Immigration & RefugeesIndigenous RelationsInternational DevelopmentJustice

IMMIGRATION & REFUGEES

Citizenship Act (2017)
Finding Refuge in Canada: A Syrian Resettlement Story (2016)
An Act to amend the Immigration Act (1987)


Citizenship Act

Date: March 2017
Bill: C-6
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton (ON)
Sponsor: Hon. Ratna Omidvar (ON)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

Bill C-6 makes several important changes to the Canadian Citizenship Act aimed at improving the immigration process to Canada and reverting changes made by the past Conservative government.

Among the changes are the removal of the law that allows revoking Canadian citizenship, the removal of the declaration of “intention to reside” when applying for permanent residency, and the change of the language requirements needed to become a Canadian.

Impact:

Average weekly applications for Canadian citizenship jumped by 480% in the week after Bill C-6 came into effect.

The changes to the Citizenship Act will benefit international students planning to immigrate to Canada, facilitating the process and shortening times.

More Citizenship Act changes expected to come into force later in 2018 include new authority for citizenship officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents.


Finding Refuge in Canada: A Syrian Resettlement Story

Date: December 2016
Committee: Human Rights
Chair: Hon. Jim Munson (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Salma Ataullahjan (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

As Syria has been ravaged by war over the past few years with no end in sight, thousands of refugees have left the country looking for a better life. Canada did its part by stepping up to  welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 2016. This #WelcomeRefugees initiative was a success and 25,000 Syrians arrived in Canada because of this initiative. This report looked at how well these refugees are being integrated into Canada and what challenges they are facing in this process. It also looked at challenges to the systems supporting them, be they with governments, private sponsors, or non-governmental organizations.

Although the committee realized this was just a “snapshot of key issues,” it did conclude that the federal government was not doing enough to help integrate Syrian refugees into Canada. It noted that government and private sponsorship assistance ends after 12 months, and that longer-term policies are needed to ensure successful integration.  As many refugees arrived in Canada owing money to the federal government for travel, it was recommended that grants and not loans are given for this purpose, or that at the very least interest is not charged on these loans. Further financial security should be provided by ensuring timely access to benefits, such as the Child Tax benefit. Being able to access language programs was also recommended and providing daycare would help more refugee women access these classes. Because Syrian refugees have been exposed to an extreme amount of violence through war, it was recommended they were offered culturally-appropriate mental health services, and services to address issues of domestic and gender-based violence in a culturally-sensitive way. Finally, as many were forced to leave family members behind, the federal government was urged to increase efforts to reunite Syrian families.

Impact:

The report was highlighted in several media outlets, including CBCNews, Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Catholic Register, Vancouver Metro News, Huffington Post, Global News, CTV News including international coverage with an article in The Guardian. There was also some coverage of the cross-Canada hearings in the Toronto Star, Radio Canada International, Canada Government Executive, Maclean’s and the Winnipeg Free Press.  It was also highlighted on several websites, including the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Ottawa Centre Refugee Action.


An Act to amend the Immigration Act 

Date: July 1987
Bill: C-84
Sponsor: Hon. Finlay MacDonald (NS)
Downloads: Senate Debates

Summary:

In July of 1987, a group of Indian Nationals arrived by boat in Nova Scotia, claiming to be refugees in need of a safe haven. The individuals, almost all of whom were Sikh, paid for illegal passage to Canada because they were allegedly discriminated against in India (a country of religious tensions where Sikhs were a minority religion). However, there was speculation the group was trying to take advantage of Canada’s generous immigration policy. This incident, in conjunction with a similar occurrence only eleven months earlier, prompted the early recall of Parliament to deal with what some called a refugee crisis.  As Senator Finlay MacDonald (NS) observed when introducing the bill, administration anticipated over 300,000 such claims for asylum during 1987 whereas the existing system was designed to handle only 1% of that number (Debates, page 1813).

Bill C-84 was introduced in August to target human trafficking and illegal immigration. It subjected smugglers and their accomplices to imprisonment and fines, and granted government the power to direct suspect vessels to leave Canadian waters, to conduct search and seizures of vessels and to temporarily detain individuals who arrived in Canada without documentation. The bill also allowed for the detention of individuals who were not citizens or permanent residents if the Minister responsible for immigration and the Solicitor General believed security reports reasonably indicated the individual would commit an indictable offense or engage in violence, subversion or espionage.

Bill C-84 was passed by the House of Commons on September 14, 1987. The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs studied Bill C-84 for several months and heard from representatives of humanitarian groups, religious groups, members of the legal community and experts on constitutional and international law. Many of these witnesses voiced concerns that parts of Bill C-84 violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s commitments to human rights and refugee protection. The Committee’s report recommended several amendments, including one which shortened the detention period that refugee claimants could be held before a review was conducted and one which provided that individuals found trying to enter Canadian waters illegally be given a full legal hearing to determine if they had a legitimate claim to refugee status.

After six sittings debating the Senate’s 13 amendments, the House of Commons accepted two; modified seven others; and rejected four.  The Employment and Immigration Minister in the meantime insisted on the need for tougher immigrations laws and the Bill was sent back and forth between the Senate and the House once more.

Impact:

A number of Senate amendments did not survive tough negotiations with the House of Commons, including several which sought to alter provisions for prosecuting people who assist undocumented immigrants, and for curbing search and seizure powers of immigration officers.

While the Senate compromised on some amendments, it insisted on others. One part of the bill – giving authorities the power to turn back ships suspected of carrying potentially ‘bogus’ claimants – was particularly contentious and vigorously opposed by human rights advocates and members of the legal community. Because of its determination, a key Senate amendment was accepted to protect individuals who could be legitimate refugees.

INDIGENOUS RELATIONS

Indian Act (Elimination of sex-based inequities in registration) (2017)
“The People Who Own Themselves:” Recognition of Métis Identity in Canada (2013)
A Commitment Worth Preserving: Reviving the British Columbia Treaty Process (2012)
Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope (2012)
First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs (2010)
Honouring the Spirit of Modern Treaties: Closing the Loopholes (2008)
Safe Drinking Water for First Nations (2007)
Sharing Canada’s Prosperity – A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out (2007)
Negotiation or Confrontation: It’s Canada’s Choice (2006)
On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property: Still Waiting (2004)
A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve (2003)
Urban Aboriginal Youth: An Action Plan for Change (2003)
Forging New Relationships: Aboriginal Governance in Canada (2000)


Indian Act (Elimination of sex-based inequities in registration)

Date: May 2017
Committee: Aboriginal Peoples
Bill: S-3
Chair: Hon. Lillian E. Dyck (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Scott Tannas (AB)
Bill sponsor: Hon. Peter Harder (MB)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

The Government representative in the Senate introduced Bill S-3 to eliminate sex-based inequities in the Indian Act that determine how men and women acquire and transmit Indian status.

The aim of the legislation was to remedy sex-based Indian Act registration issues to 1951, the year the modern registry came into effect.

The Government has launched a two-staged approach in response to the Descheneaux decision and to address the concerns of First Nations and other Indigenous groups. This Bill represents only Stage I of this approach.

Impact:

Bill S-3 passed in Parliament in December 2017. It enshrines in law the removal of all gender-discrimination in the Indian Act.

The government will grant full legal status to all First Nations women and their descendants born before 1985, expanding the scope of its originally planned amendment that would have limited the timeframe to those born after 1951. The proposed amendment to Bill S-3 would also address all inequities created between 1869 and 1951.

As many as 1.4 million people of First Nations descent would be eligible for status under the government’s broadened plan.

As part of Stage I, engagement sessions were held with First Nations and other Indigenous groups to discuss the proposed legislative approach on the amendments to the registration provisions of the Indian Act.

Stage II began in February 2017, as a collaborative process with First Nations and other Indigenous groups to examine the broader issues relating to Indian registration, Band membership and citizenship.


“The People Who Own Themselves:” Recognition of Métis Identity in Canada

Date: June 2013
Committee: Aboriginal Peoples
Chair: Hon. Vernon White (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The complex historical, cultural, legal and political background of the Métis people informs competing opinions on the nature of Métis identity. While some organizations such as the Métis National Council (MNC) see Métis identity as being rooted in Western Canada and the Red River Settlement, others such as the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) consider it a question of mixed First Nations and European ancestry. Alberta Métis settlements, on the other hand, register members according to unique membership criteria that reflect the development of their communities throughout the twentieth century. Legally, no clear definition of what it means to be Métis exists.In discussing Métis identity, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples emphasized that the federal government must make a greater effort to openly discuss and better understand issues surrounding Métis identity, despite the complex nature of that identity.  It made three recommendations aimed at helping the federal government engage the Métis community on its own terms by improving its knowledge of, and communication with, that community:work with Métis organizations to develop a strategy that would allow the government to gather accurate demographic data on Métis populations;build on work done by existing researchers and organizations to identify relevant historical documentation on the Métis and to make that data readily accessible; anddevelop a coherent and comprehensive approach to relations between Canada and the Métis through continued support of negotiations with relevant national organizations.

Impact:

The committee’s recommendation for increased engagement with local and regional Métis groups was seen to be “consistent with the view of the BC Metis Federation,” as the BC Métis Federation is an organization committed to public dialogue and oral research. David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, noted that the report makes “valuable observations concerning the inequity faced by Metis when dealing with the federal government.”


A Commitment Worth Preserving: Reviving the British Columbia Treaty Process

Date: June 2012
Committee: Aboriginal Peoples
Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain, PC (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

Unlike the rest of Canada, very few treaties were signed with First Nations in BC.  The British Columbia Treaty Commission (BCTC) was therefore established twenty years ago (in 1992) to facilitate agreements with First Nation communities in that province, of which there are 232, according to the FNBC portal.  Two treaties have been finalized since the BCTC was formed; another 49 negotiating tables (covering about two-thirds of the First Nations population) have completed various stages of the six-step process. The Senate Committee on Aboriginal Affairs examined obstacles that have caused delay in finalizing treaties in BC.  The Committee made three main recommendations:* give federal negotiators more authority to engage in open, genuine and interest-based negotiations;* determine what First Nations need to resolve overlapping claims between First Nations within the BC treaty process; and* give the BCTC adequate resources to assist First Nations with resolution of their overlapping claims. The Committee concluded by urging the federal government and other participants in the treaty process to “give further consideration to the provision of institutional supports to assist treaty parties in implementation and management of the treaty relationship.”

Impact:

The Vancouver Sun noted that the Committee’s findings echoed those of similar reports previously provided to the Minister.  The First Nations Summit welcomed the Committee’s report and called upon the Prime Minister “to fully embrace and immediately take steps to implement” it, while the BC Treaty Commission also applauded the report.


Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope

Date: December 2011
Committee: Aboriginal Peoples
Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples examined the status of First Nations schools on reserve.  It made four recommendations:* adopt a First Nations Education Act in order to “explicitly recognize the authority of First Nations for on-reserve elementary and secondary education”;

  • use the Act to secure stable, multi-year funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund;
  • develop a Canada-First Nations Action Plan in consultation with First Nations; and
  • establish a joint task force to oversee and monitor progress on First Nation educational reform.

The Committee concluded by saying: “It is time to move from the current ad hoc, non-system of First Nations control for education and toward First Nations’ full legal responsibility for a comprehensive system of elementary and secondary on-reserve education. We believe that the goals of improving education must include reversing the dependency inherently built into the Indian Act, and ensuring the long-term self-reliance of First Nations. A properly resourced First Nations-run education system could pave the way towards academic success and the cultural renewal necessary to lead First Nations out of dependence toward the full partnership that the treaties guarantee.

Impact:

The Assembly of First Nations called the report “an important contribution by the Senate committee to our Call to Action on First Nations education. They have acknowledged that fundamental, systemic change is required to replace an antiquated system of isolated and improperly resourced First Nations schools with the necessary organizational infrastructure needed for a 21st Century school system.

The Globe and Mail remarked that the report may lead to establishing First Nations school boards.  On December 11, 2012, the federal government announced the start of consultations to draft and pass a First Nations Education Act.


First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs

Date: May 2010
Committee: Aboriginal Peoples
Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Senate committee examined common concerns regarding how the Indian Act’s electoral regime has been counterproductive to effective governance.  For example, the Act requires elections every two years and the appeal process is cumbersome.  In addition, elections themselves are said to lack transparency, disregard procedural fairness, and restrict opportunities for community participation and decision-making.The committee strongly recommended that more control over the design and execution of leadership selection be given to First Nations communities.  Furthermore, it endorsed calls to replace the current regime with traditional systems of self-governance, which would in turn create meaningful governance, culturally appropriate institutions and effective community accountability.

Impact:

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat agreed with and summarized the findings of the First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs report in its May2010 newsletter. However, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent Canadian think tank, criticized the report for not showing enough depth of research and argued that many First Nation communities are already designing their own codes of practice for elections.  On October 1, 2010, the federal government announced that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs will launch a series of discussions across Canada.

The government introduced Bill S-6, the First Nations Elections Act, on December 6, 2011.


Honouring the Spirit of Modern Treaties: Closing the Loopholes

Date: May 2008
Committee: Aboriginal Peoples
Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Nick Sibbeston (NWT)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

“There are deep structural reasons for the government’s failure to make measurable and meaningful progress on issues affecting Aboriginal Canadians.  We believe much of this failure rests with the institutional role and mandate of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada (DIAND), a department which is steeped in a legacy of colonialism and paternalism.”  

The Aboriginal Affairs Committee proceeded to castigate the federal government for the way it currently implements the 20 comprehensive land claims agreements signed between 1978 and 2008 (see list in Appendix A of the report).  The Committee strongly recommended that DIAND

  • abandon its practice of systematically refusing arbitration; and
  • in collaboration with the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, take immediate steps to
    • develop a new national land claims implementation policy based on principles endorsed by members of the Coalition (set out in Appendix B of the report); and
    • legislate an independent body (a Modern Treaty Commission) to oversee implementation matters, including financial obligations.

Impact:

The Land Claims Agreements Coalition applauded “this insightful and constructive report.” Meanwhile, DIAND and the Treasury Board Secretariat have agreed to streamline access to claims implementation funding, but details are unclear.  The Committee has asked that new guidelines be tabled with it by March 31, 2009.


Safe Drinking Water for First Nations

Date: May 2007
Committee: Aboriginal People

Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Nick Sibbeston (NWT)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Committee examined delivery of safe drinking water on reserve, heard testimony from several witnesses and reviewed several studies. Three recent reports were reviewed:

  1. November 2006, Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations; 
  2. 2005 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Drinking Water in First Nations Communities; and
  3. Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development’s Plan of Action to address drinking water concerns in First Nations’ communities.

The report states that “sustained investment in the capacity of First Nations community water systems and those running the systems is absolutely essential to ensure First Nations people on-reserve enjoy safe drinking water.”  It recommends an independent needs assessment, legislation and funding to address the needs on an urgent basis.

Impact:

According to the Minister of Indian Affairs, the number of high risk First Nations water systems has declined from 193 to 85.  Budget 2008 pledged $330 million over two years to improve access to safe drinking water in First Nations communities, almost double the number of trainers to increase capacity, and consultations with First Nations and provincial and territorial governments to develop a regulatory regime to oversee water quality on reserve.


Sharing Canada’s Prosperity – A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out

Date: March 2007
Committee: Aboriginal People
Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Nick Sibbeston (NWT)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

Subtitled Special Study on the involvement of Aboriginal communities and businesses in economic development activities in Canada, the report investigates elements that enable Aboriginal communities and businesses to succeed and obstacles that deter their achievement in all areas of the economy. Elements include (but are not limited to) large-scale industrial developments such as pipelines; non-renewable resource developments in oil, gas and mining; renewable resource development; tourism; and business services.

The report concludes that Aboriginal peoples in Canada view economic development as fundamental to reshaping their social outcomes and are asking that it be afforded much greater priority, including the establishment of a central Aboriginal economic development agency. The report identifies some basic elements for success: stable leadership and vision; appropriate interplay between politics and business; legitimacy of economic activities to the community; strategic use of available resources; qualified labour pools; and willingness to form partnerships with other Aboriginal communities and with the private sector.

Impact:

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has identified the Senate’s report as being supportive of its resource revenue sharing goals, as has the BC First Nations in its 2007 Economic Development Strategy.  The report has also generated favourable commentary across a range of media, including mainstream outlets such as the Globe and Mail and First Nations networks such as KNet.


Negotiation or Confrontation: It’s Canada’s Choice

Date: December 2006
Committee: Aboriginal People
Chair: Hon. Gerry St. Germain (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Nick Sibbeston (NWT)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The frustration and anger felt by many Aboriginals regarding the government’s slow progress in settling specific claims is documented in this report.  Specific claims — many of which date back 70, 100 or 200 years – arose when Canada and its agents failed to live up to their responsibilities in connection with First Nations’ lands, monies and assets. As the Committee stated, “Close to 900 claims sit in the backlog. Things are getting worse rather than better. First Nations have been patient – incredibly patient – but their patience is wearing thin.”  The report recommends acting by increasing funds for claims settlements; establishing an independent body within two years; allocating sufficient resources for the settlements process; and adopting new guiding principles.

Impact:

The government announced reforms to the specific claims process on June 12, 2007.  Bill C-30 was passed in the House of Commons on April 14, 2008 and in the Senate two months later. It created a new Specific Claims Tribunal staffed with impartial judges.  In addition, new guidelines have been prepared in conjunction with the Assembly of First Nations.  Although increased funding for settlements ($250 million a year for 10 years) was also promised in 2007, only 9 additional claims totaling approximately $21 million were settled between June 12 and December 31, 2007.


On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property: Still Waiting

Date: December 2004
Committee: Human Rights
Chair: Hon. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Landon Pearson (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

A follow-up study to the Committee’s 2003 study, A Hard Bed to Lie in: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve (see below), the report highlights what action must be taken before this issue is resolved.  A further, brief report was issued to the Senate on May 10, 2005, urging immediate action.

Impact:

On March 8, 2008, the government introduced legislation to resolve the issue of matrimonial real property on reserves. The government also announced $56 million in funding, in part to construct five new women’s shelters in Quebec, Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.


A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve

Date: November 2003
Committee: Human Rights
Chair: Hon. Shirley Maheu (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Eileen Rossiter (PEI)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The deplorable conditions under which on-reserve First Nations women and their children often live are highlighted.  Work that must be done to rectify the situation, particularly where no federal or provincial law applies, is outlined.  The report strongly recommends that consultations and proposals for legislative change be undertaken in a timely manner, and that First Nations women’s groups be included in the consultation process.

Impact:

A follow-up report demanded, and ultimately led to, government action. (See above, On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property: Still Waiting).


Urban Aboriginal Youth: An Action Plan for Change

Date: October 2003
Committee: Aboriginal People
Chair: Hon. Thelma Chalifoux (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Janis Johnson (MB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Committee aimed to formulate a detailed and concrete plan of action to support the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of urban Aboriginal youth, and to develop a strategy for reform that is proactive, positive and forward-looking. The report makes 19 recommendations under the broad subject areas of policy and jurisdiction, program and service delivery, partnerships, and urban aboriginal youth initiatives. The report particularly calls on the federal government to remove artificial status-based restrictions so that all Aboriginal youth are eligible for post-secondary assistance.

The report also highlights the need for transition services to help youth adjust to city life; measures to address elevated school drop-out rates; community-based programs that promote sound parenting skills; long-term, strategic approaches for labour-market readiness; and several other initiatives to create positive and proactive supports for urban Aboriginal youth.

The report concludes that the current federal approach to Aboriginal policy no longer mirrors the geographic reality of Aboriginal peoples – two-thirds of whom today live off-reserve – and argued for fundamental change. It calls on the government to recognize mobility rights of Aboriginal peoples when they leave their reserves. It also recommends entering formal negotiations with the Métis peoples of Canada to recognize and clarify their rights.

Impact:

An article on December 30, 2003 in the Edmonton Sun featured the Senate’s report (“City’s No Nirvana for Aboriginal Refugees”).


Forging New Relationships: Aboriginal Governance in Canada (2000)

Date: February 2000
Committee:  Aboriginal People
Chair: Hon. Charlie Watt (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Janis Johnson (MB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

Proposals respecting Aboriginal governance which had been presented as a working paper to the 1996 Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples (Sessional Paper 2/35-508.) were reviewed. The Senate’s report recommends:

  • new structural relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, and between the various Aboriginal communities themselves;
  • several mechanisms of implementing such new structural relationships; and models of Aboriginal self-government required to respond to the needs of Aboriginal Peoples and to complement the new structural relationships.

Impact:

The government introduced Bill C-7, the First Nations Governance Act, in 2003.  It was widely criticized.  KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives condemned Bill C-7 for being “contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the 1983 Commons Committee on First Nations Self-Government (Penner), and the 2000 Senate Committee Report, Forging New Relationships.”  Bill C-7 proceeded through committee stage in the House of Commons but was dropped from the government’s agenda when Paul Martin became Prime Minister.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Overcoming 40 Years of Failure: A New Road Map for Sub-Saharan Africa (2007)


Overcoming 40 Years of Failure: A New Road Map for Sub-Saharan Africa (2007)

Date: February 2007
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. Hugh Segal (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Peter Stollery (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This study examines the development and security challenges facing Africa; the response of the international community to enhance that continent’s development and political stability; and Canadian foreign policy as it relates to Africa. One of the main recommendations is a call for a major review of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  Another recommendation is that, overall, Canada should abandon its traditional aid-centric approach to Africa and establish an all-encompassing foreign policy for Africa.  This new coherent foreign policy should not be focused on providing social welfare programs such as education, but rather on economic development that targets initiatives leading to increased agricultural productivity, access to micro-finance, and small business development.

Impact:

The Senate’s Africa report has garnered world-wide interest in the international development community. To date, it has been downloaded approximately 10,000 times by individuals from all over the world.  The report also garnered a positive review in the Globe and Mail, while the National Post (February 19, 2007) stated that it was “a long-overdue triumph of ethical clarity, as well as a reminder that the Senate, made up of experienced citizens insulated from the vagaries of electoral politics, sometimes still works the way our Fathers of Confederation intended it to.”

JUSTICE

Cleaning up the Criminal Code, Clarifying and Strengthening Sexual Assault Law, and Respecting the Charter (2018)
Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada (Final report) (2017)
Public Protection, Privacy and the Search for Balance: A Statutory Review of the DNA Identification Act (2010)
Fundamental Justice in Extraordinary Times (2007)
An Act to amend the Parole Act and the Penitentiary Act (1986)


Cleaning up the Criminal Code, Clarifying and Strengthening Sexual Assault Law, and Respecting the Charter

Date: September 2018
Bill: C-51
Committee: Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Chair: Hon. Serge Joyal (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Renée Dupuis (QC)
Bill sponsor: Hon. Murray Sinclair (MB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

Bill C-51 is designed to modernize the Criminal Code by repealing obsolete or redundant offences (such as dueling or fraudulently practicing witchcraft), modernizing the Code to ensure it is consistent with recent Charter rulings, ensuring greater justice for victims of sexual assault, and requiring a Charter Statement for each new bill explaining its potential impact on rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Regarding sexual assault, the bill maintains that active consent must be given at the beginning and throughout any sexual activity that takes place. It also clarifies that consent cannot be given if a person is unconscious. It also modernizes the law to include sexting as part of sexual activity.

Impact:

Bill C-51 was informed by a 2012 Senate committee report (Statutory Review on the Provisions and Operation of the Act to amend the Criminal Code (production of records in sexual offence proceedings)). The 2018 committee report made no amendments to Bill C-51 but observed that the Government of Canada should continue its efforts to thoroughly reform and modernize the Criminal Code. The bill passed into law in December 2018.

The bill received media attention as a women was charged with fraudulently practicing witchcraft just two days before the offence was made obsolete. The Hill Times also reported on the new sexual assault legislation.


Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada (Final report)

Date: June 2017
Committee: Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Chair: Hon. Bob Runciman (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. George Baker (NL)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

In the wake of the Jordan Supreme Court decision, this is a much-anticipated final report on court delays.

The committee heard from 138 witnesses to produce 50 recommendations on how to alleviate the strain on Canada’s court system.

A main solution is the proposal that where an accused’s constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time has been violated, a stay of proceedings should not be the only remedy available to courts.

In addition to the recommendations, the Committee identified the consequences of delays. The impact is perceptible on the victims and witnesses, the accused persons and the justice system in general.

Impact:

The report garnered widespread interest in the legal community and beyond, being posted on the websites of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, the John Howard Society of Canada, and the Victim Justice Network.

Articles based on the report appeared in CBC News, the National Post, the Toronto Star, Global News, the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, the Hill Times, the Lawyer’s Daily, Canadian Lawyer and Slaw, amongst others.

The government issued a statement in response to the report about its progress to date on some issues, including the appointment of judges. The Law Society of BC also welcomed the report.

On March 29, 2018, the federal government tabled legislation to update the judicial system, with the goal of reducing delays in the justice system.

The bill will be far-reaching, and will end preliminary enquiries, as recommended in the Senate report. There are reforms to help reduce numbers of Indigenous people and other marginalized groups in the justice system, for example, by increasing the use of restorative justice. It will also update the bail system to find efficiencies as recommended in the Senate report.


Public Protection, Privacy and the Search for Balance: A Statutory Review of the DNA Identification Act

Date: June 2010
Committee: Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Chair: Hon. Joan Fraser (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. John D. Wallace (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The DNA Identification Act, SC 1998, c. 37, created the National DNA Data Bank and regulates the storage and use of DNA data.  DNA samples are collected both from crime scenes and from offenders convicted of certain crimes.  The samples are stored in the Data Bank where routines to find matches between the two are conducted. The Act sets up rules regarding how long samples may be kept, as well as what information may be shared and with whom.  However, it is the Criminal Code that governs when DNA samples may be legally taken from an individual without his or her consent.

A series of amendments to the Code since 2000 has increased the number of crimes subject to DNA sampling from 57 to 265.  Significant advances in genetic science have also occurred in that time frame.  These two factors are putting pressure on courts, prosecutors, police services, forensic labs and the DNA Data Bank.  The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs therefore undertook a review of the DNA forensic system to determine if it is still operating effectively.

The committee generally recommended that DNA be automatically collected from adult offenders convicted of more serious crimes to relieve some of the current administrative burden.   It further suggested that the purpose of the Act be clarified to include both conviction and exoneration of alleged criminals, and that both defendants and convicted offenders be given access to relevant scientific data in the Bank.  In addition, it called for adequate funding of the DNA Data Bank as well as forensic labs to meet the increased and increasing demands for their services.

Impact:

The Law Times reported that defence counsel were expressing concerns about privacy implications for convicted offenders since DNA sampling would become automatic.


Fundamental Justice in Extraordinary Times

Date: February 2007
Committee: Special Senate Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act
Chair: Hon. David P. Smith (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Special Committee on Anti-Terrorism was created in 2004 to review how well the Anti-terrorism Act and related legislation had operated since being implemented in response to the 9/11 events in 2001. The Committee faced the challenge of achieving an equilibrium between two fundamental obligations of any democratic government – to ensure citizens’ security and to protect their civil liberties.  Over 140 witnesses were heard in the course of the review.  The report contains observations as well as 40 recommendations to change various legislative provisions comprising Canada’s anti-terrorism framework.  The following summary highlights the recommendations dealing with security certificates.

Security certificates have existed for years, but are rarely used.  Only 28 have been issued since 1991, including 6 after 9/11.  Results to date are as follows:

Certificates quashed: 3
Persons held in Canada: 6*
Persons removed from Canada: 19**

* Mohamed Harkat, Hassan Almrei, Adil Charkaoui, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Manickavasagam Suresh.  All have been released from detention on conditions.

** Examples include Ernst Zundel, deported to Germany in 2005 for right-wing extremism; and Paul William Hampel (an alias), deported to Russia in 2006 for espionage

Procedures relying on security certificates or similar devices arise under five separate statutes.  One example, deporting non-citizens for national security reasons under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, is outlined in more detail here.

In their review of security certificate procedures, Senators raised grave concerns about a person’s Charter rights to a full and fair defence in legal proceedings, especially when faced with allegations based on secret evidence.  In particular, they recommended that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act be amended as follows:

  • a special advocate be appointed on the detainee’s behalf, to help review secret evidence;
  • all detentions must be reviewed within 48 hours, and ongoing detention reviews must be held starting 1 month after custody, and every 3 months thereafter;
  • a judge must determine that secret evidence is reliable before using it;
  • a judge’s decision regarding reasonableness may be appealed;
  • prohibit deportations to countries reasonably believed to apply torture;  and
  • ensure a deported person’s well-being is monitored rather than accepting diplomatic assurances.

The Committee also recommended that similar procedures be adopted under every statute that permits the use of secret evidence as part of Canada’s anti-terrorism framework.

Impact:

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the Senate that procedures under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act failed to provide adequate safeguards against secret evidence. The Court found that neither the procedure for reviewing a security certificate’s reasonableness nor the detention review procedure constituted the type of fair judicial process required under section 7 of the Charter.

Section 7 guarantees the right to “life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”  Secrecy required by the security certificate procedure rendered it unfair, as it denied detainees “the opportunity to know the case put against him or her, and hence to challenge the government’s case.  This, in turn, undermine[d] the judge’s ability to come to a decision based on all the relevant facts and law.”  Therefore, the government had failed to ensure a fair judicial process consistent with fundamental principles of justice.

The Court gave Parliament one year to amend the Act, failing which the offending provisions would be null and void.  On February 14, 2008, Bill C-3 received Royal Assent, amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in a number of ways, including:

  • a special advocate may now be appointed;
  • non-landed immigrants are to be treated the same as landed immigrants were under the previous Act;
  • a judge may receive into evidence “anything that, in the judge’s opinion, is reliable and appropriate;”
  • every 6 months, detainees may apply for release or for conditions to be lifted after release; and
  • appeals can the extent that a material change has occurred, or if the judge certifies a serious question of general

Critics of the legislation contend that further amendments are needed with respect to the special advocate’s role.  Currently, the special advocate may not communicate with a detainee after he or she has reviewed secret evidence, for example, nor are resources provided to assist the special advocate.  In addition, Amnesty International has criticized Bill C-3 for failing to prohibit deportations to countries that use torture.  The Senate’s Special Committee on Anti-Terrorism agreed with these criticisms.

On February 12, 2008, the Minister of Public Safety invited the Committee to continue its study of security certificates.  Recommendations are to be proposed by the Committee before the end of 2008.


An Act to amend the Parole Act and the Penitentiary Act

Date: 1986
Bill: C-67
Sponsor: Hon. William Doody (NL)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

Prior to this legislation, prisoners who served two-thirds of their time with good behaviour were automatically released.  Bill C-67 authorized the National Parole Board to postpone release dates if it believed an inmate would cause death or serious harm after release. Such detention orders were not subject to court appeal and applied to both current and future prisoners.

After visiting prisons across the country, and listening to inmates, correctional officers and expert witnesses, a Senate committee recommended that courts issue the new detention orders, rather than the Parole Board, to safeguard procedural rights and protections. However, in an extended summer sitting, the Senate agreed to pass the government legislation, amending it only to the extent that court appeals from Parole Board orders would be added.

Impact:

The House of Commons was recalled but rejected the Senate’s amendment claiming the Parole Board was better able to make decisions about the likelihood of violent action by offenders.  A message to that effect was sent to the Senate which had also reconvened.

The Senate decided not to insist on its own amendment.  Senator MacEachen (NS) summed up the position by saying (at pages 2820 and 2853 of the Debates):

… it is what I expect the Senate to do where appropriate, that is, to improve a bill by amending it and have it considered by the House of Commons…. [However], it would be a mistake for the Senate – having made the point, having brought the matter out in the way it has done, having debated it and having had it referred to the House of Commons where a clear-cut decision was taken on the amendment – to insist on the amendment when, despite the opinions that prevail, the merits are not in my judgment absolute.