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Results: 1 - 30 of 153
View Mike Wallace Profile
CPC (ON)
View Mike Wallace Profile
2015-05-13 15:27
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I call this meeting to order. Thank you for being here.
Today, for this hour, we're at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, meeting number 76. Today, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), we're dealing with the main estimates: vote 1 under Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada, vote 1 under Canadian Human Rights Commission, votes 1 and 5 under Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, vote 1 under Courts Administration Service, votes 1 and 5 under Justice, vote 1 under the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and vote 1 under Supreme Court of Canada, referred to the committee on Tuesday, February 24.
We had the minister here for the first hour on Monday. Today, we're fortunate to have witnesses from the Department of Justice.
Mr. Legault, the associate deputy minister, will introduce the team that is with him. We will have some opening remarks from a number of the organizations and then we'll go to questions.
Mr. Legault, the floor is yours.
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Pierre Legault
View Pierre Legault Profile
Pierre Legault
2015-05-13 15:29
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Joining me today from the Department of Justice are Donald Piragoff, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of the Policy Sector and Marie-Josée Thivierge, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer.
I'm also joined by officials from the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada, Marie-France Pelletier, chief administrator, and Luc Robitaille, director general, corporate services. As well, from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Brian Saunders, director of public prosecutions, and Kathleen Roussel, deputy director of public prosecutions.
I'm glad to say that we also have in the room officials from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada, the Courts Administration Service, and the Supreme Court of Canada.
As the minister was before you a couple of days ago and made some opening remarks, mine will be extremely short. As members know, the Department of Justice supports the Minister of Justice as he works to ensure that Canada's justice system remains relevant, fair, and accessible to all Canadians. We also support the Government of Canada's priorities by administering grants and contributions to the department's various funds.
We will be happy to answer your questions with respect to justice and the justice portfolio.
I will now yield the floor to my colleague Marie-France Pelletier.
She will be followed by Brian Saunders.
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View Françoise Boivin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Françoise Boivin Profile
2015-05-13 15:39
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Okay.
Thank you for joining us today to shed some light on the main estimates for us. I sometimes get the impression that justice is the poor cousin of the budget. It certainly does not represent a large percentage of it. Be that as it may, I feel that we have important work to do.
My first question goes to Mr. Legault.
Not too long ago, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was passed. But I see no substantial impact of it in your plans and priorities for the 2015-2016 year. I get the impression that, once again, you are going to be asked to perform miracles—and my congratulations for managing to do so—by making do with what you already have.
Am I mistaken?
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Pierre Legault
View Pierre Legault Profile
Pierre Legault
2015-05-13 15:41
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Well, we still try to perform miracles, and generally to do what we can with what we have. That is quite clear.
That said, we are going to the Treasury Board to get the money allocated to us as part of that fund. That is in the works.
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View Françoise Boivin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Françoise Boivin Profile
2015-05-13 15:41
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This was my question. In the main estimates, can we see any impact of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights?
From what you are saying, you are going to have to help the provinces with the implementation. Clearly, that sort of thing requires an expenditure.
Are you ready to implement the resources for 2015-2016?
If we look at the allocations, we see that the Victims Fund has not moved: it is still $12.4 million, to be paid to non-governmental organizations. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is a big deal, but I really do not see its impact in the main estimates. Maybe I am not looking in the proper place.
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Donald Piragoff
View Donald Piragoff Profile
Donald Piragoff
2015-05-13 15:42
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Thank you for the question.
I believe the money is already in the fiscal framework of the Victims Bill of Rights Act. Currently the process is before Treasury Board to authorize the release of the money to the department. When that happens, I think the minister will be making a public announcement as to the amount, and the intended uses for the money. The minister had indicated—I believe it was in last year's budget, 2014—that there would be money going directly to some non-governmental organizations as well as to the provinces to assist them in the implementation of the Victims Bill of Rights Act, to help them with respect to restitution programs and things like that.
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Donald Piragoff
View Donald Piragoff Profile
Donald Piragoff
2015-05-13 15:43
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I believe there was a reference to it in last year's budget, 2014. The money is in the fiscal framework. That's why we're in Treasury Board, soon to get the authorization to spend the money. I think Parliament approved the money in last year's budget.
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View Françoise Boivin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Françoise Boivin Profile
2015-05-13 15:43
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As for the ombudsman, am I correct? I see a flat line, not in the sense of death but in the sense of it not moving upward with more obligation. Am I correct in what I read and what it looks like in the budget?
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View Françoise Boivin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Françoise Boivin Profile
2015-05-13 15:44
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Mr. Saunders, I'm sure you read the Calgary Herald with great pleasure this morning. I was both a bit shocked and not, because that's pretty much what I hear on the ground too, not only for your prosecutors but for prosecutors in general. Just in case you haven't, it said:
Emails and documents obtained by the Herald from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada...through access-to-information legislation showed senior lawyers in the Alberta office have been warning superiors that under-staffing and a relatively junior workforce could place cases in jeopardy.
I will spare you a reading of the entire article, but I will say that it is quite troubling. I heard the reply that the minister gave in the House today, but I am not sure that I am comforted by it. With all the responsibilities that now fall to your department, especially all the terrorism-related matters, are there enough prosecutors, as the minister said, or is there still a way for the situation to be improved?
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Brian J. Saunders
View Brian J. Saunders Profile
Brian J. Saunders
2015-05-13 15:45
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Yes, all across Canada, including Calgary. Both junior lawyers and experienced lawyers are helping us to fulfill our mandate. Up to now, there has never been a case we have had to withdraw from because of a lack of resources.
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View Françoise Boivin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Françoise Boivin Profile
2015-05-13 15:45
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Or because the case was not heard in a reasonable time.
I know that is a problem for provincial crown prosecutors. Perhaps you have just been lucky. Federal lawyers, whether they are crown prosecutors or other kinds of lawyers, say that things are moving quickly at the Department of Justice. With legislation changing all the time, the committee can also see how quickly things are moving. It is difficult to keep their heads above water.
However, you are not worried at all. Personally, I find it a little worrisome that people on the inside are telling superiors that there is a problem. But you seem to be admiring the emperor's new clothes.
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Brian J. Saunders
View Brian J. Saunders Profile
Brian J. Saunders
2015-05-13 15:46
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We have a system for handling the problem. We ask our lawyers to fill out forms describing the way their time is used. We can see the number of cases in each office and the number of cases given to each lawyer.
We also look at the complexity of each issue. There are three categories: high, medium and low complexity. We take all that into consideration and we listen to what the lawyers have to say about their work because, often, the numbers do not tell the whole story. We feel we have enough resources for this year. During the year, we will look at the changes in the demand for our services and we may have to adjust our resources as a result.
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View Bob Dechert Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of our officials for being here. I'd just like to say on my behalf and on behalf of the committee that we're grateful for the good work that you and all your colleagues do at the Department of Justice, the Administrative Tribunals Support Service, and the Public Prosecutor service. I think your colleagues do a tremendous service to the people of Canada, so thank you for that.
I have a couple of questions about some of the increases I've seen in the spending in the estimates over the last year.
I'll start with you, Mr. Legault. The Department of Justice shows an increase of $14.4 million in funding for the delivery of immigration and refugee legal aid in the provinces and territories. Can you give us a little more detail on those programs?
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Pierre Legault
View Pierre Legault Profile
Pierre Legault
2015-05-13 15:49
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Indeed, in the 2015-16 main estimates, we are reflecting this $14.4 million that you're talking about. It's composed of some temporary and some permanent funding. As far as the temporary funding is concerned, we have $11.5 million for immigration and refugee legal aid for an additional two years going to 2016-17. We also have funding for court-ordered counsel in federal prosecutions, $1.65 million in relief and program operations, $1.28 million of which was made permanent.
Obviously, legal aid remains a very important part of our justice system to ensure that we have a fair, accessible, and relevant system for all Canadians.
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View Bob Dechert Profile
CPC (ON)
Very good. I notice with respect to the new prostitution legislation, there's an allocation for an increase of $1.9 million in support of funding for non-legislative measures to address prostitution. Can you give us some details of the types of programs this money will be applied to?
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Pierre Legault
View Pierre Legault Profile
Pierre Legault
2015-05-13 15:50
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Yes. We have $20 million in new funding that was announced, and of this, we will be receiving $10.47 million over five years, and Public Safety will also be receiving some of that funding to the tune of $9.53 million. We will be engaged, obviously, in making sure that the money reaches the communities and the people who are directly affected by prostitution, and in trying to get people out of the practice of prostitution.
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Pierre Legault
View Pierre Legault Profile
Pierre Legault
2015-05-13 15:51
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The kinds of services that are provided are to help people with addictions, for example, who need trauma therapy, employment training, financial literacy training, perhaps some transitional housing if people have to be relocated and taken off the streets, emergency safe houses, drop-in centres, and things like that. We're going out to communities and people interested in the subject matter and asking for proposals, and the proposals will be assessed and then funding will be provided.
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View Bob Dechert Profile
CPC (ON)
That's very helpful. Thank you.
I also noticed in the estimates an increase of $11 million for renewal of the aboriginal justice strategy. Could you provide us with some specifics on how these programs help aboriginal communities?
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Pierre Legault
View Pierre Legault Profile
Pierre Legault
2015-05-13 15:52
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Yes, the additional funding will be at the current level of $11 million in 2016-17. Part of that will be in grants and contributions to the tune of $9.8 million. There's also $1.2 million that will be going to operating expenditures. Those are cost-effective measures that reach 800 communities across Canada and an untold number of people directly. It's a very efficient way to deliver services and reduce the impact on police forces and so on, so it's a good alternative.
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View Bob Dechert Profile
CPC (ON)
I have a question for Mr. Saunders, from the director of public prosecutions office.
The main estimates provide for an expenditure of $130 million, and it comes under the rubric of “Drug, Criminal Code, and terrorism prosecution program”. Could you give us more details and explain the effectiveness of these programs for the committee?
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Brian J. Saunders
View Brian J. Saunders Profile
Brian J. Saunders
2015-05-13 15:53
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That program, as the title indicates, covers three areas.
The drug prosecutions form the majority of our prosecutions across the country. We are responsible for the drug prosecutions in every jurisdiction, except in Quebec where the charges laid by the Sûreté du Québec or the Montreal police force are prosecuted by the Province of Quebec prosecution service, and in New Brunswick, where the charges laid by municipal police forces are prosecuted by the province.
The Criminal Code refers largely to Criminal Code prosecutions in the north, in the three territories. We conduct all the Criminal Code prosecutions in the north. In the south we conduct fraud, organized crime related to drugs, and the terrorism prosecutions. We single out terrorism prosecutions as an element of that program because it's an important, high-priority element along with organized crime, as mentioned in our report on plans and priorities.
We estimate that last year we spent a little over $4 million conducting terrorism prosecutions. You might know that at present there are 12 people before the courts, facing terrorism charges, and there are a number of people facing peace bond applications. That is an area where we expect there could be an increase in work, given the recent reallocation by the RCMP of members to work in that area.
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