The House resumed from October 7 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, the bulk of my remarks were shared yesterday when I spoke about the importance of Bill , a bill which would introduce mandatory training with respect to sexual assault for people becoming judges, and also require them to provide written arguments in those cases. I will not repeat all of those arguments. I wanted to spend my remaining time today responding to some of the things that other members have said over the course of this debate.
Maybe I will remake one specific point that I made yesterday, which I think is important. When it comes to mandating training, we need to appreciate the benefits that come with training but also the limitations that come with training, such as training not replacing the importance of developing character and empathy. As C. S. Lewis once said, and I quoted him yesterday, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Therefore, we recognize the value in terms of education and training but also, at the same time, the importance of doing more.
The bill is particularly timely now. I was just reading a great column in the National Post by a friend of mine, Kathryn Marshall, who spoke about how there has really been an increase, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, of instances of domestic violence. While other instances of violent crime have been declining, we have seen an increase in reported instances of sexual and domestic violence, and it really calls on us to respond.
Unfortunately, in the course of this debate, most of what we have heard from the Liberal side is not arguments about the issue or the bill. They are more interested in debating the debate. They are advancing the argument that we really should not be talking about this, and that, given there is a general consensus on moving the bill forward, we should just let debate collapse and have as limited a discussion as possible.
I wanted to make five specific points in response to that rather bad argument from the Liberal side.
First of all, I think it is important to point out that the government controls the scheduling of debate. It is up to the government whether the bill is a priority, and we think it should be a priority. It is up to the Liberals to schedule the debate to occur as urgently as possible. They could have scheduled this debate on Monday or Tuesday of this week. They had earlier opportunities to schedule the debate. They chose to wait until Wednesday to schedule the first day of debate.
We want to see the bill moved forward, but it is up to the government, which controls the vast majority of the structure, to schedule the debate in a way that allows the bill to move forward while still giving members the opportunity to speak to it.
A second point that I think we need to underline is that the debate is important. Points could come to light about this issue through the debate that would maybe identify ways in which we could refine and strengthen the bill, as well as other areas that require our action. We have talked, for example, about the way in which young boys seeing violent sexual images online can contribute to sexualization and an increase in rape culture, and the need for the government to move on meaningful age verification. That is another issue that comes out of the debate and demonstrates why this debate is important.
The third point I want to make is that, unfortunately, because of the government's allergy to committee work, it has not yet struck the committee that would be studying the bill. Despite our efforts to have committees struck right away, the government put in place mechanisms to delay the striking of committees. The justice committee has not even met yet. Frankly, by having more debate and more discussion in this place, the bill is not in any way being slowed down, because what is required for the bill to move forward is the justice committee to be struck. That committee, thanks to the government not wanting committees to be struck early, is not yet meeting.
Fourth, I just wanted to observe that the current government shut down Parliament. It prorogued Parliament, which created the necessity for the bill to be started all over again. There were many issues we could have been debating in the summer. Of course, we could have been having the studies of the We scandal, the study of the public safety committee on systemic racism, as well as this bill continuing to be discussed and moved forward, but the Liberals made the choice to shut down the debate on this.
Finally, recognizing the urgency of action, I would call on the government, before this legislation is passed, to act by policy. The Liberals could put in place a policy whereby they would say that they will not appoint people who have not been through this training. In other words, as important as the bill is, many of the things that would be achieved through the bill can also be done in the short term by policy. As far as I know, the government has not enacted the policy to do that yet.
Recognizing these points, I think the government's desire to debate the debate, as opposed to actually talking about the issue, is missing the mark. I think this is a good opportunity for us to be talking about an important issue. We want to see the bill move forward, but this requires the government to take some action in terms of allowing the justice committee to be struck, not proroguing Parliament and scheduling when the debate would occur. All of those things would allow us to move forward with this issue and move the bill forward more quickly.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to contribute to today's second reading debate of Bill , an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, which aims at ensuring all newly appointed provincial superior court judges participate in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context.
It would further require the Canadian Judicial Council to report the participation of all sitting superior court judges in sexual assault law education. Finally, the bill would also require judges to provide reasons, in writing or on the record, for decisions in sexual assault matters.
I would like to focus my remarks today on the challenges the criminal justice system is facing in responding to sexual assault in Canada. Further, I would like to discuss how Bill aims to address these issues by building on recent measures our government has undertaken.
Sexual assault is a gendered crime. Women are almost four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than men. Statistics Canada has reported that 30% of women in Canada, compared with 8% of men, have been sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15. That is 4.7 million women and 1.2 million men who have been victims of sexual assault.
It is estimated that only 5% of sexual assaults are reported to police. In 2017, only 32% of sexual assault charges proceeded to trial and only 41% of those resulted in a conviction. In other words, less than 2% of sexual assaults in Canada resulted in a conviction in 2017. I would like to note that the number is likely much lower.
In 2018, it was estimated that only 35% of reported sexual assault cases resulted in charges being laid. If we apply this number to the 2017 data, the result is that only 0.23% of sexual assaults in Canada result in a conviction. The data paints a bleak picture and illustrates the challenges our criminal justice system is facing in responding to sexual assaults.
In recent years, this government has made important changes to sexual assault law. These reforms were aimed at enhancing the equality, privacy and security rights of complainants by countering the myths and stereotypes that have persisted in our criminal justice system, while also balancing the rights of the accused in a manner consistent with relevant Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence. These myths include deeply rooted beliefs of how so-called real victims react to sexual assault and myths concerning the reliability of women's testimony when they make sexual assault complaints.
In June 2017, our government launched its action plan to combat gender-based violence. The plan is called “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence”. It is a coordinated, multisectoral strategy based on the three pillars of prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems. The government has invested substantial sums to support the implementation of this government-wide initiative, which aims to combat gender-based violence, coordinate existing programs and lay the foundation for a broader package of measures.
Additionally, through former Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, which received royal assent in 2018, we amended the Criminal Code to clarify and strengthen Canada's sexual assault laws.
For instance, these reforms clarified that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting to sexual activity; an accused cannot rely on the defence of mistaken belief in consent if there is no evidence that the complainant voluntarily and affirmatively expressed consent; sexual history evidence must never be adduced to infer one the twin myths, namely, that the complainant is more likely to have consented or is less worthy of belief based on the sexual nature of that evidence; and the admissibility of the complainant's private records that are in the possession of the accused, such as counselling records or private journals, is determined through a special procedure similar to what applies to the admissibility of sexual history evidence and the production of third party records.
In addition, our government has funded the creation of pilot programs in various provinces to provide independent legal advice, and in some cases, legal representation to survivors of sexual assault. The provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario, as well as Yukon Territory, have reported that these programs have been beneficial to survivors of sexual assault. Our government has also provided funding to the National Judicial Institute to develop judicial education on gender-based violence, including sexual assault.
Finally, through former Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which received royal assent in June 2019, we restricted the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences punishable by 14 years or more imprisonment. This means that preliminary inquiries are no longer available for many sexual assault offences so that many complainants will not have to testify twice, once at the preliminary inquiry and again at trial. We know that testifying in court is often a harrowing experience because it requires victims to relive the trauma they have experienced.
As such, the criminal justice system has become more compassionate to survivors of sexual assault. Although we have made significant progress in recent years, we must continue our efforts to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with respect and dignity in their interactions with the criminal justice system. It is imperative that judges have the necessary training regarding the complex nature of sexual assault law and the myths that too often surround it. Bill aims to ensure that decisions in sexual assault matters are not influenced by myths and stereotypes about sexual assault victims and how they have behaved, which the Supreme Court of Canada has found distorts the truth-seeking function of the court.
Through this bill, we hope to enhance the confidence of the public and survivors in the handling of sexual assault matters by our criminal justice system. This is why the bill would require all candidates seeking appointment to a provincial superior court to agree to participate in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context, and to require judges to provide reasons in writing or on the record for decisions in sexual assault matters.
The proposal in Bill to require candidates to commit to continuing education after appointment would ensure that newly appointed provincial superior court judges fully understand the complex nature of sexual assault law. It would also require that the training created by the Canadian Judicial Council be developed in consultation with survivors of sexual assault, their support groups, and other individuals or groups the council considers appropriate.
The bill also provides for the introduction of a requirement that the Canadian Judicial Council report on the participation of all current superior court judges in sexual assault law education. This measure would increase accountability for sexual assault law education and act as an incentive to encourage the participation of current superior court judges in sexual assault law education.
Bill 's specific proposal to require judges to provide reasons in a determination of sexual assault matters would be included in part VIII of the Criminal Code with other sexual assault provisions to ensure that provisions relating to sexual offences are clear and accessible to those applying them. Essentially, this will create almost a mini sexual assault code within the Criminal Code and will help to prevent the misapplication of sexual assault law. Further, it would help improve the transparency of sexual assault decisions because recorded and written decisions can be reviewed.
Improving the handling of sexual assault cases in our criminal justice system goes beyond partisan politics. This bill, originally a private member's bill introduced by the hon. Rona Ambrose, the former interim leader of the Conservative Party, will help to increase the confidence of sexual assault survivors and the public in our criminal justice system. We must work together to transform the criminal justice system into a fair, more effective, accessible and efficient system for all Canadians. I urge members of the House to support the passage of this bill.
Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation. I hope that in this Parliament it will not be blocked again in the Senate and that we can finally implement this important legislation.
Bill is important. It would ensure that provincial superior court justices would be trained in sexual assault law and in practice with respect to getting rid of the myths that exist in our society around sexual assault, particularly with women. However, this certainly impacts men and the LGBTQ2I community. It would ensure that our legal systems are safe places for victims to share their experiences, that predators are held accountable and that in the future victimization of people can be avoided.
I have been listening to this debate and a number of members have spoken about the statistics. I think most members in the House do so because the statistics are pretty stark. When 30% of women and 8% of men have been sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15, what kind of society do we live in when this is okay?
When we compare that to the conviction rate of something like 2%, how can we allow women, boys and others in our society to be assaulted from the time they are 15? If this were any other crime, there would be mass outrage in the country about how this was even possible. I suspect the conviction rate is even lower, because sexual assaults and sexually based assaults are so under-reported in this country and around the world, mainly because of the low conviction rates and because of the re-victimization of victims in the justice system and having to defend that they are not at fault for what happened to them. I would argue that these statistics do not paint the full picture.
As a young woman, I certainly know too many stories of other women being victimized and how often that is ignored or accepted. It is not worth it for them to share their stories, bring their family into it and have others hear about what happened to them. The shame is put on victims instead of on the assailants, where it should be.
In addition to why this training is important and why the conviction rates need to be dramatically increased, I want to share some of the comments that justices in Canada, as well as in the U.S., have made in sexual assault cases and why training and getting rid of the myths need to happen as quickly as possible.
Here are some quotes from justices about victims in cases that they were supposed to be adjudicating: “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened”; the victim “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be”; “Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?”; the victim was “probably as much in control of the situation“ as the assailant; the body can “shut the whole thing down”; and “It's open season” for intoxicated “women”.
These myths continue to victimize women, continue to keep sexual assault of all genders in the shadows and, more dangerous, continue to allow perpetrators to victimize more people and place fear in those whom they have already victimized.
Human trafficking is a huge issue in this country and around the world. I have often heard from survivors and about their experiences. When the process has gone to court, there has been very little protections with respect to being re-victimized. They have been questioned as to why they are there or how they got into the situation. The defendants in a lot of these cases are still able to contact these victims and pressure them. Therefore, many do not bother moving forward because they have to relive their stories, the assault and the trauma they have gone through in a public way and the re-victimizing.
This bill also talks about making changes to the court process. This was brought up in the earlier question and answer period of this debate, and I am very pleased about that.
It is also important that part of the bill relates not only to the training, but also to the written decisions that will be on the record. There needs to be some public naming and shaming of decisions that have been based on old stereotypes and myths to ensure we have a judicial process that protects victims, not puts them on trial. When it comes to sexual assault, we have seen this far too often.
A big myth in sexual assault cases is the notion of who the real victim is. There are very few other areas of law or criminality where the victim is questioned like in the quotes I read earlier, such as why she was there, or why she drank too much, or why she just could not stop it or she should not have been out so late. It is not a crime for women to wear what they want or be where they want to be. It is as if women have to protect themselves from sexual assault when they need to be protected from predators.
Victims need to be protected from sexual assault. This should be a basic principle in our country and our judiciary should respect that, understand that and should not put the lives of sexual assault victims on trial. Only those who have been accused should be put on trial. They have every right to put up a defence if they have been wrongly accused, but it is not the victims who should have to prove they did not deserve the sexual assault or “had it coming”, which is often attributed to sexual assault victims.
With Bill , as my colleague also brought up in the last round of debate, some of the important changes to amend the Criminal Code have been spoken about in the House, but it is really important to raise such things as an unconscious person being incapable of consenting to sexual activity. This might seem like a basic legal principle. We would not have a valid contract if it had been signed by an unconscious person, yet there was a time in our country where an individual could agree or give consent to sexual activity.
Therefore, it is incredibly important that other changes be made to criminal law as well. This is why continual training is so important, so judges can be kept up to date on our most current laws, that we can ensure that these myths and stereotypes are not repeated, that they are formalized in law, that victims can stop being re-victimized and that people feel safe to come forward, to speak out and to stand up against these predators to help stop further victims from being victimized.
I am very appreciative that the former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose brought forward a bill on this. I hope that after this second round of debate, we can pass it and have real and substantial change in our country.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking everyone for their great interventions in this conversation that we have had. It is more of an apt description to call it a conversation as opposed to a debate.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say it was great to hear the words of the parliamentary secretary. I would also like to recommit to him, as we did the first time we went through this, to work with the Province of Ontario to make sure we can have this be more effective, perhaps expanding it to our province, as well. I am looking to working with him and the provincial government to hopefully have it also include something like this in its legislature.
Bill is an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code. I believe that this bill is fundamentally a step in the right direction. The justice system is of course supposed to be a safe place for victims of sexual assault. However, as many have commented, as a member of the bar and as a member of the justice system, I have seen complainants revictimized by the system over and over again.
Sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not declining. Out of over 500,000 sexual assaults, only 3% are reported to the police. While one in three women and one in eight men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, the majority of sexual assault crimes are not reported to police. In fact, of all the types of crime, sexual assault is the least reported to police. While the rate of self-reported sexual assaults has remained relatively stable, the percentage of offences reported to police has dropped from 12% in 2009 to 5% in 2014.
Why is it that victims of sexual assault just do not feel comfortable going to the justice system for support?
It is estimated, as some of my colleagues have commented, that fewer than 1% of sexual assault cases experienced by women lead to an offender being convicted. Believe it or not, this is even worse for vulnerable women in our society. Young women, women with disabilities, indigenous women, particularly those in the north and the territories, have a much more heightened risk of sexual assault.
To highlight this, to say that these are not just words, they are not just numbers, I would like to tell a story of the truth of a 12-year-old aboriginal girl who lived in Saskatchewan. This comes from Sexual Assault in Canada, edited by Elizabeth Sheehy. This young lady had a fight with her parents, as many teenagers have, and, as many teenagers have in the past, myself included, she went to blow off steam. She walked down the road. Unfortunately, she met up with three men who befriended her and gave her alcohol. Eventually, they got her intoxicated to the point of vomiting. At this point, they decided to hold her down and rape her. When they dropped her off at her friend's house, she was frantically crying and screaming.
Two of these three men were found not guilty, as the judge believed the testimony that they thought she was over 15 and had consented. This, despite the fact that she was 12, drunk, being held down and was vomiting at the time. One of the three men was convicted. He received a sentence of two years less a day, hardly having the book thrown at him.
To make it all worse, to make the trauma even worse for this young lady, the police officer, when questioned in court, said, of the intoxicated 12-year-old girl, “Well, she might have been the sexual aggressor.”
For this to go on in Canada is utterly and completely unacceptable. It is really incomprehensible that in this great country of Canada we have things like this going on. While I cannot begin to imagine what it is like for a victim of a sexual assault to have had this experience, I know there are many reasons why victims may not come forward. Victims might experience a range of psychological responses. They might feel grief, shame or denial, and these are reasons why they do not feel comfortable. To make it worse, they may not have faith in our criminal justice system.
It has been reported that women feel revictimized, over and over again. In the last 10 years, as some of my colleagues have mentioned, these are some of the statements from justices. One commented, “Well, why could she not just keep her knees together?” Another commented, “Why did the victim not scream?” One of the worst I have heard is, “Why did the victim not simply skew her pelvis to avoid penetration?”
I am paraphrasing because the actual language in these comments is unparliamentary. How anyone, particularly a justice, can think they are appropriate in a court of law is astonishing. Our government, our justice system and our society must do better.
According to the Canadian Women's Foundation, while 96% of Canadians believe all sexual activity should be consensual, only one in three Canadians actually understand the meaning of the word consent. We have to make sure judges are not part of that two out of three and they understand that unless there is a clear “yes”, it is a “no.” Coming forward and reporting assault to police is hard enough for women. We need to do everything we can to ensure victims of sexual assault are supported. The justice system is the last thing they should fear.
Women who have had the courage and perseverance to make it through years in the justice system, reliving their pain every step of the way, are often faced with yet another blow. The perpetrator, the one who has changed their lives forever and destroyed dreams, brought on addiction, poverty and a lifetime of mental illness, will be given an almost non-existent sentence.
According to StatsCan, from 2009 to 2014 only 21% of sexual assaults completed their court case within six years. Some 60% of those cases were pleaded down to a lesser offence, so the perpetrator avoids custody for the most part. For cases that made it to completion, approximately half, or 55%, will result in any time in prison for the perpetrator. Of the tiny percentage of sexual assault perpetrators who are actually sentenced, most will not receive a day in prison. What will they receive? Average probation for sexual assault is 730 days. A woman's life is destroyed and the price is a couple of years of checking in with one's parole officer. That is not good enough.
If there is anything we can do in the system for victims of sexual assault we should do it, and we should do it not tomorrow, not today, but yesterday. I will definitely be supporting this bill. In fact, I salute the government for bringing it forward and thank it for doing so. Perhaps by giving the judges the necessary training, we can avoid the outlandish comments in the future and give victims more confidence in our justice system so they know they will be treated with respect when they perform the act of bravery of confronting their perpetrator.
Fixing the criminal justice system is about helping our federal judges begin to understand the suffering of our victims and teaching our judges to be more compassionate toward victims. The bill is not simply about fixing our justice system, it is about making Canada a safer place for all women and children.
I am a son, a brother, a husband and a father. I worry about my loved ones. I worry about my five-year-old daughter. I find the history of our justice system appalling. We need to make Canada a safer place, a place where victims have faith in our justice system, where everyone knows the meaning of consent, where women can feel comfortable walking alone, walking with anyone and walking anywhere they want wearing whatever they want, knowing society will always be there to protect them.
Bill is a positive change, albeit a modest one, that will help Canada be a safer place for my daughter, my mother, my sisters and for all Canadians. I will be supporting it wholeheartedly.
Madam Speaker, it is my privilege and honour to rise in my place to add my voice to this very important debate. It has been five years since I was elected, and in those five years I have worked a lot on issues regarding the court system, its handling of sexual assault and human trafficking cases and how to get justice for victims.
This bill is a substantial departure for the Liberals, so I thank them for bringing it forward. Typically, when the Liberals try to fix the justice system, they reduce sentencing. That has been their road map. We saw that with Bill in the last Parliament. Their solution to fixing backlogs in the court system was to reduce sentencing, and they have been unwilling to take on the justice system and say they get things wrong. On this side of the House, we have been ready to say a certain decision was wrong or was not good enough, or we brought in mandatory minimum sentences to try to fix many of the outrageous deficiencies in the justice system.
This bill is a departure for the Liberals, so I welcome it. They are acknowledging that there is an issue in the court system, a lack of appreciation for victims in the court system. This bill goes some of the way to help that along and fix some of the problems.
I would like to step back a bit. Statistics have been brought up several times. I have been in the House of Commons all morning listening to the speeches, and the stats on sexual assault continue to be brought up. We should be working to have a society in which sexual assault does not happen. If sexual assault did not happen, we would not be talking about conviction rates and that kind of thing. We could have a law on the books for sexual assault and it would not happen, and, therefore, whether judges were educated on this issue would be a moot point because they would not be dealing with those cases.
That said, the rate of sexual assault across the country is going up dramatically, and in other areas of my work in this place I put forward some ideas on why that is. Motion No. 47 was passed in the last Parliament. It addressed misogynistic and sexually explicit material online and how that was impacting Canadian society. There was some good work done at the committee, but the government has failed to capitalize on the committee report, the voices of people who have been victimized and the voices of academics working in this area. They show us that we are in the greatest social experiment in human history, given online sexually explicit content and the education our youth get through that regarding their sexuality. I hope the government is going to be pursuing that. An initiative I have been working on is meaningful age verification, and I hope the government is looking at that too.
There is another part of the debate here today: While the Liberals have brought forward a bill, it is basically a rehash of a private members' bill from my side of the House, though I salute them for that. It is now a government bill, and they had the opportunity to bring forward a bill that contained a whole suite of things they could do to fix the issue of sexual assault in our country. Judge education is an important one, but it is a bit downstream from the issues.
The Bible says that the law will not save us, and that is the case here as well. The best laws in the country will not save us. The law always comes into effect after the fact. It allows us to bring perpetrators to justice, but before that, it does not save us. That is important to recognize.
We should be cultivating in humanity and in the citizens of our country a culture where sexual assault is unthinkable, where individuals hold each other accountable, where there is a large sense of community and where messing with one of us means messing with all of us. In doing so, there would be strong relationships within our society that could prevent this kind of thing from happening. I hope that we can get back to that, as it is more upstream from where this bill is at. That said, I will be supporting this bill, for sure.
Over the past five years, I have been working hard to end human trafficking and specifically the sex trafficking that happens across the world. This is a large and growing issue in our country. The average sex-trafficking case is happening within 10 blocks of where we live, so let us keep our eyes peeled. If we see something, there is a national hotline we can call. It primarily targets women and girls. In Canada, it is estimated that 50% of people caught up in human trafficking and sex trafficking are indigenous. This is to our shame, and we need to be working very hard on this as well.
One interesting thing has happened, particularly with Bill from the last Parliament, regarding conviction rates and convictions in human trafficking cases. One thing we brought in during the Parliament prior to my getting here, through a bill by the Bloc and the NDP that passed in 2013, was consecutive sentencing for human traffickers. The Liberals sat on this for three years and finally passed it into Bill C-75, but they removed the part about consecutive sentencing and made it concurrent sentencing.
There have been some egregious court decisions that have come out since, and I will give some examples.
Imani Nakpangi was a human trafficker who sold two girls in the Toronto area. He trafficked these girls for almost two years. He ended up being the first person in Canada convicted under our new human trafficking laws. In one case, he received a three-year sentence for trafficking a girl for over two years, but spent only 13 months in prison. This gentleman had made $350,000 selling the body of a young girl and he spent less time in prison being rehabilitated than he spent trafficking this girl.
There was the case of Michael Mark. He received a two-year sentence. He victimized a 17-year-old girl for over two years and spent only a week in prison after his conviction.
These are some egregious examples where the justice system has, in my opinion, made mistakes. These are things we need to work to correct. While I commend the government for this bill today, it seems to be at odds with other things the government has done, particularly Bill . We see the insignificant sentences that came from it.
We also see, over and over again, this place attempt to bring the judiciary to bear on these things by creating minimums, because we cannot let these guys out of jail after spending one week in prison for trafficking a girl for two years. We create a minimum for that, like a three-year or 10-year minimum sentence, but we see the courts strike those down, so there are, to some degree, some issues in the judiciary. This place has the ability, opportunity and mandate to direct that to some degree, so that is what we are doing.
I already talked about consecutive versus concurrent sentencing. It has been troublesome to get things going there. The bill from 2013 also had other tools for the police to use to help convict human traffickers, but the Liberals never brought that into force. They left it on the table for three years before they passed it in Bill , while taking out the consecutive sentencing.
There are serious crimes that are being perpetrated in this country, and we need to ensure that judges get things right.
Madam Speaker, we are here today to again debate the Judges Act and the Criminal Code.
Bill amends the Judges Act to restrict eligibility for judicial appointment to persons who undertake to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context. It also amends the Judges Act to require that the Canadian Judicial Council report on seminars dealing with matters related to sexual assault law. The purpose of these seminars is to ensure that this theme is addressed in the continuing education of judges. Finally, the bill amends the Criminal Code to require that judges provide reasons for decisions in sexual assault proceedings.
This bill would have been passed two months ago if not for the prorogation by the , which was totally useless given the empty throne speech and Prime Minister's address to the nation. This has delayed our work and obviously upended our schedule and parliamentary agenda. We have lost two months because the government wanted to flee Parliament and politics in general to avoid the ire of the opposition over yet another Liberal scandal. How cynical, some might say.
We were elected as legislators to provide solutions and make the changes expected and desired by Quebeckers. There needs to be more co-operation and less partisanship, less squabbling and more collaborating. That is what everyone says they want, but every day we often see that is not the case despite the good will of some.
Sexual assault trials resonate strongly with ordinary people. In fact, they obviously have a serious impact on the reputation and life of those involved and they also revictimize the survivors of sexual assault. Unfortunately, this type of trial sometimes gives rise to problematic interpretations of the law. It is in this spirit that the bill proposes that candidates seeking to be appointed as judges must agree to participate in ongoing training on matters related to sexual assault law and social context.
In almost all these cases, a judge must assess the credibility of the witnesses, the victim and the accused. The judge's assessment can be influenced by preconceived notions that do not stem from malice, but from their lived experience, perceptions and culture.
The topic of training is something I relate to. I was a school principal for more than 20 years, and this was a topic and a problem that I had to work on and deal with almost every day. We had to work hard to get past the mindset that once someone got a degree they had mastered the subject. Times have changed, obviously, and we have come a long way. We have paid the price in recent years for that whole period of time when there was no continuing education. Now, graduating from university means the beginning of continuing education, which continues right up until retirement, for any field you can imagine.
It is all well and good for a teacher in the school system to have gotten a good education, but young people change and the way they learn changes. Boys need a different kind of stimulation than girls do, the curriculum changes at lightning speed and evaluation systems also go through drastic changes. A teacher cannot teach the same way today that they taught five, 10 or 15 years ago.
It goes without saying that we need to adapt our approach to the current context. Nevertheless, many people think that changes to training often fail to keep pace with society's needs, and I completely agree.
Ongoing training is top priority in every sector. There is an old saying: Adapt or die. In this case, with this bill, we might say, “Adapt or lose your credibility”.
People in our riding who know that we are debating this bill tell us this is fundamental. It just makes sense. I am hearing the same thing in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles as other MPs are elsewhere. Constituents are asking us to move forward, to stop stalling and to pass this bill quickly.
Making sure that judges get adequate ongoing sexual assault training will enable them to dig into cases differently, to ask questions the right way and to better understand witnesses' reality. Let us not forget that witnesses must testify in front of their attackers. Training will undoubtedly improve their rulings too. This bill will also make rulings more consistent, give our judges more credibility, and, most importantly, boost our justice system's credibility with respect to victims of sexual assault.
I am the father of a beautiful and amazing grown-up 30-year-old daughter. I protected her, coddled her and taught her as best I could. However, I often felt like I had to fight to protect her against a rather macho world, a world of men who all too often tend to denigrate women. These old tendencies remain in our society. I tried to shelter my daughter from the mean-spirited influence of certain uniquely male perspectives, certain stereotypes, myths and prejudices. At the very least, I take comfort in the fact that my daughter did not have to go through the court system. That would have been very painful for both her and for me.
This bill is a step forward. It is a start, a beginning. It is high time we took action to restore women's confidence in the justice system. Obviously, any action we take must respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. Making sure that judges are informed, in touch with the evolution of our society and more understanding of complainants' circumstances can only have a positive impact on our Quebec society.
What we want is for judges to be more transparent and more accountable when rendering decisions in sexual assault cases. We want these decisions to be reasoned and justified.
That is why the Bloc Québécois will be pleased to vote in favour of this bill. We will vote in favour of victims, all victims. I encourage the House to pass this bill quickly as a sign of respect for all victims of sexual assault, whether they be male or female.
Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to talk about Bill , a bill that is going to make a small difference in what is really a larger system failure in dealing with sexual violence and sexual assault in Canada. It is certainly important. As members of Parliament we come to the House with very different experiences and exposures to violence or assault in our professional and personal lives. This really frames our understanding of the issue. It also is important in terms of the debate that is happening.
In reflecting about the bill today and about the broader issues, I went into my memory banks and thought about things that have happened throughout my life. I thought I would share some examples, first of all, to look at the larger systemic issues that are not addressed and then to look at the issue of the bill in particular.
I want to first talk about the emergency responses by our police officers. I can remember, as a young nurse with very limited experience, working in a small first nations community. One day I arrived at the little clinic office. Across the road from it was a baseball field. When I arrived at the clinic at about seven o'clock in the morning, there was a woman in the baseball field. She was completely nude and had a number of bruises. Obviously, she was a victim of a sexual assault and an assault in general. No one else was around so we covered her up. She was intoxicated. We called emergency services to transport her to something more than what we had available, and we also called the RCMP. I remember, again as someone who was young and new to this business, that they made it about her being drunk and “Who knows what happened?” They were very dismissive of that horrific crisis.
There was some work done by Robyn Doolittle in 2015 that was called “Unfounded”. What she said was that police would find the complaints as baseless and there would often be no investigation, so the example I just gave certainly fits into my initial experience. The numbers in 2015 were quite incredible, where 25,000 incidents were reported to the police with only 1,400 convictions. Clearly, we have an issue with the emergency response system.
The next experience I would like to share is my move from the small community to a larger health centre that had an emergency room and an emergency response. It was still rural. Typically there was a nurse and doctor who were available during that time. Nurses in rural communities have to respond to everything that comes through the door. It might be a three-person motor vehicle accident, the delivery of a baby or a victim of rape.
One night we were called in. There was a very shaken woman who indicated that she had been very violently sexually assaulted. We had to do an examination. If anyone is not aware of what those examinations are like, it is very, very intrusive in terms of taking swabs and plucking samples from the pubic area. It is very detailed and very intrusive. I had never used a rape kit before. I had never been trained in using a rape kit. We had to read the instructions. We tried to hopefully be compassionate and kind, but we certainly were not proficient in what we needed to do to put this case together.
I talked about the police response and now I am talking about the health care response in a rural community and the ability of nurses and doctors to have the expertise that is needed.
The next experience is not a professional one, but an experience within the judicial system. It is the only time I have ever been close to the court system in my entire life. I had never been in a court. I was a support system for two young girls who had been sexually assaulted, and my support role was to be in the courtroom to listen.
I remember the morning of the trial. This is going back in my memory, but this is what stands out. There was an overworked Crown counsel who went to these young girls and asked them if they could get hold of the witnesses from when the preliminary interviews were done and bring them to the court. I was stunned that the Crown counsel did not have the witnesses planned out in terms of the people who would corroborate the stories of these two young women. These two very young women gave compelling and heartbreaking testimony. There was no question in my mind that it was very real testimony. The person who was accused, his only response was that it did not happen. He denied it.
I looked at the bravery of these two girls who had decided to pursue this case in spite of all the challenges to get to that point. They had to hear the person they knew had done exactly what they said he had done deny it, and then the Crown counsel, without an appropriate case ready to present, talked about their bruises. It was absolutely awful. The result that came out of that particular court case was a finding of not guilty. The judge at that time said that, although the testimony of the girls was very compelling, they did not feel there was enough proof so they found the person not guilty.
That is the experience we have. We have system failures throughout. I talked about the rape kits. We did learn a little bit more over time, but I was never called to be a witness for the Crown in terms of the mental state or in terms of what happened. Other than the rape kits, the notes we kept were never brought into the court system when dealing with it. We have so many flaws, more than what are in this bill, that are still happening today. We still have so much to do.
As many people have indicated, this bill has a history. The history starts with the passion of our former leader, Rona Ambrose, who introduced it as a private member's bill. We all know it is very difficult for private member's bills to meet the finish line. There are many people in here who probably have never had an opportunity to even introduce a private member's bill. She did get it fairly far along the system, which took four years. As I said, there are very few private member's bills that make it to the finish line, and I know she was very delighted when the government decided to take up the bill, as it appears were most members in the House.
It speaks also to the process, which becomes important, because there were amendments that had been suggested to the private member's bill, which have now been incorporated into the version we see in front of us. We talk about this as maybe a simple bill that we could skip all the process with, and I know that two weeks ago we spent $50 billion without having a committee process. However, what it shows is that, even with the simplest of bills that seem like they should just receive unanimous consent and move through the process, Parliament is there for a reason. It is there to scrutinize. It is there to make things better. The fact that we have some process for these measures, and of course I still profoundly—
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak today on this very important topic: the introduction of Bill , which is an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act.
It is important that the Canadian public have confidence in our criminal justice system; therefore, it is critical that our courts and judges are perceived as being fair, objective and respectful of all parties: the accused, the complainant and all witnesses.
Canada's criminal justice system, as we know it today, builds on many centuries of common-law tradition and statutory law development dating back to the early days of England's history. It is a legal structure built around an adversarial system in which the Crown advances rigorous prosecution and the accused an equally rigorous defence.
The accused always has the benefit of the presumption of innocence and the Crown must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a very high standard of proof that the Crown needs to meet. Under the accepted rules of natural justice, the accused has the right to meet their accuser in court and to subject the accuser's evidence to a rigorous cross-examination, which often involves drawing that person's integrity into question and impugning their credibility.
If after that cross-examination the trier of facts, whether a judge or a jury, determines that the victim's evidence does not meet the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, the presumption of innocence survives right through the trial and the accused goes free. The Crown has to meet this very high standard and sometimes, despite the prosecution's best efforts, guilty people walk free and victims' reputations are left in tatters.
That is a risk associated with the criminal law system. As a society we have determined, rightly or wrongly, that this risk is better than the opposite: that innocent people could be convicted of crimes they did not commit. The result too often is that sexual assault victims are revictimized through the process and that, I submit, is not acceptable.
It is in this context that I want to address the topic of the day, the introduction of Bill . This bill, if approved, would require all federally appointed judges working in our criminal justice system to undergo continuing legal education in the form of sexual assault law and social context education. I agree with that, and I think that we all do after listening to the earlier speeches. It is important that the Canadian public have confidence that our courts and judges are fair, objective and respectful of all parties, including survivors of sexual assault.
For our criminal justice system to succeed in doing what it should do, convicting sexual assault criminals and keeping our streets, cities, workplaces and even our homes safe, victims need to be encouraged to step forward, but they will not if the courts are perceived as unfair, disrespectful and damaging to their dignity and reputation. As it stands, the vast majority of sexual assault cases go unreported because women and girls do not have the confidence that they will be treated fairly. That is not acceptable. That is not justice.
The preamble in the introduction of Bill states:
...sexual assault proceedings have a profound effect on the reputations and lives of the persons affected and present a high possibility of revictimizing survivors of sexual assault...
Sadly, that is true. What can Parliament do? Bill is a step in the right direction to rebalance the interests of the accused to a fair trial and of the complainant to respect and dignity.
As a Conservative, I am proud to say that this bill originated in our party under the initiative of our former party leader, Ms. Rona Ambrose. I would like to thank the Hon. Rona Ambrose for her work on this important file. Ms. Ambrose said:
...like me, many Canadians would be surprised to learn that a lawyer does not need any experience in the sensitivities of sexual assault cases to become a judge overseeing these types of challenging trials.
As a lawyer, I have to undergo continuing professional development every year in order to maintain my practice licence. I submit that the same rule should apply to judges, maybe even more so. Judges have such a big impact not only on the lives of those who appear before them, but on all of society. They are influencers of our society, so it is appropriate, I would submit, that judges understand the societal contexts within which they work and within which those who appear before them find themselves.
It has been suggested by some academics that by legislating judges to undergo such training and mandating them to give written reasons for their decisions, Parliament would be interfering with the judicial independence that is fundamental to our justice system. It has also been said that such training, which focuses on the needs of victims, would undermine the right of the accused to a fair trial, and that these rules would cause judges to apply a different standard in sexual assault trials than they would in other types of criminal proceedings, thus running the risk of more wrongful convictions. I disagree with that.
This bill, mandating ongoing continuing professional development for judges, would not take away judicial discretion from judges, nor would it undermine the accused's rights to the presumption of innocence. It would just assure that judges would have a better understanding of the societal context within which they work. Importantly, it would go a long way to ensuring that those victims brave enough to step forward and subject themselves to the rigour and intimidation of a courtroom setting would be treated fairly, and with respect and dignity.
I have confidence that our judiciary, in consultation with stakeholders' groups, would develop an effective and responsible continuing education program for judges, and that judges would respond favourably to that training. We need to make Canada a safer place, where women can enjoy the freedoms that men have. It is about safety, and it also about equality.
Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity in the House to thank and congratulate folks in Quebec and across Canada who are working on the front lines of this pandemic in hospitals and long-term care homes. I am talking about health care workers, nurses, doctors and orderlies. We are now in the midst of a ferocious and very complex second wave, and these people have not had a break since the first wave this summer. They were not even able to take vacation. That is not easy. I commend them and honour them for the essential work they are doing.
It is a huge honour for me to speak to this bill. I stand here humbly, hoping to make a modest contribution, to play a small part in making sure that our justice system treats everyone the same.
As I stand here, I am thinking of all the women I have known in my lifetime who experienced the trauma of sexual or other types of assault. I am thinking of all the women who even today hesitate to file a report because the process is too long, too gruelling, too overwhelming. I am thinking of the women who worry that they will have to relive their painful moments and trauma over and over again, retell their stories over and over, and find the words, words that can often hurt just as much as the actions. I am thinking of the women who know or believe that, at the end of the day, justice will not be served.
Obviously, I am also thinking of my 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. It is also important to me as a man. I believe this is a rather sensitive debate. There have been some good questions and considerations that have been touched on in recent days with regard to this matter. If my sex, my being a man, is part of the problem, then I hope that, as a parliamentarian, I can be part of the solution.
The statistics on sexual assault are shocking. Only 5% of women who are assaulted report it. That is shocking. According to the Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Quebec's association of sexual assault centres, believe it or not, only three of every 1,000 reports of sexual assault result in a conviction. Apparently, the vast majority of victims never report their assault, and the few who do never get justice. The justice system scares them.
Yesterday and today, my colleagues gave several examples of judges whose comments exposed their poor understanding of issues related to sexual assault and who have therefore done justice a disservice. Bill will fix that. I do not think it is a panacea or the definitive solution, but it is a big step in the right direction. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which everyone seems to agree on, so let's adopt it quickly and not let it drag on. It is a step in the right direction, but we need to do more.
I would like to invite this assembly to consider the social and cultural changes that are needed when it comes to sexual consent. We see that these changes are happening slowly in society. We have seen it in recent years, but I think we need to go even further.
Let us talk about rape culture. To make sure that we understand what that means, the United Nations defines rape culture as the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalized and justified, fuelled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality. Naming it is the first step to dismantling rape culture.
Rape culture exists in Quebec and Canada. Of course, we can agree that no one would publicly and voluntarily endorse sexual assault. However, by perpetuating myths surrounding sexual assault, some individuals often contribute, quite unconsciously, to trivializing sexual assault and invalidating victims' experiences. Rape culture and, more broadly, the trivialization of sexual assault are deeply rooted in our society.
How many men have learned from watching movies that kissing someone out of the blue is romantic? However, in many cases, that can constitute sexual assault. It is imprinted in our brains. These are behaviours that are difficult to change. Take, for example, the number of movies in which a suitor relentlessly pursues the woman of his dreams until she finally gives in and agrees to go out with him, even though she initially refused. It is presented as romantic and sweet.
An example of this is a film I am sure everyone is familiar with that grossed $100 million at the box office. The Notebook is a 2004 film starring Ryan Gosling. In it, his character forces his future wife to agree to a date with him after harassing her at a carnival and threatening to commit suicide if she does not give in to his blackmail. That is really something. It seems so cute and sweet: the girl sees the guy hanging off a merry-go-round, and he threatens to throw himself under it. He tells her that if she does not agree to go out with him, he will kill himself. The girl wants nothing to do with the guy, and in fact, she was there with her boyfriend, but she eventually gives in. Everyone loved the film, and it took in millions of dollars at the box office. Men and women saw that as romantic.
Rape culture is perpetuated by collective myths. It is also perpetuated by individual actions that reinforce prejudices and stereotypes. Certain comments and questions can unintentionally make victims feel worthless. Sometimes these comments can even come from the victim's own family or loved ones.
Think about what happens to victims of sexual assault when they report the crime to the police or someone else. They get asked why they did not leave, why they did not fight off their attacker, why they drank that night, and how they were dressed. Sometimes the victim's account is questioned because she had multiple partners, because that shows promiscuity, which is viewed negatively. All these questions and comments do harm.
We must not only understand rape culture, but also destroy it. Many collective and individual changes are needed. We must also denounce macho culture, where a man who gets rejected is humiliated and judged because he did not get what he was hoping for. We have to develop positive and healthy masculinity. It has to be okay for a man to be told no. It does not make him any less of a man or take anything away from his masculinity. No must always mean no. Being told no is not a signal to ask 50 more times in the hope of being told yes. Accepting no for an answer is not less manly.
Naturally, we must do more than just say no means no. Change is happening. In Quebec, for example, there is an interesting campaign called “Sans oui, c'est non!” or “If It's Not a Yes, It's a No!”. This campaign has helped raise awareness significantly on university campuses. I commend their contribution and their efforts.
More and more people understand that having sexual contact with a person who did not say no because they were unable to also counts as sexual assault. I am thinking in particular of TV host Julie Snyder. Last week, on her show, she responded to Gilbert Rozon, who had claimed that he had never slept with anyone who said no. Julie Snyder said that a person cannot say no if they are sleeping, and they cannot say no if they are not asked. That, too, contributes to rape culture.
More and more people understand that a timid, embarrassed or fearful no may not be a true yes and that it is vital to get true and enthusiastic consent. When in doubt, stop and check. It is very important that people understand this. We must destroy rape culture. This also means questioning our role as men and as individuals.
I do not have much time left, but I think my colleagues know where I was going with that.
This is a very important and worthwhile bill. It is a step in the right direction. The justice system can play a part, but as a society, and as men, we can all go a little further and start thinking about these issues. As someone rightly mentioned earlier, we are currently talking about training for judges already on the bench, but we also need to ensure that future judges will have taken the training beforehand.
If we knew that judicial candidates already had that training and that open-mindedness, we would be able to help move society forward.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill . The original legislation was first introduced in February 2017 as Bill by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the former leader of our party as well as the official opposition. I want to thank Ms. Ambrose for the passionate advocacy that she has taken on this important legislation.
I am also pleased to see that the legislation adopted by the Liberal government earlier this year was reintroduced again now as Bill . In 2017, it received unanimous support from the House of Commons and passed quickly to committee. I guess it should come as no surprise then that it would take over two years for it to move through the legislative process despite having all-party support and it would die on the floor of the Senate in June 2019. Despite finishing the legislative process at about the same time as 15-plus other bills that June, it was held back by the Liberal majority government from receiving Royal Assent. Why, people may ask? Some may suggest it is to play the same Liberal games that many Canadians despise and disapprove of, and that is so it can be renamed and called their own.
This is important legislation as it is a step forward toward actually improving our criminal justice system, something that the Liberal government has done little or nothing on for the last five years. This legislation is about ensuring trust is maintained in the justice system and that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the justice system when they do come forward. The bill requires that to be appointed a judge of a Superior Court, an individual must now commit to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars.
This would ensure that Superior Court judges are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to address sexual assault trials and ensure that survivors are treated with dignity and respect. It also provides training to not feed into the myths and stereotypes that often cause women to hesitate to come forward. Personally, I would have preferred that, in addition to the new appointments to the bench, all current judges sitting at every level of court that adjudicates sexual offences in this country be required to participate in continuing education on these matters as well, in the same way that this legislation proposes for new Superior Court appointments.
The bill would also require judges to provide reasons for decisions on sexual assault cases. This is good, as it will give more information to victims and improve transparency for the justice system and the public who watch it.
As a former police officer who has given testimony in a wide variety of criminal cases, including numerous sexual assault cases, I have the utmost respect for the significant challenge and burden placed on our judges. Every day they are tasked with appropriately applying the law to determine guilt or innocence as they adjudicate criminal cases. While Canadians enjoy the best justice system in the world, it is not without its flaws. Judges, after all, are human like all of us and are given the incredible responsibility of applying laws written by other humans, namely parliamentarians in the House. We know that sometimes those laws can also be flawed.
We put a great deal of authority and trust in our judges and so ensuring that people who take up this challenging post are properly equipped, we must ensure that they have the necessary training and knowledge to fulfill those responsibilities to the best of their ability and to the expectations of the Canadian public. This training would eliminate misconceptions, myths and stereotypes that often prevent victims of sexual assault, almost always women, from coming forward and pressing charges against their attackers. This is not a minor issue. The number of sexual assaults that occur in Canada and are never reported is staggering.
Statistics Canada reported that only 5% of women who are sexually assaulted come to the attention of police. I suspect that one of the many reasons is because of the women's lack of confidence in our justice system. Far too few of these crimes are reported, and of the 5% that are reported, only 21% have led to a court case. There are many factors in this, including what evidence might be available, how it might be prosecuted, witnesses who are available, any corroborating evidence, attitude of the justice participants, how judges approach the issue, and maybe many others.
Of the 21% that actually get to court, of the 5% who actually reported being assaulted, only 12% of those cases result in conviction. That is 12% of 21% of 5%. In other words, there is a better than 98% chance of not being convicted of sexually assaulting another person in this country. That is unacceptable. Finally, of all those convicted of sexual assault only 7% result in a prison term. These are terrible crimes and they have lasting, lifelong impacts. Getting a conviction on a sexual assault, let alone having someone sentenced, is far too rare. Most victims of crimes of violent sexual assault will usually prefer not to relive the experience over and over again in our courts, living through the trauma multiple times.
Like I said previously, I have investigated many sexual assault crimes. The heartbreaking experiences of victims are further exacerbated by our justice system. The victims feel they are not being believed. The intrusive nature of the evidence-collection process; retelling their experiences, over and over again; sometimes limited victim supports; and lack of convictions reduce the victims' willingness to come forward. If the assailants are convicted, many victims do not feel that the sentence that is given out fits what happened to them.
This bill is the kind of thing that governments should be doing: working to improve our justice system, working to support victims with better services and working so that criminals who assault others are held accountable and put in jail. Support for victims has been sorely lacking in the last few years. There has been lots of support for criminals, including reduced sentences for some serious and violent crimes, but limited support for victims.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police noted in its brief to Parliament on Bill that for some criminals, if given reduced sentences, it would mean eliminating certain information being entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre system, including DNA. When the conviction is considered a secondary offence, it eliminates critical information that then limits the ability for police to track and catch that criminal if they commit other crimes. As the CACP put it, this would “have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.” I would add, “and on public safety”.
Canadians should not live in fear. Young women should not live in fear. Victims and their families should not be living in fear. They should have trust and confidence in our justice system. Victims and their rights should always be put ahead of the rights of criminals. Canada's Conservatives recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.
It is time that we end comments and attitudes like that of our , where he said that she “experienced it differently”. Those kinds of excuses allow sexual assaults and sexual harassment to be normalized. Calling it out is a duty of all of us. Acting to stop that kind of behaviour is a responsibility of this House.
My hope is that this bill will be the first step in improving the treatment of victims, increasing the conviction of sexual offenders, improving public safety, and developing the trust and confidence of Canadians in our justice system.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Bill . While important and something I was happy to support in the 42nd Parliament, I am afraid it is just a drop in the bucket in what we as a society must do to fight sexual violence against women.
Bill will, I hope, like its predecessors Bill and Bill , find unanimous support as this legislation is a rare product of bipartisan support.
I thank the for sponsoring this reintroduction of the bill that found its genesis in a private member's bill created by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, former member of Parliament for Sturgeon River—Parkland and also former leader of Canada's Conservatives and the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition.
This legislation is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system, that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the judicial system when they step forward. The bill, when passed, will require federal judges and those seeking the office to participate in continuing legal education with regard to sexual assault law. It also strives to combat the myths and stereotypes that often cause victims of sexual assault to hesitate to come forward.
Federal judges will also be required to provide written reasoning for their decisions in sexual assault cases in order to promote transparency in the reasons that lead to their decisions. The bill would require the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by it.
In my mind, to be truly effective, provincial court judges should be required to take this training. I encourage those provinces to take a serious look at the work that has been done by parliamentary committees and listen to the words spoken in the House with respect to this issue and to strongly consider passing complementary legislation in their respective jurisdictions.
It is a shame, though, we find ourselves in this place at this time where we must pass legislation to train arguably the highest educated group of individuals in the country on sexual assault awareness. Where we should be focusing our energy is educating the next generation of men and women to be advocates, especially men, for ending sexual violence and not perpetuating the myths and stereotypes that enable others to think it is acceptable.
Yesterday, the member for made one of the most impassioned and important speeches I have heard in this Parliament. Our colleague stood here and challenged men to stand up and be a voice for women and men who are victims of sexual violence. Far too often it is women who are forced to stand on their own and shout enough is enough.
Statistically, women constitute the overwhelming numbers of victims of sexual assaults. Adding to the personal trauma, they must often rely solely on their own strength to report these heinous crimes. As men, we have historically dismissed women's voices on these issues or left it to them to demand action. It is time for men to recognize their role in preventing sexual violence in all its forms. Let me be clear: It is not enough for a man to say, “Well, I would never do that so I've done my part.”
We need to do more. We all need to do more. We need to stand with those incredibly brave survivors who are taking a stand to end sexual violence, and not just for women. Men are victims of sexual assault as well and it needs to end for all victims. Men need to challenge the myths and stereotypes about how survivors of sexual assault are expected to behave.
As a father of a young boy, I have a responsibility to guide him in his journey to become a man. There are many things I must teach him, and for him to learn from me and I from him. However, in order for him to take his place as a productive member of society, I need to be that role model. I need to be putting forward the messages and encouraging him to be better.
One of the most fundamental things I need to impress upon him is to respect others. He needs to understand that men should not feel entitled to sexually harass people or perpetuate sexual violence, that every person has power over his or her own body and how to give and receive consent. He needs to understand that men and boys must never obtain power through violence and that the notion that sex is a right of his gender is false. Sexual violence ends when all of us understand the fundamental truth that no one is permitted to sexually harass or invade another individual's body or personal boundaries.
Girls and women are given advice about rape prevention, and we heard this from many members in this place in the ongoing debate today and the debate yesterday, such as not letting their drink out of sight, not wearing revealing outfits or high heels and not walking alone at night.
As a society, we must go beyond what girls can do to prevent being victims. We need to focus on the attitudes that boys have about women and their own masculinity. The next generation of men needs to promote mutual respect for women and embrace equality for all people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Working toward ending sexual violence is a constant collective effort and, as men, we all need to do our part.
While Bill C-5 is just a ripple, it is my sincere hope that it will eliminate victim blaming, an attitude that suggests a victim rather than a perpetrator bears responsibility for an assault, that victims' sobriety, or the clothes they were wearing or their sexuality become irrelevant in the courtroom. To end sexual violence, perpetrators must be held accountable. By trying sexual violence cases, we recognize these acts as crimes and send a strong message of zero tolerance.
Canada's Conservatives were proud to support Bill and Bill in previous Parliaments. We recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.
The Canadian bench must be held accountable and ensure that judges have the updated training that Canadians expect them to have. That is why we committed in the last election to ensure that all judicial appointees take sexual assault sensitivity training prior to taking the bench. We will always look for ways to stand up for survivors of sexual assault and ensure they are treated with dignity.
I would like to thank Rona Ambrose for being such a passionate advocate for victims of sexual assault and for her work on this very important file. This bill addresses the simple fact that victims going to trial should expect that judges are educated in the law, yet what it does not address is the absolute necessity that all of us, every single person has the same responsibility to be educated in what it means to be human and protect and respect the dignity of our fellow citizens.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill .
This was originally introduced as Bill in 2017 by Rona Ambrose, who was the leader of the Conservative Party at that time, and who has doggedly pursued it even though she is no longer in the House of Commons. We have to give her all the credit in the world for that, because this is a very important bill.
The bill comes to us for the third time, and that is a shame. The reason it is here again is because this government, which initially put it through the paces of the justice committee in the last Parliament, decided to end that Parliament without really good reason. I am not sure, when we end a Parliament, how we decide to keep the good things and throw out the bad things, but we throw out everything. There was a process here that we were going through, and this government decided to end that process on so many good things that had to happen with this country, and this is one of those bills. Now we are starting over, and that is a shame considering how important the legislation is.
As I said, I was on the justice committee in the last session. I am not on the justice committee anymore; however, we heard many good reasons for the bill before us from many interested parties that appeared before the committee. I will go through some of the wonderful organizations that presented us with compelling evidence on why we need to proceed with the legislation. We heard from the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and the Canadian Judicial Council.
These groups were almost unanimous. I am not somebody who buys into groupthink. I do not think that any of us are: we have to do our own analysis on what comes before us, but there was only one dissenting voice in that group of presenters about how important the legislation was for advancing the needs of women who had been through sexual assault hearings in front of our judiciary. That one dissenting voice was the Canadian Judicial Council, representing lawyers there, saying that it did not think that the government should put its hands in their business, because they had their own process and were smart enough to take care of their own laundry. However, I can tell members that, no, that is not true.
This is our only venue to actually have some influence on how we appoint judges, on what is important in their job and on how to get their job done. We know that, upon becoming judges, they no longer have the influence of Parliament. Having an independent judicial system is a separate part of our democracy, and we want and need to maintain that. Having a separate judiciary means that we have to have a good judiciary. To appoint judges through a certain process, when we have heard the evidence from all the statistics on what happens in sexual assault cases that come before the judiciary, is not something that can keep going on. Imposing an actual education system for the people we are appointing to the bench is our main instrument to try to influence them in how they view victims when they come before them to give testimony. That is what our role here is. With the legislation before us, we need to make sure that the people we are appointing are well educated on what they have to do, that they understand the needs of the victims and that they consider their rights as well.
I appreciate the legal system as much as anybody else. I am not trained in legalities, but in my previous employment I had many dealings with the legal system. Seeing the legal system work, almost like Parliament here, is like watching sausages getting made: It is never pretty. Sometimes, when one goes through the legal system, one recognizes that what is happening is not perfect. It might be one of the best systems in the world, as far as judicial hearings go, but at the same time there are faulty outcomes, and when we look at some decisions judges have made, we sit back and scratch our heads, wondering how on earth that person made that decision given everything they had heard in a hearing.
That is troubling to a rational person. Nevertheless, it is reality. We are all human. In the House of Commons we are all human and not supposed to be perfect. Judges are the same. We appoint judges. We do not expect them to be perfect, but expect them to do the best job they can with the information that is presented to them. Hopefully, we have the best outcome for society at the end of the day. The statistics we have heard clearly show that we are not getting the best outcome for society with what is going on now, so change is important. That is why we are here. We are here to make sure that the changes we impose on the appointment of judges happen very well.
The justice committee was one thing, but let me tell colleagues about the hearings themselves. We heard about women who were not represented. In those cases they went before the judges and felt belittled in the process.
This bill would bring about an important change for society: to make sure that victims of crimes have the ability to be heard effectively. Justice needs to be understood by the public for it to be an enforceable system. If we do not have a system that is open to everyone who feels that they are a victim of a crime, if people feel marginalized and like they should not come forward to present a crime to society, then we have failed as a society. Again, that is our job here: to make sure that we build on that going forward and get this better in the next iteration.
Shutting down Parliament obviously had the effect of stopping the process that we are now starting again. How long is it going to take before we actually get some legislation that matters to Canadians?
We all know there will be small advances. There has been so much going on here, yet much has been thrown out, like the baby with the bath water, as we have gone through this. It is the result of the government having no regard for what we are doing here as far as process goes.
Process means examining legislation and making sure that we get it right, as much as possible. Getting it right means putting the right bills in front of us and getting those bills heard through a process that has been developed over years and years. Then we get to analyze what is right or wrong with it, hear the expert opinions and come to a conclusion about the best path forward. That is not here right now. By shutting Parliament down in the middle of the pandemic, the government effectively said it does not respect this process and that it wants its own process without dealing with others. Therefore, we have to make sure that it is held to account.
I am dismayed that this is before us again. I wish this was not here. I wish it had already received its third reading from the House and been over to the other house and debated there, so that we could move it to royal assent once and for all. It has been held up too many times and prorogued and left to die on the Order Paper with Parliament being closed.
Can we finally get some work done and get Parliament working again?
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to Bill .
To begin with, I want to thank the government for reintroducing this important piece of legislation in this new session of the 43rd Parliament. Members will recall that the original architect of this bill, when it was presented as a private member's bill, Bill , was the former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose. I want to thank her for her tireless efforts to support and protect survivors of sexual assault.
In short, this bill proposes to require judges to participate in continuing legal education with respect to sexual assault law. It requires the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery of and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by it. It requires judges to provide reasons for decisions in sexual assault cases.
That is what the bill does, but what is the bill about? It is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system. Trust is a very important thing. It takes a long time, often a lifetime, to establish trust, but it only takes a moment to destroy it. It is about ensuring survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity, respect and compassion by the judicial system when they have the courage to come forward.
Sharing about what led her to introduce the previous version of the bill, also called the just act, Ms. Ambrose spoke about her time volunteering at a rape crisis centre while in university. She also shared about a research project that she participated in, a court watch program, and said, “This project basically had student volunteers like me sitting in courtrooms during sexual assault and sexual abuse cases, taking notes about how victims and complainants were treated. It was shocking.”
She went on to share during her speech one of the troubling scenarios she witnessed. She said, “I remember sitting in a courtroom taking notes when a prosecutor was questioning a little girl—when I say little girl, I mean under the age of 12—about how she sat on a defendant's lap. The insinuation was that she was flirting with this man who was in his fifties.”
I am the father of two daughters and the grandfather of six granddaughters. I cannot imagine how I would feel or how I would react if I were to watch one of my daughters or grandchildren, had they been a victim, being treated like that in a court of law. This is not an impressive experience that any Canadian should have in our judicial system.
Tragically, it is young women aged 15 to 24 who have the highest rate of sexual assaults. It is also more likely for victims of self-reported incidents of sexual assaults than it is for victims of robberies and physical assaults for the offender to be known to them. These realities perhaps contribute to another troubling fact, which is that, according to the justice department, the majority of sexual assaults, 83% of them, go unreported to the police.
By requiring judges to stay current with respect to sexual assault laws, Bill will make sure that sexual assault survivors are treated with dignity, respect and compassion by our justice system.
In addition to the education component, Bill will also require judges to provide written reasoning for decisions in sexual assault proceedings. This provision offers those engaged with the justice system, and all Canadians, more transparency. More transparency will build trust, and with more trust will come a greater willingness to seek justice when one has been wronged. Only by restoring that trust and confidence in our justice system can we ensure these young women will have access to the justice they deserve.
In our 2019 platform, the Conservative Party committed to requiring all judicial appointees to take sexual assault sensitivity training prior to taking the bench. This bill requires them to commit to taking training prior to taking the bench and is therefore consistent with our party's commitment to defend victims of crime.
I was pleased to support Rona Ambrose's just act in the last Parliament, because there are still instances where the justice system fails to respect the experiences of sexual assault survivors. We owe it to them to address these failings, and Bill does that.
I want to take a step back from this specific bill for a moment, because in an ideal world we would not need the just act and we would not need Bill . What we need is to be appointing judges who are people of integrity in the first place, judges who recognize the dignity and value of each person before them, and judges who are sensitive to the tragic circumstances that often lead to individuals attending their courtroom.
I am reminded of the story of two wolves, a popular legend often attributed to the Cherokee people. As the story goes, an old Cherokee man was teaching his grandson about life, and he said, “Grandson, a fight is going on inside of me, and it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego."
The grandfather continued, “The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on in you, grandson, and in every other person as well.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute. He then asked his grandfather, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”
The grandfather used that opportunity very wisely. He said, “The one we feed.”
The point is that each one of us is feeding those metaphorical wolves every day. We choose which one grows in strength, character and stature. We choose which one wins. Many of us will be familiar with the disturbing comments of one Canadian judge, who asked the sexual assault complainant why she could not just keep her knees together.
This goes to show that our judges are not immune to this kind of struggle, and that is why appointing judges of integrity is critical. Appointing judges of good character and proven track record is essential. Appointing judges who have proven themselves to be good, decent and honourable people is the best starting point that we can have, and from there we keep investing in good people with further training and, in this instance, further training on sexual assault law.
Some might ask why we should train. We have heard the arguments that we train them only for them to leave, and that it is a waste of time and a waste of money. The answer to that is, “What if we do not train them, and they stay?” That, of course, is a worse situation. Training is important, and part of what this bill seeks to accomplish is ongoing training and improvement of our justices.
My Christian faith offers a similar sentiment. Jesus, sharing with a group of people, says that no good tree bears bad fruit and no bad tree bears good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit. Figs are not gathered from bushes, nor are grapes gathered from a bramble bush. The good person that treasures good in his heart produces good, and an evil person that treasures evil produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, their mouth speaks. We need to start with good people, and from there continue to invest in good people and good judges through training them to disseminate the justice and to do it with compassion.
At this moment, at the very least, this bill will help judges to feed the right wolf. Furthering education around sexual assault law can help develop a judge's humility, empathy and compassion when dealing with sexual assault survivors. Pulling back the curtain on the rationale behind a judge's decision also encourages a fulsome presentation of truth and can empower victims on their journey to find peace. This is what it looks like, at least in part, to feed the good wolf.
On this side of the House we will always look for ways to stand up for survivors of sexual assault. We will always strive to ensure victims of crime are treated with dignity, respect and compassion. I am thankful today for this opportunity for us to come together to discuss this very important bill, and I am thankful that, across all the party lines in the House, we can come together with the common sense of purpose and unity on this bill.
Madam Speaker, today it is a great pleasure for me to speak virtually to Bill for the first time. I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to the interpreters and thank them for doing a really incredible job.
I am very pleased to speak to Bill , especially since I am a feminist. Defending women's rights and social justice are important priorities for me, and these issues are at the heart of this bill.
Members will have heard my Bloc Québécois colleagues say that passing this bill is in the interest of both the judiciary and the public, especially victims of sexual assault. I believe that parliamentarians must act quickly to implement it, but it nonetheless deserves to be studied in committee, particularly since the Quebec bar association has raised certain concerns that I will discuss later.
I want to address my female colleagues and constituents, in particular. Unfortunately, we have all been the victims of disgraceful comments at least once in our lives, whether they were about our physical appearance, our age, our clothes, our way of working or other things. We have also all heard this sort of comment being made about our female friends, colleagues, sisters or mothers.
Unfortunately, this practice is widespread and just as common in our society as in our justice system. Many times, judges have made inappropriate comments during sexual assault trials. Some have even rendered decisions without taking into account the victim and her difficult reality. Although we have a lot of work to do to eliminate this problem in our society, this bill will at least do away with this practice in our courts. That is a big step in the right direction.
There are also many myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault that may lead some judges to believe that the victims were actually consenting. For example, a judge could find an aggressor innocent because that judge does not really understand the concept of consent.
Let us talk about consent. I want to take a moment to do a quick review, since it never hurts to go back over the basics. All members would agree that in any kind of relationship, the partners' intentions must be clear, free and informed. To give consent is to give permission or authorization. It means saying “yes”. In 2016, the Ghomeshi trial, the Bill Cosby case and the #MeToo movement ignited a complicated and wide-ranging debate over the definition of consent.
Although our society is governed by laws, the Criminal Code is far removed from the bedroom. One situation where we see a nuance in the concept of consent is when a person feels obligated to consent. According to Julie Roussin, a clinical psychologist, consent must be viewed as “an informed decision free from coercion or threat”, which is too often the case in a sexual assault. Therefore, the concept of consent can be considered from both a legal perspective and a psychological one.
I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the appalling examples my colleagues have probably already heard. One judge said out loud during a trial that the victim, who was a minor at the time of the assault, had a pretty face and should feel flattered to have attracted the attention of an older man. An Alberta judge was fired after making sexist and racist remarks about indigenous people, battered women and victims of sexual assault. Another judge said that, because nobody had noticed any signs of assault, the girl, who was between the ages of 6 and 12, was not credible. Victims have been discredited for wearing pyjamas without a bra and underwear, for not immediately leaving when a sexual assault began, for not saying no to some of the things the accused did during the assault, and for not reporting the assault immediately.
Consent has nothing to do with the victim's credibility, looks, age, appearance or social condition. That is why I feel it is not only appropriate but necessary for all judges to receive ongoing training about issues related to sexual assault law and social context.
Although we are well into 2020 and nearly 20 years have passed since the Supreme Court's L'Heureux-Dubé decision, we do not seem to be much further ahead when it comes to the biases associated with sexual assault. Researchers from the Institute of Research on Public Policy recently published a series of articles entitled “Improving Canada's Response to Sexualized Violence”, which seeks to shine a light on the gaps that policy-makers, legislators and the courts need to address.
Fortunately, the federal government has recognized the damage that gender-based violence continues to cause in Canadian society and is committed to developing an action plan to combat this problem that affects all spheres of society. Bill C-3 is part of that commitment and I commend it. It is even an improved version of the previous bill. This bill addresses the criticisms made about the previous Bill C-337, namely that by registering for this type of course, lawyers would be announcing their interest in becoming a judge, which would breach their anonymity. Bill C-3 instead asks lawyers to undertake to participate in the course, which makes sense to me.
I understand that the Conservatives voted against the NDP motion to pass the bill and send it directly to the Senate as they believe that the bill should apply to parole officers and members of the Parole Board of Canada in the wake of the murder of Marylène Levesque.
I sit on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which began a study of the circumstances of this murder before Parliament was closed and then prorogued.
To refresh everyone's memory, Marylène Levesque is a young, 22-year-old woman who was killed last winter by Eustachio Gallese. This man was on day parole after being incarcerated for about 15 years for the murder of his wife in 2006. Despite his history of violence against women, his parole officers deemed that it was appropriate for Mr. Gallese to go to erotic massage parlours, where he met Marylène Levesque. My colleagues know the rest of the story.
I completely agree that parole officers and members of the Parole Board of Canada should also take mandatory training on the subject. I would go even further and include a broad range of professions. Of course, certain professions do not fall under federal jurisdiction, including police officers and lawyers. However, this kind of training is essential for all professions under federal jurisdiction that are likely to interact with sexual assault victims, such as corrections officers, border services officers and RCMP members.
As the Quebec bar association has pointed out, this bill applies exclusively to federally appointed judges, in other words, those sitting on superior courts, appeal courts, the Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, as well as the Tax Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada. However, experience shows that the vast majority of criminal offences are handled in provincial courts, so I hope this bill will inspire Quebec, the provinces and the territories to pass their own legislation to make this kind of training mandatory for judges.
I therefore encourage all my colleagues in the Conservative Party and the other parties to introduce legislation regarding similar training for parole officers, members of the Parole Board of Canada and any other professionals deemed relevant.
We have an opportunity to quickly pass Bill , as was almost the case with Bill . I urge all of my parliamentary colleagues to work towards this.
We can always do better, and I hope that our study of this bill will address the call from the Quebec bar to ensure that this bill does not encroach on provincial jurisdictions.
The bar association has also raised concerns that the amendments to the Judges Act and the Criminal Code proposed in this bill could undermine the independence of the judiciary. However, as my colleague from pointed out last week, judges already receive training on many different topics. Judges receive training throughout their careers, and it makes complete sense that their rulings should be better documented. I sincerely doubt that this training could bring about any biases that would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
As a parliamentarian and as a member of a distinct society, I want to conclude by saying that we must do more to eliminate rape culture. This system of thought that explains, excuses or even encourages rape is everywhere in our society: in our homes, our courts, our children's schools, our workplaces and our streets.
We therefore need to do better and do more. We need to stop trivializing. We need to stop making off-colour jokes about women's bodies. We still hear these sorts of jokes all too often and we encourage them instead of speaking out. Often, without realizing it, we put the responsibility for the assault on the victim and call into question the woman's word. We treat women's bodies as though they were there to service the needs of men. Where then should we start?
I want to quote Pascale Parent, a worker at the Centre d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel de Rimouski, who said that we could start “by talking about equality between men and women and also between women, including those with disabilities and indigenous women. Of course, we know that not all men are abusers. Men can decide to fight against this culture and speak out against it with us. They can speak out against sexist jokes and inappropriate behaviour. They can help women who need it and support the women who trust them and tell them about their experiences.”
That would be a good start, just like this bill.
Madam Speaker, one in three Canadian women will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. What an awful statistic for women and fathers to contemplate.
I have three children, two daughters and a son. To think or imagine that one of my daughters could one day be a victim of sexual assault, or that maybe she has been already but kept silent, or has been a victim of sexual harassment and kept it to herself, is simply awful. It is awful to think that in our society, one in three women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime.
Sunday is International Day of the Girl. I think many parents will take the opportunity to ask questions. I hope we can take that day to reflect on the fact that one in three girls, one in three women, will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime.
Sunday will be a day to think about this issue as a family and to reflect on and discuss it with our children to find out what is going on, to make our boys and girls aware, to show openness in order to encourage people to talk, to try and ensure that nothing gets bottled up and that this is something that can be talked about more openly. Unfortunately, if we do not talk about it and it remains hidden, it will continue, and the statistics will not get any better.
For one in three women to be a victim of assault shows that there is a problem with trust in our society. My colleague from said it so well yesterday.
“Because of a studied lack of trust in our criminal justice system, many women feel unable to even report the assaults they suffered to the police out of fear they will not be taken seriously. They will continue to suffer re-traumatization, and if their cases do advance, their attackers will not face serious repercussions.”
More than two-thirds of women say they are not confident in the police, the court process, or justice itself. As a result, 83% of sexual assaults go unreported. Of the remaining 17% of cases, one in five just gets dropped. The other four are subjected to intense scrutiny. The victims are caught in the middle of a difficult and stressful process that unfortunately has small chance of success. Of these remaining cases, just one in five will go to court. Just one in 10 cases ends in a conviction resulting in a fine or jail time. That means if we start with 100 cases, that number gradually gets whittled down.
We understand that women are afraid to go to court and that they struggle to trust the criminal justice system. That is exactly what the bill before us is meant to address.
Three versions of this bill have been introduced in the House. It was first introduced as a private member's bill by our former interim opposition leader, Rona Ambrose, as Bill . It was reintroduced as Bill , and it has now been introduced as Bill .
Every chance we get to debate the bill is an opportunity for all parliamentarians to educate Canadians, judges and everyone about the reality that women face in this country.
It is important that we talk about it. It is important to talk about it tomorrow, next week and as often as possible. The culture of secrecy, the fear of speaking up, the fear of being ridiculed and the fear of not being believed are all reasons why women choose not to report their assailants.
This is what we are trying to stop. This is what we are trying to do with Bill C-3. Progress may be slow, but we are taking logical, meaningful action.
Madam Speaker, the government rightly reintroduced the Hon. Rona Ambrose's bill, , also known as the “just act”. This bill includes the amendments that were passed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs before the last election, which delayed the passage of the bill.
What will this bill do if it is passed? As I said, it will help by requiring new judges to take continuing legal education on sexual assault law.
We have been talking about this bill since the beginning of the day, but those who are watching at home may not be aware of its content. They may not know exactly what this bill is about. I will therefore read part of the preamble to give a good overview of the bill.
The preamble states that “survivors of sexual assault in Canada must have faith in the criminal justice system”. It also states that “Parliament recognizes the importance of an independent judiciary”. Parliament does not want to get involved in cases that are before the courts because Parliament's role and duty are to ensure that people can have confidence in the justice system.
The preamble also indicates that “parliamentarians have a responsibility to ensure that Canada’s democratic institutions reflect the values and principles of Canadians and respond to their needs and concerns”. In the past, we have seen too many cases where judges have rendered decisions based on myths or false precepts. That is not what today's society demands of judges. We, as parliamentarians, are the voice of Canadians across the country and we therefore have a duty to remind judges of these new principles. That is what we are doing right now with Bill .
The preamble also says, “...sexual assault proceedings have a profound effect on the reputations and lives of the persons affected and present a high possibility of revictimizing survivors of sexual assault.” Having to go through the judicial process and relive everything that happened, in front of many people, and strangers at that, can deter women from seeking justice.
The preamble also states that “...Parliament recognizes the value and importance of judges participating in continuing education.” With this additional training, our judges will be better equipped to do their jobs, which could result in greater access to justice for women.
The preamble of Bill C-3 also states, “...it is imperative that persons seeking to be appointed to the judiciary undertake to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context.” That all makes perfect sense.
I was impressed, and actually very touched, by the speech given by my colleague from , even as we go about proposing changes and trying to improve things. Here is some of what she had to say:
...there is something about this bill that really makes me angry. It is absurd to me that we have to spend time figuring out how to train the men in Canada's systemically misogynistic justice system to be sensitive to sexual assault. In so many ways, it is blindly the wrong approach because it is so paternalistic in its design. ... If men want to be honoured with a judicial appointment, why can the hiring criteria not be what they have done in their career to remove the systemic barriers women face? Why do we have to train the idiots in society, and why could we not just hire the allies?
Those are harsh words, but they are the words of a woman who, like many of our colleagues here and many women I know, has herself gone through all kinds of ordeals. We need to take this seriously. That is the point we are at. I applaud the women who have had the courage to speak up in the House in support of Bill C-3.
Personally, I fully support this bill. I hope that more and more of our colleagues will talk about it and seize every available opportunity to do so because the more we talk about it, the closer we get to a solution.