(for the Minister of Foreign Affairs)
moved that Bill , be read the first time.
(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
(Division No. 577)
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
MacKay (Central Nova)
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Young (Vancouver South)
Total: -- 178
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Total: -- 85
I declare the motion carried.
Mr. Speaker, could I have the consent of the House to return to presenting reports from committees? I inadvertently missed the opportunity earlier today.
Does the member have unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 995, 996, 997, 998, 1000, 1012, 1013 and 1015.
Question No. 995--Mrs. Maria Mourani
With regard to Aéroports de Montréal (ADM), from 2005 to 2012: (a) what has been the relationship between ADM and the company Construction Gastier inc., (i) does ADM lease any kind of space to it on its airport sites, (ii) if so, since when, (iii) what is the lease cost, (iv) is there a security protocol between ADM and Construction Gastier inc. regarding this occupation of airport space; and (b) what has been the relationship between ADM and the company Construction Gastier international, (i) does ADM lease any kind of space to it on its airport sites, (ii) if so, since when, (iii) what is the lease cost, (iv) is there a security protocol between ADM and Construction Gastier international regarding this occupation of airport space?Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, a not-for-profit corporation without share capital, is responsible for managing, operating and developing Montreal-Trudeau and Montreal-Mirabel airports under a long-term lease with Transport Canada. ADM has full responsibility for managing business, contracts, tenders and leases of its airports, in compliance with the provisions of the lease and the applicable regulations. ADM operates independently, and Transport Canada does not interfere with the management of the corporation’s day-to-day business.Question No. 996--Mrs. Maria Mourani
With regard to the business relationships maintained by Aéroports de Montréal (ADM): (a) with the company Construction Gastier inc., from 2005 to 2012, (i) did it receive contracts from ADM, (ii) what was the value of the contracts, (iii) were the contracts tendered or was a ministerial exemption required, (iv) if there was a ministerial exemption, what were the grounds for it, (v) is there a security protocol between ADM and Construction Gastier inc. on all contracts awarded; and (b) with the company Construction Gastier international, from 2005 to 2012, (i) did it receive contracts from ADM, (ii) what was the value of the contracts, (iii) were the contracts tendered or was a ministerial exemption required, (iv) if there was a ministerial exemption, what were the grounds for it, (v) is there a security protocol between ADM and Construction Gastier international on all contracts awarded? Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, a not-for-profit corporation without share capital, is responsible for managing, operating and developing Montreal-Trudeau and Montreal-Mirabel airports under a long-term lease with Transport Canada. ADM has full responsibility for managing business, contracts, tenders and leases of its airports, in compliance with the provisions of the lease and the applicable regulations. ADM operates independently, and Transport Canada does not interfere with the management of the corporation’s day-to-day business.Question No. 997--Mrs. Maria Mourani
With regard to the public tendering of renovation and construction work at the Montréal-Trudeau Airport and any other public tendering at the Montréal-Trudeau Airport, from 2000 to 2012, for each public tender: (a) which companies submitted bids; (b) which companies were awarded the contract and carried out the work; (c) what documentation was made available to the companies in the public tender; (d) what costs did the airport charge companies in order to have access to the public tender; (e) are there security protocols between the airport and the companies that submitted bids and did not receive contracts; and (f) are there security protocols between the airport and the companies that submitted bids and were awarded contracts? Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, a not-for-profit corporation without share capital, is responsible for managing, operating and developing Montreal-Trudeau and Montreal-Mirabel airports under a long-term lease with Transport Canada. ADM has full responsibility for managing business, contracts, tenders and leases of its airports, in compliance with the provisions of the lease and the applicable regulations. ADM operates independently, and Transport Canada does not interfere with the management of the corporation’s day-to-day business.Question No. 998--Mrs. Maria Mourani
With regard to untendered renovation and construction contracts at the Montréal-Trudeau Airport for which the airport requested a ministerial exemption, from 2000 to 2012, for each contract awarded: (a) which companies were awarded the contract and carried out the work; (b) what documentation was made available to these companies; (c) what costs did the airport charge these companies; (d) are there security protocols between the airport and these companies; (e) what are these security protocols; and (f) what justifications did the airport provide the department to be entitled to an exemption from the requirement to issue a call for tenders? Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, a not-for-profit corporation without share capital, is responsible for managing, operating and developing the Montreal-Trudeau and Montreal-Mirabel international airports under a long-term lease with Transport Canada. ADM has full responsibility for managing the business, contracts, tenders and leases of its airports, in compliance with the provisions of the lease and the applicable regulations. ADM operates independently, and Transport Canada does not interfere with the management of the corporation’s day-to-day business.Question No. 1000--Ms. Irene Mathyssen
With regard to the Department of Finance report titled “Economic and Fiscal Implications of Canada's Aging Population” released October 23, 2012: (a) which senior officials or outside consultants made recommendations regarding this report, including, (i) their names, (ii) their duties; (b) what was the total cost of the report; and (c) what portion of that cost was paid to outside consultants? Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, the report titled “Economic and Fiscal Implications of Canada’s Aging Population” was prepared by officials at the Department of Finance, economic and fiscal policy branch. There were no incremental costs associated with the report and no fees were paid to outside consultants.Question No. 1012--Hon. Wayne Easter
With regard to Transport Canada, how many requests for information, made pursuant to section 4 of the Access to Information Act, is the department currently processing, reviewing, or considering, and for each such request: (a) what is the file number; (b) what is the date on which the application was made; (c) what is the date on which the application was received; (d) what are the details of any extensions of time limits made pursuant to section 9 of the Act; and (e) what are the details of any complaint which has been made to the department in respect of the request?Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, the access to information and privacy electronic database does not have the capability to generate the requested information in both official languages. Question No. 1013--Ms. Joyce Murray
With regard to foreign affairs: (a) did Canada vote in the October 2012 vote to ratify the membership of Rwanda in the United Nations Security Council and, if so, how did Canada vote; and (b) what was the foreign policy rationale which governed Canada’s vote or abstention from the vote? Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, given the secret nature of the ballot, Canada does not make public its voting decisions for membership in the United Nations Security Council. In the case of the Africa group, there was only one candidate.Question No. 1015--Hon. Hedy Fry
With regard to Aboriginal affairs, how many persons have been registered on the Indian Register on or after November 20, 2002, as members of (i) the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, and (ii) the Mushuau Innu First Nation, distinguishing the number of persons so added who were born before November 20, 2002, and those who were born on or after November 20, 2002?Hon. John Duncan (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, the two first nations were created by order in council on November 21, 2002. At that point, there were 691 people on the founding list for the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, and 491 people on the founding list for the Mushuau Innu First Nation.
Additionally, there was a follow-up list on August 22, 2003, which added 158 members to the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation list and 94 members to the Mushuau Innu First Nation list.
Since that time, an additional 585 persons were added to the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation list, with 322 of those individuals being born before November 20, 2002, and 263 individuals being born after that date.
Three hundred persons were added to the Mushuau Innu First Nation list, with 96 of those individuals being born before November 20, 2002, and 204 individuals being born after that date.
Mr. Speaker, if the supplementary response to Question No. 984, originally tabled on November 30, as well as Questions Nos. 988, 1003, 1005, 1006, 1010, 1016 and 1022 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
Question No. 984--Mr. Pierre Nantel
With regard to Canadian missions abroad (embassies, consulates and delegations within international and regional organizations) and for each of these missions and for fiscal years 2005-2006 to 2012-2013, inclusively: (a) how many positions were related to culture; (b) what were the titles of these positions; (c) where were they located in the mission’s hierarchy; (d) what were the duties of these positions; (e) how many artistic or cultural projects received support from the people occupying these positions; (f) what form of support did these projects receive; (g) to what art form are these projects linked to; (h) how many Canadian works of art were on display in the rooms of the mission; (i) how many public activities promoting Canadian culture took place and what were these activities; (j) how many private activities promoting Canadian culture took place and what were these activities; and (k) how much of the mission’s budget was allocated to cultural activities or programs, (i) what were the names of these programs, (ii) how much funding was allocated to each of these programs?
(Return tabled)Question No. 988--Mr. Pierre Nantel
With regard to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, for each year between 2008 and 2012, on what dates were meetings held with the following individuals and what subjects were discussed: (a) President and Chief Executive Officer, CBC/Radio-Canada; (b) Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; (c) Librarian and Archivist of Canada; (d) Chairperson, National Film Board; (e) Executive Director, Telefilm Canada; (f) Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts; (g) Chair, National Battlefields Commission; (h) Director, National Gallery of Canada; (i) Chairperson, National Gallery of Canada (j) President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Museum of Nature; (k) President, National Arts Centre; (l) Executive Chef, National Arts Centre; (m) President, Canadian Museum of Civilization; (n) Chairman, Canadian Museum of Civilization; (o) President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Museum for Human Rights; (p) Chairperson, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21; (q) Director, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21; (r) Director, Canada Science and Technology Museum; and (s) Chair, Canada Science and Technology Museum?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1003--Mr. Scott Andrews
With regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO): (a) how many applications for License and Authorization for Port Activity and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Entry by a Foreign Vessel have been received from January 1, 2007, to October 19, 2012; and (b) what are the details for each application in (a), including (i) the name of the vessel, (ii) the type of vessel, (iii) the country and port of registry, (iv) the owner’s name, (v) the designated representative in Canada, (vi) the Canadian port for which access is requested, (vii) the reason for the visit to port or EEZ access, (viii) the area fished, (ix) the date of entry, (x) the actual date of departure, (xi) whether the application was approved, approved with conditions, or rejected?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1005--Ms. Joyce Murray
With regard to national historic sites and the response given by the government to Order Paper question No. 773 of the current session of Parliament which states, “The majority of national historic sites have maintained similar opening and closing dates for 2012; however, some sites opened on June 1 and closed on the Labour Day weekend”: (a) what is the exact number of national historic sites that have maintained similar opening and closing dates for 2012; (b) what is the exact number of national historic sites which opened on June 1 and closed on Labour Day weekend; and (c) for each individual historic site, what were the opening and closing dates in 2011 and in 2012?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1006--Ms. Joyce Murray
With regard to the ocean fertilization experiment conducted by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation in the Pacific Coast waters around Haida Gwaii during the summer of 2012: (a) when and how was the government made aware of the experiment; (b) what specific requests were made of the government and how did the government reply to those requests; (c) what impact does the government anticipate the experiment will have on the local marine ecosystem; and (d) is the experiment in violation or contravention of any international agreement or moratorium, including the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity or the London Convention on Dumping of Waste at Sea?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1010--Hon. Bob Rae
With regard to the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board: (a) what are the details of all costs associated with its establishment, operation and oversight, broken down by fiscal year, for each fiscal year since its establishment; and (b) what are the anticipated costs of the dissolution of the Board?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1016--Hon. Hedy Fry
With regard to Health Canada, what grants and contributions under $25,000 did it award from January 1, 2011, to the present, including the recipient’s name, the date, the amount and the description?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1022--Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia
With regard to FedNor, what grants and contributions under $25,000 did it award from January 1, 2011, to the present, including the recipient's name, the date, the amount and the description?
Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The House resumed from October 23 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that the question be now put.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a second opportunity to address the bill. Earlier today, I was referred to as being a one-man filibuster. I do not know how that could be. I think I spoke to the bill for 20 minutes back in March or May. If the members opposite want to see a filibuster, they should read the transcript of the justice committee meeting that took place last March on Bill where it was necessary for me to speak for at least six or seven hours in order to get some sense brought to the members opposite in terms of ensuring that at least some discussion would take place on the massive justice bill that the government put before the House. Bill was the omnibus justice bill that brought together seven, eight or nine pieces of legislation with over 200 amendments that it sought to get through committee in one day. When members opposite talk about getting a bill to committee, they are talking about a committee where they have the hammer and they can control procedure in any way they want.
I am not opposed to the bill going to committee because it needs to go to a committee. We have a new committee and, as with all committees, there is a majority of members opposite on that committee. There are new members, both from our side as well as from the other side, who were not part of the debate in the last session. However, what we are seeing in the chamber on this bill is a tremendous amount of interest by members in our party to talk about the concerns we have with respect to military justice.
I only have a few minutes but I will outline some of the principal ones. One concern is with the function of summary trial procedures before military tribunals. A summary trial takes place without a great deal of formality, as opposed to a court martial which is a much more significant judicial procedure. The reality is that more than 93% of offences that members of the military are charged with are dealt with in a summary trial proceeding. They appear before their commanding officer who listens to what they have to say, hears witnesses, makes a determination and imposes a penalty, which could be anything from incarceration, loss of rank or a fine equal to a month's pay. Many of these penalties are in breach of the Criminal Code. If I had a lot of time I would get into that. However, some of the offences are as simple as being absent without leave or being drunk in a facility which could result in a criminal offence. The nub here is that a procedure of a summary nature could result in a criminal offence.
What is wrong with that is that people do not have access to a lawyer nor do they have a lawyer present for these hearings. It is not an independent tribunal. The CO knows the person, the witnesses and probably a bit of the history of the case because he or she may have heard about it before the person appears before him or her but there are no rules of procedure or evidence. Therefore, it is very unlike the kind of trial that people would have in a civilian court if they are charged with an offence by the police. As there is no transcript, it makes it impossible to appeal under the law and yet the decision could still result in criminal record. That is wrong and it offends our sense of justice in this country.
In the committee in the last Parliament , we sought to make some significant changes to that. In the end, there was an amendment made principally to clause 75 of Bill which took a series of offences away from the criminal record circumstance. It was not enough, in our view, but some progress was made in the last Parliament. The bill came back to the House and there was a willingness to pass it in the dying days of the last Parliament.
Despite the Conservatives' alleged anxiety today and over the last number of weeks to have this bill passed and sent to committee, even though it was in the last Parliament and had reached various stages, they did not, for some reason, call it before the House. We were ready to see it passed through Parliament because there was an anxiety to have these measures put forward. We were co-operative even though it was a minority Parliament but the government did not see fit to call the bill for debate and have it passed.
Now we are back again and the Conservatives have a majority. A whole series of amendments were brought forward in the last Parliament. Were they in the new bill? No. They were stripped out after having deliberations at committee, listening to all the witnesses, having debate and passing reasonable amendments, although not all the ones we wanted. The Conservatives say that want to make progress. If they want to make progress, why did they not put back the bill that was ready to be voted on in Parliament? It is because they decided that they wanted to remove the progress that had been made in the last Parliament.
Why did you force an election?
Mr. Jack Harris: Mr. Speaker, I hear some noise from across the way. I know the member for wants to participate in the debate. If so, I would encourage him to stand when I finish and give a speech and let us hear what he has to say about this.
The principal problem is that the government has gone back on the progress that was made and yet continues to say that it is trying to make progress. It is not making enough progress and we want to assure the people of Canada and the military that we intend to try to have a better system of military justice. There is a whole series of clauses that were amended in the last Parliament that are missing from this.
The other principal area that we have concern with, although there are several others, is the grievance procedure. The grievance procedure is unwieldy. Some improvements have been made. The military people who file grievances have the right to grieve. We put forth amendments to have civilian representation on the grievance board. Most of the grievances are really of an employment nature as opposed to a military nature and could be properly handled with the right kind of civilian oversight and participation. However, the government continues to fill the military board with military personnel, mostly of the officer class, and it is a long and unwieldy procedure.
The CDS, in the end, has the final say, except there is one major problem. The CDS can say that he or she agrees with an individual's grievance but then, if the individual is complaining that the $1,500 moving allowance that he or she was supposed to get was denied to him or her, the CDS, who is the final authority, may agree that the person is entitled to the money but the $1.500 cannot be awarded. What happens then? The grievance then has to go to lawyers at the Department of Justice to determine whether the person has a legal case against the Crown for the $1,500. What do we have that for? It makes no sense.
A good example that has been going on for some time is the home equity allowance that military members are entitled to. If they move from one place to another and lose money on the sale of their home, they are entitled to have that reimbursed from the military. Guess what? Somebody in Treasury Board has decided there is no such thing as a depressed market for real estate in Canada and people who have lost between $70,000 and $80,000 on the resale of their home can only get a maximum of $1,500. Despite the Chief of the Defence Staff agreeing with the grievers and saying that it is wrong and that they should get the money, it is no dice. It cannot happen because, despite the final say going to the Chief of the Defence Staff, we have the lawyers, the Treasury Board and others holding this up.
Those are some of the things wrong with the bill. We want a fulsome debate and a willingness on the part of the government to try to change those things.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech.
He mentioned, obviously, that this bill contained a number of flaws, including the use of summary procedures resulting in a criminal record. In these cases, the accused cannot even consult with counsel, and there is no appeal and no transcript.
Could my colleague talk about the negative and harmful impact this will have on individuals transitioning from military to civilian life?
Mr. Speaker, the problem is twofold. We do not have any objection to a summary procedure. Most people may want to plead guilty, get it over with and recognize that they will not necessarily be treated terribly harshly. That is all well and good, and military discipline requires the availability of a summary procedure. What I object to and what I think most people object to is that if an individual ends up with a criminal record after that, it can interfere with the person's future life.
People cannot even get a pardon anymore because the government has changed the Criminal Records Act so that there are no more pardons unless they have a cabinet pardon. The royal prerogative of the Crown can still grant them a pardon. Somebody famous might be able to get a pardon from the cabinet if they are important enough, but there are no pardons for ordinary citizens, including ex-military.
The government would call it a record suspension, whatever that means in the minds of Canadians. Therefore, when people have a criminal record and cannot have access to a pardon, it can affect their employment status and their travel to other countries. It could affect any number of opportunities they might have, and we think that is very detrimental.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite once again alternates between regretting that amendments have not been included in the bill, which can only be made, discussed and brought forward in committee, where he refuses to allow the bill to go, and regretting that an election took place, which his party helped to force in 2011.
I understand that he may regret that members, like myself, elected for the first time in 2011, are here. I am sorry but he will just have to live with that. Time does move on. However, when it comes to amendments, he has heard our and he has heard our side say that we are prepared to introduce at least one of those amendments and to discuss the others that he has raised today.
We have had this discussion repeatedly in this House on this issue. His statement comes very close to being dilatory because we have heard all those points before. However, there was one flash of insight, of potential for progress in his speech. He said that he has no objection to moving the bill to committee. Would he not agree with all of us on this side that now is the time for the bill to go committee? As Chief Justice Antonio Lamer said in his report:
These soldiers who risk their lives for our country deserve a military justice system that protects their rights in accordance with our Charter, while maintaining the necessary discipline for achieving successful missions.
They do not have that at the moment until the member for releases his grip on our process and allows the bill to go to committee.
Mr. Speaker, I find my colleague's remarks somewhat amusing. I do not regret his presence in this House. I welcome his presence in this House. What I regret is the fact that some of his views are rather surprising given his experience, education and obvious intelligence. I am surprised he is not sitting on the front benches, in the cabinet, given the background he brought to this House. However, I do regret some of the partisan things that he says.
We do want to see the bill debated at an appropriate time in committee. We have been seeking to get some indication from him, other than the fact that he is prepared to talk in the committee, that some progress will be made. We have made a tiny bit of progress. The Conservatives have agreed to put one of the amendments back on to where it was before. That is a start. I look forward to having some other discussions with him before we pass this forward.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on Bill .
I do want to take just a moment to acknowledge that today, being December 6, is our National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is a day etched in Canadian history because of the shooting deaths of 14 women in 1989 in Montreal. They were shot by a man who deliberately targeted them on that day, on a busy Montreal campus.
It is a day when we remember those women, but we also recommit to taking action to end violence against women and girls in Canada. It is a very important day for us today.
I also want to deal with the bill at hand. As my colleague, the previous speaker, just reported, we acknowledge that this bill does take some steps forward, but it falls far short of where it needs to go. It is a bill that amends the National Defence Act to strengthen military justice. It is something that has been a long time coming. We remember the 2003 report of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, and his recommendations.
Basically what we are dealing with is the right to basic fairness, for those who serve in our military, when it comes to their rights in a judicial system within the military. Certainly on this side of the House, in the NDP, we believe in bringing more fairness to the Canadian military justice system, for men and women who put on a uniform and therefore put their lives at risk for the people of Canada. We believe they need to be treated fairly.
I trust a lot of Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can get a criminal record from a justice system that lacks the basic due process that is required in Canadian civilian criminal courts. That is what we are dealing with here today.
We believe that the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline. That is as it should be, but they in turn deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard.
I will talk for a moment about the ease with which military personnel can get a criminal record, which makes life very difficult for them after their military service. It can affect everything from getting a job to renting an apartment to making travel very difficult. We recognize the serious challenges this can provide.
While we recognize that Bill does provide greater flexibility in sentencing, greater sentencing options, and this is a positive step in the right direction, this bill falls far short in reforming the summary trial system, in reforming the grievance system and in strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission.
I want to say that an earlier version of this bill, in the last Parliament, had similar problems, but the government at the time was willing to accept a number of amendments from the NDP. The government adopted those amendments and the committee recommended the amended bill. It strengthened the bill and made it acceptable.
Yet, when the government brought in this bill in this new Parliament, it is back to the old provisions. The government has abandoned addressing many of the recommendations pertaining to military justice that the Lamer report proposed, and it has not included in this bill many of the substantive amendments that New Democrats had proposed.
I want to just go over these briefly for those who are not familiar with this system.
First, I will address the summary trial system, where the vast majority of charges that come forward are dealt with. It is meant to deal less formally with problems, and it deals usually with minor offences. That includes such offences as insubordination, absence without leave, quarrels, frictions that happen in daily life. These are matters that can be important to military discipline, so we understand that it is important they be dealt with, but through the current system they can result in a criminal record. Through this complaints procedure, military personnel are held without the ability to consult with counsel, there are no appeals or transcripts and often the person who is the “judge” is the person's commanding officer. So personnel can be found guilty of some very minor offence and that can result in a criminal record, which can follow them in post-military life. The government was willing to accept an amendment on this in March 2011, and now it has seemingly abandoned that openness.
Next, I will talk about the grievance system. At present, the grievance committee does not provide a means of external review. It is usually staffed by retired Canadian Forces officers. It is our belief that members of this board should be drawn from civil society and not exclusively be military personnel. Our proposal is that 60% of the members of this grievance system be people who are not and have never been non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces. Again, the government did accept this in the former Bill and now is refusing to do that. In terms of resolutions of complaints, another problem we have with the grievance process is that the Chief of the Defence Staff lacks the ability and authority to resolve any financial settlements or aspects arising and resulting from a grievance. We believe this is also a problem. It was a recommendation of the Lamer report to include this. We did have an amendment accepted earlier and we would like to see that back in here. We will fight to have this included again.
The last point is on strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill would amend the National Defence Act to establish a timeline within which the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal would be required to resolve conduct complaints, as well as protect complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith. This would be a step forward, but we think more needs to be done to empower the commission. This commission is not provided with the necessary powers to act as an oversight body. The Military Police Complaints Commission must be empowered by a legislative provision that would allow it to rightfully investigate and report to Parliament.
The concerns we are raising have been raised by civil liberties organizations and by members and retired members of the armed forces, and I could cite at length from their statements about this bill. However, we believe there are serious concerns that should be addressed, and we will work to defend the rights of our armed forces to a fair judicial system.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She spoke about how strict the summary trial system is.
The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have found it helpful to change the summary trial process. Why does the member think Canada is lagging behind on this issue?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
Many other countries have changed their trial system for members of the military. Canada is behind in terms of changing its military trial system. It is really unfair to those who serve in our military and who are prepared to give their life for their country. We owe them a fair and equitable military trial system, and that is what we are proposing with an amendment to this bill.
Mr. Speaker, in her speech on this bill, the hon. member linked it to a number of initiatives this government has been taking and that all Canadians want us to take to improve the justice system in many areas. These include improving protection for victims, preventing them from becoming victims in the first place, which is at the core of our justice agenda, and above all dealing with the very urgent problem of violence against women, which we are thinking deeply about this week because of today's anniversary and the scale of the challenge it presents, which we know is still too great in this country.
However, Bill is about improving the justice system for military members of the Canadian Forces to ensure that the punishments handed down at summary trials and courts martial are appropriate to the gravity and type of offence, and to make the sentences broadly comparable to those existing in the civil system.
Does the member opposite agree that these are important measures that should be implemented? Does she also agree that it is time to move this bill to committee where witnesses can be called and these measures and others can be debated at length, so that we can implement these modernizing proposals for the military justice system, which have, to be very frank, been before this House in successive Parliaments for far too long?
Mr. Speaker, first, I would ask the member why his government did not pass the bill in the last Parliament. An improved bill could already have been law.
It is one thing to say that the government is taking some baby steps forward, but let us be frank here that there are basic planks of judicial fairness in the criminal justice system that are not present for our military personnel. That is a disgrace.
I will say one other thing about the Conservative government and how it has treated people who have come here as war resisters. There are people who have come here as conscientious objectors having served in the U.S. military in a way that Canada and 82% of Canadians have not supported. People like Kimberly Rivera from my riding, a mother of four children, in all good conscience realized that they were in Iraq for the wrong reason. However, she was not allowed to stay here. She has been sent back to the U.S. where she is facing a court martial and is separated from her four small children and husband. That is the kind of justice the Conservative government believes in, and it is unacceptable.
Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if you could let me know when I have one minute left.
I am pleased to rise in this House to speak to Bill . We have to make sure, first and foremost, that the men and women who work to defend us are able to represent us in the armed forces and have the tools to avoid putting their lives at risk unnecessarily. We also have a responsibility to provide them with an operational framework that is appropriate and fair.
And that is what Bill on the military justice system, which is now before us, claims to do. This bill originates in the responsibility of the to arrange for an independent review of the amendments to the National Defence Act every five years. That requirement is set out in clause 96 of Bill which was assented to in 1998.
In 2003, Justice Antonio Lamer was instructed to examine the provisions and application of Bill . He concluded that “Canada's military justice system generally works very well, subject to a few changes”. Justice Lamer proposed those few changes in the form of 88 recommendations, some of which were addressed in Bill , which became Bill , and then .
After Bill was passed and assented to, it too was the subject of a review, this time by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs of the House of Commons. That report was released in 2009 and is entitled “Equal Justice: Reforming Canada’s System of Courts Martial”. Bill , which is now Bill , was to act upon the nine recommendations in that report, which addressed both the Lamer report and Bill .
The justification for having a separate justice system for the armed forces has been repeatedly demonstrated, and in 1992 the Supreme Court of Canada did so very eloquently in R. v. Généreux. One piece of tangible evidence of the importance of having a system that is specific to the military, as Justice Lamer himself admitted, is the fact that certain offences in the Code of Service Discipline do not have the same importance in the civilian justice system, and sometimes there is no equivalent for those offences: for example, disobeying an order of a superior officer.
The referred in committee to the old adage that our justice system is a living tree, meaning that the military justice system has to evolve. The Senate committee summarized that very well when it said that “the military, as an organization, benefits when the rules that govern it largely reflect those that apply to Canadian society in general”.
However, we must be careful not to fall into the other extreme, and make sure that, notwithstanding this overriding disciplinary aspect, people who work in the armed forces do not lose their rights that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Senate committee also stated that “with the exception of section 11(f) of the Charter, the rights enumerated in the Charter do not distinguish between proceedings under the military and civilian justice systems”.
As well, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that this separate justice system does not violate the individual’s rights since it is still able to guarantee the individual “the right to equality before the law and to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal”. It is therefore essential to ensure that the actors in the military system are effective, independent and impartial.
Let us now come back to the crux of this bill, which, I must say, has become weaker with every version. Although, according to a Supreme Court justice, Bill did not resolve the problem it was created to address, Bill , which we are currently discussing, does not take into account all the work done in committee during the examination of the previous version of the bill, Bill .
In fact, some amendments that were adopted in the past were not included in this new version of the bill. Yet, these amendments changed practices that did not fit with the desired evolution of the military justice framework.
I hope I have enough time left to talk about the three main amendments proposed by the NDP, which were adopted in the past but excluded from Bill .
The first is the reform of the summary trial system, so that a conviction at a summary trial in the Canadian Forces no longer automatically results in a criminal record. During hearings before the Senate committee, many witnesses expressed their disagreement with this practice. There is even more cause for concern given that most offences are dealt with in this manner.
Michel Drapeau, one of the witnesses, said:
There is currently nothing more important for Parliament to focus on than fixing a system that affects the legal rights of a significant number of Canadian citizens every year....
From where I stand, I find it very odd that those who put their lives at risk to protect the rights of Canadians are themselves deprived of some of those charter rights when facing a summary trial.
At committee in March of the previous year, the amendments to Bill proposed by the NDP called for the list of offences that could be considered to be minor, and not merit a criminal record if a minor sentence were imposed for the offence in question, to be increased from five to 27. The amendment also adds to the list of penalties a tribunal may impose without them being entered on the record, for example, a severe reprimand, a reprimand, a fine equal to one month's salary and other minor sentences. That was significant progress in terms of summary trials, but since that amendment was not included in Bill , we want it to be included now.
The second amendment concerns the military grievances external review committee. Currently, the grievance board does not allow reviews by people outside of the military system. It is made up of retired members of the Canadian Forces. We would like the committee to be perceived as an independent, external civilian body. There is a problem with the makeup of the committee and the appointment process if the armed forces want to maintain that reputation. Committee membership should therefore include individuals from civilian society.
The NDP's amendment suggested that at least 60% of the members of the grievance committee should never have been a Canadian Forces member or officer. This amendment was agreed to in March 2011 for Bill , but it was not included in Bill . It must be put back in the bill.
One major flaw in the current military grievance system is the fact that the Chief of Defence Staff can resolve certain financial matters arising from grievances. That goes against a recommendation in the Lamer report. Despite the fact that the supported the recommendation, the government has failed to act on it for the past eight years. The NDP proposed an amendment to do with this at committee stage of Bill . Even though it was agreed to in March 2011, it was not included in Bill , and the NDP will fight to put it back in the bill.
The third amendment that I would like to talk about would strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill amends the National Defence Act to establish the time required for the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal to resolve complaints and protect complainants from being penalized for having filed a complaint in good faith.
Giving the Military Police Complaints Commission more power, effectively turning it into a watchdog, was virtually ignored. There should be a legislative provision to give the commission more power so that it can be authorized to investigate and report to Parliament.
In conclusion, the fact that the Conservatives deliberately botched the bill and removed some of the key elements that resulted from the hard work done by the members of the House of Commons committee and all parliamentarians in this House is further proof of this government's lack of respect and consideration for the parliamentary process.
Why did the Conservatives not keep the amendments proposed by the NDP and adopted at committee stage last spring, when Bill was studied, after long hours of debate that seemed to have moved the bill in the right direction?
By not including these amendments in Bill , the Conservatives are undermining the important work done by all members of the Standing Committee on National Defence and also the recommendations made by Canadian Forces representatives during the last session of Parliament. The rose in the House to give the first speech at second reading. He said:
...the government, the Supreme Court of Canada and even the Constitution recognized the importance of maintaining a robust military justice system.
This government also recognizes, as did Chief Justice Lamer in his 2003 report, that there is room for improvement.
If the parliamentary secretary really meant what he said, why did he ignore all the improvements made by this Parliament in committee? Although truly unfortunate, that is the Conservative government's approach. Not only has it dropped the amendments agreed to in committee, but it has ignored a number of recommendations, picked the ones it wants and rejected the rest.
The official opposition will oppose the bill at second reading, knowing that the bill will be referred to committee. And we truly hope that the amendments agreed to when the committee studied the issue will be included in order to make this a more balanced bill.
Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of serving in the Canadian Forces. I was posted to Lancaster Park, just north of Edmonton. The military jail was out there. Periodically we would get into discussions about military justice. There are different needs for one who is in the service that sometimes go a bit beyond the needs of a civilian, if I may put it that way.
I had the opportunity to speak to Bill previously. From the Liberal Party of Canada's perspective there is always room for improvement. We see the merit in trying to improve the legislation. We would also like to see the bill ultimately get through the system.
Could my colleague tell me if the NDP is going to accommodate the passage of the legislation this year, so that it could go to committee where we could hear from some of the stakeholders? Maybe he could shed a bit of light on that point.
Mr. Speaker, clearly, we are eventually going to vote at second reading. The bill is very important to the members of the official opposition, the NDP, here in the House. Many of them have expressed their desire to talk about their disappointment with regard to the fact that the amendments adopted by the committee were not included in the bill. That is why we will oppose the bill when we vote on it at second reading.
I would like to point out that, if this bill were important to the government, then it would have been discussed in the House a long time ago. I would like to remind hon. members that right now we are talking about Bill , and we just voted on Bill . It therefore seems that certain issues are more important to the government than others. Unfortunately, this bill does not seem to be one of the government's priorities, since the government waited so long to bring it forward for us to discuss.
Eventually, we will vote on this bill, but I would not want to see the official opposition deprived of their opportunity to speak about it at second reading, because that is their right.
Mr. Speaker, I must right away correct the hon. member for because, from the beginning, the government has been very determined when it comes to this bill.
We introduced this bill in the House in 2011. If almost all of 2012 has passed without this bill even being sent to committee, it is not our fault but, rather, that of the NDP. Now, even the Liberals are calling for the NDP to send the bill to committee as quickly as possible.
I have a question for the hon. member about the substance of his speech. He and a number of his colleagues complained about summary trials, which are an important aspect of the military justice system. He quoted Colonel Drapeau, who is now retired. I would like to quote what Mr. Lamer said in the report itself. He said that the summary trial process is likely to survive a court challenge as to its constitutional validity.
Is the hon. member aware that former Chief Justice Lamer has already said this about summary trials?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for for pronouncing the name of my riding correctly, which rarely happens in the House.
Regarding the member's first intervention, I hope he does not want to take away the right of duly elected members on both sides of the House to speak, as is their right at second reading and as we are doing right now. Since the government has a majority, the member knows very well that the bill will go to committee and will be examined in committee.
Our point here is simply that we need to focus on the fact that the committee adopted some of the amendments proposed by the NDP—three, to be specific—yet those amendments did not survive Bill . They were not included in the bill currently before us, Bill . We really want to emphasize that point. We want the government to understand the importance of those issues.
With regard to summary trials, I would remind the hon. member that we heard testimony from retired Colonel Drapeau. We found his testimony to be very powerful. I would remind the House that in 2008-09, some 1,865 cases were dealt with by summary trial, and only 67 cases were tried through court martial. We think this is an extremely important issue. I hope the government will eventually take the NDP's arguments into account and consider our amendments.
Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill .
In October 2011, the introduced the bill, which amends the National Defence Act in order to strengthen military justice. This, of course, follows the 2003 report from former chief justice the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer and the report of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
As members will know, Bill had earlier incarnations. We have spoken briefly of Bill , which died on the order paper due to prorogation. Members will remember the prorogation, when the government saw fit to escape the House because there were certain allegations in regard to the appropriate behaviour of the government. Again, we saw Bill , another earlier incarnation, disappear during the election of 2008.
In 2010, Bill was introduced, again in response to Justice Lamer's report. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, court martial panels, the provost marshal, and limited provisions related to the grievance and military police complaints process, which of course brings us to Bill .
I believe it is important for me to speak to the bill, because justice is more than just a system of laws and regulations. It is also a fundamental value for me, for my NDP colleagues and certainly for the military and Canadians across this land.
The bill is a step in the right direction. We have heard that a number of times, but it does not address the key issues related to reforming the summary trial system, the grievance system and for strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. These are key objectives that cannot be ignored.
While the bill's primary objective is laudable, it does not satisfy our objectives. Much needs to be done to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. We on this side of the House want a comprehensive bill that adequately addresses the problem. No justice system is perfect. We have seen that over the years. However, that should not stop us from trying to improve our system as much as possible. Key elements have been left out of Bill : reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system and strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission.
In fact, the NDP included these three elements in amendments to the previous version of Bill , which of course was Bill . Oddly, and I do say oddly, these amendments are now absent. It is a strange coincidence.
As I said, the NDP is not opposed to the spirit of the bill. What we want is to work with the government to get it right, in order to ensure that the bill is relevant and that its scope is broad enough. I am at a loss to understand why the government did not include the three elements I referred to in Bill . They are important for consistent military justice reform.
Let us look specifically at the grievance system. We will start with that one. We must understand it in order to appreciate the importance of the improvements proposed by the NDP. I would like to quote the directive on military grievances, which can be found on the Department of National Defence's website. It indicates that:
The DND and the [Canadian Forces] shall manage all grievances through the Canadian Forces Grievance System...and ensure that: all grievances are processed as efficiently and expeditiously as possible; a CF member is not penalized for submitting a grievance; and assistance is made available to a CF member in the preparation of a grievance.
The last point is very important. The Canadian Forces has the responsibility to help its members because they do not have a union-type association to defend them. This lack of counterbalance is another reason why it is important to ensure that we have an effective and impartial system.
The NDP proposed two improvements. First, we proposed that at least 60% of grievance board members be civilians who have never been officers or members of the Canadian Forces; and second, that the Chief of Defence Staff be given more authority to resolve the financial aspect of grievances.
The first improvement, namely that the grievance board strike a balance between military and civilian membership, is important to ensure that this process be perceived as external and independent. When it comes to the military, it is critical that everyone in the country is able to see that the system as independent and fair. Members of the military have a great deal of experience in managing such situations, so it is rather important that they be truly involved in the process. However, the presence of civilians is also essential to dispel any idea that members of the military are subject to a different kind of justice than ordinary Canadians.
It is also essential that Canadian Forces Grievance Board be effective and absolutely beyond reproach. The NDP believes that a significant civilian presence on the board would help maintain this perception. When we look at how to strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission, the merit of this idea and our position is quite obvious. Police officers, as an example, are agents of social control and play a key role in our society based on the rule of law. They are effective not only because they have the equipment, the manpower and the authority, but also because they are perceived as legitimate by the public.
The military police is no exception. For a police force to operate properly, whether it be military or civilian, it must have the approval of those under its authority. A police force gains legitimacy through its perceived integrity. This perception is built on the actions of the police force and the perception of fairness and justice in its operations.
There is no better way to prove the integrity of a police force than by having a strong monitoring body. A Military Police Complaints Commission that is legitimate and reports to Parliament is the best way to ensure fairness in the actions of military police and, just as importantly, the perception of fairness and justice by Canadians.
We on this side of the House also recommended that the Chief of Defence Staff have more authority to resolve financial aspects related to grievances. This is a simple requirement to ensure that the grievance system is consistent. If the Chief of Defence Staff does not have the ability to resolve financial aspects, it calls into question the relevance of the grievance process.
I would point out that Canada is not the only country reviewing its military justice system. Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland have recently done the same. We are in an excellent position to pass comprehensive and effective legislation while taking into account what has been done in other countries. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the bill as it stands. As I have already said, the NDP proposed amendments to the bill in its previous form, but those amendments are no longer part of the current bill. We would like to see these important and constructive changes incorporated.
We think that our Canadian Forces personnel deserve that. They put themselves on the line each and every day. They have been a source of great pride to this country in their behaviour and conduct in arenas around the world. We owe them a sense of security regarding the justice that is meted out within the military.
I would sincerely ask the government to reconsider the recommendations the NDP has made because we want to strengthen the bill. We want it to be fair and balanced. We want it to work.
Mr. Speaker, I rise again to set the record straight in the House regarding our current military justice system and what it can and should be after the amendments proposed in the bill.
There were several references made in the previous speech to what other countries have done with military justice. Let us be clear that Canada has been a model through many decades of its history with its military justice system. The amendment we are proposing and the ones we discussed in previous parliaments would keep us at the forefront of developments, for which other countries have looked to Canada for leadership.
Is the hon. member aware that there are significant differences? For example, the United Kingdom and Ireland are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. Australia is bound by its constitution.
Would my colleague not agree that the reviews conducted by esteemed jurists, like former Chief Justices Dickson and Lamer and, more recently, Chief Justice LeSage of Ontario, all concluded that Canada's military justice system was fair and strikes the necessary balance? Would she not agree that theirs are more compelling arguments than any we have heard so far from her side by members who would rather see us pick and choose pieces from military justice systems in other parts of the world?
There is a holistic approach to Canada's military justice system, which we are continuing with the bill and other countries should follow—
Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
Mr. Speaker, I understand the essence of my colleague's question, but I would suggest that there is a certain arrogance in insisting that we cannot learn from others. If there is a better way of approaching a bill or changing a law, then I think it behooves all of us to listen carefully. That is why the NDP proposed three amendments to Bill , because we believe it is important to learn from each other and do the best we can.
In regard to Justice Lamer, I would also point out that he made 80 recommendations, representing a very significant body of work by that former Chief Justice. Only 28 of those recommendations were taken up by the government. It seems to me that a great deal is missing, and that is the whole point behind this discussion and debate, that a great deal is missing.
Mr. Speaker, I think most Canadians would be surprised to learn that our heroes, those in the Canadian Forces who bravely serve our country, get a criminal record from a system lacking due process.
Given that our Canadian Forces members are required to follow extremely high standards of discipline, does my colleague not think they deserve a fair judicial system? Does she not also think that while the military knows best how to handle its own affairs, there should be civilians appointed to the grievance board?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, her expertise and the work she has done in previous debates with regard to this particular bill.
I find it very disturbing that members of the Canadian Forces can receive criminal records for very minor incidents, minor crimes, because those criminal records follow them all of their lives. They impede employment opportunities and perhaps also educational opportunities, and they are certainly detrimental to the person concerned establishing a clear and purposeful future.
I would say that if one looks at the authorities in this country, whether they be civilian police forces or military forces, one will see that they all serve the public. They are all there with the specific and direct purpose of serving Canadians. Therefore, in that service, I think it is only fair that Canadians have a voice in making sure that they are meted the kind of fair justice they deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege today to rise to speak to Bill .
I, along with my NDP colleagues, hold the utmost respect for the women and men serving our country under the Canadian flag in the Canadian uniform. It is this respect that drives the NDP to fight to bring more fairness to the Canadian military justice system for the men and women who serve in uniform and put their lives on the line for the service of our country. The NDP believes Bill is a step in the right direction to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system.
The Liberals were in power in 2003 when the Lamer report came out. They responded positively to the report, but then simply sat on it and failed to act upon the recommendations in Justice Lamer's report at that time.
Even though it is a step in the right direction, Bill falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming the summary trial and grievance systems and strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. For this reason, I stand today to raise my opposition to the bill and highlight some important shortcomings, which, should the bill pass second reading, I hope will be addressed in committee.
I will give a bit of background on the bill. The bill comes as a response to the report of former chief justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court presented on the independent review of the National Defence Act in 2003. The report included 88 recommendations pertaining to military justice, the Military Police Complaints Commission, the grievance process and the provost marshal. Thus far, however, only 28 of those recommendations have been implemented.
We have seen Bill before in various forms, first Bills and , which died on the order paper due to prorogation in 2007 and the election in 2008. Then, in 2010, Bill was introduced to respond to the 2003 Lamer report and a report by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, court martial panels, the provost marshal unlimited provisions related to the grievance and military police complaints process.
Bill is quite similar to the version of Bill that came out of committee in the previous Parliament. However, sadly, regrettably, disappointingly, whatever adverb we want to use, what is important is that the amendments that were passed at committee stage at the end of the last Parliament are not included in the current version, Bill . Important and necessary amendments that would alleviate some women and men of our armed forces of undue hardship in their lives after the military are excluded in this version.
These include the following NDP amendments concerning: the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the grievance process, amended clause 6 in Bill , responding directly to Justice Lamer's recommendation; changes to the composition of the grievance committee to include a 60% civilian membership, amended clause 11 in Bill ; and a provision ensuring that a person who is convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subjected to a criminal record, amended clause 75 in Bill . The NDP's position is that it supports the long overdue update to the military justice system.
While there are important reforms in this bill, it, however, does not go far enough and falls short on key issues. Members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline and they, in return, deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard. Should Bill C-15 pass second reading, I would hope to see the shortfalls fixed.
First, the amendments in Bill do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. I, for one, think that a lot of Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who have bravely served our country can actually get a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process we see in civilian criminal courts. Currently, conviction of a service offence from a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record. While matters including subordination, disturbances and absences without leave may be extremely important to military discipline, they are certainly not worthy of a criminal offence.
Moreover, summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals or transcripts of the trial and the judge is actually the accused person's commanding officer. This causes an undue hardship on certain members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted for very minor service offences.
Bill does make an exemption for a select number of offences, if they carry a minor punishment, so they no longer result in a criminal record. While once again, a positive step, in our opinion it does not go far enough.
At committee stage in March of the previous year, the NDP amendments to Bill C-41 were carried to address this issue by expanding the list of offences from 5 to 27 that could be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record if the offence in question received a minor punishment. The amendment also extended the list of punishments that might be imposed by a tribunal without an offender incurring a criminal record. This was a major step forward for summary trials. However, this amendment was not retained by the Conservative government in Bill . We believe it needs to be included.
A criminal record can make life after the military very difficult. Criminal records can make getting a job, renting an apartment and travelling very difficult. Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have all seen fit to change the summary trial process. Why is Canada lagging behind?
It is curious why the minister is not accepting the fact that the summary trial system is tainted with undue harshness, sentences that result in criminal records for minor offences, and ignoring the need for greater reform.
Another shortcoming in the bill is that the grievance committee would not provide a means of external review as it is staffed entirely by retired CF officers. If the CF Grievance Board is to be perceived as an external and independent oversight civilian body, as it was designed to be, then some members of the board should actually be drawn from civil society.
The NDP amendment provided that at least 60% of the grievance committee members must never have been an officer or a non-commissioned member of the Canadian Forces. This amendment was passed in March 2011 in Bill C-41, but it also was not been retained in this version of Bill . We believe it is important to see this amendment re-included in the bill.
Another major flaw in Bill is the military grievance system. The Chief of the Defence Staff lacks the authority to resolve financial aspects arising from a grievance, contrary to a recommendation in the Lamer report. Despite the fact that the at the time agreed to this recommendation, there has been no concrete steps over the past eight years to implement this recommendation.
The NDP proposed an amendment to this effect at the committee stage on Bill C-41. Although it had passed in March 2011, this amendment, once again, was not retained by the government in Bill . We will fight to have it included yet once again.
Bill would amend the National Defence Act to establish a timeline within which the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal would be required to resolve conduct complaints as well as protect complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith. Although a step forward, the NDP believes more needs to be done to empower the commission.
The Military Police Complaints Commission needs the legislation to strengthen its ability to act as an oversight body. It must be empowered by a legislative provision that would allow it to rightfully investigate and report to Parliament. These amendments would bring more fairness to the Canadian military justice system.
Justice and fairness for the women and men in our uniform is essential. However, Bill just does not cut it. Our Canadian military justice system needs more fairness and the NDP will continue to stand and fight for it.
I would like to reaffirm my commitment and the New Democratic Party's commitment to work for justice and fairness.
Today, December 6, marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Today, we reflect on the loss of 14 young women who were killed on this day just because they were women. Sadly, the violence against women still continues. The end of violence against women is everybody's responsibility. Today, we remember and reflect and then speak out and pledge to turn this remembrance into action to end violence committed against women and girls in our communities, our country and around the world.
Mr. Speaker, I express some exasperation with respect to the speech by the member opposite on this issue. She seems not to have heard the when he said that he and all of us from this party were on the national defence committee would be prepared to see an amendment introduced to deal with the imposition of a criminal record for minor summary offences. That would cause the current bill to reflect the committee version of the bill that came out of the last Parliament by amending clause 75 accordingly. Is the member aware of that intention?
Is the member also aware that by keeping the bill in the House, we are merely postponing the day when those improvements can be made, such as victim impact statements being added as a requirement of military justice? A number of improvements were made, most of which were recommended by Chief Justice Lamer.
Mr. Speaker, I find it quite entertaining that the parliamentary secretary is now questioning the NDP as to why we do not trust the Conservatives. That is because every time we or Canadians are led to trust them we all get burned. We know that whenever we propose amendments at committee or make friendly arrangements, they get voted down because of the strong stable majority the Conservatives have in Parliament and committee. We know they will just do what they want. They do not care to listen to what the NDP, duly elected members of the House, victims and scientists have to say. I can continue, but I am sure my point has been made clearly.
Mr. Speaker, in addressing the issue, the member made reference to minor offences such as not showing up for work. Could the member explain the difference between when a civilian does not show up for work and when a member of the military does not show up for work?
In essence, that is one reason we have a military justice system as a second system that is quite different than the civilian courts.
Mr. Speaker, as a labour specialist, I know what happens in the world of labour and employment. Employees or workers who miss work or are disciplined for insubordination can go through multiple stages of the disciplinary process, which can eventually lead to their termination of employment as civilians.
However, my understanding from what I have read is that in the forces minor offences like tardiness, insubordination or missing work can be deemed a criminal offence, which does not seem to make any sense.
I understand our men and women in the forces are held to extremely high standards. They outperform many around the world. We should not be thanking them by imposing a criminal record for a minor offence whereby they are unable to get a job or rent an apartment. Life should not be made more difficult for them after serving in the forces.
Mr. Speaker I am very pleased to rise today to debate Bill .
I will echo the question the hon. member just asked my colleague: what is the difference between when a civilian does not show up for work and when a member of the military does not show up for work?
The difference does not lie in the person or the action, but in the job. That is exactly why there is one justice system for civilians and another for the military. No one in the House is denying the fact that the military justice system exists because military life must have different rules than civilian life. And yet, the discipline, ethics and morals military personnel are expected to live up to should not have consequences outside the military framework. Consequently, the fact that a member of the military might have a criminal record in civilian life does not recognize the difference between civilians and the military.
It is entirely legitimate that the military wants a separate justice system that respects potentially different values. Still the fact that these consequences, that is, a criminal record, can be extended to a soldier's civilian life is not justifiable. For example, during a summary trial—a serious flaw in this bill—no lawyer is present. It is proper for any justice system to develop its own procedures. We do not contest the existence of summary trials. It is fine that military justice is different from civilian justice. But the consequences should also be different.
During a summary trial, the accused is not entitled to a lawyer and cannot consult counsel. There is no transcript of the trial. These procedures exist in a civilian trial, but not in a summary trial.
Even more important, this is not an independent trial. The person who acts as judge in the trial is usually a commanding officer who knows the accused, perhaps personally, who certainly knows the situation that led to the trial, and who knows all the circumstances. We understand that the definition of an independent tribunal is also different. During a civilian trial, the judge does not know the accused personally, and if the judge does know the accused, he or she must withdraw from the case to avoid a conflict of interest.
It is understandable that military justice will be different. Still, once again, the Conservatives ought to have respected the amendments we proposed to this bill, because that would have made it possible to respect the difference.
We do not wish to be unfair. There must be one justice system for civilians, with its own consequences and procedures, and another for the military, with its own consequences and procedures, and they will not be the same. That is clear and logical.
All members of the House should find it acceptable that a soldier, judged through different procedures, would not suffer consequences that have effects outside the military sphere. For example, a former member of the military with a criminal record will find it very hard to find work after he or she retires.
Everyone here knows that employers always ask potential employees to fill in a form that asks, "Do you have a criminal record?" Clearly, this can harm a person's chances of finding a job. For a government that wants to create jobs and help Canadians find work, this measure is rather hypocritical, since it pushes the military aside. That is just a little remark that occurred to me.
In a summary trial, the procedures are different. That is, the procedures are not like those in the House of Commons. They are rather invisible. Here in the House we often see that the procedures are strict and we must follow them. In a summary trial, on the other hand, regulations or procedures of that kind do not exist. Thus, a member of the military should not be considered a criminal after such a trial.
I will give an example. A member of the military can be found guilty of insubordination, quarrels and disturbances, misconduct, absence without leave and disobeying a lawful command. That is proper because, as I already said, military justice has its own morals and ethics. That is as it should be. However, these procedures should not create a criminal record, since they are minor convictions and not serious crimes. Moreover, only certain offences are included. I do not see why we should tell military personnel that in civilian life they will be considered criminals and have a criminal record, when that should not happen.
In my civilian life I cannot be accused of quarrelling or insubordination, except perhaps if I were in school and showed disrespect for my teacher. In such cases I would be sent to the principal's office, but I would not be found guilty of insubordination and wind up with a criminal record. We must see and understand the wall that exists and the difference between the civilian and military worlds. They must not be mixed together.
The NDP had proposed amendments that would make it possible to expand the list of offences that are exempt and could be considered minor offences. Under those amendments, a person who was found guilty would not have a criminal record. Once again, that amendment was rejected by the Conservatives.
We also proposed an amendment to expand the list of punishments that could be imposed by a tribunal without leading to a criminal record, for example, a severe reprimand. That amendment was not accepted either.
We have to admit that the criminal, military and civilian justice systems are different. No one here disputes that. We understand that the military has different ethics, morals and operating rules. But the consequences of such rules should not reach beyond the military sphere and should not have repercussions on the civilian life of a military member. We are simply asking the government to amend Bill to respect that difference.
Mr. Speaker, yet another NDP member is not aware of our proposal to adopt the amendment as it was for the previous bill on criminal records. Why are we spending more time here discussing something all the parties agreed on? Let us move on.
Does the hon. member not realize that with the Canadian Forces, we are not just talking about absences from work? Our national defence is at stake here.
Does she not agree with former Chief Justice Dickson, who said in his report that without discipline, the Canadian Forces, or any other military force, would not be able to operate effectively and could become a danger, not only to themselves, but also to others?
Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what I said in my speech. We are talking about crimes that are different from crimes with which a civilian could be charged. I mentioned absences, but also insubordination, quarrels, misconduct, drunkenness, disobedience, absence without leave and severe reprimand. Those are military offences. I gave an example: a civilian would never be found guilty of insubordination, so he could not have a criminal record for that crime.
That is the difference between a military justice system and a civilian system, and it is a legitimate difference. The consequences should not be the same. The consequences should not have a negative effect or impact on the civilian life of a member of our military.
Before I finish, I would like to read a quote:
The military justice system does not only exist to punish wrongdoers, it is an essential part of command, discipline and morale.
It is respectful of morals and ethics.
Ours is a voluntary military and if the military justice system is not seen as equitable and fair, we will not only have a justice problem, but we could also have an operational problem.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague for her excellent speech, which clarified the NDP's position and explained the difference between the Canadian justice system and the military justice system.
Military personnel, like police officers, are authority figures in our society, as the parliamentary secretary said. Since we are talking about defending our country and our laws, these individuals need to have that authority in Canadians' eyes. That is why the NDP wants to make sure the bill is balanced.
I wonder if my colleague could elaborate on what is expected of this bill. I would also like her to try to explain why the amendments proposed during the previous Parliament were not included in Bill . Lastly, I would like to know why the government seems to be ignoring the recommendations of the Lamer report.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand what the opposition's job is. I thank my hon. colleague for the opportunity to answer the question.
In my opinion, the opposition has a role to play in any democratic system. Its role is not necessarily to oppose the government, but rather to hold it to account for Canadians and ensure that it respects their rights.
It is really important to emphasize that when the government prevents the opposition from doing its job, this clearly demonstrates the government's contempt and arrogance with regard to our democratic system. It must make the Conservatives very happy to know that this is a British system.
It is also important to point out that we are willing to work with the Conservatives to improve this legislation. They simply have to listen to us and work with us. We want to pass bills that respect the rights of Canadian military personnel and civilians alike.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues for having so brilliantly stated their stance on Bill . This bill has appeared in several forms.
First of all, bills and died on the order paper because of the 2007 prorogation of Parliament and the 2008 election. In July 2008, Bill charged back, simplifying the court martial structure and establishing a method for determining which type of court martial would be most consistent with the civilian justice system. In 2009, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs studied Bill and made nine recommendations to amend the National Defence Act.
Before moving on, it is very interesting to note that there is nothing new about how the Conservatives go about their business when they want to push through more complex bills. Bill , which was the version studied in the Senate report, was introduced in Parliament by the Hon. Minister of National Defence on June 6, 2008, towards the end of the second session of the 39th Parliament, and passed on June 18, 2008.
Bill was intended among other things to make the National Defence Act consistent with the decision of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada in R. v. Trépanier. In this decision, the court acknowledged that some provisions of the National Defence Act and the Queen’s Regulations and Orders contravened section 7 and paragraph 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
These provisions were declared unconstitutional. They enabled the director military prosecutions to decide, when charges were being laid, on the kind of court martial that would try the accused, and for the court martial administrator to convene the court martial in accordance with the decision of the director of military prosecutions. This court decision became effective immediately, and led to some uncertainty about the possibility of being able to continue to convene courts martial under the National Defence Act unless Bill could be passed quickly.
However, this view was dismissed at hearings of the Senate committee on the evidence of Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel, who maintained that this view was inaccurate. He said that the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, in R. v. Trépanier, had come up with a straightforward and useful approach to getting rid of the clause that was violating the accused’s rights.
Nevertheless, there is also a practical interim solution that could easily be implemented. For charges laid under section 130, the accused could be given the option to choose his or her trier of facts. There is no legal obstacle to this approach because section 165.14, which gives this right to the prosecution, does not apply to these offences.
We would like to clarify that there is no danger of creating a legal void during the interim period that would result in failure to apply the law for want of prosecution. Offences under section 130 of the National Defence Act can also be prosecuted in civilian courts even if they were committed outside of Canada. That is covered in section 273 of the National Defence Act.
Why did the government rush passage of this bill? Even members of the Senate committee could not help but point this out:
Given the speed with which Bill C-60 was studied in both the House of Commons and the Senate, concern was expressed that it was difficult to thoroughly assess the potential impact of this legislation. Consequently, the bill was amended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence to add a review clause.
Under false pretences, the government succeeded in pressuring opposition parliamentarians to pass this bill even though, according to the court ruling, it had many years to amend the act but did nothing. In his ruling in Trépanier, Justice Létourneau said:
The unanimous concern of this Court in Nystrom about the fairness of section 165.14 was expressed more than two years ago, i.e. on December 20, 2005. Since then, there have been five new constitutional challenges to that provision and appeals before this Court are pending. Retired Chief Justice Lamer made a recommendation as early as September 3, 2003 that section 165.14 be amended to give the accused the option to choose his or her trier of facts. As previously mentioned, he also made a recommendation that a working group reviewed the reorganization of the courts martial with a view to improving the fairness of the trial, at the center of which, as an important element of that reorganization, is the right for an accused to choose the trier of facts. Yet, Bill C-45 has been tabled before Parliament and it contains no remedial provision. The authorities have been given more than four and a half (4½) years to address the problem.
This bill contains many important reforms. The NDP has supported the much-needed overhaul of the military justice system for a long time. Members of the Canadian Forces are subject to extremely high standards of discipline and deserve a judicial system with comparable standards.
However, the NDP will oppose Bill at second reading stage. This bill has a number of flaws that we hope will be discussed in committee, if passed at second reading. The NDP does not oppose the substance of the bill. However, in its current form, the bill does not take into account all the recommendations of the Lamer report. Moreover, the Conservatives have ignored the amendments the NDP proposed to a virtually identical bill that was introduced in the previous Parliament. Those amendments were originally adopted because we had a minority government at the time. However, the amendments have again been removed from the bill.
In the previous Parliament, the Conservatives admitted that the recommendations had merit. This is no longer the case, now that they have a majority, and it makes us wonder if they are merely engaging in the lowest form of petty politics rather than putting the interests of our soldiers in civil society first.
The bottom line is that the NDP opposes the bill in its current form at this stage of the legislative process. We hope that these amendments will be made in committee.
Mr. Speaker, there is a difference on the bill that I did not detect from previous presenters, but now am led to believe the NDP does not support its passage, which explains why its members continue to speak to the bill. I respect that.
There was another bill before the House, which the NDP opposed but wanted to see sent to committee. For that bill, Bill , they voted in favour of it being sent to committee with the idea of getting amendments brought forward at committee to make it a better bill.
Does this mean the position of the NDP members is that, even if the bill is sent to committee and they succeed in getting some of those amendments, they still would not support the bill because they are voting against the bill even being sent to committee?
Mr. Speaker, we do hope that this bill will be referred to committee. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the other bill the member mentioned. I could always consult it later.
Mr. Speaker, this time, I have a very clear and much shorter question for the member.
It is really a question of principle. She quoted Mr. Drapeau, and all of the assessments done of our military justice system have taken into account Mr. Drapeau's comments and advice. However, we must also consider the opinions and judgments of Justices Lamer, Dickson and LeSage, who said that the system was working well, that it was good and valid.
Does the hon. member think that Canada's military justice system is valid, yes or no?
Mr. Speaker, we are obviously happy that the government has finally tabled Justice LeSage's report. This report supports a number of the NDP's concerns about Bill .
I will answer the member's question more directly by saying that we have faith in Canada's military system. However, we also believe that soldiers must have ways of defending themselves other than what is available to them in the military justice system, which is a blunt instrument.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask my colleague a question. I want to know who she thinks should be on the Canadian Forces Grievance Board.
In principle, it should be perceived as an external and independent civilian body. But right now, it is made up of several former Canadian Forces members. No one really comes from the outside. What does the NDP suggest to ensure that the board is more independent and is perceived as a civilian body?
Mr. Speaker, it is always important for a committee to examine the suggestions made by all members of the committee and witnesses. If a committee is independent, its recommendations and what comes out of the committee will be more successful. If it is independent, it has a greater chance of being successful, particularly when we are talking about military justice.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with a story to illustrate the kind of men and women we are talking about here today when we talk about military justice. Often in this place we forget that these are living, breathing men and women who give a lot to their country.
When I was 14 and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, the cadets were very active in my town and I had Canadian Forces brochures, and for a second I thought that serving in the military might suit me, giving me structure and discipline to my life, and I could serve my country in an honourable way at the same time.
Of course, I did not take that path. I took a different path, and I am now serving my country in a different way, as many members of this House are, including the parliamentary secretary across the way, who has offered many years of service to this country in the Canadian foreign service.
I would like to underline that the men and women who give their lives to us by serving in our military are good, upstanding men and women. I have known many of them. Although I did not take that path, a lot of people I grew up with did take the military path. Sometimes they were from military families, having fathers and grandfathers who had served and whom they followed in that long lineage of service in the Canadian military.
There was another type of person who would serve in the military, the guys in the town who were maybe a bit more disadvantaged and who looked to the military to give them structure and discipline and a more honourable way to live than the path they were currently on. They saw the military as a way of improving their lives. They served Canada to improve their lot.
Basically these men and women give a lot to their country, and it is our duty as representatives in this country to take care of them and to treat them with respect and dignity. I think all of the decisions we make in this place should take that into account.
Some of these men and women have served in theatres of war. I know guys in my community who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan. We all know, and I think we should all know, that serving in the Canadian military, and certainly in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan, is a highly stressful job. It is very stressful to the men and women who serve.
I have spent time with the Royal Montreal Regiment. I visited the barracks on St. Catherine Street West in Montreal. I have spoken to these guys. I want members in this place to remember that these men and women have made a great sacrifice, and they give quite a lot.
I can think of a couple of guys in my community, Colin Robinson, who served in Bosnia, or Megal Johnson, who served in Afghanistan. They have told me about their experiences, which has allowed me to understand what it is like to serve in Canada's military.
As for Bill , we are glad that the government has finally acted on this. It has been nine years since Justice Lamer's report came out, so it has been quite a while. We know that when the report came out in 2003, the Liberals sat on it for two years. I do not know exactly why they did not act more swiftly to implement some of the recommendations in the Lamer report. That is for them to answer. However, I am glad to see that the Liberal members have come around to seeing the New Democrats' position and seem to be supporting the amendments we are putting forward. We are very happy to see that.
I do not just want to negative here, as there are good things in Bill . It does provide a greater flexibility in the sentencing process, which is important. We believe that is a step in the right direction, bringing military justice more in line with the civilian justice system, but the bill falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system and strengthening the military complaints commission.
For the people watching who might not understand a summary trial, I would point out that in the civilian system it tends to be a trial that is set up and the process is gone through. The whole point of a summary trial is to look at where a judgment would go and to make the parties come to an agreement after the summary trial has been completed, so they can settle the trial without going through the whole process of an actual trial with sentencing.
The way the system currently works is that people come out of the summary trial system with a criminal record. In the civilian system, that is not the purpose of the summary trial system, but to try to get the parties to settle things without burdening them with a criminal record. Members who are more versed in the law that I am could maybe add to this during questioning. I would certainly welcome that. However, that is my understanding of the purpose of a summary trial.
The background to Bill is the recommendations developed by Justice Lamer to change the military justice system to bring it in line with the civilian justice system. My understanding is that Bill C-15 is the legislative response to these recommendations. There were 88 recommendations made, but only 28 of them have been implemented, so we see some 60 recommendations left that have not yet been addressed in legislation. That is part of the reason we feel that Bill C-15 does not go far enough.
On a positive note, Bill C-15 would make an exemption for a select number of offences if they carry a minor punishment, defined in the act as “a fine of $500 or less”, so that they no longer result in a criminal record. This would be a positive thing.
As I said before, these people sacrifice a lot in serving in our military. In particular, we should enable the disadvantaged people I mentioned to transition back to civilian life when they leave the military, especially after they have taken on this role and the stress of serving in Canada's military and given their years of service. A criminal record makes it very difficult for them to reintegrate into society. Given that these people are serving in theatres such as Bosnia or Afghanistan, if they return and are marginalized in society, a whole range of things can happen to these poor men and women. This ends up costing us money in terms of services that we then have to provide. Therefore, it is in our best interest to transition them in a way that they can re-adapt to Canadian society. All members would agree that a criminal record complicates that process, especially if the person gets a criminal record for things that would be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record for civilians. I want all members of the House to consider that.
The fact that this bill does not go far enough is why we are opposing it strongly at second reading. We want to deliver a message to the government that changes have to be made, that this bill has to go further, that we would like to see the Conservatives reformulate the bill to include more of Justice Lamer's recommendations and to note that we should be promoting the re-transitioning of service members back into Canadian society. People who have committed small offences such as insubordination or drunkenness, things that would usually be forgiven of civilians, should not carry a criminal record. We should not burden our men and women in the military with a criminal record for small offences like that.
The New Democrats believe that members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline and that they in turn deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard. They should not be treated poorly through a sham process where they end up being saddled with a criminal record. As I said, a criminal record after military life makes those people's lives more difficult. It marginalizes them. Criminal records can make it very difficult to get a job and an apartment and to travel. A lot of Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can get a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts. The New Democrats will fight to bring more fairness to the Canadian military justice system for the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line in the service of Canada.
People make different decisions in their lives. Some people choose the military to serve their country; some choose the foreign service, as the parliamentary secretary has; and some choose to represent the people of Canada, as everyone in the House has.
Mr. Speaker, we all chose to serve in the House and to pass needed legislation, in this case for the military justice system. I think many Canadians would be shocked to know that we are still debating this bill in the House, a bill that would change a number of minor offences that currently lead to criminal records for service members even after they have left the military for civilian life. We are only delaying the process of seeing that change for the better and a modernized system, in only hearing more and more speeches from the other side.
I would ask the hon. member for to please remind his colleagues before they stand to join the debate that these changes would be made if the bill were sent to committee and passed. Members agree with these changes, which would enact almost all of the recommendations of former Chief Justice Lamer. The sooner we move the bill beyond first reading to committee stage and enact this much needed bill on Canadian military justice, the better.
Does he agree that is the right approach?
Mr. Speaker, as policy-makers, there are two paths we can take. We can take a very strong approach, look at the report and implement everything in the report, or we can take an incremental approach and implement a few things now, some things later and other things years down the road. When drafting legislation, we have to judge which road we are going to take. That is evidence of a responsible government.
The government in this case has chosen to take the incremental route. New Democrats are delivering a message and saying no, the government has taken incremental measures in the past but has to go further with this legislation. It must take a more proactive route; it cannot just dribble some reforms now, some later and others down the road. It really has to take a strong stance now, but it has not done so. That is why we are opposing the bill at second reading.
We are asking the government to go back to the drawing table and redraft the legislation, and then New Democrats will pass it if it goes far enough.
Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that the member started his speech by being somewhat critical of the Liberals not acting quickly enough. He even went as far as to say that former Prime Minister Paul Martin had the report for two years. Yes, Paul Martin, as the former leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister of Canada, had this report prepared. There were other agendas, such as the Kelowna accord and child care, which were very high priorities. The NDP and the Conservatives worked against those types of initiatives.
If we fast forward to today, the Liberal Party is already on the record saying that it supports this bill in principle and wants the bill to go to committee. It seems to me that the only thing preventing it from going to committee is the NDP, which wants to continue to debate this. The member is being critical of the Liberal Party not wanting to send this bill to committee. The Liberal Party and Conservative Party are prepared to send it to committee, but it would appear that the New Democrats are the ones preventing it from going to committee, yet the member persists in blaming the Liberal Party. It does not make sense.
Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned the government of Paul Martin, yet everyone in the New Democratic Party, and perhaps the Conservative benches as well, can say that the military was not a priority of the Liberal government either under Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin. That has been a weakness of that party and it shows. It sat on the report for two years and the member does not deny that. He said the government had other priorities.
The men and women serving in places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Cyprus were not a priority for the Liberal Party and I find that tragic. As I said, these people literally give their lives to Canada. When they die, they have given their lives to their country. The member says that it was not a priority of his government, and I find that shameful. I am really disturbed by that.
The Liberal government spent two years sitting on that report and waffled back and forth for the next nine years. I am glad that the Liberals have finally come around to seeing things the way the NDP does and believing that amendments should be made. New Democrats do not think this bill goes far enough. We think the government should go back to the drafting table and redraft this legislation to respond to the Lamer report in a way we can be proud of.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill , which is really very important. Indeed, our men and women in uniform sacrifice a lot. They play a very specific role in our society. They really have a special status in relation to other citizens. That status, that sacrifice, that life which is unquestionably so different does not justify at all the current system of summary trials. In fact, this justice system should be abolished. It is indeed a summary system that essentially bypasses the normal process. More importantly, it is very punitive and it has very serious consequences for our men and women in uniform.
The big problem is that, in its present form, Bill does not correct the profound and fundamental injustice of summary trials, and it does not deal with it appropriately. I am going to focus on that point. It is important to clearly understand the consequences. Being saddled with a criminal record when one returns to civilian life, or even while still in the military, creates a lot of economic, moral or family problems. It can be really hard to cope with that situation. Given the whole process, it is truly absurd that this is still tolerated in Canada in 2012 and that we are not trying to really correct things. Unfortunately, Bill does not do that.
I am going to briefly mention the minor offences that may be dealt with by summary trial and lead to a conviction. They include insubordination, quarrels, misconduct, absence without leave, drunkenness and disobeying a command.
Let us be clear on one thing. Given the military's special status and role, and the need for unity in the Canadian Forces to carry out their missions, it goes without saying that discipline is a fundamental requirement. Everyone agrees and no one is going to challenge that. However, and this is what Bill does not fundamentally correct, we maintain that this requirement does not justify a criminal record. Of course, within the context of the military service—or outside it—there is no doubt that the offences I just listed are more serious than for a civilian, but in the case of civilians they do not automatically result in a much more serious consequence and in much higher proportions.
This situation is really unfortunate because there is of course another problem. An argument was made, among others, to justify summary trials, namely that they speed up the process, so that the soldier who is accused can reintegrate into his unit more quickly.
Once again, that is debatable. First of all, clearly, relative justification can always be found, for instance, in an intervention or operational context, when the strength of the unit must be maintained at all times. Apart from that, in real life, which is most of the time in a soldier's career, the need for expediency is no more justified than it is in civilian life. So that is one thing that does not make sense.
It would also be very troubling if Canada did not modernize this system by committing to a comprehensive reform of the summary trial process. Other countries that have reformed their own systems—systems directly related to what we do here in Canada—include the United Kingdom, of course—which is more or less the mother country on which many of our institutions are based—as well as Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
Considering that Justice Lamer released his report in 2003, why has it taken Canada so long to act? Why is the government not going even further and really fixing this?
We will focus on the issue of summary trials and the fact that people could end up with a criminal record for life. Furthermore, with a summary trial, there is no appeal process and there are no transcripts. Thus, there is no paper trail. In addition, the so-called judge is also the accused person's commanding officer. Considering the special hierarchical relationship between the superior and the accused, that is very problematic. This major point must be considered.
We all agree that officers in the Canadian Forces meet strict criteria and must face up to their responsibilities. Nevertheless, regardless of the quality of the commander, this way of doing things creates enormous potential for inequality that is not there in civilian life. In fact, it is almost impossible to find something as big that goes as far as what we find in the Canadian Forces. Just bridging this gap and removing this sort of trial from within the military unit would represent great progress.
We must not forget the difficulties that this type of trial creates for soldiers who find themselves with a criminal record as a result of a summary trial. I would like to remind hon. members that having a criminal record can create a potential obstacle for these soldiers when they return to civilian life after serving in the Canadian Forces.
As all members of this House know, military careers are usually shorter than most civilian careers because of how demanding military service is and because of the unfortunate unforeseen circumstances that can occur. When a man or woman who served valiantly in the military and made a valuable contribution returns to civilian life, that person has the right to a new life and a place in society. Yet, no matter what some may say, a criminal record is an enormous and even insurmountable obstacle to returning to a so-called normal life.
In light of the fact that soldiers can be excluded or socially stigmatized for making a mistake, such as getting drunk, after they have bravely served our country, carried out missions throughout the world and imposed on their families all the sacrifices that a soldier's loved ones are forced to endure, it would be scandalous if we did not implement a much fairer trial system that is more respectful of our soldiers' status and of the sacrifices they make and the duty they perform.
I urge all my colleagues to think about this and, above all, to show respect for the duty that our soldiers perform. In that way, we can come up with a much more thorough reform than that proposed in Bill .
That is why we are opposed to this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech.
My question concerns re-entry into the community. The amendments that we proposed seek to ease the process and ensure that the offences committed do not result in a criminal record. These measures are extremely important in a context of economic development, where employers are searching for good employees.
When a soldier or an officer ends his military service, he can bring an invaluable contribution to the workforce. We are talking about honest people who served their country and who want to continue to do so. We therefore must avoid saddling them with a criminal record. I used to work in human resources, and I still do so occasionally as an advisor. When employers see a small black mark, they set aside the file. By doing so, we exclude people who could do good things for Canada.
The is searching for workers, but we are penalizing ourselves by adopting such measures.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very relevant question.
What is unique about military life is that it can provide very worthwhile support. It could be an opportunity to learn a trade, to acquire qualifications, and even to get a university education and have a career or a role in society that, after one's military service, could be very interesting and rewarding.
So this is a potential workforce that we cannot sacrifice, for the sake of our society's cohesion, the dignity of these people, and economic imperatives. It is quite absurd and even contradictory on the part of the government to refuse to accept our amendments, while a program that we support will allow veterans to enter the construction sector.
We are talking about something that is denied to some members of the military.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask a question of my colleague, who did a good job of explaining the problem with summary trials.
I get the sense that the government considers members of the Canadian Forces second-class citizens and that they do not have the same rights as other Canadians when it comes to trials. A fair and just trial is a constitutional right. However, because of the nature of summary trials, this right is definitely being flouted.
Can my colleague tell me if, like me, he thinks that the government considers our military personnel to be second-class citizens who do not have the same rights as other Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from for his question.
I hope not. I will not presume to say what the intentions or thoughts of the government members are.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has not challenged this justice system. In other words, it is tolerated by the legislative system, which sees the status of members of the Canadian Forces as being on a par with the institution.
This choice was made in the past. It may have made sense in a certain context and in terms of a mindset inherited from a very distant past. Unfortunately, given current knowledge of and progress in the treatment of diseases linked to combat or service situations, this choice demonstrates that we are on the wrong path. We must immediately get back on track.
That is why we are trying to convince the government members of the merits of our opposition to Bill , so that we can go much further instead of making do with half measures, which would be truly deplorable.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, I listened to the government MPs' questions. They asked us why we oppose this, that and the other thing. Simply put, as they are in the majority, they can do whatever they want. We cannot stop them, because no amendments are ever adopted in parliamentary committees, and none of our amendments are ever adopted here, ever.
They should instead ask themselves a philosophical question. The government's policy decisions are supposed to be based on human rights and on building a just society in other countries whose society is not based on law and a proper justice system. Some people volunteer to work towards this and put their lives at risk. When they return, they are denied access to an equitable and basically decent justice system. The Conservatives are unable to do what has been done in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps they prefer the 19th century system of military justice, imported from Great Britain, which probably was called “the Royal something or other”.
If we want to build a lawful society in Afghanistan, we should begin by looking into the possibility of having one here.
It is clear that the armed forces need a justice system to deal with problems that occur in the field, in extreme cases where rapid action is required. However, there is no reason why this form of justice should continue to haunt soldiers in their civilian lives for years. They are already dogged by physical injuries and post-traumatic stress, and do not need to be burdened by a criminal record that will handicap them in their everyday lives for the rest of their days.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his intervention. I would like him to say more about being equitable and striking a balance in this bill and harmonizing it with civilian justice, for example. He alluded to that; I would like him to comment further.
Mr. Speaker, there definitely needs to be a difference between the two justice systems. One ought to be applicable to situations in which soldiers are doing their jobs and putting their lives and health in danger. The difference between these conditions and civilian life afterwards need to be taken into consideration. It is not the same thing, and the distinction must be made; otherwise there is a risk that they will return to society after having been through a justice system that denies them some of the rights to which they would be entitled in civilian society.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from for his interesting remarks on Bill . Bill C–15 was studied in committee, and the NDP proposed amendments to the bill, which, surprise surprise, were defeated without any assurance that they were ever truly considered.
I would like to ask my colleague whether, in his experience, he has seen other similar situations and if, on the committees he has sat, he has seen other situations where amendments were defeated similarly without even being properly considered or debated.
I have seen similar situations in the committees on which I have sat. Since my colleague is talking about democracy, perhaps he would like to comment on the process Bill has undergone to date in committee.
Mr. Speaker, I sit on the Standing Committee on International Trade. I have, on occasion, sat on many other committees to replace colleagues. Knocking back amendments is the Conservatives' national sport. I have almost never seen an amendment adopted, unless it was something absolutely insignificant, of no importance, and about which everybody cannot help but agree. Amendments are always systematically defeated. Members have barely taken their seats before they hear the words “defeated” ringing in their ears. It has become an automated response.
The Conservatives would now have us believe that the opposition can make a series of proposals about which they will remain open-minded. I certainly have my doubts. If people were aware of how things worked in committee, they would be even more concerned than they are right now about what is going on here.
Mr. Speaker, in the reform of the summary trial system, apparently the judge is the commanding officer of the accused. In the case of minor offences, such as insubordination, does my colleague not think there might be other possible conflicts of interest?
Mr. Speaker, the army is indeed a hierarchy, and everywhere there are hierarchies there are conflicts between the various levels. A commanding officer may not like one of his subordinates or appreciate the way he reacts. That can cause tension. I cannot see why there would not be tension in the army as there is across all society, especially since these people are pushed to their limits when it comes to professional performance. There is certainly great potential for conflict, which may result in injustices being done.
If we do not think about it now, we will have to think about it later. On the other side of the House, they always want to act later and never now.
Mr. Speaker, I have to ask my hon. colleague from a fairly simple question.
Of course, the NDP is complaining about the fact that we have a majority and how we can do whatever we like in the House or in committees. That is not true, but the member has made that complaint. During this debate, we are seeing what happens when the NDP fails to live up to its own responsibilities. The amendments and modernizations in this bill on the military justice system are all waiting for us in committee. We cannot deal with them without going to committee.
Does the member not agree that by prolonging this debate in the House, he is delaying the achievement of his own goals?
Mr. Speaker, it is very easy for my colleague to say what he is saying now. I do not want to go back over all the details, but I would point out that the NDP presented amendments at the time Bill was being considered. They were excellent proposals that provided solutions to real problems that had arisen in another botched bill.
After 2015, we are going to write our own bills, they way they should be written, and we will examine them in committees. We will not come back and try to fix them later.
The opportunity to support the amendments arose in the past when the former incarnations of this bill were introduced. In its present form, these amendments were all presented and not one was adopted. That is why we do not want to go any further. In any event, the Conservatives are going to pass their bill anyway, based on the principle that nothing will go into it that they did not come up with themselves.
Mr. Speaker, before I launch into my speech, I will just pick up on a point that my good friend was making about the amendments proposed to the previous incarnation of this bill. As he rightly pointed out, those amendments have not been included in the current version of the legislation.
I will talk about some of the testimony given in regard to the previous bill, which does beg the following question. Here we have witnesses, people who have a tremendous amount of detailed knowledge about some of these issues, coming before committees on this particular bill and its previous incarnation, and yet every single proposal for an amendment is disregarded. Some of these amendments are reasoned amendments. We have seen this in committee after committee. On the aboriginal affairs committee I am involved with, I do not believe we have had a single amendment to the legislation before the committee.
We use our time here in the House to raise these issues because the public pays attention to debate in the House. Bringing forward these important points of view for consideration in legislation is part of our responsibility of due diligence as parliamentarians. I have talked about due diligence a number of times in the House. It is our responsibility to examine the legislation closely, to see where there are potential faults and to see if there are ways that we can improve the legislation. We are being responsible parliamentarians by raising these issues, and if we need to take the time in the House to do that, we will take the time in the House. The government will continue to limit debate, and here it is ironic that we are talking about military justice. Despite our talking about justice here, the government continues to limit debate, forcing time allocation, managing witness lists, and on it goes, all of which are not part of the democratic process.
Turning to Bill , I am sure that others have spoken about this but I just want to read into the record that on October 7, 2011 the introduced Bill , the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act. Just as a little aside, it is about strengthening military justice, and if we want to strengthen military justice in this country the other thing that we have to do is to look after veterans when they come home. If we want to talk about justice, that is justice. I have too many Afghanistan veterans in my riding suffering from PTSD who cannot get access to the education funds they need to resume their lives because of the trauma they have suffered in Afghanistan. Therefore, if we want to talk about military justice, let us also talk about supporting the troops when they come home.
Bill would amend the National Defence Act to strengthen military justice following the 2003 report by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, and the May 2009 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Among other things, the bill would provide greater flexibility in the sentencing process. It would:
(d) provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution;
(e) modify the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person; and
(f) modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods.
It would also clarify the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and make amendments to the delegation of the Chief of Defence Staff’s powers as the final authority in the grievance process.
The New Democrats believe that Bill is a step in the right direction to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. However, it falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system and strengthening the military complaints commission.
I will now turn briefly to the legislative summary, because it does bring forward some of the testimony on the previous bill. The legislative summary indicates that the Bill “largely reproduces the provisions of the former Bill ...”. That is an important point because the New Democrats did propose amendments to that bill and there were witnesses who came forward and talked about some ways the bill could be improved. Many of us support aspects of the bill but there are some key parts that require further attention.
In summarizing some of the key witness testimony, the legislative summary states:
[They] raised concerns regarding specific clauses in the bill, including:
provisions that would permit the Vice Chief of Defence Staff...to issue instructions in respect of specific military police investigations;
provisions regarding the composition of the Grievance Board and provisions allowing active service members of the Canadian Forces to be appointed to the Grievance Board; and
provisions making the CDS the final authority in relation to grievances submitted by military judges not related to their judicial duties.
A number of submissions to the committee suggested that while the bill was a very positive step, it ought to have gone further by, for example, reforming the summary trial system to include more procedural protections for accused persons or by diminishing the consequences of conviction before such tribunals. The lack of authority of the CDS to provide financial compensation when compensation is found to be due under the grievance process, and the failure to implement certain outstanding recommendations in the Lamer Report relating to the Grievance Board were also raised as concerns during the hearings.
I want to focus on one particular aspect of this and read from the testimony on Bill by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Concerns have been raised about the summary trial aspect of the bill. In its brief called “Supporting the Troops: Fairness for Canada’s Soldiers”, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association raised a number of issues. I want to talk about summary trials first, because many of us in the House are not lawyers and do not have intimate knowledge of the criminal justice system.
The brief states:
Summary trials are a type of service tribunal used to try members of the Canadian forces who are accused of wrongdoing in an expedient, informal manner. They are the main alternative to courts martial, which more closely match the civilian judicial process and generally require more time and expense to try an accused. Summary trials are the principal method through which individuals in the military are tried. They make up roughly 95% of service tribunals convened each year under the Act, while courts martial are used to try the remaining 5% of cases.
Summary trials can be used to try an accused charged with almost every offence under the Act, aside from particularly serious offences such as mutiny and certain seditious offences, and can also be used to try individuals for offences under other Canadian statutes such as the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. While certain minor offences, such as drunkenness and being away from a post without leave, can only be tried by way of summary trial, in other cases an individual charged with an offence under the Act is given the choice as to whether to be tried by summary trial or court martial. It is to be inferred that individuals charged with an offence may be daunted or intimidated by the more complex nature of proceedings before courts martial. A majority of those charged with disciplinary violations under the Act, especially those charged with minor offences, do not choose to avail themselves of their right to be tried through a court martial....
One of the most serious deficiencies of the summary trial procedure is the fact that most accused lack adequate representation. Individuals being tried by summary trial do not have the right to be represented by a lawyer, and may be prevented from doing so even if they arrange for counsel at their own expense. The Act does require that an accused be provided with an “assisting officer,” who can assist with many aspects of the process, including preparing an accused person's case and making submissions on their behalf at the trial. However, assisting officers are not required to have any legal training, or any previous experience with the summary trial process. They are generally other officers in the accused's unit, and are appointed for the role under the authority of the presiding officer at a summary trial, which in itself presents a conflict of interest. Many assisting officers therefore lack sufficient training and experience to provide an accused with effective representation.
It also states:
BCCLA believes that the summary trial process, which is used to try individuals for offences under the Act in an expedited manner, fails to meet minimum standards for procedural fairness. Despite the potential for significant criminal penalties, including imprisonment and stigmatizing criminal records, the summary process deprives Canadian soldiers of basic standards of fundamental justice, including the right to legal representation, the right to be tried according to the standard of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence, and the right to an impartial adjudication of one’s case. Weak trial procedures and limited mandatory training for decision makers tend to induce poor quality adjudication, false convictions and wrongful imprisonment. During deployment or active combat there may be sufficient reason to justify a departure from basic standards of procedural fairness, but absent such urgency and necessity, the rule of law and the principles of fundamental justice demand more for our soldiers.
There is a lot more in this testimony, but my time is running out.
Given what we require our troops to do, which many of us here would not be prepared to do, these principles of fundamental justice are critical. That is why the NDP is opposing the bill. That is why the former member recommended a number of amendments, which are simply not present in Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I have to correct the record on a number of points. First, the member ought to know that successive former chief justices of the Supreme Court of Canada have upheld the summary trial system as constitutionally valid, as absolutely required and lawful as part of the military justice system under the Constitution of Canada. They include former Chief Justices Lamer and Dickson, and former Justice LeSage.
Second, our government has done more than any other in history for veterans. It must have been feigned outrage by the member opposite when she complained that nothing was being done on PTSD and mental health. All of the measures we have taken in raising support levels to historic highs have been opposed by the other side.
My question is much more serious. The member implied that we are limiting debate on this issue and are not open to amendments, when all of us on this side have stood and made it clear that the absolute opposite is true. The fact the bill has not gone to committee is only because of the extensive and dilatory debate forced by the other side. Does the member not realize that changes to the summary trial system, modernization of the military justice system, can only move forward if, and only if, the bill moves to committee? Her party's obstinacy in keeping this debate open in the House, when we have heard all of the arguments they have, is what is preventing our country from having the military justice system it deserves.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points that were made. I will start with the issues around summary trials. I was reading from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, bringing forward its concerns with the process in the bill. It has a number of valid concerns that need to be addressed by the House.
The member talked about the fact that perhaps they are open to amendments. However, the question then becomes this. Amendments were proposed when Bill was before committee, but the amendments are not reflected in Bill . Therefore, if they are amenable to amendments why are some of those amendments not included in Bill C-15? It does not sound like good faith when we hear on the one hand that they are willing to look at amendments, and then on the other hand see them not considering any of the amendments before them.
What amendments would they consider then? Maybe they would like to actually talk in the House about the amendments they would consider.
With regard to veterans and my so-called feigned outrage, my outrage is not feigned. I would invite the member to come to my riding in Nanaimo--Cowichan and talk to some of the veterans who are not getting the services they need from the government. We have veterans who are living on the streets because they cannot find housing and do not have the necessary supports. It is not feigned outrage. The Conservatives need to pay attention to what is happening to veterans in the country when they return.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for so much for giving that very strong response. Unfortunately, the parliamentary secretary apparently did not hear the response after he asked his question. It totally begs the question that if the issue of summary trials is a problem, why does the bill does not include the NDP amendments included in the previous bill, which we understood would be supported this time around?
The member for hit the nail right on the head. She is absolutely correct that the bill is faulty, that it does not include the provisions required to ensure that those subject to the military justice system actually get a fair deal and a fair trial.
The thing that really bothers me is that when people end up with a criminal record for a minor offence, it is something that can impact their whole lives. I am dealing with constituents today who are facing this situation, and now it will be almost impossible for them to get a pardon for certain offences under the new laws the Conservatives have passed. Therefore, I would like the member to comment on what it means to have a criminal record.
Mr. Speaker, the member for has been a strong defender of human rights and brings up a very valid point in her question.
However, I just want to comment a little on the amendment piece, because the parliamentary secretary accused the NDP of engaging in dilatory debate in the House. Here I return to what the member for Vancouver East said about amendments. I do not consider it dilatory debate in the House to mention the number of good amendments proposed to the previous bill. We now have a bill that was re-introduced in the House without the government having considered those amendments. Why should we have any faith that the government will actually consider those reasonable amendments at committee? There is just no reason to think that would actually happen.
In addition, the member talks about criminal records. We already know that people are having a tough time finding employment in the country. If they are burdened with a criminal record because of the way this process is set up, just think how difficult it will be for them to support themselves and their families.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
Many of my colleagues have already spoken about this bill, today and during previous days. I am very pleased to join their ranks today. Despite what we sometimes hear, the NDP has been in favour of making the necessary updates to the military justice system for a long time now, and we have been working to improve and strengthen this system of justice.
Members of the Canadian forces are subject to extremely high standards of discipline and they deserve to have a justice system that is held to the same high standard.
Before going any further in my discussion about Bill C-15, I would like to take a moment to thank my colleague from for her very appropriate comments about military justice for our veterans.
I come from the riding of , where the Valcartier military base is located. A number of troops have been sent to Afghanistan over the past few years. Some of them are my age and others are younger than I am. When they come back, they do not have the services they deserve. Sometimes they are relieved of their duties after a year, without any forces' support. They receive a lump sum and that is it. Once that money has been spent, our troops no longer have any support from the government. However, they deserve more, because they gave their lives, they sacrificed time that they could have been spending with their family and they sacrificed many things in the service of their country. They deserve a lot more than they are getting right now. Therefore, I would like to thank my colleague and I would like to take the time to thank the troops. As there have been members of my family in the military for a number of generations, I understand all the sacrifices that choosing this career can have on families.
To come back to Bill C-15, it is a response to a series of 88 recommendations made in 2003 by the Honourable Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his report on the independent review of the National Defence Act.
His recommendations were presented almost 10 years ago now and dealt primarily with the military justice system, the Military Police Complaints Commission, the grievance process and the Canadian Forces provost marshal.
When the Lamer report was tabled, the Liberals were in power. At the time, they said they supported the report’s recommendations, but they never took any concrete action to follow them up. In successive parliaments, a number of bills have been introduced in the House, which were attempts to develop an adequate response to the recommendations presented in the Lamer report. However, all of these responses died on the order paper.
One of the bills introduced in a previous Parliament was Bill , in 2010. There was a great deal of discussion about it in the House. The bill contained provisions relating to military justice, and involved reforms to the sentencing process following an offence, military judges and military panels, summary trials and many other issues.
This bill was studied in detail in committee, and some amendments were proposed and accepted by all the parties, including the NDP. All the parties were able to agree on a bill that put forward a more balanced approach to military justice.
Now, Bill is clearly a first step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough to try to bring the military justice system and the civilian justice system closer together. Bill C-15 includes several provisions that were in Bill C-41. However, many were not included in the new version of the bill, including amendments that were proposed by the NDP about the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process, changes in the composition of the grievance board to ensure that members were 60% civilians, and the provision to ensure that a person convicted in a summary trial is not unjustly subjected to a criminal record.
The NDP believes that Bill C-15, if it gets through second reading, needs to be thoroughly reworked to correct the many shortcomings it still contains, such as how the summary trial issue is dealt with.
The summary trial is by far the most common kind of military tribunal in the military justice system. Indeed, more than 90% of disciplinary proceedings are handled in this manner. Summary trials were designed to address minor military offences in a context in which the sentences available are limited.
These minor offences include insubordination, quarrels, misconduct, being absent without leave, drunkenness and disobeying an order.
Summary trials attempt to deal quickly with the presumed offences within the unit in order to be able to return the member to active service as quickly as possible, thereby promoting and maintaining discipline within the unit. With the exception of a number of specified offences, an accused may choose between a summary trial or a court martial, which is generally for more serious offences and involves more complex procedures.
Summary trials differ from civilian judicial proceedings in several ways. First of all, in a summary trial, there is no transcript of the proceedings, and the accused's commanding officer presides. This alone gives rise to concerns about the potential for conflicts of interest. In addition, the accused are not given the opportunity to consult a legal advisor during proceedings, and the sentence handed down as a result of a summary trial cannot be appealed.
Lastly, a conviction in a summary trial in the Canadian Forces results in a criminal record for the accused, which seems much too severe for many of the minor offences.
Yes, under Bill certain offences that are subject to minor sentences or fines less than $500, would be exempt from resulting in a criminal record. That is positive, but we think that does not go far enough.
A criminal record makes post-military life very difficult, particularly when it comes to looking for a new job, renting an apartment, travelling and many other things. We know that returning to civilian life after being deployed overseas or after spending a certain amount of time in the armed forces is not always very easy. There are not always equivalents for skills transferred between various jobs. These people need a lot of support. They may need to take various remedial courses, or new training to be able to return to civilian life. This involves a lot of effort in a situation that is already so difficult. If you add to that the fact that an individual has a criminal record for a minor offence as a result of a summary trial, that really undermines the lives of certain military members. They are deprived of certain charter rights.
It is hard to imagine that soldiers who sacrifice themselves, who risk everything in the service of their country, can have a criminal record as a result of a system that does not have the regularity of the process used in civilian criminal courts. I understand that the Canadian Forces have established a code of conduct under which standards are quite strict in order to meet a genuine operational need. We cannot deny that. Discipline, obeying orders and hierarchy have a specific purpose and are essential to the proper operation of the unit and the survival of soldiers in combat situations. That is clear. However, it is nevertheless disturbing that military members can be deprived of certain charter rights when they undergo a summary trial. The NDP believes that the Canadian military justice system should be genuinely just and fair for men and women in uniform who have risked their lives in the service of Canada.
Several Commonwealth countries such as Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia have already made significant changes to their summary trial system. Why not Canada? Why does Canada still lag behind, and why have we not yet implemented all the recommendations of the Lamer report?
If Bill passes second reading and is referred to committee, it is essential that we come up with a bill similar to what was introduced in Bill . The work done at that time represented a consensus among all the parties. It should not be shelved simply because the Conservative government now has a majority.
The amendments discussed last spring could have been included in the present version of Bill , and we would not be here today. We would not still be engaged in the debate that we are having in this House; we would already be dealing with a much more balanced bill for our military justice system. That is what we are all trying to achieve. That is why the NDP continues this debate in this House. This is a very important issue for our troops and we must debate it thoroughly.
Mr. Speaker, I was part of the military justice system. I have conducted summary trials and fortunately have not been on the other side of a summary trial, but the member opposite complained about summary trials being unfair because they could produce criminal records. Is she aware that there are only two Criminal Code offences that can be heard at summary trial that would result in a criminal record? Those are assault and assault causing bodily harm. The vast majority of offences tried at summary trial do not result in a criminal record.
She mentioned that members have a choice in most cases of whether they select a summary trial or a trial by court martial. The fact is that 90% select summary trial. From my experience and from commanding men and women, they choose that because they think the system is fair and because they actually have faith in the system, something to which the member should listen.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.
In fact, I researched this issue at length because my mother, up until quite recently, was coxswain in the navy. That was her main responsibility and we discussed her role at length. Even if there are only two situations that can result in a criminal record, it is still disconcerting that proceedings can take place without a lawyer present, and that the judge is the commanding officer of the accused.
The conflicts of interest that were originally a problem remain so. Members of the military may opt for a summary trial because the consequences of a court martial might be worse. The options open to the military are quite limited when it comes to the manner in which they are disciplined.
It is important to think through the issues. Despite my colleague's comments, the amendments proposed by the NDP are reasonable and should be adopted in committee.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for her speech. I would like her to talk about the reform of the grievance system.
The NDP proposed an amendment that stipulates that at least 60% of the members of the grievance board must not be former officers or members of the Canadian Forces. This amendment was adopted in March 2011 as part of Bill , but it was not retained in Bill .
Could my colleague tell us why it is so important to include this new amendment?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
It is an important amendment, which affects the composition of the grievance board. Currently, retired or former members who left the Canadian Forces as recently as a couple of years ago, sit on the committee. This means that the door is still open to conflicts of interest and other problems.
Justice and fair procedures for all are a must. This is why the amendment was introduced. I would like to reiterate just how important it is that the work done in committee—were the bill to be adopted at report stage—include this type of amendment, which has already been approved by members of all stripes in this House. Work done in the past must not go by the wayside and should be taken into account in the committee's current work.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP members always work in good faith, but on the bill we tried hard at committee to bring forward reasonable amendments that would actually strengthen it in terms of military justice and that bill was thrown out. Now the new bill suddenly does not include the amendments that were made at committee.
It raises a lot of questions about how the government responds to other parties in the House. This high and mighty, arrogant attitude is very worrying. Would the member comment on that? Maybe she has had experiences in her own committee on that.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much.
Unfortunately, every opposition member has experienced this kind of situation, whether in committee or the House. We are all, unfortunately, familiar with the intransigence of a majority government, and that is not the way things should work.
Our experience today of Bill is a reminder of what has occurred previously in this House, whether in relation to omnibus bills or other problems that have warranted consideration in committee. For example, Quebec's centre for maritime research and rescue has been denied a voice in every forum it has sought one. What we are seeing here is symptomatic of what can be found in all Conservative bills: contempt for the opposition, nothing less.
Mr. Speaker, I am obviously very honoured to be here in this House to discuss Bill , which we are examining today.
On this side of the House, we believe that this bill is a step in the right direction, but it is unfortunately a small step. We believe that military justice must be a part of Canada's justice system as a whole. Military justice laws must be consistent with other laws in our justice system, particularly when it comes to the principles of fundamental rights. Military justice must be fair and equitable so that it does not negatively affect discipline and so that it helps maintain morale among our troops. Our soldiers volunteer to participate in our armed forces. They must always be entitled to fair treatment.
During the study on a bill that dealt with the same issue, we tried to ensure that the military justice system procedures were effective and consistent with the need for disciplinary issues to be resolved quickly. However, efficiency and speed should not trump the fundamental principles of justice. Just because they are members of the military does not mean that the fundamental principles of justice do not apply to them.
The origins of this bill date back to 2003. I would like to provide some background so hon. members understand its origin and scope. In 2003, the Right Hon. Justice Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, submitted a report on the independent review of the National Defence Act. This report contained 88 recommendations on various military justice issues.
The government introduced Bill , in response to this report and its recommendations. I must point out that, of the 88 recommendations in the report, only 28 were included in this bill. The provisions in Bill appeared in other bills that were previously introduced in Parliament. There was Bill and Bill , which both died on the order paper.
In July 2008, the government introduced Bill to simplify the court martial structure and establish a system for choosing the court martial format that would harmonize best with civilian justice. In 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs examined Bill and made nine recommendations for amendments to the National Defence Act. In 2010, Bill was introduced to respond to the 2003 Lamer report and to the Senate committee's 2009 report.
When the committee studied the bill, it approved some of these amendments, which would have resolved some of the problems raised by the bill. Oddly enough, they are not included in Bill , which has been introduced and is before us.
Some of these amendments had been proposed by the Judge Advocate General as compromises to correct the system in an acceptable manner. They removed certain offences from the list of those that would not result in a criminal record. However, the government simply deleted these amendments when drafting Bill .
That is the extent of the Conservatives' respect for the work of Parliament. Unfortunately, they believe that they can do as they wish without regard for the previous work of Parliament because they have a majority. Basically, Bill is similar to the version of Bill introduced by the Senate committee in the last Parliament. However, that bill contained the provisions of bills and , which died on the order paper, as I mentioned.
The provisions in the bill were not included in Bill . The bill also implemented the recommendations made by Justice Lamer in 2003 and those made by the Senate committee in 2009. At committee stage of Bill , my colleagues on the Standing Committee on National Defence proposed amendments to Bill to lengthen the list of offences that could be considered minor. My colleagues believed that these minor offences did not warrant a criminal record. The proposed amendments also would have lengthened the list of penalties that could be set by a tribunal without resulting in a criminal record.
However, many of the amendments proposed for Bill were, unfortunately, not included in Bill . Although it contains some worthwhile provisions, Bill C-15 also has some shortcomings. If the bill makes it through second reading, we hope to be able to discuss those shortcomings and ensure that the bill will make the military justice system as fair and effective as possible.
I would like to focus on the provisions concerning summary trials, since some of them, as they are written, could have serious consequences for soldiers, particularly during their transition to civilian life.
A summary trial is one where the chain of command is allowed to judge subordinate soldiers. It is important to point out that these trials are held without lawyers, without a jury, without a system of evidence and without witnesses, unlike in the civilian justice system. Over 95% of military trials are summary trials. A conviction in a summary trial sometimes results in a criminal record. There is no recourse and no transcript of the proceedings. This is too severe for members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of minor offences.
These minor offences include insubordination, quarrels, misconduct, absence without leave, drunkenness and disobedience of a lawful command. These offences are undoubtedly very important for military discipline, but do not necessarily call for a criminal record.
In committee last March, the NDP proposed amendments to Bill to increase from five to 27 the number of offences that could be considered minor and would not merit a criminal record if a minor sentence were imposed. The amendment also added to the list of penalties a tribunal may impose without giving the offender a criminal record, for example, a severe reprimand, a reprimand, a fine equal to one month's salary and any other minor sentences. These amendments were very important to us, and that is why we want them to be included in Bill .
A criminal record can make soldiers' lives very difficult after they leave the military. A criminal record can make it hard for veterans to get a job, rent an apartment, travel or get insurance. Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that the soldiers who so bravely served our country could end up with a criminal record because of flaws in the military justice system.
I have seen first-hand the problems experienced by some veterans during their transition to civilian life and I know it has been extremely difficult for some. As I said, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Veterans shared their concerns with us loudly and clearly and talked about the obstacles they face in their transition to the civilian world. It is hard for veterans, especially for injured veterans, to find work in the civilian world. Considering the number of veterans working in the public service, it is clear that priority hiring for veterans is not always respected.
The private sector, and especially the construction industry, is trying to do its part, but this private sector initiative is not available to all veterans, since it is not available in all provinces. Veterans therefore have to obtain educational equivalencies for the training they received during their service. If they are saddled with a criminal record on top of that and have to go through the commission to get a pardon, which costs $600, we are doing nothing to help them reintegrate properly into civilian life.
As I said earlier, we would like the bill to include these provisions.
Mr. Speaker, once again I listened with interest to the disinformation that my hon. colleague included in his remarks. The has indicated that he will bring the criminal record issue back to committee, so the member should calm down.
One of the other things he said was that the make-up of the grievance committee was not supported by the government in the committee. I was there and it was not supported, as were a bunch of others not supported. For the member to suggest that all of these things that had been previously supported by the government and are now is simply false. Bill died on the order paper because of the opposition calling an unnecessary election.
My colleague mentioned that only 29 recommendations have been implemented. Eighty-one of those recommendations were accepted, 29 were implemented and another 36 are in fact contained in Bill . If he and his party want to make progress, because it was said earlier this is a step in the right direction, we should just get on with it and get it to committee where amendments that need to be made can be debated. Let us just get on with it, please.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his observations and comments. Since we are on the subject, we would really like to see the amendments to the previous bill included in this one. We want to update all of those things. Bill is a step in the right direction. However, a lot more could be done to make the military justice system more consistent and more equitable for some people who have to face military justice, sometimes for offences that are more like insubordination. When that happens, as I said, they get stuck with a criminal record. In our opinion, the bill should go even further and include more summary offences that could be—
Questions and comments.
The hon. member for .
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his heartfelt speech.
Given that the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have already decided to change their summary trial processes, why is Canada lagging far behind on this important issue?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I especially thank him for pointing out that Canada is lagging behind other countries that have already updated their criminal justice systems.
Bill corrects some of the current shortcomings, but it does not go far enough, as I said earlier. We should be looking at the countries my colleague mentioned, as they went much further in reforming military justice. We obviously need to move in the same direction and follow their lead as we reform our military justice system.
Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat something I mentioned to the previous speaker, because the allegation about criminal records is simply not true. The two Criminal Code offences that can be heard at summary trial that would result in a criminal record are assault and assault causing bodily harm. The vast majority of offences at summary trial do not result in a criminal record. The member should stop spreading inaccuracies.
Mr. Speaker, again, I want to thank my colleague for his question and remarks. I was under the impression that there were a few more offences that could result in a criminal record. That is something we need to look at. I believe that other offences can also lead to a criminal record. We must give this issue very serious consideration.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise, as my colleagues in the official opposition have done, to take part in the debate on Bill .
Bill , makes changes to the National Defence Act, in order to strengthen the military justice system. It provides for greater latitude in sentencing and in introducing new sentences, such as absolute discharge. It also sets out changes relating to intermittent sentences and restitution. It makes changes to the membership of the court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person, and to the summary trial limitation period, as well as making it possible to waive the one-year period at the request of the accused. It also sets out the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the power of the Chief of Defence Staff as the final authority in the grievance resolution process.
The NDP believes these changes are a step in the right direction toward standardizing the military and civilian justice systems. In this regard, I would like to thank my colleague from for his speech on this bill earlier in this House. He gave a very clear explanation of why standardization is necessary. He also provided some background for the bill which, we remember, results from the recommendations made by the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, in his report—the “Lamer Report—on the independent review of the National Defence Act that was tabled in 2003, and the recommendations in another report, one by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in 2009.
Essentially, Bill incorporates the provisions of Bill that was introduced in the last Parliament. However, not a single one of the NDP amendments that were adopted at committee stage late in the last parliamentary session is included in the bill before us today. There were three such amendments and they dealt with: the power of the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process set out in clause 6 as amended in Bill C-41, a measure deriving from one of the recommendations in the Lamer Report; changes to the membership of the grievance committee to ensure it is made up of at least 60% of civilians, as provided in clause 11 as amended in Bill C-41; and the provision ensuring that a person convicted of a service offence during a summary trial should not receive an unfair criminal record, as provided in clause 75 as amended in Bill C-41.
The NDP has called for amendments to be made to the military justice system for a long time now, but it is clear on reading this bill that this version is not satisfactory. It is for this reason that we will be voting against Bill at second reading. If the wording is passed at this stage, we hope that the debate in committee will allow for an in-depth analysis of the text and improvements to its content.
This bill has three major flaws: the reform of the existing summary process, the reform of the grievance system and the strengthening of the Military Police Complaints Commission.
I will discuss each of these points. First, the reform of the summary process system is unfair and too harsh towards the men and women of the Canadian Forces. If these individuals commit minor offences, they end up with a criminal record, which could be detrimental in a future civilian life.
I want to share an excerpt of a 2011 report by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association regarding Bill :
Presiding officers in summary trials may have a different focus. They are military officers, not judges, and their primary concern is likely to be unit discipline and deterring future violations, not the effect the sentence they impose will have on an accused in the civilian world.
We think that disciplinary action without a criminal record is more than enough in cases of insubordination, absence without leave or disobeying an order. One of the NDP's amendments proposed including in the list of minor offences all those that would not be placed on a criminal record. We want this proposal to be taken into consideration by the Standing Committee on National Defence.
As far as the reform of the grievance system is concerned, the NDP has already been critical of the composition of the grievance committees. One of the three amendments stated that civilians should make up at least 60% of the committee members, to ensure that there is an external review of grievances. This amendment was adopted and we hope it will be again during the study in committee.
The third amendment proposed by the NDP, as part of the study of Bill , had to do with the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff regarding financial aspects of grievances. This amendment responded to one of the Lamer report recommendations. I should point out that the agreed with this one. He acknowledged that the Chief of Defence Staff needed to have the authority to resolve the financial aspects of grievances.
Over the last eight years, however, the Department of National Defence has done nothing concrete to implement the recommendations made by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. As well, the present bill does not include that amendment, and the NDP would like the government to reconsider its position.
As a final point, regarding the strengthening of the Military Police Complaints Commission, we believe that Bill does not go far enough, and that there should be another bill, separate from the one being debated in the House today, to address this important issue. As well, many Canadians might reasonably wonder why there is unequal treatment between the procedure that applies in the criminal courts and the procedure that applies to the people who bravely serve our country.
In conclusion, the NDP urges the government to adopt its amendments as presented and adopted during consideration of Bill . We firmly believe that the women and men in the Canadian Forces are entitled to a military justice system that is consistent with the stringently improved and circumscribed criteria and procedure.
We are opposed to minor offences resulting in a criminal record, as this can complicate everyday life for the person in question, in civilian life. We will do everything we can to make the Canadian military justice system fairer for the women and men in uniform who risk their lives in the service of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, if the NDP keeps spreading false information, I will keep correcting it.
There are only two Criminal Code offences that can be heard at summary trial that would result in a criminal record. They are assault and assault causing bodily harm.
The member mentioned that it has been eight years and we have not done anything. We have been trying. Three times we tried. Three times the bill has died on the order paper because of elections called by opposition members, which is their right to do and I understand that. However, the member should not stand up and say that DND and the government did not make an effort. That is simply false.
I would also point out what Justice LeSage said in his report, and I quote:
Having examined the system and listened to various participants (including a number who had been charged under the Code of Service Discipline), I share the view of former Chief Justice Dickson. The summary trial system is vital to the maintenance of discipline at the unit level and therefore essential to the life and death work the military performs on a daily basis.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I will answer somewhat as my colleague did just now.
We are fairly certain that a criminal record can be created by numerous offences other than the ones the member opposite has just named.
Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment and then a quicker question.
In listening to debate this morning and this afternoon, I heard a lot of talk about military justice. However, it is important to recognize that only a fraction of the members of the Canadian Forces go through that system. The vast majority, well past 95%, are outstanding men and women who perform all sorts of functions for us as Canadians, and we truly appreciate all of those efforts.
We now have a bill before us, which tries to establish some rules for those who do cause issues. That is something that has been necessary for the last number of years. We look forward to it ultimately getting to committee stage.
My quick question to the member is this. Does the NDP support the bill going to committee?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague.
For all the reasons I have already given in my speech, and that other colleagues have also reiterated over and over again, we will be opposing this bill, because it is seriously flawed.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for suggested that amendments could be made to the bill if it went to committee.
Given this majority government's current practice and the way it systematically rejects everything suggested at committee, does my colleague really believe that amendments would be made to the bill if it went to committee?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. The answer is fairly obvious.
Sadly, from what I have seen in various committees, the government is using its majority to reject basically all amendments, whether we propose one, 10 or 300 of them. We do not have much faith in the government's co-operation in this regard.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is saying that, even though the New Democrats have said it is a step in the right direction and that there are many good things in the bill, because they are mad at us they would oppose sending it to committee to take a step in the right direction. I would suggest that is not a mature approach to legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague.
To answer his question, I would point out that in our speeches, my colleagues and I have listed the purely objective reasons why we will oppose this bill at second reading.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today and say a few words on Bill .
As a former member of the Canadian armed forces, or the Royal Canadian Navy, my experience taught me, in the time I did spend, a lot of appreciation for the professionalism of our armed forces. I had the pleasure to serve at Canadian Forces Base Portage la Prairie. I had the thrill of going up in a Tutor jet, which my colleague understands very well. I went up only once. In the Royal Canadian Navy, I remember the professionalism when, many years ago, we were doing anti-submarine exercises. We always came out on top when it came to exercises with the U.S. Navy.
Many years after that, I went to Vladivostok in Russia as an interpreter with the Canadian Navy, the first western fleet to sail into Russia when it finally opened up the city. It was quite an experience. I saw the respect that the officers and men of the Russian navy had for the high degree of knowledge and skills of our armed forces.
I mention this because when I have a chance I speak on anything that touches on the military, in spite of the fact that at times some of us do not agree with the direction the military is going. Once people have been part of this family, as I call it, they want to make sure the current members receive the very best, whether or not we are talking about equipment, whether they agree with the mission or not, and certainly when the members come back as veterans.
We have seen some problems with people suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. We have seen problems with veterans' funerals. I just want to emphasize that we need to do the very best for them, and that also includes the justice system.
That brings me in a roundabout way to talking about this bill. The NDP believes that Bill is a step in the right direction to bringing the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system.
However, it falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system and strengthening the military complaints commission. I might add that amendments to that effect were brought into the last Parliament. For some reason they were not included in this particular bill.
In 2010, Bill was introduced in response to the 2003 Lamer report and the 2009 Senate committee report. It included the military justice provisions relating to sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, the court martial panel and the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and certain provisions concerning the Military Police Complaints Commission.
In essence, Bill is similar to the version of Bill that came out of the Senate committee during the last Parliament. The amendments carried over include those respecting the composition of the court martial panel and security of tenure for military judges until their retirement.
However, I would say that other important amendments adopted at the committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session were not included in Bill . That includes the NDP's amendments concerning the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process, changes in the composition of the grievance board so that 60% of members are civilians and the provision that a person convicted of an offence at a summary trial should not be unfairly subjected to a criminal record.
Many important reforms are proposed in this bill. The NDP has long supported a necessary updating of the military justice system. The members of the Canadian Forces are held to extremely high standards of discipline and deserve a judicial system that is held to comparable standards.
However, as previously mentioned, the NDP will oppose the bill at second reading. This bill contains a number of deficiencies that we hope will be addressed in committee if the bill is passed at second reading.
As we have previously discussed here, and from what I have personally seen in other committees, the fact that a bill winds up in committee does not mean the Conservatives will adopt amendments. What then are the amendments that we would have liked to include in the bill before it was studied here in the House?
We say that the amendments in Bill do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. Currently, a conviction at a summary trial in the Canadian Forces results in a criminal record. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There is no appeal and no transcript of the trial.
Bill would an exemption for a select number of offences. They carry a minor punishment, which is defined in the act, or a fine less than $500 to no longer result in a criminal record. This is one of the positive aspects of the bill, but it does not go far enough.
At committee stage in March of the previous year, NDP amendments to Bill were carried to expand this list of offences that could be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record if the offence in question received a minor punishment. The amendment also extended the list of punishments that might be imposed by a tribunal without an offender incurring a criminal record, such as a severe reprimand, a reprimand, a fine equal up to one month basic pay or another minor punishment. This was a major step forward for summary trials. However, this amendment was not, for some reason, retained in Bill , and we would like to see it included.
As far as serious offences and criminal records are concerned, the number is probably minor. However, a criminal record can make life after the military very difficult. Criminal records can make getting a job, renting an apartment or travelling very difficult. A lot of Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can get a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts.
What we are asking is that people who serve our country in the military have the same access to a fair judicial system as people in civilian life have and that if they have certain reprimands, they do not result in a criminal record for the rest of their life.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his service. I have had a few trips and tours as well.
I want to point out a couple of inconsistencies once again. Reprimands or severe reprimands are not offences under the Criminal Code. I just checked with the Judge Advocate General again and there are only two criminal code offences that can be heard at summary trial that would constitute a criminal record, and those are assault and assault causing bodily harm.
The member has said that his party is opposing the bill, but it wants things discussed in committee. Thank goodness for the Canadian Forces that we have a majority government. I suspect the bill will wind up going to committee. The contradiction is that those members will oppose it but they want it at committee. If it is a step in the right direction, then they should go along with it and get it to committee.
The member has admitted that there are some good things in the bill. The has already said that he will bring back the criminal record issue to committee, so that will happen. Why do we not stop this waste of time, get to the vote, get the bill to committee and get things done?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his service in the armed forces, which was certainly much longer than mine.
In preparation for second reading of the bill, a lot of thought has gone into it by those people, our critic and others, who have followed it very closely. In my opinion, we do not take lightly opposing a bill when we think something should happen to better it.
I will speak from my personal experience. On Bill , we said to the government that we would support the bill. We said that we thought it was a good way of strengthening the Food Safety Act and that we would do what we could to make it better. At committee, we had 11 amendments, the Liberals had 4 and lo and behold all of these well-thought-out amendments were rejected, one after another.
That kind of precedence does not leave positive feelings in those of us on this side to bring a bill such as this to committee—
There are other members who wish to pose questions and we will look for some time to do that.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pursue the previous question.
We recognize in the Liberal Party that Bill does have some issues. At the end of the day, it would be nice if the bill went to committee. The government has already indicated it will bring forward some amendments, which we hope will improve the bill. We hope to hear from different stakeholders as to why we should and how we could improve the bill.
In principle, the Liberal Party supports the bill because at the end of the day we believe it is necessary to pass it on to committee.
The NDP members have taken the position that they do not support the bill going to committee. Is it safe then to say that they do not support the principle of the bill and that is the reason why they are voting this way?
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, the idea of the bill is a good one. However, experience has shown over the last year that worthwhile amendments that were in Bill were not included in this bill.
As someone who does not sit on the defence committee, I look at this from my point of view, my experience and I ask myself what is going on. How serious is the government? How serious would it be look at those amendments if experience has shown the government has rejected them time after time in other committees?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to take part in the debate on Bill .
This bill is closely related to a report produced in 2003 by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer. It may seem striking for us to be debating a bill relating to a report released in 2003, but the reason will be understood when I have put everything in context.
First, Bill has appeared in several forms, as my colleagues have noted as well, including Bill and Bill , but they both died on the order paper. Far be it from me to accuse any party of not being concerned about this issue. Several attempts have taken shape and a lot of work has been done by all parties to change the military justice system as we know it at present. Was the work done seriously, in good faith and collaboratively at all times? I cannot say.
I do not want to accuse anyone, I do not want to say that this issue has never been important, and I do not want to seem as if I am asking why we are beginning the debate on Bill today. That is not actually the case, since several attempts have been made in the past.
Second, in the last Parliament, Bill was introduced in response to Justice Lamer’s report, as I said earlier. That bill unfortunately died on the order paper also. It contained provisions relating to the military justice system, such as sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, the court martial panel, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, and certain provisions relating to the Military Police Complaints Commission. All of those subjects were addressed in Bill C-41.
In essence, Bill is similar to the version of Bill that was introduced in the last Parliament. I would point out that a number of amendments were proposed during debate on Bill C-41. Those amendments were the product of serious consideration, testimony and the work done by members and experts. Unfortunately, those amendments were not taken into consideration in Bill C-15. Why?
The reasons are still not clear to me. Why were these amendments not included in Bill ? Including them would have demonstrated that the government had genuinely considered them and that it was ready to work as part of a team to create a bill that met everyone's expectations and requirements. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.
That makes the opposition seriously doubt the government's willingness to accept any new amendments to Bill