Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend my colleague for the eloquence of his speech, his knowledge of Canada’s history and, more specifically, the spirited way in which he made his case. Honestly, he managed to persuade me a little more. I completely agree with him on several points, particularly on the questions he raised about eliminating duels. He managed to show that there is no real reason to act on this subject.
I am here to speak to Bill C-51, an omnibus bill with four key parts. It amends, adds, or repeals many things. It includes provisions that we support and others that we oppose. Once again, as has been the case since the beginning of this Parliament, when the government wants to change things, it always arranges it so that the opposition cannot support what it does. It purposely includes provisions in its omnibus bills that will not be supported by an opposition party.
There are some good things in this bill and others that are less so. I will have the opportunity to talk a little bit about them. My justice critic colleague moved a motion that would have reached reasonable agreements with the government by splitting the bill. This would have allowed us to discuss certain components separately. We would have been able to show our support for the government’s proposed modernization of legislation, with respect to the parts that we have reasons to support.
As for the provisions concerning sexual assault, the bill clarifies certain aspects of the law pertaining to sexual assault involving consent, the admissibility of evidence and the representation of complainants by counsel. It is a good measure and we will support it. Sincerely, there is no problem in this regard.
The second part of the bill deals with provisions that have been deemed unconstitutional or that are similar to other provisions that were. In this respect, the bill repeals or amends certain Criminal Code provisions. These are administrative measures to ensure that the wording of the Criminal Code reflects current law. Here too there are good and bad aspects.
The third part is about obsolete or needless provisions and repeals several offences that are no longer relevant or required. My colleague did a good job of illustrating the kind of provisions that will be repealed.
The fourth part is about charter statements. I find this part a bit odd. It requires the Minister of Justice to table a charter statement identifying potential effects that each new government bill may have on rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter.
As I understand it, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies, and the courts apply it, so I do not see why this measure is in here, unless it is a way of promoting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is in force and is already doing the job that Parliament drafted and passed it to do.
The Conservative Party will always stand up for victims of crime. We will always support reducing undue delays in our justice system. Bill C-51 contains some very reasonable measures that we can support, such as repealing provisions that courts have found unconstitutional. However, we need to be careful when it comes to repealing provisions similar to those found unconstitutional because the courts have not yet ruled on them, and this could by a sneaky way for the government to advance its own political agenda. That is why we cannot blindly agree to all of the measures in Bill C-51.
We can also support most of the measures in the bill about repealing obsolete and redundant offences. This does make us question the Liberals' priorities, though. What is more important to them: repealing a provision that prohibits sorcery or filling empty seats on benches in superior courts and advisory committees across Canada?
We can amend all the sections of the Criminal Code and make all the improvements we want, but if there are no judges to hear cases, all these amendments will go for naught.
I had the opportunity to read part of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ final report, “An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada”. This report was tabled by the Senate, and my colleague, the hon. Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, provided me with a copy. There are certain aspects I would like to speak to tonight, particularly the delays in judicial appointments.
In its recommendation no. 17, the committee believes that the failure to appoint superior court judges in Canada in a timely manner is contributing to unreasonable delays. It does not see anything to prevent implementing a systematic recruitment process instead of waiting for judges to retire before starting to consider candidates to replace them.
This needs to be considered so that there are no delays, no vacancies in superior courts and no more cases like that of Dannick Lessard. The individual charged with attempted murder for riddling him with bullets saw the charges against him dropped because of the Jordan decision and long court delays. Dannick Lessard felt betrayed and abandoned by the justice system. This is what the government should give priority to. It needs to proceed quickly with appointing the missing judges.
The report includes a quote from the Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association, which describes a sexual assault trial:
It was a sexual assault trial, and the delay was actually the victim's fault. She had a significant heart condition that required her to have open heart surgery twice post-arrest....Ultimately, it was well over four years by the time we got to a trial where she was well enough to testify. She was a very sympathetic person. She didn't have an axe to grind. She wasn't doing anything nefarious or wrong, but we lost it on the 11(b), and it was a strange one because it actually happened to be her “fault” that we lost it....
That is the sort of unacceptable situation that the Minister of Justice should rectify as soon as possible to ensure that it does not happen again.
In this report, there are plenty of other recommendations that I would like to talk about, but, instead, I would invite my colleagues to take a few minutes to read it, because it contains a lot of good recommendations. I hope that we will be able to use its best parts in order to improve access to the justice system, and, above all, to make the system fairer for all victims.
However, I really must mention the Liberals' doublespeak about the freedom to practise one's religion. The Liberals, who were very much in favour of motion No. 103, are, with this bill, going to eliminate the only provision in the Criminal Code that protects religious celebrations and the clergy or ministers who celebrate them.
In a world that is increasingly hostile to religion and where intolerance is becoming increasingly prevalent, I do not understand the signal that the Liberal government wants to send by wanting to abolish these provisions that criminalize the people who attack religious ceremonies of any faith.
As we saw in Quebec City, attacks can happen everywhere. It is absolutely essential to continue to preserve people's right to practise their faith where they want and how they want. We have to demonstrate that it is still fine in our society to practise one's religion and to have faith, and that everyone has the right to go to church without fear of being harassed or attacked.
As I mentioned before, this is an omnibus bill containing a number of provisions that should be amended.
I would have liked members to listen to my colleague the justice critic and to divide the bill into several parts. That would have allowed us to express our opinions clearly on each of the four parts I have just mentioned.