Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments. It must be especially gratifying and yet difficult because in his remarks he indicated that he knew the individuals involved in the case which spurred him to bring Bill C-519 before the House tonight. I respect his courage in bringing the matter forward.
However, I feel, as a reviewer of legislation, that we have to look at the legislation before us. We have to look at the reasonable likelihood that what has been presented will become law. I cannot continue talking about Bill C-519 without talking about the big picture of whether this bill, if sent to committee, will ever become law. That is largely due to the state of dysfunction that we find ourselves in at the justice committee which I have served on for two years since my election to Parliament.
It is only recently, I might add in a note of partisan comment. The point being that up until recently legislation has been flowing through that committee. I would say a lot of legislation has been flowing through that committee. I might add, and without a lot of compliments to the other side with respect to the workload of the justice committee, that the committee has been loaded down with many laws that have been promulgated by the ruling party to backlog it with respect to many bills.
In a way, I feel that it would almost be disingenuous for us to promise the member that in sending this bill to committee that it will become law, unless, as I make this plea, we come to a reasonable solution to the simple question of why do we not follow the rules around here.
There are rules of procedure. We have to forget for a moment the merit of a debate. Forget whether he or she is right or wrong. We should follow the rules of procedure in this place. That is my lofty preamble on what committees do.
Should this bill be sent to committee, I think the committee would have a very large task in taking subsection (10) of section 515 of the Criminal Code and morphing it on to subsection 515(6).
I would be very open to hearing the other comments of hon. members and from witnesses with respect to whether such amendments would be in order. I too have grave misgivings, as I think now the mover of this bill has about the efficacy of the bill as presented.
I too have sought the opinion of crown prosecutors who I respect. They too have suggested that Bill C-519, the amendment of subsection (10) to add (10.1) to section 515 of the Criminal Code would impose a positive obligation on the Crown to do something and that is to produce all the evidence it has. This was not there before.
In effect, it is a good case of a well intentioned bill actually doing harm to the process. I think it is important. What I mean by this is that the mover of the bill moved quickly from saying that the bill is meant to do this, but now he has talked to prosecutors and he wants to do something else.
Clearly, at committee we would be open to that and that is fine. It is important to lay down the tracks that Bill C-519, as presented, is fatally flawed if we stay within subsection 515(10) or try to add to it.
I want to explain it as simply as I understand it. We are talking about an application for judicial interim release, which must happen sometime between 24 hours and 3 days after individuals are charged and detained of an offence involving a serious personal injury as the facts present here, that is, if they assault someone, typically a spouse.
If they do this on a Friday night, then they will have a bail hearing, depending on the jurisdiction and the availability of judges, for judicial interim release on the Sunday or the Monday, who knows, and at that hearing now the Crown does not have a positive obligation. It is not required to show the judge all the evidence it has to support why the person should not be released. The Crown must only make the case or show cause as to why the person should be detained.
There are many elements in the Criminal Code that suggest that if a person is a flight risk, will do harm again, is under a certain warrant of arrest now or is under certain obligation from the court by way of charge, then he or she should be detained. That is the show cause part of it.
With respect to certain offences, more grave offences, and this is where the member is going but he did not pigeon hole it in his bill, there is an onus on the accused to show why they should be released. That has been the law for some time. To label it a reverse onus right away and to say that this is something new, I do not think is productive to our criminal law evolution but it is in the Criminal Code. It has been for some time, that on very serious offences the accused must show cause why they should be set free.
If that is where we are going to go in committee, I welcome the discussion. Let us hear the evidence. Let us look at the other offences that are included in subsection 515(6) and see whether the serious personal injury offence fits within the tenure of those offences, if they are adequately serious with respect to the other offences. Let us hear the testimony from crown prosecutors as to how this will affect their everyday work.
Bill C-519, as it exists, burdens prosecutors and may in fact, by having them show evidence that they are not ready to present, damage further investigation or the leads that they have with respect to other crimes.
It may in fact lead to the anomalous situation where in order to get the order for detention, crown prosecutors would have to give a file to a judge which is virtually empty and if a fact scenario of a crime was committed on a Friday and on Sunday morning one expected a file replete with witness statements, medical information and other information, one is dreaming to think that would happen. That is not efficacious.
The spectre of having the victim be the evidence by giving viva voce evidence, a hearing to remand the person who beat her up three days earlier, is completely out of the norm of what we would expect with respect to respect for victims rights.
The law, as drafted, and I commend my hon. friend for his intention, is fatally flawed. If at committee we hear evidence that serious personal injury is in the realm of the other offences identified in subsection 515(6), then the committee, if it gets to work, if the backlog, the log jam or legalistic haranguing is gone, if we can get down to business as we did for two years previous, then we can look at this bill and maybe we can fix it.
With that, in conclusion I would like to say that the book called the Criminal Code is an organic thing. It has been with us a long time and it is probably one of the best things that has come out of our marriage between a common law jurisdiction and our vicinity or neighbourhood with the civil law of France and the civil code, and our proximity to the United States frankly. It is somewhere in the middle of the U.S. criminal codes and the common law in Europe as we took it in around 1867, and it is ours.
If we look at it, and the public should know, there is hardly anything really new that can be added to the Criminal Code. It grows like a plant and what we are trying to do here is see if the horrible crime that my friend describes can be put into this organic document, and it can be made sense of. It has to apply, with all respect, to every fact situation involving a serious personal offence and not just a heinous and egregious crime that he described, and to which he was so close personally.
I will do my part, this is a private member's bill, to ensure to the hon. member that the committee gets working, that his bill gets sent to committee, and that we try to save it and to do justice to the memory of Michelle. We want to ensure other victims, who will be hopefully helped by the fact that we did our work here on this night in Parliament, that the committee tomorrow or the next day will do its work.