House of Commons Hansard #435 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was change.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question is a good one. The bill as it went to the other place reserved preliminary inquiries or the right to preliminary inquiry for only offences that carry the potential of a life sentence. We heard from senators. We heard from criminal defence lawyers and others that perhaps this was too stringent a criterion, that in fact, in many complex cases, a preliminary inquiry actually helped to make the case run in a more efficient manner perhaps by identifying the kinds of evidence and whether or not certain kinds of evidence would be heard.

The other place recommended a change that would have allowed for a preliminary inquiry to be expanded to all sorts of serious offences, but with a discretionary criterion that would have created extra burdens on the system, particularly in the early years as we were sorting out the criteria. I will not go into the detail again, as I mentioned it in my speech.

We have tried to achieve a middle balance, expanding the number of offences by roughly 100, by saying a preliminary inquiry will be automatically possible where the penalty is 14 years or greater, including the life sentence but expanding the number. We feel this is an appropriate and efficient compromise without the discretion. Again, we will monitor the application of the law on the ground to see how the amendment plays out in practice.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak. This could quite possibly be the last speech I make in the 42nd Parliament. I certainly have a number of things to say about Bill C-75.

Bill C-75 amends criminal law. It is a justice bill. When we look at bills that fall into this area, it is important to remember what we are trying to achieve with bills in the criminal justice system. The first thing we are trying to do is define for Canadians what unacceptable behaviour is. Once we have set that standard, then we are trying to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing that crime. In Canadian federal prisons, we do not do a lot of rehabilitation, so really the main part of the criminal justice system is to assign a penalty that both is commensurate with the crime that was committed and also is a deterrent to keep people from committing that crime, and then to prosecute that charge in court with a fair and due process.

I would like to look at Bill C-75 and compare it to those criteria to see how it measures up.

First, I will talk about defining unacceptable behaviour. I am not sure that the Liberals understand what unacceptable behaviour is. I say that because we are talking about a Prime Minister who is the first prime minister to break a law, which he did when he took a private helicopter to billionaire island. The member for Brampton East was involved in allegations of money laundering. We are currently seeing the member for Steveston—Richmond East in several instances of money laundering, as well as being disbarred. There have been multiple ethical lapses and cases of sexual harassment that caused some members to be out of the caucus, but I would argue there are still some members within the caucus. There is a tolerance for things that, in the minds of Canadians, shows that maybe there is not a good moral compass in the Liberal Party to define what unacceptable behaviour is.

With respect to assigning penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime, one of the most egregious things about the changes in Bill C-75 is that the Liberals have taken a number of crimes that Canadians would consider to be very heinous and reduced them to a summary conviction of two years or a fine. It is important to look at the list of the kinds of crimes we are talking about, so that people can convince themselves whether this is appropriate.

The most heinous crime on the list has to be the forcible confinement of a minor. In the minds of all Canadians, we value our children and we want to protect our children. If somebody kidnapped and forcibly confined a child, I do not think most Canadians would think it is okay to get off with a fine for doing that. That is unacceptable.

Also on the list is forced marriage and forced marriage of children. I am not sure this should be allowed at all in Canada, but I know one thing. If we are talking about forced marriage and marriage for people who are under 16, that is rape. It is clear that it is rape. Therefore, to put that as a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine is unacceptable. We can see in this country that rape is on the increase. One in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. Therefore, it is clear that we do not have the right deterrent to reduce the crime that is happening.

I was the chair of the status of women committee when we studied violence against women and girls in Canada. We had testimony from quite a number of countries, and I was interested to look around and see which countries were doing a better job in the area of rape. There are countries that do not have a big issue with rape. I asked the witnesses why that was, and they said the penalty for the crime was 10 to 15 years in prison, so they have a deterrent for people not to commit that crime. There is also an awareness of the fact that it is illegal. We have a lot of people coming to Canada from places that have a different culture in many cases and have a different tolerance for things like rape. It is important that we educate people who come to this country about those issues. We should be setting punishment for this crime that is commensurate with it, and a fine is not acceptable.

Assault with a weapon is on the list. We sadly saw what happened today at the Raptors parade with people getting shot. This seems to be an event that is on the rise. I think about the Danforth shooting. I think about a number of shootings that have happened. Assault with a weapon should not be less than two years in prison or a fine. That is not acceptable. That is not a deterrent, and I think most Canadians would agree with that.

Originally, there were a number of items on the list that had to do with participating in terrorism activities, or leaving Canada to participate in the activities of terrorist groups. There was some walk-back within Bill C-75 on that issue, but we are still not in the place we need to be on that.

Canadians are concerned about terrorism. A number of events happen but we do not receive any information. I am thinking about the two fellows in Ontario who were caught with explosives and the FBI was investigating. Everyone says there is nothing to see here; all is fine. There is the Danforth shooting, the guy who drove a van and killed multiple people in Toronto. There is the return of ISIS fighters and people not knowing what is happening with them. Are they walking around? How do we know that the public is safe? There is a concern among Canadians that we should take a hard line on terrorism. I am glad to see some walk-back on that, but I want to keep an eye on it.

Another thing on the list is municipal corruption. Corruption in government of any kind is not something that should ever be reduced to a fine. We have seen lots of corruption in the existing Liberal government, lots of scandal. The fact that the Liberals have reduced the severity of the crimes on this list is indicative of the lack of moral compass on the other side.

Maybe “assisting prisoner of war to escape” is not a current issue, but how about “obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman”? This one is particularly egregious to me. I remember when Bill C-51 came from the Liberal government and tried to take what is today considered a crime, to attack or threaten a clergyperson, and remove that altogether. I remember the concern from churches in Sarnia—Lambton and across the country. They wondered why the Liberals wanted to take a protection away from the clergy, especially when cases of that nature had been prosecuted.

As a result of the public outcry and a swing in the polls, the Liberals backed off that, but here it is, showing up again, and this should be a flag to people who are watching tonight. What we see with the Liberals again and again is that they try something and when there is a public outcry, they back off, but as soon as they get another chance to sneak it in, it comes back.

A number of things have been like that. I am thinking of the tax that the Liberals were going to put on dental and health care. They backed off, but I bet it will reappear. It is the same thing with the small business tax on passive assets. As soon as there was an outcry, the Liberals backed off, but this is something to watch for if they get another chance.

Impaired driving causing bodily harm is on the list. This is quite concerning as well. We can think about the amount of work that organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done to raise awareness, to try to get stiffer penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm. We can think of the tragedy of many parents who have lost children or loved ones who have been killed by somebody driving impaired. To reduce this to a conviction of less than two years or a fine is totally unacceptable, especially from a government that legalized marijuana, knowing that Colorado and Washington saw a doubling of traffic deaths due to impaired driving. This is a step in the wrong direction and should be reconsidered.

There is another one in the bill that talks about polygamy, and I am not sure why this one made the list. Polygamy has been illegal in Canada for quite some time and culturally, we would like to preserve that. I am not sure why we would want to lessen the severity of the crime for that.

There is arson for fraudulent purposes. These acts are clearly serious crimes. If I go back to the original premise that says the reason we have a criminal justice system is to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing a crime, I think we could admit that diluting the penalty in the way Bill C-75 does is not going to help us move forward or deter crime in this country.

I want to read quotes of what people have said about Bill C-75. Ms. Markita Kaulius, the president of Families for Justice, said, “Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims and for public safety.” Stephanie DiGiuseppe, a litigation lawyer in Toronto specializing in criminal and constitutional law, said, “Bill C-75 is a massive step backwards for justice reform in Canada.” Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, said, “the signal that [Bill C-75 is] sending is that these offences are no longer as serious as they were before.” It has been recognized across the country that this bill is not going to be good for the criminal justice system and it is not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish.

If I were a criminal in Canada, I would be saying it is a great time to be a criminal with the Liberal government in place because it always protects the rights of criminals instead of the rights of victims. There is a move to decrease punishments. We talk about some of the things that Bill C-75 was hoping to accomplish. One was that the court system is overloaded right now. One way of offloading the courts is to get rid of all the people in line by fining them instead of making them go through the court process. One way to prevent the courts from being clogged up is to hire enough judges to adjudicate the cases.

In the four years the Liberal government has been in place, the court is missing about 60 judges, at last count. That never happened under the previous Conservative government. There was always an adequate number of judges to process the cases in the courts. Therefore, reducing sentences and letting everybody off the hook is not the answer. We do not say that since there are too many people in line, we should allow the murderers and rapists go free, but that is essentially what is happening now because there are cases are waiting too long. According to Jordan's principle, after two years, those cases are thrown out of court. During the reign of the Liberals, murderers and rapists have gone free in Canada. Clearly, understaffing the judiciary is part of the problem and part of the solution is replacing them.

When it comes to enforcing punishments, there has been a bit of a lackadaisical attitude. I remember when we first heard that Terri-Lynne McClintic had been sent to a healing lodge that had no security. She had been convicted of brutally murdering a child and was supposed to be imprisoned with a lot of security until 2030. When we raised the issue, those on the other side did not understand why we were raising it because they thought it was no big deal. It took a public outcry for the government to recognize that this was a big mistake and people who commit serious crimes, like murdering a child, need to be behind bars. The punishment needs to fit the crime. Again, there is lack of a moral compass on the other side.

However, there are lots of protections for people in prison. Mental health supports were announced in the budget for folks in prison. I am not saying that criminals do not deserve mental health supports. I am just saying that since mental health supports are very much lacking for the rest of Canadians, why are we putting prisoners first? There is a program to provide free needles and we are moving to providing free illegal drugs to prisoners. I am not sure why the government is in the business of doling out illegal drugs; we do not provide free syringes and drugs to people with diabetes or everyone who has cancer.

I would certainly argue that when it comes to priorities, the government appears to be putting a priority on criminals, instead of victims and the rest of Canadians. I do not think that is the right priority, and the government should re-evaluate it.

The current Minister of Justice talked about the Senate amendments and the ones that should be included. He talked about the victim surcharge in one of the amendments. The victims surcharge was put in place because victims services were expensive. This was a way of recouping some of the costs, people who had done the harm had to do some remediation of the harm.

I am not sure, then, why the government would remove the requirement to have this victims service charge and to leave it to the discretion of judges. First, they have to remember that they can apply a victims surcharge. Then we leave it to their discretion as to whether they will apply it.

My experience has always been that when it is left to the discretion of judges, we see sentences becoming smaller and smaller over time. It is heartbreaking to me. I think about some of the stories I have heard of rape and been involved with them. In Sarnia—Lambton, for example, there was a case recently, where a 13-year-old girl was gang raped by two men who received prison sentences of months. We absolutely cannot have this kind of thing.

I think of Rehtaeh Parsons who was raped by multiple people. As a result of the ensuing shame that was put on her for over a year and a half, she took her life. It was a wrist slap for the people who were involved in that crime.

We do not have the right balance, and Bill C-75 does nothing to address it.

I want to talk about the previous Conservative government and its record on crime. The Conservatives are known, in general, to uphold criminal justice, to take the rights of the victim, rather than the rights of the criminal, and to try to impose stiff penalties for violent and heinous crimes. People will have a choice in the fall election. They will have a choice to move away from protecting the criminals' rights and move into the space of protecting the victims' rights. That will be important.

One of the interesting parts of the Senate amendments was the Senate trying to add different offences. The Senate decided it would add neglect or interference with a dead body to the list of things we might want to give a fine for or a summary conviction. The Senate wanted to make infanticide, killing a baby, a less than two years sentence or a fine. I do not think that is where Canadians are.

Setting traps, obtaining credit from false pretense, stock manipulation, gaming, fraud, falsification of documents, dealing in counterfeit money, on all of these things, the everyday Canadian would say they are crimes and people should go to prison when they do these things. They should not be given a fine or a summary conviction. I do not think it is right.

The government promised to uphold the rights of Canadians and to protect them. This is another example of where the government has not kept its promise to Canadians. It promised a lot of things. The Liberals promised small deficits. They promised to balance the budget by 2019, and here we are in 2019. They promised open and transparent government, but we have seen gag orders and cover-ups. The privacy legislation, which we just talked about, clearly is not hitting the mark.

We were told 2015 would be the last election under first past the post, another broken promise. We were told there would be no omnibus bills, another broken promise. We were told they would restore home mail delivery. The Liberals have broken 75% of their promises. When people are listening to what Liberals are promising this year, they should keep that in mind, that three-quarters of what is going to be said is never going to happen. We have seen that with the pharmacare promise. The Liberals promised that in 1997, 2004 election and again in the last election.

Then there is the wrong approach to guns. Assault with a weapon has been added to the list in Bill C-75 that will get a slap on the wrist. However, we see an increasing number of crimes involving guns. In fact, 95% of the gun crime in Canada is caused by illegal guns or guns used illegally. The government has not come up with a plan to address that. Our leader has come with a comprehensive plan that will address the real problem, which is guns used illegally by gangs, and bring the right penalties to deter bad behaviour. However, the Liberals are not on that page. They are as always taking the side of the criminals on these things, and we see a further move to decriminalize other behaviours.

I know there is a real push on for the Liberals to decriminalize all drugs. We just did a study at the health committee on the meth problem. We visited across the country. When we went to Winnipeg, we saw the problem with methamphetamine addiction. The response of the Liberals was to decriminalize it and give people free methamphetamine. Police officers are saying that these people are committing a lot of crimes, they are breaking into people's houses and there are all kinds of violent acts going on. Therefore, we have to be doing something that balances the protection of Canadians with the care that we have for folks who are addicted. However, that has not been addressed.

On Bill C-75, I received numerous petitions. I know people across the country are paying attention to this. I received a lot of information from the member for Niagara Falls, who was a former justice minister, as well as the member for Milton, who is very educated in these areas.

I heard the current Minister of Justice talk about indigenous people being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and that is true. We need to get to the root cause of that, but I do not think reducing penalties for serious crime is the way to go about it.

I looked at some of the points that were made on reducing intimate partner violence. It is a great thing to reduce intimate partner violence, but forced marriage is intimate partner violence, especially when it is a child. There is a bit of hypocrisy in the way the bill was brought forward.

I did not hear a lot of conversation from the Minister of Justice on the modernization and simplification of the bail system and I would like to hear more. There is definitely room for improvement, but, again, modernization and simplification cannot mean abdication of responsibility in the criminal justice system.

On allowing a preliminary inquiry, which originally was allowed for serious crimes that carried life imprisonment, and I believe 70 infractions would meet that criteria, the bill would open that up to another 393 that could have access to a preliminary inquiry if one party or the other demanded it. Again, this will take more court resources. If the whole purpose of Bill C-75 is to try to help offload the courts and if the Liberals would let some more serious crimes go with a less than two-year conviction or a fine but then load up the court system again with a bunch of preliminary inquiries for a greater realm of offences, I am not sure that would achieve what they want to achieve.

Overall, when I look back to what we want to do in the criminal justice system, we want to define unacceptable behaviour, and certainly there is a good list, but we also want to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime. The Liberals missed the mark on that with Bill C-75.

We want to prosecute in court with a fair and due process. I do not think Bill C-75 would do that. I do not think it is fair to the victims to have these very serious crimes punished with a slap on the wrist, which is essentially what a fine or a less than two year summary conviction is. I do not think we will increase the cycle time through the courts, because, again, judges are still missing, which is a key part of it. Now the bill would increase the number of preliminary inquiries. Therefore, I do not believe Bill C-75 will hit the target.

The bill should not go forward. I know the government is rushing it through in the dying days of of the 42nd Parliament, but I will not support Bill C-75 and I know my constituents and those across the country will not support the bill or the government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, the notion that due process is somehow an erosion of democracy development is categorically false and it betrays the development that has occurred in the country and every other western democracy in the last 50 years. The notion that it is a great time to be a criminal, a quote from the member's statement, is insulting to all members in the chamber. The notion that when a Supreme Court ruling comes out that a government seeks to respond to is the fault of the government in question is categorically false.

If the member listened to the speech of the Minister of Justice, he talked about the Askov decision, which came out in 1990 when Brian Mulroney was the prime minister. The fault is not of a government in session with respect to any judgment like that is rendered that results in 50 or 100,000 cases being found void and resulting in people being innocent. The fault of the government is not responding to constitutional jurisprudence.

What we are doing in this case is responding to the Jordan decision. The member has some concerns, which she has attempted to articulate. She questioned whether we had a moral compass. I will tell her exactly where the moral compass is on this side of the House. It sits in chilling inequalities. How? In the bill, the inequalities are cured insofar as the LGBT couples are treated the same way as heterosexual couples. The moral compass is in ensuring that there is not an overrepresentation of indigenous or racialized accused. The moral compass is in ensuring the bill reflects an initiative to ensure there is not overrepresentation.

Would the member opposite agree that when we make changes to intimate partner violence and changes to resurrecting a victim's surcharge, are we doing justice to the victims of gender-based violence, about which she spoke, and the victims who deserve compensatory assistance through the criminal justice system?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 10:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was quite a bit to that question.

With respect to it being a great time to be a criminal under the Liberals, I am sure many people have seen on Facebook the comparison that says would it not be great if we put seniors in prison because then they would receive the medical care, the food, the shelter and the attention they need. In some cases, we are treating criminals better than we are treating seniors.

This move to focus on less punishment for the criminals and to ignore the victims rights or to take away the funding for victims services is a disservice.

With respect to equality under the law, I absolutely believe in equality under the law and we need to do what we can, but we need to address the root causes of why we have overrepresentation from some groups in prison.

On intimate partner violence, although I want to see intimate partner violence reduced, we see this increasing. Many people coming into the country are coming from places where intimate partner violence is very common and considered part of everyday life. We need to educate those people so we can prevent this from happening. However, we need to recognize that in Bill C-75 there is a total discrepancy between working on intimate partner violence, but allowing forced marriage, especially forced marriage of children.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I respect my colleague opposite, but when I listen to the statements she has made, I cannot help but think that Rebel Media must be awfully proud of her comments in the House tonight. There is so much misinformation in the statements and allegations she has made against the government and its attempts to reconcile appropriately matters in our justice system that I cannot come to any other conclusion than it is from a misunderstanding of how the criminal justice system in Canada works.

For example, there are already many hybrid offences on the books, including sexual assault. It does not mean people will be getting off for a serious offence with a mere fine or an unreasonably lenient sentence. In fact, most of the offences, if not all of the ones she talked about and listed, already have a fine available as a possible sentence if it is preceded by indictment. It is sheer hogwash for her to talk about making the sentences more lenient.

In the circumstances she describes, those sentences would be unfit for those types of circumstances. Section 718 of the Criminal Code is exactly where we find the principles of sentencing based on the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. Has my colleague actually read section 718 of the Criminal Code? I would like to hear her answer on that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the sentencing, I can only see what comes out in different cases in the news and what we have studied. I will give the member an example from the study we did on violence against women and girls. We found out that 40% of women who present themselves to the police department and claim they have been raped are not taken seriously and no report is written. Of the 60% who had a report written, of 1,000 different complaints, there is a very small percentage, less than 5%, that make it to court. From that, there is a very small percentage that get a conviction, and the prison sentences are measured in months, not years. That is not equity. While the member is probably more experienced in the area of law, and I understand he is returning to that practice, what I see is not justice for the crimes that are being committed in our country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting when we start comparing the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Liberals tend to come in here and say they know best. They will do what they think is best and what people should understand is best. The Conservatives talk to people. We talk to them about what they would like to see in regard to legislation, how criminals are treated and how victims are treated. Could the member inform this House on the difference between how the Conservatives approach this versus the Liberals? The reality is, they are preaching and we are listening.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find that the Liberals are always consulting but never listening, where the Conservatives are consulting and listening to what people are saying. As I posted the information on Bill C-75, I saw huge activity on social media. There were a huge number of petitions and letters and emails from Canadians saying that was not what they wanted. When people have committed serious crimes, they need them to be put in jail and kept there. They want the prison sentence to fit the crime. They do not want murderers and rapists walking away because their case has been before the court for too long. Therefore, I think Canadians recognize there is a problem. This bill does not address the problem. That is the point I was making tonight.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague knows how much I respect her.

To come back to the previous comment, I think the great difference is that the Liberals tend to believe that judges should have the discretion to deal with each and every case as is appropriate to that individual case. From what I hear, the hon. member and the Conservatives are suggesting that the Parliament of Canada should create a uniform rule that would apply to each and every case, which is not possible. Therefore, I would like to ask the hon. member this. Given what my friend from West Nova said, does she concur that the Criminal Code, as set out, suggests to judges, based on the individual facts of each and every case, what the appropriate sentence is, and that judges in Canada are highly trained, intelligent people who render the right sentences?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. He knows, as well, how much I respect the work he has done, especially at the justice committee.

The proof is always in the pudding. I do not think Canadians look at the decisions that judges have made and think that criminals are getting an adequate punishment for the crime. While not every single crime is identical, and I am not opposed to judges having some leeway, it looks to me that the leeway is so big that, in many cases, we are coming to the minimum sentence instead of something that is more standard. Keep in mind that when people receive their sentence and have gone to prison, that sentence is often reduced for good behaviour or a lot of other reasons. They end up getting a much shorter sentence anyway.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise, albeit at this hour, to discuss Bill C-75 and the Senate amendments that have been brought to this place from there.

I agree with the thrust of the Senate amendments on behalf of the New Democratic Party, which supports the thrust of those amendments, but reluctantly have to say that, as amended, we must oppose this bill for the reasons I will describe.

I agree with the Minister of Justice, who spoke earlier, about some of the positive changes in this initiative. The bail reform provisions are exemplary. The intimate partner violence provisions are also very good. I am pleased that the Senate had the opportunity to deal with some of the recommendations by Judge Marion Buller, who, of course, chaired the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. She had the benefit of testifying before the Senate committee and, in turn, it had the ability to reflect her wisdom. That finds its way into the amendments before us tonight.

This improves the bill quite significantly, as I will describe, but there are some very significant issues that remain. I want to commend our colleagues in the other place for the work they have done to improve this flawed bill. We need to thank them for some of the work they had the opportunity to do.

We too, on the NDP side, have done an enormous amount of research and consultation, with people from the criminal defence bar, academics, prosecutors, former deputy attorneys general and others. We have done our homework on Bill C-75. After all, it is a mammoth initiative, the most significant criminal justice reform bill in a very long time. Regrettably, as a result of those consultations, we concluded that we must continue to oppose the bill, for reasons I will describe in a moment.

To be clear, we are in support of the amendments made by the Senate, yet decry the government's inadequate response to those amendments and ultimately have to therefore oppose the final bill as amended.

To begin with, why was Bill C-75 initiated? The Minister of Justice was clear about that in his remarks earlier. He alluded to the Askov case in the Supreme Court of Canada, and then, of course, the Jordan decision. The court said that there has to be a trial within a timely period, and it set down very specific limits for both indictable and summary conviction cases.

The objective was one of efficiency. It was to try to make our courts more efficient to deal with the enormous and, quite frankly, embarrassing backlog we have with our court cases, and to deal with the consequence of the Jordan case. As we know, often people who are guilty of offences walk free because the courts are not able to give them a trial within a reasonable period. That has to be an embarrassment to all Canadians.

Efficiency was the goal of this bill. However, after the consultation I just described, the debate in the House, and the work I was part of on the justice committee, where we heard a great variety of presentations, we concluded it is simply not an adequate response to the Jordan problem.

As I alluded to earlier, there are some good things in this bill, which I will also refer to later. However, sadly some of the deeply problematic things continue in the bill. I want to talk, by way of giving illustrations, of the general concerns that the criminal justice bar has had with this bill. I will start Ms. Sayeh Hassan, who is a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer. By way of summary, she said, “While there are parts of Bill C-75 that have the potential for improving the criminal justice system, many other parts will not only be unhelpful when it comes to reducing delay but will also wipe out numerous rights currently afforded to an accused person.”

The big ugly elephant in the room is the fact that the government chose to completely ignore what so many people have talked about, which is the need to get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing. We had a reasonable hope that it would do so. After all, the Prime Minister told the former minister of justice that it was part of her mandate. Nothing happened.

Sean Fine, of the Globe and Mail, wrote:

As far back as October, 2016, the [former attorney general] told the Criminal Lawyers' Association in a speech that she would change the minimum sentencing laws “in the near future.” Days later, she told The Globe that new legislation would be coming soon, “certainly in the early part of next year.”

It never happened.

Our colleagues in the other place made a similar observation. It is the fourth item on their list of formal observations. I think it is worth repeating what they summarized. Under “Mandatory Minimum Sentences”, it says:

In its Delaying Justice is Denying Justice report, the Committee recommended that the Minister of Justice undertake a thorough review of existing mandatory minimum sentences in order to: ensure a reasonable, evidence-based approach to when they are appropriate; and consider whether persons with mental health issues should be considered for alternative sentencing options or treatment when faced with mandatory minimum sentences.

During its study of Bill C-75, some witnesses expressed significant disappointment that it does not include any reforms to the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. In the Mandate Letter to the Minister of Justice...of 12 November 2015, [the Prime Minister] stated that the Minister...was to “conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade.” In the Minister’s letter to the Chair of the committee, he stated that the Government “is committed to advancing sentencing reform” and that it is “committed to reviewing the mandatory minimum penalties in the Criminal Code with an eye to eliminating many of them and restoring judicial discretion.”

The committee [of the Senate] observes that the Government of Canada has had four years to bring forward amendments to these provisions in the Criminal Code and that, to date, no legislative action has been taken.

I join with my colleagues in the other place in noting that the government's failure to address the often unconstitutional mandatory minimums cannot be understated. It is a serious problem.

This led the Criminal Lawyers' Association to write in its position paper that “Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the Crown’s discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the crowns ability”—

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11:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I can hear a device somewhere making a lot of background noise. I would ask hon. members who have a device, computer or otherwise, with the volume on to switch to headphones or to turn it down.

Sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Victoria. If he could pick up where he left off, that would be great.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was just making the point that the Criminal Lawyers' Association has made, about why mandatory minimum sentences are important. It is because if a criminal lawyer has the possibility, a zero-sum gain, that his or her client will get the minimum sentence that is there with no discretion of the judges to forge a penalty that is appropriate in the circumstances, the lawyer is not going to cut any deals. There will be no plea bargaining. There will be no efficiency. Therefore, the greatest single efficiency gain would have been what the Prime Minister promised us would happen, which is that mandatory minimum sentences, the way the Conservatives did it, would be eliminated. That was the promise that Canadians received over and over again, only to be completely thrown out in this bill.

It is a gigantic reform initiative. To be fair, it is all pertaining to criminal law but is a gigantic effort with this gigantic problem completely ignored. It is not a problem that I alone identify as an obstacle to efficiency gains and to addressing the crisis that Jordan represents, of people walking free from very serious crimes because we cannot get a trial in a reasonable amount of time. For reasons that escape me, the Liberals completely ignored that and did a number of other things, some of which are commendable but do not do what the objective of the bill was to be, which was to address the issue of inefficiency. That is the problem that the Criminal Lawyers' Association pointed out.

The courts have been reduced to simply being, as some people call them, slot machines of justice. They have no discretion at all. If the facts are made out, the penalty is there. It is push a button. Some judges have complained to me privately that they feel like they are simply automatons. That is not what judges historically have done. The Conservatives rendered them in this position that is invidious and, frankly, embarrassing to many judges. What they thought they had the power to do, which was to render an appropriate sentence to fit the crime, was thrown out the window when mandatory minimums were imposed on so many of the sentences in the Criminal Code.

We also have a crisis in Canada with the overrepresentation of indigenous women in particular. To his credit, the Minister of Justice referred to this problem. We all are aware of it. It is another national disgrace. Jonathan Rudin testified to the justice committee. He is a very memorable witness. He is a lawyer with the Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto. He highlighted the government's inaction with regard to abolishing mandatory minimum sentences and its particular effect on indigenous women. Here is what he said:

...we have to look at the fact that there are still mandatory minimum sentences that take away from judges the ability to sentence indigenous women the way [judges] would like [them] to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.

The first thing he urged the committee to recommend was to bring into legislation that judges have sentencing discretion, which the Liberals promised to do and did not.

I suspect the problem is much worse now, but in 2015 the proportion of indigenous adults in custody relative to their percentage of the population was eight times higher for indigenous men and a staggering 12 times higher for indigenous women. Any measure that could address this problem head-on has to be looked at seriously. The government's failure to address what the mandate letter from the Prime Minister told us it would do is a serious missed opportunity.

I would like to turn to preliminary inquiries, which the minister also referred to and was the subject of some of the reform proposals that the Senate brought forward. The Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee passed an amendment to Bill C-75 that would bring back the option for preliminary inquiries for hundreds of criminal offences. Since Bill C-75 was first introduced in the House, the NDP has been advocating that preliminary hearings be retained in criminal proceedings. The Senate is attempting to reverse the government's move to eliminate preliminary inquiries for all offences, except for offences carrying a sentence of life imprisonment.

Senator Pierre Dalphond, a former judge, passed an amendment to bring back the option of preliminary inquiries for most indictable offences, as long as the judge ensures that the impact on complainants is mitigated.

The Liberals argue that this will cost court time, but we heard at the justice committee over and over again testimony that, if we got rid of preliminary inquiries, time saving would actually be marginal and the potential for miscarriage of justice would be great.

While the government has accepted many of the Senate amendments, it is using its motion to continue to severely limit the use of preliminary hearings. We have opposed this measure since Bill C-75 was brought to the House, and our stance, I am confident, remains the correct one.

The Liberals at the House justice committee voted to allow preliminary inquiries only when the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. The other place amended this provision to allow far more judicial discretion, increasing the number of offences that could have a preliminary inquiry from 70 to 463. The minister pointed out that they tried to find some middle ground on this issue.

Overwhelmingly, we heard from witnesses at the justice committee that restricting the use of preliminary inquiries will not address court delays sufficiently and will sacrifice or could sacrifice the rights of the accused. For example, Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said at the committee that preliminary inquiries occupy a very small percentage of court time but “deliver huge savings to the system. Preliminary inquiries deliver these efficiencies in a number of different ways.” They focus issues for trial, reducing trial length; they identify evidentiary or legal problems in a case at an early stage so the parties can ensure that these problems don't arise during the trial; and they can facilitate the resolution of charges.

He was not alone. Time does not allow me to list all the people who agreed with Mr. Spratt, but they include the Canadian Bar Association; the Criminal Lawyers' Association; the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association, the prosecution side; various defence lawyers, such as Sarah Leamon, a criminal lawyer; Professor Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary, and on and on, yet the government did not want to go there. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why.

There is also a huge possibility that with taking preliminary inquiries away, there could be a risk that people will be wrongfully convicted. That is what Bill Trudell, the chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, said. The government says we do not need them because we now have what are called Stinchcombe disclosure provisions, Stinchcombe being a famous case requiring the Crown to provide all the evidence available to the defence witnesses. The government says that, as a result, we do not need preliminary inquiries. That certainly is not what these people have said, and on a risk-benefit analysis they think it is just not right. The possibility of a wrongful conviction seems to be something we should all be worried about.

I know that time is running out quickly, but I said I would comment on some of the positive things in the bill, and I would like to do so.

First, there is the elimination of what are called “zombie” provisions of the Criminal Code, which criminalize things that are no longer illegal. These provisions have been found to be unconstitutional and have no place in the Criminal Code.

The bill would restore the discretion of judges to impose fewer victim fine surcharges or not impose them at all. I commend the government for that step as well.

I said in my question for the Minister of Justice earlier that I commend the government for broadening the definition of intimate partner violence. That is a good step. Creating an alternative process for dealing with breaches of bail is another good step. Codifying the so-called ladder principle, which requires that the least onerous form of release be imposed, is a good thing as well.

I agree with the government, and I confess not everybody does, that abolishing peremptory challenges is a positive step. Also, the routine police evidence provision has been amended for the good.

For the LGBTQ2+ community, the vagrancy and bawdy house provisions that were often used in the past to criminalize gay men have been rightly repealed. I am proud of the role that I played at the justice committee in moving those amendments, and I commend the government for finally repealing these discriminatory provisions.

I wish to be on record as saying that there is much in this bill that is commendable. It is the fact of the missed opportunity that is so disturbing.

I still have concerns about the many hybrid offences created in Bill C-75, because contrary to what the hon. Conservative member for Sarnia—Lambton said earlier, all this does is to push them down to the already overburdened criminal courts at the provincial level. The more hybrid offences, which proceed by way of summary rather than indictment, go to the provincial courts, where 95% of all criminal matters already take place. I have talked to people in my province of British Columbia who are very concerned about the impact of this on the administration of justice in that province. Jordan is perhaps not as much of a problem in the superior courts, but is a bigger problem in the provincial courts. Surely, that was not the intent.

I know that I have little time left, but I want to complete the point I made earlier about Madam Justice Marion Buller, the chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She had the opportunity to go to the Senate committee with her report. A number of suggestions were made for reform in the other place and are now in the amendments before this House. I am very happy that that has happened. However, there are still serious problems with some of the legacies of residential schools and the sixties scoop that still need to be addressed.

I believe my time is almost at an end, so let me just say this. I wish we could support this bill. There is much in it that is worthwhile, but the failure to do what the Prime Minister told us they would do, deal with the mandatory minimums, and the inability to address the preliminary inquiries in a more manageable way, are the reasons we must respectfully oppose this bill.

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11:25 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying to the member for Victoria how refreshing it is to have him contribute to this evening's debate, especially hot on the heels of the contribution from the Conservative member who preceded him. His erudite analysis is a welcome contribution, and I will freely admit to him that we miss those kinds of interventions at the justice committee. I will just leave it at that.

I would agree wholeheartedly with the statement he has made about judges needing to use their discretion and, importantly, their own life experience in terms of informing their judicial decision-making function. That is why we have not only appointed over 200 judges, but sought to appoint a diverse group of judges.

I am glad that the member mentioned, at the tail end of his speech, the issue about the overrepresentation and some of the features of this bill that he agrees with. The things that he mentioned are changing the principles of restraint on bail, changing the way we select jurors, but also the administration of justice offences, which are important, because we are trying to reduce the over-criminalization of particular groups, including indigenous people.

The question I would ask him is in respect to indigenous women. In terms of his experience as a parliamentarian, which is longer than mine, is it encouraging for him to see, in such rapid succession, the tabling of the report on MMIW and, hot on the heels of those calls to justice, the head of that inquiry appearing before the Senate, incorporating calls to justice that then found their way into Senate amendments that we are agreeing to, and also the fact that 13 of the 14 amendments are being agreed to? Is that the path forward to not only reconciliation, but addressing the important issue of gender-based violence, particularly against women who are indigenous?

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11:25 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his thoughtful question.

I agree with him that we have to find a better way to get more discretion to judges. Again, that was the thrust of my comments about mandatory minimums. It is sad that we do not have the opportunity for judges to look at aboriginal offenders as people rather than simply checking a box, saying that this is the penalty for that offence and that is the end of the story.

However, I do agree with the parliamentary secretary that it is refreshing and positive that Judge Buller was able to talk to the Senate. We did not have that opportunity at the justice committee. To have the Senate instantly put into this bill some of the insights that the commissioner generated, I think is very positive. Whether they will go as far as we would like in dealing with the outrageous overrepresentation of indigenous women in our prisons, I do not think so, but it certainly is a positive step.

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11:25 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his input and for analyzing the bill that is under debate right now into the late evening, and pretty soon to be early morning.

Elder abuse is on the rise. Seniors are being physically, mentally and sexually abused. Could the member comment on how this bill could help to deter those criminals, as well as how it could protect our vulnerable seniors?

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11:30 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the member for Richmond Centre's advocacy on behalf of seniors and the elder abuse issue. I am very familiar with it in my riding of Victoria, as members might imagine.

The possibilities of fitting the punishment to the crime have to be taken seriously. It was the Conservatives, sadly, who visited upon Canadians the mandatory minimums, which took away the discretion courts would have to do just that. However, the possibilities in this bill, through better administration of justice reforms, better bail provisions and, interestingly, contrary to the Conservatives' analysis, allowing more hybrid offences to go to the provincial court on summary conviction would encourage more prosecutors to go forward with cases. They might have been hesitant in the past to do that because they were serious indictable assaults and the like and now perhaps they would be more willing to do so when they are preceded by a summary conviction. That can be a positive step in the right direction as well.

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11:30 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Victoria for bringing us back to the original intention of the bill, which was to address the consequences of the Jordan decision and, particularly, the very serious problem of people committing serious crimes getting off scot-free because they are not getting to trial in a timely manner. My colleague did a good job of elucidating how the mandatory minimum sentence regime contributed to those delays, the problems they represent and the fact that it is not represented in the bill.

Near the end of his remarks, my colleague also made mention of how it is the case that the hybridization of certain offences may well end up meaning that we download the delays that currently are in Federal Court to provincial courts. It seems to me that is an important aspect to consider. Some people will recall a different kind of problem in the 1990s, when the federal government balanced its budget by offloading the financial issues on the provision of health services to provinces. I am concerned about the possibility of a similar problem, where the federal government is seeking to claim a victory on an important issue by passing the problem down to provinces, seeing those same problems recur, but in a different place, and the federal government saying it is not its responsibility and it did its job, even though it was really just a downloading.

The member did not have time in his remarks to elaborate on that and I am wondering if he could do that now.

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11:30 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the government speaks to this, it claims it has had conversations at federal, provincial and territorial meetings with their counterparts in the provinces and territories. The people I talked to were very worried about the downloading. The claim is that is not an issue, but I cannot see why it would not be when so many of these offences are being hybridized and then, of course, will be dealt with in provincial courts.

The problem is that not only are 95% of criminal cases in provincial courts, but the people are often unrepresented, whom the courts bend over backward to help. They have mental health issues frequently and are involved in the drug world and that is what clogs the courts. We are not doing much about that and there is a crisis in legal aid. Everyone knows we do not fund legal aid enough, the federal or provincial governments, so there are unrepresented litigants who are themselves taking a great deal of time.

Thankfully, there are some reforms in places like British Columbia drug courts and the like that deal with these things in a much more focused way, which hopefully will make a difference, but the problem of downloading has to be taken seriously. I just hope at the next federal-provincial-territorial meetings we can address this issue more specifically.

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11:30 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank my friend from Victoria for his contributions to the justice committee and all of the work he does in the House. He ably advances arguments that make a lot of sense.

I want to put to him the issue of downloading to the provinces that he mentioned and was just asked a question on that a moment ago. He is right, there has been considerable discussion between the provinces and territories on this issue of hybridizing. In fact, the provinces and territories wanted this hybridization to come into effect. They have certainly had many conversations with the Minister of Justice and other stakeholders who consulted on this.

When we talk about downloading to the provincial courts and the fact that the vast majority of cases proceed through provincial courts, the reforms made in this bill with respect to the administration of justice offences, bail reform and other measures would help alleviate some of the clogging of the provincial courts so that we can deal with the matters on a more expeditious basis.

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11:35 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend for West Nova, who has been an excellent member of the justice committee and with whom I have enjoyed working a great deal.

I have been told more than once that hybridization was sought by the provinces. That might be the old adage of be careful what you wish for, because while I completely agree that the reforms to administration of justice matters and bail will help a great deal, I think we need to do root and branch work if we are ever going to address the burden the Jordan case will impose on provincial governments. I mentioned, for example, drug courts. I mentioned some of the more positive reforms that are taking place in some jurisdictions, British Columbia and Quebec among them. However, unless we do that, it is just impossible for me to understand, when we add all the additional offences that will be dealt with at the provincial court level, how this additional burden will not clog the system.

I would be interested to know what the provincial ministers with whom the member has been speaking have to say, because those with whom I have spoken are very concerned.

Bill C-75—Notice of time allocation motionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings of the bill.

Bill C-48—Notice of time allocation motionOil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings of the bill.

Notice of Closure MotionOil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that with respect to consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast, at the next sitting of the House a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that the debate be not further adjourned.

Notice of Closure MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that, with respect to the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts, at the next sitting of the House a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that the debate be not further adjourned.

If there is a desire to find a better way forward, I look forward to those opportunities, but until then, it is with regret that I provide this notice.