May 3, 2004

LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on the occasion of the third reading of Bill C-28.

Canada has the distinction of having established the first national park system in the world. Over the decades, this system has grown to 41 national parks and reserves, preserving for future generations almost 265,000 square kilometres of lands and waters, and there are plans to add an additional 100,000 square kilometres through the creation of eight more national parks. This legacy is possible because aboriginal people have worked with us to create many of these new national parks.

The creation and management of national parks is a delicate balance between preserving ecologically significant areas of importance to wildlife and meeting economic and social needs of communities, including those of aboriginal people. Parks Canada has increasingly worked in partnership with aboriginal people and communities to achieve these mutually supportive goals.

Bill C-28 is an important part of that effort, a bill which strives to provide for the aboriginal people of Esowista while working to maintain the ecological integrity of a national park whose focus is the preservation of the northern temperate rainforest, one of the earth's truly magnificent ecosystems.

The Government of Canada is committed to working with aboriginal people and other Canadians and stakeholders to protect other examples of our precious natural heritage through the creation of new national parks and national marine conservation areas.

In October 2002, the government announced an action plan to substantially complete Canada's system of national parks by creating 10 new parks over the next five years. This will expand the system by almost 50%, with the total area spanning nearly the size of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Five new national marine conservation areas will also be created.

Canada is blessed with exceptional natural treasures. We owe it to Canadians and to the world to protect these lands and waters.

This action plan calls on Parks Canada to work with all of our partners, the provinces and territories, aboriginal and rural communities, industry, and environmental groups and others, to complete this effort.

In March 2003, a little more than a year ago, the government allocated $144 million over five years and $29 million annually thereafter toward this effort.

This action plan has already produced two new national parks. The new Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada protects 33 square kilometres of ecologically rare land in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

At over 20,000 square kilometres, Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada protects virtually an entire watershed close to the Arctic circle in Nunavut. This park is the product of an agreement between the Government of Canada and the Inuit of Nunavut, forged over several decades of hard work, all focused on protecting land, water, caribou and polar bear for present and future generations.

Specific sites for more national parks have been selected in other natural regions across Canada: the southern Okanagan; lower Similkameen in interior British Columbia; Labrador's Torngat Mountains and Mealy Mountains; Manitoba's lowland boreal forests; Bathurst Island in Nunavut; and the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Sites for the two remaining national parks are being identified by Parks Canada.

The government is also working with partners to establish five new national marine conservation areas, adding an estimated 15,000 square kilometres to the system. This will be a major step forward for global conservation of marine habitat. Canada has the world's longest coastline and 7% of its fresh water.

These national marine conservation areas will be located in ecologically unrepresented marine regions. Four sites have been identified, including Gwaii Haanas off British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, western Lake Superior, British Columbia's southern Strait of Georgia and the waters off Îles de la Madeleine. A site for the remaining national marine conservation area has yet to be finalized.

In addition, the government will accelerate its actions over the next five years to improve the ecological integrity of Canada's 41 existing national parks. This will implement the action plan arising from the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks, whose report was endorsed by the government in April 2000, four years ago. Parks Canada, in order to achieve its mandate to protect ecological integrity, will have to work closely with aboriginal people and communities to ensure that we work toward common conservation goals.

Nowhere will this be more important than in the area of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Esowista Indian reserve. Bill C-28 reflects our common goals of protecting the park while meeting the economic and social needs of the reserve's aboriginal people.

Bill C-28 reconciles the aspirations of Canadians for this national park and the aspirations of aboriginal people for their reserve. In the broader context, the government's action plan is the most ambitious action plan to expand and protect national parks and national marine conservation areas in over 100 years, since Banff National Park, Canada's first, was established way back in 1885.

It is a plan that requires the support of aboriginal people to achieve and I look forward to that day.

I urge the members of the House of Commons to give speedy passage to Bill C-28.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
LIB

Christian Jobin

Liberal

Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to share some thoughts with you on Bill C-28, the purpose of which is essentially, as other colleagues have pointed out, to transfer lands from two national parks to two adjacent Indian reserves.

Most Canadians are aware that Parks Canada is the agency to which the federal government has entrusted the mandate of protecting and showcasing examples representative of our unique natural and cultural heritage.

To that end, Parks Canada has created three major components. Two of these, National Parks of Canada and National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada, deal with representative examples of our natural heritage, land and marine respectively. The other, National Historic Sites and Historic Canals, is responsible for Canada's program of historical commemoration, which recognizes nationally significant places, persons and events.

That is not all. Parks Canada also directs or coordinates other programs aimed at preserving other aspects of Canada's heritage, including federal heritage buildings, heritage railway stations, heritage rivers, the gravesites of Canadian Prime Ministers, and archeology.

Activities associated with the management and operation of Parks Canada focus on maintaining the ecological integrity of our national parks, the commemorative integrity of our national historic sitesand the viable use of our national marine conservation areas.

This is consistent with the federal government's commitment to put the principles of sustainable development into action.

In its most recent action plan tabled in this House, Parks Canada also stated the major directions it would take over the next five years.

One of the fundamental elements is the commitment to get Canadians more involved in all facets of Parks Canada. This is a matter of shifting from a culture of consultation to a culture of involvement.

We also need to recognize the important economic contribution made by heritage areas. Almost one-quarter of Canadians visited a national park last year and 2.5 million visited a national historic site, contributing more than $1.2 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product.

Heritage places are often the main economic driver in many rural and isolated communities in particular. Every dollar the Government of Canada invests in Parks Canada generates economic spinoffs of $3.50. This certainly has a significant multiplier effect.

This is why Parks Canada, with the support of the Canadian tourism industry, is now putting the emphasis on the notion of sustainable tourism. This is perfectly compatible with the desire to provide visitors with the best possible experiences and with the agency's public education mandate. However, to achieve this goal, the agency must first be able to welcome these visitors.

The reality is that the heritage assets for which Parks Canada is responsible are deteriorating. The Auditor General pointed this out in her previous report. Close to two thirds of our national historic sites are in a state that ranges from poor to marginal. In light of these figures, the Auditor General reminded us that once a heritage asset is lost, it is lost forever.

The places that have marked Canada's history can take various forms. It can be a building, a battlefield, a shipwreck, a park, a sacred aboriginal site, a bridge, a house, a burial site, a railway station, a whole urban neighbourhood, ruins, a school, a channel, a court of justice, a theatre or even a market.

During the last generation, one fifth of these historic sites have disappeared. This is why the Government of Canada has launched a broad consultation process on how to best preserve and commemorate our country's historic sites. These consultations led to an exhaustive strategy for historic sites.

I should point out that the historic places initiative is mentioned as an excellent example of federal-provincial-territorial cooperation.

Parks Canada's business plan also reflects the agency's desire to put more emphasis on aboriginal people. Some of the places where the history of aboriginal people was written take us back up to 10,000 years.

Moreover, we must recognize that Parks Canada would be unable to establish and to manage the majority of new national parks and new national historic sites without their enthusiastic and committed help.

Parks Canada seeks to respond to this enthusiasm by working closely with aboriginals at the local, regional and national levels.

The CEO of the agency says that he is convinced that the wise counsel of elders and chiefs will make it possible to continue on the road of restoration and learning. The bill accomplishes just that.

By taking lands from national parks without affecting their ecological integrity to solve serious housing problems and to correct an ongoing irritant, the Government of Canada shows that it is firmly committed to improving the lot of aboriginals and that it wants to preserve the ecological health of the treasures that are our national parks.

I therefore invite my colleagues to join with me in passing Bill C-28.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
LIB

Anita Neville

Liberal

Ms. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the passing of Bill C-28 would rectify an error made to the detriment of the Keeseekoowenin First Nation and solve the acute housing shortage on the Esowista reserve of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

If its passing allows us to make progress on the quality of life and land claims of these first nations, it is largely thanks to Parks Canada's work, which has transformed the Canadian government's commitment to enhance its relationship with aboriginal peoples into reality.

In 2000, land from Riding Mountain National Park was removed and given to the Keeseekoowenin First Nation. At that time, the government was re-establishing that reserve. Subsequently, the government determined that a survey error had been made when five hectares were not returned with the original parcel. The government, through Bill C-28, is correcting that oversight now.

The Riding Mountain field unit consists of Riding Mountain National Park of Canada and the Riding Mountain East Gate Registration Complex national historic site of Canada. Established in 1929, Riding Mountain National Park protects approximately 3,000 square kilometres of ecosystems representative of the southern boreal plains and plateaux natural region of Canada.

Build in 1933-34, the Riding Mountain East Gate Registration Complex national historic site was designated in 1992 and is a significant example of the rustic design traditions and early auto tourism of the 1930s. The national park is a part of the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, designated under UNESCO's “Man in the Biosphere” program in 1985.

In 2002, approximately 350,000 visitors took advantage of the programs and services delivered in the national park and national historic site in this field unit.

There are six first nations reserves within 100 kilometres of the park, falling geographically within three different treaty areas. Three of these reserves are located south of the national park boundary, with one, reserve 61A, falling within the national park on the northwest shore of Clear Lake. A ministerial agreement exists with Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation for the Senior Officials Forum, whose objectives are to develop more positive, productive and mutually beneficial working relations.

The community of Wasagaming is located in Riding Mountain National Park and provides recreational, educational and cultural activity for visitors to the park. The community contains 525 cabins, 254 cottage lots and 37 commercial leases.

The Riding Mountain field unit employs 60 people year round and 170 people in the summer. It is estimated that the socio-economic benefits to the region are $50 million annually.

Employment of people of aboriginal heritage currently represents 15.7% of the field unit workforce, an increase from 7.2% in 1998 and exceeding the province of Manitoba workforce availability by 10%, the Parks Canada representation at 8.2% and the national aboriginal labour market availability at 2.5%. However--and we must work on this--the majority of these positions are entry level.

The Senior Officials Forum was established through ministerial agreement in 1998 between Parks Canada and the KOFN with the objective of achieving a mutually beneficial, positive and productive working relationship that would assist in resolving issues of common concern and common interest. A contribution agreement was approved in 1999 in support of the forum.

A concept for the establishment of a coalition of first nations with interests in Riding Mountain National Park is currently being discussed with nine first nations who are members of the West Region Tribal Council. The coalition, if successful, would provide opportunities for discussion and resolution of issues that are of mutual interest to both Parks Canada and the first nations.

In relation to Bill C-28, in 1896 land on the north shore of Clear Lake in the province of Manitoba was set aside as an Indian Reserve 61A to be used by the Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation as a fishing station. The Indian reserve was located within a Dominion Timber Reserve.

When Riding Mountain National Park was created in 1929, it included most of the Dominion Timber Reserve and Indian Reserve 61A. The Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation was relocated outside of the national park.

A specific land claim settlement agreement concluded in 1994 between Canada and the Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation re-established 61A. Most of the associated lands were removed from Riding Mountain in 2000 with the passage of the Canada National Parks Act.

Due to an error in the preparation of the legal description for the land removal, a five hectare strip of land was omitted and remained within the park. The amendments to the Canada National Parks Act would fully re-establish Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation Reserve 61A and rectify the error that occurred.

I think we are dealing with a pretty straightforward situation. The government made an error and Bill C-28 would rectify it.

In the case of the Esowista Reserve, lands are being removed to address a housing shortage on the reserve. The reserve was a seasonal reserve for fishing, which due to population growth has become a place of full time residence. Consultations were conducted with stakeholders, including local communities and environmental organizations, who recognized the unique nature of the situation and agreed the land must be provided to the first nations.

British Columbia agrees that the province and federal government must work together. Environmental assessments have been done and the area that will be given to first nations is the area that will be least impacted. Moreover, environmental assessments will continue to be done through the $2 million mitigation fund. In no way are parks being closed. The parks would remain open and available to all Canadians protecting the ecosystems these two parks represent.

It is time to correct the mistakes in Riding Mountain National Park and address the situation in the Esowista Reserve. I urge my colleagues to support the bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
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The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink
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An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada National Parks Act
Permalink

The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion.


NDP

Wendy Lill

New Democratic Party

Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-29. I want to begin by saying we would like to see the bill returned to committee for further study.

The bill deals with accused who are basically unfit for trial, although it took a lot of reading to figure that out. I am not a lawyer and I do not think Parliament should be writing legislation that only lawyers can decipher. My colleague, the justice critic for the NDP, has put forward a bill asking for plain language policies in the House and in the drafting of our legislation.

Just very briefly, this is one of the most complex pieces of legislation before the House, mostly because of the intricate obtuse language in which it is written. The justice committee will need some time to review the bill to ensure that the offenders described in it do not lose the rights other offenders enjoy simply because they suffer from mental illness. It is a major concern because these are often the offenders who do not have adequate access to justice. I will borrow some information from my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle who has studied this problem in detail. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination....

Imagine that the rights conferred by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were only available if they were affordable. Imagine if our rights to life, liberty and security were available only if we were sufficiently wealthy to secure them for ourselves. What if the right to have a court proceeding translated into a language that we understand were violated because the government stance is that only those who can afford to hire their own translators can enjoy these rights? What if our right to be fairly represented by counsel amounted to nothing more than our ability or inability to hire the best lawyer we could afford?

Naturally these requirements sound absurd, and so they should. Each of these situations is a violation in and of itself that no court of law should be allowed to tolerate. Luckily for Canadians the charter does not guarantee the rights and freedoms set out subject only to how much we could afford, at least not in theory. That is because the charter forms part of the Constitution, making it inviolable and uninfringeable. Truly it is the supreme law of Canada. Accordingly to this, then, none of the above mentioned absurdities could be allowed to arise or persist.

As with many things, that which is true in theory often fails to translate into truth in practice. In practice, the absurdities mentioned above represent realities for many Canadians who come into contact with the justice system. The reality is that governments at both the provincial and federal levels are currently subjecting our rights to their affordability.

This has been allowed to happen because disparities across the provinces, stemming directly from funding problems, are compromising our right to equal protection and benefit under the law. It is about time we actually practise what we codify as law. Pretty words will get chucked at the Bar and justice will too if we do not take action to restore accessible and affordable legal services across the provinces and territories.

Justice should not and cannot continue to be limited only to the rich and well off. If our legal system does not reflect that point, we run the risk of losing the validity of one of the most important pillars of a democratic society. The Constitution does not simply say that all Canadians are equal under the law. It also says that Canadians have the right to equal protection and equal benefit under the law.

Can it be said that a person who has a public defender appointed to them enjoys the same protection and benefit of the law as the defender who assembles a team of high profile lawyers? I would say not. It cannot be said that a person in British Columbia who is denied legal aid with their child custody and support claim receives the same protection and benefit of the law as the person in Manitoba, where those services are offered by legal aid. Nor can one pretend that the law offers equal protection and benefits to everyone when some people are forced to sacrifice more than others in order to have equal access to the courts. This, however, is a reality in Canada for far too many Canadians.

Therefore, this is what we believe needs to be done. First, we need to standardize legal aid coverage across the provinces. Differences between the provinces means differences between Canadians. Disparities in services mean that the likelihood of obtaining justice is dependent more on the administration of the law rather than the law itself.

If a service is offered in any of the provinces or territories, it should be available and in every other province and territory. This is not to say that legal aid has to cover every matter, but it does rightly require that a legal service provided for Canadians in one region be provided in every region, as provided for under the charter.

We believe also that we need to standardize legal aid eligibility across the provinces. To illustrate the disparities or arguably the injustices in legal aid, by way of example, assume that a Canadian earns $20,000 a year. If that Canadian lived in British Columbia or Manitoba where the financial eligibility criteria is capped at $23,000 and $27,000 respectively, they would be eligible for free legal services. If, however, the same Canadian lived in either Ontario or Quebec where the cap is $15,000 and $17,500 respectively, they would be denied these essential and otherwise unaffordable services. Therefore, access to the legal system should not be denied to Canadians based on their incomes.

We also need to revise the financial evaluation process so that it recognizes that families have priorities other than just paying to obtain justice, such as keeping their families fed and housed. Current guidelines for financial evaluation set aside a modest exemption for personal assets. After that, however, governments expect legal costs to be paid out of personal assets, such as one's bank account, car, RRSP or home.

Can it still be considered justice if a family is successful in their legal battle but has done so by losing their home, their vehicle or their retirement savings? Obviously not. That is why guidelines need to be more equitable and sensitive to an applicant's responsibility to feed, clothe and shelter their families.

For most Canadians, the barriers to obtaining justice is the sheer cost of legal services provided by lawyers. Rather than have the public engage the legal profession in an adversarial debate over how much lawyers should earn or what their services are worth, it should be recognized that the government and the legal profession are in the position to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with the goal of providing the public with valuable services.

It is time to provide tuition credits as well for law school students. One way to provide more affordable, accessible counsel would be to increase the numbers of lawyers available. To this end, the government must recognize the increasing cost of law school and should explore the possibility of providing tuition credits or refunds to law school students who enter practice after graduation.

It is also time to provide tax incentives for pro bono work. In the interests of providing a greater number of lawyers to those who cannot afford it, the government should provide lawyers with greater incentives to represent those with lower incomes on a pro bono basis. This could be achieved by something as simple as a tax incentive or rebate for those lawyers who engage clients in the type of work.

Unless I have misread the charter, I thought the rights and freedoms of Canadians went far beyond provincial jurisdiction and I did not think we had to shell out our savings simply to look after inequitable legal costs in various provinces and not in others.

In closing, the NDP supports having this bill sent to committee for further study and further improvement, and we look forward to being involved in that process.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Paul MacKlin

Liberal

Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak in support of Bill C-29, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code. It deals with the issue of mental disorder.

The current motion seeks to refer the bill to committee for review now. I am confident that all members should be able to support this motion.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice indicated on April 28, Bill C-29 is to a great extent the product of a study conducted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as it was then known. That committee recommended improvements to the criminal law governing persons found unfit to stand trial, or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

The committee review will likely focus on how Bill C-29 responds to the issues that were raised before that standing committee by the many witnesses that it heard. Bill C-29 responds to those issues and includes additional amendments to ensure an effective, efficient and fair regime. There are a few aspects of Bill C-29 that I would draw to the attention of hon. members.

First, in dealing with persons found unfit to stand trial, under the current law a person found unfit to stand trial cannot be absolutely discharged. The law governing mental disorder requires an individual assessment of an accused to ensure that both the needs of the accused for treatment and rehabilitation and the need of the public for public safety are taken into account. An unfit accused person cannot be absolutely discharged because there has been no opportunity for the Crown to establish that they have committed an offence. However, the unfit accused who does not pose a risk can be placed on a conditional disposition with minimal restrictions, if appropriate.

Many persons found unfit will become fit through treatment and once fit, will proceed to trial. Some others will not become fit for years, or perhaps they will never become fit, and cannot be tried. Our law already includes many safeguards for this group.

Bill C-29 will provide an additional safeguard to ensure that persons found unfit to stand trial who are likely to remain unfit and who do not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public can have their situation reviewed by the court. The court, and only the court, will have the authority to order a judicial stay of the proceedings for the unfit accused.

I want to assure hon. members who have voiced their concerns about public safety that the government shares their concerns about public safety. Bill C-29 has been very carefully drafted to protect public safety. A judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused will not be an option where the accused poses a threat to public safety.

The amendments include new provisions to ensure that an unfit accused who is not likely to ever become fit to stand trial, for example, a person who has an organic brain injury, and who does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public may be brought to the court's attention.

A review board will be able to make a recommendation to the court to hold an inquiry into the status of the unfit accused where, in their opinion, and based on an assessment, the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

The court may hold an inquiry, hear from all parties, particularly the Crown, and determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings should be ordered in the interests of the proper administration of justice. The court will consider several factors in deciding whether to order a stay, including whether the Crown has had an opportunity to make its prima facie case against the accused, as it is required to do every two years. This is the current requirement in our law, that the Crown does establish that sufficient evidence can be brought forward to put the accused on trial.

The proposed amendments will address the situation of the permanently unfit accused who poses no risk and will permit the court to order a stay of proceedings. However, an unfit accused who poses a risk to safety cannot--I repeat cannot--be granted such a stay. Our law must ensure that the rights of the accused and the rights of the public to safety are balanced. The proposed amendments will do so.

Bill C-29 sets out a very detailed scheme to permit a judicial stay for an unfit accused. First, the review board, after holding one or more annual review hearings for an unfit accused, must come to the opinion that the unfit accused is not likely to become fit and that the unfit accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public. The review board can order that the accused person's mental condition be assessed by a psychiatrist to assist the board in making this recommendation.

The review board then may make a recommendation to the court to hold a hearing to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings is in the interest of the proper administration of justice. Where the court agrees to hold such a hearing, the hearing will provide opportunities to all parties to make their submissions. The Crown, who represents the public interest, could make submissions on the nature of the case against the accused, public safety and the mental condition of the accused. The accused and the treating hospital or physician could also make submissions.

I would also highlight that where the court agrees to hold a hearing, the court must order yet another assessment of the mental condition of the accused. This requirement will ensure the court has the most up to date information about the accused when determining, first, that the accused is not likely to become fit to stand trial, and second, that the accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

Ultimately, the court must decide whether the judicial stay of proceedings is necessary in the interest of the proper administration of justice. Bill C-29 sets out several factors for the court to consider in this process, including the nature and the seriousness of the offence committed. This new provision will address the concern that some people could be caught up in the criminal justice system because they are mentally ill, although they pose no threat to public safety.

Our law cannot permit the potential indefinite detention of persons who have not been tried and convicted. Bill C-29 provides a carefully crafted approach to prevent this indefinite detention, but only for those who do not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

I have one final point regarding the new provision. Where the court orders a judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused, the Crown may appeal the order. However, there is no right of appeal for the accused where the court does not order a judicial stay. This is because this is a discretionary provision. It is not a process that the accused can initiate. The review board must make a recommendation to the court and the court will then consider the issue.

In conclusion, I hope that my comments have addressed any concerns hon. members may have. I have highlighted why this new provision is necessary. Bill C-29 includes many reforms, all designed to address the balance between protecting the rights of the accused persons who are mentally ill with the rights of the public to public safety. Clearly, we have struggled with this issue over time. There is no question that this has challenged us, the judiciary and our social services within this country to properly deal with issues of this nature. I know that many hon. members have struggled with this, both here in the House and also at committee, to try to find ways and means to meet the needs of those who are mentally ill and yet face the justice system.

Clearly, from the perspective of those who are caught in what is sometimes described as a revolving door problem, there has to be a way to assess their ability to recover from their illness, to go forward and to face the charges that have been brought to bear within the court system.

As far as I am concerned, the bill moves forward the process of being able to deal with those who are mentally ill and find themselves before our criminal courts. I hope that hon. members will find that, in going forward to the committee, the bill will receive proper and due consideration and will come forward to the House for passage so that we may solve this problem.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Sarmite Bulte

Liberal

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parkdale—High Park, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak in support of Bill C-29 and to encourage all members of the House to support these reforms following the proposed review by the appropriate parliamentary committee. The need for these reforms are known to the hon. members who have participated in the review by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code.

The criminal law governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder and those found unfit to stand trial is not well known and in fact, is often misunderstood. Some may think that a person who commits an offence and is found not criminally responsible gets away with the crime. Some may think that there are in fact no consequences. However the law governing persons found unfit and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder does provide for consequences. Usually those include treatment and also supervision.

The Criminal Code contains a whole section, part XX.1, dedicated to mental disorder. This part includes the law and procedure governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder and now are found unfit for trial. Part XX.1 is complex and in parts is very technical. However this part of the Criminal Code provides a regime that fairly and effectively provides for the supervision and treatment of a mentally disordered accused and for the protection of public safety.

For victims of crime, the criminal law and the criminal justice system is confusing, complex and often quite unwelcoming. Where the accused is found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, victims of crime face additional impediments to achieving a resolution of the offence. Victims of crime desire and deserve information about the justice system and about the case in which they are personally involved.

Law reforms coupled with changes in policies and expansion of services have given victims a greater role in criminal proceedings. For example, amendments to the Criminal Code back in 1988 introduced the notion of a victim impact statement as a mechanism for victims of crime to describe the harm and loss suffered because of the crime. Publication bans to protect the identity of sexual assault victims were also enacted in 1988. Subsequent amendments to the Criminal Code over the last 15 years have enhanced the role of victims of crime while respecting the rights of accused persons.

In response to the 1998 report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, “Victims' Rights--A Voice, Not a Veto”, the government enacted a package of reforms to the Criminal Code in 1999 to, among other things, ensure that victims were made aware of the opportunity to submit a victim impact statement; ensure that the safety of the victim was considered in judicial interim release decisions; fix the amount and clarify the automatic imposition of a victim surcharge; and allow judges a discretion to order a publication ban on the identity of any victim or witness where necessary for the proper administration of justice.

The 1999 amendments also provided for a victim impact statement to be prepared and submitted to the court or review board at a disposition hearing for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The court or review board is required to consider the statement in determining the appropriate disposition or conditions of a disposition “to the extent the statement is relevant to its consideration as a criteria set out in section 672.54”.

The victim impact statement is provided for in subsection 672.5(14) which states:

A victim of the offence may prepare and file with the court or review board a written statement describing the harm done to, or loss suffered by, the victim arising from the commission of the offence.

When an accused person is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the review board will decide how the accused is to be supervised. Victims of crime have been overlooked in many cases and receive little information about what will happen next, or whether they will have any role or access to any information.

The amendments included in Bill C-29 will enhance the role of victims of crime where the accused has been found not criminally responsible, but the new provisions for victims fully respect the differences between the laws that govern persons who are criminally responsible and convicted and those who are not criminally responsible.

The accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder is not held accountable for his or her conduct. The appropriate disposition must take into account several factors, including the need to protect the public, the mental condition of the accused, and the reintegration of the accused into society.

The impact of the crime on the victim may be relevant to only some of the criteria. Where the court or review board is considering a conditional discharge, the victim's statement may be relevant to the crafting of particular conditions: for example, that the accused not contact the victim or that the accused not go certain places.

It should be noted again that the administration of justice is a matter of provincial responsibility. The provision of victims services as part of the administration of justice is also a matter of provincial responsibility. The provision of victim impact statement forms, assistance in preparing the statements, and the collection and submission of the statements to the Crown or the court are generally handled by the provinces' victims services programs, whether police based, court based or community based.

The standing committee recommended that courts or review boards conducting a review notify the victim where the victim has indicated interest in receiving such notification. It should be noted that after the initial disposition a review hearing would be held at least every 12 months. Review board administration varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the capacity to advise victims as to the dates of review board hearings, locations, adjournments and outcomes will necessarily vary.

While similar provisions have been crafted to require a court conducting a disposition hearing pursuant to section 672.45, or a review board conducting a disposition hearing pursuant to section 672.47, to inquire of the Crown or the victim whether the victim has been advised of the opportunity to prepare a statement, other non-legislative initiatives are required to inform victims of crime about the provisions of the code which apply to them and about the relevant dates of proceedings, the terms of a disposition and other essential information.

In order to enhance the role of victims of crime, Bill C-29 includes the following provisions.

First, victims will be permitted to orally present their victim impact statement at the review board hearing. The statement would be prepared in advance and the victim could read it aloud or, in some cases, present it in another manner.

Second, following delivery of the verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the court or the review board chairperson must inquire whether the victim has been made aware that he or she indeed can submit a victim impact statement.

Third, the initial disposition hearing can be adjourned to permit the victim to prepare a victim impact statement if he or she so desires.

Finally, review boards will have new powers to impose a publication ban on the identity of victims and witnesses where such production is necessary for the proper administration of justice.

To the greatest extent possible, Bill C-29 includes provisions for victims which parallel Criminal Code provisions that apply where the accused is convicted and sentenced. The government places a high priority on addressing the concerns of victims of crime. The Bill C-29 amendments are a contribution of the evolution in our justice system that recognizes the role of the victims of crime.

I would also highlight the exceptional efforts of victims services agencies and both police based and court based services that are primarily provincial responsibilities. The Criminal Code cannot legislate all that is needed by victims. Provincial legislation governs services, and provinces are responsible for the administration of justice.

The standing committee, in its consideration of the mental disorder law, highlighted that victims of crime should receive notice of hearing dates, notices of disposition and information about the terms and conditions. There is no doubt that victims need all this information and even more.

Bill C-29 is a positive step for victims and that, I hope, will encourage our provincial counterparts to complement this legislation to address these information requirements.

In conclusion, I would encourage all hon. members to support Bill C-29. These amendments in fact provide greater protection for mentally disordered accused persons and, most important, a greater role for victims of crime in our society.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

John Maloney

Liberal

Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to mental disorder. This bill seeks to make a range of improvements to the law governing those found unfit to stand trial and those found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

I will be focusing my remarks on the provisions of Bill C-29 that seek to repeal provisions of the Criminal Code that in fact were never proclaimed in force.

Hon. members may be curious why it is even worth mentioning, since the repeal of unproclaimed provisions merely clarifies the status quo. It is true that the repeal of the unproclaimed provisions will not change the applicable law. However, these provisions are worth noting because the repeal reflects the government's belief that these provisions are not needed and will not be needed in the future. The repeal will bring certainty and clarity to those who may hold out hope for these old provisions, which we now agree do not reflect the goals of the regime governing mentally disordered accused.

Bill C-29 will repeal three provisions of the 1991 amending act that were never proclaimed. They are: capping, the dangerous mentally disordered accused, and the hospital order provisions.

Capping provisions were originally designed to ensure that the supervision of those found not criminally responsible would not be longer than the maximum sentence available through a criminal conviction. The maximum period or “caps” would depend on the offence committed and would range from life to two years or less.

Capping provisions were included as part of the 1992 reforms. The initial postponement in proclamation was necessary to permit a review of all persons held under a Lieutenant-Governor's warrant to determine whether they should be subject to an increased cap. The delay was also intended to allow the provinces to make necessary amendments to their mental health legislation to ensure that those discharged after a cap would be subject to such legislation where necessary. However, provincial mental health law is not designed to supervise potentially dangerous persons and amendments were not pursued.

The standing committee has called for the repeal of the capping provisions. The current regime, in the absence of capping, provides the appropriate balance between the accused's rights and the public's right to safety.

Several accused persons have appealed their dispositions, arguing that if they had been convicted they would have served a short sentence. The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly established that sentences for convicted offenders should not be compared with dispositions imposed where an accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

Accused persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder are not punished. Rather, they are assessed, treated and supervised until they can be absolutely discharged. The absolute discharge may be appropriate soon after the verdict or years later, depending on the accused's mental condition and the risk to public safety. The nature of the offence may have no bearing on a disposition for those not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. Capping should therefore be repealed once and for all.

The dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions were linked to the capping concept. They too should be and will be repealed. The DMDA provisions would have enabled the prosecutor to apply to the court after a finding of not criminally responsible, but before any disposition is made, to make a finding that the accused is a dangerous mentally disordered accused. The criteria and procedure parallel the dangerous offender provisions that apply to sane convicted offenders. The court could have then increased a 10 year cap to a maximum of life, but only for serious personal injury offences, including various sexual and violent offences. However, the provisions were very narrow in application and would have permitted an extended cap for only some offences.

The DMDA provisions and capping provisions are interdependent and are therefore being repealed together. The repeal of capping and the related DMDA provisions, coupled with the amendments to better protect the rights of criminally unfit accused, will continue to reflect the goals of our criminal law, including that of protecting the public.

The hospital order provisions would have applied to convicted offenders, not those found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. These provisions are also proposed for repeal. Hospital orders were intended to provide a mechanism for short term treatment of a convicted offender who at the time of sentencing was in an acute phase of a mental disorder and in urgent need of treatment to prevent further mental deterioration. An offender meeting this criterion would be sent to a psychiatric facility for a period of up to 60 days rather than being jailed.

The provisions are being repealed because there is a general view among stakeholders that the current system can accomplish the intended purpose of hospital orders without a statutory provision. In addition, the code provisions were too narrow in their application to address the nature and range of mental disorder present in the convicted offender population. Proclamation of the hospital order provisions would not address the larger problem.

The repeal of these provisions reflects the government's commitment to fair and effective laws that are clear and up to date. I encourage all members to support Bill C-29.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Marlene Jennings

Liberal

Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to rise in the House on the subject of the Criminal Code reforms introduced by the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Canada on March 29, 2004.

Specifically, these reforms to the Criminal Code affect people who are not criminally responsible or who have been deemed unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder.

These provisions are quite important. Anyone who has looked at the Criminal Code provisions that apply to people who are not criminally responsible or who have been deemed unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder, would see that some of those provisions are really out of date. Some of those provisions have never in fact been enacted. I also think there were some court judgments on some of those provisions that have provided clarity, and the government's amendments deal with that.

I would like to repeat a quote from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada when he tabled these amendments. He said:

We are committed to ensuring the law protects the rights of mentally disordered persons, while at the same time protecting public safety. For this purpose, I am proposing changes that will not only modernize the law but make it more fair and efficient, while preserving the overall framework that governs those found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder

These were the words of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

For those who are not familiar with criminal law or with the Criminal Code, there are provisions that state that one may be found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. When that happens it means that the accused is neither found guilty nor acquitted, and in fact is not even sentenced. Instead, a court or review board determines the appropriate disposition. It could be an absolute discharge, a discharge with conditions or an order that the individual be detained in hospital based on a series of criteria set out in the Criminal Code.

These amendments cover a broad base of issues dealing with those who have been found not criminally responsible following an actual trial or those who have been declared unfit to stand trial following evidence that has been brought before the judge at hand.

What are some of the amendments that the Minister of Justice has brought forward? On the one hand there are amendments that expand the powers of the provincial and territorial review boards. Why? They need to enhance their ability to fulfill their mandate. What is their mandate? These review boards of the provinces and territories have a legislated mandate which requires them to make decisions about detentions, the supervision or the release of someone who was found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible but who has been ordered to be detained for a period of time.

At various periods those review boards have to sit in judgment of individuals who have been ordered to be detained under these circumstances to determine whether they can be released and, if they can be released, under what conditions; whether they are a threat to society and, if they are, they evaluate the level of that risk. The amendments that the Minister of Justice has brought forward would enhance the ability of the review boards to make those decisions.

My colleague just finished speaking to another series of amendments. She made an entire speech on the issue of victim impact statements and did it very well. What she basically said, through everything she provided the House, was that it would allow for victim impact statements to be read by the victim at a review board hearing and would allow the review boards similar powers to that of the courts to protect the identity of the victims. As she herself stated, this is a major advance.

Up until now the Criminal Code provisions that allowed for victim impact statements did not deal with review boards that had to determine what to do with someone who had been found not criminally responsible but needed to be detained or someone who had been found unfit to stand trial because of his or her mental condition. Because the victims were not able to give victim impact statements in those cases, the review boards were not able to take into account the impact that the crime had on the victim. That is important.

These amendments would also permit the court to hold an inquiry and order a judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused who is not likely to ever become fit to stand trial and who poses no threat to public safety. This is important because to date the Criminal Code provisions did not allow for any mechanism. Even when we knew that the individual who was found unfit to stand trial posed no threat to public safety, there was no way for the courts to stay the proceedings or order an inquiry. Those individuals had to go through the trial. They would no longer have to do that.

Another amendment is to streamline transfer provisions. We already have provisions for individuals who have been found guilty of a crime and who have been sentenced to serve part or all of their sentence in detention, either in a provincial facility or in a federal facility, depending on whether they have been sentenced to two years less a day or to two years and more, to be transferred from one province to another or from a territory to a province or vice versa. In some cases they may wish to be transferred because there are certain educational possibilities that are available in another province's detention centres or penitentiaries that we do not have in the province where they are detained. In other cases it may be because they would be closer to friends and family.

If a person committed a crime, say in Quebec, but the person was actually from Alberta, which is where his family, his network is, if he were transferred to his own province he could receive the support of his family and friends which may contribute to his rehabilitation. Under the Criminal Code provisions as they now stand, for those who have been found not criminally responsible following a trial or for those who have been found unfit to stand trial, given their mental disorders that have been proven, the transfer provisions were quite wieldy and not very effective or efficient.

One of the amendments the Minister of Justice has made to the legislation would actually streamline those transfer provisions. It would allow a person found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder to be relocated from one province to another when it is in the best interests of rehabilitation.

I wish to underline that these reforms that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General has brought before the House are outlined in the Government of Canada's November 2002 response to the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights review of the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments also reflect current case law, as I mentioned at the beginning of my comments.

I would ask that all members of the House support these amendments. Let us get them adopted and through the House so they can actually be proclaimed and come into effect.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Christian Jobin

Liberal

Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday evening, the Genie Awards celebrated Canadian films. I would like to congratulate our Canadian filmmakers, to whom we owe our nation's film industry.

This year's Genie Awards have recognized the fantastic year French-Canadian film had in 2003: Les Invasions barbares took six Genies, including best motion picture, best original screenplay, and achievement in direction. La grande séduction , with 11 nominations, and Séraphin: un homme et son péché , winner of the Golden Reel for best box office results, were celebrated as well.

I also want to mention the success of the film, The Saddest Music in the World , which received three Genie awards.

The achievements of Canadian cinema demonstrate the great talent, energy and vitality of our motion picture industry. This was an exceptional year for Canadian motion pictures, which are reaching growing audiences across Canada.

The Government of Canada is very proud to support our film industry. With pride, I invite all Canadians to celebrate these achievements. Let us join together to send them our most sincere congratulations.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Genie Awards
Permalink
CA

Garry Breitkreuz

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, men and women who enjoy fishing are on the Liberal hit list. Decades of Liberal red tape has been killing hunting and shooting sports in Canada. Now the Liberals have picked the fishing industry as their next target.

A few weeks ago the environment minister tried to quietly announce his proposal to ban all lead sinkers and brass fishing lures. He plans to put his plan into place in October, after the election. There are about eight million men and women in Canada who enjoy fishing and the Liberal government is going after them just like it went after firearms owners.

The Liberals have driven hundreds of thousands of responsible firearms owners out of their sports and have cost the Canadian economy more than 10,000 businesses and the thousands of jobs that go with them.

Now they have a plan to do the same thing to the fishing industry by banning fishing tackle. All this is being done without sufficient scientific evidence that there is even a problem. It is about time we gave Liberals the hook.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Fishing Industry
Permalink
LIB

Shawn Murphy

Liberal

Hon. Shawn Murphy (Hillsborough, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, May 8, the University of Prince Edward Island will confer honourary degrees upon three outstanding members of Canada's Acadian community.

As members know, 2004 marks the 400th anniversary of the first Acadian settlement here in North America.

The individuals being honoured have each made exceptional contributions to the continued strength and richness of Acadian culture. They are: Mr. George Arsenault, a writer, broadcaster, historian and folklorist from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; noted author, Dr. Antonine Maillet, former chancellor of the University of New Brunswick, who won the prestigious prize in French literature, “le Prix Goncour”, in 1979; and historian and community volunteer, Francis Blanchard, of Charlottetown.

I have no doubt that the members of this House will join me in congratulating these three outstanding citizens for this award.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   University of Prince Edward Island
Permalink
LIB

Guy St-Julien

Liberal

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, many hunters in the vast riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik are calling on the Government of Canada to make changes to the Firearms Act to allow Canadian hunters to hold lifetime certificates for the possession and acquisition of valid firearms in order to legally possess or acquire a firearm and buy ammunition.

The Government of Canada should sit down with the Government of Quebec in order to come up with a lifetime certificate that would be issued to Quebec hunters for a one-time fee, and maintain a Canadian licence for restricted firearms, in other words, handguns or prohibited firearms.

Quebec hunters obey hunting regulations and store their firearms safely as required by law.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Firearms Act
Permalink
LIB

André Harvey

Liberal

Hon. André Harvey (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Forest Week, and therefore an appropriate time for reflecting on the essential role our forests play in our daily lives.

Canada's Forests: A Fine Balance, is the slogan selected by the Canadian Forestry Association for this year's National Forest Week. This slogan is a clear reflection of the necessity of preserving this precious resource while working unceasingly to maintain a proper balance between our needs and the capacity of our forests to fulfill their ecological role.

Our forests meet our needs on the economic, esthetic and environmental levels. This week, let us think of our forests as a source of income but also as peaceful havens, and let us take a few moments to reflect, as Canadians, on the various ways we can preserve their health and their resources for the benefit of all the generations to come.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   National Forest Week
Permalink
CA

Cheryl Gallant

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the announcement by Ontario Liberals to implement the Kyoto accord comes at a high price to the environment and taxpayers.

The decision to tax the growing forest with current market assessment means rural woodlot owners are faced with the decision to either clear cut the forest or get taxed off their land.

Forcing restaurants, country churches, trailer parks and children's camps to spend tens of thousands of dollars to chlorinate fresh, safe, and tested well water violates the federal chlorinated substances action plan and the Canada-United States Great Lakes water quality agreement to sunset the use of chlorine in the Great Lakes watershed.

The Liberal plan to charge businesses and farmers for water, and the eventual metering of residential wells will be another GST tax grab just like the GST paid on electricity bills, a tax the former finance minister and now Prime Minister promised to scrap.

Only a new national Conservative government will stop this latest assault on rural Canada.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   The Environment
Permalink

May 3, 2004