Debates of April 8th, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.
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Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the second amendment on Bill C-17 which was given unanimous approval in the House today. This is the second amendment which the justice minister has thrown in at the last minute to rectify oversights or mistakes he has made in previous legislation.
It does not give me any joy to be responding to a government which has time and again ignored the input of the opposition, ignored the input of Canadians at large, who have spoken to legislation which the government has brought forward for consideration. They have pointed out flaws in legislation which is before the House.
Time and again consideration should have been given to recommendations at committee stage. Letters have been received from experts of certain aspects of the law who have recommended changes. Time and again the justice minister and the government have ignored that input.
A private member's bill dealing with section 745 succeeded in passing second reading in the House. Seventy-nine Liberals voted in favour of that private member's bill so that it could go to committee for consideration. That private member's bill dealt with section 745 of the Criminal Code, which is known as the faint hope clause. That section allows a person convicted of first degree murder who is given a life sentence without eligibility for parole for 25 years an opportunity 15 years down the road to seek a change in their eligibility for parole.
That private member's bill had the support of colleagues in the Liberal Party. It successfully passed second reading. However, over the past year the bill has been gutted, mainly by Liberal members of the justice committee. It has not been reported back to the House to be dealt with at report stage and third reading.
Perhaps if the government was more willing to allow honest and open debate, honest and open criticism and honest and open recommendations for improvement, it would not find itself in the situation it has found itself in today, having to work in amendments after the fact to an omnibus bill to correct mistakes which it should have known it was making in previous legislation.
It certainly does not give me any satisfaction to be a part of a system where there is not honest and open debate. Legislation is rammed through the House, rammed down the throats of Canadians and they are left to deal with the consequences.
What would have happened if the justice minister did not realize that these mistakes needed to be corrected? What kind of situation would we find ourselves in next year or the year after?
It says very little about the justice minister and his government when they need to come in after the fact and make amendments to a bill which is totally unrelated to a bill which has been passed. Bill C-45 was passed last year. It is not something that was done four or five years ago. It was something that the minister put through the House four or five months ago. Now we are correcting a mistake that he made to totally deny the rights of victims to give their position in court, to give their side of the story, to indicate the harm and the impact that these horrendous crimes had on their families and on themselves.
I agree with my hon. colleagues for Calgary Northwest and Okanagan Centre. The victims in these violent offences are not just the families, they are not just the children, the husband or the wife, it is the whole community.
I am facing that in my community of Surrey. In case people do not realize it, Clifford Olson is making a mockery of the justice system this summer. As hon. members have pointed out, Clifford Olson is coming in August to Surrey to have his hearing. Surrey does not want him. The city of Surrey has asked that Clifford Olson not be allowed in the city.
My office has received more phone calls and more letters on the issue of Clifford Olson coming back to Surrey than any other issue since I came to the House of Commons three and a half years ago. The people in my community are outraged that the justice system would allow a man who tortured and murdered at least 11 children, 4 of those children from the city of Surrey, to have access to the court system.
It would be interesting to know how much time and money this hearing is going to take up. People are waiting in line to have cases
heard in court because of the lack of space, because of the lack of facilities, because of the lack of prosecutors and others to handle their cases. People are waiting for months or years to have a court case heard and we are tying up our justice system by allowing this monster to use up valuable court time and valuable tax dollars to apply for a section 745. To my mind and to the minds of the people in the city of Surrey that is a grave injustice.
It completely undermines the whole concept of who and what is the justice system supposed to be representing. Is it the convicted criminals? Is it the convicted killers? Is it the victims? Why are we now, months later, recognizing that the victims must have the right to present their case to the jurors who are going to make a decision on what effect or impact this individual has had on their lives?
The real travesty of justice is that Clifford Olson will be his own lawyer. He has the right to cross-examine the victims' families. How just and how humane is it to have this person who killed one of their children or one of their loved ones cross-examine them? It is insane. That is how Canadians see our justice system.
To be quite honest with you, Mr. Speaker, that is how Canadians are starting to see their government. They are starting to question the sanity of a government that allows this kind of thing to occur not once, not twice, but on a regular basis. What they see is a justice system that is constantly letting them down, constantly putting their concerns, their protection behind that of a convicted offender.
It distresses me to no end to know that I am standing here speaking and supporting this very weak attempt of the justice minister to undo his past mistakes. I do not take any great satisfaction in saying that I am going to support this. I am supporting it because I am backed up against a wall. I know this is as good as we are going to get from the government.
Given the opportunity in the very near future I would like to think Canadians will take time to measure just what the government has provided for them and what the government has done to them over the last 3.5 years. I would also like to think that before Canadians go to the polls this spring or next fall they will take a good look at what they will get in the future if they return the government to power. They will get more of the same: giving more attention to the offender, ignoring the rights of victims, ignoring the rights of society and putting Canadians last rather than first.
Canadians should seriously look at the issues and at who is fighting for them. They should look beyond the reports and accusations of the justice minister that it is the fault of the opposition party that did this or did not do that. I hope voters will look at the issues and at what the government is ignoring. If Canadians look very closely they will be looking to the Reform Party, a party concerned about justice and safety of all Canadians, to give them the governance they deserve.
Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill C-17 and the amendment.
Through its actions over the past couple of years the government has demonstrated where its priorities are with respect to criminal justice. In every instance, with the possible exception of what it is trying to do today on the eve of an election, it has demonstrated its sympathies lie as much or more with criminals than they do with the public.
I will read a letter from a constituent of mine, Mike Duffy who lives in Bow Island, Alberta. It was sent to the solicitor general and reads as follows:
RE: Section 745 Criminal Code
On June 30th, 1982 a car occupied by four natives, broke down on Highway 11, south of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. After initial efforts to flag down assistance had failed, two of these individuals decided to hide in the tall weeds at the road edge. One of these two told the others that he was going to "Shank the next honky that stops".
Joseph Duffy, my father, was en route from Edmonton to his home in Regina. He was the next person. He stopped and offered assistance.
For his efforts he was attacked and taken at knife point, in his own car, to a farmer's field. He was slashed with the knife and forced from his car. The four then chased him with the car and ran him over; and over.
Joe Duffy was murdered because of the colour of his skin; and his willingness to offer help to a stranger.
On July 7th, 1982, Robert George Ironchild, the leader of this group was arrested. On January 25th, 1983 he was convicted of first degree murder. He received a sentence of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years.
The convicted murderer Ironchild subsequently changed his name to Rob Wapuchakoos, at public expense. Soon he can apply for a review of his parole eligibility at public expense.
I have recently learned that your department sends an information package to prisoners serving life sentences.
My understanding is that this package instructs convicted murderers how to submit an application for a section 745 review; how to behave to obtain a favourable review; and how to apply for Legal Aid and expenses for witnesses. This is very disturbing.
However, since we live in a society where everyone is equal before the law, your office must also have an information package for the survivors, the family of the murder victim.
On behalf of the entire family of Joe Duffy, I request the package so we can prepare for any review; to ensure that the convicted murderer serves his entire sentence; and to acquire Legal Aid and expenses.
We also require copies of all documentation-I ask that you give immediate attention to my requests. Working together we can keep this convicted murderer in prison and prevent another homicide. We owe this to the memory of my father.
The point that Mr. Duffy is making is one that we should all heed in this place. We are legislators and we have a duty to hear what these victims are saying. They are saying: "Don't give rights to the criminals; give rights to the victims".
The amendment seeks to address an old wrong. Apparently for some reason, even though our members pointed it out, the government somehow forgot to put in a victim impact statement at the time of the trial so victims could explain to the judge and to the jury the horrifying impact of having a loved one murdered. Somehow the government got a little mixed up and decided to give the rights to the criminals, which is why we are facing the spectacle today of animals like Clifford Olson winning the right to apply under section 745 to be released from prison early and, as my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley pointed out, ultimately to cross-examine the families of his victims.
God in heaven, that is contrary to what anybody would believe is sensible. I cannot believe we are standing here discussing it today. I cannot believe the justice minister does not fly in here and say they are changing the law today, that they will fix this.
The government has a responsibility to protect our citizens. There is one thing it should be doing with the huge budget granted by the taxpayers every year, the $120 billion. It should take a portion of it and do what it can to protect citizens and victims, not criminals, not people like Ironchild, Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo. It is unbelievable that we are having this discussion in the House today.
Like my friend from South Langley and my friend from Crowfoot say, if there is any justice in the world I hope people will look closely at the Liberal record on criminal justice issues. If they do, real justice will be meted out at the time of the next election.
Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-17.
I will continue some of the comments my colleagues made about how unfortunate we are to have a Liberal government that pays lip service to the real problems of victims.
I want to relate to an instance that happened in Langley, Aldergrove and Abbotsford, British Columbia. It was shortly after the government brought in Bill C-41 which contained conditional sentences.
We debated conditional sentencing in the House. We indicated that there were some danger signs. We wondered who it would apply to. The government brought in conditional sentencing and disregarded all our comments in the House.
Shortly after Bill C-41 was proclaimed and conditional sentences became a reality, Darren Ursel in my riding met a young lady, a single mother of two, a non-drinker, in a restaurant and convinced her to go for a Coke. When he got her in his car at the back of the restaurant, outside in the parking lot, he quickly locked the door, pushed her back in the seat and ripped her clothes off. He could not get an erection so he reached for his racketball racket and used the handle on her front and back. When he was in court he convinced Judge Harry Boyle he was tender at times. The judge suggested that because it was Darren's first conviction it should be part of the sentence. He also said that Darren Ursel indicated he was sorry for what he did. Judge Harry Boyle went to the justice minister's Bill C-41 and applied conditional sentencing which meant that Darren was allowed to leave the courtroom on the condition that he did not do it again.
In our country today, like we use to have in the fifties, women are now able to be raped and sodomized. The perpetrator is able to walk out the door after the court case. I stand here and say "I told you so" as can many members who sitting in the Reform Party. I remember my hon. colleague from Crowfoot and many of our critics speaking on that matter because they understood the consequences of it.
I was at the appeal hearing. Gertie Pool, a grandmother, obtained 13,000 signatures to debench the judge. It was the Liberal government's fault in the first place. I heard the defence lawyers suggest there were too many people in our prisons and we needed conditional sentences. Therefore Darren Ursel walked away with raping and sodomizing this young lady. That is sick thinking.
In this exercise the Liberal government has moved women back into the closet where they were in the 1950s and 1960s after being raped, because they knew it was useless to go into a courtroom and obtain justice. That is perhaps the saddest point of all.
I tell the people of Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Quebec and western Canada who are listening that this kind of scenario is coming to them. The Liberal government has said that it is okay to rape and sodomize women and that the offender can walk. That is what occurred in my riding and it is damned disgusting, I must say.
There is but one choice to get ridiculous laws like this one off the books, that is to get these people from the House for good. The Reform Party and many victims of violence have been asking for a long time just exactly what are our rights. What exactly are our rights? Every day they approach us and the government, but when they approach the government it unfortunately falls on deaf ears.
Let me give a few good quotes from the legal industry about victims. A defence lawyer said: "Victims want someone else to fix their petty problems".
This kind of attitude that has pervaded the Liberal government for years, making up of much of the legal industry, is wrong. Judicial decisions on the bench in some cases are getting worse. Harry Boyle's decision is an example of that. What is this government going to do about it?
"I do not know what you people are so upset about; 11 children could have just as easily been killed in a bus accident. If they are dead, they are dead". That is a quote made by a prosecutor to parents of children murdered by Clifford Olson.
If that attitude pervades this legal industry and exists in the courts of this land, we as responsible legislators must legislate it out because it is wrong.
"There is no such thing as a victim, it is just a state of mind". A defence lawyer calls that a state of mind. I have worked with many victims since I was elected and I do not think it is a state of mind. But there is a growing passion among these folks to not have other people in the country victimized as they have been. They are not asking for a lot in this country, I do not think. They want the unrestricted right to provide a victim impact statement at a parole board hearing, whether it is oral or written, at a sentencing case or at a judicial review. That is not too much to ask for.
However, the government took the automatic right of victims to submit statements at judicial reviews away from them. Why? Is it just stupidity or is that these members got caught doing it and now we are screaming?
I wish I had more time. I am sure these Liberal members would love to hear more about this so that maybe we could teach them a bit about what is going on in the country. Maybe they could listen and learn.
However, the fact is that this legal system which now pervades what used to be a justice system has got us in trouble. And for the Minister of Justice to stand in the House yesterday and tell me that he has done a lot for victims because he has made amendments to the Criminal Code tells me he does not have one iota of understand of what I am talking about. But he will after this next election, he can be darned sure of that.
John Cummins Delta, BC
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Liberal inaction in justice matters and there is no promise of things improving in the near future. Victims know it and my colleagues know it. My colleagues from Fraser Valley West, Crowfoot and Wild Rose have been working on this issue for a long time and have made a real impact on our awareness of it not only in the House but from coast to coast.
Chuck Cadman's son was brutally killed recently just because someone did not like the hat he was wearing. HopefullyMr. Cadman will be elected to the House in the next election, letting people know what it is like from firsthand experience to be a victim of crime.
The fact is the debate this morning was not necessary. My colleagues proposed amendments in committee and if they had been accepted at that time by the Liberals there would have been no reason for this debate.
An amendment was proposed to limit the use of alternative measures for non-violent, non-serious offences. That amendment was defeated in committee by the Liberals. An amendment was proposed which would have allowed verbal impact statements. That amendment as well was defeated.
It is unfortunate when we are debating these kinds of issues that somehow we cannot rise above politics and really look at what it is we are addressing. It is the people we are serving whom we should be concerned about, not which party put forward an amendment.
I would like to tell the House about a few more things which we have proposed to try to make our streets safer.
We have been talking about bringing a balance to the justice system so that the rights of the criminal and the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens are brought back to a favourable balance. Victims of crime should be put first. We would provide people with legal rights within the justice system which would allow for that.
We believe there should be the right to be informed at every stage of the process, including being made aware of available victims services.
These things were proposed by my colleague from Fraser Valley West in his victims bill of rights. That piece of legislation, which passed second reading, is now languishing in committee because the Liberal government does not want to deal with the very positive proposals which he put forward.
The member for Fraser Valley West also suggested that there should be the right to be informed of the offender's status throughout the process, including but not restricted to plans to release the offender from custody.
This problem occurred in my constituency. A young man of 17 was killed by a hit and run driver. His parents had nothing but grief in trying to track the whole mess through the court system. In the end they were appalled at the light sentence which the victim received. Even though there was an indication that this gentleman had been drinking and driving, the issue was never resolved to their satisfaction. The written details of the whole process were kept from them.
We are proposing the right to choose between giving oral and/or written victim impact statements at parole hearings, before sen-
tencing and at judicial reviews. That is important. It is difficult for many people to write about their feelings. In some of these matters the most effective way to deal with them is to listen to what the people have to say to really have a sense of their despair and hurt. It only seems right that if the accused has their day in court that the victim also have their day in court so they can let the court decide an appropriate punishment based on their grief.
We suggest as well the right to know why charges are not laid, if that is the decision of the crown or police. Again it may seem a simple matter, but victims of crime should have the right to know why the crown decided, in its wisdom, not to proceed with charges. That is a right that should not only prevail for indictable offences but for any offence.
I can speak from experience as I have been ticketed by the fisheries department. Then the government refused to proceed with charges simply because it knew full well it would not be successful. That kind of behaviour brings the justice and legal system into disrepute when it cannot be honest and open and make us all aware of what just what the circumstances are and why they did not proceed with certain charges.
We all have a right to be protected from intimidation, harassment or interference. These kinds of things are obvious and yet again this government obviously does not place much stock in righting those wrongs because it has allowed this bill, put forward by the member for Fraser Valley West, to sit in committee, languish there and hurry through the process or at least acting on it in a reasonable manner to ensure it would provide the protection people need.
We should also talk about the right to be protected in situations of family violence. It seems a common sense hope that in situations where there is violence people would have some protection, that they would not have to put up with ongoing violence. Yet again, this is something the government cannot seem to get a grip on.
Another is the right to know if a person convicted of a sexual offence has a sexually transmittable disease. Why would we want to keep that kind of information secret? Why should someone have the right to keep that private if they have been bothering or if they have violently offended somebody else? It is beyond all reason to know that.
The right to be informed in a timely fashion of the details of the crown's intention to offer a plea bargain before it is presented to defence is an issue that comes forward many times in the court system, whether it is a drinking driver in a hit and run accident or whatever. The victims should have knowledge of the government's intentions if it is going to allow someone off the hook for a crime committed.
Perhaps the most disturbing notion before us when we talk about crime is the increase in violent crime by young offenders. It is something that is doubly disturbing because it means that we somehow as a society have failed, that somehow families have failed when our young people are moved to criminal acts. It is an issue that requires some action here and it is not just an action where we are looking at punishing those people, and certainly punishment is appropriate. If you are capable of a violent crime, you should obviously do the time for it.
What can we do to prevent these kinds of things from happening? That has to be a big concern and yet I have seen nothing, no action on this by this government at all.
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
Mr. Speaker, I was a little unprepared to speak to this amendment but I think I can say that we do support this amendment.
It really bothers me when I see a government, three and a half years in power, finally just before the eve of an election it is going down on its knees before the electorate and saying it made a mistake. We have seen three and a half years of mistakes, not just one mistake.
We see today that the grain is not moving in western Canada. We see today that everything the Liberals have touched has turned into a disaster.
This election is going to make the biggest changes in history. We will finally see that the old line parties are going to pay for their arrogance and their mistakes. When it takes three and a half years to acknowledge that they made a mistake on behalf of the victims and they are still protecting the criminals, something is wrong in the House. It is disastrous and they know it. That is why the Liberals are finally going down on their knees and getting a little bit of dirt on those knees to show the public that they do have remorse.
April 8th, 1997 / 1:45 p.m.
Ron Fewchuk Selkirk—Red River, MB
What about the wheat board?
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
The wheat board is something a little different because that is where we throw the honest people in jail and the criminals are turned loose. That is the difference between that and this amendment.
When we as a party said that section 745 should be repealed, as did every police association in Manitoba, what did the Liberals do? They joked around and said they were the government with 177 people on their side and they did what they wanted to do. They said they did not have to listen to anybody.
We are at the eve of an election and somebody is starting to get shaky knees. Not only do they have shaky knees, they are willing to bend them enough to get them a little dirty. Well, it is high time. The Canadian people are going to make the choice in this next election and are going to send a message like we have never heard in our life before.
When victims do not have a right to make an impact statement about the criminals who have violated their rights something is very wrong.
John Harvard Winnipeg—St. James, MB
You were in favour of the amendment, Jake.
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
This happens after three and a half years of arrogance, stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to the electors. This should have happened three and half years ago, not today. This was three and a half years of wasted time, three and a half years of a government that never listened to the Canadian people.
What are we going to do come the next election? I know what we are going to do. We are going to put them beside the Conservatives with the two seats. We will add one more so they can have three. That will be some party.
It is amazing when I hear former radio announcers starting to respond to some of the accusations. They should have talked three and a half years ago and kept some of those promises that they made.
I wish they had a Liberal candidate in Portage-Lisgar but they cannot find one. Mr. Speaker, if you are looking for a job I will second your nomination if you want to come to Portage-Lisgar.
Gordon Kirkby Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK
It looks like the Tories are going to beat you guys.
Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC
We should take a poll in your riding. You're a loser.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)
Order, please. I realize there has been an outbreak of election fever, but perhaps hon. members could restrain themselves so the Chair can hear the speaker. The hon. member for Lisgar-Marquette has the floor and I would like to hear his remarks.
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is really nice to hear some comments in this House even if they are from the wrong side of the House.
When we go to the election the next time the proof will be in the pudding. When I look at the recent polls I know why they are getting a little excited. People are finally starting to realize that all the promises that were made in 1993 have been violated. All the things that people were looking to this government to make happen have never happened. What is the government going to do? You have a good idea, Mr. Speaker. I kind of feel sorry already for some of these Liberal MPs who will not be back because I have enjoyed their presence in the House. It also gets kind of interesting when we get into debate-
John Harvard Winnipeg—St. James, MB
Are you going to support the report?
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
When it comes to non-farmers telling me what people want concerning the wheat board it just shows me the arrogance of the Liberal MPs. They stood on a platform and said they would support the wheat board and bring in Bill C-72 which makes the wheat board looks like there is a criminal element running it by making legal things that have been happening for years. They are now trying to cover it up, just like the Somalia inquiry, the Krever commission and whatever else we have. The pudding will show what the colour of it is, and it is going to be disastrous as far as my hon. friends from the Liberal Party are concerned.