More than a year, Madam Speaker. It was not until December 2017 that Justice Grant Dunlop, my former colleague by the way, was appointed as a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench. He is a very good appointment, but, unfortunately, it is only one. Now that we are in May 2018, the government still has not filled most of those new judicial spots.
Thus, while the minister talks about taking action, her record demonstrates otherwise. This is not just an academic or abstract issue. There are real and serious consequences to the minister's inaction. We have seen hundreds of cases thrown out of court due to delay, and thousands more are at risk. Some of these cases involve the most serious of charges, including murder and sexual assault. We are talking about cases that are stayed or thrown out. The accused person, even when there is overwhelming evidence that he or she did the crime, are free to walk our streets.
In his speech, the hon. member for Victoria alluded to Nick Chan, whose case was was recently thrown out in Calgary. Who is Nick Chan? He is someone who was facing first degree murder charges. He is someone who was charged with directing a criminal organization. Nick Chan is the head of the so-called “Fresh off the Boat” gang, a gang that is linked to more than a dozen murders. Some have called Nick Chan one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, men in Calgary. Today, Nick Chan is a free man.
The minister does bear some responsibility for that outcome by her failure to get judges appointed in Alberta and across Canada. Nick Chan is not the first dangerous criminal who is now a free man or woman. Unfortunately, because of the government's inaction he will not be the last.
After two years of doing nothing, the government has now come forward with Bill C-75. This is really a ramshackle piece of legislation. One of the things the government has touted as doing a lot to reduce delay is the limiting of preliminary inquiries. Indeed, the Supreme Court in the Jordan decision said that in light of the Stinchcombe decision, which is more than a quarter of a century old, that perhaps it is time for Parliament to reconsider the utility of preliminary inquiries. Since the Stinchcombe decision, defence counsel have a constitutional right to full disclosure, and preliminary inquiries are a form of disclosure.
However, at the same time, to the degree that it makes sense to limit preliminary inquiries, and to the degree that that will speed things up, it is important, I think, to know what the hon. member for Victoria stated in his speech, which was that preliminary inquiries account for a very small number of cases.
The Canadian Bar Association has indicated that the proportion of cases that involve preliminary inquiries is less than 5% of cases, and takes no more than 2% of court time.
Perhaps this is a good measure, one measure in this massive bill that is a positive. However, with respect to the larger scheme of dealing with the backlog and the delay, at best, it is a very small step in the right direction.
Then there are aspects of the bill that instead of actually reducing the delays and backlog, they will likely contribute to the backlog. Again, I did not agree with everything the hon. member for Victoria said, but I thought he raised a good point about routine police evidence in the bill, which more than likely will result in defence counsel having to bring forward an application, which will cause delay, an application that in all likelihood will be granted.
With respect to the issue of routine police evidence, it seems that it provides a solution in search of a problem that does not exist, and in so doing has created another problem, a problem that will contribute to delay.
Then there is the hybridization of offences. This the part of the legislation that I, and I think most of my colleagues on the Conservative side, have the biggest issue with, and that is the watering down of sentences.
Before I address how Bill C-75 waters down sentences for some very serious crimes, I want to comment on what this impact would be from the standpoint of the Jordan decision. After all, that is why we are debating Bill C-75.
The hybridization of offences means that indictable offences that are currently prosecuted in Superior Courts now will be prosecutable in provincial courts by way of summary conviction. The timeline that the Supreme Court provides in Jordan is 30 months in which a case must be concluded, successfully prosecuted or a determination made about the guilt or innocence of the accused person, before a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable, upon which it is at risk of being thrown out of court. By contrast, there is only an 18-month timeline in provincial court. It is reducing the time by almost half before the case is at risk of being thrown out.
How does that help address Jordan? It does not. It is a matter of simply downloading cases onto the provinces. It is similar to what the government did with the marijuana legislation. It said that it would throw legislation together, take some political credit, but when it would come to sorting out all the issues, when it would come to the costs related to implementation and enforcement, the provinces could deal with it. The government washed its hands clean.
That is what the government is doing with respect to the hybridization, the watering down of sentences for serious indictable sentences. It is downloading them onto the provinces, onto provincial courts, which already have and deal with the bulk of criminal cases that go before courts across Canada.
It will not solve Jordan, but what will it actually do? Under the guise of creating efficiencies in our justice system, the government is watering down sentences for serious crimes. By introducing this just before Easter, it hoped Canadians would not notice.
What sorts of offences are being watered down? We are talking about participating in a terrorist organization, impaired driving causing bodily harm, kidnapping a minor, forced marriage, polygamy, or arson for fraudulent purposes. Do those not sound like serious offences? The minister said that she was doing this so the serious cases could go to superior courts. I have news for the minister. Kidnappers, terrorists, child abductors, arsonists, and impaired drivers are serious criminals who deserve serious time for serious crime, which the government is taking away, or opening the door to not happening. Instead, it is opening the door to these serious criminals getting away with a fine instead of up to 10 years in prison, which is currently provided for in the Criminal Code for those offences.
The government talks about the discretion of judges. It makes a big deal about the discretion of judges. Under Bill C-75, the government would be taking away the discretion of a judge, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to lift the publication ban of a young offender to protect public safety, when the judge determines there is evidence that young offender will commit another serious offence.
The government is always talking about judicial discretion when it helps criminals, but when it comes to protecting the public, the government does not want them to have that discretion. It speaks to a government which time and again works hard to reward criminals, makes life more difficult for victims, and has no regard for the public safety of Canadians. This is evidenced by taking away the discretion from judges, failing to appoint judges, and watering down sentences for kidnappers, arsonists, terrorists, among other offenders.
In short, Bill C-75 would make it easier for criminals and would download cases onto the provinces. It contains measures that would increase the delay in our justice system instead of decreasing it, resulting in more criminal cases potentially being thrown out of court as a result of Jordan. In so doing, it undermines public confidence in the administration of justice. It is an absolutely terrible bill that needs to be defeated.
With that, I move:
That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “and (e) potentially reducing penalties for very serious crimes by proposing to make them hybrid offences, including the abduction of a child under 14, material benefit from trafficking, breach of prison, participation in activity of a terrorist group or criminal organization, advocating genocide, amongst many others.”