Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to continue the discussion on Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code.
I am going to start where the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster left off. She did an excellent job on speaking to the issue. However, the questions that followed from the government were not about the importance of the discussion about sexual violence, sexual harassment or the contents of the bill. They were instead about the throne speech and why the official opposition voted against the throne speech.
It is important to note, first of all, it is not the obligation of Her Majesty's official opposition to support the government. We serve as a check in this place against the balance of power. It is also important to note that we are here today with this bill being reintroduced because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. He put covering up corruption in his government ahead of dealing with important legislation like what we are discussing here today.
A version of this bill was first introduced in 2017 by the former Conservative leader, the Hon. Rona Ambrose. It was called Bill C-337 and proposed judicial accountability through sexual assault law training. Going back to 2017, with respect to this bill, I want to start there and thank Ms. Ambrose for her leadership and for raising this important discussion. Over the past few years, she has played an important role in shining a light on this very important issue. She has been a strong voice for survivors of sexual assault. That initial bill received widespread support across party lines and from stakeholders, as does Bill C-3 today.
It is important that we discuss this bill and have that conversation. That is why I asked to speak on this bill. I am a dad. I have four children and one on the way, and two of my kids are little girls. Of course, I worry and wonder and have a lot of hope for the world they are going to grow up in.
The conversations and information around Bill C-3 and the necessity to introduce this legislation make me worried about the world my little girls live in. It makes me worried about the world my wife, my sisters and my mom grew up in, and my friends and colleagues in this House. Some of these women have lived in a world where they faced incredible challenges in dealing with experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
We heard the member for Saint-Laurent talk about living in fear and growing up in fear. That is not the Canada any of us envision. That is not the Canada any of us want to live in. Making this country a better place for all Canadians, and as a dad, making it a better place for my little girls, is incredibly important to me.
It is heartening that we have cross-partisan collaboration in advancing this bill. It is important because we have an obligation, as legislators, to put these good intentions into practice and to enshrine them in law.
This bill has had support across the country before and that speaks to the ongoing need for it. In 2018, the legislature in Prince Edward Island passed a very similar piece of legislation. It was introduced by Conservative MLA Jamie Fox and he did that in consultation with Ms. Ambrose.
In the previous Parliament, Canada's Conservatives were proud to support the just act. In our election platform in 2019, we were pleased to include support for this legislation.
We need to continue to recognize and respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault, and we need to acknowledge that our justice system oftentimes fails them.
Bill C-3 would go part of the way to improve the trust that Canadians have in their judicial system, specifically victims of sexual assault. They need to feel confident, they need to feel safe when they come forward. The last place that a victim should be revictimized, the last place that a victim should feel they will not be believed, is with a judge.
We have all seen headlines about incredibly insensitive, incredibly inappropriate and, frankly, disgusting comments made by some members of the bench in dealing with victims. That word is so important, “victims”. Oftentimes, we hear qualifying language around why they are victims. It is certainly not because they chose to be, but they did take the step to come forward and to put their faith in the rule of law, in the police, in the Crown prosecutors and in the judiciary.
Certainly, the least that we could do for them is ensure that the judge hearing the case understands the basics, understands where this victim is coming from. To achieve that, there needs to be transparency in the courts. Any of the decisions that they make need to have a rationale and they need to be accountable.
This legislation would go a long way to do that. Bill C-3 would amend the Judges Act to restrict eligibility of who may be appointed as a judge of the Superior Court. It would require that individuals undertake and participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars. This would not just affect the judges who are on the bench. Anyone who wants to be a judge would need to take this training first.
Instead of just members of the bench, anyone who aspires to serve would take the training, promoting understanding and ensuring that more women feel safe, more women come forward. All judges need to be fully equipped with a profound understanding of the law that must be applied to the facts of each one of the cases that they hear.
Bill C-3 would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to gather data and submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by them.
Finally, Bill C-3 would amend the Criminal Code to require appointed judges, as I said before, to provide those written reasons, increasing transparency and accountability. We have heard from previous speakers about the prevalence of sexual assaults, particularly in women between the ages of 15 and 24, the very low reporting rate, with 83% of them not reported to police at all. The need for this training is evident.
I am proud to stand today in support of this bill. I am hopeful that legislators in this place use it as an opportunity to look at how we can put the needs of victims first, how that can be reflected in sentencing against offenders, and how we can make sure that Canada's laws serve always to protect its most vulnerable, and in this case, in particular, protecting women and girls.