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Results: 1 - 15 of 332
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the bulk of my remarks were shared yesterday when I spoke about the importance of Bill C-3, 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.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-08 10:26 [p.721]
Madam Speaker, the government demonstrated just how important the legislation is when it introduced it last Friday, even ahead of the throne speech. We also have other important legislation dealing with truth and reconciliation, Bill C-5, as well as assisted dying legislation. These are good, substantial pieces of legislation that I know opposition members would also like to debate.
In terms of the comments coming from the Conservative Party, I am wondering if the member would not agree, given the sensitivity of the topic and the importance of the issue, that maybe this might be a good opportunity for the official opposition to use one of its opposition day motions. If the Conservatives feel so passionate about the issue and want to see that debate take place, would the member not support having a wider spectrum of debate on this very important issue and use it as a day of opposition?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, when it comes to the selection of topics for opposition days, I can only say that it is often difficult to decide because it is a target-rich environment. There are many challenges facing this country. We could be talking about the pandemic, the way Canadians have a hard time having confidence in the government because of all of these ethical scandals, the way the Liberals have used the pandemic to try to funnel money to and enrich organizations with which they have close personal connections, as well as issues around sexual assault, foreign affairs and the crises we see around the world. There are many issues that we could be talking about, but one thing is clear: When the government puts forward a bill that would change Canadian law, it is our job as lawmakers to debate it.
Some members of the government think the role of parliamentarians is just to be public relations ambassadors for the government. I do not believe that. I believe our primary vocation in this place is to be lawmakers, that is, to study, debate and pass laws, and that requires a level of engagement and seriousness in every case.
View Philip Lawrence Profile
Madam Speaker, while we are talking about debating, I wonder if the member would like to comment on when the member for Winnipeg North, in February 2014, accused the Harper government of being somewhat shameful for not fully debating issues. I wonder if the member would like to comment on that.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I know the parliamentary secretary across the way has many words to share in this place, and at times he may need to come back and eat them. He is accusing me of being a bit hypocritical in laying this allegation, but at least I am consistent with the things I say. At least the things I was saying in 2014 are the same, more or less, as the things I am saying now.
As the member is right to point out, this parliamentarian, in particular, and many members of the Liberal caucus who railed against all sorts of tactics like prorogation when they were in opposition have been happy not only to use those same tactics in government but to push them so much further than they were ever used in the Harper era.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Madam Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed with my colleague's speech. We have come to expect more content in his remarks, in general. I am really trying to understand what the Conservative Party is doing here today. I think its position is remarkably hypocritical. The Conservatives are claiming that they want to pass this bill as quickly as possible, but this week, when a member of Parliament moved a motion to expedite the passage of the bill, the Conservative Party voted against it.
What is going on here today?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I never thought I would see the day that this usually strong and vocal member of the NDP would just be repeating the government's lines on so many issues. It is unfortunate to see the NDP come to this: supporting the government shutting down the investigation into different things and closing down Parliament in the spring session.
When it comes to the content and moving this forward, I do not know if the member was here to listen to the speech I gave yesterday, but for the majority of it, I spoke in great detail about the bill before us and the issues it raises. As I said, I think the debate is important. Again, I do not want to refer to the presence or absence of the member yesterday, but maybe he had an opportunity to hear the speeches that were given. I think the many thoughtful and substantive speeches helped to elucidate important aspects of this debate, and that is the conversation we need to be having.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2020-10-08 10:32 [p.721]
Madam Speaker, I would point out that the appointments we are making to superior court benches are already diverse and people are already being compelled to do this type of education, but I will admit to some level of incredulity in terms of what I just heard.
First of all, when the bill was in the last parliamentary session, it was senators of the Conservative Party who blocked the bill in the Senate, much to the chagrin of Rona Ambrose, the leader the member just served under. Secondly, when the opportunity arose last Friday to get this sent by unanimous consent to committee, the motion was blocked by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.
If we can take at face value what the member is saying about the importance of the bill, then perhaps, since it was started by a Conservative, we can reach all-party support and get it there expeditiously. Does the member have a comment?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I am obviously keen on seeing the bill move forward. However, as I made clear in my remarks, and I hope the member took advantage of the opportunity to listen to them, it was up to the government to schedule the debate.
The government schedules the days on which debate happens. We debate the bill, as it is our responsibility as lawmakers. It is a little bit disappointing. I was hoping I would get questions on some of the substantive arguments I made as well, with respect to maybe the limitations and the nature of how we structure training in a way to be effective.
It is clear again that the government only wants to talk about process. It is important to take the time to respond to those process arguments, but its only interest is in talking about the process piece. We have a job here as lawmakers, which is to debate important legislation. This could have already been done if the Liberals had not prorogued Parliament. They prorogued Parliament and then they say that we have to rush everything afterward, presumably because they want to shut down Parliament again. That is not something that we want to see happen.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
Madam Speaker, I noticed that, from the beginning of the period for questions and comments, the member has only been asked questions about the debate. I am going to give the member a chance to talk about the content of this bill because I think that is important.
Does he think that Bill C-3 needs adjustments and amendments or does he think it is good the way it is?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to work with my colleague on the subcommittee on international human rights. I know he works really hard on that issue.
With regard to Bill C-3, we need to have a discussion to improve certain provisions. I think that it is important for the bill to be examined in committee.
We also discussed the Parole Board of Canada and the fact that it would be useful for parole officers to have the same training.
View Jennifer O'Connell Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, since the member opposite wants to get into specifics, under the previous session of Parliament the bill went through the debate in the House, went through committee and went on to the Senate. I am curious. What is it about this particular bill that makes the member and other Conservatives feel it needs to go through the process a second time, that it needs to go to committee and needs to go to the Senate again?
What is so outrageous about ensuring training for justices that the member opposite wants to have this process go on and on?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, let me just be very clear. If the member was listening she would know from my remarks that I am strongly supportive of the bill. In fact, promoting training around issues of sexual violence is something that, before I was elected, I was involved in as a board member of a local organization in my riding that does this kind of training. This is a bill that was originally put forward by the former leader of the Conservative Party. It is something that we support. That is why I think the conversation is important.
I will just point out, though, as a small factual correction, that I do not believe there was actually study done at a House of Commons committee on this in the last Parliament.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Randeep Sarai Profile
2020-10-08 10:37 [p.722]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Pickering—Uxbridge.
I am pleased to contribute to today's second reading debate of Bill C-3, 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 C-3 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 C-51, 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 C-75, 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 C-3 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 C-3 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 C-3'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.
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