Bill C-15 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Rob Nicholson Conservative
(This bill did not become law.)
- June 8, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- June 8, 2009 Passed That this question be now put.
- June 3, 2009 Passed That Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
- June 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 3.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
March 6th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Sexual predators. We are on the side of sexual predators in this case. Not only that, the Minister of Public Safety thought it was okay to suggest that people practising criminal law and defending people, which is their right to do, were standing on the side of the criminals and that was the choice they made in their careers. That is the Minister of Public Safety in a government that is supposed to believe in the rule of law. The rule of law includes, I must remind him, the presumption of innocence.
In our criminal system, the government does not decide who is guilty and puts people in jail, and neither do the police. The Minister of Justice does not decide who is guilty and put people in jail. The Minister of Public Safety does not decide who is guilty and put people in jail. They do not have the right to do that in our society. Does anyone know why? It is because we have the rule of law.
We talk about Libya and ask that it develop the rule of law. In Afghanistan, the rule of law is what we are all about. We want the judicial system to work. We only want people to go to jail who are prosecuted in accordance with the law. We want judges to be free of corruption. We expect them not to carry out the will of their political masters. We want free and fair court systems. That is the rule of law. We want that in Libya and in Afghanistan. We have asked some of our young men and women to die for that.
However, when we are in the House, people are pointed at from across the way and told that they practise criminal law and chose to use their career to act for criminals. Members will underscore mockingly that it is an honourable thing. If we read it on paper, it looks fair enough, but that is not the way it was put, as if there is something wrong with somebody ensuring that the rule of law operates.
As I told my friends many years ago when they were wondering why I was practising law, one of the jobs of people practising criminal law was to ensure that the laws we have operate fairly for everybody and that nobody goes to jail unless he or she has been proven guilty in accordance with the law. A defence lawyer would ask if the law had been followed, if the person were truly guilty and if there were proof beyond a reasonable doubt. An individual charged with an offence does not have the means to defend himself or herself.
An old saying in the legal profession, which every lawyer and probably everybody else knows, is that a man who defends himself has a fool for a client. I have even seen lawyers defend themselves and prove that aphorism to be true because they did not have a clue how to defend themselves. They were not paying attention to the law. They were more concerned about their own particular issues as opposed to what defences were there. We have a system of justice in this country that is based on the rule of law. The lawyers who defend the people who are charged are there to ensure that people do not go to jail unless they ought to, unless they have actually committed the offence and it can be proven by a court. All of this is part of our judicial system.
We have a government that implicitly disrespects the rule of law by attacking opposition members for practising law in this country. Since when did it become reprehensible to act as a lawyer, to defend the rule of law and to ensure that people who are charged with offences have a proper defence? We have a legal aid system in this country because we recognize that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the right to liberty, require that an individual who is charged with an offence has a proper defence. We do not have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for nothing. It is not just a piece of paper. To disrespect that by disrespecting the whole process is absolutely wrong.
Despite being accused by the other side of standing with child pornographers, in the case of Bill C-30, or defending criminals, there are some aspects of the bill now before us that we do support. However, in order to avoid the prolongation of the issue, we proposed that certain aspects of Bill C-10 be taken out and fast-tracked, that they be given special consideration and that the bill be split. We moved that in this House and I spoke to it.
However, instead of recognizing that this proposal was an effort to speed the passage of part of this bill, which is what I said, the government deputy House leader stood and said that it was a delaying tactic. I do not know how it is a delaying tactic to say that we take a section and pass it right away. The section was part 2 of the bill. There were a couple of sections. One related to creating the new offence of making sexually explicit material available to children, part of what is called grooming in the offence of sexual predators against children, and there was a new offence of agreeing to commit a sexual offence against a child.
We considered that those new offences were important and we wanted to see them implemented immediately. It also would increase the mandatory minimums that were already there. We believe those sections should be brought forward and passed immediately. As we indicated, there is a consensus on certain aspects of this legislation that we wanted to separate and pass but we were put into the position, with an omnibus bill, that either we accept all of it or none of it.
We wanted to see the speedy passage of the provisions of part 2 that related to sexual offences against children. However, that did not stop the Conservatives from saying that whenever they bring in legislation that is designed to protect children against sexual predators that the opposition votes against it. They continue to say that kind of nonsense over there but it needs to be on the record that we sought specific and immediate passage of that particular aspect of the bill.
We had experts before our committee from the Barreau du Québec, for example, who talked about the concerns they had regarding Bill C-10 and the cost implications and the failure of imprisonment in reducing the incidence of crime.
The government calling the bill the safe streets and communities act is a very apolitical title. However, the Barreau du Québec has taken the position that Bill C-10 has come at a time when figures from Statistics Canada show that crime is on the decline in Canada. Its figures show that the crime rate in 2011 reached its lowest level since 1973, and that violent crime also was declining to a lesser degree than crime generally but, nevertheless, declining.
The Barreau du Québec said that it was obvious that the national crime rate has been falling steadily for 20 years. It suggested that the reason it was now at its lowest point since 1973 was primarily because the sentencing system currently seeks a balance between denunciation, deterrence and rehabilitation of offenders and that proportionality and personalization of a sentence were fundamental values of that system.
We were told that this legislation would produce less safe streets and here is why. Numerous studies have shown that imprisonment does not reduce the incidence of crime. Public Safety Canada has released the results of a study dealing with the impact of imprisonment on recidivism for offenders serving prison terms. That is how many of them go back. It is the revolving door that the minister talked about. We need to know whether recidivism and the revolving door will be reduced by these measures. The conclusions of the study showed that for most offenders prisons did not reduce recidivism.
Therefore, to argue for expanding the use of imprisonment in order to deter criminal behaviour is without empirical support. The use of imprisonment may be reserved for the purpose of retribution and selective incapacitation of society's highest risk offenders. The cost of the implications of imprisonment need to be weighed against more cost efficient ways to decrease offender recidivism and responsible use of public funds. Evidence from other sources suggest more effective alternatives to reducing recidivism than imprisonment.
There has also been a lot of evidence suggesting that keeping prisoners in jail longer makes them more hardened against society and more likely to commit crimes. If we take away or reduce the emphasis on rehabilitation and focus on punishment, people will come out of prisons more angry, less rehabilitated and more likely to commit crimes.
Another aspect of the bill that I have not touched on is in relation to international prisoners, Canadians who are incarcerated abroad, the International Transfer of Offenders Act found in the bill.
We have a treaty system with other countries whereby if a Canadian citizen is serving a prison sentence in Mexico, the United States or in another country that is part of the treaty, the Canadian citizen can apply to serve his or her sentence in Canada. Up until recently, that has been a pretty automatic expectation, not only for the prisoner but also for the country where the prisoner is now serving a sentence.
For example, we have a number of Canadians who are in prison in the United States.They are serving time for various offences, whether ordinary run-of-the-mill criminal offences or drug trafficking. They can apply to the U.S. and Canadian governments to serve their sentence in Canada. When they come to Canada, they are then subject to Canadian corrections laws and rules with respect to how much time they serve, the availability of rehabilitation programs and all of the things that go with that. These provisions have been in use for many years. However, we have a new situation now.
The government, the Minister of Public Safety and his predecessor have taken it upon themselves to refuse to allow people to come back to Canada. However, people could come back eventually. The government could not deport them. If they served their time in the United States or Mexico, they could get on a plane or a bus and come back to Canada. No one would know necessarily that they had been in prison somewhere else. They could show up at the border as Canadian citizens, show their passport or birth certificate and come in. No one would know where they were or if they were a risk to society. They could come to Canada unless they were serving an indeterminate life sentence or three sentences of 50 years, which they give out in the United States sometimes.
There is a public safety aspect to this. If they serve their sentence in Canada, they are subject to our parole system, our supervision, the mandatory release provisions, a halfway house and everything that goes with that. They are integrated back into the community and are given rehabilitation programs.
However, the current government and this minister have taken it upon themselves to refuse them for what appears to be arbitrary reasons. The Federal Court does not seem to agree with the decision that the minister is making. The Federal Court is telling him that he failed to follow the legislation and the act. It is issuing orders to the minister to review and reconsider these motions because the existing law requires that there be a reason.
In the bill before us, this is slipped in from part of a previous bill that the Minister of Public Safety brought in once before. Proposed changes to the act would give the minister virtually unlimited discretion when it comes to the international transfer of offenders. These provisions would make legal what was previously illegal and contrary to the existing act. The Federal Court of Canada has told the government and this minister on several occasions now that they are not following the legislation as it exists.
What is the answer? Is it to follow the legislation and do the right thing to ensure that the government is acting in accordance with the principles that ensure that Canadians have an opportunity to come back to Canada to serve their time? No, the Conservatives' answer is to change the legislation to make legal that which was otherwise illegal.
Now the Conservatives have added that the minister, in determining consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender, may consider the following factors. The list is here. Many of these factors were already on the previous list. The list talks about whether, in the minister's opinion, the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer. This is tantamount to saying that the minister can decide whether, at some point in the future, that person would engage in criminal activity. Is that not what the Parole Board is for? Is that not what we have a corrections system for? Is that not the whole point?
Therefore, if an offender were serving six years in the United States, he or she could come back to Canada and do as he or she pleases. The minister would not even know that the offender is in Canada. There would be no record of the offender's activity in the United States. The minister would not know that the offender exists. Yet, if an offender applied to be transferred back to Canada, the minister could decide whether the offender were likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer. That is a consideration that the minister would be entitled to give.
The bill includes a long list. The Conservatives might as well leave the list out, because at the end of the list under (l) is “...any other factor that the minister considers relevant”. We may as well get rid of (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j) and (k). We may as well say, “in determining whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender, the minister may consider anything he or she considers relevant”. That is the essence of clause 136 of Bill C-10. That is what we would be doing here. We would be giving the minister unlimited discretion, with no policy and no guidelines, except a series of factors that he may or may not consider and then any other factor that he or she considers relevant.
That is irresponsible. It is irresponsible to give power to a minister to have control over whether an offender who is in the United States comes back to Canada or not. That is not a proper guideline. It is not a judicious framework for a minister of the crown of the Government of Canada, in a country of 33 million people, to have one man or woman decide, based on anything he or she considers relevant. Where is the opportunity for judicial oversight of something that involves the liberty of a Canadian citizen? That is what we are talking about.
When a person is sentenced to jail, if someone thinks it is wrong, he or she can appeal and go to court. In this case, the minister would have control over whether a person served his or her sentence in Mexico, the United States or back in Canada. How would the minister use that discretion? Based on what? Is it based on any arbitrary factor? Is it relevant that a person is known to a member of Parliament who thinks that he or she is a decent person and will come back to Canada and be a good person? If the minister thinks it is relevant, perhaps it would be. Is that the kind of society we want, where the minister could withhold consent based on anything that he or she considers relevant? Not for me, not for the members of the New Democratic Party.
There are other factors there. Some of those factors are quite relevant. However, the history of the use of this section has been to recognize that this is of value, not only to the individual involved but to Canadian society. Our friends to the south and the American government are not too happy that Canada is not accepting people. It is part of the understanding that we will take our citizens back if they are in jail in the U.S. and the U.S. will take its citizens back if they are in jail in our country. That is the understanding. The Americans are getting a bit concerned that Canada is not fulfilling its side of the bargain. I do not think there is anything written down that says we must. However, it is a matter for international relations between Canada and the United States to ensure that we operate in accordance with the understanding where there is good reason to. I do not mean that we have to follow every tradition just because it has always been like that. Where is the reason to say “for any factor the minister considers”? It is only there for one reason. It is there to protect the minister from the reach of the judicial oversight of the Federal Court of Canada. The government seems to be content to do that.
Where is the rule of law in that? The Conservatives will say they are obeying the law. Yes but they would have just changed it to make sure that the courts could not have any oversight. They would be following the law they had just made. That is what we see in the government. If it runs afoul of the law, if the Federal Court says it is doing something wrong, the Conservatives use their slim majority, which they call a strong mandate, to put through legislation that changes the law. If Conservatives do not like the law or they feel constrained by the existing legislation, then they change it. That is what we have.
I want to talk about the amendments because there are changes before us by way of the Senate. They are roughly related to the changes that were brought to the committee by the member for Mount Royal, but have been changed in some way.
I want to talk about how the State Immunity Act actually works. We do not have a lot of faith in this legislation. It had different lives in earlier Parliaments. It was at one time a bill called an act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act. Conservatives went off that approach because it would not have any effect on deterring acts of terrorism against Canada and Canadians. The short title of the bill was the justice for victims of terrorism act. That perhaps comes a little closer to what the bill tries to do which is to give a right to Canadians to sue states or non-state actors for acts of terrorism.
It has been called a diplomatic minefield by some commentators. The way the act is written, it forces Canada to name countries that have sponsored terrorism. We cannot say we are suing country X because it has financed a particular organization that conducted a terrorist act that affected me or my family.
With ordinary torts, if we want to sue someone in our jurisdiction, we go ahead and sue them. However, we have to prove that they did the act. That person does not have to be on a list of people that some other body has put there. In this case, there is a list that is determined by the Government of Canada. Having that role of the minister of foreign affairs and the government to draw up and review that list from time to time is a diplomatic minefield.
For example, countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan are commonly seen as incubators of terrorism. Yet listing them could cause significant diplomatic problems as the Canadian government seeks to support the governments of these countries. Therefore, they are not put on the list. If Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, for example, and the Taliban commits an act that can be called terrorism under this legislation inside Afghanistan and a Canadian soldier or a civilian is injured, the relatives of that person cannot sue Pakistan even if they could prove that there was a direct relationship between the Pakistani government or military and the action of a particular group, unless Pakistan were put on a list.
We now have a government with the right to put a list together. Who is on the list? Which countries would be there? What is the experience of listing countries in other countries?
Other countries, such as the United States, have had a list. The U.S. experience is based on similar legislation, which has been in place for more than a decade. Only the listed countries can be sued. Currently, the listed countries are Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan. Interestingly, North Korea, Iraq and Libya were originally listed, but have since been delisted. Therefore, if a plaintiff were suing Libya in retaliation, say for example for the Lockerbie bombing, and was in the middle of a lawsuit and then Libya was delisted because the Americans decided they wanted to develop friendlier relations with Moammar Gadhafi, which they did in the mid-2000s, all of a sudden the lawsuit would be gone based on some action by that government to change the list.
A common problem that was identified, based on these torts, was that the defendants refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the American courts. As such, the defendants, whether it be the country of Iraq, Libya or whatever, would not appear. Then default judgments would be rendered and the debtor countries would ignore or refuse to pay. What is the point of having a lawsuit to get a judgment when the assets of the country are not accessible because it has refused to pay and is not part of the jurisdiction?
Therefore, recovery has become a major problem in the United States because many of these countries have limited assets held in the United States. In fact, the executive branch of the U.S. has been very reluctant to allow frozen assets to be used for this purpose and made available. What happened over time was as Congress attempted to create avenues for recovery, the executive resisted efforts over concerns of retaliation from the other countries against U.S. assets, for example, inside countries like Libya or other places. It was concerned about retaliatory measures and losing leverage over the country concerned, as well as potentially violating international law on state immunity. There was a whole quagmire of problems.
For example, in 1981, as a result of the Algiers accords, American embassy staff who were being held hostage by Iran were released. However, the hostages were then barred from initiating civil suits. Hostages had been taken in Iran, released by the agreement, but then as part of the deal, the government agreed that the hostages could not take civil action against Iran or the groups. The U.S. Congress sought to provide a right of action to those hostages through various laws. The executive resisted because of the international implications of such an accord being violated. Then Iraq changed the circumstances, causing the Bush administration to delist Iraq.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was listed as a state that could be sued. A number of lawsuits had been successful wherein the plaintiff sought recovery by seizing Iraqi assets. However, after the invasion of Iraq by the U.S., the American government no longer had an interest in allowing such assets to be taken as it wanted them to be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people in rebuilding the country. Therefore, the victims of terror, or terrorist acts, who had been successful in suing Iraq would not get any redress. The assets, or whatever they had gained from their lawsuits, would now stay in Iraq because it suited the American government. As such, Iraq was retroactively delisted and many plaintiffs were unable to recover the money granted to them in judgments. That has been part of the U.S. experience with these political lists that are determined by the cabinet. All of these amendments, with one exception, implicitly recognize that these lists are key to whether a plaintiff can actually sue under this section of Bill C-10.
There would also be a situation where there would be limited seizable assets in Canada for any countries that might be expected to be listed on such a list. Victims would find themselves competing for the few if any assets available for recovery. The concerns outlined above with respect to retaliation appear to have come true in the American situation, as equivalent measures have been introduced in Cuba and Iran in consequence. What has happened is that not only the countries themselves do not have significant assets in Canada for action, but there are retaliatory measures in the countries that are put on the list.
We have a situation with the legislation that has been put forward that is well-meaning. In fact, there were proposals to make significant changes to it.
We heard from the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, which proposed that this whole approach be changed altogether, allowing suits against any foreign state that did not have an extradition relationship with Canada. In other words, it called it a negative list as opposed to a positive list. It was concerned as well that placing a country on a positive list would expose Canada to ongoing political and diplomatic pressures. It said that the U.S. experience showed that factors unrelated to whether a country sponsors terrorism sometimes would become the determining factors. It would make the process unprincipled and would undermine the credibility of the government, the listing process and the bill itself.
The group went on to say that by not listing countries that objectively should be listed, Canada would be effectively be declaring them as non-sponsors of terror, which would undermine the deterrence object of the bill.
We have a situation where we have very complex legislation requiring very complex litigation. The difficulty is the bill then effectively becomes symbolic, although the government denies that.
The Toronto lawyer who works with the Canadian Coalition Against Terror admits that the litigation would be quite complex: classified information would be involved; the links between terrorists entering the states in question would have to be proven, which would be difficult; and showing causation would be challenging. For example, a government may provide funds to an organization involved in numerous activities from health care to terrorism and tracking where specific funds go could be time-consuming, costly and impossible. The complexities and difficulties associated with these types of lawsuits were acknowledged by the government, but its claim was that it was not just a symbolic gesture, but it recognized the great difficulties involved.
We have legislation that is fraught with political and diplomatic problems, ineffective solutions in terms of remedies and recovery and something we think is unwieldy and difficult for Canada to operate in a principled way, as I have discussed.
When we deal with the specifics of the individual states that are put on a list, that causes a lot of problems. The Canadian government would be in a much stronger position with the legislation if it took the stand that the courts would make that determination. It would be in a stronger position if it could take a stand on the terrorist sponsorship by a particular foreign state if the courts would make that determination. The government is affected by various other relationships with that state.
As pointed out with the American experience, things that have nothing to do with whether a state is sponsoring terror comes into play, such as the Iraqi experience, where even when people had judgments against the state of Iraq, they had no opportunity to get any redress because the government delisted the state. People who had been successful then got nothing, after having gone through the effort of ensuring they had a lawsuit.
The bill, as has been noted by the minister, includes a large number of provisions in various acts. Of the nine acts involved, four are public safety acts, four are Criminal Code related acts, one is the state terror legislation, the new tort. There is another on immigration, and I do not know why the Immigration Act is included.
As a result of the legislation, we have a piece that appears to be unrelated, but nevertheless is a part of it because it is an omnibus bill and the Conservatives figured they could add it and get away with it. That measure would give immigration officers another discretionary reason why they could refuse to allow an individual to come into our country, based on the instructions by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. The minister could authorize officers to refuse work permits to foreign nationals who might be at risk of being subject to humiliating, degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. We are not opposed to the visa application process being used as a tool to prevent human trafficking and to prevent exploitation. However, the emphasis should be part of a larger process. In an effort to prevent exploitation, the legislation is very vague and would be ineffective by itself in stopping trafficking. It would do nothing to strengthen the rights of workers in Canada, which is the source of the problem, and what would truly protect workers from exploitation.
We see examples of exploitation. The bill has been around for awhile in other forms and seems to have been mounted in response to some exotic dancers who were given visas to work in Toronto. The suggestion was that this was a cover for other activities and that this bill would now give discretion, under instructions from the minister, to refuse people entry into Canada if it was thought they would be subject to exploitation.
If people are eligible to get a visa to come to Canada and the fear is that they would be subject to exploitation, surely they should have the protection of Canadian labour laws that prevent them from being exploited in Canada. If there is a danger that people coming to Canada would be exploited, then the answer is to let those people come to Canada and ensure that their freedom of movement and their ability to choose employment are not compromised by criminal and exploitative activity. That is the dream.
People coming to Canada are not coming to be exploited. They are coming here because they may be given some information that their role or their job is one thing and then someone may try to exploit them once they get here. What is the answer? Is the answer to leave them where they are? Is the answer to say that they are entitled to come to Canada, but we will ensure that our laws protect them? We have a problem with the focus of the legislation being on this exotic dancer notion. However, all foreign workers are vulnerable. One example is live-in caregivers. We have a lot of them in our country. Agricultural workers, for example, are subject to potential exploitation.
Temporary labourers are another group that we have lots of experience with in this country going back to the building of the CPR. They are subject to exploitation. Temporary labourers are some of the most exploitable workers in Canada, but the bill is not likely to assist them because it is not part of a significant effort by the government to clamp down on the exploitation of workers in general. Indeed, I do not think the Conservative government takes that issue seriously at all.
We have support for our position on the bill from many different groups across the country. For example, the Canadian Bar Association expressed its concerns with several aspects of the bill, both in media and press releases and in a 100-page brief presented to committee. It is concerned about mandatory minimums and the government's over-reliance on incarceration, and the constraints on judges' discretion to ensure a fair result in each case. It is concerned about the bill's impact on specific already disadvantaged groups and mentioned in its brief the effect on aboriginal Canadians.
In its extensive brief, the Canadian Bar Association talked about the changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for example, including the provisions that would add to mandatory minimum sentences with respect to drugs. The association said it was opposed to the passage of what was then called Bill C-15 and opposed the same provisions appearing in Bill C-10 dealing with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It believes that the public safety concerns could be better met with existing legislative tools. The association stated:
We believe the bill would not be effective, would be very costly, would add to strains on the administration of justice in Canada, could create unjust and disproportionate sentences and ultimately would not achieve its intended goal of greater public safety.
Now there is a statement:
—[The bill] would not achieve its intended goal of greater public safety.
I am not saying that because the Canadian Bar Association has said this that it is gospel. I am a former member of the Canadian Bar Association, as are many members of the House. This is an organization of lawyers across the country who represent not just one side of the bar but also prosecutors, defence counsel, people who work in the Department of Justice or justice departments and public prosecution services across this country as well, who are in the courts day in and day out prosecuting crimes, and people on the other side who are defending the accused. As our system is built around the rule of law, there are people who ensure that our system works, that people are innocent until proven guilty. There are two types of lawyers, and together they put this submission forward. When they say they do not think the bill would be effective in achieving the goal of greater public safety, that has to be taken seriously.
When the association talks about the mandatory minimum sentence with respect to marijuana plants, for example, it says that the bill would require mandatory minimum sentences even though the circumstances of the offence and degree of responsibility varied significantly.
The penalties in the bill are based on arbitrary factors and do not meaningfully distinguish the levels of culpability. For example, the clause that poses escalating mandatory minimum sentences for the production of marijuana is geared to the number of plants produced. If it is six plants or more, the sentence would be six months. The mandatory minimum would be nine months for the purpose of trafficking or the plants are on someone else's land. Then there is a one-year sentence for 200 plants, but less than 500. We are almost telling the judge to look at the list, with the number of plants on one side and the mandatory minimum on the other.
This in fact is an affront to the judges of our country. Many of them would say that one of their most important functions is to determine what an appropriate sentence is for a particular crime. This legislation says that the deciding factor is how many plants are involved. If a person has five plants, there is one sentence; if they have six plants, there is another; if they have 200 plants, there is another; and if it is on someone's else's land, it goes up even further, even if someone had only sprinkled a few seeds over a back fence and was growing the plants on that other person's land.
I can see why people do that. They might do it thinking they might not get caught, which is probably the idea. However, because it is on someone else's land, there is a higher mandatory minimum than if it happened to be on the own person's land. Does that make sense?
I am sure members here and all those listening are wondering if that makes sense or not. I go along with the Canadian Bar Association, which says that is arbitrary. It is totally arbitrary and has nothing to do with the degree of responsibility, the degree of guilt, the degree of punishment that is required.
When the Canadian Bar Association says this, it gives some bolster to the common sense of people who say there is something wrong with this picture when penalties have this arbitrary nature. For some reason, the government does not have faith in the judges who are appointed to decide what is fair and reasonable.
There is the case in Toronto of a judge who was dealing with a young man who had a loaded pistol in one hand and a computer in the other when the police broke into this apartment. The situation is actually rather ludicrous. I think the person was in his shorts with a computer in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other, and he was taking a picture of himself with his computer so he could put it on Facebook.
I have to confess I have no idea why someone would want to do that.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 21st, 2011 / 4:40 p.m.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Madam Speaker, the safe streets and communities act fulfills this government's commitment, as noted in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne, to reintroduce law and order legislation to combat crime and terrorism. As highlighted by the Minister of Justice, the bill is in five parts and brings together the criminal law reforms that were proposed in nine bills in the last session.
Amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are found in part 2 of the bill, from clause 39 through clause 51 inclusively. These amendments are the same as those proposed in Bill S-10, which was introduced in May 2010, passed by the Senate last December and died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved last March.
I also note that the government first introduced these amendments to address serious drug crimes as Bill C-26 in 2007 and again as Bill C-15 in 2009. We remain committed to enacting these reforms now included in the safe streets and communities act.
These amendments are not about imposing mandatory minimum sentences for all drug crimes. These amendments propose targeted, mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes and ensure that those who carry out these crimes will be penalized. These amendments clearly send the message that Canadians find this type of criminal behaviour unacceptable.
A mandatory minimum sentence is the starting point for the judge's consideration of the appropriate jail term. Where a minimum sentence applies, the sentence imposed by the judge cannot be less. Presently there are no mandatory minimum penalties in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or CDSA. The CDSA provides for maximum penalties based on the prohibited activity involved as well as on the substances involved. The maximum penalty for the most serious offences involving the most dangerous drugs is life imprisonment.
The most serious drug offences in the CDSA, as measured by their maximum penalty, are trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importation and exportation and production in respect of schedule I drugs. What are those drugs? They are drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and morphine, and schedule II drugs which are cannabis-related.
All of these offences involving Schedule I drugs are punishable by up to life imprisonment. The offence of trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking of cannabis in amounts over three kilograms is punishable by up to life imprisonment, as are the offences of importation and exportation of any amount of cannabis. The offence of producing cannabis in punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.
The least severe penalties in the CDSA for designated substances offences, up to 12 months imprisonment on summary conviction, are reserved for offences involving substances listed in schedules IV and V; that is, substances such as diazepam, or Valium, and secobarbital, Seconal. it should be noted, however, that most of the prohibited activities in the CDSA are legal if committed by someone possessing the proper licence, permit, or exemption.
There are some who do not agree with the drug-related amendments proposed in the bill. They are of the view that serious drug offences do not require a response such as that contained in this proposed legislation. However, serious drug crime is a serious problem in Canada and it requires a serious legislative approach. That is what we are bringing to this issue.
Marijuana cultivation offences have increased significantly in the past several years. According to a study on marijuana grow operations in British Columbia, my home province, in 2003 approximately 39% of all reported marijuana cultivation cases, or 4,514, were located in B.C. Between 1997 and 2000, the total number of these cases increased by over 220%. Although the number of individual operations in B.C. levelled off between 2000 to 2003, the estimated quantity of marijuana produced has increased from 19,729 kilos in 1997 to a seven year high of 79,817 kilos in 2003, due to the size and sophistication of individual operations.
Investigations by BC Hydro indicate the existence of thousands of possible marijuana grow operations. The increase in the illicit production of marijuana has occurred not just in B.C., of course, but across all of Canada.
Available RCMP data indicates a rise in synthetic drug production operations in the last 10 years. The RCMP indicates that there were 25 clandestine labs seized in 2002. In 2008, 43 clandestine labs were seized across Canada. In 2009, 45 clandestine labs were seized by various Canadian police agencies. The majority of labs seized were methamphetamine and ecstasy labs.
It is in part because of the existence of these illicit activities that the Prime Minister unveiled Canada's national anti-drug strategy in October 2007. The national anti-drug strategy provided new resources to prevent illegal drug use, including illicit drug use by young people, to treat people who had drug addictions and to fight illegal drug crime.
The strategy comprises a two-track approach, one which will be tough on drug crime and the other which will focus on drug users.
The national anti-drug strategy includes three action plans: preventing illicit drug use; treating those with illicit drug dependencies; and combatting the production and distribution of illicit drugs.
The action plan to combat the production and distribution of illicit drugs contains a number of elements, including ensuring that strong and adequate penalties are in place for serious drug crimes. It is within this context that the drug-related amendments of this bill are to be viewed. Moreover, these amendments follow through on one of this government's key priorities, which is combatting crime and making our communities safer for all Canadians.
As I have mentioned, domestic operations related to the production and distribution of marijuana and synthetic drugs have dramatically increased, resulting in a serious problem in some regions of Canada. The situation has reached such a point in some parts of Canada that law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed.
Illicit drug production can pose serious health and public safety hazards to those in or around them. They can produce environmental hazards, pose cleanup problems and endanger the lives and health of whole communities. They are lucrative businesses, and I use that term loosely, and attract a variety of organized crime groups. Huge profits are available with little risk to operators and these profits are used to finance other criminal activities.
The penalties for drug-related offences and the sentences imposed on offenders are considered by many to be too lenient and not commensurate with the level of harm imposed on communities by such operations. The reforms that the government is pursuing in this bill are meant to deal with these concerns.
As members are undoubtedly aware, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act contains a complex offence and penalty structure. Penalties depend on the nature of the prohibited activity and on the type of substance involved. The most problematic and dangerous substances are listed under schedules I and II and the most serious offences involving these substances attract the severest penalties, up to life imprisonment. As I have noted, the CDSA does not currently contain any minimum penalties. The drug-related amendments of the safe streets and communities act propose to enact such minimum penalties for specific offences.
The offences being targeted are: trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, production, importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting drugs.
The drugs that would be covered are schedule I drugs, such as cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine, and schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.
The drug-related mandatory minimum penalty scheme proposed in the bill is based on the presence of specific aggravating factors, most of which are commonly present in serious drug crimes. The scheme would not apply to possession offences or to offences involving drugs such as diazepam or valium.
As I noted at the beginning of my remarks, the drug-related proposals contained in the bill reflect a tailored approach to MMPs for serious drug offences. Some further details about the targeted or tailored regime will assist hon. members in understanding the approach and supporting speedy passage of the bill, we believe.
For schedule I drugs, and that is heroine, cocaine, or methamphetamine, the bill proposes a one year minimum sentence for the majority of the serious drug offences if there are certain aggravating factors. The aggravating factors exist where: the offence is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with organized crime; the offence involved violence, or threat of violence, or weapons or a threat of the use of weapons; or the offence is committed by someone who was convicted or served a term of imprisonment for a serious drug offence in the previous 10 years. If youth are present or the offence occurs in a prison, the minimum sentence is increased to two years.
In the case of importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting, the minimum sentence would be one year if the offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking or the person, while committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority or had access to an area that is restricted to authorized persons and used that access to commit the offence. The penalty will be raised to two years if the offence involves more than one kilogram of a schedule I drug. Again, these are drugs such as heroine, cocaine, or methamphetamine.
A minimum sentence of two years is provided for a production offence involving a schedule I drug. The minimum sentence for the production of schedule I drugs increases to three years where aggravating factors relating to health and safety are present. That is where: the person used real property that belonged to a third party to commit the offence; the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or were in the immediate area; the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or the person placed or set a trap.
For schedule II drugs, such as marijuana, cannabis resin, et cetera, the proposed mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, importing or exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting is one year if certain aggravating factors such as violence, recidivism or organized crime are present. If factors such as trafficking to youth are present, the minimum is increased to two years.
For the offence of marijuana production, the bill proposes mandatory penalties based on the number of plants involved: production of six to two hundred plants and if the plants are cultivated for the purpose of trafficking, six months; production of 201 to 500 plants, the penalty, one year; production of more than 500 plants, two years; and production of cannabis resin for the purpose of trafficking, one year. The minimum sentences for the production of schedule II drugs increases by 50% where any of the aggravating factors relating to health and safety, which I have just described, are present.
It is important to note that the drug-related proposals of the bill are not limited to creating minimum sentences. Amphetamines, as well as the date rape drug GHB and Rohypnol would be transferred from schedule III to schedule I, thereby allowing the courts to impose longer sentences for offences involving these dangerous drugs.
The maximum penalty for producing marijuana would be increased from seven to fourteen years imprisonment. That is the maximum penalty, speaking about the other end of the scale now.
Last, I wish to point out that this legislation is not just about punishing drug offenders by enhancing the sentence provisions. The proposed legislation would allow the courts, including drug treatment courts, to exempt an offender from the mandatory minimum sentence that would otherwise be imposed where the offence involved no other aggravating factors other than a previous conviction for a serious drug offence, and the offender successfully completes a treatment program.
The proposed reforms to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act also require that within five years after the coming into force of these provisions, a committee of the Senate or of this House or a committee of both places undertake a comprehensive review of these provisions and their operation, including, my friend opposite will be pleased to hear, a cost benefit analysis of the minimum sentence provisions.
It is a fundamental principle of the Canadian sentencing framework that a sentence should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The Criminal Code provides that the purpose of sentencing is to impose sanctions on offenders that are just in order to contribute to the respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society, something we all want.
Accordingly, the objectives in sentencing are to denounce unlawful conduct, deter the offenders and others from committing crimes and separate offenders from society where necessary, as well as to assist in rehabilitating offenders, have them accept responsibility for their actions and repair the very real harm that they have caused to victims or the community.
I would submit to members of the House and to Canadians in general that the proposed drug related mandatory minimum penalties contained in this bill meet these requirements. These are strong measures but they are reasonable and they are meaningful, and a meaningful response to a problem that is increasing in and plaguing our cities.
The manner in which these minimum penalties would apply is intended to ensure that they do not result in grossly disproportionate sentences being handed down.
As parliamentarians, we are this country's lawmakers. It is incumbent upon us to see that our laws provide appropriate and adequate measures to address this very serious problem.
Some members of the House may be of the view that serious drug offences do not require a response such as the one contained in the bill. However, serious drug crime is a growing problem in Canadian cities and in smaller towns, and a serious legislative response is required.
The government has made tackling crime a priority in order to make our streets and our communities safer. This bill is a reasonable, balanced and narrowly structured approach which the government is taking toward realizing this goal.
I am certain that we will have the support of the majority of the members of the House for these measures. I ask everyone to please consider them carefully.
Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
February 17th, 2011 / 11:40 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague from Hamilton in the House today. She made some excellent points in her presentation.
I rise in the House today to speak in support of this motion that has been put forward by the official opposition.
I have been a member of Parliament now for 14 years. I cannot remember a time when we have had so many motions come forward where we have had to go to extraordinary lengths to compel the government to provide very basic disclosures so that parliamentarians can do their job.
The motion before us today, as has been pointed out, stems from the work of the Standing Committee on Finance when it was attempting to determine some basic facts last year. It wanted to know what the true costs were for the implementation of various justice bills that had been passed by the House, as well as the costs to the justice system for jail time. These are basic facts that we need to know. That is one item.
The finance committee also attempted to determine the costs of the government tax cuts to the largest corporations. Again, this is basic information that the finance committee needed in order to do its work.
It is quite incredible that what ensued from this premise is basically a battle that has taken place between Parliament and the government. It is not the first time that we have seen it. It is quite shocking that we are here today debating this motion and trying to force the government through a motion of Parliament to provide information so that members of Parliament can actually do their job.
I remember last year when we had the incredible situation in Afghanistan and there were documents that had not been released by the government. As a result of the historic Speaker's ruling from last April, wherein he ruled that parliamentary privilege did indeed require that members need information in order to do their work. As a result of that ruling, a special committee was set up to come to terms with a proposal that would allow those documents to be released. The committee actually was set up. The NDP members decided not to participate because we felt that the parameters around the special committee that was set up were so severe and so restrictive that it would be very difficult for any information to be released. Ironically, since that committee has been set up, in actual fact not one single document has ever been released. That is another story but is very much related to the matter that is before us today.
Here we are again dealing with another issue requiring disclosure and transparency of information. However, what underlies what is before us is the fact that I believe we are facing the most authoritarian and secretive government that we have ever had in the history of this country.
I remember when the Conservative government was elected. It claimed it was elected on a mandate of accountability and transparency. We have gone through the whole sponsorship scandal in Quebec. We have had the Gomery Commission. The Conservatives were riding high and claiming they would change the way things were done, that when conducting business they would do so keeping accountability, better access to information and protection of whistleblowers in mind.
I have heard the government House leader say that many times, over and over again. I think the Conservatives dream it in their sleep. Their first bill was the accountability bill and yet look at where we are today. We are now in a place where members are unable to perform their duties as members of Parliament. They are unable to function adequately on standing committees because they cannot get the basic information required to analyze bills and expenditures, to come to conclusions about government priorities, to determine where effective spending is taking place and where waste is taking place, and to know what the true costs are of some of the legislative measures that have come forward.
I find that very demoralizing. It is very demoralizing for the Canadian public. It adds to the level of cynicism that we see in the public arena about politicians and about the political process.
When we add to that the closure of Parliament itself, the prorogation that has taken place at lease twice under the Prime Minister, that this place has actually been shut down, the doors have been locked, we are not even allowed to come to work to do our job on behalf of our constituents, is really quite shocking. People feel very disturbed that our democracy is being undermined and eroded incrementally, but when we look back and look at the bigger picture, we begin to realize just how much things have changed.
In 2009, when I was involved in one of the committees debating one of these justice bills, Bill C-15, mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, I tried very valiantly to find out what the costs would be for the implementation of that bill, what it would mean for provincial systems, what it would mean federally. It was impossible to get that information. There was no evidence that was forthcoming. Yet, we were faced with a Conservative government that was hell-bent on a propaganda campaign that the bill would solve drug problems in local communities but it could not provide any evidence that mandatory minimum sentences would work and it could not provide any evidence as to what it would actually cost.
As we have seen, we have had some estimates from the Parliamentary Budget Office, the one independent office that we do have, that were grossly higher than what the government itself has estimated. But, still, we do not have the true and full picture of what that bill, Bill C-15, would cost, never mind all the other bills that have come forward.
The motion that is before us today affirms the undisputed privileges of Parliament under our Constitution for the government to produce uncensored documents when requested. It is a very important motion.
The fact that we have to bring it forward in this House, that we have to debate it, that we have to vote on it, is a reflection of the seriousness of the situation that we are facing, that there is a now a battle that is taking place between Parliament and the Government of Canada. It is not a battle that we want to have. We want to work in an environment where disclosure does happen, where information is flowing, where officials can come forward and provide information and not live in fear of punishment or retribution because they have disclosed information. All of that seems to have gone.
We are now living in an environment of secrecy, an environment of political control through the Prime Minister's Office, an environment where people are afraid to speak out, an environment where the standing committees of Parliament can longer function and do their job. That is why this motion is before us today.
I am sure that the motion will carry. As the motion outlines, it would order the government to provide these documents to the Standing Committee on Finance by March 7.
The reason that we need these documents is to make an objective evaluation and determination about what the costs of the corporate tax cuts are. There has been a lot of debate about the corporate tax cuts. Members of the NDP were very concerned about how the public purse has been, in effect, robbed, as a result of corporate tax cuts. It was $6 billion in the latest round.
Ironically, these corporate tax cuts were started by a former Liberal government. They were supported by the Liberal opposition in recent budgets.
We need an examination of the real costs of these corporate tax cuts. We need to have an evaluation of what the impact would be on our public services, our community services. This is a very core issue to how government functions and how Parliament functions in terms of making a balance between revenues and expenditures and priorities as to where those revenues should go.
Having this information and understanding the real costs of these cuts is imperative to the work that we do. I support the motion, and I demand, as other MPs are demanding, that this information be disclosed by the government.
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to participate in the debate on the motion to prevent debate on the content and substance of Bill C-59. I find it rather odd that the Bloc has supported the government's attempt to stifle any attempt at debate on the substance of this bill.
No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the idea of eliminating parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and our member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with several of Earl Jones' victims to call on the government to quickly bring forward a bill to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served, especially for criminals who commit major fraud and have multiple victims.
No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting that idea. I think it is really dishonest of the government to make that kind of accusation when it knows very well what the Liberals' position is. This was pointed out by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Now I would like to talk about the debate and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc members want to limit the scope of the debate. Just seven months ago the members of the Bloc rose in the House to criticize the government for doing the exact same thing it is doing now with Bill C-59. The government moved a motion to block debate.
Last June, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House to criticize the government for moving a motion to block debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose a government motion to block debate on Bill C-9, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, by imposing time allocation.
We are opposed to this time allocation motion because we believe that Bill C-59 addresses a very important issue. Furthermore, for two years now, the Liberals have been calling on the government to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes like those committed by Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others.
I think it is a shame that some would have people believe that the Liberals do not want to protect victims. That is simply not true. When the government introduced Bill C-21 on economic crimes and it was referred to committee, the Liberal justice critic proposed an amendment to the bill to eliminate eligibility for parole after one-sixth of the sentence in cases of economic crime. The Conservatives and the Bloc defeated the motion.
Every MP is entitled to his or her opinion on bills that we are called on to debate in the House. It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process. The operative word here is “debate”, and the collusion between the Conservatives and the Bloc is preventing us from acting as responsible parliamentarians.
We would like to hear from experts. We want to know how this bill will truly address a gap in the law, how it will do justice to victims, how this bill will improve the chances of rehabilitation for those who once lost control of their lives.
Perhaps we should indeed eliminate parole after one-sixth of a sentence for offenders who have committed serious economic crimes and left a number of victims.
However, for non-violent criminal acts that are not fraud, we believe that evidence has shown that parole after one-sixth of a sentence has been very effective and that the rate of recidivism is much lower.
We will never know what the experts might have said since this closure motion eliminates any chance to consult experts. With this government so eager to control everything, it has become somewhat of a tradition to just pass a bill without any idea of the facts that might call it into question.
The Liberals are against this closure motion. It is not justified, and we regret that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit the debate on this bill. As far as the substance of the bill is concerned, in the past and still today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating parole after one-sixth of the sentence for economic crimes.
In order to illustrate the government's intellectual dishonesty, I would like to present a chronology of the Conservatives' failures in their so-called fight against crime.
I am referring here to the various bills that have died on the order paper for all sorts of reasons or that have remained in the House or at committee indefinitely.
Here they are. Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued; Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), died on the order paper before the House had a chance to vote on it; Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), also died on the order paper. It is certainly not the opposition that forced the government to prorogue Parliament.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, died on the order paper, and Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, on the faint hope clause, died on the order paper before being brought back this session. One committee meeting was held on Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, before it died on the order paper. Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), which is related to Bill C-59, the bill we are dealing with today, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, died on the order paper. The prorogation of Parliament killed many bills.
Among the bills introduced by the Minister of Public Safety was Bill C-34, the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, which also died on the order paper. The bill to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act died on the order paper. Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, died on the order paper. Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, died on the order paper. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper. Bill C-60, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, died on the order paper.
To date, no meetings have been held to discuss Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), was given first reading 51 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the committee still has not met to discuss that bill.
Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), was fast-tracked at committee in just one meeting and still has not reached second reading. Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, was given first reading 64 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the government delayed it for 26 days at report stage because of the debate on the short title.
Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, was given first reading 89 days after Parliament was prorogued, and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders), was given first reading after 94 days, and we are still waiting. First reading of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act took place 243 days after Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), was given first reading and nothing more.
Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children) only made it to first reading. Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act was introduced at first reading by the Minister of Public Safety 15 days after prorogation. Two committee meetings were held and nothing has happened since. As for Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, we are still waiting. After a few meetings on the subject, the minister was supposed to come back with amendments that he felt were necessary in order to make the bill more comprehensive and definitely more respectful. Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading 104 days after prorogation and we still have not met in committee to discuss it. Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act was introduced for first reading 232 days after prorogation and there it remains. Bill C-52, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations was also introduced for first reading 243 days after prorogation and we are waiting for the next step. The Senate introduced Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act for first reading 49 days after prorogation and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading in the Senate 60 days after prorogation. Bill S-13, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America was introduced for first reading 237 days after prorogation.
I am pointing this out to prove that it is not the opposition parties that are slowing the process down. For all sorts of unknown reasons, the government introduces these bill and then goes no further with them.
To conclude, I would like to question the justification for Bill C-59 and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc felt this was urgent enough to warrant this closure motion, which is an affront to parliamentary dialogue.
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
February 11th, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-625, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (amphetamines).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce this bill. This bill has come about as a result of the original Bill C-15 that came through the House on the mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. This was a bill that the NDP fought against because we thought it was a very bad bill. We pointed out over and over again that there was no evidence to show that mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes worked.
As we know, that bill eventually passed through the House of Commons and went to the Senate. Then it was eliminated because of prorogation. The bill was reintroduced in the Senate and is actually now back in the House as Bill S-10 , and I am very glad the NDP will remain in opposition to that bill.
However, in debating the bill, we did agree that there was one element of the bill that we thought was important, and that was dealing with amphetamines and how they were listed in the various schedules under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
I made a commitment during the debate that we had on the original bill that I would move a private member's bill to transfer amphetamines from schedule 3 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to schedule 1 under the same act, so the punishment would be more severe for offences involving amphetamines.
That was something we actually did support in the original bill, so I am pleased to rise in the House today to bring this forward, to make it clear that we did support that element, and we agree that those drugs should be moved from schedule 3 to schedule 1.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
March 25th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
Director, Public Safety Project, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
To be honest, this is the first time I've heard that particular comment from our mayor.
I will respond to some of the things you said before getting to that comment, on the mandatory minimum issue. I don't disagree with much of what you've said. Sentences should be proportional to the crimes, and the community needs to see that people are receiving sentences that are just, under the circumstances. In our view, mandatory minimums aren't necessary for that to happen.
You made specific reference to Bill C-15 and some of the aggravating factors that were in that legislation. There are some examples of sentences in that bill that are probably very consistent with what they should be. There are probably some as well—specifically there was one example about growing for trafficking purposes as little as five plants of marijuana. There might be people doing that who we don't want to send to jail for six months—
March 25th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
I'll begin by saying, Mr. Trudell, I do agree with your emphasis on collaboration, and I know our government also agrees with it, because our government recently gave $3.2 million in my riding of Kitchener Centre to our Waterloo Region community safety and crime prevention council to develop a youth gang prevention strategy. That organization is well known across Canada as a model for community collaboration.
Mr. Norton, because of the time constraints, I'm afraid I'm going to have to come right to the point with you. I strongly disagree with the suggestion that there should be a blanket rejection of mandatory minimum sentences, and I will tell you why. It's because deterrence is not all there is about sentencing, and Canadians and Canadian communities deserve a sentencing system that shows proportionality between the sentence and the gravity of the offence. For example, if we're talking about an offence such as human trafficking or child trafficking, Canadians need to know that the sentences are proportionate to the gravity of the offence, regardless of other considerations, and proportionate to the victims.
In what was formerly Bill C-15, we have a very focused, targeted, moderate use of mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking in drugs, where, for example, the drugs are sold to youth or take place near a school, or production of drugs where there's a hazard to children. It's very focused.
I happen to have with me a document entitled, What Makes a City Great? It sets out Mayor David Miller's vision of Toronto, saying, “In David Miller's vision of Toronto, there's no place for gangs or guns.”
He also talks about concrete achievements that he's obtained, and one of them is a more aggressive approach to gun and gang violence. And he says:
Thanks to the hard work of the Toronto Police in the last year, several major gangs have been shut down and their leaders jailed.
Mayor David Miller’s vision of Toronto in 2010 is to make our safe city even safer. To punish criminals and deter people from crime, Mayor Miller will: ... Advocate no bail for anyone who commits a crime while in possession of a gun, whether the gun is used in the crime or not. Mayor Miller will press the federal government to enact this strong approach to guns, so that these criminals—and their guns—are not back on the streets on bail days later....
I would like to know whether your organization agrees with these comments from David Miller. Is your organization in sync with Mayor David Miller's vision of Toronto?
March 25th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
Director, Public Safety Project, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
I can respond to that. We haven't done a comprehensive study of looking at mandatory minimum sentences writ large. We've done examinations in particular contexts when looking at particular bills. In the case of Bill C-15, we made a submission before this committee last spring, almost a year ago.
We've looked at some cases that recently came through the courts, cases where people did not receive the sentences they would otherwise have received. There were cases where judges did not give the sentences that they may now be forced to give. There were also cases where they gave sentences that were significantly more than they would be forced to impose as a result of the legislation.
My understanding of the academic work on the issue is that there has been a large amount of academic and social science work done on mandatory minimum sentences. I'm not sure what a new comprehensive study would add to that. I think the work has been quite conclusive over the past many years. I understand that some of the points I mentioned in my presentation are some of the points that arose out of the large body of social science work.
March 25th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
Graeme Norton Director, Public Safety Project, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. On behalf on the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, I thank you very much for inviting us here today to share our thoughts with you.
For those of you not familiar with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, let me say that we're a national, non-profit civil liberties watchdog and advocacy organization that was founded in 1964. Our core mandate is to promote respect for and observance of fundamental civil liberties and human rights and to ensure the protection and full exercise of those rights and liberties in Canada. Our work involves research, advocacy, litigation, and public education. Our membership consists of several thousand paid supporters from many walks of life.
The CCLA recognizes that organized crime can do great harm to society. Such crime can disrupt the social fabric of our communities and cause threats to our economic and personal security. It can lead to proliferation of violence and take a tremendous and tragic toll on those who are affected, both directly and indirectly.
The CCLA does not have an expressed position on organized crime per se. We do, however, believe that any steps taken to address this phenomenon must, like all laws, be necessary and effective and infringe as little as possible upon the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
It is from this perspective that we have considered several of the specific proposals and tools this committee has looked at for combatting organized crime. I'm going to briefly address three of those proposals in my presentation this morning, and hopefully I'll be able to do my best to answer questions you have on any other tools for fighting organized crime that you've looked at in the course of your review.
First, I'd like to address the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, which I know this committee has considered in some detail, both within and beyond the organized crime context. The recent passage of Bill C-2 and Bill C-14 have introduced more mandatory minimum penalties in Canada, some of which have been directly targeted at organized crime offences. Also, the forthcoming reintroduction of what was previously Bill C-15, the government's drug crime legislation, will bring further attention to the mandatory minimum issue in the coming months.
With regard to mandatory minimum jail sentences, it is the CCLA's position that such sentences are not an appropriate tool for fighting crime in Canada. This is our position irrespective of the crime for which the sentence may be imposed, and we base this position on three primary observations.
First, mandatory minimums create the possibility that the court will be forced to impose a predetermined sentence in a case where that sentence is unduly harsh. This could result in an offender receiving an excessive sentence, leading to an injustice in that particular case.
Second, mandatory minimums are not effective. Indeed, the majority of studies that have looked at this issue have found that few people are even aware of mandatory minimum sentences, and that where they do exist, they have not proven to be a successful deterrent to crime.
Third, mandatory minimum sentences can distort the justice system by transferring discretion from judges to police and prosecutors. Where a judge has no choice but to impose a certain sentence, the real determination about the level of punishment an offender receives will be made through decisions that occur before a trial even begins, such as whether to charge at all or whether to proceed summarily or by way of indictment.
Given these realities, the CCLA urges the committee to recommend against the further use of mandatory minimums as a crime-fighting tool for organized crime.
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne
March 22nd, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate today on the Speech from the Throne.
I would remind the House that our government has repeatedly stated that jobs and economic growth is its top priority. This is a theme that was central throughout the throne speech.
Since July 2009, Canada has created 160,000 new jobs, tangible evidence, I would submit, that Canada's economic action plan is working. Statistics Canada reported that Canada's unemployment rate fell from 8.3% to 8.2% in February and that 21,000 new jobs had been created last month. That is the fifth month of job gains in the past seven months, but our determination remains unchanged. Our government will not be satisfied until every Canadian who has lost his or her job is working again.
In that regard, we are completing year two of our economic action plan with an additional $19 billion of stimulus spending to create and protect jobs. We will invest in new targeted initiatives and make Canada a destination of choice for new business investment. We continue to lower taxes to maintain Canada's competitive advantage and significantly we will establish the red tape reduction panel to reduce paperwork for business.
Many of my constituents in the riding of Edmonton—St. Albert are small business owners. It was with great enthusiasm that I told them that an advisory committee on small business and entrepreneurship made up of business persons would be created to provide advice on improving business access to federal programs and for information.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and sustain us in whatever economic situation we may currently be facing. I submit that the small and medium-sized enterprise innovation and commercialization program will allow small and medium-sized business to develop and promote innovative prototype products and technologies to federal departments and agencies.
However, Canadians want to know that their government will do everything possible to ensure the future economic stability and growth of this country. An integral part of our government's strategy is the reduction of the deficit and a return to balanced budgets. In that regard, we will follow a three-point plan: we will wind down temporary stimulus measures, restrain growth in spending and conduct an in-depth review of the government's administrative functions and overhead costs.
The economic recession has affected every corner of the globe. No country remains untouched but Canada has risen to lead the way with the soundest financial system in the world. The Speech from the Throne emphasizes our response as measured and responsible and makes it clear that Canada is well on its way to economic recovery and stability.
The focus of the throne speech may be the economy and job creation. However, our government remains just as committed to its safe streets and safe communities agenda. The government has addressed the issues of crime by bringing forward legislation mandating prison sentences and ensuring that criminals serve the sentences they have been given.
We will continue to focus on protecting the most vulnerable among us, our children, by increasing the penalties for sexual offences against children and strengthening the sex offender registry. We intend to introduce legislation to crack down on white collar crime and ensure that tougher sentences are issued. As recent high profile cases remind us, white collar crime is all too prevalent and affects many hard-working Canadians personally as they see a lifetime of savings disappear instantly.
The Speech from the Throne points out that our justice system must be made to be more effective. As a result, we will introduce legislation that would cut the number of protracted trials and offer tangible support to victims of crime and their families. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime welcomed the government's additional funding of $6.6 million over two years as the way to build on its earlier investment in the federal victims' strategy and the creation of the federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
The throne speech outlines the need to move forward on essential legislation, including the repeal of the long gun registry and the re-introduction in their original form of the then Bill C-6, the consumer safety law, and the then Bill C-15, the anti-drug crime law, some pivotal pieces of our government's crime agenda.
The former Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is designed to tackle drug crimes and would mandate two year prison sentences for dealing drugs, such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines, to youth. It would also increase penalties for trafficking in GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as the date rape drugs. Mandatory minimum sentences would also be imposed for the production and sale of illicit drugs.
Significantly, it also would allow the drug treatment courts, such as the one in Edmonton, to suspend a sentence where the addicted accused person takes an appropriate treatment program. Drug treatment courts encourage the accused person to deal with the addiction that motivates his or her criminal behaviour and break the cycle of crime to further his or her drug addiction.
New offences would be created for gang-related drug offences, as well as drug offences that are specifically targeted toward children, such as selling drugs near our schools. The hon. Minister of Justice has said “these measures are a proportionate and measured response designed to disrupt criminal enterprise; drug producers and dealers who threaten the safety of our communities must face tougher penalties”.
In my view, these changes are long overdue. They would send a strong signal to criminals that it is unacceptable for them to put dangerous drugs onto our street. We must protect our children from drugs and other illicit behaviour and ensure that drug dealers end up where they belong: behind bars.
I look forward to the reintroduction of that bill.
The former Bill C-46, investigative powers for the 21st century act, would ensure law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools they need to fight crime and terrorism in today's high-tech environment. Legislation must be updated to reflect an ever-evolving technological world and to provide investigators with modern communication technologies to perform complex investigations.
When this bill is reintroduced, the amendments would address the constant struggle to keep up with the high-tech world. It would create a new offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years, to prohibit anyone from using a computer system, such as the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with any other person for the purposes of sexually exploiting a child. This new offence would also be used in the context of undercover investigations. Police would also be able to obtain data from the telephone and the Internet by creating a new concept called “transmission data”.
Those and several other additional changes to help police obtain transmission data would allow law enforcement agencies to track domestic cybercrime and enhance international co-operation. Cybercrime has no borders and the transnational nature of organized criminal activity means that international co-operation is not a luxury but a necessity.
This proposed legislation, when reintroduced, aims to provide the police and other stakeholders with the tools they need to investigate computer and computer-related crimes while ensuring that the rights of Canadians are protected.
The Speech from the Throne highlights the decisive actions our government has taken to crack down on crime and ensure the safety and security of our communities, and we will move ahead with this critical crime legislation. We take the issue of law and order seriously to make this a stronger and safer Canada, both now and for the future.
The struggle to keep up with emerging criminal technologies and crime is a constant struggle, full of setbacks, both for law enforcement and for legislators, with sometimes minor and occasionally major advances. However, it is a pivotal struggle for lawmakers because the laws that we debate and pass in this House must be premised on preserving the safety and liberty of law-abiding citizens.
As indicated, it is a constant and pivotal struggle but, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the authors of the U.S. constitution and defender of liberty, ”Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.