Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I think you would find unanimous consent to defer the votes already deferred to Monday at the expiry of the time provided for government orders to Tuesday following Question Period.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
March 29, 2004--the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Hon. Lucienne Robillard (for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)
That Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts,be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Hon. Sue Barnes (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Bill C-29 proposes a range of reforms to the provisions of the criminal law to govern persons found unfit to stand trial and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
Before highlighting the key features of the bill, I would like to provide members of the House some background, or history, of these provisions.
It is a longstanding principle of our criminal law that persons who suffer from mental disorder and do not understand the nature and quality of their acts or know that they are wrong should not be held criminally responsible. In 1991 Parliament made significant reforms to modernize the law that governed persons found not guilty by reason of insanity. The 1991 reforms reflected the need to balance the rights of the mentally ill and also to balance this with the protection of public safety.
The reforms included in Bill C-29 share the same goals as the 1991 reforms, to further modernize the law and to effectively balance the rights of the mentally ill who come into conflict with the law with the public's right to safety.
It is also worth noting that the 1991 amendments called for a parliamentary review of the legislation five years after proclamation. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights conducted a comprehensive review of the legislation in the spring 2002. The committee received submissions and heard testimony from over 30 stakeholders, including members of the Bar, crown attorneys, psychiatric hospital administrators, review board chairpersons, service providers and mental health advocates.
It is fair to say that, in general, witnesses appearing before the committee agreed that the legislation was working very well. However, they noted that further refinements would ensure that the law continued to work very well to govern persons found unfit to stand trial and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
In June 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tabled its report and made recommendations calling for both legislative reform and other initiatives. Its report explains why reforms are needed and in some cases proposes a specific amendment.
The standing committee report included 19 recommendations. The key recommendations for Criminal Code reform called for, and this is in no particular order: the repeal of parts of the 1991 regime that were never proclaimed into forced, including the capping provisions that would have set the maximum time limit on the supervision or detention of the accused; streamlining the transfer of accused persons between provinces and territories; new provisions to deal with persons who are permanently unfit to stand trial; and enhanced protections for the victims of crime who attend review board hearings, for example, publication bans on their identity in appropriate circumstances and the opportunity to prepare a victim impact statement.
The committee also made recommendations calling for more indepth research and consultation on emerging issues, such as the appropriate standard to determine fitness to stand trial and whether professionals, other than psychiatrists, should conduct assessments.
The need to consult with provincial and territorial ministers of health was also recommended to review the resources available to meet the needs of the mentally disordered accused, and the availability of facilities for youth. This is very serious.
The standing committee should be commended for its thorough review of the mental disorder provisions. Bill C-29 reflects the advice and guidance provided by the committee and all of those who appeared before the committee.
Bill C-29 includes reforms that respond to the issues raised by the committee. In some cases the amendment is not exactly as the committee proposed. I am sure the committee will agree, following its consideration of Bill C-29, that its key recommendations have been addressed.
Bill C-29 also includes reforms that the committee did not specifically recommend, but that complement the committee's recommendations and also reflect issues raised in the case law, and also through very important consultations conducted by the Department of Justice with key stakeholders over the past 10 years.
The key features of Bill C-29 provide new powers for review boards that have been established in each province and territory to make key decisions governing mentally disordered and unfit accused. For example, review boards would be able to order an assessment of the mental condition of the accused to assist them in making the appropriate disposition. Victim impact statements could be read aloud by victims at review board hearings. The bill would be streamline transfer provisions to permit the safe and efficient transfer of a person found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit from one province or territory to another. Courts would have new authority to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings should be ordered for a permanently unfit accused who did not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.
More options are in the bill for police to enforce disposition and assessment orders that take into account the need for the accused person's treatment to continue. The provisions of the 1991 law that were never proclaimed will be repealed; capping and the related dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions and the hospital orders provision. Also, there are a range of clarifying and procedural amendments to ensure the effective application of the goals of the law.
This bill is not a whole scale reform of the law. Rather, the bill is the next step in ensuring that our laws are effective, efficient and fair in governing mentally disordered accused.
This is a very complex area of the law. However, make no mistake, these reforms are necessary. The provisions of the code have remained the same since 1991, but the case law has evolved, as has the application of the code. The Supreme Court of Canada has stated in several recent cases, including Winko and Tulikorpi, that the code regime has two goals: protection of the rights of the mentally disordered accused and protection of public safety. Punishment is not one of the goals. As I indicated earlier, our law does not hold the mentally disordered accused criminally responsible.
I look forward to the prompt consideration of this bill by a committee of the House. It is my hope that the committee will support these amendments and see their hard work reflected in the bill. Very good work has been done by the committee before. The ultimate goal is the speedy passage of any of these bills by the House. I hope all members will support the amendments.
I thank the House for the opportunity to start the discussion. I know we will have important discussion on the bill. While this gets ready to go to committee, we can have more indepth discussion at committee. I thank all the members of the House for their consideration.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my comments to this very important bill. The stated purpose of the bill is to modernize the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code to make it both fairer and efficient while preserving the overall framework of these provisions.
In June 2002 the standing committee tabled its report, calling for legislative reforms and looking at Department of Justice consultations on the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code. The extensive committee review that was conducted was as a result of the statutory requirement under Bill C-30, which had been introduced in 1991, after many years of consultation.
The report that was put forward in 2002 was approved by all parties. In fact the results of this review is an important example of how committees, when they are focused on the issue rather than politics, can work in a cooperative fashion. This report is a demonstration of that.
Bill C-30 had a significant reform provision relating to persons not considered criminally responsible. That bill replaced references to terms such as “natural imbecility” or “disease of the mind” with the term “mental disorder”. It extended its application to cover summary convictions for less serious offences as well. Instead of being found not guilty by reason of insanity, an accused could now be held not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
Such a finding no longer resulted in an automatic period in custody. That automatic period of custody was found to be unconstitutional in the Swain decision in 1991. Instead the court could choose an appropriate disposition or indeed defer the decision to a review board.
Furthermore, under that provision, the courts and the review boards were obliged to impose the least restrictive disposition necessary having regard to the goal of public safety, the mental condition of the accused and the goal of his or her reintegration into society.
Bill C-30 came into force in February 1992. The proclamation was delayed for three major initiatives. First was the capping provision that was referred to earlier. Second was the dangerously mental disordered accused provisions that would allow the courts to extend the cap to a life term. The third was the hospital orders provisions for convicted offenders who at the time of sentencing were in need of treatment for a mental disorder.
This bill takes into account the recommendations of the justice committee of June 2002. Bill C-29 addresses six key areas. These are all issues that were thoroughly considered by the committee. I understand that these are not necessarily exactly the way the committee has recommended them and that is why the committee will no doubt examine very carefully what has been put into the bill.
However, indeed the amendments address six key areas: first, the expansion of the review board powers; second, permitting the court to order a stay of proceedings for permanently unfit accused; third, allowing victim impact statements to be read; fourth, the repeal of unproclaimed provisions; fifth, streamlining of transfer provisions between provinces; and sixth, the expansion of police powers to enforce dispositions and assessment orders.
A couple of concerns have been raised with respect to some of these key areas, for example, the allowing of victim impact statements to be read.
In the case of a criminal trial where a person has been found guilty the concerns of the victim of course are very relevant. They are necessary in the sentencing provision to determine whether the impact on the victim should also be reflected in the sentencing.
Here we are dealing with a substantively different situation because we are not looking at the guilty mind of an accused. We are dealing with a mentally disordered person. We therefore have to be careful how we use these victim impact statements in this context. I think it is important for victims to have a voice but we have to remember that this does not form exactly the same role that it does in a criminal trial where a criminal may not express any regret after having been convicted and it is important for the victim to have his or her say in that context.
The streamlining of the transfer provisions between provinces is another issue. It is important that there be the appropriate consent of the jurisdiction to which the individual is being transferred. I understand the bill attempts to ensure that there is the appropriate consent in that context.
The repeal of the unproclaimed capping provisions and the like are important. Why were concerns raised over these sentencing provisions? They were raised because it seemed that where a person was found mentally disordered, the period of incarceration could be a lot longer than a comparable sentence in the criminal courts. Somehow there was a suggestion that maybe it would be unfair to have a mentally disordered person subject to a longer period of custody than someone who had been in fact convicted of a criminal offence.
Here again is the difference in the intent. With the criminal conviction, obviously punishment is a key goal of the criminal justice system, as well as rehabilitation. When we talk in the mentally disordered context, we are not talking punishment. We are not talking about rehabilitation in the same way where there is a cognitive element in terms of rehabilitating an accused. In the mentally disordered context we are trying to deal with the health of the individual. Therefore if it takes longer to help the person, so be it. The capping provision is simply not appropriate.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Winko decision that a potentially indefinite period of supervision of a mentally disordered person was not unconstitutional since it was not for the purposes of punishment. However there is the review process that provides a mentally disordered person with some safeguards.
On the issue of the stay of proceedings for the permanently unfit accused, there is some concern related to how the safety of the public can be guaranteed. I look forward to that particular discussion at the committee, because even if the person is not personally responsible for his or her actions because of the mental disorder, there is still an onus on society to ensure that the individual does not cause further damage to his or her fellow citizens.
As I indicated, the objectives of the bill are generally consistent with the recommendations of the June 2002 committee report, a report which members of both the former Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Parties approved. I look forward to having the discussion in committee.
Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise on behalf of my party to speak to Bill C-29. I will say right away that the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-29.
Often people who listen to us, even the Conservatives, believe that the Bloc Quebecois, being in the opposition, is always opposed to everything coming from the Liberal Party or the government. Today we are proving it is not so.
The House resumed consideration of Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and of motions Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in Group No. 2.
Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties and there is an agreement. If you were to seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion I move:
That Motions Nos 3, 4 and 5 of Bill C-23 be deemed agreed to on division, and that the motion for concurrence at report stage be deemed put and a recorded division deemed deferred until Tuesday, May 4, 2004, at the expiry of Question Period.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Mr. Speaker, I thank the whip for having corrected this small error on our part.
I was saying that people might be surprised to see the Bloc Quebecois supporting a government bill. When it is a good piece of legislation that needs no changes because it is done properly, we can support it.
The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-29, however we must ensure that the proposed amendments will effectively protect the rights of people suffering from mental illness, while protecting society.
To do this, we must understand why the federal government did not adopt all the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
At this point, I want to make a comment and propose that the government, through its committee on the democratic deficit, consider what happens to unanimous committee reports. We are talking about addressing the democratic deficit and increasing the role and responsibilities of members in the House; all too often, unanimous reports are written and voted on after the committee has heard from numerous witnesses and often after the members have travelled across Canada to consult lobbyists and the public.
This afternoon, we were discussing the budget for the committee dealing with prebudget consultations. After spending $100,000, $200,000 or $500,000, after working on a report for one, two or six months, when all the parties recognize that the recommendations are supported unanimously, why is the government all too often taking this committee report and shelving it? In this case, I think that the recommendations are almost totally supported.
However, I am talking in general terms, but, in the committee study on the democratic deficit, I think that we should focus on the use that we are making or not making of unanimous reports of the House. I believe this is like when there is a vote on a motion where two-thirds of members in the House are in favour—such as the motion on the Armenian genocide—and the government says: “We will not change our position on this situation or issue”. The democratic deficit is there and can be corrected. I will now return to Bill C-29 to give a little background.
On March 29, the Minister of Justice introduced BillC-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts in the House of Commons. The purpose of this bill is to modernize the Criminal Code provisions respecting persons not criminally responsible or found unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder. This bill is in response to the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which examined the Criminal Code provisions relating to mental disorder in a report tabled in the House of Commons on June 10, 2002.
At the time, the Bloc did not produce a dissenting report. In conclusion, I want to recognize the enormous work done by the member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier on the issues examined by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and, among others, on Bill C-29.
seconded by the member for Elk Island, moved that Bill C-450, an act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act in order to protect the legal definition of "marriage" by invoking section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker,I would like to thank my colleague from Elk Island for seconding the bill. Despite any political differences he or the leader of his party may have, he certainly is very respectful of democracy in seconding my bill and allowing it to come forward for second reading debate in the House.
The definition of marriage in the dictionary is “the legal union of a man and a woman”. To propose changing that definition we are actually trying to change the English language and what marriage actually is. I have always defended the legal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which is why I tabled Bill C-450 in Parliament: to protect the legal definition of marriage from being changed by taxpayer funded court challenges and special interest groups.
The method by which the bill would seek to do that is to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution, in other words, allowing Parliament to exercise its supreme authority over activists, courts and judges and taxpayer funded lobby groups which we do not see enough of.
I would also like to note for the record that I have voted in Parliament to preserve the current legal definition of marriage on two occasions. I am opposed to efforts that would force religious organizations to perform same sex marriage ceremonies if that is against their wishes.
I would like to highlight what the political parties' positions are on changing the legal definition of marriage and what their leaders have had to say. I will quote directly from a policy document of the New Democratic Party at page 31. This was moved by the NDP's lesbian, gay and bi-sexual committee and ratified by NDP convention delegates and MPs. It states:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NDP fully supports same-sex marriage--
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that an NDP federal government would, within its first mandate, introduce legislation, without a free vote, to make same-sex marriage legal; and--
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that should the issue come before the House, members of the NDP caucus shall vote in favour of same-sex marriage--
Just before I move on to the other leaders, I would like to note that the portion of the NDP policy document that states “without a free vote” is italicized and underlined. That is a highly contradictory policy because how can it be a democratic party if its policy is to not allow free votes?
With respect to the Conservative Party, their leader said that he could support codifying civil unions in law for same sex couples. He was quoted as saying on August 13, 2003 “I think that would be a reasonable compromise”. On March 23, 2004, he said that he would accept the concept of same sex civil unions under provincial laws.
With respect to the Liberal Party, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on August 13, 2003, said “We want to legalize the union of homosexuals”.
The current Prime Minister on March 13, 2004, said “In all likelihood I will probably support same sex marriage”. On January 29 of this year the current Prime Minister promised that he would follow through on his predecessor's bill to legalize gay marriage.
Despite what misleading media reports want us to believe, recent polls show that a clear majority of Canadians, 67%, want the legal definition of marriage preserved. Unfortunately, none of the political parties are prepared to stand up and defend traditional family values or prevent the courts from taking the next step and ordering religious organizations to perform same sex ceremonies.
It is therefore up to Canadians to send Ottawa a message. In the upcoming election, I urge the constituents of Saskatoon—Humboldt to analyze this very closely and carefully in terms of my strong defence of the legal definition of marriage to make sure their voices are heard.
More than a year ago, as members are well aware, the rules of the House of Commons changed and since that time all private member's bills before the House are automatically deemed votable.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Canada Marriage Act