Madam Speaker, it is my honour to address the House today in discussion of Bill C-75. As members are aware, Bill C-75 represents our government's commitment to ensure that the criminal justice system continues to serve Canadian citizens in the most efficient, effective, fair and accessible manner possible.
Through Bill C-75, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward and modernize the criminal justice system and address court delays. Due to the failures of the previous government, court delays have persisted within the criminal justice system. Court delays are not a new problem.
However, our government recognizes we can and must do better. Since 2015, we have heard from countless stakeholders, community members, lawyers and other individuals regarding the need to reform the criminal justice system.
In fact, the Supreme Court's rulings in the Jordan and Cody cases further support this rationale. As such, through collaborative efforts identified by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, Bill C-75 seeks to remedy these significant gaps and inefficiencies.
Among other reforms, Bill C-75 proposes to limit the use of preliminary inquiries for offences carrying maximum penalties, modernize bail practices and procedures in order to improve access to justice, better protect victims of intimate partner violence, provide judges with greater discretionary tools to manage cases and efficiently bring criminal matters to resolution, hybridize offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, and increase the maximum penalty for all summary offences to two years less a day.
Today, I will be focusing on the hybridization aspect of Bill C-75. Bill C-75 introduces legislation that provides Crown prosecutors the discretion to elect the most efficient mode of prosecution, evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This system of reclassification would reduce court time consumed by less serious offences while allowing limited resources to be redirected to more serious offences. Moreover, this legislation prevents indictable cases from being dismissed or stayed due to the system's inability to try the accused within a reasonable time frame.
Bill C-75 amends over 115 offences punishable by either an indictable offence or summary conviction. Since the proposal hybridizes all straight indictable offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years or less, criminal offences relating to terrorism and genocide are subsequently captured. These are clauses referring to section 83.02 of the Criminal Code, providing or collecting property for certain activities; section 83.03, providing, making available, etc., property or services for terrorist purposes; section 83.04, using or possessing property for terrorist purposes; section 83.18, participation in activity of terrorist group; section 83.181, leaving Canada to participate in activity of terrorist group; subsection 83.221(1), advocating or promoting commission of terrorism offences; subsections 83.23(1) and 83.23(2), concealing person who carried out terrorist activity and concealing person who is likely to carry out terrorist activity, and finally subsection 318(1), which relates to advocating genocide.
Canada is a leader among nations in the fight for universal human rights and the international rule of law. We were one of the first countries to sign the Rome Statute and the first country to ratify its membership within the International Criminal Court. Moreover, on a number of occasions, Canada has publicly denounced the actions of other governments due to their harsh treatment of their citizens, and urged their cases to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation, such as in the cases of Myanmar and Venezuela. Canadians are proud to live in a country that is diverse, with a global reputation as a defender of human rights.
Given the very few times that genocide and terrorism-related charges have been invoked in Canadian courts, the extremely serious nature of the issues, as well as Canada's moral obligation to continue to serve as an international promoter of justice, I am proud to inform the House that all eight clauses referred to above relating to genocide and terrorism-related offences were removed from the hybridization list. Specifically, all genocide and terrorism-related offences will continue to remain as straight indictable offences with a maximum penalty of 10 years less a day.
In its witness testimony, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed its strong support for such amendments. It stated:
...terrorism [is] a heinous and potentially catastrophic phenomenon. Today, terrorist groups around the world, some of which actively seek to inspire recruits in Canada, are often motivated by ideologies infused with antisemitism. Far too many Jewish communities around the world – from Argentina to Denmark, and from France to Israel – have suffered from deadly terror attacks.
Additionally, B'nai Brith Canada expressed its concerns regarding the hybridization of offences relating to genocide and terrorism, stating:
It is inappropriate to allow these offences to be prosecuted in a summary fashion. To be treated with the seriousness which they deserve, they should continue to be prosecutable by way of indictment only.
Following the proposed amendments to remove all eight genocide and terrorism-related clauses from Bill C-75, our government will continue to send a clear, symbolic and moral message rebuking the offensive crimes mentioned above. However, I would like to strictly emphasize that the reclassification of offences does not affect basic sentencing principles exercised by courts. Depending on the severity of the case, Crown prosecutors will be required to consider a multitude of factors and ultimately decide to prosecute either as an indictable offence or summary conviction.
Before I conclude, as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest thanks to all the witnesses for submitting their testimony and appearing before the committee to present their expert opinions regarding Bill C-75. I can assure everyone that all recommendations and appeals put forward were carefully considered and taken into account.
Although there is no simple solution to resolve the issues of court delays, our government is taking action to introduce a cultural shift within the criminal justice system to address its root causes. We are taking important steps forward to act on what we have heard. Moreover, we are taking full advantage of this opportunity to create a criminal justice system that is compassionate and timely, a system that reflects the needs and expectations of all Canadian citizens.