An Act to amend the Criminal Code (self-induced extreme intoxication)


David Lametti  Liberal


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


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 10:10 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

There being no further members rising, pursuant to order made on Tuesday, June 21, the motion is deemed adopted and Bill C-28 is deemed read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed on division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 10 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking tonight on Bill C-28, though perhaps not to be speaking at this hour, but I am glad to see Parliament acting quickly in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Brown, which found section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, prohibiting the use of the extreme intoxication defence, unconstitutional. That was on May 13 of this year, only some five weeks ago.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court found section 33.1 violated the charter, both section 7, which provides protection for life, liberty and security of the person, and section 11(d), which protects the presumption of innocence. It is also important to note that our legal system has gone back and forth over time on the legality of using extreme intoxication as a defence in crimes requiring an element of intent.

The Supreme Court of Canada, before the charter, in 1978, in a case called R. v. Leary, said it never could be used as a defence in those kinds of cases. However, after the charter was established in 1994, in a case called R. v. Daviault, the Supreme Court overruled what I guess we could call the previous common law rule and restored the possibility of using extreme intoxication as a defence, finding that the prohibition violated the charter.

The details of the Daviault case were particularly horrible, which other members recounted earlier, and they actually caused Parliament to act fairly quickly in 1995 to restore the prohibition on the use of extreme intoxication as a defence by inserting section 33.1 of the Criminal Code. That is the section the Supreme Court now has said is unconstitutional once again.

I want to stop here and remind everyone that simple intoxication has never been a defence in Canada for crimes of violence of any sort, including sexual assault, and nothing about the current Supreme Court decision or about Bill C-28 changes that. Simple intoxication is not a criminal defence in this country, but there has been a great deal of misinformation, particularly online, that has misled people into thinking that somehow simply being drunk is a defence in criminal law in Canada.

We have to remember that extreme intoxication is a very specific and limited circumstance, a specific circumstance where impairment is so severe that people have no control over their bodies, their minds have no control over their bodies or, in common language, they are unconscious about what they are doing. Even though these cases are rare, like other members who have spoken before me, I am glad to see us acting quickly to restrict the possibility of anyone being able to escape responsibility for their actions by using the extreme intoxication defence and avoiding responsibility, therefore, for the harms that they have caused others.

Many groups have urged us to act quickly, but I acknowledge that there are some others who are concerned that we risk not getting it exactly right by moving too quickly. That is why I am glad to see that the motion we are dealing with tonight has a provision in it for hearings at the justice committee in the fall. It is unusual for us to conduct hearings on a law so soon after passing it, but I think it gives us a chance to review what we are doing here tonight to see if we have in fact had unforeseen problems or to see if in fact there is more that we need to do. That is why I am confident with us moving ahead tonight because we will do that review in the fall.

The Supreme Court of Canada itself pointed out a couple of options available to us as parliamentarians to restrict the possible use of an extreme intoxication defence while still respecting the charter. I believe that Bill C-28 does this well, in ways that would effectively re-establish the principle that in almost all cases, extreme intoxication is no defence.

How would Bill C-28 do this? It would do it in two ways. In order to make a claim of extreme intoxication, defendants will have to provide expert evidence in their own cases that their intoxication was so severe as to amount to what in law is called automatism. This is a well-known legal concept and a specific state already defined in law that the mind is not in control of the body. Therefore, defendants have to present evidence in their own cases, not that it is possible that they were extremely intoxicated and not just claiming that they were extremely intoxicated, but that they were, according to expert evidence presented, in a state of extreme intoxication. That evidence, of course, will have to be presented in court and can be tested in court.

The second way in which Bill C-28 would make it difficult to use this defence is that the prosecution would be able to argue that even if the accused has proved that they were in a state of extreme intoxication, they failed on the standard of criminal negligence because they failed to take the measures a reasonable person would have taken to avoid causing harm.

If a person takes intoxicants or combines prescription drugs and illegal drugs or combines alcohol and magic mushrooms or whatever it is that the accused was doing, and if they, as a reasonable person, should have known the possibility of losing control and the possibility of violence, then they should have taken measures to limit that possibility, and if they did not, then they could not use this defence.

My summary, in plain language, is that the Supreme Court of Canada cracked open the door on the use of extreme intoxication defence, and what we are doing with Bill C-28 is shutting that door as far as possible while still being consistent with the Charter of Rights.

The Minister of Justice has presented a charter statement for Bill C-28 that certifies that Bill C-28 is in fact charter compliant and consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court in R. v. Brown. I have no reason to doubt the content of that charter statement.

As likely the last speaker on Bill C-28 tonight before we adopt it, I do not want to risk going on at too great a length, but let me say that after a House sometimes has had a bad reputation with the public for being overly partisan and polarized and unable to look after the public good, I believe we are demonstrating something different here tonight.

Through the confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and New Democrats, I believe we have already demonstrated that in a minority Parliament we can co-operate and work together to get things done, but Bill C-28 demonstrates an even broader ability of parliamentarians from all parties to come together co-operatively and to act swiftly in the public interest. That is what we will be doing tonight when we pass Bill C-28 a little over a month after a Supreme Court decision that cracked that door open to escaping responsibility for violent acts by claiming extreme intoxication.

What we are doing tonight is once again, as I said, making that a remote possibility. We are making it the remote possibility that it should be.

I hope we come across other opportunities in this Parliament to have the same zeal for working together. One of those opportunities is on the issue of coercive and controlling behaviour, and there is a link here because we are talking about violence primarily against women.

Twice the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has recommended to the House that the government introduce legislation to make coercive and controlling behaviour a criminal offence. Such legislation would recognize that coercive and controlling behaviour is in itself a form of violence, but it would also recognize that it is very often a precursor to physical violence.

As I said, twice now the justice committee has recommended this to the House, and I hope we will find an opportunity to get the same all-party agreement and the same ability to move forward on that piece of legislation as well.

In conclusion, sometimes I am very proud to be a part of this Parliament, and tonight, on Bill C-28, is one of those nights.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9:50 p.m.
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Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint‑Jean for her speech.

I am glad that she said she was not a criminal law expert, because if she were, we would have gotten another great lesson. I congratulate her on giving such an excellent, well-documented and detailed speech, as usual, especially on a topic like this one.

With respect to Bill C‑28, I must admit that I am not naturally a particularly open-minded person. This is a humble confession, but I was reassured to see that this is being taken seriously by the Minister of Justice and by parliamentarians. I also want to commend my colleague from Fundy Royal, who collaborated in the drafting of this bill.

The member said in her speech that the government would refer this bill to parliamentary committee to address certain aspects. We had to move quickly in response to the Supreme Court decision, but is the member, as a lawyer, reassured by the fact that this issue will be dealt with again in parliamentary committee this fall?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9:30 p.m.
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Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C‑28 this evening, in part because it got me to look over my old class notes. I am trained as a lawyer, but I certainly do not claim to be a criminal lawyer. As a result, while reading the Brown decision, I had to go back and review some of the concepts to refresh my memory.

Tonight's debate is taking place in the knowledge that, in any case, the bill will be passed at the end of the discussions that will take place. The content of the bill will not be changed in any way this evening. I think this may be a good opportunity to recap the events that led to the bill we are debating. Furthermore, I will certainly have a lot of fun this summer discussing the bill with my friends in criminal law, who already had a few things to say to me when they read the content of the bill. I hope this is something that will be done again in the fall because there are potential improvements to be made to Bill C‑28.

To explain why we are talking about extreme intoxication as a defence, we have to go back to the Daviault case. The year is 1989. Seventy-three-year-old Henri Daviault is a chronic alcoholic. One evening, a friend of his wife's asks him to bring her some alcohol. After drinking seven or eight beers at a bar, he sets out with a 40-ounce bottle of brandy to bring to her. He arrives at the home of the woman, who is partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair. All we know of what happened next is that he drank all or most of the 40 ounces of brandy, and the next morning found himself naked in the woman's bed after sexually assaulting her, which he does not remember.

Mr. Daviault pleads automatism. He argues that he was in such an extreme state of intoxication that it was almost like sleepwalking. He was not aware of what he was doing. This is not the same as simply forgetting the next morning what happened the night before. This is about not being able to control one's body. His defence is supported by toxicological evidence. One expert states that after consuming that amount of alcohol, most people of normal constitution would have ended up in a coma or even dead.

The evidence is accepted by the Supreme Court, which considered whether a state of intoxication so extreme that an accused is in a state that bears a striking resemblance to automatism or mental illness as defined in section 16 of the Criminal Code can be used as a defence following a crime that requires not specific intent, but only general intent. Can this be used as a defence? The court decides that, yes, the principle of automatism can be used as a defence in cases of general intent offences. It is almost a though a new defence has been created.

The majority opinion in Daviault was criticized for its “alarming lack of consideration of the social context of sexual assault particularly for women and children”. At the time, Professor Grant argued that “alcohol is often implicated in gendered violence, and therefore strong equality protections are necessary”. She wrote, “The suggestion that someone could be too drunk to be convicted of sexual assault shocked the public's sense of justice and common sense”.

Parliament was therefore kind of stuck with the Supreme Court decision that allowed the defence of extreme intoxication in cases involving offences such as sexual assault and other general intent offences such as assault. That was the background to Parliament's adoption of the old section 33.1, which was at issue in Brown. Section 33.1 eliminated the defence of self-induced intoxication akin to automatism applied to the violent offences identified in subsection 33.1(3) where the accused departed markedly from the standard of care described in subsection 33.1(2).

In its response to Daviault, Parliament sought to supply a link between the intention to become intoxicated and the intention to commit a crime of violence identified by the majority. In a way, the two intentions were conflated, which was part of the problem in Brown with respect to the constitutionality of section 33.1. I will come back to that.

The purpose of drafting the section at that time was, as noted in the preamble to what was then Bill C-72, the fact that domestic and sexual violence have “a particularly disadvantaging impact on the equal participation of women and children in society”. Parliament was particularly mindful that the accused should not be allowed to use self-induced intoxication to justify acts of violence against women and children.

The purpose of using the Oakes test was to determine whether section 33.1 passed the test of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and whether it was constitutional. In essence, this was Brown's challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada; he stated that this section was not constitutional and he should not be subject to it.

When applying the Oakes test, it must first be established that there is an infringement of the Charter caused by the wording of the section. Is there an infringement? The Crown submitted its arguments and the judges held that, contrary to the Crown's contention, the “marked departure” standard of fault in paragraph 33.1(2) clearly applies to the violent offence, not to the act of self-induced intoxication.

As I was saying, Parliament sort of combined these two principles, so that when a person committed an offence, such as sexual assault or assault, they were always departing from the standard of good conduct. That person automatically ended up being subject to section 33.1 and having no defence to put forward.

What was said, and what the judges held, was that section 33.1 operated akin to a regime of absolute liability by allowing conviction without proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intentionally or voluntarily committed the offence. Section 33.1 improperly substituted intent to become intoxicated with intent to commit a violent offence.

Section 33.1 directed that the accused was criminally responsible even in the case of involuntary conduct. Because involuntariness negates the actus reus of the offence, involuntary conduct is not criminal, and Canadian law recognizes the requirement of voluntariness for the conviction of a crime, the person was deprived of an aspect of fundamental justice. The judges wrote that the defence of automatism denies the element of voluntariness and therefore negates the actus reus of the offence. Involuntary conduct is understood to be genuinely exculpatory because, while the prohibited act was harmful, the accused lacks the capacity to answer for what they did. A physically involuntary act, however wrongful in outward appearance, is not a guilty act that can be imputed to an accused.

What this means is that this defence, in this context, appears to be a violation of a charter right, because it amounts to an absolute liability offence. As soon as a right is violated by the Charter, the Oakes test can be used to determine whether upholding the section in question is justified, in the context of today's society and in spite of the fact that it infringes on a charter right.

There are several steps to the Oakes test. First, the section in question must respond to a pressing and substantial need. Then, there must be a rational connection between the objective and the means used to achieve it. After that, it must be proven that the section is minimally impairing and that there is no less rights-impairing means of achieving the objective. Lastly, there must be proportionality between the effects of the section and the objective.

For the first step, there must be a pressing and substantial objective. As I already said, parliamentarians went through this exercise when they drafted section 33.1. This was even mentioned in the preamble, which pointed to the broad reasons the section was enacted in the period following Daviault, namely the protection of the victims of extremely intoxicated violence and a sense that the law should hold offenders accountable for the bodily harm they cause to others when, by choice, they become extremely intoxicated.

It was in this context and with these two specific goals in mind that Parliament drafted section 33.1. The Court agreed that the section served a pressing and substantial purpose and cited Justice Lamer in Robinson: “There is no question that the protection of the public from intoxicated offenders is of sufficient importance to warrant overriding a constitutionally protected right or freedom”. The first part of the Oakes test was satisfied.

The second part of the Oakes test is that it must be proven that the means has a rational connection to the objective. I will quote the Supreme Court, which upheld the Court of Appeal ruling that the deterrent and denunciating effects of section 33.1 provide a rational connection to Parliament's protective objective.

In addition, s. 33.1 is rationally connected to the objective of holding individuals accountable, in as full a manner as possible, for the choice to become extremely intoxicated and the violence committed while in that state. It is obvious that where a person is foreclosed from advancing a defence that could result in an acquittal, that person is held accountable for something they otherwise would not be.

The second part of the Oakes test is satisfied here.

It is on the third part of the test that things start to get dicey. That is where the court is suggesting to Parliament—which is rather exceptional— what legislators could do to rewrite section 33.1 so as to make it constitutional. The court analyzed the third part of the Oakes test to see if there was any way for the rights of the accused to be less substantially impaired while still meeting the original objectives of that section of the act.

The court suggested two options. The first, and some members have spoken about it, was to create a separate offence that would criminalize the act of becoming so extremely intoxicated that a person puts themselves in a state that is dangerous to others. However, Parliament has dismissed that option in the past for two different reasons.

I, too, submit that this option would not be the right course of action to replace what we currently have in Bill C-28. It could be a subsidiary or complementary approach, but it is not the right way to replace section 33.1. In fact, it could open the door to lesser sentences for offences committed in a highly intoxicated state. Some people even called it a “drunkenness discount”. For example, the sentence for voluntarily becoming highly intoxicated could correspond to dangerous driving and the person might avoid being sentenced for aggravated or sexual assault.

The other problem is that the real harm caused by the offender would not be recognized. This approach would imply that the offender should not be held responsible for the harm they did by committing assault or sexual assault. This option should not replace the current wording of Bill C-28, but could be used as a complementary approach.

The second option upheld by the court was to review, to a certain extent, the question of the marked departure by intoxication. The idea was that individuals could still be found guilty where there was a genuine marked departure from the situation in which they had placed themselves. Parliament asserted that it was open to Parliament to enact legislation to hold extremely intoxicated persons accountable for violent crimes where they had chosen to create the risk of harm by ingesting intoxicants.

In other words, perpetrators could be held accountable for the offence in subsection 33.1 if the legal standard of criminal negligence required a demonstration that both the risk of loss of control and the risk of the resulting harm were reasonably foreseeable. In either scenario, Parliament would enact a law based on the moral instinct that individuals who choose to become extremely intoxicated can legitimately be held responsible for creating a situation where they threaten the integrity of others.

That is what Parliament is proposing as the alternative to the current subsection 33.1(2). Since it had proved that there were other legislative solutions that would achieve the same objectives and be less harmful to the accused, the court concluded that the minimal impairment standard of the Oakes test had not been met. As a result, the court found that section 33.1 should be declared of no force or effect.

Finally, the last component requires proportionality between the limitations to the section of the law and the legislative objectives. The court ruled that the risk of imprisoning the morally innocent outweighed the objective of protecting society.

All of this influenced the wording of the new section 33.1. Now, rather than associating the departure from the standard with the offence, it is actually associated with the person's consumption, that is, the way in which the person induced their own state of extreme intoxication.

I want to raise two points in connection with that. As I said, Bill C‑28 is being passed a little hastily, unfortunately. The courts tasked with interpreting its provisions will not be able to consult the debates of the House on this bill to understand the legislator's intent because they were so short, abbreviated even. That is kind of problematic.

Nevertheless, there was also an urgent need for action. If the legal void created by invalidating section 33.1 was not filled, we could have seen a situation like what happened right after Daviault, when there was a distinct possibility that an accused could raise the defence of extreme intoxication akin to automatism. In the absence of any structure, it made sense to act quickly.

Having said that, certain questions remain unanswered, and there have been some criticisms. I am thinking in particular of Professor Hugues Parent, who was quoted as saying the following in yesterday's edition of La Presse:

“The problem—and it is a serious problem—is that by limiting extreme intoxication to a state akin to automatism, the government is discounting states of intoxication that do not disrupt the individual's awareness, but that affect their sense of reality, such as psychosis.”

Automatism induced by a substance, such as a drug, is “very, very rare”, said Mr. Parent. In his more than 20 years of research on this subject, he saw the courts accept no more than four cases.

However, cases of psychosis triggered following drug consumption, where the highly intoxicated individuals are aware of their actions, “occur very frequently, as police and psychiatrists will tell you”. But these individuals are not covered by Bill C‑28...

This deserves another look. I submit that the automatism defence is a common law creation and that it is not expressly mentioned in the wording of the proposed section 33.1, any more than psychosis is. The interesting thing about the Brown decision is that it says that Brown was in a psychotic state akin to automatism. Maybe that is covered by section 33.1, but maybe not. That is worth exploring.

The proposed section 33.1 reads as follows: “A person who, by reason of self-induced extreme intoxication, lacks the general intent or voluntariness ordinarily required to commit an offence referred to in subsection (3), nonetheless commits the offence”. Does that not also encompass psychosis? Is there not a mens rea defence that in any case would fall outside section 33.1? It is a valid question.

As I was saying, it would be good if the government could avoid falling into the same old bad habits this fall when the time comes for the ex post facto review of this section in committee. If we encounter pitfalls, if we observe that the interpretation is not clear when it comes to substance addiction, the type of drug consumed, the individual's predisposition, or the emotional or family circumstances, I hope the government will have the humility to be open to amending the proposed section.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9:15 p.m.
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Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking my colleague, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, for her hard work, for the comments that she just made and for all of the efforts she has made on behalf of her constituency. I thank her as well for her work on the status of women committee and for her advocacy since the Supreme Court of Canada decision to have a response from the government. I really appreciate that.

She also makes sure the voices that have not been heard so much during the drafting process of Bill C-28 are being heard in the House today and will certainly be heard as this discussion continues.

I would expect that most, if not all, members of this House would agree that addressing and eliminating violence against women and girls should be a top priority and one that is dealt with expeditiously.

Unfortunately, it has been almost 40 days since the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the case of R. v. Brown, striking down section 33.1 of the Criminal Code. As a result of this decision, which was announced back in May, it would now be permissible to claim extreme intoxication due to drugs or alcohol as an excuse for murderers, abusers and attackers.

Conservatives have spent the last 39 days calling on the Minister of Justice to prioritize the response we are debating today. The government has control over the legislative agenda, and if it had wanted to bring this bill forward sooner, before the last days of the spring sitting, it did indeed have the power to do so. That would have allowed us a thorough debate in this House and a study at committee, where we could have heard some of the testimony that we are hearing now from the newspapers and from people writing to our offices with concerns about the bill. It should be in all of our interests, and in all Canadians' interests, that we as parliamentarians get our job right. Part of our job is drafting and voting on legislation, and we want to make sure that we hear from experts before we do that.

It took less than an hour for the Liberals to announce their intention to appeal the Alberta court decision regarding their unconstitutional anti-pipeline bill, but it has been 40 days days since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that criminals will not be held accountable for murder if they were extremely intoxicated when they committed the crime. Why is the government turning on a dime in order to defend legislation that shuts down industries when we are just beginning debate, more than five weeks later, on the legislative response to the Supreme Court's ruling that leaves victims vulnerable?

Conservatives want to err on the side of having legislation in place sooner rather than later so that there can be an element of safety against this defence being used. However, while we can allow this bill to pass for the time being, I want to make it very clear that this is by no means the end of the discussion.

That is why we have insisted in the motion that the justice committee study this bill, this response, and that the minister appear and that the committee report back so that Parliament has an opportunity to improve this legislation if necessary.

Over the summer months, Conservatives will be speaking with stakeholders, organizations, women's groups and individuals whose voices must be heard when we are talking about strengthening the justice system. Conservatives will make sure that those voices are heard.

We know the statistics. We know that women and girls are disproportionately victims of violence and we know that the offenders in these instances are almost always male. The Liberals will try to distract Canadians from the fact that their self-proclaimed “feminist” government has been dragging its feet to address a vulnerability in the law that they were very well aware of, knowing that women and girls are most often the victims in situations like this.

Again I would like to commend the hard work of my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London in raising awareness of this issue through a campaign using the hashtag “#oneistoomany” on her social media.

On May 27, 14 days after the ruling came down from the Supreme Court, along with my Conservative colleagues from Elgin—Middlesex—London, Brantford—Brant and Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice to express the severity and urgency of this issue and calling for action. At that point, we thought we would see some action.

I would now like to share with the House some of what we asked for in that letter:

The decisions ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Brown...and R v. Sullivan...imperil the safety of victims of violent physical attacks, domestic violence and sexual assault by permitting the dubious defence of non-insane automatism due to self-induced intoxication.

These offences disproportionately affect women, gender diverse individuals and vulnerable Canadians. The ruling made by the Supreme Court of Canada leaves a gap in the law that endangers the safety of communities and the lives of Canadians. This requires the utmost urgent action in order to protect Canadians, especially those at greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence.

The government must act now. It is your duty as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to respond to these decisions, close the gaps in the law and ensure the protection of victims.

Our role as Parliamentarians is to represent the best interests of our communities regarding the law and legislation. This is an issue that affects us all, and we stand ready to assist in any way possible to work with you to ensure that there is an adequate response from parliament that prioritizes the safety and security of Canadians.

The Government of Canada owes it to the victims, survivors, and their families to act immediately.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We eagerly await your response.

Eagerly await the minister's response we did. Now, 25 days after we first sent this to the Minister of Justice, we are finally having this discussion in the House of Commons today, just before we rise for the summer.

While Conservatives will allow the bill to proceed, we are not under any illusion that this is the end of the discussion. Rather, Conservatives have secured from the government a commitment to instruct the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to take up a study on this matter when we return in the fall. This is a very serious topic that deserves our Parliament's time and attention. We can only improve legislation when we invite expert testimony into the conversation, which this study will certainly endeavour to do, and which we have not heard up until this point.

I know from speaking with different organizations that they felt extremely rushed. They had an online consultation, but they did not feel that they were able to give adequate input on the bill, on the impact it could have and on how it can be improved, which should be in all of our interest. There are many individuals and organizations that should have been properly consulted before and during the drafting of the bill.

This is a critically important issue that we are working to solve urgently, but that does not mean we cannot put the time and resources towards making sure the law reflects the contributions and concerns of the various stakeholders who have spoken out over the last few days about where the bill can and should be improved.

For example, the National Association of Women and the Law published a press release responding to the Liberals' Bill C-28. It states:

Despite the assurances of some defence lawyers and their allies that reliance on extreme intoxication will be rare, research analyzing the extreme intoxication defence indicates that it will be raised with some regularity. Indeed, research shows that it will be used overwhelmingly by men, and that the majority of victims will be women.

They call Bill C-28 “a missed opportunity to close the door on the use of the extreme intoxication defence where alcohol alone is used.” I think that is a very worthy discussion for us as parliamentarians to have.

To be clear, this is just one stakeholder organization whose perspective and expertise we need to hear and seriously consider when we are talking about strengthening the law to better protect women. Our study of this legislation and the law that it impacts will take place in the fall, and this will ensure that experts and stakeholders are properly consulted.

It is our role and responsibility, as Her Majesty's loyal opposition, to hold the government accountable, and where we so often see the Liberals failing Canadians is when it comes to matters of justice and their obligations to victims of crime.

Conservatives will continue to raise up the voices of victims and victims' advocates. We look forward to making significant progress in strengthening Canada's laws to better protect vulnerable Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9:15 p.m.
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Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I have really enjoyed my time working with the member for Shefford.

When we are looking at this bill, Bill C-28, we know that domestic violence increases with the intake of alcohol. We know that over the past two years, when we have seen stress and mental health also have many challenges, we have seen an increase in domestic violence, as well. With respect to Bill C-28, because I am a person who will always advocate for victims, I look at this as a very victim-centred bill. That is what we need to look at. It seems to be more perpetrator-centred, but that is the thing. We need to continue to fight for those victims and we understand that—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9:10 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague and I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge her. She is the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I wish her a very good summer. She was also with me at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on the horrible case of assault against a young woman; it is truly awful. She spoke about it at the end.

It was a difficult session. We conducted a study on domestic violence at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. It was a very tough session. We heard some poignant testimonies.

How does Bill C‑28 fit into this context? She opened the door in her response to the previous question: in a continuum of measures that may be taken to address violence against people. She says that this bill may not go far enough. How does she see it? What would she have wanted to see to make this bill truly fit into the context where we address this violence against women?

I would like to hear her thoughts.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 9 p.m.
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Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sure everybody in the lobby is surprised that I actually did that at the right time.

Tonight is one of our last evenings sitting in the House of Commons before we adjourn for the summer and return to our ridings. The speech that I am going to give tonight is truly based in what I am seeing all around us. It has become a culture of violence.

Tonight, we are speaking on Bill C-28. Although I support it in principle, we do have a lot further to go. Tonight, we have the opportunity to begin this discussion, which I hope becomes a much larger national discussion. We need to continue this conversation, especially with women's organizations, which have come out and cannot support this legislation.

A good ally of mine and friend, Megan Walker, discussed this legislation with me yesterday. She cannot support it and shared her concerns about the ability of the Crown to prove it. She feels that this legislation is tokenism

Women's organizations are stepping forward and asking us to halt this legislation, while other organizations are in full support of the legislation. To me, this is a clear yellow light that we have to be cautious and that we need to re-address this: that what we are doing today is just not enough. This needs to continue.

My last six months in my role as the shadow minister for women and gender equality and youth have given me the honour to work with people, especially in the committee on the status of women.

I can share with members that it seems like we are in a real mess, and I can tell us that we need change.

Let us start with this piece of legislation. I want to address it by sharing the letter that was received by the National Association of Women and the Law. It reads, and I quote:

Feminist organizations in Canada have long been concerned about the connection between men’s use of intoxicants, and violence against women. Study after study has shown that there is a direct link between so-called ‘drunkenness’ and sexual violence. There are studies that report an average of 50% of sexual assault perpetrators consumed alcohol at the time of the assault, with other studies showing a variance of between 30 and 75%.

Looking back to the 1994 Daviault decision, in which the Supreme Court ordered a new trial based on the accused’s extreme intoxication at the time of the incident, the ‘gap’ in the law quickly becomes apparent. Mr. Daviault had voluntarily consumed an excessive quantity of alcohol before forcing intercourse on the complainant, an elderly woman with a disability. In response, feminist groups like National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) pressed the government to restrict the defence of extreme intoxication. The federal government enacted section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, closing the gap by preventing those who voluntarily consume intoxicants and then commit acts of violence from using the defence of extreme intoxication for general intent offences.

In May 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Brown struck down the law set out in s. 33.1, declaring it unconstitutional and stating that voluntarily taking intoxicating substances cannot replace the criminal intent required for a conviction. This decision re-opens the ‘gap’ left by the 1994 Daviault decision, once again leaving women vulnerable to crimes of violence when the accused can demonstrate that his intoxication put him into a state of automatism. Despite the assurances of some defence lawyers and their allies that reliance on extreme intoxication will be rare, research analyzing the extreme intoxication defence indicates that it will be raised with some regularity. Indeed, research shows that it will be used overwhelmingly by men, and that the majority of victims will be women.

I know that I shared a very lengthy part of that letter, but to me, this is what we are talking about. Yes, this legislation came out very quickly. That means we need to get it passed to stop the gap today, but that does not mean that the gap has fully been filled. That is why I am urging the government to say, yes, we have got Bill C-28 done but we need to do more. I am urging the government to get on the road and let us start doing those consultations. Let us start talking more.

I want to go back to stuff that we have also been hearing about Hockey Canada. We just heard that Hockey Canada receives one to two formal complaints annually and that there are investigations.

I want to talk about all of this, because one thing that I can indicate is that sexual violence and violence against children should never happen. We are seeing it more and more. In the past number of weeks, as I have been dealing with my role as the shadow minister for women and gender equality, and in chairing the committee on the status of women, we are talking about violence and more violence. Our one study on intimate partner violence was talking about domestic violence. Following that, we talked about Kyra's Law, named for a young girl, a young child, who was murdered by her father, basically to get back at the mother.

I am looking at what is happening with Hockey Canada. We talked about a young girl who was allegedly raped by eight hockey players, and there is no responsibility. Then we can talk about what we are talking about here today, Bill C-28. To me, it is really clear. We are talking about things that are a social issue. It is a sexual assault issue.

When I look back at that link between what I am talking about with Hockey Canada and the eight players, and what we are seeing here, the bottom line is that it should never be happening in the first place. In Hockey Canada, we are hearing about a civil law suit that went through. Hockey Canada actually paid out, rather than having this go through the criminal court system. Unfortunately, I understand why someone would choose a civil suit over our justice system right now. We know it is not perfect. With the help of Bill C-233 and other bills that have been put forward in the past, we need to ensure that there is proper training for judges, but it is not just judges. It is everybody involved.

When I look at this, I look at who is responsible. Ultimately, the perpetrator has to be responsible. Although this legislation closes that gap in which we are talking about the state of automatism, we also have to look at what is next.

Just weeks ago, we passed that important piece of legislation, Bill C-233 with unanimous support. It was an all-party effort. I believe it started a conversation, and I believe what we are doing here tonight is also starting that conversation. Just as the minister stated, I had the same conversation with my 18-year-old son. He called me the very next morning and asked me about it when I was in Ottawa. I said, “Son, I'm working on this.” We recognize that it does not mean that someone has to be drunk and this could happen, but there needs to be extreme intoxication. For a young woman, anything is a barrier, including the fact that somebody may use this defence. Everything like that is a barrier.

People are coming out and saying that this law is just window dressing and is not really tackling the real issues. I think what we have to tackle is the culture of sexual violence, because we seem to be ignoring it. I was thinking about it a lot over the past few days. Working on the Hockey Canada case has really brought things to light. These are our kids we are talking about. These are the kids that our kids go to public school with. These are the children, whether they are the perpetrators or the victims. These are just kids. Sometimes we get lost on our way and we confuse what is right and wrong. Is extreme intoxication good enough, or is because someone is an athlete or a politician good enough?

We know, from the recent Supreme Court ruling on May 13, that women's organizations have spoken up. Because of that, we know this needs to be addressed. The government has addressed it through this legislation as Bill C-28. I thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. We pushed on this and we asked for this to be done, so I thank him for doing so.

We need more transparency for victims, and we need to remember that victims have rights, too. This is the problem. We talk so much about the rights of our perpetrators, but our victims need to have rights too. This is what we are losing a lot of the time in these conversations, whether I am talking about Hockey Canada or extreme intoxication. No is no, and there must be consent.

Finally, I want to end this with a quote. I go back to the National Association of Women and the Law:

While they may not be successful in making out the defence – pleading the defence, in itself, will result in increased timelines and lengthy court processes for victims. Ultimately, C-28 is a missed opportunity to close the door on the use of the extreme intoxication defence where alcohol alone is used.

I am coming back and I am saying that this summer I will be working on this. I will be working on providing any information that I can to both the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and the Minister of Justice, because we can do better, and we need to make sure that we listen to everybody. We need to be listening to the victims, and we need to be working to end sexual violence.

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June 22nd, 2022 / 9 p.m.
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Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by my colleague, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth.

She told us that lives are at stake. I completely agree with her, and the Bloc Québécois is definitely in favour of Bill C‑28. If lives are at stake, then my question is obvious: Why did they wait so long to introduce legislation?

In R. v. Brown, which went to the Supreme Court, there was already a decision at the trial level. The government could have been proactive and provided a framework for such situations. I will quote the Supreme Court, as follows:

Parliament had before it a record that highlighted the strong correlation between alcohol and drug use and violent offences, in particular against women, and brought to the fore of Parliament’s attention the equality, dignity, and security rights of all victims of intoxicated violence.

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June 22nd, 2022 / 9 p.m.
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Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and the governing party have moved quickly.

I wonder if she could offer her insights in response to comments recently reported in the media by Kerri Froc, chair of the National Association of Women and the Law, who shared concerns that Bill C-28, as written, may be too difficult for prosecutors to prove. What are the minister's comments on that?

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June 22nd, 2022 / 8:55 p.m.
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Marci Ien Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is my critic. I have deep respect for the member and for the way she leads with such empathy.

It is important that we remember why we are here tonight and why we acted so expeditiously in this regard. It is my belief that lives are on the line. When we have the kind of misinformation that was rampant on social media, that creates fear. I saw it in my own daughter, and I know she is not alone. That is something we are addressing. We moved quickly to close the gap.

There was consultation, but it is so important to remember why we are here. Bill C-28 would address a rare defence. The impact of misinformation on young people and young women has been absolutely significant. I have heard first-hand young women who truly thought that if they were attacked, there would be no protection for them, none. We had to act quickly and we did. It has been just over—

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June 22nd, 2022 / 8:55 p.m.
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Marci Ien Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate what Bill C-28 would do, because that is why we are here tonight. Bill C-28 would amend the Criminal Code so that individuals would be held responsible for violence they commit while in a state of extreme intoxication if they ended up in that state through their own criminal negligence.

That is an important point. In other words, if people voluntarily consume intoxicants, drugs or mix drugs with alcohol knowing that there is a risk of losing control and becoming violent, they may be held criminally responsible. That is the gap that we are closing.

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June 22nd, 2022 / 8:50 p.m.
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Marci Ien Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, as mentioned, the Supreme Court ruling created a gap, and unfortunately, that gap was quickly filled with misinformation.

I have a personal note. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter, Blaize, came home from school. She is 17 years old. She said, “Mom, how messed up is it that people can just get drunk and then assault other people?” This, of course, was based on information she had seen on social media.

I come from a background of research. In my previous life I was a reporter, so I dug into this a bit. I looked into some of the social media posts, and I looked into what Blaize and other young women across this country were seeing. What I saw were social media posts with thousands of likes and comments misleading young women about what the Supreme Court's decision actually means.

I want to share, if I might, a couple of examples. One caption of a clip said, “POV: You are a teenage girl living in Canada where rape is now legal, if you are intoxicated”. It had 489,000 likes, more than 9,000 comments and almost 6,000 shares. Another post said, “You are a 16-year-old teenager living in Canada, and being too intoxicated is legal for rape and sexual assault”. That had 2.1 million views, and that is why I am here tonight.

While Bill C-28 would address a rare defence, the impact of the gross misinformation on young people, and young women especially, has been absolutely significant. This unintentional misinformation and sometimes intentional alarmist reporting style come with very serious consequences for women right across this country, as they are adding to the stigma that survivors already face when reporting gender-based violence. We know the data already shows us that just 5% of sexual assaults are actually reported to police.

Parliament simply cannot go another day knowing there are young women who believe that, if they are attacked, they will not be protected. It is why, in the little more than five weeks since the Supreme Court's decision, we are making it clear that individuals who consume drugs or alcohol in a criminally negligent manner are held criminally responsible. There will be no loophole.

For those who saw this ruling or the headlines surrounding it and felt that fear, I want them to know that I see them. I understand them, and I understand where that feeling comes from. By closing the gap created by the Supreme Court's rulings, the legislation would strengthen Canada's legal system and better protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Bill C-28 is just one of the many actions we are taking to address gender-based violence and build public confidence in the criminal justice system. We are addressing this from every angle, with changes such as implementing more training for judges, funding campus supports for students and working with provinces and territories on a national action plan to end gender-based violence, which is on track to come out this year.

I know there is still distrust in our justice system, especially for racialized women and girls, indigenous women and members of the LGBTQ2 community, but I hope Bill C-28 will address some of these very real concerns. We cannot lose this hard-won ground. Acting quickly to close the gap created by the Supreme Court's ruling is an important part of this effort. I encourage my hon. colleagues and the other place, as well, to support this bill now before us.

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June 22nd, 2022 / 8:45 p.m.
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Toronto Centre Ontario


Marci Ien LiberalMinister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to express my unequivocal support for Bill C-28.

What I would like to do is focus on what this legislation means for the women and youth who are disproportionately impacted by violence, and more specifically, intoxicated violence. The extreme intoxication we are talking about is not about being drunk and not about being high. The Supreme Court has clearly said that drunkenness is not a defence in crimes of violence, including sexual assault.

That is really important, so I am going to repeat it: Drunkenness is not a defence in crimes of violence, including sexual assault.

In recent years, Canadians have deepened their understanding of the harmful social norms and influences that contribute to gender-based violence. They are also aware that our justice and social systems often fail victims and survivors. When we take an even closer look at this issue, we see that indigenous women and girls, racialized people and LGBTQ2+ people experience gender-based violence and sexual violence more than any other segments of society.

All Canadians deserve a justice system that protects them. Everyone, especially those who are most at risk, deserves to feel protected from violence. These ideals lie at the core of the legislation that is before us this evening.

In May, the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling essentially created a gap in Canadian law, a gap that can enable perpetrators to avoid conviction if they are able to prove that extreme intoxication rendered them not responsible for the crimes they committed. Bill C-28 aims to close this gap.

As mentioned, the Supreme Court ruling created a gap. Unfortunately, that gap was quickly filled with misinformation, so—

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June 22nd, 2022 / 8:45 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech. I am my party's status of women critic, and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women just finished a study on intimate partner violence. I believe the minister said that 68% of victims had been attacked by an intoxicated person, which sounds extremely high to me.

In a few words, how would the minister say that Bill C‑28 fits into the existing continuum of measures to combat intimate partner violence? Some women's groups seem to have some doubts. Does the minister understand all the aspects of the issue, and could he tell us more about them?