House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chapter.

Topics

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative Party will be voting yes to the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 84
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Business Of The House
Government Orders

May 1st, 2001 / 5:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that it is the intention of the government to propose that Bill C-23, the Competition Act amendments bill, be referred to committee before second reading pursuant to Standing Order 73(1).

Business Of The House
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 5.55 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

moved that Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (breaking and entering), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to speak this afternoon to my private member's bill, Bill C-290, an act to amend the criminal code (breaking and entering).

The purpose of the enactment is to provide for a minimum mandatory imprisonment of two years upon a second or subsequent conviction for breaking and entering where the offence is committed in relation to a dwelling house.

Break and enter crime is much more than a property offence. It is a crime against the person. Canadians view break and enter crime as a very serious and traumatic violation of their sense of safety and security. Victims of house break-ins rarely talk later about the television they lost or the other property that was taken. However, they talk about the fear and the fact that someone invaded the sanctity of their home. This is not a property offence in the same way we view an auto theft.

On April 19, I had a town hall meeting in my riding to discuss break and enter crime. A constituent came forward at this meeting to describe the fear she still feels after break and enter thieves violated her home several years ago. She described how she still feels unsafe in her own home and how she thought about selling her home because she is scared that the thieves will one day come back.

These kinds of stories show the reality of break and enter crime.

To quote Chief David Scott of the Saskatoon Police Service in a recent letter of support for the bill, he said:

You have correctly identified what we so often neglect to realize is the psychological damage and the tremendous trauma suffered by victims of home break and enters.

Constable Guy Baker of District 4 in Calgary said:

The best sentence I ever saw for a repeat offender was three years, however, the effect on the victims lasts forever.

Females feel personally violated and their house no longer has a sense of being a home. Men feel they have failed in their role as the family protector. Children have a hard time sleeping and many children start bed-wetting after their home has been burglarized.

While the psychological impacts of break and enter crime are often devastating in their own right, this can also be a violent crime because every break and enter is potentially a home invasion. In fact, according to statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice, 58% of break and enter incidents involved a weapon being present.

I would like to quote an Edmonton man who was viciously beaten in a break and enter that turned into a home invasion:

Physically I am okay. Mentally I am not. It's almost like I have to force myself to do things—even to go to work. I don't know what could be enough jail time (for this). There is no justification for what they did.

The bill is a victim's amendment to the criminal code because the result would be fewer victims brought about by imposing a real deterrent on professional break and enter criminals.

Chief Julian Santino of the Toronto Police Service said:

Deterrent sentences such as the one you have proposed are absolutely necessary if we are ever to realize the goal of truth in sentencing.

Sergeant Al Koenig, president of the Calgary Police Association, stated:

A two year minimum sentence will slow down the turnstile treatment of these career criminals.

Staff Sergeant Dan Dorsey of the Calgary Police Service said:

You have to take repeat break and enter offenders out of the circulation because they don't stop. We try to keep the habitual home breakers incarcerated for as long as possible.

Bill C-290 will also cut off what is a real source of revenue for career criminals and organized crime by breaking the cycle of using the proceeds of break and enter crime to finance other criminal activities, including drug trafficking.

Break and enter is a crime once thought serious enough by parliament that it imposed a maximum sentence of life in prison. Today conditional and suspended sentencing has reduced the average jail term served by a repeat break and enter offender to six months. Only one in ten repeat offenders receives a sentence of two years or more.

That said, parliamentarians must provide a clear distinction to the courts about the serious nature of this crime by imposing a minimum sentence. As Chief Alex McCauley of the Sudbury Regional Police stated:

I view incidents of break and enter as a far more serious crime than it appears to be getting credit for, especially in the courts today.

Saskatoon Police Chief Dave Scott said:

I am confident the Canadian public is exasperated and distrustful of the Canadian justice system's ability to deal with this offence appropriately.

The courts do need a clear direction from our legislators regarding Canadian citizens' concern over their personal safety and their homes. A two year minimum would act as a deterrent to potential thieves and would take the professional thief off the streets. It would not add substantial numbers of new prisoners to already overcrowded prisons because of the relatively low numbers of repeat offenders committing a large percentage of break and enter crimes.

Statistics in Calgary suggest that as few as 5% of the repeat professional offenders are committing 80% of the crimes. A two year minimum would also prevent the provincial justice system from imposing different sentences from one jurisdiction to another. An offender in Alberta should be looking at the same sentence as a person from Ontario.

The bill was seconded by the former attorney general from Manitoba, my colleague, who will be speaking shortly on this bill. He said:

The courts need a clear direction from parliament that sets out the concerns that Canadians have over this very serious crime. This bill would provide that direction.

I would conclude by reading the following letter sent to me by a constituent, who said:

Dear leaders of our great country's political parties;

As I'm sure you are all aware, the member for Calgary East is in the process of introducing a private member's bill to give repeat break and enter artists a minimum sentence of two years in custody.

I would like to ask all of you, especially the Prime Minister, to please ask for all MPs in your respective parties to disregard party politics, and vote in favour of this bill. Please do not let a great bill, that could potentially help all Canadians in a great way, get squashed in favour of party politics.

The letter writer was concerned. This crime happens from coast to coast and is not unique to any province. I believe home break and enters to be one of the greatest invasions a family or person can endure. I am sure my family and I would be deeply traumatized by that experience. I believe this is a huge problem and is always in the minds of all Canadians. Please help all of us in this great country feel a little more secure and at ease by helping to reduce such heartbreaking and demoralizing invasions.

I would like unanimous consent from members of the House to make this a votable bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Does the member want to first finish his remarks and then put the question to the House, or does he want to put the question to the House now? He has five more minutes.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, if I have five more minutes I will talk about this more and ask the question when I am finished.

The seriousness of this break and enter offence should be viewed from a different angle. I was talking to the justice minister who said that she may have some concern about a minimum sentence. I can understand, but let me explain. We are dealing with the criminal code but not all of the criminal code. We are dealing specifically with a crime on the increase. What is happening is that the sentences the courts have been giving, which are now only six months for everything, have created a lucrative business.

I was told by a police officer on the beat for break and enter that these repeat offenders are now using breaking and entering as a job. It is a profession, a job, just like me and everybody else going to work. Repeat offenders do not see the seriousness behind it. They do not see the seriousness of the invasion of individual privacy. They view it as a job. Why? For the simple reason they know that if they are caught they will be back out on the streets. Eighty per cent of people who break and enter are repeat offenders. They will be out. How do we stop it?

How do we nip this thing in the bud before it becomes one of the most serious crimes in this country? Let us have a minimum sentence of two years. That way we will be able to break the cycle of break and enter and we will be able to take them off the streets as well as give them help if they need it.

I am not talking about the first time offender. I am talking about repeat offenders. We have to be very clear. If somebody slips a first time, I can understand that. We are talking about repeat offenders and the problem staring us in the eye needs to be addressed.

In conclusion, I am sure my colleagues and everybody understand the gravity of this situation of break and enter. It is to be hoped they would give unanimous consent to make this a votable bill. May I ask for unanimous consent of the House to make this bill votable?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member's motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln
Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-290, an act to amend the criminal code with respect to breaking and entering, which has been introduced by the hon. member for Calgary East.

The safety and security of Canadians within their own homes is a key priority for the Government of Canada. The government has responded to concerns about home invasions by including section 23 in Bill C-15, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001, introduced on March 14, 2001.

Proposed amendments to the criminal code would indicate that where the offender's conduct was in the nature of a home invasion, the court must consider this to be an aggravating factor when determining the sentence to be imposed.

Bill C-290 would amend subsection 348(1)(d) of the criminal code by providing, in the case of a first offence, for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and in the case of second or subsequent offence, a maximum life sentence and a minimum sentence of two years imprisonment.

Section 348 of the code makes it an offence to enter a place with intent to commit an indictable offence, to actually commit an indictable offence, or to have broken out of a place after having committed or intending to commit an indictable offence. The current maximum penalty for committing any of these acts in a dwelling place is life imprisonment. I would add that the offence of robbery also carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

I suspect most Canadians would be surprised that these offences attract such a severe maximum penalty. In fact, surveys conducted by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in the mid-1980s showed that the public has very little knowledge of either maximum or minimum penalties generally and that many were taken aback by the severity of the existing maxima.

The current maximum penalties for breaking and entering and robbery demonstrate that the government recognizes this conduct is of serious nature which may have significant impacts upon its victims. The sanctity of an individual's home as a place of safety and one free from intrusion has been recognized at common law for hundreds of years. It is, in part, for this reason that the criminal code offences of robbery and break and enter of a dwelling house are subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The criminal code states that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

The objectives of sentencing in the criminal code include denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring those who would commit offences and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders in acknowledging the harm they have done to victims and to the community.

The government shares the concerns of Canadians with regard to the relatively new phenomenon of home invasion robberies which occur while the home is occupied. To protect the right of individuals to feel secure in their own homes and to address the need for denunciation and deterrence, courts across Canada have been imposing stiff sentences for this crime.

The proposed amendment signals that home invasions are a serious crime that should be met with significant penalties. In addition to the maximum life imprisonment already in the criminal code for breaking and entering into a dwelling house, Bill C-290 would provide a mandatory minimum of two years' imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.

Canada has historically utilized mandatory minimum sentences with restraint and allowed courts the discretion to fashion sentences proportionate to the gravity of the offence and conduct of the offender. Judges, who have the benefit of knowing all the facts and evidence regarding the offence and the offender, are well placed to determine the appropriate sentence in individual cases. Such circumstances must be weighed in light of the sentencing principles I have outlined.

There is no clearly demonstrated need for a minimum penalty for second or subsequent convictions for breaking and entering into a dwelling house given the high maximum penalty already in the code. Courts also take into account whether an offender has previous convictions for the same or related offences. A prior criminal record is an aggravating factor and the greatest predictor of a longer sentence.

With respect to home invasion, the creation of an aggravating sentencing provision in Bill C-15 would encourage judges to use the tough penalties already available. As noted, courts throughout Canada are already doing so in recognition of the seriousness of this offence and its devastating impact upon victims.

I recognize the concerns of the hon. member for Calgary East with respect to breaking and entering. However I believe the existing penalty of life imprisonment for this offence and clause 23 of Bill C-15 clearly demonstrate our commitment to providing safe homes for all Canadians.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the bill in respect to break and enter crimes. As my hon. colleague for Calgary East has stated, Bill C-290 provides the courts clear direction from parliament on the seriousness of break and enter crimes.

The bill would set out a minimum two year sentence for repeat and subsequent offences for break and enter crimes in a dwelling house. That needs to be stressed. We are talking about the residence of a person.

The bill would not simply denounce break and enter crime as a serious violation of a person's sense of safety and security. By providing a two year minimum for repeat offenders the bill would prove a very effective deterrent against these kinds of criminals.

Let me give the House a quick but telling example of why Liberal policy with respect to break and enter law has failed and why we need to seriously consider amending the sentencing provisions for break and enter crimes.

In my home province of Manitoba preliminary statistics released by Winnipeg police on March 20 show that Winnipeg's crime rate jumped almost 40% in the first two months of this year. The police service is stretched to the limit as front line officers fight to protect law-abiding citizens.

According to Winnipeg police, these statistics show that certain crimes, particularly break and enter crimes, are on the rise after several years of decline. A member across the way says we should talk to the province or to police. There it is. We are told to blame the province and the police when we have the tools to deal with it here.

It is a typical Liberal response to simply pay lip service to an issue and let someone else deal with it.

I want to compare statistics for the first two months of 2001 with those for the first two months of 2000. I will give the precise numbers. Nine hundred and nineteen residential break and enters were reported in January and February 2001. Seven hundred and ninety-three were reported for the same period last year. This is not just a matter of statistics. This is a matter of personal safety for the people of my province and the people of Canada. People live in fear because of what is happening not only on the streets but in their own homes.

This parliament does not show its citizens the respect to which they are entitled in their own homes. If we let gangs run loose on the streets what courtesy are we showing to citizens? What fears build up in their homes when they cannot even lock the door and know they are safe?

Members across the way say that it is a police problem. It is not a police problem. Police arrest these lawbreakers every day and the turnstile justice system sets them free almost immediately.

The situation is not unique to Winnipeg. As my hon. friend from Calgary has indicated, it is a serious problem in his city as well. It has become such a problem that the Calgary police service has formed a break and enter unit in every district to take over from the single unit which until recently served the entire city.

Officers are becoming increasingly frustrated watching criminals receive little more than a slap on the wrist from the courts. My friend across the way said that we should let judges determine sentences because they have all the facts. Yes, they have all the facts and all the tools, yet they are doing nothing.

When I was in provincial politics one of my constituents suggested that one way to reduce crime in Winnipeg would be to make each judge live on a block in the downtown core. We would perhaps not see the callous attitude with which people in those areas are treated when they come to the courts for justice. Let judges live in the downtown core and deal with gangs not in the courts but face to face when they come through the doors into their homes. It is disgraceful.

The police know what they are talking about. Thinking citizens know what they are talking about. The statistics are clear. The vast majority of break and enter crimes are committed by a very small group of people. Winnipeg City Police have told me that when they put one of these gangs away the break and enter rates drop dramatically. As soon as they are on the street again the rates zoom up.

Incarceration for break and enters into residential homes is a clear deterrent and has a clear impact on this horrific crime. This is not a property crime. This is not a property crime. It is an invasion of people's security. It is a violation of the rights outlined in the section 7 of the charter: the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The charter protects criminals in our courts but parliament does not grant the same courtesy to law-abiding, taxpaying citizens. That is a disgrace.

Break and enter crimes fund gang related activities, such as drug purchases and distribution. The bill's sentencing provisions would cut off what is a real and substantial revenue source for these career criminals.

My friend across the way indicated that the new amendments would give the courts direction. The courts have always had the ability to impose life sentences, although they gave up on that a long time ago. They no longer even take the facts into account.

My learned friend knows that the real purpose behind the Liberal bill is to allow the government to stand and pay lip service knowing that judges will do nothing about this crime. It is a fraud on the Canadian people. That is why my hon. friend from Calgary introduced this private member's bill. It is absolutely necessary.

The terror of this crime is illustrated by a newspaper article in today's Winnipeg Sun . The article describes an ordinary break and enter that turned into a home invasion in which police officers and citizens feared for their lives. I recommend that you read the story, Madam Speaker.

Let us think about it. While people in core areas of Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver are crouched in their homes worried about what is happening to their cities, the government refuses to respond. I ask all hon. members to respond by voting in favour of this very necessary bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this private member's bill. I am also honoured to follow my colleague from Provencher and attach myself to his remarks.

The bill has a great deal of pragmatism and takes a practical common sense approach to the very real problem of home invasion. I commend the hon. member for his intent and his perseverance in bringing the matter to the forefront.

The bill would amend the criminal code to provide for minimum mandatory imprisonment of two years upon a second or subsequent conviction for breaking and entering in relation to a dwelling house. The dwelling house is the key principle. The home is the castle, the sacrosanct place where Canadians first and foremost should feel a sense of security.

This offence has become rampant not just in cities and towns but in rural Canada. In isolated areas the chances of home invasion are sometimes increased by the isolation.

Sadly, this crime is on the rise among youth and particularly young women. It is popular among gangs because of the lucrative rewards involved. I say rewards in a negative sense because those who engage in the activity seem to feel they can achieve something by breaking into people's homes and taking their possessions.

The real danger is when individuals are at home and find someone in their domain, particularly at night under the cover of darkness. The potential for violence is very real. It has happened on numerous occasions when individuals were protecting their home, their possessions and their loved ones. It is a recipe for disaster and violence. Why would we as legislators in the Parliament of Canada not want to put great emphasis on something that is happening with alarming frequency?

Many have complained about the legislation. The parliamentary secretary has referred to it as infringing upon judicial jurisdiction. He says that it would infringe upon a judge's natural task of assessing each case separately. Surely the emphasis by judges is always upon the facts in a particular case.

When we talk about recidivism and repeat offences, the scales of justice must be tipped in favour of protecting the public. The scales of justice must be tipped toward deterrence and denunciation of that particular type of offence.

If we do not take the chance that has been put before us with the legislation, we will miss the opportunity to send a message to those offenders who choose to act in this way and who watch with some glee when a light sentence is handed down, to the horror of victims and to those living in fear of having their home invaded, their possessions stolen or to potentially face violence in their homes where they should feel most secure.

The Conservative Party supports the principle of the bill which recognizes the public safety concerns that arise from such offences. The type of offence that is portrayed in the bill endangers people's lives. That is part of the entire equation. That is why the judiciary in some instances must be reminded of the important message of deterrence.

Home invasion is described as breaking and entering into a home when the invader either knows or ought to know that the dwelling is occupied. Currently such an offence is considered by judges to be an aggravating factor. This comes from Bill C-15 wherein it talks about it being an aggravating factor in cases stemming from break and enter, assault and drug related offences, depending on the particular case. Breaking into a home when the offender knows that the individual is at home is a penetrating statement of the obvious. That is an aggravating factor. What could be more aggravating and what could be more distressing to an individual?

The Liberal government's response to this issue has been nothing more than the typical Liberal legislative half measure to please everyone and to appear to be addressing the problem when the upshot of the legislation really falls far short of what it should be achieving.

Bill C-15, which was tabled in a previous parliament and is now back in its watered down form, does not really achieve that goal. It does not achieve the message of deterrence. It does not achieve the goal of sending a clear direction to the judiciary or to the general public that public safety has to take priority when it comes to this type of offence.

In light of public demand for this type of legislation, the federal Minister of Justice had an opportunity to send that message to those who invade homes and to those who put their own lives in jeopardy. In some sense this type of situation almost encourages vigilante justice because of the sheer frustration that exists on the part of those who have been victimized and those who see offenders constantly being treated leniently by the system. They are then left to feel that they have no recourse but to take the law into their own hands. Nobody wants to condone or encourage that but that is very much the sense that I get from talking to people who have been victims of this type of offence.

Bill C-15 had the potential to correct this anomaly and correct the impression that home invasion would be treated with a strong hand. It did not happen. There is a strong faction in the Liberal Party who would like to embrace the legislation and the ideal that we have to do more to deter those who choose to break and enter into people's homes.

Judges definitely have a great deal of discretion when looking at sentencing. It seems to me that if we break and enter on one occasion and we are caught, apprehended and brought to justice and we do it again, a two year mandatory minimum sentence sends a very clear and concise message that it will not be tolerated.

We should not shy away from this type of direction to the judiciary. There are occasions where the offence is so serious and the implications so grave that there should be a legislative directive. Why on earth would we shirk that duty?

In terms of the Criminal Code of Canada that is very much within the domain of those who dwell in these hallowed halls and who look for ways to improve upon legislation. The criminal code was a product of this Chamber many years ago. It has been subject to all sorts of amendments. Why should we for a moment believe that it is not proper to bring forward this type of amendment?

Home invaders have been victimizing Canadians from coast to coast. This is not a regional epidemic. It has been happening with alarming numbers throughout the country. Senior citizens appear to be those most vulnerable and those most affected. The terror and the mental anguish that result from this type of crime is something that is very lasting.

I am sure members can relate to the fear that people would feel when their home has been invaded even if they were not at home at the time. Their sense of security is shattered every time they come into their home after something like this has happened, where their personal belongings have been tampered with. They are looking behind doors and always wanting the lights on. I have heard these remarks from seniors who have been victimized by home invasion. This type of mental anguish is incalculable. It is difficult for a sentencing judge to take into consideration just how disruptive and how unsettling this is for a person.

I know that many Nova Scotians were very pleased that the Conservative government of John Hamm responded by handing down tougher sentencing directions for home invasions. The justice minister, Michael Baker, took a very lead role and position with his provincial counterparts in lobbying the federal justice minister to enact legislation to create a separate criminal code offence for home invasion which accomplished very much of what the hon. member from Calgary intends his private member's bill to do.

Justice Minister Baker argued that a separate offence could give the court an opportunity to send that clear message but also provide an opportunity for communities to more effectively measure the impact and therefore deal with the problem of home invasion specifically.

I have before the House a private member's motion that deals with marrying this exact initiative on the part of Nova Scotia. The bill, although impugned to effect judicial discretion, would very much assist judges in putting the emphasis that many of them would like to put on this type of offence.

I would be more comforted if there was a limitation on the timeframe in which the offences occurred. I would favour the mandatory minimum period of imprisonment of two years if there was a subsequent conviction within a set period of time, for example five years. This would do away with the possible anomaly of having committed an offence as a youth and then 10 or 15 years later a subsequent offence.

I support the bill in principle. I would hope that all members give it due consideration and embrace this type of initiative. I congratulate the member for Calgary East.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to represent the people of Elk Island on this important debate. I would like to begin by saying that it is quite inappropriate of us to have a committee arbitrarily say that the member for Calgary East who proposes the motion has the right to bring it to the House for a one hour debate after which it is dropped.

There is a committee that has said we cannot even vote on this bill. I want to be on record as saying that I strongly object to it. I believe that on an issue of importance like this one it is totally appropriate for us to be able to express our opinions on it. At the end of the debate process we should all be given the opportunity to say whether or not we favour the measure.

If the Liberals are against it, let them stand and say that they are against it. Let them say that they will continue allowing people to be attacked in their homes and have their property removed while they are out. That is atrocious. I would like to see them stand and say that to Canadians across the country.

I would like to speak for a few minutes about the whole system of justice and the idea of break and enters. I wish to emphasize that we need to do better right across the country in building into our youth when they are young a strong sense of morality, a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong.

What has happened in the country? We actually have young people and even adults who think that they are doing nothing wrong when they walk into another person's property with the intent of removing property, whether or not the people are there. Where did that come from?

I remember growing up in Saskatchewan many decades ago when we did not even have a lock on the door of our farmhouse. My dad used to say that someone could come by when we are not home and need to use our phone. We left the house open so that if people came by to use the phone they could.

There was no fear that someone would take our furniture. Maybe we were so poor the furniture was not worth taking, I do not know, but it was probably as good as someone else's down the road. We did not worry about those things in those days because there was a built-in sense of morality and community. We cared for each other and we would not in any way steal from one another. We have lost the sense that it is wrong to take someone else's property. Somehow in our society that built-in sense of morality has evaporated.

I remember when I was the chairman of the Strathcona Christian Academy, a new private school that we started. I was involved in writing our first handbook. We patterned it after handbooks in other schools. There was an instruction in one of the handbooks which said that students should not bring valuable property to school because of the danger of it being stolen. We added in our book, and I am very proud that I was part of the construction of that book, notwithstanding that students should be careful what kind of property they bring to school, we expected them not to take things which were not theirs even if the temptation presented itself. We made that very clear because in our school we taught more than academics. We taught respect for one another and respect for property.

I wish that we would have strong schools, strong churches and strong families that would pass that sense of morality on to the next generation so that this epidemic of break and enters and stealing would come to an end. It is atrocious that we have allowed it to happen.

I would also say that in no small way I attribute the onslaught of violence to all the sorts of things that have been on television over the years. I read somewhere that by the time a student graduates from grade 12 he or she has observed an average of 18,000 murders on television. How could we then be surprised when students grow up and simply act out what they have been taught all their lives, that it is okay to do that? There is something fundamentally wrong. We have lost the handle.

That is step one. We should train our young people so that as they become adults they are responsible and respectful citizens who do not abuse other people and their property.

Lo and behold, some people make mistakes. What should we do with a first time offender? The bill that my colleague has put forward does not deal with first time offenders. He is talking about repeat offenders. What do we do with a first time offender?

My brother-in-law would be very happy if I were to mention a program he has worked with. He was involved in the justice system in a provinces I will not identify. He worked hard as a volunteer in what was called restorative justice.

There are a lot of young people who just simply make a mistake. They bow to peer pressure or whatever. They with their friends break into a place and take things that are not theirs. It is a genuine error. Those young people are retrievable. Those young people can be shown, taught and corrected.

I do not believe putting young people in jail at that stage is as good as what my brother-in-law and his wife did. They worked with couples and young people. They also worked with families whose homes were broken into. In conjunction with the justice system in the province, they brought the offender and the offended together.

I remember my brother-in-law saying that one young person said that doing six months in jail was nothing compared to having to look the person in the eye whose house the individual broke into and finally saying sorry that he or she had made a mistake.

The next stage then is restitution. The young people stole something that was not theirs. Now it becomes their responsibility to restore the property that was stolen. Those young people, having faced the victim and having restored the things, are much less likely to reoffend. This is statistically proven. Generally, we do not teach people to not reoffend by putting them into jail. I personally am in favour of that kind of restorative justice at the early stages of young people's lives before they become hardened criminals.

This bill talks about repeat offenders. If the young person has failed to learn the principles of respect before the first offence and, having gone through the restorative process or whatever is chosen for the first offence, has still failed to learn, now the law has a responsibility to restrain and to protect innocent victims. The member is talking about the sentence for a repeat offender, the one who did not learn it in the first place, who did it once, still did not learn and did it again.

There was a case in Edmonton where a group of thieves were found. In a one week period, while on probation, they broke into 80 homes. What a busy week they had. Are they incorrigible? I venture to say they need to have some time to think about it. A minimum of two years would not be too much for them to admit they were on the wrong track.

I remember also the grievous case in Edmonton of Barb Danelsko, a young mother. She and her family were sleeping upstairs in their house. She heard a noise downstairs. She thought the dog wanted to go out. Dogs do that in the middle of the night. They say “Please, master, let me out. I have some need to go outside.” She went downstairs. Lo and behold there were three youngsters there. Before they left, that young mother was dead. They attacked her with a kitchen knife when she came down. She was not expecting invaders in her house at that time of the night. They prevented her from seeing her children grow up. They deprived those children of their mother and her husband of his wife.

I simply want to say that we need to make sure that those who have not learned the lesson are restrained. A mandatory minimum two year sentence is the minimum that we can do to show those people that if they have not learned the lesson after the first offence, then this is what will happen. We as a society will take the measures necessary to remove them from society because we deserve to be protected.

I urge the government to rethink its decision on whether or not we should vote on the motion. We really should get this thing going because it is a necessary step.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to say something about the consequences of our actions and the importance that we recognize consequences.

Consequences, as we would address them through our justice system, are at least in part meant to be a deterrent. A consequence to be a deterrent must be serious enough to provoke some thought. It surprises me today to hear that one could be imprisoned for life for a break and enter. I am one of those who did not know that.

I dare say the government of the day would never vote for life imprisonment for break and enter unless it had the full confidence that the likelihood of that happening was so very slim that it would never be the case. Therefore, it is not a serious enough threat to the offenders to even consider.

I will speak from the perspective of being a father of four children. When I came to the point of needing to discipline them, the consequences needed to be serious enough that they really considered them ahead of the offence. I wanted to make them think. Do members know what I did? I did exactly what the government pointed out it was doing. I had a son who was a repeat offender in my house. He knew I was not serious. I cannot say the number of times that I would say to him “Son, you are grounded for life”. I always paroled him before the week was over.

That is the kind of threat we are hearing from the government, that if offenders break and enter they will be liable to be put in jail for life. I hardly think so. The threat is not really serious and therefore is not a deterrent. A consequence to be a deterrent also needs to be not only serious but needs to be consistent enough to be taken seriously. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not.

We know in our justice system today that there is a huge discrepancy between what judges do. On a bad day maybe they give a few more years. On a good day maybe they do not give more than a few minutes. I cannot believe that we would leave it totally to the discretion of the judge to determine from zero to life imprisonment and shirk our responsibility as legislators to give the judiciary some sort of guideline a little narrower than from zero to life imprisonment for break and enter. We need to be a little more consistent.

A consequence that will be a deterrent also needs to be fair. It needs to be fair as it relates to the offended and to the offender. This is hardly fair to the offended. In a sense it is not even fair to the offender because he did not really take it very seriously and offended again.

A consequence to be a deterrent comes from a respected, responsible authority. I worked hard at that as a father. I wanted to know that I had the respect of my children. To have that, I had to be serious, I had to be consistent and I had to be fair to have them really respect me and understand that I was being responsible.

I am disappointed that we as a parliament so often want to take the easy way out and not be responsible. It hardly seems harsh to me that we would consider a two year minimum sentence to give a little more direction for a repeat offence of break and enter. I support the bill wholeheartedly.