I want to start my remarks by thanking you, Mr. Speaker, regarding the issue that was raised about relevancy. I think the various Speakers in this place are quite, pardon the term, liberal in the way that they allow us to put things into context, because each one of us brings to the House a particular life experience.
I hate to say this, but in my case it was 50 years ago that I was in the Canadian military for a couple of years. I recall one of the first things we were talked to about was good order and discipline. I want to take members back for a moment, again, in the sense of a context of the power and the control that is exercised within military circles. If we were in the military in 1914 and going through basic training, they would be firing live ammunition over the top of us as we crawled through a field. Obviously, over time, those kinds of things changed.
I was in the military in 1963-64. Two years before, a corporal would have had the right to strike me if I was doing something he was not satisfied with. That changed. At the time I was there, they still found ways to draw our attention to their dissatisfaction. As we stood at attention, they would come over and say, “Excuse me, I'm adjusting your tie” and then adjust it so tight that we would start to turn blue.
The context and the reason I am saying this is that it shows the thinking of those people in power and why there has to be some kind of limitation. Rights have evolved for all Canadians in this country over a number of years, particularly the last 50 to 75 years. Other speakers today have talked about the fact that Canadians, average Canadians on the street, would believe that those rules and rights apply to all citizens. Therefore, we find ourselves in a situation, and I will not give the history as others have done, where corrective measures were started in previous houses of Parliament. We did not succeed at those times in concluding them. Then we got to the point where Bill C-15 was brought forward. I understand it was a year, roughly, since the last report calling for change had been received.
There are other remarks I would like to make but I want to speak directly to the amendments that have been proposed today. I want to say very clearly that we do not agree all the time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. However, in these two amendments, she is attempting to go further than the members of the committee were allowed to go by the government, because some of the amendments we proposed in that committee were voted down by the government.
This, at least, affords us all the opportunity to discuss at length some important aspects of the bill that are missing. If we give consideration to the requirement of the Vice Chief of Defence Staff to make a relevant rationale available to the public regarding his or her instructions or guidelines given to the Provost Marshal, that is a very serious application of accountability.
When I describe the things that have changed within the military from those past years, from the live fire in training to striking people and all those things, over time people came to clearly understand what improper usage is.
This is one of those cases where now we have the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff put in the public purview where the public will be able to see what his rationale was. I think that would improve the situation. It would require a level of due diligence that is not required today. Therefore, I certainly support that amendment.
The second amendment would require that instructions or guidelines given by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, again, to the Provost Marshal, be in accordance with the respective roles, responsibilities and principles set out in the accountability framework, signed by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and Provost Marshal back in 1998. Think of that date. We hear government members on the other side talk about how long it has taken to accomplish changes. It certainly has been a while.
Again, I want to stress that the NDP supports these amendments.
The accountability framework states that the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff shall not direct the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal with regard to military police operational decisions relative to an investigation. We have an area here where we are going to have a contradiction in the framework resulting from the amendment, which could be problematic going forward. From our perspective, that whole provision should have been removed. Hopefully I am being clear in the sense of the relationship between these things.
We do believe, though, that the amendment is an improvement. It does not go where we would like it to go totally, but it is an improvement on what is in the bill. We strongly believe that granting the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff the authority is in clear violation of that previous aspect. Very clearly, that just means, to the government side, that there is going to be more work required here on this.
I would like to go back to some of the notes I put together a little earlier. I had added those additional thoughts as I was sitting and listening to the debate here. In this place we often comment, particularly across to the other side, about the limitations on debate and the fact that time allocation, over and over, has prevented us from properly looking at a bill.
In this place we all know that sometimes when we are sitting here on House duty that there are debates that do not have the depth that they should have. Most times there is something we can learn from listening to the other members of Parliament. For example, for myself, the first few minutes of my presentation today came about because of the reminders coming from the statements from the government side and from previous members who spoke before me. The value of having that open debate is so important to this place and to what we are able to do.
Let us go back to a previous bill, Bill C-41, which I have not studied to the depth that committee members would have. When it came out of committee it had some recommendations that had passed at the committee stage but were left out of Bill C-15. We are kind of struggling on this side of the House to understand why that was necessary. When there was agreement in the previous committee on Bill C-41, why would the government not say, “We have looked at this. We have studied it. We will advance it forward in Bill C-15”? The government chose not to.
I would suggest a major omission was the failure to include a broadened list of offences, removed from the consequences of a criminal record. During the process on Bill C-15, New Democrats, both in the House and in committee, pressed for changes and amendments in that area. The purpose of that was to reduce the effect of disciplinary offences regarding possible criminal records.
We also challenged the failure of full charter rights in these cases. Full charter rights are as fundamental as it gets. There is no excuse or justification in my mind for a person who is serving their country, in some instances putting their lives at risk, to not have the value of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as every other Canadian has. Our military members, if anyone, who defend our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, who defend our very freedom, should have the absolute rights of all Canadians. I think it is incumbent upon this place to ensure that happens.