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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
View David Lametti Profile
2019-06-17 22:13 [p.29246]
Mr. Speaker, I hope that everyone in this House will join me.
The fourth element is on reclassification of offences. Reclassification of offences is another key element of Bill C-75 that will modernize and streamline the Criminal Code and promote a more efficient and economical use of judicial resources.
Hybridizing offences that are punishable by a maximum penalty of two, five and 10 years' imprisonment gives the provinces and territories greater flexibility to match their resources to the cases based on the offender's circumstances and the gravity of the case.
However, this reclassification would not change the fundamental sentencing principles. The classification reforms do not reduce penalties. Serious offences will continue to be treated seriously by the courts.
The other place's amendments 1, 10, 11, 13 and 14 are about the reclassification of offences and touch on areas for which witnesses expressed concerns about amendments potentially having unintended consequences.
Amendment 1 would allow a court to order DNA sampling for offences punishable by five and 10 years' imprisonment. Bill C-75 would hybridize those offences, and DNA orders are already issued for them. This amendment is consistent with the objectives of the bill, and I urge the House to join me in supporting it.
I would also urge the House to join me in supporting amendment 11, which would amend the Identification of Criminals Act to state that a person accused of a hybrid offence can be fingerprinted even if the prosecutor opts to proceed by way of summary conviction.
Amendments 13 and 14 are consequential amendments relating to the coming-into-force date of the specified provision if amendment 12 is agreed to.
The other place's amendment 10 attempts to respond to concerns that a number of stakeholders made regarding the unintended impact of Bill C-75's proposed amendments to increase the maximum penalty for most Criminal Code offences with a summary conviction penalty to two years less a day.
Currently section 802.1 makes clear that agents, including law students, articling students, paralegals and others, cannot appear in summary conviction proceedings where the maximum term of imprisonment is greater than six months, unless the agent is authorized under a program approved by the lieutenant governor in council of the province or the accused is an organization.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended section 802.1 to allow provinces and territories to establish criteria in addition to their existing authority to approve programs, authorizing agents to appear in summary conviction proceedings where the maximum penalty was more than six months and to allow agents to attend court in place of the accused to seek an adjournment of the proceeding on all summary conviction matters without prior authorization.
These amendments maintain jurisdictional flexibility in this area of criminal procedure while also recognizing regional diversity and how legal representation is regulated across Canada.
The proposed other place's amendment would add a provision that would also allow agents to appear where they are authorized to do so under the law of a province. We are concerned that there might be unintended results to this amendment. As I stated earlier, this bill is the product of considerable consultation with provinces and territories and there has not been sufficient time to analyze and ascertain what the effect of this amendment would be under existing provincial and territorial laws.
Moreover, provinces and territories already have flexibility to quickly address any consequences of the reclassification scheme on agents through the amendments made to the bill in this place last December. Using the proposed new power to do this through criteria or a program established by the lieutenant governor in council is a much faster process than legislative reform.
For these reasons, we do not support the other place's amendment 10.
The fifth element is about strengthening case management. Bill C-75 will strengthen Criminal Code provisions to improve case management.
The sixth element is about improving the jury selection process. Bill C-75 will also improve the jury selection process by eliminating the potentially discriminatory use of peremptory challenges, making the selection process more transparent, promoting fairness and impartiality and making jury trials more efficient in general.
The seventh key area was implementing other additional efficiencies. One of the most widely supported aspects of the bill is the promotion of additional efficiencies, including through the use of technology where available to facilitate remote appearances.
Bill C-75 also includes reforms proposed in three bills that were previously introduced as separate bills: Bill C-28, victim surcharge; Bill C-38, exploitation and trafficking in persons, and Bill C-39, repeal of provisions ruled unconstitutional.
The other place's amendments 5, 8 and 9 respond to the December 14, 2018, decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Boudreault, which struck down the provisions in the Criminal Code related to the federal victim surcharge, used by provinces and territories to partially fund their victim services.
The other place's amendments re-enact a new victim surcharge regime that requires the imposition of a surcharge in all cases, but provides greater judicial discretion to depart from imposing the surcharge in appropriate cases, in order to address the concerns of the Supreme Court decision.
I believe the victim surcharge amendments will restore the necessary judicial discretion to ensure that the sentence imposed in each case is fit and proportionate. I urge this House to join me in supporting these amendments. These are changes that I know my provincial and territorial colleagues are awaiting.
In conclusion, as we can see, this bill contains a number of crucial measures to reduce delays in the criminal justice system. These measures will help modernize and simplify the system, while at the same time providing additional safeguards for vulnerable victims and restoring the ability to collect the federal victim surcharge.
Last, but not least, these amendments represent an important step towards reversing the historically disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples.
We must work together to ensure that this bill is passed before we adjourn for the summer.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2019-06-17 23:14 [p.29254]
Mr. Speaker, I was just making the point that the Criminal Lawyers' Association has made, about why mandatory minimum sentences are important. It is because if a criminal lawyer has the possibility, a zero-sum game, that his or her client will get the minimum sentence that is there with no discretion of the judges to forge a penalty that is appropriate in the circumstances, the lawyer is not going to cut any deals. There will be no plea bargaining. There will be no efficiency. Therefore, the greatest single efficiency gain would have been what the Prime Minister promised us would happen, which is that mandatory minimum sentences, the way the Conservatives did it, would be eliminated. That was the promise that Canadians received over and over again, only to be completely thrown out in this bill.
It is a gigantic reform initiative. To be fair, it is all pertaining to criminal law but is a gigantic effort with this gigantic problem completely ignored. It is not a problem that I alone identify as an obstacle to efficiency gains and to addressing the crisis that Jordan represents, of people walking free from very serious crimes because we cannot get a trial in a reasonable amount of time. For reasons that escape me, the Liberals completely ignored that and did a number of other things, some of which are commendable but do not do what the objective of the bill was to be, which was to address the issue of inefficiency. That is the problem that the Criminal Lawyers' Association pointed out.
The courts have been reduced to simply being, as some people call them, slot machines of justice. They have no discretion at all. If the facts are made out, the penalty is there. It is push a button. Some judges have complained to me privately that they feel like they are simply automatons. That is not what judges historically have done. The Conservatives rendered them in this position that is invidious and, frankly, embarrassing to many judges. What they thought they had the power to do, which was to render an appropriate sentence to fit the crime, was thrown out the window when mandatory minimums were imposed on so many of the sentences in the Criminal Code.
We also have a crisis in Canada with the overrepresentation of indigenous women in particular. To his credit, the Minister of Justice referred to this problem. We all are aware of it. It is another national disgrace. Jonathan Rudin testified to the justice committee. He is a very memorable witness. He is a lawyer with the Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto. He highlighted the government's inaction with regard to abolishing mandatory minimum sentences and its particular effect on indigenous women. Here is what he said:
[w]e 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 [judges] would like [them] to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.
The first thing he urged the committee to recommend was to bring into legislation that judges have sentencing discretion, which the Liberals promised to do and did not.
I suspect the problem is much worse now, but in 2015 the proportion of indigenous adults in custody relative to their percentage of the population was eight times higher for indigenous men and a staggering 12 times higher for indigenous women. Any measure that could address this problem head-on has to be looked at seriously. The government's failure to address what the mandate letter from the Prime Minister told us it would do is a serious missed opportunity.
I would like to turn to preliminary inquiries, which the minister also referred to and was the subject of some of the reform proposals that the Senate brought forward. The Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee passed an amendment to Bill C-75 that would bring back the option for preliminary inquiries for hundreds of criminal offences. Since Bill C-75 was first introduced in the House, the NDP has been advocating that preliminary hearings be retained in criminal proceedings. The Senate is attempting to reverse the government's move to eliminate preliminary inquiries for all offences, except for offences carrying a sentence of life imprisonment.
Senator Pierre Dalphond, a former judge, passed an amendment to bring back the option of preliminary inquiries for most indictable offences, as long as the judge ensures that the impact on complainants is mitigated.
The Liberals argue that this will cost court time, but we heard at the justice committee over and over again testimony that, if we got rid of preliminary inquiries, time saving would actually be marginal and the potential for miscarriage of justice would be great.
While the government has accepted many of the Senate amendments, it is using its motion to continue to severely limit the use of preliminary hearings. We have opposed this measure since Bill C-75 was brought to the House, and our stance, I am confident, remains the correct one.
The Liberals at the House justice committee voted to allow preliminary inquiries only when the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. The other place amended this provision to allow far more judicial discretion, increasing the number of offences that could have a preliminary inquiry from 70 to 463. The minister pointed out that they tried to find some middle ground on this issue.
Overwhelmingly, we heard from witnesses at the justice committee that restricting the use of preliminary inquiries will not address court delays sufficiently and will sacrifice or could sacrifice the rights of the accused. For example, Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said at the committee that preliminary inquiries occupy a very small percentage of court time but “deliver huge savings to the system. Preliminary inquiries deliver these efficiencies in a number of different ways.” They focus issues for trial, reducing trial length; they identify evidentiary or legal problems in a case at an early stage so the parties can ensure that these problems don't arise during the trial; and they can facilitate the resolution of charges.
He was not alone. Time does not allow me to list all the people who agreed with Mr. Spratt, but they include the Canadian Bar Association; the Criminal Lawyers' Association; the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association, the prosecution side; various defence lawyers, such as Sarah Leamon, a criminal lawyer; Professor Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary, and on and on, yet the government did not want to go there. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why.
There is also a huge possibility that with taking preliminary inquiries away, there could be a risk that people will be wrongfully convicted. That is what Bill Trudell, the chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, said. The government says we do not need them because we now have what are called Stinchcombe disclosure provisions, Stinchcombe being a famous case requiring the Crown to provide all the evidence available to the defence witnesses. The government says that, as a result, we do not need preliminary inquiries. That certainly is not what these people have said, and on a risk-benefit analysis they think it is just not right. The possibility of a wrongful conviction seems to be something we should all be worried about.
I know that time is running out quickly, but I said I would comment on some of the positive things in the bill, and I would like to do so.
First, there is the elimination of what are called “zombie” provisions of the Criminal Code, which criminalize things that are no longer illegal. These provisions have been found to be unconstitutional and have no place in the Criminal Code.
The bill would restore the discretion of judges to impose fewer victim fine surcharges or not impose them at all. I commend the government for that step as well.
I said in my question for the Minister of Justice earlier that I commend the government for broadening the definition of intimate partner violence. That is a good step. Creating an alternative process for dealing with breaches of bail is another good step. Codifying the so-called ladder principle, which requires that the least onerous form of release be imposed, is a good thing as well.
I agree with the government, and I confess not everybody does, that abolishing peremptory challenges is a positive step. Also, the routine police evidence provision has been amended for the good.
For the LGBTQ2+ community, the vagrancy and bawdy house provisions that were often used in the past to criminalize gay men have been rightly repealed. I am proud of the role that I played at the justice committee in moving those amendments, and I commend the government for finally repealing these discriminatory provisions.
I wish to be on record as saying that there is much in this bill that is commendable. It is the fact of the missed opportunity that is so disturbing.
I still have concerns about the many hybrid offences created in Bill C-75, because contrary to what the hon. Conservative member for Sarnia—Lambton said earlier, all this does is to push them down to the already overburdened criminal courts at the provincial level. The more hybrid offences, which proceed by way of summary rather than indictment, go to the provincial courts, where 95% of all criminal matters already take place. I have talked to people in my province of British Columbia who are very concerned about the impact of this on the administration of justice in that province. Jordan is perhaps not as much of a problem in the superior courts, but is a bigger problem in the provincial courts. Surely, that was not the intent.
I know that I have little time left, but I want to complete the point I made earlier about Madam Justice Marion Buller, the chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She had the opportunity to go to the Senate committee with her report. A number of suggestions were made for reform in the other place and are now in the amendments before this House. I am very happy that that has happened. However, there are still serious problems with some of the legacies of residential schools and the sixties scoop that still need to be addressed.
I believe my time is almost at an end, so let me just say this. I wish we could support this bill. There is much in it that is worthwhile, but the failure to do what the Prime Minister told us they would do, deal with the mandatory minimums, and the inability to address the preliminary inquiries in a more manageable way, are the reasons we must respectfully oppose this bill.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-28 15:59 [p.24106]
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments thereto.
This legislation represents a key milestone on our government's commitment to modernizing the criminal justice system, reducing delays and ensuring the safety of all Canadians. Delays in the criminal justice system affect public safety, undermine public confidence in the administration of justice, adversely impact the rights of accused persons and fails to provide Canadians good value for money.
When proceedings are stayed due to delays, the criminal justice system itself fails. Perpetrators are not held responsible for their actions, the innocent are not given the opportunity to truly clear their name and victims suffer.
Uses of delay in the criminal justice is not a new one. In the early 1990s, tens of thousands of cases were stayed due to delay following the Supreme Court of Canada's historic decision in the Crown and Askov.
As we know, the Supreme Court's subsequent decisions in Jordan and Cody set out a new legal framework for assessing delays. That framework included a transition period in assessing the cases for which charges had been laid prior to the release of the decision.
Given that this period will come to an end next summer, we have no time to lose. We must do everything we can to improve the efficiency of our criminal justice system.
Fortunately, we have many helpful studies and reports including the in-depth study of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Its July 2017 report is entitled “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice”. After hearing from a sum total of 138 witnesses, the standing committee concluded that the causes of delays were wide and varied. It issued a call to the legal community, including judges and federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice and attorneys general to “take decisive and immediate steps to address the causes of delays and to modernize our justice system.” It also called in the Minister of Justice to show leadership “in taking the necessary reformative action”.
I know the minister feels extremely privileged to have been entrusted with the responsibility to address this urgent issue, which also forms part of the mandate letter given to her by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Justice has taken several significant steps to improve the criminal justice system. In total, she has made now 240 judicial appointments and elevations to superior courts right across the country. In 2017 alone, the minister made 100 appointments, more than any other minister of justice in the last two decades. This year she is on pace to meet or exceed that number.
At the same time, the last two budgets presented by our government have allocated funding for an unprecedented number of new judicial positions, which are necessary to allow courts to respond to growing caseloads, including criminal matters. In all, our government has seen the creation of 75 new judicial positions over the past two years.
In fact, earlier this year, chief justices in Alberta and Quebec noted that for the first time in a long time, they were starting to notice positive trends in terms of delays. That is a very encouraging sign. The significant efforts made by judges, courts, governments and other actors in the justice system are paying off.
I will use the rest of the time that I have today to address our government's legislative response to criminal justice system delays.
I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their thorough study of the bill.
The committee heard from 95 witnesses and examined a significant number of documents on a highly complex subject. There were 58 briefs submitted by various stakeholders, including representatives of police forces, Crown attorneys, defence attorneys, legal aid programs, victims' rights advocates, representatives of indigenous groups, and academics.
The discussion on the admission of routine police evidence by affidavit was particularly important, and our government was listening.
Although our intentions were commendable, we admit that our approach, as proposed, could have had unintended consequences, especially for unrepresented accused persons.
The committee gave that concern due consideration, and we accepted its amendment in that regard.
The reforms in this bill were also generally well received by all sides. There were some concerns heard regarding the provision, the proposed reverse onus, in the context of intimate partner violence due to operational issues that some had experienced with what is known as dual charging; that is where both perpetrators and victims are charged after a victim has had to use physical force to defend herself.
Supporting survivors of domestic violence and ensuring that more perpetrators are brought to justice was part of our platform in 2015, and the reverse onus provisions, which do just that, were maintained in the bill after the committee study.
We know, including most recently, from the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Antic that the problem is not the law itself but in how it has been applied. It is important to note that provinces and territories have developed policies and training in this area. We have a solid legal framework, yet a disproportionate number of indigenous and vulnerable and marginalized accused are being denied bail. Those who are being released are being required to follow too many onerous conditions, with a strong reliance on sureties in a number of jurisdictions.
The proposed new process contained in Bill C-75 talks about judicial referral hearings, which will provide an off ramp for administration of justice offences that do not actually cause harm to a victim. This proposal has been supported enthusiastically, both by residents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and by Canadians right across the country, who are concerned about the disproportionate overrepresentation of indigenous and racialized persons in our criminal justice system.
What we have advanced is a shining example of exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada and the Senate committee report were imploring when calling for “a cultural shift among justice system participants that moves them away from complacency and towards efficiency, cooperation and fairness.”
My colleagues will also recall that Bill C-75 includes two proposals in relation to preliminary inquiries. First, the bill proposes to restrict preliminary inquiries for adults accused to offences punishable by life imprisonment, for example, murder or kidnapping. Second, it will permit the judge presiding over the preliminary inquiry to limit the issues to be explored and the number of witnesses to be heard at the preliminary inquiry.
The approach in Bill C-75 with respect to preliminary inquiries reflects the extensive consideration and consultation on various options throughout the years and the best evidence available, and ultimately proposes a balanced approach between various interests at stake. It also proposes an approach that was endorsed and supported by the provincial and territorial ministers of justice during the extensive consultations undertaken by the minister with her provincial and territorial counterparts.
One topic that was a particular focus for the committee was the reclassification of offences. Reclassification will result in amendments to many provisions in the code, both for the purposes of hybridizing existing indictable offences that carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment of 10 years or less, and to create uniform maximum penalty of imprisonment on summary conviction of two years less a day.
The reclassification amendments were supported by the minister's provincial and territorial counterparts, who felt strongly that these amendments would give prosecutors much-needed flexibility based on the gravity of cases before them.
Notably, the reclassification amendments are procedural. They change how conduct that is not deserving of an indictable sentence range can be treated. It is already a well-known feature of our criminal justice system that prosecutors assess the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender to determine which type of sentence to seek from the court.
Importantly, nothing in the bill proposes to lower the sentences that would be awarded under the law. These reforms would not change the fundamental principles of sentencing. We value the variety of perspectives and knowledge that the many witnesses contributed to the Standing Committee on Justice's study.
Bill C-75's proposed reclassification of indictable offences, punishable by maximum of 10 years imprisonment or less, does not treat these offences any less seriously for sentencing purposes.
Nonetheless, this is an important point. The justice committee heard compelling testimony from witnesses on the terrorism and advocating genocide offences. Our government recognizes that these are crimes against the state, against society at large for the purpose of advancing a political objective, in the case of terrorism. In the case of advocating genocide, these are crimes not just against society at large but crimes against humanity.
I say that with some experience in the area, as a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda. I know first-hand that there is no more reprehensible crime known to law then genocide, which is advocating for the destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
The standing committee unanimously recommended that these offences be carved out of the reclassification approach in Bill C-75. We thank the committee for its diligent work in this area, and agree wholeheartedly with this amendment.
On that note, we moved consequential government amendments to remedy an unintended error from one of these committee amendments in order to reflect the committee's objective of removing these offences from the list of those that were being reclassified.
We also welcomed the committee's amendments to section 802.1 of the Criminal Code to allow the provinces and territories to set criteria permitting agents, that is non-lawyers, such as law students, articling students and paralegals, to appear on summary conviction offences punishable by more than six months imprisonment and to allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offence for the purpose of an adjournment.
One of the unintended consequences of the proposal to reclassify offences in the Criminal Code is that agents would not have been able to appear for individuals on most summary conviction offences unless authorized by the provinces and territories. The justice committee helpfully amended section 802.1 of the Criminal Code to enable provinces and territories to establish criteria for agent representation on summary conviction offences with a maximum penalty of greater than six months imprisonment in addition to the current authority to create programs for this purpose as well as to allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offences for adjournments.
This amendment would address concerns over access to justice issues. It would maintain jurisdictional flexibility while also recognizing regional diversity in how legal representation is regulated across Canada.
On this point, I would underscore that access to justice informs not only the core aspect of the bill, but in all of the efforts we are undertaking at the justice ministry and the efforts made by the minister. The minister has brought this issue to the attention of her provincial and territorial counterparts so they will take the requisite prompt legislative action to set the necessary criteria for this important matter relating to access to justice.
I would also like to talk about the jury reforms proposed in Bill C-75. These changes will make major improvements to our jury selection process by abolishing peremptory challenges for Crown and defence attorneys, allowing judges to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice, modernizing challenges for cause, empowering judges to decide challenges for cause, and allowing trials to continue with the consent of the parties in the event that the number of jurors is reduced below 10, in order to avoid mistrials.
The under-representation of indigenous peoples and visible minorities on juries is a major concern. This problem has been well-documented for years. We believe that eliminating peremptory challenges will significantly improve the diversity of juries.
Peremptory challenges give both the accused and the Crown the power to exclude potential jurors without having to provide a reason. They have no place in our courtrooms, given the potential for abuse. Once this bill has passed, Canada will join countries like England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which abolished peremptory challenges in 1988.
We must remember that provincial and territorial laws and processes play an important role in determining candidates for jury duty and the methods used to compile jury lists.
The federal government is just one piece of the puzzle. However, I am pleased to see that federal, provincial and territorial government representatives are working together on a wide range of jury-related issues in order to make further recommendations on how to improve Canada's jury system. I believe that the questions raised during the committee's study of Bill C-75 will help with these deliberations.
I was also pleased to see that the committee was generally in favour of the more technical proposals aimed at reducing delays and improving efficiency in our system, in particular with respect to removing the requirement for judicial endorsement for the execution of out-of-province warrants, clarifying the signing authority of clerks of the court, and facilitating remote appearances.
As well, I wish to highlight the committee's unanimous support of the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal code, a proposal that has been well received in the LGBTQ community, as well as the proposed amendment to repeal the vagrancy and bawdy house offences, which have been historically and improperly used to target consensual adult sexual activity. These amendments continue our government's important work to address discrimination against LGBTQ2 Canadians.
Importantly the committee also supported Bill C-75's proposal to repeal the abortion offences that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down as unconstitutional in the Morgentaler decision in 1988. Our government will always protect a woman's reproductive rights and her right to choose what to do with her own body.
As I have already stated, Bill C-75 proposes comprehensive reforms that will help to ensure that an accused person's right to be tried within a reasonable time is respected and that all justice system participants, including victims and witnesses, do not face delays.
At the same time, we are deeply conscious of the need and have heard the call for sentencing reform, including mandatory minimum penalties. The minister remains committed to advancing change.
The courts have made it clear that many mandatory minimum penalties present serious challenges from a constitutional perspective. The minister has been clear that her view is that judges should be provided the necessary discretion to impose sentences appropriate to the offender before them.
That said, we need to ensure we put in place sentencing reform that will stand the test of time. Mandatory minimum penalties are being litigated quite extensively. There are cases in which the Supreme Court has upheld the mandatory minimum penalty and there are cases in which the court has not.
We want to ensure we have taken all steps and done our due diligence as we continue to work on sentencing reform so the changes we make will stand the test of time.
The bold reforms proposed in the legislation have been the subject of extensive discussions, consultations and collaboration with the minister's provincial and territorial colleagues. Our commitment to prioritize key legislative reforms that we felt cumulatively would have the biggest impact in reducing delays in the criminal justice system remains strong.
This discussion and the consultations have included extensive debate within this very chamber itself. The House has debated Bill C-75 for a total of 14 hours and 45 minutes thus far. Ninety-five witnesses in the course of 27 hours were heard by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during extended sitting hours. A total of 28 members of the opposition benches from multiple parties have spoken out on the bill.
Further to that, we have listened to the standing committee's recommendations and to key stakeholders who have committed to address the issues of delays in the criminal justice system. Bill C-75, as amended, is a result of this commitment and reflects the beginning of a culture change that the Supreme Court was calling for in its Jordan and its Cody decisions. I therefore urge all members to support this important legislation.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:27 [p.24111]
Madam Speaker, I rise once again to speak to Bill C-75. One of the biggest problems with Bill C-75 is that, although the objective of the legislation is to reduce delay in Canada's courts, it actually does very little to reduce delay. For a bill that is designed to reduce delay, the fact that it does not reduce delay is a pretty big problem.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and other Liberal MPs who have spoken on the bill in this place have patted themselves on the back about, as they have put it, the good work of the justice committee, which heard from 95 witnesses, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice just stated, and that Liberal MPs listened to the key stakeholders and acted on the concerns raised by stakeholders.
In the three years I have been a member of Parliament I have never seen a piece of legislation more widely criticized in virtually all aspects of this massive 300-page bill than Bill C-75. Despite the rhetoric from across the way about listening to key stakeholders, the reality is that on issue after issue, the Liberals did not listen. They ignored the concerns raised by key stakeholders at committee. Instead they rammed the bill through committee and, other than a few minor changes, we are largely stuck with a very flawed bill, a bill that is problematic in so many different ways.
In that regard, let me first highlight the issue of hybridization. Putting aside the issue of watering down serious indictable offences, which is certainly a serious concern, from the standpoint of reducing delay, hybridization is going to download even more cases onto provincial courts. Some 99.6% of criminal cases are already heard before provincial courts, and if any member questions my statement about the fact this would result in the further downloading of cases, do not take my word for it. Take the Canadian Bar Association's word. The Canadian Bar Association, in its brief to the justice committee said that hybridization, “...would likely mean more cases will be heard in provincial court. This could result in further delays in those courts....” No kidding. Despite what the Canadian Bar Association said, the government said, “No problem. We'll just download more cases on to provincial courts”.
Then, there were public safety concerns raised about hybridization. One of the concerns raised was by John Muise, a former member of the Parole Board. He noted that offences being reclassified included breaches of long-term supervision orders. Long-term supervision orders apply to the most dangerous sexual predators in our society. We are talking about individuals who are so dangerous that after they complete their sentence, they are subject to a long-term supervision order for up to 10 years, with many stringent conditions.
John Muise said that it is a serious problem to treat breaches of these orders which are imposed on the most dangerous of people and that they should remain solely indictable, mainly because a breach of a long-term supervision order is a sign that these very dangerous offenders are returning to their cycle of violence and exploitation of vulnerable persons. We are not talking about marginalized people here, as the hon. parliamentary secretary referred to with respect to minor administration of justice offences, breaches of orders, which should be treated seriously. In this case, we are talking about the most serious offenders. Instead of heeding the advice of John Muise, the government said, “No problem; we'll move ahead”, forgetting about what a member of the Parole Board of Canada had said.
As well, Mr. Chow, deputy chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department, appeared before our committee. He said that there was another problem to reclassifying some very serious indictable offences as it relates to taking a sample and putting it into a national DNA database. Right now, if someone is convicted for one of those offences as an indictable offence, the Crown could apply to a judge to take a DNA sample to be put into the national DNA data bank. However, with Bill C-75, if the offence was prosecuted by way of summary conviction and the individual was convicted, it would be a summary conviction offence rather than an indictable offence, and no such application could be made.
In talking about the impact that might have upon police investigations, Deputy Chief Constable Chow noted in his testimony that of the 85 offences that are being reclassified, as a result of DNA samples being taken over the last number of years, 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults were solved. However, instead of listening to Mr. Chow, instead of listening to Mr. Muise, the government said, “We don't care. We're moving ahead.”
Then there is the issue of preliminary inquiries. The government is limiting preliminary inquiries to be held if the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, and for all other offences with a lesser maximum penalty, a preliminary inquiry would no longer be available. The government claims that this will help speed up the court process. Witness after witness begged to differ with the government. The brief submitted to the committee by the Canadian Bar Association stated on limiting preliminary inquiries:
This would not reduce court delays and would negatively impact the criminal justice system as a whole.... Any connection between court delays and the preliminary hearing is speculative at best.
If members do not want to take the word of the Canadian Bar Association, perhaps they might be interested in taking the word of the Barreau du Québec, which stated:
The Barreau du Québec opposes this amendment. By limiting the use of preliminary inquiries, some argue that we can speed up the judicial process and thus reduce delays. We believe that limiting preliminary inquiries in this way would be ineffective or even counterproductive.
Then there was Philip Star, a criminal defence lawyer from Nova Scotia, who said before the committee in respect to preliminary inquiries:
They're incredibly helpful, not only to the accused, but to the Crown and ultimately to our system, by cutting down on delays....
So much for the government's assertion that limiting preliminary inquiries is somehow going to reduce delays.
It gets better, because Laurelly Dale, another lawyer, a defence counsel, who appeared before the committee said:
Two major studies have concluded that preliminary inquiries do not contribute substantially to the problem of court delay. Preliminary hearings facilitate the resolution of potentially lengthy and expensive trials in superior court. They are often used instead of rather than in addition to trials. They expedite the administration of justice. It is far easier and quicker to get a two- to four-day prelim, as opposed to a one- to two-week trial in superior court.
Then there is Michael Spratt, who said:
There is a delay problem in our courts, but preliminary inquiries are not the cause of that delay.
Witness after witness, as I said, told the government that this is not going to work. It is not going to reduce delay. Did the government listen? Did the Liberal members on the justice committee listen? Apparently not.
Further testimony on prelims was from Sarah Leamon who said:
...87% of them actually resolve after the preliminary inquiry process. It saves the complainant,—
—in the context of a sexual assault complainant—
—in the vast majority of circumstances, from having to testify again and from being re-traumatized.
While the Liberal members opposite say they listened, the evidence before the committee and the response of the government to the evidence before the committee demonstrates exactly the opposite.
Even if one accepts the reasoning of the government, despite all of the evidence before the committee that limiting preliminary inquiries will in fact reduce delay, it is important to note that preliminary inquiries only take up about 3% of court time across Canada. To the degree that this is going to have a beneficial impact, the fact remains it is a very small piece of the much larger problem of backlog and delay in Canada's courts.
Let us look at the issue of judicial referral hearings, and the evidence that was before the committee on judicial referral hearings. Serious concerns were raised, including by John Muise, a former member of the Parole Board of Canada, as well as from Mr. Chow from the Vancouver Police Department, about the fact that individuals who commit an administration of justice offence, who are referred to a judicial referral hearing, would not have that breach of an order or other administration of justice offence entered into CPIC.
Right now, if someone does commit an AOJ offence, it is entered into CPIC, but thanks to the government's judicial referral hearing process, that would not happen. As I mentioned when I posed a question to the hon. parliamentary secretary, the consequences of not presenting the full CPIC record before a judge or justice of the peace can have devastating consequences. My community learned this when Constable David Wynn was shot and killed by someone who had an extensive criminal record, including an extensive record of administration of justice offences.
Now the government is saying that the court would not even have the benefit, if that CPIC record were to be presented, of the totality of that offender's criminal record because, after all, those offences would not be entered into CPIC. When I asked the parliamentary secretary what the government intended to do to fix this serious public safety issue, which was brought up more than once before the justice committee, he regretfully did not have an answer.
I should note again that in terms of judicial referral hearings, while they will have an impact on undermining public safety because those breaches will not be entered into CPIC, the impact of administration of justice offences on the backlog in our system is actually quite limited. That is because AOJ offences are typically dealt with as tagalong offences. What I mean by that is that they are usually dealt with at the same time that the main or underlying charge is dealt with. Therefore, in terms of the amount of court time and court resources that are being used for the purpose of dealing with administration of justice offences, in fact, it is quite minimal.
Again, members should not take my word for it. They should take the word of Rick Woodburn, the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. Here is what Mr. Woodburn said to the justice committee:
I can tell you from the ground, they don't clog up the system. They don't take that much time. A breach of a court order takes very little time to prove, even if it goes to trial—and that's rare. Keep in the back of your mind that these charges aren't clogging up the system.
Did the Liberals keep that in the back of their minds? Apparently not because they just went ahead with the judicial referral hearing process without a plan, without any thought of the serious public safety issues that were raised before the justice committee.
Then there is the issue of peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges have nothing to do with delay, but they were added to this bill. The basis upon which the government has decided to eliminate peremptory challenges is that somehow it will increase the representativeness of juries. Witness after witness said quite the opposite, but instead of listening to those witnesses, the government just moved ahead.
Taken together, the record is very clear. Ninety-five witnesses gave evidence at committee and on issue after issue, the Liberals ignored the evidence. The Liberals ignored the witnesses and as a result, we have a very flawed bill that is not going to get to the heart of the problem, which is to reduce the delay and backlog in Canada's courts.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-11-28 16:56 [p.24114]
Madam Speaker, very briefly, as to the competency of the government, I would point to our medical assistance in dying bill, Bill C-45, and Bill C-46, and our appointment of 240 judges.
The member opposite took issue with peremptory challenges. The question I would put to him is on this issue. First of all, we have not just eliminated peremptory challenges, but are allowing judges to ensure that any jury will be diverse and represent the community it serves. We emphasize challenges for cause.
Does the member opposite believe, as in England, as it was done 30 years ago, that it is important that if one seeks to stand aside a juror, one has a reason for that, other than simply just the way that juror looks, and that one can enunciate that reason in front of an impartial adjudicator?
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-28 16:57 [p.24114]
Madam Speaker, I would cite the Canadian Bar Association, which has said that in the case of peremptory challenges, “they are more frequently used to the benefit of Indigenous and other racialized persons”. The Bar Association went on to say that the bill's amendments to the jury process “abolishing peremptory challenges, seem insufficiently considered. If legislative reform is required, it should be based on empirical data generated through a thorough examination of the jury system.”
Indeed, that was said before the committee. There was a lot of evidence about how this is actually going to make it less likely that juries are representative. One of the proposals was perhaps in—
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-11-28 17:28 [p.24117]
Madam Speaker, when I made my speech on Bill C-75 at second reading, I mentioned that we were eager to work with the government to improve the bill. I am disappointed to report not enough was done to enable us to support this legislation. The government's stated goal was to reduce court delays in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Jordan and to continue with trial fairness imperatives. I am afraid the bill comes up short on both counts.
This was a 302-page bill so I will not be able to address in my short time the questions I wanted to. However, I would like to speak on four themes very briefly. First, the failure to address mandatory minimum penalties; second, the hybridization issues we have heard about; third, restrictions on preliminary inquiries; and fourth, the patchwork approach to agent representation. These are among the many issues we heard testimony on at the justice committee.
We heard testimony that the measures proposed would, in fact, make matters worse in many cases. I will elaborate. Most of the action in criminal justice in Canada takes place in the provincial courts, and hybridizing offences and pushing more cases onto to those courts is hardly a solution that is going to make things better.
However, I commend the government for a number of things. I commend it for deleting the routine police evidence provision that was agreed to be problematic at the committee. I am pleased we, at the committee, persuaded the government to change that odious provision. I am also pleased to have moved, along with my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre, a provision that would repeal the bawdy house provisions and vagrancy sections of the Criminal Code that have been used so often to criminalize consensual sexual activities, particularly among the LGBTQ2 community.
However, there were hundreds of amendments brought to the committee and a number of them were not accepted. For example, the New Democratic Party brought 17 amendments to committee designed to help vulnerable people impacted by our justice system. None of them were accepted by the government.
Every day there are real people who are self-represented. They cannot afford lawyers and there is not enough legal aid in this world to represent them. Who are these people? They are primarily indigenous, poor and marginalized. It is our submission that this bill simply does not do enough to address their realities.
Many of the stakeholders we consulted have told us that the key reforms in Bill C-75 are not evidenced-based at all. The stated objective of this bill is to respond to the Jordan judgment, with its mandatory time limits, yet there is considerable doubt the changes proposed would speed up the criminal justice system. Arguably, they would have the opposite effect.
The Liberals claim that this is somehow bold criminal justice reform, yet the elephant in the room is that they failed entirely to address former prime minister Harper's regime of mandatory minimum sentences, despite their political promises and public commitments to do so. Defence lawyers and legal academics agree the reversal of this practice would have been a huge step to unclogging the delays in the system, yet the Liberals failed utterly to even address the topic at all. We believe we need to deal with the root causes of the delays, things like addiction and poverty issues, which are really the root of the crime we are dealing with.
Let me start with mandatory minimums. This is one thing that would have increased compliance with Jordan and alleviated court burden from multiple charter challenges, and it is unfathomable why the Liberals ducked this issue. So many people came to our committee and talked about it. I do not have time to list them all but they included, from Barreau du Québec, Dr. Marie-Eve Sylvestre, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Jonathan Rudin of Aboriginal Legal Services. I could go on and on. All of these people have spoken out about the failure to address mandatory minimums.
There are so many quotes I do not have time to address, but Jonathan Rudin, who is the program director for Aboriginal Legal Services reminded us that even the justice minister herself acknowledged the issues with mandatory minimum sentencing, saying, “This government knows that mandatory minimum sentences do not work.” She spoke eloquently on this issue on September 29, 2017, almost a year ago.
The justice minister said:
There is absolutely no doubt that MMPs have a disproportionate effect on Indigenous people, as well as other vulnerable populations. The data are clear. The increased use of MMPs over the past decade has contributed to the overrepresentation in our prison system of Indigenous people, racialized communities and female offenders. Judges are well-equipped to assess the offender before them and ensure that the punishment fits the crime.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in this bill to address that issue.
I am pleased that Senator Kim Pate has introduced Bill S-251, sponsored by my colleague, the member for Saskatoon West, which provides for judicial discretion to depart from the mandatory sentence when it would be just to do so. Then the opportunities for plea bargaining when judges have the discretion that they used to have, as all the experts have said, would go a great deal of distance to solve the issue of delays.
I do not have time to do much with the issue of hybridization. I think there has been enough said about that, and in the interests of time I will skip that.
I will say that Emilie Taman, one of the witnesses, a prominent lawyer in Ottawa, said this:
Indeed, of the 136 indictable offences that are to be reclassified as hybrid by virtue of Bill C-75, 95 are offences punishable by five or ten years. Consequently, this Bill now gives the Crown, rather than the accused, control over whether trial by jury is on the table for these 95 offences. This is problematic because the Crown’s exercise of discretion is done without transparency and is only reviewable on the very high standard of abuse of process.
In other words, we are giving the Crown counsel of the land the ability to make up their minds about which way to go in the privacy of their offices. Contrast that with judicial discretion, where in open court judges decide whether the penalty fits the crime. How different. How far we have come and how far away we are from justice. The potential for bias is real.
I believe that time will not allow me to do much more, but I am so enticed by what the hon. parliamentary secretary said about preliminary inquires that, in the interest of time, I want to address that issue head-on.
The government appears to believe that restricting preliminaries will save court time and protect vulnerable witnesses. The Canadian Bar Association, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association are among the witnesses that utterly disagree with the parliamentary secretary.
We heard considerable testimony about preliminaries actually reducing court delay. We heard extensive, compelling testimony that preliminary inquiries are a necessary tool to preserve trial fairness.
The Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario said:
Eliminating preliminary inquiries for all cases other than those for which a maximum period of imprisonment of life is available will not further the interests of justice or assist with the orderly and efficient administration of criminal justice. The Committee should recommend that these changes not be made.
I had a dozen quotes to give on this, but I think my favourite witness was Professor Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary's faculty of law. She said that we have to protect people from having a trial where none is necessary and that the “preliminary inquiry, at its core, exists as the legislative 'shield' between the accused and the Crown.”
She gave an example, a story which members may well remember, that of Susan Nelles, a nurse at the cardiac ward at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, who was accused of murdering children. During the preliminary inquiry, they found a complete lack of evidence. The result was the charges were dropped. The result, in Professor Silver's view, was that preliminary inquiries are a vital step in ensuring due process and fair trials.
The other issue I want to talk about involves restricting agent representation. Upping the penalty for summary offences to two years less a day is going to have an adverse effect for agent representation across our country. I am talking about law students, paralegals and other agents that currently represent a large “gap population”, as they are called, in our country. There are many individuals who simply do not qualify for legal aid and are too poor to afford a lawyer.
The government has decided it is up to the provinces and territories to regulate what type of agent can represent what crime. This is not co-operative federalism; this is creating a patchwork effect to justice across Canada. Access to appropriate counsel should not depend on where people live, but now it will. We have student legal aid services, people such as Lisa Cirillo, Suzanne Johnson and Doug Ferguson, who asked the government to reverse the measure that would limit agent representation, and yet nothing appears to have been done on that point.
Let me be clear. An unrepresented accused will absolutely increase court delay and deprive that person of his or her right to a proper trial. It often forces the Crown and judges into an uncomfortable position where they must occasionally advise, assist and support the self-represented accused when this is contrary to their official role in the process.
We proposed a number of changes to increase jury representativeness. They were rejected. Professor Kent Roach talked about the shameful situation of juries, such as the failure to have any indigenous jurors on the Gerald Stanley case, and suggested, as did the Criminal Lawyers' Association that we have the ability to look at the jury and the judge given the discretion to decide whether it was representative or indeed embarrassing. That was rejected by my colleagues.
I am sorry I do not have time to say much more, but I will say this. There is a real opportunity lost. We do not do comprehensive criminal justice reform very often in our country. The Liberals brought in a 302-page bill. Some of the key issues I have addressed will only exacerbate the problem before us, making less justice and further delays. There are some things in this bill we like, but on balance we have to say, sadly, we cannot support it.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-20 13:07 [p.23603]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today at report stage of 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. This is an omnibus bill that addresses matters related to the Criminal Code of Canada.
At first, everyone in our society who deals with major justice issues were quite pleased with what the Minister of Justice had to say. There is a clear need for reform. Unfortunately, many in the legal community and elsewhere who are calling for real reform are disappointed.
There is a great sense of disappointment. The longer we work with Bill C-75, the more the disappointment deepens. Michael Spratt, the former chair of the Canadian Criminal Lawyers' Association, has been quoted in this debate before. As he put it, “It all sounded so good. But it has all gone so wrong.”
I did attempt to make improvements to the legislation. Members of this place will know that while my status as leader of the Green Party of Canada does not allow me to sit on any committees, through the work of the PMO, first under former primer minister Stephen Harper and now under our current Prime Minister, I have what some might think of as an opportunity but I have to say it is an enormous burden that increases my workload. It is rather unfair because if it were not for what the committees have done, I could have been presenting substantive amendments here at report stage. That is my right as a member of Parliament and not of one of the three big parties. I have very few rights as a member of Parliament with one seat for the Green Party, but one of those rights was to be able to make substantive amendments at report stage. My rights have been subsumed into what, as I said, was done first by the Conservative government and now by the Liberals, to say that I have an opportunity to present amendments during clause-by-clause study at committee, although I am not a member of the committee. I do not have a right to vote, but I get a chance to speak to my amendments.
It was under that committee motion I was able to present 46 amendments. I participated vigorously in the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-75. It was a very discouraging process as very few amendments from opposition parties were accepted. Most of my amendments went directly to testimony from many witnesses who wanted to see the bill improved and I am disappointed that none of my 46 amendments made it through.
I should say that some of the worst parts of Bill C-75 were changed on the basis of government-proposed amendments. One of the ones that had worried me a great deal was the idea that in a criminal trial, evidence from the police could come in the form of a written statement without proffering the police officer in question for cross-examination. That was amended so that the prosecutors cannot use what is called routine police evidence without having someone put forward to be cross-examined. There was also the repeal of the vagrancy law and repeal of the law about keeping a common bawdy house.
However, many other sections of this bill cry out for further amendment, so at this point I want to highlight those sections that really need to be amended. We are at report stage, and third reading will come in short order. We are already under time allocation. I hope that when this bill gets to the other place, as it inevitably will, the other place will pass amendments that are needed.
It is quite clear that this bill, in some key areas, would do the opposite of what the government has promised, particularly in relation to disadvantaged people, particularly in relation to the status of indigenous peoples in our prisons, and particularly in relation to access to justice and fairness which have actually been worsened in this bill. That is not something I expected to be standing up and saying at report stage, but there it is. It is massively disappointing, and I hope that the Senate will improve it.
One of the things that was done, and I am not sure it was the best solution, but it was clearly a response to the Stanley case where it was a massive sense of a miscarriage of justice. When there is a jury, it is supposed to be a jury of the accused person's peers. If the person is an indigenous youth and his or her jury is entirely Caucasian, it is not exactly a jury of his or her peers. One of the reasons this happens is the use of peremptory challenges. Therefore, I do appreciate the effort in Bill C-75 to eliminate peremptory challenges. However, I want to go over the way in which this bill actually takes this backward.
The effort here of course, as many other hon. members have pointed out, is that this bill is in direct response to the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. In the Jordan case, the delays were so profound that the case could not proceed. Therefore, I think it is very clear that all Canadians feel the same sense of concern with the new trial timelines of 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior court. No one wants people to be freed, who at this point still have the presumption of innocence, because they have not gone through their court case. If the evidence is good enough, the prosecutors bring those people forward. The idea that they are just let out of jail because the trial times and the processing of that person took too long offends our sense of justice. The Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada were given a very quick jab toward justice by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, have we got it right?
In an effort to speed up trials, I will mention one thing first, which is the issue of eliminating preliminary inquiries. There was a great deal of evidence before our committee that the Government of Canada and the justice department did not have good data to tell us that preliminary inquiries were a source of great delay.
I want to quote from one of the legal experts. Bill Trudell is the current chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. He described preliminary inquiries like this, “They're like X-rays before an operation”. That is a very useful thing to have. They do not happen all the time, but when we remove them without good evidence as to why we are removing them, we could end up having innocent people convicted. In fact, Bill Trudell said that as difficult as it was for him to say, he thinks more innocent people will be convicted because we have taken out preliminary inquiries without quite having the evidence that that was a good thing to do to speed up trials.
We have heard a lot from my friends in the Conservative caucus about the question of hybridization. We have the problem that, having changed the range of sentencing, the effect of Bill C-75 is to also increase the sentencing for a summary conviction from six months to two years.
The Liberals have also added in Bill C-75 provisions about the use of agents that I do not think were thoroughly thought through. To give a better sense of agents, and this goes to the question of access to justice, suppose people are not quite poor enough to get a legal aid lawyer but are trying to navigate the legal system and they cannot afford a lawyer. In many of those cases, for a very long time, criminal defendants have had the benefit, particularly if they are low income, of law school clinics, which are young lawyers in training. They are student lawyers working as a clinic to provide legal services to people charged with lesser offences. It is too late to amend as here we are at report stage. I hope the other place will amend this to ensure access to legal aid clinics out of law schools in order to help marginalized groups navigating the legal system. I think this is an unintended consequence. I am certain that people in the Department of Justice did not ponder this and say that one of the problems is too many poor people are getting help from law students. That was not a problem that wanted solving, that was a very good and ongoing process that has been recklessly compromised in this bill. I have to hope that when it gets to the other place, we can fix this and make sure that in the definition of “agents” we exclude law students and law schools running clinics.
There are other aspects of this bill where the Liberals have just failed altogether to deal with the issue of the disproportionate number of indigenous people behind bars. They have taken in some aspects, in taking things into account. However, one of my amendments, that I really regret was not accepted, was we have no definition of “vulnerable populations”, and a lot of the evidence that came before the justice committee suggested we need such a definition. I tried one and it failed. Maybe the other place can try again. I hope that Bill C-75 will see more improvement in the other place before it becomes law.
View Doug Eyolfson Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate of Bill C-75. I would like to use my time today to discuss some aspects of amendments to the selection of juries. As we know, jury reform is an area of shared jurisdiction and Parliament is responsible for the criminal law and the rules in the Criminal Code setting out the framework for in-court jury selection. The provinces and territories are responsible for determining, for example, who is eligible for jury duty and the process by which the jury roll is compiled. Bill C-75 proposes several reforms with respect to the in-court jury selection process.
First, is the abolishment of peremptory challenges. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard several witnesses testify on jury reforms. Several legal experts and advocates expressed strong support for their elimination, as it would finally put an end to discriminatory exclusion of jurors.
Kent Roach from the University of Toronto stated:
The proposed abolition of peremptory challenges in s.271 of Bill C-75 is the most effective and efficient way to ensure that neither the Crown or the accused engages in discrimination against Aboriginal people and other disadvantaged and identifiable groups when selecting a juror.
Brent Kettles from Toronto said:
...having peremptory challenges cannot help but lower the public confidence in the administration of justice when members of the public and perspective jurors watch perspective jurors excluded on the basis of no reason, on the basis of no evidence, and without any information.
When those exclusions are based basically on the gut feeling of who is likely to be sympathetic to one side or the other, then that doesn't give the public or perspective jurors a feeling that jury selection is happening in a way that is fair and impartial, and also represents the community.
Legal expert Vanessa McDonnell noted:
It's important to recognize that these challenges have historically been, and can be, used against accused persons to their detriment. We have to balance the perceived benefit of having the peremptory challenge in your pocket to challenge someone whom defence counsel doesn't feel quite right about against the very real risk, I would suggest, that these challenges are going to be used in a way that disadvantages the accused person. My view is that, on balance, the potential harm, not only to the system but to accused persons, is greater than any benefit that accrues.
Discrimination in the selection of juries has been documented for decades. Concerns about the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous people being under-represented on juries were raised in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge with the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry.
More recently, we heard from retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who studied these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario Juries. Having read these reports and after hearing from many experts on the topic, I am confident that Bill C-75 proposes the right approach in abolishing peremptory challenges. It is a simple and effective way to prevent deliberate discrimination and the arbitrary exclusion of qualified jury members.
Furthermore, to bring greater efficiencies to the jury selection process and to make it more impartial, the bill proposes to empower a judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause—for example, because they are biased to one side—by either the defence or prosecution.
Currently, such challenges are decided by two laypersons called “triers” who are not trained in the law. This process has been problematic, causing delays in jury trials even before they begin and appeals resulting in orders for a new trial.
The proposal would shift the responsibility for such challenges to judges, who are trained adjudicators and therefore better placed to screen out impartial jurors. The proposed change reflects a recommendation made in 2009 by the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System, a group established by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice, comprising judges, deputy ministers of justice from across Canada, defence lawyers, representatives of the bar associations and the police. It is also consistent with what is done in other common law countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand.
I am confident that this change in procedure would result in improvements in the overall efficiency of our jury trials.
There are also several proposed changes to modernize and update the challenge for cause grounds. Notably, the proposed change to reduce the number of jurors with criminal records for minor offences who could be challenged and excluded from jury duty would help address concerns that excluding individuals with minor criminal records disproportionately impacts certain segments of society, including indigenous persons, as noted by Justice Iacobucci. It would also assist in improving broader participation on juries, and thus, jury representativeness.
In conclusion, the jury reforms in Bill C-75 would mark critical progress in the area of promoting fairness, diversity and participation in the jury selection process. These improvements would also enhance efficiencies, as well as public confidence, in the criminal justice system.
I call upon all members of the House to support this transformative bill.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 13:43 [p.23608]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley spoke a lot about jury reform and the elimination of peremptory challenges. This is something we on this side took very seriously and were open to at committee. We heard from various witnesses. The member cited Professor Roach.
I would also note that uniformly, every member of the defence bar who appeared before our committee told us not to eliminate peremptory challenges. In that regard, I would quote Solomon Friedman, a criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa. He said:
Given the overrepresentation of aboriginal persons and racialized minorities as accused in our criminal justice system, at present the peremptory challenge is often the only tool counsel can use in order to ensure that the jury, even in some small way, is representative of the accused.
Michael Spratt, a past board member of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, was very outspoken in his opposition.
I am wondering if the hon. member could comment, given the uniform opposition from the criminal defence bar.
View Doug Eyolfson Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, it is correct that there are many members of the defence lawyers community that have made this assumption. However, we have a system right now that drastically under-represents aboriginal people and racialized people in our jury system. The system we have had up until now does not work, and this legislation would be a valuable means of helping to correct this imbalance.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-20 16:55 [p.23637]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul also touched upon the issue of peremptory challenges. This is something we took very seriously in terms of considering their abolition. Unanimously, before the justice committee, the criminal defence bar said that peremptory challenges were absolutely essential in order to ensure a fair trial.
In that regard, I would draw the hon. member's attention to the comments of Richard Fowler of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, who stated before the committee, “I will just say, as an aside, that the abolition of peremptory challenges is a huge mistake. I've selected over 100 juries, and I've never seen it misused. It's necessary.”
Another lawyer, Solomon Friedman, indicated that it was essential to ensure that juries are representative of the broader population.
Could the hon. member address those points?
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
2018-11-20 16:56 [p.23637]
Mr. Speaker, I would be glad to do so.
We remember cases in Canada where the jury did not reflect the local population. We heard from many people that there was a question of fairness and justice. Removing the peremptory challenge would, for example, limit the ability of a defence attorney to remove individuals based on something quite superficial. It might also limit the ability of the jury to be as reflective of the community as we would hope.
We want to ensure that there is representation from all of the ethnic groups in our local communities, and that the justice system is fair and open for all.
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2018-11-20 17:11 [p.23639]
Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned delays, moving away from the peremptory challenges which caused a lot of delays in our system and going toward the set aside provisions in the current proposed legislation to streamline the jury selection process, give control to the judges to make sure we have diversity. Could the hon. member talk about how that could improve our efficiency in the court system going forward?
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
2018-11-20 17:11 [p.23639]
Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the outcomes we see, the numbers we see year after year from the Office of the Correctional Investigator, should trouble all Canadians. They should really raise questions as to why certain provisions and practices exist and how they affect racialized people. It is very clear that peremptory challenge is one of those issues where we have seen some serious miscarriages of justice over the years. It is a very important step in Bill C-75 that would address a major concern of many victimized communities that have been seeking justice.
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2018-11-08 12:05 [p.23441]
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-75. Like other members of the House, I am very appreciative of the study undertaken by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the many witnesses who gave helpful testimony on various aspects of this bill. I would like to use my time today to discuss the jury amendments proposed in Bill C-75.
As members know, jury reform is an area of shared jurisdiction. While Parliament is responsible for the criminal law and the rules in the Criminal Code setting out the legal framework for in-court jury selection, the provinces and territories are responsible for determining, for example, who is eligible for jury duty and the process by which the jury roll is compiled.
Bill C-75 proposes several reforms to the in-court jury selection process. One of the significant changes that I would like to start with is the proposal to abolish peremptory challenges.
The committee heard from several witnesses who testified on jury reforms, all of whom shared an understanding of the importance of representative juries. Their views differed on whether or not peremptory challenges contribute to or undermine that objective. However, several legal experts and advocates, and most notably Professor Kent Roach, expressed very strong support for their elimination, which would finally put an end to the discriminatory exclusion of jurors. Any tool that can be used to effectively undermine the participation on juries of persons of a particular race or ethnicity contributes to a perception of mistrust and lack of confidence in the justice system.
Jonathan Rudin, the program director for Aboriginal Legal Services, also gave compelling testimony before the committee that the use of peremptory challenges has had a corrosive impact on efforts to encourage indigenous people to act as jurors. Discrimination in the selection of juries has been documented for decades. Concerns about the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous people being under-represented on juries were raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the report of the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry. More recently, we heard from retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who studied these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.
I agree with Professor Kent Roach who, in his written brief to the committee, characterized jury reforms in Bill C-75 as being “long overdue”.
Having read these reports and hearing from many experts on the topic, I am confident that Bill C-75 proposes the right approach in abolishing peremptory challenges. It is a simple and effective way to prevent deliberate discrimination and the arbitrary exclusion of qualified jury members.
Furthermore, to bring greater efficiencies to the jury selection process and to make it more impartial, the bill proposes to empower the judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause, such as because they are biased by either the defence or the prosecution. Currently, such challenges are decided by two lay people, called “triers”, who are not trained in the law. This process has been problematic, causing delays in jury trials even before they begin, and appeals resulting in orders for a new trial. The proposal would shift the responsibility for such challenges to judges who are trained adjudicators and therefore better placed to screen out impartial jurors. The proposed change reflects the recommendation made in 2009 by the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System, a group established by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice and comprising judges, deputy ministers of justice from across Canada, defence lawyers, representatives of the bar associations, and the police. It is also consistent with what has been done in other common law countries, such as England, Australia and New Zealand. I am confident that this change in procedure will make improvements to the overall efficiency of our jury trials.
There are also several proposed changes to modernize and update the challenge for cause grounds. Notably, the proposed change to reduce the number of jurors with criminal records for minor offences from being challenged and excluded for jury duty would help address concerns that excluding individuals with minor criminal records disproportionately impacts certain segments of society, including indigenous persons, as noted by Justice Iacobucci. It would also assist with improving broader participation on juries, and thus jury representativeness.
While a few witnesses before committee said they would like to see this ground removed so that anyone with a criminal record could not be challenged for cause, I am mindful of the fact that permitting a juror with a serious criminal background to serve on a jury and make the decision as to the guilt or innocence of the accused could greatly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. I would also note that provincial and territorial jury legislation also specifies who is eligible for jury duty and is, in many respects, reflected by what is in the Criminal Code.
Bill C-75 would also allow a judge to continue a trial without the jury when the number of jurors falls below 10 and where the Crown and the accused agree. This change would promote efficiencies because it would avoid mistrials when the jury is reduced to fewer than 10 jurors due to illness or some other reason.
Another key change proposed in Bill C-75 is to allow judges to stand aside a potential juror while other jurors are selected, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, for example, to support the establishment of an impartial, representative jury. The change recognizes the important role that judges can play in improving jury selection at the outset. I believe that the use of this power, where deemed appropriate, would help improve the diversity of jurors during the in-court selection process, particularly in cases where public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined if the jury were not more diverse.
With respect to the representativeness of juries, there is certainly work that remains to be done, especially given the important role played by both the federal government and the provinces and territories in the jury selection process. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that jurisdictions are collaborating to examine a wide range of jury-related issues, and undertaking important work to find further ways to improve our jury selection system in Canada, including to enhance representation on juries.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that the jury reforms in Bill C-75 mark critical progress in promoting fairness, diversity and participation in the jury selection process. These improvements would also enhance efficiencies, as well as public confidence in the criminal justice system.
I call on all members of the House to support this transformative bill. I thank the justice committee for its work, and the witnesses committee members heard from in bringing forward this important legislation, including the amendments they proposed.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-11-08 12:14 [p.23442]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Guelph spent much of his time addressing the issue of peremptory challenges. It was a proposal I considered very seriously, but there was a lot of evidence before the justice committee that peremptory challenges are a vital tool, including for defence counsel to use. In fact, the defence counsel and representatives of the defence bar who appeared were unanimous in calling on the committee not to move forward with eliminating peremptory challenges. In addition to that, their evidence was that it could actually increase the representativeness of juries. Consistent with that, the Supreme Court of Canada, in its Sherratt decision, stated that peremptory challenges can increase rather than diminish the representativeness of juries. Could the member comment on that?
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2018-11-08 12:15 [p.23442]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for his work on the committee. As he pointed out, there was conflicting evidence at committee. However, where we have landed, namely, giving the stand-aside revisions for the justice to be able to put aside people in order to increase diversity, is really the way to go. By removing the challenges, we would be able to make sure that people are not excluded because of their race or background, and that they still are eligible and under the guidance of the judge in the final selection of the jury. It is a tool that we are giving the judges to make sure that we have diversity and representative juries.
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 Garnett Genuis Profile
View Garnett Genuis Profile
2018-06-07 21:39 [p.20507]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the bill. You may have observed that the Conservatives are in a very good mood tonight, but it is not because of the content of the legislation. It is actually other things going on tonight in the province of Ontario.
Some hon. members: What?
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Members are asking “what?” They may not know, but it seems there will be a Progressive Conservative majority government in Ontario. I am sorry to have to break that news to my friends across the way, but the Liberals may still get official party status. It is a harbinger of things to come in a year and a half in federal politics. One of the reasons we are likely to see a similar result for the Liberals in a year and a half is precisely their failures with respect to the justice system.
I will turn now to a much less happy subject, and that is the content of the Liberals' Bill C-75. We can call it a justice omnibus or “injustice” omnibus bill. It is over 300 pages, making various changes with respect to the framework around criminal justice. There are certainly problems with the way the Liberals are administering the justice system, problems in need of solutions. However, the proposals by the government do not improve the situation. In fact, they make the situation much worse.
There are so many different aspects of the bill. It pays to mention to some extent that this is an omnibus bill. The Liberals talked in the last election about not doing omnibus bills. They said that omnibus bills limited the scrutiny that could be applied to individual items, that they forced members to vote all at once on provisions, some of which they may think were laudable and others which they may think were not.
Coming from that election promise, we now find ourselves in a situation in this Parliament where it seems virtually all of the legislation we debate is omnibus legislation. It is interesting that we had previous bills before this Parliament that included many of the same provisions and then the government decided it would roll them all together in one massive omnibus bill. I guess the Liberals felt they were not being as effective in advancing their legislative agenda as they wanted to, but this is yet another case where we see the government going back on its promise. On the one hand is the commitment about how it would manage the parliamentary process, then we see, in practice, the government doing the exact opposite.
The arguments the Liberals use for bringing in these omnibus bills, which go against their previous commitments, are usually something to the effect of they think it is a really good bill, that there are a lot of good things in it, so they want to get it through. Whether it is a good bill is precisely what a robust parliamentary process is supposed to determine. That is why the appropriate level of scrutiny is necessary. There will probably be an opportunity to pull all sorts of quotes from the member for Winnipeg North and others decrying these process elements, which are now being deployed with full force under the Liberal government.
We have in front of us an omnibus bill. There are a number of different elements I want to discuss, as well as more broadly the government's failure to manage the justice system effectively.
Members will understand and appreciate how important the effective functioning of our justice system is, especially in a context where the courts have ruled that cases can be thrown out if they do not proceed within a particular time frame. We have seen very serious charges not proceed, simply on the basis of time and delay. Therefore, the management of the criminal justice system so these delays do not happen, so people are actually brought to justice on time, is critical for the protection of society and for ensuring justice is done for victims, for the criminal, and for everyone.
Why do we have this growing problem of delays? The most obvious reason, and a reason the government has been steadfast in refusing to address, is the government's failure to appoint judges.
The fact is, it took six months for the justice minister to appoint a single judge. The government lauds its judicial appointments on various fronts. I am sure that any justice minister would laud their own appointment choice, but we have to get the job done. It is fundamental to the effectiveness of our justice system that we achieve quality and the necessary quantity so that the work can proceed. Appointing justices should be the easy part. I do not suspect that there is any shortage of qualified people in this country who are interested in the position, yet the government has been very slow to proceed, and this has created a significant concern.
It is not as if nobody was suggesting the Liberals take action. Thank goodness we have a strong opposition, and a strong shadow minister and shadow deputy minister of justice who were specifically calling very early on for the government to move forward with the appointment of justices.
I can hear my friend for St. Albert—Edmonton asking the justice minister when she would finally do her job and start appointing judges. The justice minister responded to those questions day after day in question period, yet despite those questions being posed by the Conservatives, we simply did not see action.
We have this issue with court delays, and the government now seems to believe that one of the solutions to court delays is to reduce the penalty to allow for summary convictions. The effect of that is lower sentences for very serious crimes. That is sold by the government as a solution to a problem that it has created, but let us apply Occam's razor and try and take that obviously simpler solution, which is that the justice minister should do her job and appoint the necessary number of judges to ensure that we do not have court delays.
In the context of justifying itself, the government is saying that we are going to have summary convictions to try to fix the problem that we created. The Liberals are not admitting it, but that is the implication of what they are saying. We see proposals for summary convictions, meaning reduced charges for all kinds of various serious crimes. I think it is important for the House to identify and look at some of these crimes for which they are proposing reduced sentences. This is not an exhaustive list, but I want to identify some of the key ones.
There is participation in the activity of a terrorist group. I do not recall ever receiving phone calls in my office from people saying that we should have lighter sentences for those who participate in terrorist groups. Maybe members across the way have had a different experience. However, I do not think, especially in the present time and climate, that people are looking for that kind of approach with regard to those who are involved in a terrorist group.
As well, there is leaving Canada to participate in activities of a terrorist group. There is a possibility now that going to fight abroad with a terrorist organization like Daesh could be a subject of summary conviction and therefore lower sentences. There are other serious offences, but I would highlight those two terrorism-related offences, which are the first ones on my list for which we are hearing proposals in the proposed legislation for lighter sentences.
Concealment of identity while taking part in a riot would be a possible summary conviction, as well as breach of trust by a public officer. The idea of lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust is interesting. Why would the Liberals be proposing lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust? I cannot imagine why the Liberals are proposing lighter sentences for public officers who breach trust. We might pontificate about that, but I would perhaps risk venturing into unparliamentary territory.
There is municipal corruption. For example, if a former MP became the mayor of London, hypothetically, there is a possibility of lighter sentences for municipal corruption.
There is selling or purchasing office. I want to reassure the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities that this does not refer to selling or purchasing office equipment. This is selling or purchasing an office itself, which is a criminal offence. However, now it would possibly be a matter of summary conviction.
Another is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. It is interesting that so many elements of political corruption are being proposed for lighter sentences in this bill. It is very interesting, but I cannot imagine why that would be.
For prison breach, there is a proposal for lighter sentences. Assisting a prisoner of war to escape is something that I hope does not happen often. It does not seem to me that this offence would be a good candidate for a lighter sentence, but the justice minister, and through this bill the government, is proposing lighter sentences in that case.
Obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergymen is an item I want to come back to. It is something dealing with section 176 of the Criminal Code that we have already had some discussion on in this place. The government made some commitments with regard to not changing that section, and now it has gone back on those commitments by trying to re-engage that section through Bill C-75. I will come back to that and talk about it in more detail in a few minutes.
There are also lighter sentences proposed for keeping a common bawdy house and for causing bodily harm by criminal negligence.
There are three drunk-driving-related offences: impaired driving causing bodily harm; blood alcohol level over legal limit, with bodily harm; and failure or refusal to provide a sample, with bodily harm. Canadians who are concerned about combatting drunk driving and drug-impaired driving should be, and I think are, a bit frustrated by some of the back-and-forth that we see from the current government. It is frustrating to me as I follow the positions the Liberals take on some things and not on others.
A member of the Conservative caucus proposed a very strong private member's bill that included a number of provisions dealing with drunk driving. That bill was supported by, I think, all members of this House at second reading. Then it was killed after committee, yet many very similar provisions were included in the government's bill, Bill C-46. The government has not been able to pass that bill ahead of its marijuana legislation. The Liberals said it is critical we have these provisions around drunk driving in place, and they proposed it at the same time as Bill C-45, the marijuana legalization bill. They said these things were important together, and they are willing at the same time to pass the marijuana legalization bill ahead of the drunk and drug-impaired driving bill.
Many of the same provisions were already proposed by a Conservative private member's bill. I recall the speech the parliamentary secretary for justice gave at the same time with respect to my colleague's private member's bill, when he quibbled with the bill on such trivial grounds as the coming-into-force date of the bill being too soon. They said they could not pass this bill combatting drunk driving officially because the coming-into-force date was too soon. They can propose an amendment to change that. It was really because the Liberals wanted to try to claim credit for some of the provisions there. Again, we have this further question about the government's response on issues of alcohol-impaired driving because they are creating conditions for a summary conviction around that issue.
Let me list some other offences: receiving a material benefit associated with trafficking; withholding or destroying documents associated with trafficking; abduction of a person under 16; abduction of a person under 14; material benefit from sexual services; forced marriage; polygamy; marriage under age of 16 years; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purposes; participating in activities of criminal organizations.
We have a great deal of discussion about the government's feminist agenda, and yet on some of these crimes, such as forced marriage or polygamy, crimes that very often involve an abusive situation targeting young women, the government is reducing sentencing that targets those who commit those kinds of crimes. It is unfortunate to see the government talking about trying to respond to some of these problems that exist, and then when it comes to criminal justice, they think it is acceptable to propose lighter sentences in these cases.
I have a number of other comments I will make about this bill in the time I have left to speak.
There is a proposal in this legislation to get rid of peremptory challenges. This is a provision that we are interested in studying and exploring, but I think that even if there is an inappropriate use of peremptory challenge in some cases, we should be careful not to throw out a provision if there may be other negative consequences that have not been discussed.
Some of the discussion around peremptory challenges suggests, on the one hand, that they can be used to remove people from juries on the basis of racial profiling. Essentially, somebody is racially profiled and presumed to think in a certain way, so they are removed on the basis of a peremptory challenge.
People have countered those criticisms by saying that on the other hand, peremptory challenges could be used against those who express or have expressed or give indication of having extreme or bigoted views. Sometimes the law needs to recognize other potential impacts that are maybe not being fully foreseen.
We think this issue of peremptory challenges is very much worthy of study at the committee level, but I encourage members, in the spirit of appropriate legislative caution, to work out and consider the full consequences of changes to the structure of our jury system, recognizing that even if there may be negative consequences to this provision in particular situations, removing peremptory challenges may create other unconsidered negative consequences as well.
I want to speak about section 176. This is a very important section of the Criminal Code that specifically addresses the targeting of religious officials or the disruption of worship, things that in many cases would likely lead to some charge anyway, though not in every case. It ensures that somebody who is trying to disrupt the practice of faith is treated in an proportionate way. That is what section 176 does.
The government had previously tried to get rid of section 176, to remove it from the Criminal Code. The justification was weak. It said that because the language used was “clergymen”, it was somehow narrow in its definition and applied to only one faith and one gender. The point was amply made in response that although the language was somewhat archaic, it was very clear that it applied broadly to any religious official and to any religious institution.
The section was subsequently qualified. There is nothing wrong with clarifying the language, but it was always clear and never seriously in dispute that it applied broadly and on an equal basis.
It was through public pressure, the work of the opposition in partnership with many groups in civil society in raising the alarm about this, that the government backed away at the time from its proposal to remove section 176. Now section 176 is back before us. The government is not proposing to remove it; it is just proposing to change it to a possible summary conviction, again meaning a lighter sentence.
Again we are raising a question that is similar to the discussion around drunk driving. There is this kind of back-and-forth, bait and switch approach with the government, but it is clear that there is this repeated attempt to weaken the laws that protect religious institutions and the practice of faith. Some of the time the government is very glad to trumpet its commitment—for instance, in its talk about combatting Islamophobia—but when we have a concrete provision in the Criminal Code that protects people's ability to practise their faith without interruption, we see not one but multiple attempts by the government to move against it.
There is so much more to say about Bill C-75, which is over 300 pages, that I could talk for hours, but my time has expired.
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
2018-06-05 21:43 [p.20319]
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy we were addressing peremptory challenges in the bill. When I did my first jury trial, one of the most surprising things for me was how little information we had when we made these decisions about our jury. We had very basic information about the person. We do not ask questions like we see on TV and we had to make a quick judgment call, as a lawyer, as to whether that person could stay on the trial.
I believe there is more work to be done. There are also questions at the provincial level about how a jury list is selected. How does the member see these changes to peremptory challenges? How does he see it as helping to get stereotyping and those kinds of prejudicial things that we can make when we have very little information and we are looking at a person and deciding whether he or she should be on the jury?
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2018-06-05 21:43 [p.20319]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for all of her work in this area. I know she was a member of the legal profession prior to her taking office. I always invite and welcome her thoughts and her input on this. However, perhaps one of the most important things she has mentioned is the notion that the problem about the chronic under-representation of indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples on our juries far predate our time in office.
There have been reports that go back as far as when Senator Sinclair was a judge in Manitoba. More recent, retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci submitted a report in 2013 to the Attorney General of Ontario in which it was well-documented that much work needed to be done, including taking a close look at the use of peremptory challenge.
Bill C-75 would enhance the accountability and transparency around the methods by which the parties would contribute to the selection of juries. It would require them to provide a reason. In other words, it would open up that box of thinking that currently is able to be exercised without any review, without any comment from the courts.
We are confident that by doing this, we will see more individuals step forward and contribute to juries that are composed of and are reflective of the diversity of our communities, and that is a very positive thing.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-05 22:07 [p.20323]
Mr. Speaker, I have concerns about parts of this bill, but I see much in it that is welcome and important.
Does my hon. friend from Bow River not agree that doing away with peremptory challenges would help create fairer juries for the accused? I do not know if he has any thoughts on the Colten Boushie case, but we do need to do better in this country in having juries that are able to fairly assess a criminally accused.
I do not want to comment on a particular case, but clearly this is an important reform.
View Martin Shields Profile
View Martin Shields Profile
2018-06-05 22:07 [p.20323]
Mr. Speaker, the member said she would not respond to a specific case, so I will not either.
As with my colleagues in the legal profession, I do believe we have a tremendous legal profession. I trust the process they have used in choosing how it works. They have a tremendous responsibility on their hands. I believe in both the defence and the prosecutor, and the system they have. It should be a process they use, and historically it has worked. I want to leave it there. It is not for me to step into that one.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2018-06-05 23:33 [p.20335]
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member what he thinks about the jury selection items in the bill.
First, I want to make a comment. I want to make sure that the public is aware, and I am a layperson, too. There seems to be some indication that some people think that this would reduce the maximum sentences. There is nothing in this bill that reduces maximum sentences. The judges still have access to all the same maximum sentences, and they still have access to indictment. In fact, certain summary offence penalties have actually increased.
My question is related to jury selection. Peremptory challenges are proposed to be removed. For the person in the street, a peremptory challenge means that when people line up to be jurors, the defence lawyer or the prosecutor can say, “Oh, I don't like that one” and throw them out for no reason at all. Does that sound like natural justice? This has been an issue for decades. It is being removed, and that could actually be used to increase diversity.
Also in the bill is that judges can stand aside certain jurors to obtain diversity, and they can decide on challenges for cause, to make sure that if the defence or the prosecutor is suggesting that someone leave for a certain cause, the judge can decide on that.
I think these are improvements, but I would like to hear the member's thoughts on these proposed changes.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-06-05 23:34 [p.20335]
Mr. Speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the member for Yukon at the procedure and House affairs committee. I hope it will be very short from now until the end of June. That is my hope, and I am sure it is the member's hope as well.
On peremptory challenges, the member makes an interesting point that it is an attempt to get more diversity in our jury system. Diversity is important, but I always try to go back to the fact that people should be tried by a jury of their peers, as much as possible. When people are accused of a crime, the entire weight of the judicial system is standing against them. They truly are in an unfortunate position. If they have committed the crime, it will hopefully end with a just sentence being applied to them, a just outcome of the court trial. Diversity is important, but I do not think we can lose track of the fact that our goal should be achieving a trial where people are facing their peers and are able to know that their peers will understand where they are coming from, understand their particular situation.
How diversity plays into that is an interesting point. I have read portions of the bill, but I am not certain that the government has struck the right balance in it.
View Vance Badawey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Vance Badawey Profile
2018-06-05 23:51 [p.20337]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-75 and to address more specifically those reforms that deal with juries. Hopefully, the comments I will make will answer some of the questions by the members opposite that my colleagues have been answering for the last little.
Juries are a cornerstone of our criminal justice system and are guaranteed as a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for offences carrying a maximum penalty of five years or more under section 11(f). For some offences, such as murder and terrorism, there is a presumption that the accused will be tried by a judge and jury, and for other offences, such as robbery and sexual assault, an accused can elect to be tried by a judge alone or judge and jury.
Canada is a diverse country, underlined by a core value of respect. We should not expect anything less of our juries. The Supreme Court of Canada has noted that the jury acts as the conscience of the community and must in fact be a representative cross-section of society, and be honestly and fairly chosen.
The Supreme Court of Canada has also made it clear that a process that promotes a diverse jury furthers the confidence of the community, including the accused, victims, and the public at large, in the administration of justice. We know there is discrimination in our criminal justice system and, as a result, certain communities have different experiences in the system.
We know that we have to do better to address the problems that plague our system and have contributed to high rates of incarceration among indigenous persons and those suffering from mental health challenges or battling addictions. We also know that if the challenges are left unaddressed, confidence in the system will continue to be eroded. That is why the proposed jury reforms included in Bill C-75 are so important.
Canada's jury selection process has long been the subject of concern. Several reports have documented discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges. There is also a clear record of under-representation of indigenous persons and other minority groups on Canadian juries. Bill C-75 seeks to address these concerns through reforms to the in-court jury selection process, recognizing that laws governing jury selection exist at both the federal and provincial-territorial levels.
For example, Parliament has jurisdiction over the criminal law, including the rules in the Criminal Code governing jury trials and in-court jury selection, whereas the provinces and territories are responsible for legislation that governs matters such as the criteria of who may serve as a juror and the process by which the jury roll is prepared and compiled.
Bill C-75 respects the division of powers over juries and proposes to abolish peremptory challenges and give judges a greater role in the jury selection process. As many are likely aware, peremptory challenges give both the crown and defence counsel the ability to exclude potential jurors from participating in jury duty without having to provide a reason. Senator Murray Sinclair, in his earlier work on the 1991 report on the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry, documented the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and recommended that they be abolished.
More recently, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, in his 2013 report on first nation representation on Ontario juries, recommended that consideration be given to amending the Criminal Code to prohibit the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges. Similar calls for reform have been made by legal experts and advocacy groups, such as Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.
Abolishing peremptory challenges would settle the concern that this aspect of the jury selection process may be used to discriminate unfairly against potential jurors and would strengthen public confidence in the jury selection process.
The proposed amendments will signal that discrimination of any kind, including through the use of peremptory challenges based on a hunch or based the way a potential juror looks at an accused, has no meaningful role in promoting fairness and impartiality in the criminal justice process.
I strongly support this proposed change and note that Canada will join countries like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, which have also abolished peremptory challenges.
This bill would also amend the “stand aside” provision, which currently permits a judge to stand aside jurors for reasons of personal hardship or any other reasonable cause. This tool helps to ensure that potential jurors are impartial and capable of performing their duties if they are selected. Amendments will clarify that a judge can stand aside a juror to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, a concept that is already used in other parts of the Criminal Code, and has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. St-Cloud, 2015, in the context of bail.
The use of this power would be context-specific, approached from the perspective of a properly informed public that understands the legislative provisions of the code, charter values, and the circumstances of any given case, and recognizes the important role judges can play in promoting a jury that is impartial, representative, and competent.
Bill C-75 would also modernize and streamline the challenge for cause process, including by empowering judges to decide all challenges for cause. The challenge for cause process is frequently used in jury trials as an important aspect of jury selection because it seeks to ensure that only eligible and impartial jurors are selected to try a case.
The proposed reforms address some long-standing concerns with the jury selection process in Canada and will help to increase the diversity of juries, while respecting the rights of the accused, maintaining public safety, and creating a criminal justice system that is fair, efficient, and equitable for all Canadians. I urge all members to support this legislation.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
2018-05-24 15:16 [p.19602]
moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today 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. The legislation represents a key milestone in our government's commitment to modernize the criminal justice system, reduce delays, and ensure the safety of Canadians.
For more than a decade, the criminal justice system has been under significant strain. Although the crime rate in Canada has been declining, court cases are more complex, trials are getting longer, and the impacts on victims are compounded. In addition, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians, including those suffering from mental illness and addictions, continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system. For these reasons, I was mandated by the Prime Minister to reform the criminal justice system, and it is why I was proud to introduce this legislation as part of our government's response to those fundamental challenges.
Bill C-75 also responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in R. v. Jordan. The decision established strict timelines beyond which delays would be presumptively unreasonable and cases would be stayed. In such cases, the accused will not stand trial. This is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes public confidence in the justice system.
The bill also addresses issues raised in the June 2017 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which called on the government to address court delays, and it reflects our government's commitment to bring about urgent and bold reforms, many of which were identified as priorities by all provincial and territorial justice ministers in April and September of last year.
The bill proposes reforms in seven key areas. First, the bill would modernize and streamline the bail system. Second, it would enhance our approach to addressing administration of justice offences, including for youth. Third, it would bolster our response to intimate partner violence. Fourth, the bill would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment. Fifth, it would reclassify offences to allow the crown to elect the most efficient procedure appropriate in the circumstances. Sixth, it would improve the jury selection process. Seventh, it would strengthen the case management powers of judges. The bill includes a number of additional reforms related to efficiencies, which I will touch on briefly later.
As noted, the first area of reform would modernize and streamline the bail regime. Under the charter, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If charged with an offence, that person has the right not to be denied bail without just cause. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly stated that bail, including the types of release and conditions imposed, must be reasonable, yet we know that police and courts routinely impose conditions that are too numerous, too restrictive, and at times directed toward improper objectives, such as behaviour and punishment. These objectives do not protect public safety.
We also know that there are more individuals in remand than those convicted of a crime. In other words, our correctional facilities are more than half-filled with people who have not been convicted of an offence.
In addition, the current approach to bail uses a disproportionate amount of resources, taking away from more serious cases. It perpetuates a cycle of incarceration.
Consistent with the 2017 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Antic, the proposed bail reforms would codify a principle of restraint. This would direct police and judges to consider the least restrictive and most appropriate means of responding to criminal charges at the bail stage rather than automatically detaining an accused. The individual circumstances of an indigenous accused and a vulnerable accused, such as a homeless person or one with mental illness and addiction issues, would become required considerations when making bail decisions. This means that an accused's circumstances would have to be considered prior to placing conditions upon them that were difficult or impossible to follow.
The principle of restraint would make bail courts more efficient by encouraging release at the earliest possible opportunity, without the need for a bail hearing in every case, and would take significant steps to reduce costs associated with the growing remand population currently detained in custody awaiting trial.
The bill would also strengthen the way our bail system responds to intimate partner violence by providing better protection for victims. If an accused has a history of violence against an intimate partner and is charged with similar conduct, the amendments would impose a reverse onus at the bail hearing, shifting the responsibility to the accused to show why the accused should not be detained pending trial.
I will now turn to the second area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is to enhance the way our justice system responds to administration of justice offences. These are offences that are committed by a person against the justice system itself after another offence has already been committed or alleged. Common examples are failure to comply with bail conditions, such as to abstain from consuming alcohol; failure to appear in court; or breaching a curfew.
Across Canada, accused people are routinely burdened with complex and unnecessary bail conditions that are unrelated to public safety and that may even be impossible to follow, such as when a curfew is broken by an accused because he or she missed the bus in a remote area. In other words, accused people are being placed in circumstances in which a breach is virtually inevitable. We are setting them up to fail.
Indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are disproportionately impacted by breach charges, often because of their personal circumstances, such as a lack of family and community supports. As a result, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are more likely to be charged, more likely to be denied bail, and if released, more likely to be subject to stricter conditions.
In addition, administration of justice offences impose an enormous burden on the criminal justice system, as nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. To respond to these challenges, Bill C-75 proposes a new approach. Police would retain the option to lay a new charge for the breach or failure to appear where appropriate. However, if the offence did not involve physical or emotional harm to a victim, property damage, or economic loss, the police would have an additional option of referring the accused to a judicial referral hearing. This would be an entirely new tool that would serve as an alternative to an unnecessary criminal charge and that would substantially increase court efficiencies without impacting public safety.
In the youth context, these proposals would encourage police to first consider the use of informal measures, as already directed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, such as warnings, cautions, and referrals, and would require that conditions imposed on young persons be reasonable and necessary. This aligns with the overall philosophy of the act, which is to prevent our youth from entering a life of crime, in part by providing alternatives to formal criminal charges and custody.
At the judicial referral hearing, a court would hear the bail conditions and have three options: release the accused on the same conditions, impose new conditions to better address the specific circumstances of the accused, or detain the accused. This approach would allow for alternative and early resolution of minor breaches and would ensure that only reasonable and necessary conditions were imposed. This is a more efficient alternative to laying a new criminal charge and would help prevent indigenous persons and marginalized Canadians from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.
The third area of reform in Bill C-75 is with respect to intimate partner violence. In 2015, Canadians elected our government on a promise to give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and to ensure that more perpetrators were brought to justice. I am proud to follow through on this commitment within this bill.
As I already noted, those accused of repeat offences involving violence against an intimate partner would be subject to a reverse onus at the bail stage. In addition, the bill does the following: (1) proposes a higher sentencing range for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence; (2) broadens the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners; (3) provides that strangulation is an elevated form of assault; and (4) explicitly specifies that evidence of intimate partner abuse is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
Intimate partner violence is a reality for at least one in two women in Canada. Women who are indigenous, trans, elderly, new to Canada, or living with a disability are at increased risk for experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.
The fourth area of reforms is to increase court efficiencies by limiting the availability of preliminary inquiries. Preliminary inquiries are an optional process used to determine whether there is enough evidence to send an accused to trial. Bill C-75 would limit their availability to accused adults charged with very serious offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder and kidnapping.
I recognize this represents a significant change. It is not a change we propose lightly. It is the product of an in-depth consultation process with my counterparts in the provinces and territories and with the courts, and it is based on the best available evidence. For instance, we know in 2015-2016, provincial court cases involving preliminary inquiries took more than four times longer to reach a decision than cases with no preliminary inquiry.
It is important to note that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry, and one is not necessary for a fair trial so long as the crown satisfies its disclosure requirements. In the Jordan decision, the Supreme Court of Canada asked Parliament to take a fresh look at current processes and reconsider the value of preliminary inquiries in light of the broad disclosure rules that exist today. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs also recommended that they be restricted or eliminated.
The proposed measures would reduce the number preliminary of inquiries by approximately 87%, ensure they are still available for the more complex and serious offences, help unclog the courts, and reduce burdens on witnesses and victims from having to testify twice, once at a preliminary inquiry and once at trial. For example, this measure would eliminate the need for a vulnerable witness in a sexual assault or child sexual assault trial from having to testify twice.
I am confident these reforms would not reduce trial fairness, that prosecutors would continue to take their disclosure obligations seriously, that our courts would continue to uphold the right to make full answer and defence, and that there would remain flexibility in existing processes, such as out-of-court discoveries, that have been implemented in some provinces already—for example, in Quebec and Ontario.
I will now turn to the fifth major area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is the reclassification of offences. The Criminal Code classifies offences as summary conviction, indictable, or hybrid. Hybrid offences may proceed as either a summary conviction or as an indictable offence. That choice is made by the prosecutor after considering the facts and circumstances of the case. The bill would hybridize 136 indictable offences and standardize the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences in the Criminal Code to two years less a day.
These proposals would neither interfere with the court's ability to impose proportionate sentences nor change the existing maximum penalties for indictable offences. What Bill C-75 proposes is to provide more flexibility to prosecutors to proceed summarily in provincial court for less serious cases. This would allow for matters to proceed more quickly and for superior courts to focus on the most serious matters, resulting in an overall boost in efficiency in the system.
Let me clear: this reform is in no way intended to send a message that offences being hybridized are less serious or should be subjected to lower sentences. Rather, it is about granting greater discretion to our prosecutors to choose the most efficient and appropriate procedure, having regard to the unique circumstances before them. Serious offences would continue to be treated seriously and milder offences would take up less court time, while still carrying the gravity of a criminal charge.
A sixth area of proposed reforms in Bill C-75 is with respect to jury selection.
Discrimination in the selection of juries has been well documented for many years. Concerns about discrimination in peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous peoples being represented on juries was raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry report. That report, now over 25 years old, explicitly called for the repeal of peremptory challenges. More recently, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci addressed these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.
Reforms in this area are long overdue. Peremptory challenges give the accused and the crown the ability to exclude jurors without providing a reason. In practice, this can and has led to their use in a discriminatory manner to ensure a jury of a particular composition. This bill proposes that Canada join countries like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in abolishing them.
To bring more fairness and transparency to the process, the legislation would also empower a judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause by either the defence or prosecution. The legislation will strengthen the power of judges to stand aside some jurors in order to make room for a more diverse jury that will in turn promote confidence in the administration of justice. Courts are already familiar with the concept of exercising their powers for this purpose.
I am confident that the reforms will make the jury selection process more transparent, promote fairness and impartiality, improve the overall efficiency of our jury trials, and foster public confidence in the criminal justice system.
The seventh area of reforms will strengthen judicial case management. As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in its 2017 decision in Cody, judges are uniquely positioned to encourage and foster culture change. I completely agree. Judges are already engaged in managing cases and ensuring that they proceed promptly and fairly through the existing authorities in the Criminal Code, as well as provincial court rules. These reforms would bolster these powers—for instance, by allowing case management judges to be appointed at the earliest point in the proceeding.
In addition to the major reforms I have noted thus far, Bill C-75 will make technical amendments to further support efficiencies, such as by facilitating remote technology and consolidating and clarifying the Attorney General of Canada's power to prosecute.
Finally, the bill will make better use of limited parliamentary time by including three justice bills currently before Parliament: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39.
In closing, Bill C-75 proposes meaningful reforms that will speed up criminal court proceedings and improve the safety of our communities while also taking steps to address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized Canadians in the criminal justice system.
Our criminal justice system must be fair, equitable, and just. Victims, families, accused, and all participants in the justice system deserve no less. I urge all members of this House to support this important piece of legislation.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-05-24 16:16 [p.19611]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and contribute to what has been a passionate debate. Who knew that criminal justice could be that? Like the colleagues who have spoken before me, we, on the NDP side, have done an enormous amount of consultation with folks from the criminal defence bar, university prosecutors, deputy attorneys general, and the like. Regrettably, as a consequence of that, we have had to conclude that we must oppose this bill.
However, I want to make it clear to my colleagues that our goal is to work with the government, take it at its word, and offer our hand to see whether we can make this a better bill in the justice committee. After all, it is over 300 pages. It is an omnibus criminal justice amendment. We want to work constructively to make it better for Canadians and get it to committee as quickly as possible for that purpose.
Obviously, in any criminal justice reform, there are two goals. The goal of efficiency is clearly the government's stated objective: making our courts more efficient, doing away with the backlog, and dealing with the consequences of the Jordan case, in which the Supreme Court confirmed that we need to have speedy justice in this country. Efficiency is the government's stated objective, and I will come back to that. At the same time, we can never, of course, lose sight of the rights of the accused in our justice system.
With the research and consultation we have done, I want to say at the outset that we recognize there are some good things in this bill, which I will refer to, but there are also some deeply problematic things, which, in some cases, everyone we spoke to thought to be problematic. It is in that spirit that we engage in this debate.
For example, Ms. Sayeh Hassan, a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, summarized what many have told us when she wrote:
While there are parts of Bill C-75 that have the potential for improving the criminal justice system, many other parts will not only be unhelpful when it comes to reducing delay but will also wipe out numerous rights currently afforded to an accused person.
The big, ugly elephant in the room is the fact that the government chose to completely ignore what so many people have talked about, which is the need to get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing. That was a hope that people had the right to expect the minister to address. After all, justice writer Sean Fine of The Globe and Mail notes:
As far back as October, 2016, the Justice Minister told the Criminal Lawyers' Association in a speech that she would change the minimum sentencing laws “in the near future.” Days later, she told The Globe that new legislation would be coming soon, “certainly in the early part of next year.”
It is now 2018, and here is a 300-page bill that does not even talk about that reform initiative, which would have dealt with the issue of delay in a much more effective way. I also note that it was in her mandate letter and was ignored in this 300-page bill. Although I have enormous respect for the minister, it needs to be pointed out that the absence of reform of mandatory minimum sentencing is a significant missed opportunity.
We all know we have a clogged-up justice system and so forth. As has been pointed out, we all know the serious injustices that have occurred. Just last month in Calgary, there was a high-profile case involving Nick Chan, an alleged gang member and leader, who was acquitted of charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and leading a criminal organization. Why? Because of the inability to have a court trial resolved in a short period of time, according to the 2016 Jordan decision. All Canadians find that unacceptable.
The question that must be asked is whether this bill helps address that problem head-on. The argument from many is that it remains a serious problem. For example, in its position paper, the Criminal Lawyers' Association states:
Mandatory minimum sentences frustrate the process of resolving cases by limiting the crown’s discretion to offer a penalty that will limit the crown's ability to take a position that will foster resolution before trial.
Here is what happens. Defence lawyers have this mandatory minimum sentence, so they are not going to take a chance on the court's discretion, because the Harper Conservatives essentially took away the discretion that our trial judges had. The result is that we have people going to trial who, in the past, would not have chosen a trial; they would have pleaded to a lower charge. It is inexcusable that this issue did not even get addressed in this bill.
Another thing, which my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith has spoken about numerous times, is that we have a crisis in Canada with the overrepresentation of indigenous women, in particular. My colleague has done that work as a member of the status of women committee. During testimony at that committee, Jonathan Rudin, of Aboriginal Legal Services, highlighted the government's inaction with regard to abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing and its effect on indigenous women. He said:
[W]e 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 [the judges] would like [them] to be sentenced. There are still provisions that restrict judges from using conditional sentences, which can keep women out of prison.
The first thing that he urged the committee to recommend was to bring in legislation to give judges that discretion, which the Liberals promised to do. The elephant in the room is that they did no such thing. In 2015, and it is probably worse now, the proportion of indigenous adults in custody relative to their percentage of the population was eight times higher for indigenous men and 12 times higher for indigenous women. Any measure that could address that problem head-on has to be looked at seriously, and the government's failure to address what the mandate letter by the Prime Minister told it to is a serious missed opportunity.
I promised I would focus on some of the positives in this bill, from the perspective of the NDP.
First, the elimination of so-called zombie provisions of the Criminal Code is a good thing. For example, the criminalization that has existed for anal intercourse could have been removed long ago, so we are pleased that finally the government has done it. I wish it had done that with other zombie provisions, such as water skiing at night, which remains an offence in the Criminal Code. Maybe the government will look at that one later.
Second, it is a good thing that the bill would restore the discretion of judges to impose fewer victim fine surcharges or not to impose victim fine surcharges at all. I commend the government for doing that. As I believe my Conservative colleague has also pointed out, broadening the definition of intimate partner violence is also a good step. Creating an alternate process for dealing with some of the alleged breaches of bail is another good step. Codifying the so-called ladder principle, requiring that the least onerous form of release be imposed, is a good thing.
I personally think that abolishing peremptory challenges is a good thing. Although I recognize there is disagreement among many on that, I think it is a good thing. I want to put that on the record.
On the other hand, here are some of the negative things.
Absolutely every single person we talked to said that the provision on admissibility of so-called routine police evidence is overly broad and could be problematic to marginalized people in particular. Everyone agreed that routine police evidence language has to be fixed. Many people were happy that the time of day when the offence occurred, the weather, or routine lab results would be made available. However, the way it is drafted, it could even include the ability of the crown to not have a police officer come and provide eyewitness testimony. I do not think this was intended by the government, but it is an example of what appears to be a hastily drafted bill that needs to be fixed. The irony is that most judges are going to allow cross-examination of police officers, so Sergeant Brown will have to be brought back at some later time, with more delay as a result. That is surely unintended. It is surely something we can work together to fix.
Professor Peter Sankoff of the University of Alberta went so far as to call this measure extremely dangerous and ineffective. It is not just we who are saying this.
We have heard a lot about hybrid offences today. I am sure the government would agree that there seems to be a need to change the hybridization offences aspect. As colleagues have pointed out, the downloading to provincial courts of many offences is only going to move the problem of clogged courts at the superior court level to the provincial courts because more cases will be dealt with as summary conviction matters. I wonder if the consultation with the provincial and territorial ministers has made that point clear. The provincial court in British Columbia already hears 95% of all criminal matters. I am sure it is not that much different elsewhere, so I would invite the government to consider how we can work together to address that problem of obvious downloading.
Another area of concern, perhaps a sleeper, is that the government intends to increase the maximum penalties for summary convictions. In practical terms, what that means is that agents like law students and paralegals, who are currently able to represent people accused of an offence with a maximum penalty of six months or less, will not be able to do so for a whole range of offences if these changes go forward. It is an unintended consequence, but it certainly has to be addressed, because we not only have a problem already with unrepresented people in the provincial courts and judges bending over backwards, appropriately, to help those people who cannot afford or obtain the services of a lawyer, but now they will also not be able to get paralegals or law students to represent them in some cases. That again is something that I would have thought the government did not want to occur, but it appears to be something that would occur.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge that increased funding was provided for legal aid in budget 2018. I think that is something everyone agrees was long overdue. I commend the government for doing it. However, in the province of British Columbia, as we saw in yesterday's Vancouver Sun, it is simply too little, too late. It is a gigantic increase compared to the past, but now, according to Mark Benton, the CEO of the Legal Services Society, “Many lawyers providing services to the poor are doing it at a loss—the tariffs too low for most to earn a living, and so low that LSS is having trouble attracting and retaining lawyers.” We have got to deal with that.
I talked earlier about the preliminary inquiry issue with my friend from Niagara Falls and I understand that there is a difference of opinion on this issue. However, the facts are that these proposed changes would only save about 3% of court time. While the government proudly said the legislation will reduce the use by 87%, which sounds great, it did not tell us that it is not going to save a lot of time. Then why do it? Why do it when there is a risk, according to the chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, Bill Trudell, that there will be more wrongful convictions? Why would we take away a right? The government says we have the Stinchcombe disclosure and it is a different world from when we started with preliminary inquires, but what is the risk-benefit equation here? We are saving 3% of court time and we are causing perhaps a wrongful conviction. I do not think that lines up. It is overbroad. Therefore, I think it is something we need to worry about.
I commented on intimate partner violence and bail; in the interest of time, I will not say any more.
There is a concern about the impact of this bill on those who have suffered the legacy of residential schools and the like, such as in the sixties scoop. For example, the Criminal Lawyers' Association said as follows:
Sadly, intimate partner violence is one of the recognized legacies of residential schools and the 60s scoop. Creating a reverse onus at the bail stage and increasing the sentence on conviction will likely aggravate the crisis of the over-representation of indigenous people in our prisons.
A similar concern was echoed by Professor Elizabeth Sheehy, as well as Professor Isabel Grant, so I think we need to get our hands around this issue and figure out whether we can find another way, despite the fact that I believe it was well intentioned.
In conclusion, what I want to point out now are some of the things we think could be used to address some of these problems.
First, the government claims it has made judicial appointments, which we heard the Conservatives say as well, but there still appears to be a problem with judicial vacancies. I am not saying that is a singular solution, but it needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive solution.
Second, as I have said, we wish the government would reconsider the failure to review mandatory minimum sentences.
Third, the NDP believes that decriminalizing small amounts of drugs in this opioid crisis that we are experiencing would definitely have an impact on the clogged courts that we face. Who are the people in our provincial courts often unrepresented? Disproportionately, they are people with mental health challenges, people with addictions, people who are poor and simply cannot afford a lawyer, and legal aid does not have the ability to look after them. That is what is clogging up the system.
If we look at it from that end of the telescope, we would make truly important reform efforts. Jagmeet Singh has made a bold statement that decriminalizing small quantities of drugs is something we need to give serious thought to as part of the solution to our clogged-up courts. Not criminalizing these issues, but treating them as mental health issues and health issues generally is the way to go. We have to find a better way.
In Vancouver and Victoria we have drug courts and some creative ways to address this problem, but they have not been adequate. We still have serious problems.
By criminalizing people, we give them criminal records. What does having a criminal record mean? It means people cannot get a job in many cases. Are we thinking about that? It is really important.
I have talked in the House many times about the injustice of thousands of Canadians having criminal records for possession of small quantities of cannabis. There are still people who are unable to find a job because they are still being charged under the current law, which is about to change. I commend the member of Parliament for Hull—Aylmer for his intention to implement a bill that would see these records expunged. I do not think that goes far enough, but I will certainly join with him in that initiative.
Finally, we would offer greater social supports. They are at the core of this issue. We need greater funding for legal aid, which would surely cut down on the number of unrepresented individuals and ensure that more accused people would have access to much-needed resources.
Earlier today, I referred to an excellent summary about the consultations that the government undertook in this regard, a March 2018 report of the Department of Justice entitled “What we Heard—Transforming Canada's Criminal Justice System”. I want to read into the record its fundamental conclusion and ask the House whether the bill does the job.
It says:
Almost all roundtable participants stressed the same major concern. They said that most people who come in contact with the criminal justice system are vulnerable or marginalized individuals. They are struggling with mental health and addiction issues, poverty, homelessness, and prior victimization. Most felt the criminal justice system is not equipped to address the issues that cause criminal behaviour in these groups, nor should it be. Participants felt these issues are worsened by an over-reliance on incarceration.
We are very much in agreement, and I hope that my hon. colleagues will consider these concerns and work with us at the justice committee to make the kinds of changes to our criminal justice system that are so obviously needed.
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2018-05-24 16:35 [p.19613]
Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my hon. colleague for his comments, which I found to be very constructive, and for his recognition of the fact that Bill C-75 is about addressing systemic barriers for marginalized people, for vulnerable people, and for victims.
To build on that, with regard to the comments he made about preliminary inquiries, I hope on reflection he will acknowledge that by reducing the eligibility of offences for preliminary inquiries, what we are trying to do is avoid unnecessary retraumatization of victims of intimate partner violence.
I would also encourage him to reflect on the fact that when he cites one particular statistic with regard to 3% of charges, it is charges, not court time. It may be 3% of charges, but it represents disproportionately much more expenditure of court time and resources.
The last thing I would like him to do is to expand on his personal support for the abolishment of peremptory challenges, which are inexorably linked the difficulties and the challenges that we have had around under-representation of indigenous peoples and other marginalized peoples on our juries. It is very important that we move closer to a more open and transparent jury selection process. I hope he will take the time and effort to expand on why he supports the abolishment of peremptory challenges.
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2018-05-24 16:41 [p.19614]
Madam Speaker, during an exchange with one of the Conservative members, my colleague asked what the record is with regard to consultations on Bill C-75 and the overall criminal justice review process.
I thought it would be helpful to inform the member that we have conducted over 20 round tables across the country; have received 11,400 written online submissions; and have engaged with our federal, provincial, and territorial partners, and with members of the judiciary at every level. It is on the basis of those engagements that we decided to put forward this historic, bold legislation, which is going to cure delay. With that now on the record in the chamber, I am hoping that the member will join us in addressing the culture of complacency that was identified as one of the great challenges by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision.
I also encourage my hon. colleague to address the question that I put to him earlier about his support for the abolishment of peremptory challenges.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-05-24 16:42 [p.19614]
Madam Speaker, given the time constraints imposed upon me, it will be difficult to do justice to the two questions put.
I am not denying that there was consultation with thousands of Canadians. I am sure that judges were involved. At least one important and very experienced deputy attorney general from the past says this is nothing but downloading. I would be interested in what others have to say about that.
I personally support the provision on peremptory challenges. It would mean that the colour of a person's skin would not be sufficient reason for someone to simply stand in a courtroom and challenge a proposed juror because the person does not think that juror would do justice as an indigenous person. We know cases where that has occurred recently, and that is why I thought this was useful, but on the condition that we have a more robust ability to challenge for cause. The Americans do that much better, much longer, and with much more gravitas than we do. We need to put that out there as well: the quid pro quo for not having that historic right.
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