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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.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present the latest petition which is yet another appeal from concerned citizens in support of our on base military families.

As members well know from all of the petitions I have presented already in Parliament on this issue, and intend to continue to present for the foreseeable future, the petitioners want to draw the House of Commons' attention to the fact that on base housing serves a valuable purpose by allowing families to live in a military community and have access to services to address their specific needs.

They are concerned that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency in many instances provides substandard living conditions for our military families. They also wish to note that families of Canadian Forces soldiers living in accommodations provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency have seen dramatic increases in their rental charges. Indeed they are about to go up again next month.

Therefore the petitioners, who are from Oshawa and Brooklin, Ontario, call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing which is provided for our military families.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

October 22nd, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy 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

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the debate on this important bill, Bill C-10, and encourage all members of the House to support these reforms.

In its detailed 2002 study of the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights emphasized the need for reform.

The public may still be talking about the older legislation which contained the concept of “not guilty by reason of insanity”.

Canada's modern criminal law looks closely at those who are found not criminally responsible for reasons of mental disorder and persons declared unfit to stand trial. The law in this field is not well known and often misunderstood. People continue to think that someone who commits an offence and is declared to be not criminally responsible is benefiting from some sort of “escape clause”.Some people may believe there is no consequence. In other words, for this kind of reason, someone could commit a serious crime and not pay any penalty at all. Of course, that is not the case. There is no escape clause like that. Our law in this matter goes back to the 17th century. The law respecting persons declared unfit to stand trial or those found not criminally responsible because of mental disorder provides for consequences—perhaps less severe consequences, but consequences all the same—usually involving treatment and supervision that can potentially go on indefinitely and for some cases detention in a secure psychiatric facility. Thus a sentence can even be longer, rather than shorter, depending on the case.

As for the Criminal Code, it includes a whole part—namely part XX.1—that provides the rules of law and the rules of procedure that apply to persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, and persons unfit to stand trial. That part of the Criminal Code sets out a comprehensive code to ensure, in a fair and effective fashion, the monitoring and treatment of mentally disordered accused, and also public safety.

I indicated that this area of the law is not well understood—even by some lawyers—and it is even harder to grasp for victims of criminal acts—let alone the general public. In the case of victims, criminal law and the criminal justice system are often shattering, complex and daunting. Victims rarely need to know the law until they find themselves at the core of the justice system, often when they arrive in court. When an accused is found to be unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, victims of criminal acts are confronted with more obstacles in their pursuit of justice.

Victims want to get information on the legal system and on the case that involves them, and they deserve to get such information.

Law reforms, new thrusts and a broadening of the services have given victims a greater role in criminal proceedings. This is increasingly the case. For example, the Criminal Code was amended in 1988 to include the victim impact statement as a means to allow victims of criminal acts to describe the damage or the losses suffered because of the offence that was committed. Incidentally, I remember the debate that took place here at the time.

Some provisions passed in 1988 also provide for publication bans to protect the identity of victims of sexual assault. At the time, a review of this issue was long overdue. Other changes made to the Criminal Code over the past 15 years have helped give a more important role to victims of criminal acts, while respecting the rights of the accused.

In response to the report published in 1998 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”, the government adopted in 1999 a series of amendments to the Criminal Code to ensure, among other things, that victims are informed of the possibility of submitting a victim impact statement; to include the safety of the victims in the factors that have to be taken into account in making a decision on interim release; to specify the automatic imposition of a mandatory victim fine surcharge, and the amount of this surcharge; and to give judges the discretionary power to impose a publication ban to protect the identity of any victim or witness, as required in the interest of the proper administration of justice, something we all support.

The 1999 amendments also provided for a victim impact statement to be written and filed with the court or review board at a hearing to determine the sentence for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The court or review board must take into account any statement filed “in determining the appropriate dispositionor conditions under section 672.54”.

The victim impact statement is provided for in paragraph 672.5(14), which states, “A victim of the offence may prepare and file with the court or review board a written statement describingthe harm done to, or loss suffered by, the victim arising from the commission of the offence”.

Where a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder has been rendered in respect ofthe accused, the review board has to determine how the accused will be supervised. The victims of crime are often neglected, and receive little information on the follow-up, on how their safety concerns will be met or whether or not they will have a role to play or have access to any information.

The amendments in Bill C-10 will strengthen the role played by victims of crime in cases where the accused was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

I commend the government for introducing this bill, which was before the House before the election was called. Now, it is back before us, and I hope that all my hon. colleagues will give their support so that we can move forward quickly with this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

When I was a journalist, I worked as a crime reporter for two years and had the opportunity to follow some highly unusual trials. I saw both sides, crown and defence attorneys alike, struggle with this delicate question.

When a crime occurs, there are always factors to consider in such an unfortunate incident. Sometimes, those factors are linked to someone who has trouble speaking for himself at trial. It then becomes more difficult and complex for the courts to deal with these issues.

A first step was taken by this House on March 29 of this year. At the time, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-29. As is the tradition, the bill was read a second time and referred to a committee so that parties, and especially the Bloc Québécois, could propose amendments to enhance the bill. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the purpose of the bill is to more clearly define this delicate question, which is addressed in the Criminal Code.

Even though we were, at the time, more concerned with pre-electoral stuff than with political issues, committee members were able to come up with unanimous proposals. As I pointed out last Friday, since the start of this Parliament, the Liberal government has kept to one scenario. It reintroduces bills but without taking into consideration the work that was done in the previous session.

When the government acts in this way, it penalizes those affected by this bill. They are already suffering from mental disorder, and then are penalized by the fact that, once again, the Liberal government has neglected to take everything that was said and done in the previous Parliament into consideration. Hon. members are no doubt aware that we are making use of a procedure which allows us to refer the bill to committee earlier in order to get it passed more quickly. Once consideration of it is undertaken in committee, I hope that the committee chair will take time to look at what has already been done, and that the committee will automatically allow all the motions passed that time.

If this government keeps on in this way, the Order Paper will become increasingly weighty. We are operating in the context of a minority government with all sides are trying to make some progress. But, ever since we came back in early October, this government seems to be trying to constantly shunt aside proposals and motions, and most particularly the huge amount of work already done in the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

I hope that, when the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness comes to examine this matter, it will immediately take into consideration everything that has already been done.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-10 in principle, but steps must be taken to ensure that the proposed amendments protect the rights of people with mental disorders effectively and properly safeguard public safety.

Unfortunately, many people are prejudiced against the mentally ill. They deserve more compassion and greater understanding, because they are often accused of doing things that they are not even aware of having done. That is why there are provisions in the Criminal Code to protect them.

The recommendations of the justice and human rights standing committee that were not taken into consideration by the federal government deserve to be again considered in committee in order to understand the reasoning of those who drafted this bill.

When a minister introduces a bill, he certainly undertakes consultation. There is something we are having trouble understanding. Those who drafted Bill C-10 have left out some important parts of Bill C-29, which the previous government had introduced.

I remember April 29, 2004, in this House, when, once again, there was very little discussion of policy. There was more talk about the pre-election process. But there was my colleague from Repentigny, who is very well known and who sits near me. These days, he can be seen in the major debates on the issue of public accounts. I am convinced that he will straighten out the Liberals, once again, on everything this government has done that seems a bit wrong.

I do not need to repeat all that has been said at the Gomery commission. I could table piles of documents I have read in the public accounts committee and tell you what has been happening. I am sure the hon. member for Repentigny will take over.

I return to April 29, 2004. My colleague was saying that the Bloc Québécois welcomed and supported Bill C-29. But at that moment, like all Bloc MPs, my colleague addressed the democratic deficit.

The democratic deficit was a slogan heralding a profound transformation in the way Parliament works. Expectations were created around this deficit, and unfortunately we see that nothing happened, except perhaps that the Liberal government now understands that it is in a minority position and must listen more closely to the opposition majority.

In conclusion, I hope that this positive spirit will carry over to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness when it makes its decision on Bill C-10, so that the people affected by this important legislation will not be penalized.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S)

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.

Since this is my first speech in this House since the election in June, I would like to take a few moments to thank everyone from my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and all the voters for trusting in me. I want to assure them that I intend to continue to represent them well and to be available in the riding, as I was after I was first elected in 1997 and the second time I was elected in 2000.

I want to welcome all the residents of the former city, which became a district and then finally the new City of Dorval.

It is a pleasure for me to rise today and to speak in support of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder).

I am sure that all the hon. members will be able to support the motion to refer this bill to committee.

As the hon. members probably know, other members having mentioned this in the House, Bill C-10 is the result in large part of a study conducted in 2002 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights—its name at the time—which recommended improvements to the Criminal Code with respect to people with mental disorders, in other words, people who are not criminally responsible or are unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder.

The committee review should likely focus on how Bill C-10 responds to the issues raised before the standing committee in 2002 by the many witnesses it heard. Bill C-10 responds to these issues and includes additional amendments to ensure an effective, efficient and fair regime.

There are a few aspects of Bill C-10 that I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members and to Canadians who are listening to this debate.

First, with respect to persons accused of offences who are not fit to stand trial under the current law, a person found unfit to stand trial cannot be absolutely discharged. The law governing mental disorder requires an individual assessment of an accused to ensure that both the needs of the accused for treatment and rehabilitation, and the needs of the public for public safety, are taken into account. An unfit accused person cannot be absolutely discharged because there had been no opportunity for the crown to prove that the person had indeed committed an offence under our Criminal Code provisions.

However an unfit accused who does not pose a risk can be placed on a conditional disposition with minimal restrictions where appropriate. Many persons found unfit will eventually be made well and will become fit through treatment. Once fit, they will proceed to trial, but some will never become fit or will become fit only after many years and cannot, therefore, be tried.

The legislation already contains many guarantees for an accused found unfit to stand trial. Bill C-10 adds one more, whereby the court may be asked to review the situation of an accused found unfit to stand trial, if the accused is notlikely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to thesafety of the public. The court, and only the court, shall then have the power to order a stay of proceedings.

I want to assure all hon. members who have expressed concern about the safety of the public that the government shares their concern. Bill C-10 has been carefully examined to ensure the public safety of all Canadians. A stay of proceedings will only be possible if the accused poses no significant risk to the safety of the public.

In June 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered judgment in Demers, a case that dealt with a permanently unfit accused. The court held that the current law, as it applies to a permanently unfit accused who is not dangerous, violates the charter because it provides absolutely no mechanism for the proceedings against the accused to end.

Everyone, including the members of that justice committee back in 2002, recognized at the time and recognizes now that it simply had to change.

Bill C-10 would provide a charter compliant approach to permit the court to enter a judicial stay of proceedings after first determining that the accused is permanently unfit, and second, that the accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

Bill C-10 will permit the court to hear the case of an accused found unfit to stand trial who is not likely to ever be fit—for instance a person with an organic brain lesion—and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public. A review board will be able to make recommendations to the court to hold an inquiry on the condition of the accused if, in its opinion and pursuant to an assessment, the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public. The court will also have power to hold an inquiry on its own motion, not acting on the recommendation of the review board. During this inquiry, it will hear the parties, the Crown in particular, and determine whether it should order a stay of proceedings in the interests of the proper administration of justice. In determining whether a stay would be in the interests of the proper administration of justice, the court will consider several factors, including the nature of the offence, the time elapsed since the commission of the offence and whether the Crown has the opportunity to demonstrate the correctness of the charges. This is already a legal requirement: the Crown must demonstrate there is sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

The proposed amendments address the situation of the permanently unfit accused who does not pose a significant risk and permit the court to order a stay of proceedings. However, an unfit accused who does indeed pose a risk to the safety and security of Canadians cannot be granted such a stay. Our law must ensure that the rights of the accused and the right of the public to safety are balanced. In my view, the proposed amendments do this.

Bill C-10 provides a very detailed scheme to permit a judicial stay for an unfit accused. I would like to reiterate just some of the features that I noted earlier and that have been noted by others in the House.

First, the review board, after holding one or more annual review hearings for an unfit accused, must come to the opinion that the unfit accused is not likely to become fit and that the unfit accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

Second, the review board can order that the accused's mental condition be assessed by a psychiatrist to assist it in making this recommendation.

Third, the review board may then make a recommendation to the court to hold a hearing to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings is in the interests of the proper administration of justice.

Fourth, where the court agrees to hold such a hearing, the hearing will provide opportunities for all parties to make submissions.

Fifth, the Crown, which represents the public interest, could make submissions on the nature of the case against the accused, public safety, and the mental condition of the accused.

I have only one minute left, so I am going to wrap up. I will go directly to my conclusion, because most of the points have indeed been covered by my colleagues.

To conclude, I hope that my remarks have allayed the hon. members' concerns and shown why this new provision is necessary.

I encourage all hon. members to support the speedy referral of Bill C-10 to committee, so that it can be passed quickly.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is also my pleasure today to rise and speak in support of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code, mental disorder. The bill, as has been pointed out, will make many improvements to the law that governs those persons who are found unfit to stand trial and persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

I will focus my remarks on the provisions of Bill C-10 that seek to repeal provisions of the Criminal Code that in fact were never proclaimed in force.

Hon. members may be curious about why it is even worth noting, since the repeal of unproclaimed provisions merely clarifies the status quo. It is true that the repeal of the unproclaimed provisions will not change the applicable law. However, it is important to highlight the fact that the current reforms, which once and for all will repeal old reforms, reflect the government's belief that these provisions are not needed and will not be needed in the future.

The repeal will bring certainty and clarity to those who may hold out hope for these old provisions, which indeed we now agree do not reflect the goals of protecting public safety and providing treatment for the mentally disordered accused.

Bill C-10 repeals three provisions of the 1991 amending act that were never proclaimed. These are: first, provisions related to capping; second, the dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions; and third, the hospital order provisions. I will be dealing with each of these individually.

Capping provisions were originally designed to ensure that the supervision of those found not criminally responsible would not be longer than the maximum sentence available through a criminal conviction. The maximum periods, or caps, would depend on the offence committed and would range from life to two years or less.

Capping provisions were included as part of the 1992 reforms. The initial postponement in proclamation was necessary to permit a review of all persons held under a lieutenant governor's warrant to determine whether the person should be subject to an increased cap. The delay was also intended to allow the provinces to make necessary amendments to their mental health legislation to ensure that those discharged at the so-called cap would be subject to mental health legislation where necessary.

However, provincial mental health law is not designed to supervise potentially dangerous persons, nor is it designed to protect public safety. As a result, amendments were not pursued by the provinces and territories.

The standing committee in its 2002 review called for the repeal of the capping provisions. The current law in part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, without capping, provides the appropriate balance between the accused's rights and the public's right to safety. Several accused persons have appealed their dispositions, arguing that if they had been convicted they would have served a short sentence. However, because these accused were found not criminally responsible they may have dispositions that restrict their liberty for longer periods than any court sentence for the same offence.

The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly established that sentences for convicted offenders should not be compared with dispositions imposed where an accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder is not punished. Rather, they are assessed, treated and supervised until they can be absolutely discharged.

The absolute discharge may be appropriate soon after the verdict or years later depending on the mental condition of the accused and the risk to public safety. The nature of the offence may have no bearing on the disposition for a not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. Capping should therefore be repealed once and for all.

The dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions, secondly, were linked to the capping concept. They too should be repealed. These provisions would have enabled the prosecutor to apply to the court, after the finding of not criminally responsible but before the disposition is made, to make another finding that the accused is a dangerous mentally disordered accused.

The criteria and procedure were modelled on the dangerous offender provisions that apply to sane convicted offenders. If the accused was found to be a dangerous mentally disordered accused, the court could have then increased a 10 year cap to a maximum of life, but only for “serious personal injury offences”, including various sexual and violent offences. These provisions were very narrow in their proposed application and would have only permitted the longer cap for some of the most dangerous and serious offences.

The DMDA provisions and capping provisions are interdependent and are therefore being repealed together. The repeal of capping and the related DMDA provisions, coupled with the amendments to better protect the rights of permanently unfit accused, will continue to reflect the goals of our criminal law system, including protecting the public.

The hospital order provisions would have applied to convicted offenders, not those found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. These provisions are also proposed for repeal.

Hospital orders were intended to provide a mechanism for short term treatment of a convicted offender who, at the time of sentencing, was in an acute phase of a mental disorder and in urgent need of treatment to prevent further mental deterioration. An offender meeting this criterion would be sent to a psychiatric facility for a period of up to 60 days rather than jailed.

The provisions are being repealed because there is a general view among stakeholders that the current system can accomplish the intended purpose of hospital orders without a statutory provision. In addition, the code provisions are too narrow in their application to address the nature and range of mental disorder present in the convicted offender population. Proclamation of the hospital order provisions would not address the larger problem.

The repeal of these three provisions reflects the government's commitment to fair and effective laws that are clear and up to date. I think all members of the House would agree with that objective.

While it may seem odd to dwell on these aspects of Bill C-10 that may seem of little consequence because they seek to repeal provisions that were never really part of our operating law, I hope members will agree that clarity is necessary and that our parliamentary record should reflect how and why our policy and law have evolved.

I encourage all hon. members to support these provisions that have been put forward in Bill C-10.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill C-10, as my distinguished colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have done before me. The Bloc Quebecois supports referring the bill to committee before second reading.

Bill C-10 is the Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It is the former Bill C-29, which had reached second reading in the last Parliament before dying on the Order Paper with the election call in June. On the issue of Bill C-29, I would like to acknowledge the work of our justice critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

We are of course in favour of the principle of this bill and of referring the bill to a committee before second reading, but we have to ensure that the proposed amendments will effectively protect the rights of people suffering from mental disorder, while protecting society. This is important also. Amending the Criminal Code is always a sensitive issue. We are dealing with subjects that are difficult for the victims or those close to the victims, who were affected by a crime. Those people have to be protected too. The amendments to the Criminal Code must be carefully measured.

The recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness were not all accepted by the government. We will have to pay special attention when the bill goes to committee. I have no doubt that my colleague, the justice critic for the Bloc Québécois, will be able to keep things in perspective and to do a good job as usual.

We had another example of democratic deficit—my colleague from Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière mentioned this earlier—when the unanimous report was not followed up in its entirety. It was followed up, but not entirely. I would answer that, even though it was almost entirely agreed upon, too often in the past we have seen the government ignore a unanimous report. I am thinking of what affects many people, about the unanimous report on employment insurance. This is deplorable.

However, now, there is an amendment that is quite important and interesting: committee reports will be voted on. Fortunately, we have a majority in the committee. Let this be a warning to the government.

The recommendations that were not followed up will then have to be examined once again in committee. In C-10, 5 of 19 are not there. We will be very vigilant in this regard.

At this time in my short speech, I would like to summarize the bill for the many people who are watching us and the House.

This enactment amends Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code governing persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The amendments, among other things, include

(a) repealing unproclaimed provisions related to capping, dangerous mentally disordered accused and hospital orders;

(b) expanding the authority of Review Boards by enabling them to order an assessment of the accused, adjourn hearings and protect the identity of victims and witnesses;

(c) permitting the oral presentation of victim impact statements at disposition hearings and adjournments allowing the victim to prepare the statement;

(d) permitting Review Boards to extend the time for holding a review hearing to a maximum of 24 months in certain circumstances;

(e) permitting the court to hold an inquiry and order a judicial stay of proceedings for an accused found unfit to stand trial, if the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public and a stay is in the interests of the proper administration of justice;

(f) specifying that the transfer provisions require the consent of the appropriate Attorneys General in all cases and enabling transfers of an accused who is not in custody; and

(g) allowing peace officers arresting an accused who is in contravention of an assessment order or a disposition to release, detain, compel the appearance of or deliver the accused to a place specified in the order.

This enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts, including the National Defence Act.

This bill applies to people with mental disorder, people who are declared not criminally responsible or unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder.

I studied law for a year and a half and I remember some of my courses. I switched majors and went into communication and became a journalist. This got me into courthouses nonetheless—as a journalist of course, not as a client. I had the opportunity to hear a number of cases including some that were very difficult because, as I was saying earlier, the victims or the accused did not even know they had been involved in a crime.

In criminal law, for an accused to be declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, it must be shown that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence 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.

We in the Bloc Québécois feel it is important that the bill protect the rights of people declared not criminally responsible or unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder. We also have to protect public safety. It bears repeating because it is very important. I am convinced, as I was saying earlier, that we will have the opportunity to be very vigilant about this in committee.

We have to avoid a repetition of such tragedies as those mentioned by the Canadian Association of Community Living in the brief it submitted on January 25, 2000, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We talked for instance about some people with developmental disability who were held without cause at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, in British Columbia.

Let me quote one of the examples I found on the association's Web site. A 30 year old aboriginal man with a developmental disability was charged with mischief in 1997 and found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. He has been held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital since then and has appeared regularly in front of the BC Review Board. At his June, 2000 hearing it was confirmed that the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was not an appropriate setting as the hospital is not geared to deal with individuals with developmental disabilities.

Recognizing that this individual had been kept in custody for a minor offence for more than three years in an institution that was not appropriate to meet his needs, the Review Board ordered a conditional discharge to the community. To date, appropriate community care and treatment has not been forthcoming and he continues to be held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

This case and many others “stress some of the shortcomings of Canada's criminal justice system to properly address the rights and needs of all citizens. Some people, especially people with intellectual disabilities, fall through the cracks of the system”. That is what the Canadian Association for Community Living said in its brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on January 25, 2002.

In conclusion, the report of the standing committee confirmed that the 1992 Criminal Code provisions regarding persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible because of mental disorders needs improvement. You can count on the Bloc Québécois to do what is needed to ensure that the bill reflects the real wishes and needs of persons with mental disorders and the organizations that support them, and that it also safeguards public security.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

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1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

(Bill C-12. On the Order: Government Orders)

October 8, 2004--the Minister of Health--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberalfor the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Health.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of State (Public Health)

Mr. Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada's objective was to modernize the legislation on health protection.

From the Naylor report to budget 2004, from the creation of the Public Health Agency, to the recent first ministers and health ministers meetings, the government has demonstrated its clear commitment to enhancing and protecting the public health of Canadians.

While the current health protection system has served Canadians well, the time has come to update and integrate our existing laws into a stronger, comprehensive and flexible public health system, precisely what Dr. David Naylor, as well as the Senate committee which studied SARS, recommended we do.

The amendment of the Quarantine Act is the first of a series of improvements such as the public safety agency act that the Government of Canada wants to introduce to reinforce our public safety system.

With the SARS crisis we had to face the fact that our current legislation is outdated. The existing Quarantine Act has remained largely unchanged since the adoption of the first Quarantine Act in 1872, a time when automobiles and jetliners were the subject of science fiction.

Needless to say, times have changed. We live in an age where people move from continent to continent in hours and days rather than weeks or months, often in airplanes and ships whose confined spaces provide a perfect breeding ground for highly communicable diseases to spread.

We now acknowledge that our planet all of a sudden has become very tiny. Infectious diseases move like wildfire across the planet. Germs do not respect borders, so we know that we will face repeated threats to public health in the future.

Among the many hard lessons learned from the experience of SARS is the need to strengthen our quarantine legislation to help prevent the introduction and spread of both emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases.

As a response to concerns about the spread of communicable diseases, we decided to move forward immediately with new quarantine legislation. The legislation before the House today delivers on our pledge to correct many of the problems brought to our attention by the recent events such as SARS which underscored how fast and how hard diseases can hit our health care system and our economy.

The government understands how important it is to address the gaps in readiness. In budget 2004 we pledged $165 million to establish the health emergency response teams and enhance surveillance. We have also created a new department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Now, with Bill C-12, we will replace the outdated quarantine legislation with an improved and modern Quarantine Act so that we can better protect Canadians from the importation of dangerous communicable diseases and ensure Canada can meet its international obligations to help prevent the spread of diseases beyond our borders.

The modernized act we propose has a new focus on airline travel and would provide the Minister of Health with additional abilities. For example, he could divert an aircraft to an alternate landing site if it is necessary to isolate passengers. He can establish quarantine facilities at any location in Canada and order that carriers from certain countries or regions of the world not enter Canada if there are serious concerns that such an arrival may threaten the public health of Canadians. He would be able to close Canadian border points in the event of a public health emergency. The proposed act also lists many more communicable diseases for which Canadian officials could detain departing passengers.

While these measures would only be used in rare instances where circumstances warrant, these changes are essential if we are to keep pace with emerging infectious diseases and protect the health of Canadians.

I want to ensure parliamentarians that Canadians' privacy rights are guaranteed. While the updated act authorizes the collection and sharing of personal health information, the authorization to do so is limited to what is required to protect the health and safety of Canadians. That is what citizens clearly want. They want the assurance that we are taking every possible precaution to prevent the spread of communicable diseases that could put their personal health and the welfare of their communities at risk.

The new version of the Quarantine Act will give us an additional level of protection by providing solid, flexible and updated legislation that will allow us to react more efficiently to current and future health risks, while ensuring adequate protection of human rights.

The scope of the Quarantine Act is limited to ensuring that infectious diseases are prevented from entering Canada or being spread to other countries. It will not affect interprovincial movement. We continue to work with our provincial and territorial government partners regarding the quarantine measures that can be taken to control the spread of infectious disease within and between provinces. In this regard, I would like to express our appreciation for the FPT special task force on public health which models a clear approach to mutual aid, information sharing and collaboration.

Canada is a responsible partner of the global public health arena. The updated act is aligned with Canada's obligations under the World Health Organization's international health regulations. The updated act, the creation of the public health agency of Canada, the appointment of the first chief public health officer and the Canadian pandemic influenza plan are all complementary steps in the Government of Canada's strategy for strengthening Canada's public health system. These innovations ensure better communication, collaboration and cooperation among partners as well as better clarity about who does what and when.

They will build on the expertise and strengths we already have in many areas of public health and communicable disease control to ensure Canadians are safeguarded by a seamless public health system throughout this country. Taken together, they will help ensure that Canadians are fully protected from the outbreaks of emerging diseases such as SARS and whatever else awaits us in the future.

Given that we cannot predict what the next infection will be or when it may surface, we need to be ready. We need this improved legislation now. By introducing a new and modern Quarantine Act, Canada will be better positioned to respond to any and all potential for threats to the health and well-being of our citizens.

It is clear that the health and safety of Canadians is a priority of the government. Canadians expect no less. I look forward to the work of the parliamentary committee to listen to the stakeholders and experts to help us make the bill as good as it can possibly be.

By passing the progressive bill that we are discussing today, within a larger public health strategy, I am convinced that we will not disappoint Canadians.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-12, which as the House knows is a piece of legislation that repeals and replaces the existing Quarantine Act. As the House is aware, the Quarantine Act has not been significantly amended since it was introduced in 1872.

An effective Quarantine Act is an important component in our ability to deal with outbreaks of infectious diseases. The changes we are examining now emanate in part from the lessons learned from the SARS outbreak and the recommendations of Dr. David Naylor, chair of the national advisory committee on SARS.

The Naylor report noted that travel has become a key means for transmission of infectious diseases. SARS was introduced through air travel by a passenger who brought the disease with him from Hong Kong. Many of us will remember the panic Canadians felt as people got sick and died from a mysterious respiratory ailment.

As a community, Toronto was hardest hit with this disease. At the peak of the outbreak, over 6,000 people were quarantined in the Toronto area alone. However, it was our front line health care workers who carried the heaviest burden of dealing with the disease. More than 100 Canadian health care workers became ill with SARS and three died.

Canada was not in a position of being prepared to deal with SARS, despite the fact there had been earlier warnings. Colleagues may recall during the Ebola scare of 2001, when it was thought a woman who had arrived in Canada had the deadly disease. Fortunately, the woman did not have Ebola and recovered from her illness, but this incident clearly demonstrated that we were not ready to deal with a communicable disease outbreak or epidemic.

The bill before us today will provide the government with the legislative authority to deal with travellers coming into or leaving Canada. Travellers can be ordered to undergo medical examinations at their own cost. I am not certain what the government will do if the people cannot pay or refuse to pay for their health examination. Will we, for example, be sending collection notices to travellers throughout the world? This is not clear in the package.

The bill defines conveyances as a watercraft, aircraft, train, motor vehicle, trailer or other means of transportation and includes a cargo container. Conveyances can be diverted from the planned entry point in Canada by the legislation if there is concern about the spread of a communicable disease. The proposed bill also creates the authority so that an order can be given to disinfect or even destroy the conveyance if there is belief that the conveyance is the source of a communicable disease.

The bill would give the minister very wide powers to appoint screening officers, quarantine officers and environmental assessment officers. Doctors or other medical personnel can be designated as a quarantine officers. The minister can establish quarantine facilities anywhere in Canada and take temporary possession of a premise to establish a quarantine facility.

If cabinet is concerned about a severe risk to public health, it can establish an emergency order prohibiting people from entering Canada if they have been in a foreign country that has seen an outbreak of a communicable disease. Items being imported into Canada can be blocked for the very same reasons.

The proposed bill authorizes a peace officer, at the request of a quarantine officer, to arrest people who refuse to be isolated or comply with measures that have been put in place to prevent the spread of disease. There are significant offences outlined in the bill. People convicted on indictment of wilfully contravening the act resulting in death or bodily harm can be fined up to $1,000,000 and/or face up to three years in jail.

There are some items that will need to be examined closely in committee. How, when and what personal information is to be disclosed and shared with other countries need to be examined. In terms of property rights and business interruption, the bill states that compensation may be provided to owners of conveyances that are destroyed. However, says nothing about business losses that are incurred as a result of being detained.

In addition, we must ensure that adequate resources are in place to carry out the legislative powers in the bill. The national advisory committee on SARS recommended that Canada ensure that an adequate complement of 14 officers be maintained at all ports of entry and that better collaboration with port authorities and personnel be established to clarify responsibilities in the event of a health threat.

The Conservative Party supports the bill, in principle, as it is an important component of public health. We look forward to hearing from witnesses at committee.