Hansard
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 1 - 18 of 18
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-17 22:26 [p.29247]
Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns of the hon. member for Victoria. We are still hampered in our criminal justice system by a series of mandatory minimums that we know have been found, by any criminology or empirical evidence, to absolutely not be effective and are a burden on the justice system. In this reform, we had hoped to see that.
I have a private member's bill, should the Minister of Justice want to look at it, which enumerates all of the mandatory minimums brought in in the 41st Parliament so that, in one piece of legislation, we could remove them all. Since the Minister of Justice has undertaken to study the matter, I wanted to draw to his attention the existence of my private member's bill and I hope that we can do more.
Also, I put forward about 46 or 47 amendments at committee around certain aspects of vulnerable populations. I know the Senate has made a number of helpful amendments. I think the bill could still be much improved, although some of the Senate amendments go some distance toward what I was trying to do in clause-by-clause. Therefore, I would appreciate any comments from the Minister of Justice.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-20 10:26 [p.23584]
Madam Speaker, as this debate is on the issue of time allocation as opposed to the substance of the bill itself, I want to address my comments to the Minister of Justice, but of course it is pertinent to the government House leader and all House leaders.
The use of time allocation used to be exceptional. In the 41st Parliament, those Liberals, who were then in opposition, joined everyone in the opposition to oppose the routine use of time allocation. However, it has remained routine. This is not healthy in a democracy and I put the blame squarely on poor relationships and lack of trust between the House leaders of the recognized parties in this place in being able to work together to properly assess which bills need more time and which bills could be dealt with more quickly.
I believe it would be a tonic and help solve the problem if this place returned to the rules we currently have that are in disuse which say that no member of Parliament can read a speech. Those are our rules but we no longer pay attention to them. If we did not have the ability to read a speech, then political parties in this place would not be able to line up their MPs, those who have no background on a bill, hand them a speech and tell them to read it in order to use up time.
I would encourage the Minister of Justice to speak with the government House leader and all people in this place to consider if we could not make Parliament work better by returning to our actual rules that members cannot just stand up and read a speech and that they must know the subject.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-20 13:07 [p.23603]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today at report stage of 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 is an omnibus bill that addresses matters related to the Criminal Code of Canada.
At first, everyone in our society who deals with major justice issues were quite pleased with what the Minister of Justice had to say. There is a clear need for reform. Unfortunately, many in the legal community and elsewhere who are calling for real reform are disappointed.
There is a great sense of disappointment. The longer we work with Bill C-75, the more the disappointment deepens. Michael Spratt, the former chair of the Canadian Criminal Lawyers' Association, has been quoted in this debate before. As he put it, “It all sounded so good. But it has all gone so wrong.”
I did attempt to make improvements to the legislation. Members of this place will know that while my status as leader of the Green Party of Canada does not allow me to sit on any committees, through the work of the PMO, first under former primer minister Stephen Harper and now under our current Prime Minister, I have what some might think of as an opportunity but I have to say it is an enormous burden that increases my workload. It is rather unfair because if it were not for what the committees have done, I could have been presenting substantive amendments here at report stage. That is my right as a member of Parliament and not of one of the three big parties. I have very few rights as a member of Parliament with one seat for the Green Party, but one of those rights was to be able to make substantive amendments at report stage. My rights have been subsumed into what, as I said, was done first by the Conservative government and now by the Liberals, to say that I have an opportunity to present amendments during clause-by-clause study at committee, although I am not a member of the committee. I do not have a right to vote, but I get a chance to speak to my amendments.
It was under that committee motion I was able to present 46 amendments. I participated vigorously in the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-75. It was a very discouraging process as very few amendments from opposition parties were accepted. Most of my amendments went directly to testimony from many witnesses who wanted to see the bill improved and I am disappointed that none of my 46 amendments made it through.
I should say that some of the worst parts of Bill C-75 were changed on the basis of government-proposed amendments. One of the ones that had worried me a great deal was the idea that in a criminal trial, evidence from the police could come in the form of a written statement without proffering the police officer in question for cross-examination. That was amended so that the prosecutors cannot use what is called routine police evidence without having someone put forward to be cross-examined. There was also the repeal of the vagrancy law and repeal of the law about keeping a common bawdy house.
However, many other sections of this bill cry out for further amendment, so at this point I want to highlight those sections that really need to be amended. We are at report stage, and third reading will come in short order. We are already under time allocation. I hope that when this bill gets to the other place, as it inevitably will, the other place will pass amendments that are needed.
It is quite clear that this bill, in some key areas, would do the opposite of what the government has promised, particularly in relation to disadvantaged people, particularly in relation to the status of indigenous peoples in our prisons, and particularly in relation to access to justice and fairness which have actually been worsened in this bill. That is not something I expected to be standing up and saying at report stage, but there it is. It is massively disappointing, and I hope that the Senate will improve it.
One of the things that was done, and I am not sure it was the best solution, but it was clearly a response to the Stanley case where it was a massive sense of a miscarriage of justice. When there is a jury, it is supposed to be a jury of the accused person's peers. If the person is an indigenous youth and his or her jury is entirely Caucasian, it is not exactly a jury of his or her peers. One of the reasons this happens is the use of peremptory challenges. Therefore, I do appreciate the effort in Bill C-75 to eliminate peremptory challenges. However, I want to go over the way in which this bill actually takes this backward.
The effort here of course, as many other hon. members have pointed out, is that this bill is in direct response to the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. In the Jordan case, the delays were so profound that the case could not proceed. Therefore, I think it is very clear that all Canadians feel the same sense of concern with the new trial timelines of 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior court. No one wants people to be freed, who at this point still have the presumption of innocence, because they have not gone through their court case. If the evidence is good enough, the prosecutors bring those people forward. The idea that they are just let out of jail because the trial times and the processing of that person took too long offends our sense of justice. The Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada were given a very quick jab toward justice by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, have we got it right?
In an effort to speed up trials, I will mention one thing first, which is the issue of eliminating preliminary inquiries. There was a great deal of evidence before our committee that the Government of Canada and the justice department did not have good data to tell us that preliminary inquiries were a source of great delay.
I want to quote from one of the legal experts. Bill Trudell is the current chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. He described preliminary inquiries like this, “They're like X-rays before an operation”. That is a very useful thing to have. They do not happen all the time, but when we remove them without good evidence as to why we are removing them, we could end up having innocent people convicted. In fact, Bill Trudell said that as difficult as it was for him to say, he thinks more innocent people will be convicted because we have taken out preliminary inquiries without quite having the evidence that that was a good thing to do to speed up trials.
We have heard a lot from my friends in the Conservative caucus about the question of hybridization. We have the problem that, having changed the range of sentencing, the effect of Bill C-75 is to also increase the sentencing for a summary conviction from six months to two years.
The Liberals have also added in Bill C-75 provisions about the use of agents that I do not think were thoroughly thought through. To give a better sense of agents, and this goes to the question of access to justice, suppose people are not quite poor enough to get a legal aid lawyer but are trying to navigate the legal system and they cannot afford a lawyer. In many of those cases, for a very long time, criminal defendants have had the benefit, particularly if they are low income, of law school clinics, which are young lawyers in training. They are student lawyers working as a clinic to provide legal services to people charged with lesser offences. It is too late to amend as here we are at report stage. I hope the other place will amend this to ensure access to legal aid clinics out of law schools in order to help marginalized groups navigating the legal system. I think this is an unintended consequence. I am certain that people in the Department of Justice did not ponder this and say that one of the problems is too many poor people are getting help from law students. That was not a problem that wanted solving, that was a very good and ongoing process that has been recklessly compromised in this bill. I have to hope that when it gets to the other place, we can fix this and make sure that in the definition of “agents” we exclude law students and law schools running clinics.
There are other aspects of this bill where the Liberals have just failed altogether to deal with the issue of the disproportionate number of indigenous people behind bars. They have taken in some aspects, in taking things into account. However, one of my amendments, that I really regret was not accepted, was we have no definition of “vulnerable populations”, and a lot of the evidence that came before the justice committee suggested we need such a definition. I tried one and it failed. Maybe the other place can try again. I hope that Bill C-75 will see more improvement in the other place before it becomes law.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-20 13:19 [p.23604]
Mr. Speaker, I do recognize the amendment, but it kicks it to the provinces to act and the question is whether they will act to deal with the question of making sure law students can participate in hearings.
The bail issues and not recriminalizing people for things over which they really do not have control go directly back to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Morales. I think we have done a partial job in Bill C-75, but I think we could have done more.
As my hon. colleague will remember, a number of my amendments went to that question of making sure that we really thought through the levels of conditions of addictions or poverty that would make it virtually impossible to meet certain bail provisions. We could have done more, but I agree there are steps in the right direction in Bill C-75 to respond to R. v. Morales.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-20 13:20 [p.23604]
Mr. Speaker, I am so grateful to my friend from Sarnia—Lambton for those generous comments.
I will go back to the amendment about defining a vulnerable population. That would be very helpful. There was a series of amendments, and I will not quote them all, that leave a lot of discretion to police officers to decide which track a potential accused is going to go to. The question is whether police officers, who are wonderful professionals, have the training to assess the socio-economic conditions and the issues of trauma. It is putting too much on police. There should have been a provision to ensure that was left to prosecutors and the justice system, with the advice of people in what we might think of as the caring fields.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-20 13:22 [p.23605]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my friend from St. Albert—Edmonton bringing it back to the question of preliminary inquiries. There is that question around whether that is a proper sentencing threshold. However, it allows me to raise another point about how the bill discriminates against marginalized people. Someone who has a lot of money, without a preliminary inquiry, can hire a private detective and try to figure out what facts they would have been able to discern had there been a preliminary inquiry. They can go out and get a private detective and find out a lot about the other facts of the case. However, someone without income, who is not going to be able to hire a private detective, would have unequal access to justice as a result of eliminating the preliminary inquiry, when they are not sentenced to an offence that has a sentence up to life.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-07 20:21 [p.20496]
Mr. Speaker, one of the parliamentary rights we have as members of Parliament is that we not need to yield to our whips. The member need not yield to his whip. He could continue to speak for 20 minutes. The Speaker recognized the member and there was no need for the member to yield when he had a 20-minute speech, and I am sure all 20 minutes are important. I regret that the power of whips over individual members in this place is so uniformly accepted. The member for Kitchener—Conestoga has graciously and without any particular reason yielded his spot to someone else.
I agree with him about the elimination of preliminary hearings. We may find that will create more delays. That has certainly been an early critique of this bill, that preliminary inquiries can speed up matters by allowing early decision-making about whether there is enough evidence and whether a case should proceed to trial.
I wonder if the member wants to expand on whether he thinks the government has gone too far in Bill C-75 by proposing to completely do away with preliminary inquiries.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-07 20:53 [p.20501]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak to Bill C-75 briefly.
I welcome the introduction of the end of peremptory challenges in jury trials. I am worried about removing the opportunity to cross-examine police officers during preliminary inquiries. I wonder if the member has any comments on that.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 21:41 [p.20319]
Mr. Speaker, while there is much in Bill C-75 that I support, particularly getting rid of peremptory challenges in choosing juries, I am very disturbed by the changes being proposed to section 657 of the Criminal Code. I cannot imagine how this came so far. I hope the hon. member knows I am referring to changes that will mean police officers need not be on the witness stand, available to a defence attorney who sent word to cross-examine those police officers. They could submit an affidavit or previously submitted evidence.
The credibility of a police officer on the stand very often is the difference between an innocent person going to jail or not. This has been universally condemned by the criminal laws. Was there any consultation on this? Is it a mistake? Could it be changed at committee? I hope the answer is that this was a mistake.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 22:07 [p.20323]
Mr. Speaker, I have concerns about parts of this bill, but I see much in it that is welcome and important.
Does my hon. friend from Bow River not agree that doing away with peremptory challenges would help create fairer juries for the accused? I do not know if he has any thoughts on the Colten Boushie case, but we do need to do better in this country in having juries that are able to fairly assess a criminally accused.
I do not want to comment on a particular case, but clearly this is an important reform.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 22:22 [p.20325]
Mr. Speaker, I have touched on a few other aspects of Bill C-75, and I certainly agree with my hon. colleague that doing more to deal with intimate partner violence is critical.
I am troubled that the bill would eliminate preliminary inquiries. A preliminary inquiry is typically a time when the defence gets to test the evidence. It is something of a dry run or dress rehearsal for what is going to come at trial, and it allows the defence to properly prepare and may even lead to deciding not to proceed to trial because the evidence is too weak.
I do not understand the rationale for eliminating preliminary inquiries, all for efficiency. It is trampling the rights of the accused, who may be innocent, in the interest of efficiency. At least that is how I see it right now, standing here tonight.
I would love to know what the defence and rationale is for getting rid of preliminary inquiries.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 22:26 [p.20326]
Mr. Speaker, it is a rare opportunity that I get to follow up with a question for the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.
I understand that the benefit of going to trial faster is that it may make things easier on victims of crime. I care deeply about victims of crime and wish the previous government had followed all the recommendations of the ombudsman for victims of crime. However, there is nothing more important in the criminal justice system than the presumption of innocence and the right of the accused to a fair trial. If we eliminate preliminary inquiries, and innocent people go to jail, is that not a factor that should weigh in the consideration of the benefits of eliminating preliminary inquiries?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 22:36 [p.20327]
Madam Speaker, the bill is very disappointing for those of us on the opposition benches who sat through the 41st Parliament. We saw a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system by the previous government in ways that undermined our criminal justice system, overloaded our jails, and passed the cost on to the provinces, and here I speak of the mandatory minimums.
Mandatory minimums were added to many things. I opposed them at the time, and I really did expect that the current Minister of Justice would take on this issue of mandatory minimums head-on. Now we have Bill C-75, which is fairly voluminous, but it ignores this substantial issue that is crying out for reform.
I wonder if my hon. colleague has any idea why we do not see the removal of the mandatory minimum sentences that are sprinkled throughout our criminal system. Many of them have now been struck down by the Supreme Court. Surely we should be acting to remove them.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 23:04 [p.20331]
Madam Speaker, I wonder if there is any sign from the government that the bill will receive due consideration and will not be rushed through committee. I heard the hon. member for Mount Royal say a moment ago that there was an invitation to encourage people to be witnesses.
Recently, and particularly on the omnibus bill, Bill C-69, we went through rushed hearings during which we could not hear from many witnesses and we could not debate all the amendments during clause-by-clause consideration.
I will not go through the many examples of that, but could the member assure the House that the bill will be thoroughly studied? We are at second reading. I think we can all agree that it does some good things, but it needs a lot of work. Is that possible at this point? I thank the member for any light he can shine on that process question.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 23:47 [p.20337]
Madam Speaker, my question is in relation to the kind of consultation that went into this bill. I have raised a number of concerns. Primarily the concerns I have had in reading the bill myself have been echoed when I have looked at the commentary from members of the criminal bar, particularly the Criminal Lawyers' Association, which said that the association was not consulted at all. In bringing forward fundamental reforms to the criminal justice system, I would have thought that the members of the practising bar would have been part of a consultation process.
I wonder if the hon. member can tell me what will be done in committee to ensure that, rather belatedly, we hear from people who are doing this work day to day.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-05-29 21:17 [p.19859]
Mr. Speaker, I have to say it is nearly unbelievable that we have had three time allocations in one day today.
In this debate period, we do not usually speak to the merits of the legislation. In Bill C-75 there is much that is important with respect to reforms. For instance, I am pleased to see it is getting rid of peremptory challenges to jurors. That was clearly a big issue in the Colten Boushie case.
However, we stand here today to ask the government why time allocation is being used time and time again. It is anti-democratic. There is no way around it. The minister can say that this bill is so important that it deserves full debate in committee—it deserves full debate in the House.
I ask the hon. minister if she can please explain why this bill is now an emergency that requires that we shorten the opportunities for those of us particularly in smaller parties to have a chance to debate this bill.
Results: 1 - 18 of 18

Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data