Mr. Speaker I am very pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-15.
I will echo the question the hon. member just asked my colleague: what is the difference between when a civilian does not show up for work and when a member of the military does not show up for work?
The difference does not lie in the person or the action, but in the job. That is exactly why there is one justice system for civilians and another for the military. No one in the House is denying the fact that the military justice system exists because military life must have different rules than civilian life. And yet, the discipline, ethics and morals military personnel are expected to live up to should not have consequences outside the military framework. Consequently, the fact that a member of the military might have a criminal record in civilian life does not recognize the difference between civilians and the military.
It is entirely legitimate that the military wants a separate justice system that respects potentially different values. Still the fact that these consequences, that is, a criminal record, can be extended to a soldier's civilian life is not justifiable. For example, during a summary trial—a serious flaw in this bill—no lawyer is present. It is proper for any justice system to develop its own procedures. We do not contest the existence of summary trials. It is fine that military justice is different from civilian justice. But the consequences should also be different.
During a summary trial, the accused is not entitled to a lawyer and cannot consult counsel. There is no transcript of the trial. These procedures exist in a civilian trial, but not in a summary trial.
Even more important, this is not an independent trial. The person who acts as judge in the trial is usually a commanding officer who knows the accused, perhaps personally, who certainly knows the situation that led to the trial, and who knows all the circumstances. We understand that the definition of an independent tribunal is also different. During a civilian trial, the judge does not know the accused personally, and if the judge does know the accused, he or she must withdraw from the case to avoid a conflict of interest.
It is understandable that military justice will be different. Still, once again, the Conservatives ought to have respected the amendments we proposed to this bill, because that would have made it possible to respect the difference.
We do not wish to be unfair. There must be one justice system for civilians, with its own consequences and procedures, and another for the military, with its own consequences and procedures, and they will not be the same. That is clear and logical.
All members of the House should find it acceptable that a soldier, judged through different procedures, would not suffer consequences that have effects outside the military sphere. For example, a former member of the military with a criminal record will find it very hard to find work after he or she retires.
Everyone here knows that employers always ask potential employees to fill in a form that asks, "Do you have a criminal record?" Clearly, this can harm a person's chances of finding a job. For a government that wants to create jobs and help Canadians find work, this measure is rather hypocritical, since it pushes the military aside. That is just a little remark that occurred to me.
In a summary trial, the procedures are different. That is, the procedures are not like those in the House of Commons. They are rather invisible. Here in the House we often see that the procedures are strict and we must follow them. In a summary trial, on the other hand, regulations or procedures of that kind do not exist. Thus, a member of the military should not be considered a criminal after such a trial.
I will give an example. A member of the military can be found guilty of insubordination, quarrels and disturbances, misconduct, absence without leave and disobeying a lawful command. That is proper because, as I already said, military justice has its own morals and ethics. That is as it should be. However, these procedures should not create a criminal record, since they are minor convictions and not serious crimes. Moreover, only certain offences are included. I do not see why we should tell military personnel that in civilian life they will be considered criminals and have a criminal record, when that should not happen.
In my civilian life I cannot be accused of quarrelling or insubordination, except perhaps if I were in school and showed disrespect for my teacher. In such cases I would be sent to the principal's office, but I would not be found guilty of insubordination and wind up with a criminal record. We must see and understand the wall that exists and the difference between the civilian and military worlds. They must not be mixed together.
The NDP had proposed amendments that would make it possible to expand the list of offences that are exempt and could be considered minor offences. Under those amendments, a person who was found guilty would not have a criminal record. Once again, that amendment was rejected by the Conservatives.
We also proposed an amendment to expand the list of punishments that could be imposed by a tribunal without leading to a criminal record, for example, a severe reprimand. That amendment was not accepted either.
We have to admit that the criminal, military and civilian justice systems are different. No one here disputes that. We understand that the military has different ethics, morals and operating rules. But the consequences of such rules should not reach beyond the military sphere and should not have repercussions on the civilian life of a military member. We are simply asking the government to amend Bill C-15 to respect that difference.