Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, earlier in his speech, the member for St. John’s East made reference to the international effort for the legalization of cannabis. I want to emphasize that four of the last five mayors of Vancouver and former premier Mike Harcourt have made the same plea, that in an effort to stop wasting the resources of law enforcement, we ought to take the advice of experts and move in the direction of legalization as opposed to increased incarceration.


My question for the hon. member relates to what I regard as the fundamental matter before the House at this moment. As members of Parliament we have taken an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. Each of us has taken an oath to uphold the Canadian Constitution. In the case of Regina v. Smickle, the Ontario Superior Court has ruled that these mandatory minimums offend the charter and are likely unconstitutional. It seems to be beyond our ability to grasp that we are passing a law that is in itself illegal.

Does the member have any comments on that problem, for each of us as individual members?

Jack Harris: Mr. Speaker, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has raised a novel question as to whether or not there is some question of an oath.

I am saying this as someone who is a lawyer, as is the hon. member. I have read most of the case of Mr. Smickle. It is a rather unfortunate set of circumstances. It is also potentially a unique law where if the Crown prosecuted by summary conviction, the maximum sentence was one year, and if the Crown prosecuted by indictment, which it did, the minimum sentence was three years. There was no possibility of any sentence between one and three years. The Crown was the one that made the decision, not the court, not the judge.

I am not a fan of mandatory minimum sentences, although we did support that in the case of sexual offences because of the national consensus on that. We may have to look again at the aboriginal solutions within communities for that, but we supported that.

I do not think the court said that all mandatory minimum sentences were unconstitutional. That court is a court of first instance.

I do not think, despite what debate we might have about it, that we are somehow bound by our oath not to vote against it. I will certainly be voting against any aspect of Bill C-10. I do not know if we can say the members opposite are voting against something that is definitely constitutional. The member for Mount Royal has said that much of it is constitutionally suspect, but that is really for the courts to decide.