House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judiciary.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to once again present a petition on behalf of constituents not only in my riding but right across Canada, who are concerned about the lack of a quality end of life care policy. They point out that less than 5% of dying Canadians currently receive hospice palliative care.

The petitioners call on parliament to collaborate with the provinces to provide funding for home care and pharmacare for the dying, with provinces to provide for the appropriate education and training to all members of end of life teams, and for provision of financial assistance and job protection for family members who provide care for the dying, as recommended in the Carstairs report. This is yet another couple of thousand names to add to the thousands I have presented already.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure pursuant to Standing Order 36 to present to the House a petition from constituents in the Ontario riding of Huron—Bruce who are concerned about rural route mail couriers in their district.

Rural route couriers do not have the opportunity to have collective bargaining rights as do other employees under the Canada Post Corporation Act. The petitioners are asking parliament to repeal section 13 of the Canada Post Corporation Act to allow these workers to have the same basic rights and to perhaps be able to have a better wage.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present to the House today, pursuant to Standing Order 36, a petition on behalf of the organization of rural route postal providers and service contractors in regard to the matter that two of my colleagues have also presented petitions on today, that is, postal services and postal service providers in rural areas.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Judges ActGovernment Orders

March 12th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin second reading debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act.

The bill would make certain amendments to the Judges Act to ensure appropriate compensation for the federally appointed judiciary in Canada. It is intended to implement the commitments made by the government in its response to the report of the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission.

The strength of Canada's judiciary is a key factor in our prosperity and health as a nation. As the guardians of the constitutional right of Canadians to have peace, order and good government, judges form an important pillar in our democratic society.

As Peter Russell, a respected constitutional expert, has observed, following John Locke some two centuries before him:

If government is to be based on the rational consent of human beings, adjudication by impartial and independent judges must be regarded as an inherent requirement of political society.

An independent judiciary is essential to the rule of law. Judges must be free from undue influence of any kind, be it from those with money or power. There is a growing recognition that stability, human security and the rule of law are necessary to economic growth. There is a growing appreciation that an independent judiciary with the proper resources is the first step down this path.

Canadians are envied around the world for the quality, commitment and independence of our judiciary. Increasingly our court system and our judges are looked to as models of integrity and impartiality by developing democratic nations as they strive to implement fair and effective systems of their own.

We need only open the papers or listen to the international news to be reminded of the importance of a courageous, independent and impartial judiciary in ensuring the basic elements of a free and civil society. Like so many of the rights and advantages enjoyed by all Canadians, the importance of an independent judiciary cannot be underestimated or taken for granted. Without it our country would be a very different place.

It is with real pride that I note that Canada's experience and expertise has been sought in the development of judicial and court systems in such diverse countries and regions as the former Soviet Union, including the Ukraine and Kosovo, as well as South Africa and China.

In fact, during a recent visit to China the Prime Minister commented on the five year co-operation project on the training of judges which has been successfully undertaken by our two nations. Canada's contribution toward the training of the Chinese judiciary on issues such as ethics and independence of the judiciary will be integrated into ongoing judicial teaching.

The importance of an independent judiciary was succinctly captured by our Prime Minister when he stated:

For no matter how well the laws are written, there can be no justice without a fair trial overseen by a competent, independent, impartial and effective judiciary. A judiciary that applies the law equally for all citizens, regardless of gender, social status, religious belief, or political opinion.

The Government of Canada is committed to the principle of judicial independence as it is a fundamental precondition to ensuring the vitality of the rule of law in our democratic system of government.

The three constitutionally required elements of judicial independence are security of tenure, independence of administration of matters relating to the judicial function and financial security. In his seminal study on judicial independence and accountability, Professor Martin Friedland observed:

If a judge's salary is dependent on the whim of the government, the judge will not have the independence we desire in our judiciary. If salaries could be arbitrarily raised or lowered in individual cases, or even collectively, the government would have a strong measure of control over the judiciary.

It is in direct support of the principle of judicial independence that section 100 of the Constitution has conferred on parliament the important task of establishing financial security of the federally appointed judiciary. It is the responsibility of parliamentarians, all of us, to ensure that our judges are compensated fairly and appropriately in order to maintain the quality and independence of our benches.

In 1981 parliament established an independent judicial compensation and benefits commission to assist in its task under section 100 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court of Canada explained the purpose of the independent commission process in the following words:

—financial security for the courts, as an institution, has three components which all flow from the constitutional imperative that, to the extent possible, the relationship between the judiciary and the other branches of government be depoliticized—this imperative demands that the courts both be free and appear to be free from political interference through economic manipulation by the other branches of government, and that they not become entangled in the politics of remuneration from the public purse.

In 1998 parliament amended the Judges Act in order to further enhance the commission's independence, objectivity and overall effectiveness in support of the principle of judicial independence.

The new commission process builds on the strength of the former commission. The independence of the new commission has been enhanced through the nomination process and the tenure of its members. In terms of their selection the judiciary and the government each nominated one member of the commission. Those two members nominated a third member to served as chair of the commission.

The commission is required to conduct an inquiry every four years and to make recommendations as to the adequacy of judicial compensation. Parliament further reinforced the commission's objectivity by establishing criteria which guide the assessment of what constitutes adequate judicial salaries, benefits and allowances.

These objective criteria include: the prevailing economic conditions in Canada, including the cost of living and the overall economic and financial position of the federal government; the role of financial security of the judiciary in ensuring judicial independence; the need to attract outstanding candidates to the judiciary; and any other objective criteria that the commission considers relevant.

The care with which the commission undertook its preparations and deliberations is evident in the quality and thoroughness of its report. While the government may not share all the commission's conclusions, it is clear that the commission made a great effort to offer reasons that are carefully explained and supported by evidence to the extent that evidence was available. I recommend that all members take the opportunity to read both the commission report and the government's response to it.

It must be remembered that the commission's recommendations are not binding. It is on parliament that the constitution has conferred the exclusive authority and responsibility for establishing judicial compensation. However, where parliament decides to reject or modify the commission's recommendations, it is legally and constitutionally required to explain publicly a reasonable justification for this decision.

In conclusion, Canada is fortunate to have a judiciary renowned internationally for its competence, commitment, independence and impartiality.

We are confident that all members will appreciate the particular importance of this first formal response to the new commission process in ensuring public confidence in the legitimacy of this process.

Through Bill C-12 the government is proposing implementation of most of the recommendations of the judicial compensation and benefits commission, including proposed salary increases and some modest improvements to pensions and allowances. In light of all the factors considered by this independent commission, including trends in both the public and the private sectors, the government is of the view that the proposals in Bill C-12 are within the range of what is reasonable and adequate to meet the constitutional principle of financial security.

That said, the government is not prepared to implement all the commission's recommendations. Specifically we will defer a proposal that would increase numbers of supernumerary or part time judges pending the outcome of important consultations with my colleagues in the provinces and the territories.

In addition, the government has not accepted the commission's recommendation with respect to legal fees. In our view the commission's proposal does not establish reasonable limits to these expenditures. Instead we are proposing a statutory formula designed to provide for a reasonable contribution to the costs of the participation of the judiciary while at the same time limit their scope.

In conclusion, Canada is fortunate to have a judiciary renowned internationally for its competence, commitment, independence and impartiality.

The constitution has entrusted parliament with a duty to fix judicial salaries, pensions and allowances at a level sufficient to support judicial independence. We will act to fulfil our obligation. Again, as the Prime Minister noted during his visit to China:

No one can be above the law. And no one can be forgotten by the law or denied its protection. And to be implied impartially, the rule of law means that there should be a clear separation of the prosecutor from the person who will ultimately pass judgment.

It is precisely to safeguard the principle of judicial independence, reflected in this statement, that the government has brought forward Bill C-12. I commend it to parliament for consideration.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence. I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the Canadian Alliance justice critic from Provencher.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the House give its unanimous consent to permit the hon. member to split his time?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, in December of last year, shortly after the federal election, I was going through an Ottawa Citizen article which mentioned that Canadian judges would be receiving a $19 million pay raise that would boost their income 11.2% on average to more than $205,000.

The 11.2% awarded on December 13, 2000, was according to that news article quoting a justice department lawyer a compromise between the 26.3% that the judges were asking for and the demands of taxpayers to keep costs down. Government justice lawyer Judith Bellis had taken the view that the 11.2% was in the range of reasonable.

Bill C-12, the subject of today's debate, enacts that 11.2% pay raise, thereby raising the salaries of approximately 1,013 federally appointed judges who sit on provincial superior courts and courts of appeal, as well as the tax courts and the Supreme Court of Canada.

The increase, retroactive to April 1, 2000, will raise the base salary from $179,200 to $198,000 for judges who sit on appeal courts and superior courts in each province. The salaries for the chief justices in those courts will rise to $217,000 from $196,500. The same rates will also apply to federal court judges.

The judges on the Supreme Court of Canada will remain the highest paid. The eight regular judges will see an increase to $235,700 from $213,000, while Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's salary will jump to $254,000 from $230,200.

It is important to note that while the government considers this raise reasonable, the official opposition views it as extremely generous considering senior public servants have received raises of no more than 5.7%. As well, the pay of public servants is not indexed, while the pay and salaries of judges are. We on this side of the House, therefore, are opposed to Bill C-12.

For the information of other new members of the House, I would like to point out this is not the first time the Liberal government has tried to amend the Judges Act. In fact, this is the fourth time the Liberals have come forward and made changes to the act.

Originally in 1996, Bill C-2 and Bill C-42, both if I may paraphrase a former member of the House, were described as being nebulous, inconsequential pieces of legislation with little significance to Canadians who were genuinely concerned about their safety, as opposed to the simple administrative matters that these bills brought forward.

In April 1998 Bill C-37 was introduced to establish the judicial compensation and benefits commission. The compensation commission was set up as an independent advisory body after the supreme court ruled that judges' salaries were constitutionally protected and the previous system of setting pay was inadequate.

Bill C-37, increasing judges' salaries retroactively, provided them with an 8.3% pay increase over those two years. Translated into dollars, this meant an average $13,000 pay increase for federal judges with salaries increasing from $159,000 to over $172,000.

I do not know of any other federal public servant, or any hard-working Canadian citizen, who received a $13,000 pay increase in 1998. While the Liberal government and the Tories were voting in favour of the huge pay increase, Canadians' incomes were on a steady decline.

Members on this side of the House, with the exception of the Progressive Conservative Party, opposed the bill. Members on the other side of the House wrongfully insisted that our opposition to the bill was “the ravings of ill-informed and ill-prepared men of parliament who contributed to the ill-repute of the justice system”. The truth is that my party holds the judiciary in high esteem. We were opposed to Bill C-37 and we are opposed to Bill C-12, based on the fact that other senior public servants, lower level public employees and other Canadian workers had not and will not be awarded such generous increases.

In the same year that federal judges were being awarded these huge salary increases, comparatively Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, who had had their salaries and wages frozen for five years, were granted an increase of 2% in March 1998, retroactive to January. A second pay increase was given to them in April 1998 and toward the end of that year they received another three-quarter per cent increase. Over the five years that they had been frozen, and in the next year of 1998, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police saw an increase of three and three-quarter per cent. They are on the front lines putting their lives in jeopardy. The average three year constable received less than $2,000 over those years.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the former member of Crowfoot put forward an amendment to Bill C-37 that was supported and passed in the House during report stage. That amendment ensured that every four years the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had the opportunity to review the report of the commission on judges' salaries and benefits. The task would not be left solely to the Minister of Justice as was originally contemplated by the Liberal government.

It would be negligent of me if I also did not recognize the thorough job the Senate did in reviewing Bill C-37, the pre-emptive bill to Bill C-12, and the substantive amendments that it brought forward at the upper house.

In particular, I would like to single out the efforts of Senator Anne Cools for her diligent efforts in revealing the many inadequacies of Bill C-37. Senator Cools apparently exposed the fact that Bill C-37 would effectively allow judges to set their own wages, salaries and benefits and in so doing would set up the possibility of there being a show down between parliament and the judiciary. It would allow judges to appeal parliament's decision regarding a recommendation of the salary increase put forward in the courts. Essentially the judges would have the final say over whether or not parliamentarians were giving them a sufficient raise.

Although former judicial pay commissioner David Scott said it was unlikely that judges would ever be setting their own salaries, he would not rule out the possibility of the judiciary challenging parliament's response to the commission's recommendations for a pay increase or for reducing pay.

The judiciary would have to prove, however, in a court that the refusal to increase salaries or a decision to lower them was motivated by a wish to diminish the independence of judges. Mr. Scott said that even if the judges won in such a case, the court could only declare parliament's motion on the issue void and that would result in a stalemate. As pointed out by the Liberal senator, this would “deprive Canadians of their undoubted constitutional right to parliament's control over the public purse in respect to the judiciary”.

Clearly, the control of the public purse rests with the elected members of parliament and not with the unelected members of the judiciary.

Section 100 of the 1867, Constitution Act, states in part that the salaries, allowances and pensions of the judges shall be fixed and provided by the Parliament of Canada. Clause 6 of Bill C-37 potentially abolished parliament's role in fixing judges' salaries.

Obviously we must question why the Minister of Justice at that time was so willing to bestow such potentially wielding powers on the judiciary through Bill C-37. One can only surmise, and again I use the words of Senator Cools when she said:

The real intent (of Bill C-37) is to remove parliament from the process.... There is a problem in that certain particular judges seem to crave a closeness to certain individuals in the Department of Justice and are trying to cling, closer and closer, to the executive rather than to parliament.

She went on to say to the Senate:

In other words, honourable senators, what is happening here is that 200 years of history are being turned on their head, and we are being told in this judgment that, quite frankly, judges prefer their fate to be in the hands of the executive rather than in the hands of parliament. It is a most curious and interesting subject matter.

It is more than curious and interesting, it is fearful.

Bill C-37, which was also an act to amend the Judges Act as it was originally drafted by the Department of Justice, had another problem. It created a legal right for a judge to have two spouses. The two spouses clause was meant to deal with circumstances in which a married judge, who was separated from his or her wife or husband and was living common law with another person, died. It would have allowed a judge to have both spouses, married and common law, to be eligible for the lucrative pension. In addition, the common law spouse would collect a one time payout of one-sixth of the judge's annual salary at the time of his or her passing.

Former supreme court Justice William Estey said that this particular section of Bill C-37 would “give his former colleagues on the bench the right to a kind of homemade harem. It would effectively create two separate sets of family law, one for the judges and one for everyone else”.

During debate on this legislation it was noted that the situations such as the contemplated one in Bill C-37 were rare. Therefore, questions arose as to why such a clause was put into Bill C-37. Critics suggested that this particular clause was tailor made for Chief Justice LeSage who was separated from his wife and had resided for about a year with Judge Lang. If Chief Justice LeSage were to die, the new amendment would have allowed both Judge Lang and Mrs. LeSage to qualify as his surviving spouse and share his pension.

As pointed out by Senator Cools during the debate, Bill C-37 appeared tailor fit to particular individuals. Senator Cools said “We have a situation in this country where individuals have access to the legislative writing machine”. Senator Cools said that it was very bothersome. Again, that is more than bothersome. That is a huge concern.

I understand that Bill C-37 was not the first time that the government has tailor made legislation to amend the Judges Act. Bill C-42, as mentioned earlier, also amended the Judges Act. It changed the pension scheme and working conditions of the federally appointed judiciary. In particular, it set out the terms on which Canadian judges could participate in international activities.

Although it was never explicitly admitted by the House or by the government, it was no secret that these amendments to the Judges Act arose due to the 1996 appointment of then Madam Justice Louise Arbour to the United Nations as a prosecutor for its special war crimes division.

Apparently opposition members naively agreed in June of that year, just before the House recessed for the summer, without any debate in the House, without any debate at committee, to pass Bill C-42 after being assured by the former justice minister that it was a simple innocuous housekeeping bill. It was not until the amended bill was returned from the Senate and the testimony of witnesses that appeared before the Senate committee were made known that my colleagues realized that Bill C-42, as claimed by legal experts, had “the appearance of transgressing the vital principle of judicial impartiality”, the very principle that our Minister of Justice has just spoken on.

In particular, I refer to the testimony of Professor Morton:

The government is concerned, as well it should be, with the current status of Justice Arbour and the implications of her status for those responsible at justice. The government seems to hope that by passing Bill C-42 as quickly as possible it can retroactively legitimate apparent indiscretions by Justice Arbour and possibly others—

It would appear that Justice Arbour agreed to the appointment before it had been approved by the Minister of Justice (or any other officials), thereby forcing the minister to react to a fait accompli. Furthermore, it then appears that the minister, rather than recommending to Justice Arbour that she postpone her new activities (at the Hague) pending necessary amendments to the Judges Act, sought to temporarily legitimate her actions by an order in council; and then (because the order in council is conceded to be insufficient) sought to retroactively legitimate Justice Arbour's new employment with general amendments to the Judges Act, Bill C-42, thereby forcing the hand of Parliament.

Professor Morton added:

No doubt some will say that this is nit-picking. My response is simple. If the justice minister and appeal court judges cannot be expected to comply with the letter of the law, then who can?...Indeed within the last month the justice minister himself pronounced on the meaning and the importance of the rule of the law. The rule of the law is “a living” principle that is fundamental to our democratic way of life. In substance it means that everyone in our society, including ministers of government, premiers, the rich and powerful and the ordinary citizen alike, is governed by the same law of the land.

While one section of Bill C-42 at that point in time appeared tailor made for Arbour, another section of that very same bill was apparently designed for the then chief justice of the supreme court in that it offered an unprecedented pension benefit to the chief justice and his wife at the very time when the top court was considering the most politically sensitive case of the decade, perhaps of confederation, whether Quebec had a constitutional right to secede from Canada.

The proposed changes did away with the prohibition on judicial double-dipping. Previously a retired judge received a pension equal to two-thirds of his annual salary; on average, about $104,000. When he died, his spouse collected a survivor's pension worth one-third of his salary or $52,000, provided that she was not a retired judge.

Under the new law retired judge spouses will collect both, thus receiving a total pension equivalent to their salary before retirement. The most obvious beneficiary of the change was Chief Justice Lamer and his wife, Federal Court of Canada Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer.

With regard to this section of Bill C-42, Professor Morton said:

Without imputing any illicit motive to anyone involved—the timing of this proposed change could not be worse.

Morton also said that sceptics would claim:

It is unacceptable that a chief justice who is about to benefit from the minister's proposed pension policy change now sits in judgment of the minister's Quebec reference—the most politically sensitive constitutional case of the decade.

In closing, I would assure the House and Canadians in general that the official opposition will closely scrutinize Bill C-12. In particular, we will review the provision of the bill that changes the annuities scheme.

I am not a financial expert. I am not an expert on annuities or the pay schedules that are put forward in the bill. Without the advantage of expert advice at this stage, what appears to happen is that the changes being made to the Judges Act allow a judge who is married for the second time to another judge after the death of his or her first spouse, also a judge, to collect both or two survivor benefits upon the death of the second spouse. One could only guess why the government is contemplating such a rare and highly unlikely situation.

As we have already mentioned, four times the Liberal government has come to make amendments to the Judges Act. We have seen time and time again where the government has tailor made legislation to fit certain individuals and certain situations. We will also assure the House and Canadians in general that Bill C-12 is not tailor made to any individuals. If it were, it would definitely compromise the impartiality of our judiciary.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence.

The bill amends the Judges Act to implement the government's response to the recommendations made by the 1999 judicial compensation and benefits commission. Among those recommendations is a retroactive salary increase of 11.2% for 1,013 federally appointed judges. The bill is purely administrative in nature, but that is the problem.

This is the fourth time the Liberal government has sought to amend the act. During the 35th parliament the government introduced Bill C-2 and Bill C-42 and during the 36th parliament, Bill C-37, all of which were minor pieces of legislation or of little significance to Canadians.

While we all recognize the need for housekeeping bills, there have been no significant initiatives by the current Liberal government to address the serious concerns of many Canadians with our judiciary. It appears more and more that the issues parliament may address when it comes to the judiciary are merely administrative in nature.

Under the guise of the charter the courts have appropriated for themselves the right to deal with substantive policy matters. The courts have in addition appropriated for themselves the right to effectively control the ability to set their salaries, a matter which the Constitution Act, 1867, specifically left to parliament.

The decision of the courts purported to find a new constitutional obligation to require the legislatures to set up a commission to establish the salaries for provincially appointed judges. The supreme court, which was called upon to confirm this process, not only did so but included a newfound constitutional obligation requiring parliament to follow a similar process when it came to setting salaries for federally appointed judges.

Although the fiction is that parliament can exercise its own judgment in respect to the salaries recommended by the committees, in reality the judges simply overturn those legislated decisions where they disagree with them. One need look no further than the Alberta legislature for a very practical demonstration of the court's powers.

This is simply a case of judges discovering new constitutional principles that benefit themselves financially without political accountability or, as one of my constituents observed in describing the case, “the judges paying the judge's case”.

This newfound constitutional process that the judges discovered further decreased parliamentary responsibility for the expenditure of public funds and moves toward the creation of an economically independent judiciary with its own political agenda.

A recent letter to Maclean's magazine by a Mr. W. J. Jack of Innisfil, Ontario, noted:

It seems to me that members of Parliament no longer want to or can't make laws that work, so they let appointed judges do that job. If the Supreme Court is going to legislate, we won't need elections, except to vote for one person who would then appoint the members of the court. This would save taxpayers a lot of money, and we'd still have the one-man-rule system that we have today.

Coupled with the self-granting powers under the charter and an executive appointed judiciary as we now have, I would argue the courts can be and often are used to advance the political agenda of a government in a particular direction without consultation with the members of parliament who are accountable to the people of Canada and who represent their interests.

Judicial activism is all too common in our courts. Many if not most Canadians would agree that it must remain the responsibility of parliament to debate and ultimately resolve the political, economic and social issues that govern all our lives.

However over the past two decades judges supreme court justices in particular have to varying degrees engaged in a frenzy of constitutional experimentation that resulted in the judiciary substituting its legal and social preferences for those of the elected representatives of the people in parliament and the legislatures.

A leader in this judicial activism was the former Chief Justice of Canada, Antonio Lamer. Although he is now retired, the decisions he wrote or participated in will continue to impact on the principles and institutions of our democracy. Unfortunately that impact has been at an alarming cost to our democracy and to the public safety and security of our citizens.

Another member of the court has recently added his concern to the direction of the supreme court and the judicial activism of the former chief justice. Mr. Justice Bastarache has warned the nation of the dangers of the judicial government favoured by the former chief justice. In contrast to the former chief justice, Justice Bastarache has committed himself to an interpretation of the charter of rights and freedoms that pays respect to democratic principles and institutions.

The House and the people of Canada should commend Mr. Justice Bastarache and other jurists who recognize the dangers of the legal and constitutional anarchy reflected in the judgments of the former chief justice. Our democratic principles and institutions are too important to be hijacked by a non-elected political judiciary.

Let us consider for a moment a recent high profile supreme court decision that typifies the issue. In Minister of Justice v Burns and Rafay the supreme court in effect removed the justice minister's parliamentary prerogative of choosing whether or not to seek assurances before extraditing alleged criminals facing the death penalty in another country, the United States or otherwise.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of capital punishment, the court has attempted to deprive parliament of debating the issue further. The court has overridden Canada's law as written by parliament and has chosen to push its political agenda to the forefront by opening Canada's borders to violent criminals.

That is not just my characterization. The day after the Rafay and Burns decision was delivered by the Supreme Court of Canada the lawyers for the Minister of Justice, in another related case, stood before the court and said that the impact of the decisions was to create safe havens for criminals.

According to the precedent set in previous supreme court rulings, the minister had only been required to seek guarantees when the possibility of the death penalty would shock the conscience or otherwise outrage standards of decency.

In this decision, the supreme court has attempted to reconcile its new position with its 1991 precedent. However, in actual fact it has rewritten the law. The recent ruling stipulated that the Minister of Justice was required to seek guarantees prior to the extradition of Rafay and Burns and in the future on all accused of such crimes.

Our extradition treaty with the United States has also been effectively rewritten. One might think that the practical effect of extraditing these individuals, if they are convicted in the state of Washington, is that they would face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. That is only technically true. If they are convicted and all appeals are exhausted, they become automatically eligible for the prisoner exchange program. They then come back to Canada where the maximum sentence is 25 years before eligibility for parole and, with the faint hope clause, they can apply for parole after 15 years.

Taking into account that these individuals have already been held for six or seven years, if they were successful under the faint hope clause they would be on the streets after eight years. If in fact they are the people who brutally killed three American citizens for insurance money, the practical consequence of their crime would be eight years.

This is not an issue about the death penalty. This is the circumvention of parliament by refusing to allow parliament to have a say in the laws that govern crime in Canada. This is an abdication of our responsibility. Our responsibility has been taken away by the Supreme Court of Canada which has its own political agenda when it comes to criminal law.

In Minister of Justice v Burns and Rafay the supreme court has prevented any legislative attempt to reintroduce capital punishment in Canada. This is regardless of where one stands on the issue. Our party does not have a position on capital punishment. The court's decision effectively says that the elected people of Canada can never make the decision because it is constitutionally prohibited. The political reason given was that the practice is unjust and should be stopped. That is not a legal judgment. That is a political decision.

Again, regardless of where one stands on the issue, it is a decision for parliament and its elected representatives to make. Regardless of the convictions of the court, amending Canada's laws and treaties for policy reasons should be the responsibility of parliament and not the courts.

Former Chief Justice Lamer's judicial activism is not in harmony with the democratic principles of Canada, regardless of whether we oppose or defend the cause that the court may support. People might say that it is a good decision regardless of it being a political one.

The decisions of the court on political matters short-circuit the process, undermine the authority of parliament and bring the institution of parliament into disrepute. It is not that it insults parliamentarians, it insults the people who elected parliamentarians to make these decisions on their behalf.

While this issue is a major concern, it is far from being the only problem in our judicial system that requires the attention of parliament. Another such issue is related to the appointment process.

It is interesting to note that the last bill to amend the Judges Act, Bill C-37 from the 36th parliament, created the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission which provided the federal government with yet another opportunity to make patronage appointments. The commission consists of three members appointed by the governor in council and it should be noted who nominates these three: One is nominated by the judiciary; one is nominated by the Minister of Justice; and one, who acts as a chair, is nominated by the first two persons nominated.

The failure of the bill to introduce any changes in the appointment process means that important and high paying positions in our court system will remain essentially part of the patronage system.

The Canadian Alliance would like to see the patronage appointment process overhauled to make it more transparent and publicly accountable. One option would be to strike a committee that would review and interview candidates whose names would be put forward to the Prime Minister. The input of the provinces, which are affected directly by decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, is required in these matters.

Another concern I have with the bill is that the increase in pay for federally appointed judges is higher than the federal government is prepared to grant the much lower paid civil service. It lately has been the practice of the government to grant raises to senior officers in the military, senior bureaucrats and now judges while dragging its feet on a general salary increase for staff.

While we do not dispute that salaries for appointed judges and others should generally be in line with the private sector, it is apparent that the foot soldiers of our justice system are being ignored.

What we propose is an independent and publicly accountable judiciary that would act as a safeguard to protect Canadians from the arbitrary power of the state. However it must remain the responsibility of parliament, not the courts, to debate and assess the conflicting objectives inherent in public policy development.

This bill, like its predecessors, deals solely with the administrative aspects of the courts and does not address the multitude of concerns that many Canadians have with the judicial system. Therefore, my colleagues and I strongly oppose the bill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my remarks on this bill will be brief.

In past parliaments I had the opportunity to comment on raises to our high court judges. What I said at that time was that, given the financial situation in Canada and the cuts that were being made all over the map, there should not be any increase, or at least not to the extent being proposed.

Today, I announce a change in tune. On the one hand, there are far more means available to us now for paying our judges. We have far more financial leeway than we did then.

I have listened carefully to the previous speakers, the Minister of Justice and certain members of the Canadian Alliance. I have to say that there comes a time when there must be some straight dealing in such a matter, as in any other. No more hiding one's head in the sand or talking out of both sides of one's mouth.

In this House we have already heard certain parties claiming they wanted no pensions, felt MPs were overpaid, did not want any limousines, did not want to live in the residence of the leader of the official opposition, and then a few years later here they are accepting these benefits, and rightly so. I feel they go with the territory, but there must be no doublespeak here.

The public wants to see us with the best judges, the most competent people. We want our MPs to be highly competent, to be available around the clock if possible. In the workings of government the best people are needed. People expect those who manage billions of dollars to be very good managers. They are entitled to demand that, but we cannot say that we want the best ones and not pay them.

I will give an example. I am digressing a bit, but this will illustrate my point of view on this issue. Let us take Hydro-Quebec. This has little to do with judges, I know, but I simply want to give an example. The president of Hydro-Quebec may earn $300,000. If he worked in the private sector, he would make two, three or even four times that salary.

Getting back to the issue, I know judges who earn a lot less than they did when they practised law. They agreed to become judges for all sorts of reasons. In some cases, it was because they had a very demanding practice as lawyers. Others, given their experience and expertise, wanted to give something back to society. These are not bad people who only think about themselves, on the contrary. We have very good judges in Canada. We have a system that works well. There is always room for improvement.

We must not antagonize them the way some parties are trying to do today. Rather, we must ask ourselves why we now have before us a bill to increase the salaries of higher court judges, of federally appointed judges. Let us not make this too complicated. On the contrary, we must make it simple, so that people will understand why we are faced with this issue.

On November 18, 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the whole issue of salaries for the judges of one province, namely Prince Edward Island. In this reference, the justices of the supreme court in their ruling established new constitutional requirements for setting the salaries of judges.

In a country justice has to start from some point. It happened that it was the justices of the supreme court, Canada's highest court, that ruled on this matter. Yes, at first glance, we might say there was a conflict of interest, since judges handed down a ruling concerning other judges. Who should do the judging? Who decides? Parliament?

We have an institution, the Supreme Court of Canada. We have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think that, since the charter was passed, since the Constitution was patriated, some of the powers of the House of Commons have been taken over by others, including the Canadian charter. In my opinion, parliamentarians have lost some of their jurisdiction under the umbrella of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada is rendering decisions with all of its powers. It handed down a decision on November 18, 1997. I know, I was here in the House. This decision led the House of Commons to introduce an amendment to the Judges Act in order to establish an independent, and in my opinion, effective review board, the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission, far more capable than I to consider the salaries judges might earn, whether they were at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, a trial court or an appeal court, in Quebec or in the other provinces, or the judges of the higher courts of each of the provinces.

This commission looked at what went on in the private sector and where judges came from. It concluded that their salary should be increased by 26%, according to my notes here. I think 26% is a bit much, and this is where the minister has the discretion to justify not giving 26%, and this is what she has done today.

The increase is 11.2% which I do not consider unreasonable, instead of the 26.3% proposed by the commission.

The commission's mandate was to consider what would be the best remuneration for these judges, as well as to look into whether salaries and benefits for judges were adequate, with regard to three points: existing economic conditions in Canada, including the cost of living and the economic position of the federal government as a whole; the role of the financial security of judges in maintaining the independence of the judiciary; and the need to attract top notch candidates.

I mentioned that, when we do a comparison and look at where judges come from, we see that 73% are from the private sector, 11% are from lower courts and 16% are from government or other fields of legal practice and from universities.

When we look at the remuneration of 73% of appointees from the private sector, we see that the average pre-appointment salary of those from Quebec was $209,000 a year. We certainly cannot appoint people without the required training or specialization. In any event, as everyone knows, there are appointment criteria, such as years of practice and so forth.

As for benefits, a pension and the level of remuneration, this committee looked into the matter and decided to recommend a 26% increase.

Bill C-12 before us today sets the increase at 11.2%. Compared to earlier bills, I do not consider this unreasonable.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting Bill C-12. I am sure the minister is paying careful attention and will come to the realization that the Bloc Quebecois supports the government when it presents bills that are reasonable and in line with the interests of the people of Quebec.

As much as I have an attentive ear for this bill, I would like to see the minister lend an equally attentive one to the demands from Quebec, including those relating to the young offender legislation. I cannot help commenting that I hope the minister will also listen to what Quebec is calling for in this connection.

As for Bill C-12, this is a bill we are going to support. I have two comments, however, that are a little more on the negative side, although not jeopardizing our support for Bill C-12.

The first relates to retroactivity. I realize that the commission's report was tabled on May 31, 2000, and we are now in March 2001. When this bill is passed, however, there will be nearly a year's retroactivity. I have trouble accepting that.

This being said, I understand the issue of retroactivity, and this is my second criticism is, but why did it take so long for the government to introduce this bill?

I read the commission's report, which is very well made and very well detailed. I did not take a whole year to read it. That report was tabled on May 31, 2000. What has the minister been doing since? She could have introduced a bill, long before the government called the election in October 2000, to follow up on the commission's report. Had the minister done so, we would not be stuck with retroactive payments of this magnitude.

My two negative comments, therefore, have to do with retroactivity and the government's slowness to act regarding an issue like this one. I do hope there were reasons other than an election call for the minister to postpone the introduction of this bill. I do hope the minister cares enough about the justice system to not have unduly waited until after the election to introduce a bill that provides an 11% increase for our judges.

These are my only two negative comments at this point. The Bloc Quebecois will definitely support the bill. We will keep track of it. We will follow all the debates on Bill C-12. We will certainly be there to ask questions to the witnesses appearing before the committee to express their views on this bill. If people submit briefs, I will take the time to read them.

That is about it at this stage. Bill C-12 will get the support of the Bloc Quebecois and it should get the support of all parliamentarians. I agree with the minister, and I will conclude on this note, that in Canada and in Quebec we have extremely qualified and competent judges. I have no problems backing the judges by supporting this bill, so that they can get fair compensation and remain totally independent from the political system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre. I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend other acts in consequence. I find the bill to be an interesting one, especially in the light of some of the contradictions I see between the bill and other similar issues over which the government has jurisdiction.

It is my understanding that the purpose of the bill is to implement the federal government's response to the report of the 1999 judicial compensation and benefits commission regarding compensation and benefits for judges. Implementing the commission's report seems reasonable enough, but let us not forget that the creation of the judicial compensation and benefits commission provides the federal government with yet another opportunity to make patronage appointments.

The government's response to this issue is to introduce this bill to amend the Judges Act to increase judicial salaries and allowances, modify the current judicial annuities scheme, and put into place a separate life insurance plan for federally appointed judges.

It is imperative that the independence of judges be maintained. The independence of the judiciary cannot be called into question. What is important is to determine the fairness of the commission's report. With this bill the government has accepted the commission's recommendation of a salary increase of 11.2% for 1,013 federally appointed judges, retroactive to April 1, 2000. The implementation of this increase would cost Canadian taxpayers alone approximately $19 million.

It is my understanding that during this process the judiciary had initially proposed a salary increase of 26.3%. Their rationale for the increase was that the federal government must compete with high paying law firms to attract superior candidates to the bench. While I believe that a competitive salary is required to ensure good candidates, I fail to see any great shortage of candidates for the bench.

Over the past decade there has been an average of eight candidates for each opening on the bench. I can just envision the application office for judges absolutely crowded with prospective candidates, waiting in line, filling out all the applications, and in the back of their minds there is this wonderful salary and compensation package. Surely out of every eight candidates for the bench there must be at least one well qualified applicant.

The last pay raise for federal judges was in 1998 when they received 4.1%. The previous year they also received 4.1%. In other words, over a two year period federal judges had received an 8.2% increase. According to Statistics Canada, the consumer price index from 1996 to 1998 rose 2.55%. Mr. Speaker, I presume that your salary, my salary and indeed the salaries of most Canadians across the country would be somewhat governed by that statistic. However let us remember that these are judges we are talking about and that the salaries of judges are already indexed. They receive annual cost of living increases as well as particular salary increases.

To be fair, I must say that I favour competitive salaries. If there is a major disparity when comparing a peer position in the private sector, either the quality of candidates or the number of qualified candidates will diminish. I do not believe that this is in anyone's best interest. Yet to date I do not see that the bench is short of applicants.

While we have the bill before us I would also like to draw attention to one of my major concerns regarding the judiciary. I would like to see an overhaul of the process of patronage appointments in the judiciary to make it more transparent and publicly accountable. The Alliance policy by which I am guided states:

We believe that a non-partisan civil service, an independent judiciary and competent leadership of government agencies, boards and commissions are vital in a democracy. We will therefore ensure appointments to these positions are made through an open and accountable process based on merit.

The key words are based on merit: who will do the best job and who is the most qualified to do the best job.

While there has been much talk of late regarding parliamentary reform, I believe that by extension the reform should also include the public service. This is an opportunity to show the government's sincerity for true reform. The process should be completely open and accountable, and accountable in this case includes fairness.

I am somewhat alarmed that the proposed increase in pay is higher, for instance, than the federal government is reportedly prepared to grant the much lower paid civil servants in general. It has been the practice of the government to grant raises to senior officers in the military, senior bureaucrats and now judges, while dragging its feet on a general salary increase for staff.

I think one of the most appalling situations in this regard is the amount of wages paid to entry level members of our armed forces. Privates, corporals and others often have to moonlight at jobs to make ends meet. This is simply not acceptable. There is no way that the people involved in our military who stand on guard for us should have to go to food banks. There needs to be a requirement of fairness in the whole issue.

The failure of the bill to introduce any changes in the appointment process means that these very important and high paying positions will essentially remain part of the patronage system. Members only need to look around for a moment to see the level of patronage that already emanates from the Prime Minister's Office itself. The Liberal Party has floated a few trial balloons about parliamentary change and reform, but it is time to walk the talk. It is easy to talk about change but it takes real courage and true leadership to implement it.

Change is never easy for any of us. We are getting older and we know that in old age it is harder to change. However, if the government introduced real change, real parliamentary reform and real accountability, I believe it would have the support of many members on this side of the House and of all Canadians. Perhaps it should try it. The bill provides a golden opportunity to begin the process.

I am also reminded about the way that salaries, expense accounts and pensions are set for members of parliament. I do not believe that members of the public would deny parliamentarians a reasonable salary and pension. What the public begrudges is the current manner in which MPs' salaries are adjusted by the MPs themselves. Again there would be an opportunity for change as submitted by members of the opposition, namely an independent body outside the House made up of qualified members of the public would bring in recommendations that would be binding upon members of the House.

The public is simply not willing to continue to have a government act unaccountably. As a critic for Indian affairs I constantly hear from grassroot band members who are literally crying out for accountability from either their own chiefs and councils, the department or both. What hope could the government offer grassroots aboriginal people, or any Canadian for that matter, that accountability is important if it will not live by the same set of rules itself?

We can do better and we should do better. We as members of the House have the opportunity to do it even in this parliament, but too often Liberals opposite take the easier road. For instance, they occupy the justice committee with administrative matters at the expense of more important issues. The country is experiencing a high degree of backlog in the courts and many criminal trials must be put on hold in the meantime.

Let us take the time to make positive change. There is a general feeling in Canada that this Chamber has virtually no real power, but Canadians could be told by parliament, by the House, that we are interested in real reform if we really want it. Let us start it by making the necessary changes to Bill C-12.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence.

Before I begin this opportunity to address government legislation for the first time, I should like to thank my constituents in the riding of Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre for having granted me the opportunity and honour of representing them in this notable House.

Bill C-12 proposes an 11.2% salary increase for 1,013 federally appointed judges retroactive to April 2000. No one can be faulted for requesting a pay raise. Let us be honest. Who would not like a pay raise? What bothers me is our federal government's willingness to grant substantial pay increases to individuals who are already making what most Canadians would see as a very good living.

In the meantime, one of the mainstays of our Canadian economy, Canadian farmers, including many in my own riding, time and again have to come to the federal government for the funds needed simply to stay alive.

Back in my home province of Saskatchewan, the 2000 net farm income is projected to be 35% of the five year average taken from 1995 to 1999, and that was a bad five years. That is a 65% decrease. For 2001, total net income is projected to drop further, from $251 million to $141 million. This is only 20% of the 1995 to 1999 average, or an 80% decrease in income. The five year average, as I mentioned, already has two bad years of income included in it.

The government's attempt to get support to farmers, the AIDA program, has failed the majority of our farm families. This is why the farmers have and will continue to come to have their voices heard on the Hill. Only 60% of that emergency aid has even reached the farmers. Over a quarter of the claims for 1999 remain unprocessed by the federal government and the farmers want to know why it is taking so long. The money promised over two years ago by the minister of agriculture for losses in 1998 and 1999 needs to be delivered, but they still do not have their money. Because of the years of farm policy failure by the Liberal government, farm families need an immediate cash injection. They demanded this. The funds that were given were merely an insult to them.

I know it seems that I have wandered from the topic as I mention the farm crisis, but Bill C-12 seems to reward some people who are already doing very well and are not in a crisis at all. We are able to easily come up with money to hand to them. The apparent contrast of these two issues begs the question: where are the government's priorities?

Many constituents of mine in the riding of Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre are disillusioned with the government due to its uncanny ability to make decisions that fail to address the real issues affecting real people.

I want to be clear. I am not saying that judges are not real people, that they do not have real needs and that they do not have a right to have the government's attention for their real and often valid concerns. What I am saying is that to the majority of my constituents and, I would venture to assume, to the majority of Canadians, granting federal judges a salary increase of almost 20% in a three year period is not an important priority.

How can the government justify giving its federal court judges an additional salary increase of 11.2% over and above the already given 8.2% increase that they received in 1997? How will this proposed pay increase help fix the current backlog in federal court cases? Will the federal court be 11.2% more efficient in dealing with the current backlog of court cases?

The Auditor General of Canada recently stated in his February 2001 report that government departments must do a better job at providing value for money. In other words, the auditor general is asking government departments if taxpayers are getting true value for the government's spending of their tax dollars.

This very day I attended on the Hill a symposium in which we were told that value for money would be a valid criteria by which we should judge government actions and government programs. I ask this question of the government with respect to proposed Bill C-12: how will this pay increase provide value for money for Canadians and for their taxpayer dollars? How will giving the average judge an increase of approximately $19,000 to $20,000 in salary address the roots of the problem the federal courts are facing today?

Although I am no economist, I did a little math to try to shed some light on the amount of dollars being spent on this legislation. If one takes the salary of the lowest paid judge, according to Bill C-12 itself, and adds an 11.2% increase, it means a minimum salary increase of nearly $20,000 to every federal court judge. If we multiply $20,000 by the number of federal court judges whose salaries will be increased, there is a total salary increase of over $19 million. Is this money, $19 million for only 1,000 people, well spent?

There is a need for an improved judiciary system. As my colleague has mentioned already, there are plenty of lawyers to fill these positions; the Prime Minister has a list. Yet all he can think about is increasing their salaries. The problem requires more imagination than simply adding money. More money in the hands of judges does nothing to address any of the problems.

In closing, I do not support Bill C-12 on the basis of four points. First, it fails to address the vital questions of integrity and honesty regarding the appointment process used by the Prime Minister and the government. Second, it fails to meet the reasonable expectations of Canadians in regard to how their judicial system should serve them. Third, the bill fails to address any backlogs presently being experienced. Fourth, it fails to meet the taxpayers' demand for a reasonable return on their hard earned tax money.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak to this bill today. I am not in favour of increases to the judiciary, for reasons similar to those addressed by my colleague. However, I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the other problems that exist in the judiciary in our country.

Many of the reasons for the lack of support for raises to the judiciary stem from the frustration of individuals throughout Canada with the decisions made by the judiciary, which in recent years have become more appalling than anything I have ever seen. I would like to run through some of those cases as I have seen them and as I have experienced them.

A few years ago Darren Ursel violently sexually assaulted a young lady in my riding. We followed the case right through the courts. Judge Harry Boyle decided that the penalty for violently sexually assaulting this young lady was a conditional sentence, that Mr. Ursel would serve no time in jail, that it was a matter of “go home, think about this and stay away from the bars”. There was no time in jail. That judge set rape sentencing back 25 to 30 years in this country. There was basically no penalty. Our community had to fight and fight hard through appeal to get that guy two years. He got two years and ended up serving virtually no time because the time from the issuance of the conditional sentence through to the appeal was considered in his sentence. The guy walked within a couple of months.

When I hear of stupid decisions by judges like this, one could not expect me to come to the House of Commons and suggest that they deserve a raise. I will go though a couple more cases.

Judge Dennis Devitt sentenced convicted child molester William Gibson Brown to a two year conditional sentence and probation. He was convicted of two counts of sexually assaulting a minor. Devitt's reason for the sentence was that both the defence and the crown agreed that a conditional sentence of two years would suffice. Is there any reason for that?

Tomorrow we will be debating all day in the House to try to get a national sex offender registry throughout Canada. This guy sexually assaulted a minor on two counts and was given a conditional sentence. He did not serve a day in jail. Yet the government asks me to give a raise to a judge. There is not a hope in blazes that I will do that.

If that is not frustrating enough, let us talk about Dean James Bauder of Manitoba, who had his nine month prison sentence overturned by a Manitoba court. Bauder was convicted of sexually assaulting a young girl who was his children's babysitter. He sexually assaulted her for a period of time when she was 12 and then 13 years old. The judge, Justice Kerr Twaddle, justified the sentence and described the 12 year old as a willing participant. A judge sat on the bench and said that this child was a willing participant with an adult.

Then the government comes in here and wants me to stand up to give judges a raise. These are not all federal court judges, but they are judges, and the image the judiciary is getting in this country is really bad.

I have been doing a lot of work on the issue of drugs in our country, so I get reports of sentences and convictions of individuals. I have them here, as a matter of fact. They are very interesting. When one looks at them, one wonders what goes on in our courtrooms and why drugs are pushed so much by individuals and the profit is so high. I just want to tell the House about a couple of decisions that were made.

A guy was caught with $302,000 worth of drugs, which were seized. He was on welfare at the time. A judge gave him a 60 day intermittent sentence on weekends. Now there was a penalty: he had to go to jail on the weekends for the possession of $300,000 worth of drugs.

In and of itself, one might say that is all right because the guy was caught for the first time. Was it the first time? Let us look at him. I have here four pages of this guy's convictions. In Calgary, Alberta, he got probation from a judge for break and enter, and probation for a second break and enter. A few months later he got 18 months for another break and enter. He got out of there and was convicted on another break and enter. Did the judge give him more time? No. The judge suspended his sentence and gave him probation again. Two months after that he was convicted of another break and enter. He got two years and was surprised, because he had not been penalized a heck of a lot. That was escalating things, that time by a good judge.

After that he is convicted of break and enter five times. Those are either withdrawn or concurrent. When he got out of prison on parole he was on probation and what did he do? Breach of probation. What happened? Nothing. The judge probably thought it was possible to rehabilitate him at this point.

In June of the following year he was released on mandatory supervision. He lasted until August when he was recommitted. In September he was convicted of break and enter and his sentence was 18 months consecutive, which was actually no problem for this guy because they let him out very quickly and he was convicted of break and enter again. Then he was caught with stolen property and the charges were withdrawn.

He moved to Winnipeg and was charged with break and enter twice. There was a stay of proceedings and he was sentenced to mandatory supervision. A couple of months later there was a break and enter, then break and enter, theft, break and enter, theft, times five. This was a nice guy we had going there. He got a little worse. He moved to Edmonton and was committed for three months for theft.

As we can see, this fellow had a string of convictions and the judges were not doing this as a deterrent. These judges were looking at him and saying “poor boy”. They gave him a little bit here, a little bit there and nothing here, the poor boy.

We need some corrective action. Where are the judges?

He has piles of cases for stolen property, drugs, forged documents, using stolen credit cards, mischief, assault, trafficking and stolen weapons. It goes on and on. I could spend all week talking about these guys.

The problem is that these individuals are going into our courtrooms and the judges are treating the cases like misdemeanours. Yet, the judges say they are doing a pretty good job and that they want a raise. I have the greatest of difficulty, having lost confidence in many of the decisions that happen in courtrooms, standing here and say it is justified. It is not justified.

There are more cases across the country where people have lost confidence in the system than I could name. I went to my office a few minutes ago and asked the staff to pull me up a few decisions by the judiciary. A Quebec judge decided Friday to end the trial of the parents accused of letting their baby starve to death. He cited the 18 month gap between the incident and the couple's arrest, so they walked. A child was starved to death and nothing happened.

I do not know how we have come to this. I believe however that the legal industry, which was once our justice system, has now lost sight of the common sense of the common law and spends more of its time on the technicalities of the law. That is wrong. I have had victims come to my office. They have said that they were victims, that they did not matter and that when they went into the courtrooms they saw bad decisions. They said there was no help for them and that nothing could be done.

Sometimes help does come. There is a great movement in the country today to try to get the judiciary to smarten up and finally make some decent decisions. Once in a while it does but it has been a long time in coming. Before one ounce of money goes on the paycheque, I want to see some accountability and responsibility picked up by the judiciary.

I had a meeting with a victim last Thursday in my office in British Columbia. A judge in British Columbia convicted an individual of murder. He was in the car when another guy blew a lady away. He shot her in the head. He was sentenced in December, I believe, for murder. He appealed it. What did the judge do? He said “Why keep the guy in jail. We do not want to corrupt him”. So he let him out. It was one of the rare situations where a person was convicted of murder and a couple of months later, because a lawyer applied for an appeal, the court let him out pending the appeal. That judge showed a great disrespect for the crime of murder.

It is not just me saying that. All the Liberals are listening, as we can see. It is like pounding on deaf ears.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


David Collenette Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Say something intelligent.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

The minister wants me to say something intelligent. It is very interesting that he says that. I know every one of the victims whom I talked about. It is kind of sad that what I have been saying is considered unintelligent. I guess that is just where the government comes from.

If we have a concern about the judiciary, we speak about it in the House of Commons and bring comments of victims of crime to its attention. If the government disagrees with it, then it is unintelligent. I will make sure that the comment of the minister is well known across the country.

The government thinks that just because there are lawyers and judges in courtrooms today that everything is A-OK and the system works. In many cases the system is not working. One wonders why people continue to push drugs. I have and do talk to pushers. One of the reasons they do it is because there is no penalty for them.

I recently read about the guy who was caught with about $300,000 worth of drugs. His penalty was maybe a fine or maybe a conditional sentence. There was virtually no penalty. What is the deterrent for these individuals?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

That is not on the subject.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

A member has asked me to get back to the subject. The subject is that judges stand to get a raise in pay from this legislation. I suggest to members opposite that many people do not think it is a good idea. They do not have the confidence in the judiciary to allow for a raise.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

That is rubbish.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

It is true. Time and time again we find that when we issue these kinds of raises people ask whether they deserve it. It is the same for members of parliament. When raises come up for members of parliament people say that they just do not deserve it.

It is interesting that I can come into the House, knowing the system as well as I do as far as victims go and being in courtrooms, and listen to that kind of foolish remark from the other side. I find it interesting that once again it really does not matter in the House how bad things are. As long as it is a majority government it is A-OK in the courtroom.

Time and time again victims are being revictimized the moment they get into the courtroom. I do not think there is a way in blazes that we could ever justify an increase, although the majority government would give it to them.

I guess I just want to express my profound disappointment in many of the stupid, irresponsible decisions that judges have made in our courtrooms. I will continue to take every opportunity to address that issue as I stand here. I thank the minister for his comment and will make sure that the people I deal with truly understand how abrasive a minister of the crown can be toward victims.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to make the observation that I appreciate that the member who just spoke has reservations about how efficiently the court system operates. He certainly, as we all have done, encountered occasions when he has felt that judges have ruled in ways in which we might not agree.

My problem though is that he fails to appreciate that the courts, like our democracy, are not perfect. They make mistakes just as parliamentarians make mistakes. However, the very basis of our belief in the rule of law is our faith that the court system and the judges in that court system will exercise their judgments without interference, will exercise those judgments impartially.

As the minister said, when she made the opening remarks for this legislation, the whole point of this legislation that we have before the House, Bill C-12, is to provide a salary regime for the judges, which once provided for, ends the kind of interference or pressure that might be put on the judges politically.

This is a very important principle. This separation of the courts and the government is absolutely vital. I find it a little bit discouraging to hear the member take what in fact is a fundamental principle in the separation of powers in our society and turn it into a dissertation about his disenchantment with the rulings of various judges.

Mr. Speaker, it is true that judges are fallible. Laws are fallible. Members of parliament are fallible. However, the one thing we must protect, and this legislation does that, is we must protect the impartiality of the system, be it the House of Commons with its privileges or the courts with their separation from the government. I just wanted to say that.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess one could say that this legislation is objective and it does make that separation. However, the fact is that if a person in Canada wants to register his or her complaints and concerns on behalf of victims of crime, the person has to do it at an appropriate time. I choose the debate on judicial salaries to introduce that.

Heaven forbid if the Liberals ever brought legislation in the House to clean up the mess in those courtrooms, like the lengthy delays, the deliberate delays, the judge picking that goes on and the inappropriate stoppages of court cases. Heaven forbid if they ever brought that in here but they will not. That is the difficulty.

If we want to address these kind of issues and these inappropriate decisions, then we have to take every opportunity to do it. I choose to do it now. That is my right and my privilege and I am damn well going to do it.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to prolong the debate needlessly, but I just realized that what the member was saying could be very interesting.

I understand his wanting to speak at the appropriate time, which happens only very infrequently. However I do not think it appropriate for him to use his right to speak today to put our justice system on trial. He could talk about salary and about how the justice system could be improved. How does the government expect to attract qualified people if it does not make enough money available to pay judges well?

I agree with what the member is saying, but we must also remember that while improvements are necessary, we must let ability find expression as well. I believe that a salary must befit a judge of the supreme court, all judges of the supreme court, not only the chief justice, and all the judges of the federal court and the judges of the court of appeal.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this argument, because it follows from the ability of our judicial system. Yes, partisan appointments are made. Yes, it is good to bring this sort of thing out, but today we should concentrate on this particular fact. I think judges' ability is related to salary, and the member should answer this question.