Amendment to Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act (Bill C-37)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend from Mount Royal. Speaking earlier to my own amendment, I credited much of his work in the committee as inspiring efforts that I have made at report stage to try to change the bill.

What concerns me is the complete absence of judicial discretion. What I see is a pattern, one might even say a transformative pattern, of Canadian criminal law in removing judicial discretion. We see it through mandatory minimums. We see it here through mandatory application of fines.

I wonder if my friend, having had the experience of being Canada’s justice minister, agrees that there is anything like a pattern occurring here in removing judicial discretion.

Irwin Cotler: Mr. Speaker, there is a pattern here: the imposition of mandatory minimums, which accompanies the removal of judicial discretion, increasingly suggesting a mistrust of the independence and integrity of the judiciary to be able to address these issues where they have the appreciation of the facts and circumstances in any particular case, where they can deal with the understanding of the offender, where they can address questions with respect to undue hardships and questions with regard to rehabilitation of the offender.

This leads me to the second concern. That is that the bill follows a pattern, again, of not addressing the complete spectrum of the criminal justice system, where that would include the whole importance of prevention, and not just the question of a punitive approach; where that would include the question of rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender, and again, not just a condemnatory approach; and where we would have, with respect to the process of dealing with these pieces of legislation—whether it be in the House or at committee, which is supposed to be the place to deal with this—the opportunity to propose amendments for the purpose of actually improving the bill as proposed by the government. However, they are summarily rejected, rather than being addressed, when their particular intention is to improve the very legislation brought forward by the government.

We have had situations where we have had a kind of bizarre anomaly where recommendations—and I was in that circumstance—that I made by way of amendment in committee were rejected in committee, only to be brought forward by the government afterwards on rethinking at report stage, and where the Speaker had to say at report stage that those things should have been addressed by committee, and therefore we had to go into the other place to correct this whole process and bring it back here to the House itself, when it could have been initially corrected at committee.

So the issue of process is inextricably bound up with the issue of substance.