethics Commissioner does not have the sufficient ability or capacity, the statutory mandate, to look into the allegations that are the subject of the opposition motion. In particular, my colleagues in the NDP have expressed their concerns and frustrations regarding the Ethics Commissioner's lack of capacity to do his job.

The first observation to make is that it was the NDP members themselves who decided, of their own volition, which parliamentary official to bring this allegation to.

We are not saying, one way or the other, whether this was the right choice. That was a matter for the NDP to determine. However, listening to the NDP members today in question period, it was somewhat ironic to hear them say on the one hand that they filed a complaint with the Ethics Commissioner and then on the other hand, virtually at the same time, that the Ethics Commissioner did not have the ability to look into the very allegations that they were bringing forward. It is inconsistent and incompatible with basic logic that they would have submitted those allegations to the Ethics Commissioner in the first place if they believed that the Ethics Commissioner was unable to look into them.

We have said that we believe in the work of the Ethics Commissioner. This is a parliamentary officer. This is an officer who is independent from government. This is an officer who is not part of the partisan exercise and debate that is the sine qua non of this place. This is a parliamentary officer who has the statutory mandate to examine the circumstances and the allegations put forward by the opposition.

As we have said repeatedly, we place faith in the office and the people who serve in that office, and we will co-operate at every step of the way, as we have in the past.

There are many other fora and venues for the opposition to make their case. It is not for the government to set those steps or to provide that road map for them. The opposition will determine what it wants to do. However, in the meantime, in addition to all of the remarks that I have made about the subject of this motion, I hope Canadians view this matter as not just simply turning a blind eye. There will be transparency. There will be accountability. I am confident in what the Prime Minister says in saying that there has been no direction and no wrongful influence as it relates to the former attorney general or the present Attorney General, because I know that this is a government that has great respect when it comes to the independence of our judiciary, when it comes to the independence of the legal profession and when it comes to the independence of the administration of justice. I believe firmly that our work speaks to those values.

At the end of the day, what matters more than the theatre and the drama—which can make for good reading on a weekend or at night if there is nothing else to do—is the work, the work of the government, the work to ensure that every Canadian has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential. It is the work to serve the most vulnerable, which was a campaign promise, a belief on which the government was elected, and work that we do each and every day, together, united in solidarity. It is bigger than any one of us. It is bigger than all of us. It is the very reason we are here: to serve the public, to serve the public interest.

For all those reasons, I am going to encourage my opposition colleagues to reconsider this motion and to put our focus and our energies back on the people who sent us here—Canadians.