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Evidence of meeting #38 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was restitution.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Howard Sapers  Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator
Marie-France Kingsley  Director of Investigations, Office of the Correctional Investigator
Catherine Kane  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Elissa Lieff  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Okay.

Constitutionality had been our initial reason for wanting to get some input. I guess there would probably be a variety of opinions from a variety of legal experts possibly on the constitutionality of any given bill or piece of legislation. Anyway, I'll leave it at that.

Are you able to speak to the following, because we do hear some concerns about it and it wasn't quite clear to me. If an inmate is serving his or her sentence in a certain province and if regulations for collection, whether maintenance collection or any types of collection, differ by province, would the inmate have to be resident of the specific province where they're serving their sentence or would they be resident wherever their permanent address was before they were incarcerated?

4:20 p.m.

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

Catherine Kane

If a restitution order or a surcharge order were outstanding, that's a debt that's owed to the province because a surcharge is collected by the province. So the province that would be seeking the surcharge revenue from the offender would likely be waiting for that offender to be released and returned to the jurisdiction where the surcharge was imposed, to then proceed with collection efforts in the event it wasn't paid while the offender was in the institution or before the offender entered the institution. It's more a practical matter than a matter of where the offender is deemed to be a resident. But there would be civil enforcement remedies that could be transferred from one jurisdiction to the other if the province wanted to take those steps to try to enforce the civil order—a debt—from one province in another province.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Would that be the same for child support or spousal support? It might be Ms. Lieff who could answer this.

4:20 p.m.

Elissa Lieff Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

With respect to support, there is interjurisdictional support legislation that allows one province to deal with another province in terms of collection. I can't speak specifically to how the provinces deal with offenders, but there's legislation that exists. Where one parent resides in one jurisdiction and another parent resides in another jurisdiction, and there's support owing, the provinces work together to collect that.

May 8th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Yes, and I think that's where we've seen the challenge when we're talking about offenders.

When we're talking about people who aren't offenders and who are living in general society, there are ways for spousal support and child support to be collected. We've heard some conflicting testimony, but I think, by and large, what we've heard, unfortunately, is that there is no mechanism for offenders to be forced specifically to pay child support, spousal support, and then it goes on. We heard testimony in terms of restitution or other outstanding moneys that are owed.

Here's another question on something that we've heard come up as well. One of the witnesses we had, Mr. Toller from CSC, mentioned that if legal counsel determined there was a legal basis to consider that CSC might be liable, and if they've incurred damages, then an out-of-court settlement might be reached. Do you know whether out-of-court settlements would be included in the monetary awards that are affected by Bill C-350?

4:25 p.m.

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

Catherine Kane

As I read the bill, as drafted, I had assumed that it was only awards made by a court. The bill does raise a few questions, so I can't speak with authority because I'm not as familiar with the bill as perhaps my colleagues from Public Safety, who have already appeared, would have indicated.

I had thought we were speaking of court orders rather than settlements. I had thought that was the intention. It's not for me to say what the sponsor's intention in the bill was, but that was what I gleaned from reading the bill.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

That's what you brought out of it.

4:25 p.m.

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

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Okay. Thank you very much.

That's all I have, Mr. Chair.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Is there anyone else? We have two minutes remaining on the government side.

Mr. Rathgeber.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you.

Thank you to the witnesses.

Constitutionality aside, Ms. Kane, or Ms. Lieff, do you have any thoughts regarding priorities with respect to federal bankruptcy legislation or provincial enforcement with respect, not so much to maintenance enforcement—because this regime attempts to give priority to maintenance orders and child support orders—but to provincial enforcement under a writ of execution or a garnishee summons? Who would take priority when there's conflict in claims? Or do you know, because I don't?

4:25 p.m.

Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

Elissa Lieff

I can't comment on what the interaction would be between federal and provincial legislation with respect to that, and I'm not an expert in the federal bankruptcy legislation as well.

My understanding of the federal bankruptcy legislation is that there is a certain amount of support debt that's recognized off the top. So you sit above the unsecured creditors and then the obligations do not die with being released from bankruptcy. The support obligations continue, but how the interplay between the legislation would work otherwise and beyond that, I can't comment.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Do you think the exemptions under provincial execution creditors legislation would apply, that a debtor is allowed so much in terms of real property and so much in terms of personal property? Do you think those exemptions would apply?

4:25 p.m.

Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

Elissa Lieff

That's not my area of expertise.

4:25 p.m.

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

Catherine Kane

It's not mine either.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you. Nor is it mine.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Thank you, Mr. Rathgeber.

We'll turn to the opposition side.

Madame Doré Lefebvre, for seven minutes.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would also like to thank Ms. Kane and Ms. Lieff for being with us today to discuss Bill C-350.

I have many questions about the constitutional side of all this, but I have to restrain myself.

I am going to ask you the following questions right off the bat. Do you find this bill too vague? Does it have flaws?

4:25 p.m.

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

Catherine Kane

As I noted, there are some questions that the bill raises for me, but I think I'd have to agree with Mr. Sapers that the Correctional Service of Canada is capable of giving meaning to the bill and of implementing the spirit of the bill. So it's certainly possible for them to interpret it and make it work.

There may always be improvements that the committee may be considering in terms of clarity, but that's for your committee to determine.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Ms. Lieff, would you like to comment on the clarity of the bill?

4:25 p.m.

Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

Elissa Lieff

I would agree with my colleague.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Very well.

You said the bill raises some questions. Could you tell us which ones?

4:25 p.m.

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

Catherine Kane

As with a lot of legislation, it's always in the details as to how it's going to be administered. When I would look at it, not being an expert in correctional law as Mr. Sapers or others would be, I wondered how these payments would actually be made. How would the Correctional Service of Canada make the payment? How would they know to whom they were to make the payment, because a recipient of a restitution order would be a victim of crime? The victim would have to be made aware that they could advise the Correctional Service of Canada that they had an amount owing and Correctional Service of Canada would have to find some mechanism to track that payment.

I'm familiar with Mr. Toller's testimony of last week, when he was indicating that they have an offender management system that does some of that, but maybe there's a need for more details about how that would be accomplished.

With respect to surcharge orders, those would be owed to a province. A province would also have a mechanism, or vice versa, the Correctional Service of Canada would have to be aware that a particular province hadn't received a surcharge amount owing and ensure that it would be able to pay them that amount out of an amount that the crown would be paying to the offender.

These are small details, but as I said, without any of those changes the bill should be administrable in the spirit that the sponsor intended.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

You said that in order to administer a bill of this nature, mechanisms would need to be put in place at both the provincial and the federal levels.

4:30 p.m.

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

Catherine Kane

No. I wouldn't suggest that we would have to put in place mechanisms. There would need to be some information sharing so that once this bill were proclaimed into force, provinces would be aware that they might be able to advise the Correctional Service of Canada about standing surcharge orders so that the Correctional Service of Canada could then remit the money to the province to which it is owed in appropriate cases.

Similarly, information would have to be provided to victims of crime who had received restitution orders so they could have that reciprocal sharing of information.