Bill C-54 (Historical)
Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
Rob Nicholson Conservative
(This bill did not become law.)
February 15th, 2012 / 7:55 p.m.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak today about minimum sentences.
As mentioned last November, in response to a question from my hon. colleague from Mount Royal, this issue has been discussed on several occasions, not only in this House, but also before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
As a former minister of justice, he knows I cannot comment on a case still before the courts.
In May 2011, Canadians gave us a clear mandate. They want to live in healthy and safe communities. In our opinion, the government's main focus must be on victims of crime who, from a financial perspective, pay most of the price of crime.
The strong mandate this government received from Canadians in May 2011 included support for our commitment to table comprehensive legislation that would reintroduce several law and order bills, including those that proposed mandatory minimum penalties for child sexual offences and for serious drug crimes.
Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act, includes reforms from nine previous bills. Bill C-10's proposed amendments would make communities safer by extending greater protection to the most vulnerable members of our society, enhancing the ability of our justice system to hold criminals accountable for their actions, and helping improve the safety and security of all Canadians.
The government's approach is balanced. It addresses prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation, and respects the rights of the accused while also respecting victims' interests, as well as community safety. This approach reflects the reality that Canadians lose faith in the criminal justice system when they feel the punishment does not fit the crime.
It appears to me that the member opposite contradicts the position of his own party when he criticizes the proposed mandatory minimum penalties that this government proposes to better denounce serious crimes, a policy supported by premiers and attorneys general across Canada.
For instance, former Bill C-54, which has been reintroduced as part of Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act, and which proposes mandatory minimum penalties for sexual offences committed against children, received the support of all parties at third reading.
I often hear the opposition referring to studies that unequivocally demonstrate the ineffectiveness and excessiveness of mandatory minimum penalties. With all due respect, this is hardly conclusive. There is research that suggests mandatory minimum penalties are not effective. However, other research indicates there is evidence that mandatory minimum penalties have had positive effects on serious offences, such as impaired driving.
Another argument the opposition continually relies on to criticize either the use of mandatory minimum penalties or the restrictions on the availability of conditional sentences is the impact such proposals would have on prison populations and the related cost implications.
The government has always been clear that the cost of protecting victims far outweighs the cost implications of such reforms. Although there is a cost to having proportionate sentences, there is also a significant cost to victims and Canadian society as a whole.
In 2008, crime in Canada cost an estimated $99 billion, the majority of which, $82.5 billion or 83%, was borne by the victims. Victim costs include the value of damaged or stolen property, pain and suffering, loss of income, and health services.
This government has a clear and strong mandate to ensure that Canadians are better protected from dangerous criminals by ensuring that they are not permitted to serve their sentence in the comfort of their homes.
Mandatory minimum penalties will ensure clarity and consistency in sentencing, while at the same time ensuring that perpetrators of serious crimes do not reoffend during the period of incarceration.
It is time for all members to recognize the significant impact that serious and violent crimes have on Canadian communities and victims.
January 31st, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Madam Speaker, let us review Bill C-10.
The hon. member has raised the issue of judicial discretion. Part 2 of the Safe Streets and Communities Act includes former Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. These reforms were introduced in three previous parliaments, passed by both chambers but never by both in the same session.
Bill C-10 proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, to impose mandatory minimum penalties or MMPs for the offences of trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, production, importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting drugs, all serious drug offences.
Drugs covered are schedule 1 drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and schedule 2 drugs such as marijuana. These offences would only carry an MMP where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard, or the offence was committed in or near a school.
Importantly, there is an exception that allows courts not to impose a mandatory sentence if an offender is eligible for and successfully completes a drug treatment court or DTC program. The program involves a blend of judicial supervision and incentives for reduced drug use, social services support and sanctions for non-compliance. There are six DTCs in Canada: Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver.
If there is no drug treatment court in a particular jurisdiction, the court can delay sentencing to allow the offender to attend another approved treatment program. The Canadian drug treatment court model was initiated by federal prosecutors looking to effectively deal with repeat offenders whose crimes were motivated by drug addictions. By assisting the offender to overcome addiction, criminal recidivism is reduced and success is being achieved.
Bill C-10 also aims to further restrict the use of house arrest and conditional sentences never intended to apply to serious and violent crimes. Bill C-10 includes amendments that explicitly state that a conditional sentence is never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life, for offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, involve the import, export, trafficking and production of drugs or involve the use of a weapon, or for specific serious property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictments such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons, motor vehicle theft and theft over $5,000.
Do the critics of our law reform agenda really believe that an offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years should ever be served in the comfort of the offender's home, even under the strictest of conditions? Do these critics believe that drug traffickers should serve a conditional sentence? This government is committed to ensuring that conditional sentences are only an option for appropriate offences. This will result in some offenders serving time in custody. Some will receive other types of sentences. This is as it should be.
Bill C-10 also proposes to denounce all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory minimum penalties and the creation of two new offences to target conduct which facilitates sexual offending against children. These amendments were included in former Bill C-54, which had been passed by this House with all party support and was at third reading debate in the Senate when it died on the order paper last March. I would be surprised if these reforms are not still strongly supported.
The government intends to keep its promises. One such promise is to better protect our most vulnerable, including children. There will always be critics, but we will be quick to defend our public safety approaches because we do so for the--
Safe Streets and Communities Act
November 29th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.
Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act. I welcome all of the proposals in the bill. I believe their enactment, both individually and collectively, will make a significant contribution to safeguard all communities across Canada.
I will first address the impact for victims of violent crime.
In my riding of Etobicoke Centre, there is a family named Cikovic. The parents are Vesna and Davorin. Vesna is a piano teacher and Davorin works at CBC-Radio. Their son, Boris, attended high school in Etobicoke at Scarlet Heights.
The Cikovic family were refugees from war-torn Sarajevo, with Boris arriving in Canada as an infant. This family worked to escape the horrors of a war where former neighbours preyed upon each other and visited atrocities upon each other in every form imaginable. The family settled in Canada, grateful for the new start they had and grateful for the opportunities that Canada had provided their son.
As Boris grew up in Canada, he became the all-Canadian kid, an athlete and gifted hockey player, a leader on the ice, helping less skilled players score and achieve rather than allow his own talent to dominate. He mentored his teammates. At so young an age, he showed maturity and wisdom that was returned by his large circle of friends with great affection and strong bonds that developed in elementary school and endured through high school and what would have appeared to be beyond university and throughout life. Boris was a leader and one that this close circle rallied around. He was a natural and his future appeared limitless. Then, on a night in 2008, Boris and his friends were transiting a local park, were accosted and he was shot and killed while being robbed of his backpack and valuables.
The Cikovics are victims, devastated by the tragic loss of their only son who had natural gifts and talents and was on his way to becoming a model Canadian success story.
What of the Cikovic family in this? Do is care that Statistics Canada says that crime is down, as the members opposite often cite? I asked the Cikovics that and their response was a resounding no. I challenge any member opposite to look that family in the eye and quote that statistic. The Cikovics are not vengeful people, but they are entitled to justice for their son.
Of the many provisions in Bill C-10, victims of crime would have the ability to present statements at Parole Board hearings. If attending the hearing, the victim may comment on the harm or damage resulting from the offence and its continuing impact, including concerns for his or her safety and the possible release of the offender. Even if the victims does not attend, the Parole Board may authorize presentation of the statement in an alternative format.
Also authorized to present a statement are the persons described to have been harmed or suffered a loss due to the act of the offender. This includes any safety concerns and concerns regarding the offender's potential release. This provision provides victims with empowerment and a role in the corrections process.
Other areas include the elimination of pardons for violent crime and measures that protect the public from violent and repeat young offenders.
Today I speak for a family that has been tragically victimized and I speak in the name of Boris Cikovic who can no longer speak for himself, but today in the House his voice is heard.
I will focus my remaining remarks on Bill C-10 proposals that address child sexual exploitation and violent crimes in part 2 of the bill.
As members know, these proposals were originally introduced as Bill C-54, protecting children from sexual predators act and with all party support had been passed by this chamber in the last Parliament. Bill C-10 has reintroduced these proposals with some additional sentencing enhancements that are consistent with and reflect the overall objectives of these reforms.
Part 2 seeks to better protect children and youth from sexual predators in two ways: first, by proposing sentencing enhancements to ensure that all sexual offences involving child victims are consistently and strongly condemned; and second, by creating new offences and measures to prevent the commission of a child sexual offence.
Bill C-10 has been reported back to the House of Commons after having been thoroughly studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, without any amendments to its child sexual exploitation reforms. Indeed, part 2 proposals received strong support by witnesses appearing before the justice committee, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Kids' Internet Safety Alliance, KINSA, as well as the minister of justice and attorney general for New Brunswick who said:
I believe strongly that crimes against children deserve strong sentencing. We believe the changes proposed in this crime bill will make it possible to achieve that objective.
I could not agree more.
Bill C-10 proposes to enhance the sentencing or penalties for sexual offenders involving child victims in two ways. It proposes to impose seven new and nine higher mandatory minimum penalties as well as higher maximum penalties for four child specific sexual offences.
These amendments are needed because, currently, the Criminal Code only imposes MMPs on 12 child specific sexual offences and none at all in the general sexual offences where the victim is a child. For those offences that already impose MMPs, these are inconsistent or simply inadequate. The effect of imposing MMPs in only some but not all sexual offences sends an inconsistent message that not all child sexual offences are serious and perhaps even that some child sexual assault victims are less victims than others.
Imposing inconsistent and inadequate MMPs is equally problematic. For example, currently the Criminal Code imposes a mandatory minimum penalty of 45 days for the offence of sexual interference of a child, even though the maximum penalty or indictment is 10 years. Bill C-10 proposes to fix this by increasing this MMP to one year.
To my mind, and I think to all of us here, the current inconsistent and inadequate approach to sentencing in child sexual abuse cases is wrong. Who among us does not agree that children are the most vulnerable in our society and that all children are deserving of equal protection against all forms of child sexual exploitation? As I noted earlier, Bill C-10 also seeks to prevent sexual assault against children. It proposes two new offences criminalizing sexual assault against children that police witnesses were particularly against.
The first new offence would prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that young person. Child sex offenders often use adult pornographic material to groom their victims, for example to lower their victims' sexual inhibitions with a view to making it easier to sexually exploit them. Though any such use of child pornography is already prohibited, this is not the case for adult material. Accordingly, this new offence would fill a gap. The proposed new offence would impose a mandatory minimum penalty consistent with other parts of the bill.
The second offence proposed by Bill C-10 would prohibit anyone from using telecommunications to agree or make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child. This offence is modelled on the existing “luring a child” offence of the Criminal Code that prohibits the use of a computer system to directly communicate with a child for the purpose of facilitating a sexual offence against that child. However, as the “luring a child” offence only applies when communication is with the child victim, this new offence closes the gap where the communication is between two other persons to facilitate the commission of a sexual offence against a child. This offence would also impose a mandatory minimum penalty.
As well, Bill C-10 would impose a condition on convicted child sex offenders or on suspected child sex offenders, a recognizance or peace bond under section 810.1, prohibiting them from having any unsupervised access to a young person or unsupervised use of the Internet. Preventing a known or suspected child sex offender from having the opportunity and tools to commit a child sexual offence should protect other children from being victimized.
I urge all members to support the swift enactment of Bill C-10 so that Canada's children will be protected against sexual exploitation.
Motions in Amendment
Safe Streets and Communities Act
November 29th, 2011 / 11:55 a.m.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today about Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act, to highlight that this bill is a reflection of our commitment to tackling crime, increasing public safety, and restoring the confidence of Canadians in the justice system.
The people of Canada know they can count on us to deliver on our commitments. Bill C-10 includes nine bills from the previous Parliament. Many critics of the bill argued that the bill was too big and too difficult to understand. I would note that the bill has had a thorough review in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. There has been no difficulty at all in understanding what these reforms seek to do. While not all members share the government's approach, I think all members of the committee would agree that their voices have been heard and we have had a respectful exchange of views.
As has been noted many times, all of these reforms have been previously introduced in Parliament. Many were previously studied and some even passed by at least one chamber. These bills were at various stages in Parliament in the last session, have been debated and studied in this session, and the public and stakeholders as well as members of Parliament are by now very familiar with these proposals.
Despite this familiarity, it is worth noting the elements and the origins of Bill C-10, in other words, the nine bills that were introduced in the last session of Parliament. As the Minister of Justice indicated at second reading debate, some changes have been made to this bill due primarily to the need to co-ordinate the merger of several bills into one and make consequential amendments to effect these changes. In some cases, other modifications were made, all of which are consistent with the objectives of the bill as originally introduced.
The former bills now included in Bill C-10 are the following.
Bill C-4, which proposed to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure that violent and repeat young offenders are held accountable through sentences that are proportionate to the severity of their crimes and that the protection of society is given due consideration in applying the act.
Bill C-5, Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act, which proposed to enhance public safety by modifying the circumstances that would permit an international transfer of an offender.
Bill C-16, which proposed Criminal Code amendments to prevent the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest for serious and violent offences.
Bill C-23B, Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act, which proposed to amend the Criminal Records Act to expand the period of ineligibility to apply for a record suspension, currently referred to as a pardon, and to make record suspensions unavailable for certain offences and for persons who have been convicted of more than three offences prosecuted by indictment.
Bill C-39, Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act, which proposed amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, to support victims of crime and address inmate accountability and responsibility and the management of offenders.
Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, which proposed Criminal Code amendments to better protect children against sexual abuse, including by increasing the penalties for these offences and creating two new offences aimed at certain conduct that could facilitate or enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child.
Bill C-56, Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act, which proposed to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits where it would protect vulnerable foreign nationals against exploitation, including sexual exploitation.
Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which proposed reforms to allow victims of terrorism to sue terrorists and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states.
Bill S-10, Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, which proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to provide mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences, including when offences are carried out for organized crime purposes, or if they involve targeting youth.
The maximum penalty for the production of some drugs would also be increased. These amendments also proposed to allow a sentencing court to delay sentencing while the offender completed an approved treatment program.
Bill C-10 was studied by the justice committee over several weeks and over 90 motions to amend the bill were considered. While very few were passed and many were completely inconsistent with the principles underlying the bill, each motion was given due consideration.
I would also note that over 80 motions have been proposed at report stage. Many of these motions seek to completely undo or gut the proposed amendments.
As I noted at the outset of my remarks, Bill C-10 reflects our government's commitment to restoring public confidence in our justice system. Clearly, the motions proposed at report stage demonstrate that this commitment is not shared by other members of the House.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the elements of the bill that provide for mandatory minimum penalties and that restrict conditional sentences. The reality is that these reforms are carefully tailored and targeted to offenders who commit the most serious offences.
Should offenders convicted of arson receive a conditional sentence allowing them to serve out their sentence at home under certain conditions? Should an offender convicted of an offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years ever be permitted to serve that sentence in the comfort of the offender's home?
Even under the strictest of conditions I think all Canadians would agree that no matter what the conditions of house arrest may be, it is simply not appropriate for serious offences. Bill C-10 reforms will make that crystal clear.
I would note that motions to amend the proposed reforms to the conditional sentencing provisions were made at committee and again at report stage. Without going into detail, those motions sought to permit conditional sentences to be imposed without regard to any criteria to limit their imposition as long as certain other exceptional circumstances existed about the offender. Such sentences are not appropriate for some offences regardless of the offender's particular circumstances.
Conditional sentences were never intended to be used for the most serious or violent offences. Our reforms will clarify this once and for all and will provide the clear parameters for use of conditional sentences or house arrest.
As I noted, part 2 of the safe streets and communities act includes former Bill S-10, Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. These reforms have been introduced in three previous Parliaments and have been passed by both chambers but never by both in the same session.
Despite our repeated debates and committee study of these reforms, there still remains much misunderstanding about the mandatory minimums for serious drug offences. As noted by other speakers, the minimum mandatory penalties are tailored to serious drug offences where aggravating factors are present.
Importantly, the amendments include an exception that allows courts not to impose the mandatory minimum sentence if an offender successfully completes a drug treatment program or DTC, as it is referred to. The program works with individuals who have been charged with drug-related offences who meet certain eligibility criteria to overcome their drug addictions and avoid future conflict with the law. It involves a blend of judicial supervision, incentives for reduced drug use, social services support and sanctions for non-compliance.
There are currently six drug treatment courts in Canada. They are located in Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver. The same exception applies for other programs, so that a court could delay sentencing to allow the offender to attend another approved treatment program.
This last point seems to have been overlooked by some members and we all share the concern about the need for mental health resources. However, the Criminal Code already permits a court to delay sentencing to permit an offender to attend an approved treatment program. This could be a program for mental health issues, anger management or other similar issues. This already exists in the code.
I will conclude by saying that the government is committed to public safety and improvements to the justice system, and will continue to deliver on the promises that we have made to Canadians.
October 18th, 2011 / 9:20 a.m.
Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON
I want to address a comment that was made by Mr. Gottardi, who said that there has been little previous review and that this is undemocratic.
Mr. Gottardi, were you aware that former Bill C-4, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-39, Bill C-23B, Bill C-54, Bill S-7, Bill S-10, and Bill C-56, which are the primary components of this legislation, had 49 days of debate in the House of Commons, 200 speakers, 45 committee meetings, and 123 hours of committee study with 295 witnesses who appeared?
Can you square that circle for me, to say how there has been very little study of this legislation?
October 6th, 2011 / 8:45 a.m.
The Honourable Rob Nicholson Rob Nicholson
Thank you very much. I'm pleased to be here with Catherine Kane, from the Department of Justice, who I think you know very well from all the different pieces of legislation we've had.
I'm pleased to address the members of the committee, as they begin their review of Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act fulfills our government's commitment to quickly reintroduce legislation to combat crime and stand up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. As you know, Canadians gave us a strong mandate to bring forward measures that will better protect society and ensure criminals are held accountable for their actions.
Bill C-10 combines nine bills that were not passed in the previous Parliament. All of them have been debated in the House of Commons and/or the Senate.
I am pleased today to be joined by my colleague, the Honourable Vic Toews, the Minister of Safety, to outline the important measures contained in this bill. I will speak to parts 2 and 4 of the bill. Minister Toews will speak to parts 1 and 3 of the bill.
As I previously stated, while the text of Bill C-10 is certainly longer than most, the fact remains that these reforms have been debated, studied, and in some cases passed by at least one chamber. I encourage all members of the committee to consult the parliamentary record that exists for all of the previous bills.
I'll take a few moments to highlight a number of the measures.
Part 2 of the Safe Streets and Communities Act includes former Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. As you may know, it proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to impose mandatory penalties for the offences of production, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting, or possession for the purpose of exporting a schedule I drug, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and schedule II drugs such as marijuana.
As you may be aware, this is the fourth time the bill has been introduced. They've been passed by both chambers, but obviously never by both in the same session. This bill is in exactly the same form it was in at the dissolution of the last Parliament.
Part 2 also includes reforms previously proposed by the former Bill C-16, the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act. The reforms would explicitly state that a conditional sentence is never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life; offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, involve the import and/or export, trafficking, and production of drugs, or involve the use of a weapon; or the listed property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictment, such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons, and theft over $5,000.
This is the third time these reforms have been introduced by our government. On each prior occasion, they received second reading approval in principle and scope.
I note there have been a few technical changes made to the list of excluded offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years. These include changes to include the recently enacted new offence of motor vehicle theft and to coordinate the proposed imposition of a mandatory sentence of imprisonment in section 172.1, the luring of a child, with the conditional sentences amendments.
The last component of part 2 is on the reforms previously proposed by Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act. These reforms seek to consistently and adequately condemn all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory penalties. They also seek to prevent the commission of sexual offences against children through the creation of two new offences. We also seek to require the courts to consider imposing conditions to prevent suspected or convicted child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate or further a sexual offence against a child.
Bill C-54 had been passed by the House of Commons with all-party support. It was at debate on third reading in the Senate when the opposition parties unfortunately decided to force an election. I was very disappointed that this important bill then died on the order paper.
We've made some changes since that time, as you will see, to increase maximum penalties with a corresponding increase in mandatory minimum sentences to better reflect the nature of the offences, including making or distributing child pornography or a parent or guardian procuring his or her child for unlawful sexual activity.
These changes are consistent with the government's objectives for the former Bill C-54. As well, the two new sexual offences proposed by this part would be added to schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act to ensure that persons convicted of either offence are subject to the same period of ineligibility for a record suspension, currently referred to as a pardon, as they are for other child sexual offences.
Finally, part IV of the bill proposes to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to strengthen the way the system deals with violent and repeat young offenders.
These measures include highlighting protection of the public as a principle, making it easier to detain youth charged with serious offences pending trial, ensuring that prosecutors consider seeking adult sentences for the most serious offences, requiring police to keep records of extra judicial measures, and requiring courts to lift the publication ban on the names of young offenders convicted of violent offences when a youth sentence is given. These reforms were previously proposed in Bill C-4 , Sebastien's Law.
The former Bill C-4 was extensively studied by the House of Commons standing committee through 16 meetings at the dissolution of the previous Parliament. The bill includes changes to address concerns that have been highlighted by the provinces regarding pretrial adult sentencing and deferred custody provisions in the bill. For example, changes to the pretrial detention provisions respond to the provinces' request for more flexibility to detain youth who are spiralling out of control and pose a risk to the public--by committing a serious offence if released--even if they have not been charged initially with a serious offence. The test for pretrial detention would now be self-contained in the act, without requiring reference to the Criminal Code, which is currently the case.
Other technical changes include removing the proposed test for adult sentences and deferred custody and supervision orders and returning to the current law's approach. For example, the former bill referred to the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which some provinces found more difficult to meet. That has been removed. The bill continues the current approach of leaving it up to the courts to determine the appropriate standard of proof.
Under Bill C-10, deferred custody and supervision orders will not be available if the youth has been found guilty of an offence involving or attempting to cause serious bodily harm.
In closing, most of Bill C-10's reforms have been debated and studied, and some have even passed. The few new elements I've outlined are consistent with the objectives of the former bills, as originally introduced, or make some needed technical changes. I urge the committee to work with the government to support the timely enactment of the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
We are taking action to protect families, stand up for victims, and hold individuals accountable. Canadians can count on our government's commitment to fulfill its promise to pass this comprehensive bill within the first 100 sitting days of this Parliament.
Thank you very much.
I would ask Minister Toews now to deliver his remarks.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 28th, 2011 / 5:15 p.m.
Ed Holder London West, ON
We all know that the safe streets and communities act proposes a wide range of reforms to strengthen the law's response to several things: child sexual abuse and exploitation, serious drug and violent property crimes, terrorism, violent young offenders, offender accountability and management, and the protection of vulnerable foreign workers against abuse and exploitation.
As many hon. members have noted, the bill brings together in one comprehensive package reforms that were included in nine bills that were put before the previous Parliament and that died on the order paper with the dissolution of Parliament for the general election.
I will itemize these. These former bills are: Bill C-4, Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders); Bill C-5, Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act; Bill C-16, Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act; Bill C-23B, Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; Bill C-39, Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act; Bill C-56, Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act; Bill C-59, Abolition of Early Parole Act; Bill S-7, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act; and finally Bill S-10, Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act.
Many hon. members have participated in several hours of debate today and ongoing debate from the last Parliament to now. It is clear that some do not share the same views as the government about the need to address crime in our society, the need to increase public safety, the need to better balance the role of victims in the justice system and the need to make offenders more accountable.
My remarks here today need not repeat what some of my hon. colleagues have already noted about the key features of Bill C-10 and the importance of these reforms. I propose to briefly comment on the important reforms proposed in Bill C-10 as they relate to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act came into effect in April 2003. The reforms now proposed in Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act, have been shaped by consultation with a broad range of stakeholders. After five years of experience with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, a review was launched by the Minister of Justice in 2008. This began with discussions with provincial and territorial attorneys general to identify the issues that they considered most important.
In May 2008, the Minister of Justice began a series of cross-country round tables, often co-chaired by provincial and territorial ministers, in order to hear from youth justice professionals, front-line youth justice stakeholders and others about areas of concern and possible improvements regarding the provisions and principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Input from individuals and organizations was also provided through the Department of Justice website, in letters and in in-person meetings. The results showed clearly that most provinces, territories and stakeholders believe the current youth legislation works well in dealing with the majority of youth who commit crimes. However, there were concerns about the small number of youth who commit serious, violent offences or who are repeat offenders who may need a more focused approach to ensure the public is protected.
Clearly, the message was to build upon the good foundation of the law and make much needed improvements and the reforms proposed in Bill C-10 reflect this. Although the Youth Criminal Justice Act is working well for most youth, particular elements of the act need to be strengthened to ensure that youth who commit serious, violent or repeat offences are held accountable with sentences and other measures that are proportionate to the severity of the crime and the degree of the responsibility of the offender.
There have been concerns voiced from many sources and this government has responded. The reforms included in Bill C-10, previously included in Bill C-4, known as Sébastien's law, would enhance our fair and effective youth justice system and result in a system that holds youth accountable for their criminal misconduct and promotes their rehabilitation and re-integration into society in order to promote the protection of the public.
In addressing amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, it is important to note that the act's preamble specifically references that Canada is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Youth Criminal Justice Act also recognizes that young persons have rights and freedoms, including those stated in the charter and the Canadian Bill of Rights. Nothing in Bill C-10 will impair these rights of young persons.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act provides for a range of responses that relate to the seriousness of the crime. These sentences also address the needs and circumstances of the youth and promote rehabilitation.
Amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act will ensure that young people under 18 who are serving a custody sentence will serve it in a youth custody facility. It will no longer be possible to put young people in adult prisons or penitentiaries, where the correctional regime is more suited to adults and where young people could all too easily become vulnerable to older, more hardened criminals. It is in the interests of the protection of society that young people become rehabilitated, and this amendment is aimed to ensure that this takes place.
While a sound legislative base is an essential part of ensuring that Canada has a fair and effective youth justice system, it is also essential to address the conditions that underlie criminal behaviour if we are to achieve any long-term or meaningful solution to the problem. Conditions such as addiction, difficult childhoods, mental health, fetal alcohol syndrome, or longer-term marginalization will continue to pose challenges to solving the problems of youth offending.
Our government has implemented various programs to assist in addressing these issues. The national anti-drug strategy has a significant youth focus. On the prevention front, the government has launched a national public awareness program and campaign to discourage our youth from using illicit drugs. The government has made funding available under the youth justice fund for pilot treatment programs that will assist with the rehabilitation of youth who have drug problems and are in the justice system, and for programs that are working toward preventing youth from becoming involved with guns, gangs and drugs.
Partnering with health, education, employment and other service providers beyond the traditional system, we can all work together. For example, through the youth justice fund the Department of Justice provided funding to a pilot program called Career Path, which offers a comprehensive specialized service for youth in the justice system who are at risk or are involved in gang activities. The program offers youth educational training and employment opportunities by connecting them with an employer who will also act as a mentor to facilitate making smart choices, foster pro-social attitudes, build leadership skills and gain valuable employability skills as a viable option to gang membership.
The reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act are essential and responsive and should be supported as a key part of a broader effort on the part of the government to prevent and respond to youth involved in the justice system.
I would like to bring it a little closer to home, if I may.
This is the story of Ann Tavares, of London, who suffered a huge loss in November of 2004 when Stephan Lee stabbed her son 28 times. Steven Tavares was an innocent victim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His death irreparably scarred the lives of those who loved him forever. That loss is what happened.
To compound her tragedy, her son's killer was found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder and sent to an Alberta hospital the following year. He was conditionally released in May 2008 and is now living in Alberta. All of this happened without notification to the victim's family or the public at large.
Suffering such a loss might have destroyed an individual. However, this became an impetus for Ann's quest to make others aware of what happened to her son and the lack of justice for this heinous crime. She has lobbied tirelessly against the inequities of the system, a system the government is trying to fix.
Ann strongly felt that there needs to be a connection between mental illness and crime. Specifically, she felt that the insanity defence needs to be banned. She felt that to say a perpetrator is not criminally responsible is too subjective. Mental impairment is a defence that anyone can claim. If someone commits a crime, that person should be punished.
She believes mental illness should not absolve someone from the crime they committed. The punishment needs to be based on the severity of the crime, and a fixed minimum time needs to be served before they are put back into the community. However, Ann did want good to come of her tragic situation. In addition to the punishment, she felt that the perpetrator should get mental health treatment, and that to protect innocent victims like her son and the community at large, such criminals should not be released into the community until they have been certified as not a risk to others.
I would like to expand on that through the questions and answers, if I might, Madam Speaker.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 28th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.
Andrew Cash Davenport, ON
Indeed, of the many ways in which the Conservative government is moving Canada backward, few initiatives do more to achieve this than Bill C-10.
In my riding of Davenport over the last two years, this is one of the issues that has come up most often. There is concern over the government's obsession with spending billions of dollars, and by the way, compelling the provinces to do the same, on a crime bill that will largely not make our streets any safer and will not contribute to building stronger communities.
I live in a riding where in the last two years we have seen schools close, recreation centres close, daycare centres close. Programs to help settle new immigrants have been gutted. Bus routes, used primarily by folks doing shift work, have been cut. Senior services are in dire need of new investments. I live in a city where 70,000 people are on a waiting list for affordable housing.
While the essential services that are needed to create strong, vibrant, safe streets and communities are being choked, the government can find billions upon billions of dollars for an experiment on crime prevention which has failed in every jurisdiction where it has been attempted. It utterly failed, as we know, in the United States.
Members should not get me wrong. It is not that people in my riding are not concerned about crime. They are concerned about crime. Indeed they are, but I am reminded of a conversation I had with some residents who were concerned about drug dealers taking over the local park. I am concerned about that too. It was not that they were just concerned about the dealers. To a person, these residents complained not so much that there are not enough prisons to lock the dealers up, but that there are not enough programs for young people to get involved in. With nothing to do and few local job prospects, young people are vulnerable to falling into gang culture and criminal elements. Bill C-10 does not address this fundamental foundational issue around crime prevention.
While I listed all the closures in my riding, and I could list more, there are things that are being built and opened in my riding. In the riding of Davenport there are two brand new police stations being built as we speak. Many are hopeful, as am I, that these new police stations in our neighbourhoods will help with some of the crime issues that people are dealing with, but the problem underlined in my riding is writ large in Bill C-10: there is no balance.
In communities across the country investment in social infrastructure is desperately needed, yet we are told that we are heading into a period of austerity and that there is no money. Well, there is money for some things, but when ideology trumps common sense, we get nasty pieces of legislation like Bill C-10.
Instead of a national affordable housing strategy that would provide a framework to provide stable affordable housing, a key determinant to health and a primary building block for safe communities, the government will spend over $500 million this year alone on new prison construction. That is the housing strategy for Canada.
While the government squeezes middle and working class families and small businesses, it is happy to spend over $162,000 on average annually for each new prison cell in this country, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Instead of investing in getting at the roots of poverty, mental illness and addiction, instead of focusing on a comprehensive pan-Canadian job strategy--and rolling over for the oil and gas industry is not a cross-Canada jobs program--the government wants to spend close to $3 billion a year locking up more people, providing fewer programs to rehabilitate them, all the while draining our public coffers, our precious resources, that could truly create safer streets. Indeed, prison costs are up 86% since the Conservatives took power while the crime rate continues to fall to its lowest level since the 1970s.
The government has racked up the biggest fiscal deficit in the history of Canada. Instead of being smart with taxpayer money, it plays politics and lets its dated right-wing ideology continue to craft bad public policy.
For example, a single new low security cell is going to cost $260,000 to build. A medium security cell is going to cost $400,000. A maximum security cell is going to cost $600,000. For goodness sake, even the annual cost of an inmate in a community correctional centre is now over $85,000 a year. Does this make fiscal sense?
As the income gap gets wider and wider in our country, the government hectors Canadians about belt-tightening, while its spends and spends on a prison expansion scheme about which both the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, among many others, have serious concerns.
The government does not actually want to hear what Canadians think about this omnibus bill. If it did, it would not have limited debate on the bill. Bill C-10 packages up nine government bills from the previous Parliament and presents them to the House and to Canadians as one whopping bill. Then it says that it wants us to accept it all without any conversation or debate.
With the motion that passed yesterday morning, Canadians in the House will only be able to debate for a period of less than two hours for each of the nine bills. For a government that was elected to bring more transparency and more accountability to this place, it is in fact bringing less. The action of limiting debate on this huge and outrageously expensive bill is one more example of its lack of transparency.
It is too bad. Canadians deserve to have Bill C-10 aired to its fullest. Experts say that mandatory minimum sentences do not work for reducing drug use, tackling organized crime or making our communities safer. The measures contained in the bill, for example, will not make it easier for law enforcement agencies to get to the organized crime bosses who run the drug trade, who we need to bring in and incarcerate.
One of the most effective ways to promote public safety is the successful rehabilitation and reintegration back into society of offenders. Our federal prison system lacks the programs to deal with this effectively. This legislation does not deal with this issue in any kind of real way.
We do not oppose everything in the bill. As we saw yesterday in the House, my hon. colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh tabled a motion that would have expedited the passing of elements of the bill that were in the last Parliament, known as Bill C-54. This section seeks to protect children from exploitation and sexual abuse. In fact, the government has adopted measures in this section of Bill C-10 put forward by the NDP in private member's bills.
It is too bad that the government would rather play politics than move quickly on parts of the bill that could get unanimous support in this House, like those measures to protect our children. In fact, immediately after voting down the motion that would have sent that part of the bill to the Senate within 48 hours, government members proceeded with statements on the importance of the very measure they had just voted against putting on the fast track.
As I said, there are things in the bill which we do agree with and which we could find common ground with the government on, but it is not really interested in doing that. The government's decision to limit debate heaps a measure of ideological cynicism on to what should be a very thorough, serious examination.
The bill is too costly and it will not make our streets and communities safer. We on the NDP side of the House have come prepared to work with the government to quickly pass the measures that will protect children and to fix measures that will not work. It is too bad the government wants to play politics and games with the safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 28th, 2011 / 4:15 p.m.
Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act
Bill C-10 is a comprehensive bill that brings together reforms proposed from nine bills that were before the previous Parliament. The short title of the bill, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, reflects the overall intent of this comprehensive legislation. It seeks to safeguard Canadians and Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast. This is such a fundamental principle and objective. To my mind, this objective should be unanimously supported by all parliamentarians in all instances and in all cases. While I appreciate there are many issues on which we as lawmakers may reasonably disagree the safety and security of Canadians, including that of vulnerable children, should never be one such issue.
Let us consider this comprehensive bill is. It proposes amendments that generally seek to do the following:
First, Bill C-10, through part 2, proposes to better protect children and youth from sexual predators. These reforms were previously proposed in former Bill C-54 in the last Parliament, the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act.
Specifically, these amendments would propose new and higher mandatory minimum penalties to ensure that all sexual offences involving child victims are consistently and strongly condemned. They would create two new offences to target preparatory conduct to the commission of a sexual offence against a child. They would also enable courts to impose conditions on suspected or convicted child sex offenders to prevent them from engaging in conduct that could lead to their committing another sexual offence against a child.
Second, through part 2, Bill C-10 proposes to increase penalties by imposing mandatory minimum penalties when specified aggravated factors are present for serious drug offences. Those offences would be the production, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting, possession for the purpose of exporting of schedule 1 drugs such as heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and schedule 2 drugs such as marijuana.
These offences often involve organized crime, including gang warfare over turf, which in turn brings its own disastrous impact on Canadian communities. They also enable and feed drug abuse, the negative impact of which is not only felt by the addicted individual but also by the family of that addict, as well as by the Canadian health system and the economy.
These reforms were previously proposed and passed by the Senate in former Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act.
Third, part 2 of the bill includes what was previously proposed in former Bill C-16, the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act to end house arrest for serious crimes.
Under these reforms offences carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years, as well as serious offences that are punishable by 10 years or more and prosecuted by indictment, that result in bodily harm, or the import or export, trafficking and production of drugs, or that involve the use of a weapon, or that is specifically identified, would never be eligible to receive a conditional sentence of imprisonment.
Fourth, Bill C-10, through part 4, proposes to protect the public from violent and repeat young offenders. These amendments include: recognizing the protection of society as a principle in the Youth Criminal Justice Act; making it easier to detain youths charged with serious offences pending trial; requiring the courts to consider adult sentences for the most serious and violent cases; and, requiring the police to keep records of extrajudicial measures.
These reforms were previously proposed in former Bill C-4, Sébastien's law and respond to the Supreme Court of Canada 2008 judgment in Regina v. D.B., and the 2006 Nova Scotia report of the Nunn commission of inquiry “Spiralling Out of Control, Lessons Learned From a Boy in Trouble”.
Fifth, Bill C-10, through part 3, includes proposals to replace the word "pardons" with "record suspensions". It would expand the period of ineligibility to apply for a record suspension and proposes to make record suspensions unavailable for certain offences, including child sexual offences, and for persons who have been convicted of more than three offences prosecuted by indictment and for each of which the individual received a sentence of two years or more.
These reforms were previously proposed in former Bill C-23B, the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act.
Sixth, Bill C-10, also through part 3, proposes to codify some additional key factors in deciding whether a Canadian who has been convicted abroad would be granted a transfer back to Canada. These reforms were previously proposed in former Bill C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act.
Seventh, Bill C-10, through part 3, proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to recognize the rights of victims, increase offender accountability and responsibility, and modernize the disciplinary system for inmates. These proposals were previously proposed in former Bill C-39, the Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act.
Eighth, Bill C-10, through part 1, seeks to deter terrorism by supporting victims of terrorism. Specifically, these reforms would enable victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that is incurred as a result of an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world on or after January 1, 1985. These amendments were previously proposed and passed by the Senate in former Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.
Last, Bill C-10, through part 5, proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to protect vulnerable foreign nationals against abuse and exploitation. These amendments were previously proposed in former Bill C-56, the Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act.
I have briefly summarized the nine core elements of Bill C-10. All of these proposed amendments seek to better protect Canadians. That is something on which we should all be able to agree. Certainly, we know it is something on which Canadians agree. I call on all members to support the bill at second reading so it can be quickly referred to and studied by the justice committee.
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 28th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act.
The bill would fulfill the government's commitment in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne to bundle and quickly reintroduce crime bills that died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved for the general election.
Integral to this commitment, as articulated in the Speech from the Throne, are two key statements that I want to quote because I think they give voice to what all Canadians firmly believe.
The Government of Canada has no more fundamental duty than to protect the personal safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security.
Our government has always believed the interests of law-abiding citizens should be placed ahead of those of criminals. Canadians who are victimized or threatened by crime deserve their government's support and protection--
In my view, this precisely characterizes Bill C-10. It packages nine former bills that, collectively, recognize and seek to protect our vulnerabilities; for example, children's vulnerability to being preyed upon by adult sexual predators, foreign workers' vulnerability to being exploited by unscrupulous Canadian employers, and our collective vulnerability to suffering the harms that go hand in hand with serious drug crimes, such as drug trafficking, production and acts of terrorism.
Knowing this, and knowing as well that many of these reforms have been previously debated, studied and passed by at least one chamber, there is no reason not to support Bill C-10 in this Parliament.
Bill C-10 is divided into five parts.
Part 1 proposes to deter terrorism by supporting victims. It would create a new cause of action for victims of terrorism to enable them to sue not only the perpetrators of terrorism but all those who support terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act of terrorism or omission committed anywhere in the world on or after January 1, 1985.
The State Immunity Act would be amended to remove immunity from those states that the government has listed as supporters of terrorism. These amendments were previously proposed and passed by the Senate in the form of Bill S-7, justice for victims of terrorism act, in the previous session of Parliament. They are reintroduced in Bill C-10, with technical changes to correct grammatical and cross-reference errors.
Part 2 proposes to strengthen our existing responses to child exploitation and serious drug crimes, as well as serious violent and property crimes. It would better protect children against sexual abuse in several ways, including by uniformly and strongly condemning all forms of child sex abuse through the imposition of newer and higher mandatory minimum penalties, as well as creating new core powers to impose conditions to prevent suspected or convicted child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate or further their sexual offences against children.
These reforms are the same as they were in former Bill C-54, protecting children from sexual predators act, with the addition of proposed increases to the maximum penalty for four offences and corresponding increases in their mandatory minimum penalities to better reflect the particularly heinous nature of these offences.
Part 2 also proposes to specify that conditional sentences of imprisonment, often referred to as house arrest, are never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life, for offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, trafficking and production of drugs or that involve the use of a weapon, or for listed serious property and violent offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that are prosecuted by indictment.
These reforms were previously proposed in former Bill C-16, ending house arrest for property and other serious crimes by serious violent offenders act which had received second reading in this House and was referred to the justice committee when it died on the order paper.
It is in the same form as before with, again, a few technical changes that are consistent with the objectives of the bill as was originally introduced.
Part 2 also proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to impose mandatory minimum sentences for serious offences involving production and/or possession for the purposes of trafficking and/or importing and exporting and/or possession for the purpose of exporting Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and Schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.
These mandatory minimum penalties would be imposed where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard, or the offence was committed in or near a school.
This is the fourth time that these amendments have been introduced. They are in the same form as they were the last time when they were passed by the Senate as former Bill S-10, Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, in the previous Parliament.
Part 3 proposes numerous post-sentencing reforms to better support victims and to increase offender accountability and management. Specifically, it reintroduces reforms previously contained in three bills from the previous Parliament: Bill C-39, Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; Bill C-5, Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act; and Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Bill C-10 reintroduces these reforms with some technical changes.
Part 4 reintroduces much needed reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better deal with violent and repeat young offenders. Part 4 includes reforms that would ensure the protection of the public is always considered a principle in dealing with young offenders and that will make it easier to detain youth charged with serious offences pending trial.
These reforms were also previously proposed in former Bill C-4, Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders).
Part 5 proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to better protect foreign workers against abuse and exploitation. Their reintroduction in Bill C-10 reflects the fifth time that these reforms have been before Parliament, with the last version being former Bill C-56, Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act.
In short, Bill C-10 proposes many needed and welcome reforms to safeguard Canadians. Many have already been supported in the previous Parliament and Canadians are again expecting us to support them in this Parliament.