Statement made on 01 March 2012 by Senator Joan Fraser
Hon. Joan Fraser:
Honourable senators, we are galloping through consideration of what is an extraordinarily important and complex bill. It is a bill of 104 pages and 208 articles plus a schedule, containing, as we have been reminded, nine separate bills, only two of which had ever before been considered by your Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Yes, as has been said, your committee worked very hard to do what it could in considering Bill C-10 — very hard. However, that hard work does not come near what was required for this bill.
We heard testimony, by the statistics I have, for 58 and a half hours. That is an average of six and a half hours per bill, and these are complicated bills, honourable senators, which will have dramatic impact on the lives of many Canadians. We heard 123 witnesses. That is 13.6 witnesses per bill, including civil servants and three ministers, two of whom appeared together for one scant hour to testify on eight of the nine bills. What do you think they were able to tell us in that time? Not very much.
Were there questions we wanted to ask them about the policy reasons for various elements of the bill? Yes. Were we able to put those questions? Not very many of them.
I would like to take issue with Senator Carignan's gracious assertion that this entire bill has been examined. The truth is, honourable senators, despite your committee's best efforts, many important parts of this bill have gone entirely unexamined or have barely had their surface scratched.
I will give a few examples. We never even looked at the long passages in this bill concerning multiple and merged sentences or concerning administrative segregation, isolation. We barely scratched the surface of the long passages on pardons, which will now be called record suspensions. We did not do much at all looking at the extremely important and very controversial provisions limiting the availability of conditional sentences. We hardly were able to wrap our minds around even part of the quite complicated changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which is itself — I am quoting someone but I cannot remember who — "impenetrable." I challenge anyone here to read the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to understand, before reading it four or five times, exactly what it says, let alone what the amendments in Bill C-10 will achieve.
We gave practically no consideration to the quite important implications under our constitutional regime and under international law of Bill C-10. These elements were mentioned. We were told several times that we are probably in contravention of both the Constitution and international law with Bill C-10, but we did not have time to examine those issues properly.
Since the committee was obliged to conclude its work in something approaching record time, the only last recourse, the last line of defence, is this debate — not the debate on time allocation, but the debate on at report stage and at third reading. This is where the Senate should be doing its job as the chamber of sober second thought.
Many people in this chamber know a great deal about the various subjects touched upon in this important and complex piece of legislation. They will not have the time to do the necessary research, to consider the transcripts of the testimony heard by the committee and to consider the briefs. They will not have the time, in many cases, even to speak to this bill. We will not do our duty; we will not do our job. We will not do the job the people of Canada count on us to do.
The second of Senator Carignan's assertions with which I would like to take issue is, as my colleagues have already said, his assertion that Canadians want this bill. We know that some Canadians, many Canadians, want this bill. We know that many, many thousands do not. We should bear that in mind. There is absolutely not unanimous consent among the people of Canada for this bill, which is all the more reason for us to give it proper consideration — just what we are about to fail to do.
We heard no evidence, not one scintilla, not one syllable of evidence, that there is any urgency to any element of this bill. There is no excuse for doing what this chamber is about to do. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
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