Bill C-75: Reforming Canada’s criminal justice system
The Government accepted 10 Senate amendments to the legislation.
This legislation proposed comprehensive reforms to the criminal justice system, with the aim of reducing delays. It also had the goal of diminishing the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons and vulnerable populations in the system. The legislation was introduced following roundtable discussions in every province and territory with a wide range of justice system stakeholders. It also responded to recommendations in an exhaustive Senate report, Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada, which was tabled in June 2017. Bill C-75 included measures to modernize and streamline the bail system; bolster Canada’s response to intimate partner violence; restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment; improve the jury selection process; and strengthen the case management powers of judges.
The Senate’s Role
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs proposed significant amendments to the legislation, after hearing from more than 40 witnesses and reviewing 20 briefs submitted by various stakeholders. Some proposed amendments addressed intimate partner violence, such as expanding aggravating factors in those cases and creating a new sentencing principle to consider increased vulnerability of female victims – particularly Indigenous women. Senator Murray Sinclair, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, thanked the committee for their diligence and for making the bill stronger. “The Senate committee heard from representatives of police, law societies, defence associations, legal aid groups, victims’ groups, Indigenous groups and academics,” he said during his third reading speech. “We heard compelling testimony by witnesses on a variety of issues, including preliminary inquiries, the impact of the reclassification of offence on agents, DNA and fingerprinting issues, and intimate partner violence and victimization. Some of the amendments that were adopted were a direct result of those testimonies.”
The Government accepted 10 Senate amendments to the legislation, including those related to intimate partner violence. Other accepted amendments include:
- Maintaining the availability of DNA orders for the indictable offences punishable by a maximum of five and 10 years of imprisonment;
- Ensuring that detention reviews are mandatory;
- Creating greater discretion to depart from imposing the victim surcharge in appropriate cases; and
- Clarifying that fingerprints can be taken for an accused who has been charged with a hybrid offence, even in cases where the Crown has elected to proceed by summary conviction.