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View Karen Vecchio Profile
I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 20 of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
I know that many of you are online and some people are just getting online right now. We have a very important day and the time is tight.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Friday April 29, 2022, the committee will begin its clause-by-clause study of Bill C-233, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act (violence against an intimate partner).
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely, using the Zoom application.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of our witnesses and members. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike and please mute it when you are not speaking. For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of the screen of the floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
I would remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
Before we begin, I would like to welcome the Department of Justice officials who are here and will be discussing Bill C-233 with us. We have Shannon Davis-Ermuth, senior counsel in the criminal law and policy section of the policy sector; Claire Farid, director and general counsel in the family and children's law team of the policy sector; and Melissa Moor, counsel in the judicial affairs section of public law and legislative services.
We will be proceeding, but for some reason, Philippe, you are not in my introduction. I am sitting beside the legislative clerk, Philippe, who will keep this all in order and assist me with this if we have questions.
Because these were all confidential, there are some amendments that we may have questions on. You may want to ask one of the legal professionals about these, so that we can have a better understanding. I don't believe there are many lawyers in the room. I think we're all advocates for women and women's health.
We are going to proceed with clause-by-clause. I am going to move now to the agenda for clause-by-clause.
Do we have all of our members? I see Michelle and Shelby are on there. Fantastic.
Is Marc Serré here today?
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
No. I'm replacing him.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
I want to make sure we have everybody here today. This is fantastic.
Welcome to Mike Morrice as well.
We're going to be going clause-by-clause. I'm going to be honest. This is my first time doing clause-by-clause, so I'll be turning my head a lot to the legislative clerk to ensure that we're getting this piece of legislation right.
(On clause 1)
The Chair: I'm going to pass it over to Leah Gazan to introduce NDP-1.
View Leah Gazan Profile
I move that section 515 of the act be amended by adding the following after subsection (4.2):
(4.21) If the Attorney General requests that an accused who is charged with an offence against their intimate partner wear an electronic monitoring device, the Attorney General must take all reasonable measures to ensure that
(a) a device is available that makes the monitoring possible, regardless of the geographic area in which the accused has been directed to remain; and
(b) if the accused were to approach any place where any victim, witness or other person identified in an order made under subsection (2) might reasonably be found, emergency services would be available to provide any necessary assistance to that person.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Thank you very much.
We can now discuss that. If there's some background that you want to provide, Leah, on the reasoning for this amendment and what you think we should do, please provide it. Then we can open discussion of this and move forward.
Leah, would you like to provide any...?
View Leah Gazan Profile
Sure. In the committee meetings on this bill, one of the criticisms that was raised was access to this specific resource, meaning the electronic monitoring device. There were issues with when a person would be able to have an electronic device and if there were the appropriate supports in place to ensure that the individual were safe.
Those are the purposes of the amendment.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
I'm going to go through the speakers list. If you are online, put up your hand on the little thing.
Pam, I'll see you in the room.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
I want to start by acknowledging our chair, who is beyond outstanding and has really done tremendous work on this bill. I mean that sincerely. This is only the second bill that has ever come to the status of women committee, so it's groundbreaking for all of us to be here and making a difference.
I agree with everything Leah talked about. We did hear about it during testimony. The problem we have with the amendment is that when you talk about ensuring that emergency services would be available, we can't direct emergency services as a federal government. It's the same for the piece that delves into provincial-territorial jurisdiction.
I hope those watching this meeting—and I know there are many—are paying really close attention to the intent of what this committee wants, which is to make sure that we're keeping women safe. It's only a tool. We've all acknowledged that there are issues in rural, remote, and indigenous communities with access to the Internet. It's the same with access to emergency services. I suspect that the Justice officials would agree, if we were to ask them, that this is outside the scope of what we're able to do federally.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Next, I have on my list Andréanne, followed by Dominique, and then we'll ask for justice department support and advice.
Andréanne, please go ahead.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
Madam Chair, I would like to follow up on what Ms. Damoff said.
I think that officials and witnesses have told us that the application of this device is a provincial and Quebec responsibility. Everyone agrees that it's within provincial jurisdiction. So I'm trying to see how this amendment could realistically be applied. The Department of Justice officials could confirm whether this is feasible. In addition, I would like to know how this could be imposed on the Attorney General.
In short, we want to attach conditions to both what the Attorney General should do and how it should be done. In both cases, I think it doesn't pass the test.
At the moment there is money available. The network is expanding everywhere. The money has been transferred, at least for Quebec, and the Quebec government is working on the issue of connectivity and Internet access.
Unfortunately, I don't see how this amendment could be applied.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Dominique, the floor is yours.
View Dominique Vien Profile
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I do not see things quite the same way as my colleagues. Unless the legal experts say otherwise, I believe that the amendment is sound. It says: "… the Attorney General must take all reasonable measures to ensure that…” I see this as part of their recommendation. This must not be allowed to become unenforceable. The Attorney General will not recommend or request that an accused person wear a monitoring bracelet in a particular area if he or she knows that there is no Internet connection and that it will be impossible to use the device there. That is how I interpret it.
The Attorney General is not asked to ensure that all the necessary measures or arrangements are in place to enable the mechanism to function. I don't think that's what it's about.
Furthermore, as I have already mentioned, it seems to me that a judge cannot request that an accused person wear a monitoring bracelet. This request must come from the Attorney General.
Since the debate on this bill is coming to an end, I would like to be assured that this is the case. We have legal experts from the department here, and they have had a few days to think about this issue.
It is written in black and white that it is the Attorney General who must make the request. As far as I can see, it is not written anywhere that the judge can go ahead on their own without the Attorney General having requested it.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Excellent. I'm going to now ask for some legal advice, and then we'll come back to Michelle and Shelby.
Go ahead, Ms. Davis-Ermuth.
Shannon Davis-Ermuth
View Shannon Davis-Ermuth Profile
Shannon Davis-Ermuth
2022-05-13 13:09
Thank you very much. I'd be happy to speak to that.
I'll start with the last point first, because that's a question that I've heard come up over the course of some of the testimony you've heard from witnesses, namely, this question about whether the judge can only impose the condition if the Attorney General requests it.
That's not the case. Even if this bill were not to pass, it's still possible for judges to impose this condition.
Under the Criminal Code and the bail provisions, before a justice releases somebody who's held in custody, there are three reasons for detention they have to consider. They wouldn't release somebody if they had a concern that any of these things would not be protected if they released them. Those three factors they have to consider are whether or not the accused person will attend court; whether they can also detain them for the protection or safety of the public, including victims; and whether they can maintain confidence in the administration of justice.
Subsection 515(4) of the Criminal Code lists the most commonly applied conditions of bail, and two particular paragraphs under those lists—and these apply to any case—are paragraph (g), where justices can impose any condition that they consider “necessary to ensure the safety and security of any victim of or witness to the offence”. Under paragraph (h), they may impose any condition that they consider desirable.
The Criminal Code does already permit justices to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of release for any offence. What this bill proposes is that, in certain cases, it would mandate that a judge had to consider whether or not they should impose a condition of electronic monitoring.
That's the difference the bill makes. If it were to pass, and electronic monitoring is specific.... Right now, electronic monitoring itself is not mentioned by name in the bail conditions. It could be imposed if the judge felt that it were appropriate under the considerations they have to take into account, but it's not explicitly listed. This bill would explicitly list electronic monitoring as a condition that a judge would have to consider. In the way the bill is currently worded, any time there was an alleged offence before the judge where somebody was alleged to have committed an offence against an intimate partner, the judge would have to consider imposing this condition.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Okay, thank you.
I'm going to pass it to Michelle and then Shelby.
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