Madam Speaker, as the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I want to say a couple of words on our fifth report and its recommendation to the House not to proceed further with Bill C-242.
I also want to thank my colleague, the member for London—North Centre, for bringing forward an idea that I think all parties had agreed had merit. I also want to thank the members of the committee who came to a unanimous conclusion after working together and listening to all of the testimony on the bill. There were no ideas that we did not discuss at committee, and all parties were involved.
I also want to thank the witnesses who appeared before our committee. We heard about true acts of torture. We heard about people who really suffered beyond anything any of us could ever imagine. To those people who were able to come forward and tell their stories, or those who came forward to tell stories on their behalf, I do want to thank them. Their work was not in vain. Their ideas were not lost.
While I believe the bill could have been amended to take into account certain things, I do not think the committee at all bought the idea that we could not have a second act of torture that was private, because there already was a public act of torture under section 269.1. We could easily have amended the name to call it a “torturous assault” or a “torturous act” and we would have all been fine with that, should there have been other justification for proceeding with the bill. We could have amended the idea that the punishment was life, as opposed to 14 years, as it is for public acts of torture, making it 14 years as well to be consistent with public acts of torture. Clearly, we would not want government sanctioned acts to carry a lower penalty than private acts.
However, the real reason we did not proceed was that all members of the committee were convinced that the criteria to prove this charge were so difficult that no prosecutor would ever use the charge, except as a duplicate or additional charge, because it was easier to prove existing offences in the Criminal Code that would have carried the same 14-year penalty. As a result, the committee determined that we should not further proceed, but we did agree to send a letter to the Minister of Justice, asking her to consider torturous acts in a private capacity, or torturous assault, as an aggravating factor for sentencing.
I am hoping that in its overall review of the Criminal Code, the government does consider and proceed with that recommendation of the committee.