Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-77, an act to enhance victims' rights in the military justice system, an act to amend the National Defence Act and other related acts.
First and foremost I have to thank those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. The men and women in uniform who serve in the regular forces, the reserve force in all the disciplines and all the different trades take on an important task in keeping us safe here in Canada in dealing with our foes abroad. As long as we have adversaries who want to do harm to us here in Canada as well as to our allies, we need to have a standing force to protect Canada.
It is because of the skills required to be a soldier, an airman, an airwoman, a sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy, our air force and the army, the people that we need to do that job need the support of the Government of Canada, and it does that through the National Defence Act.
A lot of people who might be hearing this debate today for the first time may not understand why we have a separate military justice system within the National Defence Act for the Canadian Armed Forces versus the court system that we have for civil society across this country.
People need to understand that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the hallmark piece of legislation, our Constitution, that even the National Defence Act is subordinate to and has to follow the laws as are written under our rights in the charter.
The Supreme Court of Canada has stated on numerous occasions, and most recently in the Moriarity decision, that the purpose of Canada's military justice system is “to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale in the military”.
By allowing commanding officers as well as non-commissioned officers to have the ability to have efficiency and discipline within the armed forces means stronger morale, a better-abled armed forces, so they can carry out the duties that are bestowed upon them from time to time in operations by the Government of Canada.
As I already mentioned to the minister, I am glad to see that the government has moved ahead with our old Bill C-71, which would put within the Code of Service Discipline a declaration of victims' rights, something that the previous Conservative government did, as constituted in law, and now is making sure that the military justice system and that victims' bill of rights would be respected within the National Defence Act.
Some of those rights that we are talking about for victims are: the right to information, so that all victims would have general information about the military justice system; what types of victim services would be available through the Canadian Armed Forces and National Defence; and what type of information they would need. They would be able to hear about the progress of the case as it moves forward and also get all of the information relating to the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of the person who did the harm.
I talked earlier about Operation Honour. That information is critical in making sure that we respect the victims of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces. This legislation would make sure that the armed forces provides those services.
There is the right to protection, the same thing that we have in civil society. All victims would have the right to security and privacy considered at all times through the military justice process. The armed forces would take reasonable and necessary measures to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation. A victim's identity would not be disclosed to the public.
The right to participation comes down to the victim having the right to have a victim impact statement put into the proceedings and read at the time of sentencing. Military justice professionals would have to consider these at all stages of the proceedings.
Finally, there is the right to restitution. In the event that there is the ability to provide some financial assistance to cover losses from the criminal activity that took place, the victim would have the right to restitution.
One thing that we would now see in the Canadian Armed Forces is the addition of the victim's liaison officer. This individual would proactively work with victims in their choice of jurisdiction for sexual misconduct matters. The liaison officer would help victims with the investigation and trial process, keep them informed, listen to them and get their views to determine how public interest is moving forward on that prosecution.
Witness preparation will be improved through this process because of the addition of the victims rights officer. They will make sure that the comfort and security of the victim are always taken into consideration. They will look at everything from the type of effort that prosecutors need for all of the information regarding the victim impact statement, and during sentencing in particular, to looking at maintaining the consistency of prosecutors throughout the court process. It is critical to make sure that prosecutors are using the same type of parameters in moving forward. That has to be paramount. Finally, these sexual misconduct cases would be expedited ahead of other trials that might be ongoing.
As Conservatives, we have always stood up for victims' rights. We believe that victims must have an effective voice in the criminal justice, which includes the military justice system. As I said, it was the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper that brought forward the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and now we would be enshrining those rights into the military justice system through Bill C-77. That is why we introduced Bill C-71 last Parliament in the last session.
We are going to be supportive of this process with the government, but are wondering why the Liberals took so long. We know they are copying our bill because it is the right thing to do. Everyone wants to stand up for the victims of crime, and of course we will want to study this further once it gets to committee.
Putting the rights of victims at the heart of our criminal justice system is important to ensure that victims have a more effective voice within the justice system, and that they are treated with courtesy, compassion and respect at every stage of the military criminal justice process, as well as in the civilian criminal justice process. This is about reversing the trend of criminals always getting breaks. We want to make sure that we keep our streets and communities safe, and that families of victims have an effective voice.
As Conservatives, we are very proud of our record with respect to the criminal justice system. It speaks for itself. We enacted the Safe Streets and Communities Act and reformed the not criminally responsible legislation. We also brought in laws against sexual exploitation, cyber-bullying and cyber-intimidation.
We believe that victims should always be placed at the forefront in the criminal justice system because they deserve and should have the right to information, the right to protection, the right participation, and where possible, the right to restitution. That is why we passed the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. It enshrines that in legislation. We are finally doing that through Bill C-77 in the military justice system.
Although we are all here talking about standing up for victims, I have been very disappointed over the last two weeks from seeing the government's response on the Tori Stafford case regarding Terri-Lynne McClintic. She has been put into a minimum security healing lodge in Saskatchewan where there are other children. She is the child killer of Tori Stafford. If we really believed in supporting victims' rights, there is no way that Terri-Lynne McClintic should be in a healing lodge. She should be behind bars in at least a medium security facility that has a fence, where she can be properly monitored and can receive the counselling she needs.
I will also note Chris Garnier, an individual who killed off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell, is sitting in prison and receiving Veterans Affairs benefits for PTSD that he got from killing Officer Campbell. There is no way that this individual should be given any veterans benefits, but the government refuses to rescind the services being offered to him. Garnier could get PTSD counselling through the Correctional Service of Canada. He does not need to be taking away benefits from veterans when he is not a veteran himself. He got ahead of the line of actual veterans trying to get help for their operational stress injuries.
Then of course we have Bill C-75, which I call the Liberal hug-a-thug bill. The Liberals have brought forward this legislation that reduces fines, penalties, and incarceration time for individuals for 26 different offences that right now are indictable and result in jail time, instead making them summary conviction offences. This could mean just getting a fine instead of jail time.
To get back to why we have a military justice system, I will read an old quote from Maurice de Saxe, who was a marshal general of France. He noted in a 1732 treatise he wrote on the science of warfare that “military discipline...is the soul of armies. If it is not established with wisdom and maintained with unshakeable resolution you will have no soldiers. Regiments and armies will only be contemptible, armed mobs, more dangerous to their own country than to the enemy.”
That is why we have a court martial system. It is also why we have summary hearings so that the chain of command is able to deal with disciplinary measures. We always have to remember that since the earliest of times, members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been given great responsibilities in exercising those duties to protect this country. When we go back to our British history and operations, they were always governed by articles of war that were proclaimed by the monarch. Articles about different military offences and punishments at that time included the death penalty, or someone would have their head shaven if they were not conducting themselves in a respectful manner. The military has that ethos and the code of service conduct that its members have to respect. It is critical that the military function under that very hard discipline. When people are going into battle, service members standing next to each other must be bound by that same code and conduct themselves in like manner and be able to trust each other with their lives.
It is because of that history, the operations we undertake, and the creation of the National Defence Act in 1950 that we have this two-tiered system.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are often required to risk injury or death in their daily performance of their duties inside and outside Canada. They often have to use lethal force in an operation. They are going to be commanded to be the aggressors at times and they all have to be responsible under the chain of command. Of course, those activities and operations are sanctioned by the Government of Canada. That is why there has to be a military justice system that is separate from the civilian system and that puts a premium on the necessity for discipline and cohesion of military units.
The operational reality of the military has specific implications holding military members to a higher standard than what is expected of civilians. That is why there are the summary hearings or summary trials, as they are currently called, that deal with those disciplinary matters. It builds morale within the Canadian Armed Forces when everyone is marching in the same direction.
The realities of military life were acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 1992 decision in the Généreux case. It stated that:
The purpose of a separate system of military tribunals is to allow the Armed Forces to deal with matters that pertain directly to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military. The safety and well-being of Canadians depends considerably on the willingness and readiness of a force of men and women to defend against threats to the nation's security. To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs. In addition, special service tribunals, rather than the ordinary courts, have been given jurisdiction to punish breaches of the Code of Service Discipline. Recourse to the ordinary criminal courts would, as a general rule, be inadequate to serve the particular disciplinary needs of the military. There is thus a need for separate tribunals to enforce special disciplinary standards in the military.
In light of that decision, I think it is key that a person must be punished severely, efficiently and with speed. In the current situation of civilian courts, that would not happen. We have murderers who are getting off from their crimes because their jurisprudence has not been respected under the courts and their cases have been thrown out because of the time it has taken to actually get them to a hearing.
The charter also recognizes the existence of the separate system of military justice within the Canadian legal system. If we look at section 11 of the charter that deals with the proceedings of criminal and penal matters, it talks extensively about the right to a fair trial. However, section 11(f) says:
Any person charged with an offence has the right...(f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;
Therefore, the charter specifically says that we have the right to have a separate and distinct military justice system. That has been upheld now in three separate decisions, most recently in 2015 in the Moriarity decision. In each case, the court has upheld the requirement for a separate justice system in the Canadian Armed Forces.
In Généreux, the Supreme Court found that the existence of a parallel system of military law and tribunals for the purpose of enforcement and discipline in the military “is deeply entrenched in our history and is supported by compelling principles.”
When we start looking at some of the decisions going forward, and of course the one just delivered by the Court Martial Appeal Court in the Beaudry case, I do not know if they have looked significantly at the decisions already made by the Supreme Court of Canada. The reality is that the Supreme of Court of Canada has decided that we need to have a separate military justice system, a court martial process, as well as a summary hearings proceedings to ensure that we have that discipline and that morale is there, so that we have an efficient armed forces that can deal with the threats of the day and that everyone is then working hand in hand.
In the MacKay case, there was a similar note when the National Defence Act was considered as a whole. it reads:
When the National Defence Act is considered as a whole it will be seen that it encompasses the rules of discipline necessary to the maintenance of morale and efficiency among troops in training and at the same time envisages conditions under which service offences may be committed outside of Canada by service personnel stationed abroad. […] In my view these are some of the factors which make it apparent that a separate code of discipline administered within the services is an essential ingredient of service life.
Again, that comes back to the fact that our troops are deployed in places like Iraq, Ukraine, Latvia, Mali, and in past in places like Korea and Afghanistan, and across Europe in World War I and World War II. The reason we have it is that if crimes are committed overseas, those military members will still be bound by the military processes and the military justice that we have under the National Defence Act.
Again, in the Moriarity decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of paragraph 131(1)(a) of the National Defence Act, which incorporates offences under the Criminal Code and other acts into the military justice system, because the court acknowledged that the behaviour of members of the military relates to discipline, efficiency and morale, even when they are not on duty, in uniform or on a military base. This comes back to Operation Honour, which we are engaged in right now and which has been carried out very effectively by the Canadian Armed Forces. It is not just when one is wearing the uniform and is on duty that it matters, but it is an ethos and code of conduct that Canadian Forces members have chosen to uphold at all times, whether on duty or off .The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that. Therefore, if there is any sexual misconduct, it can be dealt with.
In closing, I have to say that I am very concerned about the effect of the Beaudry ruling. I am glad that the government and the minister have appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, because it contradicts two other recent rulings of the Court Martial Appeal Court. Essentially what they are trying to do is to wipe out the military's ability to prosecute any civilian offences within the Canadian Forces.
To close, I will read the dissenting opinion of the chief justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court, the Hon. Richard Bell. He wrote that Parliament had intended to include the offences under paragraph 131(1)(a) of the National Defence Act as “offence[s] under military law tried before a military tribunal” when drafting subsection 11(f) of the charter. He noted that “Parliament was presumably aware of the legal consequences of the military exception set out in subsection 11(f) of the Charter, and there is every indication that it intended to exclude persons subject to the Code of Service Discipline from the right to a trial by jury when it conceived that exception”.
I have to agree with him. I hope we can put stronger language into Bill C-77 to respect that type of legal opinion.