OTTAWA — Quebec’s justice minister made a quick trip to Ottawa to lobby Green Leader Elizabeth May and, apparently, failed Tuesday to get her support for the instant adoption of a so-called “mega-trials” bill.
May continues to argue that the government’s newest justice legislation needs serious study and should not be rushed.
Quebec was recently stunned when a judge allowed 31 suspected Hells Angels to go free, after the costly and complicated trial was plagued by delays.
The province’s justice minister, Jean-Marc Fournier, urged May to help the federal bill get unanimous consent so that it might be fast-tracked through the House of Commons.
But the Green party issued a statement later in the day saying it would not be pressured into moving quicker.
The party said it had concerns about the bill’s use of preferred indictments, which would make it easier to skip through the process of a preliminary inquiry.
“A preliminary (inquiry) allows the accused to test the evidence and to cross-examine key Crown evidence before a trial,” May, her party’s lone MP, said in a statement.
“The strength of a prosecution case may change at this stage… These are very specific changes that could have larger implications and need to be examined in committee.”
As for the Quebec government’s argument that this needed to be done immediately, May urged caution.
“There is an old legal adage that hard cases make bad law. The government is rushing because 31 Hells Angels were let out of jail. This bill does not put them back in jail,” May said.
“It may not speed trials as much as people hope, and we don’t want to compromise future criminal trials. We cannot afford to move rashly on an issue of this importance.”
May says the legislation could still pass through the House of Commons by the end of June, even if it proceeds through standard procedures.
Quebec’s justice minister, for his part, was philosophical about the whole thing.
“I came to explain the importance of this (legislation) to her. She understands,” Fournier said.
“She agrees that it should be adopted before the session ends (for Parliament’s summer break). She hopes to have very, very quick hearings. So at this point, I’ll leave it to parliamentarians.”