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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 Marc Lemay Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marc Lemay Profile
2009-06-02 13:00 [p.4054]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Brunswick because I will start exactly where he left off.
The fight against drugs, like all battles, must continue on several fronts. That is the problem with the Conservatives and unfortunately it is the trap into which the Liberals have fallen in supporting Bill C-15.
I will say from the outset that we will not support the NDP amendments. We too find that 200, 250 or 300 plants is a fair bit of trafficking. However, we at least were able to ensure that it does not apply to just one plant. They relented somewhat.
That is not the problem. The problem is that we are dealing with minimum prison sentences. The Conservatives have really understood absolutely nothing and will never understand until they are defeated. Perhaps then they will ask us questions in an attempt to understand. They will never understand that minimum sentences do not solve the problem of crime. I hope that I have said it clearly enough and without shouting. I know that they will not get it. I even spoke to the minister about it when he appeared before us. It does not solve the problem. He answered that there would be fewer criminals at large, but that is not true. Minimum prison sentences, and especially Bill C-15, will create many more problems.
This begins with a minimum six months jail sentence. I agree with this, and I will revisit this when we get to the in-depth debate. It is, however, important to stress that minimum prison terms do not solve problems, and never will. The proof of this is that the Conservatives have never been able to table a single study. I can table at least a dozen that demonstrate the opposite, and not from just anywhere either: from the United States, for example. The Conservatives take their cues from the U.S., so let them go and see what is happening there. There are also studies from Australia and New Zealand. They can speak and read English, so they should understand. In the U.S and in Australia, in northern Australia in particular, studies have been carried out since 1992 on legislation that imposes minimum prison terms. That is not just last week. The studies are clear, and I will read slowly to be sure they get it.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism...
I think I will repeat it. These are not my words, they all come from studies.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism... In the end, public safety is more compromised than protected if the courts lock people up and throw away the key.
That is exactly what they are doing. Getting rid of them, locking them up for as long as possible, thanking heavens that they are not getting back out too frequently. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work. I have a little news bulletin for them. They have not been inside a penitentiary for a long time. I do not want to hear that this one was a police officer for 15 years, others Crown prosecutors. They need to have been inside a prison. I can organize a guided tour if they like. We will show them how things work. Not the way they would like them to.
Unfortunately for them, inmates eventually come out. That is where the problem lies. Mandatory minimum sentencing solves nothing. The problem is not when they go to jail—I repeat, not when they are going in—but when they come out.
In other words, they get out too fast. The men—since 90% of the time it is men who serve prison sentences, and the majority of my clients were men—get out too fast. When a judge carefully studies a case, pronounces a sentence and tells the individual before him that he deserves three years in prison, and then eight months later meets that man on the street, we have a problem.
The problem that the Conservatives have yet to understand is that, even if they impose a minimum prison sentence, these men and women will be entitled to parole. Even if an individual is given a three-year sentence, it is not certain that he will serve a minimum of three years. No. The suggestion is for a three-year sentence. What will happen in prison if this is the individual’s first conviction? Suppose he is a good sort who causes no problems? Right: he will be released after serving one third of his sentence.
Those in this chamber who know how to count know that 36 months divided by three gives 12 months. There is no program. Those who know and are following this, apart from the Conservatives who know nothing, should realize that less than 12 months in a penitentiary is not enough time to work with the individual. Why? Because the individual is sentenced to 36 months, but he does not go straight to prison. He goes to a federal reception centre, where he spends three to four months having his case analyzed to see what can be done with him.
The Conservatives do not understand that the problem is not with the highly criminalized individuals. That is not just my opinion. Studies say that the problem is that this does not target the most notorious and most dangerous offenders, who are already subject to very strict sentences, precisely because of the nature of their crimes.
This means that someone who goes around with a gun selling drugs has to serve, from the outset, a sentence of three years. He is sentenced to three years. On top of that is the sentence for trafficking narcotics. Those who tell me they want to get traffickers off the street are correct on this point, perfectly correct. Everyone wants to get traffickers away from schools. However, we can look at the definition in the bill with respect to an individual trafficking near schools. I can guarantee—and I say this honestly—that bad laws make good lawyers rich. Some will become rich thanks to the laws that the Conservative Party wants passed, particularly this Bill C-15. I will give another example. This bill will have a disproportionate impact on minority groups in Canada that are already suffering poverty and privation.
The aboriginal peoples are a good example. Look at the west. There must be a few Conservatives who come from the west. They should go see what is happening in the western prisons, how many aboriginal people are there compared with the rest of the population. They might realize that there may be a problem somewhere. This is what they do not understand.
I have only a minute left, so I will speak quickly. Being tough on crime has never solved anything. Yes, sentences are necessary and criminals have to be taken off the street. However, I repeat: the problem is not when they go into prison, it is when they get out. Let them serve their sentences. The Minister of Public Safety should explain why he is not proposing a bill to amend the Conditional Release Act. That is where the problem is. The judges who pass sentences have taken the trouble to analyze their cases. I tell you that criminal activity is not going to be resolved with this bill. In fact this bill is going to increase it.
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