Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-417, an act to amend section 649 of the Criminal Code. I want to thank my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, for his work on the bill. I want to thank all of my colleagues in the House, from all sides, who have worked tirelessly on this.
I also want to thank someone who has become a good friend of mine. He has been very passionate about this. I first met him in the fall of 2016 after tabling my bill, Bill C-211, with respect to a national framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, and that is Mark Farrant.
Mark Farrant has been a tireless advocate. As I said earlier on, when he first brought this issue to me, I was talking with reporters regarding my bill and those who were included in it. I was ashamed at the time that I did not include jurors.
We trust that when people sign up to do their civic duty, they do their duty and not a lot is said afterwards. Why? It is because they are sworn to secrecy. They are not allowed to talk about the horrific images, videos and testimony they hear.
I also want to say thank you to the 12 angry jurors who wrote letters to the Minister of Justice, early on, which were tabled in April 2017, I believe.
They wrote such things as, “In 1995, I was selected as juror number one for the murder trial of Paul Bernardo. Lasting four months, the jury watched videos of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French being raped and tortured for weeks on end. Each day I would go home in a daze, barely able to comprehend the things I saw. Burned in my memory, even at night the videos would replay in my head and I couldn't make it stop.” That person would not be able to share that with anyone else.
Here is another one: “There's not a day that passes that the thoughts don't come back, the details, the autopsy pictures of bullet holes in human heads, forensic photos, the pools of blood.” That juror was on the jury for the Pan murder trial.
Another juror wrote, “It is a different world being part of a murder trial. It takes you to places you can't even imagine and don't want to go. It isn't how I live. To live life through the eyes of a murderer can be very difficult to witness. This is why counselling is necessary for jurors.”
Finally, another juror wrote, “The trial itself was two and a half months in length, and the visuals of the kidnapping and gruesome account of what took place from beginning to end of her horrifying demise have not impacted only myself but also had an impact on my family. I will never be a juror again, nor will my friends or my family, as they watched in pain at what I was and still am going through. I am not the only juror on the trial that sat through this and is suffering from PTSD. There are three that I know of. It is an abomination that doing our civic duty would lead to our lives being changed forever and creating a living hell for our family. Why are the courts not taking care of us when we are trying to take care of society by doing our civic duty?”
That is a great question.
I have deviated from my speech because these letters are the catalyst for why we are here today. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark Farrant and the 11 other jurors who had the courage to come forward. They had the courage to put their faith in all of us in this chamber, believing that we would take this seriously. For that, again, I want to offer a huge thank you to my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for putting forth this bill, which amends section 649 of the Criminal Code.
PTSD is the mental health injury that people encounter when they see or experience traumatic events. It could come from images. It could come from videos. It could come from a car accident. It could come from any terrible accident. We are only now just beginning to understand what post-traumatic stress disorder means.
We used to think when we saw some of our soldiers come back from war or some of our first responders sit in a corner and be dissociative that they were shell-shocked, that they were different. Now we know that it is post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health injury. We also know now that PTSD can impact those who are subject to rape or sexual abuse.
These people are just doing their civic duty, but over the course of two weeks or two months—or 10 months, as we are hearing—images are burned into their minds. Then, at the end of the trial, we turn them loose to walk out the front doors of the courthouse, never to speak of it again, and until this bill comes forward, they are not even allowed to share it with their doctors.
Mark Farrant shared that there were many physicians who were not even willing to listen to him for fear of a patient-doctor violation. He was having these issues and was not able to share exactly what was going through his mind.
We know through the course of this study that our jurors face not just mental health injury or mental illness because of the experience they go through, but also the financial crisis that has been put in place. One juror wrote that it had impacted her family so acutely that even her own son had attempted suicide, all because of the mental health injury that she faced during the course of her civic duty.
Obviously, members have heard the speeches down the way, and I think that this bill is timely. I am very proud of all of us and the work that we do here. I am proud that on June 21 of last year we managed to pass my bill, Bill C-211, which received royal assent and has now become law. We are now the first country in the world to have adopted national legislation to tackle post-traumatic stress disorder. It is my hope that the House could see its way forward to pass my other bill, Bill C-425, which would recognize June 27 as national PTSD awareness day. It would bring us in line with what our counterparts in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. are doing.
However, the bill before us today, Bill C-417, is much needed and long overdue. It might be too late for those who have already served, but at the very least, as we move forward, we can be sure that if people sign up for civic duty and become jurors on a case, they will have the support they need and require once the court case is done.
This bill is overdue, and I applaud all of us in the House and the health committee for its work on it. As it was so aptly put by our friend for Calgary Confederation, when our colleague for St. Albert—Edmonton brings something forward like this, he has encyclopedic knowledge of our law system and court system.
I also want to make note of a great point that was brought forward. If we can pay for care for the mental injuries and mental health issues that our inmates have, then for sure, 100%, we should look forward to paying for and helping those who do their civic duty.
With that I humbly offer to my colleagues that I wholeheartedly support the bill. It is long overdue and I want to thank those who have brought this issue to the forefront, including Mark Farrant and the 12 angry jurors who brought these letters and showed the courage to speak out.