Mr. Speaker, if my French were a bit better, then we would not need the interpretation, but I am working on it.
I do want to clarify something I was saying just before question period. I mentioned the situation regarding the Truro police officer Catherine Campbell and I referred to her as “Christine” Campbell, not “Catherine” Campbell. A good friend of mine is named Christine Campbell and it is easy for me to think in those terms.
Let me go back to question period today. Members of the official opposition, including me, again asked several government members and the public safety minister about the situation with respect to Tori Stafford and the fact that her killer has been moved to an aboriginal healing centre.
In the context of speaking of a victims bill of rights, I cannot believe for the life of me that the government is tripling down on this situation. Tomorrow we will be presenting an opposition day motion to deal with this situation, because Canadians are so outraged by this. Over the weekend, Tori Stafford's father issued a letter to the begging him to reverse this decision, which we are going to ask the government to do tomorrow.
It is my hope that the government will not quadruple down on this and will instead do the right thing. Canadians are outraged by this entire situation. They are outraged that the killer would be allowed to be placed not behind bars and razor wire, but instead be surrounded by trees at an aboriginal healing centre where there are children as well.
The minister tried to answer the question by saying that there are children at the Grand Valley Institution. The fact is that the Grand Valley Institution is entirely surrounded by fences and razor wire and the inmates are in pods behind bars.
The minister is suggesting that the two institutions are the same. One is a medium-maximum security prison and the other is a medium-minimum security prison. By the minister suggesting that they are similar, he is not being frank with Canadians, and that needs to be clarified.
When I was on the veterans affairs committee, we often dealt with the issue of PTSD and the impact that it has on our serving members. Quite a few forces members came before that committee and spoke about sexual assault and the impact it has. This again relates to Bill . We had quite lengthy discussions at the veterans affairs committee over this and how it relates specifically to military justice and the Canadian justice system.
Bill is a cut-and-paste version of what the previous Conservative government introduced in Bill at the end of its mandate in 2015.
The purpose of Bill is to align the military justice system of Canada with the Criminal Code of Canada. The bill would do this in a number of ways, such as enshrining a victims bill of rights in the National Defence Act.
The Victims Bill of Rights was quite a comprehensive document. The intent of the previous government was, in contrast to the current government, to look after victims and their families to make sure that within the criminal justice system they were looked after. The emphasis in the Victims Bill of Rights was not on criminals but on the victims.
This piece of legislation would enshrine the Victims Bill of Rights into the National Defence Act, putting a statute of limitations of six months on summary hearing cases and clarifying what cases should be handled by a summary hearing. Bill would have instituted these changes as well had it passed the previous Parliament.
The main difference between this legislation and Bill is the addition of the Gladue decision into the National Defence Act. This addition will mean that aboriginal members of the Canadian Forces facing charges under the National Defence Act would face lighter punishments and special consideration if convicted.
We have heard on this side of the House during the debate all day that it could result in sentences that are less harsh versus other CAF members, so the question of fairness comes into it. Members could undermine operational discipline, morale and anti-racism policies.
The vast majority of Bill is based on the previous Conservative government's bill. We are going to support this bill, but we are going to seek some amendments at the committee stage. Excuse the cynicism, but it is our hope that this bill and some of those amendments that come at committee will be looked at by the government side. I know that we will have lots of stakeholders who come to committee. There will be recommendations from those stakeholders, including first nations communities and other advocates for military justice and civil justice in this country. It is our hope that the government will listen to all the information that comes forward and will deal with some of those considerations. Again, the government has not shown that commitment in the past to being open to many of the recommendations, not just from the Conservative side but from the NDP side as well. We are hoping that the Liberals will do that.
The previous bill had hundreds of consultations. They had stakeholders. Victims and members of communities came forward and spoke to Bill . We landed at a good place with that piece of legislation. However, the Gladue decision certainly made changes to that.
I am fortunate, as you are, Mr. Speaker, to be close to a military base, base Borden, or camp Borden, as it was known in the past. In the time I have spent at base Borden and with base commander Atherton, as well as Chief Warrant Officer Charette, many people who serve have come and gone. When I was the critic for veterans affairs, I used to travel across the country meeting with military members, veterans and stakeholders and their families. The first question I would ask when I was in front of them was how many had gone through base Borden, and the hands would go up. It is the largest training base in Canada. I used to ask how many were at camp Borden, and some hands would go up, and I would say to those people, boy, they were old, because it has not been camp Borden for a while.
It is an integral part of our community, and those members who are placed at base Borden, as Canada's largest training base, come from all over the country. In fact, they come from all over the world to train in languages and other disciplines. I am quite honoured to be able to represent an area that has a military base like base Borden. In fact, there are thousands of people who live in my riding who are stationed at the base and work there in either a military or civilian capacity. They are truly heroes, in my mind.
I try to spend as much time at the base as I can. I was there last week when the United Nations peacekeepers were in town. They were holding their biannual meeting, and I was there for a speech at the base. I went there for dinner and then there was a ceremony at Peacekeepers' Park in Angus.
It plays an important role in our community, and not just an economic role. The connection to the base is one that is valued and cherished, so supporting our military members at all levels, including with this piece of legislation, is critical in what we do here in Parliament as parliamentarians.
In conclusion, I would say that Bill is an important piece of legislation. We are supportive of this bill proceeding to committee. We think it needs some work and some scrutiny. Therefore, I hope that when it gets to committee, the majority Liberal side will take some of these concerns we have and that stakeholders have and implement this to make it a better piece of legislation.
I would be remiss if I did not speak about something that was a passion of mine. I am really disappointed that it never received support from Parliament. It received support from this side and the NDP side, but not from the government side. It is Bill , which was a private member's bill I proposed about having a military covenant with our military members. We would have been only the second country in the world to establish such a covenant, behind Great Britain, and unfortunately, the government side did not support it. It related specifically to the sacrifice made by veterans. It is something I was very proud to present, and I was very sorry to see that it did not pass through this Parliament.
However, there is hope, because at our policy convention in Halifax just a few short weeks ago, members of the Conservative Party made it a point to ensure that as a matter of policy, a military covenant would be established between our veterans and the people of this country who owe them so much.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for being so interested in this issue. I heard the Liberals say that they wanted this to leave the House immediately, but some of us do not have a lot of chance to speak to bills that are outside of our portfolio area. I am not on the defence committee, so that is not a place where I will be able to participate. Therefore, this is my sole chance to participate in this debate.
I hope my colleagues opposite understand that we are not ragging the puck here. We just want to give people an opportunity to speak to the issues.
These are important issues that come out of a number of different areas. I want to talk later about the Victims Bill of Rights, what it means and how much it has improved and changed the lives of Canadians. That has been the foundation of what we are doing. Bill tries to apply that bill of rights to the military as well.
My colleague who spoke previously basically had the same opening as I did. He talked about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. It is interesting that on the things the government has succeeded in, it has had to copy us. The things the Liberals have not copied us on have been pretty much a disaster. If we think about electoral reform and so on, their own initiatives have not gone anywhere. However, the ones we had done the work on and laid the foundation and the groundwork for, the Liberals have had some success.
Apart from this bill, I think of things like CETA, the trade agreement with Europe, which was pretty much handed to the Liberals, but they almost messed that up. They took it back and started messing with some of the text. The next thing was the Europeans wanted to open that whole agreement up again. The government had to fight and struggle to ensure it was implemented the way that we had negotiated it.
We are seeing the same thing with TPP. The agreement basically was finished and handed to the Liberals. We are sitting here two and a half years later and still do not have it through the House even though we were the ones who did the work on it. It is a good agreement and it should be implemented as soon as possible.
We saw the struggles the Liberals had around NAFTA, where they insisted on taking the agreement that worked very well and came so close to making a complete mess of it. Canadians need to understand that we were saved at the last minute by the fact that the U.S. auto sector stepped in and said that it needed to get the agreement done, that the negotiators could not be serious if they allowed the President to put tariffs on autos. Finally, our government realized it had better quit playing games, trying to make the President look bad, fooling around that way, and decided to get the agreement done.
Interestingly enough, the Liberals really did not gain anything with it. It barely held the ground that we had in the past. That seems to be the way the government operates.
That brings us back to Bill , hopefully something that will be much easier for the Liberals to get through in the form it is in right now. We have heard debate about it. At this point, we will support the bill at second reading to go to committee as soon as the debate is done in the House. The point of it is to align the military justice system of Canada with the Criminal Code of Canada. It is a good and important objective. As I said before, it centres around the Victims Bill of Rights that was passed in 2015. It takes that and enshrines it in the National Defence Act.
Many people talked specifically about Bill and what is included in it. However, I would like to back up a step and talk about the Victims Bill of Rights, which lays the foundation for the discussion we are having today and for the bill that is being presented here today.
Obviously, the Victims Bill of Rights created a clear set of rights for victims of crime. It requires those rights to be considered during the trial processes and it provides four rights for victims in Canada. Those rights are the ideas of information, protection for their rights of participation in the system and then some aspect of restitution.
Some of it seems to be common sense, but perhaps is not in the courts. Canadians will understand that every victim should have the right to request information that he or she needs with respect to the system and the role the victims play in that, the services and programs that are available to them. Victims should be aware of the fact that they have the right to file complaints if their rights are being violated.
In investigations, victims have the right to ask about the status and outcome of the investigations. They have the right to know where the location of the proceedings are taking place. They have the right to ask for information about any kind of reviews that are being done under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
For the last week we have been talking about an issue in western Canada, actually in my riding. A young “lady”, and I use that word very loosely, participated in the kidnapping, rape, torture, murder and burial of an eight-year-old girl. She was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Then about a week ago we found out she had been moved from a maximum-security prison to medium-security prison a couple of years ago. In the last few weeks, she was moved to what was basically a minimum-security prison.
I am familiar with the Okimaw Ohci healing lodge. It is in my riding and I have been there several times. I have been there for its open days and have enjoyed going there. However, this is not the appropriate place for someone like that.
As I pointed out, the rights of victims require that those who have suffered have the opportunity to find out what is going on in the system. When Tori Stafford's father found out what had happened, he appealed to the . He said that it was crazy. The person had murdered his daughter and he had to live with that every day of his life. He said that the Prime Minister had sent her to a minimum-security prison. Not only was it not a prison, but it was in a treed area. It was like a park setting with small cabins arranged in small units. Not only did it not have a fence around, or have restrictions or whatever, but children were allowed to go and spend time with their mothers.
My constituents have made their opinions clear to me. They agree with our position over the last week that this needs to be reversed.
The reason we know about it is because there is a Victims Bill of Rights and that is the foundation for the changes being suggested in Bill .
Victims are allowed to attend hearings that are open. With respect to protection and security, people have the right to have their security considered. In the criminal justice system, they have the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation. We have talked about that today in regard to Bill . They have the right to have their privacy considered and having their identity protected as well. They also have the right to request any kind of help they might need when appearing as witnesses in proceedings.
There are other things around participation. Victims have the right to give their views about decisions to be made by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system that affect their rights. They have the right to speak up. We think that is an important right.
We are all familiar with victim impact statements and the role they play. In some court cases, victims are allowed to give victim impact statements, how the criminal impacted their lives, how this activity has destroyed, for example, the lives of their families.
The Victims Bill of Rights also talks about restitution orders and the fact that victims have the right to have the court consider making restitution to them by the offender.
There are a number of other things in the Victims Bill of Rights, but that lays the foundation for us for Bill . The bill is about enshrining that Victims Bill of Rights in the National Defence Act. It also puts a statute of limitations of six months on summary hearing cases.
We heard this morning about the various levels of discipline and how the , if we trust him, was trying to make some changes that would speed up some of the discipline cases on lesser offences. We are hoping that what the Liberals are saying is actually true.
This is virtually a copy of something that was presented three years ago by the former Conservative government just before the last election. I guess the good thing is, as I mentioned, the Liberals have taken this on and have decided that they are going to bring the bill forward in much the same fashion and structure that it was before and introduce those changes.
There are some differences. We have talked a bit about them as well. One of the main differences in this bill, and probably will be one of the main things that will be discussed at committee, is the addition of the Gladue decision in the National Defence Act. For those people who are not familiar with that, it instructs the courts to take into consideration an aboriginal person's background when he or she is sentenced. On occasion, when that is applied, it may mean that the sentencing itself or the sentencing process will be different for that individual than it would be for a non-aboriginal person.
People have questioned whether this should be considered in the military. Is it appropriate that in the military, where everyone is subject to the same structures of discipline, where we try to bring about equality and equal participation, someone would have a different sentencing structured or a different level of punishment than other people would based on these kinds of considerations? I am sure we will be bringing forward those issues and asking those questions at committee.
Our government made it a priority to stand up for victims. That is why we brought forward the Victims Bill of Rights. That is also why we saw our Bill come forward prior to the election, in pretty much the form being presented by the current government. We know that the priority of government, on this side of the House anyway, should be to protect the safety of its citizens. We take that responsibility very seriously.
Putting the rights of victims back into the centre of the criminal justice system was important to us. It was something we spoke about many times and made it the centre of a number of different pieces of legislation, the guarantee that victims would have the right to have a more effective voice in the system and that they would be treated with courtesy and compassion. I think we are all familiar with situations in the past years where often victims seemed to be harassed more than they were treated with compassion and respect when they came forward with charges. We were determined to try to reverse that trend and ensure people were treated with respect, while keeping our streets, our cities and communities safe for Canadians and their families. That was why we took so many concrete steps to hold people accountable for their actions. We are glad to see this being extended to the military as well.
The question I need to ask is this. Are the Liberals really serious about this bill? They say that they want it to go to committee as soon as possible, and we hope that is true. However, what we have seen in the past is that they are far more interested in PR when it comes to issues of criminal activity than they are in the content. We see that in this Parliament.
I think of Bill , the firearms legislation. The bill has come forward. The government has made a declaration that it wants to deal with the crimes with respect to gangs and the illegal use of firearms. The bill does not mention either of those things but creates massive problems for legitimate firearms owners. It is almost as if the Liberals looked at what the PR side of it was, decided they could make it an attack on legitimate firearms owners, convince the media country that it was a good thing and they did not have to do the hard work of trying to solve the gang situation and getting illegal guns off the street.
Bill is an example of where the Liberals do not seem to take this issue of crime seriously. I hope they are with respect to Bill . I asked a question of the minister this morning and I trust he answered it honestly.
With respect to Bill , another issue we had was the misuse of statistics. The Liberals take an extreme statistic, apply it, then say that is the average and that they will operate using that as a starting point. However, anyone who knows the statistics knows that the year they were using, 2013, was such an exceptional year and it did not really fit into the normal trend. There is a lot of attack on regular citizens it seems, particularly in Bill , and not much that would actually protect victims of crime.
We brought forward a number of other bills when we were in government: the Safe Streets and Communities Act; the reform of the not criminally responsible legislation, which was needed for many years, and we were happy to bring that forward; and the laws against sexual exploitation and cyber intimidation.
It is good to see these changes are coming forward. I know there have been some changes made since 2016, even within the military. The government talks about the fact that the director of military prosecutions has changed the way that it does things, the way it approaches these issues. There are a number of things in the government's document. It talks about how it has already introduced changes, such as providing information proactively to victims on the choice of jurisdictions in a sexual misconduct matter. Therefore, if there is a charge of sexual misconduct, the victim now has more say in what jurisdiction he or she wants it looked at. It has some information that it can provide that will help. Victims are kept informed throughout the investigation and throughout the trial process. That did not happen before in the military. The DMP, in its overhaul of the way it has done things, has included this as one of the things it thinks is important.
Now the DMP has started to consider the views of victims in determining the public interest in these cases. Is there public interest in moving forward with the prosecution of the cases? It is allowing victims to participate. I know that witness preparation has been improved. It is spending more time with witnesses, finding out what they will be testifying to and if they are prepared to be competent witnesses. It is assuring victims' comfort and security. I am told it is one of the key considerations. In the past, as I mentioned, people have been intimidated, even by the way the system is set up, so this is set up to be much more fair to them.
It is making efforts to make sure that in sexual misconduct cases, victim impact statements are relevant and considered. It is trying to get consistency with the prosecution and prosecutors so that each of them approaches the issues in the same way. That is probably an important consideration in that there needs to be consistency within the military itself and the way it deals with and addresses these issues. That is part of what Bill is trying to do: to bring the consistency provided in the Victims Bill of Rights into the military part of the justice system. Another thing is that sexual misconduct cases are being expedited in the military courts to try to get them out of the way.
There are a lot of things going on. As I mentioned, there are the indigenous sentencing considerations. We heard earlier today that there are changes to the summary trial process and the way summary charges are handled. There are a number of other areas around the victims rights at courts martial as well that have changed. They have a different perspective and a different opportunity. A victim's liaison officer would be put in place to give victims an opportunity to get this information and go to somebody who can work with and help them.
I come back to the concern that Liberals are honest about dealing with victims. We have heard over the last three or four weeks in the House of Commons about a gentleman who murdered a female police officer, desecrated the body and was sentenced to jail. Then he applied for Veterans Affairs benefits and the government has been providing those benefits to him. Those benefits, I am told, can be provided by Correctional Service Canada, but the government has made the decision that he deserves veterans benefits. Conservatives have argued that he does not. There are people who have served who receive them, but he has not served or spent a moment of time in military service and yet he is getting these benefits.
The government said it would cut them off for now, but we need a better response than that from the government. That was a bad response in that case. Now with Tori Stafford, we have heard the comments made by the this afternoon. It is another slow response, a bad response to people who have been victimized in the worst ways by crimes and the best the ministers of the government can say is they have given it to somebody who will review it for a long time and when that person gets back to them, they will let us know how it turns out. In the case of Tori Stafford, by the time that happens, how long will that woman have been in the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, being able to do whatever she wants to do, having access to children and wandering off the property if she wants? She is not eligible for parole for another 13 years. What does she have to lose should she decide to do something inappropriate in Okimaw Ohci?
That is an example of the government not being willing to react to these issues. We hope that when this bill goes to committee, Liberals will deal seriously with it, and when it is implemented, they actually treat it seriously, because they do not have a history anywhere else of dealing fairly and honestly with victims. Hopefully, in this situation, they will and we look forward to when this bill is passed.
It is a good bill, Conservatives wrote most of it, and we are looking forward to the government applying it and hopefully, it will take care of many of these issues that people have faced at military trials and those kinds of situations.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill . As the member of Parliament for Brandon—Souris, I am very proud to say that Canadian Forces Base Shilo is part of my constituency. CFB Shilo is home to the First Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and the Second Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
The base is also home to a component of the Western Area Training Centre, 742 Signals Squadron Detachment Shilo, and 11 Canadian Forces Health Services Centre, as well as being the home station of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Other supported units include 26th Field Regiment and the Royal Canadian Army's Brandon Reserve Unit.
In Westman, the men and women of Canadian Forces Base Shilo live in various communities such as Spruce Woods, Brandon, Wawanesa, Killarney, Souris, Glenboro, to name a few of the communities around Shilo. I could put some of the ones from the riding of my colleague from in there as well, in Carberry, Minnedosa, Neepawa, and other areas.
They are our friends and our neighbours. They and their families are part of our communities. Many will know that due to our quality of life and the amazing communities that are found within our constituencies, numerous members of the Canadian Armed Forces decide to make Westman their permanent home after they retire and transition into civilian life. I will not name them here, but many of them are good friends of mine and live throughout our area.
I have been interested in the affairs of the Canadian Armed Forces for all of my life and am forever grateful for the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend Canada. The bill before us is a reiteration of our previous government's efforts to enhance the Canadian military justice system. The judicial system within the Canadian Armed Forces is distinctive due to the high standards for those in uniform. When in service, it is expected that there could be circumstances where one's life will be put in danger.
Make no mistake, the members of the Canadian Armed Forces deal with stressful and high tempo operations. They have a chain of command and there is zero room for error. Due to the high risk of injury or death, there must be a justice system put in place to maintain discipline and structure. While the Canadian Armed Forces has its own judicial system, it still operates under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The constitutionality of the military justice system has been upheld by the Supreme Court and there is jurisprudence that has upheld its separate justice system. That said, as with all government legislation, it is necessary to do a thorough review to make sure that the system is as efficient as possible.
The original National Defence Act was crafted in 1950 after World War II. While it has been modified on various occasions over the years, this legislation provides a forum for even further improvements.
I know that all members will agree with the need to ensure that the regulations and laws on the books can meet the challenges and expectations of our times. I am encouraged that the Liberal government has agreed with our previous Conservative legislation to enshrine the rights of victims into the National Defence Act.
More than ever, particularly in light of our upcoming opposition day motion this week, the rights of victims must be upheld. Far too often the justice system has forgotten to give a voice to those who have been victimized. Victims deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. They should never be an afterthought. With this legislation we will set in stone in the National Defence Act the principle that victims have rights, an extremely important point.
I firmly believe that every victim has the right to request information about the military justice system. Far too often, we forget that the justice system can be daunting. Some would even say it can be intimidating, especially for victims. In most cases, people have never had to navigate or deal with either the military or civilian judicial systems. While that in itself is a good thing, it is a reminder that we must be vigilant that the system is not only there to provide justice for the accused, but also for the victim.
With this legislation, we would make it crystal clear that every victim has the right to request the status and outcome of the investigation. People should not have to rely on rumours or second-hand news to find out what is happening. They should not feel they must plead for the most basic information. To bolster that point, this new victims bill of rights would give them the right to know about the location of proceedings, when these will take place and their progress and outcomes. This bill of rights would give victims the ability to request information about the offender while they are in a service prison. They could also request information when there is the release of the offender. These are simple but meaningful rights that would provide much improved transparency and support for victims.
An important change is that victims would now have the right to access services and programs. This is essential to the healing process for the victim. Being able to access ongoing counselling or mental health services should be easy for those who need them.
In this updating of the National Defence Act, I also support the new rights to protect the identity of the victim. To create the right environment for victims and witnesses to come forward, it is imperative that they have the right to request that their identity be protected. This legislation would provide the flexibility to allow victims to use pseudonyms in appropriate cases. This is a simple but very important change that could empower people to come forward while not having to feel shamed or threatened.
For victims to come forward or to feel safe while going through the process, their security must never be in doubt. That is why the protection clauses found in the bill are a step in the right direction. The legislation would direct the authorities in the military justice system to ensure that every victim has the right to reasonable and necessary measures to protect them against intimidation and retaliation. No one should have to fear speaking the truth, and no one should have to worry about the consequences of taking part in a trial or within the military justice system. This is certainly an area that I would like the defence committee to study while going through the legislation. As in many cases, military communities are small and tight-knit. While this can be a tremendous benefit, it also can create situations where the victim and the accused are in close proximity.
It would be prudent to bring forward witnesses who can speak about the expectations for these new provisions. That is one of the reasons I believe the bill should move to second reading. It would give everyone an opportunity to have a greater say.
It would also be wise to reach out and gather as much evidence as possible as to what other militaries or judicial systems around the world have done to protect victims. I know from my work on other committees that a valuable option to have in place is the ability to learn from other areas of the world.
Another area that must get proper study is the complaints process for victims. While the legislation would give cabinet the ability to set out the complaints process through regulation, it would be in the committee's best interests to review it. If individuals do not feel they have the appropriate avenues to lodge complaints, the overall credibility of the system could be called into question and even undermined.
This is something that our immigration committee recently reviewed for the immigration review board and I can say without hesitation that numerous concerns were brought to our attention. To expand on this point, immigration committee had unanimity with our report that we tabled in Parliament. That in itself is a perfect example of how these sorts of issues are non-partisan.
Victims of any judicial system must be at the heart of its rules and regulations. For real justice to occur, the system must be fair and orderly. It must be unbiased and it must serve those who appear before it. It must hand out appropriate sentences.
I will be voting in favour of this legislation. My Conservative colleagues on defence committee will do their due diligence in scrutinizing it and making it better.
That is why I wanted to have the opportunity to speak to this legislation today as well. Like my colleague from southwest Saskatchewan, this is the only opportunity that I will have because I am not on defence committee. That is why many of my colleagues would like to speak to this important legislation that is before us today. Many of them know people who may want to come forward as witnesses before committee. This is an opportunity for us to scrutinize this bill with great intensity, to add the areas that I talked about earlier in regards to perhaps other areas of jurisdiction not only here in Canada, but around the world so we can garner what we can for victims' rights.
I had the privilege and the opportunity of being on public safety committee when I was first elected to Parliament. Through that I learned that there are many areas that could have been improved, some of which were in the area of firearm legislation and management of the transporting and handling of firearms for law-abiding citizens. That is where I first learned the most about victims being the centre of attention instead of offenders. A few times here in the House my colleagues have said that the government of the day seems to want to deal with the rights of the offenders as opposed to the rights of the victims. I very much feel that victims need to be at the forefront of this.
That is why I have indicated that we need to make sure that victims have access to information as they go through the court process and even when decisions are made, that they be able to better understand why a decision was made the way it was.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to stand in the House today to speak about what we on all sides of the House know is an important bill, one that will seek to put victims at the centre of military law going forward.
Before I go directly into the bill, there are a few things that I want to address. Last week was a very telling week for the government and Canadians watching the government, with regard to those who have served in the military and have been victimized in different ways and through different avenues, some through PTSD and other things. We heard the refer to the underfunding of Veterans Affairs, such as for prepaid phone cards or credit cards and getting those back. If that is the attitude toward our veterans after they have served our country, the government's attitude is probably not much different toward those who are currently serving. Therefore, I can understand why it took three years to finally bring this bill, which was already written, to the House.
This bill reminds me a lot of Bill . We have waited three years for anything to come to the House for other victims of society. For those who deal with accessibility or disability issues, we were promised movement in six months, and we have it now finally after three years, and even then, we are not seeing anything with any teeth.
Over the last few weeks, we have also seen government not putting victims of crime at the centre of care. An individual who was convicted of murder has been given post-traumatic stress support by psychologists and funding from Veterans Affairs, while former members of the military go into any or all members' offices requesting the same. I do not think this is a partisan issue. I would guess that MPs whose ridings are near bases, like my riding, which is about 10 kilometres from a base, have dealt with and heard some very difficult stories from those currently serving, about the services they are looking for and not having those services signed off on by Veterans Affairs, or if they are currently serving, by the Department of National Defence.
There are incredibly heart-wrenching stories that MPs and these individuals deal with. They are just not put at the centre of the process. They are not cared for in the way we would hope. I feel it is the same in the case of Mr. Christopher Garnier, seeing the way he was treated versus many veterans who fought for our country and those currently serving fighting for our freedom or others' freedom around the world.
I will go directly into the bill at this point. Despite the fact that it has taken three years, I want to congratulate the for bringing the bill to the House. It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so it is wonderful to see the government copy and paste from the previous Conservative government's work on Bill and continue this march forward.
This is a bill that politicians from all parties in the House want to support, as there is no greater duty of the Government of Canada, indeed, any government, than to provide for the physical safety of its citizens, especially those serving within our military. Unfortunately, in many instances, the government cannot be everywhere at all times to prevent a crime from occurring. When such a thing does happen, it is the duty of the Canadian government to ensure that justice is administered in a fair and equitable way. Conservatives have always stood up for the victims of crime and we take pride in knowing that we stand on the side of justice and to ensure that victims have an effective voice in the criminal justice system.
It is because of these core values that our previous Conservative government enacted the Victims Bill of Rights, and why we support enshrining victims' rights within the military justice system. It is because of these core values that our Conservative government brought forward Bill in the last Parliament.
I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I would again like to applaud the members of the government for reintroducing Bill under its new name. I would also like to reiterate that a Conservative government will always have the backs of victims of crime. That said, it should come as no surprise to the members opposite that we will be supporting Bill 's getting to the committee stage.
An essential requirement of justice is that justice is blind. There can be no preference in a court of law for a person's race, religion, sex, age or anything else. All Canadian citizens must be given equal and fair treatment in any case before the judiciary. This is a principle that is completely intertwined with the concept of justice. Equality before the law is something that stretches back almost a thousand years to the signing of the Magna Carta in England. Sadly, we have not always lived up to that high principle, but the concept of equality before the law has served as an excellent guiding compass in creating an ever more just society.
The military justice system in Canada comes from a long and distinguished history, going back to the roots of the British military. Any serious military force in the world requires a robust military justice system to improve and maintain the fighting effectiveness, discipline and morale of its fighting forces. It is because of our armed forces' effectiveness, discipline and morale that Canada and our allies have been so successful in protecting our God-given freedoms from aggressive foreign enemies.
With Remembrance Day very quickly approaching, we would all do well to reflect upon the sacrifice of our valiant men and women who made Canada, and how the military justice system contributed to their ultimate success. An effective military justice system is essential for both operational efficiency and to ensure that Canadians see justice being served and completed in a fair way. It is why the previous government brought forth legislation that mirrored the Victims Bill of Rights and made sure it was put into military law as well.
The previous Conservative government understood that the highest priority for every and any government must be the safety of its own citizens, and to ensure that justice is properly administered when prevention impossible. It is why putting the rights of victims front and centre of the criminal justice system is a central tenet of our party.
Prior to the previous government, the criminal justice system leaned far too heavily toward protecting the rights of criminals. The previous Conservative government believed that balance needed to be brought back to the criminal justice system, and so we took concrete steps to hold criminals accountable for their misdeeds.
One such concrete measure was to introduce the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which introduced mandatory minimum sentences for certain sexual offences and for drug dealers. Another such example was the Victims Bill of Rights, which gave victims of crime enhanced access to information, protection, participation and restitution. Taking that and applying it to our military justice system is certainly something we will stand behind. Through this process, I am sure there are going to be ideas brought to the table on how to better this bill and strengthen it where it perhaps has failings. However, on the whole, I want to see, as I know all members of this House do, this move forward in principle.
In terms of the victims of crime, I said that last week was a defining week for what Canadians saw of their government, especially when it comes to victims of crime and to criminals themselves. At question period, question after question was asked about one of the killers of Tori Stafford. The killer was moved from one medium-security facility to another, and in this case, she was removed from behind bars to a healing lodge. Canadians were very upset. However, no one was more upset than the father of Tori Stafford. We saw that through the media. We saw that through statements from him. We certainly saw that through Canadians who were around the family.
I found it incredibly telling when members on this side asked the what he was going to do to correct this injustice and support the victims rather than the person who had participated in this brutal murder. After question after question, the answer consistently seemed to be that the was outraged that members of the House would stand up in defence of the victims in this case and talk about the crime that was committed. The asked us to no longer speak about the details of the crime itself.
What really struck me was why the was not upset about the crime itself. Why was the admonishing members of the House for bringing up the factual details of how a person who had murdered an eight year old was moved to a healing lodge, instead of standing up and saying that the person who committed this crime was not serving out what Canadians would consider justice in moving to this place, and condemning the change in the facility, and moving forward hand in hand with Canadians and, more importantly, hand in hand with the victims of this crime, Tori Stafford's family?
I could not get over it. I did not understand it, especially when we consider that Bill is coming forward and we are talking consistently, as a House, about standing up for Canadians who are unable to stand up for themselves. I do not remember going to a single door where someone said that criminals needed more rights, that people who commit murders need more rights and that we need to be talking about their rights more and more. However, I do remember hearing over and over again from Canadians that we need to ensure that we protect our citizens. We need to ensure that we support victims. It does not matter where in this country they are. It does not matter the colour of their skin. It does not matter their religion or faith. It does not matter their sexual orientation. It does not matter whether they are male or female. We need to ensure that we are protecting Canadians, and one way we protect Canadians is by ensuring that those who are victims are given the supports they need.
However, that was not demonstrated in the House by the government and the last week. Instead, we saw the going in the complete opposite direction of what I believe the bill being presented by the government is trying to do. When laying the facts out and asking questions about cases in which victims have been severely hurt, we were admonished in this case for talking about what happened to this young lady. However, it was not deemed terrible that the person who did it has seen a form of freedom they do not deserve and is completely unjust. I just do not get it. I am trying to rationalize the same government bringing forward the bill before us, which sat on a shelf for three years, with a government that could not come out and say this was unjust.
Day after day, we need to be consistent. The message to Canadians needs to be consistent, that we will take the side of victims, that if people commit crimes, especially heinous crimes, as in the two situations I brought up today, they will pay the full penalty, the full price. Even when they are paying that penalty, that full price, it will never, ever undo the pain that has been caused to their victims.
We, as parliamentarians, need to ensure from this moment forward that when we are talking about these crimes and these victims, when there are individual cases that need to be delved into because of some injustice that has happened, that we are respectful on both sides of the House. However, the first piece of respect needs to be that it is not wrong to speak about the crime that has happened, but it is wrong to let the injustice continue.
I know, as we look forward with respect to changes to the military justice system, with respect to changes that are brought forward by the bill, that they will be done with the best of intentions, that some banter and some debate will occur at the committee level, that there will likely be amendments brought forward and that there will be testimony from those who serve in the military, from different organizations, victims' organizations, etc.
I hope, as we go through that process, we can sincerely put the victim at the centre of that process, not just a bill, not just our talking points. I hope we can move forward putting victims at the centre of the bill to ensure that what comes out committee is even better than the one that goes in and that we can win the support of everybody in the House.
I would like to end with one piece. I have a mother who is an incredible woman. I got my activism from her. For many years she lobbied, and many of the members in the House have received letters and requests, that victims, specifically of sexual crimes, be put first. I take notice of being able to stand to speak to this bill, of being able to look back, whether it was at the white ribbon campaign against child pornography, or human trafficking or many other things, which the Victims Bill of Rights was originally brought in to help with and now is being applied to the military justice system.
I take a lot of pride in knowing that one Canadian, and I am sure there was at least one in every riding, stood up and put pressure on the government of the day to bring something forward. I take a lot of pride in standing up as a Conservative, knowing that it was our government that brought forward the Victims Bill of Rights. I take pride in knowing that we brought forward this bill, before the end of our mandate. I take pride in knowing that I will be able to be part of this hopeful solution at the end.
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the issue at hand, it is no wonder that taxpayers and voters across this country get skeptical about politics when somebody, whether it is the , the or the , stands up every day and tries to pretend that something is exactly like something else when it is not. I am referring to what he just talked about on the minimum-security prison where this murderer, child killer, was moved to. She was behind bars in minimum security. She is not today and that is a huge difference. People get it, no matter how they try and spin it.
Before my blood boils much more, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill , which will amend the National Defence Act to bring about some changes to the Canadian military justice system. For the most part, these changes are both needed and welcomed. The bill before us today is in fact very similar to a previous Conservative bill, Bill . I do not want to confuse anyone. The Bill C-71 that I am referring to is a bill from a previous government. It is not the same Bill that the Liberals have passed through this House which is a direct attack on law-abiding firearms owners. That is most certainly a Bill C-71 that I will never be supporting. The Bill C-71 that I am referring to was put forward by our previous Conservative government in an attempt to accomplish many of the same goals that the bill before us here today seeks to accomplish.
The fundamental objectives of this legislation, that I believe are supported across party lines, are aligning the military justice system in Canada with the Criminal Code of Canada, enshrining the Victims Bill of Rights into the National Defence Act, putting a statute of limitations of six months on summary trial cases and clarifying what cases should be handled by a summary trial. These are all very positive steps forward that are contained within Bill and I am supportive of them moving forward.
I would like to take some time to focus on one of these central points, with respect to enacting the Victims Bill of Rights. It should be pointed out that it was the former Conservative government that brought forward the Victims Bill of Rights when we were in government. It was an incredible step forward to ensure that Canadians who are victims of crime are supported. That is our party's record when it comes to supporting survivors.
Unfortunately, time and time again we see the Liberals talking the talk but not walking the walk when it comes to support for victims in this country. In fact, they've adopted a “hug a thug” mentality when it comes to modernizing the Criminal Code. Through Bill , the Liberals are actually making it possible for perpetrators of heinous criminal acts, some carrying sentences of 10 years in prison, to get off with only a ticket, fine or minor jail time. Bill C-75 introduces a number of measures that are intended to deal with delays in Canada's court system. However, as I have said, the massive 302-page bill will also end up reducing sentences for a number of dangerous crimes. This will be done by provisions in the bill that could reclassify indictable offences so that they may be punishable as summary offences, which would carry a maximum penalty of only two years.
A potential 10-year sentence lessened to two years is the Liberal solution to judicial delays. I sent a mailing out to my constituents that informed them of Bill and what it would do. I invited them to respond to me via a response card. The response card asked them if they agreed with Bill C-75. To be clear, there was literature that went with it to explain exactly what was there so that people understood what they were voting on.
In my entire time serving the riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, I have never had such an immense return to a mailing like this. I received nearly 1,600 responses to this question. Of the responses, 97% of respondents said that they disagreed with Bill , while only 31 individuals out of that 1,600 agreed and 17 were unsure or needed more information. This was certainly a message heard loud and clear. Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound does not support Bill C-75.
Canadians are also having a hard time believing that this government supports the men and women who serve this country.
I rose in the House last week to make the aware of a veteran in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound who cannot receive the important support he needs. He is 87 years old and is a veteran of the Korean War. His name is Barry Jackson. I know the family well. He served our country admirably and is now looking for any kind of help from Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, it will not return his calls.
First I will provide a bit of history. It took years for Barry Jackson to be approved for a wheelchair ramp. Now he needs a scooter, and all he gets is silence from Veterans Affairs. His son Jonathon contacted my office after learning that the Liberals were paying for PTSD treatment for a convicted murderer who has never served in the military one single day in his life. It truly is shameful that a murderer and cop killer with not one day of military service is receiving benefits.
When Barry Jackson got the call from Canada in 1951, he answered that call and headed off to Korea, just like thousands of other young Canadian men did. However, years later, when Barry Jackson needed help and reached out to Canada, nada, nothing, zero. From Veterans Affairs, nothing; from the , nothing; from the , nothing. They should all be ashamed.
Christopher Garnier, meanwhile, committed unspeakable acts, but because his father served in the armed forces, he is getting support, while actual veterans like Barry Jackson wait and wait. It is unfair and, I would say, un-Canadian. What is really ironic, and we can use whatever word we want, is that with the money in Veterans Affairs and the services available, veterans like Barry Jackson, who laid their lives on the line to earn those services when they needed them, are the ones who cannot get them. However, a cop killer and rapist like Chris Garnier, one of the worst human beings one can imagine, has no problem getting them and did not serve one day. That is why people shake their heads and wonder why they even support or want government. It is things like this that give it all a dirty feeling.
When it comes to supporting victims and the men and women who serve this country, the Liberals do not have a great record.
Earlier in my remarks, I mentioned that Bill almost directly mirrors Bill from a previous Parliament. There are, however, a few differences I would like to highlight. Perhaps the most glaring difference between the two bills would be the addition of the Gladue decision in relation to subsection 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada to the National Defence Act.
This addition would mean that aboriginal members of the Canadian Armed Forces facing charges under the National Defence Act may face lighter punishment if convicted. There is absolutely no place in the Canadian Armed Forces, or in Canadian society, for that matter, for discrimination of any kind. No one should ever be discriminated against based upon race, gender, religion, culture or any other factor. That being said, the insertion of this principle has the potential to result in different considerations for offences committed by aboriginal CAF members than for those committed by non-aboriginal forces members. This could lead to sentences that are less harsh and could undermine operational discipline, morale in the forces and even anti-racism policies.
I want to point out, while I have the opportunity, that there are two reserves in my riding. Cape Croker, which is just north of my home town of Wiarton, has the distinction of having the highest percentage of young men who have served in wars. That is something I know they are proud of. Wilmer Nadjiwon, a former chief, just passed away a year or so ago at 96. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that he and seven of his brothers, the eight of them, were in the war, and some of them did not come home. They gave it all, so this is not a slam against aboriginal veterans across this country.
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for the upper Ottawa Valley riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, home to Garrison Petawawa, training ground of the warriors, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill , the legislation that, if passed, would amend provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system. As a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence, I look forward to examining Bill C-77 in greater detail, and I will vote with my party to send this legislation to committee for further study.
It has been noted by our party's defence critic that Bill incorporates many of the legislative proposals made by the Conservative government in the 41st Parliament. This fact alone loan merits my support of the bill at second reading. There are changes between the legislation introduced by the Conservative government in the last Parliament and what we have before us today, and those changes will need to be carefully scrutinized.
As the member of Parliament for the riding that is home to Garrison Petawawa, Canada's largest army base, military justice is still a volatile topic. In addition to being the home of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 2 CMBG, and the 4th Canadian Division Support Group, which is made up of 2 RCHA, 1 RCR and 3 RCR, RCDs and 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, as well as 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron and 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Garrison Petawawa is also home to CSOR, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.
CSOR, which was stood up during the Conservative watch of the defence of our nation, is the first new regiment to be stood up in over 50 years. I am proud of the role I played in supporting that decision and the subsequent decision to locate 450 Air Tactical Helicopter Squadron to be close by, to train with the troops its Chinook helicopters serve as strategic lift for. It made absolute sense to locate CSOR at Garrison Petawawa.
Petawawa is the home of the storied Canadian Airborne Regiment before it was disbanded during the decade of darkness that occurred prior to the election of a Conservative government. I mention that dark time in Canadian military history, the disbanding of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, as there is a direct relationship between that sad event and the legislation we have before us today.
March 5, 1995 will be forever etched in the minds of many Canadian veterans and their supporters as a day of infamy. That is the date the Canadian Airborne Regiment was officially disbanded by David Collenette, the minister of defence at the time in the Jean Chrétien government. Collenette acted against the advice of the Chief of the Defence Staff in ordering the regiment to be disbanded. The most unfortunate aspect of the few acts of a handful of Canadian soldiers is that the Canadian success story in Somalia has been overlooked by the media and remains largely unknown to the majority of Canadians.
In late 1992, the Canadian Airborne Regiment was sent to Somalia to assist the United Nations peacekeeping mission in that country. Initially, the UN troops operated according to the relatively restrictive rules of engagement that directed most such operations. As the violence in Somalia escalated, however, the United States requested and received permission to modify its role. The Canadian Airborne Regiment received a change in orders. Canadian soldiers were ordered to be peace makers instead of being peacekeepers, two very different roles. The untold story is how the paratroopers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, tankers of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and combat engineers of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, all based in Garrison Petawawa, very quickly subdued heavily armed gangs. Attacks on Canadian patrols early in the mission were suppressed with force and local warlords quickly realized that Canada's combat power was not just for show. Humanitarian agencies could then go about their business of distributing relief supplies, a task that was never the primary mission of Canada's troops.
Canada's soldiers then turned to rebuilding a local infrastructure of the police, hospitals, schools, etc. Poignant testimony of the effectiveness of the second reconstruction phase of the Canadian mission came from the father of the dead Somali at the centre of the controversy. He pleaded with Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, who was by then retired and on assignment as a journalist to Somalia, to intercede to keep the Canadian soldiers in his country. He told Mackenzie that, while he grieved for his son, the value of the peace makers to Somalia was enormous.
If Canadians are going to use this dark period in military history as a learning exercise, there are several things parliamentarians need to keep in mind when we study this legislation in detail.
A big difference between this legislation and the bill that was introduced by the previous Conservative government is special consideration for indigenous members that results in sentences that are less harsh versus other Canadian Armed Forces members. There is a legitimate concern that a two-tier system of military justice could undermine operational discipline, morale and anti-racism policies.
The following question needs be considered: If the legislative provisions in Bill had been in place during the Somalia affair, and had he been fit to stand trial, should Master Corporal Clayton Matchee, an aboriginal, been treated any differently, under the circumstances, than a non-aboriginal soldier? Would the Liberal government of the day have been so quick to disband the Canadian Airborne Regiment and slash military spending in that circumstance?
The symbol for justice is a blindfolded figure holding a set of scales in balance. Will serving soldiers see a set of scales in balance or weighted in favour of someone based on government policies that tip the scale based on the political flavour of the day? Members of the Canadian Armed Forces should not be discriminated against based on race, gender, creed or culture.
I recognize that the Chief of Defence Staff stood up to deal with sexual misconduct and other forms of discrimination in the armed forces. However, as parliamentarians, we need to tread very carefully each time changes are made that would affect our women and men in uniform.
Consider this. For members of the Canadian Armed Forces, when they put on the uniform, they are soldiers first. That is an important distinction. In an operational setting, they need to rely on their fellow soldiers. Would Bill contribute to or diminish camaraderie among soldiers? Would Bill C-77 hurt operational efficiency? We need to keep asking these questions with real-life experiences in mind. Psychological experiments in troop cohesion will end up getting soldiers killed, the same way political expediency led to the loss of soldiers' lives in Afghanistan with the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopter contract by the Chrétien Liberal government.
One of the other take-aways from the Somalia affair was the report on the military justice system completed by former chief justice Brian Dickson in 1977. While it recognized that there was a breakdown in the chain of command, it also recognized that the chain of command, the flow of responsibility, must be at the heart of the military justice system. In the same way, a cabinet minister is expected to take responsibility for bad decisions by resigning, or, where there is a lack of judgment in not resigning, is fired by the .
The Somalia affair resulted in the end of a number of political careers, including several Liberal defence ministers. What is truly unfortunate about the Somalia affair is that with the political decision by the Liberal government of the day to shut down the civilian inquiry, the true cause of the breakdown in the chain of command never came to light. I quote from a 2017 media story:
The man who led an inquiry into the 1992 beating death of a Somali teenager at the hands of Canadian troops says he is frustrated that his commission's work was cut short before it could explore what role a controversial anti-malarial drug might have played in the violence.
Gilles Létourneau, a retired judge of the Federal Court of Appeal, says it may be too difficult now to examine whether mefloquine was a major factor in the so-called Somalia Affair because most of the soldiers who were deployed to the African country have left the military. But Mr. Létourneau told The Globe and Mail in a telephone interview on Wednesday it would be worthwhile to take a hard public look at the dangers posed by the drug, which is still being offered to Canadian Force members.
“Surely, run a survey of existing use of mefloquine within the Armed Forces and see whether the problems that were raised 20 years ago are still there,” Mr. Létourneau said.
“We ran out of time,” he said of the inquiry, which gathered evidence for two years before being cut off by the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien before the 1997 election. “There were so many issues to be covered, and this was one we had to leave aside in the hope that eventually medical progress would either sort out or solve these problems. But it hasn't been followed up, from what I can gather.”
Health Canada agreed in August, three years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration came to the same conclusion, with an assessment that said mefloquine can cause permanent brain damage.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
While we know that Canada's military justice system operates separately from Canada's civilian justice system, it is nevertheless important that its system is also just and fair. Canadian Armed Forces members are held to a high standard of conduct. It is understood that Canada's separate military justice system exists to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale in the Canadian Armed Forces. The safety and well-being of all Canadians is dependent on the military's ability to deal with internal discipline effectively and efficiently. That is because our esteemed men and women serving in the military are often required to risk injury or death when they perform their duties. Nonetheless, when it comes to provisions to support victims, there is a gap in the National Defence Act. Victims' rights should be at the heart of every criminal justice system. The proposed legislation takes a step toward that goal. It extends victims' rights into the military justice system, which is certainly positive.
The legislation we are considering is in fact largely modelled after Bill , which was introduced in the previous parliament by the former Conservative government. It builds on existing efforts to put victims of crime at the heart of Canada's criminal justice system. The Conservatives have a proud record of standing up for victims of crime and law-abiding citizens, and we remain committed to them. We have and will always work toward ensuring that victims of crime have an effective voice in the criminal justice system, and we will never accept having the rights of criminals ahead of those of victims of crime and law-abiding citizens. In fact, for far too many years in Canada the scales of justice tipped in favour of criminals. Our criminal justice system neglected those who had been affected by their crimes. It neglected the rights of victims of crime. I am proud of the hard work and the achievements of our former Conservative government. Our country is better off for it. It took significant steps to find a better balance in our criminal justice system, steps that gave victims of crime clear, enforceable rights and protections.
The principle that victims of crimes should be a priority in Canada's criminal justice system was reflected throughout the former Conservative government's policies, reforms, and even investments. Whether it was the creation of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, the passing of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, or investments in child advocacy centres across the country, victims and law-abiding criminals were always the priority.
The landmark Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was the most notable forward step for victims taken by the former Conservative government. This historic legislation entrenched the rights of victims of crime into a single document at the federal level. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights guarantees victims of crime the right to information, protection, participation and restitution. lt means that the rights of victims are considered at every stage of the criminal justice process, as they should be.
After entrenching the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in Canada's criminal justice system, our former Conservative government tabled legislation to also give victims of service offences the same rights, that is, the right to information, protection, participation and restitution. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to study and pass this legislation before the dissolution of Parliament. However, I am pleased that the current Liberal government, through Bill , has copied that legislation. lt is the right thing to do. As we work to protect and promote victims' rights, we are helping to ensure that both of Canada's criminal justice systems help those who truly deserve support.
Given that the legislation for the most part is a carbon copy of the legislation introduced by the former Conservative government, it is disappointing that it is being introduced so late in the Liberal government's mandate. I suppose this is perhaps a reflection of the Liberal government's record on victims' rights.
Unfortunately, it is way too easy to offer examples of the Liberal government's appalling record of putting the rights of dangerous criminals ahead of the rights of victims and their families. Just last week, the Liberals voted against our Conservative motion calling on their to revoke the Veterans Affairs-funded benefits of Chris Garnier, a convicted cop killer. Moreover, the Liberal government is still defending the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic to a healing lodge. McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2009 kidnapping and rape of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. Less than 10 years after the disgusting crimes she committed, she has no business being transferred to a healing lodge facility. That facility has no fences around it and often has children present. However, the Liberal has defended this decision and downgraded her despicable crimes to “bad practices”. As a mother of two young children, I am livid by the Liberal government's refusal to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to reverse this decision, and my heart breaks for the family of Tori Stafford.
These are just two recent examples in the public eye of the Liberals' backward priorities. They have also tabled Bill , which makes sweeping changes to Canada's Criminal Code. lt undoes a lot of the progress our former government made to put the rights of victims ahead of criminals.
While we are considering the legislation before us, I would point out that the Liberals are also pushing through legislation to reduce sentencing for serious crimes. These are serious crimes like human trafficking, participation in a terrorist group or the abduction of a child under the age of 14. The Liberal record of putting the rights of criminals ahead of victims is shameful. lt is not a record of restoring victim rights.
That said, I am pleased to see that a version of our Conservative legislation has been brought forward by this government. Victims' rights should never fall by the wayside in either of Canada's systems of justice. That is why passing this legislation is so important. Like the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, this legislation entrenches four key rights for victims of service offences. First, it provides the right to information. This includes the right to information on the military justice system, as well as services and programs available to victims. lt also gives victims the right to information about the progress of the case. The legislation gives victims the right to protection by giving consideration to their privacy and security through the military justice process. lt gives them the right to participate in the proceedings and creates an opportunity for a victim impact statement to be made. lt also gives the right to restitution when financial losses can reasonably be determined.
The addition of these rights to the military justice system through the Code of Service Discipline's declaration of victims' rights places these rights at the heart of the military justice system. That is exactly where they belong. The legislation has my support. I will be voting in favour of sending it to committee so it can be studied in detail.
Conservatives will always stand in support of victims. We will always be in favour of giving victims a stronger voice in Canada's criminal justice systems. I hope the legislation is referred to committee and that all victims of crime and law-abiding Canadians are given a greater priority by the Liberal government.