An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make related amendments to other Acts (COVID-19 response and other measures)


David Lametti  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of Feb. 24, 2021

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) allow for the use of electronic or other automated means for the purposes of the jury selection process;

(b) expand, for the accused and offenders, the availability of remote appearances by audioconference and videoconference in certain circumstances;

(c) provide for the participation of prospective jurors in the jury selection process by videoconference in certain circumstances;

(d) expand the power of courts to make case management rules permitting court personnel to deal with administrative matters for accused not represented by counsel;

(e) permit courts to order fingerprinting at the interim release stage and at any other stage of the criminal justice process if fingerprints could not previously have been taken for exceptional reasons; and

(f) replace the existing telewarrant provisions with a process that permits a wide variety of search warrants, authorizations and orders to be applied for and issued by a means of telecommunication.

The enactment makes amendments to the Criminal Code and the Identification of Criminals Act to correct minor technical errors and includes transitional provisions on the application of the amendments. It also makes related amendments to other Acts.


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.

April 29th, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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President, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Drew Lafond

Sure, I can chime in on this one.

On Bill C-22, again, we've had a lot to say to the minister's office on this point specifically. Our written correspondence outlines that while we're pleased to see some changes that reflect some of the calls to action—specifically, call to action 32—there's nothing of any substantive or systemic value in Bill C-22 or Bill C-23.

We've raised 16 points—10 immediate action points need to be addressed today. They need to be addressed immediately. They've been studied extensively and repeatedly and, again, set out in 21 commissions, reports and studies over the last 30 years. The problem we have with Bill C-22 and Bill C-23 is that the scope of their focus is too narrow and doesn't focus on any of the systemic items that we've identified need to take place immediately.

Just to name a few—I've named 10 already in my initial presentation—there are others that we've communicated: addressing over-policing and over-criminalization of indigenous peoples; implementing a multi-pronged indigenous de-escalation strategy; and ensuring appropriate systems are in place for carefully and systemically investigating reports of crime and violence against indigenous victims. These are systemic items that have been identified on numerous occasions, and what we lack right now is the implementation.

April 29th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I'm going to resist the temptation to use my entire six minutes to applaud this panel. I think it is very important that they've directed our attention to the root causes of delays in the system and to the importance of protecting constitutional rights.

We will have opportunities in Parliament to discuss other bills that deal with some of these questions, and I hope that we will see these witnesses come back to give us further input on Bill C-22 and Bill C-23.

I want to take the time today to talk about one of my concerns: that our shift to the Zoom platforms during COVID, while necessary in an emergency, may make some fundamental changes in our justice system, which I believe will disadvantage indigenous people, racialized Canadians and those who live in poverty.

I'd like to hear from each of the witnesses what they think about this shift of platforms and its impact on those who are most marginalized in the justice system already.

Maybe I will start with Mr. Sealy-Harrington.

April 29th, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
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Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Thank you.

My last question is also for you, Mr. Brown. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to pick on you, sir. I really respect...and I was listening to your testimony very, very much in depth.

The federal government has introduced Bill C-23 to try to address some of the backlog. Do you have any other thoughts or feedback on the legislation as it was introduced?

April 29th, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

I have just a minute left here, but I'll confess to you that you asked for a conversation to take place, and conversations have already taken place. Some of the changes that I put to you at the start of my questioning already exist in Bill C-23. That bill is the product of conversations. We don't have any instances of any provincial leaders or attorneys general asking the federal minister to invoke the notwithstanding clause.

You'll forgive me for thinking that maybe this is a bit ideological, because we know it's been used by certain governments, including by the government in the province where I am located. I know you've been a candidate for the provincial Conservatives in Ontario and a candidate for the federal Conservatives. So is your interest in invoking the notwithstanding clause simply based on ideological perspectives?

April 27th, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Juries Commission

Mark Farrant

I absolutely agree with that statement. This is the third time we have tried to see this bill and this amendment to the Criminal Code pass. There is no reason it should not be added to Bill C-23.

I have spoken to members across all parties. I've spoken to members of the judiciary. I've spoken to lawyers, both Crown and defence, across the country, who all agree that this is a common sense piece of legislation that would demonstrate to Canadians another investment in jury duty and an important contribution to post-trial recovery.

Many jurors have said that it wasn't the trial, nor was it the evidence, that hurt them mentally; it was the emotional trauma of reaching a decision or not being able to reach a decision in a truly public and difficult case.

April 27th, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you.

I would concur that the amount of funding we're talking about here with respect to juror pay and with respect to implementing other recommendations that would go a long way to support jurors is a pittance, having regard to the firehose of money that we have seen showered in this budget. Some of it very much needed funding; I don't want to minimize that reality. This, though, would be a mere pittance.

Another area that you cited is mental health and issues around mental health that jurors face in going through, in some cases, horrific trials, including stressors from not being familiar with the judicial system and being away from family and work, among many other factors.

One recommendation in the report from 2018 was to carve out an exception to the jury secrecy rule. Right now, jurors who are suffering from mental health issues arising from their jury service aren't able to talk about all aspects of their jury service, namely the deliberation process, which often can be the most stressful aspect.

I introduced a bill in the last Parliament to implement the recommendation to carve out a narrow exception to the jury secrecy rule so that jurors who are suffering from mental health issues could consult a mental health or other medical professional bound by confidentiality, thereby protecting the integrity of the jury secrecy rule while ensuring that jurors can get the help they need. There was again unanimous support for that bill, but it died in the Senate prior to the last election. I worked with Senator Boisvenu to introduce a bill in the Senate, but it's been stuck there.

The government has introduced Bill C-23, which touches on issues around jurors in a COVID context. Would you see it as beneficial that Bill C-23 be expanded to include the substance of what is in now Bill S-212 so that we can get this done, finally, which is something everyone seems to agree to?

March 11th, 2021 / 11 a.m.
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good morning, colleagues, and thank you to all the members from my departmental team who are here with me today.

I am pleased to help the committee as it studies the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (C) and the 2021-22 main estimates for the Department of Justice.

I am joining you today from the Department of Justice Canada, which sits on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

Despite the challenging times, Justice Canada has accomplished an enormous volume of work to help ensure a fair, transparent and accessible Canadian justice system.

We continue on our reconciliation journey with indigenous peoples, including introducing Bill C-15, legislation respecting the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This is fundamental to our broader efforts to tackle deep-rooted and systemic discrimination.

An important example of that is Bill C-22, which proposes changes that would reform sentencing practices and focus on diversion programs. It also proposes changes to treat substance use as a health issue, rather than a criminal one.

We also introduced Bill C-23, which provides greater flexibility on how courts hold criminal proceedings and issue orders. We must ensure that both victims and accused receive their fair and timely justice.

Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that our justice system remains fair, effective, accessible and equitable.

These priorities are echoed within the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (C), which include an additional $78.5 million this fiscal year, bringing the total budgetary authority for 2020-21 to $863.9 million.

Also, the 2021-22 main estimates include a budgetary authority of $794.5 million—an increase of $25.5 million from the previous fiscal year.

I would like to highlight a few key funding areas.

I mentioned Bill C-15 and our commitment to changing the relationship between the crown and indigenous peoples. To this end, the supplementary and main estimates include $2.6 million from the $2.8 million in funding announced in the 2020 fall economic statement. Coupled with funding provided to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to support indigenous partners, this funding will help us continue the engagement process as the legislation moves through Parliament.

The supplementary and main estimates also include an increase of $7.3 million per year to continue to respond to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report. This will extend family information liaison units and community-based services to provide direct support to families of victims.

We are also focused on supporting the courts. The supplementary estimates of both the court administration service and the registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada include funding to help courts serve Canadians and adapt to new realities.

The supplementary estimates also include $20.3 million to address immigration and refugee legal aid pressures, to help provinces maintain service delivery levels and prevent processing delays for asylum seekers.

We are also taking action to better respond to the needs of families, particularly children, during divorce or separation. The supplementary and main estimates include, respectively, $1 million and $6.7 million to implement new family support enforcement provisions and to increase access to family justice services in the official language of one's choice.

Budget 2019 announced funding of $21.6 million over five years, starting in 2020-21, to support these provisions. These funds will help the department transform the Canadian justice system to better serve all Canadians. Our government will continue to push ahead with measures to create a strong, equitable and effective justice system that protects Canadians, their communities and their rights.

Thank you for your time. I'm now happy to take questions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 24th, 2021 / 7:40 p.m.
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada