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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

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

So far, we haven't found anybody.

One of the concerns I have is not only the question of the independence of the judiciary. As you know from some of the statements I've made, I'm not opposed to police officers' being appointed on occasion to either the federal committee or the provincial ones. As Mr. Trudell has set out accurately, it's the process that led us to this one and what appears to all of us to be a real threat to the independence of the judiciary. I'm concerned about that, but I really don't want that comment.

I'm equally concerned about the politicization of our police. Have you given any thought to the fact that once this government is out of power, which will be shortly—that was just for my friends across the way—you will be faced at some point, whether sooner or later, with a different government, and that it will say this is wrong? As all three of the parties have taken that position, it's going to happen at some point. You will be seen to be isolated in favour of one political party. Has the association given that any consideration?

4:45 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

We've thought about what would happen if there were to be some changes, but do you know what the answer was to all of that? It was to let's wait and see; after a year, probably you will all agree that it's going very well and it's positive, so this thing will not come back in discussion anymore, because you'll realize by the reports of the different committees that what they thought and what they apprehended didn't happen.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Officer, Canadian Police Association

David Griffin

Could I add something as well?

Our organization strives to be non-partisan and we try to meet with members from all political parties to advance our issues. With the previous government, in fact, and with the last two previous prime ministers and justice ministers, we had good relationships. In the fall of 2001 we appeared 11 times in support of government initiatives following 9/11. Certainly our experience has been that if you were to look at policing 15 years ago, you probably wouldn't have seen police associations in front of these committees on a regular basis, but we found that decisions were being made in isolation and that the concerns or interests of police weren't being brought forward.

Not only federally but also provincially, our associations have become much more active—not partisan, but more active—in bringing the issues and the concerns of front-line police officers forward. In Ontario—

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Let me interrupt, because you—

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Petit is next.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you for being here this afternoon, gentlemen.

My question is to Mr. Cannavino. In one of your documents, you talk about the various individuals who would be on the Judicial Advisory Committee or JAC. You state that a member designated by the community is responsible for the enforcement of the act. The purpose of our meeting today is to determine whether that is proper, whether there are any conflicts of interest, and so on.

A member designated by the Attorney General of the province or by the Minister of Justice of the territory is also required to enforce the law, because that is his or her role. Is it possible that this individual who is responsible for enforcing the law, who is a judge, could be in a conflict of interest situation? You are involved in enforcing the law as well, but at a different level. Could we think that a member appointed by the bar, perhaps not a criminal law specialist but someone with some interest to defend, would also be in a conflict of interest?

Does a police officer have the skills and expertise required, as a citizen who is also a police officer, to be a member of the committee?

4:45 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

As I mentioned in my presentation, we might think initially that a lawyer, a criminal lawyer or a defence lawyer might be biased. Why? Because in addition to the fact that they have some affinity with and frequent judges, there is also the fact that they might possibly be tempted to put their name forward to become a judge. However, we police officers can never aspire to that high office. That is not part of our career path. That said, I fail to see how we could be biased.

Some may think that we are naive to say that the members of these committees are all seeking the same objective—namely that the most competent people assume the high office of judge. Moreover, there are not enough of us to influence or overturn the recommendation. We have just one seat on a committee, not half of them or half plus one.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Do I have any time left?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Yes.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

I have a second question, Mr. Cannavino. A number of police officers, at least in Quebec, are on different committees on which they're required to dispense a sort of justice. In cases involving the code of ethics, for example, a number of police officers appear before these committees and the police officers on these committees do virtually what judges of the Provincial Court do: they dismiss them or reprimand them, for example. Do police officers have this type of expertise?

4:50 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

Definitely. More and more police officers have some legal training. In fact, the Honourable Justice Craig said that some police officers had even taken their bar admission and that over the years they had acceded to the highest judicial position.

We respect the procedures that have been established and so far, I don't think it has ever happened that these individuals have been shown to be biased in the performance of their duties or had not done their work properly. After implementing this new measure for a year, I think the results submitted to parliamentarians will prove how well these committees work.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

One final question, Mr. Cannavino. When a police officer who is a member of your association is on an ethics committee, for example, does he show bias because of his job, or does he play the role he is assigned?

4:50 p.m.

President, Canadian Police Association

Tony Cannavino

We've never found that these people were easier on us or gave us the benefit of the doubt. All the police officers who have been on these committees—Ms. Jennings knows something about this—ensure generally speaking that everything is done correctly and if there is the slightest deviation from that, things go very badly. We do not benefit at all from the fact that these committees are composed of police officers. They enforce the law honestly and they comply with all the directives and policy statements.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Petit.

Ms. Jennings.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would also like to thank all the witnesses who are here today.

I would like to begin by correcting what appear to be two misstatements, Mr. Cannavino, in your presentation. It would be on the third last page, in the first paragraph, second sentence, where you say the leader of the opposition has suggested that the Prime Minister is attempting to “manipulate the judge selection process”.

I believe, if you look at all the statements of the leader of the opposition—I'm assuming you're referring to the leader of the official opposition—his comments about manipulating the judge selection process were aimed at the fact that changes were made without any prior consultation, as has been the practice of past governments, including Progressive Conservative ones—that prior consultations take place before any modification to the process or to the composition—and secondly, at the fact that the federal government was removing the judges' vote, again without prior consultation, and increasing the number of federal government appointments from three to four. They were not in reference to the fact that the government would be, of its own choice, appointing law enforcement.

So I'd like to correct that.

March 28th, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

On a point of order, Mr. Chair—

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Mr. Moore is on a point of order.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

—I don't think this is an appropriate line of questioning, because we're supposed to, sitting here, try to understand what the Leader of the Opposition was saying. It was in the context of this very issue that he said this was manipulating the judge selection process.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

That's not a point of order.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

It is a point of order, because we're trying to have a question and answer period here, and you're talking about things that no one here could possibly answer.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

It's part of a speech. It's debate.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

May I continue?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

You may continue. It's a point of debate.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you.

I believe that when the Chief Justice wrote a letter, it was not condemning the decision of the government to include police officers; it was concerning the government's choosing to change the composition, and the “highly recommended”, “recommended”, or “not recommended” to simply “recommended” and “not recommended”, with no prior consultation. That was my understanding. I read the letter that was published. That was my understanding. But I do understand, given the fact of statements that are at times made about police officers, how there could be a certain sensitivity and a reaction that automatically it meant that police officers shouldn't be there.

I'd like to make the point that the issue here, in my view, is not whether law enforcement should be part of the JACs or not. The point has been made that there may well have been police officers or retired police officers who in the past have been on the JACs. The issue here has to do somewhat with what Mr. Trudell was talking about, both the principle that we have an independent impartial judiciary and that over, I'd say, the last 25 years there have been serious efforts on the part of federal governments, from different governing parties, to improve the process to ensure that the process of selection—without diminishing the government's right to then appoint who they want, but the process of choosing and making recommendations to the government—was done in as independent and impartial a fashion as possible, and that consultation would take place.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Ms. Jennings, put your question. Your time is about up.