House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

April 18th, 1997 / 1:55 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I wish we could stay on Bill C-92, after the diatribe by the cabinet minister, especially in pointing out that we would be making tax cuts before the budget is balanced. That is a false representation of our platform. We would not cut taxes until the budget was balanced. We could get there sooner and we would put more money back in the hands of taxpayers than this government will ever dream about doing.

Let us get to the matter at hand, Bill C-95. Bill C-95 is anti-gang legislation that has some serious issues tied and related to it.

This all started as an incident, as we all know, in Quebec City. There is a lot of violent crime being committed by some gangs there, basically threatening innocent bystanders on the streets. It is important to address this situation.

However, the federal government is reacting to a challenge by the Bloc Quebecois that says the government is doing little to protect Quebecers. The Minister of Industry states how wonderfully the government is investing and how great everything is financially in the province of Quebec. I assume he also includes it with the regional development grants and how all the wonderful laws that the government is passing is benefiting Quebecers so that they understand and realize that this is a great country to live in and they should stay in Confederation. Notwithstanding all that, the representatives who were sent here by the majority of Quebecers, the Bloc Quebecois, stand up in this House and say this government is doing little to protect Quebecers. They have said other things in other areas.

Perhaps the federal government should pay more attention to what the demands and needs are of various provinces all across the country.

Perception is everything in politics. The Prime Minister said that. As I said earlier today, it is unfortunate that reality is not everything and is what the government is basing its decisions on and is what it is working toward; the reality, the real truths, not everybody's distorted opinion of the truths.

What is wrong here is now that there is an election being called this justice minister has rushed to the fore where a month ago he was not interested in this issue. When the plea came from the Parti Quebecois to do something about introducing stronger federal legislation to handle these criminal organizations or a criminal gang, he was not interested. He did not want to go too fast.

I do not know when somebody whispered in his ear that there might be a potential election call, so gear for it, get ready for it. Most of the decisions that we have seen in the last couple of weeks and the behaviour of this federal government seem to be that it is preparing for an election and it is trying to make itself look good. There are quick settlements on a lot of issues that have been outstanding and dragging out over the last two or three years. They are getting resolved in the last two or three weeks, in the last two or three days and even the House leaders have been working together to co-operate and get everything done together. This is all because of an election.

If this issue was not important to the justice minister two years ago when it first arose, if this issue was not that important to him a month ago, why is it that important now and that we only have three days to debate this?

I know why it is important but why create the urgency that it must be passed within three days? Why can it not wait? Why can the government not wait for an election and call an election for real reasons? It has no reason to call an election.

There are important and pressing issues in the economy, in society that the government could still be addressing. On the wonderful job and the great honour and privilege that the Minister of Industry claims to have had by serving, why does he not serve for another year and finish it? If he does a good job for another year he will get elected again. What is he worried about?

No, perception is everything so it has to give the perception to the Bloc Quebecois that the government is looking after the interests of Quebecers and the Quebec society, that the federal government is co-operating and the Reform Party is co-operating as well. We are helping this legislation go forward. We do not want to be restrictive. We do not want to expand debate. We want to get to it.

I submit that this is an example of poor governance. If it is politically motivated, it is poor. I accuse the Liberal Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party of the same accusation. Our job here is to present proper and good legislation. What is the point in passing bad legislation? It will just get thrown out in the courts

anyway, especially amendments to the Criminal Code. We would be better to have no law at all than to have a bad law.

I certainly support the general intent and the problem the bill is trying to resolve. However the bill has raised so many red flags in my mind that I feel we should take a little more time to discuss it, even if it is a couple of days. There are many important issues here. Over the past two years we debated many criminal amendments for months, and suddenly this one goes through in three days.

We have been pressing and trying to represent victims and victims rights with victim impact statements. A member of our caucus, the member for Fraser Valley West, presented a victims bill of rights. It had a lot of good clauses. It was every bit as good as the legislation in Bill C-95. We asked the finance minister to fast track it. We did not say three days. We asked him many months ago to put it on the agenda so we could get through it. A year ago it was sent to committee. Since then nothing has come back and nothing has been done. Why? It was because the polls did not tell the government to react.

The Liberals are doing poorly in Quebec. An election is coming a week from now. The government has to act, react and show that it cares. In the process it might be passing bad legislation, not might. I have examples of areas of concern where we need constitutional experts and arm's length lawyers to give opinions because they intervene and conflict with the charter of rights and freedoms.

This is a serious issue. Never before has a justice minister or a government tried to pass laws that talk about a group and what criminal organizations are. There is freedom of association in the country. The Quebec provincial government wanted a law to make it a crime to belong to a criminal organization. How do we know it is criminal? We have to define criminal organization.

It is dangerous to give powers to the police if it is done quickly without being thought through. The police needs the tools to do its job, but if they are given with the intent solving one problem are we perhaps creating other problems? What about this extra surveillance with electronic devices to listen in on telephone calls? What about requisitioning and procuring income tax returns of people suspected of associating with criminal organizations? What if these powers are used for other groups? It could entrench on civil liberties and has to be discussed.

It is being done for the wrong reason. It is being fast tracked for the wrong reason. To bring the bill forward, to debate the bill, to solve the problem is honourable, good and should be done. However the Liberals are responding and reacting to one provincial government that has threatened to pull out of the country. They are reacting faster to that government than to anything that any other opposition party, from the NDP to the Reform to the Conservative, raise in the House to satisfy British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the maritime provinces.

We have to be very careful when we talk about giving powers to the police. It is just like the gun control bill, the firearms legislation. I gave a talk on it when the justice minister was in the House. He was trying to force, ram and push that legislation through. It got through the justice department which put it together. It got by the justice minister who was involved.

Guess what was in that clause? If they suspected somebody of hiding firearms, shotguns, rifles or handguns, police forces had the right to search and seize the weapons without a warrant. That was the original clause in bill when it came to the House. It was just like the bill today with clauses of a similar nature. The justice minister said that it should be fixed, that we were right, and that we could not let police forces search ad hoc anybody they feel like searching. He agreed that we should insist upon a warrant on certain grounds.

I am talking about rushing bills through and ending up with bad legislation. That is poor governance. I certainly recommend we should not be a part of that. We should take the time needed to get it right.

In terms of victims rights the justice minister said in the House that we had to take our time and get the bill right. He said it involved many issues such as provincial jurisdiction and the charter of rights. He was in favour of it but said we had to take our time. Now we have anti-gang legislation being rammed through.

I refer to a Globe and Mail article by Rhéal Séguin which read in part:

"We've defined criminal organization and then we said it is not a crime to be a member of it.

"But if you do anything that is a crime and that is for their [the criminal organization's] benefit, under their direction or in association with them, then you've put yourself in a position where you've created a very serious offence, " Mr. Rock told a news conference.

Let us think this through for a second. There is a contradiction.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

No one can figure it out but a lawyer.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Even some lawyers would have a hard time defining criminal organization and making it illegal for a person to be a member of such a group if he or she commits a crime for the benefit of the group. How does it become a criminal organization if it has never committed a crime? If a crime has been committed, why is the person not put away to do the time for that crime? How can an organization be called criminal? If it is not illegal to belong to a criminal organization but it is illegal to commit a crime within

it, the group is already identified as a group intent on committing criminal activity. That should not exist.

Under the definition of criminal organization the crown must prove that five or more members in the group act as an association or a body together and that one member of the group, or each collectively, commits an indictable offence with the maximum penalty of five years or more. That is one of its primary objectives.

How is the primary activity proved unless a conviction has been registered for an indictable offence punishable by a maximum penalty of five years or more? In other words the person should have been caught and put away even before the group existed. Five or more persons is defined as a group. Are four people not a group? If four people intent on criminal activity form a group, will this definition not apply? Does it have to be five or more?

The bill talks about explosive substances and owning offence related property. Officers are allowed to confiscate dynamite, bombs and things like that. However the definition of explosive substance is not in the bill. If it is not defined, should it not be defined? We know the obvious, but what about what is not obvious?

I will turn to another item in the bill. How does the bill coincide with young groups? There is no reference to age. There is no mention of the Young Offenders Act. We are talking about a certain group. We know who they are. We see them. We see pictures of them.

There have to be five or more. It cannot be four or less but it does not talk about young groups. How does the bill relate to the Young Offenders Act? Does it conflict? Does it have an impact on it? That is not covered. Should it not be covered?

The next item in the bill talks about everyone who participates in or substantially contributes to the activities of a criminal organization knowing that any or all of the members of the organization engage in or have, within the preceding five years, engaged in the commission of a series of indictable offences under this or any other act of Parliament for each of which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more. How do we prove "participates in"? What does "substantially contributes" mean? "Aiding and abetting", but to what degree? What does it really mean? What is the level of a substantial contribution? If somebody gives $25 to a political party, if somebody else gives $500 and if somebody else gives the maximum $1,000 for which they receive a tax receipt for $550, which one is substantial? Is a $100 donation substantial or is it closer to $1,000? It is the same thing here. What is a substantial contribution to an organization? If I give $500 I am okay, but if I give $1,000 that is a substantial contribution?

These are some of the problems which deserve a little more attention. If we as politicians were to do our job properly, we would ensure that civil liberty groups would have the chance to understand why there is a need and how these things are to be done. Those questions should be answered.

If we ask these questions when we get to committee of the whole on Monday of next week, the justice minister should have the answers. I do not see how it will be possible for him to have the answers because they are not in the bill. Those answers are left to interpretation.

Another pressure point comes from the media. The politicians are trying to further their party and show they care by passing legislation. I do not want to belong to the party that holds it up. I do not want to be a Bloc Quebecois, a Reformer or a Liberal who holds up the legislation because if somebody gets killed tomorrow or next week it will be our fault. That is crap. It will not be the fault of anyone in this room; it will be the fault of the person who committed the crime.

We must pass good legislation to address this problem. If a crime is committed next week and the individual goes to court, and because of poor wording and a lack of clarity the criminal gets off on a technicality, because a supreme court justice whose job it is to protect individual rights decides that this criminal should get off, but we know he did it, then who is to blame? It will be the fault of the Liberals, the Bloc and Reform. It will be our fault.

That is what is wrong with this bill. That is why it is important for us to have the sensibility and the common sense not to rush things through for partisan purposes.

We have been a party to certain bills which have gone through quickly, but they were done properly because the language was clear. We are talking about amendments to the Criminal Code which will impact the charter of rights and freedoms. The justice minister could have added a chapter to those rights and freedoms over the past three years called responsibility. If someone is a member of a gang they have certain rights and freedoms, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to drive up and down the streets with 100 bikes roaring in their ears. It is the responsibility of the person to keep those freedoms by not committing a crime. If they do they will lose their rights, freedoms and individual liberties.

If we debated this properly, took an extra five days and sent it to committee for a decent period of time, some better suggestions might come forward.

It is more important to get it right than to get it done quickly. We can get it right and done quickly if we all get together and put our heads to it, rather than the leader of the Bloc Quebecois trying to make political brownie points in Quebec, rather than the justice minister trying to show how co-operative he is in times of urgency and emergency. Victims rights are just as important as this. He is setting a bad precedent, proving he is doing it for political reasons and that the Reform Party is afraid to speak its mind because it does not want to be seen as a deterrent to progress of the justice system. We are not.

All three parties should put away their political partisanship on the issue, get their heads together on Monday in committee of the whole and come up with legislation that will be right, with proper explanations and definitions, clarity and a sense of confidence that when it is challenged in the courts it will not make the politicians of this session of Parliament look like fools.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that this bill has come forward very quickly. Considerable attention has been paid to this issue in Quebec. Canadians are concerned about the increase in crime, especially violent crime in some cities in Quebec, directly attributable to the actions of gangs, the drug trade, the illegal trafficking in guns, gambling and prostitution, in short, organized crime activities, not only in Quebec but across the nation.

Canadians who are watching the debate today in its abbreviated form are perhaps scratching their heads wondering about the use of section 745. I heard a comment recently about Clifford Olson being the multiple murderer who is hiding behind a rock.

There was a hue and cry across the nation from victims, victims groups and the general public. Organizations like the Canadian Police Association had passed a resolution asking for the repeal of section 745. There seemed to be a genuine consensus that something should be done to prevent this individual who has admitted to the horrible torture, rape and murder of 11 children, from using that section, the so-called faint hope clause and getting another day in court to make his points and revictimize the families of these young children.

I am sure Canadians are wondering how the government can move in such a speedy fashion on a bill such as C-95 and yet pay virtually no attention to section 745 and the cries of victims and victims groups to repeal that section.

In February the judge had no option but to grant Clifford Olson his day in court. He will be flown from Saskatoon to Vancouver on August 18 and the whole country will once again be treated to the spectacle of this predator, this disgusting degenerate, having another day in court.

I wonder if my colleague would like to comment on what I see as a terrible travesty of justice, that something like this could be allowed to happen and it has received virtually no attention.

The government brought in some minor amendments and tried to sell them to the Canadian people by saying that it did not really believe that it should repeal section 745 because there are some people who perhaps deserve early parole. They did not want to cut that off. What we were saying is that 25 years is not too much for the Canadian public to expect first degree murderers to serve.

Polls taken across the country consistently show that about 65 per cent to 70 per cent of Canadians support the return of capital punishment for people like Olson and Bernardo.

Previous governments have been able to sell abolishing capital punishment for these types of animals by telling Canadians that they would serve 25 years. I cannot help but wonder what will happen to someone like Clifford Olson who I am sure the majority of Canadians believe cannot and will not ever be rehabilitated. What happens when his 25 years are up?

We all hope and pray that he will never be eligible for early parole, despite the government allowing him to have the luxury of going through this farce of a section 745 hearing. However, what happens after 25 years? We are not talking here about parole. He will have served his sentence and theoretically he is going to get out because this government has not addressed that type of concern.

Something has to be done to keep these predators locked up forever. They cannot be allowed back into society to select more victims. It cannot happen. We have to find a way to prevent that from happening.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on what I see as a clear contradiction on the part of this government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Manley Ottawa South, ON

Explain what 25 years is without parole.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Would the hon. Minister of Industry just kindly hold his comments? He had ample time a little while ago to spout all sorts of nonsense for as long as he wanted. Now he is trying to do it again.

I wonder if he would comment on the contradiction between a government that holds itself up as being concerned about victims, concerned about gang violence, concerned about all these things and is rushing this bill through, when in reality that is the furthest thing from the truth. The government is not concerned about victims. That is clearly shown in the legislation it has introduced and passed. That legislation has done little or nothing to benefit the victims of crime and lots to benefit the criminals themselves.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I am just guessing, but I assume I have about two minutes left.

I am glad I was able to settle the dispute between the Minister of Industry and my colleague. Now they have each had an intervention of eight minutes.

My colleague makes a very good point. What criteria does the justice minister use to decide what is a priority if addressing section 745 is not a priority? He claims he has. He claims he has fixed it for multiple murderers. If people commit one premeditated murder they will still have a chance to get out after 15 years even after being sentenced for life with no parole for 25 years. The murderer will still receive this early review after 15 years. That is not truth in sentencing. That could have been addressed. It would have been an easy bill to pass very quickly. It would have had clarity and would have passed the test of the Supreme Court.

My colleague is right. We have to be consistent in the application of the criteria. I am embarrassed to admit it but I believe the justice minister is rushing this bill through more for political reasons than for showing that he cares about the violence in Quebec City. He did not care about that a month ago.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, we are having a difficult time convincing Canadians that there is justice in the justice system. That perception among Canadians is becoming more and more prevalent all the time.

I could not help wondering, as I was listening to my colleague speak, why are we acting in such haste with this bill? I have listened to the justice minister on various occasions say that tough cases make bad laws. As a matter of fact, he used that argument when the Reform Party and others were pressing his department to make changes to section 745. How is this situation any different than that?

Certainly all Canadians agree that organized crime should have very severe restrictions placed on it. We all agree that what has been happening in the gang wars in Montreal is an absolute travesty. Innocent people are being killed. It is a form of terrorism. When a gang war is going on in your community it is a form of urban terrorism. Canadians are well within their rights to be repulsed by this kind of activity and it behooves this place to do something about it.

This situation did not emerge in the last few weeks so therefore we must act immediately. It makes me wonder whether we are going to enact this legislation or whether it has simply been placed on the table. I know we are not supposed to impugn motives but I wonder if this legislation has not been tabled more for optics and political reasons than for justice reasons.

The Minister of Justice has not found it within his realm to act expediently on other sections, for instance, to pass retroactive legislation that would stop multiple killers like Bernardo and Olson to apply for early release. The legislation is not retroactive. People who are now serving life sentences will be able to apply for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

It puzzles me how the minister can on the one hand say that we must act with caution and due diligence and take deliberate slow steps and on the other hand say that this problem is taking place in Quebec and must be dealt with immediately. He knows it is potentially fertile ground for his party. He knows that it has always been a key to Confederation. It has always been a key to whether or not a party holds a majority and therefore that should be reason enough to act immediately.

I think the people in British Columbia are going to remember long and hard the fact that Clifford Olson has been treated with some celebrity status and is certainly getting the notoriety that he so hungrily seeks. I believe the electorate in British Columbia are going to remember these instances. I would even go so far as to say that if they are having a little bit of a problem remembering it, there will be certain political parties that will do their utmost to make them remember.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Being2.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.29 p.m.)