Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the hon. member's speech. He seemed to be saying that animals, especially service dogs, are not mere property. They are loyal friends, if I am not mistaken.
Would the member not support a bill like the bill the Chrétien government brought in that was stuck in the Senate and then was brought in as a private member's bill by the former member for Ajax—Pickering, Mark Holland, to strengthen the rights of animals such that they would not be considered mere property that can be mistreated by their owners?
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver South.
I am honoured to rise in the House tonight to speak to our government's Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act. This legislation would be the first major overhaul of the Citizenship Act in nearly a generation.
While Bill C-24 touches on a variety of areas, all of which would make important changes strengthening the integrity of the immigration system and preserving the value of Canadian citizenship, there are several areas I am particularly passionate to be speaking to tonight. Those areas of the bill encompass the entirety of my former private member's bill, Bill C-425. When I first introduced my bill, I gave the reasons for tabling that legislation. My intention was to reward permanent residents for their service in our Canadian Armed Forces and to underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship by revoking it from those convicted of terrorism or treason.
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to our hard-working Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and member for Ajax—Pickering for keeping those provisions of my bill alive by drafting them into Bill C-24. I would also like to thank each and every one of my current Conservative colleagues on the citizenship and immigration committee for their diligent work, and also those who have contributed long hours spent keeping these ideas alive in the face of unrelenting opposition filibustering last year.
I believe the importance of this legislation cannot be overstated. It is good news for new Canadians, good news for settled Canadians, and good news for those hoping to become Canadians, and I will tell members why.
Bill C-24 would honour our Canadian Armed Forces by fast-tracking citizenship by one year for permanent residents serving Canada in our military who have stated their intention to become citizens. As members know, service in the Canadian Armed Forces is unique. We call on our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice, to risk their lives in faraway places away from their families in some of the worst conditions imaginable, and they do it gladly. They are willing to lay their lives down for their fellow Canadians. That is what makes service in the Canadian Armed Forces unique and deserving of the highest possible respect.
Bill C-24 seeks not only to support these brave men and women but also to strengthen and defend the values they stand for and protect. To do this, we must act to address one of the biggest threats facing Canada today: terrorism. Bill C-24 would allow for the revocation of citizenship for any dual citizen who is convicted of a terrorism offence, treason, or waging war against the Canadian Armed Forces as part of an armed group. This measure would bring Canada into line with virtually every other western democratic nation that has similar revocation laws.
Strangely enough, the opposition Liberals and New Democrats continue to strongly oppose this measure. I know what I am about to say is not new, but it seems to me that those members on the other side of the House need to be reminded once again, perhaps again and again, that the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports revoking citizenship from convicted terrorists.
If the members were to survey their own supporters or Canadians in general, they would find the following, according to a national poll conducted by NRG: over 83% of Canadians from coast to coast to coast support the idea of stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists; of those, 80% of people who identified as NDP supporters support this measure; and, 87% of those who identified as Liberal supporters also support this measure. Also interesting to note is that among those who were polled, when it comes to those born in Canada versus those not born here, 83% of immigrants support stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists versus 82% of settled Canadians.
I would like to know why it is that the opposition Liberals and New Democrats continue to choose to ignore the will of Canadians and the international community.
Some people might be surprised by the last figure I gave, but as an immigrant myself, and as the member of Parliament for the hard-working riding of Calgary Northeast, the most diverse riding in the country, I know that new Canadians as well as settled Canadians understand the need for this measure.
Canadians understand that when a dual national willingly decides to radicalize and participate in terrorist crimes, to carry out bombings, to plot the murder of his or her fellow citizens, this is damaging to the value we attach to Canadian citizenship.
We cannot wait for the terrorists to submit an application to renounce their citizenship. We must read into their actions a deemed renunciation of that citizenship. This measure is entirely consistent with our sister jurisdictions among western democracies.
I have spoken to many ethnic organizations, groups, and constituents in my riding and across Canada. The overwhelming majority support revocation of citizenship for convicted terrorists.
For example, Salma Siddiqui, president of Muslim Canadian Congress, had this to say while testifying on my private member's bill on March 26, 2013:
Canadians who are opposed to the values of our society should not be allowed to abuse the privileges that come with holding Canadian citizenship. We must act to strip Canadian citizenship from those who seek to exploit it for violent and illegal activities.
She also conveyed similar thoughts recently when she appeared at the committee to discuss Bill C-24.
Just last night I read an article in the National Post. Fawzi Ayoub, a dual Lebanese Canadian, was recently killed fighting in a terrorist group in Syria. He was a senior member of the terrorist group Hezbollah.
In fact, he has been on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list since 2009. His crimes include attempting to enter Israel in order to carry out a terrorist bombing and attempting to hijack a passenger aircraft in Romania.
Ayoub lived in Toronto for several years and mused about returning to Canada one day. Just imagine, if he had returned to Canada, what might have happened.
This illustrates precisely why we need Bill C-24 to become law. Canadians are angry that terrorists are using Canadian citizenship simply as a convenient way to fly under the radar in order to commit terrorist acts. In doing so, they are eroding the value of Canadian citizenship.
Under the provisions of Bill C-24, those convicted of a serious terrorism offence in Canada or in jurisdictions Canada recognizes as having an equivalent judicial system would no longer be able to use a Canadian passport to facilitate their terrorist activities abroad.
Revocation is not a provision I hope to see used regularly. Ideally, it would never be used. However, Canadians are increasingly concerned about the threat of home-grown terrorism. Terrorism is closer to home than we may think. Radicalization is happening in places we least expect: our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods.
Our security services are sounding the alarm bells about the dangers of home-grown terrorism. CSIS has reported it is tracking at least 80 Canadians who have gone overseas to participate in terrorist activities.
They will return to Canada further radicalized and armed with knowledge of how to carry out terrorist activities. We cannot allow radical terrorist ideologies to thrive in Canada. We must condemn these dangerous practices and give them no safe place to hide and absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever.
If we allow terrorists to keep the Canadian citizenship they have abused, we are sending a message that our citizenship is not about shared values, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, or loyalty. It sends the message that our citizenship is simply an entitlement.
I believe Canadian citizenship is much more than a piece of paper used for identification purposes. It does represent our shared values, and its value is something we need to vigorously defend.
We must let Canadians know where their elected representatives stand. I implore members opposite to set aside their politics and join me to unanimously support Bill C-24.
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that the Hancox family, which is undoubtedly watching this debate, appreciates the ridiculous and silly intervention of the member for Malpeque, who should be listening to the debate and not making fun of what happened.
Let me tell the House what happened in 1998. Officer Hancox was investigating undercover in a plaza late at night, trying to keep the community safe, when he was brutally stabbed. He bled out and died on the ground of a plaza that a lot of us have known and attended. It was a very busy plaza. He is a hero for our community and his family. His children will never hear the sound of their father's voice. While the member for Malpeque stands and makes idiotic and silly interventions, he might want to take a moment to listen to the victims of crime who have to relive this constantly.
It is inappropriate that people like Kim Hancox have to relive this. It is inappropriate that she should not be made aware of the fact that the people who did this to her husband, to the children's father and his father's son, are being released into the community. I do not think it is funny, I do not think it is appropriate, and I do not think Canadians think it is appropriate.
The hon. member who spoke before me got up and talked about prison farms and how he had people working on his farm and that probation officers would come by. I do not think it gives the people who have suffered any comfort knowing that the Liberal members opposite want to talk about prison farms, that somehow the rights of criminals are put ahead of the rights of victims.
The member talked about this side of the House. I can say that the member for Oxford worked as a police officer for some 30 years. He was the chief of police in his community, a very well-respected member of his community, someone who mentored a lot of us when we came to this place. After years of working, he brought forward a bill that he thinks will address victims' rights in the community and the grievances that have been brought forward by people like Kim Hancox and others who have to suffer this constantly.
I know the family is in the riding of the member for Ajax—Pickering. This is something that he has also talked a lot about. He gave a very eloquent speech in this place. Perhaps it is not the usual course of action, and we certainly know it was not the usual course of action when the Liberals were in power, to ever allow their backbenchers, those of us who do not have the honour of serving on the front benches or government benches, to allow us to bring forward legislation that is important for our constituents, allowing us to get things done for the reasons we came to this place.
Many of us came to this place because we wanted to reverse the chaotic system of criminal justice that the Liberals brought in. Many of us were elected for that reason and the member for Oxford, having served for 30 years, saw an area that he wanted to improve. He has brought a bill to the House, and despite all of the nonsense that we have heard from the Liberal Party on prison farms, I bet that when the camera is on and it comes time to vote, the Liberals are going to stand in their places and vote in favour of this bill, not because they believe in it but because they know that Canadians believe in it. Somehow between now and when that vote is held, Canadians will contact them and shame them into doing what Canadians want, which is putting victims ahead of criminals, so that we can finally put an end to the Trudeau-era edict, when Solicitor General Goyer said that victims' rights are secondary to the rights of criminals.
We would all agree that one of the primary roles of our justice system has to be the rehabilitation of criminals. We would all agree to that. We always want to release people back into society as better persons than when they went in, but at the same time, in those instances where the actions are so grievous, in an instance like this, we need to inform families by letter that a person will be released. Not informing the families will not give Canadians across this country confidence that the justice system is looking after the rights of victims.
I will be very proud to stand in my place and support this, not just on behalf of the Hancox family but on behalf of all victims of crime in this country who for years have had to suffer under the delusions of the Liberal Party, which still thinks that the rights of criminals trump the rights of victims. I hope the members of the Liberal Party will take the opportunity over the weekend to reflect on this and on what victims of crime, across the country, have been saying.
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to clarify the precedents on this issue because we had a previous incident much more in contravention. I watched the two members rise and begin their comments simultaneously, so I am seeking clarification from you, Mr. Speaker.
We had a debate on December 7, 2012, in which the then parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage rose in the midst of a speech being given by our MP for Ottawa Centre and applied the same intervention. It was explicitly that the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering be now heard. The Acting Speaker spoke on this point. I will quote from Hansard of December 7, 2012, what he declared:
The hon. parliamentary secretary has moved a motion that is non-debatable and as such, other members cannot rise on this point of order until it has been dispensed with.
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
The Acting Speaker then put the motion to the House.
It was clear that a member had actually begun speaking. The Conservative member rose to interject. He felt that the member for Ajax—Pickering should be speaking. The Deputy Speaker at the time then brought that motion forward so that it could be heard and debated on in the House.
We are just trying to understand the precedents in how this works. It was clear that the member for Ottawa Centre was five minutes into his speech, and the Speaker at the time felt that it was a question that needed to be placed before the House.
I think my colleague from Quebec is raising a stronger motion. Two members rose simultaneously. The Speaker identified one member, but there is a question as to who was to be identified next. Based upon what happened in December 2012, we are led to believe, as the Acting Speaker did then, that the motion then had to be debated.
If it grieves my friends across the way that the House of Commons actually has rules that are applied consistently, then I feel for them and their loss of the minute that I have used to speak.
I would suggest that all Canadians who like to do such things as vote are also interested in what takes place in Canada's Parliament today, because the Conservative government treats Canadian voters, particularly the marginalized ones, with complete disdain.
Mr. Speaker, my question will be around funding.
We have heard from opposition parties that our government has not funded arts and heritage. I know that in my own riding I have made numerous announcements of funding for the arts and for heritage. Could the member for Ajax—Pickering provide us with some further information as to our government's funding for arts and heritage?
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Ajax—Pickering.
The establishment of the Canadian museum of history will provide Canadians with an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the richness of Canadian history. I will quote from an editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press on October 22, 2012:
The new vision reflects the country's growing self-awareness and the realization that a knowledge of history is the basis of an informed citizenry.
I would like to continue by addressing some of the statements that have been made by members of the opposition during this debate. This debate is important and if we are to make good use of our time it is important that we clarify some of these key issues.
First and perhaps most important, there is the issue of the need for independence for the new museum. This has been brought up several times during the debate. Let me be clear. The arm's-length nature of the museum is protected both by its status as a federal crown corporation and because section 27(1) of the Museums Act clearly states that no directive can be given to a national museum with respect to cultural activities and programs for the public and research. Despite these facts, it has been suggested in this House that the government is “wading into academia”, proposing a generic narrative of our history and interfering with the work of experts.
This presumes that the accomplished staff, management and board of trustees at the Canadian Museum of Civilization would let this happen.
I will quote Michael Bliss, a prominent Canadian historian, who stated:
Look at the museum’s record. It has been run professionally and governments have not told it what exhibits to have. I expect that the highly professional management at arm's length from the government will carry on.
The governance structure of the museum will remain intact. The Canadian War Museum will continue to be an affiliate. The corporation will continue to exist, but with a new name and a new, clearly focused mandate. There will be no interruption of the corporation's ability to operate and no impact on the status of the employees, officers and trustees. I am confident that the management and staff that made the CMC a great museum will make the Canadian museum of history an even greater museum.
The museum will continue to host major international exhibits. It is not true, as stated by one of my colleagues, that the museum will no longer have a mandate to share its wealth and knowledge with the rest of the world. The mandate of the new museum is explicit. One of the purposes of the new museum is to “enhance their awareness of world history and cultures”. This specifically authorizes the museum to continue to offer other programming with a more international flavour, such as international exhibits.
It is not true, as stated by a member of the opposition, that the museum's mandate no longer includes the obligation to maintain collections and conduct research. The powers of the new museum are unchanged from those of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, including the power to maintain collections and conduct research.
The museum will increase its activities, working closely with a network of Canadian museums not just to make the national collection available through loans and travelling exhibitions but also to provide a permanent venue, an additional 7,500 square feet at the new museum for other Canadian museums to showcase their collections and contribute to the national narrative.
I must also point out that the changes to the mandate proposed for the Canadian Museum of Civilization are completely consistent with the strategic directions first approved by the museum's board of trustees in 2009, in particular the following direction, which states:
...broaden its national collections and its curatorial research to better reflect and present national narratives, symbols and achievements through the human, social, cultural, military and political history dimensions of Canadian life.
I am excited about the new Canadian museum of history and I encourage all of my colleagues to support the passage of the legislation that will make it a reality.
In closing, I will once again refer to Michael Bliss, who says “it is very exciting that Canada's major museum will now be explicitly focused on Canada's history”.
Mr. Speaker, there was an exchange earlier involving the member for Ajax—Pickering on his use of the term “old Trotskyite” in referring to a reporter for the CBC.
I wonder, if he is not prepared to apologize for the term “Trotskyite”, could he at least stop using the word “old” as some kind of pejorative adjective?
moved that Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Bill C-15, which aims to amend the National Defence Act to strengthen Canada’s military justice and grievance systems.
This legislation is a comprehensive package of amendments that will enhance the military justice system, clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and improve the military police complaints process and military grievance system.
As a former practitioner of the law, Mr. Speaker, you could vouch for the fact that the modernization of law, including the justice system for the Canadian Forces, is an extremely important undertaking and is a long time overdue.
As the House has heard throughout its considerable consideration of the bill, the military justice system is essential to maintaining the discipline, efficiency and morale of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The requirement for a separate, unique system of military justice has long been endorsed by Parliament and the Supreme Court, and is further recognized in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The framework of Canada's military justice system has also been validated in two independent reviews. The first was conducted by Chief Justice Lamer and was tabled in the House in 2003. A second review, by Chief Justice LeSage, was tabled last year following the introduction of the bill.
The amendments proposed in Bill C-15 were developed to address those recommendations that are still outstanding from the Lamer report.
Bill C-15 encapsulates the government's previous legislative efforts to address these recommendations, namely through Bill C-7, Bill C-45 and Bill C-41, so the bill is essentially in its fourth iteration.
The content of the bill has been thoroughly debated and reviewed. It has been before the House, where some 100 speakers from all parties participated in the debate. Most recently, the Standing Committee on National Defence met eight times in February in examining the bill. Three sessions were devoted to clause-by-clause review of the proposed legislation, and the committee heard from 16 expert witnesses from the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces and non-governmental organizations.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my House colleagues and the witnesses for their diligence and dedication in the study of the bill.
I would also be remiss if I did not note the leadership of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, the member for Ajax—Pickering and members of the committee, as well as Colonel Mike Gibson, who has dedicated tremendous time and effort in bringing the bill forward to this point.
The bill before the House today will make several important changes to the National Defence Act and enhance the military justice system and grievance framework. These amendments include setting out a wider and more flexible range of sentencing options, enhancing the treatment of victims by introducing victim impact statements at courts martial, and clarifying the process and timelines for future independent reviews of the military justice system.
I am pleased to say that members from both sides of the House are generally in support of enhancing the military justice system and grievance process. However, during second reading and in committee, it became apparent that misconceptions regarding certain provisions have persisted, specifically, those provisions related to criminal record exemptions and the Vice Chief of Defence Staff’s authority to provide instructions to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall during investigations.
I would like to take this opportunity to make the government's position clear on these issues and to put to rest any misunderstandings that could further delay the implementation of this important legislation.
Let me begin by quickly addressing concerns related to the criminal records aspect in clause 75 of the bill, because it seemed to be the focal point of many of the comments here in the House and in committee.
While summary trials are necessary to maintain discipline within the Canadian Armed Forces, clause 75 specifically recognizes that most summary trial conviction offences are not sufficiently severe to justify a criminal record for the disciplined military members within the meaning of the Criminal Records Act.
Specifically, this clause ensures that service members would no longer be required to apply for a record suspension, also known as a pardon, for convictions that would not constitute an offence for the purposes of the Criminal Records Act. That is to say, it simply would not show on a person's record upon leaving the Canadian Forces if he or she has been convicted under one of the offences specified in the act.
In response to concerns under the scope of exempted convictions, the committee accepted the government's proposal to amend the bill to expand the list of exemptions. National Defence estimates that this provision would exempt approximately 95% of summary trial convictions from resulting in a record within the meaning of the Criminal Records Act and eliminate any undue hardship to members transitioning to civilian life. Therefore, most would leave the Canadian Forces with an unblemished record if convicted under one of the mentioned offences.
In committee, members also expressed concerns over a provision to give the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff the statutory authority to provide case-specific direction to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal during investigations. The intent of this provision is to statutorily define the relationship between the Provost Marshal and the chain of command and to enhance the transparency and accountability of military police investigations.
Unlike civilian police forces, Canada's military police may be asked to operate and conduct investigations in operational theatres, as we have seen in places like Afghanistan, where active combat is taking place. Taking this into account, there may be the need in exceptional circumstances for the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff to issue special instructions to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal. I say this because surely an operational combat zone would qualify as an exceptional circumstance. Special instructions would balance the investigative independence of the Provost Marshal with the safety and security of those involved in the investigation and the operational imperatives of the Canadian Armed Forces.
This bill would establish in statute a mechanism for issuing such instructions, thereby achieving three objectives. Firstly, maximizing accountability by identifying a single authority for such instructions, namely, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. Secondly, establishing a statutory requirement for such instructions to be issued in writing, therefore improving transparency. Finally, further increasing transparency by requiring such instructions to be made public, unless the Provost Marshal considers that it would not be in the best interests of the administration of justice to do so.
There are also provisions here where one can envision that information, particularly intelligence that was passed to the Canadian Forces by allies, would be protected in such circumstances.
In closing, our troops perform extraordinary tasks each day—often at great risk to themselves—in service of our country. They need—and deserve—to know that they can have confidence in the fairness and strength of the military justice system that governs and protects them.
This legislation before the House today has been years in the making. In fact, if we trace its history, it goes back to a period before this government came to office. The amendments have now had the benefit of a full second reading debate in the House of Commons and committee study. I strongly urge the House to support implementing these important provisions without delay.
It will benefit the men and women in uniform of the Canadian Forces and their families. It will benefit these extraordinary Canadians who do so much on behalf of our country at home and abroad.
Mr. Speaker, I will try to take those in order.
First, if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is now saying that the Liberal Party's amendments would pass in the committee, we should have that discussion. However, given the actual behaviour of the government in the last several years, amendments in committee never see the light of day because, with all due respect to my good colleague from Ajax—Pickering, he has no authority here. All the shots are being called by the Prime Minister's office.
Second, with respect to looking to other judicial traditions, the member is either not a lawyer or is disparaging of the Baltic States, of a 1,000 year old legal tradition. I am not prepared to disparage Lithuanian legal jurisprudence.
Of course we stand on our own two feet. Of course Canada is a wonderful contributor. However, we look to other jurisdictions because we admit our limitations and we know there are really good valuable lessons to be had in other jurisdictions.
Mr. Speaker, it is an important debate we are having today. This is about the men and women in the Canadian Forces, full stop. It is about whether they will be treated like every other Canadian citizen. It is about whether the government is manifesting what I would describe as stubborn pigheadedness when it comes to improving the military justice system that is in place.
It is impossible for me to speak about this criminal justice bill without being reminded of the typical conduct of the government under the Conservative Party. It is a government that consistently has refused to be bound by its responsibilities under section 4(1) of the Department of Justice Act. For Canadians watching, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, a lawyer, went to the bar when he was sworn in and pledged an oath to uphold the law. When he was sworn in to the role as a lawyer in the province of Ontario, he was sworn in to uphold the law for his entire legal career.
I would argue that since the arrival of the Conservative government, in some quarters described as a regime, it has seen fit to consistently leave aside its responsibilities in this regard. I think the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada may, for example, be in breach of his own code of conduct and his code of ethics as a lawyer. However, that is not what we are debating today.
I am reminded of the words of David Daubney. Mr. Daubney, for my colleagues in the Conservative caucus who do not know, was a member of Parliament with the Progressive Conservative Party. He then went on to a very distinguished career as a lawyer in the Department of Justice, where he served in his last post as director of the criminal law policy unit.
Two day after retiring from his distinguished career, he lashed out at the Conservative government in terms of its conduct with respect to the use of evidence, analysis, research, things that we would rely on as parliamentarians to make the right calls for everyday Canadians, in this case, everyday members in our Canadian Forces.
Mr. Daubney went on to say that he was extremely disappointed and that was one of the reasons why he left his career. Despite the fact that with his team he delivered hard evidence and good analysis to the government, particularly in areas like mandatory minimums, the government would not hear them. It was more than tone deaf; it simply shut it off.
Here we have another example of a bill. I would like to go back to some words spoken earlier by the MP for Ajax—Pickering, who stood up and boasted that Canada was the envy of the world. He is right. I could not be in more agreement with my colleague, but he knows better. During his time serving as a young ambassador in Afghanistan, he knew that one of the foundational documents we were trying to inculcate into the Afghani system of criminal justice was to use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the baseline.
For Canadians who are watching or following, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is now the number one document used in the world for strengthening the rule of law for helping to amend and strengthen constitutions all over the world. When I trained in the former Soviet Union after the wall fell in over 20 countries, I used the Charter of Rights. When I was in the Ukraine last fall, strengthening its legal system, I used the Charter of Rights. Many jurisdictions now look to Canada and look to our charter as the foundational document.
When my colleague for Vancouver Quadra rose to express her concern about the human rights implications in the bill, she was right. I know many members in the Conservative caucus know in their heart of hearts that the bill is incomplete, but it is capable of being, not perfected, but certainly improved, which is why the Liberal Party of Canada is raising these important foundational questions today.
This is about the average man and woman in the Canadian Forces. Should they make a mistake, should they make the wrong choice, as so many Canadian citizens do in their lives from time to time, we want to make absolutely categorically sure that these citizens have the same protections afforded to them as any other citizen living in Canada and walking our streets today possess.
This was why I raised questions this morning around why, for example, the government of the United Kingdom, the British government, had ensured that the requirements for independence and impartiality were woven into its domestic criminal justice system so it was in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. That is a powerful precedent for Canada and for this Parliament, and I think the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada knows that.
In the U.K. context, the British government has ensured that the accused may be represented by counsel and entitled to an appeal under a newly created summary appeal court. It has ensured that the summary appeal court would be presided over by a civilian judge, yet assisted by two military members who were officers or warrant officers to ensure adequate military representation. Also, as a general rule, it has moved to ensure that imprisonment or service detention cannot be imposed where the offender is not legally represented in court or in a court martial. This sounds to me to be an important and powerful precedent that we should look to weave into our amendments to the criminal justice system.
Comparatively, beyond our common law founding mother ship United Kingdom, why have countries like Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and dozens more all moved to ensure that independence, impartiality, fairness and justice are hallmarks of their amendments and improvements to the criminal justice system?
Why only here are we seeing, as I described earlier, the stubborn pigheadedness that seems to find its way into every justice bill the Conservative government brings forward? When in the face of so much evidence, in the face of the opportunity to get it better, why is the government not seizing the opportunity and doing right by Canadian citizens, and more important, doing right by the men and women in our Canadian Forces?
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to join in the debate. It has been informative. Being neither a lawyer with a legal background or a member of the Canadian Armed Forces with a military background, I have certainly learned quite a bit from the debate here today. It has been worthwhile.
That being said, our caucus is blessed with a great depth of legal knowledge. My colleague, the member for Mount Royal, and my colleague from down the road in Halifax West have addressed many of the rights issues woven throughout this piece of legislation. I am certainly respectful of their opinion on it.
As well, our caucus boasts a number of people who have served our country in military service. The member for Winnipeg North is a former member of the Canadian air force. He was posted in Edmonton for a number of years. Our colleague, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, is a former naval officer, a colonel, in the Canadian navy. He went on to become involved in the space program and was Canada's first astronaut. He is a man whose opinion is widely respected across the country.
Then, of course, from the red chamber, there is Senator Romeo Dallaire. His vast experience and understanding of all issues military has a great deal of equity in his opinion. When people of that calibre bring forward concerns on a particular piece of legislation, such as Bill C-15, obviously it is worth taking note.
One of the key provisions brought forward today is the provision for security of tenure for military justices until they reach the retirement age of 60, resign or are removed for cause on the recommendation of an inquiry committee. The outlining of sentences, objectives and principles is another provision. The legislation would also amend the composition of a court marshal panel according to the rank of the accused. The bill also changes the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board to the Military Grievances External Review Committee. One of the other key components is that it allows certain service offences to carry a criminal record.
In our party, we understand the need to reform the Canadian court marshal system and to ensure that it remains effective, fair and transparent. However, we also believe that Canadian citizens who make that career decision, that life choice, to join the Canadian Forces should not lose some of their rights before the courts.
We believe and understand that rights and equality are universal. Without an effective means for appeal, and no recorded proceedings, which was mentioned by my colleague from Halifax West, the current summary trial system is unbalanced and does not respect the basic rights of Canadian Forces members. Our party does not believe that introducing a criminal record for Canadian Forces members for certain service offences is fair and just, as the means of pardoning offences has been recently removed by the government.
Finally, we find it problematic that the VCDS can intervene and give direction in military police investigations. The VCDS is also subject to the code of service discipline.
Obviously, there are a number of disparities between the military and civil justice systems that should be narrowed as much as possible. While we recognize that updates to the military justice system must be made, the government is missing an opportunity to make these changes properly.
Many aspects of the MJS inexplicably remain unimproved or provide unnecessary powers. For example, Bill C-15 enshrines in law a list of military offences that will now carry a criminal record, and some are hardly necessary. Without a pardon system, which was recently revoked by the Conservatives, and summary trials set up with no records and no meaningful appeal, a Canadian Forces member would be left haunted by a record and unable to find employment upon release.
I would think it would have twigged on the government that many Canadians, after they finish their military service, have challenges securing that first job out of the service. Many times, the skills an individual acquires, even the technical skills, do not align with accepted or traditional construction trade skills.
The helmets to hard hats program, which works with members who try to seek employment after having left the military, is recognition of that. The Conservatives take a great deal of credit for it, but they have put only $150,000 into the program. The program is really run by Canadian building trades and a number of corporate sponsors. That being said, it is a program that recognizes some of the challenges members of the Canadian Forces face upon release. It would be nice if the government would play a more significant role.
That being said, if the Conservatives were attuned to the challenges of departing members, one would think they would understand that coming out of the military with a criminal record because of an offence that in our own court system would not be recognized as a criminal act becomes a burden in itself. That is yet another challenge that has to be overcome by an individual. It is truly unfortunate and unnecessary.
My colleague from Ajax—Pickering said that the testimony given by a couple of witnesses was somewhat extreme. Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau is a respected Canadian with a very distinguished military career. I will read into the record his quote from the testimony presented:
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 military barracks.
We cannot dismiss testimony from individuals whose opinions we greatly respect. We should take that into consideration. Certainly the testimony of both Retired Colonel Drapeau and M. Létourneau was very compelling and should be reflected going forward.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House to defend and support economic action plan 2013. I want to begin by congratulating my colleague from Ajax—Pickering, who did an outstanding job in his speech in talking about so many issues that are relevant in this budget today.
Economic action plan 2013 is about jobs, growth, long-term prosperity and Canada's bright future. Over the past several years, we have all witnessed the global economy destabilized and former leading nations crippled by global market forces, excess spending and debt. The citizens of these countries have suffered the most, with job losses, fluctuating currencies and a future of uncertainty. However, Canada could not be more contrastive, and budget 2013 is, quite simply, further evidence of why Canada continues to be an oasis for financial stability.
The praise for budget 2013 and Canada's economy is significant. Moody's rated Canada with a solid AAA rating. In the G7, Canada is the only nation with this top credit rating, and following the release of our fiscal plan, we will eliminate the national deficit in an expedient two years. This is complemented by a consistently high ranking by the OECD. Its economic survey of Canada reports that the economy is continuing to grow despite the persistence of international turbulence, federal fiscal plans are seen by markets as credible, the banking system is sound and Canada enjoys strong institutions and policy credibility.
To that final note, the decisions made in budget 2013 are additional evidence of the sound policy-making decisions and our economic stability. From global to local, the praise for our financial institutions and economic leadership is consistent. Canadian Building Trades said it is are “extremely happy” with the Canada job grant and said further, “This is an opportunity to really affect the [trades] industry in a positive way”.
The Canadian Welding Association also said, “We are pleased to see that the Harper government is taking action to support skilled trades in Canada.”
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-15, which would amend the National Defence Act to strengthen military justice. This is following a couple of studies and papers put forward, one in 2003 and one in 2009. The 2009 report was of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Among other things, the bill would provide greater flexibility in the sentencing process. It would provide for additional sentencing options. It would include absolute discharges for minor offences, intermittent sentences and restitution. It would modify the composition of a court martial panel in accordance with the rank of the accused person. It would modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and would allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods. It would clarify the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and would make amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff's powers as the final authority in the grievance process.
As we heard earlier today, the New Democrats are supportive of this legislation because it would be a step forward. Unfortunately, and perhaps anticipating a question from the parliamentary secretary from Ajax—Pickering, why take one step when we could take two, three, four or more steps? It has been a pattern with the current government in legislation that comes forward. The member for Ajax—Pickering is a very intelligent and well-spoken man, and I am sure he understands more steps could be taken but is unwilling to take them. Perhaps in the question period we will have an opportunity to hear from the member about why he will not take that extra step.
For the most part, Bill C-15 would be a step in the right direction. However, as we have heard from other speakers, it could go further. Let me speak to a couple of amendments that are coming forward at report stage from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
There are two amendments, and although they are not perfect, they could be amendments that need to be discussed. Canadians expect us to be in this place, to work in committees and to make legislation the best it can possibly be. That means putting forward amendments. Sometimes the amendments are not perfect, but if an amendment is not perfect as put forward, it should be the responsibility of the committee, and in particular of the parliamentary secretary on that committee, to ensure that there could be a counter-amendment, or other amendments or things that could make the legislation better in almost every instance as it comes before the committee. Canadians expect us to do that. Therefore, I hope these amendments from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, which I will briefly outline, will be considered in the light in which they were given, which is to improve the legislation.
The member put forward two amendments at report stage regarding proposed subsections 18.5(3) and 18.5(5) of the National Defence Act. Clause 4, which would add section 18.5 to the National Defence Act, would give the Chief of the Defence Staff authority to direct military police investigations. The Green Party's amendments would amend that section of the act, which the NDP targeted as problematic and attempted to amend without success during committee.
The second amendment put forward by the member is a measure that would increase the transparency of this problematic authority that would be given to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff by Bill C-15. While this amendment would be an improvement, we strongly believe that granting the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff this authority could be a violation of maintaining the independence of the Military Police Complaints Commission, so we will be looking at that.
When these amendments are put forward, we and all Canadians expect both opposition and government members of the committee to look at them, take them in the spirit in which they were brought forward and deal with them in an appropriate manner to make the legislation better.
What we as the opposition are hoping for, and what I hope the government members are also interested in with this bill, is to come up with a fairer military justice system. That is the bottom line on Bill C-15. It could be fairer than the final product is likely going to be, and it would be nice to have gone that extra step forward.
There are many important reforms in the bill, and the NDP supports this long overdue update to the military justice system. Members of the Canadian armed forces are held to a very high standard. In turn, they deserve a judicial system that is also of a very high standard. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to understand that this is a step forward, although there could be another step and another step.
Let us briefly talk about, in the time I have left, five items that either need to be looked at or that are included in the bill.
The first thing, and maybe one of the most important, is conducting an independent wall-to-wall review of the military justice system and providing a legislative response to the LeSage report within the year. One of the things that has not happened is a wall-to-wall review. Recently, a recently retired judge of the Federal Court of Appeal and Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, Gilles Létourneau, outlined the need for such a review. Therefore, there are still things that will need to be done moving forward.
A reform of the summary trial system is another thing. Currently, a conviction of a service offence from a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record without the proper procedural fairness for the Canadian Forces member. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals or transcripts of the trial and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. These are things that will be looked at as we move forward.
Another item is expanding the service offences exempted from receiving criminal records. There are a number of minor service offences that result in criminal records right now and I believe this will be expanded by about 95%. That is certainly a good thing. I do not think that the military term is “goldbricking", but I know there is an official term and perhaps the parliamentary secretary will help me out with that in the questions. However, offences such as that should not lead to criminal records as often happens outside of the military duties of the Canadian Forces members. Certainly, outside of the Canadian Forces, it would not be an issue.
In my remaining time, let me talk about strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. I know, again, that the parliamentary secretary will have a comment on this. While a lot of Bill C-15 is a step forward, it does not move forward enough. Elements of clause 4 regarding the complaints commission are a clear step backward within the military justice system.
I have been listening to the debate over the course of today and the parliamentary secretary was commenting to some of the other speakers about this particular issue. The reason I am bringing it up at the end is that we might have an opportunity to speak to it further. He will probably be concerned about why we did not say or do anything about it earlier in the process of the bill. We moved amendments earlier in committee on Bill C-15 to remove the power to interfere with military investigations. This was after listening to the testimony of a number of witnesses. We opposed that power then and we still oppose it. However, we do support the bill on the whole because it is a step forward.
This is a dilemma that we have had since 2006 with the government putting forward legislation that may have something in it that would not allow us to vote for it in all good conscience. The government may also put something into a bill where it could have gone further and taken the steps necessary to make it good legislation, perhaps legislation that would not be challenged in court at a later date.
I want to emphasize that we do support Bill C-15, but it certainly could have been better.
The electoral district of Ajax--Pickering (Ontario) has a population of 117,183 with 86,159 registered voters and 201 polling divisions.
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