House of Commons Hansard #219 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cn.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, talk about sentencing reform is nothing new. The consultation process that started 10 years ago has finally led to today's third reading debate on Bill C-41, which deals with sentencing. This outcome was preceded by acrimonious debate.

The statement of principle underlying the bill is a step in the right direction. The maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions, together with other crime prevention and law enforcement initiatives, fully deserves my support. In addition, innovative measures aimed at decriminalizing some minor infractions, alternatives to incarceration, and suspended conditional sentences will reduce prison overcrowding and focus sentencing on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.

That said, I think it is essential to stress that the bill will have a major impact not only on the accused before the court but also on the general public.

Sentencing is one of the most important steps in the criminal justice process. Contrary to what many people believe, most people charged with crimes do not go on trial. The vast majority of them plead guilty as charged. Their only experience of our criminal system is often limited to a brief appearance before the court for sentencing. Most charges laid are settled out of court as a result of plea bargaining. Without this process, the judicial system would clog up to such an extent that, the way things currently stand, it would cease to function to all practical purposes.

As a result, the accused pleads guilty, hoping that his lawyer will negotiate a reasonable sentence with the Crown. Any agreement reached between both parties is submitted to the judge. The judge is then free to approve or reject the suggestion made jointly by the defence and the Crown. The defense may also ask for a presentence report that the judge will take into consideration before handing down his sentence.

The public pays attention to two things: the verdict and the sentence. The majority are not concerned about the technical side of what lawyers do. They want to know whether or not an individual is guilty, and what the sentence is. The sentence does not just involve the accused, but the public in general. The appearance of justice, the setting of an example, clemency and the dissuasive effect of the sentence are all important aspects in the determination of the sentence.

Despite the importance of sentencing, the Criminal Code has never given any exhaustive direction to judges. They exercise complete discretion and have full powers as to the nature and the severity of a sentence. The applicable law in sentencing is written by judges and not by the legislator. This is the classic example of the judge-made law that is part of our Anglo-Saxon heritage.

Through their interpretation of the law and the moral authority they wield, judges help to shape and develop the fundamental values underpinning society. Unfortunately, and I will go on condemning it, women are chronically under-represented in the judiciary. Lynn Smith, the dean of the University of British Columbia's faculty of law laid out the problem clearly in an article entitled "A system that is changing".

It contains the following eloquent passage, and I quote: "The roots of the legal system were put down by men. They were developed in an era when women were not allowed to vote, to stand for office, to be lawyers or to sit on juries. The law was there to protect interests that men held important, that were consistent with the realities of their lives as men. Although the law may be said to take the situation of women into account, nonetheless an entirely masculine perspective underlies our legislation".

The majority of the approximately 1,400 judges handing out sentences are men. The overwhelming majority of federally appointed judges, those sitting in the provincial higher courts or in the Federal Court, are men. Of a total of 950 federal judges, only 134 are women. All come from a privileged socio-economic background. The accused appearing before them are rarely as well connected: they are not always men.

The majority of women who find themselves before the bench are unemployed, on welfare, or possibly working part time. Most judges are unfamiliar with the conditions in which the women appearing before them live. Ninety per cent of women serving a prison sentence have been found guilty of minor property offences, such as shoplifting. They are also sent to jail for non-payment of fines.

It is clear that women in the prison system are a particular clientele. They are not usually there for violent crimes, which brings me to one of the great weaknesses in this bill. Clause 718 identifies one of the main purposes of sentencing as the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society. This is a very worthy goal but may be difficult to achieve. And in order to achieve it, we will have to get rid of the gender and class bias of some of our judges. Our magistrates will need some very clear guidelines.

It is surprising that those who drafted the bill did not bother to consider the characteristics of the accused at the time of sentencing. In fact, except in the case of aggravating circumstances associated with crimes motivated by hate or involving abuse of trust, nowhere does Bill C-41 oblige the judge to consider the degree of indigence or the gender of the accused.

Women who come before the courts tend to be different as a group from male offenders, one factor being the type of offences women commit. Their behaviour is not the same and their goals are different as well.

If, at the time of sentencing, the judge makes no allowance for these differences, his decision will inevitably be unfair. Equity does not mean equal treatment. Two identical sentences for the same offences do not carry the same stigma for men and women.

Many women who have been in trouble with the police have already experienced very serious problems as a result of poverty, spousal abuse, family breakup and the fact that in most cases, women end up with the responsibility for a family.

Judges must be made aware of these factors. This problem will be solved when we have as many women as men on the benches of our courts of justice. It is up to the Minister of Justice to administer the remedy.

One of the cornerstones of the bill is the alternative measures for adult offenders. If the province provides for a system of alternative measures, instead of being prosecuted, the adult offender would be ordered to participate in a training program or authorized community services. The conditions and restrictions that apply to the alternative measures program proposed in the bill are almost identical to those in section 4 of the Young Offenders Act.

For instance, offenders will have to accept responsibility for the act or omission and fully and freely consent to participate in such a program. The Crown has full discretion to proceed with prosecution of the offence if it feels there is sufficient evidence and the interests of society so justify.

However, and as usual in the case of federal legislation, it will be up to the provinces to implement these alternative measures. In fact, it will be up to the attorney general of the province to set up a system of alternative measures. Provincial legislation from coast to coast does not necessarily guarantee uniform implementation across the country.

There is no provision for implementation in this bill. Because the federal government conveniently chooses to ignore the need for mechanisms to implement its own legislation, the onus will be on the provinces to implement the system, and they will have to deal with all the start up problems.

This kind of implementation will create provincial and territorial disparities which may cause other provisions of the bill as well as the bill's philosophy to be ignored. In fact, how can we expect to have sentencing parity across the country, if some regions have no alternative sentencing system or are unable to put one in place? Someone who commits an offence in a region where there is no alternative sentencing will not be able to use it, and this part of the bill then becomes ineffective.

Offenders who happen to be in the wrong province will have different sentences. For similar offences committed in similar circumstances, some people will get different sentences, which goes against the principle set forth in clause 718.2.

The range of sentencing available to the judge includes the suspended sentence. Under this system, it is possible to grant individuals a stay of sentence and to allow them to do their time within the community, provided they respect the conditions imposed by the court. Such a stay will only be available to individuals declared guilty of a crime for which no minimum prison sentence is set and sentenced to less than two years.

Suspended sentences only confuse matters more. Judges already have the discretion to suspend the passing of a sentence and to put someone on probation for a specific period. A suspended sentence will have the same effect as suspending the passing of a sentence and putting someone on probation. Same difference. The Minister of Justice would have been better advised not to waste his time reinventing the wheel.

Bill C-41 does, however, innovate in the area of victims' rights. Under clause 722, the judge is obligated to take into account the victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing stage. Hearsay will be acceptable under oath, and, if the victim is deceased or is unable to make a declaration, his or her spouse, relative or anyone who has taken responsibility for the person, may make a statement for the victim.

This important development has made up for all the times that I denounced the minor role that the victim played in legal proceedings until I was blue in the face. But, this should only be the beginning.

Victims must take their rightful place in the courts and not just be regarded as crown witnesses. The Daviault case is a sad example of the foibles of our system. Henri Daviault was recently acquitted, for lack of evidence. The case made quite a stir and prompted the Minister of Justice to table his bill on drunk defence. But the victim died in 1993. Despite the order for a retrial, the crown no longer had a witness and the judge was obliged to acquit Daviault.

Was justice served? The victim cannot give testimony from the grave and the victim's statement cannot be used as evidence now. Daviault is now a free man and we will never know what really happened. The victims of criminal acts must be included in the criminal court proceedings. They should no longer simply be crown witnesses. They should be entitled to representation by counsel and be able to cross-examine the accused, if the individual decides to testify. Victims should be able to call their own witnesses.

The rules on hearsay evidence in a trial should be relaxed in favour of the victim. In short, the system should not further traumatize the victim, who has already been subjected to the violence. Twenty years after the first shelters were opened in Quebec, violence continues to be perpetrated against women. Our society's biggest challenge is to put an end to this scourge.

This violence is not only physical; it can be psychological, emotional, economic and social as well. Spousal abuse is another scourge that must absolutely be stopped. Although the reason is obvious, the problem remains. Most of the members of this House continue to turn a deaf ear, unfortunately. They simply reflect the attitude of a society that indulges spousal violence.

Obviously, most say they are sensitive to violence and do not approve of deviant behaviour. A number also say that spousal violence is reprehensible, but look for an excuse for the disturbing attitude of the aggressor. He was drunk, for example. This approach fosters social acceptance of spousal violence. There are always two sides to the coin in our mind. We try to understand the aggressor and we blame the victim. The implication is, generally, that a man has reasons for abusing his wife, and that the victim's reaction does not meet our expectations.

In criminal law, when the courts have to deal with spousal violence, the sentence is too often lenient when the aggressor is found guilty. And for good reason. The pre-sentence report, which significantly affects the judge's decision, contains a distorted analysis of the problem. The report is limited primarily to analyzing the personality or the history of the aggressor. With this sort of analysis, the system is playing the aggressor's game.

The individual is relieved of responsibility, and the sentences such behaviour deserves are avoided. I contend, therefore, that, in all cases of spousal violence, however serious, the fact that the victim is a spouse or a former spouse should be considered an aggravating circumstance thus requiring a stiffer sentence. Former spouses are all too often the victim of both physical and psychological aggression.

Mr. Speaker, I realize you must intervene at 4.00 p.m. I will therefore turn the floor over to you and perhaps continue afterward.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-69, an act to provide for the establishment of electoral boundaries commissions and the readjustment of electoral boundaries; and of the amendment.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995
Government Orders

June 15th, 1995 / 4 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I asked a little earlier if the whips would confer on the deferral of this vote. The Chair would always prefer that these decisions be made in harmony after consultation. To my knowledge no decision has been made by the whips of any of the parties.

I saw the video tapes earlier today of exactly what took place. I have satisfied myself that the acting whip of the Bloc Quebecois proceeded in the normal and accepted fashion. I have reviewed what the government whip had to say with regard to this point and I have taken into consideration what the whip of the Reform Party said in the House.

I want to make one thing clear to all hon. members. It is the purview of the Speaker to make this decision. I will tell you how I am not making it. I am not making it on first past the post. It would be unseemly, in my view, to have the whips running up to the table and knocking each other down. This is, after all, the House of Commons and we should have some decorum. Because the decision has been placed on my plate, I have decided and I order that the vote on this particular amendment take place at 11.30 p.m., Monday, June 19.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing) and other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was saying that the former spouse is too often the victim of both physical and psychological abuse. When couples break up, the built-up tension too often degenerates into violence. The former spouse is a special case, because the abuser often blames his victim for the failure of the relationship.

With respect to spousal homicide, which is an extreme form of violence, the probability that a woman will be killed by her husband is nine times higher than the probability that she will be killed by a stranger. Separated spouses, however, are much more at risk.

In the case of couples living together at the time of the murder, four times more women than men are killed. This 4:1 ratio goes up to more than 10:1 for separated couples. These statistics are inescapable and alarming: for every man killed by his ex-wife, 10 times as many women are killed by their ex-husbands.

The results of this Canada-wide survey on spousal abuse, in which over 12,300 women participated, were published in March 1994. This survey gives a picture of spousal violence that is troubling, to say the least. Because violence against current or former wives is disturbing, we prefer to ignore it instead of facing reality. It is high time that this House sent a clear message to violent spouses, the vast majority of whom are men. The message to the judges looking at the circumstances surrounding violent crimes against spouses must be just as clear.

I am talking not only about physical abuse but also about psychological abuse, which produces lasting, detrimental effects. Put-downs and insults are as devastating a weapon as slaps and punches. They inflict deep wounds that never completely heal.

The national survey published last year was aimed at testing theories on the links between physical and psychological abuse. About a third of the women who were or had been married at the time of the survey said that their spouses or former spouses had been psychologically abusive. Fifty-nine per cent of former partners were considered psychologically abusive, compared with 17 per cent of current partners.

Although physical abuse does not necessarily go hand in hand with psychological abuse, both types were used in most cases. Three quarters of the women who described themselves as victims of physical or sexual abuse said that they were also victims of psychological abuse. Eighteen per cent of women not experiencing physical violence at the hands of their spouses said they were the victims of psychological violence.

The principle forms of violence described by the women surveyed were pushing, grabbing, shoving, followed by threats to hit, slapping, having objects thrown at them, being kicked, bitten and punched. A good number of women were also battered, sexually assaulted, strangled, hit with an object and threatened with a gun or a knife. Rarely was only one form of violence reported.

The Bloc Quebecois proposed an amendment that covered all these forms of violence. In fact, by defining assault as it is defined in section 265 of the Criminal Code, we have included the application of force against a spouse, the attempt and the threat to apply force. The definition applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party, causing bodily harm and aggravated sexual assault. Unfortunately, our amendment was not accepted.

Almost half of women victims of violence have been injured. The most frequent injuries were bruises, in 90 per cent of cases, followed by cuts, scratches, burns, and various degrees of fracture. Almost 10 per cent of injured women said they had suffered internal injuries and miscarried.

I would like to quote Mr. Justice Jean-Guy Boilard of the Superior Court of Quebec. When sentencing the accused Fouad Ghazal last Thursday in the district of Hull, the judge, speaking to the accused who had murdered his wife, said the following, and I quote: "Spousal violence is a repugnant crime that has become one of the major concerns of our society. It would be utopian to think we can eradicate it. However, the sentence must reflect society's reprobation of this crime".

I hope all members of the bench agree with Mr. Justice Boilard.

To get back to the sentencing bill, the debate, as I pointed out the day before yesterday, was distorted from the outset. Most speakers zeroed in on the expression "sexual orientation" which appears in clause 718.2 of the bill. This clause deals only with the circumstances the judge should consider at the time of sentencing. As I said before, this is not a new charter of rights.

There is no justification for the concern expressed by some members that an individual will be punished more severely. All forms of violence must be punished. If the victim is attacked as a member of an easily identifiable group or as an apparent member of such a group, this is clearly an aggravating circumstance and the punishment should be severe.

At the insistence of the Bloc Quebecois, clause 718.2 now contains two additional factors, so that national or ethnic origin as well as language are now part of the list.

We felt it was imperative to send a clear message to the courts to punish crimes motivated by prejudice based on language. A person has no right to abuse a francophone because he speaks French, and this applies to all language minorities in Canada. I hate violence in any form, and I particularly hate violence motivated by prejudice, the most damaging of all.

Violence against women is the most obvious example. I therefore support unreservedly a bill that identifies the gender-based bias of the aggressor as an extreme example of a morally reprehensible attitude. We have every right to disagree with some of the provisions of the bill, and we have the right to express our opinions. However, some opinions make me fear the worst.

Not so long ago, the debate centred on discrimination against Blacks and visible minorities in general. Bill C-41 is an indication that our society is moving in the right direction, towards civic responsibility and tolerance. Violence in any form must be condemned. The consequences of crimes motivated by hate are profound. There is not just one victim. There are many. Every member of these groups becomes a victim.

This is a situation that cannot be tolerated. We each have to choose the kind of society we want. And I have chosen to live in a society that condemns violence.

Message From The Senate
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before resuming debate, I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C-44, an Act to amend the Immigration Act and the Citizenship Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Customs Act.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing) and other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr Speaker, I am glad to speak for the last time on this bill in the House. No doubt I will be speaking about it in many places across the country as people contact me by phone, letter and fax to express their concerns and ask questions about the form it has taken as it leaves the House on its way to the Senate for final approval or amendment.

I would like to touch on three areas in Bill C-41. I want to look at the alternative measures. I want to look at that part which deals with section 745. And of course I want to touch briefly on section 718.2. Perhaps I could start there.

The justice minister took considerable time to dwell on what has been known as the hate category. It is unfortunate that many parts of the bill have been overshadowed by concern for what is in this particular part. We have to examine the bill from the viewpoint of whether it is a good bill or whether it is a bad bill, whether it is good legislation or whether it is bad legislation.

I submit with respect that this is not a good bill and that it is bad legislation. I will attempt to justify my concerns in my address and intervention this afternoon.

The bill does not deal with the cause of hatred. It does not deal with the cause of prejudice or with the cause of bias. It does not deal with those issues which give rise to frustration, anger, stress and fear which I submit humbly is the mother of hatred.

We see the government passing legislation that creates anger, fear and frustration. All we have to do is read the letters we receive on Bill C-68, on Bill C-41 and on the MP pension bill. That is all we have to do to see what the government is doing to contribute to the degree of anger and frustration across the country.

The bill is not attacking the cause. It is not alleviating those fundamental feelings that result in bias, prejudice, hatred which eventually express themselves in human acts, one human against another.

When I was growing up and going to school in Saskatchewan in our community there were people from all ethnic groups. There were ethnic jokes, Ukrainian jokes and jokes against the English and the Scottish and the French. Almost every one of those jokes was a putdown. Although they were humourous they were still putdowns and yet they did not bother any of us because we all knew we stood equal before the law.

After all was said and done we all stood equal before the law and that is what is being destroyed. At least the sense of that is being destroyed; that the government is introducing legislation creating special rights for special status for some citizens. That is what will create a bias. If one grants special rights and special privileges to individuals, one will see other individuals resenting that. They will see the bias and the prejudice occur.

I go back to the example that comes out of the United States where a school teacher went into her classroom Monday morning and said to her students that all the brown eyed children in her class are special, they have a higher IQ and they are smarter. She saw the result. She saw the friendships drop off between the blue eyed children, the brown eyed children and the others. A week later she came in and said she made a mistake. It is not the brown eyed children who are the smart ones, it is the blue eyed children. She sat back and watched what happened.

She saw the prejudice. She saw feelings that produce bias, prejudice, anger and frustration develop within that classroom. I am saying this bill is not eliminating those feelings. It is aiding and abetting those feelings.

If it is creating the impression in the minds of people across the country that people are being granted a special category or a special right, we must all feel we stand equal before the law regardless of our race, our colour, our language and regardless of our chosen style. We must all feel we have the protection of the law and we stand equal before that law, that those who administer the law, and the political forces will recognize that and never deviate from that principle.

When we look at the alternative measures, what do we have? What do they mean? Alternative measures in the bill suggest we will segregate violent offenders and non-violent offenders from the court system and from the penal system. That gives me great concern. There are many cases which ought to be handled outside the criminal justice industry, as I refer to it, and the penal system. I was a peace officer for 14 years and most of the minor incidents which I came in contact with never reached the courtroom because I considered the court to be the last resort.

I am not unmindful of the principle contained here and the power and the strength of it which is expressed in what we call alternative measures. However, it should be directed. There should be a division between non-violent and violent offenders.

The bill does not create that division. One of our hon. colleagues from across the way discussed during report stage that this will allow violent offenders to receive the treatment provided for under the alternative measures. We will see the state, those who administer the law, given the right to allow violent offenders, those who have attacked others, not to be subjected to the court system or to the penal system.

When it comes to non-violent offences such as theft of property or wilful damage of private property or public property where there is no threat to the life or safety of individuals, I can understand looking at the possibility of dealing with that individual, particularly a youth, in a manner as outlined under alternative measures.

When we entered an amendment at committee stage to segregate violent offenders from this alternative, of course there was no consideration given to our amendment and it was defeated by the Liberal side. That is wrong.

This is a bad bill, poorly drafted. I do not think it will achieve the results and provide for a safer society. To me, with respect, it is more of a political statement, a politically correct statement, than an effective piece of legislation.

When the Canadian Police Association appeared before the standing committee this is what it said about the bill:

Bill C-41, with few exceptions, is unwieldy, complicated, internally self-contradictory, duplicitous and, what is worse, in almost all of it completely unnecessary for anyone with any knowledge of it or use for the common law heritage of Canada.

While it would attempt to codify basic sentencing principles, eliminating this most basic judicial discretion, at the same time it would bestow huge new discretionary powers to a whole range of persons within the justice system. The common thread in those new powers is that all are to the benefit of the offender in the sense of non-custodial consequence for criminal actions.

While sentencing reform calls for protection, this bill offers platitudes. Where it calls for clarity it offers confusion and outright hypocrisy. It will almost certainly cause the already skyrocketing criminal justice budget to expand further still.

To continue with this theme, I received a letter from the executive director of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Newark, dated June 13, 1995. In part, Mr. Newark wrote:

I have taken the liberty of writing to you in the last hope that practicality might intrude on what appears to be a predetermined decision to see this legislation passed. I should add, at the outset as some of you may know, that the perspective of this letter comes from rank and file police officers who work in our nation's courtrooms on a daily basis, and my own personal experience as a trial prosecutor for 12 years.

This bill attempts to codify some, and I emphasize only some, of the basic principles of sentencing which evolved in our courts over the last hundred years or so. It is a classic example of bureaucratic arrogance which assumes that using a particular phrase or sentence will somehow make everything constant and in accordance with "principles" determined as valid within the federal Department of Justice.

When I first saw this bill, which was in 1992 as Bill C-90 from the Tory regime, I was convinced that it must have been drafted by people who had never seen the inside of a court room other than as an academic observer. My subsequent investigation has proved that to be correct which is far from comforting. No matter what one's view of how sentencing should occur, this bill's approach of attempting to redefine principles will result in endless litigation which will add millions of wasted dollars of expense to a system that is now struggling to make more efficient use of existing resources.

Even the much publicized sexual orientation clause is an example of how unnecessary this bill is. Section 718.2 merely directs that an offence motivated by any of the listed factors, including sexual orientation, shall be viewed as an aggravating factor by the sentencing court. Has anyone, ever, cited a case where a court said it was not an aggravating factor? Any such judicial position would be an error of law and it is so obvious that in my time in court I never encountered or heard of such a suggestion

and indeed, to the contrary, all sentencing texts or digests dealing with current practice recognize such motivation as an aggravating factor.

In short this controversial section is completely unnecessary. It has always been my observation that while unnecessary legislation is generally unwise, it is especially so when dealing in criminal law-I would ask that you keep in mind that both our association and the chiefs of police (and, by the way, every crown attorney I've spoken with) opposed the passage of this bill.

Bill C-41 is a badly drafted, inconsistent, self-contradictory bill which is truly the creation of a bureaucracy which unlike elected representatives has no constituency or ultimate accountability.

This letter was written by the executive director of the Canadian Police Association and those are his comments and opinions about the bill.

Also within the letter he indicates this viewpoint is shared by the chiefs of police and the crown attorneys he knows and has talked to and also the peace officers. I find it very strange the justice minister embraces the opinion of the chiefs of police and the Canadian Police Association with regard to Bill C-68, the gun control bill.

The minister has regularly and repeatedly used them as support for pushing through the gun control legislation. However, when it comes to Bill C-41 their opinion is no good. Why is their opinion fine and sound and wise on support of Bill C-68 or portions of it and unwise and unacceptable on Bill C-41? There is an inconsistency here that escapes me. It simply escapes me that the justice minister would use these organizations, their opinions and their support to justify one bill but would completely ignore their scathing denunciation of Bill C-41. I would like to place that on the record.

This bill also relates to section 745 of the Criminal Code. Section 745 of the Criminal Code allows first degree murderers or those who have been sentenced to over 15 years imprisonment the opportunity for early parole or at least to apply for a reduction of their parole ineligibility after serving 15 years. Of course it applies mostly to first degree murderers.

I ask: What is a human life worth? What is a fair and just penalty for someone who has premeditated and deliberately taken the life of an innocent person? What is a fair and just penalty for that?

When the government removed the death penalty from the Criminal Code we received the assurance that society would be protected by a term of life imprisonment for those convicted of first degree murder and that they would have no eligibility for parole for 25 years. However, at the time I suggest 99 per cent of Canadians were unaware that section 745 was created and placed in the Criminal Code.

Yes, hon. members can say that it was debated here in the House but it was debated before the proceedings were televised. I suggest that very few people were aware that section 745 was placed in the Criminal Code and what it meant. I suggest it was a betrayal if not a deception on the part of the government of the day against the people of this country. My office has received calls and letters from people indicating clearly they were not aware of what the government intended when it introduced section 745 into the Criminal Code.

We introduced an amendment to this bill that would strike section 745 from the Criminal Code entirely so that a life sentence would mean a life sentence. At least that would place a greater sense of worth on a human life and when someone deliberately with premeditation and intent took a human life there would be a penalty to pay. Regardless of whether there is rehabilitation, regardless of whether there is remorse of any sort, the penalty must be paid. We are saying it ought to be exactly what the government promised in the seventies when this change was being considered. We moved to strike that. I oppose Bill C-41 on that basis as well.

In summing up I would like to go back to the business of violence in society which has led to a categorizing of individuals. This bill would have the courts impose a greater penalty for certain crimes. If I am assaulted because someone hates me and if I fit within the categorization in this bill, my attacker will receive a greater penalty. If I do not fit within that category, then my attacker may not receive a greater penalty. That is the crux of this whole concern as far as I am concerned. It is creating status by categorizing groups of people. I think it is wrong.

As I said before, what will create bias and prejudice quicker than anything else is for example by my telling you, Mr. Speaker, that because you have brown eyes you are not as good as I am because I have blue eyes and I do have blue eyes. We must avoid that at all cost. This bill does not avoid that. We are moving to the edge of a slippery slope when we begin by statute to create special rights for groups of people.

If we want to reduce the degree of hate crimes within our country, this bill does not contain the power to do it. How do we eliminate those emotions that give rise to hate and to hate crimes? In all of my lifetime the only way I have found to do that is by understanding and love. Only one thing will replace hate in the mind and heart of an individual from my experience.

I grew up in my family of seven brothers, my mother and my father. I have raised a family of four with my wife. We have gone through the gamut of feelings and emotions, including frustration, anger, bitterness, all of those negative feelings every human being is subjected to. I know that if I do not sit by a warm heater when I am cold I am not going to get warm. If I do not open my mind and heart to the feelings of love from my family, my neighbours and my colleagues, the bitterness even of this place that comes to me from time to time will get the better of me. I see traces of this.

The hon. member from the Bloc spoke about psychological violence. I hope I am not out of place, but I have to ask what kind of psychological violence occurred in the Liberal caucus when their leader, the Prime Minister of this country, used words to say: "You must do as I say and if you do not this is what is going to happen to you". This was said to grown men and women who were freely elected in a democratic election by the people of this country. What happens?

There are two types of violence. There is the physical violence, which this bill attempts to address and I think fails miserably, and there is the mental violence. I often think the mental violence is far worse because it precedes the physical violence. Unless we look as a Parliament at the causative factors that lead to bias, prejudice and hatred, we as elected officials are not going to be successful in dealing with the problem. If we begin to create those things that will frustrate me and frustrate my children by saying that they are not equal in the law with all other Canadians, we are on a slippery slope.

I go back to my childhood days when yes, the ethnic jokes were there and the put downs were there, but we did not mind. Why? Because we knew we stood equal before the law. As soon as that changes-and we can look at countries that do not have laws which allow people to stand equal before the law, where there is special status and special rights and privileges-we will see the anger, the frustration and the hate.

With respect this bill does not address those factors. If the justice minister feels that by introducing a category of groups of people who will receive special treatment at the hands of the court over people who are not categorized within those groups, I think it is wrong. I am also absolutely amazed that the justice minister, who portrays a great degree of intelligence, could bring forward this kind of a document. I cannot support it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Warren Allmand Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am wondering, with unanimous consent, whether I could put a question to the hon. member with respect to his speech. I know that for his speech there is no provision for questions, but I am wondering if we could have unanimous agreement to put a question to him.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The House has heard the request from the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Is there unanimous consent?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Liberal

Warren Allmand Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the hon. member who worked very hard in the committee. In his speech he suggested that there were provisions in the bill that would give priority to people with brown eyes and blue eyes. He said that the bill might favour people with blue eyes as opposed to those with brown eyes or brown eyes as opposed to blue eyes, that one would be in a more favoured position than the other. That is not correct. I would ask the member to look at this once again.

The bill states, for example, hate based on race. It does not state that any one race would have precedence over another. They are all equal. In other words, if the violence was committed against whites it would be subject to the provisions of this bill, as would violence committed against blacks or against people with yellow skin. No group is given priority over the other.

With respect to nationalities, it states nationality. It does not state English over French or English over Polish. It states religion. It does not state Jewish before Catholics or Catholics before Presbyterians. In other words, there is no prioritizing of any of the groups. They are all equal.

All races, all nationalities, all colours, all religions, all sexes, all ages, all mental or physical disabilities are equal and all sexual orientations are equal. If people were to attack heterosexuals they would be protected by the provisions of this bill as would gays and lesbians.

The member was in the committee when the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec, very eminent lawyers, made that very exact submission. How can he say that the bill favours one group over another when it obviously does not? It is in very general terms and no one group is favoured over another. That was the evidence presented to us by the eminent lawyers who appeared before the committee.

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Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the intervention from the hon. member is appreciated but he misses the point.

My point is that there are categories. He has mentioned the categories. Inasmuch as I fit into that category, then I am protected. What happens if I do not fit into that category and I am assaulted? The member for Wild Rose asked that if he is attacked by someone who hates fat people, what category does he fit into? That category is not there. If I am attacked and assaulted because I am a member of a particular political party, which I am, where in the bill am I protected? I am not because that is an excluded category.

I understand what the hon. member is saying but that was not the point I was making. The point I am making is that as soon as we start to make categories we had better not stop because there is an unlimited number of reasons that people are angry and hate other people. Whether they are fat, or ugly or just simply irritable for some reason or another-

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An hon. member

Or rich.

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Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Yes, rich or poor perhaps. That is the point I am making. I thought my point was clear, but if it was not then I hope that the intervention made by my hon. colleague will help clarify it.