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House of Commons Hansard #194 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

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The House resumed from December 6 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

10:05 a.m.

NDP

José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, we oppose passing this bill at second reading.

On October 7, 2011, the Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Bill C-15 is a response to two reports. The first was issued by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, and the second was released by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Our caucus believes that the bill does not meet its objective of standardizing the military and civilian justice systems. The bill also does not answer the key questions about reforming the summary trial and grievance systems. In 2003, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada tabled his report on the independent review of the National Defence Act. The Lamer report contained 88 recommendations, but only 28 of them were incorporated into the legislation.

In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced to respond to the 2003 Lamer report and the 2009 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Essentially, Bill C-15 is similar to the version of Bill C-41 that came out of the Senate committee during the last Parliament.

Many significant reforms are proposed in this bill. The NDP caucus has been in favour of making the necessary updates to the military justice system for a long time now. Members of the Canadian Forces are subject to extremely high standards of discipline and deserve a justice system held to comparable standards.

This bill has a number of flaws, which we hope will be addressed in committee if Bill C-15 is passed at second reading. It is thus very important to remember that, in the reform of the summary trial system, the amendments to Bill C-15 do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. Currently, a conviction at a summary trial in the Canadian Forces results in a criminal record. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There is no right of appeal and no transcript of the trial.

Furthermore, the “judge” is often the accused's commanding officer. We believe that this is much too harsh for some members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of minor offences. These minor offences include insubordination, quarrels, misconduct, absence without leave, drunkenness and disobedience of a lawful command. These offences can undoubtedly be very significant when it comes to military discipline, but they do not necessarily call for a criminal record.

I would remind the House that in committee in March 2011, the NDP proposed amendments to increase from five to 27 the number of offences that could be considered minor.

It is important to understand that a criminal record can make life after a military career very difficult. Being saddled with a criminal record can make getting a job, renting a place to live and international travel a real nightmare.

Second, there is also the question of reforming the grievance system with an external review committee. At this time, the Canadian Forces Grievance Board does not allow for external review. The NDP amendment proposes that at least 60% of the grievance committee members never have been officers or members of the Canadian Forces.

Although the amendment was adopted in March 2011, for Bill C-41, it was not incorporated into Bill C-15. It is important that the amendment be included again.

Finally, I would like to talk about strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill C-15 amends the National Defence Act to establish a timeline in which the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal will be required to resolve complaints and protect complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith.

The NDP believes that we must do more to strengthen the commission. Giving the Military Police Complaints Commission more powers in order for it to serve as an oversight body has been very misunderstood. There should be a legislative provision to give the commission more powers so that it can be authorized to investigate and report to Parliament. Our amendments are supported by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and retired Canadian Forces Colonel Michel W. Drapeau, an expert on military law, among others.

The summary trial is by far the most commonly used form of tribunal in the military justice system. It is designed to deal with minor service offences. The objective is to deal quickly with alleged offences within the unit in order to return the member to active service as soon as possible, thereby promoting and maintaining discipline within the unit. Courts martial deal with more serious charges handled by the system and can also deal with less serious charges, depending on the decision of the accused.

This is the definition and the objective of the grievance process:

Grievances involve matters such as benefits, personnel evaluation reports, postings, release from the Canadian Forces, medical issues and harassment—all matters affecting the rights, privileges and other interests of CF members.

Unlike in other organizations, plaintiffs do not have unions or employee associations to pursue their grievances. It is vital for the morale of Canadian Forces members to deal with their grievances in a fair, transparent and prompt manner.

Finally, we want to send a message to members of the Canadian Forces. Our caucus believes that members of the Canadian Forces have to comply with extremely high standards of discipline and that, in return, they deserve a justice system subject to comparable standards.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. I was a member of the Canadian Forces and I went through some very challenging training. My experience has shown me that soldiers are subjected to conditions that are extremely different from what is experienced in the civilian world.

People are encouraged to join the Canadian Forces in order to gain experience and come out with some incredible tools. I made mistakes, minor ones. It happens to everyone. For example, you go before a superior officer and get charged, fined, patted on the back and told not to do it again. That is part of life's lessons. We are talking about young people who enlist at the age of 18, 19 or 20 and who need guidance. I do not think that providing guidance for minor offences involves encouraging young people to join the Canadian Forces, exposing them to extreme conditions and handing them a criminal record on their way out. That does not work.

Could my hon. colleague compare the military world and the civilian world and tell me whether it is normal to mix the two?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague from Repentigny for his question.

As I explained, there is a glaring flaw in the current bill regarding the two systems: civilian and military. The military side is too demanding, perhaps excessively so, when minor offences are handled a certain way. It is excessive for members of the Canadian Forces to get a criminal record when they are found guilty of having committed these offences.

By comparison, there is more latitude in the civilian system. Our colleague from Repentigny explained it well. It would be ideal if we could move forward with our proposal to have civilians make up 60% of the Military Police Complaints Commission, and this would make for greater justice for the accused.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent speech on a very important issue. It does not receive much attention, because we are discussing the military system, to which average Canadians do not have access, and about which they know very little.

This bill concerns the concept of justice. In the NDP we often talk about this government's lack of justice. We see it in this bill, and in general in the Conservative government's platform. It appears to give priority to punishment and to victims, for example, but in fact, it makes things worse and does not help in achieving this idea of justice.

I would like to ask my colleague if he could tell us something about this, not only in terms of this bill, but also with regard to the general experience we have here in the House.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again I thank my distinguished colleague for her precise comments and her question about the word “justice”. It is true that the term “justice” is subject to adulteration, confusion and misinterpretation. In fact, the end goal of justice is to render a fair decision in every sense of that word, the whole nine yards.

When there are flaws, for instance, when the judge is the accused person's commanding officer, there is a serious problem. In my opinion, that should be corrected at second reading, using the amendments proposed by the NDP.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I start this speech, I am reminded of several historical situations where military commissions failed a society. I go back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in the United States and the Mary Surratt case. She had run a boarding house where the conspirators had met but had nothing to do with the conspiracy. She was put before a military commission and she was not allowed to speak, and neither were her lawyers, and ultimately she and some others were hanged. That led to a change in the U.S. at that time, which gave every citizen habeas corpus rights, the right to face an accuser to get the evidence against them.

Those who have been here for a couple of terms will know that I spoke out on behalf of Omar Khadr many times in this place, the reason being that the military commission in Guantanamo had been moved off-site to avoid the changes that had been brought in by the Mary Surratt case. From our perspective in Canada, that was seen as an abuse by some, and not so much by others.

In that light we look at our military justice and how it is applied in Canada. I in fact served in the Canadian Forces in 1963 and 1964, which seems like a hundred years ago now, but I was proud to do so. Fortunately for me, I was not in any severe difficulty but I noted at the time the difference between the administration, rules and regulations within the military compared to what civilians had to live with.

Here I would point out that his bill has been before us previously as Bill C-41. It went to committee and the New Democrats worked with the government of the day to try to improve that legislation. The bill did not return to the House and we wound up with an election, so we are back here with this bill for what is probably the third time at least. The good work done in committee the last time was not taken into account in this bill, because it does not include them.

The Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-15. While it is called “An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”, the government refers to it as “strengthening military justice”. To my mind, strengthening military justice is about finding a way to balance the rights of military personnel in a similar fashion to what is done in civil society. Just prior to the time I went into the army in 1963, the non-commissioned officers could actually strike a person in the military. That changed just before I went in. There was a little trick they then used to get one's attention. They would stand us at attention and tighten our ties to the point of cutting off our breath. Of course, they were not striking the men any more but succeeded in getting their attention. While that may sound off-topic in this discussion, what we are looking at here is a justice system within the military that in many ways is a throwback to earlier times. That is something that should be addressed, and this bill goes part of the way in doing that.

While the New Democrats have stated that we will be opposing the bill, we are willing to work with the government when it gets to committee, presuming that the government takes it there, to do the best we can to improve it again because we argue that it falls short in key areas.

Our previous amendments included giving the Chief of Defence Staff authority in the grievance process to respond directly to Justice Lamer's recommendations. We felt that it was within the purview of the Chief of Defence Staff to have the authority. We also felt there should be changes in the composition of the grievance committee to include 60% civilian representation. In a democracy, this Parliament is supreme, but the civilian authorities also have to be supreme over the military.

The Canadian military has a great history of serving this Parliament, our country and Canadians. However, when it comes to the administration of justice and these tribunals, there should be a balance between military authority and civilian oversight. Including 60% civilian membership adds a level of accountability, as originally foreseen in Bill C-41. For 10 years we have regularly heard from the government regarding its interest in accountability. Therefore, I am a little surprised that civilian membership was not included as part of the bill's provisions. Hopefully, we will be able to reason our way into that situation at committee and be allowed to add that amendment.

The provision that ensures that a person convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subject to a criminal record is an important one because of the difference in accountability between a civilian court and a commission. The fact that some offences leave one with a criminal record in a military proceeding but not a civilian proceeding is blatantly unfair to the people who serve our country. A person in the military who has perhaps made a mistake would pay for that for the rest of their life, whereas if they had done so as a civilian they would not carry that burden.

Regarding reform of the summary trial system, the amendments in Bill C-15 do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. Currently, a conviction of a service offence in a summary trial in the Canadian Forces can result in a criminal record. The accused are held without the ability to consult counsel. That is why I made the linkage to the Surratt case and Guantanamo Bay as over-the-top situations. Those who do not know the military or have a military background would be quite surprised to know that in a summary trial in Canada the accused cannot consult counsel. We think that is fundamentally wrong. Also, there is no appeal process, nor are there transcripts of the trials. As well, the judge could well be the accused's commanding officer. Most people would see the obvious conflict in the fact that the officer was the very person who allowed the commission to proceed. We are very troubled by that.

At committee stage last March, when Bill C-41 was before us, the NDP amendments to expand the list of minor offences were carried. Again, that goes back to our making sure that our good service people do not receive criminal records for “genuinely” minor offences. We are not proposing that people get away with what they should not be doing, but the list of punishments that might be imposed by a tribunal without an offender incurring a criminal record could include a reprimand, a severe reprimand, a fine equal to or up to one month's basic pay, or some other form of minor punishment. The point is that it should not result in a criminal record. Obviously, if the offence were not worthy of time served, it should not be worthy of a criminal offence.

I want to go back to the question of civilian oversight and the need for 60% of the commissions reviewing these cases to be made up of civilian authorities. That balance is important; it would add to the credibility of the system. Over the last 50 years our military service has improved in many ways in this particular area of the justice system. This is an opportunity to move it further forward.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's speech.

Here is the distinction: a person is either a soldier or a civilian. As he understands the principle, why should a soldier really be treated differently from any other citizen?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, historically in Roman and Greek times the Spartans had terrible disciplinary measures, which I will not go into, but they were pretty grotesque. There has always been severity in the kinds of punishment meted out in our military. In many cases that was used to drive people forward in battle, to ensure that they did their duty as seen fit. However, the reality is that we are not talking about people in battle. We are talking about people who, in their everyday duties as military personnel, come into conflict with the military's rules and regulations and find themselves before a tribunal without rights that are really essential to ensuring a balance.

Later today I will be making another speech on Bill C-377 and will talk about questioning authority. That is the one thing that the military does not wish a service member to do; the military sees that as almost an offence in itself.

We have to find a way to balance a genuine, and I stress the word “genuine”, democratic and open process that is accountable within the military to those people who administer the so-called justice. The reality is that it is important that we ensure balance in this.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his service in the 1960s. I too served in the military, but regarding the comments made by the member from Laval, I was also a commanding officer. I served for over 33 years and I understand the military justice system. I understand that soldiers can occasionally get into trouble and have to deal with that.

Nonetheless, the summary trial system does give the service member the opportunity to choose court martial or summary trial, and that person does have recourse to assisting officers and other elements that are put in place for them. Having been part of this for well over three decades, I saw this unfold. Here I would point out that Justice Lamer in fact made his recommendations with the military and military justice in mind, because soldiers do deserve a transparent system under the charter. On this I think we all agree.

Why does the hon. member feel this legislation should not go to committee? I think it should so that witnesses could be brought forward. We could talk about this there and look at implementing the remainder of the 88 recommendations, of which 29 are now in place.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank the member for the service he has given. I was unaware of it. We should occasionally pause and give credit to where it is due. I do not speak much about my personal service because I was only in the service in 1963-64 in a sapper apprentice program. I applied for release and went back to high school. I have never felt ingrained in it in the same fashion as someone who made a career in it.

When we discussed the matter with our critic, he recommended that we not support this legislation. However, the reality in this place is that the government has a majority and the chances are that the bill will go to committee.

I stressed earlier in my remarks that we are certainly willing to revisit the recommendations the NDP made in the past and to try to work with the government on this particular issue, because we think our amendments are of value. I do not want to appear in any way to be maligning our present system because I stressed how it has improved over the years. That was the point I was trying to make, that this is one more step along the long road of trying to ensure a balance. We have to keep improving our systems generally, including in the House and, in this case, our system of military justice to ensure that it is fair, balanced and just.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was after listening to my colleagues' speeches on the bill to amend the National Defence Act that I thought it would be appropriate to speak as well to ensure that we explore the legal concepts associated with the matter before us.

I would invite my colleagues to go beyond the briefing notes from the House, to distance themselves from the talking points, but not from the party's position. I therefore invite them to conduct their own research and engage in an intellectual and mental exercise. I think our audience, those who watch us regularly, would like that. Sometimes the speeches we hear in this House can be redundant because people simply repeat the information they have been given, it is a rehash.

When I heard the speeches by my colleagues across the way, but particularly those of my own colleagues, some ideas seemed familiar. First of all, you must understand that I am a criminal lawyer. When I began to study law, we were told that the administration of justice in the military was different than what the common law courts applied across the country. That is why we spent very little time on the subject, or in fact none at all. I even wonder whether specialized courses were offered at the university, but I doubt it. However, we learned that people in the Canadian Forces were trained in it, that the JAGs, the ultimate decision-makers, were trained, that courses were given and that it was training that was observed first and foremost within the military.

However, there are recurring concepts in my colleagues' speeches, including the right to a lawyer, the independence and impartiality of the decision-maker and other concepts that refer to the charter. Those concepts rang a bell with me and I decided to investigate a little further. I spent several hours researching the topic last night and this morning. It was a last-minute minute decision, and we needed speakers on the topic. So I launched into my research and came up with a considerable amount of information, particularly on statutory instruments, the various acts and regulations that apply to the situation and to the bill under consideration here, but also on case law and doctrine.

The research I did was nevertheless basic, since it is impossible to grasp the ins and outs of an issue of this scope in a few hours. However, further on in my speech, you will see that several levels of legislative and regulatory authority apply to the situation, and I will go over them. I will stick very close to the statutory instruments at our disposal. That will be a change from what we have heard in this House to date. I think this is relevant and that the general public deserves to be informed about the scope of this matter.

The ins and outs of the military justice system are initially a forbidding prospect when viewed from the standpoint of legal practice in the field. By that I mean they may seem incomprehensible at first glance, reminding one that it is risky to adopt the vision and reflexes of a criminal lawyer in examining a bill that concerns, for example, summary trials in a military justice context.

When I began this study, I suspected that the principles that had been instilled in me during my years of legal training might possibly be applicable, but with certain qualifications. I was right, since some concepts that I had learned were tested when I actually looked at the authorities and at what applied in the military field. I noticed some subtleties and adaptations. So I like to think of the training given to JAGs and to people who work in the administration of military justice as additional training and that those subtleties and those transposed principles will genuinely help shed light on the specific characteristics of military life.

When I researched the statutes, I came to several major levels, which I will describe in a moment. The subtleties expressed there very much call for revisiting and exploring the material.

That is why I say it may be uncomfortable and risky at times simply to rely on notes prepared in the lobby in addressing these matters, which genuinely need to be closely examined. They are particular and specific enough that they require one to consider many elements that, incidentally, exceed the scope of a 10-minute speech.

Assuming that the officers presiding over summary trials render judicial decisions in the same way as common law courts, certain rules of procedural fairness and the principles of fundamental justice apply. Based on that assumption, I was subsequently able to conduct the statutory research necessary to examine the bill in question.

In their speeches, my colleagues invoked such principles as audi alteram partem—hear the other side. A person who is accused has the right to make his own claims. This is true in criminal law as well, whether we are talking about summary conviction or indictment. It should be understood that in the criminal courts, under common law, cases tried summarily lead to lesser sentences than cases involving indictable offences. Indictable offences can involve more serious crimes or repeat offences and are much more serious. They are treated more seriously by the courts. Those are concepts I verified to see if the same kind of reasoning applied in the military sphere.

I will refer to the laws on the books and to various tools that apply to a given situation. I will begin with the Constitution Act. It gives the federal Parliament the exclusive right to legislate in matters of military justice. That is the basis. I said there were several levels, and that is the first. It opens the door for all the other legislative tools.

Second, the National Defence Act sets out the organization of the Department of National Defence and the components and elements of the military justice system. It also addresses the concept of a criminal record. I will not discuss that aspect, because I think it deserves a study on its own, and I certainly would not be able, in 10 minutes, to describe all the ins and outs of transferring the sanctions applied in the military to criminal law. I have not grasped all the nuances that apply. That is why I will leave it for now.

Now, here is the third level, the Code of Service Discipline. This code is part of the National Defence Act and sets out the foundation of the Canadian military justice system, including disciplinary jurisdiction, service offences, punishments, powers of arrest, organization and procedures of service tribunals, appeals, and post-trial review.

That brings us to the fourth level. The procedure for summary trials and receipt of proof is set out in sections 108.20 and 108.21 of the Queen's Regulations and Orders, the QR&Os, which were made pursuant to the National Defence Act.

I said it was fairly specific and tricky, and this proves it.

I will now read the first part of section 15 of the Queen's Regulations and Orders, which applies to Canadian Forces members who insist on the right to have a lawyer:

For example, the Regulations do not expressly provide the right to counsel to the accused; however, the presiding officer has discretion to allow legal counsel to participate and, if so, to determine the level of participation to be allowed. When deciding whether to permit an accused to be represented by legal counsel at the summary trial, QR&O indicate that the presiding officer should, at the least, consider the nature and complexity of the offence, the interests of justice, the interests of the accused, and the exigencies of the service.

In closing, all of these elements accurately convey the complexity of the summary trial system within the context of the administration of military justice. In my opinion, this bill requires a review that would reveal a number of unknown factors and flaws to justify opposition at second reading.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the member for doing his homework. I know he is a lawyer and clearly an intelligent young fellow who has done the comparison and looked at the Queen's Regulations and Orders, which is quite a large document.

We have had three chief justices, Justices Dickson, Lamer and LeSage, all doing this work and concluding very similar things, which is the military justice system needs something transparent on which soldiers can rely. The independent reports of former chief justices Dickson in 1997, Lamer in 2003 and LeSage in 2012 said that the summary trial system was fair.

Could the member show me some examples in his research where he could point to the summary trial being constitutionally deficient in any way or fundamentally unfair? Did you see that in any of your research?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to the hon. member, I would remind all hon. members to address their remarks and questions directly to the Chair and not to their colleagues.

The hon. member for Manicouagan.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

I would simply remind him of my final point regarding the right to legal counsel and the tremendous amount of flexibility that is granted to the decision maker, the arbitrator in summary trials. I have my doubts about this; some unanswered questions remain.

There is a tremendous amount of flexibility, and that alone is enough to justify revisiting and reviewing the procedures that apply to the summary process in the military justice system.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech. He is himself a lawyer, and we are very impressed by the depth of his knowledge.

I wonder if he has any comments to make about the amendments proposed in March 2011 in the context of Bill C-41, which was similar to this one. We want to increase the number of minor offences from five to 27. As a former member of the military myself, I am curious to know why it was decided that only five minor offences are important, and not 27, considering the impact the army can have on us.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

I did not go over every offence that was suggested. At the time, I simply looked at the general documents. However, there are things like drunkenness that could lead to charges and a summary trial in the military justice system.

What I still have serious doubts about is the fact that these offences could ultimately lead to a criminal record. I did not address this issue and I would rather not go into it, because there are so many ins and outs and I have not been able to identify them all.

In any case, I have never seen that in my practice. It would be rather unfortunate and rather strange to see these offences and charges on someone's record, when doing a search with their name and date of birth, for instance. Personally, I have never seen that, and it would be somewhat questionable, especially considering how expensive it is to apply for a pardon, not to mention how long it takes, with the RCMP taking fingerprints and so on. I have taken on a few such cases, so I know what a difficult process it is.

How can people get rid of this liability, once they have been convicted?

I submit this respectfully.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are going to talk about military justice, which is a very special area within the justice system.

Military justice differs from traditional justice in that the goal of the former is to ensure respect for the military hierarchy, while the principle underlying the latter is to ensure harmonious relationships between equals.

In military justice, a general is not equal to a private, and vice versa. This is a major problem because capital punishment still exists in military justice. Quite simply, in military law, the use of lethal force can be authorized against an unarmed individual. The individual can even be taken by surprise. A classic example of this is a pilot who attacks a supply convoy identified as belonging to the enemy. The death penalty exists in military law; it is a rule of engagement. Soldiers are authorized to use force against a group of people identified as enemies. That is serious.

Because the use of force and violence is legal, it must be strictly controlled and disciplined. We can all agree on that. The problem is that these elements of control and discipline must not strip soldiers of their basic rights. I have some examples of trivial offences.

This is an example of insubordination. A soldier returns to the base on Monday. He did not sleep all night because his children were sick, he is a little irritable and he swears at a superior. Under current military law, with a summary trial he could be given a punishment that results in a criminal record. The soldier, who has sworn at a superior, will have a criminal record.

Under civilian law, and under labour law, when a person is punished for the first time, they are given a verbal warning. A note is made in their file and after one year it is removed. That is the difference: one individual is subject to military justice; the other is subject to the standard rules of labour law.

If the operator of a tank has an accident and injures someone, he may face a summary trial and be given a harsh punishment, which can result in a criminal record.

In my province, Quebec, unless the person is found to be criminally negligent, there will be no punishment. Under insurance law, the injured person will be compensated by insurance, and it stops there. There are no penalties, not even a report, if the person who caused the accident did not do so intentionally. There is no punishment.

It is different in military law. Military personnel may find themselves with a criminal record. In Quebec, an explosives expert who sets off a dynamite charge but has miscalculated its size will face charges under administrative law. He will be prosecuted for a professional error. He may be sentenced to take courses or private tutoring. In the military, a criminal record may be the result, and that is serious. A person is thus branded because of the simple fact he or she was in the military and committed an error that any civilian might have committed, with a completely different punishment, if any.

That is where this becomes unacceptable. It is important and essential to maintain respect for hierarchy and discipline in the Canadian Forces. Still, these people, who are giving their best efforts for their country, should not be branded for life. It is not easy to leave military life and find work with a criminal record, especially for offences that would not even lead to a court appearance in civilian life.

The Supreme Court considered the issue and found some things that needed correction. Bill C-15 does offer some corrections. Are they enough? Unfortunately not. Several elements are missing. Amendments have been made, but only 28 of the 88 recommendations in Justice Lamer's report have been retained. That is not many. All 88 recommendations were worthwhile. They were essential to give all our military personnel the same protection the rest of us have in our everyday lives.

One of these essential amendments concerned the fact that 60% of the members of the grievance board should be civilians, so that the person handling the grievance is not directly involved and has some independence from the officer corps. We are not rejecting the officer corps, whose expertise and knowledge are substantial, but civilians should be in the majority on the grievance board. That is not unreasonable. In addition, more authority should be granted to the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process. If he is looking into a grievance, he must have some authority to be able to collect pertinent information.

At present, a summary trial leads to a criminal record. That is a fundamental issue on which we absolutely do not agree. In order to warrant a criminal record, a person would have to be court-martialled, in a court where he would have legal assistance and be able to present a defence. If the offence is serious enough to warrant a criminal record, a summary trial is not appropriate; the matter should go straight to the Supreme Court. Out of more than 1,800 cases that were prosecuted, only 67 went to a court martial.

If the offence is deemed to be serious enough to appear on a criminal record, offenders should be tried through a court martial, where they will have the opportunity to present a defence and justify their actions before an independent judge rather than before their immediate supervisor.

We have heard some important quotations about this, including one from retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, who was the secretary to the Canadian Forces Chief of the Defence Staff for a number of years. He was responsible for writing the rules of engagement, which is a big responsibility. He said:

...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 is exactly what must be corrected, and we must do so.

Kenora Swim TeamStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Kenora Swimming Sharks on their fantastic showing at the Prairie Winter International Swim Meet in Winnipeg this past weekend.

Kayla Martin not only shattered her personal best time, knocking 2.6 seconds off of her 1,500-metre freestyle and more than a second off of her 200-metre freestyle, she also reached two national times in both events and took home gold and silver medals. Bryce Jones earned six medals of his own, taking home gold in the 100-metre backstroke and collecting five silver medals in other heats. Gabe Mastromateo, just 10 years old, took home two gold medals in the 100-metre and 200-metre breaststroke. Kira Kuzemchuk, Hanna Stoliker, Winnie Boucha and Olivia Kroeker, all took home gold, silver and bronze medals.

These Canadians are the athletes of the future. We are proud of the dedicated coaches and young athletes who train so hard. They instill a great sense of pride in our communities.

The Kenora Swimming Shark team is just another example of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

International Volunteer DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Wednesday was International Volunteer Day.

In my riding, as in ridings across the country, many people give their time and expertise to support various causes in their communities. Thousands of people also volunteer in developing countries to help eradicate poverty, provide health care and education, and support democratic development.

I am referring to organizations such as SUCO, the Solidarité Union Coopération, which aims to build solidarity between peoples, as well as citizen participation, in order to create sustainable development based on egalitarian relationships. There is also Canada World Youth, which enriches the lives of young people who want to become true citizens of the world.

It is because of the hard work and solidarity of such organizations and their volunteers that we will be able to build a better world for one and all.

Christmas SeasonStatements By Members

December 7th, 2012 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Christmas season is a wonderful time of the year, a season of good cheer and good will.

With this wonderful spirit of Christmas upon us, I encourage all Canadians to take time out of their busy schedules to bless someone in need. Through donating an unwrapped toy to a toy drive, one can brighten a child's face all year. Through giving a food basket to a needy family, one could lift the weight off the shoulders of parents during this joyous season. Through rolling up one's sleeves to lend a pint of blood, one could positively impact the health of three people.

There are endless ways to give back and I encourage everyone to tally up good deeds to help their community, and not just to get into Santa's good books.

Finally, for those who choose to partake in a libation or two during Christmas celebrations, please arrange for a safe ride home.

Happy holidays everyone.

Sainte-Angèle Parish in Saint-LéonardStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 28, 2012, I had the pleasure of attending the closing mass for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Sainte-Angèle Parish in Saint-Léonard.

What a way to celebrate an anniversary: with a ceremony in different languages presided by His Excellency Msgr. Christian Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal, who blessed 25 stained-glass windows, 22 of them illustrating the Apostles' Creed. The windows were designed by Léo Schryburt, who spent many hours creating them with the assistance of craftsman Gino Saracino. These exceptional works of art were made possible with the financial support of many parishioners who were proud to contribute to the beauty of their church.

I would like to recognize the exceptional work of Reverend Jean-Pierre Couturier, who has a talent for bringing people together. He managed to gather people of different generations and ethnicities to create a cultural community that reflects our country.

Congratulations to the members of this beautiful community and long life to Sainte-Angèle parish.

Town of MelitaStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was my pleasure to be in Melita on Saturday, November 24, to celebrate upgrades to its arena with help from our government's community infrastructure improvement fund.

While in Melita, the sense of pride for community was evident and something to be admired. The town was busy with events, including the Santa Claus parade and a homemade dinner as a fundraiser for the rink, which was capped off with an exciting high school hockey game.

That night, many young figure skaters and hockey players came out on the ice to celebrate the community's hard work with the addition of a new ice plant, boards and glass. Whether it was high school and senior hockey players putting in hours of labour or local businesses putting in thousands of dollars of work without ever sending a bill, it is communities such as Melita that keep Canada strong for our young people.

Community facilities provide places for families, friends and neighbours to gather together and by helping to improve them, we are ensuring united and prosperous Canadian communities for years to come.

I congratulate the community of Melita and I wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy new year.

Montreal's West Island CommunityStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is already December. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to recognize those who work hard to make the West Island such a lively and colourful community as the holidays approach.

First, I would like to thank community organizations such as WIAIH, which provides services to families of people with intellectual disabilities and which organized an evening of celebration for its members involving a dinner, gifts, a dance and even a visit from Santa Claus.

I would also like to mention the CHSLD Vigi Pierrefonds and the CHSLD Vigi Dollard-des-Ormeaux, which organize family dinners during the holiday season. These two organizations recognize that the success of these events is a result of the work and dedication of volunteers, employees and management.

There are also seniors' clubs that are very active in the days leading up to the holidays. Club Les Ami(e)s des Deux Rives, Club d'Âge d'or St-Antoine du West Island and Club des aînés de Dollard-des-Ormeaux organize dinners and parties with dancing, singing and socializing in very good company.

Finally, I would like to mention that the West Island Assistance Fund and the West Island Mission offer meals and toys to families and children in need.

Yes, Montreal's West Island is a very vibrant community, and I am proud of it.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, the protection and promotion of human rights is a hallmark of Canada's foreign policy. As a free nation, Canada is proud to promote and protect the fundamental liberties of people around the world. That is why our government is pursuing a principled, values-based foreign policy in working toward furthering human dignity, respect and tolerance.

We are speaking out on the issues that matter to Canadians, whether it is the role and treatment of women around the world, or the persecution of gays, or the cowardly and targeted attacks on those who pray in the sanctity of churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.

Canada is a beacon of light for the world because of our fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We will continue to embrace these values and continue working toward furthering human dignity, respect and tolerance around the globe.