An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences)

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 June 5, 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 Criminal Code to provide that the accused will be required to demonstrate, when charged with certain serious offences involving firearms or other regulated weapons, that pre-trial detention is not justified in their case and to introduce additional factors relating to firearm offences that the courts must take into account in deciding whether an accused should be released or detained pending trial.

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.

Votes

  • March 27, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to a legislative committee.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for the member but I must background it because of the games that the government plays.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals made the first offer to fast-track a package of justice bills through the House. This offer effectively guaranteed the Conservatives a majority in the House to pass this legislation.

On March 21, 2007, we attempted to use an opposition day motion that if passed would have immediately results in the passage at all stages of four justice bills: Bill C-18, Bill C-22, Bill C-23 and Bill C-35.

Incredibly, the Conservative House leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. In other words, the Conservatives fought the Liberal attempt to pass the four Conservative justice bills. Why? They wanted to get to the attacking violent crime bill where they could try to confuse Canadians and try to blame the Liberals that they did not pass them.

Would the member for once withdraw from his fantasyland, be honest in this House and admit to the facts that I just outlined to him?

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?

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this morning's debate. Throughout 2007, I was the justice critic for the official opposition. And throughout 2006, I served as deputy House leader of the official opposition, which is also my current role.

Thus, since the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne in 2006, I have been listening to the Conservative rhetoric, which I have weighed against the actions put forward by this government.

The motion we are debating today is:

That, given the government has declared the passage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as a matter of confidence, and, that the bill has already been at the Senate longer than all stages took in the House of Commons, and that all aspects of this bill have already been the subject of extensive committee hearings in Parliament, and that in the opinion of this House the Senate majority is not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, a message be sent to the Senate calling on the Senate to pass Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, by March 1, 2008.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General is applauding. Well, I wonder. The Minister of Justice made a big point about how in the 2006 throne speech the Conservative government made tackling crime a priority. It is one of five priorities of the government. Let us look at the record of the government prior to when it prorogued the session that began in the winter of 2006 after the 2006 election. Let us look at that record.

The Liberal record is that we supported the vast majority of the Conservative government's justice bills. The fact is that the Conservative government has needlessly delayed its own legislation. The fact is there has been no opposition obstruction, not from the official opposition, not from the Bloc Québécois and not from the NDP. The only obstruction has been from the government. Let me give an example.

The government talks about the age of consent legislation. In the previous session, the age of consent legislation was Bill C-22 . It is now found in this new tackling crime bill, Bill C-2.

Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, was originally tabled by the government on June 22, 2006, some four and a half months after the government came to this House and opened Parliament with a throne speech. The House adjourned for the summer months one or two days later. I do not have the exact date with me but at the most, it was two days later. We came back on the third Monday in September 2006.

Did the government then move second reading of the age of consent bill? That is the bill that would raise the legal age of consent from 14 to 16 years. The government had an opportunity, its very first opportunity to move second reading. For Canadians who are listening, no one but the government can move government legislation from one stage to another.

The government tables its bill under parliamentary rules, House of Commons rules. It moves first reading and the motion is automatically deemed to have been adopted. The bill then goes on to the order paper and it stays there until the government moves second reading. We waited through the month of September 2006 and into the month of October 2006. The government did not move second reading.

That is the same government with a Minister of Justice and Attorney General who says that he is concerned, who says that victims, particularly our children who are victims of sexual predators, are among the Conservatives' first and main priority, and the government did not move second reading on the age of consent bill in 2006.

What did the Liberals do? Because that was a bill that we supported unconditionally, our House leader, who speaks on behalf of the official opposition, offered to fast track it.

Again, for those who do not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, and possibly some of the government members who may not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, the Standing Orders, when there is a majority in the House of Commons, whether it be the government only, or the government and another party, the government can fast track a bill.

We offered to fast track the age of consent legislation in October 2006. The government did not take us up on the offer. It ignored our offer. It did not even deign to officially respond to our offer. However, what this did was bring pressure to the government and several days later the government finally moved debate at second reading on the age of consent bill.

For a government, a Prime Minister, a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, his parliamentary secretary and every single Conservative sitting on the government benches in this House of Commons to say that children, our children, are a priority and then to refuse to fast track the age of consent bill is unconscionable.

That bill could have been law by December 2006. We would have now had 13 months of better protection for our children and that government refused. This is what the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is not telling the Canadian people. That bill could have been law.

Let us look at another bill that we find in Bill C-2. Let us look at the bill about which the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada attempted to eloquently dis the official opposition. That bill used to be Bill C-35, regarding reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences.

That bill received first reading on November 23, 2006. Guess what? It sat. The government did not move second reading debate through the end of November 2006, the entire month of December 2006 and the entire month of January 2007. That government did not move second reading of the bail reform bill until February 13.

Is it not a coincidence, that is a bill which we offered to fast track. That is a bill that could have been law. It could have been law for over a year now, and that government did not take us up on it.

That is a government that sends ten percenters into ridings of my colleagues in Manitoba, in Ontario, in British Columbia, claiming that the Liberals are obstructing the government's justice agenda. The government obstructed its own agenda.

I have to ask myself the following question: is this simple incompetence on the part of the government or is this government being wilfully incompetent?

Is that pure incompetence on the part of the government or is it wilful incompetence in delaying its own legislation?

Those are just two things that we find in Bill C-2 which could have been the law for over a year now had the Conservative government actually been truthful to its claim about victims being its main priority. Had that been the truth, the government would have taken the Liberals up on our offer to fast-track the bill and the age of consent would have been 16 years old December 2006 and reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences would have been the law over a year ago.

However, it gets even better. The government says that the Senate has now had Bill C-2 longer than all stages in the House. The government is counting on the fact that most Canadians will not know the parliamentary agenda and calendar. Bill C-2 was sent to the Senate on December 12, 2007. Parliament adjourned December 14, 2007. Parliament did not resume until Monday, January 28, 2008. The government tabled this motion claiming that the Senate was wilfully obstructing the government's tackling crime agenda.

Had the government been so concerned with Bill C-2 and so concerned about victims and about getting the legislation that it claims is the cornerstone of its priority and agenda, why did it not table a motion last fall for a message to be sent to the Senate informing the Senate that when it receives Bill C-2, we expect it to be reported back to us by x date? The government had all the authority and power to do that last fall but it did not.

Again I must ask whether it was mere incompetence. Is it because the government after two years still does not understand the Standing Orders, which is what we call the rules of this House? Is it wilful incompetence? The government understands full well the authority and powers it has under the House of Commons rules but chooses not to use them in the hopes that most Canadians will not know that it is the government that is actually obstructing its own agenda.

Let us talk about another obstruction. I mentioned how most of the bills, except for Bill C-27, which is the dangerous offender piece of Bill C-2, had already moved through the House and had been referred to the Senate late May, early June, late June of 2007. The Senate only had a couple of days, according to the parliamentary calendar, before Parliament adjourned for the summer. We were scheduled to come back the third Monday of September 2007 but the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, or in his incompetence or in his wilful incompetence decided to prorogue Parliament.

What does that mean? Under the rules and procedures and Standing Orders, it means that every piece of legislation in front of the House of Commons or in front of the Senate automatically dies. The government killed its own age of consent bill, its reverse onus on bail bill and its impaired driving bill, which is interesting because that is the bill we supported wholeheartedly.

I wonder if MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, understands that if the impaired driving bill is not the law today it has absolutely nothing to do with the official opposition or with the Liberal senators, but has everything to do with the government's own decision to obstruct its own legislation, not to move its own legislation through the House of Commons in a timely fashion and then to prorogue and kill its own legislation. That legislation could have been the law for almost a year now had the government not wilfully obstructed its own legislation.

Let us take the dangerous offenders bill. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada talked about how that legislation would ensure that Canadians who commit violent, egregious crimes will not be free on the streets because of the changes that it brought to the dangerous offender system.

One of the things that the government is not telling Canadians is that the way the system worked before the government brought in Bill C-27, the crown prosecutor had full discretion as to whether he or she would apply for a dangerous offender hearing. The government has done absolutely nothing to change that with its tackling crime legislation. The crown will still decide. It does not matter if it is someone who has committed heinous crimes one time, been sent to prison, served the sentence, comes out, does it again, is found guilty and serves another sentence, the crown can still decide whether it will apply for a dangerous offender hearing.

What was the Liberal response to that? The Liberal response was that there should automatically--

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 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.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin to speak to Bill C-2, I have to address my hon. colleague's contradictory comments about the lack of mandatory minimums. On the one hand, he lambasted the Liberal Party for not wanting mandatory minimums. On the other hand, he said very clearly that we had them and we called for a strengthening of them.

When the member for Mount Royal was the justice minister, he introduced mandatory minimums for weapons offences. That was a good thing. That is why we support Bill C-2. We have been trying to drive forward much of what is in the legislation. Ironically, we have been obstructed by the government.

I will go through the facts. Unfortunately, in the House one could look at the old adage that “in war, truth is the first casualty”. What we have here is war by another name. Sometimes truth is the first casualty in the House of Commons, and that is sad for the public.

Let me talk about the facts for a minute and give viewers a bit of history on the bill.

Bill C-2 is an omnibus bill involving a combination of five bills, including mandatory minimum penalties. We support mandatory minimum penalties. I caution the government, however, to ensure that the mandatory minimum penalties for weapons offences, violent offences and sexual offences cannot be plea bargained away and that they run consecutively and not concurrently. Too many times people who have committed serious offences receive penalties that get plea bargained away, so there is no effective penalty.

We also support an increase in mandatory minimums for weapons trafficking. My colleague from Mount Royal introduced many mandatory minimums for these offences in the last Parliament.

The Liberal Party supports the provisions for dangerous offenders, impaired driving and reverse onus in firearms offences. Many years ago there really was no penalty for a person using a weapon in the commission of an offence. That was changed by the last government. The Liberal Party supports the changes in Bill C-2.

Let me talk for a few moments about a few facts around the passage of the bill.

On October 26, 2006, our Liberal leader made a first offer to fast track a package of justice bills in the House, including Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. We also added Bill C-35, on March 14 of this year, a bill for bail reform, and we support that.

On March 21, we attempted to use our opposition day to pass the government's four justice bills: Bill C-18, Bill C-22, Bill C-23 and Bill C-35. The Conservative House leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. Those four government bills would have been fast tracked through this place in the same day, yet the government House leader, for reasons unknown to us and the public, blocked this. Those are facts.

What has been the path of government justice bills through the Senate? Of the six justice bills that had been passed before the summer break, only four went to the Senate. How on earth could the Senate pass bills that it just received prior to the government proroguing Parliament? It could not do that. It is disingenuous for government members to stand and suggest that the Senate was trying to block their bills. By the time the Senate received the bills, the government closed Parliament. Those are the facts. Anybody can check them out if they wish.

We support Bill C-2. However, I want to bore down on a few dangerous issues that the government is pursuing. One deals with the issue of drug trafficking. The government has said that it will increase the penalties for those who traffic in drugs.

There are two populations of traffickers.

There are those parasites in society who are involved in commercial grow operations, frequently attached to organized crime. We should throw the book at them. Those people are a cancer in our society and they deserve to be in jail.

There is another population that will be swept up in the government's anti-trafficking bill. It is the low level dealers who sell small amounts of illegal drugs to people, but they themselves are addicts. In essence, they are selling drugs to pay for their addictions.

If we criminalize people who have addiction problems and throw them in jail, they come out being hardened criminals. We also do not deal with the underlying problem, which we will have at the end of the day when they come out. In effect, we increase public insecurity and costs to the taxpayer. We do not address the underlying problem and we make our streets less safe. That is stupid, not to put too fine a point on it.

If the government goes through with the bill to criminalize people who are addicts, the low level people buying and selling drugs, it will end up with the situation we see south of the border, which has used a war on drugs approach. It has proven to be an abysmal failure.

What we see south of the border is a view of the future for us if the government pursues its course of action. There have been increased rates of both soft and hard drugs use, increased numbers of people have been incarcerated, increased costs to the taxpayer and more violent crime. Society loses.

The government ought to work with the provinces to implement solutions that address some of the underlying problems.

I will get to the organized crime aspects in a moment.

For the drug problems, I cannot overemphasize what a disaster this will be. The government has been warned of this by people across the country.

Let us take two projects, in particular, that have been extremely effective in dealing with people who have intravenous drug use problems. Both of them are found in Vancouver and championed by Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Thomas Kerr, superb physicians and research scientists, who have underneath them the Insite supervised injection program and the NAOMI project.

The supervised injection program is a place where addicts can go to a supervised setting and take the drugs they are given. What has that done? It has reduced harm, put more people into treatment, reduced crime and saved the taxpayer money. Fewer people have gone to emergency and there has been less dependence on our health care system. It works.

The other project I would recommend we pursue is the NAOMI project. Before I get to it, I point out that in the eleventh hour the government extended Insite's ability to engage in its program up until June 2008.

All the evidence published from The Lancet to The New England Journal of Medicine shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Insite supervised injection program saves lives, reduces crime and gets people into treatment. It is good for public security and it saves the taxpayer money. Why extend it to only eight months?

If the government gets a majority, it will kill the program. That, in short, will be murder. The government knows full well the program saves lives. To remove that program, would result in, essentially, the killing of people.

A program that works better, which the government does not support but ought to expand, is the NAOMI project. The NAOMI project deals with hard-core narcotics abusers. These people are over the age of 26. They have had five years of drug addictions and two failed attempts at treatment. They are the hard nuts of intravenous drug use.

The NAOMI project took 243 addicts and randomized them into three populations. One population received intravenous heroine, the other one received intravenous dilaudid, which is a prescription narcotic that is legal, and the third was to take oral methadone, which is a weak narcotic.

What happened to those populations? Of the population on IV drugs, more than 85% of people were still taking those drugs, receiving treatment and counselling, getting their lives together, obtaining skills training and being able to live while not being on the street and not engaging in criminal behaviour to feed their addictions. Of the third population, the ones in the methadone program, 50% of people were still in treatment after a year. It works.

What the government should be doing for both Insite as well as NAOMI, is expanding those programs across our country. Our urban centres need it.

In Victoria there are 1,243 people living on the street, 60% of which have what we call dual diagnoses, which means some of them have both a drug problem and a psychiatric problem. I would also add that some people within that population have had brain injuries in the past and have fallen into the terrible spiral of drug use by being on the street. Those people could be you or I, Mr. Speaker, who one day fall off a ladder or get into a car accident, sustain a significant closed head injury, have major cerebral trauma and as a result their lives are affected forever.

Some of those people are on the street and take drugs. Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw the psychiatric patient, who is dealing to pay for his or her addiction, in jail? That is what would happen with the bill that the government has introduced. Those people need medical treatment. They do not need to be in jail.

My plea to the government, to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister is to bury their ideology, follow the facts and implement the solutions that will help people with addictions, keep our streets safe, and reduce costs to the taxpayers. It is a win-win situation for all concerned.

The interesting thing about the NAOMI project is that because NAOMI actually gave the drug to an individual who was proven to be an addict, that person did not have to go on the street to get the drugs. If that were done in a broader sense, it would be horrific to organized crime that benefits from this situation because the NAOMI project severs the tie between the addict and organized crime. That is what we need to do.

Organized crime would be horrified if a forward thinking government one day were to enable drug addicts to receive their drugs. Doing that enables addicts to get into the treatment programs that they need. It enables them to detoxify, obtain addiction counselling, skills training and the psychiatric therapy they need. If we do not do that, we will not make a dent in what we see on the ground. There will not be any affect on addictions and it will actually increase the criminal population in our country.

The other side of this coin, of course, deals with organized crime gangs, as I mentioned, the parasites and cancer in our society. These parasites are essentially people in $3,000 suits who benefit from a substance that is nearly worthless but has a value well beyond what it ought to have because it is illegal.

I have a bill on the order paper that would decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. No one condones anybody using marijuana, everybody wants to prevent people from using it, and everyone certainly encourages children not to use this or any other illegal drug. The fact of the matter is that people do use it and a significant percentage of Canadians have used it at one time in their lives, particularly when they were very young.

Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old who has a joint in his or her back pocket in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old in jail who exchanges or sells or gives a couple of marijuana cigarettes to a friend? That would be trafficking under the government's bill. Do we throw that 18-year-old in jail? Do we give an 18-year-old a criminal record, which is what we have today, affecting his or her ability to work or gain employment and have access to professional facilities for the rest of his or her life? Is that a humane way to deal with our population? It is not.

The worst news for organized crime, in my personal view, would be that marijuana is legal and regulated. It is not to say that marijuana is safe. It is not. It is dangerous, but so are alcohol and cigarettes.

If we can imagine today that cigarettes were going to come onto the market and were proposed as being something that ought to be sold today, do we think for a moment that they would be allowed, with all the cancer, respiratory and cardiac problems that cigarettes cause? No, they would not be, and neither in fact would alcohol. Alcohol would not be allowed today either, for all of the damage it does, but the fact of the matter is that cigarettes and alcohol are legal today.

The groups that benefit the most from the status quo, from marijuana being illegal, and it is just a weed with its value elevated well beyond what it ought to be because it is illegal, are the organized crime gangs. They are making billions of dollars off the status quo, and those billions are used to do any number of things including: trafficking of weapons and people, prostitution, embezzlement, fraud and murder. That is what organized crime is involved with.

What the government should be doing is coming up with a more comprehensive plan to deal with the biker gangs and organized criminal gangs who are--

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 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was mentioning, as parliamentarians we have to be cognizant and not pass bad legislation. We have to ensure that we do not interfere in the justice process as well.

These bills were thoroughly debated when they came before committee. Bills have to be handled properly if they are to get through Parliament. If they are to be handled properly, they have to be prioritized. It appears the Conservatives have no priorities. They only want to create a hodgepodge of stuff.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals offered to fast track a package of justice bills through the House. These included Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. This offer effectively guaranteed that the Conservatives would have a majority to pass the legislation.

On March 14, the Leader of the Opposition added Bill C-35, the bail reform legislation, to the list of bills the Liberal caucus would fast track. Despite this offer, it took the Conservatives until May 30 to get the bill through committee. If the Conservatives were so keen on being hard on crime, as they have claimed, they should have taken this offer.

According to a report entitled “Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population”, produced by the JFA Institute, the tough measures, which the government claims it is bringing through its omnibus bills, are costly and pointless. The report says that due largely to tough on crime policies, there are now eight times as many people in U.S. prisons and jails as there were in 1970, yet the crime rate today in the U.S. is about the same as it was in 1973. There is little evidence that the imprisonment binge has had much impact on crime.

As legislators, we are supposed to be here to pass good legislation, not bad legislation. We are here to debate and to amend. Amendments were proposed to the bills and the members of the Conservative Party on the committee did not want to pass them.

It is important that we reflect on what these bills talked about.

Bill C-10 talked about minimum penalties. It proposed five years for a first offence and seven years on a second or subsequent offence for eight specific offences involving the actual use of firearms, attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery, extortion and when the offence was gang related or if a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun was used.

The bill was brought to committee and the committee made the necessary amendments. The committee still has very grave concerns that the bill needs to be properly documented and it has to be properly put in place so legislators know the intent of the legislation.

There is the creation of two new offences, an indictable offence of breaking and entering to steal a firearm and an indictable offence of robbery to steal a firearm. There is no difference with the version of Bill C-10, which passed through the House, and the language used in Bill C-2.

The question to be asked is why then group this in an omnibus bill? No one on the government side seems to give us an answer. All the members do is repeat their mantra that they are hard on crime. However, as I pointed out, the U.S. crime policy, which they so desperately want to follow, fails the system. It does nothing right.

Bill C-22, which was the age of protection bill, proposed to raise the age at which youth could consent to non-exploitative sexual activity. The age would be raised from 14 to 16 years of age and the age of protection of 18 years would be maintained for exploitative sexual activities.

Through amendments, the committee brought about a five year close in age. This was not there when it was proposed by the government. Therefore, another question arises. What happened to the good amendments in the mandatory minimum penalties in the age of protection?

What about Bill C-23, which was criminal procedure? According to the Official Languages Act, the committee ensured that there were changes to the bill. We said that a person who was a French-speaking person, if he or she were in court, should get a French counsel. It is important to protect language rights. In a country that has two official languages we have to protect minority rights as well. Why is this bill not mentioned at all?

Bill C-27 deals with dangerous offenders. It would provide that an offender who was serving a long term supervision order in the community and who was violating the conditions of the order would be guilty of an offence and the crown could choose to hold a dangerous offender hearing following convictions.

That was originally proposed by the Liberal justice critic. The bill would expand the possible sentence available to a judge following a finding that an individual would be a dangerous offender. The judge could now impose a long term supervision order or simply impose the sentence for the offence for which the offender had been convicted in addition to the previous option of detention in prison for an indeterminate period, which was previous available.

The Conservatives love to introduce bills. They want to take credit for a lot of things and make it on the six o'clock news. If something does not make the six o'clock news, like Bill C-23 because it was protecting minority language rights, they do not bother.

The last bill I will speak about is Bill C-32, the drug recognition experts to conduct roadside sobriety tests. It is good to promise all sorts of things, but there is no funding. When we do not have funding, how will we get these experts? For example, in Seacow Pond where would we get a person who is an expert?

It is very important that when we prepare bills and we make promises, those promises have to be kept. We have to provide the legislators with enough resources.

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 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the bill that amends the Criminal Code and makes consequential amendments to other acts. As you know, I come from a region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, where the crime rate is very low. Still, I want to take part in today's debate to raise an issue that is a major source of concern for people in my region and in my riding.

It goes without saying that the Bloc Québécois worked actively and positively in committee to improve some of the provisions of Bill C-2. Incidentally, I want to congratulate in particular the hon. member for Hochelaga, who did a great job at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and also the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, for her contribution.

Based on what we heard from a large number of witnesses, it is obvious that many Quebeckers and Canadians want some changes to the current justice model.

The committee's consultation process and the message conveyed by our fellow citizens showed two things. First, a large part of the population is concerned about the current justice system and, second, it does not want an American type of justice system.

We believe that the American justice system has produced disastrous results. The Bloc Québécois deemed appropriate to propose a series of amendments to Bill C-2. Unfortunately, the Conservative government kept none of the six amendments that we proposed, even though some of them enjoyed the unanimous support of the public security ministers in Quebec and in the provinces. It is unfortunate that the Conservative government does not take into consideration the fact that this is a minority government.

I would like to briefly mention the six amendments that reflect Quebeckers' values. In my region, the Minister of Labour, who represents the riding next to mine, said that Bill C-2 reflects the public's will. The Minister of Labour should have said, rather, that Bill C-2 reflects the ideology of the minority Conservative government. That is what he should have said first and foremost.

The Bloc suggested, therefore, that parole after one-sixth of the sentence has been served should be abolished. We should also put an end to virtually automatic statutory release after an inmate has served two-thirds of his sentence. The Bloc proposed another amendment as well to the effect that there should be a formal evaluation by a professional of an inmate’s overall risk of re-offending.

In addition, the Bloc suggested that onus of proof should be reversed in the case of criminals found guilty of the offences of loan-sharking, procuring, robbery, fraud over $5,000 and counterfeiting in order to facilitate the seizure of assets that are the product of crime.

We also said that the police needed better tools to deal with the problem of street gangs, especially longer warrants for investigations carried out by means of tailing with a GPS.

It should be against the law to wear any symbol, sign or other mark identifying the wearer as a member of a criminal organization that has been recognized as such by the courts.

Finally, we should eliminate the rule that the time spent in pretrial detention counts double when sentences are determined. Sentences should be deemed to have started on the first day of detention, rather than when sentences are passed.

The minister labour thinks that Canadians want new justice legislation. I agree with him to the extent that the Bloc supports the principle of these changes. This does not mean, however, that Quebeckers and Canadians agree with everything in Bill C-2. When bills are introduced, some changes can be made without changing them completely. We need to adapt to the realities of life in Quebec and Canada.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-2 in principle and takes crime very seriously. However, when five bills are amalgamated into one, it is only to be expected that some doubts will arise. The Conservative minority government has a duty not to play partisan politics with an issue as important as the justice system.

The Bloc Québécois believes that what really needs to be attacked first and foremost are poverty, inequality and exclusion. They aggravate the frustrations and crime in our communities if not dealt with by the government on a priority basis.

The Bloc Québécois knows very well that many changes must be made to the current justice system and that some adjustments to the Criminal Code are essential. The government has a duty to take action and use the tools at its disposal to enable Quebeckers and Canadians to live safely and peacefully.

The measures introduced must have a positive impact on crime. They must be more than rhetoric or a campaign based on fear. We must avoid copying the American model, which yielded much less positive results than anticipated.

Crime has been steadily decreasing in Quebec, as it has in Canada for the last 15 or so years. Statistics Canada recent stated that in 2006, the overall crime rate in this country hit its lowest in 25 years. Quebec had its lowest homicide rate since 1962.

Unfortunately, there will always be crime in our society. We can never fully eradicate all crime. But statistics show that the current approach should not be discarded in favour of the US model. This means that we must look for improvements while keeping an open mind about the realities facing Quebeckers and Canadians.

In the past, Quebeckers have relied on individualized justice based on a judicial process that is flexible and suited to each case, with positive results. The homicide rate in Quebec is one of the lowest in Canada and is four times lower than in the United States.

Bill C-2 brings together old bills that we largely supported, such as Bill C-10, Bill C-22, Bill C-27, Bill C-32 and Bill C-35.

Justice is an important issue, and this model must truly correspond to the realities facing Quebec and Canada.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Quebeckers and my constituents from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord do not want a justice system based on the U.S. system.

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Government Orders

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

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Government Orders

November 26th, 2007 / noon
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, at report stage of Bill C-2, to deliver some comments to the omnibus crime bill.

I have had the experience of serving on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and also the legislative committees that were involved with the former Bills C-10, C-22, C-27, C-32, C-35 and C-23, which is not part of the omnibus bill.

I speak with experience at least with respect to the bills and I understand how we came to be here today to speak about what the bill contains. A lot of discussion took place in the debates of the House and in committee with respect to the direction we should take with respect to our criminal justice.

It is important for us, as parliamentarians, to consider what we do when we amend the Criminal Code and its corollary acts. We are dealing with the Criminal Code. It is an organic document. It changes with the times. It is copied and exemplified by one of Canada's justice ministers and prime ministers, Sir John Thompson, from eastern Canada. It has certainly changed with the times as has our society.

In the 1890s the crimes that were top priority might have been things like cattle and horse theft, murder and some common ones. However, with the changing times, we have seen a proliferation of gang related violence, e-crimes, things that would not have existed at the turn of the century.

The point of raising that is as our society changes and the code changes, we owe it to this place, to the committees, to the law enforcement official, which include prosecutors, policemen, probation workers, corrections officers, people in the correction system and judges, quite a fraternity of people involved in the criminal justice system, to say that we looked at these various laws. We looked at how Canada was changing and at the end, we did the very best we could to keep track of what tools would be best to tackle the new problems that exist in society. It is not as if we are inventing new aspects of law. Many of these bills represent an evolution or a progression of laws that already exist.

Just briefly on the guts of the bill, if you like, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10, which is now part of C-2, was of course dealing with the mandatory minimum provisions which were increased by the introduction of this bill, but they were not increased as much as the government had wanted them to be originally.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the opposition Bloc Québécois critic on the committee as well as the Liberal members on the committee who fought very hard to have some sense reign over the debate with respect to the evidence that was adduced at the committee hearings regarding the efficacy of mandatory minimums in general.

A review is in order. Mandatory minimums existed before the Conservative government was elected. Mandatory minimums were in place for serious crimes with the known aspect of repeat offenders and with some hope, which studies will show one way or the other, that there might be a deterrent and a safety to the public aspect of mandatory minimums.

At least on this side we joined with the Conservatives who, I would say, were very sparse in their acknowledgement that mandatory minimums existed before they came into office, but we joined with them and said that these are good tools for the law enforcement agencies and good tools in the realm of criminal justice.

It is a matter always of how far we go. How far do we go in disciplining our children? Do we take away their favourite toy? Do we ban them from seeing their friends for two weeks? Are we less severe or more severe? Many of us are parents and we deal with this every day. It is our form of the justice system that rules in our own house.

With respect to mandatory minimums, it is a question of calibrating to what extent the mandatory minimums are useful, to what extent do they work, and to what extend should they be increased, if at all.

During the debate process we were very successful in getting the government to get off its basic premise, which is if it is good for the six o'clock news and sounds robust, steady and law and orderish, then it has to be good in the Criminal Code. That is where the slip from the cup to the lip occurred, where it was obvious 90% of the witnesses were saying that the severe mandatory minimums that the government side were proposing would be inefficacious.

We can be as tough as we want, but if it does not work, if it does not make society safer, then we have not posited a good solution to the problems that face our community, and that was the case when we looked at mandatory minimums.

The happy medium that exists in Bill C-2 I think will be borne out, but it is very important to remember that this is an organic process and we could be back here some day soon, perhaps, looking at mandatory minimums in general.

How more timely could it be than in today's Ottawa Citizen, a report called “Unlocking America” is reviewed. In this report, it makes it very clear that the mandatory minimums, one of the many tools used by the American government from the 1970s on when it was felt that the rise in criminal activity was abhorrent, was not as effective as the Americans would have hope it would have been. It left the United States with 2.2 million people behind bars, more than China. The nine authors, leading U.S. criminologists, said that they were convinced that they needed a different strategy.

I am happy to report that as a result of the efforts of the NDP, Bloc and the Liberal Party in general at committee, we did not go as far as the Conservative government wanted to, which was close to where the United States had been which now New York State and New York City admits, is ineffective.

The three effects of imprisonment, and emphasis only on imprisonment, at the cost of crime prevention dollars, if you like, Mr. Speaker, is that the heavy, excessive incarceration hits minorities very hard. In the United States, 60% of the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos.

We heard evidence at our committee that there is a preponderance, an over-exaggerated percentage, of first nations and aboriginal people in our jail system, according to their population, which is deplorable. It is overwhelming and undisputed that the negative side effects of incarceration outweigh the potential. That is the two bits on Bill C-10,

On the other bill, Bill C-22, the close in age exemption, was never brought up. Despite all the rhetoric from the government, nothing would save Bill C-22. The issue of sexual consent being given by a person of tender years has never been put forward by any member of the opposition while the Liberal Party was in power.

The close in age exemption was never put in there, so for members of the opposite side to say that finally we dealt with the issue of sexual exploitation of 14 year olds is simply not accurate. The close in age exemption, five years between a person of the age specified, will save many relationships that should not be criminalized.

Lastly, I noted that Bill C-23 was not included in Bill C-2. I have to wonder why.

I live in Acadia. And Bill C-23 included many improvements with respect to choosing the first language of prosecutors during a trial. French is the language spoken by most people in my province. That element was very important to us in Acadia, but the government overlooked this fact.

Why did the government turn its back on the francophone people of New Brunswick in this country?

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Government Orders

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

November 13th, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
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Andy Rady Director, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

Thank you.

Good morning to all. I'm here along with Evan Roitenberg on behalf of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. I want to thank you all for allowing us to attend and be witnesses this morning. I'm going to make a few brief opening remarks and then Mr. Roitenberg will continue.

For those of you who aren't familiar with our organization, we are a council of defence lawyers from across Canada, including the territories, of 17 persons. We represent criminal law associations in all of the provinces; they all have a member on our association. So we respond on matters of national interest to the defence bar as a whole. We've been doing this since 1992, and we've appeared before this committee and other committees over the years.

Bill C-2 consisted of five other bills in the previous Parliament, and we've already made representations on those: Mark Brayford from Saskatchewan on Bill C-32, Bill Trudell on Bill C-35, Mr. Trudell and myself on Bill C-10, and Mr. Roitenberg was set to speak on Bill C-27 before Parliament dissolved.

It is our position that the current system of dangerous offender legislation in the Criminal Code works and need not be changed. We have concerns with Bill C-2. Our concern is that if society is going to seek to lock someone up indefinitely, the burden must in all cases be on society to show that this should occur. In other words, we're talking about what we call the reverse onus provision of Bill C-2 with respect to dangerous offenders.

It is our position that this new section really provides a false sense of security and nothing else to what we already have, which is a very careful system, because dangerous offender designations result in perhaps the most draconian penalities that we know in our law. We are concerned as well that what the burden-shifting does is place it on the defence and on the accused person. One of the things that appears not to have been considered is the effect this is going to have on legal aid plans throughout the country. Obviously, if the convicted person is going to have to try to demonstrate why they should not be declared dangerous, the kinds of resources they are going to require from legal aid plans are going to be very high. We're concerned that there isn't a corresponding amount of funding for that.

We also have some concern with respect to the fact that it would appear that aboriginal offenders represent--at least a few years ago--21% of all dangerous offender designations. This is not reflective of the overall aboriginal population. Again, that may have to do with a cost situation in terms of being able to defend dangerous offender applications. One of the things we read indicated that it takes the crown approximately 600 man-hours to put one of these together. If that burden shifts to the accused, we're going to see more dangerous offenders simply because they're not going to have the resources to meet this reverse onus test.

Mr. Roitenberg.