Madam Speaker, I am sure everybody in the lobby is surprised that I actually did that at the right time.
Tonight is one of our last evenings sitting in the House of Commons before we adjourn for the summer and return to our ridings. The speech that I am going to give tonight is truly based in what I am seeing all around us. It has become a culture of violence.
Tonight, we are speaking on Bill C-28. Although I support it in principle, we do have a lot further to go. Tonight, we have the opportunity to begin this discussion, which I hope becomes a much larger national discussion. We need to continue this conversation, especially with women's organizations, which have come out and cannot support this legislation.
A good ally of mine and friend, Megan Walker, discussed this legislation with me yesterday. She cannot support it and shared her concerns about the ability of the Crown to prove it. She feels that this legislation is tokenism
Women's organizations are stepping forward and asking us to halt this legislation, while other organizations are in full support of the legislation. To me, this is a clear yellow light that we have to be cautious and that we need to re-address this: that what we are doing today is just not enough. This needs to continue.
My last six months in my role as the shadow minister for women and gender equality and youth have given me the honour to work with people, especially in the committee on the status of women.
I can share with members that it seems like we are in a real mess, and I can tell us that we need change.
Let us start with this piece of legislation. I want to address it by sharing the letter that was received by the National Association of Women and the Law. It reads, and I quote:
Feminist organizations in Canada have long been concerned about the connection between men’s use of intoxicants, and violence against women. Study after study has shown that there is a direct link between so-called ‘drunkenness’ and sexual violence. There are studies that report an average of 50% of sexual assault perpetrators consumed alcohol at the time of the assault, with other studies showing a variance of between 30 and 75%.
Looking back to the 1994 Daviault decision, in which the Supreme Court ordered a new trial based on the accused’s extreme intoxication at the time of the incident, the ‘gap’ in the law quickly becomes apparent. Mr. Daviault had voluntarily consumed an excessive quantity of alcohol before forcing intercourse on the complainant, an elderly woman with a disability. In response, feminist groups like National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) pressed the government to restrict the defence of extreme intoxication. The federal government enacted section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, closing the gap by preventing those who voluntarily consume intoxicants and then commit acts of violence from using the defence of extreme intoxication for general intent offences.
In May 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Brown struck down the law set out in s. 33.1, declaring it unconstitutional and stating that voluntarily taking intoxicating substances cannot replace the criminal intent required for a conviction. This decision re-opens the ‘gap’ left by the 1994 Daviault decision, once again leaving women vulnerable to crimes of violence when the accused can demonstrate that his intoxication put him into a state of automatism. Despite the assurances of some defence lawyers and their allies that reliance on extreme intoxication will be rare, research analyzing the extreme intoxication defence indicates that it will be raised with some regularity. Indeed, research shows that it will be used overwhelmingly by men, and that the majority of victims will be women.
I know that I shared a very lengthy part of that letter, but to me, this is what we are talking about. Yes, this legislation came out very quickly. That means we need to get it passed to stop the gap today, but that does not mean that the gap has fully been filled. That is why I am urging the government to say, yes, we have got Bill C-28 done but we need to do more. I am urging the government to get on the road and let us start doing those consultations. Let us start talking more.
I want to go back to stuff that we have also been hearing about Hockey Canada. We just heard that Hockey Canada receives one to two formal complaints annually and that there are investigations.
I want to talk about all of this, because one thing that I can indicate is that sexual violence and violence against children should never happen. We are seeing it more and more. In the past number of weeks, as I have been dealing with my role as the shadow minister for women and gender equality, and in chairing the committee on the status of women, we are talking about violence and more violence. Our one study on intimate partner violence was talking about domestic violence. Following that, we talked about Kyra's Law, named for a young girl, a young child, who was murdered by her father, basically to get back at the mother.
I am looking at what is happening with Hockey Canada. We talked about a young girl who was allegedly raped by eight hockey players, and there is no responsibility. Then we can talk about what we are talking about here today, Bill C-28. To me, it is really clear. We are talking about things that are a social issue. It is a sexual assault issue.
When I look back at that link between what I am talking about with Hockey Canada and the eight players, and what we are seeing here, the bottom line is that it should never be happening in the first place. In Hockey Canada, we are hearing about a civil law suit that went through. Hockey Canada actually paid out, rather than having this go through the criminal court system. Unfortunately, I understand why someone would choose a civil suit over our justice system right now. We know it is not perfect. With the help of Bill C-233 and other bills that have been put forward in the past, we need to ensure that there is proper training for judges, but it is not just judges. It is everybody involved.
When I look at this, I look at who is responsible. Ultimately, the perpetrator has to be responsible. Although this legislation closes that gap in which we are talking about the state of automatism, we also have to look at what is next.
Just weeks ago, we passed that important piece of legislation, Bill C-233 with unanimous support. It was an all-party effort. I believe it started a conversation, and I believe what we are doing here tonight is also starting that conversation. Just as the minister stated, I had the same conversation with my 18-year-old son. He called me the very next morning and asked me about it when I was in Ottawa. I said, “Son, I'm working on this.” We recognize that it does not mean that someone has to be drunk and this could happen, but there needs to be extreme intoxication. For a young woman, anything is a barrier, including the fact that somebody may use this defence. Everything like that is a barrier.
People are coming out and saying that this law is just window dressing and is not really tackling the real issues. I think what we have to tackle is the culture of sexual violence, because we seem to be ignoring it. I was thinking about it a lot over the past few days. Working on the Hockey Canada case has really brought things to light. These are our kids we are talking about. These are the kids that our kids go to public school with. These are the children, whether they are the perpetrators or the victims. These are just kids. Sometimes we get lost on our way and we confuse what is right and wrong. Is extreme intoxication good enough, or is because someone is an athlete or a politician good enough?
We know, from the recent Supreme Court ruling on May 13, that women's organizations have spoken up. Because of that, we know this needs to be addressed. The government has addressed it through this legislation as Bill C-28. I thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. We pushed on this and we asked for this to be done, so I thank him for doing so.
We need more transparency for victims, and we need to remember that victims have rights, too. This is the problem. We talk so much about the rights of our perpetrators, but our victims need to have rights too. This is what we are losing a lot of the time in these conversations, whether I am talking about Hockey Canada or extreme intoxication. No is no, and there must be consent.
Finally, I want to end this with a quote. I go back to the National Association of Women and the Law:
While they may not be successful in making out the defence – pleading the defence, in itself, will result in increased timelines and lengthy court processes for victims. Ultimately, C-28 is a missed opportunity to close the door on the use of the extreme intoxication defence where alcohol alone is used.
I am coming back and I am saying that this summer I will be working on this. I will be working on providing any information that I can to both the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and the Minister of Justice, because we can do better, and we need to make sure that we listen to everybody. We need to be listening to the victims, and we need to be working to end sexual violence.