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View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
2018-11-20 16:42 [p.23636]
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 John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McCallum Profile
2011-11-29 13:37 [p.3727]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the rising opposition to Bill C-10, which is perhaps best characterized as the Conservatives' most recent piece of dumb on crime legislation.
Our understanding of crime and the appropriate way to handle those who transgress the rules of our society has evolved over the past 400 years. We have moved from a time when criminality was commonly associated with witchcraft to a society that far better understands the root causes of crime and better ways to handle criminals.
I am truly dismayed to see the government completely ignore the work being done on these important topics. It seems to be taking us back to the middle ages. That is not just empty rhetoric. Why do I say that they are taking us back to the middle ages?
First, it is obvious that the government cares not a whit about policies to fight the ultimate cause of crime. Second, it does not care about deterrence. If it did, it would have paid attention to a recent study by its own Department of Justice that was released a week or so ago, which provided evidence that longer sentences are not an effective deterrent to crime. Indeed, the results from that study are consistent with international evidence on the topic.
If the government does not care about fighting the ultimate cause of crime, if it does not care about deterrence, what is left? The only thing the government cares about is the principle of retribution or vengeance, and that is why I make the statement that it is taking us back to the middle ages.
The notion of fighting the underlying causes of crime is not at all important to the Conservatives. At the same time, for the reasons I just explained, the principle of deterrence also appears irrelevant to the Conservatives. All that matters to them is the principle of retribution or revenge. In that sense, this bill takes us back to the Middle Ages.
Nobody in the House would deny that protecting the citizens of Canada from harm is the most important objective of government. In fact, the government is granted a monopoly on the use of force for just that purpose, but with that power comes the responsibility to act in an appropriate manner that benefits society.
Our country was founded on the principles of peace, order and good government, and good government means examining all the facts and opinions. It means talking to experts and making public policy decisions that are based on evidence, not knee-jerk ideological desires. Good government also means respecting Parliament's role in public policy debates.
My opposition to this bill stems from its ineffective and ideological nature, and from the government's inability or unwillingness to work with Parliament on this major issue of public policy. I can already hear that familiar refrain from the other side, soft on crime, soft on victims' rights.
Victims' rights and crime are very important and I find the constant use of victims as a shield for this ideologically-driven agenda to be offensive. I believe nobody in the House is opposed to supporting victims of crime. To suggest otherwise is simply insulting to the intelligence of Canadians.
Indeed, I might mention the case earlier today regarding my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, when he presented amendments that would strengthen the provisions in this bill to support victims of terrorism and add to the remedies against those who commit terrorist acts. It seems the government is not going to accept that amendment, but that is a concrete example of Liberals supporting remedies for those who are victims of crime or terrorism.
What does it mean to support victims of crime? It must certainly mean doing our best to ensure that crime does not happen in the first place or that those who break our laws should be treated in a way that will minimize recidivism. That is how we stand up for victims, by working to ensure that we reduce crime as much as possible and also through measures such as proposed by my colleague from Mount Royal.
I have spoken about the Conservatives' crime agenda in general, but I also want to spend some time on this bill in particular. My primary concern with this bill is that it is fundamentally ineffective. According to Statistics Canada, crime is going down both in volume and severity. This should be trumpeted as a success. Crime is going down. Is that not our objective? When the government should be saying the evidence is saying its policies work, it instead says it does not believe the statistics. It claims the numbers do not matter, but they do matter. For the benefit of my colleagues on the other side of this place, I will go over a few of the facts that they choose to ignore.
As I said before, crime is down. Locking people up for longer does not necessarily make them less likely to reoffend, as I said just a few minutes ago. That is confirmed by a very recent study by the Department of Justice that was acquired through access to information. When we are dealing with young offenders, the negative effects of prison are only multiplied.
What the government needs to understand is that this is not just Liberal nonsense or lefty soft on crime rhetoric. Look at our neighbours to the south. The U.S. incarceration rate is 700% higher than ours. It has very nearly reached a point where fully 1% of the U.S. population is in prison. What does that mean for the U.S.? It means it continues to have higher crime rates than we do. It continues to spend billions more on prisons that we do. Some states, such as California, actually spend more on prisons than they spend on schools. Prisons are not the perfect solution to crime. That is simply outdated 18th century thought and nothing more.
For many criminals, prisons have not proven the palaces of reform that the Conservatives promise they will be. For many, it is simply a school for crime. Our prison system is already at its limit. This plan to dump thousands of new offenders into the system will simply break it. Low level offenders will enter the system after convictions for petty crimes and will leave having made new criminal connections and having learned the skills of the trade. That should never be the outcome of our justice system.
Despite all of this tough talk, one of the things we will not hear the Conservatives talking about during this debate is the mental health of our prisoners. It is widely understood by those who study crime that mental health issues are one of the biggest driving factors of criminal behaviour. Taking care of the mentally ill among us has been a failure of all levels of government for decades now.
As of 2007, 12% of the federal male prison population had a diagnosed mental illness. That is a 71% increase over 1997 and those figures are even worse for female inmates. Our prisons are not supposed to be substitute mental hospitals. In fact, I struggle to find a worse place for a mentally ill person.
Currently, aboriginals are incarcerated at a rate nine times that of non-aboriginal people. I believe that is simply unacceptable. Like most prisoners, they are in prison for non-violent property or drug offences. Time and time again we have seen that the solution to this vicious cycle is not more prisons.
I have covered some of the negative social costs of this dumb on crime agenda, but it is also important to talk about the fiscal costs.
The opposition has been asking the government for detailed cost estimates for its crime agenda. We have received nothing from the government except empty rhetoric. This is unacceptable. Parliamentarians are both policy-makers and the ultimate keepers of the public purse. We have a right to know the costs of the legislation that we are asked to support.
There is another consideration, and I will borrow a term from American politics: unfunded mandate. Yes, there will be significant federal costs, but we cannot ignore the impact these changes will have on provincial governments. These legislative changes, taken in concert with previous changes, will lead to many new provincial inmates at costs borne solely by the provinces.
The government has shown little respect for Parliament and its role, and it is also showing very little respect for provincial governments and their budgets.
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