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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for the fine work he does on the justice committee and for serving as the deputy shadow minister of justice.

The intent of Bill C-75, as indicated, is to streamline our justice system. I am wondering if the member could comment on the government's inability or unwillingness to fill judicial vacancies and how that impacts the streamlining and efficiency of our justice system.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there is Michael Spratt, who said:

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

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

Further testimony on prelims was from Sarah Leamon who said:

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

—in the context of a sexual assault complainant—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 7:25 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House: (a) any recorded division requested in relation to the third reading 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, or the third reading stage of Bill C-86, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, be deferred until Monday, December 3, 2018, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment; and (b) at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions on Thursday, November 29, 2018, the House revert back to the rubric “Motions” for the purpose of considering a motion to concur in the 66th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House: (a) any recorded division requested in relation to the third reading 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, or the third reading stage of Bill C-86, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, be deferred until Monday, December 3, 2018, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment; and (b) at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions on Thursday, November 29, 2018, the House revert back to the rubric “Motions” for the purpose of considering a motion to concur in the 66th Report of the Standing Order Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2Government Orders

November 26th, 2018 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I do not think anyone in Canada would look at a 900-page budget bill with legislative changes inside of sections. Recently, Bill C-75 lightened the penalties for many serious crimes. It had 23 sections where legislative changes were hidden inside of sections making other legislative changes. I have to say that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. It is the same with these omnibus bills that the Liberal government campaigned against, and yet it sits here day after day and introduces them in the House.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will resume third reading debate of Bill C-81, the accessibility legislation.

Our intention for tomorrow is to call Bill C-75, justice modernization, at third reading. We sincerely hope that Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers reach an agreement. However, if they do not, we will call government Motion. No. 25, concerning the resumption of postal services, for debate tomorrow.

On Monday, we will consider report stage and third reading of Bill C-86, Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2. This will also be the business for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this Senate public bill, Bill S-240, which proposes amendments that seek to tackle an issue that is of concern internationally and to Canadians, and that is the illicit trafficking of human organs.

Before I discuss the substance of this relatively small but important piece of proposed legislation, I would like to spend a few minutes discussing the issue on which it focuses. As I mentioned, this issue has affected many other countries around the world, yet as my hon. colleague for Winnipeg North has said, it is important to note that, to our knowledge, no known cases have yet occurred in Canada, nor would we want them to.

Organ trafficking is a lucrative and dangerous form of transnational organized crime. According to a 2015 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, this activity purports to net in excess of $1 billion U.S. annually in illegal profits. What this illicit revenue is used for can be far-reaching, but one can well imagine that some of it is funnelled into other criminal ventures, which can undermine public safety, fuel corruption and negatively impact the rule of law.

It is also important for members to understand what it is we are talking about when we say “organ trafficking”. According to the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, the only international treaty on this issue, trafficking in human organs includes the removal of organs from a person who has not provided free, informed and specific consent or who has received a financial benefit in exchange for the removal of organs.

We know that organ trafficking puts lives at risk. Medical procedures that might be performed in substandard and unregulated environments can impact those whose organs are being removed or those who are seeking organs themselves. Quite simply, this is an appalling and dangerous business, and it requires a strong legislative and operational response. It is against this backdrop that I would like to turn my attention to the substance of Bill S-240.

As I said earlier, this legislation is short and proposes amendments to both the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. However, despite the protests of my colleague across the way, there are still some questions we must address.

I will start with the Criminal Code proposals, the most significant of which relate to the creation of new criminal offences punishable by considerable periods of imprisonment. Bill S-240 would enact four new offences targeting organ trafficking and related conduct.

The first offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(a), would prohibit obtaining an organ in order for it to be transplanted into one's body and in a situation where the person who has received the organ knew or was reckless as to whether or not the person who provided the organ gave informed consent. This particular proposed offence appears to be focused on the beneficiary of the organ and not on anyone else who may be involved in organ trafficking generally.

The second offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(b), would more squarely address the facilitators. This offence would target those who carry out, participate in or facilitate the removal of an organ in cases where they know or are reckless as to whether or not a person provided informed consent to have the organ removed.

The third offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(c), would address those who enable illegal organ removals by prohibiting acting on behalf of or at the direction of or in association with a person who has removed an organ and where the accused knows that the organ was removed from someone who has not provided informed consent or was reckless as to that fact.

Finally, Bill S-240 proposes an offence at proposed subsection 240.1(3) to target those who are involved in obtaining an organ for consideration. In essence, this offence would make it illegal to obtain an organ for money, even in cases where the organ was provided by someone who provided free and informed consent.

As I mentioned, these proposed offences would be subject to a significant maximum penalty, imprisonment for 14 years. As with other indictable offences, a sentencing court would also have discretion to impose a fine of any amount.

I am interested in our discussion of these proposed new offences, and I say this because I have a number of questions on these proposed new offences. While I will not be able to raise all of them here this evening, I wonder, for example, whether it is the role of Parliament to use criminal law to target someone who has purchased an organ, perhaps in another country where it may be legal to do so, in a situation where the individual who provided the organ did so freely, in a safe manner and under circumstances that were closely regulated. This type of action would be captured by the bill, because the bill also proposes to allow the prosecution in Canada of Canadians who go abroad to purchase organs.

These are extremely difficult and complicated situations. I can well understand why some who are faced with the prospect of serious health consequences or even death and who cannot otherwise obtain a necessary organ might look to other options for saving themselves or someone they love.

On the other hand, I also recognize the motivation behind the proposal and the need to ensure that individuals, often from developing countries, who may be vulnerable to abuse given their own economic situation, are protected from potentially exploitative practices.

Bill S-240 proposes a definition of informed consent that would be a key feature of the new offences. I would note that, as introduced, the bill did not propose to define this term but that a definition was added by the Senate out of concern for the need to be clear in the law, particularly given that we are talking about criminal offences.

From my own perspective, I welcome the changes by the Senate in this regard, in that they try to make the law clear and clearly understood. At the same time, the Senate committee did not appear to consider the impact of this change in any significant detail. I wonder, for example, whether this definition of informed consent is consistent with the approach that is taken in the medical assistance in dying regime or whether defining it in the Criminal Code in the manner that has been done is consistent with how that term is understood in the health law context.

I look forward to hearing more and considering these points further. I would also like to comment briefly on the changes proposed to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which would result in someone who has engaged in conduct captured by three of the four proposed offences being inadmissible to Canada. In thinking about this proposed change, I wonder whether it is, strictly speaking, essential given that the current laws on inadmissibility already address criminality and organized criminality. I am curious as to why the offence prohibiting the receipt of an organ for money would not provide a basis for excluding someone from Canada when the other newly proposed offences would.

There can be no doubt that Bill S-240 is targeting an important issue and this issue is deserving of our attention. However, as we are talking about criminal law, which is one of the most blunt and powerful instruments available to a government, I think it is critically important that we do our due diligence and fully examine the proposals contained in this bill and the full range of consequences that flow from its changes.

I worked on Bill C-75, which has several hundred clauses, and being in the cut and thrust of such legislation is hard work. We need to do the homework and take the time to make to make sure that the laws to be passed in the country are fair and balanced for all concerned.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.

For his part, the Prime Minister has doled out taxpayer dollars for so-called de-radicalization programs for returning ISIS terrorists. In the meantime, he has told veterans they are asking for more than the government can give. Would it not be more appropriate to say that to returning ISIS terrorists instead of to the brave men and women who have defended our nation?

However, perhaps we should not be surprised. Indeed, after the Boston Marathon bombing, the now Prime Minister said of the terrorists responsible, “there is no question that this happened because of someone who feels completely excluded, someone who feels completely at war with innocence, at war with society.”

I believe it is this kind of foolish gentleness toward terrorists that caused the Liberals to propose weakening the penalties in Bill C-75. They spent months arguing for and defending the inclusion of that clause before finally backing down and supporting the Conservatives in removing it. It took months of pressure and hard work to make this one obvious change, but even with that change the bill remains deeply flawed.

Bill C-75 would still weaken the penalties to as little as a fine for many other serious crimes. Among those are serious sexual crimes, such as using the date rape drug, forced marriage, marriage under the age of 16, polygamy and acting as a pimp. I wonder how the Prime Minister can claim to be a feminist while simultaneously weakening the punishment for such terrible crimes.

In addition to the sexual crimes I mentioned, the Liberals are also weakening the punishment for corruption and fraud. A lighter penalty would be possible for those convicted of bribing municipal officials, insider trading, forging currency, using libel for extortion, fraud through the use of arson, or even illegally influencing political appointments.

Perhaps most shocking is the list of violent and gang-related crimes that would be eligible for a summary conviction: infanticide, hiding the body of a child, obstructing or assaulting an officiating clergyman, abduction of children under the ages of 16 and 14, conspiracy and participating in criminal gang activities.

While I know my time is nearly up, I would be remiss if I did not take the time to point out that this is the Liberals' second attempt to remove or amend section 176 of the Criminal Code after abandoning their changes to Bill C-51. Assault of officiants during a religious service is very serious and should remain an indictable offence, yet here the Liberals are breaking yet another promise despite the fact they committed to keeping full protections in place for religious officials.

There are many more serious crimes that we see a weakened response to. In fact, I find myself wondering if this is not the intent of the bill. The previous Conservative government passed the Victims Bill of Rights and this is the Liberals' response. Again and again, we see examples of the Liberals' obsession with making criminals lives easier.

As one final example, the Liberals recently introduced a plan to provide needles to prisoners who use drugs, despite a zero-tolerance policy on drugs in prisons. It would take a Liberal to square that circle. This ridiculous plan puts correctional officers in the line of danger, for no other reason than to assuage Liberal guilt. Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said the following about this ridiculous idea: “It’s pretty obvious the policy changes the government is making are making it more dangerous for us, more dangerous for inmates and obviously more dangerous for the general public.”

Why does the government insist on placing the rights of criminals above the rights of victims, police, guards and of citizens overall? As I have said before, Canadians deserve better than a government that treats victims like criminals and criminals like family.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Arif Virani

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I have been listening intently to the member opposite and to all of her colleagues. We are about four minutes into her remarks and we have yet to hear anything that substantively relates to Bill C-75. We have heard about settlements of litigation, about foreign affairs policy and defence policy. I would ask the member to direct her comments to the bill at hand, please.