Guy Caron spoke about Government Orders > Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act > Third Reading
Bill C-54 is important. It is the latest bill on the Conservative government's crime agenda. Based on the controversial example of Dr. Guy Turcotte in Quebec, the government thinks it is better to impose its ideological measures.
The profound, collective feeling of injustice triggered by the murder of his two children was a completely normal, healthy reaction. Indeed, he made us question the essence of justice and the future of our society and prompted us to ask other important questions of that sort. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ask whether such a case, which fortunately, is very unusual, requires us to question where the justice system is going.
I would like to quote a senator who was talking about one of her bills dealing with this issue. I think this quotation is quite relevant:
Even though there may be the odd case that concerns us all, Canada has recognized mental health experts and a proven judicial system. Anger and pain should not dictate our courts. Nor should they dictate our laws. It is a mistake to go down this path because instead of building a peaceful society we would create an unstable, harder, less tolerant one. We would fall into a vicious cycle of repression and violence, precisely into which the [Prime Minister's] Conservatives—and Senator Boisvenu—seek to lead us....We are talking about sick people. Punishment will not cure them. Prison does not cure.
That was Senator Hervieux-Payette, and those were her words regarding her own Bill S-214. I am quite certain that she will not mind if I draw a parallel with the current situation.
Is the government outraged that I would dare claim that it is playing politics at the expense of victims? The government is constantly accusing the opposition of siding with pedophiles, murderers and other criminals of that ilk, so I would simply like to try a little experiment.
The government has made several public statements on this bill, as did Senator Boisvenu and the mother of the two murdered children, Isabelle Gaston, whose state of mind I cannot even begin to imagine. The following is an excerpt of the statements of Senator Boisvenu and the Minister of Canadian Heritage at the announcement of Guy Turcotte's release on parole:
We believe that Isabelle Gaston doesn't deserve to live in fear of her children's killer, and neither do other victims...
Such decision is clearly undermining Canadians’ confidence in our justice system.
That's why our Government will shortly introduce legislation to address Canadians’ concerns about high-risk accused persons found Not Criminally Responsible on account of mental disorder who may pose a threat to public safety if released.
Well, if the government is not engaging in petty politics, and if the bill does not apply in any way to Dr. Turcotte's case, why are the Conservatives promoting the bill by using an emotionally charged and high-profile case involving children?
It smacks of demagogy and is very dangerous when the government plays with Canadians’ feelings and keeps them in the dark. The Conservatives know full well that this legislation will give the government an opportunity to capitalize on Canadians’ empathy for Ms. Gaston, while at the same time never clearly pubically admitting that the legislation cannot, and will never, apply to Ms. Gaston even if Mr. Turcotte were to face a second trial. Moreover, when Ms. Gaston was questioned on a Quebec public affairs television program, she admitted to being unaware whether the legislation would even apply in her situation. To quote Ms. Gaston “As far as I am concerned, I do not know, it is perhaps too early to get a sense of whether it will have an impact on my situation—the process is ongoing.”
This proves that all Ms. Gaston really wants is for things to change, and for her children not to have died in vain, which is entirely admirable. However, I seriously doubt that a more rigid position and the criminalization of mental illness will resolve the problem.
I use the word criminalization because, in truth, government members do not really believe in rehabilitation—we realized this when Bill C-10 was adopted. After listening to Senator Boisvenu, the jury is out as to whether he even believes that people genuinely suffer from psychological distress or severe mental illness.
In fact, the senator even wants the government to review the definitions of a number of mental illnesses whereby individuals may be found not criminally responsible.
Why? Simply because Mr. Boisvenu does not think that the incidence of mental illness could have increased so significantly over the past 10 or 15 years.
Why did the number of people found not criminally responsible increase twenty times? I do not think that the incidence of mental illness has increased at such a rate over the past 10 or 15 years. We must find out why there has been such a drastic increase in the number of these cases.
My colleague, the member for Gatineau, our justice critic, explained this during her opening speech. She said:
It is true that the percentage has risen over the years. However, and this is what it does not say, before 1991, if I recall correctly, when the amendment was made to the Criminal Code, the term was changed from “not guilty by reason of insanity” to “not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder”. At that point, summary conviction offences were also added, and this resulted in a lot of cases that had not been covered previously. Obviously that had an impact on the statistics. According to the government's responses, we are talking about a tiny percentage of cases where the individuals were found to be not criminally responsible.
To what point are mentally ill offenders dangerous?
This question was at the heart of an extensive study the Canadian government's Department of Public Safety conducted at the end of the 1990s. It recorded and analyzed more than 60 studies on this subject to properly identify the problems.
These studies looked at more than 15,000 offenders who had been released from prison or specialized hospitals and who were followed in their communities for a period of four to five-and-a-half years, on average. What were the findings?
When compared to offenders who do not have major psychological or psychiatric disorders, mentally disordered offenders are less likely to recidivate violently.
Second, mentally disordered offenders are not always actively psychotic. They may be in remission or their symptoms are being managed by medication.
The study also evaluated the relative importance of different risk factors. Many mental health professionals place considerable emphasis on “clinical” variables. Examples are length of hospitalization and type of mental disorder (e.g., schizophrenia, manic-depression). The meta-analysis found that these variables demonstrate very weak associations with violent re-offending. Much more potent predictors of violent recidivism are the factors typically found to predict violence among non-disordered offenders. Examples of these risk factors are criminal history, unemployment and family problems.
When the Minister of Justice said in his opening speech on second reading that the objective of the proposed reforms was not to impose criminal penalties on individuals found by a court to be not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, that was only half true, in fact.
In reality, Bill C-54 will divide the clientele into two types of cases: those who meet the criteria in Bill C-54 and those who do not meet those criteria, even though they have all been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This means that accused persons whose cases meet the criteria and who are found to be high-risk accused could be held in custody with no possibility of release by the review board as long as the court has not revoked the finding.
Why place people who are not criminally responsible outside the jurisdiction of the review boards that deal with mental disorders, quasi-judicial tribunals that are composed of psychiatrists, not judges? Only a court could find an accused to be “high-risk” and then revoke that finding, at present. Before revoking it, the court would seek the recommendation of the mental disorder review board, but the final decision would no longer be the board’s.
In Quebec, the mental disorder review board makes decisions concerning individuals who have been found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
As long as the accused is not discharged unconditionally or found fit to stand trial, a review must be held each year. With Bill C-54, that time will be extended to three years, and this could cause a number of problems, according to the experts with the Canadian Forensic Mental Health Network. It would prompt defence counsel to stop pleading not criminally responsible and opt for custodial prison sentences in the traditional prison system. In addition, individuals found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder would not receive proper care, but they would still present a danger when they were released.
The study I referred to earlier also found that the similarities between risk factors for offenders with mental disorders and other offenders suggest that there is a point at which health care services and the criminal justice system could integrate their approaches in order to effectively manage offenders with mental disorders.
There are two specific areas where co-operation between the two systems is possible: risk assessment and rehabilitation of offenders. I am not citing that study to embarrass anyone, but simply to try to make the government members understand the consequences of deinstitutionalization, poverty and the criminalization of mental health problems. Prison does not cure people.
This bill, like so many others, was drafted without much thought to the consequences and without consultation, in order to make the public, and particularly the Conservative base, believe that this government is tough on crime. In reality, this bill would probably not apply to the case of Guy Turcotte.
Clause 12 of Bill C-54 adds a new section to the Criminal Code, section 672.64, which lists the conditions that must be met in order for a person to be considered high-risk:
672.64 (1) On application made by the prosecutor before any disposition to discharge an accused absolutely, the court may, at the conclusion of a hearing, find the accused to be a high-risk accused if the accused has been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder for a serious personal injury offence, as defined in subsection 672.81(1.3), the accused was 18 years of age or more at the time of the commission of the offence and
(a) the court is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person; or
(b) the court is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person.
For Guy Turcotte to be declared an assumed high-risk accused, the judge has to be convinced, beyond a doubt, that he would likely seriously harm another person or could endanger the life of another person. Everyone agrees that the murders were both brutal and grotesque. I, too, have children. However, that is not what justice must decide. Rather, it should focus on whether or not there is a chance the accused will reoffend.
Given the decision made, the experts were obviously able to convince the judge that this was not the case. I am going to outline the five criteria that the judge must take into consideration—and he must take all of them into consideration—when determining whether the individual is a high-risk accused.
He must consider the nature and circumstances of the offence, any pattern of repetitive behaviour of which the offence forms a part, the accused’s current mental condition, the past and expected course of the accused’s treatment, including the accused’s willingness to follow treatment, and the opinions of experts who have examined the accused. If one must take into consideration all these criteria, the Turcotte case does not at all fit, given the experts' opinions, his mental condition and the treatments and therapies that he is following.
The nature of the offence is the only criterion that might lead a judge to consider him dangerous. However, given his mental condition at the time, and based on what the judge took into consideration, the risk of reoffending is very low. According to the Conservatives' bill, Guy Turcotte would not be a high-risk accused.
The one thing I agree on is that victims should be at the centre of the process. The problem is that the bill says very little on this aspect.
In closing, I want to reiterate that the government must realize the importance of providing real support to victims of crime, including by following up on more than one recommendation of the report by the ombudsman for victims of crime. It must also understand the whole psychosocial structure surrounding prevention, the study of risk factors, research, health care and rehabilitation.
It is difficult because each case is unique, but experts have tools to try to have everyone make progress. Some are probably beyond redemption, but just like with the concept of high-risk accused or mental disorder, it is certainly not up to politicians, or even the legal profession to establish the foundations. It is up to psychiatrists and doctors.
While referring to the former cardiologist's case, the Minister of Canadian Heritage said that such decision obviously undermines Canadians' confidence in our justice system. However, the minister was not able to say how this desire to put victims at the centre of the process would translate into concrete measures.
That is another contradiction in the Conservatives' logic, and it is the reason why we presented a number of amendments in committee. In fact, one of those amendments was accepted, and it is one of the few that the Conservative government has accepted in any committee.
The amendment would inform victims, at their request, of the address of a person already found to be not criminally responsible for a crime so that the victim can avoid the area for his or her own well-being. It is one of the examples that showed that we do care about the victims. We want to improve this bill so that it reflects this concern.
One of the reasons why we will be supporting this bill is that we were able to have the Conservatives accept a second amendment that would require the government—no matter which party is in power in five years, that is in 2018—to have a committee study and re-examine the situation.
There are still many concerns about this bill, and I have pointed out a few of them. I think it is worthwhile examining them. There are other concerns that I did not have the time to address in my speech. They were brought up by experts, or in committee, and had to do with the possibility that this bill may be unconstitutional.
The validity of such measures is obviously based on the victims' rights, but also the rights of those deemed to be not criminally responsible for the acts committed. These laws must also be protected. In that sense, a contradiction could easily lead to interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The committee was informed of concerns by the media. That is why, five years after the bill becomes law, such a study would be pertinent.
In my speech, I made sure that I talked about the danger of politicizing cases like the Guy Turcotte case. I am certain that other members could cite similar cases that have occurred in their riding or region. These cases are very delicate and they affect us.
I already mentioned that I have children. Anyone who has young children will be emotional about a situation like that. It is the reason why such a delicate and sensitive situation must be handled by parliamentarians in the same manner, that is in a delicate and sensitive manner. These types of cases must not be used to promote a political agenda.
The reference made by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Senator Boisvenu to what I just mentioned was the second speech made on the same bill. It was announced twice. The government must be very careful, because this kind of issue is very volatile. Again, the politicization of these cases has muddied the waters for the collective debate we should be holding on this issue. This makes it much more difficult to find our way.
In the future, for law and order bills on crime, I would like the government to be much more sensitive to the reactions it causes and the way they interfere with the debate when similar bills are introduced.
On this side of the House, we showed we were willing to work with the government. We will do so by voting for this bill, among other things. In addition, we demonstrated our co-operation by proposing and expediting the passage of Bill C-2, which allows for the group prosecution of biker gangs.
We will continue to work on this issue, but we need the government's co-operation in order to have a healthy and useful debate for Canadians.June 18, 2013, Parliament
Hoang Mai spoke about Government Orders > Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act
With Bill C-10 we saw the Conservative government's tendency to introduce bills without consulting the provinces or considering whether they agreed or not. Bill C-10 has a direct impact on the provinces' administrative costs.
Unfortunately, in this bill, there is no mention of how the government is going to help the provinces. There is no mention of any funding that might be allocated. We are pretty sure there will be none. When we looked at the budget, there was no increase in funding to help the provinces deal with this problem.
Again, we are operating in a vacuum. The government is introducing bills without consulting the provinces or experts. What is more, the government is not allocating any resources for the provinces to cope with these problems.
I thank my colleague for the question because it allowed me to address a point that I did not have time to raise in my speech.June 18, 2013, Parliament
Ms. Carole Morency spoke
I should have Bill C-10 burned in my memory, but I think you're referring to the provision that was added as an amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, that federal correctional authorities were directed, as a result of some of those amendments, to provide additional types of information. ... more
That's something within the federal domain. It's something that to some degree was happening, but perhaps not as consistently as what some victims were looking for.
The point that I made before was that the impact that this might have would probably be more greatly felt by review boards. It goes well beyond what we've been in a position to comment on.June 13, 2013, Parliament
Hoang Mai spoke
If I can follow up, is it correct that right now, according to the Criminal Code, or Bill C-10, clause 57, that type of information is already required to be given to victims by review boards?June 13, 2013, Parliament
Hoang Mai spoke
Thank you, Mr. Chair. ... more
As all members of the committee will recall, we made a subamendment to our amendment NDP-1. It will have an effect on one other amendment, but, at the moment, let us stay with amendment NDP-1. We move that the text be amended by substituting:
“discharge, any conditions of release and accused's intended place of residence shall, at the victim's request, be given.”
What we added from NDP-1 was “any conditions of release”.
We feel that includes what we tried to bring forward, in terms of giving more information to the victims. If you look at what happened in the past in this Parliament.... It refers also to language that was used and things that were used in Bill C-10, clause 57,
about conditional release.
I just want you to recall some information. According to the language used in Bill C-10, when an accused is convicted in the criminal system, victims are informed about the conditions of release. When a person is deemed not criminally responsible, it is the opposite. That information is not provided to victims.
Although it passes the privacy test in Bill C-10, we believe that victims should be given the same rights whether the accused is convicted or declared not criminally responsible, as stipulated in the Criminal Code under the changes made as a result of Bill C-10.
Could we perhaps ask the witnesses we have with us here today?
Are you in favour of the amendment you have before you in terms of its vision and validity?June 12, 2013, Parliament
Michael Chong spoke about Government Orders > Main Estimates 2013-14 > Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Mr. Speaker, the Senate serves as a chamber of sober second thought to review legislation. I just want to highlight three pieces of legislation that have gone through this House over the years that the Senate has defeated, amended or reviewed. ... more
For example, setting aside one's views on the difficult issue of abortion, let us look at what happened to Bill C-43 during the time of Mr. Mulroney's government. It was defeated in the Senate. It was the bill that would have restricted abortion in this country. The Senate defeated Bill C-43. Otherwise, today in Canada we would have had restrictions on abortion. Therefore, I would ask members opposite who have strongly held convictions on this whether that was a role that they would have seen as useful as played by the Senate.
More recently, after the last election, the government introduced, as part of its electoral commitment, Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act. It sailed through this House of Commons, and it got to the Senate. Suddenly the members of government and the senators realized that there were problems with respect to national security in the bill. Therefore, the Senate introduced an amendment which then forced the bill back to this House. The amendment was adopted by this House, the legislation received royal assent. That gap, that shortfall in the bill, was addressed by the Senate of Canada.
More recently, as I mentioned before, Bill C-290, that did not receive a standing vote in this House of Commons and received only one witness at committee, the very proponent of the bill, did not receive sufficient scrutiny and oversight. The Senate is currently doing its work in that regard.
Those are just three examples of the important work that the Senate has done over the years in its role as a chamber of sober second thought to review legislation.
There is a another reason why the Senate serves a useful function. That is, its role as an investigative and research and deliberative body. In the history of the Senate back to the 1960s and 1970s, the investigative work of the Senate into social policy became integral to the development of Canada's modern social safety welfare net. The development of the Canada pension plan and the Canada Health Act and the development of policies involving social transfers to the provinces for health care, education, post-secondary research and development were all influenced by the work that the Senate did over the years. More recently, the work that the Senate did on mental health influenced government and House of Commons decisions on legislation, policy and funding for mental health concerns. The Senate does the same thing as royal commissions, public inquiries and external task forces, but it does so at a lesser cost than those royal commissions and in a much quicker and more timely manner.
There is yet another reason why the Senate serves a useful function. It is the same reason why in over 50 states around the world there are bicameral legislatures: the Senate serves to provide a check and balance, not just on the majoritarianism of the lower chamber in this House of Commons, but also on the executive branch of government.
I would like to quote Sir Clifford Sifton. He was a Canadian minister at the turn of the 20th century who helped open up western Canada for the waves of immigration that settled the great Prairies and produced the powerhouse of energy and agriculture that we see today. Here is what Clifford Sifton said in the book The New Era in Canada in 1917:
No nation should be under unchecked, single-chamber government.... It must also be remembered that, under our system, the power of the Cabinet tends to grow at the expense of the House of Commons.... The Senate is not so much a check on the House of Commons as it is upon the Cabinet, and there can be no doubt that its influence in this respect is salutary.
The check that the upper chamber provides on the executive branch of government, something that many Canadians have been increasingly concerned about over the last 30 or 40 years, is a useful function. In fact, modern North American institutions are based on Montesquieu's doctrine of the division of powers as a way to best achieve outcomes in society, and the way to best achieve justness and fairness in society.
His division of powers principle is quite simple. We needed to move away from the error of the absolute rights of kings and dictators, where they held all the power, to a system of government where power was diffused. We needed a system where power was not concentrated in a single place, in the Prime Minister's Office, the cabinet or the executive branch of government, but diffused among the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
The Senate, in a bicameral system of government, serves that end of the division of power. It serves that end of diffusion of power. It serves that end to provide a check and balance on the concentration of power in one place. That is why, as I said earlier, there are 50 countries around the world with bicameral legislatures.
In addition to these reasons why the Senate serves a useful function, let us talk about the practical, political realities of abolishing the Senate. The reality is that Canada exists today in part because of the Senate. It was the deal that brought the provinces and colonies before Confederation into the federation.
In fact, when we read the Debates on Confederation, it is clear that colonies like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec would never had joined this federation had it not been for the Senate. They made it clear they were worried about the rapidly growing populations in Canada West, now Ontario. They were worried about being subsumed by the majoritarianism of a rising Ontario. That is why they wanted the upper chamber to serve as a protector of their interests, whether they were regional in nature, reflecting smaller populations, or linguistic, reflecting the francophone realities in many parts of the country.
Many of those provinces, legislatures and national assemblies would not agree to the abolition of the Senate. They would see it as a diminution of their voice here in our nation's capital.
The political and practical reality is that abolition of the Senate is not something that is going to happen. It is not something that we could easily reopen without addressing the other demands that were made during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, those divisive debates of the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are many more things on the table. If we went to a Dominion-provincial conference on first ministers to talk about the abolition of the Senate and whether or not we believe that would require the 7/50 amending formula or unanimity amongst Canada's 11 legislatures, the point is this: it would be opening a can of worms that no one in the House would want to open.
In particular, I ask members from Quebec on both sides of the House what they would expect the Province of Quebec to demand, with respect to the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society or the recognition of Quebec's nationhood. What would they expect in terms of the demand for a veto on the part of provinces for any future changes to the Constitution? What would they expect when terms of the original Meech Lake demand completely devolve immigration to the provinces and relinquish federal control about who comes into our country and who is accepted to be a citizen?
It would reopen the debate about who gets the power of appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. There are all the sorts of issues that certainly would be reopened for those who advocate the abolition of the Senate. Therefore, for a practical reason, abolition is not really something that we can pursue, nor is it something that I support. It is also something that we cannot do through the back door.
The Constitution of this country, with its written and unwritten aspects as they have been interpreted by rulings of the Supreme Court, is the basic law of this country and we must respect that Constitution. We must respect the way it needs to be amended. We should wait until the Supreme Court renders its judgment in the reference case that the government has asked it to consider.
Mr. Speaker, while I believe in a bicameral Parliament, while I believe that we need a lower and upper chamber for the reasons I have just outlined, I also believe that the Senate needs to be reformed. We need to have term limits. My suggestion to my fellow parliamentarians is that we should have term limits based on the life of a Parliament. Therefore, instead of setting a fixed term limit of eight or nine years, we should base it on a Parliament. When a Parliament is dissolved for the purposes of a general election, that is when senators should seek re-election. We might want to go to a system where a senator serves for the life of two or three Parliaments before seeking re-election, but I strongly believe that we need to have a system where there a limit on the length of time a senator can serve. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will give us some guidance in that respect.
I also believe that we need to have popular consultations or elections of senators. That is incredibly important. That way we can provide Canadian citizens the accountability they are seeking for the upper chamber.
We need to do this thoughtfully. We cannot do it willy-nilly. There are unintended consequences if we proceed too rapidly and too rashly. If we are to proceed with term limits and an election of senators based on the court's ruling, then we also need to strengthen this very House of Commons.
In Ontario, the province from which I come, we have 24 senators. In Ontario, unlike Quebec where senators serve at large, if 24 senators run in province-wide elections we could see up to six million or more voters voting for a senatorial candidate. In that situation it is not inconceivable that a single Senate candidate could win an election with four million, five million or more votes, dwarfing the number of voters and constituents that members of this chamber represent. Accordingly, when those senators who have the legitimacy of being elected with some three million to four million votes confront the House about what should be done with certain pieces of legislation, we need to think about strengthening this House of Commons to ensure that the increase in the power of the Senate, because of term limits and elections, is reflected also in an increase in power of this part of the legislature, the House of Commons. This would ensure that the people's place that is represented by 308 members here today has an effective and continued voice as the primary centre of power in our nation's capital.
For all those reasons I believe the Senate serves a useful role. I believe members should vote to ensure its continued operation. While the institution is not perfect, and while those who have made mistakes should be held to account, let us ensure that our institutions remain strong to respond to the future challenges that Canada faces.June 6, 2013, Parliament
Massimo Pacetti spoke about Private Members' Business > Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act
As my colleagues have already said, this bill amends the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of the abduction, sexual assault and murder of one victim is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until the person has served a sentence of between 25 and 40 years as determined by the presiding judge after considering the recommendation, if any, of the jury.
As my Liberal colleague, the member for Halifax West, stated during the last debate on the bill, we Liberals will be supporting this matter at second reading. We support the principle behind the legislation—that is, we agree that those who are convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder of one victim should not easily receive parole.
Many community organizations, including the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, also support this bill.
While we are fortunate that such brutality is rare in Canada, we know all too well that this evil does exist. Just this time last year, the nation was gripped with headlines of Luka Magnotta, who is alleged to have killed, raped and dismembered his victim. He is presently awaiting trial on charges including murder and committing an indignity to a body.
Also at this time last year, a sentence was handed down in the case of Michael Rafferty of Woodstock, Ontario, who along with Terri-Lynne McClintic was arrested and charged in the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford. Both are serving life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years, Rafferty having been found guilty of first degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
These names and these cases, like those of Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams and Clifford Olson, clearly prove that this evil does exist in Canada and force us to evaluate the need to amend our Criminal Code accordingly.
Of course, the question might arise as to whether the existing regime is sufficient. All these individuals I have named have been punished, and many will not be out for parole for quite some time.
The answer is that this bill, as the mover noted, is not about punishment. Indeed, it does not increase penalties for any of the associated offences. What Bill C-478 does, however, is extend the period of parole ineligibility to relieve grieving families of the burden of having to relive their awful torment every two years once the offender becomes eligible to seek parole. Indeed, the bill is about ending the re-victimization of families.
It should be noted that the 40-year period that the bill speaks to is not a requirement. Judges are given necessary discretion on this particular point.
That is not to say that the bill is a flawless piece of legislation. These being private members' bills produced with the limited resources that we have as members of Parliament, there are going to be some flaws. Hopefully, at committee we will work hard to make sure that these are perfect bills when they come out of committee.
My colleagues from the NDP have raised concerns regarding its compliance with the charter and with the Rome statute. I am sure these will be questions put to the technical witnesses at the justice committee for which they will undoubtedly have well-researched answers. Surely amendments could then be moved if needed to clarify both our desire to comply with our domestic and international obligations and our desire to achieve our aim of a longer period of parole ineligibility for certain types of offenders.
It is not often that I am able to address the House on matters of criminal justice policy. I am delighted to do so today and I am delighted that the bill before us is not one of the usual mandatory minimum penalty bills that the Liberal Party opposes on policy grounds.
Much of the discussion in the House on justice policy of late has focused on the idea of victims' rights. I am proud to be part of a party that takes the rights of victims seriously and has matched this commitment in word and in action.
On November 1, 2005, the Government of Canada established the National Office for Victims at Public Safety Canada. This office is a single point of contact for victims who have concerns about offenders and questions about the federal correctional system and Canada's justice system.
The office provides victims with information and provides input on policy and legislative initiatives. It also attempts to educate members of the criminal justice system about victims' issues.
Further, although it has perhaps been overlooked in the current debate over Bill C-54, the Liberals proposed the initial amendments to the not criminally responsible regime that permitted a victim to read a victim impact statement at a review board hearing and required courts or review boards to advise a victim of his or her right to submit a victim impact statement at the initial disposition hearing for the accused.
Before closing, I must address one troublesome aspect of the bill as it is before us, not in substance but in form; namely, it is a piece of private member's business that has been endorsed by the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice as a worthwhile and necessary change to the law. Yet, it is something that would have been adopted much faster had it been introduced and advanced as government legislation. Indeed, why was this not part of the crime omnibus bill, Bill C-10? Or, more pertinently, why was this amendment not included in 2011 when Parliament debated Bill S-6, the serious time for the most serious crime act? Surely the government will agree these are serious crimes that deserve serious time.
My point is that the government has had ample opportunity to make this change to the law without having to use private members' hour to advance its agenda. It is a troubling trend because the use of private members' bills limits debate and circumvents charter review, something which is completed by the Department of Justice for only government bills and not private members' bills like Bill C-478.
Another troubling trend is that the Conservatives' justice agenda focuses on punishment without bearing in mind as well the need to adopt preventative measures designed to reduce the number of victims in the first place. Wow. For some types of offences, we should focus on root causes of crime, such as poverty, lack of education, and lack of access to affordable housing. For other types of crime, we should be looking at mental health initiatives for early screening and detection such that individuals may be diverted into the treatment programs they need.
Regrettably, changing sentencing and parole rules, however welcome some changes may be, does not prevent victimization. We must ensure a holistic approach is taken to justice, one that seeks to prevent crime, one that seeks to adequately punish the offender, and one that seeks to better reintegrate offenders into society once they have served their sentences.
In short, there is much more to be done, and Bill C-478 is not a magic bullet to solving the problem of crime in this country. However, as I stated at the outset, I believe the principle behind this bill has merit and thus I will be voting to send it to committee for further study and review.June 4, 2013, Parliament
Elizabeth May spoke about Government Orders > Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1
When we went over Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill, I searched in vain for any empirical study by any criminologist anywhere in the world that suggested these were anything but a massive failure, particularly now with the evidence coming from Texas. That state has been unsuccessful and has found that mandatory minimums do not reduce the crime rate but do cause increased problems within prisons and increased costs on the taxpayer.
Could my hon. colleague point me in the direction of any study that supports the idea that mandatory minimums are anything but a colossal failure?June 4, 2013, Parliament
Elizabeth May spoke about Routine Proceedings > Points of Order > Standing Committee on Finance
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to the hon. House Leader of the Official Oppositionfor raising this point of order yesterday, objecting to the unusual procedures that were accepted within the Standing Committee on Finance, in relation to the clause-by-clause treatment of Bill C-60, the 2013 omnibus budget bill. ... more
Prior to his point of order, I was struggling with a dilemma: I was certain there was an effort to undermine my rights as an individual member of Parliament and yet there had been no formal challenge. I was not sure how to approach this, Mr. Speaker, and to put before you the ways in which I found that procedure unacceptable. I really very much appreciate that the official opposition saw fit to raise its concerns that those procedures and the procedures adopted--novel procedures, mind you--before the Standing Committee on Finance did not comport to parliamentary rules and practice and went beyond the mandate of the committee.
Before getting down to the particulars of the current situation, I wish to review some fundamental principles related to the matter before you, Mr. Speaker.
In essence, what you are asked to adjudicate here is an effort by a powerful government party with the majority of seats in this place to eliminate what few rights exist to influence legislation in the hands of only eight members of Parliament belonging to two recognized national parties, myself, on behalf of the Green Party, and members here for the Bloc Québécois, plus two members currently sitting as independents.
Within this group, the government party's efforts are aimed only at the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois. We are the only members to have submitted amendments at report stage in the 41st Parliament.
The appropriate balance between the majority and the minority in proceedings of the House is, as Speaker Milliken noted, a fundamental issue.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to be providing the written copy of this presentation to you so that I will not have to read out loud all the citations.
The following passage is very apt. Although Speaker Milliken was dealing with a situation with a minority Parliament, the issues before him of balancing the rights of the minority and the majority are the same. I quote from Speaker Milliken's ruling of March 29, 2007:
At the present time, the chair occupants, like our counterparts in House committees, daily face the challenge of dealing with the pressures of a minority government, but neither the political realities of the moment nor the sheer force of numbers should force us to set aside the values inherent in the parliamentary conventions and procedures by which we govern our deliberations.
Unlike the situation faced by committee chairs, a Speaker's decision is not subject to appeal. All the more reason then for the Chair to exercise its awesome responsibility carefully and to ensure that the House does not, in the heat of the moment, veer dangerously off course.
The Speaker must remain ever mindful of the first principles of our great parliamentary tradition, principles best described by John George Bourinot, Clerk of this House from 1890 to 1902, who described these principles thus:
To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner, to enable every member to express his opinions within those limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time, to give full opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken heedlessly and upon sudden impulse.
As I noted yesterday, in particular, in your ruling related to the member for Langley's question of privilege, you said:
...[an] unquestionable duty of the Speaker [is] to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of members and of the House as an institution.
And you cited, with approval, these words from former speaker Fraser:
...we are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy, nor a so-called administrative democracy.
The last quote is from your ruling of December 12, 2012, which bears directly on the matter at hand. In that ruling, Mr. Speaker, you dealt with an objection raised by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to, inter alia, my presentation of amendments at report stage. The hon. government House leader presented a proposal that all my amendments at report stage should be grouped and one motion selected as a “test motion”, and only if the test motion was adopted would any of the other amendments be put to the House.
Your ruling was clear, Mr. Speaker. You cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 250, which states:
[I]t remains true that parliamentary procedure is intended to ensure that there is a balance between the government's need to get its business through the House, and the opposition's responsibility to debate that business without completely immobilizing the proceedings of the House.
And you added:
The underlying principles these citations express are the cornerstones of our parliamentary system. They enshrine the ancient democratic tradition of allowing the minority to voice its views and opinions in the public square and, in counterpoint, of allowing the majority to put its legislative program before Parliament and have it voted upon.
You ruled then, Mr. Speaker, that my amendments at report stage on Bill C-45 could stand and be put to a vote in the House. You also set out some circumstances that would provide a potential procedure to provide me and other members in my position with a fair and satisfactory alternative to amendments at report stage.
In my view, the government House leader is now attempting to do indirectly that which he could not do directly. It puts me in mind of the finding of Mr. Justice Dickson in that landmark Supreme Court case of Amax Potash, in which Mr. Dickson said:
To allow moneys collected under compulsion, pursuant to an ultra vires statute, to be retained would be tantamount to allowing the provincial Legislature to do indirectly what it could not do directly, and by covert means to impose illegal burdens.
I again underline that as the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition has put before us, the actions of the finance committee were ultra vires, and the whole effort here is to do indirectly what it could not do directly. I am speaking of the Conservative Party's efforts to suppress the rights of minority members.
It offends principles of fairness to use the superior clout and power of a majority government to crush the few procedures found within our rules and traditions to which I, as an individual member, have a right to recourse. It is clear that the effort being made by the finance committee on Bill C-60 is a continuation of the strategy-by-stealth of the government House leader's to foreclose the democratic rights of members, which was attempted in November of last year.
For the remainder of my argument, I would like to canvass two areas of facts that are relevant to the specifics of the question before you, Mr. Speaker. First, was the procedure adopted by the finance committee in conformity with your ruling of December 12, 2012? Second, have the amendments I have put forward in the 41st Parliament offended the rules by failing the tests of “repetition, frivolity, vexatiousness and unnecessary prolongation of report stage”?
Dealing with the second point first, I have moved amendments at report stage on the following bills, and I will state how many amendments per bill: Bill C-10, 36 amendments; Bill C-11, 11 amendments; Bill C-13, one amendment; Bill C-18, three amendments; Bill C-19, three amendments; Bill C-31, 23 amendments; Bill C-316, five amendments; Bill C-38, 320 amendments; Bill C-37, one amendment; Bill C-43, 21 amendments; and Bill C-45, 82 amendments.
What is immediately obvious is that the number of my amendments was directly proportionate to the legislation proposed by the government. Only on the two omnibus budget bills, Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, and the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, did I propose a relatively large number of amendments. There were many amendments, because the omnibus bills involved changes to multiple laws in a dramatic and transformative fashion. The amendments I proposed were all serious; none were frivolous. They were not of the kind, for example, put forward by the opposition of the day on the Nisga'a treaty, in which multiple amendments were mere changes of punctuation with the goal being slowing passage of the Nisga'a treaty.
The amendments I have put forward have even gained favourable commentary from some government members. On Bill C-31, the hon. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said, “I appreciate the member's evident concern”, speaking of me as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, “and the fact that she takes the deliberative legislative process very seriously”.
On Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act, the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages said, “I compliment her for her substantive approach to this legislation”.
On Bill C-43, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism stated:
I commend the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her constant due diligence. I know it is a particular challenge to effectively be an independent member and yet participate in an informed way in debates on virtually all bills in the House. We all admire her for that even if I do not agree with the substance of her intervention here.
In summary, the amendments I have put forward in the 41st Parliament have never been frivolous. Were they designed to slow passage? Not at all. Even on the day we began the marathon session of votes on the amendments to Bill C-38, I approached the Prime Minister personally and asked if any compromise were possible. I told him I would be at his disposal, that if one or two amendments might pass, perhaps the rest could be withdrawn, and that I was open to suggestion.
My goal throughout was serious and grounded in principle. My constituents care about these issues and these bills. I am working tirelessly in their interest. I have never engaged in preparing and presenting amendments for the sake of, as the government House leader has suggested, political games or delay for the sake of delay.
Having worked in the Mulroney government and in public policy work in Ottawa dealing with federal governments, federal ministers and federal laws since 1978, I have personal experience with what used to be the normal approach to legislating in the Parliament of Canada. This particular administration is the only one in our history to enforce rigid discipline on its members in legislative committees. It is the first administration in Canadian history to resist any changes in its legislative proposals from first reading to royal assent. Even the errors that are discovered prior to passage are protected from amendment until subsequent bills correct earlier drafting errors.
Worsening this abuse of democratic process, virtually every bill in the 41st Parliament has been subject to time allocation. If time allocation were not applied, in the normal round of debates, eventually members in my situation, who are seen as independent for my rights and privileges, although I sit here as a Green Party member, would be recognized and would participate in the debates. However, due to time allocation, there is never an opportunity to speak at second reading, report stage or third reading. With time allocation, there is never an opportunity for members in my position to make a speech unless another party cedes a speaking slot.
As a matter of practical reality, the only way to have a speaking opportunity in such time-constrained circumstances is to have amendments tabled at report stage. This approach of the current Conservative administration of rejecting any and all amendments, while simultaneously abbreviating debate opportunities, is a perversion of Westminster parliamentary tradition. It is a new and hyper-partisan approach to the legislative process.
As a member of Parliament, I believe it is my duty to work to resist this new, contemptuous approach to legislating. The ability to table amendments at report stage and to offer the entire House an opportunity to improve bills before third reading is even more critical when the legislative committee process has ceased to function as it did in all the time of all the speakers before you.
Now I turn to the question, Mr. Speaker, of how the finance committee applied the suggestions contained in your ruling of December 12, 2012. I note that the chair of the finance committee is never anything but personally fair, and I mean nothing personal against all members of the finance committee. I assume that this entire stratagem emerged elsewhere than from the members of the finance committee themselves.
I note that you suggested, Mr. Speaker, that there are “opportunities and mechanisms that are at the House's disposal to resolve these issues to the satisfaction of all members” in a “manner that would balance the rights of all members” and that “...members need only to remember that there are several precedents where independent members were made members of standing committees”. Those are all quotes from your ruling in December.
Finally, you suggested this:
Were a satisfactory mechanism found that would afford independent members an opportunity to move motions to move bills in committee, the Chair has no doubt that its report stage selection process would adapt to the new reality.
From these comments it is clear that your direction suggests that an effort might be made to engage members with rights of independents to enter into a discussion about how arrangements could be reached that would be, in fact, satisfactory. To be “to the satisfaction of all members”, your ruling implicitly requires that the suggested opportunities and mechanisms be discussed and accepted by all concerned. Further, you suggested that temporary membership was possible and that members should be able to “move motions”.
None of that occurred. I am attaching a written copy of all the correspondence between me and the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, which I will provide to the table. As you will see, there was no discussion or offer of co-operation. The “invitation” contained in a letter of May 7, 2013 left no room for discussion. The attached motion of the committee was supported only by the Conservative members of the finance committee but not by the official opposition or the Liberal Party members.
The letter, and particularly the motion itself, had the tone of a unilateral ultimatum. My response was to ask for temporary committee membership for the duration of clause-by-clause review. This request was rejected in the letter of May 24, 2013.
As the various sections of Bill C-60 had been distributed among several committees, I attempted to attend all the hearings relative to my amendments. However, committees were meeting at the same time in different locations throughout the parliamentary precinct making it impossible to get to each one of them. I did attend meetings of the industry, finance and the foreign affairs committees prior to clause-by-clause. I asked for permission to ask witnesses questions and was denied in the finance and foreign affairs committees. I was allowed a three-minute opportunity to pose questions in the industry committee. To be blunt, my opportunities were not close to equivalent to the members of those committees.
On Monday, May 27, 2013 as requested by the finance committee, I complied with the committee and attempted to co-operate. I submitted my amendments and attended clause-by-clause throughout the meeting of the committee on Tuesday, May 28. I asked for time to present my amendments. There were 11 in total. I was given half as much time as my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. I was allowed one minute per amendment. He was allowed two minutes per amendment. I have attached copies of the Hansard from all of these discussions to abbreviate the recitation of the facts.
I prefaced my presentation of amendments with a statement that I had not asked for this opportunity nor invitation and that while I was attempting to co-operate, it was without prejudice to my rights to submit amendments at report stage. Each time I was given the floor for 60 seconds, I repeated that my participation was without prejudice to my rights to present amendments at report stage, when I had the right to move my own amendments, speak to my own amendments, and answer questions about my amendments. At report stage, I have the right to vote on my amendments.
I also supported the point made by the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park that inviting independent members to committee, in her words, “does not conform with parliamentary procedure in that only the House of Commons can appoint committee members”.
I noted that I did not have an equal opportunity to present my amendments. This observation was compounded as we went through clause-by-clause.
On two occasions, members of the committee suggested amendments to my amendments. I was not allowed to comment on those suggestions. On one occasion, a member of the government benches disagreed with a point I made, but I was not allowed to reply. On another occasion, the NDP members misunderstood the impact of my amendment, but I was not allowed to explain. I was not allowed to move my amendments. The motions were deemed moved. I was not allowed to vote on my amendments. As noted, I was not allowed even the ability to participate in discussions about my amendments.
There is no way the word “satisfactory” can be so twisted of meaning as to apply to the set of circumstances to which I was required to submit. It is a principle of fairness and natural justice that an opportunity that cannot be used is no opportunity at all.
When one considers the circumstances in which speakers have ruled that members did not have an adequate opportunity to submit their amendments, it is clear that this imposed process before the Standing Committee on Finance falls far short of the mark.
For example, in 2001, Speaker Milliken ruled that where a member was on two committees and had difficulty getting to the meeting, he could move amendments at report stage. Speaker Milliken wrote that:
...because...the member maintains that he sits on two committees, both of which were seized with bills at the same time, and therefore had difficulty in moving his amendments, the Chair will give the benefit of the doubt to the member on this occasion.
In a situation where a member of a recognized parliamentary party attended the clause-by-clause consideration at the committee but was not an official member of the committee, Speaker Milliken allowed that member's amendments to be presented at report stage. He noted:
Of course, the Chair recognizes that our parliamentary system is party driven and the positions of the parties are brought forward to committees through its officially designated members. The Chair also recognizes that some members may want to act on their own.
Underscoring this, what an example: a member of a recognized party with rights to participate in standing committees chose to be in the meetings, in clause-by-clause, and could have handed that member's amendments to another member of his party and ask that they be submitted, but the Speaker of the House supported the right of that member to amendments at report stage because he was not a committee member. I was a long, long way from the rights of that member of a recognized political party sitting in that committee back in 2003 when Speaker Milliken allowed that member's amendments at report stage.
The right of a member to actually move the amendments at committee cannot be perverted through the expedient measure, imposed by a majority party, of demanding all amendments of an independent member be submitted, denying that member the right to move the amendment, speak to the amendment, other than in an inadequate perfunctory fashion, debate or defend the amendment, giving that member no opportunity to speak to other amendments and denying the member any chance to vote on his or her motion.
There may well be some way to accommodate members of Parliament in my position, but clearly, this experiment on Bill C-60 at clause-by-clause consideration in the finance committee was not acceptable. To accept it now, and disallow rights of members of Parliament in the position of independents to submit amendments at report stage, will be to create a precedent that fundamentally abuses our foundational principles of Westminster parliamentary democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I urge you to find in favour of the point of order put forward by the hon. House leader for the official opposition and to set aside the treatment of me and the member from the Bloc Québécois and allow us to submit amendments, move amendments, debate our amendments and vote on them on Bill C-60 at report stage.May 30, 2013, Parliament
Jinny Sims spoke about Government Orders > Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act > Second Reading
Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to speak in support of Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder). ... more
The NDP supports sending the bill to committee. As a number of people have said before me, there are some serious flaws in the bill that we want to address there. I have heard some welcoming comments from members across the aisle that they are looking forward to our amendments. I hope they really want to work with the opposition to make the legislation work. With that in mind, I am sure that the NDP representatives on the committee will put their hearts and souls into writing those amendments.
However, it will be the first time since I have been in the House.
I do not think there is anybody in this room who would disagree that public safety is paramount. No matter what part of the country one goes to, whether one has children or not, people really care about their communities and making sure they are safe.
I have strong feelings about the very poor job we are doing as a country and in the provinces addressing mental health issues. Recent reports show that depression is on the increase. The economic and health care costs related to that are huge.
For example, in my province of British Columbia, we saw many institutions that used to house people with mental disabilities and disorders shut down. Where did those people go? They ended up on the streets getting into all kinds of trouble, simply because they are ill and not able to manage on their own.
Bill C-54 is not talking about that larger group. We are talking about a very tiny group. It is a very small percentage of those with mental disorders who commit serious violent crimes. That is the crux of the legislation.
As many members are aware, based on a psychiatric report, even those who commit serious violent crimes can be released. We have examples of that. I have an example in my riding. A mother comes to see me quite regularly because she just cannot understand how that can happen.
We are talking about those who commit serious violent crimes. They would go before a review board, and now the victims would have a right to go to the review board and make impact statements. Not everybody can do that. Not every victim would be able to face the person who did them harm directly or indirectly. However, it is a very important part of the healing process and the social justice process for a person to be able to give an account of the impact a crime has had. I think that is a welcome piece of this legislation.
Of course, when the psychiatric review board made a decision, it would be reviewed by the courts before the accused was released. That is an additional element to ensure public safety and keep our communities safe.
It seems reasonable that before we release somebody, we would want to have that review so the medical and psychiatric professions have their input. A review board takes place at that time, impact statements are made and as a measure to ensure that everything is on track, the court will review that before the person is released. All of that sounds really good.
Then we get to the crux of the matter, which is who will pay for this? If this is more downloading of costs to the provinces, then I will have some serious concerns because we have had so much downloading of costs to them. There is so much they have had to pick up. We know where that ends up in each province. In British Columbia it has led to impacting the education and health care systems and many other programs. Therefore, we want to ensure we look at that.
As I mentioned earlier on, having been a teacher and counsellor in a high school, as well as a counsellor in the community, what hits me hard is that I absolutely believe in our judicial system, which is a rehabilitative system, but I also believe in prevention programs and taking proactive steps. It is high time the federal and provincial parties work together to find ways to address mental health issues as well as the costs associated with that.
Some people would say that we cannot afford to do that. However, the costs of incarceration are eightfold to the cost of quality education. It seems that in many cases we are not willing to spend $8,000 a year on educating a child, but we are willing to spend $60,000 to $100,000 a year to incarcerate people and keep them in prison. If incarceration were a judgment of how safe we are as a society, we just have to look to the south where the U.S. probably has a very high number of people in prisons. It does not make its streets and communities any safer. I would say it is less so.
We are pleased to support this and send it to committee where we will bring in amendments. We are pleased to see that for the very small percentage of people with mental disorders who commit violent crimes there will be an opportunity for victims to make statements. Also, through Bill C-10, there will be a review by the courts for those people to be released.May 28, 2013, Parliament
Rob Nicholson spoke about Government Orders > Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act > Bill C-54—Time Allocation Motion
Mr. Speaker, obviously committees are in charge of their own agenda. I see my parliamentary secretary here and other members of that committee, and they have done an outstanding job in terms of moving forward on these important pieces of legislation. ... more
The hon. member is right when she said what we talked about in the last election. We were very clear in the last election that we would move forward with all the bills that we could not get through because the NDP, the Liberals and their other friends wanted to talk forever on these things and did not want to move forward on them.
Bill C-10 is the bill that cracks down on people who sexually exploit children, that cracks down on drug dealers. We indicated to Canadians in the last election that we were coming forward with this and we would get it passed within 100 days. We were on the right track with that bill, and this is part of that agenda of moving forward, standing up for victims and--May 27, 2013, Parliament
Nathan Cullen spoke about Government Orders > Extension of Sitting Hours
Mr. Speaker, I am not very happy about being here. However, I am here because we need to stand up to this government, which believes that Parliament exists only for its benefit and that it is just a place concerned with the government's problems and accountability. ... more
It is almost as if a new party came into the House today, as we listen to the Conservative House leader speak. It certainly is not the party that moved prorogation and killed legislation time and again. This new Conservative Party is suddenly interested in not defeating legislation. It could not be the same Conservative Party that has shut down debate in the House of Commons more than any party in Canadian history. It could not be a member of the same party who was speaking here today, talking about opening up debate. The Conservatives have invented a new world for themselves that is fascinating.
I am reflecting on my friend from Langley, who sought to speak in this House on what they call an S. O. 31 statement, which happens just before question period. It is a statement that lasts for about a minute. Usually members of Parliament get up and make a statement about their ridings about some issue that is important to them. My friend from Langley, who sits in the Conservative Party, was a parliamentary secretary, I remember, for the Minister of the Environment, a chair, a well-respected member of Parliament, and a friend. He sought to stand up and speak to something he thought was important to his constituents.
It was the old Conservative Party that shut down that member of Parliament and every other one who tried to get up and speak, because this new Conservative Party talks about wanting people to speak in the House and wanting to have debate.
While it is refreshing to hear it, I do not believe it, and I do not think Canadians are going to believe that suddenly accountability and democracy have broken out within the Prime Minister's Office. It is the office of this particular Prime Minister who, rather than face any uncomfortable questions from the media or the official opposition members today, or for the rest of this week, has decided that going to South America to sit with other trading partners from other countries we already have established trade deals with to talk about trade deals that already exist is much more important than asking questions about the Senate.
It must be a new Conservative Party that suddenly has on its agenda a legislative directive that the members need to sit longer hours and work hard on something that might be quite topical today, something such as the reform of Canada's Senate, which has been long overdue and long called for by Canadians and New Democrats who said that the place was fundamentally broken. There is no accountability. Unelected and under investigation is the new Senate.
I remember the old Reform Party. You probably do as well, Mr. Speaker. It came in riding from the west, from my part of the world.
I see a member across the way, who was one of the founding members of the Reform Party, calling it a beautiful thing. While I disagreed fundamentally with many of its positions, certainly its social positions, there was something on which I could see some common ground. That was to make Parliament more accountable and to reform the Senate.
The current government has now been in power almost seven long years. Is that right? The time goes slowly. In those six or seven years, the Prime Minister made a promise as one of his fundamental commitments to Canadians. Commitments should be treated sacredly, I believe.
We all get up at elections. We have party platforms and promises we make to Canadians. If we win, that platform and those promises become our agenda. That is what we would seek to do in office. It is simple. One of his promises, one of his agendas, one of his reforms was on the Senate. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they would see those Liberal senators down there taking their money, not really representing anybody, going on trips and maybe even defrauding taxpayers. Who knows? The Reform movement came in and said it was wrong and anti-democratic.
For a party that decided to put “democratic” right in the middle of our name, we take these questions seriously. We feel that it is accountability to the people we on the orange team represent. In a sense, we are watching this Prime Minister now play victim to what is going on in the Senate with senators he appointed exclusively and explicitly to raise money for the Conservative Party of Canada. Now this same Prime Minister claims victimhood and wonders how this happened. How did his chief of staff, who sits to his immediate left every day and knows his deepest, darkest secrets, whom he put in charge of major trade files and negotiations with other countries, cut a $90,000 cheque to a senator he appointed? However, obviously, the Prime Minister's hands are clean, and he has nothing to say about this. He believes that his hands are so clean that he is not going to answer any questions about it. He is going to go to South America to be in trade talks with countries we already have trade deals with. That is the new Conservative Party, which is the old one, the same one that has forgotten its roots.
Dear Mr. Manning is still with us, so he is not spinning in his grave, but he is definitely spinning. He was asked recently whether the Conservatives have lost their principles. He said, no, they have maintained their priorities. It is an interesting dodge of a question. Mr. Speaker, you have been around politics a bit. You know when a question is put directly and someone answers it indirectly.
I find it incredible that we have before us a motion that continues to abuse Parliament. This motion is designed simply to restrict debate and demonstrate to members of the House of Commons that the only reason Parliament exists is so that the government can do what it wants.
I remember a comment made by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. When we were debating a time allocation motion, he said that their intention was not to put an end to debate or to censure it, but just to control Parliament.
It is incredible that a minister is admitting that the Conservatives just want to control the Parliament of Canada. It also reflects the Conservatives' esprit de corps. They want to control everything, not just the opposition and Parliament, but their members, as well as the media and the public.
The current vision of the Prime Minister and the government leaves the public with no choice and no voice. It is all about the kind of country that the Prime Minister wants to build.
We see a government moving this extraordinary thing, which will see, big deal, members of Parliament sitting until midnight.
New Democrats have been known, sometimes to our detriment, to be willing to force the calendar to the very last minute and sit all night, such as when the government moved anti-worker legislation against a very profitable Canada Post, which, I might add, in a parenthetical way, then lost money.
After the lockout by Canada Post, the government imposed wage contracts on those workers that were less than what the company was willing to offer. Then it said that it needed to shut down Canada Post offices around the country, as Canada Post was losing money because of the lockout it allowed them to do. The logic is inherently twisted on that side.
Remember the omnibus debates and the voting we had. I remember my friend from the Green Party moving a certain number of amendments to the bill, which forced the House to sit all night and vote, hour after hour. I remember some of my friends from Surrey who stayed in their seats for 22 hours.
No one has ever accused New Democrats of not being willing to come to work and work on behalf of our constituents. We may do some things wrong. We may sometimes fall short in some areas, but hard work has not ever been one of those things.
There is such irony in hearing a Conservative House leader who, with his Prime Minister, has prorogued Parliament, shut it down, and killed their government's own legislation time and time again, say to the Speaker that the problem is that they cannot get their legislation through.
It had been there for 12 months. After eight months, they killed it themselves and prorogued the House.
One prorogation was quite notable. The government looked to be in a bit of trouble. It was in a minority position. The world was entering into a very deep recession. The Minister of Finance, who claims to be the best in the world, ignored the recession and introduced what the Conservatives called an austerity budget at the very moment when the rest of the world, realizing that the economy was coming to a virtual standstill, was introducing budgets that did the opposite.
The finance genius we have sitting in the chair said, “Never mind what the rest of the world thinks about what is going on in the global economy; we know that Canada is not going into recession”, even as we were in the midst of a recession. He introduced an austerity budget to cut back billions in job creation, in grants and in all the things the Conservatives take credit for, such as unemployment insurance for a bunch of Canadians who were just being thrown out of work.
The opposition said that it was not a very good budget and suggested that we vote against that budget. The government panicked and prorogued. Canadians got a civil lesson in how Parliament works. They had never heard the word “prorogation” before. Then we got to learn.
The Prime Minister had to go to the Governor General. He sat there for a number of hours, perhaps being lectured about how undemocratic it was, when facing a non-confidence vote, to head down the road to the Queen's representative to ask for permission to shut it all down before he was thrown out of office. He was more worried about his job that day than about Canadians. That is for sure.
That is a government that killed its legislation in order to save itself, and did it time and time again.
Here is the trend that we worry about with today's motion. For a government that has broken the record by shutting down debate more times than any government in Canadian history, it has refused 99.3% of all the amendments that the opposition has brought to its legislation.
Let us look at that for a moment. The way a bill is supposed to work is it comes into the House and gets debated. There is a pro and con and the real coming together or clash of ideas to improve the legislation because no one is perfect. The drafters of legislation do not get it right. They are sometimes hundreds of pages long and very complicated. The House is meant to debate that. Then we send it to committee and hear from experts, not just members of Parliament who are not often experts in these areas, but people who work in the field. They are the social workers, the financial experts, the crime experts and the police. We hear those suggestions and write amendments based on those ideas. That is the way this place is supposed to work.
However, the government is saying that in 99.3% of those cases those experts are wrong and the government is right. It will not change a period, a comma, not a word in any of the legislation. Then lo and behold, time and time again, the legislation is challenged in the courts successfully. The legislation does not fix the problems identified and costs Canada and Canadians billions.
We all remember well Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill that would allow the state to look in on the Internet searches and emails of Canadians without any warrant. The government decided in its vigour for its tough on crime agenda that it would pass a law that said that at any point, at any time, Canadians anywhere could have their BlackBerrys and iPhones tapped by the government, that web searches on home computers could be looked at by the government and the police. There is no country in the world, outside of Iran and North Korea, that would even consider doing this. The Conservative government thought it was a fantastic idea. In trying to argue the case, it said that if we were not into exposing our Internet searches and our emails then we must be in support of child pornography.
Has any more offensive or stupid an argument ever been made on the floor of the House of Commons? It is offensive to basic civil liberties and decency, to the role of members of Parliament trying to do our jobs and to the Canadians who said that they were not sure they wanted the government looking at their email?
I look at the member for Yukon right now. I do not know what he is searching and I do not want to know. It is his privacy to look on his computer and do as he sees fit. That is a civil liberty I am sure he defends as well, but not his government.
Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill, was the flagship. The government rammed it all into one bill and said that it was such important legislation it would shut down debate on it too. Then whole sections of the bill were taken out. Why? It was because they were unconstitutional.
Now we know where that all comes from. Canadians actually pay for a service. Many members of Parliament may not know this, but when a government introduces a bill it goes to constitutional legal experts to determine if the new legislation goes against our constitution, our foundation as a country? If it does, it is a good idea to modify the law to ensure it does not get challenged in the courts, which costs upwards of $3 million to $5 million to taxpayers every time there is one of those challenges. The government did not check on Bill C-10. We know that because the people who work for the Government of Canada, who do this work, are no longer receiving references from the government.
The government is not even asking anymore. It is choosing ignorance. This is incredible. It is saying that it does not want to know whether the laws it writes are constitutional, whether the laws it writes as a government are for or against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is incredible. This is not a mistake. It is by intention. Therefore, we have these lawyers sitting in their offices, being paid every day, waiting for the government to refer the bills it introduces here to ensure they can survive a constitutional challenge. The government does not ask anymore.
Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill and Bill C-45, the second omnibus bill, were both challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. First nations are challenging it. I need to address this because the government House leader mentioned two bills that are being moved, so-called, on behalf of first nations. They are Bill S-2 and Bill S-8. One is matrimonial property rights. It sounds pretty innocuous. Most Canadians would say that matrimonial property rights for first nations women on reserve maybe protects their rights. Who is opposed to it? It is not just us in the opposition, but aboriginal women, every first nation women's group in the country. My friend across the way shakes his head, but I can show him the testimony that says the bill is no good for aboriginal women.
However, the Conservatives know better. With their shameful record on aboriginal rights and title in the country, suddenly they know better than aboriginal women, than first nations women. Bill S-8 is a bill to help first nations have clean drinking water because the record has been shameful.
Government after government has failed first nations communities. Thirty-five per cent of the people I represent in northern British Columbia are in first nations communities. The water conditions there are incredibly bad. We have to do something about it. There are fixes and there are ideas coming from those communities.
Instead the government moves the bill, handing all responsibility down to first nations in terms of cleaning up their own water mess, but none of the resources to do it. Are first nations supportive of it? No. Nor would any municipality or any province in Canada be supportive of legislation that rams down responsibility without any of the support, money or help to get that done.
Most of these first nations communities are living in abject poverty. Where does the government think they are going to get the money from? The government will not settle treaty with them in the west. First nations are having mining, oil and gas exploration and pipelines put everywhere and are receiving none of the royalties, none of the compensation and the government will not move treaty forward.
I was just in Gitxsan territory, speaking with the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en, talking about basic child services, kids who are being abused in their homes and setting up a program that the federal government said that we should enact 20 years ago to allow first nations more rights and responsibilities to rescue those kids and help them kids integrate back into their communities.
Who is not coming to the table? The Conservative government. This is the government that on Bill S-2 and Bill S-8 suddenly said that it had first nations rights and title and priorities at heart, when it did not.
The place can work. Members can sense a certain amount of frustration in my voice, because Parliament can work. It is actually designed to work. I love our system. It is so superior to many other systems I have studied around the world, that have consistent congressional gridlock on legislation and on budgets. We can make things happen here.
However, with the power that is afforded a majority government, which is a lot, comes a certain amount of responsibility to use the power wisely and not abuse it. Yet time and again we have seen the government House leader and other ministers get up and say that they are not looking to limit the debate; they just want to control it. They reject virtually 100% of all the amendments and all the changes and suggestions they hear at committee because they know better and they have the votes to push it forward.
It is at such a point that the control has extended deeply into the government's caucus. Some of the more socially conservative members of the Conservative caucus are no longer free to speak, or are only free to speak on certain things, in certain ways, if the Prime Minister's Office allows for it.
In a small program that we run in northern B.C., initiated a number of years ago, I hold a conference call with all the detachment commanders from all the RCMP outposts that exist in my riding. It is a very large riding facing a lot of tough, difficult situations with policing. Once every two or three months I get on the phone with 12 detachment commanders and we talk about what is going on. We talk about what is happening in crime, what the drug use is like, what legislation is moving through the House that will help or hinder these hard-working, hard-serving officers.
I am not allowed to have that conversation with these RCMP officers anymore. I am not supposed to talk to them. As a sitting member of Parliament, I am not supposed to go to them. A number of them have come to me because they are friends and we have known each other for years. They offer good, on-the-ground advice about what is happening.
They say that they are sorry, that they cannot talk to me. They tell me that I have to phone the Prime Minister's Office in order for them to talk to me about what is going on in Prince Rupert, or what is going on in Dease Lake or Bella Coola.
It is insane. This is wrong. Government officials at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who I have known for years and who I phone just for an update to see what is going on with our fish on the west coast, tell me that I am a member of Parliament from the opposition and that I need to phone the people in the Prime Minister's Office and that they will give me permission as to whether they can tell me what is going on in Canada's fishery.
This is not their government. This is not a Conservative government. This is Canada's government. We pay for these civil servants. We pay their salaries to do work on behalf of Canadians. Whether it is silencing scientists, shutting down access for members of Parliament to basic conversations, or shutting down debate in Parliament, the consistent voice from the government is that it will not be held to account.
This is bad. This is not just about the privilege all members of the House need to do their job. The government says there is some urgency, but there is not. There is no urgency when it comes to the government's mandate or agenda.
It is very strange for the government to say it is very open, when we see what is going on in the Senate.
We have senators like Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. All current senators have potentially stolen money from Canadians. These are the same senators that the Prime Minister says are very good people. These are the same senators using money from the Canadian people to travel during an election and raise money for the Conservative Party. That is the new Conservative Party. I do not understand.
I remember the Reform Party of Canada and some reforms that Mr. Manning wanted to make. With the current party, it is the same story as with the Liberal Party and the Gomery commission and all the rest. I am both angry and sad.
The majority of Canadians did not vote for this government, which has a majority, but does not have the majority support of Canadians. Close to 60% of Canadians voted against this agenda, against this sort of arrogance. They voted not to have the kind of government that now uses brutal tactics, not against the New Democratic Party, but against Parliament.
Lastly, I think we need to have a referendum, which may not happen until the next election.
It bears some comment, not only with respect to the Senate scandal but even the motion today.
I watched the government House leader and the Prime Minister on television earlier. He actually allowed the media into his caucus room for a second, which was bizarre. The bully turns into the victim, that somehow this is put upon them, that they are somehow being victimized here.
What frustrates me is not just the work that we have to do as parliamentarians that is constantly thwarted by the government at committee stage, and my friend laughs, but how can it be possible that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected? The evidence is clear.
My friend can shake his head and laugh and treat this with disdain treat this with disdain or heckle out what seems to be a favourite tactic of some of my friends who cannot win the debate, but can simply sit in their seats and heckle, yell and try to put down a comment that hurts a little too much, that being that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected, that the witnesses were all wrong, that the government was always right and that the courts must be wrong too. Soon the Conservatives will call them activist courts like the Republicans do in the states. Members should watch for it because it is coming.
We believe this motion is fundamentally flawed in its abuse of this place and of all members. I do not speak just for the New Democrats or the folks down the way. I speak for the backbenchers who have been rubbing up against some of the limitations. What is sad about most of it and is most concerning is those who are not agitating against the Conservative government's control over its backbench and accepting it. I lament the most for those who are so comfortable reading the script from the Prime Minister's Office and repeating it like robots, feeling that is their work and whose expectations of what it is to be a member of Parliament are so diminished that they simply accept it, not those the media have called rebels who have stood up and stated that they want to have their own statement but the Prime Minister's Office has shut them down. They run under the blue banner, which is their choice.
I lament for those who seem so happy to get up and repeat the mindless dribble that is put to them by the Prime Minister's Office day after day. When they first ran for office, I wonder if they said that they wanted to be a member of Parliament to represent people and get to Parliament to speak with a strong voice of conviction on behalf of the people they represent and that in order to do they would read whatever was put in front of them by the Prime Minister's Office, written by a 24-year old intern who types out some sort of nonsense and makes up policies that the NDP does not have, making personal attacks on a regular basis as a substitute for honest and sincere debate? Was that really their expectation?
I wish I had some video evidence from some of those early debates because I know that is not what those members ran on. I know their nomination meetings did not look like that, nor did any of the debates they attended during the campaign. That is not what they said. They said that they would speak on behalf of their constituents, fight for them and still raise their voice, even if that meant it was contrary to what their government suggested.
I am sure that is what my friends across the way said. They are very nice people. I know a lot of these folks, as we have spent some time together. I know some of their inner thoughts about the way Parliament ought to be, and some of them lament it. However, it is the ones who do not who worry me. They are the ones who so comfortably slip into that straitjacket day after day. Maybe they just get used to it, but they are able to rationalize that there is some larger agenda that is more important than their having an independent and free voice.
They can keep yelling and you can allow them to if you wish, Mr. Speaker, but the truth often hurts, and the truth of the matter is that with a majority government, this member and his colleagues have chosen to vote for closure more than any government in Canadian history. With a majority, the Conservative government has refused the evidence, has refused the science time and time again, and that government is bad government.
The Conservative government appointed senators, and I am sure some fundraising went on for some of my friends. Maybe Ms. Wallin, Mr. Duffy or Mr. Brazeau came by and raised a few dollars, shook a few hands and got a few votes for my friends. Maybe there is a little bit of a tarnish on my colleagues, which is why they are calling out and why they are worried. It is because their base hates this. They hate the idea of entitlement and of an insider's game that goes on in Ottawa all the time, and that friends of the Prime Minister's Office get some sort of special treatment.
Talking about special treatment, how about a $90,000 personal cheque just cut off the back and handed over to somebody who may have defrauded taxpayers? Where is the Reform Party now? Where are the original Conservative intentions now? They are gone, bit by bit, eroded piece by piece. That is where it has gone, and it has all been subjugated to some idea that there is a better and bigger cause, that this grand scheme they are involved in somehow makes all of it justifiable.
Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what these guys would sound like if the roles were reversed? If it were a Liberal government with senators getting cheques from the Prime Minister's chief of staff or a New Democratic government acting the way the Conservatives act, could you imagine the hue and cry and the calls for resignations every second minute? They would be losing their minds.
Now the Conservatives play the victim, saying that these senators were put upon them, that they didn't know what they were doing, that it is terrible. They only have a majority, both here and there. The Prime Minister has appointed more senators than any Prime Minister in Canadian history. How many did he say he would appoint? None, but he had to appoint some, and then it had to be justified. These are small and slow slippages, and this motion is a continuation of that.
This motion says that Parliament matters less and that those Canadians who have grown cynical about the role of MPs are justified in their cynicism. We say that is wrong. How do we turn to the young voters coming up? How do we turn to people who come to us and say that they might want to run for office one day? How can we say that their voices will matter when the government moves motions like this time and time again, shutting down debate?
As my friend the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said, the Conservatives do not want to shut down debate; they just want to control it. Is this is how one entices people into a life of politics? Is this how one encourages young people to vote? Do we say, “Welcome to Parliament, where we are going to control debate and shut it down time and time again”? This is the Conservatives' call to action.
It is not a call to action, but a call to inaction. It is a call to cynicism. It is calling to people, “Do not look over here; nothing is happening here in government. Go on with your lives and other things that are more important and distracting.” The government is counting on people to have an attention deficit rather than realize that the decisions we make here in Parliament every day affect Canadians in every way.
If members of Parliament cannot do their work, as this motion suggests, and hold the government to account, it is bad government. It is bad government when it cannot find $3 billion that may be under a mattress or in a banana stand or wherever it happens to be, and when senators rip off taxpayers with no consequence whatsoever. We think the RCMP might have a role to play here.
What would happen if any of the Canadians in our gallery today or watching on TV defrauded the Canadian government of $500? They would get charged. However, if it is a Conservative senator, what happens? Oh, they just recuse themselves from caucus. Wow. They still get paid, they still have all of their privileges, but they cannot go to caucus meetings on Wednesday mornings.
Mr. Speaker, do you think that maybe that punishment is a little severe? I mean, having to recuse oneself from a two-hour meeting on Wednesday morning for defrauding taxpayers—boy, that seems pretty harsh.
Why the double standard? We used to call that the culture of entitlement. I remember a colleague of mine in this place, Ed Broadbent, asking a former Liberal minister who became head of the mint and was claiming packets of gum and coffee on his receipts, “Are you entitled to your entitlements, sir?” This person took a moment of authenticity and said, “Yes, I am entitled to my entitlements.”
The Conservatives railed at the Liberal entitlement, the culture of entitlement, the Gomery inquiry and all those terrible things that went down.
History repeats itself if one is not a student of history, and it seems that the Conservative Party has not looked at the history of this place or of other parliaments.
The fact of the matter is that debate in and of itself is not a bad thing. The exchange of ideas is not in and of itself a bad thing. Being wrong from time to time is not of itself a bad thing; learning happens in those moments, and the government needs to learn, because I can read off the list of the bills it had so fundamentally wrong that it had to withdraw them. The Conservatives had to say that they got it so badly wrong because they listened to none of the amendments that they have to fix it now, at the very last minute, or wait until it gets to the Senate and let the unaccountable, unelected and under investigation senators deal with it. That is no form of democracy worth defending, and the Conservatives know it. They know it better than most.
I will move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “Fridays” and replacing them with the following: “(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant”—May 21, 2013, Parliament
Nathan Cullen spoke about Government Orders > Extension of Sitting Hours
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion. ... more
Specifically, I will be citing Standing Order 13, which says:
Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.
This is the standing order that we cite, because we have looked at the motion the government has presented here today with some notice given last week.
This motion goes against the Standing Orders and certainly the spirit of Parliament. The government is not allowed to break the rules of Parliament that protect the rights of the minority, the opposition and all members of the House of Commons who have to do their jobs for the people they represent. This motion is very clearly contrary to the existing Standing Orders.
I have some good examples to illustrate this. In my opinion, there is no urgency that would justify the government's heavy-handed tactics to prevent members from holding a reasonable debate on its agenda. I say “agenda”, but for a long time now it has been difficult to pin down what this government's agenda is exactly. This is nothing new.
The motion comes to us today at a difficult time, but just because the government held a brief caucus meeting and is facing numerous problems and a few scandals, it is not justified in violating the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. No one would accept those excuses. There is no historical basis for the government to use the Standing Orders in this way. That does not work.
There are a few important things we need to point out. One is that it behooves us to have some explanation of what this motion actually does. For those of us who do not intimately follow the rules and history of Parliament, it can be quite confusing not in terms of the intention of what the government has read but certainly in the implications. It needs some translation, not French to English or English to French, but translation as to what it actually means for the House of Commons. That is why we believe a point of order exists for this motion.
The motion essentially would immediately begin something that would ordinarily begin in a couple of weeks, which is for the House to sit until midnight to review legislation. This is somewhat ironic from a government that has a bad history with respect to moving legislation correctly through the process and allowing us to do our work, which is what we are here to do on behalf of Canadians.
I am not alone in seeing that the government has shown the intention of having some urgency with respect to 23 bills, 14 of which have not even been introduced since the last election. Suddenly there is great urgency, when in fact it is the government that has set the agenda. The urgency is so great that it has to fundamentally change the rules of how we conduct ourselves in this place in response to an urgency that did not exist until this moment.
One has to question the need. Why the panic? Why now, and why over these pieces of legislation? Are they crucial to Canada's economic well-being? Is it to restore the social safety net that the government has brutalized over the last number of years? What is the panic and what is the urgency?
Context sets everything in politics, and the context that the government exists under right now is quite telling. Every time I have had to stand in this place raising points of order and countering the closure and time allocation motions that the government uses, I am often stating and citing that this is a new low standard for Parliament. I have thought at times that there was not much more it could do to this place to further erode the confidence of Canadians or further erode the opportunity for members of Parliament to speak, yet it has again invented something new, and here we are today debating that motion.
That is why we believe that Standing Order 13 needs to be called. It is because it is very clear that when a motion is moved that is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament—which is what I would underline, as it is the important part—the Speaker must involve himself or herself in the debate and ask that the debate no longer proceed.
The privileges of members of Parliament are not the privileges that are being talked about by our friends down the hall to falsely claim money that did not exist or privileges of limo rides and trips around the world. The privileges of Parliament that speak constitutionally to the need for Parliament are that members of Parliament have the opportunity to scrutinized and debate government bills.
Just before the riding week, we saw the government introduce another time allocation on a bill that had received exactly 60 minutes of debate. Somehow the Conservatives felt that had exhausted the conversation on a bill they had sat on for years, and suddenly the panic was on. We are seeing this pattern again and again with a government that is facing more scandal.
I was looking through the news today. Every morning I start my day with the news and we consider what we should ask the government in question period. There are some days when the focus can be difficult and one may not be sure what the most important issue of the day is. However, the challenge for us today as the official opposition is that, as there are so many scandals on so many fronts, how do we address them all within the short time we have during question period or in debate on bills.
I listened to my friend for Langley, who has been somewhat in the news of late on his attempt to speak on issues he felt were important to his constituents. We saw him move a new private member's bill today. He withdrew the former bill, and now he is moving one again. The New Democrats will support the bill going to committee for study because we think there are some options and availability for us to look at the legislation and do our job.
Whether it is muzzling of their own MPs and the Conservatives' attempt to muzzle all MPs in the House of Commons, or using private members' bills to avoid the scrutiny that is applied to government legislation, and one important piece of that scrutiny is the charter defence of the legislation and so, in a sense, the Conservatives are using the back door to get government legislation through and move their agenda in another way, or the omnibus legislation, which has received so much controversy in Canada as the government has increasingly abused the use of omnibus legislation, or the F-35 fiasco, or the recent Auditor General's report, or the former parliamentary budget officer who was under much abuse and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer who has asked for the same things he did, or infamously, prorogation, time and time again the pattern is the same. The government has complete disdain for the House.
Whether it be the scandals in the Senate, or the China FIPA accord, or the recent problems with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, or the employment insurance scandals, or the $3 billion missing, or the 300,000 jobs that have not been replaced, the government keeps trying to avoid proper scrutiny out of embarrassment. However, the House of Commons exists for one thing and one thing alone, which is to hold the government to account.
The government will make some claims that the urgency right now is because there has not been enough progress on legislation. Therefore, the Conservatives have to hit the panic button and would have the House sit until midnight, which has consequences beyond just being a late night, and I will get into those consequences in a moment because they support our notion that it infringes upon the entitlements of members of Parliament to debate legislation properly.
The Conservatives' record shows, and this is not speculation or conspiracy, that when they ram legislation through, they more often than not get it wrong. That is not just expensive for the process of law making, but it is expensive for Canadians. These things often end up in court costing millions and millions of dollars and with victims of their own making. The scandal that exists in the Senate is absolutely one of their own making. The Prime Minister can point the finger where he likes, but he appointed those senators.
Specific to the point of order I am raising, this motion would lower the amount of scrutiny paid to legislation. It would allow the government extended sittings, which are coming in the second week of June anyway, as the Standing Orders currently exist, to allow the government to do that, but the Conservatives want to move the clock up and have more legislation rammed through the House.
Also, as you would know, Mr. Speaker, the order of our day includes concurrence reports from committee, which allow the House to debate something that happened in committee which can sometimes be very critical, and many are moved from all sides. However, they would not get started until midnight under the Conservatives' new rules. Therefore, we would study and give scrutiny on what happened at committee from midnight until two or three o'clock in the morning.
As well, emergency debates would not start until midnight. Just recently we had a debate, Mr. Speaker, that your office agreed to allow happen, which was quite important to those implicated. We were talking about peace and war and Canada's role in the world. It was a critical emergency debate that certainly went into the night. However, the idea is that we would take emergency debates that the Speaker's office and members of Parliament felt were important and start them at midnight and somehow they would be of the same quality as those started at seven o'clock in the evening.
The scrutiny of legislation has become much less important than the government moving its agenda through, which is an infringement on our privilege as members of Parliament. The Conservative's so-called urgency, their panic, is not a justification for overriding the privileges that members of Parliament hold dear.
As for progress, just recently we moved the nuclear terrorism bill through, Bill S-9.
We also had much debate but an improvement on Bill C-15, the military justice bill, to better serve our men and women in the Forces. The original drafting was bad. The Conservatives wanted to force it forward and we resisted. My friend from St. John's worked hard and got an amendment through that would help those in the military who found themselves in front of a tribunal.
We have the divorce in civil marriages act, which has been sitting and sitting. It would allow people in same-sex marriages to file for and seek divorce. All we have offered to the government is one vote and one speaker each. The government refuses to bring the bill forward and I suspect it is because it would require a vote. It is a shame when a government resists the idea that a vote would be a good thing for members of Parliament to declare their intentions on, certainly something as important as civil liberties and rights for gay men and women.
I mentioned earlier why, in the infringement of this privilege, it causes great harm and distress not just to Parliament but to the country.
I asked my team to pull up the list of bills that were so badly written that they had to be either withdrawn or completely rewritten at committee and even in the Senate which, God knows, is a terrible strategy for any legislation.
There was the infamous or famous Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill, which the Minister of Public Safety said something to the effect that either people were with the government or they were with child pornographers, which may be an example of the worst framing in Canadian political history. There has probably been worse, but that was pretty bad. The Conservatives had to kill the bill.
We have also seen Bill C-10, Bill C-31, Bill C-38 and Bill C-42, all of these bills were so badly written that oftentimes the government had to amend them after having voted for them. After saying they were perfect and ramming them through, invoking closure and shutting down debate, the Conservatives got to committee and heard from people who actually understood the issue and realized the law they had written would be illegal and would not work or fix the problem that was identified, and so they had to rewrite it. That is the point of Parliament. That is the point of the work we do.
We have also seen bills that have been challenged at great expense before the courts. Former Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, with huge sections of the government's main anti-crime agenda, was challenged and defeated in court.
Bill C-38, arbitrarily eliminating backlog for skilled workers, was challenged and defeated.
Bill C-7, Senate term limits, was after years just now deferred to the Supreme Court. It is called “kicking it down the road”.
The essential thrust of our intention is in identifying the rules that govern us, and specifically Standing Order 13. The government has time and again talked about accountability before the Canadian people and talked about doing things better than its predecessors in the Liberal Party, the government that became so arrogant and so unaccountable to Canadians that the Conservatives threw it out of office. History repeats itself if one does not learn true lessons from history.
As I mentioned, Standing Order 27(1) already exists, and it allows the government to do exactly what we are talking about, but not starting until the last 10 sitting days. The Conservatives have said that there is so much on their so-called agenda that they have to do this early, allowing for less scrutiny, allowing for emergency debates to start at midnight, allowing for concurrence debates that come from committees to start at midnight and go until two, three or four o'clock in the morning.
This is contrary to the work of parliamentarians. If the Conservatives are in such a rush, why do they not negotiate? Why do they not actually come to the table and do what parliamentarians have done throughout time, which is offer the to and fro of any proper negotiation between reasonable people?
We have moved legislation forward. My friend across the way was moving an important motion commemorating war heroes. We worked with that member and other members to ensure the bill, which came from the Senate, made it through speedy passage.
Parliament can work if the Conservatives let it work, but it cannot work if they keep abusing it. Canadians continue to lose faith and trust in the vigour of our work and the ability to hold government to account. We see it time and again, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, in talking to constituents who say that they are not sure what goes on here anymore, that it just seems like government will not answer questions, that everyday they ask sincere and thoughtful questions and the Conservatives do not answer. Bills get shut down with motions of closure.
Let us look at the current government's record.
Thirty-three times, the Conservatives have moved allocation on legislation, an all-time high for any government in Canadian history. Through war and peace, through good and bad, no government has shut down debate in Parliaments more than the current one.
Ninety-nine point three per cent of all amendments moved by the opposition have been rejected by the government. Let us take a look at that stat for a moment. That suggests that virtually 100% of the time, the government has been perfectly right on the legislation it moves. All the testimony from witnesses and experts, comments from average Canadians, when moving amendments to the legislation before us, 99.3% of the time the government rejects it out of hand. It ends up in court. It ends up not doing what it was meant to do.
Ten Conservative MPs have never spoken to legislation at all. I will note one in particular. The Minister of Finance, who has not bothered to speak to his own bills, including the omnibus legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, which caused so much controversy. He did not bother to stand and justify his actions. I find it deplorable and it is not just me, Canadians as well, increasingly so.
This is my final argument. We cannot allow this abuse to continue. This pattern has consequences, not just for what happens here today or tomorrow, but in the days, weeks, months and years to come and the Parliaments to come. If we keep allowing for and not standing up in opposition to bad ideas and draconian measures, we in a sense condone them.
We say that Parliament should become less irrelevant. We think that is wrong. We think what the government is doing is fundamentally wrong. It is not right and left; it is right and wrong. When the government is wrong in its treatment and abuse of Canada's Parliament, that affects all Canadians, whatever their political persuasion. We built this place out of bricks and mortar to do one thing: to allow the voice of Canadians to be represented, to speak on behalf of those who did not have a voice and to hold the government of the day to account. Lord knows the government needs that more than anything. It needs a little adult supervision from time to time to take some of those suggestions and put a little, as we say, water in its wine.
It has the majority. This is the irony of what the government is doing. In moving more time allocation than any government in history and shutting down debate more than any government in history and using what it is today, it speaks to weakness not strength. The Conservatives have the numbers to move legislation through if they saw fit, but they do not. They move legislation, they say it is an agenda and they hold up a raft of bills.May 21, 2013, Parliament
Robert Goguen spoke
Thank you, Mr. Chair. ... more
My question will be short, and I'll share my time with Mrs. Smith.
Thank you for appearing before us today.
In November 2012, Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act came into force. One of the things that legislation did was make it impossible for a judge to sentence someone convicted of human trafficking to house arrest.
Do you feel it's important to prohibit individuals convicted of human trafficking from receiving house arrest sentences?May 6, 2013, Parliament
Sean Casey spoke about Private Members' Business > Criminal Code
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on Bill C-394 and the issue of gang recruitment. I had the privilege of sitting in on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights while it considered this legislation, and I will expand on some of the issues discussed in those meetings. ... more
I speak, I believe, for all members of the Liberal Party when I say that I want to deter youths from joining gangs. Indeed, if this legislation served any preventive end, we would gladly endorse it. However, not only does Bill C-394 fail to address the fundamental reasons that youths join gangs—the root causes, if I dare say that—but it also would employ a mandatory minimum penalty, which the Liberal Party opposes in principle.
I raise the root causes of youth gang involvement as an issue, because the government acknowledges the problems but it fails to provide solutions either in Bill C-394 or elsewhere. For example, the website of the Department of Public Safety lists risk factors relative to youth gang involvement and includes the following as major risks: limited attachment to the community, over-reliance on anti-social peers, poor parental supervision, alcohol and drug abuse, poor educational or employment potential and a need for recognition and belonging. Yet Bill C-394 does not address any of these. In fact, the government is missing in action on things like youth unemployment and access to education, things it could take proactive measures to correct.
With regard to violence among aboriginals, public safety's website explains:
The increase in gang violence and crime in some Aboriginal communities has been attributed in part to an increasing youth population, inadequate housing, drug and alcohol abuse, a high unemployment rate, lack of education, poverty, poor parenting skills, the loss of culture, language and identity and a sense of exclusion.
As Idle No More and similar movements demonstrate, the government is out of touch with the needs of aboriginal communities. If it took those needs seriously, we could begin the process of reconciliation. We could address the social problems plaguing first nations. We could give aboriginal youth access to education and opportunity. Instead, by ignoring these problems, we further the cycle of despair that makes gang life attractive to youth.
It is interesting to have this discussion in light of the Conservatives' attack ad on the member for Papineau. They criticize him for being a camp counsellor, a rafting instructor and a drama teacher. If we want kids to feel included in their communities, to have a sense of belonging and purpose, we ought to have more camp counsellors, more rafting instructors, more teachers seeking to make a difference in the life of a child, not attacking these sorts of things as useless pursuits unbecoming of a leader. However, the government buries its head in the sand and refuses to acknowledge that preventing crime involves addressing tough issues beyond the Criminal Code.
I can assure the House that youths are not joining gangs because they believe their activities are lawful, nor do gangs recruit because they believe it is legal to do so. This is the problem with the Conservative approach to crime. Everything is a matter for the criminal law, and every incident provides a pretext to legislate.
As was said by the member for Toronto Centre, “when the only tool we have in our toolbox is a sledgehammer, everything starts to look like a rock”. For Conservatives, criminal law is all about punishment. By adding new offences and penalties and, in some cases, duplicating existing offences and penalties, the Conservatives attempt to regulate on the back end, after the crimes have been committed. This ignores the fact that there are other elements to criminal justice such as prevention, rehabilitation of the offender and reintegration into society, let alone addressing the underlying causes of crime.
As I mentioned, I may be accused of perhaps committing sociology on this. Let there be no mistake. Bill C-394 deals with gang recruitment only on the back end once it has occurred. I submit that by then, it is way too late.
As I have indicated, this issue is already addressed by the Criminal Code. Former justice minister Anne McLellan said in this place, upon the introduction of what is currently in the Criminal Code that we are seeking to amend today, the following:
We know that successful recruitment enhances the threat posed to society by criminal organizations. It allows them to grow and to more effectively achieve their harmful criminal objectives. Those who act as recruiters for criminal organizations contribute to these ends both when they recruit for specific crimes and when they recruit simply to expand the organization's human capital.
In other words, we knew when introducing what was already in the code that recruitment was an issue, is an issue, and we put in place offence language that captured it. Thus, while the regime in the code at present may not use the word “recruitment”, the intention is clear in the record and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that prosecutions for recruitment are not happening because of some legislative loophole.
Indeed, as it is proposed, the bill will actually add to the problem by putting in a mandatory minimum penalty. International studies corroborate what even Justice Canada has found, that mandatory minimums do not deter crime. Among other things, mandatory minimums remove prosecutorial and judicial discretion. They lead to prison overcrowding. They lead to more crimes in prison and more crimes outside of prison. They contribute to a clogging of the courts, resulting in accused persons being set free. They are, as I indicated in my question to the member earlier, constitutionally suspect. Mandatory minimums have prejudicial consequences, particularly on aboriginal peoples and minority communities.
I know colleagues in the NDP have argued that the mandatory minimum in this bill is light and, therefore, acceptable, in their view. We take a different approach, which is that there is no need for adding something that could lead, in the right fact situation, to this legislation being overturned. This just is not smart legislating.
However, if I were to address the Conservatives' inability to legislate intelligently, I would certainly run out of time. In fact, we might be here all night. Instead, I will focus on one shortcoming relevant here, which is the failure to vet bills for constitutionality. Much has been made of that in the House and, in particular, by my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, of the obligation of the Minister of Justice, under the Department of Justice Act, to review government legislation for compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.
The minister, time and time again, has said that his bills are constitutional, yet time and time again the provisions are struck down and the government is called to account for its failure to comply with the supreme law of the land. Not only does legislating in such a reckless way risk the statute being struck, it also clogs up the courts with challenges that could have been avoided. It also costs the taxpayers, who bear the burden of defending the government. For a government that claims accountability, why is it not accountable to the charter and its statutory obligations? For a government that prides itself on fiscal restraint, why is it wasting taxpayer money?
One may wonder why I am raising this issue when the obligation for a charter check is only on government bills, not on private members' bills like Bill C-394. The answer is that the government has been increasingly using private members' bills to legislate through the back door. If this bill was so important, why was it not included in the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10? Why has the minister not introduced it on his own accord? Surely, if it were so necessary, the minister could have made this change to a government bill and it would have passed through the House much faster. Indeed, by using the private member bill route, the government minimizes House debate and circumvents the required charter review.
We must address the cycle of poverty and homelessness that affects too many children in the country. Where is the government on that? We must say to ourselves that if children are to be the priority, maybe we need more camp councillors, rafting instructors and drama teachers. What they do not need is a government that says it cares, throws a band-aid on the problem that will not hold and then pats itself on the back for having done anything at all. Bill C-394 would be just that, and that is why the Liberal Party will vote no on this bill.April 30, 2013, Parliament
Joyce Murray spoke about Government Orders > Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join my colleagues who have spoken so eloquently for equality for those individuals in the military who serve Canadians. This particular legislation purports to update our military criminal justice system, but in fact has some significant gaps. ... more
It is always good to review our laws to make sure that they reflect present realities and that they are equitable, appropriate and consistent with our Constitution. The military criminal justice system is no exception. This legislation has been worked on for a long time but the Liberal Party of Canada believes it is not where it needs to be in order to get our support. The members for Winnipeg North, Halifax West and York West made that case in quite a specific and compelling way. We are being asked to support something that still has so many flaws; that is politics.
Clearly, many aspects of the military justice system remain inexplicably unchanged or give unnecessary powers in this bill. For instance, the bill enshrines in law a list of military offences that will carry a criminal record in the future, which is not necessary in many cases.
Given that the pardon system was recently revoked and that summary trials are what they are—with no record and no means of meaningful appeal—the members of the armed forces will find themselves with criminal records and unable to find employment upon release.
Clearly there are some flaws in the bill. The one I want to focus on in particular is the issue of human rights and equality. It really boils down to what kind of society we want to have in Canada, and I think Canadians are clear. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada is widely supported right across the country and is a very proud part of our framework for protecting rights but also for enshrining responsibilities in our country, to make sure those who are vulnerable have the law on their side to protect their right to equality.
It has been shameful and disappointing that the Conservative Party of Canada has chosen to minimize the importance of this very important part of our Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, essentially dismissing and not celebrating its great anniversaries. Last year was the 30th anniversary, and there was not much of a murmur from the government, but hundreds of millions of dollars went into celebrating the anniversary of a war.
That goes down to what kind of society we want to have. Do we want to have one that protects rights and freedoms, or do we want to have one that is all about punishment? We see changes to immigration. We see in Bill C-10, that grab bag of bad public policy, that the Conservative government is much more focused on punishment than on equality. That is reflected in this bill as well.
In his testimony before committee, retired Colonel Michel Drapeau noted:
...someone accused before a summary trial has no right to appeal either the verdict or the sentence. This is despite the fact that the verdict and sentence are imposed without any regard to the minimum standards of procedural rights in criminal proceedings, such as the right to counsel, the presence of rules of evidence, and the right to appeal.
In Canada, these rights do not exist in summary trials, not even for a decorated veteran, yet a Canadian charged with a summary conviction offence in civilian court... enjoys all of these rights. So does someone appearing in a small claims court or in a traffic court.
He goes on to say:
I find it very odd that those who put their lives at risk to protect the rights of Canadians are themselves deprived of some of these charter rights when facing a quasi-criminal process with the possibility of loss of liberty through detention in a military barracks.
Clear questions of inequality have arisen here. There are problems with the bill that are fundamental to the kind of society we want to have, not just a few tweaks that we could have put into the bill and that the government has not done. This does go down to fundamentally what kind of society we want to have. This kind of inequality is being unfortunately cemented into other bills and other laws brought forward by the Conservative government.
I want to refer to some comments made by my colleague from Mount Royal recently on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
According to Justice Létourneau, soldiers are citizens and they should enjoy the same constitutional rights guaranteed by the charter as any other citizen.
This is what he said:
“We as a society have forgotten, with harsh consequences for the members of the armed forces, that a soldier is before all a Canadian citizen, a Canadian citizen in uniform.”
In other words, they should be able to count on all of the rights and protections that citizens enjoy in our country.
Referring to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the member for Mount Royal raised a question of privilege in the House this past March and expressed concern that the government is failing to live up to its own statutory obligation, which is expressed in section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act.
In law, this is requiring that the government, that the Minister of Justice, examine each and every government bill introduced in the House to ensure it is consistent with the charter. That would seem like a simple step to respect our fundamental constitutional obligations as parliamentarians and as government in law-making and public policy-making.
How often has the government actually done that? How often has the government checked and done a review to ensure that its bills introduced in the House are consistent with the charter and receive the constitutional seal of approval? How often has the government reported any inconsistencies, or otherwise, to the House?
Does anybody have an answer to that question?April 29, 2013, Parliament
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice) spoke
Well, I guess I can provide you some context to help you in your decision-making process. ... more
As you know, the courts will be able to take into consideration whatever factor they think is appropriate in terms of their jurisdiction to decide that something is aggravating in a particular circumstance, so there is that broad discretion on the part of the courts to begin with.
There are some questions that were raised in terms of scope, but you could ask those other questions in terms of whether it would apply in another context. This provision brings to my mind similar provisions in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which previously dealt with making it an aggravating factor to sell drugs in or near a school—not only near a school, but in a school. Then it used a bit of a basket clause of any place where young persons are known to frequent—I don't have the precise language—and that was subsequently amended in Bill C-10 to turn that aggravating factor into a mandatory jail sentence. So that is an example in criminal law that is comparable to what's being proposed here, although it would be broader.
The other related point I'd say is that there is a provision, section 810.01 of the Criminal Code, which we call the peace bond, that deals with organized crime behaviour. Where it is believed that somebody is going to commit an organized crime offence, a peace bond can be ordered, including conditions to not frequent places where children may congregate. For example, if a police officer knows that a gang member or someone working on behalf of a gang is targeting young people, that type of tool can be used by the justice system to target the practice and prevent the individual from recruiting new individuals to join a criminal organization.
Those would be my general context comments.March 25, 2013, Parliament
Hon. Andrew Swan spoke
Again, public safety has a cost. We know in Manitoba that we are shouldering more of that responsibility as the years go by. I'll have a chance to meet with Minister Nicholson later on today, and I'll be repeating some of the things we've raised, both publicly and privately, on Manitoba's behalf. ... more
There's no question that funding for legal aid is a major concern for Manitoba and other provinces. The provinces have been bearing all the increased costs with respect to legal aid. Manitoba was in support of many of the provisions of Bill C-10, primarily because we're the ones who had asked for them to begin with. We think many of the provisions in Bill C-10 were the right thing to do. We know they are going to have an additional cost, and we're hoping to refresh the partnership we have with the federal government.
Drug treatment court is another area. We think the federal government made some very wise investments in allowing drug treatment courts to get going. We would love to be able to expand those to try to get people off the criminal track if the reason for their law-breaking is their addiction. We certainly hope to continue enhancing that partnership.
I think I did gently mention the police officer recruitment fund. The funding for that is running out. Unless the province backfills that, there's going to be a reduction in police forces for a number of municipalities.
We've worked well with the federal government. We believe in providing support when we think the federal government of any stripe is moving in the right direction. We will also criticize the federal government when we think they're not going in the right direction.
This bill today is a positive step. As I say, we'll have some other things to say in different places about how we can best work together to keep improving the partnership for the safety of our communities.March 25, 2013, Parliament
Vic Toews spoke
I don't know where to begin. There are so many false statements there. ... more
First of all, my understanding is that the remand populations in the provinces have not increased. In fact, we've seen a decrease as a result of getting rid of the two-for-one credits. People have been moving through the remand centres more quickly. I'd like to see this on a Canada-wide basis that remand numbers are going up. They're high and they have always been high. Certain steps need to be taken.
That has got nothing to do with Bill C-10. In fact, Bill C-10, we believe, will assist in bringing that remand population down. In fact, we've seen that trend.
For example, we were asked by the Ontario government to build 1,500 more cells for them because they said that would be the impact of Bill C-10. At the same time that they were asking us to build new 1,500 cells for them, they were shutting down 1,500 cells. Essentially, what they're doing is getting us to build new infrastructure for them. That's not the way we do business.
I'd like to see some of those numbers. I haven't seen the numbers that indicate that remands are increasing in the manner that you've indicated.
Rosane Doré Lefebvre spoke
Exactly. As a result, we had the opportunity to hear at length about the impact of Bill C-10. There are a lot of complaints across the province. Currently, the people who are awaiting trial are in provincial prisons, which are over capacity. ... more
Currently in Quebec, we are seeing that our provincial prison system is overcrowded, as a result of the changes made to the Criminal Code. That worries me. After their trial, all those people are going to end up in our federal institutions. When that time comes, in a few years, we might not have the financial support or the correctional officers we need, or the necessary resources for rehabilitation.
Could you comment on that? I am honestly very concerned about that. We are already seeing an increase in the prison population in federal institutions. The people who are currently in provincial institutions, awaiting trial, will end up in the federal system after their trial, and we will not have the necessary support. What will happen then?
Vic Toews spoke
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. ... more
Indeed, it is my pleasure to be here to again share an hour or so with all of the members of the committee. I want to thank my officials, both from the department and from the various agencies that I'm responsible for, for being here as well.
I'm pleased today to speak to both the 2013-14 main estimates and the 2012-13 supplementary estimates (C).
Mr. Chair, responsible governments must ensure that they use taxpayers' dollars in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner, and that's exactly what we have done over the past seven years. Since 2006, our government has acted consistently to help create jobs and spur economic growth. We have made responsible decisions that have strengthened our economy, while ensuring that we are keeping Canadians and Canadian interests safe. We believe that committee members will find this evidenced within the pages of the supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates.
As the committee's motion specifically mentions supplementary estimates (C), I will turn first to these, which sought minor adjustments to spending authorities within three of the portfolio agencies: the Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The total net increase in authorities for 2012-13 for these three portfolio organizations equals $4.2 million, or 0.04%.
Mr. Chair, this represents a small increase in the total funding approvals for the Public Safety portfolio for 2012-13. For example, the Canada Border Services Agency has sought an increase in its voted authorities of $10.3 million to support initiatives within the beyond the border action plan. There is, however, no net change in the CBSA's appropriations, as those funds have been offset by a transfer of authorities that had been previously allocated by the Treasury Board.
The supplementary estimates (C) also indicate a net total increase for the RCMP of $3.7 million, which is the result of transfers of funds to the RCMP from Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Department of National Defence.
Finally, we saw a net increase in authorities for CSIS in the amount of $550,000, or 0.1%, of its authorities to date.This amount stems from a transfer from DND to CSIS for the acquisition of technology related to the Canadian safety and security program.
Mr. Chair, let me now turn to the 2013-14 main estimates, which represent a fiscally responsible way forward in our efforts to keep our streets and communities safe while strengthening our economy and supporting families.
For the overall Public Safety portfolio, the 2013-14 main estimates represent an initial funding approval of $8.049 billion, which is an overall decrease of $322.1 million, or 4%, over the previous fiscal year. This funding will be invested into priority areas that are helping us fulfill our commitment to keep Canadians and their communities safe.
Among the overall portfolio funding increases are the following.
The amount of $329 million to the RCMP related to the renewal of the 20-year police services agreements with the provinces, territories, and municipalities.
I want to specifically thank the RCMP for its work on that file and for departmental officials who did an excellent job in working together with the provinces and the territories. These are very, very complex negotiations, but we're very pleased with the work that was done, and the cooperation we received from the provinces and the territories. I think they recognize that the RCMP is the best value for taxpayers' money, and agreed, indeed, without any concerns about that principle, that the RCMP are the best service for their money. That's a real tribute to the RCMP.
Also, $38.2 million goes to Public Safety Canada to provide funding for permanent flood mitigation measures for provinces and territories hit hard by the 2011 floods, and $24.1 million goes to the CBSA to improve the integrity of front-line operations at the border.
Mr. Chair, these increases are offset by a number of decreases, including among others a $65-million decrease to CBSA funding for the arming and eManifest initiatives, which are sunsetting in 2013-14 as part of a loan repayment schedule, and a $31-million decrease to the RCMP related to a transfer of funds to Public Works for the new RCMP headquarters building in Surrey, B.C.
Committee members will also see adjustments to the Correctional Service of Canada's spending authorities, with a net decrease of $428.4 million from the previous year due mainly to the return of funds related to projected inmate population growth, which did not materialize despite the wild predictions of the opposition parties.
You'll remember, Mr. Chair, that it was the NDP that said that, as a result of Bill C-10 and other bills, there would be an increase of $19 billion in infrastructure alone. That was clearly false. It was fearmongering of the worst kind. In fact, as you know, we returned to the fiscal framework almost $1.5 billion because of the prisons that we didn't have to build. This decrease is due to that and as well to the savings measures outlined in budget 2012.
The main estimates also include a $370.7-million decrease in the total Public Safety portfolio spending authorities, related to deficit reduction action plan savings measures announced in budget 2012.
Mr. Chair, before we turn to questions from the committee, I will touch on some of those numbers as they relate to our work to keep Canadians and their communities safe.
Looking at just Public Safety departmental funding, we are requesting increases that include $2.9 million to continue our work to make our cyber-network secure and resilient, as outlined in Canada's cybersecurity strategy, and $2.5 million to implement national security and emergency management initiatives under the beyond the border action plan.
These two initiatives remain top priorities for our government, and we continue to seek evidence of good progress in both areas. In fact, just last week I signed a memorandum of understanding with my U.S. counterpart, Janet Napolitano, that paves the way for a United States Customs and Border Protection truck cargo pre-inspection pilot project on Canadian soil.
As you know, there has been some concern about what sequestration will mean for the movement of Canadian goods into the United States. We are very concerned about that but recognize that it's primarily an American budgetary issue, which they are going to have to resolve. But this kind of pre-inspection initiative, which will help clear trucks before they get to the border and then get them through, will help us in our just-in-time deliveries.
I was told—and maybe you don't know this, Mr. Chair—that in some cases, one automobile goes back and forth across the border 40 times during its production. You can see that if you increase the delay in crossing borders from 20 minutes to 40 minutes or an hour, production is significantly impacted, with of course significant impacts upon the jobs of those in the auto sector, for one example.
The pilot project that we're working on aims to enhance our security while accelerating the legitimate flow of goods, people, and services at the Canada-U.S. border.
As I mentioned earlier, Public Safety Canada seeks an increase in its departmental spending authorities of $38.2 million to provide financial support to provinces and territories for 2011 flood mitigation. These funds are part of our government's commitment to provide a one-time, 50-50, cost-shared investment in permanent flood mitigation measures taken by provinces and territories, specifically related to 2011 flooding. Strong, resilient, and prepared communities are critical to our nation's security and economic strength, and these investments in mitigation will help to ensure that communities are able to recover rapidly after a disaster.
In addition to being prepared for and recovering from natural disasters, resilient communities are also able to identify and resist violent, extremist ideologies and have the capacity to react to events in ways that prevent further harm. As such, committee members will see a request for an increase to Public Safety Canada departmental spending authorities for $1.8 million related to funds for the Kanishka project. Launched in 2011, this five-year, $10-million initiative aims to create a network of scholars who can undertake critical research into how Canadians can prevent terrorism and counter violent extremism. Again, this is an issue and concern that I've discussed with the Homeland Security secretary and something that we share a common interest in.
Finally, the main estimates include a decrease in Public Safety departmental spending authorities of $7.9 million, which reflects the sunsetting of the funds for the ex gratia payments to the families and the victims of Air India flight 182. I am pleased that our government has been able to fulfill this commitment to these families.
Mr. Chair, in summary, our government remains committed to using Canadian taxpayer dollars in the most efficient and most effective manner, and we will do so while moving forward with our plan for safe streets and communities while focusing on strengthening legislation, tackling crime, supporting victims' rights, and ensuring fair and efficient justice.
To this point, on March 4 I was pleased to announce that our government will maintain stable funding for policing agreements with first nation and Inuit communities under the First Nations Policing Program. For the next five years I will be seeking these incremental authorities through the supplementary estimates.
Thank you. I'll be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Françoise Boivin spoke
Basically, their budget is going down and they're saying the number of files they have to address are going up steadily with all the new infractions. They even mention it in their 2012-13 report. They reference Bill C-10 which they will have to deal with, which will come into full force, or is already in full force. ... more
I think we'll see you coming back often for supplementary budgets. I'm wondering if it's a good way to budget, by presenting something and then coming back constantly to get a hike, because these guys will need to be able to perform if you want to complete your agenda.March 20, 2013, Parliament
Françoise Boivin spoke about Government Orders > Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act
I cannot speak for everyone, but I think something is clear. We have recently heard a lot about Bill C-30 and other bills, including certain aspects of Bill C-10. Time will tell if I am right or not. Some legislation that is before the courts has already been overturned. This legislation did not all originate with the current government. I am laying it on thick. I am even laying it on the heads of our Liberal friends.
Even the member for Mount Royal said that, when he became Minister of Justice, he had some concerns about how this test was conducted.
Certainly, my trust level is at about 1%. Every time I read a bill now, I do not just read the content to find out if it will fulfill its purpose. Now, I am practically obliged to put on my hat as a lawyer specializing in constitutional law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, I must do the work that I did not think I had to do, because I had the minister's assurance. When a bill is introduced in the House, if it is not flagged as problematic, we assume it is okay. We can no longer make that assumption. Something has tarnished this assumption, and what we are going through with Bill C-30 proves it every day. This should worry all members of the House, in all parties.March 19, 2013, Parliament
Dan Albas spoke
Thank you, Mr. Chair. ... more
I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Gill, for coming in today.
I've been hearing quite a number of concerns from the opposition benches today.
One of the things is mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences have a long tradition in Canada. Since the turn of the 20th century we've had them. Usually it's in cases where there are particular crimes that the public at large finds both offensive and heinous. So for members to bring forward legitimate concerns and say that the other argument given on another bill...it doesn't apply in this case. We are finding that this particular aspect of the gang problem, where someone is recruiting youth and entering them into a life of crime, is particularly offensive to my constituents. For us to say that this is a heinous crime that needs to be stopped, we do need to put some mandatory minimum sentences to communicate that.
The previous bill did not even add clarity to the existing Criminal Code. This bill would. It would send a very broad message that gangs are a problem in our Canadian cities and we need to have a full range of tools available to law enforcement, particularly a mandatory minimum sentence.
Our government's support for this bill is consistent with a long-standing commitment to improving existing responses to crime, including organized crime, as reflected in many of our election platform commitments and speeches from the throne. For example, you have, from 2008, Bill C-2, which created mandatory minimum penalties for serious gun crimes involving organized crime; Bill C-14 in 2009, which deems murder committed on behalf of criminal organizations to be automatically first degree murder, and creates a new offence targeting drive-by shootings; the enactment of a serious offence regulation in 2010 for the purposes of organized crime provisions in the Criminal Code; and most recently, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which proposes mandatory minimum penalties for drug crimes committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization.
Mr. Gill, your bill proposes to create a new indictable Criminal Code offence that would prohibit the recruitment, the solicitation, the encouragement, or the invitation of another person to join a criminal organization for the purpose of enhancing the ability of that criminal organization to facilitate or commit indictable offences.
I'll stop there, Mr. Chair, because that clarifies that this particular aspect of organized crime is unacceptable in our society. That's why this adds clarity, in my view, to the Criminal Code, specifically because it highlights this heinous activity. There are many activities that may go on in organized crime. I appreciate Mr. Mai's wording of his concerns, but by the same token, this is one of the parts where we have to say that no more is acceptable.
Anyway, though many in the opposition say that mandatory minimum penalties are ineffective, this offence would be punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum penalty of imprisonment of six months if the individual who's recruited is under the age of 18.
Mr. Gill, getting back to your testimony, how do you think this mandatory minimum penalty would help get these gangs that prey on the most vulnerable in our society? What kind of message would that send to the broader criminal element? Again, as you said, Toronto City Council has said this is a recurring problem. They support your bill.
How will a mandatory minimum sentence send a signal to those who would perpetrate these crimes?March 18, 2013, Parliament
Raymond Côté spoke about Government Orders > Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act > Motions in Amendment
I did not work directly on this bill as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights because I unfortunately left that committee, although I fortunately have the great privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance. However, I have excellent memories of my time on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, despite the problems the members the New Democratic Party are facing on that committee.
In reference to the question I put to my colleague who previously spoke with regard to the rule of law and basic protections, we have moved a motion in the context of Bill C-55. That is why the member for Mount Royal spoke on the subject. He shared the same concerns when he was Minister of Justice. This is an excellent example of the reconciliation of imperatives. We can reconcile certain imperatives even though we belong to different parties. I remember some good exchanges I had with the member for Mount Royal over the fact that he approved of a number of measures we had taken.
Like all of my NDP colleagues, I support Bill C-55. However, I am going to be quite harsh. Objectively, Bill C-55 was a pleasant surprise. I think the government was compelled to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision. Yet, even today, as reported in the Globe and Mail, the justice minister continues to reiterate his full support for Bill C-10, the omnibus bill that unfortunately was passed and will create many problems.
Portions of certain sections of the Criminal Code and other acts that were amended by Bill C-10 could eventually be invalidated. Moreover, this bill has created an excessive amount of work for Parliament. This situation could have been avoided if the government had been open and much more rigorous that it generally is. I would remind the House that Bill C-55 is the exception.
Of course, reinventing the wheel or showing too much originality was not possible, because the decision was very clear and compelled the government to find solutions that meshed perfectly with the Supreme Court’s observations.
This brings us back to our duty as elected representatives and as members of these important and fundamental committees known as the standing committees of the House of Commons.
We have a responsibility to stay informed and adapt to today’s realities on an ongoing basis, all the while complying with immutable principles. We have a responsibility when it comes to passing legislation.
In this regard, I hope that Bill C-55 will serve as a model for the government and will prompt it to be more disciplined and especially to show more respect for all of our country’s institutions. The government must start by showing respect for the Canadian justice system, for Canada’s Parliament, a fundamental institution, and more especially for the House of Commons.
Understandably, there can be differences of opinion, and the government may not always agree with the views expressed by members of the opposition parties. However, the government has a responsibility to respect these views and the fact that people have different opinions. It also has a duty to respect the principle of accountability, which unfortunately is too easily flouted.
In the case of the committee that I had the privilege to serve on last fall, too often the government denied the obvious and rejected the opinions of experts whose positions were quite clear. It is truly a shame. After all, while it may be possible to some extent to defend ideological stances, these have absolutely no place when it comes to governing and establishing conditions for a just and fair society.
The government has made that mistake over and over again.
I repeat, Bill C-55 is a pleasant surprise. In the wake of what my hon. colleague from Gatineau said, I will come back to some important points related to section 184.4. They may seem like minor details, but these changes are important. They do not affect the essence of section 184.4.
The bill defines the term “police officer”, which applies to section 184.4. The bill then continues:
A police officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part; (b) the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an offence that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and (c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
My colleague from Gatineau accurately explained the special nature of section 184.4. Let us not forget that sections 186 and 188 cover virtually every case that would justify a warrant to breach a person's privacy. There are, of course, cases in which the imminence or urgency of the situation, when it is a matter of minutes or hours, would permit someone in authority under the Criminal Code to act quickly without permission to provide genuine assistance and intervene to prevent mischief or a crime.
This is perfectly reasonable. The only problem is with the consequences of such an action. The amendments made to the various parts of section 195 are particularly important. We strongly support them simply because they provide a form of transparency and openness that allows for self-discipline and generally avoids any abuse of police power. First of all, no one wants abuse of this kind from the police. Police officers who possess this extraordinary power ought not to be exposed to situations of potential abuse by themselves or others against anyone here in Canada because it could lead to serious breaches and the public's loss of confidence in police departments.
We believe that section 195 is a step in the right direction in terms of accountability, and that it would set out clear guidelines for the application of section 184.4. In my view, this constitutes significant progress. It is a fundamental and necessary improvement. It would deal with the problems inherent in R. v. Tse that were before the Supreme Court.
I would like to end by saying that it was a pleasure to be able to comment on Bill C-55. I think, and especially I hope, that it will be passed relatively quickly. It is nevertheless deplorable that the government took so long to allow us to review it in this House.March 18, 2013, Parliament
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Safe Streets and Communities Act
An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts
This bill was tabled by Rob Nicholson on Sept. 21, 2011.
How does a bill become a law?
Don’t trust Schoolhouse Rock – that’s for Americans. To become a law, a bill in the Canada’s Parliament needs to go through the following steps, and pass when voted on during each step:
- It all starts with the first reading, when the bill is introduced.
- Next comes the second reading, when other MPs or Senators get to debate the bill.
- After that, the bill goes to a committee that studies and amends it line-by-line. Once they finish, the bill goes returns to the House or Senate for the report stage, where anyone can propose amendments.
- The third reading is the moment of truth: no more changes, just a debate and a final vote on whether or not the bill should pass.
- If a bill makes it through all of those steps – in both the House of Commons and Senate – it’s ready to get Royal Assent and become a law.
Status of this Bill
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Ms. Carole Morency spoke
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Michael Chong spoke about Government Orders > Main Estimates 2013-14 > Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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Elizabeth May spoke about Routine Proceedings > Points of Order > Standing Committee on Finance
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Jinny Sims spoke about Government Orders > Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act > Second Reading
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Rob Nicholson spoke about Government Orders > Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act > Bill C-54—Time Allocation Motion
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Nathan Cullen spoke about Government Orders > Extension of Sitting Hours
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Nathan Cullen spoke about Government Orders > Extension of Sitting Hours
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion. ... moreMay 21, 2013, Parliament
Robert Goguen spokeMay 6, 2013, Parliament
Sean Casey spoke about Private Members' Business > Criminal Code
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Joyce Murray spoke about Government Orders > Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join my colleagues who have spoken so eloquently for equality for those individuals in the military who serve Canadians. This particular legislation purports to update our military criminal justice system, but in fact has some significant gaps. ... moreApril 29, 2013, Parliament
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice) spoke
Well, I guess I can provide you some context to help you in your decision-making process. ... moreMarch 25, 2013, Parliament
Hon. Andrew Swan spoke
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Vic Toews spoke
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Rosane Doré Lefebvre spoke
Vic Toews spoke
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. ... more
Françoise Boivin spoke
Basically, their budget is going down and they're saying the number of files they have to address are going up steadily with all the new infractions. They even mention it in their 2012-13 report. They reference Bill C-10 which they will have to deal with, which will come into full force, or is already in full force. ... moreMarch 20, 2013, Parliament
Françoise Boivin spoke about Government Orders > Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActMarch 19, 2013, Parliament
Dan Albas spokeMarch 18, 2013, Parliament
Raymond Côté spoke about Government Orders > Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act > Motions in AmendmentMarch 18, 2013, Parliament
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