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Results: 1 - 100 of 149
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 18:33 [p.29426]
Mr. Speaker, I am very alarmed that here we go again with the Liberal government, through an omnibus bill, Bill C-75, watering down criminal penalties for serious crimes. What really irks me terribly is that impaired driving causes bodily harm.
Statistics in Canada today state that impaired driving offences are going up. Impaired driving is a leading cause of death in Canada, whether from consuming alcohol or drugs, and here is that government trying to include a softening of the sentences for it through Bill C-75.
I wonder if the government could answer this. What is it really trying to do here? Statistics are going up and penalties are going to be reduced. How is that going to help make Canada safer for people driving on the roads?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, we are in the last few days of Parliament, and it seems like every day the government is saying it is going to invoke closure and bring forward time allocation to shut down debate.
Contrary to what the minister has just said, the process we go through here is this: Our committees look at these justice bills, and then we debate them here and send them to the Senate. Sometimes the Senate will send a bill back to us with amendments. Indeed, the Senate has sent this bill back with a number of amendments, at least 13 or 14, from what we hear tonight. However, we are not given the ability to debate those amendments. Our constituents expect us to do our due diligence.
We debated the bill prior to this, but the Senate has sent it back, and now the Liberal government is going to invoke closure. This is not just about closure and time allocation; it is about another promise of an omnibus bill. Bill C-75 is a 300-page bill that is an omnibus bill. The government has thrown everything in here, and now we are asked to shut down debate and get ready to vote on it.
The question that came from the Liberal side hit the nail on the head. That member said that one of the things we are concerned about is long delays in the courts. This bill is not just hybridizing many offences, but showing the failure of the Liberals to appoint judges throughout this country so these cases can be heard in the court system. Therefore, the Liberals bring this forward to basically push things through quickly, like a revolving door.
This is how the Liberals drew this up. Originally, offences like leaving Canada to join a terrorist group were part of this bill. It is basically allowing them to water down serious offences, such as advocating genocide, using a date rape drug and human trafficking. Yes, some of those may not be in there now, but that is the Liberal philosophy of criminal justice reforms.
I am sorry, but we are skeptical of the kinds of measures the current government brings forward, and we are very skeptical of the closure the minister is invoking.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:43 [p.29432]
Mr. Speaker, today in the House we are discussing Bill C-75. The bill is supposed to strengthen the justice system. It is meant to better protect Canadians. It is meant to reduce delays and it is meant to modernize the criminal justice system.
In part, it does this by facilitating the administration of justice down to the provinces. However, the reality is the bill is yet another example of the current government's dirty habit of saying one thing but doing another. It is known as Liberal hypocrisy, or sometimes people refer to it as Liberal logic.
At the end of the day, this will in fact severely damage Canadian society and our justice system as a whole. Despite the rhetoric from across the way and despite the current heckles, the Liberals decided that they would not properly consult with stakeholders. They rammed the bill through without giving it careful consideration, without paying attention to the call for further discussion and certainly without adequate debate in this place.
As a result, Canadians are stuck with a piece of legislation that has a number of flaws that are very significant in nature. One of the flaws has to do with hybridization. Putting aside the issue of reducing the penalty of very serious crimes for just a moment, which I will come back to, hybridization also results in many crimes being moved from Federal Court into provincial court.
The Canadian Bar Association had this to say with regard to hybridization. It said this“would likely mean more cases would be heard in provincial court. This could result in further delays in those courts”. In other words, we already have a backlog within our justice system and the Canadian Bar Association is saying that Bill C-75 would result in an even further backlog, which is problematic because these individuals do need to go to trial. These cases do need to proceed, so holding them up even further is actually an injustice to the victim.
Furthermore, it should be noted that it is the government's chief responsibility to care for the safety and well-being of its citizens, to defend the vulnerable, to create laws that put the rights of victims first, which is why it is extremely alarming to see that the Prime Minister is actually pandering more to criminals than standing up for victims.
Bill C-75 reduces penalties for some very heinous crimes including participating in a terrorist group, trafficking women and girls, committing violence against a clergy member, murdering a child within one year of birth, abducting a child, forced marriage, advocating for genocide or participating in organized crime.
The members opposite do not like it when I say those things, it is an inconvenient truth for them, so their heckling gets louder and louder, but the truth cannot be concealed. These heinous, unthinkable acts would have a reduced sentence under Bill C-75.
Conservatives believe in the safety of Canadians being put first. They believe that it should be the number one priority of any government. We will continue to speak up on behalf of victims and we will continue to advocate for them to come first in our justice system. It is very important for me to stand here today and to speak to this piece of legislation because the rights of victims and the rights of communities must come first.
We have a Prime Minister who is much more concerned about pursuing his own agenda than he is about acting in the best interests of Canadians. It is not just with Bill C-75, it is with other pieces of legislation and other decisions being made by the government as well.
Bill C-71, which is the firearms legislation, was rammed through by the government earlier this spring. This was an attack on law-abiding firearms owners. Bill C-71 was rammed through without the government taking concern for the advice of law enforcement agents. It was rammed through without them actually consulting with legislative experts. It was rammed through without the Liberals taking the time to consult with and listen to Canadians.
When those in power turn a deaf ear to the people that they represent, arrogance incapacitates any ability for them to exercise logical thought or common sense. That is exactly what has happened under the current government.
The irony in all of this is that while the Liberals are letting criminals off the hook for committing atrocious crimes such as forced marriage, trafficking, terrorist activity and genocide, they insist on demonizing those who hunt or use their rifles for sport shooting. It is absolutely ludicrous. In what world does this make sense?
From the start, the Liberals did not want to debate Bill C-71. They did not want to consult, because that would mean they would need to listen and then would be held accountable to act on the things that they heard. Instead, the Liberals decided to push Bill C-71, the firearms legislation, through the House. They told Canadians that the bill is for their safety and protection, but it does nothing of the sort. It fails to address gang violence, it fails to address illegal firearm acquisition and use and it fails to address rural crime and violence. Bill C-71 simply goes after those who are already following the law, while rewarding criminals with shorter sentences or allowing them to walk away altogether.
It is very clear that what the current government likes to do more than anything is deceive Canadians. It is less about the safety, well-being and security of our country and more about appearing to be doing something good. If the government took Canadians seriously and really took the position of honour that has been bestowed upon it seriously, then it would genuinely want to strengthen our justice system and our borders. It would genuinely want to invest in front-line responders and make sure that illegal firearms are taken off the street and that people are kept safe in this country, but the current government is not interested in actually governing well. The current government under the current Prime Minister is more interested in its appearance, its image.
The Prime Minister told veterans that they cost too much. Meanwhile, he handed $10 million over to a convicted terrorist, Omar Khadr.
An hon. member: Shame.
Ms. Rachael Harder: It is shameful. I'm glad you recognize it.
The Prime Minister insists consistently on putting criminals before victims. This is wrong, because Canadians elect a government to look after their safety, security and well-being, to ensure that this country is running on all cylinders, that Canadians have a vibrant future that they can dream for, work toward and step into and be excited about for their children and grandchildren. The bill we are discussing today, Bill C-75, which makes changes to the criminal justice system, actually puts this country at risk and victims in serious danger. It rewards criminals.
The role of every government is to keep citizens safe. It is to facilitate an environment of economic prosperity in which people are free to use their time, their talent and their energy to build wealth and achieve the financial outcomes they desire. This means protecting our borders, investing in necessary infrastructure, decreasing taxes, exercising fiscal restraint and scrapping unnecessary regulations. It means respecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians and celebrating the contributions of those who work hard, rather than turning them into criminals. I am talking about the retired widow who lives next door to me, the local business owner who serves coffee when I go there, the medical practitioners who look after our health, the students who dream for a vibrant future and the veterans who have faithfully served this country. These are the faces that government should be looking into when it makes decisions to rule this country.
During his time as prime minister, John Diefenbaker told party members, “I was criticized for being too much concerned with the average Canadians. I can't help that; I am one”, and so it is today. Just as the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker did all those years ago, my colleagues and I on this side of the House are committed to standing up for everyday Canadians, those who work hard and want a vibrant future not just for themselves but for their children and grandchildren.
When we mess around with the justice system with a bill like Bill C-75 and when we reward criminals who commit some of the most heinous crimes imaginable and allow them to go free or we diminish their sentence to a mere fine, we depreciate the value of our country and we fail to look after the well-being of Canadian citizens.
In this place, there are 338 of us who were elected to do far better than that. I would expect much more from the current Prime Minister and much more from the members who govern with him. There is no greater honour than to serve in this place, to be elected by the people of Canada and to have the opportunity to function as a voice on their behalf. I would call upon this House to steward that honour and to vote this bill down.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:54 [p.29433]
Mr. Speaker, I would invite that member to have her hearing checked, because there was clear heckling in this place.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:56 [p.29433]
Mr. Speaker, I respect the hon. member's question. Certainly any act that advocates on behalf of victims is noble. Any act that would put the well-being of women and children first and foremost is absolutely to be commended.
However, there are allowances made within this bill that would in fact allow people off with very small fines or penalties after committing extremely heinous crimes. I would also like to add that if the member opposite and his colleagues are interested in the well-being of victims, it probably would have been a good idea to consult with them in the creation of this bill. That was not adequately done.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:58 [p.29434]
Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have always had a policy of standing up for victims and placing them as our first priority. We have always had a policy of advocating for Canadians who live everyday lives. We have always had a policy of making sure that our justice system is strengthened and that the most vulnerable among us are advocated for. We will continue that legacy when we form government in October.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:59 [p.29434]
Mr. Speaker, certainly when this bill was first brought forward, terrorism and genocide were included within hybridization. However, due to pressure that was applied by the Conservative members in this House as well as by members of the Canadian public, the Liberals did walk those two back, so I will give them credit for that.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 20:00 [p.29434]
Mr. Speaker, I think the bottom line is this: Those who find themselves elected in this place find themselves in a very honoured position and have every responsibility to stand up for the rights of victims first and foremost. Bill C-75 fails to do that.
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2019-05-14 18:38 [p.27796]
Mr. Chair, I will take your comments to heart and continue in the same vein the committee of the whole has proceeded to this point.
I will be providing 10 minutes of remarks, followed by some questions.
I am very proud today to take the floor to share with Canadians some of our government's accomplishments in recognizing, promoting and protecting the equality rights of LGBTQ2 communities.
From the beginning of our government's mandate, we have demonstrated our commitment to diversity and inclusion in the hope that all Canadians can participate fully in Canadian society and be recognized as deserving of the same respect, deference and consideration. This commitment equally extends to members of the LGBTQ2 community.
Canadians expect their government to respect their human rights and to promote these rights. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs once stated in this very chamber, LGBTQ2 rights are human rights, and human rights have no borders. It is a commitment our government takes very seriously abroad and here at home.
ln budget 2017, the Government of Canada set aside $3.6 million over three years for the creation of the LGBTQ2 secretariat within the Privy Council Office. The secretariat works with LGBTQ2 stakeholders across the country. This important work keeps our government informed about the challenging situations affecting LGBTQ2 Canadians and the potential solutions.
The secretariat also supports the integration of LGBTQ2 considerations in the day-to-day work of the federal government across all ministries. These efforts really help the government ensure that federal policies, programs and laws related to gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation are all within the same spirit and the same view to equality, inclusion and diversity.
ln November 2016, I was honoured to be appointed the Prime Minister's special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues. My role is to advise the Prime Minister on how to develop and coordinate the Government of Canada's LGBTQ2 policies and laws. This includes informing cabinet, parliamentarians and committees and engaging with LGBTQ2 organizations from across the country and around the world to promote equality, and listening to LGBTQ2 people and communities and identifying solutions to improve their lives.
In addition to the excellent work of the LGBTQ2 secretariat, all ministries of our government have a responsibility to improve the lives of LGBTQ2 Canadians, and that includes the Department of Justice.
Early in our government's mandate, we also introduced and passed Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. This bill conferred greater protection on members of LGBTQ2 communities who experience discrimination and even violence because of their gender identity or expression. Bill C-16 added gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the Canadian Human Rights Act. This law promotes the principle that all individuals should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have, without being hindered by discriminatory practices.
Bill C-16 has also expanded hate crime offences in the Criminal Code to protect groups that are targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression.
Unfortunately, in Canada, transgender people are at high risk of verbal or physical violence and sexual harassment. Given this high degree of violence or threatened violence, it is only fair that our criminal law specifically denounce violence committed against a person as a result of the person's gender identity or expression.
The Prime Minister's apology to LGBTQ2 communities was another significant milestone in recognizing LGBTQ2 communities and protecting them as equal members of Canadian society. On November 28, 2017, the Prime Minister delivered a formal apology in this very House to individuals harmed by federal legislation, policies and practices that led to the oppression of and discrimination against two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Canada.
The Prime Minister apologized specifically for the shameful LGBT purge, the historical unjust treatment of LGBTQ2 federal public servants, including those in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This discriminatory treatment resulted in the loss of livelihoods, dignity and even lives.
There was a time in this country when people could be charged, prosecuted and criminally convicted simply because of their sexual orientation. To address this grave injustice, this government introduced Bill C-66. Now records of convictions involving consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners of legal age can be destroyed.
We are hopeful that this change will provide some relief to the many LGBTQ2 Canadians for whom the pain, trauma and fear have been all too real for all too long a time. Such discrimination has no place in Canada today. With Bill C-66, we took responsibility for recognizing and rectifying this historic injustice.
Since the government is taking measures to rectify historic discrimination based on unfair laws and policies, it is taking steps to remove from the Criminal Code an anachronistic offence that was used to target consensual sexual activities between gay men.
Under section 159 of the Criminal Code, unmarried persons can consent to engage in anal intercourse at age 18. The age of consent for any other form of non-exploitative sexual activity is 16 years old. Section 159 makes an exception for consensual anal intercourse between married spouses if they are of the opposite sex, but not if they are of the same sex. This is discriminatory policy, and several appellate courts have found that this provision violates the equality rights guaranteed by section 15 of the charter. Repealing section 159, as Bill C-75 proposes to do, will prevent the laying of charges against people who engage in non-exploitative, consensual anal intercourse.
The Attorney General of Canada recently issued a directive on the prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases for federal prosecutors, which applies in our territories.
Presently, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is undertaking a study that deals with the issue of HIV criminalization. The committee has heard from numerous witnesses about the negative impacts, not just on people's lives but on the public health system, of criminalizing HIV non-disclosure. I look forward to the continued work of the justice committee and to its report, and I look forward to the government's responding in a robust way to this very serious issue.
Returning to the directive, I note it is based on current scientific evidence regarding the sexual transmission of HIV and applicable criminal laws, as clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Mabior case. The directive recognizes that the non-disclosure of HIV is, first and foremost, a public health issue. It is also important to note that public health authorities have many tools at their disposal to ensure that people do not engage in reckless behaviour. Those tools would not require that such a provision be in the Criminal Code.
The Attorney General of Canada also issued a directive on the prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases for federal prosecutors, which applies in our territories. It is important that we work with the provinces. Right now, Ontario and British Columbia have policies and directives, but there are several territories in Canada that do not have such a directive. The directive is based on current scientific evidence regarding sexual transmission of HIV and the applicable criminal law.
Today I have touched on only a few of the many actions our government has taken to advance the full recognition, protection and participation of our LGBTQ2 communities. Our government will continue to demonstrate its commitment to promoting an inclusive society that works for all Canadians.
Before I get to questions, it is important to note that when we open up committee to civil society organizations and hear witnesses from coast to coast to coast, we let people who are not within 15 minutes or even two hours of Ottawa know that this government is their government. We let them know that the House and our parliamentary committees are designed to understand the issues that matter to them. It is important that we continue to open our committees to a diversity of voices, such as indigenous voices, the voices of depressed and marginalized people, and the voices of the LGBTQ2 community.
The health committee is right now wrapping up a study that was unanimously accepted by all members, about the health indicators of LGBTQ2 people. Our health indicators for this group are only slightly above those for indigenous people.
We have a lot of work to do in this chamber. We have a lot of work to do in advancing legislation and a lot of work to do to make lives better for all Canadians.
Now I have a few questions for the minister.
Could the minister share with us why it is important for us to continue our work on the prosecutorial policy directive as it pertains to the prosecution of HIV disclosure?
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2019-05-14 18:49 [p.27798]
Mr. Chair, I would like to say in English what I said in French, which is that the directive the minister is talking about is important, and we have heard from witnesses that it is important because it is a step in the right direction. It says that the government needs to follow the science, that prosecutors need to follow the science, and that when somebody is undetectable, they are untransmittable and should not be charged or prosecuted for non-disclosure of HIV status.
Equally important is the fact that because it is federal jurisdiction, the directive applies to the territories. British Columbia and Ontario have since issued a similar directive to their Crowns. However, I think it is important that we work at the federal, provincial and territorial level to include and encourage other jurisdictions to issue similar policies and directives.
Also, it would be important for us to look into the justice department. We have section 159, and we have the vagrancy and bawdy house provisions in Bill C-75, and I am looking forward to seeing it come back from the Senate. Could the minister share with the House and the committee of the whole other accomplishments that the department has achieved to make the lives of LGBTQ2 Canadians better?
View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2019-02-07 18:49 [p.25437]
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned Bill C-75, and I would agree with part of it. However, many of those offences have been downgraded, almost 60 of them, and when the suggestion is not to take property crimes seriously, that statement of hers will ring loudly for a long time in my riding and create anger. If someone has been a victim of property crime, that is a tragic piece.
When she speaks of Bill C-75, which is a slap on the wrist for many offences on property, people become very angry. This is a challenge. Rural crime is still a challenge and it needs to be resolved.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:17 [p.24109]
Madam Speaker, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary about judicial referral hearings. At justice committee, a concern was raised about the fact that with the judicial referral hearings, a breach of an administrative offence, a breach of an order or bail condition, that this breach would not then be entered into the CPIC system.
In my riding of St. Albert—Edmonton, we saw the consequences of not having that information brought before a justice of the peace when Constable Wynn was shot and killed by someone who had an extensive criminal record, including 38 outstanding charges for failing to appear. Now, with Bill C-75, there is no guarantee that the totality of someone's record will even be entered into the CPIC system. What is the government doing to address that?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:22 [p.24110]
Madam Speaker, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary a question regarding judicial appointments. He talked about the fact that the government has been appointing judges, but I say it is too little, too late. He can cite whatever number he wishes, and he did mention that the government is establishing new judicial posts. In the Budget Implementation Act of 2017, funding for 14 new judicial posts was provided for in the province of Alberta. Today, a year and a half later, seven out of the 14 remain vacant. Is that a record of action?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:27 [p.24111]
Madam Speaker, I rise once again to speak to Bill C-75. One of the biggest problems with Bill C-75 is that, although the objective of the legislation is to reduce delay in Canada's courts, it actually does very little to reduce delay. For a bill that is designed to reduce delay, the fact that it does not reduce delay is a pretty big problem.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and other Liberal MPs who have spoken on the bill in this place have patted themselves on the back about, as they have put it, the good work of the justice committee, which heard from 95 witnesses, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice just stated, and that Liberal MPs listened to the key stakeholders and acted on the concerns raised by stakeholders.
In the three years I have been a member of Parliament I have never seen a piece of legislation more widely criticized in virtually all aspects of this massive 300-page bill than Bill C-75. Despite the rhetoric from across the way about listening to key stakeholders, the reality is that on issue after issue, the Liberals did not listen. They ignored the concerns raised by key stakeholders at committee. Instead they rammed the bill through committee and, other than a few minor changes, we are largely stuck with a very flawed bill, a bill that is problematic in so many different ways.
In that regard, let me first highlight the issue of hybridization. Putting aside the issue of watering down serious indictable offences, which is certainly a serious concern, from the standpoint of reducing delay, hybridization is going to download even more cases onto provincial courts. Some 99.6% of criminal cases are already heard before provincial courts, and if any member questions my statement about the fact this would result in the further downloading of cases, do not take my word for it. Take the Canadian Bar Association's word. The Canadian Bar Association, in its brief to the justice committee said that hybridization, “...would likely mean more cases will be heard in provincial court. This could result in further delays in those courts....” No kidding. Despite what the Canadian Bar Association said, the government said, “No problem. We'll just download more cases on to provincial courts”.
Then, there were public safety concerns raised about hybridization. One of the concerns raised was by John Muise, a former member of the Parole Board. He noted that offences being reclassified included breaches of long-term supervision orders. Long-term supervision orders apply to the most dangerous sexual predators in our society. We are talking about individuals who are so dangerous that after they complete their sentence, they are subject to a long-term supervision order for up to 10 years, with many stringent conditions.
John Muise said that it is a serious problem to treat breaches of these orders which are imposed on the most dangerous of people and that they should remain solely indictable, mainly because a breach of a long-term supervision order is a sign that these very dangerous offenders are returning to their cycle of violence and exploitation of vulnerable persons. We are not talking about marginalized people here, as the hon. parliamentary secretary referred to with respect to minor administration of justice offences, breaches of orders, which should be treated seriously. In this case, we are talking about the most serious offenders. Instead of heeding the advice of John Muise, the government said, “No problem; we'll move ahead”, forgetting about what a member of the Parole Board of Canada had said.
As well, Mr. Chow, deputy chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department, appeared before our committee. He said that there was another problem to reclassifying some very serious indictable offences as it relates to taking a sample and putting it into a national DNA database. Right now, if someone is convicted for one of those offences as an indictable offence, the Crown could apply to a judge to take a DNA sample to be put into the national DNA data bank. However, with Bill C-75, if the offence was prosecuted by way of summary conviction and the individual was convicted, it would be a summary conviction offence rather than an indictable offence, and no such application could be made.
In talking about the impact that might have upon police investigations, Deputy Chief Constable Chow noted in his testimony that of the 85 offences that are being reclassified, as a result of DNA samples being taken over the last number of years, 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults were solved. However, instead of listening to Mr. Chow, instead of listening to Mr. Muise, the government said, “We don't care. We're moving ahead.”
Then there is the issue of preliminary inquiries. The government is limiting preliminary inquiries to be held if the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, and for all other offences with a lesser maximum penalty, a preliminary inquiry would no longer be available. The government claims that this will help speed up the court process. Witness after witness begged to differ with the government. The brief submitted to the committee by the Canadian Bar Association stated on limiting preliminary inquiries:
This would not reduce court delays and would negatively impact the criminal justice system as a whole.... Any connection between court delays and the preliminary hearing is speculative at best.
If members do not want to take the word of the Canadian Bar Association, perhaps they might be interested in taking the word of the Barreau du Québec, which stated:
The Barreau du Québec opposes this amendment. By limiting the use of preliminary inquiries, some argue that we can speed up the judicial process and thus reduce delays. We believe that limiting preliminary inquiries in this way would be ineffective or even counterproductive.
Then there was Philip Star, a criminal defence lawyer from Nova Scotia, who said before the committee in respect to preliminary inquiries:
They're incredibly helpful, not only to the accused, but to the Crown and ultimately to our system, by cutting down on delays....
So much for the government's assertion that limiting preliminary inquiries is somehow going to reduce delays.
It gets better, because Laurelly Dale, another lawyer, a defence counsel, who appeared before the committee said:
Two major studies have concluded that preliminary inquiries do not contribute substantially to the problem of court delay. Preliminary hearings facilitate the resolution of potentially lengthy and expensive trials in superior court. They are often used instead of rather than in addition to trials. They expedite the administration of justice. It is far easier and quicker to get a two- to four-day prelim, as opposed to a one- to two-week trial in superior court.
Then there is Michael Spratt, who said:
There is a delay problem in our courts, but preliminary inquiries are not the cause of that delay.
Witness after witness, as I said, told the government that this is not going to work. It is not going to reduce delay. Did the government listen? Did the Liberal members on the justice committee listen? Apparently not.
Further testimony on prelims was from Sarah Leamon who said:
...87% of them actually resolve after the preliminary inquiry process. It saves the complainant,—
—in the context of a sexual assault complainant—
—in the vast majority of circumstances, from having to testify again and from being re-traumatized.
While the Liberal members opposite say they listened, the evidence before the committee and the response of the government to the evidence before the committee demonstrates exactly the opposite.
Even if one accepts the reasoning of the government, despite all of the evidence before the committee that limiting preliminary inquiries will in fact reduce delay, it is important to note that preliminary inquiries only take up about 3% of court time across Canada. To the degree that this is going to have a beneficial impact, the fact remains it is a very small piece of the much larger problem of backlog and delay in Canada's courts.
Let us look at the issue of judicial referral hearings, and the evidence that was before the committee on judicial referral hearings. Serious concerns were raised, including by John Muise, a former member of the Parole Board of Canada, as well as from Mr. Chow from the Vancouver Police Department, about the fact that individuals who commit an administration of justice offence, who are referred to a judicial referral hearing, would not have that breach of an order or other administration of justice offence entered into CPIC.
Right now, if someone does commit an AOJ offence, it is entered into CPIC, but thanks to the government's judicial referral hearing process, that would not happen. As I mentioned when I posed a question to the hon. parliamentary secretary, the consequences of not presenting the full CPIC record before a judge or justice of the peace can have devastating consequences. My community learned this when Constable David Wynn was shot and killed by someone who had an extensive criminal record, including an extensive record of administration of justice offences.
Now the government is saying that the court would not even have the benefit, if that CPIC record were to be presented, of the totality of that offender's criminal record because, after all, those offences would not be entered into CPIC. When I asked the parliamentary secretary what the government intended to do to fix this serious public safety issue, which was brought up more than once before the justice committee, he regretfully did not have an answer.
I should note again that in terms of judicial referral hearings, while they will have an impact on undermining public safety because those breaches will not be entered into CPIC, the impact of administration of justice offences on the backlog in our system is actually quite limited. That is because AOJ offences are typically dealt with as tagalong offences. What I mean by that is that they are usually dealt with at the same time that the main or underlying charge is dealt with. Therefore, in terms of the amount of court time and court resources that are being used for the purpose of dealing with administration of justice offences, in fact, it is quite minimal.
Again, members should not take my word for it. They should take the word of Rick Woodburn, the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. Here is what Mr. Woodburn said to the justice committee:
I can tell you from the ground, they don't clog up the system. They don't take that much time. A breach of a court order takes very little time to prove, even if it goes to trial—and that's rare. Keep in the back of your mind that these charges aren't clogging up the system.
Did the Liberals keep that in the back of their minds? Apparently not because they just went ahead with the judicial referral hearing process without a plan, without any thought of the serious public safety issues that were raised before the justice committee.
Then there is the issue of peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges have nothing to do with delay, but they were added to this bill. The basis upon which the government has decided to eliminate peremptory challenges is that somehow it will increase the representativeness of juries. Witness after witness said quite the opposite, but instead of listening to those witnesses, the government just moved ahead.
Taken together, the record is very clear. Ninety-five witnesses gave evidence at committee and on issue after issue, the Liberals ignored the evidence. The Liberals ignored the witnesses and as a result, we have a very flawed bill that is not going to get to the heart of the problem, which is to reduce the delay and backlog in Canada's courts.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:49 [p.24113]
Madam Speaker, section 159 is an unconstitutional and inoperative section of the Criminal Code. In other words, it is one of these zombie laws. I fully support the removal of zombie laws, including section 159.
I am surprised that the hon. member would pat the government on the back for taking this step, given the government's record of dragging its feet. It was all the way back in the fall of 2016 that the government introduced Bill C-28 to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code. What happened to Bill C-28? Two years later, it is stuck at first reading. The Liberals could have passed that bill with unanimous consent, but because of the inaction of the government, section 159 remains in the Criminal Code.
To highlight the incompetence of the government, after introducing Bill C-28, in March of 2017, it also introduced Bill C-39. It also would have removed section 159 and other zombie sections of the Criminal Code. What happened to Bill C-39? It is stuck at first reading. Quite frankly, the only thing keeping section 159 from being removed from the Criminal Code is the government.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:53 [p.24113]
Madam Speaker, I would agree that the Criminal Code should accurately reflect the law in Canada. Therefore, inoperative sections of the Criminal Code should be removed. The consequences of not doing so can be very, very serious.
We saw that happen in the case of the conviction of Travis Vader in respect of two second-degree murder convictions that were overturned because the trial judge applied an inoperative section, section 230, of the Criminal Code, which had been struck down in the Martineau decision all the way back in September 1990 when I was just starting grade 1, and yet almost three decades later, that inoperative section is still there in the Criminal Code.
The McCann family pleaded with the government to move forward. I stood with them. They are from my community of St. Albert. They cannot believe that almost two years later, Bill C-39, which would remove sections 230 and 159, is stuck at first reading.
Here we are, all because the government simply cannot get it done
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:55 [p.24114]
Madam Speaker, on the issue of judicial vacancies, I feel like a broken record. I wish I could stop talking about it, because I would have thought that after two years, the government would actually have done something about filling judicial vacancies. However, they have not done anything. Filling judicial vacancies is the easiest and most straightforward thing to do to address the backlog in our courts. It's not the be-all and end-all. It would solve all of the problems, but it would certainly be a starting point.
With respect to the government's record, it can cite all of the appointments it has made, but, frankly, only after it let judicial vacancies reach record levels. When it comes to filling the vacancies, the government has established 14 new spots in Alberta and provided the funding to fill them. However, a year and a half later, seven out of the 14 judicial vacancies remain vacant.
That is simply unacceptable. That is the record of a government that does not take filling judicial vacancies seriously.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:57 [p.24114]
Madam Speaker, I would cite the Canadian Bar Association, which has said that in the case of peremptory challenges, “they are more frequently used to the benefit of Indigenous and other racialized persons”. The Bar Association went on to say that the bill's amendments to the jury process “abolishing peremptory challenges, seem insufficiently considered. If legislative reform is required, it should be based on empirical data generated through a thorough examination of the jury system.”
Indeed, that was said before the committee. There was a lot of evidence about how this is actually going to make it less likely that juries are representative. One of the proposals was perhaps in—
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-11-28 17:18 [p.24116]
Madam Speaker, I am a big fan of departmental plans. These are the plans that every single department has to publish at the same time the estimates come out. These plans are signed off by the minister. The plans provide the departmental priorities for the year. They lay out the goals and the priorities.
My colleague across said that the number one priority of the government is keeping communities safe. I would like him to comment on the fact that in the public safety departmental plan, which has been signed off by the Minister of Public Safety, there is something called the “crime severity index”. Under the current government, it is increasing compared to the previous government.
There is another line there that shows the percentage of Canadians who think that crime in their neighbourhood has decreased. My colleague mentioned the priority is keeping communities safe, when the government's own plan calls for a 33% decrease in the number of Canadians who feel their community is safe.
My colleague's second comment was that another priority is protecting victims. In the departmental plans for both public safety and justice, victims are not mentioned once.
My question for my colleague across the way is this. Was he misinforming the House when he said that was a Liberal priority or were the ministers of justice and public safety misinforming the House when they tabled their departmental plans? Which is it?
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-11-28 17:26 [p.24117]
Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary provided an example in his opening of a case involving kidnapping, which is one of the charges that is being hybridized. In French we would call it un exemple farfelu. If I had a good Yiddish proverb I would say it too, but it is the most ridiculous example of all he gave to us. He is basically saying the prosecutor should make the decision. He does not trust a judge to hear the facts of the case and say, in this situation the charges do not apply, that justice would not be done for the child or for the parents involved.
It is an example of how the government tries to defend the indefensible in the bill, hybridizing a whole series of offences that should rightfully be heard by a judge. Why is it that the Liberal government does not trust the judges to rule on the cases?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 10:14 [p.23583]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-75 was introduced on the day before Good Friday in an effort to hide from Canadians what was in the bill. Now, after just two sitting days, the government is already bringing in time allocation at report stage. It is absolutely shameful.
At the justice committee, Liberal MPs were right to back down from the reclassification of terrorism and inciting genocide. However, shockingly, the Liberals have doubled down when it comes to the hybridization of what are currently serious indictable offences, including human trafficking, impaired driving causing bodily harm and kidnapping a minor, just to name a few.
Does the minister not agree that these are also serious offences? Does she not agree with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre when he said, “Let's be serious....We're talking about terrorism. We're talking about very serious offences.”? Why does the minister not also treat impaired driving causing bodily harm, human trafficking and other offences as serious offences?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 10:43 [p.23587]
Madam Speaker, the Minister of Justice said that the hybridization has nothing to do with sentencing, because the sentencing principles will remain the same. Well, no kidding, the sentencing principles will remain the same. What is changing is that the maximum sentence would go from 10 years to two years less a day.
In light of that, how does the hybridization have nothing to do with sentencing?
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2018-11-20 11:26 [p.23588]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-75. I would like to use my time today to discuss the proposed changes to this bill that would affect the LGBTQ2 community, human trafficking and the victim surcharge.
As special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, I am particularly proud of the work of our government in advancing the rights of LBGTQ2 Canadians and the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in making concrete, tangible legislative changes that would improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians.
Today, on the the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we pause to reflect on the lives of transgender people here in Canada and around the world that have been lost to murder, suicide, hatred and discrimination; the lives diminished due to overt transphobia and misogyny; and the daily discrimination faced by trans children, siblings, parents and their loved ones, I am proud, as the first openly gay MP elected from Alberta to the House, that Parliament passed Bill C-16 to protect trans persons in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. I am particularly proud that our government led this charge.
I am also proud of the work of our government in passing legislation to enable Canadians who have criminal records for same-sex consensual activity to have these records expunged, and I acknowledge the leadership of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on this file.
I would also like to thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada for including in Bill C-75 the removal of section 159, which discriminates against young gay or bisexual men. That would now be removed from the Criminal Code with the passing of Bill C-75.
I also applaud the work of the committee and the ministry in responding to expert testimony for the repeal of the bawdy house and vagrancy provisions that were used by police forces to arrest gay men who frequented gay clubs and bathhouses. Men arrested in these police raids, many now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, still face criminal records as a result of these charges. We heard the testimony, and the committee and the ministry responded. Should Bill C-75 pass, these odious provisions in the Criminal Code would be removed and amends could thus be made.
Parts of the bill pertain to human trafficking and the victim surcharge.
I think it is very important to clearly state that human trafficking cannot be tolerated and that our government sees it as a very serious concern. That is why we continue to work closely with the provinces, territories, law enforcement agencies, victim services groups, organizations representing indigenous peoples, and other community groups, as well as our international partners. We are working together to combat all forms of human trafficking in Canada and abroad, to provide victims with special protection and support, to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and to ensure that their punishment reflects the severity of the crime.
Human trafficking is a very difficult crime to detect because of its clandestine nature and victims' reluctance to report their situations out of fear of their traffickers. We heard testimony about that when the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights travelled across the country to listen to victims of human trafficking and to see how we could change the Criminal Code to provide more opportunities for police to work with those organizations that work with victims.
The legislative changes within Bill C-75 would provide police and prosecutors with additional tools for investigation and prosecution. These measures would bring the perpetrators of human trafficking to justice so they can answer for the severity of their actions.
The amendments proposed in Bill C-38 would bring into force amendments that have already been passed by Parliament, but were not promulgated in the former parliamentary initiative, Bill C-452. They would also strengthen the legislation to combat all forms of human trafficking, whether through sexual exploitation or forced labour, while respecting the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.
We heard of heinous crimes being committed not just against those who are unknown to the perpetrators, but also against family members. Family trafficking exists in this country, and we must make sure that police forces are armed with the tools they need to be able to put an end to such heinous crimes.
More specifically, the proposed changes will make it easier to prosecute human trafficking offences by introducing a presumption that will enable the Crown to prove that the accused exercised control, direction or influence over the victim's movements by establishing that the accused lived with or was habitually in the company of the victim.
In addition, these changes would add human trafficking to the list of offences to which the provisions imposing a reverse onus for forfeiture of proceeds of crime apply.
I would now like to discuss the changes that would affect the victim surcharge. Bill C-75 proposes to restore judicial discretion to waive the victim surcharge by guiding judges to waive the victim surcharge only when the offender is truly unable to pay. For certain offences against the administration of justice, where the total amount would be disproportionate in certain circumstances, the bill would also provide for limited judicial discretion to not impose a federal victim surcharge amount per offence.
The federal victim surcharge, which is set out in the Criminal Code, is imposed on a sentencing basis, and revenue is collected and used by the province or territory where the criminal act was committed to assist in the sentencing process for funding victims services. Bill C-75 would maintain that the federal victim surcharge must be imposed ex officio and must apply cumulatively to each offence. However, to address concerns about the negative impact of current federal victim surcharge provisions on marginalized offenders, the bill would provide limited judicial discretion regarding the mandatory and cumulative imposition of the surcharge in certain circumstances.
Bill C-75 would provide clear direction as to what would constitute undue hardship. These guidelines would ensure that the mandatory exemption, or waiver, would be applied consistently and only to offenders who were truly unable to pay the surcharge. In addition, the bill would state that undue hardship would refer to the financial ability to pay and was not simply caused by harm associated with incarceration. We are trying to avoid the criminalization and over-criminalization of people simply because of their inability to pay a federal victim surcharge.
For certain offences against the justice administration, in the event that the cumulative surcharge was disproportionate to the circumstances, Bill C-75 would contain provisions allowing an exception to the victim fine surcharge ratio. This exception would apply to two types of offences against the administration of justice: failure to appear in court; and breach of conditions of bail by a peace officer or court order, and only when said breach did not cause any moral, bodily or financial damage to the victim.
Studies show that marginalized offenders, especially indigenous offenders and offenders with mental health and addiction issues, are more likely to be found guilty of offences against the administration of justice.
Under the existing victim surcharge provisions, it is unlikely that much of the money collected in the federal victim surcharges that are paid out to the provinces and territories comes from groups of offenders who are unable to pay the victim surcharge or who are only able to pay part of the surcharge because of their personal situation or because of their multiple offences against the administration of justice.
In addition, offenders who suffer undue hardship as a result of the mandatory victim surcharge are, by the current application of the provisions, hampered in their ability to regain financial stability. This places them in a situation where the surcharge does not allow them to successfully reintegrate into society after serving their sentences or paying their outstanding fines, and they risk reoffending. These types of situations do not help survivors or victims of crime or the provision of services to help them. This proposed exception would be consistent with the principles of fairness and equity.
I am confident that by maintaining a higher mandatory surcharge, this proposed legislation would support the objective of the victim surcharge to provide a source of funding for provincial and territorial victim services while strengthening offender accountability regarding victims and society in general. At the same time, the bill would be in keeping with the principles of proportionality, fairness and respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Not having gone through law school, I can say that it is an honour to serve on this committee and to be part of making Bill C-75 appear in the House today.
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2018-11-20 11:37 [p.23590]
Madam Speaker, I am going to answer the question, if the heckling will stop.
What I can say very clearly is that the hybridization of offences would provide the courts with the tools they need to make sure that we respect our obligations under Jordan's principle. Nobody wants to see criminals on the streets because they did not get their time in court within two years. Principles of sentencing would not be affected by Bill C-75. That is section 718 of the code. Members can look at it.
Hybridization would be another tool for prosecutors, and they would be able to use it.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 11:37 [p.23590]
Madam Speaker, Sheri Arsenault lost her 18 year-old son, along with two other young men from Edmonton, at the hands of an impaired driver. She came to the justice committee and pleaded with Liberal MPs not to reclassify, not to hybridize, the very serious offence of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
The member for Edmonton Centre rightfully supported our amendments to not reclassify terrorism- and genocide-related offences. The member said, in relation to those offences, “Let's be serious.... We're talking about terrorism. We're talking about very serious offences.”
What does the hon. member have to say to Sheri Arsenault? Does he not consider impaired driving causing bodily harm to be a very serious offence?
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2018-11-20 11:38 [p.23590]
Madam Speaker, if the member for St. Albert—Edmonton were to go back on the tape, he would also see that I was very clear about his comment to the committee and said “hogwash and poppycock” on his politicization of a very serious matter in Bill C-75.
I have met with Ms. Arsenault. I have met with George Marrinier. They are constituents. Quite frankly, that member knows, as members on the other side know, that this is not a sentencing question. We doubled the fines for impaired driving to 14 years. I can tell members that this is going to help us respect the Jordan principle.
The member can be upset about this, just like I am, but this is going to help us in the administration of justice.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2018-11-20 11:40 [p.23591]
Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his leadership on this file.
It is very clear, and the Prime Minister was clear in his apology, that we had work to do on the bawdy house provisions. The committee unanimously agreed to repeal them in Bill C-75, including the vagrancy provisions.
Gay men were charged, arrested and now have criminal convictions for simply going to meet other men in bath houses or gay clubs. This change would allow future additions to happen to expunge in legislation so that those records could be expunged.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 11:52 [p.23593]
Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member for Elmwood—Transcona about hybridization. He mentioned it in terms of the download that will result on our overburdened provincial courts, which handle 99.6% of criminal cases in Canada. In addition to that, the timeline to prosecute cases before a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable would go from 30 months to 18 months.
Perhaps the hon. member could comment on that. It seems that on top of downloading cases onto provincial courts, it is actually going to increase the risk of having more cases thrown out rather than fewer.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 12:04 [p.23594]
Mr. Speaker, I enjoy serving on the justice committee with the member for Willowdale. He did appear before the justice committee to provide evidence about why genocide and terrorism-related offences should not be reclassified. His testimony was certainly helpful to the committee.
The member spoke of consultations that took place in the lead-up to Bill C-75. The fact is the government simply took a whole series of offences that were at a 10-year maximum and reclassified them, including terrorism and genocide, which I think the member would agree had no business being reclassified.
The member spoke a few moments ago about the fact that those offences should not be reclassified because they need to be treated seriously and prosecuting them by way of summary conviction would not do justice.
I wonder if the hon. member could speak to why the government does not seem to also take seriously offences such as impaired driving causing bodily harm or administering a date rape drug.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 12:32 [p.23598]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about the reverse onus for offences related to intimate partner violence. That is a step in the right direction. We on this side of the House fully support that aspect of Bill C-75. However, it seems like for every step forward that the government makes, it takes two steps backward.
On the issue of violence against women, could the hon. member speak to the fact that under Bill C-75 offences such as forced marriage or administering a date rape drug are now being reclassified as hybrid offences, in other words, less serious offences? Therefore, yes, one step forward, but it seems many steps backward when it comes to standing up and defending the rights of women.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2018-11-20 12:37 [p.23598]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to 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. This omnibus bill is over 200 pages. It includes major reforms to our criminal justice system.
With a concerning level of rural crime in my riding, the safety of my constituents is a high priority for me. The safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government.
While there are some aspects of the bill that I agree will help to reduce delays in the court system, there are several problems associated with it with which I have concerns.
First, I want to talk about the bill itself. As I mentioned, this is a 204-page omnibus bill. I want to remind the Liberals that during the election, they promised they would never table omnibus bills, but here it is. However, 80 other promises have either been broken or have not even started.
This is still on the Liberal web page, which I looked it up the other day. It states that omnibus bills “prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating [the government's] proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.” Yet here we are today discussing an omnibus bill.
It is a mixed bag that amends a total of 13 different acts in various ways. The bill needs to be split into more manageable portions so we can properly study it. What is more is that the government also has thrown in three bills that have already been tabled, Bill C-28, victim surcharge; Bill C-38, consecutive sentencing for human traffickers; and Bill C-39, repealing unconstitutional provisions. Perhaps if the government could manage its legislative agenda more effectively, it would not need to re-table its bills, push through omnibus bills or repeatedly force time allocation and limit debates.
The Liberals are failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. In March they tabled this bill the day before a two-week break period in our sitting schedule. Then they waited a half a year. Now they have returned it when there are only a few weeks left before our six-week break period. This does not give the image that justice is a high priority for the Liberal government.
The government's lack of judicial appointments has resulted in violent criminals walking away without a trial. As of November 2, 54 federal judicial vacancies remained. Appointing judges is an effective solution that is much faster than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I remember in April when the minister talked about 54 more federal judges, yet here we are, almost the end of the year, and still no action.
I also want to talk about what is actually in the bill. Again, some parts of the bill I can support. For example, I agree with efforts to modernize and clarify interim release provisions and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.
Modernizing and simplifying interim release provisions is an important step that will assist many rural communities across the country that do not have the resources to navigate lengthy procedures and paperwork. For that reason, I support this.
However, I wish the stricter release requirements were not limited to offences involving domestic abuse. With an alarming rate of rural crime in my riding and across Canada, which is often carried out by repeat offenders, we need to make it more difficult for all violent criminals to be released. Otherwise, we have a revolving door where they commit a crime, get arrested, get released and start all over again.
I was at a rural crime seminar in the city of Red Deer last Friday. A former police officer from Calgary city police told us about one of the cases he had worked on recently. An Alberta offender was charged with 130 offences, ranging from break and enter to car theft, equipment theft and possession of stolen property.
At the last sitting in Alberta the judge released him. Out the door he went. Where did he go? He took off to B.C. Now we understand they are looking for him in British Columbia, which has 100 similar outstanding charges against him in a very short period of time. This person should not have been released.
These criminals prey on farmers and elderly people. They know that RCMP resources are lacking in these areas and take full advantage of that. What the government needs to do is to provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to stop the revolving door of criminals in and out of the courts. That is happening constantly.
Victims should be the central focus of the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special treatment for criminals, which is why our party introduced the Victims Bill of Rights. The government, unfortunately, does not agree since Bill C-75 would repeal our changes to the victim surcharge and reduce its overall use and effectiveness.
I believe in protecting victims of crime, which is why I introduced my own private member's bill, Bill C-206, that would ensure that criminals who take advantage of vulnerable people, specifically adults who depend on others for their care, are subject to harder, sure punishment.
Last month, a gentleman from my riding of Yellowhead was a witness before our public safety and national security committee. He shared with us his first-hand experience. It was a terrible story. This gentleman, whom I consider a friend, is aged 83. He heard his truck start up one day when he was having lunch with his wife. He walked outside to see his truck being driven out of his yard. He lives about 70 kilometres from the town of Edson where the local police office is located. He picked up his phone and was about to call when his vehicle returned to his yard. Two youths, one aged 18 and one aged 17, got out, knocked him to the ground, repeatedly kicked him in the face, the chest, the ribs, attempted to slash his throat, and then drove off again. This gentleman is 83. This is still being dealt with in the courts despite the fact it happened a year ago. This gentleman has had to attend court 10 times so far and the matter is still not over.
We on this side of the House will always work to strengthen the Criminal Code of Canada and make it harder for criminals to get out.
I am concerned that portions of Bill C-75 would weaken our justice system. Through the bill, the Liberals would reduce penalties for the following crimes: participating in criminal organizations, various acts of corruption, prison breach, impaired driving, abduction, human trafficking, forced marriage, and arson, just to name a few of many in the bill. Participation in terrorist activities and advocating genocide were deleted from this list only because a Conservative amendment was accepted at committee. Those are just a few examples of more than a hundred serious crimes that could be prosecuted by summary conviction and result in lighter sentencing, or even fines.
The government is failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. Reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and to criminals.
I am also concerned about the wording used in the section that would increase maximum sentences for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. I support increasing these sentences but I do not support replacing the language of “spouse” with “intimate partner”. I believe both should be included. I understand that not all domestic abuse is within a spousal relationship, so there is a need to have "intimate partner" included. However, it should not replace "spouse". Rather, both terms should be included.
Another problem I have with Bill C-75 is the reversal of protections for religious officials.
When Bill C-51 was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in January, two amendments were moved by my Conservative colleagues. The first amendment proposed keeping section 176 in the Criminal Code of Canada, while the second aimed to modernize the language of that section. The Liberals agreed to them and that was good, but they need to listen more.
Imagine my disappointment when I read in Bill C-75 that section 176 in the Criminal Code was once again under attack. Assault of officiants during a religious service is very serious and should remain an indictable offence.
Thank you for the opportunity to present my views.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2018-11-20 12:48 [p.23600]
Mr. Speaker, increasing that penalty is definitely one of the ways to go, but if we are changing the legislation, we must also ensure that our prosecutors and court systems abide by the new regulations and follow through on them. There is no use changing these regulations if the prosecutors and courts will not follow them. If they do not, we will again have a revolving-door system, as it is today. The change would not matter much.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 12:49 [p.23600]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Yellowhead, who has a great deal of knowledge about Canada's justice system, having spent a few decades as an RCMP officer.
I am glad the member brought up the victim surcharge, which is an important source of funding to support victims of crime. We on this side of the House brought forward an amendment at the justice committee to increase the victim surcharge by $25. That would seem like a very modest amount that could go a long way to supporting victims. Shockingly, the Liberals shot it down.
Would the hon. member agree that our amendment was quite reasonable and that the failure of the government to support it is just another example of its putting victims last?
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2018-11-20 12:50 [p.23600]
Mr. Speaker, that question is very appropriate. Surcharges should be raised.
We had a witness, a farmer from Saskatchewan, appear at the justice committee two weeks ago. He said he really did not care if a guy goes to jail for two months or six months for stealing his combine, but if the guy causes $100,000 damage to the combine from driving it around the field and running it through ditches, he the farmer should be able to sue that person, or the court should be able to place a penalty on that criminal to repay that amount. If it takes that criminal the rest of his life to pay back that $100,000 in damage to the farmer's combine, that would be justice.
Victims in Canada are the ones who are suffering; the criminals are not suffering. We must make the criminals responsible for their actions. That is one way we could it.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2018-11-20 12:52 [p.23601]
Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, this was brought to us early in the year, a day before we were to go on a two-day break.
Two previous bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39, have been thrown into this bill. Why were they not dealt with? If it is so important that this get done, why did the government wait so long to do it?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 13:01 [p.23602]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Surrey Centre made reference to the fact that there are certain offences where, in his words, it is appropriate to give the Crown discretion to prosecute the offence by way of summary conviction. Of course, there are many offences in the Criminal Code that are hybrid offences that are left to prosecutors to make that decision. He noted in that regard there are certain offences where the range of conduct of the individual might justify a summary conviction prosecution and the imposition of a non-custodial sentence.
This bill hybridizes the very serious indictable offence of administering a date rape drug. We are talking about people who administer a drug to rape a female. I was wondering if the member could explain in what circumstances he sees there being a range of conduct that would justify the imposition of a non-custodial sentence in that case.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 13:21 [p.23605]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her contribution to Bill C-75.
She made reference to the limitation of preliminary inquiries only to those cases where the maximum sentence is life behind bars. She is quite right that the evidence before the committee overwhelmingly was that it would not reduce delay and that, in fact, it might increase delay because preliminary inquiries help weed out cases, particularly weak cases.
However, in addition to that, I was wondering if she could speak to this life criteria. It seems to be quite arbitrary, because there are certain offences where the maximum sentence may be life and others where it is not. In terms of the sentencing guidelines of case law, one would expect a similar sentence to be imposed, but yet in one case a preliminary inquiry would be available, in the other case it would not. It seems not to make a lot of sense.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-11-20 13:23 [p.23605]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on Bill C-75, which is officially called an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Once again, we have before us another omnibus bill.
Just two weeks ago, I spoke on the budget implementation act, part 2, which was an omnibus bill as well, which of course followed the BIA 1, which was also an omnibus bill. Those bills had sections inside of sections making legislative changes.
When the Liberals were in opposition they railed against omnibus bills, so much so that they actually put it into their campaign pledge. If we go to Liberal.ca, it is still there. This is what it says about omnibus bill. It starts, of course, by attacking Stephen Harper, and what Liberal talking point would be complete without blaming Prime Minister Harper? It says, “Stephen Harper has...used omnibus bills to prevent...properly reviewing and debating...proposals. We will...bring an end to this undemocratic practice.”
When we say that, of course, we put our hand over our heart. However, despite their pledge, here we have another omnibus bill. Perhaps that pledge meant they would prevent others from bringing omnibus bills, but not the Liberals.
If we go to the famous Liberal mandate tracker, what does it say on this promise? Under the “unfair and open government” part, it says they will end the use of omnibus bills. Funnily enough, we have an omnibus bill here, the budget implementation act, part 2, and part 1 is on omnibus bills.
Despite that, under the Liberal mandate tracker under “End the improper use of omnibus bills...” it says it is completed and fully met. Of course, this is the same mandate tracker that is judging balancing the budget by 2019-20. It says it is under way with challenges. The government has stated, its own finance department has stated, we will not see it balanced until 2045. However, somehow it was promised for 2019, and by 2045, it is under way with challenges. It makes me think that if the Liberals were the head of the Titanic, after hitting the iceberg and while it is going down, the Cunard Line reaches out to the captain and asks, “How are you making out on your trip?” and the response is, “Well, we are under way with challenges”.
Moving on to Bill C-75, I agree with a few items in this omnibus bill. With over 300 pages of changes, one has to be able to find a few good things. Bill C-75 would repeal unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code. That is fair and good. It would increase the maximum prison term for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. It would provide that abuse from a partner is an aggravating factor on sentencing. We agree with that and fully support it. It would provide more onerous interim release provisions. Again, we can get behind that. It makes some efforts to reduce delays in the judicial system by restricting the availability of a preliminary hearing, increasing use of technology to facilitate remote attendance, and providing for judicial referral hearings to deal with administration of justice offences involving failure to comply with release conditions or failure to appear.
That being said, I have many grave concerns with the bill, mostly around how it waters down penalties for crimes. The Liberals are claiming they want to push through Bill C-75 using time allocation in order to speed up the court process, and also because of the Jordan ruling. The big problem is, the Liberals are not able to get their act together and appoint judges. It is one thing to make small steps in this way, but until they get their act together and appoint judges, we are going to continue with justice delays and people being released under the Jordan ruling. There have been hundreds of cases tossed due to delays because the government has been unable to do its job and appoint judges.
There are about 2,000 more applications before the courts to dismiss cases because of delays. We had a gang hit man in Calgary accused of three murders, and suspected by the Calgary police of committing 20 murders. He was released from his trial for the three murders he was charged with, because of delays, because we do not have enough judges. We had a man accused of murder, charged in Edmonton, released because of delays, because the government cannot get its act together and appoint judges. We had a killer in Quebec released because of delays. Possibly the worst was a monster in Nova Scotia who took a baseball bat and broke the ankles and shins of his baby. This man was released because the government is too incompetent to do its job and appoint justices. This is an issue that they have to get hold of and they are failing Canadians.
I am pleased that the Liberals did listen to the Conservatives and other opposition members at committee and backed away from having lighter sentences for some crimes, such as terrorism-related offences and advocating genocide. It makes one wonder why it takes us, in committee, to force the government to back away from lightening a sentence for advocating genocide.
Just two weeks ago in the House, we heard the Prime Minister, the opposition leader, the NDP leader, the Green Party leader and members of other parties stand up and make wonderful speeches, apologizing for the disgrace of Canada's not accepting the MS St. Louis and the genocide that happened. The same week, we had a concurrence report from committee about the genocide against Yazidi women, a report that, to the credit of my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill, dragged the government, kicking and screaming, into the light of recognizing that this had indeed been genocide. Despite everything ISIS has done in slaughtering these people, member after government member stood up to say that the UN had not decided it was genocide and that we could not call it that.
At least the government has recognized this and is not watering down the sentences for advocating genocide. However, I have to ask, why does it take the opposition to demand the government make this change?
As I mentioned, I have serious concerns about the watering down of serious crimes in this bill and reduced sentences for many serious crimes, including sometimes just a monetary fine. I want to go through a few of them.
One is prison breach.
Then there is municipal corruption, the influencing of municipal officials. Members will recall a couple of ex-Liberal cabinet ministers who went on to pursue careers in municipal politics who were charged with fraud. Maybe they were just doing a favour for their compatriots.
There is also influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. Actually, we now have the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade being looked at for the clam scam. Perhaps they are trying to do him a favour.
Then there is obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman. This one is especially egregious. The Liberals tried to suspend this under section 176. There were special protections for clergyman performing ceremonies, whether church ceremonies, funerals, or other religious ceremonies. The Liberals tried to take that protection away. The opposition fought back. They promised they would not do that, and yet here in this bill they are reducing that crime.
Let us think about it. Two weeks ago we heard of the massive anti-Semitism that results in the genocide of Jewish people. This is two years after the massacre at the mosque in Quebec and just a month after the defacing of the Talmud Torah School, the Jewish school in my riding, with swastikas. Now we have the government saying that it is okay, that we do not need special protection for religious figures and clergymen.
Other crimes the Liberals are watering down include keeping a common bawdy house. Now, that may be great for parliamentarians, but certainly not for Canadians.
Then there is punishment for infanticide. As I mentioned earlier, we had a gentleman, a monster in Halifax, who was released after breaking the bones of his baby. Here we have a bill that allows for a reduction in sentencing for infanticide.
Another is concealing the body of child.
A further one is driving offences causing bodily harm. Again, we just legalized marijuana. We do not have a proper way to measure the impairment. Police departments have said they are not ready, and here we have the government going out of its way to reduce possible penalties for that.
Others include material benefit—trafficking, abduction of person under age of 16, abduction of person under the age of 14.
There there is forced marriage. Just in committee yesterday, we heard that in Sudan, Somalia and the Congo something like 50% of young girls are being forced into marriage. We have the government saying that we need to do more to prevent that, and we do overseas, but why is it reducing the crime here?
Again, to wrap up, I am sure this bill has wonderful intentions, but the government should look at fulfilling its responsibility of filling judicial vacancies and focus on victims and society, not on making things easier for criminals.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-11-20 13:35 [p.23607]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman asks if the people of Edmonton West deserve certain things. What they deserve is not to have murderers wandering the streets because the government is too incompetent and too busy playing around with virtue signalling than appointing judges. People in B.C. do not need a murderer walking free. People in Nova Scotia do not need a father who has broken the ankles and shinbones of a baby to be walking free because of the government's incompetence.
That is what Canadians deserve, not the Liberal government.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 13:35 [p.23607]
Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice just stood up and patted the government on the back for the appointment of judges. I would remind this House of the government's record when it comes to judicial appointments, including the fact that it took the minister a full six months before appointing a single judge.
Under the minister's watch, we have seen records set on more than one occasion set for the number of judicial vacancies, and we have seen judges themselves speaking out, including the former chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in the province of Alberta, Neil Wittmann, begging and pleading the minister to take action.
Does the hon. member agree that that does not sound like a record of action when it comes to the government's appointing judges, but sounding like too little, too late, resulting in a lot of serious cases being thrown out?
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-11-20 13:36 [p.23607]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton makes a lot of sense. I would direct him to the Minister of Public Safety's departmental plan. These are the plans set out at the beginning of every fiscal year and released with the estimates, stating all of the department's goals and objectives and what the department is going to achieve.
Do my colleagues know what it says about Canadian communities being safe? The Liberal government's goal for the crime severity index is that it go up from what it was during the Harper era. With respect to the percentage of Canadians who think that crime in their neighbourhood has decreased, the Liberal government's goal is to have a 50% reduction.
This shows that the priority of the Liberal government is not with Canadians and it is not with citizens. It is with virtue signalling, and certainly not with competence.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 13:43 [p.23608]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley spoke a lot about jury reform and the elimination of peremptory challenges. This is something we on this side took very seriously and were open to at committee. We heard from various witnesses. The member cited Professor Roach.
I would also note that uniformly, every member of the defence bar who appeared before our committee told us not to eliminate peremptory challenges. In that regard, I would quote Solomon Friedman, a criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa. He said:
Given the overrepresentation of aboriginal persons and racialized minorities as accused in our criminal justice system, at present the peremptory challenge is often the only tool counsel can use in order to ensure that the jury, even in some small way, is representative of the accused.
Michael Spratt, a past board member of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, was very outspoken in his opposition.
I am wondering if the hon. member could comment, given the uniform opposition from the criminal defence bar.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 16:05 [p.23631]
Mr. Speaker, sections of the Criminal Code have been deemed unconstitutional and are therefore of no force or effect. I was astounded that the parliamentary secretary would pat the government on the back for moving forward in this bill with the rightful removal of those sections when it was all the way back in the fall of 2016 when the second-degree murder charges against Travis Vader were thrown out of court because the trial judge applied section 230 of the Criminal Code.
The member made reference to the Martineau decision. Following that, the McCann family, who come from my community of St. Albert, Bret McCann, his son and his wife Mary-Ann, and I pleaded for the minister to introduce legislation. The member for Mount Royal, the chair of the justice committee, wrote to the minister to urge her to introduce legislation. She introduced legislation, to her credit, on March 8, 2017 in Bill C-39.
Bill C-39 has been stuck at first reading, when we could have gotten it done by way of unanimous consent. Why did the government delay almost two years before finally moving forward in Bill C-75? It is too little, too late for the McCann family.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-11-20 16:20 [p.23633]
Mr. Speaker, one of the things I find interesting about the bill before us is clauses 106 and 107, which have to do with people who participate in human trafficking. Clause 106 talks about material benefit, and clause 107 talks about destroying documents. Also, clause 389 talks about removing consecutive sentencing for those who participate in human trafficking.
I listened to the member talk about much violence against women. However, human trafficking is terrible thing that happens right here in Canada, and often 10 blocks from where one lives. I am wondering how the member can square what she said in her speech with a bill that would reduce the sentencing for human traffickers. In some cases, someone would only end up being fined for participating in human trafficking.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-11-20 16:25 [p.23633]
Mr. Speaker, I am going to parlay a little off what my hon. colleague before me had to say. It was very interesting that she very much went around the concept of standing up for violence against women.
This bill is, again, one of these things where the Liberals say they are trying to do one particular thing, and then they go off and do something completely different. When this bill was introduced, the minister said that this was going to improve efficiency in the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. The Liberals then just seemed to water down a whole bunch of sentences to reduce backlogs in the courts. They also wanted to improve and streamline bail hearings.
The goals they stated off the top were laudable. I think everyone in this place has the goal to make the justice system work better. That is something I think everyone who comes to this place can agree on. How we get there is where we disagree. If Bill C-75 actually accomplishes some of these things, we would definitely be on the right track.
Conservatives always look at the justice system from the point of view of the victim. It seems to me that the Liberals always want to look at it from the point of view of the perpetrator.
My first concern about this bill is that it is an omnibus bill. It is a mashup of various other policies. We have seen, over the time I have been here, that bills are introduced, and they keep being added to. I think Bill C-36 has been put in here, and a number of other bills have been lumped in with this bill. We have seen the progression of that. Now it is this monstrosity of a bill that is fairly unmanageable. As my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton pointed out earlier, we had the opportunity to fix a number of these things earlier on, but the government has dithered on some of them.
A lot of people say that I am always criticizing the government, so could I just point out every now when it does something good. There are some good pieces in here. Bill C-75 would increase the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in intimate partner violence, and it would provide that the abuse of an intimate partner would be an aggravating factor in sentencing. I am totally supportive of that.
I am also supportive of the reverse onus for bail in the case of domestic assault. Indeed, I have written letters to the justice minister on that as well. Women who have been violently assaulted by their spouses should have confidence that the justice system will protect their interests and put their safety first.
Another important element of Bill C-75 is that the act of strangulation would be made a more serious level of assault. I am totally fine with that as well.
There are a number of areas I have concerns about in this bill, particularly the way it treats human trafficking. With such significant changes, we would have expected the government to consult widely. Over the last number of years, I have been working with a lot of groups that are concerned about the human trafficking happening right here in Canada. We suggested that these folks contact the justice committee to try to become witnesses at the committee.
The justice committee heard from 95 witnesses on Bill C-75. Over 70% of the witnesses at the justice committee were justice system lawyers, which would totally make sense if this bill was about streamlining the justice system. We would want lawyers to show up. However, this bill is not predominantly about that. It is predominantly about lowering sentences for a whole raft of different offences.
When we are dealing with a bill that would lower sentences, or hybridize these offences, which I think is the term that is used, certainly we should hear from some of the groups that represent the victims of some of these offences. However, we did not hear much from them at all. Just over 10% of those groups came to committee.
With respect to law enforcement, we would think that because they are the people who have to enforce these laws and use the Criminal Code to charge people that perhaps we should hear from them as well. Do members know how many police officers were heard at this committee? Out of 95 witnesses, one police officer showed up or was asked to come. That was also kind of disturbing.
From my limited experience travelling across the country, I know that the issues people face in northern Alberta and in Peace River country are quite a bit different from the issues people face in downtown Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and across the territories. To hear from one police officer how the bill would affect his job seems to me to be limited, particularly when it deals with a whole bunch of different areas the police work in.
The police work every day to keep us safe, and they rely on Parliament to make sure that they have laws they can use. It seems to me that we should have heard particularly from victims and police officers. To have only one police officer, out of 95 witnesses, seems a little interesting.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-75 would make significant changes to some of our human trafficking offences, changing them from indictable to these hybrid offences. As legislators, we are about to vote on these changes. It is important that we make informed decisions. Are these amendments going to be useful for police officers fighting human trafficking? We do not know, because again, we heard from only one police officer, and he was not able to address specifically the human trafficking aspect.
What we know is that at committee, not a single organization that works to fight human trafficking across the country was consulted on these changes. In fact, many of these human trafficking units across the country have no idea that these changes could even be coming into effect, which could be a problem, given that the police are investigating crimes as we speak but would now have pieces of the Criminal Code disappear or be reduced. It may be a problem for them.
I would also urge my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that there is better representation of victims and law enforcement during the Senate hearings on Bill C-75. As we know, the bill will be going to the Senate quickly, as just this morning, we were voting on the closure motion for this particular bill.
Clause 106 of the bill would change the material benefit from trafficking offence and the destroying documents trafficking offence. These offences would be changed from indictable to hybrid offences.
The chair of the justice committee was here. I have debated him before on this. He said that we need to ensure that there is leeway within the law, and I agree with him. He used the example of assault and said that there is a great variance in assault, from minor fisticuffs in the parking lot to someone being left for dead. He said that we need to be able to have variance in the law for that, from being able to issue a fine. My point to him on this particular section is that there should be a minimum for material benefit from human trafficking. Could he give me an example of a fairly minor human trafficking occasion? That seems to me to be ridiculous.
Modern-day slavery is an affront to humanity, and there ought to be a minimum sentence of more than just a fine. I think all of us standing in this place would agree. I do not care if one is the nicest slave-owner on the planet, it is still slavery, and there ought to be a minimum sentence for that and not merely a fine. I was very frustrated by that. The other thing is that this will be downloaded to the provincial courts.
We know that the vast majority of human trafficking victims in this country are female. The vast majority are very young, and about half of them are indigenous. We need to ensure that the risk of being caught for human trafficking outweighs the ability to make money from it.
The justice committee in the past, in a different study, heard that human traffickers make between $1,500 and $2,000 a day from a trafficked individual. Under Bill C-75, the trafficker would face a maximum $5,000 fine. A trafficker who is trafficking a young person in this country can make up to $300,000 a year. A $5,000 fine is ridiculous. That is just be the cost of doing business for that individual.
The other thing is that this would take away consecutive sentencing for human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are afraid to come forward because they fear that it would then just be a short time before their pimp would be back out on the street hunting them down.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-11-20 16:36 [p.23635]
Mr. Speaker, taking it from six months to two years minus a day is not the dispute. The dispute is about the fact that the government is are taking something that could be a maximum sentence of 10 years and reducing it to possibly just a fine. That is where the dispute lies.
The other concern is with consecutive sentencing. If a trafficker is trafficking one girl or 10 girls, he is going to jail for either 10 years or 100 years. That makes quite a difference, particularly when in most cases it is not just one individual who is being trafficked. It makes a difference, in that the person being trafficked would then be confident that the trafficker would be put away for a significant amount of time, so they could get their life back in order, because the trafficker would not be coming back to where they live, hunting them down and putting them back to work.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-11-20 16:38 [p.23635]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what point my colleague is trying to make. However, he talked about the legislative agenda to some degree, and one of the things I can talk about in that regard is that a former colleague of his, the NDP member Maria Mourani, introduced a bill over five years ago. That bill was passed in a previous Parliament and was to come into force. The Liberals said they were going to bring it into force. That was five years ago. It is finally being addressed in this particular bill. While most of the tools in her bill, Bill C-452, are coming in, the Liberals have removed consecutive sentencing from the bill. While to some degree that proves that the human trafficking angle is definitely a non-partisan thing, it is also very frustrating that the Liberals cannot get on board with it.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 16:39 [p.23635]
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary referenced the study on human trafficking that the justice committee undertook. I can assure the House that everywhere we went, from all the stakeholders we met, from the victims, from law enforcement, nowhere did they say the offence of human trafficking needed to be hybridized.
The member for Peace River—Westlock spoke of not being able to figure out a case where this would be justified. Does it not speak to the haphazard way the bill was drafted, the fact that such offences were classed as minor offences that could be reduced to a ticketable offence under the Criminal Code?
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-11-20 16:40 [p.23636]
Mr. Speaker, I think the member's question also speaks to my previous one. It seems like a bad thing when people go to jail. We have a court system that seems to be clogged, which also seems like a bad thing. The Liberals' solution for this is to reduce the number of things that people can go to jail for, but that is not a solution.
Canada is a nation built upon laws. We have a threshold of behaviour that we are looking for. Let us work on the Canadian culture if that is what it will take to change this, not reduce the things people can go to jail for. A lot of these things are heinous crimes that people ought to go to jail for.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 16:52 [p.23637]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul spoke about preliminary inquiries. While there certainly was some support for limiting preliminary inquiries, the vast majority of witnesses who appeared before justice committee said that it was better to keep preliminary inquiries the way they are.
During the human trafficking study that the justice committee undertook, there was a Crown prosecutor who prosecuted one of the very few successful human trafficking cases in Canada. This individual said the preliminary inquiry was essential to the successful conviction of the individual at hand, because so many witnesses were disappearing. To get them in, under oath, at the preliminary inquiry stage was essential to their ability to then tender that evidence at trial. In addition, we know that 87% of cases are resolved at the preliminary inquiry stage.
In addition to that, there was some concern about the arbitrariness of using preliminary inquiry only for those cases where the maximum sentence is life. It may make some sense on a superficial level, but there are many instances where certain charges might carry life as a maximum sentence, and other similar ones where the sentence would be less than life. The sentencing ranges for both of those offences may be similar, yet only in one case would the accused be entitled to a preliminary inquiry.
I am wondering if the hon. member could address some of those points.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 16:55 [p.23637]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul also touched upon the issue of peremptory challenges. This is something we took very seriously in terms of considering their abolition. Unanimously, before the justice committee, the criminal defence bar said that peremptory challenges were absolutely essential in order to ensure a fair trial.
In that regard, I would draw the hon. member's attention to the comments of Richard Fowler of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, who stated before the committee, “I will just say, as an aside, that the abolition of peremptory challenges is a huge mistake. I've selected over 100 juries, and I've never seen it misused. It's necessary.”
Another lawyer, Solomon Friedman, indicated that it was essential to ensure that juries are representative of the broader population.
Could the hon. member address those points?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 17:07 [p.23638]
Mr. Speaker, I know the parliamentary secretary is a lawyer, and I want to ask him a question in regard to the limitation on preliminary inquiries.
Evidence before the justice committee was that preliminary inquiries can serve as an important discovery aspect in which important evidence on complex motions before the court can serve a useful purpose to avoid mid-trial delays if it is not dealt with before getting to trial. It was pointed out in that regard that limiting preliminary inquiries in that context would have the potential impact of increasing delays rather than reducing delays, with an increased likelihood in mid-trial adjournments.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 17:25 [p.23640]
Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice suggested that somehow the appointment process was broken under the Harper government. I hope he is not impugning the character of the very many good justices who were appointed under Prime Minister Harper, as well as the many good justices who have been appointed by the government. The problem, however, is that the Liberal government did not do it quickly enough, at least in the first year after it was elected.
The member for Drummond just commented on the new appointment process established by the government, but it took it a full year to appoint new judicial advisory committees.
Does the hon. member agree that this demonstrates that when it comes to appointing judges and when it comes to filling judicial vacancies within a reasonable period of time, the government has not taken it seriously?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 17:37 [p.23642]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's speech was certainly long on rhetoric but short on substance.
The hon. member talked about giving prosecutors discretion and that is all this is about. If that were the case, then why would we have solely indictable offences at all? Why would every offence not be a hybrid offence? Why would murder not be a hybrid offence, if it is all just about giving prosecutors the appropriate discretion? We do not because there are certain offences that are serious, that need to be treated seriously in all cases and, therefore, are indictable.
The member spoke about the range of conduct captured, such that it would be appropriate to prosecute by way of summary conviction. Just what range of conduct captured does he envision in the case of infanticide or concealing the body of a child, or perhaps administering a date-rape drug? In just what circumstances does he see those offences being on the level of a ticketable offence or a minor property crime?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 10:25 [p.23426]
moved:
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 61.
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 87.
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 89.
Motion No. 5
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 90.
Motion No. 6
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 106.
Motion No. 7
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 107.
Motion No. 8
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 108.
Motion No. 9
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 109.
Motion No. 10
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 186.
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2018-11-08 10:25 [p.23427]
moved:
Motion No. 11
That Bill C-75, in Clause 294, be amended by replacing lines 10 and 11 on page 120 with the following:
“mony given by a police officer, as defined in section 183, in the presence of an accused during a voir”
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 10:25 [p.23427]
moved:
Motion No. 12
That Bill C-75 be amended by deleting Clause 310.
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2018-11-08 10:25 [p.23427]
moved:
Motion No. 13
That Bill C-75, in Clause 389, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 6 on page 183 with the following:
“difiant le Code criminel, la Loi”
Motion No. 14
That Bill C-75, in Clause 407, be amended by deleting lines 23 to 32 on page 197.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 10:34 [p.23428]
Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice noted that at the justice committee the Liberal members did the right thing in supporting our Conservative amendments to amend Bill C-75.
Thus, serious indictable offences, namely terrorism and genocide-related offences, would not be reclassified as hybrid offences. In doing so, they listened to the testimony of, among others, Shimon Fogel from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, who said that reclassifying such offences would send “a clear and unacceptable signal diminishing the inherently grave, even heinous, nature of these crimes.” Similarly, the member for Edmonton Centre said, “Let's be serious.... We're talking about very serious offences.”
Unfortunately, the government decided to double down on the reclassification of offences such as impaired driving causing bodily harm and kidnapping a minor under the age of 14. What kind of message does that send?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 10:37 [p.23429]
Madam Speaker, I am deeply concerned and share the concern expressed in the House and at committee by my colleague, the NDP justice critic, the member for Victoria. Despite the Minister of Justice's mandate letter, which directed that she remove mandatory minimum sentences, and despite the fact that the criminal trial lawyers association of Canada called for that reform because of the delays in court proceedings, many matters are going to trial because of the fear of minimum mandatory sentencing.
Could the member speak to why they did not deliver on the instruction of removing the minimum mandatory sentences? Why did they refuse to do that? They could have done it within this 300-page bill.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about speeding up the court system and access to justice and faster court times, believing that turning some of these very serious offences into summary offences or hybrid offences would somehow speed it up.
There is another option, namely, that the minister could fill the hundreds of judicial vacancies across this country so there is access to a judge. Right now that is another area she could act on very quickly. Why does she not do that?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 10:40 [p.23429]
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, the legislation the government has introduced that purportedly is aimed at dealing with the backlog and delays in Canada's courts.
The only problem with Bill C-75 is that it would do next to nothing to deal with the backlog and delays in our courts. Indeed, it is more than likely that Bill C-75 would do the opposite and actually increase delays in our courts.
This legislation was studied at the justice committee. I attended all of the justice committee meetings, where we heard from a wide array of witnesses. In the three years I have been a member of Parliament, I have never been at a committee where virtually all aspects of a bill have been as exhaustively and comprehensively panned as Bill C-75, a massive 300-page omnibus bill.
This legislation would do nothing to deal with delay.
The government came up with the brilliant idea that so-called routine police evidence could go in by way of affidavit. The only problem with that is it would require a whole new application process that defence counsel would inevitably use, resulting in more delay, not less. It is good that the government has backtracked from that aspect of Bill C-75.
The government then came up with the other idea that preliminary inquiries should be limited to only those cases for which the maximum sentence is life behind bars. When I asked justice department officials whether they had any data, any empirical evidence, to back up the assertion that preliminary inquiries were resulting in delay, they had no answer. I can point to empirical data that demonstrates that preliminary inquiries do speed up the process and do reduce delay. Eighty-six per cent of cases are resolved following a preliminary inquiry. That is what the statistical data show. The government has none to demonstrate the contrary.
Preliminary inquiries do provide an opportunity for counsel to clarify issues, to narrow issues, to test evidence. There is also an important discovery aspect to a preliminary inquiry.
Moreover, it is unclear how the government decided to arbitrarily create two streams of cases, one where the sentence would be life and the accused would be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, and another stream that would apply to all other cases, notwithstanding the fact that in many instances the sentencing ranges would be similar. In certain cases the accused would be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, in other instances he or she would not. It speaks to the very sloppy and haphazard way Bill C-75 was drafted.
The biggest problem with Bill C-75 is that under the guise of creating efficiencies in Canada's justice system, it would water down sentences for among the most serious indictable offences.
What sort of offences is Bill C-75 proposing to water down by reclassifying them from indictable to hybrid? We are talking, among other things, about impaired driving causing bodily harm. Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. We are talking about administering date rape drugs, kidnapping a minor under the age of 16, kidnapping a minor under the age of 14, human trafficking and arson for a fraudulent purpose. The government is moving ahead with reclassifying those offences. What would be the effect of reclassification? Instead of a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, the maximum would be two years less a day if the accused were prosecuted by way of summary conviction.
The Minister of Justice has repeatedly said that we should not to worry, that it has nothing to do with sentencing and that, after all, the sentencing principles are the same. Well, of course the sentencing principles are the same, but when we are reducing sentences and taking away the discretion of a judge to fashion a sentence from up to 10 years to two years less a day, that has everything to do with sentencing.
Apparently, the Liberal members on the justice committee agree, because among the packages of offences that Bill C-75 would reclassify are terrorism-related offences, as well as the offence of inciting genocide. It is shocking to think that those types of offences would be lumped into a class of offence such as a minor property offence, but that is Bill C-75. It is a terribly crafted bill. However, in the end, fortunately they listened to the evidence that it would send the wrong message. Shimon Fogel from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said that it would send “a clear and unacceptable signal, diminishing the inherently grave, even heinous, nature of these crimes.” The member for Edmonton Centre was quoted in the National Post as saying, “Let's be serious.... We're talking about very serious offences.”
So much for the minister's assertion that reclassification would not have anything to do with sentencing or diminishing the seriousness of the offence. It absolutely does, and the member for Edmonton Centre acknowledged as much. Liberal MPs on the justice committee agreed when they voted in support of our amendments to remove the reclassification of terrorism and genocide-related offences.
What kind of a message, then, does it send when we are talking about reducing and watering down impaired driving offences, or administering a date rape drug, or kidnapping a minor? It sends exactly the wrong message. It diminishes the seriousness of those offences and it makes it possible that individuals who are charged with such offences could walk away with literally a slap on the wrist. Such offences have no business being reclassified. They have no business being left to a prosecutor somewhere in some office to make the call without any level of transparency and consistency. It is absolutely the wrong way to go.
It would also do nothing to reduce delays, because 99.6% of cases are already before provincial courts. We know that summary offences are before provincial courts. That means more downloading onto overstretched and overburdened provincial courts. It would not reduce delays, but it would water down sentences, undermining victims and public safety. Bill C-75 needs to be defeated out of hand.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 10:50 [p.23430]
Madam Speaker, I do support the parts of Bill C-75 related to intimate partner violence. We supported that at committee. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the bill is a mess.
The member spoke about AOJ offences, administration of justice offences. The bill seeks to do something about those, but the administration of justice offences take up very little court time. Why? Because in almost all instances, for example, if someone breaches bail, there is a substantive charge underlying that. Typically someone is not brought back into court until the main charge, the substantive charge, is dealt with.
While there was a lot of talk about administration of justice offences, very little court time is specifically devoted to them. That evidence was clear before the committee.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 10:52 [p.23431]
Madam Speaker, what the government should do is invest in Canada's justice system by giving the actors within the justice system the tools and resources they need to deal with the backlog, including the prompt appointment of judges.
The parliamentary secretary can talk all he wants about how the minister is now appointing judges, but under the minister's watch, she failed to appoint judges for six months upon being appointed as Minister of Justice. She has seen judicial vacancies reach record levels.
It is the responsibility of the minister to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner. Her failing to do so in the face of Jordan, upon which cases are at risk of being thrown out of court and, indeed, are being thrown out of court as a result of this minister's inaction, is not just inexcusable, it is negligence of the highest order.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I want to share a quick quote. With respect to the current government's dealing with first nations indigenous programs, our Auditor General described it as an “incomprehensible failure of the federal government to influence better conditions for Indigenous people in Canada.” He went on to talk about a number of programs.
The member opposite stood and said that he likes Bill C-75 because it incorporates a principle of restraint as it relates to the circumstances of aboriginal accused or other accused from vulnerable populations when interim release decisions are made. In other words, if a police officer sees that indigenous individuals have a long record, they can bring a lesser charge or a quicker and maybe in some regard more compromised response to it. Then he cited all the different groups that supported that, which were typically indigenous groups. None of them were victims organizations or victims groups that have real concerns about this part.
Does the member believe this is another indictment on the government, in that it is looking for ways to deal with the high indigenous populations in prisons at a cost to the victims?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to speak to 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.
I have real concerns about the legislation, as do many stakeholders, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
First, this is another omnibus bill, containing 302 pages of major reforms to our criminal justice system. For our constituents, that means we need to study 302 pages of legalized legislation. Similar to many other Liberal promises, this is another broken promise, as the Liberals promised not to bring forward omnibus legislation.
It also signals very clearly, the Liberals' reluctance to allow for a thorough review and debate on the modernization of the criminal justice system, including reducing court delays and judicial proceedings, an extremely important debate given the current congestion within our courts, which is resulting in serious offenders having their cases thrown out.
Second, the bill would somehow undo the mandatory victim surcharge that our Conservative government imposed in 2013 under the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act.
The federal victim surcharge is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on offenders at the time of their sentencing. Money collected from offenders is intended to help fund programs and services for victims of crime.
We made this surcharge mandatory, recognizing that many judges were routinely deciding not to impose it. While we did recognize that they were doing so with some offenders who lacked the ability to pay, we believed it should be imposed in principle to signify debt owing to a victim.
Like any penalty, fine or surcharge, if people do not have the means to pay, they do not pay. However, it is the principle of the matter, and many times the guilty party does have the ability to pay some retribution to the victim.
The Conservatives strongly believe that the protection of society and the rights of victims should be the central focus in the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special allowances and treatment for criminals. This is why we introduced the Victims Bill of Rights and created the office of the victims ombudsman.
On that note, I would like to thank Sue O'Sullivan for her tremendous efforts on behalf of victims. Ms. O'Sullivan, who retired as the victims ombudsman in November 2017, had a very distinguished career in policing before being appointed to this extremely important position in 2010.
We created the ombudsman's office in 2007 to act as an independent resource for victims to help them navigate through the system and voice concerns about federal policy or legislation.
While we placed such high regard and importance on this office, the prolonged vacancy in fulfilling the position after Ms. O'Sullivan retired demonstrates very clearly what the Liberals think of the office.
In April of this year, more than four months after Ms. O'Sullivan retired, the CBC revealed the frustrations of many victims and victims advocates, including that of Heidi Illingworth, former executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
Ms. Illingworth said:
...the community across Canada feels like they aren't being represented, their issues aren't being put forward to the government of the day...Victims feel that they're missing a voice. The people we work with keep saying, why isn't somebody there? Isn't this office important? Who's speaking for victims... who's bringing their perspectives to the minister?
I would like to congratulate Ms. Illingworth for those sentiments, which I think may influence the government, and also for her appointment on September 24 as the third victims ombudsman for Canada.
Third, Bill C-75 would effectively reduce penalties for a number of what we on this side of the House, and many Canadians, deem serious offences. The Liberals are proposing to make a number of serious offences that are currently punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less hybrid offences.
Making these hybrid offences means they can be proceeded in court by other indictment or summarily. Summary offences are tried by a judge only, are usually less serious offences and have a maximum of two years imprisonment. These hybrid offences will now include: causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, bodily harm, impaired driving causing bodily harm, participation in activities of criminal organizations, abduction of persons under the age of 14 and abduction of persons under the age of 16.
As pointed out in their testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police expressed significant concern about the proposal to hybridize the indictable offences. It said:
These 85 indictable offences are classified as “secondary offences” under the Criminal Code. If the Crown proceeds by indictment and the offender is convicted of one of these 85 offences, the Crown can request that the offender provide a DNA sample for submission to the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).
If these 85 offences are hybridized...and the Crown elects to proceed by summary conviction, the offence will no longer be deemed a “secondary offence” and a DNA Order cannot be obtained. The consequence of this will be fewer submissions being made to the NDDB. The submission of DNA samples to the NDDB is used by law enforcement to link crime scenes and to match offenders to crime scenes. Removing these 85 indictable offences from potential inclusion into the NDDB will have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.
I realize that due to the pressure exerted by the Conservatives, last night I believe, two offences, primarily the terrorism offences, have been taken out of this and it is now 83 offences with the two terrorism-related offences being removed. However, according to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the uploading of DNA taken from 52 indictable or secondary offences, which are among those initial 85 to be made hybrid offences, resulted in 221 matches to primary offences, including 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults. At the very least, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is recommending that this significant unintended consequence of Bill C-75 on hybridization be rectified by listing these 85 indictable offences as secondary or primary offences so DNA orders can be made regardless of how the Crown proceeds.
We watch CSI and other programs and we see the importance of this new type of science and technology. However, now the Liberals are saying that these 85 offences are no longer important for the DNA database.
Last, I would like to talk about the intent of Bill C-75 to incorporate a principle of restraint as it relates to circumstances of aboriginal accused and other accused from vulnerable populations when interim release decisions are made.
Section 493.2 places an unreasonable onus on police officers at time of arrest to make a determination on whether an offender falls within this classification. Furthermore, and more important, it wrongly uses the criminal justice system to address the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system. Instead, the government should be dealing with the socio-economic and historical generational factors that are contributing to this problem.
I, unfortunately, do not believe that the Liberal government has any intention of redressing the plight of our indigenous people in any meaningful way and will continue to fail in this regard despite its promise of reconciliation and renewed relationship.
As chair of the public accounts committee, our Auditor General came with two reports this spring. The objective of one audit was to determine whether Employment and Social Development Canada managed the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy in the skills partnership. To make a long story short, the Auditor General said that when the government was dealing with many of these programs for indigenous people, it was an incomprehensible failure.
It is unfortunate that the government is using this one part of Bill C-75 to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in our penitentiaries.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, that is a very sad question from the member. He stated that we should look at how the Liberals have helped indigenous people, and then he said that they have put billions upon billions of dollars into it. We have a government that believes that throwing billions of dollars at a problem is going to solve it. It is not going to solve the problem. What does the hon. member suggest? He suggests that when there is charge after charge for an indigenous offender, we do not charge that person for all the offences.
With all due respect to the member and the government, I see that as an affront to victims, to the people who have been victimized by those crimes. Liberals are saying that they are going to whittle this down because they think there are too many first nations in our penitentiaries, and they do not want them to have records that are quite so long, unfortunately.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 11:34 [p.23436]
Madam Speaker, the member's colleagues have stood in the House frequently to call on the government of the day to fill the vacancies for judicial appointments. As he is aware, as he was in the last Parliament with me, the Conservative government also failed to fill those vacancies and failed to respond to the pleas of the former Conservative attorney general of Alberta. I wonder if he could speak to that. There has been a languishing problem in that area for a long time.
I wonder if the member could also speak to the previous government's decision to impose minimum mandatory sentences. As the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association has pointed out, that has been one of the major causes of clogging the courts. Why, then, is his party completely opposed to any kind of reform of that measure?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the former attorney general of Canada is sitting right here.
Very clearly, in the 10 years the Conservatives were in government, we filled those vacancies, and we filled them regularly. Yes, there were always openings, and we filled them as soon as we could. We see hundreds of vacancies now. We see very serious crimes, and criminals walking away because of those positions not being filled. That is one thing we took pride in.
This morning, the parliamentary secretary explained to us why Liberals have not filled those positions. He said it is because there is not a diverse enough population, and they want the top courts to be representative of Canada's population. It is a worthy goal, but it sounds to me like positions are not being filled because they cannot find indigenous people to fill them. I think he mentioned putting members of the LGBTQ community in judge positions. That is the reason there are so many vacancies.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 11:46 [p.23438]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the good work that the member for Mount Royal does as chair of the committee.
That being said, I take issue and respectfully disagree with his comments respecting the hybridization of offences. It is true in reference to certain offences such as stealing cattle or branding cattle, or whatever he referred to, but yes we oppose the reclassification simply on the basis that we said the government has taken a whole series of offences without any real consideration as to why Parliament treated them in the first place as indictable. Other than a handful of offences, there was really no evidence before the committee and we took the position that if the government wanted to reclassify certain offences, then it should introduce legislation focused on the reclassification with a basis or justification for doing so.
Unfortunately, that is not what the government did. It just took a bunch of offences, which is why genocide and terrorism-related offences were put into the mix. They should never have been there. I think the member would concede that, but the member mentioned there were witnesses who called on the committee not to reclassify those offences. It is true and they gave very impactful evidence, but also victims of impaired driving appeared before the committee. They pleaded with the committee not to reclassify the offence of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
We heard from witnesses that reclassifying does send a message. I wonder if the member for Mount Royal could speak to that issue.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-11-08 11:49 [p.23439]
Madam Speaker, I have had some interactions with the justice committee with the member and I know that he runs a fair and honest ship over there.
I am interested to hear him on clause 106, which is material benefit from trafficking, and clause 107, which is the destroying of documents due to trafficking. Both of those have now been turned into summary or hybrid offences. I am wondering about the logic on that. The member said there is a range and I would like to see what his opinion on the range of issues could be with those. The material benefit from trafficking seems like a very serious offence.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 12:14 [p.23442]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Guelph spent much of his time addressing the issue of peremptory challenges. It was a proposal I considered very seriously, but there was a lot of evidence before the justice committee that peremptory challenges are a vital tool, including for defence counsel to use. In fact, the defence counsel and representatives of the defence bar who appeared were unanimous in calling on the committee not to move forward with eliminating peremptory challenges. In addition to that, their evidence was that it could actually increase the representativeness of juries. Consistent with that, the Supreme Court of Canada, in its Sherratt decision, stated that peremptory challenges can increase rather than diminish the representativeness of juries. Could the member comment on that?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 12:33 [p.23444]
Mr. Speaker, the member talked about crimes against predominantly females in a domestic violence context. One of the issues we have real concerns with is the watering down of sentences, including for the offence of administering date rape drugs, from as much as 10 years to two years less a day.
Could the member speak to that provision of Bill C-75 and the impact of that change, namely that offenders who were prosecuted by way of summary conviction for administering a date rape drug could not have a DNA order so they would be in the DNA national database?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 12:46 [p.23446]
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member for Whitby a question about hybridization and how it will make the justice system more efficient, which is the basis upon which the government claims it is reclassifying or hybridizing offences.
The effect of hybridization is that more cases will be prosecuted by summary conviction. That means they go down to be prosecuted at the provincial court level, rather than at the superior court level. We know that 99.6% of cases are already prosecuted at provincial courts.
In addition to that, from the standpoint of the Jordan decision, which imposed timelines wherein a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable, the burden rests on the Crown to justify the case continuing. As such, it is 30 months in superior court and it will be 18 months in provincial courts. Not only is the government downloading cases, but it is reducing the timeline to prosecute by about half.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 12:52 [p.23446]
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to speak to Bill C-75.
We have waited long and hard for these omnibus changes to the Criminal Code, and a number of the changes have been welcomed by our party. Regrettably, a number of changes that could have been made, and that were promised by the Liberals, have not been made. That is deeply disappointing not just to us, but to Canadians and the lawyers who represent them when they end up before the courts.
Many of the reforms and the calls for reform have come from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Jordan case, which many members have spoken about here. That decision put in place a new framework and timeline on the necessity of processing trials through the courts with the intention of trying to resolve the backlog of cases. Many of the impacted cases have involved very serious offences, but charges are simply being dropped because the cases have not proceeded expeditiously, consistent with the charter of rights, and in accordance with the new timelines imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin two years back admonished the government in saying that “The perpetual crisis of judicial vacancies in Canada is an avoidable problem that needs to be tackled and solved.” This has been the focus of a lot of debate in this place in the nine years I have been elected. Repeated calls by the opposition to the then Conservative government are now continuing with the Liberal government to fill those vacancies.
There are other measures that can be taken, some of which have been taken by the current government, to try to address the backlog in the courts and to ensure that justice is done. However, there are a number of significant measures that the justice minister was apparently mandated to undertake and chose not to do, at least not at this time, but maybe after the next election, which is usually the reason given.
Judicial appointments are seen as one solution to the backlog. Other possible solutions have been requested and, as mentioned, not adopted in Bill C-75, despite the calls by my colleague, the New Democrat justice critic, the MP for Victoria. His calls have been drawn from the testimony of experts in the field, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association.
I am a member from Alberta, and in the nine years I have been here, there have been calls by the attorney general of my province for judicial vacancies to be filled, which is the prerogative of the federal government. Hundreds of cases have been thrown out because of the failure to fill vacancies across the country. There is an appreciation that some of those vacancies have been filled, particularly since this past April. However, as I have noted, these calls were made by the opposition to the then Conservative government and the calls now continue to the Liberal government. My Province of Alberta has been calling for federal action to fill these judicial vacancies and is pleased that some action is being taken, but I do want to credit my own provincial government for taking action.
The Canadian Bar Association has criticized the government for the chronic failure to appoint judges, in some cases with a delay of more than a year. As I mentioned, I commend the Alberta government for its action in filling vacancies and creating new positions in the provincial courts “to ensure Albertans have more timely and representative access to justice.” It has also appointed additional clerks and prosecutors to ensure that the cases proceed more expeditiously.
I particularly wish to point out some of the recent appointments made by the Government of Alberta. In April of this year, Judge Karen Crowshoe, the first indigenous woman called to the Alberta Bar Association, became the first female first nation provincial court judge. Also, in this week alone, the Alberta court appointed Judge Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay, who is now the third first nation woman appointed to the provincial court. Moreover, Judge Melanie Hayes-Richards was appointed to the Edmonton Criminal Court. Finally, Judge Michelle Christopher was appointed as the first female judge in the judicial district of Medicine Hat in the history of our province. Kudos to the Government of Alberta.
There are a number of solutions that could have been taken in Bill C-75 that were not taken. For example, my colleagues have consistently called for the government to cease charging Canadians for the simple possession of small amounts of cannabis. All of those charges, the tens of thousands of Canadians charged for simple possession, have clogged our courts. We could have simply resolved that, even in the past year when the government made it clear that it was going to legalize cannabis, by stopping those criminal charges. However, it chose not to, and so the courts remain clogged.
In addition, there have been a lot of calls, including by Moms Stop the Harm, to address opioid addiction. They have been calling for the decriminalization of small amounts of opioids for personal use and to address it as a mental health challenge. Again, those charges could reduce time in our courts.
On preliminary inquiries, a number of my colleagues in this place have talked to the concerns about the government deciding in Bill C-75 to remove the opportunity for preliminary inquiries. The government has professed that this removal would make the judicial process more efficient, but as has been mentioned, it is a very small percentage, 2% to 3%, of cases that ever go through preliminary inquiry. Obviously, it would not have a substantial effect in reducing the clogging of the courts.
There has been concern at the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers that this may pose a serious risk of more wrongful convictions. We have to remember why we have preliminary inquiries. It was mentioned previously that in some cases, as a result of a preliminary inquiry, the charges are dropped. It is a good opportunity for the defence to review the evidence by the Crown. It is concerning that while the government continually likes to use the word “balance”, the bill is not adequately balancing greater efficiency in the courts and the protection of the rights of the accused.
I would also like to speak to the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, which has been discussed a lot in this place. Based on a lot of expert witnesses testimony at committee, my colleagues are expressing great disappointment that removal of mandatory minimum sentences was not addressed in this 300-page omnibus criminal justice bill. They are disappointed that it was not dealt with, particularly as dealing with mandatory minimums was specifically prescribed in the mandate letter of the justice minister. It seemed logical that this would included in this omnibus bill. Many remain puzzled as to why there is a delay on that. Is it going to be yet another Liberal promise that is delayed until the next election? It is a solution that could genuinely address the clogging of the courts, and we encourage the government to move forward more expeditiously and table a measure on that before we recess for the next election.
Many expert witnesses at committee, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, recommended taking action on these measures introduced by the Harper government. This is a significant factor clogging the courts. The association said:
Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the Crown's discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the Crowns ability to take a position that will foster resolution before trial.
We have been told that the effect has been to increase the choice to go to trial rather than pleading to a lower charge. That is because of the necessity by that law that a minimum penalty will be imposed. Therefore, many who are charged will then say they will go to court and try to beat the rap, because otherwise they may receive a greater sentence. That has really clogged the courts.
I quote Jonathan Rudin of the Aboriginal Legal Services, who has emphasized the need to restore judicial discretion, particularly for indigenous women, as the Liberals promised. He said:
...we have to look at the fact that there are still mandatory minimum sentences that take away from judges the ability to sentence indigenous women the way they would like to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.
I look forward to questions and could elaborate further then.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 13:02 [p.23448]
Mr. Speaker, of course I agree with that suggestion, but what I find stunning is that when I visit the law school in my constituency at the University of Alberta, I see that a large majority of the students are women. When I graduated a huge number of graduates were women.
It is not that we do not have qualified women. It is not that we do not have qualified indigenous lawyers. It is not that we do not have people from all kinds of racial backgrounds. What it is, is a poor excuse for the delay in the appointment of judges.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 13:03 [p.23448]
Mr. Speaker, I do want to touch upon judicial appointments.
Under the present minister's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. As the member pointed out, months went by when the minister failed to appoint a single judge. The situation became so acute that former Chief Justice Neil Wittmann spoke out in the spring of 2016.
The member is quite right. The provincial government did respond by way of order in council by establishing 10 new judicial posts in October 2016.
The federal government says it is a priority to fill judicial vacancies, but it did not get around to filling one of them until a year later when my former colleague Grant Dunlop was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench.
It seems that the government's record does not match its rhetoric in taking the situation of judicial vacancies seriously.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 13:04 [p.23448]
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned during questions to other colleagues, when the Conservative Party was in power, it was also chastised by provincial attorneys general for the delay in appointments. I think both bear the responsibility and I see no reason whatsoever for not proceeding. We have many qualified lawyers in this country.
It is not the only solution. Appointment to the courts is important. We need more prosecutors. We could also reduce the number of cases going forward if we took some of the measures that we recommended, for example, simply referring a lot of people who are addicted to opioids to mental health and other supports instead of charging them. There are many solutions.
A lot of people in court are not represented because they cannot afford it. The government should step up to the plate and provide more money for legal aid.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 13:06 [p.23449]
Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about changes to the Criminal Code. Our party was very clear. We have long called for the decriminalization of simple possession, which could have been done in the first year the government was in office. We could have avoided tens of thousands of charges against Canadians who now probably cannot cross the border as a result.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Liberal government's justice reform bill, Bill C-75. If the parliamentary secretary was worked up during his presentation, I cannot wait until he hears what I have to say. Sadly, I cannot find a lot of good things to report about the bill, to report to my constituents or to Canadians at large.
Like a number of the Liberal government's legislative measures, the purpose of the bill does not always match to what the bill would actually do.
For example, recently in Bill C-71, the Minister of Public Safety used tragic shootings and a gun and gangs summit to suggest he was putting forward legislation that would tackle illegal guns, gangs and violent criminals. The sad reality was that the legislation he proposed never once mentioned gangs or organized crime. It had nothing to do with illegal weapons and crimes caused by them.
Prior to that, the Minister of Public Safety also introduced Bill C-59, a bill he claimed would strengthen our national security and protect Canadians. Again, the reality was very different, as the bill would move nearly $100 million from active security and intelligence work, which actually protects Canadians, to administrative and oversight mechanisms and functions. Worst of all, the Minister of Public Safety made full claim about moving Bill C-59 to committee before second reading to:
I would inform the House that, in the interests of transparency, we will be referring this bill to committee before second reading, which will allow for a broader scope of discussion and consideration and possible amendment of the bill in the committee when that deliberation begins.
When it came time to consider reasonable, bold or small amendments, the Liberals on that committee fought against everything to ensure the bill did not change at all its scope or scale. The results will place the security of Canadians at greater risk and for those who actually work in national security, more people will be looking over their shoulders, tougher rules, more paperwork and few, if any, benefits, as front-line efforts to protect Canadians only become more difficult.
Now, under Bill C-75, we see the same old story. The justice minister made bold claims that she would be helping address the backlog of cases created when the Supreme Court imposed a maximum time frame for them. Some of her claims included that this legislation would improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. She said that it would strengthen response to domestic violence. It would streamline bail hearings. It would provide more tools for judges. It would improve jury selection. It would free up court resources by reclassifying serious offences.
That sound fantastic. What a great bill. Streamlining the courts, strengthening the justice system, domestic violence, improving tools for judges, improving jury selection? Incredible. Sadly, the Liberals are not achieving any of these objectives according to the legal community or any of the knowledgeable leaders in the House.
Does it shorten trials and ensure that we deal with the backlog? The minister appears to make the claim that it will with the elimination of most preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearings, according to the legal community, account for just 3% of all court time. Therefore, with an overloaded court system, eliminating a huge number of these hearings will only have a minimal impact at best. Preliminary hearings often weed out the weakest cases, which means more cases will go to trial, thus increasing the court backlogs under the current legislation. What can also happen with preliminary hearings is that they create opportunity for the defence to recognize the need to seek early resolution without a trial.
Moreover, preliminary hearings can deal with issues up front and make trials more focused. Instead, under this new legislation, many cases would be longer with added procedural and legal arguments.
One member of the legal community called the bill “a solution to a problem that didn't exist”. High praise for this legislation indeed.
It is the changes to serious criminal offences that have many Canadians, not just the legal community, concerned. All members of the House could agree, or at least accept, that not all Criminal Code issues need to be treated in the same manner. Serious offences like homicide and minor offences like vandalism or property damage do not meet the same threshold for punishment. We can all agree with that.
Canadians expect that Ottawa, that government will create safe communities and that the law benefits all people, not slanted in favour of criminals.
Under Bill C-75, the Liberals have provided the option to proceed with a large number of violent offences by way of summary conviction rather than an indictable offence. This means that violent criminals may receive no more than the proposed 12 months in jail or a fine for their crimes, a slap on the wrist for things like impaired driving causing bodily harm, obstructing justice, assault with a weapon, forced marriages, abduction, participation in a criminal organization and human trafficking. There are many more, but it bears taking the time to look at these in particular. These are serious offences. Allowing these criminals back on the street, with little to no deterrents, makes even less sense. These serious criminal issues should have the full force and effect of the law.
None of these scenarios, victims or society are better served when those responsible for these offences serve only minimal jail sentences or receive fines.
The principle is that Canadians expect that their government and the courts will be there to ensure that criminals receive due punishment for their crimes and that law-abiding Canadians and those who have been victimized by these criminals are treated fairly and with respect. In short, the bill undermines the confidence of Canadians in our criminal justice system and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to ensure safe communities. As my colleagues have clearly pointed out already, there are other solutions, better solutions in fact. The minister could address the backlog with more judicial appointments, as an example.
As the former minister of justice said, there was never a shortage of qualified candidates in his six years as minister of justice. Therefore, it is not a failure of the judiciary. It is not that there are too many preliminary hearings. It is not that there are way more criminals, because crime rates overall have been declining. The problem resides almost entirely with the minister getting more people on the bench and in prosecution services.
As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House. It should be above politics so the safety and security of Canadians are put ahead of political fortunes. While the Liberals have said that public safety is a priority, they have said that everything is their “top priority”. To have 300 top priorities, means they have no priorities at all.
Canadians expect that the government will make them its priority. Sadly, the bill fails the test to keep Canadians safe and deliver effective government. The legal community has said that the bill is deeply flawed and will hurt the legal system rather than help it. Police services will likely see themselves arresting the same people over and over again, even more so than they do today, as criminals get lighter sentences or fines. Therefore, the backlog will move from the courts to the policing community, back to the courts and then back to the policing community. How does that help the average Canadian?
Canada has been weakened by the Liberal government. Its wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding guns owners, its lack of leadership on illegal border crossers and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a disadvantage, weaken our public safety and national security and place undue strain on families and communities.
Canadians deserve better. In 2019, I suspect we will get a better justice minister, a better justice bill and a better government.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, one has to debate whether or not the system of appointing judges was flawed in the first place. Second, it took the government a full year to stand up its judicial advisory committee.
If we wonder why we have a backlog in our system, it is because the government “drug” its feet. The government did nothing. It did not think it needed to. Now, we are paying the consequences for that. That evidence rests on its own merits.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I have heard from the legal community about this bill is that it does water down sentences, even though the rhetoric on the other side does not admit that, but it also takes away the ability for judges to have the discretion to manage their cases in the manner in which they need to. It puts that onus on the prosecutors, without a lot of transparency.
It is unfortunate that it does that. I think over time, if this bill should pass in its current form, and those in the legal community have warned us about this, we will see this begin to happen and it will have detrimental effects.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 13:37 [p.23452]
Mr. Speaker, the member touched upon hybridization.
One of the things the minister, and I would almost suggest laughably, states is that the hybridization has nothing to do with sentencing at all, even though in some cases it is going from a 10-year maximum down to a maximum of two years less a day.
I was wondering if the hon. member would agree with the justice minister that hybridization has nothing to do with sentencing. If that is so, then why would the government, rightly, have removed from the bill the reclassification of terrorist and genocide-related offences? Unfortunately, the government did not do so in the case of other very serious offences.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I know we are pressed for time, and I will simply say, it is all about sentencing and the reduction of sentences. That is the only impact this will have. This will shorten sentences, clear across the board, for those offences identified.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 13:48 [p.23454]
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member for South Surrey—White Rock about hybridization and how that is going to make the court system, the justice system, more efficient.
The effect of hybridization is that more offences will be prosecuted by way of summary conviction. As a result, those cases are going to be downloaded onto provincial courts that deal with summary offence matters, although 99.6% of cases are already before provincial courts.
Also, from the standpoint of Jordan, there is a 30-month timeline in superior court versus an 18-month timeline in provincial court before a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable, upon which the case is at risk of being thrown out. In addition to downloading cases onto provincial courts that are already overstretched and overburdened, I would submit that in fact it is going to increase the risk of more cases being thrown out.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2018-11-08 15:34 [p.23473]
Madam Speaker, I heard the member opposite respond to a question on some of the weaknesses of the bill, and since he is on that path, I would like to ask him if he could outline some of the areas that could perhaps be strengthened or be better with this bill. Could he highlight those weaknesses he wished would have been in the bill to make it better than the way the bill is as we see it?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 16:05 [p.23477]
Madam Speaker, I want to address the issue of limiting preliminary inquiries.
The government, in Bill C-75, would limit preliminary inquiries to only when the maximum sentence is life behind bars. Anyone charged with an offence with a lesser maximum penalty would not have the benefit of a preliminary inquiry. However, the government has provided no empirical data to back up its assertion that this would reduce the backlog in our courts.
We heard a considerable amount of evidence before the justice committee that preliminary inquiries help narrow issues. They allow both parties to test their cases. They provide a discovery function, and in terms of data, 86% of cases that have a preliminary inquiry are resolved.
I wonder if the member could comment.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-11-08 16:07 [p.23477]
Madam Speaker, I am really pleased to join the debate. I have been listening for a few hours to what different members believe are the most important parts of the bill, the biggest defects and the biggest advantages given to it.
I thought the member for St. Albert—Edmonton gave one of the best, most succinct rundowns of the bill in terms of its many defects. It is an omnibus justice bill. I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, so we are well versed on omnibus legislation there for three years now from the government, a government that during the last election promised not to ram any more omnibus legislation through the House. It was a promise that they have continuously broken since then. The Liberals failed to lived up to their promise.
The lens I want to give to this piece of legislation is mostly consideration of some of the hybridized offences in it. Like I have mentioned in the House before, I am not a member of the legal profession, so my eyes on it are basically the eyes of any regular member of the public and what they would think are serious offences versus non-serious offences.
We have been told that one of the reasons for this legislation is that it would drastically reduce the bottleneck at our provincial courts, that the court system would be somehow liberated from having to deal with all of these cases that are clogging it up and all the court delays.
With the Jordan decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada, that bottleneck of court cases is even more important now because we have individuals being charged with offences but never seeing a court or going through the system to be judged. I would call this piece of legislation as the Yiddish proverb says, the gift that is not as precious as first thought. There are so many defects that the member for St. Albert—Edmonton pointed out that would actually create an even greater bottleneck at the provincial courts.
Those courts closest to the people are the ones that deal with the vast majority of criminal offences. They deal with family law, young persons aged 12 to 17, traffic bylaw violations, regulatory offences, small claims and preliminary inquiries. The judges are actually doing most of the work. Every province has been set up slightly differently in how they proceed with different types of offences. Many of these would not be directly affected by this legislation, but the ones that deal with criminal offences would be because a great deal of the hybridized ones would be going to the provincial courts. The Liberals are not making it simpler, they are actually creating a greater bottleneck.
I thought that it was the House of Commons and the Senate that together decided what was a serious enough offence to warrant five to 25 years, not prosecutors. It is this House that decides on behalf of our constituents what are serious offences and what is deserving of consideration by a judge, whether a judge should consider the maximum offence of 25 years to life, whether it should be 15 years or 10 years. It is not up to prosecutors, who are not responsible to any constituents. They are not responsible directly to the public. They do not have to go to the public every four years and make a pitch for the retention of their job. Neither does a judge, but we ask judges to consider the particulars in an individual case and determine whether it warrants five years, 10 years, or something in between and to make a judicious decision based on the facts of the case. We would actually be taking away that ability of the justices to be able to render a decision.
I am sure there will be a member of the Liberal caucus who will stand and attack some past Conservative government's record, that we can go back and forth to the 19th century if we want to, to what previous governments did or other previous governments did not do, but we are looking at the record of the past three years. That is where the focus should be.
This piece of legislation comes to us as an omnibus bill. It should have come to us as pieces of legislation, different focus areas that could have been proposed in the House. It is not as if we have a maximum load that we can take on and afterwards we say we simply cannot take on any more legislation in the House. The government has shown a great interest in guillotine motions. The Liberals have used over 50 now, even after saying they would not do so and would allow fulsome debate in the House. There is no reason why this piece of legislation could not have been broken up into different pieces so that members could consider whether in fact criminal acts of sabotage were serious enough to perhaps warrant full consideration by indictable offence, and whether that would be the best way to proceed.
Forgery or uttering a forged passport, the selling or purchasing of an office, and the bribery of public officials are serious offences and there should be no opportunity for a prosecutor to elect to have them hybridized and go by summary conviction. The same applies to prison breach, assisting an escape, infanticide and participation in activities of a criminal organization.
Just this morning, as I was providing a tour for my constituents through the House of Commons, the Minister of Public Safety was outside announcing that the government would spend $86 million to fight organized crime. On this same day, his government is proposing that we hybridize the offence of participating in the activities of a criminal organization and handing such decisions over to a prosecutor to decide whether the offence is serious enough, even before a judge has a chance to listen to the facts of the case and an individual's particular circumstance or participation.
This is why I used this Yiddish proverb, “The gift is not as precious as first thought”. It is a very good proverb and someday I will be able to actually say it in Yiddish.
If the gift is that we are going to reduce the bottlenecks in our provincial courts and reduce wait times, then we need to appoint more judges so they can hear more cases.
Provincial governments should be looking at more court space. The City of Calgary built a brand new court building expressly because there was a problem with securing court space. Judges needed the space to hear cases.
If this legislation is the government's gift, if this legislation is its attempt to resolve the problem, and it is not worth it, then the government should go back to the drawing board. This legislation could be dealt with piece by piece and the parts that many members of the official opposition said they could agree with could be expedited to the other place.
To their credit, government members on the justice committee agreed that terrorism and genocide are pretty serious offences and, therefore, should not be hybridized. I think members would agree with me that the selling or purchasing of an office, and I do not mean in this case a corporate office, but an elected office, is a serious offence and does not deserve to be hybridized in any way.
It is a matter of process here. Had this omnibus piece of legislation been broken out into its parts and there been an attempt to reach consensus on certain parts, I think it would have passed, because we agree with most pieces of it. That has happened before in the House. I have seen all parties agree that a particular piece of legislation should pass more quickly than another. Maybe certain portions of Bill C-75 could have been passed more quickly. Instead, we are having a more fulsome debate so that members on all sides can explain the concerns their constituents have expressed about the contents of this legislation.
Sabotage is a serious crime. It should not be up to a prosecutor to decide whether it is deserving of a faster process because people are busy. Attorneys general in every single province give direction to their prosecutors. They are told to prioritize certain cases over others. There is only so much time in a prosecutor's day and I understand that cases need to be prioritized, and that is led by the attorney general of the respective province. That is a fair process.
At the same time, however, it is Parliament that is supposed to decide what is or is not a serious offence. What the government is doing here looks like a copy and paste job. It is just taking giant sections of the Criminal Code and dumping them into the bill. It is as if all of those sections should be hybridized in a vain attempt to find some type of time saving for judges. Judges will not have a chance to listen to the contents of every particular case like we expect them to do.
I will not be able to support this piece of legislation. It is simply defective in its content. It is defective in its process. Perhaps the small number of amendments that government members on justice committee accepted is a good step in the right direction. There should be far more amendments to this piece of legislation before it would, in any way, be permissible to pass it through the House.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-11-08 16:18 [p.23479]
Madam Speaker, the member prefaced his commentary with statistics, and there is one point that I cannot pass up mentioning, because it was that justice minister who blew up the entire judicial advisory committee appointment process, where they heard advice from those committees on who should be appointed to become judges.
The Liberals created the system that led to the backlog of appointments, so they do not deserve any credit for any appointment they have made since then. The Liberals are the ones that caused the situation that they are catching up on to fix today.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-11-08 16:20 [p.23479]
Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the previous contributions to the debate by the member.
He raises a good point. Right now prosecutors have a great deal of leeway in how they proceed with their cases. Again, as I mentioned, in cases such as sabotage, prison breach, participation in the activities of a criminal organization, I think the judge should be the one to determine, based on the matters of the case, both how long the person should spend in jail and the conditions, in cases where they convict the person of the crime involved.
It is the House that decides what the maximum and the minimum should be in those particular cases. The prosecutor makes the case; the defence defends them. We do entrust unto them a great deal of leeway. However, in cases of sabotage, as I mentioned, and selling or purchasing an office, infanticide, no, it should then be up to the judge to hear the complete case.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 16:21 [p.23479]
Madam Speaker, the member for Calgary Shepard is absolutely right.
What this bill does is to take discretion away from judges to fashion sentences having regard for the individual circumstances of a case, and it puts it in the hands of prosecutors in a non-transparent and arbitrary way.
The member made reference to some of the offences that are hybridized. I would draw his attention to another, including selling young women and men into sexual slavery, as well as administering date rape drugs. If we are going down this road, where do we draw the line? Maybe murder should be a hybrid offence next.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-11-08 16:21 [p.23479]
Madam Speaker, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton is right.
Herein lies the problem, in that simply too many offences are being hybridized. If it were a piecemeal approach, section by section, and if they had combined them together into bite-sized pieces of legislation, including an easier way to explain why we are doing this, we would not be in a situation where the list of the offences the government is proposing to hybridize raises red flags all over the place.
This is the wrong way to build legislation. Omnibus justice legislation in the House simply does not work. It raises too many questions. Too many members have issues with particular sections they want to see removed. The government should go back to the drawing board and start over.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 16:36 [p.23481]
Madam Speaker, the member for Cariboo—Prince George went through a long list of what are currently serious indictable offences the government is watering down by reclassifying them to be hybrid offences. Another offence he did not mention, which I would be interested in his comments on, is impaired driving causing bodily harm.
We know impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. However, instead of holding to account those individuals who make the choice to drink and drive and, as a result, injure another person, the government is going to hybridize that offence. What kind of message does that send?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 17:06 [p.23485]
Mr. Speaker, my friend from Kitchener—Conestoga went through a list of offences that the government is watering down. One he did not highlight that I would be interested in his comments on is a breach of the long-term supervision order. These orders involve the most serious sexual offenders. These are individuals who are so dangerous that following the conclusion of their sentence they are subject to an order for up to 10 years, administered and overseen by the Parole Board of Canada. When these individuals breach these orders, it is a clear sign that they are returning to their cycle of dangerous criminal behaviour.
I would submit this is just another example of why Bill C-75, in terms of reclassification, is so badly thought out, so badly drafted and puts public safety at risk. I wonder if the member would agree.
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2018-11-08 17:08 [p.23486]
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be here to talk about Bill C-75.
I think that the House now knows that I was a diplomat for 15 years. I was assigned to Argentina first, then to Salvador, and finally to Dallas, Texas. I also had the opportunity to work for my colleague from Thornhill when he was Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas. I found it very interesting, since we had the strategy for the Americas.
There we had three major principles that we followed in everything that we did.
The first was the idea of democracy. As shadow minister for democratic institutions, democracy is very close to my heart.
The second principle was that of prosperity, promoting free markets. I remember the Brazilians did not like this. They said we thought everyone should be rich but that was not our way of thinking at all. Rather, we chose to promote free markets abroad.
The third principle was justice, and this bill flies in the face of the principle of justice. Is this really the example that Canada wants to set for the world in terms of what would be established as a result of Bill C-75?
When I was consul for Canada to San Salvador in El Salvador there was a very unfortunate incident whereby a Canadian was found with narcotics. The individual was in a taxi. The cab was pulled over and unfortunately the narcotics fell out of some tissue paper. The individual was brought to jail and put on trial. As the consul for Canada at the time, I was asked to attend the proceedings. This was a very difficult situation for me. It was probably the most difficult that I had as a diplomat. I received a speech from the judge who indicated that fighting narcotics in his opinion at that time, in 2006, was one of the primary tenets of the western world.
My point is this. It is not this situation specifically but it goes back to the point that I am trying to make in regards to the deficiencies in this legislation. This legislation would not only cause delays but would propose lighter sentences. Is this really the example that Canada wants to set for the rest of the world? I absolutely think not.
I will go through some of the lighter sentencing items that my colleagues have gone through, some quite extensively. The bill would reduce penalties for crimes that include, but are not limited to, participation in activity of terrorist groups, leaving Canada to participate in activity of terrorist groups, punishment of rioter and concealment of identity, and breach of trust by a public officer.
Let me go back to participation in activity of terrorist groups and leaving Canada to participate in activity of terrorist groups. I daresay that it has historically been a major component of not only Canada's foreign affairs agenda but I would also argue our aid agenda and our defence agenda to fight against these crimes in the world. Is Bill C-75 the example that we want to set for the world?
Another item that stands out to me is “Obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman”. I see my delightful colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Shepard in the House. I worked, side by side, with him at his round table that he had for clergy. God bless him. I am sure they always do, but they did have the fear of God regarding the potential change that would result from this legislation. I daresay they might again today, seeing that these penalties can potentially be reduced. It very well might embolden some. That is also very concerning.
Moreover, there is the offence of “advocating genocide”. That is something that we as a nation should be in the lead against. We are indicating in Bill C-75 that perhaps it is not such a priority that we have said it is to the world by reducing the sentencing for advocating such a thing. I think that is shame. Again I ask, is this the example, as found in Bill C-75, that Canada wants to set for the world?
Also, I am going to go to one of the last items on the list, and that is “Participation in activities of criminal organization”. This is one that is very dear to me, again, having served in El Salvador, a place that unfortunately has much gang violence, with many negative effects on society there.
In addition to being the consul and the chef d'affaires during my time in El Salvador, I was also very fortunate to sit on the Canada fund as a member to decide the allocation of funding for programs. Every single time, we would put these funds towards activities that would discourage gang violence, primarily towards youth, to get them involved in physical activities and with youth organizations, so they could have other interests that would allow them to believe and see that they were worthwhile and worthy, and could contribute to society.
This would be a good time for me to indicate that I am very proud of our leader today and the legislation that he has brought forward in regard to gangs for a safer Canada. This includes ending automatic bail for gangsters, identifying gangs in the Criminal Code, revoking parole for gangsters, tougher sentences for ordering gang crime, and new sentences for violent gang crime, something that I believe, given my experience, given my work in Canada and abroad, is something that is very timely and necessary for a safer Canada.
I do believe that we should all get behind our leader and his message of a safer Canada in promoting and supporting this legislation, because I have seen the end result of where gang violence takes over a society. It is not a pretty picture. It affects all areas of society. Again, I ask, is Bill C-75 the example Canada wants to set for the world?
In conclusion, I will say this to my counterpart, the Minister of Democratic Institutions.
He said that he came to the House of Commons specifically to change the law with regard to valid ID for voting. I myself came here to promote democracy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration did so much for democracy, prosperity and justice. That is why I cannot support Bill C-75, since it goes against Canadians and our position in the world.
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2018-11-08 17:19 [p.23487]
Mr. Speaker, what I will say is that I am very proud of the Harper administration and, along with that, my predecessor Jason Kenney. Also, I am very fortunate to know the Hon. John Baird very well. I believe all of them worked together to promote the principles of democracy, prosperity and justice in the world. It was this type of leadership that saw us do many great things during that time of the Harper administration. Therefore, I do not believe that the reduction of sentences for these significant atrocities against humankind would do anything to further our place in the world. I will always stand very much behind and encourage the types of stands we saw from Minister Kenney, Minister Baird and certainly Prime Minister Harper. I really look forward to returning to those practices again very soon under a Conservative government.
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2018-11-08 17:22 [p.23487]
Mr. Speaker, I cannot think about Bill C-75 or genocide without thinking about the work done by my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill. I can honestly say that our party supports victims of genocide, including women. As I said before, I cannot support Bill C-75, because that would be tantamount to opposing victims of genocide.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blaine Calkins Profile
2018-10-29 14:08 [p.22930]
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Liberal government is soft on crime and way too focused on coddling criminals instead of supporting victims and ensuring the safety of Canadians.
In the last month, we have seen the Liberals proactively welcome convicted terrorists back to Canada, transfer Tori Stafford's murderer into a healing lodge where kids are present, punish law-abiding gun owners while making life easier for terrorists, gangsters and criminals and provide generous veteran's benefits to a cop killer who never served a day of his life in the military.
Now it is doubling down with Bill C-75, a deeply-flawed omnibus justice bill that reduces the penalties for serious crimes like human trafficking, utilizing date rape drugs and impaired driving causing bodily harm. This is just further proof that the Liberals are making Canadians less safe and cannot be trusted to look after the interests of victims.
Why are the Liberals always on the wrong side when it comes to criminal justice?
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