Abolition of Early Parole Act

An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

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

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to eliminate accelerated parole review and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

  • Feb. 16, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Feb. 15, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of the legislation before us. As hon. members know, we are here to discuss Bill C-59, which would make important changes to our parole system.

As we have heard from my hon. colleagues, the legislation has one clear purpose. That purpose is to abolish the system known as accelerated parole review. This is not complex legislation, with many layers and detailed lists of amendments. That is why the name of the proposed act is also clear: Bill C-59Abolition of Early Parole Act.

The legislation proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to put an end to the current practice of giving white-collar offenders early eligibility for day parole.

We are not creating new regulations. Nor are we looking for ways to complicate the parole system. Instead, we are standardizing a system that currently has two sets of rules for two different types of offenders. In essence, we have a two-tiered system.

Under this system, an offender who has committed a violent crime, like murder or assault, cannot apply for day parole until six months before he or she is eligible for full parole. On the other hand, individuals who are sentenced to jail for committing a white-collar crime, like fraud, can apply for day parole after serving only one-sixth of their sentence. This puts non-violent offenders on a different playing field.

The individual who is sentenced to 12 years in jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting Canadians is well aware that he or she will only have to serve two years in jail before being eligible to apply for day parole. Also, under the current system, it states that the offender who committed a violent crime must appear in person before the Parole Board of Canada and stand in front of board officials to plead his or her case. This is not the case for non-violent white-collar offenders. In their case, the application for day parole is done on paper. They are not compelled in person at a Parole Board hearing.

Under the current system, a violent offender must clearly show the Parole Board of Canada that he or she will not commit another crime once released on parole. If the Parole Board cannot find reasonable grounds to believe the offender will commit another crime, any crime, it will then approve parole.

The system works differently for non-violent and white-collar offenders. The only test they must pass in order to be released on parole is that the Parole Board must not find a reason to believe the individual will commit a violent offence.

I would like to repeat that last part because it is certainly one of the most confounding parts of the current system. Under APR, the individual who has committed a non-violent crime must be released on parole if there is no evidence that he or she will commit a violent crime.

I would suggest that the number of people jailed for a non-violent act like fraud who then end up committing a violent crime once on parole must be a fairly low number. The reality is most of the people who are in jail for scamming people out of their investments are not likely to have a violent past.

It seems odd, then, that this would be the ruler with which their future freedom is measured. Instead, it would make more sense for the Parole Board to use the same test as it uses for all offenders, that they must show they will not commit any new crime in order to be released.

As hon. members can see, the current system of accelerated parole review is not working. In addition to giving white-collar offenders an easier and faster system in which to apply for parole, it also removes any incentive for these offenders to work toward rehabilitation. They know they need only serve one-sixth of their sentence before applying for day parole. They know they will not have to present themselves to the Parole Board of Canada in person to plead their case. They also know that if there is no evidence they will commit a violent crime once released, the Parole Board has no choice but to release them.

Again, where is the incentive for this individual to make progress toward rehabilitation? The simple answer is there is no incentive. Our government is determined to change the system so it puts all offenders on the same level. In essence, we are streamlining the parole system so all offenders are treated the same. This makes sense and this is what we intend to do.

We have heard from hon. members on the other side of the House who say that the actions we are taking to improve our law enforcement and corrections and justice system are just too costly. However, our government has said more than once that we will not count nickels and dimes when it comes to protecting victims of crime and their families.

We have told Canadians that we will not turn our backs on victims who feel they do not have a voice in our justice system.

This is why we are asking all hon. members to support Bill C-59. We are urging all hon. members to stand with us in support of victims.

I have listened with great interest to my hon. colleagues who have spoken eloquently about the devastating impact that this crime can have on the lives of hard-working Canadians and their families. Some of these victims have overcome their shame and humiliation to come forward and tell their stories and provide evidence in court that helps convict these fraud artists. This cannot be an easy decision for these victims, especially as they start the process of picking up the pieces of their lives. It then comes as a shock to these victims and, in fact, to all Canadians when this offender is allowed to apply for day parole after serving a small portion of his or her sentence.

As I mentioned earlier, we have heard the example of how someone who is sentenced to 12 years in prison can be eligible for day parole within just 2 years. In those same two years, the victims have struggled to find their normalcy and to repair the damage left in the wake of this white-collar crime. It is these victims who we must consider when we discuss Bill C-59. In fact, our government has always put victims of crime first in our efforts to improve the legal and corrections system.

We have introduced legislation to give victims a voice at the Parole Board hearings and to ensure that offenders cannot pull out of their hearing at the last minute.

We have also supported many programs and initiatives that ensure that the voices of victims are heard and that their concerns are addressed, including the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and public safety, Canada's national office for victims.

Our government is proud of our track record to support the rights of victims. We have told Canadians we will do what is right and we will keep their communities safe and secure. Bill C-59 is an important step in this process and we ask all hon. members to support the legislation.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, this issue has vexed me for an awful long time. When I was acting in a role as a crown attorney, criminals and their counsel would often come to me and ask what kind of a sentence I was looking for. If I said, for example, 10 years, they would agree to the sentence as long as they could determine what they would plead to. They would ask that all of the violent crimes, like robbery, a gun crime, or the like, be stayed by the Crown. The crown attorney would not care, generally speaking, if he or she got the 10-year sentence. The individual would plead guilty to a break and enter with intent, for example, which is not considered a violent offence.

The game being played was that by removing all of the reference to so-called “violent crime”, people would then be eligible at one-sixth or one-third, at a much more rapid pace. That, quite frankly, was unacceptable.

How does this bill address that kind of gaming of the system?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure my hon. colleague is proud of the stand our government is taking on sticking up for victims. That is what we are asking all members in the House to do.

I know not just Miramichiers but all Canadians want us to stick up and work for victims. The victims are suffering from whatever criminals have done to them.

I am proud to be part of this government and I know my hon. colleague is as well. It is a government that is tough on crime and we urge all opposition members to support the bill.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are approaching third reading and it would seem almost impossible to believe that the Conservative government would be asking Parliament to vote in mere hours with no cost whatsoever.

First, does the member have an expectation that Parliament would vote in the dark with a blindfold on? Does she find it acceptable that we should just vote for bills without any idea whatsoever what the cost implications would be, particularly when we have seen that these types of bills cost enormous amounts of money? The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that just one of the Conservative crime bills would cost between $10 billion to $13 billion. Where is the money?

Second, I would accept any evidence. I am begging for it and I have asked, but there has been nothing again and again. What evidence is this being based on? Could the member show a single jurisdiction in the world where first-time non-violent offenders are put in for long periods of incarceration where it does anything but increase violence, increase victimization and create more problems?

Last, why would Conservative members not support our efforts both in committee and two years ago to go after large-scale fraudsters, focus it there and keep the accelerated parole review for others?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I come from the community of Miramichi, which is one of the best communities in the world. Miramichiers as well as all Canadians have certainly witnessed crimes done to victims and there is no money that can pay for that.

Last night I went to the ballet and I saw a silhouette of a Miramichier. I know this family and I know of its suffering and hurt. Regardless of what the cost is, no money can ever repay that.

What Canadians worry about are the millions that are thrown into the air and never accounted for, like we saw in the previous government. Those are the kinds of dollars that Canadians are worried about us spending.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about meeting with victims. Would it not be best for government to instill regulations and rules that would prevent victims from being created in the first place?

My question is very specific. The member is obviously concerned about this issue. Could she outline what her government has done to tighten up the regulations for the investors who rip off pensioners? Could she give us a few examples of something specific her government has done that says oversight will become more strict in Canada, not as it is right now?

The white-collar crime my colleague talks about will continue on beyond implementation of this bill because the government has regulators that are too close to those they are meant to be regulating. The OECD has harshly criticized Canada for this investment environment. The greatest reason others do not invest in Canada is that our regulatory environment is too weak. The reason Conrad Black was thrown in jail in the United States and not in Canada is that the Conservative government is too passive toward white-collar crime.

Could the member name one thing her government has done to clamp down on this so victims are not created in the first place by Earl Jones and others?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is another prime example of the opposition supporting criminals. I know that is not what Canadians want.

Just yesterday one of Earl Jones' victims said, “Jones will be free long before any one of us regain any semblance of normalcy and closure”.

Yesterday in the House the Liberal leader voted for our bill at second reading to end accelerated parole, but today he is again proving he is soft on crime by opposing our measures that would put an end to early parole for notorious fraudsters like Earl Jones.

I would ask all members of the House to support our bill, to support the victims.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Here is the problem, Mr. Speaker. A member of Parliament asked a question about what the government has done for victims and the response is to say that the member supports criminals. What absolute nonsense.

I was at committee last night. I watched every single opposition member, except for the Bloc Québécois, vote to ensure people like Earl Jones are not eligible for this condition. Shame on that member for trying to portray that any member of the House, either the member who posed the question, or myself, or a member of the Bloc, or the member herself supports Earl Jones getting accelerated pardon review.

The member should have listened two years ago when at justice committee we moved provisions that would not have allowed Mr. Lacroix out.

If the member is interested in victims, why has nothing been done to implement restitution orders so that when victims are taken for this kind of money the individual who commits the crime has to pay the money back? Why has the government made cuts to the RCMP task force on white-collar crime that goes after these criminals? Why has the government sat for years on legislation that we have been waiting to pass on lawful access to give police the tools to go after these kinds of criminals? Why has the government made cuts to crime prevention? Why has it cut from victims' services? Why did the government fire its victims' ombudsman, the government's own hand-picked ombudsman, who said its plan for victims is broken and will not work?

If the member is concerned about victims, why is she not addressing those issues?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to replace that word “if”. There is no “if”. Our government is concerned about victims and we have shown that over and over again. For 13 years we saw nothing being done for victims and we are now trying to take the ball and run with it.

I do not know what the member was dreaming about last night; none of us saw what he was dreaming about. I can assure him that our government is proud to stand in the House and stand up for victims. When I go back to the Miramichi, I will be proud to tell Miramichiers that I, along with our government, stood up for them, stood up for victims, stood up for all Canadians.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a couple of hours this House will vote at third reading on a bill that we have had about three days to work on. Parliament is yet again being asked to vote on a bill with absolutely no idea whatsoever what the costs will be. Effectively, Parliament has a blindfold on and has been wished good luck. It will find out after the bill has been passed and the money has been long since spent what the financial implications are. This is no way to conduct business.

As I watched last night, we had a couple of hours to listen to witnesses and listen to serious concerns regarding this bill. Yet again there was a closure motion so we could only deal with it until 10 o'clock.

Here are the facts. This sudden urgency, this sudden flurry of activity that came from the government could have been easily avoided if it had listened over the last number of years when Liberal members said that we should make sure we fix this, that we should shut down the provisions that allow someone like Earl Jones or Mr. Lacroix to get out early. We have been very clear on that. We have consistently pushed for it. We did so in press releases. We did so at the justice committee, moving it as amendments. The government refused to act. Then Mr. Lacroix got out because of the government's inaction. The government was caught with its pants down. It was embarrassed and suddenly, there was a flurry of activity. Suddenly it said that we should adopt this overnight or we do not care about victims; adopt this overnight or we are on the side of criminals. It is a defensive argument and it debases this House.

I have sat here and I have listened to members talk about rape victims. Just yesterday a Conservative member stood in the House and said that there are certain members of Parliament, of course they were not named, who support organizations that do not want jail time for people who rape children. What on earth is happening to debate when the Conservatives do this kind of thing? This is debate about first-time non-violent offenders and there is someone standing in the House talking about raping children and saying there are members in the House who do not support tough sentences for somebody who commits a crime like that. That is shameful. It shows us how desperate the Conservatives are to put politics ahead of an honest debate.

Here is the honest truth. Over the last two years not only did we advocate for these types of provisions that would stop someone like Earl Jones from getting released early, but in committee last night I, along with Liberal members and members of the NDP, proposed a series of amendments to make it targeted.

We voted yesterday at second reading to have the ability at committee to debate this matter, to focus it and get rid of the most offensive provisions that touch on things that frankly none of the Conservatives has been talking about and to determine what the Conservatives say the stated purpose of the bill is. What did they do? They voted against those amendments. In recorded vote after recorded vote, they blocked our efforts to amend the legislation.

Then they had the audacity, the intellectual dishonesty, to stand in the House and say that we do not care about victims, that we want to let Earl Jones out. It is despicable and it is dishonest.

To say that we have fair differences, to say that between us there are bridges we cannot build, that we cannot find compromise in certain areas, that is fine. To say that we both care about public safety, we both want to make a difference but we have a different approach to how we want to achieve it, is fair. However, to stand in the House and say that certain members support criminals, certain members do not support victims, give me a break.

Every single one of us in the House was elected because we care about our communities and our families. Every single one of us in the House comes here every day to try to make a better country, a safer country, with less violence and fewer problems. When we cast aspersions like that, the only thing we do is turn off Canadians and have them tune out. They say that this is not real debate and is nothing but games.

What I am trying to do here, and what we have tried consistently to do over the last number of days, is to point out deep concerns we have with provisions in the bill that eliminate the accelerated parole process for everyone.

Why should we care about that? First of all, this bill does nothing for victims. I mentioned that in my question.

It is worth mentioning that the member for Brampton West asked a series of good questions to victims. He asked what was more important to them and what did they want to see. Their most emphatic responses were around things like restitution and the ability to get money back from the people who victimized them. These are people who lost their life savings. Their first priority is getting back those savings. Certainly one of the first priorities of the government should be to stand side by side with them and say it is going to do everything it can do to get that money back.

One victim talked about his concerns with the idea that somebody like Earl Jones would just leave the country with his hard-earned money. We should be there for the victim every step of the way.

We heard another victim talk about the tax complications that come with this kind of situation. There are tax difficulties. As a government, and I speak in the collective sense of parliamentarians, we should be seeking ways to give tax breaks and different ways of assisting people who have been in that situation to dig themselves out.

We certainly heard from victims about the importance of enforcement, about putting money into the RCMP. It was only two days ago we heard about deep cuts of some $20 million that had been made to the national police services, which now the RCMP has to fund because there is a shortfall from the federal government. This is for services as essential as the sex offender registry and CPIC. We also know about cuts that have been made to the RCMP task force on white-collar crime.

It strikes me as disingenuous to say that opposition members do not care about victims when we are saying we have to do more to stop there being victims in the first place. We watched more than 70% being slashed from the crime prevention budget. When I talk to not-for-profit groups across the country that do great work in trying to stop crime before it happens and they tell me that they have to focus all their attention and energy on maintaining what little federal funding they have left to stop crime in their communities, that is wrong. When we talk about prevention, it is specifically because we care about victimization. It is specifically because we want safer communities, that we want honest answers for them.

In those examples, by investing in community capacity, by investing in police resources, by passing bills like what we have been pushing for, for well over four years now, to give lawful access abilities to our police to chase after criminals who use electronic media to perpetrate their crimes, by enabling them in those ways, we stop there being victims in the first place.

For anybody who has been victimized, the first thing that goes through his or her mind is how to make sure the pain and hurt and suffering never happens again. How do we stop it? It is not just about punishment.

On the punishment front, I cede to the Conservatives. They want to out-punish us. That is fine. The question is: Where does that lead? If our only objective is punishment, if we do not invest in those things I was talking about around prevention, where all those cuts have been made, we do no service to victims.

The Conservatives hand-picked the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Steve Sullivan. When he came to the conclusion after working with the Conservative government that the Conservative plan for victims will not work and is the wrong direction to go, he was fired. He was let go only because he spoke out.

Why did he say this plan was broken and would not work? It was not just because the Conservatives cut more than 40% from the victims of crime initiative, an initiative that sought to break cycles of victims that feed criminality. We have to remember that many victims become criminals if we do not address the base pain of their victimization. He said that not nearly enough money was being put into prevention and because of the cuts he saw, not nearly enough resources were being put into policing and not nearly enough resources were being put into helping victims once they had been victimized. Those are the kinds of things we have to do.

The Conservative plan to chase after incarceration and only incarceration as the solution, and then to vilify anybody who suggests that we should also look at other ideas, has been tried before. I mention this because it is important before embarking on a new endeavour to ask if somebody has tried this before.

Here in Canada we enjoy very low crime rates. During the years of Liberal power, we saw the crime rate, year over year, go down. At the same time, we enjoyed very low rates of incarceration. In thinking about it, those things are actually symbiotic. If there is a low rate of incarceration and a small number of people in prison, it is because there is less crime and fewer criminals. If there are overflowing prisons, and we are building more and more and it is growing and growing, it is because we have a lot of crime. It is not a good indicator.

In Canada, we had a strong model and, if we are going to break from that, where are we going? This same hyper-partisan approach to crime was tried by Republicans in states like California where they tried to vilify people who talked about prevention and investing in rehabilitation and programs. They called them people who did not care about victims and talked about them in the same kind of hyper-partisan terms that we have seen on the other side. Then they proceeded down a path of building more and more prisons, just churning them out one after the other.

What happens? Let us look at this bill. This bill disproportionately affects women. Some 62% of the people who will be affected by this will be women. These are women who are coming out of vulnerable situations or who are in situations where they are in a bad relationship or bad associations and end up carrying, not necessarily drugs, but goods of some sort, such as stolen goods. They are probably doing it under duress because they are in a bad situation, an impoverished situation.

If those women are a first-time non-violent offenders, this bill would eliminate their opportunity to move into conditional release. What does throwing them in jail longer and potentially keeping them away from their children for longer periods of time? Does that promote public safety?

In the experience of California, it did not. What ended up happening was that when they took first-time non-violent offenders and put them in jail for longer periods of time, there was a degradation in their condition.

Now that the prisons are more full and more replete with first-time non-violent offenders, there is less money to go around, which means that programs and services will be less effective. We already see that happening here in Canada where there is less money for programs and services. The correctional investigator is saying that we have a developing crisis here and there just is not enough money to deal with all of the people coming in to make them better.

Offenders who go into prison for a minor crime, go into an environment that is overcrowded and that does not have the services to address their root condition, remembering that more than 80% of inmates suffer from addiction issues. In the women's population, a quarter suffer from serious mental health issues. We are giving no money to those issues. In fact, we see it starting to slip away more and more. We then release them and, in this case, it is six months or two years later, whatever the case may be.

What happens when they get out? They start committing more serious crimes. In California, this vicious cycle became so bad that the rate of recidivism, that rate of reoffending, was over 70%, which means that for every 10 people who walked out a prison door, 7 would commit a crime.

We heard an interesting statistic last night. The violent reoffending rate for people who have been accessing the program is 0.3%. We are tossing out the window a program that has a violent recidivism rate of 0.3%. The system we are emulating is the California model that sees violent recidivism rates, not only in the double digits, but over 20%. It does not seem to me like that is something we would want to chase.

The problem in this vicious cycle is that it keeps feeding itself, it keeps chugging. The more those services are cut, the more people who go into prisons and the more stretched we become, the less there is available.

In California's example, it eventually had to go to private prisons where the conditions got even worse, where double bunking became triple bunking and where the lack of services became a complete absence of services. I do not think that is a path we want to cross.

When we look at the bill, we should consider the fact that many legal experts, including the Barreau du Québec, say that it is unconstitutional as well, that the retroactive features contained within the bill are unconstitutional and will not stand up to challenge. It is probably the result of hastily crafted legislation that was done behind closed doors, did not involve the parties and rammed through in three days, but those sorts of things are important to look at.

In a broader sense, in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Cameron is undoing this kind of punishment agenda, while in the United States we see an undoing of this kind of agenda. Newt Gingrich, who is considered the father of this whole idea, is saying that it is broken and it does not work. Canadian Conservatives stand alone in the world, conspicuously so, in chasing after this disaster.

I will point to one other quick example before I make a couple of other points. We need to look at Florida versus the state of New York and the two approaches they took. New York decided that this kind of prison agenda was not making sense, so it actually reduced its overall incarceration rate by some 16%. At the same time, Florida continued charging forward with these types of conservative policies for non-violent offenders. The result was that Florida had an increase of 16% in its incarceration.

If we use Conservative logic, Florida should have been a Nirvana. Florida should have suddenly seen massive decreases in its crime. The opposite was true. Not only was Florida now burdened with billions of dollars in new costs, but its crime rate had gone up. Meanwhile, in New York, which saved billions of dollars and decreased incarceration, its crime rate went down. That is the case, the tale, everywhere it has been tried. This is not some debate in abstraction.

This is a debate with hard evidence and, if we care, not just about costs but also about victims, if we care about making a difference and making our communities safe and we are honest about that intention and not seeking to play politics, it takes longer to explain but it makes sense to do the right thing.

It is important to read the comments that came in from the correctional investigator. These are his statistics and the concerns that he expressed. He said, “The abolition of APR will result in non-violent offenders remaining in federal custody for significantly longer periods before being released into the community—this with limited net public safety benefit”.

He goes on to say, “We can also expect that the Parole Board of Canada will have to hold more hearings than before, as APR typically is conducted by a paper review. These associated costs, in addition to significant incarceration costs, are important and need to be calculated”.

“Of course, we have nothing. They refused to give us the figures”.

“Statistics show that overcrowding in prisons leads to higher levels of tension and violence and jeopardizes the safety of staff, inmates and visitors”.

He continues on to say, “With overcrowding, timely and comprehensive access to offender programs, treatment and meaningful employment opportunities are measurably diminished”.

He continues on to say, “Capacity is currently most limited at the most medium security level, where bulk of correctional programming is supposed to take place and this bill will negatively impact it”.

He goes on to talk about the overrepresentation of aboriginal people and how the bill will disproportionately impact them. He continues to say that the office is concerned, as I mentioned before, about women offenders and the fact that this disproportionately targets them. We must remember that for women offenders the cost of incarceration is anywhere from $180,000 to $250,000 a year.

These are not smart solutions. They are backward, failed Republican solutions and we do not need them here. We need to be smart, not dumb, on crime.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I made note that at the beginning of the member's speech he talked about the desire to take the debate to a higher level and to have an honest question and an honest answer. I am going to ask a fair question and I hope he will provide a fair answer.

With regard to the accelerated parole review, I know he supports the area around fraudsters but that he has a problem with regard to first-time non-violent offenders.

Last night in committee, one of the witnesses, Ms. Lanctôt , described two of the non-violent offenders. One was a drug mule and one was an individual who had a drug operation in his house. Those are the ones with the accelerated parole that the member for Ajax—Pickering thinks works well.

I wonder if he could just provide an answer to the House as to whether he thinks those types of crimes warrant accelerated parole review.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us take the example of a drug mule under this situation. Let us take the example of a woman in a bad or abusive relationship, which, unfortunately, is very often the case, or she is caught up in a crowd that is less than desirable because of an economically vulnerable position, who, because of that economically vulnerable position, makes some bad choices, becomes a mule, not necessarily for drugs, but for other goods that maybe she did not realize were stolen, or maybe even did realize were stolen, what do we do with her?

There has to be a consequence, absolutely, but long periods of protracted incarceration do one thing. They lead to more crime. They lead to less rehabilitation. It has been proven in every jurisdiction it has been tried.

Therefore, keeping that woman, who might be a mother, away from her children, as long as possible in a jail cell does one thing. It reduces overall resources to deal with violent offenders who need to be treated. In that situation, it could cost anywhere from, at a low, $185,000 to a high of $250,000 a year to incarcerate her, where conditional release will be $23,000. It does nothing for public safety and it reduces resources to deal with those who are a danger to society and we do not want to let out.

We need to be intelligent and thoughtful on this stuff.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised by the hon. member's comments. To hear him talk, this entire bill should be rejected. He had many questions and criticisms for someone who voted in favour of the bill at second reading and who will vote in favour of it again at third reading this evening if he votes with his party. He should listen to the arguments of those who are in favour of this bill and particularly the arguments of the Bloc Québécois members who are behind this bill.

Members are talking about saving money. In matters of justice, the common good must always be the first priority. Certainly it will cost money to sometimes imprison people, but there are also major costs associated with letting criminals roam free. We always use the examples of Vincent Lacroix and Mr. Jones, but let us also not forget Donald Matticks, the famous drug dealer. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison but served only 16 months. That is ridiculous. Judges must be able to assess the crime based on its seriousness, not based on how the offender behaves in prison or on whether the crime was violent or not.

I am surprised by the hon. member's comments. I am wondering whether he would not be better off siding with the Bloc Québécois to respond to the wishes of the public.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course we voted at second reading. As I explained, we wanted to amend it and really focus on the people he is pretending the bill is about.

However, I will tell members what I am shocked by. I am shocked that the Bloc Québécois is willing to vote for a bill when it has no costs, that it is willing to vote on a bill that has no idea of the fiscal implications on it. I am shocked that the Bloc Québécois will vote for a bill that the Quebec Bar Association says is unconstitutional and will not work. I am shocked that the Bloc Québécois would stand up against pretty much every church group that is out there that says that the bill will not work, or against the Elizabeth Fry Society, the John Howard Society and an assembly of health care providers that is pan-Canadian from Quebec to Newfoundland to the Yukon that all say that this stuff does not work.

I am shocked that the Bloc did not vote with us two years ago to put in provisions that would have ensured that Mr. Lacroix did not get out. Where was the Bloc two years ago? Why was the Bloc not with us two years ago when we introduced measures to stop large-scale fraudsters? Why is it including everybody else in this in a way that would badly damage public safety?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 16th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a debate about what prisons are and what the philosophy should be. The member rightly pointed out a number of areas. I would also like to refer to some statistics that my hon. colleague from Vancouver pointed out to us today.

The fact is it costs roughly $150,000 to keep a person in prison and roughly $185,000 to keep a female in prison today. The cost of parole, including halfway houses, is around $39,000.

In the past five years around 7,000 offenders were entitled to consideration for accelerated parole and roughly 4,800 were granted it. It had an 84% success rate. Those are not bad statistics. It means these people came out of jail and did not go back to crime.

Is this not what it is all about? Should our crime policy not only allow for punishment, but also ensure that it does not happen again?

Could he comment on that?