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House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I appreciate the member's enthusiasm and interest in sharing the information, but we do need to get on. I think there may be other questions.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, regarding the hon. member's comments on the exercise of the judicial decision being far-reaching and on the appointment of a case management judge, would he not agree that independence of the judiciary is a basic tenet of our free and democratic society? Therefore, it is a reasonable clause to allow discretion to remain within both a case management judge or the trial judge who brings that case management judge into the matter.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not the independence of the judiciary. Of course, that is taken as a given. The issue is the relationship between the case management judge and the trial judge, and when the case management judge is brought into the process, which should be done at the earliest possible moment. The issue is having consideration that, when it involves a provincial court judge, he or she may not have the authority of a superior court judge to make certain rulings and have constitutional considerations.

I was talking about the relationship between the case management judge and the presiding trial judge and the need to refine those relationships in the course of this prospective legislative where it is appropriate and able to do so.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mount Royal has given a fascinating discourse. I do not think I have heard anyone refer casually to an ironic dialectic in this place. I am grateful and I would ask him to expand on any of his points in the time remaining.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, as time did not permit, I would like to make some reference to the question of costs as it can also be a drain on the system.

This particular legislation may not always appreciate some of the unintended consequences or even of necessary amendments with respect to the burdens on the system itself. It may require other actors, the federal and provincial governments, to involve themselves with respect to the proper allocation of resources such as the judiciary, crown attorneys and the involvement of probably the most senior attorneys in this regard, with respect to the legal aid and ensuring appropriate access to justice, we need to also look at the various models, and the provincial attorney general would do so, to see where the best case management models have occurred and what kind of changes would be needed, not only with regard to costs.

To conclude, if this legislation is going to work in the way we need it to work, then it is going to involve every actor in the legal system in general and the criminal justice system in particular. It is going to involve each of these actors to see how they can work in a most effective and collaborative model.

I do not think the reforms are going to end with this piece of legislation. As I said, federal and provincial governments, as well as our own Parliament are going to have to look beyond this legislation for the necessary reforms that will have to take place.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first speech in the House, I would like to begin by thanking the people of Ahuntsic for placing their trust in me and re-electing me for a third term. I would like to assure them that I will do what I have always done: I will prove worthy of that trust. I am very proud to represent them here. I would also like to thank my family members who have always supported me during my election campaigns and my many terms in office. As we all know, to be a woman in politics who has children, you need a good husband and a good mother. Finally, I would like to thank my entire team, the election committee and the volunteers, as well as the members of the Bloc Québécois, who worked so hard during the election campaign.

Before speaking about Bill C-2, I would like to tell the people of my riding and all Quebeckers, the 24% of men and women who voted for the Bloc Québécois, that my colleagues and I will make every effort to make their voices heard in this House and to protect their interests. I will also do my best to establish the ties of solidarity needed to allow our people to become what it should be, a nation that is the master of its own destiny, with all the authority necessary to take charge of its economic, social and cultural development.

Bill C-2 is essentially the former Bill C-53 from the previous Parliament. Members of the Bloc Québécois were in favour of this bill and, clearly, we still are, even more so because we understand the importance of mega-trials. Quebec is unique in that it has a large number of mega-trials. Recently, there have been more arrests on aboriginal reserves.

I would like to first like to make a clarification. The bill in question respects the Government of Quebec's jurisdiction in the area of justice. In our opinion, there is no encroachment on jurisdictions. This bill seeks to implement a number of measures to simplify mega-trials. These include streamlining the use of direct indictments; improving the protection of jurors’ identity, which is very important, since criminals involved in this type of trial very often tend to use intimidation; increasing the maximum number of jurors; and, in the case of a mistrial, providing that certain decisions made during the trial are binding on the parties in any new trial. One of the bill's key measures is the appointment of a judge who is specifically responsible for managing the mega-trial in question.

However, this bill does not address one of Justice Brunton's criticisms. On May 31, he freed 31 criminal bikers because they could not be tried in a timely manner. This is questionable. The message we are sending to criminals is to come to Quebec because there is not enough money or resources to put them on trial, so they will be freed. For example, Operation SharQC, which cost millions of dollars in police operations, resulted in 31 bikers being let go. That is absurd.

One of Justice Brunton's main criticisms is the obvious need for judges in the Superior Court. But Superior Court appointments are made by the federal government. We feel it is time to free the Quebec government and the governments of the other provinces from this quasi-colonial dependence concerning Superior Court appointments. Quebec is not master of its domain in this area and neither are the other provinces. This applies to everyone. Consequently, the federal government is directly responsible for the disastrous release of 31 bikers on May 31.

And we feel that the federalist politicians in the House are silent on this topic. Are they not somewhat uncomfortable maintaining provincial dependence in this area, given that federal appointment of judges dates from a quasi-colonial era?

If the Brunton decision is upheld on appeal, the Government of Quebec, and Quebec's justice minister in particular, should be held responsible for the judicial disaster of May 31. It is their responsibility to ensure that there are enough lawyers and resources to have trials happen within a reasonable time frame.

However, the facts clearly show that the Quebec government does not yet have all the tools needed to completely control justice within its borders. For example, Quebec's justice minister was recently in a position where he had to practically beg for the support of every single parliamentarian to have Bill C-2 passed quickly.

This demonstrates how dependent the Quebec government is in administering justice within its borders when, we feel, it should have complete responsibility in this area. I will say it again: this dependence is irrefutably demonstrated by the fact that the federal government appoints judges. Do these types of relationships need to be maintained in order for Canada to continue to exist? Will it someday be possible to free ourselves from these counterproductive relationships that belong to another era?

The majority of my colleagues in the House would like Quebec to stay in Canada. But could they imagine for a few seconds or a few minutes a Canada where there would be more respect for nations, namely the people of Quebec whom they claim to recognize as a nation within a united Canada? In fact, I would like to see that respect in all the provinces.

I invite my colleagues to think about that. Are we to continue accepting as normal the fact that the federal government appoints judges in cases where the provinces should be responsible for the management and administration of justice? This obviously includes the nation of Quebec, as we were recognized here as a nation. The provinces could appoint their own judges and make decisions about their judicial resources without having to beg Ottawa for the authority to administer their own justice system in a normal way.

Not only were the people of Quebec astounded by the release of these 31 bikers, but in the policing community, people were not very happy about having worked for nothing and having paid millions of dollars for the police operations. As a private citizen and the member for Ahuntsic, I found this to be mind-boggling. Having worked in criminology and with the police on a regular basis and knowing this type of individual, I can say that they laughed their heads off. The justice system came across as rather pathetic.

I invite my colleagues to think about that. We will support this bill, which is a step in the right direction, but the heart of the problem is that the provinces and the nation of Quebec should be able to make decisions with respect to their judges. I am not just talking about their appointment, but also about how many should be appointed. The problem in Quebec was that there were not enough judges, not enough lawyers, not enough courtrooms and not enough cases. That is a serious problem that runs quite deep. We have to take this further than just one simple bill, no matter how good it is. We are not against the bill and we plan to vote in favour of it.

In closing, public safety is not just about putting people behind bars or passing a few bills; it is also about providing the necessary resources to enforce the law. Creating laws is one thing, but enforcing them is another.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in light of the announcement made earlier today in the House by the Minister of Labour, we have some new opportunities with regard to House business.

As such, I wish to designate Monday, June 20 as an allotted day. This will be in lieu of the allotted day I earlier designated on Tuesday, June 21. Wednesday, June 22 will remain the last allotted day in the supply period.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Ahuntsic and congratulate her on her re-election. I have a question for her in response to her speech. If the appointment of superior court judges were delegated to the provinces, how would that speed up the trial process?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question. The answer is very simple. Justice Brunton said there was a serious shortage of judges. There are several factors, such as court rooms, lawyers, and so on, but there is also a serious shortage of judges. The number of judges cannot be determined by Quebec or any other province. The federal government decides that.

Since Quebec is supposedly a nation and the administration of justice is supposed to be left to the provinces and the Quebec nation, which has been recognized by this House—within a united Canada, of course—then they should be able to appoint judges. Judges are one of the foundations, the very pillars, of our justice system. We need to have an appropriate number of judges for Quebec. Perhaps 12 or 13 judges are enough for Ontario. In Quebec, there are many mega-trials. We have a particular situation involving bikers and street gangs. Within our police culture in Quebec, it is quite common to conduct large-scale police operations to catch many criminals belonging to the same organization and to hold mega-trials.

Quebec created the Gouin Judicial Services Centre to address our very particular criminal situation. In fact, anti-gang legislation originated in Quebec.

Considering our particular situation in that regard, we have specific needs regarding the number and selection of judges. This power needs to be handed over to the provinces so that each province and the Quebec nation can decide what is best for them. However, if the federal government is the one to decide, our hands are tied and we have to wait for the government.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, agree that Quebec has taken some extraordinary necessary steps to deal with organized crime because the province of Quebec has been plagued with extraordinary problems with biker gangs. I sympathize with that fully. My province of Manitoba is similarly cursed with the overwhelming influence of organized crime in the form of biker gangs.

Would the hon. member briefly comment on another initiative in this same vein, whereby we could seize the proceeds of crime from bikers? Nothing bothers police and criminal justice officials more than driving past a biker leader's house to see that he has a boat, a car, a Ski-Doo, a Cadillac, an Escalade and no visible means of support for the last 20 years. Would she agree that we should be able to put a reverse onus bikers? If the bikers cannot prove where they got the money to buy all that stuff, we should be able to seize it from them, auction it off and put that money toward further prosecutions?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to comment on this matter.

I would like to remind my colleague that the Bloc Québécois fought for the seizure of proceeds of crime, and won. At this time, proceeds of crime are seized.

However, there is an important measure that could be implemented. In Montreal—and I believe the same thing is happening throughout Canada—street gangs in particular have started to get out of the drug trade and to concentrate solely on human trafficking and prostitution.

The seizure of proceeds of crime does not apply to procuring or alleged human trafficking. It applies to drugs and under other Criminal Code sections, but paradoxically it does not apply to human trafficking, one activity of these gang members, and it does not apply to procuring in particular.

This measure should be added to the Criminal Code. Perhaps my colleague remembers that I introduced a bill on human trafficking, which included these two measures. Under the bill, if a person was found guilty of procuring and human trafficking, or of either offence, the proceeds of the crime could be seized. The onus would be on the accused to prove that his big house and assets were the fruits of his labour and not the proceeds of crime. This represented reverse onus. It is an important measure. I hope that all my colleagues will support the adoption of this measure, which I will again introduce in this House in my bill on human trafficking.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, seeing that we have a couple of minutes left, I think it is incumbent upon us to explore the innovations put forward in the bill to the greatest extent possible.

I am particularly interested in the theme of the proceeds of crime that my colleague was just addressing. It is a big ball of wax if we start to reverse the onus on people. I am just wondering how, in the context of her initiatives, she dealt with the implied infringement of civil liberties associated with seizing the assets. How is the burden of proof measured? What is the test they would contemplate in proving that the goodies one plays with are not the proceeds of crime? We need to establish these things and it is worth--

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The hon. member for Ahuntsic. A very brief response.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief even though this is a rather complex issue.

I would like to tell the hon. member that this currently exists in the Criminal Code. When a person says that he works at McDonald's and that he has a large, million dollar home and that the house is in his name, it raises questions, particularly if that person was arrested for major drug trafficking; we know that the person is a member of the Hells Angels or another street gang. Generally—

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. It being 2:09 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion for second reading now before the House.

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

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Is the Chief Government Whip rising on a point of order?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you see the clock at 2:30.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it agreed to see the clock at 2:30?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials ActGovernment Orders

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, it being 2:30 p.m. the House stands adjourned until Monday, June 20 at 11 a.m. pursuant to an order made on Thursday, June 9 and to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:10 p.m.)