Bill C-25 (Historical)
Truth in Sentencing Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (limiting credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Rob Nicholson Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
December 5th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
Don Head Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
I think the committee members will recall that when we talked about the projections a few years ago, we were estimating that at this time we would be close to about 18,000 offenders incarcerated in the federal system. When Bill C-25 was passed in March 2010, we started from a base of 14,027 offenders. We were basically monitoring our growth against that. Today, our count stands at 15,050, so it's significantly less than what those original projections were, which were developed in 2008 and based on 2005 data, the only data that was available from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
We have since then re-scrubbed—for lack of a better word—our data and have revised the projections. Our projections for this year, for 2012, are for us to be at 15,050, and for next year to be at about 15,270, somewhere in that order of magnitude.
These numbers are much less than the projections that we talked about a couple of years ago. For us, that has also meant some relief in terms of some of the pressures and concerns we were worried about in relation to construction and capacity within our existing institutions, and in relation to the number of new units that were being built in existing institutions, which will actually give us, by 2014, 2,752 more cells and will definitely help us in terms of just managing the reduced population growth that we are now projecting.
May 31st, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.
Don Head Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Thank you, Minister and Mr. Chair.
As the minister has pointed out, our projections, which were based on remand data that was three to four years old, from 2005, originally projected a population growth much higher than what we've seen. The actual growth is only about one-third.
In March 2010, when Bill C-25 came into effect, we started at a population level of 14,027. As the minister has pointed out, our count today is 14,973, so around a 950 increase, as opposed to the 3,000 that was originally projected.
The 2,752 new cells that will be coming on line over the next two to three years are going to give us exactly what the minister pointed out, the opportunity to address some of the levels of double-bunking that we have in some of our institutions across the country and to deal with some of the aging infrastructure we have. The average age of our infrastructure is 40 years old, and as this committee has learned in the past, it's an infrastructure that's used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can imagine the wear and tear that's there.
So we have aging infrastructure and we have some double-bunking issues to address. Any new growth that we're predicting, which is much less than the original projections, will be able to be accommodated in the capacity we have across the country, including the 2,752 cells.
October 4th, 2011 / 11:40 a.m.
Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
I would agree. I think we've seen a trajectory in that direction much faster for women, because women have been the fastest growing prison population, particularly indigenous women and women with mental health issues, for some time now. We've been seeing the massive overcrowding already happening in the women's prisons, and that's only likely to increase.
Corrections has told me that of two of the bills alone from last session, one has impacted 100 women. When we have a population of 500, at that time, that's significant. And now we've already seen a bump from Bill C-25, with another 50 to 60 women coming into the system. So we're likely to see quite a significant impact.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 22nd, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, Bill C-10 perfectly illustrates the government's indifference: indifference to the facts, indifference to the evidence and indifference to a government's obligation to govern effectively.
The facts are clear. So far, a number of members have reported them and members will continue to do so throughout the debate. According to Statistics Canada and many other organizations, crime in Canada has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years. We are not currently in the midst of a crime crisis. Yes, crimes are being committed. Yes, we must address the issue of crime. However, we do not need to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly, like Bill C-10. In light of this fact, we see that the government is basing its actions on fiction. Clearly, Statistics Canada includes only reported crimes; yet, the number of unreported crimes has allegedly skyrocketed. However, by definition, unreported crimes are not counted or countable. This is a work of pure fiction created by a government that refuses to see the facts, refuses to acknowledge them and refuses to take them into account. The government is using fiction to justify its bill.
The evidence is also clear. This is nothing but a tough on crime bill. However, minimum sentences and tougher sentences for crime are absolutely not deterrents. I challenge anyone across the way to present a credible study that shows that crime in Canada will be significantly reduced or dealt with because of deterrents. That is not the case.
I think this government is also profoundly indifferent to good governance. The previous question was addressed to the parliamentary secretary, but she did not answer it for obvious reasons: this government has no idea of the exorbitant costs ahead for the federal and provincial governments of the measures it wants to put in effect. That is quite clear. I will come back to the issue of cost because it is central to the NDP's opposition to this bill.
Something else that illustrates this government's indifference to good governance is the Canadian Bar Association's opposition to these measures. We keep hearing about the fact that law enforcement is in favour of these measures, but if we look at the administration of justice side of things, which will have to deal with the consequences of increased measures on the enforcement side, we see a rather fierce resistance.
I would like the government to take into consideration not just what the Canadian Police Association is saying, but also what the Canadian Bar Association thinks of all this. Both are important.
I will read what the Canadian Bar Association said barely two days ago:
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has concerns with several aspects of the government’s proposed omnibus crime bill, including mandatory minimum sentences and overreliance on incarceration, constraints on judges’ discretion to ensure a fair result in each case, and the bill’s impact on specific, already disadvantaged groups.
The government must stop talking about law enforcement and start taking other considerations into account, including the administration of justice, which will be adversely affected if this bill is passed.
I was happy to hear the Minister of Public Safety speak this morning. He clarified something very important that we knew on this side of the House but that had always been avoided by the government. I am talking about the fact that this bill has essentially been inspired by the United States. I think that if we look at Hansard, it is clear that this bill was inspired by the United States. Not only was it inspired by the United States, but it was inspired by an American approach that failed in the United States, because it did not provide any deterrent. The crime rate is higher in that country.
In the United States, this approach also failed to provide security and to ensure public order. Yet the government would have us believe that this bill would do just that. Earlier this morning, my colleague from Ottawa Centre made reference to the advice of Newt Gingrich, whom no one could confuse with a progressive and who had this warning for jurisdictions in Canada and Europe that wanted to follow the American example: it did not work.
We can also see the impact this approach had on a state like Texas, where skyrocketing costs greatly contributed to the economic and tax crisis experienced by the state government. This led to the abolition of measures such as minimum sentences, which did not work and which are extremely expensive in comparison to the impact they can have.
I am also happy that the Minister of Public Safety's comments demonstrated that he was fully under the illusion that the provinces are demanding such a bill en masse and that they are prepared to take on the soaring costs that will result. There are anecdotal examples of provinces that would like more serious legislation, but that is not the case in Quebec, for one. I will quote a motion adopted by the Quebec National Assembly in 2001 that, I believe, would be adopted again today. It states:
THAT the National Assembly ask the Government of Canada to establish within the criminal justice system for young persons a special plan for Québec, namely the Young Offenders Act, to fully take into account its specific intervention model.
The young offender issue means a lot to me, because for two years in a previous life, I worked in a youth centre that deals with young offenders, a centre called Ressources Alternatives Rive-Sud. I worked there for nearly two years and had to deal with young people who had committed crimes ranging from shoplifting to assault. My responsibility was to meet with groups of these youth in order to make them aware of the consequences and the social cost of their actions.
This approach worked, and I will explain why. I gave dozens of sessions to hundreds of youth over the course of nearly two years. I saw only five cases of recidivism, cases in which the young offender came back to the centre. This clearly shows that the approach taken when dealing with young offenders in Quebec is working. This approach is not based on incarceration and cracking down on crime, but rather on rehabilitation and restorative justice for the victims.
By combining provisions for young offenders with eight other bills, this bill is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. This bill addresses some serious problems that we might all agree on, but they should have been dealt with individually. The government's irresponsible decision, and that is what it was, was to lump them all together, which means we cannot address the serious, real problems because the bill covers things that are not necessarily problems at all and that undermine solutions that have been successful in the past.
I mentioned the question of the cost. It has been difficult to get an answer from the government on that. According to estimates by Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, it could cost up to $2.7 billion over five years. That is a huge amount of money, which the government has not taken into account or confirmed. It has mentioned, however, that this $2.7 billion is but a drop in the bucket compared to the victims' costs, which it calculated at about $99 billion.
There is nothing at all in Bill C-10 to ensure that the cost of crime and the cost to victims will be less than $99 billion. There is nothing in this bill to really help victims. This bill puts forward an approach with a much stronger focus on imprisonment and deterrence, but deterrence does not work.
If the cost to victims is truly $99 billion, as stated by Senator Boisvenu, I challenge the members of the government to show us how passing this bill will decrease this amount.
Once again, I would like to focus on the issue of good governance, which the government has not adequately addressed.
As members will recall, when Bill C-25 was introduced, we repeatedly asked the Minister of Public Safety about the economic impact of this bill, which dealt, among other things, with the two-year credit for each year of pre-sentencing custody.
After being asked the question repeatedly, the minister finally said that the bill would cost approximately $90 million. Then, after more questions were asked and more evidence was presented, he had to adjust that figure, and he said that, in the end, it would cost approximately $2 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer disagreed with that figure as well and demonstrated that the bill would not cost the Canadian treasury $90 million or even $2 billion but rather $5 billion.
This type of approach, where the government tries to shove an omnibus bill down Canadians' throats without regard for the cost, without even calculating the costs and without telling all Canadians what those costs are, is completely irresponsible.
I mentioned minimum sentences. This will be a very expensive measure. We know what happened in Texas, where they have decided to abandon this approach. More and more jurisdictions are dropping this approach because it does not have a deterrent effect. It is not an effective deterrent. At present, the Conservative government does not seem interested in controlling the cost of the prison system. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, the cost of the prison system has increased by 86% and, in 2013, it is expected to double compared to the first year. We are talking about $3 billion more.
What further costs will this bill entail? We have no idea.
The government is trying to use rhetoric as well to bring forth its argument or to try to discredit arguments. Rhetoric is fine, but it has to be accurate at some point.
The government is talking about being tough on crime. It is hard to be tough on crime when it does not concern itself with the facts and evidence and replaces them with fiction. That does not demonstrate good governance. That is not being tough on crime; that is being stupid on crime.
I would like to remind this government that, in the May 2, 2011 election, more than 60% of Canadians rejected this approach. The Conservatives should not be talking about a strong mandate and trying to shove this down Quebeckers' and Canadians' throats, because more than 60% of Canadians rejected it after the Conservatives made it central to their election platform.
The NDP will respect the message sent by Canadians and oppose this American-style bill, a bill that will not lower the crime rate, that will not reduce the number of crimes committed.
As an aside, I would like to mention the impact that such a coercive and repressive approach has had in the United States. In absolute terms, the United States now has the largest prison population. More than 2.3 million Americans, or almost 1% of the population, are currently locked away in U.S. prisons. That is more than in China, more than in Russia.
Is that really the model we want to adopt? Do we really want to build prisons, as the Americans have done, without any impact on the crime rate, since the crime rate in the United States is much higher than it is in Canada? When we are looking to take measures to deal with crime, we have to adopt measures that are smart and follow concrete examples of good management in other countries, not from countries whose approaches have been proved a failure.
Indeed, we have to fight crime. Indeed, victims need to be supported by Parliament, but offering them a bill like this is completely off target—I know: I have been a victim of crime, including burglaries.
The NDP approach has always been a balanced approach between rehabilitation, restorative justice and addressing the problems in the legal system and the parole system, which would help reinforce what deserves to be reinforced. Again, this bill is all over the map. Instead of addressing this issue more precisely and effectively, the government is taking a scattershot approach and trying to pass something, which in some ways will succeed, but in several other very significant ways will completely change Canada's philosophy of justice.
The government talks about law and order, but it is clear that when it comes to law enforcement, the Conservative government has already made up its mind, as it completely ignores the other side of the law, which will be accepted and administered by judges, lawyers and members of the Canadian Bar Association. I quoted the Canadian Bar Association earlier. Its voice deserves to receive more attention than it has so far.
Other people, other lawyers, others in the justice system have spoken out as well. I would like to mention what Daniel MacRury, crown attorney for Nova Scotia, had to say. Among other things, he said that sometimes judges have no alternative but to incarcerate people who are mentally ill and could be placed in the health care system instead. This is one of the major consequences that is completely ignored by the government in its bill.
Other organizations have already spoken out against this bill. The Canadian Paediatric Society represents more than 3,000 pediatricians—child specialists—throughout the country. They are very concerned about the impact that this bill will have on children. Not only is the society very concerned, but it is proposing that a national youth crime prevention strategy be adopted instead. Such a strategy does not exist at present. We do not have a strategy to prevent youth crime. The Conservatives do not want it and prefer to play hardball in order to please one particular voter base, among others, that they have attracted.
I can also say that the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates opposes this bill. We are debating a bill that is supposed to help victims and take the best interests of children and youth into account. But it obviously does not do so.
Even the media is starting to get on board with the opposition bill. It actually sees what the bill is about.
I will quote the Nanaimo Daily News today, which has some interesting comments and insights into what is going on right now. It states, “Determined to pander to his political supporters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled an omnibus crime bill Tuesday that is both unnecessary—
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 22nd, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. Every single province supports this legislation. These legislative provisions, including the Truth in Sentencing Act passed last year, were asked for and passed by provincial governments of every political stripe. Therefore, I suggest to those individuals who now stand up and pretend to be speaking on behalf of the provinces to ask their premiers what they said to us in terms of bringing this forward.
In respect of two or three for one credits, lawyers were telling their clients to stay in remand to receive those credits so that once sentenced they would basically be free and out on the streets. The provincial authorities realized this was clogging up their system. For example, 70% of all prisoners in Manitoba were in remand.
This legislation gives no incentive for offenders to remain in provincial institutions. Rather, they would go to trial quickly or plead guilty and receive sentencing so that appropriate programming could be delivered to these sentences.
I would advise the hon. member to ask his premier why that province supports this legislation.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 22nd, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will probably recall in the last Parliament the government telling us that the actual cost of Bill C-25 was going to be $90 million and later it was updated to $2 billion, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer told us that the actual cost would be $9.5 billion over five years.
Could the hon. member tell me why the government will not come clean on the actual costs of justice bills?
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
March 21st, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I must tell you that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill at second reading. The reason is quite simple: we very much want the bill to be referred to committee so it can be studied. In fact, as is their custom, the Conservatives introduce bills with titles that are sometimes misleading. In addition, we are familiar with their Republican-style approach, characterized by penalties, punishment and being tough on crime. Often, a simple bill goes beyond the issue it is supposed to resolve. That is what we are dealing with today.
The bill is called An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons). In reading the bill, we realize that it goes too far. As I was saying, it errs on the side of punishment, ideology and rigidity. There is no flexibility in the Conservative ideology, which makes it difficult to try to find new ways of dealing with new behaviours in society. The Conservatives always have the same reflex: the response has to be far-reaching, people must go to jail, and rehabilitation is not possible.
So, you will understand that with this bill, like many other bills related to justice and safety, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. When we take a closer look at these details, we see that the title of the bill before us does not necessarily reflect its content.
I would like to give examples of the Conservatives' lack of flexibility in their approach to crime, which focuses solely on punitive measures. There are many examples, one of which is Bill C-25 to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This bill was considered heresy in Quebec because we believe that it is more important to focus on prevention, particularly when it comes to adolescents. We should not imprison them and thereby send them to crime school because, when they get out of prison, they will have indeed become true criminals. In Quebec, we want to do the opposite; we want to rehabilitate these offenders and give them a second chance. If you look at the statistics, you will see that Quebec has had the most success in this area. This not only benefits society, but it also saves money because it means that we do not have to spend money on prisons, as the Conservative government is preparing to do by making major investments in correctional facilities.
These are examples of the lack of flexibility we have a hard time accepting because we do not have the same type of society. And you know that the Bloc members try to reflect the reality and the vision of Quebeckers as much as possible. But these visions that come from the rest of Canada, especially from the Conservative Party, in no way reflect Quebeckers' wishes in terms of justice.
It is the same story with the bill to amend the regulations for certain drugs. Pursuant to this bill, a teenager who is caught smoking a joint will be thrown in prison and will be tried in court, instead of being rehabilitated so he can become someone who contributes to society instead of spending his life behind bars, becoming someone who will, upon release, commit other crimes and make his situation worse, at which point he will be beyond help.
The Conservative government is not on the right track with its approach. It has missed the train entirely, and that is why the committee must examine this bill together.
Another example is the appointment of judges. The Minister of Justice now has the majority on the committee that selects judges. That is an odd way of controlling justice. But the judiciary is one of the basic pillars of a democracy, along with the executive and the legislative branches. As soon as a government goes to extremes to control the judiciary, as the Conservatives are doing, it is not surprising that these pillars would weaken and that our society would become dysfunctional. Therefore, it is important for us to delve into this bill and to examine it in detail.
We are looking out for the concerns of Quebeckers. We want a balanced approach, without too much repression, based on today's realities, because we are no longer working with 19th or 20th century laws. This is the 21st century. We need a new approach, which Quebeckers have managed to implement in their justice system. We cannot see ourselves in what the Conservative government is putting forward.
We must avoid the huge trap the Americans have fallen into. Proportionally speaking, seven times more prison sentences are handed down in the United States than in Quebec. We think we are on the right track. Imitating the Americans will not resolve matters here; on the contrary. The government wants to build more prisons. This will probably mean more guards in secure environments. This all costs money, and we are anxious to see those details. In fact, the opposition has requested documents in that regard and I would remind the government that it is running out of time to produce those documents, if it wants to avoid being found in contempt of Parliament.
The Bloc Québécois looked at some interesting points. Our parole system makes no sense. It makes no sense that Norbourg's Vincent Lacroix is out of prison in an open environment, when he ruined the lives of about 9,000 people and stole over $100 million. He should have served a full sentence for his crimes, instead of being released on parole. The proof that we are in touch with reality is that Quebeckers do not agree that Vincent Lacroix should be almost completely free at this time.
People also want us to do more to fight organized crime, which would be easy to do. We simply need to confiscate more assets. Anyone who accumulates goods or money fraudulently would have it confiscated and those assets and money would be placed in a fund used to pay for the fight against crime. These are excellent ideas. Unfortunately, the government refuses to listen to them.
We also need to eliminate the provision regarding the double credit that is given for time served before sentencing. At present, offenders can simply ask their lawyers to delay their cases, since every day they serve before sentencing will count as double. That is a problem. Unfortunately, once again, the government refuses to listen.
Let us now talk about citizen's arrest. There is a change here, and the devil is in the details. It must happen within a reasonable time, but what is a reasonable time? There must be reasonable grounds. It must not be feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest. The person wanting to make the arrest must feel that no other options are available because the police are not there. This is a very arbitrary provision and should be more precise in order for progress to be made.
We must also ensure that things do not get out of hand. We do not want to encourage vigilantes like the ones Charles Bronson played in the 1970s. If someone tries to make off with a pack of gum, the convenience store owner must not take out a gun and shoot him. Who will determine the amount of force needed? I may be told that these are mere details, but it is important to consider them.
It is the same for self-defence. Necessity is no longer a requirement for using force when it comes to self-defence. It used to have to be proven that force was necessary. At present, someone could threaten my friends or family and I, in self-defence, could seriously harm them. These things need to be examined. And that is why the Bloc Québécois wants this bill to be passed at second reading. The incident in Toronto cannot be ignored. Citizen's arrests can take place as long as certain rules are followed, and these rules need to be established and studied in committee.
We will support Bill C-60 at second reading so that it can be studied in more detail in committee and so that we can chase the devil out of the details.
March 17th, 2011 / 10 a.m.
March 17th, 2011 / 10 a.m.
Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS
Mr. Chair, yesterday Minister Toews continued to mislead this committee when he denied ever saying that Bill C-25 would only cost $90 million. In fact, Minister Toews said on April 27, 2010, in a Canadian Press article, which appeared in the Globe and Mail, and I quote:
We're not exactly sure how much it will cost. There are some low estimates, and some that would see more spent--not more than $90 million.
After that, Mr. Chair, the Parliamentary Budget Officer in fact reported that the real cost of Bill C-25 would be from $10 billion to $13 billion, based on the information he had been provided. Minister Toews revised his numbers to $2.1 billion.
In fact, if you look at it, Mr. Chair, Minister Toews initially said $90 million. The figure from his department ultimately was $2.1 billion, a twenty-fold increase. So based on his numbers yesterday of estimates of $640 million, we can expect costs of perhaps $14 billion, based on the ratio of truth to fiction in his typical numbers.
March 17th, 2011 / 10 a.m.
Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS
Ministers, yesterday you continued misleading and showing contempt for this committee. Minister Toews, yesterday you denied ever saying that Bill C-25 would cost $90 million. In fact, I have a Tuesday, April 27, Canadian Press article that appeared in the Globe and Mail, where you say specifically--