Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act

An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

In committee (House), as of Oct. 20, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to

(a) clarify that the protection of society is the paramount consideration for the Correctional Service of Canada in the corrections process and for the National Parole Board and the provincial parole boards in the determination of all cases;

(b) provide that a correctional plan is to include the level of intervention by the Service in respect of the offender’s needs and the objectives for the offender’s behaviour, their participation in programs and the meeting of their court-ordered obligations;

(c) expand the range of disciplinary offences to include intimidation, false claims and throwing a bodily substance;

(d) establish the right of a victim to make a statement at parole hearings;

(e) permit the disclosure to a victim of the name and location of the institution to which the offender is transferred, the reason for a transfer, information about the offender’s participation in programs and convictions for serious disciplinary offences and the reason for a temporary absence or a hearing waiver;

(f) eliminate accelerated parole review;

(g) provide for the automatic suspension of the parole or statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence and require the National Parole Board to review their case within a prescribed period; and

(h) authorize a peace officer to arrest without warrant an offender for a breach of a condition of their conditional release.

This enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

  • Oct. 20, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue today on the debate on what is now Bill C-39.

The bill is designed to improve public safety and notably by stating explicitly that the active participation of offenders in attaining the objectives of the correction plan is an essential requirement for their condition of release or any other privilege. It is also designed to deal with expanding the categories of offenders who are ineligible for an accelerated parole review and the categories of offenders subject to continue detention after their statutory release date when they have served two-thirds of their sentence. For example, offenders convicted of child pornography, luring a child or breaking and entering to steal a firearm are examples.

In addition, the bill would extend the length of time that offenders convicted of a subsequent offence must serve before being eligible for parole. Also, it would increase from six months to a year the waiting period for a hearing after the National Parole Board has turned down a parole application.

The bill would also authorize a peace officer to arrest, without a warrant, an offender who is on conditional release for a breach of conditions. It would grant the Correctional Service of Canada permission to oblige an offender to wear a monitoring device as a condition of release when a release is subject to special conditions regarding restrictions on access to a victim of geographical areas. It would increase the number of reasons for the search of vehicles at a penitentiary to prevent the entry of contraband or the commission of an offence.

The bill also focuses specifically on the interests of victims by expanding the definition of “victim” to anyone who has custody of or is responsible for a dependant of the main victim if the main victim is dead, ill or otherwise incapacitated. It would disclose to a victim of the program in which an offender has participated for the purposes of reintegration into society, the location of an institution to which an offender is transferred and the reason for the transfer. It also would entrench in the act the right of victims to make a statement at parole hearings, which is a new element.

The whole development of victims' rights over the years did not start with the Conservative government. It was not an idea that somehow the Conservative government developed in its policy rooms. The fact is that this is a long-term process. In fact, I recall in Manitoba, as far back as, I believe, 1970, when Premier Ed Schreyer, the first NDP premier in Canada, was elected on June 25, 1969. Within his first four-year mandate, he brought in substantial changes to the province of Manitoba and to the country of Canada. One of the initiatives that he brought in was a criminal injuries compensation fund, which may have been the first of its kind in Canada at the time.

Nevertheless, the criminal injuries compensation fund has been around in Manitoba now since 1970. Therefore, the Conservatives have absolutely no monopoly on victims' rights and victims' services in this country. As a matter of fact, the Conservative government, the champion of victims' rights, hired Steve Sullivan as the victims' ombudsman. When he started doing the job of advocating on the part of victims, the government, which appointed him, got rid of him by not renewing his term. That has some reflection on the government's real commitment to victims' rights.

However, over the years, beginning with the criminal injuries compensation fund and initiatives such as that, we have seen a gradual progression toward more rights for the victims. There was a time not so long ago, maybe 20 years ago, when it was almost impossible for a person to find out the resolution and the developments of their break-and-enters, for example. Many people have come to me over the years and told me how their house had been broken into and that they were told by the police to go home and forget about it and that they would deal with it. However, no information came their way as to what stage the case was at and the disposition of it.

That was changed not only under NDP governments but I am sure under Liberal governments in other provinces and, of course, Conservative governments in Manitoba. The Filmon government made some moves, as well as the Gary Doer government. Now there is an array of victim services available. After a break-in of a property, the victim gets a call from the police and a kit is dropped off indicating phone numbers that people can call for counselling, if required.

At more and more stages, people are being kept updated and informed of the processes, and we in the NDP support that. The member for Burnaby—Douglas and others in the NDP are on record as being very strongly supportive of victims' rights and services. So it is somewhat surprising; well, maybe it is not so surprising but it is unfair for the Conservatives to keep riding this horse. The Liberal critic yesterday spoke on this bill and I listened carefully to his speech, which was very good. He kept referring to the Conservatives' calling him a hug-a-thug.

The fact of the matter is that it is peculiar to the current Conservative government. I do not recall the Conservative government of Joe Clark, which of course was not around that long, or of Brian Mulroney taking this kind of approach. This seems to be something that is peculiar to the group that is in power right now, and I really do not think it has had a lot of results to show for its efforts in this area.

The government may think that somehow it is making progress by coming up with boutique-type bills that are not 100% necessary. For example, a lot of the measures that it is introducing in these bills are already covered under the Criminal Code. What it should be doing, as has been mentioned by many people in the House, is taking the time to revamp the entire Criminal Code, something that is long overdue. It is a very old piece of legislation that is hundreds of pages long. If the government were showing vision in this area, it would make an announcement that it is going to revamp the entire Criminal Code and invite the parties onside.

I remind government members that it was one of their own colleagues, Gary Filmon who they appointed to a federal board, who developed the approach, in a minority parliament, that he would involve all opposition parties on controversial issues. It was not only Meech Lake. That was a very good example of how a very smart leader operating in a minority situation confronted a very important decision in this country.

He did not make an arbitrary decision like the Prime Minister does and drive ahead at all costs. He involved the party leaders. He got Senator Carstairs, who was a leader of the Liberal Party, involved in the committee. He got Gary Doer, who was opposition leader at the time, involved in the committee. That is how they dealt with the issue of Meech Lake.

Even when it came to something as simple as a smoking ban that was controversial in those days, Premier Filmon reached out to opposition leaders and got them on board. He found that system actually worked. The government actually did that on Afghanistan just last year and it worked reasonably well. Why it continues to refuse to learn from history and previous good practices that would help the government, Parliament and the country is really beyond me.

We can allow the Conservatives to continue their beating of the drums, their calling the member for Ajax—Pickering a hug-a-thug and their cheap shots, but the reality is that the public is not buying it. I think the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor agrees with me.

The Conservatives have been doing this now for almost five years, but where are the results to show? They have gone through a couple of elections. They showcase them, but they are all the same bills. They brought them in two, three and four years ago. Then they prorogued the House, then brought them all back; then they had an election, then prorogued the House again and then brought them all back.

Where are those great polling numbers that this policy is supposed to produce? It is just not there. The Conservatives are no more popular today than they were then. They should be looking at how they are running the government right now.

Let us look at the long form census, the debacle of this summer. The Conservatives cannot seem to get their agenda on track.

I had wanted to talk about the “Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, which is one of the reasons why the government is bringing in the legislation, but I know our public safety critic will be speaking on this bill later, and there are other members in the House who will deal adequately with that particular issue.

I understand the bill will be going to committee, because the Bloc has indicated its support for the bill. Hopefully at committee we will be able to make the adjustments and amendments needed to make this a better piece of legislation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, after listening to the gentleman across the way from the NDP espousing the virtues of his party and how it stands up for criminals, I am wondering if this is a change of focus for the NDP.

Could the member tell me if this means that, instead of sitting down every time one of our bills to protect victims comes forward, the NDP is now going to start standing up to protect Canadians? Is that what he is saying?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I think if the member checks Hansard, he is going to find that he misspoke.

He really meant to say “stands up for victims”. I am sure he would apologize for that error. He accidentally said “stands up for criminals”, which of course is probably what he actually meant to say at the end of the day, but of course he did not intend to do so this morning.

I know the member is a very good member of Parliament. He is hard working and he follows the party line over there. He is probably the first one up in the morning, getting the orders from the Prime Minister's office, reading them and being right up to snuff on all the latest nuances.

I would guess that the member would be the number one MP over there doing that. I know he has read up on the latest news. I get my MP hits in the morning, and he gets his at eight o'clock at night, before some of the papers have even hit their deadlines. He is well-informed. I am sure he is just following the Prime Minister's orders.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, one of the issues I noticed was that the Conservative member stood up.

There are so many debates and so many issues that are brought to this House, and so many times that we get up to speak, as my hon. colleague does, and it goes Liberal, Bloc, NDP and back to Liberal.

I can only wish for more engagement of debate in this House. I think it is paramount to what we are here for, and it is not acknowledged by some members of the Conservative Party, or all the members of the party, which is really a sad statement.

We are in a minority Parliament situation. They certainly have to put themselves through the process of debating within the House and being questioned by the members.

Perhaps the hon. member could comment on that. He has been up in the House more than I have. He has probably seen in these debates, each and every one of them, what I call the sloganeering nature of many of these bills, as he pointed out, which was stop-and-go politics, or not so much politics but stop-and-go legislating.

What the Conservatives are doing is getting it to a certain point, drawing it back by prorogation or whatever it may be, then bringing it back into the House once again. I think the member has a point about the idea of looking at the Criminal Code in whole. Unfortunately that may not allow the Conservatives to put up the nice slogan that they desire.

I would like the member to comment on that and also on the lack of debate, by both sides, on any issue that comes to this House.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is correct. We have seen the government put up one speaker on a bill and then simply let the debate take its course on this side of the House. It is not there to answer any questions on its bills.

However, there is an exception to that. We had, this spring, the Minister of Immigration actually give the House the respect it deserves. He was here for the entire debate. In fact, he asked the first question for every speaker on the immigration bill. I thought that was a class act on the part of the minister. Did another minister follow his lead?

Provincially, it is normal. If the finance minister has a bill before the House, the minister is there. In the Manitoba legislature, if any minister of any department has a bill before the House, the minister is there for the entire debate. He or she does not just simply do the introduction, walk away and not stay to ask questions.

The immigration minister sat here every hour. He listened to every speaker and he asked the first question, and that is what the government minister should be doing.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking my colleague for his speech. I would like him to tell me what he thinks about the fact that in this bill, this government has reintroduced the abolition of release after an offender has served one-sixth of his sentence.

This is something that the Bloc Québécois has been talking about since 2007. It introduced two bills and called on the House to pass them quickly. There was only one clause in the bills, and it would have abolished release after one-sixth of the sentence had been served. But this government refused to vote for this measure. If it had, then there would not even be a clause in Bill C-39 to abolish release after one-sixth of the sentence, and the Earl Joneses and Vincent Lacroix of this world would still be in jail.

Currently, these people are entitled to be released after serving one-sixth of their sentence. What does my colleague think about abolishing release after one-sixth of the sentence has been served? And what does he think about the fact that this government makes a big show of talking about public safety instead of thinking about the safety of the people?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I recognize that the Bloc has been a strong and long-time supporter of this measure. I recognize that is something it feels strongly about, and I think there would be a lot of support in the House for that particular measure.

I recognize the concerns regarding Earl Jones and other white collar criminals, where cases have been dealt with and will not be affected by changes to the legislation. That is sad because we, in this country, have a terrible record.

I mentioned last week that in the United States, its system has managed to put away 1,200 white collar criminals, including a couple of Canadians. The entire Canadian system has only effected 2 convictions and they are both against the same guy. We have put away 1 person who was guilty of white collar crimes in Canada, while the Americans have put away 1,200, and they think their system is not good enough. As a matter of fact, President Obama is re-regulating the entire financial services industry as a result of what happened two years ago.

We have a long way to go in this country to start operating on the basis of being smart on crime. On this side of the House, the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals are all in favour of changes to our system and putting white collar criminals away for longer periods of time, but what we want to do is look at the entire criminal justice system and be smart on crime. We want to do things that work, not necessarily just blindly follow the American system, the three strikes and you are out system, with private prisons and warehousing people, which does not work. We disagree with that, but there are other areas of common ground here.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, getting smart on crime means that there need to be a lot more programs in prisons so that, when the offenders come out, they will reintegrate well.

One of the programs that is desperately needed, in terms of its expansion, is a public health program to deal with drug treatment, whether it is behaviour modification or getting the drugs for treatment, and then upon their release, a community-based reintegration program. This is often not available in prison. With this approach, we end up having people in prison longer, and yet when they come out, they reoffend. It is wasting money and it is not going in the right direction.

Could my colleague comment on the drug treatment programs that are needed and the smart on crime approach he is talking about?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the proof is in the pudding here with the government announcing it is going to spend $9 billion on new prisons. In fact, a fraction of that amount could do what the hon. member has said.

A very high percentage of people who are in prison, particularly women, are dealing with addiction and mental health problems. Those people do not really belong in a prison; they should be in a mental health facility. They should have access to treatment programs whether they are in a mental health facility or in a prison. The government is not paying attention.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which comes at a very bad time. We will try to deal with this methodically. I want to respond to my colleague who just spoke. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is currently studying six bills, including Bill C-4 on young offenders. The review of this particular bill is not complete because the government has not yet tabled the necessary documents, as it should have done in June 2010. The bill we are discussing today could also die on the order paper because it may be some time before it is studied in committee.

I do not know whether my colleague, the member for Ahuntsic, is studying as many bills that affect the public in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. If she is, then we have a serious problem. This government is playing politics and taking a piecemeal approach to justice issues, doing a little bit here and a little bit there. It has introduced a bill that I would say is extremely worthwhile and has been a long time coming. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill, and we would like to send it to committee as soon as possible.

Let us look at the dates of this bill. On June 16, 2009, we were examining Bill C-43. Summer arrived, the House adjourned, and then MPs returned. In October 2009, we were examining Bill C-53. Then, the government—not the opposition parties—decided to prorogue. This bill died on the order paper on December 30, 2009. Now, the government has re-introduced the bill as Bill C-39, which is the same as the previous bills C-43 and C-53. I hope this one will not die on the order paper, because it is very important.

The government is accusing the opposition of not looking out for victims, of not caring about them or being interested in them. According to the government, the only thing that the opposition cares about is criminals, and getting them out of jail as soon as possible. I never hear so many blatant lies from the other side of the House as I do when they talk about victims. We absolutely care about victims. The best example is that the Bloc Québécois has been calling for the abolition of the one-sixth of the sentence rule for two years now.

I will give a little legal lesson, more specifically on criminal law, for my colleagues opposite. It is a problem with criminal law that comes up when an individual is sentenced. The best example is the case of Colonel Williams. We can talk about him now, because he will probably be sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. We can get back to that, because the government just introduced another bill. Let us take the example of someone sentenced to jail time. Bill C-39 applies only to someone sentenced to more than two years. That is extremely important. We are talking about sentences of more than two years in prison. The problem is that in provincial prisons, in Quebec in particular, this service already exists. However, even if the individuals are sentenced to two years less a day, they are still eligible for release after serving one-sixth of their sentence.

In terms of criminal law, let us look only at sentences of at least two years, for example, someone in Quebec who is sentenced to three years in prison. This person is sent to the regional reception centre in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, in the Montreal region. Regardless of where that person is from, that is where they are sent.

It takes between three and four months for the case to be dealt with. If the person was sentenced to 36 months in prison, after six months, or one-sixth of the sentence, that person is already eligible for release, and no one will have dealt with the case.

There is a gap there. We have long been saying that parole must be earned and that release after serving one-sixth of a sentence should not exist. I have 30 years of experience as a criminal lawyer. Some of my clients were released after serving one-sixth of their sentence. After having been sentenced to three years, they were released after six months and no program had been established for them, which made it far more likely that they would reoffend.

My colleague, the member for Ahuntsic, who is a criminologist and has worked with these types of people, probably knows what I am talking about. This is exactly what is happening in prisons. They cannot even begin to work with an individual who has one foot out the door if he was sentenced to two or three years in prison. He has practically left before he has arrived. Why? Take the example of one of my clients. We decided that it was better for him to be sentenced to 24 months in prison instead of two years less a day because it would take longer to serve a sentence of two years less a day in a Quebec prison than a 24-month sentence. One-sixth of 24 months is four months, and so he was released after four months. There was not even enough time before he was released for them to deal with his case and have a meeting to discuss a plan for his return to society.

That is the worst possible mistake. As I have been saying in this House for nearly six years now, the problem with the Conservatives is that they do not understand. So, I will try to explain it again. The Conservatives think that minimum prison sentences will solve everything. Nothing could be further from the truth, so far that even the Americans are beginning to realize it. Canada—and especially the Conservatives—seems to be a few years behind. In two or three years, they are going to realize they are on the wrong track.

The public is not shocked when someone receives a four-year sentence, but rather when that individual gets out after one year. The public is shocked by the fact that people are not serving their sentences. That is precisely what the Bloc Québécois has been criticizing for some time.

Whether my Conservative friends like it or not, minimum prison sentences do not preclude offenders from being eligible for parole. Even with a mandatory minimum of three years, the individual is still eligible for parole. That is what the Conservatives do not understand. Once again, we will try to explain to them that it is the parole system that needs to change. The parole system needs to be changed so that people who are sent to prison are not released unless they have a plan for their reintegration into society. That is the problem. In the example I gave of someone who has been sentenced to three years, if he is eligible for parole after six months, he will sit back and do nothing.

That is why we are calling for the elimination of parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served. That is also why we hope to vote quickly to pass this bill. I know my Conservative Party colleagues always overreact because of the worst criminals. In the case of Colonel Williams, who has committed a rash of unspeakable crimes in the Belleville and Trenton area, if he is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, society will take care of him. He will be sent to prison, as he clearly deserves. I will not try to defend him here, since I am not his lawyer.

That is not the problem. The worst criminals deserve the harshest sentences. That has always been true. The problem lies with individuals who are not criminals, but who are going down a path of crime. If we do not stop them, if we do not take measures to stop them, they will become hardened criminals. Generally they are individuals who are serving their first penitentiary sentence. Obviously it depends on the crime, but in most cases, a person's first penitentiary sentence is somewhere between 3 and 10 years. Those are the people this bill absolutely must catch and as soon as possible.

When I say “catch”, I mean we must encourage them to do what it takes to return to society with a plan in order not to reoffend. The problem is that the parole board does not help. It does not have a chance to work with the individuals. If an individual is eligible for parole after one-sixth of his sentence, what will he do? Take, for example, an individual who has a three-year sentence. When he arrives at the regional reception centre—every province has them—it takes three to four months before his case is reviewed. What do you think he does in the meantime? He plays cards, watches television, drinks Pepsi and waits. No one works with him, at least not very much. Someone needs to work with him as soon as he arrives at the penitentiary.

There is something my Conservative friends do not understand. I will explain it to them yet again. An individual who is sentenced will return to society and if he is not properly prepared to return to society, then, unfortunately, he will reoffend. It is a known fact that the risk of recidivism for this type of person—I am talking about those who receive sentences between 3 and 10 years—is quite high. The risk is there. We have to find ways to correct this.

Quite honestly, this is a good bill. This afternoon, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is going to study Bill C-22 on Internet child pornography. We all support this bill. It must be passed. Everyone agrees that this legislation needs to be put in place. It must be passed, but the government will have to submit it to us. The same holds true for Bill C-39. We must deal with it as soon as possible because it is a good bill. The parole board needs to be able to implement it. But no work is being done right now because no one knows whether the bill is going to come. The bill might not pass and could die on the order paper because of an election in the spring of 2011, for example, which is not such a far-fetched idea. It could happen. Suppose there is an election in the spring of 2011. If the government has not submitted this bill to us—we have six bills to study—then it is going to have to set priorities for the committee. We have already agreed to study Bill C-22 while we wait for the translation of the report on Bill C-4 on young offenders, as I said earlier. But it is important to pass Bill C-22 on child pornography.

There is the other bill on vehicle theft—I cannot remember the number—that we discussed before the House adjourned a week ago. Everyone supports this bill.

The government should do the sensible thing and say that since the opposition supports a number of bills, they will be sent as soon as possible to be studied, discussed and passed.

Since this bill will likely be studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I think things should go quickly. But we have to give the penitentiaries the means to prepare release plans. This is the process where an offender is told that he has five years left to serve, for example, and he has to begin, now, to take part in preparing a release plan or serve his last five years.

At least the individual still has the choice in prison. But it is clear that he may leave—and will leave—after five years. There needs to be some follow-up with this person. During the entire prison sentence, the individual offender's treatment needs to be personalized, just as the courts hand down personalized sentences.

The individual must be made aware that their release from prison is as much their responsibility as the crime they committed. The person was found guilty or pleaded guilty to the offence and was given a sentence. However, after they are sentenced, many individuals tend to sit in prison and just wait for the end of the sentence. This bill should put an end to that. We must change the attitudes of people as they enter the prison by asking them about their plans for release and what they want to do. Do they want to finish school? Do they want addiction treatment? Do they want some sort of training? What do they want? That would set the wheels in motion so that they can leave prison better equipped than when they arrived.

Obviously, that is not what is happening right now. The National Parole Board, the prisons and the Correctional Service of Canada are not able to provide these services. That would require many things. The government supports this bill, but it needs to invest the necessary funds. Why invest? Because criminals will eventually be released. Victims need protection. They are always talking about victims.

There is something that we do not understand about the Conservatives. The National Parole Board takes care of victims, especially in terms of the prison system. This organization's main priority is the rehabilitation of an individual who is rejoining society, but the victims must also be protected and every possible step must be taken to keep that individual from reoffending.

I am being told that I have only two minutes left, but I could go on about this for a long time. I would like the Conservatives to remember this: automatic sentences have never solved anything. A minimum prison sentence has never solved anything, and that will not change today. All the studies presented to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that minimum prison sentences have never led to a decrease in crime.

We must ensure that these individuals serve their sentences, keeping in mind that they will one day return to society. It is clear that we will probably never see people like Colonel Williams, who will receive a minimum sentence of 25 years for a double murder, outside the prison walls. But we will see people who were sentenced to five to ten years in prison, and some are already close to being released.

Did people like Mr. Jones or Mr. Lacroix, who owned Norbourg, learn their lesson? With all due respect, I think that the only thing they learned was not to get caught.

Unfortunately, with the current system, prisoners learn more about not getting caught than they do about preparing for their release.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague on his excellent speech. I am sure he would agree that this government's actions in terms of public safety and protecting victims have been nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

I listened carefully to the member's speech. I have not read Bill C-22 that he mentioned, so I wonder if this is the much talked-about bill that police forces have been waiting for for nearly 12 years now, that will give them the tools they need to go after pedophiles and the producers and consumers of child pornography. Furthermore, we know that between 1980 and 1990, there were about a thousand child pornography images and videos on the Internet. Now there are millions of such images and videos on the Internet. This means that thousands of children have been abused in making these photos and videos, and it means that thousands of pedophiles are profiting from these photos and videos.

Police forces want to have the ability to obtain the IP addresses of these cyber-pedophiles and producers of online child pornography. Will this bill give them that capacity? The former victims ombudsman, Steve Sullivan, said that if he were prime minister, that would be his top priority. I do not believe this bill will do anything in that regard and I wonder what my colleague's thoughts are on this.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and immediately reassure her. Indeed, police forces have been waiting for Bill C-22 for almost 10 years. I recently went over this bill again because we will be studying it this afternoon when the hon. Minister of Justice appears before the committee. We have asked the minister to hurry up and not waste time.

The problem with Bill C-22, which deals with fighting pornography, is whether the government will grant any funding. I should warn my colleagues across the way that if I get a chance to ask the Minister of Justice a question this afternoon, it will be this: Will the government provide funding? It takes specialized squads to deal with this crime and that is precisely the current problem. We will need to create squads, like the ones for fighting organized crime. We have to do exactly the same thing to deal with pornography, a crime that is much worse and even more insidious. Nevertheless, now we have the services and the systems.

Yesterday, we were looking at what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is implementing in terms of a system that will allow us to move forward. However, the RCMP needs money. Bill C-22 is indeed a bill that the government claimed it was introducing to protect victims, but the bill has not been implemented yet. Neither has Bill C-30. The Conservatives campaigned in two elections on a promise to implement this bill. The time has come for that party to put its money where its mouth is.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue gave a very interesting speech. He talked about the Conservative strategy of making a show of being tough on crime. Their show is costing Canadians dearly. The government is planning to spend billions of dollars on prisons for offenders who have committed unreported crimes, according to the Treasury Board President. It makes absolutely no sense. Even worse, the Conservatives are cutting all the programs that help reduce crime in our society.

The Conservatives are spending billions of dollars. They seem incapable of managing this money and putting it towards the right priorities, such as programs to reduce crime and to keep criminals from reoffending. And while they are cutting these programs, they are investing billions of dollars to build prisons across the country.

Does the member think that the Conservatives' approach, which is to make a show of being tough on crime, could lead to an increase in crime? The programs to reduce the crime rate in our society are no longer there.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. That is exactly it.

The Conservatives' problem is that they think that once an individual goes to jail to serve a minimum prison sentence, the problem is solved. Believing that is the biggest mistake the Conservatives have ever made, because that is when the problem starts.

Once people are arrested and imprisoned, we must ensure—and that is the problem—that they will not reoffend when released into society. We must put programs in place. It is all well and good to build prisons, and it will probably help some Conservative members get a prison in their riding. But there will be some big surprises, because having a prison in one's riding is not as fun as it seems. I know because there are prisons in my riding, and it is the same thing. It is not fun, because you need programs so that the people sent to jail do not reoffend when they are released. That is the challenge of sending people to prison, and that is what the Conservatives do not understand. They think that once people are sent to prison, the problem is solved. That is not true.

I agree that we must look after the victims, but the Conservatives are in no position to tell us about how much they have invested in the Fonds d'aide aux victimes d'actes criminels, that is for sure. In fact, it is quite the opposite—they have not invested at all. They think that by putting people away and isolating them from society, the problem is solved. But no. One day, those people will return to society, and we will have to see whether we are ready and whether we have done everything we can to prevent them from reoffending. If they unfortunately do reoffend, it is because we currently do not have any programs to make people understand that parole is something to be earned. That is exactly what this bill should do, but we will have to amend it to make that possible.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act
Government Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

The legislation before us today follows through on a number of changes identified by the Correctional Service Canada's 2007 independent review panel report entitled, ”A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, to strengthen our correctional system.

The government has made strides to respond to the 109 recommendations in the panel's report. Most of these recommendations fall into five broad categories: first, increasing offender accountability; second, eliminating drugs from federal prisons; third, modernizing physical infrastructure; fourth, elimination of statutory release; and, finally, moving toward earned parole. Many of the recommendations also relate specifically to the concerns of victims.

Our government responded to the recommendation to eliminate drugs from prisons by announcing a new anti-drug strategy. This strategy allows the Correctional Service Canada to significantly expand the drug detector dog program at all federal prisons and institutions. It also increases security intelligence capacity in institutions and their surrounding communities and purchases security equipment for maximum and medium security federal prisons, while also enhancing perimeter security around those institutions.

The government is also taking action to tackle gangs in our prisons, a presence that significantly contributes to the use of drugs.

Bill C-39 builds on and expands our reference to respond to these recommendations by affirming our commitment to the rights of victims, increasing accountability of offenders and ensuring that first-time or non-violent offenders do not get off with a proverbial slap on the wrist. We continue to view the protection of law-abiding Canadians and the rights of victims as the priority of our justice system, and rightfully so in my submission.

I will begin by addressing some of these issues with some detail, beginning with how this legislation recognizes the role played by victims and also how it provides victims with better information.

While it has been the case that victims can attend parole hearings, this practice will now be enshrined into law. This legislation also provides the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service with the ability to better inform victims with information such as the reasons for an offender transfer and, where possible, notification when offenders are moved to minimum security. In addition, some forms of institutional behaviour by the offender, such as serious institutional infractions, may be reported along with the reasons for any temporary absences from correctional facilities.

Victims have told us time and time again that this is the type of information they require and our government is responding by providing it to them.

We are expanding the ability to notify victims from those who are the direct victims of the offences to also include guardians or care givers of dependent victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated with the same information that the victims themselves would otherwise receive.

Under the current legislation, when an offender withdraws his or her participation 14 days or less before a parole hearing, the National Parole Board can formerly and currently not proceed with the review and make a decision. However, Bill C-39 would put an end to needless travel by victims to attend these hearings that are often cancelled at the last minute. Once again, we are responding to the requirements of the victims of the criminal justice system.

Offenders will often waive their parole hearing, but under the proposed legislation, victims will be able to request information on the reasons an offender gives for waiving a parole hearing.

To ensure that victims have an opportunity to provide input into policies and procedures associated with victim services, a national advisory committee on victims has been created. This complements additional proposed reforms and improves the information available to all victims. Taken together, these changes will bring the interests of the victims to the forefront.

Effective rehabilitation and eventual reintegration should be a shared responsibility between correctional workers and the offender. As such, offenders must be held accountable for their criminal behaviour and also for their rehabilitation. In keeping with this recommendation from the independent review panel report, the following legislative changes will specifically require offenders to: first, behave respectfully toward other persons and property; second, obey conditions of release and all prison rules; and third, ensure that offenders are more actively involved in setting out and achieving the goals achieved in their respective correctional plans.

The legislative changes contained in Bill C-39 would formalize expectations for offender behaviour, program participation and fulfillment of any court ordered financial obligations such as restitution to victims as part of their correctional plan.

These legislative changes respond to the needs of staff in correctional facilities, all of whom have a right to expect a safe and secure work environment. Employees of Correctional Service Canada are hard-working and fine public servants and they deserve and ought to expect a safe work environment. They also respond to the needs of all Canadians who have a fundamental right to expect that the corrections systems will work the way that it ought to work and that their safety and security is paramount.

The legislation would allow police officers to arrest, without warrant, an offender who appeared to be in breach of any condition of conditional release. This responds to the police concerns with respect to the current requirement of contacting parole officers prior to making an arrest for an apparent breach. Police officers, too, are fine, hard-working and dedicated public servants and this amendment to the legislation is in direct response to lobbying efforts on behalf of police officers and their respective bodies.

Under the current system, accelerated parole review allows non-violent, first-time offenders to access day parole at one-sixth of their sentence and automatic full parole at one-third of their sentence. For these offenders, rather than a hearing the process for considering release is simply a paper-based review. However, Bill C-39 would change all this by removing this form of review from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act so that all offenders, whether they are first-time fraudsters or sentenced for violent assault will follow the same review process.

The tests for granting parole will no longer be whether they are likely to commit a violent offence. As with all parole reviews, Parole Board members will consider the risk that the offender may present to the society if released and determine if and to what extent that risk can be managed in the community.

The Parole Board of Canada will continue to hold the protection of society as the overriding consideration in any release decision. Whether convicted of fraud or assault, offenders will be eligible for regular day parole review six months prior to full parole eligibility and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentence.

This change is an important first step toward another of the review panel's recommendations, specifically that of earned parole. I listened with great interest and I am happy to hear that my friends in the Bloc Québécois are advocating toward some system of earned parole.

The legislation would also enhance the capacity of the Parole Board of Canada. The Parole Board of Canada bears a tremendous responsibility for making very important and very difficult decisions regarding conditional release. Accordingly, the CCRA will be amended to do the following. It will increase the number of full-time board members. It will make it possible to directly appoint part-time members to the Appeal Division. It will clarify the provisions in the CCRA that conditional release decisions are consistent with the protection of society. Finally, it will enshrine into law the practice of automatically suspending the statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence.

Cumulatively these legislative reforms will set into motion the good work that was contained in the 2007 independent panel report and are a key step in transforming and modernizing the federal corrections and conditional release system. These reforms would further ensure our streets and communities remain safe for everyone and this should be a goal for all members in this honourable House.

The legislation is part of this government's stand on behalf of all Canadians who want the rights of law-abiding people to be respected and to come first. After all, we all want the same things that honest, hard-working Canadians want for themselves and their families, and that is simply a safer country, a country where criminals do not get off with a slap on the wrist but, instead, are held to account and have to face the full weight and consequences of their actions and real difficult changes to their lives before rejoining society.

This is appropriate and that is what our government was elected to do. This is why we are putting forth multiple pieces of legislation to protect Canadians, such as Bill C-39, and we will continue to do so. I ask all hon. members to vote in favour of the bill.