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View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2018-11-20 15:24 [p.23625]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise and speak to Bill C-75, which represents a package of bold and comprehensive reforms. This is not the first time that I have spoken to this significant piece of legislation. I did have the opportunity to comment on it previously in my former capacity as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and the attorney general of Canada.
I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to a number of people who have contributed to Bill C-75. First, obviously, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for her leadership. I would also like to thank members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their close study of the bill, and all of the stakeholders and contributors who through their testimony before committee and their written submissions provided for a very rigorous and thoughtful study of this bill.
Having had the benefit of reviewing those submissions and some of the testimony and seeing the hard work and contributing to it myself by participating in round tables around the country, consulting with stakeholders in conjunction with the Minister of Justice, I am confident in saying that Bill C-75 is a momentous piece of legislation. When it becomes law, it will improve our overall criminal justice system.
I also want to thank the thousands of people who work within our criminal justice system day in and day out, law enforcement, police, members of the judiciary, and all the social services which are wrapped around the criminal justice system. Having worked in it myself for over a decade, I can say without any hesitation that these are individuals who care about protecting our community while also offering the prospect and opportunity for people who find themselves caught within the criminal justice system to reform and to rehabilitate, which is a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system, especially as it relates to our sentencing processes.
There is obviously more to do. The Supreme Court of Canada put into very sharp focus the task that is ahead of us as a result of some of the ongoing challenges which the criminal justice system is confronted with every day. What are those challenges? They range from, obviously, the overrepresentation of marginalized individuals, in particular, members of the racialized community, as well as our indigenous peoples. Far too often, for reasons that are not their fault but rather a result of the systemic challenges which they face on an individual basis as well as the collective challenges that communities face, they find themselves caught in the web of the criminal justice system.
We need to be very candid with ourselves about what those challenges look like. We see overrepresentation of racialized members as well as indigenous peoples in our jails right across the country.
We also know there is an under-representation of those very same groups within the legal profession and within the judiciary. The work that the Minister of Justice has undertaken in appointing a judiciary which is more reflective of the diversity of this great country is in part a sincere effort to address that challenge. Having spoken with many members right across the continuum of our society, I can say that we have made progress, but there is still more work to do.
I also would note that the Supreme Court of Canada in Jordan did point out quite rightly and quite justifiably that there are serious concerns when it comes to delay, court delay in particular, and if not addressed, a denial of the right to have a trial within a reasonable period of time can amount to an infringement of a person's rights under the charter, particularly under section 11(b) of the charter. It was incumbent upon all of us in the words of the Supreme Court to address the culture of complacency which for far too long has shackled our ability to address delay.
Having had the benefit of reflection and having had the benefit of consultation and discourse in the context of Bill C-75, we now have a suite of reforms which will not solve all of the problems, but certainly will begin to dramatically rewire and hopefully create a criminal justice system, a set of processes, which will allow people to have access to justice, have the right to have their day in court, and begin that path to rehabilitation which is so important in order to create communities which are strong, resilient and safe.
I will now highlight some of the important components of Bill C-75, much of which has been debated for quite some time now in this House and at committee. Eventually, the bill will make its way over to the other place and then back.
It begins at the very start of the criminal justice system process when an individual is arrested and is brought before the court for his or her first appearance. It is at that moment the court is then asked to determine whether that person should be released or detained pending his or her trial.
We have enshrined a principle of restraint in Bill C-75, the point of which is to ensure that justice actors who are appearing in court, either representing the Crown or the defence or in their capacity as duty counsel, are not automatically overburdening judicial interim release orders with conditions which essentially are a prescription for reoffending and failure. Rather, through this principle of restraint, we are encouraging all of the parties who are involved in the determination of bail to assess the conditions which are necessary to address one of the three statutory grounds on which an individual is released.
From the perspective of the primary grounds, if the person is a flight risk, what are the conditions that are necessary to secure the person's ongoing attendance before the court? On the secondary grounds, is there a serious risk of reoffending? What are the conditions that are necessary for the purposes of ensuring that the community's concerns are addressed on secondary grounds? Obviously, under the tertiary grounds, we question whether there are additional conditions which are required to maintain the public's confidence in the administration of justice. Again, we look for some nexus between what are the conditions which are being asked for by either party and their advancement of the tertiary ground concerns.
We have, through the principle of restraint, really fostered a much more responsible approach. This is about addressing the culture of the criminal justice system right from the get-go, once a person is implicated with charges at the bail stage.
We have also, in the context of Bill C-75, introduced a suite of reforms that will, hopefully, reduce the number of administration of justice offences which are in the system. Looking at the statistics which are available right across the country, we see, for example in the province of Ontario, that over 40% of the charges in the provincial court system, the Ontario Court of Justice, could be classified under the administration of justice offences.
We are looking to find alternative ways to address potential breaches through the principle of restraint, to actually reduce the likelihood that there will be an unnecessary technical charge which is unrelated to the underlying substantive offence, but also to introduce a concept called judicial referral hearings, where even if there is a legitimate breach, to look for other ways to address it, short of introducing an entire set of new charges.
I would also point out that Bill C-75 addresses intimate partner violence. This is something that I heard very personally and I know the minister did as well in our round tables. There is the need to address the systemic barriers which for far too long have prevented victims from coming forward. How are we doing that? In the case of repeat offenders, people who have been convicted in the past of sexual offences or offences related to intimate partner violence, to put the onus on them to determine whether they should be entitled to bail, and also to look for additional factors to be taken into consideration.
At the back end there are more tools available both to the prosecutor as well as to the court to determine what is the appropriate sentence by lifting the maximum sentences available, again for repeat offenders. That, coupled with the investments which we are making in the victims fund, by looking at other ways in which we can make it easier for victims to be able to come forward to ensure that they are heard, to ensure that they have a voice in the system, is absolutely crucial in order to ensure that there is access to justice.
These are just some of the highlights in Bill C-75. Again, there is no one simple solution to solving all of the challenges which the criminal justice system is confronted with.
I rise with great pride to speak on behalf of the bill. I urge all members to support it. At the end of the day, it will bring the criminal justice system into the 21st century and therefore be a great service to our country.
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2018-05-29 11:41 [p.19786]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
I will describe how our government is taking action to ensure that a clean environment and a strong economy go together, including our support for the global 2030 agenda for sustainable development, and our work with provinces, territories, indigenous people, and international partners to address climate change.
I will go on to discuss how Bill C-57 would support our strong commitment to sustainability and how the proposed changes, including clause 5, would contribute to more effective, inclusive, and accountable sustainable development strategies in the future.
Bill C-57 is about advancing sustainable development in Canada. This is a top priority for our government. We have always maintained that a clean environment and a strong economy can and must go hand in hand in the modern world. The well-being of Canada's future generations depend on it.
We face serious challenges, including the continued threat of global climate change. Canadians are already experiencing the effects of a warming planet, from wildfires that rage longer and harsher than ever before to thinning sea ice in the Arctic to rising sea levels that threaten communities from coast to coast to coast.
Our federal sustainable development strategy demonstrates our commitment to the 2030 agenda, with 13 aspirational goals that are a Canadian reflection of the global sustainable development goals. Its specific medium-term targets, short-term milestones, and actions show how we will implement the 2030 agenda's environmental dimensions over a three-year period.
The amendments to the act would support future strategies that would continue to align the goals and reporting of the federal sustainable development strategy with the 2030 agenda, ensuring that Canadians could see a comprehensive picture of our sustainable development priorities and complementing national action to advance the 2030 agenda. This includes, crucially, amendments to clause 5, which seek to ensure that the federal government strategy reflects the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives in Canada.
We are taking effective action to realize our vision of a clean environment, a strong economy, and a better quality of life for all Canadians. Much is being done, but more progress is needed to meet the challenge of sustainable development and to take advantage of its opportunities.
Bill C-57 would make important improvements to the sustainability approach established by the 2008 Federal Sustainable Development Act, which requires the government to prepare and report on sustainable development strategies. It would make these strategies more effective, inclusive, and accountable, accelerating our progress toward a more sustainable Canada.
I would like to take this opportunity now to share the specific amendments proposed in Bill C-57.
First, the bill proposes a new purpose which clarifies that the focus of the act and the federal sustainable development strategy is sustainable development, not only the environment. It would shift the act's focus to driving action in improving Canadians' quality of life, not just planning and reporting. It would specify that the federal sustainable development strategy must respect Canada's domestic and international obligations. Bill C-57 would also add a number of principles to the act and guide our whole-of-government strategy and the strategies of each federal department and agency, for example, the principle of intergenerational equity, which is clearly at the root of the concept of sustainable development.
Under the current act, all departments or agencies must develop strategies that are consistent with and contribute to the federal sustainable development strategy. Bill C-57 would continue this dynamic as more than 90 federal government organizations would work together and act in a coordinated manner to achieve common goals.
The bill would also support our government's commitment to an inclusive approach to sustainability by strengthening the advisory council on sustainable development. Under clause 5, the number of aboriginal peoples on the council would be increased from three to six, and the council would have a clear mandate to advise on the issue of sustainable development. It also seeks to reflect the diversity of Canadian society by taking into account demographic considerations, such as age and gender, when appointing representatives to the sustainable development advisory council. This would increase the degree to which the council would reflect the diversity of Canadian society and increase transparency.
Finally, and most critical, it would strengthen the government's accountability for achieving concrete, meaningful, sustainable development results.
For the government to be held accountable, we need strong targets, targets that are measurable and include a clear time frame for their achievement. Bill C-57 proposes to ensure that future strategies will continue to clearly set out what the government aims to achieve and when. This will enable Canadians to closely track whether the government has met its commitments.
Taking into account these improvements, how will Bill C-57 support greater progress toward our vision for sustainable development in Canada? Quite simply, through better sustainable development strategies that focus on results and reflect the priorities of Canadians.
What does this mean in practice? It means that future strategies will continue to include goals and targets that will take into account that our efforts today will affect the quality of life of Canadians tomorrow. It means that ministers and organizations across the federal government, more than ever before, will contribute to developing sustainable development strategies, and will work together with our partners to put them into action. It also means that future strategies will benefit from a clear shared understanding of the breadth of actions that will contribute to achieving sustainable development, not only protecting the environment but also protecting health, promoting equity, and conserving cultural heritage.
Future strategies will also continue to benefit from engagement with indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians. We saw the importance of this in the development of the current federal sustainable development strategy. Comments received through public consultations helped make our plan more aspirational, more measurable, and more inclusive.
Bill C-57 is important and significant legislation that supports our government's strong commitment to sustainable development. It would improve all aspects of the government's sustainable development approach, from developing and consulting on our sustainable development strategies to implementing them to achieving and reporting on results.
I would like to once again thank the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for their ideas, their commitment, and their collaboration. As I have described, their work has resulted in significant improvements to Bill C-57. With their contributions, the bill would provide a more effective and inclusive framework for advancing sustainable development in Canada.
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