An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of May 4, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the dangerous offender and long-term offender provisions of the Criminal Code

(a) to require the prosecutor to advise the court whether the prosecutor intends to proceed with an application for an assessment under those provisions when the prosecutor is of the opinion that the offence for which the offender is convicted is a serious personal injury offence that is a designated offence and that the offender was convicted previously at least twice of a designated offence and was sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment for each of those convictions;

(b) to remove the court’s discretion to refuse to order an assessment when it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be found to be a dangerous offender or a long-term offender;

(c) to provide that, if the court is satisfied, in a hearing for a dangerous offender designation, that the offence for which the offender has been convicted is a primary designated offence for which it would be appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more and that the offender was convicted previously at least twice of a primary designated offence and was sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment for each of those convictions, the conditions to make the designation are presumed to have been met unless the contrary is proved on a balance of probabilities; and

(d) to clarify that, even when the conditions to make a dangerous offender designation have been met, the court must consider whether a lesser sentence, including a long-term offender designation, would adequately protect the public and that neither the prosecutor nor the offender has the onus of proof in the matter.

The enactment also amends sections 810.1 and 810.2 of the Criminal Code

(a) to allow the duration of a recognizance to be for a period of up to two years if the court is satisfied that the defendant was convicted previously of an offence of a sexual nature against a child or a serious personal injury offence; and

(b) to clarify that the scope of conditions available for recognizances is broad and that those conditions may include electronic monitoring, treatment and a requirement to report to a designated authority.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us look at some of the facts concerning these bills. The age of consent bill, Bill C-22 in the last Parliament, was introduced by the government on June 22, 2006. The government moved second reading on October 30, 2006, and only sent it to committee on March 21, 2007. That bill, which we offered to fast track in October 2006 and which could have been the law in December 2006, only was adopted at third reading in the House on May 4, 2007. The Senate only received that bill on May 8, 2007.

When the member says that all of the bills had gone through the House and were sitting in the Senate, he is being wilfully incompetent or he is being sheerly incompetent by not giving the actual dates. It is the same thing for Bill C-32, Bill C-35, Bill C-10 and C-27.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to my hon. colleague's comments. The claim about the eight days that the bill has been in front of the Senate is simply a fallacy.

If we take a look at the precursor bills to Bill C-2 in the previous Parliament, those being: Bill C-10; Bill C-22, age of protection; Bill C-27, dangerous offenders; Bill C-32, impaired driving; and Bill C-35, reverse onus on bail for gun offences; four of those five bills had already passed through the House and had spent a significant amount of time in the Senate. The only one that had not was Bill C-27, which had been to committee and had been amended.

We were a very accommodating government, I thought. We basically bundled all of that legislation as it appeared in the previous session of Parliament, with the amendments, put it back in a bill, put it before the House and now it is sitting in the Senate.

We are not asking for anything that is extremely onerous.

My colleague also brought up the fact that she wanted to get her numbers right on something. Well, it is very clear from the information that I see, whether it is on TV or through various polls, that 70% of Canadians support tougher legislation against crime.

Is it sheer incompetence of her leader and her party, or wilful incompetence of her leader and her party, that they cannot get the Senate to pass the legislation?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 6th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly to Bill C-13. This bill is similar to Bill C-23, which was debated in the House.

I may be a rookie here but I remember Bill C-23 very well. We were in favour of the bill but the government decided to dissolve Parliament. So here we are, debating the same bill all over again, except that the number has changed.

The context is fairly important as we start, Bill C-13 is really Bill C-23. It contains so many important new aspects to make our criminal justice system work more equitably and to modernize it. It is why I was proud as a member of the Liberal justice team and as a member of the Liberal justice committee team to approve it and to send it on for eventual approval and royal assent.

Alas, the Prime Minister and his team decided that they were afraid of the environment. Their new Minister of the Environment had failed so miserably to act on the environment that they had to scuttle the whole Parliament because they were afraid of a couple of bills that might change things. In that mess, in that melee unfortunately, this good justice bill was killed and had to be reintroduced again.

One might ask, what difference does it make? It makes a difference to people who care about the criminal justice system. It may not mean a lot to people, but one of the biggest things we could have done in the last two years that I have been here would have been to modernize and make more effectual our criminal justice system, to move the maximum fine to be imposed for any summary conviction offence from $2,000 to $10,000.

A $2,000 fine is within the means of many people, but a $10,000 fine for a serious summary conviction offence, that does not warrant jail time, is a serious fine and might very well have a deterrent effect on those type of crimes for which a fine is appropriate.

There were many other amendments, which could be in effect and the law in the country now, that were just simply thrown away.

Language rights are very important in my province of New Brunswick which is officially a bilingual province. I represent the city of Moncton, which is an officially bilingual city. This is bread and butter for New Brunswick politicians. It is disturbing to me that the parliamentary secretary, when asked why Bill C-23, which contained many provisions to improve the delivery of justice services in both official languages was not given the priority of other bills, turned his answer to Bill C-2 and the tackling violent crime bill.

I asked why Bill C-23, which everybody agreed upon, was given second shrift to Bill C-2 and of course why was Bill C-2 killed?

This love child of the Conservative justice agenda, why was it killed by the Prime Minister? Was he so afraid of other bills which showed the incompetency of his own ministers?

It seems shocking to me. It included: Bill C-10, involving mandatory minimums which was a bill improved upon at committee and which had passed the House; Bill C-22, which modernized issues surrounding the age of consent and the age of protection, and provided for the first time a close in age exemption which made the bill very palatable in protecting young people; Bill C-32, for which Mothers Against Drunk Driving had been clamouring for some time; and, Bill C-35, a reverse onus on bail provisions which in effect codified the existing treatment of the law by jurists in the country, jurists who are exceptional jurists.

I have said this for two years. It seems like I just got here but I am here again defending judges and saying that they were enacting the provisions of Bill C-35 long before we had to make it law. Finally, there was Bill C-27, with respect to dangerous offenders.

Those were all bills that were moved along and would be law now had the government not pulled the plug on its own agenda. It euthanized its own criminal justice program.

In light of the Conservative vote on the capital punishment issue today, it is not surprising that Conservative members believe in terminating things. They have terminated their own hopes and dreams for criminal justice.

However, we want to move Bill C-23 along, which is now Bill C-13. It is an important bill that will deliver a lot of valuable aspects to the criminal justice system.

However, as I move to what is probably bread and butter for me as a New Brunswick politician, the language of the accused, I want to highlight what the bill will do and what it has done in the past. It is important to note the existing context.

At the request of the accused, a judge will order that the accused be granted a preliminary inquiry, a pre-trial procedure, and trial before a judge without jury, or judge with jury, who speak the official language, one or the other, which may be the language of the accused.

If the accused speaks neither English nor French, a judge will order that the accused be granted a preliminary inquiry or trial, without a judge and jury, who speak the official language of Canada in which the accused can best give testimony. The court is also required to provide interpretation services. That is the existing set of laws.

What Bill C-13 does to improve upon that, in clause 18 of the original bill, is to suggest that once the accused appears in court, the judge is required to advise him or her of the right to trial in the official language of his or her choice, but this requirement, as it exists now, is only if the accused is not represented by counsel.

What Bill C-13 does, which Bill C-23 did and which we all agree on, is take away the issue of representation and says that the judge must advise the accused, whether represented or not, it was a false barrier, to his or her right to have a trial in the language of his or her own choice. That was a good change and it leads me into some of my further debate points when I say that the judge was required to advise the accused of his or her languages rights.

I know the member for Beauséjour is a member of the bar. He is experienced in certain criminal proceedings and would know, coming from a francophone milieu, that it is critically important that the gatekeeper for language rights in that context, the provincial court judge in most instances, has that positive duty to inform a judge of his or her right to a trial in the language of his or her choice. It is important to know that the judge is already doing that.

With respect to preliminary inquiries and the trial in both official languages, clauses 18 and 21 changed it so that they became more accessible. Trials in the proper language of the accused, either French or English, would be improved by this bill.

I might add, as an aside, that the translation of documents would be ameliorated certainly by these amendments and we are all in favour of that.

I guess where the rubber hits the road is what to do with the amendments presented by the Senate. My friend, the parliamentary secretary, discussed at length some of the amendments, and I want to counter on the two on which we might have a more elaborate discussion.

We know that this bill is aimed at modernizing our criminal justice system and making it more effective. That goes without saying. My party had indicated that it would support the passage of this bill when it was first introduced before prorogation. It was the bill that I mentioned earlier, Bill C-23.

In the context of this modernization, it is important that the rights of all Canadians be respected with regard to the use of official languages in court proceedings.

Canadians, particularly those in minority language situations, know they have certain rights under the Criminal Code, but it is the federal government's responsibility, and I suggest our responsibility as lawmakers, to ensure the application of those rights is clear and that the judicial process is not delayed.

The way the government presented its view of language rights in Bill C-13, a justice of the peace or court judge would only be charged with finding some way to ensure that accused persons are informed of their language rights. That is really not enough.

One of the amendments that we proposed should be supported. We are in argument with the government on this, at least according to the parliamentary secretary's speech. It is important to say from the outset that the judge already has a duty to advise the accused of his or her rights. The language says that the judge must ensure that the accused knows of this option.

I have witnessed many first appearances and I am very confident in the ability of our judges to advise accused persons of their rights. It is commonly done throughout the province of New Brunswick and in any federally appointed court system where official languages are important.

The amendment proposed by the Senate would ensure that the federal government takes on its responsibilities through its agents to inform any accused persons of their right to proceed in the official language they understand. The Senate amendment simply takes out any potential middleman in the administration of justice. The judge would inform the accused of his or her rights.

I do not think that it is an undue burden for a judge. If there is clear communication during court proceedings, we are simply providing for clear access to justice for all those involved. It falls in line with our democratic society's pledge to have an expedient judicial process and it takes out the aspect of appeal.

I think the government wants efficacious legislation but I cannot be sure sometimes because some of the legislation it presents is so poorly written and so hastily delivered, only for the purpose of a television spot on the news, it is not always clear. In this case, however, if the government would only support this Senate amendment, it could have efficacious and fair language policy through the Criminal Code.

Sadly, the other Senate amendment respecting the reporting on official language requests is not one that the opposition can support. We cannot agree with it because it would require the Minister of Justice to report on the language of proceeding or testimony in criminal matters across this country.

There can be no way that all attorneys general in all provinces and in all territories would have the means to uniformly report on this. As the parliamentary secretary rightly commented, it is not the minister's mandate. In saying this, I do not mean that the Minister of Justice is not competent. I mean that he is not competent in the law to do such reporting. For that reason, we support the government in its opposition to that Senate amendment.

I understand the Senate's concern with ensuring that there is accountability in respecting language rights but we can surely do a more effective job in ensuring this by using the other resources that are in the community.

I know well-known jurists and hard-working jurists in my own province.

They are Sacha D. Morisset and Christian Michaud, who are both members of the Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick. They often highlight the statistics with regard to French language trials in our province. If it can be done in New Brunswick, I am sure it can be done in Canada.

Again, we do not support that Senate amendment.

In short, we are very happy to get moving with this important legislation. We are happy the Senate took the time to improve the bill by suggesting that judges, who are the gatekeepers in our system, have the duty to inform an accused of his or her rights respecting language in this country.

It is bedrock in this community and this country that we offer services in both languages with respect, at least, to the Criminal Code of Canada and the criminal justice system.

On this one amendment from the Senate, I urge members of the government to agree with the Senate and with the Liberal Party and its justice team that it will make the situation with respect to the delivery of language rights in this instance a much better thing.

I am very proud to suggest that we support the bill and one of the amendments suggested by the Senate, which is one of the two that are excluded from the government's list in the final motion.

I want to move the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting the words “agrees with Amendments No. 2, 4, 5 and 6” and substituting therefore the words “agrees with Amendments No. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6” and by deleting the paragraph commencing with the words “disagrees with Amendment No. 1”.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 28th, 2007 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House on a subject to which I have devoted most of my professional career. When I left university, I became a crown attorney, first at the provincial level, then at the federal level. Then I became a defence attorney. I was even the president of the Association des avocats de la défense. I was the Bâtonnier of the province of Quebec, and then minister of justice and minister of public safety. As you can see, I have long thought about crime in general and effective ways to fight it. I have also thought about the bogus solutions that are sometimes proposed and that have produced disastrous results in neighbouring countries. I would not want this country to follow in its neighbour's footsteps only to end up with the same results.

From the outset, I would say that I think we all share the same goal, and that is to fight crime. Where we differ is in how to go about it. I give my opponents credit and they should give me credit as well, especially since my past has shown that, in situations where I really had power, I could fight crime effectively. Our major victory over the Hells Angels in Quebec is a very clear example of that.

Nevertheless, I often heard from the other side that we were filibustering on Bill C-2. I do not know whether the people who said that know what a filibuster is. In French, the word is “filibusterie”. The word “filibuster” comes from the French word “filibustier”. This tactic was first used in the U.S. senate by an elderly senator who had serious objections to a bill. At the time, there was no limit on speaking time, as there is now in all legislatures, thanks in part to him. To express his disagreement with the bill, he decided to speak without stopping. He even took the Bible and read long excerpts from it, and he kept on speaking.

Today, we have measures to prevent filibusters and systematic obstruction. We have a set amount of time to present our arguments. Filibustering means using every possible procedural means to prolong a debate.

Bill C-2 groups together five bills that were introduced during the previous session, including the bill on bail. The motion at third reading was adopted unanimously, without a vote, on June 5, 2007. I therefore do not see how we could have delayed that part of Bill C-2.

Bill C-32 on impaired driving died on the order paper, even before the report stage. Once again, I do not see how anyone could accuse us of filibustering.

Bill C-27 on dangerous offenders also died on the order paper, in committee. What does it mean when a bill dies on the order paper? It means that ordinarily we should have resumed the deliberations that were interrupted in late spring, but the session was prorogued. The government prorogued it. It was the government that aborted the process these bills had to go through before becoming law. As a result, these bills could not be discussed any further.

The same is true of Bill C-22. Even worse, this bill had been adopted at third reading. Once again, it had received unanimous approval.

We voted in favour of these four bills. Where, then, is the filibustering, this tactic where members try to prolong the debate so that a bill they disagree with goes nowhere?

One major bill remains, Bill C-10, which provides for minimum sentences for offences involving firearms.

We were against it for a number of reasons, but the bill was passed at third reading on May 29, 2007.

The government decided to group these five bills together for one reason: none of the bills elicited systematic opposition. Knowing that we have some objections to Bill C-10, which I will discuss shortly, the government is trying to say that if we vote against Bill C-2 because we are against this part, we are also against all of the other parts.

This argument keeps coming up in this House, and I do not think it is well founded. I cannot understand why all of the parties keep using this argument. I myself have never used it and probably never will. However, when we vote in favour of blocks of legislation—such as the throne speech, which contains numerous measures—that means we support some measures, but are against others.

We weigh the measures we support against those we oppose. We explain why we vote as we do. For a throne speech, when the negatives outweigh the positives, we vote against it even though we support some of the measures it contains. It is utterly unfair to say that since we voted against a group of measures, we must oppose all of the measures in that group.

The same goes for the budget when they criticize us for voting against measures that we actually want to see in place. We voted against the budget because the cons, the measures we did not support, outweighed the pros. The same applies when we vote for a budget, which does not necessarily mean that we support every single measure in it.

The argument is a faulty one, but the government has come to rely on this tactic to influence public opinion during the coming election, an election that the government seems to want as soon as possible. For example, they will say that we are against changing the age of consent, even though the bill passed unanimously, and so on.

Let us get to the heart of the matter: minimum penalties. We have some objections in principle to minimum penalties. Based on my personal experience, I believe that minimum penalties do not influence crime rates. I think many people who have long been studying crime would agree with me.

First, I think that no member in this House would be able to tell me how many minimum penalties there are in the Criminal Code. People do not know the minimum penalties. In Canada, the most glaring example is marijuana. I passed the Bar exam in 1966. I started working as a crown attorney at the provincial level, and that was the first time I heard talk of marijuana. There was not much at the time. Throughout university, I do not remember hearing about anyone smoking pot. I did not even know that expression, and I was obviously not the only one.

I then became a crown attorney at the federal level and I started to work on cases related to these issues. Let us talk about marijuana and hashish from Indian hemp. The Indian hemp growing here had no hallucinogenic properties. So at the time, all marijuana, hashish and Indian hemp that people have been smoking since the late 1960s to the present day came from somewhere else.

Does anyone know what the minimum penalty was for importing marijuana into Canada? I am sure that people do not know, just like people at the time did not. The minimum penalty was seven years in prison for importing marijuana. It is one of the harshest sentences in the Criminal Code. But it was while we had that minimum penalty that marijuana use started growing, reaching peaks in the 1980s.

Since that time, levels of marijuana use have remained very high. We can clearly see that minimum sentences had little effect. The problem is that people do not know what the minimum sentences are.

On the other hand, we have an example of success, but it still needs to be taken a little further. I am referring to impaired driving. The minimum sentences have not been increased, but we have seen awareness campaigns and increased education. People know that it is a crime to drive while impaired. I remember when I finished my studies and I was buying my first car, no one talked about it. Our attitude was to consider if the person was capable of driving and we did not really see it as a criminal act. This is no longer the case.

The public has become much more aware and we have seen a decrease in impaired driving charges. In fact, they have decreased significantly. When authorities began conducting the first tests on our roads to see if people were driving while impaired, it was not uncommon to stop about 10% of drivers. When road tests are done today, with the same sample chosen in the same manner, less than 1% of drivers are found to be impaired. People have become more aware. I think of my children who drive and who, when they go to parties, have a designated driver, everyone taking their turn. These are habits they have learned without the fear of prison.

Thus, as we can see, the simple fear of a sentence does not have an impact. Plus, people do not know what the minimum sentences are. We must know a little about how the criminal mind works. I practised criminal law long enough to know a little about the subject. Does anyone really believe that criminals think seriously about the sentence they might have to serve if they are caught? First of all, most crimes are committed on impulse. What people want to avoid and what prevents them from committing crime is not the penalty, but rather the fear of getting caught. If there is a good chance they will be caught, people change their behaviour.

I also had another experience in my personal and professional life. When I began practising law in Montreal, it seemed to be the capital of armed robbery. Some of those listening may remember the famous movie called Monica la mitraille. It was a very good movie. I do not remember her real name, but I did see her in court. She was the leader of one of the groups who committed armed robberies in Montreal. There was about one a day at the time.

Does anyone remember the last armed bank robbery committed last year? I am convinced that almost no one does. Is it because thieves are now more afraid of the sentence than back when it was harsher? Why did they do it? Why has the number of these robberies decreased considerably? It is because of intelligent preventive measures. Banks are built differently and there is no longer access to large amounts of money. The risk of being caught in relation to the anticipated profits is not worth it. Furthermore, all kinds of measures have been put in place in banks and the efforts of bankers has also decreased the menace of armed bank robberies.

Putting in place a series of measures resulted in a true decrease in crime. Fear does not stop people from committing crimes.

The third example I can give is the death penalty. We abolished the death penalty in Canada 25 years ago. Since then the number of homicides has declined steadily rather than increasing.

I am not saying that we should not have sentences. We must have sentences and for certain crimes in certain circumstances they must be severe. However, the use of minimum sentences does not work.

I have another philosophical problem with minimum sentences and it is worth talking about. A judge hears a case and arguments, then weighs all the factors that need to be taken into consideration when handing down a sentence, such as individual and general deterrents, the seriousness of the charge, the seriousness of the crime, the circumstances under which the accused committed the crime, his involvement in the crime, recidivism if any, his home life, his responsibility or the influence others may have had, and so forth.

Implementing minimum sentences forces a judge, who went over all these circumstances in his heart and soul, to conclude that, even though that person should get 18 months in jail, the minimum sentence is 3 years. He is required by law, in that case, to commit an injustice. I have heard judges say that when they hand down minimum sentences.

We often forget that when we want to impose minimum sentences we are thinking about the worst offenders. When I listen to the examples given by the members opposite who defend this bill, I know full well they are thinking about the worst cases. We have to realize that minimum sentences do not apply just to the worst cases, but also to less serious cases.

I will give an example that I witnessed in my career. This will show that, although the members opposite claim that seven-year minimum sentences are not being handed out, a number of people have, at one point, served seven years in prison for importing marijuana.

I remember a young woman whose capacities were diminished after an accident. She had a daughter and her husband had left her. She met a charming, smooth talking American fellow with an education, like her, and she fell for him. He was willing to live with her handicap. He was very attentive towards her. They were in love. He seemed to have a income, without being very wealthy. One day, he left, saying that he would be sending her parcels. It was not immediately clear to her what he was talking about. Parcels did start arriving. Based on telephone conversations between them, it is obvious that she suspected that the parcels contained something illegal, because he asked that she not open them. She did not import anything. She simply stored parcels in her home. But because she suspected that there was something illegal going on, under the doctrine of wilful blindness, she was undoubtedly guilty, like him, of importing narcotics.

I wonder what sentences my colleagues in the House would hand down to that man and that woman respectively. Does it not seem profoundly unfair that the same sentence be imposed on both of them just because the minimum sentence prescribed is seven years? Since the offence involved relatively small amounts of hashish, the least dangerous drug, he may not have deserved a seven year sentence and she certainly did not. This goes to show how minimum sentences result in unfair situations. Different situations have to be considered.

In addition, the examples of cases raised in the House often appeared very serious, based on the two or three reasons for which the judge imposed such sentences. I doubt, however, that this was the case. The judge probably cited 10 reasons or so, which are not listed, for coming to the decision which is described to us as unacceptable. It is entirely possible that a few of the thousands of sentences rendered every day in Canada seem too heavy handed. In the case of a truly unacceptable sentence, the potential remedy would not come from Parliament, as is suggested by our discussions, but from the appeal courts.

In none of the arguments put forward in support of increasing sentences was an unreasonable decision by an appeal court ever mentioned.

Finally, the most important thing to know concerning firearms: in the United States, they incarcerate seven times as many people as we do, and guns roam freely, so to speak. As a result, three times—

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest this afternoon to hon. members and I would like to thank the members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc and, of course, our member for Windsor—Tecumseh for their thoughtful comments.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh has had 27 years experience as a lawyer and understands the system. Therefore, I have full confidence in him when I ask him what he thinks of this or how should we do that. He always has very good answers that have been well researched.

I want to let everyone know that when we talk about crime prevention and the justice system, we are doing that from very well researched sources and very thought out policy. I want to make sure that people are aware of that.

On the other hand, I did not have a chance today to listen to any members from the Conservative Party, which is probably a good thing.

Before we came back, people in my riding were asking about this crime stuff. They wanted to know what we were doing and what was going on. I basically said that the government had postponed the session and I then explained the whole idea of prorogation. I said that it did not make any sense and that it was a waste of money. I told them that everything that had been done will need to be restarted again. I said that all the work will need to be rekindled again and all those wages for the committee will need to be paid again. As a matter of fact, the agriculture committee just went back to work this week.

This is a symptom of what has happened and the whole idea of a delay. As my colleague from Windsor--Tecumseh said, at least four bills were already in the process before the delay and two bills may even have been law today. We might have had a couple of good crime bills, which everyone had worked on together and other parties had a chance to make amendments. We could have been going forward but instead it is almost as if we are being held, and I hate to use the word, hostage.

I heard arguments today that if we do not support the bill why did we vote for it. A lot of us voted for the bill because we felt that there was no alternative. Some good amended bills, which were worked on, discussed and should have been law, are part of this package and we should not delay them any longer.

We are at the stage now where we have this omnibus bill and we are in the process of debating it. I want to make it clear that I agree fully with what my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh said about Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders bill, which is that we tried to amend one part of it relating to dangerous offenders upon a third conviction and would place the reverse onus on the convicted person to prove that he or she should not be considered a dangerous offender. Apparently there will be challenges and problems with it but the bill will be passed and I guess we must to live with it.

I would like to share with the House an article from the Penticton Western News, which touches on my riding and on the riding of the Minister of Public Safety. The editorial, “Legislation plays on public fears”, states:

Canadian jurisprudence -- once an example of moderation -- is changing for the worse. This is the conclusion we draw from the Tackling Violent Crime Act now winding its way through the House of Commons.

I might add that this is not some kind of a left wing newspaper that is always constantly attacking government policy or the mainstream way of life.

It goes on to state:

This broad, sweeping piece of legislation threatens to inject Canada's legal DNA with alien elements that may not only be unconstitutional, but also unconscionable because they fan private fears by exaggerated public threats.

We have seen this topic discussed among members of the opposition parties today.

The article goes on to state:

While the provision to raise the age of consent to 16 is a welcome measure to bring Canada in line with the rest of the developed world, the rest of the act -- which actually includes five bills -- is nothing short of demagoguery.

Its tough language implies that we live in a crime-ridden society, when nothing could be further from the truth. National crime statistics have declined to the lowest levels in 25 years.

Other members have mentioned the United States, our neighbour to the south, which has an incarceration rate of over 700 people per 100,000 people, the highest incarceration rate in the world, followed only by Russia with something like over 400 people per 100,000, and China. The Canadian rate is something like 100 people per 100,000 people.

When I ask people whether they would feel safer in a country that has an incarceration rate of 700 per 100,000 or in a country like Canada which has an incarceration rate of 100 per 100,000, they obviously say Canada. Something is not quite right here.

The article goes on to state:

Yet, in spite of all the available evidence, [the] Prime Minister...has convinced many that our streets and communities are indeed not safe. What we need instead, he argues, are tougher penalties for criminals and more prisons to hold them for longer, if not indefinitely. Once again, this approach contradicts all the available evidence about the effectiveness of long prison sentences.

While criminals need to be punished, they also need to undergo rehabilitation, so they will not return to their old ways once they are out of prison.

Yet this government has failed has failed to support such programs, prompting complaints from guards, whom one might expect to support a larger prison system.

The article goes on to state:

But that is not the worst part of this act. It creates an unnecessary atmosphere of fear, paranoia and suspicion.

Earlier, the NDP agenda was discussed. It is based on the same philosophy as the Bloc Québécois', that is, that prevention and protection must be emphasized alongside punishment. Together, these three fundamental principles are effective at fighting crime. This bill, however, is only about punishment.

I would like to pick up on the article about the report “Unlocking America”, which my hon. colleague talked about earlier. The article reads:

Due largely to tough-on-crime policies, the Unlocking America report says, there are now eight times as many people in U.S. prisons and jails as there were in 1970.

In fact, the U.S. states with the lowest incarceration rates generally have the lowest crime rates, it says.

I asked that question earlier and I would like to ensure this is on the record. The article goes on to state:

U.S. taxpayers now spend more than $60 billion a year on corrections, says the report. “The net result is an expensive system that relies much too heavily on imprisonment, is increasingly ineffective and diverts large sums of taxpayers' money from more effective crime control strategies.”

Interestingly enough, the government promised to increase the number of officers on the police force. We have not seen those numbers so far and yet the government is willing to build more prisons with our money to put more people in jail. Something here does not make sense.

The article continues:

Much of the burden has fallen on disadvantaged minorities. Blacks and Latinos make up 60 per cent of the U.S.'s prison population. According to the report, eight per cent of American black men of working age are now behind bars. “In effect, the imprisonment binge created our own American apartheid,” it says.

My hon. colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh gave me an interesting statistic. He said that as far as dangerous offenders go in our country, although 3% of our population is made up of first nations people, in the dangerous offender category, 20% of the prisoners are from first nations communities. There is something not quite right. The danger is that if we implement a lot of the provisions of this new act, this will increase even more.

In talking about the United States, the report states:

“At current rates, one-third of all black males, one-sixth of Latino males and one in 17 white males will go to prison during their lives. Incarceration rates this high are a national tragedy.”

U.S. prisoners receive sentences that are twice as long as British prisoners, three times as long as Canadian prisoners and five-to-10 times as long as French prisoners, the report says. “Yet these countries' rates of violent crime are lower than ours.”

Since the early 1990s, U.S. crime rates have fallen sharply and are now about 40 per cent below their peak. The report says it's “tempting” to conclude that this decline occurred because incarceration rates soared during the same period.

However, this is not, according to the article, true. It states:

“Most scientific evidence suggests that there is little if any relationship between fluctuations in crime rates and incarceration rates.”

In fact, in many cases, crime rates have risen or fallen independent of imprisonment rates, it says.

What are we to conclude as we debate this bill? The first conclusion, in summary, is that we have wasted time. A lot of these bills could have been in effect now but, as I mentioned earlier, we have been held hostage, for lack of a better word. If we support part of this bill, then we must vote for the whole bill. If we see a flaw in Bill C-27 that has not been corrected, then we must leave it up to the courts to do it.

I believe I have expressed the concerns that I have and the concerns of a lot of citizens in my riding.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to this bill. It is a bill that has a number of problems as well as a number of positive elements. I want to take us through this kind of bizarre situation where we are being forced to accept the bad in order to get the good. That is the problem with an omnibus bill. If a whole bunch of things are put into legislation, we have to take the bad with the good.

It is even more bizarre in this particular situation when the government has threatened that it is a confidence motion. Canadians being told that they have to accept this bill with all the bad in it or there will be an election even if they do not want one.

I am going to go through the problematic parts of the bill as well as the good parts and explain how, in spite of our efforts to get a number of provisions through that could have been law by now, they have been held up a number of times by the Conservatives.

This bill is a compilation of five old bills. I will go through each of the particular clauses of the bill and mention some of the good and bad parts.

I will start with Bill C-27, which is really the only part of the bill that had not been through the House before. The rest could have been law now had the Conservatives not used the mechanisms they did in proroguing the House and in not bringing back the rest of the bills at the stages they were in Parliament.

The minister suggested today in committee that he was concerned or upset about the problems I had with this part of the bill. Of course, the problems came from concerns that experts had with Bill C-27. The minister should be concerned. When he brings forward a bill that many experts say has a very high probability of being unconstitutional, he should be concerned.

Let us look at the parts of the bill the experts were talking about. First, they suggested it could possibly be unconstitutional as related to section 7 of the charter. Under the old system, there were four reasons, I think, which my colleague brought up today, whereby a person could be declared a dangerous offender. Under the old system, the Crown or the prosecutor would say for which of the four reasons one would be a dangerous offender.

Now, under the reverse onus, they say people are guilty until they prove why they should not be categorized as dangerous offenders, but they do not specify which of the four items they mean. In spite of my colleague's efforts to get this into the bill, there is no explanation as to which of the four items the prosecutor or the Crown thinks makes a person a dangerous offender. It is like putting the onus on people to defend themselves when they do not know what the charge is or what the reason is or what they have to defend themselves against.

The other item in this particular part of the bill that the expert said contradicted a number of points government members were making is that the government says this is only for the most vicious of vicious criminals, only for the most dangerous offenders, but the expert legal witnesses once again outlined how the offences in the bill could easily lead to people who are not the most dangerous of dangerous offenders being caught in this particular mechanism inappropriately.

The third problem, which was not brought up specifically that I can remember, although I am not sure if it was brought up by the experts, is the whole philosophy of proportionality in the justice system. According to the theory or principle of proportionality, the penalty should match the crime in severity. It should be a reasonable match. If, under the mechanisms I just mentioned, people are given a life sentence for what are not the most serious offences, there would certainly be a good chance of going against that principle.

When we talk about taking away people's liberty for the rest of their lives, it is a very serious matter. If Parliament has erred in that area, I recommend that the courts look at that aspect of cases. Indeed, many of the legal expert witnesses said that would actually be the case.

I also said I would talk about some of the good elements in this section. There is a clause whereby the Crown has to say in court whether it will proceed with a dangerous offender hearing. There actually was an amendment from the NDP. I did not quite understand why that would be taken out, because I thought it was a good element in this part of the law. It would stop someone from falling through the cracks. It stops a procedural missing of that opportunity. The prosecutors have to say whether or not under the evidence they are going to proceed. Certainly when there is a potentially dangerous offender we would not want the opportunity to fall between the cracks.

Let us go on to the second element that is pushed into this huge omnibus bill: mandatory minimums. Of course we have supported some mandatory minimums, but certainly not to the degree that is in the bill. Once again, expert after expert came to the committee and showed how mandatory minimums, under certain extreme circumstances, indeed could easily make Canada a more dangerous place, not a safer place. We would have criminals who are learning from other criminals. They are less adjusted. Of course people always forget that virtually all of them come back to society so in essence we would be making Canada a more dangerous place.

That was not just evidence during committee. Let me repeat what was in the Ottawa Citizen today to corroborate that. The article states:

Most legal experts agree with retired judge John Gomery's criticism of new mandatory minimum sentences being proposed by the...government, calling them simplistic and likely to produce unjust outcomes.

Also, in the same article, Ed Ratushny, law professor at the University of Ottawa, called the growing reliance on mandatory minimums to fight crime “simplistic and naive”.

In the same article, William Trudell, head of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, said, “What it says is, 'we don't trust you, judge'.”

In the same article, David Paciocco, a former crown prosecutor, said that apart from the human misery they impose, mandatory minimum sentences generate huge costs for taxpayers.

Once again the government seems to be ignoring any sense of respect for the committee process. I have never seen such a barrage of complaints against bills as there was against Bill C-10 and Bill C-9 , yet where were the amendments from the government? They were non-existent in terms of trying to bring in a just law based on the knowledge that we received at the committee stage.

Once again I will talk about the good parts in that old Bill C-10. There were new offences. One was an indictable offence for breaking and entering to steal firearms. There was an indictable offence for robbery to steal a firearm. We certainly agree with those two, but the mandatory minimums were pushed through in the last Parliament by the Conservatives with the help of the New Democratic Party and were certainly in excess of what we believed was appropriate.

Going to the third of the five bills included in this new version, it was Bill C-22, which would increase the age of consent from 14 to 16. It is another example of a bill that had passed the House already. The delay was incomprehensible to us. Parliamentarians wanted to get it through. Why did the Conservatives, either the justice minister and/or the House leader, delay the bill on three different occasions? On October 26, we offered to fast track seven different bills, I think, including this bill. Yet the bill was debated at second reading on October 30 of that year and did not go to committee until March 11, which was 11 weeks later. The government totally ignored our offer of fast tracking.

The second time, the government delayed the age of consent bill by proroguing Parliament. I do not know if there has been a time in history when justice was set back so far by a prorogation of Parliament. Which department had more bills stopped when Parliament was prorogued, more than any other department? It was the justice department. What a way for the government to slow down its own agenda needlessly.

Some of these bills are those that the minister kept saying today in committee he so wanted to get through quickly. Then he prorogued Parliament. Once again, a number of those bills easily could have been through by this time.

The third time the Conservatives delayed the age of consent bill by not reinstating it. It had already been through the House. It could have been reinstated to where it was instead of going back to square one and being thrown into an omnibus bill with problems from other bills that had not yet been debated, particularly Bill C-27. That component of it could actually have slowed down and sabotaged something that people wanted to get through Parliament.

Finally, in what seemed to be even a fourth method of trying to stall the age of consent bill, the Conservatives started suggesting that a lot of bills would be confidence motions. Fortunately they have withdrawn this, I think. So they were trying to find some way of getting an election, when once again all the bills on the order paper would die and we would lose the age of consent bill.

I want to go now to the fourth part of this bill. It is related to impaired driving. This is another bill that has already gone through committee. Again, it could have been reinstated. After a prorogation of Parliament, bills can be brought back with the consent of Parliament to the stages where they were, so four of these bills could have been brought back in far more advanced forms. Some of them could have been through now.

Of course they would have been through if we had not prorogued Parliament and if the Conservatives had not slowed down the process, but the Conservatives could have brought these bills along faster and put them through instead of putting them into a huge bill where any one of a number of things could slow them down.

It was the committee's duty to spend time in committee and call witnesses to go over the items that they had not yet dealt with in those parts of the bills, particularly Bill C-27, which had not been through committee yet, and of course it was good to do that because of the very serious reservations that were raised in committee during those hearings.

Once again, I would highlight some of the good parts of the old bills. In this one, the impaired driving bill, one of the good parts is that it will make it easier to catch people who are impaired not only by alcohol but by drugs. We are making advances in making the streets safer by being able to have a mechanism for detecting and keeping off the roads people who impair themselves by the use of drugs. As members know, we already do that in relation to alcohol.

However, once again there is a questionable part in that section. In trying to close a loophole, the government added a section which suggests that only scientifically valid defences can be used as evidence. At what other time would a person go to court and only be allowed to use scientifically valid defences? When people go to court, they hear all sorts of witnesses on various things, and now the government is limiting their defences in this particular bill to only scientifically valid defences.

We also heard some disturbing testimony about the occasional lack of rigorous maintenance of machines used to determine abuse and about there being no regular schedules and no independent evaluation, all of which brought up concerns that should be dealt with by committee.

Members can see, with the number of concerns that I have talked about so far, and I have only done four of the five sections, that there are a number of major concerns. People's rights could be taken away. Constitutional rights could be abrogated. People could not bring evidence forward because it would be prohibited by a section of this bill.

This is a major undertaking so it is very important that the committee does its work and is not rushed, yet when I asked the justice minister this morning whether he believed in the committee process where we bring forward witnesses and then make some changes, he assented and said that he did believe in the committee process.

However, last week when the youth justice bill was in committee for one day the House leader complained that opposition parties were stonewalling. There was only one day for the committee to hear from all the witnesses, the minister, and departmental officials.

This particular bill is going to affect youth and the public in very serious ways. The Nunn commission did a comprehensive review of the bill and made a number of recommendations. The government took only one and then added something that did not come from that report at all and will totally change the way youth are sentenced.

Did the House leader expect one day of committee debate to be sufficient? When he was asked about this, he said it may not have been sufficient, but he would know on the quality of the debate. That is pretty weak.

The government House leader did not put in the bill the recommendation of the Nunn commission regarding the protection of the public to sentencing. One would think that victims in Canada would want to be protected. The public wants to be protected. A major recommendation was left out of the youth justice act, and yet the government House leader thought it was so simple that it only required one day of committee debate.

All parties in the House have to deal with the serious situation of the serious omissions and the things that have been put into this legislation without any rationale. We will find out from the witnesses their concerns about that.

Old Bill C-35, which dealt with reverse onus for bail and firearms, has been incorporated into this omnibus bill. Liberal members agree with this. We have been trying to rush it through. It could have been through a lot faster. Problems were raised in committee. There is the potential charter issue again about reverse onus.

In Canada, the general philosophy is that one is innocent until proven guilty. There are an uneasy number of provisions, as Bloc Québécois members mentioned this afternoon, where the onus is being reversed. The Conservatives are saying to Canadians that one is guilty unless proven innocent.

What do the experts have to say about reverse onus? What do the experts have to say about making this serious abrogation of a fundamental principle of Canadian law?

The experts have said that this reverse onus is not needed because it is going to make very little difference. This section has serious consequences. For the serious offences listed, where individuals would be denied bail, they are already being denied bail in the court system. This part of the bill would have little effect.

Liberal members have a number of problems with Bill C-2, but we do support its good elements. We certainly have problems with the way the Conservatives have forced bad things on Canadians by putting all the old bills into one omnibus bill.

We have problems with the Conservatives saying that we have to accept this bill, including the bad parts, or there will be an election. That is not a good way to develop policy. That is not a good way to get the trust of Canadians. Not allowing any amendments and not allowing any changes after having heard from knowledgeable experts is not a good way to develop legislation.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-2. I hope that my colleague from Wild Rose will remain with us so that we can have the kind of discussion that we had during our review of some other bills that have been adopted.

To begin, I wish to pay tribute today to the hon. Antonio Lamer, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and probably one of the greatest criminal lawyers that the Canadian legal profession has known. As a criminal lawyer myself, I had the opportunity to get to know Mr. Justice Lamer, not at the Supreme Court, unfortunately, but through studying, analyzing and relying on decisions he had handed down. We know that in the years between 1980 and 2000, Mr. Justice Lamer and the Supreme Court rendered decisions taking into account the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that came into force in 1982. I pay heartfelt tribute to the hon. Justice Lamer. He played a significant role in the interpretation of the legislation that we must debate here and that will eventually be applied to the people of Canada, and in particular, of Quebec.

To return to Bill C-2, this is a strange bill called an omnibus bill. It brings together Bill C-10, dealing with minimum penalties for offences involving firearms; Bill C-22, which deals with the age of protection; Bill C-27, concerning dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace; Bill C-32, on impaired driving; and Bill C-35, concerning reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences.

That said, the government wants to put together a package of bills into a single omnibus bill and have it passed. Right away, I should say that several of those bills, three in particular, had already reached the Senate but died on the order paper when the Conservative government decided to produce a new Speech from the Throne.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour and will be in favour of the principle of Bill C-2. We feel that former bills C-10, C-22 and C-35 have already been debated in this House. I myself have spoken against one of those bills. Nonetheless, as a great democrat, I am respecting the decision of this House and we will respect the democratic choice that was made to move forward with these bills.

However, I want to point out that a number of these bills, Bill C-27 on dangerous offenders in particular, deserved and still deserve a more in-depth review. The problem is that when a person commits a third offence from a list of a dozen very serious offences, there will be reverse onus of proof. Personally—I talked about this with my party and here in this House—I have always been against the reverse onus of proof because this implies that the accused has to incriminate himself and provide explanations or be held responsible.

Nonetheless, Bill C-2, and former Bill C-27, resolve part of the problem. Once criminals have to be monitored, there are reasons they have to appear before the court and the court has reasons for asking them why they would not be considered dangerous criminals who have to be monitored for a long time, in light of the offences they committed.

The Bloc Québécois wants to be very clear on this. We need to deal first and foremost with poverty, social inequality and exclusion, a fertile breeding ground for frustration and its outlets, which are violence and criminal activity. There is no point to just passing legislation; one day we will really have to think about how to attack crime. If we do not attack it by dealing with poverty and exclusion, some people will see no other way out except crime. Crime is not a solution of course, but some people see it as one.

The measures we introduce will really have to have a positive impact on crime and go beyond mere rhetoric or campaigns based on fear. They will have to be more than a weak imitation of the American model, which has had less than stellar results.

The crime problem in Canada cannot be solved—and I say this with great respect for the House—by imposing minimum prison terms or reversing the onus of proof but by dealing instead with a problem that has festered for far too long: criminals get out of jail too soon. Canadians are genuinely shocked that people sentenced to 22, 36, 48, or 52 months in jail are released after 5, 6 or 7 months.

Our friends across the aisle will have to understand some day that we cannot reduce crime by passing tougher laws but by ensuring that criminals who have been sentenced actually serve their time. This is the key factor and one of the obvious problems in Canadian society. Tougher laws will not ensure that people serve longer sentences. This is what will happen: the judges and courts will probably revise their decisions thinking that they are too onerous and tough. Contrary to what the Conservatives say, section 2 of the Charter applies and if a law is too harsh or a sentence almost too tough for a criminal, the court can revise this decision.

There are a number of objectives therefore. We know what Bill C-2 is all about. It strengthens the provisions on offences involving firearms by creating two new firearms-related offences and increasing the minimum prison terms. However, even increased minimum prison terms will not solve the problem. People are not frightened off by the possibility of long-term imprisonment but by the likelihood of being caught. We will have to check how judges and the police apply it.

I do not have a lot of time left. I would therefore like to say quickly as well that we need to do something about impaired driving. We hope that the police will find ways of determining the presence of drugs in the bodies of drivers. We still do not know how. When I sat on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, all the experts who came to testify said that no machine could detect whether someone had consumed cocaine or smoked marijuana and whether it was influencing his driving.

This is an important bill and I hope that when the House passes it, the Senate will also quickly do so. I know that some of the provisions to be amended by Bill C-2 will be studied by the courts and probably the Supreme Court over the next few years.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the truth can be stretched, the Conservatives stretch it as much as possible.

Why was there a need to combine all of the bills? Those bills themselves were complex in nature. If the member wants to blame the Senate, in almost every case the Senate dealt with the bills faster than this House did. Of the six justice bills that were not passed before the summer break, only four had even reached the Senate. The two bills that were in the Senate were Bill C-27 and Bill C-32. Of the four bills that were in the Senate, they had all only been sent in May or later.

Let us have some fairness and some truth.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2007 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-2. The bill, which is an omnibus bill, combines five previously introduced Conservative justice bills into one, Bill C-10, Bill C-22, Bill C-27, Bill C-32 and Bill C-35.

Canadians need to know what exactly this omnibus bill is really about. It is an omnibus bill that tries to combine five pieces of legislation together. Why is it necessary to combine all these bills and how will it affect legislators?

What is the intent of the Conservatives in getting all these bills together when they were fast-tracked previously? They were debated in committee thoroughly, amendments were made, and these amendments strengthened the bill and the legislation.

We, as parliamentarians, have a responsibility, and the responsibility is to be cognizant--

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate at report stage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Briefly, on October 18, the Minister of Justice tabled omnibus Bill C-2, which regroups the main “law and order“ bills that were introduced by the government, during the first session of the 39th Parliament.

Indeed, Bill C-2 includes defunct Bills C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act, C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace), C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences).

Those who are listening to us should know that this government bill provides nothing new. During the last session, I had the opportunity to take part in the debate and to express Quebec's vision on justice, as it relates to several of those bills.

In fact, before prorogation, three of those bills were already before the Senate, namely Bills C-10, C-22 and C-35. As for the other two, that is Bills C-27 and C-32, they were in the last stages of the parliamentary process in the House.

However, all these bills died on the order paper, when the Conservative government itself decided, for purely partisan motives, to end the parliamentary session and to present a new Speech from the Throne.

Today, we find ourselves debating again the work that has already been accomplished in the House. This is why, when the government pretends to be the only one going to bat for innocent people through rehashed and amended legislation, I cannot help but wonder about such a preposterous claim.

The people of Quebec deserve that crime be tackled seriously, without playing petty politics with fundamental rights, and, above all, they deserve to be presented with the real picture. For those interested in politics, I point out that the Bloc Québécois was fully involved in the review process for Bill C-2, in spite of the very tight timeframe, to consider all aspects of that bill. My colleagues and myself believe that any bill of such importance, which could have such a significant impact on the people, has to be thoroughly examined.

It would, however, be somewhat tedious to examine again amendments made previously. With respect to former bills C-10, C-22 and C-35, in our opinion, the parliamentary debate has already taken place and the House has already voted in favour of those bills. We therefore respect the democratic choice that has been made. As for former Bill C-32, which died on the order paper before report stage, we had already announced our intention: we would be opposing it. This brings me to the part stemming from former Bill C-27, about which we expressed serious reservations at the time but which we nonetheless examined in committee so that it would be reviewed responsibly.

In short, the provisions in Bill C-2 which stem from former Bill C-27 amend the Criminal Code to provide that the court shall find an offender who has been convicted of three serious crimes to be a dangerous offender, unless the judge is satisfied that the protection of society can be appropriately ensured with a lesser sentence.

At present, the dangerous offender designation is limited to very serious crimes, such as murder, rape and many others, and to individuals who present a substantial risk to reoffend. An individual may be found to be a dangerous offender on a first conviction, when the brutality and circumstances of the offence leave no hope of the individual ever being rehabilitated.

We have some concerns regarding Bill C-27, particularly the impact of designating a greater number of dangerous offenders and reversing the onus of proof, two processes that definitely increase the number of inmates and that are contrary to the wishes of Quebeckers as to how offenders should be controlled.

We are not the only ones who have expressed concerns with regard to this aspect of Bill C-27. My colleague for Windsor—Tecumseh is proposing an amendment today that would remove the reverse onus of proof found in this bill. He believes it would not survive a charter challenge. Even though we realize that this amendment could lead to improvements in Bill C-2, we will reject it because the Conservative government, in attempting to govern with contempt for the majority in the House of Commons, would link this amendment to a confidence vote.

With regard to amendments, I repeat that the Bloc Québécois is aware that many improvements must be made to the current judicial system and that changes to the Criminal Code are required. The government must intervene and use the tools at its disposal enabling citizens to live in peace and safety. In our own meetings with citizens we identified specific concerns as well as the desire to change things by using an original approach. We wanted to make a positive contribution meeting the aspirations of our fellow citizens.

We therefore proposed a number of amendments that my colleague the member for Hochelaga, right here, worked very hard on with the caucus. We prepared a series of amendments to improve the bill and the justice system. These are complementary measures that will strengthen its effectiveness.

We proposed, among other things, realistic amendments to eliminate parole being granted almost automatically after one-sixth of a sentence has been served and statutory release once two-thirds of a sentence has been served, by having a professional formally assess inmates regarding the overall risk of reoffending that they represent to the community.

Another amendment was aimed at attacking the street gang problem—with which my colleague from Hochelaga is very familiar—by giving the police better tools, in particular, by extending the warrants for investigations using GPS tracking.

We put forward many other amendments. Unfortunately, none of them was accepted, even though some amendments are unanimously supported by the public security ministers of Quebec and other provinces. Consequently, Bill C-2 was not amended in any way during committee review. It is a shame that the Conservative government once again preferred an approach based on ideology rather than democracy. It preferred to combine bills that, for the most part, had already been approved by the House of Commons, rather than focusing on some others that deserved very close examination. Above all, it is refusing to improve Bill C-2 with respect to practical priorities.

In putting forward its amendments, the Bloc Québécois has remained consistent with its objective of using effective and appropriate measures to evaluate the relevance of each bill. It has also demonstrated its concern for prevention of crime, which should be high priority. Attacking the deep-rooted causes of delinquency and violence, rather than cracking down when a problem arises is, in our opinion, a more appropriate and, above all, more profitable approach from both a social and financial point of view.

That must be very clear. The first step must be to deal with poverty, inequality and exclusion in all forms. These are the issues that create a fertile breeding ground for frustration and its outlets, which are violence and criminal activity.

However, it is essential that the measures presented should actually make a positive contribution to fighting crime. It must be more than just rhetoric or a campaign based on fear. It must be more than an imitation of the American model and its less than convincing results.

I mention the important fact that for the past 15 years criminal activity has been steadily decreasing in Quebec, as it has elsewhere in Canada. Statistics Canada confirmed just recently that for the year 2006 the overall crime rate in Canada was at its lowest level in more than 25 years. What is more, Quebec recorded the smallest number of homicides since 1962. Indeed, in violent crimes, Quebec ranks second, just behind Prince Edward Island. Quebec also recorded a drop of 4% in the crime rate among young people in 2006, which was better than all other provinces. Those are solid facts which should serve as an example to this government and on which it should base its actions.

I will close by saying that we will be supporting Bill C-2 at third reading, on its way to the Senate. However, I remind the House that we were in favour of four of the five bills that are now included in Bill C-2 and those bills would have already been far advanced in the parliamentary process if the government had not prorogued the House for purely partisan reasons.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 23rd, 2007 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate the amendment that has come forward from the NDP.

I congratulate the member for Windsor—Tecumseh who is our justice critic and who moved this amendment to delete this particular section of the bill. He has been outstanding in his work, not only on the justice committee but in the House. In fact, he was acknowledged by his peers in the recent award as the most knowledgeable member in the House. I think there is no question about his work on the justice file and the rational and intelligent arguments that he has brought forward to counter some of the absurd rhetoric, the political spin that has been put out by the Conservative government on its so-called crime agenda.

It has been refreshing to see how the member for Windsor—Tecumseh approaches his work and how he really puts forward, not a partisan interest but a public interest in terms of what should be the justice agenda and how the Criminal Code should be amended.

There is no better example of that than what was originally called Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders act, and is now all wrapped up in this omnibus bill called Bill C-2, in which Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders act, is still a part.

In the early days of debate on that bill, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out that there were certain aspects of the bill that would likely not survive a charter challenge. He also made it very clear in the House and in committee, and tried to gain support from other parties, that the so-called reverse onus provision for dangerous offenders or offenders who had been convicted for a third time and placing the onus on them to show why they should not be designated as dangerous offenders was a dramatic change in our justice system and was something that likely would not survive a charter challenge. The member brought forward very clear and intelligent arguments as why it was going down a blind alley, why it was a false lead.

It is very interesting to note the response of the government. In actual fact, it could not care less about that. It could not care less whether this was actually something that, from a legal point of view, from the point of view of upholding the long-established Criminal Code of Canada and the direction and the precedents that have been set over the years, could be reconciled and be credible in that tradition.

I think we all know now, and there is a gaining understanding across Canada, why the government could not care less. It is because this so-called crime agenda is nothing more than political optics. It is nothing more than pushing people's buttons. It is nothing more than trying to create a climate of fear in Canada about crime.

On behalf of the NDP, I am very proud of the fact that we take this issue from the point of view of protecting the public interest, but not going down this crazy road of creating a climate of fear and bringing forward proposals that the government knows are doomed to fail.

We brought forward this amendment today to once again put on the record that although we have supported other provisions of the bill as being something that are needed, this particular provision is something that should not be sanctioned in Parliament.

I know I will hear a great deal of rhetoric from the Conservative members saying that the NDP is weak on crime, the NDP is this or that, but let it be said that the NDP is here to stand for reasoned arguments and for amendments that will actually be effective in dealing with dangerous offenders. The NDP is here to protect that public interest and to hold the government to account for failing to deal with all of the preventive measures that are needed in our society to build safe and healthy communities, which is why we put forward this amendment--

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 23rd, 2007 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we should not even be here debating this bill, which should have received royal assent last spring. The government has been playing games with Parliament. It is not governing and it uses Parliament as a political playground. It has shown a complete lack of respect towards Parliament.

The government refused the fast tracking offer of our party and it actively delayed these important initiatives while hoping for an election last spring in which they could run on their crime and punishment agenda.

As was mentioned by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, I too would like to remind this House of the scenario from last spring. Bill C-10 received first reading on May 6 and was delayed 38 days before second reading, 146 days before it was sent to committee. The committee met 105 days and then from the committee report to report stage it took another 75 days. From report stage to third reading, it took 22 days.

Bill C-22 received first reading on June 22, 2006 and was delayed 130 days before second reading, 142 days before it was sent to committee. The bill was 29 days in committee, four days until the committee reported, 11 days to report stage, and then to third reading on the following day.

Bill C-27 received first reading on October 17, 2006 and was delayed 199 days before second reading on May 4, 2007, four days to committee, and then 36 days to report stage.

Bill C-32 received first reading on November 21, 2006 and was delayed 77 days before second reading, 113 days until it was sent to committee, and then 20 days in committee and the committee reported the following day.

Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code, received first reading November 23, 2006 and was delayed 123 days before second reading, two days before it went to the committee where it was studied for 61 days, and then one day until it was reported in the House. It took five days to report stage and one day until third reading.

This is no way to tackle violent crime. In fact, again the government is simply posturing and using the Parliament of this country as a little electoral toy, instead of actually taking this seriously. The Conservatives are only posturing. I have never been so disappointed, from the committees to the behaviour here, to see that these parliamentarians have not been allowed to act like parliamentarians because of this appetite for an election and a majority.

Last evening, at the End Exclusion 2007 conference, one of the members of the disability community said to me that social policy and social justice was homeless in the government. In terms of tackling violent crime, women with disabilities, who are the most abused, most often the victims of violent crime, want to see some policies that will affect them.

The seniors that we met with the member for London North Centre are very upset in terms of the people looking after them. Elder abuse no longer has automatic charges and the poor, vulnerable seniors are still asked as to whether or not they want to press charges.

From early learning and child care where we know we can help effect the behaviour of young children, to bullying programs, literacy programs, to cutting women's programs that affect the Interval houses, to the summer jobs program where kids can finally maybe find out that they are good at something, the government has consistently cut the prevention and the causes of violent crime.

I remember in 1995 when I ran provincially. We knew then what premier Harris was about to do. He cut the arts programs, the music programs, the sports programs, the homework clubs and the family counselling, and 10 years later we ended up with terrible trouble with guns and gangs.

At the Tumivut shelter in my riding, when I meet with some of the members of the black community, it has been absolutely horrifying to hear that the results of those cuts were really to people who did not feel included. The first time this young man said that he had ever felt included was when he joined a gang. The first time he was told that he was good at anything was when he was shoplifting.

It is very upsetting to see that the government just does not understand that investing in programs allows kids to find talents in art and music and find summer jobs. It is absolutely horrifying to think that this idea of just locking up people and throwing away the key will be the way to get a safer society.

Canada used to boast the lowest recidivism rate in the world because of what happened to people in prisons. That meant an education. They might even get a bachelor's degree. Some of them have even obtained law degrees. With anger management and drug rehabilitation programs, they have been able to come out with new talents, meet new friends, and never reoffend again.

We do not want our prisons to become schools for criminality, where people are trained for a life of crime. It is hugely important, as we look forward to the real challenge of tackling violent crime in the long term, that the government address the causes of crimes and the kinds of programs that are so important in our prison system.

I feel that I cannot stand in the House without commenting that the government has rendered this place and the committees of the House to an all time low in my 10 years as a parliamentarian. Members of Parliament are not allowed to speak freely in committee, they are scripted and rehearsed in the Prime Minister's Office. There is this unbelievable inability of cabinet ministers to even speak or show up at events they had booked themselves. As the Clerk of the House of Commons so often reminds us, this building is to be something more than to hang Christmas lights on.

It is appalling that we do not understand that the job of chairs of committees is not to dictate. Their job is to find the will of the committee and put it forward. They are not to have, like what happened yesterday in the health committee, the minister whispering in the chair's ear in the middle of the meeting. It is not up to the chair of a committee to decide, with 15 minutes to go, that the minister gets 15 minutes to sum up.

There seems to be an absolute lack of understanding of the role of the House and the role of committees in terms of really calling the government to account. Government reports to Parliament. It is not the other way around. No amendments mean no democracy. This is a travesty of the role of citizens.

I hope that in the next election people will see that the ballot box question will be whether citizens have a role at all after the next election because citizens have been silenced, members of Parliament have been silenced, and ministers are being instructed what to do. I worry for the democracy of this country should these people be allowed to govern any longer.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 23rd, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 42.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the ruling on this amendment indicating that it is within the proper scope of the rules and admissible.

The amendment deals with the specific section of a very large bill, an omnibus crime bill, and specifically with that part of the bill that deals with the dangerous offender designation in the Criminal Code.

Just quickly, the balance of Bill C-2 encompasses five separate pieces of legislation that were before this House in the previous parliamentary session. The dangerous offender section at that time was Bill C-27. It has now been incorporated into Bill C-2.

We had commenced work on that in a special legislative committee prior to prorogation. The prorogation by the government of course ended that bill, as it did the other four, three of which by the way were in the Senate, and the fourth one was out of committee at report stage in the House.

So now, because of what I think is a very foolish decision but a very political decision on the part of government, we are having to go back through all of those four bills and we have wasted a significant amount of time.

The government is historically very proud to stand in this House and accuse the opposition parties of delay. Of course, what has happened here has been entirely on its desk and it is something of which the Conservatives should be ashamed.

To come back to Bill C-27, as it was then and now that part of Bill C-2, the dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code has a history going back in this country to 1978 at which time it was incorporated.

I do not think there is any disagreement about this no matter which political party one belongs to, that there are individuals in our society that we are not able to cope with in terms of rehabilitating them. They commit serious, oftentimes heinous, violent crimes against other residents of Canada. When we use our traditional attempts to deal with them by way of prison terms, oftentimes psychiatric or psychological treatment programs, they are not successful.

Our psychiatrists, our psychologists and our best experts admit there is a very small number of individuals that we simply, as a society in terms of our psychological and psychiatric treatment modalities, are not able to treat and rehabilitate to the point where they are no longer a risk to society once released from our prisons. The dangerous offender section was introduced into the Criminal Code to deal specifically with those individuals.

Based on some very good research from the Library of Parliament, since 1978 we have had 384 individuals, up until the spring of 2005 so it is a bit more now, all male, designated as dangerous offenders. It is interesting to note that of those 384, 333 as of April 2005 were still in custody, still in prison. Only 18 had been released and were on parole. The balance of approximately 33 died in prison. I think this is the point that we need to recognize.

This designation, unlike a conviction for first degree murder and a life sentence, is in fact a life sentence in the 90 percentile of the cases. These individuals never get out. It is a recognition that we are not capable of dealing with them. They stay in custody, in prisons, for the balance of their lives and literally, as I have said, die in prison. That is what we are dealing with when we are dealing with a dangerous offender designation.

As I indicated earlier, there are no women who have been designated, up until April 2005. There are a couple of applications outstanding against women currently.

One of the other points that I would make that comes out of the research done by the library is that a full one-fifth, 20%, of all the individual criminals who have been designated are from the aboriginal population, from our first nations.

There is no question, and we see this more when we look at statistics in the United States, that subgroups within our society often times are individuals who are more targeted and receive greater punishment.

I am not going to suggest for a minute that the designations in those cases were inappropriate; they may or may not have been. However, that is the reality, given that our aboriginal population in this country is roughly 3% of the population but slightly over 20% are designated as dangerous offenders.

We know that this is a section of the Criminal Code that we would use, obviously, very sparingly. The issue of the constitutionality of this section has been to the Supreme Court on a number of occasions and reviewed also by a number of our appeal courts at the provincial level.

The message that comes out very clearly is that it is to be used sparingly, that it is to be used with extreme caution, that the individuals who are confronted with this are to be given the greatest amount of doubt as to the usage against them because of the consequences.

I want to repeat that the consequences in more than 90% of the cases are that these individuals, once designated as dangerous offenders, will stay in prison for the balance of their life. They will never get out.

Faced with that, if we look now at the bill that is before us, Bill C-2, the government has introduced into clause 42 a provision for a reverse onus. For those in the public who do not have a law degree and do not fully appreciate this, that is saying, under these circumstances, to the individual criminals, “If you meet this criteria, you have to prove to the judge who is hearing the case for the designation of dangerous offender why you should not be held in custody in prison until the rest of your life”. That is really what they will have to do.

That flies in the face of the charter. This section will not survive a charter challenge. Under those circumstance, and Mr. Speaker, I see you signalling that I have only a minute left. I thought these were 20-minute sessions. No. That is unfortunate because I had a lot more that I wanted to say.

My amendment, pure and simple, would delete the reverse onus from this bill because it would not survive a charter challenge. We are going to have tremendous litigation on this and at the end of the day one of our superior courts, or even the Supreme Court of Canada, will strike this section down. The amendment would take care of that right now and we could save all that trouble.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

November 21st, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, but I would hope that my colleague understands that pretrial detention means that sentencing has not yet occurred.

I would repeat that the Bloc Québécois supported Bill C-2, which included the provisions that were previously introduced in Bill C-27 concerning dangerous offenders.

An individual cannot be declared a dangerous offender until after sentencing. That is not the issue here. The reversal of the burden of proof is extremely broad in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).

We will see what people have to say in committee. However, I hope that my colleague understands that the bill before us deals with the period prior to sentencing.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

November 21st, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by calling for calm, just as you did. I do not think that it is useful to shout insults during a debate on this subject.

I was in this House in 1999, when three ministers of justice—Anne McLellan, Allan Rock and Martin Cauchon—introduced the early amendments to what was then the Young Offenders Act, which had been in place since 1907 and is now the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

I am sure that members of this House have fond memories of our colleague from Berthier, who is now putting his talent and experience to work on the bench, and who was in charge of this issue for the Bloc Québécois. At the time, we introduced some 2,700 amendments, which led to changes to the Standing Orders to limit opportunities to introduce amendments in committee at the report stage.

At the time, there was a broad coalition that included the Government of Quebec and hundreds of youth services groups that were concerned about the fact that young people aged 14 or 15 could, in some cases, be tried in adult court and sentenced as adults. That was at the heart of the reforms proposed in 1999.

At the National Assembly, youth justice stakeholders criticized elements that contradicted established practices in Quebec. Not only did the province believe in rehabilitation, its watchword for intervention practices was “the right measure at the right time”. That was our slogan. That means that when intervention is necessary, rehabilitation should be the first choice. We were supposed to abide by that slogan. Quebec's National Assembly and stakeholders in the province have never denied the fact that in some cases, under specific circumstances, pre-trial detention, incarceration and even other penalties may be necessary.

When the minister made the bill public, some of the government members were quick to draw parallels with street gangs. The Bloc Québécois is not complacent. We do not have an idyllic or unrealistic view of youth. We know that young people are involved in crime, and I will talk more about this later. We also know that sometimes tougher measures are needed. However, we must stop comparing action taken under the Youth Criminal Justice Act with the issue of street gangs.

Street gangs are a real phenomenon in all large Canadian cities. Montreal, where my constituency is, is no exception. Neither is Quebec City or other cities, such as Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax. As recent statistics show, individuals involved in street gangs, or at least the well-known leaders who might find themselves in court, are not 12- or 13-year-olds.

My colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine sat on the justice committee with me when the Bloc Québécois introduced a motion to invite Randall Richmond, a civil servant in Quebec City with the Organized Crimes Prosecution Bureau, also known as BLACO, who has thoroughly examined this issue. He told us the average age of individuals who had recently been arrested and brought before the court. At the time, there was much talk about the Pelletier street gang in Montreal and the arrest which first established a link between street gangs and criminal organizations. The average age of these individuals was 19 years and 2 months.

That said, the Bloc Québécois is very concerned about this bill and will not support it. We will use our energy to speak out and take action to show the public that the government is on the wrong track. We have two main concerns.

First of all, in the 1999 reform, we wanted to amend this legislation, which we had criticized. We disagreed with one of the provisions, namely, the widespread use of pretrial detention.

Once again, we are not saying that pretrial detention should never be used. Section 515 of the Criminal Code already set outs circumstances in which adults must be detained before their trial. First there are the serious offences listed in section 469 of the Criminal Code: murder, attempted murder and the most serious offences. Of course, an offender is remanded for pretrial detention when it is believed that he or she may not report for their trial, that evidence could be destroyed or when the offender is not a Canadian resident.

In some situations, pretrial detention is of course necessary in order to ensure the proper functioning of the legal system and the administration of justice. This is also true for young offenders. We understand this.

I was speaking with my colleague from Pointe-aux-Trembles earlier about the consultation paper. Last night, I read the consultation paper released by the Department of Justice in June 2007, which gives an overview of the situation since the act was proclaimed in 2003. The document indicates that, before 2003, under the Young Offenders Act, police and other law enforcement agencies incarcerated young offenders before their trial in 45% of cases. When we look at the most recent statistics available, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, pretrial detention has risen to 55%. Thus, a trend that we wanted to reverse is actually increasing.

Why is widespread pretrial detention not desirable as a general rule? As we all know, this is the period before sentencing and before the trial. The presumption of innocence must therefore apply.

Yesterday I was talking to Mr. Trépanier, a leading expert in Quebec, who has studied this issue the most. He is a professor in the criminology department at the Université de Montréal. I was talking to him about statistics. He has, by the way, been contracted by various government departments to study this issue. He told me that pretrial detention is not desirable. First, because even if that detention could offer some form of support, youth will never engage seriously in treatment and rehabilitation, or measures that could help them become better citizens. Second, there is the presumption of innocence. Third, there is the whole machinery that is reluctant to invest in resources before the final status of that youth is known. It is therefore wrong to want to see this principle used more widely.

Of course, in the bill, which has just two clauses, we are looking at a reverse onus of proof. Should we not be worried about this tendency toward more widespread reliance on the reverse onus of proof?

The Bloc Québécois has accepted that this is for the toughest criminals. I am thinking, among other things, of the former Bill C-27, which was incorporated in Bill C-2. We are talking about dangerous offenders—not even 500 people across Canada. These are people who have committed serious crimes.

In section 753 of the Criminal Code there is a very specific definition. We have accepted it, even though it flies in the face of a principle important to the Bloc Québécois when it comes to the administration of justice, and that is not to reverse the onus of proof. We realize that in some situations, there are people who are a true threat to public safety.

In my opinion, even though three paragraphs in the first part of Bill C-25 suggest reverse onus of proof, and although they are serious, they are too general. I am anxious to see what the experts will say about this in committee.

Obviously, we are talking about a young person who is charged with an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and who has a history that indicates a pattern of findings of guilt. However, you will agree that the list of potential offences is extremely lengthy. I have even heard some people say that in Bill C-25, reverse onus was even more in evidence than in Bill C-27. This first issue makes us extremely skeptical about this bill.

There is a second issue, which is the most important. Do we believe that at 13, 14 or 15, an individual can be treated as an adult? Do we believe that the life of a youth of 12, 13 14 or 15 can be the same as that of a person of 38, 39, 40 or 45? This was the logic behind the call for a criminal justice system tailored to young people. Such a system recognizes that people are entitled to make mistakes and calls for individualized treatment.

Once again, we in the Bloc Québécois are not soft on crime. We know that some young people commit crimes that are so serious that they need to be isolated from society. We agree with that. But we should be guided by a basic principle: treatments and help for young people must be available as early as possible and for as long as possible.

That is why, until this bill was introduced, this sort of obligation was not among the principles in section 3 of the Young Offenders Act. The act does not call for deterrents, which set an example for others. Such penalties tend more toward incarceration. Why does the act not call for such an approach? I cannot provide a better quote than the one I found in a judgment of the Supreme Court, which had heard two cases. As you know, the full names of individuals under the age of 18 are never given; offenders are always identified by their initials. Consequently, the Supreme Court had handed down decisions in Her Majesty v. B.W.P. and Her Majesty v. B.V.N. An aboriginal youth had killed another person. These young people had committed a serious crime. I am not denying that. The court handed down a unanimous decision, and Judge Chars, on behalf of the majority, wrote the following:

The application of general deterrence as a sentencing principle, of course, does not always result in a custodial sentence; however, it can only contribute to the increased use of incarceration, not its reduction. Hence, the exclusion of general deterrence from the new regime...

This refers, of course, to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Continuing on:

The exclusion of general deterrence from the new regime is consistent with Parliament’s express intention—“Parliament” referring to us, and I was also a member in 1999—to reduce the over-reliance of incarceration for non-violent young persons. I am not persuaded by the Crown’s argument that the words of the preamble referring to the public availability of information indicate that Parliament somehow intended by those words to include general deterrence as part of the new regime.

I do not wish to repeat all the arguments presented by the Crown, but I think it is worth noting that the Crown basically wanted to restore the principle and logic that existed in the Criminal Code, but through the back door. Anyone can consult section 718 of the Criminal Code and see that deterrence is one of the objectives pursued by judges during sentencing. There are other as well. I would also remind the House that there is a specific provision for aboriginal offenders, when it comes to sentencing.

To sum up, this government is making a very serious mistake and that is the subject of the second clause. The bill before us is such a small one, but so very important, given its devastating potential.

Clause 2 of this bill seeks to amend section 38 of the legislation in order to include, in matters of youth criminal justice, the principles of denouncing unlawful conduct and deterring the young person.

Clearly we cannot go down this path. When any sentence is handed down—in Quebec's case in the youth court component of the Quebec court—the judge naturally bears in mind that it is desirable that the individual not reoffend. However, the desire to set down, to codify, in a bill the principle of deterrence, promotes pretrial detention and assigns secondary importance to the principles of treatment, rehabilitation, assistance, significant individuals, or community involvement, in other words, a philosophy of intervention that Quebec has adopted.

This move by the government is even more surprising given that its discussion paper, which I read yesterday, provides some very conclusive figures. They indicate how far we are, despite the 2003 amendments to the Young Offenders Act, from achieving this objective.

I would also like to say that in reading the department's document, I discovered some very interesting facts. A study of police discretion examined how law enforcement officers, thus police, who are peace officers and the first to come in contact with youth, behave when arresting youth. This study revealed three reasons why the police do not release adolescents and detain them until the hearing, that is until the trial.

The first reason is law enforcement, that is to establish the identity of the offenders and to ensure they appear, as I stated earlier. Once again, according to the code, there are situations where releasing an individual is not an option. The second reason—and I find this surprising— is that detention is for the good of the youth. The study gives the example of a police officer who arrests a homeless prostitute or other homeless individuals who do not give the impression that they will find shelter. According to this study, the police officer's usual practice is to hold them for trial. The third reason is to use detention as a means of repression.

The document states that two of these three types of reasons are illegal. Under the reform of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, it is prohibited to detain an individual for these reasons.

So the government has reinforced an undesirable practice. It has supported police officers or law enforcement agencies who tend not to release youth. Yet according to the Quebec code, it is much better to remand young people to youth centres so they can receive institutional support. The bill provides for the possibility of not necessarily releasing them to their parents, but to responsible adults.

Since my time will soon expire, I would like to tell the government how disappointed I am; it would have been much better to address other problems. For several months the Bloc Québécois has been calling for a review of the parole system and accelerated parole review. We would have helped the government if it had been interested. Instead, it is ideologically driven to please its voters and it encourages and promotes prejudices that are not supported by statistics or reality.

Again, the Bloc Québécois will do everything it can to ensure that this ill-advised bill never receives royal assent.