Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act

An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Dec. 14, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to provide for minimum penalties for serious drug offences, to increase the maximum penalty for cannabis (marihuana) production and to reschedule certain substances from Schedule III to that Act to Schedule I.

As well, it requires that a review of that Act be undertaken and a report submitted to Parliament.

The enactment also makes related and 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.

January 31st, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

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--

Motions in Amendment
Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

November 29th, 2011 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

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 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

In terms of the larger figures you refer to, the most significant increase in our budget has come as a result of the tackling violent crime bill and the bill regarding the two-for-one sentencing. That's where we saw the largest increase in our budget, both on an operating cost level and a construction level. We have about 37 living unit construction projects under way across the country.

Relating to Bill C-10, as you know, there are a number of bills in there. There are two sub-bills, I guess we'll call them, that have direct impacts on CSC: one is in relation to the sexual offending piece, and the other is in relation to what was previously referred to as Bill S-10, the drug piece. When I refer to the $38 million, it's in relation to the implementation of those two subsections of Bill C-10.

The cost for us is the anticipated increase of the offender population for the sex offending piece, which we're estimating at its peak would probably be around 164 more inmates, on an ongoing basis, per year.

With regard to the costs associated with Bill S-10, because we provide community supervision for provincial offenders where there is no provincial parole board, a significant amount of that cost is for individuals who may get parole and we have to do the case preparation and the supervision of them. Those are our costs with that piece.

As for the rest of it—the previous question from a member was about the difference between the $38 million and the other $70 million—that's not related to the Correctional Service of Canada. As I said, I'd have to defer to the Department of Justice for the breakdown of those costs.

October 18th, 2011 / 9:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

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?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 28th, 2011 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

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
Government Orders

September 28th, 2011 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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
Government Orders

September 28th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.

First:

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.

Second:

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.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2011 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

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 comprehensive legislation that addresses a number of serious issues that are in front of mind for this government and for all Canadians.

It proposes legislative reforms to strengthen our existing responses to: child sexual abuse and exploitation as well as serious drug, violent and property crimes found in part 2, clauses 10 to 51; terrorism, found in part 1, clauses 2 to 9; violent young offenders, part 4, clauses 167 to 204; offender accountability and management, part 3, clauses 52 to 166; and the protection of vulnerable foreign workers against abuse and exploitation, part 5, clauses 205 to 207.

There can be no question that this is an important package of reforms. That is why we must take our task as lawmakers seriously, and study and pass these proposals to ensure the safety of all Canadians.

Bill C-10 compiles the reforms that were included in nine bills that were before the previous Parliament which died on the order paper with the dissolution of that Parliament for the general election. Former Bill C-4, Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders) is now in part 4 of Bill C-10. Former Bill C-5, Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act is now in part 3. Former Bill C-16, Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act is now in part 2. Former Bill C-23B, Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act is now in part 3. Former Bill C-39, Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act is now in part 3. Former Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act is now in part 2. Bill C-56, Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act is now in part 5. Former Bill C-59, Abolition of Early Parole Act is now in part 3. Former Bill S-7, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act is now in part 1. Former Bill S-10, Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act is now in part 2.

Many of these former bills were previously debated, studied and some were even passed by the House of Commons. Therefore, they should easily be supported again in this Parliament.

I would like to focus the balance of my remarks on the proposals in Bill C-10 to better protect children against sexual exploitation, that being those reforms now in part 2 of this legislation that were previously in Bill C-54 in the last session of Parliament.

The reforms build on the government's well-established commitment and track record in delivering concrete measures tackling violent crime, and in particular to safeguard children against violent sexual offenders. For example, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, 2008 raised the age of consent of sexual activity from 14 to 16 years to better protect Canadian youth against adult sexual predators. It also better protected all Canadians against dangerous offenders by providing police, crown prosecutors and the courts with much needed tools to more effectively manage the threat posed by individuals who were at high risk of reoffending sexually and violently.

While it is true that our existing criminal laws addressing child sexual abuse and exploitation are already comprehensive and robust, there is always room for improvement. We should never be complacent in ensuring that we are doing all we can to safeguard such a vulnerable segment of the Canadian population.

This point is underscored by Statistics Canada's Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Juristat article “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2010”, released on July 21, 2011, which reported increases in the rates of child pornography offences as up 36% and sexual assault as up 5%.

The proposed reforms in Bill C-10 are both timely and welcome. They address clear gaps in our existing laws. The address the gap created by inconsistent penalties for sexual assault offences where the victim is a child and the gap that now exists because some of the preparatory conduct engaged in by child sex offenders is not criminalized. They fill a gap in our existing measures to help prevent known or suspected child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate their sexual offences.

The proposals in Bill C-10 seek to ensure that all sexual offences involving a child are treated equally, seriously and consistently. They do so by: proposing to impose new mandatory minimum penalties for offences involving child victims that currently do not carry minimum penalties; increasing the mandatory minimum penalties for some child sex offences that are already imposed; and, by increasing the maximum penalties on some other offences. Once these reforms are enacted, there would be a consistent approach to sentencing in all sexual assault cases involving child victims.

Child sexual assault could be charged under any of the child-specific sexual offences or under the general sexual assault offences that also apply to adult victims. Currently, 12 but not all child-specific sexual offences impose mandatory minimum penalties and none of the general sexual assault offences impose mandatory minimum penalties.

In practice, this means that the overwhelming majority of child sexual assault cases do not carry mandatory minimum sentences. This is because the majority of child sexual offences are charged under the general sexual assault offence in section 271, which does not currently impose a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment. That is 80% of all child sex offences charged in 2008. The source of this information is Statistics Canada's Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, UCR2. It is very current data.

If we take as our starting point the universally shared view that all child sexual abuse must be strongly condemned and that mandatory minimum penalties are exceptional in the Criminal Code and are reserved for those crimes that Parliament determines must be strongly denounced and deterred, it should be obvious to all that the current use of mandatory minimum sentences for some but not all sexual offences involving child victims is just wrong. That sends a message to some victims that their experience of sexual assault is less serious than that of other child victims. It also sends a message to child sex offenders that they should try to plea bargain for charges under offences that do not impose mandatory minimum penalties.

Bill C-10 contains fundamental legislative safeguards for all Canadians. I call upon the opposition members to put an end to their attempts to obstruct the bill and to support our efforts to keep Canadians safe.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. It is a bill that is very important to residents in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and certainly across Canada.

The June 2011 Speech from the Throne recognized the government's fundamental duty to protect the personal safety of all Canadians. Toward this end we have committed to reintroduce law and order legislation to combat crime, including protecting children from sex offenders, eliminating house arrest and pardons for serious crimes, and protecting the most vulnerable in society, our children.

Bill C-10 supports this commitment. It is a comprehensive package of law reforms that had been proposed in nine bills before the previous Parliament, but which died with the dissolution of that Parliament for the general election.

Part 1, clauses 2 to 9, of Bill C-10 includes reforms to support victims of terrorism. These were proposed in former Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Part 2, clauses 10 to 51, proposes sentencing reforms to address child sexual exploitation, serious drug offences, and to eliminate the use of conditional sentences for serious, violent and property crimes. It incorporates reforms that were proposed in former Bills C-54, the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act and C-16, the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act.

Part 3, clauses 52 to 166, includes post-sentencing reforms to increase offender accountability, eliminate pardons for serious crimes, and revise the criteria for determining international transfers of Canadian offenders. These reforms were proposed in former Bills C-39, the Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act, C-23, the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act, C-59, the Abolition of Early Parole Act and C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act.

Part 4, clauses 167 to 204, proposes reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better protect Canadians from violent young offenders. These had been proposed in former Bill C-4, Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders).

Part 5 of Bill C-10 proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to protect foreign workers against abuse and exploitation, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking. These amendments had been proposed in former Bill C-56, the Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act.

Many of these proposed reforms were debated and studied in the previous Parliament. I welcome their reintroduction in this new Parliament.

I will focus my remaining time on Bill C-10's proposal to better protect children against sexual exploitation.

As with its predecessor Bill C-54, the objectives of Bill C-10's child sexual exploitation reforms are twofold. First, they seek to ensure that for sentencing purposes all child sexual offences are treated severely and consistently. Second, they seek to protect children by preventing the commission of these offences. Bill C-10 does this by imposing stiffer and stronger penalties.

Bill C-10 proposes numerous amendments to enhance the penalties or sentences of imprisonment that are currently imposed for sexual offences involving child victims. It imposes new or higher mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment as well as higher maximum penalties for certain offences.

Currently, the Criminal Code has an inconsistent approach regarding penalties for sexual offences involving a child victim. For instance, there are 12 child-specific sexual offences that impose a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment, yet there are other child-specific offences that do not impose a minimum penalty.

Similarly, the general sexual offences that apply to both adult and child victims alike do not impose any mandatory minimum penalty where the victim is a child.

As the grandfather of two granddaughters, one six years old and the other three years old, this means a lot to me. The bill serves to strengthen the laws that protect our children and the vulnerable. There should be no question about supporting this bill.

Mandatory minimum penalties are exception In the Criminal Code of Canada. Generally, they have been imposed because Parliament has determined that the nature of a particular offence is sufficiently serious to include a sentence of imprisonment. That sentence was devised to best reflect the facts and circumstances of the case and does not get lost between the mandatory minimum period of time to the prescribed maximum penalty. Where mandatory minimum sentences are imposed, a conditional sentence of imprisonment is never appropriate for the offence.

Given this understanding of mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment, the effect of imposing these in only some but not all sexual offences where the victim is a child suggests that some child sexual offences are more serious than others. It is ludicrous to suggest that some child victims have been less victimized than others. I cannot understand that thought process.

In my view, this contradicts a fundamental value of Canadian society, namely that all children are among our most vulnerable and that all are deserving of equal protection against all forms of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Therefore, I welcome the proposals of Bill C-10 to impose mandatory minimum sentences for seven sexual offences wherein the victim is a child and where currently mandatory minimum sentences are not imposed.

Bill C-10 also proposes to impose higher mandatory minimum sentences for nine offences that already carry a minimum sentence. These increases would ensure that the minimum sentence is not only in line with the offence in question but also is coherent with the minimum sentences imposed for other offences.

As well, Bill C-10 proposes to create two new offences to prevent the commission of a contact sexual offence against a child. Both of these offences would also impose mandatory minimum sentences.

I would also note that Bill C-10 proposes a few sentencing reforms that were not included in Bill C-54. These changes are entirely consistent with the overall sentencing objectives of former Bill C-54 and seek to better reflect the particularly heinous nature of these offences.

Finally, these changes would increase the maximum penalty and corresponding mandatory minimum sentences for four child sex offences. When proceeded on summary conviction, subsections 163.1(2), making child pornography, and 163.1(3), distribution, et cetera, of child pornography, propose to increase the maximum penalty from 18 months to 2 years less a day as well as increase the current minimum sentence from 90 days to 6 months.

In section 170, parent or guardian procuring sexual activity, the bill proposes to increase the minimum penalty from 6 months to 1 year and the maximum penalty from 5 years to 10 years where the victim is under the age of 16 years, and the minimum from 45 days to 6 months and the maximum from 2 years to 5 years respectively where the victim is 16 to 17 years old.

I hope that all hon. members will work with us to support the expeditious enactment of these much needed reforms.

In closing, as members of Parliament we all have a number of issues that come before us. In my seven years in this great place the one thing that I consistently hear from my constituents, especially those with children, young children and grandchildren, is the lack of rights for victims in this country. We worry more about the rights of criminals than victims, which is a sad case. The pendulum has swung too far one way. I am proud to be part of a government that would straighten that out.

I look forward to all hon. members in the House supporting Bill C-10.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 22nd, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at the second reading debate on Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts.

Part 2 of the bill proposes sentencing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Clause 34 of the bill, within part 2, proposes to restrict the availability of conditional sentences in the same manner as was advanced in former Bill C-16, which had received second reading and had been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights but had not yet been studied when it died on the order paper at the dissolution of the 40th Parliament.

Conditional sentences are an appropriate sentencing tool in many cases, but not when it comes to serious property crimes and violent offences. Conditional sentences became a sentencing option with the proclamation in September 1996 of Bill C-41, chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1995. They were created in recognition that many less serious offenders who would otherwise be sentenced to custody could remain among other members of society as long as they adhered to strict and appropriate conditions.

When first introduced, conditional sentences were available if the sentence imposed was less than two years of imprisonment, the offence for which the offender was sentenced was not punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty and the court was satisfied that allowing the offender to serve the sentence of imprisonment in the community would not endanger the safety of that community.

Shortly thereafter, a requirement was added to require the court to be satisfied that sentencing the offender to a conditional sentence of imprisonment would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in section 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code.

Where a conditional sentence is imposed, the effect is that the offender serves his or her sentence in the community with conditions, and sometimes with a condition of house arrest. This new sentencing option generated considerable debate following its creation because it was available at sentencing for any offences not punishable by a minimum sentence, including serious and violent offences, provided that the accused met all the above-mentioned prerequisites. Parliament intended that conditional sentences would be available to non-dangerous offenders who would have been, before the creation of conditional sentences, sentenced to a term of incarceration of less than two years for offences with no minimum term of imprisonment.

In 2000 this debate on certain controversial cases led the Supreme Court of Canada to examine the conditional sentence regime in R. v. Proulx. The court explained that a sentencing court must first find that a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years is appropriate before examining the other prerequisites to the availability of conditional sentences.

In other words, a conditional sentence is not on an equal footing with the rest of the sentencing options available at sentencing, because the court must be of the opinion that other non-carceral sentencing options, such as a probation order or a fine, would not adequately address the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. It is only in situations in which the court is of the opinion that the term of imprisonment should not be more than two years that a conditional sentence order may be considered, if the court is also satisfied that allowing the offender to serve the sentence in a community would not endanger public safety.

Over the years there has been a loss of public confidence in the appropriateness of conditional sentence orders because of the wide array of offences that received conditional sentences of imprisonment, including offences punishable by the highest maximum in the Criminal Code.

Our government responded to these concerns by tabling Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) on May 4, 2006.

Bill C-9, in its original form, proposed to eliminate conditional sentences for offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years or more. It was, and still is, the opinion of this government that offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, 14 years, or life are serious offences that should never, ever, result in a conditional sentence order.

However, the scope of Bill C-9 was amended in committee to only capture offences that are punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years or more and prosecuted on indictment, that are terrorism offences, organized crime offences, and serious personal injury offences as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code.

The use of the term “serious personal injury offence” to restrict the availability of conditional sentences has not accomplished the objective of ensuring that conditional sentences are not available for serious crimes. In fact, this approach allows certain serious offences, punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment or more, such as robbery, to be eligible for a conditional sentence or house arrest.

As defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code, a serious personal injury offence has two components. First, it specifically includes the three general sexual assault offences in sections 271, 272 and 273 of the code. This is pretty straightforward. The second component of the serious personal injury offence does not provide the same certainty because it includes indictable offences involving the use or attempted use of violence against another person, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person, or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person, and for which the offender may be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years or more. This calls for interpretation of whether an offence endangered the life or safety of another person or was likely to do so. For some offences this will be clear, but for others it will not be clear.

This government wants to clearly indicate the offences for which a conditional sentence is never an option. This is what the relevant amendments contained in the bill before us address. Rather than leaving it to individual courts to determine whether a particular offence qualifies as a serious personal injury offence, it clearly identifies all offences which should never be eligible for a conditional sentence. It removes all of that uncertainty.

Until the coming into force of Bill C-9 on December 1, 2007, sentencing courts only interpreted “serious personal injury offence” for the purpose of determining whether the threshold for a dangerous or long-term offender application had been met. That is from part XXIV of the Criminal Code. This is because the term had been enacted and defined for the dangerous and long-term offender provisions only.

Since Bill C-9 came into force, courts have had to interpret the definition of “serious personal injury offences” in the context of conditional sentences, a context which is quite different from that for dangerous and long-term offenders. For instance, in the 2009 decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal in R. v. Ponticorvo, the court held that serious personal injury in the conditional sentence context included the use, or attempted use, of any violence and was not restricted to only the use of serious violence. In so doing, the court applied a different interpretation than it had to the same term in the dangerous offender context in R. v. Neve in 1999.

In 2010 in R. v. Lebar, the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed this approach and concluded that for the purposes of the availability of conditional sentences, Parliament created “a divide between crimes where violence is or is not used, not between crimes of serious violence and less serious violence”. That is in paragraph 69 of the decision.

These cases illustrate there is considerable uncertainty about how the existing conditional sentence regime will be interpreted. This bill will provide the needed clarity and certainty to say which offences are not eligible for a conditional sentence. This will in turn prevent the need to wait for these issues to be finally resolved by the appellate courts, including perhaps the Supreme Court of Canada.

Another concern we have is that the definition of “serious personal injury offences” on its face does not cover most serious property crimes which could still be eligible for a conditional sentence. For instance, fraud, which is an offence punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years, is a very serious crime that can have a devastating impact on the lives of its victims, yet, according to the definition of “serious personal injury offence”, it is still technically eligible for a conditional sentence.

I should note, however, that a recent amendment to the Criminal Code which is not yet in force provides for a mandatory sentence of two years when the value of the fraud exceeds $1 million. In those cases a conditional sentence would not be available.

In addition, the current prerequisites to the availability of a conditional sentence do not exclude drug offences, such as the production, importation and trafficking of heroin, unless they are committed as part of a criminal organization and provided that they are punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more and prosecuted on indictment.

However, as hon. members well know, this bill also includes the amendments that were proposed in former Bill S-10, which also died on the order paper at the dissolution of the last Parliament. It is proposed to create mandatory minimum penalties for certain drug offences which would make them ineligible for a conditional sentence.

It is my view that the current conditional sentencing regime fails to categorically make conditional sentences ineligible for many very serious crimes. Permitting the use of conditional sentences for some offences punishable by the highest maximum available in the code sends a message that certain offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life are less serious than others punishable by the same maximum. This is not the message this Parliament should be sending to Canadians.

Greater clarity and consistency is needed to limit the availability of conditional sentences and to protect Canadians from serious and violent offenders. In order to address these concerns, the proposed amendments contained in this bill would retain all the existing prerequisites for conditional sentences but would make it crystal clear which offences are ineligible. Specifically, the reforms would eliminate the reference to serious personal injury offences in section 742.1 and would make all offences punishable by 14 years or life ineligible for a conditional sentence.

This would, for instance, make the offences of fraud, robbery and many other crimes clearly ineligible for a conditional sentence. It would also make offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years ineligible for a conditional sentence if they: result in bodily harm; involve the import or export, trafficking and production of drugs; or involve the use of a weapon. It is the opinion of the government that where these circumstances are present, there is a need to emphasize the sentencing objectives of denunciation and deterrence and therefore eliminate the possibility of a conditional sentence.

In order to ensure that all serious crimes are caught, this bill also proposes a list of 11 specific offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years that would be ineligible for a conditional sentence. These offences are: prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, abduction of persons under the age of 14 years, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling house, being unlawfully in a dwelling house, and arson for fraudulent purposes.

Some hon. members might notice there are three differences from the list that was contained in Bill C-16.

First, the offence of luring a child was taken out of the list of offences punishable by 10 years' imprisonment on indictment because clause 22 of the bill proposes a mandatory minimum penalty of one year on indictment and 90 days on summary conviction. Therefore, this offence would be ineligible for a conditional sentence.

The second change was the addition of a new motor vehicle theft offence described at section 333.1 of the Criminal Code. This addition would ensure consistency with the restriction on the availability of conditional sentences for theft over $5,000.

Last, former Bill C-16 eliminated the possibility of house arrest for the abduction of a person under the age of 14 by a parent, guardian or person having the lawful care or charge of that person. The intention, however, was to target the abduction of a person under the age of 14 by a stranger. This has been rectified in the bill by replacing the reference to section 283 by a reference to section 281 in the list of offences punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and prosecuted on indictment that are ineligible for a conditional sentence.

This government is committed to ensuring that conditional sentences are used the way they were originally intended to be used, and that is for less serious offences. I am confident the more appropriate use of conditional sentence orders will strengthen public confidence in the sanction and administration of justice.

I am the chair of the Conservative Party's law enforcement officers caucus, which is made up of 11 people from both the House of Commons and the Senate who have previous experience in police investigations, in corrections and in other law enforcement agencies. We stand together to support this bill, because we have seen first hand how detrimental these conditional sentences and many of the other aspects of the bill have been to our communities. We have seen the victims of these offences suffer terribly. We have been at the front line to say that we are sorry the system failed them.

We will not stand by and allow the system to continue to fail them. We are the police officers, the corrections officers and the law enforcement officers in this House. They do not exist in any other party. We stand together to support this bill.

I would ask, in fact on behalf of victims I would beg, members of the opposition to please support this bill to make sure that our streets and communities are safe. This is imperative to continue to live in the most incredible country in the world.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to answer questions from members across the way, and I would implore them to think about the victims as they ask their questions.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 21st, 2011 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today to speak at second reading of Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

As many of my colleagues know, this government committed to introducing once again—yes, once again—any law and order bills that died on the order paper at the dissolution of the 40th Parliament.

The proposed changes aim, for example, to protect children from sexual crimes, to clarify ineligibility for conditional sentences and pardons, and to protect other vulnerable members of our society.

With all that in mind, the bill before us constitutes a comprehensive bill incorporating all the changes previously proposed in nine separate bills introduced during the previous parliament.

The first part of the bill—clauses 2 to 9—contains the changes suggested in the former Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Part 2 contains clauses 10 to 51 of the bill, which include the amendments found in former bills C-54, the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, which was designed to protect children from sexual predators and certain sexual offences; C-16 , the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act, intended to limit the use of conditional sentences; and S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, to increase sentences for serious drug-related offences.

Part 3—clauses 52 to 166—includes measures to increase the accountability of offenders, eliminate pardons for serious crimes and modify the factors considered in the international transfer of Canadian offenders. These amendments were contained in former bills C-39, the Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; C-23B, the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; C-59, the Abolition of Early Parole Act; and C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act.

Part 4 of the bill—clauses 167 to 204—amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better protect Canadians against violent young offenders. These amendments were included in former Bill C-4 , Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders).

The last part of the bill—clauses 205 to 207—proposes amendments contained in former Bill C-56, the Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act, that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to protect workers who want to work in Canada and are at risk of being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation.

In particular, I would like to elaborate on clause 34 of Part 2 of the bill, which seeks to curtail the use of conditional sentences for some property crimes and other serious crimes.

As I mentioned earlier, these amendments were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-16, which died on the order paper with the dissolution of the third session of the 40th Parliament. However, there are some technical differences, which I will discuss later.

Currently, under the Criminal Code, conditional sentencing, sometimes referred to as house arrest, can be imposed when an offence is not punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence and the court hands down a prison sentence of less than two years.

In fact, since December 2007, conditional sentences have no longer been available for indictable offences with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more in the case of serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences or organized crime offences.

What is more, the court imposing a conditional sentence has to be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community will not jeopardize the safety of the community and that the sentence is consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing.

It is important to note that the fundamental purpose of sentencing, as set out in section 718 of the Criminal Code, is to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives: to denounce unlawful conduct; to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences; to separate offenders from society, where necessary; to assist in rehabilitating offenders; to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community; and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.

The Criminal Code also informs us that a just sanction is a sanction that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. To achieve this, the courts take into consideration aggravating and mitigating factors in each case. Before describing the key aspects of the proposed changes, I want to provide some background on the provisions in the Criminal Code on conditional sentences.

Conditional sentencing came into effect in 1996, when the government wanted, among other things, to reduce excessive use of incarceration for less serious crimes. I repeat: less serious crimes. Moreover, the information document that accompanied these sentencing reforms states that the addition of conditional sentencing as a new form of sentencing means that offenders who have committed a less serious crime and who otherwise would be incarcerated can serve their sentence in the community under close supervision.

The limits that I mentioned earlier were established in order to guarantee that conditional sentences could be given only for less serious crimes, in keeping with the fundamental principles and purpose of sentencing. However, in the years following the creation of this type of sentencing, there has been a complete lack of consistency when it comes to determining when conditional sentencing is appropriate.

At the time, many court decisions gave a conditional sentence for serious and violent crimes. This contributed to the public's loss of faith in the justice system. Clearly, many people, and some provinces and territories, wondered whether the limits on conditional sentencing set out in the Criminal Code were sufficient.

In order to deal with this lack of consistency in conditional sentencing, this government introduced Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) on May 4, 2006. This bill proposed the elimination of conditional sentencing for any indictable offence with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more. However, Bill C-9 was amended by the opposition parties to limit the ban on conditional sentencing to indictable offences with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more that constitute serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences or criminal organization offences. These amendments took effect on December 1, 2007.

The definition of serious personal injury was developed in the context of dangerous offenders, which is why this definition is found in part 24 of the Criminal Code. According to this definition, serious personal injury offences include any indictable offence, other than high treason, treason, first degree murder or second degree murder—punishable by at least 10 years in prison—involving the use or attempted use of violence against another person, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person.

The second part of this definition is clearer, as it lists sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault as serious personal injury offences.

It is important to understand that the opposition parties borrowed a term straight from the dangerous offender regime in order to put limits on a sentence that should only be applied to less dangerous offenders. That created two philosophical approaches for interpreting the definition of serious personal injury in the context of conditional sentencing.

Another issue with the definition of serious personal injury is that it only targets violent offences. The definition of serious personal injury cannot ensure that a conditional sentence will not be used in the case of serious fraud or theft over $5,000.

The amendments in this bill will ensure that certain non-violent serious offences will still be treated as serious offences, thus avoiding the use of conditional sentencing. The amendments to the conditional sentencing regime proposed in this bill aim to establish clear benchmarks to allow for consistent use of conditional sentencing in order to respect Parliament's intention when it created this sentence.

That is why the bill proposes eliminating the reference to serious personal injury offences and restricting the availability of conditional sentences for all offences for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life.

The same will apply to indictable offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment when they result in bodily harm, involve the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs or involve the use of weapons.

When an offence is committed under these circumstances, it is even more important to deter the offender and denounce the crime. This justifies restricting the availability of conditional sentences in such cases. It is possible however that the limits I just described do not cover all offences prosecuted by way of indictment and punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Therefore, the bill also proposes limiting the availability of conditional sentences for prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, abduction of a person under 14, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling-house, being unlawfully in a dwelling-house, and arson for fraudulent purpose.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, there are technical differences between the changes proposed in this bill and those contained in the former Bill C-16.

For example, Bill C-16 proposed the abolition of conditional sentencing for the offence of luring a child, described in section 172.1. This is no longer on the list of offences that would not be eligible for conditional sentencing, since article 22 of this bill proposes a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year in the case of an indictable offence, or 90 days in the case of a summary conviction.

Another change from Bill C-16 is that the list of offences that are no longer eligible for conditional sentence includes the new offence of motor vehicle theft, described in section 333.1 of the Criminal Code.

The final change would correct an error that slipped into Bill C-16. That bill did not include the offence of abduction of a person under 14 by a parent or guardian. The intent was, however, to target the offence described in section 281 of the Criminal Code, which has to do with the abduction of a person under 14 by a stranger.

I want to reassure my colleagues that even though the reference in section 742.1 to serious personal injury offences is set to be eliminated, the changes in this bill will ensure that those who are convicted of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault will not be eligible if prosecuted by way of indictment.

Note also that conditional sentencing will no longer be available for persons convicted of sexual assault against a person 16 or under since clause 25 of the bill proposes a minimum sentence of one year when the offence is prosecuted by way of indictment, and 90 days on summary conviction.

This government is addressing the concerns of Canadians who no longer want to see conditional sentences used for serious crimes, whether they are violent crimes or property crimes.

For the reasons I have just mentioned, I urge my fellow members of this House to unanimously support the proposed changes to the conditional sentencing system.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 21st, 2011 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, the safe streets and communities act fulfills this government's commitment, as noted in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne, to reintroduce law and order legislation to combat crime and terrorism. As highlighted by the Minister of Justice, the bill is in five parts and brings together the criminal law reforms that were proposed in nine bills in the last session.

Amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are found in part 2 of the bill, from clause 39 through clause 51 inclusively. These amendments are the same as those proposed in Bill S-10, which was introduced in May 2010, passed by the Senate last December and died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved last March.

I also note that the government first introduced these amendments to address serious drug crimes as Bill C-26 in 2007 and again as Bill C-15 in 2009. We remain committed to enacting these reforms now included in the safe streets and communities act.

These amendments are not about imposing mandatory minimum sentences for all drug crimes. These amendments propose targeted, mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes and ensure that those who carry out these crimes will be penalized. These amendments clearly send the message that Canadians find this type of criminal behaviour unacceptable.

A mandatory minimum sentence is the starting point for the judge's consideration of the appropriate jail term. Where a minimum sentence applies, the sentence imposed by the judge cannot be less. Presently there are no mandatory minimum penalties in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or CDSA. The CDSA provides for maximum penalties based on the prohibited activity involved as well as on the substances involved. The maximum penalty for the most serious offences involving the most dangerous drugs is life imprisonment.

The most serious drug offences in the CDSA, as measured by their maximum penalty, are trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importation and exportation and production in respect of schedule I drugs. What are those drugs? They are drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and morphine, and schedule II drugs which are cannabis-related.

All of these offences involving Schedule I drugs are punishable by up to life imprisonment. The offence of trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking of cannabis in amounts over three kilograms is punishable by up to life imprisonment, as are the offences of importation and exportation of any amount of cannabis. The offence of producing cannabis in punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

The least severe penalties in the CDSA for designated substances offences, up to 12 months imprisonment on summary conviction, are reserved for offences involving substances listed in schedules IV and V; that is, substances such as diazepam, or Valium, and secobarbital, Seconal. it should be noted, however, that most of the prohibited activities in the CDSA are legal if committed by someone possessing the proper licence, permit, or exemption.

There are some who do not agree with the drug-related amendments proposed in the bill. They are of the view that serious drug offences do not require a response such as that contained in this proposed legislation. However, serious drug crime is a serious problem in Canada and it requires a serious legislative approach. That is what we are bringing to this issue.

Marijuana cultivation offences have increased significantly in the past several years. According to a study on marijuana grow operations in British Columbia, my home province, in 2003 approximately 39% of all reported marijuana cultivation cases, or 4,514, were located in B.C. Between 1997 and 2000, the total number of these cases increased by over 220%. Although the number of individual operations in B.C. levelled off between 2000 to 2003, the estimated quantity of marijuana produced has increased from 19,729 kilos in 1997 to a seven year high of 79,817 kilos in 2003, due to the size and sophistication of individual operations.

Investigations by BC Hydro indicate the existence of thousands of possible marijuana grow operations. The increase in the illicit production of marijuana has occurred not just in B.C., of course, but across all of Canada.

Available RCMP data indicates a rise in synthetic drug production operations in the last 10 years. The RCMP indicates that there were 25 clandestine labs seized in 2002. In 2008, 43 clandestine labs were seized across Canada. In 2009, 45 clandestine labs were seized by various Canadian police agencies. The majority of labs seized were methamphetamine and ecstasy labs.

It is in part because of the existence of these illicit activities that the Prime Minister unveiled Canada's national anti-drug strategy in October 2007. The national anti-drug strategy provided new resources to prevent illegal drug use, including illicit drug use by young people, to treat people who had drug addictions and to fight illegal drug crime.

The strategy comprises a two-track approach, one which will be tough on drug crime and the other which will focus on drug users.

The national anti-drug strategy includes three action plans: preventing illicit drug use; treating those with illicit drug dependencies; and combatting the production and distribution of illicit drugs.

The action plan to combat the production and distribution of illicit drugs contains a number of elements, including ensuring that strong and adequate penalties are in place for serious drug crimes. It is within this context that the drug-related amendments of this bill are to be viewed. Moreover, these amendments follow through on one of this government's key priorities, which is combatting crime and making our communities safer for all Canadians.

As I have mentioned, domestic operations related to the production and distribution of marijuana and synthetic drugs have dramatically increased, resulting in a serious problem in some regions of Canada. The situation has reached such a point in some parts of Canada that law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed.

Illicit drug production can pose serious health and public safety hazards to those in or around them. They can produce environmental hazards, pose cleanup problems and endanger the lives and health of whole communities. They are lucrative businesses, and I use that term loosely, and attract a variety of organized crime groups. Huge profits are available with little risk to operators and these profits are used to finance other criminal activities.

The penalties for drug-related offences and the sentences imposed on offenders are considered by many to be too lenient and not commensurate with the level of harm imposed on communities by such operations. The reforms that the government is pursuing in this bill are meant to deal with these concerns.

As members are undoubtedly aware, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act contains a complex offence and penalty structure. Penalties depend on the nature of the prohibited activity and on the type of substance involved. The most problematic and dangerous substances are listed under schedules I and II and the most serious offences involving these substances attract the severest penalties, up to life imprisonment. As I have noted, the CDSA does not currently contain any minimum penalties. The drug-related amendments of the safe streets and communities act propose to enact such minimum penalties for specific offences.

The offences being targeted are: trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, production, importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting drugs.

The drugs that would be covered are schedule I drugs, such as cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine, and schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.

The drug-related mandatory minimum penalty scheme proposed in the bill is based on the presence of specific aggravating factors, most of which are commonly present in serious drug crimes. The scheme would not apply to possession offences or to offences involving drugs such as diazepam or valium.

As I noted at the beginning of my remarks, the drug-related proposals contained in the bill reflect a tailored approach to MMPs for serious drug offences. Some further details about the targeted or tailored regime will assist hon. members in understanding the approach and supporting speedy passage of the bill, we believe.

For schedule I drugs, and that is heroine, cocaine, or methamphetamine, the bill proposes a one year minimum sentence for the majority of the serious drug offences if there are certain aggravating factors. The aggravating factors exist where: the offence is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with organized crime; the offence involved violence, or threat of violence, or weapons or a threat of the use of weapons; or the offence is committed by someone who was convicted or served a term of imprisonment for a serious drug offence in the previous 10 years. If youth are present or the offence occurs in a prison, the minimum sentence is increased to two years.

In the case of importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting, the minimum sentence would be one year if the offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking or the person, while committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority or had access to an area that is restricted to authorized persons and used that access to commit the offence. The penalty will be raised to two years if the offence involves more than one kilogram of a schedule I drug. Again, these are drugs such as heroine, cocaine, or methamphetamine.

A minimum sentence of two years is provided for a production offence involving a schedule I drug. The minimum sentence for the production of schedule I drugs increases to three years where aggravating factors relating to health and safety are present. That is where: the person used real property that belonged to a third party to commit the offence; the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or were in the immediate area; the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or the person placed or set a trap.

For schedule II drugs, such as marijuana, cannabis resin, et cetera, the proposed mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, importing or exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting is one year if certain aggravating factors such as violence, recidivism or organized crime are present. If factors such as trafficking to youth are present, the minimum is increased to two years.

For the offence of marijuana production, the bill proposes mandatory penalties based on the number of plants involved: production of six to two hundred plants and if the plants are cultivated for the purpose of trafficking, six months; production of 201 to 500 plants, the penalty, one year; production of more than 500 plants, two years; and production of cannabis resin for the purpose of trafficking, one year. The minimum sentences for the production of schedule II drugs increases by 50% where any of the aggravating factors relating to health and safety, which I have just described, are present.

It is important to note that the drug-related proposals of the bill are not limited to creating minimum sentences. Amphetamines, as well as the date rape drug GHB and Rohypnol would be transferred from schedule III to schedule I, thereby allowing the courts to impose longer sentences for offences involving these dangerous drugs.

The maximum penalty for producing marijuana would be increased from seven to fourteen years imprisonment. That is the maximum penalty, speaking about the other end of the scale now.

Last, I wish to point out that this legislation is not just about punishing drug offenders by enhancing the sentence provisions. The proposed legislation would allow the courts, including drug treatment courts, to exempt an offender from the mandatory minimum sentence that would otherwise be imposed where the offence involved no other aggravating factors other than a previous conviction for a serious drug offence, and the offender successfully completes a treatment program.

The proposed reforms to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act also require that within five years after the coming into force of these provisions, a committee of the Senate or of this House or a committee of both places undertake a comprehensive review of these provisions and their operation, including, my friend opposite will be pleased to hear, a cost benefit analysis of the minimum sentence provisions.

It is a fundamental principle of the Canadian sentencing framework that a sentence should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The Criminal Code provides that the purpose of sentencing is to impose sanctions on offenders that are just in order to contribute to the respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society, something we all want.

Accordingly, the objectives in sentencing are to denounce unlawful conduct, deter the offenders and others from committing crimes and separate offenders from society where necessary, as well as to assist in rehabilitating offenders, have them accept responsibility for their actions and repair the very real harm that they have caused to victims or the community.

I would submit to members of the House and to Canadians in general that the proposed drug related mandatory minimum penalties contained in this bill meet these requirements. These are strong measures but they are reasonable and they are meaningful, and a meaningful response to a problem that is increasing in and plaguing our cities.

The manner in which these minimum penalties would apply is intended to ensure that they do not result in grossly disproportionate sentences being handed down.

As parliamentarians, we are this country's lawmakers. It is incumbent upon us to see that our laws provide appropriate and adequate measures to address this very serious problem.

Some members of the House may be of the view that serious drug offences do not require a response such as the one contained in the bill. However, serious drug crime is a growing problem in Canadian cities and in smaller towns, and a serious legislative response is required.

The government has made tackling crime a priority in order to make our streets and our communities safer. This bill is a reasonable, balanced and narrowly structured approach which the government is taking toward realizing this goal.

I am certain that we will have the support of the majority of the members of the House for these measures. I ask everyone to please consider them carefully.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 21st, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open debate on Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts.

The bill, which is known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, fulfills the commitment in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne to quickly reintroduce law and order legislation to combat crime and terrorism. This commitment, in turn, reflects the strong mandate that Canadians have given us to protect society and to hold criminals accountable.

We have bundled together crime bills that died on the Order Paper in the last Parliament into a comprehensive piece of legislation and it is our plan to pass it within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament.

As I met with victims of crime and their families yesterday in Brampton, I was once again struck by the importance of having this legislation passed in a timely manner. Both in Brampton and in Montreal yesterday, people such as Joe Wamback, Sharon Rosenfeldt, Sheldon Kennedy, Yvonne Harvey, Gary Lindfield, Maureen Basnicki and Line Lacasse spoke about the need for these changes to our laws.

We have a duty to stand up for these victims, which we are doing by bringing in this legislation.

The objective of our criminal law reform agenda over the past few years has been to build a stronger, safer and better Canada. This comprehensive legislation is another important step in the process to achieve this end.

As I travelled across the country holding round tables or meeting people on the street, the message was clear. People want to ensure their streets and communities are safer and they are relying on us to take the steps needed to achieve this.

There are five parts to Bill C-10.

Part 1 includes reforms to deter terrorism by supporting victims of terrorism and amending the State Immunity Act.

Part 2 includes sentencing reforms that will target sexual offences against children and serious drug offences, as well as prevent the use of conditional sentences for serious violent and property crimes.

Part 3 includes post-sentencing reforms to increase offender accountability, eliminate pardons for serious crimes and strengthen the international transfer of offenders regime.

Part 4 includes reforms to better protect Canadians from violent young offenders.

Lastly, part 5 includes immigration reforms to better protect vulnerable foreign workers against abuse and exploitation, including through human trafficking.

Some may say that this comprehensive bill makes it difficult to understand. In response I would note that these reforms should be very familiar to members of Parliament, indeed all Canadians, given that these reforms were before the previous Parliament when they died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of that Parliament.

Many of these reforms have been previously debated, studied and even passed by at least one of the two chambers of Parliament. For the most part, the comprehensive legislation reintroduces these reforms in the same form they were in previously, with technical changes that were needed to be able to reintroduce them in this Parliament in one bill.

A few additional changes have been made and I will describe them as I provide a summary of the individual areas of reform. However, I want to note that these additional changes remain consistent with the government's objectives when these reforms were originally introduced in the previous Parliament and, therefore, should also be supported today.

I will now take hon. members through some of the elements of Bill C-10.

Part 1 is comprised of clauses 2 through 9. These amendments seek to deter terrorism by enacting the justice for victims of terrorism act.

As reflected in the proposed preamble to the new act, these reforms recognize that, “terrorism is a matter of national concern that affects the security of the nation”, and that it is a “priority to deter and prevent acts of terrorism against Canada and Canadians”.

As Canadians recently marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, it was a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism remains and that we must continue to be vigilant.

Accordingly and with a view to deterring terrorism, part 1 proposes to create a cause of action for victims of terrorism to enable them to sue perpetrators and supporters of 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.

It also would amend the State Immunity Act to lift immunity of those states that the government has listed for support of terrorism.

Part 1's amendments were previously proposed and passed by the Senate in former Bill S-7, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, in the previous session of Parliament. They include technical changes to correct grammatical and cross-reference errors.

Part 2 is comprised of clauses 10 through 51. It proposes sentencing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to ensure that the sentences imposed for child sexual exploitation, serious drug offences, as well as for other serious violent and property crimes, adequately reflect the severity of these crimes.

The exploitation of children is a most serious crime, one that is incomprehensible and must be met with appropriate punishment. Bill C-10 proposals addressing child sexual exploitation were addressed in the previous bill. These reforms seek to consistently and adequately condemn all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory sentences of imprisonment, as well as some higher maximum penalties.

They also seek to prevent the commission of sexual offences against children through the creation of two new offences and by requiring courts to consider imposing conditions to prevent suspected or convicted child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate or further their commission of sexual offences against children.

The bill's proposed reforms addressing child sexual exploitation are essentially the same as the bill we had in the previous Parliament, that was passed by the House of Commons and was before the Senate at third reading debate when it died on the Order Paper. Unfortunately, some members kept on talking so that the bill did not get passed.

The primary difference is that this bill also proposes to increase the maximum penalty for four offences, with a corresponding increase in their proposed mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment to better reflect the heinous nature of these offences.

The bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction for a number of offences. All of these are consistent with the objectives of the former Bill C-54 as originally introduced.

It also proposes Criminal Code reforms to further restrict the use of a conditional sentence, or house arrest as it is often called.

Originally proposed in Bill C-16, ending house arrest for property and other serious crimes by serious and violent offenders act in the previous Parliament, these proposals seek to make it explicitly clear 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-export, trafficking and production of drugs or involve the use of a weapon; or listed serious property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictment, such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons and theft over $5,000.

The bill's proposals are in the same form as previously proposed in Bill C-16 which had received second reading and had been referred to the justice committee but not yet studied when it died on the Order Paper.

It includes technical changes to the list of excluded offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years: to include the recently enacted new offence of motor vehicle theft; to coordinate the proposed imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment in section 172.1(1), luring a child; and to change the listed child abduction offence to section 281.

We are also addressing the serious issue of drug crimes in this country, particularly those involving organized crime and those that target youth because we all know the impact that such crimes have on our communities.

Part 2's proposals to address drug crime include amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to impose mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for the offences of production, trafficking or possession for the purposes of trafficking or importing, and exporting or possession for the purpose of exporting of schedule I drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.

These mandatory minimum sentences would apply where there was 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.

As well, it would double the maximum penalty for the production of schedule II drugs, such as marijuana, from 7 to 14 years and it would reschedule GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as the date rape drugs, from schedule III to schedule I.

As a result, these offences would now carry higher maximum penalties.

The bill would also allow a court to delay sentencing while the addicted offender completed a treatment program approved by the province under the supervision of the court or a drug treatment court approved program and to impose a penalty other than the minimum sentence if the offender successfully completes the treatment program.

These proposals are in the same form they were in when they were passed by the Senate as former Bill S-10

Part 3, which is comprised of clauses 52 through 166, proposes post-sentencing reforms to better support victims and to increase offender accountability.

Canadians have told us they expect their government to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their crimes because only then can they have complete confidence in our justice system.

Part 3 introduces reforms previously contained in bills in the previous Parliament. It includes proposals from the ending early release for criminals and increasing offender accountability act that would 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.

As now proposed in Bill C-10, it includes technical modifications that would delete provisions that were ultimately passed as part of the Abolition of Early Parole Act, as well as clarifications regarding, for example, sentence calculations, adding new offences recently enacted by other legislation, and proposes to change the name of the National Parole Board to the Parole Board of Canada.

It includes proposals previously contained in Bill C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (the International Transfer of Offenders) Act and which seek to enhance public safety by enshrining in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada. The bill proposes these reforms as originally introduced.

It includes proposals included in the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act in the previous Parliament and that propose to expand the period of ineligibility 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, and for each of which the individual received a sentence of two years or more. This bill corrects inconsistencies that occurred in the former bills before Parliament.

One of the areas of criminal law I received an extensive number of letters, emails and calls about is that dealing with violent and repeat young offenders. I have been particularly interested in correspondence I have received from young students themselves and I am always pleased to hear everyone's views on this subject.

Part 4, which is found at clauses 167 through 204, proposes reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to strengthen its handling of violent and repeat young offenders.

These reforms include: highlighting the 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; prohibiting youth under the age of 18 from serving a sentence in an adult facility; and requiring police to keep records of extrajudicial measures. These reforms were previously proposed in Sébastien's law, which had been extensively studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when it died on the order paper in the previous Parliament.

The bill includes changes to address concerns that had been highlighted by the provinces regarding the pretrial adult sentencing and deferred custody provisions in the former bill. A number of the provinces requested a less restrictive regime for the pretrial detention provisions than that of Bill C-4, and therefore the changes found in this bill respond by providing more flexibility to detain youth who are spiralling out of control and who pose a risk to the public and to themselves.

The test for pretrial detention will be self-contained in the act without reference to other sections of the Criminal Code.

Other changes are more technical, if that is possible, and include removing Bill C-4's proposed amendments in two areas: deleting reference to the standard of proof for an adult sentence, and the expanded scope of deferred custody and supervision orders.

Last, part 5, which is found at clauses 205 through 207, proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to foreign nationals and workers where it would protect them against humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking. These proposals are in the same form they were in when they were previously proposed in former Bill C-56, the preventing trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants act.

I would point out as well that the proposed reforms would come into force in the same manner as originally proposed by the predecessor bills. Part 1 would come into force upon receiving royal assent, and the balance would come into force on a day to be fixed by the governor in council. This will enable us to consult with the provinces and territories on the time needed to enable them to prepare for the timely and effective implementation of these reforms.

I realize that I have taken some time to go through some of the details of this bill. We were very clear in the last election that this was a priority for this government. We have put these bills together and they better protect victims. As members know, in all the legislation that we have introduced, we always highlight how it better protects victims in this country and stand up for the interests of law-abiding Canadians.

I am pleased and proud to be associated, as are my colleagues, with this important piece of legislation.

Opposition Motion—Confidence in the Government
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 25th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills, the chief government whip.

I rise today to speak to the motion introduced by the Leader of the Opposition on a matter of non-confidence in the government.

I wish I could say I am pleased to make this speech today, but I am not. In fact, I am saddened that a Parliament, which has accomplished a lot recently, will come to an end because of the reckless actions of the Liberal, Bloc Québécois and NDP coalition in forcing an unwanted and unnecessary election on Canadians.

Yesterday, I listed 10 important government bills which had received royal assent this week, bills like Bill S-6 to eliminate the faint hope clause, Bill C-48 to eliminate sentencing discounts for multiple murderers and Bill C-59 to get rid of early parole for white-collar fraudsters, a bill the Liberal leader opposed. That was a very positive week.

We also tried to pass important bills like Bill C-49, which would crack down on human smugglers and those who would take advantage of our generous immigration laws, and Bill S-10, which would get tough on drug dealers and date rape artists who would target our youth. I stood in this place just yesterday and asked for those bills to be passed. What was the response from the opposition coalition in passing these bills? No. No to getting tough on human smugglers. No to getting tough on drug dealers.

Instead, we find ourselves here today faced with the most partisan of attacks from an opposition coalition bent on defeating this government at all costs.

I know the Liberal members over there claim that the government was found to have done something wrong. What they are not telling Canadians is that this was an opposition-stacked committee that used the tyranny of the majority to get the predetermined outcome it wanted. Let us be clear. It was predetermined. After all, the members for Kings—Hants, Ottawa South, Joliette and Acadie—Bathurst said so in the media.

In my speech I could focus on all the abuses of parliamentary democracy and the absolute contempt that the opposition demonstrated, not just at that committee but on virtually every other committee of the House in overruling chairs, in making political decisions, ignoring the rules of this place, and on and on.

One may ask why we have never heard about these things. It is because the opposition coalition has a majority on every committee. Its members were the ones who demonstrated real contempt for Parliament, and they will have to answer to the Canadian people for that.

Let us be clear about what this vote of non-confidence is really about. It is a vote against the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It is a vote against our low tax plan for jobs and economic growth. It is a vote against hard-working Canadians and their families. It is a vote that will weaken Canada's economic recovery.

It is a vote against the budget. It is a vote against our plan.

Let us be clear. The latest phase of Canada's economic action plan encourages owners of small businesses to hire more people. It provides potential employees with new opportunities to train and to hone those skills. It invests in innovation. It lays the groundwork for private sector growth to replace government stimulus. This is good for all Canadians in every region of our great country from coast to coast to coast.

For seniors across Canada, I am proud to report that our government is delivering once again. For the poorest of seniors, we are providing an important hike to the guaranteed income supplement. For people caring for infirm loved ones, we are providing support in the form of a $2,000 tax relief credit. For the many public servants who make their homes in my riding, we are providing a guarantee that we will not slash programs and eliminate jobs as the Liberals did in the mid-1990s. Instead, we will provide a strategic review to enhance efficiency and reduce overall overhead with minimal impact on service to Canadians.

I was pleased to see included a request from the Canadian fire chiefs to provide for our volunteer firefighters. Next week we could be enacting that tax credit in law, but it will not happen because of the Liberal-led coalition.

I hope Canadian colleges and universities will drive innovation and help Canada forge closer ties with promising markets like India's. Carleton University made a great proposal to do just that, but it will have to wait. We will certainly be supporting our students in new ways.

I am especially proud to say that our government is providing real support to people who find their pensions at risk because their employer goes bankrupt. The budget would provide at least some help from the federal government to the former Nortel workers, despite the fact their pension plans were provincially regulated. It is something.

Unlike previous but misguided efforts in this place, this will not hurt Canadian businesses.

In short, Canada's economic action plan is another huge help for people in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean. It will be a huge help to my home province of Ontario. We are working closely with the government of Dalton McGuinty to cut corporate taxes to make Ontario and Canada a magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity. It will be a huge help from coast to coast to coast right across our great country. It will help secure our economic recovery. It will help create jobs and it will support all Canadians.

By voting against this motion of non-confidence in our government, the opposition coalition can stop this unnecessary and unwanted election later today. I want to urge the opposition to reconsider its support for an unnecessary and costly election. I hope it will vote for the things Canadians find truly important, for the measures that will help so many right across the country.

I move:

That this question be now put.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

March 24th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would again ask for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed for the Minister of Justice.