Mr. Speaker, Quebec has some good lawyers as well. There are good lawyers everywhere. We will just leave that aside for now.
The importance of fingerprinting is not actually that well known, but it is very important. This is something that must be modernized.
Moving to the substance of the act, judicial systems have massive backlogs. I believe a few years ago the maximum time to lay a summary conviction offence expanded from six months to one year. I was happy to see that, but we still have a massive backlog. Trials are just not getting on.
Members may have heard the saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” This is problematic. A right to a fair trial is embraced within the charter text, obviously. We have often thought about an accused person's right to a fair trial that has a speedy element required, constitutionally obviously, but what about a victim's right to a fair trial? With time, memory fades. It is a proven fact. I do not know anybody who says that their memory is better a year and a half later than it was two weeks after an incident or even six months after an incident. A backlog in the justice system actually contributes to a less efficient system.
At the end of the day the court should exist to get to the truth in a just manner. If getting to the truth is not necessarily a memory contest, then we have a problem when there is a massive backlog. I remember a victim saying that to me one time early on in my career. I said the trial had been adjourned, and he asked about his right. I had to tell him that, as a victim, he did not have a right.
A lot of victims often come to the courts and say they just figured it would be adjourned. I have actually seen instances when courts generally sit for about five hours a day, if we were to compress all of the time together, and up to 12 to 15 hours of court time is crunched into that five hours. That is how much of a backlog there is. This could result in people being released back into the community who should not be released into the community.
One thing we do not generally talk about here is delay, and that delay has been discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada in a case called Jordan. The Jordan decision talked about the right to trial within a reasonable time, the constitutional right to be tried, which is within 18 months, or a year and a half, if the matter is preceded by summarily, which is considered a less serious type of offence, or 30 months, or two and a half years, by indictment.
The greater the strain on resources, the longer it takes for a trial to occur. More cases mean a greater backlog and a greater backlog means even longer, and this affects bail. The problem we have is the following. With the Jordan principle, the clock, and what I mean by clock is the time, the two and a half years, starts ticking the moment a charge is laid.
There have been expansive requirements for disclosure since the Stinchcombe decision in, I think, 1988. There have been massive changes in disclosure, to the point where disclosure is probably one of the single biggest reasons we have delays. It is one of them. We, as Parliament, have not addressed that issue. One might be asking why disclosure matters. It matters because it takes months, sometimes years, to get disclosure together on major cases. If someone, a police officer or a prosecutor, has a case, that case may have literally 30,000 pages of documents.
Because of the Jordan decision, there is a hesitation to lay a charge, because it may take a year to a year and a half, maybe two years, to get those documents together. This might include people who are dangerous, a person who, at this point in time, should not be roaming freely and should at least have conditions on bail or be detained pending their trial.
However, because of the Jordan decision, those people will often be free for the duration, so a year and a half to two years, without any conditions and without any detention. Frequently, these are the most serious cases, because the most serious cases generate the most paperwork, and the most paperwork generates the most disclosure. These are frequently homicides, so we are not talking about cases that are not serious. In fact we are talking about cases that are the most serious in nature.
I will give another example. Members have heard me talk frequently in the House about sexual offences. This is how the Jordan issue affects these offences and why we need to address the streamlining of these cases, especially for sexual offences.
I am being hypothetical here. A person has child sexual abuse material, which is what we voted on today in Bill C-291, and has that material found on their computer. In order to prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt, a prosecutor needs to prove who owns that computer, who possessed that computer and who accessed those materials. That is typically done by an expert. Right now there are not a lot of experts out there, and it takes time to go into a hard drive. These are the same people who go into hard drives often for terrorism-related offences or for homicides, or who are looking at text messages or messages that were sent digitally.
There is a strain on resources when it comes to these sorts of things. Therefore, a person who is alleged to have committed a sexual offence against a child, like possession, production or distribution of child sexual abuse material or Internet luring, some of the most serious cases against children, will have their computer seized, and it will be 12 months or more before that computer can be analyzed. For 12 months that person is roaming the community without conditions. We are not even talking out on bail. They have no conditions at all because of the Jordan decision.
The question is this. How should Parliament respond? This is not a question of admonishing the rule of law; it is a question of how we should respond to these obviously prominent issues that are before the House in Bill S-4. How do we respond? While Bill S-4 would make some changes, we have so much further to go.
I had 14 pages of notes and I am on page 3. I may have to cut out a bit.