An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code

Sponsor

David Lametti  Liberal

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of April 20, 2021

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Judges Act to restrict eligibility for judicial appointment to persons who undertake to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context. It also amends the Judges Act to provide that the Canadian Judicial Council should report on seminars offered for the continuing education of judges on matters related to sexual assault law and social context. Finally, it amends the Criminal Code to require that judges provide reasons for decisions in sexual assault proceedings.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Nov. 23, 2020 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code
Oct. 19, 2020 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising in this House to speak to Bill C-3, a piece of legislation that is absolutely vital. It is vital not only for today, but for the future on so many fronts.

Before I do that, I would really like to make a huge recognition of a life lost yesterday on Manitoulin Island, of an OPP officer for 28 years in the Little Current dispatch. He responded to a call only to not be able to go home and see his family.

I have first cousins who serve on the OPP. One of them, in fact, ironically, is the captain of the Chris D. Lewis OPP boat in my riding. I get asked a lot if I named that boat. The truth of the matter is that I did not; I am Chris B. Lewis.

We thank Constable Marc Hovingh for his service, not only to Ontario but to Canada.

I got a text from my mother last night. She is in Silver Water with my father. I know I am not speaking to Bill C-3, but this is very important. She sent me a text asking what was going on in Gore Bay. I told her I did not know what she was talking about. This is where our family cottage of 23 years is. To find out when such hurt happens on the largest freshwater island in the world and the smallest community, quite frankly, it is astonishing and it is sad.

My heart goes out to the family of Constable Hovingh and to all the residents of Manitoulin Island. I know he will be dearly missed, and I thank him very much for his service.

I would ask this House to please join me, just for 20 seconds of thought for the constable. This is absolutely astonishing. I will take 20 seconds of my time to remember him.

[A moment of silence observed]

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that very much as well and again, our hearts are with you and all the members of Manitoulin.

I have been reflecting on Bill C-3 and what an honour it is to stand in the House in this place. At the same time, I look at it from a different angle and l say why do I have the right to stand in the House and speak to Bill C-3. It is not because I sit on the justice committee. It is not because my office overlooks the Supreme Court of Canada, it is because I was duly elected to come to this place to represent all of my constituents.

I am a bit of a political geek. Along my path of trying to become a politician, I used to go on the various parties' websites and look at each individual MP and always be in absolute awe and dive into what they were doing and saying. Rona Ambrose was one person who resonated with me. For some reason, she really stuck with me and it took until last night for me to really understand why that was. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity yet to meet Ms. Ambrose and I hope at some point I do. I would love to talk to her at some point in time and what better platform to use than the House.

She was so far ahead of her time on this legislation. Unfortunately, as we all know, it has been introduced twice. It has failed twice and now it is being introduced for the third time. I believe it will get unanimous consent in the House and I do not want to speak for anyone, but I believe that to be the case. We have to celebrate the groundbreaking achievements that she made with this legislation. I want to thank Ms. Ambrose for her leadership on this legislation and I could never be prouder than to stand here in this place and speak to that.

I have 20 minutes, but I could probably talk for two hours or more.

First and foremost, there are four females in my life who have been incredibly influential to me along the way on my path to where I stand here today, proud and excited to be a Canadian.

First and foremost is my mother. My mother allowed me opportunity. She allowed me the gift of being myself. She allowed me the gift of openness, truthfulness, not being pushed into a corner. She allowed me to smile. She allowed me to make my own decisions without fault and for that I will always be grateful.

The second person I admire, and this is a slippery slope, is my lovely wife Allison. It always goes my mother and then my wife, because my mom is the one who is going to send me a text afterward.

The second one is my wife Allison, coming up on 22 years, a woman who, again, allows me to do what she knows I believe is right, is right for Canada and is right for this world. She gives me the freedom. She gives me the longest dog leash ever to let me come to Ottawa and do what is right, absolutely without any question.

The third woman, who is why I am so passionate about Bill C-3 today, is my daughter Faith. Faith is 17 years old. She is going to graduate, likely with honours, this year from grade 12. Her ambition in life, all she wants to do, is to be a veterinarian. Notwithstanding the fact that it is tougher to get into the school to become a veterinarian in Canada than to become a general practitioner, the very fact is I do not care what she wants to do, but I am awfully proud of her.

Regarding the fourth person, about a year and a half ago when I was running to become a member of Parliament, I went to a school in the town of Essex, in my riding, and I spoke to a grade 5 class. When I got there with my handler, so to speak, we had to go to the principal's office. Who greeted me, other than this amazing young woman?

Her name is Jade. She is about yea tall, and has the most bubbly, energetic, fantastic, positive attitude one could ever imagine. I am telling members that they have never met anybody like this. By the way, I am happy that she is as young as she is, because she could run for my spot and probably beat me. She is just fantastic, and there are no rules with her. Yesterday, because I have not had a chance to talk to Jade as of late, I asked her teacher from last year if we could please set up a Zoom call, and we did. Not only did I get to speak to Jade for about 20 minutes, I also got to speak to the rest of the class.

Why am I saying this? Every day that we wake up we can learn something new, and I have to tell the House that if I did not say this, it would be an injustice to Jade. I asked Jade to tell me something exciting and what she wants to do. I was thinking she wanted to be the Prime Minister of Canada. I did not know what she wanted to do. Members have to understand that this beautiful young lady is just fantastic and full of passion for life. She said she wants to work in a museum.

I said, “In a museum? That is neat. Tell me something that I do not know.”

She said, “I know,” and she had her hand up.

I love it. She said, “I bet you don't know what a pangolin is.”

I said, “A penguin?”

She replied, “A pangolin.”

I said, “I have never heard of a pangolin in my life.”

She said, “Well, it's just an aardvark with a whole bunch of scales on it, and they're really pointy, so nothing can get at it.”

I said, “Wow.”

Her teacher from last year, Mrs. Armstrong, was an enormous role model for that young woman, and I thank Mrs. Armstrong enormously for what she has done. I am telling members that Jade is the reason I stand in the House so proudly, and I know we have to fight going forward.

Why do I bring up these stories? Why do I bring up the women? It is because it is absolutely vital that we protect them. Let us just suggest, for a moment, that my mother, my wife, my daughter or Jade, along that path, had been assaulted. I do not believe any of them have ever been assaulted, but in the event that they had been, how would that have impacted my life? How would it have steered the ship of my life if they had not received due justice? Because of that, I am incredibly proud to stand here and celebrate my mentors. I am sure the members of the House have many mentors as well.

I had a Zoom meeting on October 27 with an amazing woman: Marion Overholt. We discussed the training for judges on sexual assault cases. I am going to read through a few of her points. First and foremost, I was a firefighter for seven and a half years, and we responded to all types of calls, whether a fire or a heart attack, but we responded, at some times, to assault victims, when the ambulance could not get there quickly enough. I remember one very dearly that I will not give details of. I recall it like it was yesterday, but I did not realize the people who were behind this. As a firefighter, I would go and put a fire out and go home to my family, but it continues on. I did not realize that until after this discussion with Ms. Overholt.

She has actually appeared before the justice committee in the past. She has 37 years of practice. She is a community legal aid worker, and works out of the local OPP detachment. She said, “In the past, victims have shied away from pressing charges, because they do not think that they would be believed.” That is an incredibly powerful statement. If those four main ladies in my life did not believe that they would be believed, it would be an absolute injustice.

Ms. Overholt went on to say that sexual assault often happens in private, intimate settings involving no witnesses and often without clear evidence. The narrow focus then becomes about credibility. Often, the victim will not testify but the complainant will, potentially widening the gap.

What does that mean? To me it means this, and I am going to go back to the basics.

Next year, hopefully, I will proudly see my daughter off to university somewhere, be it in Calgary, Guelph or the U.S. if COVID ever gets under control there. I believe that she needs the right, the confidence and the belief that if something happens to her, she can come forward and have a voice and not feel victimized, but will know that the courts and the justice will do their due diligence for her.

Getting back to my meeting on October 27th, Ms. Overholt went on to say that Crown prosecutors don't actually represent the victim. They represent the Crown, whereas the defence lawyer is there for the defendant.

That was an interesting conversation. The next time I am told that I am guilty or that I am a victim, I would certainly think that the Crown would go the other way and reach out to the victim, especially when the victim does not necessarily have a voice.

She went on to say that the burden of proof is high: Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Victims often describe the trial as being worse than the assault.

What does that mean? We had some great discussion about this.

It takes so long to get to court. If somebody is victimized tomorrow, blessed that they are not, it can take years to get to court. By the time it gets to court, the healing process of the victim has begun to, I would suggest rudely, at least put a scab on it. The moment that it goes back to the court, the victim has to look the defendant in the eye, listen to the testimony, and the band-aid with the scab comes off, and they have to again live through what they already went through years prior. It is deplorable, and it is wrong.

I will speak quickly about training.

As I mentioned, I was in the fire department, and I trained for CPR, WHMIS and high-angle rescue ropes. In my personal business, I had to train for confined space. There were all kinds of training. This upcoming week, as a member of Parliament, I am taking harassment training. My point is that nobody is above the law, and should not be. If members of Parliament are good enough to do training, surely our judges are fine to do training. Why do I say that? Well, nobody is perfect. I do not really call it “training” so much as “tools in the tool chest.” Let us have an open discussion, and if there is a case in Ontario then let us see what is happening in B.C. If there is a case in B.C., let us see what is happening in Newfoundland, and let those judges integrate and talk about this, because, quite frankly, this is a much larger discussion.

To conclude, I really want to thank Ms. Ambrose for bringing this legislation forward. I will be very proud and honoured to vote in favour of Bill C-3.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 10:25 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, Bill C-3 is about training judges related to sexual assaults, and is applicable to federally appointed judges.

The member made reference to being proud of his daughter. Yesterday, my daughter, who happens to be an MLA in the province of Manitoba, introduced the province's Bill 215, which is known as the provincial court amendment act. In essence, it does the same thing that Bill C-3 does for federally appointed judges. For us as a society to be able to move further on this issue, we need provincial and territorial legislatures to adopt similar legislation, so as he is proud of his daughter, I too am proud of my daughter.

I would encourage the Manitoba legislature to do what the House of Commons has done, and recognize a good idea that was brought forward by a Conservative interim leader. It will be supported unanimously here. Would the member recommend that the Manitoba legislature do likewise?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I have listened to the speeches throughout the week. There have been very heartfelt stories from all sides of the House. Just as we talk about the stigma associated with mental health, mental illness and mental injury, I cannot help but think Bill C-3 would help break the stigma and allow people to come forward more.

My colleague, the member Brampton North, is the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. She gave very impactful testimony about three sisters from my riding, the Pooni sisters, who came forward and gave their testimony about a long-standing issue of abuse.

Could my hon. colleague expand on how the bill would help break the stigma, obviously not everything, and critical barrier for those coming forward?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

As I prepared to talk today about Bill C-3, I could not help, like many of us I am sure, to think back to what we had experienced and learned over the course of our lives. I am firmly ensconced in white guy middle age, in old white guy zone.

However, I started out in public life as quite a young guy. I was 21 when I was first elected to Huntsville town council and the Muskoka regional council, and I did not know anything. I was fairly clueless and needed to learn an awful lot. Among the first things I learned about were the needs that existed in my community.

There is a perception of Muskoka as the playground of the rich and the famous and that everything is rainbows and sunshine. However, the reality in a place like Muskoka, and certainly the entire part of my riding, Parry Sound and Muskoka, is that the people who live and work in these communities year-round have a median income about 20% lower than the provincial average. There are struggles, there is a housing crisis and there are a lot of social problems, which I, as a kid, tended to think only existed in places like big cities.

I was in the home of a good friend of mine, Claude Doughty from Huntsville. He was the mayor at that time. He was a dentist in town and left his practice to become a developer, and he has built lots of wonderful things. His wife Kim Doughty is one of the most dynamic women I have ever known. They live in a beautiful home overlooking Fairy Lake, a gorgeous, absolutely stunning place. We were sipping on a Heineken and thinking about how this was all wonderful and we had great things going on in our town.

Claude's wife Kim came home and she was clearly upset. She had a difficult day. I knew she worked with Muskoka victim services. I asked her what had happened that day. She proceeded to tell me some of the most tragic and heart-wrenching stories I had ever heard. What struck me more than anything was that the situations she described, these traumas, these fears, these anxieties that existed, were literally blocks away from this home in the lap of luxury overlooking Fairy Lake.

Claude and I were both quite distraught by what we heard and decided we needed to do something, so we got to work. I immediately spoke with the executive director of Muskoka Women's Advocacy Group, which ran a shelter for women, called Interval House, in Bracebridge. We recognized that we needed to do more for north Muskoka and certainly into the Parry Sound area.

Claude, with his building expertise, donated a piece of land. We started a campaign that consumed the community. We were able to build a six-room shelter and 10-unit transitional housing facility for women escaping violence in their homes. As that project started, I came to know an awful lot more people in the social service industry and business in our area.

One of the other amazing people I met through the process of starting this was a woman by the name of Carolyn Bray. Carolyn was the executive director of the YWCA of Muskoka. People called it the Y without walls. It was not about gyms; it was about programs and supporting women and girls. I learned a lot from Carolyn about the issue of sexual violence and how, yes, they were most certainly victims. However, she recognized the importance of not just supporting women and girls, but helping little boys who may have grown up in a circumstance where they saw domestic violence, saw the way their father treated their mothers and because of their own lack of understanding, fears, anxieties and mental health, modelled the same behaviour when they became intimate partners.

Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Security means without care and without anxiety. Sadly, we know not all Canadians experience security.

Sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not declining, and 67% of Canadians know a woman who has experienced sexual violence. Roughly 6,000 women and children sleep in shelters on any given night in our country. Despite these numbers, only 5% of sexual assaults were reported to police in 2014.

We know it is because of the fear. We have heard people talk about how women are afraid to approach the justice system for fear of being revictimized or reliving the pain of the experience.

I have had the privilege of learning throughout my life and growing up into this role. As shocking as what I heard many years ago in the lovely home of Mr. Doughty, it is dismaying that we are still here talking about these things, that we have not solved these problems.

Bill C-3 is an important next step. It is really a minor next step. We have much more work to do. I am honoured that I have the opportunity to speak in favour of the bill. As a new member of Parliament. who oftentimes sees how dysfunctional this place can be and how it takes forever to get anything done, I am thrilled that everybody gets the importance of the bill, of supporting women and ensuring that all women feel the same security and liberty I feel.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 10:45 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by acknowledging that I am speaking today from the traditional territory of WSÁNEC peoples. I raise my hands to them. Hych'ka Siem. All honour to my colleagues gathered here.

I want to specifically thank the hon. member for Parry Sound—Muskoka and the Conservative caucus for organizing this morning's speeches so as to allow me an opportunity to speak to the bill. It highlights what I think will be a theme for what I want to say about Bill C-3in that, right from the beginning, this bill started from a vantage point of non-partisanship. It was generous of the official opposition to grant me a speaking slot this morning as we are coming together to support good legislation.

We, of course, have referenced many times, that the origin of this legislation is entirely non-partisan in that, as we all know, it was put forward by Rona Ambrose. It is an extremely important piece of legislation. She put it forward when she was interim leader of the Conservative Party. It did pass Parliament. As we all know, it got bogged down in the Senate.

To see it come back here now as a Liberal government piece of legislation is extremely heartening. It is important legislation. I want to emphasize a couple of things in today's presentation to let the Canadian public know the ways in which the bill has been improved from when it was first tabled, and improved again in a spirit of non-partisanship.

The essence of the bill, of course, is found in many decisions that enraged citizens of Canada. Men, women and non-binary people looked at this issue and asked, “What on earth?” How can we have judges make pronunciations from the bench, and I have already spoken to this in the House, such as that of the judge who famously asked why the victim did not keep her knees together?

Judges make assumptions against the interests of victims, assumptions that a woman who had been sexually assaulted would not have responded in a certain way, or that she would do the following things. Judges without any training imagine what they might do in similar circumstances, and then they hold that as evidence against the veracity of a victim's claims. These things are what gave rise to this bill.

However, I can say now, and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre just made this point, that much of what is in this legislation could have been taken from a report that was not yet written when Rona Ambrose presented this bill as a private member's bill. It was not written yet, because the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry had not been reported.

I would point out to members themes 16, 17 and18, and part 3 of the report of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, which point to these very factors that judges and the judicial system do not understand and do not recognize. They do not take the sexual assault and high levels of violence against indigenous women seriously. They do not take it seriously, and they do not understand that they need to learn more. That is spoken to in this bill.

At the point the bill came forward, we have been very occupied as a society with questions of violence against racialized people, now the acronym BIPOC for Black, indigenous, people of colour. They are more at risk of violence and more at risk, in disproportionate numbers, of being jailed for crimes.

Again, this is a non-partisan observation, but the bill is improved through the work that was done in committee. Whereas I initially, and I apologize to the people who I took by surprise, thought that we all agreed on this bill and that it should move along a little faster, the time in committee was well spent.

The existence of a Black parliamentary caucus is relatively new, and it was formed as the world responded to the horrors racism and violence by police. That response was crystallized with the murder of George Floyd. There is now a Black parliamentary caucus.

That caucus is multi-party, and it took it upon itself to say that while the bill is to train judges to understand how women experience sexual violence, as well as how evidence should be received and how women are re-traumatized by that experience, could we not also use this training opportunity to broaden what judges learn.

For Canadians watching this, the bill now includes language that the continuing education for judges on matters related to sexual assault and social context now include the specific language “which includes systemic racism and systemic discrimination”. Again, it was a multi-party response and a way to improve the legislation.

I am particularly so proud of the work of the hon. member for Fredericton, who is a member of the Green caucus. Her amendment was accepted. Many Canadians would not know that as a party with fewer than 12 members of Parliament, Green Party MPs are not allowed to sit on committees. However, we do have a process, which is new since Stephen Harper. We can look at this new process as an opportunity, or we can look at it as being compelled to be at clause-by-clause in committee, but it is quite worthwhile when an amendment gets passed.

In this case, for her work, the hon. member for Fredericton is responsible for the amendment in the law, which, in reference to the group of people who advise on the content of the training judges are to receive, now includes the language, “Indigenous leaders and representatives of Indigenous communities”. That is a quote from the legislation with the new amendment thanks to the hon. member for Fredericton.

This legislation shows what we can do when we rise to our best selves, decide that an issue is not partisan, and embrace what my mother raised me to believe, which is that we can accomplish anything we want if we do not care who gets the credit. In this process, credit goes to everyone involved.

I thank again the Hon. Rona Ambrose for bringing this forward. I thank the hon. Minister of Justice and the current government for bringing it back to us as government legislation. I send thanks to everyone who laid a single hand. There are many fingerprints on this legislation, and they are all helpful. They are healing; they are feminist; they are racialized. However, we understand that we must do better.

This legislation is a first step. We must do more to ensure proper services for women who have been victims of sexual violence. For members who are looking for a model for their own community, in Victoria, B.C., the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre and Clinic is an absolute model for how to aid victims of sexual assault and violence. We must do more in our communities, and we must do more as parliamentarians.

I appreciate the time allowed this morning to speak to the bill. I look forward to its passage. I hope it will be unanimous.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Jag Sahota Conservative Calgary Skyview, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Cumberland—Colchester.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code. This bill is very important to me as a lawyer, as a woman, but also as the shadow minister for women and gender quality. As such, I am pleased to stand in this place and debate the bill.

However, I am disappointed that because of the Prime Minister's continual lapse in ethical judgment, instead of facing scrutiny for his decisions, he chose to prorogue Parliament and the casualty was having to reintroduce the bill, meaning victims of sexual assaults still cannot get due justice. It is shameful.

Bill C-3 would add new eligibilities for lawyers seeking appointment to the judiciary to require the completion of a recent and comprehensive education in sexual assault law as well as social context education. It would require the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament regarding the details on seminars offered on matters relating to sexual assault law and the number of judges attending. It would do this while still maintaining the balance between judiciary independence and a fair criminal justice system, which is very important to me and to all Canadians.

The rational for the need for the bill is all too familiar, given the recent spotlight on the treatment of sexual assault victims during trial. Sadly, this certainly is not something that is new.

Let us explore the current state as it stands now.

There is piecemeal training and education available in certain jurisdictions but it is not mandatory. In 2016, a judge was found to have relied on myths about the expected behaviour of a victim of sexual abuse. That case was overturned on appeal for obvious reasons.

We have heard instances of judges using insensitive language. For example, in 2014, Justice Camp made a comment to a sexual assault victim in my home city of Calgary, asking her why she could not keep her knees closed together. Comments like Justice Camp's are all too familiar and further lead to the stigma that the courts are not there to protect the victims.

In 2019, nearly a dozen cases were going through Canada's court system that shed light on how some judges continued to rely on myths and stereotypes when informing their decisions on sexual assault cases.

We are still hearing similar misinformation about the experience of sexual assault victims or victims of abuse, which can lead to poor decisions and, as we have seen, possible miscarriages of justice sometimes resulting in new trials. Retrials can be incredibly painful for complainants, potentially further revictimizing them as they have to relive the trauma by constantly retelling lawyers and judges their horrific experiences, in some cases, preventing them from being able to mentally heal.

The way victims are treated during their court proceedings as well as in the public eye is a major hindrance to reporting the crime in the first place, particularly if the person who committed the assault is someone in a position of authority or if it is someone they know, such as a father, brother or uncle.

Other victims witness how other sexual assault victims are treated in the justice system and are terrified that if they come forward, they will be treated the same way. It is well-documented that sexual assault cases are one of the most under-reported crimes in Canada. Of reported cases, only 12% result in a criminal conviction within six years compared to 23% of physical assaults, as reported by Statistics Canada.

We know the reasons for under-reporting include shame, guilt and stigma of sexual victimization. Because of this, many victims do not believe they will see a positive outcome in the justice system, which is why they do not come forward. This simply cannot stand.

What can we do? The best way to prevent this type of sentiment is through education and training. The path forward that this legislation sets out would allow for more confidence in the criminal justice system by ensuring lawyers who are appointed to the bench are trained and educated in this very specific type of case.

The hope is that once this bill passed, and with education and training, the future state will be that the stories we once heard of victims being made to feel less than will not be repeated. This legislation is intended to help reduce the stigma of coming forward to report the crime and to see justice prevail for the victims.

The hope is that with education and training, victims of sexual assault will be treated with respect to avoid at all costs revictimizing them, which can be incredibly traumatizing for the individual. This will let other victims know they can be confident in our justice system and feel safe in coming forward.

Ms. Ambrose, as she provided her testimony before the status of women committee, said, “Really, to be honest, for me it's about building confidence. Women do not have confidence in our justice system when it comes to sexual assault law.”

This has to change if we are ever going to see an increase in sexual assault being reported and convicted. This piece of legislation will bring us one step closer to eliminating barriers and giving victims of sexual assault more confidence to come forward.

I hope this bill passes quickly as this will only move us forward as a society and help grow confidence in our justice system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, at third reading. Bill C-3 should receive all-party support since it is a vital step forward in achieving justice and equity for women and girls who are still too often affected by rape and sexual assault in our society today. It is still very much misunderstood, and it is an affront to all women.

Bill C-3 would amend the Judges Act to require candidates seeking an appointment to a provincial superior court to commit to participating in training related to sexual assault law and social context. This is a critical piece of legislation that is necessary to ensure that judges understand the context in which offending occurs. Thanks to amendments made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, candidates must also commit to participate in training on systemic racism and systemic discrimination. This is an idea, and a bill, whose time has come.

The bill would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to ensure that those knowledgeable in the field, potentially including sexual assault survivor organizations, are consulted in the development of this new training.

The bill would also assist in assuring transparency in judicial decision-making by amending the Criminal Code's sexual assault provisions to include a requirement that judges provide reasons for their decisions either in writing or in the record of the proceedings. This requirement complements existing legal requirements for reasons, including specific obligations for judges to provide reasons in sexual history evidence. These amendments are critical to a fair and effective response to sexual assault, which we know disproportionately impacts women and girls.

Canada has come a long way in this regard. We have one of the most robust sexual assault legal frameworks in the world, but we must not forget the misogynistic myths and stereotypes to which Canada's existing legal and, I would say, largely patriarchal regime responds, nor the fact that those very same misogynistic myths and stereotypes persist to this day.

For example, pre-1983, sexual offending laws were repealed and replaced with the affirmative consent model that we now have in place. The previous laws accepted as fact, first of all, that a complainant who fails to resist is in fact consenting and, second, that a complainant who consented to sexual activity with the accused before an alleged sexual assault likely also consented to any subsequent sexual activity. We now know that these are false. They are misogynistic myths and stereotypes that distort the court's ability to seek the truth.

We also now know that they have a detrimental impact on victims who, as I have said, are overwhelmingly women and girls. Their impact is compounded when they intersect with other discriminatory stereotypes. In particular, they deter women and girls from coming forward to denounce their assailants, which means that those assailants cannot be held accountable.

While I was in the legislature in Nova Scotia for 10 years as an MLA, a bill came before us. I rose in the House as the status of women critic to discuss these issues and the fact that too many women and girls were part of the #MeToo movement because we have been sexually assaulted or raped in our lives, if not once, possibly twice. We never know. Sadly, this is a major crime and should be considered a major crime in Canada. We need help to make sure that assailants are taken to task and that this does not continue to happen.

In Nova Scotia, there was a case where a young woman was raped in a taxi and the reason given in court was that she was drunk and, therefore, the judge said even drunk people can consent. She was passed out. I do not think a woman who is passed out in the back of a taxi, expecting to be driven home after she has given her address, should be held accountable for the male driver stopping the taxi and raping her in the back seat.

As a staunch feminist, and as somebody who has been sexually assaulted and raped in her lifetime, I can say that these kinds of laws need to be changed and amended. Otherwise, more women and girls will not be able to come forward, just as I did not 30 years ago.

When a law is misapplied, appeals follow. Perhaps even a new trial will be ordered. This can significantly lengthen the criminal justice process and continue to harm victims.

Victims tell us that their interactions with the criminal justice system are often experienced as revictimization. It is therefore critically important that sexual assault matters be resolved as quickly, efficiently, effectively and compassionately as possible. Otherwise, victims will not want to come forward to denounce their assailants. They will not have confidence in the system that is supposedly there to protect them.

What can we do about this problem? How can we help our criminal justice system function fairly when addressing one of the most complex and, I would say, abhorrent human behaviours, a behaviour that is based on dominance, aggression, violence and power? It is not a sexual act in the sense of what some people may call sexy. It is violence and it is about power. It must be stopped, with zero tolerance.

I believe that all members of the House should support Bill C-3, which would assist in ensuring that judges have the education they need to understand sexual assault law, what misogyny is and systemic racism and to make the right decisions so that the right decision is made in each case. The people who are most impacted by the sexual offending and the social context in which the sexual offending occurs need to have justice and need to believe in our legal system.

With that, I will add that in Cumberland—Colchester we have many incredible feminists who are fighting for justice for women and girls. I would like to mention Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson in particular, who have been very vocal and very active with regard to laws about non-state torture and human trafficking and about our need to crack down on the awful actions of the people who are profiting from human trafficking and sex trafficking. It is our intent to bring Canada into the 21st century so that we have people who understand what feminism is really all about and its importance. It is important to understand where the woman is coming from in these cases.

As an actor, I did a scene where I was being raped at knifepoint. The director and producer, on the spur of the moment, wanted me to show my breasts. They wanted to show a knife cutting into my shirt to show my breasts, and I said I was not going to do that. I was a young actor but I stood up for myself. They said, “Well, what are we going to do, then?” They wanted the scene to be impactful. I said they could just pan up to my face and show how I feel, how the victim feels, instead of trying to titillate an audience with this act of violence and aggression. That is, in fact, what we did.

That is the kind of thinking that Canada needs, and more creative people need as well, so that we can stamp out this awful behaviour.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for sharing her story. It was so impactful. When a woman can stand in the House of Commons to share her story, we know we are doing our jobs.

One of the concerns I have right now relates to the discussions on COVID delays. This has to do with women as well. With COVID delays, is there a concern that some of these cases may be thrown out? I am not just looking at Bill C-3. What will happen if some people are outside of the normal time frame of 18 months? What does the member think the government can do, and what should we all be doing, to make sure that women find justice?

November 16th, 2020 / noon
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been some discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I think you will find the unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, report stage motions nos. 1 and 2 in amendment to Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of the Minister of Justice, be deemed adopted and that the House proceed immediately to the putting of the question on the motion for concurrence at report stage, provided that if a recorded division is requested, it shall not be deferred and the bill may be debated at third reading stage during the same sitting.

November 16th, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in support of moving Bill C-3 to the next stage of review.

I wanted to start by recognizing the work of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in conducting the clause-by-clause study of Bill C-3 in an expeditious and efficient manner so this important bill can continue to move forward. The version we have before the House today reflects a number of amendments that were adopted by the justice committee, and I will speak to those amendments in due course.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the important work that was done on a previous iteration of this bill during the 42nd Parliament by Ms. Rona Ambrose, the then interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. She presented this bill as a private member's bill, which gathered support of all members of Parliament and proceeded expeditiously through the House of Commons at that time.

It is unfortunate that it was not able to be passed in the 42nd Parliament and, as a result, has ended up before this current Parliament. In light of our belief in and support of this bill, we committed to tabling this legislation as government legislation, which is what we have done. We have seen it through now to this third reading debate.

The end goal of Bill C-3 is to bolster public confidence, particularly among survivors of sexual assault, that our criminal justice system will treat all individuals fairly. This fundamental objective was unanimously agreed to at second reading by the members, with a number of them speaking about painful personal experiences or their work with survivors of sexual assault.

These important statements bear witness to the fact that the sexual assault of women remains a scourge that is an affront to our society's reputation. It is a thorny and pervasive problem that every member of society must take seriously and that requires us to commit to making changes.

The bill, importantly, is not a panacea to this complex problem. However, Bill C-3 represents a small but important step toward transforming our justice system into one in which survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity and respect at all stages of the justice system process.

I strongly believe that as parliamentarians it behooves us to take whatever steps we can to move toward a fairer, more just and more accessible criminal justice system. If passed, the bill will enhance public confidence. It will demonstrate to survivors of sexual assault and to all Canadians Parliament's commitment to ensure they are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, and that the proceeding will be decided in accordance with the legal framework provided by Parliament, not influenced by misguided or outdated myths or stereotypes.

To this end, Bill C-3 proposes three key measures relating to judicial education and one relating to the Criminal Code of Canada. Let me outline these provisions.

First, the Judges Act would be amended to require that to be eligible to be appointed to a provincial superior court, candidates must commit to participate, following their appointment, in education on matters relating to sexual assault law and social context. It is important, and I want to open a parenthesis here, that we are dealing as a federal Parliament with judges that are within federal jurisdiction. The bill does not purport to direct, indicate or outline aspects of judges who are nominated by provincial attorneys general and provincial governments in provincial courts.

This remains an important point. The notion of sexual assault law and awareness of social context is important for all judges. However, we are committed to leading by example on this important legislation and also continuing to work at federal, provincial and territorial tables to ensure the concept of the importance of this kind of sensitization is imparted upon judges at all levels within Canada and by all provinces.

The second point is that Bill C-3 would amend the Judges Act to provide that sexual assault and social context training established by the Canadian Judicial Council be developed after consultation with survivors, the groups that support them or with other groups and individuals who the council considers appropriate.

The third key element in Bill C-3, touching on judicial education, is the provision that would seek to have the Canadian Judicial Council provide an annual report to the Minister of Justice, for tabling in Parliament, containing details relating to the judicial education offered. This is intended to enhance accountability in the education of sitting judges on these matters and act as an incentive to encourage their participation.

The final element in Bill C-3 is an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada that would require judges to provide reasons in writing or on the record of proceedings for their decision in sexual assault matters. This provision would help to prevent the misapplication of sexual assault law. It would also help to improve the transparency of sexual assault decisions, because recorded and written decisions can be reviewed. We heard about this extensively during the course of the two iterations of the bill and in the various committee studies. Not only must justice be done but it must be seen to be done, and a record of the proceedings and reasons provided help ensure this critical objective is obtained.

Taken together, these amendments would increase the confidence of the public and survivors in our criminal justice system's ability to handle sexual assault matters in a fair and respectful manner, by treating the victims with dignity and, above all, by respecting the law that has been carefully designed to that end.

Just as importantly, the bill will send Canadians, especially survivors of sexual assault, the message that Parliament is committed and ready to take action so that all Canadians, especially the most vulnerable, can have confidence in our justice system.

With this outline in mind, I would like to now turn to the amendments adopted at committee, which I am very happy to say our government is pleased to support.

The first key amendment made by the committee was to include the terms “systemic racism” and “systemic discrimination” within the idea of social context. Colleagues will recall that in 2017, in its consideration of Bill C-337, the private member's bill by Ms. Rona Ambrose which I mentioned at the outset, our government proposed an amendment in the House of Commons to include social context education within the scope of that bill in the 42nd Parliament. That amendment ended up being passed unanimously by the House of Commons.

Adding social context to the judicial education provisions of the old Bill C-337 was considered essential to ensuring that important institutions like the judiciary be able to respond to the realities, needs and concerns of all Canadians. This was intended as explicit recognition that knowledge of substantive law was insufficient on its own. Individuals aspiring to appointment to Canada's superior courts must also be willing to undergo continued education following their appointment to ensure they are sensitive to and informed about the evolving nature of Canadian society, particularly marginalized and vulnerable groups. The language that was chosen was very deliberately drafted to be as encompassing as possible without going down a path of enumerating certain concepts, classes, groups or demographics, which could open up parliamentarians to the possibility of having unwittingly or, indeed, inadvertently excluded some persons or groups.

This is not an idle concern. As I noted earlier, it is imperative that all Canadians see themselves in the institutions that are created to serve them and support our democracy. It is our role as parliamentarians to ensure this when considering legislation. I also fully expect that this issue will receive careful consideration in the Senate. I look forward to hearing the views of all Canadians and stakeholders to ensure we meet the expectations of Canadians and get this accurate.

It is important to outline for the members of the House that Canada's superior court judiciary was one of the first in the world to insist on the importance of integrating awareness of social context into all its substantive programming. Going back to 2018, the Canadian Judicial Council explicitly mandated that the professional development of judges include awareness of the social context in which they performed their functions.

I will quote from the Canadian Judicial Council's professional development policies and guidelines, which can be found on the council's website. The document states:

Judges must ensure that personal or societal biases, myths and stereotypes do not influence judicial decision-making. This requires awareness and knowledge of the realities of individuals who appear in court, including an understanding of circumstances related to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, sexual orientation, differing mental or physical abilities, age, socio-economic background, children and family violence.

This being said, the bill is a nuanced bill and an important one. We need to be careful in our approach. I say this because judicial independence is constitutionally protected. If I am allowed to digress a moment, this is an area in which I spent a large amount of my practice litigating in the 15 years I spent as a constitutional lawyer prior to entering Parliament.

Judicial independence is sacrosanct in any westernized democracy. It contains tenets that are obvious but often go unstated. We cannot influence the financial security of members of the bench. We cannot influence their tenure or seek to remove them of their tenure as a way of exercising influence. We also cannot, as a third hallmark of judicial independence, affect their administrative independence. A tangible example would be the government inserting itself in electing which judges hear what types of cases. That would clearly be offside our notion of democracy, but also offside the charter and the Constitution Act, 1867.

The administrative component of judicial independence requires judicial control over the training and education of judges. This ensures that judges in our country are not, and are not perceived to be, subject to arbitrary interference or influence in their decision-making. This is a critical concept, and that is why it is entrenched in the Constitution.

Bill C-3 and its predecessor, Bill C-5, were carefully drafted to ensure ultimate judicial control over judicial education.

I will turn to the amendment that was proposed, expressing Parliament's view that systemic racism and systemic discrimination are included within the idea of social context does not upset this very careful balance. The judiciary would still retain the direction and delivery of judicial education in a manner that fully respects judicial independence. At the same time, Parliament is able to fulfill Canadians' expectations that it has a role in addressing issues of pressing public importance. The issues of systemic racism and systemic discrimination are long standing, particularly with respect to our justice system. However, it goes without saying that public awareness of these concepts has clearly come to the fore during this pandemic.

I want to outline two specific instances and thank two specific members who participated in those committee proceedings: the member for Hull—Aylmer and the member for Sydney—Victoria. They talked eloquently about the pernicious aspects of systemic racism and systemic discrimination vis-à-vis Black people and indigenous people in Canada. I salute them for their work in with respect to the Black caucus and the indigenous caucus, but also for their contributions at the committee by suggesting amendments that are very targeted but very necessary in expanding out the idea of what social context includes.

I will now turn to the next set of amendments that were proposed by members of the third party, the Bloc Québécois. Members will note that some of the provisions have been slightly altered. For example, the word “shall” has been changed to “should” in certain contexts. Minor changes have also been made in relation to other provisions. These amendments were intended to address the possible perception that Parliament, in potentially enacting Bill C-3, could be purporting to direct the judiciary in respect of judicial education. While this perception, in my view, is improbable, our government is prepared to support these amendments out of an abundance of caution.

At this point, I want to briefly bring the attention of members to the government motion to amend Bill C-3 at the report stage to correct an unintended inconsistency between the English and the French versions of the amendments proposed by the Bloc members. These amendments are clearly necessary and uncontroversial, and I would expect all hon. members to vote to support them to ensure the amendments intended by the committee are reflected in both our official languages.

Again, the principle of judicial independence cannot be overstated. As I have emphasized, Parliament's efforts to bolster public confidence in our justice system cannot at the same time undermine this constitutionally protected principle. I fully expect that our esteemed colleagues in the Senate will likewise give this issue their careful attention, and I look forward to that for two reasons: first, because a vigorous public debate is essential to a healthy democracy; and, second, because in this instance such a debate will, in and of itself, serve to reassure the public of the strength of judicial independence in the country and the regard that our Parliament has for this important constitutional principle.

We are very fortunate in Canada to have one of the most, if not the most, robustly independent and highly regarded judiciaries in the world. This is in no small part due to the availability of the excellent publicly funded but judicially controlled continuing education to which the superior court judiciary has access.

Members heard me refer to some of the contours of what that education looked like as of 2018. This is a step in the same vein and direction to ensuring that education continues to be robust and indeed among the best standards, literally on the planet, for the judiciary in a westernized democracy.

I also applaud those parliamentarians before us who had the foresight to embed the availability of funding for judicial education in the Judges Act, and the Canadian Judicial Council for its leadership in recognizing that professional development and lifelong learning are critical to ensuring a judiciary that is well educated, professional and, indeed critically, independent.

The commitment of the Canadian Judicial Council to excellent continuing education is manifested in its professional development policies and guidelines, which I know explicitly recognize that the public rightfully expects judges to be competent and knowledgeable in the law. Bill C-3 seeks only to support and build on this notion and thereby move toward a better, more humane and more inclusive justice system.

I am going to conclude my remarks where I started: by acknowledging the challenges faced by survivors of sexual assault. Those challenges go well beyond the scope of the bill. We must recognize that in order to effect meaningful and substantial changes to the manner in which survivors of sexual assault are treated in our criminal justice system, every actor in the justice system, and every level of government, must take responsibility. That is what I referred to regarding the passage of the bill in the context of working with federal, provincial and territorial partners, and ensuring that the actions we may take through the bill, with respect to judges appointed to Superior Courts, are replicated in actions we may see, and hope to see, in provincial appointments to the bench.

It also goes without saying that the bill would not have had its genesis without the leadership of Ms. Rona Ambrose. It is important to note that when a member of the official opposition presents a bill that the government gets behind, it truly demonstrates the nonpartisan nature of what we are speaking about when we speak about sexual assault law, the importance of ensuring public confidence in our judiciary, social context, and confronting systemic racism and systemic discrimination. These concepts should never be partisan. I am thankful that in the context of the bill in its current iteration, partisanship has not entered into the discussion. This is representative of how important these concepts are for all of us as parliamentarians. I would urge all members to take the small but important next step to vote to move the bill into the next phase so that it can be addressed by the Senate. On that note, I conclude my remarks.

November 16th, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, today is my third attempt to speak to Bill C-3 in the House. The first time, there was not enough time and I was interrupted. The second time, there was a technical problem, unfortunately. This time, I finally have enough time.

On our side of the House, we have certainly made a good effort to indicate the challenges females face when they are in positions of power and the judgments they face on a daily basis in terms of what they wear, their makeup and how they express themselves.

This is something my colleagues in the House are not unfamiliar with. They are very aware of it, and my colleagues on this side of the House have done a very good job of expressing that and noting the challenges they have faced throughout their political careers as they have attempted to express who they are and represent their constituents in the most authentic way possible.

Sometimes I get comments on Facebook or Twitter. People say that my eyelashes are too big or my makeup is too dark. It does not bother me, because inside I know who I am. I know my family loves me and my friends love me.

One of those special friends is a woman by the name of Rona Ambrose. I first met her at the Conservative Party convention in 2005 in Montreal. It was really something to meet her. I thought, “Oh my goodness, I am meeting Rona Ambrose.” Fortunately, I have a friend who is a family relative of hers, so I would see her from time to time in Ottawa during my time at Global Affairs. I would run into her on a street corner downtown and it was always lovely to see her.

Throughout my nomination she was incredibly supportive, as she was during the election campaign, and I have one special memory of her. My campaign office was set up, and all the media were there because she was visiting. I recall that right before we walked into the office together, she took a moment and said, “Stop". She said she had to think about what she was going to say and needed to collect her thoughts. For me, that was such an incredible lesson: We should be clear and concise in the words being communicated in the House of Commons as official representatives of the people.

I will never forget this time she came to my campaign office. That moment really sticks with me. We were in the back of a strip mall and she just said, “Stop". It was such a pivotal moment in my political career.

My other dear memory of Rona is when I won the by-election and she walked me into the House of Commons. That is a moment I will never forget. I remember being in the antechamber waiting. My husband and son were there, and there were other federal cabinet ministers ready to walk us in. She turned to me and said, “Put on the biggest smile you possibly can because this is a moment that will go down in your history. This is the single moment that will be seen over and over again.” She was absolutely correct. When I look at all of my videos from the three and a half years since being elected to the House, that video stands out.

There are many special things about Rona, and I would like to think she and I are similar. We both speak more than two languages, we both have a master's degree and we both display a class and decorum that the House deserves. However, what I think is most special about her is that she recognized something in me and encouraged me in seeing that something special.

This is something Rona Ambrose has now dedicated her life to: She is mentoring, encouraging and promoting women all around the world. It is therefore no surprise to me that she introduced this significant piece of legislation.

I was very fortunate to attend an event in Calgary last year with SOS Children's Villages Canada, at which she was the guest speaker. She had incredible stories about her time in the House.

She talked about one time when, as minister of the environment, she was meeting her U.S. counterpart. She was in a room waiting for her U.S. counterpart to arrive and a secret security agent told her, “Listen here little lady; you have to clear this room. There are important people who are about to meet here, two ministers.” She said, “I am one of the ministers.” It is astounding that in this day and age, a conversation like that would happen, but it did.

What is so special about her and this legislation is that it would allow people to tell their stories. Is that not really what justice and truth are about? It is about the opportunity for people to share their stories.

I want give a special shout-out to all of the participants at the Results Canada conference this weekend. Yesterday morning I woke up at nine o'clock and looked at my calendar. I turned to my husband and said, “Oh, my goodness, I'm scheduled to be a keynote speaker for Results Canada in half an hour.” I wondered why I put myself through this at 9:30 on a Sunday morning, and it became very apparent to me that I do it for myself because it is so inspiring to share stories and motivate young people. That is really what Rona Ambrose is about. She allows people to tell their stories.

Last March, right before the pandemic hit and before the shutdown, I was very fortunate to attend an incredible event that happens every year in Calgary, where people have an opportunity to tell their stories. This past year it was about women telling their stories. It is called the YWHISPER Gala, and it is put on by the local YWCA.

I want to give a special shout-out to the CEO, Sue Tomney, who does an incredible job. I also want to give a shout-out to Nesreen, who has always been incredibly instrumental in my relationship with that organization, and its incredible board of directors, including wonderful women such as Shannon Young. In my previous portfolio, I was shadow minister for families, children and social development, and I hope the minister sticks to his commitments to the YWCA.

Last year, the YWHISPER Gala had incredible guests Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, two women who won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite the movement. If ever anyone has an opportunity to read their book, She Said, it is filled with incredible stories that I believe are relevant to this piece of legislation today.

It notes what they went through to get the stories from women. The most telling story for me was about the first house they went to. They knocked on the door of a woman they were hoping to get insight and perspective from. She answered and said she had waited 25 years for them to knock on her door. She waited 25 years to tell her story. That is another reason this piece of legislation is so incredible. It speaks to Rona's foresight to allow people the opportunity to tell their stories.

These are not always bad, horrible, terrible stories, the kind we might hear in courtrooms or at the YWCA about horrific situations that women are escaping from. There are also good stories.

When I was preparing for this speech, the United States was looking to confirm the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett. There was so much light being shed on this potential justice, yet we do not focus on the incredible women within our own judicial system. I therefore want to take a moment to highlight the incredible women of our Supreme Court. Of course, to get into their entire resumés would take hours, so here is an overview.

There is the Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella. She is the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court. Previous to her appointment, she did significant work on equality, discrimination and disabilities.

There is the Honourable Andromache Karakatsanis. She served as Ontario's secretary of the cabinet and as clerk of the executive council from July 2000 to November 2002. As the province's senior public servant, she provided leadership to the Ontario public service and the deputy ministers. She was also involved in a lot of issues related to education, which is what the bill is about as well, so it is incredible to recognize her.

There is also the Honourable Suzanne Côté. She was a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, where she was head of the Montreal office's litigation group. Before that she was at Stikeman Elliott, where she was head of the litigation group as well. She is another incredible woman on our Supreme Court.

Finally, there is the Honourable Sheilah Martin, who, prior to being a Supreme Court justice, fought for equal justice for all. Of course, very dear to me is the fact that Justice Martin worked as a researcher and law professor at the University of Calgary from 1982 to 1986. She is another incredible woman that I want to shine a light on as we talk about Bill C-3, which would no doubt have significant implications for our justice system.

I will now go back to Rona Ambrose, who is another incredible individual. She had the vision and foresight for this legislation as a result of all the work she has done, and continues to do, with women and girls. I am sure members are aware that very recently she published her first book on girls, entitled The International Day of the Girl: Celebrating Girls Around the World, which is very special.

I remind members that Rona Ambrose is a Conservative woman and that Conservative women have really led the way here in the House of Commons. Since we are talking about stories of survivors and victims, who are often women, I will run through some of the incredible accomplishments of Conservative women in the House of Commons.

We had Ellen Fairclough, who was the first female cabinet minister and the first acting prime minister. That is no small feat.

Of course there is Flora MacDonald, who is very dear to my heart. She was the first female foreign affairs minister. As I was at Global Affairs for a significant period of time prior to being in the House of Commons, she really means a lot to me and touches my heart. I am not sure if I have shared this with the House, but oddly enough, on my first diplomatic trip to Washington, I was on the same flight as the Right Hon. Joe Clark, which I thought was significant.

Moving back to the incredible women from the Conservative movement, who can forget Deb Grey? I would like to think we have Deb Grey reincarnated in the member for Lakeland, another woman who shows that fire and passion for her constituents, for her party and for Canada. Deb Grey was the first woman to lead the official opposition, so another significant Conservative woman there. Of course, I would mention the first female Prime Minister of Canada, Kim Campbell.

I genuinely believe that the Liberals often feel that they own compassion, that they own the rights to people's stories. I am saying here today that they do not. This piece of legislation was brought forward by a prominent Conservative woman and former minister. I am very glad that the government took this legislation and moved forward with it from Minister Ambrose. I want to point out it really was upon former minister Ambrose to come up with this legislation and to say what we are hearing at this special time in history, which is “I see you and I believe you”. That is what Rona was thinking of when she came up with the idea for this piece of legislation.

Believing people's story is what this legislation is about. All that the bill is asking us to do is listen to people's stories and believe them, no matter what they are. I made this point to the Results Canada group yesterday, to be open-minded to the thoughts of Conservative women and to all young women and to see themselves as Conservative women. I was very happy to have that conversation. We are not told in our party what to think or what to believe. When I say “I see you, I believe you”, I see everyone and we believe everyone. These are the messages we are giving.

If any young women are thinking of putting their name forward for Conservative nominations, they will not get a phone call from the local party representative saying sorry, there will not be a nomination race, the position is being filled by another individual who is being appointed. This is because we believe in fair and democratic processes, but we also believe in women. We believe that women have it within them to run, to compete and to win. That is another thing that Rona Ambrose taught me.

As I said, the Liberals like to believe that they own compassion. They do not. They like to believe that they own the rights to people's stories. That is not true. I know this. Rona Ambrose knew this. That is the reason that she brought forth this legislation and that is all the bill is asking for, that those who have been entrusted with the greatest responsibility in our society be open to all of these stories, listen to all of these stories. That is really what this training is about: “I see you and I believe you”. I am grateful that Rona Ambrose put forward this legislation.

November 16th, 2020 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill with enthusiasm, just as we supported all its previous iterations.

We believe that victims of sexual assault must be well supported. The judicial process must be followed and, in our opinion, the only way to ensure that victims come forward and that there is due process, as our justice system requires, is to support the victims. We must ensure that judges who hear these cases do so with an open mind in order to be able to recognize the credibility of the victims and to examine the facts objectively and carefully.

In the past, there have been too many examples of situations where victims refused to come forward out of fear or a lack of trust in the judicial process. I believe that it is one of our main duties as legislators to ensure that victims of crime, no matter the crimes or the victims, trust the justice system enough to come forward and present their case.

That said, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Bloc Québécois finds it very unfortunate that the government is using victims of sexual assault to introduce notions into this bill that were not in the previous versions and that have nothing to do with the purpose of the legislation. I am talking about the notions of systemic racism and discrimination.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that racism and discrimination do not exist in Quebec and Canada. They exist, and we agree on that. We do not agree, however, on whether racism and discrimination are systemic or institutional.

These issues are not clear-cut and they are currently a topic of debate in Quebec. They are not clear-cut and no one can agree on the meaning of these words. When we held hearings in committee on the previous version of Bill C-3, we heard from a number of witnesses. However, we did not ask any of those witnesses questions about systemic racism, systemic discrimination or all of the other notions the government has put into in Bill C-3.

Parliament is voting today on a bill that started out as a pious hope on the part of Rona Ambrose. Members will recall that the Bloc Québécois enthusiastically supported that bill. At the time, I even moved a motion in the House to send the bill directly to the Senate and for the Senate to quickly pass it before the end of the Parliament. However, we know that the bill died on the Order Paper when an election was called. Since the bill was not passed, we are starting over again today.

Until now, this was not about systemic racism or discrimination. However, we are making a decision here as legislators and saying that our judges must take training on systemic racism and discrimination even though we have not heard from experts on that subject and we have not put any thought into it. We are doing that through the simple but detrimental process of making last-minute amendments during the clause-by-clause examination of the bill.

We are changing the situation by introducing abstract notions, notions on which there is no consensus and on which we have not heard from any experts, into a laudable bill that everyone agreed on and that sought to give judges training around sexual assault. I think that is unfortunate and I would ask my colleagues to refrain from taking this approach.

If we want to bake an apple pie, then we need apples, not grapes. What we are doing here is adding grapes to our apple pie. In the end, we will have an apple-grape pie, which is rather unfortunate. I do not know what the Senate will do with this iteration of Bill C-3. We will see.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois has always been there to support all victims of crime, no matter who they are, particularly victims of sexual assault. We have been there from the start and we will always be there. We will support this bill, but we are not happy that it now includes concepts that do not belong in it.

Lastly, I want to say that we must not stop here. Yes, making sure our judges get sexual assault training is good, but we need to keep working on this. Victims of sexual assault need support throughout the legal process. It is traumatizing for victims to testify about a crime, and it is all the more traumatizing when that crime is as intimate as sexual assault. Often, that testimony is given years after the crime was committed, and victims who must testify are forced to relive the crime.

Yes, they need a judge who is open, who listens to them objectively, who understands their state of mind during their testimony and who is capable of evaluating the evidence objectively and effectively. However, the system also needs to support these victims in myriad other ways, and Bill C-3 does not enable that. Things will have to be done differently.

I remind members that the provinces are responsible for administering justice. We will always be committed to ensuring that Quebec can manage the entire judicial process. However, in order to truly support victims of sexual assault all through the process, the federal government should make significant investments. Bill C-3 does not include any such investments, but they are worth mentioning.

Let's not delude ourselves into thinking that training for judges will be a cure-all and that it will eliminate every problem. This is a very important issue that we still all agree on, but it goes beyond that. We will have to continue to work with victims and be cautious when dealing with a topic as important as victims of sexual assault. There is no consensus in Quebec or Canada on the notions of systemic racism and discrimination, and we have not heard from experts to advise us on how to legislate these major issues. The government must not introduce unclear notions into a bill, as it has done and as it will be tempted to do with other bills.

I reiterate our concern, but the Bloc Québécois will support this bill.

November 16th, 2020 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, this is my first opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code.

Given that many of my colleagues have risen on this subject—I want to thank my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord for all his work on this issue—it will come as no surprise to anyone that the Bloc Québécois feels that passing this bill is in the best interest of the public and, more specifically, victims of sexual assault.

The Bloc Québécois supports this initiative because it is a step in the right direction. This will enable victims of sexual assault to trust the legal system and to feel understood and supported. We often get the sense that people are wary of these institutions, that victims lack trust and do not think it is worth turning to the justice system. That lack of trust is dangerous, but parliamentarians can find solutions because confidence in our institutions is essential, especially in such sensitive cases.

Requiring judges to be educated about the experience of victims of sexual assault, whom I prefer to call survivors, will not fix everything, obviously. However, it is an essential first step toward making sure our courts improve the way they handle this type of situation.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the thorough and rigorous work done by our counterparts in the National Assembly. Through serious work and in the spirit of sincere co-operation, elected officials, and women in particular, are committed to turning this growing distrust of institutions into trust. They are doing this through concrete and intelligent actions. These elected women in Quebec have mobilized many relevant experts and are sharing ideas to bring about profound change in the way survivors are supported in the justice system, and this is a great example.

These elected representatives from the four parties in the National Assembly have managed to rise above the fray and set partisan politics aside in order to study different paths. Does this call for a separate court specializing in sexual offences, for example? In other words, should there be a court specifically dealing with these issues, with lawyers who specialize in these matters, where sexual offence cases could be dealt with in a very specific way?

Do we need special shelters for victims, like the ones in South Africa, where psychosocial services and legal advice could be provided? For some survivors at least, such a place would have the advantage of being more suited to their needs than a police station.

They are also considering the issue of access to services that are already available but not well known and underutilized, such as shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence.

Although their report and detailed recommendations have not yet been tabled in the National Assembly, their work has resulted in the passage of Bill No. 55, which has now eliminated in Quebec the time constraints on civil proceedings against an alleged assailant. This is major progress and, once again, a step in the right direction that will ensure public confidence in the judicial system, no matter the case.

I am proud of this type of constructive action. This important progress reaffirms my belief that politics can lead to concrete, important and results that speak of compassion and that we can look after our fellow citizens. I invite all elected members in this House to undertake this type of constructive work.

At the end of the day, Bill C-3 will ensure that all judges hearing the evidence will have had training. In other words, these judges will have had to reflect on the stereotypes and myths surrounding sexual assault, as well as on the thought process of survivors. These are examples. We hope that every judge will be fully informed when dealing with sexual assault cases. Judges will therefore be in a position to do what they do best and get justice for victims.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill, because it has been debated many times in the House and has widespread support.

We are surprised to see that we are still debating this issue here today, since it is so important.

Let us not forget that the idea of providing judges with proper training on sexual assault law has been on the agenda here since 2017. The bill died on the Order Paper during the previous Parliament while being examined by the Senate.

Just one short month ago, I heard colleagues from all political parties clearly and unreservedly support the swift passage of Bill C-3. That rarely occurs in the House. That is why this bill should be passed quickly.

Bill C-3 is necessary because we have lost count of the number of reports of judges who have made inappropriate comments during sexual assault trials or who have rendered decisions that do not take into account the realities of victims.

I spoke earlier about myths and stereotypes. I will now give a few examples.

In one unfortunate case that has now become well-known in Quebec, a judge implied in court that the victim was flattered that an older man was interested in her. We are talking here about a 49-year-old man who licked his victim's face and groped her. She was a minor. That is one example.

Another example is the judge who questioned the credibility of a young survivor's testimony. The judge said that the girl had failed to describe the sexual acts in question accurately enough. He wanted a young girl to use grown-up words to describe the despicable acts she had been subjected to. A young woman cannot be expected to know all the words to describe what happened to her or to have noticed certain details about those sexual acts. That attitude is inappropriate and has no place in either a schoolyard or a courtroom.

As the mother of three girls, just talking about these two cases disgusts me.

In conclusion, I want to take a moment to honour the brave women who are making the effort to go to court, put together a case, be thorough, patient and courageous, and discuss and speak out publicly against these problems. The Bloc Québécois and I stand with them. Together, we will ensure, once and for all, that institutions actually listen to them and that justice is served.

November 16th, 2020 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a very real honour to be joining once again in the debate on Bill C-3. I am glad that this morning the House saw fit to pass the bill at report stage by unanimous consent, and get it to where it is now, at third reading. I hope that in short order the House can pass the bill because it still has half of its journey left: through the Senate. There is a real interest from many sectors of our society to see this legislation enacted in law so that we can take a small step toward restoring confidence and transparency in our justice system, because so many people who go through the justice system currently have a lack thereof.

It is important, given we are now at this stage of the debate, to acknowledge the hard work that has gone into getting the bill to where we are today. That starts with an acknowledgement of the work done by the Hon. Rona Ambrose in the previous Parliament, whose private member's bill formed the nucleus of what we see before us today. It is a testament to her leadership and her acknowledgement of a problem in our justice system that led to a version of the bill being passed unanimously in the House of Commons in the 42nd Parliament, which unfortunately got bogged down in the Senate. We see it before us now in the version of Bill C-3, a government bill. The fact that we are at this stage and considering it for third reading is a great place to be.

I also want to acknowledge the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, whose testimony helped guide the committee to make the recommendations and amendments that it did. Those amendments make the bill stronger. They acknowledge some of the areas where witnesses had problems with various definitions. The witnesses included members of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, and the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund. We also had the National Judicial Institute and the Canadian Judicial Council appear before the committee. I believe that their combined testimony helped inform the committee.

I also want to acknowledge what a pleasure it was for me to join my colleagues again on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. That is a committee I am very fond of, and one that I had the privilege of being a member of in the previous Parliament. It is a committee unlike any other within the House of Commons, given the gravity of the situations it regularly looks at. The legislation often involves weighty matters like the Criminal Code, which have very real consequences for people in everyday situations.

It is important to highlight some of the specific recommendations that the committee made: the amendments that were made to Bill C-3. I want to focus my remarks today specifically on how the reference to social context was made to include a reference to systemic discrimination and systemic racism.

Before I go on, it is important to read into the record a few of the quotes from witnesses at committee. I will start with the vice-president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. He said:

The second concern we have revolves around the lack of definition of social context. If the amendments are to proceed as drafted, we urge the committee to think about the differential impacts of the law on the bodies of indigenous and black people. More specifically, when it comes to sexual assaults, whether in regard to victims or as accused, stereotypes about black and indigenous people lead to differential treatment under the law. These have different impacts on our bodies and our communities.

This was continued by Ms. Rosel Kim, who represented the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund. She said that the previous version of the bill that made its way to committee was problematic in not having specific definitions of what social context was.

While the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund wanted a bit more specific definition of what social context meant, I believe what the committee arrived at is a proper term. It serves to encompass many different forms of discrimination and racism.

A lot of what the witnesses reported to us at committee had to do with stereotypes. We know how different actors who go through the justice system experience things. It is different based on their backgrounds. This was repeatedly said at committee. For example, Ms. Rosel Kim said:

As relates to social context, I think that it would be helpful to have a definition of what social context means. I know that the mandate letter has signalled certain things like impact of trauma and unconscious bias. We would like to see the fact that social context is linked to factors that have led to systemic inequality that have exacerbated these harmful myths and stereotypes in Canadian society.

All of the testimony about systemic racism and systemic discrimination is backed up by the evidence. I want to put a few examples on the record because it is really important to form the basis of the conversation that we are having today.

We know that, for example, disabled women experience sexual violence at about three times the rate of non-disabled women. We know that women with disabilities, those who are institutionalized, aboriginal women, single women and women who are unemployed or have low incomes are at a heightened risk of sexual assault. We know that seniors also experience far higher rates of sexual assault than non-senior women. The way these are reported to police and dealt with by our justice system, and the harmful myths and stereotypes that are brought to bear, are precisely why Bill C-3 is needed: to have these important conversations, support and training so we can ensure at least our federally appointed judges have this background and understand the social context of the cases that come before them.

I want to take this opportunity to zero in on some of the comments made by my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois. The committee meeting that was held to discuss this bill was not in camera. It is all on the public record for everyone to see. It took place on October 27. A large part of the debate at committee centred on the word “systemic”. My colleague from the Bloc was fine having the references to “racism” and “discrimination”, but not the reference to the word “systemic”. That is problematic for a number of reasons.

First of all, if we want evidence that systemic racism exists, we need only look at the numerical data. We know racialized persons are not being treated equally by our justice system given their percentage of the population, how many of them end up incarcerated and the treatment they receive. We also need to look at the ways policies, practices and decision-making processes are brought about, and the organizational culture of our justice system.

We need only to listen to the voices of Black, indigenous and racialized persons, because they are the ones who have been leading this conversation through their organizations and as individuals. They are the ones who have been telling not only Parliament, but the government and broader Canadian society, that there is in fact a systemic bias in our justice system and that systemic discrimination and systemic racism do exist. It is particularly important that we name those terms and reference them specifically in this bill. If we do not, we are simply whitewashing it and ignoring the fact that this is a very real experience. It is important and we have to acknowledge it.

Systemic racism is, of course, inherent in institutions other than law, but it certainly involves law. It reinforces other spheres of society, it raises questions about all aspects of law, and so on and so forth.

In this conversation about Bill C-3 there have been questions about the role of Parliament and the role of judges. Some of the concerns we have heard in write-ups about this bill have particularly focused on whether Parliament is overstepping its bounds with respect to judicial independence. Of course we have to respect the very important role judges play in our society. One of the pillars of our democracy is the idea of judicial independence. We do not want to arrive at a place where there is even a perception of political interference or control in how judges render their decisions. They have to necessarily be independent of Parliament. They have to be able to understand the facts of law and the facts of a case, and make a completely impartial decision based on those. Therefore, when Parliament is examining a bill that is going to be amending the Judges Act, I think it is only reasonable that questions of this nature arise. What I would say to those critics is this. If we look at the very careful language of the bill we now have before us in the House, the way the bill is currently written gives independence to the National Judicial Institute to tailor its programs in a way that is completely separate from any kind of political or parliamentary interference.

What we are stating as parliamentarians, as representatives of the people, which is an entirely legitimate role for us to play, is that we, on behalf of our constituents, are finally acknowledging the problems that exist in the justice system. These are borne out by the unfortunate comments we have heard from judges during trials and deliberations, and the harmful myths and stereotypes they have bought into when making their decisions. We, as the people's representatives, are communicating through a federal statute that we want to see these acknowledged. We believe it is important for them to be acknowledged. We have to name them and actually see them written down in the training that judges take. That is where I believe Parliament's role legitimately ends. Now it is up to the training the judges themselves organize to take that message from Parliament to the next step so we start to see the training that is necessary.

I do not want to spend too much time talking about this bill. From the debate we have seen in the House today there is fairly good support for it. If I'm reading the room correctly, I hope we can get to a vote soon and see this bill passed unanimously by the House to get it to the Senate. We would be kidding ourselves if we thought that this one amendment to a federal statute was going to fix the problems. Do not get me wrong: I think it is an important step. That is why we will be supporting the bill. The changes we need to make to the justice system as a whole are going to require far greater resources than just a legislative fix. I really hope a main topic of conversation with the federal Minister of Justice, when he is speaking with his provincial counterparts, is how we tackle these other systemic problems.

I already talked about how myths and stereotypes have extremely negative impacts. We absolutely must make sure the voices of people who have been marginalized by our justice system are heard. They must be actively listened to and acted upon. We need to see those financial resources. We need to see that active commitment to making sure we are striving for equality before the law. There are many organizations out there, including women's organizations, LGBTQ organizations and organizations representing Black and indigenous persons of colour, that are only too willing to step up to the plate to show the government where these fixes need to be made.

I will end my speech with a quote from Michael Spratt, a well-known lawyer in the Ottawa region. He has frequently been a witness before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. When speaking of this bill, he recently wrote in Canadian Lawyer magazine:

Step down from your ivory tower with me for a view from the trenches: where complainants in sexual assault cases are provided inadequate social supports; where complainants are almost always provided inadequate information about the court process; where the legal education of lawyers (both Crown and defense) is too often seen as an expensive obligation and not a learning opportunity; and where the wishes of complainants are often ignored.

Maybe we can start by tackling these problems.

This is a fitting place to end my speech. What we have before the House right now is a good bill. The work that was done at committee honoured the testimony that we heard from witnesses. I am pleased to offer my support to this important legislation. I hope we can send it to the other place quite soon so we can see the bill finally receive the royal assent it deserves so we can take this important step.