Yesterday in Parliament – February 28, 2019
House of Commons
Nothing to report.
Orders of the Day
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Sinclair, seconded by the Honourable Senator Campbell, for the second reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Hon. Linda Frum: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Bill C-75 is an enormous 200-page omnibus bill that includes major reforms to our criminal justice system. Although one of the stated objectives of the legislation is to reduce delays in Canada’s courts, it actually does little to address what is quickly rising to a crisis situation in Canada.
The most obvious solution to reducing delays in our justice system is to fill the 50-plus judicial vacancies that remain in Canada. It is shocking that this government finds it so difficult to fill these vacancies. More shocking yet is the recent revelation in The Globe and Mail that the Prime Minister’s Office has inserted itself into the vetting process, adding a layer of partisanship to these appointments where it absolutely does not belong.
To be clear, there is no legislation required to fill the stunning number of judicial vacancies in Canadian courts. All it takes is for the Minister of Justice to get on with doing his job without political interference from the PMO.
Bill C-75 is problematic in many ways, but I will highlight a few issues that I find particularly concerning. The first is the issue of hybridization. Hybridizing serious indictable-only offences by adding summary conviction as a sentencing option is not going to reduce court delays. In fact, the Canadian Bar Association has said that hybridization “would likely mean more cases will be heard in provincial court. This could result in further delays in those courts.” So not only will there be further delays, but now certain offences against children — for instance, the abduction of children under the age of 14 and 16 — are now eligible for the Crown to proceed by summary conviction.
Bill C-75 will saddle the provinces with additional judicial cases, inmates and rehabilitation costs. Senator Boisvenu asked the sponsor of the bill, Senator Sinclair, to provide us with the cost to provinces that will be a result of Bill C-75, and we are still waiting.
Furthermore, one of the offences being reclassified in Bill C-75 is the breach of long-term supervision orders. Long-term supervision orders apply to the most dangerous sexual predators in our society. These are individuals who are so dangerous that, after they complete their sentence they are subject to a long-term supervision order for up to 10 years, allowing the Correctional Service of Canada to supervise and support them with stringent conditions. With Bill C-75, the Crown will be able to proceed by summary conviction for a breach of long-term supervision.
In essence, the government is telling us that a breach of conditions of a long-term supervision is just a minor offence. No government that truly cares about the safety and welfare of our children would be so casual about the supervision of dangerous child predators, but that is what we get with Bill C-75.
This brings me to the issue of public safety. Canadians expect our justice system to take the actions of offenders seriously. It seems to me that this bill does not prioritize the public’s protection, nor does it take the actions of offenders as seriously as it should. For instance, Bill C-75 will legislate a “principle of restraint” for police and courts to ensure that “release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention.”
Allowing the accused to be released quickly without allowing for some primary consideration of the nature of the offence, and therefore whether or not that individual may be a danger to the public, is a serious red flag for Canadians. In particular, women who experience domestic violence have reasons to fear these proposed changes. The expectation of seeing the perpetrator being released after a short sentence will deter denunciation of domestic violence. Further, Bill C-75 loosens penalties on youth offenders when they break terms of sentencing or court orders.
Current provisions from the Conservative government’s Safe Streets and Communities Act require that the Attorney General consider whether it be appropriate to make application that a young person be liable to an adult sentence if that person has committed a serious violent offence. The current provisions were requested by the parents of victims, like the father and mother of Sébastien Lacasse. Sébastien was viciously attacked and killed in 2004 by a group of 10 criminals, three of whom were minors. They bludgeoned him, they used pepper spray, they trampled him while he was pleading for his life, and then they stabbed him several times. Bill C-75 will eliminate this mandatory consideration. To me there is not a clear rationale why this government would eliminate this consideration when it is in the public interest to do so.
Along the same lines, the repeal of the provisions in the Safe Streets and Communities Act with regard to lifting the publication ban on the name of the young offender means that the community is not made aware that very dangerous young people have been released back into the community. Bill C-75 will eliminate the option available to the Crown to have such publication bans lifted in such cases. I can’t imagine why the government doesn’t leave the discretion to the Crown when the public interest and public safety is at stake.
Finally, I’d like to make two observations about Bill C-75 that relate to the SNC-Lavalin affair. It is interesting to note that this bill, Bill C-75, to amend the Criminal Code, was tabled in the House of Commons only two days after the tabling of Bill C-74, the Budget Implementation Act, 2018. It was budget Bill C-74 and not criminal justice Bill C-75 which contained the amendments to the Criminal Code to establish the principle of deferred prosecution agreements. Why was that? Why did the government choose not to include those amendments in Bill C-75 where they logically belong, but rather shove them two days earlier into a budget bill? Was it a question of a timeline, or was it because then Minister of Justice, the extremely Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, would not agree to defend the text of the amendment on deferred prosecution agreements?
We don’t know the answers to these questions, but considering recent events and Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s status within the Liberal caucus, it’s certainly interesting to reflect back on that two-day period in March 2018 and try to understand how a criminal amendment ended up in a budget bill.
It is also interesting to note that among the offences for which Bill C-75 reduces penalties by adding summary conviction as a prosecutorial option, we have a series of offences for corruption of public officials. It may just be a coincidence and have nothing to do with the current scandal surrounding the use of deferred prosecution agreements, but one thing is clear: For this Liberal government, corruption is a crime not worth taking seriously.
It is for all these reasons, colleagues, that I believe Bill C-75 is deeply flawed and should be opposed. At minimum, I hope to see it receive extensive amendment at the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Thank you.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
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