Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2019-05-09 17:13 [p.27609]
Madam Speaker, I am truly honoured to participate in the debate on private member's Bill C-266, which was introduced by an opposition member. This is the second time that the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman has introduced this piece of legislation. He previously introduced it in 2013, also as a private member's bill.
First and foremost, this bill is for victims of crime. The principle of balanced justice is essential in Canada. It is important in our lives as parliamentarians and, especially, in our lives as citizens. Any time we want to, or have to, amend the Criminal Code, we should be making sure that victims are treated just as well as anyone else, which is exactly what this bill would do. It would spare victims from having to relive their painful experience at a parole hearing after having already relived it during the original trial.
The bill essentially seeks to increase the period of ineligibility to automatic parole from 25 years to 40 years. The reason the hon. member introduced this bill is that far too often we have seen criminals who committed sordid acts get released after 25 years. By the way, I will point out that the bill we are discussing does not concern all offenders. It specifically concerns those who were convicted of abduction, sexual assault or murder.
Not only are these people released after 25 years, but their victims have to testify again before the Parole Board of Canada so that the judge can determine whether the offender will be released on parole. That is the problem: the victims of a crime committed 25 years ago have to relive these events and testify all over again about the pain they suffered, the legitimate fears they might have 23 or 25 years later, and especially the horror they have lived with this entire time.
In those situations let us think first and foremost of the victims. That is why Bill C-266 is specifically designed to protect victims from having to relieve this pain so soon after their assault. For victims of such serious crimes, the scars never heal.
The bill is not dictatorial, because ultimately, the judge will be the one who decides whether to grant parole after hearing the case and analyzing the situation. It is not automatic or official, and there is no cause and effect.
It is also important to realize that the families affected by the tragedies may suffer as much as the victims themselves, and they are also asked to testify about why the criminal should not get parole. This causes them further pain, and they could be revictimized if they have to testify again under similar circumstances. We need to think about them.
As I said earlier, this is not the first time this bill has come before the House. Apart from a few details, it is virtually identical to the one tabled in 2013 by the same member. The interesting thing is that, at the time, certain people supported the bill. I would like to quote something that was said at the time, presumably in English:
I am pleased with what I have heard from the member, especially given the fact that the bill would allow the judge to use it as a discretionary authority. As such, I feel comfortable supporting what the member has brought to the House today.
I could not have said it better myself. Who spoke those fine words? It was none other than our friend, the ineffable and very vocal member for Winnipeg North. Back then, he supported the bill. As I said, I suppose he made the comments in English, but I had fun quoting them in French.
He was not the only one who supported the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman's private member's bill. At the risk of repeating myself, I must say I would rather say his name than the name of his riding.
Many members on the government's front bench supported this initiative. They included, among others, the following members: the member for Charlottetown; the member for Cape Breton—Canso, who has sadly announced that he will not be running in the next election and we do not know whether he would have been re-elected for that is up to the voters; the current member for Bourassa, with whom I had the pleasure of serving in the National Assembly; the member for Malpeque, chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, who works very hard; the member for Sydney—Victoria; the member for Toronto Centre; the member for Vancouver Centre; the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, the current Minister of Transport; the member for Wascana, the current Minister of Public Safety; the member for Labrador; the member for Winnipeg North, as I said earlier; the member for Beauséjour,whom we wish a speedy recovery of course; the member for Cardigan,who is still Minister of Veterans Affairs; the member for Ottawa South; the member for Scarborough—Guildwood; the member for Vancouver Quadra, the fourth President of the Treasury Board in the last six months and my counterpart as I am my party's Treasury Board critic; the member for Halifax West, the Speaker of the House; the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, with whom I had the pleasure of serving on the parliamentary committee that studied physician-assisted dying; the member for York West; the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor,whom I hold in high regard and with whom I have had the pleasure of appearing before a few parliamentary committees; the member for Trinity—Spadina, a riding in the Toronto area; and the member for Papineau, the current Prime Minister of Canada.
All of those people are current government members. They are examining this bill, which is a good thing. However, I would like to remind them that, in the past, in 2013, they voted in favour of a bill that was more or less identical to Bill C-266.
In closing, I would like to point out that, just a few minutes ago, I was very impressed by the remarks of the member for Niagara Falls. As members know, he has been diligently serving this country since 1984, when he was first elected to Parliament. He has held high-ranking positions with dignity. He is an inspiration to all those of us who aspire to be part of the executive branch of our Parliament.
The member for Niagara Falls served as defence minister and justice minister, as well as in other capacities. For six years, his honesty and fairness served as an inspiration to us all. As everyone knows, that is an extremely sensitive job, and that was especially true at the time. It requires a great deal of delicacy and exemplary and inspiring honesty. The member for Niagara Falls served for six years. He is probably the one who has held the position of minister of justice and attorney general the longest. He will always be an inspiration to his successors.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-266, respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act, which was tabled by my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.
This bill would see the parole ineligibility for Canada's most heinous and degenerate criminals have the possibility of being raised up to 40 years. As it stands currently, the maximum time for parole ineligibility is 25 years, with the first hearings starting at 23 years. One can imagine the families of the victims of these heinous crimes having to return and relive the events that took their loved ones away from them, and not only once. If the convicts are denied parole, and many times they are because of the brutality they undertook, then new parole hearings happen every two years. This, of course, creates the potential to make the families of the victims relive their nightmare over and over again.
This bill is not designed for the average criminal committing the average crime. It is designed for the worst of the worst, offenders who had such disregard for the dignity of the human person that they ought not to see the light of day. This should not be seen as a bill to increase the punishment of these individuals, but to protect the victims' families.
This bill would empower the courts to make decisions based on a jury's recommendation. I will quote from the bill:
[The judge] may, having regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offences and the circumstances surrounding their commission, and to the recommendation, if any, made under section 745.22, by order, substitute for twenty-five years a number of years of imprisonment (being more than twenty-five but not more than forty) without eligibility for parole, as the judge deems fit in the circumstances.
This is a good piece of legislation, and it will protect the families of the actual victims of a heinous crime.
I would just like to draw the attention of my colleagues on the government side to the support of some of their members who support this bill. That includes the member for Charlottetown, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, the member for Bourassa, the member for Malpeque, the member for Sydney—Victoria, the member for University—Rosedale, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member for Vancouver Centre, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, the member for Regina—Wascana, another minister, the member for Labrador, the member for Winnipeg North, the member for Beauséjour, the member for Cardigan, the member for Ottawa South, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Vancouver Quadra, the member for Halifax West, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, the member for Humber River—Black Creek, the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, and the member for Spadina-Fort York.
Most importantly, I would draw to my colleagues' attention that the Right Hon. Prime Minister, the member for Papineau, also expressed his support during this bill's previous introduction to the House in the last Parliament.
This bill, with the support of all of those members, who now sit on the government side, goes against the standard operating procedure for the government, because when it comes to the victims of crime, we have not seen a great track record of the Liberals doing the right thing. The Prime Minister, a supporter of this bill in its first incarnation, has long tried to paint criminals and the perpetrators of crime as victims of society.
The Prime Minister said, in the wake of a horrible terrorist attack in the United States, that the terrorists must have been feeling excluded and marginalized by society, and that we really need to look at the root causes of these actions.
These terrorists killed three people and maimed hundreds more, but according to the Prime Minister, they are the victims here. The Prime Minister, again, showed how much he cares for victims when he paid a convicted terrorist $10.5 million, after he killed a U.S. medic, Sergeant Chris Speer, leaving behind a wife and children who are still trying to find justice.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Michael Barrett: My hon. colleagues across the way are heckling, obviously in support of that payment of $10.5 million. Let me just check. I think here on my list I have the name of the member—
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about speeding up the court system and access to justice and faster court times, believing that turning some of these very serious offences into summary offences or hybrid offences would somehow speed it up.
There is another option, namely, that the minister could fill the hundreds of judicial vacancies across this country so there is access to a judge. Right now that is another area she could act on very quickly. Why does she not do that?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-08 10:39 [p.23429]
Madam Speaker, the brief answer is that we are appointing judges at a rate that has not been seen in this country in over two decades.
The minister has made 230 judicial appointments around the country. She is also doing it in a manner that is commensurate with what the bench should reflect, that being the Canadians they serve and the Canadians to whom they render justice by promoting a number of women, visible minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and persons with disability.
We are not only appointing judges. We are appointing judges who look like Canada.
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-11-08 12:36 [p.23445]
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their work on this legislation, which is now at report stage. It really would address some of the issues of delay in our court system. It would reinforce and strengthen our criminal justice system to ensure that victims would be looked after in a way that would protect them, our communities and society and. At the same time, it looks at the inequities within the system.
Before I go any further, I will quote Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer in the United States. I have read his book Just Mercy and one line reads, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” I started with that quote because I want lay some context.
I have listened to hon. opposition members speak to the bill. I want to re-emphasize that our objective is not to revictimize innocent people, but to ensure they are adequately protected. We know there are inequities in the system and the bill looks to improve the efficiency of and equity within the system.
There have been many reports, and it is not just me saying this, about the over-incarceration of our indigenous and black populations within federal institutions across the country. Irrespective of where we are, we see this happening.
I am not a lawyer and this is not my background, but in looking at the legislation, I want people in Whitby to know and understand what the legislation would do to strengthen our criminal justice system, the Criminal Code and increase efficiencies. By doing both, it would increase efficiency.
Bill C-75 proposes to do a few things: modernize and streamline our bail system, including by legislating a principle of restraint to reduce the imposition of unnecessary conditions and with the intended effect of reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous and marginalized Canadians in our criminal justice system. Essentially, when bail conditions are imposed, the proposal is to look at the situation of the individuals in front of the judge and come up with reasonable conditions that would prevent them from re-entering the criminal justice system. By doing that, we would ensure it would not be a revolving door in and out of prison. We want people to be rehabilitated and stay out of the system, but there has to be a thoughtful process throughout the whole judicial system to ensure that happens.
A second proposal is to change the way our system deals with administration of justice offences, including by creating new judicial referral hearings as an alternative to a new criminal charge, with the goal of reducing the burden of administrative justice charges and increasing court efficiency. If an alcoholic is in front of a judge and one of the conditions imposed by the judge is that the person not drink, that is a little unreasonable. Why not have one of the conditions be that the individual seeks treatment? That is a better alternative than telling that person not to drink. Allow individuals to seek treatment and make it part of their conditions so they do not come back before the court. It would prevent that revolving door and increase efficiency.
Another proposal is to strengthen the way our criminal justice system responds to intimate partner violence, including enhancing the reverse onus at bail for repeat offenders. If charged with an offence, it is not up to the prosecution but rather to the defendant to present evidence for why he or she should be released. This makes it harder for the person to reoffend, and it protects the victim. It should be up to the individual to tell the court why he or she will not offend again. It should not be up to the prosecution to do that. It broadens the definition of intimate partner violence to include dating partners and former partners, and it increases the maximum sentence for intimate partner violence.
Another reform is the reform to jury selection processes. This legislation proposes reform by including the abolition of peremptory challenges, reinforcing the power of judges to stand aside certain jurors in order to increase the diversity of the jury selection. That does not mean the person will not have the opportunity to be a juror; it just means that in order to increase the diversity of the jurors who are selected as a jury of our peers, they should reflect those who are living in the community. That component allows for judges to have the authority to do that. Jurors cannot be removed without reason. They cannot be indiscriminately removed; there has to be a reason for that. This also helps to allow and increase equity within our system.
This piece of legislation also restricts the availability of preliminary inquiries to only those offences carrying the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, with the intended effect of reducing the time it takes for each case to go to trial. We know that the introduction of this proposal will allow us to understand what victims go through. We are not revictimizing witnesses by having them testify at the peremptory and also at the trial. It increases efficiency while also, as I mentioned earlier, ensuring that the victim is not further victimized within the system.
I want to talk about the hybridized offences, and a few people may want an explanation as to what this is. There are three ways in which we can convict. There are summary convictions, indictable offences and hybrid offences. The fact that we are increasing the number of hybrid offences does not mean the Crown does not have the ability to decide the appropriate sentence or look at the seriousness of the offence.
My hon. colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton has brought this up a number of times. He is a civil litigator, and during his speech he said we cannot just leave it up to the Crown somewhere in some building to have the ability to indiscriminately sentence. I am sure he has faith in the ability of his colleagues, and I would hope he would know that these lawyers take their job very seriously. Not taking away their ability to decide the seriousness of a crime means they can still go in either direction, whether people are given a fine, or two years, or two years to life. That possibility is still available to our attorneys.
This is certainly not what it is doing. It is not being soft on crime. In addition to these proposals, our Minister of Justice has made significant numbers of appointments. Last year there were over 100 appointments to the bench. We are currently at 235. We are on track this year to keep that number going.
We have the most diversity on the bench. We have judges who look like Canadians. That combination of appointments, plus the proposals in here, increases the equity in our system, and it increases the efficiency of our system.
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 12:52 [p.23446]
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to speak to Bill C-75.
We have waited long and hard for these omnibus changes to the Criminal Code, and a number of the changes have been welcomed by our party. Regrettably, a number of changes that could have been made, and that were promised by the Liberals, have not been made. That is deeply disappointing not just to us, but to Canadians and the lawyers who represent them when they end up before the courts.
Many of the reforms and the calls for reform have come from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Jordan case, which many members have spoken about here. That decision put in place a new framework and timeline on the necessity of processing trials through the courts with the intention of trying to resolve the backlog of cases. Many of the impacted cases have involved very serious offences, but charges are simply being dropped because the cases have not proceeded expeditiously, consistent with the charter of rights, and in accordance with the new timelines imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin two years back admonished the government in saying that “The perpetual crisis of judicial vacancies in Canada is an avoidable problem that needs to be tackled and solved.” This has been the focus of a lot of debate in this place in the nine years I have been elected. Repeated calls by the opposition to the then Conservative government are now continuing with the Liberal government to fill those vacancies.
There are other measures that can be taken, some of which have been taken by the current government, to try to address the backlog in the courts and to ensure that justice is done. However, there are a number of significant measures that the justice minister was apparently mandated to undertake and chose not to do, at least not at this time, but maybe after the next election, which is usually the reason given.
Judicial appointments are seen as one solution to the backlog. Other possible solutions have been requested and, as mentioned, not adopted in Bill C-75, despite the calls by my colleague, the New Democrat justice critic, the MP for Victoria. His calls have been drawn from the testimony of experts in the field, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association.
I am a member from Alberta, and in the nine years I have been here, there have been calls by the attorney general of my province for judicial vacancies to be filled, which is the prerogative of the federal government. Hundreds of cases have been thrown out because of the failure to fill vacancies across the country. There is an appreciation that some of those vacancies have been filled, particularly since this past April. However, as I have noted, these calls were made by the opposition to the then Conservative government and the calls now continue to the Liberal government. My Province of Alberta has been calling for federal action to fill these judicial vacancies and is pleased that some action is being taken, but I do want to credit my own provincial government for taking action.
The Canadian Bar Association has criticized the government for the chronic failure to appoint judges, in some cases with a delay of more than a year. As I mentioned, I commend the Alberta government for its action in filling vacancies and creating new positions in the provincial courts “to ensure Albertans have more timely and representative access to justice.” It has also appointed additional clerks and prosecutors to ensure that the cases proceed more expeditiously.
I particularly wish to point out some of the recent appointments made by the Government of Alberta. In April of this year, Judge Karen Crowshoe, the first indigenous woman called to the Alberta Bar Association, became the first female first nation provincial court judge. Also, in this week alone, the Alberta court appointed Judge Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay, who is now the third first nation woman appointed to the provincial court. Moreover, Judge Melanie Hayes-Richards was appointed to the Edmonton Criminal Court. Finally, Judge Michelle Christopher was appointed as the first female judge in the judicial district of Medicine Hat in the history of our province. Kudos to the Government of Alberta.
There are a number of solutions that could have been taken in Bill C-75 that were not taken. For example, my colleagues have consistently called for the government to cease charging Canadians for the simple possession of small amounts of cannabis. All of those charges, the tens of thousands of Canadians charged for simple possession, have clogged our courts. We could have simply resolved that, even in the past year when the government made it clear that it was going to legalize cannabis, by stopping those criminal charges. However, it chose not to, and so the courts remain clogged.
In addition, there have been a lot of calls, including by Moms Stop the Harm, to address opioid addiction. They have been calling for the decriminalization of small amounts of opioids for personal use and to address it as a mental health challenge. Again, those charges could reduce time in our courts.
On preliminary inquiries, a number of my colleagues in this place have talked to the concerns about the government deciding in Bill C-75 to remove the opportunity for preliminary inquiries. The government has professed that this removal would make the judicial process more efficient, but as has been mentioned, it is a very small percentage, 2% to 3%, of cases that ever go through preliminary inquiry. Obviously, it would not have a substantial effect in reducing the clogging of the courts.
There has been concern at the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers that this may pose a serious risk of more wrongful convictions. We have to remember why we have preliminary inquiries. It was mentioned previously that in some cases, as a result of a preliminary inquiry, the charges are dropped. It is a good opportunity for the defence to review the evidence by the Crown. It is concerning that while the government continually likes to use the word “balance”, the bill is not adequately balancing greater efficiency in the courts and the protection of the rights of the accused.
I would also like to speak to the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, which has been discussed a lot in this place. Based on a lot of expert witnesses testimony at committee, my colleagues are expressing great disappointment that removal of mandatory minimum sentences was not addressed in this 300-page omnibus criminal justice bill. They are disappointed that it was not dealt with, particularly as dealing with mandatory minimums was specifically prescribed in the mandate letter of the justice minister. It seemed logical that this would included in this omnibus bill. Many remain puzzled as to why there is a delay on that. Is it going to be yet another Liberal promise that is delayed until the next election? It is a solution that could genuinely address the clogging of the courts, and we encourage the government to move forward more expeditiously and table a measure on that before we recess for the next election.
Many expert witnesses at committee, including the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, recommended taking action on these measures introduced by the Harper government. This is a significant factor clogging the courts. The association said:
Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the Crown's discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the Crowns ability to take a position that will foster resolution before trial.
We have been told that the effect has been to increase the choice to go to trial rather than pleading to a lower charge. That is because of the necessity by that law that a minimum penalty will be imposed. Therefore, many who are charged will then say they will go to court and try to beat the rap, because otherwise they may receive a greater sentence. That has really clogged the courts.
I quote Jonathan Rudin of the Aboriginal Legal Services, who has emphasized the need to restore judicial discretion, particularly for indigenous women, as the Liberals promised. He said:
...we have to look at the fact that there are still mandatory minimum sentences that take away from judges the ability to sentence indigenous women the way they would like to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.
I look forward to questions and could elaborate further then.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-08 13:02 [p.23448]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her contributions to the House and to her community. I will confess to finding some of her comments about appointments a little surprising. Clearly, when we have to overhaul an entire appointments process, it takes some time to get it right.
However, in overhauling that process, we have shifted from a situation in which 30% of the appointees under the previous government were women to a situation in which 57% are now women. Twelve per cent of the appointments have been from racialized groups, 6% from the LGBTQ community, and 3% from indigenous peoples. Two hundred and thirty people have been appointed across the country, including 34 in the province the member represents.
Does she share our view that we strengthen the administration of justice when that justice is delivered by a bench that reflects the community it appears before?
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2018-11-08 13:02 [p.23448]
Mr. Speaker, of course I agree with that suggestion, but what I find stunning is that when I visit the law school in my constituency at the University of Alberta, I see that a large majority of the students are women. When I graduated a huge number of graduates were women.
It is not that we do not have qualified women. It is not that we do not have qualified indigenous lawyers. It is not that we do not have people from all kinds of racial backgrounds. What it is, is a poor excuse for the delay in the appointment of judges.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 13:03 [p.23448]
Mr. Speaker, I do want to touch upon judicial appointments.
Under the present minister's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. As the member pointed out, months went by when the minister failed to appoint a single judge. The situation became so acute that former Chief Justice Neil Wittmann spoke out in the spring of 2016.
The member is quite right. The provincial government did respond by way of order in council by establishing 10 new judicial posts in October 2016.
The federal government says it is a priority to fill judicial vacancies, but it did not get around to filling one of them until a year later when my former colleague Grant Dunlop was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench.
It seems that the government's record does not match its rhetoric in taking the situation of judicial vacancies seriously.
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Liberal government's justice reform bill, Bill C-75. If the parliamentary secretary was worked up during his presentation, I cannot wait until he hears what I have to say. Sadly, I cannot find a lot of good things to report about the bill, to report to my constituents or to Canadians at large.
Like a number of the Liberal government's legislative measures, the purpose of the bill does not always match to what the bill would actually do.
For example, recently in Bill C-71, the Minister of Public Safety used tragic shootings and a gun and gangs summit to suggest he was putting forward legislation that would tackle illegal guns, gangs and violent criminals. The sad reality was that the legislation he proposed never once mentioned gangs or organized crime. It had nothing to do with illegal weapons and crimes caused by them.
Prior to that, the Minister of Public Safety also introduced Bill C-59, a bill he claimed would strengthen our national security and protect Canadians. Again, the reality was very different, as the bill would move nearly $100 million from active security and intelligence work, which actually protects Canadians, to administrative and oversight mechanisms and functions. Worst of all, the Minister of Public Safety made full claim about moving Bill C-59 to committee before second reading to:
I would inform the House that, in the interests of transparency, we will be referring this bill to committee before second reading, which will allow for a broader scope of discussion and consideration and possible amendment of the bill in the committee when that deliberation begins.
When it came time to consider reasonable, bold or small amendments, the Liberals on that committee fought against everything to ensure the bill did not change at all its scope or scale. The results will place the security of Canadians at greater risk and for those who actually work in national security, more people will be looking over their shoulders, tougher rules, more paperwork and few, if any, benefits, as front-line efforts to protect Canadians only become more difficult.
Now, under Bill C-75, we see the same old story. The justice minister made bold claims that she would be helping address the backlog of cases created when the Supreme Court imposed a maximum time frame for them. Some of her claims included that this legislation would improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. She said that it would strengthen response to domestic violence. It would streamline bail hearings. It would provide more tools for judges. It would improve jury selection. It would free up court resources by reclassifying serious offences.
That sound fantastic. What a great bill. Streamlining the courts, strengthening the justice system, domestic violence, improving tools for judges, improving jury selection? Incredible. Sadly, the Liberals are not achieving any of these objectives according to the legal community or any of the knowledgeable leaders in the House.
Does it shorten trials and ensure that we deal with the backlog? The minister appears to make the claim that it will with the elimination of most preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearings, according to the legal community, account for just 3% of all court time. Therefore, with an overloaded court system, eliminating a huge number of these hearings will only have a minimal impact at best. Preliminary hearings often weed out the weakest cases, which means more cases will go to trial, thus increasing the court backlogs under the current legislation. What can also happen with preliminary hearings is that they create opportunity for the defence to recognize the need to seek early resolution without a trial.
Moreover, preliminary hearings can deal with issues up front and make trials more focused. Instead, under this new legislation, many cases would be longer with added procedural and legal arguments.
One member of the legal community called the bill “a solution to a problem that didn't exist”. High praise for this legislation indeed.
It is the changes to serious criminal offences that have many Canadians, not just the legal community, concerned. All members of the House could agree, or at least accept, that not all Criminal Code issues need to be treated in the same manner. Serious offences like homicide and minor offences like vandalism or property damage do not meet the same threshold for punishment. We can all agree with that.
Canadians expect that Ottawa, that government will create safe communities and that the law benefits all people, not slanted in favour of criminals.
Under Bill C-75, the Liberals have provided the option to proceed with a large number of violent offences by way of summary conviction rather than an indictable offence. This means that violent criminals may receive no more than the proposed 12 months in jail or a fine for their crimes, a slap on the wrist for things like impaired driving causing bodily harm, obstructing justice, assault with a weapon, forced marriages, abduction, participation in a criminal organization and human trafficking. There are many more, but it bears taking the time to look at these in particular. These are serious offences. Allowing these criminals back on the street, with little to no deterrents, makes even less sense. These serious criminal issues should have the full force and effect of the law.
None of these scenarios, victims or society are better served when those responsible for these offences serve only minimal jail sentences or receive fines.
The principle is that Canadians expect that their government and the courts will be there to ensure that criminals receive due punishment for their crimes and that law-abiding Canadians and those who have been victimized by these criminals are treated fairly and with respect. In short, the bill undermines the confidence of Canadians in our criminal justice system and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to ensure safe communities. As my colleagues have clearly pointed out already, there are other solutions, better solutions in fact. The minister could address the backlog with more judicial appointments, as an example.
As the former minister of justice said, there was never a shortage of qualified candidates in his six years as minister of justice. Therefore, it is not a failure of the judiciary. It is not that there are too many preliminary hearings. It is not that there are way more criminals, because crime rates overall have been declining. The problem resides almost entirely with the minister getting more people on the bench and in prosecution services.
As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House. It should be above politics so the safety and security of Canadians are put ahead of political fortunes. While the Liberals have said that public safety is a priority, they have said that everything is their “top priority”. To have 300 top priorities, means they have no priorities at all.
Canadians expect that the government will make them its priority. Sadly, the bill fails the test to keep Canadians safe and deliver effective government. The legal community has said that the bill is deeply flawed and will hurt the legal system rather than help it. Police services will likely see themselves arresting the same people over and over again, even more so than they do today, as criminals get lighter sentences or fines. Therefore, the backlog will move from the courts to the policing community, back to the courts and then back to the policing community. How does that help the average Canadian?
Canada has been weakened by the Liberal government. Its wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding guns owners, its lack of leadership on illegal border crossers and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a disadvantage, weaken our public safety and national security and place undue strain on families and communities.
Canadians deserve better. In 2019, I suspect we will get a better justice minister, a better justice bill and a better government.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-08 13:33 [p.23452]
Mr. Speaker, I will put to the member opposite something similar to what I addressed to the NDP member from Alberta. When we inherit a flawed process, it takes time to perfect it. That flawed process of judicial appointments highlighted by the member opposite produced a situation where 30% of the country's judicial appointments were women. The process we put in place, which is merit based, inclusive and venerates personal lived experience, has produced a process which has resulted in 57% of appointments being women, 12% being members of racialized communities, 6% being people from the LGBTQ community and 3% being indigenous individuals.
Does the member opposite believe and agree, when we have made 230 appointments thus far, 34 in his own province, that the administration of justice and confidence in the administration of justice is enhanced, not diminished, when a bench metes out justice that reflects the communities coming before that bench?
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, one has to debate whether or not the system of appointing judges was flawed in the first place. Second, it took the government a full year to stand up its judicial advisory committee.
If we wonder why we have a backlog in our system, it is because the government “drug” its feet. The government did nothing. It did not think it needed to. Now, we are paying the consequences for that. That evidence rests on its own merits.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2018-11-08 15:51 [p.23475]
Madam Speaker, no matter how much we improve legislation and talk about amendments, if there is no judge to enforce the law, then Canadians end up with a system that does not work. That is what happened to Dannick Lessard, a constituent of mine who had to cope with seeing the man who tried to kill him released because of the Jordan decision.
Does my colleague agree that dealing with the shortage of judges in the justice system should be the top priority?
View Jacques Gourde Profile
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2018-11-08 15:52 [p.23475]
Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. There are 59 vacancies in Canada's court system. That is disconcerting. If every judicial vacancy were filled, there would not be so many delays in the justice system.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-11-08 16:07 [p.23477]
Madam Speaker, I am really pleased to join the debate. I have been listening for a few hours to what different members believe are the most important parts of the bill, the biggest defects and the biggest advantages given to it.
I thought the member for St. Albert—Edmonton gave one of the best, most succinct rundowns of the bill in terms of its many defects. It is an omnibus justice bill. I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, so we are well versed on omnibus legislation there for three years now from the government, a government that during the last election promised not to ram any more omnibus legislation through the House. It was a promise that they have continuously broken since then. The Liberals failed to lived up to their promise.
The lens I want to give to this piece of legislation is mostly consideration of some of the hybridized offences in it. Like I have mentioned in the House before, I am not a member of the legal profession, so my eyes on it are basically the eyes of any regular member of the public and what they would think are serious offences versus non-serious offences.
We have been told that one of the reasons for this legislation is that it would drastically reduce the bottleneck at our provincial courts, that the court system would be somehow liberated from having to deal with all of these cases that are clogging it up and all the court delays.
With the Jordan decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada, that bottleneck of court cases is even more important now because we have individuals being charged with offences but never seeing a court or going through the system to be judged. I would call this piece of legislation as the Yiddish proverb says, the gift that is not as precious as first thought. There are so many defects that the member for St. Albert—Edmonton pointed out that would actually create an even greater bottleneck at the provincial courts.
Those courts closest to the people are the ones that deal with the vast majority of criminal offences. They deal with family law, young persons aged 12 to 17, traffic bylaw violations, regulatory offences, small claims and preliminary inquiries. The judges are actually doing most of the work. Every province has been set up slightly differently in how they proceed with different types of offences. Many of these would not be directly affected by this legislation, but the ones that deal with criminal offences would be because a great deal of the hybridized ones would be going to the provincial courts. The Liberals are not making it simpler, they are actually creating a greater bottleneck.
I thought that it was the House of Commons and the Senate that together decided what was a serious enough offence to warrant five to 25 years, not prosecutors. It is this House that decides on behalf of our constituents what are serious offences and what is deserving of consideration by a judge, whether a judge should consider the maximum offence of 25 years to life, whether it should be 15 years or 10 years. It is not up to prosecutors, who are not responsible to any constituents. They are not responsible directly to the public. They do not have to go to the public every four years and make a pitch for the retention of their job. Neither does a judge, but we ask judges to consider the particulars in an individual case and determine whether it warrants five years, 10 years, or something in between and to make a judicious decision based on the facts of the case. We would actually be taking away that ability of the justices to be able to render a decision.
I am sure there will be a member of the Liberal caucus who will stand and attack some past Conservative government's record, that we can go back and forth to the 19th century if we want to, to what previous governments did or other previous governments did not do, but we are looking at the record of the past three years. That is where the focus should be.
This piece of legislation comes to us as an omnibus bill. It should have come to us as pieces of legislation, different focus areas that could have been proposed in the House. It is not as if we have a maximum load that we can take on and afterwards we say we simply cannot take on any more legislation in the House. The government has shown a great interest in guillotine motions. The Liberals have used over 50 now, even after saying they would not do so and would allow fulsome debate in the House. There is no reason why this piece of legislation could not have been broken up into different pieces so that members could consider whether in fact criminal acts of sabotage were serious enough to perhaps warrant full consideration by indictable offence, and whether that would be the best way to proceed.
Forgery or uttering a forged passport, the selling or purchasing of an office, and the bribery of public officials are serious offences and there should be no opportunity for a prosecutor to elect to have them hybridized and go by summary conviction. The same applies to prison breach, assisting an escape, infanticide and participation in activities of a criminal organization.
Just this morning, as I was providing a tour for my constituents through the House of Commons, the Minister of Public Safety was outside announcing that the government would spend $86 million to fight organized crime. On this same day, his government is proposing that we hybridize the offence of participating in the activities of a criminal organization and handing such decisions over to a prosecutor to decide whether the offence is serious enough, even before a judge has a chance to listen to the facts of the case and an individual's particular circumstance or participation.
This is why I used this Yiddish proverb, “The gift is not as precious as first thought”. It is a very good proverb and someday I will be able to actually say it in Yiddish.
If the gift is that we are going to reduce the bottlenecks in our provincial courts and reduce wait times, then we need to appoint more judges so they can hear more cases.
Provincial governments should be looking at more court space. The City of Calgary built a brand new court building expressly because there was a problem with securing court space. Judges needed the space to hear cases.
If this legislation is the government's gift, if this legislation is its attempt to resolve the problem, and it is not worth it, then the government should go back to the drawing board. This legislation could be dealt with piece by piece and the parts that many members of the official opposition said they could agree with could be expedited to the other place.
To their credit, government members on the justice committee agreed that terrorism and genocide are pretty serious offences and, therefore, should not be hybridized. I think members would agree with me that the selling or purchasing of an office, and I do not mean in this case a corporate office, but an elected office, is a serious offence and does not deserve to be hybridized in any way.
It is a matter of process here. Had this omnibus piece of legislation been broken out into its parts and there been an attempt to reach consensus on certain parts, I think it would have passed, because we agree with most pieces of it. That has happened before in the House. I have seen all parties agree that a particular piece of legislation should pass more quickly than another. Maybe certain portions of Bill C-75 could have been passed more quickly. Instead, we are having a more fulsome debate so that members on all sides can explain the concerns their constituents have expressed about the contents of this legislation.
Sabotage is a serious crime. It should not be up to a prosecutor to decide whether it is deserving of a faster process because people are busy. Attorneys general in every single province give direction to their prosecutors. They are told to prioritize certain cases over others. There is only so much time in a prosecutor's day and I understand that cases need to be prioritized, and that is led by the attorney general of the respective province. That is a fair process.
At the same time, however, it is Parliament that is supposed to decide what is or is not a serious offence. What the government is doing here looks like a copy and paste job. It is just taking giant sections of the Criminal Code and dumping them into the bill. It is as if all of those sections should be hybridized in a vain attempt to find some type of time saving for judges. Judges will not have a chance to listen to the contents of every particular case like we expect them to do.
I will not be able to support this piece of legislation. It is simply defective in its content. It is defective in its process. Perhaps the small number of amendments that government members on justice committee accepted is a good step in the right direction. There should be far more amendments to this piece of legislation before it would, in any way, be permissible to pass it through the House.
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