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View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2019-06-17 22:31 [p.29248]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak. This could quite possibly be the last speech I make in the 42nd Parliament. I certainly have a number of things to say about Bill C-75.
Bill C-75 amends criminal law. It is a justice bill. When we look at bills that fall into this area, it is important to remember what we are trying to achieve with bills in the criminal justice system. The first thing we are trying to do is define for Canadians what unacceptable behaviour is. Once we have set that standard, then we are trying to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing that crime. In Canadian federal prisons, we do not do a lot of rehabilitation, so really the main part of the criminal justice system is to assign a penalty that both is commensurate with the crime that was committed and also is a deterrent to keep people from committing that crime, and then to prosecute that charge in court with a fair and due process.
I would like to look at Bill C-75 and compare it to those criteria to see how it measures up.
First, I will talk about defining unacceptable behaviour. I am not sure that the Liberals understand what unacceptable behaviour is. I say that because we are talking about a Prime Minister who is the first prime minister to break a law, which he did when he took a private helicopter to billionaire island. The member for Brampton East was involved in allegations of money laundering. We are currently seeing the member for Steveston—Richmond East in several instances of money laundering, as well as being disbarred. There have been multiple ethical lapses and cases of sexual harassment that caused some members to be out of the caucus, but I would argue there are still some members within the caucus. There is a tolerance for things that, in the minds of Canadians, shows that maybe there is not a good moral compass in the Liberal Party to define what unacceptable behaviour is.
With respect to assigning penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime, one of the most egregious things about the changes in Bill C-75 is that the Liberals have taken a number of crimes that Canadians would consider to be very heinous and reduced them to a summary conviction of two years or a fine. It is important to look at the list of the kinds of crimes we are talking about, so that people can convince themselves whether this is appropriate.
The most heinous crime on the list has to be the forcible confinement of a minor. In the minds of all Canadians, we value our children and we want to protect our children. If somebody kidnapped and forcibly confined a child, I do not think most Canadians would think it is okay to get off with a fine for doing that. That is unacceptable.
Also on the list is forced marriage and forced marriage of children. I am not sure this should be allowed at all in Canada, but I know one thing. If we are talking about forced marriage and marriage for people who are under 16, that is rape. It is clear that it is rape. Therefore, to put that as a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine is unacceptable. We can see in this country that rape is on the increase. One in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. Therefore, it is clear that we do not have the right deterrent to reduce the crime that is happening.
I was the chair of the status of women committee when we studied violence against women and girls in Canada. We had testimony from quite a number of countries, and I was interested to look around and see which countries were doing a better job in the area of rape. There are countries that do not have a big issue with rape. I asked the witnesses why that was, and they said the penalty for the crime was 10 to 15 years in prison, so they have a deterrent for people not to commit that crime. There is also an awareness of the fact that it is illegal. We have a lot of people coming to Canada from places that have a different culture in many cases and have a different tolerance for things like rape. It is important that we educate people who come to this country about those issues. We should be setting punishment for this crime that is commensurate with it, and a fine is not acceptable.
Assault with a weapon is on the list. We sadly saw what happened today at the Raptors parade with people getting shot. This seems to be an event that is on the rise. I think about the Danforth shooting. I think about a number of shootings that have happened. Assault with a weapon should not be less than two years in prison or a fine. That is not acceptable. That is not a deterrent, and I think most Canadians would agree with that.
Originally, there were a number of items on the list that had to do with participating in terrorism activities, or leaving Canada to participate in the activities of terrorist groups. There was some walk-back within Bill C-75 on that issue, but we are still not in the place we need to be on that.
Canadians are concerned about terrorism. A number of events happen but we do not receive any information. I am thinking about the two fellows in Ontario who were caught with explosives and the FBI was investigating. Everyone says there is nothing to see here; all is fine. There is the Danforth shooting, the guy who drove a van and killed multiple people in Toronto. There is the return of ISIS fighters and people not knowing what is happening with them. Are they walking around? How do we know that the public is safe? There is a concern among Canadians that we should take a hard line on terrorism. I am glad to see some walk-back on that, but I want to keep an eye on it.
Another thing on the list is municipal corruption. Corruption in government of any kind is not something that should ever be reduced to a fine. We have seen lots of corruption in the existing Liberal government, lots of scandal. The fact that the Liberals have reduced the severity of the crimes on this list is indicative of the lack of moral compass on the other side.
Maybe “assisting prisoner of war to escape” is not a current issue, but how about “obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman”? This one is particularly egregious to me. I remember when Bill C-51 came from the Liberal government and tried to take what is today considered a crime, to attack or threaten a clergyperson, and remove that altogether. I remember the concern from churches in Sarnia—Lambton and across the country. They wondered why the Liberals wanted to take a protection away from the clergy, especially when cases of that nature had been prosecuted.
As a result of the public outcry and a swing in the polls, the Liberals backed off that, but here it is, showing up again, and this should be a flag to people who are watching tonight. What we see with the Liberals again and again is that they try something and when there is a public outcry, they back off, but as soon as they get another chance to sneak it in, it comes back.
A number of things have been like that. I am thinking of the tax that the Liberals were going to put on dental and health care. They backed off, but I bet it will reappear. It is the same thing with the small business tax on passive assets. As soon as there was an outcry, the Liberals backed off, but this is something to watch for if they get another chance.
Impaired driving causing bodily harm is on the list. This is quite concerning as well. We can think about the amount of work that organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done to raise awareness, to try to get stiffer penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm. We can think of the tragedy of many parents who have lost children or loved ones who have been killed by somebody driving impaired. To reduce this to a conviction of less than two years or a fine is totally unacceptable, especially from a government that legalized marijuana, knowing that Colorado and Washington saw a doubling of traffic deaths due to impaired driving. This is a step in the wrong direction and should be reconsidered.
There is another one in the bill that talks about polygamy, and I am not sure why this one made the list. Polygamy has been illegal in Canada for quite some time and culturally, we would like to preserve that. I am not sure why we would want to lessen the severity of the crime for that.
There is arson for fraudulent purposes. These acts are clearly serious crimes. If I go back to the original premise that says the reason we have a criminal justice system is to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing a crime, I think we could admit that diluting the penalty in the way Bill C-75 does is not going to help us move forward or deter crime in this country.
I want to read quotes of what people have said about Bill C-75. Ms. Markita Kaulius, the president of Families for Justice, said, “Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims and for public safety.” Stephanie DiGiuseppe, a litigation lawyer in Toronto specializing in criminal and constitutional law, said, “Bill C-75 is a massive step backwards for justice reform in Canada.” Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, said, “the signal that [Bill C-75 is] sending is that these offences are no longer as serious as they were before.” It has been recognized across the country that this bill is not going to be good for the criminal justice system and it is not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish.
If I were a criminal in Canada, I would be saying it is a great time to be a criminal with the Liberal government in place because it always protects the rights of criminals instead of the rights of victims. There is a move to decrease punishments. We talk about some of the things that Bill C-75 was hoping to accomplish. One was that the court system is overloaded right now. One way of offloading the courts is to get rid of all the people in line by fining them instead of making them go through the court process. One way to prevent the courts from being clogged up is to hire enough judges to adjudicate the cases.
In the four years the Liberal government has been in place, the court is missing about 60 judges, at last count. That never happened under the previous Conservative government. There was always an adequate number of judges to process the cases in the courts. Therefore, reducing sentences and letting everybody off the hook is not the answer. We do not say that since there are too many people in line, we should allow the murderers and rapists go free, but that is essentially what is happening now because there are cases are waiting too long. According to Jordan's principle, after two years, those cases are thrown out of court. During the reign of the Liberals, murderers and rapists have gone free in Canada. Clearly, understaffing the judiciary is part of the problem and part of the solution is replacing them.
When it comes to enforcing punishments, there has been a bit of a lackadaisical attitude. I remember when we first heard that Terri-Lynne McClintic had been sent to a healing lodge that had no security. She had been convicted of brutally murdering a child and was supposed to be imprisoned with a lot of security until 2030. When we raised the issue, those on the other side did not understand why we were raising it because they thought it was no big deal. It took a public outcry for the government to recognize that this was a big mistake and people who commit serious crimes, like murdering a child, need to be behind bars. The punishment needs to fit the crime. Again, there is lack of a moral compass on the other side.
However, there are lots of protections for people in prison. Mental health supports were announced in the budget for folks in prison. I am not saying that criminals do not deserve mental health supports. I am just saying that since mental health supports are very much lacking for the rest of Canadians, why are we putting prisoners first? There is a program to provide free needles and we are moving to providing free illegal drugs to prisoners. I am not sure why the government is in the business of doling out illegal drugs; we do not provide free syringes and drugs to people with diabetes or everyone who has cancer.
I would certainly argue that when it comes to priorities, the government appears to be putting a priority on criminals, instead of victims and the rest of Canadians. I do not think that is the right priority, and the government should re-evaluate it.
The current Minister of Justice talked about the Senate amendments and the ones that should be included. He talked about the victim surcharge in one of the amendments. The victims surcharge was put in place because victims services were expensive. This was a way of recouping some of the costs, people who had done the harm had to do some remediation of the harm.
I am not sure, then, why the government would remove the requirement to have this victims service charge and to leave it to the discretion of judges. First, they have to remember that they can apply a victims surcharge. Then we leave it to their discretion as to whether they will apply it.
My experience has always been that when it is left to the discretion of judges, we see sentences becoming smaller and smaller over time. It is heartbreaking to me. I think about some of the stories I have heard of rape and been involved with them. In Sarnia—Lambton, for example, there was a case recently, where a 13-year-old girl was gang raped by two men who received prison sentences of months. We absolutely cannot have this kind of thing.
I think of Rehtaeh Parsons who was raped by multiple people. As a result of the ensuing shame that was put on her for over a year and a half, she took her life. It was a wrist slap for the people who were involved in that crime.
We do not have the right balance, and Bill C-75 does nothing to address it.
I want to talk about the previous Conservative government and its record on crime. The Conservatives are known, in general, to uphold criminal justice, to take the rights of the victim, rather than the rights of the criminal, and to try to impose stiff penalties for violent and heinous crimes. People will have a choice in the fall election. They will have a choice to move away from protecting the criminals' rights and move into the space of protecting the victims' rights. That will be important.
One of the interesting parts of the Senate amendments was the Senate trying to add different offences. The Senate decided it would add neglect or interference with a dead body to the list of things we might want to give a fine for or a summary conviction. The Senate wanted to make infanticide, killing a baby, a less than two years sentence or a fine. I do not think that is where Canadians are.
Setting traps, obtaining credit from false pretense, stock manipulation, gaming, fraud, falsification of documents, dealing in counterfeit money, on all of these things, the everyday Canadian would say they are crimes and people should go to prison when they do these things. They should not be given a fine or a summary conviction. I do not think it is right.
The government promised to uphold the rights of Canadians and to protect them. This is another example of where the government has not kept its promise to Canadians. It promised a lot of things. The Liberals promised small deficits. They promised to balance the budget by 2019, and here we are in 2019. They promised open and transparent government, but we have seen gag orders and cover-ups. The privacy legislation, which we just talked about, clearly is not hitting the mark.
We were told 2015 would be the last election under first past the post, another broken promise. We were told there would be no omnibus bills, another broken promise. We were told they would restore home mail delivery. The Liberals have broken 75% of their promises. When people are listening to what Liberals are promising this year, they should keep that in mind, that three-quarters of what is going to be said is never going to happen. We have seen that with the pharmacare promise. The Liberals promised that in 1997, 2004 election and again in the last election.
Then there is the wrong approach to guns. Assault with a weapon has been added to the list in Bill C-75 that will get a slap on the wrist. However, we see an increasing number of crimes involving guns. In fact, 95% of the gun crime in Canada is caused by illegal guns or guns used illegally. The government has not come up with a plan to address that. Our leader has come with a comprehensive plan that will address the real problem, which is guns used illegally by gangs, and bring the right penalties to deter bad behaviour. However, the Liberals are not on that page. They are as always taking the side of the criminals on these things, and we see a further move to decriminalize other behaviours.
I know there is a real push on for the Liberals to decriminalize all drugs. We just did a study at the health committee on the meth problem. We visited across the country. When we went to Winnipeg, we saw the problem with methamphetamine addiction. The response of the Liberals was to decriminalize it and give people free methamphetamine. Police officers are saying that these people are committing a lot of crimes, they are breaking into people's houses and there are all kinds of violent acts going on. Therefore, we have to be doing something that balances the protection of Canadians with the care that we have for folks who are addicted. However, that has not been addressed.
On Bill C-75, I received numerous petitions. I know people across the country are paying attention to this. I received a lot of information from the member for Niagara Falls, who was a former justice minister, as well as the member for Milton, who is very educated in these areas.
I heard the current Minister of Justice talk about indigenous people being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and that is true. We need to get to the root cause of that, but I do not think reducing penalties for serious crime is the way to go about it.
I looked at some of the points that were made on reducing intimate partner violence. It is a great thing to reduce intimate partner violence, but forced marriage is intimate partner violence, especially when it is a child. There is a bit of hypocrisy in the way the bill was brought forward.
I did not hear a lot of conversation from the Minister of Justice on the modernization and simplification of the bail system and I would like to hear more. There is definitely room for improvement, but, again, modernization and simplification cannot mean abdication of responsibility in the criminal justice system.
On allowing a preliminary inquiry, which originally was allowed for serious crimes that carried life imprisonment, and I believe 70 infractions would meet that criteria, the bill would open that up to another 393 that could have access to a preliminary inquiry if one party or the other demanded it. Again, this will take more court resources. If the whole purpose of Bill C-75 is to try to help offload the courts and if the Liberals would let some more serious crimes go with a less than two-year conviction or a fine but then load up the court system again with a bunch of preliminary inquiries for a greater realm of offences, I am not sure that would achieve what they want to achieve.
Overall, when I look back to what we want to do in the criminal justice system, we want to define unacceptable behaviour, and certainly there is a good list, but we also want to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime. The Liberals missed the mark on that with Bill C-75.
We want to prosecute in court with a fair and due process. I do not think Bill C-75 would do that. I do not think it is fair to the victims to have these very serious crimes punished with a slap on the wrist, which is essentially what a fine or a less than two year summary conviction is. I do not think we will increase the cycle time through the courts, because, again, judges are still missing, which is a key part of it. Now the bill would increase the number of preliminary inquiries. Therefore, I do not believe Bill C-75 will hit the target.
The bill should not go forward. I know the government is rushing it through in the dying days of of the 42nd Parliament, but I will not support Bill C-75 and I know my constituents and those across the country will not support the bill or the government.
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2019-06-17 23:00 [p.29252]
Mr. Speaker, I respect my colleague opposite, but when I listen to the statements she has made, I cannot help but think that Rebel Media must be awfully proud of her comments in the House tonight. There is so much misinformation in the statements and allegations she has made against the government and its attempts to reconcile appropriately matters in our justice system that I cannot come to any other conclusion than it is from a misunderstanding of how the criminal justice system in Canada works.
For example, there are already many hybrid offences on the books, including sexual assault. It does not mean people will be getting off for a serious offence with a mere fine or an unreasonably lenient sentence. In fact, most of the offences, if not all of the ones she talked about and listed, already have a fine available as a possible sentence if it is preceded by indictment. It is sheer hogwash for her to talk about making the sentences more lenient.
In the circumstances she describes, those sentences would be unfit for those types of circumstances. Section 718 of the Criminal Code is exactly where we find the principles of sentencing based on the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. Has my colleague actually read section 718 of the Criminal Code? I would like to hear her answer on that.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2019-06-17 23:02 [p.29252]
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the sentencing, I can only see what comes out in different cases in the news and what we have studied. I will give the member an example from the study we did on violence against women and girls. We found out that 40% of women who present themselves to the police department and claim they have been raped are not taken seriously and no report is written. Of the 60% who had a report written, of 1,000 different complaints, there is a very small percentage, less than 5%, that make it to court. From that, there is a very small percentage that get a conviction, and the prison sentences are measured in months, not years. That is not equity. While the member is probably more experienced in the area of law, and I understand he is returning to that practice, what I see is not justice for the crimes that are being committed in our country.
View Randy Hoback Profile
CPC (SK)
View Randy Hoback Profile
2019-06-17 23:03 [p.29252]
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting when we start comparing the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Liberals tend to come in here and say they know best. They will do what they think is best and what people should understand is best. The Conservatives talk to people. We talk to them about what they would like to see in regard to legislation, how criminals are treated and how victims are treated. Could the member inform this House on the difference between how the Conservatives approach this versus the Liberals? The reality is, they are preaching and we are listening.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2019-06-17 23:03 [p.29252]
Mr. Speaker, I find that the Liberals are always consulting but never listening, where the Conservatives are consulting and listening to what people are saying. As I posted the information on Bill C-75, I saw huge activity on social media. There were a huge number of petitions and letters and emails from Canadians saying that was not what they wanted. When people have committed serious crimes, they need them to be put in jail and kept there. They want the prison sentence to fit the crime. They do not want murderers and rapists walking away because their case has been before the court for too long. Therefore, I think Canadians recognize there is a problem. This bill does not address the problem. That is the point I was making tonight.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2019-06-17 23:04 [p.29252]
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague knows how much I respect her.
To come back to the previous comment, I think the great difference is that the Liberals tend to believe that judges should have the discretion to deal with each and every case as is appropriate to that individual case. From what I hear, the hon. member and the Conservatives are suggesting that the Parliament of Canada should create a uniform rule that would apply to each and every case, which is not possible. Therefore, I would like to ask the hon. member this. Given what my friend from West Nova said, does she concur that the Criminal Code, as set out, suggests to judges, based on the individual facts of each and every case, what the appropriate sentence is, and that judges in Canada are highly trained, intelligent people who render the right sentences?
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2019-06-17 23:05 [p.29253]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. He knows, as well, how much I respect the work he has done, especially at the justice committee.
The proof is always in the pudding. I do not think Canadians look at the decisions that judges have made and think that criminals are getting an adequate punishment for the crime. While not every single crime is identical, and I am not opposed to judges having some leeway, it looks to me that the leeway is so big that, in many cases, we are coming to the minimum sentence instead of something that is more standard. Keep in mind that when people receive their sentence and have gone to prison, that sentence is often reduced for good behaviour or a lot of other reasons. They end up getting a much shorter sentence anyway.
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2019-06-17 23:39 [p.29258]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate considering the Senate amendments 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.
Bill C-75 represents the government's legislative response to reduce delays, modernize the criminal justice system and facilitate the administration of justice by the provinces and territories.
The Senate proposed amendments to the bail, reclassification of offences, victim surcharge and preliminary inquiries provisions of the bill.
I would like to focus my remarks tonight on some of the amendments relating to the reclassification of offences, or hybridization as it is sometimes called.
The reclassification amendments are a key part of the legislative reforms identified by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice to reduce delays in the criminal justice system. They would also modernize and streamline the scheme for classifying offences in the Criminal Code.
There are two types of offences in the Criminal Code, those that proceed by summary conviction or by indictment. Some offences can be either. Summary conviction offences deal with less serious conduct, for example, causing a disturbance or trespassing at night, for which the current maximum penalty is normally up to six months imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. Indictable offences tend to be for more serious actions, for example, aggravated assault, robbery or murder for which maximum penalties range from two years to life imprisonment.
I failed to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Mount Royal.
A hybrid offence allows the Crown to choose whether to proceed by indictment or summary conviction, recognizing that the severity of the conduct covered by the offence can vary greatly depending on the circumstances, for example, uttering threats, assault, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Bill C-75 would hybridize 118 straight indictable offences that currently would be punishable by maximum penalties of two, five and 10 years imprisonment. It would also amend the Criminal Code to increase the maximum penalty for most criminal offences with a summary conviction penalty to two years less a day. The maximum penalties are being increased for summary conviction offences. The bill would also increase the current limitation period for all summary conviction offences from six to 12 months.
Indictable offences are often heard in Superior Court and generally take longer to process because of their associated procedural requirements, such as jury trials and preliminary inquiries, which can significantly lengthen the time it takes to complete a case. The reason for the availability of more procedural safeguards for indictable offences is that they carry the risk of much lengthier periods of incarceration.
However, there continues to be many straight indictable offences for which, depending on the circumstances, sentences in the summary conviction range are often appropriate and are in fact being imposed.
Cases involving straight indictable offences where the Crown is seeking sentences in the summary conviction range add unnecessary strain to Superior Courts because though they end up with a summary range sentence, they have been eligible for and have used complicated and time consuming processes to get there.
When an offence is hybrid, the prosecutor can elect to have the case heard either by summary conviction or indictment, based on the severity of the case, the circumstances of the offender and the best resources that fit that case. For this reason, provinces and territories have asked for many more straight indictable offences to be hybridized.
More cases being heard in provincial court would leave Superior Courts with more resources to consider more serious cases, thus speeding up the processing times.
Also, other proposed reforms in Bill C-75, such as restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to only the most serious offences, will offset any additional workload on provincial courts that might result.
These proposals are not about downloading to the provinces and territories, as some have suggested. They are about providing provinces and territories with the additional flexibility they have asked for so Crown attorneys can choose the process that best aligns with the facts and circumstances of each case.
Some have claimed that changing the classification of offences will change how seriously these crimes will be taken by the system. This is simply not true.
The best indicia of the seriousness of an offence is its maximum available penalty. The hybridization amendments would not change any of the maximum penalties on indictment.
It is already a feature of our criminal justice system that prosecutors assess the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender to determine which type of sentence to seek from the court. They can already ask for fines and low or no jail time for most of the indictable offences that Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize. As I have already explained, they often avail themselves of summary range sentences.
I have full faith in our prosecutors to continue to seek appropriate sentences. At the end of the day, it will be the judge who decides. Nothing in Bill C-75 proposes to lower the sentences that would be imposed under the law as it is now. These reforms will not change the fundamental principles of sentencing outlined in section 718 of the Criminal Code, which requires proportionality.
The Senate made three types of amendments to address concerns about possible unintended consequences of the reclassification proposals. One of these further amended section 802.1, to also allow agent representation as authorized by the law of the province. However, this is problematic because we do not have any information about how this amendment would operate with existing provincial and territorial laws. As a result, I am not comfortable supporting this amendment.
I am satisfied that the amendment this chamber supported last December to address this issue gives the provinces and territories sufficient flexibility to quickly address any consequences of the reclassification scheme on agents.
I am pleased to be able to support the other two amendments that the Senate made to the reclassification provisions. These are technical and would amount to maintaining the status quo for the collection of DNA samples of convicted offenders and of fingerprints of accused persons. Discretionary DNA orders are currently available for Criminal Code offences with maximum penalties of five years or more when the Crown proceeds by indictment.
Police have expressed concerns that fewer DNA samples will be collected once the reclassification amendments of Bill C-75 come into force. Senate amendment 1 will maintain the availability of DNA orders for those five- and 10-year indictable offences that Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize.
A similar amendment was moved when the bill was before the justice committee, however, that proposal had been much broader and would have expanded the current availability of DNA orders. Senate amendments 11, 13 and 14 respond to police concerns that the hybridization in Bill C-75 will result in police being able to collect fewer fingerprints.
These amendments change the Identification of Criminals Act, to clarify that fingerprints can be taken for an accused who has been charged with a hybrid offence, even where the Crown has elected to proceed by summary conviction. As we can see, Bill C-75 includes many significant tools to reduce delays in the criminal justice system and to better equip its stakeholders and participants to meet the Jordan time frame.
I support the majority of the Senate amendments and I urge my colleagues to support the government's proposed approach to ensure that this much needed bill is passed before the summer recess.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-28 15:59 [p.24106]
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments thereto.
This legislation represents a key milestone on our government's commitment to modernizing the criminal justice system, reducing delays and ensuring the safety of all Canadians. Delays in the criminal justice system affect public safety, undermine public confidence in the administration of justice, adversely impact the rights of accused persons and fails to provide Canadians good value for money.
When proceedings are stayed due to delays, the criminal justice system itself fails. Perpetrators are not held responsible for their actions, the innocent are not given the opportunity to truly clear their name and victims suffer.
Uses of delay in the criminal justice is not a new one. In the early 1990s, tens of thousands of cases were stayed due to delay following the Supreme Court of Canada's historic decision in the Crown and Askov.
As we know, the Supreme Court's subsequent decisions in Jordan and Cody set out a new legal framework for assessing delays. That framework included a transition period in assessing the cases for which charges had been laid prior to the release of the decision.
Given that this period will come to an end next summer, we have no time to lose. We must do everything we can to improve the efficiency of our criminal justice system.
Fortunately, we have many helpful studies and reports including the in-depth study of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Its July 2017 report is entitled “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice”. After hearing from a sum total of 138 witnesses, the standing committee concluded that the causes of delays were wide and varied. It issued a call to the legal community, including judges and federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice and attorneys general to “take decisive and immediate steps to address the causes of delays and to modernize our justice system.” It also called in the Minister of Justice to show leadership “in taking the necessary reformative action”.
I know the minister feels extremely privileged to have been entrusted with the responsibility to address this urgent issue, which also forms part of the mandate letter given to her by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Justice has taken several significant steps to improve the criminal justice system. In total, she has made now 240 judicial appointments and elevations to superior courts right across the country. In 2017 alone, the minister made 100 appointments, more than any other minister of justice in the last two decades. This year she is on pace to meet or exceed that number.
At the same time, the last two budgets presented by our government have allocated funding for an unprecedented number of new judicial positions, which are necessary to allow courts to respond to growing caseloads, including criminal matters. In all, our government has seen the creation of 75 new judicial positions over the past two years.
In fact, earlier this year, chief justices in Alberta and Quebec noted that for the first time in a long time, they were starting to notice positive trends in terms of delays. That is a very encouraging sign. The significant efforts made by judges, courts, governments and other actors in the justice system are paying off.
I will use the rest of the time that I have today to address our government's legislative response to criminal justice system delays.
I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their thorough study of the bill.
The committee heard from 95 witnesses and examined a significant number of documents on a highly complex subject. There were 58 briefs submitted by various stakeholders, including representatives of police forces, Crown attorneys, defence attorneys, legal aid programs, victims' rights advocates, representatives of indigenous groups, and academics.
The discussion on the admission of routine police evidence by affidavit was particularly important, and our government was listening.
Although our intentions were commendable, we admit that our approach, as proposed, could have had unintended consequences, especially for unrepresented accused persons.
The committee gave that concern due consideration, and we accepted its amendment in that regard.
The reforms in this bill were also generally well received by all sides. There were some concerns heard regarding the provision, the proposed reverse onus, in the context of intimate partner violence due to operational issues that some had experienced with what is known as dual charging; that is where both perpetrators and victims are charged after a victim has had to use physical force to defend herself.
Supporting survivors of domestic violence and ensuring that more perpetrators are brought to justice was part of our platform in 2015, and the reverse onus provisions, which do just that, were maintained in the bill after the committee study.
We know, including most recently, from the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Antic that the problem is not the law itself but in how it has been applied. It is important to note that provinces and territories have developed policies and training in this area. We have a solid legal framework, yet a disproportionate number of indigenous and vulnerable and marginalized accused are being denied bail. Those who are being released are being required to follow too many onerous conditions, with a strong reliance on sureties in a number of jurisdictions.
The proposed new process contained in Bill C-75 talks about judicial referral hearings, which will provide an off ramp for administration of justice offences that do not actually cause harm to a victim. This proposal has been supported enthusiastically, both by residents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and by Canadians right across the country, who are concerned about the disproportionate overrepresentation of indigenous and racialized persons in our criminal justice system.
What we have advanced is a shining example of exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada and the Senate committee report were imploring when calling for “a cultural shift among justice system participants that moves them away from complacency and towards efficiency, cooperation and fairness.”
My colleagues will also recall that Bill C-75 includes two proposals in relation to preliminary inquiries. First, the bill proposes to restrict preliminary inquiries for adults accused to offences punishable by life imprisonment, for example, murder or kidnapping. Second, it will permit the judge presiding over the preliminary inquiry to limit the issues to be explored and the number of witnesses to be heard at the preliminary inquiry.
The approach in Bill C-75 with respect to preliminary inquiries reflects the extensive consideration and consultation on various options throughout the years and the best evidence available, and ultimately proposes a balanced approach between various interests at stake. It also proposes an approach that was endorsed and supported by the provincial and territorial ministers of justice during the extensive consultations undertaken by the minister with her provincial and territorial counterparts.
One topic that was a particular focus for the committee was the reclassification of offences. Reclassification will result in amendments to many provisions in the code, both for the purposes of hybridizing existing indictable offences that carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment of 10 years or less, and to create uniform maximum penalty of imprisonment on summary conviction of two years less a day.
The reclassification amendments were supported by the minister's provincial and territorial counterparts, who felt strongly that these amendments would give prosecutors much-needed flexibility based on the gravity of cases before them.
Notably, the reclassification amendments are procedural. They change how conduct that is not deserving of an indictable sentence range can be treated. It is already a well-known feature of our criminal justice system that prosecutors assess the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender to determine which type of sentence to seek from the court.
Importantly, nothing in the bill proposes to lower the sentences that would be awarded under the law. These reforms would not change the fundamental principles of sentencing. We value the variety of perspectives and knowledge that the many witnesses contributed to the Standing Committee on Justice's study.
Bill C-75's proposed reclassification of indictable offences, punishable by maximum of 10 years imprisonment or less, does not treat these offences any less seriously for sentencing purposes.
Nonetheless, this is an important point. The justice committee heard compelling testimony from witnesses on the terrorism and advocating genocide offences. Our government recognizes that these are crimes against the state, against society at large for the purpose of advancing a political objective, in the case of terrorism. In the case of advocating genocide, these are crimes not just against society at large but crimes against humanity.
I say that with some experience in the area, as a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda. I know first-hand that there is no more reprehensible crime known to law then genocide, which is advocating for the destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
The standing committee unanimously recommended that these offences be carved out of the reclassification approach in Bill C-75. We thank the committee for its diligent work in this area, and agree wholeheartedly with this amendment.
On that note, we moved consequential government amendments to remedy an unintended error from one of these committee amendments in order to reflect the committee's objective of removing these offences from the list of those that were being reclassified.
We also welcomed the committee's amendments to section 802.1 of the Criminal Code to allow the provinces and territories to set criteria permitting agents, that is non-lawyers, such as law students, articling students and paralegals, to appear on summary conviction offences punishable by more than six months imprisonment and to allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offence for the purpose of an adjournment.
One of the unintended consequences of the proposal to reclassify offences in the Criminal Code is that agents would not have been able to appear for individuals on most summary conviction offences unless authorized by the provinces and territories. The justice committee helpfully amended section 802.1 of the Criminal Code to enable provinces and territories to establish criteria for agent representation on summary conviction offences with a maximum penalty of greater than six months imprisonment in addition to the current authority to create programs for this purpose as well as to allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offences for adjournments.
This amendment would address concerns over access to justice issues. It would maintain jurisdictional flexibility while also recognizing regional diversity in how legal representation is regulated across Canada.
On this point, I would underscore that access to justice informs not only the core aspect of the bill, but in all of the efforts we are undertaking at the justice ministry and the efforts made by the minister. The minister has brought this issue to the attention of her provincial and territorial counterparts so they will take the requisite prompt legislative action to set the necessary criteria for this important matter relating to access to justice.
I would also like to talk about the jury reforms proposed in Bill C-75. These changes will make major improvements to our jury selection process by abolishing peremptory challenges for Crown and defence attorneys, allowing judges to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice, modernizing challenges for cause, empowering judges to decide challenges for cause, and allowing trials to continue with the consent of the parties in the event that the number of jurors is reduced below 10, in order to avoid mistrials.
The under-representation of indigenous peoples and visible minorities on juries is a major concern. This problem has been well-documented for years. We believe that eliminating peremptory challenges will significantly improve the diversity of juries.
Peremptory challenges give both the accused and the Crown the power to exclude potential jurors without having to provide a reason. They have no place in our courtrooms, given the potential for abuse. Once this bill has passed, Canada will join countries like England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which abolished peremptory challenges in 1988.
We must remember that provincial and territorial laws and processes play an important role in determining candidates for jury duty and the methods used to compile jury lists.
The federal government is just one piece of the puzzle. However, I am pleased to see that federal, provincial and territorial government representatives are working together on a wide range of jury-related issues in order to make further recommendations on how to improve Canada's jury system. I believe that the questions raised during the committee's study of Bill C-75 will help with these deliberations.
I was also pleased to see that the committee was generally in favour of the more technical proposals aimed at reducing delays and improving efficiency in our system, in particular with respect to removing the requirement for judicial endorsement for the execution of out-of-province warrants, clarifying the signing authority of clerks of the court, and facilitating remote appearances.
As well, I wish to highlight the committee's unanimous support of the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal code, a proposal that has been well received in the LGBTQ community, as well as the proposed amendment to repeal the vagrancy and bawdy house offences, which have been historically and improperly used to target consensual adult sexual activity. These amendments continue our government's important work to address discrimination against LGBTQ2 Canadians.
Importantly the committee also supported Bill C-75's proposal to repeal the abortion offences that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down as unconstitutional in the Morgentaler decision in 1988. Our government will always protect a woman's reproductive rights and her right to choose what to do with her own body.
As I have already stated, Bill C-75 proposes comprehensive reforms that will help to ensure that an accused person's right to be tried within a reasonable time is respected and that all justice system participants, including victims and witnesses, do not face delays.
At the same time, we are deeply conscious of the need and have heard the call for sentencing reform, including mandatory minimum penalties. The minister remains committed to advancing change.
The courts have made it clear that many mandatory minimum penalties present serious challenges from a constitutional perspective. The minister has been clear that her view is that judges should be provided the necessary discretion to impose sentences appropriate to the offender before them.
That said, we need to ensure we put in place sentencing reform that will stand the test of time. Mandatory minimum penalties are being litigated quite extensively. There are cases in which the Supreme Court has upheld the mandatory minimum penalty and there are cases in which the court has not.
We want to ensure we have taken all steps and done our due diligence as we continue to work on sentencing reform so the changes we make will stand the test of time.
The bold reforms proposed in the legislation have been the subject of extensive discussions, consultations and collaboration with the minister's provincial and territorial colleagues. Our commitment to prioritize key legislative reforms that we felt cumulatively would have the biggest impact in reducing delays in the criminal justice system remains strong.
This discussion and the consultations have included extensive debate within this very chamber itself. The House has debated Bill C-75 for a total of 14 hours and 45 minutes thus far. Ninety-five witnesses in the course of 27 hours were heard by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during extended sitting hours. A total of 28 members of the opposition benches from multiple parties have spoken out on the bill.
Further to that, we have listened to the standing committee's recommendations and to key stakeholders who have committed to address the issues of delays in the criminal justice system. Bill C-75, as amended, is a result of this commitment and reflects the beginning of a culture change that the Supreme Court was calling for in its Jordan and its Cody decisions. I therefore urge all members to support this important legislation.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2018-11-20 11:36 [p.23590]
Madam Speaker, I am wondering if the member could explain why he thinks that forceable confinement, the kidnapping of a minor, or enforced marriage are minor enough offences that they should have a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine, as laid out in Bill C-75.
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 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 Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Randeep Sarai Profile
2018-11-20 12:52 [p.23601]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading debate on 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 intend to focus my remarks on sentencing-related issues.
At the outset, it is important to address the continuing criticism by the opposition that hybridizing all straight indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or less—to allow the Crown to proceed by summary conviction in appropriate cases—would minimize the seriousness of these offences. These concerns reflect a lack of trust of the judiciary and Crown prosecutors, who already make these decisions every day. They also represent a profound misunderstanding of what Bill C-75 aims to achieve by reclassifying certain offences.
The proposal to hybridize offences is procedural in nature and is intended to allow prosecution by summary conviction of conduct that currently does not result in a sentence of more than two years. For instance, it is a mischaracterization of the reclassification amendments to assert that by hybridizing section 467.11 of the Criminal Code, i.e., participation in activities of a criminal organization, Bill C-75 is sending a message not to take organized crime offences seriously.
The proposed amendment simply recognizes that this offence can, by virtue of the range of conduct captured, include circumstances where an appropriate sentence falls within the summary conviction range. Proceeding summarily in these circumstances allows for more expeditious proceedings without undermining public safety or impacting the sentence ranges for this offence.
In fact, in 2011-2012 there were 49 guilty verdicts entered pursuant to section 467.11 of the Criminal Code. Of these 49 cases, only 34 were given a custodial sentence. Of those, one received one month or less, six received between one month and three months, 10 received between three months and six months, nine received from six months to 12 months, four received from 12 months to 24 months and the four remaining received a custodial sentence of 24 months or more.
At the time these sentences were imposed, section 467.11 of the Criminal Code was a straight indictable offence, and yet the overwhelming majority of sentences imposed were in the summary conviction range, including 15 non-custodial sentences. It is clear that keeping section 467.11 of the Criminal Code as a straight indictable offence would not in any way prevent the Crown, in appropriate cases, from seeking a non-custodial sentence or a sentence of imprisonment that is in the summary conviction range.
Let me be clear. There is absolutely nothing in Bill C-75 that would suggest to prosecutors and courts that hybridizing offences should result in their seeking or awarding lower sentences than what is currently sought or awarded under the law. Prosecutors would continue to assess the facts of each case and the circumstances relating to the offender and previously decided cases in order to determine which type of sentence they should seek. Sentencing judges would continue to impose sentences proportionate to the severity of the crime and the degree of responsibility of the offender, as mandated by the fundamental principle of sentencing in section 718.1 of the Criminal Code.
The misapprehensions about the proposed reclassification amendments also unnecessarily detract from other notable reforms. For example, the bill proposes to toughen criminal laws in the context of intimate partner violence, IPV, thereby increasing public safety and enhancing victim safety.
Bill C-75 includes a proposal that would impose a reverse onus at bail for an accused charged with an intimate violence offence if the accused has a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner, regardless of whether it is the same partner, a former partner or a dating partner. In this context, to enhance the safety of victims of this type of violence, the accused, not the prosecutor, would have to justify their release to the court and the public. What this means is that the presumption that the accused should be released pending trial no longer applies
This proposal is targeted and reflects what we know about the heightened risk of safety that victims of intimate partner violence face. Victims of intimate partner violence tend to experience multiple victimizations before reporting it to the authorities or police. Based on Statistics Canada data from 2014, 17% of victims of spousal violence indicated that they had been abused by their current or former partner on more than 10 occasions.
I understand that one of the criticisms raised at committee was that the reverse onus could be problematic in jurisdictions where dual charging occurs, a practice whereby both partners are criminally charged, sometimes because self-defence on the part of the victim is confused with assault. I also understand that it is often not the law that is the problem in this context, but how it is applied.
Dual charging is an operational issue that provinces and territories have been addressing through the development and implementation of training and policies. For example, in March 2016, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released the document “National Framework for Collaborative Police Action on Intimate Partner Violence”, which addresses dual charging and provides guidance for cases where charges against a victim are being contemplated.
Knowing that the research shows that victims are at an increased risk of violence in the aftermath of reporting to police, especially in cases where there is an ongoing history of violence in the relationship, I am confident that the reverse onus proposed here is carefully tailored to address the concerns raised.
Bill C-75 would also require courts to consider whether an accused is charged with an IPV offence prior to making a decision to release or detain the accused during a bail hearing. In addition, Bill C-75 would clarify that strangulation, choking and suffocation are elevated forms of assault and would also define "intimate partner" for all Criminal Code purposes, clarifying that it includes a current or former spouse, a common-law partner, as well as dating partners.
Moreover, Bill C-75 proposes a sentencing amendment to clarify that the current sentencing provisions which treat abuse against a spouse or common-law partner as an aggravating factor apply to both current and former spouses, common-law partners and dating partners. What is more, Bill C-75 would also allow prosecutors the possibility of seeking a higher maximum penalty in cases involving a repeat intimate partner violence offender.
I think we can all agree that allowing for the imposition of higher than the applicable maximum penalty in cases of repeat intimate partner violence offenders is a concrete example of Parliament sending a clear message to prosecutors and the courts that repeat intimate partner violence offenders should receive strong denunciatory sentences.
In these cases, where the Crown serves notice under section 727 of the Criminal Code that a higher maximum penalty is sought, a sentencing court would be given additional discretion to impose a sentence that exceeds the otherwise applicable maximum penalty. This will better reflect the severity of the conduct in question and assist courts in imposing sentences that better protect victims.
I urge all members to support this very comprehensive legislation which will reduce delays and make the criminal justice system more efficient and effective on the basis of evidence and not ideology.
View Mark Warawa Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Warawa Profile
2018-11-20 15:39 [p.23627]
Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to be in the House to speak to this important justice bill.
Bill C-75, sadly, is a deeply flawed, 302-page omnibus bill introduced by the government. Are there some positive aspects? Yes. However, the way it has been done, rammed through, not properly dialogued, not properly considered and ignoring the opposition members at committee, is a very serious and concerning process.
The previous speaker, when asked about the bill, said that the Conservative comments were regrettable rhetoric. It is that attitude, where the Liberals have a majority in the House, they can ram things through and get their way every time. It appears to be an arrogant attitude with the government dismissing any critique.
The Prime Minister continues to show that he does not take the safety and security of Canadians seriously. He is not listening to positive critique. He is watering down serious offences, such as impaired driving causing bodily harm, using date rape drugs and human trafficking. These are all serious crimes.
There are 136 offences included in Bill C-75, offences like participating in the activities of a terrorist group. One of two amendments, coming from the Conservative Party, were made at the justice committee. The government then permitted its members in committee to accept an amendment on that one, and that was withdrawn. Another is advocating genocide.
How did the Liberals come up with this list of 136 offences? Why did it only accept to remove two, advocating genocide and participating in a terrorist group? What about the other 134 offences?
The Liberals have taken any offence that is a serious indictable offence, with a maximum sentence of 10 years, and they have grouped them into one group, and we have Bill C-75 in front of us. It is offences like prison breach, municipal corruption, influencing municipal official, influencing or negotiating appointments or deals in offices, violence against a clergy person, keeping a common bawdy house, punishment for infanticide and concealing body of child.
There are 134 offences. Do some of them need to be updated? Yes, but it needs to be done in a constructive, proper way.
The Criminal Code of Canada did not come into play a year ago. It has come through the judicial system, through the legal system, through the legislative system for years and years. Last year, Canada celebrated its 150th birthday. Over the years, we have learned from other countries what the laws should be and what is the appropriate sentencing. We have also learned about respecting the courts and giving the courts discretion.
Over the years, we have come up with appropriate sentencing. To review this is a good practice. It should be done. One of the things I am quite concerned about is that in the last Parliament we had a major focus on victims in Canada. The Victims Bill of Rights came out of that, and that was a huge accomplishment. Part of that was a system where there would be a victim surcharge, where an offender would pay into a victims fund to take care of victims. This is being repealed in Bill C-75. It will be gone, again taking away opportunities to take care of victims.
In the little time I have to speak, I would like to focus on impaired driving. Impaired driving causing bodily harm, causing death, is the number one criminal offence in Canada. It is a very serious offence. I have received tens of thousands of petitions. There is not usually a week that goes by where I am not honoured to present a petition on behalf of Families For Justice. Every member of Families For Justice has lost a loved one.
Markita Kaulius lives in my riding. She is the president of Families For Justice. She and Victor lost their beautiful daughter to a drunk driver. She was 22 years old when she was killed.
In these petitions, the petitioners are asking that the charge of impaired driving causing death be called “vehicular homicide”, and that if a person is arrested and convicted of impaired driving, there should be an automatic one-year driving prohibition. It sounds reasonable. Also, if a person is convicted of causing bodily harm while impaired, by being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, there should be a minimum mandatory sentence of two years imprisonment. If a person is convicted of causing a collision while being impaired and a person is killed, they are asking for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.
In the last Parliament, the government introduced a bill to toughen up laws on mandatory minimum sentences, which is what Families For Justice is asking for. It did not include calling it vehicular homicide. It was dealing with the mandatory minimums, getting tough on crime.
At the end of the last Parliament, Families For Justice contacted each of the leaders. The current Prime Minister wrote a letter to Families For Justice and said that he would support getting tough on crime. Sadly, Bill C-75 would remove impaired driving causing bodily harm, failing to provide a bodily sample and blood alcohol over the limit from indictable offences and make them hybrid offences. In actuality, this would take these offences, at the choice of the prosecution, out of federal court. Because they could be summary convictions, they would be put into provincial court. The federal government would be downloading onto provincial courts.
In British Columbia, I have been regularly shocked to see cases being thrown out of court by judges because they have gone on too long. We then end up with the federal government downloading all these indictable cases onto the provincial court. The Criminal Code being enforced will exasperate provincial justice, by making serious offences like kidnapping, abducting a person under the age of 14 summary convictions. Why should people who would abduct a child, who could be charged with a serious indictable offence, with a 10-year maximum, now have a summary conviction available to them? This would be two years less a day and put into the provincial courts.
The government says one thing and does something totally different. It promised Markita Kaulius, Families For Justice and other Canadians that it was going to get tough on crime. We hear regularly that it is getting tough on impaired driving, but in fact it does nothing like that. What it says and what it does are two totally different things.
It brings to mind the proverb, “A tree is known by its fruit”. If there are apples on the branches of that tree, it is an apple tree. If there are pears on it, it is a pear tree. If it is a tree of deceit, the country groans. Canadians want justice. They want a government that spends the time to do it right when it makes legislative changes, not ram it through because it has the ability to do it.
Therefore, I hope the government will ask some good questions, some important questions. With the way it is handling Bill C-75, I have received a lot of phone calls, emails and regular input from my constituents. I am sure every one of us is getting the same kinds of phone calls with respect to Bill C-75, saying to vote against Bill C-75. Therefore, that is what I plan to do.
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 Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-20 16:35 [p.23635]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Peace River—Westlock for his contribution to today's debate, and for his ongoing concerns about human trafficking. It is an incredibly serious issue, and I thank him for raising it in this chamber repeatedly.
I have one comment and one question. The comment is that human trafficking was studied extensively by the standing committee prior to receiving Bill C-75. In order to address some of the very important witnesses and stakeholders the member has highlighted, the committee travelled right across the country to hear from them. The committee has yet to table its report, but when it does, I hope we will study its recommendations carefully.
The member and a number of his colleagues have consistently underscored the need to being tough on victims' rights and tough on sentencing to address those rights. We agree, and I am glad he agrees with the intimate partner violence provisions.
Is it a step in the right direction to be taking the standard sentence for summary conviction offences from six months to two years less a day? Does that address the needs of the victims he represents in Peace River—Westlock?
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 Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2018-11-20 16:37 [p.23635]
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for his speech. We discussed our positions, which sometimes align, but often do not.
Obviously, I always feel a need to point out how disappointing this government's legislative agenda is. Given all of the serious problems Canada is facing, including those faced by first nations, this bill once again seems insufficient.
In the spring, the Criminal Lawyers' Association said that, sadly, intimate partner violence is one of the recognized legacies of residential schools and the sixties scoop. It believes that creating a reverse onus at the bail stage and increasing the sentence on conviction will likely aggravate the crisis of the overrepresentation of indigenous people in our prisons.
I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that. I think that is a major problem. The government is always talking about reconciliation, but it would be nice if the Liberals would take concrete action to improve this situation, rather than just being satisfied with public relations exercises.
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 MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today in this honourable House to talk about Bill C-75.
This is a long overdue change to the legal system, which has been bogged down, in many cases to such an extent that cases have been found to have lost their meaning and been adjourned. People whom we suspected were guilty got away without going through due process at all. Those circumstances cannot happen. It is not justice. It is not fair.
This is one step towards making a fairer, more efficient and effective judicial system. Bill C-75 is a meaningful and significant approach to promoting efficiency, and I would assume that all members of the House would like to see that happen. Efficiency and effectiveness are what every member would like to see in our systems, because we would not want to waste one penny of taxpayer money on something that could be done better. It is always our goal to do better. That is exactly what this bill does.
This bill would, in a significant way, promote efficiency in our criminal justice system, reduce case completion times, as I mentioned earlier, and contribute to increased public confidence while respecting the rights of those involved and ensuring that public safety is maintained.
In terms of preliminary inquiries, this bill would restrict preliminary inquires to adults accused of the 63 most serious offences in the Criminal Code, which carry a sentence of life imprisonment, like murder; and would reinforce a judge's power to limit the questions to be examined, as well as the number of witnesses who will appear.
The Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision, and the Senate legal affairs committee in its final report on delays in the justice system, recommended that preliminary inquiry reform be considered. We should be proud to support a bill that takes into account not only the recommendations of this House but also of the upper house and of the provinces and territories that have been working on this issue for many years. It has been discussed for decades.
Some say that restricting preliminary inquiries might have little impact on the delays. Even though it concerns only 3% of the cases, it would still have a significant impact on those provinces where this procedure is used more often, such as Ontario and Quebec. We know, because of the population base involved, that this would have a significant impact on the whole judicial system.
Also, we cannot overlook the cumulative effect of all of Bill C-75's proposals that seek to streamline the criminal justice system process.
It is of course for the betterment of both the accused and victims to have the system move fairly and efficiently in a timely manner. The proposed preliminary inquiry amendments are the culmination of years of study and consideration in federal-provincial-territorial and other meetings.
We know that it is not easy to negotiate a framework when we have many divergent views and jurisdictions involved, but this is going to be good for Canadians. It will be good for the indigenous population of our country, who have unfortunately been the victim of a system that many have called racist. If we look at the number of indigenous people in our jails, it is extremely high. One must ask why the system seems to incarcerate so many more indigenous people than their population warrants. These changes will be more effective and fairer for our indigenous population, and that is a commitment of our Prime Minister.
This is a balanced approach. We often see that in this House, in particular, where we have the left and the right, the positions can be quite separated, with the Liberals coming in the middle and providing a balanced approach and centre to both.
I think most Canadians are reasonable centralists and, as we have seen in the past, this type of negotiated solution means compromises on both sides. As we look at the balanced approach between opposing views put forward by both committees and those expressed by the House, they are considered and put forward in this bill.
This bill would make this procedure more efficient and expedient. Of course, that is the goal of all of our programs for Canadians, as well as being meaningful, respectful and available to all Canadians. It is important to respect the accused person's right to a fair trial. This would also help witnesses and victims by preventing some of them from having to testify twice. That is just not reasonable for the system. It is hard on victims, very hard on witnesses, so to eliminate this would be of benefit to all.
Let us look at the issue of case management. Bill C-75 would allow for the earlier appointment of case management judges. This recognizes their unique and vital role in ensuring the momentum of cases is maintained, and that they are completed in an efficient, effective, just and timely manner. This was also recommended by the Senate report on delays in the criminal justice system.
It is important to discuss, even if briefly, the use of technology and how it would provide fairness, particularly to the indigenous population of Canada. I come from Manitoba, which has the highest per capita number of indigenous people of any province. In many cases, they are in fairly remote and isolated communities where participating in a full process is extremely difficult because there are no roads, access is limited and broadband connections are poor. These are all issues that make justice much more difficult for indigenous people in those circumstances.
In terms of technology, the bill proposes to allow remote appearances by audio or video conference for accused, witnesses, lawyers, judges, justices of the peace and interpreters, under certain circumstances. This would obviously assist many people, although it is not always appropriate. Canada has allowed remote appearances for many years, and these amendments seek to broaden the existing framework.
These optional tools in Bill C-75 aim to increase access to justice, streamline processes and reduce system costs, such as the transport of the accused and witness attendance costs, without impacting existing resources such as those through the indigenous court worker program. The changes we are proposing also respond to the Senate committee recommendations, which called for an increase to the use of remote appearances for accused persons.
In conclusion, the proposals in Bill C-75 in relation to preliminary inquiries, judicial case management and remote appearances, together with all of the other reforms, would ensure that our criminal justice system is efficient, just and in line with the values of our communities and all Canadians.
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 Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-08 10:49 [p.23430]
Madam Speaker, I have one comment and one question. I thank the member opposite for his work on the justice committee. He talked about delays. What I would put to him is that when we take administration of justice offences and no longer apply criminal charges to those issues, but instead a judicial referral hearing, we avoid clogging up the criminal justice system. That is a goal that both of us share.
The hon. member made a lot of important comments about victims and how they would be treated under this law and what the bill would do to them. Would he not agree that what we are doing in this legislation by defining intimate partner violence to include dating and former partners, and by increasing the maximum sentences for intimate partner violence and enacting a reverse onus on bail for repeat offenders, would protect the very victims, the women, the member opposite seeks to protect?
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 Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2018-11-08 11:36 [p.23437]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues.
As chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I am very pleased to rise to talk about our work on Bill C-75. I want to thank the members of the committee for their hard work. I also want to thank the more than 60 witnesses who appeared before our committee to share their opinion on the bill.
I also want to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who proposed some very constructive amendments in committee, which we debated.
Overall, Bill C-75 is a good bill, and it is a bill the committee made better through its study. I want to talk a little about the amendments made by the committee.
The first amendment I am very pleased the committee made was to delete from the Criminal Code the provisions related to keeping a common bawdy house and vagrancy. We heard about these provisions from witnesses from the LGBTQ2+ community who came before us. My friend Robert Leckey, who was the dean at McGill, Tom Hooper and others told us that they had been disproportionately used in the 1970s and 1980s to charge, send to prison, and fine members of the gay community. For these convictions to be expunged under previous legislation the House and the Senate had adopted, we would need to have the offence under which they were charged repealed from the Criminal Code.
I salute all members of all parties, who listened to these witnesses and determined that it was only right, while these people are still alive and with us, to take action and restore a sense of fairness, a sense that they were charged with something they never should have been charged with in the first place. The members of the committee amended the bill to delete these provisions. I am very grateful, and I hope if the bill is adopted, which I imagine it will be, we will move forward quickly to adopt an order in council to allow these men to have their records expunged.
Second, we deleted the provisions in the bill related to routine police evidence and allowing police testimony to be entered by affidavit, as opposed to the police officer showing up in court. We heard from virtually all sides that this provision in the bill could easily be misunderstood and could harm those people who were trying to represent themselves in court and did not understand how to challenge the submission of routine police evidence by affidavit. We found that since any lawyer in almost any circumstance would challenge the idea that police officers did not need to show up to be cross-examined on their testimony in all matters, other than the most simple ones, this should be removed from the bill, and we have proposed to the House, in this reading, that it be removed from the bill.
We also listened carefully to those people who said that we should not hybridize the offences related to terrorism and genocide. I want to correct the record of what my colleague previously said. This was not done because the NDP and Liberal members of the committee were pushed into it by a Conservative amendment.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2018-11-08 11:40 [p.23437]
Madam Speaker, as my friend from St. Albert—Edmonton well knows, the committee had discussions long before amendments were submitted about these issues. The committee members had all put forward the proposal that genocide and terrorism be deleted. Rather than vote against the clauses, which is what the committee had originally talked about doing, the Conservatives put forward amendments to retain other language that had been amended in the clause and to delete these provisions.
I wholeheartedly agree that genocide and terrorism are easily distinguishable from the offences that are hybridized, not necessarily because they are more serious offences, although they are incredibly serious offences, but because they are offences against groups as opposed to offences against individuals. They are easily distinguishable from ordinary charges under the Criminal Code. They are ones that impact society in a way that individual cases do not. I strongly supported removing them from the list of offences to be hybridized, and I am pleased that the committee did that.
I also note that when we talk about moving forward justice, one cannot argue that the handful of terrorism and genocide offences that go before our courts are ones that will slow down the court system by remaining solely indictable offences. Therefore, I wholeheartedly supported that.
What I did not agree with was the conclusion that by hybridizing an offence, we are automatically judging that offence to be less serious. When an offence is hybridized, it gives the prosecutor the discretion to choose to move forward with either an indictable or a summary type of conviction. It is true that a summary conviction carries a maximum sentence that is generally less than the indictable one, although in some cases, by only one day. It is true that if one chooses to proceed by summary conviction, the maximum sentence is less than if it was a maximum sentence under an indictable prosecution. However, presumably, prosecutors look at the facts of a case and determine whether the facts warrant a jail sentence longer than two years less a day. If they believe that the facts of a case warrant a jail sentence longer than two years less a day, they proceed by indictment.
By the way, there are many serious offences in the Criminal Code, such as assault, that are already hybridized. There is no weakening of the offence. There is no saying that an offence is less serious by agreeing that this type of offence could have different facts leading to a need to hybridize.
For example, an incredibly serious offence in the Criminal Code, one we would all agree is incredibly serious, is kidnapping someone under the age of 16. That is one of the offences that would be hybridized under this bill. However, we also understand that there can be terrible people out there who try to kidnap or solicit young people under 16 for the purpose of trafficking or for the purpose of seizing them away to commit crimes against them.
There can also be a situation where a non-custodial parent takes his or her own child to visit grandparents, against the will of the custodial parent. That is still kidnapping a child under the age of 16. Even though it is serious and a crime, to me it warrants a very different sentence than the person taking the 16-year-old for trafficking.
I also note that there were other offences, such as branding of cattle or stealing timber, for which there were Conservative amendments saying that we should not de-hybridize. Those offences are clearly offences that do not carry the same type of consequence, yet in the same way we could not distinguish between one and the other, we are saying that we do not need to hybridize these either.
Fourth, we made an amendment to protect students. As opposed to weakening sentences, one of the things we did was enhance summary sentences. Instead of a six-month average summary sentence, a six-month maximum, the maximum was changed to two years less a day. We actually strengthened sentences for many more offences in this country and set a general summary maximum sentence of two years less a day instead of six months. However, that would have a negative impact on students and agents who could only appear on cases that were six months or less. Therefore, we moved an amendment at committee to allow provinces to set general order in council rules that would allow different classes of agents to appear for periods of over six months. That was important.
We listened to witnesses. There are many issues in this bill that are clearly debatable and have good points on both sides, but the committee came back with a better bill.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
2018-11-08 11:50 [p.23439]
Madam Speaker, I enjoyed my work on the justice committee for these past three years. It was very rewarding and very insightful.
With respect to Bill C-75, there are sections of the bill that we, on this side, are in favour of.
One of those is the reform of intimate partner violence cases, which will basically reverse the notice of bail on someone who has been convicted of assaulting or other crimes against their partner. I like the idea because it does give better protection. There are a number of procedural changes with respect to preliminary hearings and jury selection. Again, we will continue to review those changes here and get input from people.
As we heard from my colleagues on this side, we continue to be quite concerned about the hybridization of some very serious crimes.
I think most Canadians would agree with us in the Conservative Party that there are serious crimes that are currently listed as indictable offences with a maximum of up to 10 years and that it does reflect the seriousness of those crimes. Some of those offences include, but are not limited to: participation in a riot, or concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; selling or purchasing offices; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; assisting prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; bodily harm; impaired driving causing bodily harm; failure to provide sample and blood alcohol level over legal limit; material benefit from trafficking; withholding or destroying documents; and abduction of person under age of 14 or under the age of 16.
I think most Canadians would agree with us that these are very serious offences. Some others are marriage to someone under the age of 16, arson for fraudulent purpose and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.
The government has backed down on a couple of those issues. They are the ones related to terrorism and genocide. The problem I have with the government is that we told them a long time ago that Canadians are not going to agree with hybridizing and reducing the possible penalties for criminal activities like genocide and terrorism. We were very clear that it is a mistake to go forward with this. It took the government a long time, approximately a year, before it would back down on this.
A piece of advice I would give to the government is that just because an idea comes from the opposition does not mean that it is a bad idea. Some time ago we started pointing out that a person who is convicted of murdering, torturing and raping a child should not be then transferred to a healing lodge. We told the government that it was a huge mistake. All we got was pushback from the government and the minister saying no.
However, I found out a few minutes ago that Terri-Lynne McClintic has been transferred out of a healing lodge and placed back in prison where she should be. All I can say to the government is that this idea is no better than it was when we told the Liberals a long time ago about these things. I had said it was a mistake to put genocide and terrorism in as hybrid offences, and again, we were right.
I remember, in June 2017, the government came forward with another omnibus justice bill, and part of it was to remove the protection of members of the clergy and the protection of people disrupted during a religious service. We told the government it was a mistake. I remember standing here, telling some of my colleagues to please go home this summer and ask constituents, even if they do not go to a religious service, if they think it is a good idea that we would repeal this section.
It took about a year, but then finally the government did agree with us. Unfortunately, I see that threat against a member of the clergy is now part of the hybridization, so the government has reduced the penalty for this. Again, I believe this is inconsistent.
We hear the Prime Minister and others saying we have to protect religious institutions, synagogues, churches, temples and mosques. However, at the same time, the government's record, now on two occasions, is to reduce or, in a sense, eliminate the specific penalty dealing with that. It is completely inconsistent, and I think it is a mistake.
I was going to ask my colleague a question, since he gets overwhelming support at elections and is very in tune with what his constituents say. I was going to ask, “Are any of your constituents saying that we should open up the possibility of a lower sentence for people who traffic in children under the age of 14? Did anybody say that to you, or say that we have to go easier on these people?” The hon. member says that nobody came forward to ask for that.
We talk about the challenges with respect to impaired driving. Now the government's priority this year has been to legalize marijuana. Everyone in this chamber knows that this is going to make it more complicated, with respect to impaired driving and the associated challenges. Yet, at the very same time, the government has legislation that says that if people are driving impaired and they cause bodily harm, they now have the possibility of facing a summary conviction offence, which would result in something even as low as fine. I would say that nobody wants something like that.
On the section on trafficking in persons, the justice committee is doing a study right now on human trafficking. We heard from Canadians across this country, different groups and individuals saying what a terrible problem this is and that it has to be addressed. However, at the same time, the government is reducing the penalties.
One of the things I heard from the government over a year ago, when it introduced this, was that it would speed up the criminal justice system. I say, “Sure, if you are a terrorist.” If somebody says they have the possibility of getting a fine of $1,000, they will ask where they can sign up for that. That is great news for them. Let us not hold up the justice system.
My point is these are very serious crimes. They were treated as such when Conservatives were in government. As my colleagues have said, we always stood up for victims of crime to better protect victims and to increase people's confidence in the criminal justice system. When somebody who has committed a horrific crime is let off, when they get the minimum possible sentence, it does not increase people's confidence in the criminal justice system. It has the exact opposite effect.
We had a very good run at this. We stood up for law-abiding Canadians. We stood up for victims. We wanted the system to work. I am very proud of all that we have done. My advice to the government is, when the Conservatives have good ideas that the Liberal members can run by their own constituents and they agree with them, the government should adopt those, and it should not have to wait to change its mind.
View Sylvie Boucher Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague may want me to muzzle me, but I will continue reading my speech. I want my words to be heard; I am not here to be muzzled, I am here to speak on behalf of Canadians.
The Liberals were not doing anything and kept defending the indefensible. They said they could not do anything, but in reality, they did not want to do anything. The government could have saved this already devastated family from more hardships, but we know the sad end to this story.
The Conservatives are the voice of victims of crime and their loved ones, and we will never stand by in a case of injustice like this one. We are satisfied that this shameful issue has advanced, but we are appalled that it took so long.
We cannot forget the case of Chris Garnier, a criminal who killed a young police officer. He is currently serving his sentence and is receiving veterans benefits, even though he never served in the Canadian Armed Forces. This week is Veterans Week, which would be an appropriate time for the government to apologize and immediately correct the situation.
Speaking more specifically to Bill C-75, certain aspects can be supported in the interest of victims of crime, such as removing certain Criminal Code provisions that have been found unconstitutional; indeed, the Conservatives acknowledge that this measure will benefit victims of crime and that it will clean up the Criminal Code.
We also support higher maximum penalties where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner, and more importantly, we support the consideration of intimate partner violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing. For that, however, it is absolutely essential that more stringent requirements be imposed on temporary releases in the case of offenders who have committed intimate partner violence.
I think this requirement is especially important because offences related to the scourge of domestic violence are increasing steadily in Quebec. It is important to understand that spousal homicide is often the culmination of violent tendencies that increase in severity and intensity over time. In 78% of cases of spousal homicide committed in Canada between 2001 and 2011, police were aware of a history of domestic violence between the victim and the aggressor.
In far too many cases, offenders that have been arrested and subsequently released go on to kill their spouse anyway. It is crucial that conditional release provisions be strengthened in the Criminal Code; otherwise, increasingly younger innocent victims will lose their lives.
Another aspect of Bill C-75 I strongly oppose is the change to the victim surcharge. The Conservatives support victims of crime and believe that they deserve better. Bill C-75 is a reintroduction of Bill C-28, which was introduced two years ago and gives courts the flexibility to waive or reduce the victim surcharge when a person convicted of a crime convinces the court that such a payment would cause undue hardship.
On behalf of victims of crime, I feel it is my duty to vote against Bill C-75. Despite taking some steps in the right direction, it takes far too many in the wrong direction, I believe. Unfortunately, victims of crime do not yet have themselves an advocate in Canada's Liberal government.
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-11-08 12:36 [p.23445]
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise 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.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their work on this legislation, which is now at report stage. It really would address some of the issues of delay in our court system. It would reinforce and strengthen our criminal justice system to ensure that victims would be looked after in a way that would protect them, our communities and society and. At the same time, it looks at the inequities within the system.
Before I go any further, I will quote Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer in the United States. I have read his book Just Mercy and one line reads, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” I started with that quote because I want lay some context.
I have listened to hon. opposition members speak to the bill. I want to re-emphasize that our objective is not to revictimize innocent people, but to ensure they are adequately protected. We know there are inequities in the system and the bill looks to improve the efficiency of and equity within the system.
There have been many reports, and it is not just me saying this, about the over-incarceration of our indigenous and black populations within federal institutions across the country. Irrespective of where we are, we see this happening.
I am not a lawyer and this is not my background, but in looking at the legislation, I want people in Whitby to know and understand what the legislation would do to strengthen our criminal justice system, the Criminal Code and increase efficiencies. By doing both, it would increase efficiency.
Bill C-75 proposes to do a few things: modernize and streamline our bail system, including by legislating a principle of restraint to reduce the imposition of unnecessary conditions and with the intended effect of reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous and marginalized Canadians in our criminal justice system. Essentially, when bail conditions are imposed, the proposal is to look at the situation of the individuals in front of the judge and come up with reasonable conditions that would prevent them from re-entering the criminal justice system. By doing that, we would ensure it would not be a revolving door in and out of prison. We want people to be rehabilitated and stay out of the system, but there has to be a thoughtful process throughout the whole judicial system to ensure that happens.
A second proposal is to change the way our system deals with administration of justice offences, including by creating new judicial referral hearings as an alternative to a new criminal charge, with the goal of reducing the burden of administrative justice charges and increasing court efficiency. If an alcoholic is in front of a judge and one of the conditions imposed by the judge is that the person not drink, that is a little unreasonable. Why not have one of the conditions be that the individual seeks treatment? That is a better alternative than telling that person not to drink. Allow individuals to seek treatment and make it part of their conditions so they do not come back before the court. It would prevent that revolving door and increase efficiency.
Another proposal is to strengthen the way our criminal justice system responds to intimate partner violence, including enhancing the reverse onus at bail for repeat offenders. If charged with an offence, it is not up to the prosecution but rather to the defendant to present evidence for why he or she should be released. This makes it harder for the person to reoffend, and it protects the victim. It should be up to the individual to tell the court why he or she will not offend again. It should not be up to the prosecution to do that. It broadens the definition of intimate partner violence to include dating partners and former partners, and it increases the maximum sentence for intimate partner violence.
Another reform is the reform to jury selection processes. This legislation proposes reform by including the abolition of peremptory challenges, reinforcing the power of judges to stand aside certain jurors in order to increase the diversity of the jury selection. That does not mean the person will not have the opportunity to be a juror; it just means that in order to increase the diversity of the jurors who are selected as a jury of our peers, they should reflect those who are living in the community. That component allows for judges to have the authority to do that. Jurors cannot be removed without reason. They cannot be indiscriminately removed; there has to be a reason for that. This also helps to allow and increase equity within our system.
This piece of legislation also restricts the availability of preliminary inquiries to only those offences carrying the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, with the intended effect of reducing the time it takes for each case to go to trial. We know that the introduction of this proposal will allow us to understand what victims go through. We are not revictimizing witnesses by having them testify at the peremptory and also at the trial. It increases efficiency while also, as I mentioned earlier, ensuring that the victim is not further victimized within the system.
I want to talk about the hybridized offences, and a few people may want an explanation as to what this is. There are three ways in which we can convict. There are summary convictions, indictable offences and hybrid offences. The fact that we are increasing the number of hybrid offences does not mean the Crown does not have the ability to decide the appropriate sentence or look at the seriousness of the offence.
My hon. colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton has brought this up a number of times. He is a civil litigator, and during his speech he said we cannot just leave it up to the Crown somewhere in some building to have the ability to indiscriminately sentence. I am sure he has faith in the ability of his colleagues, and I would hope he would know that these lawyers take their job very seriously. Not taking away their ability to decide the seriousness of a crime means they can still go in either direction, whether people are given a fine, or two years, or two years to life. That possibility is still available to our attorneys.
This is certainly not what it is doing. It is not being soft on crime. In addition to these proposals, our Minister of Justice has made significant numbers of appointments. Last year there were over 100 appointments to the bench. We are currently at 235. We are on track this year to keep that number going.
We have the most diversity on the bench. We have judges who look like Canadians. That combination of appointments, plus the proposals in here, increases the equity in our system, and it increases the efficiency of our system.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-11-08 13:06 [p.23449]
Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is once again to rise and share some thoughts on what is a very important issue.
This is a very comprehensive piece of legislation we have before us. It will modernize our criminal justice system. There are a lot of positive changes here. I must say that I am a bit surprised that the Conservatives continue to find ways to be critical of such good, progressive legislation. I hope to be able to highlight where I think that is somewhat misplaced.
We talked a lot in the last federal election about the importance of keeping our communities safe, protecting victims, and ultimately, holding offenders accountable for their actions. What we have before us today is legislation that would do all three. That is why I stand today with enthusiasm and highly recommend that members, particularly the opposition members, look again at what it is this government is doing with respect to making our communities safer, protecting victims, and holding offenders more accountable. Those are three aspects of this legislation that I believe need to be taken into consideration when people choose to vote in favour or against this legislation.
I compliment the minister on the fine work she has done with respect to working with the different stakeholders. When we think of our justice system, our court process and law enforcement, it is not just one level of government that is responsible for all of it. We are dependent on ensuring that there is a high sense of co-operation, discussion, and dialogue with provincial and territorial entities and indigenous people, in particular. There are many other stakeholders beyond those I have just referred to that need to be taken into consideration and listened to.
I believe that the legislation we have before us today is very reflective of what Canadians want to see and the discussions that came out of the numerous consultations with the department. I am happy to say that when the minister brought in the legislation, she made it clear in some of the debates we had that we were open to amendments, and we did receive amendments at the committee stage. The committee did some outstanding work, I must say. Through that process, the government even accepted amendments that were not government amendments, contrary to the days of Stephen Harper, when amendments brought by opposition members were never respected. We recognized that there were some positive amendments from the opposition and got behind and supported them. Therefore, it seems to me that the system worked quite well.
I started off by talking about the election. The discussions members of this House had when they met with the electorate were very keen on the issue of crime and safety and what it was Canadians expected of this government. That is why we have this progressive piece of legislation before us today. There were commitments made. We commented that we would bring in comprehensive criminal justice reform. We talked about the importance of intimate partner violence and what it is we might be able to do with respect to that.
This legislation is yet another example of one of many pieces of legislation this Prime Minister and this government have brought to the floor of the House that fulfills another commitment to Canadians in the last federal election. I believe that Canadians would be happy with the fact that we are addressing the commitments that we know are important to them, so let us talk about some of those changes.
My friends in the Conservative Party seem to have a difficult time with the issue of hybridization. We have summary convictions and we have indictable convictions. There is a list that would allow a crime to be considered indictable or summary.
My colleague made reference to kidnapping, and that is an excellent example. To get a sense of what it is the Conservatives are actually opposing, I will use the example of kidnapping.
There are many lawyers in every region of the country who will be able to tell people about the negative consequences of a family breakdown and a custody situation. I would ask members to put themselves in the position of a 12-year-old child who has a mom and dad living apart. Maybe it is the mom who has custody of the child. That child is having a rough day or possibly even a pretty bad week and decides to give the other parent a call to say, “I don't want to be here. Come and pick me up. I'm really upset. I'm going to run away”, or whatever that child might actually say.
The other parent maybe meets the child somewhere or somehow accommodates that child at his or her home or maybe drops the child off at the grandparents' place. Technically, that is kidnapping, and kidnapping is a very serious charge. Surely to goodness people who might be following the debate would recognize that this is quite different from someone who preys on a child who is walking out of a schoolyard, who throws that child into a van and then maybe does something horrific or decides to hold that child for ransom or put that child in a dangerous situation, such as prostitution.
What we are saying is that there are two extremes, and there is a lot in between. Hybridization allows the opportunity for discretion. That is only one aspect of what I like about this legislation. There are many other things I could be talking about.
I made reference to intimate partner violence. We need to realize that it is not just common law relationships or marital relationships. It could be a dating relationship where there is that sense of intimacy and violence. Victims really need to be given extra consideration. That is taking place here.
I like the idea that we are providing the opportunity to get rid of preliminary trials. That is a positive thing. Let me give a specific example. Imagine someone who is a victim of a sexual assault. As opposed to having to go through a preliminary trial and relive that nightmare, there could be no preliminary trial. There would just be the trial. I see that as a good thing.
My New Democratic friends previously said that it is a small percentage of overall court cases. That is not true. While it is true that it might be a smaller percentage, we are talking about thousands of cases. Imagine the impact on court times.
This legislation would do so much more to reform our system. It is good news for Canadians, and that is why I would recommend that all members of this House rethink their position and get on side with the Prime Minister, the cabinet and this government and support this legislation.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-11-08 13:17 [p.23450]
Mr. Speaker, a couple of the phrases my colleague used in his speech were “progressive legislation”, “keeping our communities safe”, “protecting victims”, and “reflective of what Canadians want to see”. He said that this is reflective of what Canadians want to see.
We know that this bill proposes to reduce the sentences for at least 25 offences, some of them very serious. For which of these five or six offences did he hear from his constituents that they wanted sentences reduced? Would it be for obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman? Would it be for impaired driving causing bodily harm or death? Would it be for extortion by libel, or arson by negligence or participation in activities of a criminal organization? For which of these offences, which would have their sentences reduced, has he heard from his constituents that they want these sentences reduced?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-11-08 13:18 [p.23450]
Mr. Speaker, let me go back to something I know my constituents like about this legislation, which is a specific example I have given. Imagine a physically or sexually assaulted victim who would now not have to go through a preliminary trial. It means that victims would not have to relive that nightmare of an event. I can tell the member that 99% or more of people would support that sort of initiative within this legislation. This is legislation the Conservative Party has opposed, and on other hand, it is trying to say that it stands up for victims. Conservatives should give their collective heads a shake and get behind this legislation, because it is in the best interest of the victims.
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-11-08 13:21 [p.23450]
Mr. Speaker, I want to allow my colleague to go back to the comments of the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. He said, and I do not think he was trying to mislead the House, that this piece legislation would reduce the sentences for a number of different offences.
Again, we would not be taking away the ability of the Crown, the prosecution, to classify whether an offence would go to summary or indictment. The Crown would still have the opportunity to look at a case and see whether that offence was serious enough to have life or a couple of years. I would love to give my hon. colleague the opportunity to correct the possible mistake my hon. colleague made.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-11-08 13:22 [p.23450]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague raising that issue, but I am not going to be as harsh on the member, because he is talking about the Conservative spin. That is all part of the Conservative spin on the legislation. It does not have to be true, they Conservatives just use it because those are types of hit points or media lines they are trying to circulate to Canadians. It does not have to be true, but they still feel obligated to say it.
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 Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-11-08 13:35 [p.23452]
Mr. Speaker, during my colleague's speech, he talked about knowledgeable leaders in this House. The person sitting right in front of him, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, is a lawyer. I would think he would have confidence in lawyers and their ability to handle justice across Canada.
The member also said that Canadians expect that people will receive due punishment for their crimes. To be clear, we are not removing the ability for prosecution lawyers, such as the member sitting in front of my hon. colleague, to look at an offence and decide the seriousness of that offence, and to then decide whether it is to be a summary conviction or whether it should be indictable. We are not taking that away.
We are not reducing sentencing for serious crimes. We are giving the prosecution, much like many of my hon. colleagues' friends and colleagues, the ability to decide, which we know they will do in a just and effective way in order to look at who is before them, and give them the right punishment.
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 Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-08 13:50 [p.23454]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock for his important contributions to today's debate. I want to highlight his work with youth and ask him to address, first, indigenous youth in British Columbia, and second, racialized youth, particularly in the Surrey area, many of whom are of south Asian descent.
What we are proposing in the bill in creating a model for a judicial referral hearing is to take the administration of justice offences out of the criminal justice system, such as when someone breaches a curfew or a bail condition, and force the courts to look comprehensively at the circumstances of the accused, including indigenous youth and racialized youth.
How does the member for South Surrey—White Rock think that would improve certain sentences for the very youth he has been working so hard to defend and represent for the last 25 years?
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Gordie Hogg Profile
2018-11-08 13:51 [p.23455]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that observation. Clearly, indigenous youth are overrepresented within our system, both in our youth justice system and child welfare system. Over 50% of them are indigenous youth, and we are certainly seeing them within youth gangs in the Surrey area and the challenges there. About 40% of gang members are from South Asian families. We have been actively working with them in responding.
The issue of administrative response to that is crucial to ensure that we are intervening at the right level. We should not intervene with radical, dramatic action when we are dealing with people who are starting to show some of the precursors to negative behaviour and activities.
Having an administrative response would ensure that we are able to move those individuals out of the system and respond to them adequately and appropriately. That is one way of ensuring some reduction in the burden on the court system.
The other thing is to ensure that we do respond—
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, in the heart of the beautiful upper Ottawa Valley, I appreciate this limited opportunity to contribute to this truncated debate on a piece of legislation that is important to my constituents.
I begin my comments by sharing some thoughts from a group called Because Wilno, and why it reiterates the word “because”. They state:
Because on September 22, 2015, Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam were killed in their homes near Wilno, Ontario.
Because they were killed by a man they knew, who had a history of domestic violence known to police for over three decades.
Because even after violence is reported, people slip through the cracks in the system.
Because advocates have been calling for these cracks to be addressed, for decades.
Because dealing with violence is particularly challenging in our rural communities.
Because coercion and control of women is a spectrum that can begin with words and escalate towards lethal violence including multiple killings.
Because the culture of society, policing and courts needs to be better.
Because women continue to be killed in Canada, at a rate of 1 every 6 days.
Because we couldn’t just sit around doing nothing.
Because we think you can help.
I thank Holly Campbell, who organized the group Because Wilno.
Violence against women is not new. While I would like to believe, coming from a predominantly rural riding like mine in eastern Ontario, that violence against women is a city problem, we know that is not the case. Violence against women continues to be a fact of life in Canada, and in a predominantly rural riding like Renfrew County, Carol Culleton, Nathalie Warmerdam and Anastasia Kuzyk were killed on September 22, 2015. Their killer was known to all of the women and to police as having a long history of violence spanning more than three decades. While the accused had previously been ordered by court to attend counselling for abusers, he never went. He had been released from prison shortly before the murders. The system failed these women. On average in Canada one woman is killed by her partner every six days. The man arrested and accused of their murders had a long criminal history, including charges involving two of the three women.
Holly Campbell, who organized the group Because Wilno, issued this statement to legislators like us:
For too long, Canadians have looked away from violence in our homes that predominantly harms women and children in every neighbourhood, district, municipal ward and constituency of this country.
Like Holly, I am not prepared to let Carol, Nathalie, Anastasia and all the other women who have been victims of violence die in vain. The memory of their senseless deaths is too fresh not to be moved to action. I support the proposal in Bill C-75 that would increase the maximum term of imprisonment for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence and provide that abuse of an intimate partner be an aggravating factor on sentencing, as well as provide for more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.
The Conservative Party believes, as do I, that the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government. We will always work to strengthen the Canadian criminal justice system, rather than weaken it. The Conservatives understand that a strong criminal justice system must always put the rights of victims and communities before special treatment of perpetrators of violent crimes.
My question for the government is this. Does Bill C-75, in its other 300 pages, meet the expectations of Canadians? The fact that the current government has decided to move forward with precisely the omnibus legislative format it condemned so vociferously in opposition suggests to my constituents and to all Canadians that the contents of Bill C-75 are being rushed forward as an omnibus bill precisely because these contents are out of touch with the concerns of average Canadians.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2018-11-08 15:50 [p.23475]
Madam Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech.
I hope that my colleague realizes that Bill C-75, as reported back to the House, makes no changes to the terrorism laws. The member spoke at length about them, but the committee amended the bill so that no changes were made to the terrorism laws.
The member said that he was disappointed that the Conservative amendments concerning hybrid offences were not accepted. For example, their amendment that cattle branding not be a hybrid offence was rejected. Is he disappointed about that? Does he believe that it is too serious an offence to warrant a sentence of two years less a day? What about dislodging a vessel stranded on rocks?
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2018-11-08 15:51 [p.23475]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question about terrorism.
It was a fine victory for the Conservatives to have these amendments withdrawn in committee. I thank my colleague for asking the question. This proves that he at least followed the committee's work on this bill. It was the committee as a whole, but mainly the Conservatives, that did the necessary work to have these amendments withdrawn.
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 Diane Finley Profile
CPC (ON)
View Diane Finley Profile
2018-11-08 16:38 [p.23481]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to add my insight to this very important discussion surrounding 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 am speaking on behalf of the constituents in my beautiful riding of Haldimand—Norfolk.
As we know, one of the core functions of government is to provide a framework and a set of laws to protect those who it governs, whether it be through the creation and maintenance of a strong military to defend us from foreign threats or, as is more applicable to today's discussion, to protect Canadians from domestic threats and administer just consequences for those who break the law. We, as Conservatives, take this very seriously.
Before speaking to the shortcomings of the bill, I agree with the reforms proposed to deal with repeat offenders of violence against intimate partners. I see this as a step in the right direction.
That said, with the few steps forward that are made in Bill C-75, the Liberals seem to run backward with much of the rest of this bill. The Liberal Party, in particular the Prime Minister, seems to jump to the defence of serious offenders and violent criminals, disregarding the rights of victims.
The previous Conservative government worked hard on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of victims. We brought forward legislation designed to reduce the revictimization that occurred because of shortcomings in our justice system, bills like the Tackling Violent Crime Act come to mind. That one implemented conditions such as a reverse onus on bail, which requires that those accused of serious gun crimes show why they should not be kept in jail while awaiting trial.
Our initiatives aimed at ending the revolving door form of justice that was all too common and put people who had committed serious crimes, particularly serious gun crimes, back out on the street with bail. This law was targeted squarely at organized crime and tackling gun violence. The Tackling Violent Crime Act also introduced tougher mandatory jail times for serious gun crimes, which again targeted organized criminals and gangs.
The truth is that tougher and longer sentences are about deterrence and protecting society from violent and dangerous offenders. Violent and dangerous behaviour cannot be changed simply by prematurely returning an offender to the environment that bred that very behaviour in the first place. Sadly, the Liberal position seems to be quite the opposite.
Of course we all recall the recent transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic from the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener to a healing lodge with no fence around it. Rightly, Canadians were outraged. They were outraged that one of Canada's most notorious criminals, convicted of first-degree murder in the kidnapping, rape and killing of an eight year old, was being moved to such a weakly enforced facility. What was the Liberal response to Canadians' outrage? It was a vehement defence of that decision. Yes, it is sad, but unfortunately that is true.
This speaks to the low position that victims have in the eyes of the Liberal government. It speaks to the undeniable Liberal bent toward making life better for even the most offensive and deplorable criminals. This bill further displays that view.
The number and types of offences that could result in lighter sentencing as a result of the bill, even going so far as to reducing some of them to just a fine, sends a clear message to victims and also to criminals.
I think that most of us would agree that Canadians are largely compassionate, willing to forgive and give second chances to people who might have made some bad choices. That said, the types of offences that the Liberals seem to be making light of in Bill C-75 are well beyond what Canadians would consider just bad choices.
Offences like participation in the activities of a terrorist group and leaving Canada to participate in terrorist group activities may now see reduced sentences. This includes people who have left Canada for the sole purpose of joining and fighting with ISIS. For a Prime Minister who claims to be a progressive and a feminist, it is hard to see how granting a softer consequence for ISIS fighters fits this narrative. This is a group that represents the very antithesis of everything Canada represents and tries to be. These people burn homosexuals alive and throw them from buildings. They take sex slaves. They commit public mass executions, and they have declared war against our own western values, but the Prime Minister and the justice minister think that perhaps a softer touch is the best way to deal with ISIS fighters.
Again, as concerning as this is, sadly, based on what we have already seen from the government, it is not surprising. The Prime Minister seems to think that government programming to reintegrate returning ISIS members is a suitable option.
We all remember Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr is directly and admittedly responsible for the grenade attack that led to the death of allied U.S. special forces Sergeant Christopher Speer and the injury of retired U.S. special forces Sergeant Layne Morris. Is Khadr in jail? Courtesy of the Prime Minister, he is now $10.5 million richer, thanks to the Canadian taxpayer. Canadians are appalled, and rightly so.
The bill also brings in softer sentencing for, among other things, advocating genocide, participating in activities of criminal organizations, arson for fraudulent purposes, human trafficking-related offences and material benefit for sexual services. Listening to the list of some of these offences on which the Liberals are going soft, one really cannot help but wonder if some of the stakeholders who were consulted on the bill were actually organized crime leaders.
Municipal corruption, selling or purchasing office, influencing appointments or dealing in offices may also receive lighter sentencing. One cannot help but wonder what the Liberals are preparing for with these types of changes.
In all seriousness, the list goes on and on. Even the abduction of a child, a defenceless child like Tori Stafford, could see lighter sentencing under the Liberals' soft-on-crime bill. Back home in Haldimand—Norfolk, people are shocked to hear that these are the views of the modem Liberal Party and our Prime Minister. They are shocked by the disregard for victims of crime shown by bills like Bill C-75. They are baffled by the doublespeak of the Liberals, who claim in one breath to be opposed to gun crime but then introduce bills like Bill C-71, which provides no meaningful way of addressing illegal gun crime but implies that law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters are part of the problem. They, like Canadians right across this great country, are genuinely concerned that the soft-on-crime policies of the Liberals are going to put their communities and their families at greater risk.
There are some good aspects of the bill, but they are needles in a 300-page haystack of bad policies. I do not recall reading about reduced sentencing for terrorists, child abductors and organized crime members in the Liberals' election platform. I did not see it in the justice minister's mandate letter, and I would wager good money that no Liberal candidates will put that in any of their next campaign literature. I am confident that this is not the mandate Canadians gave them, nor would they in 2019.
I implore the Liberals to take this monster of a bill, split it up into more reasonable-size bills, and set their partisan, self-serving tactics aside so the House can come together and vote in agreement for the good bits that are in Bill C-75. Then we can have a more thorough debate on the merits of the rest of the policies and a discussion about the lack of a mandate from Canadians to legislate the rest of it.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-08 16:48 [p.23483]
Madam Speaker, I will start with a comment and end with a question.
Hybridization occurs regularly throughout the Criminal Code. It did under the previous government's watch, and it continues to occur today. Over 100 offences are already hybridized. Hybridization is about giving the Crown attorney a choice to proceed summarily or to proceed by way of an indictable offence. It does not predetermine the sentence, and the choice is critical, as highlighted in the instance of kidnapping. It can be extremely heinous, in the context of kidnapping someone who is then trafficked for prostitution, or it can be in a context that is usually much more benign, such as the case of a parent who shares custody with an estranged spouse who simply extends a stay with a grandparent and has the child for an extra day. Those require different responses by Crown attorneys.
The member spent a lot of time debating whether our government's position on crime is sufficient or tough enough, from her perspective. How does she explain the fact that under our government's watch, all summary conviction offences are moving from six months to two years less a day, a much more significant penalty for those types of offences?
View Diane Finley Profile
CPC (ON)
View Diane Finley Profile
2018-11-08 16:49 [p.23483]
Mr. Speaker, kidnapping is kidnapping is kidnapping. I do not think anyone reasonable on a police force would describe grandparents having a child for an extra day as kidnapping or even be in a position to lay those charges. We are talking about kidnapping, where there is the option of getting them a much lighter sentence.
The Liberals say that they are going to be tough. The other day, we had the apology in the House for the terrible situation of the MS St. Louis, and the Prime Minister said that this kind of intolerance and bias should never be allowed to happen again, yet one of the Liberal government's very first actions was to eliminate the Office of Religious Freedom and bring in Bill C-51, which tried to take away protection for religious freedom for those who practise it.
On the one hand, the Liberals talk a good line, but when we watch their actions, it is a whole other thing.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-11-08 16:52 [p.23483]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-75.
Throughout the day today, we have heard a lot of rhetoric from the other side in terms of what Bill C-75 would actually do. We have heard that this is progressive legislation. It would protect victims, it would strengthen the Criminal Code, it is reflective of what Canadians want to see, and it would create safer communities. However, the bill would actually reduce the penalties for many offences. Over 25 offences would be reduced with the introduction of the bill. I will speak a little more on that later.
Some of the objectionable parts of what is happening today relate to the process that brought us to where we are today. During the campaign, I remember sitting in many all-candidates debates and being told that if the Liberals were elected to government, they would not use time allocation to limit debate on important bills, but here we are today with I do not know how many dozens of times the government has implemented closure.
We were also told that omnibus bills were something to be avoided at all costs. However, here we have a bill that deals with three substantive issues that were actually part of three previous bills. It is over 300 pages long and lumps together all kinds of reforms. Some of them we support, but this omnibus bill is impossible to support in its entirety, and I will outline my reasons for that as I proceed.
This proposed piece of legislation, as we have seen time and time again in the actions of the Liberal government, would actually do very little for victims of crime. It would actually reduce the potential consequences for criminals. It has become a pattern with the government to put the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims.
Thankfully, today one of the government's failures has had a positive resolution, with the re-incarceration of Tori Stafford's murderer, Terri-Lynne McClintic.
When Tori Stafford's father found out that Terri-Lynne McClintic was being transferred to a healing lodge, he raised objections through a number of contacts with individuals and he organized protests here on the Hill, which I was able to attend to hear the concerns of Rodney Stafford and his family and how they had been impacted by the relocation of Terri-Lynne McClintic to a healing lodge. They were very concerned about that, and many Canadians joined them. They showed their concern by coming to the protests here on Parliament Hill. Last Saturday, hundreds of people in the Woodstock area joined together in front of the Woodstock courthouse to register their concerns about the fact that Terri-Lynne McClintic was being housed in a healing lodge, way before the time she was due to be released.
We agree that we need to have rehabilitation, but to have someone put in a healing lodge more than 10 years before their eventual release is certainly an inappropriate way to be treating our criminals and especially to have concern for victims.
I am still disturbed by the government's continuing soft-on-crime soft spot for criminals. Currently I am dealing with the issue of the prison needle exchange program at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in the Waterloo region. This program puts needles into the hands of hardened criminals so they can use illicit drugs in their own prison cells. We are not talking about EpiPens or insulin syringes administered by nurses. We are talking about needles being handed to prisoners to administer drugs to themselves in their own cells.
Rightly, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has come out against this, as it puts their members in danger. They were not consulted at all on the implementation of this pilot project that is being carried out at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. They have held protests outside the offices of the health minister and the Minister of Public Safety, but it seems that the government is just turning a blind eye to this illegal substance problem in our prisons.
Not only do I stand with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers on this issue, I am also very concerned about my community in Waterloo region. These prisoners who are using the prison needle exchange program can maintain an addiction throughout their entire sentences, and their participation in the exchange program will not even be shared with the Parole Board when their application is made for parole. Therefore, it is quite probable and possible that we will have cases of criminals returning to our communities still addicted to substances that may have played a role in the behaviour that led them to commit their crimes in the first place.
I hope my colleagues in the Liberal Party will realize how we in the Conservative Party have a hard time believing that they are tough on crime when they encourage these types of programs in our prisons.
As a Conservative, I believe that the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government. On this side of the aisle, we will always work to strengthen the Canadian criminal justice system rather than weaken it. We will continue to stand up for victims.
That is why today the leader of my party was in Brampton laying out the Conservative plan that cracks down on guns and gangs. This plan has five proposals.
The first is ending automatic bail for gang members. Right now, even the most notorious gang members are entitled to bail. That means dangerous criminals who are known to police often go right back out on the streets. This is a dangerous risk to our communities and wastes valuable police resources. A Conservative government would change that and make sure that arrested repeat gang offenders would be held without bail.
The second is identifying gangs in the Criminal Code. Every time prosecutors go after gang members, they must first prove to the court that their gangs are criminal organizations. This includes well-known gangs like MS-13 and Hells Angels. This makes no sense. It is another huge waste of resources. A Conservative government would create and maintain a list of proven criminal organizations, which would help law enforcement prosecute gang members more quickly.
The third is revoking parole for gang members. Parole is a privilege, not a right. Currently, paroled offenders are required to abstain from drugs and alcohol and promise to keep the peace. A Conservative government would also require those on parole to cut ties with gangs. Statistics show offenders are more likely to reoffend on parole if they are part of a gang. For those who associate with gangs while on parole, the message would be simple: they go back to jail.
The fourth is tougher sentences for ordering gang crime. Right now, gang leaders who order others to commit crimes can receive very short sentences in prisons, often served alongside other gang members. A Conservative government would bring in mandatory sentences in federal prison for directing gang crime, sending a strong message to gang members that they belong behind bars.
The fifth is new sentences for violent gang crime. Gang-related murders, assaults, robberies and other violent acts are steadily on the rise and pose the biggest threat to Canadians' safety. A Conservative government would create new offences for committing and ordering violent gang crime and attach mandatory sentences in federal prison for each.
Conservatives understand that a strong criminal justice system must always put the rights of victims and communities ahead of special treatment for perpetrators of violent crime. The Prime Minister is failing to take seriously criminal justice issues. Reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and criminals. As such, we are concerned with the Liberals' proposal to eliminate consecutive sentences for human trafficking and to eliminate the victim surcharge introduced by the previous Conservative government to help victims of crime.
The Liberals are breaking yet another promise. They committed to keep full protections in place for religious officials under section 176 of the Criminal Code. Assault on officiants during a religious service is a very serious crime and should remain an indictable offence. We have serious concerns with other elements of this bill as well, including the number and types of offences that could result in lighter sentencing, including fines, for what are very serious crimes. Under the proposed changes, several serious offences could be prosecuted by summary conviction and, therefore, could result in lighter sentences.
I want to outline, for the benefit of anyone watching this today, some of the changes in Bill C-75 that would result from the passing of this bill. It is quite probable that the penalties for these indictable offences, among many others, would be reduced. On this list are prison breach, municipal corruption, influencing municipal officials and obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman. I mentioned that earlier in my speech. When there is a rise in many of these crimes across North America, this is not the time to be reducing sentences. There are many others on this list.
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 Tony Clement Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Tony Clement Profile
2018-11-01 15:00 [p.23151]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are failing again. They are watering down sentences for crimes such as administering date rape drugs, abducting children, impaired driving causing bodily harm and selling young women and men into sexual slavery.
The Conservatives called for over 100 amendments to clean up the government's deeply flawed omnibus Bill C-75, but the Liberals were not listening.
Does the minister really believe Canadians want sex traffickers and kidnappers to have lesser sentences?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I completely reject the characterization by members opposite on Bill C-75, which is a comprehensive bill that seeks to address delays in the criminal justice system.
There is nothing in this legislation that would reduce sentences. There is nothing that would change the principles around sentencing, which take into account the gravity of the offence and the proportion responsibility of an offender.
We are not lowering sentences. We are providing prosecutors with the necessary discretion they need to move forward in the appropriate way given the circumstances of the particular case.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-05 11:56 [p.22279]
Mr. Speaker, Constable Sarah Beckett paid the ultimate sacrifice when she was killed in the line of duty by an impaired driver.
This week her husband, Brad Aschenbrenner, spoke out against Bill C-75, which waters down sentences for impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Will the Liberals listen to Sarah's husband and other victims, and remove from Bill C-75 the watering down of sentences for this serious crime?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, without question, our hearts go out to the family of Constable Beckett in this tragedy.
I will say that our government is incredibly proud to have introduced and passed legislation that is among the toughest impaired driving laws in the world. I will say, with respect to Bill C-75, that it does not in any way, shape or form change the principles of sentencing, which are proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the grave responsibility of the offender.
What Bill C-75 does is that it gives prosecutors the necessary discretion to determine—
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-06-07 20:11 [p.20495]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Kitchener—Conestoga to participate in the debate on Bill C-75, the omnibus Liberal justice bill.
This bill is over 300 pages long and amends several different acts. One does not have to look too far into the past to recollect some of the comments made by members of the Liberal Party in regard to omnibus legislation. I am sure that many of us in this House remember the promises made during the all-candidates debate in the 2015 election not to have more omnibus bills, and many others as well. I will refer to those a little bit later tonight in my comments. However, it seems as if the Liberals have kept their reputation and have changed their minds to suit their own interests. It is a reputation they have developed quite well.
Not only is it a very lengthy bill, but its timing is also suspect, given that on the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberal government tabled this piece of legislation that would drastically change our criminal justice system and how criminals and victims are treated. We see again in this bill that the needs of victims are discounted and the lighter treatment of criminals is a priority of the Liberal government.
Tabling Bill C-75 on the eve of the Easter weekend, just prior to the two-week parliamentary break, clearly shows that the government knew it would not go over too well with Canadians or members of the legal community. That, in fact, is definitely what has happened since the tabling of this bill, in spite of the best efforts of the Liberal Party to hide these facts from Canadians.
Another interesting fact about this piece of legislation is that it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39 have all been rolled into this new bill, Bill C-75. If anything speaks to the government's inability to handle a legislative agenda, this is surely it. The government has proven to be so badly organized that it is now just combining several previously tabled pieces of legislation in order to make broader changes to our criminal justice system in less time with less scrutiny, and less debate. It is a real shame, especially, as I said earlier, when during the 2015 campaign they promised to allow all members of Parliament to have a voice, and that the government would not use omnibus bills. They also promised that this election would be the last first-past-the-post election, and that they would run small deficits and not use time allocation. All of those promises are out the window with no respect shown for Parliament.
A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, which imposes strict time limits on criminals, has made this objective very important. It is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed.
Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including those involving murderers who have been charged. The reason these charges have been stayed is that the time limits imposed by R. versus Jordan were exceeded.
However, we know that this legislation does not achieve the objective. Do not take my word for it. A number of members of the legal community and journalists have also written about this. For example, an opinion piece in the Toronto Star stated:
On Thursday, the federal government released Bill C-75, an omnibus bill aimed at reducing court delays. Unfortunately, good intentions stop at the preamble, especially for those of us who believed in the government’s pre-election promise to bring a principled approach to criminal justice reform.
The author goes on to state:
However, C-75 reclassifies a myriad of offences, giving the Crown discretion to prosecute them summarily. To further incentivize this option, the bill increases the maximum penalty for summary offences from six months to two years. Summary offence trials, like preliminary inquiries, occur in provincial courts, which are already the most congested courts in our system. C-75 may very well take many preliminary inquiries off the provincial court docket, but it will replace them with many more trials.
What has proposed here are more backlogs, more delays, longer time limits. This justice minister is abdicating her responsibility to ensure that there is a functional justice system in Canada.
We see this inability to ensure a functional justice system with this current legislation, as well as with this Liberal government's extremely poor record of appointing judges.
I have one more comment from a legal expert from McElroy Law, a firm located right in Ottawa. She notes, “Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives justice policies drew a clear line in the sand between criminals and victims. It was an easy sell to promise law-abiding citizens that those convicted of criminal offences will be punished harshly, in order to keep the good guys safe.”
She goes on later to say:
...the government is tinkering with the guts of criminal trials themselves, such as seeking to have police provide evidence by way of affidavit and having an accused person apply to be able to cross-examine them. The changes, if the bill is passed, will not aid in reducing delay, but will instead undermine trial fairness and may adversely affect Indigenous and other marginalized communities that are so often over-represented in our justice system.
Taken from the Ottawa Citizen is the following:
Bill C-75 promises to speed up court cases by eliminating preliminary hearings for all but the most serious matters. Also, quietly slipped into the bill is a provision that would allow Crown prosecutors to simply file written copies of police officers’ evidence instead of actually calling them at trial to testify. Not only will these changes waste more court time than they save, they will erode fundamental safeguards of trial fairness.
The number one responsibility of a government is to keep its citizens safe, and this bill is seriously failing in that responsibility. It seems the government, despite all of its comments about “rigid ideology”, is clearly implementing its own rigid ideology without proper consultation with experts and lawyers in the field who are actually going to be dealing with the ramifications of this poor legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I have just been informed that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. I thought I had 20 minutes, but I guess I will have to move quickly.
I have not yet addressed the aspects of the bill that my colleagues and I consider to be the most egregious. I am going to move to those now, as I see my time is elapsing quickly.
Some of the offences that would see penalty decreases include, but are not limited to, leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist group or participation in the activity of a terrorist group. The bill proposes to actually reduce the penalties for these crimes, and it is important that Canadians understand that.
There is a long list of criminal offences that the government appears to think are not worthy of indictable charges: leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group; punishment of rioter and concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; infanticide; concealing the body of a child; neglect to obtain assistance in child birth that results in the permanent injury or death of the child; assisting a prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to, or arrest of, an officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; and impaired driving causing bodily harm. The bill proposes to reduce the sentences for all of these offences.
One of the hybrid offences that the bill adds to the sequence is the obstruction of, or violence toward, an officiating clergyman. This is in section 176. This is the same section that the government proposed to repeal in Bill C-51, the justice omnibus bill. However, eventually it caved in to public uproar and feedback that was carried by our opposition members. Clearly, the government is not listening to the thousands of Canadians who are very concerned by the softening of punishment for this crime. The government is trying to diminish the severity of this crime. The issue is of crucial importance, especially now, given there is an increasing concern about sectarian violence in our world.
I could go on and speak for another 10 minutes, but hopefully I will get a chance to finish later.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-06-07 20:25 [p.20497]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government will use every opportunity it can to divert the issues to its advantage.
I indicated clearly during my comments, and I had many more comments, that my primary concern with the bill is the way it would weaken the criminal justice system in favour of criminals. We should be standing up for the victims. We should not be so concerned about offences being too harsh when they result in death or terrorist acts, creating situations that make not only Canadians feel unsafe but citizens of the world as well.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-06-07 20:26 [p.20497]
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my opening comments, this is a 300-page omnibus bill, which the Liberals promised not to use.
I have in my hands a summary from the Library of Parliament that is 45-pages long. It shows criminal offence after criminal offence. One column shows current penalties and then we read the proposed penalties in Bill C-75. This would give every Canadian who took the time to look at it great cause for concern for their safety.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-75, the Liberal government's justice reform bill.
Sadly, I cannot find a lot of good things to report about the bill to the House, to my riding, or to Canadians at large, for that matter. Like a number of the Liberal government's legislative measures, the purpose of the bill, as presented by the Liberal front bench, does not always match what the bill actually proposes to do.
In Bill C-71, the Minister of Public Safety used tragic shootings in the United States, shootings in Canada, and a guns and gangs summit in Ottawa to suggest he was putting forward legislation that would tackle illegal guns, gangs, and violent criminals. The sad reality is that the legislation he has proposed never once mentions gangs or organized crime, and does nothing to deal with illegal weapons and crimes caused by them.
Prior to that, the Minister of Public Safety had 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 dollars from active security and intelligence work that protects Canadians to administrative and oversight mechanisms.
Worst of all, the Minister of Public Safety made bold claims about moving the bill to committee before second reading, stating:
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 actually consider reasonable, bold, or even small amendments, the Liberals fought tooth and nail to ensure the bill did not change in scope or scale. The results are poor for Canadians and for those who work in national security, more people looking over shoulders, tougher rules, more paperwork, and few, if any, benefits, as front-line efforts to protect Canadians only become more difficult.
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 cases. The minister made these claims. The legislation would improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. It would strengthen response to domestic violence. It would streamline bail hearings. It would provide more tools to judges. It would improve jury selection. It would free up limited court resources by reclassifying serious offences. It sounds like a great bill. Streamline the courts? Strengthen response to domestic violence? Provide more tools for judges? That all sounds fantastic.
Sadly, the Liberals are not achieving any of these objectives according to the legal community nor according to many knowledgeable leaders in the House. Does it shorten trials and ensure that we deal with the backlog? No. The minister appears to make this claim on the elimination of most preliminary hearings.
Preliminary hearings, according the Canadian legal community, account for just 3% of all court time. With an overloaded court system, eliminating a huge number of these hearings will only make a small impact. That impact, unfortunately, will be offset by potentially worse results.
Preliminary hearings are used and can often weed out the weakest cases, which means that more of the weak cases will go to trial if we eliminate the preliminary hearings. That will increase court times. Moreover, preliminary trials can deal with issues up front and make trials more focused. Instead, many cases will be longer with added procedural and legal arguments.
One member of the legal community called this bill “a solution to a problem that does not exist." That is high praise indeed. However, it is the changes to serious criminal offences that have many Canadians, not just the legal community, concerned.
I think all members of the House could agree, or at least accept, that not all Criminal Code issues need to be treated the same and that threshold for punishment should also not be treated the same. However, Canadians expect that Ottawa will ensure we have safe streets, and that the law benefits all people like the law-abiding and victims, not just slanted in favour of the convicted criminals. The Liberals seem to be more focused on making life harder on the law-abiding and easier on 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, crimes such as a slap on the wrist for things like participation in a terrorist organization, obstructing justice, assault with a weapon, forced marriage, abduction, advocating genocide, participation in a criminal organization, and trafficking, just to name a very few.
There are many more, but it bears looking at a few in particular. These are serious offences. Allowing these criminals back on the streets with little to no deterrence makes even less sense.
Assault with a weapon, as we know, is when someone uses a weapon that is not a firearm, such as a bat, a hammer, or any sort of item, to attack someone else. These are not minor occurrences. They are serious criminal issues that should have the full force and effect of the law. Abduction is another serious offence. It could involve children taken from parents or intimate partner violence, or it could be combined with a number of other offences for kidnapping and forced confinement.
In none of these scenarios are the victims or society better served when those responsible for these types of offences serve only a minimal jail sentence or receive a fine. The principle is that Canadians expect that our government and our courts will be there to ensure that criminals receive punishment for their crimes, and that good, law-abiding Canadians and those who have been victimized by these criminals are treated well and fairly.
However, the average Canadian cannot see how making sentences shorter on criminals would meet this basic test. The fact is that it does not meet that test. What it does is address another problem. It potentially reduces court backlogs with the promise of reduced sentences. Therefore, it solves the minister's problem. That is perhaps the part we should be looking at. The Minister of Justice is not here to solve her own problems; she is here to serve Canadians and fix their problems. As my colleagues have pointed out very clearly, there are other solutions, better solutions, in fact.
The minister has addressed the backlog with judicial appointments. I note that 20 have been made this year. However, that is not nearly enough to deal with the problems, as there are still so many more vacancies all across this land. The former minister of justice said, “in my six years as minister of justice, there was never a shortage of qualified candidates”. 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, as crime rates overall have been declining. The problem resides almost entirely with the minister and the government getting more people on the bench and in the prosecutorial services.
As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House and should be above politics, so that 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 else is their top priority as well. To have 300 or more top priorities is to have no priorities at all.
Canadians expect that the government will make them its top priority. Sadly, this bill fails the test to keep Canadians safe and deliver effective government. The legal community has said that this bill is deeply flawed and would hurt the legal system rather than help it. Police officers will likely see themselves arresting the same people over and over again as criminals get lighter sentences or fines on summary convictions. Therefore, the backlog will move from the courts to the policing community and back to the courts. How does that help the average Canadian?
In closing, I am of the opinion that Canada is going to be weaker after the Liberals leave office in 2019, and far weaker than when they entered office. Their wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding gun owners, lack of leadership on illegal border crossers, and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a serious disadvantage that weakens our public safety and national security and places undue strain on families and communities.
View Kamal Khera Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Kamal Khera Profile
2018-06-07 20:38 [p.20499]
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of Bill C-75. With this piece of legislation, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward with comprehensive justice reforms. It would have real effect on court delays and reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people, people of colour, in particular black people, and other marginalized groups in the criminal justice system, including those with mental health and addiction issues.
We are making good on our promise and commitment to address intimate partner violence. Do the member's constituents not agree that we should increase the sentencing for perpetrators of intimate partner violence?
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I am troubled to see that Bill C-75, where it addresses some of the concerns the member raised, specifically when dealing with the disproportionate population of indigenous people in our justice system, does not necessarily deal with that in the way the committee has been studying it. It would not necessarily eliminate the risk of intimate partner violence in our communities, as we would like.
As for the member's question, when I speak to members of my community, the first thing they mention is not what is being promised, but the concerns they have about criminals being dealt with in a manner they do not think is appropriate for some of the serious offences. My friend across the way who asked the first question will understand this. In my community, there are a significant number of individuals who have been criminals previously in their life, and they are still friends of mine. When I speak with them, they consider our justice system to have been incredibly light on them when they were in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, those who continue to perpetuate crimes think that our justice system is sometimes a laughing stock, and it should not be.
View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anju Dhillon Profile
2018-06-07 21:10 [p.20504]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Whitby. I am pleased to rise to speak to the measures that will be beneficial to victims of crime included in 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. The aim of the bill is to modernize the criminal justice system and reduce court delays.
As part of the criminal justice review, a round table for victims and survivors of crime was held in Ottawa in June 2017. During that event, a number of victims and survivors of crime expressed their concerns about the delays in the criminal justice system. These individuals emphasized that court delays and postponements have considerable negative repercussions on them and their families because of the continued stress and anxiety they feel in relation to the crime and the testimony.
Court delays can also negatively impact victims' mental health at a time when they are trying to put the experience of being victimized behind them. If victims have health problems or are quite elderly, long delays can also interfere with their ability to testify.
Every time there is a delay or an adjournment, victims have to reorganize their schedule, take time off work, or spend more money on help at home to look after children or elderly parents, for example.
During the round table, several victims of crime also said they were very worried about court delays and especially the repercussions of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Jordan. Specifically, victims are outraged when delays result in a stay of proceedings and the accused not being held responsible for their actions. For example, let's put ourselves in the shoes of parents whose child was murdered. Imagine the criminal proceedings against the accused being stayed because of delays. No wonder parents lose faith in the administration of justice.
I am therefore very pleased that the government introduced Bill C-75 in response to these concerns. In general, this bill sets out measures that will make the criminal justice system more efficient and will have positive outcomes for the victims. Bill C-75 also includes several specific measures to address the concerns of victims and survivors of crimes. In particular, it would make changes to preliminary inquiries, the reclassification of offences, and intimate partner violence offences.
At present, a preliminary inquiry is held if a person is charged with an indictable offence, chooses to be tried by the Superior Court, and asks for such an inquiry. This procedural step determines if there is enough evidence to send the accused to trial. Over time, the preliminary inquiry has evolved and become, among other things, a means for the accused to be provided with all the evidence against him or her. However, with the constitutional requirement to disclose evidence to the defence, preliminary inquiries are becoming less and less prevalent.
During the preliminary inquiry, the crown and the defence have the opportunity to examine and cross-examine witnesses and to assess their credibility. Although the cross-examination is an essential element that guarantees the right of the accused to a fair trial, having to testify first at the preliminary inquiry and then at the trial, sometimes several years after the offence was committed, can be particularly difficult for the victims.
The reforms proposed by Bill C-75 would limit the holding of a preliminary inquiry to offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder, committing an indictable offence for the benefit of a criminal organization or terrorist group, and kidnapping.
The other amendments would also strengthen the powers of the justice presiding at the preliminary inquiry to limit the issues explored and the number of witnesses. The proposed changes to preliminary inquiries would significantly reduce the number of offences for which victims are called to testify multiple times.
This will reduce the impact on vulnerable persons, such as victims of sexual assault, who are often re-victimized during cross-examination. What is more, the changes will shorten the judicial process, which will help reduce the prolonged period of stress and anxiety for victims.
Bill C-75 will improve Criminal Code provisions in order to make victims of intimate partner violence safer. A definition of “intimate partner“ for the purposes of the Criminal Code will be created and will specify that it includes former and current spouses, common-law partners, and dating partners.
If the accused has already been found guilty of violence against a domestic partner, the bill would reverse the burden of proof during the inquiry on the interim release for a new offence of violence against a domestic partner. The amendments would also allow police officers to impose a wider range of conditions on the accused in order to protect the victims.
The courts will have to consider the fact that an accused was charged with an offence of violence against a domestic partner in determining whether the accused should be released or should be kept in detention. Furthermore, the proposed amendments would specify that choking, suffocating, or strangling constitute aggravated assault, in order to address concerns that the criminal justice system has a tendency to underestimate the seriousness of these actions.
Finally, Bill C-75 would allow a higher maximum penalty for a repeat offender found guilty of an offence involving intimate partner violence.
As the Supreme Court stated in Jordan, delays exacerbate the suffering of victims and prevent them from turning the page. The reforms proposed by Bill C-75 would transform the criminal justice system, making it more efficient, effective, equitable, and accessible while protecting public safety.
The different measures that I spoke about today will be beneficial for victims and survivors of crime because they will shorten the process and reduce the number of times victims will need to testify, preventing prolonged stress and anxiety.
I invite all my colleagues to support this important bill.
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-06-07 21:35 [p.20507]
Mr. Speaker, I want to clear one thing up. First, the proposed amendments will not change the fundamental principles of sentencing, requiring courts to impose sentences that are proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the offender.
Second, our government takes into account very seriously the safety of Canadians and the safety of our communities. By doing so, we ensure that the victims and those who are impacted by crime are safe and that the perpetrators of those crimes are appropriately dealt with in our criminal justice system.
However, there are individuals who are overrepresented in our criminal justice system and are not a further danger to society or to property. The vulnerabilities and systemic barriers within the system cause individuals like indigenous people, members of the black community, and vulnerable populations, such as those with mental health issues, to be incarcerated and be caught up in a justice system that disproportionately impacts them in a very negative way. We need to be sensitive to that.
View Kate Young Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Kate Young Profile
2018-06-07 21:36 [p.20507]
Mr. Speaker, I am always interested to hear the comments of my hon. colleague from Whitby about laws and legislation, especially when they affect marginalized groups.
We often hear the opposition, the Conservatives especially, criticize this bill, saying it will mean somehow that criminals will be out on the streets. I know that the people in my community of London West are also concerned. When they hear this, it is fearmongering.
Could my colleague talk about what this really means so people will not be as fearful, as the Conservatives make them feel sometimes?
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-06-07 21:37 [p.20507]
Mr. Speaker, again, we understand the importance of keeping our communities safe, while upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The protection of Canadians is always paramount in what we do in this place.
However, I want to address my colleague's concern. The suggestion that this bill will have criminals running in the street and that they will not have the appropriate sentencing is a mischaracterization of the proposed amendments. The proposed amendments will not change the fundamental principle of sentencing, requiring courts to impose sentences that are proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility to the offender. The crown will still have that ability.
The legislation would allow the crown to choose whether to proceed with an indictment or a summary conviction. The severity of an offence is greatly dependent on the circumstances around each case. Uttering threats, assaults, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, again, the crown will have the opportunity to decide whether the particular offence and the circumstances around that offence requires a much graver sentence.
Again, when we look at the justice system and we go back to the overrepresentation of indigenous and vulnerable groups, it is important to recognize that there are biases and there are systemic barriers within the system that keep those individuals in a perpetual revolving door in that system.
Our government has also taken a comprehensive approach to looking at housing, mental health, and other social determinants of health and well-being that will keep these individuals out of our justice system.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the bill. You may have observed that the Conservatives are in a very good mood tonight, but it is not because of the content of the legislation. It is actually other things going on tonight in the province of Ontario.
Some hon. members: What?
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Members are asking “what?” They may not know, but it seems there will be a Progressive Conservative majority government in Ontario. I am sorry to have to break that news to my friends across the way, but the Liberals may still get official party status. It is a harbinger of things to come in a year and a half in federal politics. One of the reasons we are likely to see a similar result for the Liberals in a year and a half is precisely their failures with respect to the justice system.
I will turn now to a much less happy subject, and that is the content of the Liberals' Bill C-75. We can call it a justice omnibus or “injustice” omnibus bill. It is over 300 pages, making various changes with respect to the framework around criminal justice. There are certainly problems with the way the Liberals are administering the justice system, problems in need of solutions. However, the proposals by the government do not improve the situation. In fact, they make the situation much worse.
There are so many different aspects of the bill. It pays to mention to some extent that this is an omnibus bill. The Liberals talked in the last election about not doing omnibus bills. They said that omnibus bills limited the scrutiny that could be applied to individual items, that they forced members to vote all at once on provisions, some of which they may think were laudable and others which they may think were not.
Coming from that election promise, we now find ourselves in a situation in this Parliament where it seems virtually all of the legislation we debate is omnibus legislation. It is interesting that we had previous bills before this Parliament that included many of the same provisions and then the government decided it would roll them all together in one massive omnibus bill. I guess the Liberals felt they were not being as effective in advancing their legislative agenda as they wanted to, but this is yet another case where we see the government going back on its promise. On the one hand is the commitment about how it would manage the parliamentary process, then we see, in practice, the government doing the exact opposite.
The arguments the Liberals use for bringing in these omnibus bills, which go against their previous commitments, are usually something to the effect of they think it is a really good bill, that there are a lot of good things in it, so they want to get it through. Whether it is a good bill is precisely what a robust parliamentary process is supposed to determine. That is why the appropriate level of scrutiny is necessary. There will probably be an opportunity to pull all sorts of quotes from the member for Winnipeg North and others decrying these process elements, which are now being deployed with full force under the Liberal government.
We have in front of us an omnibus bill. There are a number of different elements I want to discuss, as well as more broadly the government's failure to manage the justice system effectively.
Members will understand and appreciate how important the effective functioning of our justice system is, especially in a context where the courts have ruled that cases can be thrown out if they do not proceed within a particular time frame. We have seen very serious charges not proceed, simply on the basis of time and delay. Therefore, the management of the criminal justice system so these delays do not happen, so people are actually brought to justice on time, is critical for the protection of society and for ensuring justice is done for victims, for the criminal, and for everyone.
Why do we have this growing problem of delays? The most obvious reason, and a reason the government has been steadfast in refusing to address, is the government's failure to appoint judges.
The fact is, it took six months for the justice minister to appoint a single judge. The government lauds its judicial appointments on various fronts. I am sure that any justice minister would laud their own appointment choice, but we have to get the job done. It is fundamental to the effectiveness of our justice system that we achieve quality and the necessary quantity so that the work can proceed. Appointing justices should be the easy part. I do not suspect that there is any shortage of qualified people in this country who are interested in the position, yet the government has been very slow to proceed, and this has created a significant concern.
It is not as if nobody was suggesting the Liberals take action. Thank goodness we have a strong opposition, and a strong shadow minister and shadow deputy minister of justice who were specifically calling very early on for the government to move forward with the appointment of justices.
I can hear my friend for St. Albert—Edmonton asking the justice minister when she would finally do her job and start appointing judges. The justice minister responded to those questions day after day in question period, yet despite those questions being posed by the Conservatives, we simply did not see action.
We have this issue with court delays, and the government now seems to believe that one of the solutions to court delays is to reduce the penalty to allow for summary convictions. The effect of that is lower sentences for very serious crimes. That is sold by the government as a solution to a problem that it has created, but let us apply Occam's razor and try and take that obviously simpler solution, which is that the justice minister should do her job and appoint the necessary number of judges to ensure that we do not have court delays.
In the context of justifying itself, the government is saying that we are going to have summary convictions to try to fix the problem that we created. The Liberals are not admitting it, but that is the implication of what they are saying. We see proposals for summary convictions, meaning reduced charges for all kinds of various serious crimes. I think it is important for the House to identify and look at some of these crimes for which they are proposing reduced sentences. This is not an exhaustive list, but I want to identify some of the key ones.
There is participation in the activity of a terrorist group. I do not recall ever receiving phone calls in my office from people saying that we should have lighter sentences for those who participate in terrorist groups. Maybe members across the way have had a different experience. However, I do not think, especially in the present time and climate, that people are looking for that kind of approach with regard to those who are involved in a terrorist group.
As well, there is leaving Canada to participate in activities of a terrorist group. There is a possibility now that going to fight abroad with a terrorist organization like Daesh could be a subject of summary conviction and therefore lower sentences. There are other serious offences, but I would highlight those two terrorism-related offences, which are the first ones on my list for which we are hearing proposals in the proposed legislation for lighter sentences.
Concealment of identity while taking part in a riot would be a possible summary conviction, as well as breach of trust by a public officer. The idea of lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust is interesting. Why would the Liberals be proposing lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust? I cannot imagine why the Liberals are proposing lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust. We might pontificate about that, but I would perhaps risk venturing into unparliamentary territory.
There is municipal corruption. For example, if a former MP became the mayor of London, hypothetically, there is a possibility of lighter sentences for municipal corruption.
There is selling or purchasing office. I want to reassure the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities that this does not refer to selling or purchasing office equipment. This is selling or purchasing an office itself, which is a criminal offence. However, now it would possibly be a matter of summary conviction.
Another is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. It is interesting that so many elements of political corruption are being proposed for lighter sentences in this bill. It is very interesting, but I cannot imagine why that would be.
For prison breach, there is a proposal for lighter sentences. Assisting a prisoner of war to escape is something that I hope does not happen often. It does not seem to me that this offence would be a good candidate for a lighter sentence, but the justice minister, and through this bill the government, is proposing lighter sentences in that case.
Obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergymen is an item I want to come back to. It is something dealing with section 176 of the Criminal Code that we have already had some discussion on in this place. The government made some commitments with regard to not changing that section, and now it has gone back on those commitments by trying to re-engage that section through Bill C-75. I will come back to that and talk about it in more detail in a few minutes.
There are also lighter sentences proposed for keeping a common bawdy house and for causing bodily harm by criminal negligence.
There are three drunk-driving-related offences: impaired driving causing bodily harm; blood alcohol level over legal limit, with bodily harm; and failure or refusal to provide a sample, with bodily harm. Canadians who are concerned about combatting drunk driving and drug-impaired driving should be, and I think are, a bit frustrated by some of the back-and-forth that we see from the current government. It is frustrating to me as I follow the positions the Liberals take on some things and not on others.
A member of the Conservative caucus proposed a very strong private member's bill that included a number of provisions dealing with drunk driving. That bill was supported by, I think, all members of this House at second reading. Then it was killed after committee, yet many very similar provisions were included in the government's bill, Bill C-46. The government has not been able to pass that bill ahead of its marijuana legislation. The Liberals said it is critical we have these provisions around drunk driving in place, and they proposed it at the same time as Bill C-45, the marijuana legalization bill. They said these things were important together, and they are willing at the same time to pass the marijuana legalization bill ahead of the drunk and drug-impaired driving bill.
Many of the same provisions were already proposed by a Conservative private member's bill. I recall the speech the parliamentary secretary for justice gave at the same time with respect to my colleague's private member's bill, when he quibbled with the bill on such trivial grounds as the coming-into-force date of the bill being too soon. They said they could not pass this bill combatting drunk driving officially because the coming-into-force date was too soon. They can propose an amendment to change that. It was really because the Liberals wanted to try to claim credit for some of the provisions there. Again, we have this further question about the government's response on issues of alcohol-impaired driving because they are creating conditions for a summary conviction around that issue.
Let me list some other offences: receiving a material benefit associated with trafficking; withholding or destroying documents associated with trafficking; abduction of a person under 16; abduction of a person under 14; material benefit from sexual services; forced marriage; polygamy; marriage under age of 16 years; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purposes; participating in activities of criminal organizations.
We have a great deal of discussion about the government's feminist agenda, and yet on some of these crimes, such as forced marriage or polygamy, crimes that very often involve an abusive situation targeting young women, the government is reducing sentencing that targets those who commit those kinds of crimes. It is unfortunate to see the government talking about trying to respond to some of these problems that exist, and then when it comes to criminal justice, they think it is acceptable to propose lighter sentences in these cases.
I have a number of other comments I will make about this bill in the time I have left to speak.
There is a proposal in this legislation to get rid of peremptory challenges. This is a provision that we are interested in studying and exploring, but I think that even if there is an inappropriate use of peremptory challenge in some cases, we should be careful not to throw out a provision if there may be other negative consequences that have not been discussed.
Some of the discussion around peremptory challenges suggests, on the one hand, that they can be used to remove people from juries on the basis of racial profiling. Essentially, somebody is racially profiled and presumed to think in a certain way, so they are removed on the basis of a peremptory challenge.
People have countered those criticisms by saying that on the other hand, peremptory challenges could be used against those who express or have expressed or give indication of having extreme or bigoted views. Sometimes the law needs to recognize other potential impacts that are maybe not being fully foreseen.
We think this issue of peremptory challenges is very much worthy of study at the committee level, but I encourage members, in the spirit of appropriate legislative caution, to work out and consider the full consequences of changes to the structure of our jury system, recognizing that even if there may be negative consequences to this provision in particular situations, removing peremptory challenges may create other unconsidered negative consequences as well.
I want to speak about section 176. This is a very important section of the Criminal Code that specifically addresses the targeting of religious officials or the disruption of worship, things that in many cases would likely lead to some charge anyway, though not in every case. It ensures that somebody who is trying to disrupt the practice of faith is treated in an proportionate way. That is what section 176 does.
The government had previously tried to get rid of section 176, to remove it from the Criminal Code. The justification was weak. It said that because the language used was “clergymen”, it was somehow narrow in its definition and applied to only one faith and one gender. The point was amply made in response that although the language was somewhat archaic, it was very clear that it applied broadly to any religious official and to any religious institution.
The section was subsequently qualified. There is nothing wrong with clarifying the language, but it was always clear and never seriously in dispute that it applied broadly and on an equal basis.
It was through public pressure, the work of the opposition in partnership with many groups in civil society in raising the alarm about this, that the government backed away at the time from its proposal to remove section 176. Now section 176 is back before us. The government is not proposing to remove it; it is just proposing to change it to a possible summary conviction, again meaning a lighter sentence.
Again we are raising a question that is similar to the discussion around drunk driving. There is this kind of back-and-forth, bait and switch approach with the government, but it is clear that there is this repeated attempt to weaken the laws that protect religious institutions and the practice of faith. Some of the time the government is very glad to trumpet its commitment—for instance, in its talk about combatting Islamophobia—but when we have a concrete provision in the Criminal Code that protects people's ability to practise their faith without interruption, we see not one but multiple attempts by the government to move against it.
There is so much more to say about Bill C-75, which is over 300 pages, that I could talk for hours, but my time has expired.
View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anju Dhillon Profile
2018-06-07 22:03 [p.20511]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's debate, and not one time did he mention anything about racism in our criminal justice system. Indigenous people are overrepresented in correctional facilities. No, it is not a laughing matter. It is very concerning that Conservatives are talking about other things. This is very important. This brings the administration of justice into disrepute.
What does the member have to say about poverty, which is a vicious cycle and contributes to crime over and over? People have mental health issues, and they are being locked away. What does he have to say about these things? Does he not believe that such a bill would be helpful to the most vulnerable in our society?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that the issues she raised are very serious. Next time I give a speech on a 302-page omnibus justice bill, I will make a point of asking the member which aspects of the bill I should talk about beforehand so I do not make this mistake again. There are so many issues in this omnibus bill, and the member is criticizing my speech by saying that there were aspects of it I did not discuss. I only had 20 minutes. The government should write shorter bills if it wants specific issues addressed in speeches.
I will say that the issue of racism, be it in the justice system or elsewhere, is something I am very concerned about. On Saturday, I will be in Toronto hosting round tables specifically on the issue of discrimination. I do this because it is important for me to hear about those issues and to bring that discussion into Parliament.
I do not think the fight against bigotry should be a partisan issue. It should be an issue on which we all work together, yet that member chose to attack us on the basis that I spoke about other very serious issues in a very long bill. That is quite revealing about whether the government is interested in working collaboratively with other parties on these important issues.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-06-07 22:09 [p.20511]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague and friend pointed out many of the shortcomings in Bill C-75. Every member in the House either has a family member or friend or knows a close community member who has been impacted by impaired driving.
I wonder if my colleague could comment on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of reducing the penalty for impaired driving in cases where it causes bodily harm or death. Currently it is an indictable offence, and in Bill C-75, it is indicated as being either indictable or summary. I wonder if my colleague would comment on how it would make the victims of impaired driving and their families feel if we lessened the severity and reduced the deterrent impact of the sentence.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my friend about the importance of having a strong response to impaired driving. We need to be concerned about the rights of victims. Most importantly, we need to minimize the number of victims. In many cases, that is done by sending a strong deterrent effect. We have this strong social pressure in many environments against impaired driving that did not exist in the past. However, the government is moving in the wrong direction by bringing forward these measures that would reduce sentences in these cases. We should be concerned about that and the very serious issue that the Liberals voted against the Conservative private member's bill, which could have done the job on so many things. They decided to put it in a government bill, when we could have already passed my friend's private member's bill. It should already be law.
View Wayne Stetski Profile
NDP (BC)
View Wayne Stetski Profile
2018-06-05 22:49 [p.20329]
I will do it sideways. As a question for you, I was in court with a constituent recently—
Some hon. members: It is question for the member.
Mr. Wayne Stetski: The question is for the member, absolutely.
I was in a court with a constituent recently, and the woman ahead of us was standing before the judge. She was charged with two counts of shoplifting. The judge said to her, “I haven't seen you for a while. You've lost a lot of weight.” She said, “Yes, Your Honour, I've lost about 80 pounds. I'm starving. I'm trying to live on disability of about $900 a month.”
She had shoplifted in a food store in Cranbrook and she had shoplifted some clothing from a Walmart store. The judge said, “I understand your taking the food, but I don't understand why you stole the clothes.” She said, “My other clothes wouldn't fit, Your Honour. I lost 80 pounds.” The judge looked at her and said, “I don't know what to do with you.”
Could the member tell us if there is anything in this legislation that would help the judge decide what to do in situations like that?
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2018-06-05 22:50 [p.20329]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the compassion that he showed to that woman. Clearly it is a woman who desperately needs help.
Under this bill, that would be an offence that would go for summary conviction. The judge has discretion today already as to what to do with respect to that type of an offence, when she is charged with a summary offence. She could theoretically be fined and not be put in prison at all.
However, this bill, in certain circumstances, would give greater latitude to not charge somebody, but I do not think it would apply in the case of shoplifting.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-06-05 22:51 [p.20329]
Madam Speaker, I was astounded this afternoon when the Minister of Justice said with respect to sentencing that the hybridization of offences was a matter of determining what a prosecutor determined was appropriate in the circumstances.
Could the hon. member for Mount Royal, who is a great chair of our justice committee, comment on when he thinks it is appropriate that offences such as kidnapping a minor, promoting genocide, or promoting and participating in a terrorist organization would result appropriately in a sentence of a mere fine or a maximum sentence of two years less a day, compared to the maximum sentence of 10 years currently provided for under the Criminal Code as an indictable offence?
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2018-06-05 22:52 [p.20329]
Madam Speaker, the distinction here would be, theoretically, that if a prosecutor chooses to charge somebody under a summary offence as opposed to an indictable one, the maximum sentence that could be levied by a judge would be far less. First of all, we would need to look at the decision of the prosecutor in that case. We would have to hope that the prosecutor would make the right decision based on the circumstances. The judge would then also have to do the same.
One of the things we will need to look at in committee is whether there are any sentences currently on the list to be hybridized that would shock the conscience of Canadians were they to be hybridized and no longer have that longer potential penalty, and to remove the discretion of a prosecutor to suggest a lower sentence. As my hon. colleague knows, I would note that in either case a judge could choose to give no sentence at all, even under an indictable offence.
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-06-05 23:21 [p.20333]
Madam Speaker, the member just stated something that I do not believe is accurate, and I just want to get his comment on it.
The bill deals with many things that actually would increase efficiencies in the justice system. One very important one is dealing with the administration of justice offences, which clog up a great deal of time in our courts and do not focus the resources of the court on dealing with the actual serious offence, the subject that brought an offender to court.
I wonder if my friend would at least agree that the administration of justice provisions in this bill would help increase efficiencies, and that it has nothing to do with the sentencing he was just talking about.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2018-06-05 23:21 [p.20333]
Madam Speaker, when I look at the bill, I definitely see a significant list of offences for which sentencing is being significantly reduced. For example, prison breach, punishment for infanticide, concealing the body of a child, abduction of a person under the age of 16, abduction of a person under the age of 14, forced marriage, extortion by libel, advocating genocide, participating in the activities of a criminal organization, and advertising and dealing in counterfeit money. These are just a few of the things that I have on my list that the bill deals with. I have a list of over 27 things the bill would significantly reduce sentencing for.
If the member thinks that the bill would not reduce these things, we could have put the things he is concerned about in a separate bill. However, when I look at the bill, it looks like a hug-a-thug bill.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-06-05 23:22 [p.20333]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be joining this debate at this late hour on behalf of my constituents of Calgary Shepard, and I want to thank the member for Peace River—Westlock for the intervention he made and for his exposition on the problem of human trafficking in Canada. It is usually a crime and an activity that we think about in the context of international human trafficking.
I know that oftentimes when looking at the International Justice Mission and other not-for-profit organizations that are trying to fight against international human trafficking, it is easy to forget that it happens right here in Canada as well, and it is a problem in our communities. I know that there was a former member of this House, Joy Smith, who did quite a bit of work on the subject. She will be putting out a book on it very soon.
It is a problem here, and we should think of it in the domestic context. Whenever we make changes to the criminal justice system, we should be ensuring that issues like human trafficking are not reduced and that we do not send a signal to individuals in our communities that they will possibly face a lighter sentence at the end of the day for this type of activity if they are convicted of it.
I asked a previous question about Bill C-75. I listened attentively to many interventions and speeches in the House, and I listened to the member for Mount Royal when he went through a list of potential issues that the justice committee could look at, if and when this particular piece of legislation is sent there. I thought he did a very good job of presenting some of the issues that different members of the House had brought forward.
I listened attentively to the member for Eglinton—Lawrence as well when he gave the government's position and presented what the government believes is the upside of the bill. Obviously his role here is to present the best possible case on this particular piece of legislation, and not to present the potential defects or downsides of the bill. That is all right, because that is really the job of opposition members and those individuals who have differences with the content of the bill.
It has been said that some of the portions of the bill are specific to how offences will be treated in the lower courts. What I am talking about is how some offences will be hybridized and how most hybridized indictable offences will be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less. It will increase the default maximum penalty for two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months. Several members of the opposition, members of the Conservative Party, have discussed how this hybridization, this transferring to offences that would carry a lower sentence that a person could face if convicted, is the wrong way to go.
I believe deeply that the list of offences, 27 of them, that could be reduced in terms of the maximum time a person could face in jail is the wrong way to go. I have a few of them that I am going to mention. I will not read the whole list. They include obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman; concealing the body of a child; infanticide; impaired driving offences causing bodily harm, including impaired driving causing bodily harm; blood alcohol over legal limit—bodily harm; failure or refusal to provide sample—bodily harm; and abduction of a person under the age of 16 and 14.
The list goes on, but this gives a feel for the types of offences that are being modified or are proposed to be modified in this piece of legislation by the government.
Thus, I have a difference of opinion. I think the House should be setting a pretty high bar on what prosecutors and judges can consider in punishing those individuals that they convict of the offence. I do not think two years less a day or two years and under is the right way to go.
We have heard from others, and I address these issues as a layperson. Of course, as I said, I am not a lawyer. I say this often at committees. I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant. I am not bothered by considerations of 20 years. I just look at it as most Canadians would look at it. If individuals are alleged to have committed a certain crime, what is it that they are going to be facing? I look at it as an outsider looking in on the judicial system.
When I look at an offence like concealing the body of a child, I think that is quite serious. I think a person convicted of such an offence should face many, many years in jail as a deterrent, as a form of punishment, and also as an opportunity, I think, for rehabilitation in jail. I have said it before in this House, and I said again just a few days ago that I believe our prison system should be focused more on rehabilitation. There is a patchwork of success in the United States. Every single state there has a different system when it comes to rehabilitating their prisoners, and that is the case in the European model as well. I do not know if we have struck the right balance in Canada, but it is something that absolutely is worth looking at.
It has been said in the House that prosecutors and judges will be able to decide what type of offence they will go after, whether they will go for an indictable offence or a summary conviction in these types of cases.
I believe the House should indicate what the minimum sentence should be for these types of offences, and I do not mean the minimum sentence on these cases. I simply mean the up to 10 years in jail should be the upper bar. It would be our direction to prosecutors and judges on the seriousness of the offence being considered by them instead of this hybrid model.
This legislation is over 300 pages long. I just want to go back to that for a moment as well. Those of us who are not practised in law, who do not have a deep background of many years of service on the justice committee, will obviously struggle to consider the finer points of what will happen.
We set the Criminal Code. We in the House determine the contents of the Criminal Code, but provincial governments operate the provincial courts. They appoint a lot of judges themselves. They operate the courthouses. They have quite a large role to play in that administration.
Police officers enforce the law, but they do not run the judicial system in the courts. Those two are separate. One sets policy and one is the administrative arm of the activity.
Our provincial governments are stressed. They are stressed with respect to the public treasury. They have a difficult time financing public services, but they also have a difficult time finding new judges. The federal government has struggled with this as well.
There have been federal judiciary vacancies. Forgive me for using an older statistic, but as of April 1, there were 59 vacancies. Appointing more federal judges, appointing more provincial judges, and ensuring courthouse space is available will allow for faster prosecution of criminals and alleged criminals. Those who will be proven innocent will be let go.
As right as that is, we need to ensure people have appropriate access to our judicial system. It is not just about judges, it is not just about having the right laws; it is also important to have the necessary court space for cases to be heard.
I mentioned yesterday in the House that Calgary had a gang problem, not just the FOB gang but many others. The FOB gang leader was let go just a few weeks ago, partly because of the Jordan decision, partly because he could not get his hearing on time, and partly because he could not appear before a judge. Delays were built in by his lawyer, who did his job in defending his client, but he could not get his client in front of a judge to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes. He was out on bail as well, and this is another issue.
We have a revolving door for career criminals. This is a serious issue in our communities. These people commit new crimes, especially organized crime.
One charge that will be modified under the proposed legislation is participation in a criminal organization. I have serious problems with this. We should be doing more to ensure career criminals are put away. Part of that involves ensuring they face up to 10 years in jail. It is the multiplicity, the series of criminal acts, that sends them back to jail.
The arresting officer in the case of the FOB gang leader arrested him on a lower charge. There were litany of other offences for which he was going to be charged. The issue was finding him, stopping him, and arresting him so he could face justice. That is the problem.
I do not see the right focus in Bill C-75 at this time. I just do not see us going after the right things. The government claims that this legislation would give us better access to the judicial system, that it would improve things, that it would speed things up.
I love Yiddish proverbs. I always use them in the House. Here is another one “Better an honest slap in the face than an insincere kiss.” It is an older Yiddish proverb but it is quite a good one. I would rather the Government of Canada just come clean. I know it is an unusual Yiddish proverb, but the government should just come clean. If the goal of the legislation is to give lighter offences for certain types of criminals, then the government should just say so, and do so. If the goal of the legislation is to download to the provincial courts, then it should just say so, and do so.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-05-24 15:42 [p.19606]
Madam Speaker, I want to follow up on a question I asked the minister earlier about watering down sentences to make them hybrid offences so they can be prosecuted by way of summary conviction in provincial court. The Minister of Justice stated that one of the reasons for that is to allow serious offences to be prosecuted in superior court.
Among the offences the government is watering down are participation in a terrorist organization, the kidnapping of a minor, arson for fraudulent purposes, and impaired driving causing bodily harm. Is the minister saying that terrorists, kidnappers, arsonists, and impaired drivers are not serious criminals?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Speaker, that is absolutely not what I am saying. The member opposite is completely mis-characterizing the bold reforms that we are proposing with the reclassification of offences.
This is not about altering sentencing ranges. This is not about changing the fundamental principles of sentencing, which require courts to impose sentences proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.
What we are doing with the reclassification of offences is providing prosecutors with the discretion to proceed by way of summary or indictment. This is not changing the sentencing ranges. We have not changed the maximum penalties for the most serious offences.
View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2018-05-24 15:44 [p.19606]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask this question dealing with rural crime, in particular, theft over $5,000.
In my area there are a lot of vehicles worth $30,000, $40,000, or $50,000. Is the minister suggesting that the theft of these kinds of vehicles will result in a fine only? That is a marketable thing. We will be open for shopping if there is just a fine for stealing a very expensive vehicle. How will this help stop rural crime?
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Speaker, every single case or offence that comes before a court, if it is within the offences that we are proposing to reclassify, will be considered on its merits.
We are not reducing or changing the sentencing regime with respect to these offences. What we are doing is providing prosecutors with the discretion to provide for and determine the individual circumstances of a case. All offences are serious. A prosecutor will have the ability, based on their discretion, to determine what is the most appropriate and efficient manner to prosecute a case.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
2018-05-24 15:46 [p.19607]
Madam Speaker, I rise today in the House to address some grave concerns that the Conservatives have with regard 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.
However, we agree with at least one of the sections of bill, the intimate partner violence reforms. I liked the idea of reversing the onus on someone looking for bail if they have already been convicted of assaulting their spouse. The reverse onus on bail, I think, is a good idea.
I like the idea that we are looking into the possibility of restricting the number of preliminary hearings, but we have serious reservations about other things. Again, this is with respect to the intention of the government to reduce penalties by adding summary conviction as a prosecutorial option, which can result in a penalty as minor as a fine.
Let me be clear. These offences are for some very serious crimes, and currently they are listed as indictable offences with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years. I will touch on some of these offences today to make Canadians aware of the massive changes the government is planning to implement and how adversely these changes will impact the health and welfare of all Canadians.
Some of the offences included, but not limited to, are participation in the activity of a terrorist group, leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, punishment of a rioter, concealment of identity, breach of trust, municipal corruption, selling or purchasing office, influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices, prison breach, assisting prisoners of war to escape, obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman, causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, impaired driving causing bodily harm, failure or refusal to provide blood samples, trafficking, withholding or destroying documents, abduction of a person under the age of 16 as well as abduction of a person under the age of 14, forced marriage, marriage under 16 years of age, advocating genocide, arson for fraudulent purposes, and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.
Just reading this list is mind-boggling. Offering a judge of the courts the option of lighter sentences or even fines will inevitably result in lenient sentences for some very dangerous crimes.
The Liberals say they have introduced this legislation as their response to the crisis in the judicial system, which they, in large part, have created by not appointing the necessary number of judges to the bench. I should know. In my six and a half years as justice minister, not once did I ever encounter a shortage of qualified candidates to fill vacant positions on the bench anywhere, and in Alberta in particular. At the beginning of this month, there were 11 vacancies on the Queen's Bench and three on the Court of Appeal. What is the problem? There are qualified people in the Province of Alberta who can and should be appointed to the bench. Now, they have started to get some in May, but this is something that has to be ongoing all the time.
Getting back to the bill, Canadians know that watering down some very serious criminal offences by offering the prosecutorial option of summary offence is not an adequate deterrent, and that the perpetrators of major felonies will not have paid the full price for their offence.
Another Canadian who knows only too well the harm this proposed legislation could cause is Sheri Arsenault, Alberta director of Families For Justice. Sheri lost her son to an impaired driver in 2011. Last fall, she testified before the justice committee with a heart-wrenching account of how her son's life was cut all too short after he and two other friends were struck and killed by an impaired driver. The three boys had just graduated from high school and, of course, had a very promising life in front of them.
In a recent letter to the government she wrote in part the following:
As a victim, a mother that lost my 18 year old son, I have since been working very hard in advocating for all victims of serious offences. All my work seems to have fallen on deaf ears and is all in vain when I thoroughly read the contents of Bill C-75. I cannot understand why our current Government does not consider impaired driving a serious crime when it is the #1 cause of criminal deaths in Canada. It is also the cause of an enormous number of injuries and devastates thousands of families every year.
The public safety of all Canadians should be a priority for all levels of Government regardless of their political stripe or ideology. The safety of all Canadians should be your priority and all Canadians should expect a punishment that is fitting to the seriousness of certain crimes to not only to deter others from committing the same crime but to also deter offenders from recommitting and some sense of justice to the victims and our communities. Summary convictions neither deter nor hold offenders accountable, they also re-victimize the victims again. Victims are being ignored in this Bill. Our justice system should be strengthened rather than weakened and the “rights” of victims and communities should have precedence over the treatment of offenders and criminals.
That is the letter that she wrote to the government with her analysis of Bill C-75, and she has it right.
I am quite sure that we are going to hear from people who have been gravely concerned about impaired driving and all the consequences of that. I am going to welcome them. I hope they come before the justice committee and let the government know how they feel about this. The statement by that victim could not have been put more succinctly.
Bill C-75 in its present form would not protect Canadians. It would put them at greater risk, as dangerous offenders can be set free without rehabilitation and without having paid the full price for their offence.
Ms. Arsenault made the point that lenient sentences often lead to re-offences being committed, with terrible consequences. She cited for instance the tragic impaired driving case from 2010 that illustrates this point very well.
Surrey resident Allan Simpson Wood was driving at nearly twice the speed limit when he crashed head-on into Bryan McCron's car on Colebrook Road in Surrey in July of 2010, killing Mr. McCron and injuring his 17-year-old son Connor. He then assaulted the teenage boy who was calling 911 in an attempt to save his dying father. Mr. Wood previously had an impaired driving charge in 2002.
If Bill C-75 is allowed to become legislation in its present form, more tragedies such as this will occur, as the possible sentence under Bill C-75 will not serve, in my opinion, and I am sure in the opinion of many Canadians and all of my colleagues here, as an adequate deterrent to the crime.
Future stories like this need not be the case if the Liberal government would listen to reason and not go forward with the reckless clauses in this legislation.
Another issue with regards to impaired driving is that as of last fall, there were only 800 trained drug recognition experts across the nation. With the onset of marijuana being legalized in Canada, police services from across Canada anticipate a spike in the number of impaired driving charges. Indeed, just last fall, the justice committee heard that we would need 2,000 trained drug recognition experts. Ontario police sounded the alarm bell last week, stating that the lack of funding for the impaired marijuana legislation is worrying. It is evident that the government has not been giving this serious issue proper consideration. T
There are so many troubling offences that Bill C-75 would deem as a possible summary infraction, it is difficult to know exactly which ones to highlight.
Breach of prison is one of such infractions and brings to mind the case of Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, a former Hell's Angel associate convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, and a series of crimes in 2012 related to a drug turf war in the Laurentians. He once escaped from a Quebec prison in a helicopter and is currently serving 35 years.
However, under Bill C-75, not only would this present breach be a possible summary conviction, but so would his involvement in a criminal organization. He has been labelled as a dangerous offender, but had he committed these crimes under this new legislation, the sentence could be much shorter. The thought that these are not serious enough to be taken and prosecuted as indictable offences is completely unacceptable. A fine is not appropriate for this. It is not appropriate for these types of offences.
It is unconscionable for us to think that the government could put the health and safety of Canadians at risk for a quick fix to a problem that it has helped create.
The justice committee recently travelled across Canada, studying the horrific effects of human trafficking. Material benefit from trafficking is another terrible crime. Should Bill C-75 pass in its present form, it would include the trafficking of persons in Canada for material benefit, making it a possible summary conviction. Imagine someone being in the business of making money trafficking human beings, knowing he or she might get off with a fine. People in the business of making money in this would happily hand over $1,000.
The Liberals have also slipped in getting rid of consecutive sentences for human trafficking. The idea that a crime does not get worse if someone is continuously trafficking human beings is completely unconscionable. I truly believe Canadians agree with us in the Conservative Party that it is absolutely wrong.
As I have stated before in the House, thousands of Canadian children are being trafficked between the ages of nine and 14. Although, unfortunately, many of these crimes go unreported, non-governmental organizations inform us that this is taking place. Our most precious resource, our children, are being violated, and at an alarming rate. This abhorrent form of modern-day slavery is very real and knows no social or economic boundaries.
As I mentioned previously, the target age now for the sex industry is getting younger. As the demand for paid sex increases, supply increases, and our children and the vulnerable are even greater targets for sexual consumption.
During the justice committee hearings on human trafficking, we heard from former human trafficker Donald. He testified that if the government were to be lenient on the sentencing of convicted human traffickers, it would be like a carte blanche for traffickers to expand this despicable industry and further harm Canadian children.
Our former colleague and member of Parliament, Joy Smith, testified that 23,000 children were trafficked in our country every year, with many of them ending up dead. This is a grievous epidemic and the government is not helping at all when it offers more lenient sentences for those who make money off of these despicable crimes. The duty of lawmakers is to protect the vulnerable, not make it easier for them to be targeted. It is our moral obligation. The government is failing the citizens of Canada by not keeping the present safeguards in place in the Criminal Code and by lessening the protection of our children.
Clearly, the government has not thought this thoroughly through. By offering the option of lenient sentences, it is encouraging the exploitation of our children. How can it rationalize light sentences for some of the most appalling crimes? Human trafficking is not, and should never, be considered a minor offence. The hybridization of these serious offences is simply an ill-thought-out idea and it is unfathomable that the government does not see the damage that the passage of Bill C-75 could do to the welfare and security of all Canadians.
Clearing up the backlog in the criminal justice system should never done at the expense of victims. Nor should it compromise the safety and well-being of our children. I will reiterate that this is a crisis that the Liberals have helped create.
On the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberals introduced this 302-page omnibus legislation. I bet they hoped Canadians and the public would not take the time to read it in its entirety, but that was a mistake. Canadians across the country are hearing about this and voicing their concerns about the legislation. I recently did a Facebook video on this. Canadians need to be aware of the severe implications the legislation could have on families and their communities.
The Conservatives have always strongly believed that the rights of victims should be the central focus of our justice system, along with the protection of Canadians. This is why we introduced the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights while we were in government.
Among the four principal rights provided in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is the right for protection of victims of crime. I would argue that Bill C-75 in its present form does not provide protection of victims of crime. In fact, it would do the opposite. Instead of providing reassurance and the right to live in a society that is safe, secure, and stable, the bill could create a society that would be under the threat and harm of offenders who would not have had the opportunity, quite frankly, to be rehabilitated by serving a sentence that adequately would fit the crime they committed.
Another one of the many offences in the bill is that it encompasses participation in a terrorist group or leaving Canada to participate in terrorist activity. I have to ask this question. What is it about this that there should be a minor offence when a person is leaving Canada for the purposes of participating in terrorism? The Liberals read the papers too. Have they not noticed that this has become more and more of a problem in the world? Their idea to solve that is to make this a summary conviction offence, that these guys will get the message if they get a fine, that if they get a very small penalty, they will not to do this again.
I do not buy that. The price that Canadians could pay with this legislation is incalculable. I call upon the Liberal government to stop this and keep the current provisions of the Criminal Code that helps Canadians from being further re-victimized. Under Bill C-75, this would not happen.
I ask all members to stand with me to ensure Canadians are and remain fully protected within the Criminal Code. We will not stand for a crime that gets off with the lightest of possible sentences. This bill is bad legislation.
Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “That” and substituting the following:
“the House decline to give second reading 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, since the bill fails to support victims of crime by, among other things: (a) changing the victim surcharge; (b) removing the requirement of the Attorney General to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances; (c) removing the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent sentence; and (d) delaying consecutive sentencing for human traffickers.“
I hope this gets the support of all members of the House.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
2018-05-24 16:08 [p.19609]
Madam Speaker, the hon. member said that the Liberals had made appointments. Yes, they have made judicial appointments, but they should make them on time. What has the problem been in Alberta? I have been hearing for the last two years that they have not been able to make the appointments. I do not want to hear that they did not have qualified people applying. I do not buy that for one single second. There are qualified people in the province of Alberta. The Liberals should fill up the judicial vacancies. It should not be that difficult. It is that difficult, they should ask a couple of us on this side. We will have a look and make recommendations to them.
The hon. member talked about MADD and the sections of the previous legislation. I cannot wait to have representatives from MADD come before the justice committee so I can ask them what think of the Liberal proposal for impaired driving causing bodily harm, that people might just get a fine for that or there is a possibility they could just get a summary conviction. I will be fascinated to hear what the hon. member and his colleagues have to say. They probably will say that they are cracking down on impaired driving, that they are—
View Dave Van Kesteren Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I recall a time, not too long ago, when we were doing some battle with the Liberals on Bill C-51. I would just remind the House what that was in regard to. There was an attempt by the Liberals to take away the protection of places of worship. There was a long list of staggering and frightening changes that the Liberal government was proposing to make.
I am wondering whether the Liberal government has used this legislation as a back door to once again make that attack on places of worship.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
2018-05-24 16:13 [p.19610]
Madam Speaker, the hon. member is right.
When the Liberals introduced that bill, they did not even mention the fact that they were removing section 176 from the Criminal Code, the section that protects people at a religious service. It also makes it a crime to threaten or attack a member of the clergy. I had to ask the question, just before Canada Day, “Why are they doing this? What is their problem with this?”
I noticed that the Liberals did back off at that time, but I see that it has been added to the list and can be reduced. If someone wants to attack or threaten a member of clergy, there is the possibility of a summary conviction. The Liberals did not get rid of it, but I guess they said, “If we cannot get rid of it, at least let us reduce the possibility of a penalty on this.”
I do not get it. I said to them, and I thought it was good advice, to forget about section 176. It is a good section of the Criminal Code, and it should stay there. However, I guess the Liberals now have two pieces of legislation and are somewhat obsessed with this.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-05-24 16:45 [p.19615]
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, another omnibus bill introduced by a government that said it would never introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are again with another 300-page bill.
Quite frankly, there are some provisions in Bill C-75 that I support, but on the whole I believe this legislation to be deeply problematic.
Before I address the substance of Bill C-75, I want to talk a bit about the process surrounding Bill C-75.
This omnibus legislation reintroduces four government bills currently before the House of Commons: Bill C-28, Bill C-32, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. This is the third piece of legislation the government has introduced to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, the unconstitutional section related to anal sex.
With much fanfare, the Liberals introduced Bill C-32. They wanted to take tremendous credit for introducing that bill that proposes to repeal section 159. It was such a priority for the government that a year and a half later, Bill C-32 remains stuck at first reading.
Not to be outdone, they proceeded to introduce Bill C-39, which would remove unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, also known as zombie laws. That included section 159 of the Criminal Code. It was introduced on March 8, 2017, and it was such a priority of the government that more than a year later, Bill C-39 remains stuck at first reading.
Now, for the third time, the government has introduced, with Bill C-75, another attempt to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code.
How many bills is it going to take the Liberal government to repeal one simple section of the Criminal Code? It speaks to the utter incompetence of the government and its complete inability to move justice legislation forward. In light of that record of incompetence and failure, Canadians should be left to ask the question: how it is that the government can be trusted to address delay in our courts when it cannot even manage its own legislative agenda?
The purported objective of Bill C-75 is to deal with the backlog in our courts. It arises from the Jordan decision that was issued by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that there would be strict limits before delay would become presumptively unreasonable. The remedy that the Supreme Court provided in the case of delay was that the charges against the accused person would be stayed, in other words, thrown out of court. The strict timeline that the Supreme Court provided was 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated or actual conclusion of a trial for matters before superior courts, and 18 months for matters before provincial courts.
It has been almost two years since the Jordan decision and in those nearly two years, the Minister of Justice has sat on her hands and done absolutely nothing to deal with delay and backlog. The minister is so incompetent that she could not get around to doing the simplest and easiest thing, which is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner.
Under this Minister of Justice's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. Indeed, the average number of vacancies has consistently been between 50 to 60. In the province of Alberta, where the issues of backlog and delay are most acute, the provincial government tried to respond in 2016, by way of order in council, establishing 10 new judicial positions, nine Court of Queen's Bench positions and one Alberta Court of Appeal position. The government, to its credit, in budget 2017, provided funding for additional judicial positions. All the minister had to do was fill them.
Do members know how long it took the minister to appoint a new judge in Alberta?
An hon. member: How long?
Mr. Michael Cooper: More than a year, Madam Speaker. It was not until December 2017 that Justice Grant Dunlop--my former colleague by the way--was appointed as a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench. He is a very good appointment, but, unfortunately, it is only one. Now that we are in May 2018, the government still has not filled most of those new judicial spots.
Thus, while the minister talks about taking action, her record demonstrates otherwise. This is not just an academic or abstract issue. There are real and serious consequences to the minister's inaction. We have seen hundreds of cases thrown out of court due to delay, and thousands more are at risk. Some of these cases involve the most serious of charges, including murder and sexual assault. We are talking about cases that are stayed or thrown out. The accused person, even when there is overwhelming evidence that he or she did the crime, are free to walk our streets.
In his speech, the hon. member for Victoria alluded to Nick Chan, whose case was was recently thrown out in Calgary. Who is Nick Chan? He is someone who was facing first degree murder charges. He is someone who was charged with directing a criminal organization. Nick Chan is the head of the so-called “Fresh off the Boat” gang, a gang that is linked to more than a dozen murders. Some have called Nick Chan one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, men in Calgary. Today, Nick Chan is a free man.
The minister does bear some responsibility for that outcome by her failure to get judges appointed in Alberta and across Canada. Nick Chan is not the first dangerous criminal who is now a free man or woman. Unfortunately, because of the government's inaction he will not be the last.
After two years of doing nothing, the government has now come forward with Bill C-75. This is really a ramshackle piece of legislation. One of the things the government has touted as doing a lot to reduce delay is the limiting of preliminary inquiries. Indeed, the Supreme Court in the Jordan decision said that in light of the Stinchcombe decision, which is more than a quarter of a century old, that perhaps it is time for Parliament to reconsider the utility of preliminary inquiries. Since the Stinchcombe decision, defence counsel have a constitutional right to full disclosure, and preliminary inquiries are a form of disclosure.
However, at the same time, to the degree that it makes sense to limit preliminary inquiries, and to the degree that it will speed things up, it is important, I think, to know what the hon. member for Victoria stated in his speech, which was that preliminary inquiries account for a very small number of cases.
The Canadian Bar Association has indicated that the proportion of cases that involve preliminary inquiries is less than 5% of cases, and takes no more than 2% of court time.
Perhaps this is a good measure, one measure in this massive bill that is a positive. However, with respect to the larger scheme of dealing with the backlog and the delay, at best, it is a very small step in the right direction.
Then there are aspects of the bill that instead of actually reducing the delays and backlog, they will likely contribute to the backlog. Again, I did not agree with everything the hon. member for Victoria said, but I thought he raised a good point about routine police evidence in the bill, which more than likely will result in defence counsel having to bring forward an application, which will cause delay, an application that in all likelihood will be granted.
With respect to the issue of routine police evidence, it seems that it provides a solution in search of a problem that does not exist, and in so doing has created another problem, a problem that will contribute to delay.
Then there is the hybridization of offences. This the part of the legislation that I, and I think most of my colleagues on the Conservative side, have the biggest issue with, and that is the watering down of sentences.
Before I address how Bill C-75 waters down sentences for some very serious crimes, I want to comment on what this impact would be from the standpoint of the Jordan decision. After all, that is why we are debating Bill C-75.
The hybridization of offences means that indictable offences that are currently prosecuted in superior courts now will be prosecutable in provincial courts by way of summary conviction. The timeline that the Supreme Court provides in Jordan is 30 months in which a case must be concluded, successfully prosecuted or a determination made about the guilt or innocence of the accused person, before a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable, upon which it is at risk of being thrown out of court. By contrast, there is only an 18-month timeline in provincial court. It is reducing the time by almost half before the case is at risk of being thrown out.
How does that help address Jordan? It does not. It is a matter of simply downloading cases onto the provinces. It is similar to what the government did with the marijuana legislation. It said that it would throw legislation together, take some political credit, but when it would come to sorting out all the issues, when it would come to the costs related to implementation and enforcement, the provinces could deal with it. The government washed its hands clean.
That is what the government is doing with respect to the hybridization, the watering down of sentences for serious indictable sentences. It is downloading them onto the provinces, onto provincial courts, which already have and deal with the bulk of criminal cases that go before courts across Canada.
It will not solve Jordan, but what will it actually do? Under the guise of creating efficiencies in our justice system, the government is watering down sentences for serious crimes. By introducing this just before Easter, it hoped Canadians would not notice.
What sorts of offences are being watered down? We are talking about participating in a terrorist organization, impaired driving causing bodily harm, kidnapping a minor, forced marriage, polygamy, or arson for fraudulent purposes. Do those not sound like serious offences? The minister said that she was doing this so the serious cases could go to superior courts. I have news for the minister. Kidnappers, terrorists, child abductors, arsonists, and impaired drivers are serious criminals who deserve serious time for serious crime, which the government is taking away, or opening the door to not happening. Instead, it is opening the door to these serious criminals getting away with a fine instead of up to 10 years in prison, which is currently provided for in the Criminal Code for those offences.
The government talks about the discretion of judges. It makes a big deal about the discretion of judges. Under Bill C-75, the government would be taking away the discretion of a judge, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to lift the publication ban of a young offender to protect public safety, when the judge determines there is evidence that young offender will commit another serious offence.
The government is always talking about judicial discretion when it helps criminals, but when it comes to protecting the public, the government does not want them to have that discretion. It speaks to a government which time and again works hard to reward criminals, makes life more difficult for victims, and has no regard for the public safety of Canadians. This is evidenced by taking away the discretion from judges, failing to appoint judges, and watering down sentences for kidnappers, arsonists, terrorists, among other offenders.
In short, Bill C-75 would make it easier for criminals and would download cases onto the provinces. It contains measures that would increase the delay in our justice system instead of decreasing it, resulting in more criminal cases potentially being thrown out of court as a result of Jordan. In so doing, it undermines public confidence in the administration of justice. It is an absolutely terrible bill that needs to be defeated.
With that, I move:
That the amendment be amended by adding the following:“and (e) potentially reducing penalties for very serious crimes by proposing to make them hybrid offences, including the abduction of a child under 14, material benefit from trafficking, breach of prison, participation in activity of a terrorist group or criminal organization, advocating genocide, amongst many others.”
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-05-24 17:14 [p.19618]
Madam Speaker, it is downloading onto the provinces, both the provincial courts and provincial jails. Of course, the maximum for a summary conviction offence is two years less a day. Many of these offences could be punishable by way of a mere fine. About an hour ago, the Minister of Justice stood in her place and claimed that watering down these sentences had nothing to do with changing sentencing for these serious offences. I could not believe my ears when the minister said that. It is 10 years under the current Criminal Code for indictable offences, and two years less a day in their watered down proposals. If that does not have to do with sentencing, I do not know what does.
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