Mr. Colin D. Gibson (Hamilton-Wentworth):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak briefly on this bill. I was also pleased to listen to the fine speech made by the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mr. Alexander). There are times in one's political life when one feels close to brother members of parliament. This sense of closeness transcends ideologies. The present occasion is an example of that sort of spirit which has arisen in the House because, Mr. Speaker, those who believe in the rule of law cannot oppose these amendments to the Criminal Code.
The bill covers everything that happens to an accused from the time he is arrested until he is convicted and punished. The whole bill is a compromise between humanity, in some parts, and growing severity in others. It shows more humanity in crimes such as common assault where previously a person could be convicted of an indictable offence. It will no longer be possible to treat common assault as an indictable offence. A charge of common assault usually arises when someone loses his
May 1, 1972
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1972 cool and makes a fool of himself. A man like that will be treated with compassion.
At the same time, the bill deals more severely with assault occasioning bodily harm, the maximum sentence for which is to be increased to five years. Under the code as it is at present, cases involving extreme violence were inadequately dealt with. The maximum sentence of two years was inadequate. I think a better balance has been struck in the law, lesser penalties will be meted out for lesser offences and more severe penalties for more severe offences.
I am glad that it will be possible for one to appeal a conviction for contempt of court. It was manifestly unjust, I think, that previously a judge had the power to convict a criminal or even counsel and that the law did not give either of them the right to appeal. This appeal provision is a major step forward in our law and all will recognize it as modern and humanitarian.
The question of public mischief is dealt with. I agree with the maximum sentence of five years. The offence may also be dealt with on summary conviction. That provision is good. A court can deal with people of low intelligence by way of summary conviction. On the other hand, of course, serious cases can be proceeded with by way of indictment. All in all, I think that justice will be done as it should be done.
There is in the bill a provision that concerns jurors. It overcomes previous weaknesses in the law. Previously, a judge was not empowered to dismiss a juror unless he was satisfied that it was impossible for the juror to continue serving. He might have been suffering a great deal of pain and might not have been discharged. Now it is provided that if in the opinion of the judge there is good reason for the juror not to continue serving, the juror may be discharged and his services dispensed with.
The bill is full of humanitarian reforms. In places it patches the law; in others it makes humane provision with respect to records, whether convictions will be allowed to stand, and whether a conditional discharge will be allowed. The entire subject of the bill will be dealt with in committee. I am proud to be a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs which will review these matters in detail.
I cannot refrain from speaking about the wording of section 309, printed at page 18 of the bill, dealing with possession of housebreaking instruments under suspicious circumstances. I will not go into details now, but it seems to me that under this section the court is saddled with three burdens of proof whereas one burden is usually enough. First, there is the overriding burden of proof resting on the Crown, which must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Then an onus is cast on an accused, who must deal with the matter. Then an onus seems to be cast on the Crown. I think these burdens of proof should be spelled out in more detail.
Subtopic: CRIMINAL LAW AMENDMENT ACT. 1972 AMENDMENTS TO CRIMINAL CODE, CRIMINAL RECORDS ACT, NATIONAL DEFENCE ACT, PAROLE ACT AND VISITING FORCES ACT