House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a small part. The bill sends a message that judges will have to take training going forward, and this will encourage them to be more open-minded when it comes to these issues, thereby avoiding the kind of terrible comments and remarks we heard from Judge Braun, for example. Progress is slow. As my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles said, this is a small step. We need to do a lot more.

It is interesting, and I am glad that we are talking about this here and that these matters are being raised, but we are addressing only a tiny part of the issue, where solutions are possible. Yes, there are some solutions, and this does solve certain problems, but this is a much broader issue.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-3. The original legislation was first introduced in February 2017 as Bill C-337 by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the former leader of our party as well as the official opposition. I want to thank Ms. Ambrose for the passionate advocacy that she has taken on this important legislation.

I am also pleased to see that the legislation adopted by the Liberal government earlier this year was reintroduced again now as Bill C-3. In 2017, it received unanimous support from the House of Commons and passed quickly to committee. I guess it should come as no surprise then that it would take over two years for it to move through the legislative process despite having all-party support and it would die on the floor of the Senate in June 2019. Despite finishing the legislative process at about the same time as 15-plus other bills that June, it was held back by the Liberal majority government from receiving Royal Assent. Why, people may ask? Some may suggest it is to play the same Liberal games that many Canadians despise and disapprove of, and that is so it can be renamed and called their own.

This is important legislation as it is a step forward toward actually improving our criminal justice system, something that the Liberal government has done little or nothing on for the last five years. This legislation is about ensuring trust is maintained in the justice system and that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the justice system when they do come forward. The bill requires that to be appointed a judge of a Superior Court, an individual must now commit to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars.

This would ensure that Superior Court judges are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to address sexual assault trials and ensure that survivors are treated with dignity and respect. It also provides training to not feed into the myths and stereotypes that often cause women to hesitate to come forward. Personally, I would have preferred that, in addition to the new appointments to the bench, all current judges sitting at every level of court that adjudicates sexual offences in this country be required to participate in continuing education on these matters as well, in the same way that this legislation proposes for new Superior Court appointments.

The bill would also require judges to provide reasons for decisions on sexual assault cases. This is good, as it will give more information to victims and improve transparency for the justice system and the public who watch it.

As a former police officer who has given testimony in a wide variety of criminal cases, including numerous sexual assault cases, I have the utmost respect for the significant challenge and burden placed on our judges. Every day they are tasked with appropriately applying the law to determine guilt or innocence as they adjudicate criminal cases. While Canadians enjoy the best justice system in the world, it is not without its flaws. Judges, after all, are human like all of us and are given the incredible responsibility of applying laws written by other humans, namely parliamentarians in the House. We know that sometimes those laws can also be flawed.

We put a great deal of authority and trust in our judges and so ensuring that people who take up this challenging post are properly equipped, we must ensure that they have the necessary training and knowledge to fulfill those responsibilities to the best of their ability and to the expectations of the Canadian public. This training would eliminate misconceptions, myths and stereotypes that often prevent victims of sexual assault, almost always women, from coming forward and pressing charges against their attackers. This is not a minor issue. The number of sexual assaults that occur in Canada and are never reported is staggering.

Statistics Canada reported that only 5% of women who are sexually assaulted come to the attention of police. I suspect that one of the many reasons is because of the women's lack of confidence in our justice system. Far too few of these crimes are reported, and of the 5% that are reported, only 21% have led to a court case. There are many factors in this, including what evidence might be available, how it might be prosecuted, witnesses who are available, any corroborating evidence, attitude of the justice participants, how judges approach the issue, and maybe many others.

Of the 21% that actually get to court, of the 5% who actually reported being assaulted, only 12% of those cases result in conviction. That is 12% of 21% of 5%. In other words, there is a better than 98% chance of not being convicted of sexually assaulting another person in this country. That is unacceptable. Finally, of all those convicted of sexual assault only 7% result in a prison term. These are terrible crimes and they have lasting, lifelong impacts. Getting a conviction on a sexual assault, let alone having someone sentenced, is far too rare. Most victims of crimes of violent sexual assault will usually prefer not to relive the experience over and over again in our courts, living through the trauma multiple times.

Like I said previously, I have investigated many sexual assault crimes. The heartbreaking experiences of victims are further exacerbated by our justice system. The victims feel they are not being believed. The intrusive nature of the evidence-collection process; retelling their experiences, over and over again; sometimes limited victim supports; and lack of convictions reduce the victims' willingness to come forward. If the assailants are convicted, many victims do not feel that the sentence that is given out fits what happened to them.

This bill is the kind of thing that governments should be doing: working to improve our justice system, working to support victims with better services and working so that criminals who assault others are held accountable and put in jail. Support for victims has been sorely lacking in the last few years. There has been lots of support for criminals, including reduced sentences for some serious and violent crimes, but limited support for victims.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police noted in its brief to Parliament on Bill C-75 that for some criminals, if given reduced sentences, it would mean eliminating certain information being entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre system, including DNA. When the conviction is considered a secondary offence, it eliminates critical information that then limits the ability for police to track and catch that criminal if they commit other crimes. As the CACP put it, this would “have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.” I would add, “and on public safety”.

Canadians should not live in fear. Young women should not live in fear. Victims and their families should not be living in fear. They should have trust and confidence in our justice system. Victims and their rights should always be put ahead of the rights of criminals. Canada's Conservatives recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.

It is time that we end comments and attitudes like that of our Prime Minister, where he said that she “experienced it differently”. Those kinds of excuses allow sexual assaults and sexual harassment to be normalized. Calling it out is a duty of all of us. Acting to stop that kind of behaviour is a responsibility of this House.

My hope is that this bill will be the first step in improving the treatment of victims, increasing the conviction of sexual offenders, improving public safety, and developing the trust and confidence of Canadians in our justice system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner for his contributions to today's debate and in Parliament, but also for his service in the past as a police officer.

By way of comment, I would just indicate that in terms of crafting this bill we are always looking to protect the critical, constitutionally important principle of judicial independence. Apropos of the member's comment about judges at every level or jurisdiction in every court in the land, we do not at the federal level have the ability to intervene directly with respect to provincially appointed judges. What we can do is set an example at the federal level of what we are trying to do and the importance of judicial education on sexual assault law and in social context.

Given the importance of this kind of bill and this kind of training, we commit to get this expeditiously to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights; and to also work with his colleagues in the Alberta government, including Premier Kenney, to ensure similar types of training are also delivered provincially as is now being done in Prince Edward Island.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, yes, absolutely it is necessary to work collaboratively. I think the steps of the House to ensure that, at least federally, this is done and working toward all provinces having this as a requirement of anyone sitting on the bench would go a long way toward serving the justice system and victims.

As for expeditiously moving this through the House, I would push back and say this had the opportunity to be passed in the last Parliament. It was introduced in February 2017. For two years, it went through the process. It was at the Senate. It did not receive royal assent. Why? It was because the Liberal government did not push it forward to receive royal assent, and I wonder why.

Now, we have a bill that we, of course, support and want to debate to make sure that we get it right. We have waited, now, nearly three years since this was introduced. It is important that the bill move forward, but move forward in a way that serves the best needs of Canadians, not the current Liberal government.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on an excellent speech. I appreciate his input, his background and perspective on it, and his support for this very important bill.

One of the figures mentioned was about only a small percentage of cases involving sexual assault being brought forward. Could my colleague, in his experience as a police officer, could elaborate a bit on why he thinks that is the case and how, perhaps, this bill could help in that regard?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, I believe a number of factors inhibit the successful prosecution of sexual assault cases. They are vast. It could be that the police officer may not have the experience necessary, or the appropriate attitude, to investigate this. It may be that the prosecutor is overwhelmed and undertrained, and so may not give it the attention it requires. It may be that witnesses are reluctant or that the victim is reluctant.

However, in those cases that actually get to court, it is incredible to see that the system is tilted. I appreciate the balance of probabilities and the whole issue of “beyond a reasonable doubt” or any doubt for conviction, but I have had great evidence that has been put together from incredible witness testimony, DNA evidence and everything there, and the judges sometimes, for various reasons, will not convict.

So, I think that the more training they have, the better it is for everybody.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, we have been asking questions all day about why the Conservatives did not agree with the proposal to send the bill to the Senate as quickly as possible.

I would like my hon. colleague to explain to me why the debates we are having here today are so important. Will they help get this bill passed any faster?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, I think that is a question we should ask the government, why it dragged its feet for nearly three years on this bill. Why did it not get the push that it should have? I did not get a chance to speak to it last time. I get a chance to speak to it today. I think it is important that it be debated further in committee. There might be amendments that can be made that would make this even stronger than it is today.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-3. While important and something I was happy to support in the 42nd Parliament, I am afraid it is just a drop in the bucket in what we as a society must do to fight sexual violence against women.

Bill C-3 will, I hope, like its predecessors Bill C-5 and Bill C-337, find unanimous support as this legislation is a rare product of bipartisan support.

I thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada for sponsoring this reintroduction of the bill that found its genesis in a private member's bill created by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, former member of Parliament for Sturgeon River—Parkland and also former leader of Canada's Conservatives and the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition.

This legislation is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system, that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the judicial system when they step forward. The bill, when passed, will require federal judges and those seeking the office to participate in continuing legal education with regard to sexual assault law. It also strives to combat the myths and stereotypes that often cause victims of sexual assault to hesitate to come forward.

Federal judges will also be required to provide written reasoning for their decisions in sexual assault cases in order to promote transparency in the reasons that lead to their decisions. The bill would require the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by it.

In my mind, to be truly effective, provincial court judges should be required to take this training. I encourage those provinces to take a serious look at the work that has been done by parliamentary committees and listen to the words spoken in the House with respect to this issue and to strongly consider passing complementary legislation in their respective jurisdictions.

It is a shame, though, we find ourselves in this place at this time where we must pass legislation to train arguably the highest educated group of individuals in the country on sexual sexual assault awareness. Where we should be focusing our energy is educating the next generation of men and women to be advocates, especially men, for ending sexual violence and not perpetuating the myths and stereotypes that enable others to think it is acceptable.

Yesterday, the member for Calgary Nose Hill made one of the most impassioned and important speeches I have heard in this Parliament. Our colleague stood here and challenged men to stand up and be a voice for women and men who are victims of sexual violence. Far too often it is women who are forced to stand on their own and shout enough is enough.

Statistically, women constitute the overwhelming numbers of victims of sexual assaults. Adding to the personal trauma, they must often rely solely on their own strength to report these heinous crimes. As men, we have historically dismissed women's voices on these issues or left it to them to demand action. It is time for men to recognize their role in preventing sexual violence in all its forms. Let me be clear: It is not enough for a man to say, “Well, I would never do that so I've done my part.”

We need to do more. We all need to do more. We need to stand with those incredibly brave survivors who are taking a stand to end sexual violence, and not just for women. Men are victims of sexual assault as well and it needs to end for all victims. Men need to challenge the myths and stereotypes about how survivors of sexual assault are expected to behave.

As a father of a young boy, I have a responsibility to guide him in his journey to become a man. There are many things I must teach him, and for him to learn from me and I from him. However, in order for him to take his place as a productive member of society, I need to be that role model. I need to be putting forward the messages and encouraging him to be better.

One of the most fundamental things I need to impress upon him is to respect others. He needs to understand that men should not feel entitled to sexually harass people or perpetuate sexual violence, that every person has power over his or her own body and how to give and receive consent. He needs to understand that men and boys must never obtain power through violence and that the notion that sex is a right of his gender is false. Sexual violence ends when all of us understand the fundamental truth that no one is permitted to sexually harass or invade another individual's body or personal boundaries.

Girls and women are given advice about rape prevention, and we heard this from many members in this place in the ongoing debate today and the debate yesterday, such as not letting their drink out of sight, not wearing revealing outfits or high heels and not walking alone at night.

As a society, we must go beyond what girls can do to prevent being victims. We need to focus on the attitudes that boys have about women and their own masculinity. The next generation of men needs to promote mutual respect for women and embrace equality for all people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Working toward ending sexual violence is a constant collective effort and, as men, we all need to do our part.

While Bill C-5 is just a ripple, it is my sincere hope that it will eliminate victim blaming, an attitude that suggests a victim rather than a perpetrator bears responsibility for an assault, that victims' sobriety, or the clothes they were wearing or their sexuality become irrelevant in the courtroom. To end sexual violence, perpetrators must be held accountable. By trying sexual violence cases, we recognize these acts as crimes and send a strong message of zero tolerance.

Canada's Conservatives were proud to support Bill C-337 and Bill C-5 in previous Parliaments. We recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.

The Canadian bench must be held accountable and ensure that judges have the updated training that Canadians expect them to have. That is why we committed in the last election to ensure that all judicial appointees take sexual assault sensitivity training prior to taking the bench. We will always look for ways to stand up for survivors of sexual assault and ensure they are treated with dignity.

I would like to thank Rona Ambrose for being such a passionate advocate for victims of sexual assault and for her work on this very important file. This bill addresses the simple fact that victims going to trial should expect that judges are educated in the law, yet what it does not address is the absolute necessity that all of us, every single person has the same responsibility to be educated in what it means to be human and protect and respect the dignity of our fellow citizens.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the member made reference to Bill C-5. I suspect he meant Bill C-3, the bill we are debating today. Bill C-5 is a very interesting bill about reconciliation. I look forward to that debate and the position the Conservatives will have on it.

Listening to what members of the Conservative Party have to say, I would assume that the bill will pass unanimously in the House. That is what I am expecting. However, there is this desire to have not only the content of this bill debated, but the broader issue of sexual assault debated in the House.

The opposition has a good opportunity when we come back, with two opposition days coming. Would the member not support having a debate on the broader issue, maybe even with a Conservative motion that would then allow for an expansion on some of their thoughts? Would the member not think that would be a good thing?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for the clarification on the bills. I think I did say the wrong bill number, and I appreciate the clarification on that.

We are having this debate because this is a pretty large topic and it could go on for quite some time. There is a lot to dive into on this issue. The fact is that the Liberals are trying to somehow place blame on the opposition for trying to have this discussion, for debating the issues and seeing where we can find common ground. I think we have found a lot of common ground, but there are also ways we could improve.

The member for Calgary Nose Hill said it quite well yesterday, that this is but one step, but the other step is to stop appointing the wrong people to the bench. That would be a nice step as well.

There is a lot to get into. What we need to do in this place is debate these pieces of legislation, and we are here for that.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, when we talk about this issue, we all bring our own experiences. The member talked about his experience as a father, which is similar to my own as a father. We hear about these stories and events and it is always sobering as we think about how to teach our children and raise them to reflect the values we want embodied in society.

In some ways, talking about training judges seems quite late. If someone is at the stage of already having had a legal career and getting appointed to the bench, that is the point when this education is happening. It reminds us of the value of teaching some of the principles of respect for others, self-control, recognizing the dignity of all people and teaching and passing those principles on much earlier. I wonder if the member can speak more to how we might work to do that.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend raises a very good point and something on which I can take a lot more time. I do not have as many children as he does. I am a father of only one and he is a father of four. I take that responsibility, all parents should take that responsibility, especially fathers, for teaching their sons, in this case, the role of respect, how to act like human beings and treat everyone equally.

I agree with my colleague's point that judges are some of the most educated people in our society and that this training is coming too late, because they should already be aware of it. They should be self-aware and have common sense about what is right and what is wrong. This is just one step in, hopefully, many that will come to address this.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I obviously thank my colleague for his speech.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-3. Some people think we should cut the debate short and act faster. I personally think we have talked about this enough today. We will, however, continue with the debate.

Does my colleague think any other professions should be subject to this kind of legislation, to make our world a fairer place to live?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, we can explore and look at this. There are jurisdictional issues, as I know my friend from the Bloc knows. We should be talking about this. It also comes with parents educating their children, so when they grow up, this is not an issue. We as a society can do better. It starts with each and every one of us and I will admit that it starts with me too.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-3.

This was originally introduced as Bill C-337 in 2017 by Rona Ambrose, who was the leader of the Conservative Party at that time, and who has doggedly pursued it even though she is no longer in the House of Commons. We have to give her all the credit in the world for that, because this is a very important bill.

The bill comes to us for the third time, and that is a shame. The reason it is here again is because this government, which initially put it through the paces of the justice committee in the last Parliament, decided to end that Parliament without really good reason. I am not sure, when we end a Parliament, how we decide to keep the good things and throw out the bad things, but we throw out everything. There was a process here that we were going through, and this government decided to end that process on so many good things that had to happen with this country, and this is one of those bills. Now we are starting over, and that is a shame considering how important the legislation is.

As I said, I was on the justice committee in the last session. I am not on the justice committee any more; however, we heard many good reasons for the bill before us from many interested parties that appeared before the committee. I will go through some of the wonderful organizations that presented us with compelling evidence on why we need to proceed with the legislation. We heard from the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and the Canadian Judicial Council.

These groups were almost unanimous. I am not somebody who buys into group think. I do not think that any of us are: we have to do our own analysis on what comes before us, but there was only one dissenting voice in that group of presenters about how important the legislation was for advancing the needs of women who had been through sexual assault hearings in front of our judiciary. That one dissenting voice was the Canadian Judicial Council, representing lawyers there, saying that it did not think that the government should put its hands in their business, because they had their own process and were smart enough to take care of their own laundry. However, I can tell members that, no, that is not true.

This is our only venue to actually have some influence on how we appoint judges, on what is important in their job and on how to get their job done. We know that, upon becoming judges, they no longer have the influence of Parliament. Having an independent judicial system is a separate part of our democracy, and we want and need to maintain that. Having a separate judiciary means that we have to have a good judiciary. To appoint judges through a certain process, when we have heard the evidence from all the statistics on what happens in sexual assault cases that come before the judiciary, is not something that can keep going on. Imposing an actual education system for the people we are appointing to the bench is our main instrument to try to influence them in how they view victims when they come before them to give testimony. That is what our role here is. With the legislation before us, we need to make sure that the people we are appointing are well educated on what they have to do, that they understand the needs of the victims and that they consider their rights as well.

I appreciate the legal system as much as anybody else. I am not trained in legalities, but in my previous employment I had many dealings with the legal system. Seeing the legal system work, almost like Parliament here, is like watching sausages getting made: It is never pretty. Sometimes, when one goes through the legal system, one recognizes that what is happening is not perfect. It might be one of the best systems in the world, as far as judicial hearings go, but at the same time there are faulty outcomes, and when we look at some decisions judges have made, we sit back and scratch our heads, wondering how on earth that person made that decision given everything they had heard in a hearing.

That is troubling to a rational person. Nevertheless, it is reality. We are all human. In the House of Commons we are all human and not supposed to be perfect. Judges are the same. We appoint judges. We do not expect them to be perfect, but expect them to do the best job they can with the information that is presented to them. Hopefully, we have the best outcome for society at the end of the day. The statistics we have heard clearly show that we are not getting the best outcome for society with what is going on now, so change is important. That is why we are here. We are here to make sure that the changes we impose on the appointment of judges happen very well.

The justice committee was one thing, but let me tell colleagues about the hearings themselves. We heard about women who were not represented. In those cases they went before the judges and felt belittled in the process.

This bill would bring about an important change for society: to make sure that victims of crimes have the ability to be heard effectively. Justice needs to be understood by the public for it to be an enforceable system. If we do not have a system that is open to everyone who feels that they are a victim of a crime, if people feel marginalized and like they should not come forward to present a crime to society, then we have failed as a society. Again, that is our job here: to make sure that we build on that going forward and get this better in the next iteration.

Shutting down Parliament obviously had the effect of stopping the process that we are now starting again. How long is it going to take before we actually get some legislation that matters to Canadians?

We all know there will be small advances. There has been so much going on here, yet much has been thrown out, like the baby with the bath water, as we have gone through this. It is the result of the government having no regard for what we are doing here as far as process goes.

Process means examining legislation and making sure that we get it right, as much as possible. Getting it right means putting the right bills in front of us and getting those bills heard through a process that has been developed over years and years. Then we get to analyze what is right or wrong with it, hear the expert opinions and come to a conclusion about the best path forward. That is not here right now. By shutting Parliament down in the middle of the pandemic, the government effectively said it does not respect this process and that it wants its own process without dealing with others. Therefore, we have to make sure that it is held to account.

I am dismayed that this is before us again. I wish this was not here. I wish it had already received its third reading from the House and been over to the other house and debated there, so that we could move it to royal assent once and for all. It has been held up too many times and prorogued and left to die on the Order Paper with Parliament being closed.

Can we finally get some work done and get Parliament working again?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I want to invite the member to perhaps correct the record in reference to some statements that were made in the last 20 minutes by his colleague, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. I want to read this quote:

They have an opportunity to show they put victims of sexual assault and women’s issues before political games...

That is a quotation from Rona Ambrose, a woman whose name has been invoked repeatedly on both sides of the aisle in the context of this debate. That is a comment she made in reference to Conservative senators in the last Parliament who blocked Bill C-337 from securing passage and royal assent. That is a statement she delivered to the National Post in June 2019.

The member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner clearly attempted to portray the prevention of receiving royal assent on that important piece of legislation as the fault of the Liberal government. I invite the member for Calgary Centre to correct the record and clearly indicate what Ms. Ambrose had said, which is that in fact the obstacles were put in place by members of his own caucus.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I have been a member of the House since October of 2019. It is an honour to serve the residents of Calgary Centre and I am pleased that they chose me to represent their interests.

The advancement of this issue is very important. I am elected to the House. I am not elected to the Senate. My colleagues on this side of the House have been unanimous in support of this bill and we continue to be unanimous in moving this bill forward.

I am not aware of the actual quotation that the member on the other side of the House put forward.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to respond to what the parliamentary secretary said. I was here in the last Parliament, and what we saw from the government was an effort on its part to push through large government bills that were widely opposed across the country, such as Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. I know the member who just spoke knows this well, as the shadow minister working on natural resource issues.

The point is that the government was trying to rush those bad government bills through the Senate, and there was a backlog of private member's business. That affected many good private member's bills. It affected an organ harvesting bill I had done a great deal of work on.

The fact is that Senate rules involve prioritizing government legislation, and if the government had done a better job of listening to people and their concerns raised about Bill C-48 and Bill C-69, maybe the process would have been smoother on those bills and there would have been more time in the Senate to get to other things. The government is kicking Liberal senators out of their caucus so they have no capacity to engage the agenda in the Senate. That was a decision they made, and they are blaming other people for their inability to manage their own legislative agenda.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, that is exactly the reason many of us ran for Parliament. We saw the way the government was rushing certain legislation through the House and the Senate, with no regard for process or for what Canadians actually needed in that process. That happened, and there was a selective process applied about which of those bills were good for them at that point in time, and how much time was being spent on them. Some good bills got left in the trash. Unfortunately, the predecessor to this bill was one they chose to leave behind.

Why one chooses to advance bills that divide Canadians and do not move us forward socially, and to leave the ones unifying us as we come to debate them, is a question that is up in the air for many people across Canada. I would challenge the government to take a look at what its priorities are as far as social issues, such as this one, and also the economic issues Canada is facing.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a quick question. For the past two days, the two parties have been passing the buck and blaming each other. I mentioned that earlier.

Does my hon. colleague agree that if we had abolished the Senate, this bill would already be passed? As an elected member I vote on a fundamental issue for my society. I talk and debate about it. I had the courage to put my mug on an election sign, I got elected and now I have the right to speak to this fundamental issue.

There are people who were not elected and who are paid very well—

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member for Calgary Centre has time for a quick response.

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October 8th, 2020 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. I do not disagree with him.

I think our job here is to debate topics that affect Canadians. What happens at the other place is not our business and that is part of the process.

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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to Bill C-3.

To begin with, I want to thank the government for reintroducing this important piece of legislation in this new session of the 43rd Parliament. Members will recall that the original architect of this bill, when it was presented as a private member's bill, Bill C-337, was the former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose. I want to thank her for her tireless efforts to support and protect survivors of sexual assault.

In short, this bill proposes to require judges to participate in continuing legal education with respect to sexual assault law. It requires the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery of and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by it. It requires judges to provide reasons for decisions in sexual assault cases.

That is what the bill does, but what is the bill about? It is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system. Trust is a very important thing. It takes a long time, often a lifetime, to establish trust, but it only takes a moment to destroy it. It is about ensuring survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity, respect and compassion by the judicial system when they have the courage to come forward.

Sharing about what led her to introduce the previous version of the bill, also called the just act, Ms. Ambrose spoke about her time volunteering at a rape crisis centre while in university. She also shared about a research project that she participated in, a court watch program, and said, “This project basically had student volunteers like me sitting in courtrooms during sexual assault and sexual abuse cases, taking notes about how victims and complainants were treated. It was shocking.”

She went on to share during her speech one of the troubling scenarios she witnessed. She said, “I remember sitting in a courtroom taking notes when a prosecutor was questioning a little girl—when I say little girl, I mean under the age of 12—about how she sat on a defendant's lap. The insinuation was that she was flirting with this man who was in his fifties.”

I am the father of two daughters and the grandfather of six granddaughters. I cannot imagine how I would feel or how I would react if I were to watch one of my daughters or grandchildren, had they been a victim, being treated like that in a court of law. This is not an impressive experience that any Canadian should have in our judicial system.

Tragically, it is young women aged 15 to 24 who have the highest rate of sexual assaults. It is also more likely for victims of self-reported incidents of sexual assaults than it is for victims of robberies and physical assaults for the offender to be known to them. These realities perhaps contribute to another troubling fact, which is that, according to the justice department, the majority of sexual assaults, 83% of them, go unreported to the police.

By requiring judges to stay current with respect to sexual assault laws, Bill C-3 will make sure that sexual assault survivors are treated with dignity, respect and compassion by our justice system.

In addition to the education component, Bill C-3 will also require judges to provide written reasoning for decisions in sexual assault proceedings. This provision offers those engaged with the justice system, and all Canadians, more transparency. More transparency will build trust, and with more trust will come a greater willingness to seek justice when one has been wronged. Only by restoring that trust and confidence in our justice system can we ensure these young women will have access to the justice they deserve.

In our 2019 platform, the Conservative Party committed to requiring all judicial appointees to take sexual assault sensitivity training prior to taking the bench. This bill requires them to commit to taking training prior to taking the bench and is therefore consistent with our party's commitment to defend victims of crime.

I was pleased to support Rona Ambrose's just act in the last Parliament, because there are still instances where the justice system fails to respect the experiences of sexual assault survivors. We owe it to them to address these failings, and Bill C-3 does that.

I want to take a step back from this specific bill for a moment, because in an ideal world we would not need the just act and we would not need Bill C-3. What we need is to be appointing judges who are people of integrity in the first place, judges who recognize the dignity and value of each person before them, and judges who are sensitive to the tragic circumstances that often lead to individuals attending their courtroom.

I am reminded of the story of two wolves, a popular legend often attributed to the Cherokee people. As the story goes, an old Cherokee man was teaching his grandson about life, and he said, “Grandson, a fight is going on inside of me, and it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego."

The grandfather continued, “The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on in you, grandson, and in every other person as well.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute. He then asked his grandfather, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The grandfather used that opportunity very wisely. He said, “The one we feed.”

The point is that each one of us is feeding those metaphorical wolves every day. We choose which one grows in strength, character and stature. We choose which one wins. Many of us will be familiar with the disturbing comments of one Canadian judge, who asked the sexual assault complainant why she could not just keep her knees together.

This goes to show that our judges are not immune to this kind of struggle, and that is why appointing judges of integrity is critical. Appointing judges of good character and proven track record is essential. Appointing judges who have proven themselves to be good, decent and honourable people is the best starting point that we can have, and from there we keep investing in good people with further training and, in this instance, further training on sexual assault law.

Some might ask why we should train. We have heard the arguments that we train them only for them to leave, and that it is a waste of time and a waste of money. The answer to that is, “What if we do not train them, and they stay?” That, of course, is a worse situation. Training is important, and part of what this bill seeks to accomplish is ongoing training and improvement of our justices.

My Christian faith offers a similar sentiment. Jesus, sharing with a group of people, says that no good tree bears bad fruit and no bad tree bears good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit. Figs are not gathered from bushes, nor are grapes gathered from a bramble bush. The good person that treasures good in his heart produces good, and an evil person that treasures evil produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, their mouth speaks. We need to start with good people, and from there continue to invest in good people and good judges through training them to disseminate the justice and to do it with compassion.

At this moment, at the very least, this bill will help judges to feed the right wolf. Furthering education around sexual assault law can help develop a judge's humility, empathy and compassion when dealing with sexual assault survivors. Pulling back the curtain on the rationale behind a judge's decision also encourages a fulsome presentation of truth and can empower victims on their journey to find peace. This is what it looks like, at least in part, to feed the good wolf.

On this side of the House we will always look for ways to stand up for survivors of sexual assault. We will always strive to ensure victims of crime are treated with dignity, respect and compassion. I am thankful today for this opportunity for us to come together to discuss this very important bill, and I am thankful that, across all the party lines in the House, we can come together with the common sense of purpose and unity on this bill.

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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, to the member opposite, I wanted to continue to quote the National Post article that I quoted from in my last intervention. It is an article that cites Rona Ambrose, whom the member himself cited in his intervention.

What she indicated at that time, expressing her frustration with members of the Conservative Party who were in the Senate, was that it “could help” for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to talk to them about her bill, referencing the previous leader of the Conservative Party and the fact—