Evidence of meeting #45 for Justice and Human Rights in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was c-36.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:30 p.m.

Regional Director, Criminal Lawyers' Association

Michael Mandelcorn

What's interesting is that prior to going to life 25, when we had capital and non-capital murder distinctions—capital being a death sentence—the approximate average number of years before a non-capital murder offender was released was somewhere around 13 or 14 years. So with life 25, we're basically at very close to twice that.

I think an argument can be made, and probably would be made if it had to be made, that if there's no longer a faint hope clause, and if the person can only apply for release after 25 years of incarceration, that may constitute cruel and unusual punishment and be open to a charter remedy at that point.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Thank you.

I'll move on to Mr. Moore for seven minutes.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to each of the witnesses for being here.

Ms. Rosenfeldt, I think you mentioned there's no faint hope for victims. I think that's very compelling, because the victims in these cases are gone. The families are left behind.

When I was in my teens, 15 years seemed like a tremendously long time. But as you get older, 15 years seems like less time. It would seem to me those 15 years would go by for a victim's family and then all of a sudden they're faced with having to come to terms with.... You've laid it out, and we've had other witnesses here, families of victims, who made it quite clear they are going to participate in the process. So when an offender applies under the faint hope clause, the victim's family is going to participate. It seems that's the overwhelming evidence we've heard.

After these 15 years, being forced to revisit, relive, can you let us know, in your working with victims' families, what goes into the thought process, the preparation? What is the impact on families when these hearings come up? If someone could reapply after two years, I would think one would just be putting the first hearing out of their mind when there's the potential for a second application.

So could you comment on the type of preparation, the type of work, the type of communication the victims' families would have as the time approaches for the offender to apply?

4:35 p.m.

Victims of Violence

Sharon Rosenfeldt

I'll do my best.

I can use my family's experience. We're going to attend a parole hearing probably in June or August of next year. It's not a section 745 hearing, but we're all ready. We started discussing about the middle of October that we're going next year. It usually takes quite a few months. Sometimes you think about it and other times you don't and time goes on.

The thought of the victim impact statement goes into the preparation: how you're going to be able to explain what's in your heart. I think Kim mentioned that it's really hard as victims of crime to relate to issues that affect another human life, that being the offender's. It's really hard to use actual physical realities to denunciate at a parole hearing, or to write to a person's parole hearing, because it is so filled with the thought of what's right and what's wrong. Why do we have to go to these?

I talked about closure. A lot of people use the word “closure”, and for victims of crime there is not any real closure, other than the finality of the actual proceedings. So when it happens again in 15 years, yes, it's going to definitely open it up again. Is that right? Is that wrong? Is that part of the rehabilitation?

Kim mentioned that help should be forthcoming to the victims earlier. That really does not take place; most victims are left to fend for themselves. When the 15 years come up, if they happen to know about it, if they are registered with the National Parole Board, they are informed this is going to take place. Some victims don't even know they have to be registered to get this information. A whole lot of work has to be done, and that is being done right now.

I'm not too sure how much to let you know, other than I don't think it would take a rocket scientist to figure out the impact having to go to a section 745 hearing has on a person.

Kim, you mentioned—maybe you can talk to this too—that your father or stepfather was murdered. Did you have a 745 hearing? Maybe your family can attest to that.

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Kim Pate

One of the two men who were responsible was deported when he became eligible. It was a second degree murder conviction.

4:35 p.m.

Victims of Violence

Sharon Rosenfeldt

Well, it would still fall under the same—

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Kim Pate

No, it was a life-10 sentence. One was deported, and the other is out.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you for answering that.

Do I have any time, Chair?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

One minute.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

There is a case, which has been reported in the media, of a family living in a town bordering Mr. Murphy's and my ridings. Our ridings border on a town where this family lives. They were going through a parole hearing. Their daughter was killed many years ago and they went through the process of preparation. They travelled to Quebec for the hearing and then the offender cancelled the parole hearing after the family was already there.

Obviously that made the news and people were outraged by it. It was an egregious case of abuse. But we do have a system right now that allows that to happen. To most of us, certainly to me and the people I've talked to, it is simply not acceptable that this could happen to a victim's family.

You mentioned there is no closure for victims' families, and I can certainly appreciate that. But specifically when it comes to victims' families attending these faint hope hearings, does it not help with closure? Does it actually prevent closure? Is that a safe assumption?

4:40 p.m.

Victims of Violence

Sharon Rosenfeldt

Yes, that's a very safe assumption; it definitely does not help with closure. All that happens when you attend a hearing is that you just wait for the next hearing. So you prepare yourself because you know you're going to be going back again.

I've always said that since we didn't have capital punishment in this country for the man who murdered my son, we have a life sentence with parole eligibility at 25 years instead. So all I really expect as a mother and a Canadian who believes in our laws is that this be true, that he does serve 25 years. But right now he has the right to apply every two years for another two years. I don't like that either; I think that's wrong. But that's a whole different situation from what we're talking about here. In fact we're addressing that as well, even though it's a different issue.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Unfortunately.

November 2nd, 2009 / 4:40 p.m.

Victims of Violence

Sharon Rosenfeldt

But regarding the 15 years, unfortunately, the amendments in the new legislation, Bill C-45, were too late for us. So we did have to go through that hearing.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Ms. Rosenfeldt, unfortunately, I have to cut you off there because we're two minutes over our time.

4:40 p.m.

Victims of Violence