The Government of Canada today introduced legislation that will ensure key criminal justice reforms move swiftly through the legislative process and finally become law. The Tackling Violent Crime Act brings forth again the significant crime bills that were extensively debated by Parliament during its last session, but never became law due to the opposition's stall and delay tactics.

"Canadians have told us they want to see action. They want us to move quickly and decisively to tackle crime and make our communities safer," said the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada . "They are fed up with a justice system that puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens."

By introducing this comprehensive Tackling Violent Crime Act , the Government is showing that it is serious about the need to better protect youth from sexual predators, protect our communities from dangerous offenders, get serious with drug impaired drivers and toughen sentencing and bail for those who commit serious gun crimes. The measures included in the legislation will: 

  • impose mandatory jail time for serious gun crimes; 
  • create tougher bail rules when a gun is used to commit a crime; 
  • increase the age of protection for sexual activity from 14 years to 16 years; 
  • crack down on drug impaired driving; and 
  • ensure that high-risk and dangerous offenders face tougher consequences when they are sentenced and are better monitored post-release to prevent them from offending again and again. 

"All the measures included in this legislation were studied in depth by Parliament in the last session, in fact some were held up for over one year," said Minister Nicholson. "If the opposition allows our Throne Speech to pass, they cannot obstruct our core priorities, including this bill. And to hold them to account, we will make Bill C-2 a confidence bill."

This legislative proposal is the centrepiece in a series of new crime bills the Government intends to introduce as soon as possible. Upcoming legislation will deal with a range of pressing issues such as identity theft, mandatory penalties for serious drug crimes and amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

For an online version of the legislation, visit  www.parl.gc.ca

Backgrounder: Tackling Violent Crime Act

The Tackling Violent Crime Act is composed of the key elements of five criminal law bills introduced during the first session of the 39th Parliament.

By introducing this comprehensive bill, the Government remains committed to ensuring key reforms to Canada’s criminal justice system move swiftly through the legislative process to become law and to better protect Canadians from those who commit serious and violent crimes.

The Tackling Violent Crime Act proposes the following criminal law reforms.

PROVIDING TOUGHER LAWS TO ADDRESS GUN CRIMES

C-10 (Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Firearms Offences) was introduced on May 4, 2006 and was referred to Justice Committee on June 13, 2006. C-10 was stalled in committee for 252 days, and the bill died after a total of 414 calendar days before the House of Commons and Senate.

The proposed legislation included the following provisions:

(1) Higher mandatory prison sentences 

  • Five years for a first offence and seven years on a second or subsequent offence for eight specific offences involving the actual use of firearms (attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion), when the offence is gang-related, or if a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun is used.
  • Three years on a first offence and five years on a second or subsequent offence for other serious firearm-related offences (firearm trafficking, possession for the purpose of firearm trafficking, firearm smuggling and illegal possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm with ammunition).

(2) New offences

  • An indictable offence of breaking and entering to steal a firearm. 
  • An indictable offence of robbery to steal a firearm.

Case In Point:

As a result of C-10 measures, gang members whose shoot-outs take the lives of innocent victims will endure the proper consequences to their actions.

TOUGHER BAIL PROVISIONS

C-35 (Reverse Onus on Bail for Firearms Offences) was introduced on November 23, 2006, and was referred to the Legislative Committee on March 27, 2007. Despite being endorsed by the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, and the Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, C-35 was stalled in committee for 64 days, and the bill died after a total of 211 days before the House of Commons and Senate.

The proposed legislation included the following provisions: 

A “reverse onus”, (i.e. requiring the accused to show why he or she should not be kept in jail while awaiting trial) would apply if the accused is charged with: 

  • Using a firearm to commit certain serious offences, including attempted murder, discharging a firearm with a criminal intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery and extortion; 
  • An indictable firearms-related offence that is alleged to involve, or whose subject-matter is alleged to be, a firearm or other regulated weapon where the accused is under a weapons-prohibition order; and 
  • Firearm trafficking, possession of a firearm for the purpose of trafficking or firearm smuggling. 
  • Additional factors that the court must take into account in determining whether an accused should be kept in jail pending trial: 
  • Whether a firearm was used in the commission of the offence; and 
  • Whether the accused faces a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment of three years or more for a firearm offence.

Case In Point:

As a result of C-35 measures, an individual would face tougher bail provisions after being accused of assault with a firearm, or robbery with a firearm.

TOUGHER SENTENCING AND MANAGEMENT OF SEXUAL AND VIOLENT OFFENDERS

C-27 (Dangerous Offenders) was introduced in the House of Commons on October 17, 2006. Despite being endorsed by the Canadian Police Association, C-27 was stalled in committee for 105 days, and the bill died after a total of 246 days before the House of Commons.

The proposed legislation included the following provisions:

  • Creating a presumption of dangerousness, so that when an individual has been convicted three or more times of specific violent/sexual crimes, it would be up to that person to convince the court why he or she should not be designated a Dangerous Offender; 
  • Fixing problems with the current Dangerous Offender provisions that allow some individuals to receive a less severe sentence (a Long-Term Offender sentence) instead of a Dangerous Offender indeterminate sentence. The Act would ensure that these individuals, upon breach of their lesser sentence, would be subject to a hearing. This hearing would result in an indeterminate Dangerous Offender sentence unless the court was satisfied that the threat of the individual committing future violent offences could be managed with a less severe sentence; 
  • Requiring the Crown to declare in open court whether or not it had considered an application for Dangerous Offender status whenever any person is convicted of a third designated serious violent/sexual offence, thereby increasing the possibility that the prosecution will pursue a Dangerous Offender application when there are adequate grounds; and 
  • Doubling the duration of peace bonds and clarify the range of conditions that may be imposed on those who are being released from jail.

Case In Point:

As a result of C-27 measures, an individual would more easily be a designated dangerous offender if, for example, the individual committed a series of knife-point sexual assaults.

FURTHER PROTECTING YOUNG PERSONS FROM SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

C-22 (Age of Protection) was introduced in Parliament on June 22, 2006 and was referred to Justice Committee on October 30, 2006. Despite being endorsed by the Kids Internet Safety Alliance and the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation, C-22 was stalled in committee for 175 days, and died after a total of 365 days before the House of Commons and Senate.

The proposed legislation included the following provisions:

  • Changing the age at which youths can consent to non-exploitative sexual activity would be raised from 14 to 16 years of age; 
  • Maintaining the existing age of protection of 18 years for exploitative sexual activity (i.e. sexual activity involving prostitution, pornography, or where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency). 
  • Including a close-in-age exception which would permit 14- and 15-year old youths to engage in consensual, non-exploitative sexual activity with a partner who is less than five years older. Another exception would be available for marriages and equivalent relationships.

Case In Point:

As a result of C-22 measures, if for example a 40-year-old adult became sexually engaged with a 15-year-old teenager, that adult would no longer have a defence that the teenager consented to that activity.

FIGHTING IMPAIRED DRIVING

C-32 (Drug Impaired Driving) was introduced in the House of Commons on November 21, 2006 and was referred to the Justice Committee on February 6, 2007. Despite being endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), C-32 died after 149 days in committee, and the bill died after a total of 210 days before Parliament.

Under the proposed legislation, the police would have better tools to detect and investigate drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and penalties for impaired driving would be increased. Persons suspected of being impaired by a drug would be required to submit to roadside sobriety tests and, if they fail, to provide a blood or urine sample to confirm whether or not they have consumed a drug.

The proposed legislation included provisions to: 

  • Authorize peace officers trained as Drug Recognition Experts to conduct roadside sobriety tests and to take samples of bodily fluids to determine whether a person is impaired by a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug; 
  • Make it an offence to refuse or fail to comply with police demands for physical sobriety tests or bodily fluid samples. The offence would be punishable by the same Criminal Code penalty as refusing a demand for a breath test for alcohol — a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offence, with a maximum penalty of five-years imprisonment for more serious offences; 
  • Allow only scientifically valid defences to be used as evidence to avoid conviction for driving with a blood-alcohol concentration over 80, thereby reducing the number of individuals who can avoid conviction on technicalities (e.g. the two-beer defence); and 
  • Increase the penalties for impaired driving -- e.g. a minimum of 120 days in jail for a third impaired-driving offence.

Case In Point:

As a result of C-32 measures, an individual who has caused a vehicle collision would not be acquitted of impaired driving if his or her tests prove a high level of an illicit drug content in his or her blood.