Debates of April 29th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.
- Energy Price Commission Act
- Death Of A Cum Police Officer
- Gasoline Prices
- Gun Control
- Workplace Safety
- Race Car Driver Jacques Villeneuve
- National Day Of Mourning
- Time Allocation Motions
- Drunk Driving
- Breast Cancer
- Tragedy In Hobart
- Premier Of Quebec
- Goods And Services Tax
- Liberal Party
- Somalia Inquiry
- Drug Patents
- Domestic Violence
- Algerian Nationals
- Blood System
- Somalia Inquiry
- Railway Safety
- Goods And Services Tax
- Canadian National
- Workplace Health And Safety
- Law Of The Sea Convention
- Government Response To Petitions
- Canadian Human Rights Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Budget Implementation Act, 1996
- Broadcasting Act
Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Madam Speaker, I certainly believe in justice for everyone.
The member in his intervention really is trying to take our focus off the motion before us to say now that the rights of the gay community are coming up, can we get a commitment from the member. Justice is justice. I do not think we should single out any particular group and say they should be given special rights. We are saying justice for all.
The issue before us today is justice for the victims of crime as opposed to the continued over justice for the perpetrators of crime. That is what I would like us to zero in on.
Glen McKinnon Brandon—Souris, MB
Madam Speaker, before I commence the formal part of my address, let me simply add that all members in the House know of some event or some circumstance which has impacted either on them or on close friends whereby the victim has had some long term scarring and
would appear to have had very little public recourse in terms of addressing that level of hurt.
My colleague for Erie who will be sharing my time with me, will be adding to my comments today. I personally support the thrust of the proposal members opposite are making today.
Throughout the country over many years there have been attempts to put something in place. Manitoba has had some pilot projects on victims services. I am sure that is true of other parts of the nation as well. Various municipalities have engaged personnel to attempt to assist a family or the victim of a crime, whether it be vandalism, theft, or some other sort of violation. A system has been put in place because of the difficulty in handling life after the fact.
The hon. member's concern for victims of crime is very admirable. We have often heard the public criticize the judicial system for placing the rights of the offender ahead of the rights of victims. That was addressed to some degree by the previous member with regard to justice for all. One cannot defend one side or the other on that one.
I agree that more needs to be done to protect the rights of a victim. I would also emphasize that we must be cautious. It is not to imply that one way to achieve protection of a victim is to diminish the rights of an offender. Therein lies the tricky part; not to allow the legislation currently in place in human rights legislation or in the charter.
We would ask ourselves whether there is a necessary trade off between competing rights. Is justice better served by somehow reducing the rights of an accused person? The emergence of the victims' rights movement in Canada is one of the most important criminal justice trends we have seen in the last 20 years. Yet I doubt any victim organization in Canada would advocate eliminating the right of an accused to a fair trial, the right of due process, the protection of habeas corpus or the protection of an accused against self-incrimination. Do I need to remind the House there are rights guaranteed to all Canadians under sections 7, 10 and 11 of the charter of rights and freedoms?
I will not dwell on this matter of comparing the rights of the accused with the rights of the victim, but this may be necessary in considering the content of a bill of rights. I believe a more constructive approach is simply put to determine where and how the victim should be involved in the criminal justice process.
The concept we should embrace is access to justice for the victim. At what point in the criminal justice process does the victim deserve to have input? There were some suggestions in my colleague's speech and I would not attempt to diminish the thrust my colleague was putting forward.
However, are there various points along the process where we can examine with close scrutiny where access should be made? Should there be input to the police, to the investigation, to the trial of the accused, at the sentencing stage and later at the parole decision making stage and finally when the offender is released from custody assuming that guilt is determined in the issue?
If we can provide the victim or the victim's family with appropriate access to the criminal process in a timely fashion, maybe we can be a little less concerned about who has more or who has fewer rights.
Let us examine the progress made over the last two decades both in terms of general recognition of the needs of the victim and specific measures. Much of the policy and programs dealing with the victims is derived from a report by a federal-provincial task force on justice for victims of crime in the early 1980s, which offered 79 recommendations to both levels of government for improving social criminal justice and health responses to victims of crime.
In 1985 Canada co-sponsored the United Nations declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. It was widely and universally accepted that Canada was a leader in this movement. This document soon became the basis for a unique Canadian statement of principles. This statement was endorsed by the federal government, the provinces and the territories in 1988. It has provided a reference point for provinces to develop their own policy and legislation on victims' rights, and most jurisdictions now have victims oriented legislation.
It is important to note provinces' perspectives since provinces' responsibility for the administration of justice means that not all access to justice issues are under federal control.
The law now provides for victim impact statements. Section 735 permits provinces to determine the forum for the victim impact statement in their jurisdiction. In effect this provision creates flexibility, for example, by allowing police based victim witness service programs to generate victim impact statements or alternatively crown or court based services as appropriate.
Victim fine surcharge provisions were also added to the Criminal Code by Bill C-89. The victim fine surcharge is an additional monetary penalty imposed on an offender at the time of sentencing. A victim fine surcharge is required to be imposed in addition to any other punishment imposed on an offender convicted or discharged of a Criminal Code offence or an offence under part III or part IV of the Food and Drug Act.
In addition to these surcharges, several provinces have passed legislation to impose a victim's surcharge on provincial offences and this revenue may also be used for victims' services in those provinces.
I will do my personal best to bring forward concerns and information which will support this thrust by members opposite.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member exactly what he meant when he said do not let what we do for victims interfere with what we need to do for criminals. A statement like that bothers me when we are addressing victims' rights. Is he fearful that criminals will lose rights because of our efforts?
Numerous victims' groups have been formed across the land. There is FACT, Families Against Crime Today, which is led by Stu Garrioch in Calgary. There is CAVEAT, which I am sure everyone is familiar with. There is CRY in British Columbia. There is the Move the Rock group. There is the kid brother campaign in southern Ontario. There are thousands of people who belong to victims' groups. The one thing they tell me is they would really like to return to having some sort of a life; if only the government would listen.
This government has been here two and a half years. These groups are increasing. Would the hon. member comment on why he thinks these groups are continually growing and why these people cannot return to their previous lifestyles.
Glen McKinnon Brandon—Souris, MB
Madam Speaker, the member opposite raised two very legitimate concerns.
It was not my intent to create the impression that we need not worry about the victim, that we need worry only about the perpetrator. The point I was making is we have to be cautious in carrying through with our fundamental legal positions in legislation and in the charter of rights and freedoms so that victims' rights are not seen as removing the rights of offenders.
The second comment concerned the growing number of victims' organizations. The member was adding to the number of persons involved in those organizations. Those organizations are symptomatic of the communications industry and how it has been growing throughout the country. Nothing happens in Vernon, as an example, that we do not hear about instantaneously throughout the nation or throughout the world.
I have a daughter in Australia. We have already had communications from that area because of the massacre that happened there yesterday.
Let us not refocus the impact. We are simply attempting to ensure victims and their families have some involvement in the total criminal justice system. It is for that reason that I support the member opposite in his opinions.
John Maloney Erie, ON
Madam Speaker, at the outset I wish to advise that I will support this initiative by my Reform colleagues and will vote in favour of it.
I will endeavour to take a different approach in my remarks in support of this position. I am pleased to address the House on this motion for a bill of rights for victims because it is crime that creates victims. I take this opportunity to look at the collective measures all sections of society can take to give further importance to the prevention of crime and victimization.
Crime prevention, particularly through social development and multi-disciplinary approaches, addresses the underlying causes of criminality and victimization and can provide long term safety and security.
In Canada the need to prevent crime meaningfully is mobilizing every sector of society, starting with citizens and the grassroot organizations, service providers, the private sector and all levels of government.
No country or community is immune from crime and its devastating effects. However, a growing body of knowledge is emerging with respect to comprehensive strategies, and this information can assist communities that want to take action. There is knowledge on how to mobilize our institutions and our citizens and develop a partnership effort on assessing social, situational and other factors associated with crime, planning and co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary approach.
For a crime prevention plan to be truly representative and responsive to local crime problems, the community should be involved at all stages and in all aspects. It has been established that the greater the degree of community participation and solidarity in addressing social and crime related problems, the higher the level of urban security.
The need for close co-operation between governments and communities and for the establishment of broad coalitions of all those concerned with crime problems cannot be stressed strongly enough.
A meaningful strategy for the prevention of crime and victimization encompasses four key elements. First, crime prevention through social development consists of a comprehensive approach to systemic crime prevention through social development which targets the combination of social, personal, educational and economical factors which place individuals at risk and contribute to crime.
Our research suggests the various aspects and causes of criminal behaviour share common characteristics such as personal, familial and social breakdown. A social intervention approach, which seeks actions through policies, programs and services already present in the social development field such as social housing, health, education, income security and social services, may lessen the factors which may lead a person to crime.
The second is crime prevention through community mobilization. The involvement of all sectors of the community in the
planning and implementation process of crime prevention strategies must be an integral part of crime prevent. Community safety and crime prevention strategies should address factors associated with the prevention of crime and the needs and priorities identified by their communities.
Third, situational crime prevention strategies or opportunity reduction approaches such as neighbourhood watch, block parents and crime prevention through environmental design have considerable potential for reducing crime in Canada. Most police agencies have established crime prevention units which promote various community based programs aimed at reducing opportunities for a specific crime such as vandalism, theft and break and enter. However, such programs have limits, especially over the long term, as offenders become displaced to other areas or choose to commit other types of crime.
The fourth is effective justice approaches. The maintenance and improvement of a fair and equitable criminal justice system is the foundation to effective crime prevention. Actions such as the control of firearms, the recognition that spousal abuse and child abuse are crimes and that timely responses to young offenders through appropriate and effective legislation and enforcement will help to ensure that crime prevention is a reality.
Crime prevention targeted to the social causes of crime requires a longer term and less visible effort than does catching perpetrators or installing mechanical devices. Their concept requires a new approach, where the belief that it can be done accompanies the commitment to make it happen. More can be done to prevent crime by interceding in practical ways and through social development situations.
Key research on the benefits of crime prevention through social development must be brought to the attention of all concerned citizens, communities and the media. Canada has taken an important step in putting greater emphasis on crime prevention by developing a national strategy on community safety and crime prevention. This took place following a major consultation with stakeholder groups, through an in depth examination by a parliamentary standing committee and through a national symposium.
The national strategy is a broad framework of action which brings together a number of partners and a special focus on the development of information and tools to help communities develop and implement specific measures to meet its needs.
The strategy was developed in close co-operation with stakeholders, including provinces and territories, which are primarily responsible for many aspects of crime prevention and which contribute to individual and community safety, such as education, health, social services and the administration of justice.
Measures implemented on the national strategy by governments and by non-governmental organizations include greater co-ordination and communications, public education and awareness, enhancing knowledge, support to communities, incorporating crime prevention legislation and official mandates and developing innovative funding strategies.
The establishment of a National Crime Prevention Council in July 1994 was a key element of the national strategy. This body is made up of 25 members from a variety of disciplines, including education, social work, police, victims, private sector, criminologists, public health, and so on. It serves as an adviser to governments and a central co-ordination and information sharing structure to unify crime prevention efforts and develop practical solutions for communities.
The mandate of the council is very broad and reflects the fact that Canada is only beginning to understand what can be done to define the prevention of crime and victimization and help communities become safer places.
The National Crime Prevention Council has adopted social development as the most effective approach to crime prevention. Children and youth are their key priorities, as a focus on early prevention is the means to prevent victimization and criminal behaviour later on.
It is developing prevention strategies that address the underlying factors associated with crime, such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate parenting, family violence, lack of opportunities, systemic discrimination. Its members believe that the long term solution lies in targeting services and resources that diminish the effects of hardship and disadvantage and that provide children with the best possible opportunity to fulfil their potential. The positive results from these actions will benefit society in many ways and will assist in reducing the rates of crime and victimization.
The council's work also includes looking at measures aimed at strengthening families to safeguard children at risk. Earlier work has pointed to the need for such measures to be comprehensive and implemented at the national and international levels.
These measures should focus on mitigating the situation of dysfunctional families or families characterized by erratic, absent or excessive discipline, a high probability of mistreatment and a lack of positive role models. Early intervention can help put an end to the cycle whereby child abuse and the delinquency associated with such abuse is passed on from generation to generation.
While the national strategy for community safety and crime prevention and the national council are at early stages, I believe that this work is very promising and that we have taken a decisive
step toward safer communities. This is the type of work that in the long term will prevent victimization.
As I indicated to our Reform colleagues, a positive and constructive initiative such as this can and will be supported by this member and can and will be supported by this Liberal government.
Paul Forseth New Westminster—Burnaby, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a comment and a question to the member.
To bridge the gap from the volunteer status for victim services and the position of victims in the whole process, does the member not see that specific legislation is needed to change the situation from statements of principle and words of good intentions? This would bring the status of victims into the mainstream of operations where the victims have in law rights that can be enforced and they have legal benchmarks to which the justice system can be held to account when it fails to deliver on behalf of victims?
John Maloney Erie, ON
Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague. We have already commenced some of these initiatives. Perhaps I can refer to a few of them. Bill C-37 acknowledged victims' declarations; Bill C-41 amended section 745 to ensure that the victim could take part in deliberations; the Criminal Code which allows for the victim's role in the entire process, victim's statements and so on. There is a whole list of initiatives here which certainly satisfy the suggestions my friend has made. Yes, I agree with him, and yes, we are doing something about that.
Grant Hill Macleod, AB
Madam Speaker, as a physician in my life before Parliament I would like to address the final victims bill of rights statement that the victim should know if a person convicted of a sexual offence has a sexually transmitted disease. I would like to relay the specific case of Margot Blackburn. In September, 1992 Margot was working in a church rectory. A convict was in the church doing community service on a day pass. The convict had a bad past record and he raped her.
He was caught of course, convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Margot, being up to date on medical issues, knew there was a possibility of an infectious disease being transmitted to her. This man was convicted. He admitted he had raped her. He said he was sorry and all the other things.
Margot asked if he could have given her AIDS. She applied to the court and asked for the perpetrator, Louis B., to have an AIDS test. When I tell this story to high school students across the country they look at me with horror when I say that the result was no chance, no AIDS test, zero. The convict and his rights take precedence over Margot Blackburn.
She wanted an AIDS test, and an eminently reasonable request it was in my view, since there would have been a significant gap between the time of infection and when a test would show positive in her. If the convict was positive, she would know full well she had reason to worry.
In Canada, the rights of the criminal in this case collide directly with the rights of Margot, and take precedence. I say to the kids: "You young ladies in this class, what do you think of the Canadian justice system when I tell you that? Whose rights should take precedence?" I have not had a single, solitary student in grade 12 say to me that Louis B.'s rights should take precedence over Margot's. They say absolutely not.
This issue, without question, puts the justice system into disrepute. Reformers want to change that. If a conflict exists between the rights of the victim and the rights of the criminal, the rights of the victim must take precedence.
I found a very interesting recent editorial in a newspaper written by someone who sits in this House, although not on this side, who very eloquently said that. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime proposed in 1993 that the Criminal Code should be amended so that a blood test can be ordered when the court is satisfied that (a) reasonable grounds exist that the victim has been exposed to risk of infection, and (b) the taking of blood can be done without jeopardizing the life or safety from whom it is taken. In my view, no one can argue with that.
I will discuss a second case of a victim in Canada who I consider to be abused by our system. His name is Miles Fritz. He is a young man who lives in Cayley, Alberta. He is a master electrician and was working in the Yukon.
One evening while doing his dishes he heard a cry from outside. His 64-year old neighbour had been set upon by three thugs. Miles is a scrawny buzzard, something like me. Nevertheless he rushed out to save his neighbour. He found the three thugs literally kicking his neighbour unconscious. He leaped on them and beat them off. However, one thug drew a knife and stabbed Miles in his right forearm. Miles almost bled to death but they saved him with transfusions. As a result of this, he has a permanent disability.
A master electrician uses his right hand a lot. Miles has lost some nerve function, he has lost some power and activity. He will never again work as a master electrician.
The guy who stabbed him had been released on probation that very morning from prison. He received a sentence of nine months with two years' probation. What does Miles receive? Miles, who is a hero in my eyes, who saved his neighbour's life, receives nothing. Too bad, Miles, there is nothing for you.
The perpetrator gets counselling in prison for his drug addiction, for his past, for the way his mom and dad treated him, for the poverty that he underwent. Miles, the hero, gets a kick in the shins.
Miles puts our criminal justice system into disrepute. Reformers, every one of us, stand here today saying that if the rights of the victim collide with the rights of the perpetrator, the rights of the victim shall take precedence. We need a victims' bill of rights in Canada. I call on my colleagues in a non-partisan way to bring this to fruition quickly.
My dear colleague, when I showed you two fingers, I did not mean that you actually terminate your speech at the time. I was just indicating that time when I was going to go to statements. If you wish to take the floor at the end of question period, you still have time. Would you please indicate what you would like to do?
Grant Hill Macleod, AB
Mr. Speaker, since I was splitting my time with the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, my time was over.
It being approximately two o'clock, we will now proceed to Statements by Members.
Statements By Members
John English Kitchener, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express both sadness and outrage for yesterday's cowardly bomb attack on Lahore, Pakistan, where over 40 people, mostly women and children, were burned beyond recognition. A bomb was placed under the gas tank of a public bus, and as a result numerous lives were lost and countless injuries sustained.
This senseless attack is only one of many in Pakistan's recent history, where terrorist activity has become a part of everyday life for many of its citizens. Canada will always condemn those who choose the path of violence for political gain and support nations which seek to eliminate these terrorist groups whose courage is no more than the end of a gun barrel or the chemicals of a bomb.
I am confident that all Canadians support the determination to rid Pakistan and other countries of terrorist activity. I wish to offer my sincere condolences to the families suffering as a result of this terrible bombing. Certainly it is the strength and determination of the people of Pakistan to persevere that inspires many other nations of the world enduring similar tragedies.
Death Of A Cum Police Officer
Statements By Members
Richard Bélisle La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, at 10 o'clock this morning, we learned about the death in the line of duty of an investigator assigned to road safety for the police department of the Communauté urbaine de Montréal, District 11, in Senneville.
During a routine operation, three shots were fired, and the victim was mortally wounded. The unfortunate man was only two months away from a well-deserved retirement after years of work for the Montreal community.
We vigorously condemn this vicious murder of a law enforcement officer. I join with all my colleagues in expressing our heartfelt condolences to the victim's family and fellow officers at the CUM.
I invite my colleagues from all political parties in this House to observe one minute of silence in memory of this law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty.
Statements By Members
Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB
Mr. Speaker, one of the founding principles of the Reform Party is that the punishment of crime and the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property should be placed above all other objectives of our justice system.
Instead, the Liberals emphasize apologizing to criminals and offering them personal compensation when they participate in riots and are injured.
Canadians want their government to send a strong message to criminals that if they violate the rights of law-abiding citizens they will be held accountable and society sanctions will have real teeth.
The Liberal government's refusal to listen to the people on such measures as the repeal of section 745, the early parole provisions of the Criminal Code, shows how out of touch it is with Canadians.
When Canadians go to the polls in the next election they will ask themselves who has shown real commitment to protect them. Who is willing to stand up and introduce common sense legislation that puts the safety of our families and communities as its first priority? On both accounts there is only one answer, the Reform Party of Canada.
Statements By Members
John Solomon Regina—Lumsden, SK
Mr. Speaker, this morning my private member's Bill C-220 calling for an energy price commission was debated. The purpose of the legislation is to protect consumers from gas price gouging by having oil companies justify price increases.
The Reform Party opposed the bill and supported the oil companies in their initiative to charge whatever the market will bear. Liberals opposed the legislation because they believe the oil companies are charging fair prices and should be encouraged to charge higher gas prices.
In a referendum of nearly 4,000 people conducted in Regina after hearing the oil companies' reasons for price increases, 93 per cent voted in favour of regulating gas prices.
Why do Reformers and Liberals stand four square in support of high gas prices? Why when farmers, business people and consumers need and ask for protection from Parliament do the Liberals and the Reform Party side with big business, the big oil companies? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that both these parties receive substantial political contributions from the oil industry.