That, in relation to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the Senate:
(a)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to its amendments;
(b)agree to the amendment made by the House of Commons in consequence of Senate amendments 3 and 4; and
(c)do not insist on its amendment 10, to which the House of Commons disagrees; and
That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that house accordingly.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the message from the other place on Bill C-75, an important bill that amends the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act in order to address the urgent issues of delays in the criminal justice system.
Allow me to thank Senator Sinclair for his sponsorship of this bill and for steering this legislation through the Senate. I would also like to thank members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for their detailed consideration of this bill.
Bill C-75 has been considered and debated in this chamber in a comprehensive and vigorous manner. The Senate has proposed 14 amendments for the other place to consider, 10 of which have been accepted.
The substantive Senate amendments that the other place has supported include: First, Senate amendment No. 1, which would maintain the availability of DNA orders for the indictable offences punishable by a maximum of five and ten years of imprisonment and Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize.
Second, Senate amendment No. 2, which would make a minor amendment to respond to the March 28, 2019, decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Myers.
Third, Senate amendments 5, 8, 9 and 12b, which would re-enact a new victim surcharge regime that would provide greater judicial discretion to depart from imposing the surcharge in appropriate cases.
Fourth, Senate amendment No. 7, which would expand Bill C-75’s aggravating factor for intimate partner violence, or IPV, to include IPV committed against a member of the offender’s or the victim’s family, and creating a new sentencing principle to require courts imposing a sentence for an IPV offence to consider the increased vulnerability of female victims, giving particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal female victims.
Fifth, Senate amendments 11, 13 and 14, which would amend the Identification of Criminals Act to clarify that fingerprints can be taken for an accused who has been charged with a hybrid offence, even where the Crown has elected to proceed by summary conviction.
Based on the same concerns that prompted our approach, the other place has proposed two amendments on Senate amendments 3 and 4 on preliminary inquiries, as well as one consequential amendment.
Honourable senators may recall that Bill C-75, as introduced, proposed to restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to indictable offences punishable by life imprisonment, which represents 70 offences. The Senate proposed to expand the availability of preliminary inquiries on a discretionary basis to the 393 other indictable offences in two circumstances: First, on the consent of the parties and where a justice is satisfied that appropriate measures were taken to mitigate the impacts on any witness likely to provide evidence at the inquiry, including the complainant; or, second, where one party requests an inquiry where the justice is satisfied the criteria were met, i.e., mitigation measures have been taken for witnesses, and that it is in the best interest of the administration of justice.
Though the other place has not supported this amendment, it has accepted the underlying principle — namely, to make preliminary inquiries available for offences carrying the most serious penalties — but has chosen instead to expand Bill C-75’s original approach to allow preliminary inquiries not only for indictable offences punishable by life imprisonment but also for indictable offences punishable by 14 years of imprisonment, which represents an additional 86 offences. This proposal would be consistent with the consensus achieved by the 2017 federal-provincial-territorial Ministers of Justice to restrict them to “serious offences” and would respond to stakeholder concerns to make preliminary inquiries available for more offences.
The Senate amendment would have introduced uncertainty as to whether a preliminary inquiry would be held for 393 offences and would likely have resulted in significant litigation to determine the scope of the criteria and would have added a step to the criminal justice process to determine whether a preliminary inquiry should be held. This would have likely resulted in further delays rather than reducing them. Given the other place’s concern with this Senate amendment and the underlying reasons that prompted their approach, I’m pleased with the way it has chosen to respond to these stakeholder concerns.
Honourable senators may recall that Bill C-75, as introduced, would modernize and streamline the scheme for the classification of offences in the Criminal Code by hybridizing indictable offences that carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment of 10 years or less, creating a uniform maximum penalty of imprisonment for all summary conviction offences of two years less a day and increasing the current limitation period for all summary conviction offences from 6 to 12 months. These amendments are a key part of the legislative reforms identified by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice to reduce delays in the criminal justice system.
Bill C-75, as passed by the other place, included an amendment made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to the reclassification provisions of the bill. Specifically, the justice committee proposed amendments on agent representation in section 802(1) of the Criminal Code. This amendment will facilitate agent representation by giving provinces and territories additional flexibility to establish criteria for agent representation for summary conviction offences with a maximum penalty greater than six months imprisonment, in addition to their existing ability to establish a program and will allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offence for the purpose of adjournment proceedings.
These amendments maintain jurisdictional flexibility in this area of criminal procedure, while also recognizing regional diversity in how legal representation is regulated across Canada.
Senate amendment No. 10 proposed to further amend section 802(1) to also allow agent representation as “authorized by the law of the province.” As honourable senators know, Bill C-75 is the product of considerable consultation with provinces and territories. The other place does not accept this amendment, as there has not been sufficient time to analyze and ascertain what its effects would be under existing provincial and territorial laws. There is also a concern that the Senate amendment may have unintended consequences. For example, the reclassification reforms would come into force 90 days after Royal Assent. This would not enable provinces and territories to make any legislative changes if needed. Moreover, provinces and territories already have flexibility to quickly address any consequences of the reclassification scheme on agents through the amendments made to the bill in the other place last December. Using the proposed new power to do this through criteria or a program established by the Lieutenant Governor in Council is a faster process than legislative reform.
Honourable senators, through thoughtful amendments this place has improved the bill to a great degree. I now ask honourable senators to accept the message from the other place. It represents significant criminal law and procedural reforms, many of which are long overdue. In accepting this message, Parliament will have passed legislation that will contribute to modernizing the criminal justice system, reducing delays and ensuring the safety of Canadians. Thank you.