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

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking my former colleague, Rona Ambrose. She was also the former leader of the Conservative Party and the official opposition in this place. She is the originator of the bill we are debating today. Rona Ambrose has done, and continues to do, a tremendous amount of work on behalf of women and girls, not only here in Canada but around the world. When this bill was introduced in 2017 in its original form, I had the opportunity to sit down with her, hear her heart and understand the purpose of this piece of legislation. At that time, I also had the opportunity to sit on the status of women committee, where we discussed this legislation and its importance at length.

This bill is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system and that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the judicial system here in Canada and, therefore, feel free and comfortable to come forward with their cases. It mandates that, to be appointed as a judge of a Superior Court, an individual must undergo training with regard to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars.

This would ensure that Superior Court judges are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to address sexual assault trials, and that survivors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve in such a vulnerable scenario. For the purposes of transparency and openness, judges would also be required to provide written reasoning for their decisions when it comes to sexual assault proceedings. These parameters seem very common sense to me.

One would like to argue that this type of training is unnecessary but, sadly, one scenario after another points to the fact that it would be helpful. For example, in 2014, Alberta Federal Court justice Robin Camp asked a sexual assault complainant, “Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?” That was inappropriate. Most Canadians recognize that this kind of degrading and humiliating language is entirely unacceptable and should never be used in any context, let alone in a Federal Court. This is a classic case of a judge misusing his place of authority and power to further make the victim into yet another victim because of his words, actions and degradation toward her.

I have the highest regard for judges, and recognize the burden they face in having to administer justice and apply the law to determine guilt or innocence. This can be extremely challenging. Although Canada has the best justice system in the world, it certainly is not without its flaws. We put a tremendous amount of trust in our judges to function with integrity and professionalism. We expect the best of them. It is in everyone's best interests, then, that they be equipped with the tools, skills and training necessary for them to do their jobs extremely well.

We all know that sexual assault is a serious issue. I believe we would all agree that it should be eradicated. Unfortunately, however, it is very much a reality. More than 11 million Canadians have been physically or sexually assaulted from the age of 15 onward. This represents 39% of all Canadian women to have experienced this. On average, one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days right here in our own country.

Furthermore, Statistics Canada reports that only 5% of women who are sexually assaulted actually bring it to the attention of the police, not because they do not want justice but because they are afraid of being further victimized. That is only 5%. This statistic should be alarming to everyone but it gets worse: Of the 5% who report their sexual assault cases, only 21% take them to court. Then, of the 21% that go to court, only 12% of those cases result in a conviction. That is 12% of 21% of 5%. This means that there is a 98% chance that sexual assault offenders will go scot-free. That should not be the case. Every single individual in this country who commits such a heinous crime should be put behind bars.

That type of conduct is not acceptable in Canadian society, so why is it that 98% are going free and 2% are being convicted?

This bill falls in line with my party's long-standing commitment to defend victims of crime. Sexual assault is one of the only crimes in Canada right now that is not declining, and the Liberals have failed to work to prevent this. Contrary to the Liberals, the Conservatives believe that we must stand with victims, that we must choose them over criminals and that this is what in fact strengthens our justice system. For that reason, we passed more than 30 justice and public safety bills during our time in office, including the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. We put that bill in place because victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and honour. It is absolutely vital that victims' rights be put before the rights of criminals, full stop.

In contrast, during their time in government, the Liberal members across the aisle put in place Bill C-75. This bill decreases sentence times for heinous crimes like female genital mutilation, forced marriage, causing bodily harm and other heinous crimes such as infanticide, etc. There is a whole list of them. It is the complete opposite of what one would hope for from one's government.

I would like to finish my speech by imploring the government across the aisle to continue former Prime Minister Harper's legacy of taking a compassionate stance toward victims. Under the Harper government, more than 30 new laws were passed to protect victims, hold offenders accountable and increase efficiency in the justice system.

During our time in government, we invested $162 million through Status of Women Canada to fund projects to end violence against women and girls.

In 2015, we committed to invest another $200 million over five years. That was cut by the government.

In 2012, Conservatives launched the national action plan to combat human trafficking. That plan was in line with the United Nations trafficking protocol and focused on four pillars: prevention, protection of victims, prosecution of offenders, and working in partnership with domestic and international groups, and $6 million per year was invested into the national action plan to combat human trafficking. Again, the Liberal government has no interest in that plan.

In 2009, we amended the Criminal Code to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 through this bill.

In 2009, again, we strengthened the national sex offender registry by making it accessible to the public so that people would know if there were high-risk offenders in their area.

In 2010, we implemented the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act to protect women from repeat violent and sexual offenders.

Through Status of Women Canada, we funded innovative projects to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women and girls, engaged men and boys in ending violence, and addressed harmful cultural practices such as forced marriage and genital mutilation.

Canada's Conservatives believe that the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government and that all forms of harassment, sexual violence and discrimination are absolutely unacceptable and should be condemned. We know that a strong criminal justice system must always put the rights of victims before the rights of criminals. Canada's Conservatives will always stand on the side of those who are victimized.

It is my hope that this bill will bring some level of comfort to victims of sexual assault when they consider pressing charges and bringing their cases before a court. Sexual assault victims are some of the most vulnerable individuals. They need to be treated as such. Many perpetrators are not brought to justice because victims fear that they will meet with prejudice, closed ears or bias. These victims need as much support as they can possibly attain. I hope that this bill will take us one step closer to being able to provide victims with that confidence and that level of security and assurance that they require.

In closing, I look forward to this bill receiving unanimous support in this place so that we can send a unified message to all Canadians from coast to coast that we will always stand on behalf of victims and insist on a fair and compassionate justice system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-3. The original legislation was first introduced in February 2017 as Bill C-337 by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the former leader of our party as well as the official opposition. I want to thank Ms. Ambrose for the passionate advocacy that she has taken on this important legislation.

I am also pleased to see that the legislation adopted by the Liberal government earlier this year was reintroduced again now as Bill C-3. In 2017, it received unanimous support from the House of Commons and passed quickly to committee. I guess it should come as no surprise then that it would take over two years for it to move through the legislative process despite having all-party support and it would die on the floor of the Senate in June 2019. Despite finishing the legislative process at about the same time as 15-plus other bills that June, it was held back by the Liberal majority government from receiving Royal Assent. Why, people may ask? Some may suggest it is to play the same Liberal games that many Canadians despise and disapprove of, and that is so it can be renamed and called their own.

This is important legislation as it is a step forward toward actually improving our criminal justice system, something that the Liberal government has done little or nothing on for the last five years. This legislation is about ensuring trust is maintained in the justice system and that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the justice system when they do come forward. The bill requires that to be appointed a judge of a Superior Court, an individual must now commit to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars.

This would ensure that Superior Court judges are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to address sexual assault trials and ensure that survivors are treated with dignity and respect. It also provides training to not feed into the myths and stereotypes that often cause women to hesitate to come forward. Personally, I would have preferred that, in addition to the new appointments to the bench, all current judges sitting at every level of court that adjudicates sexual offences in this country be required to participate in continuing education on these matters as well, in the same way that this legislation proposes for new Superior Court appointments.

The bill would also require judges to provide reasons for decisions on sexual assault cases. This is good, as it will give more information to victims and improve transparency for the justice system and the public who watch it.

As a former police officer who has given testimony in a wide variety of criminal cases, including numerous sexual assault cases, I have the utmost respect for the significant challenge and burden placed on our judges. Every day they are tasked with appropriately applying the law to determine guilt or innocence as they adjudicate criminal cases. While Canadians enjoy the best justice system in the world, it is not without its flaws. Judges, after all, are human like all of us and are given the incredible responsibility of applying laws written by other humans, namely parliamentarians in the House. We know that sometimes those laws can also be flawed.

We put a great deal of authority and trust in our judges and so ensuring that people who take up this challenging post are properly equipped, we must ensure that they have the necessary training and knowledge to fulfill those responsibilities to the best of their ability and to the expectations of the Canadian public. This training would eliminate misconceptions, myths and stereotypes that often prevent victims of sexual assault, almost always women, from coming forward and pressing charges against their attackers. This is not a minor issue. The number of sexual assaults that occur in Canada and are never reported is staggering.

Statistics Canada reported that only 5% of women who are sexually assaulted come to the attention of police. I suspect that one of the many reasons is because of the women's lack of confidence in our justice system. Far too few of these crimes are reported, and of the 5% that are reported, only 21% have led to a court case. There are many factors in this, including what evidence might be available, how it might be prosecuted, witnesses who are available, any corroborating evidence, attitude of the justice participants, how judges approach the issue, and maybe many others.

Of the 21% that actually get to court, of the 5% who actually reported being assaulted, only 12% of those cases result in conviction. That is 12% of 21% of 5%. In other words, there is a better than 98% chance of not being convicted of sexually assaulting another person in this country. That is unacceptable. Finally, of all those convicted of sexual assault only 7% result in a prison term. These are terrible crimes and they have lasting, lifelong impacts. Getting a conviction on a sexual assault, let alone having someone sentenced, is far too rare. Most victims of crimes of violent sexual assault will usually prefer not to relive the experience over and over again in our courts, living through the trauma multiple times.

Like I said previously, I have investigated many sexual assault crimes. The heartbreaking experiences of victims are further exacerbated by our justice system. The victims feel they are not being believed. The intrusive nature of the evidence-collection process; retelling their experiences, over and over again; sometimes limited victim supports; and lack of convictions reduce the victims' willingness to come forward. If the assailants are convicted, many victims do not feel that the sentence that is given out fits what happened to them.

This bill is the kind of thing that governments should be doing: working to improve our justice system, working to support victims with better services and working so that criminals who assault others are held accountable and put in jail. Support for victims has been sorely lacking in the last few years. There has been lots of support for criminals, including reduced sentences for some serious and violent crimes, but limited support for victims.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police noted in its brief to Parliament on Bill C-75 that for some criminals, if given reduced sentences, it would mean eliminating certain information being entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre system, including DNA. When the conviction is considered a secondary offence, it eliminates critical information that then limits the ability for police to track and catch that criminal if they commit other crimes. As the CACP put it, this would “have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.” I would add, “and on public safety”.

Canadians should not live in fear. Young women should not live in fear. Victims and their families should not be living in fear. They should have trust and confidence in our justice system. Victims and their rights should always be put ahead of the rights of criminals. Canada's Conservatives recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.

It is time that we end comments and attitudes like that of our Prime Minister, where he said that she “experienced it differently”. Those kinds of excuses allow sexual assaults and sexual harassment to be normalized. Calling it out is a duty of all of us. Acting to stop that kind of behaviour is a responsibility of this House.

My hope is that this bill will be the first step in improving the treatment of victims, increasing the conviction of sexual offenders, improving public safety, and developing the trust and confidence of Canadians in our justice system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 11:30 a.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, in terms of the references the member made to Bill C-75, I submit that it is a good day for those of us who were behind Bill C-75. The Supreme Court just upheld the provisions in that legislation that deal with eliminating peremptory challenges when selecting jurors. This ensures we will not have a tragedy of justice like what we saw with the trial of Gerald Stanley.

I appreciate the member's comments, and in his five years in the House I have always thought of him as a thoughtful member. I note that he has done a lot of work on the issue of human trafficking, which he mentioned today. Addressing human trafficking and, more broadly speaking, the issue of sexual violence requires a judiciary that is sensitized to these issues, that is fully up to speed on the current state of the law, that is transparent in providing reasons, etc.

Given that background and his commitment to this pressing issue, which is very closely connected to what the bill is about, he said that he supports the bill. Would that support translate into getting the bill efficaciously and expeditiously to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where any amendments that might be needed could be moved and debated?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege and honour to rise in my place to add my voice to this very important debate. It has been five years since I was elected, and in those five years I have worked a lot on issues regarding the court system, its handling of sexual assault and human trafficking cases and how to get justice for victims.

This bill is a substantial departure for the Liberals, so I thank them for bringing it forward. Typically, when the Liberals try to fix the justice system, they reduce sentencing. That has been their road map. We saw that with Bill C-75 in the last Parliament. Their solution to fixing backlogs in the court system was to reduce sentencing, and they have been unwilling to take on the justice system and say they get things wrong. On this side of the House, we have been ready to say a certain decision was wrong or was not good enough, or we brought in mandatory minimum sentences to try to fix many of the outrageous deficiencies in the justice system.

This bill is a departure for the Liberals, so I welcome it. They are acknowledging that there is an issue in the court system, a lack of appreciation for victims in the court system. This bill goes some of the way to help that along and fix some of the problems.

I would like to step back a bit. Statistics have been brought up several times. I have been in the House of Commons all morning listening to the speeches, and the stats on sexual assault continue to be brought up. We should be working to have a society in which sexual assault does not happen. If sexual assault did not happen, we would not be talking about conviction rates and that kind of thing. We could have a law on the books for sexual assault and it would not happen, and, therefore, whether judges were educated on this issue would be a moot point because they would not be dealing with those cases.

That said, the rate of sexual assault across the country is going up dramatically, and in other areas of my work in this place I put forward some ideas on why that is. Motion No. 47 was passed in the last Parliament. It addressed misogynistic and sexually explicit material online and how that was impacting Canadian society. There was some good work done at the committee, but the government has failed to capitalize on the committee report, the voices of people who have been victimized and the voices of academics working in this area. They show us that we are in the greatest social experiment in human history, given online sexually explicit content and the education our youth get through that regarding their sexuality. I hope the government is going to be pursuing that. An initiative I have been working on is meaningful age verification, and I hope the government is looking at that too.

There is another part of the debate here today: While the Liberals have brought forward a bill, it is basically a rehash of a private members' bill from my side of the House, though I salute them for that. It is now a government bill, and they had the opportunity to bring forward a bill that contained a whole suite of things they could do to fix the issue of sexual assault in our country. Judge education is an important one, but it is a bit downstream from the issues.

The Bible says that the law will not save us, and that is the case here as well. The best laws in the country will not save us. The law always comes into effect after the fact. It allows us to bring perpetrators to justice, but before that, it does not save us. That is important to recognize.

We should be cultivating in humanity and in the citizens of our country a culture where sexual assault is unthinkable, where individuals hold each other accountable, where there is a large sense of community and where messing with one of us means messing with all of us. In doing so, there would be strong relationships within our society that could prevent this kind of thing from happening. I hope that we can get back to that, as it is more upstream from where this bill is at. That said, I will be supporting this bill, for sure.

Over the past five years, I have been working hard to end human trafficking and specifically the sex trafficking that happens across the world. This is a large and growing issue in our country. The average sex-trafficking case is happening within 10 blocks of where we live, so let us keep our eyes peeled. If we see something, there is a national hotline we can call. It primarily targets women and girls. In Canada, it is estimated that 50% of people caught up in human trafficking and sex trafficking are indigenous. This is to our shame, and we need to be working very hard on this as well.

One interesting thing has happened, particularly with Bill C-75 from the last Parliament, regarding conviction rates and convictions in human trafficking cases. One thing we brought in during the Parliament prior to my getting here, through a bill by the Bloc and the NDP that passed in 2013, was consecutive sentencing for human traffickers. The Liberals sat on this for three years and finally passed it into Bill C-75, but they removed the part about consecutive sentencing and made it concurrent sentencing.

There have been some egregious court decisions that have come out since, and I will give some examples.

Imani Nakpangi was a human trafficker who sold two girls in the Toronto area. He trafficked these girls for almost two years. He ended up being the first person in Canada convicted under our new human trafficking laws. In one case, he received a three-year sentence for trafficking a girl for over two years, but spent only 13 months in prison. This gentleman had made $350,000 selling the body of a young girl and he spent less time in prison being rehabilitated than he spent trafficking this girl.

There was the case of Michael Mark. He received a two-year sentence. He victimized a 17-year-old girl for over two years and spent only a week in prison after his conviction.

These are some egregious examples where the justice system has, in my opinion, made mistakes. These are things we need to work to correct. While I commend the government for this bill today, it seems to be at odds with other things the government has done, particularly Bill C-75. We see the insignificant sentences that came from it.

We also see, over and over again, this place attempt to bring the judiciary to bear on these things by creating minimums, because we cannot let these guys out of jail after spending one week in prison for trafficking a girl for two years. We create a minimum for that, like a three-year or 10-year minimum sentence, but we see the courts strike those down, so there are, to some degree, some issues in the judiciary. This place has the ability, opportunity and mandate to direct that to some degree, so that is what we are doing.

I already talked about consecutive versus concurrent sentencing. It has been troublesome to get things going there. The bill from 2013 also had other tools for the police to use to help convict human traffickers, but the Liberals never brought that into force. They left it on the table for three years before they passed it in Bill C-75, while taking out the consecutive sentencing.

There are serious crimes that are being perpetrated in this country, and we need to ensure that judges get things right.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Pickering—Uxbridge.

I am pleased to contribute to today's second reading debate of Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, which aims at ensuring all newly appointed provincial superior court judges participate in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context.

It would further require the Canadian Judicial Council to report the participation of all sitting superior court judges in sexual assault law education. Finally, the bill would also require judges to provide reasons, in writing or on the record, for decisions in sexual assault matters.

I would like to focus my remarks today on the challenges the criminal justice system is facing in responding to sexual assault in Canada. Further, I would like to discuss how Bill C-3 aims to address these issues by building on recent measures our government has undertaken.

Sexual assault is a gendered crime. Women are almost four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than men. Statistics Canada has reported that 30% of women in Canada, compared with 8% of men, have been sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15. That is 4.7 million women and 1.2 million men who have been victims of sexual assault.

It is estimated that only 5% of sexual assaults are reported to police. In 2017, only 32% of sexual assault charges proceeded to trial and only 41% of those resulted in a conviction. In other words, less than 2% of sexual assaults in Canada resulted in a conviction in 2017. I would like to note that the number is likely much lower.

In 2018, it was estimated that only 35% of reported sexual assault cases resulted in charges being laid. If we apply this number to the 2017 data, the result is that only 0.23% of sexual assaults in Canada result in a conviction. The data paints a bleak picture and illustrates the challenges our criminal justice system is facing in responding to sexual assaults.

In recent years, this government has made important changes to sexual assault law. These reforms were aimed at enhancing the equality, privacy and security rights of complainants by countering the myths and stereotypes that have persisted in our criminal justice system, while also balancing the rights of the accused in a manner consistent with relevant Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence. These myths include deeply rooted beliefs of how so-called real victims react to sexual assault and myths concerning the reliability of women's testimony when they make sexual assault complaints.

In June 2017, our government launched its action plan to combat gender-based violence. The plan is called “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence”. It is a coordinated, multisectoral strategy based on the three pillars of prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems. The government has invested substantial sums to support the implementation of this government-wide initiative, which aims to combat gender-based violence, coordinate existing programs and lay the foundation for a broader package of measures.

Additionally, through former Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, which received royal assent in 2018, we amended the Criminal Code to clarify and strengthen Canada's sexual assault laws.

For instance, these reforms clarified that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting to sexual activity; an accused cannot rely on the defence of mistaken belief in consent if there is no evidence that the complainant voluntarily and affirmatively expressed consent; sexual history evidence must never be adduced to infer one the twin myths, namely, that the complainant is more likely to have consented or is less worthy of belief based on the sexual nature of that evidence; and the admissibility of the complainant's private records that are in the possession of the accused, such as counselling records or private journals, is determined through a special procedure similar to what applies to the admissibility of sexual history evidence and the production of third party records.

In addition, our government has funded the creation of pilot programs in various provinces to provide independent legal advice, and in some cases, legal representation to survivors of sexual assault. The provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario, as well as Yukon Territory, have reported that these programs have been beneficial to survivors of sexual assault. Our government has also provided funding to the National Judicial Institute to develop judicial education on gender-based violence, including sexual assault.

Finally, through former 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, which received royal assent in June 2019, we restricted the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences punishable by 14 years or more imprisonment. This means that preliminary inquiries are no longer available for many sexual assault offences so that many complainants will not have to testify twice, once at the preliminary inquiry and again at trial. We know that testifying in court is often a harrowing experience because it requires victims to relive the trauma they have experienced.

As such, the criminal justice system has become more compassionate to survivors of sexual assault. Although we have made significant progress in recent years, we must continue our efforts to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with respect and dignity in their interactions with the criminal justice system. It is imperative that judges have the necessary training regarding the complex nature of sexual assault law and the myths that too often surround it. Bill C-3 aims to ensure that decisions in sexual assault matters are not influenced by myths and stereotypes about sexual assault victims and how they have behaved, which the Supreme Court of Canada has found distorts the truth-seeking function of the court.

Through this bill, we hope to enhance the confidence of the public and survivors in the handling of sexual assault matters by our criminal justice system. This is why the bill would require all candidates seeking appointment to a provincial superior court to agree to participate in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context, and to require judges to provide reasons in writing or on the record for decisions in sexual assault matters.

The proposal in Bill C-3 to require candidates to commit to continuing education after appointment would ensure that newly appointed provincial superior court judges fully understand the complex nature of sexual assault law. It would also require that the training created by the Canadian Judicial Council be developed in consultation with survivors of sexual assault, their support groups, and other individuals or groups the council considers appropriate.

The bill also provides for the introduction of a requirement that the Canadian Judicial Council report on the participation of all current superior court judges in sexual assault law education. This measure would increase accountability for sexual assault law education and act as an incentive to encourage the participation of current superior court judges in sexual assault law education.

Bill C-3's specific proposal to require judges to provide reasons in a determination of sexual assault matters would be included in part VIII of the Criminal Code with other sexual assault provisions to ensure that provisions relating to sexual offences are clear and accessible to those applying them. Essentially, this will create almost a mini sexual assault code within the Criminal Code and will help to prevent the misapplication of sexual assault law. Further, it would help improve the transparency of sexual assault decisions because recorded and written decisions can be reviewed.

Improving the handling of sexual assault cases in our criminal justice system goes beyond partisan politics. This bill, originally a private member's bill introduced by the hon. Rona Ambrose, the former interim leader of the Conservative Party, will help to increase the confidence of sexual assault survivors and the public in our criminal justice system. We must work together to transform the criminal justice system into a fair, more effective, accessible and efficient system for all Canadians. I urge members of the House to support the passage of this bill.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 5th, 2020 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been quite a while since I have been physically present in the House. This is my first day back, partly because of the COVID pandemic, and partly because the Prime Minister decided to shut down Parliament and prorogue to get away from the WE scandal that was damaging his reputation, due to the Liberal corruption and involvement there.

As I am here today, I want to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. My heart goes out to those Canadians who have suffered in many ways, including from the loss of a loved one, from separation and from isolation. We all need to work together to do the right thing and move forward.

As is my habit when it comes to the throne speech, I am going to talk about what I liked in the throne speech, what I did not like in the throne speech and what I thought was missing in the throne speech.

In terms of what I liked, there were a lot of noble ideas, including things that the citizens of Sarnia—Lambton could agree with and get behind, but without any evidence that action was going to be taken.

This is the third throne speech I have had the pleasure of hearing. This one was really reminiscent of 2015, with a lot of the same buzz phrases, such as “the middle class and those hoping to join them”, and “a whole-of-government approach”. Nobody really knows what that means anyway. Resiliency and agility were mentioned as other buzz words, but again, it was mostly a regurgitation of promises previously made.

I think addressing the opioid crisis is a priority, but that was a promise made by the government years ago and we are having more deaths from the opioid crisis than from the COVID crisis. Some of the other things in the speech, like pharmacare, the Liberals have been talking about since 1992. We continue not to see anything.

The speech mentioned pay equity for women. I was on the pay equity committee when I was first elected in 2015, and there has been no action taken in five years. Where is that action?

Concerning the truth and reconciliation recommendations, the government has said that the relationship with indigenous people is its number one priority, but since 2015 we have seen no action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.

Achieving the Paris targets by 2030 is certainly a noble theme, because those targets came from the previous Conservative government. The reality is that the Liberal government is not going to achieve the 2030 targets, and it is now talking about exceeding those targets.

These things may be noble, but where is the action?

One of my constituents pointed out that the promise to plant two billion trees in 10 years is way behind, and if the Liberals want to get going, they are going to have to plant 547,945 trees each day for the next ten years. That is another promise I do not believe is going to happen.

Affordable housing is something we desperately need in my riding, and I have been waiting for it. The Liberal government has been talking about a national housing strategy and affordable housing since I got elected. I do not know if the money is just going to the Liberal ridings and not to the Conservative ridings, but I am still waiting. It is a crisis and something we need to get behind.

I was very happy to see something about seniors in the throne speech because, in 2015, they eliminated the minister of seniors, which seemed wrong. Half of the people in Sarnia—Lambton are over 60, so seniors are important to my riding.

The Liberals said they were going to take action on long-term care. Certainly, this pandemic has shown us that we need to do something there, but there needs to be recognition that if we come up with national standards for long-term care, more resources are going to be needed. More helpers will be needed: there are not enough workers. That will increase the cost of long-term care.

How will the many seniors living on a fixed income be able to pay for that, especially single seniors, who are among the poorest in the country? Although there are a lot of noble themes, a lot was just a regurgitation of old promises.

What I did not like in the throne speech was the way the response to COVID-19 has rolled out. It has been a gong show from the beginning. The health minister said there was very little risk to Canadians. She said border controls do not work, and then flip-flopped on the mask issue. I have been sending rapid tests for approval to the Minister of Health since April of this year. To see that the Liberals are still nowhere in terms of implementing rapid tests is a big deal.

It is especially a big deal in my riding, because it is a border riding. Lots of folks are inter-married. There are people who have not been able to travel to see their dying parents, attend weddings or funerals, and a lot of people own property on both sides. Rapid tests would be a great way to make sure people could be tested for COVID, found negative, come across to do what they need to do to be part of their families without risking Canadians, and return. It is incredibly important to get this out and not just say the words but get it implemented, and implemented using a protocol at the border that I suggested to the health minister.

There were some other things that I did not like. Sarnia—Lambton has 30% of the petrochemical oil and gas production in the country, and there was no addressing western alienation or the oil and gas industry. I see nothing but further erosion with respect to this very important industry.

I have three refineries in my riding: Suncor Energy, Shell Canada and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil. We heard today about the job cuts at Suncor. The day that it looked like the clean fuel standards were being put in place, Shell went up for sale. The Imperial Oil refinery officials are saying it is existential to them: If they do not get an exemption from the clean fuel standard, it will cost three or four billion dollars a year, and the company can be more competitive in other parts of the world. Those were things that I did not like in the throne speech.

I also did not like the single-use plastics ban that was announced. This is hypocrisy from a government that gave $35 million to Nova Chemicals, in my riding, to incentivize the stakeholders to build a $2 billion expansion in Sarnia—Lambton instead of in Texas. Of course, the Liberals had to make concessions on the carbon tax because that was not going to be competitive with Texas. We are talking about 1,500 jobs each year for the next five years, and then a bunch of permanent jobs. Now the Liberals say they are going to ban single-use plastics, which puts this project at risk. These are Canadian jobs.

Single-use plastics are not the problem in Canada. I would point out that in the middle of a pandemic, in order to keep every Canadian safe, every bit of food we got from any place was packaged in individual single-use plastics, and everybody who went to the hospital was treated with little implements that were single-use plastics that were wrapped to be sterilized. When Gatineau floods every other year, the sand is put into single-use plastic bags to keep the damage from happening. The issue in Canada is not single-use plastics. We collect a whole bunch of plastics, but we only recycle 9% of them. The issue we should be looking at is microplastic pellets in the Great Lakes. Those issues are fact- and evidence-based. The Liberals talk about being fact- and evidence-based but, honestly, they are way off base on this one and they are going to cost Canadian jobs again for no reason. I did not like that.

The response to crime is always rich coming from a government with Bill C-75, which reduced incidents like forcible confinement of a child down to a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine. It is always fun to hear what the Liberals have to say about crime. Once again, they are going to tackle crime by putting in a handgun ban. I can assure them that the criminals of this country are not going to obey a handgun ban. The lawful gun owners will, but they are not the problem. Ninety-five per cent of gun crime in this country is committed with illegal guns and guns used illegally. Once again, the Liberals are attacking the wrong problem.

What was missing in the throne speech?

An economic recovery plan was mentioned that is going to create a million jobs. I am not exactly sure where those are coming from, because the Liberals are eliminating oil and gas jobs, they are going to kill the plastics industry and they have not done anything for forestry. It goes on and on. That was missing.

Broadband Internet is a noble theme. Where is the money? My riding was promised $12 million in 2015 or 2016, and we are still waiting for that.

What about the duty-free business? I know the tourism industry is under duress. Duty free is 100% export and right now, the government is doing nothing except closing the borders and depriving tourism businesses of their revenue. Every dollar not spent there is a dollar spent in the U.S., so there is an opportunity.

Finally, I would say the understanding that it is a great time to invest misses the point that, if interest rates increase just 1%, that adds $12 billion to the debt. Provinces are crying out for more health transfers. We give about $40 billion total in health transfers, and a 1% interest rate increase could be $12 billion. Four per cent could be the entire health transfer.

We are really restricting our ability to help the country by not understanding basic math and basic economics.

With that, I will summarize by saying that it was a disappointment, but there is more to come.

JusticeOral Questions

March 12th, 2020 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, our government introduced Bill C-75 in the last Parliament in order to prevent people from entering into the justice system, into that revolving circle of a justice system, without having any impact on reducing crime. We introduced good measures to fight crime efficiently, to fight crime fairly, to protect victims, but also to prevent the over-criminalization, particularly of certain peoples, like indigenous peoples or racialized peoples, in our criminal justice system.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2020 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Marylène Levesque, who was killed by an inmate on day parole.

I also want to commend my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for the speech he gave today. What is more, I want to thank him for moving this motion. Before I read out the motion, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Today, we are debating a motion. However, I do not think that Parliament should have to take such action just to get the government to listen to reason. Democracy and procedure require us to study today's opposition motion. It is moving things forward. In fact, the government seems to be receptive. We will see what happens when we vote on this tomorrow.

The motion reads, and I quote:That the House: (a) condemn the decision of the Parole Board of Canada that led to a young woman's death by an inmate during day parole in January of this year; and (b) instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into this matter, including a review of the changes made by the government in 2017 to the board's nomination process, with the view to recommend measures to be taken to ensure another tragedy such as this never happens again.

Let me summarize the facts. Eustachio Gallese, a 51-year-old man, was found guilty of killing his wife in 2006 by beating her with a hammer and stabbing her repeatedly. He was granted day parole despite his history of violence against women. My goal today is to talk some sense into parliamentarians. This is 2020, and it is unacceptable for a Canadian woman to be victimized because of an administrative error or poor judgment on the part of the Parole Board members who made it possible for this man to commit the unthinkable.

When the Parole Board extended the offender's day parole last September, it mentioned a risk management strategy. I do not understand how anyone could have thought they were managing risk with a strategy that enabled this man to do what he did. Mr. Gallese was allowed to meet with women, but only to satisfy his sexual needs.

Our current laws governing sex work were introduced by the Conservative government in 2014 and prohibit the purchase of sexual services. How could the Parole Board of Canada allow one of its clients to do just that? I said “client”, but what I really meant was “murderer”. How could they give this man permission to commit a crime? It is illegal to purchase sexual services, yet a federal institution approved the practice. Those people knew perfectly well where that man was going. That raises some important questions.

The Liberal government's correctional system has been called a revolving door, and it has cost innocent people their lives. Canada's Conservatives strongly condemn the Parole Board of Canada's decision to release a convicted murderer with a history of domestic violence on day parole so he could meet women to satisfy his sexual needs.

Ask any Canadian. Everyone agrees. That is unacceptable. How could anyone mess up so badly? Today's motion, the product of some conscientious work on the part of my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and the official opposition, urges the government to take action.

This was a senseless decision. It was plain wrong, and last month it led to the death of a young woman, something that could have been prevented. We must have the means to prevent this from happening again. There must be justice for Marylène Levesque, and we must ensure that such unspeakable crimes never happen again.

We must protect honest Canadian citizens and put them first, ahead of those in prison, the criminals and the repeat offenders. That is essential. We must protect our society from people who unfortunately are deviant or criminal or who suffer from mental health issues. There are many reasons to justify this action. We must put mechanisms in place to protect our society.

How could they release a murderer who killed his wife on day parole? His history with women was well known. How could they let him become a client of an erotic massage parlour so he could satisfy his sexual urges? He killed his wife, was aggressive with several other women, and yet the Parole Board agreed to let him satisfy his sexual urges in a hotel with the board member's consent. I do not understand what happened. I do not know why the murderer did this. Above all, I do not understand why the board member let this man cause irreparable harm.

We have to wonder where we are headed with this government. What does the future hold for our society? We have to protect our citizens. We have to protect the victims. We should not bring in measures to support and pamper our criminals even more. They have to suffer the consequences of their actions. Our society has to protect Canadians, both women and men.

As my colleague from Shefford said, Dave Blackburn, a leading expert, was indeed a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada. We had an excellent roster of candidates who made us optimistic about our chances for forming the government. Unfortunately, democracy decided otherwise.

In an article in the Quotidien on January 29, Dave Blackburn said that the Parole Board of Canada's decision to release this offender on parole, essentially giving him free rein to commit his irreparable act, was unjustifiable.

This government is incapable of governing and making effective decisions in the interest of Canadians. I will give some examples that illustrate the current government's incoherence when it comes to protecting honest citizens. I will list them without elaborating: the Tori Stafford case; Bill C-75, the firearms bill, which vexes honest citizens, hunting enthusiasts and sport shooters; and the legalization of cannabis.

In closing, I would like to remind hon. members that the 2019-20 departmental plan mentions a continuing increase at the national level in the number of offenders managed in the community. Their average annual number rose to 9,000 in 2017-18 from 7,700 five years earlier, a veritable explosion. I think that the measures the government across the way has implemented since coming to power in 2015 are not working. It is not dealing with things in a clear manner and it is not protecting the public.

I was going to talk about a file we should be working on to provide help to people in need, to make our society even more prosperous.

Opposition Motion—Instruction to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2020 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to this very important opposition day motion that comes as a response to the tragedy that occurred in Quebec City a week and a half ago.

It is a disaster wherein a young woman was let down by the justice system and murdered by a violent criminal. Our motion calls for:

...the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into this matter, including a review of the changes made by the government in 2017 to the board’s nomination process.

It is the responsibility of the House to ensure measures are taken so that no tragedy like this ever happens again.

This terrible situation should not have been allowed to happen the first time. We have a man given a life sentence for horrifically murdering his 32-year-old female partner. The criminal was assessed as a high risk to reoffend, particularly with a partner, but as it goes, and as we have seen happen time and again, an offender serves a portion of a sentence and is then turned loose, regardless of the risk to reoffend.

In this case, the man was granted day parole as a violent criminal with a risk to reoffend, and then had his day parole extended last September by the Parole Board. They noted that a risk management strategy had been developed to allow this man to meet women for his sexual gratification. How did this not raise a red flag within the Parole Board? A violent criminal with a particular risk to reoffend against vulnerable women was encouraged by his parole officer to solicit sex from vulnerable women.

The result was a preventable and truly heartbreaking tragedy. The lack of regard for the safety of Canadians is astounding. The Parole Board put this criminal's supposed needs above concern for possible future victims, showing an extreme lack of foresight and prudence.

Two former Parole Board members have pointed to a change in the Parole Board of Canada's nomination procedures. This has resulted in a lack of experienced members. That may have been a factor in this murder.

If that is the case, that inexperienced Parole Board members made this decision and got it so wrong that it resulted in the murder of a vulnerable young woman, then those members who made the decision and the people who appointed them must face consequences.

This woman's death could have been prevented. An inquiry into the Parole Board's decision must be made. I am sure that all of my colleagues in this place will join me in condemning this inherently unjust decision, and call for an external inquiry.

When the Minister of Public Safety was asked about this and what was being done to get to the bottom of this case, he told the House on Monday that a full investigation would be conducted jointly by the commissioner of corrections and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada to determine the circumstances surrounding the killer's release, and to ensure lessons are learned from it. The Parole Board will investigate the Parole Board, continuing the legacy of unaccountability.

Canadians need and deserve an external inquiry so that we can make sure prudent decisions are made in the future and that violent offenders are not encouraged to solicit sex from vulnerable women, victims of prostitution, victims of what appears to be a reckless decision by the authors of the so-called risk management strategy.

This case is a prime example of a failure on the justice file, of a revolving-door prison system, and of putting criminals ahead of victims. With the passage of Bill C-75, the previous Liberal government cemented its legacy as being soft on crime. It made sweeping changes that were very concerning and weakened our justice system.

That piece of legislation watered down penalties for over 100 serious crimes. Dangerous criminals should not be getting fines for serious offences such as gang crime, using date rape drugs and impaired driving causing bodily harm. Across our country, victims' groups and law enforcement have opposed the government's weakness on crime and its refusal to take violent crime seriously.

Canadians deserve better than a Prime Minister who prioritizes the rights of criminals over the rights of victims. Conservatives will always put the rights of victims and law-abiding Canadians ahead of the rights of criminals.

This case is a continuation of the Liberals' soft-on-crime approach failing victims. If we look back at the previous Parliament, there are glaring examples of where the government unjustly put criminals before victims.

In 2018, Liberals fought tooth and nail against doing the right thing and putting Tori Stafford's killer behind bars after the killer had been transferred to a healing lodge. It was only after a public outcry, and weeks of pressure from the family and the official opposition, that they relented and put the killer back where she belonged.

A further example is when the Liberal government defended its decision to use veterans' benefits to pay for mental health services for a man who never served a day in his life in the military, but was locked up for murdering a female police officer.

Although the killer claimed to have PTSD from committing this truly heinous crime, the Liberals continued to defend their use of those benefits for this individual. It was out of touch, it was unjust and it again put the supposed rights of a criminal before the victim.

This approach is in stark contrast to the legacy of the Conservatives on the justice file. Our record is based on the most foundational meaning of justice being rendered to the other where it is due. This was showcased in the Victims Bill of Rights, which set a path for victims of crime to be protected and to have their voices heard during judicial proceedings and the subsequent incarceration of an offender.

The Victims Bills of Rights has much to offer victims. They should have their security considered by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system, and they should have the right to convey their views about decisions made by appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system that affect their rights under this act, and to have them considered. The right to have their security considered is truly foundational.

In closing, Canada's Conservatives are calling on the Liberal government to condemn the board's extremely misguided, reckless and negligent decision, and to conduct hearings into this matter, including a review of the changes made by the Liberal government in 2017 to the board's nomination process. This motion should be supported by all members of the House to correct an injustice, to review the circumstances of the Parole Board's shocking decision and to hold those responsible to account.

Nothing we can do will bring these young women back. However, as lawmakers, we can make sure it does not happen again. That starts by putting the rights of victims before those of criminals, and by supporting this motion to conduct hearings into this matter. I am calling on all members of the House to support our motion.

Opposition Motion — Instruction to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2020 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Conservative motion by my hon. colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

The motion denounces the decision made by the Parole Board in Quebec that cost the life of a 22-year-old woman at the hands of a dangerous repeat offender. It seeks immediate action to review Parole Board nominations that contributed to putting a dangerous offender on the streets, and to have Parliament recommend steps so that this will never happen again.

Given the recent comments by the Minister of Public Safety on finding common ground with all parties to protect Canadians, I would think that he would be supportive of our motion. I imagine every member of the House will condemn the murder of a young woman by a man who beat his previous partner to death with a hammer, and who was released on parole with permission to seek out women in order to manage his sexual needs.

As one columnist noted, it appears the Parole Board's release plan assumed this offender's right to access a woman's body. Any man who cannot control his urges is not fit to be released back into society. Our country is founded on freedom and respect: respect for one another, respect for the law and respect for our values. In this case, the Parole Board's decision is reprehensible.

I will not pretend that this entire problem is the fault of the Liberal government or of any single previous government or decision. The problem we face is a parole and release system that favours offenders over victims. It puts the rights of offenders ahead of the safety of our communities.

This is a result of the current government's inaction, as well as previous governments' actions or inactions, court rulings and court precedents. None of that should prevent the House from challenging the status quo and moving toward a better system of preventing the release of those who are not ready to be law-abiding members of our society.

Let me be clear. We are not talking about anyone who has ever gone to jail. We are not saying that if people have done something wrong, as we all have at some point to different degrees, there is no redemption. I believe in redemption.

For those who have committed crimes, we lay out very clear ideas of what that looks like based on their efforts to reform, to rehabilitate, to seek to address their failings or challenges, to train and educate themselves for a post-release period and to never again be in trouble with the law. However, there have been too many instances like this one. There have been too many recent decisions by Liberal-appointed Parole Board members to release repeat dangerous offenders back into our communities without the adequate protections and information. That lack of accountability and of good, sound decision-making is why the House urgently needs to review and revise how it treats violent offenders.

Dangerous offenders are deemed by the courts. They are held for indeterminate prison sentences because of the malicious repeat offences they have carried out. Dangerous offenders have a pattern of behaviour and persistent aggression that makes them a threat to others.

It is not up to society to accept dangerous offenders. It is up to those dangerous offenders to accept the laws and values of our society in order to be released. However, the Liberal government seems too eager to defend the rights of dangerous offenders and others who are brought before the courts. Dangerous offenders get off too easily under the Liberal government.

Under Bill C-75, in order to address court backlogs, the Liberals reduced sentences and allowed sentences for more violent crimes to be reduced, even to fines. Under Bill C-71, Liberals went after law-abiding firearms owners for the actions of criminals and gangs. In national security laws, they increased red tape, put more effort into watching the public servants who defend Canadians and put less effort into monitoring known radicalized threats, returning ISIS terrorists and foreign threats.

Two years ago, we went through a very similar scenario. Canadians were outraged when Terri-Lynne McClintic, a woman who helped lure, assault, rape and murder eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was transferred to a lower-security healing lodge instead of staying in prison. The indigenous community not far from my riding did not want her there, as she was not indigenous. This raised many questions as to why she was being transferred in the first place. No child predator should ever be sent to a prison where children and families are present.

The Liberals said nothing was wrong, launched a months-long investigation and then determined that they were wrong. They slapped a minor edit on their policies and said everything was fine and would be fine. If the policies were applied properly the first time, that transfer never would have happened.

The offender at the centre of the tragedy is a violent, dangerous offender, whether the law puts that label on him or not. The Parole Board and the minister should have known and should have had the processes in place to prevent this latest tragedy. However, there is no accountability left for the minister or government. Did the Parole Board fail in its duty to Canadians in this circumstance? Yes, it did. Was it likely that former minister Ralph Goodale's decision to appoint fresh and untrained people in the position to make these decisions a factor? It certainly appears that way.

Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the purpose of conditional release is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society that will best facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens. The act specifically notes that the paramount consideration by the Parole Board is public safety protection. The release of offenders who are deemed unable to stop themselves from harming others, who pose a risk to women or who have been instructed to break the law by hiring women for sex can in no way live up to the standards set out in law.

Even if there was some justification for a dangerous, violent offender to be released, parole officers are overwhelmed with workloads. According to their union, workloads are insurmountable and there is a real risk to Canadians because they cannot keep tabs on parolees. With the Liberals releasing many dangerous offenders into the community, this issue is being compounded.

For example, Madilyn Harks, formerly known as Matthew Ralf Harks, is a serial rapist who has preyed on young women, with three convictions for sexual assault against girls under the age of eight. She was released into Brampton, one of the largest suburbs in Canada, despite posing a risk to the tens of thousands of children in that community. After public outrage and political pressure on local Liberal MPs, she was removed. Was she a risk to Canadians? Absolutely. Was she placed in a poorly chosen spot? Absolutely. It was only fixed, though, after political and public outrage.

Randall Hopley, a serial child predator, was released into Vancouver despite the Parole Board stating that it was unable to manage his risks to Canadian children. Peter Whitmore, who has many convictions for assaulting young boys, has repeatedly received light sentences for the rape and assault of children. After abducting two boys, tying them up and raping them, he has been locked up again. However, he is now eligible for parole, and it would seem only a matter of time before the Liberal's Parole Board will release him again, if we can believe it. There are many examples like this, more than time allows to mention here.

None of these crimes needed to happen and none of these victims needed to be put at risk and victimized. However, we can all agree that we presume innocence and that the taking away of freedoms under the Criminal Code should not be treated lightly. There are times when it is clearly the best and only course of action. The actions of the guilty are the fault of the guilty. There is no right to cause pain, harm and suffering to others. When the Parole Board sees a threat that is not manageable, there needs to be a mechanism to ensure that Canadians are not put at further risk. We do not need to accept the decisions of murderers, rapists, pedophiles or repeat and serial offenders as a foregone conclusion. However, once people have reached that state, it is incumbent upon them to show and act in a manner that enables their release, not the other way around. It is not beholden on Canadians to accept their intolerable and hateful acts. Criminals are not the victims.

In conclusion, my colleague's motion is justified in light of the many issues facing our communities. Public safety has been put on the back burner time and again by the government and its political manoeuvring. Reforming how we manage dangerous offenders would seem something that all parliamentarians can get behind and can contribute toward protecting Canadians.

However, I suspect that the Liberals will invent yet another excuse why action is not needed right now. They will respond by saying that they have an internal inquiry under way, a response we have heard many times. However, there is an inherit bias to defend the system by those in charge of making those very decisions. Another McClintic-style “sweep it under the rug” decision should not be tolerated.

It is time that other members of Parliament took the role that the minister is too timid to tackle. I encourage my colleagues to vote in favour of a study to strengthen and review the parole system, ensure the appropriate funding is in place and that the safety of Canadians comes ahead of any Liberal political concerns.

JusticeOral Questions

January 27th, 2020 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it was the federal government's view that the Interpretation Act and the case law provide that amendments to the jury selection process should have been applied as of the date Bill C-75 came into force. Federal prosecutors adopted this approach and we are happy that the Ontario Court of Appeal has agreed.

Given that there is litigation in issue, I have tasked my department and legislative drafters to ensure that temporal provisions are always considered as we move forward.

JusticeOral Questions

January 27th, 2020 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough.

The Liberal government's poorly drafted Bill C-75 means criminals are now facing retrial and victims of crime will have to relive the horrific situations yet again in court. This is a significant failure of the Liberal government to protect victims. We already know that the sloppy implementation of the bill will lead to retrials in Ontario.

When will the Prime Minister act before more criminals go free?

JusticeOral Questions

January 27th, 2020 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to welcome back the hon. member for Beauséjour. I will go so far as to say that I missed his sense of humour.

We introduced a number of important changes in Bill C-75 to make our criminal justice system more efficient, more fair and more just. Among these were the ways in which juries were selected, to increase transparency and to address long-standing concerns of Canadians as regards this process.

We are aware of the Ontario Court of Appeal's ruling and we will continue to monitor the situation.

JusticeOral Questions

January 27th, 2020 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals carelessly rushed through changes to Canada's criminal justice system in Bill C-75. Conservatives raised concerns over the impacts of the bill and how it would impact and harm victims of crime. Legal experts warned the Prime Minister that his poorly drafted legislation would result in guilty verdicts being nullified. Now in Ontario we see that is indeed the case.

What is the Prime Minister planning to do now that criminals are being set free and victims will have to go through painful retrials due to the government's incompetence?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Notice of Closure MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that, with respect to the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts, at the next sitting of the House a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that the debate be not further adjourned.

If there is a desire to find a better way forward, I look forward to those opportunities, but until then, it is with regret that I provide this notice.

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

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

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Fine, of the Globe and Mail, wrote:

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

It never happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 9:50 p.m.
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

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

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

proposes that amendment 3 be amended to read as follows:

“3. Clause 239, pages 90 and 91:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

proposes that amendment 4 be amended to read as follows:

“4. Clause 240, pages 92 and 93:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

June 14th, 2019 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-458, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing principles – remote emergency medical or police services).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Red Deer—Mountain View for seconding my bill.

My bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code by providing for changes that evidence that an offence was directed at a person or property that was vulnerable because of the remoteness from emergency or medical or police services be a factor when considering sentencing. Rural Canadians are particularly vulnerable right now. Statistics Canada, police reports, all the information points to the fact that rural Canadians are specifically being targeted by criminals.

If my bill is passed it would ensure that criminals will face longer times in jail for purposely targeting rural areas, contrary to Bill C-75, which would just speed up the revolving door, which is a hot button issue in my riding and for all rural Canadians, many of whom are tired of being repeat victims.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Federal Courts ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-331, which was brought forward by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby.

I will talk about the bill and what it purports to do, and then I want to talk about the state of the nation in terms of the Federal Court system, because this bill proposes to make changes there.

The bill's intent is “[to amend] the Federal Courts Act to provide for the jurisdiction of the Federal Court over civil claims brought by non-Canadians in respect of alleged violations outside Canada of international law or a treaty to which Canada is party.”

The intent of the member who brought forward this private member's business was to address instances where, for example, Canadian companies operating in other jurisdictions are not being good corporate citizens and are violating in some way the human rights of individuals there.

In the member's speech, which I reviewed, he had a number of examples of companies. A lot of them were mining companies, such a Nevsun Resources, which had a gold, zinc and copper mine in Eritrea, where there were allegations of forced labour, slavery and torture of workers. Another case was the one of Hudbay Minerals in Guatemala, where people were shot and killed. The intent of this bill is to allow people who may not be Canadians and who have had things happen to them outside of Canada to come and use the Canadian Federal Court system to pursue civil actions.

The issue I have with that, first of all, is that the Federal Court system, as it is today, under the current Liberal government, is in tatters. The former justice minister did not appoint a sufficient number of judges, so court cases were backed up and there was a huge logjam. As a result of that, many murder cases and rape cases were being tossed out of court because they had been in the queue for more than two years, and according to Jordan's principle, these people, guilty of heinous crimes, have gone free.

The government has continually eroded the execution of justice in Canada with a weakening of the rules. The government introduced legislation such as C-75, which took some very serious crimes, such as the forcible confinement of a minor, and reduced them to summary convictions, which means a penalty of less than two years or a fine. There was a whole list of charges in that bill that took serious crimes and brought them back to something that was minor in nature. I would argue that a fine for the forcible confinement of a minor is like a slap on the wrist for something that I think all Canadians would agree is heinous.

We also saw the situation with Tori Stafford's killer, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who, even though she viciously participated in the murder of a child, was allowed to go to a healing lodge, where there was no security and she was in the presence of parents who had their children with them when they came to work.

I am concerned that we need to strengthen our Federal Court system as it stands today, not weaken it, and the Liberal government has not done that. I am concerned that if we open it up to non-Canadians in other countries, they would come and bring an extra caseload of court cases to a court system that is arguably already under stress and not delivering. There are Canadian crimes that we are not able to adequately prosecute on time. That is a real difficulty.

Within the bill, there are 17 different types of cases that could be brought forward. I will go through a few of these and talk about incidents that have occurred during the 42nd Parliament, to give members an idea of the volume of these cases that could come before the Federal Court.

First on the list is “genocide”, which everyone knows is a very serious crime. If we think about some of the genocides that have happened during this Parliament, the Yazidis come to mind. Yazidi women were brought to Canada after the genocide where those people were exterminated by ISIS terrorists. That is one. There are still outstanding actions to be taken on Rwanda. That is another genocide that could come our way.

Another item on the list is “slavery or slave trading”. Human trafficking of someone under 18 is also on the list. Human trafficking is a huge issue in Canada. In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, which is a border city, we see a huge amount of human trafficking happening. There is an actual network between Sarnia and Toronto that couriers people, and not just people from out of the country. Young Canadian boys and girls are lured into this and trapped in that lifestyle for years. There is no doubt that it is a heinous crime, but when I think about the number of these cases in Canada today and the fact that we do not have the resources to adequately prosecute our own, I am concerned about opening that up to the rest of the world.

Any “extrajudicial killing or the enforced disappearance of a person” is on the list. Let us think about the Saudi Arabian journalist who was exterminated. Let us think about the two Canadian men who were killed in the Philippines.

Also on the list is “systemic discrimination”. This opens it way up. When I was the chair of the status of women committee, we had visits of people from countries all over the world where women were being systematically discriminated against. They came to see what we were doing here in Canada. Some would argue that we are still seeing systemic discrimination within our own country. LGBTQ is another group that sees a lot of systemic discrimination across the world. If all of those cases came and flooded our courts, we would be very busy indeed.

The human rights violations that we are seeing right now in Hong Kong come to mind. There are 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, and the Chinese government is trying to bring in extradition rules that would allow it to take anyone from Hong Kong and bring him or her to China. I am very concerned that if this bill came into force, there might be a lot of non-Canadians who would want to take advantage of the Canadian court system to pursue some civil charges there as well.

Child soldiers are another item on the list. We know that in every battle we are seeing from ISIS, child soldiers are being raised up. We see that in a bunch of the wars that are happening in Africa and similar places. That would open it up to a huge number of people, as well, who may want to take action and get some civil reward from the Canadian court.

“Rape” is also on the list. Rape is rampant in Canada. The data says that one in three Canadian women will experience sexual violence during her life. When we think about how many cases we have, and how many of those are being kicked out of court, we really do not have the capacity to take others on.

“Forced abortion” and “forced sterilization” are on the list. We heard testimony today at the health committee about forced sterilization and the thousands of women in Canada who are undergoing this. It is horrible, but, once again, there are lots of cases of our own to take care of.

Issues like pollution have been put on the list. Let us think about plastics pollution by non-Canadians. We know that 95% of ocean pollution is happening from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa. Again, that is a huge volume of complaints that could be brought forward.

“Environmental emergency” has been added. That could be like the climate emergency that the Liberals brought in debate. The debate was never brought back, so it must have been a non-urgent emergency. Climate emergencies and environmental emergencies like that could also make the list.

I know the member was well-intentioned in bringing the bill forward and wanting to address those Canadian corporations, for example, but the bill needs to be narrower in scope, and I do not think we have the capacity in the Federal Court system. I would encourage the government of the day, or, on October 21, the Conservative government, to restore the federal justice system.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the point is clear that the Leader of the Opposition has been told that Unifor will be his worst nightmare going into the next election.

The point is that this is clearly a very partisan organization. This is an organization that very much is against the Conservative Party of Canada and very much campaigning on behalf of the Liberal government, which means that now this whole exercise just became very political in nature.

I do not think we can argue with that point. It is very clear what has been said and what the motive of this union is. Therefore, $600 million are on the line and where they go will be determined by this partisan group of individuals. It is not only that. The majority of the money is being withheld and is going to only be given to these media outlets post-election. This means there will be an awful lot of motivation given to them, through the withholding of money and the promise of funds after the election, to cover the 2019 election in a very particular way. It does not take a great deal of intelligence to determine what that way is.

Of course media outlets will be encouraged, if not manipulated, to cover the election of 2019 from a Liberal vantage point rather than from a fair one that is non-partisan in nature. Why is that? It is because there are $600 million on the line and they want a piece of the pie.

I have clearly outlined that there is problem with regard to the independence, but it is not just me who says that. There is far more being said by journalists throughout the country.

Andrew Coyne said, “It is quite clear now, if it was not already: this is the most serious threat to the independence of the press in this country in decades.”

Don Martin said, “The optics of journalism associations and unions deciding who picks the recipients of government aid for journalism are getting very queasy.”

Jen Gerson, CBC and Maclean's, said, “If any of these associations or unions”, so the eight individuals who have been selected, “could be trusted to manage this 'independent' panel, they would be denouncing it already.”

Those are quite the statements.

Chris Selley, the National Post, said, "Liberals' media bailout puts foxes in charge of the chickens.”

I and my Conservatives are not the only ones pointing out significant concerns with the decision to give out $600 million of government money to media outlets across the country. Clearly, this is an attack on the independence and the freedom of our press.

In addition to that, it is a matter of protecting democracy and of ensuring media outlets actually cover the story of the day without being pressured by the government to do it one way or the other. As soon as the government offers money to media outlets, all of a sudden the press feels the pressure to cover stories in a way that would perhaps paint the government in a positive light. That is not okay; that is not the Canada we belong to.

We see the lack of independence and the lack of freedom in places like Turkey, Russia and China, where it is dictated how any sort of news will be covered and granted to the people in those countries. In Canada, we very much depend on the government staying out of the way and allowing press to cover a story from whatever angle that media outlet should choose.

The other problem with this is that there is no transparency in the application and review process. This concern has been brought up by the CAJ within the last couple of days. It has pointed out that there needs to be a more transparent process in moving forward with this, that those who apply for this funding should be listed online and that the process for applications for this funding should be made transparent. This should be put online and made available to the Canadian public. After all, the Liberals are taking Canadian taxpayer dollars and using them to help media outlets. That process needs to have greater transparency to it.

In addition to that, there should also be some transparency with regard to not only those who apply, but also who is rejected and why. Why are they rejected? It is fair that many Canadians, many journalists and many of those on this side of the House have a concern that the government will be quite biased in the way that it selects people. I say the government because, make no mistake, that while there are eight individuals on the panel, I have my suspicions that they are nothing more than eight puppets with the current government pulling the strings.

The entire independence and freedom of the press is being called into question with this $600 million bailout. In addition to that, our democracy is being put in jeopardy, as well as just a lack of overall transparency and good governance. It is absolutely terrible.

Furthermore, with regard to credibility, one journalist wrote, “The minute the union starts helping a government divvy up taxpayers’ cash for the benefit of news outlets, there is quite rightly a perception that reporters’ coverage is being bought off.” Whether that is the case or not, there is that perception. He goes on to explain that the credibility of a journalist is of utmost importance, that our journalists work hard to maintain the credibility and trust of the Canadian public. By the government giving $600 million to the free press, it calls into question that credibility. There is a problem there.

This is not the first time the Prime Minister has put his interests above those of Canadians. He does this quite often. In the NAFTA agreement, he said that he would get a good deal for Canada. He said he would not allow ink to go on paper until tariffs were removed. However, he put ink to paper. Meanwhile, we still had tariffs on steel. We still had tariffs on aluminum. We had tariffs on softwood lumber. We allowed the U.S. to take a good chunk of our market with regard to dairy. We allowed it to take a good chunk of our market with regard to auto and implement quotas. At the end of the day again, we saw where he put his image before the needs of the Canadian people.

Further to that was the students summer jobs program. We watched again as the government put itself first. It imposed a requirement on organizations that they would need to sign off on a value statement, that they would need to sign off on a set of beliefs and values in order to receive dollars from taxpayers. If organizations were not willing to sign this value statement, or this attestation, then they could not have any of that money. Again, the government was not acting in the best interests of Canadians. Instead it was acting in the best interests of the Prime Minister and the image he wanted to portray.

The problem with this was that many faith-based organizations could not sign the Prime Minister's value statements. Those organizations do tremendous work. They look after the homeless. They look after those who live in poverty. They help refugees come to Canada and settle here. They run summer camp for kids, many who are underprivileged kids. The Prime Minister actually refused to give them a dollar because they would not sign his value statement. That is wrong.

With the carbon tax, again, the Prime Minister is wanting to put forward this image of himself as someone who cares for the environment. He gets this great idea about putting a tax on pollution. Then all of a sudden people will no longer need to drive their cars to work, put clothes on their back, food on their tables or heat their homes in -30°C. That is not the case at all. That is ridiculous. It lacks any sort of logic.

What have we watched over the last four years? We have watched as emissions in the country have gone up. We have watched as the government is further away from meeting its targets than we have ever been as a country.

The current Prime Minister has the audacity to say he is standing up for Canadians, but he is standing up for no one other than himself. He wants to maintain his image, propagate his ideals and manipulate Canadians along the way, when it is all based on a foundation of deception.

With Bill C-71, the Prime Minister said he wanted to look after the safety and well-being of Canadians, and in order to do that he would go after those who legally acquired their firearms, who were properly vetted to have a firearm and who legally used their firearms, because that would take all criminals and gangs off the street. He thinks he will help make this place a safer country if he shuts down the sports shooters and the hunters. That is the Liberal logic. It is terrible. It is more about image than it is about serving the well-being of this country and the Canadian public.

Meanwhile, the same government put another bill in place, Bill C-75. Do members know what that bill did? It rewarded terrorists. It rewarded those who force marriage. It rewarded those who engage in genocide.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2019 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are arguing that if we are all in support of the bill, we should just stop our speeches, stop giving voice to some of the concerns we have, and let it go, even though the government saw fit to introduce it during the first week of this month, which is very much at the end of the 42nd Parliament.

I have seen this pattern before. The Liberal government had a series of justice bills aimed at cleaning up the redundant and inoperable sections of the Criminal Code. It let those sit at first reading, in purgatory, and then eventually rolled them into Bill C-75, which was a gigantic omnibus bill full of problems. If it had just gone through with simple amendments to the Criminal Code, we could have put them through very quickly.

My concern is not so much about support in the House. It is about what is happening in the other place. The Senate does not seem to be a very friendly place for government bills these days. I am worried that we simply do not have enough time for the other place to send it back here if it makes amendments and for the bill to receive royal assent. This is on a very clear Liberal promise that was made in 2015.

May 14th, 2019 / 9:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Chair, the important aspect of Bill C-75 is that it would address delays by not clogging up the system with the administration of justice offences the member for Eglinton—Lawrence mentioned and by invoking the principle of restraint.

This would ensure that we do not overrepresent indigenous people in the criminal justice system and thereby cause increasing delays by clogging it further.

May 14th, 2019 / 9:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Chair, in the course of my remarks, I also made mention of Bill C-75, which is an important piece of legislation that would help reduce court delays by modifying several aspects of court processes and trial processes.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary might highlight some of the ways in which we would significantly reduce delays through the enshrinement of Bill C-75.

May 14th, 2019 / 9:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Chair, I would like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for both his response to my question and his ongoing work, which includes advocacy on Bill C-75.

I would like to ask him a follow-up question. How do we ensure that indigenous people are better reflected in our judiciary, and in particular, on our juries? This is work the parliamentary secretary has given testimony to.

May 14th, 2019 / 9:15 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

Madam Chair, I thank the member for Eglinton—Lawrence for his work as parliamentary secretary.

The work that is being done starts with Bill C-75, which was mentioned in the comments by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence. Bill C-75 adopts a number of principles, including a principle of restraint, conditions imposed by the police that must be reasonable in the circumstances necessary to ensure the accused's attendance in court and also to ensure that the entire circumstances of the accused are considered before conditions or sentences are meted out under that legislation. This will help address the overrepresentation of the accused, particularly indigenous accused, in our system.

May 14th, 2019 / 9:05 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Madam Chair, I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. I would also like to commend the minister for his hard work and his dedication to the portfolio, which has seen his shepherding of legislation dealing with criminal justice reforms; important justice reforms that will enhance access to justice; his and his team's work on ensuring that we have a very capable and high-calibre bench through the ongoing work of judicial appointments, and finally, the all-important and historic work with reconciliation as it relates to our indigenous peoples.

I am honoured to be here to contribute to this debate, to speak to some of the concrete steps we have taken towards recognizing and realizing the government's vision of reconciliation with indigenous peoples across Canada.

Our government has taken the time to meet with many indigenous leaders across this country. We heard about their priorities, their vision for the future, and the challenges and obstacles they still face in achieving this vision. Hearing these perspectives has served to reinforce our government's commitment to renewing its relationship with indigenous peoples. We have continued with our efforts to address the ongoing negative and adverse impacts of colonialism, discrimination and marginalization that have, for far too long, been part of this country's social fabric.

Contributing to renewed Crown-indigenous relationships based on rights, respect, co-operation and partnership remains a priority for the Government of Canada. This is especially true in relation to Canada's justice system. Over the past few years, the Department of Justice and the Government of Canada have introduced transformative laws and initiatives to help achieve reconciliation.

One such initiative that we are very proud of is the release of the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. This document will ensure that the rights and needs of indigenous peoples are considered whenever new policy initiatives or laws are being introduced or considered.

Another key document that the Department of Justice has released is the Attorney General's directive on civil litigation involving indigenous peoples. This document will help guide litigation positions being developed. The Department of Justice also continues to work with other government departments to find alternatives to litigation with indigenous peoples wherever and whenever possible and appropriate.

These are both foundational documents that establish a modern legal framework and clearly identify the core values informing the department's day-to-day work. As the introduction to the principles notes, they are “rooted in section 35, guided by the UN Declaration, and informed by the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action”.

In addition, they reflect a commitment to good faith, the rule of law, democracy, equality, non-discrimination and respect for human rights. Training that focuses on the history and context that underlie the principles has been provided to approximately 25% of the Department of Justice's employees. It also covers practical ways in which these important documents can inform all the legal and policy work the Department of Justice oversees.

The directive is also a testament to the government's desire to transform Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples and uphold the promises of section 35 of the Constitution.

The directive continues to guide the Government of Canada's legal approaches, positions and decisions in civil litigation over ancestral and treaty rights and the Crown's duty towards indigenous peoples.

The Department of Justice also continues its efforts to advance the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, including the call upon governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

Canada has already stated its unqualified support for the UN declaration. Recently, in this session, the House of Commons restated its support for the passage of Bill C-262, an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

If passed, Bill C-262 will bring us even closer to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It will require us to continue the work we have already started on regularly reviewing federal legislation to assess consistency with the standards set out in the declaration. In collaboration with our indigenous partners, we will also have to develop an action plan for the implementation of the declaration and release annual reports on our progress.

The Department of Justice continues to advance a number of additional and more specific measures that will contribute to reconciliation over the long term. A key priority for the department is Bill C-75, which is now in the other place. The bill proposes various measures meant to help to address court delays. It will also play a role in one of the most serious issues facing our criminal justice system: the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the justice system itself and in particular in our jails.

Bill C-75 tackles bail reform and also addresses administration of justice offences, such as breaching bail. These offences can unfortunately function as an entry point into the criminal justice system and significantly contribute to the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system.

The Department of Justice also continues to support and expand the use of restorative justice, which we know is a priority for many of our indigenous partners. It is also committed to supporting innovative approaches to the administration of justice in Canada. This means focusing not just on renewing the government's relationship with indigenous peoples, but building a partnership where indigenous perspectives, laws and legal traditions find voice in an indigenous justice system in harmonization with the justice system regimes and processes across Canada.

For this reason, our government has encouraged indigenous communities to share their views and perspectives on indigenous laws and legal traditions. We are actively working to promote more dialogue with indigenous peoples that will guide our collective efforts to recognize and implement indigenous justice systems in Canada. Not only does this work occur in the Department of Justice, but across many ministries so as to give effect to reconciliation.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is holding a symposium on the indigenous justice system today and tomorrow. This is an valuable opportunity to talk to indigenous partners, academics, students of indigenous law and public servants from across Canada about revitalizing indigenous law and national and international perspectives on interactions between indigenous and non-indigenous justice systems.

The government also recognizes the importance of revitalizing indigenous legal systems. We know that indigenous law institutes, in partnership with indigenous communities, can play crucial roles in understanding, developing and implementing indigenous laws.

Not only are we working on transforming and modernizing our laws and programs, but we also have a transparent, inclusive and accountable judicial appointment process.

This new process underlines our government's commitment to reshaping the bench to better reflect Canada as it is today and to make the courts more accessible. I mentioned this important work at the outset of my remarks.

Ultimately the goal of all of the measures and initiatives I have just mentioned is to transform both how the Department of Justice engages with indigenous peoples and how indigenous people experience the justice system. We believe that the efforts made by this government to improve its relationship with indigenous peoples has led to some very significant progress and improvements to the lives of indigenous peoples over the last few years. However, much more work remains to be done.

Working in tandem with indigenous communities, we believe we can continue to ensure the implementation of the necessary work and the shifts in mindset required to advance our shared goal of achieving true reconciliation. Our government is committed to promoting, protecting and implementing the rights of indigenous peoples.

We hope that the efforts and accomplishments of the Department of Justice will continue to reflect our government's shared commitment to achieving reconciliation and earnestly carrying out the work required to accomplish such an important goal.

Not only do I encourage the government to continue this work, but I certainly encourage my colleagues across the aisle to support this transformative and historical work when it comes to reconciliation.

I have a number of questions for the minister.

First, what are some of the ways the government is working to reduce the over-incarceration of our indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system?

May 14th, 2019 / 7:20 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for her important question. As I have stated, we are committed to ensuring that Canada's criminal justice system meets the highest standards of equity and fairness.

The Boudreault decision on December 14 found, as the member has pointed out, that the victim fine surcharge violated section 12 of the charter because it could result in a grossly disproportionate punishment, especially for vulnerable and marginalized offenders. Indeed, the provinces and territories that use this fund to fund victim services have not used it since December 2014, or their courts have not used it.

We realize this has an important role. We thought Bill C-75 went a long way to following with that, but after consulting with provinces and territories, the federal ombudsperson for victims of crime, and stakeholders, we have decided to propose amendments to Bill C-75, presently in front of the Senate, that will grant judges additional discretion to determine when the surcharge should be applied. This aligns it with the Boudreault decision, while continuing to ensure that offenders are properly held accountable to victims and to society as a whole.

May 14th, 2019 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Chair, since this place studied Bill C-75, on December 14, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision on the victim surcharge found in section 737 of the Criminal Code. The court held that the mandatory victim surcharge is contrary to section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it could result in grossly disproportionate punishment for vulnerable or marginalized offenders.

The mandatory surcharge is a fixed amount that every offender must pay at the time of sentencing. It is 30% for any fine imposed or $100 per summary conviction offence or $200 per indictable offence.

I am aware that Bill C-75 proposed changes to this regime in order to provide some judicial discretion related to the imposition of the victim surcharge. Does the minister feel that these changes properly respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's guidance? Will the government be proposing any amendments to this bill to reflect this new Supreme Court of Canada decision?

May 14th, 2019 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for her speech, her question and her work on the justice committee.

The answer is fourfold.

The first measure is law reform, and the hon. member has spoken at length about the changes brought forward in Bill C-75, which we feel will increase the efficiency of our justice system and reduce delays.

The second is funding for various programs. The indigenous court worker program is one example. By working with certain over-represented groups, we will be able to address delays in the justice system.

The third is collaboration with provincial and territorial governments to address delays, and the last one has to do with judicial appointments. As I mentioned in my speech, we have made over 300 appointments of a very high quality since taking office, and that is helping to reduce delays in the system.

May 14th, 2019 / 7:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Chair, I will be providing 10 minutes of remarks followed by some questions.

I want to begin my remarks today by thanking all members on the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights from all sides of the House. Together, over these past few years, we have worked on issues related to access to justice, medical assistance in dying, mental health supports for jurors, strengthening impaired driving laws, addressing the issue of human trafficking in Canada and so much more. Ultimately, we have worked hard to ensure that the communities we represent safer.

There have been many pieces of legislation that have passed through our committee, and today I would like to focus on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

One of the challenges I have heard about from my community and from Canadians across Canada is the issue of delays in accessing the justice system. I have also heard from constituents about the accessibility of the justice system, issues surrounding victims rights and the challenges faced by victims of intimate partner violence. The purpose of Bill C-75 is to address these very issues of our communities from coast to coast to coast.

This legislation is a key milestone in the government's ongoing efforts to transform the criminal justice system, keeping the government's overall goals at the forefront, which are to keep communities safe, protect victims and to hold offenders to account.

Canada's justice system faces numerous major and multi-faceted challenges. While the volume and severity of crimes have decreased over the years, criminal court cases are becoming more complex and trials are taking longer to complete. Delays in the criminal justice system impact the accused and his or her charter right to be tried within a reasonable time. They also impact victims and all those affected by crime in our communities.

The criminal justice system is a shared responsibility between federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The federal government is responsible for the enactment of criminal law and procedure, criminal prosecutions of all federal offences, certain offences in the Criminal Code and prosecution of all offences in the territories, as well as the appointment of judges for superior courts.

Provincial and territorial governments on the other hand are responsible for the administration of justice, including the prosecution of criminal offences in the provinces, the administration of police, Crown and court personnel and the appointment of provincial court judges.

At their meetings held in April and September 2017, federal-provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice met to discuss actions taken and ways to strategically address delays in the criminal justice system. Discussions included identifying innovative and best practices as well as legislative reforms to resolve criminal cases in a just and timely manner. All agreed on the need for targeted and bold criminal law reform in the following key priority areas: bail, administration of justice offences, preliminary inquiries, reclassification of offences and judicial case management.

Ministers agreed on the importance of a collaborative approach with all players in the criminal justice system, and Bill C-75 is a true reflection of that collaborative approach with key criminal justice system partners.

Some reforms included in Bill C-75 would address issues that were identified by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in its June 2017 report, entitled, “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice”. It included 50 recommendations, with a number of them relating to criminal law reform. The bill would address a number of these recommendations, namely on preliminary inquiries, case management, bail, administration of justice offences and the use of technology, including to facilitate remote appearances.

In addition, the reforms respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Jordan in 2016, which established strict timelines beyond which delays would be presumptively unreasonable and result in cases being stayed. In this decision, the Supreme Court also stressed the need for efforts by all those involved in the criminal justice system to reduce delays and increase efficiencies. Bill C-75 would address that.

One of the issues highlighted through our committee work is the overrepresentation of indigenous people in jail. The 2016-17 statistics indicate that 28% to 30% of custody admissions are indigenous. The numbers are even higher for youth at 50%, and women at 42%. Bill C-75 would help reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system.

Indigenous people and vulnerable populations tend to be disproportionately impacted by onerous and unnecessary bail conditions. They are also more likely to be charged with breaching minor conditions, and more likely to be caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

The bill would help address these problems by enacting a principle of restraint in the bail regime to ensure that when there are no concerns about the accused coming to court or posing a risk to public safety, police officers and justices would release detained accused at the earliest reasonable opportunity; by requiring that conditions imposed by police be reasonable in the circumstances and necessary to ensure the accused's attendance in court or the safety and security of the victims or witnesses; and by providing that circumstances of the accused, in particular indigenous accused and accused persons from vulnerable populations, be considered at bail and in determining how to address a breach of conditions.

Bill C-75 also includes measures that would positively impact victims of crime. These include the bail reforms, which would also better protect victims of intimate partner violence by creating a reverse onus at bail, and would expand the list of conditions that can be imposed by police, including conditions to protect victims.

The preliminary inquiry reforms, which would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment, would prevent some victims from having to testify twice.

The proposed administration of justice offence changes would only apply in cases in which there has been no harm caused to a victim, whether physical, emotional or through property damage.

The bill would also provide reassurance to victims of intimate partner violence by imposing a reverse onus at bail for accused persons charged with an intimate partner violence offence if they have a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner; by requiring courts to consider whether an accused is charged with an intimate partner violence offence when determining whether to release or detain the accused; by clarifying that strangulation, choking and suffocation are elevated forms of assault; by defining “intimate partner” for all Criminal Code purposes and clarifying that it includes current or former spouse, common-law partner and dating partner; by clarifying that the current sentencing provisions, which treat abuse against a spouse or common-law partner as an aggravating factor, apply to both current and former spouses or common-law partners and dating partners; and by allowing for the possibility of seeking a higher maximum penalty in cases involving a repeat intimate partner violence offender.

Lastly, the proposed reforms with respect to bail, administration of justice offences and the reclassification of offences support an approach that is expected to minimize the differential impact on marginalized populations in the criminal justice system, including indigenous peoples, through modernizing and streamlining processes, providing flexibility and creating appropriate tools for managing factors such as vulnerability, mental health and addiction.

It is important to note that these proposed Criminal Code amendments cannot address all social issues that impact those in contact with the criminal justice system. As such, operational changes in the courts or in the administration of justice at the provincial and territorial level may better address such issues. As well, training for criminal justice system actors, such as police, the Crown and judges, would support the bill's goal of making the criminal justice system more fair and accessible to all Canadians.

As mentioned earlier, opportunities to address delays also fall under provincial jurisdiction, as provinces have responsibility over the administration of justice. It is unfortunate that the Ontario provincial government has recently announced its decision to cut funding for the Ontario Provincial Police by $45 million. These cuts will impact the administration of justice.

The people of Ontario, and indeed all Canadians, have the commitment of the federal government that we will continue to work closely with the provinces and territories to identify further measures to reduce delays and improve the criminal justice system.

That said, I do have some questions for the minister, if allowed.

May 14th, 2019 / 6:50 p.m.
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Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, we are proud of Canada's diversity and inclusion. Our government believes that all Canadians should be safe to be themselves. In that regard, the major accomplishment was passing legislation that adds gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as adding gender identity and expression to the list of distinguishing characteristics of an identifiable group, so that they are protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.

My colleague has mentioned section 159, the bawdy house and vagrancy provisions, in Bill C-75, which are also very important. We are proud to recognize these historic challenges that have been faced by the LGBTQ2 community, and we are committed to making their lives better. Indeed, equality is what we are committed to, so that people can live their lives and flourish as they wish to.

May 14th, 2019 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, I would like to say in English what I said in French, which is that the the directive the minister is talking about is important, and we have heard from witnesses that it is important because it is a step in the right direction. It says that the government needs to follow the science, that prosecutors need to follow the science, and that when somebody is undetectable, they are untransmittable and should not be charged or prosecuted for non-disclosure of HIV status.

Equally important is the fact that because it is federal jurisdiction, the directive applies to the territories. British Columbia and Ontario have since issued a similar directive to their Crowns. However, I think it is important that we work at the federal, provincial and territorial level to include and encourage other jurisdictions to issue similar policies and directives.

Also, it would be important for us to look into the justice department. We have section 159, and we have the vagrancy and bawdy house provisions in Bill C-75, and I am looking forward to seeing it come back from the Senate. Could the minister share with the House and the committee of the whole other accomplishments that the department has achieved to make the lives of LGBTQ2 Canadians better?

May 14th, 2019 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, I will take your comments to heart and continue in the same vein the committee of the whole has proceeded to this point.

I will be providing 10 minutes of remarks, followed by some questions.

I am very proud today to take the floor to share with Canadians some of our government's accomplishments in recognizing, promoting and protecting the equality rights of LGBTQ2 communities.

From the beginning of our government's mandate, we have demonstrated our commitment to diversity and inclusion in the hope that all Canadians can participate fully in Canadian society and be recognized as deserving of the same respect, deference and consideration. This commitment equally extends to members of the LGBTQ2 community.

Canadians expect their government to respect their human rights and to promote these rights. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs once stated in this very chamber, LGBTQ2 rights are human rights, and human rights have no borders. It is a commitment our government takes very seriously abroad and here at home.

ln budget 2017, the Government of Canada set aside $3.6 million over three years for the creation of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat within the Privy Council Office. The secretariat works with LGBTQ2 stakeholders across the country. This important work keeps our government informed about the challenging situations affecting LGBTQ2 Canadians and the potential solutions.

The secretariat also supports the integration of LGBTQ2 considerations in the day-to-day work of the federal government across all ministries. These efforts really help the government ensure that federal policies, programs and laws related to gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation are all within the same spirit and the same view to equality, inclusion and diversity.

ln November 2016, I was honoured to be appointed the Prime Minister's special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues. My role is to advise the Prime Minister on how to develop and coordinate the Government of Canada's LGBTQ2 policies and laws. This includes informing cabinet, parliamentarians and committees and engaging with LGBTQ2 organizations from across the country and around the world to promote equality, and listening to LGBTQ2 people and communities and identifying solutions to improve their lives.

In addition to the excellent work of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat, all ministries of our government have a responsibility to improve the lives of LGBTQ2 Canadians, and that includes the Department of Justice.

Early in our government's mandate, we also introduced and passed Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. This bill conferred greater protection on members of LGBTQ2 communities who experience discrimination and even violence because of their gender identity or expression. Bill C-16 added gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the Canadian Human Rights Act. This law promotes the principle that all individuals should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have, without being hindered by discriminatory practices.

Bill C-16 has also expanded hate crime offences in the Criminal Code to protect groups that are targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression.

Unfortunately, in Canada, transgender people are at high risk of verbal or physical violence and sexual harassment. Given this high degree of violence or threatened violence, it is only fair that our criminal law specifically denounce violence committed against a person as a result of the person's gender identity or expression.

The Prime Minister's apology to LGBTQ2 communities was another significant milestone in recognizing LGBTQ2 communities and protecting them as equal members of Canadian society. On November 28, 2017, the Prime Minister delivered a formal apology in this very House to individuals harmed by federal legislation, policies and practices that led to the oppression of and discrimination against two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Canada.

The Prime Minister apologized specifically for the shameful LGBT purge, the historical unjust treatment of LGBTQ2 federal public servants, including those in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This discriminatory treatment resulted in the loss of livelihoods, dignity and even lives.

There was a time in this country when people could be charged, prosecuted and criminally convicted simply because of their sexual orientation. To address this grave injustice, this government introduced Bill C-66. Now records of convictions involving consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners of legal age can be destroyed.

We are hopeful that this change will provide some relief to the many LGBTQ2 Canadians for whom the pain, trauma and fear have been all too real for all too long a time. Such discrimination has no place in Canada today. With Bill C-66, we took responsibility for recognizing and rectifying this historic injustice.

Since the government is taking measures to rectify historic discrimination based on unfair laws and policies, it is taking steps to remove from the Criminal Code an anachronistic offence that was used to target consensual sexual activities between gay men.

Under section 159 of the Criminal Code, unmarried persons can consent to engage in anal intercourse at age 18. The age of consent for any other form of non-exploitative sexual activity is 16 years old. Section 159 makes an exception for consensual anal intercourse between married spouses if they are of the opposite sex, but not if they are of the same sex. This is discriminatory policy, and several appellate courts have found that this provision violates the equality rights guaranteed by section 15 of the charter. Repealing section 159, as Bill C-75 proposes to do, will prevent the laying of charges against people who engage in non-exploitative, consensual anal intercourse.

The Attorney General of Canada recently issued a directive on the prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases for federal prosecutors, which applies in our territories.

Presently, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is undertaking a study that deals with the issue of HIV criminalization. The committee has heard from numerous witnesses about the negative impacts, not just on people's lives but on the public health system, of criminalizing HIV non-disclosure. I look forward to the continued work of the justice committee and to its report, and I look forward to the government's responding in a robust way to this very serious issue.

Returning to the directive, I note it is based on current scientific evidence regarding the sexual transmission of HIV and applicable criminal laws, as clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Mabior case. The directive recognizes that the non-disclosure of HIV is, first and foremost, a public health issue. It is also important to note that public health authorities have many tools at their disposal to ensure that people do not engage in reckless behaviour. Those tools would not require that such a provision be in the Criminal Code.

The Attorney General of Canada also issued a directive on the prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases for federal prosecutors, which applies in our territories. It is important that we work with the provinces. Right now, Ontario and British Columbia have policies and directives, but there are several territories in Canada that do not have such a directive. The directive is based on current scientific evidence regarding sexual transmission of HIV and the applicable criminal law.

Today I have touched on only a few of the many actions our government has taken to advance the full recognition, protection and participation of our LGBTQ2 communities. Our government will continue to demonstrate its commitment to promoting an inclusive society that works for all Canadians.

Before I get to questions, it is important to note that when we open up committee to civil society organizations and hear witnesses from coast to coast to coast, we let people who are not within 15 minutes or even two hours of Ottawa know that this government is their government. We let them know that the House and our parliamentary committees are designed to understand the issues that matter to them. It is important that we continue to open our committees to a diversity of voices, such as indigenous voices, the voices of depressed and marginalized people, and the voices of the LGBTQ2 community.

The health committee is right now wrapping up a study that was unanimously accepted by all members, about the health indicators of LGBTQ2 people. Our health indicators for this group are only slightly above those for indigenous people.

We have a lot of work to do in this chamber. We have a lot of work to do in advancing legislation and a lot of work to do to make lives better for all Canadians.

Now I have a few questions for the minister.

Could the minister share with us why it is important for us to continue our work on the prosecutorial policy directive as it pertains to the prosecution of HIV disclosure?

May 14th, 2019 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Chair, with respect to the LGBTQ2 issue, the minister raised important aspects of Bill C-16. I wonder if he could comment on Bill C-75, which I also understand would take an anomaly in the Criminal Code, which is that consensual sexual relations of same-sex couples who are adults are not criminalized, but currently consensual sexual relations between youth ages 16 and 17 are criminalized. How would Bill C-75 address that point?

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.
See context

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.
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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.
See context

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.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

February 7th, 2019 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned Bill C-75, and I would agree with part of it. However, many of those offences have been downgraded, almost 60 of them, and when the suggestion is not to take property crimes seriously, that statement of hers will ring loudly for a long time in my riding and create anger. If someone has been a victim of property crime, that is a tragic piece.

When she speaks of Bill C-75, which is a slap on the wrist for many offences on property, people become very angry. This is a challenge. Rural crime is still a challenge and it needs to be resolved.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

February 7th, 2019 / 6:45 p.m.
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Karen McCrimmon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Bow River's intervention today, but I would like to remind him there are significant crimes happening across this country that really are more serious than property crimes. There are crimes against people happening every day, as well as crimes against women.

Originally, this question came out of the case of Tanya Campbell-Losier, which took place in Brooks, Alberta. These people continue to endure the pain of this woman's loss. While I think we are making some huge headway on this, it is very important not to forget the people who were involved in these kinds of crimes across the country.

I know people are there for the people of Brooks, Alberta, and I know they want to make sure they know they are comforted and supported, but there really is not any comfort to be found in jurisdictional issues and processes and procedures of criminal law. However, in the context of the discussion in Parliament, it is important to be clear. That is part of our role here.

The offender in that particular case is a provincial offender who was incarcerated in an Alberta provincial prison. When he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received his sentence last spring, it was pursuant to the exact same Criminal Code provisions that were in place under the Harper government. Nothing had changed. When he was granted day parole in the fall, it was pursuant to the exact same criteria in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that were in place under the Harper government. There had been no changes.

Again, that is obviously cold comfort to Tanya's loved ones. They do not want us pointing partisan fingers. They want us to make the system better.

There is a legitimate question to come to this government: What is this government doing to protect women from intimate partner violence and to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes? Here is the answer. We have introduced Bill C-75, which would strengthen the way the criminal justice system deals with intimate partner violence by allowing for longer sentences, reversing the onus at bail hearings for repeat offenders and broadening the definition to include not just spouses but dating partners and former partners.

We have invested over $200 million to prevent gender-based violence and to support survivors and to deal with the scourge of violence against women. We are providing safe options to women in abusive relationships by devoting a third of the $40-billion national housing strategy to projects for women, girls and their families fleeing violence. This also helps maintain 7,000 shelter spaces.

Of course none of that brings Tanya back, but it will help more women from suffering her fate. Once again, my deepest condolences to her family and friends, and the community of Brooks, Alberta, whom I am sure continue to miss her very much.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2019 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I find it interesting, just entering into the conversation now, that the hon. minister stands up and talks about how there has been ample time to consult our constituents.

With that, I would like to bring up a constituent, somebody for whom I have been tirelessly advocating. She is Shelley Beyak, whose children, Liam and Mia Tarabichi, were kidnapped by their father, Shelley's ex-husband. The Prime Minister refuses to intervene in this case.

How does the hon. minister, who is new on this file, rationalize the comments today about speeding up a piece of legislation when he and his Prime Minister are failing to act to bring home Liam and Mia Tarabichi, a situation this bill actually touches on? As well, another piece of legislation, Bill C-75, actually lessens the charge for abduction of children under 14 and would again fall to this situation.

How does the minister rationalize his actions on this file while levying time allocation on this important piece of legislation?

January 31st, 2019 / 9:35 a.m.
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Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

David Lametti

With respect to the bestiality provisions, my sense is that the challenges would be the same as with any sexual assault provision where you have a vulnerable party. Vulnerable parties are often not people who readily go to a police station and file a report. You're talking about children, for example. It requires other people to report, other people to know about it. All of the investigative challenges that exist with respect to sexual crimes against children generally are going to be quite similar here, I think. Again, we're trying to provide an additional tool and an additional basis on which people can be charged.

We've alluded to some of the challenges that exist around animal fighting, in the sense that it's clandestine, so hidden to begin with, and also often interwoven with organized crime, which adds another layer of complexity.

But, once again, we're trying to provide a basis on which our law enforcement authorities can move in and stop the practice. Hopefully, I think, generally, some of the administration of justice provisions that are contained, for example, in Bill C-75, will also help facilitate the task at the other end.

January 31st, 2019 / 9:20 a.m.
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Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

David Lametti

As legislators, I think any piece of the puzzle we can improve.... There are many moving parts, with Bill C-78 and the Divorce Act being one, as is administrative justice reform, which you have already looked at, and Bill C-75 and moving forward with that are all a series of parts to improving the criminal justice system and the administration of justice. With all of these pieces of legislation, whether they be social or criminal, or help in some other way, we hope to improve the lot of families and children, and to better protect animals.

I guess there isn't one single answer other than to say that we're trying to make a number of things better, and we will continue to do that.

JusticeOral Questions

December 13th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have received the correspondence from my hon. colleague across the way and I will take great care in reviewing that correspondence. The letter is speaking with respect to a bill that we introduced, Bill C-75, which seeks to reform the Criminal Code and improve efficiencies and effectiveness.

We are making changes to bail reform. We are looking at administration of justice offences to address delays, with the underlying emphasis on public safety, ensuring we respect victims and ensuring we have an efficient and effective criminal justice system. I look forward to having further conversations with the hon. member.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak tonight to Bill C-51. For those who are not aware, this bill is intended to clean up clauses in the law that are no longer useful or applicable and to strengthen some of the language.

First, Bill C-51 is another omnibus bill. The Prime Minister said that the Liberals would not have omnibus bills, but we continue to see them in the House day after day. I may have gotten used to the fact that the Prime Minister always breaks his promise. However, I want people to be aware of this so they understand, as we approach next year's election, that the Prime Minister does not keep his promises and if he makes new promises, Canadians can expect that behaviour to continue. The promises really are not worth the paper on which they are written. Therefore, I object to this being an omnibus bill.

Usually when we think of justice bills, we think about what the government is trying to achieve in the country with respect to justice. Normally, we try to define what behaviour would be considered criminal, sentences that would be appropriate and commensurate with the crimes and that they are enforced in a timely way. However, I have to question what the justice minister is thinking with these pieces of legislation and actions that have been taken.

The government is in the fourth year of its mandate and what priority has the justice minister been giving time to? First, she has not put enough judges in place to keep murderers and rapists from going free because time has passed and the Jordan principle applies. That should have been a priority for the government, but clearly was not.

We heard earlier in the debate about how the government was pursuing veterans and indigenous people in court. That is obviously a priority for it, but one would think that other things would make the list. The Liberals prioritized the legalization of marijuana and the legalization of assisted suicide. Then it introduced Bill C-75, which took a number of serious crimes and reduced them to summary convictions of two years or a fine, things like forcible confinement of a minor, forced child marriage, belonging to a criminal organization, bribing an official and a lot of things like that. Those were the priorities of the government.

Then there is Bill C-83 regarding solitary confinement and impacts on 340 Canadians.

I am not sure what the priority of the government is when we consider the crime that has hit the streets. There is the increase in unlawful guns and gangs and huge issues with drug trafficking. I was just in Winnipeg and saw the meth addiction problem occupying the police and law enforcement there. I would have thought there would be other priorities.

If I think specifically about some of the measures in Bill C-51, the most egregious one to me is that the government tried to remove section 176, which protects religious officials and puts punishments in place for disrupting religious ceremonies.

Eighty-three churches in Sarnia—Lambton wrote letters and submitted petitions. There was an immediate outcry. It was nice that the government was eventually shamed into changing its mind and kept that section the way it was. However, why is there no moral compass with the government? We have had to shame it into doing the right thing many times, and this was one of them.

Terri-Lynne McClintic was moved to a healing lodge. I remember hearing the Minister of Public Safety talk day after day about how there was nothing he could do. I looked at section 6(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It says that the minister has full authority over his department. Eventually, of course, we shamed the government into the right thing. We heard today there may be a similar opportunity with Michael Rafferty, the other killer of Tori Stafford.

There is the Chris Garnier situation. He brutally murdered a police officer. He has PTSD and is getting veterans benefits when he was never a veteran. Again, we had to shame the government into taking action.

Then there was Statistics Canada. The government had a plan to allow it to take the personal financial transactional information of people's bank accounts and credit cards without their consent. Again, there was a total out-of-touch-with-Canadians response from the government, asking why it was a problem. Eventually, ruling by the polls, Canadians again shamed the government into changing its mind on that one.

Finally, there was the Canada summer jobs situation, which was very egregious to me. In my riding, numerous organizations were not able to access funding because of this values test that the government had put in place. The hospice, which delivers palliative care, was not even able to apply. It is under the Catholic diocese of Canada, which objected to the attestation. It has taken a very long time, but again, the government has been shamed into saying that the people are right and that maybe it will change it up for next year. Why does the government always have to be shamed into these things instead of having a moral compass to know what is right and what is not?

Bill C-51 would clean up a lot of things that were obviously a big priority for the government, like comic books causing crime. We know there have been huge issues about that in Canada. It would remove offences such as challenging someone to a dual. It would clean up the section on people fraudulently using witchcraft and sorcery. It would clean up a number of things. I do not object to it; I just do not see it as a priority when people are dying because of serious crimes.

Then there is the issue of sexual assault. The government spends a lot of word count talking about the fact that it cares about this. However, does it really care about sexual assault and strengthening the language on consent when it does not appoint enough judges to keep rapists from going free?

I was the chair of the status of women and we studied violence against women and girls. We know that one out of every thousand sexual assault cases actually goes to court and gets a conviction. If we want to talk about the sentences applied, they are measured in months and not years, when the victims struggle on forever.

Although there has been an attempt to make it clear what consent really means, there has been discussion in the debate today that it is still not clear. If people are interested to see what consent really means, there is a little video clip that can be googled. It is called Tea Consent. It is a very good way of demonstrating what consent is. I encourage everyone to take a look at that.

When it comes to the justice system and the priorities of the government, I cannot believe it has not addressed the more serious things facing our nation. We can think about what the justice minister ought to do, such as putting enough judges in place so we can have timely processing of events, and prioritize. If we do not have enough judges for the number of cases occurring, it is an indication of too much crime. However, it is also an opportunity to put the priority on processing murderers and rapists ahead of people being charged with petty crimes of less importance.

When it comes to looking at some of the actions the government should be taking going forward, it should be focusing on the issue of illegal gun activity happening right now. Ninety-five per cent of homicides is happening with unlawful guns or guns that are used unlawfully. There is a huge opportunity to do something about that. This should be a priority for the justice minister.

Our leader has put together a very cohesive plan that would reduce gun and gang violence. It is a great, well-thought out plan. I wish the Liberal government had some plan to try to do something to reduce crime in the country and to ensure that the people who commit crimes are actually held to account. I do not see that in Bill C-51. I have to wonder why it took so long to bring the bill forward.

As I said, the government is in the fourth year of its mandate and Bill C-39 would have made a lot of these fixes. It was introduced in March of 2017. Here we are at the end of 2018 and still none of this has gone through.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I have been here since 2004. It is interesting to realize that for 10 years the House will not be located here. It reminds me of how honoured I am to be here.

I do want to ask the member about this whole soft on crime agenda of the Liberals. He mentioned section 176. In my community, people perceive that as an attack on religious freedom.

He also talked about the Canada summer jobs program.

Bill C-75 would actually change indictable offences into summary convictions.

My colleague asked if we on this side have consulted experts. It seems members on the other side do not want to consult with Canadians.

The entire agenda of the Liberals moving forward is soft on crime policies, especially policies that would change something that was an indictable offence into a summary conviction. What kind of message does that send to Canadians?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege to stand in this place, especially as we approach the time when it will be closed and the last week we will be here.

It is an august place, a place where many interesting debates have happened since it reopened after the fire. As for the one before the fire, we are coming up the 100th anniversary of Prime Minister Laurier, who was a leader of note. He established Alberta and Saskatchewan as provinces, and passed away the following year. Not only did he establish Alberta and Saskatchewan, he was in favour of free trade agreements. In 1911, he lost an election on a free trade agreement. We may see that happen again in 2019.

Also I remember well the debates on the flag issue, which was a focus for the country in the sixties. The debates between Diefenbaker and Pearson are legendary in this place. The flag issue is one that had a lot of Canadians focused on this place and on the debates, which resulted in the maple flag we have today.

I also remember when we had a loyal opposition party leading a charge to leave the country. A lot of people were a little confused about the debates that went on in this place when the leader of the loyal opposition wanted to split up the country.

Many debates have happened in this place, with many people who are orators, intelligent people expressing their opinions and representing Canadians. At this time, I am one of 338 who has the honour and privilege to stand in this place, but not for much longer as this building will close this week and we will move to another place. Again, it is a privilege to look around and see the magnificent edifice and beautiful place in which we get to work.

Today I rise to speak to C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. Since it was introduced the first time, and again as it has come back from the Senate, there have been learned people standing and speaking to this. It is an omnibus bill. It is very complicated and one some people in the House are able to understand, comprehend and speak very clearly about. Others speak of its broad issues, but not as intelligently as some of the members in the House who have legal backgrounds.

However, it should not be a surprise there are issues when we get a bill this big, although many people would agree with some of the things in it.

I will be sharing my time, Mr. Speaker, with my colleague from Niagara West.

We agree with some things in this omnibus bill. It contains some worthy provisions. Clarifying the law in relation to sexual consent is very important. Repealing unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code is a positive aspect. I was also very happy the government backed down, as we have heard many times, on the removal of section 176 of the code. I heard a lot about this one from my constituents. Many faith groups, including those in my riding of Bow River, were deeply concerned about that section.

The section provides protection to those practising their religion. We have freedom of religion in Canada. One of thing I may not agree with everybody on is religion, but I would fight to the death for those people to be able to express their religious beliefs. Religious communities need to be able to worship without fear of interference and disruption. This is truer now than ever. Hate crimes against religious groups are on the rise in Canada. A section of the code that gives these groups clear, unambiguous confidence in their right to worship as they please is far from redundant.

When we were talking about the inoperative sections of the Criminal Code and Bill C-51, it was the unfortunate decision by the government to initially include section 176 of the Criminal Code among the sections it deemed to be obsolete. Section 176 is hardly redundant, hardly obsolete and certainly not unconstitutional. Indeed, section 176 is the only section in the Criminal Code that protects clergy from having their services disrupted, something which is very serious and goes to the heart of religious freedom.

The government turned a blind eye when it introduced this, and the Conservatives called them out on it. As a result, tens of thousands of Canadians spoke out, telling the government that it was wrong.

My learned colleague on the other side previously mentioned that a committee was able to resolve this. It was one of the outstanding features of the committee that it unanimously came to that. However, it is my belief that there was such push-back in religious communities that the people sitting on that committee realized the mistake in that initial document and changed it.

Municipal governments must react much sooner when they may have made a mistake. If in coffee shops they hear about something, they pass it the next day, and at the next meeting, they can fix it. This is a much longer process, but at the committee level, members heard from religious people of faith in our country that this was not the appropriate thing to do.

I will move on. Clause 14 of Bill C-51 proposed to repeal section 176 of the Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to unlawfully obstruct a religious official. Conservatives were the first to identify this clause. As a result of the public backlash, the Liberals on the justice committee amended Bill C-51 to remove it.

However, only months later, the Liberals hybridized section 176 in Bill C-75. Currently, it is a solely indictable offence, which is reserved for the most serious offences. However, by hybridizing section 176, it could be prosecuted as a summary conviction offence, which is reserved for less serious offences. That means that offenders could just get a fine, and I think that would downgrade the importance of religious freedom. For people who practice it and leaders of religion, this would be downgraded to a less serious offence. That is not right.

While the specific changes would not have a significant impact on the maximum sentence, unlike some of the other offences the government is hybridizing, it would send a message. I would submit that it would send exactly the wrong message. It would send the message that disrupting a religious service and infringing on the freedom of religion of Canadians, which is not just any freedom but a fundamental freedom in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is not that serious. That is just wrong. It is why the Conservatives opposed it and stood up to fight Bill C-75.

Then there were amendments that came back from the Senate. The Senate put forward amendments because there was concern that this would add confusion in cases where a person was not unconscious but was, for example, highly intoxicated. Unfortunately, while the Senate amendments may have been well intentioned, they would simply cause more problems and solve a problem that really does not exist. We would support voting against these amendments, because we believe that they do not clarify; they just make things more confusing.

Conservatives fully support all changes in the bill to clarify and strengthen sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code. These changes would help support victims of horrific sexual assault crimes. Conservatives also support repealing or amending sections of the code that have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

It is important to keep the code clean and up to date for efficient and effective justice for victims and their families. Bill C-51 would merely clarify that consent can never occur when an individual is unconscious. That is consistent with the J.A. decision.

Bill C-51 would not, as the Senate amendment argues, potentially create a bright line for consent on the basis of consciousness. In that regard, proposed paragraph 273.1(2)(b) provides that “no consent is obtained...for any reason other than [unconsciousness].” This language clearly acknowledges that there are many possible reasons a person may be incapable of consent, despite being conscious.

The Senate amendment would likely lead to additional complexity and confusion over what evidence was relevant to determine consent. Instead of adding certainty to the law, it would lead to further litigation involving these factors. For those reasons, we oppose this amendment.

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December 10th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, on that point, the government proceeded with hybridizing offences under section 176 in Bill C-75. Although members of the standing committee chose to make that change with respect to Bill C-51, we saw new government legislation in the form of Bill C-75 that again showed a lack of appreciation for this important section.

It would have been great if the same standing committee had shown the alleged independence that the member speaks of by fixing it the second time around as well. Unfortunately, sometimes, even on relatively independent committees, the PMO's hammer comes down and we do not see that change.

It is frustrating to see repeated attempts by the government in its legislation to weaken section 176. Yes, there was an amendment the first time around on this bill, but there was not an amendment the second time around.

In so many different areas, the government tries to do something, there is a public backlash, it waits a while and then we see it do something similar. Talking about the impact on faith communities, the Canada summer jobs issue has been in the news recently. I do not think Canadians are going to be fooled by the fact that the government is trying to make what looks like a change in an election year. Many faith communities have seen what the government's intentions are with respect to their freedoms and liberties. To change the tone of the discussion in an election year is not the best indication of what it has in mind or what it would likely do if it were re-elected.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-51 and, in particular, the Senate amendments.

My intention in my remarks today is to focus on two issues that arise out of this bill. One is the question of advance consent in general, at a philosophical and practical level, and whether we think that a person ought to be able to consent in advance to something happening in the future and some of the issues related to that in this bill. The other is I want to talk about section 176 and the way in which the government approaches our response to potential acts of hate and violence and disruption that are perpetrated against faith communities in Canada.

The issue of advance consent is very much one that has been discussed back and forth and from different perspectives. I note that with respect to the idea of someone consenting in advance to sexual activity, this is a subject on which the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Court of Appeal, at certain points in time, disagreed. There was a court decision in R. v. J.A. in which the person accused of sexual assault argued in the context of that particular case that sexual assault had not taken place because the complainant had consented to being rendered unconscious, allegedly, and consented, allegedly, to engaging in sexual activity. The Ontario Court of Appeal actually agreed with the arguments of the accused in this case, and said the “only state of mind ever experienced by the person is that of consent”.

I think the Ontario Court of Appeal got it wrong. Many people would say that it is not only wrong but deeply offensive to suggest that a sexual act could be performed without a person's explicit consent in the moment, on the basis of alleged prior consent in advance.

In my view, the Supreme Court got it right when it said:

It is not possible for an unconscious person to satisfy this requirement, even if she expresses her consent in advance. Any sexual activity with an individual who is incapable of consciously evaluating whether she is consenting is therefore not consensual within the meaning of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-51 puts that legal court decision into the Criminal Code by noting that there is never consent when a person is unconscious. Proposed paragraph 273.1(2)(a.1) states:

For the purpose of subsection (1), no consent is obtained if

(a.1) the complainant is unconscious;

The decision of the Supreme Court in this case is the right decision. It is one that I agree with and it is one that is reflected in the law.

It is noteworthy at the same time that the Ontario Court of Appeal thought differently and indeed advanced arguments for the idea that a person could provide so-called advance consent in this case. It reflects the fact that in different contexts around different debates, people have made arguments about the supposed legitimacy of advance consent. We see in another case the use of that argument, and I will get to that in a few moments.

The cases against so-called advance consent as something we should allow or accept are myriad. One of the obvious arguments against it is that one's past self, in one's wishes and inclinations, might disagree substantively from one's future self. One might think that at such and such a point in the future under certain circumstances one will want this or feel this or accept this. However, in reality, when one experiences those things, one feels totally differently in the context of that new situation. The idea of a past self irrevocably dictating the conditions and events that are going to occur with a future self is unjust to the future self and it violates the autonomy of the individual at that point in time in the future. Our past selves differ from our future selves, and perceptions about how we will experience certain events in the past might differ from how we actually experience them in the moment when they are taking place.

It is on this basis of recognizing the importance of autonomy, not in the sense of a past self-binding and future self-binding but autonomy in the sense of individuals making determinations about themselves in the moment and being able to ensure that they are comfortable with and accepting of everything that is happening while that thing is happening, that the court, the House, and this legislation recognize the fundamental wrongness of advance consent in the context of sexual activity.

I develop this point in spite of the perhaps pre-existing agreement in the House because it has some relevance to our discussion of other issues with respect to consent. In particular, some members would like to see us allow advance consent in the case of euthanasia or assisted suicide. It is important for members to reflect on the argument for and against allowing advance consent in the one case when we consider the possible application of that same principle in a different case.

Questions were asked in the House, for example, about the case of Ms. Audrey Parker, a tragic situation for her, and other cases, where the idea of advance consent was brought up. Some have argued, especially some of my friends in the NDP, that people should be able to provide consent in advance that their life be taken if their condition advances to a certain point and if certain conditions are met.

I find that prospect very troubling, that a present self could irrevocably bind a future self, especially that the person could establish parameters under which that future self would be bound even in a case where that future self might, in the moment in terms of practical expression, not want that to happen.

The particular context in euthanasia of providing advance consent is, of course, that people have to imagine how they would experience certain conditions, certain development of a disease, and how they would feel about it, how they would respond and what they would want in the moment. The idea and the argument that some advocates have made is that the person should be able to issue an advance directive, so that even if they in that moment do not have the capacity to make a decision, their past self would decide for them in the present.

This can create a situation, though, where one might ask what happens if a person with somewhat lost capacity, but nonetheless with a condition set out by their past self, then says he does not want his life taken. His past self had established this living will, this advance directive of sorts, that would then theoretically involve the state and medical professionals taking his life in a case where he did not want that to happen in the moment based on something his past self said.

This is not a purely hypothetical case. There is currently a case before the Dutch courts in which a patient was held down by family members while a physician injected her with lethal medication. The doctor was acting based on an interpretation of an advance directive and of past statements made by the patient.

We do have cases where there is an application of the idea of advance consent to euthanasia, and we have a very scary situation, frankly, where a person's life is taken when he or she is saying in the moment, “No, I don't want this to happen”, but someone else is interpreting something the individual said in the past as overruling the individual's expression in the moment.

The present self who is facing this kind of violence, I would argue, is maybe at a point of lower capacity than the person previously had, but I still think it is a very scary situation or proposition.

I would encourage members to reflect on the question of advance consent and to take a consistent position on it. I would suggest that members set a similar standard for consent in these cases. It does not seem, to me, to make sense to have a lower bar for the consent required to die than consent required for sexual activity, to abhor advance consent in the case of sexual activity, and yet to support it in the case of death and dying. We do not know exactly where the debate on advance consent in the context of death and dying is going to go. I know there is an expert panel the government has put forward that we expect to hear a report back from relatively soon. I know there are members of the government caucus who have said that they are supportive of the idea of advance consent.

However, if we think about the case that I spoke about in particular and how we would feel if a past version of ourselves had said we wanted something, which all of a sudden, in the moment, in a situation, we really do not want to have happen, and yet we are told that we had said we had wanted this in the past, so our past self can dictate to our present self. I would see that as really going against a pretty basic principle of autonomy that I know is important to many members.

I leave that for the consideration of the House. It is very relevant to our discussion of Bill C-51, in terms of the way in which the bill codifies the point that in the context of sexual consent, one cannot consent in advance, that a person who is unconscious can never consent, regardless of what they said beforehand. Again, to underline this, I very much agree with that particular change to Bill C-51. I want to encourage members to think about what that means for some of the other conversations that are happening.

This bill deals with Senate amendments. There is a proposed Senate amendment that provides some specific language around that section. I know that some of my colleagues are favourably disposed towards the intent of the senator who brought this forward, but are concerned about some of the unintended legal implications of it, namely, that if certain things are spelled out explicitly, there might also be things that are not spelled out in the section. The sense, and I think it is a good sense, is that the existing language in that particular section of Bill C-51 does the trick in hitting the particular point on the mark. That is what I wanted to say about the issue of advance consent.

I would like to make a few comments about section 176 of the Criminal Code and the back and forth we have seen in our discussions on that section and on some of the other actions the government has taken in this regard.

Section 176 deals with the disruption of a religious service and vandalism against church property, and so forth. Our caucus has done a great deal of work with civil society to bring attention to the importance and value of this section, and to oppose initial efforts by the government to remove this section.

The government argued that section 176 could be removed, because it was redundant. Clearly the offences that are covered by section 176 are things that other charges could apply to, but that does not mean that the offence, in terms of putting a particular emphasis on it and ensuring fulsome prosecution in these cases, is redundant. By analogy, our Criminal Code speaks specifically of hate crimes, and I have never heard anyone argue that hate crimes legislation is redundant because the violence associated with hate crimes, namely, vandalism, but more particularly assault and those sorts of things, are already illegal.

I have never heard anyone ask why we need hate crime provisions because those things are already illegal. I think all of us accept that the message sent by having a particular category of prosecution associated with hate crimes is appropriate, because hate crimes are not just aimed at doing violence to a particular individual but also at making an entire community feel threatened and unsafe in living their lives as they do, including the practice of their faith and the public actions they take that are associated with their identity, and so forth.

Hate crimes legislation is about ensuring that groups of people are not targeted on the basis of their identity. That is why we treat a hate crime as something distinct from an act of assault on its own. If members accept that principle with respect to hate crimes and hate crimes in prosecution, it would seem to me that the same principle goes to section 176. Someone who actively disrupts a church service or commits acts of vandalism or violence against religious clergy are not just trying to enact specific violence against an individual or place. It is not merely an act of trespassing or vandalism, rather an action that carries with it a real chill for the ability of people of faith to live freely and confidently without worry of that kind of violence. That is why section 176 is not redundant. It is critically important.

Another argument the government used was to say that the language in section 176 is outdated because it refers to a clergyman and is not, in its textual implications, inclusive of all faiths and genders. However, in reality, the section was clearly being applied in a way that was fully inclusive. It really was an odd argument to make that we should take the section out completely because it was not, in its language, inclusive when all that was really required was to change the language. Even changing the language did not change the actual practical effects of the law.

In the end, in response to a really strong reaction and groundswell from different communities working collaboratively with our party, the proposed deletion of section 176 by Bill C-51 was abandoned. We were pleased to see that.

At the same time, we then saw the government, in Bill C-75, proposing to hybridize offences under section 176, effectively reducing the sentence for these offences. In the previous discussion in the House on this issue, my friend from Winnipeg North offered a defence of the idea of hybridized offences. I do not think anyone has argued there should not be any cases where the level of available discretion would not cover a spectrum associated with hybridized offences.

However, I think a lot of those who advocated significantly for section 176 to be preserved, and were initially pleased by the government's stepping back from their decision, kind of saw in the hybridization of this particular offence yet another indication that the government does not really understand the importance of this and does not accept the value of having strong, clear language with appropriate associated sentences in the Criminal Code to protect the practice of faith in this country.

It is ironic because the government talks a good game a lot of the time when it comes to fighting hate. When it comes to motions or statements around these kinds of issues, the government always seems to be ready.

We had considerable debate in the House on Motion No. 103 on the question of “Islamophobia”. All of us in the House should read that it is important for us to take a strong stand against, in this case, anti-Muslim violence or hatred, and that it is important for us to take a strong stand against those who express bigotry against any community. However, we wanted the government to provide a definition of what it meant by “Islamophobia”, and it refused to do that. Unfortunately, the House was not able to come together in a way that might have been desirable to send a clear unified statement on that issue.

Despite the specific language of Motion No. 103 speaking of the need to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear”, the government's actions with respect to section 176, an actual section of the Criminal Code that provides real legal protection for those practising their faith, show that in so many cases, it is only interested in the statement and not the substance.

For faith communities and leaders across the board who wonder what substantive protections exist, they should look to and expect the government to underline the importance of section 176, not to be weakening its application as we are seeing.

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December 10th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is right. It does send a strange message. On the one hand, they want to clarify a situation, but on the other, they make it impossible to clarify.

I have always advocated for victims of crime. What bothers me the most about Bill C-51 is that it mentions the Charter of Rights and Freedoms a lot but does not mention the Victims Bill of Rights at all, even though it is supposed to help victims. Plus, the Victims Bill of Rights takes precedence over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Unlike their attackers, victims of crime get life sentences. In many cases, there is no minimum sentence for perpetrators. A judge may hand down a maximum sentence knowing full well that the offender will never serve it in its entirety. Many offenders get out of jail after serving a third of their sentence, and that is what makes victims of crime nervous. Sexual assault and rape are life sentences for victims. We have no idea what those women and young boys go through. Yes, boys can be victims too.

For those people, and as far as I am concerned, Bill C-51 does not go far enough. I would have liked an explanation as to why Bill C-75 was scrapped when it should have been kept. I would also like someone to mention the bill introduced by our former leader, Rona Ambrose, that addressed this problem.

Bill C-51 is a good bill, but there is still more work to be done.

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December 10th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is right that there are a number of aspects of Bill C-51 that are welcome in clarifying, in some cases, the law around sexual assault.

I think everyone in this House would agree that sexual assault is an extremely serious offence. The lives of those who are victims of sexual assault are forever changed. It is why I have to say I am very disturbed that, on the one hand, there are some positive aspects to Bill C-51 but, on the other hand, the government would turn around in Bill C-75 and hybridize the offence of administering a date-rape drug. The government is actually reclassifying that offence from what is now a solely indictable offence, the most serious type of offence in the Criminal Code, to an offence that could be prosecutable by way of summary conviction.

I was wondering if my hon. colleague could comment on what kind of a message it sends to water down sentencing for administering a date-rape drug. I would submit it sends exactly the wrong message.

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December 10th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will agree with my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton. It is a real head-scratcher.

He recalled a few hours ago that when Bill C-32 was introduced, the government made much fanfare. There was a huge press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons. A number of stakeholders were behind the minister. It made headlines across the country. That bill still remains in purgatory.

It was then rolled into Bill C-39, and we had hope that this was moment we would be moving forward with the much-needed amendments to the Criminal. However, again, that bill remains in purgatory at first reading.

Finally, Bill C-39 was rolled into Bill C-75. The House of Commons has only just passed that bill and sent it to the Senate.

Here we are more than three years into the government's mandate and we have only just sent that package of Criminal Code reforms to the Senate. Who knows how long it will take in the other place, given how massive that bill is, how many debates will be needed in the Senate and how many stakeholders will appear before the legal and constitutional affairs committee.

For a government that came to power with such a huge and ambitious mandate to reform our criminal justice system, the evidence of its legislative progress has been very lacking. I would agree with my colleague that the government's management of time in the House could certainly use a few lessons.

Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, with respect, I will have to disagree with my colleague. Yes, I agree there are some very substantive provisions in Bill C-75 and Bill C-51 which we do support. The problem is that in Bill C-75, the government rolled in those changes with other more contentious issues and therefore has forced the legislation down to a snail's pace where it now has been sent to the Senate.

Three years into the Liberal government's mandate, when we look at its accomplishments at cleaning up the Criminal Code, so far nothing has been done. The zombie provisions of the Criminal Code are still on the books. The Criminal Code is reprinted every single year. The 2016 edition, 2017 edition and 2018 edition all contain those mistakes. If I am going to look at the government's performance based on its amendments to the Criminal Code, I am sorry but it is a failing grade.

Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be participating in today's debate on Bill C-51. I find it unfortunate, however, that the government has again had to resort to time allocation on a justice bill. The bill passed the House of Commons. I was certainly one of the members who voted in favour of it. However, I find myself in the awkward position of actually agreeing with what the Senate has done to the bill, because it very much mirrors the attempt I made at the justice committee last year to codify the nature of consent and provide a bit more definition in the Criminal Code.

Before I get to the Senate amendments more specifically, I want to talk more generally about the government's record on justice bills. While I do have a great deal of respect for the Minister of Justice and I very much agreed at the start of the government's mandate with what she was attempting to do, the pace of legislative change from the Minister of Justice has been anything but satisfactory. We started off with Bill C-14. It received a lot of attention and debate in Canada, as it should have, but we have to remember that the only reason the government moved ahead with Bill C-14 and we passed it in 2016 was that the government was operating under a Supreme Court imposed deadline. There was really no choice in the matter. Furthermore, when Bill C-14 was passed, we very nearly had a standoff with the Senate because of the provision in the bill about reasonable death occurring in a predetermined amount of time. We knew that that particular section would be challenged in the court system.

The other substantive piece of legislation the government has passed is Bill C-46, which was designed to move in conjunction with Bill C-45. Of course, Bill C-46 was problematic because the government has now removed the need for reasonable suspicion for police officers to administer a Breathalyzer test. They can basically do it whenever a person is legally stopped, whether it be for a broken tail light or for not stopping completely at a stop sign. If an officer has a Breathalyzer test on their person, they can demand a breath sample right then and there, without the need for reasonable suspicion. I have seen mandatory alcohol screening operate in other countries, notably Australia.

In my attempt to amend that bill, I stated that if we were going to apply such a draconian measure, it should be applied equally, because if we start giving police officers the ability to decide when or where to test someone, we know from the statistics, notably from the City of Toronto, that people of a certain skin colour are more apt to be stopped by the police than others. If such a provision were to be implemented, it should be applied equally at all times.

Moving on, there is Bill C-28, which deals with the victim surcharge, but is still languishing in purgatory at first reading.

The government then moved forward with a number of cleanups of the Criminal Code, the so-called zombie or inoperative provisions and the many redundant sections of the Criminal Code. That is the thing about the Criminal Code: It is littered with out-of-date provisions that are inoperable because of Supreme Court or appellate court rulings, but they are still faithfully reprinted every single year because Parliament has not done its work to clean up the Criminal Code. As my college the member for St. Albert—Edmonton has noted, it has led to some very bad consequences, notably in the Travis Vader case, where the judge used an inoperative section of the Criminal Code to convict someone. That conviction was then overturned. So these section do have very real consequences.

My contention has always been with section 159, which was brought forward in Bill C-32. Bill C-32 was then swallowed up by Bill C-39. Then Bill C-39 was swallowed up by Bill C-75, which has only just passed the House and now has to clear the Senate. We have no idea how much longer that is going to take. The House is about to rise for the Christmas break. We will be back functioning at the end of January, but Bill C-75 is a gigantic omnibus bill and full of provisions that make it a very contentious bill.

My argument has always been that for such an ambitious legislative agenda, especially if we are going to clean up the Criminal Code as Bill C-51 proposes to do, I contend that the Minister of Justice, had she had a good strategy in dealing with the parliamentary timetable and calendar and how this place actually works, would have bundled up the non-contentious issues in Bill C-39 and Bill C-32, which was morphed into Bill C-75, together with the non-contentious issues of Bill C-51 and made it a stand-alone bill, and we could have done that work.

These are issues that we cannot really argue against because it is a moot point; the Supreme Court has already ruled, so keeping them in the Criminal Code just leads to further confusion. Here we are, three years into the government's mandate, and the Criminal Code has still not been cleaned up to this day. For an ambitious legislative agenda, that leaves a lot to be desired. I heard Michael Spratt, who regularly appears as a witness before the justice committee, describe Bill C-51 as dealing with the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Therefore, if we had been serious, we could have made some very reasonable progress on that. Be that as it may, we have Bill C-51 before us and we have to go over it.

Before I get into the specific amendments brought forward by the Senate, I think it is worth going over some of the things we are talking about. Among the things Bill C-51 would repeal is the offence of challenging someone to a duel. It used to be illegal to provoke someone to fight a duel or to accept the challenge. We will get rid of that section because it obviously reflects an earlier time in Canada's history. It is the reason why in this place we are two sword lengths apart. Members of parliament in the U.K. used to go into that place with swords on their hips. The bill would also get rid of section 143 dealing with advertizing a reward for the return of stolen property. It would get rid of section 163, dealing with the possession of crime comics, a legacy of a 1948 bill by a member who thought that crime comics negatively influenced kids by encouraging them to commit crimes, and that they were not a part of a good upbringing. The section on blasphemous libel would be dropped. Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft is probably one of my favourite ones.

While Bill C-51 is making some much needed changes to sections of the Criminal Code, as I said earlier, we would not be arguing these cases in the House three years into the mandate of the current government if the bills had been bundled up into a single bill, which I am sure could have had royal assent by now.

We did have a very interesting discussion at the justice committee on section 176. When I first read Bill C-51 and it mentioned that this section would be repealed, I read right over it. However, when hearing witnesses at committee, it became quite apparent that section 176 had a lot of very deep meaning to select religious groups. After hearing all of that testimony about the importance of having section 176 remain in the code, I am glad to see that the committee members were able to work together to polish the language to ensure that it would now be applicable to all religious faiths, and not just single out the Christian faith. Now, if someone were to interrupt the religious proceedings of any faith, that would be dealt with appropriately under section 176.

The heart of the matter before us is the Senate amendments to Bill C-51. As I mentioned, it is kind of awkward for a New Democrat to be recognizing the work of the Senate. I value the people who sit as senators. I know there are some very determined people who certainly try to do their best there. My problem has always been with a 21st century democracy like Canada having an unelected and unaccountable upper house. I have to face the electorate for the decisions I make and the words I say in this place, and for what the Senate as a whole does.

I am going to be rejecting the government's motion on Bill C-51, because I agree with the substance of what the Senate was attempting to do in Bill C-51. It very much reflects some of the testimony that I heard at committee, and I have also reviewed some of the Senate Hansard transcripts of the debates it had on Bill C-51. While it is true that the amendments were not passed at the legal and constitutional affairs committee of the Senate, they were passed at the third reading stage. When we see the transcripts, we can see that the hon. senators in the other place were trying to codify what they saw as some missing aspects of the bill.

If we look at the heart of the matter, it comes down to the Supreme Court decision in R. v. J.A. The Supreme Court ruling reads:

When the complainant loses consciousness, she loses the ability to either oppose or consent to the sexual activity that occurs. Finding that such a person is consenting would effectively negate the right of the complainant to change her mind at any point in the sexual encounter.

In some situations, the concept of consent Parliament has adopted may seem unrealistic. However, it would be inappropriate for this Court to carve out exceptions to the concept of consent when doing so would undermine Parliament’s choice. This concept of consent produces just results in the vast majority of cases and has proved to be of great value in combating stereotypes that have historically existed. In the absence of a constitutional challenge, the appropriate body to alter the law on consent in relation to sexual assault is Parliament, should it deem this necessary.

The court in a sense is recognizing the very important part that Parliament plays in this. One thing I have learned during my time as our party's justice critic is that, in looking at the Criminal Code, ultimately, we in this place are responsible for drafting and implementing the law and it comes down to the courts to interpret it. There is this kind of back and forth. When the justice aspect of the government and the parliamentary part of it work in tandem like that, we hopefully arrive at a place where the law is reflective of today's society.

However, it is not only the J.A. decision that we should be looking at. On October 30, which coincidentally was the very same day that the Senate sent the bill back to the House, there was a decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal, R. v. W.L.S. In that particular case, an acquittal on sexual assault charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal acknowledged in its decision that the complainant was incapable of consenting.

Senator Kim Pate provided us with a message. She said:

In regard to our discussions concerning Bill C-51, I write to draw your attention to the recent case of the Alberta Court of Appeal, concerning the law of incapacity to consent to sexual activity. Please find a copy of this case attached.

The Alberta Court of Appeal heard this case on October 30, the same day the Senate passed the amendments to Bill C-51. The court overturned the trial decision on the grounds that the trial judge had wrongly held that nothing short of unconsciousness was sufficient to establish incapacity. While this erroneous understanding of the law was rectified on appeal in this case, as we know, the vast majority of cases are never appealed. The trial judge's decision demonstrates the very error, fed by harmful stereotypes about victims of sexual assault, that many of us are concerned the original words of Bill C-51 risks encouraging.

Senator Kim Pate is basically acknowledging that there is a role for Parliament to play in providing a more explicit definition of consent, what it means and when consent is not given. While I am certainly one of those people who trusts in the power and ability of judges to make decisions, the judicial discretion, I align that thinking more with the decisions that they make and not in the interpretation of the Criminal Code. There is room in some parts of the Criminal Code to be very specific so that there is no judicial discretion, and that we are very clear on what consent means and what it does not mean.

Turning to the actual Senate amendments, they would be adding specificity in both clause 10 and clause 19. Basically, those particular aspects want to ensure:

(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity in question for any reason, including, but not limited to, the fact that they are

(i) unable to understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity in question,

(ii) unable to understand that they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity in question or not, or

(iii) unable to affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in question by words or by active conduct;

Adding this kind of specificity to the Criminal Code is very much a good thing. In paragraph (b), it says “including, but not limited to”. I think adding that kind of specificity will help with certain cases. From the very interesting Senate deliberations on this subject at third reading, we can see that senators were not very happy with how Bill C-51 left a bit of a hole.

We have made much of the witness testimony at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Professor Janine Benedet did look at this particular aspect of the Criminal Code. As I said in my exchange with the member for Mount Royal, one thing she stated was:

Any clarification we can give will be beneficial. It doesn't have to be an exhaustive list, but there has to be the idea that consent has to be informed, that you have to have the ability to understand that you can refuse—because some individuals with intellectual disabilities do not know they can say no to sexual activity—and that it has to be your actual agreement. Those are all things that can be read into the code as it's currently written, but sometimes are not fully realized in the cases we see.

Adding that specific part would be very much in line with what Professor Benedet was saying at the committee. That is why I will be rejecting the government's motion and voting in favour of the Senate amendments.

Turning to the Senate deliberations on this bill, in some of that debate it was said that R. v. J.A. outlines the requirement for active consent. However, the Senate very much found that without the specific amendment by Senator Pate to Bill C-51, we would have failed to capture the scope of consent laid out for us by the Supreme Court, supported by experts in the law of sexual assault in Canada.

Feminist experts in sexual assault law have advised that the inclusion of the word “unconscious” risks creating a false threshold for the capacity to consent. There were also deliberations that the current wording in Bill C-51 poses a serious risk that women who are intoxicated would be blamed if they are sexually assaulted. They would not be protected by this bill.

Further, some have noted that the weakness is in the definition of what constitutes non-consent. According to a legal expert who provides sexual consent training to judges, there is not enough precedent or awareness among judges to believe that the proposed wording in clause 10 and clause 19 of the bill is clear enough.

I see my time is running out, but I will end with some of the really scary statistics we face as a country. Statistics Canada estimates that some 636,000 self-reported sexual assaults took place in Canada in 2014. Shockingly, it also estimates that as few as one in 20 were actually reported to police. Those are statistics which should give us great pause and lead us to ask ourselves what more we could be doing. The Senate amendments are very much in faith with trying to keep that.

I would also note that this is probably one of the last opportunities I will have to rise in this particular chamber to give a speech. I want to acknowledge the history of this place and what an honour it has been for me, in my short three years here, to have served in this House of Commons chamber. I know we will be going forward to West Block, and an admirable job has been done there.

I finish by wishing all my colleagues a merry Christmas. I hope they have a fantastic holiday season with friends and family, and that we come back in 2019 refreshed and ready to do our work on behalf of Canadians.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, again to the question and comments of my colleague across the way with respect to section 159 and the legislation that has now been put into Bill C-75, removing this provision in the Criminal Code is a priority of our government, as are all of the provisions contained within Bill C-75. I am very pleased that Bill C-75 has passed third reading in this House and will be debated and discussed in the other place. I look forward to the results of the deliberations from the other place.

I would say that we are committed to ensuring that Bill C-75 moves through the parliamentary process, benefits from the parliamentary process and becomes law as soon as possible. From what I can account for from the member's comments is that there are major pieces within Bill C-75, if not the entirety of Bill C-75, that are in the interest of moving forward and amending the Criminal Code and addressing the issues that have been raised by members in this place.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I believe I understand the member's question. With respect to section 176, he characterized it as backing down, but what we did is we listened to what the committee members sought to say around religious officiants and we recognized the recommendation in terms of the amendments that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made and acknowledged that and accepted that. We did make some amendments to ensure that this reflected all religious officiants as opposed to the confined way it was drafted in terms of the amendments that were proposed at the House committee. Basically the answer is that we listened to what the House of Commons committee said. That is the importance of committees in this place that we take incredibly seriously.

In terms of hybridization of offences, we are proposing in Bill C-75, which is not the bill at issue here today, a number of offences to be hybridized, to contribute to the broad and bold criminal justice reforms that will address delays, efficiencies and effectiveness in the criminal justice system. By hybridizing certain offences, it gives prosecutors the ability to exercise their discretion and proceed in terms of criminal charges in the most expeditious manner as appropriate to the circumstances of a particular case.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I was appalled when I heard that the Liberal government was trying to remove section 176 of the Criminal Code. This is the only section of the Criminal Code that can directly protect the rights of individuals to freely practise their religion, whatever that religion might be. It was recently used in a case on June 9, 2017 here in Ottawa.

Why did the Liberals back down on removing section 176? Was it due to public backlash and they did not properly investigate this? Why are they not trying to hybridize this under Bill C-75?

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, in terms of reintroducing the Criminal Code, I am incredibly proud to be part of a government that has taken action, which has not been taken for decades, as the member mentioned, to ensure that we have a modernized Criminal Code, that we remove the unconstitutional provisions, the zombie provisions, that we update the laws around sexual assault and intimate partner violence and that we look at the victim fine surcharge as well as section 159. All of these are issues raised in government bills the member opposite has spoken to.

We are moving forward with comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system, and that starts with looking, in a substantial manner, at the Criminal Code. This is what we have sought to do and what is contained in Bill C-51 and also in Bill C-75.

I look forward these two pieces of proposed legislation becoming law so that we can do what has not been done for far too long, which is modernize the Criminal Code.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not satisfied with the minister's previous response to my question. We can look at the legislative track record of the Minister of Justice, starting with Bill C-28, the victim surcharge bill, which was rolled into Bill C-75. We had Bill C-32, which was rolled into Bill C-39, which was then rolled into Bill C-75, and now we have Bill C-51.

I talked about tactics. Time allocation is a tactic. It would have been an unnecessary one if we could have dealt with the substantive provisions in all those bills, but instead, the government's strategy was to basically string us along with the introduction of these justice bills that would clean up the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code and then leave them in some kind of purgatory stuck at first reading.

When the Minister of Justice took office, everyone knew that there were zombie provisions in the Criminal Code that had to be cleaned up. This has been a topic of discussion for decades, and every year, the Criminal Code is faithfully reproduced with all of these mistakes.

Again, why did the Minister of Justice, in 2016, the first year of her mandate, not take the provisions in Bill C-32 and Bill C-39 and elements of Bill C-51 and package them in one bill? We could have had that passed, done and dusted by now, but instead, they were rolled up with contentious provisions, and they are still being debated. Bill C-75 has only just been sent to the Senate. Who knows how long it is going to take there?

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to the comments and questions from my colleague across the way with respect to the then Bill C-39, which is now incorporated in the broad criminal justice reforms contained within Bill C-75.

I am very pleased that Bill C-75 has passed third reading in this place and is in the other place for debate and discussion. We look forward to its deliberations with respect to these very important and bold reforms presented in Bill C-75. I would look to all members in the House to assist in encouraging the members in the other place to proceed in an expeditious fashion so that the provisions the member opposite references will be passed as part of Bill C-75 and we can remove those provisions from the Criminal Code.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague across the way sat on the justice and human rights committee, which has debated many justice bills.

As for the member's characterization of parliamentary tactics, the only parliamentary tactic I employ and that our government employs is to work as co-operatively as we can with all members in the House to have informed debate about particular bills the government puts forward, seeking feedback from hon. members in this place and the other place and valuing the work done at committee.

With respect to all the justice bills that have been advanced, we have been working expeditiously to move forward with Bill C-39, Bill C-51 and Bill C-75 so that we clean up the so-called zombie provisions and the unconstitutional provisions. I would look to all hon. colleagues in this place to work with us to make sure that these pieces of legislation move forward as expeditiously as possible.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I have found myself, as a New Democrat, in the awkward position of agreeing with the work the Senate has done. I was one of those who voted in favour of Bill C-51, because I agree with the focus of the bill and the provisions in it. Ultimately, what the Senate has attempted to do reflects very much what I attempted to do at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

My issue with the government's approach and its parliamentary tactics comes from the fact that for the various justice bills, Bill C-32, Bill C-39, Bill C-51 and Bill C-75, the Minister of Justice could very well have packaged many of the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code in Bill C-39 and Bill C-51 in one bill that would have passed through Parliament relatively quickly. Instead, she packaged in some other provisions that have been more contentious, and therefore, has forced the government to use extraordinary measures like time allocation.

With all the evidence from legal experts over the years who have talked about the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code, why could the Minister of Justice not have packaged the provisions in Bill C-39 and Bill C-51, which would not have had any argument, in one bill? Instead, three years into the government's mandate, we find ourselves still deliberating on these provisions, and nothing has changed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from London who spoke earlier and all members for their comments on Bill C-51 today.

At the outset, because I have some time today to give a bit of a longer speech, I want to address the fact that I am troubled that in government, the Liberals are doing exactly what they said they would not do when they were in opposition. In fact, this is our second omnibus justice bill.

I know my friend from Winnipeg, the deputy House leader of the Liberal caucus, likes when I quote some of his outrage in the past Parliament about the use of omnibus bills. However, when it comes to justice omnibus bills in particular, I think the need for a lot of these provisions to be considered independently is the best way to go.

Although the bill is certainly not as long as the government's latest budget implementation act, at 850 pages or more, weaving together a variety of unrelated things in the form of one bill, here we have another substantive piece of justice legislation being presented in an omnibus bill.

Breaking it down, there are some good parts and some parts we certainly have some challenges with. I would like to use my opportunity, if I may, to highlight both the good and the bad.

The good is that as a Parliament, we need to show that we can speak with a united voice with respect to zero tolerance for sexual assault and not respecting the consent of an individual in the case of sexual relations of any kind. Therefore, I think it is good that we are having a fulsome discussion on this part of the bill today. In fact, several members have quoted from some of the case law that has led to the need for Parliament to weigh in and be very clear that people cannot provide the consent necessary to engage in sexual activities when they are unconscious. We need to send a clear signal from Parliament. I think the Senate amendments actually take away that clarity somewhat, and I am glad we are having the debate here on proposed section 273.1 in the bill.

The Supreme Court case that drove clarity in this area was very clear. It said that it was not possible for people to provide consent if they were not conscious, even if express consent had been provided ahead of time, when they were conscious. I think Parliament needs to be crystal clear that consent evolves and that there has to be the constant presence of consent and respect. That is what this bill is intended to do. In fact, some of the Senate amendments, which would almost create tests with respect to the standards, confuse the issue. There needs to be a clear signal sent that consent has to be constant. I think that is a signal that, as parliamentarians, we have to send.

I can say, as someone of my generation, that the debate on campuses about no means no and all these sorts of things was not taken seriously in the early 1990s. We are still having debates today about it. An accused will try to suggest that consent was provided sometime earlier. If consent was provided in the context of alcohol or substances, and if someone was unconscious, consent could not be provided.

The Supreme Court was clear. I think Bill C-51 and our updates to the Criminal Code send a very clear message. There is no test to be performed. It is a bright line. Everyone, all Canadians, need to show respect and a commitment to consent in the context of sexual assault cases. It is basic respect. We are in the era of the #MeToo movement and discussions about unsafe workplaces. All these things have been positive in making sure that one has a positive obligation, with respect to one's relations with someone else, to make sure that there is always consent present. I think that is clear.

I am also glad that a number of speakers from several parties have referenced Bill C-337, the bill of the former interim Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, on judicial training in the context of sexual assault trials. The bench comprises a cross-section of society, and those attitudes need education to make sure that judicial standards adhere to the expectations we have as a society of respecting consent.

We know, in Ms. Ambrose's home province of Alberta, the case of Justice Camp, where attitudes toward a victim by the bench showed just how disconnected some may be. The vast majority of the bench would be explicitly mindful of the complainant in those cases, but we have seen cases in recent years that show that judicial training with respect to consent, in the context of sexual assault trials, is needed, as is education for all members of the bar.

As a member of the bar, I am glad that a few years ago, law societies across the country incorporated continuing legal education requirements for lawyers to make sure that they are aware of expectations with respect to consent and the law. The very fact that there would be some reluctance to have same continual legal education for judges in the context of sexual assault cases is troubling. I know that most justices demand that level of CLE, so I hope that the government, in the context of my starting off my speech by talking about some of the positive elements of Bill C-51, pushes Bill C-337 through. It should not matter that it came from a former Conservative member of Parliament, Rona Ambrose. It should not matter that it came from this side of the chamber if it addresses the same elements I am saying I support in Bill C-51 today. Let us hope there is some movement in the Senate so that in the spring, we can ensure that it is an expectation that all members of the bench have that training so they can guarantee an environment of respect for all complainants who come forward.

The provisions in proposed section 273.1 also show that Parliament is clear in its direction with respect to consent always being a requirement, and if there is any uncertainty, we err on the side of complainants. Everyone should know that if circumstances change, be they the context, consciousness, alcohol or these sort of things, prior consent is not sufficient. We have to be crystal clear on that.

This is also similar to Bill C-75, an omnibus justice bill, which I have spoken to in Parliament. I have also spoken to Bill C-77, on modernizing criminal justice within the context of the National Defence Act. I supported a number of measures in that bill. In fact, the previous government introduced Bill C-71 in the last Parliament to try to update the National Defence Act and the treatment of criminal conduct by members of the Canadian Armed Forces. That is still in a state of flux. All these bills, particularly because they deal with the rights of the accused and the rights of the victims or complainants in these cases, should be given specific attention and not be put into omnibus bills.

I would like to speak for a moment about the fact that this bill is part of the process of requiring a charter statement from the government with respect to legislation before the House of Commons. I have some concerns about that approach, in two ways. First, I am worried that it may send some sort of chill to suggest that the government is trying to innoculate itself by saying that it reviewed the bill ahead of time and has a charter opinion on it, meaning, therefore, that we cannot raise charter concerns or that there is no reasonable basis to have concerns about its validity under the charter by groups that may be impacted by the decision of this Parliament.

The very nature of the charter itself was to give a back and forth test with respect to the will of Parliament, and the ability for the court to determine whether fundamental charter rights were breached directly or indirectly by legislation in the context of enumerated groups under section 15 of the charter, are expressly contained within the charter, or are analogous ground groups, provided by subsequent court decisions.

The balancing test under section 1 of the charter, the Oakes test, which I learned in law school and is some of the first charter jurisprudence, is that balancing of the charter. By issuing a charter statement, I am quite concerned the government is trying to suggest it is doing its own Oakes test, its own charter examination of issues at the time it is passing legislation. I am not suggesting it will cause chill, but I have not have heard an argument from a member of the government bench to suggest this is any different than any government since the mid-1980s, when the charter came into effect.

Suggesting that the seal of approval for the charter is granted by one of these statements is simply ridiculous. It is up to the court to provide that reasonableness and those limitation tests under the provision of section 1 of the charter, which allows a charter right to be violated by legislation, but applies a reasonableness and balancing test to it since the Oakes jurisprudence started.

I will give a couple of examples of why I have this concern. In this Parliament, we have seen many instances of the government acting in a way I firmly believe violates the charter rights of many Canadians. This is germane because just today, shortly before we rise for Christmas, the government is reversing its position on the so-called values screen for Canada summer jobs.

We all know the controversial values test was applied for the first time in the history of this summer employment plan for youth as a clear way the government intended to exclude faith-based organizations and other service organizations from funding related to students. There were concerns from a charter basis expressed from day one when it came to the values test. Is the government suggesting, with its charter statements, that its actions on a whole range of decisions are somehow inoculated because it is providing a charter assessment? That is political theatre. It cannot provide its own charter assessment. It tries to craft legislation that it feels strikes the right balance, but the actual charter determination is not made in this chamber, which writes the laws, but in other courts.

We bow to the Speaker. We have a bar. This is a court. We write the laws, but we do not adjudicate our own laws. This is a very big distinction I have not heard the government express any clear indication on yet.

I will use another example. There have been several violations, in my view, of indigenous peoples' rights with respect to the duty to consult. In fact, I believe Bill C-69 violates that duty. We can look at the approach the government has taken on the cancellation of the northern gateway pipeline, which is one-third owned by indigenous groups. The duty to consult is not frozen in time. It does not exist 10 years before one develops a pipeline or cuts trees in a forest. If one decides to change the circumstances of that consultation, or cancel something that indigenous peoples are a one-third owner of, one has a duty to consult them on the cancellation. This is an ongoing duty.

The fact that the government may have a piece of paper that says this is our charter statement, this is our validation that the bill conforms with the charter, is political and inappropriate, because the government is suggesting this legislation will withstand any judicial scrutiny before the judicial scrutiny is applied. The government is suggesting that this is A-okay. That is not the way it works.

I invite the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and the parliamentary secretary to walk a little past the Confederation Building on the Hill to a building called the Supreme Court of Canada. It is there that the Oakes test was born, the Oakes test where the section 1 charter clause was.

As I have said, the values test that the government did to politicize the Canada summer jobs program would not be inoculated because of a government-produced charter statement nor would some of its actions with respect to Bill C-69, Bill C-75, Bill C-77. These are court determinations.

I do not have any proof because the charter statement concept is part of the government's justice reforms, including in this legislation, but I do have serious concerns that it will send a chill to suggest that the government will not consider valid concerns people have with respect to their charter rights.

I would like subsequent members of the Liberal caucus, particularly the ministers or the parliamentary secretaries, to provide a substantive rationale for their approach with respect to the charter statements. Are they somehow suggesting that previous governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have somehow not conformed to the charter by doing exactly what we are supposed to do as a Parliament, which is to try and find the right balance between the will of the people and certain provisions within the charter? That is done by a court using the Oakes test, doing the balancing. Producing a charter statement does not protect the government from criticism.

As I said today, days before Christmas, the government suddenly admits that its approach on the values test for summer jobs is wrong. This is much like days before Christmas last year, when it broke its promise to veterans on the return to the Pension Act. The Liberals make very good use of the pre-Christmas period not just for parties, but for dumping out their dirty laundry.

I would like to thank the thousands of Canadians from across the country and many of my colleagues in this chamber for representing the charter rights of millions of Canadians with respect to the conduct of the Canada summer jobs program.

Why I am focusing on this part of the bill is because we have to make sure that Canadians, members of the media and members of both Houses of Parliament do not get fooled by the fact that the government validating its own legislation under the guise of charter approval is not actually charter approval.

I am hoping in the remaining debate we can actually hear a cogent argument from the Liberal caucus on this. Otherwise, it seems to be more of the sort of media spin that we hear from the government.

The Prime Minister just yesterday, while leaning on his desk acting like a professor, told the opposition what we should ask and what we should criticize. We know full well what we should ask and we know where our criticisms and critiques are warranted.

Quietly, when the House does not sit, the Liberals backtrack on things, like they did today on the summer jobs values test, like when we rose for Remembrance week, and Miss McClintic, another justice consideration, was quietly transferred to a prison as we had been demanding, and as the break week happened Statistics Canada suddenly pulled back its program.

Like the Chris Garnier criticism, the non-veteran murderer who is receiving treatment funds from Veterans Affairs Canada, on most of the criticisms we have been raising even though they make the Prime Minister uncomfortable, the Liberals have backtracked. We have been doing our job quite effectively.

In the remaining time for debate, I would like one of the Liberal members to stand up and provide a context and a rationale addressing my concerns in regard to charter statements with respect to the bill before us and others.

As I said at the outset, we support the amendments and update of our Criminal Code with respect to sexual assault.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to say that right now, we have an outstanding bill sitting in the Senate, Bill C-377, put forward by the hon. Rona Ambrose. It is an opportunity for our justices to actually be engaged and trained on sexual assault. The government has not pushed that item whatsoever. Regardless of whether the government has put in more or fewer justices, they are not being trained properly. Bill C-377 has been sitting there for the last year and a half. The government could be doing better, especially in working with Senate colleagues, if it is serious about making sure that people alleged to have committed sexual assaults are actually convicted and go to jail. We need to have that sensitivity and empathetic understanding of what is going on for the victims of this crime.

As for Bill C-75, seeing that it is a hybrid bill, I cannot support what the government has done with regard to reducing sentences and convictions when it comes to those people who have victimized someone through sexual assault.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the contributions of the member opposite to this important debate today, particularly on December 6, the 29th anniversary of the Montreal massacre.

My questions for the member opposite are twofold. First, she outlined the important issue of consent in sexual assault and how the statistics demonstrate that it remains an ongoing problem in Canada today. Part of what we are doing is improving education, sensitivity and outreach to all the actors in the judicial system. That includes training for lawyers and judges.

Would the member agree that the record of our government in appointing judges, 56% of whom are women, is a step in the right direction and compares favourably with the record of the previous government, which appointed only 30% women?

Second, she raised Bill C-75 and its relationship to this piece of legislation we are discussing. Bill C-75 includes an important provision to eliminate preliminary inquiries in sexual assault trials so that victims do not have to be revictimized by proceeding through a preliminary inquiry and having to testify again at the actual trial on the merits. Is that a step in the right direction in addressing the trauma sexual assault victims face, which was outlined by the member opposite?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for leading our Conservative caucus, the House and all Canadians through this legislative process to make the Canadian Criminal Code better.

This opportunity has provided me a chance to read, research and develop a much better understanding of the Criminal Code and its importance to all Canadians. I have read that one of the conveniences of the code is that it constitutes the principle that no person can be convicted of a crime unless otherwise specifically outlined and stated in a statute.

Today, we are discussing section 273.1 of the Criminal Code, which the bill would amend to clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting. This reflects the Supreme Court decision in R. v. J.A. in 2011. The bill would also amend section 273.2 to clarify that the defence of mistaken belief in consent is not available if the mistake is based on a mistake of law, for example, if the accused believed that the complainant's failure to resist or protest meant that the complainant consented. This provision would codify aspects of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Ewanchuk in 1999.

Currently, the Criminal Code of Canada states that no consent is obtained where “the complainant is incapable of consenting”. Bill C-51, in subclauses 10(2) and 19(2), would amend this to clarify that unconsciousness is not the only situation in which an individual could lack capacity to give consent to sexual activity.

As indicated in the legislative summary of the bill, the amendment takes into account the Supreme Court judgment that was made in R. v. J.A., requiring active consent throughout every phase of the sexual activity. This is important to note, as this amendment would protect Canadian men and women against sexual exploitation.

I will relate a news story we heard back in 2017. When we were going through the bill put forward by our former colleague, Rona Ambrose, we talked about sexual consent and unconsciousness, and about judges being trained to understand sexual exploitation and assault.

This newspaper story told of a Nova Scotia judge who acquitted a Halifax taxi driver of raping a female fare. She was found unconscious in the back of his cab, partially naked and having urinated on herself. The woman, whose blood alcohol level was found to be three times the legal limit, had hailed the cab just 11 minutes earlier. The Crown has announced it will appeal Justice Gregory Lenehan's verdict, in part over concerns the judge did not properly apply the test for capacity to consent.

The proposed legislation also focuses on a Supreme Court case in 2011. It was very interesting to read the original case in the Court of Appeal in Ontario, and the appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The case before the Supreme Court of Canada was Her Majesty The Queen appellant, and J.A. respondent, and Attorney General of Canada and Women's Legal Education and Action Fund on appeal from the Court of Appeal for Ontario. It reads:

Criminal law—Sexual assault—Consent—Accused and complainant consensually engaging in erotic asphyxiation—Accused...penetrating complainant during period of unconsciousness—Whether Criminal Code defines consent as requiring conscious, operating mind throughout sexual activity—Whether consent to sexual activity may be given prior to period of unconsciousness

For anyone who has a daughter or son, we want to make sure the laws are there to help and protect Canadians.

While I was going through the information regarding the Supreme Court decision, I read some of the background to the decision. I would like to put it on the record. This is from the Supreme Court ruling:

One evening, in the course of sexual relations, J.A. placed his hands around the throat of his long-term partner K.D. and choked her until she was unconscious. At trial, K.D. estimated that she was unconscious for “less than three minutes”. She testified that she consented to J.A. choking her, and understood that she might lose consciousness. She stated that she and J.A. had experimented with erotic asphyxiation, and that she had lost consciousness before. When K.D. regained consciousness, her hands were tied behind her back, and J.A. was inserting—

I will omit the details here, but suffice it to say that it was something a person should have a choice in, and it was not an act the complainant was prepared for. K.D. gave conflicting testimony about whether this was the first time J.A. had performed this act. Ten seconds after K.D. regained consciousness, J.A. ceased doing what he had been doing.

At the end of the day, we have to look at this and understand why there is an issue here. K.D. made a complaint to the police two months later and stated that while she had consented to the choking, she had not consented to the sexual activity that had occurred.

Chief Justice McLachlin and Justices Deschamps, Abella, Charron, Rothstein and Cromwell ruled, “The legislation requires ongoing, conscious consent to ensure that women and men are not the victims of sexual exploitation, and to ensure that individuals engaging in sexual activity are capable of asking their partners to stop at any point.”

Sharing the background to the Supreme Court's decision and the story of the woman in Nova Scotia provides a great illustration of the challenges and the need for changes to the Criminal Code. With regard to the amendments proposed by the Senate, I support our party's position and the government's decision not to accept these amendments.

This is a very complex issue. The complexity can be seen from Statistics Canada figures from 2009-14. In that period of time, 93,501 sexual assault incidents were reported to the police. Charges were laid in 43% of those, or 40,490 incidents; 49% or 19,806 incidents went to court, and 15,804 cases were completed in court, of which 55% or 8,742 resulted in guilty decisions. Of those, the number of adult cases sentenced to custody was 3,846, or 56%.

I want to look at the first number, the gross number, and the fact that over 93,000 sexual assaults occurred from 2009-15. Many of us would say that is extraordinary. If we think of the population of Canada and the fact that almost 100,000 Canadians have been sexually assaulted in that five-year period, we would be in total awe.

Sexual assault is a problem here in Canada. It is a very complex problem, and there are many key factors that must be assessed. One of the most critical ones, I believe, is consent. According to Planned Parenthood, sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. It states:

Consent is never implied by things like your past behavior, what you wear, or where you go. Sexual consent is always clearly communicated—there should be no question or mystery. Silence is not consent. And it's not just important the first time you're with someone. Couples who've had sex before or even ones who've been together for a long time also need to consent before sex—every time.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to listen to members of the community at the 519 Centre in Toronto, where I spoke to Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons. Although Rehtaeh is no longer with us, Glen advocates for education focusing on sexual consent. In a blog, he writes:

My years without Rehtaeh taught me that kids need to know consent. In the past three years l've learned that the most powerful tool to combat violence against women could very well be the minds of young men. l've learned that if we don't fill those minds with examples of virtue, empathy, affection, tolerance, trust, kindness, courage, and bravery, then those minds will end up being filled with ignorance, racism, sexism, hate, and anger. What would have happened to Rehtaeh Parsons if just one of the boys with her that night was informed about consent and his role in preventing sexual violence?

In summary, I am very glad that we are moving forward and reviewing the information in the Criminal Code, specifically when it comes to consent. This is an area where, as I indicated, a look at the statistics shows we can do better and we must do better. We cannot just be virtue signalling. We cannot just talk about what we should not do, yet do it in the privacy of our homes, or not own up to things we did years ago.

At the same time, as other members have indicated, a lot of the information and a lot of the things we are studying are in conflict with what we see in Bill C-75, specifically with regard to the sexual exploitation of women.

It is wonderful to go ahead with consent, expanding it and having a better understanding to make sure more people are convicted of sexual assault when necessary. However, when it comes to Bill C-75, a slap on the wrist is not enough.

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December 6th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the beginning of this. When this bill was originally brought forward, there was an outcry regarding the measures being taken to minimize the offence of disrupting a service of worship, from which clergy are protected under section 176. We saw it on every social media out there. Twitter, Facebook and all of them were going crazy about the current government coming forward with those measures to repeal section 176. Thousands of people protested that it was wrong, and to the Liberals' credit they appeared to have backed down.

However, my point is that the Liberals backed down on this bill, yes, but then they turned around and put similar wording into Bill C-75, which as we know is now going to the Senate. Therefore, the Liberals hybridized section 176, turning much of it into a summary conviction with a lesser charge.

We live in a time when we recognize religious freedom. That means that as a Christian, I nevertheless expect that in every type of worship service, be it Jewish, Muslim, name the religion, people have the opportunity to worship whom they wish and how they wish. As long as it does not impede anybody else, they have the ability to do that. Lessening the offence of being able to come in and disrupt that service sends the wrong message.

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December 6th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House to debate Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

I would first like to highlight the fact that this is an omnibus bill, containing many changes to a variety of different matters. Similar to many other Liberal promises we have heard in the House, or before the last election, the introduction of this bill breaks another promise not to table legislation of this nature. In debate in the lead-up to the election we had that commitment, just like we had a commitment on the deficit. However, it is another broken promise.

Ironically, Bill C-51 was introduced on June 5, 2017, just after the government House leader called for major reforms that, among other things, aimed to limit a government's ability to introduce omnibus bills. Just a couple of days later, it introduced an omnibus bill.

Second, it would remove a number of sections of the Criminal Code that no longer have any particular relevance. This includes section 365, some of which deals with witchcraft and sorcery; and section 71, related to duelling in the streets. Much of this we can support. Other aspects may be a little more problematic.

It also originally proposed to repeal section 176 of the Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to unlawfully obstruct, threaten or harm a religious official before, during or after he or she performs a religious service. It also makes interrupting or disturbing a religious service a crime. We have voiced our concerns in regard to that in the House many times.

As a number of my colleagues, including the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, pointed out during debate on the bill, the Conservatives were the first to identify this grave mistake of the Liberal Justice Minister and to draw the attention of Canadians to this flagrant attack on their freedom to worship without fear in their own way.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Our highlighting of Bill C-51 and this offensive Criminal Code amendment resulted in significant backlash from tens of thousands of Canadians who signed petitions urging the Liberals to back down on minimizing an obstruction or disturbance of a worship service. The government finally relented, and as such, Liberal members of the justice committee were instructed to introduce an amendment that effectively stopped the repeal of section 176.

That is one of those times where Parliament works, when the Conservatives can bring forward a concern like that. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes the outcry of tens of thousands of Canadians speaking up about what the Liberals were trying to do to our worship services of all different faiths.

While many of my constituents of Battle River—Crowfoot are thankful the Liberals finally saw the light, I still remain stunned by the fact they even contemplated the removal of section 176 of the Criminal Code, let alone attempting to do it.

After steady but relatively small increases since 2014, in 2017, hate crimes in Canada rose sharply. We can see that on the front pages of most papers. It is up 47% over the previous year. For the year, police reported 2,073 hate crimes, 664 more than in 2016. Higher numbers were seen across most types of hate crimes, with incidents targeting Muslim, Jewish and black populations, as well as Christians. These increases were largely in Ontario and Quebec.

Barbara Perry, an expert on hate crimes and professor of criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, was quoted in The Globe and Mail, on November 29, saying, “This is staggering. You don’t see this kind of increase in any sort of crime data”, adding that “the numbers should be a wake-up call for provincial and federal leaders.” She went on to say, “It’s an assault on our core values of inclusion and equity.”

In the same article, Leila Nasr, a spokesman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said, “We’re devastated to see the numbers go up yet again.”

As revealed in the Globe and Mail article:

Hate crimes also rose across all categories of religion, with those targeting the Jewish population accounting for 18 per cent of all hate crimes in the country. The surge echos B’nai Brith Canada’s tracking of anti-Semitic incidents, which saw a record last year.

Chief executive Michael Mostyn, in a release that recommended an action plan to counter online hate, as well as enhanced training for police officers, said, “We need real and effective measures to extinguish this rise in hatred”.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation called the numbers:

....a warning against complacency and....a stark reminder that hate crimes are an attack not only on individuals and their communities but on the very fabric of our society.

As I pointed out, those remarks were issued or reported on just a week ago today regarding the 2017 hate crime statistics, the year in which the Liberals introduced the bill. Again, whatever motivated them to repeal section 176 Criminal Code?

What has motivated the government to retreat on the one hand, while still sending the wrong message that the disruption of religious service is not a serious offence? That is exactly what they have done by taking it out of this legislation and moving it into Bill C-75. Currently, it is a solely indictable offence which, as we know, are for the most serious offences. However, in Bill C-75, by hybridizing it, this offence could be prosecuted as a summary conviction offence which is reserved for less serious offences.

It is important to note that the maximum sentence under section 176, if prosecuted as an indictable offence, is two years. Making it a hybrid offence, the maximum sentence as a summary conviction offence would be reduced by only one day. It would fall into the two years less a day, with the indictable offence being much more than that. Therefore, why the change?

Again, we really have to question why, at a time when hate crimes against religious communities across Canada are significantly increasing, are the Liberals trying to downgrade the seriousness of these offences?

Section 176 is not unconstitutional, has never been challenged in court and is not obsolete. Furthermore, a number of individuals have been successfully prosecuted under section 176. It is the only section of the Criminal Code that expressly protects the rights and freedoms of Canadians to practice their religion without fear or intimidation, a freedom that is a fundamental freedom guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

One can only surmise that despite the outcry from all across the country and them retreating on repealing this offence, the Liberals really do not believe it is a serious crime, just like they do not believe impaired driving causing bodily harm is a serious offence. That is what they have changed again in Bill C-75.

This past Tuesday, the Minister of Justice and the newly appointed Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction took to the air waves to remind Canadians that in two weeks they would be subject to mandatory alcohol screening if they were stopped by the police, something I support, as I want the horrific loss of life and injury due to impaired driving stopped.

While one minister bragged this was a game charger and another defended the change because impaired driving remained the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, both were being disingenuous in that they failed to reveal the fact they had downgraded the offence of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Under Bill C-75, this offence, which is currently solely an indictable offence, becomes a hybrid offence and as such, if proceeded summarily, may result in two years less a day of prison time or worse, a monetary fine.

I would like to state my support for the government motion to reject a Senate amendment to the bill before us today, Bill C-51. Bill C-51 clarifies that consent can never occur when an individual is unconscious, which is consistent with the J.A. decision. The Senate amendment would only lead to added complexity and confusion over what evidence would be relevant to determine consent in sexual assault cases. Instead of adding certainty to the law, it would lead to further litigation.

We cannot afford further delays in our courts due to prolonged cases. Sexual assault victims should be supported, not subjected to undue delays, so for that we commend those measures within Bill C-51.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me a bit of opportunity to veer off and go to some of the things that were pulled out of this bill. I recognize that.

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December 6th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. Certainly, there are practical considerations in getting legislation to move through the House. It takes a certain amount of time. With respect to the schedule of this place, it can be a challenge. I appreciate that it has been incorporated into Bill C-75, which has now been passed to the other place. I await its expeditious treatment of that bill.

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December 6th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, whom I enjoy serving with on the justice committee. I share his concerns about the Senate amendments. Therefore, I want to ask him a question about what he initially spoke of, which was the zombie sections of the Criminal Code that have been found to be unconstitutional.

He cited the Vader case, involving the murder of Lyle and Marie McCann of St. Albert. It was our committee, the justice committee, that wrote to the minister all the way back in October 2016, calling on the minister to move forward with legislation to remove unconstitutional sections. The minister did move ahead with Bill C-39, which is stuck at first reading. The government then put it into Bill C-75. However, that is going to take months to go through the Senate. Why did the government not just get it done and pass Bill C-39? It does not seem to make any sense to me. Can the hon. member comment?

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December 6th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join this portion of the debate and speak to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act. Before turning to the specific issue of the amendments passed in the other place, I want to take a few minutes to remind all colleagues about what this important piece of legislation seeks to address and why it is critically important that we support its swift passage into law.

As all members will recall, Bill C-51 was introduced by the Minister of Justice on June 6, 2017. Bill C-51 was not the first criminal law reform bill introduced by the minister that seeks to make our criminal justice and laws fairer, clearer, more relevant and more accessible.

Since its introduction, the minister has introduced other critically important legislation that continues to seek those objectives. Considering also Bill C-75, it is clear that the minister has thought long and hard about the challenges facing our system and has proposed concrete measures to address them. I strongly support the minister's legislative proposals, and I understand that many of her provincial and territorial counterparts, legal academics and criminal justice system actors also support these measures.

Colleagues will recall that Bill C-51 would amend the Criminal Code in three broad ways. First, it proposes amendments that would remove unconstitutional laws. This reflects our government's unwavering commitment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The risks of leaving unconstitutional laws on our books are grave, and in a constitutional democracy like Canada that is grounded in the rule of law, it is important we take the steps necessary to prevent those risks from manifesting, as unfortunately occurred in the 2016 Alberta trial of Travis Vader.

Second, Bill C-51 proposes to remove laws from our Criminal Code that are vestiges of a bygone era and are no longer relevant in modern Canadian society, as well as laws that are redundant and capture conduct addressed by other offences of general application. We should not underestimate the importance of amendments of this nature. Criminal law is a reflection of our values. Offences like blasphemous libel, which targeted criticism against the king and Christianity, have been criticized as contrary to free expression, and have been used by certain regimes to repress free speech. Canada should not be held up as an example by repressive governments that seek to justify their own blasphemy offences as a means of curtailing criticism by pointing to the example of Canada's Criminal Code. I strongly support these amendments.

Turning to the other critically important aspect of Bill C-51, the proposed changes to modernize and clarify Canada's sexual assault laws, it is in this area that amendments were passed by the Senate that necessitate our looking at Bill C-51 again.

As introduced, Bill C-51 brings forward important and welcome changes to our sexual assault laws. One area where it does so is in respect of consent to sexual activity. First, Bill C-51 proposes to clarify the important legal principle confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2011 decision in R v. J.A. that no consent is obtained where a person is unconscious. This amendment has been well received by many, but some stakeholders suggested that it should go further to codify another important principle from the J.A. decision, that consent must also be contemporaneous to the sexual activity in question. I recall this well during the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' study, which amended Bill C-51 to address this very point.

During our committee's study of the bill, additional amendments were proposed in the area of consent to sexual activity. These amendments were, I believe, inspired by the submissions of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, LEAF. It suggested that Bill C-51 might extend beyond the scope of its original objective, and proposed amendments that would seek to define when a person is incapable of consenting to sexual activity due to impairment that falls short of unconsciousness, such as cases involving intoxication. To my knowledge, no defence lawyer, Crown prosecutor or victims' organization spoke specifically to this proposal.

As may be recalled, the amendment proposed before the justice committee on this point was defeated due to concerns that it could have had unintended and negative consequences. For instance, concerns were expressed that by focusing entirely on the subjective state of mind of the complainant, the courts might ignore other important objective evidence that might help to establish that the complainant was incapable of consenting.

When Bill C-51 went to the other place for consideration, the legal and constitutional affairs committee there heard from only a handful of witnesses. Nevertheless, much of the discussion at that committee again centred on the issue of consent to sexual activity. Much of the testimony provided was motivated by concerns about sexual assault involving intoxication and the need to have clarity in this area. To be sure, these are legitimate concerns, and I am not trying to minimize the importance of looking closely at this issue.

As a result of these concerns, an amendment was proposed at the Senate committee to again try to specify the circumstances under which a person is incapable of consenting for reasons of impairment that fall short of unconsciousness. After a vigorous debate, those amendments were not passed. Again, the reasons for this related to concerns about the unintended consequences. Nevertheless, when the bill was returned to the Senate at third reading, amendments were made, notwithstanding the calls for caution and concern about the practical implications.

I greatly appreciate and respect the spirit behind the proposed amendments. I agree that it is critically important that we consider changes to our sexual assault laws that would help clarify the law. On the other hand, because of the very sensitive and difficult nature of sexual assault, I believe it is imperative that we only pass laws when we are 100% certain they will not create more challenges for victims and for the accused.

Unfortunately, I am not 100% certain. I am deeply concerned that passing these amendments at this late stage, and without the benefit of greater consultation and consideration, would not provide the clarity that is assumed to result from them. I am concerned that this change could lead judges to ignore other important evidence respecting capacity to consent. I am concerned that these charges focus too squarely on intoxication and do not consider the impact on individuals with cognitive impairments.

For these reasons, I must respectfully oppose the amendments passed in the other place. In so doing, I encourage the government to look closely at the issues raised by these amendments in collaboration with key partners and stakeholders. I support the message to be sent to the other place.

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December 6th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, speaking to the Senate amendments, I believe that adding the word “unconscious” consistent with the J.A. decision would not in any way confuse the law or create uncertainty. I think it provides some degree of clarity.

I reiterate that the wording of the specific subsection proposed in bill C-75 is broad enough to encompass not only unconsciousness but any other reason by which a complainant might be incapacitated.

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December 6th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I spoke to the McCann family about the fact that Bill C-39 was moved into Bill C-75 and quite frankly, they were appalled. They were appalled that the government would include Bill C-39 in a bill that would, among other things, water down sentences for impaired drivers and for kidnapping of a minor and, speaking of sexual assault, for administering a date-rape drug. I voted against Bill C-75. If the McCann family were members of Parliament and could have voted, they would have voted against it too.

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December 6th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Arif Virani

Madam Speaker, to characterize what is in the bill as defence disclosure is inappropriate and incorrect. I refer the member opposite to the Darrach decision, paragraph 65 of the Supreme Court jurisprudence, which he is fond of quoting.

The member talked at length about the situation with Travis Vader and the McCann family. This is an important issue that affected his community directly and I appreciate his submissions in that regard. However, when the provisions in Bill C-39 that would have eliminated those unconstitutional provisions from the Criminal Code were moved into Bill C-75 and that legislative vehicle is being used to eliminate the very provisions he is talking about, I ask the member why he would have voted against that bill at third reading in this chamber last week?

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December 6th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-51, a massive omnibus bill. Perhaps it is not surprising that when we are talking about a massive omnibus bill, there are some positive aspects in it and other aspects with which I and my colleagues on this side of the House have some concerns.

One of the positives of Bill C-51 is that it seeks to remove sections of the Criminal Code that have been found to be unconstitutional by appellate courts. This is a welcomed effort to help clean up the Criminal Code. Likewise, it seeks to remove sections of the Criminal Code that are obsolete or redundant, which again is a welcome effort to clean up the Criminal Code.

As I alluded to in the question that I posed to the minister a few moments ago, while the government is moving forward with the removal of obsolete sections and sections of the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts, it is disappointing that the government has still failed to move forward with the removal of sections of the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The minister is quite right that Bill C-75 does include the removal of those unconstitutional sections. However, as I pointed out to the minister, it was all the way back in March 2017 that the government introduced Bill C-39.

Bill C-39 is a very straightforward bill. It is not controversial. There is support on all sides of the House for the passage of Bill C-39, and yet for whatever reason, after the minister introduced the bill on March 8, 2017, it remains stuck at first reading. It is stuck at first reading with really no explanation. This is an issue that I have spoken to on a number of occasions because it really hits home in the community of St. Albert which I am very fortunate to represent.

When we talk about unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, zombie sections, and their removal from the Criminal Code, perhaps it sounds a little abstract and academic. However, the consequences of failing to keep the Criminal Code up to date can be very serious.

We saw that in the case of Travis Vader, who was charged and convicted of two counts of second-degree murder of Lyle and Marie McCann, an elderly couple from St. Albert. They were murdered in 2010. It was a very complicated case. The family waited a number of years for justice to arrive. Just at the moment they thought justice had arrived, they found out that, in fact, it had not because the trial judge applied a section of the Criminal Code that is inoperative as the basis for convicting Travis Vader of two counts of second-degree murder. I am referring to section 230 of the Criminal Code, a section that had been found to be unconstitutional going back to 1990, and yet there it was in the Criminal Code.

That prompted the justice committee, on which I serve as a member, to write a letter to the minister calling on her to introduce legislation to repeal these unconstitutional sections. It was a letter that was sent by the chair of the committee, the hon. member for Mount Royal, all the way back in October 2016.

Following that, I stood with the McCann family in December 2016, when we had a press conference in St. Albert to urge the minister to move forward with legislation. Again, to the minister's credit, she did move forward in a relatively quick fashion because the bill was introduced, as I mentioned, on March 8, 2017. Then nothing happened. It stalled.

I have been in touch with the McCann family. They just cannot understand why, on something as simple as removing unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, sections that are of no force or effect yet remain there in black and white purporting on their face to represent the law, remain in the Criminal Code.

The minister has not been able to explain why the government could not pass Bill C-39, why that bill is stuck at first reading, why it needed to be copied and pasted into Bill C-75, an omnibus bill. Bill C-75 is a massive bill which, frankly, is controversial in many respects. It saw a number of amendments at the justice committee and is, undoubtedly, going to receive a whole lot of scrutiny when it goes to the Senate. It will likely be months and months and months before the Senate is able to address Bill C-75. Meanwhile, those unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code are going to be there.

While the Vader case is one case, it is not the only case that a section of the Criminal Code, an inoperative section, has been applied with real and significant consequences to the administration of justice. There was a case in British Columbia back in 2005 in which the trial judge in a murder trial left a copy of a section of the Criminal Code that was inoperative with the jurors. On that basis, the conviction of the accused was appealed. The British Columbia Court of Appeal ultimately upheld the conviction but only because of the fact that the trial judge's instructions to the jury were deemed impeccable by the Court of Appeal.

That is another case, so it is not just the McCann case. We have seen other cases, including the case in British Columbia.

To say that we will just get around to this whenever is not an excuse. It opens the door to another Vader situation, and if that happens, the government will be to blame. It certainly was not to blame for what happened in the Vader case but once that became apparent about the serious consequences that can come through inaction, the fact that it has been now two years, I think, just does not hold water and there really is no excuse. However, it does speak more broadly to the fact that the government, on the big things and the small things, just cannot get it done time and time again.

Another aspect of Bill C-51 when we are talking about inoperative sections of the Criminal Code was the unfortunate decision by the government initially to include section 176 of the Criminal Code among the sections that the government deemed to be obsolete. Section 176 is hardly redundant. It is hardly obsolete. It certainly is not unconstitutional.

Indeed, section 176 is the only section of the Criminal Code to protect clergy from having their services disrupted, something that is very serious and goes to the heart of religious freedom. The government turned a blind eye, the Conservatives called them on it and, as a result, tens of thousands of Canadians spoke out, telling the government that it was wrong.

To the government's credit, it backed down at the justice committee a year ago and agreed to remove the repeal of section 176, and rightfully so. However, not long after backing down on the removal of section 176, the government, in Bill C-75, hybridized section 176, so that instead of its being treated as a solely indictable offence, it would potentially be treated as a summary conviction offence.

While this specific change does not have a significant impact on the maximum sentence, unlike some of the other offences the government is hybridizing, it sends a message, and I would submit that it sends exactly the wrong message. It sends the message that disrupting a religious service, infringing on the freedom of religion of Canadians, not just any freedom but a fundamental freedom in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is not that serious. That is just wrong and why Conservatives have opposed it and stood up in fighting Bill C-75.

A lot of Bill C-51 relates to changes to sexual assault laws in Canada. As I indicated when I rose to ask the minister a question, many aspects of this bill include welcome changes to the Criminal Code with respect to sexual assault laws. Among the positives in Bill C-51 is that it would codify the Ewanchuk decision. That means it would make it absolutely clear that the defence of mistaken belief on the basis of a purported misapprehension or misunderstanding of the law cannot be advanced. It is a positive to have clarity on that and to have the Ewanchuk decision codified.

Another positive change the government is making with respect to sexual assault provisions is the codification of the J.A. decision. The J.A. decision makes clear that in no circumstances can a complainant be deemed to be giving their consent while unconscious. By way of background, in J.A., the accused said that no sexual assault took place on the basis that the unconscious complainant had consented to both being made unconscious and the sexual activity. That argument was successful before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, holding that for there to be consent, that consent must at all times be contemporaneous; that consent must occur at all times at all stages of the sexual activity. Therefore, Bill C-51 would amend section 273 of the Criminal Code, which contains a list of non-exhaustive factors when consent is deemed not to have occurred. More particularly, Bill C-51 would amend that section to specifically include the word “unconscious” to make it crystal clear that in no circumstances will consent be deemed when the complainant is unconscious.

As the minister went into some detail about in her speech, there were some concerns raised by a number of witnesses, both before the justice committee when we heard from them about a year ago, as well as from witnesses who appeared before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. Essentially, their argument was that codifying R. v. J.A. really would not do anything, that the whole issue of consciousness has never really been an issue, and that prior to R. v. J.A. the courts were never really finding there was consent when complainants were unconscious. In that regard, the concern was that by adding the word “unconscious”, an unintended bright line would be established whereby arguments would be put forward that consciousness or lack of consciousness would be a bright line in determining the issue of consent. That was the argument.

That was part of the reason why Senator Pate put forward her amendments, her concern being that there could be some added confusion in those cases where the person was not unconscious, but, for example, highly intoxicated. Unfortunately, while the Senate amendments may have been well intentioned, they would simply cause more problems and solve a problem that really does not exist. They would establish untested factors, which would be litigated, dealing exclusively with the mental state of the complainant. We know from some of the decisions, including the Al-Rawi decision, that it was not the mental state of the complainant that resulted in the acquittal of the accused, but rather the failure of the trial judge to consider some of the other evidence. Therefore, again, the amendments are problematic.

In terms of the language in Bill C-51, it is sufficiently clear, because it speaks of unconsciousness, but then it speaks to all other circumstances outside of that, so the language is broad. On that basis, I am not convinced that it would create the bright line that was said to be a concern by Senator Pate and by some of the other witnesses who appeared before the justice committee. As for whether or not it should be codified, I do think it is helpful. It does provide some additional clarity, and so on that basis I do support that aspect of Bill C-51.

Another area where I agree with the government is in respect to the applicability of the twin myths under section 276. Section 276 of the Criminal Code prohibits using evidence of a complainant's sexual activity for the purpose of advancing two discriminatory myths, namely that the sexual activity of the complainant makes the complainant less believable or most likely to consent. What Bill C-51 clarifies is that in no circumstances may evidence be tendered for the purpose of advancing those twin myths. That is a step in the right direction.

However, one of the areas I do have some questions about with respect to section 276 is an amendment proposed in the bill related to the definition of sexual activity. In that regard, Bill C-51 seeks to amend sexual activity to include “any communication made for a sexual purpose or whose content is of a sexual nature.” There is some concern that the definition may be overly broad. It is understandable why in this digital age, for the purpose of section 276, it makes sense to include communications in the form of text messages with photos or videos, etc. However, there was some concern expressed by the witnesses that it would be broad enough to encompass communications that were immediately before or after the alleged assault, which could be highly relevant in properly determining the case. Communications that might provide some context as to what in fact took place might no longer be admissible as a result of the wording of that section. Therefore, while I support the objective of the section, and the intent of the amendment is a good one, I do have some concerns about its breadth and how it might impact the types of cases I referenced.

On the whole, Bill C-51 is a good bill, but my biggest concern is with respect to the defence disclosure requirements. The defence disclosure requirements require the defence to bring forward an application in order to admit any record relating to the complainant. That application must be brought at least 60 days before trial. What is wrong with that? There are a number of problems I see with it. First, the definition is extremely broad. The wording is “no record relating to the complainant”. To be clear about what that means and what we are talking about, it is not about a record of the complainant involving their sexual activity. That is captured in section 276 of the Criminal Code, relating to the twin myths I just spoke of.

We are not talking about records for which there would be a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as health, therapeutic or educational records involving the complainant. They are already addressed in section 278.1 of the Criminal Code. What we are talking about is any record relating to the complainant. What type of record might that encompass? It could encompass just about anything, regardless of whether there was any connection to a reasonable privacy interest on the part of a complainant. We are talking about joint records. We are talking about Crown records. We are talking about records that might have been obtained by way of a third party application. So broad is the wording of this amendment, it could arguably relate to a record of the accused to the degree that the record was a basis upon which to cross-examine a complainant and therefore would relate to the complainant.

Why is that a problem when we are talking about all these records? We should just think about that for a minute. Let us think about it from a practical standpoint. Put aside issues of trial fairness. Put aside issues of the presumption of innocence. Think about it from a practical standpoint, the mechanics of how this is going to work. From that standpoint, there are very serious concerns.

If we are talking about any records, in most cases we could be talking about thousands of records the defence counsel would have to comb through and bring an application for, and a court would have to go through each record to determine its admissibility, not, by the way, on the basis of relevance and materiality but on the basis of eight factors provided for in Bill C-51, eight factors that have not been tested and have obviously not, to date, been litigated, because the bill has not been passed.

That would create a lot of uncertainty. It would create a lot of new litigation, and it would create the potential for real delay in our already backlogged courts. That would be an issue at the best of times, but it would particularly be an issue in light of the Jordan decision, where we have cases that are being thrown out due to delay, yet here is something that is likely to have a very significant impact on adding to delays. That is just if the defence counsel brings an application 60 days before the trial.

Again, thinking about how this might play out, there might be a record that does not seem to be that relevant, that does not seem to really assist the defence or relate to needing to be tendered as evidence, but an issue might arise at trial, and suddenly that record that did not seem very significant becomes extremely significant. Then what would we have? We would have a mid-trial application, with the possibility of a mid-trial adjournment, contributing to even more delay. That would slow things down. It would create delay, but for what purpose, what objective?

There are some who say that it would be consistent with the Mills decision of the Supreme Court in that this would guard against fishing expeditions on the part of an accused against a complainant, except for the fact that we are talking about records already in the control and possession of the accused. Therefore, there would be no fishing expedition to be had, because they would already be in the control of the accused. That argument that has been put forward does not hold a lot of water.

Another argument put forward is that it would protect the privacy of a complainant. A great deal of sensitivity is required to do what is possible to protect the privacy of complainants. I wholeheartedly agree with that. There is no question that victims are victimized when they go through the assault and can be victimized again as they go through the trial and the court process. There is no question that efforts need to be made to protect victims. However, again, we are talking about any record, regardless of whether the victim had a reasonable privacy interest and regardless of the nature of the document. As long as it related to the complainant in some way, one would need to go through this process. To the degree that it would protect complainants and the privacy of complainants, it would add a lot more than that due to the very broad wording of that section. That is a concern.

While it seems to go a lot further than necessary to protect a complainant, it would potentially have very significant consequences for the ability of an accused person to advance a defence, and ultimately, for the court to fulfill its role as a proof finder. It would significantly impact upon the presumption of innocence. It would significantly impact upon an accused person's right to make full answer and defence. When we speak about the right to make full answer and defence and how important it is, I cite the Supreme Court in R. v. La, wherein the court stated, at paragraph 43:

The right to make full answer and defence is one of the pillars of criminal justice on which we heavily depend to ensure that the innocent are not convicted.

How would this provision potentially impact the ability of an accused to make full answer and defence? In one significant way, it would impede the ability of an accused person to cross-examine a complainant. When we talk about cross-examination, I quote the Supreme Court again on the important role of proper, thorough cross-examination in getting to the truth. The Supreme Court said, in the Lyttle decision, that “without significant and unwarranted restraint” it is “an indispensable ally in the search for the truth.”

Cross-examination is an important tool to guard against wrongful convictions. One might ask how this disclosure would impact upon the ability of an accused to make a full answer and defence and undertake a thorough cross-examination of a complainant. It would in one very simple way. It would create a positive disclosure requirement ahead of a trial. This bill would mark the first time in the Criminal Code that there would be a disclosure requirement for an accused person to provide to the Crown in advance of a trial, aside from a handful of narrow exceptions that have been well accepted and are not in the least bit controversial. The bill would require not only that evidence be disclosed to the Crown before a trial but that the evidence be disclosed to a complainant. Not only that, under Bill C-51, a complainant would have the right to counsel at that application. Therefore, instead of two parties at the application, the Crown and the defence, there would now be three parties, the Crown, the defence and the complainant.

Let us think about what that would mean with respect to the trial. The defence would have records in its control. It would now be tendering them and having to argue why they were relevant and should be admitted. That would provide a whole lot of insight into potential lines of cross-examination and the strategy of the defence. That could have a huge impact when it came to trial.

There is no question that the vast majority of complainants are telling the truth, but not all complainants are telling the truth. I want to emphasize again that the vast majority are, but not every single complainant is. In those rare cases when a complainant was not telling the truth, this positive disclosure requirement would open the door to tipping off someone who was not telling the truth before it got to trial to understand the defence strategy and the potential lines of cross-examination. It would certainly give someone who was not telling the truth a huge advantage going into the trial. The person could change his or her story or address perceived shortcomings in the case against the accused.

It gets even more complicated than that because of what I referred to with respect to who the parties to the application would be, because it would not just be the Crown and the defence. It would also be the complainant's lawyer. The complainant would have the right to be represented through his or her lawyer.

However, if it was, for example, just the Crown that was a party to the application, and we did have a situation where a complainant was maybe not telling the whole truth on issues around preparation leading up to that application, those questions could be asked at the trial of the complainant, but because the complainant would be represented by counsel, suddenly those questions become subject to solicitor-client privilege. Again, it is another impediment to asking questions, to cross-examining a complainant.

Make no mistake, I fully support every step that is necessary to protect complainants, having regard for the sensitivity of sexual assault and the profound toll it can have on victims. However, the issue in this particular instance is that we are talking about something that is so broad, so unwieldy, that while the intention may have been a good one, it misses the mark when it comes to fully protecting complainants all the while doing much to undermine the ability of an accused person to make full answer and defence.

When I spoke previously on Bill C-51, I quoted Madam Justice Molloy of the Ontario Superior Court, which I think bears reading into the record again. Madam Justice Molloy, in the Nyznik decision in acquitting three individuals of sexual assault, stated that:

Although the slogan ‘Believe the victim’ has become popularized of late, it has no place in a criminal trial. To approach a trial with the assumption that the complainant is telling the truth is the equivalent of imposing a presumption of guilt on the person accused of sexual assault and then placing a burden on him to prove his innocence. That is antithetical to the fundamental principles of justice enshrined in our Constitution and the values underlying our free and democratic society.

Bill C-51, with respect to the defence disclosure requirements, does not strike the right balance of protecting the victim while guarding against the potential for wrongful convictions. Therefore, I flag that issue as a serious concern that I have. However, on the whole, there are positive aspects to the bill that we are happy to support.

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December 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not going to speculate as to whether or not a previous bill, Bill C-39, could have been passed by unanimous consent.

What I am confident in and very pleased with is that Bill C-75 includes the former Bill C-39 to remove these zombie laws that my friend has spoken about. It is contained within Bill C-75, which has passed third reading in this House and is on its way to the other place. I look forward to the debate and discussion in the other place on this important piece of criminal justice reform and to the speedy passage of Bill C-75 so that we can, in fact, remove the zombie provisions that are contained within the Criminal Code.

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December 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, it is positive that Bill C-51 seeks to remove redundant and obsolete sections of the Criminal Code. What is unfortunate is that the government still has not been able to move forward with the removal of the so-called zombie laws, the sections of the Criminal Code that have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The minister mentioned Bill C-75, which includes the removal of those provisions. However, the minister neglected to note that Bill C-39 was introduced all the way back in March 2017, which would have removed those sections. Why did the government not pass Bill C-39, which could have been passed unanimously in this House almost two years ago?

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December 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the parliamentary secretary's important work on advancing our justice legislation. His questions give me the opportunity to highlight broadly what our government continues to do with respect to addressing sexual assault and gender-based violence.

We have invested significant dollars in budget 2018 to combat gender-based violence, including sexual assault. We have provided $25 million over five years for legal aid for victims of workplace sexual harassment. We and the Minister of Status of Women are embarking on a national strategy to address gender-based violence and to support judicial education and training, among other initiatives, in the Department of Justice, such as the victims fund. We continue to work with my counterparts in the provinces and territories to continue to have a fulsome response to gender-based violence.

In terms of our legislative agenda on law reform, there is a direct connection between Bill C-51 and Bill C-75, which is the criminal justice reform bill that addresses efficiencies and effectiveness, all of which are intended to ensure that we are protecting and supporting victims of crime.

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December 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the minister's comments today, especially on December 6 as we recognize the 29th anniversary of the Montreal massacre, on a bill that would address head-on gender violence, this day and everyday. I thought the minister captured the sentiment that “no” does not mean “yes”, a simple but important phrase.

I want to ask the minister two questions. One builds on the question that was posed by the NDP with respect to other efforts that have been made not just by the justice ministry but across government, to assist in addressing gender-based violence. I am thinking about the access to justice components of pro bono law in Ontario, the victims fund, as mentioned by the minister, and also our efforts to support legal aid.

Second, could the minister connect this bill to another important initiative, which is our response to the Jordan decision in Bill C-75 to clean up provisions that have been found unconstitutional? That bill would reduce backlogs and delays. How does that address our efforts to respond to Jordan?

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December 6th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

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

moved:

That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that the House respectfully disagrees with amendments 1 and 2 made by the Senate to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, as they are inconsistent with the Bill’s objective of codifying Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence on a narrow aspect of the law on sexual assault and instead seek to legislate a different, much more complex legal issue, without the benefit of consistent guidance from appellate courts or a broad range of stakeholder perspectives.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand to speak to Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, and to respond to the amendments from the other place in this regard. It is a particular honour for me to stand to speak to the bill on white ribbon day, which, as we heard, commemorates the massacre that occurred in Montreal 29 years ago today.

As part of my mandate commitments I have been reviewing the criminal justice system with a view to ensuring that it is meeting its objectives and maintaining public safety. My review is also intended to ensure our criminal justice system is fair, relevant, efficient and accessible, that it meets the needs of its victims, respects an accused's right to a fair trial and is better able to respond to the causes and consequences of offending.

These are broad and important objectives, so our government has approached these tasks in phases. In Bill C-39, we removed passages and repealed provisions in the Criminal Code that had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, so that the law as written reflected the law as applied.

In Bill C-46, we significantly modernized Canada's impaired driving laws in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to provide law enforcement with the resources they need to effectively detect and prosecute impaired driving.

In Bill C-75, we seek to tackle the delays that are encumbering our courts.

Today, with Bill C-51, we continue to build on our government's commitment to reviewing the criminal justice system and to making all aspects of the criminal law fairer, clearer and more accessible to Canadians. In particular, the bill seeks to modernize the Criminal Code by repealing or amending provisions that courts have found unconstitutional or that raise unavoidable charter risk.

The bill also aims to ensure that offences in the Criminal Code continue to reflect today's society and its values. To that end the bill removes a number of obsolete or redundant criminal offences that no longer have a place in our criminal law.

Further, the bill creates amendments to the Department of Justice Act. Pursuant to these amendments, the Minister of Justice would have a statutory duty for every government bill to table in Parliament a statement that sets out the bill's potential effects on the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the charter. For every one of the bills I have tabled, I have tabled charter statements. These amendments would provide greater openness and transparency about the effects of government legislation on charter rights.

Finally, the bill seeks to clarify and strengthen the law on sexual assault in order to prevent misapplication of the law and to help make the criminal justice system fairer and more compassionate toward complainants in sexual assault matters.

The importance of these reforms cannot be overstated, and I would like to recognize and acknowledge all those who have been subject to sexual assault and gender-based violence. Sexual assault is a serious problem in Canada. It affects communities across the country and across all social and economic barriers, and it remains a significant barrier to women's equality.

Addressing violence against women is an issue of the utmost importance to me and to our government as a whole. We remain deeply committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system is responsive to the needs of sexual assault victims. To that end, we have provided significant funding for judicial education relating to sexual assault law, so that judges are better educated on this crucial area of law.

We have also made millions of dollars available through the victims fund to enhance the criminal justice system's response to sexual violence. These resources support important work such as pilot projects in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador to provide four free hours of independent legal advice to victims of sexual assault.

It is through efforts like these, as well as those contained in Bill C-51, that we are working to effect a culture shift in our criminal justice system and to foster an environment where sexual assault complainants feel empowered to come forward for justice and support.

We should be proud that Canadian laws around sexual assault are robust and comprehensive, even more so with the proposed steps set out in Bill C-51. However, we must also recognize that more work lies ahead, and we must continue to strive for further improvements. In short, we must continue to work to reduce the incidence of sexual assault in Canada and to ensure more victims feel encouraged to come forward and report their experiences to police.

To that end, Bill C-51 would make important changes to strengthen the law of sexual assault. These changes include creating a new regime governing the admissibility of evidence in the hands of an accused, where the evidence is a complainant's private record.

In addition to the strengthening the law of sexual assault, Bill C-51 would also clarify the law. It would do so by making clear that consent must be affirmatively expressed by words or actively expressed through conduct. This principle codifies the Supreme Court of Canada's 1999 Ewanchuk decision, and makes it explicit that there is no consent unless the complainant said “yes” through her words or her conduct. Passivity is not consent, and “no” does not mean “yes”.

Finally, as introduced, Bill C-51 proposes to clarify one aspect of the law pertaining to consent or capacity to consent to sexual activity by codifying the Supreme Court of Canada's 2011 decision in J.A. In J.A., the Supreme Court held that an unconscious person is not capable of providing consent to sexual activity. Therefore, the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to state explicitly that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting, but also to clarify that a person may be incapable of consenting for reasons other than unconsciousness.

To pause for a moment, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the members of the other place for their very careful study of Bill C-51. While the other place supported most of the bill, it adopted amendments related to the determination of a complainant's incapacity to consent to sexual activity in the context of sexual assault.

By way of background, many stakeholders welcomed Bill C-51's proposed sexual assault reforms after its introduction. Some offered suggestions concerning the elaboration of the Criminal Code consent provisions to reflect J.A. In part, those witnesses argued that the J.A. decision stands for a broader proposition. They noted that the court held that our consent law requires ongoing conscious consent and that partners need to be capable of asking their partner to stop at any point.

In other words, they suggested that the bill should be amended to reflect an additional principle articulated by the Supreme Court in J.A. to the effect that consent must be contemporaneous with the sexual activity in question.

After hearing from a number of witnesses on the question, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed, and amended to clarify that consent must be present at the time the sexual activity in question takes place. Our government agreed with that point, and we were happy to see that the justice committee amended Bill C-51 at that time so it would codify this broader principle in J.A. Doing so was in keeping with the objectives of the bill, including to ensure that the criminal law is clear and reflects the law as applied.

However, some stakeholders offered additional suggestions concerning our proposed codification of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in J.A. They suggested that the provision that would codify that no consent is obtained if a complainant is unconscious be entirely removed. While the House committee did not amend the legislation to this effect, the other place nonetheless proceeded to adopt amendments that would eliminate this provision.

In its stead, the other place proposed a list of factors to guide the court in determining when a complainant is incapable of consenting.

According to the proposed amendments, complainants are incapable of consenting if they are unable to: one, understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity; two, understand they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity; or three, affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in words or active conduct.

I would like to be clear. I agree that courts could benefit from guidance in making determinations on a complainant's incapacity to consent when she or he is conscious. The proposed amendments underscore some very significant issues in the area of consent. I also agree that intoxication, short of unconsciousness, represents challenges in the adjudication of sexual assault cases.

For one, as Bill C-51 specifically recognizes, incapacity applies to a broad range of cases well beyond those in which intoxication is an issue. This is an important conversation that we must continue to have. It is for this reason that I plan to consult with a variety of stakeholders on this issue moving forward to determine whether further action is helpful with respect to our common goals and if so, how this might be effectively accomplished.

In taking the time we need to get this right, we recognize just how complex the law of consent is. There is no clear guidance from the Supreme Court or other appellate courts to which we can turn for an exhaustive definition of what incapacity means. In addition, because Bill C-51 proposes to legislate on a very narrow aspect of the law of consent, more detailed guidance and specific instructions on this further issue are needed from stakeholders, as well as those who would be impacted by the further changes in this area. Without this guidance, the risk of unintended consequences is very real.

Moreover, the amendments made in the other place on this issue, though very laudable in their aim, unfortunately do not assist courts in adjudicating incapacity cases. For one, the amendments focus on concerns that arise in cases where the complainant is conscious but intoxicated. As a result, our government has concerns about the potential impact of the amendments on the law governing incapacity to consent in other types of incapacity cases, including those where incapacity is due to a more stable state, such as individuals living with cognitive impairment.

I also wish to note a couple of points concerning the way the courts currently treat these issues.

First, appellate decisions show that a complainant's ability to understand that he or she has a choice to engage in sexual activity or not is determinative of incapacity. However, it is not clear from the existing case law whether the other elements proposed in the amendments are determinative of incapacity or merely factors to be taken into consideration, supported by circumstantial evidence in assessing capacity.

For example, in overturning the Al-Rawi trial decision earlier this year, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rejected incapacity to communicate as a determinative test for incapacity to consent. As a result, courts may well have difficulty interpreting the proposed provision.

Furthermore, the amendments' proposed factors focus solely on elements that are internal to the complainant and may lead some courts to overlook relevant circumstantial evidence in the determination of incapacity. Though the complainant's subjective state is important, there is a risk that the amendments will lead courts to overlook other evidence that bears on the complainant's capacity. This was also an error of the trial court in this case, as noted by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

The amendments adopted in the other place would also prohibit drawing inferences about the complainant's capacity to consent to the sexual activity at issue from evidence of capacity to consent at the time of another sexual activity. These amendments simply restate a well-settled principle of law, which is already proposed for codification in Bill C-51. That principle is that consent must be contemporaneous with the sexual activity in question. This principle applies equally to capacity to consent. Each allegation of sexual assault must be considered on its own merits. The law is clear in this regard and the bill already proposes to codify it.

In short, the proposed changes are well-intentioned, but will not achieve their aim and, in fact, carry great risk of unintended consequences in what is a difficult yet critical area of law. Sexual assault law is too important to leave any room for error. If the definition of incapacity is to be provided, it is imperative we get it right.

If we are to alter this complex area of law in such a significant way, we must be informed by adequate analysis and debate in both chambers as well as by a broad range of stakeholder perspectives, including prosecutors from whom neither of the committees in this place or the other had the opportunity to hear. In addition, we need to consult with the defence bar, police associations and victims groups.

It is our obligation to ensure that the hundreds of sexual assault cases that are prosecuted every day in the country are not negatively affected by an amendment that has yet to be subject to full discussion and deliberation.

As I mentioned before, in order for these issues to receive the treatment they deserve and require, I will and have committed to study the issue of incapacity, with a view to striking the right balance on this important matter. I am grateful to the witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee for suggesting that this issue be the subject of further study. I look forward to consulting with them further as part of my future review.

Our government continues to work toward fostering an environment where survivors of sexual assault feel empowered to come forward and trust the system they turn to for justice and support. Consulting on and studying the issue of capacity to consent while conscious will form an integral part of that effort.

I am incredibly proud of our government's efforts to date within the area of sexual assault law. I am confident that our continued efforts will help to ensure that all victims are treated with compassion, dignity and the respect they deserve.

Bill C-51 is an important part of our work on this issue. It is also consistent with our broader efforts to ensure that our criminal law is responsible to the needs of all Canadians and that it reflects our values. Our government will continue to find ways to improve upon our criminal justice system so it keeps Canadians safe, respects victims, responds to the needs of vulnerable populations and addresses the underlying social causes of crime. I am proud of the role Bill C-51 will play in helping us to achieve these goals. I look forward to the bill's expeditious passage to ensure these important reforms are enacted without further delay.

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December 3rd, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Tuesday, November 27, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-75.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from November 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

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November 28th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, when I made my speech on Bill C-75 at second reading, I mentioned that we were eager to work with the government to improve the bill. I am disappointed to report not enough was done to enable us to support this legislation. The government's stated goal was to reduce court delays in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Jordan and to continue with trial fairness imperatives. I am afraid the bill comes up short on both counts.

This was a 302-page bill so I will not be able to address in my short time the questions I wanted to. However, I would like to speak on four themes very briefly. First, the failure to address mandatory minimum penalties; second, the hybridization issues we have heard about; third, restrictions on preliminary inquiries; and fourth, the patchwork approach to agent representation. These are among the many issues we heard testimony on at the justice committee.

We heard testimony that the measures proposed would, in fact, make matters worse in many cases. I will elaborate. Most of the action in criminal justice in Canada takes place in the provincial courts, and hybridizing offences and pushing more cases onto to those courts is hardly a solution that is going to make things better.

However, I commend the government for a number of things. I commend it for deleting the routine police evidence provision that was agreed to be problematic at the committee. I am pleased we, at the committee, persuaded the government to change that odious provision. I am also pleased to have moved, along with my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre, a provision that would repeal the bawdy house provisions and vagrancy sections of the Criminal Code that have been used so often to criminalize consensual sexual activities, particularly among the LGBTQ2 community.

However, there were hundreds of amendments brought to the committee and a number of them were not accepted. For example, the New Democratic Party brought 17 amendments to committee designed to help vulnerable people impacted by our justice system. None of them were accepted by the government.

Every day there are real people who are self-represented. They cannot afford lawyers and there is not enough legal aid in this world to represent them. Who are these people? They are primarily indigenous, poor and marginalized. It is our submission that this bill simply does not do enough to address their realities.

Many of the stakeholders we consulted have told us that the key reforms in Bill C-75 are not evidenced-based at all. The stated objective of this bill is to respond to the Jordan judgment, with its mandatory time limits, yet there is considerable doubt the changes proposed would speed up the criminal justice system. Arguably, they would have the opposite effect.

The Liberals claim that this is somehow bold criminal justice reform, yet the elephant in the room is that they failed entirely to address former prime minister Harper's regime of mandatory minimum sentences, despite their political promises and public commitments to do so. Defence lawyers and legal academics agree the reversal of this practice would have been a huge step to unclogging the delays in the system, yet the Liberals failed utterly to even address the topic at all. We believe we need to deal with the root causes of the delays, things like addiction and poverty issues, which are really the root of the crime we are dealing with.

Let me start with mandatory minimums. This is one thing that would have increased compliance with Jordan and alleviated court burden from multiple charter challenges, and it is unfathomable why the Liberals ducked this issue. So many people came to our committee and talked about it. I do not have time to list them all but they included, from Barreau du Québec, Dr. Marie-Eve Sylvestre, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Jonathan Rudin of Aboriginal Legal Services. I could go on and on. All of these people have spoken out about the failure to address mandatory minimums.

There are so many quotes I do not have time to address, but Jonathan Rudin, who is the program director for Aboriginal Legal Services reminded us that even the justice minister herself acknowledged the issues with mandatory minimum sentencing, saying, “This government knows that mandatory minimum sentences do not work.” She spoke eloquently on this issue on September 29, 2017, almost a year ago.

The justice minister said:

There is absolutely no doubt that MMPs have a disproportionate effect on Indigenous people, as well as other vulnerable populations. The data are clear. The increased use of MMPs over the past decade has contributed to the overrepresentation in our prison system of Indigenous people, racialized communities and female offenders. Judges are well-equipped to assess the offender before them and ensure that the punishment fits the crime.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in this bill to address that issue.

I am pleased that Senator Kim Pate has introduced Bill S-251, sponsored by my colleague, the member for Saskatoon West, which provides for judicial discretion to depart from the mandatory sentence when it would be just to do so. Then the opportunities for plea bargaining when judges have the discretion that they used to have, as all the experts have said, would go a great deal of distance to solve the issue of delays.

I do not have time to do much with the issue of hybridization. I think there has been enough said about that, and in the interests of time I will skip that.

I will say that Emilie Taman, one of the witnesses, a prominent lawyer in Ottawa, said this:

Indeed, of the 136 indictable offences that are to be reclassified as hybrid by virtue of Bill C-75, 95 are offences punishable by five or ten years. Consequently, this Bill now gives the Crown, rather than the accused, control over whether trial by jury is on the table for these 95 offences. This is problematic because the Crown’s exercise of discretion is done without transparency and is only reviewable on the very high standard of abuse of process.

In other words, we are giving the Crown counsel of the land the ability to make up their minds about which way to go in the privacy of their offices. Contrast that with judicial discretion, where in open court judges decide whether the penalty fits the crime. How different. How far we have come and how far away we are from justice. The potential for bias is real.

I believe that time will not allow me to do much more, but I am so enticed by what the hon. parliamentary secretary said about preliminary inquires that, in the interest of time, I want to address that issue head-on.

The government appears to believe that restricting preliminaries will save court time and protect vulnerable witnesses. The Canadian Bar Association, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association are among the witnesses that utterly disagree with the parliamentary secretary.

We heard considerable testimony about preliminaries actually reducing court delay. We heard extensive, compelling testimony that preliminary inquiries are a necessary tool to preserve trial fairness.

The Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario said:

Eliminating preliminary inquiries for all cases other than those for which a maximum period of imprisonment of life is available will not further the interests of justice or assist with the orderly and efficient administration of criminal justice. The Committee should recommend that these changes not be made.

I had a dozen quotes to give on this, but I think my favourite witness was Professor Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary's faculty of law. She said that we have to protect people from having a trial where none is necessary and that the “preliminary inquiry, at its core, exists as the legislative 'shield' between the accused and the Crown.”

She gave an example, a story which members may well remember, that of Susan Nelles, a nurse at the cardiac ward at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, who was accused of murdering children. During the preliminary inquiry, they found a complete lack of evidence. The result was the charges were dropped. The result, in Professor Silver's view, was that preliminary inquiries are a vital step in ensuring due process and fair trials.

The other issue I want to talk about involves restricting agent representation. Upping the penalty for summary offences to two years less a day is going to have an adverse effect for agent representation across our country. I am talking about law students, paralegals and other agents that currently represent a large “gap population”, as they are called, in our country. There are many individuals who simply do not qualify for legal aid and are too poor to afford a lawyer.

The government has decided it is up to the provinces and territories to regulate what type of agent can represent what crime. This is not co-operative federalism; this is creating a patchwork effect to justice across Canada. Access to appropriate counsel should not depend on where people live, but now it will. We have student legal aid services, people such as Lisa Cirillo, Suzanne Johnson and Doug Ferguson, who asked the government to reverse the measure that would limit agent representation, and yet nothing appears to have been done on that point.

Let me be clear. An unrepresented accused will absolutely increase court delay and deprive that person of his or her right to a proper trial. It often forces the Crown and judges into an uncomfortable position where they must occasionally advise, assist and support the self-represented accused when this is contrary to their official role in the process.

We proposed a number of changes to increase jury representativeness. They were rejected. Professor Kent Roach talked about the shameful situation of juries, such as the failure to have any indigenous jurors on the Gerald Stanley case, and suggested, as did the Criminal Lawyers' Association that we have the ability to look at the jury and the judge given the discretion to decide whether it was representative or indeed embarrassing. That was rejected by my colleagues.

I am sorry I do not have time to say much more, but I will say this. There is a real opportunity lost. We do not do comprehensive criminal justice reform very often in our country. The Liberals brought in a 302-page bill. Some of the key issues I have addressed will only exacerbate the problem before us, making less justice and further delays. There are some things in this bill we like, but on balance we have to say, sadly, we cannot support it.

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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.

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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—

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak at third reading to Bill C-75. I had the opportunity recently to speak on another bill that also sought to amend the Criminal Code, Bill C-375. In that speech, I drew attention to the Liberals' alarming track record on criminal justice. I would like to continue with these thoughts today in the context of the bill before us.

Bill C-75 continues a disturbing pattern from the Liberal government. Where previous governments of all stripes sought to protect victims of crime, the Liberal government seems to favour the protection of criminals instead. From their first days in government, the Liberals have used the levers of power to shield and protect criminals while leaving victims and their families in the cold.

We have seen this time and time again, with the Liberals' $10.5-million payout to Omar Khadr and their subsequent snubbing of Tabitha Speer, their shocking response to Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer from a secure prison to a healing lodge, their abysmal response to gang crimes through Bill C-71, along with countless other examples.

When Canadians dared to raise their concerns, the Prime Minister labelled them ambulance chasers. Perhaps the most tangible examples of the government's disordered protection of criminals have come in this bill. When Bill C-75 was introduced, it reduced the penalties for advocating genocide and participation in terrorist activities to possibly as little as a fine. It was only at the insistence of my Conservative colleagues at committee that these clauses were removed.

I am glad the Liberal members on that committee saw the folly of the original text, but it begs the question: how could the government have thought those clauses were in any way appropriate in the first place? Unfortunately, I believe that this is not a one-time occurrence, but as I said, a disturbing pattern regarding terrorists from the government.

As I already mentioned, take the case of Omar Khadr which resulted in a convicted terrorist becoming a millionaire at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, and this is just one example. Recall that long before the Liberals tried to use Bill C-75 to lower the penalties for engaging in terrorist activities, one of the first items on the Prime Minister's agenda was to pull our air force out of the fight against ISIS. This was a backward decision at the time and in retrospect, almost indefensible.

Just days ago, a mass grave holding the remains of more Yazidi victims of ISIS was discovered in Kar Azir town. This is the 71st mass grave found in the area. The men, women and children in these graves were slaughtered by members of ISIS, some of whom are from this country. These ISIS terrorists stoned women to death for the crime of being raped. They killed families for believing in their own God or being the wrong ethnicity. They burned men alive for refusing to join their evil cause or threw them off buildings for being gay.

As I previously pointed out in this place, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could not even bring herself to call these monsters terrorists--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

We have heard in question period, as my hon. friend mentioned, that belief in statistics may not necessarily be the Conservatives' thing, but I will put that forward.

This bill, Bill C-75, gives the Crown discretion on how to proceed. The Crown knows, when it is going forward with a case, the sentence it would ask for if a conviction happened. The Crown then has to make arguments within the range of sentences.

In my riding, the Crown has been doing this for five, 10, 15, 20 years. The Conservatives say that we do not trust them. We do not trust them to make that call even though—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to participate in the debate on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which is an important part. I intend to focus my remarks on the sentencing issue.

At the outset, it is important to address the hybrid offence issue, because we are hearing a lot of misinformation coming from the other side about how this process works. This means offences that are punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or less. These reforms would allow the Crown to proceed by summary conviction in appropriate cases. There is the suggestion that this minimizes the seriousness of the offence. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is being said from the other side, and the concerns and misinformation they are raising, shows a lack of trust of the judiciary, of police officers and of Crown prosecutors.

The opposition is the party that pretends to be the law and order party, the party that gets tough on crime, the party that never really talks about significant issues to reduce crime, but will wrap itself in the flag and pretend to go forward based on that. It will spread misinformation about Bill C-75 to build itself up to make it seem like the bill would accomplish nothing. The rules in the Canadian judicial system changed with the Supreme Court decision in Jordan, that justice had to be quicker. We have all heard the phrase justice delayed is justice denied, but it is true. It is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Minister of Justice met with provincial and territorial counterparts of all political stripes, all parties that are represented in the House, to come up with a way to make justice quicker, to get people before a judge as quickly as possible. I think that is something on which we can all agree. If someone is charged with a criminal offence, he or she should be in front of a judge as quickly as possible, that gets to sentencing and an outcome as quickly as possible.

The proposal to hybridize offences is procedural in nature and is intended to allow the prosecution by summary conviction of conduct that does not currently result in a sentence of more than two years. For instance, it is a mischaracterization of the reclassification of amendments to assert that hybridizing, for example, section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code, which is participation in activities of a criminal organization, is sending a message that we do not take organized crime offences seriously. There is not a member of Parliament in the House who does not take organized crime seriously. To suggest otherwise is preposterous.

The proposed amendment simply recognizes that this offence can, by virtue of the range of conduct captured, include circumstances where a appropriate sentence falls within the summary conviction range. Proceeding summarily in these circumstances allows for more expeditious proceedings, without undermining public safety or impacting the range of sentences for this offence.

Let us go back in our time machine to 2011-12. There was, as the Conservatives would call themselves, a tough on crime government. In those years, there were 49 guilty verdicts issued under section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code. Of those 49 offences, only 34 were given a custodial sentence. Of those, one received one month or less. Six received between one and three months. Ten received between three and six months. Nine received from six to 12 months. Four received from 12 to 24 months. The remaining four, less than 10% of offences, received a sentence of 24 months or more. That is from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. This was during the Stephen Harper era of tough on crime.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Before I begin my speech, I want to thank the hon. member for Victoria for the excellent work he did on this file in committee. He worked very hard. He proposed many amendments, asked witnesses questions, and made some insightful and very impressive remarks. That is what will fuel my remarks today.

Why are we voting against the bill? The purpose of the bill was to respond to the Jordan decision, but it does not respond to it correctly. That is one of the reasons we are voting against the bill. It does not go far enough, and it fails to achieve what it set out to do. That is the problem.

The stated objective of the bill was to comply with the Supreme Court's 2016 Jordan ruling and to clear the backlog in the justice system, which is very important.

The problem with the Jordan decision is that now the Charter guarantees the right to be tried within a reasonable time. That is fine. The Jordan decision set out a timeframe. The time limit between the laying of charges and the conclusion of the trial was set at 18 months, or 30 months in some cases.

If that deadline cannot be met, situations may arise—much like the notorious cases I mentioned earlier in my question—where real criminals who have committed very serious crimes can be let off without a trial. That is awful. That should never happen again. Our government should be ensuring that it never happens again.

That is why Bill C-75 was so highly anticipated. It should have corrected that situation, but unfortunately, it does not.

One of the major reforms in Bill C-75 is not based on sound evidence, and that is very problematic. The stated objective of the bill is to respond to the Jordan decision. However, we have serious doubts about whether the proposed amendments will actually help reduce case completion times in the criminal justice system.

Many of the proposed measures will likely have the opposite effect and could actually add to the delays.

The Liberals claim that this bill is a bold reform of the criminal justice system, but there is one problem, in addition to what I mentioned just now. The Minister of Justice's mandate letter has something very important in it, something we very strongly believe in: eliminating the mandatory minimum sentencing system. All of the leading legal minds and experts have told us repeatedly that mandatory minimum sentencing is bad for our justice system. It is bad for offender rehabilitation and reintegration, and it undermines judges' ability to exercise their judgment in unique cases.

What does Bill C-75 have to offer on that score? This was in the minister's mandate letter, so we expected the elimination of minimum sentencing to be a key component of the bill, but apparently it does not even bear mentioning.

The Liberals broke their promise, and that is a major disappointment. As I said, defence attorneys and legal academics agree that the reversal of this practice would have been a huge step toward unclogging the court system. Unfortunately, the Liberals chose not to tackle this key issue. That is inexplicable. I do not understand why they made that choice.

My first concern has to do with reducing the use of preliminary inquiries, which are essentially dress rehearsals for trials. They are used in only 3% of cases, so eliminating them in most cases, which is what Bill C-75 proposes to do, will not save a lot of time right away. One could argue that preliminary inquiries help narrow the issues to be presented at trial and that, in some cases, they completely eliminate the need for a trial if the Crown's evidence does not hold up. Eliminating preliminary inquiries is a solution that was proposed to reduce delays, but it will actually do the opposite.

My second concern is about the regressive change to summary offences. Imposing harsher sentences on those who commit less serious crimes, namely increasing the maximum sentence from 18 months to 24, is just one element of this reform. Many accused would be better helped by being given more social support, rather than being criminalized. This amendment would disproportionately affect members of racialized groups and indigenous communities, more specifically those with a low socioeconomic status and those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

Another major shortcoming of this bill is that it does not propose any measures to address the root causes of crime, such as poverty. In fact, today is national anti-poverty day. Other root causes include addiction, mental health problems and marginalization. There is nothing concrete in the bill to address those factors. Unfortunately, many people end up in the legal system when their situation is actually a result of social problems that we should be addressing. Sometimes those problems are of long standing. Take, for example, the social problems in indigenous communities and mental health problems.

The government needs to sit down with the affected communities to come up with solutions to these problems and try to improve their situation. Unfortunately, this bill has no plan to that effect.

I also want to reiterate that appointing more judges to fill judicial vacancies is absolutely crucial. We can no longer tolerate all these judicial vacancies. This government has been in power for over three years now. These judicial vacancies must be filled.

Let me remind members of the Nick Chan case in Calgary. Everyone is still talking about it today. This notorious gang leader was accused of murder and other serious crimes, but he was let off because his right to be tried within a reasonable time, as laid out in the Jordan decision, had been violated due to the shortage of judges.

This is a very serious problem that the government must address as quickly as possible. Of course, we have an independent judicial appointments process, but that process needs to go a lot faster. The vacancies must be filled, because we simply cannot let other notorious criminals escape prosecution because of a lack of judges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism (Multiculturalism), Lib.

Gary Anandasangaree

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the outcomes we see, the numbers we see year after year from the Office of the Correctional Investigator, should trouble all Canadians. They should really raise questions as to why certain provisions and practices exist and how they affect racialized people. It is very clear that peremptory challenge is one of those issues where we have seen some serious miscarriages of justice over the years. It is a very important step in Bill C-75 that would address a major concern of many victimized communities that have been seeking justice.