Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the people in Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. I am mindful of the fact that I cannot point out people in the gallery, even if three of them 11 and under bear a striking resemblance to me.
Today we are discussing Bill S-4. Bill S-4 is an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make related amendments to other acts, COVID-19 response and other measures.
Before I begin, and this is somewhat related to what we discussed, I want to note the pleasure I have here that I just voted for Bill C-291, and the House unanimously, as I understand it, voted to bring Bill C-291 to committee. That bill will hopefully change the name of child pornography to “child sexual abuse material” to reflect the fact that sexual abuse of children is not pornographic but is abuse, and we should call it what it is. Words do matter. When I stood on doorsteps prior to my election, this is something I said I wanted to come to Parliament to do.
I am very happy and pleased to have partnered with my colleague and friend from North Okanagan—Shuswap to have addressed this problem at second reading. I look forward to our having a strong bipartisan effort at committee in hopes of having this bill passed by Christmas.
Bill S-4 relates to the efficiency of the criminal justice system. When we talk about efficiency in the justice system, we are often talking about inefficiency in the justice system. In fact, prior to my being elected, I contemplated doing some academic writing in law that talked about inefficiencies in the justice system and how we might address them. I am going to talk about some of those here today, some of those things that are, in fact, missing.
We cannot forget that there are people within the justice system who make it go around who really do not get the recognition they deserve. Sheriffs in British Columbia, for instance, are tasked with courtroom security. Frankly, they are underpaid for what they do. They escort people into custody. They are dealing with people on the front line, often who have just been arrested, who are coming down off of drugs, and they put their personal health, well-being and safety on the line in order to protect other criminal justice system practitioners. I thank them for it.
I thank our clerks, our judicial case managers, who keep our courtrooms running. I thank our judges, who often leave lucrative careers behind to serve the public good for the benefit of the rule of law.
When we talk about the justice system, we have to remember something, which is that times change and the law should change as well. This is most notable when we look at a section that is not contemplated here. That is section 525 of the Criminal Code. Section 525 of the Criminal Code deals with bail reviews.
I am not sure exactly when section 525 of the code was passed, but if we were to look I am sure we would see it was passed at a time when people went to trial much more quickly than they do today. Section 525 says, and I am simplifying this, that if somebody is detained on bail, they are entitled to a bail review at 90 days. How often has a trial date even been set in that time? That in itself is a bit of an issue, but sometimes it has not even been set within that time.
That was a different time. I remember looking at a homicide file from 1984 when I was practising law as a prosecutor. Around that time, a trial date would be set within two months, or three months perhaps, and somebody would go to trial often within six, seven or eight months. Times have changed. The system is backlogged. The evidence is different.
I looked at that file, which I believe was from 1984, and it looks like a file that would now be reflected with a “theft under” file, as in a shoplifting file. That was the thickness. There were a few photos of the alleged homicide and a few statements maybe a couple of pages long, and that was it.
Times have changed. Now the system is dealing with section 525, which says that somebody should not languish in custody. The reality is that a person now does not go to trial so quickly. That is the type of thing I would have liked to see addressed in Bill S-4.
I note, as has been noted by others, that Bill S-4 is essentially the same as Bill C-23. What changes is when the bill will come into force. I believe there is a 30-day lag period in order to allow courts to prepare. This legislation also identifies the Identification of Criminals Act.
As a bit of a sidebar, a local lawyer in Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, Jay Michi, has frequently told me, or at least he has told me once or maybe twice about the Identification of Criminals Act. His point has always been that it should not be called the Identification of Criminals Act, because a person is not yet convicted. Mr. Michi is now in Hansard, and his point has been made in the House of Commons.
Believe it or not, the Identification of Criminals Act could actually, as I recall, be the basis for a failure to appear in court, which could relate to detention on a primary ground of bail. It could also cause a number of issues.
When it comes to the importance of fingerprinting, a lot of people do not know this, but that is how criminal records are generally kept across Canada, through fingerprints. An FPS number is a fingerprint serial number. Somebody has their fingerprint taken, and that is how, on a CPIC record, it is called, a criminal record can be identified for somebody who has a conviction in Nova Scotia, where most good Speakers come from, or from British Columbia, where most good lawyers come from. I guess a few good lawyers have attended the University of Alberta, but we will put that aside for the time being.