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Results: 1 - 15 of 496
View Peter MacKay Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, colleagues. It's a pleasure to be before you to discuss, as noted by the chair, the main estimates for the Department of Justice.
This is my 56th appearance before a standing committee as a government minister. Joining me today are the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general, William Pentney; the associate deputy minister, Pierre Legault; and senior assistant deputy minister of policy, Donald Piragoff; all of whom have extensive experience before committees as well and certainly within this department.
Mr. Chair and colleagues, in my role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, I'm responsible for ensuring that our justice system remains fair, relevant, and accessible to Canadians. It also involves, of course, overseeing a significant budget, with an eye to fiscal prudence and respect for taxpayers.
The Government of Canada introduced measures in connection with several criminal justice priorities. Our objective is to to make our streets and communities safer, and ensure that our justice system continues to bolster the safety of Canadians through our criminal justice laws, policies and programs.
Among them, Mr. Chair, we are pleased to announce that the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act has come into force. This law takes effect very soon and deals specifically with law enforcement online. This is a bill with which you and members of this committee are very familiar. I thank you for your work in this regard.
We've seen increased activity with regard to the subject of cyberbullying, which has had a devastating impact on many young people in Canada, affecting their reputations, their self-esteem, and their mental health. Also, it has directly contributed to the unfortunate decision that a number of young people have taken to end their own lives, young people like Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, Todd Loik, and countless others, which is why the government acted to protect young people from malicious online behaviour, such as posting intimate images on the Internet, and the insidious and relentless harassment that often follows.
This is coupled with outreach efforts that are ongoing, and with education and the involvement of many people and organizations—such as the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in Winnipeg—which have directly contributed to the assistance of young people who are feeling cornered, hopeless, and in some cases desperate. Things such as and are areas in which young people are able to access information about how to remove offending material.
The Government of Canada also understands that Canadians expect their justice system to keep them safe, and we are committed to protecting Canadians from individuals who may pose a high risk to public safety. It's an obligation and a responsibility that we take very seriously.
Obviously, the evolving threat of terrorism is one those most troubling threats. In response to this risk, we introduced a bill earlier this year, which again is a bill you're familiar with, Bill C-51, to strengthen our existing anti-terrorism laws to ensure that they continue to respond appropriately to all forms of terrorism.
As you know, the bill is currently before the Senate. Among other things, such as enabling police to be more proactive in identifying radicalization and acting accordingly, this bill will fill a current gap in the Criminal Code by creating a new Criminal Code offence criminalizing the advocacy and promotion of terrorism, including those that would encourage attacks on Canadians.
Protecting victims of crime is another area in which we have been very active, as has this committee. We are moving to provide a more effective voice in our justice system as a key priority for our government. Victims of crime deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.
Mr. Chair, to that end, we introduced the Victims Bill of Rights. It received royal assent last month. This legislation enables the rights of victims of crime at a federal level and establishes statutory rights to information, protection, participation, and in some cases restitution. It also ensures that there is a complaint process to deal with breaches of those rights.
Again, I could mention others that this committee has been seized with, including Quanto's law, tougher penalties for child predators, and several other bills, for which I again express my appreciation for the diligence of this committee.
Mr. Chair, the Department of Justice is estimating net budgetary expenditures of $673.9 million in the year 2015-16, which is a net spending increase of $43.3 million from the 2014-15 main estimates. The net increase in spending illustrates the Government of Canada's commitment to maintaining, as mentioned, the integrity and the importance of our justice system in terms of accessibility to it through programs and personnel.
Mr. Chair, one especially important area of increased spending, totalling $1.9 million, represents the funding in support of non-legislative measures to address prostitution. In 2014, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act came into force. This uniquely Canadian model was informed by the results of government consultations, public consultations, on the subject of prostitution in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in Bedford.
That consultation received more than 31,000 responses from Canadians, in addition to the in-person round tables. This was the largest consultation, I note, ever undertaken by the Department of Justice to date, and it recognized in the legislation the significant harms associated with prostitution. In a combination of Department of Justice money and Public Safety money, $20 million is being made available through a fund over five years for programs aimed specifically at helping those who sell sexual services to exit prostitution.
Mr. Chair, this is a compassionate and common-sense program that we are delivering, and we believe it will make a positive difference. The funding will provide services such as trauma therapy, addiction recovery, employment training, and financial literacy. It could also be used to support transitional housing, emergency safe houses, child care, and drop-in centres. I can tell you that there has been tremendous uptake on this program funding. In addition, there will be funding made available to help law enforcement agencies connect with those who want to leave prostitution and help them find emergency or long-term services, such as those I just mentioned.
The new resources demonstrate the government's commitment to meaningfully support those exploited through prostitution. We are ensuring that the laws address as well the serious harms associated with prostitution and deliver the protection that vulnerable Canadians and communities have come to expect and deserve from this government.
Mr. Chair, in February of 2015, the government announced that it had extended its support for the aboriginal justice strategy to include an additional $11.1 million for fiscal year 2016-17. The aboriginal justice strategy supports community-based justice programs across the country that have delivered results in reducing crime and victimization in aboriginal communities. There are approximately 275 aboriginal justice programs. There is outreach to over 800 aboriginal communities now, touching every province and territory, both on and off reserve, and in rural, urban, and northern communities.
Lowering recidivism and reducing the overrepresentation of aboriginal Canadians in our justice system is at the root. The programs are cost-effective and produce short- and long-term savings for Canadians by freeing up police, court, and correctional resources to address more serious crime. This is in addition to other programs such as the $25 million that is directly focused on the subject of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
Although there was an effort with respect to the main estimates—an increase of $43.3 million—there have also been decisions taken around the providing of legal services as part of our commitment to better and more effectively manage resources. Within the department, there was a review of the legal services provided to all government departments. As you know, we do a great deal of work on behalf of other departments and other agencies in government. As a result, we've identified immediate measures to reduce legal services demand and costs. There is another wave that is aimed specifically at simplifying and increasing access to legal services. It will be implemented within the coming fiscal year.
Over the next year, the department will also continue to work to meet the needs of the Government of Canada's policy objectives. They include enhancing legislation to hold offenders accountable; supporting initiatives to address such issues as security and terrorism, as I referenced earlier; working with other departments to address crime prevention; rehabilitation, treatment, and enforcement activities that relate to illicit drugs; and continuing our aboriginal justice issues. I would also add to that list the work that's done with young offenders. In particular, there are various branches of this youth justice initiative that deal with guns and gangs.
These initiatives will help the Department of Justice continue to build a system that improves access and meets the diverse needs of Canadians.
Mr. Chair, the Government of Canada is determined to protect the integrity of our justice system. We have reaffirmed that commitment through the level of funding allocated to the Justice portfolio.
The items presented by the Department of Justice for inclusion in the 2015-2016 main estimates will help to guarantee that we continue to have a fair society that respects our legislation and has an accessible, effective and equitable justice system.
Finally, the funding that the justice portfolio has received delivers results. I'm proud to say that, aided by very able officials, we'll continue to see that these funds are spent wisely while ensuring that Canadians have the fair, relevant, and accessible justice system that they expect.
I want to again thank you, Mr. Chair and members of this committee, for your diligence and determination in examining in many cases very complex bills and for the contribution you are making in that regard.
I look forward to taking your questions over this period. Similarly, I know that officials here, along with representatives from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, from the Administrative Tribunals Support Service, and other officials will be attending, I believe, at the next meeting, on May 13, to answer any questions in those particular areas.
Thank you, Chair.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, dear colleague, for your questions. I'm going to try to answer them quickly and directly.
With respect to the victims ombudsman, I would note that, you are correct, our government has made this a major priority. We work very closely with Madam O'Sullivan, who has appeared before this committee regularly, especially in recent days on the victims bill.
You will note that in terms of budget 2015, there is an increase in one of the most important areas of victimization, and that is with respect to child advocacy centres. There has been an increase specifically outlined in the budget in that regard, and also with regard to security around courts, including the Supreme Court, and security generally, which is in the area I would describe as prevention. Those are important areas in terms of the impact on criminal justice.
In no particular—
View Peter MacKay Profile
I'm glad you mentioned judges, because as you would know, while not referenced in the budget specifically, there was an increase in budget with respect to the number of judges now in Quebec, with respect to the number of judges in Alberta. That is, without a doubt, a very important area of expenditure. Certain challenges that you're aware of—we won't go into detail here—have delayed the ability to appoint some of those judges. That issue has now been resolved at the Supreme Court. The judge in terms of a transfer has now taken place and we can move forward.
You also referenced impaired driving. Look, I appeared regularly in provincial court as a prosecutor. Sadly, then as now, we are still seeing far too much carnage on the highways. Far too many of these charges take up an inordinate amount of time in the court. I note with interest that some provinces have proceeded with a provincial administrative approach, which has accelerated the ability in those provinces to deal with that volume of cases. We're looking at that. We're working with our provincial partners to see if there are things we can do at the federal level as well.
With regard to overall expenditures in the area of justice, many areas of criminality are in decline. That is of course something we are tracking very closely at the department. I referenced the child advocacy centres, because that is an area where we are seeing an increase, sadly, in terms of the volume of cases, and more importantly in terms of victimization.
To that end, you can never lose sight, in terms of these budgetary matters, of the overall picture, which is that we're making record transfers to provinces like yours and mine. In the case of Nova Scotia, there is a 31% overall increase in funding transfers that go to areas of the criminal justice system, that go to areas of health, and that go to areas of education, all of which intersect around many of these issues.
I mentioned cyberbullying. We are seeing a more active approach taken across the country with regard to how the education system is now allowing kids to get more direct information on how these very insidious activities online affect them, and where they can get help. That's also important in our—
View Peter MacKay Profile
As you know, we put money specifically into the area of helping prostitutes—I mentioned that in my opening remarks—exit prostitution. That disproportionally, as you know, is a concern in a province like Quebec.
Of course, that is money for the very first time, I know, coming from any federal government specifically aimed at helping prostitutes exit the practice.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Dechert.
You've been intimately involved in our efforts to bring this legislation forward, and the consultations and the outreach, which, in addition to the bill itself, I would describe as of equal importance. The legislation, as you know, specifically hones in on this subject of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. That is part of the concern.
Obviously a young person very often feels completely devastated by these images that are sometimes taken in circumstances that are regrettable, that may involve alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, and may involve circumstances that are out of context; yet here is that image haunting that young person, potentially for the rest of their life. We've seen the devastating impact that can have.
Passing the legislation was important. It sends a message, as criminal justice bills tend to do, of deterrence and denunciation. It's also important that young people are aware of those consequences.
But to come back to your question, we need to reach those young people, and the education system, the schools, have been more amenable to having those discussions. In fact, we've been contacted and invited to come and have these discussions at schools. We will very often have members of the local police department present, people like Lianna McDonald, who has headed up an incredible effort, not only nationally but internationally, to make young people aware of the assistance available to them. We've advertised online. You may have seen some of these very pointed, and I think quite impactful messages that are available on television and at movie theatres, but most importantly, in that realm of online communication.
You asked for some of my reflections on this. Every time I've been to a school, and I've been to a number of them now, I learn something new. Young people are very dialled in to what's happening online. They're talking more openly and frankly about how this is happening. They're aware that this is going on around them to other students, and we're encouraging them to take a good Samaritan approach and stop it, confront it, when it's happening. We are also encouraging them to reach out to the person who is often the victim and report it, and to know where to get help, that there are programs and personnel who are prepared to work with them to in some cases remove the offending material.
It's complex to say the least. Much of this is happening from outside of our own country. In some cases our laws do not allow us to go into the IP service provider's jurisdiction to try to remove that material. But there's work being done in that regard. I was here previously talking about our alliances with other countries where there is a similar phenomenon. I'm quite heartened by the very focused attempt that many countries, including our own, have taken to try to save young people, and anyone for that matter. It doesn't apply only to youth, but that's where this impact is perhaps being felt most acutely.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Once again I thank you, Mr. Dechert. This is an issue that I think is personal for most, and you, like many members of this committee, have had an opportunity to hear from victims and their families.
This legislation is groundbreaking in that it entrenches in federal law for the first time, as you know well, those rights to which victims will now be able to really point, in the way that those who are accused of serious crime now have legislation they can depend on. Now these are encapsulated in the victims bill.
Madam Boivin mentioned the victims ombudsman's office. That was also the creation of our government. We have been funding that office's ability to assist and, looking towards the future, to help see that these rights will be respected and given due course and consideration.
We have also put in place funding that is attached to victims, that is attached to the programs that victims can avail themselves of, and I'll refer to those specifically. I think the transformation, and I don't think that's too grandiose a word, will be felt by victims in the common best practices that will emerge when that victims bill is fully adopted and embraced, as I expect it will be. Victims will have a much greater sense of import and involvement in their own case. They will have a greater sense of respect from all of the actors within our criminal justice system. The victims fund itself does put in place additional resources. It will allow us to give meaning to those victims' rights. It will be part of the initial commitment that we made when we came to government in 2006. This is a victims fund that is very much aimed at helping with counselling, with compassionate support that is often required by victims in the aftermath in particular of violent crime. It is there for youth, for their families. It also involves, of course, working with the provinces on a strategy to see that victims are given the type of support, not just financial support but real support, that helps them move past the crime and move on with their lives.
The lingering effects of crime we know are very real. We know that it has an enormous impact in terms of lost productivity and wages. Overall programs are aimed at diminishing that, but it's estimated that the overall impact in our country amounts to about a hundred billion dollars, borne substantially, 85% or 90%, by victims themselves.
These programs are beginning to have an effect. They won't turn around overnight, but victims will feel far more valued and legitimized within the justice system.
One of the more shocking revelations I heard in the consultations was by victims who said, “I wouldn't go through it again. I wouldn't report it. I felt revictimized.” We're turning that tide.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
This issue that Mr. Casey has raised is certainly one that we are well seized of. The Supreme Court's decision in Carter is one that has a far-reaching impact, to say the least. Many groups have already expressed themselves in terms of their concerns.
Some would call it a divisive issue. It is very much a human issue that impacts disability groups and faith-based groups, and certainly the legal and medical communities will be involved in the consultation. The consultation, while not formally announced, has begun and we have already, without soliciting, received input on the subject matter.
When the Supreme Court struck down the sections of the Criminal Code on the prohibition of physician-assisted dying as constitutionally invalid, this in effect removed those sections from the Criminal Code, but there was a suspension of 12 months as to the effect. As we've done previously, we will consult broadly. I mentioned some of the areas and some of the groups that by necessity will be part of that conversation.
This is not to suggest that there won't be further discussion, parliamentary discussion, as there will inevitably be when a response is tabled, but this will be a national discussion that will involve many in the country. As I referenced in my opening remarks, we've done this in response to the Bedford decision, so we have a working model, in effect, that will allow for broad consultation. We'll do so in a way that's respectful, that's inclusive, and that will in some degree try to emphasize the inclusiveness of this and not necessarily the partisan aspects. There will be an extra-parliamentary consultation that we intend to undertake. I'll have more to say about that in the very near future.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Well, you can take from it what you wish. I said what I said.
We're going to involve very broad and sweeping consultations that will be extra-parliamentary within the country. We intend very much to ensure that we do this in a respectful way that does not presuppose an outcome. On the decision taken by the Supreme Court, while they've given us a year to respond, members here will know that some 12 years-plus after Rodriguez, the Supreme Court took a very different view of what the Supreme Court had previously said. It took 12 years to come to a different conclusion, giving the government of Canada 12 months to respond.
So we'll take the necessary time to do this properly, and in the middle of all of this, as we know, there's this other consultation that's taking place called an election.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Well, I disagree with the premise that it is in defence of charter violations, for starters.
We've actually lowered, in some cases, the number of ongoing litigation cases that are making their way through the court. We're looking at ways, obviously, in many instances, to settle cases rather than have them drag on. The reality is that the vast majority of cases in which the Government of Canada—and our department directly—finds itself are not initiated by the Government of Canada.
That said, we still have a very laudable success rate in terms of defending positions that we take on principle and that we take because we believe it's in Canadians' interests and in taxpayers' interests.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Well, obviously not.
This is a case that's before the courts and so for that reason, as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, I'm not going to comment on cases that are still before the court.
These are cases like others that make their way through the courts. They are a direct response to an issue that is, in our view, of importance to Canadians. It deals with fundamental values and rights that do sometimes come into conflict and like previous governments we've taken the position that we will advance and will do so through the courts in a transparent way.
View Peter MacKay Profile
We're actually increasing money in this regard.
It's a situation where there was previously determined sunsetting, but in terms of the actual money that will be devoted to this important issue, there will be an increase through our department, the Department of Justice, and that's in addition to the funding that is coming from the Status of Women and Public Safety.
Year over year, dollar over dollar, our government has significantly, I mean substantially, increased both resources, programming, and personnel availability for more support on and off reserves. That's without getting into the area of the DNA data banking, the unidentified remains, and other subject matters that impact directly on what we all want to see, and that is justice for murdered and missing aboriginal women and their families.
Much of that is, of course, the arrest, prosecution, and holding to account of those responsible.
View Peter MacKay Profile
The strategy, in my view, is having the desired effect. It is ongoing. There is a very challenging and troubling scenario that we're all aware of, given the disproportionate number of aboriginal people, young aboriginal people in particular, who find their way into the system and are incarcerated. The numbers are staggering.
There are programs and outreach and the ability to provide alternative programming. This programming is arrived at, in many cases, through consultation with first nations, because the sheer size of the country and the diversity among different bands in different parts of the country necessitates that we not take the one-size-fits-all approach. Some communities are obviously focused more on addressing issues of addiction, for example, or issues that relate to gang violence or issues of domestic violence.
The programs, as I mentioned, are very diverse and are tailored in many cases to those communities. We think they are tailored in a way that involves first nations input, first and foremost, but that also allows us to respond in a pre-emptive and preventative way as opposed to simply reacting. These programs are borne out through great efforts on behalf of people working not only in our department but also at Indian and Northern Affairs, those who are working to help with employment issues, for example.
I take an example from a community in my own constituency, the Pictou first nations. A lot of the effort now is aimed at engaging young people coming out of high school to get them into the workforce and to do so in a way that respects their heritage and culture but allows them to be gainfully employed and to pursue areas of employment that are of interest to them, including their own businesses.
It's an approach that I think is having a very important effect on reducing that overrepresentation, lowering recidivism rates, and embracing community responses to criminality. The aboriginal justice strategy was renewed for that very reason. It was renewed in a way that is designed to get to young people before they find themselves involved in the criminal justice system. You, as a police officer, know about that early engagement and about building trust. Aboriginal policing is an important part of that strategy, and having members of the RCMP and local police forces there also creates employment opportunities, thereby adding legitimacy.
In my view, it also creates a greater sense of trust when the response to justice issues is handled primarily by first nations people themselves, so their delivery of these programs that we're funding is also, I think, one of the keys to success. I think the programs themselves have also proven to be cost effective and they produce the types of results that have a lasting impact on communities and on everyone, frankly.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Again, I think these are programs that you, having been so closely associated with policing for much of your life, would celebrate. These awards are aimed at recognizing police officers and youth who engage in some of these programs. They are provided very much in collaboration with organizations across the country, such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association itself. They work closely with us, and it's about promoting some of those underpinnings and the values of the justice system—fairness, inclusiveness, citizen engagement, everything that we would want to promote and embrace. It's a holistic approach, not just to justice but to policing as well, which is very much the sharp end. It's that enforcement that is sometimes most challenging.
The award is now presented every year, usually in the fall, August or September. It's done, as I mentioned, in close association with police themselves, and it helps recognize those who are doing the heavy lifting in our justice system, such as police groups, our front-line officers, community groups, and other justice participants. It's open to the public to nominate and to engage and to recognize people who are deserving and who make a real difference in their communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to promote this. I hope we will see some great nominations this year.
View Peter MacKay Profile
I'll be very honest with you. I do not have the specific budget allotment. I understand that the Director of Public Prosecutions, the deputy, will be appearing before you later this week and could provide you with that specific amount. I'm not going to pretend that I have that figure with me.
You're correct, though, that the responsibilities are coming over to us from a new department. I suppose that the costs associated with that move would essentially be absorbed by our department. The staffing and any specific responsibilities will be assumed by the Department of Justice internally. To date, it isn't a new allotment or a new cost. For that same reason, there wouldn't be a great deal of casework that would have emerged thus far.
The officials specifically responsible for that new office will be here and can answer that question, and I will undertake to get a more specific answer myself and provide it to the committee.
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