Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-25 11:58 [p.13457]
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be here today to speak in strong support of the private member's bill brought by my colleague from North Island—Powell River, which would make the right to housing part of Canadian law through the Canadian Bill of Rights. Her passion for this topic came through loud and clear during her remarks. It is so easy to get lost in the statistics of the housing crisis that Canadians face, but she has put faces behind those statistics so that we all understand just what a crisis we are dealing with in this country.
It is our belief that all Canadians have a right to housing as a place of refuge and a sense of security for themselves and their families. Therefore, we ask that the Canadian Bill of Rights be amended to include the internationally recognized right to housing, which should be at the heart of any national housing strategy the government is anticipating. We have heard about this strategy and on this side fervently hope that it is not simply a case of platitudes piled upon platitudes but real action in the short term. I say this because in the 2017 budget, the Liberals promised over $11 billion over 11 years, with 90% of that funding allocated after the next election, should they be re-elected.
I live in a community with a housing crises that is an emergency. Therefore, words do not do enough. The money is nowhere to be found in my community, and we have to get serious about this issue. As my time is limited, I will start with the specifics in Victoria, British Columbia.
Every day we have people come into our constituency office who are concerned about this crisis. It has meant that our city is now ranked among the most expensive places to buy housing in Canada. For those who live in Victoria, the high cost of purchasing a home remains a barrier to so many people. The reality facing those looking for an affordable place to rent is also a daunting problem.
In addition to the homelessness crises in our community, many of our working poor are barely able to make ends meet. That was confirmed by a recent research study by the United Way. Renter households face far greater housing affordability challenges and hardships. They have lower incomes and pay a larger proportion of their income for housing than owners do. Victoria has one of the lowest vacancy rates of rental properties across this country. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation listed the vacancy rate for rentals in Victoria at a shocking 0.6% last fall.
How people can afford housing and rent is a serious mystery to many of us. It is simply an affordability challenge. Paired with the extremely low vacancy rate I spoke of, securing suitable accommodations is virtually impossible for many people in our community. The rents are so high that people who are working for minimum wage are often simply unable to afford a place to live should they be able to find one.
To better understand the situation, we should consider the CMHC's discussion of what it terms “core housing need”. If a family spends more than 30% of its income on housing, it is said to have a core housing need. Therefore, as the cost of rent remains high, far too many Victorians experience a core housing need. Of Victoria's renters, almost half spent more than 30% of their income on shelter in 2011, and a quarter spent more than 50% of their income on housing.
Our constituency office has been deluged with people struggling with this reality. My office is currently working with Beth, for example, one of many seniors who can no longer afford her rent after she separated from her partner. We work with young families who have no money left at the end of each month for contingencies given how much they pay for housing. They could find themselves in dire financial straits if they had to cover an unforseen emergency, take their child to a dental appointment, suddenly require vehicle maintenance, or even purchase new shoes for their child. Those examples could put people in a state of housing crisis. We feel the stress of our constituents daily.
This also has a disproportionate impact on our indigenous population. According to our local newspaper earlier this year, the Times Colonist, indigenous people in Victoria made up 21% of shelter users experiencing chronic homelessness despite making up just 4.1% of the population.
Across Canada, almost one in two senior-led households faces rent affordability challenges, and affordable housing options for seniors are very limited. Senior women who live alone are much more likely to live in poverty than senior men. We find that to be very much a fact of life in our community as well.
The housing crisis is having an enormous impact on our business sector as well, because people cannot afford to live where the jobs are. We hear that every day from our chamber of commerce and other local business groups that are struggling to attract and retain talented people, because prospective employees simply cannot find affordable, suitable places to live in Victoria. Without adequate staff, business owners are afraid of losing their livelihoods.
This past spring, CTV did a story about students in Victoria who, faced with the exorbitant cost of accommodations, had to drop out of university. Some live in their vehicles to try to stay at university.
The housing crisis affects people from young to old; indigenous and non-indigenous; people who rent; people who are living on fixed wages, often minimum wage; and even young families who are trying to get a foothold to purchase in the housing market. It has simply become unaffordable. This is shocking in a country like Canada.
I have not spoken adequately in the time available about those living in homelessness, but we have estimated that there are 1,500 homeless people in the greater Victoria area today, according to the City of Victoria's recent statistics. These circumstances are simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours.
As Canadians hear about the housing hardship in my riding and elsewhere in Canada, does it sound like the federal government is ensuring their right to adequate housing? I do not think so. The seniors I spoke of, the young families, local business owners, indigenous people, students, and the homeless are in crisis now. They cannot wait for the Liberals to finally do something serious and immediate about this crisis. They must have the government live up to its obligations. This bill would allow that to occur.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-06-13 17:31
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in strong support of Bill S-226, which is entitled “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act”. The bill would enable targeted sanctions against foreign nationals involved in human rights abuses. It would amend two existing Canadian laws, the Special Economic Measures Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In doing so, it would allow the government to declare individual human rights abusers inadmissible to the country and would freeze their assets in Canada.
Before I address the substance of the bill, I want to say a few words about where it comes from. Most of us in the House are by now familiar with the sad if not tragic story of Sergei Magnitsky, the man honoured by name in the bill. Mr. Magnitsky was a lawyer in Moscow acting on behalf of Bill Browder, an American businessman managing an investment fund there. Mr. Magnitsky uncovered a $230-million corruption scheme involving officials in Russia's interior ministry. He was arrested, jailed, and held without trial for almost a full year. He was denied medical attention as well. He was tortured and eventually killed. He died in November 2009 at the age of 37, after being beaten by prison guards. He was posthumously tried and convicted of the very fraud he had uncovered. That is Russian justice.
Since then, Bill Browder has been fighting for justice and action from the international community. My colleagues and I have had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Browder on several occasions throughout our work on the bill. The progress we have seen so far, with legislation passed in the United States and the United Kingdom, is due in no small measure to the tireless work of Mr. Browder and his colleagues. Indeed, Mr. Browder has devoted his life to this cause: justice for his former lawyer, Mr. Magnitsky. We in the House owe them a debt of gratitude for championing this cause and for presenting us now with an opportunity to establish Canada as another leader in holding human rights abusers accountable.
Of course, Mr. Browder and the others fighting for justice for Mr. Magnitsky are not alone, just as Mr. Magnitsky's case was, sadly, not unique. Testimony from activists and academics before both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees has reinforced the prevalence of such abuses around the globe and the culture of impunity that too often accompanies them, especially at the international level.
That is why it is so important that the bill be global in scope. Though it is inspired by the memory of Sergei Magnitsky and the fight for justice by those who knew him, its effects will reach far beyond Russia.
As Garry Kasparov told the House foreign affairs committee last year, “Money is always looking for safe harbour.” Bill S-226 would deny safe harbour in Canada to those who deny and destroy the rights of their own citizens, wherever such acts were committed. It would also put wind in the sails of those fighting that corruption and that injustice in their own countries.
The NDP has consistently called for targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations and for greater coordination of Canada's regime with the European Union and the United States. However, what is remarkable today is the degree of agreement across all parties and both chambers. I note that the bill echoes recommendations of both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, as well as motions passed by both chambers in 2015. Not only that, every recognized party in the House committed to the adoption of this type of targeted sanctions legislation in the last federal election. Therefore, I hope this long-overdue bill will now be passed swiftly.
As I said earlier, the bill would amend two laws, the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to allow for targeted sanctions against individuals.
How would that work? It would apply to those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other gross human rights violations, as well as those who would use their public office to expropriate public wealth, including through corrupt contracting, bribery, and the extraction of natural resources.
It is therefore broader in scope than the Freezing Assets of Foreign Corrupt Officials Act, which applies primarily to the misappropriation of public property and is triggered at the request of a foreign government.
The bill would allow for sanctions to be imposed on individuals in cases that did not meet the high and government-focused threshold currently required by the existing Special Economic Measures Act. Every sanctions regime currently authorized under that act uses the “grave breach provision” , as it is called, which refers to violations of international peace and security that are “likely to result in a serious international crisis.” In other words, the threshold is very high before action can occur. The murder of an opposition leader or the misappropriation of natural resource wealth may not spark that international crisis, but it ought to bring consequences from the international community. The bill would allow Canada, finally, to do just that.
Bill S-226 would also tighten the linkage between the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. As it stands, listing under the former does not automatically lead to a declaration of inadmissibility under the latter, the immigration legislation.
As the report of House foreign affairs committee correctly noted, the complexity and layering of Canada's sanctions regime, which includes several distinct legislative authorities, can offer flexibility but can also breed, frankly, confusion and overlap. This disconnect between imposing economic sanctions under one act while declaring inadmissibility under another has to be fixed. This bill would fix it.
As Professor Meredith Lilly noted in testimony before the committee, “there's no convincing rationale that the Canadian government would want to impose economic sanctions against an individual yet still allow that person to come to Canada”. The foreign affairs committee appears to have endorsed that conclusion in its recommendations to us.
It is also important to note that Bill S-226 would require the appropriate parliamentary committees to conduct annual reviews of the individuals and entities targeted for freezing of assets and travel bans. This is an appropriate and useful role for Parliament to play. It strikes me as particularly important in light of another recommendation in our foreign affairs committee's most recent report. That report noted a concern, based on the experience of other jurisdictions, that existing mechanisms for ministerial review of sanctions decisions may be insufficient with respect to their procedural fairness and their transparency.
In light of that, the committee recommended the enactment of an independent administrative review mechanism for individuals and entities that felt that they had been wrongly targeted.
In the context of that broader recommendation, the bill's provisions for parliamentary committees to regularly review the government's sanctions targets is important and timely.
I am proud of the spirit of collaboration that has guided the bill through both chambers and their committees. The bill responds to a call for justice by those who know first-hand the corrosive effects of corruption and violence on a political system. Indeed, one of its proponents, Boris Nemstov, a democratic leader in Russia who spoke in support of this legislation in Ottawa in 2012, was later assassinated.
The bill would make Canada a leader in holding those responsible and complicit in such crimes and human rights violations accountable, through targeted economic sanctions and travel bans. Passing the bill would send a powerful signal to those fighting for justice for Sergei Magnitsky that Canada would not be a safe haven for those responsible and complicit in such crimes to enjoy the fruits of their crimes.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-03-08 19:16 [p.9558]
Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague and friend from Drummond for his passionate speech.
I understood him to say that the Liberals have twice supported a bill of this sort. It is, of course, long been a policy of the NDP, which he alluded to in his remarks.
I am proud that I was involved when we appointed Mr. Justice Rowe of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal to be our first Supreme Court judge from that province. The member also said the requirement that the Liberals imposed upon him, albeit by policy, was that he be functionally bilingual, and of course they demonstrated that clearly during the appointment process.
Why could it be that the Liberals, with this policy that we support requiring functional bilingualism as a condition for appointment to the Supreme Court, might be reluctant to follow-through on the support that they have provided to similar bills in the past?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-03-08 19:39 [p.9561]
Madam Speaker, I am so pleased to rise in support of Bill C-203, an act to amend the Supreme Court Act. I salute my colleague from Drummond for his tireless work in this regard, following in the footsteps of, I dare say, the famous Yvon Godin, who was passionate about this in many Parliaments in the past.
I want to talk about what the bill would and would not do. The bill does not even require technically functional bilingualism. All it requires is that a justice understands the other official language without the assistance of an interpreter.
I congratulate the Liberals sincerely for their current policy, which requires functional bilingualism as a condition. When former prime minister Kim Campbell was asked to chair the advisory board that led to the appointment of our first justice from Newfoundland and Labrador, I was pleased to see that process in action. The committee could only consider those who were functionally bilingual, and Mr. Justice Rowe demonstrated that aptitude very clearly.
This issue has long been championed by the New Democratic Party. We introduced similar bills in 2008, 2010, and 2014. This is our fourth time trying to see this legislation pass. Each iteration of the bill has aimed to promote positive measures to protect official languages through legislation.
The government representative today quite properly pointed out, with pride, that the functional bilingualism requirement was merely a matter of policy, and perhaps with unintended arrogance said that was fine so long as the Liberals were in power. Things change even in Canada. Sometimes we have other governments and therefore no longer would this be something we could point to with the pride that the Liberals obviously take in the initiative they passed in the last while. The policy is good, but it does not mean it will necessarily be in force in the future.
It was also pointed out by our colleagues opposite that the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Nadon judgment was somehow an excuse, dare I say a smokescreen, for not proceeding with legislation. I point out that Professor Sébastien Grammond of the University of Ottawa has written persuasively, at least to this lawyer, that if we have requirements, as we do for number of years at the bar before eligibility for appointment, there is no reason why we cannot have requirements for language proficiency for that appointment.
We are talking about six people in Canada. Three of those judges are required by law, for understandable excellent constitutionally relevant reasons, to come from the province of Quebec where there is a civil law system. I can assume that three of those nine will speak both languages or certainly be proficient in the French language. There has never been a justice on the Supreme Court who only spoke French. The six left of the nine are all the people we are talking about.
I taught law at the University of Victoria for over 12 years, the farthest west one can get in our country. I can assure the House that students understand the reality of the country. They understand, since bilingualism and biculturalism a generation ago, that we have a commitment as Canadians to respect each other's official languages. That is why we have an Official Languages Act and a commissioner. It is high time we have our courts at the highest level reflect that reality as well.
I had many students whose first language was Punjabi or Mandarin. Some even spoke indigenous languages. They understand that in this day and age, being one of those six people drawn from predominantly English speaking provinces, that speaking the other official language is not exactly a radical step in 2017.
To their credit, the Liberals understood that with their policy of functional bilingualism. For reasons I cannot fathom, they somehow are afraid to put that commitment into law. That is all this bill would do. I could even argue that the bill does not go as far as the Liberals' current policy. Their current policy requires functional bilingualism, which to me connotes being able to speak and understand the other language. All Bill C-203 would do is require that a judge understand both official languages without the assistance of an interpreter. It seems to me a necessary first step to do this, and the Liberals reluctance is quite frankly disturbing.
It has also been said that somehow this is inconsistent with the rights of indigenous people. We can certainly ensure at committee that there is no such intent or effect in the law. This law would confirm that indigenous rights that are guaranteed under section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 remain in full force and effect and are in no way derogated by the legislation that would be enacted should the bill proceed.
I do not believe therefore that there is a practical problem with a bill of this sort. My colleague from Drummond made reference to a number of organizations that have supported this over the years. I did not hear the Canadian Bar Association protest when the Liberals brought in a functional bilingualism requirement. It is a fait accompli in the 21st century that people would understand this reality of our country.
It is particularly relevant for Canadians who are members of language minority communities that they feel comfortable using the official language of their choice before our highest court of the land. Professor Grammond and Mark Power captured this conundrum in a paper they provided to the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen's University. They wrote, “Francophone litigants before the Supreme Court face a challenge that is not shared by their Anglophone counterparts: to attempt to persuade judges who do not understand the language in which arguments are presented.”
It is crucial that the Supreme Court serve all Canadians, and that they believe their arguments were truly understood by the justice who heard them. It is not acceptable that they would argue that they lost a particular case on the basis that they were not truly understood. That cannot be right in a country committed to bilingualism and biculturalism, such as ours. That cannot be just. We all feel when we lose a case in the court that it must be because we were not understood. I understand that argument. However, that a number of senior scholars and lawyers would go in print and say they are concerned about this should be of concern to all Canadians.
The time has come for us to essentially go beyond policy and do what has been sought so many times in previous parliaments, by Mr. Godin, and now by the member for Drummond. It is something that the late Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, was passionate about and made many speeches about. It is something that has been the subject of resolutions at conventions in our party, and of course in platform commitments we have made over the years.
It is time for the government to re-evaluate its position, not hide behind a smokescreen of a Supreme Court decision, and decide that it truly is committed to bilingualism at the highest level of our courts so justice can truly be done for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-02-09 17:47 [p.8769]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Bill C-211. I thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing the bill forward. I also thank my colleague from Guelph for his thoughtful remarks.
This bill would create a federal framework for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. That is a mental condition that can devastate an individual, impacting the individual's family, his or her ability to work, and even his or her ability to perform simple tasks.
As is the case with other mental health conditions, public awareness has often grown in the wake of extreme events, such as wars or natural disasters. Sadly, this has been our experience in Canada as we have seen men and women in the Canadian Forces returning from Afghanistan and struggling for years with the burdens of their experiences there. However, we should not think that this is simply limited to those kinds of extreme events. A soldier returning from a distant combat zone may be the first image in our minds when we talk about PTSD, but more and more, we are learning that stress, trauma, and our body's complex responses to it are issues throughout society, far from battlefields or police precincts or emergency wards.
We see it on university campuses, where students are helping expand access to mental health services and offer more support for survivors of abuse, including sexual abuse.
We see it in workplaces, where employers and workers are finding ways to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encouraging those who once suffered in silence to find the help that they need.
Nearly a decade ago, one academic study pegged the lifetime incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder across the Canadian population at nearly one in 10. In most cases, this could be linked to a single event, such as the unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, or witnessing a violent death or injury.
While any Canadian can experience PTSD, certain Canadians are disproportionately likely to shoulder the burden. In particular, I am referring to front-line workers who volunteer for duties that expose them to extraordinary stress. They are police officers and firefighters. They are paramedics and prison guards. They are military personnel and others whose public service can take a great personal toll. Studies have found that members of these professions can experience PTSD at rates at least double that of the general population.
A number of provinces have moved forward on legislation to remove the barriers that Canadians in these professions may face. For instance, in my province of British Columbia, first responders who experience PTSD must prove that it is work-related in order to receive support and compensation.
Last year, in my home province, the NDP labour critic tried to amend a bill in the provincial legislature to fix that problem and make it easier for those first responders, police, firefighters, and others to get the help they need and deserve. It is absolutely shameful that the current Government of British Columbia declined to fix that problem.
Let me share just one story to illustrate why this is so important.
Lisa Jennings was a paramedic in Victoria. In the summer of 2014, Lisa suffered an assault while responding to a call. In the wake of the attack, she suffered flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. After consulting with a psychologist, she filed a claim for workers' compensation. Her claim was denied not once, not twice, but three times, because the board was able to argue that her condition was not the result of the trauma that she had experienced in that assault. In fact, because she had visited a psychologist after her parents and her brother had died in quick succession, she was labelled as having “a well-documented psychiatric history” and her claim was denied. Shameful.
Lisa fought back. With no financial support other than a small disability pension, she appealed the ruling. She even lived in her car while doing so. As Lisa said, “This is for all the first responders in B.C.”
I am happy to report that three weeks ago, Lisa Jennings won her battle. An appeal tribunal reversed the earlier decisions, clearing a path for other first responders to access the support they need after suffering trauma in the line of duty.
A story like that should shock all Canadians and should move us in this place to act. Luckily, we have before us a proposal that would take one step forward, providing the much-needed federal leadership in this context.
What would the bill do? It would instruct the Minister of Health to convene a conference with her colleagues in National Defence and Veterans Affairs, provincial and territorial governments, and stakeholders in the medical community to develop a comprehensive federal strategy framework on post traumatic stress disorder.
This framework would help illuminate the prevalence of PTSD across Canada, as well as its social and economic costs to Canadians, by facilitating better national tracking and data collection by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It would also seek to improve treatment by making it easier to share best practices and by establishing guidelines for diagnosis, treatment, and management of PTSD.
Last, it would broaden awareness of this condition by setting down guidelines for the creation and distribution of educational materials for public health providers across the country.
I want to raise one final issue.
Several months ago, I was contacted by Mark Farrant, a Toronto man who served as a jury foreman on a first degree murder trial. In the course of that trial, he and other jurors were exposed to graphic and disturbing visual evidence and testimony surrounding the brutal murder of a young woman. Jurors are sworn to secrecy, and the moment after the verdict is delivered, released back into their daily lives. In the wake of that experience, Mark began to experience symptoms that would later be diagnosed at PTSD. It would come to disrupt his personal life, his young family, and his successful business career.
Yet, as Mark discovered, jurors in Canada are uniquely unsupported by our justice system. There are supports for judges, court staff, and many others who are exposed to the same graphic evidence and stressful situations, but not for ordinary Canadians who are required to do their civic duty as jurors. It is time that changed. Canadians, no matter where they live, who do their civic duty and serve on a jury, ought to have the proper support services available.
To that end, I raised this issue with my colleagues on the justice committee last year and have written repeatedly to the Minister of Justice, asking that her department assess what steps it can take to address this gap. It is my hope that the justice committee will soon become the first parliamentary committee to study this problem during its upcoming review of the Criminal Code.
While, sadly, we are still waiting for any federal response, I am happy to report that as a result of Mark Farrant's tireless advocacy, and at great personal cost, his home province of Ontario just weeks ago launched a program to provide free counselling to jurors who needed it. Therefore, if Bill C-211 is referred to committee, I will be seeking to develop an amendment to ensure that the issue of juror support is considered in any federal framework on PTSD.
The bill before us today gives us a chance to stand beside Canadians like Mark Farrant in Toronto and Lisa Jennings in Victoria, who swam against the tide at personal cost to do us all a public service. In that spirit, I ask all members to support the bill.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-02-02 17:16 [p.8418]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in strong support of Bill C-305, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding mischief. I want to thank the member for Nepean for bringing this bill forward.
Bill C-305 would make small but significant changes to the way we handle hate-motivated crimes against communal spaces. There are many things we can do to stand up to discrimination and make our communities safer for all of us. This bill is one good step in that direction, so I hope we can all work together to see it debated, improved, and passed into law.
Canada is thought of, at home and abroad, as an inclusive nation, a place that welcomes all people, regardless of culture, language, or religion, with equality and respect. It is a country where diversity is not just accepted but celebrated. We strive to make Canada a nation free from racial intolerance and xenophobia, but recent events remind us that we still have more work to do.
Here in Ottawa, right here in the nation's capital, we have seen mosques, synagogues, and a Jewish community centre vandalized. We have seen discrimination in communities right across Canada, and in Quebec City this weekend, we saw where hatred can lead.
In Canada, racial and ethnic discrimination motivates about half of all police-reported hate crimes. Another quarter of these crimes are driven by prejudice towards religion, and that number, sadly, is rising. In just the last three years, hate crimes against Muslim Canadians have more than doubled. These statistics should not cause us to despair. They should call us to action.
Bill C-305 would expand the protection we give to communal spaces against vandalism driven by hate and discrimination. As it stands, the crime of mischief in our Criminal Code is punishable by up to two years' imprisonment, but where that mischief is motivated by “bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin”, it becomes punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. This is only the case, however, when the crime is committed against religious property. It does not apply to other community spaces.
Bill C-305 would extend these legal protections to more communal places, including daycare centres, seniors' homes, schools, town halls, and sports arenas, granting them the same protected status as places of religion.
Let us be clear. This is not just some arcane criminal law question. It is about our values. It is about supporting Canadians' right to live without fear of discrimination and to enjoy spaces free from hateful vandalism. It is about making it clear that hate-fuelled vandalism is a hate crime, regardless of where it is committed.
A second benefit of Bill C-305 is that it would expand the list of discriminatory motives for hate crimes to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”.
Ten years ago, New Democrats pioneered legislation calling for the inclusion of gender identity as a prohibited basis for discrimination under federal human rights law. I want to acknowledge the incredible hard work and dedication of my colleague for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who advanced the cause this far. I want to thank all members from all parties who have joined that cause along the way. Because of the efforts and advocacy of thousands of Canadians, that cause succeeded in passing Bill C-16 recently, which is a milestone in Canada's commitment to inclusion and protection for all.
However, as it stands, the wording of Bill C-305 before us today is inconsistent with Bill C-16 in that it includes gender identity but does not include gender expression. Therefore, for the sake of clarity and consistency, I would propose that both be included and protected by this bill.
We know that one in six hate crimes in Canada is motivated by discrimination toward sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These are not the most common hate crimes, but they are the most likely to be violent.
I believe an amendment at committee to mirror the language used in Bill C-16 and change “gender identity” to “gender identity or expression” would strengthen the bill and affirm our policy of zero tolerance for transphobic discrimination.
These and other amendments can be considered at committee. However, I want to thank, again, the member for Ottawa West—Nepean for opening the door for much-needed conversation on hate crimes in Canada.
Better laws can counteract these offences. However, changing laws is obviously not enough. We need to teach empathy in our schools, tolerance in our workplaces, and openness and inclusivity in our community centres and spaces. We have a responsibility, now more than ever, to stand up to discrimination. The roots of prejudice are in lack of understanding, and that is within our power to change.
We know that Canada is not immune to the disturbing trends we see south of the border and across Europe. We have seen how playing with the fire of fear and division can spark violence. However, we have also seen acts of great strength. We have seen citizens speaking up for their friends, for their colleagues, or for complete strangers, refusing to let differences divide them. Now is the time when we must look to that strength and reaffirm our commitment to building a safe, resilient, and welcoming Canada for all.
We know what happens when we fail to stand up to those who seek to divide us.
This week, six Canadians were murdered in a mosque, targeted because of their faith. That act of violence shook our country and triggered an outpouring of support for our Muslim friends and neighbours, as Canadians gathered in vigils across the country to remember the victims. However, we cannot ignore that the hatred that led to a gunman in a mosque in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, is not so different from what drives a teenager to spray a swastika on a door in Ottawa or a commuter to hurl racial slurs on a streetcar in Toronto.
It is critical, now more than ever, that we condemn, not only these acts, but also the divisive rhetoric that inspires them.
At a time when so many are fearful, we can lead by example. We can do more to protect the diversity we are so quick to call our greatest strength.
Every individual in Canada has the right to live without fear of persecution. This bill would be one more step to ensuring that right is protected. I urge every parliamentarian to commit to that cause and support the bill.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-09-21 18:48 [p.4937]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-247, a bill that would add ambient air alcohol sensors to the arsenal of tools that our police officers use to detect impaired drivers and to keep our roads safe. All of us in the House have lost far too many friends and others in our communities to impaired driving. As a country we have been losing ground in this fight for over a decade.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimates that impaired driving kills three to four Canadians every day. It also injures 175 more each day. That is more than 1,000 Canadians killed each year and more than 60,000 injured. As shocking as these statistics are, I know each of us in the House also knows, in our own communities, at least one story that puts a face on these tragic numbers.
For example, early one morning last April in the greater Victoria area, an impaired driver got behind the wheel of his pickup truck. He was speeding through an intersection when he struck a police cruiser driven by Constable Sarah Beckett. Having joined the RCMP at age 21, Constable Beckett was just 32 when she died last year leaving behind a husband and two young children.
Charges were filed against the driver last week, and I hope that justice will be served. While we know that nothing can make Constable Beckett's young family whole again, we must do everything to prevent the next tragedy, and that means deterring the next impaired driver from getting behind the wheel. Today's bill offers police one more tool with which to do that.
As it stands today in the Criminal Code, officers must have “reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has alcohol in their body” before they can demand a breath sample. That suspicion can be formed in many ways, from the smell of alcohol to slurred speech, or simply by an admission from the driver. The front line officers I have spoken with are good at their job, but they know that impaired drivers still slip through, and the research bears this out.
A 1999 study in the United States found that officers there missed 9 out of 10 drivers in the range from 0.05 to 0.08. That is high enough for roadside penalties in most Canadian provinces. That same study found that officers still missed half of the drivers over the criminal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content. Detection rates have improved over the last 15 years and I, for one, tend to believe that Canadian police would outscore their American counterparts, but still a 2009 study by our Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concluded as follows:
—current methods of enforcing the law lead police officers to apprehend only a small percentage of impaired drivers, even at roadside traffic stops designed to detect impaired driving.
One solution proposed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and used in other jurisdictions is to provide officers with passive or ambient air alcohol sensors to help them screen for impairment. There are benefits beyond just increasing the detection at roadside checkpoints. As we know from other debates on this issue, the evidence on what makes an effective deterrent is clear.
What deters the next impaired driver, what saves lives is not the fear of a crash or a jail sentence or getting caught, instead it is the perceived risk of being pulled over. The publicity surrounding the introduction of a new tool to detect impairment will no doubt increase that perceived risk of detection, and may make some people think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking.
The front line officers I have spoken to, in Victoria, Ottawa, and elsewhere, have insights that deserve to be heard by Parliament as we study this bill. Four to five million drivers are stopped each year. Less than 1% of those give breath samples, but each test creates delays for drivers and risks for officers. In the winter, drivers are sometimes asked to exit their vehicle, so that the test can be done inside a police vehicle. Police are rightly concerned about the safety of drivers when these tests occur on the shoulder of a busy road.
In other words, any tool that can increase the detection rate and reduce false positives not only has the potential to deter impaired drivers and save lives but also has the potential to make roadside stops safer and more streamlined for drivers and officers alike. With that in mind, I find it difficult to argue against dedicating time at committee to study this bill in more detail.
There are questions about police resources, questions about the accuracy of these new sensors, and of course, questions about whether the use of this new tool might be challenged under section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are important questions that deserve further discussion and study. Therefore, I am pleased to support this bill now, in principle, and hope that the appropriate committee will soon be able to give it the study it deserves.
I feel compelled to say, as I did when we debated a related proposal from my hon. colleagues in the Conservative Party, that there is a tremendous need for action on this file on the government side of the House.
Successive federal governments increased the penalties for impaired driving offences in 1985, 1999, 2000, and 2008. At first, stiffer penalties sharply reduced the rate of impaired driving offences. However, progress has been stalled since 2000, despite two rounds of increased penalties.
Six years ago, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights completed its study on impaired driving. It showed that in 2006, the latest year for which data was then available, more Canadians were killed by impaired driving than in any year since 1998, and it was the third consecutive annual increase in fatalities.
That report stated as follows:
...impaired driving remains the number one criminal cause of death in Canada....
...despite our collective best efforts and intentions, it is apparent that the problem of impaired driving is worsening in Canada and we are losing ground in our efforts to eliminate the problem.
Those words remain equally true today.
More recent data available to us now shows that the problem continued to worsen after 2009.
Using data up to 2011, Statistics Canada reported this:
The rate of impaired driving increased for the fourth time in five years...and was at its highest point in a decade.
The evidence is clear. We need more than just harsher penalties. We need an approach that is evidence-based and focused on prevention, on saving lives. This means better training and support for our police officers. It means smarter investigative tools so that families are not denied justice by a technicality. It means taking a clear-eyed look at which penalties work and which ones do not. It means collaboration between the federal government and the provinces and territories on public education and best practices, and it means assessing the latest technology to detect drug-impaired driving.
We have been losing ground for a decade in the fight to end impaired driving. We have lost far too many lives in our communities, and we urgently need real action from the federal government. I hope that action is forthcoming.
Let me assure those on the government benches that when their plan is brought to Parliament, they will always find support and help from New Democrats. However, as we await government action on the fight to end impaired driving, I am happy to support further study of this proposal from my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville. I want to thank him for his work on it, and I look forward to seeing the results of committee consultations very soon.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-05-16 11:20 [p.3347]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, for bringing forward this bill for debate today.
I understand, from the same source cited by the hon. member, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, that, as of last year, there are some 162,972 firearms listed in the firearms reference table and that over 4,000 of those are variants.
The bill would purport to do something very simple. It would amend the Criminal Code to define “variant” as meaning “a firearm that has the unmodified frame or receiver or another firearm”.
Would not the admirable interest of trying to create clarity and take away the vagueness in fact make it difficult for sports enthusiasts to deal with the variety of issues that would come forward, if there are that many firearms in this country, and that simply defining it as narrowly as that would perhaps defeat the purpose intended by the hon. member with this bill?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-05-16 11:31 [p.3348]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-230, an act to amend the Criminal Code. I would like to thank the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for bringing it forward for discussion and debate in the House. I can understand his clear desire to produce greater clarity and regulations concerning firearms. As he said, it is a laudable goal of the non-partisan nature. I salute him for doing so. However, I will be speaking against the bill, which in my view fails, despite its best intentions, to provide the kind of clarity that the member is seeking.
What would the bill do? It is a very simple bill. It would define the term “variant” in a different way. It is not defined now. It is left to the discretion of the regulator under the regulations. It would simply say in the statute, the Criminal Code, that “variant”, in respect of a firearm, means a firearm that has the “unmodified frame or receiver” of another firearm. That is all it would really do. It would take away the discretion that currently exists and narrow it in that way. In so doing, the member obviously seeks to provide greater clarity.
It then applies that criteria to the existing definitions of “restricted firearms” and “prohibited firearms” by affecting future classifications of a restricted and prohibited firearm, which would have a significant effect on access to firearms across our country.
I understand the member's motivation is to bring clarity to the process of classifying firearms. Law-abiding owners of firearms have often expressed frustration at what they see as the arbitrary classification or reclassification of firearms. Cases like the controversial case surrounding the Mossberg Blaze-47 or the Swiss Arms rifles, to which the member referred, illustrate the need for a more transparent process and a better, more open communication with Canadians. Yet these very firearms enthusiasts have raised serious concerns about the bill before us. Their analysis suggests that this bill would, and they believe, unintentionally, lead to the restriction or prohibition of firearms that would be currently available to properly licensed Canadians as non-restricted firearms. I believe the member is seeking to clarify, not to confiscate, but they fear that is precisely what the unintended consequences of the bill would do.
As I said in a question for the hon. member, there are something like 163,000 firearms currently listed in the Firearms Reference Table, of which over 4,000 are variants. Therefore, the question I would pose to the member is this. Why would one not want to provide continuing flexibility in the regulations themselves so officials could look at various criteria and make their determinations rather than perhaps unintentionally narrowing it, which would be the subject of concern to firearms enthusiasts by simply leading it to the very narrow category that the member has stated, namely of firearms that have the “unmodified frame or receiver” of another firearm? There may be many other criteria, and time permitting I will describe what they are, that need to be taken into account by officials as every day of the week they make this kind of interpretation. Inevitably, there would be some vagueness, I think one has to accept that, but that may make some sense in the public interest, I would suggest.
Any change to gun laws needs to be done with care and precision. The safety of Canadians must always be our top priority. We should be aiming for greater transparency, openness and certainty, not sowing, unintentionally, fresh confusion and concern.
The real question for every Canadian who is concerned about illegal guns and violence, whether they own firearms or not, is this. What is the government's policy?
In the last federal election, the Liberal platform promised four things: first, to take pragmatic action to make it harder for criminals to get and use handguns and assault weapons; second, to repeal elements of the Conservative's Bill C-42; third, to “put decision-making about weapons restrictions back in the hands of police, not politicians”, and, fourth, to provide $100 million each year to the provinces and territories to support guns and gangs police task forces to take illegal guns off our streets and reduce gun violence.
Those are the key things I was able to find in the platform to deal with comprehensive firearms reform. Unfortunately, the Liberals have already broken an election promise by once again delaying the gun-marking regulations to help police trace guns used in crimes.
We have not yet seen any legislation to deliver on the promise to make it harder for criminals to access guns or to repeal dangerous elements of Bill C-42, or to put decision-making about weapons restrictions back in the hands of firearms experts. In other words, the opaque and politicized system that the current government inherited from its Conservative predecessor remains unchanged.
Canadians expect the government to do better. When it comes to firearm classification, Canadians expect these vital public safety decisions to be made by experts in an open and transparent manner, based on all the available evidence.
Canadians expect their laws to be kept up to date and to be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs and fresh developments without compromising public safety, and it is that which is of concern in this particular bill. There is the lack of flexibility, the lack of giving the officials the tools they need to exercise their discretion appropriately under law. If they make a mistake, they are always subject to judicial review, and there have been several cases in which their discretion has been called to account in the courts. That, I suggest, is how it should be.
The government has promised legislation to meet these standards. It is time the government started to deliver. We should not be making piecemeal reform of firearms legislation on the fly through specific bills from time to time by private members. This bill does not provide the certainty, openness, or transparency that Canadians expect from any reform to firearms legislation.
Again, I thank the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for raising this issue and for representing his constituents who are looking for that clarity from their government. However, given the concerns I have heard from firearm law experts, it is clear the bill may not have the effect that the member intends. Even a more precise bill in this area would only be one part of the broader solution promised to Canadians by this government during the election.
As the government finally develops that policy, I hope the Liberals will consider the member's proposal and consult with Canadians in all parts of the country. Instead of repeating the mistakes of the past or pitting Canadians against one another in this sensitive area, the government has a great opportunity to bring people together around common sense solutions that work.
Although we cannot support a flawed bill, I hope the hard work of the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound spurs the government to make this important public safety issue a priority.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-05-09 11:33 [p.3040]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill C-246. I salute the member for Beaches—East York for his leadership in bringing this back to the House. I say “bringing it back” because we have seen the three initiatives here in different forms introduced by different parties over many years. Bringing it together and modernizing our animal cruelty bill just makes sense, and I commend the member for his efforts to do that.
I have proudly seconded this bill, and I wish to note very clearly that, this being a private member's bill, members will take different positions on it. However, as my friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam pointed out, initiatives such as the one dealing with shark finning came within five votes of becoming the law in this land. I certainly hope we do not lose this opportunity to do the right thing this time.
We can be proud that this bill builds on the work of so many others and of so many different parties in the House. Part of this bill would follow through on an initiative championed by my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, to implement a measure widely supported by Canadians; namely, a long-overdue ban on the importation of shark fins.
Members have heard that it is estimated that, shockingly, 100 million sharks are killed each year simply for their fins, the rest of the carcass discarded. Their fins are cut from their backs and the bleeding sharks, often still alive, are tossed back into the ocean where they sink to the bottom and drown. As a result, one-third of all shark species is threatened with extinction. In Canada, the fins of endangered and near-threatened shark species are regularly consumed. We can do better as Canadians.
Of course, our ocean ecosystem needs sharks. They are a vital apex predator, yet their populations are plummeting. This is an international conservation crisis. We should all be disturbed by this ongoing practice, and we should be acting quickly to implement measures that will eliminate the trade in illegally obtained shark fins.
A number of Canadians cities have joined this fight, attempting to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins. In 2012, however, a court ruled that these bans were beyond municipal jurisdiction. Since these municipal bans were struck down, the consumption of shark fins in Canada has increased by 85,000 pounds. Therefore, the bill calls out for appropriate federal legislation, so I commend my colleague for bringing this to the attention of parliamentarians so we can do the right thing. Canada must show global leadership in the fight to stop this cruel practice, by implementing an import ban. As a country, we can and should end our role in the trade of fins.
I want to say how proud I am of the work of a group called Fin Free, of school groups across the country, and particularly of the work of Margaret McCullough, an instructor at Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria. She has organized children to fight for shark fins at the provincial, municipal, and federal levels, to fight for a ban on shark finning which came so close in the last Parliament to being realized. I have met with the students on several occasions, and I can assure members that their passion for this issue is truly inspirational.
From meeting with elected officials and business owners to participating in a documentary film on shark finning, those students have worked hard to make this long-overdue measure a reality. Because of their work, and the work of thousands of others like them across Canada, we came so close, as I said, in 2013, five votes. I know we can deliver this change for those children and for people all over Canada demanding that we as Canadians play our fair part in this international conservation crisis in addressing it head-on.
This bill would also update Canada's existing animal cruelty offences. As the member for Beaches—East York noted, these have not been updated substantively since 1892. While I know it is the member's intention to bring anti-cruelty laws into the 21st century, I would settle for the 20th century. In fact, Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, said this bill would “... help Canada “move past our status as the country in the Western world with the worst animal protection laws and help us take a first step in the right direction”.”
These measures on animal cruelty have not only been proposed in the House before by members of more than one party, they have actually been passed by the House on no less than three occasions. However, I must acknowledge that some have raised concerns about whether the bill would affect the millions of Canadians who enjoy hunting, trapping, and fishing every year. I have been assured that this is neither the intention nor is it the effect of the bill, which would address only criminal conduct with regard to animal cruelty.
I am happy to say that my examination of the bill so far has given me no reason to doubt the words of the minister and officials of the Department of Justice, who told the House, both in 2002 and in 2005, that these amendments would not impact lawful activities involving animals, including hunting, trapping, and fishing.
One need only look at the existing sections of the Criminal Code to understand the way in which these offences are designed and applied. Section 444 of the Code makes it a crime to kill cattle without a lawful excuse. Section 445.1 makes it an offence to willfully cause unnecessary, pain, suffering, or injury to an animal. Of course, these provisions are neither designed for nor apply to farming, fishing, hunting, or research, as has been suggested earlier to the House.
We hope to get the bill to the committee where we can study it in greater detail. We can hear from criminal law expects at that time. We can see whether the Department of Justice is right, which I think it is. At that point, if amendments are required, the hon. member for Beaches—East York has made it abundantly clear that he would be open to amendments of clarification. One such amendment which I will be moving, if we get it to that stage, is one that is extraordinarily simple. It would go something like this: “For greater certainty, this bill has no impact on hunting, fishing, and trapping”.
What else do we need?
My province of British Columbia consistently puts in its legislation “for greater certainty” clauses to ensure that certain bills dealing with land use or resource development do not derogate from aboriginal or treaty rights. Those bills are almost rote now in British Columbia legislation. “For greater certainty” clauses are typical, and everybody understands that.
First, let us be clear that the animal cruelty sections have been over-pronounced by the Department of Justice, having none of the effects that the hon. member, my colleague from the Conservative Party, has addressed.
Second, the member has made it clear that he would be willing to entertain an amendment of that sort, which would take out any such concern that the House might have. Consequently, I see no reason why it cannot proceed. It is addressed, after all, at those who wish to combat intentional, reckless cruelty to animals in particular. There is no legal basis whatsoever on which to dispute the analysis of the justice department that these provisions already have no effect on lawful activities involving animals.
The last part of the bill, the third item, is relatively straightforward. It would ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and require source labelling for fur products. This would match laws found in the United States and Europe. This measure, which has already won the support of tens of thousands of Canadians through one of the e-petitions that are now possible under our advance rules, is necessary to prevent the kind of horrifying stories revealed in the 2012 Toronto Star investigation that found dog and cat fur being used to make children's toys.
In conclusion, the bill is a collection of measures that are long overdue and well-considered, having been introduced, studied, and, in some cases, passed by the House in the past.
It deserves further study. It will get further study at the committee if we can agree to send it there so we can do our part, as Canadians, to modernize our animal cruelty laws to no longer be part of the problem with shark finning, and to deal with the issue of dog and cat fur that the bill would so carefully address.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-05-02 11:33 [p.2625]
Mr. Speaker, let me first say a few words to the people who I am sure are following this debate closely.
To Jeff Durham, his friends, family, and the people of Windsor, Ontario, who have stood with him since December 2014, and all of those who have lost loved ones to violence, I would say that every member of this House stands with them. I cannot fathom the depth of grief that they must feel. However, we can all see their strength and determination to fight to save other Canadians from experiencing a similar grief.
I want to begin by acknowledging the passionate speech by my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville. I hope that all members, wherever they stand on this particular measure before us, will take this opportunity to rededicate themselves to the task of not just reducing but ending violence against women.
Let me say at the outset that although I understand and sympathize with the important objective of the bill, I have serious concerns about the legal implications of some of the provisions within it. Whether intentional or incidental, some of the provisions in the bill would have effects far beyond the principle and scope of this bill. After careful review, we have decided that these flaws are so fundamental and potentially harmful that they would undermine the very objective of the bill. For those reasons, we will not be supporting the bill at second reading.
The bill would, for the first time and in defiance of multiple rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, legally separate a fetus from its mother. The inescapable effect of that separation would be to reopen the debate on the reproductive rights of women, which has rightly and definitively been resolved by Canadians. It has been the object of more than 40 bills or motions in this House since 1987.
The member for Yorkton—Melville has said that it will not reopen the debate on the reproductive rights of women. She has said that abortion is explicitly excluded from the ambit of this bill. However, even if that is not the intention of the bill, its effect would be to lay the groundwork for the reopening of this contentious debate on the reproductive rights of women.
If these particular provisions seem familiar to members, it is because they are nearly a carbon copy of a measure previously proposed in the House in Bill C-484, the so-called unborn victims of crime act. The member does not seem to grasp that by enshrining the term “preborn child” it will have a significant ripple effect on the law in this context. It is defined as “a child at any stage of development that has not yet become a human being”.
First, I would note that under existing laws the victim's pregnancy is already used by judges as an aggravating factor in sentencing, despite the absence of any specific statutory requirement to do so in the Criminal Code. Second, I would note that Cassandra's killer already faces the most severe punishment available since the abolition of the death penalty, namely, a life sentence without parole for at least 25 years. Third, the victim's family members will have the opportunity to express their views in court by means of a victim impact statement. Fourth, even if separate charges were laid in the death of the fetus, they would most likely be served concurrently, that is, subsumed within the life sentence for first degree murder of the mother, leaving the number of years to be served unchanged.
The bill I mentioned earlier was debated in 2007. It did not proceed at that time in part because of the opposition of more than 100 organizations across Canada, many of which are dedicated full time to ending violence against women and upholding the rights of all. We cannot proceed with a flawed bill that fails to provide effective relief to those it seeks to protect and that may well jeopardize the constitutional rights of Canadian women.
Indeed, the experience of jurisdictions that have adopted such laws, including many in the United States, failed to reduce violence against women, and despite the best intentions of their sponsors, have been used to launch legal actions against mothers.
What is to be done?
The best way to protect fetuses is, of course, to protect mothers, which means directly protecting pregnant women by providing all the necessary resources to ensure good pregnancy outcomes, and by upholding women's constitutional rights. What is required then is a holistic approach to ending violence against women through both the protection of the constitutional rights of women and the prevention of violence, including intimate-partner violence.
The present government made a number of platform promises in the most recent election with relevance to this debate. They include the following: Criminal Code amendments to tackle intimate-partner violence, including listing it as an aggravating factor in sentencing; increased investment in shelters and transition houses; and a comprehensive federal gender-violence strategy and action plan.
The NDP supports these goals and other measures, such as restarting the police officer recruitment fund to ensure that communities have the officers they need to keep every family safe, yet no action has been taken to update the Criminal Code. Resources for shelters and transition houses remain woefully inadequate. Also, there has been no discernible progress on the development and implementation of a comprehensive federal gender-violence strategy and action plan.
Just last week, The Globe and Mail reported that the majority of women and children seeking shelter from violence, 73%, are turned away because of a lack of resources, and nearly half of the shelters that were studied had received clients from other provinces. This is truly a national problem. It is a crisis, from my home on the west coast in Victoria, to small towns, big cities, and remote communities all across Canada. The government must do more to ensure that no woman in Canada is denied the help she needs to escape violence and abuse.
In a previous session, the NDP member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski tabled a motion to develop a national action plan to end violence against women. I salute the ongoing work to that end by the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith who has taken up this initiative. This is the kind of holistic approach that will be required to eradicate violence, including intimate-partner violence, but also to take positive steps to achieve equality in our society and our economy.
This is not the time for tinkering. This is the time for bold national action. Sadly, the bill before us is neither the solution we need nor is it free of further problems. For those reasons, we cannot support proceeding with further consideration of the bill.
I hope all members will join us in not only ensuring the government delivers on its platform promises to address intimate-partner violence, funding for shelters, and public safety, but also in bringing forward proposals of its own to ensure we are doing everything in our power to end violence against women in Canada.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-04-21 17:29 [p.2569]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for London North Centre on the passionate and vital initiative before us today.
I am very pleased to hear him reiterate his willingness to have amendments considered at the justice committee. I would agree with him that no piece of legislation is perfect, and there often can be changes made at the justice committee. I sit on that committee, and I would be very happy to assist in any way I can to ensure the bill is palatable.
The member mentioned one amendment in response to my colleague's question concerning harmonization of sentences. If there are problems in harmonizing this initiative on domestic torture with state torture, would he be prepared to perhaps remove the word “torture” should there be any ambiguity in simply reiterating the definition of “torture”, but maybe not use that word, should that give any cause for concern to the government of the day?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-04-21 17:40 [p.2570]
Mr. Speaker, I wish to say at the outset that I am proud that the New Democratic Party members will be fully supporting this important initiative at second reading. I want to thank my colleague from London North Centre for bringing this issue to the attention of the House. I want to also salute him for taking the time to meet with members on all sides of this House to try to explain his reasoning in bringing forth this important bill.
The bill responds to the fact that torture, as it appears in our Criminal Code in section 269.1, applies only to the conduct of state actors like police and military personnel. The member intends through this initiative, I assume, to create a parallel within domestic torture, events that he has described with such clarity and that deserve society's opprobrium, without any doubt at all.
I want to also salute my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton who moments ago pointed out that there would be overlapping sections of the Criminal Code, but like me, he wishes to let this bill go to the justice committee where it can be studied and improved because, as the member so modestly pointed out, it does deserve to be amended in a few key areas.
Sometimes it is important to use words in a Criminal Code to show society's disdain for certain conduct. We could charge people with aggravated assault—and we do currently—for things that the member has described, but they amount to torture, and everybody knows it is torture. Yes, it is true that the words are slightly different in the international covenant, and they are a little different in the Criminal Code from what my colleague has put in his bill. However, those are technical points that can be readily addressed through review at the committee.
Members may recall that several years ago a politician was charged with gangsterism. The authorities did not need to charge that individual with gangsterism. They could have charged him with fraud and breach of public trust or a whole bunch of other sections of the code. However, that word will never be forgotten. Similarly, many of the things we call terrorism are nothing more than criminal offences, but by calling them terrorism, we attach to them the weight that society needs to have attached to them, because they are of a different calibre than simple crimes like assault, kidnapping, or the like. We call them terrorism for a purpose and we call it gangsterism for a purpose, even though they amount to other crimes under other sections of the Criminal Code.
That is why I think the bill is so important. Let us call a spade a spade. It is not aggravated assault when we hear the heinous acts that were described by my colleague. It is torture. If we want to say that, because of some technical reason and our international commitments somehow not squaring perfectly with this domestic bill my colleague has brought forth and we do not even want to use the “t” word in the bill, who cares? The public will call a spade a spade, and call it torture. To not let this bill pass because of technical concerns that can be readily addressed at the justice committee would be very unfortunate.
I have consulted with criminal lawyers about this bill and I have looked at case law, and the fact situations are just chilling, as members know. We are talking about victims of the most prolonged and sadistic physical and mental abuse. For those who survive, the physical and mental consequences can be permanent: PTSD, etc.
In some cases, the possibility of bringing other charges such as kidnapping, forcible confinement, or assault with a weapon can ensure that the offender faces a lengthy sentence, even a life sentence. In other cases, however, the sentences have not seemed to many to meet the gravity of the crime. This bill would ensure that the gravity of the crime is matched by the appropriate sentence.
In all cases, survivors and their families may question why the acts of torture they endured are not acknowledged as such by the law. That is what I said earlier when I said that we as a society should call a spade a spade and attach terms that match what the public says about the crimes. It is up to us to make the Criminal Code be our servant, not our master.
There are many dimensions to this issue beyond the name change or the severity of a sentence. Canada is party to the United Nations convention against torture. As such, we are obliged to take effective measures against non-state torture within our borders.
It is certainly worth debating whether the existing offences in our Criminal Code, which do not mention torture by name, are the most effective and appropriate means to prosecute these crimes. However, this international dimension also gives rise to some technical concerns that have been raised about the bill.
Again, specifically, it is vital that any amendment we make to the Criminal Code under the rubric of torture not create discord, either in definition or sentence, with our international commitments under the convention and with our domestic prohibition against state torture.
I know the member for London North Centre is familiar with these concerns. I thank him again for taking the time to educate us all on the initiatives that he has taken and the work he has done.
Of course, as we consider what more Canada can do to eradicate torture, I would like to take this opportunity to call upon the government, once again, to ratify the optional protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture.
Despite promises in 2006 and 2009, and repeated calls from Canada and international NGOs, the government has yet to take this crucial concrete step to affirm our commitment to upholding human rights at home and around the world. There is simply no excuse. We cannot condemn torture and ignore effective measures to prevent it. As ever, the world is going to judge Canada by our actions, not just our words.
Of course, the bill speaks to the reality that acts of horrific and repeated abuse and violence do not just happen in foreign jails far from Canadian shores. They take place within our borders, in our communities.
As organizations like the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Canadian Federation of University Women have rightly pointed out, these abuses disproportionately target women and girls. I am thankful to those organizations and others for their advocacy on this issue.
As we sit here and debate the bill and its connection to gender-based violence, we must recognize that far more action is needed to not just reduce but end violence against women and girls in Canada.
My colleague, the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski proposed a motion in this House to develop a national action plan to end violence against women. She presented a wonderful town hall in my community of Victoria, where we addressed these issues about violence against women and girls. That action plan I commend to this House to this day as still being vitally necessary.
The motion would have led to better policies to prevent violence and support survivors, and more action to address socio-economic factors that contribute to violence, among many other things.
Despite the defeat of that initiative at the hands of the last Conservative government, I assure members we are going to keep pushing in this House for that action plan to end violence against women. We hope the new government understands the necessity to take that action and makes the investments in shelters, affordable housing, and emergency resources, so no woman is denied the help she needs to escape an abusive and sometimes torture situation that she faces.
There are many steps we can take to uphold our international commitment to eliminate torture, to prevent the most horrific acts of violence within our communities, and to support the survivors.
In my view, the bill is an important step along that path. It definitely merits further consideration in this House. With the help of the member for London North Centre, I am sure we can do a better job to ensure that the bill meets our international obligations, does not contradict sections of the Criminal Code, is appropriately harmonized with the sentences, and that we can get it right. Technical amendments should not stand in the way of justice.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-04-13 17:57 [p.2194]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my question by thanking the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for introducing reform of our legislation dealing with driving while impaired. It is long overdue. It has been since 2008. Driving while impaired is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths a year, and it is a leading cause of criminal death in Canada. I thank him for his efforts in this important area.
In light of the Liberals' commitment to reform other laws where impairment could occur, such as marijuana or other drugs, my question is whether the issue of drug impairment would be affected positively, negatively, or at all by the legislation before us tonight.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-04-13 18:09 [p.2196]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address such a complex and pressing initiative, as my friend the parliamentary secretary has also indicated.
Let me say at the outset that we firmly believe there needs to be future consideration of the bill, and I look forward to working with members of all parties to advance the debate on the need for a comprehensive, effective response to impaired driving that all of our communities so desperately need.
I stand with my colleague, the member for Jonquière. She and the Lac-Saint-Jean community have also seen preventable tragedies.
She told me the story of Johanny Simard, who was killed by a repeat drunk driver one month before her 16th birthday. She also told me the story of Mathieu Perron and Vanessa Viger. This young married couple in their twenties were expecting their second child when they were killed instantly by a repeat drunk driver who was behind the wheel of a speeding truck. Their son Patrick, who was in the back seat, was only two years old. He died in hospital shortly thereafter.
I would like to thank my colleague from Jonquière for her help on this file. I would also like to thank her for seeking justice, finding solutions for the future, and helping me to understand what her community has gone through.
However, they are not alone. Far too many Canadians have friends or family members who have been injured or even killed by impaired drivers. Just last month, in a case to which the parliamentary secretary also made reference, there was a case involving a gentleman north of Toronto. Justice Michelle Fuerst wrote in her decision something I wish to quote:
The sad reality is that the sentence I impose today will not make whole the families who lost three children and their grandfather, nor will it return a grandmother and great-grandmother to good health. While the criminal justice system can deter and denounce, it is ill-suited to make reparation for harm of the magnitude involved in this case.
Neither judges nor lawmakers can make these families whole again. However, as parliamentarians we can and must work against the next tragedy. Somewhere in our communities is the next victim of impaired driving.
We owe it to them and to their families to rededicate ourselves to the task of finding the most effective measures to finally put an end to impaired driving on our roads. They are counting on us not to give in to the temptation to simply talk tough in the wake of these tragedies. They are counting on us to stop the next crash, the next injury, the next death. That means having the debate our country needs, founded on the evidence, guided by the lessons of other jurisdictions, and focused on effective deterrence. It is time we measured our progress not in years served but in lives saved.
Let us consider some facts.
Successive federal governments have increased the penalties for impaired driving offenses: in 1985, 1999, 2000 and 2008.
For 16 years, the law has set life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for impaired driving causing death, and 10 years imprisonment for causing bodily harm. The average prison term for such crimes has lengthened, and the percentage of offenders receiving custodial sentences has risen.
What effect has this had on the rate of impaired driving? If we look at the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, we see that Canada made incredible strides between 1985 and 2000, cutting the rate of impaired driving incidents in half. However, after 2000 progress stalled.
Six years ago, the Standing Committee on Justice completed its study on impaired driving. It showed that in 2006, the latest year for which data is available, saw more Canadians killed by impaired driving than in any year since 1998 and the third consecutive annual increase in fatalities.
That report stated:
...impaired driving remains the number one criminal cause of death in Canada...despite our collective best efforts and intentions, it is apparent that the problem of impaired driving is worsening in Canada and we are losing ground in our efforts to eliminate the problem.
Those words remain true today.
More recent data available to us now shows that the problem continued to worsen after 2009. Why is this so?
Let me turn to a review of the evidence by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for answers. They say the media, politicians, and others often argue for increased sentences as a means of deterring both the offender and others who might otherwise engage in the conduct. However, research during the last 35 years establishes that increasing penalties for impaired driving does not, in itself, have a significant specific or general deterrence impact. Rather, the evidence indicates that the risk of apprehension and, to a lesser extent, the swiftness with which the sanction is imposed are the key factors in deterrence.
This seems counterintuitive to many, but consider this: people drive impaired, even though they know it could kill them. If they can ignore that ultimate penalty, what chance does the distant threat of a jail term stand?
The evidence marshalled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, based on numerous studies from Canada and abroad over a span of decades, led to this stark conclusion:
...lengthy prison terms cannot be justified in the name of specific or general deterrence and may even be counterproductive in terms of recidivism.
This evidence raises specific concerns about efficacy of the sentencing reforms proposed by my colleague in the bill, not to mention the vulnerability of new mandatory minimums to charter challenge.
However, the bill has two other goals, and it is for these and the urgency of its basic objective that I support further debate and study of the bill.
First, the bill would restrict some of the more dubious legal defences that contribute to Canada's distressingly low charge and conviction rate for impaired driving. My colleagues have spoken about those.
The second is that the bill would introduce random breath testing for drivers. This is a measure that has been proposed before in this House and adopted by many OECD countries, reportedly with considerable success in reducing the incidence of impaired driving. I know from my own discussions with legal and law enforcement communities that it has its supporters but also its critics. However, in the face of continuing tragedies like what we have heard about in Lac Saint-Jean, I cannot justify denying further study in this House of that potential successful measure.
These and other provisions deserve study because we know that simply raising the penalties for the fifth time in three decades is not enough, and it will not do it. We need more than new laws that happen to be appearing in our Criminal Code. We need well-trained, well-supported police officers on our roads. We need collaboration with the provinces and territories. We need smarter investigative tools, so that families are not denied justice by a technicality. We need to study the penalties that are already in place to see what works and what does not. We need to assess the technology to detect drug-impaired driving as well.
In closing, I know that every member shares our commitment to the objective of the bill, which is to save lives by deterring and ending impaired driving. This has been the goal of many studies, bills, and laws that have been passed in this place before.
I look forward to working with all members to study the bill and measure it against the standards of comprehensiveness, practicality, efficacy, and constitutionality. We owe it to the families I spoke of when I began, and countless others across Canada, who have suffered a tragic and preventable loss, to hold ourselves to high standards, to move past half measures, and to find the most effective solutions to regain the ground we have lost over the last decade in the fight to end impaired driving.
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