The rest of the story

Yesterday afternoon, Conservative MP Brian Jean stood just before Question Period to share some news with the House.

Mr. Speaker, members will be shocked to know that the CBC has not corrected the record on its misleading report from Monday night. It failed to inform Canadians about the drug treatment court exemption in our government’s safe streets and communities act. Today the Quebec Bar Association confirmed that it supports the important drug treatment court exemption in Bill C-10 for those who are seeking treatment for their addictions.

It’s impossible to apply an asterisk to words as they are spoken and Hansard doesn’t include footnotes, but, in case you were wondering, here is the story of that third sentence.

Mr. Jean seemed to have gleaned this from yesterday morning’s meeting of the justice committee.Appearing before the committee was Giuseppe Battista, president of the Quebec Bar Association. Jean, upset about the CBC’s report this week about how the Harper government’s crime agenda compares with what’s happening in Texas, quizzed Mr. Battista as follows.

I do also want to make mention of something that disturbed me greatly, as a person who has lived in Fort McMurray my entire life, almost, as a defence attorney and with family members who have gone through serious drug problems and rehabilitation as well as jail. And I think treatment is very, very important as is prevention, of course, as is holding those people accountable.

But on Monday, CBC aired a report–and I’ve been waiting to see if Mr. Terry Milewski would show up today–and in my opinion, and anybody who watched and understands Bill C-10, they erred because they neglected to mention that Bill C-10 contains an exemption for the use of drug treatment courts. And it was very, very disturbing indeed that they would neglect to mention that, especially because I think a lot of Canadians watch CBC. I, myself, am disturbed enough I think I’m going to be changing the channel from now on because they have an obligation to report the truth, especially in this particular case.

I noticed that you, from the Quebec Bar, nodded your head in assertion with that. I would like your comments in relation not to their misleading report on Monday–and I think it is not funny, to be honest, notwithstanding I’m laughing as well–but I would like your comments in relation to the exemption of Bill C-10 because obviously that’s very, very important to Canadians.

Mr. Battista duly responded.

Yes. I’ve got to say that is something we do support. And I think it’s something that should be looked at and encouraged.

All procedures that would favour the individuals who are involved in substance abuse moving away from that, and the criminal justice system being able to adapt to those realities, will certainly contribute to reduction in crime. We believe in that. That is something that is very important.

As Mr. Ouimet mentioned, on our committee we have crown attorneys, defence attorneys, and people who work with all levels of government. These concerns are very real. And anything in the system that allows for that, we support.

What we are a little—

Alas, Mr. Jean attempted to interject here and the committee chair stepped in to say that his time had expired anyway and Mr. Battista was unable to finish his thought.

The committee moved on to Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who had an exchange with Mr. Battista about some of the flaws in mandatory minimum prescriptions, but again Mr. Battista ran out of time. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth then began to question Yvonne Harvey, chair of a victims advocacy group (her daughter was murdered four years ago), but paused to impart on Mr. Battista’s testimony.

I have a question for you, but before I get to it, I just can’t contain myself from commenting on Monsieur Battista’s evidence from a moment ago. I am very glad that Mr. Battista has looked at some of the statutes around the world which do give exemptions from mandatory minimum penalties and I strongly urge him to read Bill C-10 also because he will find a very similar provision in it. Just to help him along, I want to refer him specifically to subclause 43(2) of Bill C-10, which adds to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act a paragraph which reads as follows: (5) If the offender successfully completes a program under subsection (4), the court is not required to impose the minimum punishment for the offence for which the person was convicted.

When you read that, sir, you will find it meets the requirements of what you were just saying. I just have to emphasize, Mr. Chair, to all of those people who are watching today and considering this matter, it is a very beneficial thing to read the bill and look at some of the things that we have in it.

Mr. Woodworth proceeded with his question for Mrs. Harvey and Mrs. Harvey proceeded with her answer and the committee moved on to the NDP’s Francoise Boivin, who asked a question of Mr. Battista. Here, belatedly, Mr. Battista took the opportunity to both respond to Mr. Woodworth and finish his answer to Mr. Jean.

I’d like to say a comment also about the question that Mr. Woodworth asked me.

I did respond to Mr. Jean that in fact the bar supported that provision in the law. However, that provision does not go far enough. That provision applies to people who successfully complete a program for disintoxication. There are people who don’t have a drug problem who shouldn’t be sent to jail as well. And that provision does not apply to the other minimum sentences that are provided for in Bill C-10.