Madam Speaker, I appreciate the House's granting me that privilege.
I want to start my speech on Bill C-5 by acknowledging the incredibly important role that judges play in our justice system. These are men and women who are put in very difficult positions. They have to weigh incredible amounts of evidence before them and make judgments as to whether beyond a reasonable doubt a person is guilty of the crime that the Crown is putting forward as an argument.
Judges know that their decisions one way or the other are going to have life-altering impacts, either on the accused or on the person who brought the complaint before the justice system. The debate today should not diminish the important role that judges play in our society.
I also want to take time to acknowledge the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the previous interim leader of the Conservative Party, for the work that she did in the 42nd Parliament with her private member's bill, Bill C-337.
I am happy to see that the government has brought the substance of that bill forward in this 43rd Parliament as Bill C-5. Judging from the character of the speeches so far, there is unanimous agreement that this bill needs to be passed, perhaps not through all stages as quickly as we would like, but I have a strong feeling that after today's debate the justice committee will be getting to work on this bill in short order.
We are supportive of the intent behind Bill C-5, particularly its intention of ensuring that victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence have confidence in the judicial system.
We know that complainants in sexual assault cases are often provided with inadequate social supports. They receive inadequate information about the court process, and they are often confronted by a system that ignores their wishes.
We should acknowledge that Bill C-5 would not solve those problems. It is an important step, but there is an entire systemic approach we need to take to ensure that complainants of sexual assault are coming to a system that they can have confidence in. That confidence needs to be built, and there is still much work to be done.
We need a systemic review of the judicial system when it comes to sexual assault to stop survivors from being victimized, victim-blamed, not informed and very badly supported by policing and justice systems.
The statistics underline this story. Statistics Canada estimates that only 5% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. We know that one in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. For me that is a particularly personal statistic, given that I am the father of three daughters.
I do not want anyone to become one of those statistics, but that is a fact of life in our society. It is not limited just to women: We know that one in six men will experience sexual violence in his lifetime as well. In 82% of cases, the offender is known to the victim. We know that 28% of Canadians have said that they have experienced workplace sexual assault or violence.
I got to know a transgender person in my riding very well over the previous campaign, and I know the courage it took for him to come forward and be a part of my campaign, and to speak openly about the situation that transgender Canadians face in our country. They face nearly twice as much intimate partner violence in their lifetimes as women do, and that is an area that we definitely need to pay attention to as a society.
I also want to acknowledge that my Conservative friends have raised some concerns as to whether the scope of this bill could be expanded to include other areas that fall under federal jurisdiction, most notably the Parole Board of Canada.
We have also seen that the actions of the Immigration and Refugee Board deserve some scrutiny. Perhaps that is something that the justice committee, in its wisdom, can take note of and ask the appropriate questions of the witnesses who come forward to offer their expertise on this particular bill.
I was a member of the 42nd Parliament and remember with great pride, back in 2017 when we were deliberating Bill C-337, that it was great to see the House move a unanimous consent motion in March of that year to get the bill referred to the status of women committee. The status of women committee did some good work on the bill. It had five meetings, heard from 25 witnesses and reported that bill back to the House with some slight amendments.
This is to assure members of the House that the hard work on this bill has been done. We have a lot of witness testimony in the record, and I hope the testimony heard at the status of women committee back in 2017 will inform the justice committee and that we can take note of that when the justice committee is doing its work.
This bill seeks to correct the problems I have noted through rearticulation to judicial candidates on the current standing of sexual assault laws, namely the principles of consent, conduct of sexual assault proceedings, and education regarding myths and stereotypes of sexual assault complainants through training seminars.
That is because we have seen a record, through the actions of various judges, that this training is sorely needed. We have seen it through their comments during court proceedings and through referrals in their judgments, but we would be mistaken if we were to pinpoint this problem entirely on judges. We know that the police themselves have a lot of work to do and I know they are trying their best to achieve this, but we know from the complaints of victims that this work is ongoing.
The Senate, when it received Bill C-337 through its legal and constitutional affairs committee, did make some amendments. There was a lot of concern regarding the constitutionality of the bill. I understand that the government's version is much closer to, or a wholesale adoption of, what the Senate committee did to Bill C-337.
I know there is this ongoing battle between the legislature, the Parliament of Canada, and our judicial branch. Sometimes they can come into conflict. I know that Michael Spratt, a noted lawyer in the Ottawa region, has written about his concerns with the current bill, but I also know that Professor Emmett Macfarlane has said that Parliament is well within its rights to be legislating in areas such as the Judges Act.
I think this bill does a careful job, as is noted in the charter statement, of doing our best to respect judicial independence. This is really about setting up the training that exists. It is going to be overseen independently of Parliament. We will not have any influence whatsoever on what judges do with this training, because they are still going to be impartial and independent of Parliament when they exercise their judgment and bring forward rulings.
This bill, in particular, passes constitutional muster. I have read the wording of it quite carefully and I think Parliament has a role, as an expression of people's wishes and the changing norms of society, to express its will and make sure that the federal statutes of Canada reflect the changing mood of our country.
I would like to offer my congratulations to the government and all members for the unanimity that we are showing in the proceedings today. I think, though, that when we are looking at other issues plaguing Canada, particularly with respect to aboriginal rights, we still see a lot of systemic racism and very little understanding of what aboriginal rights and title mean. Sometimes this can be reflected in our federal court system.
In closing, my one offer to the government is that it look at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, particularly number 27, to see if this kind of training might also be mandated for judges and other parts of the justice system that fall under federal jurisdiction.