House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fasd.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am sorry, but I am having a hard time hearing the hon. member. If hon. members are having discussions that need to be continued, they should do so somewhere other than in the House while another member has the floor.

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to a 1998 survey on fetal alcohol disorder around the world, the prevalence of FASD is about 2 cases per 1,000 births.

However, in Canada, there are 9 cases per 1,000 births, which translates to about 3,000 infants a year. The prevalence is much higher in this country.

The prevalence may be higher here because the consumption of alcohol is legal in Canada and not frowned upon. For example, there are more cases here than in countries where alcohol is illegal, frowned upon, or much less available. I think that this is an important issue that we must consider. It may be specific to Canada, and our legal system should take it into account.

Some of the diagnostic guidelines are very specific. In particular, there can be prenatal or postnatal growth deficiency, which can be identified through weight-to-height ratios. There are also defects such as facial distortions, which are fairly technical, but are characteristic of the disorder. There will be evidence of deficiencies in three of the central nervous system domains such as cognition, brain structure, and communication. It is also evident in school performance, especially memory and executive functioning.

Some of these symptoms will be obvious at birth, while others may be more difficult to see at that time. These individuals must therefore be monitored to determine whether they actually do have fetal alcohol disorder. For example, a baby who has a high birth weight but then later fails to thrive may have fetal alcohol disorder.

Craniofacial deformities may not always be a sign of this disorder. If a delivery was particularly difficult and the doctor had to use forceps or vacuum extractor, the doctor will likely wait before providing a diagnosis. Obviously, cognitive problems are also difficult to assess in a newborn.

In my opinion, it is important to monitor these individuals. Since they are also at a higher risk of becoming involved in criminal activity, it is important that their disorder be taken into account by the corrections system at sentencing. However, it is also important that the condition be considered in determining what assistance that person can be given, from childhood through adolescence, to ensure that they receive the psychosocial support they need and that they are monitored by a social worker. That is why I think it is worth implementing this bill.

Since we know that there is a high incidence of fetal alcohol disorder in indigenous communities, it would be worthwhile to implement specific programs there to help people with this disorder. We need to ensure that these young people are carefully monitored because we know that they are at increased risk for delinquency.

It is important to take fetal alcohol disorder into account in the corrections system, in sentencing, and in the justice system. However, I think it is also important to take it into account in general, to help prevent these individuals from ending up in our prisons. We should incorporate that aspect into our discussion about the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House of Commons for debate on Bill C-235, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

It is an act that looks at fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the criminal justice system. It would make it more responsive to the needs of our society.

It is incredible that today, in 2016, we still lock up people who suffer and take little to no account of the impact on their mental health or the long-term outcomes. In this case, we are talking about FASD. We are talking about outcomes in the criminal justice system and the hopeful rehabilitation of our fellow citizens.

In Winnipeg I have had the great privilege of meeting youth who have been impacted by FASD, youth who want to contribute to our society. FASD Life's Journey, an organization in Winnipeg Centre, helps by offering training and support to our fellow citizens so that they can navigate life more successfully.

FASD affects the central nervous system. Symptoms include learning difficulties, difficulty with social interactions, behaviour affected by impulses and passions, which has consequences, and memory issues.

I spoke with these youth about politics and what we do here in this House. It was just last month. I also had the opportunity to see them working with the drum, using traditional indigenous healing techniques to make their lives better. They did that drumming with such passion. They lived in the moment. It was as if there was no tomorrow. It was not in 10 minutes that we were going to be living but right now, today.

They sang Gitchi Manitou Makwa, which is a song called great bear spirit, and it was great. I was proud to participate with them.

I have had the opportunity of reading the annual report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator. In January 2016, it reported that the federal corrections system had a sad milestone: 25% of the inmate population in federal penitentiaries are indigenous people. They are 35% of the women's population in prison. Between 2005 and 2015, the federal inmate population grew by 10%. In the same period, the indigenous population grew by 50%.

We all know these stats here in the House. It was a decade of darkness. We have become ready in our society to lock up people who are suffering and throw away the keys. They are people like James, who I met at the John Howard Society. He has been in and out of prison most of his adult life. As an indigenous man, he has been given no support, except now, by the John Howard Society. He is a man who suffers from FASD. He is my relation. He is all of our relation. He is my brother. I believe that he, too, can become a productive member of our society.

This bill is the work of the hon. member for Yukon. I am very proud of what he has done. It has four recommendations, which come from the Canadian Bar Association. This association represents thousands of lawyers who deal with this affliction every day.

First, this bill would allow the courts to order an assessment to determine if a person charged with a crime had FASD. Second, if the assessment was positive, it would allow the judge to use it as a mitigating factor in sentencing in certain circumstances. Third, the bill directs that FASD would be added to the already prescribed list of special needs the correctional institution must be responsive to. Fourth, and most importantly, offenders with FASD would have an external support plan when they left prison so they would not immediately reoffend or miss a probation meeting, and as judges often say, use the revolving door of a broken system again and again and end up in my riding, clogging up, unfortunately, our justice system.

On December 18, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report, “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”. The Government of Canada has committed to implementing all of the recommendations. These goals are important, and they are also very ambitious.

The TRC's calls to action impact corrections as well. I am going to read those calls to action:

1. Eliminate the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people and youth in custody over the next decade.

2. Implement community sanctions that provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.

3. Eliminate barriers to the creation of additional Aboriginal healing lodges within the federal correctional system.

4. Enact statutory exemptions for mandatory minimum sentences or imprisonment for offenders affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

5. Reduce the rate of criminal victimization of Aboriginal people.

We promised that during the election. I promised that during the election. This bill goes a long way to making a difference. It will go a long way to making this system more responsive.

I have been told there are some provincial justice ministers who are concerned with the bill. However, they should remember what their title says. It says “justice minister”. As a justice minister they must offer justice to all Canadians. It is unjust when young people with FASD do not receive the community supports they need, when they end up in prison because of a series of poor choices they make throughout their life.

We should be focused on ensuring that our most vulnerable fellow citizens are not in prison due to a lack of resources, or time, or effort, or cost or perhaps just the plain laziness of bureaucracy and the inability of systems to be flexible.

I would hope our government would be able to support this legislation. I hope my fellow parliamentarians will hear the call from the hon. member for Yukon for the great work he has done, because it is important. It is one small step in realizing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 recommendations, and it is a path that we can make today. It is something we can start today.

Tapwe akwa khitwam.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to speak to Bill C-235, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder).

I want to begin by saying that my NDP colleagues and I will support this bill. The NDP would like all parties in the House to work together to adopt this positive and long-overdue reform, which the previous government neglected.

Fetal alcohol disorder can have a range of effects on affected individuals. Those effects may include difficulty reasoning, inability to remember things, and trouble learning from past experiences and not repeating mistakes.

Bill C-235 defines the neurodevelopmental disorders associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. The spectrum of these disorders is commonly known as “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder” or by the acronym FASD, which I will use. This bill would amend the Criminal Code to establish a procedure for assessing individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system and who may suffer from fetal alcohol disorder. It would also include FASD as a mitigating factor in sentencing.

The bill also recognizes FASD as a disability in the federal correctional system. It also requires the courts to order people who have FASD to follow an external support plan so that they receive the support they need for their reintegration into society. It finally makes a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Bill C-235 is actually is a reintroduction of two past bills to better address the needs of individuals suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder who find themselves in our criminal justice system. In terms of the trial process, this latest version of the bill allows the courts to order an assessment over the objections of the defendant and at any stage of the proceedings. We have supported every past incarnation of this bill, which seeks to better address the needs and circumstances of offenders suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the criminal justice system.

In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, November 26, 2014, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studied a previous version of this bill, Bill C-583. The report of that study was tabled in May 2015. The report indicates conclusively that people with fetal alcohol disorder are overrepresented in the penal justice system. According to a study conducted by the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon, 76% of the target population affected by fetal alcohol disorder had contact with the justice system.

Currently, our justice system does not leave room to take the individual's situation into account or to address it. It is therefore very important to support this bill, which needs to be passed quickly if we are to take people and their particular condition into consideration when we seek justice. We sincerely lament the fact that for years, the Conservatives ignored evidence and used a one-size-fits-all approach to impose mandatory minimum sentences that are costly, ineffective, and even unconstitutional.

The NDP is in favour of a more effective approach that is more suited to the victims. We have a real problem when it comes to identifying this disorder in those who have it. Wenda Bradley, one of the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said that “there are many people within our society who are affected by FASD but who have not been recognized and who keep circling in and out of the justice system”.

The problem is that this disorder is somewhat invisible. Those who have it look like you and me. However, they have special needs and that is why we must provide them with the appropriate support throughout the entire penal process.

In fact, when he appeared before the same committee, Rodney Snow had this to say:

...criminal law assumes that individuals make informed choices, that they decide to commit crimes, and that they learn from their own behaviour and the behaviour of others. Fourth, these assumptions are often not valid for individuals with FASD, so our criminal justice system fails them and it fails us.

By considering this disorder as a mitigating factor in criminal proceedings, we could better adjust sentences for these individuals. Studies of young offenders indicated, for example, that the sentence alone does not reduce criminal recidivism. On the contrary, it could even encourage it.

The passage of this bill would allow the criminal justice system to adapt sentences for these individuals so that they are as effective as possible. Moreover, a system would have to be put in place to identify children with fetal alcohol syndrome as early as possible.

The data I have collected on children with fetal alcohol syndrome demonstrate the extent of the problem in Canada. In Quebec, one in 128 children are affected by this disorder. In Ontario, one in 156 are affected. In Saskatchewan, it is one in 40. In the Northwest Territories, it is one in 33.

We must not wait until these individuals wind up in court for committing a crime before they are diagnosed with this disorder. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yes, including FASD as a mitigating factor in sentencing is already a big step forward. However, this disorder also carries other consequences. A number of FASD symptoms, such as impulsiveness, make it hard for sufferers to hold down a job or live a stable life, which can lead to poverty and homelessness.

Having spent many years working in community-based organizations, including over 10 years as executive director of Auberge du coeur Le Baluchon, I knew a few young people who had FASD who, as a result of the disorder, had developmental delays and were constantly having problems at school. These young people endure one failure after another, and often they do not even understand why. They think that they are to blame for their problems and that they are inadequate. They often have very low self-esteem, which creates a whole slew of other problems. They will be penalized throughout their lives by the lack of appropriate care and support.

I think that it is critical that the government do more to support other levels of government in order to help people who have FASD and invest in prevention and awareness.

As an NDP member, I support this bill, and I urge all my colleagues in the House to do the same. Let us think of all the young people suffering from FASD and bring in measures that could help them.

Rod Snow, former president of the Canadian Bar Association, agrees that everyone should support this amendment to the Criminal Code and to our correctional system so that they are appropriate and effective when it comes to fighting crime. The old approach is simply not working.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-235, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder).

Alcohol is one of the most toxic substances we humans consume. Unfortunately, in pregnancy, it crosses the placenta and disrupts the fetal development. As a result, some children are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.

FASD was first identified a little more than 40 years ago when a similar pattern of malformations was discovered in children, but the disorder goes way beyond the physical. Individuals affected by FASD may have trouble with memory, attention, self-care, decision-making and social skills, and may also suffer from mental health disorders such as depression, addiction, and difficulty controlling their emotions. They may also have problems with organization and planning daily activities, controlling their emotions and completing tasks, which would allow them to lead productive lives.

Circumstances such as these often lead these individuals into trouble with the law and create further issues once they are incarcerated. The consequences associated with FASD are widespread. They may affect the child, the families, and the communities they reside in.

To give everyone a better picture of the prevalence of FASD in Canada, this disorder affects nearly one in 100 children. Some Canadian data indicates greater prevalence of FASD in children in rural communities, the foster care systems, the juvenile justice systems, and aboriginal populations.

This higher prevalence of FASD found in aboriginal children is often linked to historical and multi-generational trauma. Research and data on the consequences of FASD have grown in the past decades, and programs are being implemented to prevent the disorder and address the special circumstances and the difficulties people are suffering from FASD.

However, it is time to address FASD in the criminal justice system. In fact, in its calls to action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments to undertake reform of the criminal justice system to address the needs of offenders suffering from FASD.

That said, let us get to the reasons why the bill is important. As my colleague, the hon. member for Yukon, mentioned, the bill seeks to do a number of things. First, it seeks to define FASD. Second, the bill would give a court the right to order FASD assessments where it has reasonable grounds to believe an offender may be suffering from the disorder and that FASD could have had an impact on the offence committed. Third, the bill would give the court discretion to consider FASD as a mitigating factor when handing down a sentence. Fourth, when a person with FASD is released, they would have an external support plan.

It is important to understand that the goal of the bill is not to consider FASD as an excuse for bad behaviour. When a person breaks the law, it is important that this person be held to account. Why it is important to give the court the ability to order FASD assessments where it has reasonable grounds to believe an offender may be affected by the disorder is that not all cases of FASD are physically recognizable, and not all individuals affected by FASD are diagnosed early in life. They may only discover they have FASD once they enter the criminal justice system. It is essential that screening for FASD take place within the criminal justice system to better address the needs of those individuals affected by this disorder. The earlier we are able to identify offenders with FASD, the more we will be able to avoid more serious crimes being committed in the future, and the more we will be able to manage these individuals when they are incarcerated.

Then comes the question, why is it important to consider FASD as a mitigating factor in the sentencing process? When a person breaks the law, it is important that this person be held to account, but it is also important to consider the greater picture and to look at the explanation of the person's behaviour.

As I mentioned earlier, people with FASD may suffer from an array of symptoms, such as a lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions, making them more prone to trouble with the law.

We need to understand that these individuals are born with a development disorder due to exposure to alcohol before they were even born. We need to recognize that they are victims of a disorder. It therefore becomes all about creating a balance between recognizing the effects of this disorder on offenders and the need to hold people accountable for their actions. This bill would give the courts the power to do this.

Health Canada estimates that as many as nine in every 1,000 babies born in Canada have a disability on the FASD spectrum. The effects of this are a lifelong array of mental and physical disabilities, including difficulty understanding the consequence of their actions. As a result, many of the victims of FASD end up in Canada's justice system and prisons. Data suggests that between 10% and 23% of inmates in our prisons have FASD.

The Canadian Bar Association, the organization representing Canada's legal professionals, agrees that this is too many people and has indicated its support for Bill C-235. It feels that an unfair number of people with FASD are being prosecuted by the legal system. Here is a quote directly from a CBA letter, which all members should have received this week from the member for Yukon. It states:

We believe that Bill C-235 is an important step in addressing some of the shortcomings of the current framework....

Bill C-235 advances several changes, in line with previous suggestions made by CBA. The CBA supports the proposed amendment to define FASD in section 2 of the Criminal Code. The CBA also supports an amendment to allow a judge to order an assessment of someone they suspect has FASD. We believe this would assist courts in handing out more appropriate dispositions to people with FASD. The CBA supports amending the sentencing provisions in section 718.2 of the Criminal Code to allow a judge to consider evidence that an offender has FASD as a mitigating factor on sentencing. We also appreciate the section that would require judges to include, as a condition of probation, compliance with an external support plan established for the purpose of supporting and facilitating successful reintegration into society. Finally we commend the proposed amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to expressly require Correctional Services Canada to be responsive to special requirements or limitations of people with FASD. The problem of incarcerating people with FASD is pressing and can no longer be ignored.

This is a strong endorsement from the legal profession. We need to take action to assist those who have been incarcerated to help ensure they receive support to help them get back into society. That is why I urge all my hon. colleagues to consider voting in favour of this very important bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to contribute to the second reading debate on the matter of Bill C-235, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, fetal alcohol disorder. I would like to begin by thanking most sincerely the member for Yukon for his advocacy on this very important issue. With this private member's bill and other initiatives, he is growing a greater awareness of a disorder that often goes unnoticed.

The private member's bill would amend both the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide special treatment for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, who are involved in the criminal justice system. The bill proposes to do essentially four things: first, to define FASD in the Criminal Code; second, to permit judges to order FASD assessments for bail and sentencing; third, to require sentencing judges to consider FASD as a mitigating factor for the purposes of sentencing; and, finally, to require Correctional Service of Canada to provide FASD-specific programming for individuals who are serving prison sentences in federal facilities.

FASD is a diagnostic term used to describe the brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol as a result of maternal consumption of alcohol. In other words, if a pregnant woman consumes alcohol while she is pregnant, it may result in irreversible, lifelong brain damage to her baby. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, FASD affects at least 1% of all babies born in Canada, and it is the leading cause of preventable congenital brain damage and developmental disability. However, due to the fact that there are usually no obvious external physical indicators, FASD is for all intents and purposes invisible. The invisible nature of this condition is one of the reasons it poses such a challenge to the criminal justice system and, indeed, to our greater society.

I want to emphasize at the outset that the government fully supports the very laudable objectives of the private member's bill. However, after careful consideration, we have concluded that the bill presents serious policy and legal challenges that cannot be substantially addressed through amendments; and therefore, for these reasons, the government is unable to support the specific proposals of this bill.

We come to these conclusions after reading the recently released report from a committee of federal-provincial-territorial experts on the exact proposals covered in this bill. This group of experts, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Steering Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was struck at the request of federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety. Their mandate was to study the issue of FASD in the criminal justice system, and to consider how to improve access to justice for individuals with FASD and to make recommendations for action to ministers and deputy ministers responsible for justice and public safety.

The committee members considered several proposals for legislative reform to address FASD, including the specific ones that are proposed in Bill C-235. The FASD steering committee reported its findings and recommendations to the ministers of justice just this past October and their report was made publicly available. I would encourage each and every member who has not already done so to read this report, which is publicly available online at the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. I would also like to draw members' attention to one of the overarching themes in the report that speaks directly to the heart of the proposals that are before us today.

The committee concluded:

...legislative amendments which would single out one specific disability for special treatment to the exclusion of others was not supported. It was noted that the criminal law does not currently single out specific disabilities and no policy rationale for singling out FASD in this way was identified.

This is a very important point, and I would like to take a moment to reflect briefly on it. The Criminal Code does not currently define any specific mental disorders or disabilities. Instead, section 2 of the code defines mental disorder broadly as disease of the mind. This has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada to embrace any illness, disorder, or abnormal condition which impairs the human mind and its functioning. FASD has been found on numerous occasions to be a mental disorder under this very broad definition. The bill's proposal to include a definition of only FASD would therefore likely raise questions about why the law does not also specifically identify any other disorder, and may lead to calls for their inclusion in the future.

While specifically identifying other disorders may seem like an obvious solution to this challenge, I invite members to consider that there are more than 300 separate and distinct mental disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

One can only imagine what the Criminal Code would look like if each and every disorder was specifically defined and our courts were given instructions to treat each specific disorder diagnosis differently. Proceeding in the manner proposed by the bill before us could, unfortunately, create a potential discriminatory impact of establishing a regime that focuses exclusively on one particular disorder to the exclusion of others. This reflects one of the many possible unintended consequences of the bill.

The government also had similar concerns with respect to the proposed FASD assessment power. It would permit judges to order FASD-specific assessments for a number of enumerated reasons under the criminal law. The proposal to only permit a court to order an FASD assessment would mean that other disorders would not be diagnosed, potentially creating a hierarchy of medical conditions in the criminal law.

I would like to return for a moment to the report of the FASD steering committee. It also expressed concern with the issue of creating a specific FASD assessment power in the Criminal Code. However, it recognized that in the area of sentencing, the ability of the court to order a broader assessment of the mental condition of the accused was unclear, and therefore these assessments are not undertaken in a consistent way across the country.

The steering committee was of the view that clarifying the Criminal Code assessment power to permit a broader assessment of the mental condition of the accused for the purposes of sentencing would permit the court to gather relevant evidence about the accused, including information about the offender's capacities, limitations, and support needs. Such an approach would provide an opportunity to address many of the concerns underlying the proposal for specific FASD assessment and could have a positive impact for all offenders in the criminal justice system, not only for those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The government agrees with the conclusions of the steering committee that FASD should not be specifically singled out, but that there should be a study of a broader assessment power for the purposes of sentencing, and I would support that approach.

In conclusion, although the government cannot support the proposals as they are presented in the bill, I want to take a moment to reflect and to again thank the member for Yukon for bringing this very important issue before Parliament. His efforts and his passion have created a national discussion on this very important issue, and I would like to personally commend him for his leadership and his commitment.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, there we have it. We finally have before us a bill that reflects what the legal, medical, and psychological experts have been asking for years, a bill to make long overdue changes to the criminal justice system to more accurately effect the appropriate just treatment for thousands of victims of FASD and to save millions of dollars in courts and prison costs.

What do the legal experts say? The largest body of experts, the Canadian Bar Association, comprised of 36,000 prosecutors, defence lawyers, judges, etc., says the following:

People with FASD have a permanent organic brain injury caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. That brain injury results in a wide range of symptoms of varying severity, but is characterized by symptoms that often go against underlying principles of criminal law. These normative assumptions of criminal law infer that individuals are responsible for their own actions, that they can control their behaviors in keeping with societal expectations and that they can learn from and be deterred by previous experience.

Characteristics of FASD directly challenge these assumptions. Individuals with FASD may exhibit a lack of impulse control, impaired judgment, and an inability to control or modify their behavior. They may be susceptible to pressure from others and lack the ability to learn from past experiences or to understand the consequences of their own actions. Poor executive functioning skills mean that they may make the same mistakes over and over.

For these and other reasons, many people with FASD are in frequent contact with the criminal justice system. Often, the characteristics that made them susceptible to coming before the system are the very same characteristics that will keep them unreasonably enmeshed in the system over time...In June 2015, this reality was recognized in the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The current criminal justice framework does not give individuals with FASD adequate support, which in turn increases both the suffering of those involved and increases the costs to the criminal justice system. We believe that Bill C-235 is an important step in addressing some of the shortcomings of the current framework....Trial judges must have discretion to deal humanely with people who have FASD....We urge Parliament to adopt Bill C-235...

We heard some minor concerns raised earlier, but those have all been addressed in the first hour of debate and in the information I sent everyone today.

I am going to close with an excerpt from a long letter I will send everyone. It is from the mother of an FASD victim. She says:

“Your vote can slash the suicide rate in certain populations, save innocent people from destructive criminal records which ruin employment prospects in an already vulnerable group which are the invisibly disabled ...Those with both diagnosed and undiagnosed FASD end up in segregation, because they are at the bottom of the food chain among convicts...Send a disabled innocent person to jail to get punished and treated badly, and then wonder why they either kill themselves or come out of jail unable to function, and refuse help from anyone who offers it. Why would they trust us?

You can save lots of taxpayer voting for this slight adjustment to our justice system ... [FASD suffering] is not due to anything they've done to themselves, but was rather done to them before they were born. Have you thought about the real meaning of mens rea? The same way someone with a developmental delay cannot form criminal intent, someone with poor executive functioning due to [FASD] cannot plan a crime. It's about time we allow science to inform some outdated concepts which do nothing to protect society and do inflict a lot of harm. The punishment must fit the crime.

In many cases for the person with FASD, the punishment has nothing to do with fairness, and everything to do with our inability to look at the real person behind the crime and what brought them into contact with law enforcement.... When we overlook the large number of cases in which FASD is a factor, we miss a chance to address the trauma of living with FASD, and instead, add to that trauma. We send the message that our children are not worth the effort it would take tell this population that they belong in the world. Please vote for Bill C-235.”

One day this long-standing injustice will be rectified. It is inevitable. As members of the 42nd Parliament, we could be the pioneers that forge this great accomplishment by eliminating the suffering of thousands of innocent victims. The choice is ours.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, December 1, 2016, the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, December 13, 2016, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

December 6th, 2016 / 7:10 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising tonight to follow up on a question I asked the government some weeks ago that was based on the commissioner's broadcast put out to RCMP members in January this year. We are now in December. It was an update letting members know that in January of the previous year, the beginning of 2015, he had recommended a raise for RCMP members. He was letting them know, at that time, that because of the election and the new government, there was going to be some delay in processing that raise and getting a decision.

Of course, it has been well over a year since we have had a new government, and we have not heard anything about that raise. I will say that the minister, frankly, seemed surprised when I raised it in question period some weeks ago.

I am curious to know if we can get a further update on that, because what is going on here, and I think what is really frustrating for RCMP members, is that they are transitioning to a new system, or they ought to be, where they are represented by a union and these things, in terms of pay and benefits, are figured out at the bargaining table.

In the meantime, the old system recommended a raise, and the government is not going ahead with that raise, or if it is, it certainly has not let anyone know that it is. RCMP members right now are in the frustrating position of being denied their raise under the old system.

It has been a long time since they had a raise under the old system. With inflation and everything else, I think it is fair to say that their real wages have actually been going down. Even the old system thought that was a bad idea, which is why it recommended a raise.

The government, in the spring, refused to deal with good amendments presented by the NDP that would have removed certain exclusions in Bill C-7, which would set the framework for bargaining. It said at that time that it was really imperative that this law be passed or the sky was going to fall, there would be disorder, and there would not be an appropriate framework for collective bargaining for RCMP members, so it ran that bill through.

The other place came to agree with the NDP on the matter of the exclusions and moved that they be taken out. The bill was then sent back to the government from the other place, and then the bill disappeared. Therefore, there is not the framework the government promised for collective bargaining for RCMP members.

The bill, which it was so important to pass, has not come up in this entire fall session. It seems to me, given that there are only five or six sitting days left, that it is very unlikely to grace the House with its presence before we adjourn for the Christmas break.

RCMP members are in the very unenviable position of being denied the raise under the old system and being denied the framework to go ahead and pursue a raise at the bargaining table under the new system.

How can the government say that it respects RCMP officers, when it is denying them the raise they deserve under the old system and are refusing to bring forward the legislation that would allow them to go ahead and bargain a raise under the new system?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Montarville Québec


Michel Picard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP is an iconic police force, and its members serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast with professionalism and valour. Mounties are recognized the world over as a symbol of Canada's values and traditions. The women and men of the RCMP work hard every day to prevent crime, apprehend offenders, and keep Canadians safe in their homes and communities. I know that all of us in the House hold RCMP members and the work they do in the highest regard, and I agree that they must be remunerated in a manner commensurate with the job we ask them to do.

The RCMP is comprised of over 30,000 employees, of which almost 18,400 are police officers, operating from over 750 service points across Canada. The RCMP also operates internationally through a network of liaison officers strategically deployed to 30 countries. Collectively, the efforts of these individuals form an exemplary model of policing that works to keep our country and its people safe and secure.

Each year, the RCMP responds to well over two million calls for service from Canadians, while continually operating a host of long-term, complex federal investigations, from organized crime to financial integrity to corruption and terrorism-related cases.

When tragic events occur, RCMP members are there to help. This spring, for example, local RCMP in the Fort McMurray area, supported by members from detachments throughout Alberta, were fully involved in supporting search and evacuation efforts, and they have played a vital role in re-entry and recovery.

In August, when the RCMP received credible information regarding a potential terrorist threat, it worked swiftly and effectively, in concert with other security and police forces, to keep Canadians safe.

Moreover, in many places, RCMP members are de facto social workers, big brothers and big sisters, and, in countless other ways that go beyond the traditional conception of law enforcement, integral and indispensable parts of community life. That is why it is so important that the members of our national police force have the resources they need to get the job done, and that they be fairly compensated for the difficult and crucial work that they do.

It is regrettable that, in the last four years of the Harper government, the Conservatives cut over half a billion dollars from the RCMP’s budget. We are currently in the midst of an integrity review to assess the adequacy of RCMP resources. In the meantime, Budget 2016 included a temporary program integrity fund for the RCMP to address funding issues.

As well, it is worth noting that the RCMP currently provides contract policing services to eight provinces, all three territories, and some 150 municipalities across Canada. These arrangements are based on cost-sharing mechanisms. For contracts with provinces and territories, they pay 70% of costs, including salaries, and the federal government covers 30%.

Municipal agreements are based on a number of different cost-share formulas that vary depending on population size and the year the original agreement was struck.

Nevertheless, there is no question that the concerns raised by RCMP members and management about compensation are very important, and we take them very seriously. Their requests will be taken fully into consideration as we continue working to ensure that the brave women and men of the RCMP receive fair remuneration, and have the resources they need to keep Canadians safe.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think RCMP members want more than platitudes about just compensation. They want the government to move forward. The government can move forward either under the old system, which recommended a significant raise, or it can move forward under a new system. In either case, government action is needed before any of it goes forward. Which will it be? Will the government give them the raise that they are entitled to under the old system or will it get moving and bring in a new system where they can negotiate a raise?

The only unacceptable option is the one the government has chosen to take thus far, which is to simply do nothing when we know the rate of compensation for RCMP officers is not currently adequate for the job we are asking them to do. The parliamentary secretary has said that he believes they should get adequate compensation for the job. We know they are not. There are two ways to go forward. Which way will the government go forward and when?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the process of examining the RCMP’s request for an increase in salary is underway. Our government is certainly aware of the need to ensure that members of our unique national police force receive fair compensation. I say unique because the RCMP is the only police force in the world that functions as a national, provincial, and municipal policing body. In fact, RCMP members also serve with distinction in over 600 indigenous communities and at three international airports.

From its beginnings as the Northwest Mounted Police in the latter half of the 19th century to its establishment as a truly national police force in 1920, the RCMP that we know today, which is involved in operations dealing with everything from organized crime to terrorism to economic crime to the protection of dignitaries to the protection of communities across Canada, has emerged as an institution fundamental to this country.

I agree with the member for Elmwood—Transcona that the question of fair compensation for RCMP members—

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, last year during the federal election campaign the Liberals promised to restore habitat protections in the Fisheries Act, which were gutted by the Conservatives in 2012. When I asked the minister about getting these lost protections restored, he responded that the government needed to consult with stakeholders.

I do not object to consulting with Canadians on introducing new measures to the Fisheries Act, but I was asking about restoring the protections that were already in the act prior to 2012. Restoring these lost and desperately needed protections, which the government promised to do, should have been a priority. The longer we go without these protections, the more we continue to lose sensitive fish habitat to industrial activity and development forever.

At the fisheries committee we are hearing from proponents of major infrastructure projects who have benefited from this loose regulatory environment. We are also hearing about the loss and destruction of essential fish habitat, but the government continues to approve projects under the old, destructive Conservative regulatory regime. It is not acceptable to approve major projects like the Site C dam, the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline when we know proper fish habitat protection is not in place.

DFO signed off on the Site C dam project despite evidence from those on the ground that this unnecessary destruction of fish habitat would obviously lead to damaged fish stocks. There are many images of earth movers operating in the river with no silt fences at all. Clearly, the government not only needs to strengthen environmental protections but also needs to increase staffing levels to enforce the rules. Bull trout, rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, whitefish, and many other species migrate through this area each spring and fall. These species and the people who rely on them deserve better protection from the government.

The government also approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal under these weak environmental protections. This project threatens one of the last great B.C. salmon runs by compromising the Skeena River estuary. Of particular interest is the sandy area with eelgrass beds called Flora Bank, near Lelu Island, where the terminal is proposed to be located. Flora Bank has long been recognized as important habitat for salmon in the Skeena watershed, which is the second largest salmon-bearing river in Canada.

Again, if proper protections were in place, first nation fishers, recreational fishers, and commercial fishers would not have their livelihoods jeopardized.

More recently, the government approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion after failing to overhaul the National Energy Board review process. Shame on the government for allowing this project that will negatively impact affected watersheds and our coastal ecosystem from top to bottom. The increased tanker traffic will jeopardize the southern resident killer whales, including the forage fish that sustain so many species.

Again, while we wait for these promised protections, devastating environmental decisions continue to be made, affecting our ecosystems, local economies, and local communities.

Will the government finally live up to its campaign promise and immediately restore the lost protections before we lose even more fish habitat?

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, let me start by thanking the member opposite for his good work on the fisheries and oceans committee and in the House.

It is a great honour for me to present to the House on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on a topic that is very important to the Minister and to our government.

The Minister takes very seriously his mandate to review the changes made by the previous government to the Fisheries Act and looks forward to consulting with indigenous peoples, provinces, and territories, stakeholders, and all Canadians to find the best path forward to protect our fisheries resources.

The Fisheries Act is an essential tool to support the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat and the sustainability of fisheries.

Since the 1970s, the habitat protection provisions of this act have been considered one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation. In 2012, the changes to the Fisheries Act were introduced to incorporate a variety of provisions, including those related to fish passage, fish habitat protection, and enforcement.

These changes were made with little consultation or transparency and were poorly received by environmental and indigenous groups, and Canadians in general. Of particular concern was that the changes would result in reduced environmental protection for fish and fish habitat.

The new fisheries provisions have no direct reference to the fish habitat. Concerns were raised that the provisions do not apply to as many water bodies and fish species as the previous regime. Of course, without fish habitat there is no fisheries.

This lost protections combined with program reorganization and departmental cuts to significantly erode public confidence.

I believe that a simple cut and paste back to the previous version of the legislation will not go far enough to protect fish and fish habitat in Canada. We have also heard from some stakeholders over the last months that there are some positive changes that were made to the Fisheries Act that we should consider keeping. However, we also heard that several changes need to be reviewed.

This is also an opportunity to further strengthen fish and fish habitat protection through the incorporation of modern safeguards. The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is currently leading the review of the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act.

What is more, departmental officials are complementing this approach by undertaking targeted consultation activities since some groups will be unable or unlikely capable to participate in the parliamentary process, including indigenous groups.

Finally, I would like to inform the House that departmental officials also launched an online consultation tool to provide the greatest number of individual Canadians with the opportunity to provide their views.

The recommendations of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the feedback from indigenous groups, stakeholders, and Canadians will be vital to shaping the renewed fisheries protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

This project is an ambitious one, but an exciting one as well. The minister is looking forward to working with all parliamentarians to see it to completion.

I welcome any comments, questions or suggestions you might have.

In closing, I would like to thank all the members on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard for their excellent work. It is a pleasure working with them and we will make sure that we will look at the Fisheries Act in the most timely fashion possible.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, restoring the lost fish habitat protections to pre-2012 levels is not only mandatory, but it was promised by the government. We need to restore the lost protections to the Fisheries Act without delay as there are many other major projects that will impact fisheries habitat if they are built waiting in the wings.

For instance, the energy east pipeline proposal crosses 90 watersheds, nearly 3,000 waterways and will impact the drinking water of over five million people along its route.

As I am sure the parliamentary knows, this pipeline route is slated to cross more than 280 waterways. If the Fisheries Act is not restored immediately, these waterways will be examined under the old Harper regime and fish habitat will remain at risk.

Residents are concerned that the energy east pipeline would not only impact fish habitat and watershed ecosystems, but would impact beluga whales. This proposal under the current Fisheries Act—

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


Serge Cormier Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member opposite is well aware of our commitment to overhauling the Fisheries Act.

As I said before, I believe that a simple cut back to the previous version of this legislation would not go far enough to protect the fish and fish habitat.

As I said, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is leading the review of changes to the act. We heard from many groups and stakeholders who appeared before the committee to share their concerns and their vision for the new act.

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' recommendations will be vital to shaping the act's new provisions.

We are working really hard to consult with all Canadians, and look forward to the standing committee's report.