Evidence of meeting #101 for Justice and Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was terms.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Carole Morency  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice
Nathalie Drouin  Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada, Department of Justice
Johanne Bernard  Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Justice

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

No, Madam Minister, I am not misrepresenting anything. I think I was quite clear that you are taking a sentence, under an indictable that is punishable by up to 10 years, and if it's prosecuted by way of summary conviction, the maximum is two years less a day, and it could be as low as a mere fine. That's not a misrepresentation; that's a fact.

I want to also ask you about Bill C-39, which was introduced on March 8, 2017. Lyle and Marie McCann of St. Albert were brutally murdered by Travis Vader. After waiting for justice for six years, the McCann family, just when they thought justice had arrived, found out that it had not arrived, because the trial judge applied an unconstitutional section of the Criminal Code, section 230.

To your credit, you did introduce Bill C-39 to repeal unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, but more than a year later, that bill is stuck at first reading. It has now been rolled into Bill C-75, which is a big bill. As you can see, it's a contentious bill. There is a lot of debate around it.

By contrast, with Bill C-39 there is no debate. I think there is a consensus, or near consensus, that we need to get unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code out of the Criminal Code. I just don't understand, after more than a year, what the delay is and why it has been rolled into Bill C-39. Quite frankly, this could have been passed on a voice vote a year ago.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

With respect to Bill C-39, as you say, it has now been put into Bill C-75, as has another very important piece of the legislation around victim fine surcharge and human trafficking.

In terms of time with regard to the passage or proceeding in the House, I'm not sure that's a question I can specifically answer. As to why we have put these bills into Bill C-75, it's to ensure that the important provisions that are contained within these proposed pieces of legislation are moved through. It makes sense to me, in terms of a thematic approach, to put these bills into Bill C-75, because they are all looking to amend the Criminal Code.

I hear the member in talking about the McCann family and the tragedy faced by the McCann family. We wanted to ensure, in then Bill C-39 and in Bill C-51 , that we do renovate the Criminal Code and that we do get rid of the unconstitutional provisions. I would look to the member, as well as to everybody on this honourable committee, to have vigorous debate and discussion about all of the provisions and proposals that are contained within Bill C-75. This committee and the legal and constitutional affairs committee of the Senate have been very diligent, and necessarily so, in terms of seeking that I and our government address delays in the criminal justice system. Bill C-75 does do that, as well as address the necessary changes we have proposed in terms of the victim fine surcharge to address indigent offenders, as well as get rid of the constitutional provisions beyond section 230, which the member talked about.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

I think this will be the last question the minister will be able to take. Afterwards, the officials will be with us. At the moment, I think we'll hit 4:30 p.m. with this next question.

The next questioner in this round is Ms. Khalid.

June 5th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you very much to the minister and her officials for their time today and for their very important work on this very important file.

Minister, something that I face in my constituency on a very regular basis is refugee cases. Some of them are very, very heart-wrenching. When we did our study on access to justice and access to legal aid, we heard that the demand for immigration and refugee legal aid will increase rather than decrease, and that the current investments are not sufficient.

According to the 2018-19 main estimates, the Department of Justice spending authority will increase by $14.2 million in contribution funding for immigration and refugee legal aid. I'm wondering how that funding will be distributed across the country. What will be the split among the provinces?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Thank you for the recognition that this is an ongoing issue and that there is a need, as always, to address legal aid needs in the provinces and territories, and, in this case, with respect to immigration and refugee legal aid. I will say that the Department of Justice—and you've already spoken about the amounts that are contained within budget 2018—continues to work with my colleague Minister Hussen of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on this.

The allocations of the dollars will be provided, as you say, to the provinces and territories. We will work in collaboration with the provinces and territories to determine what the appropriate distribution of these additional resources is, recognizing that there are different circumstances in provinces with respect to this issue.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Is there a long-term strategy for providing more support in the justice system to asylum seekers as they settle into our country?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Again, I'm not certain I'm the most appropriate person to be answering those questions. I will assure the member and members of this committee that we do work very closely with the Minister of Immigration on how we can address these really important issues and provide the necessary legal support to the minister.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Thank you, Minister.

I'm going to change streams here. According to the 2018-19 main estimates, there is going to be an increase of $11 million in funding for the indigenous justice program, which was the aboriginal justice strategy before, which provides for community-based programs that use restorative justice approaches as an alternative to the mainstream justice system and corrections.

How much money will be dedicated to this program on a yearly basis?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

I love that question.

I'm incredibly happy that for the indigenous justice program we now have ongoing and stable funding in the amount of $11.2 million. This program reaches 197 specific programs and 750 communities across the country. It is to support community-based justice programs, to support restorative justice measures, and to address issues for individuals who are marginalized or suffering from addictions and mental health issues. The indigenous justice program has proven to reduce the recidivism of these individuals who come before the justice system.

I think the indigenous justice program, which has long been up and running but which now has stable funding, is an incredible step towards ensuring that we continue to look at alternative forms, such as rehabilitation and restorative justice.

I hope and trust that that will continue.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Minister, we've been studying human trafficking domestically within Canada. We've learned that indigenous communities are really impacted by it.

Will the indigenous justice program be a way of supporting those minorities who have been trafficked or who have been victims or involved in that whole scheme? Will it be a resource for them to use in terms of getting that rehabilitation they require or the support they require as well?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

I think that's an important question. We are seeking to address human trafficking in many different ways, including within Bill C-75, by providing additional tools to prosectors and law enforcement. In terms of this program and assisting, there has been and is opportunity to support individuals who have been impacted by human trafficking in ways beyond the indigenous justice program, such as through victim support services and our victim funds that have provided dollars to assist in this regard.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Thank you, Minister.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

I would like to thank the minister very, very much for being here today. We very much appreciate it.

I'll ask that we take a brief recess while we allow the Justice officials to bring up whoever else will join them for remaining questions.

Once again, thank you very much, Minister Wilson-Raybould.

We will suspend briefly.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

I will ask everyone to take their seats. After that quick break, we are now ready to resume the meeting.

Joining us we have Mr. François Daigle, associate deputy minister at the Department of Justice. We also have Ms. Kathleen Roussel, director of public prosecutions and deputy attorney general of Canada, and George Dolhai, deputy director of public prosecutions, both under the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Also, the three members of the panel are remaining with us.

We will finish the second round of questions. The Conservatives have advised us that they don't have any questions, so we're going to go to Mr. Rankin. Then I'll ask if anybody has any other questions.

Mr. Rankin, the floor is yours.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Thanks very much, Chair. I have two quick questions.

The first involves legal aid and the funding thereof. In the estimates 2018-19, they propose, “An increase of $3.0 million in contribution funding for Provinces and Territories in Criminal Legal Aid Systems and Access to Justice Services”.

There had been an earlier significant increase in legal aid funding, for which I commend the government, but I'd like to ask you what the views of the provinces and territories were about a $3-million investment. I noticed an article in the Vancouver Sun by Ian Mulgrew that quotes the CEO of British Columbia's Legal Services Society as saying that he was happy with the increase and that in fact it was a big one, but he said that it simply wasn't enough to do justice.

Specifically, on the immigration and refugee side, the estimates indicate an increase of $14.2 million for immigration and refugee legal aid, which I would have thought would be entirely federal—maybe I'm wrong. I want to know what the reactions of the provinces were in respect of that very separate increase to the legal aid budget. Our committee has been very seized of this, as you may know. We did a report, so I'd like your views on whether we got to the right spot in terms of funding.

4:35 p.m.

Nathalie Drouin Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada, Department of Justice

Mr. Chair, I am going to ask Johanne Bernard to provide more information on the numbers and, then, I will comment.

4:35 p.m.

Johanne Bernard Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Justice

Thank you for the question.

In terms of legal aid for criminal purposes, criminal legal aid, you mentioned an increase of $3 million. This was part of an announcement of an additional $88 million over five years in budget 2016. The top-up, if you will allow me to use that term, was $12 million last year. It's $15 million this year, so that's an increase of $3 million, but it's really a $15 million top-up. It's quite a bit larger than perhaps what you had in mind.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Across the country?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Justice

Johanne Bernard

Yes.

The other amount you referred to was for...?

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

It was for immigration and refugees.

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Justice

Johanne Bernard

It was immigration legal aid. That $14.2 million was announced in budget 2017, but there is also not yet reflected here an amount announced in budget 2018 of $12.8 million. That will come. It's currently reflected in the budget implementation vote. Once the Treasury Board submission is approved, the funds will be transferred to us.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

That would mean a total of about $30 million. Do I have that correct?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Justice

Johanne Bernard

Yes. It's $27 million.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Yes, and again, how is it allocated amongst provinces? For example, if one province has a greater need than another, is it simply on a per capita basis?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector, and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Justice

Johanne Bernard

There is a formula, yes, and it's based on volumes of requests and also costs. The lawyers cost different amounts amongst the provinces. It's formula based, and provinces approach us to get increased funding.