An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders)
Guy Lauzon Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-350.
- Oct. 31, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- Sept. 26, 2012 Passed That Bill C-350, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 2 with the following: “result of an order for maintenance, alimony or family financial support”
- March 28, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act
September 18th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, before I address the hon. member for Winnipeg North, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. This is twice as nice for me because I am now the justice critic, and I find myself in this position because you trained me well. I will try to do my best. We will try not to be too annoying so that your job will be as pleasant as possible when you are in the chair.
I would like to tell the hon. member for Winnipeg North that I really appreciated his speech on Bill C-37, which he delivered with deep conviction. I think we share many concerns because, as he said so well, it is not all black and it is not all white. With the Conservatives, beyond the headlines and the front page, it not always clear whether the measure that has been put down on paper will actually achieve the desired objectives. We can work on all that in committee.
Bill C-37 duplicates Bill C-350, which deals mainly with the order of collection of fines. This could affect Bill C-37. I am wondering whether the members of the Liberal Party considered this issue and whether we are going to be able to work on this in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights if the bill is passed at second reading.
Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act
September 17th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which we support at second reading. Obviously, we cannot be against virtue or against the victims, even though the members opposite claim that we are. We care about communities, Canadians and victims. We also care about the families of victims, and the families of criminals, which are sometimes blameless.
We will support this bill at second reading so that it can be studied in committee and because we still have questions about it. Some changes are required in order for it to be acceptable.
I will provide some context. First, Bill C-37 would amend provisions of the Criminal Code and double the amount of the surcharge. The surcharge would total 30% of any fine that is imposed on the offender, or $100 if no fine is imposed. The fine would be $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction and $200 for offences punishable by indictment.
Is that really a solution for the victims? I am not absolutely sure about that. Instead of taxing people even more, other things could be done. In addition, this bill eliminates the court's ability to waive the surcharge if the offender proves that it would create hardship for himself or his family. It is worrisome because the power of judges is being eroded. Judges are there to judge; what more can I say.
Rulings will always be given on a case-by-case basis, and that is why we have judges. As my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie stated, judges are the elite of our lawyers. They are brilliant and capable of making appropriate rulings, and we can trust them. If all their powers are taken away, as the government seems to enjoy doing, then it is difficult for them to do good work in specific situations. I am especially worried about this. We are taking away judges' powers and we are not proceeding on a case-by-case basis.
I would like to list a few stakeholders that share our position. The Elizabeth Fry Societies are concerned about the impact of additional fines on the disadvantaged aboriginals who do not have the means to pay. Once again, it will be the criminal's family that will become a victim. I side with society and do not think that we want to make the children, brothers and sisters, and parents of the criminals pay. This is no way to do things. It is something that can happen, but it is not what we want. The government should not aggravate things.
The John Howard Society does not necessarily have a problem with the fines, but it is afraid that, under this system, the fines will sometimes be disproportionate to the crimes. We are dealing here with a wide range of crimes. It would be worthwhile to move ahead more gradually.
The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has long fought for better funding of services for victims of crime. Is this how we are going to do it? I am not convinced.
I have a few interesting statistics. In 2003, crime cost about $70 billion. That is a big number. Victims took about $47 billion of that, or 70%.
That is another major problem. A 2004 study estimated the pain and suffering of victims at $36 billion—another major problem.
A significant number of eligible victims do not claim compensation, often because they do not even know that they are entitled to it. We are talking about costs and amounts, but victims are not necessarily well compensated. Is it really by going after small amounts here and there that we will be able to adequately compensate those individuals?
I have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of a victim, because I have never been a victim of crime or anything else. I am really lucky, knock on wood. I hope that this does not happen to me or my family. I do not think that an amount of money would fix things. It is more about getting help. Money can sometimes help in seeking assistance, but it would be better if we came up with a more helpful measure for victims.
I have a few quick questions for the government. Perhaps I might get an answer. Bill C-37 overlaps with another private member's bill, Bill C-350, which also seeks to increase offenders' accountability. How will those bills overlap? Will they complement each other? I do not know. I am just wondering.
With the removal of the discretionary power of judges to waive the surcharge, does this measure not become excessively punitive in some cases? I am referring to low-income offenders or people with mental health problems. We know those people exist. I am not saying this to minimize the suffering of victims, but we have to think about offenders with mental health problems.
I am wondering once again how we will ensure that the money really goes to victims' groups that really need it. I also feel that the government should consult with organizations working with victims on the ground. I think that would be very useful. In my riding, for instance, we have the sexual assault centre CAVAS that does an outstanding job with little money. The hon. members opposite must surely have similar organizations in their ridings. It might be worthwhile to go talk to those groups that work on the ground in our communities to see how we can fix all this.
In conclusion, I would like to come back to what my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie was saying earlier. When we talk about crime, we need to think about prevention, first and foremost, which comes before punishment. Education and fighting poverty are also important. Wealthier societies have less crime. Wealth does not solve all problems, but it can help considerably. I would be remiss if I did not mention affordable housing, since that is an important issue for me. When people have suitable housing and can eat three meals a day, that helps reduce crime rates significantly. So why not make that our first priority?
Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act
September 17th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak about section 737 of the Criminal Code.
First, I would like to welcome everyone. I hope that we are all returning with the attitude needed to try to work together, particularly on bills such as Bill C-37 to amend the Criminal Code, entitled the Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act.
We are at second reading and we have to determine whether we will vote to send the bill to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for more in-depth study.
I hope that everyone has come back with a good attitude because I still believe that this is doable and that we are here to try once again to ensure that the best bill possible comes out of this chamber, regardless of the party to which we belong. I will always say the same thing in all of my speeches.
What is Bill C-37? I really enjoyed my colleague's speech. In fact, I would like to tell her publicly just how much I enjoyed working with her this summer on the work pertaining to the Supreme Court appointments. This showed me that we are capable of working in a non-partisan way when we want to. I hope that we can do the same with regard to Bill C-37, which proposes to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code on victim surcharges. It seems like a good thing when we say it like that. It seems simple. It seems to say that no one can be against motherhood and apple pie.
I can say right away that the members of the New Democratic Party will support this bill at second reading so that it can go to committee.
The parliamentary secretary explained in her speech that the purpose of a victim surcharge is to help victims. That seems like a good thing, but it is important to understand that this is an additional sanction imposed when an offender who has been found guilty is sentenced. In theory, no one can be against such action because the person who committed the crime is paying the price for doing so.
When this was added to the Criminal Code, there were some jurisprudential debates. At the time, it was said that this was a little-used punishment, that it might not fall under federal jurisdiction, and that it was a hidden tax, because this surcharge was designed to be used to fund victims' assistance programs. The courts ruled that this clearly fell under federal jurisdiction. However, it is seen as an additional punishment. That must obviously be clear in people's minds.
The surcharge is collected and kept by provincial and territorial governments. It serves to fund programs and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime was committed. Once again, I do not think that anyone would necessarily disagree with that.
Some colleagues asked the parliamentary secretary some questions. When we learned that the government would introduce this bill, we conducted a study and it was obviously a question that immediately came to mind. Organizations that support victims of crimes and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime clearly explained that there is a huge need for funding. Many individuals have spoken publicly about how victims are often forgotten.
I would like to make an aside, simply because, in light of an answer that the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism gave today in this House, I am not even sure that the government that introduced Bill C-37 is sufficiently concerned about the opinions of victims. The government announced in this House that it was appealing the decision rendered by Justice Blanchard in Quebec last week regarding the long gun registry, a tool supported by victims' groups, not only in Quebec, but across Canada.
It does not seem as though the government is listening to victims, in all cases, but when it comes to having more financial resources, the message was received.
My main concern is that, once again, research has shown that not all of the money reaches victims' associations. I will be able to expand on this position before the committee, if the bill passes second reading.
This is one of the NDP's concerns. We believe that being there for victims, tackling crime and rehabilitating criminals really mean something. These are not simply idle expressions, said just to make the headlines or simply to look good for a five-minute media scrum. These are important factors, because this is what is truly needed and what must be done.
Unfortunately, this government seems to react to media attention. My colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher asked a question that touches on a crucial point regarding Bill C-37: the lack of confidence this government has in the Canadian judiciary. I am absolutely amazed by this every time. We have heard about certain isolated cases during call-in radio shows, for instance. I have taken part in call-ins; I used to host a radio program and a television program. We have all read stories in the newspaper about people who served part of their sentence, were released from prison and then committed another crime. However, what the story does not relate is that for every one such person, a hundred others behaved appropriately, and the sentences were appropriate.
We need to strike a balance between the desire for immediate results and measures that can have a real impact. Will surcharges achieve the desired goal, which is to help the victims of crime? I hope to find answers to these questions during the committee's examination.
It must be understood that the bill amends the provisions pertaining to the amount of the surcharge, which, under subsection 737(2), would increase from 15% to 30% of any fine imposed on offenders. If no fine is imposed, the surcharge would increase from $50 to $100 in the case of an offence punishable by summary conviction and from $100 to $200 for an offence punishable by indictment.
There is another aspect, which concerns the discretion of the judge. When a judge is considering a criminal case, he does not do as he pleases. He must consider certain rules, principles and concepts before making a decision. The government cannot be constantly implying that judges are simple puppets who make decisions without thinking. I do not believe that. I have a legal background. I have been involved in many cases and I have seen how seriously judges take cases every day. They try to deliver justice in a fair and balanced way by considering that every case is unique.
That is often the problem with the Conservatives. They take a one-size-fits-all approach without considering that every case is unique.
We have to be realistic. I will give the example provided by a lawyer to support one point of view. A young man commits a Criminal Code offence. He pleads guilty to drawing graffiti here and there. He will be automatically ordered to pay a surcharge. If convicted of 12 counts of the offence, he will have to pay 12 times the surcharge. Will he be able to do so? The member for Delta—Richmond East, whom I greatly respect, seems to be saying that he can work if he is unable to pay.
The problem is that the provincial-territorial program does not apply across Canada. That is one more problem with Bill C-37. We cannot simply rely on the discretion given to the judge under subsection 737(5) because it will be removed or repealed by Bill C-37. People are claiming that this is not serious and that people who cannot pay will have to work so that they can pay the amount. But this will not necessarily be the case everywhere.
The other point that is often raised is this: in some areas of the country, aboriginals are often hauled before the courts and are unable to pay. There will be some imbalance in that respect. Some people are saying that it is not serious because "if you commit the crime, then you pay for the crime”. Perhaps, but if we believe in a balanced approach, one that punishes and ensures that the person will not reoffend, rehabilitation must come into play.
I do not want to see people so hardened by prison that they become a threat to public safety. We cannot keep people in prison for life when the offences they committed are not as serious as murder, say. We have to understand that these people will leave prison one day. What condition and what mood will they leave in?
If, as was done this summer, you increase the number of inmates per cell for a few weeks—the inmates are serving a minimum sentence because the judges do not have a choice anymore—that gives you some idea of the type of society that is being created.
The government claims to be in favour of law and order and public safety, two things that go together. But for law and order to reign, we need laws that hold up.
Now, Parliament is passing laws that are being challenged one after another before the courts. These laws reverse positions and thwart the work done by the committees. What is more, the committee members clearly told the government that some provisions made no sense. And measures are now being taken that are making people feel insecure.
A person who receives a fine or sentence of imprisonment and who has a debt of $2,000 will have further debt upon leaving prison.
By the way—often the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing—this week, another bill will make an appearance: Bill C-350. I encourage the members of the House to assess the impact of Bill C-350 in relation to that of Bill C-37. Bill C-350 will prioritize fine payments and criminals' taking responsibility and ensure that this surcharge is the third priority.
Sometimes it is not the criminal that is in one hell of a mess—if you will pardon my language—but the criminal's family. All of these aspects need to be considered. I encourage the members opposite to study the bill closely.
We all agree on helping the associations that help the victims themselves, that have always asked us for our help. Among others, I am thinking of CALAS, the Centre d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions sexuelles de l'Outaouais, which is doing extraordinary work in my community.
Every time I talk to the directors of these organizations, they always say the same thing, which is that there needs to be greater awareness. They are performing miracles with very little.
Victims always say that, no matter how much they are paid, they will never be in the position they were in before the crime was committed. We can forget that. The rest is pure nonsense and is just for the cameras, which is unfortunate. If the government really believed in helping the victims, it would walk the talk and ensure that the victims have the support they need.
Sometimes, it is not just about money. Sometimes, resources have to be available to the victims so that they can receive the services they need.
I urge hon. members to support the bill at second reading, but to be realistic. We need to get serious answers to a lot of questions before we can give our final seal of approval to this bill. We need an answer to the following question: what is being done in the provinces and territories where there are no programs that give the option of working instead of paying the surcharge? We need to make sure that the money is really going to the victims, that it is not floating around somewhere or that it is not being used for something else.
Another hon. member pointed out the issue with costs. The government does not admit it, but legal associations—be it the Canadian Bar Association or the Barreau du Québec—from coast to coast will tell you that there are justice issues. A society must have a justice system that holds up; a society is founded on justice. Yet we see what this country needs in terms of legal aid and our society does not seem to be concerned. In terms of prisons, we are talking about increasing the number of inmates, closing some prisons and building others. There is something illogical about this, which raises concern when we are faced with these types of bills.
We will need to get some serious answers. My hope is that the committee will be able to work with a view to getting answers to those questions to be able to come back here and say to the rest of the hon. members that yes, the bill can get the seal of approval, that yes, it is a good bill for victims and that it will fulfill the purpose for which it was designed. It will not try, once again, to divide us by saying that they support victims and we support criminals. That is absolutely not the case.
So we will vote in favour of the bill, hoping that the committee will do the serious work that it is mandated to do.
Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
May 14th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to its study of Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders), with an amendment.
May 10th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.
The Chair Kevin Sorenson
Folks, we'll call this meeting back to order. This meeting is public. We are proceeding in the second hour this afternoon to look at the clause-by-clause of the bill that we have been studying for the last little while, Bill C-350.
We have a number of amendments before us.
(On clause 1)
The first amendment is NDP-1, on clause 1, and I will call on Mr. Garrison to speak to that amendment.
May 10th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.
Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC
Thank you very much, Mr. Anderson.
I will now ask a question to Mr. Sullivan.
The present federal ombudsman appeared before our committee on Bill C-350. She said that we had to focus on what victims have to go through, presently, and also on rehabilitation, to make sure offenders do not commit more crimes.
How do you think Bill C-350 could encourage offenders to participate in this kind of initiatives, to support their rehabilitation?
May 10th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.
Thank you very much. I have some brief comments to make regarding the bill.
Tansi, boozhoo, edlanet'e, and good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and Madam Secretary.
On behalf of the northern Manitoba first nations, of which there are 30, and the 65,000 first nations citizens represented by the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak—MKO—I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to provide these brief comments and recommendations regarding Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders).
It's a core vision of the 30 MKO first nations that each of the MKO first nations should be the safest and most secure place to live for each of the citizens of the MKO first nations. The MKO first nations first and foremost are committed to achieving the highest standards of public and community safety and security based on community-driven preventive and restorative approaches supported by community-based policing.
It is the objective of these initiatives to place an emphasis on reconciliation between the victim and the community and the offender, and on the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders as productive members of the family and the community. This vision also reflects the inherent and customary laws and the community and cultural values of the MKO first nations.
Bill C-350 proposes that reconciliation between the victim and the offender might be advanced by ensuring that any amounts owing and payable by Her Majesty to the offender are instead paid directly by Her Majesty to the victim in accordance with the priority that's established in proposed subsection 78.1(1).
Clause 2 of Bill C-350 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act by including the new subsection 78.1(1), which would provide that “any debt owed to an offender as a result of a monetary award made to the offender by a court, tribunal or agency pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada or an agent or employee of Her Majesty in the course of the performance of his or her duties, shall be satisfied by the payment”, according to the order of priority established in the proposed bill.
MKO is very concerned that the classes of monetary awards contemplated in Bill C-350, being a monetary award made to the offender by a court, tribunal or agency pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in Right of Canada, would include a payment or award made to an offender pursuant to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which settlement has been approved by the courts. Subject to check, it's my recollection there are at least nine court orders approving the Indian residential schools settlement as a series of class actions.
First nations persons receiving a payment or award further to the Indian residential schools settlement are recognized essentially as victims as well. The payment or award is essentially a form of restitution for the victimization of these first nation persons through the Indian residential schools system. The apology delivered on June 11, 2008 by the Prime Minister represents a recognition by government of the significant impacts of the Indian residential schools system on many thousands of first nation citizens. Further recognition in Canada's legal system of the potential impacts of colonization, including the effects of the Indian residential schools system on the circumstances of aboriginal offenders, appears in paragraph 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code.
Paragraph 718.2(e) requires a sentencing judge to give particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders in considering whether an alternative to incarceration may be more appropriate in the circumstances. In R. v. Gladue, the 1999 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, that responsibility or obligation of the court was reinforced for sentencing considerations in the case of aboriginal offenders.
In Canada, 20% of inmates in federal prisons are aboriginal people. In Manitoba, 70% of the inmates in provincial facilities and 50% of the inmates in the two federal institutions are aboriginal persons. However aboriginal peoples make up only 15% of Manitoba's population and about 4% of the population of Canada. In Manitoba, aboriginal offenders are sent to prison more often than non-aboriginal offenders. Aboriginal offenders in Manitoba make up more than two-thirds of offenders in custody, but less than half of those serving conditional sentences.
In part, the significant and disproportional representation of aboriginal offenders in Canada's justice processes arises from the persisting effects of the Indian residential school system on the survivors and their families and communities. It is important to recognize that many aboriginal offenders are also survivors and are also, therefore, victims of the Indian residential school system.
It would be inappropriate and contrary to the intent of the apology and to the objectives of the Indian residential schools settlement for Her Majesty to effectively seize a payment or award made by Her Majesty as restitution to the offender, who is also a survivor of the residential school system, when this survivor's offence can at least in part be attributed to the adverse effects of the Indian residential school system.
In respect of Bill C-350, MKO recommends that clause 2 of the bill be amended to expressly exclude or provide an exception for any payment or award made further to the Indian residential schools settlement agreement from those classes of monetary awards proposed to be encompassed through proposed section 78.1 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
MKO further recommends that persons expert in matters related to the Indian residential schools settlement agreement appear before the standing committee to provide evidence in respect of the settlement and of the court-supervised nature of the settlement process.
Those are my opening comments.
Ekosani. Mahsi' cho. Meegwetch.
Thank you very much.
May 10th, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.
Steve Sullivan Former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, As an Individual
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the invitation. My opening remarks this afternoon will be fairly brief.
I should just say that I've been working with victims in various roles for almost 20 years as an advocate and, as you mentioned, as the former ombudsman. Currently I work with Ottawa Victim Services, which is a smaller community agency here in Ottawa, but I'm here as an individual representing my own personal views.
Let me begin by saying that I support the principles of Bill C-350. I'm not qualified to speak to some of the testimony I've read on the federal-provincial issues that have been discussed, or the constitutionality, but the principle of the bill is one that I support. I think it is only logical that someone who is in a federal prison for creating victimization, for example, and who is being asked for compensation for that victimization committed upon that person, would respect the individual's legal rights and civil rights that have been violated and provide compensation if they have been ordered by the courts to do so. I think that's a fairly practical and logical procedure to undergo.
Having said that—and certainly no criticism is meant of the author of the bill—I don't think this will have a very large impact on the majority of victims of crime. You've heard evidence from other witnesses about the number of federal offenders who have restitution orders—around 575 or so, a relatively small number. There's a small number of those who have victim fine surcharges outstanding. I think it was 700 or so. That's a reflection of some problems in the courts about the way restitution is ordered and the way victim fine surcharges are often waived in so many cases even though they're not supposed to be. Those are other issues beyond the scope of the bill.
I don't know what the mechanism would be for Corrections, for example, to know about civil orders that have been ordered if a victim, for example, or a family, sued an offender civilly. Those as well are not all that common. It's difficult for victims or families to have the financial means to sue individuals in civil court, so it's a relatively small number of offenders who, I would expect, would be in federal prison.
I have not had a lot of experience with working with victims whose offenders have received compensation, either through the federal government or through other provincial governments. I can think of one case of an offender serving a life sentence for murder who received some compensation regarding an institution he had stayed at as a young person. He was abused in that institution. But other than that, I don't have a lot of experience with it. I don't think most victims have those civil judgments as well.
As I say, again, I don't mean to criticize the author of the bill. I think the principle is a sound one. I really don't have much else to say in my opening remarks, although I'm happy to answer any questions the committee members may have.
May 10th, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.
The Chair Kevin Sorenson
Good afternoon, everyone.
This is meeting number 39 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, on Thursday May 10, 2012. Today we are continuing our consideration of Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders).
Our first witnesses today are appearing by video conference from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We have the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc., with Grand Chief David Harper and Michael Anderson, the director of the natural resources secretariat.
They are not there yet, but we also have here, appearing as an individual, Mr. Steve Sullivan.
We welcome you to our committee, Mr. Sullivan.
He is the former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
Let me just say that you have a very tough act to follow, Mr. Sullivan, because we had the current victims commissioner here, and she did a remarkable job. You can pass that on to her.
We do welcome you here and we look forward to your testimony.
I see that we do have some action there in Winnipeg now.
We want to welcome you. Can you hear us in Winnipeg?
May 8th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.
John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you both for being here today.
I have a question that is related to comments by previous witnesses. You were here earlier for the witness before you. He said Bill C-350 causes more trouble than it solves. Would that be your learned opinion of this particular bill?