House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. With the greatest of respect to the member for Yorkton-Melville, I would rule that is not a point of order. The matter he is engaging in is debate.

Does the hon. member have a question for the Chair, not about the ruling? The ruling is clear, it is not a point of order.

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, would this be appropriate as a point of privilege in that it hampers my ability as a member of Parliament to do my job properly if someone makes a misstatement about me?

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

No, again I would rule. I guess the suggestion I would make is that he possibly would want to seek counsel from our senior table officers, but my initial answer to his question is no, there is not a question of privilege. Then again, being the frail human that I am, please, as I have done in the past, seek the good counsel of our table officers. They are all here at our service.

The House resumed from September 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, an act to amend the Prisons and Reformatories Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

October 1st, 1996 / 3:35 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say that I am particularly pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-53. In fact, I am quite astounded that such a bill has made it this far in the House of Commons.

On the one, hand members are debating bills which concern tougher sentencing, stricter parole legislation and capital punishment for criminals because that is what Canadians are demanding. On the other hand, the Liberals have brought forward this proposal out of left field which makes it easier for prisoners to get out of jail on temporary absences.

The weaknesses of the justice system in our country are becoming more and more evident to the majority of Canadians and quite frankly they want something done about it. Seventy per cent of Canadians want first degree, cold blooded murderers sentenced to death. They do not want killers or any criminal let out on parole before completing their sentences and they certainly do not want it made easier for a criminal to get a temporary absence or a longer temporary absence from prison.

I will guarantee that if members asked most Canadians they would tell them that they do not think convicted criminals need to spend more of their sentences outside jail walls. They would simply ask what for. That is what I want to know. What for?

The parliamentary secretary to the solicitor general attempted to answer this in the House last week. He claims this bill will allow provincial prisoners leave for a specified period of time with or without an escort for medical, humanitarian or rehabilitative purposes, all in an effort to help offenders reintegrate into the community.

He continues his justification of Bill C-53 by telling us we have nothing to be concerned with. After all, these are not hardened criminals but only the ones who are serving sentences of less than two years.

I would like to know if the hon. parliamentary secretary has ever heard of deterrence or even justice. Does he realize that many of those convicted of sexual assault receive such ridiculously short sentences? Are their victims going to be reassured when the hon. member tells them they have nothing to worry about, that their

attackers are not a threat and deserve a helping hand in rejoining those very same victims in the community? Is concern for the convicted felon's reintegration supposed to comfort the victim when she bumps into him in the neighbourhood grocery store?

The length of the sentence or even the offence is irrelevant in this case. The truth of the matter is the Liberals are showing their blatant disregard for the courts by encouraging legislation that circumvents the decisions of judges and juries.

As we are aware, they are particularly attached to section 745 of the Criminal Code which allows murderers the opportunity to have their sentences reviewed after serving only 15 years. The Liberals have steadfastly refused to listen to Canadians who are demanding the repeal of section 745. So I suppose it only follows that the Liberals would be fond of having more criminals out on more temporary absences.

Why listen to the judges or juries that understand the circumstances behind a conviction and have chosen to send these criminals to jail for a specified period of time? There are many reasons why I believe the Liberals introduced this legislation. And while the reasons are valid, I submit the solution is not.

Like most every breathing individual in this country, the Liberals actually do recognize that there is a crisis in our justice system. They are being told by citizens and organizations across the country that violent crime is increasing, that people do not feel safe on the street or in their homes. They also know that Canadians want longer and more strict sentences for criminals. We all know this.

So why is this government introducing such ludicrous legislation contrary to all of the concerns I have just mentioned? Is it because it is also aware that there is severe overcrowding and financial constraints in prison systems across the country? Do the Liberals imagine they should make space available by letting criminals go free?

Of course this logic directly opposes the reduction of overcrowding in the prison system. What would really reduce the number of criminals sitting in jails at the taxpayer expense is deterrence. Deterrence is what the justice system is based on.

I am not saying that rehabilitation should be discounted but it should not be the focal point of all our correctional programs. There is a direct correlation between prison overcrowding and the leniency of parole and temporary absence programs.

How is it that prisons are straining their capacities when according to Statistics Canada 80 per cent of the 154,000 people under the care of the correctional system were out on some form of community supervision in 1994? There was also a 40 per cent increase in the number of people out on probation between 1990 and 1994.

These two opposing trends, overcrowding and a greater number of parolees, are rather ironic indeed but make perfect sense unless you are a Liberal who believes that pampering prisoners will bring an end to crime. Their idea of rehabilitation is to provide those inside with all the amenities those on the outside have to work for.

The point is a prime reason why people commit crimes is there is no element of deterrence left in our justice system. When someone in our society does something wrong they must pay the price, and in this case that means prison time. What sort of deterrence is reinforced through increased temporary absences or early parole?

It is unfortunate for the Liberals but fortunate for Canadians that the Reform Party can offer better solutions to remedy our justice system than lenient parole and absences.

I note in Hansard of September 23 that the member for Kingston and the Islands spoke on sentencing reform. He said: ``The jail term is what the public looks at as the measure of punishment. I suggest that we have to change that. I invite hon. members opposite to think of changing it and look at alternative measures''.

Reformers have suggested alternatives to the present justice system for three long years. It is just that members on the other side seem to be deaf not only to Reformers' alternatives but the wishes of Canadians as well.

We now know that the Liberal alternative of indulging and rehabilitating criminals is only resulting in more crime and overcrowded prisons. It has been estimated that the total cost of criminal acts to Canadian society is $46 billion a year. It costs around $10 billion just for law enforcement, prisons and courts. The cost of legal aid has been skyrocketing. There has to be a better way.

I believe we need to focus on two separate issues: prevention, and deterrence. Prevention must begin at home early in life. Preschoolers must be taught right from wrong. Society must do everything possible to provide the best possible environment for youngsters but there must be respect for the consequences of wrongdoing as well.

Reformers believe that individuals as well as governments must be held accountable and responsible for their actions. As an alternative, how about reinstating capital punishment as an alternative to life imprisonment? For the record let me be very clear about this. I am speaking about the death penalty for first degree, premeditated, cold-blooded murder. I am speaking about appropriate punishment for the likes of Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

As an alternative, how about that four letter word "work"? I do not mean whenever the convict feels like it, I mean a mandatory requirement. A big part of the problem we have in society today-I stress that some believe they do not have to work-is this new age

philosophy which seems to be reinforced even in our nation's jails. In our parents and grandparents' times the work ethic was simple, work or starve.

Prisoners should be required to work a minimum number of hours per week. If they are sick they should have to make up their hours later. If they are unfit, work should be found for them commensurable with their capabilities, but they should work.

As an alternative, why not bush camps? You will note I did not specify boot camps, Mr. Speaker. However, once again I am speaking of a structured, highly disciplined work environment. I believe this is particularly appropriate in the case of young offenders. Last weekend when I was home and attending a meeting in my riding an elderly gentleman made a suggestion to me about how we can help the young people to become more disciplined. He was suggesting mandatory military service. I have heard this many times from a number of people and I am sure other colleagues in this House have heard this as well.

Canadians and Reformers have been suggesting alternatives to the present system whereas the Liberals want to pamper those who break our laws, call them rehabilitated, then parole them only to see them reoffend. This kid glove approach is not what Canadians are demanding. Canadians want to see criminals held responsible. They want punishment that fits the severity of the crime. They want consequences for criminal acts that provide real deterrents.

Sitting out the coldest winter months in idleness in a warm environment with all amenities provided at taxpayer expense is no deterrent. An example fresh in my mind was visiting the new provincial correctional facility in Prince George. It is quite a nice facility with all the amenities for a convict's use.

We are looking at another example of piecemeal legislation by the Liberals. What is driving their confused and disjointed actions? I submit that first and foremost the Liberals are thinking about the next election. It is fast approaching and they have been sitting around doing nothing except celebrating their good fortune for the past three years.

Canadians have begun to ask what the government has done to improve the economy, our society, our justice system. Suddenly the Liberals are scurrying to pass quick fix legislation so they can tell Canadians that they did do something. They are hitting all the hot buttons concerning homosexual rights, crime and child support. The issue of child support was debated just this morning.

In another example of piecemeal legislation, the Liberals propose getting tough in enforcing child support payments without understanding the issue. The entire system of child custody laws and the Divorce Act must be reviewed and corrected by legislation but the Liberals are going for the shallow, quick fix approach that they think will be enough to appease the voters in the next election.

The proposed legislation we are debating right now is another example. The disarray and inefficiencies in our justice system, in conjunction with rising crime, is now and will be a major issue for Canadians during the next election campaign.

The Liberals will go to the voters rhyming off their justice legislation such as Bill C-53 and Bill C-45. They do not care if this legislation completely ignores the changes that Canadians want. What is important to the Liberal campaign strategy is that they can say they did something, no matter how irrelevant and destructive or how vaguely related to crime and justice.

It is not good enough for the Reform Party and it is certainly not good enough for Canadians. They expect and they deserve better. This country needs fundamental changes to its justice system to help people feel safer, to recognize the rights of victims and to state loud and clear that criminal activity is not acceptable in our society.

I can assure members that Bill C-53 will not do that. It will do the exact opposite.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Wild Rose.

Before I give my comments on the legislative initiatives proposed in this bill, I want to make clear to my constituents that the Prisons and Reformatories Act only applies to persons sentenced for a federal offence and are being held in a provincial correctional facility. This would mean any convict sentenced to less than two years.

On the surface, the measures proposed in Bill C-53 seem to make sense. Apparently the new provisions have been requested by the provinces and territories. I have not had a chance to check with any of the provincial ministers about the measures the federal government has proposed, however I trust that the Standing Committee on Justice will do this during the clause by clause review of the bill. I hope the Liberals will allow the committee to do its job. Its previous record is not very good.

As I worked my way through the bill, I noted some obvious omissions. I do not know whether these were by design or by bureaucratic oversight. Before I could give my wholehearted support for Bill C-53, a number of amendments would have to be made.

Let me explain. Clause 2 of the bill, which amends section 7 of the act, states that the purpose of the temporary absence programs would be to contribute to the maintenance of a just and peaceful and safe society by facilitating the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens.

If I had been given the job of writing this bill, the stated purpose of temporary absence programs would go something like this. To reward convicts who have served the majority of their sentences in an exemplary fashion, to demonstrate to other prisoners the value of good behaviour and the fairness of the merit release process, to permit offenders to participate in work programs or get a job in order to make restitution to their victims, to compensate the state for the costs of their incarceration and, ultimately, to deter them from committing crimes in the future.

It is refreshing, I will admit, to see a government bill that started out by including a statement of principles. This is the first thing I look for because if the government does not get the principles right, then the resulting legislative measures will never be right.

The first thing I noticed was the absence, and hopefully it is just a temporary absence, of the most important principle, namely that the protection of society is to be of paramount consideration in the determination of any case. Why was that paramount principle omitted? The government included such a principle in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Why is it missing from the Prison and Reformatories Act?

Even the legislative summary prepared by the law and government division of the research branch of the Library of Parliament states: "This bill seems to give less importance to the protection of society than does the Corrections and Conditional Release Act". That is a serious deficiency.

I have dealt with the most important missing principle. I would like to note some other deficiencies in the other principles in Bill C-53. As it is currently worded, the second principle states that: "All available information relevant to the case be taken into account". Here is the key question. What does the government mean by all available information? Does it include victim impact statements? Does it give victims the right to be heard at any review to consider release of an inmate under the temporary absence program? If it does not, it should.

I also recommend that the bill include a definition of the term all available information and a list of the types of information that should be taken into account by the designated authority during any review process.

The third principle states that prisoners be provided with relevant information, reasons for decisions and access to the review of decisions. Does this mean that only prisoners are to be provided with relevant information? If the Liberal government is as concerned about the victims' rights as it says it is, then why are they not included in this principle?

I know that the fourth principle says that the designated authority may provide for the timely exchange of relevant information with other participants in the criminal justice system and make general information about temporary absence programs and policies available to prisoners, victims and the public.

However, I am sure even Liberals will agree that the victims' rights are at least as important as the right of prisoners. If so, then the third principle must be amended to read, and I quote what should be in there: "That prisoners and their victims be provided with relevant information, reasons for decisions and access to the review of decisions". Unless that is included I cannot support the bill.

I also have some concerns about the new power being given in this bill to the provinces, that is, the power to appoint any person or any organization as a designated authority. If Bill C-53 is passed into law, then any person or any organization so designated by the province would be responsible for authorizing temporary absences for prisoners in that province.

In the current legislation the province has the power to appoint an officer to make decisions regarding temporary absences. At least an officer paid by the government can be held accountable. How can the government hold any person or any organization accountable? That is a key question.

Citizens are already concerned about the lack of accountability in the corrections system. Citizens are attacked, injured, robbed, maimed, murdered by convicts out on temporary release and no one is to blame. The new victim is not even allowed to sue the government for its mistake. This a concern for me as well, not just my constituents.

I recommend that the wording of the current act be retained. At least if the designated authority is an officer, then some form of direct accountability can be guaranteed. If the designated authority is a sentencing circle or some do gooder or some prisoners rights society, then how will accountability be guaranteed by the government? Canadians are asking for more accountability, not less. This bill is moving in the wrong direction. This is a serious flaw.

The next section deals with the reasons for the so-called designated authority to authorize a temporary absence. The reasons do not list the most important reason for a temporary absence. That should be, and I hope that this quotation will go into the bill, to participate in work programs, to make restitution to their victims and to compensate the state for the cost of their incarceration and ultimately to deter them from committing other crimes in the future. That is common sense. That ought to be in there. It is a serious flaw that it is not included.

Finally, there should be a section in this bill which deals specifically with the accountability and liability of the government

and the designated authority if a convict they let out on temporary absence commits another crime.

I do not need to remind members on this side of the House, but maybe the Liberal members on the other side need a little reminder. Daniel Gingras was on a temporary escorted absence to the West Edmonton Mall when he escaped, subsequently killing and raping several citizens.

I understand that dangerous criminals like Gingras should not be held in provincial institutions. In this job I have come to realize that a lot of things happen that just do not make sense. Therefore I think it is absolutely essential that victim rights come before prisoner rights and that the protection of society come before the rights of a prisoner to temporary release.

There is only one way I know to put these principles first, give Canadians the right to sue the government for its mistakes. If given this right to sue the government for injuries and damages caused by its mistakes I guarantee there would be a lot fewer mistakes.

In conclusion, this bill looks good on the surface but we need to go beyond impression and make sure we get it all right. It must promote responsibility and accountability. It must give victims more rights than criminals.

The Liberals always say they listen and they want constructive suggestions. I hope they are listening and will take these constructive suggestions into account. I hope the proper amendments will be made so that I can support this bill.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to indicate how pleased I am to speak to Bill C-53. The protection of criminals obviously seems to be very important to this government. It seems like every time we pick up a bill that is presented to this House there is something in there regarding what can we do for the prisoners, what can we do for the convicts, what can we do for the criminals.

As we search through the document it just gives a person a clear reason why it is difficult to support these bills. It places the rehabilitation and the reintegration of criminals way ahead of the protection of society; in bill after bill.

The Liberal government under this social engineer we call the justice minister might be able to convince some people that it is doing a wonderful job. When we look at the things that have been put in place we see actually what is happening. Maybe the people across the way can explain to me why we have criminals, rapists and all other types of criminals being bailed out, being released on passes, who are given alternative measures to crime.

However, we have a hard working farmer who raises a crop, who tries to sell it to get as much money as he can. He breaks the law. He sold his own produce against the law. We are going to lock him up and boy, we do not talk about release there or bail or anything. That violent grain producer is not going to get a temporary pass or a leave of absence. That is the Liberal mentality.

However, on the same day this farmer was sentenced in court, there was fellow who went to a farm and burned up tractors and a couple of trucks, stole a truck, beat some dogs to death and ravished the farm house and, guess what, he is going to receive an alternative measure. He is not going to have to go to jail.

We keep picking these things up. This reminds me of Mr. Gingras from Edmonton. He had a birthday. It was felt that something should be done for him to get him out of prison because he had been a pretty good boy. Two more people are dead because of the Liberal philosophy and the Liberal way of doing things. However, those things happen and nobody has to be accountable.

When they come up with a bill like this that is going to provide different things, why do they not write some accountability into it? Why do they not take the time to say that this is what they are going to do and if they fail or make a miscue or if they err, they as the government will hold themselves accountable to the people of Canada? If they do not repeal section 745 maybe they should make a new law which says they will be responsible if they release a killer in 15 years and he kills someone. The Liberals will not dare do that. They do not want to put their necks in any noose. But they do not mind jeopardizing the safety of all Canadians by making decisions that make absolutely no sense.

Right in my own community today a rapist who was charged on three counts was picked up by breakfast and bailed out by noon. Yet we have a grain farmer who sold his crop and received more money than what the wheat board could have got for him and we are going to lock him up and sock it to him and he will not get any bail. This is Liberal philosophy, a lot of bunk. Social engineering.

This justice minister ought to be back on Bay Street where he belongs. That is what he knows best. He does not know anything about law and order and the protection of people.

All we ask for when legislation comes down, all any of us want and all any Canadian would like to see is a little focus on the victims of crime. Every time we pick up legislation, and Bill C-53 is no different, it just is not there.

The Liberals put legislation out and ask us to support it because if we do not we are not much help to anyone. They tell us they are trying to accomplish something here. They have to get these guys out of jail and get them back on the street. They say we have to rehabilitate them if we are going to do anything about crime, regardless of the fact that crime has increased drastically in the last

15 years. It is mostly because of Liberal feel good, fuzzy philosophy that is not working.

The Liberals do not have brains enough or will not open their eyes to understand that it is not working. They do not understand why we have thousands of Canadians across Canada who are in groups like Victims of Violence, CAVEAT, CRY, all kinds of victims across the country organizing. Do members know why they organize? Because this government is failing the people of Canada. They have to organize to try to wake up these guys on that side of the House to say it is not working.

Let us talk about the good old gun control legislation, the one that is specifically designed to go after the law-abiding person. They are also going after the law-abiding person. They say "we are going to do something about smuggling". Yes, I guess we did. Look what we have done about smugglers. We caught a grain farmer selling grain across the line as the boats with drugs, refugees, guns and all the other crap they are smuggling into this country just go and go and nothing is being done.

I am sorry, but when we pick Bill C-53, like all the other bills I have seen, this fuzzy, feel good attitude is not cutting it with the Canadian people. One of these days they are going to wake up. When they go to the polls, maybe people like the justice minister, this social engineer, will realize they have made a mistake and do not care enough about the Canadian people. I would vote against this right now if I had the chance simply because it ignores the victims of crime. It is time to quit ignoring them.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a question of the hon. member.

In his diatribe he mentioned that every piece of legislation put forward by this government protected the rights of anybody except that of society, or words to that effect. I do have a question with a number of parts that I would like to ask him.

I would like to know how these things protect criminals and ignore society. How can increased sentences for young offenders who commit violent crimes help criminals and not society? How can a new mandatory five year sentence for those convicted of using violence to force children into prostitution be helping criminals and not helping society?

How is the classification of first degree murder to any murder committed while stalking helping criminals and is not helping society? How is increased sentences helping criminals and not helping society? How is the fact that we have provided the basis upon which police can serve warrants on suspects to take samples of DNA helping criminals and not helping society? I would like to know how our outlawing of the so-called drunken defence is helping criminals and not helping society.

The government's agenda, the government's record on criminal issues is one of protection for Canadian society, one of recognizing the need to protect the rights of victims. We have done a good job on the criminal justice system in this country and the member opposite is absolutely wrong in suggesting that our legislation helps only criminals, not society.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I call it tinkering. I call it tinker, tinker, tinker. That is what you do with your laws.

The member is saying the government has done this and that, yet is it going to kill section 745 as the Canadian people want? No, it is not. It is still going to let killers out in 15 years. Is that looking after the interests of society? I think not.

There is bail set for violent offenders right on the same day as they are arrested. It is possible through this government. Is that protecting society? Oh, there are a few little tinker spots the Liberals have put in the Young Offenders Act. Mr. Tinkerbell, the social minister, whom we call the justice minister, has fixed a little spot here and a little spot there. It sort of reminds me of when my mother used to put a little sugar into medicine so I could drink it.

There is not enough sugar in this to even look at it. The member across the way failed to address this particular bill. I will try to get back to it. He was not on that. There are 100 things.

If the member is so confident that the Canadian people are happy with what the Liberal government is doing, would the hon. member or anybody on that side please tell me why we have thousands and thousands of Canadians who are joining organizations to fight the government on issues of crime because they say it is doing a lousy job. They are called victims. The hon. member ought to hear them, to meet a few and maybe they will wake up over there. Once they do wake up maybe they will listen to what the Canadian people want instead of this warm and fuzzy Liberal baloney.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.