Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-331, which was brought forward by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby.
I will talk about the bill and what it purports to do, and then I want to talk about the state of the nation in terms of the Federal Court system, because this bill proposes to make changes there.
The bill's intent is “[to amend] the Federal Courts Act to provide for the jurisdiction of the Federal Court over civil claims brought by non-Canadians in respect of alleged violations outside Canada of international law or a treaty to which Canada is party.”
The intent of the member who brought forward this private member's business was to address instances where, for example, Canadian companies operating in other jurisdictions are not being good corporate citizens and are violating in some way the human rights of individuals there.
In the member's speech, which I reviewed, he had a number of examples of companies. A lot of them were mining companies, such a Nevsun Resources, which had a gold, zinc and copper mine in Eritrea, where there were allegations of forced labour, slavery and torture of workers. Another case was the one of Hudbay Minerals in Guatemala, where people were shot and killed. The intent of this bill is to allow people who may not be Canadians and who have had things happen to them outside of Canada to come and use the Canadian Federal Court system to pursue civil actions.
The issue I have with that, first of all, is that the Federal Court system, as it is today, under the current Liberal government, is in tatters. The former justice minister did not appoint a sufficient number of judges, so court cases were backed up and there was a huge logjam. As a result of that, many murder cases and rape cases were being tossed out of court because they had been in the queue for more than two years, and according to Jordan's principle, these people, guilty of heinous crimes, have gone free.
The government has continually eroded the execution of justice in Canada with a weakening of the rules. The government introduced legislation such as C-75, which took some very serious crimes, such as the forcible confinement of a minor, and reduced them to summary convictions, which means a penalty of less than two years or a fine. There was a whole list of charges in that bill that took serious crimes and brought them back to something that was minor in nature. I would argue that a fine for the forcible confinement of a minor is like a slap on the wrist for something that I think all Canadians would agree is heinous.
We also saw the situation with Tori Stafford's killer, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who, even though she viciously participated in the murder of a child, was allowed to go to a healing lodge, where there was no security and she was in the presence of parents who had their children with them when they came to work.
I am concerned that we need to strengthen our Federal Court system as it stands today, not weaken it, and the Liberal government has not done that. I am concerned that if we open it up to non-Canadians in other countries, they would come and bring an extra caseload of court cases to a court system that is arguably already under stress and not delivering. There are Canadian crimes that we are not able to adequately prosecute on time. That is a real difficulty.
Within the bill, there are 17 different types of cases that could be brought forward. I will go through a few of these and talk about incidents that have occurred during the 42nd Parliament, to give members an idea of the volume of these cases that could come before the Federal Court.
First on the list is “genocide”, which everyone knows is a very serious crime. If we think about some of the genocides that have happened during this Parliament, the Yazidis come to mind. Yazidi women were brought to Canada after the genocide where those people were exterminated by ISIS terrorists. That is one. There are still outstanding actions to be taken on Rwanda. That is another genocide that could come our way.
Another item on the list is “slavery or slave trading”. Human trafficking of someone under 18 is also on the list. Human trafficking is a huge issue in Canada. In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, which is a border city, we see a huge amount of human trafficking happening. There is an actual network between Sarnia and Toronto that couriers people, and not just people from out of the country. Young Canadian boys and girls are lured into this and trapped in that lifestyle for years. There is no doubt that it is a heinous crime, but when I think about the number of these cases in Canada today and the fact that we do not have the resources to adequately prosecute our own, I am concerned about opening that up to the rest of the world.
Any “extrajudicial killing or the enforced disappearance of a person” is on the list. Let us think about the Saudi Arabian journalist who was exterminated. Let us think about the two Canadian men who were killed in the Philippines.
Also on the list is “systemic discrimination”. This opens it way up. When I was the chair of the status of women committee, we had visits of people from countries all over the world where women were being systematically discriminated against. They came to see what we were doing here in Canada. Some would argue that we are still seeing systemic discrimination within our own country. LGBTQ is another group that sees a lot of systemic discrimination across the world. If all of those cases came and flooded our courts, we would be very busy indeed.
The human rights violations that we are seeing right now in Hong Kong come to mind. There are 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, and the Chinese government is trying to bring in extradition rules that would allow it to take anyone from Hong Kong and bring him or her to China. I am very concerned that if this bill came into force, there might be a lot of non-Canadians who would want to take advantage of the Canadian court system to pursue some civil charges there as well.
Child soldiers are another item on the list. We know that in every battle we are seeing from ISIS, child soldiers are being raised up. We see that in a bunch of the wars that are happening in Africa and similar places. That would open it up to a huge number of people, as well, who may want to take action and get some civil reward from the Canadian court.
“Rape” is also on the list. Rape is rampant in Canada. The data says that one in three Canadian women will experience sexual violence during her life. When we think about how many cases we have, and how many of those are being kicked out of court, we really do not have the capacity to take others on.
“Forced abortion” and “forced sterilization” are on the list. We heard testimony today at the health committee about forced sterilization and the thousands of women in Canada who are undergoing this. It is horrible, but, once again, there are lots of cases of our own to take care of.
Issues like pollution have been put on the list. Let us think about plastics pollution by non-Canadians. We know that 95% of ocean pollution is happening from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa. Again, that is a huge volume of complaints that could be brought forward.
“Environmental emergency” has been added. That could be like the climate emergency that the Liberals brought in debate. The debate was never brought back, so it must have been a non-urgent emergency. Climate emergencies and environmental emergencies like that could also make the list.
I know the member was well-intentioned in bringing the bill forward and wanting to address those Canadian corporations, for example, but the bill needs to be narrower in scope, and I do not think we have the capacity in the Federal Court system. I would encourage the government of the day, or, on October 21, the Conservative government, to restore the federal justice system.