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Results: 1 - 15 of 30
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception with the comments by the member for Kingston and the Islands that we did not introduce our bill until the dying days.
It is a fact that we brought forward two bills on military justice before Bill C-71 that passed.
It is a fact that one thing that Bill C-71 in the old Parliament did and that Bill C-77 does is enshrine the victims bill of rights into the military justice system. That did not pass until the third year we were government.
It is a fact that we moved that bill through as fast as we could at the end of the session.
It is a fact that the Liberals sat on it for three years before they brought in Bill C-77, which is a complete replica of our Bill C-71.
We did all the heavy lifting and we did all the hard work, but the Liberals sat on their hands.
I want to ask the member, who has served so well on the national defence committee for the past 20 years, if she would comment on why the previous minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence would have resigned when she has such a passion for indigenous issues which are now enshrined in Bill C-77 through the incorporation of the Gladue decision. Why would she have stepped back when she was the former justice minister who believed in having a strong law in our Canadian society, especially in the Canadian Armed Forces?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, we had a good, vigorous debate and study of Bill C-77, and a number of shortfalls were identified by some of the witnesses: retired Lieutenant-Colonel Perron in particular, as well as the Barreau du Québec.
One thing that came up that we did not get positive feedback from JAG on was the issue of changing the burden of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to the balance of probabilities. The argument from National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces' legal advisers is that we do not need to have such regimented tests within a summary hearing process, unlike in the old-fashioned court martial and summary conviction process.
I would ask the member if he feels we got to the bottom of it to protect those who are wrongfully accused in view of the potential punishments that will be laid down, such as confinement to quarters and being sent to the brig for a period of time, as well as a reduction in rank and pay.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, the member talked about some of the challenges that occur in the Canadian Armed Forces, and that Bill C-77 incorporates the Gladue decision from the Supreme Court, ensuring that indigenous members of the Canadian Armed Forces will have a chance, at the time of sentencing, to make sure that any cultural sensitivities are taken into consideration.
We just witnessed an unfortunate event over the last few weeks, where the former associate minister of defence who is also the former attorney general, a very proud indigenous leader, was forced to resign. I would like to know, from the member, why the former associate minister of defence left her office.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I believe the member for St. Catharines has a legal background. Bill C-77 is a bill we are supportive of, and it is based on the Conservatives' original bill, Bill C-71, from the last Parliament.
The one change that was made that I struggle a bit with, which is something we discussed at committee for quite some time, is the question of the burden of proof when it comes to summary hearings, rather than summary convictions, which are carried out in the military and are penal in nature, often resulting in confinement to barracks, yet it does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was guilty. Now it is a balance of probabilities.
Does the member think that would violate the charter rights of the Canadian Armed Forces members?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, one thing that was very disappointing in the committee study of Bill C-77 was around the issue of self-harm. It was proposed by the defence critic for the NDP, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, that we eliminate paragraph 98(c) from the National Defence Act, where those who hurt themselves or try to commit suicide could be charged and imprisoned for violating the National Defence Act. That action stigmatizes those dealing with PTSD and other operational stress injuries.
I would ask the member if he would support striking down that part of the National Defence Act so that we would end stigmatization and help those who would seek help.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I have always appreciated the minister's service to this country in his role as a veteran, a former lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Army and a police officer. He has always stood up for the rule of law and has made sure that the bill we have before us today reflects his own personal commitment.
It has come to light in recent days that a crime may have been committed within the Liberal cabinet under subsection 139(2) of the Criminal Code, which notes that no one should bring any undue pressure upon someone to change the outcome of a criminal case. It has been said, as reported in the media this week, that cabinet members witnessed this undue pressure. As the minister is a former police officer, would he want to report that crime?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand to speak at third reading of Bill C-77, the amendments to the National Defence Act to add some new guidelines and strengths within the military justice system. The Conservatives have been calling for this for some time.
The Conservatives are committed to standing up for the rights of victims and ensuring that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. It was our previous Conservative government that enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. We support enshrining those rights for victims in our military justice system. That is why, in the last Parliament, we introduced Bill C-71. That really is the foundation that Bill C-77, which we are debating today, is based upon.
The Conservative Party will always stand up for the rights of victims, and that is why are supportive of seeing Bill C-77 passed and enacted.
We have to ensure we restore the rights of victims and ensure they are at the heart of our justice system. That is why the Victims Bill of Rights would now be mirrored in military law, once it is passed through Senate.
I hope that some of the questions I still have about the bill, as well some of the questions we just heard about self-harm, may be addressed when the bill goes for further study and debate over in the other place.
I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence. At committee we heard from numerous witnesses. Those who support victims were very loud in their support of the legislation. It would give the victims: enhanced access to information through the appointment of a victim liaison officer, which is welcomed by victims in the Canadian Armed Forces; enhanced protection for those victims through new safety, security and privacy provisions, so victims do not have to be concerned about their information being used inappropriately through a violation of their privacy; enhanced participation by allowing victims to read impact statements at the time of sentencing of those who committed a crime against them; and, when possible, enhanced restitution through the court martial process consideration to provide restitution for the order of the losses to those who were victimized.
Our previous Conservative government took significant steps to protect Canadians and to stand up for victims of crime. We understand that the highest priority for any government must be to ensure the safety of its citizens, including those who are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is a responsibility of government. As a Conservative government, we took that seriously. I am glad to see the minister has taken it seriously with the amendments in Bill C-77.
Putting the rights of victims back at the heart of the justice system is important and it is crucial to ensure fairness, to ensure that our justice system is compassionate and that it provides a balance, both to the rights of the victims and the rights of those convicted. It is about courtesy, compassion and respect, and that has to be included at every stage of the justice process, whether it is in civilian courts or military courts.
Our previous Conservative government was committed to reversing that trend and keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families. We had taken concrete steps to see that offenders accounted for their actions.
All of us on this side of the House were proud of our previous government's record, a record that includes the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the reform of not criminally responsible legislation, laws against sexual exploitation and, of course, cyber intimidation and bullying.
We, as Conservatives, believe that for far too long the criminal justice system was about the rights of criminals. We believe the victims have to be placed at the very heart of the justice system. They deserve, and should have, the right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation and, where possible, the right to restitution. That is encompassed in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which is landmark legislation that will be reflected now in the National Defence Act as it applies to our military.
Many people wonder why we have a dual system, one for civilians and one for our military members. I would like to use a quote that came from Maurice de Saxe, who used to be the marshal general of France in 1732. In writing about the science of warfare, he said:
...military discipline...is the soul of armies. If it is not established with wisdom and maintained with unshakeable resolution you will have no soldiers. Regiments and armies will only be contemptible, armed mobs, more dangerous to their own country than to the enemy...
We have witnessed that in modern times in other countries around the world. That is why in 1950 the National Defence Act was enacted to established a military justice system.
We already have what I consider the best of the best who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. Because they are the best of the best and because they are given the order to use lethal force when necessary in defending Canada and Canadians and those who cannot defend themselves around the world, they have to be held to a higher standard. We need to have a military justice system in place that reflects the law of the land in Canada, but still hold to that same standard, values and principles when they are deployed abroad.
As the minister already pointed out, some of the changes in Bill C-77 build upon the code of service conduct and Operation Honour in particular. We want to ensure we have effective ways to stomp out sexual misconduct, to eliminate harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces and to deal with intolerance.
The Gladue decision of the Supreme Court a number of years ago has been put into the decision-making process through the court martial system as well as through the summary hearings that have been put in place. We want to ensure that the ongoing defence of parallel military justice systems that has been supported by the Supreme Court of Canada continues.
In the Généreux case in 1992, the MacKay case and more recently in the Moriarity case of 2015, they have consistently held up that the National Defence Act and the criminal justice system is for the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale of the Canadian Armed Forces. It stands by section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is that there is an exemption given to members of the Canadian Armed Forces and to the chain of command to carry out military justice on a parallel track.
I raised concerns at committee and when the bill was at second reading about the recent Court Martial Appeals Court decision in the Beaudry case, in which the judge advocate general requested to have that stand at this point in time so they could take that case to the Supreme Court and have it pass a decision on it. Again, we continue to see some people who do not believe the military should have its own justice system and that cases should be tried in civilian court except when they are deployed.
Overall, we need to continue to have that chain of command, the enforcement of the Queen's rules and orders and that those regulations are reflective of some of the concerns that were brought up at committee.
A number of very powerful witnesses appeared at committee. One person was Jean-Guy Perron, a retired colonel, He was a JAG officer and also sat as a justice on the court martial court. We also had compelling testimony given by the Barreau du Québec. It raised a number of concerns where there could be charter challenges down the road if we did not get this right.
One thing that was very evident was that the change of summary trial to summary hearing may reduce the burden of proof. Right now, the burden of proof is the same as it is in civil court, which is that it has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. That has been modified somewhat and the accused could fact even more difficulty going forward.
I will quote retired Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron. He said:
Although a summary infraction is not an offence under the NDA and a summary hearing is not a court martial or a service tribunal; the failure “without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on the person, to appear” as ordered, or to remain in attendance before an officer conducting a summary hearing, as a person charged with having committed a service infraction can lead to an accusation under s. 118.1 (Failure to appear or to attend), a trial by court martial and possibly a criminal conviction.
This is all in relationship to the summary hearings process. He went on to say:
Would “minor sanctions” be identical or quite similar to “minor punishments”? Most probably and, if so, the punishments of confinement to ship or barracks and extra work and drill raise concerns....COs can confine to ship or barracks for up to 21 days....This deprivation of liberty can be very strict and would be similar to conditional sentence of imprisonment (“house arrest”).
Since that would now be considered imprisonment through a summary hearing without actually having a court martial process, would the rights of that individual be violated by not having the right to a fair trial because it has been dealt with through the chain of command at a summary hearing?
Essentially, he is saying that house arrest or confinement to barracks is full incarceration as put by the Supreme Court of Canada.
I mentioned burden of proof earlier. Bill C-77 keeps the same sentencing objectives and principles as found in a criminal proceeding, most probably the same procedure for summary hearings as presently exists for summary trials in chapter 108 of the Queen's Regulations and Orders, and increases the punishment power, such as higher finds, of an officer conducting the hearing, while reducing the threshold of conviction from beyond a reasonable doubt to a balance of probabilities.
We had a lot of debate on the difference between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “a balance of probabilities”. I feel somewhat confident that the JAG officers who were present did a good job of explaining the difference and that through the regulations of Bill C-77, when we get to enacting those, coming through the gazetting process, we should be able to mitigate the charter challenge risk and ensure that the rights of those who have been charged will be considered appropriately.
Perron goes on to say:
Under C-77, the accused is liable to be sentenced to a more severe punishment...based on a lower threshold of conviction. The summary hearing under C-77 offers less protections to the accused than what was present in C-71 and what is actually present in the summary trial process.
Therefore, I stress for the minister that now that we heard a very similar concern raised by the Barreau du Québec along with Mr. Perron, we need to incorporate those concerns in the regulation process. We had assurances at committee that this would be done. We brought forward amendments that were not accepted at that stage on how we dealt with it. However, I was glad to see at least one of our amendments that would to clarify the rank structure on who could do a summary hearing and who would review which officers, or NCOs or other enlisted members.
The one thing, which we have already discussed, is that we never did get to fully debate paragraph 98(c), which deals with self-harm. It was ruled out of order by the chair, but I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for bringing it forward. We had Sheila Fynes and her family at committee. They lost their son Corporal Stuart Langridge to suicide in 2008. He served in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. They feel very passionate that paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act, which deals with self-harm, adds to the stigmatization, such that those who want to hurt themselves will not come forward for help because they could be charged under the National Defence Act and at the very least be put in front of a summary hearing or could get a full court martial.
We were assured by all the witnesses that this section of the National Defence Act is rarely ever used.
For those who are concerned about those who malign themselves, those who literally go out and shoot themselves in the foot so they do not have to be deployed or who purposely sprain an ankle so they do not have to go on an exercise and carry an 80-pound rucksack and march for 40 miles over the next day, those who try to avoid service, avoid exercises, who do not want to go into theatre, there are plenty of other avenues under the National Defence Act to hold those people to account and bring them to justice for not following orders.
However, when it comes down to the mental health of our servicemen and women who are suffering with PTSD, who are dealing with anxiety and have been in theatre and have witnessed some horrific abuses and atrocities and violations against humanity, those individuals need help, and the last thing we want to do is stigmatize it and send the message that they will be charged under paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act for self-harm.
I hope the minister will take this forward and consider it and find a way to bring it quickly back to the House in a different bill, if that is possible. I am sure he would get unanimous consent at all three stages to delete that section of the act. Since it was found to be outside the scope of Bill C-77, I would suggest that we find a different avenue to do it and that we do it as quickly as possible and as compassionately as possible and in a way that will more than help those who struggle with the thought of suicide to step forward.
We have an incredible Canadian Armed Forces. One thing that we recommended through the defence policy review a few years ago, which is reflected in the Liberal defence policy now, is that the number one source of pride within the Canadian Armed Forces is their personnel, and we want to ensure that we give them the tools to do their job. Whether they serve in the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy or the Royal Canadian Air Force, these brave men and women do incredible work to keep us safe here at home. They stand on guard 24/7. Written on the wall in NORAD, whether down in Colorado Springs or at its Canadian operations in Winnipeg, is a motto that says, “We Have The Watch”, and they are on the watch 24/7.
We often forget that there are all sorts of threats coming at us, whether airborne, seaborne or even potentially on the ground, and because we have troops deployed across this country and around the world, we are safer here at home because they are standing on the wall in places like Latvia, Mali and Ukraine, along with many other locations. They are ensuring that we can continue on with our business, oblivious to what is going on in the world and to potential threats such as cyber-hacking, knocking down our financial systems or our energy sector and blocking off our naval routes to ship our goods back and forth over the sea. Our economy, our safety and our prosperity are built upon us as Canadians, but more importantly, they are defended by those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.
On behalf of all Conservative members and all members of the House, I thank them for serving, because they keep us, the true north, strong and free.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, as I said in my speech, I appreciate the hard work the NDP defence critic, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, has done on this issue. I have talked to Sheila Fynes and to other family members and members of the Canadian Armed Forces who believe that paragraph 98(c) needs to be removed.
I know there is some concern to ensure that we balance those who would potentially harm themselves to stay out of service, whether on exercise or going into theatre—those who literally shoot themselves in the foot—versus those who are stigmatized because they need the help because of their mental health issues, such as PTSD and other operational stress injuries.
I will look at the member's private member's bill. I will work alongside any member in the House on how we can strengthen the military justice system while we destigmatize those who are dealing with the problem of self-harm.
What it comes down to is that we should work quickly and perhaps even task the Standing Committee on National Defence on how we could balance the concern of making sure those who are trying to avoid service are held to account versus those who are trying to hurt themselves and would commit suicide because they are dealing with operational stress injuries. I am here to work with anyone who wants to carry that forward.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I would draw the member's attention to the PBO report this week, which showed that the Liberals failed and broke their promise to bring back pensions for life. They missed it by about $20 billion. They are not even close.
Those who are the most injured as veterans will receive $300,000 less under the Liberals. The people who need the most help are getting less. That is not a record the member should be standing up and bragging about. Veterans across the country are incredibly upset with the broken promises from the Prime Minister and the government. It reflects that all we saw was electioneering. We did not see any compassion when it actually came to services for our veterans.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Kelowna for his input, his hard work on the finance committee and for standing up for veterans. It is something we have always done and will continue to do.
This legislation balances off the rights of the victim along with the rights of those who have been accused of conducting criminal activity, violating the code of service conduct or violating the Queen's Regulations and Orders. They would have the chance to appeal some of these decisions. They would always be treated fairly and with respect by the chain of command and by the Judge Advocate General.
Some of the concerns I raised were about making sure the burden of proof is dealt with through regulation. That issue has to be taken into consideration because it was raised by expert witnesses on the legal system. As well, we have to ensure things are put in place to protect those who are accused, just as we already now have the rights of the victims embedded into the National Defence Act.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend for that question. To be very clear, paragraph 98(c) should be eliminated. We need to make sure that those who malign themselves or malign others to avoid service—that is, not necessarily to self-harm but to harm themselves in order to stop being deployed, as an example—need to be dealt with in another part of the legislation. Maybe it could be through strengthening paragraphs 98(a) and 98(b).
It could be a two-tiered system. Paragraph 98(c), which is part of the problem with self-harm and the stigmatization that we see around mental health and suicide within the Canadian Armed Forces, needs to be eliminated. We had the chance to delete that clause, and unfortunately it was ruled out of order.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, the member did not listen very closely to my speech then, because I said in my speech that changes within Bill C-77 would increase the standards under the code of service conduct. Operation Honour would be better able to stomp out sexual misconduct and intolerance, whether it is racism, whether it is homophobia, whether it is violations against people based upon their sexual orientation, and it will also stomp out harassment. Bill C-77 would work all of that into the National Defence Act. It would provide greater power to the military justice system to take action in that area and support those in the chain of command as they execute Operation Honour.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
I am not going to do that, Madam Speaker.
I realize that the Liberal member spent a lot of time talking about indigenous members and the way the Canadian Armed Forces is trying to be more inclusive in bringing members of the Canadian Armed Forces through the recruitment process. I would like to get the member's ideas on how the Canadian Armed Forces can improve recruitment measures. I know that the programs we are running, such as bold eagle and black bear, have been very well received and well participated in out on the Prairies. Recruitment from those who have participated in those programs has been about 30%.
Could the member talk about how we could actually increase recruitment? Could the member also comment on how the Gladue decision of the Supreme Court has been incorporated into Bill C-77 to ensure that indigenous members of the Canadian Armed Forces are treated fairly?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments on standing up for those in the Canadian Armed Forces who are dealing with operational stress injuries, like PTSD. One of the things we have to do is destigmatize issues of mental health, especially for those who serve as our first responders.
We brought forward an amendment at committee that was unfortunately ruled out of order. It would have deleted paragraph 98(c) from the National Defence Act, which deals with self-harm. Under it, those who attempt suicide could actually be charged with a criminal offence and be court-martialled in the military justice system.
Would the member support finding an expeditious way to remove 98(c) on self-harm and make sure those who right now are too afraid to step forward with mental health issues because they are concerned they might be charged under the National Defence Act with malingering or self-harm get help? They are crying for help and we should do everything to make sure the rules, regulations and legislation get this right.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, for his great work on this bill. He is the associate shadow minister for national defence, and he sits on the national defence committee.
He heard a lot of testimony. In his speech, he raised the concern that no amendments were accepted by the government on the proposed new burden of proof and the balance of probabilities in the summary hearing process, which may be a charter right violation. We received some assurances from the JAG that it would work to put in place the right regulations to ensure that the balance of probabilities would be fair and charter compliant.
At committee, we heard from the Quebec bar and from retired court martial judge Lieutenant-Colonel Perron. Could my colleague speak to the testimony they brought to committee concerning how the proposed new burden of proof may violate the charter rights of those who have been convicted?
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