Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:46 [p.18533]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege. It is indeed the same question of privilege my colleague from Avalon raised in the House on June 5 related to the rights of certain members to sit and vote in the House while in violation of certain provisions of the Canada Elections Act.
I would first state that I agree unequivocally with the arguments put forward by both my colleague from Avalon and my colleague the member for Winnipeg North.
Second, I understand that you, Mr. Speaker, have had a chance to consider all of the arguments with respect to this question of privilege and that you may be prepared to rule on that question of privilege.
I am rising is to tell you and my colleagues that I think it is important for the House to understand that our colleague from Avalon is not in Ottawa today, because he had the happy news this morning, at 9:55 a.m., of the birth of his second son Isaac Andrews.
I am glad that colleagues join me in congratulating our colleague from Avalon and his wife Susan on the birth of Isaac. Therefore, they will understand that he is in St. John's today and is not available to hear your ruling on this matter.
For this reason, I rise today, in essence, to resubmit the question of privilege raised by my colleague on June 5. I will spare you, Mr. Speaker, and the House the pleasure of hearing those arguments again. I would ask that you rule on the matter today if you are prepared to do so. If you are prepared to rule on the matter, Mr. Speaker, and you do find a prima facie breach of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 14:23 [p.18540]
Mr. Speaker, Saulie Zajdel, a former Conservative candidate and employee, has been arrested for corruption that was allegedly committed prior to the 2011 election.
A security check should have identified Mr. Zajdel as a potential risk. However, the Conservatives decided to give him a job paid by Canadian taxpayers.
Why did the minister hire someone with such a dubious past as that of Mr. Zajdel, at taxpayers' expense?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 14:24 [p.18540]
Mr. Speaker, the culture of corruption is so deep in the Prime Minister's Office that now two of his ex-chiefs of staff are facing RCMP investigations with respect to potential criminal behaviour involving legislators and other government officials.
The question must be asked: What does the Prime Minister ask his chiefs of staff to do that ends them in a police investigation and facing possible jail time?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 14:26 [p.18540]
Mr. Speaker, Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy, Saulie Zajdel, Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter: the Prime Minister clearly likes to surround himself with men of conviction. In Bruce Carson's case, I think he has five.
When did the Prime Minister decide that to work for him, one must either have a criminal record or be willing to obtain one?
View Yvon Godin Profile
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-18 14:47 [p.18544]
gmailMr. Speaker, the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is probing the Conservatives' mismanagement of the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation.
Chief executive officer John Lynn is under investigation for hiring four employees with ties to the Minister of National Defence and the Conservative Party.
The bilingualism requirement was removed and the positions were not even posted. Why is the Minister of Defence using the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation to find jobs for his friends?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:38 [p.18553]
Mr. Speaker, based on your ruling of a prima facie case of privilege, I move:
That the matter of the question of privilege raised by the Member from Avalon be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:39 [p.18553]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking you for having studied this important issue. It is clear that you looked closely at any precedents as well as House procedure, and we thank you for your careful consideration of this question.
I think all members will acknowledge, and the Speaker's ruling makes it clear, that this is not an easy situation, and it is one for which not many precedents exist. I think a great deal of merit has been given to the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the member for Avalon.
Mr. Speaker, you have obviously given a great deal of attention to the interventions of other colleagues on this question of privilege, and for that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you profoundly.
The issue has been and continues to be, from our perspective, the issue of members of Parliament having earned the right to take their seats in this House. Those of us who are privileged enough to represent our constituents in this great democratic assembly also have the obligation to arrive in this place having followed every single section, every principle and every precedent of the Canada Elections Act and the various court cases over the years that have interpreted the application of Canada's electoral legislation.
This is a relatively simple concept. Every voter has the right to vote in a fair election. The person who wins the most votes wins the privilege of representing their constituents in the House of Commons.
However, the election itself still needs to be fair, fair to all of the parties and all of the candidates who are running. When a candidate chooses to flout election rules, the vote is, by definition, unfair. Democracy pays the price.
As I stated earlier, I think, and I agree with the Speaker, that the procedure and House affairs committee of the House of Commons is the place for members to properly understand the application of the Canada Elections Act and also the rights and privileges of members of this House to sit, debate and vote with colleagues who arrive here having followed all of the prescriptions of the Canada Elections Act.
I think it would be instructive, as we begin a debate on this very important matter, for my colleagues to be reminded of subsection 463(2) of the Canada Elections Act, which my colleague from Avalon raised, which says:
An elected candidate who fails to provide a document as required by section 451 or 455 or fails to make a correction as requested under subsection 457(2) or authorized by 458(1) shall not continue to sit or vote as a member until they are provided or made, as the case may be.
I would draw attention to the words “shall not”. The legislation, from our perspective, is unambiguous. It is prescriptive. It does not say “may not”. It does not say “might not”. It says “shall not”.
That is why, Mr. Speaker, you were in the difficult position of having to reconcile that section of our election legislation with other sections that provide, for other offences or other non-compliance measures, an opportunity to seek a judicial review before the appropriate court of competent jurisdiction.
That is why we will continue to ask—and we will repeat our demands—that any member who does not comply with the law be stripped of the right to vote and sit in the House.
If, after the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has looked into the matter, the House concludes that in a specific case the member should have the right to sit in the House, the House of Commons has that power and privilege.
However, for the moment, the House has not ruled on this matter. That is why we continue to have serious concerns about the member's right to sit and vote in the House after having received an official letter from the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the section cited.
The statute passed by the House, the Canada Elections Act, is very clear. It says that members who are not compliant with the act shall not sit and vote. This is the case, as we now know, with respect to at least one member of the Conservative Party, the member for Selkirk—Interlake.
If the House, in its wisdom, chooses to stay this proceeding, having been informed by the Speaker, as you have just done, of the receipt of this communication, and it allows colleagues to continue to sit and vote, that is properly a privilege and right of the House. However, as we stand here today, we are in the absence of that opinion from the House.
Whether the law was well drafted, desirable for some Conservative MPs, pleasant, agreeable or nice, it is very clear: those members for whom an official communication has been received by the Speaker shall not sit or vote.
Once the procedure and House affairs committee, I hope at an early opportunity, is seized of this matter following your ruling, and I hope, following a vote in the House, it is our intention to continue the argument that in the absence of a decision by the House to the contrary, the legitimacy of these members is unquestioned. That comes directly from statutory authority, in the Canada Elections Act.
To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for your ruling. I believe that you have taken the time to reflect. You spoke about the difficult situation that you find yourself in because this is setting a precedent.
I do not disagree. Obviously, I would not disagree with the Speaker. I do not disagree in terms of the procedure and House affairs committee's role in this. However, I would ask colleagues, and we will ask our colleagues on the committee, to reflect on this question: In the absence of a decision by the House, as you correctly noted in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, how legitimate is it for members to sit and vote in the House when they have been subject to a communication under that section of the Elections Act, which is prescriptive?
If the House wants to change the elections legislation and that section of the Canada Elections Act, there is a procedure to amend that statute. We are obviously waiting. The government has talked often about making amendments to the Canada Elections Act. It does not seem to be in a big hurry to do so, although it has perhaps briefed the Conservative caucus, in its horror, on allegedly toughening up the elections legislation. It has since run for cover.
If Parliament wants to amend the act, that is a separate issue from the application of the current legislation to members who were elected in the general election of 2011. That should properly be the subject of the discussion in the House this afternoon.
I hope that my colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee will act forthwith to rectify what is an untenable situation for the members themselves, who are subject to this communication, for the Chair himself, who received this communication, and for members of the House, who we believe have not had their privileges respected because of the continued presence of members who have not complied with the Canada Elections Act.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:52 [p.18555]
Mr. Speaker, the question and comment of my colleague from Toronto—Danforth reminded me of his rather loquacious intervention that he made with respect to this question of privilege. He raises the nub of the issue from our perspective.
My colleague from Scarborough, in a conversation, said that perhaps we were looking for some sort of interim relief, some sort of temporary relief pending either, ultimately, the disposition by the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba or a decision of the House with respect to whether the member for Selkirk—Interlake should continue to sit and vote. From our perspective, the prudent thing would be for the member not to sit and vote, because as I said, the legislation is prescriptive. It does not say “may” or ”might”, it says “shall”. We think the legislation is very clear.
In the absence of either a court decision that the House chooses to enforce or a decision of the House itself, the member for Selkirk—Interlake should not be sitting or voting during proceedings of the House.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:54 [p.18555]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Ottawa—Vanier because he has asked the same question that gave us pause when my colleague from Avalon rose earlier. We are faced with an untenable situation. A number of members—or in this case, at least one member—is the subject of a letter that was sent to you, Mr. Speaker. We do not believe that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs should take the summer to reflect and make a decision regarding this issue, and then report to the House of Commons.
As far as the member for Selkirk-Interlake is concerned—and I can certainly put myself in his shoes—it is a displeasing and untenable situation for him to be in, too. I am sure that he hopes that the House will make a decision as quickly as possible in regards to this matter.
In your decision, you invited the committee to consider another procedure and clarify the rules of the House. Obviously, that is an important process, but perhaps it is not as important as immediately deciding the status of a member of Parliament who is the subject of a letter addressed to you.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:57 [p.18556]
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the House leader of the official opposition, on the two essential points he made.
This is a pattern of difficulty complying with elections legislation. We could go back to the in-and-out scandal where the Conservative Party ended up pleading guilty to a serious election offence. There is a long list, a direct line from these offences to the current situation in which some members find themselves. I share his view that it is a pattern of disrespect for election legislation.
I also share his view that the House should take the time to pronounce itself and to consider this matter thoroughly and completely. These issues have precedence over other matters before the House. I hope we can hear from colleagues on all sides of the House.
It would certainly be our intention to participate in what I hope is a full and substantive debate, starting this afternoon, on this matter. Once the House votes, ultimately, and once the debate is finished and no member rises to speak, then the procedure and House affairs committee can consider its work. However, until that time, we are looking forward to hearing interventions from many members.
View Yvon Godin Profile
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-18 16:49 [p.18558]
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I remember Brian Mulroney not paying his taxes on $250,000, and he was the Prime Minister of this country.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Robert Goguen Profile
Mr. Speaker, some of the comments that have been made would lead the public to believe the system has been radically changed because all of a sudden there has been a high-risk designation. The member previous asked a question about the timeliness of this and the failure to bring this through quickly resulting in greater victimization, greater harm to victims who had to go through a yearly process every year.
Could the minister comment on the fact that bringing this forth will somehow take away the victimization of victims having to go annually each year to hear the evidence again and relive the trauma of what has caused the death of loved ones. Would the minister agree with me that there is a compulsion to treat not only the victims by permitting them to heal by giving a longer period before the review of NCR individuals and also the treatment of the NCR period when it is found reasonably necessary to treat them for a longer period and lengthening the period of time before they are reviewed?
My point is that there is treatment not only for the victims who are permitted a cure and a longer period of time before the review and also a substantial period of treatment for a longer period of those who are found on the balance of probability need a longer period of treatment before they are reintegrated. The key is not being thrown away. We are giving them treatment. Would you agree with that, minister?
View Robert Goguen Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of private member's Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing this important piece of legislation.
The purpose of Bill C-452 is essentially to step up the criminal justice system's response to human trafficking, one of the most odious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.
It is generally acknowledged that trafficking in persons occurs in three stages: the recruitment, transportation and accommodation of a person for a specific purpose; exploitation, usually sexual exploitation; and forced labour. The existence of one of these factors is enough for a person's conduct to constitute the crime of trafficking in persons. A person who recruits a victim for the purpose of exploiting that person is engaged in human trafficking to the same degree as someone who transports or houses a victim for that purpose.
Traffickers force victims to work or provide services in circumstances in which they believe that any refusal on their part would threaten their safety or that of a person they know. The expression “labour or a service” includes, for example, all types of sexual services, domestic services, agricultural work and factory work.
Victims suffer physical, sexual and psychological violence and face threats of violence against family members, including violence or threats of physical violence that may be carried out.
A crime this serious requires that more rigorous measures be taken in criminal law. My colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, has introduced two bills to combat these reprehensible crimes. We must all stand up and help the victims of human trafficking.
I see that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made amendments to this bill. I believe my colleague who introduced the bill is of the view that those amendments contribute to the bill's main objectives, particularly those of making offenders accountable for their acts, providing for penalties that reflect the seriousness of the crime and ensuring that offenders do not reap the benefits of their unlawful acts.
Before commenting on the specific proposals contained in the bill and explaining why I believe they deserve to be supported, I would like to put them in context. This bill would make it possible to expand the exhaustive framework of statutory provisions against trafficking in persons.
In 2005, three specific human trafficking offences were added to the Criminal Code. In 2010, a new offence of trafficking in children was adopted when Bill C-268 sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul was enacted. An offender convicted of that offence is liable to mandatory minimum penalties when trafficking victims are under 18 years of age.
In 2012, another bill sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul granted extraterritorial jurisdiction over all Criminal Code trafficking offences and created a tool to assist the courts in interpreting the human trafficking provisions.
In addition, section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits transnational trafficking in persons, and many acts related to trafficking in persons, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, to cite only a few examples, are offences under the Criminal Code.
However, it is possible to do more. Bill C-452 provides, first of all, for the creation of an evidentiary presumption that would help prosecutors establish that trafficking in persons has been committed. We know that victims are vulnerable and that they fear their traffickers. That means that they may well be reluctant to testify, and we understand that.
The presumption would allow prosecutors to establish the commission of the offence of trafficking in persons by submitting evidence that an accused lives with or is habitually in the company of a person who is exploited.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended this proposal to make it compatible with other similar presumptions currently set out in the Criminal Code, particularly subsection 212(3), which establishes a presumption for the purposes of procuring provisions, namely paragraph 212(1)(j), and subsections 212(2) and 212(2.1).
Prosecutors also find it difficult to establish that the offence was committed because victims in these situations are often too afraid of their pimps to testify against them.
In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutional validity of this presumption in R. v. Downey. The final submissions of the majority are significant and directly relevant to trafficking in persons:
Prostitutes are a particularly vulnerable segment of society. The cruel abuse they suffer inflicted by their parasitic pimps has been well documented. The impugned section is aimed not only at remedying a social problem but also at providing some measure of protection for the prostitute by eliminating the necessity of testifying.
Surely the same considerations apply to the victims of human trafficking.
Bill C-452 also provides that a sentence handed down for an offence involving trafficking in persons shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for another offence arising out of the same event or series of events. Establishing mandatory consecutive sentencing sends a clear message: committing an offence leads to a long prison term. Is this not a message we want to send to the perpetrators of human trafficking offences? There are few crimes that deserve such lengthy sentences. I applaud this proposal.
Bill C-452 would also require an offender to prove that his property does not constitute proceeds of crime for the purposes of the Criminal Code forfeiture provisions. Trafficking in persons necessarily involves profiting from the suffering of others. In fact, global revenues generated by this crime are estimated at some $10 U.S. billion a year. That is unacceptable.
Trafficking in persons is thus one of the three most lucrative organized crime activities. We must ensure that traffickers are not allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. It is essential that we strip them of the monetary benefits they derive from the exploitation of others so that the public can trust in the justice system's ability to hold offenders accountable for their actions and to bring them to justice. Justice is not served if an offender is allowed to profit from the suffering he inflicts on others.
The provisions of Bill C-452 contribute to the existing legislative framework to fight this crime, supplemented by a multi-pronged response to a complex problem.
I am particularly pleased to note that, on June 6, 2012, the government introduced the national action plan to combat human trafficking, which acknowledges that an exhaustive approach must be taken to consolidate efforts to fight this crime by emphasizing the four Ps: the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders, partnerships with key stakeholders and, of course, the prevention of trafficking in persons.
All activities are coordinated by the working group on trafficking in persons, which is managed by Public Safety Canada. This shows that Canada is currently taking a strong approach to human trafficking. However, that does not mean that we cannot do more. We must be vigilant and do everything in our power to ensure that our approach is as rigorous as possible, which inevitably presupposes ongoing analysis to determine what else we can do.
Bill C-452 is precisely an example of what else we can do. We can support Bill C-452, which would assist in securing convictions, guaranteeing penalties that are proportionate to the severity of the crime and depriving offenders of their ill-gotten gains.
I believe that all members of the House should join me in supporting this bill.
View Robert Goguen Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate in support of Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act.
The bill would ensure the mental disorder regime under part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with persons found not criminally responsible, NCR, for their actions, would be mindful and responsive of the needs of victims. In my view, Bill C-54 would indeed reflect the voices of victims from across the country.
During the review of the bill, the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights received important submissions from several victims. In my remarks, I will be reviewing and reflecting on these submissions.
While the committee hearings demonstrated that victims had diverse perspectives about the NCR regime and even Bill C-54 itself, it was equally clear that the bill would address key concerns of victims and would include public safety, victim participation and the overall confidence and the administration of justice, while also respecting the rights of NCR accused.
On June 3, the justice committee heard from two victims who had lost loved ones due to tragic circumstances involving an NCR accused. These two brave women travelled to Ottawa to share their stories with the committee. They had experienced first hand the current way in which victims were dealt with following an NCR verdict and agreed that changes were necessary for the system.
One explained how members of the family had an encounter with the NRC accused who was involved in their case while out shopping in the community. She explained how this encounter had impacted her family and how the provisions of Bill C-54, with regard to the involvement and notification of victims, would go a long way in helping the victims.
Needless to say, she supported Bill C-54.
One of the core victim protections contained in the bill, the availability of no-contact orders, would help ensure that families like hers would have increased confidence in their safety as NCR accused were reintegrated into the community. No-contact orders, as proposed in clause 10 of the bill, can be imposed by either a court or a review board if it is desirable in the interests of security or safety of persons including victims.
These orders would prohibit an NCR accused from communicating directly, or indirectly, with victims or from going to specific places in the order, such as within the vicinity of the victim's residence. This is a targeted and important measure that should be supported.
The second victim who appeared at committee also expressed support for Bill C-54. She was very concerned that victims simply did not have enough information provided to them about the NCR accused, especially if the accused was released from secure custody.
In addition, she highlighted the importance of protecting the safety of the public through the NCR regime. She noted that while it was true that NCR accused were not criminals, in some cases, NCR accused did commit violent acts. There needs to be adequate safeguards in place to ensure that victims like her and her family, as well as the general public, are protected from such persons.
The availability of the “high-risk” designation in Bill C-54 would respond to this concern. Clause 12 of the bill proposes that where the court is satisfied there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence that can endanger the life or safety of another person or where the court is of the opinion that the act constitutes the offence of such brutal nature as to indicate the risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person, the court may designate an NCR accused as high risk.
The designation would increase the safeguards on that person to both ensure protection of the public safety and to ensure that the person would obtain the treatment that he or she would require to no longer present a threat to society. If treatment were successful and the risk was no longer present, Bill C-54 would require that designation be removed.
This provision is an appropriate response to address the concerns of these victims and will help ensure that the small number of NCR accused who pose such a high risk to the public safety will be subject to the appropriate and necessary restrictions on his or her liberty in order to protect the public.
I believe Bill C-54 maintains the crucial distinction between persons who are morally culpable for their conduct and found guilty and persons found NCR whose illness at the time of the offence rendered them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their actions or of knowing what they were doing was wrong.
The government also acknowledges that while providing mental health services generally falls within provincial and not federal jurisdiction, the government has taken concrete measures in this area. For example, it has increased transfer payments to these levels of government, through the Canada health and social transfer, and also has supported the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help combat the stigma of mental illness.
At its June 10 meeting, the justice committee had the opportunity to hear from more victims. One victim, speaking on behalf of her cousin, shared the heartbreaking story of her family's loss. No doubt, it was very difficult for her to make this presentation and one that was difficult for committee members to listen to.
But her insights were invaluable. She emphasized that the current process of annual review hearings of an NCR accused disposition has had the effect of re-victimizing her family. In particular, the annual review hearing process for assessing the disposition of an NCR accused, at least in serious cases such as her family's where the underlying act was the killing of three children, has made it more difficult to heal. Every time her cousin, the mother of those children, begins to make some progress a yearly review comes up. In her particular case, the month of review is also the anniversary of the tragedy. This particular example illustrates why Bill C-54's victim-related reforms to the NCR regime in the Criminal Code are necessary.
Clause 15 of Bill C-54 aims to address the concern raised by this victim by empowering review boards to extend the time for holding a hearing in respect of a high-risk NCR accused to up to 36 months if the review board is satisfied that the person's condition is not likely to improve and the detention remains necessary for that time period.
This longer review period may also be imposed with the consent of all parties, including the NCR accused. This measure respects the rights of the NCR accused as it would continue to be based on an individualized assessment of treatment, progress and circumstances. However, it would also allow, in appropriate cases, for review periods to better align with realistic medical expectations regarding a particular NCR accused and in so doing, reduces the burden on victims.
This proposal would also respond to the concerns of the final victim who appeared before justice committee on June 10. He described his frustrations with the NCR progress. Bill C-54 would increase the flexibility and discretion for review boards in determining the appropriate review period for high-risk accused. This should help put victims at greater ease that painful hearings would be held at sufficient intervals to ensure that they are meaningful and enough time has elapsed to ensure how a high-risk accused has responded to treatment received in forensic care.
Also on June 10 the committee was able to hear from a victim via teleconference. This victim explained how his brother and his brother's spouse were killed by a person who was later found to be NCR. The victim explained how after the incident he was not informed of key information about the process and the disposition of the NCR accused. This lack of information added to his feeling of powerlessness and victimization.
While every victim is different and not all want to be involved in subsequent proceedings, for this person it was very important to his healing that he be afforded the chance to learn about and participate in the process. He also expressed how not knowing when the NCR accused was released caused his family, and particularly his parents, to feel unsafe. As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, the no-contact provision proposed by Bill C-54 would help families such as these victims to feel safer.
More than that though, Bill C-54 would also enhance the quality of the information provided to victims and ensure that they would be able to properly observe and participate in proceedings following an NCR verdict. For example, Bill C-54 would make it mandatory for courts and review boards to inform victims of their right to make a victim impact statement before an initial disposition is made or if a high-risk NCR accused designation is referred to a court for review.
Bill C-54 would also require, at the victim's request, that victims receive a notice of discharge from the review board if the NCR accused receives an absolute or conditional discharge.
By strengthening the information and participation rights of victims, Bill C-54 would go a long way toward addressing the concerns that were raised at the justice and human rights committee.
Also on June 10, a further victim addressed justice committee and shared with members the devastation caused to her family by the death of her stepfather after he was killed by a person found NCR. She expressed unqualified support for Bill C-54. In her view, public safety has to be more clearly set out as a central value in the legislation that deals with NCR accused. She expressed concern and fear for her family and the families of others in the future, particularly if the NCR accused involved in her matter were allowed to be released on unescorted passes into the community. For this victim, public safety must be the paramount consideration in the mental disorder regime.
To respond to concerns of Canadians like the victims I just referred to, Bill C-54 would clarify that public safety is the paramount consideration in determining the appropriate disposition for an NCR accused.
In addition, Bill C-54 would help make the law more accessible and easier to apply. It would introduce the phrase “necessary and appropriate” to describe the permissible restrictions on an NCR accused that may be imposed in order to protect the public safety. This proposal would maintain the existing test provided by the Supreme Court of Canada, but would simplify its articulation and thereby more clearly signal to all Canadians, including victims, that in carrying out their work, review boards must give due consideration to public safety and security.
Also, Bill C-54 would explicitly specify that when review boards assess whether a given NCR accused is a significant threat to the safety of the public that they are to consider any risk posed by that person of serious physical or psychological harm to victims, witnesses and persons under the age of 18, as well as other members of the general public. This proposal speaks directly to the concern we have heard from several victims. Bill C-54 would thus increase confidence in the NCR regime and in the administration of justice more generally.
In addition to individual victims, on June 10, the committee also had the opportunity to hear from l’Association des Familles de Personnes Assassinées ou Disparues, which in English is the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared. It is referred to as AFPAD. It is a victims organization that since 2004 has advocated for families who have survived horrible tragedies. AFPAD supports Bill C-54. It noted that while primary prevention is important in cases involving persons found NCR, secondary prevention must also be meaningfully addressed. Secondary prevention, in this context, means taking reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has been found NCR is not able to commit another serious crime. Bill C-54 would ensure that NCR accused receive the care they require so their illness no longer renders them a threat to society.
I have also addressed several aspects of the bill that would respond to AFPAD and to other concerned victims in this regard. Let me also point out that Bill C-54 maintains important judicial oversight. For example, the proposed high-risk designation can only be imposed by a court and can only be removed by a court acting on the recommendation of a review board. This is important because such judicial oversight would ensure that a high-risk designation is only used in appropriate circumstances, which makes it a proportional and reasonable measure. In addition, Bill C-54 would also empower judges who are experienced in assessing competing rights and interests to carefully balance the liberty of the high-risk NCR accused against the need for public safety. While the review board's recommendation would likely carry a lot of weight in hearings to change or remove a high-risk designation, Bill C-54's proposed scheme of allowing for additional judicial scrutiny of these designations would help preserve the public interest and confidence in the NCR regime overall. Victims and Canadians would demand no less of important decisions that can have severe impacts on public safety and the liberty of the NCR accused.
On June 12, the final day of the justice committee hearings on this bill, members had the opportunity to hear from more courageous victims who stepped forward to share their stories with us. One victim mentioned his experience with review board hearings. He noted that he has had no standing at all at these hearings and that the crown attorney has even been lectured to by the review board for raising the issue of victim safety. Bill C-54's proposed new guidance to review boards, which I referred to earlier in my remarks on the need to take victim safety into specific consideration, would arguably help change the culture of the review boards so they are more receptive to this evidence in future.
That individual also supported the high-risk designation in Bill C-54 overall, noting that each NCR case is unique and that the law must contain the necessary tools to allow review boards and courts to tailor their responses to meet the needs of diverse situations. By adding new tools like the high-risk designation into the mental disorder part of the Criminal Code, Bill C-54 would respond to these concerns.
On June 12, the committee also heard from another victim who raised the common concern that under existing law her participation rights were severely limited. The victim noted that, even though it is very painful reading and presenting victim impact statements, it is critical because it ensures that a victim's voice and perspective are not forgotten by review boards. Without these perspectives, review boards may not make the most appropriate decision in the circumstances, and public confidence in the whole NOR regime could suffer. I mentioned earlier that, if Bill C-54 is enacted, victims would have increased rights to give victim impact statements and to ensure that interests would be taken into account by review boards. This government is listening to victims.
In addition to hearing from victims, on June 12 the justice committee also heard from victims' advocates from such groups the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, which this government established in 2007 to ensure that victims of crime had a voice at the federal level. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime was also represented. Both of these groups supported Bill C-54. The ombudsman's office representative acknowledged that Bill C-54 reflected victims' concerns regarding their safety as well as a desire for increased notification and participation. Bill C-54 would provide review boards and courts with new tools to make public safety the paramount consideration.
While no individual bill can completely solve all the challenges faced by the courts, review boards, experts and victims, it could make the needed improvements to properly balance public safety and the liberties of the NCR accused. In my view, Bill C-54 would do just that.
At the justice committee, we had the privilege of hearing diverse perspectives from victims and their advocates. These individuals did not come to Parliament to seek the spotlight, and even appearing before the committee in such a public forum would have necessarily involved a degree of hardship. Rather, the witnesses appeared to share their stories to help us as lawmakers to produce a better NCR system for Canadians. I cannot overemphasize how the experiences of these persons plays a valuable role in forming our debates and decisions of this House. By carefully listening to victims, the government has crafted a bill that would be constitutionally sound and would not detract from the rights of the NCR accused, and yet also would manage to improve victim notification, involvement and protection in the context of the NCR regime. This is a worthwhile initiative that deserves the support of this House.
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Mr. Speaker, the designation of “high risk” could impose a period where there would be no review for up to three years. Under the current system it is reviewed annually. However, when the “high risk” designation is put into place, first the Crown bears the burden of proving that such a designation should be put in place, in other words that the person is an additional risk to society, and we know that the number of people who would probably fit into this category is very few and far between.
However, what is assessed is also how much time it would take for the person to be treated. Medical and psychological evidence are considered in determining the length of time it would take to treat the person. If it is longer than one year, it could be up to three years. Forensic treatment is put into place to treat the person and reassessed if he or she can be reintegrated into society. It would be discretionary and based on hard evidence of experts.
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