House of Commons Hansard #196 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-15.

Topics

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-15 on the military justice system, which is long overdue.

This discussion of a person's collective and individual rights is fascinating. On the one hand, in the military it is critically important to have discipline and an efficient process for that, while keeping morale high. That why there is a different system of justice in the military.

We understand that it is important to ensure that everyone respects the law and that the military maintains a just, peaceful and safe society, its top priority. That is why a military justice system needs to be fast, flexible and portable.

Presently, 96% of the disciplinary cases result in a summary trial, with the other 4% being courts martial. I am mostly interested in talking about the summary trials and the individual rights of soldiers and fairness.

The amendments in Bill C-15 do not adequately address the unfairness of the summary trials. Right now, for a minor offence, a soldier could end up having a criminal record. However, in a summary trial, a soldier does not have access to counsel, there is no appeal process, there is no transcript of the trial and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer.

Very minor offences, whether a quarrel, small disturbance or absence without leave, could be matters important to military discipline, but I am not sure they are worthy of a criminal record. A criminal record for a soldier leaving the military could mean that he or she would have difficulty getting credit from a bank, buying a house, or being hired in any number of jobs.

Bill C-15 proposes exemptions from a criminal record for a number of offences carrying minor punishments or fines of less than $500, as defined in the act. We support these exemptions, but the list does not go far enough. There is another list of very minor offences that should be exempt from a criminal record.

As for the grievance process, there is a grievance committee but no external review. Presently, it is staffed entirely by retired Canadian Forces officers. We believe that the grievance committee should be external and have independent civilian oversight. Soldiers do not have the right of appeal, but they do have a grievance process. Therefore, it is important that the grievance process be fair and independent so there is no chance of a miscarriage of justice.

We believe that at least 60% of the grievance committee's members should be civilians, with a fresh eye on the situations before them. However, even though an amendment to the previous Bill C-41 was passed, unfortunately it was not retained in Bill C-15.

The other flaw in the military grievance process is that the Chief of Defence Staff right now has no authority to resolve any financial aspect arising from a grievance. We know there was a report by Brian Dickson and Chief Justice Antonio Lamer saying that it was important to give the Chief of Defence Staff the authority to resolve any financial aspect. At the time, the Minister of National Defence agreed with this recommendation. Yet after eight years, there have been no concrete steps to make sure this becomes part of the law. We moved an amendment passed at report stage of the old bill, but unfortunately it is not included in this new bill.

The other aspect is that we have to give the Military Police Complaints Commission the framework and ability to rightfully investigate and report to Parliament. Right now there is no legislative provision empowering it as an oversight body. We believe that also needs to be part of this bill.

At the moment the National Defence Act, through Bill C-15, has a timeline in which a complaint can be resolved through the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal. It protects complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith. That is important, because whistle-blower protection needs to be in place for everyone, including soldiers.

In summary, we believe that Bill C-15 is a step in the right direction to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. However, there have to be some key amendments to reform the grievance and summary trial systems and to strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission.

As members know, this bill has been in front of us, first through Bill C-7 and then through then Bill C-45, which died because of prorogation in 2007 and the election in 2008. We are eager to see Bill C-15 become law, with substantial amendments. If not, then we cannot support this bill. I hope that when this bill goes to committee there will be more discussion of it.

Finally, I want to quote Michel Drapeau, who said:

—the summary trial issue must be addressed by this committee. There is currently nothing more important for Parliament to focus on than fixing a system that affects the legal rights of a significant number of Canadian citizens every year. Why? Because unless and until you, the legislators, address this issue, it is almost impossible for the court to address any challenge, since no appeal of a summary trial verdict or sentence is permitted. As well, it is almost impossible for any other form of legal challenge to take place, since there are no trial transcripts and no right to counsel at summary trial.

That was an open statement by a retired Canadian Forces colonel and expert in military law on February 28, 2011. I hope we listen carefully to these experts who are experienced in military justice, and that we move forward to make sure there is discipline, efficiency and high morale while also respecting the individual rights of all soldiers and all Canadians.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the summary trial system and the opposition's claim that it is not constitutionally fair, could the hon. member tell us any of the former chief justices who have reviewed the system and ever said that?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that members of Canadian Forces are not entitled to a trial by jury of 12 persons, which is what the charter provides, but we are not asserting that a provision of the charter needs to be part of it, and at no point in my speech did I talk about the need for inserting the charter. Because of the unique needs of military discipline and efficiency, the finding at trials by general courts martial are determined by a panel of five military members. They swear an oath to carry out their duties according to the law. The court martial panels are different but not necessarily unconstitutional.

Having said that, however, I believe it is important to make sure the court martial system is entrenched in law and the Military Police Complaints Commission is given the legislative provision so it can be empowered to act as an oversight body.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure if the member has actually been given speaking notes from the New Democrats. The New Democrats are in fact voting against the bill going to committee. When she talks about it being a step in the right direction, when she talks about moving forward, it would seem to contradict what the NDP is proposing to do.

Let there be no doubt that the NDP wants to kill the bill. New Democrats want to defeat the bill and that is the reason why they are voting against the bill. The Conservatives are quite content to pass the bill through, promising that they will make some amendments. The Liberal Party is saying it would have been much better to have the broader report addressed, but in principle we support it going to committee.

On the one hand the member says that it is a good first step. Why would she vote against a bill in principle, which the stakeholders, such as members of our Canadian Forces, would like at the very least to see go to committee? Why would she deny them the opportunity to have it go to committee?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-15 is trying to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. I have already said that it is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough, which is why we are opposing it. If it passes, of course we will make the amendments at committee.

However, it does not address the key elements that I said very specifically: that the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in a grievance process must respond directly to Justice Lamer's recommendation; we have to change the composition of the grievance committee to include 60% civilian membership; and that there has to be a provision to make sure the person who is convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subjected to a criminal record. Those are the key elements that I believe need to be in place for justice to be served.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to my colleague, who clearly explained the flaws in the summary trial system.

I would like to get more information and ask her if she agrees that we should reform the system to ensure it is fair and equitable, as it is for all other Canadians.

Indeed, when we go to court, we are entitled to legal counsel and we appear before an impartial judge. However, in the case of summary trials, the accused is not even entitled to legal advice. Worse still, sometimes the judge is the immediate superior of the accused. He is the individual who, in the hierarchy, is supposed to give the orders.

So, could my colleague explain why it is important that people who serve our country in the Canadian Forces be entitled to a fair trial?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that it has been so long since Justice Antonio Lamer presented his report in 2003. Only 28 of his recommendations were implemented in legislation. He made 88 recommendations. That is why we want to make sure his report is implemented properly in its entirety. Of course there should be a right to consult counsel, and appeal and be able to have a grievance process that is fair.

That is why we are insisting that 60% of the composition of the grievance body would be civilians so that it has a different perspective. We understand the importance for morale and discipline and we understand the importance of speed. That is why we believe there should be a separate military justice system.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The vote will be deferred until tomorrow at the end of government orders.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-37. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

Motions in amendmentIncreasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-37 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, could you give me some indication of how many minutes I will have?

Motions in amendmentIncreasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Yes, my apologies to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. Ordinarily, we will let members know about how much time they would have before another rubric in the day's business comes upon us. The member will have approximately three minutes now and, of course, the remaining seven minutes for her remarks when the House next resumes debate on the motion.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Motions in amendmentIncreasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2012 / 1:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in speaking to Bill C-37 at report stage, I propose to speak to the portions and the importance of providing support for victims in my first three minutes and then return in my second period, of seven minutes, to the problems I have with this bill.

Overall, I think all of us will agree that victim services provided by provinces and territories need to be expanded and improved. The title of this bill, increasing offenders' accountability for victims' act, may gild the lily somewhat. This is of course a victim surcharge, which is applied at the time of sentencing. However, I completely concur with the words of Sue O'Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, in her most recent report in February of this year, “Shifting the Conversation”, that we do need to substantially improve services to victims in this country. It was her recommendation that led to much of this bill.

One of the areas where we particularly need to help victims is not one that comes up in this legislation, but it is a move that is supported by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, and it is one that I want to highlight in my brief opening statement.

I want to highlight it because members on all sides of this House should get behind a measure that we desperately need, and that was encapsulated in something called Lindsey's law, which has not been brought forward yet. It actually relates to a tragic circumstance that happened to one of my constituents. The daughter of my constituent, Judy Peterson, went missing 20 years ago this year. My constituent has never been able to find out what happened to Lindsey, but it has led her on a crusade to find a way to create a database for the DNA of missing persons that could be cross-referenced to crime scenes. Everybody involved in victim services, whom I can find, thinks this is a worthy effort.

In fact, we can go back into the records of anytime the House of Commons has dealt with it. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, in 2009, looked at this issue of a DNA identification act and supported it. It was also supported in the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Unfortunately, to this point it has not been brought into law. I should mention as well that even more recently the police chiefs of this country, when they were meeting in Nova Scotia in August of this year, confirmed that they believe we need to create a database for the DNA of missing persons to be cross-referenced to crime scenes. This would be of enormous value to victims, and yet it is missing in this bill.

I will return to the subject of Bill C-37 after question period.