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.

Topics

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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5:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

That is debate.

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

He has attributed to me things I did not say in the House.

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5:55 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga South certainly made some comments. He thought it was very inappropriate for Reformers to bring this issue for debate in the House of Commons today, the day before Clifford Olson had his day in court.

We could always check Hansard to find out what the hon. member said. He thought it was opportunistic. I cannot remember exactly what he said as there have been so many members who have spoken along the same line. However that was the gist of what he said. I may not be quoting him word for word but that was the gist of the message that he was trying to get across.

The member for Burlington spoke in the same vein. She criticized Reformers. She did not think this was an issue that was important to Canadians. She obviously has not been listening to her constituents.

Then, my dear friend, the member for Vancouver Quadra, got into the act. Why he would do that I do not know. Perhaps he has been a constitutional expert for too long and is out of touch with how Canadians feel and what is in their hearts. They still believe in decency. They still believe in justice. They still believe that when somebody ruthlessly takes another human being's life there should be severe consequences that will last for more than just a few years.

I have taken almost all the time available to me in questions and comments. In closing, I wish Liberal members would set aside their partisanship and come to their senses. I wish they would start to listen to Canadians.

I cannot believe that the member for Prince Albert-Churchill River and the member for Saskatoon-Dundurn would show such insensitivity to the concerns of Canadians who see people brutally murdered. Then the justice system protects, cares and pampers the murderers while the victims continue to suffer. It is wrong and I bring that to the attention of the House.

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March 10th, 1997 / 5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Madam Speaker, unfortunately the hon. member did not hear the speech I made. I never referred to other members of the family as not being victims of the crime.

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5:55 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Yes, you did. Check Hansard .

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Unfortunately they are not telling the truth at this time.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Check the tape.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Certainly.

As a further matter, with respect to crime in my riding, it is interesting that he is busy campaigning in my part of the riding and the election has not even been called.

Madam Speaker, I have had information passed on to me that during my speech the hon. member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia uttered the word "asshole". I am asking that this be withdrawn at this time.

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

On the point of order, the Chair did not hear that but we will certainly review the blues.

We are now resuming debate.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I guess we are going to be a little short of time, but I would like to advise the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It was my understanding that the hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn was sharing his time with me.

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

No, he was not.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate the motion that we are supposedly debating today proposed by my colleague from Crowfoot. It reads:

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.

That is what we are about today. I am disappointed that we had this misunderstanding of what the member for Mississauga South said or did not say. I would like to tell the House what I heard him say. He said: "There is no way that you can legislate away grief". I have to disagree with him. If we were to change the legislation, we could prevent the family from going through the grief that they have to go through.

I am going to cite a specific case of a constituent family of mine whose daughter was a murder victim. The family members are now victims themselves of the murderer and of the whole flawed judicial process. The family's name is Clausen. Svend and Inge Clausen live in Duncan. Their 15-year-old daughter was murdered in 1981. Because of section 745, since August 1996 the Clausens have had to be on the edge of theirs chair asking: "Will that murderer now appeal in order to get his reprieve after 15 years?" It has not happened yet but day by day this family is living through this misery of having the whole thing come to life again.

This came to my attention in part because the Clausen's sent me a copy of their letter to the current Minister of Justice. Because of that I asked if they minded if I used their name in the House, if I talked about their case. I asked if it would bring back the horror for them. They replied, "no Bob, it won't do that because we live with the horror every day, and because of section 745 we will be living it every day for the next 10 years. We don't know when this maniac who murdered our daughter will put his name forward and say that it is his right to appeal".

With that I will quote from the Clausen's letter to the Minister of Justice:

I am the mother of Lise Clausen who was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered on August 2, 1981 by Paul Kocurek, a convicted sex offender free on mandatory supervision. I am writing this letter on behalf of my family.

Kocurek had borrowed a car from a friend and was cruising the quiet roads of our neighbourhood looking for prey. He came well prepared [in other words premeditated] with a starter gun and handcuffs ready in the car. He spotted Lise who was out for a quick afternoon run before dinner, found a suitable place to park, opened the hood of his car pretending to have car trouble. When she came close and asked if he needed help, she found herself staring at the gun. He pushed her into the car, handcuffed her and then drove past our driveway and up the mountain behind our property. By the time she was located the next day it was all over. Her life, her future, her dreams were all taken from her. Our lives were changed forever.

This was the third offence committed by this unbalanced, perverted individual who consequently was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. According to our justice system the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime. However, we soon realized that "life" does not mean life and later we found that 25 years with no parole does not apply either-due to a little known section in the Criminal Code, namely section 745".

We learned that in 1976 the Solicitor General of the day, Warren Allmand, publicly stated that: "To keep them in [jail] for 25 years in my view is a waste of resources, a waste for a person's life". At the time Allmand was fighting to get the minimum life sentence for first degree murderers set at 15 years. When he failed, he introduced a loophole dubbed the faint hope clause, namely section 745.

This clause is an insult to all victims and their families. We are talking about the worst kind of killers here. First degree murder is a planned cold-blooded killing, but section 745 is being used as a sneaky back-door route to freedom for these murderers so that they can have the opportunity to kill again. For you and your government to condone this defies common sense, and we are at a loss to understand why this government is so eager to help such killers on to our streets long before the sentence imposed on them by the judge has been served. Victims, past, present and future should be so lucky to have such advocates for their concerns.

Most citizens were led to believe that the safety of society was important to you. Did we misunderstand? If we didn't, then please explain why you are doing everything possible to help convicted killers to get out. So that they can assault and/or kill more innocent people?

We are well aware of the arguments put forth by your ministry. Points like "there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel," and "if we repeal the section we would close the door for people who are in no danger of reoffending, such as those who killed an abusive partner".

The answer to point one is straight forward-there is a light at the end of the tunnel-at 25 years. The answer to point number two is that very, very seldom will the killing of a partner result in a first degree murder charge, most likely manslaughter, for which the sentence is much less.

In Canada today we continue to see a miscarriage of justice. As a matter of fact most feel that we do not have a justice system. We have a legal system.

My time is running out so I will finish. Section 745 demeans the value of life and the balance is again swinging in favour of convicted killers.

I do not have the time to finish Ms. Clausen's letter to the Minister of Justice, but I think it speaks reams. The victims of murderers are families such as this who have to relive it, not just their daughter. Section 745 by being there as a hope which murderers such as this one and Olson and Bernardo can invoke at any time keeps them in agony from here on in. That is not justice.

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6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, had I, instead of the Reform Party member or the Minister of Justice, received such a letter, I would have tried to reassure the family by telling them about the existing legislation. I would certainly not have added fuel to the fire as the Reform Party members have been doing since this morning. The question of parole is perhaps not without problems, but neither is it unremittingly bleak, as the members of the Reform Party have been saying since the beginning of this debate.

I would have told this family that I fully understood their sadness, what they are going through, and that I hope never to have to live through anything like it myself. But I would remind them that there are provisions for dangerous offenders. I would explain to them the definition of "dangerous offender" and how the system can designate murderers as "dangerous offenders" not eligible for parole under section 745. I would take the time to explain that to them.

I would also take the time to explain the parole system. I would give them statistics. When you are involved in such a case and you yourself become a statistic, it is, of course, a sad thing. But I would use statistics to show them that the system is not as bad as all that. Some things could be improved, I agree.

As I said this morning, one repeat offender is already too many, in the case of murderers like those we are considering. I would try to reassure this family by telling them that the ideal solution we are seeking is the one that ultimately eliminates repeat offences.

If I were to do anything, it would be to seek a way to eliminate this kind of criminal in our society. Perhaps we should pay more attention to education, invest more in our young people. But one thing I would not do is add fuel to the fire as the Reform Party member and his colleagues have been doing since this morning.

I would like to put a question to the Reform Party member who just spoke. We have seen with Bill C-45 that the government has changed the rules for obtaining parole under section 745. It has become section 745.6. There are extremely specific criteria, one in particular. We have been hearing about the Clifford Olson case since this morning. I do not always agree with the Liberal government, but when they do something good from time to time, they deserve credit.

Could the Reformers tell me whether, under section 745.6 an application for parole from someone like Clifford Olson would simply be blocked?

So, after hearing everything they said since this morning I think things could be discussed more calmly if they were aware of the provisions already in the Criminal Code and if they did not invent things to make political points, which in the West, it appears, is the way things are done.

I was listening to the Liberals and the Reformers earlier. This subject requires calm and very careful examination, because not only does it cost a lot to imprison murderers, but it costs a lot to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them-something we have to think about eventually.

I therefore ask the Reform member whether he thinks that, with the amendments to section 745.6, someone like Clifford Olson or Joe Blow would have a hard time getting paroled. Did he take the time to look at the amendments and apply them to a specific case, as he seems interested in doing?