Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the report stage debate in support of Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments thereto.
As a lawyer, I am all too familiar with the effect of delays on all Canadians, particularly those involved in the criminal justice system. I am proud to be a member of a government that is taking a meaningful and significant approach to promoting efficiency in our criminal justice system, reducing case completion times and contributing to increased public confidence while respecting the rights of those involved and ensuring that public safety is maintained.
I believe that, together, all of the elements of Bill will help create the necessary change in culture and strengthen the criminal justice system's capacity to complete cases within the time frame prescribed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Jordan decision and recommended by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in its report entitled “Delaying Justice is denying justice”.
I am grateful to the House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for its hard work in studying Bill .
Although there are many important aspects of this bill that I believe will contribute to a more efficient criminal justice system, I would like to focus my remarks this morning on preliminary inquiry reform, enhancing judicial case management, and facilitating remote appearances. I would also like briefly to touch on the amendments brought forward by the committee and consequential technical amendments thereto.
As the minister pointed out in her speech, Bill includes two proposals for preliminary inquiries.
First, the bill would restrict the availability of this procedure to accused adults charged with 63 of the most serious Criminal Code offences that are punishable by life imprisonment, such as kidnapping and murder.
Second, it would strengthen the powers of judges at the preliminary inquiry and limit the issues explored and the number of witnesses to be heard.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in Jordan, and the Senate legal affairs committee, in its final report on delays, recommended that preliminary inquiry reform be considered.
We acknowledge that the issue of preliminary inquiry reform has been the subject of lively debate for literally decades. Some have said that restricting preliminary inquiries would have little impact on delays, given that they are held in only 3% of cases. However, it is important to underscore that this impact would be greater in those provinces where the preliminary inquiry procedure is widely used, such as in Ontario and in the province of Quebec.
Also, we cannot overlook the cumulative impact of all of Bill 's proposals that seek to streamline the criminal justice system processes.
Lawyers Laurelly Dale and Michael Spratt testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that limiting preliminary inquiries, as the bill proposes, could result in delays and undermine the accused's right to a fair trial. In contrast, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police indicated in its written submissions that it supported the reforms.
In addition, Daisy Kler from the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter and Elizabeth Sheehy said that these reforms were a step in the right direction and that requiring victims to testify twice, once at the preliminary inquiry and again at the trial, increases the risk of revictimization.
As stated by the at the second reading of Bill , the proposed preliminary inquiry amendments are the culmination of years of study and consideration in various fora, such as federal-provincial-territorial meetings. These reforms represent a balanced approach between the opposing views put forward before both committees and expressed before this very chamber. They would make this procedure more efficient and more expedient while respecting the rights of the accused to a fair trial and preventing some witnesses and victims from having to testify twice, which can have a very important impact, as I just mentioned, on women litigants in the criminal justice system.
Bill would also allow for the earlier appointment of case management judges, recognizing their unique and vital role in ensuring that the momentum of cases is maintained and that they are completed in an efficient, effective, just and timely manner.
Bill also proposes to expand the use of remote appearances provided for in the Criminal Code by enabling anyone participating in criminal cases to appear by audioconference or video conference throughout the trial, as long as the applicable criteria are met. This would include the accused, the witnesses, the lawyers, the judges or justices of the peace, the interpreters and the sureties.
Canada has allowed remote appearances for many years. These amendments seek to broaden the existing framework, with the possibility of using technology to promote access to justice where the infrastructure exists and as permitted by the rules of court.
These optional tools in Bill aim to increase access to justice, streamline processes and reduce system costs, such as the cost of the accused's transport and the cost of witness attendance, without impacting existing resources such as those through the indigenous court worker program. They also respond to the Senate committee's recommendation to increase the use of remote appearances for accused persons.
The proposals in Bill in relation to preliminary inquiries, judicial case management and remote appearances, together with all the other reforms in this bill, would ensure that our criminal justice system was efficient, just and in line with the values of our communities and all Canadians.
As a product of the extensive study of this bill and the compelling testimony from witnesses, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended the bill with regard to routine police evidence and some reclassification of offences. As a result of these amendments, four technical and consequential amendments must be moved to ensure coherence in the legislation. These amendments follow from the proper amendments made by the committee.
The first of the technical amendments involves the consequential amendment to clause 294 of Bill . This clause deals with the admission of police officer transcripts as evidence and currently references the definition of “a police officer” in proposed section 657.01 of the Criminal Code. As proposed section 657.01 was amended and deleted at committee, an amendment is now required to clause 294 to remove the reference to that previously proposed section.
The second and third amendments being put forward today respond to the committee's intention to keep the offences of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism, under section 83.221 of the Code, as a straight indictable offence. Accordingly, the second amendment today would delete clause 22, and the third amendment would delete subclause 407(5), which is a coordinating clause in accordance with Bill . Again, these are consequential technical amendments that follow from the important and extensive study by the committee of this bill.
The fourth amendment presented to the House today would correct a drafting error resulting from an amendment to clause 389, which includes a mistake in the French version of the title of Bill and describes Bill as “Loi modifiant le Code criminel, la Loi sur le système de justice pénale pour les adolescents et d'autres lois et apportant des modifications corrélatives à certaines lois”. This is again a technical amendment that follows from the important amendments made at the committee stage.
To conclude, I want to highlight what we are doing in this law. We have a situation where access to justice is critical. We have a situation where court delays are preventing justice from being rendered. We also have the Jordan decision that was presented by the Supreme Court of Canada. Following the results of the Jordan decision, the minister and the parliamentary secretary went around the country and heard from stakeholders. They heard from people in the system. They heard from federal, provincial and territorial partners. As a result of that collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, we put forward Bill in this House. The bill was then studied at committee stage and the committee, after hearing robust testimony from a number of stakeholders from around the country who were involved in the criminal justice system, properly and rightfully took the initiative to amend the bill in the right direction with respect to the key areas I have mentioned. That is the way our system is meant to work. It is meant to work collaboratively, and that is what we did with this bill.
Bill would ensure that women were not revictimized through the preliminary inquiry process. The bill would ensure that we would no longer have the overrepresentation of indigenous and other marginalized communities in our justice system by changing the way we select jurors and changing the tools judges have to ensure more diverse and representative juries in communities. Very importantly, Bill would ensure access to justice. It would treat administration of justice offences through a separate model, a different model, that would allow things to be dealt with in a more general manner, in a manner that would speed up the proceedings and would not overly criminalize people who are interacting with the justice system.
These are important initiatives. This is an important bill. It is in the right direction, and that is why I urge all members of this House to support it.
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill , the legislation the government has introduced that purportedly is aimed at dealing with the backlog and delays in Canada's courts.
The only problem with Bill is that it would do next to nothing to deal with the backlog and delays in our courts. Indeed, it is more than likely that Bill C-75 would do the opposite and actually increase delays in our courts.
This legislation was studied at the justice committee. I attended all of the justice committee meetings, where we heard from a wide array of witnesses. In the three years I have been a member of Parliament, I have never been at a committee where virtually all aspects of a bill have been as exhaustively and comprehensively panned as Bill , a massive 300-page omnibus bill.
This legislation would do nothing to deal with delay.
The government came up with the brilliant idea that so-called routine police evidence could go in by way of affidavit. The only problem with that is it would require a whole new application process that defence counsel would inevitably use, resulting in more delay, not less. It is good that the government has backtracked from that aspect of Bill .
The government then came up with the other idea that preliminary inquiries should be limited to only those cases for which the maximum sentence is life behind bars. When I asked justice department officials whether they had any data, any empirical evidence, to back up the assertion that preliminary inquiries were resulting in delay, they had no answer. I can point to empirical data that demonstrates that preliminary inquiries do speed up the process and do reduce delay. Eighty-six per cent of cases are resolved following a preliminary inquiry. That is what the statistical data show. The government has none to demonstrate the contrary.
Preliminary inquiries do provide an opportunity for counsel to clarify issues, to narrow issues, to test evidence. There is also an important discovery aspect to a preliminary inquiry.
Moreover, it is unclear how the government decided to arbitrarily create two streams of cases, one where the sentence would be life and the accused would be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, and another stream that would apply to all other cases, notwithstanding the fact that in many instances the sentencing ranges would be similar. In certain cases the accused would be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, in other instances he or she would not. It speaks to the very sloppy and haphazard way Bill was drafted.
The biggest problem with Bill is that under the guise of creating efficiencies in Canada's justice system, it would water down sentences for among the most serious indictable offences.
What sort of offences is Bill proposing to water down by reclassifying them from indictable to hybrid? We are talking, among other things, about impaired driving causing bodily harm. Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. We are talking about administering date rape drugs, kidnapping a minor under the age of 16, kidnapping a minor under the age of 14, human trafficking and arson for a fraudulent purpose. The government is moving ahead with reclassifying those offences. What would be the effect of reclassification? Instead of a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, the maximum would be two years less a day if the accused were prosecuted by way of summary conviction.
The has repeatedly said that we should not to worry, that it has nothing to do with sentencing and that, after all, the sentencing principles are the same. Well, of course the sentencing principles are the same, but when we are reducing sentences and taking away the discretion of a judge to fashion a sentence from up to 10 years to two years less a day, that has everything to do with sentencing.
Apparently, the Liberal members on the justice committee agree, because among the packages of offences that Bill would reclassify are terrorism-related offences, as well as the offence of inciting genocide. It is shocking to think that those types of offences would be lumped into a class of offence such as a minor property offence, but that is Bill C-75. It is a terribly crafted bill. However, in the end, fortunately they listened to the evidence that it would send the wrong message. Shimon Fogel from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said that it would send “a clear and unacceptable signal, diminishing the inherently grave, even heinous, nature of these crimes.” The member for was quoted in the National Post as saying, “Let's be serious.... We're talking about very serious offences.”
So much for the minister's assertion that reclassification would not have anything to do with sentencing or diminishing the seriousness of the offence. It absolutely does, and the member for Edmonton Centre acknowledged as much. Liberal MPs on the justice committee agreed when they voted in support of our amendments to remove the reclassification of terrorism and genocide-related offences.
What kind of a message, then, does it send when we are talking about reducing and watering down impaired driving offences, or administering a date rape drug, or kidnapping a minor? It sends exactly the wrong message. It diminishes the seriousness of those offences and it makes it possible that individuals who are charged with such offences could walk away with literally a slap on the wrist. Such offences have no business being reclassified. They have no business being left to a prosecutor somewhere in some office to make the call without any level of transparency and consistency. It is absolutely the wrong way to go.
It would also do nothing to reduce delays, because 99.6% of cases are already before provincial courts. We know that summary offences are before provincial courts. That means more downloading onto overstretched and overburdened provincial courts. It would not reduce delays, but it would water down sentences, undermining victims and public safety. Bill needs to be defeated out of hand.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill . This is a very large, very complex bill that touches on many important issues related to our justice system.
Obviously, I will not have enough time today to cover every element of the bill, so I will just focus on the aspects that interest me the most. However, I want to start by giving some background on the events that led to this bill and how it concerns my constituents.
As we know, Bill is a response to the Jordan decision, in which the courts ruled that there were unacceptable trial delays and that proceedings would now be terminated after a certain time frame. This was concerning to my constituents and to all MPs, especially those from Quebec, because we have seen several troubling cases in Quebec. In some cases, people charged with horrific crimes have been freed because of Jordan. These have been sordid and disturbing cases for the affected communities.
The Jordan decision seeks to address major issues, particularly with respect to services to indigenous peoples and the administration of justice. This is essential for maintaining public confidence in the justice system, especially the confidence of people who have asked me about many disturbing, high-profile cases. It is essential because the justice system cannot function properly without maintaining public confidence.
If I can wear my public safety critic hat for a moment, I would say the same is true in many situations involving public safety. This is not just about the justice system, but also the correctional system and police forces or national security agencies, which also play a role here.
Given the importance of maintaining public confidence, this bill had to be thoroughly reviewed. On that I want to commend my seat mate, the hon. member for , who was one of the finalists in the hardest working category of the Parliamentarians of the Year Awards, and rightly so. It is not difficult to understand why when we read a bill like this one, because these are extremely complicated matters that require rigorous review.
We must also exercise caution in political debate. To prevent undermining public confidence, we do not want the procedures and the implementation of these measures to be tainted by partisanship. This cannot be repeated often enough.
In this context, the objective of the bill in question is primarily to reduce legal delays. There are several positive elements, but some flaws as well, and although my time is limited, I would like to address some of them.
The first element, mandatory minimum sentencing, is the most important. This type of sentencing became singularly common during the last Parliament under the majority Conservative government. However, this policy failed, not just in Canada, but in the United States as well, where even very right-wing Republican legislators realized that it did nothing for public safety.
Mandatory minimum sentencing is imposed on judges by law to punish all sorts of crimes, which are often horrible. This creates a number of problems. The first obvious problem is that it eliminates judicial discretion, which weakens our judicial system. Also, mandatory minimum sentences are often intended to punish crimes that are driven by other social factors. We are therefore exacerbating troubling social phenomena, such as the overrepresentation of members of racialized populations or indigenous people in the prison and legal systems.
Some crimes, like drug possession and use, are public health issues and not law and order issues. We cannot minimize how important these issues are.
The facts, from Canada and elsewhere, show three things. First is obviously the social impact, as I just explained. Second is that, on several occasions, the courts struck down some of the legislation that was passed during the previous Parliament. For example, they threw out the Conservative provisions around mandatory minimums. Third, the mandatory minimums did not achieve the goals of increasing public safety, putting dangerous criminals behind bars and reducing recidivism rates.
I brought up this issue in reference to the previous government. What does this have to do with this bill introduced by the current Liberal government? During the previous Parliament, a number of Liberal members spoke out against such policies. At the time, the Minister of Justice and other members of the current government said loud and clear that this was an issue that needed to be fixed quickly. Now, we see that Bill , which they already took far too long to introduce, does nothing to address this issue, even though the Liberals have been in government for three years.
My colleague from raised the issue with the earlier today. The parliamentary secretary responded that it was an issue the government was seized with. The time for considering this issue is long past, which has become a trend with this government. This policy was doomed to fail even before the Liberals were elected, because it penalizes the people we want to help out of poverty so that they can contribute to their communities and our society. The Liberals missed an opportunity to fix this very important issue that has been around for a long time.
Certain U.S. states that lean heavily Republican, commonly known as red states, have observed over the course of many years that this policy is doomed to failure. If they have been able to see this, I think a supposedly progressive government should be able to see it too. These judicial reforms have been too long in the making, and I hoped this bill would take care of the problem, but sadly not. As has happened far too often since this government was elected, we will have to look to the Senate for a solution. An excellent bill has been proposed by Senator Kim Pate to address the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. That bill is one to keep an eye on. All in all, the government has missed an opportunity.
I want to talk about another element of the bill, namely hybrid offences. This is a very important part of the bill because it should help speed up the administration of justice. However, we have learned that this measure could increase the burden on the provinces. It is important to remember that the provinces are responsible for the administration of justice.
Representatives of the Quebec bar told the committee that it is not so concerning for them, because Quebec already has a very robust justice system that gives the prosecutor significant discretion. The Crown works hard to assess cases appropriately in order to prevent a backlog and minimize delays in the justice system.
When we are placing an additional burden on the provinces and have to rely on the provincial governments' goodwill, it is a sign that the federal government has a lot of work to do to make all this easier. Obviously, Bill does not really achieve that objective.
Unfortunately, it looks like my time is up. There were other elements I would have liked to address. This is, of course, a very large and complicated bill. The Liberals missed an opportunity to carry out the necessary administrative reforms to our justice system.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
I would like to begin today by acknowledging the contributions of all members of the House, particularly the members of the committee, for their hard work, engagement and debate on Bill . It is clear that members of all parties learned a great deal from the testimony that was heard, and the country as a whole benefited from the committee's in-depth consideration of this transformative bill.
The committee heard from roughly 95 groups and individuals covering a broad range of issues, in addition to reviewing 58 briefs. I would like to take a moment to share some of the different perspectives that members heard and read on Bill in relation to its potential impacts on indigenous peoples and persons from vulnerable populations.
The committee heard significant praise of Bill 's proposal to codify a principle of restraint that would guide police and courts in making bail decisions. The principle dictates that police and courts would be required to give primary consideration to releasing an accused at the earliest opportunity and apply the least onerous conditions that are appropriate in the circumstances. Police and courts would be required to ask if the conditions are responsibly practical for the accused to comply with and necessary for public safety to ensure the accused's attendance in court. The proposed principle of restraint aims to remove unnecessary strain on the criminal justice system and reflects the principles set out by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Society of United Professionals, the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, Aboriginal Legal Services and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres are just some of the witness groups that came forward and expressed support for these measures. The sheer diversity of support that this proposal has received speaks volumes about the significance of these reforms, which are long overdue. The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres in particular noted that the principle of restraint would benefit indigenous persons who often have to travel away from their communities to get to court, far from their family and social support systems.
Bill 's proposal to codify the principle of restraint further requires police and courts to give particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous and vulnerable accused, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and disadvantaged in seeking bail. According to 2016-17 data from Statistics Canada, the proportion of indigenous adults admitted into a provincial or territorial correctional institution is roughly seven times higher than the rest of the Canadian population, and this figure has been steadily increasing since 2007. For indigenous women in federal correctional institutions, the proportion is eight times higher than for non-indigenous women. In 2012, Statistics Canada reported that individuals suffering from mental health disorders were four times more likely than those without a disorder to report being arrested by the police.
Moreover, indigenous people and vulnerable persons tend to be disproportionately impacted by onerous and unnecessary bail conditions, more likely to be charged with breaching minor conditions, and more likely to be caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. These facts are indicative of a systemic problem in need of comprehensive reform.
While some witnesses, such as Professor Marie-Eve Sylvestre from the University of Ottawa, suggested that the law should define vulnerable persons, we are confident that the current, broad approach will allow for its meaning to evolve over time by being interpreted on a case-by-case basis, and avoid excluding certain groups. I would also note that the existing provision gives direction in terms of which types of vulnerability are relevant, by specifically targeting groups that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and disadvantaged in obtaining bail.
The proposals relating to administration of justice offences also received broad support from witnesses during the committee's review of Bill . These proposals would involve an alternative process called a judicial referral hearing, which is essentially an off-ramp for minor breaches that do not involve harm to a victim or witness. These breaches would not result in criminal charges, but would instead be referred to a bail court so that a judge can review and reassess the bail status and conditions of the accused.
The committee heard moving testimony from Dr. Rebecca Bromwich from Carleton University. She reminded us of the tragic case of Ashley Smith, who was just a teenager when she died on suicide watch at Grand Valley Prison in 2007. According to Dr. Bromwich, Ashley was in custody as a youth and had over 150 convictions for administration of justice offences, many of which did not involve harm to the public and would not have been offences had she not previously been involved with the criminal justice system. This is precisely the type of situation that the administration of justice reforms proposed in Bill seek to address.
The judicial referral hearing is a new tool that police and courts may use, in addition to the principle of restraint, to streamline minor breaches out of the court system and free up resources for more serious cases. This proposal drew strong support from organizations such as the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, Legal Aid Ontario, Aboriginal Legal Services and the Canadian Bar Association, as well as academics and private practitioners.
Last, I would like to speak to a proposal that did not get as much attention, but which some organizations and individuals acknowledged would have a positive impact for indigenous people and persons from vulnerable groups. Specifically, Bill would amend the plea provisions of the Criminal Code to require that courts be satisfied that the facts support the charge as a precondition for accepting a guilty plea. Legal Aid Ontario noted that the new process for guilty pleas would help to streamline these pleas and reduce subsequent challenges on appeal, thus contributing to reducing delays. I am confident that this proposal would provide an important mechanism for ensuring that guilty pleas are not used to further marginalize already vulnerable accused.
I believe the committee's review of this bill and the vast testimony heard strengthen an already robust piece of legislation and clarify how it responds to systemic issues. I am proud to say that we now have an even more comprehensive bill aimed at reducing delays.
I strongly support this bill. I believe it will make the criminal justice system a more efficient and effective tool for all Canadians, including indigenous people, persons from vulnerable populations, accused and victims. I urge all members of the House to support this bill.
Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
I have real concerns about the legislation, as do many stakeholders, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
First, this is another omnibus bill, containing 302 pages of major reforms to our criminal justice system. For our constituents, that means we need to study 302 pages of legalized legislation. Similar to many other Liberal promises, this is another broken promise, as the Liberals promised not to bring forward omnibus legislation.
It also signals very clearly, the Liberals' reluctance to allow for a thorough review and debate on the modernization of the criminal justice system, including reducing court delays and judicial proceedings, an extremely important debate given the current congestion within our courts, which is resulting in serious offenders having their cases thrown out.
Second, the bill would somehow undo the mandatory victim surcharge that our Conservative government imposed in 2013 under the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act.
The federal victim surcharge is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on offenders at the time of their sentencing. Money collected from offenders is intended to help fund programs and services for victims of crime.
We made this surcharge mandatory, recognizing that many judges were routinely deciding not to impose it. While we did recognize that they were doing so with some offenders who lacked the ability to pay, we believed it should be imposed in principle to signify debt owing to a victim.
Like any penalty, fine or surcharge, if people do not have the means to pay, they do not pay. However, it is the principle of the matter, and many times the guilty party does have the ability to pay some retribution to the victim.
The Conservatives strongly believe that the protection of society and the rights of victims should be the central focus in the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special allowances and treatment for criminals. This is why we introduced the Victims Bill of Rights and created the office of the victims ombudsman.
On that note, I would like to thank Sue O'Sullivan for her tremendous efforts on behalf of victims. Ms. O'Sullivan, who retired as the victims ombudsman in November 2017, had a very distinguished career in policing before being appointed to this extremely important position in 2010.
We created the ombudsman's office in 2007 to act as an independent resource for victims to help them navigate through the system and voice concerns about federal policy or legislation.
While we placed such high regard and importance on this office, the prolonged vacancy in fulfilling the position after Ms. O'Sullivan retired demonstrates very clearly what the Liberals think of the office.
In April of this year, more than four months after Ms. O'Sullivan retired, the CBC revealed the frustrations of many victims and victims advocates, including that of Heidi Illingworth, former executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
Ms. Illingworth said:
...the community across Canada feels like they aren't being represented, their issues aren't being put forward to the government of the day...Victims feel that they're missing a voice. The people we work with keep saying, why isn't somebody there? Isn't this office important? Who's speaking for victims... who's bringing their perspectives to the minister?
I would like to congratulate Ms. Illingworth for those sentiments, which I think may influence the government, and also for her appointment on September 24 as the third victims ombudsman for Canada.
Third, Bill would effectively reduce penalties for a number of what we on this side of the House, and many Canadians, deem serious offences. The Liberals are proposing to make a number of serious offences that are currently punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less hybrid offences.
Making these hybrid offences means they can be proceeded in court by other indictment or summarily. Summary offences are tried by a judge only, are usually less serious offences and have a maximum of two years imprisonment. These hybrid offences will now include: causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, bodily harm, impaired driving causing bodily harm, participation in activities of criminal organizations, abduction of persons under the age of 14 and abduction of persons under the age of 16.
As pointed out in their testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police expressed significant concern about the proposal to hybridize the indictable offences. It said:
These 85 indictable offences are classified as “secondary offences” under the Criminal Code. If the Crown proceeds by indictment and the offender is convicted of one of these 85 offences, the Crown can request that the offender provide a DNA sample for submission to the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).
If these 85 offences are hybridized...and the Crown elects to proceed by summary conviction, the offence will no longer be deemed a “secondary offence” and a DNA Order cannot be obtained. The consequence of this will be fewer submissions being made to the NDDB. The submission of DNA samples to the NDDB is used by law enforcement to link crime scenes and to match offenders to crime scenes. Removing these 85 indictable offences from potential inclusion into the NDDB will have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.
I realize that due to the pressure exerted by the Conservatives, last night I believe, two offences, primarily the terrorism offences, have been taken out of this and it is now 83 offences with the two terrorism-related offences being removed. However, according to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the uploading of DNA taken from 52 indictable or secondary offences, which are among those initial 85 to be made hybrid offences, resulted in 221 matches to primary offences, including 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults. At the very least, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is recommending that this significant unintended consequence of Bill on hybridization be rectified by listing these 85 indictable offences as secondary or primary offences so DNA orders can be made regardless of how the Crown proceeds.
We watch CSI and other programs and we see the importance of this new type of science and technology. However, now the Liberals are saying that these 85 offences are no longer important for the DNA database.
Last, I would like to talk about the intent of Bill to incorporate a principle of restraint as it relates to circumstances of aboriginal accused and other accused from vulnerable populations when interim release decisions are made.
Section 493.2 places an unreasonable onus on police officers at time of arrest to make a determination on whether an offender falls within this classification. Furthermore, and more important, it wrongly uses the criminal justice system to address the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system. Instead, the government should be dealing with the socio-economic and historical generational factors that are contributing to this problem.
I, unfortunately, do not believe that the Liberal government has any intention of redressing the plight of our indigenous people in any meaningful way and will continue to fail in this regard despite its promise of reconciliation and renewed relationship.
As chair of the public accounts committee, our Auditor General came with two reports this spring. The objective of one audit was to determine whether Employment and Social Development Canada managed the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy in the skills partnership. To make a long story short, the Auditor General said that when the government was dealing with many of these programs for indigenous people, it was an incomprehensible failure.
It is unfortunate that the government is using this one part of Bill to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in our penitentiaries.
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues.
As chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I am very pleased to rise to talk about our work on Bill . I want to thank the members of the committee for their hard work. I also want to thank the more than 60 witnesses who appeared before our committee to share their opinion on the bill.
I also want to thank the hon. member for , who proposed some very constructive amendments in committee, which we debated.
Overall, Bill is a good bill, and it is a bill the committee made better through its study. I want to talk a little about the amendments made by the committee.
The first amendment I am very pleased the committee made was to delete from the Criminal Code the provisions related to keeping a common bawdy house and vagrancy. We heard about these provisions from witnesses from the LGBTQ2+ community who came before us. My friend Robert Leckey, who was the dean at McGill, Tom Hooper and others told us that they had been disproportionately used in the 1970s and 1980s to charge, send to prison, and fine members of the gay community. For these convictions to be expunged under previous legislation the House and the Senate had adopted, we would need to have the offence under which they were charged repealed from the Criminal Code.
I salute all members of all parties, who listened to these witnesses and determined that it was only right, while these people are still alive and with us, to take action and restore a sense of fairness, a sense that they were charged with something they never should have been charged with in the first place. The members of the committee amended the bill to delete these provisions. I am very grateful, and I hope if the bill is adopted, which I imagine it will be, we will move forward quickly to adopt an order in council to allow these men to have their records expunged.
Second, we deleted the provisions in the bill related to routine police evidence and allowing police testimony to be entered by affidavit, as opposed to the police officer showing up in court. We heard from virtually all sides that this provision in the bill could easily be misunderstood and could harm those people who were trying to represent themselves in court and did not understand how to challenge the submission of routine police evidence by affidavit. We found that since any lawyer in almost any circumstance would challenge the idea that police officers did not need to show up to be cross-examined on their testimony in all matters, other than the most simple ones, this should be removed from the bill, and we have proposed to the House, in this reading, that it be removed from the bill.
We also listened carefully to those people who said that we should not hybridize the offences related to terrorism and genocide. I want to correct the record of what my colleague previously said. This was not done because the NDP and Liberal members of the committee were pushed into it by a Conservative amendment.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, as my friend from well knows, the committee had discussions long before amendments were submitted about these issues. The committee members had all put forward the proposal that genocide and terrorism be deleted. Rather than vote against the clauses, which is what the committee had originally talked about doing, the Conservatives put forward amendments to retain other language that had been amended in the clause and to delete these provisions.
I wholeheartedly agree that genocide and terrorism are easily distinguishable from the offences that are hybridized, not necessarily because they are more serious offences, although they are incredibly serious offences, but because they are offences against groups as opposed to offences against individuals. They are easily distinguishable from ordinary charges under the Criminal Code. They are ones that impact society in a way that individual cases do not. I strongly supported removing them from the list of offences to be hybridized, and I am pleased that the committee did that.
I also note that when we talk about moving forward justice, one cannot argue that the handful of terrorism and genocide offences that go before our courts are ones that will slow down the court system by remaining solely indictable offences. Therefore, I wholeheartedly supported that.
What I did not agree with was the conclusion that by hybridizing an offence, we are automatically judging that offence to be less serious. When an offence is hybridized, it gives the prosecutor the discretion to choose to move forward with either an indictable or a summary type of conviction. It is true that a summary conviction carries a maximum sentence that is generally less than the indictable one, although in some cases, by only one day. It is true that if one chooses to proceed by summary conviction, the maximum sentence is less than if it was a maximum sentence under an indictable prosecution. However, presumably, prosecutors look at the facts of a case and determine whether the facts warrant a jail sentence longer than two years less a day. If they believe that the facts of a case warrant a jail sentence longer than two years less a day, they proceed by indictment.
By the way, there are many serious offences in the Criminal Code, such as assault, that are already hybridized. There is no weakening of the offence. There is no saying that an offence is less serious by agreeing that this type of offence could have different facts leading to a need to hybridize.
For example, an incredibly serious offence in the Criminal Code, one we would all agree is incredibly serious, is kidnapping someone under the age of 16. That is one of the offences that would be hybridized under this bill. However, we also understand that there can be terrible people out there who try to kidnap or solicit young people under 16 for the purpose of trafficking or for the purpose of seizing them away to commit crimes against them.
There can also be a situation where a non-custodial parent takes his or her own child to visit grandparents, against the will of the custodial parent. That is still kidnapping a child under the age of 16. Even though it is serious and a crime, to me it warrants a very different sentence than the person taking the 16-year-old for trafficking.
I also note that there were other offences, such as branding of cattle or stealing timber, for which there were Conservative amendments saying that we should not de-hybridize. Those offences are clearly offences that do not carry the same type of consequence, yet in the same way we could not distinguish between one and the other, we are saying that we do not need to hybridize these either.
Fourth, we made an amendment to protect students. As opposed to weakening sentences, one of the things we did was enhance summary sentences. Instead of a six-month average summary sentence, a six-month maximum, the maximum was changed to two years less a day. We actually strengthened sentences for many more offences in this country and set a general summary maximum sentence of two years less a day instead of six months. However, that would have a negative impact on students and agents who could only appear on cases that were six months or less. Therefore, we moved an amendment at committee to allow provinces to set general order in council rules that would allow different classes of agents to appear for periods of over six months. That was important.
We listened to witnesses. There are many issues in this bill that are clearly debatable and have good points on both sides, but the committee came back with a better bill.
Madam Speaker, I enjoyed my work on the justice committee for these past three years. It was very rewarding and very insightful.
With respect to Bill , there are sections of the bill that we, on this side, are in favour of.
One of those is the reform of intimate partner violence cases, which will basically reverse the notice of bail on someone who has been convicted of assaulting or other crimes against their partner. I like the idea because it does give better protection. There are a number of procedural changes with respect to preliminary hearings and jury selection. Again, we will continue to review those changes here and get input from people.
As we heard from my colleagues on this side, we continue to be quite concerned about the hybridization of some very serious crimes.
I think most Canadians would agree with us in the Conservative Party that there are serious crimes that are currently listed as indictable offences with a maximum of up to 10 years and that it does reflect the seriousness of those crimes. Some of those offences include, but are not limited to: participation in a riot, or concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; selling or purchasing offices; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; assisting prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; bodily harm; impaired driving causing bodily harm; failure to provide sample and blood alcohol level over legal limit; material benefit from trafficking; withholding or destroying documents; and abduction of person under age of 14 or under the age of 16.
I think most Canadians would agree with us that these are very serious offences. Some others are marriage to someone under the age of 16, arson for fraudulent purpose and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.
The government has backed down on a couple of those issues. They are the ones related to terrorism and genocide. The problem I have with the government is that we told them a long time ago that Canadians are not going to agree with hybridizing and reducing the possible penalties for criminal activities like genocide and terrorism. We were very clear that it is a mistake to go forward with this. It took the government a long time, approximately a year, before it would back down on this.
A piece of advice I would give to the government is that just because an idea comes from the opposition does not mean that it is a bad idea. Some time ago we started pointing out that a person who is convicted of murdering, torturing and raping a child should not be then transferred to a healing lodge. We told the government that it was a huge mistake. All we got was pushback from the government and the minister saying no.
However, I found out a few minutes ago that Terri-Lynne McClintic has been transferred out of a healing lodge and placed back in prison where she should be. All I can say to the government is that this idea is no better than it was when we told the Liberals a long time ago about these things. I had said it was a mistake to put genocide and terrorism in as hybrid offences, and again, we were right.
I remember, in June 2017, the government came forward with another omnibus justice bill, and part of it was to remove the protection of members of the clergy and the protection of people disrupted during a religious service. We told the government it was a mistake. I remember standing here, telling some of my colleagues to please go home this summer and ask constituents, even if they do not go to a religious service, if they think it is a good idea that we would repeal this section.
It took about a year, but then finally the government did agree with us. Unfortunately, I see that threat against a member of the clergy is now part of the hybridization, so the government has reduced the penalty for this. Again, I believe this is inconsistent.
We hear the and others saying we have to protect religious institutions, synagogues, churches, temples and mosques. However, at the same time, the government's record, now on two occasions, is to reduce or, in a sense, eliminate the specific penalty dealing with that. It is completely inconsistent, and I think it is a mistake.
I was going to ask my colleague a question, since he gets overwhelming support at elections and is very in tune with what his constituents say. I was going to ask, “Are any of your constituents saying that we should open up the possibility of a lower sentence for people who traffic in children under the age of 14? Did anybody say that to you, or say that we have to go easier on these people?” The hon. member says that nobody came forward to ask for that.
We talk about the challenges with respect to impaired driving. Now the government's priority this year has been to legalize marijuana. Everyone in this chamber knows that this is going to make it more complicated, with respect to impaired driving and the associated challenges. Yet, at the very same time, the government has legislation that says that if people are driving impaired and they cause bodily harm, they now have the possibility of facing a summary conviction offence, which would result in something even as low as fine. I would say that nobody wants something like that.
On the section on trafficking in persons, the justice committee is doing a study right now on human trafficking. We heard from Canadians across this country, different groups and individuals saying what a terrible problem this is and that it has to be addressed. However, at the same time, the government is reducing the penalties.
One of the things I heard from the government over a year ago, when it introduced this, was that it would speed up the criminal justice system. I say, “Sure, if you are a terrorist.” If somebody says they have the possibility of getting a fine of $1,000, they will ask where they can sign up for that. That is great news for them. Let us not hold up the justice system.
My point is these are very serious crimes. They were treated as such when Conservatives were in government. As my colleagues have said, we always stood up for victims of crime to better protect victims and to increase people's confidence in the criminal justice system. When somebody who has committed a horrific crime is let off, when they get the minimum possible sentence, it does not increase people's confidence in the criminal justice system. It has the exact opposite effect.
We had a very good run at this. We stood up for law-abiding Canadians. We stood up for victims. We wanted the system to work. I am very proud of all that we have done. My advice to the government is, when the Conservatives have good ideas that the Liberal members can run by their own constituents and they agree with them, the government should adopt those, and it should not have to wait to change its mind.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill . Like other members of the House, I am very appreciative of the study undertaken by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the many witnesses who gave helpful testimony on various aspects of this bill. I would like to use my time today to discuss the jury amendments proposed in Bill C-75.
As members know, jury reform is an area of shared jurisdiction. While Parliament is responsible for the criminal law and the rules in the Criminal Code setting out the legal framework for in-court jury selection, the provinces and territories are responsible for determining, for example, who is eligible for jury duty and the process by which the jury roll is compiled.
Bill proposes several reforms to the in-court jury selection process. One of the significant changes that I would like to start with is the proposal to abolish peremptory challenges.
The committee heard from several witnesses who testified on jury reforms, all of whom shared an understanding of the importance of representative juries. Their views differed on whether or not peremptory challenges contribute to or undermine that objective. However, several legal experts and advocates, and most notably Professor Kent Roach, expressed very strong support for their elimination, which would finally put an end to the discriminatory exclusion of jurors. Any tool that can be used to effectively undermine the participation on juries of persons of a particular race or ethnicity contributes to a perception of mistrust and lack of confidence in the justice system.
Jonathan Rudin, the program director for Aboriginal Legal Services, also gave compelling testimony before the committee that the use of peremptory challenges has had a corrosive impact on efforts to encourage indigenous people to act as jurors. Discrimination in the selection of juries has been documented for decades. Concerns about the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous people being under-represented on juries were raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the report of the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry. More recently, we heard from retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who studied these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.
I agree with Professor Kent Roach who, in his written brief to the committee, characterized jury reforms in Bill as being “long overdue”.
Having read these reports and hearing from many experts on the topic, I am confident that Bill proposes the right approach in abolishing peremptory challenges. It is a simple and effective way to prevent deliberate discrimination and the arbitrary exclusion of qualified jury members.
Furthermore, to bring greater efficiencies to the jury selection process and to make it more impartial, the bill proposes to empower the judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause, such as because they are biased by either the defence or the prosecution. Currently, such challenges are decided by two lay people, called “triers”, who are not trained in the law. This process has been problematic, causing delays in jury trials even before they begin, and appeals resulting in orders for a new trial. The proposal would shift the responsibility for such challenges to judges who are trained adjudicators and therefore better placed to screen out impartial jurors. The proposed change reflects the recommendation made in 2009 by the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System, a group established by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice and comprising judges, deputy ministers of justice from across Canada, defence lawyers, representatives of the bar associations, and the police. It is also consistent with what has been done in other common law countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand. I am confident that this change in procedure will make improvements to the overall efficiency of our jury trials.
There are also several proposed changes to modernize and update the challenge for cause grounds. Notably, the proposed change to reduce the number of jurors with criminal records for minor offences from being challenged and excluded for jury duty would help address concerns that excluding individuals with minor criminal records disproportionately impacts certain segments of society, including indigenous persons, as noted by Justice Iacobucci. It would also assist with improving broader participation on juries, and thus jury representativeness.
While a few witnesses before committee said they would like to see this ground removed so that anyone with a criminal record could not be challenged for cause, I am mindful of the fact that permitting a juror with a serious criminal background to serve on a jury and make the decision as to the guilt or innocence of the accused could greatly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. I would also note that provincial and territorial jury legislation also specifies who is eligible for jury duty and is, in many respects, reflected by what is in the Criminal Code.
Bill would also allow a judge to continue a trial without the jury when the number of jurors falls below 10 and where the Crown and the accused agree. This change would promote efficiencies because it would avoid mistrials when the jury is reduced to fewer than 10 jurors due to illness or some other reason.
Another key change proposed in Bill is to allow judges to stand aside a potential juror while other jurors are selected, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, for example, to support the establishment of an impartial, representative jury. The change recognizes the important role that judges can play in improving jury selection at the outset. I believe that the use of this power, where deemed appropriate, would help improve the diversity of jurors during the in-court selection process, particularly in cases where public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined if the jury were not more diverse.
With respect to the representativeness of juries, there is certainly work that remains to be done, especially given the important role played by both the federal government and the provinces and territories in the jury selection process. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that jurisdictions are collaborating to examine a wide range of jury-related issues, and undertaking important work to find further ways to improve our jury selection system in Canada, including to enhance representation on juries.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that the jury reforms in Bill mark critical progress in promoting fairness, diversity and participation in the jury selection process. These improvements would also enhance efficiencies, as well as public confidence in the criminal justice system.
I call on all members of the House to support this transformative bill. I thank the justice committee for its work, and the witnesses committee members heard from in bringing forward this important legislation, including the amendments they proposed.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am always pleased to rise to speak to bills that mean a lot to me or bills that I am not entirely comfortable with.
Today I will be speaking to second reading of Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
On reading this large, 302-page omnibus bill, many of my colleagues agree or might agree that this bill is quite dense and complex and that it tries to slip important changes under the radar.
I cannot help point out that it was introduced in the middle of day on the eve of Good Friday as the House was about to adjourn for a week. Nice try, whoever was trying to sneak this through, especially when three new government bills were already on the Order Paper: Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to the victim surcharge, Bill , an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to exploitation and trafficking in persons, and Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to unconstitutional provisions and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Given that this bill makes a number of changes to the Criminal Code, most of my speech will focus on the amendments that, I would argue and so would many victims of crime and their loved ones, totally contradict what the Liberals say when they claim that victims are being considered, that they care about victims' rights and that they are committed to upholding those rights. The reality is a far cry from that.
The Liberals are always quick to put criminals first. It seems to be their first instinct.
We do not have to look too far to see some very recent examples of that. Consider the case of the criminal Terri-Lynne McClintic, who brutally and savagely murdered a little girl, eight-year-old Tori Stafford, yet she was transferred to a healing lodge after spending just nine years behind bars and even though she is not eligible for parole until 2031, and Tori's family was never given prior notice of the transfer.
Only after dozens and dozens of interventions in the House by the opposition parties, an open letter to the Prime Minister from little Tori's father, the arrival of many protesters on Parliament Hill, and pressure from all Canadians who found the transfer to be unacceptable, inconceivable and disrespectful did the finally decide to take action.
It was only yesterday, after far too many weeks of waiting and unnecessary suffering for Tori's family and because of all the public pressure in this regard, that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally asked Correctional Service Canada to make the transfer policies more stringent.
However, we do not yet know whether this serious mistake has been corrected. We do not know whether Ms. McClintic is back behind bars where she should be. That is of little consolation to Tori's family and to Canadians.
The minister has apparently also asked Correctional Service Canada to improve its policies for the transfer of medium-security offenders to institutions without controlled perimeters precisely because these changes could help convince the public that our correctional system holds guilty parties responsible.
Canadians were outraged by Ms. McClintic's transfer, but above all they were extremely disappointed to see—
Mr. Speaker, my colleague may want me to muzzle me, but I will continue reading my speech. I want my words to be heard; I am not here to be muzzled, I am here to speak on behalf of Canadians.
The Liberals were not doing anything and kept defending the indefensible. They said they could not do anything, but in reality, they did not want to do anything. The government could have saved this already devastated family from more hardships, but we know the sad end to this story.
The Conservatives are the voice of victims of crime and their loved ones, and we will never stand by in a case of injustice like this one. We are satisfied that this shameful issue has advanced, but we are appalled that it took so long.
We cannot forget the case of Chris Garnier, a criminal who killed a young police officer. He is currently serving his sentence and is receiving veterans benefits, even though he never served in the Canadian Armed Forces. This week is Veterans Week, which would be an appropriate time for the government to apologize and immediately correct the situation.
Speaking more specifically to Bill , certain aspects can be supported in the interest of victims of crime, such as removing certain Criminal Code provisions that have been found unconstitutional; indeed, the Conservatives acknowledge that this measure will benefit victims of crime and that it will clean up the Criminal Code.
We also support higher maximum penalties where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner, and more importantly, we support the consideration of intimate partner violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing. For that, however, it is absolutely essential that more stringent requirements be imposed on temporary releases in the case of offenders who have committed intimate partner violence.
I think this requirement is especially important because offences related to the scourge of domestic violence are increasing steadily in Quebec. It is important to understand that spousal homicide is often the culmination of violent tendencies that increase in severity and intensity over time. In 78% of cases of spousal homicide committed in Canada between 2001 and 2011, police were aware of a history of domestic violence between the victim and the aggressor.
In far too many cases, offenders that have been arrested and subsequently released go on to kill their spouse anyway. It is crucial that conditional release provisions be strengthened in the Criminal Code; otherwise, increasingly younger innocent victims will lose their lives.
Another aspect of Bill I strongly oppose is the change to the victim surcharge. The Conservatives support victims of crime and believe that they deserve better. Bill C-75 is a reintroduction of Bill , which was introduced two years ago and gives courts the flexibility to waive or reduce the victim surcharge when a person convicted of a crime convinces the court that such a payment would cause undue hardship.
On behalf of victims of crime, I feel it is my duty to vote against Bill C-75. Despite taking some steps in the right direction, it takes far too many in the wrong direction, I believe. Unfortunately, victims of crime do not yet have themselves an advocate in Canada's Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their work on this legislation, which is now at report stage. It really would address some of the issues of delay in our court system. It would reinforce and strengthen our criminal justice system to ensure that victims would be looked after in a way that would protect them, our communities and society and. At the same time, it looks at the inequities within the system.
Before I go any further, I will quote Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer in the United States. I have read his book Just Mercy and one line reads, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” I started with that quote because I want lay some context.
I have listened to hon. opposition members speak to the bill. I want to re-emphasize that our objective is not to revictimize innocent people, but to ensure they are adequately protected. We know there are inequities in the system and the bill looks to improve the efficiency of and equity within the system.
There have been many reports, and it is not just me saying this, about the over-incarceration of our indigenous and black populations within federal institutions across the country. Irrespective of where we are, we see this happening.
I am not a lawyer and this is not my background, but in looking at the legislation, I want people in Whitby to know and understand what the legislation would do to strengthen our criminal justice system, the Criminal Code and increase efficiencies. By doing both, it would increase efficiency.
Bill proposes to do a few things: modernize and streamline our bail system, including by legislating a principle of restraint to reduce the imposition of unnecessary conditions and with the intended effect of reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous and marginalized Canadians in our criminal justice system. Essentially, when bail conditions are imposed, the proposal is to look at the situation of the individuals in front of the judge and come up with reasonable conditions that would prevent them from re-entering the criminal justice system. By doing that, we would ensure it would not be a revolving door in and out of prison. We want people to be rehabilitated and stay out of the system, but there has to be a thoughtful process throughout the whole judicial system to ensure that happens.
A second proposal is to change the way our system deals with administration of justice offences, including by creating new judicial referral hearings as an alternative to a new criminal charge, with the goal of reducing the burden of administrative justice charges and increasing court efficiency. If an alcoholic is in front of a judge and one of the conditions imposed by the judge is that the person not drink, that is a little unreasonable. Why not have one of the conditions be that the individual seeks treatment? That is a better alternative than telling that person not to drink. Allow individuals to seek treatment and make it part of their conditions so they do not come back before the court. It would prevent that revolving door and increase efficiency.
Another proposal is to strengthen the way our criminal justice system responds to intimate partner violence, including enhancing the reverse onus at bail for repeat offenders. If charged with an offence, it is not up to the prosecution but rather to the defendant to present evidence for why he or she should be released. This makes it harder for the person to reoffend, and it protects the victim. It should be up to the individual to tell the court why he or she will not offend again. It should not be up to the prosecution to do that. It broadens the definition of intimate partner violence to include dating partners and former partners, and it increases the maximum sentence for intimate partner violence.
Another reform is the reform to jury selection processes. This legislation proposes reform by including the abolition of peremptory challenges, reinforcing the power of judges to stand aside certain jurors in order to increase the diversity of the jury selection. That does not mean the person will not have the opportunity to be a juror; it just means that in order to increase the diversity of the jurors who are selected as a jury of our peers, they should reflect those who are living in the community. That component allows for judges to have the authority to do that. Jurors cannot be removed without reason. They cannot be indiscriminately removed; there has to be a reason for that. This also helps to allow and increase equity within our system.
This piece of legislation also restricts the availability of preliminary inquiries to only those offences carrying the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, with the intended effect of reducing the time it takes for each case to go to trial. We know that the introduction of this proposal will allow us to understand what victims go through. We are not revictimizing witnesses by having them testify at the peremptory and also at the trial. It increases efficiency while also, as I mentioned earlier, ensuring that the victim is not further victimized within the system.
I want to talk about the hybridized offences, and a few people may want an explanation as to what this is. There are three ways in which we can convict. There are summary convictions, indictable offences and hybrid offences. The fact that we are increasing the number of hybrid offences does not mean the Crown does not have the ability to decide the appropriate sentence or look at the seriousness of the offence.
My hon. colleague from has brought this up a number of times. He is a civil litigator, and during his speech he said we cannot just leave it up to the Crown somewhere in some building to have the ability to indiscriminately sentence. I am sure he has faith in the ability of his colleagues, and I would hope he would know that these lawyers take their job very seriously. Not taking away their ability to decide the seriousness of a crime means they can still go in either direction, whether people are given a fine, or two years, or two years to life. That possibility is still available to our attorneys.
This is certainly not what it is doing. It is not being soft on crime. In addition to these proposals, our has made significant numbers of appointments. Last year there were over 100 appointments to the bench. We are currently at 235. We are on track this year to keep that number going.
We have the most diversity on the bench. We have judges who look like Canadians. That combination of appointments, plus the proposals in here, increases the equity in our system, and it increases the efficiency of our system.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to speak to Bill .
We have waited long and hard for these omnibus changes to the Criminal Code, and a number of the changes have been welcomed by our party. Regrettably, a number of changes that could have been made, and that were promised by the Liberals, have not been made. That is deeply disappointing not just to us, but to Canadians and the lawyers who represent them when they end up before the courts.
Many of the reforms and the calls for reform have come from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Jordan case, which many members have spoken about here. That decision put in place a new framework and timeline on the necessity of processing trials through the courts with the intention of trying to resolve the backlog of cases. Many of the impacted cases have involved very serious offences, but charges are simply being dropped because the cases have not proceeded expeditiously, consistent with the charter of rights, and in accordance with the new timelines imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin two years back admonished the government in saying that “The perpetual crisis of judicial vacancies in Canada is an avoidable problem that needs to be tackled and solved.” This has been the focus of a lot of debate in this place in the nine years I have been elected. Repeated calls by the opposition to the then Conservative government are now continuing with the Liberal government to fill those vacancies.
There are other measures that can be taken, some of which have been taken by the current government, to try to address the backlog in the courts and to ensure that justice is done. However, there are a number of significant measures that the was apparently mandated to undertake and chose not to do, at least not at this time, but maybe after the next election, which is usually the reason given.
Judicial appointments are seen as one solution to the backlog. Other possible solutions have been requested and, as mentioned, not adopted in Bill , despite the calls by my colleague, the New Democrat justice critic, the MP for . His calls have been drawn from the testimony of experts in the field, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association.
I am a member from Alberta, and in the nine years I have been here, there have been calls by the attorney general of my province for judicial vacancies to be filled, which is the prerogative of the federal government. Hundreds of cases have been thrown out because of the failure to fill vacancies across the country. There is an appreciation that some of those vacancies have been filled, particularly since this past April. However, as I have noted, these calls were made by the opposition to the then Conservative government and the calls now continue to the Liberal government. My Province of Alberta has been calling for federal action to fill these judicial vacancies and is pleased that some action is being taken, but I do want to credit my own provincial government for taking action.
The Canadian Bar Association has criticized the government for the chronic failure to appoint judges, in some cases with a delay of more than a year. As I mentioned, I commend the Alberta government for its action in filling vacancies and creating new positions in the provincial courts “to ensure Albertans have more timely and representative access to justice.” It has also appointed additional clerks and prosecutors to ensure that the cases proceed more expeditiously.
I particularly wish to point out some of the recent appointments made by the Government of Alberta. In April of this year, Judge Karen Crowshoe, the first indigenous woman called to the Alberta Bar Association, became the first female first nation provincial court judge. Also, in this week alone, the Alberta court appointed Judge Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay, who is now the third first nation woman appointed to the provincial court. Moreover, Judge Melanie Hayes-Richards was appointed to the Edmonton Criminal Court. Finally, Judge Michelle Christopher was appointed as the first female judge in the judicial district of Medicine Hat in the history of our province. Kudos to the Government of Alberta.
There are a number of solutions that could have been taken in Bill that were not taken. For example, my colleagues have consistently called for the government to cease charging Canadians for the simple possession of small amounts of cannabis. All of those charges, the tens of thousands of Canadians charged for simple possession, have clogged our courts. We could have simply resolved that, even in the past year when the government made it clear that it was going to legalize cannabis, by stopping those criminal charges. However, it chose not to, and so the courts remain clogged.
In addition, there have been a lot of calls, including by Moms Stop the Harm, to address opioid addiction. They have been calling for the decriminalization of small amounts of opioids for personal use and to address it as a mental health challenge. Again, those charges could reduce time in our courts.
On preliminary inquiries, a number of my colleagues in this place have talked to the concerns about the government deciding in Bill to remove the opportunity for preliminary inquiries. The government has professed that this removal would make the judicial process more efficient, but as has been mentioned, it is a very small percentage, 2% to 3%, of cases that ever go through preliminary inquiry. Obviously, it would not have a substantial effect in reducing the clogging of the courts.
There has been concern at the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers that this may pose a serious risk of more wrongful convictions. We have to remember why we have preliminary inquiries. It was mentioned previously that in some cases, as a result of a preliminary inquiry, the charges are dropped. It is a good opportunity for the defence to review the evidence by the Crown. It is concerning that while the government continually likes to use the word “balance”, the bill is not adequately balancing greater efficiency in the courts and the protection of the rights of the accused.
I would also like to speak to the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, which has been discussed a lot in this place. Based on a lot of expert witnesses testimony at committee, my colleagues are expressing great disappointment that removal of mandatory minimum sentences was not addressed in this 300-page omnibus criminal justice bill. They are disappointed that it was not dealt with, particularly as dealing with mandatory minimums was specifically prescribed in the mandate letter of the . It seemed logical that this would included in this omnibus bill. Many remain puzzled as to why there is a delay on that. Is it going to be yet another Liberal promise that is delayed until the next election? It is a solution that could genuinely address the clogging of the courts, and we encourage the government to move forward more expeditiously and table a measure on that before we recess for the next election.
Many expert witnesses at committee, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, recommended taking action on these measures introduced by the Harper government. This is a significant factor clogging the courts. The association said:
Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the Crown's discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the Crowns ability to take a position that will foster resolution before trial.
We have been told that the effect has been to increase the choice to go to trial rather than pleading to a lower charge. That is because of the necessity by that law that a minimum penalty will be imposed. Therefore, many who are charged will then say they will go to court and try to beat the rap, because otherwise they may receive a greater sentence. That has really clogged the courts.
I quote Jonathan Rudin of the Aboriginal Legal Services, who has emphasized the need to restore judicial discretion, particularly for indigenous women, as the Liberals promised. He said:
...we have to look at the fact that there are still mandatory minimum sentences that take away from judges the ability to sentence indigenous women the way they would like to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.
I look forward to questions and could elaborate further then.
Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is once again to rise and share some thoughts on what is a very important issue.
This is a very comprehensive piece of legislation we have before us. It will modernize our criminal justice system. There are a lot of positive changes here. I must say that I am a bit surprised that the Conservatives continue to find ways to be critical of such good, progressive legislation. I hope to be able to highlight where I think that is somewhat misplaced.
We talked a lot in the last federal election about the importance of keeping our communities safe, protecting victims, and ultimately, holding offenders accountable for their actions. What we have before us today is legislation that would do all three. That is why I stand today with enthusiasm and highly recommend that members, particularly the opposition members, look again at what it is this government is doing with respect to making our communities safer, protecting victims, and holding offenders more accountable. Those are three aspects of this legislation that I believe need to be taken into consideration when people choose to vote in favour or against this legislation.
I compliment the minister on the fine work she has done with respect to working with the different stakeholders. When we think of our justice system, our court process and law enforcement, it is not just one level of government that is responsible for all of it. We are dependent on ensuring that there is a high sense of co-operation, discussion, and dialogue with provincial and territorial entities and indigenous people, in particular. There are many other stakeholders beyond those I have just referred to that need to be taken into consideration and listened to.
I believe that the legislation we have before us today is very reflective of what Canadians want to see and the discussions that came out of the numerous consultations with the department. I am happy to say that when the minister brought in the legislation, she made it clear in some of the debates we had that we were open to amendments, and we did receive amendments at the committee stage. The committee did some outstanding work, I must say. Through that process, the government even accepted amendments that were not government amendments, contrary to the days of Stephen Harper, when amendments brought by opposition members were never respected. We recognized that there were some positive amendments from the opposition and got behind and supported them. Therefore, it seems to me that the system worked quite well.
I started off by talking about the election. The discussions members of this House had when they met with the electorate were very keen on the issue of crime and safety and what it was Canadians expected of this government. That is why we have this progressive piece of legislation before us today. There were commitments made. We commented that we would bring in comprehensive criminal justice reform. We talked about the importance of intimate partner violence and what it is we might be able to do with respect to that.
This legislation is yet another example of one of many pieces of legislation this and this government have brought to the floor of the House that fulfills another commitment to Canadians in the last federal election. I believe that Canadians would be happy with the fact that we are addressing the commitments that we know are important to them, so let us talk about some of those changes.
My friends in the Conservative Party seem to have a difficult time with the issue of hybridization. We have summary convictions and we have indictable convictions. There is a list that would allow a crime to be considered indictable or summary.
My colleague made reference to kidnapping, and that is an excellent example. To get a sense of what it is the Conservatives are actually opposing, I will use the example of kidnapping.
There are many lawyers in every region of the country who will be able to tell people about the negative consequences of a family breakdown and a custody situation. I would ask members to put themselves in the position of a 12-year-old child who has a mom and dad living apart. Maybe it is the mom who has custody of the child. That child is having a rough day or possibly even a pretty bad week and decides to give the other parent a call to say, “I don't want to be here. Come and pick me up. I'm really upset. I'm going to run away”, or whatever that child might actually say.
The other parent maybe meets the child somewhere or somehow accommodates that child at his or her home or maybe drops the child off at the grandparents' place. Technically, that is kidnapping, and kidnapping is a very serious charge. Surely to goodness people who might be following the debate would recognize that this is quite different from someone who preys on a child who is walking out of a schoolyard, who throws that child into a van and then maybe does something horrific or decides to hold that child for ransom or put that child in a dangerous situation, such as prostitution.
What we are saying is that there are two extremes, and there is a lot in between. Hybridization allows the opportunity for discretion. That is only one aspect of what I like about this legislation. There are many other things I could be talking about.
I made reference to intimate partner violence. We need to realize that it is not just common law relationships or marital relationships. It could be a dating relationship where there is that sense of intimacy and violence. Victims really need to be given extra consideration. That is taking place here.
I like the idea that we are providing the opportunity to get rid of preliminary trials. That is a positive thing. Let me give a specific example. Imagine someone who is a victim of a sexual assault. As opposed to having to go through a preliminary trial and relive that nightmare, there could be no preliminary trial. There would just be the trial. I see that as a good thing.
My New Democratic friends previously said that it is a small percentage of overall court cases. That is not true. While it is true that it might be a smaller percentage, we are talking about thousands of cases. Imagine the impact on court times.
This legislation would do so much more to reform our system. It is good news for Canadians, and that is why I would recommend that all members of this House rethink their position and get on side with the , the cabinet and this government and support this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Liberal government's justice reform bill, Bill . If the parliamentary secretary was worked up during his presentation, I cannot wait until he hears what I have to say. Sadly, I cannot find a lot of good things to report about the bill, to report to my constituents or to Canadians at large.
Like a number of the Liberal government's legislative measures, the purpose of the bill does not always match to what the bill would actually do.
For example, recently in Bill , the used tragic shootings and a gun and gangs summit to suggest he was putting forward legislation that would tackle illegal guns, gangs and violent criminals. The sad reality was that the legislation he proposed never once mentioned gangs or organized crime. It had nothing to do with illegal weapons and crimes caused by them.
Prior to that, the also introduced Bill , a bill he claimed would strengthen our national security and protect Canadians. Again, the reality was very different, as the bill would move nearly $100 million from active security and intelligence work, which actually protects Canadians, to administrative and oversight mechanisms and functions. Worst of all, the Minister of Public Safety made full claim about moving Bill C-59 to committee before second reading to:
I would inform the House that, in the interests of transparency, we will be referring this bill to committee before second reading, which will allow for a broader scope of discussion and consideration and possible amendment of the bill in the committee when that deliberation begins.
When it came time to consider reasonable, bold or small amendments, the Liberals on that committee fought against everything to ensure the bill did not change at all its scope or scale. The results will place the security of Canadians at greater risk and for those who actually work in national security, more people will be looking over their shoulders, tougher rules, more paperwork and few, if any, benefits, as front-line efforts to protect Canadians only become more difficult.
Now, under Bill , we see the same old story. The made bold claims that she would be helping address the backlog of cases created when the Supreme Court imposed a maximum time frame for them. Some of her claims included that this legislation would improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. She said that it would strengthen response to domestic violence. It would streamline bail hearings. It would provide more tools for judges. It would improve jury selection. It would free up court resources by reclassifying serious offences.
That sound fantastic. What a great bill. Streamlining the courts, strengthening the justice system, domestic violence, improving tools for judges, improving jury selection? Incredible. Sadly, the Liberals are not achieving any of these objectives according to the legal community or any of the knowledgeable leaders in the House.
Does it shorten trials and ensure that we deal with the backlog? The minister appears to make the claim that it will with the elimination of most preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearings, according to the legal community, account for just 3% of all court time. Therefore, with an overloaded court system, eliminating a huge number of these hearings will only have a minimal impact at best. Preliminary hearings often weed out the weakest cases, which means more cases will go to trial, thus increasing the court backlogs under the current legislation. What can also happen with preliminary hearings is that they create opportunity for the defence to recognize the need to seek early resolution without a trial.
Moreover, preliminary hearings can deal with issues up front and make trials more focused. Instead, under this new legislation, many cases would be longer with added procedural and legal arguments.
One member of the legal community called the bill “a solution to a problem that didn't exist”. High praise for this legislation indeed.
It is the changes to serious criminal offences that have many Canadians, not just the legal community, concerned. All members of the House could agree, or at least accept, that not all Criminal Code issues need to be treated in the same manner. Serious offences like homicide and minor offences like vandalism or property damage do not meet the same threshold for punishment. We can all agree with that.
Canadians expect that Ottawa, that government will create safe communities and that the law benefits all people, not slanted in favour of criminals.
Under Bill , the Liberals have provided the option to proceed with a large number of violent offences by way of summary conviction rather than an indictable offence. This means that violent criminals may receive no more than the proposed 12 months in jail or a fine for their crimes, a slap on the wrist for things like impaired driving causing bodily harm, obstructing justice, assault with a weapon, forced marriages, abduction, participation in a criminal organization and human trafficking. There are many more, but it bears taking the time to look at these in particular. These are serious offences. Allowing these criminals back on the street, with little to no deterrents, makes even less sense. These serious criminal issues should have the full force and effect of the law.
None of these scenarios, victims or society are better served when those responsible for these offences serve only minimal jail sentences or receive fines.
The principle is that Canadians expect that their government and the courts will be there to ensure that criminals receive due punishment for their crimes and that law-abiding Canadians and those who have been victimized by these criminals are treated fairly and with respect. In short, the bill undermines the confidence of Canadians in our criminal justice system and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to ensure safe communities. As my colleagues have clearly pointed out already, there are other solutions, better solutions in fact. The minister could address the backlog with more judicial appointments, as an example.
As the former minister of justice said, there was never a shortage of qualified candidates in his six years as minister of justice. Therefore, it is not a failure of the judiciary. It is not that there are too many preliminary hearings. It is not that there are way more criminals, because crime rates overall have been declining. The problem resides almost entirely with the minister getting more people on the bench and in prosecution services.
As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House. It should be above politics so the safety and security of Canadians are put ahead of political fortunes. While the Liberals have said that public safety is a priority, they have said that everything is their “top priority”. To have 300 top priorities, means they have no priorities at all.
Canadians expect that the government will make them its priority. Sadly, the bill fails the test to keep Canadians safe and deliver effective government. The legal community has said that the bill is deeply flawed and will hurt the legal system rather than help it. Police services will likely see themselves arresting the same people over and over again, even more so than they do today, as criminals get lighter sentences or fines. Therefore, the backlog will move from the courts to the policing community, back to the courts and then back to the policing community. How does that help the average Canadian?
Canada has been weakened by the Liberal government. Its wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding guns owners, its lack of leadership on illegal border crossers and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a disadvantage, weaken our public safety and national security and place undue strain on families and communities.
Canadians deserve better. In 2019, I suspect we will get a better justice minister, a better justice bill and a better government.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to get up and speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
My particular interest is the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I spent 25 years working with the Criminal Justice Act in British Columbia, starting out as a youth probation officer working on the streets of Surrey, riding with RCMP officers and responding to calls, particularly on youth violence and domestic violence. I was also a foster parent for a number of youths who had been in conflict with the law. Most importantly, I was the warden of our largest youth jail in British Columbia for 10 years where I worked with youth who were on overnight arrest, remand and longer-term sentences, including a number of very serious offenders. While having that experience, I also went back to university to get a Ph.D. and was appointed an adjunct professor in criminology at Simon Fraser University. It is a position I hold today, and it has allowed me to look at these concerns and issues facing us from a conceptual framework as well as from a practical experiential model.
On the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we have been very good in Canada in being able to reduce the number of youth coming into custody. Our numbers 25 years ago were substantially higher on a per capita basis, but the development of a number of alternative measures has made our system much more responsive to the nuances and needs of young children and youth in particular.
Some good research has been in place over the past 15 to 20 years, particularly the Cracow study, which was originally funded by NATO and has been standardized in Germany as well as British Columbia. It is a longitudinal study looking at the issues that become prevalent when youth come into conflict with the law and the challenges responding to that. As a result of this longitudinal study that has been tracking youths for up to 15 years now, we are much better informed in terms of the actions we should be taking in dealing with them.
There are five profiles or pathways that have become evident in this research that inform the way we should be responding to the needs and nuances of youth. In some instances, we are able to look at and make some relatively accurate predictions with respect to the propensity of a youth to come in conflict with the law, even pre-conception.
There are environmental influences, such as the presence of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, which are overwhelming in terms of the number of youth who come into conflict with the law.
There are a number of neurological and developmental disorders which are precursors, such as ADHD/ADD and fetal alcohol syndrome, and in certain communities these conditions are epidemic. They have been particularly evident within a number of our indigenous communities.
Certainly domestic violence has a strong link as well, and there is alcohol and drug addiction. There are a number of samples in the jail that I was responsible for, but up to 90% of youths coming into custody had been using hard drugs.
There are personality disorders, aggressive disorders, dependency disorders, anti-social personalities, psychopathy. These types of disorders are also very prevalent. In fact, where we were finding youths getting into conflict with the law in their early teens, it is becoming younger and younger. We are finding now that some parents are taking their two-year-old children to children's hospitals saying they cannot control them anymore. When that happens, because of the medical model, we tend to mask it with the utilization of drugs and manage it in that fashion, but later on in life it manifests itself as they come away from the drugs in all kinds of deleterious and negative behaviours.
Also, many youth come from high needs, such as single-parent homes, high economic need, domestic violence, family and child abuse, and 60% to 70% come out of foster care.
Therefore, the proposed legislation we are talking about in terms of addressing the needs through the Youth Criminal Justice Act looks at how we can provide more community-based responses. We can look at alternative measures so that there are more choices provided to the courts and the Crown counsel when youth come before the courts. Certainly, every bit of the modern research being done tells us that we can have a far more profound impact by ensuring that we create alternatives that are responsive to the diagnosis and the needs. However, we have not reached the level we need to in order to ensure that we respond to that.
I think that probably a hundred years from now, people will look back and say that everything was a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. People will look at us the way we now look at the fact that in the past people were burned at the stake or stoned to death and they thought that that was a good response to things.
I think that as we become more responsive to changing our legislation, we will have more creative responses, instead of just saying that we are going to lock people up or put them in solitary confinement and those types of initiatives, which obviously are not working terribly well. I am delighted that we are providing more options within that framework, that we are giving the courts other options and that we are giving communities the chance to respond to the nuances and needs of youth as they come before the court system.
Obviously, we have to maintain safety and ensure that our communities are safe. There are some youths who are identified as being psychopathic and have behavioural issues that we cannot manage adequately without having some type of confinement. That is an important element of the approach that we take. We want to reduce incarceration for those people who are not representing risk to the well-being of our citizens.
That is an important part of the way that these modifications to the Youth Criminal Justice Act are leading us. They are leading us in a very progressive way. In many ways, Canada has been a leader in looking at different models. There was a suggestion and a movement in the 1980s toward total de-incarceration and total community-based response. Massachusetts led that.
There were a number of de-institutionalized models that happened in different pockets of Canada and they were not successful. They were not successful because they were not recognizing and identifying those youths who did constitute a risk to the community at large. Fortunately, this act allows us to hold onto that while developing the other parts of our system that have been shown to be so positive and that research is now supporting in a positive and meaningful way.
Having the public more actively engaged in alternative measures has been an important part of that type of resolution. We have seen the development of a myriad of community-based models for responding to the types of needs that these youths present. Certainly, this act provides again the opportunity for both the Crown counsel and police to screen out at different points those who are at lower risk and do not constitute a need to be put into state custody to do that.
By modernizing and streamlining our system, we are responding more adequately and appropriately to the nuances and needs of our communities at large and, importantly, to the nuances and needs of those youth who are in conflict with the law. We are finding ways to respond to the research, allowing us to provide the services that they need to become actively and positively engaged in our system and in our society.
We have seen many successes of youths who were dramatically at risk committing horrendous offences who are now very positive role models who have changed dramatically. Talking to those youths about their experiences and what they have been through, it is very revealing in terms of supporting what has happened and in terms of the research we are seeing. Their experiences are saying when they made those connections with people who are meaningful and had that relationship with them, structured it for them and held them in a place of support, that they then started to see and become connected with people in a meaningful way.
This legislation allows us a great capacity to do that. It allows us the opportunity to ensure that we provide that support while maintaining the security and safety that we need for our communities, while at the same time providing an empathetic, caring community and society that does respond to those needs.
Therefore, I am delighted to support Bill with the actions that it takes to ensure that we do have a safe, more compassionate and caring society, which I think is something that we all espouse.
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, in the heart of the beautiful upper Ottawa Valley, I appreciate this limited opportunity to contribute to this truncated debate on a piece of legislation that is important to my constituents.
I begin my comments by sharing some thoughts from a group called Because Wilno, and why it reiterates the word “because”. They state:
Because on September 22, 2015, Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam were killed in their homes near Wilno, Ontario.
Because they were killed by a man they knew, who had a history of domestic violence known to police for over three decades.
Because even after violence is reported, people slip through the cracks in the system.
Because advocates have been calling for these cracks to be addressed, for decades.
Because dealing with violence is particularly challenging in our rural communities.
Because coercion and control of women is a spectrum that can begin with words and escalate towards lethal violence including multiple killings.
Because the culture of society, policing and courts needs to be better.
Because women continue to be killed in Canada, at a rate of 1 every 6 days.
Because we couldn’t just sit around doing nothing.
Because we think you can help.
I thank Holly Campbell, who organized the group Because Wilno.
Violence against women is not new. While I would like to believe, coming from a predominantly rural riding like mine in eastern Ontario, that violence against women is a city problem, we know that is not the case. Violence against women continues to be a fact of life in Canada, and in a predominantly rural riding like Renfrew County, Carol Culleton, Nathalie Warmerdam and Anastasia Kuzyk were killed on September 22, 2015. Their killer was known to all of the women and to police as having a long history of violence spanning more than three decades. While the accused had previously been ordered by court to attend counselling for abusers, he never went. He had been released from prison shortly before the murders. The system failed these women. On average in Canada one woman is killed by her partner every six days. The man arrested and accused of their murders had a long criminal history, including charges involving two of the three women.
Holly Campbell, who organized the group Because Wilno, issued this statement to legislators like us:
For too long, Canadians have looked away from violence in our homes that predominantly harms women and children in every neighbourhood, district, municipal ward and constituency of this country.
Like Holly, I am not prepared to let Carol, Nathalie, Anastasia and all the other women who have been victims of violence die in vain. The memory of their senseless deaths is too fresh not to be moved to action. I support the proposal in Bill that would increase the maximum term of imprisonment for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence and provide that abuse of an intimate partner be an aggravating factor on sentencing, as well as provide for more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.
The Conservative Party believes, as do I, that the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government. We will always work to strengthen the Canadian criminal justice system, rather than weaken it. The Conservatives understand that a strong criminal justice system must always put the rights of victims and communities before special treatment of perpetrators of violent crimes.
My question for the government is this. Does Bill , in its other 300 pages, meet the expectations of Canadians? The fact that the current government has decided to move forward with precisely the omnibus legislative format it condemned so vociferously in opposition suggests to my constituents and to all Canadians that the contents of Bill are being rushed forward as an omnibus bill precisely because these contents are out of touch with the concerns of average Canadians.