Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act (Bill C-54)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, seeing that the minister wants to address the substance of the bill, having been at committee when the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Sue O’Sullivan testified, I was surprised that among her many amendments that would have spoke to what victims wanted, so many of the measures were not included in Bill C-54. It was very clear from the victims rights groups that testified at committee. Most of them saw the very compelling need to ensure adequate mental health services, that we had more in place for prevention and that the not criminally responsible sections that were most important to victims were the ones about notification. These are not the ones who are most under assault by those who are expert in clinical psychology, forensic psychology, review boards and legal experts.

There was a way forward to respond to victims’ needs and to also respect the system that, according to all the experts, was working well in the stream of not criminally responsible people who were then monitored closely. Why did the minister not pursue a compromise in which victims’ rights and the rights of mentally ill people who found themselves in the NCR system were both respected?

Hon. Rob Nicholson: Mr. Speaker, every aspect of this is very reasonable and supportable. We are making the protection of the public the paramount consideration. As has been pointed out, this is one of the considerations. We are saying, let us make this the paramount consideration to ensure that public and society is protected. We have focused in on a group of high-risk individuals. We have judicial oversight for that designation.

Again, however, she did address the whole question of victims and ensuring, for instance, that victims were notified upon request when an NCR accused was discharged. I do not think there is anything unreasonable about that. This is very important.

Allowing for non-communication orders between an NCR accused and the victim, again, makes a lot sense, ensuring that the safety of victims is considered when decisions are made in this area.

From the analysis of all this government legislation, taking into consideration and ensuring that victims are heard is the right balance. It is not just about the individual who has been accused. It is about public protection. It is about victims. We have to take these all into consideration.

Again, the Prime Minister has made it very clear that the rights of victims, what victims need, what they want, what they expect, what is reasonable for them under the circumstances, is, and will continue, to be a priority for this government. That is why we have included all those provisions with respect to victims. It is the right thing to do.