An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Harjit S. Sajjan  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of Oct. 15, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-77.

Summary

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

This enactment amends provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system.

It adds a new Division, entitled “Declaration of Victims Rights”, to the Code of Service Discipline, that specifies that victims of service offences have a right to information, protection, participation and restitution in respect of service offences. It adds or amends several definitions, including “victim” and “military justice system participant”, and specifies who may act on a victim’s behalf for the purposes of that Division.

It amends Part III of that Act to, among other things,

(a) specify the purpose of the Code of Service Discipline and the fundamental purpose of imposing sanctions at summary hearings;

(b) protect the privacy and security of victims and witnesses in proceedings involving certain sexual offences;

(c) specify factors that a military judge is to take into consideration when determining whether to make an exclusion order;

(d) make testimonial aids more accessible to vulnerable witnesses;

(e) allow witnesses to testify using a pseudonym in appropriate cases;

(f) on application, make publication bans for victims under the age of 18 mandatory;

(g) in certain circumstances, require a military judge to inquire of the prosecutor if reasonable steps have been taken to inform the victims of any plea agreement entered into by the accused and the prosecutor;

(h) provide that the acknowledgment of the harm done to the victims and to the community is a sentencing objective;

(i) provide for different ways of presenting victim impact statements;

(j) allow for military impact statements and community impact statements to be considered for all service offences;

(k) provide, as a principle of sentencing, that particular attention should be given to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders;

(l) provide for the creation, in regulations, of service infractions that can be dealt with by summary hearing;

(m) provide for a scale of sanctions in respect of service infractions and for the principles applicable to those sanctions;

(n) provide for a six-month limitation period in respect of summary hearings; and

(o) provide superior commanders, commanding officers and delegated officers with jurisdiction to conduct a summary hearing in respect of a person charged with having committed a service infraction if the person is at least one rank below the officer conducting the summary hearing.

Finally, the enactment makes related and consequential amendments to certain Acts. Most notably, it amends the Criminal Code to include military justice system participants in the class of persons against whom offences relating to intimidation of a justice system participant can be committed.

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.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the very fine and hon. colleague from Kingston and the Islands.

It is an honour for me to once again rise in this honourable House to speak on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport on Bill C-77, which is an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts. The focus of my comments over the next 10 minutes is to discuss the importance of this bill and its implications for indigenous peoples.

Before I begin, I want to say that repairing the relationship and building a new nation-to-nation relationship with the indigenous people of this country is very important to Davenport residents. They want to see both a renewed relationship and that we have made key progress. I am very glad to be focusing on the implications for indigenous peoples and highlight two key things that this bill would do that would specifically benefit the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The first is that Bill C-77 includes indigenous sentencing provisions that would require that military tribunals consider the circumstances of indigenous offenders at sentencing, as is the case in the civilian justice system. The second is that through Bill C-77, we would ensure that indigenous people are given the same rights and respect in the military as in civilian courts.

I am getting a little ahead of myself, so I will provide some context. Each time that Canada has called upon its armed forces, indigenous peoples have volunteered to proudly and honourably serve their country. Many have done so while facing discrimination and inequality from the very people they were sworn to defend and the very institution they have chosen to serve. It is part of our history that we acknowledge sadly, and a wrong that we seek to right each and every day.

As all members of the military, indigenous service members make sacrifices to serve. They have left their homes, families and communities to fight in war zones so that Canadians may enjoy peace and security here at home in Canada. They were valued allies in the War of 1812. Then came the First and Second World Wars when thousands of indigenous servicemen and women risked their lives for freedom. They did so again in the Korean and Gulf wars. More recently, indigenous Canadian Armed Forces members served in missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and other UN-led missions.

When I was in Iqaluit, I saw a monument that was dedicated to indigenous Canadians who died in service of this country in various wars in our past. There are countless members of the Rangers who work diligently to protect our sovereignty, perform search and rescue operations, and carry out operations and patrols. I had a chance to meet with a group of them when I arrived in Iqaluit over the summer via the Canadian leaders at sea program that sailed on the HMCS Charlottetown from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Iqaluit. It was wonderful to meet the Rangers, to understand the work they do and how well they work with our Canadian Armed Forces. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to meet them.

I am not here to give a history lesson but to reaffirm the respect we have for indigenous Canadian Armed Forces members and how the legislation our government is proposing now reflects that respect.

As the Prime Minister has stated before, no relationship is more important than our relationship with indigenous peoples. Based on self-identification statistics from May 2017, indigenous Canadians make up a total of 2.7% of our armed forces. This means that nearly 2,500 indigenous members, in total, now serve in the regular and reserve forces. They are employed in careers throughout the Canadian Armed Forces and have become leaders in fields as diverse as engineering, physiotherapy, vehicle maintenance and systems specialities. Suffice it to say, their contributions are notable and Canadians owe these members a great debt of gratitude.

Our government has put an unprecedented focus on reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We understand that for far too long, indigenous peoples have had to prove their rights exist and have had to fight to have them recognized.

This past November, our Prime Minister delivered a powerful and long overdue apology to residential school survivors in Newfoundland. However, as the Prime Minister stated, saying sorry is not enough. Saying sorry does not undo the harm that was done and does not bring back the culture they lost. A real apology begins with action. That is why we are taking steps for real and lasting change.

Earlier this year, our Prime Minister stood in the House to discuss the recognition and implementation of rights framework. That was done in February of this year. The importance of that is we are taking a much more proactive stand and in doing so, we are not only transforming the status quo of how Canada operates and interacts with indigenous people, but also challenging and supporting indigenous communities in a positive way to lead change, rebuild and find solutions, and take their rightful place within Confederation in ways that reflect indigenous self-determination.

I am very proud that we did that earlier this year. Our Prime Minister further stated that it is our job as a government to support, accompany and partner with first nations, Inuit and Métis people. It is our responsibility to provide them with the framework and tools they can use to chart a path forward. The framework will lay the foundation for real and lasting change. It is up to us to take concrete action toward a better future for indigenous peoples.

Actions include reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous Canadians in federal prisons, which is about one-quarter of all inmates in Canadian prisons. Unfortunately, female incarceration rates are higher than men's, at 38%. It is something we really need to work on.

Indeed, this is one of the priorities set out in the Minister of Justice's mandate letter from the Prime Minister when she first was appointed. This speaks directly to the calls to action declared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was called upon by our government to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in custody.

While the military justice system has not experienced overrepresentation of indigenous offenders, the proposed changes to the National Defence Act reflect our understanding that indigenous Canadians have faced very difficult histories and that they should be taken into account when determining which sentences would best serve justice in each particular case. The proposed amendments to the National Defence Act mirror the civil system's considerations for sentencing and our nation's history.

As it currently stands, the National Defence Act does not mandate military tribunals to consider the specific circumstances of indigenous Canadians when determining sentencing the way our civilian criminal justice system does.

This legislation will change that and bring the military system more in line with our civilian criminal justice system. Canadian civil courts are mandated to consider the circumstances and history of indigenous offenders when considering sentencing options. This information then informs the judge's decision about appropriate sentencing for the indigenous offender.

Bill C-77 would enshrine those same principles in the military justice system. The proposed legislation will expand on the principle that, in all cases, a sentence should be the least severe sentence required to maintain the discipline, efficiency and morale of the Canadian Forces that is appropriate given the gravity of the offence committed and the responsibility of the offender.

The legislation then goes a step further and mandates particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous offenders when determining appropriate sentences for service offences. The hope is that keeping indigenous offenders out of civilian and service prisons and detention barracks, when justice can be met through other punishments, will allow for better outcomes, greater rehabilitation, less recidivism and a greater sense of justice within Canada and our military.

Amending the National Defence Act speaks directly to our government's efforts to repair and renew our relationship with indigenous peoples. Our Department of National Defence is also committed to focus on building relations with local chiefs and engaging with local communities. I know there is a lot more work that needs to be done in our reconciliation efforts, but I know that the bill goes a long way along this path. I am confident that our government will continue to take this right path forward.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I think all of us at the defence committee are looking forward to having this bill get before us in relatively short order so that we can go through the bill clause by clause. This bill is a copy of Bill C-71 under the former Conservative government that was tabled just before the last election. It has taken three years to get it this far. I am glad we finally got it here but we have to move on it when we get it to committee.

I was wondering if my colleague would talk a little bit about this. She mentioned the victims bill of rights, which is in the Criminal Code now, and how we are incorporating that within the National Defence Act to ensure that victims of crime in the military system have the same rights and abilities. It also refers to the importance of rights to information for victims.

Unfortunately, correction services Canada broke the bill of rights when it transferred Terri-Lynne McClintic, the murderer of Tori Stafford, into a healing lodge. That information should have been shared with the family of Tori Stafford and in particular, Rodney Stafford, her father.

I wonder if my colleague would talk about how we remedy that within Corrections Canada since we are now bringing the rights for the victim into the National Defence Act in Bill C-77.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Davenport for sharing her time with me today.

I stand today in support of Bill C-77, which would bring important changes to Canada's military justice system, including greater support and new statutory rights for victims of service offences.

During today's debate, I will focus my remarks on one specific aspect of the legislation: the proposed reform to the military's summary trial process. These changes would enhance the efficiency of the military justice system. They would preserve the current responsiveness of the system in maintaining discipline, while simplifying the process of dealing with more minor breaches of military discipline.

Our military justice system is unique and necessary. It contributes significantly to the ability of our armed forces to achieve its mission here at home and around the world. It does this by assisting military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale.

In Canada we hold our military members to a high standard, a standard which is also different from what we expect from a civilian. These men and women not only serve our country,they also represent it within our borders and abroad. Their discipline affects not only the operations of the Canadian Armed Forces, but also our reputation as a great country throughout the world. They are expected to conduct themselves accordingly. They must reflect the best of us. In times of peace and armed conflict, the foundation of military efficiency and excellence is an adherence to law, a commitment to discipline and obedience to authority. Rules must be obeyed. The chain of command must be respected. Breaches of military law must bring consequences for the greater good of the military and all Canadians.

Serious breaches of military discipline are handled by courts martial. This would remain unchanged under the proposed legislation as courts martial would retain the sole jurisdiction over service offences. However, Bill C-77 would change and improve how minor breaches of military discipline are handled. It would replace the current summary trials process in the Canadian Armed Forces with a new system of summary hearings to better ensure minor breaches are heard and ruled on in a fair and timely manner.

In Canada we take pride in being a global leader in the development of a fair and effective military justice system. Bill C-77 demonstrates that continuing commitment by enhancing the rights of victims and the efficiency of our military justice system. Historically, summary trials have made up over 90% of all tribunals and courts martial have made up the remainder. This system was established under military law to ensure justice in respect of minor service offences. The proposed summary hearing process seeks to enhance the efficiency of the military justice system. It would do so by creating a process which deals with minor breaches of military discipline quicker and more simply.

The new process would be non-penal, non-criminal in nature. It would focus exclusively on minor breaches of military discipline. Hearings would be conducted fairly, more rapidly and by a wider range of military officers. The summary hearing process would maintain the current responsiveness and enhance the overall operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is about ensuring that we, as a country, adapt with the times and continue to respect the guidance the Supreme Court of Canada provided us some 25 years ago. At that time, it noted, “To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently.”

The proposed reforms would also show trust and confidence in our military leaders. By improving the chain of command's ability to address minor breaches of military discipline, we would contribute to improving the efficiency of the system and the operational effectiveness of our armed forces.

It is important to emphasize to this House and Canadians that these new summary hearings would focus exclusively on minor breaches of military discipline. These minor breaches would be called service infractions and would be created in regulation. They would not be considered criminal offences and would be dealt with at the unit level. They would be punishable by one sanction or a combination of sanctions, including reduction in rank, reprimands and deprivation of pay. More serious breaches of military discipline, known as service offences, would continue to be tried under our system of courts martial.

To further increase efficiency, the officers who conduct summary hearings would have an extended jurisdiction so that they are able to conduct a hearing for persons of all ranks as long as the officer conducting the hearing is at least one rank higher than the person charged.

The Supreme Court has affirmed on a number of occasions that our military justice system is necessary to meet the needs of our Armed Forces. It falls to the government of the day to ensure that the military justice system is configured to help ensure the highest standards of conduct and discipline. This is required so that our Armed Forces are ready at all times to act decisively and effectively in service to their country.

Military justice must evolve just as civilian justice changes with the times. The proposed changes I have outlined today are about making the military justice system simpler, more effective and more efficient. They are about ensuring that minor and serious breaches to discipline are dealt with in accordance with their respective character.

The new summary hearing process would help ensure discipline and preserve morale at the unit level by issuing sanctions that are corrective in nature but do not involve detention or a criminal record. It would allow the chain of command to address minor breaches fairly and more rapidly, which in turn would contribute to the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In summary, Bill C-77 would create a faster, fairer and more flexible process to handle minor breaches of military discipline, a process that reflects our Canadian values while supporting the unique needs of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Since launching the new defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, our government has been improving support for the Canadian Armed Forces and the men and women who serve. Bill C-77 would further contribute to an effective military that is ready to defend and protect Canadians at home and abroad. This is a good law, and I look forward to seeing it passed by this House.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Kingston and the Islands is a member of the defence committee. I am looking forward to some of the discussions we will have around the committee table.

I want to ask the member if he is aware that the Court Martial Appeal Court recently ruled in the Beaudry decision. It was a split decision that has now been referred to the Supreme Court. Everything that we are trying to do in Bill C-77 to strengthen the judicial system within the Canadian Armed Forces could be completely undermined by the Beaudry decision, which is saying that all crimes committed that fall under the Criminal Code should be tried in a civil court. That creates all sorts of difficulties as it relates to a good order of discipline and morale within the Canadian Armed Forces. Of course, I think the chain of command is very concerned about this. We know that in the civil court system there is a huge backlog, especially with respect to sexual assault cases. If Operation Honour is to work at dealing with sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces, we need to have a strong military justice system.

I wonder if the member could comment on the possible questions that will arise with respect to the Beaudry decision once this bill goes to committee.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise in the House to debate Bill C-77.

I would like to begin by thanking the previous Conservative government for its excellent work on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which was an important first step in advancing victims' rights in Canada. Next, I would like to thank the former minister of justice in the Conservative government, Peter MacKay, for his excellent work on the act that enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Finally, I would also like to thank the previous minister of national defence, Jason Kenney, for his work on the Victims Rights in the Military Justice System Act.

Unfortunately, this last bill did not reach second reading stage. These two bills prove that the previous Conservative government has always been committed to defending victims, and that the Conservative Party will always uphold this principle in its justice policies. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Liberal government.

The current government introduced Bill C-75, which reduces penalties for offences such as membership in a criminal organization and administering a noxious thing. This government is also the one that refused to send Terri-Lynne McClintic, a child murderer, back to prison. It was also this government that awarded benefits intended for veterans to the man who killed Constable Campbell. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was telling veterans that they were asking for too much. This government always seems to side with criminals, even when the right thing to do, morally speaking, seems obvious.

This bill is very important to victims' rights in Canada. It provides victims with very important protections. For instance, the bill guarantees victims' privacy in crimes of a sexual nature. It also provides additional protections for victims under the age of 18. Thus, the bill will protect the rights of vulnerable witnesses by allowing them to testify using a pseudonym and providing them with other supports.

These are important reforms, because they provide victims with the resources they need to understand the legal process and feel safe as the process unfolds. It is also important to show victims that they are not alone and that people are available to help them through this extraordinarily difficult time.

Looking at Bill C-77, it is quite clear that the Liberals took inspiration from the previous Conservative government. The wording of the bill is identical to that of the bill introduced by the previous Conservative government. I am very pleased that the Liberals have decided to copy the Conservative bill. That was the right thing to do, and it would be nice if they did more of that.

Obviously, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party are not the same, so the two bills do have some differences, although they share the same objectives. That is why I would like to see this bill referred to committee, so we can look at how to improve it and come to an agreement between the Liberals and Conservatives.

This bill is a good start, and I would like it to go to committee so it can be improved.

The committee should also study this bill carefully to ensure that each provision complies with the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to ensure that there are no deficiencies in this bill.

I hope that the committee will make substantive amendments to improve the bill.

I will vote in favour of this bill, so that it can be sent to committee for a more thorough review.

We have a bill here, Bill C-77, that adopts in many respects the work done in the previous Parliament by the then defence minister and future premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney. The bill began a process, and it is good to see that occasionally the Liberal government sees the wisdom of continuing the good work Conservatives have done. The Liberals have often been reluctant to recognize the heritage they bring forward in these cases, but nonetheless, we will accept that even if they need to engage in some reinvention of the record about the trajectory of this issue, we see some progress being made on initiatives that were carried out previously.

The unfortunate thing about the current government is that this one bill dealing with the rights of victims is so out of step with the vast majority of the Liberals' agenda. It is curious to hear members of the government talk about victims, because in so many other debates on so many other bills we deal with in the House—sometimes on opposition day motions that we put forward, as well as legislative initiatives—we hardly hear the Liberals talk about the rights of victims.

There are many issues where we need to recognize the problems specifically created by the current government when it comes to the rights of victims. We see legislation coming forward to weaken sentencing. We see perverse outcomes and the failure of the government to intervene. I note in particular the opposition day motion that we put forward that no members of the government had the courage to vote in favour of, even though I am sure they were hearing from their constituents about it. Coming off a constituency work week, that is one of the things I was hearing about again and again from different constituents. Many people were very engaged with the particulars of that issue, because they understood that having a convicted murderer in a facility where there is no fence and children are present is obviously inappropriate. I think Canadians of all backgrounds and all political persuasions understood that, but unfortunately our colleagues across the way do not seem to share in it. We did not see a single Liberal stand up for the protection of society and for victims in that case. They could have done much better; unfortunately, they did not.

There are other areas where we see a lack of regard for the protection of victims, namely the backlogs that the Liberals have allowed to emerge in our justice system. My colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton raised this issue right at the beginning of this Parliament, the fact of court delays and the lack of a government response to actually do its job of ensuring that we have judges in place so that cases can move through in a timely way and that people who have committed a crime actually pay the consequences. We have seen this problem exacerbated by the continued lack of effective response by the government. This is important to Canadians and to victims. Of course, we have the failure of the government to effectively respond to the issue of ISIS or Daesh fighters who are coming back to Canada. Again, the government has not responded by taking seriously the needs of society and potential victims, and so forth.

While I am pleased to support Bill C-77 through to committee, I wish that the Liberals would adopt more of our Conservative legislation and more of our respect for victims. I will not hold my breath, but here is hoping.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:45 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 am glad that my colleague recognizes that Bill C-77 is good legislation. It would appear that the Conservatives want to support its passage through to committee.

However, I get the feeling that the Stephen Harper Conservatives over there are having a tough time because the rights of victims are enshrined within this legislation. That member spent a good portion of his time speaking about the government not caring about victims, and yet we are enshrining the rights of victims within the bill. The member has a bad example of a bill if he wants to talk about what Stephen Harper would like him to talk about inside the chamber.

Bill C-77 is good legislation. It is doable. It would modernize our military, and I see that as a positive thing.

When does my friend across the way anticipate seeing this legislation go before committee?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, they say that to every new song we can find an old tune. It is a Yiddish proverb, because I am big fan of them. However, in this case, the proposed legislation has many members of the opposition on this side of the House who will support it to move to the committee stage. It is so similar to legislation in the previous Parliament, which was supported by the government at the time, that would have enshrined great protections for victims. At the time, it was Bill C-71, and now we are finding a lot of the same types of provisions in Bill C-77.

I will, as little as possible, go over the same ground that others have already gone over and steer my remarks to the 2018 spring report of the Auditor General of Canada. This was an independent report on the delays and the flawed process within the military justice system. It was a review done of cases from 2016-17, entirely within the time of the current government.

Bill C-77 would change three major things: enshrine the previous government's Victims Bill of Rights in the National Defence Act; put a statute of limitations of six months on summary hearing cases; and clarify what cases should be handled by summary hearing. These are good measures.

My experience with the military is limited, but I did work for a previous minister of national defence. He had served as a one-star brigadier general in the armed forces. Specifically on cases of sexual misconduct in the forces, he would always remind us that it was an issue of discipline and command. He reminded us sternly that if a person was accused and convicted of sexual misconduct, he believed that person did not belong in the forces anymore as there were obvious problems with discipline and the ability to follow orders. I am glad to see that we will be paying greater attention to that.

The bill proposes special considerations to be be given to indigenous peoples, which match those in the Criminal Code of Canada already. Some of the differences that will be introduced regard absolute discharges for court martial. Also, there is the simple change of name from “summary trials” to “summary hearings”.

The Auditor General's report was tabled just this year. It is quite detailed and uses a pool of cases, looking at the military justice system, and it offers a list of recommendations. I will go through some of the content of that report prepared on the military justice system.

The Auditor General's report found delays, and in some cases unbelievable delays, in the adjudication of cases. The solution in many of these situations that the Department of National Defence offered was simply a new tracking system, which was some type of electronic, online, tracking database called the justice administration and information management system. However, the Auditor General found in several cases that delays had been leading to dismissal or not proceeding with a court martial in cases where it was warranted.

In the report's analysis, for some charges, and I have a list of charges, it took an average of 2.3 months to refer the charges for prosecution, an average of 3.2 months to decide to proceed to court martial and then an average of 12.2 months for the pretrial preparations and a court martial. The average time the Auditor General found it took to complete 20 cases was 17.7 months, which goes very close to what the Supreme Court of Canada ruled would be a fair amount of time between the moment when one was charged with an offence to the moment when one's trial was completed, which is at 18 months.

What we see proposed in Bill C-77 are efforts at streamlining some of those procedures to ensure that members of the forces who are accused of different alleged actions will face justice in a reasonable amount of time so it matches up to what is available to civilians in the Criminal Code.

The Auditor General looked at 117 summary trial cases and 20 court martial cases. Under the headline “Delays in summary trials”, it details the problems with investigations and delaying of charges. It details how some of those delays really raise major concerns about the way the National Defence Department deals with cases of disciplinary actions against its members and deals with the more serious cases where a court martial is necessary.

We know that what should be top of mind in all of these cases, which the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed, is discipline; discipline of the members who wear the uniform in defence of Canada. It is of vital importance that they know justice will be served upon them. It serves as a deterrent for those who abuse not only their position, but also the particular situations in which they find themselves, doing so for either personal gain or some type of financial reward.

The analysis also showed that there was lack of time standards, inadequate communication between military police investigators and other parties, late communication with defence counsel services and a risk that sufficient military litigation expertise was not developed. All of these failings noted in the 2018 Auditor General's report give the committee an opportunity, when considering this legislation, to also consider whether Bill C-77 goes far enough in certain cases or does enough in light of the Auditor General's report.

Members on this side of the House, as all members have heard, support that it be sent to committee to give it that secondary review so we can go in-depth on the opportunities to improve military justice for members in uniform and ensure that their rights are upheld and that the rights of victims are upheld as well.

Too often the government forgets about the victim in these situations. Other members have mentioned it, including the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, with respect to the case of McClintic. I have had members of the RCMP and the military come to my office who have been victims of the system or actions of others. They feel that justice has not been served. They do not feel that the system has protected their interests. The system has not helped them get through and the trial system has not given them satisfaction.

It would ensure that those who commit criminal acts or participate in actions or behaviours that are not conducive to ensuring the proper discipline in the armed forces are actually punished. As I mentioned, I really believe that for those convicted of sexual misconduct in the forces, we should think about whether they should be serving in the forces in the first place. That type of behaviour has no place in the forces, something that has been reiterated by the chief of defence staff and the minister. Previous ministers have said it as well. Part of this legislation gets us to the point where we can do a great service to victims of those types of crimes and of other crimes to ensure the military justice system looks after them.

One of the recommendations in the Auditor General's report was “The Canadian Armed Forces should define and communicate time standards for every phase of the military justice process and ensure there is a process for tracking and enforcing them.” As I said, there is a new online digital tracking system called the JAIMS system, which is supposed to be part of what the Liberals are calling for here. However, there should be time standards as well. It is very reasonable to have, at the very onset of the process, a certain amount of expectation regarding how long the process will last.

The speed at which a trial happens in the military, just like in the civilian court system, is vitally important to ensuring that justice is done. Justice deferred is judicial failure. It is justice not delivered. In cases where men and women in uniform are serving overseas in combat roles, we owe it to them to ensure that they have faith in the military justice system and that it will look after their interests. We will be fair and just, but we will also be efficient.

Some of the proposals in Bill C-77 go toward achieving that goal, which is why I will support sending the legislation to committee to give it a further review in light of the Auditor General's report on the military justice system.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, the key component and essence of Bill C-C-77 is to enshrine victims' rights in the military justice system. It is one thing to pass a bill; it is quite another to actually see the implementation of those rights.

There are going to be a number of challenges from an operational standpoint in terms of implementation. One of the key positions that Bill C-77 establishes is a victim liaison officer, which is basically parallel to the victims ombudsman in the civilian court system.

It took the government a year to fill the vacancy of a victims ombudsman. This really speaks to the fact that the government may talk a good game about victims' rights, but when it comes to delivering, time and again it has come up short. Could my colleague comment on that?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act. It is a bill that would make a number of changes to Canada's military justice system, which applies to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Before I address the substance of the bill, let me put on the record my thanks to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for their service, sacrifice and duty to country. The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces collectively represent the highest standards of excellence.

CFB Edmonton is located minutes from my riding of St. Albert—Edmonton, and many Canadian Armed Forces personnel who are posted at CFB Edmonton live in my riding and are an integral part of the communities I am so fortunate to represent in the city of St. Albert and in northwest Edmonton. I am very proud to be their voice in the House of Commons.

Broadly speaking, Bill C-77 would seek to align the military justice system with modern day Criminal Code amendments. Without more, Bill C-77 is a good bill, and I am going to address why I think it is a step in the right direction. Before I do that, just for context, it would be somewhat helpful to discuss the fact that we have two parallel justice systems in Canada, a civilian justice system and a military justice system, and the rationale for that long-standing reality.

It was very succinctly put by Chief Justice Lamer in the R v. Généreux decision, wherein Chief Justice Lamer stated the purpose of a military justice system. He stated:

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.

I would further add that another aspect of the military justice system is the recognition that Canadian Armed Forces personnel can be situated anywhere around the world, and it extends that jurisdiction to Canadian Armed Forces personnel whether they are operating in Canada, Afghanistan, Mali or wherever they may be.

The military justice system has done a lot of things really well. Chief Justice Lamer spoke about the need for a speedy process for justice and about a higher level of discipline, having regard for the fact that members of the Canadian Armed Forces are not civilians and are held to a higher standard.

However, one area where our military justice system has not done as good a job is in protecting the rights of victims, and that is what Bill C-77 would seek to change. What Bill C-77 would do is establish a bill of rights. It would incorporate a victims bill of rights into the Code of Service Discipline. It would be similar to the Victims Bill of Rights that applies in the civilian context, which, of course, is an important achievement of the previous Conservative government.

What types of rights would Bill C-77 enshrine? It would enshrine four pillars of rights for victims. One would be the right to information. Quite often, those who are victims find themselves in a very difficult position in understanding all the court processes.

The right to information under Bill C-77 would mean that victims would have information at all stages, from the time the charges were laid, through the trial, through sentencing and through the post-sentencing phase, at all stages. That is really important. In order to help ensure that victims received information at all stages, Bill C-77 would establish a victims liaison officer.

A second pillar is that it would ensure that victims had the right to privacy and that the privacy of victims would be treated as paramount. That is important, particularly in cases, for example, involving sexual assault.

A third pillar of rights for victims is the right to be heard at all stages of the justice process. That includes being able to provide a victim impact statement at the time of sentencing. This is something that is routinely done in the civilian court context, and it seems to be quite logical that it should extend to the military justice system as well.

Finally, Bill C-77 would provide the right to restitution whereby it would require a court martial to consider the imposition of a restitution order where there was a loss involved.

All of those things are good. They are a step in the right direction. We support them. We strongly support protecting the rights of victims.

When we say that there is no problem with Bill C-77 and that, on the whole, it is a pretty good bill, it is perhaps because it is a carbon copy of Bill C-71, introduced by the previous Conservative government.

While the bill will pass, hopefully sooner rather than later, and it has taken three years for the government to finally get around to literally copying and pasting a bill from the previous Conservative government, after Bill C-77 is passed, there are going to be challenges from the standpoint of implementation. It is going to be up to the government to deliver. It is not necessarily going to be easy.

We have, for example, the need for a victims liaison officer to be appointed. As I noted when I asked a question to my colleague from Calgary Shepard in the context of the victims ombudsman, which is basically the same type of position in the civilian context, the government left that position vacant for a year. In other words, there was no one there to represent and be an advocate for victims in the civilian justice system for a year. Let us hope that the government does a better job when it comes to appointing a victims liaison officer.

As my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, has noted, we have the very recent Court Martial Appeal Court decision on Beaudry, which could upend the real objective of this bill, inasmuch as the Beaudry decision provides that in the case of serious offences, those offences should be tried in the civilian court system rather than in the military justice system, notwithstanding the fact that we have three Supreme Court decisions that have provided that such cases should be tried before the military justice system.

That is another wrinkle, but overall, this is a good bill. We will try to work co-operatively with members of the government to put forward amendments where necessary and to hear from as many witnesses as possible to pass the best possible legislation to protect the rights of victims.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / noon
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Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today for second reading debate of Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

Canada's military justice system has a long and proud history of helping to maintain a high level of discipline, efficiency and morale within the Canadian Armed Forces. My colleague, the Minister of Justice, has been asked by the Prime Minister to conduct a review of the criminal justice system.

It is in that same spirit that our government has committed to reviewing, modernizing and improving our civilian and military justice systems.

We are proposing a number of changes to the National Defence Act, some minor and others more significant. At the heart of these changes are our people, the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who make extraordinary sacrifices every day in the service of their country.

When we formed government, we promised to put people at the core of everything we did. I am proud to say that this focus on people especially applies to our defence team. Since launching our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged” last year, we have done great work to strengthen the Canadian Armed Forces culture and improve support to our members.

For example, we are investing in our military family resource centres by providing an additional $6 million per year to modernize military family support programs. This will provide more support to our military families when members are deploying or during long periods of absence. We are also helping to stabilize family life for Canadian Armed Forces members and their families, which frequently have to relocate. Through our seamless Canada initiative, we have started a dialogue with the provinces and territories to improve the coordination of services across provinces to ease the burden of moving. We have introduced tax-free status for all Canadian Armed Forces personnel that are deployed on named international operations.

These are just a few examples of what we are doing to look after our women and men in uniform.

Many members are aware of Operation Honour, which aims to eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Through Operation Honour, we have introduced a new victim response centre, better training for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and easier reporting.

On a related note, our government is pleased to see the results of a comprehensive review of previously unfounded sexual assault cases conducted by the Canadian Forces provost marshal. Twenty-three cases have been reopened and identified for further investigation. I want to commend the Canadian Forces national investigation service and the provost marshal for their work in ensuring victims are heard.

The changes laid out in Bill C-77 build on Operation Honour and will further strengthen our ability to create a positive and respectful environment within our military.

Before I outline what is included in Bill C-77, I want to explain how the legislation fits within the broader context of what our government is doing to create workplaces that are free from harassment.

After we formed government, the Prime Minister gave me a specific mandate to work with senior leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces to establish and maintain a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. I spoke earlier about Operation Honour and how it was one tool we had to stamp out this unacceptable behaviour. However, it is not only in the military that we see these issues.

Over the last year, we have seen many acts of tremendous bravery, with victims speaking out and standing up to their abusers. I am proud of the efforts our government is taking to end this unacceptable behaviour.

For example, last spring, my colleague, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, introduced Bill C-65, which aims to prevent harassment and violence in federally regulated and parliamentary workplaces. One of the key elements of the legislation is providing better support to victims of this unacceptable behaviour. It is in the same spirit that we are debating Bill C-77 today.

Let me now offer a broad overview of the changes we are proposing through Bill C-77.

To start, the amendments would clearly enshrine victims' rights in the military justice system. We know from a Department of Justice report that victims often feel excluded and even re-victimized by the criminal justice process. Bill C-77 would address these concerns by committing to a more victim-centred approach in our military justice system.

To do that, Bill C-77 proposes to add a declaration of victims' rights within the code of service discipline. This declaration gives victims a voice. It will ensure that victims of service offences are informed, protected and heard. The declaration provides victims of service offences with four new rights.

The first is the right to information so victims understand the process that they are a part of, how the case is proceeding, which services and programs are available to them and how to file a complaint if they believe their rights under the declaration have been denied or infringed. Because of the unique nature of the military justice system, understanding it can be difficult and potentially intimidating. For those reasons this legislation also includes the appointment of victims' liaison officers to help guide victims through the process and inform them about the system. Under the victims' rights to information, they will also have access to information about the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of the person who harmed them.

The second right is to protection, so victims' privacy and security are considered at all stages in the military justice system. Moreover, where it is appropriate, we will ensure their identities are protected. This right to protection also guarantees that reasonable and necessary measures are taken to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.

The third right is to participation, so victims can express their views about the decisions to be made by military justice authorities and have those views considered. This right will ensure that victims' views and the harm and loss they have suffered can be fully considered. In addition, it will be possible to submit military and community impact statements to the court martial. These will convey the full extent of harm caused to the Canadian Armed Forces or the community as a result of the offence.

The fourth right is to restitution, so the court martial may consider making a restitution order for all offences where financial losses and damages can be reasonably determined.

The next important change introduced by the legislation relates to how indigenous offenders are sentenced. This stems from the evolution of Canada's civilian criminal justice system and our desire to ensure the military justice system reflects our times, while remaining responsive to its mandate.

As the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, no relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one we have with indigenous peoples. Naturally, the fact that indigenous people are significantly overrepresented within the civilian criminal justice system is of grave concern to all of us. It is not enough to serve justice fairly. In a case like this, where we see such an imbalance, we must pursue the root causes of that imbalance and be considerate in our response.

The Criminal Code has provisions, introduced by Parliament, that have sought to alleviate the higher rate of incarceration for indigenous offenders. In fact, it calls for judges to consider all available sanctions, other than imprisonment, that are reasonable under the circumstances, with particular attention to circumstances of indigenous offenders.

While the military just system has not experienced any overrepresention of indigenous offenders, the proposed amendments to the National Defence Act reflect the civilian system's considerations for sentencing and our nation's history. Bill C-77 would enshrine those same principles in the military justice system.

Similarly, Bill C-77 aligns military justice with the civilian system where LGBTQ2 rights are concerned.

In June 2017, our government added gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. In November, the Prime Minister issued a formal apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians for the historic wrongs and injustices they suffered because of their gender or sexuality.

The defence team has been working hard through initiatives like the positive space initiative to help create inclusive work environments for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This bill is another step in that direction. It calls for harsher sanctions and sentences for service infractions and offences that are rooted in bias, hate or prejudice toward individuals based on their gender expression or identity. This change will foster a more inclusive and cohesive Canadian Armed Forces, while delivering justice for the victims of fear and prejudice.

The last category of changes introduced by this bill relate to broad efforts to make Canada's justice systems more flexible. In the case of the military justice system, the changes introduced by Bill C-77 would make the system faster and simpler. The summary hearing will be introduced and address minor breaches of military discipline in a non-penal and non-criminal manner. More serious matters will be directed to court martial and there will no longer be summary trials. The summary hearing would only deal with the new category of minor breaches of military discipline, known as service infractions. Service offences that are more major in nature will be dealt with at a court martial.

I want to be clear. There will be no criminal consequences for service infractions and military commanders who conduct summary hearings will be limited to non-penal sanctions to address them. This will improve the chain of command's ability to address minor breaches of military discipline fairly and more rapidly. We also expect it will enhance the responsiveness and efficiency of military discipline, thereby contributing to the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Canada's defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, is a policy that will guide us for the next 20 years. It clearly outlines that our government will continue to support the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces. The military justice system is critical to how the Canadian Armed Forces accomplishes what it does every day. It sets up a framework for all service members to maintain an outstanding level of discipline and a high level or morale so they can successfully accomplish the difficult tasks asked of them. Knowing they are protected by the military justice system that keeps pace with the Canadian concepts of justice builds on the great unit cohesion among our forces as well.

It is a pleasure to see this legislation progress to second reading, something my Conservative colleagues could not manage when they tabled similar legislation in the dying days of the last Parliament. However, we will see this through as we continue to make every effort to deliver for the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces and all Canadians. The drive to be fair, to be just and to restore that which has been harmed is a drive that dates back to the very foundations of our country and our armed forces.

Today, we take steps in the pursuit of justice; steps to take care of victims, while we seek to ensure justice is served; steps to ensure that indigenous peoples in the military justice system receive the same considerations on sentence as those in the civilian justice system; steps to uphold justice within our military so it can continue defending our country.

I want to thank everyone for working with us toward this very worthy goal.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his comments today on Bill C-77, and for his service as a veteran and as a police officer.

The minister talked about the work the Canadian Forces provost marshal was doing, and how the Canadian Armed Forces is engaged in Operation Honour and in trying to stamp out sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces.

I would love to get the minister's opinion on a recent decision made by the Court Martial Appeal Court, the Beaudry decision, where the appeal court is now essentially saying that any serious crimes committed by a member of the Canadian Armed Forces should be tried in a civilian court, not in the court martial system.

With all the cases that the court martial system and the judge advocate general is currently dealing with, I would like to hear the minister's opinion on: first, how that will impact morale and discipline within the Canadian Armed Forces, and the need we have for good order and discipline in the operations of the Canadian Armed Forces; and second, how that will impact the victims, those who are seeking justice, if they are thrown into the civilian system that has huge backlogs right now, which would otherwise be dealt with relatively quickly in the Canadian Armed Forces court martial system, and, more importantly, would allow Operation Honour to be fully implemented, with all members respecting that ethos within the Canadian Armed Forces.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

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.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I take offence to the member's suggestion that I passed shade and that we never got it done. We brought forward three different military justice bills to ensure the military justice system lined up with the decisions coming from the Supreme Court of Canada. We also incorporated other legislation. Therefore, three different pieces of legislation were passed with respect to military justice over our 10 years.

When I was the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of justice, I was involved in two of them. At the end of that was when we were trying to bring in changes to the Victims Bill of Rights, which had only been in place for a couple of years, to ensure we incorporated that. Those were written, tabled and brought forward just before the last election. That is why our bill, Bill C-71, did not happen.

However, It has been sitting on the minister's desk for the last three years and we are only dealing with it now. I take some leave in knowing that he had to deal with the issue of the Gladue decision and had to try to incorporate that into the language. However, that is a very small part of the bill.

Overall, we need to ensure that Bill C-77 respects victims' rights. We need to ensure that we have all of the resources there to uphold the military justice system. That is why I am very concerned about the Beaudry decision.

Finally, the provost marshal and the military police need to continue to get the resources they need to carry out the different investigations they have to undertake to ensure we have that code of conduct in good order within the Canadian Armed Forces.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the NDP and I served together on the national defence committee. I have always respected his positions and the passion he has for ensuring we are working for the benefit of all those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

I am glad he has brought this issue forward. I am looking forward to having some of the witnesses appear at committee when we study Bill C-77. This whole idea that self-harm is an issue with respect to fines, discipline and court martial charges within the Canadian Armed Forces is something on which we do need to move fast. I think we all realize that those who serve have greater mental health needs because of the operational stress injuries they receive, like PTSD. If we want to get away from the stigmatization of mental health within the Canadian Armed Forces and have people come forward to seek the help they need to get better and to continue to bravely serve our country, then we have to start removing some of these impediments, like the section on self-harm. Instead of disciplining them, we should be helping them. By doing that, we will be able to get that help to military members and their families quicker.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-77, very important, though tardy and still incomplete, legislation. The last time there were major reforms in our military justice system was 1998, in what was then Bill C-25. At that time, Bill C-25 specified there would be a five-year review of those extensive reforms that had been mandated in law. That review was completed by the very distinguished former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Antonio Lamer, in September of 2003, 15 years ago.

The conclusion reached by Justice Lamer was that after five years of experience with the reformed justice system, it was generally “working well”, but he went on to say that it was, “not entirely without room for improvement”. That was a very moderate statement as Justice Lamer was wanting to make. He then submitted 88 recommendations for those improvements.

Justice Lamer made recommendations in three main areas: actions to increase the protection of the independence of military judges; actions to improve the grievance process within the Canadian military; and actions to address some major deficiencies in the overall military justice framework.

Now, here we are 15 years later and we are still dealing with important issues in this bill, a bill that was delayed three times by intervening elections. However, both the Liberal and Conservative governments, as we heard them tossing at each other earlier in this debate, have been slow to act on these important changes.

On the first recommendation of the independence of military justice, the Conservatives did act early in the last Parliament in a separate bill, which was then Bill C-16. This was dealt with on an urgent basis because a deadline had been set for changes regarding the independence of judges by the Court Martial Appeals Court decision in the case of R v. LeBlanc. This deadline was met with royal assent on November 29, 2001.

For me, there is the proof that we could have dealt with all of these things very expeditiously. There was a will in Parliament, the Conservatives had a majority and we could have gotten through all of these reforms seven years ago. However, all of the other recommendations had to wait.

When the Conservatives finally did introduce in the last Parliament Bill C-15, in October of 2011, it contained many, but not all, of the needed reforms. Even then, progress on the bill was slow. It took two years to pass through the previous Parliament and it only received second reading a year after it was introduced. The bill sat for an entire year without any motion, debate or effective action on it.

Finally, in May of 2013, the bill passed the House and, for once, the Senate did act expeditiously and the bill received royal assent in 2013. However, here is the kicker on this one. Most of the reforms mandated in the bill did not come into force until September 1 of this year. Therefore, even though the bill passed five years ago, it was only last month that its provisions came into effect, again 15 years after those reforms were recommended by former Justice Lamer.

Why is that the case? It is pretty simple. Our military justice system remains woefully under-resourced no matter whether Liberals or Conservatives have been the government.

Justice Lamer's recommendations specifically recognized four important principles to guide reform in the military justice system. His first was, “Maintaining discipline by the chain of command is essential to a competent and reliable military organization.” None of us in the House would disagree with that recommendation. It is important to keep in mind because, as my hon. friend from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman pointed out, there are times when the military justice system has to be faster and perhaps harsher than the civilian system.

His second principle was that it was necessary to recognize the particular context of the military justice system, meaning that we, “need to have a system that will properly operate under those special conditions that our men and women are placed in, often abroad, under conditions from peacekeeping to peace-making, in what is often a hostile environment, and indeed sometimes outright war.”

His third principle, perhaps one that is most important to me, is that those who risk their lives for our country deserve a military justice system that protects their rights in accordance with our charter, just like all other Canadians.

His fourth principle said that it was necessary to recognize, also an important point, that any doubts or lack of confidence in the military justice system may have negative impacts on morale as a result of concerns about injustice. The system has to be fair and be seen to be fair so it serves the interests of those who are risking their lives to serve our country.

Returning specifically to Bill C-77, New Democrats are supporting this bill at second reading, and we have recommended expediting this passage at all stages. After all, 15 years later, it is time to get this in gear.

Bill C-77 does complete most of the rest of the reforms to the military justice system that were first proposed under the former Conservative government, but unfortunately were left out when Bill C-15 was adopted in the last Parliament. I am not quite sure why it took the Liberals three years to get this bill before us, because the Conservatives had introduced essentially the same bill in the dying days of the last Parliament.

For me, the most important part of those reforms in Bill C-77 are those that add greater protections to victims in the military justice system. These were missing, they are missing, and these changes would align the military justice system with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. It is important not only that those who are accused are treated fairly, but that those who have been victims of the offences are also treated fairly in the military justice system.

As I said, this bill would implement most of the rest of the reforms first proposed under the former Harper government and would modernize the military justice system, but there are still some areas in which it is lacking. We believe there are two areas in which improvements could be made without undue delay to this bill.

One important provision in Bill C-77 is found in section 23(c.1). This section would allow military judges to take into account the circumstances of aboriginal offenders when determining sentencing. This change is obviously welcome, as it is in keeping with the Supreme Court Gladue decision of 1999 with regard to how the criminal justice system operates in the civilian realm.

However, we believe it is possible, given that this is 2018, nearly 20 years later, that we may be able to improve the wording of that section to allow greater clarification of its intentions and the impacts of this section.

The second improvement we would like to see involves the subject of my questions earlier to the minister and to the Conservative spokesperson. This is the omission of reform that would help deal with the serious problem of suicide within the Canadian military.

In October 2016, the government announced a suicide prevention strategy, a strategy with 160 provisions to address a problem that is very real in the Canadian Forces. We are still seeing one to two members of the Canadian Forces die by suicide each and every month. That is a total of more than 130 serving members who died by suicide from 2010 to the end of 2017.

When we are speaking just of serving members, obviously that excludes the very high rate of suicide among veterans, which the government was not even able to track when the report was issued in 2016. Today, we know at least 70 of those who served in the Afghanistan mission have died by suicide, some of those still in the military; some of those having retired and become veterans.

Self-harm is listed as an offence in section 98 of the National Defence Act. Three offences are included in that section 98. Section (a) deals with malingering, and obviously in a time of crisis, avoiding duties should be subject to discipline. The second, section (b), is dealing with aggravating disease or infirmity, and I question whether that is really a necessary inclusion, it seems a lot like malingering to me. It seems like it is repeating in (b) what it just said in (a).

It is the third section, section (c), that concerns me. It says that anyone who:

....wilfully maims or injures himself or any other person who is a member of any of Her Majesty’s Forces or of any forces cooperating therewith, whether at the instance of that person or not, with intent thereby to render himself or that other person unfit for service, or causes himself to be maimed or injured by any person with intent thereby to render himself unfit for service, is guilty of an offence....

Section 98, as a whole, goes on to set the possible penalties for self-harm as up to life imprisonment.

I ask members to think about individuals serving in the armed forces and suffering from mental health issues and needing help. Are they likely to go forward to their commanding officer and say that they are about to commit a disciplinary offence? This is an obstacle to getting the treatment those people need. It is a matter of human compassion. It is also a matter of getting help so that Canadian Forces members who have been trained, invested in and are part of a team can remain effective. Therefore, it is not only a moral question, it is also very much an efficiency question in the military.

This is a major obstacle, as I said, to serving members' seeking help, and omitting this section would have no impact on or injury to other serving members. The minister's response to my question seemed to implicate that there was some problem in omitting this section, but I would assert, and will bring forward some witnesses at committee, that harm to other serving members is already covered in other sections of the code of conduct so that this section on self-harm or asking someone to harm them or someone else really does not need to be there. All of those possible behaviours they could think of that the minister seemed concerned about are actually covered somewhere else.

I want to speak for a moment about a tragic case that I know best, and that is of Corporal Stuart Langridge, whose family I have come to know well, as they reside in my riding. Corporal Langridge twice attempted suicide while he was a serving member. He failed the first two times, but he did not seek the help that he needed. His family firmly believe that this section that makes it an offence was part of the reason that he did not seek help. Therefore, this section making it a disciplinary offence hindered rather than helped their son and, unfortunately, on his third attempt he succeeded and died by suicide. This led to an unfortunate attempt to cover up the details of his case, but that is not the topic here today and I do want to set that aside. The goal here is removing, as I have heard from families, from veterans and from serving members, a major obstacle to those who need help with serious mental health issues in getting the help they need. Making self-harm an offence is clearly a relic of old thinking about the scourge of suicide that continues to plague not only our military but this entire country.

One last major reform that was not dealt with in Bill C-16, Bill C-15 and in this current bill, Bill C-77 is that of the right to trial by jury. We had, as was noted earlier in the debate, a Court Martial Appeal Court ruling last week, which ruled that civil offences are not offences under military law if they are not connected to military duties, an oversimplification of the case, in the case of Master Corporal Beaudry. The government has appealed that decision, which was a split decision in the court, and has requested a stay of that decision until the Supreme Court can hear the case. The military justice head prosecutor, Bruce MacGregor, has said that this potentially affects about half the caseload of the military justice system. I am not going to take a position today on what the proper decision in that case should be. That is the job of the Supreme Court, not politicians. However, we can all recognize today that there may be further work needed if that decision is upheld by the courts.

Experts like retired judge Gilles Letourneau and the highly skilled lawyer from Montreal, Michel Drapeau, have argued that this is a question of fundamental rights, and that it will not affect military discipline. However, there have been concerns raised on the other side about the slowness of the civilian justice system and whether it can fully consider the context in which those crimes might occur.

My biggest concern is that this ruling raises questions of the ultimate disposition of sexual assault cases that were originally declared unfounded by the military police. The military police recently announced that 23 of those cases will be reopened for investigation. I am concerned about that because if this decision stands and those cases are transferred to the civilian system, they might fall under the time limits set in the 2016 Jordan decision, resulting in a dismissal because of unnecessary delays. Those are very complicated implications that we have yet to see play out from this court decision.

Let me say once again that the NDP believes that Bill C-77 should pass expeditiously, and we will support it. However, in doing so, we should not neglect the opportunity to make some improvements, most importantly, to remove self-harm as an offence in the military code of conduct.

Finally, let me restate the importance of these improvements to our military justice system. They are important to discipline, they are important to morale, and they are important as a right of those who serve.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are held to a high standard of discipline, therefore, their judicial system should also reflect that high standard. Those who risk their lives for our country should not be denied their charter rights when facing trial.

Other countries have recognized this issue and changed their processes. It is time for Canada to catch up in this area. It is past time that we take the necessary steps toward ensuring that our military justice system ranks as a model system and a system of which members of the Canadian Armed Forces can be justifiably proud.

Bill C-77 takes important steps forward, but there is still more work left to be done.