Evidence of meeting #75 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 amendment.

A recording 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
Matthew Taylor  Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice
Nathalie Levman  Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Good afternoon, everyone.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone today.

We are going to move now to our amendments to Bill C-51.

Today we have with us as a witness, Ms. Carole Morency, who is the director general and senior general counsel, from the Department of Justice's criminal law policy section, policy sector.

Welcome again. You're here almost every week now.

3:30 p.m.

Carole Morency Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Not quite, but it's a pleasure.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

As well from the criminal law policy section, we have Mr. Matthew Taylor, acting senior counsel; and Ms. Nathalie Levman, counsel. Welcome.

Colleagues, we have no amendments until clause 10.

Mr. Nicholson.

(On clause 1)

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

I'm going to be making a motion that clause 1 not carry, and I'll speak to that.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Okay, we'll start with clause 1. Are there any amendments on clause 1?

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Yes, Mr. Chair. I'd like to have us defeat clause 1. Clause 1 would have the effect of repealing section 49 of the Criminal Code. I'm prepared to speak to that at this point in time.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Absolutely.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

If you look at section 49, it says, among other things, that someone who wilfully, in the presence of Her Majesty, “does an act that is intended or is likely to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty” has committed an offence.

Colleagues, I believe I mentioned this before. If you talk to people, they'll tell you that if you attack the head of state of any country, that is a serious offence. I know what people will say, that if you get into a scuffle in a bar, that's an offence and so is if you attack the Queen. Most people would say it becomes more serious if you are attacking the representative of the head of state.

I've heard this before, and I'll make the same case again. Some people say that this hasn't been used in many years or maybe not at all. Again, as I pointed out, I remember as a law student at the University of Windsor the professor telling us that the treason sections are not used very often in Canadian history, and he said, “Thank God for that, that's good news, but it doesn't mean you should get rid of the treason sections because hopefully nobody is committing treason against Canada.”

I don't understand even the timing of this. Nobody has a better record of public service, and certainly nobody has a better record over the last 65-plus years in Canada than Queen Elizabeth II. This is her 65th anniversary. She is the longest reigning monarch in British history and in Canadian history. Why would we be removing a section that says, if you try to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty, that is an indictable offence? Why would you want to do that?

Again, I'm not buying the argument that it's like a dust-up in the schoolyard or something. It's not. This is important, and it sends a signal. As I said, the timing could not be worse.

I move, and I believe it is seconded by my colleague Mr. Cooper, that we delete clause 1 of the bill.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

I don't think we need a mover or a seconder. You would just vote against it when I ask if clause 1 shall carry.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Fair enough.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

That's clearly understood.

Are there any comments on that amendment?

Ms. Khalid.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I take Mr. Nicholson's point. However, I don't think we heard any testimony with respect to whether the section should be deleted from our Criminal Code even though there was ample opportunity for stakeholders to make that submission. With that respect, without having any evidence to that, I will not be supporting this.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

You will be supporting the clause and not supporting the deletion of the clause.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Yes.

November 8th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

I wonder if our officials could give us an opinion on whether it is useful, whether there are other aspects of the Criminal Code that come to bear in the event that this is gone.

3:35 p.m.

Matthew Taylor Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

The minister alluded to the fact that other offences of general application would remain available to address the conduct captured by section 49. We're aware that it's been charged once. It was part of Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892. There has been one charge under it, and there have been no convictions under section 49.

For additional information, other jurisdictions like New Zealand and Australia have repealed their equivalent offence of alarming Her Majesty, but undoubtedly the United Kingdom has retained its offence.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Mr. McKinnon again.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

With all due respect, it's much more than just alarming Her Majesty. It “is intended or is likely to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty”.

Would this be captured under a treason offence?

3:35 p.m.

Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Matthew Taylor

It depends on the conduct of the specific case that's being considered. The historical origins of the offence are based on an individual who pointed a firearm at a monarch. That led to the enactment of the particular offence. If that were to happen in Canada today we would have a range of offences available, including our firearms-related offences, uttering threats, and things of that nature.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

May I ask a question?

The way I read this wording, it doesn't cover a representative of Her Majesty, right? It wouldn't cover the Governor General. It would simply cover Her Majesty.

3:35 p.m.

Acting Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Matthew Taylor

I think it's limited to Her Majesty.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Her Majesty has said she is not taking any long trips anymore, so it's unlikely she is going to be visiting Canada during the remainder of her reign. I just want to talk about whether or not this actually covers anything, but I guess you could say her successors would be covered by it.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

You could make that assumption, yes.

In terms of Ms. Khalid's concern, Robert Finch, who is the Dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, submitted this to the justice committee with respect to this particular section, and is supportive of keeping this in the code.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Mr. Fraser.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I saw a brief from the monarchist league organization, but I wasn't aware of it making any specific reference to keeping this provision in the code. It talked about other things dealing with other sections of the Criminal Code, for some reason.