House of Commons Hansard #193 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.


Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a true honour to speak in support of Bill S-226. I thank Senator Andreychuk for her initiative in another place and I thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing it to the House.

The legislation will effectively add a long overdue dimension to Canada's official sanctions regime by targeting corrupt foreign officials responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. This act will be forever associated with Sergei Magnitsky, a heroic victim of Vladimir Putin's brutally corrupt regime. He was an auditor who discovered and exposed details of a massive corruption racket involving many mid and high-level Russian government officials, oligarchs, best described collectively as “kleptocrats”.

I will not revisit the tragic details of Mr. Magnitsky's cruel detention, his torture and his death or of the Putin regime's posthumous conviction of Mr. Magnitsky on outrageously confected charges of tax evasion. However, I would recommend, for those unaware of the Magnitsky story, the international best seller, Red Notice, written by his employer, the crusading champion of Magnitsky-style legislation in democracies around the world, Bill Browder, CEO and founder of Hermitage Capital Management.

Bill C-226 lays out very clearly the circumstances under which corrupt foreign individuals, not just in Russia but anywhere in the world, would be listed. Listing would apply to individuals responsible for, or complicit in, extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, and foreign government officials exposed of illegal activity.

The law would prohibit those individuals from travelling to Canada, investing in Canada or for any funds or properties of these individuals discovered in Canada to be subject to seizure. The law would also provide for penalties against Canadians found to be engaged in activities that would assist the identified corrupt foreign officials.

The Liberal government has come to accept and support the legislation very late in the day, even though in the final days of our previous Parliament, the Liberals joined all parties in unanimously supporting a motion for Magnitsky-style legislation.

The first Magnitsky legislation was passed in the United States in 2012. Other countries have followed such as the United Kingdom and Estonia. The European Parliament has called on member countries to consider imposing entry bans on listed individuals and for co-operation in freezing the assets of listed Russians.

Despite acceptance and implementation of these Magnitsky laws, the former Liberal foreign minister, Stéphane Dion, flatly opposed such legislation last year, saying, more than a little disingenuously, that it was unnecessary. Fortunately, over the past year, encouraged by the official opposition and NDP members of the foreign affairs committee, the Liberal members of the committee came to agree that in fact Canada did need Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation.

Our committee heard testimony from a broad spectrum of witnesses.

Former Liberal justice minister, Irwin Cotler, the sponsor of the House's original Magnitsky motion, said that the main objective “is to combat the persistent and pervasive culture of corruption, criminality and impunity”, and most importantly, to assure victims and defenders of human rights in such foreign countries “that Canada will not relent in our pursuit of justice for them”.

Garry Kasparov, an eloquent advocate of democratic reform in Russia and, of course, former world chess champio, put it this way in his testimony before the committee. He said, “Money is always looking for safe harbour. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, if not more, of this money that will definitely be looking for a place to be invested.” He warned against Canada being considered by corrupt individuals as a “safe haven”.

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of the Russian pro-democracy crusader, Boris Nemtsov, murdered on a Moscow bridge in 2015, made clear the importance of targeted sanctions against named individuals. She said, “These are not sanctions against a country or even a government. These are sanctions against specific individuals responsible for corruption and for abusing human rights.”

Equally powerful testimony came from Russian human rights activist, Vladimir Kara-Murza who, after recovering from one sinister attempt to poison him in Russia in 2015, told our committee:

I have no doubt that this was deliberate poisoning intended to kill, and it was motivated by my political activities in the Russian democratic opposition, likely including my involvement in the global campaign in support of the Magnitsky Act.

Mr. Kara-Murza was in Canada a few weeks ago still recovering from a second poisoning attempt on his life. He encouraged Canadian parliamentarians to ensure the legislation was quickly voted into law and then, as importantly, effectively enforced.

That is an important point because, as the foreign affairs committee discovered during our hearings this past year, enforcement of Canada's existing sanction regime is pathetically dysfunctional and ineffective.

The Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act was created in 2011, to respond to events of the Arab Spring, where governments fell and state assets were vulnerable to corrupt officials suspected of moving ill-gotten wealth to locations abroad.

The Special Economic Measures Act has been used in the creation of a number of regulations that would impose restrictive measures and prohibitions on illegitimate activities, to freeze bank accounts, to block financial dealings and seize property.

Sanctions against Iran for its nuclear adventurism and sponsorship of terrorism are within SEMA, as are sanctions against Russia for the invasion and occupation of Crimea and sponsorship of the deadly rebellion in Eastern Ukraine.

However, testimony revealed that Canadian departments and agencies that were mandated to monitor and to enforce such sanctions, operated in counterproductive silos, that the complexities of sanctions enforcement exceeded the capacity of departments and agencies. Most important, we heard from the RCMP and other agencies that there was a lack of capacity to monitor and investigate compliance and that sanctions enforcement was a much lower priority than say, anti-terror responsibilities.

While we in the official opposition are pleased that the Liberals have accepted our unanimous foreign affairs committee recommendations to add this Magnitsky bill, Bill C-226 to Canada's sanction regimes, there is still much more to be done.

There are 12 other recommendations in the committee report aimed at fixing Canada's dysfunctional sanctions enforcement to increase capacity, coordination, and commitment between departments and agencies. The need for just such action was made clear last month. Where bureaucrats, security agency officials, and financial institution specialists tended to scoff that Russian kleptocrats would want to move illegal funds to Canada or to enjoy those ill-gotten gains in Canada, information provided by Mr. Browder to the RCMP last year and to Canadian journalists more recently proved exactly the opposite.

The CBC confirmed that after following up on Mr. Browder's documents, a powerful Russian crime syndicate, accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars around the world, appears to have also flowed millions through nearly 30 Canadian bank accounts, without sanctions enforcers noticing. Some of those accounts belonged to individuals. Others were shell companies created to receive incoming funds and to send laundered money abroad.

Lincoln Caylor, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in complex fraud, was quoted as saying that there was so much documentation proving that millions from a sophisticated Russian tax fraud had moved in and out of Canada, that it was groundbreaking.

We in the official opposition are pleased the government has finally decided to support Conservative legislation, which will target the world's worst human rights offenders, as well as from Russia, to Iran, China, Congo, Venezuela, South Sudan, anywhere perpetrators of gross violations of human rights can be identified. We are pleased with the combination of Bill C-226 and the foreign affairs committee's unanimous recommendations to apply Magnitsky sanctions legislation and to enforce them.

The challenge now is for the often foot-dragging Liberal government to actually act.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.


Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak today to Bill S-226, an act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The bill is also referred to as the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, or the Sergei Magnitsky law.

I would like to thank Senator Andreychuk for her commitment to this important question, and for the opportunity to debate this in the House of Commons.

Having served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs when our government came to power, I know the proposed Magnitsky law was front and centre in question period and was an important area of study by the foreign affairs and international development committee. The issue first arose in the House in the last Parliament, and received unanimous support.

Clearly, the detention, torture, death in prison, and posthumous conviction of Sergei Magnitsky for exposing fraud and corruption in the Russian government constitute gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. There is a clear desire on the part of two consecutive Parliaments to pursue some form of a Magnitsky law similar to U.S. legislation.

Our exploration of a Magnitsky-type law includes many leaders. First, I would like to commend the courage of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Stéphane Dion, for creating room for us to properly understand the tools at our disposal and for his tremendous respect for the work of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development as it undertook a comprehensive review of Canada's autonomous sanctions legislation.

The Special Economic Measures Act, or SEMA, and the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act were the subject of close study, the outcomes of which both entertain the idea of a Magnitsky act and go much beyond that to bring our legislation up to date.

It is important for Canadians to understand how the parliamentary process can work and does work in the best interests of our safety and security and in defence of human rights around the world. For months the former minister and I encouraged parliamentarians to continue their deliberations, and also to wait for the work of the committee to be complete.

We had some lively exchanges during question period thanks to my colleague across the way, as many among us would rather drive toward a prescribed solution than take the time to investigate thoroughly, respect the work of the committee, understand the complementarity of the Senate bill before us, and come to a decision rooted in all that Parliament brings, commensurate with the decision we are being asked to make.

I attended every committee meeting. We learned that Canadians believe that sanctions are an important tool and that there is currently no mechanism that includes a way to impose sanctions in response to gross violations of human rights. We learned that the Government of Canada underfunds its ability to enforce sanctions and that there is room for improvement if we are to be truly effective.

Third, we have an enhanced regard for the seriousness of a Magnitsky-type list. Who is on a list? How does one get on a list? How does one get off this list? The foreign affairs committee report discusses the need for improved transparency and protection of procedural rights of individuals listed under Canada's sanctions regime.

This legislation has been inspired by a particular case in a particular country. The case of Sergei Magnitsky is but one example of systemic violations of human rights and impunity for perpetrators. All victims of gross human rights violations and abuses deserve justice.

However, the Senate and the House of Commons are deeply concerned about the Magnitsky case and the state of human rights and the rule of law in Russia today, as are highly credible human rights organizations globally. Human Rights Watch reports that:

Today, Russia is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet era. Using a wide range of tools, the state has tightened control over free expression, assembly, and speech, aiming to silence independent critics, including online.

Amnesty International reports that:

Restrictions on rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly increased...Human rights defenders faced fines or criminal prosecution because of their activities...There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment in penitentiary institutions, and prisoners’ lives were at risk because of inadequate medical care in prisons.

In the course of our deliberations on Bill S-226, we heard powerful testimony from a number of individuals close to Mr. Magnitsky, and knowledgeable about the human rights situation in Russia more broadly. As I mentioned earlier, many leaders have fought to bring international attention to Russia's human rights abuses and the tragic case of Sergei Magnitsky.

Mr. Bill Browder, CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management and the author off Red Notice, has travelled to Ottawa frequently to shed light on the circumstances surrounding Sergei Magnitsky's imprisonment and death, and to implore Canada to take action against human rights violations.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, coordinator of open Russia and deputy leader of the people's freedom party, gave us a first-hand account of the serious human rights challenges Russia faces, given the absence of political pluralism or free and fair elections, the lack of independent media, and the fact that many of the regime's opponents today are in prison.

Ms. Zhanna Nemtsova spoke to the committee. She is a Russian journalist and activist. Her father, Russian opposition politician and statesman, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated in the heart of Moscow in 2015, just hours after appealing to the public to support a march against Russia's war in Ukraine. Ms. Nemtsova's testimony for all of us was courageous and heartbreaking.

Canadian parliamentarians have not remained silent over Russia's behaviour. Boris Nemtsov, Russia's illegal annexation of Ukraine, prosecution of Crimean Tatars, and gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, Canada has repeatedly condemned Russia's human rights violations and illegal acts. The Government of Canada will not solely use sanctions to solve all human rights abuses and violations. We will pursue a comprehensive approach, from multilateral and bilateral engagement, to development assistance, to trade policy, to find the best and most effective response. My final recognition and deep appreciation on behalf of all Canadians is to the hon. Irwin Cotler, who has stuck with this, of course.

Victims of gross human rights violations and abuses deserve justice. That is why this government is proud to support Bill S-226, with some amendments, to enable Canada to take restrictive measures against foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of human rights and corruption. This is not just the Senate, nor the House, nor the government, Canada is speaking with one voice. It truly does take all of us.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the government House leader for allowing me to speak to this particular piece of legislation that is before the House, and under consideration.

I have a Yiddish proverb, like I often do, because it touches upon the story of multiple individuals who were involved both in the drafting of the legislation, the principles behind it, and the international advocacy that has led many western countries to implement a lot of the ideas we are trying to get into Canadian statutes today. It states, “It's not so terrible when you lose money. When courage is lost, all is lost.”

This legislation bears the name of, and is relevant to, Sergei Magnitsky, a gentleman who was a lawyer in Russia, who discovered one of the most massive tax frauds in the history of the Russian Federation. Through his good work and courage, in spite of what he was facing, which was a faceless bureaucracy that was intent on stopping him from divulging it to the public, he revealed the depths of where this $200-plus million was stolen from, the Russian taxpayers, and demonstrated the massive public sector corruption that led to the very top of the Kremlin.

He was a man who, despite being imprisoned, despite being separated from his family, his children, and despite suffering a medical condition that developed during his time in prison, chose to continue. He chose to do the right thing. He showed courage in spite of immense pressure from the Russian government to try and break him, to try and make him accuse both his employer Bill Browder, others around him, and other lawyers of being involved in the tax fraud. Sergei Magnitsky paid with his life for pursuing the right goal, which was revealing massive tax fraud and evil. That courage should be celebrated. Therefore, I am glad this legislation bears his name.

I am quite happy the foreign affairs and international development committee saw fit to both honour Sergei Magnitsky with his picture on top of its report for its review of SEMA, and that it also mentioned him in the recommendations. A great deal of effort was made on the part of the Conservative Party, the New Democrats, and the Liberals later on, after they saw the light, and decided not to pursue the failed policy-orientation of Stéphane Dion, despite him now being promoted, or demoted, to the position of ambassador.

Under this new Liberal minister, I see there is potential for achieving some positive results, both for Sergei Magnitsky, and for others, because this legislation is not just about Russia, it is about corrupt foreign officials from whatever country. Specifically, I think of Venezuela, and certain African countries where there are systemic, continuous gross human rights violations, where taxpayers are being taken for a ride for the benefit of dictators and autocratic regimes, and where the public service facilitates this theft.

As I mentioned, there are members who have already done quite a historical review, including the member for Thornhill and the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. They have mentioned different parts of this legislation, what the intent is, and what the goals are in achieving the final outcome.

I will go back for one moment to the work of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. I am pleased to sit on this committee. I worked on the report that was tabled in this House, which offers the government 13 recommendations and options for upgrading how the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act and the Special Economic Measures Act function.

It is important to bear in mind that Canada has some tools right now to limit what corrupt foreign officials can do here. However, we can do better. These tools can be vastly improved to offer up true changes. Those changes cannot just be legislative, the actions have to be down at the regulatory level, with the people working there.

From page 23 of that report, under “Guidance on Sanctions”, Milos Barutciski, a partner with Bennett Jones LLP, stated. ““I deal with the Competition Bureau. I deal with CBSA. I deal with the Ontario Securities Commission. I deal with any number of agencies, and I will get their take or interpretation of how they administer the act.”

Therefore, it is not just about having a piece of legislation. I really feel that the implementation and enforcement of the act is critical at the most basic level. He goes on to say that the response he often receives from public servants is that they can't interpret the law, because they are not regulators.

A lot of the 13 recommendations contained in the standing committee's report speak to that enforcement of the law. A lot of the changes proposed in the Senate bill would actually achieve part of the goal of making the application, the enforcement side, a lot simpler for public servants to understand, with the goal being to exclude from our country foreign officials who have been found to be corrupt and involved in systemic abuses, gross human rights violations, or systemic theft from the taxpayers of their country.

It is not just exclusion that is important; the freezing of assets is equally important. There are many corrupt foreign officials in other countries who see Canada as a safe haven. They know the United States and many European countries have sophisticated systems for tracking assets, whether real estate or financial bank accounts. They also understand those countries are very good at coordinating their lists and building large sanctions lists that will exclude them, freeze their assets, and make it impossible for them to study, vacation, or bring their families abroad. This legislation speaks to that exclusion goal, but also the freezing of assets. The two go hand in hand.

Recommendation 13 from the report basically asks the government to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to designate all individuals listed by regulations under SEMA as also inadmissible to Canada. I speak of this report because it is important as we debate this particular Senate bill. They go hand in hand. We have to have both at the same time. The most successful sanctions that are applied are those that both freeze the assets of corrupt foreign officials and exclude them from our country. An exclusion is an extremely powerful indicator of the principle that stealing from the taxpayer, from their population, is wrong, and that corruption and greed are wrong, and we do not want them here.

The same thing goes for gross human rights violations. We should not forget the individuals who have done quite a bit of work internationally to bring forward the case of Sergei Magnitsky. What he did represented a courageous fight by an individual for doing what is right, revealing massive corruption by his government. Bill Browder, his lawyer, has done extensive work internationally to try to bring his case as emblematic of what can happen in these countries. Truthfully, it is not as uncommon as people think. There are far more individuals involved in these types of activities than we would like to see.

I remember meeting Vladimir Kara-Murza not too long ago. He has been poisoned twice now by the Russian regime, the Kremlin. He expressed again his deep desire to return, to continue the fight not just of his colleague, the now deceased Boris Nemtsov, but also the courageous fight for democracy in Russia. There are many such people in all types of countries, from Venezuela to African countries to Southeast Asian countries as well. They believe in democratic human rights and they want to fight for them, fight for an open, fair, pluralistic democratic system.

There are those we saw yesterday who protested peacefully during Russia Day and were arrested. Some were beaten. In that particular case, Alexei Navalny was actually arrested before he could get to the protests. He was not even able to get to his own protest , which he had supposedly illegally organized, but he had permits to hold them.

When one lives in a country where one cannot even go to one's own protest, what wonder is there that these people then seek refuge in the west and ask us to do something more than what we are doing now. Press releases and words are nice, but they want to see concrete action.

It is thanks to people like Bill Browder, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and the senator who moved this bill that we are actually going to have an opportunity to do something about it, to exclude people involved in massive corruption overseas and gross human rights violations from our country and to freeze their assets. Then they will know that the Canadian government and the people of Canada reject those types of actions and will hold them accountable for them.

I will be supporting the bill.

Certificates of NominationPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 111.1, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a certificate of nomination, with biographical notes, for the proposed appointment of Charles Robert as Clerk of the House of Commons.

I request that this nomination be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Madam Speaker, today I rise proudly to speak in favour of Bill S-226, the Sergei Magnitsky legislation.

Our government supports this bill. Our support comes with amendments that will strengthen its implementation and its effectiveness and better align it with current Canadian sanctions and immigration policy and practice. These amendments will also align with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development recommendations that were issued on April 6, 2017.

My support for this bill comes for a few reasons that I will expand upon this evening. The first is my riding of Parkdale—High Park and the constituents within it. Second is my own background in practising constitutional and human rights law and prosecuting internationally with the UN. The third is that it resonates with the foreign policy objectives recently outlined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On the first point, as a prefatory comment, I want to talk about what Bill S-226 seeks to accomplish. It will create a legal mechanism to allow for the imposition of sanctions in response to gross violations of internationally recognized human rights as well as in response to acts of significant corruption. There is currently no Canadian law that authorizes the imposition of sanctions specifically for violations of international human rights obligations in a foreign state or for acts of corruption, including those in Russia, as highlighted in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. Bill S-226 will address this gap.

Furthermore, our government also supports expanding the scope under which sanctions measures can be enacted under the Special Economic Measures Act to include cases of gross violations of human rights and foreign corruption.

Let me turn now to the category that I talked about at the outset, my constituents, the people I represent. As the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park, during my tenure and during the campaign two years ago, I have had literally hundreds of one-on-one conversations with constituents of both Polish and Ukrainian descent who live in my riding. The diaspora is very vibrant in my community. We are home to two pre-eminent festivals for both Polish Canadians and Ukrainian Canadians. Those representatives come with deep, passionate, interest in the affairs of Ukraine and of Poland.

This is communicated to me regularly by such stakeholders as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canadian Polish Congress, as well as by individuals like Marcus Kolga of the Estonian Central Council in Canada. What they tell me is the same thing, over and over again: that eastern Europe is embattled because of Russian aggression. They talk to me about the illegal annexation of Crimea, which our government rejects. They talk to me about the ongoing aggression and military activity in the Donbass and the threat of an ever-expansionist Russia moving across eastern Europe. They also talk to me about the violation of human rights of those who dare to speak out in Russia itself.

It is in the effort to combat such human rights violations that this legislation was developed. By promoting respect for human rights, this legislation captures the sentiments expressed to me time and time again by my Ukrainian-Canadian and Polish-Canadian constituents, who desire respect for basic civil liberties in Russia and who want to curb Russian aggression and expansion in Europe.

The second aspect that I want to discuss this evening is the category of human rights violations. I come to this chamber as a lawyer who practised for 15 years, defending charter rights here in Canada and prosecuting international human rights violations abroad with the United Nations. We are lucky in this country to have many rights, freedoms, and privileges when others around the world face real and constant danger for simply opposing their government or daring to speak out.

I would like to take some time to outline the specific type of international human rights violations this bill will seek to curb or stop outright.

We have heard discussion about this, but the most important component is the case of Sergei Magnitsky himself. He was a Russian lawyer. He was tortured, beaten, and killed in a Moscow prison after uncovering a $230-million tax fraud and testifying against the Russian government officials involved. Despite overwhelming evidence incriminating these prison officials, the Russian government exonerated everyone involved.

As most people know, the people who killed Mr. Magnitsky did so for money. We know that criminals of this kind do not keep their ill-gotten gains in their country of origin. They do not keep it in places like Russia. They know all too well how easily it can be taken away from them. They keep their money in the west.

What will this legislation do to address the situation? For this, I turn to none other than Bill Browder, a well-known advocate for defending gross human rights violations abroad and an advocate for his own employee, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in this context.

Mr. Browder has said:

We realized that by preventing these people from storing and spending their money in the West, we could bring an end to the impunity they enjoyed in Russia. By freezing their assets and banning their visas, we could create direct, personal consequences for human-rights abusers, hitting them where it hurts the most — in their wallets. This was the genesis of Magnitsky sanctions — targeted visa bans and asset freezes imposed on individual human-rights abusers.

The Sergei Magnitsky case is not the only case. That is the most troubling aspect. There is the case of Alexander Perepilichny, who suddenly dropped dead in Britain after providing key evidence in the Magnitsky case. There is the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, who campaigned for a Canadian version of the Magnitsky Law and was poisoned. There is the case of Boris Nemtsov, another Russian opposition politician who campaigned in this very capital for a Canadian Magnitsky piece of legislation in 2012 and was shot dead three years later. In March 21 of this very year, Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer for the Magnitsky family, fell four stories from his apartment in Moscow, the fall occurring the night before he was due to give new evidence in court concerning the government cover-up in the Magnitsky case.

What I want to emphasize is that the genius of this legislation is that it is global in reach, and it needs to be, because the problem it targets is indeed global in scope. We are talking about other nations. We are talking about examples such as Buzurgmehr Yorov, a fearless human rights lawyer and whistle-blower in Tajikistan. He was recently sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment simply for doing his job, when he took on the cases of several leaders of the opposition in Tajikistan, the very type of work that I have done here and that many people do around the planet.

Internationally, the global community has responded to these kinds of violations. In 2012 the United States was the first country to adopt such sanctions vis-à-vis Russia itself, passing global Magnitsky legislation and expanding the reach in 2016 with a global act that sanctions human rights abusers from around the planet. Forty-four people from around the world have been banned from the United States under that legislation.

The European Parliament followed suit in 2014. Last year, Estonia passed the first Magnitsky sanctions law in Europe. In Canada, a former Liberal MP, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, a man who was previously our colleague here, introduced in this chamber a Canadian version of the Magnitsky Act in 2011. As members can see, it is important in terms of our international obligations to our partners to enact this legislation and to take action on the underlying issues it seeks to address.

Let me turn to Canada's foreign policy objectives, which were recently announced by the minister. On June 6, the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that there are:

...clear strategic threats to the liberal democratic world, including Canada. Our ability to act against such threats alone is limited. It requires co-operation with like-minded countries.

When human rights violations occur around the world, they are a threat to democratic values around the world. That is why we must implement legislation such as Bill S-226 in solidarity with other allies and members of the international community. It is only by acting in unison that we can hope to globally curb gross human rights violations and corruption.

In her speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also noted that one of the key tenets of our foreign policy has been the basic promotion of human rights at home and abroad. She said:

It is a Canadian, John Humphrey, who is generally credited as the principal author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. That was the first of what became a series of declarations to set international standards in this vital area.

I wholeheartedly concur with this sentiment. As a former war crimes prosecutor with the United Nations who tried cases on the Rwanda genocide tribunal, I can personally testify to the heavy involvement of Canadians at the UN and at that particular tribunal. Canadian involvement in the promotion and protection of human rights abroad is a long-standing tradition, and it is a key priority for our government and for our citizens.

The minister also noted:

These institutions may seem commonplace today. We may take them for granted. We should not. Seventy years ago, they were revolutionary....

Finally, the minister made a simple yet essential statement when she stated:

...our values include an unshakeable commitment to pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law.

That simple statement captures the essence of our democracy and, in my view, why it is only natural for us to pass this much-needed legislation.

To conclude, I support this legislation because it aligns with the beliefs and the convictions of my constituents, because it seeks to curb gross human-rights violations from being perpetrated on individuals around the world, and because it strongly aligns with our new foreign policy framework. I encourage all members of this House to support it as well.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak on Bill S-226, a very important piece of legislation. I listened intently to all of the comments made today, within the last hour. It is unfortunate that the government did not make this a priority to introduce on day one, because during the election everybody acknowledged the importance of Magnitsky legislation. I am not a member of the government, but I am glad the government is onside, supporting legislation that was introduced by the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman and Senator Raynell Andreychuk.

Bill C-267 was the bill of choice for the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. He introduced the Holodomor legislation in Canada, the first western country to recognize the horrific human rights violations, with more than 10 million Ukrainians killed by the brutal hands of Stalin. We are here today because of continued violations in the same part of the world, where Sergei Magnitsky was brutally killed. He was imprisoned in a Russian prison, detained, tortured, and murdered in 2009.

There is a pattern here. Boris Nemtsov came to Canada in 2012. He was the official opposition leader in Russia opposing the Putin regime and the human rights violations, the torture, the poisoning, the aggression, and the violations, and he was brutally murdered too, just outside of the Russian Parliament buildings.

The violations continue in Ukraine with the annexation of Crimea by Putin and his regime. Sergei Magnitsky's murderers have gone unpunished. Each of us in the House has a responsibility. I start each day praying, asking God what he would have us do in the House, how we can bring justice to this country and the world. May we never shirk from that duty and accomplish what each of us has been called to do. I believe this piece of legislation, Bill S-226, is one of those things.

I am thrilled, but I also realize that this is a House where politics are often practised, and at times things are promised, things are said, and there are other things happening behind the scenes. I am thankful the government is going to support this bill. I have indicated that there is agreement on the amendments, but we need to pass this legislation, and we need to pass it quickly. It needs to go back to committee and the Senate. If we amend it, it has to go back to the Senate; if we accepted it the way it came from the Senate, it could be enacted. However, it has to go back to the Senate.

I know everyone on this side will support this bill, and I encourage everyone on the government side to do the same so that it passes, goes back to committee, comes back to the House, which can be done in one day, and then it can go back to the Senate so that this important legislation can be enacted.

I again want to sincerely thank Raynell Andreychuk and the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. I have been on trips to Ukraine with them and have seen their passion and love for that country. The roots of their heritage are in Ukraine, as are mine; and many in the House, in all parties, have those wonderful roots. Let us stand up for human rights. It is not just about Russia's aggression in Ukraine; it is about human rights across the world and Canada being given the tools to enact sanctions that will be effective.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank all members for their interventions over the two hours of debate on Bill S-226. There are so many people to thank. First of all, I want to thank Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who brought this bill forward.

As I said in my opening comments, the last paragraph in the preamble best sums up what this bill accomplishes. It reads:

And whereas all violators of internationally recognized human rights should be treated and sanctioned equally throughout the world,

We spent a lot of time, and a lot of speakers here mentioned the abuses in Russia. As someone who has been banned from Russia, along with a number of colleagues, I know it is of grave concern to most members in the House to ensure that we take the right actions against Russia's aggressions in Ukraine; and against Russia's human rights violations within Russia and its neighbouring countries as it continues to crack down on the freedom of the press, the LGBTQ community, and political dissidents.

We have witnessed it again this week, just yesterday. Alexei Navalny is the leader of the official opposition in Russia. He is a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member and the leader of the Progress Party. He has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “The Man Vladimir Putin Fears Most”.

Yesterday, which was kind of like Russian Independence Day, Alexei Navalny organized a number of large-scale demonstrations promoting democracy and human rights and attacking the political corruption of Putin and the kleptocrats at the Kremlin. He has been arrested before, in 2011 and 2017, and he was arrested yesterday morning before he even got out of his house. Before he even got onto the streets to participate in a peaceful protest, he was pulled from his house. All communications were cut off in his house and office. Along with thousands of other people, he was arrested yesterday in Russia and imprisoned for 30 days for holding an unsanctioned rally.

This is 30 days in prison, and we know that prison time in Russia is hard time. It is where Sergei Magnitsky was detained, beaten, tortured, and ultimately murdered, because he was a whistleblower on Russian corruption, on calling out the kleptocrats who were enriching themselves at the cost of individuals who had been committing a large tax fraud and blaming Bill Browder.

I would like to thank Bill Browder for the hard work he has done, not only in coming to Canada to have us bring forward Sergei Magnitsky-style legislation, but also to the United States, Britain, the European Parliament, Estonia, and other countries that are adopting this type of legislation, so that we as western nations, as democracies that love human rights and freedoms, can go out there and start to change the channel on these human rights abusers, these corrupt foreign officials who continue to enrich themselves and think that they can hide their wealth and their families in our countries. Bill S-226 provides the tools and mechanisms for the government to go out there and sanction them so that they cannot benefit from their crimes.

We also have to remember Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated on the bridge outside of the Kremlin just two years ago. The last time he was in Canada speaking to the foreign affairs committee, he said that Magnitsky-style legislation is pro-Russian legislation. It is about making sure that the people of Russia enjoy the freedoms of democracy and the rule of law that we take for granted here in Canada, in the United States, and in western Europe. This is about trying to modernize that.

A couple of weeks ago, opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza was here, and he too, after being twice poisoned—two assassination attempts on him—still had the power and strength to come and speak to us as parliamentarians and again say that we should pass this legislation.

I am glad that the government, the NDP, and all members of Parliament are supporting this legislation. I know the government has brought forward amendments. I have met with government officials from foreign affairs, and I can tell the House that the Conservatives are okay with these amendments. There are a few on which we are still working on some wording, but let us get the bill to the foreign affairs committee, which has already done some great work on studying the Magnitsky-style legislation. The committee has the ability to quickly analyze the amendments, implement those amendments, and get them back here to the House so that we can pass them before we break for summer, and then the Senate can deal with those amendments.

Again, I thank everyone who has participated in this debate.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the Bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

[For continuation of proceedings see part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

The House resumed from May 11 consideration of the motion.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak once again on Bill S-217, known as Wynn's law. It is a simple bill. It is a straightforward bill to close a fatal loophole in the Criminal Code that cost Constable David Wynn his life when he was murdered by someone who was a career criminal and who was out on bail. One of the reasons he was out on bail was that his extensive criminal history had not been brought to the attention of the judge at the bail application hearing. One of the reasons why that information was not presented was that currently under the Criminal Code, leading such evidence of the criminal history of bail applicants is discretionary, even though it is always relevant and material to the question of bail.

It is with considerable disappointment that the Liberal-dominated justice committee voted to recommend that Wynn's law not proceed.

This is a common-sense bill, but as is so often said, common sense is not so common. If ever there was a better illustration of that truism, it is the Liberal opposition to passing this legislation.

Let us be clear about what the Liberals voted against in recommending that the House not proceed with Wynn's law. They voted against changing one word in the Criminal Code. The member for Mount Royal is shaking his head and he should not, because the fact of the matter is that the essence of Wynn's law has always been about changing “may” to “shall” in section 518 of the Criminal Code so that section 518 would read that a prosecutor shall lead evidence of the criminal history of a bail applicant rather than its current wording, which provides that a prosecutor may lead evidence of the criminal history of a bail applicant.

That has always been the essence of the bill. I was prepared to make all amendments necessary so that not only the essence of the bill would be that, but in fact that is all the bill would be. Notwithstanding that, the Liberals had absolutely no interest in accepting that amendment, so the Liberal record on the bill is very simple, it is very clear-cut, and it is in opposition to changing that one word.

I expect the member for Mount Royal, or whatever Liberal gets up to speak, will say it is a little more complicated than that, but I say it is not in the face of that fact. I would expect that the member for Mount Royal, or whatever other Liberal stands up in this place to defend what I would submit was an indefensible decision coming out of the justice committee, will hide behind certain groups that came out in opposition to the bill, while probably selectively ignoring other groups like the Canadian Police Association, which represents some 60,000 front-line police officers.

One can say this group supported Wynn's law and this group opposed Wynn's law, but that is not the issue. That is not what is relevant. What is relevant is the evidence, the evidence at committee on the specific question of changing one word from “may” to “shall”, and in that context, the question of leading criminal history of bail applicants at bail hearings. That is the question.

What was the evidence before the justice committee? The evidence was that witness after witness said that the criminal history of bail applicants is always relevant and material on the question of bail.

Indeed, the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel testified before the committee that it was the bread and butter of what prosecutors do. He said it is the first thing that prosecutors learn to do when they learn how to handle a bail hearing. Not only that, not one witness provided a credible example of when a prosecutor should appropriately withhold evidence of the criminal history of a bail applicant.

In the face of bad evidence, it really does beg the question of how in the world any fair-minded and reasonable person could oppose changing “may” to “shall” in section 518 of the Criminal Code.

There were three main, at least semi-cogent, arguments that were put forward against changing that one word. One argument that was repeated a number of times was that Wynn's law would somehow interfere with prosecutorial discretion, even though not one witness was able to present one credible instance of when it would be appropriate for a prosecutor to exercise discretion in withholding evidence about the criminal history of a bail applicant. Wynn's law would not interfere with prosecutorial discretion because leading evidence about the criminal history of a bail applicant should not be a matter left to discretion.

Another rather bizarre argument that was put forward was the notion that Bill S-217 would somehow increase the evidentiary burden placed upon prosecutors, and that as a result of that increased evidentiary burden it would make it more difficult for prosecutors to keep dangerous criminals behind bars. The only problem with that argument is that Bill S-217, Wynn's law, has absolutely nothing to do with increasing the evidentiary burden. All Wynn's law would require is that prosecutors lead evidence of the criminal history of a bail applicant. The evidentiary standard is provided for in a totally different section of the Criminal Code, paragraph 518(1)(e), which provides that a judge may accept evidence that is credible and trustworthy. Wynn's law would not change that standard.

Then there was the argument of delay. It was asserted that somehow Wynn's law would cause a backlog in the courts and that it would make bail applications longer. It is frankly difficult to accept that argument in the face of the evidence that this is something that is almost always done. In terms of making something that is almost always done, always done, it is pretty difficult to imagine that, in that context, suddenly there is going to be a massive backlog in our courts. Then the question becomes, in the case where perhaps a bail hearing might take a little longer, what sort of bail applicants would see perhaps a few extra minutes to lead evidence?

It certainly would not be in the case of a bail applicant who had no criminal history, because in such a case, there would be no criminal history to lead evidence of. In the case of career criminals, someone like Shawn Rehn, who shot and killed Constable Wynn and shot Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond, with his more than 50 prior criminal convictions, yes, it might take a few minutes to lead evidence about that career criminal's history, and so it should. Extending it by a few minutes is a small price to pay.

In closing, let me say very quickly that Constable Wynn's killer's bail hearing was a very efficient bail hearing, but it had very fatal consequences.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to get up, as well, to talk to Senate Bill S-217, Wynn's law, which we all agree comes from a good place.

Shawn Rehn never should have been out on bail. His antecedence, his prior record should have been disclosed at the bail hearing. However, let us remember that the person acting as the prosecutor at that bail hearing was a police officer who was poorly trained. It was not a prosecutor exercising his discretion not to disclose the criminal record of the accused. I have heard, on multiple occasions, that Constable Wynn would still be with us if this law had been in effect and based on all the evidence we heard, that is not the case. Because that poorly trained—

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Unbelievable. Shame.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind the member for St. Albert—Edmonton that he had the opportunity to make his speech without disruption and I would expect him to do the same for others who are speaking in the House. There is a rule that addresses that.

The hon. member for Mount Royal.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, that poorly trained police officer was not exercising discretion. He did not know what to do, which is why when Nancy Irving wrote the bail report for the Province of Alberta, she did not recommend this change to the law.

My heart breaks for Shelly Wynn. My heart breaks for the Wynn family. My heart breaks for anyone killed by a career criminal like Shawn Rehn. However, all of the evidence that we heard at committee, the great preponderance of evidence came down on the side of not proceeding further with this law.

I am going to put into the record the things we heard from witnesses at the committee, but before I do, I want to counter some of the myths that I have heard.

First is that somehow the government told the committee members what to do here. I was one of the 27 Liberals in the House that voted to send the bill to committee. I thought, based on common-sense principles, it made sense to send the bill to committee and to listen to what witnesses had to say. Not only did I and my fellow Liberals, all of whom voted at committee on this bill, originally vote for it, but also the NDP member voted to not further proceed with the bill. Certainly you cannot argue the NDP member was swayed—

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind the member for Mount Royal that he has to address the questions and the comments to the Chair and not to other parties or individual members.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, certainly the member cannot argue that the NDP member was not swayed by the witnesses.

Therefore, let us talk about what some of those witnesses had to say. We called all the witnesses for whom all parties asked. We did not ignore witnesses who the Conservatives asked us to call.

What did Rick Woodburn, president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel have to say? He said:

This bill, as it's written right now, is going to cause delay, in our view. Also, it's a higher standard for us at the bail hearing, and we may have issues with regard to proof....What I can say is that as it stands right now, we “may” prove all this. But when you put “shall” prove, it raises the standard. And if we don't prove, which we'll now be mandated to do, they're more likely to be released than not....We have cases that go to the Supreme Court of Canada on placement of a comma. Changing from our “may” to “shall”—what we have to do—is a big leap.

That was from the prosecutors, the people designed to keep us safe.

Rachel Huntsman from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said:

Although we support the spirit of Bill S-217....Following careful consideration and analysis of this bill, we believe that the amendments, in particular the amendment to paragraph 518(1)(c), may cause confusion, create added delay, and impose challenges upon a bail system that is already operating at full capacity. Instead of strengthening the bail provisions, we fear that these amendments may create a result counterproductive to what the bill is hoping to achieve.

We heard from Dr. Cheryl Webster who said that it struck her that it: going to add to court delays.....higher evidentiary burden....Any additional time taken during the bail process puts cases even closer to being thrown out for violation of the constitutional right that an accused be tried within a reasonable amount of time.

Dr. Anthony Doob, professor, University of Toronto, said: cannot legislate away human error....proving that a specific accused person before the court has a criminal record takes substantially longer than the seconds it might take to print it out.

The bill that you have before you will expand the bail process for everyone at a time when almost everyone agrees that court delay is a problem.

Ms. Nancy Irving, the person charged with writing the report to the Alberta government, said:

I share the concern that this new language could turn bail hearings into mini-trials. That would certainly make bail hearings longer, and it would likely contribute to further delays in a system already struggling to cope with the volume of bail cases and the new time requirements set by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan, which were released last summer. At a minimum, I think it's reasonable to anticipate that the meaning of this new language will be litigated, perhaps all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, before we receive judicial guidance. That could take years. In the meantime, the crown's standard of proof will be uncertain.

The Government of Ontario said:

...changes to section 518(1 )(c) of the Code undermine prosecutorial discretion and could significantly lengthen and complicate bail hearings. Bill S-217 is at odds with general trends in bail and is contrary to ongoing efforts to achieve justice efficiencies.

It concluded by saying, “Ontario is of the view that Bill S-217 is contrary to ongoing federal and provincial efforts to achieve important gains in criminal justice, including increasing justice efficiencies.”

The Canadian Bar Association said, “The CBA Section does not support passage of Bill S-217. We believe it is constitutionally vulnerable, unnecessary and contrary to current efforts to improve justice and justice efficiencies.”

Finally, if we take a more conservative government, let us take the Government of Saskatchewan. It says, “With respect, Clause 1 is unnecessary—

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

You can mislead and misrepresent and misdirect us all you want, Anthony, it doesn't make it true.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order, please. For the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton, I have already indicated that the member who is speaking is afforded the opportunity to have the respect of the House and to have the attention of the House. I understand this is a passionate issue and an emotional one as well. However, although people have differing opinions, we are here to debate issues, and that is what is happening right now.

The disruptions would not be allowed in a court of justice and they are not allowed here either.

The hon. member for Mount Royal.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I was quoting the Government of Saskatchewan, which stated:

With respect, Clause 1 is unnecessary as what it encompasses is already dealt with in practice through sections 515(10) (a) to (c). Setting out offenders' failing to appear history or whether they had pending charges, and if so what they were, are already provided to the court through submissions under those provisions.

Although I appreciate the concept behind the Bill is a good one, the effect of Clause 2 in particular will both significantly interfere with prosecutorial discretion and increase case handling time for every custodial matter, in my view. In our jurisdiction, prosecutors only on the rarest of occasions actually lead evidence. Rather, almost all bail hearings are conducted through the submission process during which Crown Attorneys and then defence counsel make submissions regarding the circumstances of the offence, prior history of the offender, and what if any other charges are before the court. No viva voce evidence is usually called, nor are strict rules of proof engaged.

The Bill's wording, however, would require prosecutors to do so. Prosecutors will also have to “prove the fact” the defendant has a criminal record, is awaiting trial, has a record for failing to appear, or must comply with bail conditions. The Crown will be compelled to provide this information and this interferes with prosecutorial discretion. Moreover, because virtually all of this type of information is currently provided to the court by way of submission only, proof of fact will require the tendering of evidence which will add significant case handling time for every matter appearing on our custody dockets.

With Jordan and its implication for as speedy a resolution as possible for criminal matters, every moment we can spare for trial matters is time worth preserving.

I went to these hearings in the justice committee with a very open mind. I had acknowledged my respect for my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton by voting for the bill at second reading and to send it to committee. I thought the concept itself was worthy of being heard and discussed. However, in the end result, the evidence provided by the totality of the witnesses said that while this was a great idea in theory, it did not work in practice.

We as a committee urged the Minister of Justice to find a different way to ensure, and we sent a letter to her to this effect, that this evidence be introduced at all bail hearings in a way that did not slow down the justice system or increase the burden of proof that may make our streets less safe.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, as I did at second reading, I would like to reiterate how hard it is to face a difficult issue like this, given the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Constable Wynn.

Every one of us in the House recognizes that this kind of tragic event, a murder, comes to us and strikes at the heart of the work we are trying to do to improve things. In this sense, I would like to thank the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton for his efforts. He urged us to hold this debate, even though it is an extremely difficult and very emotional one.

It goes without saying that getting involved in political life on an issue, going to a parliamentary committee, and so forth, is already difficult enough for anyone. I certainly admire Constable Wynn's widow who had the courage to appear before the committee. I think all my colleagues would share that view.

We appreciate the opportunity to have been able to discuss this fundamental issue. I want to thank my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for putting us on a path to try to fix this issue, regardless of whether we agree or disagree on how to fix it.

One of the first things we have to realize is that we are living in a new reality, especially when it comes to justice-related issues. That is the reality of Jordan.

Whether it is in a case like this or another one, we can see that Jordan has created a new reality in terms of the administration of justice and of delays. This reality threatens public safety. Not only do delays impose a heavy burden on the justice system, but they also sometimes result in the release of persons accused of horrific crimes, as we have seen in Quebec. It is not something we want to do. None of us wants to see this happen.

With that in mind, we have a responsibility to study bills in a robust and meaningful way. That is why I was very pleased to support the bill at second reading. I encouraged my colleagues in the NDP caucus to do the same thing. This is an important debate. We need to create a new reality in the justice system so that these kinds of events do not happen again.

To that end, the first big step that was taken was the work done by Nancy Irving in the report that she worked on to try to enure this kind of tragedy did not happen again. The member for Mount Royal quoted from it. For me, that was part of the testimony that was the most compelling, given how closely she had worked on trying to fix the problems that led to this tragedy.

I will read her comments into the record. She said:

I share the concern that this new language could turn bail hearings into mini-trials. That would certainly make bail hearings longer, and it would likely contribute to further delays in a system already struggling to cope with the volume of bail cases and the new time requirements set by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan, which were released last summer.

At a minimum, I think it's reasonable to anticipate that the meaning of this new language will be litigated, perhaps all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, before we receive judicial guidance. That could take years. In the meantime, the crown's standard of proof will be uncertain

Regarding the administration of justice, we must also consider the provinces’ role. Frankly, I do not like injecting partisanship into such a debate, but when the attorneys general of Ontario and Saskatchewan, two very different provinces ideologically speaking, make the same observation that this could cause problems for the administration of justice and undermine efforts to achieve our common goal of ensuring public safety, I think we should take a moment and think about it.

I am therefore putting the ball right back in the government’s court. As the committee chair and member for Mount Royal just said, a letter from the committee was written and recommendations were made through the motion. This letter turned out to be essential, since the Minister of Justice has an enormous amount of work to do to ensure that justice officials and prosecutors have the necessary resources to fix this problem, even though the bill does not appear to be the best solution.

This is exactly what we are seeing in Quebec with judicial appointments. We are also seeing it in other jurisdictions where they have other problems with resources and the administration of justice. We have not managed to deal with the new reality of the Jordan ruling. This means that there is a lot of work to do. We hope that the minister will be motivated by the excellent work of my Conservative colleague and by the fact that we all recognize the importance of ridding our society of this scourge and this kind of tragedy. I do not doubt her intentions, but let us be honest: after 18 months, it is time to act.

Therefore, despite this difficult file, we are using this opportunity to point out just how important it is for the minister to acknowledge this issue and the testimony heard in committee, particularly from Ms. Wynne. She clearly explained the human cost of government inaction and our collective responsibility to make sure not only that our court system respects our law-based society, but also that we keep in mind respect for victims. We are trying to achieve several things, and in this respect, I believe it is a healthy, although extremely difficult debate.

This is not something I wanted to raise but I want to acknowledge how difficult this discussion has been. I do not think the motion has to be the end of the debate. We need to re-examine how we can find the proper solution to this problem and ensure we do not create a situation, involuntary though it may be, where dangerous offenders, because of the new reality that the justice system has to cope with among other things and because of the Jordan decision, are allowed back on the streets. That would go exactly counter to what we are trying to achieve when we are debating the motion and the bill it stems from.

I want to end my comments by once again saying how much I admire the courage of Constable Wynn widow for sitting in front of committee, for sharing her experience, and for pushing us all to do better in taking on these challenging issues.

I also thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.

Even though I said it in French, and with all due respect to our interpreters, I want to say it again in English. I hope the Minister of Justice will read the Debates and the letter from committee. Most important, I hope she will think of the victims and the human cost of the lack of action on fixing the justice system, which seems to be more and more broken in some ways, and ensure we can achieve an objective of increased public safety, and, most important, no longer see families broken apart by this kind of despicable violence.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 13th, 2017 / 7 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, normally I begin my remarks by, in some form or another, stating how grateful I am to stand in this place and make my voice heard on a certain topic. Tonight, however, given the justice committee's recommendation that Bill S-217 not proceed further, I will be honest and say that I am deeply disappointed with the decision.

The committee members heard witness after witness testify that there are flaws in the bail system in this country. It has not kept up with the times, and as a result, known criminals are walking Canadian streets, probably in every community, out on bail.

Perhaps Bill S-217 did not fix the entire bail system, but at least it was a first step, a step the justice department appears to be unwilling to take, which is really shameful.

For those not familiar with the situation that precipitated the drafting of the bill by Senator Runciman, l will give a little background. I do not want to go into the details, but it was on the night of January 17, 2015, that RCMP Constable David Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond were on a routine inspection of licence plates outside a casino in St. Albert, Alberta. This could have happened anywhere. During that inspection, they discovered a licence plate that was connected to an individual for whom there was an arrest warrant. As a result, Constable Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Bond entered the casino to arrest the individual. Before they could arrest the individual, who turned out to be Shawn Rehn, shots were fired. Auxiliary Constable Bond was shot, and tragically, Constable David Wynn was shot and later died in hospital.

Any time an individual is murdered in this country, it is a tragedy, but when a police officer is murdered in the line of duty, it is not only a tragedy, it is an outrage in this country, from coast to coast to coast. What makes the murder of Constable Wynn that much worse is that it was completely preventable, not what the member for Mount Royal said earlier in this place. This murder could have been prevented. David Wynn could have been a husband tonight. He could have been a father to three children. He could still be a member of our valued RCMP.

It is not if this happens again but when it happens again.

Constable Wynn's killer was out on bail at the time. He was out on bail, notwithstanding the fact that he had more than 50 prior criminal convictions, including convictions for weapons offences and multiple violent offences. On top of the 50 prior criminal convictions, he had at least 38 outstanding charges, and to top it off, he had numerous failures to appear in court, yet there he was, out on the street in the community of St. Albert, unbeknownst to the public.

I should add, of the 130 members working at the casino, and everyone was distraught over this event, two members are still not back at work at the casino in St. Albert, Alberta.

Let me get back to the justice committee meetings for a moment. The members heard expert testimony on the subject of bail. Let me just give a snippet of what the members heard. Dr. Cheryl Webster, associate professor, University of Ottawa, testifying as an individual, said, “We're not short of evidence that bail in Canada is broken”. Bail in Canada is broken, not damaged, broken. We can improve broken bones and get them re-set. We can fix a broken car or even a broken window, but a broken bail system, not so much. It is too time consuming, too costly, we hear, and we can always explain away the odd mishap as human error.

Mr. Jay Cameron, barrister and solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitution Freedoms, said:

I will conclude by saying this. Some people say that this is only symbolic. It's not symbolic. There was a tragedy that occurred, and it was the result of a flaw in the legislation. Only a fool would say, “I'm emotional about the tragedy, therefore, I'm not going to fix the flaw.” The problem is that there is a flaw. Fix the flaw and you won't again have more tragedies that result from it. That's the point.

Mr. Cameron's point is well taken by the official opposition party, my party, but unfortunately, not by the government. We understand the need to revisit the bail conditions in this country. Here we have it. The bail system is broken, and no one, certainly not the justice department, appears to be able or willing to fix it. Is that not shameful? Bill S-217 attempts to plug one gaping hole in the system, and all we hear is that it is going to take too much time for the bail hearings, that the Canadian Police Information Centre is not up to date, etc.

On June 6, just last week, I received a letter from the Saskatoon Police Association, from its president, Dean Pringle, and its secretary, Bill Bergeron. They were writing to express their strong support for Bill S-217. They pointed out that the oversight could be corrected with just two simple common-sense changes to the Criminal Code. Number one would be adding two new grounds under which an offender could be detained in custody, specifically, when the accused has failed to appear in court in the past and the accused has previously been convicted of a criminal offence or has been charged with and is awaiting trial for another criminal offence. Second and most important, and this is the key to this bill here tonight, would be replacing the word “may” with “shall” to require prosectors to introduce evidence of the accused's criminal record, or failure to obey court orders in the past, or other criminal charges for which an offender may be awaiting trial. Replace the word “may” with “shall” and think about what it would do for all our police officers in this country.

It is a similar position taken by the Canadian Police Association, the national voice for 60,000 police personnel who protect everyone in this country. Its president, Tom Stamatakis, has offered full support for this bill. He said, “Allowing prosecutors to introduce evidence of an accused's criminal history during a bail hearing is just common sense.” This legislation would not remove the discretion of judges when they are granting the bail. It just means that those judges would have all the relevant facts at hand when they make the important decisions.

This is a straightforward bill that would help keep Canadians safe and would provide prosecutors with more tools to detain high-risk individuals pending trial.

Some members would have us believe, as we heard here tonight from the government, that this bill would add more delays. That is not factual. What is factual is that it would save lives. As legislators, we must stand by our police in this country, who put themselves in harm's way each time they put on their badges.

Shelly Wynn is here, as she was in the past when Bill S-217 was debated. I want everyone to know that she is here, and I cannot help but feel her sorrow.

On March 8 this year, all the opposition parties in this place recognized the merits of this bill, Bill S-217. That was probably the most emotional night we have had in this House of Commons since we opened. I am going to give credit, because 28 members of the government caucus voted for the bill, against their party line. They were in favour of referring it to the justice and human rights committee. Obviously, the yeas had it that night, and Bill S-217 was referred to the committee. I wonder tonight if those same Liberal members will maintain the courage of their convictions and vote against the committee's recommendation or if they will simply toe the party line.

Finally, I would like to commend Shelly Wynn and her family for their commitment to seeing a better bail system in place for all Canadians; Senator Runciman for taking the lead in getting this legislation drafted and shepherding it through the Senate; and my friend and our colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, who has steadfastly moved this legislation through this place. They have all done a wonderful job, and they deserve to be recognized for their dedication to this worthy cause.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address this issue tonight, but it is not lost on me the passion many feel about this issue. It is a very important issue our House has considered and sent to committee. I want to say first that when I first learned of Bill S-217 and took my time to understand it, in a good faith effort, I knew there were some elements of the bill I did not agree with, but I thought the overall intention of the bill was noble and that the sponsor in the House was bringing it forward for the right reasons. I thank him for doing that.

In the same light of a good faith effort, it was passed at second reading to send to committee so we could study it further, hear from experts, and hear from those who every day deal with the bail system in Canada so we could understand better what impacts and consequences the bill may have that were not apparent, perhaps, at first reading of the bill. I hope that same courtesy will now be extended to those who listened to the testimony at committee and arrived at a different conclusion.

I voted in support of this at second reading, despite concerning elements in the bill, because I wanted to have the opportunity to study it in full. On the same night this was passed at second reading, we also voted on another bill, Bill S-201, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act. That matter came before committee, and it was concluded by members of all parties to proceed with that bill, because it was good public policy.

The purpose of committee work is to go through a bill in a thoughtful, deliberative manner, listen to experts, have thoughtful discussions, ask good questions, and then come back to the House and make recommendations. That is what we are doing with the bill tonight.

I want to highlight that the essential element of the bill, as I saw it, was, in section 518 of the Criminal Code, changing the permissive “may” to the requirement “shall” lead evidence. That was the essential element. There were other provisions in the bill, however, that I totally disagreed with, because they were not the intention of the bill as I understood it. I appreciated the conversations we had across party lines to realize that the essential element of the bill was changing “may” to “shall”.

How did I approach this bill at committee? I looked at it as an opportunity to shine a light on our bail system in Canada, to understand the essential elements of the bill, and to then, based on the expert testimony, decide whether it was good public policy. One of the thoughts that came to mind throughout the testimony we were hearing was what applies to doctors: do no harm. I thought that was an important way to look at the bill. If we were changing our bail system and how it operates, we should do no harm.

I went in with an open mind and listened to witnesses with different perspectives on the justice system. The experts in the field dealing with bail hearings were the most important to listen to in deciding how we would go forward with this. I went in with an open mind, but I went in with the idea that we must do no harm.

The witnesses offered compelling testimony. I want to highlight, first and foremost, Shelly Wynn. Her testimony was heart wrenching, compelling, believable, and trustworthy, and I extend nothing but thanks to her for her courage in coming to our committee and for all the work she has done in highlighting the issue of bail in Canada.

We also heard from a number of experts. We heard from the Canadian Bar Association, the Ontario Provincial Police, Newfoundland police, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, defence lawyers groups, and individuals who have expert opinion to give on our system of bail in Canada.

All of those individuals came to the same conclusion and gave evidence based on the same rationale that this bill would do harm, would actually make our streets less safe, not more safe. The intention of the bill is to, as I understand it, close a loophole in the law to ensure that we are not allowing people out on bail who should be behind bars. The unintended consequences of this bill, however, would have exactly the opposite effect. It would make our streets less safe. It would put people out on the street who should otherwise be behind bars. Do not take my word for it. This was the expert testimony that we heard from police groups, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, defence lawyers, and individuals who deal with this stuff every day and do not always agree on issues every day.

I want to go now through some of the issues that were raised. The first one is the possibility that this bill, in changing “may” to “shall”, leaving aside all of the other problematic elements in the bill, could have the possibility of raising the burden on the crown. At committee, Rick Woodburn, the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, stated:

...if you make us prove it, our onus goes up; it doesn't go down. Keeping the individuals you want to keep off the street is harder, not easier.

This is the person who represents Canadian crown prosecutors, who deals with these issues every day.

Superintendent David Truax, the detective superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police, stated:

Some of the language in the bill obviously proves the fact that...could obviously require the prosecutor to call each and every individual officer to prove each and every individual fact. That obviously would cause strain on policing resources, requiring more...witnesses, more documentation, certified documentation, affidavits, and the like.

Nancy Irving, who was chairing the Alberta committee reviewing the bail system in that province, indicated that the crown burden of proof will be uncertain under years of litigation.

With regard to the issue of delay, I think this was most compelling for me and the most convincing as to why this would be problematic because, in the end, after hearing all of this expert testimony, it was pretty well incontrovertible that there would become mini-trials at bail hearings. This is not a matter of a couple of minutes to get a criminal record. That is not the issue. There are several steps that have to be gone through in a bail hearing, one being the circumstances of the offence being presented to the court. This would cause uncertainty in our bail system. This would cause added resources, added court time, and not a matter of minutes, but delays in bail. People would have to set over bail hearings, perhaps. What would happen in the meantime to those who are supposed to have timely access to bail hearings?

I want to now talk on the issue of delay. Rick Woodburn said the following:

Bail hearings don't take five minutes. They take somewhere between half an hour and two hours, on average. That's for a bail hearing where you just pass information up, hear from a surety, and hear some evidence—about two hours.

If this bill passes, bail hearings will double and triple in time, and it is not necessary.

My colleague across the way just referenced Dr. Cheryl Webster a moment ago in support of his conclusion. He should take her word then when she said the following:

...[it] stuck me...[that it is going to add to court delay with] the higher evidentiary burden.... Any additional time taken during the bail process puts cases even closer to being thrown out for violation of the constitutional right that an accused be tried within a reasonable amount of time.

Professor Anthony Doob stated:

The bill that you have before you will expand the bail process for everyone at a time when...everyone agrees that court delay is a problem.

The Canadian Bar Association echoed the same comments.

I think it is important for us, in a good faith effort in reflecting on this bill, to understand that bail review does need to happen. Our government is committed to doing that. We are committed to working with all sides of the House to make that happen. This bill would not achieve its intended aims.