Judges Act—Criminal Code

Motion in Amendment Negatived

May 6, 2021


Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
[15:41]

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-3 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended

(a) in the preamble, on page 1, by replacing line 20 with the following:

“sault law, family violence and social context;”;

(b) in clause 1, on page 2, by replacing line 21 with the following:

“on matters related to sexual assault law, family violence and social”;

(c) in clause 2,

(i) on page 2, by replacing line 29 with the following:

“al assault law, family violence and social context, which includes sys-”,

(ii) on page 3, by adding the following after line 11:

“(4) The Council should ensure that seminars on matters related to family violence established under paragraph (2)(b) are developed after consultation with persons, groups or organizations the Council considers appropriate, such as family violence survivors and persons, groups and organizations that support them, including Indigenous leaders and representatives of Indigenous communities.”;

(d) in clause 3, on page 3, by replacing line 17 with the following:

“matters related to sexual assault law, family violence and social context,”.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[15:43]

On debate on the amendment.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond
[15:43]

Honourable senators, I want to congratulate Senator Boisvenu on his Bill S-231, for which he gave the first speech at second reading yesterday, and on his dedication to helping women who are victims of violence, including intimate partner violence. This issue matters very much to me and to the many other Quebecers with whom I marched on Friday, April 2, in Montreal.

According to an increasing number of studies, intimate partner violence is often associated with the abuser’s desire to control the victim. Moreover, if the couple separates, the abuser is more likely than any other member of society to murder their spouse.

The latest femicide numbers for Quebec show that this phenomenon calls for a joint federal-provincial strategy supported by experts in the field, including those responsible for resources that help violent individuals and those involved in supporting victims, such as shelters for women who are victims of abuse and violence.

I want to highlight two Quebec reports that were released last December. First there was the report of the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee headed up by the Quebec coroner’s office, which includes 28 recommendations, and then we had the report of the Expert committee on support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, entitled Rebuilding Trust, which contains 190 recommendations, including providing training for all social and judicial actors. Both reports and their recommendations target actors involved in the judicial process as well as governments and lay out the complexity of the problem.

Earlier today, the Government of Quebec announced a budget of $71 million to promote better care for victims of domestic violence and ensure enhanced monitoring of offenders.

For now, the fact remains that the sad reality of domestic violence is part of the social context that every actor, including those involved in the judicial process, must consider.

Senator Boisvenu’s proposed amendment seeks to indicate to the Canadian Judicial Council that Parliament wishes to include domestic violence in the development of mandatory training for new judges and in the training for those already in place.

In light of the proposed amendment, we must ask ourselves two things: First, what is to be gained from adding these words and, second, what would be the consequences to the coming into force of a bill that has been moving through the parliamentary process for more than four years?

As I mentioned earlier, domestic violence is an unfortunate part of the social context in Canada and part of the reality of too many women. It cannot be ignored by anybody, including all the actors involved in the judicial process, such as police officers, lawyers and judges.

In Michel v. Graydon, rendered on September 18, 2020 — a case involving family law issues — the Supreme Court made some comments relevant to our discussions today:

Women in relationships are more likely to suffer intimate partner violence than their male counterparts . . . As a result, they are more like to leave their home and belongings — and their financial security — behind and to seek shelter or become homeless. . . . The impact of a history of violence on a person’s emotional health and their consequent potential fear, unwillingness to engage with their past abuser, or inability to do so are just as apparent. In addition to this, “some abusive fathers may use the child support process as a way to continue to exercise dominance and control over their ex‑wives. . . .”

Given the gender dynamics in child support law, legal rules cannot ignore the realities that shape women’s lives and opens them up to experiences and risks less likely to be experienced by men: like intimate partner violence, a higher proportion of unpaid domestic work accompanied by less work experience and lower wages, and the burden of most childcare obligations.

In other words, domestic violence is part of the social context that judges — all judges — must take into consideration when dealing with cases before them, be it in family law, in civil law or in criminal law.

For this reason, in addition to the $6 million allocated to judicial training generally every year, on April 26, 2017, the then-Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, announced almost $100,000 in additional funding per year to the National Judicial Institute to:

. . . develop training for both federally and provincially appointed judges that will focus on gender-based violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence.

When Justice Adèle Kent from the National Judicial Institute appeared before the Senate committee earlier this year, she referred to the fact that they have delivered 21 training sessions on sexual assault cases, domestic violence, human trafficking, victim rights and trauma-informed treatment. She went on to say that, recently, the National Judicial Institute has issued material dedicated entirely to the psychology and law of domestic and intimate partner violence.

In other words, domestic violence is part of the training and material now offered to judges. Maybe it’s coming late, but it has come, and more has to be done, I’m sure.

Judicial training on domestic violence is now imperative since it is a key focus of the new Divorce Act that came into force on March 1 of this year.

Unsurprisingly, judges are increasingly more familiar with domestic violence and the need to stop and prevent it. For example, a few weeks ago, the Court of Appeal of Quebec, in a case called R. v. Davidson, allowed an appeal by the Crown to double the sentence imposed on a man who, while drunk, violently assaulted his intimate partner to force her to repay some money that he had lent to her child. In this case, the Court of Appeal of Quebec reversed the judgment rendered by a provincially appointed judge, who will not be subject to this law, unfortunately. Allow me to quote some excerpts from this judgment:

. . . the Court has emphasized on several occasions the added weight that must be given to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence in the context of domestic violence. Indeed, sentencing in these matters pursues two main imperatives: to denounce the unacceptable and criminal character of domestic violence and to enhance the confidence of the victims and the public in the administration of justice.

. . . even when an accused shows encouraging signs of rehabilitation, the objective of rehabilitation should not take precedence over the objectives of deterrence and denunciation in matters of domestic violence.

Let me add that trial judges have not been spared.

An August 2020 article in Droit-Inc. quotes Justice Buffoni of the Quebec Superior Court, who said the following:

The time when women were the property of men is over, but unfortunately, that belief continues to prevail.

In another ruling quoted in the same article, his colleague, Justice Hélène di Salvo of the Quebec Superior Court said the following:

Too many women are murdered by a jealous partner who is unable to accept the breakup.

As we know, in Quebec, 98% of criminal cases are tried before judges of the Court of Quebec, who are appointed by the provincial, not the federal, government. When faced with criminal law cases, Quebec Court judges have also focused on the importance of addressing family violence.

Similarly, I would like to quote some very recent rulings of the Court of Quebec, which also focused on the importance of addressing family violence.

In R. v. Michel, which was rendered in March 2021, Justice Julie Riendeau wrote, and I quote:

 . . . in this case, a sentence other than incarceration would obscure . . . the need to express that domestic violence is not tolerated . . . .

On March 26, 2021, a newspaper reported that her colleague, Justice David Bouchard, said the following to an abuser in another case:

You and you alone are responsible for your actions . . . .

Society is increasingly condemning this kind of behaviour. It is important to condemn [this] behaviour and to dissuade you from reoffending . . . .

The next day, March 27, the daily La Presse quoted Justice Érick Vanchestein in R. v. Cormier, as follows:

 . . . the increase in the number of domestic violence cases over the past year and a series of femicides since the beginning of 2021 illustrate the importance of this social issue.

Accordingly, while not overlooking the objectives of rehabilitation and social reintegration, this case demands that the court give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence.

In other words, the judiciary is demonstrating that it is now very aware of the social context of domestic violence.

Commenting on these decisions, Manon Monastesse, the executive director of the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes du Québec, called it a sign of the times and said it was encouraging.

All of this must factor into our assessment of whether the proposed amendment is absolutely necessary or not.

It should also be noted that today is May 6, and there are only a few weeks left on the parliamentary calendar before the adjournment, currently scheduled for June 23. Many bills, including budget measures, will need to be passed in this short period of time.

If we amend Bill C-3, a message will have to be sent to the House of Commons, and the Minister of Justice will have to come up with a response after cabinet makes a decision. He will then have to ask the House of Commons to endorse that response, but, as everyone knows, the government does not have a majority and seems to be having a hard time controlling the agenda.

During her Senate committee appearance on March 31, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, who is well aware of all that, urged us not to amend the bill further but to hasten passage at third reading.

Now I, too, would urge you to pass this bill, which has been going through the process for more than four years. Thank you for your attention. Meegwetch.

Senator Boisvenu
[15:56]

I would like to ask a question.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[15:56]

Senator Dalphond, will you take a question?

Senator Dalphond
[15:56]

Do I have time, Madam Speaker?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[15:56]

You have one minute and 45 seconds.

Senator Dalphond
[15:56]

Thank you.

Senator Boisvenu
[15:56]

As you know, for some two years now, the Supreme Court has issued some interesting directions with respect to crimes committed against children in the context of sexual assault and domestic violence, and has asked judges to hand out much tougher sentences in these cases.

When you say that domestic violence is part of the social context, I would say to you that sexual assault, in many cases, is also part of the social context. I find your argument to disregard domestic violence all too convenient.

Are you taking into account that at least 30% of crimes of a sexual nature are linked to cases of domestic violence? Isn’t that an important factor confirming that this bill should take into account both domestic violence and sexual assault, because they are interrelated and are part of the social context? If not, let’s amend the bill so that social context alone is taken into consideration.

Senator Dalphond
[15:57]

I’ll answer briefly. The bill originally addressed sexual assault alone, and the House of Commons amended it by adding social context, to expand the mandatory training for judges. In doing so, the House included other dimensions of interpersonal violence in the bill, including domestic violence.

Hon. Raymonde Gagné (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate)
[15:58]

Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-3, more specifically to address the amendment moved by our colleague, Senator Boisvenu, who is proposing that there be mandatory training on family violence for judges.

First, I’d like to thank Senator Boisvenu for the intent behind this amendment. My esteemed colleague, your personal experiences have fuelled your passion for correcting the inequities in the work of the police and the justice system.

Personally, having supported a loved one in their efforts to leave an abusive relationship, I can say that I understand your objective. I applaud your commitment to the women who live in abusive situations or who are at risk, and your tireless efforts on their behalf. However, I fear that your proposal, although well-intentioned, will prevent Bill C-3 from being passed, which would bring us back to square one, something that no one here wishes to do. I’d also remind senators, as did the Minister of Justice, that the concept of family violence is already part of Bill C-3. That’s why I’m respectfully asking my colleagues to vote against the amendment.

The amendment is well-intentioned, and the government shares these intentions, as Senator Gold expressed in committee. Domestic violence should be at the centre of judicial training. However, the amendment wouldn’t change the scope of the bill, in substance or in practice, since the bill already deals with domestic violence.

Bill C-3 recommends specific training on “matters related to sexual assault law and social context,” and the application of “social context” in the bill includes intimate partner violence and family violence. To suggest otherwise would be to imply that there’s no connection between family violence and “matters related to sexual assault law and social context.”

As legislators, we know there’s no need to include an exhaustive list of every problem in the text of a bill when they are clearly covered by broader concepts. Honourable colleagues, social context education is a broad concept and, without question, it includes family violence.

When he appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the Minister of Justice indicated that the definition of “social context” used by the Canadian Judicial Council specifically includes “family violence.”

In his testimony, the minister stated, and I quote:

I would also like to point out that, during my introductory remarks, you heard me define social context. In that definition, family violence was included as a part of the social context. I would say that it is already part of the work we are doing with the concept of social context.

What’s more, when Justice Kent from the National Judicial Institute appeared before the committee, she said in her testimony that domestic violence falls within the context of sexual assault. She explained that, beyond training sessions on sexual assault provided by the institute, and I quote:

 . . . we delivered 21 sessions on issues that touched sexual assault cases like domestic violence, human trafficking, victims’ rights and trauma-informed treatment.

She also said:

Beginning in the 1990s, the Canadian Judicial Council mandated that all training should integrate principles of social context, particularly for newer judges so that they are aware of the challenges faced by the most vulnerable in our society.

I’m no legal expert, but as a legislator I understand that Canadian law provides for the need to give a sense of and effect to inclusion in legislation, of a general expression such as the concept of social context when it comes to sexual assault. This is the principle of the presumption of effectiveness, which comes from the old adage that the lawmaker doesn’t speak for the sake of speaking.

As the federal Interpretation Act provides:

The law shall be considered as always speaking . . . so that effect may be given to the enactment according to its true spirit, intent and meaning.

In this instance, I wish to be clear on behalf of the government by including social context in Bill C-3. The government’s intention is to include family violence and spousal abuse.

Colleagues, our chamber has the power to amend the government’s legislative proposals, but our amendments must provide added value. The proposed amendment brings little added value to Bill C-3 because Senator Boisvenu’s concerns are already taken into account.

Furthermore, such an amendment can’t actually be applied. Out of respect for the fundamental principle of the independence of the judiciary, the Judges Act gives the Canadian Judicial Council the power to establish continuing education sessions but doesn’t require that it do so. Consequently, even if the bill were amended to specifically deal with spousal or family violence — which, I repeat, is already in Bill C-3 — the independent judiciary retains the power to choose the training it will provide.

Senator Boisvenu’s amendment, as well-intentioned as it is, would have a very limited practical outcome. Training is already provided and spousal and family violence is included in more general terms in the law. I believe that Bill C-3 already adequately addresses the issue, and I sincerely believe that an amendment isn’t necessary.

The National Judicial Institute stated that “the psychology and law of domestic . . . violence” are already part of the training program for judges. I’ve no reason to doubt the institute.

My most serious concern, however, is that an unnecessary amendment to Bill C-3 could put the proposed legislation at risk. As was mentioned during committee hearings, and as I will point out today, when the original author of Bill C-337, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, herself a former leader of the official opposition, states that Bill C-3 should pass unamended, urges us to get this done, and I suggest we heed her advice.

Other witnesses expressed concern about the legislation being jeopardized in case of a late amendment. One such witness was Dr. Amy Fitzgerald, professor of criminology at the University of Windsor and founder of the Animal and Interpersonal Abuse Research Group. Dr. Fitzgerald was supportive of including family violence training for judges within Bill C-3. However, when asked specifically whether Bill C-3 should be amended by the Senate at this point in the parliamentary process, the answer was clear and very frank:

I’ll be honest. We don’t want to be the reason that the bill dies, so if that is a concern, then we would be happy with an observation related to what we have said here.

For the benefit of the chamber and Canadians who may be watching these deliberations, I wish to read two of the observations made by the committee that are responsive to the issue, and I quote from the report under gender-based violence:

The committee urges the Government of Canada to ensure adequate funding is available for Canadian judicial training on gender-based violence for all judges.

And under family violence:

The committee notes that the National Judicial Institute, during its appearance before this committee, stated that the “psychology and law of domestic and intimate partner violence” are part of the judicial training curriculum they provide. The recently updated Divorce Act includes provisions that focus, for the first time, on family violence and its definition, which includes “a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour”. For these changes to have their intended effect, proper education in this area must be provided to all family law judges across Canada. The committee asks the Government of Canada to ensure adequate funding is available to achieve this objective.

There is also an observation noting the importance of judicial training on the violence link; that is the evidence-based link between violence toward people, interpersonal violence and violence toward animals or animal cruelty. The observation states:

. . . judicial training on the violence link can help dispel myths and stereotypes about the behaviour of victims. For example, the committee heard how companion animals can be used to silence victims; that animal abuse is associated with an increased risk of severe intimate partner abuse (including sexual abuse); and that many victims delay leaving their partner due to concerns for their pet’s safety. These factors can help with understanding the victim’s behaviour and protecting them from further victimization. For these reasons, the committee suggests that training on the violence link be included in the design of judicial education seminars on social context.

I would request, honourable senators, that the committee listen carefully to all the witnesses by making a responsible and deliberate decision to prioritize the overdue passage of Bill C-3, while making the following clear in its observations to provide comfort to Canadians and clarity for those who might be called upon to interpret Bill C-3 in the future: that family violence forms a part of Bill C-3.

I can also give assurances to colleagues that the government will be reviewing the observations of the committee with great interest, and will heed its wisdom and perspective on these matters.

Bill C-3 came to us after receiving unanimous support in the other place. Our Senate committee heard from witnesses who confirmed that this bill covers the issue of domestic violence and the training judges need. Senator Boisvenu, your efforts and your commitment to protecting victims of violence are laudable and deserve our gratitude. I have to believe that the adoption of Bill C-3 would be considered a victory for the women you’re fighting for. I completely understand the reasoning behind your proposal, but I will vote against this amendment for all of the reasons I’ve shared. I urge my colleagues to do the same and to get this bill passed as quickly as possible.

Thank you, meegwetch.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:11]

Senator Gagné, you have a minute and a half left.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
[16:11]

Senator Gagné, will you take a question?

Senator Gagné
[16:11]

Yes.

[16:11]

Senator Gagné, you have indicated that you think there is some danger of this bill not passing if we put reasonable — in fact, not just reasonable but very good — amendments in; you feel this bill will, for some reason, fail. I would like an explanation of what the Justice Minister’s argument is. He must have told you why you should vote against this.

A few weeks ago, we passed a very controversial amendment here on assisted suicide with the mental illness portion of it. That was a bill that was probably the most controversial bill we have dealt with in this chamber in my time and yours. We had severe deadlines, and yet you and your government supported controversial amendments on a controversial bill that had anything but unanimous agreement in the other place or in this place. Even given that, your government supported an amendment that had every danger of delaying it further.

Yet when the courts in Quebec had already given deadline after deadline after deadline —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:13]

Senator Plett, I’m sorry. Senator Gagné’s time has expired, and we now are moving forward, on debate.

Hon. Denise Batters
[16:13]

Honourable senators, I rise today in support of Senator Boisvenu’s amendment on Bill C-3.

Senator Boisvenu and I have supported this bill from the very beginning, when it was first proposed by Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose. Training judges to have a better understanding of sexual assault and the experiences of the victims of sexual assault is not only necessary but long overdue.

Senator Boisvenu’s proposal to include domestic violence in that judicial training is also long overdue. Several female witnesses at our Senate Legal Committee testified about the need for this education. Some of them were survivors of abuse, others represented organizations that helped victims of domestic violence and some were Indigenous peoples. They have either witnessed or experienced personally what happens to survivors of domestic violence every week in courts. Jean Teillet of the Indigenous Bar Association told us that “. . . domestic violence, or family violence, is extremely important. . . .” and “. . . that it should and could be added to this bill as an important issue.”

This is why I found it so unbelievable that two male senators at the Senate Legal Committee, one of them the very government leader in the Senate, brushed off this very sensible amendment to include domestic violence in judicial training. They said it was “not necessary.” Not necessary? Tell that to Diane Tremblay and countless other victims of domestic abuse who have experienced their abusive partners receiving merely a slap on the wrist from the courts from judges who, in Diane’s words, “. . . did not understand my situation.” Tell that to Indigenous women, who are victims of spousal assault at a rate three times higher than that of non-Indigenous women.

Some senators have floated the idea that we don’t need to amend Bill C-3 because it is already a good first step. But we are well beyond needing just a first step, honourable senators. It is time for actual, real change. If we are going to bring forward witnesses to testify at committee on bills, we should at least try to implement what they are telling us. And they are telling us that rolling domestic violence into the term “social context” is not sufficient. As Indigenous witness Jean Teillet said:

I speak as someone who is actually one of your social contexts. I’m the one you’re talking about. You have entire seminars on Indigenous people. We’re social context. Social context is a bit of an inappropriate term, as far as I’m concerned.

It is time for us to get this done and get it done properly.

Some senators have suggested that amending Bill C-3 at this stage will delay it yet again and that it will be impossible to pass. To that, I say that the speed with which an amendment could pass rests only in the hands of the Trudeau government. As we saw with Bill C-7, a major and controversial amendment passed through the House of Commons in a matter of hours once the government climbed on board to support it.

If we were to pass this amendment to this government bill, it would return to the House of Commons as a message from the Senate and would be dealt with at an earlier stage of their proceedings, allowing it to be discussed expeditiously. If the Trudeau government were to accept the amendment, a large number of Liberal MPs in the minority-government House of Commons, plus a large number of Conservative MPs, would support it, meaning that it would pass quickly in the House of Commons.

If we pass this very necessary and worthy amendment today, honourable senators, its quick passage would be up to the Trudeau government. They’ve talked the talk about supporting women; now it’s time to walk the walk. What truly feminist government would say no?

Please join me in supporting this amendment and vote “yes.” Let’s get this done to help vulnerable women and victims of domestic violence. Thank you.

[16:17]

Honourable senators, I also rise to speak to Senator Boisvenu’s amendment. I want to thank Senator Boisvenu for taking the initiative of bringing this amendment forward, and I want to thank Senator Batters for her words today.

It is no secret to most in this chamber that I have some concerns with this legislation. I was not quite on the same page as Senators Boisvenu and Batters throughout the debate on Bill C-3, but I do support the intent. I have concerns with this legislation, as I have had with all previous iterations. As I said, that is not because I do not support the intent of the initiative. I believe that the justice system needs to operate in such a way that it supports victims of sexual violence and encourages them to come forward. We have all heard the egregious comments made to sexual assault victims by judges that are simply appalling and that are clearly based on stereotypes and ignorance of a complex subject matter.

Studies have shown the chilling effect those comments and the entire process has had on the likelihood of victims coming forward. That is unacceptable.

However, I do believe in the vital importance of the independence of the judiciary, and I remain concerned about the impact Bill C-3 could have on this independence. When Justice J. Michael MacDonald, the former Executive Director of the Canadian Judicial Council, testified at the House of Commons Justice Committee, he said that it is essential for the kinds of education and training judges should have to remain entirely within the purview of the judiciary. He noted the dangerous precedent this bill could set by permitting future governments to have the ability to make politically driven directives to the judiciary. He said:

The concern is that in 20 years from now, if the government of the day were to direct judges to learn about the myth of residential schools . . . you would want the judiciary to stand bravely, courageously, and say, “You can’t tell us what we have to learn. If you tell us what we have to learn, you tell us what we have to think, arguably.”

Likewise, Chief Justice Wagner of the Supreme Court of Canada stated in February of 2020:

The judiciary, as a collective, has to be free to decide what training and education judges receive to do their jobs well.

The Canadian Bar Association, among others, raised similar concerns when they testified at the Senate committee.

Of course, there were some witnesses, including the National Judicial Institute, who do not share this concern and who believe this bill strikes an appropriate balance.

Colleagues, for those reasons, I remain undecided as to whether I will support the legislation at the final vote. However, I do believe it is incumbent upon this chamber to ensure that we try to improve every piece of legislation that we have before us to the best of our ability.

Senator Boisvenu has brought forward an amendment that is supported by the testimony of victims who were able to demonstrate precisely how judicial education on matters of domestic violence could prevent violent attacks and save lives. The testimony of these brave women was gut-wrenching and compelling. Most witnesses supported this important inclusion and even explicitly pleaded with the Senate to make this change in their testimony.

I find it troubling to see some senators tell these witnesses that if the amendments they are advocating for were to pass, it would risk killing the bill, essentially putting the onus of the bill’s passage on witnesses, in an attempt to have them withdraw their support for such an amendment — shameful. The witnesses we hear from at committee are not there to weigh in on legislative timelines. They are there to offer their opinions on the legislation itself.

I found this line of questioning both inappropriate and misleading. This amendment, while quite possibly being very impactful, is not highly technical and would not require an abundance of time to consider. For those who support this legislation, this amendment is almost a no-brainer, considering the broad support of this legislation in the House of Commons and, I believe, the broad support in this chamber.

I do not understand why a very simple amendment would put this bill in such peril. I find this especially perplexing as the government and its representative were eager and willing to accept major, sweeping complex amendments to the assisted dying bill only a couple of weeks ago. As I was trying to ask Senator Gagné, this was a complex bill that had a timeline, and yet the government managed to get it done. The approval of an amendment like this should take very little time in both chambers and should not have much impact on the timeline at all.

Here we are, on May 6. We’re going to vote on this bill today. This bill will go over to the other place if there is an amendment. Next week they can deal with this bill. This does not need to take any time, colleagues. And for the deputy leader to use that as part of her argument, that the bill may fail because we don’t have time to deal with it — we’re working on the government’s timeline. If they want to take the time to pass it, they can do that.

If we are not obligated to consider improving legislation in this chamber, and witnesses are being discouraged from suggesting such improvements, what, colleagues, are we doing here? What was the point of our committee hearings? What is the purpose of these debates if our role is to simply act as a rubber stamp?

I would like to ask the government leader and his deputy leader when they were told to oppose all amendments. How long ago were they told to oppose amendments — before they even knew what the amendments were? The argument is that the stakes are simply too high to risk killing the legislation. But is that the case? What would the impact be on survivors of sexual assault? The National Judicial Institute, the body responsible for judicial education, informed the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee that from 2014 to last March, they delivered 51 sessions, either large programs that were dedicated solely to sexual assault cases or sessions in other programs. They delivered 51 of those sessions in the last six years. In addition, they delivered 21 sessions on issues that touch sexual assault cases, like domestic violence, human trafficking, victims’ rights and trauma-informed treatment.

When Justice Adèle Kent from the National Judicial Institute was asked by Senator Campbell how this would change the training they are already undertaking, she responded:

In one respect, I would suggest that the training will continue to evolve the way it has, and in one way, I might say, it would make no difference. But I have to say that since 2017, when Ms. Ambrose introduced Bill C-337, the dialogue between the judiciary, the legislature and the dialogue that we have had with representatives of victims’ groups and so on has been valuable.

In essence, she says nothing would change, but the conversations that they have had as a result of Rona Ambrose’s bill in 2017 have been valuable and have informed the evolution of their training.

Colleagues, I am failing to see the reason for us to refrain from amending this bill, an amendment that victims of family and domestic violence are asking for, when Justice Kent’s comments demonstrate that the significance of this bill will be largely symbolic and will make no difference to the existing training on the topic of sexual assault.

There have been times when we have passed flawed legislation, colleagues, because missing a looming deadline could have dire consequences. For example, many of the government’s recovery packages for Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic have been flawed beyond all measure, but we have passed them because of deadlines.

However, with sexual assault training continuing regardless of this bill’s passage, the same pressures are simply not there. If it is Parliament’s will to proceed with prescribing the topics judges must be educated on, then I believe we owe it to the victims of domestic violence to get this legislation right. There is no reason, colleagues, that this amendment process would have to be onerous or lengthy. If the government can pass an amendment enabling access to assisted suicide for mental illness in mere hours, it is nonsensical to suggest that a bill that had unanimous support in the House of Commons would require lengthy debate on a very simple, straightforward amendment.

I believe that in supporting this amendment we are fulfilling our role as the chamber of sober second thought, and I would like to commend Senator Boisvenu for his admirable continued work in support of victims of violence and family violence. Thank you.

Hon. David Richards
[16:28]

I would like to ask Senator Plett a question, if I may.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:28]

Absolutely. Senator Plett, do you want to take a question?

[16:28]

Certainly. I would be happy to.

Senator Richards
[16:28]

Thank you, senator. I think this is an extremely well-intentioned bill and an extremely well-intentioned amendment, but my one concern is this: How do we make sure that this legislative oversight will not make judges feel they are being coerced or forced to seek more convictions as time goes on? That’s my one concern with this part of the legislation. Maybe you could give me an answer on that or give me your thoughts on that, senator.

[16:29]

Let me tell you, Senator Richards, I think the person you should have asked that question to would have been Senator Boisvenu. He’s more of a legal expert than I am.

Senator Richards, I believe that we have had, as I said earlier, some horrible instances of judges making very rude comments, doing things, saying things, but I think over the period of time, so much of the training has already improved that.

Now, that’s not to say that this bill isn’t important. However, to try to leave victims of domestic violence out of this bill, that’s my struggle. I’m not sure that the bill will do what it’s intended to do. I clearly support the intent of it, but if we do want this bill then I believe we need to include victims of domestic violence as well. I hope that answers your question, senator.

Senator Richards
[16:30]

Thanks very much, senator. That’s fine.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne
[16:30]

I have a question for Senator Plett.

Senator Plett, as you know, I also care deeply about victims of intimate violence, but I’m wondering what exactly you’re trying to do. From what I understand “le Conseil de la magistrature” has said that there is already training on intimate violence for those federal judges. That is being done. It’s probably not perfect but, in any case, we have no say on what’s going to be taught or not. If it’s already done and if they say they are already doing the training, why should we put it in the law? That’s one thing. And second, how can we say this will change the whole situation on intimate violence since, in general, it’s the provincial judges who are hearing those cases. I’m not exactly following your argument here.

[16:32]

Number one, senator, in fairness, it’s not my amendment. It’s Senator Boisvenu’s amendment that I was supporting and encouraging.

I don’t know that I necessarily have an opinion on your saying this won’t do any good because it’s a provincial issue. The judges are already being trained on the sexual assault as well, yet the bill is important. Why is the bill important if the judges are already getting that training? I’m saying if you want the bill, then let’s at least have it include as much violence as we can in the bill. And I trust — whether this bill passes today or not — the judges will continue to get training as they have been getting before.

As you say you fail to see my argument, I completely fail to see the rationale of your question.

Senator Miville-Dechêne
[16:33]

Senator Plett, I’ll just say that training on sexual assault isn’t the same as training on domestic violence and family violence. Our understanding is that training on domestic violence and family violence already exists. It was introduced as a result of the Divorce Act. What would be the point of including it in this bill if the training is already offered? It isn’t repetitive and pointless. Perhaps my question was unclear, but there you go.

[16:33]

I don’t know that your question wasn’t clear. However, I didn’t see the relevance of the question because you’re saying this may not be necessary because this training is already being done. I’m saying the training is already being done, even on the sexual assault, yet people want us to pass Bill C-3. My argument was that if we want to pass Bill C-3 then let’s also pass this. I told you at the start I’m not sure how I’m voting on Bill C-3, but I will vote in favour of this amendment.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:34]

Senator Plett, do you want another question?

[16:34]

Certainly.

Senator Dalphond
[16:34]

Senator Plett, I understand you’re saying this bill is unnecessary but the amendment is a must. Is that what you’re saying?

[16:34]

Senator Dalphond, I have been accused of many things. Not very often have I been accused of someone not understanding what I say. I think you understood perfectly well what I said. I said if the bill is necessary, then let’s make it as inclusive as possible. That’s what I said and that’s what I stand on, and you know that’s what I said.

Senator Harder
[16:35]

Question.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:35]

Those opposed to the motion, please say “no.”

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:35]

Those in favour of the motion who are in the Senate Chamber will please say “yea.”

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:36]

Those opposed to the motion who are in the Senate Chamber, please say “nay.”

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:36]

I believe the “yeas” have it.

I see two senators standing.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
[16:36]

We’re going to have a standing vote.

The government liaison and the Opposition Whip have an agreement on the length of the vote. One hour. We shall be voting at 5:36. Call in the senators.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:36]

Honourable senators, the question is as follows: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Boisvenu, seconded by the Honourable Senator Plett, that Bill C-3 be not now read a third time but that it be amended — shall I dispense?

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:37]

Thank you.

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson
[17:37]

I want to hear the amendment.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:37]

Senator Patterson wishes to hear the amendment:

That Bill C-3 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended

(a) in the preamble, on page 1, by replacing line 20 with the following:

“sault law, family violence and social context;”;

(b) in clause 1, on page 2, by replacing line 21 with the following:

“on matters related to sexual assault law, family violence and social”;

(c) in clause 2,

(i) on page 2, by replacing line 29 with the following:

“al assault law, family violence and social context, which includes sys-”,

(ii) on page 3, by adding the following after line 11:

“(4) The Council should ensure that seminars on matters related to family violence established under paragraph (2)(b) are developed after consultation with persons, groups or organizations the Council considers appropriate, such as family violence survivors and persons, groups and organizations that support them, including Indigenous leaders and representatives of Indigenous communities.”;

(d) in clause 3, on page 3, by replacing line 17 with the following:

“matters related to sexual assault law, family violence and social context,”.