Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act

An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act

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

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

Report stage (House), as of Feb. 7, 2011
(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 International Transfer of Offenders Act to provide that one of the purposes of that Act is to enhance public safety and to modify the list of factors that the Minister shall consider in deciding whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender.

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

  • Sept. 27, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping to ask a question of the previous speaker, who is unavailable, but he gave an excellent speech in which he had particularly targeted an amendment in the bill, subclause 3(1), which replaces existing subsection 10(1), all the way down to paragraph 10(1)(l). This has to do with the circumstances that a minister can take into account.

Paragraph 10(1)(l) would say,

any other factor that the Minister considers relevant.

When one makes a list of factors that may be taken into account, something must be left off. Otherwise it would say, “any factor that the Minister believes is relevant”. The fact that there is a list, which was added, seems to suggest that this list is not comprehensive, and I am not sure why. What it does, and the member mentioned it in his speech, is raise the question of arbitrariness in the law.

I understand that it is in fact part of our Constitution that laws cannot have elements of arbitrariness. It therefore raises the question about whether the Attorney General of Canada has properly opined on the constitutionality of the bill. I do not know, but it is probably worth asking because this is a very serious bill. It is an important bill. It is a bill that addresses the transfer of prisoners from one jurisdiction back to Canada. The whole premise underlying the bill is for the purposes and enhancement of rehabilitation of citizens of Canada who may have run afoul of the laws in another jurisdiction.

The other thing that came to my mind when the member was speaking is the fact that today Bill C-5 was called for the first time for debate at second reading. Also today there is an article in a number of newspapers. The one I picked up is in the Ottawa Citizen and it is titled, “Canadian jailed in U.S. can return, court rules”. This is in fact precisely the type of case that is impacted by Bill C-5.

This relates to a person named Brent James Curtis. He was involved in a routine transfer from a U.S. prison to a Canadian jail, and the Federal Court of Appeal said that the minister erred and that the Conservative administration was to reconsider the decision within 45 days. This was a decision made by the court yesterday on this matter, yet the government proceeded with this bill today. The timing is very unusual and it would suggest that, since the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the government erred on that case, for this bill to come forward is quite astounding.

The question of whether there is a problem on the constitutional side is also important. As well, there is a question about whether there is continued support for the long-standing tradition that countries have had of being able to transfer prisoners. In this particular case, Mr. Curtis wanted to serve out the balance of his sentence in Canada to be close to his family. This is part and parcel of the whole regime of transfer and rehabilitation.

There was another thing that I saw in the article in the Ottawa Citizen today. According to the article, the officials of the then Minister of Public Safety told the minister that the facts were clear. The assumption had been initially made that this person was somehow implicated in other ways. They advised the minister directly that his facts were wrong. The minister ignored his own officials, made his own decision, and quashed the transfer of this person.

It raises again the question of what is the agenda of the Minister of Public Safety. Why is it that officials of his department are ignored? With the decision of a court, the Federal Court of Appeal, that the minister has 45 days to reconsider the position, why is it that there is now a bill before us that will say that, notwithstanding anything else, other things that will be taken into consideration now will be anything the minister thinks is appropriate? Talk about a one-man show.

I am very sure that there are going to be others who want to pursue what happened in this particular case. This decision was actually highlighted in the media a year ago. The Canadian public safety minister at the time wrongly considered this Canadian citizen, who is now 29 years old, a major money man in a drug conspiracy. That was simply not the fact. That was found by the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. When the minister refused the prison transfer for this person, the minister contradicted his own staff findings in terms of whether Mr. Curtis was linked somehow to organized crime. But still the minister denied the prison transfer on the basis that he might commit future offences in organized crime or terrorism, when it was already made clear by his own staff and officials that there was no connection to organized crime or terrorism.

It was denied even though the U.S. government approved the transfer. The U.S. government approved the transfer, but the Canadian minister did not approve it. So one has to wonder what is going on here. There are so many questions that should be asked of the minister and I am sure it will come out when this goes to committee, but I suspect that with regard to the bill and with regard to the arbitrariness, this particular provision is not going to get very much support at committee.

The officials concluded that Mr. Brent Curtis would not commit a crime if he were transferred back to Canada, nor did Curtis have any links to terrorism or organized crime and was only a minor participant in the matter that was before the court. He was found guilty and sentenced to jail. The government position left Mr. Curtis in U.S. custody where he could not even understand the hourly instructions over the prison public announcement system, which was in Spanish for most of its Mexican inmates. When I saw this case and was referred to the story, it certainly did raise the spectre of some problems.

So we are at second reading. Should this matter be passed at second reading and go forward to the committee, I want to flag for the committee that this particular case of Mr. Brent Curtis should be looked at and that this bill should be considered in the context of what happened with regard to that case, because I think it has a direct bearing and a direct consideration with regard to paragraph 10(1)(l) that says what is relevant is any other factor that the minister considers relevant. It is very unusual. The arbitrariness of that on its face, on a prima facie basis, would raise the question of whether the Attorney General in fact had opined correctly on whether this bill itself with that proviso in there, with that amendment in there, is constitutional. So there are constitutional questions here as well that would have to be looked at.

This is not my area of expertise, but I hope that other hon. members will take an opportunity to look at the records, to look at the court decision, to look at the actions or inactions of the minister, to consider the actions or inactions of the Attorney General vis-à-vis constitutionality and try to understand and try to determine from the minister and officials why his officials were overridden, not listened to, and why the minister proceeded with the bill only one day after the Federal Court of Appeal told them that the minister was wrong.

This just raises more questions than answers, and at this point, I hope that hon. members will take into consideration some of the disturbing facts surrounding Bill C-5.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the member on his presentation. He has accurately described what the bill is all about. We know this is another PR exercise on the part of the government as far as its criminal justice agenda is concerned.

Just the other day we heard from Mr. Sullivan, the government's victims rights appointee, who after three years is not being reappointed. His criticism of the government is that it is spending too much effort on punishment and it is not worried about the issues involving victims rights. The very issues the government claims to support, he says the government is not giving the type of support to victims that it should be.

We know the system has been working just fine for 30 years. The idea that somehow we should be giving more discretionary power to the minister for a system that is working okay right now does not make any sense whatsoever. Criminals are going to eventually get out of jail in any event from, say, the United States and come back here without any type of training. How is that going to provide any type of safety for the people of this country?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague is right. The Conservatives have a great deal of difficulty striking a balance between rehabilitation, conviction and repression. This is a delicate balance. Quebec society has always been open to balancing repression and rehabilitation.

The conservative right-wing philosophy has been predominant in the United States. A few months ago, the new Democratic U.S. president had to release 20,000 prisoners because he thought the sentences were too stiff for the crimes and because there was no more money to keep these people in jail, let alone rehabilitate them. Rehabilitation is very important. The younger the criminals, the greater the effort we must make to rehabilitate them. Quebec's success rate in this regard is exceptional.

Once again, the Conservatives, out of partisanship, have decided to judge on a case-by-case basis, day by day, and with an eye to the media, just like the Republicans in the United States.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we can follow up on the member's comments by recognizing that what the Conservatives want to do with their bill is enhance public safety, but in fact it will do just the opposite.

They are going to let the criminals stay in jail in, for example, the United States, where they will get no rehabilitation. At the end of their sentence they are going to be sent back to Canada where they will in fact be a danger to public safety in this country.

The current system works just fine because people will be brought back. They will be going to a jail in Canada; they will not be going free. They are going to be in a jail where they will not be a threat to anyone. They will get proper rehabilitation and training here so that when they do get out, they are not going to be the menace to society they would be if they were left in the United States.

Would the member like to comment further on that?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the balance in the justice system has been passed down to us by our parents. We have adopted a set of societal values. The party opposite wants to give a right-wing Conservative minister more discretion. The minster gave us his reasons, saying he had examples in mind but could not cite them.

So we are going to give a right-wing Conservative minister discretion. We have seen the Conservatives’ secrecy with respect to the transfer of Afghan prisoners. They do not want to hand over the documents. There is a presumption that torture has been outsourced to the Afghan authorities.

The same is true with the justice system. The minister wants more discretion because he wants to leave prisoners in other countries, maybe to subject them to treatment he could not subject them to in Canada. That is the sticking point.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. Why?

The Conservatives have decided to take on the whole law and order issue because they can make political hay out of it. That is all they have left. The rest of it, the way the Conservatives govern the country, is a monumental failure. They think they are going to succeed with law and order.

At the same time, and this message is for my Liberal colleague, because we have to stop, I listen to the Liberals’ speeches and it is clear they want to vote for the bill so it can be amended in committee.

Why not stand up and vote against this bad bill? If we fight it now, it is over. Let us stop being afraid that people will think that voting against something means we are not in favour of law and order.

Let me give an example. The Bloc Québécois was the first party in the House to take on and fight against organized criminals by reversing the burden of proof. We fought that battle for Quebec, against the Hells Angels. We did a good job. When it is a bad Conservative bill, we do not hesitate to take it on. The political results in Quebec will perhaps give the Liberals a bit more of a taste for standing up to the Conservatives, even on their bad law and order bills.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join colleagues in debating Bill C-5, which is an amendment to the statute that governs the transfers of Canadian offenders outside Canada back into Canada and offenders in Canada who are not Canadian would be patriated to their own countries.

I debate this because I see some material difficulties with the in bill the way it is written. I do not want to prejudge the vote of the House, but should it go to committee for study, it is my hope that the remarks in the House will better inform the committee review of the bill.

There are three areas I want to address. The first is about the title of the bill. The second is about the degree to which the House may expand the ambit of discretion in the hands of, not the Governor-in-Council or not a tribunal, but one minister. The third is about charter compliance in relation to what is in the bill.

The first thing is the title. It is an act the amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, but the government, for whatever purpose, has seen fit, in clause 1, to write the following, “This Act may be cited as the Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act”. I do not quite understand why the government would name it that. It could have named the bill, “making Canadians happy act”, or “making Canadians more contented”, or “making Canadians feel a little bit better”, or maybe “making Canadians like the Conservative Party of Canada a little better”.

If the title of the bill is to become an open-ended billboard for political rhetoric and advertising, then I think the House should put a stop to it. I have never seen this nonsense before.

If anybody is to put an end to it, it has to be the members in the House. I am pretty sure the Department of Justice did not decide to put a neon sign, billboard piece of advertising rhetoric in the title to a bill. It is actually bordering on the absurd. I have thought about it. This is a bit like the Orwellian Animal Farm thing that we could read about in fiction some years ago. If the government keeps repeating these little mantras, maybe people will start to believe it.

The first thing I think the House should do is strike the title of the bill, but our procedures do not allow us to do that at second reading. However, I would love to see a motion to do that, to at least strike out the political rhetoric and advertising in the title. I hope the committee, if it goes to committee, will strike this part of the title and state very firmly in a separate report that this type of playing, abusing, distorting, adulterating the clause 1 of a bill by throwing in a little political throwaway line is unacceptable to the House and it distorts our legislative practices here.

This is not the first bill where I have seen this, but it is the first bill where I have had a chance to get up and, in a material way, address it. It is unacceptable. Hopefully, if the bill comes back, we will not see this nonsense. The House should not be drawn into these silly, Orwellian, Animal Farm, political mantra insertions in our statutes.

Of course once we write it, it could be there forever. There it is, in all of our bills, “the making Canadians happy bill”, “the making Canadians content bill”, “the oh what a wonderful world it is bill”, “the do not forget to vote for us in the next-election bill”. This is silly, dumb, distorted, political thinking. It certainly is not part of the legislative arts. I really hope the committee that studies the bill will look at that.

Let us move on to something a little more substantial, and it is the issue of discretion.

A number of members have spoken about it and it is clear, on the face of it, that one of the purposes of the bill is to broaden the discretion of the minister in making decisions on offender transfers. Most of the changes take place with reference to Canadian offenders abroad who have applied to be repatriated to Canada. However, clause 3 of the bill applies to offenders in Canada being removed, on their own application, from Canada. There is an expansion even there because currently the wording is that the minister “must” take certain things into consideration. The wording being proposed here is the minister “may” take into consideration a certain number of considerations. That is just on the circumstance of offenders who are not Canadian, who are in Canada and as part of an application process involving their country have applied to be removed from Canada to serve the balance of their sentence in their country of origin or citizenship.

Let us go back to the issue of discretion in relation to Canadians abroad. As I look at the bill, it is pretty clear that the discretion made available by the House, because we are legislating this, to the minister, from a “must”, as in, “the minister must take a look at this consideration”, is moved to the word “may”, as in, “the minister may”. That means the minister does not have to take into consideration the items that are preceded by the word “may”.

In addition, we have the insertion of the words “in the minister's opinion”, which basically says that what really matters is the minister's opinion, one person's opinion on that consideration.

At the beginning, the bill refers to the goal of enhancing public safety. Nobody could object to that, but it is also a fact that the Sentencing Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code all refer to and incorporate public safety as either the number one or a leading public policy objective in all of this. How could it be otherwise?

Having mentioned the word “may” and the insertion of “the minister's opinion”, we also have at the end, subsection (l), unbelievably having listed 11 separate factors and a number of sub-factors. These are considerations that the minister may take into consideration and, in relation to which, it is the minister's opinion that governs. Having listed all of those carefully, itemized with precision, the government now inserts a clause that says, “Any other factor that the Minister considers relevant”. Why do we not just drop all of the considerations and insert subsection (l) so the minister can simply, on his or her own opinion, “Any other factor that the Minister considers relevant”.

What a total, unmitigated abandonment of rule of law is this? If we pass this, why bother giving the minister a list of considerations and matters to take into consideration if at the end of it all we can simply say “any other factor that the minister considers relevant?” It is not whether it is relevant or not, it is whether the minister considers it to be relevant. Therefore, should there ever be case of someone, God forbid, second-guessing the decision of the minister, and we would never want to do that around here but maybe in other places people might, the minister can simply respond by saying that it is none of our business because the statute says that he or she can take into consideration any other factor that he or she considers relevant, for example, if a person has bad eyesight, or good eyesight, or is too tall the prison beds.

We will not bring back a seven-footer because we will have to build a special bed for him. Is that a relevant consideration? It is only in the mind of the minister that it matters. If the minister thinks that is a factor the minister considers relevant, then it counts. That is what we have been asked to pass and legislate. This is wrong. This is a default. This is an abandonment by the House of the issues that we consider relevant because we have already created the main list.

There are other considerations. Paragraph (g) states, “The offender's health”. What does that mean? The minister may take into consideration the offender's health. Does that mean good health or poor health or some aspect of health? Will the minister look at the person's DNA? A lot of DNA is being recorded and profiled now. It is recorded for all serious offenders in our country and in many other jurisdictions around the world. The DNA of the offender is taken and DNA profiles are fully capable, under proper analysis, of revealing health traits and propensities to certain bad health. Do we want the minister to have the total discretion to take into account that offender's health? In this case, we are talking about a Canadian offender who is outside Canada who has applied to come back and serve the balance of a sentence here in Canada.

There should be some parameters put on this. However, if the House were to go ahead and adopt the whole list, including item (l), any other factor the minister considers relevant, it really does not matter then. The minister can take into consideration the health, whether the offender has or does not have hair, height, weight, where he or she was born, and any other factor the minister thinks is relevant.

I hope in the end that these items will be dropped from the bill. I am pleading with colleagues in the House and the committee to seriously consider dropping some of these provisions or circumscribing them. However, at the very least, if Parliament does turn over to the minister additional discretion, whether it includes these things or not, I hope there can be a provision inserted in the bill that requires the minister to put these considerations in writing and to make them available to the offender whose application is being dealt with. It seems to be fair that these considerations, if relied on by the minister, are put in writing. Let us keep this in mind. There is no built-in review. It looks like the minister's say on this is final.

I mentioned the offender's health. Subparagraph (i) deals with whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence for which he or she was incarcerated. In the normal course, that sounds reasonable, but what about the case of offenders who say that they were never guilty and that it was a false conviction? Do we think there were ever any false convictions out there? In fact, we know there have been too many, which we all feel badly about. The ones we hear about are the convictions dealing with homicides. In those cases, the offenders are normally incarcerated for much longer sentences, for 10 to 20 years or life sentences. In those cases, when the offender, who has been improperly convicted, finally gets a chance to prove it and get exonerated, those are high profile cases because the offender has usually served quite a few years.

I do not have to list of those cases. However, those who have been exonerated should be able to go on with their lives without being mentioned in the parliamentary record.

What about all the other cases of people who have been falsely convicted of lesser offences where the sentences have been two, three, four or five years and they have been incarcerated in a foreign jurisdiction, even though they were plainly the wrong people? This section seems to be saying that in order for the minister to bring the person back, the person needs to have accepted responsibility for the offence for which he or she were convicted, including acknowledging the harm done to the victims and the community. How does that section deal with the matter of a false conviction? It does not and it should.

I will stop my review of the individual sections, but there is one more item I want to mention. Subparagraph (d) states:

whether, in the Minister’s opinion, the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as their place of permanent residence;

That is not a new provision, but the part that makes it “in the Minister's opinion” involves the extension of discretion, which I am concerned about. The reason that it is important in this case is that if there is a Canadian abroad, he or she has, under our charter, the right to return to Canada.

I am concerned here, legally, about this House legislating a ministerial opinion that would or could obstruct a charter right of a Canadian offender abroad to come back to Canada. This has charter implications and constitutional legality implications. I do not know whether that was noted.

I will now deal with the charter issue. In my view, these provisions are much too vague. They impose a degree of arbitrariness. Under our Constitution, we are not supposed to be subject to arbitrary measures. We have legal rights to life, liberty and the security of the person. We have the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, which is applicable here depending on what is meant by imprisoned or detained. If we have the right under our charter not to be arbitrarily imprisoned or detained, which is specifically mentioned in the charter, then we do not have the right to write a statute that takes away the right not to be arbitrarily detained.

The allowance of the minister of these arbitrary discretionary rules removes that charter right. I would love to see the Department of Justice opinion that says that this provision and all these provisions are charter compliant.

The real issue here is whether Parliament will abandon the set of rules that we have had established for many years for offenders in favour of virtually a totally arbitrary decision in the hands of one minister of the government of the day, and not just of an apparent and alleged charter problem but real, material and incipient charter issues on the face of it.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, several speakers in this debate have already questioned why the government is bringing out another one of these bills. I think we all know why. The fact is that it is bringing them out because it gets headlines like this, “Tories want to toughen rules on repatriation”. It is all about those media hits and trying to improve its depressed polling numbers.

However, if the media in this country would actually do its part and be more critical of the government by writing headlines like, “Conservatives wrong on crime” and “Conservatives do what does not work again”, the government would come to its senses and stop doing it. However, it keeps doing this because there is mileage in it.

How the Conservatives can keep doing these things with a straight face is beyond me. We have intelligent lawyers on that side of the House, too, and I do not know how they sleep at night going through this charade year after year, not to mention the fact that the Prime Minister keeps proroguing the House and calling elections a year earlier than he needs to, violating his own fixed election dates, and then we start the process over.

On the nuclear liability bill, it is the fifth time this bill has been introduced in this House and, for the fifth time, we will go through the whole process of debates again just so he can prorogue the House again in a few months.

The bill that we are dealing with here was introduced last year. We went through all the debates on this issue just last year and now it is being introduced again.

Would the member like to comment further on this? I know he had a few more points in his speech that he was unable to fit into the time frame, so maybe he would like to take a couple of minutes and finish his speech in the process.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I did manage to get most of my remarks in but I might have been a little unclear on one thing, which is that for ever statute that comes forward, the Department of Justice, under the Department of Justice Act, is required to provide an opinion to the Privy Council that the proposed legislation is charter compliant. I am curious as heck to see how the Department of Justice handled this particular statute.

I have a sense from time to time that the Department of Justice may have lost its way over the last few years. It, of course, leads in developing legislation. I noted a case before the Supreme Court last week. The law on taxation of the federal government by municipalities has been clear for almost 150 years but somehow the Department of Justice lost that case. I have not read it yet but I am sure there is a good explanation in the case.

However, we need to focus a bit more on rule of law here. Law is the infrastructure and politics is the octane that runs this place but we need to keep our eyes on the components.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments of my esteemed and learned colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River. We share a number of interests. His understanding of regulations and how bills are written is extremely important.

People watching this debate must be wondering when they see the caption “Keeping Canadians Safe”. When they actually examine how shallow this legislation is and see that it would give discretion to the minister to pick and choose which Canadians will be defended abroad, it becomes quite a farce. Those people who are watching this on TV are seeing nothing but a farce as a result of a government that is telling Canadians that sometimes it will defend them and other times it will not.

I want to ask the member a very specific question. The prospect that I have seen in my years with consular affairs helping defend the interests of Canadians abroad, apart from the fact that we know there is no example of recidivism, of someone coming back to Canada and reoffending, the arguments that have been made so far about rehabilitation are extremely valid. If the government is so concerned about keeping Canadians safe, why, in goodness name, would it not allow for rehabilitation if a person does not reoffend, even though an offence took place in another country?

It is on that point that I have encountered many Canadians who have found themselves in situations where, through shoddy policing, a lack of presumption of innocence or a perception of perhaps targeting foreign nationals, Canadians find themselves with no help, except for this kind of treaty, which has been agreed to by most nations.

I am wondering if the hon. member could comment on the fact that this is really a proxy for the government to do indirectly that which it cannot do directly and, in fact, that the government is looking at a position where it does not need to help Canadians? It may be a question of extraordinary rendition in reverse.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, some Canadians do not like the thought of Canadians returning to Canada when they have committed offences abroad, but the fact is that they will be coming back and, in theory, the day after they finish serving their sentence in whatever country.

For those who are not violent offenders but have broken the law, bringing them back a little early to serve their sentences here allows for transitioning. Our corrections system has some of the best transitioning and conditional release provisions in the world, and we do quite well at it statistically. It is not perfect but we do quite well at it.

Those really violent offenders will come back anyway. They are not prohibited from coming back to Canada. As soon as their sentences are up, in theory, they are back here on the next plane. I would rather have them come back to Canada before the expiry of their sentences so that we can get a handle on them, find out a bit more about them and get them into some programming if possible, some transitional, conditional or supervised release. That supervision would then assist in transitioning them out of their sentence and back on the street where, after the expiry of their sentence, they are entitled to be. That makes the whole system safer.

Whether they are non-violent offenders or violent offenders, there are good reasons for doing this and it has worked pretty well for the last 30 years.

My friend may be correct that the goal here is to reduce the need for the government to bring some of these people back for whatever reason. If they are public safety reasons, I wish the government could be real honest about that.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I also have serious concerns about this bill and about the government’s desire to give itself more and more leeway when it comes to the fundamental rights of Canadian citizens outside Canada. In some cases, they have in fact committed repugnant or unacceptable crimes, but in other cases, they may have been wrongfully convicted, because that does happen in some countries. In fact, it even happens in our country, and we know of examples. So this government wants to give itself more leeway, as we saw in the Khadr case. A child soldier who is unjustly imprisoned by the Americans in spite of every international convention, and the government refuses even to follow the decisions of the Supreme Court.

Is my colleague not afraid that if we give the minister even more power, there will be ever more situations like that one, where the rights of Canadian citizens are trampled on abroad?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the main theme in this debate is the increased bundle of discretion that is being offered statutorily to the minister involved. It is a distortion of the regime that has existed up to now, which has worked rather well. There is some concern in the House that the additional discretion is not needed. That is not to say that no amendments to this statute are needed, and we are going to make some amendments if this bill goes forward.

I think the view in the House would be that the discretion involved ought to be constrained better than it is now in these amendments. In many ways the discretion offered goes way too far.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-5. I am following some very excellent speeches on the part of other members in the House from the Liberal Party, the Bloc and certainly my party, the NDP.

Bill C-5, keeping Canadians safe, is to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act. This particular bill was introduced in the House on March 18, 2010, by the Minister of Public Safety. It is almost identical to Bill C-59, which received first reading during the second session of the 40th Parliament but died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued on December 30, 2009.

We get to the point again of the Prime Minister's proroguing Parliament and having to reset the entire agenda, reintroduce all the bills and go through all the debates. Each time he prorogues the House, he sets back the Parliament in this country by a year or two in the process.

Bill C-5 amends the purpose of the International Transfer of Offenders Act as well as the factors for the minister's consideration in deciding whether to consent to an offender's transfer. This bill is all about transferring discretion. Under the old bill, there was a set procedure for bringing people back. It has worked well for 29 or 30 years in this country. As a matter of fact, not one person who has been repatriated has reoffended under the program. The government, for whatever reason, has decided it wants to transfer more power to the minister so the minister can decide who gets to come back.

Canada has been a party to treaties related to the transfer of offenders, as I said, since 1978. These agreements have been characterized as humanitarian in nature. They enable offenders to serve their sentences in their country of citizenship to alleviate undue hardship borne by offenders and their families and to facilitate their eventual reintegration into society, because at the end of their sentences, they will come out.

The argument that we and other parties have been presenting in the House over and over again is that, in the Canadian system, they will be subject to rehabilitation and programs. These programs are often not available in other jurisdictions. Most of the people being brought back under the program are in United States jails, and the United States does not have a very robust system for dealing with the rehabilitation programs and treating the prisoners.

The Transfer of Offenders Act came into force in 1978. It was modernized by the International Transfer of Offenders Act in 2004. The act enables offenders to serve their sentences in the country in which they are citizens or nationals. Generally speaking, the principle of dual criminality applies here, so that the transfer is not available unless the Canadian offender's conduct would have constituted a criminal offence in Canada as well.

A transfer can take place only with the consent of the offender, the foreign entity and Canada. It is the minister, currently defined as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who decides whether to consent to the transfer into Canada of a Canadian offender or the transfer out of Canada of a foreign offender, because it is a two-way street here. In making that decision, the minister is currently required to consider certain factors, such as whether a Canadian offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada and whether that offender has social or family ties in Canada.

Once an offender is transferred, his or her sentence is administered in accordance with the laws of the receiving country. The Correctional Service of Canada notes in its international transfers annual report for 2006-07 that if offenders are not transferred, they may ultimately be deported to Canada at the end of their sentence without correctional supervision, which is very important, and without the benefits of programming.

I have a copy of that report. I want to take a moment to read the conclusion because there are many good elements to that report. It states:

An analysis of the information contained in this report doesn't only demonstrate that the purpose and principles of the International Transfer of Offenders Act have been fulfilled; it supports that the International Transfer of Offenders program is consistent with the Mandate of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and it's Mission Statement in that the program contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control. It ensures that offenders are gradually returned to society and that they have the opportunity to participate in programming that targets the factors that may have led to their offence.

The reference to public safety is there. The government seems to suggest that it has to make these amendments because somehow it would enhance public safety, ignoring the fact that the transferees who come from the foreign jails are not coming out on the street. They are going directly to jail. They are not going to be a danger to public safety in Canada, because they are not going to be walking the streets. They are going to be in jail presumably being subject to programming efforts and proper supervision. When they are let out, they will be supervised through that process as well.

On the other hand, if they come out of the American jail after a period of time with no proper programming, then they are essentially time bombs. They are going to be coming back to Canada and they are not going to be supervised. Then they could be a threat to public safety.

That is exactly what we are trying to prevent. The government is basically on the wrong track. As we see with many of the measures it takes, it is all about the headline. That is all it really cares about, as well as what is happening with the poll numbers. It is not concerned about what works and what does not work.

As I have indicated before, the media in this country should take their jobs seriously on this issue and become more critical of the government and start writing headlines a little different from the ones the Conservatives are getting, headlines that say, “Conservatives wrong on crime”, “Conservatives do what doesn't work again”. If the government started getting headlines like that, then perhaps it would retreat a bit and not be so eager to keep putting Parliament and the public through this whole exercise of what it has been doing.

As I have indicated on several occasions, there are smart lawyers on both sides of the House. There are particularly good lawyers on the Conservative side of the House as well. I do not know how they justify doing things like this.

Just so people who are watching know the total number of transfers, a total of 1,351 Canadian offenders were transferred to Canada between 1978 and 2007. Therefore we are not talking about huge numbers. Of these, 1,069 or 79% of them came from the United States.

The other countries from which most Canadians were repatriated were Mexico at 59 offenders or 4.4% of the transfers; the United Kingdom, at 33 offenders or 2.4% of the transfers; Peru at 31 offenders or 2.3% of the transfers; Trinidad and Tobago at 20 offenders or 1.5% of the transfers; Thailand at 17 offenders or 1.3% of the transfers; Venezuela at 17 offenders or 1.3% of the transfers; Cuba at 16 offenders or 1.2% of the transfers; and Costa Rica at 14 offenders or 1.0% of the transfers.

Fewer than 10 offenders were repatriated from any other country. I think a lot of people would perhaps not be surprised with those figures, but in a way might be because I would think that a number of people would be thinking that people were being transferred from places like Turkey, and of course that does not seem to be the case.

The number of offenders transferred to Canada in the fiscal year has ranged from a low of seven in 1980-81 to a high of 98 in 2003-04. In 2006-07, 53 offenders were transferred to Canada, which was the lowest annual total since 1994-95, when 40 offenders were transferred. In the last 10 years for which statistics are available, 1997-98 to 2006-07, 768 offenders were transferred to Canada for a yearly average of 77.

So, we are not talking about a tremendous number here. These are reasonably small numbers, over a 30-year period. Of those 768 offenders, 313, 40% of them, were transferred to the Ontario region; 207, or 27%, transferred to the Pacific region; 200, or 26%, transferred to the Quebec region; 33 people, or 4.3%, transferred to the Prairies; and 15 people, or 2%, were transferred to the Atlantic region.

In terms of transfers from Canada, a total of 124 offenders were transferred out of Canada between 1978-2007. Of these, 106 offenders, 85% of them, were transferred to the United States. No matter which way we look at it, the transfers back and forth are overwhelmingly between Canada and the United States. Very small numbers exist on either side for countries other than the United States. Eight offenders, or 6.5%, were transferred to the Netherlands; three people were transferred to the United Kingdom; two were transferred to France; and one was transferred to each of the following countries: Estonia, Ireland, Israel, Italy and Poland. And 90 of the 124 transfers took place between 1978 and 1983.

Since then, transfers from Canada have generally taken place at a rate of one or two offenders per year; although there were three transfers in 1990-91, all to the United States, and four in 2006-07, one each to Estonia, France, Israel and Italy.

Now, in terms of the applications and denials, which is the reason behind the government bringing in this legislation in the first place because it had one or two cases where it was not happy with the results, in the last five fiscal years for which statistics are available, the international transfers unit of Corrections Canada received 1,314 applications for transfer. Of those, only 27%, 367, have resulted in a transfer, while 519, or 39%, were denied, and some applications are still being processed.

In one of the press releases that the government sent out, it brags about the fact that its number of approvals has been slashed. It is taking the small numbers of people who are involved in the transfer program, in the first place, and essentially cutting them down drastically. I have the statistics here. That is what the end result of this exercise will be.

When the minister wants and gets more discretion, the end result of that process will be that less people will be involved in the transfer and more people will be staying in the prisons in countries outside Canada, fulfilling their full sentence. Then they will be coming back to Canada without any kind of treatment or any kind of programs that would make them better candidates for integration and, I guess, less of a risk to public safety. When they come back from the United States with no training and no programs, they are not going to be supervised here, and then they are going to be a threat. They are going to be a public safety risk.

We are going to have the opposite effect of what the government actually wants. This is absolutely crazy. We want to have a system that shows results. We want to adopt practises that actually work.

I do not know how many times we have spoken in this House about how the American system, during Ronald Reagan's years, during the “three strikes and you're out” and the minimum sentences, produced a huge construction boom in the United States for prisons, many of which became private prisons so private entrepreneurs could make money. These prisons basically warehouse a huge number of prisoners. Guess what? The crime rate did not go down but instead went up. The U.S. economy is in such bad shape right now that the California governor is just letting people out of prison without having taken any programs, which will basically allow the prisoners to reoffend again.

The Conservative government obviously does not have any common sense. Why would it adopt a system that is 25 years old and has a bad track record? I do not know why the government would not canvass the world, find programs that actually work regardless of the country, send teams of people to study the program, and implement that program here. That is the sensible way to do it, but the Conservative government does not do things like that. The government picks programs that do not work.

In Manitoba we enforced the immobilizer program on insurance companies and provided it free to drivers. This program has cut the auto theft rate by 40% in about a year. We beefed up the crime prevention unit to concentrate on the 50 people who were stealing most of the cars. This program actually works and other jurisdictions are looking at copying what is being done there.

That is the kind of approach that the government should be taking toward criminal justice in this country, or any other program in this country. The Conservatives are ideologically bound to their American Republican cousins. They have taken the attitude that if it did not work in the United States then let us not make it work here. That seems to be their approach.

I do not know how we can get through to Conservative members. We are sitting in a minority government. With friends like Rahim Jaffer and others, the Conservatives will have a minority government forever. A majority government will probably never happen.

In their own minds, the Conservatives seem to think that they have a majority government. They keep pretending they have a majority government. They bring in bills that have no chance of making it through the House. We have to question why they would keep doing this. Then they prorogue the House and start over again. The public must be shaking their heads. I have asked people about this and some have come to the conclusion that the Conservatives are not actually tough on crime but are actually soft on crime.

There is a real lack of credibility and a real disconnect with the Conservative government and some of the legislative efforts that it makes. The programs in the system do not actually work.

I have become sidetracked once again. I have pages and pages of notes. I could probably speak for another hour on this subject, but I understand that my time is running out. Perhaps when members ask me questions I could make some more comments on some of the sections I missed in my speech. Having said that, I want to yield the floor to people who want to ask questions.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I am hoping to allow the hon. member to extend his comments with my question. Is the hon. member aware of the fact that prior to the introduction of this legislation, by its predecessor last March, the government was involved in the practice of ensuring certain Canadians could not return? In other words, by enacting the transfer of the offender treaty, by subjecting these reviews even though they were signed off by other nations, accepted by other nations, where Canadians served a substantial time of incarceration in another country for a crime they did not commit in Canada I should point out, the then minister of public safety, now Treasury Board, was involved with subjecting some of these transfer of offender requests to CSIS reviews or any type of review which would have the effect of extending the incarceration of Canadians even though they had the right to come home.

I wonder if the hon. member could tell us what it really means when it says keeping Canadians safe when in fact the person is not rehabilitated, and I see here it says “keeping Canadians safe”. When they are not rehabilitated, as some members have said, assuming it was a fair trial to begin with, they may come back unprepared and ill equipped to reintegrate into society.

Does the hon. member believe that the discretion given the minister could lead to abuses of favouritism, choosing individuals because of their money situation, choosing them by how they vote, choosing because of media attention? Does the hon. member believe that kind of discretionary power runs against the rule of law and the very principle of democracy of this Parliament?