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

Sponsor

Harjit S. Sajjan  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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

February 28th, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to continue where I left off last Friday.

Just to recap, Bill C-77, which is before us today, aims to protect victims of military offences by providing needed updates to the current military justice system. Updating the judicial system of the Canadian Armed Forces can be a daunting task, but those in the service commit their lives to defending Canadian values and beliefs, and it is very worthwhile.

Whether on foreign soil or right here at home, they must regularly deal with the high-tension situations they are faced with. Therefore, their decisions and reactions can often be the difference between life and death, or war and peace. The importance of their work cannot be overstated. As such, they hold themselves to a higher standard. The armed forces judicial system is in place to maintain discipline and structure.

I am very proud to say that I represent Canadian Forces Base Shilo, our military base in Brandon—Souris, which is a very important part of our community. Many of us have family, friends and neighbours who serve on the base. They house the First Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and the Second Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. It is worth repeating that the base is the home station of the Royal Canadian Artillery, as well as to a component of the Western Area Training Centre, 742 Signals Squadron Detachment Shilo and 11 Canadian Forces Health Services Centre. Other supported units include 26 Field Regiment and RCA Brandon's reserve unit.

Westman is awfully proud to be the home of our brave men and women in uniform. They are an essential and prominent part of our community, and have been for many years. Many develop strong ties and settle here when they complete their service and return to civilian life and retirement.

Bill C-77 seeks to align the military's justice system with the Criminal Code of Canada. I am pleased to see that it has built upon Bill C-71, which was presented by our former Conservative government, and seeks to enshrine the rights of victims in the National Defence Act.

The main premise here is common sense, which is that victims of any alleged crime should have the right to feel safe when navigating the judicial system. Therefore, I believe it is our obligation to treat them with compassion and respect, and to provide a secure environment so that they may tell their story. Their testimony is essential in better understanding what has occurred, and it is paramount they be able to provide it without fear of consequences and reprisals.

Victims are often overlooked in criminal proceedings, with most of the emphasis being on the offender. It is important they be given their opportunity to be heard. The system is there to provide justice, not only for the accused but also for the victim.

In this regard, a key feature of the bill is that it strives to provide better protection for both victims and witnesses in military trials. Military communities are often smaller and more tightly knit. This serves to foster a strong sense of solidarity among those in the service. While they can be an exceptional advantage in the field, those strong ties sometimes make it very difficult for victims to speak out against their wrongdoer. Ensuring that due consideration is given to the safety and security of victims would help give them the courage to stand up and speak out against the injustice they have faced. They should be given every opportunity to be involved in the proceedings. At the conclusion of the proceedings, they should emerge fully satisfied that justice has been properly served.

An important part outlined in this bill is that victims have the right to rely on the assistance of others when dealing with the justice system. If victims are incapable of acting on their own behalf, they may depend on their relatives to exercise their rights. Victims can now look to their spouses, parents or dependents to be their representatives during these proceedings, to help them through the difficult times.

The justice system can be intimidating. It encompasses many procedures, rules and regulations. Victims may not always be fully aware of their rights and can easily feel overwhelmed. Giving individuals the opportunity to request a liaison officer to help them navigate the workings of the case should encourage more people to come forward.

We should ensure that these liaison officers are properly trained in order to guarantee that they can provide the most assistance possible. A lack of awareness of their rights or of standard procedure should not prevent people from seeking justice. It is important not only to provide safety to those who have suffered at the hands of others, but we must be able to reinforce their belief in the justice system in order to offer them better peace of mind.

This would be best accomplished by making the process as transparent as possible. I firmly believe that all victims have the right to request information about the military justice system. They have been directly affected by a crime. They deserve to be assured of the fair proceedings of the case. These are people who have been wronged, hurt and betrayed. They need reassurance and evidence that their belief in the justice system is not misplaced. They need to see justice served.

I understand that under certain circumstances there is a need for discretion. The military conducts many sensitive operations, and often information will be classified to ensure the safety of our troops and our civilians. Those cases notwithstanding, I believe, whenever possible, victims should be provided with information concerning their cases. They should feel completely included in those proceedings and not have to plead for the most basic facts. Victims should not have to rely on outside media or gossip to scrounge incomplete information on a case that may have deeply affected them.

The bill would achieve a good balance between aligning with the current military justice system and still supporting victims within that system. The bill is very conscious of the importance of the chain of command within the military, and it makes sure not to impact the system in a manner that would hinder it.

The declaration of victims rights contained in this piece of legislation is careful to describe the specific rights afforded to victims in this situation without creating any barriers that might impede the system. I am aware that circumstances in the military may differ widely from those encountered in civilian life, as I have said before. The bill would ensure that the victim's rights are properly represented within the important confines of the current system. It does not interfere with the more unique aspects of the justice system, such as the court martial process or the code of discipline.

With the bill, we are taking a step in the right direction when it comes to defending the rights of victims of military offences. However, there is one area of concern with the current legislation that I would like to speak to. It involves the long-term consequences that minor military offences may have on individuals when they retire from service.

Presently, there are uniquely military offences that do not have a counterpart in the civilian code. Among them are the five minor offences of insubordinate behaviour, quarrels and disturbances, absence without leave, drunkenness and conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. These are infractions that can only be committed by members of the military, yet they can result in a criminal record in the civilian world.

People found guilty of insubordinate behaviour could retire from the military only to have this offence follow them into civilian life. As Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron said in his testimony to the Standing Committee on National Defence on this topic:

The consequences of having a criminal record are significant. Applying for employment or attempting to cross the Canadian border are but two of the everyday consequences that can have an important impact on a veteran's life. Do we truly wish to burden a veteran with a criminal record, when he or she has committed a service offence, which may have no equivalent in our criminal justice system or in Canadian society?

Imagine trying to look for work after leaving the military, only to be flagged with a criminal record due to being absent without leave. A large portion of veterans seek employment in the security sector, which requires security checks. When it is seen there is a criminal record, getting a job is all but impossible.

It is important to remember that we have a separate justice system in the military for a reason. There are unique circumstances that apply to our forces that require a separate process to properly address it. It would not be fair to our Canadian Forces members that minor offences that occurred in a very unique setting, a setting known to be high stress at times, remain with them and affect their lives long into the future.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron went on to provide a recommendation to the committee that stated, “The Criminal Records Act and the [National Defence Act] should be amended to only include service offences that truly warrant the creation of a criminal record.”

Based on his testimony, there was an amendment to Bill C-77 proposed by my fellow Conservative members who sit on the defence committee to address this issue. The amendment put forth would have ensured that those five minor offences I listed would not be given a civil criminal record, no matter the severity of the sentence received. The amendment was flagged to be potentially outside of the scope of the current bill. As such, the committee on national defence did get the opportunity to briefly study the matter, but I would like a more in-depth analysis on the topic.

I mention this because I firmly believe that it is an important issue that should be addressed, and that it would greatly benefit the present members of the House to examine. I wholly encourage members to study this subject, because it is a topic that should be reviewed in the near future so that we can do right by those who dedicate themselves to protecting us.

There is still much that can be done when it comes to providing proper justice to our brave men and women in uniform. The bill before us today would do much to help protect victims of military offences, but we must always strive to do more to help those in our armed forces.

Justice may be blind, but it should not be deaf. By better defining victims rights, we give a voice to those who seek justice. We give them a better platform to stand on and tell their story.

I will be voting in favour of the legislation, as I believe this is a non-partisan issue, and we should all unite to support victims of crimes. It is important we review Bill C-77 and we move it forward, as there are many good things in it, but there are still some things that need to be reviewed.

I hope that there has not been any undue pressure put forward on any of the persons involved in the formation of Bill C-77, considering that the former attorney general was there. We have already seen that undue pressure was put on her in many other areas. This is one situation where I believe that it is not appropriate either.

We need to make sure that we look at the Gladue decision. We are reminded that when sentencing is coming forward in those areas, the Supreme Court requires continuing to look at the situations facing our indigenous persons. We also must remember that there was a resignation that took place by the former attorney general when she was the veterans affairs minister, and also we are reminded that she was the associate minister of national defence at that time.

With that I look forward to questions.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague for Winnipeg North's question is allowing me to comment on the bill again. As he heard in my speech, I will be voting for Bill C-77. I believe it is a bill that is following the former Conservative Bill C-71. We will be moving it forward and I certainly will be supporting it.

However, there are still situations that need to be looked at, as I outlined. We need to make sure that we are looking at exactly which areas of military law are carried forward into civilian law, as I pointed out earlier. I will be looking forward to seeing some of those changes, if possible, as well.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 10:50 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House to provide some of my thoughts and comments.

Over the last few years, I have witnessed a different approach to Canada's military, a positive approach. I want to take a more holistic approach in my address on this legislation. This is an important bill and opposition members have recognized that fact. They too feel this is good legislation.

The bill has gone through first and second reading, through committee stage and report stage. We are now into the third and final aspect of its passage, and that is a good thing.

Bill C-77 is long overdue. It proposes to make our military justice system a bit more in sync with our civil system. There is fairly universal support for the government in advancing the legislation in order to accomplish that.

I had the good fortune to serve in the Canadian Forces for a few years. Even though I never experienced it directly, indirectly I got a sense of military justice and the justice regime. I can recall first-hand during my boot camp days the supervisor, or the master corporal in this situation, telling us what our obligations were.

In the military justice world one has an obligation to show up when asked to show up. When members of the forces are scheduled to do something, they best be there unless they have some sort of medical condition or have a very good reason for not showing up. If a member is scheduled to be on duty, he or she is expected to be there. That does not necessarily apply with the same sort of weight in civilian life.

The previous speaker made reference to the idea of being absent without leave. An important part of the training that was instilled in me and thousands of others as we went through boot camp was that there was a difference between military life and civilian life. One of the issues highlighted with respect to that was the idea of the military's ability to provide discipline to ensure its members would be where they were supposed to be. When I reflect on that today, I understand the importance of that.

Serving in the military is very unique. It is an absolute honour and privilege. As a member of Parliament, as well as in my days as a member of a legislative assembly, I have always, without exception, acknowledged the fine work the women and men in our forces do, whether it is the air force, the special units, the navy or military. I appreciate and value their contributions to our society in both current and past military actions protecting Canadians. Whether in peace missions or fighting the mighty Red River when it has overflowed, our military plays a critical and vital role with respect to our country. We will always be there for our military.

Even though we have only been in government for a little over three years, we have not only talked about taking action, but has also delivered on a number of different fronts.

What we are debating today is just one aspect of that. It is about military justice.

Let me go back to the training I received. When we were told that we had to show up, that we had to be somewhere, the consequence of not being there could lead to a court-martial and a criminal record. Even though there might be a reason, a relatively weak reason at times, for an individual not being where he or she was supposed to be, it would potentially lead to a criminal record.

I believe, as I would have believed back then, that this is not necessarily a fair consequence in all situations. That is why it is a good that the legislation brings the consequences more into line with what happens in civilian life. For example, now much more discretion will be allowed if someone is found to have been AWOL or has not shown up where he or she needs to be at a specific time. This does not mean the individual will receive a court martial. The same threat level is no longer there.

Members of the forces are incredible individuals, with a very strong sense of commitment to duty and country. Ultimately this will have a minor impact with respect to service to country, yet can have a very positive impact on what happens when someone from the military retires.

As we have heard from other speakers, when members of the Canadian Forces decide to retire or have the opportunity to retire, whatever the circumstances might be, we want those members to have the opportunity to continue with successful employment into the future. Having a criminal record has a negative impact on the ability of service members or former service members to get employment for which they are eligible. It is not fair that members of the forces would receive a criminal record for a charge that someone in the civilian sector would not receive. In part, I believe that is why we see good support for the legislation from members of the opposition. We recognize that we can do more to reform our laws that would allow that kind of an issue to be resolved positively.

Insubordination is another example. In civilian life insubordination is treated quite differently than it is in the military. The legislation would also deal with that. This is an opportunity to look at good legislation that advances our Canadian Forces in a positive direction and to to get behind it.

One encouraging issue in Bill C-77 is that we would ensure indigenous sentencing provisions would be taken into consideration. This has been taking place within our civilian population. This is different from what the previous government proposed. We need to understand and appreciate that the indigenous factor needs to be taken into consideration. We see that in our civil court system and it has proven to be successful. Therefore, I am glad to see that in this legislation.

There is something we often talk about in the House in regard to legislation on criminal matters. We often hear about the importance of victims and protecting or enhancing the rights of victims. It pleases me that we would establish something new with this legislation within the law on military justice, and that is a declaration of victims rights. That is long overdue. I am glad that we have a government that has incorporated into the legislation respect for victims rights.

What does that mean? It would allow, for example, the right to have information. It would also allow a right to protection. Equally important is participation in the process. Where it is possible, restitution would be of critical importance.

I had the opportunity to serve as chair of a youth justice committee. One of the more progressive changes we started to see at the tail end, before I actually had to leave the committee a number of years back, was the idea of restitution, or restorative justice. As much as possible, that is a wonderful tool that needs to at least be considered. When we think of victims and the idea of restorative justice, we need to incorporate victims whenever we can. It really makes a difference for victims.

I would like to give an example of what that sort of justice means to victims. A victim subjected to an offence is afforded the opportunity to participate by sitting down with the perpetrator and assisting in developing the consequence for that behaviour. At the level of a youth justice committee, dealing with young offenders under the age of 18, I had the opportunity to witness that on a couple of occasions. I was very encouraged by it. The victim was better able to get an appreciation of what had taken place and at the same time feel that the impact on the victim was taken into consideration.

With respect to other aspects of the legislation, it says the following:

It amends Part III of the National Defence 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.

This legislation would ensure that there is a quicker processing of justice. It would also “protect the privacy and security of victims and witnesses in proceedings involving certain sexual offences”.

Many Canadians who follow debates in the House might not be familiar with the fact that there is a civilian system of justice and a military justice system. Something I discovered in the discussions on this legislation was that in certain situations, a military person who commits an offence will go through the civilian justice system as opposed to the military justice system. An example is in regard to sexual assault. In certain situations, there is discretion in our system to enable civilian courts to deal with military personnel who are convicted of committing an offence.

I mentioned that I served in the military. I served in Edmonton, in air traffic control, as an assistant at the time, working out of Lancaster Park. Just south of Lancaster Park, in Griesbach, there was a military detention centre on the base. It was somewhat new to me, but people being held in custody for a sentence of more than two years would go to a federal facility for civilians. For any sentence under two years, offenders would be detained, in part, in military facilities.

The legislation would include the following:

(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.

The legislation again highlights the importance of victims rights:

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

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

(k) provide...that particular attention should be given to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders;

As I indicated earlier, that is completely new to the legislation, and I believe it has fairly good support on both sides of the House.

The legislation would also,

(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;

As I said, this legislation has some new aspects that would further enhance what was introduced in the House a number of years ago. Members across the way appear to recognize the value of the legislation, and I hope they will allow it to go to the next step, which is the Senate.

The modernization of our military law is a positive thing, and it is part of a holistic approach this government is taking in being there for the Canadian men and women who serve in our forces. I am thankful for the opportunity to share some thoughts on the matter.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-77, along with the minister of labour's legislation, Bill C-65, would build on the government's commitment to creating workplaces free from harassment and discrimination within the federal sphere. Let there be no doubt that inappropriate behaviour of that nature is inexcusable, and we encourage members of the Canadian Forces to raise it with their supervisors or through the mechanisms that have been put in place.

When we talk about the military, and I reference boot camps, team building is really important. When we would go out and do an exercise, it would not be complete until the last person had completed that particular exercise. For example, if we were going for a jog, it might be the person at the front who would go to the back to encourage the person at the back to continue. That person would help motivate that particular individual.

When people first start in the military, there is a great deal of discussion about being there for their teammates. Having said that, there is unacceptable behaviour. When people are witnessing unacceptable behaviour, there is an obligation to report it, because we want all work environments to be harassment free.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Garrison Petawawa, the training ground of the warriors, located in the beautiful riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-77.

The legislation would amend provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system. As a veteran member of the Standing Committee on National Defence, I thank the women and men in uniform for placing their trust in me as a member of that committee.

Before I get to my remarks, I join my leader and observe it is time for someone to take a walk in the snow. Unlike the current federal government that has gone rogue with the criminal justice system, the Conservatives are committed to standing up for victims of crime and ensuring that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system.

I am proud to confirm that it was as a member of the previous Conservative government that I supported the enactment of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Just as I supported victims rights on behalf of the women and men serving in uniform, I support enshrining a parallel victims rights regime in the military justice system. Bill C-77, to a significant degree, replicates what the Conservatives brought forward in Bill C-71 in the 41st Parliament. So far as the current government follows our example, those elements of the legislation can be supported.

Unlike the current ethically challenged government, the Conservatives believe victims of crime should not be forgotten in the criminal justice system. Our previous Conservative government focused on restoring victims to their rightful place at the heart of our justice system. That is why we introduced legislation that would mirror the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and put it into military law. This was the result of several years of work and takes into account hundreds of submissions and consultations held with victims and groups concerned about victims and their rights for the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

The proposed legislation would give victims enhanced access to information through the appointment of a victim liaison officer, and enhanced protection through new safety, security and privacy provisions, and the like. In addition to being the home of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group and the 4th Canadian Division Support Group, which is made up of 2 RCHA, 1 RCR, 3 RCR, RCDs and 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, as well as 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, and 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Garrison Petawawa is also home to the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CSOR.

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CSOR, which was stood up during the Conservative watch of the defence of our nation, is the first new regiment to have been set up in over 50 years. I am proud of the role I played in supporting that decision and the subsequent decision to locate 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron to Garrison Petawawa to train with the troops. The Chinook helicopters serve as strategic lifts, and helicopters save lives.

As Garrison Petawawa was the last home of the Canadian Airborne Regiment before it was disbanded for partisan reasons by the Chrétien government, military justice is a volatile topic at Garrison Petawawa. The words “military” and “justice” do not need to be mutually exclusive. What we need to keep in mind, as parliamentarians debate legislation such as Bill C-77, is the effect that it has on the lives of individuals and service morale.

Earlier, the parliamentary secretary to the House leader raised the issue of veterans and how they are now treated. I am going to expand on his comments.

I am now going to give voice to an individual who cannot speak in this chamber, by sharing the letter I received from that soldier. It states, “Good day, I am about to be released from the Forces after 28 years of service. I have sacrificed my mind and my body in the service of Canada. Having suffered physical injuries and PTSD, I have no complaints about anything that I did for the military and would do it all over again. I have received excellent medical care for all my injuries, as well as my treatment by VAC for almost everything. They have covered me for my physical injuries and my PTSD. I expect to be on long-term disability upon my medical release.

“My issue is this. VAC went through the process to add detainee to the POW policy for compensation. I was at first happy with this change. I was detained by Serbian forces for 18 days while serving with the UN in Yugoslavia back in 1994, with 54 others, only to find out the federal government won't consider a claim until you've been a detainee for greater than 30 days.

“I feel insulted by this policy. Apparently, fearing for your life for that time period is just not enough, and we did fear for our lives. We saw the atrocities the Serbs were capable first-hand. Then, to find out that the Prime Minister paid $10.5 million to an ISIS fighter because according to him we as Canadians did not protect his rights....

“We were ordered to submit to being detained by our chain of command. Ordered not to escape, only to find out later that the order was an unlawful order. After all that, I have sacrifices, both professional and personal, and this is the only thing that still haunts me. I believe a change in policy is in order, even just to recognize what we did for our country.”

First, let me thank this solider for his service to our country. He is a credit to his uniform, and I understand how hard it was for him to step forward and write that letter.

I also understand that the Minister of Veterans Affairs for this government, whoever it was, as there have been so many it is hard to keep track, was made aware of the situation by the New Brunswick member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, or so the solider was told. Judging by the lack of government response, the Minister of Health could not be bothered to be concerned about the health of our soldiers. She is too busy staging photo ops with the Prime Minister, using soldiers as props, to be concerned about something as mundane as military justice. Justice in this case is for the sacrifice of 55 Canadian soldiers who were held prisoner as UN peacekeepers during the conflict in the Balkans.

I was also shocked, but not surprised, to learn that the Chrétien government refused to recognize the heroism of all but one member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons battle group who were held hostage, who participated in Operation Cavalier, CANBAT 2.

Where is the justice in the Liberal government coming up with the arbitrary number of 30 as the cut-off for the detention benefit that was announced in the new veterans charter? It would appear this is another example, like the critical injury benefit, where the Liberal government announces a benefit that excludes soldiers and veterans who should qualify. This is another fake promise to soldiers and veterans.

I am honoured and privileged to put on the official record of the proceedings of the House of Commons during debate on military justice, the names of those soldiers who were held hostage, who their country refuses to recognize today. Many are still serving their country in uniform today. The rank mentioned reflects the rank at the time the incident occurred in 1994. While the listing includes the declared hometowns, 44 of the 55 were based out of Garrison Petawawa, which is located in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. The names of those soldiers are:

Major Dean Milner, 33, armor officer, Kingston, Ontario; Corporal Troy Cleveland, 24, crewman, Windson, Nova Scotia; Corporal Robert Carter, 26, crewman, Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia; Master Corporal Chris Maher, 31, crewman, Burlington, Ontario; Corporal Steve Tasnadi, 27, crewman, Toronto, Ontario; Corporal Richard Sheppard, 23, crewman, Fortune Bay, Newfoundland; Sergeant Daniel Berrigan, 31, crewman, Ajax, Ontario; Master Corporal Martin Nickerson, 34, crewman, Pembroke, Ontario; Corporal Sean Dunstan, 25, crewman, Petawawa, Ontario; Corporal Chris Neilson, 21, crewman, St. Catharines, Ontario; Corporal Brian Lecuyer, 28, crewman, Elliot Lake, Ontario; Corporal David Calissi, 33, crewman, Kelowna, British Columbia; 2nd Lieutenant Chris Renahan, 23, armor officer, Toronto, Ontario; Master Corporal Marc Tremblay, 31, crewman, Bagotville, Quebec; Master Warrant Officer Thomas Skelding, 39, crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Corporal Gordon Vanwesten, 25, vehicle technician, Ennismore, Ontario; Corporal Alex Vizino, 27, crewman, Port Colborne, Ontario; Lieutenant Chris Henderson, 30, public affairs officer, Ottawa, Ontario; Corporal Marc Bergeron, 33, photo technician, Alma, Quebec; Lieutenant Mark Poland, 23, reserve armor officer, Sarnia, Ontario; 2nd Lieutenant Greg Nette, 23, armor officer, Edmonton, Alberta; Master Corporal Stanley Potocnik, 27, crewman, Rawdon, Quebec; Corporal Paul Turmel, 28, crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Master Corporal Richard Biddiscombe, 27, crewman, St. John's, Newfoundland; Warrant Officer Richard Ritchie, 34, crewman, Cold Lake, Alberta; Corporal James Morgan, 23, crewman, Cormack, Newfoundland; Corporal Mark Jones, 24, crewman, Belleville, Ontario; Corporal Michael Meade, 24, crewman, Huntsville, Ontario; Corporal Mario Desrochers, 26, crewman, Petawawa, Ontario; Corporal Sean Donaldson, 23, reserve crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Corporal William Byrne, 29, crewman, Conch, Newfoundland; Corporal Sean Murphy, 25, reserve crewman, Brampton, Ontario; Master Seaman Kevin Kendall, 27, medical assistant, Esterhazy, Saskatchewan; Leading Seaman Daniel Williams, 23, medical assistant, St. John's, Newfoundland; Private Kristopher Boyd, 20, medical assistant, Forest/Sarnia, Ontario; Sergeant William Richards, 32, crewman, St. Stephen, New Brunswick; Master Corporal Michael Smith, 30, crewman, Kitchener, Ontario; Corporal Dana Crue, 30, crewman, Summerside, Prince Edward Island; Corporal David Walker, 30, crewman, Halifax, Nova Scotia; Corporal Marc Kemp, 23, crewman, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Master Corporal Dean Smith, 24, reserve crewman, Gooderham, Ontario; Master Corporal William Thomas, 32, infantryman, Canning, Nova Scotia; Corporal James Predo, 27, infantryman, Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia; Sergeant Tom Moran, 30, crewman; Master Corporal Richard Allinson, 31, crewman, Port Hope, Ontario; Corporal Michael Bolger, 27, crewman, St. John's, Newfoundland; Corporal Sheldon Clarke, 24, crewman, Grand Falls, Newfoundland; Corporal Scott Cairns, 27, crewman, Lachine, Quebec; Corporal Davis Balser, 22, crewman, Weymouth, Digby County, Nova Scotia; Sergeant Gordon Campbell, 31, crewman, Kensington, Prince Edward Island; Corporal David Clark, 30, crewman, Toronto, Ontario; Corporal Darren Burgess, 26, crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Corporal Russell Robertson, 23, Squamish, British Columbia; Corporal Bruce Rose, 27, crewman, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Trooper Paul Smith, 23, crewman, Oil Springs/Petrolia, Ontario.

Military justice is about more than adding pages of rules and regulations filled with confusing words. Military justice should also be about recognizing the sacrifices soldiers and their families have made in representing their country.

Does Bill C-77 contribute to or diminish camaraderie among soldiers? Does Bill C-77 hurt operational efficiency? We need to keep on asking these questions with real life experiences in mind, such as those of the people who were detained.

That was my purpose when I put on the record the names of the 55 soldiers who were held hostage during the United Nations mission in Bosnia, Operation Cavalier, during the conflict in the Balkans. The government has forgotten these soldiers. The Prime Minister may state that veterans are asking for too much, as he did before. Veterans are only asking for what they are promised.

Psychological experiments and troop cohesion will end up getting soldiers killed, the same way that political expediency led to the loss of soldiers' lives in Afghanistan with the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopter contract by the Chrétien Liberal government. When Chrétien cancelled that contract, he also got rid of the Chinook helicopters in the military fleet.

Just like the sponsorship scandal and the Lavalin scandal of today, the Liberals have not learned a thing with the decision to buy secondhand, cast-off jets from the Australians rather than equip our troops with what they really need. When Chrétien cancelled the sale of the new badly needed helicopters, he should have halted the sale of the Chinook helicopters to the Dutch government. A lot of good women and men died in Afghanistan as a consequence.

Justice in the military should also provide the right equipment to do the job we ask our soldiers to do on our behalf. It should be about recognizing our soldiers, like the 55 forgotten soldiers.

We need enhanced participation through impact statements at sentencing and enhanced restitution with the court martial required to consider making restitution for losses.

The Auditor General's fall 2018 report on inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces shows that there is a great need for victims' rights, which Bill C-77 is introducing.

Again, I would like to offer my condolences to the family of our late auditor general, Michael Ferguson.

Operation Honour is a plan to reduce inappropriate sexual behaviour toward women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Auditor General's report found that Operation Honour was severely lacking in providing proper support for the victims of inappropriate sexual behaviour, which includes crimes like sexual assault, rape and harassment. In fact, the report found that Operation Honour was not even designed with victim support in mind and that the services it did offer were poorly coordinated. Even worse, the victims were often not even told that there were support services available to them, despite the legal requirement to do so.

Disregard for legal requirements appears to be a theme with the government. Victims did not even have a say if their case was investigated, as the vast majority of reports were done via third party from a duty to report, which Operation Honour created. Investigations were undertaken inside the chain of command, whether the victim was ready or even willing to pursue justice for the crime against them. All reports were acted upon. Victims had no recourse to stop the investigation if they did not want to proceed with a complaint.

The Auditor General's report also found issues with the training and briefings given to Canadian Armed Forces members regarding the inappropriate sexual behaviour. He found that the briefings were fragmented and led to confusion, frustration, fear and less comradery among soldiers. Briefings raised awareness of inappropriate sexual behaviour, but did little to nothing to address or bring awareness to changing habits or understanding the root causes of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

The report also highlighted a lack of awareness of support services for victims, insufficient training to support the victims and a lack of availability to support those services. People providing services had a lack of subject matter expertise and there was little coordination between the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, which handles the support services, and the Strategic Response Team, which has the actual investigative responsibilities.

Operation Honour was inspired by an investigation and report by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps. We had Justice Deschamps appear before the Standing Committee on National Defence earlier this month and she gave us her insights as to whether Operation Honour aligned with her original 10 recommendations.

It is important to remind the government that for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, when they put on a uniform, they are soldiers first, and that is an important distinction. In an operational setting, they need to be able to rely on their fellow soldiers.

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February 28th, 2019 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception with the comments by the member for Kingston and the Islands that we did not introduce our bill until the dying days.

It is a fact that we brought forward two bills on military justice before Bill C-71 that passed.

It is a fact that one thing that Bill C-71 in the old Parliament did and that Bill C-77 does is enshrine the victims bill of rights into the military justice system. That did not pass until the third year we were government.

It is a fact that we moved that bill through as fast as we could at the end of the session.

It is a fact that the Liberals sat on it for three years before they brought in Bill C-77, which is a complete replica of our Bill C-71.

We did all the heavy lifting and we did all the hard work, but the Liberals sat on their hands.

I want to ask the member, who has served so well on the national defence committee for the past 20 years, if she would comment on why the previous minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence would have resigned when she has such a passion for indigenous issues which are now enshrined in Bill C-77 through the incorporation of the Gladu decision. Why would she have stepped back when she was the former justice minister who believed in having a strong law in our Canadian society, especially in the Canadian Armed Forces?

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February 28th, 2019 / 11:50 a.m.
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Serge Cormier Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

I am very pleased to rise today, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, to support Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I want to first acknowledge the hard work that has gone into shaping this bill and getting to this point. Obviously that includes the work of members of the Standing Committee on National Defence and their clause-by-clause consideration of the bill earlier this fall.

I would also like to recognize the work and the outstanding dedication of the members of our Canadian Armed Forces. I think we all greatly appreciate the work they do every day. We are very grateful to them and we thank them.

The study in committee made it possible to tweak the language used in the bill for clarity and to debate important ideas raised by the public, particularly with regard to mental health issues. The result is a better bill and parliamentarians who are more aware of these issues. I therefore thank the committee.

The premise of the bill is simple. Our men and women in uniform deserve a military justice system that supports them in all they do, a military justice system that reflects Canadian values, works to eliminate discrimination of any kind, and ensures that victims are given a voice throughout the legal process.

Through Bill C-77, we are proposing important changes to our current military justice framework, specifically by enshrining victims’ rights before, during and after court martial proceedings. We are also strengthening the summary trial process to ensure that minor cases are disposed of in a non-penal, non-criminal process called summary hearings. In addition, we are seeking harsher punishments and sanctions for services offences and infractions motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression. Finally, we are ensuring that the specific circumstances of indigenous offenders are taken into account at the time of sentencing.

For example, the proposed summary hearings will help improve the flexibility and effectiveness of the military justice system by allowing the chain of command to address minor service infractions quickly and fairly at the unit level. Naturally, the most serious cases will be referred to the courts martial. There will be no summary process anymore, and military commanders who preside over summary hearings will only be able to impose non-criminal penalties for service infractions.

The changes we are proposing are long overdue. We recognize that we need to continually improve our military justice system so that it mirrors the civilian criminal justice system where appropriate, while acknowledging the important distinctions that exist between the two systems in order to account for the unique requirements of military life.

Our government is committed to making the Canadian Armed Forces a safe and welcoming place for all Canadians, both civilian and military. It is this same commitment that continues to motivate us as we work to finalize these amendments and enshrine them in law.

One of the most important sets of changes we are proposing is the introduction of the declaration of victims rights into the National Defence Act. This declaration mirrors the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, applicable in the civilian criminal justice system. It enshrines rights for victims of service offences and enhances the support provided to them as they navigate the court martial process.

These changes include the right to information, which ensures that victims understand the process and the options at their disposal; the right to protection, which guarantees the victims' security and privacy; the right to participation, which allows victims to convey their views about decisions to be made by authorities in the military justice system; and the right to restitution, which entitles victims to seek restitution.

In order to ensure that victims are able to exercise these rights, they will be entitled to the support of a victim liaison officer. The victim liaison officer will help them navigate the military justice system and inform them about how this system operates. They will explain to victims how service offences are charged, dealt with and tried under the Code of Service Discipline. These are important changes that help put victims first, and I am proud to support them in the House.

The second set of changes we are proposing have to do with how the military justice system handles minor breaches of military discipline. Through these proposed changes, a new category of minor breaches of military discipline, called service infractions, will be created. These service infractions will not trigger a criminal record.

This change will allow the Canadian Armed Forces to handle minor breaches of military discipline in a fairer, simpler and faster manner. They demonstrate trust and confidence in our military leaders, who can address minor breaches of discipline at the base, wing or unit level.

Through Bill C-77, we are also working to address issues of gender-based prejudice and hatred in the Canadian Armed Forces. The bill parallels provisions in the Criminal Code that propose harsher sentences and sanctions for service offences and infractions that are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, based on gender expression or identity.

The Canadian Armed Forces has zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are committed to eradicating these types of biases in our military ranks. That is why, through this bill and other initiatives, we are working to discourage behaviour motivated by prejudice or hate. This amendment will reflect this commitment and help the Canadian Armed forces continue to make progress in promoting inclusivity. We are ensuring that the military justice system is consistent with the civilian system when it comes to the human rights of the LGBTQ2 community. This bill represents another step in that direction.

Finally, we have made a significant amendment to align with the Criminal Code provision relating to the sentencing of indigenous offenders. For Indigenous offenders convicted of military service offences, historic injustices will be considered during sentencing. This sentencing principle acknowledges the historic wrongs that still negatively affect indigenous Canadians across the country.

These changes will also reflect the government's promise to advance reconciliation and renew our relations with indigenous people. We believe that these considerations are vital to the Canadian Armed Forces’ role in repairing our relationship with Canada’s indigenous peoples. Concrete measures like this will help us strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship and continue on the path to healing.

I am extremely proud of the important role that indigenous Canadians play in the Canadian Armed Forces. There are nearly 2,500 indigenous CAF members serving in the regular and reserve forces.

These proposed changes to the National Defence Act are key to supporting our women and men in uniform. Our military personnel are at the heart of everything we do. They are at the heart of the new defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, because the women and men of the CAF make extraordinary sacrifices every day in service to their country. They deserve a return to a military justice system that ensures their voices are heard. They deserve a military justice system that maintains discipline and efficiency in the CAF while respecting our Canadian values. They deserve a military justice system that provides fair and equal treatment, regardless of race, orientation, or gender.

Bill C-77 proposes the changes required to reform the military justice system so that it continues to meet the expectations of the people of Canada and the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces. It presents an approach that is more focused on the victims and protects their rights.

This bill deserves our support because it seeks to establish a better military justice system for Canadians.

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February 28th, 2019 / noon
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Conservative

Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be able to speak to this issue.

As a former member of the Canadian Forces, I am deeply concerned by the state of our military justice system in Canada. We are finding that military members do not have access to legal representation to the same extent that they had formerly. We are finding that operational commanders are recommending to proceed with disciplinary charges and only 50% of cases are actually going through, which undermines the good order and discipline of the military. We have also found that there is a lack of experience among the judges within the military justice system.

Bill C-77 does nothing to address any of those systemic challenges within the military justice system. I wonder if my hon. colleague could speak to that point. When will the government do something, and what, if anything, will it do to actually address the changes in the National Defence Act?

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February 28th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this legislation, which will affect a part of Canada's justice system that is largely unfamiliar to many Canadians, including perhaps some members of this House.

Bill C-77 makes important changes to our military justice system, bringing it more in line with our civilian criminal justice system with respect to victims' rights and sentencing for indigenous offenders. It also makes this unique system more effective in dealing with minor breaches of military discipline.

Our government and the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to maintaining a military justice system that is fair, modern and robust. Canada maintains a military justice system that is separate from, but parallel to, the civilian system.

Our department has been active on many issues, including military justice reform. We will continue making equity and modernization a priority as we go forward implementing these important initiatives.

Canada has a world-class military justice system, which goes a long way toward helping the Canadian Armed Forces to accomplish their missions in Canada and throughout the world. The system reflects Canadian values and upholds the rule of law while meeting the unique needs of the military.

Some people may wonder why we have a military justice system. The reason is clear. Simply put, we need such a system to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale among those responsible for protecting Canadians, our values and our national interests.

There are many things that ordinary citizens can get away with doing without being sanctioned, even though those things may be inappropriate or even go contrary to relatively minor federal, provincial or municipal laws or regulations. However, it can be a lot more serious if a soldier does the same thing, particularly when he or she is participating in a military operation. A simple act of insubordination can compromise the cohesion of a military unit that must operate at the highest level of efficiency and solidarity. I am not exaggerating when I say that people's lives may depend on it.

Canada's military justice system is rooted in centuries of practice around the world. Monarchs, army generals and political leaders have long recognized the importance of having a disciplined military.

Just one year after Confederation, the new Parliament of Canada adopted the Militia Acts, which integrated the British Army Act into Canadian law. The Canadian Forces Legal Branch was created in 1918, just a few months before the end of the First World War. This was no coincidence. Canada's key role in the ensuing allied victory was a source of increased self-confidence.

From that point on, our military justice system evolved gradually, more specifically with the increased involvement of our military lawyers in courts of law. However, it was always clear that the commanders controlled the martial law system, and they primarily used it as a tool to enforce discipline. The military lawyers representing the Canadian Forces Legal Branch were simply there to advise tribunal members on procedure and evidence and to look for errors in law.

The first big change came after the adoption of the National Defence Act in 1950, which brought the military justice system closer in line with the civilian criminal justice system.

For instance, the act authorized appeals to the Court Martial Appeal Court and brought many penalties into line with those handed down in the civilian system. Only minor amendments had been made by the time two momentous events shook up the system in the early 1980s.

The first was the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Another reform stemming from a charter challenge allowed the accused person to choose between trial by a military judge alone or by a judge and a panel of military members.

All of these challenges led to a radical change that caused the system to stray from its primary objective, which is to help commanders maintain discipline. This gave rise to a complex, polished system that has adopted many of the characteristics of the civilian system, which is, of course, one of the most widely admired systems in the world.

Bill C-77 is the latest step in this process of evolution. If passed, it will make the military justice system fairer and more effective, without neglecting its key role of maintaining discipline and morale.

I firmly believe that the military justice system will remain an indispensable aspect of the armed forces for many years to come.

By passing Bill C-77 to improve and modernize this system, we will be helping the Canadian Armed Forces continue to meet their many crucial objectives, both in Canada and abroad.

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February 28th, 2019 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-77. It has a title that would not let anyone know what it is about. It is called “an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts”. What it really ought to be called is “a bill to complete the process of military justice reform”. That is the basic reason we in the New Democratic Party are in favour of the bill. We are in favour of it despite its tardiness, and we are in favour of it despite it missing a major opportunity to take an action I will talk about later.

Certain key provisions here are important, and I think we have all-party support for adding these to the military justice system. The first of those would provide greater rights and protections for victims in the military justice system. What the bill would do is align the military justice system with the civilian justice system and align it with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. That means that there would be rights for those involved as victims in the military justice system to be kept informed of the progress of their cases and to get key information about the process in terms of timing: when things will be heard and when they will be resolved. This is something that is not in the military justice system presently.

The second of those rights for victims is that victim impact statements would be allowed in the military justice system in the same way they are allowed in the civilian justice system. That is an important reason to support the bill.

The second reason, which was mentioned just briefly before I stood to speak, is that the bill would bring the military justice system into conformity with the Gladue decision of the Supreme Court in 1999. which allows justices to take into account the circumstances of aboriginal offenders in determining sentencing. The same principle we have been using for 20 years in the civilian justice system would be applied to the military justice system. It is a bit tardy, but it is a good thing to do.

The bill completes most of the military justice reforms that have been worked on for more than 15 years. They were mostly introduced by the previous Conservative government. In its bill, for some reason, the victims rights pieces were left behind. That was a bit surprising in that it was the Conservative government that was bringing forward the reforms, and it was the Conservative government that was the big proponent of the victims rights act. It was a bit peculiar that it was left out, but here it is again. It is a bit tardy, but it is in this bill.

The government passed most of the major military justice reforms in 2013. Here we are, six years later, still dealing with a bill to complete those reforms.

There are some oddities in the military justice system that would be cleared up here. One of those is the fact that there is no requirement to keep transcripts of all military justice proceedings. A summary hearing can be held without any record of that hearing being held. Therefore, it can become very difficult for anyone to appeal a decision from one of those tribunals when there is no written record of it. That is one of the things the Conservatives brought in in their original bill, which was quite positive, as well as better protections against self-incrimination, which did not exist in the military justice system, even though they are required by the Canadian Constitution and the bill of rights. Those were some of the things that were in the 2013 bill that were necessary. This bill would fully implement some of those changes.

What I do not understand is the great delay in getting this done. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives were slow to act on what were clearly needed reforms in military justice. I am not sure why the Conservatives did not complete the job on their watch. They only got as far as Bill C-15, and they introduced Bill C-71 in the dying days of the last Parliament, which is essentially the same as Bill C-77.

Having criticized the Conservatives for being slow, I will criticize the Liberals for being even slower, because they had the Conservative bill, Bill C-71. This bill, Bill C-77, is essentially the same bill, but it took them two years to bring it back to Parliament.

The other part of this is that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals acted expeditiously to get the sections of the original Bill C-15 proclaimed. That bill passed in 2013, and it was not fully proclaimed. It was not fully enforced until September of 2018. We had five years before the legislation was actually put into practice. Some of that was through funding not being made available for the necessary changes, especially in terms of staffing the military justice system. Some of that is simply inexplicable to me. I do not know why it took them so long to get this done.

Again, as I mentioned, it took the Liberals two years to introduce a bill virtually identical to the one the Conservatives introduced in 2015. That makes no sense at all.

What we are doing in Bill C-77 is important, not just in the narrow sense of the military justice act but because of lots of other provisions for military justice and the operations of the military. One of those is Operation HONOUR, which is the military's attempt to deal with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military. One of the key things here in Bill C-77 is that better supports would now be mandated by law for victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military justice system. This is a supporting measure to Operation HONOUR, which has its big challenges. It has not been entirely successful.

We had former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps before the committee on February 7. It was her report on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military that sparked some of these changes that are now taking place. What she cited was a reluctance that remains in the military to report sexual harassment and sexual assault, and what she said very clearly to us in the committee was that the solution to that is better support for victims at all stages.

Bill C-77 provides that support when we get to the formal stages for sexual harassment and sexual assault, but Madam Deschamps was very clear that there needs to be better support for victims before the formal processes begin. That is something that is not in Bill C-77. That is something that is not mandated by law. However, I do not think that is a necessity. The Canadian Forces could obviously begin to put in place those better supports for those who have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assault when they first make it known to their supervisors or to others in the military system. If they make those supports known and make those supports available, we will get better reporting and we will get better handling of all those cases.

There is still more work to do before the formal legal stages that are being dealt with in Bill C-77. I certainly encourage the leadership of the Canadian Forces to act quickly to get those supports for victims in place.

The other reservation I have in supporting this bill is that it has missed a huge opportunity. That is an opportunity to help deal with another serious concern in the Canadian Forces, and that is the problem of death by suicide in the military.

Over the past 15 years, we have lost 195 serving members of the Canadian Forces to death by suicide. That does not include reservists. The government has admitted that we do not do a good job of keeping track of death by suicide among reservists. The 195 is only those in the Canadian regular forces. We know the number is far larger.

We know that those who are young men between the ages of 25 and 30 are 250 times more likely to take their own lives if they are in the Canadian Forces or are veterans. Something is going on, with the difficult and dangerous work we ask people to do, that results in mental health challenges that we are not responding to in an effective manner.

In November 2017, we had the announcement of a joint DND and Veterans Affairs suicide prevention strategy. I applaud the military for having such a strategy. Again, it is a little tardy, but okay, let us get moving on this. Its focus was on providing more support for those who are facing mental health challenges and more training for all staff within the military, including chaplains and others who are assigned to support those serving members, in how to spot signs of suicide and how to deal with those suffering this mental health injury that has led to self-harm.

That strategy, as I said, was put in place in November 2017. Unfortunately, in 2018, we had 15 more serving members and two members of the reserves die by suicide. That is in one year, 2018. One of my colleagues is signalling that the government's count was two, but there were probably actually five—

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Forty-five? Again, we do not have a good count of the reservists.

We know that even though the strategy was put in place, this continues to be a serious challenge for the Canadian Forces. It is a challenge, obviously, on the humane grounds of taking care of those we ask to do difficult and dangerous work.

...it is disturbing that even today under paragraph 98(c), a service member could face life imprisonment for attempted suicide. It would be more appropriate to consider self-harm under such circumstances as being symptomatic of a serious and urgent mental health concern, and signalling the need for appropriate and immediate medical intervention.

She is calling on us to make sure those supports are available, to make sure those barriers are removed. She said very clearly:

There is no benefit to leaving paragraph 98(c) in the National Defence Act, nor is there a downside to removing it. In my heart, I believe it is morally responsible [to remove this section].

I do not mean to be too crass here, but it is also a challenge when we invest in people to serve Canada and the result of that service is that we lose their skills and their contribution because of mental health problems.

The Canadian military has said it is committed to removing obstacles to providing mental health assistance for those who need it in the Canadian Forces. When the bill came to committee, I moved an amendment to it that would remove the largest symbolic and practical barrier to providing mental health assistance for those who are considering self-harm. That is paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act, which makes self-harm a disciplinary offence.

When I talk to people outside the Canadian military, their reaction to this situation is that 30 years ago, in civilian life, we moved way beyond regarding attempted suicide as the fault of the individual and began to treat it as a mental health issue, as an illness that could be dealt with and treated.

In the National Defence Act, to which all recruits are trained, it says self-harming is a disciplinary offence. In practice, when I talk to leaders within the military, I hear that this measure is not used very often and is rarely applied, but the fact that it exists and presents self-harm as a disciplinary offence creates on onus on the individual not to seek help, because what they are considering may become not just a mental health issue but a blot on their military career. It creates another obstacle to reaching out for help.

We heard moving testimony from witnesses at committee, including Sheila Fynes, whose son died by suicide while serving in the Canadian Forces and who did not get the help he needed despite repeated attempts to harm himself while serving. Instead he was subjected to discipline several times as the solution to his problems, instead of being recognized as suffering from a mental illness and receiving the treatment he needed.

Ms. Fynes is most dignified and has resisted all tendencies to become bitter about what happened with her son, instead working tirelessly with 161 other families of those who died by suicide to try to make sure this does not happen to any other families. Here is what she said at committee:

Other witnesses spoke from their experience within the Canadian military as commanders who faced these crises. One of those was retired Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron, who appeared before the committee last November, noting that paragraph 98(c) refers both to self-harm and also to asking someone else to do harm. He said clearly that there is no downside to removing section 98(c) as it refers to self-harm and went on to say that if the worry is about someone in the armed forces asking someone else to harm them, that's already covered by lots of other regulations. Assault is the main one that would apply. If a serving member asks someone else to harm them so they can get out of service, that person is already guilty of offences if they carry it out. He saw no downside to removing this section.

The Judge Advocate General's office made it clear that this section is rarely taken through the formal process. In other words, it is not used very often. However, the fact that it makes it a disciplinary offence means that it is sometimes applied at the command level. I think there was only one case in the last 10 years of someone being prosecuted for self-harming through the military justice system, but the fact that it is there as a disciplinary offence allows lower-level decisions that apply discipline rather than assistance to these mental health issues.

It was a big missed opportunity. The Liberals, as I mentioned, argued that it was outside the scope of Bill C-77 to remove this section of the National Defence Act. That was a very technical argument and one that is very difficult for me to accept, in that Bill C-77 already amended eight other sections of the code of conduct, so it would have been very easy for the committee to decide to proceed with this amendment.

Although the Liberals have not done so and the bill is now before us without my amendment, I still support the bill. I think there are many positive things in it. However, I have introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-426, which does the same thing. It is a very simple bill. It suggests taking paragraph 98(c) out of the National Defence Act.

The Liberals argued at committee that doing it at committee was not the right way or the right place, but they were sympathetic, so my challenge to the Liberals now is this: If the committee was not the right place to amend Bill C-77 in this way, will they join the Conservatives and the New Democrats in now supporting my bill to take this section out of the National Defence Act and remove one of the major barriers preventing those who are suffering with mental illness from getting the treatment and help they need?

With that, I will conclude my remarks, and I will be happy to take questions.

I am happy the bill is moving forward. I am happy it is going to be done before we go to another election so that we do not have a further delay on victims' rights in the military justice system, but I remain disappointed that we have missed a big opportunity to do something about the crisis of death by suicide in the Canadian Forces.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport.

It is great to be in this chamber today and to hear the overwhelming support from all sides of this House on this very important piece of legislation. It is an honour to rise in the House today to share my thoughts on how the government is supporting victims of inappropriate conduct by members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

When victims display courage by coming forward with a complaint, we must ensure that they are fully supported. Anything less is unacceptable. Every victim, whether a Canadian Armed Forces member or a civilian, deserves to be treated with trust, dignity and respect. We are fully behind the chief of the defence staff and his leadership team as they take steps to root out harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in our military.

Since General Vance launched Operation Honour in 2015, we are seeing progress. As former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps recommended in her report in 2015, we put in place a sexual misconduct response centre, which provides support to those affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour. We established the sexual misconduct response centre and extended its services to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is accessible no matter where a service member is deployed around the world. Last fall, the Canadian Forces provost marshal re-examined 179 sexual assault cases previously deemed unfounded, and determined that 23 should be reopened to further investigation.

This past May, we introduced Bill C-77 to add the declaration of victims rights to the military's Code of Service Discipline. This piece of legislation before us today enshrines victims' rights in the military justice system. This is good news, because it shows that military justice in this country continues to evolve in the best interests of Canadians and the Canadian Armed Forces. It shows the government recognizes the harmful impact that service offences to victims have on the military and on society. It shows the government's commitment to strengthening victims' rights in the military justice system. It is our view that this legislation advances Canada's position as a global leader in supporting victims.

The amendments in this bill would strengthen and uphold victims' rights within the military justice system while ensuring that these rights mirror those in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Simply put, the legislation creates and extends rights for victims in four specific areas: first, the right to information about how the military justice system works; second, the right to protection of their security and privacy; third, the right to participation by expanding how victim impact statements can be presented at courts martial; and fourth, the right to restitution for damages or losses. We have a responsibility to make sure victims are treated with dignity and respect. We are taking this responsibility seriously. We owe it to victims and their families.

In his report last November, the Auditor General included a report on efforts to stop inappropriate sexual conduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. It came with a number of recommendations that will help lay the ground for the next steps of Operation Honour. Canadians can have complete confidence in both the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces to apply these recommendations. The chief of the defence staff has made it clear that serious administrative action will be taken against Canadian Armed Forces members who are found guilty of sexual misconduct. He has zero tolerance for Canadian Armed Forces leaders who fail to act when confronted with inappropriate behaviour within the ranks.

When my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, reviewed the Auditor General's report, he had a clear message for Canadian Armed Forces members and victims. He said that this was about making sure we are doing the right thing for victims; we know we need to do better, and we will.

This is why we are moving Bill C-77 through this House as efficiently and effectively as possible. It is why we expanded the sexual misconduct response centre, so victims can access support in Canada and abroad 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is why the SMRC is looking at ways to enhance service delivery to better meet the needs of all Canadian Armed Forces members, and it is why the sexual assault review program was established to conduct reviews of all sexual assault investigations deemed unfounded by the military police.

Our government wants the Canadian Armed Forces recognized as a respected leader on this issue, both inside the Canadian government and by militaries around the world. At the same time, we know this is not just a military issue. The Canadian Armed Forces is not alone in dealing with sexual misconduct. It is deeply rooted in society. Sexual misconduct is wrong wherever it happens, but when it happens in the military, it threatens the welfare of all members of the Canadian Armed Forces community, military and civilian alike.

Our people are at the centre of everything we do. The way we support and treat them is directly related to the military's operational effectiveness. It is also directly related to our values as Canadians. The Canadian Armed Forces has put down a good, solid foundation on which to build. Now it is shifting toward sustained cultural change. Later this year, the Canadian Armed Forces is expected to release its fourth report to update Canadians on all progress made to date on Operation Honour, followed by a cultural change strategy.

Along with Bill C-77 and through the declaration of victims rights, we are strengthening the rights and protections of victims who come forward when they have been wronged. In the passing of this legislation, we are reinforcing Canada's position as a global leader in maintaining a fair and effective military justice system, one that continuously evolves in harmony with our civilian laws. In passing this legislation, we are demonstrating clearly and without question that anyone who is victimized by inappropriate behaviour within the Canadian Armed Forces will be supported fully in the military justice system through these enhanced victims' rights.

For these reasons, I appeal to all members of this House to support this bill.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, we had a good, vigorous debate and study of Bill C-77, and a number of shortfalls were identified by some of the witnesses: retired Lieutenant-Colonel Perron in particular, as well as the Barreau du Québec.

One thing that came up that we did not get positive feedback from JAG on was the issue of changing the burden of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to the balance of probabilities. The argument from National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces' legal advisers is that we do not need to have such regimented tests within a summary hearing process, unlike in the old-fashioned court martial and summary conviction process.

I would ask the member if he feels we got to the bottom of it to protect those who are wrongfully accused in view of the potential punishments that will be laid down, such as confinement to quarters and being sent to the brig for a period of time, as well as a reduction in rank and pay.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Davenport, it is an absolute honour to have this opportunity to rise today and engage in the third reading of Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

This proposed bill amends the provisions of the National Defence Act with respect to the governance of the military justice system and it adds a new section on the declaration of victim rights to the Code of Service Discipline that specify the victims of service offences have a right to information, protection, participation and restitution in respect to service offences. It adds or amends several definitions, including victim and military justice system participant rights and specifies who may act on the victim's behalf for the purposes of that division.

I am so pleased to speak about how Bill C-77 is part of a broader effort our government is making to increase diversity and inclusiveness within the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada's unique, diverse and multicultural population is one of its greatest strengths and we are determined to see that strength reflected in Canada's military.

We know that embracing diversity and drawing on all the strengths of Canada's population will enhance military operational effectiveness. That is why Canada's defence policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged” makes diversity and inclusion a core institutional value for the Canadian Armed Forces. Canadians know diversity is our strength, and we will always champion that.

A diverse and inclusive Canadian Armed Forces starts with a respectful and open work environment for all. “Strong, Secure, Engaged” has identified several initiatives that will help our military continue to cultivate a culture of respect, and it is delivering on all of them.

We are ensuring that the Canadian Armed Forces has the ability to respond effectively and appropriately to anyone who discriminates against fellow service members. Through Bill C-77, we are calling for increased sentences and sanctions for service offences and infractions when there is evidence they are motivated by bias, hate or prejudice based on gender expression or identity. This focus on deterring crimes based in hate for those whose gender expression or identity differ from our own is an important step in the significant progress the forces has made in changing its culture to one of greater inclusivity and diversity. These changes will help the defence team ensure it remains an institution based in honour, integrity and honesty.

However, the changes proposed in Bill C-77 are not the only steps the forces are taking. Through Operation Honour, the Canadian Armed Forces continues its vital work to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Above all else, it is putting its focus on support for people affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour. That includes expanding the role and mandate of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, or SMRC, to make it the authoritative voice on victim support and advocacy.

As the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre assumes this increased responsibility, it has already established itself as a leader in this field. This past December, the SMRC hosted the first-ever Five Eyes forum on preventing and addressing sexual misconduct, allowing experts from Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand to share with, and learn from, one another. These efforts will also help National Defence be an even greater leader in achieving a gender balanced military.

We should all be proud that Canada is already a world leader in this area. As of this January of this year, there are 15,116 women in the Canadian Armed Forces. That is 15.7% of our military, and significantly more than the NATO average of 11%.

I was honoured to recently visit the Canadian Armed Forces mission in Mali. It is participating in MINUSMA, which is the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission. Right now 14% of all those deployed there are women. That number compares to about 4% for all other UN missions.

I know we have a long way to go, but we have already made great progress. We should celebrate the progress we have managed to make.

Through “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, we are increasing the percentage of women in the military to 25% by 2026. That is our target. The Canadian Armed Forces has undertaken a number of activities to meet this goal. I will go through them in a minute.

I want to add that right now the national defence committee is looking at how we can increase diversity in the Canadian Armed Forces. We are looking to put forward a number of other policy ideas and immediate action steps on how we can increase the number of not only women, but those from visible minorities, the LGBTQ community and the indigenous community, among others, in the Canadian Armed Forces.

I will go back to the additional activities that the Canadian Armed Forces is undertaking to meet the goal of 25% of 2026.

First, it has established a team of representatives from across the military, the federal government and the private sector to examine recruiting strategies for women joining the defence team. We have gone outside of government to get the best ideas so we can achieve our goal of 25% by 2026.

Second, the Canadian Armed Forces has introduced policies and practices that promote a healthy family and work-life balance. I was blessed to join the Canadians Navy on the HMCS Charlottetown during the summer. When I talked to women there, I heard that more and more women were joining because the navy had done a wonderful job of improving the work-life balance, making it easier for people to have families and to support their families while they were pursuing careers in the Canadians Navy.

However, diversity is more than gender. The Canadian Armed Forces also has specific initiatives under way to increase its diversity across a broad spectrum of ethnicity, religion, age, experience, language and more.

The Canadian Armed Forces continues to modernize, streamline and standardize recruiting to ensure that it is truly welcoming to all applicants. It has recruiters who are multilingual and from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. These recruiters receive extensive training designed to help them understand and be attuned to cultural norms that may differ from their own background and beliefs. This has helped improve communication with potential recruits, which in turn has alleviated many of the misconceptions that visible minority applicants sometimes have regarding the military.

The Canadian Armed Forces has also made important changes to the way it welcomes people of different backgrounds into the military. While the military maintains strict dress regulations for professional and operational purposes, it refuses to allow those regulations to be a barrier to someone who wishes to join.

As important as all these initiatives are, we also have to recognize the impact of past actions.

In November 2017, our Prime Minister rose in the House to issue a formal apology to Canadian members of the LGBTQ2 community for historic injustices inflicted upon them in the country. That included many members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were not just discriminated against, but interrogated and persecuted for nearly forty years during what has become known infamously as “the purge”.

We can never undo the damage of this persecution, but we can recognize and remember the pain it caused. We apologized in order for us to move on and make changes.

We are doing just that with the Canada pride citation. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were directly impacted by anti-LGBTQ2 policies and practices can wear the Canada pride citation on their uniforms. The citation stands as an acknowledgement and reminder of past injustices and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensuring that this dark chapter in our history never happens again.

I note that over a year ago, the military launched the positive spaces initiative to promote a safe and inclusive work environment for all employees regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. I am happy to answer questions on that.

I am very proud of the actions we have taken to date and I ask everyone in the House to support Bill C-77.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, the member talked about some of the challenges that occur in the Canadian Armed Forces, and that Bill C-77 incorporates the Gladue decision from the Supreme Court, ensuring that indigenous members of the Canadian Armed Forces will have a chance, at the time of sentencing, to make sure that any cultural sensitivities are taken into consideration.

We just witnessed an unfortunate event over the last few weeks, where the former associate minister of defence who is also the former attorney general, a very proud indigenous leader, was forced to resign. I would like to know, from the member, why the former associate minister of defence left her office.