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House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was standards.

Topics

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

As an observer.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

In fact it was an observer, as my hon. colleague from Newfoundland says. That is what it was.

The assistant deputy minister at the time of those occurrences at the turn of the millennium was Alan Williams. He said the reason for joining the JSF program was not the urgency of replacing the F-18s but the potential industrial opportunities that would come from being part of that proposal. Before the government ever made its decision that it would purchase the F-35s, 144 contracts were already awarded, supporting what Mr. Williams was saying.

In relation to the minister's and Prime Minister's claims of there being a past competition, this is what Mr. Williams said:

On October 26, 2001 Edward Aldridge, Under Secretary of Defense—

This is, of course, in the United States:

—announced that Lockheed Martin was the successful candidate over Boeing.

He went on to say:

[W]e were all glued to our TVs at National Defence headquarters awaiting the announcement.

How is it exactly that this was a Canadian competition? How is it there was a competition that Canada was not part of and we had no decision-making role in it whatsoever, but that is good enough for the government?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, this is all a very nice diatribe on revisionist history, as it may be, but I would like the member to stick to relevance. I would ask him what this has to do with military justice.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Halifax West is debating Bill C-41 and I would ask him, as I would ask all hon. members in this place, to stick to the matters at hand.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I certainly will, but in this case I am talking about military justice. I am talking about what is conduct unbecoming the government, as a matter of fact, and what justice ought to be. Let us talk about the truth because the Conservatives are afraid of the truth.

The fact is that we had to wait and see what the U.S. announced in relation to the F-35s, but apparently that is good enough for the government even though we were not actually part of that competition. Really, there is no excuse for not having one.

Even the Chief of the Air Staff in 2001, General André Deschamps, was quoted in Canadian Defence Review at the same time he was asked about the JSF. He was asked, “Where is the next generation fighter on your list of priorities?” He said, “The next generation fighter is very high on my list”.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, I would ask you to ask my hon. colleague to stick to the debate that we are supposed to be having, which is on Bill C-41. It has nothing to do with the joint strike fighter or some imagined relevance of military justice, which is something that sticks in his craw.

If he is going to debate that, Mr. Speaker, you might want to ask him why the Liberal Party refuses to even go—

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I appreciate the assistance offered to the Chair by the parliamentary secretary.

I would remind all hon. members that it is the practice of the House that we speak about the matters before the House. I would also remind all hon. members that members are given significant latitude to make points that may be directly or at least partially related to the matters at hand.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, you are right that members are given significant leeway. If we were all required to talk only about clauses in a bill that we are debating at any one time, a lot of the comments from both sides of the House would be cut short.

My hon. colleague seems to be upset. He should remember that I started off by saying that we are going to support this bill at second reading. We want it to go to committee to be studied. I am surprised he is so upset. I would think he would want me to finish what I have to say.

Let me finish by quoting what the Chief of the Air Staff said at the time:

The next generation fighter is very high on my list. We know government wants to get to that discussion soon, and we definitely need to get on with the process to get a new fighter. It sounds like a long time away, but as we know, it takes a lot to go through a contracting process and produce a new fighter.

He was clearly talking in future tense. Here was a case at the same time. For the member to say that there was a competition back then that Canada was part of is conduct unbecoming. I do not know if it falls under the military justice procedure, but it certainly ought to.

In June 2008, the Senate passed Bill C-60 in response to a ruling by the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada in the Trépanier case. The bill addressed some of Justice Lamer's recommendations.

In 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs released a report entitled Equal Justice: Reforming Canada’s System of Courts Martial. This report made nine recommendations.

Therefore, we can consider Bill C-41 to be more or less a combination of the Senate's report and Bill C-45, except for the recommendations already addressed by Parliament with Bill C-60.

My colleague from Markham—Unionville will have other comments on this matter, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say. For the time being, I await questions and comments.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on this subject. As was the case for my colleague, I also support the bill. The Liberal Party will support sending it for second reading.

In particular, when I was defence minister, I had the privilege of dealing with the Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, whose report provided the foundation for this bill. I remember thinking he was an extremely fine and bright man with a keen sense of justice in what was right and fair. Knowing that he was the author of this bill, in many ways, reinforces my support for it, although not even Antonio Lamer was infallible. Therefore, there may be amendments at committee, but we certainly will vote to send it to committee.

That reminds me of another fine gentleman I knew when I was at defence, and that is Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister. While in a somewhat different category from Antonio Lamer, he was nevertheless a fine public servant and extremely able in the area of procurement.

In terms of the justice of the argument of the other side, Alan Williams, a very able man, has no axe to grind. He is retired. He is not a Liberal, to my knowledge. He is only speaking truth. Therefore, I think he is more credible than the current ADM, who is constrained by the powers that be. If he wants to hold his job, he has to say what his bosses want him to say, whereas Alan Williams, who is now entirely free from any constraint of that nature, said extremely clearly that we had absolutely no obligation to purchase this F-35. He said that we had absolutely no role in the American competition and we would be far better placed to go for a competitive bid. That way, according to Alan Williams, the taxpayers of Canada would likely save something in the order of $3 billion, which may not be a lot of money from the point of view of the government. However, from our point of view, that is a lot of taxpayer money which it is wasting through not going to a competition and insisting on going sole-source.

That is my brief reference both to Antonio Lamer, the father of this bill, and Alan Williams, the father of common sense when it comes to procurement.

However, let me now return more narrowly to the bill, as the parliamentary secretary has urged us to do. To ensure that the Canadian court martial system remains effective, fair and transparent, the military justice system must be reformed. Currently there are disparities between the military and the civil justice systems. Although we realize the need for the military and civil justice systems to be different in some respects, as they answer to different circumstances, both systems should be as similar as possible. One example of this is allowing for the security of tenure for military judges until their retirement. This is the case in the civil justice system and we believe it should also be the case in the military justice system.

As well, the addition of new sentences such as absolute discharge, intermittent sentences and restitution are positive steps toward developing a much fairer system.

We have concerns about clause 50 of the bill, which indicates that the size of the accommodations available will determine whether a hearing will be public or private. We do not believe that the size of a room should be the only determining factor.

Clause 101 refers to the review of this bill. We are in favour of a review; however, the review will not be conducted until seven years after the bill is passed. We are of the opinion that seven years may be too long in certain circumstances. If we consider Bill C-25, to which I referred earlier, the review took place five years after the bill was passed. However, we are still in the process of discussing the results of this review today, mainly because of the Conservatives' failure to act.

We certainly hope that, if additional changes were needed in this bill after it were passed, they would be made much more quickly and effectively than what we have seen to date.

As I said at the beginning of my comments, I have a profound respect for the late Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer who was indeed the father of this bill. For that reason, I am particularly pleased to say that the Liberal party will vote in favour of sending this bill for second reading.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am please to join today in this debate at second reading on Bill C-41. It is important that we understand how military justice fits in with our justice system and the importance of military justice to the operation of the armed forces.

First, we are supporting the bill at second reading, although we see major deficiencies in the two areas that the bill talks about, and that is reformation to the operation of the criminal side of military justice and also the changes to the grievance board.

Military justice is a very important part of making our forces work. It is related to discipline within the military forces. I will quote retired Colonel Michel Drapeau who is very knowledgeable in military matters and military law. In fact, he has written the only significant Canadian work on military law, the annotated volume of the National Defence Act and related statutes. He had this to say about the importance of discipline:

Few professions are as dependent on discipline as is the military. Discipline is fundamental to military efficiency, cohesion, esprit-de-corps permitting commanders to control the use of violence so that the right amount and type of force can be applied in exactly the right circumstances, the right time and the right place. At the personal level, discipline ensures that at all times of great danger and risk, the soldier can and will carry out orders even if his natural instinct for self-preservation and fear tells him otherwise. Likewise, group and individual discipline ensures adherence to laws, standards, customs and values of civilian society, even during combat operations.

Therefore, discipline is integral not only to the maintaining of an efficient armed forces but also to ensuring that the rule of law predominates within the military, particularly when engaged in great peril and danger in combat.

The late Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, in an important case in 1992, also talked about the importance of military discipline in maintaining the armed forces in a state of readiness. He said:

—the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct.

That might seem to be a bit unfair. In fact, that is really the subject of my remarks today.

Another comments on military discipline was made by my predecessor as defence critic for the NDP, Dawn Black, in speaking in the House on June 16, 2008, talking about military justice. She said:

The military justice system does not only exist to punish wrongdoers, it is a central part of command, discipline and morale. Ours is a voluntary military and if the military justice system is not seen as equitable and fair, we will not only have a justice problem, but we could also have an operational problem.

I refer back not to the Lamer study, but to an inquiry into the circumstances of Somalia when Canada was there initially as part of a UN peacekeeping mission but ended up in the midst of a war. The resulting inquiry by Mr. Justice Letourneau and the public outrage that resulted from the knowledge of what had happened in Somalia with our troops, and I will not go into the detail, was in fact the beginning of the dark days of the military in the nineties, as the Conservatives have said today. Mr. Justice Letourneau discovered, through his inquiry, that terrible things had happened that shocked Canadians, but the fault was all throughout the chain of command and the failure of leadership that prevented the system of discipline from operating.

When we talk about military justice, there has to be an emphasis on the justice side as well. We expect, want and need to have a high level of morale among our troops and we demand loyalty. However, it is a two-way street. The system must also be seen as fair.

In two areas of our military justice system that I want to focus on today that fairness is somewhat lacking. Those areas are the military justice system on the one hand, and I will go into details, particularly of a summary trial, and the issue of grievances on the other hand.

In our military system, grievances are written into the National Defence Act. We do not have a unionized military as some other countries do. Many thousands of individuals are subject to military discipline and are in a rigid, chain-of-command, top-down type of structure. Their only recourse when it comes to dealing with issues affecting their pay and benefits, their release, which is often very problematic, medical issues, getting adequate medical treatment and issues of that nature is through a grievance system. That grievance system is in disarray and the proposed changes in the legislation do not really deal with that.

Let me talk a bit about the summary trial issue. I think the public and members of the House of Commons have heard of court martials. I guess there is an assumption that most military justice goes through that procedure.

However, that is not the case. In dealing with discipline within the military forces, there is a less formal tribunal presided over by officers. These officers are not legally trained. It could be the commanding officer, or someone delegated by him or her, presiding over a summary trial. These officers are given a seminar on how to do this, but they do not have the ability to follow the rules of evidence and carry out a trial in accordance with the nature of criminal trials that would occur in our civilian courts. When I say “civilian”, I do not mean civil versus criminal.

The forum is the court martial itself, which is more analogous to a civilian court of criminal jurisdiction. That is provided for, and there is a whole series of rules and evidence that apply to that. In fact, it is a rather comprehensive code of evidence that applies to court martials.

However, in looking at the actual use of summary trials and court martials in Canada, it is pretty clear that it is very much the exception rather than the rule. In fact, in 2008-09, there were 1,963 trials in the military justice system. Of those, only 65, or 3%, were in fact conducted through a court martial. The other 1,898 were dealt with by the summary trial procedure.

There is nothing particularly wrong with that, except that under a summary trial procedure in the military, as opposed to in the criminal courts where our civilian population is tried for offences, there is a rather strict set of rules that involve the rules of evidence. It is guided by the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is a very significant prohibition against any kind of prejudice or foreknowledge of the individuals or the cases.

The results are subject to appeal. There is a transcript, so if people do not like what happens to them because they think there was a legal error, they can appeal to a higher court. Also, they have the right to legal counsel in a criminal trial.

We are proposing that we take a significant look at this whole issue and say that there must be a trade off if we are to have summary trials in the military without rules. We need to know how these summary trials can end up for the individual involved. If our sons or daughters were in the military and they were tried under a summary trial and convicted, which y about 89% of those who have summary trials are convicted, they end up with a criminal record and that criminal record is treated the same as a criminal record for a trial before a civil court with all the rules and procedures in place.

The trials can take place before a commanding officer or someone delegated by him or her. They can result in fines, in imprisonment or in detention for up to 30 days in the case of a commanding officer and 15 days in the case of a delegated person. These are serious matters that result in the loss of freedom for an individual, a fine equal to 30 days' pay or a loss of rank for example. Those are the punishments for summary trials and yet the lack of procedural fairness in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sense is not there.

If we need to have that system to maintain order, discipline and morale, which we do not have a problem with, then we should ensure that members of our forces do not end up with criminal records that they must try to get expunged through the Parole Board after they leave the military. We have seen the attitude of the government on the Parole Board. It does not seem to want the Parole Board to have too much power because everybody who is convicted of something is obviously a menace to society. It is even building jails now to house unreported crimes.

We have the concern that in the military system we need to have, as former Chief Justice Lamer said, speedy justice. Sometimes we need more punishment than others would encounter for the same offence, but if we do that, the trade off should be that individuals do not get a criminal record unless they are tried by a court that has that kind of support.

What are we talking about in terms of offences that could end up with criminal records? Of the number of charges in 2007-08, 29% of the offences were for absence without leave, AWOL; 6%, or 156 cases, were for drunkenness, which is section 97 of the Defence Acts; 19 out of 2,600 cases were charged against good order and conduct, prejudiced to good order and discipline of a sexual nature; and 138 cases for drugs and alcohol. A person who is charged under the National Defence for possession of drugs or alcohol could end up with an offence that results in a penalty of imprisonment, fine or a reprimand. There is a range of sentences.

The concern is that, at the end of the day, the individual ends up with a criminal record even though the procedural fairness is not there. It is not subject to a lawyer. It is not an independent tribunal. The person in the case, the commanding officer, can accept any kind of evidence that the person deems to be relevant to the charge and relevant to proof. That is not the case in a criminal court. In assessing whether a person is credible, the commanding officer quite often knows the individual or the delegated person may know the individuals or may know the witnesses. That is not something we would allow in a criminal court in civil jurisdiction.

The rules of procedure are not there. It is true that there are some procedural guidelines but there is no transcript. Individuals cannot go to an appeal court and say that their procedural rights were violated and therefore the case should be set aside. There is a review and sometimes the reviews are successful. They may result in a different charge or a different sentence but they are not appeals in the same kind of legal framework that we have in civilian courts.

While we think summary trials and the notion of a different system for military tribunals and military justice is reasonable, there must be a quid pro quo, there must be a balance so that if the rules are tougher, perhaps the sentences are tougher, they maintain discipline and order.

On the other hand, if people are not given all the same procedural rights as those in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms such as a civilian would have, they should not have a criminal record for the rest of their life unless they are able to go through the procedure of going to the Parole Board and getting a pardon. People leaving the service may have enough trouble trying to adjust to civilian life outside of the forces without having the additional burden of a criminal record for something that may have happened during their military service that was not serious.

Most of the offences we are talking about are very minor. If they were not minor they would be subject to courts martial with more severe penalties and most of these are relatively minor offences that do not often require serious discipline. They could be areas of military discipline that are extremely important, for example, insubordination, quarrels, disturbances and disobeying a lawful command are important to discipline but they are not something for which someone should have a criminal record.

The other area I want to talk about is the grievance procedure, which is extremely important to those in the military because they do not have any way of solving these problems without going through a grievance procedure. If they had a collective agreement they would have a grievance procedure. There would be time limits where the employer would have to respond. One of the previous speakers mentioned the Lamer report that had 88 recommendations. There are a whole series of recommendations in the Lamer report that have yet to be implemented, some of them may have even been accepted but their implementation is pending the completion of further study, we are considering the implementation under study, et cetera.

For example, that the Chief of the Defence Staff be given the necessary financial authority to settle financial claims and grievances, and that the Chief of the Defence Staff be entitled to delegate this authority. What is the importance of that? The importance is that if somebody has a pay and benefits problem that can be resolved by saying that the man should be paid his two months wages, the Chief of the Defence Staff should be able to solve that problem. He should have the authority and the budget to do that. The responsibility rests with the Chief of the Defence Staff and yet he is not given the financial authority to deal with it. That was recommended and accepted and yet the implementation is pending further study. Why is that? Seven years later after the Lamer report, we still have a series of recommendations like that.

We are also concerned about the grievance board itself. The change in the name to the external board when it is not external at all. It is still comprised of military or ex-military people. It does not require any military knowledge to do that. It requires people who are judicious and able to resolve disputes and can recommend they be done quickly and not take two years or longer to get grievances resolved.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw the member's attention to the sentencing options. I am not sure whether he responded to it in his speech but he may have. The sentencing options are being expanded under the bill to provide for additional options such as absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders. It seems to me that this a major step in the right direction.

Would the member like to make some comments about the ramifications of this important move?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, as usual, being in the opposition we get caught up in the problems with legislation and do not often get a chance to expound on the good side.

In fact, flexibility in sentencing is one of the most positive things in this legislation. It is our view that military justice should be brought closer to civilian justice and, if there is not the kind of flexibility that they have in the civilian courts for someone who is going to serve detention that it be intermittent or if someone may have committed a crime but it was not deserving of a conviction that would result in a criminal record, which is the case in civilian courts, people can be found guilty but not convicted and that results in either an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge and that allows them to carry on without a criminal record. That should be available in the military as well.

That is one of the positive aspects of the bill and there are a number of positive aspects to the bill and we support it being brought to committee to deal with some of the problems.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about the summary trial process being unfair. Having been involved with some, I would disagree.

Could my colleague comment on the fact that the accused actually gets the right to trial by court martial where summary trial has jurisdiction? The accused can in fact make the choice. I am not sure how that translates into basic unfairness with the system.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I hope the parliamentary secretary's involvement with the summary trial process was not as an accused but rather as a presiding officer or perhaps he was assisting the accused or was a witness. He can tell us that a little later.

I am aware that there are many cases where court martial is the choice. However, when the choice is given, court martial is rarely used because the sentencing provisions are different. Dealing with it and getting it over is important. I think that happens in civil court as well. Court martial is an option, which was a recent change in the act, but very few people take advantage of it. I actually have the numbers here and less than 20% use that option. Court martial is a more elaborate trial. My main point stands.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for providing me with a copy of the report of the Judge Advocate General to the Minister of National Defence on the administration of military justice in the Canadian Forces. This review was done from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009.

I want to refer the member to page 14 of this report which shows the number of trials has increased 2.5 times since 1999-2000. The other day I asked why there would be an increase of 2.5 times and the answer was Somalia and Afghanistan. I was asking about the types of offences that would be involved. The report does talk about drug offences and so on.

As the member has been to Afghanistan and he is heavily involved in the issue, could he explain to us the reasons for the increase in these trials? Is it because of our involvement in Somalia and Afghanistan versus staying at home?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is what might be called a loaded question. I do not know if Somalia has anything to do with the kind of increases that we have seen in the last several years. That is ancient history.

However, I do think there may be some consequences of our engagement in Afghanistan. The pressures of that kind of engagement do lead to stress and strains. Many of the offences are minor. Many might involve alcohol or misbehaviour of one sort or another. Some of that comes with operational stress injuries. Some of it is quite common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder where behavioural issues have emerged as part of its symptoms.

I would not want to give any definitive answer to the question, but It is a marked change over a short number of years and it would take a serious study to figure that out. I would not want to jump to any conclusions. I would suggest that there is probably a great deal more stress and strain on our soldiers now than there was 10 years ago.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of quick comments for clarification.

My hon. colleague was searching for the number of people who chose summary trial. Actually 93% chose summary trial. This suggests that the majority of people in the military are comfortable with that process and understand that it is not an unfair process.

The other connection to Somalia, which obviously was in 1999, but the attention paid to issues of discipline and so on before they became major issues, as was the case in Somalia, there was a stronger awareness and a much greater appreciation of the fact that small things can become big things. That is the Somalia effect on the number of charges and so on in recent years.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is probably a slight exaggeration. We were talking about an increase in the period of the last few years, not going back to 1992 and 1993. We see a 2.5% increase over a 10-year period. That is in recent years and is more related to the Afghanistan situation.

They chose that, not necessarily because they think it is fair, but because they can get the matter dealt with easily and quickly and get it out of the way, and probably dealt with in a less harsh manner than going through major courts martial that could keep them out of service for some time. The sense of fairness comes afterward, when they find out later that they have criminal records. That is the thing we would like to see removed and changed.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-41 in recognition of the fact that this bill is a significant step forward in the military justice system.

Before I go any further, I would like to signal that I am going to be sharing my time with my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona.

The bill would do a number of things, which I know, after listening to my colleague from St. John's, raises some concerns as well, but let me deal with some of the positive aspects of it, which I believe are major steps forward.

The bill introduces sentencing principles. I will not say they are as broad or liberal as the principles under the Criminal Code, but they are certainly a major move in that direction, setting out principles that would guide military judges when they are imposing sentences.

Again as we heard from my colleague from St. John's, the number of trials where this would be applicable under the court martial provisions is particularly important, less so in summary trials. The principles are set out, as well as the additional powers that are given to military judges.

For instance, under the new provisions, absolute discharges would be granted. A military judge may say someone is guilty of an offence but because of the scenario, the facts or circumstances of the individual's long service in the military, perhaps, say it is an aberration, a one-time event and, although serious, not one where the person should be carrying a criminal conviction into civilian life, and grant an absolute discharge. That is just one example. There are also provisions for restitution to be ordered way beyond what is within the scope of military courts at this point.

With regard to judges, here are two additional points. One is in terms of the system's not only being fair but appearing to be fair. There is now full tenure for military judges. They will have security of tenure, and it will not be possible to remove them arbitrarily until their normal age of retirement within the system. That is important for individuals who appear before judges. It is important for them to know that the judge does not have to be concerned with some superior officer somewhere being upset by the judge's conduct and removing him or her from office. That is a major advancement.

The other thing the bill provides for with regard to military judges is that part-time military judges would now be appointed. As we have already heard from some of the comments and questions, the number of trials is increasing fairly dramatically. The availability of part-time judges is important to allow trials to be conducted in a fair and efficient manner without long delays.

With regard to the development that is occurring, it makes me think of what we have done historically in our criminal justice system in Canada. For a long period of time, the lower courts were basically assigned jurisdiction of a fairly limited nature. It was mostly magistrates not trained as lawyers who sat in judgment of those cases.

Over the years, more responsibility was assigned. More serious cases were assigned to them. As we find in the military system, because they were more expeditious in most cases, the vast majority of people who had the option of going to a higher court stayed at the lower court, even though at times the justice was less than fair, if I could put it that way.

Over the years, especially as we moved to more concerns over civil rights, civil liberties and human rights, it became such that the magistrates are being phased out or have been phased out in most cases and everybody now has legal training, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies and rules of evidence apply much more stringently than in the past. We have gone through that system in the civil criminal justice system.

In effect, we are starting down that road now, this being just one of a number of bills in this regard. We are now moving fairly dramatically to try to do the same.

However we are dealing, obviously, with a different fact situation. Everybody recognizes the need for military discipline. And so what we are really attempting to do with this legislation, and other legislation and other changes occurring within the military justice system, is to strike that balance where the senior command, as well as the command in the field, has still sufficient control to impose military discipline, at the same time balancing off against the right of the individual person, who is charged with some offence under the military code, to a fair process.

We have to say we have some concerns with the process that is being instituted here, while it is a major step forward. There may be additional things. So, when this goes to committee, and it obviously will, we will be looking at ways of perhaps enhancing that balance so that individuals who appear before the summary courts will be treated fully fairly.

Let me just say in that regard that, because that fairness is quite important in terms of the individual member of the military feeling confident that he or she will be always treated fairly, still recognizing that they have to strike that balance, military discipline is still important.

Will we ever have a unionized workforce in the military? I suppose I have a bias in favour of thinking that may happen at some point. We are certainly not there at this stage. Although other countries have moved in that direction, we are not there at this stage. This would be a major step forward; however, there may be some refinements that could be made.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh will have three minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

Oshawa's Christmas SpiritStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been said many times that the Christmas season, which is upon us, is the season of charity. It is the season of giving, and it is a time where everyone is more mindful of those who are less fortunate or in need.

Fortunately there are many people around Oshawa who treat every day and every season like Christmas. They live and breathe the Christmas spirit of giving and charity daily.

Oshawa boasts some of the most remarkable charitable individuals and organizations. Whether it is by volunteering at a local soup kitchen or organizing and engaging in fundraising activities for families in need, all of Oshawa's wonderful volunteers and charitable organizations have made us proud and have made Oshawa a better place.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize all those volunteers and organizations in Oshawa that make a difference every single day. They truly are an inspiration to the entire country.

Merry Christmas.

Gros Morne National ParkStatements By Members

December 6th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the important role played by Mr. William Callahan in the creation of Gros Morne National Park. Mr. Callahan was the natural resources minister in the Smallwood government and instrumental in the development of the park.

Gros Morne National Park is a geologist's dream, containing a fjord with rugged walled canyons, flattened mountaintops called tablelands, which were once the ancient ocean floor, and an exposed mantle that contains rock formations usually not found on the earth's surface.

The Canada-Newfoundland agreement by which the park was established four decades ago conveyed its approximately 700 square miles in trust forever to Canada's heritage. With its designation, along with the adjacent L'Anse aux Meadows, as a United Nations world heritage site, in a real sense it now belongs to all humanity.

Mr. Callahan's persistence and dedication helped to create the national treasure we now know as Gros Morne National Park. We owe him our gratitude.

Please join me in honouring and thanking William Callahan for all that he and others did to establish Gros Morne National Park, a legacy that will be cherished forever.

Cross-Canada Cycling TourStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 10, four young Algonquins from Kitcisakik in Abitibi got on their bikes and began a journey across Canada. Lena-Jane Gunn, Bradley Brazeau, Frank Pénosway and Évelyne Papatie, the one who came up with the idea, cycled nearly 9,000 km.

They undertook this journey out of a desire to change their lives. They wanted to leave drugs and alcohol behind them. They used the trip as an opportunity to meet other young people and deliver a message of hope and change. Those they met along the way were very impressed by what these young cyclists had accomplished.

The members of this House are aware of the very high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction in aboriginal communities. I think everyone will agree that these four young people are tremendous examples of dedication and courage.

Évelyne, Lena-Jane, Bradley and Frank, meegwetch and bravo!

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, December 6 is our National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, a reminder to Canadians that we must end all forms of violence against women.

I would like to thank my colleague, the former NDP MP Dawn Black, for the private member's bill that ensures that December 6 is always a day of remembrance and a day to speak out against the physical violence of a gun or a beating, the psychological violence of abuse, or the economic violence of poverty.

Today is the 21st anniversary of the Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique, where 14 women were shot and killed simply because they were women. We remember these precious young women, our lost sisters, and all women killed, injured or gone missing in our communities.

Let us commit ourselves to turn remembrance into action and provide leadership to end violence against women. This can only happen if we are determined to address the gender inequalities at the heart of the gender-based violence that robs women of their right to security.

Mission in AfghanistanStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago with the help of the troops at the 18th Air Defence Regiment in Lethbridge, we kicked off the second “Send Your Support…In a Cup of Coffee” campaign.

I am asking everyone to purchase a $5 Tim Hortons gift card, write a little note of thanks on the gift envelope and drop it off at my office.

We will collect them and send them to our men and women in Afghanistan for use at the Tim Hortons outlet at Kandahar airfield.

Last year we collected over 3,200 cards, more than enough for every one of our brave men and women in Afghanistan to have a cup of coffee on us.

With two weeks left in this year's campaign, we are halfway to our goal of 2,900 cards. As one of our troops, who had been on tour and received one of the cards, said, “It brings a little piece of home. It is nice to know the public is there to support us”.

Mr. Speaker, you and many of our colleagues have already sent me your cards, and I know you join me in encouraging everyone else to do the same.