Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee. It's truly an honour and a privilege to be here with you.
Our position deals with compensation for wrongful convictions.
Before we get into that, our first position is quite clear. We absolutely endorse the recommendations in the report by Justice LaForme and Justice Westmoreland-Traoré, with the exception of recommendation 51. We'll talk about that shortly.
Having said that, basically we're going to deal with compensation. The first thing I'm going to do is give you a quote from the late David Milgaard: “Fighting the Canadian government for compensation long after being released from prison after exoneration feels like being in prison all over again”.
Our position is clear. As important and fundamental as it is to get those who are wrongly convicted or victims of the scourges of justice out of prison, it is also incredibly important to make arrangements for compensation for those persons so that they can in fact rebuild a life.
The centrepiece of compensation in most nations around the world is a function of the United Nations international obligation in that regard. Following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, two multilateral treaties were entered into in 1966 by all nations, including Canada and its provinces and territories in 1976, called the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. What article 14.6 said, for all those nations that acceded to it, including Canada, was that they had an obligation to put a compensation scheme into place for miscarriages of justice.
Most countries in the world have in fact done that. Canada really has not. We tried to do that, and we still have in place federal, provincial and territorial guidelines, the part that the jurisdictions can enter into, which is ostensibly following the tenet of article 14.6, but it really doesn't. It doesn't follow what in fact article article 14.6 asks for.
These guidelines have provided large amounts of compensation over the years: $10 million to David Milgaard and $6 million to Steven Truscott, etc. Apart from those very large awards, there has only been, on average, one award per year since 1988. It really doesn't provide access for those who, for the most part, are in that field of wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice.
In fact, in 2006, Michel Dumont, who is widely recognized as one of Canada's wrongly convicted, went to the United Nations, using the optional protocol to get the United Nations Human Rights Committee to force Canada to abide by its international rights obligation. The committee agreed with him. The committee, in fact, did find that Canada did not subscribe and did not live up to the terms of the covenant. It issued a directive to Canada to make arrangements for compensation for Mr. Dumont. Canada quite simply ignored it and refused to do so.
Having said that, the other things that are available for compensation are items that deal with litigation, for the most part, such as malicious prosecution, negligent investigation, charter damages and what have you. The prospect for those who are released from prison of having the funds available to pursue litigation is negligible and, for the most part, most of those remedies are highly ineffectual.
The relatively broad accepted method of approaching this issue is by way of statute. What we're asking the committee to do with respect to Bill C-40 is to add a provision in this statute allowing for compensation based upon model statutes that have been prepared in that regard.
We have two commonwealth jurisdictions that have statutes. We have the United Kingdom. In 1988, it enacted the Criminal Justice Act, which very much aligned with article 14.6 of the international covenant. In fact, it was a very strong proponent of compensation until it was amended in 2014. The other jurisdiction is the United States. There are 38 jurisdictions that have statutory provisions for compensation. They vary widely from state to state, but in fact they do provide those seeking compensation with an accessible and transparent opportunity to rebuild a life.