That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation 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, the House:
agrees with amendments 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12(b), 13 and 14 made by the Senate;
proposes that amendment 3 be amended to read as follows:
“3. Clause 239, pages 90 and 91:
(a) on page 90, replace lines 2 and 3 with the following:
“dictable offence that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, other than an offence listed in section 469, the justice”;
(b) on page 90, replace lines 18 and 19 with the following:
able by 14 years or more of imprisonment, an offence listed in section 469 that is not punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment or an”;
(c) on page 90, replace line 44 with the following:
“section 469 that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment,”;
(d) on page 91, replace lines 20 and 21 with the following:
“offence listed in section 469 that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, the justice shall endorse on the informa-”;
proposes that amendment 4 be amended to read as follows:
“4. Clause 240, pages 92 and 93:
(a) on page 92, replace line 11 with the following:
“14 years or more of imprisonment, other than an offence mentioned”;
(b) on page 92, replace lines 25 to 27 with the following:
“offence that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, an offence listed in section 469 that is not punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment or an offence mentioned in section”;
(c) on page 92, replace line 41 with the following:
“section 469 that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment,”;
(d) on page 93, replace line 20 with the following:
“is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment, the justice or”;
proposes that, as a consequence of Senate amendments 3 and 4, the following amendment be added:
1. Clause 238, page 89: replace line 33 with the following
“fence that is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment is be-”;
proposes that amendment 6 be amended by replacing the words “an intimate partner – and, in particular, a partner” with the words “a person” and by replacing the words “on the basis of sex or is an Aboriginal person” with the words “because of personal circumstances – including because the person is Aboriginal and female”;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 10 made by the Senate because the Bill already provides flexibility to the provinces and territories with respect to agent representation while also recognizing regional diversity in respect of how legal representation is regulated across Canada, and because the amendment could have unintended repercussions for the provinces and territories; and, the Government continues to work with the provinces and territories to support the effective implementation of these reforms.
proposes that amendment 12(a) in the English version be amended by replacing the words “apply in Bill C-45” with the words “apply if Bill C-45”.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here today to speak to the amendments made by the other chamber 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.
After being examined and given thoughtful deliberation in the Senate, the bill has returned to the House of Commons so that we can review the 14 amendments that have been made.
I would first like to thank all members and senators, particularly the members of the committees of both chambers, for their work to reduce the delays in the criminal justice system.
In particular, I would like to thank the chair of the justice committee, as well as the member for West Nova, both of whom gave me critical advice at appropriate moments.
I would also like to thank all of the witnesses who took the time to submit briefs and to appear before the committee, since they expressed very useful views about their experience with the criminal justice system, whether from the perspective of a professional, an accused, a victim or a family member.
Many of these witnesses echoed the concerns expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2016 Jordan decision.
We all know that delays in the criminal justice system are destructive, and particularly so to some of the most vulnerable members of our society: victims of crime and their loved ones. Delays also impact accused from groups that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Of course, the cost of inefficiencies is also borne by taxpayers.
I learned this lesson very early when I was fortunate enough to be a clerk to Justice Peter Cory of the Supreme Court of Canada. At that time, the Askov decision was heard, which was the predecessor to Jordan.
Bill C-75 presents an important opportunity to take concrete action to reduce these delays and respond directly to my mandate. It is the product of significant consultation over many years, and it would modernize the criminal justice system in ways that provinces and territories, which are responsible for the administration of the system, have agreed would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this system.
All of the proposed amendments have been crafted with a view to the impact they would have on the incarceration rates of indigenous persons and persons who are vulnerable to being overrepresented in the criminal justice system in Canada. Bill C-75 seeks equally to improve the safety of our communities by implementing our government's commitments to toughen criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of intimate partner violence, or IPV, with the goal of keeping women and children safe.
As members will no doubt recall from when the bill passed through this place the first time, it is bold and transformative and contains many much-needed improvements to the criminal justice system. Today I will provide a general overview of the key areas of criminal law reform contained in Bill C-75, as well as some details on the amendments proposed by the other place.
First, I want to talk about the modernization and simplification of the bail provisions.
All stakeholders support the bill's proposal to modernize and simplify the interim release provisions. Everyone agrees that these reforms need to be made right away. This critical modernization of the interim release provisions will be the most comprehensive reform in 45 years. It will strengthen the key principles of interim release, which the Supreme Court of Canada has outlined many times, particularly just recently in 2017 in R. v. Antic.
Moreover, these changes are needed to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people and individuals from vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system. I look forward to the addition to the Criminal Code of the proposed requirement that particular attention be given to the circumstances of aboriginal accused in interim release decisions.
The other place proposed a slight change to the interim release provisions in the bill in response to the March 2019 Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Myers. The Court stated that the detention review under section 525 of the Criminal Code must be an automatic procedure whether the delay was unreasonable or not. This ruling raised some concerns in Quebec over the court of competent jurisdiction to hear these cases, given the unique way the term “judge” is defined for Quebec for the purposes of these interim release hearings.
Amendment 2 would uphold the current definition of this term for Quebec, but will add that only a judge from the Court of Québec may conduct a detention review, except in the case of a decision on the detention issued by the Superior Court of Quebec.
I urge all hon. members to support amendment 2 from the other place since it gives Quebec greater discretion to guarantee more effective use of judicial resources.
The bill amendments are also instrumental in increasing the safety of all women and girls, including indigenous women and girls. Specifically, they would require a justice to consider whether an accused would be charged with an offence involving IPV against an intimate partner when determining whether to release or detain the accused.
The amendments would also require courts to consider the criminal record of the accused, including prior convictions and the context of the offence. In cases where an accused who had a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner is facing new charges for IPV, a reverse onus would be imposed on the accused at bail, meaning that the burden would shift to the accused to justify why the accused should not be detained pending trial.
Bill C-75 proposes other amendments in relation to ensuring that convictions for violence against intimate partners are taken seriously at the sentencing stage.
As passed by this place, Bill C-75 would modernize the current aggravating sentencing factor in the Criminal Code to ensure it would concur with our current understanding of IPV and would specify that it would apply to both current and former intimate partners, as well as the more modern conception of intimate partnerships, including dating partnerships. It would also allow for the possibility of seeking a higher maximum penalty in cases involving a repeat IPV offender.
Informed by the testimony of the commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the other place's amendments 6 and 7 would strengthen these amendments to ensure that violence against indigenous women and girls would be treated all the more seriously at sentencing. The other place's amendment 6 would create a new sentencing objective in the Criminal Code that would direct a court to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence for an IPV offence, in particular where the victim is vulnerable on the basis of sex or is an indigenous person.
The other place's amendment 7 would expand Bill C-75's aggravating factor to include IPV committed against a member of the offender's or the victim's family and would create a new sentencing principle that would require a court imposing a sentence for an IPV offence to consider the increased vulnerability of female victims, giving particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal female victims.
I support these amendments, with a minor modification to the other place's amendment 6 to remove the concept of IPV and replace the reference to a person's sex with reference to personal circumstances and to specifically refer to aboriginal women. This would assist in ensuring judges take into account the increased vulnerability of indigenous women as victims for all offences.
It is also timely in that it would address some of the recommendations in the recently released missing and murdered indigenous women and girls report, recommendations 5.17 and 5.18. Moreover, these amendments would address some of the concerns noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its recent Barton decision, where the court noted that indigenous women faced injustices in all areas of the criminal justice system as well as extremely high rates of violence.
I acknowledge that some may question these two amendments, given that the House did not support Bill S-215 at second reading. Bill S-215's proposed aggravating factors would have applied to only a few offences. This other place's amendment also differs from Bill S-215 in that it would apply to a broader group of victims. It would directly call on the court to consider the vulnerability of female victims, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal female victims. In contrast, Bill S-215 was limited to the fact that the victim was a female person who was Indian, Inuit or Métis.
The second element is enhancing the existing approach to administration of justice offences, including for offences committed by youth. The judicial referral hearing procedure proposed in Bill C-75 is another positive reform aimed at diverting less serious, non-violent cases from the courts so that they may be dealt with more efficiently. This approach will also help reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people and other marginalized groups in the criminal justice system, who are overrepresented among those accused of administration of justice offences.
This area of reform was recommended in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs' final report entitled “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada”, given the significant number of cases involving administration of justice offences in the system and the pressure they cause. It is harder for the accused to break the cycle of crime because of these offences.
The bill gives police officers and prosecutors a new tool that allows them to ask judges to review all bail conditions that apply to the accused. This allows for an assessment of the reasonableness of the conditions and helps promote a culture change encouraging criminal justice professionals to play an active role in reversing the upward trend in the number of charges related to administration of justice offences, when other kinds of offences are declining.
The third point is on restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to the most serious offences. As introduced, Bill C-75 proposed to restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to indictable offences punishable by life imprisonment, roughly 70 offences. The other place agreed that these offences should automatically include a preliminary inquiry.
However, it also expanded their availability on a discretionary basis to all other indictable offences with a maximum penalty of less than life imprisonment, which would have been an additional 393 offences. As per the other place's amendment, preliminary inquiries would be available in two circumstances: first, where one or both parties requested one; and, second, a justice was satisfied that certain criteria were met, namely that appropriate measures were taken to mitigate the impacts on victims for both approaches and, where it was on the request of one party, that it was also in the best interest of the administration of justice.
The amendment responded to concerns that preliminary inquiries were not available for more and serious offences. However, the expansion of their availability, combined with the new complex criteria, would lead, in our view, to further delays and unnecessary litigation; for example, to interpret the proper application of the criteria.
Recognizing, however, that the other place's amendment was motivated by continuing concerns by the legal community and others, I proposed to not accept the other place's amendments 3 and 4 as drafted, but to revise the bill's original approach to make preliminary inquiries also available for offences with a maximum penalty of 14 years, for example, sexual assault with a weapon.
Although this would expand the availability of preliminary inquiries for 86 more offences, the proposal is consistent with the 2017 FPT ministers of justice's consensus to restrict them to offences carrying the most serious terms of imprisonment. A 14-year threshold will still provide certainty and will avoid the delays inherent in the other place's amendment.
I hope you will all will join me in supporting this amendment, as it strikes an important balance in what is a long-standing, contentious debate regarding preliminary inquiries.