Mr. Speaker, just before question period and members' statements I was outlining why we have seen fit to indicate our support for this bill at third reading despite the fact that we voted against it at second reading, second reading being approval in principle.
We raised quite a number of points concerning the deficiencies of the bill through speeches and debate at second reading. The deficiencies of the bill are also deficiencies of the status quo. In other words, the things that we were seeking to improve have been there for a long time.
We complained about the inadequacy of the summary trial procedure, because people did not have the full availability of all of the charter procedures. That was there in 1983, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came in. It was there in 1993, when the Liberals came to power, and it was there in 2006, when the Conservative government came into power. When Bill C-41 came about, I started talking considerably about this issue and about the need to bring about changes in the act.
In the last parliament, under Bill C-41, we brought about changes in committee similar to the amendment to clause 75 that was passed here in committee. Other measures that we brought forward went further in different areas, but did not achieve success. Nevertheless, the changes contained in Bill C-15 regarding military justice are, on the whole, positive, although they are not where we want to be.
As I said before question period, we are making a commitment that when we form a government in 2015, we are going to fix these things. We are going to fix the fact that the grievance board would not have a requirement for civilian as well as military members. We are going to fix the fact that grievances would not have to be heard and completed within one year. We are going to fix the fact that a change would be made in legislation to allow the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff to issue instructions on investigations that the Provost Marshal could undertake, for example.
There are a series of things that need to be done. We need to go further in reforming the law with respect to summary trials and the protections that need to be present. These are things that we are committed to doing.
However, we are also committed to the progress that has been made. I would like to put it on the record that we claim credit for that. We put it on the table and we made the arguments at second reading with those 50-some speeches and we got a commitment from the government to make an amendment to that provision. Because of that, 93% of summary conviction trials will now not result in a criminal record.
We brought in a number of amendments. I think it was 22. I do not recall any of them being warmly accepted by the government, but they were brought forward for a very important reason: they were brought forward to fix the deficiencies in the act. We are not satisfied with the result, but that does not mean we are going to throw out the progress that has been made.
We brought those amendments because we want to make it clear that we are not satisfied and we want it to be fixed. We want it to be improved. We want the changes that we brought forward to be made. We want to give the Chief of the Defence Staff, for example, the financial authority to compensate CF members as a result of the grievance process. We want to ensure that there is police independence and that any charges must be laid within a year. We want to expand the procedure for summary trials so that no one gets a criminal record without having the protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in terms of proper due process. These things are part of our commitment to the men and women in uniform, and we want to see them happen.
We brought before the committee people such eminent personages as Clayton Ruby, a renowned and probably pre-eminent Canadian lawyer. The member opposite said “infamous”; he may be infamous in some circles, but I tell the member that as a member of the legal profession, he is extremely highly regarded.
He was treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which means president. He has been honoured across the country for his work. He has the most comprehensive work on sentencing in Canada. His works are quoted by all courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He is an eminent personage who came and testified before our committee and talked about the need to ensure that members of our military have the same protections in law and the same rights as others.
We had former justice Gilles Létourneau of the Federal Court of Canada. He had also been chair and commissioner of the Somalia inquiry, which probably was what first brought to light to Canadians the deficiencies in our military justice and policing systems. That gave rise to reforms, although they took a long time to get here.
We can point fingers all ways to Sunday as to who is responsible. The government ultimately is responsible because it has control over legislation, except in the case of a minority government, which has less control. We are here now with significant reforms, if not all the ones that need to be brought in, and we should claim progress. Certainly we are claiming, on behalf of our party, some significant progress in addressing this particular concern that we brought to the table and that got us to the point where we are today.
Therefore, I want to encourage members to support the bill. For some reason the Liberals have decided not just to vote against it but to attack the New Democrats for supporting it. If the enemy is the government, I do not know why they would not attack the government. However, I am not in charge of their strategy, so I do not know.
If they want to oppose it, they could just get up and quietly vote against it, but instead they want to make some issue of the fact that we, who opposed it in second reading, got a substantial improvement in the committee in favour of individuals so that 93% of the people charged with summary conviction offences would get no criminal record. The Liberals think there is something wrong with that, and at the same time they approved the bill in principle at second reading, offered no amendments in committee and are now going to vote against it and oppose it here today. That is for them to explain.
I am here to explain to the House and to the men and women in uniform why we are supporting the advances that are being made and why we are making the commitment to bring about some significant changes, including what was proposed by Mr. Justice Létourneau in his testimony: a fundamental wall-to-wall review of the National Defence Act, conducted outside the control of National Defence, that would give Parliament truly independent advice on how to fix this situation.