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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

5:10 p.m.

Prof. Edward Ratushny

Absolutely.

5:10 p.m.

Retired Judge, As an Individual

Wallace Craig

Could I get the question again, please?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Do you believe in the independence of the judiciary?

5:10 p.m.

Retired Judge, As an Individual

Wallace Craig

Well, the independence of the judiciary is virtually a constitutional guarantee. It is the right to a term that is tenured until retirement. You can't be fired. You have no boss. You are at absolute liberty to speak as you wish in rendering any decision that is privileged. There is an adequate salary. Everything about the judicial appointment—

This process you're going to debate is the only opportunity you have to look at them and ask whether this is going to be a good judge. You're stuck with them for the next 30 years—or 40 years sometimes.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Retired Judge, As an Individual

Wallace Craig

But there's no question that Canadian judges are absolutely independent.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you. That's how I'll base my decision on this issue.

Mr. Ménard.

March 28th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

This is not fair.

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I would like to thank Mr. Bagnell, but I am not asking for special treatment. I am simply asking that everyone be given equal time. I will raise a point of order at the end of our meeting.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Follow the list.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Bagnell and Monsieur Ménard.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Is my time up?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

No, it's not.

Mr. Lee.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

I think I've become the beneficiary of about 47 seconds here.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

You have two minutes, Mr. Lee.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

I want to reiterate my reaction to some of the comments.

Essentially I agree that the issue of “police” sitting on these advisory committees has nothing to do with the individual policemen. There are thousands and thousands of policemen out there who have judgment, tact, honesty, and all of the things that would make them good appointees for a whole lot of functions. The issue is police, as an institution, being given a berth in an appointment process. It's a perception of what that institutional placement might bring to the delicacy of the appointment process, as has been referenced by Mr. Brown, who suggested that the arrival of the police would bring some new balance.

So I leave the question out there. What exactly is it in this balance that the police, as an institution, would bring? Whatever the balance is—I'm not too sure what it is—there's some additional weight coming from police that wasn't there before.

I note that we haven't gone to prison guards, and we don't put elected people on these advisory committees, who surely represent thousands and thousands of people and the public interest. We don't put them on there. And we don't put priests and ministers on, who have a whole lot of interest in divorce litigation and family law. There are lots of groups in society that might have an interest.

I have no problem with a particular priest or minister being on the committee. I have no problem with a prison guard being on the committee. But police are already restricted under our Constitution in their political activities. They are already restricted. We've already noted the sensitivity.

Could I ask you what you think the police, as an institution, bring in terms of that balance?

Mr. Cannavino.

5:15 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

I think that Mr. Brown put it very well, saying that if you go to court, you're going to see judges, you're going to see defence lawyers, crown attorneys, and police officers. If you see a priest there or anybody else, probably they're accused of something. But mainly what you would see in a court would be those who are really involved in the judiciary. That's why we think it's a very good idea. They will bring a different aspect, different expertise, and they will also be able to participate in those committees. They're the ones you see in court. They're the ones involved in the judicial system.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Lee and Mr. Cannavino.

Do you want to reply to that, Mr. Ratushny?

5:15 p.m.

Prof. Edward Ratushny

Yes. I just want to say that the police are in court, but they're in court for a different purpose. They're participants in the process, they're part of the trial, and they can be judged as part of the process, unlike all the other people who are in court, who are on this committee.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Ratushny.

I'm just going to take the prerogative and ask a question from the chair.

I was a police officer for 22 years, went through the training. Our training clearly pointed to the fact that we were a team—the prosecutor, the police officer, the defence lawyer, and the judge—all with one purpose: to determine the guilt or innocence of an individual coming before the court. The final say was the judge's. We weren't considered some sort of entity off to the side, a special interest, as police officers have been called before, but rather as serving the public good in dealing with a criminal matter.

Yet the term seems to be brought up time and time again that the police have some sinister role out there almost, that they are more under question about what their motives are, even to the point that at some point here one association member pointed out that the police, really, if not held to severe account, would be capable of doing harm to a witness, or even killing them to cover up some offence that may be pointed directly to them. There is a question about—

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

On a point of order, Chair, would you name the witness who said that? Nobody on our side seems to recall that.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

This was brought up in another committee meeting, by an association.

All I'm saying is that there is a view that suddenly separates the police away from this general purpose of where we, as a supposed team, determine guilt or innocence. That has all disappeared. I don't understand what happened to push the police off to that side. That's a comment I'd like to make, and maybe there's going to be a chance for someone to—

5:15 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

William Trudell

Do you want a response to that?

5:15 p.m.

Prof. Edward Ratushny

Do you want a response?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

I would like a response.