Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue speaking to Bill C-15.
Before question period, I explained that this bill had been introduced during the 40th Parliament, and that it had been studied. Some changes proposed by the opposition parties had even been adopted. Unfortunately, the government did not do its homework before reintroducing Bill C-15, which means that we had to debate it all over again. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence complained during debate at second reading that we were debating these issues.
I would also like to remind him that in the House, not only must we debate bills, but we must also explain to Canadians the issue being discussed. It was only through that debate and the fact that the opposition was in a position to put forward all those factors, that the government backed down and accepted the amendments in order to improve the bill. Unfortunately, although we said that this bill was a step in the right direction, it includes one point that is still problematic.
I heard the parliamentary secretary ask a number of times this morning why the NDP is speaking today when it did not raise these questions in committee. However, that is not the case. Our position is clear. We raised it in committee; we discussed it. The Conservatives hold the majority in the House and in committees. They choose what they want to accept and they have accepted certain amendments.
I am thinking in particular about criminal records for members of the Canadian Forces. For someone who wants a normal life after having served his country, having a criminal record has some very negative repercussions. I remember rising here in the House to push the issue. We are happy that the government listened to us, that it listened to the opposition.
However, it backtracked on aspects that had been agreed upon during the 40th Parliament. Turning back specifically to the Military Police Complaints Commission, the MPCC, we are asking that the commission be truly independent. The proposal set out in Bill C-15 has a negative impact. This bill gives the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff the authority to establish guidelines and to issue instructions regarding police investigations. We also feel that has an impact on the terms set out in the current accountability framework and that it goes against the principle of independence. We feel it is a type of interference, which his problematic.
Glenn Stannard, chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, raised this point when he testified before committee. I am not going to reread what he said, but I would like to make it clear that people will trust the independence of the military police when it is truly independent and when there is no interference. That is important. Again, when we say that we respect our military personnel and that they are important, we also must make sure that we have the best possible system in place.
That is why we are rising today. We are standing up for a better military justice system because the members on this side of the House have a great deal of respect for our men and women in uniform who have served and are still serving our country, and I know that the members opposite do as well. In fact, all members of the House have a great deal of respect for them. However, we must respect them not only when they are working to represent us but also once their work is complete. It is our turn, as legislators, to ensure that they have all the tools they need, to ensure that those tools are in their best interest and to support them in their return to civilian life.
Peter Tinsley, former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, testified in committee as an individual, and he supports the NDP's position.
He said that Bill C-15 is a step in the right direction. However, he also said that the independence of the police, recognized by the Supreme Court in 1999, is also a problem. The provision we are talking about right now, namely, subsection 18.5(3) of the bill, violates the judicial independence recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 as a fundamental principle underlying the rule of law. What is more, the subsection deviates from the norm with regard to the relationship between the police and the government.
That is why we are rising today. This morning, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice repeated the same question several times. He was trying to find out why the NDP did not rise. I would like to answer him by saying that this was something that we raised in committee and that was put forward. Some progress was made on the issue and the government agreed to certain amendments, but there is a problem with this provision.
The motions moved by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands are a step in the right direction, but they are not exactly what we wanted. However, we know that, at this stage, these motions will allow us to move forward. That is why we are discussing this subject. It is important to debate it in the House. We have seen that this can have a positive effect because the government can learn from what is happening and move in the right direction.