The Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Anthony Housefather, says the committee will begin the process of discussing Bill C-46 next week. The committee will be sitting until the House breaks for summer, and then reconvening in the fall with possible extended hours to get through the bill.
Currently scheduled witnesses from the Department of Justice are William F. Pentney, Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada, Carole Morency, Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section and Greg Yost, Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section. The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada will be the first witness.
Minister Raybould, who has been the main spokesperson for the bill during second reading in the House, will be speaking in support of the overall bill, while the other members will offer insight into the specifics of the bill and answering questions about it.
“We have our first scheduled meeting on Tuesday of next week with the Minister of Justice being our first witness,” Housefather told Lift in a phone interview today. “We also will be having another meeting on Thursday with the witnesses and we intend to continue to work on the bill until we complete it.”
Housefather says the committee will be using these final meetings before the House rises for summer break to plan witnesses for a possible extended session in the fall.
“At this point we’re coming up to the summer recess. We’re going to be talking on Tuesday about finalizing our witness list, determining how many witnesses we’re going to hear from and our schedule for the fall, so that hasn’t yet been determined, but our intention is to hear from a full group of witnesses and to work in the bill as quickly as possible.”
Housefather says there is little chance of a summer sitting for the committee, but that they will be discussing the possibility of extended hours in the fall to continue tackling the bill.
“We have discussed having, in the fall when we resume, a more intensive schedule to go through Bill C-46, but I do not believe that we would sit in the summer. We’re going to be talking on Tuesday about our schedule, but my belief is that we’ll sit in extended hours in the weeks we get back to enable us to get through the bill as quickly as we can.”
NDP Justice Critic Alistair MacGregor, who is a Vice-Chair on the committee with conservative MP Ted Falk, says he is looking forward to the debate, especially in relation to some of the more strict aspects of Bill C-46, which he has some concerns with.
“I think we need to have witness testimony on the reliability of the testing machines and we need to have witness testimony on the correlation between nanogram amounts and whether that constitutes impairment. That’s why this is is so important, because we really need to get that testimony on record so that when we report the bill back the House, we are making it on the best evidence possible.
“The other area of C-46 that I have a concern with is it removes the need for reasonable suspicion in order for a police officer to demand a breath sample, and that operates contrary to how our law has always operated. Police always need to have a suspicion that a crime has occurred in order to use their powers. If we give the ability for police the simply administer a breath test, that’s kind of departing from that long-held convention, so I think we really need to throw that particular section under some very intense scrutiny as it relates to the charter.”
In addition to being on the Justice Committee, MacGregor is also expected to take part in the Health Committee hearings on Bill-C45, the Cannabis Act, this September. MacGregor is a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and is also expected to take part in those hearings, as well. He is planning on substituting and sharing time with Standing Committee on Health Vice Chair and NDP Health Critic Don Davies.
Interested individuals can go to the standing committee's website and send briefs to the clerk to submit their thoughts on C-46.
Featured image by Minesweeper.