Thank you, sir.
Hello. My name is John Muise. I'll give you a quick background because my professional experience is relevant to the issue at hand.
I am currently the volunteer director of public safety for Abuse Hurts, a charitable NGO dedicated to the eradication of child sexual abuse. I served 30 years as a Toronto police officer, both plainclothes and uniform, and six of those years were on secondment to the Ontario government's Office for Victims of Crime.
In 2009 I was appointed a full-time member to the Parole Board of Canada and spent five years adjudicating parole and release decisions for offenders serving penitentiary sentences. All of these decisions involved a detailed risk assessment. Never once did I make a release decision in the absence of a criminal record.
I previously appeared before the Senate committee in support of passage of this bill on the same day as Constable Wynn's widow. I was deeply inspired by the courage she displayed and later was heartened to hear of the widespread support and passage through committee and the Senate at large.
I watched the video feed of MP Michael Cooper's March 21 testimony at this committee and the questions that many of you posed to him. His presentation was spot-on. Additionally, it is clear from the questions asked that committee members have a very good understanding of the proposed legislation and of the tragedy that led to the introduction of this bill. As a result I'm not going to rehash the case.
Instead, I will focus on some of the issues raised in recent testimony. As part of that I will address the proposed paragraph 518(1)(c)(iv) near the end of my presentation.
Let's start with what appears to be the biggest concern, delay. I don't see the problem. The criminal record, the FPS sheet and CPIC printout, showing outstanding charges and other pertinent information, such as high-risk offender notations, are both keystrokes away. Many courthouses have police satellite offices equipped with CPIC access. Failing that, a small town crown is a phone call away to the local cops.
These materials can be accessed by fax, for boomer fossils like me, or a scan, for the millennial generation, as well as email. You will recall that Officer Elliott in the previous testimony noted these materials are readily available.
MP Boissonnault raised concerns about the burden that would be caused by even another five minutes being added to every file. This, however, is simply not the case. As MP Cooper rightly noted, these materials are already almost always part of the bail package. This bill just ensures the information is provided to the court.
MP MacGregor noted the testimony of the CACP. I was present when members of the CACP testified at the Senate. Like others listening that day, I was somewhat surprised by their position. I do not believe that the bill requires the police to prove the record or do any more work than is already done.
The record does that all by itself. It is fingerprint based. The FPS sheet and the CPIC printout listing outstanding warrants and charges for that matter are used every day by Canadian courts. If there is any concern, perhaps it's just a matter of fixing the wording and for that you could rely on the drafters, I suspect.
MP Bittle also raised delay in the context of matters decided on consent. This bill doesn't interfere with consent agreements. It just ensures after one is done that the court has essential information required to make a good public safety decision.
Additionally, in my opinion, there is no slippery slope here regarding prosecutorial or judicial discretion. The bill simply requires disclosure of the most crucial risk assessment information, so that the court is able to consider it.
There are many examples of case law and legislation that impose clear expectations on both judges and prosecutors. Here are just a couple. Anyone involved in the criminal justice system will know what the word “Stinchcombe” means. It's a unanimous 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision requiring full, I repeat full, disclosure to the defence of all materials related to the case, regardless of whether the prosecution or police think it is helpful or relevant. Those who ignore this decision do so at their own peril and at the peril of their case.
Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code says the court “shall” consider a list of sentencing principles—not “may”—and a variety of circumstances “shall” be deemed—not “may”—to be aggravating circumstances.
The witness William Trudell, from the law association, raised the issue of proportionality. Section 718.1 of the Criminal Code says:
A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.
In other words, you can't be too soft or too harsh. My point in mentioning all of these is that there is much precedence for legislation that provides clarity for both the crown and the courts.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I want to address proposed subparagraph 518(1)(c)(iv), which reads:
to show the circumstances of the alleged offence, particularly as they relate to the probability of conviction of the accused
I know it was raised by more than one of you. This is not something new. In reality, every bail hearing already includes a synopsis of the charge. You couldn't proceed with a bail hearing without a synopsis of the charge. Often, it includes information about the relative strength of the case, and this is obviously about the tertiary grounds. I'm not sure what Mr. Trudell envisioned. He did indicate—and I'm using my own words to paraphrase—that this could potentially grind the system to a halt. He does have a different viewpoint, but I would leave it to the committee to decide how they are going to handle that particular subparagraph. The bottom line is, you can't have a bail hearing without a synopsis.
I know we are working to the clock, so I will wrap up.
Much has been made here and at the Senate committee of the fact that a national committee is studying courtroom delays and pretrial incarceration. You know, it would be great if the federal government—and I'm going to take a shot at everybody—appointed judges in a timely fashion and provided sufficient resources to the RCMP to end the CPIC backlog. It would be great if the provinces and territories invested in more courtroom space and the hiring of crown attorneys and support staff. Wouldn't it be great if all provinces created a ROPE squad, like Ontario's, to round up dangerous people like Shawn Rehn running loose in our communities? It would be great if there were more widespread use of electronic monitoring so more people who could safely be on bail would be on bail, rather than in custody. Also, Supreme Court Justice Michael Moldaver has already suggested that judges and lawyers must share some of the blame for delays, although I know his position did not go over well in the legal community.
There are many things that could and should be done to address delays and pre-trail incarceration numbers. Those are great ideas, every single one of them, but none of this should get in the way of doing the right thing regarding this bill.
I know that some people view this bill as simply symbolic. For me, there is nothing symbolic about a bill that provides clarity to the crown and the courts. That ensures public safety is not trumped by expedience. Mr. Trudell noted that you shouldn't change legislation based on tragic circumstances, unless it is absolutely necessary. I agree, but I believe this bill is necessary, would be easily implemented, and won't cost a dime. I would ask the committee to come together in a non-partisan way. If you have to do something with 518(1)(c)(iv)—if you think that is necessary—do it, and send it back to the House with unanimous support.
Then, I would encourage any of you who can to speak to the justice minister. I see Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary, whom I used to call “Chief”—so it's hard to say, “Hey, Bill, how are you doing?”—and Marco Mendicino, whom I don't know, but I do know he is parliamentary secretary and a former crown. I would encourage you to go back and convince the justice minister to join with the backbench Liberal MPs—who, I think, have acted independently and, in the political realm, courageously—and recognize the value of this bill, fix it if it needs to be fixed—that's what the committee is for—and pass it into law.
Finally, I am here today because I've spent more than 40 years—I'm sorry to say, my entire adult life—trying to keep people safe, like so many of you, and prevent victimization. I truly believe this is a bill that would do just that and would not in any way be an added burden to the justice system.
Thank you to Senator Bob Runciman, the author of the bill, to MP Michael Cooper for diligently acting as House sponsor, and to all of you, Mr. Housefather, for allowing me to speak on behalf of Abuse Hurts.
I look forward to answering any questions you have.
Thank you so much.