Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
Mr. Speaker, another day and another conflict of interest in the heritage minister’s office. We know now that Leslie Church, the chief of staff to the heritage minister, has met on at least six occasions with Google representatives. Leslie, of course, was the former head of communications, it just so happens, at Google before the minister hired her.
The law requires ministers and staff to avoid real and apparent conflicts of interest. It appears to me that the minister has failed yet again.
Why did the minister allow her chief of staff to engage in this clear conflict of interest?
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-06-13 19:00 [p.12630]
Madam Speaker, normally I begin my remarks by, in some form or another, stating how grateful I am to stand in this place and make my voice heard on a certain topic. Tonight, however, given the justice committee’s recommendation that Bill S-217 not proceed further, I will be honest and say that I am deeply disappointed with the decision.
The committee members heard witness after witness testify that there are flaws in the bail system in this country. It has not kept up with the times, and as a result, known criminals are walking Canadian streets, probably in every community, out on bail.
Perhaps Bill S-217 did not fix the entire bail system, but at least it was a first step, a step the justice department appears to be unwilling to take, which is really shameful.
For those not familiar with the situation that precipitated the drafting of the bill by Senator Runciman, l will give a little background. I do not want to go into the details, but it was on the night of January 17, 2015, that RCMP Constable David Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond were on a routine inspection of licence plates outside a casino in St. Albert, Alberta. This could have happened anywhere. During that inspection, they discovered a licence plate that was connected to an individual for whom there was an arrest warrant. As a result, Constable Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Bond entered the casino to arrest the individual. Before they could arrest the individual, who turned out to be Shawn Rehn, shots were fired. Auxiliary Constable Bond was shot, and tragically, Constable David Wynn was shot and later died in hospital.
Any time an individual is murdered in this country, it is a tragedy, but when a police officer is murdered in the line of duty, it is not only a tragedy, it is an outrage in this country, from coast to coast to coast. What makes the murder of Constable Wynn that much worse is that it was completely preventable, not what the member for Mount Royal said earlier in this place. This murder could have been prevented. David Wynn could have been a husband tonight. He could have been a father to three children. He could still be a member of our valued RCMP.
It is not if this happens again but when it happens again.
Constable Wynn’s killer was out on bail at the time. He was out on bail, notwithstanding the fact that he had more than 50 prior criminal convictions, including convictions for weapons offences and multiple violent offences. On top of the 50 prior criminal convictions, he had at least 38 outstanding charges, and to top it off, he had numerous failures to appear in court, yet there he was, out on the street in the community of St. Albert, unbeknownst to the public.
I should add, of the 130 members working at the casino, and everyone was distraught over this event, two members are still not back at work at the casino in St. Albert, Alberta.
Let me get back to the justice committee meetings for a moment. The members heard expert testimony on the subject of bail. Let me just give a snippet of what the members heard. Dr. Cheryl Webster, associate professor, University of Ottawa, testifying as an individual, said, “We’re not short of evidence that bail in Canada is broken.” Bail in Canada is broken, not damaged, broken. We can improve broken bones and get them re-set. We can fix a broken car or even a broken window, but a broken bail system, not so much. It is too time consuming, too costly, we hear, and we can always explain away the odd mishap as human error.
Mr. Jay Cameron, barrister and solicitor, Justice Centre for Constitution Freedoms, said:
I will conclude by saying this. Some people say that this is only symbolic. It’s not symbolic. There was a tragedy that occurred, and it was the result of a flaw in the legislation. Only a fool would say, “I’m emotional about the tragedy, therefore, I’m not going to fix the flaw.” The problem is that there is a flaw. Fix the flaw and you won’t again have more tragedies that result from it. That’s the point.
Mr. Cameron’s point is well taken by the official opposition party, my party, but unfortunately, not by the government. We understand the need to revisit the bail conditions in this country. Here we have it. The bail system is broken, and no one, certainly not the justice department, appears to be able or willing to fix it. Is that not shameful? Bill S-217 attempts to plug one gaping hole in the system, and all we hear is that it is going to take too much time for the bail hearings, that the Canadian Police Information Centre is not up to date, etc.
On June 6, just last week, I received a letter from the Saskatoon Police Association, from its president, Dean Pringle, and its secretary, Bill Bergeron. They were writing to express their strong support for Bill S-217. They pointed out that the oversight could be corrected with just two simple common sense changes to the Criminal Code. Number one would be adding two new grounds under which an offender could be detained in custody, specifically, when the accused has failed to appear in court in the past and the accused has previously been convicted of a criminal offence or has been charged with and is awaiting trial for another criminal offence. Second and most important, and this is the key to this bill here tonight, would be replacing the word “may” with “shall” to require prosectors to introduce evidence of the accused’s criminal record, or failure to obey court orders in the past, or other criminal charges for which an offender may be awaiting trial. Replace the word “may” with “shall” and think about what it would do for all our police officers in this country.
It is a similar position taken by the Canadian Police Association, the national voice for 60,000 police personnel who protect everyone in this country. Its president, Tom Stamatakis, has offered full support for this bill. He said, “Allowing prosecutors to introduce evidence of an accused’s criminal history during a bail hearing is just common sense.” This legislation would not remove the discretion of judges when they are granting the bail. It just means that those judges would have all the relevant facts at hand when they make the important decisions.
This is a straightforward bill that would help keep Canadians safe and would provide prosecutors with more tools to detain high-risk individuals pending trial.
Some members would have us believe, as we heard here tonight from the government, that this bill would add more delays. That is not factual. What is factual is that it would save lives. As legislators, we must stand by our police in this country, who put themselves in harm’s way each time they put on their badges.
Shelly Wynn is here, as she was in the past when Bill S-217 was debated. I want everyone to know that she is here, and I cannot help but feel her sorrow.
On March 8 this year, all the opposition parties in this place recognized the merits of this bill, Bill S-217. That was probably the most emotional night we have had in this House of Commons since we opened. I am going to give credit, because 28 members of the government caucus voted for the bill, against their party line. They were in favour of referring it to the justice and human rights committee. Obviously, the yeas had it that night, and Bill S-217 was referred to the committee. I wonder tonight if those same Liberal members will maintain the courage of their convictions and vote against the committee’s recommendation or if they will simply toe the party line.
Finally, I would like to commend Shelly Wynn and her family for their commitment to seeing a better bail system in place for all Canadians; Senator Runciman for taking the lead in getting this legislation drafted and shepherding it through the Senate; and my friend and our colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, who has steadfastly moved this legislation through this place. They have all done a wonderful job, and they deserve to be recognized for their dedication to this worthy cause.