Thank you very much. I'm impressed by the gathering here. Unfortunately once again, I think I'm the oldest in the room. It doesn't give me any privileges or rights, but it does allow me to reflect on a number of things, and I hope I can do that very quickly for you.
What makes me uncomfortable, though, about being here is that judges generally never speak at all after they leave the bench other than to write a memoir or possibly something for university matters. In my mind, they close ranks, and they don't recognize that possibly there are problems in the criminal justice system.
I worked for 26 years in the provincial court of British Columbia at 222 Main Street. It is a criminal court with 20 judges, roughly, and it deals exclusively with criminal cases. The only cases that we don't deal with are those that go beyond the preliminary inquiry stage to trial by judge and jury, or before a high court judge sitting alone.
During the time I was a judge, the Charter of Rights came into existence, and initially it appeared that superior court Judges would be the judges who would deal in the main with charter issues.
But what happened is that in one case I dealt with and another one back east, in the course of conducting a preliminary inquiry on an indictable matter, charter issues were raised. I granted charter relief, and it went to the Supreme Court of Canada. They decided that inferior judges, as we were called, didn't have the capacity to deal with charter issues. All that meant was that the defence corps quickly decided that they could not afford to wait, and they would simply elect to have trial before provincial court judges. So the trial bench that deals in the main with charter issues is the provincial court.
That left me dealing with criminal cases and also with the other aspect of it, which you're not going to touch on, and that is the effect that charter issues have on the conduct of criminal litigation.
What I was able to do, though, was experience for 26 years a steady diet of probably 10,000 people appearing before me, one after the other, a conveyor belt that never ends, criminals of every kind, lawyers of every kind, and acquire a deep understanding of human nature. As far as I'm concerned, there are and always will be criminals among us. There are and always will be violent people who are either sociopathic or psychopathic, or beyond that, those who are simply swindlers, who are the same.
You learn to recognize evil when you see it. You don't see it too often, but it is there. So what is the response to that? The response, of course, is the imposition of a just and adequate punishment.
So what does all that have to do with what you have to deliberate on? Probably not much, but it explains my point of view.
In all the time I was a judge, I encountered police officers, both in front of me as witnesses and informally in the coffee shop that I, among other people, frequented. It was open to the public. Then I would see them on occasion at retirement functions and, of course, at the occasional funeral.
In the first two years I was a judge, an RCMP officer was gunned down at the office of the detachment in Richmond, leaving a pregnant wife and two small children. I understood then and forever after the fact that the police are an absolute in the criminal justice system. I say right out front that they are more important than the judges and they are more important than the prosecutors. Nobody dials up 911 and asks to speak to a prosecutor or a judge. You ask for someone in emergency health or the police or the fire officials.
Having that in mind and having then concluded my 26 years, I wrote a letter expressing my respect for the police force of Vancouver, particularly for officers and constables on patrol and for officers having special street duties. They're the real police. To use the vernacular, they do the grunt work.
I described them in what I wrote in a memoir in the first three years of retirement. I said:
||At times they are foot soldiers in a dirty and dangerous war against violence, property crime and predatory drug trafficking. The men and women—working in a world of harsh reality, are the back-bone of the criminal justice system. More than that, they are the only ones who risk injury and even death each time they go to work.
I'm mindful of Sir Robert Peel's expression when he brought civilian police into existence as we know them today: “The police are the public, and the public are the police.” That bond ought to be firmly established in our communities, but it is not as firmly established as it should be.
To deny police officers the right to be represented on a justice advisory committee is, to me, an absolute denial of that proposition that the police are the public and the public are the police. It's an absolute denial of the fact that we want them, and that we want them to protect us. When it comes to expressing an opinion, and as I read, they're accused of having a law and order ideology, for want of a better expression. Of course, an ideology does not express and reflect reality.
With a great deal of passion and emotion when I speak about this, I really do believe a police officer can be a very functional and advantageous person to have on any justice advisory committee. In fact, I might pause and change direction a little bit. In British Columbia, there are at least five judges who are former police officers. You can't tell that from seeing them work. It's impossible. It may surprise you, or it may not, that the judge in the Pickton case is a former police officer. So if police officers can rise to the level of becoming judges, why can't they rise to the level, even while they're working, of being members of a justice advisory committee?
I think it best that I stop at this point, other than to say just in a few moments that on Tuesday, March 6, I went to a high school in Vancouver, Eric Hamber Secondary School. I've spoken to many groups in the time since I retired and since I wrote a memoir; I've spoken on radio talk shows, on television on occasion, to women's groups and professional groups, and to high school students on occasion. These students were in a planning course, planning their future. I explained to them what peace, order, and good government is all about. I explained to them my view, which was that of a virtual black sheep among judges. I explained that sentencing, in my opinion, is not adequate. I won't go into that, though, because it's not the purpose of your deliberations when you ultimately make them, I suppose.
Those students understood what peace, order, and good government meant when I discussed the concept with them in simple terms. It is a constitutional issue that reflects on the judiciary, the judiciary being recognized as an institution and as a branch of government. As a branch of government, the judiciary has to recognize sooner or later that when we have rampant crime, as we do in the city I come from, it's time for it to do something to further the fact that we are losing the peace and order in our communities.
How does that bear on what you're going to do? When I go back to Vancouver, I'm going to tell them I was at this session, I'm going to explain to them what generally took place, and I'm going to tell them that what I did when I left the session was leave you with the essays written by each one of those students. They're reflections on columns that I've written that all deal with law and order, with the presence of the police, and with the importance of the police.
I'm going to suggest to you that the functioning of the judiciary and criminal justice is very important, and these young people recognize it. I said to them that it's too late for me to do anything for them. My generation dropped the ball, and things aren't in very good shape when they go out at night, when they leave their houses, when they go out about in public, in terms of whether or not they're going to be safe. I said that what they have to do in the next few years, when they're in their twenties and thirties, is think more about their country.
When you take the time, if you ever wish to, and examine what these students have said, I think you'll realize that they are out there and they do expect you people, as parliamentarians, to do something. If not, they are going to take their turn at it, and hopefully do better than you might be able to do.
Really, what you do is not for your own benefit, as politicians or as judges or anything else. It's for that next generation, and I do think the criminal justice system is very important to them.
That's all I have to say for the moment.
Thank you very much. It's an honour to be here before this committee again.
I want to comment on two aspects of the changes to the appointment process: the committee structure, at least, and the function of the committee. The first relates to police representation as an institution on these committees, and the second is the removal of the “highly recommended” category in the recommendations that are made by the committee.
Note that I say “police representation as an institution”. I of course share my colleagues' great respect for the police, the important role they play in our society, the crucial role they play; and in Canada we've been blessed by very good police officers and forces, as we have been blessed by very good judges and lawyers. However, I do not think it's appropriate for the police as an institution to select members to the nominating committee or at least the assessment committee.
The inclusion of representative law enforcement strongly suggests to me, through the circumstantial evidence—and I'll build the case a little bit—strongly suggests the desire to appoint judges who are not expected to be independent and impartial, but who are expected to judge in favour of police interests. What other explanation is there for providing a representative of that institution on this body as opposed to many other institutions in society?
Criminal cases represent only a very small fraction of the kinds of cases that come before the courts, a very small percentage. Police have no special knowledge of that vast majority of cases. What is more offensive to this notion to me is that the police are partisan actors in criminal cases. Their conduct may be on trial as much as the accused is on trial. They are being judged as part of the judicial determination in the case. That is not true of lawyers, but the conduct of police officers can be a central issue, which is determinative of a case.
An illustration of police partisanship is the series of royal commissions on wrongful convictions that we've seen in Canada recently. These cases are unusual; they're not everyday results, and they don't reflect the work of the vast majority of police officers. But in these wrongful conviction cases—Marshall in Nova Scotia, Parsons in Newfoundland, Morin in Ontario, Milgaard in Saskatchewan, and others—the royal commissioners have identified police misconduct as a central cause of wrongful conviction.
The term “tunnel vision” has been used frequently in these reports, the concept that a police officer is so convinced of the guilt of an accused that the officers will take shortcuts and engage in misconduct to achieve that conviction. It's sometimes called noble cause corruption.
The police have a difficult role. They see the victims, they deal with the victims. They see the consequences of crimes. When they become convinced that this particular individual is guilty, they stop at no lengths to achieve a conviction. That's why we have courts and that's why we have judges, judges who act independently and impartially. They stand between potentially innocent accused and an overzealous police force or police investigative team. Judges are to be a protection against such misguided conduct and not a vehicle to promote it.
The additional piece of circumstantial evidence that suggests to me that this is an attempt to achieve a particular result from judges rather than having them act impartially and independently is the comment of the in the House. I don't know the exact words, forgive me, but the gist of the comment was that we want judges who will help to advance our agenda.
It is not the role of a judge to advance the agenda of the government. The role of a judge is to act independently and impartially, according to the law and the judge's conscience, and not according to any other agenda.
That's why judges always come under attack in countries like Zimbabwe, and more recently, Pakistan. It is very inconvenient for dictators to have to deal with judges who decide independently and impartially, so they harass them and they force them to resign.
In Canada we've been blessed by an independent and impartial judiciary as well as excellent police officers and a strong bar. In Canada, I suggest that we should not even consider taking a tiny baby step in that direction of encouraging judges to carry out any particular agenda.
The second point relates to the category of “highly recommended”. I understand that now the committee will only say “recommended” or “not recommended”; it will not have this additional category of “highly recommended”. What this does is simply expand one vast pool for the government to feel free to select from.
Of course, the government is entitled to do that. The government ultimately makes the appointment. It is a cabinet decision, a government decision. And ultimately, the government will be judged in the big picture in terms of the kinds of judges they appoint, although there's a limited constituency that has a direct interest or knowledge of how well they're doing.
For that reason, I would suggest that the category of highly recommended should remain. Not only should it remain, but the government should report publicly on the number of times it has made appointments from the highly recommended category and the number of times it selected merely from the recommended category. This would give at least some public measure and accountability as to the extent to which the committee's recommendations were being seriously considered.
Of course, there may be reasons for departing from the category of highly recommended. It might be that there is a special need in a court for a particular kind of judge, someone who is an expert in bankruptcy law, for example. That may be a need that a court is lacking when there's no one in the highly recommended category who can fulfill that function. That would be a justification for departing from selecting from the highly recommended category. There may be issues of equity in the appointments, diversity on the bench, that would cause the government to select from the broader pool of recommended rather than the highly recommended category.
So there may be justification for it on occasion, but in my view, having the more specific advice of highly recommended versus recommended is additional information and opinion that can be helpful to the government in making its decision, and if there is reporting on the extent to which they appoint from one or the other category, that should provide some public accountability as well.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
If I had a Latin temperament and were impulsive and emotional, I would tend to respond immediately to the comments I just heard, but you know that that is not in my nature. However, perhaps I misunderstood. Perhaps I should have put my headset on when he referred to corruption, partisanship and tunnel vision. I hope he was not drawing a comparison between the astounding number of lawyers who are accused of such things and Canadian police officers, but perhaps I misunderstood his comment.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. The Canadian Police Association, CPA, welcomes the opportunity to present our submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with respect to the judicial appointment process.
The CPA is the national voice for 54,000 police personnel across Canada. Through our 170 affiliates, membership includes police personnel serving in police services from Canada's smallest towns and villages as well as those working in our largest municipal and provincial police services, the RCMP members associations, and first nations police associations.
We are proud of our relationships with parliamentarians from all political parties. Like you, our members want to make a difference in their communities. As the national voice for front-line police personnel across Canada, we bring a unique perspective on progressive justice reform.
By raising awareness on law enforcement and justice issues, the CPA promotes community safety.
Police associations have contributed to the deliberations on such issues as youth criminal justice; child pornography; impaired driving; sentencing, corrections and parole reform; national sex offender registry; criminal pursuits; organized crime; and technological innovation in policing, such as DNA testing and the Canadian Police Information Centre renewal project.
We are proud of the calibre of today's police officers and the contributions they make to their community. Police officers are men and women who want to make a positive difference in their neighbourhood. You will find them coaching in local arenas, gymnasiums and sports fields, volunteering with organizations such as Big Sisters, Boy Scouts and Special Olympics, or lending a hand with a local school, civic club or the United Way; that is where you will find your neighbours who are police officers. Policing is not just a job, it is a way of life.
We were pleased when the former Minister of Justice, Mr. approached us about having law enforcement representatives sitting on the judicial advisory committees. It immediately made sense to us that police officers could bring their skills and experience to the table to bring another perspective and skill set to the process of selecting judges.
I would like to thank , Minister and Minister , for their support in making this decision, and for standing their ground when the decision came under partisan attack. We are grateful for their support, and sincerely appreciate their confidence in our profession.
Recently the Canadian Police Association appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada, as interveners in a case concerning investigative standards. Could you imagine my surprise that very same morning to learn that the Chief Justice, who was also presiding over this case that day had issued a public letter condemning the decision of this government to include police officers on these committees? Certainly this was not something we expected from the highest judicial official in Canada, who is expected to be neutral, impartial, independent, and non-partisan. Unfortunately, we understand, all too well, how an apprehension of bias, partisanship and partiality serve to undermine the confidence of Canadians in our justice institutions.
The composition of the judiciary advisory committees incorporates a variety of different perspectives: one nominee of the provincial or territorial Law Society, one nominee of the provincial or territorial branch of the Canadian Bar Association, one nominee of the Chief Justice of the province, or of the Senior Judge of the territory, one nominee of the provincial Attorney General, or territorial Minister of Justice, one nominee of the law enforcement community, three nominees of the federal Minister of Justice representing the general public, and one ex officio non-voting member: either the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs or the Executive Director, Judicial Appointments.
Lawyers, including the criminal defence bar, are well represented on these committees. The fact that these lawyers often appear before courts to plead their cases in an adversarial system has not been seen as a conflict of interest or reason to bar their participation in the selection process. The fact that lawyers may also become candidates for selection has not barred them from participation either. After only one year following the end of their term of office on the committee, lawyer members may themselves become candidates for judicial appointments. We submit that this certainly raises questions of conflict, or perception of conflict. We are not suggesting that lawyers should not participate in this, even criminal defence lawyers. Obviously they bring an important perspective and understanding of the justice and legal system. We would suggest, however, that the process can, and will, be strengthened by broadening the perspectives and experiences around the committee table.
Police officers work at the front line of our justice system. Police officers work closely with victims of crime and those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged within our communities. Police officers understand that our justice system needs to be much more than simply a legal system.
Regrettably, there have been some very strong reactions from some regarding this decision. The has suggested that the is attempting to manipulate the judge selection process. The Prime Minister has defended the decision, pointing to the need for different perspectives on these committees.
Clearly those who had a monopoly on judicial appointments do not want to part with it. The strongest opposition has come from bar associations, including criminal defence lawyers and members of the bar serving in the judiciary. Are they simply trying to preserve their exclusivity? Quite possibly they are.
The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has even suggested that the selection of judges should be through committees comprised solely of lawyers.
In actual fact, the process federally and in many provinces has included the appointment of lay people for quite some time. It is quite conceivable that a police officer or a former or retired police officer may have been appointed as a layperson on the committee. We contend that the process can in fact be enhanced by bringing more community perspectives into the process, not less.
Some have suggested that the introduction of police officers on the judicial advisory committees will risk politicizing the judiciary and police associations. Yet previous witnesses before this committee who have studied the judicial appointment process for years have declared that previous Conservative and Liberal governments have all given undue influence to political considerations in making judicial appointments. We would argue that expanding the process to include non-partisan appointments such as police officers will serve to reduce this risk.
A previous ad hoc committee of Parliament, chaired by Mr. Lee, presented reports to Parliament on the appointment of Supreme Court judges. In the May 2004 report, the ad hoc committee enumerated the personal characteristics of candidates who should be considered for the Supreme Court: honesty, integrity, candour, patience, courtesy, tact, humility, fairness, and common sense.
Police officers bring training, interviewing skills, and experience in assessing credibility and truthfulness to this process. Unfortunately, police officers have been classified by some as a special interest group with a narrow interest in the justice system.
We would suggest that at the end of the day, we are no different from many other groups that appear before this committee, including those here today. We are stakeholders within the justice system who seek to find the truth and, in doing so, seek safer communities and neighbourhoods.
Finally, we understand that since these appointments have been made, many of the committees have met and are working well together. We are confident that over time the results of the committee process will support the government's decision.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, members.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much. It's an honour to be asked to appear here today on this very important topic.
It's always a pleasure to come before the committee, but this is a special day for me, because Professor Edward Ratushny dragged me kicking and screaming out of the first class at the University of Windsor Law School many years ago, and it is a real thrill to be sitting at the same table he is at. He was only nine; he was the youngest professor ever appointed to a faculty.
But actually, Justice Craig, I identify with you, because you see yourself as a black sheep among judges. I was a black sheep and remain a black sheep in many circles. So we have a lot in common. The white sheep from that class sits here to my right.
We appreciate being here; I appreciate being here, but quite frankly, I'm not going to get into the situation of finger pointing and that kind of thing. We believe, on behalf of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, that this is about principles, not the process.
The government, the Minister of Justice, has the right to appoint. That's the way it should be. The politicians who are elected have their pulse on what's needed, and we don't question that.
We question a couple of things, however. You've heard it from me before on behalf of the CCCDL when we've been here. Consultation is so very important when you are going to change something so dramatically as legislation, or even this very important process. If I were to say there's one thing that concerns me greatly here, it's that there was no real consultation before this was done.
Do you know what? Appointing police officers to a committee to screen potential candidates to the bench in itself doesn't destroy the process. Police officers could have been appointed before. I served on the provincial committee in Ontario for five years, and the fact that a police officer—In and of itself, the earth is not going to collapse. Stripping a judge of a vote in and of itself doesn't mean the committee process is destroyed. Giving federal appointments the majority vote may not destroy the process. Removing “highly recommended” and replacing it with just “recommended” may not destroy the process.
But putting it in the context of what's happened here—I hope I have it wrong—if the Prime Minister said, “We want to make sure we're bringing forward the laws to make sure we crack down on crime, that we make our streets and communities safer; we want to make sure our selection of judges is in correspondence with those objectives”, that to me changes all of these factors and means that we have to look at the process. I as a Canadian, as a defence lawyer, with great respect, was taken aback and had to read this about three or four times.
If the and the minister just want to make it more representative of the community, that's fine. They can do that. But that's not what happened here. The said—and I apologize if I'm misquoting him, and I'm not pretending to quote him directly—we want to make sure that our political agenda is reflected in the committees. So when you take what happened in relation to the change of the committees, we have to be concerned.
Our concern here is that it's the principle; it's not the process. There are fantastic police officers, and there are even some fantastic defence lawyers in the world. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about potentially politicizing the process, and that's not what we want in this country. I hope the didn't mean to say that.
I'm not here to represent the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She could do a lot better, for sure, and I'm not going to do that. But I think the Chief Justice, remarkably, was speaking about the principle, not the fact that there was a police officer on this committee.
When I look at “Canada's Court System: Keeping the system fair and efficient”, on the Department of Justice's website, it talks about the process, and under the heading “Judicial Independence”, it says:
||Judicial independence is a cornerstone of the Canadian judicial system. Under the Constitution, the judiciary is separate from and independent of the other two branches of government, the executive and legislative. Judicial independence is a guarantee that judges will make decisions free of influence and based solely on fact and law.
As I look at the comment, not what happened to the process, I wonder whether or not there's an erosion of this principle.
The third paragraph talks about tenure:
||A number of institutions foster judicial independence, notably the Canadian Judicial Council, the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs and the National Judicial Institute. These institutions help maintain a distance between the government and the judiciary in areas like discipline, pay and benefits, and continuing education for judges
—and I would have thought, before these comments were made, the principles that we're dealing with here.
So at the end of the day, I really believe there seems to be a problem, and the problem seems to be really an optical one.
With the greatest respect to him—he works hard—the Prime Minister of this country should not be saying those things, because it blurs the lines. I have nothing against the police, but how many times have we heard in the last five years in this country, in the last year, politicians embrace the criminal justice system, the courts? How many times? Not enough. All through the world, our system is held up as an example. We go over to third worlds and teach. But where are the parliamentarians? Where are the leaders embracing the criminal justice system?
I have been at many committees, and with great respect, my criticism of the police, special interest group, lobby, or citizens, or associations, whether it be the CACP or this association, is that they don't seem to embrace the criminal justice system: the judges are not tough enough, or they're not getting it. That's the problem.
Those are the statements that we would like to make. It is not the process, it's the principles. It's my respectful submission that if you are going to change the principle, you have to consult. I would like later on, if I have time, to talk about the changes, because to me, the mediocre are entitled to appointments too, but with great respect, we are shaping the history of this country for our children, and we want highly qualified and highly recommended candidates—not superstars from the bar; that doesn't make someone highly qualified. In the most important thing that preserves our democracy, surely the minister should be able to choose from the highly qualified.
Last, I'd have to spend a lot of time on it, but my experience on the judicial appointment committee in Ontario is that a judge is very important. A judge is only one voice, but a judge should have a vote. Why strip a judge of a vote? It leads to kind of a vote thing as opposed to a consensus thing. Judges have so much to offer in terms of guidance. I don't understand, except in the context that we accept somehow that the committees were the private clubs of judges and lawyers, which is preposterous, because the committees in this country are jealously protective of the judges. We love the system we have in this country. I would think most people on committees would tell you that once they get in there, there's almost a sense of fear to make sure they're doing the right thing.
I don't care, personally, if people are members of any particular party or if they lobbied for a particular party. If they come out, and they're highly qualified—Let's say there are three of them. I'm the Prime Minister, or I'm the Minister of Justice, and I belong to one party, so I may appoint that person. This has been going on forever, and it will continue. But if they are all highly qualified, we've done the right thing.
So it is the principle here that is of great concern, not the tinkering with the committee.
It's quite amazing; we have people here today of seemingly divergent views, and yet all of them make complete sense—to me, anyway, although I might just be having an off day.
If we can have a moment of self-reflection here, I think it opens up a larger issue: we're not really studying the appointment of judicial officers here, we're having a political debate. Sometimes, perhaps unfairly, the opposition might say that the government is anti-judiciary, anti-judge. I'm sure they're not. I'm sure the lawyers—there are at least three of them over there—can't be anti-judicial, anti-judge.
Quite frankly, when the Attorney General gets on the floor of the House of Commons and says that the opposition—in this case, the Liberals—are anti-police, that's equally false. By my background as a practising lawyer for some 21 years, and as a former mayor, I can't be either anti-police or anti-judge. My late uncle was a provincial court judge in the city of Moncton, where occasionally there is serious crime. It's not Vancouver or Toronto, but—For 35 years he developed very close relationships with prosecutors, defence attorneys, and for sure, the police.
So that's where I come from. We all come from communities.
I guess where I'm going with this line of questioning, Mr. Chairman, is that we're here discussing who should be, as Mr. Trudell says, on the committees. We're here discussing process, as if somehow this is going to be a debate of principle and attitude. I think we may be wasting our time discussing the judicial appointment process, because the very presumption, by the government's enunciated policy of change, is that there's something wrong with our judiciary. But I'm not hearing that from the retired judge, from the police officers, or from the defence attorneys.
What is wrong with our judiciary that would lead the Prime Minister to announce a statement that would divide the parties, that you're either pro-police or anti-police? It's pure politics.
I don't expect you people to comment on the politics. We're making a fine enough mess of that up here on both sides. We don't need your expertise on that. I guess I would ask each person, starting with the retired judge, what is so wrong with the level of the Canadian judiciary that we have to have these fairly large changes to the process? What is so wrong with our judiciary that the Prime Minister had to make this change?
I can take you back and deal with that very simply. There has been a generational shift in judges. It has nothing to do with the appointment process; it's a matter of attitude.
Judges who were what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation”, those who grew up and went through the Depression, those who fought the war, those who made Canada what it was in the last 50 years of the twentieth century, they knew what to do when they were dealing with vicious criminals. They would sentence on a global basis to 35, 37, or 40 years. The same judges now in the courts of appeal across this country will limit global sentences to probably 20 at the most, and when you take into account early parole and other factors that are weaseled into the system, such as giving credit for time spent in custody awaiting trial and sentencing, what this means is that the price of crime is pretty low. Crime pays. Criminals continue to become almost serial criminals in property matters simply because there is no punishment, and that's mainly the fault of the provincial court that I was in, not the high court judges.
What I'm saying is that the boomer judges just don't get it. They will not protect the public through the sentencing process, and that is because many of them will openly say, anything but jail comes first. Look at the conditional sentence and it will tell you what it's like in the hands of judges.
I'l give you one brief example. The first day it came into effect in the court where I sat, a lawyer came up to me and told me I wouldn't know what was going on in Judge X's court, and when I asked what, he said it was a feeding frenzy. That judge, who was anti-police and anti-everything, jail included, was granting conditional sentences as quickly as he could. He probably granted 20 that day.
Now, what I'm saying is, where the hell does he come from with that notion? What I'm saying is that there can be judge-shopping. There can be manipulation of the process. Plea bargaining is rampant in this country. All of that turns judges into rubber stamps when there are plea bargains. I don't like it. I am ashamed of the fact that the judiciary has not done its job in the sentencing process under the Criminal Code, and the appellate courts, with their sentencing guidelines, have literally told Parliament they don't care what Parliament says in its legislation called the Criminal Code of Canada, which is the second most important piece of legislation in our country.
In our constitutional law, beneath the Constitution, where it says “a maximum in aggravated assault of 14 years”, can anybody tell me when they've last seen one? I haven't. The sentencing guideline in British Columbia is five to eight years, and that's ridiculous.
In other words, that's what's wrong with the judiciary, if I might say it in simple terms.
I'm afraid I have to disagree with my learned colleague. I think the judiciary has evolved, and the society has evolved. I think there's a lot more information available. There are a lot more studies, including studies that show the inadequacies of imprisonment, how imprisonment generally is counterproductive. We've got greater insights into the nature of the people who commit crimes.
There are some evil people who should be locked away for a long time so that they're not allowed to continue to prey on society, but there are a lot of other shades of grey in terms of people who come from broken homes, people who have all kinds of psychiatric problems, mental problems, and that sort of thing, and I think sentencing has become a much more sophisticated process because of that knowledge. The idea that anything but jail should come first is a principle of sentencing, and I think a very sound principle, particularly where you talk about a first offender, someone who has not gone to jail before, someone who is a young offender where there's hope for rehabilitation. That principle I think is a very valid one.
There are other principles of sentencing that say that in certain circumstances a person must go to jail, even though there's almost no likelihood of recidivism. A person who is in a position of trust, a lawyer, an accountant, who has trust responsibilities and who abuses those responsibilities, even though it may be as a result of a rough time through addiction or whatever the case may be, such a person has to go to jail. That's a sentencing principle, because in that situation general deterrence must be prevalent.
So I think we've evolved in our understanding of sentencing. There have been studies done showing that when lay people were asked what kind of sentence they would give for a certain set of facts, they've come down very hard as a gut reaction. When they learned the circumstances, the kind of information that would come before a judge on a sentencing hearing, their result changed to come out to just about what the judges had decided in these cases. There are actual criminological studies that demonstrate—
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that that was 11 minutes, although Mr. Murphy's comments were relevant. I'm certain you will be just as generous with all our colleagues. That being said, I will not accept being interrupted after six minutes.
I am somewhat surprised by the direction this debate is taking, because we are not here to establish sentencing principles nor to decide whether or not police officers or judges are corrupt.
I tend to believe that most people do their jobs honestly. Of course, there have been cases of corrupt police officers, teachers, MPs and judges, but that has nothing to do with our debate today. This is a government which decided, with no prior consultation, to rework the rules of the game in the judicial appointment process, and we have reason to believe that they did so for ideological reasons. As parliamentarians, we have to decide in this matter, and this has nothing to do with whether or not police officers are competent.
Why choose police officers over notary publics, nurses or any other professional? Police officers, as diligently as they may do their work, do not have any greater expertise in the field of criminal law. Besides, most lower courts do not deal primarily with criminal matters. So why would they claim they have more expertise in the matter than anyone else in our society? It is a problem because in 8 out of 10 provinces, police officers trigger the laying of charges. I don't understand how anyone could feel there is no potential conflict of interest here.
Are police officers able to exercise appropriate judgment as to the qualifications required to be a judge? Of course. But once you step onto that slippery slope, you accept that the system for appointing judges loses its integrity.
This leads me, in a spirit of friendship and out of great respect, to ask two questions, first of the professor—I will not try to pronounce his name—and one of my colleague Mr. Cannavino.
Witnesses have asked us to set out in legislation the terms and conditions relating to the composition of judicial advisory committees to avoid governments making any changes to them given the random partisan fluctuations we've seen. Would you be in favour of legislation being submitted to Parliament aiming to preclude any undue partisanship?
I realize my question may be biased, but I am familiar with your great intellectual integrity. My question goes to you, Mr. Cannavino, as well as to your seatmate. Would you agree that police officers have a specific mission to carry out, that they are in a position of conflict of interest from the start because they are the ones that bring the charges in 8 out of 10 provinces?
I suggest that the professor answer my two questions, and then Mr. Cannavino.
You'll never know what the judges on the bench think, because first of all, they can't speak publicly about anything they've done. Once they're out of court, the judgment of any judge belongs to the litigants, the lawyers, the legal profession, and the public.
It would be improper for me to say anything, and I did say nothing. I would give no interviews to the press, no photographs, nothing—absolute silence. The tendency of judges now to speak publicly while in office, including the Chief Justice of Canada, is a very immense shift. But once retired, I think a judge has a duty as a citizen to not go off and play golf in Florida or do whatever else. He has a duty, if there's something about the system that's extremely good, to voice it, and if there are things that are troubling him—In my case, it's plea bargaining, which is rampant. That's behind-closed-doors sentencing and rubber-stamping by judges.
Why am I the only voice in Canada? Am I an eccentric or is something wrong with me? The answer is that they act like a private club. They do not want to rock the boat. Now, I don't blame them. It's a very difficult job. Once you become a judge you're no longer a free citizen to do the things you did before. You're isolated. You talk only to other judges, in the main.
It's a very difficult thing, when they get to retirement, to become a gadfly like I have, and I'm not happy about it. I feel very uncomfortable about being here. When I spoke to the students, it was very difficult for me to tell them the difficulties that victims have, tell them how the victims feel. Victims in Canada feel they're being denied justice, I can assure you all of that.
In the appointment process—What is wrong with judges when they say to victims, “The criminal justice system can do nothing for you”? They're literally correct, but it's very hard on victims. So what I'm saying is, when I've dealt with these young people and said that I don't think I've accomplished anything in 26 years in this regard, that everything I did that was an adequate sentence would be either returned by the court of appeal right from the very beginning as harsh and excessive—And this is the generational gap that I was dealing with, generational change, things like that.
But let me just tell you where it all began.
Can I just say this? It's not ever going to happen federally, because it can't. I've testified about this before, but one of the best systems is the interview process. An in camera interview process really separates the highly recommended political people from the people who probably shouldn't be there.
If this process is to remain, I cannot understand why the judge does not have a vote. It doesn't make any sense to me. It leads to the suggestion that a judge can vote when there's a tie, but I think what you and others have said is that you want a consensus and you don't want to get into voting. This is the spirit of these types of committees.
I think the judge should have a vote. Judges are there to give guidance. They know the types of judges who are needed. They know what the jurisdiction needs. They know the number of judges in the area and things like that. The judge would only be one vote.
I don't understand why they have no votes. It's a message that is not fair, and it's a message that says what? What does it say? Why can't the judge vote? This is a senior judge.
Secondly, I really believe this is an advisory committee, and the minister asks for advice. A committee that advises should surely be able to give advice on candidates who are more qualified or who they highly recommend, because it's what an advisory committee does.
The Minister of Justice is not going to go out to look for people and interview people. He has a committee to advise him. I think that if a committee is going to advise properly, they're going to say, here are the recommended candidates and here are the highly recommended candidates.The minister can choose from the highly recommended or the recommended, but he should have the information. It's the role of the advisory committee, and I believe it's really important.
The federal government has more appointments, and some people have therefore criticized the fact that they can outvote others. If you give the judge a vote, it balances it a little. You're not open to the suggestion that someone has more votes than others do.
The other thing is this, and it has already been talked about. If you're going to report to the House, if that's what going to happen, let's have a look at this again. It's been done without consultation, for whatever reason, and you're now consulting. I think it has to be looked at and visited again, within a reasonable period of time.
But the specific change I would make is to give the judge a vote. It's only one vote. This is about the appointment of judges. They have a lot to give. Secondly, you have to be able to say these are highly recommended candidates. The minister can choose from them or from the recommended ones. In terms of changes, I think that would be important.
I didn't really think there was anything the matter with the committees before. There will always be criticism about patronage in those kinds of appointments, but I think people strive to do the right thing.
The problem with it is that the committee was changed, with an announcement for the reason the committee was changed. The reasons, then, have to be balanced by making sure the committee is a fair one, nobody has more votes than anyone else, and the judge is listened to, and you can recommend highly recommended people.
Those are specifically the comments I would make.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I see the judicial advisory process as being important to have balance. I'd suggest that with the addition of a police officer or a representative of law enforcement on the committee, you're helping bring balance to it.
Certainly this has been an evolving process. I think we need to recognize that. We're acting as if this is a radical change without recognizing the fact that there have been numerous changes before, whether it was when Brian Mulroney and his Minister of Justice initiated this in 1988, or with the evolution that came in 1991. This is just another step to make sure we maintain that balance. I would be concerned that without having law enforcement there, we have a very significant voice in the judicial system not recognized.
When you look at a courtroom, when you look at the whole judicial process, there are lawyers, there are judges, and there are certainly police officers. That's why the comparisons with police officers don't wash, because union representatives, teachers, or any other group that has been mentioned around this committee aren't involved in the judicial process, and police officers are. That's why I think they make a very valued contribution.
My question is related on a few fronts. There have been suggestions that this is going to take away from judicial independence, that it's going to harm the process. The question I have is, are we saying that judges weren't qualified prior to 1988? If this change is happening today and it's somehow going to affect the process, what happened prior to 1988? What happened prior to 1991, when these changes were happening? It's contradictory to make the suggestion that somehow well-intentioned representatives from law enforcement are going to harm judicial independence.
Perhaps I could get a quick comment on that from Mr. Cannavino, and then I'll have a follow-up comment to make as well.
I want to reiterate my reaction to some of the comments.
Essentially I agree that the issue of “police” sitting on these advisory committees has nothing to do with the individual policemen. There are thousands and thousands of policemen out there who have judgment, tact, honesty, and all of the things that would make them good appointees for a whole lot of functions. The issue is police, as an institution, being given a berth in an appointment process. It's a perception of what that institutional placement might bring to the delicacy of the appointment process, as has been referenced by Mr. Brown, who suggested that the arrival of the police would bring some new balance.
So I leave the question out there. What exactly is it in this balance that the police, as an institution, would bring? Whatever the balance is—I'm not too sure what it is—there's some additional weight coming from police that wasn't there before.
I note that we haven't gone to prison guards, and we don't put elected people on these advisory committees, who surely represent thousands and thousands of people and the public interest. We don't put them on there. And we don't put priests and ministers on, who have a whole lot of interest in divorce litigation and family law. There are lots of groups in society that might have an interest.
I have no problem with a particular priest or minister being on the committee. I have no problem with a prison guard being on the committee. But police are already restricted under our Constitution in their political activities. They are already restricted. We've already noted the sensitivity.
Could I ask you what you think the police, as an institution, bring in terms of that balance?
I immigrated to this country in the sixties. During the sixties and seventies, I served as a high school principal for a number of years in junior high, and I was mayor of a small town in Alberta. I've paid a lot of attention to what's going on with law and order. In the sixties and seventies, as Mr. Trudell said, I really embraced the judicial system. It was pretty darn good. Compared to where I came from, I was really pleased with what I saw going on. Then slowly, through the eighties and the nineties, all of a sudden, what happened? I'll give you two examples.
When I was mayor, the police officers did a good job of catching two young adults who attacked a small businessman who liked to take his proceeds from his business home every day in this small town. He didn't trust leaving them in the store. On his way home, he was mugged, was beaten severely, and was robbed. Very shortly, the police did a good job of apprehending these two individuals. They delivered them to the remand centre in Calgary, because we didn't have a remand centre in the small town where I lived. This was in the eighties, when I was mayor.
I went in and was congratulating the sergeant of the RCMP on the work the police in that small town had done in apprehending these two fellows. The officers were on their way to deliver them to the Calgary Remand Centre. Before they came back from Calgary, they had to stop at the headquarters in Calgary about something, and they stopped and had lunch. Those two fellows were on the street corner giving the officers the finger when the officers came back into town. They had beat them back to town. I wondered what in the world was going on and how that could possibly be.
Not too long after that, one of my school teachers whom I had hired three years earlier—she was an excellent teacher, but she was young, with only three years in the profession—came into my office on a Monday morning, crying like you wouldn't believe. A terrible thing had happened on the weekend. She got picked up for drunk driving and was charged with drunk driving and injuring persons in another vehicle, an accident causing injury. She was devastated, “What have I done?” Oh, the tears. I wanted to help her all I could, in the sense of “Relax, you've done a bad thing here”—she agreed—“but let me help you through this.”
We progressed, and as time went on, I talked the board into allowing her to stay in the school. They wanted to get rid of her immediately, but I talked them into allowing her to stay because she was an excellent teacher.
About a month after this charge, she came into my office, she had her defence lawyer with her, and they were asking me for a letter of reference in order to support them in their hearing. I said, “I can only give a letter of reference in regard to your abilities as a teacher. Sure, I'll do that much, but don't expect me to condone what happened in any way, fashion, or form.” It was then that I asked, “When will the trial be?” I was concerned about her being gone from school, and I wanted to make sure we had that covered. They said it wouldn't be for a couple of months, so I asked why it would be so long. Well, Judge A was on the bench that quarter, and they were waiting until Judge B came in later in the year. It was pure and simple judge shopping. I couldn't believe that happened, but then I was told that it happens quite frequently.
We can go on with cases in regard to taxes and decisions made regarding mothers and fathers fighting over children and all this.
And then there's the big cruncher: four officers killed in Mayerthorpe by an individual who should have never seen the light of day after about his seventieth arrest.
Mr. Trudell, you ask me to continue to embrace this judicial system? Not on your life! And 90% of the taxpaying people in my riding are saying the same thing. No. We need some sweeping changes. We have to fix it. It even means readjusting the committees we use for selection of judges. Right from there, anywhere you want to go, we need sweeping changes. That's what people are saying. We can no longer embrace the judicial system with the things that are happening all around us.
Why do you think we have great numbers of organizations for victims of crime? Why are they joining together?