They are the Cardinals to our San Francisco Giants, I guess, Mr. Speaker. That is the way I look at it.
Among other things, the bill provides greater flexibility in the sentencing process. It provides additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences, and restitution. It modifies the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person. It modifies the limitation period applicable for summary trials. It allows an accused person to waive the limitation periods and clarifies the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal. It makes amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff's powers as a final authority in the grievance process.
I do not want people watching at home to think that there are not some good things in the bill as it moves forward. The bill is a step in the right direction. It is a step in the right direction toward bringing the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. However, Bill C-15 falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system, and strengthening the military complaints commission.
In 2003, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, who is the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, presented his report on the independent review of the National Defence Act. It contained 88 recommendations. Bill C-15 is the legislative response to those recommendations, but to only 28 of those recommendations. Sixty are missing. Only 28 of those recommendations have been implemented by this legislation through regulations or by way of a change in practice.
This legislation has also appeared here in earlier forms, first as Bill C-7and then as Bill C-45, which died on the order paper due to prorogation in 2007 and the election in 2008. In July 2008, Bill C-60 came into force, and some changes were made at that time.
In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced to respond to the Lamer report. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as the things we are talking about today: sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, court martial panels, the provost marshal, and limited provisions related to the grievance and military police complaints process.
In essence, Bill C-15 is similar to the version that came out of committee in a previous Parliament. The amendments carried over include court martial composition and military judges' security of tenure, meaning appointments and age.
However, other important amendments passed at the committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session were not included in Bill C-15. These included, not surprisingly, NDP amendments that we felt were and are important. One was the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the grievance process, which responds directly to Justice Lamer's recommendation. Another was a change to the composition of the grievance committee to include 60% civilian membership. Third was a provision ensuring that a person convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subject to a criminal record, and that is no small thing.
Let me say again, because I know that my friend across the way will be asking me a question, that there are many important reforms in the bill. We support the long overdue update of the military justice system. Members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline, and they, in turn, deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard.
However, there are some shortcomings in the bill, and we hope that they will be addressed at committee stage if the bill passes second reading.
The first is the reform of the summary trial system. The amendments in the bill do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. Currently, a conviction for a service offence in a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals and no transcripts of the trial, and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. This causes undue harshness for certain members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of very minor offences.
Some of these minor service offences could include, for example, insubordination, quarrels, disturbances, absence without leave, and disobeying a lawful command. These are matters that could be extremely important to military discipline but that I do not feel are worthy of a criminal record.
Bill C-15 makes an exemption for a select number of offences if they carry a minor punishment, which is defined in the act, or a fine of less than $500 so that they no longer result in a criminal record. This is one of the positive aspects of the bill, but it does not, in my opinion and in the opinion of the NDP, go far enough.
At committee stage last March, NDP amendments to the previous bill, Bill C-41, were carried. They expanded this list of offences that could be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record if the offence in question received a minor punishment.
A criminal record could make life in the military very difficult and could make life after the military very difficult. Criminal records could make getting a job, renting an apartment, and travelling difficult. Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can get a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts.
The second amendment we talked about was a reform of the grievance system. I know that my friend across the way will probably have a question about that. At present, the grievance committee does not provide a means of external review. I think that is important. Our amendment provides that at least 60% of the grievance committee members must never have been officers or non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces. The amendment was passed but was not retained in the bill as it stands today.
The third amendment concerns strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. I do not think care has been taken to provide the Military Police Complaints Commission with the required legislative provisions that empower it to act as an oversight body.