Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today in this honourable House to talk about Bill C-75.
This is a long overdue change to the legal system, which has been bogged down, in many cases to such an extent that cases have been found to have lost their meaning and been adjourned. People whom we suspected were guilty got away without going through due process at all. Those circumstances cannot happen. It is not justice. It is not fair.
This is one step towards making a fairer, more efficient and effective judicial system. Bill C-75 is a meaningful and significant approach to promoting efficiency, and I would assume that all members of the House would like to see that happen. Efficiency and effectiveness are what every member would like to see in our systems, because we would not want to waste one penny of taxpayer money on something that could be done better. It is always our goal to do better. That is exactly what this bill does.
This bill would, in a significant way, promote efficiency in our criminal justice system, reduce case completion times, as I mentioned earlier, and contribute to increased public confidence while respecting the rights of those involved and ensuring that public safety is maintained.
In terms of preliminary inquiries, this bill would restrict preliminary inquires to adults accused of the 63 most serious offences in the Criminal Code, which carry a sentence of life imprisonment, like murder; and would reinforce a judge's power to limit the questions to be examined, as well as the number of witnesses who will appear.
The Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision, and the Senate legal affairs committee in its final report on delays in the justice system, recommended that preliminary inquiry reform be considered. We should be proud to support a bill that takes into account not only the recommendations of this House but also of the upper house and of the provinces and territories that have been working on this issue for many years. It has been discussed for decades.
Some say that restricting preliminary inquiries might have little impact on the delays. Even though it concerns only 3% of the cases, it would still have a significant impact on those provinces where this procedure is used more often, such as Ontario and Quebec. We know, because of the population base involved, that this would have a significant impact on the whole judicial system.
Also, we cannot overlook the cumulative effect of all of Bill C-75's proposals that seek to streamline the criminal justice system process.
It is of course for the betterment of both the accused and victims to have the system move fairly and efficiently in a timely manner. The proposed preliminary inquiry amendments are the culmination of years of study and consideration in federal-provincial-territorial and other meetings.
We know that it is not easy to negotiate a framework when we have many divergent views and jurisdictions involved, but this is going to be good for Canadians. It will be good for the indigenous population of our country, who have unfortunately been the victim of a system that many have called racist. If we look at the number of indigenous people in our jails, it is extremely high. One must ask why the system seems to incarcerate so many more indigenous people than their population warrants. These changes will be more effective and fairer for our indigenous population, and that is a commitment of our Prime Minister.
This is a balanced approach. We often see that in this House, in particular, where we have the left and the right, the positions can be quite separated, with the Liberals coming in the middle and providing a balanced approach and centre to both.
I think most Canadians are reasonable centralists and, as we have seen in the past, this type of negotiated solution means compromises on both sides. As we look at the balanced approach between opposing views put forward by both committees and those expressed by the House, they are considered and put forward in this bill.
This bill would make this procedure more efficient and expedient. Of course, that is the goal of all of our programs for Canadians, as well as being meaningful, respectful and available to all Canadians. It is important to respect the accused person's right to a fair trial. This would also help witnesses and victims by preventing some of them from having to testify twice. That is just not reasonable for the system. It is hard on victims, very hard on witnesses, so to eliminate this would be of benefit to all.
Let us look at the issue of case management. Bill C-75 would allow for the earlier appointment of case management judges. This recognizes their unique and vital role in ensuring the momentum of cases is maintained, and that they are completed in an efficient, effective, just and timely manner. This was also recommended by the Senate report on delays in the criminal justice system.
It is important to discuss, even if briefly, the use of technology and how it would provide fairness, particularly to the indigenous population of Canada. I come from Manitoba, which has the highest per capita number of indigenous people of any province. In many cases, they are in fairly remote and isolated communities where participating in a full process is extremely difficult because there are no roads, access is limited and broadband connections are poor. These are all issues that make justice much more difficult for indigenous people in those circumstances.
In terms of technology, the bill proposes to allow remote appearances by audio or video conference for accused, witnesses, lawyers, judges, justices of the peace and interpreters, under certain circumstances. This would obviously assist many people, although it is not always appropriate. Canada has allowed remote appearances for many years, and these amendments seek to broaden the existing framework.
These optional tools in Bill C-75 aim to increase access to justice, streamline processes and reduce system costs, such as the transport of the accused and witness attendance costs, without impacting existing resources such as those through the indigenous court worker program. The changes we are proposing also respond to the Senate committee recommendations, which called for an increase to the use of remote appearances for accused persons.
In conclusion, the proposals in Bill C-75 in relation to preliminary inquiries, judicial case management and remote appearances, together with all of the other reforms, would ensure that our criminal justice system is efficient, just and in line with the values of our communities and all Canadians.