Skip to content
LCJC - Standing Committee

Legal and Constitutional Affairs


Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue No. 61 - Evidence - May 8, 2019

OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, met this day at 3:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Serge Joyal (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We are continuing our study of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.


It is my pleasure this afternoon to welcome, first, Ms. Heidi Illingworth. We’re always happy to listen to your remarks and share your wisdom and experience, Ms. Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Welcome this afternoon.


We also welcome Bruno Serre, President of the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared. Welcome, Mr. Serre. You are accompanied by Nancy Roy, General Manager. We will also hear from Annie Saint-Onge as an individual. Welcome Ms. Saint-Onge.


We’ll start with Ms. Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

Heidi Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime: Thank you for inviting me. It’s an honour to appear before you to discuss Bill C-75 and to appear with my colleagues from AFPAD and family survivors who are here as well.


Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting me to appear here today. Bill C-75 is very important for the victims of crime.


I became Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime in October 2018. Our office is an independent arm’s-length organization within the Department of Justice Canada. We work with victims by taking and reviewing their complaints, and we also make recommendations to federal departments and ministers to ensure that victims are treated fairly and with respect across the federal government and criminal justice system.

Several provisions of Bill C-75 bring positive change for victims. I especially welcome the proposed changes regarding intimate partner violence. Specifically, I support broadening the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners, and the reverse onus for bail for repeat offenders of intimate partner violence, given the fact that the accused persons who have previously been convicted of intimate partner violence offences have often been found to pose an elevated risk of violence, escalating the risk towards their victims.

I also support the proposal to include evidence that an offender abused their intimate partner as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. These changes emphasize the seriousness and severity of intimate partner violence.

It is also important to recognize in law that intimate partner violence victims are more likely, compared to other victims of violence, to experience choking, suffocation and strangulation. Furthermore, strangulation is a significant risk factor for femicide.

I do believe, however, that the bill can be strengthened. For example, with regard to bail, the bill is lacking a mechanism to ensure that a victim has been consulted with respect to their safety concerns and knows their right to request a copy of the bail release order.

There is also currently no legal duty to inform victims when an offender is released on bail. This means victims with serious concerns for their safety may not be made aware when an accused person is released and what conditions may or may not be in place.

In cases of intimate partner violence, the reverse onus bail process should also apply to persons charged with any offence, regardless of whether they have been previously been convicted of a like offence.

I am concerned with where the bill proposes to hybridize offences related to forced marriage, child abduction and some offences related to human trafficking. These offences, primarily committed against women and children, should not be of lesser concern. They constitute a grave violation of human rights, including the rights of women and children to live free from coercive control and violence. The serious nature and harm caused by these offences must be recognized this our laws and policies.

For the remainder of my opening comments, I will focus on aspects of the bill relating to the federal victim surcharge.

As a result of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal surcharge in its entirety in Boudreault, the surcharge has not been imposed at sentencing since December 14, 2018. In practical terms this means that the provinces and territories have not been collecting these federal fines.

Essential provincial and territorial programs and services that support victims depend on these fines as a source of funding for programs. We know that victims, who are well supported, are more resilient.

I believe it is very important to bring the regime in line with Boudreault while also ensuring that offenders are held accountable to victims and to society as a whole. I was really pleased to hear the Minister of Justice announce at committee on May 1 that the government will introduce amendments to Bill C-75 to include the presumptive application of the surcharge but with judicial discretion to determine whether or not to impose the surcharge in cases where, A, it would cause an undue hardship; or, B, would be disproportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility to the offender. He also said the judge would be obligated to provide the reasons for not imposing the surcharge.

Since the purpose of the surcharge is to fund services and hold offenders accountable, it is very important for judges to have discretion but also to be obligated to provide the reasons for not imposing the surcharge. We do not want to see a return to the previous status quo, where judges routinely waived it without inquiring into the financial circumstances of the offender. Offenders who have the ability to pay the surcharge should pay it.

Further, there are two recommendations that I would make. First, there needs to be very clear guidelines as to what constitutes undue hardship. This help ensure that any exemption or waiver would be applied consistently across Canada and only in cases where a person is truly unable to pay.

Second, I would like to see robust data collection and reporting. It is imperative that the federal victim surcharge undergo a thorough and regular auditing of its application. We should be able to assess over time and ensure that levels of funding generated in each region are proportionate, keeping in mind that the surcharge is collected and applied in the province or territory where the offence took place.

I welcome the opportunity for your questions. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Illingworth. Very effective.


Mr. Serre, please follow the example of your colleague, Ms. Illingworth.

Bruno Serre, President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared: We want to thank you for this opportunity to present our comments on Bill C-75. My name is Bruno Serre, and I am president of the association. I am also the father of Brigitte, who was murdered in 2006. I am accompanied by Nancy Roy, the association’s general manager. I will be outlining our position, and Ms. Roy will answer more technical questions.

The Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared (AFPAD) is a non-profit organization that operates in all regions of Quebec. Its main mission is to overcome the isolation experienced by the families of victims of homicide and disappearance. We have more than 700 members. We particularly want to present this opinion in order to make legislators feel concerned about the fate of victims of crime and their loved ones and expand the scope of this bill to include the safety of the victims, who are unfortunately left more vulnerable by the proposed changes.

The victims are often the great forgotten. We want to draw your attention to two important points. We note and welcome the addition of the concept of “intimate partner”, and the reversal of the burden of proof, where a request is made for interim release of an accused charged with this type of offence, introduces a major change. However, that provision applies solely to a repeat offender previously convicted for an offence committed against an intimate partner.

We are deeply troubled by the notion of repeat offences, since many of our families have lost a loved one to murder as a result of violent acts committed in a conjugal setting but that were not necessarily repetitive. It must be understood that a situation of violence between intimate partners is a delicate one and often passed over in silence, which should encourage legislators to be more cautious in their treatment of potential victims and result in clearer and more direct policy and legal action. Many accused persons are released or granted absolute discharges, which leaves their potential victims even more vulnerable. The message of zero-tolerance of violence against women must be made clearer.

Those same victims are entitled to protection under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and they should therefore be able to claim it. The right to safety and security of the person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a fundamental right, should be clearly granted to these victims. The concept of repeat offences must be withdrawn if we want to achieve the commendable objectives of protection for victims.

Our second important point concerns the idea stated in the bill of modernizing interim release practices and procedure. Bill C-75 introduces many amendments that would reorganize various provisions and alter certain procedures to promote early release for convicted persons subject to the least onerous conditions appropriate in the circumstances.

We are offended by these changes and do not support these principles, which have the effect of undermining victim protection. Can you name a single offender or accused who would admit to a judge that he doesn’t intend to abide by the conditions the court has set for him? There is a risk that the desire to reduce delays and administer justice as efficiently as possible may overshadow victim protection. Do the charter rights of alleged offenders take precedence over the protection and safeguarding of a victim’s life and charter rights? Have you provided for more protection for these weakened and vulnerable victims by introducing this idea of early release and the least onerous conditions possible? The victims didn’t get a second chance. Never forget that.

The question that concerns me is this: how do you intend to protect all these victims who are afraid and who report offenders who are then granted early release in the least onerous conditions possible, unless they are repeat offenders? Brigitte Serre, Daphné Boudreault, Cheryl Bau-Tremblay, Gabrielle Dufresne-Élie, Francine Bissonnette, Christine Saint-Onge, Noémie Lavoie, Josiane Arguin, Nathalie Blais, Kim Racine, Ophélie Martin-Cyr and all the others, do you think they got a second chance? No, they were murdered, and you didn’t protect them, but, under these amendments, you would have the power to provide them with better protection. How do you intend to protect these victims? Will you build them an ivory tower? You have to find the courage to make legislative changes and to be part of the change that is made in response to the many victims of homicide.

In closing, it is important to retain the victim surcharge and not to interpret it too restrictively so that it becomes unconstitutional. That measure will ensure the survival of many victim assistance programs. Without it, we will cease to exist. Thank you for listening and for the time you have allotted us.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Serre. Ms. Roy, I understand you will be answering questions. Go ahead, Ms. Saint-Onge.

Annie Saint-Onge, As an individual: Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Annie Saint-Onge. I am the sister of Christine Saint-Onge, who was murdered by her boyfriend in Mexico in December 2018.

Here are the facts. During a trip to Mexico last December, Pierre Bergeron, my sister’s boyfriend, returned to Canada a day earlier than planned and committed suicide in the Laurentians. My sister never returned as planned, on December 6, and was found dead, on the grounds of the hotel where the couple had stayed, nearly a week after the homicide.

In the weeks that followed that tragic event, we learned that Mr. Bergeron had had a history of spousal abuse. A former spouse opened up to the media and said that a spousal abuse complaint had been filed against him with the police. As Mr. Bergeron was well-to-do and a narcissistic person, he defended himself with the help of his lawyers. He was granted an absolute discharge in exchange for a donation to an organization that provides assistance to battered women. What hypocrisy! There was no information in his file concerning assault or careless use of a firearm. The woman had to fight to be heard and to recover her property. It appears that Mr. Bergeron then filed a motion to overturn the verdict. What did he learn from all this? It’s easy to get away with it if you have money.

What impression of our justice system does this situation give our society and current and future victims? If the justice system advocated protection for victims instead of handing out light sentences, my sister would probably be alive today. Our justice system focuses more on the rights of offenders, and they take priority over victims’ rights. My sister wasn’t the only one. You need only look at the media. Not a week goes by without an event of this kind coming to light, not to mention the cases that aren’t reported.

The police told us we were lucky in our misfortune. We were astounded! Why? Because the justice system is designed to protect offenders, not victims. Mr. Bergeron’s suicide spared us the judicial process and the pain of seeing him get away with it.

We were told that trials for this type of crime are very painful for the victims, since it’s up to them to prove what their attackers did. A trial is a traumatic event both because the victims have to relive all the emotions associated with the incident and because they must confront the other party in its attempts to judge and intimidate them, and to undermine their credibility before the court. It’s the kind of treatment that no person should have to experience.

Do we have what we need to encourage victims to press charges? I don’t think so. Do we provide victims with enough assistance, support and winning conditions? I don’t think so. Do we as a society push for protection for victims? I don’t think so either. Is that acceptable in a society such as ours? I rely on your good judgment to answer that.

In conclusion, we can say that Mr. Bergeron was a time bomb and that it’s unfortunate my sister had to pay the price. You can see her in the photographs I distributed, together with her children, who now find themselves without their mother. They are 7 and 11 years old and live with their father. This is completely unacceptable. In fact, if the law provided more protection for victims, I wouldn’t be here telling you the story of this tragic incident.

I hope that my testimony of the loss of a mother cherished by her children, of a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend and a colleague will speak to you and encourage you legislators to acquire the power to reverse the situation and make justice what it should be, a tool to protect the most vulnerable and an obstacle to these monsters, these time bombs. It’s high time timidity and tolerance were replaced by laws that have more teeth and sent a clear signal that these crimes aren’t tolerated in our society. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Saint-Onge. Your testimony will definitely be heard and be the subject of comments and discussions with you.

Senator Dupuis, Deputy Chair of our committee, will begin the discussion this afternoon.

Senator Dupuis: Thanks to all of you for being here this afternoon to help us understand your perspective, which is mainly that of the victims and the families of the victims of violence. We understand from the statistics that these are the families of women who have been victims of violence.

Mr. Serre, I don’t know whether you know what I’m thinking. You mentioned four aspects that struck me in your testimony. Could you remind me what you said about the concept of intimate partner that’s being introduced in Bill C-75? What’s your position, if your association has one, on the intimate partner issue? Let me be more specific. When we met with the minister and he came and testified before the committee, I noted an inconsistency between the English and French versions, the fact that the expression “dating partner” doesn’t necessarily mean a “partenaire amoureux”. In situations of violence, it can be very different from a “partenaire amoureux”. What types of partners should be included: the current, former, ex, a repeat offender or someone who hasn’t yet been convicted?

Mr. Serre: We aren’t talking about all intimate partners, but rather about repeat offenders. We want the words “repeat offender” to be removed. In several cases we’re aware of, in which women were murdered, they weren’t killed by repeat offenders. We want “intimate partner”, whether former or current, to represent intimate partners, not repeat offenders. They aren’t the spouse, lover or boyfriend. Dating can sometimes be regular, but we want to remove the idea of repeat offences and retain the intimate partner concept as designating everyone, not only repeat offenders. I don’t know whether Ms. Roy would like to add a comment.

Nancy Roy, General Manager, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared: I think the act must be interpreted more broadly to include all concepts that concern women because they’re often victimized in a relationship. If you interpret it too restrictively, at some point too many people will escape justice. On the other hand, if you add the concept of repeat offences, it shouldn’t apply solely to the same partner because then you exclude people who have exhibited dangerous and violent behaviour with other partners.

The only option and the only interpretation should be to protect women to a greater degree because, in many instances, they unfortunately don’t get a second chance. Earlier we heard a list of some 10 names. They were 10 women who didn’t get a second chance in this past year or past two years. Those women should have been protected by our justice system. In many instances, their attackers had shown warning signs. I think the repeat offence idea should be removed from the moment there’s a danger for the victim, and the justice system should punish offenders more severely.

Senator Dupuis: I have a supplementary question. In all cases, not just repeat offences, whether it be a charge or a previous conviction for assaulting a woman, whether the victim in question... I’d like to go back to the testimony of Ms. Saint-Onge, who said we’re in a position to change matters. Are there any provisions respecting victims’ rights that should have been included in Bill C-75 but weren’t?

Ms. Roy: You have to stop thinking that the administration of justice should reinforce release provisions. The laws must be reconsidered to provide more protection for victims in order to prevent more lives from being stolen. As for the least onerous release conditions, they still favour the rights of the offenders. We’ve established a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, but, in many instances, it provides fewer constitutional powers when it comes to the rights of offenders.

Bill C-75 has raised points that have made changes possible. However, new measures must have more teeth and be more clearly defined in order to protect victims.

Senator Dupuis: As for having as few barriers to release as possible, should we clarify certain points, such as that it’s essential to consider the safety of the victim, for example?

Ms. Roy: We think that conditions should never be cited to facilitate the earliest possible release. We welcome the reversal of the burden of proof. If offenders have to prove that they aren’t dangerous, that there’s no indication they’ll be dangerous if released, it goes without saying that protects the victims more.

That’s why we asked you not to adopt amendments that in any way favour the offenders. You must go about it differently by increasing victim safety.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you for your presentations, Mr. Serre and Ms. Saint-Onge. My sincerest condolences to you both.

Ms. Saint-Onge, we know in your sister’s case that Mr. Bergeron had a history of violence with his previous partners and that he was always granted absolute discharge. Without going into the details or mentioning all the persons involved, we know that the police intervened in 2017 in the case of the Granby girl whose terrible tragedy occurred last week. We also know that the stepmother was charged with assaulting the girl. She pleaded guilty and got away with an absolute discharge.

How many similar tragedies could have been prevented?

Going back to the question Senator Dupuis asked about a request for interim release. In that case, Bill C-75 would amend section 515 of the Criminal Code by introducing a reversal of the burden of proof where an accused is charged with an offence against an intimate partner and has previously been convicted of an offence against an intimate partner.

Ms. Roy, are you satisfied with that amendment? Do you think we should go further and provide that this shouldn’t apply solely where an accused has previously been convicted, but also from the moment a person faces charges?

Ms. Roy: We have to rethink bills in order to save lives. Perhaps the Granby girl could have been saved, and perhaps Ms. Saint-Onge’s sister would still be with us, if the act had been tougher. Those offenders wouldn’t have slipped through the cracks of the justice system.

So the reversal of the burden of proof is good, but the repeat offence idea must be eliminated. It’s unacceptable that we should be able to cite, here today, a dozen names of young women who have become victims in the past 18 months. Several young women have lost their lives, not just the Granby girl or Christine Saint-Onge. They didn’t get a second chance. They were the victims of attackers who had managed to slip through the cracks of the justice system. Do we have the necessary provisions to stop them immediately and to punish them immediately in order to save more victims?

Senator McIntyre: What really concerns me is the reversal of the burden of proof, which applies only where an accused already has a criminal record. I think it should apply from the moment an assault is committed against an intimate partner. The accused must answer at that point.

The present system is tough because the burden of proof is on the crown. It must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is quite a change being made to the Criminal Code. Thank you.

Senator Miville-Dechêne: Thank you for being here and for your moving testimony. I have long been concerned about this issue of violence against women, particularly when it leads to murder; that’s the worst thing anyone can imagine.

I’d like to hear what you have to say about interim release. What measures would you like to see in the bill to guarantee better protection? Are you questioning the entire interim release issue as such or could we frame it more adequately? As we all know, there are no magic solutions for rehabilitation. Some say that spending too much time in prison isn’t a solution and that it too often has negative effects. It’s hard to strike that balance. How do you view the system? Do you have any suggestions for us to improve our system for protecting victims or potential victims?

Ms. Roy: I’m here today to tell you about victims, not rehabilitation, even though that’s part of the puzzle involved in saving lives.

We’re obviously in favour of reversing the burden of proof, even if it encroaches somewhat on charter rights. However, lives are at stake, and since the circumstances are related to intimate partners, there’s some support for that position.

We’re in favour of reintegration for inmates, perhaps, or of the use of pre-trial custody. I think that’s an idea that often scares people and violates the charter rights of the accused. If, by reversing the burden of proof, we detained offenders until they proved they were no longer dangerous or that the lives of the victims were no longer in jeopardy, we would save lives and achieve a less onerous solution for the rights of the offender.

Senator Miville-Dechêne: Ms. Illingworth, you mentioned forced marriages. Can you repeat what you said on that point? That argument escaped me.


Ms. Illingworth: I was concerned that the proposes to hybridize some offences, including forced marriage, child abduction and some related to human trafficking.

The view of my office is that these offences shouldn’t be considered less serious. When you proceed by summary conviction instead of indictable, then you’re sending a message that those crimes are potentially less serious. It’s our view that these crimes against women and children are very serious. We should recognize that in law and maybe those aren’t good ones to become hybridized offences.

Senator Miville-Dechêne: We’ll have to study that because obviously I’m also of the opinion that forced marriage is a serious offence. Thank you very much.

Senator Dyck: My question is related to intimate partner violence. I was just reviewing a 2018 paper on intimate partner violence against women. It’s very striking. The very first sentence says that, “Male intimate partner violence against women has been described as one of the most universal and widespread forms of violence against women.”

My questions relate to the situation for Indigenous women because we know, from over the last decade, that there have been a lot of reports that have documented that compared to non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women are much more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence. The confounding factor here is that we have in the Criminal Code section 718.2(e) for Aboriginal offenders, which then, if it’s an Aboriginal offender, is pushing the courts towards restorative justice measures. When we take into account proposed 718.2(a)(ii), which deals with intimate partner violence, they have concluded that the intimate partner violence section becomes overshadow. Therefore, with an Aboriginal offender, we’re pushing towards restorative justice rather than incarceration.

Do you see that as something that should be addressed in this bill? If so, then it’s creating different categories of protection, depending on whether or not the offender is an Aboriginal person.

Ms. Illingworth: Do you want me to answer?

Senator Dyck: Yes.

Ms. Illingworth: That is definitely a challenge of the criminal justice system. On the one hand, we’re saying that we have to recognize there’s over-representation of Indigenous people as perpetrators, but from our point of view we’re also seeing over-representation of Indigenous women as victims. How do we address this?

I’m here to talk about victims and about their experiences. We have to make sure that we are being very responsive to violence against women, given the pervasiveness of it in all of our communities across Canada, and how we can make sure that we’re taking swift action and that we’re protecting women and children. To me, that has to come on an equal footing to the needs of the offender. Yes, we have to have a full and fair process, but we have to also consider the harm done to the women and the children — children who are witnessing and are at times victims themselves of the violence.

It’s an incredibly difficult balancing act, but we have to do a better job of recognizing what the victims have gone through and how they can be supported and protected.

Senator Dyck: Would you be supportive of an amendment that would sort of draw attention to that dilemma and instruct the judges to be aware of that so that the intimate partner violence section comes through strong rather than be being diminished?

Ms. Illingworth: I would be for sure. I don’t know about my colleagues, but I would be.

Senator Dyck: Does anyone else care to comment?


Mr. Serre: I think victims are victims. They have no colour or religion. They are victims. We must defend all victims, whether they are indigenous or otherwise. We must defend them. These poor women have been pushed aside for too long. It’s high time we took care of them.

Senator Dalphond: Welcome to the Senate. My question concerns a reference on page 3 of your brief regarding surcharges. You say it’s important to preserve the surcharge, that this measure represents the survival of many victim aid programs and that, without it, you will cease to exist. What percentage of your revenue does the surcharge represent?

Ms. Roy: I’ll answer that. The surcharge — I don’t have the exact figures, but we could send them to you later — is part of several compensation, remediation and project programs such as the PROCHE program, which is currently offered, a compensation program for families attending trial in the case of a murdered loved one. Without these funds, which are paid directly into our programs, the survival of our organizations, which are funded from this source, would definitely be in jeopardy.

I therefore believe that the surcharge must continue and that it must still be interpreted in a fairly broad manner. I think it’s a procedure for which we must nevertheless trust in the judge’s discretion. It must continue because it’s been rendered unconstitutional by an interpretation that unfortunately threatens all aid programs for victims of crime.

Senator Dalphond: Exactly how much money does it represent?

Ms. Illingworth: I want to make a comment. The brief of the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes states that the surcharge represents approximately $11.8 million in Quebec every year.


$11.8 million of the funds that come in, in Quebec. So there’s provincial —

Senator Dalphond: How much did you say? $800 million —

Ms. Illingworth: No, $11.8 —

Senator Dalphond: Per year.

Ms. Illingworth: — million, just for Quebec. That’s federal surcharges that they collect which go towards programs for victims, survivors, in the Province of Quebec. It’s different in each province and territory.


Senator Dalphond: Can you say it represents 50 per cent or 80 per cent of your association’s revenue?

Ms. Roy: We’re funded by the Bureau d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels, and 95 per cent of our annual revenue comes from that source.

Senator Dalphond: So it isn’t the surcharges at such. They’re paid to the Bureau d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels, which then redistributes them.

Ms. Roy: Exactly.

Senator Dalphond: You propose in your brief that it not be made too restrictive. If I correctly understand your position, and that of Ms. Illingworth — both groups — the exception from payment of the surcharge shouldn’t be granted too readily. However, groups like the Pivot Legal Society of Vancouver have asked us to ensure that judicial discretion to grant the exception from payment of the surcharge should be very broad. Are you saying the contrary?

Ms. Roy: I think it should continue to exist. I think judges have discretion not to leave people who come within the definition more vulnerable. As Ms. Illingworth said, they shouldn’t be left vulnerable. In situations in which they’re increasingly vulnerable, that explains why the surcharge was ruled unconstitutional. I think that, in cases where the surcharge wouldn’t play its role — because it has both a compensatory and a restorative role — judges can determine whether that would victimize persons who would become increasingly vulnerable, and, in that case, it would not apply.

Senator Dalphond: My final question concerns another point. If I correctly understand your position, you mentioned that, when charges are brought, often by a female complainant, in respect of an offence purportedly connected to relations with an intimate partner, the burden of proof should automatically be reversed and put on the accused.

Ms. Roy: Yes.

Senator Dalphond: Very well. Thank you.


Senator Lankin: Before I launch into a couple of questions, may I say, Ms. Saint-Onge, my heart goes out to you and your family, and the network of other victims and families. Thank you for being here.

In terms of my questions, I have been pursuing a line of questioning at committee about dual charging, the phenomenon of dual charging in intimate partner violence, and it relates directly to the issues you’ve raised around reverse onus as well.

I was informed by the Justice Department when they were here that one of the first reports done on this phenomenon of dual charging dates back 15-plus years, dealing with Aboriginal women in particular. I’ve seen in my own community work over the years an increased number of dual charges affecting women of ethnic minorities and new immigrant status more and more. There certainly is a trend to this occurring more and to engaging vulnerable women’s populations, and the most notable in terms of the numbers and statistics are Aboriginal women.

I would like first, Ms. Illingworth, and anyone else who wants to comment, if you could repeat for me the part of your presentation on reverse onus and the impact and what you wish to see.

The second part of my question, in general, is with respect to what has become police practice.

I think many of us in the beginning cheered the mandatory charging provisions that were established across the country until we saw dual charging becoming more and more a phenomenon.

Many police departments, we were informed again by the Justice Department, have moved to initiate a primary aggressor definition to the mandatory charging so that it wouldn’t necessarily be both parties to the intimate relationship if there are counter-allegations that would be charged depending on the facts. The presumption would be with the primary aggressor.

It feels to me that in policing policy, first of all, it’s not necessarily consistent and we haven’t received stats back, yet, that tell us what the state of affairs are in our country, across the country, but a policy is a policy, and a law is a law.

I’m wondering if you have any comments about addressing, within this provision, much like Senator Dyck asked with respect to the presumption of priority between charging and between restorative justice provisions in the act. I wonder if you have any comments and, specifically, any recommended amendments with respect to the dual charging and police policies that are being elevated into a legal expectation.

Ms. Illingworth: I hope I can remember everything.

I definitely said that the reverse onus is something good. I think it brings attention to the problem of intimate partner violence and that it needs to be taken very seriously by the courts. But it is problematic that it’s only for cases where somebody has already been charged.

We know from work on the front lines with victims and survivors that this problem doesn’t get reported often. It’s very much under-reported. So when people come forward, it could be the eighth, ninth, tenth time they’ve experienced violence, but they’re coming forward to the police for the first time.

In my view, it makes more sense to amend it to have the court consider the reverse onus for all situations where police have charged someone with intimate partner violence.

With regard to the dual charging phenomenon that’s been going on, definitely problematic. I do understand from research by groups who work at the community level that it is, as you say, impacting Indigenous women, women of colour, newcomer women. We have a lot of education to do in terms of criminal justice professionals who are responding to intimate partner violence. These are situations in which this is chronic behaviour. It’s not heat of the moment, somebody got out of control. We have to look at this crime as the power and control situation that it is and have it taken very seriously when there’s a police response, and then when we go, hopefully, to charges being laid.

I think it was the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic that made a recommendation that Parliament could undertake an impact assessment on the whole dual charging in relation to this bill. That would be something I would support as well, so we can determine how big a problem that is.

Senator Lankin: Mr. Chair, my question is actually to you, to ask if the clerks could follow up with the Justice Department. I believe, without having the record before me, that I asked them for statistics and what they could find out about the policing practices and the changing in this policy. I think it would be informative to this committee before we move into clause-by-clause.

The Chair: We’ll try our best to get that information on time, senator.

Senator Batters: I want to start by thanking all of you for being here, for your work on behalf of these victims and for your personal situations. You’ve really honoured these people by doing what you’re doing. Thank you for that.

I certainly know personally that the reverse onus on the bail situation will prevent tragedies. But I agree with those of you who have testified today that it shouldn’t be a requirement that the accused be a repeat offender. I reflect back on the 2003 case of Regina’s Michelle Lenius.

She was my legal assistant and friend. Her ex-husband raped and assaulted her, and threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Despite the fact that he had said that, she was very brave and did go to the police. Her ex-husband was arrested and charged, but he was released on bail the next day in an extremely brief bail application. Two weeks later, Michelle’s ex-husband murdered her. This was what actually prompted my husband to enter federal politics two months after that. He became an MP, and when his chance at a private member’s bill finally came up in the lottery system four years later, he drafted Michelle’s law. And that would have dealt with a situation where an accused criminal, he had it drafted as charged with a serious personal injury offence. So for Michelle Lenius, that would have saved her life.

Just like some of you have stated today, Michelle’s ex-husband was not a repeat offender, as far as I know, so she would not have had that second chance as is so often the case with these types of situations. I would ask Ms. Roy to give us more information about the common circumstances I have explained here on this particular case and the common circumstances that you would often see about this type of violence. And how often finally someone has some bravery to go to the police about a situation like that and then, unfortunately, they would not be protected by this type of provision, simply because they hadn’t done it before.


Ms. Roy: Further to Ms. Illingworth’s remarks, I’d say that, unfortunately, in many cases of violence between intimate partners, violence has to occur several times before those persons can find the courage or the resources to report their attacker, and those persons must then be taken care of.

If you think of what Christine Saint-Onge experienced, we could have brought here with us today dozens of families who have experienced the same kind of situation in the past 18 months. That man was previously an offender and he attacked Christine Saint-Onge. He slipped through the net, and that’s what I want you to remember today. He was granted an absolute discharge despite the courage of the many women who had reported him. He was allowed to get away with it, while those women, like Christine Saint-Onge, didn’t get a second chance.

The laws must now have some teeth and help to save lives. This is what we’re asking you today: be brave because you have to look beyond the rights that offenders are granted under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and constitutional rights. The victims also have rights, and they must be claimed. I’m here today on behalf of all those women — some 10 of them were named; that’s a lot, and that’s just in Quebec — who could have been saved by more courageous and more coercive laws in the past 18 months.


Senator Batters: Ms. Illingworth, do you have anything to add very briefly? I know we’re running out of time.

Ms. Illingworth: I would echo what Nancy has said, violence against women, violence against intimate partners in the context of same-sex relationships as well, are violations of human rights. Every Canadian has a right to live without fear of violence, and we have to address this serious problem that is occurring in every community across Canada and focusing on the victims’ human rights, as well as those accused.

I think we can do that and we can bring balance to the system, and we can save lives if we do that, if we prioritize safety and protection for the people who are coming forward to say, “This is happening to me.”


Senator Dupuis: Ms. Illingworth, if I understand correctly, your organization, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, is independent of the Department of Justice. I also understood you had a mandate to make recommendations to the Department of Justice. Have you either had occasion to make recommendations on Bill C-75 to the Minister of Justice or been asked to make recommendations?


Ms. Illingworth: No, I have not made official recommendations related to it. Part of what the office does is to come and testify on various pieces of legislation. Part of my coming here is raising concerns that I see with the bill, so I’ve tried to do that today. But I take your point, and perhaps we will follow up with a letter to the minister.


Senator Dupuis: I’d like to ask you the following questions since you deal with crime victims in general. Based on your experience, if I’m a woman who has been assaulted by my husband rather than my neighbour, is there a greater chance that my husband will get off easier than my neighbour? Or is it the reverse? If my husband hits someone, is it better for him to hit his neighbour than his wife? What do you think about that, based on your experience with the criminal justice system today?


Ms. Illingworth: Yes. It’s a sad statement, isn’t it? I would agree that in the context of domestic situations, oftentimes the criminal justice system professionals don’t respond to it as seriously as it should be. As I said before, it is viewed as, “Oh, this is a domestic dispute.” We’re not recognizing it as this very serious pattern and cycle of violence that it is, which women and children have a very difficult time escaping from and need protection from.

Yes, there needs to be a trauma-informed and violence-informed education of criminal justice system professionals, including lawyers, Crowns, judges, police officers, everybody working with victims to raise their rights and have everyone understand how significant this is. The harms are significant, and we have to respond and support appropriately, while also ensuring people are safe and can escape it.


Senator Dupuis: We’re not only seeing discrimination against women individually, but what you’re explaining to us is actually consistent with an element of systemic discrimination against women in the criminal justice system. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Before I have the pleasure of thanking you on behalf of my colleagues, I would like to express a thought.

With the rising numbers of systems for meeting people on the Internet and social media, we obviously know that people will say whatever they want to say and that there are very few ways to verify the truth or authenticity of what they do say. More specifically, repeat offenders are people who don’t boast about their past, and, in many cases, as you noted, if they’ve been granted release, they aren’t required to say so, and, in a way, are even protected in that regard.

Shouldn’t we also be concerned to educate public opinion on the need to inquire into people’s pasts before entering romantic relationships? As Senator Dupuis said, a romantic relationship involves a certain amount of stability or repetitiveness over time. From the moment you consider developing a relationship of that type with another person, wouldn’t it be wise to try to look into the person’s past to determine what risk you might be taking in sharing your life with an individual who obviously presents a genuine risk of violence against another person? What do you think about that?

Ms. Saint-Onge: I entirely understand what you say about the new ways of meeting people. That wasn’t how it happened in my sister’s case. So I think that, yes, it’s important in the case of social media, but it’s also important in all the ways in which you can meet someone. If it were easier to access references — I don’t know what you call it — but information on a person’s past in order to understand what you’re getting into, that would be useful because we all want to put our best foot forward. And, in many cases, these people are highly narcissistic individuals who won’t necessarily question themselves. They perceive themselves as all-powerful people. So, yes, I’d agree on that point.

The Chair: The point I’m making is that there is a legal reason why we want to reverse the burden of proof in the bill, and it’s that there’s a risk that’s greater than the presumption of innocence. That’s the fundamental reason why Parliament will agree to reverse the burden of proof. From the moment a person has been convicted of repeatedly committing violence against another person, that person becomes a risk and creates a public responsibility to prevent that risk.

If we proceed this way on release, shouldn’t we move on to the next step and also consider making public and accessible the fact that a person has previously been released, as Senator McIntyre said earlier, and therefore that that person has previously been charged? The fact that a person has been repeatedly charged ultimately establishes a tendency or at least a character trait, without necessarily going to the extreme that your sister unfortunately experienced, but that is nevertheless real. How do you manage the risk that person presents in warning others that entering into intimate contact with that person presents a risk?

Ms. Saint-Onge: We’ve also recently noticed in the media that many women have met people on social media and been caught up in that scene. Those women are still alive, but I entirely understand your point of view. I don’t know.

Ms. Roy: I think that, if we remove the concept of “repeat offence”, we’ll be taking a major step toward providing protection for those victims. If those people hadn’t slipped through the net by being granted absolute discharges, I think we would already have protected the victims. I don’t think many of those victims would have been better protected by an offender registry because many offenders wouldn’t be in it. I think we’ll already be taking a major step in that direction if we immediately enforce the laws to protect the victims.


The Chair: Ms. Illingworth, thank you so much for your contributions to our reflections. You’re always welcome, of course. As Senator Dupuis suggested, you are a permanent agent of changes and improvements to the legislation. We, the honourable senators around the table, very much appreciate it.


Thank you, Mr. Serre and Ms. Roy. Please continue your work on behalf of victims because it is essential that we make the justice system more humane and bring it closer to those who suffer its most immediate consequences, that is to say, the victims. Ms. Saint-Onge, you and your family have all our support and friendship for the painful events you have experienced. Thank you for coming to testify. Your testimony will help prevent other situations like the ones you have experienced.

Honourable senators, since our next witnesses must appear by video conference, we will now take the time to establish communication.


Honourable senators, we will continue our consideration of Bill C-75, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

We are privileged this afternoon to have the cooperation of witnesses from Vancouver. I will introduce them to you. They have agreed to share the table and the video conference in the same room. We are very indebted to you for your availability.

It’s my pleasure to introduce, on behalf of Pivot Legal Society, Caitlin Shane, Staff Lawyer, and Naomi Moses, Lawyer. Welcome.

And we have, from the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Hilla Kerner, Collective Member.

Also with us by video conference is Ms. Karen Wiebe, Executive Director, Manitoba Organization for Victims Assistance.

Good afternoon, Ms. Wiebe.

We see all of you together by the miracle of a video conference.

Caitlin Shane, Staff Lawyer, Pivot Legal Society: Thank you. Good afternoon, members of the committee, and thanks so much for having us here to speak today on this very important legislation.

My name is Caitlin Shane, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, a human rights organization based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I’m joined by my colleague Naomi Moses, who is a lawyer with Rosenberg Law and a Pivot board member.

We intend to limit our submission today only to those provisions that deal with the victim fine surcharge under section 737(1) of the Criminal Code.

While we support the proposed amendments and discretionary victims funds generally, we are also urging the committee today to consider recommending amnesty provisions for people who cannot pay outstanding surcharge fines that were imposed under the existing legislation.

In 2018, Pivot appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada as an intervener in a case called R. v. Boudreault. In our submissions, we argued that, for our clients, a mandatory victim fine surcharge amounts to cruel and unusual punishment contrary to section 12 of the Charter. The majority of Pivot’s clients live under extreme financial precarity and they are also intensely criminalized, oftentimes for engaging in activities that they do for survival, such as using illicit drugs, engaging in adult consensual sex work or breaching untenable bail conditions.

As a result of all of these factors, Pivot’s clients are disproportionately burdened by a mandatory surcharge for which judges do not have discretion to waive in their unique circumstances.

By way of example, most of Pivot’s clients receive income assistance at B.C.’s incredibly low rate of $385 per month. With a surcharge of $100, that easily amounts to over a quarter of one person’s average monthly income and it leaves very little in the way to afford food, clothing and other basic necessities.

For those clients who cannot pay the fine, and I would submit that is the majority of Pivot’s clients, they are then subject to provincial civil enforcement mechanisms. In B.C., that means that social safety net funds can be set off and it also means that bank accounts can be garnished.

Then, of course, in situations for folks who default on payment entirely, which, again, oftentimes are Pivot Legal Society’s clients, they are effectively sentenced to a never-ending threat of criminalization that puts their health and safety at risk and drives themselves, their work and activities further underground.

I’m going to hand it over to Naomi to talk about our recommendation for the committee today.

Thank you.

Naomi Moses, Lawyer, Pivot Legal Society: The Supreme Court of Canada, in the Boudreault case that my colleague just referred to, accepted the appellant’s arguments and struck down the mandatory surcharge as cruel and unusual punishment. We therefore urge the committee to recommend that the proposed amendments be passed so that judges will once again have the discretion to waive the surcharge when it is appropriate, particularly in cases where imposing the surcharge would cause undue hardship to the individuals before them.

In our view, however, the amendments in Bill C-75 do not go far enough, as they do not address the problem faced by people who cannot pay their outstanding surcharges.

Therefore, we strongly urge the committee to recommend a provision that does two things. The first is to immediately waive outstanding fines for all individuals who have already applied for extensions of time to pay. The second is to allow others to apply for a permanent exemption through an accessible, free and low-barrier process.

Pivot’s clients and other low-income individuals should not continue to be penalized under unconstitutional legislation. For the committee to meaningfully address a situation that the court has acknowledged violates people’s Charter rights, it must recommend amnesty to those with outstanding and unjust fines.

The alternative is to allow people across Canada to face an untenable situation; namely, to continue to experience what the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized as cruel and unusual punishment.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. We welcome your questions.

The Chair: Thank you.

Hilla Kerner, Collective Member, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter: It’s good to speak to you today. I will speak about some of the provisions regarding male violence against women in the domestic setting, also known as domestic violence, and about preliminary inquiries in relation to sexual assault trials.

Sixty-four women were killed in Canada in 2017 by their current or ex-male partners. From the beginning of this year, 188 women called their transition house alone seeking safe shelter for themselves and their children.

We know from our own front-line work that men can be very dangerous from early on in the relationship [inaudible] as dangerous once women left them. Therefore, we support the expanded definition of intimate partner and the clarification that it includes current or former spouse [inaudible] partner or dating partner.

Men know that they can beat and rape women with impunity. It’s the relatively small number of men who are charged for the violence they commit that are the exceptions that prove the rule. Too often even men who face charges and convictions are so profoundly convinced of their entitlement over women’s bodies that they will harm women again.

Therefore, we support the provisions that require courts to consider peer intimate partner violence charges when determining whether to release the accused or impose bail conditions, and a provision that creates a reverse onus at bail for an accused charged with a violent offence involving an intimate partner, if they already have a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner.

We’ve been responding to hundreds of women who are victims of sexual assault every year. Some of them will choose to report the attack to police. Even though they have us as feminist advocates beside them, it is very rare that their case will ever get to court and that the rapist will ever face a trial.

According to Statistics Canada most cases reported to police will never end up in court. I must note that in British Columbia the threshold is higher than most provinces, since the Crown is instructed to only proceed with cases that have a substantial likelihood of conviction.

In the very few cases that reach trial we still have preliminary inquiries —

The Chair: Can you hear me? There is audio interruption, but we will continue nevertheless.

Ms. Kerner: In the very few cases that reach trial, we saw how preliminary inquiries were used by the accused defence, not as a tool to determine whether there is sufficient evidence but as a way to discourage the complainants by prolonging the process and conducting brutal cross-examinations. Therefore, we are very much in support of the proposed amendments in Bill C-75 that would restrict preliminary inquiries to adults accused of offence liable to life imprisonment.

This bill came to be under the leadership of Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. We know Jody. Our house where we operate our rape crisis centre and transition house is in her riding. We appreciate her attempts to bring forward bills that will improve the criminal justice response to women victims of male violence and will increase its ability to hold violent men accountable.

However, law reforms alone will not get us there. We need a complete transformation of all levels of the criminal justice system. We need a civilian oversight of police investigations into cases of sexual assault that will include front line feminist advocates. We need an open and ongoing review that will not simply result with sexual assaults being classified under different codes but instead restore investigations being done and appropriate charges being brought forward.

We want Crown decisions not to proceed with charges or to stay charges in cases of male violence against women, whether it’s sexual assault, wife battering and sexual exploitation, to be made publicly available.

Last, we want a genuine application of the open court principle, a fundamental concept in democratic society that allows the public to hold judges accountable. We need all judgments in sexual assault trials, oral and written, to be transcribed and posted online and available for public scrutiny. Only transparency and accountability will transform how the criminal justice system responds to violence against women. Only if we hold large enough numbers of abusive men accountable, will we create a culture that deters all men from harming women. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation.

We will now move to Manitoba. On behalf of Manitoba Organization for Victims Assistance, Ms. Karen Wiebe. We will listen to you now, Ms. Wiebe.

Karen Wiebe, Executive Director, Manitoba Organization for Victims Assistance: Thank you to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for having me present today.

I come to you as the mother of a murdered child and as an individual who has suffered additional trauma at the hands of a system that has little care or concern for victims.

While I realize that many look at the criminal justice system as an attempt to manage those who stand accused of crimes and those who are found guilty of crimes, I see the criminal justice system from a much broader perspective. The issue of dealing with an accused and offenders needs to be seen as only a part of the work of the criminal justice system. The other part of it involves the needs and rights of victims whose lives have been completely overturned due to the effects of other choices.

Granted, there have been a few improvements throughout the last few years, but, with a system that still sees itself as offender-based, the improvements have not gone far enough to support victims, or people like me who are often left to fend for ourselves when we are at least able to do so. As I studied the amendments suggested for Bill C-75, I was struck at how, even with some improvements, so little suggested that recognizes the needs and rights of victims, let alone address any of those needs and rights.

Unfortunately, it seems to be only once a person has experienced the real trauma of having lost someone through murder that they understand that the needs of victims of such horrendous experiences are great. They are certainly of equal importance to those needs of offenders. In fact, I will state that they are and should be considered of greater importance than those needs of offenders.

Sadly, this is anything but true. Victims have been and continue to be neglected by a system that only seems to care about offenders, and so people across the country live in desperation without support to recover from deeds committed against their loved ones.

I speak as a mother of a murdered child, but I also speak as the executive director of an organization of families of homicide victims and an advocate for victims and victims’ families from Manitoba but also across Canada.

In terms of Bill C-75, I have read through the notes on the amendments that are being proposed, and I have several amendments to which I would like to speak.

I would like to comment on the amendment discussing bail regarding principle of restraint suggested for police and courts to ensure release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention.

The issue of safety is of paramount importance to the families of victims of homicides. These families have no power over decisions made by the courts, but those same decisions impact a victim’s very existence.

Many families feel unsafe after their loved one is murdered. In fact, people who have lost a loved one to homicide often cannot even go to similar places as where their loved one’s life was taken. Imagine the feeling of driving or walking along a path where your loved one took his or her last breath, often in a violent manner, at the hands of another.

The issue of safety as regards an accused is even more pressing. You might not think that those accused of homicide would ever achieve bail or that they would even apply for bail. That would be incorrect. Those accused of first-degree murder have even achieved bail. In my own case, a judge presiding over remand for three of my son’s killers asked them why their lawyers had not applied for bail for them.

In the case of homicide, it does happen that accused apply for and achieve bail. In each case that I know of, once the case has proceeded to trial they have been found guilty of first or second-degree murder. And the victim’s family? Left feeling terrified, worried, insecure and powerless.

This amendment, in particular, speaks to the needs and wants and, yes, the rights of the accused. It says nothing about the needs and wants and rights of the victim.

It is imperative that the issue of bail be clarified. Those who have been charged with first-degree or second-degree murder must be held without bail if families and the public can have any confidence in the justice system.

While I understand the need to observe the rights of citizens of Canada, guaranteed under our bill of rights, this amendment is only addressing half of the issue because it is not looking after the rights of victims. Until that happens, you will never get this right.

Regarding intimate partner violence, I have a concern regarding the issue of repeat offenders. Currently, the area of intimate partner violence and domestic assault is grossly unreported and, therefore, not addressed nearly as much as it needs to be. In the case where an offender has been given a second chance, or where there was a complaint made but no criminal record resulted from that complaint, the next time it happens — because we all know that it will happen again — there is nothing to prove that there ever was a prior problem. This means that the next time an abuser offends and there can be no record of the other times, the offender can achieve bail more easily.

There is no support for victims with this amendment. If someone is the victim of domestic assault, the likelihood of a repeat assault is extremely high. Victims need to know that there is no avoidance of recording instances of domestic assault and therefore no easy threat to them of their abuser being automatically released through a bail program looking for release at the earliest opportunity.

Intimate partner violence must always be viewed as a serious offence and must always be treated as such.

Regarding the amendment discussing the Youth Criminal Justice Act, there needs to be a stronger move to hold young people responsible for serious crime such as homicide. Many families of homicide victims feel that much value is given to the lives of young offenders while the lives of their loved ones are viewed as meaningless. A sentence of seven years, for example, somehow is viewed as equal to a lifetime lost.

It is unfortunate in our society that more and more young people are involved with the use of weapons. Many young people carry knives with them all the time. When you ask them why and what they are expecting to do with a knife, their reply is that they need it for protection.

Recently, I have attended trials for two young people who killed other young people by bringing a knife to a fist fight. The devastation that those acts caused for all families involved is life-altering and uncompromising.

The sentences achieved? One was under house arrest while awaiting trial and when found guilty of manslaughter was given a year of supervision, while the other was held in custody until trial and then completely released with time served. For taking another’s life, this is outrageous.

It has certainly caused a loss of confidence in the justice system in Canada. How can it be that a life is taken with so little consequence? Currently, among gangs, a murder is seen as a badge of honour.

I am not actually advocating for more time in custody. However, I am saying that if a young person is violent enough to actually take someone else’s life, they need to be supervised for more than a year or two.

There needs to be recognition of the terrible destruction and loss to the family of the victim. The sentences handed out to those violent offenders need not be longer, but at the very least the offender needs to be supervised for a lengthy period, at least five years longer.

Regarding the reclassification of offences, I realize that the amendments are looking towards the hybridization of offences. In regards to this issue, victims have grave concerns and issues with the likelihood of offenders being dealt with in a more summary fashion where, for example, DNA samples may not be taken from offenders of very serious crimes such as kidnapping.

In order for victims to start to regain a feeling of safety after such a horrendous crime and indeed for the public to feel safe, it is crucial that DNA samples be recovered from such perpetrators. In fact, the public expects that DNA samples will be taken from all offenders and would be very surprised and dismayed to find that this is not the case.

As well, with regard to hybridization, there are too many areas that could well be moved into provincial jurisdiction that are serious offences and require a variety of supports that have not necessarily been available at the provincial level.

Regarding offences such as interference with human remains, obstructing justice, benefiting from human trafficking, arson and breaches of prison or long-term supervision, these offences are serious and should be viewed as serious enough to be of a federal nature and therefore dealt with by federal corrections.

All of the above areas must never be seen as victimless or unimportant but must be handled with the seriousness that they are committed with.

In our case alone, two individuals were charged with obstruction of justice and because of their false testimony, one of my son’s killers was acquitted. This is especially re-victimizing for us because as these two individuals are going through the parole system now, they are admitting their lies that allowed the killer to go free. But unfortunately there are no do-overs with homicide trials and so that killer walks free.

There are several other areas where hybridization may result in the loss of DNA being taken. However, I would like to comment on and bring your attention to a slightly different issue.

Within the framework for —

The Chair: I’m sorry, Ms. Wiebe, may I ask you to conclude? Honourable senators want to ask questions. If you want to conclude in 30 seconds, it would be helpful.

Ms. Wiebe: I’m very close.

Within the framework of manslaughter, there needs to be clarification regarding serious offences. Currently, first- and second-degree murder offences are sometimes being plea bargained to manslaughter. What happens then, with manslaughter, is that offenders are given time and a half for each year of incarceration before trial.

A person that might be charged with first- or second-degree murder ends up with a plea bargain and in more than one case — at least one case I can say right now — there has been a killer that has served their sentence and walked out the day they were sentenced.

We need to make a divide in manslaughter so those cases that are plea bargained down to manslaughter are not regarded the same as a manslaughter case where somebody has accidentally killed somebody.

I’ll conclude with that. Your amendment states that:

. . . the fundamental principles of sentencing continue to apply so that sentences imposed should always be proportionate to the seriousness of the actual commission of the offence, including impact on victims and the offender’s degree of blameworthiness. Hybridization is not a reflection of the seriousness of the offence but the degree of seriousness of the actual commission of that offence, taking into consideration all of the circumstances.

Homicide is homicide, regardless of how the courts handle it. A case that is plea bargained is no less serious than a case that continues through as first- or second-degree murder.

Those are my comments. Thank you for the opportunity to present to you today.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your comprehensive presentation and analysis of Bill C-75, Ms. Wiebe.

I will now invite the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Dupuis, to start the questions.


Senator Dupuis: Good afternoon and thank you for being available to take part in this discussion on Bill C-75.

My first question is for Ms. Kerner. You’ve done a very good job of presenting a number of elements that you support in Bill C-75. However I’d like to go back over what you said.


You said what is needed is a complete transformation of the criminal justice system.


I’d like you to clarify the steps that should be taken to ensure that the rights of the women who are clients of your shelter are more respected within the criminal justice system.


Ms. Kerner: I think the issue of unfounded cataloguing cases got a lot of media attention in the last two or three years and it’s even mentioned in some of the fairly recent bills. What we’ve seen as a result of that pressure is that police are now cataloguing cases as not enough evidence instead of unfounded. It does not increase the number of cases that have been through thorough investigation and proceed to charges.

So the problems start very early on. We still deal with police officers who try to explain to a woman — it’s the first time she makes a statement, and often after that woman will call us — that because it’s a “he-said-she-said” case it’s not likely to go to court. There are questions about consent. There are the old traditional sexist questions about. “Why didn’t you do something?” Still, a lot of women discouraged from very early on.

Then we get to police recommendations to charges and across the country, half of the cases where police will recommend charges — and in some provinces police actually can prosecute — will actually not proceed.

I believe that at the end, the Crown decides approximately 25 per cent, but the Crown has no obligation to tell the public why they decided not to pursue sexual violence or domestic violence charges.

Then we have the example of judges across the country that are unfortunately very ignorant, the Alberta Supreme Court judgment that reversed the acquittal of Bradley Barton in the murder of Cindy Gladue is striking. How many judges across the country are not familiar with sexual assault law, with interpretation of consent? They use jury instructions that are 20 or 25 years old. The problem that we have as the public is that we do not have access to those judgments. In most provinces, sexual assault cases in provincial court and in the Court of Appeal are not available to the public. We want those judgments to be transparent so that the public can see the work of a judge and hold them accountable.

We used to rely on mainstream media to be present in court, but there is a decline of mainstream media. Even in Vancouver, the leading newspaper only has one reporter who sometimes asks us what’s going on. We don’t have media who play that role. So now it’s upon all of us, the public, to read those judgments and to be able to criticize judges.


Senator Dupuis: I understand the explanation you’ve given us because it’s consistent with what we’ve heard from other groups representing women and, more particularly, women victims of spousal abuse.

Would you say both that every woman who deals with this type of conduct is discriminated against and that there’s also an element of systemic discrimination in the criminal justice system as a whole?


Ms. Kerner: Absolutely. I think we still live in a world where being born a woman or a female means we belong to the oppressed class. How we are treated and how we are not equal under the law when we are victims of male violence is definitely a reflection of the systemic sexist patriarchal system and societies that work in it.

Senator Lankin: Thank you to all of you for appearing before us today.

Ms. Wiebe, you covered a tremendous amount of territory. I’m appreciative of that. I will take the time to read the transcript of your remarks so that I can weigh it. I couldn’t absorb it all, and I don’t write fast enough.

Right now, my questions are for Ms. Kerner and Mx. Moses.

If I may, first of all, Ms. Kerner, with respect to some of the issues you’ve raised, some of them might find a natural place for the committee to consider amendments. Some of them are much broader observations. The committee does have the opportunity, as well, to append observations to a report back to the House of Commons. I would invite you, if there are particular issues that you’ve raised that you think would benefit from our consideration of them as an observation, to communicate that with us as soon as possible, because we will be moving next week to examination of the clauses.

I do have one area that I’m quite interested in. I’ve been pursuing this issue of the phenomenon of dual charging when the police arrive and there are cases of allegations of sexual assault and/or intimate partner violence. In those cases, as you refer to the “he-said-she-said,” sometimes the counter-allegations of violence have led to dual charging. The Barbara Schlifer Clinic has recommended the government to undertake an impact assessment of the continuing and rising trend of the phenomenon of dual charging.

That is something I’m thinking about in terms of discussing with colleagues here about the observations. I’d like your comments on that.

Mx. Moses, I’d like to speak to you from the point of view of your organization, Pivot. I do appreciate the submissions you made on surcharging and I understand those, but I want to know whether this phenomenon of dual charges has arisen in the experience of the broad community that you represent. We have been informed by the Justice Committee that this was observed at least 15 years ago with respect to Indigenous women.

As I’ve said here before, in my own community work, I saw the trend continuing to develop with respect to newcomer women, Black women and women of colour in general. Is this is a trend that is also experienced by same-sex partners through the broader LGBTQ community and, in particular, have Pivot’s membership or clients seen or experienced this?

Ms. Kerner: Thank you, senator. The dual charges are a backlash to the feminist advocacy that tells the police they cannot just attend a house where there was a report of violence or threat and go away without doing anything. The countermove that the police are doing too often is arresting both parties, or even only arresting the woman, based on what the man says with no analysis of the power relationship or the situation, such as the bruises on the woman or the marks she has.

They are very quick to either remove the woman by encouraging her to go to a transition house by arresting her, and they’re blind to any understanding of male violence against women.

Before the Pivot lawyer speaks, I also want to say there is definitely hypercriminalization of women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, women who are calling for advocacy, Indigenous women, women who are drug users and women in prostitution. They are hypercriminalized about anything they do, whether it’s poverty-based theft or trying to defend themselves against theft or johns.

Those marginalized communities and women are definitely being punished again and again by the criminal justice system and the high rates of women in prison, especially Indigenous women, women of colour and women who come from poverty. There is really striking evidence of that.

Mx. Moses: We do have evidence from the people that Pivot represents, particularly in the Downtown Eastside, that dual charging is a problem, and particularly for Indigenous women. There is an advocacy centre in the Downtown Eastside called the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, and they recently released a report called Red Women Rising. They have extensive data on this issue where, in many instances, women who call police or who are at the scene of an incident where they have been abused or hurt may be women who are involved in adult consensual sex work.

What occurs in these situations is that, rather than charging the person who is clearly the perpetrator of the violence, the women themselves are charged. This is particularly the case for Indigenous women in the Downtown Eastside.

Senator Dalphond: My first question is about the surcharge. In your discussions you referred to the fact that for poor people who are fined, even if it doesn’t seem like a lot of money for some people, it is difficult for them because it’s $100 out of $350 of monthly income.

Are you advocating that we should ease the requirements to waive the surcharge? I don’t know if you were listening to the previous panel, but some groups feel the surcharges are important because they finance their activities, and they are groups who represent victims.

Are you advocating for us to relax the surcharge process or that we should keep it the way it is?

Ms. Shane: Thank you for your question. I think we are in support of funding for victims’ programs, but the point is that for folks like our clients, they are unable to pay that surcharge. To use a crass expression, it’s a bit like getting blood from a stone. The person cannot pay, and therefore the money is not going into those funds.

The other thing I would note as an unintended consequence of the mandatory nature of the victim fund surcharge under the existing legislation is that, in effect, it victimizes folks who are already engaged in a daily struggle just to afford the cost of living and avoid the constant criminalization of drug use, sex work or camping outdoors in the absence of housing in the midst of an opioid crisis.

People are under intense pressure and this expectation contributes to that pressure in a real way that, ironically, creates victims as a result of the bill.

In effect, we’re arguing that judges ought to be returned the discretion to make that call based on the circumstances of the defendant. Currently, obviously, judges are unable to use that discretion, and what we’ve seen consistently in B.C. is judges imposing a day of jail time in lieu of imposing the fine because they know that individuals will not be able to pay. They’re aware of the negative and dangerous impact that surcharge can have on a person whether they do end up paying it with what little they have or if they don’t pay it, and are therefore under intense scrutiny and threat of arrest on an ongoing basis.

We’re advocating for the return of discretion to judges and we think the proposed amendments capture that.

Senator Dalphond: The amendment proposed by the government captures that, according to you?

Ms. Shane: Yes, to return the discretion to judges to waive it in the —

Senator Dalphond: To be comfortable with the amendment proposed by Bill C-75?

Ms. Shane: Yes.

Senator Dalphond: My next question is about preliminary inquiries and it’s for the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. You refer in your brief to the fact that you have substantial experience with accompanying women to court for preliminary inquiries. Can you talk to us a bit? Based on your experience — I don’t know how many files, but maybe 10, 100 — I don’t know, maybe you can tell me — was the preliminary inquiry the end of the process in one or many cases, or is it just one step in the process and then it ends up in all cases in a trial. So the complainant has to be exposed to the questioning and testifying twice instead of once?

Ms. Kerner: Exactly. We do not have many cases because few cases go to trial. Last year was a bit of a miracle. We had two cases of conviction, one that is now in the film festival, three sisters with historic sexual assault in Williams Lake and two separate cases of rape by the same man, which is also part of the problem. It’s more likely that the Crown will proceed with charges if there is more than one victim. In both cases, from the two recent ones, it probably took two years from the charges to get the preliminary inquiry, and another two years to get to trial. The defence constantly comes back to say that the date will not work, freezing women’s lives for years. Then, in the most recent case — but we’ve seen this before — the Crown is so careful with the cases they’re taking about sexual assault that the preliminary inquiry was just a phase and both cases ended up in trial, and, in the rape situations, also in convictions.

The scrutiny of the screening process was not necessary as a way to prevent a trial. It was just another burdensome process. I had, unfortunately, quite a few situations such that the way the defence treated the victim in the preliminary inquiry, she said she cannot go through it, and the process was stopped. The Crown is still hopeful, but the combination of what defence are doing and how they try to use the process to brutally and actively discredit and discourage victims is unfortunate, along with the ignorance of the judges. I know you have Bill C-337 on the table; I hope to speak at length when that time comes. However, these things have a devastating impact on women’s ability to survive this process and to end up in a trial.

Senator Miville-Dechêne: I’d like to address my question to Ms. Kerner. I was listening to you and thinking that in Quebec, in the aftermath of the #MeToo movements, there were some police officers who decided to go over some of the sexual aggression complaints to see if they had been well looked at. So some progress. I was listening to you and not seeing any of that, or any progress in your opening remarks.

Is there something happening in B.C., or is it very different? You were saying that there are very few cases. In Quebec there are many problems, but there is some hope. I was not seeing much hope in the way you were talking. This is not a question but more of a statement. The question would probably be this: How do you go about including the concept of violence against women in Bill C-75, where the word “women” is not even there because we are talking about an “intimate partner”?

Ms. Kerner: I have two points. It’s not that I’m not hopeful. I’m an activist. I’m obliged to be hopeful. But all the positive cases we see in the criminal justice system are based on police officers, in the Vancouver Police Department and in the RCMP, who were willing to go above and beyond and go out of their way — and the same with Crown — and do everything in their power to make these cases go to trial. We cannot rely on that. We cannot rely on individual people, police officers and Crown attorneys, who go above and beyond duty and due diligence. To have a systemic intention, we need the head of the system to be mindful and committed.

The issue of the absence of the word “women,” I definitely think the loss of the language is another way that anti-violence and women victims of violence are facing. It’s not to say that only women are victims of male violence. We know that men, children and transgendered people are also victims to male violence because of the power men have in our society. I will support and congratulate any effort to return this feminist analysis to the legislation and to the system, because if we only look at sexual violence and male violence in the domestic setting as individual phenomena, we will not transform the societies that we have where women are still oppressed by men.

I think it’s a very insightful and useful point that you’re making. I hope you will use your power in your world. I will use my power, and from above and below we’ll improve the terminology, because it means a particularly important analysis that will get us closer to social change.

The Chair: Thank you so much, Ms. Kerner, for appearing here on behalf of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. Thank you so much also, Ms. Shane and Mx. Moses, on behalf of Pivot Legal Society. We appreciate the work you do on behalf of all Canadians because helping Indigenous, racialized and underprivileged groups is a national responsibility. We’re indebted to you for taking it upon yourself to move in that direction and show, as Ms. Kerner has said, that there is hope to ensure the system will improve substantially.

Ms. Wiebe, thank you so much for your thoughtful and comprehensive presentation. It will be very helpful in our deliberations in the days to come on Bill C-75. Thank you all. We hope to have another opportunity in the near future to listen to you. Thank you so much.

I invite Dan Christmas and Arnold Viersen to come to the table now, while we connect with Ms. Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls who will appear through video conference.


Dear colleagues, we now welcome our third panel of witnesses to continue our study this afternoon.


It is Bill C-75, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts. In this session, we have the privilege to hear from the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking and, of course, you will have recognized our colleague Dan Christmas, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, and Mr. Arnold Viersen, Member of Parliament and Co-Chair. Welcome to the Senate.

If it is your first experience, Mr. Viersen, you will have something to report to your colleagues in the other place how this chamber functions.

At the table with you there is Ms. Qajaq Robinson, Commissioner from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

We will have, on behalf of the national inquiry, the chief commissioner by video conference, Ms. Marion Buller. We are making sure the connection is established. Welcome, Ms. Buller. It’s a pleasure to have you with us today.

I was going to start with our colleague in the Senate, but as we say in French, à tout seigneur, tout honneur. We will start with you, on behalf of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The floor is yours, Ms. Buller.

Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and senators. It’s a real pleasure to attend, even by video conference, with you today.

On behalf of Commissioners Audette and Eyolfson, we are grateful for the opportunity to present our comments to you today regarding Bill C-75. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as you no doubt know, is charged with inquiring into the systemic causes of all forms of violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. We are charged with making recommendations to end that systemic violence.

For your information, we will be filing our final report with all governments at the beginning of June. Our final report is in production, ready to come. I can’t divulge too many secrets to you today, but I’m happy to share with you what we have heard. At the end of my opening, I will ask my dear colleague, Commissioner Robinson, to comment as well, especially on the things that I’ve missed.

I want to start our comments, Mr. Chair and senators, with comments in support of the bill that tend to promote the safety of Indigenous women and girls and Two-Spirit people.

First of all, with respect to summary conviction offences, extending the limitation period from 6 to 12 months will mean two important things. First, there is more important time for complete police investigations. There will be more time to obtain statements, especially from transient witnesses and complainants, and it will also allow police more time to collect physical evidence so that there’s a strong evidentiary basis for charges that can be laid.

This, in theory, at least, can lead to fewer unfounded or insufficient evidence conclusions to files. It can lead to less frustration on the part of complainants because the police can do, and should do, a thorough job of investigation and preparing for court. It will also increase the safety of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people because solid cases are going to court — solid evidentiary cases supporting the charges.

The second area where this is particularly helpful is that this provides more time for the complainant. Complainants all across Canada told us that they recanted their statements or opted not to cooperate with the police because they had no safe place to go. They needed the accused person for financial support or housing, and they also feared losing their children to child welfare because they would have no housing, no income.

So by extending the time to 12 months, this will allow complainants time to get and think about legal advice, to speak to victims service, if there are any victim services in their areas, to find safe shelter and to find income to support themselves and their families so they’re not reliant on a violent partner.

So in theory, at least, at this point, Mr. Chair and senators, extending the limitation period can increase the safety of Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQQIA and trans people.

I’d also like to comment on the judicial referral hearing. In theory, this will assist in avoiding record building, and by that I mean individuals who have extensive records and convictions for failing to attend court or failing to report to their probation officer or bail supervisor.

More often than not, and we’ve heard all across Canada much the same, very often the failure to attend court or the failure to get to a probation officer at a certain time has been because people can’t afford the bus fare to get to court or get to the office. They can’t physically get there because many people in Canada live without public transportation, have to rely on roads that aren’t always open and have to travel great distances. In a practical sense, they are convicted of failure to comply with bail or probation or failure to attend court because they are poor and often because they are mentally or physically ill.

On first blush, anyway, the judicial referral hearing, which, of course, does not result in a charge, can avoid record building. This is especially important for Indigenous women and girls, 2S and trans people who are marginalized. They are poor, so this is important.

I’d also like to point your attention to the changes in section 810 of the Criminal Code. First of all, I’d like to commend the drafters for changing the wording from “his or her” to “their,” a more inclusive and gender-neutral terminology.

The proposed amendment casts a much wider safety net by including intimate partner rather than limiting the safety net to spouse or common-law partner.

So what this means is that where there’s a dating relationship or an intimate relationship of some sort, the partner is also covered by the safety net under section 810.

This is very important with section 810 recognizance because, quite often, they are used when a trial is deemed inappropriate for some reason by Crown and/or defence. It’s commonly called a peace bond, but a section 810 recognizance is used very often, especially in remote communities, where there simply isn’t the option for a trial, for example, an absconding witness or where there isn’t the threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

I welcome this change to expand the safety net. This will tend to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

Next is intimate partner violence. Requiring or imposing a reverse onus at bail and higher maximum sentences where there’s intimate partner violence are both steps in the right direction to protect Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people because these provisions recognize the gravity of the violence against intimate partners and the vulnerability of victims. We say, according to what we’ve heard, these are steps in the right direction.

I’ve given you the good news first. Now I’m going to give you the bad news.

We have criticisms of Bill C-75. Returning now to intimate partner violence, the definition of “intimate partner violence” does not include familial violence. We’ve heard testimony from all across Canada about intergenerational violence and violence between family members, who all live under the same roof. Much of this can be traced back to residential schools and the impacts of colonialism, but this familial violence is just as traumatic to the victims and complainants as intimate partner violence. Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people need the same type of protection from familial violence as this bill will provide against intimate partner violence. In other words, the net hasn’t been cast far enough.

Our next criticism is the emphasis on repeat offences. Though admirable in principle, the emphasis or the requirement for repeat offences is problematic because this requires both complaints and convictions. I won’t repeat what Ms. Kerner said previously, but we have heard from families that, due to a lack of trust in police and the justice system, they are reluctant, first of all, to make a complaint. Then, as Ms. Kerner very eloquently stated, there are many roadblocks to an actual conviction for intimate partner violence.

Instead, we prefer the wording, “pattern of behaviour.” This would provide greater safety for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals because there is not the same reliance on conviction or previous convictions.

Next is increasing the maximum sentence for summary conviction offences. Although there may be certain elements of the population who would applaud this, this increase in the maximum sentence creates two problems for Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA individuals.

First of all, they are overrepresented in prison as it is. By increasing the maximum sentence, there is a method now to ensure that these same people will spend even longer times in prison.

Next, this raises an access to justice issue for Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals as raised, I believe, on May 2 by members of the Canadian Bar Association and others. By extending the maximum sentence for summary conviction matters past the six-month benchmark, there’s a limit on the ability to access law students, law clinics and other ways or forms of access to justice. Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals have difficulties enough as it is accessing meaningful legal services. This extension even further limits their ability to access justice.

I’ll turn now to bail, and sentencing, for that matter, looking at this from the perspective of Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals.

As the bill is currently drafted, there is no specific provision for the requirement of something similar to a Gladue report at the bail hearing, notwithstanding the fact that judges, police officers and justices are required to consider the special circumstances of Indigenous people. Because of this lack of reporting or information to the decision maker, there’s a strong risk, Mr. Chairman and senators, of perpetuating negative stereotypes and assumptions of Indigenous women, 2SLGBTQQIA individuals and, might I add, these assumptions and negative stereotypes can work against the granting of bail.

This raises the issue of Gladue reports generally. This bill is an opportunity to codify the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in Gladue and in Ipeelee, and to make Gladue reports, or whatever name the government deems appropriate, a legal requirement at all stages of the criminal justice process where the liberty of an Indigenous woman, girl, 2SLGBTQQIA individual is at stake.

The government has failed to do so. It is vital, Mr. Chair and senators, to understand that the high level of violence targeted at Indigenous women and girls, 2SLGBTQQIA individuals are, as our Prime Minister has said, a national tragedy. This requires nothing less than a systemic response that affirms the value of the lives of Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA individuals. That’s what they told us: Change the laws.

As, Mr. Chair, you just recently said, this is a national responsibility.

At the bail stage, the bill must include as a factor that the court must consider that the complainant is an Indigenous woman, girl, 2SLGBTQQIA individual, nothing less than that. That information has to be before the decision maker in order to craft an appropriate release or to order detention. Too often, Mr. Chair and senators, we heard from family members and survivors that an accused individual was released back into the community without proper protection for the complainant and her family. This was seen to further devalue their lives and their safety, and the safety of the community as a whole.

Next, where there is an Indigenous woman, girl or member of the 2SLGBTQQIA community who is a complainant, on sentencing that must be an aggravating factor in sentencing and included in section 718.2 of the Criminal Code. Nothing less than that is going to protect the safety of Indigenous women, girls and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA communities. Otherwise, the criminal justice system is seen to further devalue their safety.

Next, when the deceased is an Indigenous woman, girl, or member of the 2SLGBTQ2IA communities, that must become murder in the first degree under section 231(4) of the Criminal Code. Nothing less will protect women, Indigenous women and girls and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA community and nothing less will uphold their value in our society.

These changes must be made, especially on sentencing and on charging but primarily on sentencing, of course, to address denunciations and deterrence and to uphold the value of lives.

We, as a nation, have already done this by expressly stating in the Criminal Code that denunciation and deterrence are primary considerations on sentencing, when there are children involved, where the complainants are members of the police or the judicial system, and, might I add, where the victim is law enforcement, or military, or service dogs. Certainly Indigenous women, girls, and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA communities deserve the same protection, if not more, I propose, than law enforcement, military and service dogs, Mr. Chair and senators.

I listened very carefully to the submissions on May 2, and I echo the concern of Senator Dyck. She noted that there had been a gender-based analysis done on these proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the YCJA, and others, but I share her disappointment that there was no analysis done through an Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA lens. I find it particularly disappointing, especially in light of this national tragedy and national responsibility.

Mr. Chair and senators, thank you for the opportunity to address you today. I now call on my dear colleague, Commissioner Robinson, because I know I’ve certainly missed some points, commissioner.

The Chair: We’ll have the opportunity to listen to you on questions if you want, Ms. Robinson, because I’m looking at the clock also and we want to give an opportunity to the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking to express their views before we turn to questions.

We will now listen to our guest from the other place, Mr. Viersen.

Arnold Viersen, Member of Parliament, Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: Good evening, Mr. Chair and senators. Thank you for inviting the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking to appear before you on Bill C-75.

Our group launched in 2018, and I know that many of you are members of it. We have four co-chairs representing the three parties in the House of Commons and the Independent Senators Group, represented by Senator Christmas.

I apologize on behalf of MP Moore and MP Ouellette, that they were unable to attend here today.

Human trafficking is a horrific and brutal crime that is growing in Canada and all around the world. It is often described as a form of modern slavery.

Human trafficking is probably happening within 10 blocks of where you live.

We know the vast majority of human victims in Canada are female and young. While those most at risk include Indigenous women and youth, teenage runaways and children who are in protection, we know that anybody can become a victim of human trafficking.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking has reviewed the amendments proposed by Bill C-75 around the human trafficking and has serious concerns with what the consequences of such amendments will have on successfully addressing human trafficking in Canada.

Specifically, Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize, in the Criminal Code of Canada, section 279.02(1), the material benefit from trafficking; section 286.2(1), material benefit from sexual services; and section 279.03(1), withholding or destroying documents for the purposes of human trafficking, which are currently indictable offences.

If the amendments to hybridize these three offences in Bill C-75 are accepted, a trafficker found guilty of these offences could end up with a fine for $5,000 and face no jail time.

The deterrence provided by a $5,000 fine is minimal compared to the $300,000 a trafficker can make for only one victim in a year.

In considering the extreme violence and degradation and torture that these victims of human trafficking often endure, the punishment proposed for the offence clearly does not correlate to the nature of the crime.

Bill C-75 would also finally bring into force the former Bill C-452, which was proposed by former NDP Member of Parliament Maria Mourani. This bill contained three important tools to fight human trafficking: A reverse burden of proof in cases of human trafficking, the ability for courts to seize the proceeds of crime for human trafficking offences and consecutive sentencing for human trafficking offences.

The APPG notes with regret the significant delay in coming into force of the former Bill C-452, which was adopted in the House of Commons unanimously in 2013 and adopted by the Senate in 2015.

Regrettably, law enforcement and prosecutors have waited six years to use these tools. The reverse burden of proof on traffickers and the seizure of proceeds from human trafficking is critical to diminishing human trafficking.

We support this long overdue section and coming into force with these amendments.

Human traffickers often exploit more than one individual at the same time and may often be charged with multiple human trafficking offences for multiple victims. The elimination of a consecutive sentence would mean that an individual found trafficking several victims would end up only having to serve the imprisonment for one of the offences.

The loss of consecutive sentencing will also be a contributing factor to victims continued reluctance to come forward and report a crime, due to the immense fear and psychological control that their traffickers have over them. Victims will recognize that the result of their reporting, which puts them at a high risk of real harm from their perpetrators, will serve no real purpose.

The result of this proposed amendment is startling. It erases victims and will do little to deter their traffickers.

I’ll now turn it over to Senator Christmas.

Hon. Senator Dan Christmas, Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: Good evening, fellow senators. Indigenous women are the highest represented victim group in human trafficking in Canada. They make up 4 per cent of the population of Canada but make up at least 50 per cent of the victims of human trafficking. Due to systemic discrimination within policing and judicial systems, Indigenous victims of human trafficking often do not report their crimes.

Further, a special Senate report considering Indigenous women as victims of crime found that their offenders often receive lesser sentences than if the victim was a non-Indigenous female.

Such factors demonstrate that the proposed amendments in Bill C-75 to provide discretionary prosecution of hybrid offences will significantly increase the likelihood that a human trafficking offence against an Indigenous woman would likely proceed as a summary conviction offence, further denying them justice.

In conclusion, human trafficking in Canada is a criminal activity that is elusive, complex and under-reported by its victims. It is low-risk, high-profit crime that can provide traffickers with a significant amount of profit and little chance of being caught.

The proposed amendments to human trafficking offences in Bill C-75 would provide for minimal punishment and deterrence to offenders who are found guilty of such offences. Considering that traffickers are currently at low risk of being charged and prosecuted, such amendments further hinder any real efforts at addressing this growing societal problem.

It’s a fact that Indigenous women are also overrepresented in the human trafficking industry. Coupled with systemic racism and judicial discretion, the amendments will specifically contribute to their continued disadvantaged position in the criminal justice system.

Thus, the proposed amendments in Bill C-75 around human trafficking offence will result in justice being increasingly denied for human trafficking victims.

We therefore respectfully recommend that section 279.02(1), section 279.03(1) and section 286.2(1) of the Criminal Code not be amended and remain as indictable offences.

We also recommend that amendments proposed by former Bill C-452 be brought into force as originally adopted by Parliament.

We thank the committee for giving us this opportunity to be heard and we are eager to respond to any questions honourable senators may have.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I’ll now invite deputy chair of the committee, Senator Dupuis, to ask questions. I have a list of senators. Looking at the clock, I remind you to be brief, and I expect the answers to be as effective.


Senator Dupuis: My question is for Ms. Buller, but first I’d like to thank our four witnesses for being with us today.

Ms. Buller, you said that extending the limitation period from 6 to 12 months for summary conviction offences would have a positive effect on the conduct of police investigations because there would be more time to gather evidence. You also referred to the testimony of Ms. Kerner, who told us there were serious problems, not only with delays, but also in the way police investigations are conducted.

Could you give us a little more information on your observations regarding what might constitute obstacles. Based on testimony from Kingston’s chief of police, it appears that police officers have few tools they can use to encourage victims to file complaints and cooperate with police, for all sorts of reasons, such as poverty and lack of security. Did you initially observe factors of that kind in the conduct of police investigations following an assault, since that’s the first point of entry into the criminal justice system?


Ms. Buller: Senator, could I please defer that to my dear colleague, Commissioner Qajaq Robinson.

Qajaq Robinson, Commissioner, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Thank you for the question. One of the stumbling blocks when it comes to investigations, which we heard about repeatedly, particularly in Northern and remote communities, is the availability of specific investigative tools.

I think this also speaks to my colleague’s previous point about the importance of legislative reform in this area being done through an Indigenous lens — an Indigenous woman’s lens but also a distinctions-based and intersectional analysis.

I’ll give you an example of testimony we heard about from northern Quebec. In the Nunavik territory, the Kativik Regional Police Force is a police force established under land claims but is also funded and supported through the tripartite funding formula.

They do not have the legal framework to investigate certain types of offences so they depend on the Sûreté du Québec. We heard testimony that in some cases — cases of child sexual assault, for example, and some cases may be hybrids in that case — it could take up to six months before a sworn statement could be taken because of the lack of availability of officers to take those statements. We’re dealing with timelines and resource challenges.

Senator Dyck: Thank you to our witnesses. I’m going to address my questions to Judge Buller or to Qajaq Robinson. I want to make sure that I understood clearly what you said in your statements, Ms. Buller. You said that family violence should be included, so I am thinking that you would probably recommend that the provision for intimate partner violence be amended to include family violence?

Ms. Buller: Yes, to cast that wider net.

Senator Dyck: The second thing you talked about was bail. And you said that decisions regarding bail must take into account the identity if the victim was an Indigenous woman or 2SLGBTQQIA. Is that correct?

Ms. Buller: Yes.

Senator Dyck: The third one was with respect to sentencing. I believe you said that for sentencing, when the victim is an Indigenous woman or 2SLGBTQQIA, the identity of those persons should be aggravating factors.

Ms. Buller: Yes, and included as an aggravating factor under 718.2, and actually written into the legislation.

Senator Dyck: So as separate aggravating factors?

Ms. Buller: Yes.

Senator Dyck: Good. I wanted to be absolutely clear. With regard to homicide offences, where the deceased was an Indigenous woman or a member of the 2SLGBTQQIA community, the charges should be first-degree charges?

Ms. Buller: Correct.

Senator Dyck: Thank you very much. Those are very clear recommendations. I thank you for that.

The only question I had is related to the sentencing and putting in a specific provision for those groups as aggravating factors. Could you very briefly describe why you think that needs to be done?

Ms. Buller: We’ve heard from many people across Canada, and I’m sure this committee has heard the same thing, where, when the complainant is Indigenous, the sentence is less than would be for a complainant who is non-Indigenous, or who is White, in other words. I think we have to, as a nation, make it very clear that the safety of Indigenous women, girls and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA communities are so important and so valued that it has to be a statutorily confirmed aggravating factor under 718.2.

Senator, that is primarily to address deterrence and denunciation because our women and girls and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA communities are going missing and being murdered because people can get away with it. So all the more need for stronger deterrence, both individual and general, as well as denunciation.

Senator Dyck: One of the barriers to that, that I’ve heard, is that people are reluctant to have a factor that counteracts the Gladue provisions in 718.2(e). In your hearing did you hear anything in regard to how 718.2(e) affected justice for members of families of missing and murdered Indigenous women?

Ms. Buller: Yes, and I invite Commissioner Robinson to correct me and fill in some gaps here.

We heard many people across Canada say that they felt that the Gladue principles under 718.2(e) meant Indigenous offenders had lighter sentences. However, there were other voices that were saying, at the same time, that sending our people to jail longer just means they become better criminals. It doesn’t address the actual problem.

Having an amendment to 718.2 to include indigeneity as an aggravating factor to address deterrence and denunciation doesn’t necessarily outweigh or negate the Gladue principles as they apply to the accused.

I’m hearing this in these hearings and elsewhere as a bit of a misunderstanding of what a sentencing judge does, because sentencing requires delicate balancing, and in some cases, depending on the totality of the circumstances — the offence, the offender, the complaint, the community — it may very well be that the balance shifts one way in one case but shifts the other way in another.

What this means, in terms of putting it before the sentencing judge, is that, yes, this is a factor that has to be on the weigh scale at the time of sentencing as opposed to not being on the weigh scale at all. Commissioner Robinson, feel free to expand on that.

Ms. Robinson: What Chief Commissioner Buller has identified is exactly what we’ve heard throughout our hearings across the country. I think an important thing to add is that in crafting appropriate sentencing, all these factors have to be on the table. What is also a huge issue when it comes to Gladue-type considerations is the infrastructure within the communities to make sentencing meaningful. That needs to be part of the consideration as well.

I don’t believe that the amendments to the Criminal Code or the jurisprudence envisaged it being utilized as a means of issuing lesser sentences. It was intended to reduce recidivism and it must, in turn, also create safety. That requires crafting creative and effective sentencing.

The Chair: Is this issue dealt with in your report? I want to be candid with you, Ms. Buller and not push you, because it would be impolite and inappropriate. As you know, it is fundamental to the whole issue of the fact that the system has been failing to address the conditions of Indigenous people in Canada. That’s why we have to rethink the system.

But the problem, as Ms. Robinson just mentioned, is: how do you factorize all those elements that a judge has to take into account when sentencing? As Ms. Robinson just mentioned, Gladue principles also involve the infrastructure to be effective. Otherwise, it’s just an open door to make a sentence lighter without changing anything in the system; in fact, we’re perpetuating the system.

I don’t want you to expand too much on that, but it is certainly in sync with the question raised by Senator Dyck.

Ms. Buller: Mr. Chair, if I can say this: Given your question, I think you’ll find our final report, findings, facts and recommendations very interesting.

The Chair: I understand that you are inviting me to read it immediately. Thank you.


Senator Carignan: My question is for the honourable member and my fellow senator. You propose that the present state of the law regarding the treatment of individuals be maintained, but, in your opinion, shouldn’t we also recommend that Parliament proceed with implementation of Bill C-452, a private member’s bill sponsored by MP Maria Mourani? Remember that it was passed but never came into force. The bill specifically addresses the issue of trafficking in persons.


Mr. Viersen: Bill C-75 does bring into force the first two components of it. It’s the consecutive sentencing part that will not come into force. That’s the line in Bill C-75.

Back in 2008, Imani Nakpangi was convicted with renting out two girls for two years in the GTA. They were 14 and 15 and he made over $400,000 from them selling them or renting them out for sex every day. The judge described his actions as egregious in the extreme, and with concurrent sentences he received five years and he was out in three years and 11 months.

In February 2011, he had missed his parole hearing and in 2012 a warrant was out for his arrest and he was arrested last year for trafficking a 15-year-old again.

That kind of story tells you about the fact that with the consecutive sentencing, this guy would still be behind bars, not out there on the street trafficking women and girls again. It’s very important that the one line in Bill C-75, which says that the consecutive sentencing part won’t come into force, should be removed out of Bill C-75, so the consecutive sentencing does come into force.

The Chair: Do you have something to add to the answer of Mr. Viersen?

Senator Christmas: Thank you, senator. I fully agree that if we don’t have consecutive sentences for human trafficking in law, it will have a disproportional impact on Indigenous women and girls. As already stated, perpetrators of crime against Indigenous women and girls generally receive lesser sentences. I think that has been proven. If we don’t allow this particular provision of former Bill C-452 come into effect, we will see lesser sentences for those who traffic Indigenous women and girls. Like I say, with the possibility of a summary conviction offence of $5,000, it will appear as just the cost of doing business.

So I certainly support bringing former Bill C-452 into force, including those provisions that permit consecutive sentencing.


Senator Miville-Dechêne: I followed the path of Bill C-452. Isn’t it true that the new Liberal government decided to axe the bill on the ground that consecutive sentences were inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? I’m not saying I agree or disagree with that. Wasn’t that the argument advanced and raised once again with Bill C-75? It was suggested that Ms. Mourani’s bill was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, although the former government never mentioned that.


Mr. Viersen: I can say a couple of things about that. First of all, what’s frustrating is that there were other parts of the bill that would also have been useful, so declaring it into force and having the courts deal with the consecutive sentencing would have been one thing. The other thing is that they could have declared it into force and then put this piece in a subsequent bill by itself. They could have removed the consecutive sentencing back out.

I do know that at the time the bill went through, it went through the committee hearings in the House of Commons and it went through the committee hearings at the Senate level at that point as well. That would have come up then as well. I’m sure they heard witness testimony around the constitutionality of it, and yet the bill was still passed. It was just never declared into force. To go back and declare a decision by a previous Parliament as unconstitutional I think is a bit disingenuous.

The last point I would make is that I was in the Durham region in Oshawa a month ago. I got to ride along with the police and witness what they do for a living every day. They do amazing work and it’s not easy. I said, “Is this a growing problem?” They said yes. I said, “Why is that?” They said, if you’re trafficking guns or drugs, the penalties are high. Here they have a renewable resource that doesn’t disappear and the consequences are low.

I just want to make that point.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you all for your presentations.

My question is for the All-Party Parliamentary Group. The bill creates a consecutive sentencing regime for the trafficking in persons, which would come into force at a date fixed by order of the Governor-in-Council. I still can’t understand the delay into putting into force these provisions on trafficking in persons.

In your opinion, does the combination of consecutive sentences with the presumption of exploitation violate any Charter rights? I’m asking you this question because concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed regime were raised by the Department of Justice, particularly in terms of section 12 of the Charter.

Mr. Viersen, could you answer this?

Mr. Viersen: I would refer right back to the response to the previous question that previous studies have been done at committee and also in the Senate committee, and the bill had been passed through that at that point in time. I don’t know what has changed to say that now suddenly this would be unconstitutional. The other thing that’s frustrating to me is that this hasn’t been declared into force. The courts would have that jurisdiction to address the constitutionality of it as well and we would know for sure then.

Senator McIntyre: I’ll read to you briefly what the Charter statement indicates.

It says:

In terms of section 12 of the Charter, this provision could be particularly concerning where the conduct involves the commission of multiple trafficking and other offences, for example in relation to multiple victims, which may carry mandatory minimum penalties. Courts would be obliged to impose such sentences consecutively, without regard to an offender’s specific circumstances, which could lead to grossly disproportionate sentences in some reasonably foreseeable circumstances.

They go on to cite section 12 of the Charter, which deals with cruel and unusual punishment. What do you think of this statement?

Mr. Viersen: I would just say at this point in time that if a trafficker is only getting three years for trafficking two girls, 14 and 15, it does not appear to me to be cruel and unusual punishment. For that particular person to have gotten 10 years, that still would not have seemed like cruel and unusual punishment at this point.

I think the constitutionality of that would have been tested and borne out at that point in time. As I understand, currently the mandatory minimum no longer exists on particular parts of the human trafficking Criminal Code violations and so that part of it is no longer an issue either.

Senator McIntyre: I still can’t understand why the government is not putting into force these provisions on trafficking in persons. As you have indicated, former Bill C-452 received Royal Assent in June 2015 but was never put into force by an order of the federal government, and that is very sad.

Thank you, sir.

Senator Lankin: May I say thank you to all of you who have appeared here. You’ve been very helpful to us and to the deliberations that will follow. MP Viersen and Senator Christmas, I agree with you completely, so I won’t ask you any questions. I will acknowledge that in our discussions with other witnesses, a similar issue has been raised with respect to not hybridizing the offence of forced marriage and abduction, and that will be part of our deliberations, but I agree with your proposal completely.

Commissioner Buller, I have two questions with respect to issues that you raised. The first is the comment you made with respect to previous convictions that instead we should be looking at patterns of behaviour.

In discussions, in particular around reverse onus, a number of witnesses have suggested that these factors shouldn’t be considered at all, that there is a reverse onus. And whether or not there is a previous conviction or pattern of behaviour in cases of intimate partner violence — and I recognize that there are suggestions about broadening that scope — it should just stand as a reverse onus. I’d like your comment on that.

The second question to you is about your recommendation with respect to first-degree murder when the murdered individual is an Indigenous woman, child and LGBTQQIA. “IA” is new for me. I’ve learned something from you today. Thank you very much.

I would like you to talk about that because I’m not a lawyer. It seems that one of the considerations in terms of both laying charges and/or convicting or sentencing in relation to first-degree murder, there are a number of factors that would be taken into consideration.

On first blush, I understand exactly the motivating reasons for putting this forward. I’d like you to educate us a little bit about that because I worry that we might find that beyond the scope in the short period of time we have to be able to undertake.

Ms. Buller: Thank you very much.

Regarding pattern of behaviour and reverse onus and bail, the difficulty is this, to put it succinctly and bluntly: One of the difficulties in determining whether to grant bail or detain an individual is, as the law currently stands, whether there’s a substantial likelihood that they will commit further offences.

Right now, in the current law, Crown counsel is able to submit, as part of their submissions, be it for bail or detention, the accused’s criminal record. Those are convictions only. Now, as Ms. Kerner said earlier, and I’ve said it as well, to rely on convictions for intimate partner violence issues is very thin ice because complaints are not often made and convictions are even rarer. The pattern of behaviour wording encompasses more about the individual’s behaviour than simply convictions and it goes directly to whether or not there’s a substantial likelihood they will go on to commit further offences, which is one of the considerations for judges on bail.

We say that in order to go to ensuring the safety of Indigenous women and girls, the pattern of behaviour is just as important as the actual convictions.

A lot of times, there are objections to giving that sort of information about an individual; that this is the third or fourth time he or she has assaulted the complainant, because there hasn’t been a conviction. But that’s important information when you’re deciding as a judge whether or not to release an individual and, if so, on what conditions. So pattern of behaviour is broader and it goes more to the reasons for granting bail or not.

Going to first-degree murder, the law allows you, as lawmakers, to decide what constitutes first-degree murder. As the law currently exists, that can be murder in the course of a sexual assault, murder involving a police officer and a variety of other situations that allows for murder in the first degree.

It’s to recognize the importance of the individual who has been killed and the importance of their life. That’s what it goes to. I suppose we could say every life is important, and it is, but when you consider the amount of violence that Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals experience every day — and it’s well documented that they are 12 times more likely to experience violence — how else can we address deterrence and denunciation and to show the value we put on these lives than to make it murder in the first degree. That tells all of Canada that if you kill one of these women, it’s murder in the first degree, the strongest penalty and the strongest offence that we can impose.

I invite Commissioner Robinson to add to that.

The Chair: Ms. Robinson, very quickly, please, because we have five minutes left, and I have our colleague Senator Batters, who is also entitled to have her day in court on this issue. Could you quickly conclude?

Ms. Robinson: I agree with my colleague. I don’t have anything to add. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Sorry about that remark, Senator Batters.

Senator Batters: That’s all right. I used to be a lawyer and have had my day in court representing people.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

Mr. Viersen, I appreciate the work that you, Senator Christmas and everyone on the all-party human trafficking working group, are doing. We saw a lot about this issue when we had the prostitution bill going through the Senate. I was the sponsor of it under the Conservative government. I think it was Bill C-36 at the time. We saw what a serious and much-too-common crime this has become, especially with all of the online activity that now proliferates this issue.

You drove some key points home when you talked about that $5,000 fine and no jail time could potentially be the result for a human trafficker, and when you said that you’ve spoken to police about these people and they say, “For guns and drugs, the penalties are high, but for humans, the penalties are potentially low,” which is problematic, particularly given the kind of money they can make from humans. It’s really disturbing.

I certainly share your concern about what Bill C-75 does with this consecutive sentencing amendment. My point of view on that would be, and I’m sure many would share it, is that human traffickers should not receive a discount because they have trafficked more than one victim. That’s an absurd result.

I know that you had a limited time to present, so I wanted to give you a couple of minutes to explain to us a little more why that particular part should be amended in your view.

Mr. Viersen: I did come prepared with a few quotes from some of the police officers I’ve spoken with and have worked with. There’s Detective Sergeant Dominic Monchamp from Montreal’s human trafficking unit. He says that having consecutive sentencing, certainly acts as a deterrent:

I think that this message will restore the balance. Handing down consecutive sentences will restore the balance. These individuals are going to have to think before they act. They will no longer see this type of crime as being worthwhile. That is how they currently see it.

Gordon Perrier from the major crime division in Winnipeg said:

The amendments in Bill C-452 will enhance our ability to remove the profit from exploitation of this crime. I know from my own experience as an organized crime investigator, that forfeiture and consecutive sentences work. Deterrence and breaking the cycle of profitability can change behaviour and prevent others from entering that offending cycle of behaviour, greed, and disrespect for others.

It’s imperative that we protect our daughters and mothers and sisters in this country and I hope that this committee will do as we recommend.

Thank you very much.

Senator Dalphond: You’re quoting from some police officers who have appeared before the House of Commons?

Mr. Viersen: Yes.

Senator Dalphond: And the result is that the House of Commons dismissed the proposal?

Mr. Viersen: These were from the hearings when it was former Bill C-452.

Senator Dalphond: So you’re referring to witnesses before a different bill?

Mr. Viersen: Yes.

Senator Dalphond: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much Senator Christmas and Mr. Viersen for your contributions.

Ms. Buller, I think your report will become a bestseller because all the senators around the table will want to rush to read it. Of course, it’s an issue that has special resonance in the Senate. We have many colleagues of Aboriginal extraction and also from many other communities. The concern and the proposal that you will make in your report will certainly find its way into the Criminal Code in one way or another, and in other legislation that is the purview of this committee.

We might soon have an opportunity to host you to present a report to us and have an opportunity to question you on the substance of the report.

Thank you so much for having made yourself available this afternoon. On behalf of all my colleagues around the table, so many thanks for your contribution to help Canadians to understand the plight of Aboriginal women and girls and how we can address that in a definitive way so that we can be proud of our history. Thank you so much, Ms. Buller.

(The committee adjourned.)

Back to top