Susan (Sue) BARNES

BARNES, The Hon. Susan (Sue), P.C., B.A., LL.B.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
London West (Ontario)
Birth Date
September 8, 1952
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sue_Barnes
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=84abb4e5-fc2d-4ed5-8adb-c1bd7893e779&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
lawyer

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
LIB
  London West (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue (February 23, 1996 - July 15, 1998)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
LIB
  London West (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue (February 23, 1996 - July 15, 1998)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
LIB
  London West (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada with special emphasis on Judicial Transparency and Aboriginal Justice (December 12, 2003 - July 19, 2004)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
LIB
  London West (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada with special emphasis on Judicial Transparency and Aboriginal Justice (December 12, 2003 - July 19, 2004)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians (July 20, 2004 - February 5, 2006)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
LIB
  London West (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians (July 20, 2004 - February 5, 2006)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 130)


March 14, 2008

Hon. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank every party in the House for participating in this debate. It is an important discussion that our country needed.

I was very affected as were all women and the men who were supportive of women, when back in 2006 the mandate of the Status of Women changed and the word “equality” was removed. The word was not put back because the Conservative Party felt different about equality.

I have already had my opportunity in the first hour of debate to give my full speech. However, when I tabled this motion, it was because the equality provision was not there. In fact, I attended the meeting of the Standing Committee on Status of Women, on February 5 , when the minister gave her opening remarks, of which I have a copy. Again, there was no discussion and certainly no press announcement of change, no announcement of this happy news.

On that date, the face page of the website of the Status of Women had changed. My first hour of debate was February 7. On the morning of February 7, I came to Parliament and turned on the computer to check whether anything had really changed. If anyone went to the women's program that day, the program mandate read:

The mandate of the WP is to facilitate women's participation in Canadian society by addressing their economic, social and cultural situation through Canadian organizations.

It continues, but there is no mention of the word “equality”.

I was to speak a few hours later. A couple of hours before I spoke, I went to the website and the program mandate miraculously said:

The newly revised mandate of the Women's Program is to advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.

There we have it. There was a change, but real change has to be followed through with real guidelines, real programs, real financing and advocacy for equality is an important part.

The government has put the word back in now, thankfully. I do not think it would have happened without this motion. I do not think it would have happened without the voices from women of every party and women's organizations on the ground fighting for this.

However, to make it real, to make it worthwhile, to make it something that actually changes the status quo, advocacy and research for equality is important. I hope the government does not demean this. It is important enough when there is lobbying from the military establishment. It gets dollars for that. It cannot say that is not important, and I do not disagree with that. However, I also think advocacy for equality is vital if we are to do more than just help people manage with the status quo.

If we want real change in our country, the women in these halls, in this chamber and out there on the ground, who work in not for profit organizations, need to know that a government will stand behind them, that it really wants equality of women to be the goal. The women's program is certainly not the only thing, but it is one thing that can help. If the government has put the word “equality” back in, it should follow through with the advocacy so women can have a better life in Canada.

I thank all who have spoken on this. I appreciate their work and support. However, it is not for me; it is support for the women of our country.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Status of Women
Full View Permalink

March 14, 2008

Hon. Sue Barnes

Mr. Speaker, for many years I sat with this colleague on the justice committee and found that he worked quite diligently on the aspects of criminal law and the bills. We worked well together in that committee.

He is also correct in that I did practise law for 15 years. I did some teaching of law, both at the bar class and at the university part-time continuing education level. Some of us with that training do understand an important decision like Askov.

The Askov decision impacted the criminal courts. In my province of Ontario, some people who were charged were let go without the continuation of those charges. Why? Because of delay. To have fairness in a justice system, we must have timely hearings, which means that we cannot keep putting off court dates. Witnesses disappear. They forget. We must have that court system functioning in a timely fashion so that the court functions at its optimal level.

In those cases, Askov had a great impact. It put a real chill on the system. It took us back. People who did not have their trials completed were let go because the system was not providing the systemic fairness that comes with timely work. That is very important. That criminal law case now applies everywhere in the criminal justice system. There is no case saying that in family law or civil litigation, but the principles are there, which is that both sides get procedural fairness. Timeliness is one very important aspect.

I have another comment. When I was in the justice committee, we always had our meetings. In fact, we had many meetings. I can remember that back in 1995 we were meeting all the time with pieces of legislation, sometimes until late into the night. But I believe there are two or three justice committee meetings now where the chair has refused to do his duty as the procedural chair of the committee and sit and take the votes. He has left the committee, leaving I think two vice-chairs, but this changes the numbers for voting systems. We in this House know that a procedural manual has been given to members of the government, which tells committee chairs how to operate, how to delay and how to get favourable witnesses.

I have chaired the finance committee, for example, three times in former parliaments. I made sure that the system was fair to all. I made sure that everyone could bring forth the witnesses they wanted to and that both sides of the argument were there. In fact, the chair's job was not to do a partisan job but to ensure that the procedural rules were followed.

I think most of us in the House can do that and I am surprised at what is happening in the justice committee. This is a committee that needs to work. This is a committee that has a high volume of legislation. I know that members sitting opposite were with me when we did hard work in that committee. We may disagree on our points of view and the way we want something to come out of the committee, but I also know that there has been a very strong history of everybody working hard in the committee. I think it is a shame that it is not continuing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Judges Act
Full View Permalink

March 14, 2008

Hon. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-31. It has now been through the justice committee and has returned to the House unamended.

It is a very short bill, but its amends a number change in the Judges Act, paragraph 24(3)(b), and thus creates the authority to authorize the appointment of 20 new judges for the provincial and territorial superior trial courts.

We know these judges are needed to deal with the increasing backlogs in the superior court system. In particular, superior courts in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Nunavut continue to experience delays and backlogs.

In a former parliamentary life, when the Liberal government was in power, I was a parliamentary secretary to the then minister of justice. I travelled through Nunavut and experienced the fact that unlike the rest of Canada, where we can travel by vehicle from one city to another, there were 26 different fly-in communities. It takes time and there are delays to which we must attend.

I remember at that time we also were starting to introduce our crime prevention programs. That is the other end of the justice system, from the trial and judgment to the prevention of crime. There needs to be a full emphasis on this aspect. It helps reduce criminal activity when people are actively engaged in different crime prevention activities. I wanted to make that point at this time.

Even in the other provinces, those that I did not mention, we are aware that there is a strain with simply population growth, especially stresses that could happen with the family court systems. In a family court system we cannot afford time delays. Children grow up and those issues have to be resolved sooner rather than later.

We also have the issues of mega-trials in the criminal law area. We know a lot of the criminal law is taken care of at the provincial court level, but there are those mega-trials and people can opt to go into the higher court level. The mega-trials are very complex and lengthy and consume a lot of justice system resources.

I know this is important to all Canadians. The introduction and background to Bill C-31 talks about the fact that we now have a specific claims tribunal, which will have the authority to make binding decisions where specific claims brought forward by first nations are rejected for negotiation or where negotiations fail. It is estimated by the government that this tribunal will require the equivalent of six full time judges to manage the caseloads of these types of claims.

The chief justices, I am sure, will have consultations with the minister or his designates to talk about the allocation of these judges. I know that B.C. and Ontario will need these resources, as well as some of the other jurisdictions, because specific claims should be settled.

It is important to have access to justice for all Canadians. It is true that justice delayed can be justice denied. In criminal law, the Askov case reminded us, very bluntly, of the importance of reasonable time limits and reasonable access to the court system. We do not want to have cases thrown out of court just because the delays have been too lengthy.

Apart from the judges needed for the tribunal work, these judges will work in the area of civil law, civil litigation, family law and criminal fields of law. They are expected to perform all their work for us with the independence and impartiality that I think Canadians expect from their justice system.

Judges apply the law to the facts at each case. They do so without imposing any of their own personal bias. Increasingly, as I have said, cases are complex and trials can become very lengthy. Delay is not wanted by Canadians. Canadians want to have justice delivered in their own language, be it English or French. This reflects the linguistic duality of our country.

It is important, and this is not a political or partisan point, that both French speaking and English speaking justices are needed in our courts. In fact, there is often interpretation provided for other languages. Some people before the Canadian justice system speak neither of these languages, but that is not the point with respect to the appointment of judges.

I have great respect for our judicial system in our country. We have an amazingly fair and independent system. I do not want to see that change in any way. I have respect for the judges who do that work. These people are somewhat limited in their association with the rest of Canadian society. There is an expected distancing so they can maintain that impartiality to do their work properly.

These increases for the number of judges have been needed for some time, and we expected the bill sooner. I will go forward. As of yesterday, March 13, even without this bill, 25 judicial vacancies were waiting to be filled. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is responsible for filling those. In other words, these new positions are in addition to the existing vacancies that have to be filled. This is an ongoing situation. I know we should be encouraging the filling of all positions because it is important for our system to work efficiently and properly.

As many in the House will recall, the new Conservative government stacked the judicial advisory committee to ensure that the justice minister's chosen representatives would have a majority on every provincial judicial advisory board. I will not go in to this too much at this time because it takes away from the most important discussion and subject matter of this bill, but I do note it.

It is important to keep the judicial independence in our country. I remember the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court making comment on this point. It is also important that the positions be filled and that there not be a great delay. Both of those points are important.

With respect to this short bill, we can agree in the House that it should move forward. I know my colleagues and our party want the smooth functioning of the justice system. This is one, but only one, aspect that can be assisted by this House. We must remember that there will not be a smooth functioning system if there are not enough prosecutors and if there are insufficient dollars for legal aid for people who need that assistance before the courts. We need all of the system to work cohesively, and the judges are one part of it. However, it is the full functioning of the court system that has to be brought to bear before justice is actually delivered to Canadians in a timely and effective manner.

I ask fellow members of the House to support this legislation so it can move rapidly to the other house and become law after their deliberations. This is one bill that the House can believe will be good for the country and good for the citizens. We need the expertise and the impartial judicial system in our country, which we all deserve.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Judges Act
Full View Permalink

March 14, 2008

Hon. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister's double-talk does go further. The man who pretends to balance the books actually left a $5.6 billion deficit when he was a provincial finance minister.

He claims he supports infrastructure and Ontario communities, but calls them whiners. He says he is not in the “pothole business”.

When will the finance minister censor himself, instead of Canadian films for the benefit of the public good?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Ontario Economy
Full View Permalink

March 12, 2008

Hon. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, instead of copying Brian Mulroney's intimidation and delay tactics, the Prime Minister should be accountable to Canadians.

Would an accountable Prime Minister, caught on tape, not simply tell us what his own words mean?

Would an accountable Prime Minister not simply ask his chief of staff if he personally leaked confidential and diplomatic information? Would that not be better than chill letters from the Prime Minister?

Why does the Prime Minister not just answer the questions being asked and tell Canadians the truth?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Government Accountability
Full View Permalink