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Archived - Witness Protection
Currently, the criminal justice system provides certain measures to protect "justice system participants". A justice system participant is someone who plays a role in the criminal justice system such as a prosecutor, juror, witness or a judge. The Criminal Code makes it an offence to intimidate a justice system participant, such as threatening a prosecutor with violence in order to prevent them from carrying out their duties. This offence is punishable by a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
The current definition of "justice system participant" does not include those who play a role in national security proceedings, other than criminal proceedings. For example, it does not include witnesses or court officials involved in immigration proceedings that lead to the removal of persons who do not have a legal right to be in Canada and who have been determined to pose a serious threat. The proposed legislative reforms would address these issues.
Under the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, when deciding whether to allow a witness to testify using a pseudonym or via closed-circuit television, a court would be required to consider a witness's responsibilities relating to national security or intelligence.
The proposed reform would also allow a judge, at his or her discretion, to make any order necessary to protect the security of any witness, including those who have responsibilities relating to national security. Each order would be assessed on the facts while ensuring that the accused receives a fair trial.
Additionally in order to help ensure the safety of potential witnesses, it is proposed that the definition of "justice system participant" be amended in the Criminal Code to include participants in proceedings that involve national security information, such as security certificate proceedings. This amendment would enable police and prosecutors to lay charges when threats are uttered or acts of violence are committed against these persons in an attempt to impede them in their responsibilities. Under these circumstances, a suspect would be charged with the specific offence of intimidation of a justice system participant, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
The proposed legislation would also remove the requirement to publish the names of federally designated prosecutors and peace officers who have obtained authorizations to intercept tele-communications. This would better protect federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers who obtain judicially authorized wiretaps from potential intimidation or retaliation, and would put them in the same situation as their provincial counterparts. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness would continue to report annually on the number of federally designated prosecutors and peace officers who have obtained authorization for wiretaps, maintaining ministerial accountability on their use.
These proposed reforms would further build upon other key amendments already introduced by the Government of Canada including significant reforms contained in Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act to make testimonial aids more readily available for witnesses and to provide better protection to Canadian Security Intelligence Service employees and persons who provide information to the Service as proposed in Bill C-44, the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act.
Department of Justice Canada
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