House of Commons Hansard #176 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was via.


Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia


Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here with my colleagues this cold February day to speak about Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights act, and to enact this bill, which I believe will truly be transformative in improving rights for victims within our criminal justice system. This will be a quantum leap forward for victims and their families and the justice system at large.

Many individuals in this place have worked tirelessly in our justice system. This is probably, in my estimation, one of the most non-partisan bills we will see in the life of this Parliament. I am particularly proud to see the amount of effort that has been put forward in the drafting and preparation of the bill. I had the good pleasure to work with many people in my own justice department and across the country and to, most personally, hear from victims, to hear their stories, which have very much informed the bill.

It has been a top priority of our government to put victims at the very epicentre of our justice system. I left the crown prosecution service of Nova Scotia almost 18 years ago. It is a particularly proud moment to see the bill come to fruition after a great deal of effort and input from many within our justice system. The contributions of those individuals is reflected in this system that will benefit greatly from their insights.

Since 2006 our government has designated more than $120 million to give victims a more effective voice and role in our justice and correctional systems. We understand the importance of this investment and the difference it can make in the lives of many, as will this legislation.

However, we also understand that the time has come to take a different approach to meeting the needs of victims of crime in Canada—an approach that recognizes victims’ needs through clearly defined and enforceable rights. Last year, we promised to do just that by entrenching victims’ rights into a single law at the federal level. Now we are delivering on that promise with Bill C-32.

I cannot overstate the significance of this piece of legislation. The Canadian victims bill of rights would explicitly enshrine victims rights in federal legislation for the first time in our country's history. Victims would enjoy rights to information, protection, participation, and in many cases, restitution. All of those rights would be enforceable through a remedy scheme. This is the first thing Bill C-32 would accomplish.

The bill would also amend other legislation, such as the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and bring victims' rights to life. This is indeed a watershed moment for Canadian victims of crime.

I am not only proud of what we have included in the victims bill of rights but of the way the bill was developed. When we promised to entrench rights for victims of crime, we knew that we would hear directly from victims to ensure that the bill would truly respond to their concerns.

After being given the honour to serve as the federal Minister of Justice, within weeks I set out, in that first year, to travel to every province and territory to hear directly from Canadians and participants in our justice system.

During the in-person consultations and the online consultations, we heard from more than 500 individuals and organizations. It was instructive, informative, and also emotional at times to hear the personal pain that had been endured by many in our country.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also heard meaningful evidence from victims of crime, advocates, provincial and territorial officials, and those who work on the front lines of our justice system. In particular, the honest and open accounts from victims of crime about their difficulties and the heartbreak they have endured in our system was particularly poignant.

Lianna McDonald, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, who I saw just last week in Winnipeg, summed up these accounts from victims when she said:

What we heard loud and clear is that every victim needs a voice and every victim needs to count. We see this bill as an important step towards ensuring that victims not only obtain the information and support they need but also are able to participate in the justice system in a meaningful way that respects their dignity throughout the process.

Our government believes that every victim deserves to be supported.

For that reason, the Canadian victims bill of rights would include a broad definition of victim that includes an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss as a result of the commission or alleged commission of an offence.

This definition recognizes that a person may be a victim even when an offence has not been committed against them personally.

The bill would also enable individuals to act on behalf of victims who are deceased or incapable of exercising their rights.

The bill would extend rights to victims of crime at every stage of our criminal justice process: during the investigation and prosecution of an offence, during the corrections process, during the conditional release process or parole, and in proceedings in the courts or before review boards for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or who is unfit to stand trial. However, the bill would also provide that those rights could not be applied so as to interfere with police or prosecutorial discretion and would have to be reasonable in the circumstances.

There is very much an emphasis here to strike a balance to ensure that we are giving victims a voice and a role but are not creating delays or adding to the cost of the criminal justice process. This would be counterintuitive, and many victims, I recall, emphasized in their submissions that this was the last thing they wanted to see happen. Further delay, I would suggest, would further victimize individuals in many cases.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard evidence about the importance of keeping victims well informed and about the need to ensure that basic information is provided to victims and their loved ones. This was identified as being of utmost importance. One can understand that these processes and the information needed that impacts directly on people's lives sometimes, unwittingly, does not make it into their hands at the proper time. Victims of crime are often looking for this general information about the process, and therefore their role in the process. Nothing is more fundamental, I would suggest. Nothing impacts them more directly than being able to have that information to make decisions for themselves and their loved ones. However, what they really want is specific information about their case and the decisions made by justice professionals as the case moves forward. Unfortunately, all too often, victims are left disappointed with the information made available to them. This is something Bill C-32 seeks to correct.

The information that is needed and the right to information about the justice system, the programs and services available to them, and the complaint procedures available to them if these rights are denied or infringed is deeply ensconced in the bill. It would give victims access to more specific information about the criminal investigation process, and often the accused.

I note that several witnesses appeared before the standing committee on the issue of information about plea arrangements. Under Bill C-32, judges would be required to specifically ask a prosecutor if reasonable steps had been taken to inform the victim of a plea arrangement in prosecutions involving murder or serious bodily harm or where the victim so requested it in prosecutions of indictable offences where the penalty was five years or more.

I believe that we have found the right balance with this provision that would allow victims to be informed of the agreement at a critical moment without unduly burdening crown prosecutors and without compromising the accused's right to freely enter into a plea arrangement.

Victim safety was also mentioned extensively throughout the process of consultation. We heard testimony before the standing committee that victims of sexual assault, in particular, and victims of human trafficking expressed particular concern about their physical safety during the criminal justice process.

I know that my friend and colleague from Winnipeg, who has made this her life's work, also expressed serious concerns about the physical safety of witnesses throughout the process. My friend, the former minister of veterans affairs and now the Associate Minister of National Defence, spent his entire working life as a police officer prior coming here. I had the good fortune of having his counsel in the preparation of this bill as well.

It is important to keep that information flowing from the time of investigation to trial or preliminary to sentencing and often to parole hearings. This contact, often afforded by the police and the prosecution services, has also been greatly improved by victims services in our country. I must say that this has been one of the single greatest insertions of individuals and professionals dedicated solely to supporting victims in the process.

I want to say firmly, on the record, that this bill does not in any way suggest that these many professionals in our country working in the justice system are not doing their job. This is simply an effort to codify and bring about common practices across the country, in provinces and territories, to buttress our commitment to supporting victims and to see that we are transferring, in some cases, best practices through this bill by ensconcing these rights for victims.

This bill recognizes the importance of protecting victims from further harm, while they participate in the justice system. It would provide victims with the right to have their privacy and security considered by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system and the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation, including the right to apply for testimonial aids and to have their identity protected from public disclosure.

Currently there are a number of provisions in criminal law to prevent or to respond directly to the harms suffered by victims. The creation of these new rights would build on a strong foundation and on Canada's positive international reputation for the treatment of vulnerable persons, including their treatment in courtrooms.

Specifically, I am aware of some of the expressed concerns with respect to proposed section 486.31 of the Criminal Code. This section would add another tool to the inventory of testimonial aids and other protections for victims and witnesses that currently exist in the Criminal Code. This new tool in proposed section 486.31 would create discretionary schemes to allow or require a judge to determine that an order made under this section was in the interest of the proper administration of justice. The judge would then consider a number of factors when considering whether to make such an order, such as a fair trial, the interests of the witness in question, and societal interests related to the proper functioning of our justice system. What this would mean, in essence, would be greater access to those testimonial aids.

Just to edify this issue, it could be a screen that is sometimes used for a child witness or an individual who feels particularly vulnerable to cross-examination. Sometimes there are situations where a person is unrepresented and he or she is in a position to come face to face with a victim who feels absolutely overwhelmed. We now also use video testimony from time to time.

I would come back to the point of improvements we have seen well in advance of what we hope to accomplish through this bill, such as child and youth advocacy centres, such as the one in Toronto known as Boost, the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, and 24 others now functioning, with plans for more to come. There are outstanding improvements in the wraparound service, protection, and support of young victims and witnesses who wind up in our criminal justice system.

Something as basic as allowing children to take a pet into the courtroom or the interview process to calm that experience and allow them to feel that they are in a safe place are leaps and bounds in the area of the compassionate type of support we are now offering young victims and witnesses in our system. This is in keeping with some of these improvements.

Never losing sight of the right to a fair trial that the accused must have, and the fundamental components that exist in our process in that regard, the courts have said, and I agree, that these rights are not absolute. A criminal trial must acknowledge and accommodate, to the greatest extent possible, other important societal interests, such as protecting those who agree to testify as witnesses.

I would pause here to mention that in the new anti-terrorism bill, there are provisions as well recognizing the need to protect witnesses, in some cases, because of special circumstances. We see this in organized crime trials and trials where spouses find themselves particularly vulnerable to violence or threats of violence. These protective elements are extremely important, without upsetting that right to a fair and free trial.

Coming back to some of the consultations, we heard from many people about the importance of finding ways for victims to be more meaningfully involved in the process. Some stakeholders expressed concerns that increasing the involvement of victims had the potential to reduce effectiveness and efficiencies of the process, that it would create delays or increased cost. These are important considerations, to be sure. However, the standing committee heard from several witnesses who explained very eloquently how important it is to be meaningfully considered in the decisions made by police, prosecutors, and other criminal law professionals. This breeds confidence in our system; it breeds participation, and a willingness to participate.

We are having trouble sometimes even assembling a panel of jurors because of a disconnect that some are feeling from our justice system. We have to be very conscious of that. The bill, I believe, answers some of those questions when it comes to increased public confidence.

Victims clearly indicated that they are not seeking a veto. I remember some years ago, while in opposition, there was a joint report created by the justice committee, called “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”. We drew heavily from that report, going back into the annals of this place and looking at some of the previous recommendations.

Victims simply want to know that a decision was made with clear understanding of their perspective as a victim, and that they had the opportunity to explain their position to important decision-makers. As Minister of Justice, I have no doubt that the many professionals in our justice system already meet, and continue to meet every day, those requirements and requests for accountability and transparency from victims.

The reforms proposed in Bill C-32 recognize the impact of crime on the lives of victims and are a clear effort to give them a voice in what is often a complicated, difficult, and stressful process. Victims of crime have told us that they are overwhelmingly supportive of the improvements to the victim and community impact statement provisions found in the Criminal Code. One such improvement is the creation of mandatory victim and community impact statement forms, again, to bring about a uniform approach across the country.

Through this process, we have also had the opportunity to ensure that victims are able to speak directly to the judiciary, to the court, and ensure that they have a true understanding of the impact that crime has had on them and their families. The bill also aims to give victims more choice and control over their involvement in the process, which can be stressful and certainly emotional. Participation and choice, I would suggest, are rights that have to be respected and rights that do exist, whether the victim chooses to exercise them or not. Choice equals respect in the bill.

The proposed right to participation also seeks to strengthen approaches that provide opportunities for victims to actively participate, to be more effective in their ability to relay their wishes, their concerns, to police, crown prosecutors, and judges, and to give victims this effective voice to let them know that their voice matters, that it is heard, that it is meaningful.

During consultations, and in the evidence before the standing committee, victims spoke of the financial impact of crime. This can include economic costs, loss of employment, costs of treatment, and mental and physical health costs. Victims are very concerned about the financial burden that results from victimization and that places them in real hardship.

Following a traumatic event, victims are often unable to work, unable to deal with the daily grind that is all around them, and yet they face significant expenses to continue attending court proceedings or receive counselling.

It may surprise some, and I certainly was taken aback by this figure, that the Justice Department estimates that the tangible and intangible social and economic costs of Criminal Code offences in Canada are approaching approximately $100 billion annually, of which 85% of the costs are borne by victims alone.

The bill aims specifically at helping to alleviate the financial burden of crime when it comes to the load that is carried by our victims in the system. The proposal would enshrine a victim's right to have the court consider making a restitution order, in every case, rather than creating an absolute right to a restitution order.

Once again, I believe that we have found a measured and balanced response to the needs for victims with respect to the fundamental principles that underpin our justice system.

The courts are not often the appropriate forum for awarding damage for pain and suffering or for determining complicated issues regarding the outcome of an award, but restitution can be made and ordered when the value of the loss or damage is easily calculable. This is not in dispute. On the other hand, we are clarifying that the offender's ability to pay is only one factor to be considered when a judge is determining whether a restitution order should be made.

In conclusion, I want to thank the many individuals who have put in tremendous time and effort in the preparation and drafting of this bill. They are people like Carole Morency, of the Department of Justice; Dale Sutherland, and many other victims whom we heard from throughout our consultations, and there were many. There were individuals like Priscilla de Villiers, who has made this her life's work, and people from MADD Canada. I mentioned Sheldon Kennedy earlier, and those who work in the child advocacy centres.

I believe that this is a leap forward, and something that all members can and should support. I am grateful to the members of the justice committee, who have also embraced this important task of improving the lives of victims and easing their burden. I would urge all members to support this important legislation.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Justice for his speech on Bill C-32. It was one of too few speeches we will hear in the House about this bill because of the time allocation motion.

I am very glad that he mentioned the costs to victims. I have seen the harm, both physical and psychological, that these people have endured. It is mind-boggling. This is one of the issues that the bill only partly addresses. I am therefore very glad to see that the minister is aware of it, and I hope he will realize that we need to come up with some funding, not just lip service.

One of the concerns that I still have about this bill is that the provinces and territories will be on the hook for implementing the Canadian victims bill of rights. When we studied this in committee, it seemed as though they were not very interested in that. The provinces were not particularly enthusiastic about coming to tell us what they thought of the bill of rights. Two provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, sent representatives. The provinces' justice ministers told us that the federal government would have to give them time to take a closer look and implement it. They asked the government to extend the implementation period, but the government refused.

Is the minister concerned that this could end up being forgotten or simply stalling along the way? Is he concerned that not much is likely to happen if the provinces are not committed to the process?

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for participating in this debate and this process. She has put forward constructive ideas and some very positive comments.

I take her comments very much to heart, and I know that she has been an active participant in the process of getting it right for the sake of victims.

She makes a very important point about resources. There is no question that the administration of justice, including the impact of this bill, falls to the provinces. It will fall specifically to agencies, police forces, prosecutorial services, and our entire justice system.

This is why we put in place a victims fund prior to the drafting and implementation of this bill. There are also funds that would attach and flow with the implementation of this legislation and a coming into force period.

The member makes the valid point that we would have to transition to this process where victims are in a better place. It will undoubtedly take a tremendous amount of effort. It will call for further collaboration between the participants and the justice system. It will call for efforts on the part of some provinces to raise their game. Having been through this process, I am convinced. that there is a tremendous desire for that to happen.

This bill will include new funding, and there will be grants and contributions available to provinces and territories, particularly with regard to the restitution programs and helping victims to collect it. As the member knows, we also have a victims ombudsman, as a result of that office being opened by this government in the last number of years.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think history would reflect that there has been fairly good support from all sides of the House in dealing with this type of legislation. We have seen that over the years.

I want to pick up on the point that the NDP critic has raised. This is an issue that we have also raised, both in committee and in previous discussions. It is with regard to the expectation that judges, in their considerations, will give additional thought to where the victim is at, for example, in terms of whether the crown has consulted with the victims and whether they are being kept informed on process and so forth

One of the most concerning issues is the scarcity of resources. As we move forward, we should ensure that there are financial resources that follow. Our crowns, for example, have a fairly full plate, and now there will be an additional responsibility or expectation, meaning that there is a need for additional financial resources.

To what degree has the minister taken action to ensure that those financial resources will follow so that we do not have increased backlogs, which is a concern?

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for the question, and I agree with him. I think there has been quite an extraordinary and exemplary effort on the part all parties to bring this legislation forward. In fact, we have seen amendments that I think will further enhance the bill and speak to the dignity of victims.

With regard to resources, I mentioned the victims fund and accompanying resources for programming. With regard to the provinces and the administration of justice, I would remind my friend, as he is probably aware, that we have seen a significant increase in transfer payments that go directly to provinces for the administration of their health and social transfers. These enhanced programs allow provinces to make decisions and adjustments in regard to their justice systems in their areas of jurisdiction.

I want to come back as well to the issue of how victims fit into this process. This Canadian victims bill of rights would be a quasi-constitutional statute. It would protect extremely important values and incorporate certain goals that are basically associated with the justice system.

Clauses 21 and 22 of the bill would provide that the Canadian Bill of Rights would prevail over other federal statutes, with the exception of other quasi-constitutional statutes within the system, including the Official Languages Act, the Privacy Act, and, of course, the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Vaughan Ontario


Julian Fantino ConservativeAssociate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. minister for his work, and the team's work, with respect to the background and consultations. I was present with the minister at one of these consultation processes in my own area, where we had educators, parents, and police officers. The overwhelming support that came forward, I believe, has certainly been reflected in the construct of this bill.

Drawing on my own experience over some 40 years in law enforcement, I can say with all honesty that this bill has been a long time in the making. The whole issue of victims' rights has been neglected over many years. The overwhelming majority of effort over the years has been in the area of the victimizers, the accused, the kinds of rights and entitlements to which the accused are given from the beginning to end of their involvement in the system.

I would also like to indicate that the bill is nothing new; it is something that the system has been trying to do. However, what is new is the mandated codification, if you will, of processes, regards, and concerns about the plight of victims and their role in the judicial system.

I would like to ask the hon. minister if he could briefly highlight the degree of consultation and involvement of partners in the criminal justice system that has enabled him and his people to deliver what I believe is a timely, long-awaited, and badly needed address of our victims' plight in the system.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vaughan, the Associate Minister of National Defence, for his 40 years of wearing the badge and the uniform and the leadership he has demonstrated in our justice system.

He and many others bring to bear the very essence of this bill, an effort to bring about a process that delivers more for victims in a way that is consistent with their perspective, that builds and breeds confidence, and respects and truly includes them in a meaningful way. That is not to suggest for a moment that we have not come a very long way from where we were just a few short years ago. I mentioned victims' services and child advocacy centres, but also, most importantly, the incredible sensitivity that has evolved throughout with the police, the prosecution, judges, and court workers. There is an acute understanding of the need to do more for victims.

This bill would help to bring about uniformity and the codification that he mentioned. We heard repeatedly about this desire to learn, because of the breadth and width of this country and how it is being done in different parts of the country. We know there are specific needs in the north, in particular, that have to be addressed. We know that in remote parts of the country this poses challenges, and we are using technology more to respond to those needs.

I look forward to this bill proceeding to the Senate, with the latter's watchful eye and insight and its opportunity to give its stamp of approval. I know that Senators Boisvenu and Batters and others bring a great deal of understanding through their experience, which is how our process works best: when people participate fully. Again, I thank the members of the justice committee for their intelligent insights and constructive suggestions in this process.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important for me to rise in the House today to participate in this shortened debate on Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act. I agree with the minister that this is an extremely important concept and bill. The devil is often in the details, but this bill also represents a first step.

I would like to begin by thanking the minister for his openness during the examination of this bill, if nothing else. I am less satisfied with the way that this is happening here in the House, because we are being given only two or two and a half hours to debate at third reading a bill that includes many extremely important provisions. What is said in the House at the various stages of a bill is often very important for the courts and for Canadians, because the debate often provides indications as to how the legislation should be interpreted. The speeches are therefore important. What we say in the House becomes important because it often explains the intent of the legislation.

I would also like to thank the NDP members who sit with me on the committee that examined this bill. They are the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, the deputy justice critic, and my colleague from the House leader's office, the deputy House leader and member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. They did a remarkable job of supporting me on this file. Our priority throughout the process was to try to understand the bill of course, but also to ensure that the bill did what the minister said it was supposed to during the countless press conferences he held, accompanied by victims. As I have often said, whether at second reading, during speeches, at committee stage or at report stage here in the House, we try to properly assess the legislation. If there is one thing that horrifies me, it is when people say they are doing one thing when they are actually doing another.

It is very interesting. We heard from many witnesses. I counted about 40 witnesses who appeared before the committee. In fact, there were 42, to be precise. I cannot say that the witnesses were on one side or the other. What mattered most to all of the witnesses was putting victims at the centre of the debate. I think that is the most positive thing that stood out about the victims bill of rights. That was the most common remark I heard. Although people were not entirely reassured that the victims bill of rights will in fact give them what they have been asking for for such a long time—for it has its limitations—they were extremely happy to see that we were talking about them. They were also happy that we were listening to them. It was much more about listening to them, rather than talking about them. The minister said earlier that he was taken aback by the scope of the harms suffered by victims and the costs they bear. Whether physical, psychological or material, the costs to victims are huge. The very notion of “victim” is being broadened as well. We do not always know who the victim of a crime is. Indeed, the victim's family and friends all suffer with that individual.

When we add all of that up and realize that according to the numbers we were given, victims bear 83% of the costs incurred, that is troubling. The government is saying that the law will ensure that there is some sort of restitution, but we have to take that with a grain of salt. That is really the problem I have with this bill of rights, but I will try to remain positive today. There are no guarantees. Since this comes from a government that is so bent on mandatory minimums, huge maximums and suppressing certain rights, I understand why the minister made a point of talking about a “measured and balanced system” in his pro-victim speech.

He understands the potential limitations of this bill of rights within a criminal justice system that is based on the presumption of innocence and a charter of rights that also imposes limitations on how things are done. The trial still has to be fair and balanced for the accused. It is not easy to strike a balance between focusing on victims and applying the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system with regard to the rights of the accused.

That is why I often say that we have to be mindful of what we say in public. We should not give the impression that we are going to solve all the problems, when that is not necessarily what is going to happen.

We had good meetings at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We were able to raise certain problems for both victims and legal experts. Legal experts tend to see the downside of legal provisions, which can sometimes be misinterpreted. They could hamper the criminal justice system and undermine values such as the presumption of innocence, which is part of a fair and balanced trial. In that context, one might assume that the two parties would have diverging opinions, yet they were both somewhat dissatisfied with the bill of rights.

Representatives from victims' associations entered the committee room with their eyes wide open. They knew that even though the government claims that this bill will solve the world's problems, it would do nothing to change the fact that roughly 80% of the costs are borne by victims and their family and friends. Nonetheless, they were happy to find out that we had recognized certain rights, including the right to information. However, we are still not going far enough.

I proposed some very reasonable amendments to the victims bill of rights. If someone has the right to information, they should not have to ask for it. However, under the victims bill of rights, the victim will have to request information. The victim will still have to beg for rights that should have been fully recognized a long time ago.

Let us take a look at clause 6 in the bill:

Every victim has the right, on request, to information about

(a) the criminal justice system and the role of victims in it;

(b) the services and programs available to them as a victim, including restorative justice programs; and

(c) their right to file a complaint for an infringement or denial of any of their rights under this Act.

If the idea is to give victims a right that they have been calling for for a long time, we should simply say that they have that right. However, in committee, the government members rejected my amendment, which would have benefited victims. It would have made this bill of rights stronger for victims. This would have made the bill of rights extremely respectful of victims and would not have created an additional burden. Even if this did create an additional burden, which would not penalize the offender, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, what would be the problem?

It is because this would have required resources. We would have to provide the services required by an automatic system. In this case, I suppose we will just cross our fingers and hope that victims will not make too many requests.

I will quote clause 7:

Every victim has the right, on request, to information about

(a) the status and outcome of the investigation into the offence; and

(b) the location of proceedings in relation to the offence, when they will take place and their progress and outcome.

When I proposed an amendment to ensure that victims did not have to ask for this right, once again, members on the government benches refused, even though it would have benefited victims.

It seems to me that it was what victims had asked for, at the very least, and we could have given them that.

Later, clause 8 states:

8. Every victim has the right, on request, to information about

(a) reviews under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act relating to the offender’s conditional release and the timing and conditions of that release; and

(b) hearings held for the purpose of making dispositions, as defined in subsection 672.1(1) of the Criminal Code, in relation to the accused, if the accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial, and the dispositions made at those hearings.

That seems evident to me.

I have said this before, but I am going to say it again. When I worked as a lawyer in my riding and I went to the courthouse, we knew who the victim in a certain case was when we walked down the hall: it was the person who seemed to be asking themselves what they were doing there, what was happening and who had absolutely no idea what was going on.

I regularly follow what the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has to say. Sue O'Sullivan does an extraordinary job. She is passionate about her work and cares deeply about the well-being of victims. She tries to help them in any way she can. The biggest problem is the right to information. Victims are not involved in the proceedings. I think that there were limitations because of our criminal justice system. I am not calling that system into question. In fact, I fundamentally believe in the principle of the presumption of innocence. That should not be changed. Doing so would certainly change Canadian society. Of course, we want to be sensible about this and do not want to bog down the court proceedings.

Then again, I do not understand the problem with giving out this information. The devil is often in the details, so much so that the entire system is then called into question.

There is the concept of mandatory minimum sentences. When I speak to a victim or a member of a victims' support group, it is obvious that the problem is not the concept of sentence minimums. They do not have a problem with minimum sentences. More often than not, they want maximum sentences. However, as I often tell them, they will not truly be satisfied with any sentence, and with good reason.

I worked mainly in the area of labour law, and when a person was unlawfully dismissed, even though I sought the absolutely best possible outcome, it was still not satisfying. Why? Because no amount of money was going to make that person forget that moment. I would always tell my clients this. There is no such thing as a satisfying ruling. It is the same thing in criminal law.

As a society, how can we think that a sentence, even a life sentence, will make the victim less of a victim? How can we ensure that victims will not relive that moment for the rest of their lives and that they will not be psychologically scarred by it? Come on. Let us stop messing around when it comes to such important concepts and stop minimizing the issue by giving the impression that a law is going to change everything.

I often have a problem when the Conservatives use the expression “put your money where your mouth is”. This government passes strong laws but cuts resources. It passes tougher legislation but reduces the number of police officers. They are saying one thing and doing another. The Canadian victims bill of rights gives victims a so-called right, but that is it. They still have to ask for the information.

With respect to restitution, victims told the committee that it was wonderful to know there would be restitution in criminal cases, in court-ordered criminal proceedings. That is interesting because not only do these victims have to go through the criminal trial, appear as victims and witnesses, and go through the whole process that makes them relive what they already went through, but if they want restitution, they have to file a civil suit against a person who, in many cases, does not have the money to pay them. What kind of a system is that? They spend more money and pay more lawyers and end up with nothing or not a lot.

Including provisions for restitution in a bill of rights is interesting, but once again, it is just potential.

It is not automatic even if the person can prove that there was physical harm. We know that psychological harm is often harder to prove. Those who have practised civil law are well aware that the notion of moral and psychological harm is probably the hardest thing to determine. In some cases, people cannot do it right away. It is an ongoing process.

In this context, the victims believe that once Bill C-32 is passed, everything will work out because they can just ask the court. The clause says that the court will consider it; it is not automatic.

There is something I especially agree with, although not everyone agrees. Some legal experts are worried about certain provisions dealing with how victims will give evidence and whether or not witnesses will be identified. Clearly, as a lawyer myself, I also have some concerns. We always have to ask how this will be applied by the courts. That being said, when we have confidence in the legal system, which I do, barring proof to the contrary, our judges, crown prosecutors and defence attorneys are doing their job. What I always find interesting is examining the provisions. An application does not have to be granted automatically when a victim asks to give evidence without being identified, seen or heard, or even giving his or her name. A procedure exists; there must be a hearing that meets stated criteria.

That eases my concerns somewhat, but it is important that the courts dealing with these kinds of applications treat them with caution, bearing in mind that a trial is public by definition, and it is important to put that on the record. This is really quite particular, and there are specific cases where the victim or their family could be in danger, for example.

Obviously, when it comes to minors, it is a different situation altogether. However, that is not exactly what is set out in the victims bill of rights, which applies to all kinds of victims, not just children. That is one of the problems.

I mentioned the other problem in my question to the minister. I did not get the sense that the provinces and territories were very enthusiastic about this. In response to a question, Quebec's justice minister said that her province already has a victims bill of rights. I spoke to many crown prosectors who were a little insulted. They felt as though they were being told they were not doing this already. Many speak to victims and keep them informed. People must not think that this is not already being done. Unfortunately, it is not done everywhere.

Again, let us talk about resources. All these fine bills are nice, but there are no resources. Crown prosecutors are doing their best. They arrive in court—I have seen this because I practised law—with a big pile of files; they have to talk to each victim, inform them, ask them if this suits them, if they are happy and whether they know that such-and-such a thing is going to happen at this time on that day. Even crown prosecutors told us in committee that this could be pretty tough without more resources, more crown prosecutors and more judges to hear certain cases.

The biggest problem for victims—and I say this often—is that the legal system is too slow. I quite like the Canadian legal system, but speed is not its strong suit. A trial that takes too long leaves the impression that justice is not being served. These are other things to consider.

There is a terrible deficit and imbalance in the justice system. This is becoming a big problem. It is often overlooked at budget time. Let us think about that on this World Day of Social Justice. I do not want to preach about this, but the need is great. We have a law-and-order government and there is nothing wrong with that, but it has to go about things the right way. It has to give resources to the people who need it. Given the cool reception of the provinces and territories, a number of discussions will have to be organized between Justice Canada and its provincial and territorial partners, in order to ensure that this bill of rights does not go by the wayside and become one more Conservative file that the NDP will have to fix after the fact.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reinforce a question I posed for the minister responsible for the legislation. The member for Gatineau made reference to it.

We recognize the value of this legislation. I think all political parties recognize the need to do what we can to allow victims to achieve some form of additional justice. We all recognize the need to support them, as we should. In good part, the legislation is a step in the right direction.

One of the largest concerns we hear is about the financial resources. We can pass whatever legislation we want in the House, but if we do not have a direct connection to financial resources to ensure our system is improved, then in essence it has fallen somewhat short.

Maybe the member could comment the importance of additional financial resources to ensure the legislation accomplishes what it is meant to do.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, without the resources, the charter of victims rights is just paper. If it comes down to that, it would be sad. I am not talking about a few million dollars. The Conservatives like to depict us as big spenders, but that is not the case. They have to put their money where their mouth is if they want to help victims. The minister talked about close to $100 billion of which 80% of that would be borne by the government.

The Conservatives can laugh all they want, but victims associations have told us they have no funding so they cannot help people. They count on the generosity of the public, with little dollars here and there, to help people who live in hell because of crimes.

I will take no lessons from the laughing Conservatives. They are great at writing papers but do nothing afterward, and that is sad. This legislation will not succeed without the resources.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

If she wishes, the hon. member for Gatineau will have seven minutes to answer questions when the House resumes debate on this motion

Genetically Modified FoodsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


André Bellavance Independent Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has always had a laissez-faire attitude towards genetically modified foods, and the recent decision by the U.S. department of agriculture is reviving Quebec consumers' and producers' concerns.

The Americans have just approved two varieties of genetically modified apples that will be put on the market within five years and whose main characteristic is that they do not turn brown. Some conventional apples already have this characteristic. According to a survey of 1,500 Canadians, 69% are opposed to the sale of genetically modified apples in Canada. Furthermore, 91% are calling for mandatory labelling of GM foods. The Fédération des producteurs de pommes du Québec is:

...concerned and still opposes the introduction of a genetically modified apple on the market, because it believes that consumers are skeptical and this could have a negative impact on the consumption and sales of apples in Canada.

The government must take a firm stand, prohibit the sale of genetically modified apples and make labelling of GM foods mandatory, as Canadians and producers themselves are calling for.

Legion of Honour RecipientStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I wish to recognize Ewart Wannamaker, a young 92-year-old and a native of Carlow Township who is now a knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour of France.

At a ceremony at the Bancroft Legion, he received his medal and certificate from Lieutenant Colonel Roger Vandomme, deputy defence attaché at the French embassy. In his presentation Lieutenant Colonel Vandomme spoke of the French nation's desire to honour young Canadians who left their homes and careers to bring freedom to France. “The medal is but a small token of our continuing gratitude to those Canadians”, he declared.

When joining the Canadian army in 1942 as a corporal craftsman with the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers, he help liberate France, Belgium, and Holland from the Nazis. Wannamaker was in the advance recovery unit, salvaging damaged vehicles so they could be repaired and returned to action or destroyed. He is still a member of the Bancroft Legion, and for his work he has received both a Certificate of Merit and a national Meritorious Service Medal.

To his family and friends, we honour Corporal Wannamaker, now a French knight as well as a beloved native son.

World Day of Social JusticeStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, the UN invites us to commemorate the World Day of Social Justice. Oh, how social justice has suffered for decades in Canada at the hands of both Liberal and Conservative governments. The middle class ends up paying the price, as inflation erodes its purchasing power and the federal government keeps cutting services.

A lifetime ago, one prime minister even promised Canadians a just society. When he was unable to deliver on his promise, a journalist asked him what happened. The elder Trudeau replied, “Ask Jesus Christ. He promised it first.” How cynical.

Liberal and Conservative governments lower standards, violate the public's trust and then send them the bill. What they forget is that the erosion they cause will inevitably be their downfall. As the saying goes, “You reap what you sow.”

Social justice should be a priority for every government. It is one of the NDP's key principles, and we will never back away from our plan to create greater social justice for all.

Hooked on School DaysStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week Quebec marked Hooked on School Days with events across the province. It was an opportunity to raise awareness and rally the public to encourage our young people throughout their school days. The purpose of the week is to increase not only the number of students who stay in school, but also the number of students who pursue a higher education.

As a member of Parliament, it is always a privilege for me to see the pride and enthusiasm in the students whom I congratulate every year at graduation. Today's young people are tomorrow's workforce. Whatever we can do to help as individuals or a community goes a long way.

I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work of all the organizations in Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière and all the partner organizations in Quebec that held countless activities to encourage our young people to stay in school, succeed and keep believing that they can achieve their full potential.

Anti-SemitismStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently I addressed the first-ever United Nations General Assembly meeting on anti-Semitism, which took place, symbolically and significantly, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most brutal extermination camp of the 20th century, reminding us of horrors too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened.

At Auschwitz 1.3 million people were murdered, and 1.1 million of them were Jews. Let there be no mistake about it: Jews died at Auschwitz because of anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism did not die. Indeed, we have been witness to an escalation and intensification of this oldest, most enduring, and particularly toxic hatred, reminding us that while it begins with Jews, it may not end with Jews, that anti-Semitism is the canary in the mineshaft of evil.

I am pleased, therefore, that in response to the UN appeal to member parliaments, we will be holding a take-note debate on anti-Semitism on Tuesday evening. It is timely, necessary, and urgent that we sound the parliamentary alarm on this global evil.

Trinity Western UniversityStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, freedom of religion is a value that Canadians hold dear. Sadly, there are some people, businesses, and even law societies that are opposing this value. Citing Trinity Western University's student code of conduct, they say that either Trinity should not be allowed to have a law school or that Trinity graduates should not be allowed to practise law.

The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that the Trinity student code of conduct does not constitute discrimination. Thankfully, a ruling by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has brought some common sense to this most recent debate. Last month, Justice Jamie Campbell dismissed a decision by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society to deny future Trinity law school graduates the right to practise law.

I call on all opponents of Trinity Western University's future law school to withdraw their opposition and support the important Canadian value of freedom of religion.

Laval's 50th AnniversaryStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to talk about an anniversary that is very special to the people of Laval: the City of Laval's 50th anniversary. In 1965, the 14 municipalities of Île Jésus decided to merge, creating the City of Laval. Fifty years later, Quebec's third-largest city is a diversified and prosperous economic centre, as well as a city of choice for young families and seniors.

Throughout the year, there will be all kinds of celebrations for everyone. In addition to major concerts, a number of citizen-led projects will highlight the unique heritage of each neighbourhood. Programming details are available at

I tip my hat to the Corporation des célébrations 2015 à Laval, the mayor of Laval, municipal elected representatives and individuals who proposed projects. Their dedication to celebrating Laval's 50th anniversary shows that together, we can accomplish great things. I wish everyone in Laval a happy 50th anniversary.

Sex EducationStatements By Members

February 20th, 2015 / 11:05 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently attended a town hall meeting in Brampton, where parents were outraged by the Liberal Party policies that attack our family values.

The Liberals want to legalize marijuana, making it more accessible to our children. They want to legalize prostitution in our streets and in our neighbourhoods. Now the Liberals are determined to introduce a new sex-ed curriculum in Ontario with graphic and explicit sex education for children starting in grade 1.

As a father of three, I share the concerns of many of my constituents that these policies are dangerous, expose young children to sexually explicit behaviour, and teach concepts and practices that parents consider offensive and morally questionable.

The Liberals need to stop attacking our family values and instead focus on teaching our kids a curriculum that reflects the beliefs of parents.

International DevelopmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to bring attention to issues that affect people worldwide: clean water and proper sanitation. Currently, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets, something that is hard for many of us here to even imagine.

Last September I met with India's Prime Minister Modi when I took part in the Global Citizen Festival, hosted by the Global Poverty Project. Prime Minister Modi spoke passionately about the great effort his country is making to ensure that all Indians have access to proper sanitation, made by famous by his “toilets before temples” campaign.

Increasing access to and usage of toilets will not only reduce the daily death toll of some 2,000 young lives worldwide caused by sanitation-related diseases, but will also make schools a more welcoming place for girls, many of whom do not attend for this very reason. For every dollar invested in safe drinking water and sanitation, there is about $4 saved in work time, productivity, and health care costs in developing countries.

Let us work together toward sustainable development goals for the health and safety of all people worldwide.

Black History MonthStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the entire month of February is Black History Month. It is a history that is marked by pain, but also by courage, hope and resilience.

Black people have helped build this continent and this country, which we share thanks to their blood and the sweat of their brows. They had to stand up and fight against discrimination and untold violations of their rights. Great strides have been made, but a lot of work remains to be done. Exclusion is unfortunately very much a reality in our society and indeed in many unexpected spheres.

I am proud to give a voice to the minorities in my riding, Laval, and to commend their economic, political and socio-cultural contributions.

I also want to pay tribute to the late Althea Joseph-Charles Seaman of the Black Community Association. She was an amazing woman who passed away in the fall of 2013. I also want to thank Dr. Alix Rey, who took over this important work.

Let us celebrate the 24th edition of Black History Month in Laval, and let us “stand for something”.

UkraineStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, one year ago today in the Maidan in Kiev, a peaceful protest was turned into a massacre. Over three days, up to 100 people were shot dead by then-president Yanukovych's security forces. Yanukovych later fled the country and his government collapsed, but that was only the beginning.

Since then, Russia has stoked conflict in the eastern Ukraine. This conflict has claimed more than 5,000 lives. Our government stands firmly behind the people of Ukraine. We have stated clearly, loudly, and often that this conflict will only end when Russia halts its invasion, withdraws its armed forces, and stops supporting these so-called rebels.

This is why we have made significant military contributions to NATO's Ukrainian reassurance measures, why our economic sanctions regime against powerful Russian individuals is the strongest in the world, and why we have announced over $515 million in assistance since the killing of protesters took place over one year ago.

On behalf of my constituents in Etobicoke—Lakeshore, I want to be clear to the Ukrainian people on this anniversary that they have a friend in Canada.

Small BusinessStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, SMEs are the foundation of our economy. In my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry, 89% of businesses are SMEs. That means that over 2,000 businesses are creating jobs and generating wealth locally.

Whether it is in the manufacturing, agricultural, food processing, chemical, computer, restaurant, retail or tourism sectors, our business people are taking risks. They are innovating and they are exporting their products. Above all, they are providing jobs for people locally and are getting involved in their communities.

Why not support them? Why has the federal government abandoned the manufacturing and retail industries to provide subsidies to oil multinationals? The government has put all its eggs in the same basket. This disastrous economic management has been harmful to our businesses. Companies in Valleyfield, Beauharnois, Ormstown and Jardins-de-Napierville have had to close their doors. It is time for that to stop.

The next government—an NDP government—will provide better support for SMEs. We will make our local business people a priority by providing an innovation tax credit and lowering taxes from 11% to 9%.

Natural ResourcesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect their government to create jobs and grow the economy. Canada is blessed with an immense amount of natural resources, which provide opportunities from coast to coast to coast. Our government's responsible resource development plan has led to action on Canada's already impressive world-class safety systems for the transportation of our energy products.

While our government makes decisions based on independent, science-based review, the Liberal Party is opposing resource development before the regulatory review has even been completed. Why did the leader of the Liberal Party insist on putting ideology before science and facts, when he said the energy east oil pipeline is not socially acceptable? That statement is unacceptable.

Our message is clear. We will stand up for Canadians' interests at home as well as abroad and continue to create jobs, growth, and opportunity for all Canadians.

Mary HarkerStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to celebrate the extraordinary Mary Harker, who was tireless in her commitment to helping others, making the world a better place, and welcoming everyone with open arms.

Mary was legendary in Etobicoke, having worked with mayors, MPPs, and MPs. She started the Nightgown Brigade and would rush to help women escaping violent situations no matter what time of night. She served on Albion Neighbourhood Services and with Youth Without Shelter, helped found Ernestine's Women's Shelter, gave four decades to the Rexdale legal clinic, and served for decades on the Community Police Liaison Committee.

The community loved Mary and recognized her thousands of hours of volunteer services with numerous awards.

Mary is now with her beloved husband Ron, and leaves behind daughters Kathy and Wendy, their partners Scott and Peter, and her grandchildren Matthew, Cameron, and Madeline. We thank them for sharing her with us. We owe them a debt of gratitude.