Bill C3 is non-partisanship at its best

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-11-20 10:49 [p.2176]

Madam Speaker, I want to start by acknowledging that I am speaking today from the traditional territory of WSÁNEC peoples. I raise my hands to them. Hych’ka Siem. All honour to my colleagues gathered here.

I want to specifically thank the hon. member for Parry Sound—Muskoka and the Conservative caucus for organizing this morning’s speeches so as to allow me an opportunity to speak to the bill. It highlights what I think will be a theme for what I want to say about Bill C-3in that, right from the beginning, this bill started from a vantage point of non-partisanship. It was generous of the official opposition to grant me a speaking slot this morning as we are coming together to support good legislation.

We, of course, have referenced many times, that the origin of this legislation is entirely non-partisan in that, as we all know, it was put forward by Rona Ambrose. It is an extremely important piece of legislation. She put it forward when she was interim leader of the Conservative Party. It did pass Parliament. As we all know, it got bogged down in the Senate.

To see it come back here now as a Liberal government piece of legislation is extremely heartening. It is important legislation. I want to emphasize a couple of things in today’s presentation to let the Canadian public know the ways in which the bill has been improved from when it was first tabled, and improved again in a spirit of non-partisanship.

The essence of the bill, of course, is found in many decisions that enraged citizens of Canada. Men, women and non-binary people looked at this issue and asked, “What on earth?” How can we have judges make pronunciations from the bench, and I have already spoken to this in the House, such as that of the judge who famously asked why the victim did not keep her knees together?

Judges make assumptions against the interests of victims, assumptions that a woman who had been sexually assaulted would not have responded in a certain way, or that she would do the following things. Judges without any training imagine what they might do in similar circumstances, and then they hold that as evidence against the veracity of a victim’s claims. These things are what gave rise to this bill.

However, I can say now, and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre just made this point, that much of what is in this legislation could have been taken from a report that was not yet written when Rona Ambrose presented this bill as a private member’s bill. It was not written yet, because the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry had not been reported.

I would point out to members themes 16, 17 and18, and part 3 of the report of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, which point to these very factors that judges and the judicial system do not understand and do not recognize. They do not take the sexual assault and high levels of violence against indigenous women seriously. They do not take it seriously, and they do not understand that they need to learn more. That is spoken to in this bill.
At the point the bill came forward, we have been very occupied as a society with questions of violence against racialized people, now the acronym BIPOC for Black, indigenous, people of colour. They are more at risk of violence and more at risk, in disproportionate numbers, of being jailed for crimes.
Again, this is a non-partisan observation, but the bill is improved through the work that was done in committee. Whereas I initially, and I apologize to the people who I took by surprise, thought that we all agreed on this bill and that it should move along a little faster, the time in committee was well spent.
The existence of a Black parliamentary caucus is relatively new, and it was formed as the world responded to the horrors racism and violence by police. That response was crystallized with the murder of George Floyd. There is now a Black parliamentary caucus.

That caucus is multi-party, and it took it upon itself to say that while the bill is to train judges to understand how women experience sexual violence, as well as how evidence should be received and how women are re-traumatized by that experience, could we not also use this training opportunity to broaden what judges learn.

For Canadians watching this, the bill now includes language that the continuing education for judges on matters related to sexual assault and social context now include the specific language “which includes systemic racism and systemic discrimination”. Again, it was a multi-party response and a way to improve the legislation.

I am particularly so proud of the work of the hon. member for Fredericton, who is a member of the Green caucus. Her amendment was accepted. Many Canadians would not know that as a party with fewer than 12 members of Parliament, Green Party MPs are not allowed to sit on committees. However, we do have a process, which is new since Stephen Harper. We can look at this new process as an opportunity, or we can look at it as being compelled to be at clause-by-clause in committee, but it is quite worthwhile when an amendment gets passed.

In this case, for her work, the hon. member for Fredericton is responsible for the amendment in the law, which, in reference to the group of people who advise on the content of the training judges are to receive, now includes the language, “Indigenous leaders and representatives of Indigenous communities”. That is a quote from the legislation with the new amendment thanks to the hon. member for Fredericton.

This legislation shows what we can do when we rise to our best selves, decide that an issue is not partisan, and embrace what my mother raised me to believe, which is that we can accomplish anything we want if we do not care who gets the credit. In this process, credit goes to everyone involved.
I thank again the Hon. Rona Ambrose for bringing this forward. I thank the hon. Minister of Justice and the current government for bringing it back to us as government legislation. I send thanks to everyone who laid a single hand. There are many fingerprints on this legislation, and they are all helpful. They are healing; they are feminist; they are racialized. However, we understand that we must do better.

This legislation is a first step. We must do more to ensure proper services for women who have been victims of sexual violence. For members who are looking for a model for their own community, in Victoria, B.C., the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre and Clinic is an absolute model for how to aid victims of sexual assault and violence. We must do more in our communities, and we must do more as parliamentarians.

I appreciate the time allowed this morning to speak to the bill. I look forward to its passage. I hope it will be unanimous.

Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North)
2020-11-20 10:57 [p.2177]

Madam Speaker, it is amazing what we can do on the floor of the House of Commons. Last week, we passed legislation relatively quickly when all parties, including Greens, New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, came together. We passed wage subsidy legislation and rent assistance. It went on to the Senate and it has received royal assent.

Now we have yet another piece of legislation that appears to have the support again of Greens, New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. Hopefully, it will go to the Senate later today. I wonder if the former leader of the Green Party could provide her thoughts on how constructive we can be on the floor of the House of Commons when we collaborate and work together.

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-11-20 10:58 [p.2177]

Madam Speaker, this is not something that will surprise anyone who knows me in this place. I know that we accomplish our very best when we are able to set partisanship aside. When we are together in a common cause, the Parliament of Canada represents the best of Canada. When we allow ourselves to devolve into sucker punch ideas that go over really well in question period, that is when Canadians are disappointed in us.

If we can see ourselves, first and foremost, as parliamentarians and somewhere down the list as politicians, we will make Canadians proud of us. The words of our current Speaker, when he accepted the election as Speaker, were that we should conduct ourselves in ways that would make our children proud if they happened to tune in. Today is one of those days.