Debates of Oct. 22nd, 2004
House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.
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(Bill C-10. On the Order: Government Orders)
October 8, 2004--the Minister of Justice--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Mauril Bélanger for the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I move:
That Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-10 and to encourage all members of the House to support these reforms and agree to a prompt review by the appropriate parliamentary committee.
These reforms may be familiar to hon. members who participated in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when they did their review of mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code in 2002. These reforms have benefited from and reflect the committee's input.
The criminal law governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder and those found unfit to stand trial is not well-known. I would suggest that many people misunderstand the law. There remains a perception that a person who commits an offence and is found not criminally responsible gets away with the crime. This is simply not the case.
Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code governs mentally disordered accused. This part includes the legal and procedural rules governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder and those found unfit to stand trial.
Some sections in Part XXI are complex, interconnected and very technical. However, this part of the Criminal Code provides a comprehensive regime to ensure fair and effective supervision and treatment of mentally disordered accused and the protection of public security.
The reforms in Bill C-10 would improve Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code by providing new powers for review boards that bear the responsibility for determining the accused's disposition or discharge, ensuring that the permanently unfit accused do not languish in the justice system, expanding the role of victims of crime, and clarifying several confusing and misinterpreted provisions, just to name a few of the amendments.
In considering Bill C-10, it is important that all members appreciate who these amendments affect. These reforms apply to persons found unfit to stand trial and persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
“Unfit to stand trial” is defined in the Criminal Code as unable on account of mental disorder to conduct a defence at any stage of the proceedings before a verdict is rendered or to instruct counsel to do so.
The accused is also unable to understand the nature, object or possible consequences of the proceedings, or to communicate with counsel. Essentially, this means that the accused does not understand what is going on, because of a diagnosis of mental disorder.
Where a person is found to be unfit to stand trial, the prosecution, that is the trial, cannot proceed and the accused will be dealt with by the review board until the accused is found fit and can be tried.
An inquiry must be held two years after the verdict of unfitness and every two years thereafter until the accused is either acquitted or tried, to decide whether there is still sufficient evidence to put the accused on trial.
The court may also order treatment for the accused for up to 60 days based on medical evidence that the proposed treatment will make the accused fit to stand trial without risk of harm to the accused and that without the treatment the accused will likely remain unfit to stand trial.
For a verdict of not criminally responsible, which is an exemption from criminal responsibility by reason of mental disorder, it must be shown that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence when it was committed that rendered him or her incapable of either appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission, or of knowing that it was wrong.
Mental disorder is defined in the Criminal Code as a disease of the mind. The trial judge must determine, based on psychiatric evidence, what constitutes a disease of the mind or mental disorder. This verdict and the legal test that is applied dates back to the M'Naghten rules established in the mid-1800s.
Where a person is tried for an offence and found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the person is neither convicted nor acquitted. This is a special verdict with unique consequences. Once found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the accused is not sentenced because of course the person is not convicted.
The court or a review board, which is a special tribunal, will determine the proper disposition for the accused in accordance with the criteria set out in the Criminal Code. For example, some accused who pose a high risk will be detained in a psychiatric hospital. Others may live in the community with strict conditions. The review board will continue to monitor and review the disposition, making any necessary changes until such time as the accused can be absolutely discharged.
Review boards are made up of officials appointed by their provincial government to administer Part XX.1 provisions of the Criminal Code governing persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible of account of mental disorder, and their supervision.
Guided by several criteria set out in the Code or based on case law, boards determine how the accused should be supervised, for example whether housed in a psychiatric hospital, living in the community with conditions, such as periodical hospital appointments, or absolutely discharged.
Bill C-10 amendments will expand the statutory powers of the review board, including to permit the review board: to order assessments of the mental condition of the accused; to adjourn their hearings for up to 30 days; to convene a hearing on their own motion; to compel the accused to appear at a hearing by issuing a summons or warrant; to extend the annual hearing from 12 months to 24 months on the consent of the accused and Crown and, in limited circumstances, for persons in custody in hospital who have committed serious personal violent offences; and to recommend to the court to inquire into the status of a permanently unfit accused.
I could continue to highlight the many essential reforms in the bill, but our goal today is to ensure that the bill is reviewed again and as soon as possible by a committee so the House can move forward with speedy passage.
I have mentioned only a few of the features of the bill and provided the backdrop for these reforms. Canada should be very proud of our criminal law that governs mentally disordered accused. Hon. members are faced with many justice related issues that highlight the need to balance public safety and individual rights. This is an onerous responsibility but is one we have discharged very well in the legislation governing the mentally disordered accused.
I encourage all hon. members of the House to support these reforms.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC
Mr. Speaker, First, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for Provencher for agreeing to change the speaking order, since I must leave the House immediately after I speak. At the risk of disappointing many hon. members, I shall have to keep this speech short. Please forgive me. I can see all those disappointed faces, knowing that I probably will not use the 10 minutes at my disposal; I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is one of them.
On March 29, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This bill responded to the 19 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, under its mandate to examine the provisions of the Criminal Code with respect to mental disorders. The committee submitted its report to the House on June 10, 2002. Bill C-29 was sent to committee but there was not enough time to examine it before the end of the 37th Parliament.
At this point in the debate I would be remiss if I did not raise the point that the standing committee submitted 19 unanimous recommendations to the government. Of these, 5 were set aside by the government, even though the committee had proposed them unanimously.
We have a Prime Minister who prides himself on wanting to overcome the democratic deficit; a Prime Minister who says he is giving considerable—and increasing—weight to the opinions of MPs; but I must express my disagreement because these recommendations contained in a unanimous—I repeat, unanimous—report were set aside by the government. I think it would have been preferable for the government to adopt all the recommendations made by the committee. It would also have been preferable for it to take into account the opinions of the members, who had heard witnesses and experts, who did the reading, who were briefed, who therefore were at the leading edge of the debate on this issue. It is disappointing to see their opinion set aside.
I warn the justice minister's parliamentary secretary right now, in a friendly way of course, that from the opening minutes and hours of the committee, we will be asking why these recommendations were set aside. We will want to know why these recommendations were not followed by the government so that Bill C-10 reflected as closely as possible the committee's fourteenth report which, I would like to remind the honourable member, was unanimous.
In short, since I can see the clock ticking away, I would simply like to tell the parliamentary secretary that, at this stage in the proceedings, we are in favour of Bill C-10. However, the main goal or thrust of our committee's work will be, on the one hand, to strike a balance between protecting the rights of the mentally disordered and, on the other, safeguarding public order and the general public.
In that context, we will also want to know, as I said a moment ago, why the recommendations were not followed. As far as we are concerned, these recommendations reflected, albeit imperfectly—because perfection does not exist in this world—but still in a reasonable way, the balance that we always seek in the field of public order between protecting the individual rights of Quebeckers and Canadians and protecting society at large.
Therefore, at this stage, we are in favour of referring Bill C-10 back to committee and we will try, through constructive and detailed work, to avoid upsetting the balance we seek.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my comments on this important bill. First, however, I would like to thank the people of Provencher who have seen fit to re-elect me. I thank them for their vote of confidence.
The people of Provencher want this minority Parliament to work. They want their parliamentarian to fight for the issues that are worth fighting for, the issues that are important, but they also want me as their representative to work in cooperation with the other parties to ensure that we get our work done here. I think this bill is one of those cases. Not only is it possible to work together, but I think the principles of the bill are important and we should work together in this particular case. That is why I am supporting the bill.
The purpose of the bill is to modernize the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code to make it both fairer and efficient while preserving the overall framework of the provisions.
In June 2002 the standing committee tabled a report calling for legislative reforms and looking at the Department of Justice consultations on the mental disorder provisions for guidance. The executive committee review that was conducted was as a result of a statutory requirement under Bill C-30, which had been introduced in 1991 and which itself was the subject of many years of consultation.
The report that was put forward in 2002 was approved of by all parties. In fact, the result of the review is an important example of how committees, when they are focused on the issues rather than on partisan politics, can work in a cooperative fashion. This report is a demonstration of that cooperation and the value of committee work.
Bill C-30 had a significant reform provision relating to persons not considered criminally responsible. That bill replaced references to terms such as “natural imbecility” or “disease of the mind” with the term “mental disorder”. It extended its application to cover summary convictions for less serious offences as well. Instead of being found not guilty by reason of insanity, an accused could now be held not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
Such a finding no longer resulted in automatic periods in custody. That automatic period of custody was found to be unconstitutional in the Swain decision back in 1991. Instead, the court could choose an appropriate disposition or indeed defer to the decision of the review board, which has already been mentioned here before.
Furthermore, under that provision the courts and the review boards were obliged to impose the least restrictive disposition necessary having regard to the goal of public safety. I think this is very important: this board is not simply looking at releasing individuals as quickly as possible, but also has to keep in mind the issue of public safety. Not only do the boards look at the issue of public safety, they look at the mental condition of the accused and the goal of his or her reintegration into society.
Bill C-30 came into force in February 1992. The proclamation was delayed for three major initiatives: first was the capping provision; second was the “dangerously mentally disordered accused provisions” that would allow the courts to extend the cap to a life term; and third was the hospital orders provisions for convicted offenders who at the time of sentencing were in need of treatment for mental disorder.
Bill C-10 takes into account many of the recommendations of the justice committee's report in June 2002 as well as further input from the Department of Justice consultations with stakeholders. The amendments of Bill C-10 address six key areas: first, the expansion of the review board powers; second, permitting the court to order a stay of proceedings for permanently unfit accused; third, allowing victim impact statements to be read; fourth, the repeal of unproclaimed provisions; fifth, the streamlining of transfer provisions between provinces, and sixth, the expansion of police powers to enforce dispositions and assessment orders.
A couple of concerns have been raised with respect to some of these key areas, for example, victim impact statements to be read at a hearing involving one of these mentally disordered individuals. We must make it very clear that in a criminal proceeding, where an accused is mentally competent, the victim impact statement is very important in the context of whether or not an accused shows any regret, the impact on the victim's family and the like.
However, in this situation where we are dealing with a mentally disordered person, the same concerns would not necessarily arise because we are not looking at the guilty mind of a person. We are dealing with a mentally disordered person and must be careful how we use this victim impact statement.
It is important for victims to have a voice, but we must remember that this victim impact statement in this context does not form exactly the same role that it does in a criminal trial. A criminal may not express any regret for what he or she has been found liable for. It is important for the victim especially in that context to be able to tell the tribunal or the court exactly how that crime has impacted on the family.
The streamlining of the transfer provisions between provinces is another issue. It is important that there is the appropriate consent of the jurisdiction to which the individual is being transferred. We must remember that these facilities are usually under provincial jurisdiction and we do not want to unilaterally push individuals into one jurisdiction out of another jurisdiction. There are issues of costs and other concerns. The bill does attempt to ensure that the appropriate consent is obtained.
The repeal of the unproclaimed capping provisions is also very important. Why were concerns raised about these sentencing provisions? They were raised because it appeared that where a person was found mentally disordered, the period of incarceration or confinement could be a lot longer than a comparable sentence in the criminal courts.
It is important to remember that, for example, if on a regular assault causing bodily harm, a person could get a few months in jail or a conditional sentence. Whereas in this context, we are not looking at strictly the issue of punishment. We are looking at rehabilitation, so the issue then does not become how long is the sentence, but rather how long a period of time in custody is required in order to assist the person to get over the mental disorder to the extent that this is possible.
As I indicated earlier when I spoke about the victim impact statements, again there is a difference in the intent. With the criminal conviction, obviously punishment is one of the key goals of the criminal justice system as well as rehabilitation. When we talk in the mentally disordered context, we are not talking about punishment. We are not talking about rehabilitation in the same way. What we are trying to do is ensure that persons are in custody for as long as they need to be there in order to get the help that they need from the appropriate medical personnel and facilities.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Winko decision that a potentially indefinite period of supervision of a mentally disordered person was not unconstitutional since it was not for the purposes of punishment. However, there is a review process that provides a mentally disordered person with some safeguards.
I am pleased to add my support to this bill. I want to emphasize the work that was done by the member for Fredericton as the chair of the justice committee. I believe he shepherded this bill along in a responsible fashion. I am not going to say that was always the way he conducted himself, but in this case he did and I am proud to support the bill.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-10 on behalf of my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.
I want to thank the electors of Burnaby--New Westminster for the confidence they expressed in me on June 28, as well as underline the good work that many organizations in our community do, such as the Nikkei Centre, the Japanese Canadian National Museum and Archives, Queensborough and MacPherson Sikh Temples and Crystal Mall, which is the centre of the Chinese community in my riding.
I would like to speak to Bill C-10, which is a response to the June 2002 report of the justice and human rights standing committee. The report reviewed the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code and the committee recommended 19 specific reforms, as well as further consultation and research. Among the changes recommended by the committee were: improving the definition of mental disorder, fitness to stand trial, the repeal of hospitalization orders, and the need for adequate treatment.
The bill attempts to cover the issues of how to deal with accused individuals unfit to stand trial. This means that they are so incapacitated that they cannot be tried, convicted or acquitted.
Provincially appointed review boards are charged with the task of determining how an unfit accused should be supervised. This legislation therefore increases the authority of the review boards. Those boards would be empowered to order psychiatric assessments of the accused, decide whether to require the presence of the accused at a hearing rather than to use detention, and lengthen the time between review hearings when appropriate.
The bill allows victims to read a victim impact statement at a review board hearing and allows for publication bans to protect victims or witnesses.
Bill C-10 would allow for the transfer of a person found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder if the transfer would promote the recovery or treatment of the accused.
These are all very important measures that we can fully support on principle, with some caveats related to the expanded law enforcement powers and to some extent the increased powers of the review panel, which will have to be scrutinized at committee stage.
Generally, Bill C-10 seems to be a good response to the report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It deals with complex issues in obscure legalese, and requires a high degree of legal proficiency.
I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of setting standards for clear and simple language in legislation and legal documents. Should a member of Parliament have to be a lawyer in order to be able to do his or her work and understand a bill? In order to read and understand Bill C-10 properly, one needs a copy of the Criminal Code.
I urge the government to introduce bills that are written in plain and accessible language. Please, do not tell me those who want to participate in the democratic life in this country need to be lawyers. We should not write bills that can be deciphered only by a few hand-picked lawyers who are paid $400 an hour.
I also want to emphasize the absolute necessity that people with a mental disorder be well represented. This brings up the fundamental issue of access to justice.
Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination--
Equal access to justice is one of the fundamental principles of society and a constitutional right of every Canadian. This is simply not a reality for many Canadians. Courts, both civil and criminal, are blind to the financial costs of legal action and, as a result, fail to provide equal and just protection to everyone. The reality is that access to the judicial process is dependent on wealth and this means that those with money reap the rewards while those without are often left behind.
When Bill C-29 was before the House, my colleague and former NDP MP from Dartmouth, Wendy Lill, said:
Imagine that the rights conferred by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were only available if they were affordable. Imagine if our rights to life, liberty and security were available only if we were sufficiently wealthy to secure them for ourselves. What if the right to have a court proceeding translated into a language that we understand were violated because the government stance is that only those who can afford to hire their own translators can enjoy these rights? What if our right to be fairly represented by counsel amounted to nothing more than our ability or inability to hire the best lawyer we could afford?
Again, even our systems of legal aid are failing to do their part as discrepancies between provinces, inconsistent results and underfunding have placed the entire system in crisis. We know that the Minister of Justice called on the legal community to increase pro bono work and that he is very much supportive of a broader, more democratic access to justice and to legal services.
If all our lawyers were as committed to serving the community, I have little doubt in my mind that voluntary guidelines would be sufficient to entice the legal community to provide significant pro bono legal work for all those who need it, particularly the poor and the mentally or physically challenged.
In the real world, not all lawyers can afford to do so. Justice demands from most lawyers more than they are willing or able to give away. Only a minority would go above and beyond, and only a minority would consistently trade a conventional bottom line for a non-conventional bottom line.
In fact, Edward Greenspan, a well renowned criminal lawyer, once said, and I quote, “A lawyer can't turn away a client just because he's charged with an odious crime any more than a doctor can't refuse to treat a patient just because he suffers from an odious illness”. I would add that a lawyer cannot turn away a client just because he is poor or mentally challenged any more than a doctor cannot refuse to treat a criminal just because he suffers from being a criminal.
We have a system of legal aid that should be precisely available for this purpose. Unfortunately, the system is underfunded and very narrowly focused. The system falls under provincial jurisdiction, which complicates a coast to coast to coast approach and strategy to fix the problem.
We need a system of legal aid in this country that is wide enough to be available to ordinary Canadians. We need a system that is deep enough to deal with the difficult cases and with the long term supervision of people who suffer from mental disorders. In sum, we need a legal aid environment that would make it easier for professionals to be at their best in their humanity, a legal environment where a lawyer does not have to be a hero to bring justice to the poor and the challenged, and tax incentives for pro bono work to service requirements that young lawyers should provide to the community.
We must also recognize that the costs of law school are increasingly unaffordable and we should provide more generous tuition credits to increase the number of law school students. This is also important and would address some of the issues facing post-secondary education. Surely, adequate funding and better integration with appropriate fiscal incentives to represent those with lower incomes would be a good place to start.
We in the NDP caucus support this bill in principle and support its referral to committee for further assessment and improvement. We look forward to continuing our involvement in passing this important piece of legislation.
Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to the mental disorder provisions. I am sure, with my close proximity to the Chair, I will be able to garner your undivided attention.
This is an issue that is not unfamiliar to me in my professional capacity. The Oakridge division of the mental health centre is in my home town of Penetanguishene in the proud riding of Simcoe North. It is an issue that I have dealt with considerably in my previous life.
It is also a long-standing principle of our criminal law that persons who suffer from mental disorders do not understand the nature or quality of their acts or know that they are wrong should not be held criminally responsible.
In 1991, this Parliament implemented significant changes to modernize the act governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The 1991 updates reflected the need to strike a balance between the rights of persons with mental disorder and the protection of public safety.
The updates contained in Bill C-10 share the same goals as those made in 1991. These changes seek to strike a balance between the rights of persons with mental disorder who come in conflict with the law and maintaining public safety.
It is also worth noting that the 1991 amendments called for a parliamentary review of the legislation five years following the proclamation. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights conducted the required review of the legislation in the spring of 2002, as we have already heard.
The committee review was thorough and comprehensive. Thirty stakeholders made oral or written submissions, including members of the Bar and Crown attorneys, psychiatric hospital administrators, review board chairpersons, service providers and mental health advocates.
It is fair to say in general that witnesses who appeared before the committee agreed that the legislation was working very well. However, they emphasized that further refinements were needed to ensure that the law continued to work well to govern persons found unfit to stand trial and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorders.
In June 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights produced a report containing several recommendations, such as legislative modernization and other initiatives. The report described the need for this modernization and, in some cases, suggested specific amendments.
The standing committee report included 19 different recommendations and these key recommendations for the Criminal Code reform called for: more powers for review boards which are responsible for the monitoring and reviewing of the condition of the accused; the repeal of parts of the 1991 regime that were never proclaimed into force, including the capping provisions; streamlining the transfer of accused persons between provinces and territories; new provisions to deal with persons who are permanently unfit to stand trial; and enhanced protection for victims of crime who attend before review board hearings, for example, publication bans on the identities of these witnesses in appropriate cases and the opportunity to prepare and read a victim impact statement.
The committee also made recommendations calling for more indepth research and consultation on emerging issues, such as the appropriate standard to determine the fitness to stand trial and whether professionals other than psychiatrists should conduct these assessments. Consultations with the provincial and territorial ministers of health were also recommended to review the resources available to meet the needs of mentally disordered accused and the availability of facilities for youth.
The standing committee's thorough review of the mental disorder provisions has led to the groundwork of these reforms. Bill C-10 reflects the advice and guidance provided by the committee and all those who appeared before the committee. Bill C-10 also includes additional and necessary reforms that the committee did not specifically recommend but that complement the committee's recommendations and also reflect issues highlighted in the case law and in consultations conducted by the Department of Justice with key stakeholders over the last 10 years.
The provisions of Bill C-10 that are worth noting are very consistent with the recommendations of the committee and they deal with the new powers for the review board that exist in each province and territory to make important decisions governing mentally disordered and unfit accused. For example, review boards will be able to order an assessment of the mental condition of the accused to assist them in making the appropriate disposition for the accused, whether the accused should be discharged, held in custody in a hospital or discharged with conditions.
Other provisions are the new authority for the courts to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings should be ordered for a permanently unfit accused who does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public. Victim impact statements are to be read aloud by victims at review board hearings. Transfer provisions have been streamlined to permit safe and efficient transfer of a person found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or who is unfit for transfer from one province or territory to another. There are more options for the police to enforce disposition orders and assessment orders that take into account the need for the accused's treatment to continue. The provisions of the 1991 law that were never proclaimed, which include the capping with related dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions and hospital order provisions, have been repealed. Finally, there is a range of clarifying and procedural amendments to ensure the effective application of the goals of the law.
The bill is not a whole scale reform of the law. Rather the bill is the next step in ensuring that our laws are effective, efficient and fair in governing mentally disordered accused. These reforms are necessary and the provisions of the code have remained the same since 1991, but the case law has evolved, as has the application of the code.
The Supreme Court of Canada has stated in several recent cases, including Winko and Tulikorpi, that the code regime has two goals: protection of the rights of the mentally disordered accused, and protection of public safety. Punishment is not one of the goals because, as I indicated earlier, our law does not hold the mentally disordered accused criminally responsible.
Recently the Supreme Court of Canada held, in Demers, that our law must provide for an accused who will never be fit to stand trial and who does not pose a significant threat to public safety to have criminal proceedings terminated. Bill C-10 includes a carefully crafted approach to ensure that a court may grant a judicial stay of proceedings for a permanently unfit accused who is not dangerous, but public safety and other relevant factors must be considered. The need for these amendments was canvassed by the committee and has been confirmed and made necessary by the decision of the Supreme Court in Demers.
I expect that the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Civil Protection of the House of Commons will be able to consider this bill rapidly and I certainly hope that it will support these amendments so that members of the former Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Civil Protection can see the implementation of their recommendations.
The ultimate goal of this bill is a speedy ratification by this House and I wish that all members will support the amendments.
Mark Warawa Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very important bill. I also want to thank the residents of Langley for the honour to represent them here.
The purpose of Bill C-10 is to modernize the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code to make the law fair and efficient. I do support the general intent of the proposals which take into account many of the recommendations of the 2002 justice committee report calling for legislative reforms and further Department of Justice consultations on mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code.
The report was approved by all parties. In fact, the results of this review are an important example of how the committee process can work in a cooperative fashion with no interference from the minister or from the PMO.
The amendments in Bill C-10 address six key areas: the expansion of review board powers; permitting the court to order a stay of proceedings for permanently unfit accused; allowing victim impact statements to be read; the repeal of unproclaimed provisions; streamlining of transfer provisions between provinces; and the expansion of police powers to enforce dispositions and assessment orders. It is on the issue of dealing with victims that I will be focusing today.
The Conservative Party's justice platform features a reorientation of the criminal justice system to take victims' rights into account in sentencing and in granting conditional releases. I believe that those found not guilty by reason of mental disorder fall into this category as well.
As a newly elected member of Parliament I have experienced an incredible learning curve during the last four months. I have already had the opportunity to assist a victim of a truly gruesome crime committed by a person later found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder. I have received a crash course in the process of review board hearings from the perspective of the victim. It is a perspective which this House could benefit from hearing as this bill is discussed today.
I would like to share with the House the story of Dr. Verne Flather and the incredible commitment of his family to ensure that what happened to the Flather family does not happen to another family.
In 1993 Dr. Verne Flather was shot and killed outside his North Vancouver home. The accused was a man named David Henderson, a former patient of Dr. Flather's. Mr. Henderson felt let down by the medical profession. He created a hit list of 10 medical professionals to kill. Tragically, Dr. Flather was the first person on that list.
Fortunately, Mr. Henderson was arrested at the scene, potentially saving the lives of the others on the list. He was later found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder and sent to a forensic psychiatric centre in B.C. He lived there for 10 years until he was gradually released back into the community.
It was then discovered that since his release from the psychiatric hospital, Mr. Henderson had been volunteering at yet another public hospital. Although the caseworkers knew this man's history, it was only when the Flather family protested that Mr. Henderson was asked to cease his volunteer activities at the other hospital.
How can it be that Mr. Henderson passed the criminal record check process and was allowed to volunteer at a hospital? This case brought to light a large loophole in the screening of criminal record checks, disclaimers and waivers for community volunteers and job applicants.
I am concerned about this factor in the proposed bill. The volunteer and job applicant criminal record checks in B.C. do not take into account those found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder. The ramifications of this omission are startling. Criminals can be brought under the current criminal record check system, but the criminally insane are not.
As a result of that realization, the B.C. minister of management services was asked to consider amending the criminal record check applications to allow community organizations to amend their forms to include the following question: Have you ever been found not guilty of a criminal offence by reason of a mental disorder? Minister Sandi Santori agreed last December that it would appear to be reasonable and relevant to screen individuals on the basis of whether they have been charged with a criminal offence but found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder.
Assuming the amendments have actually been made to the screening process, I believe we are one step closer to protecting the public to the best of our ability. I credit the Flather family with that facet of public protection coming to pass. However, we must ensure that every province and territory follows B.C.'s lead in this matter.
Regarding the subject of victim impact statements, there is the question of what type of issues should be addressed in order to further the interests of justice. Since these types of proceedings do not have the same element of a normal criminal case, since criminal intent is not a factor, there is a question of what the nature of these statements would be and how they would contribute to the proceedings.
Bill C-10 gives the relevant courts or review boards the authority to allow the victims to present their case at the initial hearings. It does not, however, mandate the courts or review boards to take the victim into account when rendering a decision.
Bill C-10 also amends the Criminal Code to allow the transfer of an accused. Under the proposed amendments in Bill C-10, prisoners would be transferred without obtaining statements or input from victims. This was a major criticism of Bill C-15 when it received royal assent in May 2004.
In preparing this speech, Dr. Flather's widow, Julia Murrell, was asked to give her opinion of the review board system. She indicated that being allowed to read a victim impact statement was only one part of the process. She stated: “It's like we're in a foreign country with this and there are no guidelines. You think this system works for you until you get into it. It's like there is an underground system, and you have to figure out how it works to get anything done”. There must be full disclosure to the victim's families throughout this process.
The most upsetting experience for the Flather family was with the review board. Ms. Murrell described the review board as an old boys' club. She said: “Unless we, as a family had taken an active role, we wouldn't have found out anything. If we had not been assertive we wouldn't have gotten as far as we did. Families need to be brought into the loop. We need to be able to see the success of the accused as they go through the system”.
She added: “We need to see it to be convinced that the system works. One of the things that would be helpful is to create a network for family support. I don't know of any other families who are going through this. You can't understand what other families are going through unless you go through it yourself. We also need to be told what the rights of the family are. In the review board process, we are not even acknowledged. We are just there as observers, but you have to wonder, what kind of system is this when the victim's concerns are trivialized and not considered at all”.
Julia Murrell described the shock tremors that went through her family when she discovered that the accused was travelling back to her neighbourhood. She said: “The review board told us we weren't notified because they were concerned about the risk to Mr. Henderson by our family! It is us who are concerned about him”!
In conclusion, I would like to extend my greatest appreciation to Julia Murrell and the Flather family for their commitment to ensure that their experience is not repeated.
I would like to ensure that all criminal record check applications bear the question: Have you ever been found not guilty of a criminal offence by reason of a mental disorder? I would like to ensure that victims are given a greater voice at review board hearings and receive full disclosure of an accused's whereabouts. I would also like to see the justice system create a process by which victims can be put in touch with other victims if they so choose.
Statements By Members
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Mr. Speaker, there were fairs in Norwood in 1861. They were officially registered in 1866. They have been organized by the Norwood Agricultural Society since 1965.
This year's fair was a credit to its predecessors and to President John Kloosterman and all the officers, directors, associate directors, staff and volunteers of the current Norwood Agricultural Society.
All aspects of the fair were exceptional. The parade, the school and home divisions, car and tractor shows, the animal and crop shows, the farmers Olympics, the horse and tractor pulls, the craft, horticulture and hobby shows, the 4-H section, all lived up to or exceeded previous years. The entertainment, notably the Mundells, was exceptional.
I thank all those who helped make the Norwood Fair such a success. Through this fair the Township of Asphodel-Norwood enriches Thanksgiving weekend for our entire region.
Statements By Members
Diane Ablonczy Calgary Nose Hill, AB
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Public Works was shamefully trying to drag innocent members of the House into the sponsorship mess in a desperate attempt to get the Prime Minister off the hook.
Also yesterday, there was another sharp reminder of how badly he and the Liberal government have bungled. Crumbling stone work actually fell through the ceiling in West Block releasing asbestos into the air.
The minister is responsible for Canada's grand heritage buildings on Parliament Hill. In 1998 the Auditor General pointed to neglect of these historic treasures, and a study concluded “The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated”.
However, the Liberals have cancelled arrangements to restore a deteriorating West Block. Instead they wasted the money on the sponsorship program. The Liberals have millions to lavish on friends and bagmen but turn their backs on Canada's heritage.
Why should we trust our great country to people with such twisted priorities?
Statements By Members
October 22nd, 2004 / 11 a.m.
Andy Savoy Tobique—Mactaquac, NB
Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to a special lady from my riding of Tobique--Mactaquac, a lady who embodies the spirit of volunteerism that is so critical to the quality of life in rural Canada.
At 100 years young, Linna O'Hara of Stanley, New Brunswick has raised a family of 15 children, dedicated 23 years of her life to teaching and is an active member of several community groups. The Catholic Women's League, New Brunswick Women's Institute, the Retired Teachers Association and Golden Age Club are just a few groups which have benefited from her support.
She was recently honoured with the Order of New Brunswick, the highest honorary distinction awarded by the province. She joins good company in the order. Previous recipients include Harrison and Wallace McCain, K.C. Irving and Louis J. Robichaud.
Mrs. O'Hara exemplifies the strong sense of community and sharing that exist in all parts of the riding that I am so proud to represent. I would like to congratulate Mrs. O'Hara on her commitment to her family and our communities.
City of Victoriaville
Statements By Members
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am taking this opportunity to congratulate the City of Victoriaville, which is one of the eight recipients of the 2004 public administration awards of excellence recently given by Quebec's institute of public administration.
The City of Victoriaville was honoured in the municipal world for its initiative called “Turning Strategies into Action”.
The strategic development plan of the City of Victoriaville is based on seven components. They include strategic, industrial and commercial development, municipal administration, municipal road services, leisure, culture and community life, and the environment.
The City of Victoriaville has a population of over 40,000. It is recognized for the quality of its environment, and it is proud of that.
The capital of the Bois-Francs region is served by thriving socio-economic networks.
Again, I congratulate the members of the city council and municipal employees on helping to earn this very special award.
Statements By Members
Jeremy Harrison Churchill River, SK
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to an issue of great concern to my constituents of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, namely the cleanup of the abandoned uranium mines near the community of Uranium City in northern Saskatchewan.
The Lorado and Gunnar mines have sat abandoned for nearly 40 years and over that time millions of tonnes of unconfined radioactive tailings have leached into Lake Athabasca.
Last January the Minister of Natural Resources said that the federal government would review the situation with an eye toward taking action. Since that time nothing has happened. The Saskatchewan minister of northern affairs has said that the provincial government is having a difficult time even contacting the minister.
It is time for the federal government to step up to the plate and take action on this important issue.
Statements By Members
Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
Mr. Speaker, Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier is retiring today from the upper House.
The hon. senator began his career as a chiropractor in 1953. He was elected as a school board trustee in 1961 and served in that capacity for 11 years. In 1972, he became a member of Parliament and sat in this House for 22 years, until his appointment to the Senate, in 1994.
Senator Gauthier was awarded the Boréal prize by the Association canadienne française de l'Ontario. He was awarded the Ordre de la Pléiade and the highest distinction of that order, the médaille de Grand-Croix. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa.
A champion of the French language and a true Canadian, Jean-Robert Gauthier has been a great parliamentarian.