Letters and Submissions

Response to Letter Re: Bill C-242: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Inflicting Torture)

June 2016

First Call received a response on June 2, 2016 from Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan in regards to our March 31, 2016, email to all BC MPs re: Bill C-242: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Inflicting Torture).


From: Jenny.Kwan@parl.gc.ca [mailto:Jenny.Kwan@parl.gc.ca]
Sent: June-02-16 1:34 PM
To: Sarena FirstCallBC <sarena@firstcallbc.org>
Subject: RE: Bill C-242: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Inflicting Torture)

Dear Adrienne,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about C-242. I would like to apologize for the time it has taken for me to get back to you.

As you point out, the Criminal Code only recognizes the offence of torture when it is committed by a state official. When carried out by private individuals, acts of torture—no matter how brutal, life-threatening, or long-term—can only be prosecuted as aggravated assaults.

Bill C-242 would create a new offence for inflicting torture with a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. The offence is defined as intentionally and repeatedly inflicting severe and prolonged pain and suffering on a person for the purpose of intimidating or coercing them. That suffering may be physical or mental but if it is purely mental it must be so severe as to lead to “a visibly evident and significant change in intellectual capability.”

New Democrats supported the Act to amend the Criminal Code (inflicting torture) at second reading, where the focus is on its principle. We believe that it is a response to the UN’s call for countries to criminalize torture in the private realm, as well as a tool to offer prosecutors and victims a charge that more accurately reflects the nature of the crime.

Indeed, it is important to offer victims and their families a charge that respects in name and description, not just in severity of sentence, the crime they have suffered. This Bill is about offering prosecutors a charge that accurately captures cases of horrific and repeated assault and abuse, because such crimes affect the victims for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, if the new offence created by Bill C-242 would apply without regard for gender, as you mention it would also apply in cases of extreme violence and abuse that disproportionately target women and girls.

You can take a look at the speech in the House of Commons of  my colleague Murray Rankin, the NDP Critic for Justice and Attorney General, for more details about our position on this Bill: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Pub=Hansard&Doc=44&Parl=42&Ses=1&Language=E&Mode=1#8881096

There are still some questions about the details of this Bill, but the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will be reviewing it and we are confident that it will resolve any problems. I encourage you to consult regularly the committee’s website to stay informed about further developments: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/JUST

Please let me know if you would like me to provide regular updates on this or other issues. If so, is this the best e-mail address to deliver them to?

With thanks,

Jenny Kwan
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East / Députée de Vancouver-Est
NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship / Porte-parole du NPD en matière d’immigration, de réfugiés et de citoyenneté