A police officer’s credibility on the stand is very often the difference between an innocent person going to jail or not

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, while there is much in Bill C-75 that I support, particularly getting rid of peremptory challenges in choosing juries, I am very disturbed by the changes being proposed to section 657 of the Criminal Code. I cannot imagine how this came so far.

I hope the hon. member knows I am referring to changes that will mean police officers need not be on the witness stand, available to a defence attorney who sent word to cross-examine those police officers. They could submit an affidavit or previously submitted evidence.

The credibility of a police officer on the stand very often is the difference between an innocent person going to jail or not. This has been universally condemned by the criminal laws. Was there any consultation on this? Is it a mistake? Could it be changed at committee? I hope the answer is that this was a mistake.

Marco Mendicino – Member for Eglinton-Lawrence

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my hon. colleague that we have been listening very closely to the Criminal Lawyers’ Association as well as other stakeholders who have given us input on this provision.

I also want to assure her that the objective of this provision, along with a suite of other measures, is to ensure that our courts are allowed the proper flexibility to streamline hearings so we are not quibbling over non-contentious immaterial facts. As someone who practised in the criminal justice system, we see far too much of this bad judgment exercise.

It is not just about revising the bill; it is about a change in the culture of complacency, at which the Supreme Court of Canada has encouraged all of us to look very closely. I look forward to further discussions with my hon. colleague as well as others on this provision.