Debates of March 10th, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was reform.
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I have received notice from the hon. member for Mount Royal that she is unable to move her motion during private members' hour. It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence.
Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence. Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it.
Today is a supply day and I would encourage all members to refrain from using props in any way. I leave that just where it is.
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
That this House recognize that the families of murder victims are subjected to reliving the pain and fear of their experience as a result of the potential release of the victims' murderers allowed under section 745 of the Criminal Code, and as a consequence, this House urge the Liberal government to formally apologize to those families for repeatedly refusing to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code.
Mr. Speaker, I am please to stand this morning to speak to this motion. Tomorrow in a B.C. courtroom a drama begins, initiated by one of Canada's most sadistic and despicable criminals, a drama that will rekindle the pain, horror and anguish of the 11 families whose children fell victim to mass murderer Clifford Olson.
The legal base for this horrifying drama has been created and sustained by the bleeding hearts who have controlled the Liberal and Tory governments for the past 20 years. That legal base is section 745 of the Criminal Code.
These bleeding hearts believe that a mass murderer like Clifford Olson should have a legal base to seek a reduction in his penalty for kidnapping, raping and murdering 11 little children.
Section 745 of the Criminal Code is irrefutable proof of the existence of that belief in the Liberal Party, the Tory Party, the NDP and the Bloc.
These bleeding hearts, supported by a host of judges, crown prosecutors, defence lawyers and touchy-feely groups, insist that Clifford Olson have this right in spite of the horror and terror Olson created in the minds of 11 innocent little victims as he savaged them in the pursuit of his own sexual lust and then murdered them after his lust was spent.
These bleeding hearts insist that Olson have this right in spite of the feelings of terror and horror suffered by the parents and families over the loss of their innocent little sons and daughters and the fact that these families will have to relive these feelings all because of the simplistic thinking of those who man our institutions of government and the clinging vines who suck their sustenance off a sick and pathetic justice system.
Compare the pain, the agony and the loss suffered by the victims and their families with that of a life term for Clifford Olson. He lives safe and secure. He does not have to work. He has the best food. His medical needs are provided. He has a coloured television. He has the right to vote and to initiate lawsuits over the most frivolous of matters, all at taxpayer expense. Now he has the right to appeal for a reduction of his parole ineligibility while taking the families of his victims through hell one more time.
These are the gifts of the bleeding hearts to Clifford Olson. These are the gifts to Clifford Olson from the Prime Minister of Canada and his Liberal government, from the Tory Party, the NDP and the Bloc, from the bleeding hearts in our court system and from the touchy-feely groups of society.
While providing all these gifts to Clifford Olson, what do the Prime Minister and the rest of them have to say to the families of his victims? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
I am splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Southwest. I will therefore be speaking for approximately 10 minutes.
I have repeatedly stood in this House, as have my colleagues, and asked one simple question, a question the justice minister, the
Prime Minister and the rest of the bleeding hearts refuse to answer. What is a fair and just penalty for the taking of an innocent life? Their silence to this question is their answer. They believe an innocent life is worth only 15 years imprisonment while their murderers are extended every right and privilege.
On February 24, 1976 the Liberal government introduced Bill C-84 to abolish the death penalty and to create two new categories of murder, first and second degree murder, both of which carried a minimum sentence of life imprisonment.
The 25 year minimum for first degree murder was the Liberal government's trade-off for the abolition of the death penalty. Instead of the death penalty, society was to be protected by the incarceration for life of those who deliberately and premeditatedly killed, with no consideration for parole until a minimum of 25 years had been served.
However, unbeknownst to Canadians the Liberal government betrayed them by slipping section 745 into the Criminal Code. Section 745 nullifies the term life imprisonment and bestows on killers an unjustifiable right to early release before serving a minimum of 25 years.
A life sentence is not about rehabilitation, it is about punishment and retribution for the most horrible crime in society, the unlawful taking of an innocent life and the devastating effect this has on society.
The Liberal government's Bill C-45 was nothing more than a meagre attempt by the justice minister and his government to sugar coat those repulsive provisions of the Criminal Code for reasons of political expediency. In doing so the justice minister violated his own promise to the Canadian Police Association wherein he had agreed to do business with it to support its position to remove section 745 in return for its support of this ill conceived and useless firearms control bill.
The Canadian Police Association learned from this experience that it cannot trust this justice minister or the Prime Minister.
I am not just expressing my view on section 745. This view is shared by victims' groups and countless Canadians across the country. Bill C-45 may delay but it will not prevent killers from getting a judicial review and ultimately a reduction in their parole ineligibility. Bill C-45 and a review of a killer's application by a judge does nothing but add an expensive layer of bureaucracy to our growing criminal justice industry. This will add to Canadians' financial strain and undermine their personal security.
The minister's June 11 introduction of Bill C-45, just 10 days before the House recessed for the summer, was nothing more than a half baked attempt to deflect criticism for not preventing Clifford Olson from once again making headlines despite the fact he had almost three years and ample support to do something about section 745 of the Criminal Code.
The justice minister's efforts to limit child serial killer Clifford Olson's bid for early release failed. And to the horror of all Canadians who have shared the pain of the Rosenfeldts and the other 10 families whose children were brutally ripped from their lives, on August 12, 1996 Clifford Olson was eligible for apply for early release.
On March 11, tomorrow, the initial process of Olson's application for early release begins, much to the horror of not only his victims' families but to the horror of all Canadian citizens.
March 11 will truly be a day of national disgrace. For the Liberal government to have turned its back on the families of Olson's victims, for the Liberal government not to have done everything within its power to prevent their anguish from festering more and more is absolutely appalling.
Every time a killer applies for a judicial review of his parole, the family and society relive the horrible memories and live in terror of the possibility that these killers will be released from prison early.
Every time Clifford Olson exercises his right, courtesy of the past and present government, to seek early release all Canadians visualize the pain and suffering his murder victims endured.
Section 745 of the Criminal Code demeans the value of human life. The Liberal government's refusal to eliminate section 745 clearly demonstrates the value it places on the lives of Canadians. The Liberal government, as well as the Bloc, believes the lives of our children and grandchildren are worth only 15 years.
I suggest that if the Liberal justice minister asked Canadians to place a value on the lives of their children, overwhelmingly their response would be life imprisonment or capital punishment.
I implore the Liberal government to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code. I implore the government to validate immediately the lives of all Canadians by making these cold blooded killers who would take a life serve a true life sentence or grant the people of Canada a binding referendum on the return of capital punishment.
If my appeal to the government is in vain and if the appeals of the families of murder victims fall on deaf ears, as they have in the past, then I make a commitment to all Canadians today. There will be a federal election soon. A Reform government will remove section 745 from the Criminal Code in its entirety. Then first degree murderers like Clifford Olson will serve their full life sentences. In addition, we will grant the people of Canada a
binding referendum on the return of capital punishment for first degree murder.
I make this commitment today in the memory of Christine, Colleen, Daryn, Sandra, Ada, Simon, Judy, Raymond, Sigrun, Terry Lyn and Louise, all who died horribly at the hands of Clifford Olson. I make this commitment to their families and to the memory of all murder victims, and to their families and to the citizens of the country. A Reform government will repeal this obnoxious and reprehensible portion of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Bill Graham Rosedale, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's comments. Could the member for Crowfoot tell us how a Reform government would go about amending the Constitution in a way which would have the effect of removing section 745 and which would affect Clifford Olson's situation?
Surely the member is aware that this provision has been in the Criminal Code for some time now. This is a vested right under the law of this land which people have. I suggest to the member that in playing with people's emotions in this way, by attacking the law, he is being rather irresponsible. He knows, or he ought to know, that this is not a matter that could be removed in this case without a constitutional amendment. He knows or ought to know that no one on this side of the House has any brief for Clifford Olson. Everyone despises everything he did and everything he stands for.
Surely the member believes in a certain amount of respect for law. Surely he believes that we do not live-
Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK
The law is wrong and we are trying to change it.
Bill Graham Rosedale, ON
He spoke of living in a lawful society. He has trouble with gun control. After all it is guns that allow murderers to do their dirty work. This does not seem to bother him. It also does not seem to bother him to and suggest that a Reform government could wipe out the effect of section 745 while he fails to recognize this is a legal matter of great complexity which must be addressed properly. If he were honest in his speech he would address it now.
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I take exception to my colleague's suggestion that I am less than honest. That is simply not true. That is a false statement, if what he has suggested is that I am not honest. I am honest and I am reflecting the honest and sincere concerns of the families of victims of crime.
He touched on an important point, the retroactive power of any government to remove the parole ineligibility section from the Criminal Code. We have researched this topic. Our legal researchers and others have indicated there is a question of the constitutionality of the powers of the federal government to remove the rights of Clifford Olson and others. It is a constitutional question.
The government, supported by the member opposite, has passed other bills which have been challenged constitutionally. It is being done today. Why not err on the side of the victims and the families? Why is this member prepared to support the government in putting those families through hell one more time, of having the horror and the terror reawakened one more time?
Why do we not think about the victims and their families more than granting privileges like the right to vote, like the right to sue and now the right to appeal a life sentence after serving only 15 years?
I ask this member to look at his own conscience and justify what he is saying to the families of the victims that have been raped and murdered by Clifford Olson. What would he say to them and what would he say to Clifford Olson? I know what he would say to Clifford Olson: "Here's your gift. This is your gift from the Liberal government. We will not try to protect the families from the rekindling of their fear, horror and agony".
That is what this member is saying. "We will not try that. Why? Because we are afraid of a constitutional challenge". But he is not afraid of a constitutional challenge in things like the Pearson airport bill that went through this House. No.
I find behind his comments a charade that is disgusting and reprehensible to the people of Canada who are concerned about causing the families to live one more time through that kind of agony and pain. Why do we not balance the law so that reasonable rights are granted the accused, but at the same time ensure that the families are not subjected to relieving their terror, not only this time at the hands of Clifford Olson, but if he is turned down he will be able to appeal again, and again and again.
Jim Gouk Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC
Mr. Speaker, I too find the question from the last member on the other side of the House quite unbelievable. I would like to ask a very straightforward question of the hon. member for Crowfoot-
The Deputy Speaker
I guess the hon. member did not hear that the five minutes questions and comments has ended. We are now back on debate. The hon. member indicated that he was splitting his time with the hon. member Edmonton Southwest.
Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB
Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the House. I was under the impression that I would be following my Bloc colleague.
This debate brings to mind just about the very first comment that I made in the House. I recall it very specifically. I had been in the House and spoken once or twice before. I commented on something that had taken place when the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce who had been the solicitor general at the time, was involved.
When I made my statement he looked up at me and then after I had finished he rose on a point of order and said that was not the case, that he had taken part in the debate and that I was misquoting him. I apologized to the House and to the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. I believe now that he is no longer a sitting member I may name him. We all know that I am talking about the former solicitor general Warren Allmand. I am glad that I did apologize for what he felt was misrepresenting him. Although we come from different planets as far as our approach to criminal justice affairs are concerned, I came to know him over the succeeding couple of years as a very fine individual.
We may not have agreed on very many things as far as criminal justice affairs are concerned, but we found that we could honourably disagree and respect and like each other, even though we did not sing from the same song sheet.
Section 745 came about as a direct result of the abolition of capital punishment. The abolition of capital punishment came about, as members know, because it was considered that there were two standards of justice in our country. It was considered by many in the civilized world as barbaric and that capital punishment in the name of the state was still murder. It really puzzles me how the same people who can be violently against capital punishment can be at the same time in favour of abortion but that is a whole other story.
Another major concern with capital punishment is that from time to time the state makes mistakes. That is evidenced by what is going on now in Ontario with the Morin inquiry. The criminal justice system has becomes more capable of making scientific evidence available that will-I am talking now about DNA evidence-conclusively prove that someone was not involved. When we look back at what could have been a mistake in the name of the state we have to say we are glad we do not have capital punishment.
Opposition to capital punishment comes from the notion that in our society it is better that a thousand people go free than one innocent person be convicted. And carrying that to an extreme, it is better that the benefit of the doubt stay with the potential victim of the state so that an innocent person will not be punished. That is really the bottom line and basis of our jurisprudence, our criminal justice system, of our common law, that came to us over 800 or 900 hundred years ago and has stood us very well.
The quid pro quo for Canadians concerning capital punishment is that people who are convicted of capital offences will be in prison for 25 years, not for 15 years or not for 10 years. The quid pro quo to get rid of capital punishment was if someone, having committed first degree murder-we are not talking about manslaughter here, we are talking about premeditated murder as a capital offence-would find themselves in jail for 25 years. The maxim used all the time is "if you cannot stand the time don't do the crime".
Our society says that at minimum people convicted of capital offences will be imprisoned for 25 years. That brings me back to the ex-hon. member from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Warren Allmand. When he was the solicitor general he stated, I will paraphrase but at the time I quoted from Hansard that ``from this day forward the raison d'être, the reason of our criminal justice system, will be rehabilitation. It will not be the protection of society,'' which it had been up until that time. It was going to be from this day forward in Canada rehabilitation of the criminal.
That is not all wrong. It makes sense because the recidivism rate, the rate at which criminals would find themselves out of jail, back in jail, as everyone knows is just like a revolving door. It makes sense to try to stop this never ending revolving door of people getting into trouble and then back into jail, getting out and then going back in. The only way that we can possibly stop this is by rehabilitation. The notion of rehabilitation just makes eminent sense.
However, as it often is, when the pendulum swings it tends to swing too far. In my opinion and in the opinion of many the pendulum has swung far too far in favour of the rights of the criminals. It needs to swing the other way to give balance to the rights of victims.
When we are talking specifically about section 745 which is the so-called faint hope clause, we have to ask ourselves who should have the faint hope? How is society best served? Are we serving society by saying to everyone who commits a crime, as Edward Greenspan, the famous criminal defence attorney, has said, that a person's future should not be determined by one horrific event, no matter how horrific that event was? The idea is that everyone is deserved of a future and the opportunity to right a wrong, and that we as individuals should not be known forever because of the results of one mistake, no matter how horrific.
On the other side of the coin, how is society to be protected if we do not hold people accountable and responsible for what they do?
Our society has decided against the death penalty. Many people including myself believe that the death penalty is horrific and should not to be done in the name of the state. How are we to protect innocent victims? The only way is to ensure that before people commit a crime they understand the time that is involved. Before people make a decision to commit a crime they should understand they will be held accountable. To take another person's life in a premeditated first degree murder will result in 25 years behind bars, period, with no hope of parole. If they do their time properly in the future they will be allowed to leave.
In conclusion I move an amendment to the motion:
That the motion be amended by inserting the words "and immediately" after the word "formally".
The Deputy Speaker
The amendment of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest is acceptable.
Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, this morning, the Reform Party motion focuses attention on the Clifford Olson case. This is a truly terrible case, and one that does not reflect well on the Canadian justice system.
Independent of the Bloc Quebecois position with respect to the amendments to section 745, studied here in this House when it was Bill C-45, does the hon. member of the Reform Party agree on two points?
Before the government's proposed amendment to section 745, does he think that a well-informed jury would have released an individual like Olson-assuming that there had been no changes to section 745? On the other hand, we know that section 745 has been modified and that the amendments to section 745 contained in Bill C-45 do not allow multiple murderers access to a judicial review. Does he consider that Olson is a multiple murderer and therefore, in accordance with section 745 as modified by the government, Olson will not be freed?
Can the hon. member provide me with some information? In my opinion, under section 745 as it was before, Olson would not have been released, and the amendments made by the government will make it even more difficult for him to obtain his release, because it will be blocked immediately.
His case has been chosen as typical. Although I do not wish to call them demagogues, they are coming very close to it this morning, by naming names and bringing all that up again. I know this is a serious matter, but could the hon. Reform member who has just spoken clarify section 745 for me? I know that they want to abolish it, but I am speaking of the present situation.
Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB
Mr. Speaker, the fact that Clifford Olson is subject to review now makes this a particularly timely motion. The motion also reflects on every other section 745 review before the courts at this time.
The point is not the process by which a murderer is able to utilize the law. The point we are making is when will the law protect the victims. It is not that the criminal has to go through several more hoops and that it is more difficult to be released under the provisions of section 745. It is that section 745 exists at all and that it causes the victims to have to go through the judicial process one more time to have the scab removed from the sore and to be hurt once again. They then become the victims not only of the criminal but of our criminal justice system.
Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in response to the Reform Party motion concerning section 745 of the Criminal Code.
For the information of hon. members I note that section 745 is now section 745.6. The section has been renumbered as a result of the coming into force of Bill C-41 on September 3, 1996.
I want to spend a few minutes explaining what section 745.6 of the Criminal Code is all about. I fear there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about what the section is and what the section does.
Section 745.6 of the Criminal Code provides for a judicial review of the parole ineligibility period in cases of life sentences for those found guilty of murder or high treason.
In cases of first degree murder or high treason, the ineligibility period is set by law at 25 years. In cases of second degree murder, the parole ineligibility period is 10 years, unless the trial judge orders a longer period of from 10 to 25 years. Offenders cannot have their parole ineligibility period reviewed until they have served at least 15 years of their sentence.
The decision in a section 745.6 review is made by a jury of ordinary citizens drawn from the community. Under the section as recently amended by the government, the decision to grant an offender a reduction of his or her parole ineligibility period can only be made by a unanimous jury. Twelve members out of twelve must be convinced that the offender deserves a reduction in the parole ineligibility period before the offender can apply for parole.
After hearing evidence called by the applicant and by the crown attorney the jury-and not the judge or the crown attorney or the government-decides whether or not to reduce the parole ineligibility period. Where the jury decides not to reduce the period it may decide when the offender may apply again if at all. In any case it is not before another two years has been served.
In cases where the parole ineligibility period is reduced the offender becomes eligible to apply to the National Parole Board for parole when the parole ineligibility period as reduced by the jury is up. The parole board then considers the case and may grant parole in appropriate cases. In making its decision the parole board must consider whether the offender's release would present an undue risk to society.
The decision of the parole board has nothing automatic about it. Just because a parole ineligibility period is reduced and as a result an application is made to the National Parole Board, it does not mean in any way, shape or form that the applicant would get parole.
I emphasize a point that is crucial to an accurate understanding of the issue which may not be well understood by members of the public. The life sentence imposed on a person convicted of murder or high treason continues literally for the offender's entire life. Accordingly, even in those cases where such an offender is released on parole, offenders continue to be subject to the sentence for the rest of their lives and can be reincarcerated or put back in prison at any time, should they breach the conditions of release imposed by the parole board.
I repeat. The granting of parole by the National Parole Board is not automatic. It could and often is rejected.
I also remind hon. members of the House of the legislative history of what is now section 745.6. As some members will recall the section was enacted in 1976 at the time capital punishment was abolished. At that time a 25-year parole ineligibility period was established for first degree murder and high treason.
The section was enacted after full and vigorous review and debate of the legislation. It was not, as some critics of the section have suggested, slipped into the statute books by stealth as a surprise to the unwary. It was a fundamental aspect of the compromise reached at that time by the House on the very difficult question of the appropriate penalty for murder. It was enacted as a response to the recognition the 25-year parole ineligibility period was significantly longer than murderers were then serving before parole in cases of non-capital murder and in cases of capital murder commuted to life. I am told it was enacted in recognition of the fact that 25 years without eligibility for parole was and still is longer than comparable periods in many western democratic countries.
The section was enacted to offer a degree of hope for the rehabilitation of some convicted murderers, as a protection for prison guards, and in recognition that in some cases the public interest would not necessarily be served by keeping offenders in prison beyond 15 years.
We all know that the public has concerns about section 745.6. Many have called for its repeal because they were worried about the risks this section could pose to public safety.
Others have invoked the fact that victims' families are victimized all over again when a judicial review is held 15 years after the trial, just when the pain of the trial is beginning to fade.
Others would like to define an appropriate minimum period of imprisonment for the most serious crime in our Criminal Code.
I share Canadians' concern for public safety. I am also moved by the suffering experienced by families of the victims of brutal crimes. The prospect of again victimizing these families during a public review before a judge and jury, when the offender has no chance of being granted a reduction in his or her parole ineligibility period is one of the reasons the government tabled the recent amendments to section 745.6.
The government has struggled long and hard with this issue. We have listened to all those who are concerned about section 745.6 and have considered all the perspectives of those who wish to retain the section and those who want it repealed. In the end, the government does not support the repeal of the section. We believe that the reasons that justified its addition to the Criminal Code in 1976 are still valid today.
The section exists to recognize the possibility that at least some offenders can change after serving 15 years of their sentence. Our challenge is to find a way to ensure that the provision is applied sensibly and in a way that reflects public concerns. Indeed, that is exactly what the government's recent amendments to section 745.6 will do.
Members of the House will know Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which received royal assent on December 18, 1996 and came into force on January 9, 1997, made three significant changes to section 745.6.
First, the amendments eliminate any possibility of judicial review under section 745.6 for all persons who commit multiple murders in the future. For the purposes of the amendments a multiple murderer is anyone who murders more than one person, whether at the same time or not, and this would include serial murders.
Second, the amendments create a screening mechanism whereby the chief justice of the superior court or a judge designated by the chief justice conducts a paper review of the application to determine if it has a reasonable prospect of success before the application is allowed to proceed to the review jury. If the offender cannot demonstrate that his or her application has a reasonable chance of success, the application will be screened out by the judge. This change applies to all offenders eligible to bring a section 745.6 application provided they have not already brought an application before the amendments came into force.
By introducing this screening mechanism the government has ensured that for applications brought after January 9, 1997 the victims' families will not be forced to relive the offence through a
public hearing before the jury where the offender has no reasonable prospect of success.
Finally, the amendments require that for all applications brought after January 9, 1997, the review jury must be unanimous in order to reduce the offender's parole ineligibility period. Before this change the jury had the authority to reduce the parole ineligibility period if two thirds of the jury or eight members out of twelve thought it should be reduced. Now the offender will have to convince each and every member of the jury in order to get a reduction.
The government believes that these amendments have responded to legitimate public concerns about the section 745.6 review procedure while at the same time preserving the essence of the procedure in recognition of the hope that some offenders may be able to change after serving 15 years of their sentence. However, the government has not been content to leave the matter there.
During the process of developing and passing these amendments, it was clear to us that one of the reasons for the public's concern with section 745.6 was that many people were unaware of the existence of this provision. Murder victims' families often learn of the existence of section 745.6 through the media, several years after the trial has ended and the murderer has been sentenced.
This belated discovery leads to a feeling of surprise and betrayal. This feeling of surprise and betrayal is evident among the lawyers of many victims who appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs when these committees were examining Bill C-45.
On February 27 the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada announced that he had written to his colleagues, the provincial attorneys general, to ask them to issue instructions to their crown attorneys that victims' families are to be advised of the existence and effect of section 745.6 at the time of sentencing in all appropriate murder cases. At that time the Minister of Justice said: "I am asking the assistance of my provincial colleagues to ensure that this simple and practical step is taken to respond to the legitimate concerns of victims' families".
This government is doing what it can to ensure that section 745.6 is applied sensibly and in a way that reflects the concerns of the public. I am pleased to be able to take part in this debate, to set out true facts about section 745.6, about how it works and about the recent amendments and other steps this government has taken to respond to legitimate concerns on this matter. I hope my remarks will help set the proper tone for a more reasoned and thoughtful debate on this important matter of public policy.
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments made by the Solicitor General of Canada. He made a number of comments but overall it is very clear that this government has no intention whatsoever to respond to the needs of the victims, the families whose children have been murdered that will have to go through this painful experience again.
The solicitor general indicated that he was deeply moved by the realization of the pain and agony that those families will have to go through again. But he was not so deeply moved that he would be prepared to do anything about it, which is the problem with this government.
There have been petitions and cries from victims across this land who have said they have done nothing to violate the law and yet they must suffer again and again and again. Where do they stand in the scheme of things? That is what they are asking. Why are they not being considered? Why are members of Parliament and our government being deeply moved but not so deeply moved that they are prepared to lighten the burden that these victims have to carry for the rest of their lives? Why must they have that agony reawakened time and time again?
According to the legislation the first 15 years is the longest period they may have in order to get over this horrible trauma. The murderers who apply and who take the victims through that agony again may apply within perhaps one, two or three years, certainly before 15 years again. There is a shortening of the period even if they are denied by the courts to have their parole ineligibility reduced, if they are denied day parole or early parole. If the murderer's request is rejected the victims' families will still have to go through that kind of torment again, and this government is unprepared to do anything about it.
Being deeply moved is cold comfort to these people who are seeking justice, a balance in our justice system, a balance between the punishment of a murderer and the rights of the citizens of this country, in particular families of victims.
He suggested that this bill was broadly debated and that Canadians knew about section 745 at the time it was placed in the Criminal Code.
We had a police chief appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs who said that he did not know. He was a member of the chiefs association and they did not know. He apologized: "We must have been asleep at the wheel".
There was a lack of understanding. He made reference to the fact that the 25 year minimum that was imposed at the time capital punishment was removed from the bill was much more time than what was normally being served by first degree murderers. Then
why was it put there in the first place? Was it put there to deceive or dupe the public while section 745 was slid in the back door quietly, unbeknownst even to the police chiefs?
I have listened to the hon. Solicitor General of Canada. All his comments tell me that the government is not prepared to move, in spite of the fact that the justice minister said to the Canadian Police Association "we can do business; you support our firearms legislation and we will support your effort to remove section 745 from the Criminal Code". That is what he said on television. That is what we heard him say.
Members of that association are now coming to us and indicating they were betrayed, that the justice minister did not keep his word. That is what the people of this country are saying to us as we travel across the land, that the government is insensitive, that it is not hearing our cries and that it has less concern for the victim and more concern for the rights and privileges of the murderer, just as is being demonstrated in the drama that unfolding in a B.C. courtroom beginning tomorrow.
Herb Gray Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, the record of the House of Commons is there for everyone to examine. It will demonstrate, if one looks back at the period when section 745 was debated in this House, that the bill was fully debated. It was voted on in the usual manner. It was considered not only in the House of Commons but in the Senate. The idea that this was brought in by stealth is totally wrong.
If somebody in a population of 20 million people did not notice it, that is inevitable. It happens with respect to every piece of legislation. But the original section 745 bill was fully considered and fully debated.
I submit we have responded to concerns of victims through the amendments to section 745 which were adopted and proclaimed in force recently. In addition to that the attorney general has asked his provincial counterparts to make sure that victims in cases of murder are fully informed of the possibility of section 745 applications so this will not come as any kind of surprise.
My hon. friend is mistaken when he suggests that if an application to reduce parole ineligibility is rejected another application can be brought immediately. This is not the case. The applicant has to wait several years.
I point out that this does not lead automatically to parole if the application is successful. It is only successful if there is a decision by a jury of ordinary Canadians. This will simply lead to the applicant's making an earlier application to the parole board which does not have to and does not always grant the parole application.
I realize the difficulties here. This is not an easy situation. This motion is being brought before the House at a time when there could well be an application with respect to a very despicable individual, but the law is made on the basis of general application, not simply looking at one case, no matter how difficult it is.
I suggest that this government has given great consideration to concerns of victims in the amendments that were passed and declared in force recently. Therefore I submit that this motion which is votable should be rejected.