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Could the bill targeting ‘negligent’ extreme intoxication be law by summer?

Click to play video: 'Liberals table bill targeting ‘negligent’ extreme intoxication after Supreme Court ruling'
Liberals table bill targeting ‘negligent’ extreme intoxication after Supreme Court ruling
WATCH: The federal Liberals tabled a bill on Friday meant to eliminate "self-induced extreme intoxication" as a legal defence for violent crimes. – Jun 17, 2022

A bill targeting “negligent” extreme intoxication after a controversial Supreme Court of Canada decision could be through the House of Commons within days, says Government House Leader Mark Holland.

Holland’s job is to shepherd the government’s legislative agenda through an often-raucous House of Commons — a role mirrored in similar positions among the other official parties.

He spoke with journalists on Monday morning to reflect on what the government has achieved so far during the spring session of the House of Commons, and suggested a bill tabled just days ago could be fast-tracked to make it to the Senate before that chamber rises at the end of June.

“The extreme intoxication defence in the Sullivan decision is something we’ve been very concerned about,” Holland said.

“I’m extremely confident we’re going to be able to move a solution through the House before lifting.”

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He added: “We don’t want to leave that open, and I think all parties are in concurrence about that.”

The House of Commons is expected to rise for the summer on June 23.

The Senate sits for an extra week, until June 30.

That extra week typically sees the Red Chamber dealing with a flood of bills that made it through the House of Commons just under the wire, and that need study by senators before they can receive royal assent and become law.

Holland’s comments come after Justice Minister David Lametti on Friday tabled a bill to eliminate “self-induced extreme intoxication” as a legal defence for violent crimes.

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Bill C-28 would also create new language in the Criminal Code that establishes criminal liability when a person who commits a violent crime is in “a state of negligent self-induced extreme intoxication.”

Click to play video: 'Canada’s Supreme Court rules voluntary extreme intoxication is a defence'
Canada’s Supreme Court rules voluntary extreme intoxication is a defence

For a person to be found criminally liable under the drafted update of Section 33.1 in the Code, the court would need to consider the foreseeability of the risk that ingesting intoxicating substances could “cause extreme intoxication and lead the person to harm another person.”

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In making that determination, the court would have to consider anything the person did to avoid such a risk.

That legislation comes after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unconstitutional in May a provision in the Criminal Code that barred the use of the “extreme intoxication” defence in violent crimes by people whose intoxication was self-induced.

Legal experts raised concern about what the availability of the defence would mean for women, who have historically comprised the majority of victims in cases where men tried to use the defence in court.

'Enormous' amount of work left to do: Holland

Holland said that while he’s optimistic the Senate will be able to get a number of government bills passed in its final week later this month, there will remain an “enormous” amount of work to do this fall.

Members of Parliament are due to return in September after largely working in their ridings over the course of the summer months.

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When they do, Holland said the intent is that the provisions allowing for hybrid parliamentary proceedings will still be in place. He told reporters the government plans to table a motion on Monday night that would keep hybrid proceedings in place for another year. Debate is expected on the motion on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'Parliament to allow MPs to participate virtually after contentious vote on hybrid sittings'
Parliament to allow MPs to participate virtually after contentious vote on hybrid sittings

As an example, he said five Liberal MPs including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. Holland also said virtual sittings allow more flexibility for those with young children and families.

Holland’s Conservative counterpart, John Brassard, questioned the threat COVID-19 will pose come September when the House reconvenes, however, and said the extension is unnecessary.

“If anyone or any institution is to signal to Canadians that we’re getting back to some sense of normalcy, it should be the House of Commons,” he said Monday.

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Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, warned on Friday that the number of cases are rising in Canada amid the spread of new subvariants that have “demonstrated a growth advantage and additional immune escape” over Omicron.

“COVID-19 has shown us over the past few years that there may be more surprises ahead,” Tam said last week.

– with files from The Canadian Press and Teresa Wright

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