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Evidence of meeting #58 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was judge.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Wallace Craig  Retired Judge, As an Individual
Edward Ratushny  Professor, Common Law Section, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Tony Cannavino  President, Canadian Police Association
William Trudell  Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers
David Griffin  Executive Officer, Canadian Police Association

4:35 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

You know my characteristic composure.

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Yes, and that is in fact why your comments are perfectly relevant to our study.

4:35 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

Absolutely.

You want to know if we need legislation. Legislation can be amended over time by governments and as positions change. I don't think it would be appropriate to have legislation. It is not an important or major point for us.

The minister is accoutable to the Prime Minister as well as to the House of Commons. That is the process. You hold lively debates, and your comments sometimes influence decisions. We leave that part up to legislators.

With respect to knowing whether the police officers have a specific mission, most probably. That's what I was saying earlier on.

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Not a mission, a conflict of interest.

4:35 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

You referred to a specific mission and then to conflicts of interest, if I am not mistaken.

We certainly have a specific mission. I would imagine it is the same specific mission as that of all members of the committee, in other words to find the person who has the most integrity, who is the most honest, who has good experience and who will serve justice well. I think our concerns are the same as those of all other members of the committee.

With respect to police officers having a conflict of interest, I think there are very few professions that are as closely overseen as law enforcement. There's the police force's internal affairs unit and there are discipline committees.In some provinces, they are called SIUs and in Quebec, they are called comité de déontologie, ethics committees. And then, there is criminal court. Essentially, if police officers are in conflicts of interest or not doing their work with integrity, they are suspended.

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Cannavino, that is not what I am questioning.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Mr. Ménard, no. Your time is up.

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I would like to ask one last question. You gave the Liberals 12 minutes. I did not get 12 minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Your time is up. With the aid of your Liberal colleague, your time is up.

Mr. Comartin.

March 28th, 2007 / 4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for being here.

Justice Craig, would it be fair for me to characterize your position in the testimony you gave today as being very much in the minority of that of the vast majority of judges currently sitting on the bench?

4:40 p.m.

Retired Judge, As an Individual

Wallace Craig

You'll never know what the judges on the bench think, because first of all, they can't speak publicly about anything they've done. Once they're out of court, the judgment of any judge belongs to the litigants, the lawyers, the legal profession, and the public.

It would be improper for me to say anything, and I did say nothing. I would give no interviews to the press, no photographs, nothing—absolute silence. The tendency of judges now to speak publicly while in office, including the Chief Justice of Canada, is a very immense shift. But once retired, I think a judge has a duty as a citizen to not go off and play golf in Florida or do whatever else. He has a duty, if there's something about the system that's extremely good, to voice it, and if there are things that are troubling him—In my case, it's plea bargaining, which is rampant. That's behind-closed-doors sentencing and rubber-stamping by judges.

Why am I the only voice in Canada? Am I an eccentric or is something wrong with me? The answer is that they act like a private club. They do not want to rock the boat. Now, I don't blame them. It's a very difficult job. Once you become a judge you're no longer a free citizen to do the things you did before. You're isolated. You talk only to other judges, in the main.

It's a very difficult thing, when they get to retirement, to become a gadfly like I have, and I'm not happy about it. I feel very uncomfortable about being here. When I spoke to the students, it was very difficult for me to tell them the difficulties that victims have, tell them how the victims feel. Victims in Canada feel they're being denied justice, I can assure you all of that.

In the appointment process—What is wrong with judges when they say to victims, “The criminal justice system can do nothing for you”? They're literally correct, but it's very hard on victims. So what I'm saying is, when I've dealt with these young people and said that I don't think I've accomplished anything in 26 years in this regard, that everything I did that was an adequate sentence would be either returned by the court of appeal right from the very beginning as harsh and excessive—And this is the generational gap that I was dealing with, generational change, things like that.

But let me just tell you where it all began.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Justice Craig, let me go on, because I'm really tight on time. I got the point.

4:40 p.m.

Retired Judge, As an Individual

Wallace Craig

All right. I'm sorry about that.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Ratushny, this is on the process that the Prime Minister has instigated here. First, is it correct that you've been extensively involved in the judicial appointment process going back nearly 30 years now?

4:40 p.m.

Prof. Edward Ratushny

It was the early 1970s, yes.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Are you aware of any provincial government of any political stripe that has introduced these types of appointments—that is, of police officers being specifically appointed as one of the categories—to any of the committees in this country?

4:40 p.m.

Prof. Edward Ratushny

I'm not aware of any, but perhaps my colleague Mr. Cannavino might be more familiar with that, in terms of a comprehensive survey.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Right.

Mr. Cannavino, we've heard from Mr. Trudell and we've heard it from other witnesses that no one who's been before us up to this point has been consulted. Mr. Griffin, you may know as well. Was the national police association consulted before this decision was made by the current government?

4:40 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

The only time I had a conversation with the former justice minister, he was asking what I thought about that, as his intention was to make some changes to the committee and include a police representative. I was very happy to hear that. Of course I said I would be very supportive, because it would enhance the work of the committees.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Was that before it was made public that they were going to shift the appointment process this way?

4:40 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

I can't remember. I'm not sure.

4:40 p.m.

David Griffin Executive Officer, Canadian Police Association

It was certainly before the announcement, but certainly I wouldn't call it consultation. There was nothing presented to us.

4:40 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

No, absolutely not. It wasn't a form of—

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

At least they talked to you, which is more than they've done to anybody else.

4:40 p.m.

Executive Officer, Canadian Police Association

David Griffin

We don't know who else they talked to.