House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe I have four minutes remaining and then the customary 10 minute question and answer period. I was looking forward to finishing my thoughts on this speech.

When I left off at the end of the day, I was about to say that some of the most draconian measures of Bill C-23 are designed to prop up the credit worthiness of the authority that is created by the bill, apparently almost at any cost.

One of the things that I caution is a gross surrender of sovereignty by first nations that get attracted to and caught up by this scheme. This was the whole point in my speech. For instance, a single missed payment can trigger the takeover of the local financial affairs of this newly created management board. I refer the House to clause 84, for anyone who finds fault with that thought. Once involved in this newly created financial authority, this borrowing club, the first nation can never leave without the consent of all the other borrowing members of the authority. It is locked in.

One elected band chief and council may decide to sign on to this new financial authority, but then they can never get out without the unanimous consent of all the other signatories to the authority. They have forfeited their sovereignty or their sovereign right to set up a different system perhaps or join some other alliance with other bands that may wish to join forces to get a better bond rating or borrowing and lending rates.

This is the caution that we bring to the debate on this subject. A first nation member of this newly created authority can never obtain any long term financing secured by property tax revenue except from the authority. Therefore, they forfeit their right to look at other options.

I am not sure that those who are the boosters of this bill are even aware of these cautionary notes that we bring to the table today. These unfortunate first nations that get seduced into this deal will be cut off from access to normal commercial financing available to all other Canadians because they are now bound by this very narrow prescriptive model.

This monopolistic practice we argue will stifle competition for financing and perversely may even lend to higher lending costs. If the original idea was uniting together as a group to share liability and thus get preferable lending rates, this may have the perverse effect, the opposite effect.

I have pointed out a number of issues. It is very difficult when I am interrupted in my flow of thought to jump back into where we were. The principal constitutional inherent right problem with the bill is the sweeping authority over local first nations laws delegated by federal statute to the federally appointed tax commission and management board.

Bill C-23 stands for the offensive proposition that in the year 2004 the constitutionally protected inherent right of self-government does not include jurisdiction to pass local laws on property taxation and financial management. In fact Bill C-23 asserts that such intimate local laws can only be approved by these federally appointed institutions. It speaks to the inherent right to self-government. We either support that concept as contemplated in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 or we do not.

The bill tells me that the government does not embrace the concept of the inherent right to self-government. Incrementally, bit by bit, it is stripping that away even before the courts have finished ruling on the subject and even before Parliament has given true meaning and definition to section 35 of the Constitution.

This prehistoric conception of the inherent right, which has been enshrined in federal statute now, prejudices all first nations whether they are scheduled or unscheduled. This has been our point all along. This is not a bill that will affect only those first nations that choose to put their names on some schedule. The bill will impact all first nations whether they sign on or not.

The optionality of the bill is a myth. I pointed out the last time I spoke on the this that the bill is optional in the same way a driver's licence is optional. It is optional until we want to drive a car and then all of a sudden we need one.

Therefore, if any first nation applicant goes to the government and says that it wants to exercise its right to fiduciary obligations, et cetera, the government would be able to simply tell the applicant to go sign on to the new fiscal institutions because that is the avenue of recourse. The government will be able to tell the applicant not to look for money from the government but to borrow the money on the open market by signing on to the agreement.

There is no optionality at all. I challenge that argument and I challenge anyone who says that it is.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member to maybe enlighten the House on the parliamentary process that the bill has taken. It is now Bill C-23, but in the previous sitting of Parliament it was Bill C-19.

Bill C-19 was taken into consideration by the Standing Committee of Aboriginal Affairs. Could he maybe enlighten the House, myself and maybe Canadians and first nations who may be listening, on the extent of that review of clause by clause and on the level of witnesses? Did the standing committee travel extensively to economically diverse communities, some of which may have been economically progressive, or geographically or economically challenged, in the far north geographical regions? I just wanted to know what level of activity took place during the standing committee's study of Bill C-19.

With regard to optionality, the member used the example of a driver's licence. I would refer him to something that is more near and dear to us as members, and that is the option program for us to get into our pension funds. A certain group in a certain party opted out of the MP pension plan.

Maybe the member can explain and enlighten the House a little bit more on why all members here are now part of the pension fund. There was a point in our history when members could consider opting into this pension fund as members of Parliament. I think that is a better example of this opting in program for first nations to buy into Bill C-23.

Maybe the hon. member could enlighten us on the Bill C-19 parliamentary process and on the option program that we have experienced as members of Parliament in this House.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is useful to back up a bit and look at the chronology of the evolution of this bill. It did begin life as Bill C-19 as part of a suite of legislation that the former minister of Indian affairs pitched as his vision of the first nations governance act, I guess, or the fist nations governance initiative, as he called it, because it was really three acts.

Bill C-19 was one of the most controversial aspects of that. Bill C-7 was shot down almost unanimously across the country. However, when Bill C-19 went before the committee, no amendments were successful. The committee did not tour and embark on any consultation with communities.

However, what we do know is that the Assembly of First Nations passed resolutions opposed to Bill C-19. A small group of bands and chiefs in British Columbia were in favour of Bill C-19 and are still in favour of this bill, but that numbers approximately 30 first nations that stand in support of the bill. There are 633 first nations that are members of the Assembly of First Nations. There are valid current and recent resolutions at the Assembly of First Nations that oppose this bill.

In my view, that is all we really need to know. For us to go ahead and pass a bill that would affect the lives of aboriginal people without their full consent and without even full consultation with them is, in my view, the height of imperial arrogance, a colonial style imposition of our views as to how they should conduct their affairs.

The optionality issue is key and fundamental to this because the government's only answer to the many criticisms about this bill was to try and convince people that it would have no general harm to the inherent recognition of inherited aboriginal and treaty rights because it would apply to only those first nations that sign on and that it is completely optional.

I heard the minister say that first nations could sign on and sign off. I think that is completely incorrect. Our legal opinion suggests that one cannot simply sign on, drop in and drop out willingly. In fact, as I pointed out, as far as the lending authority, the finance authority, once a first nation has signed on, it cannot leave without the unanimous consent of all the other signatories, and that is a rare thing. If there are 30, 40 or 50 first nations that have signed on, they would have to all agree to allow another first nation to opt out and, arguably, weaken their organization. Therefore, the freedom to come and go is severely limited, if not impossible. I argue that this is not an optional bill. This affects all first nations.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the member for his speech. As he pointed out, it is not easy to pick up where one left off after an interruption. However, it is sometimes a matter of time.

I would like to ask him if he generally feels that the current Prime Minister, who says that he wants to establish a new, more harmonious relationship with the first nations, effectively gives the signal of a new relation by introducing Bill C-23.

We know that he met with first nations chiefs during a Canada-wide forum just a few weeks ago. At this forum, everyone seemed to show some goodwill. I was very surprised that, in the Attikamek community of Manouane—which will be in my riding after the election, which should come soon—two projects that the community really wanted and in which it had invested a lot—one on telehealth and the other on high speed Internet—were rejected, either by the Department of Industry or by the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, in the days following the meeting between the Prime Minister and the first nations chiefs.

I would like to know whether the member feels that, with Bill C-23, we are heading towards a renewed relationship with the first nations and a true acknowledgement of their self-government; or are we simply taking the same approach Jean Chrétien did with Bill C-7?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette for a very important observation.

The current Prime Minister and the new Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are occupying their time carrying on with the mess left to them by the previous Prime Minister and Indian affairs minister. There is nothing new, generous or innovative about a new fiscal relationship with first nations involved in dealing with a bill that was overwhelmingly turned down by first nations under the previous regime.

This is a continuation of the same assimilation strategy put forward by the previous Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, and his Indian affairs minister, whom I cannot mention by name because he is still a member of Parliament. This is a continuation of that colonial imperialistic mindset. It does not speak at all to an innovative and creative new fiscal relationship with first nations and aboriginal people.

The current Prime Minister brought in aboriginal people from across the country, three weeks ago Monday, and promised them that things would be different. Under his regime a new relationship would be forged. Yet, we are seized with and occupied by a vestige of the previous regime which most aboriginal people and first nations find offensive.

There is nothing new or creative about this. The Prime Minister is off to a bad start. I would argue that this is a missed opportunity. If I could speak directly to the Prime Minister, I would tell him that Canadians are ready, more than willing, and able to revisit our tragic history with first nations. He has missed the opportunity to do something innovative by continuing to push this bill forward that nobody wants.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I said earlier that I would see if there was consent, but I regret to inform the House that there is no unanimous consent to proceed with Bill C-34 today, so it will be referred to committee.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-221, an act to amend the Criminal Code (no parole when imprisoned for life), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

May 7th, 2004 / 1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-221.

Canadians cannot imagine how much I would rather be speaking today on a different subject, which would be to remind Canadians of the gross mismanagement, the patronage, the payoffs and, yes, the corruption within the current Liberal government. I would love to be speaking on that and the newest thing, of course, the health care crisis that the Prime Minister finds himself in. That would be a great subject for today.

However, we have Bill C-221, the private members' bill put forward by my colleague from Calgary Northeast, which if passed would certainly clear up the question in the minds of so many Canadians. Why is a life imprisonment sentence given to offenders of the most serious and heinous type of crime, when in fact under the Criminal Code and the provisions that were introduced by previous Liberal governments, the term life imprisonment does not really mean in any way, shape or form life imprisonment?

I have received numerous petitions, letters and calls over the last 10 and a half years from constituents of mine, asking the question, why is the term life imprisonment used in the handing down of sentences for first degree murders and others that would warrant a sentence like that? In fact, it means that they can in some cases apply for parole, I believe after 15 years and some after 20 years. In any case, after serving 25 years of a life sentence they could automatically become eligible for full parole.

There are many Canadians around the country who bring to mind such people as Clifford Olson who many years ago committed multiple murders of young people in British Columbia and was given a life sentence.

We appear to be constantly reminded of Clifford Olson and his crime through the threat that he is going to be able to apply for parole and get out of prison. Canadians could walk down the street in any community, whether it be a city or a small town in rural Canada, and ask the question of people that they met: Do they think that Clifford Olson or people like him who commit such horrible crimes in this country should ever get out of prison? The answer, I am sure all members would agree, would be an overwhelming no. They should never be let out of prison.

Yet, every few years we are reminded of the fact that there is a provision that Clifford Olson can apply. It keeps bringing back the horrible memories of the crimes he committed to the families of his victims. It is something that Canadians in a very large part would like to have dealt with in an absolute fashion.

Life imprisonment should in fact mean life imprisonment for crimes that would qualify or would deserve to have that type of sentence handed down, where the penalty fit the seriousness or the heinousness of the crime.

Members will know that Bill C-221 brought forward by my colleague from Calgary Northeast is not something that is just an idle thought. I am sure members of the House know very well that my colleague spent many years in the service of protecting Canadians as a member of the police force. He was exposed to the most horrible types of crimes.

In serving as a police officer he was able to, of course, follow the proceedings of people he had arrested for committing first degree murder crimes or something that would be deserving of the most serious penalty that our system would provide. He watched these people go through the system--the guilty verdicts and sentences being handed down of life imprisonment--only to find that within a 15 year period people were able to apply for parole and in many cases were granted parole.

This, I am sure, led my colleague to wonder why we even have the term “life imprisonment” in the Criminal Code for sentencing if in fact it does not really mean what it says. I know that most members of the House, in the last three Parliaments since I have been here, have received letters from Canadians, particularly following serious and heinous crimes. Canadians say that it is time for Parliament to make a statement that the justice system and the Criminal Code are going to take a very hard line stance on people who believe that it is okay to kill people in this country knowing that they will have a chance for parole after serving only a portion of their so-called life sentence.

In 1976 the Liberals crafted the legislation which made these provisions. It brought in section 745, now section 745.6, which is known as the faint hope clause in the Criminal Code. This section, as I said, allows offenders to have their parole ineligibility period reduced after serving only 15 years of a life sentence.

In response to the number of criminals that were being freed under section 745, now section 745.6, in 1996 the Liberals brought forward Bill C-45, which introduced some changes to that section of the Criminal Code. Under the provisions of that bill, convicted murderers were no longer entitled to an automatic section 745.6 hearing, but rather there was a screening process put in place. There was also a provision that just boggled the minds of most Canadians. It stated that a person who had committed first degree murder could apply for early parole if only one murder had been committed.

The Liberal government, back in 1996, made a distinction that if someone killed just one person and was convicted of first degree murder, then that individual had a chance of getting out, but if someone killed more than one person, that individual's chances were eliminated.

Therefore, by extending that line of thinking, one could only arrive at the conclusion that it was not quite so bad in the minds of members of the Liberal government to maliciously and viciously kill one person because the criminal could apply for parole and some of the provisions would kick in, but if two or more people were killed, then somehow that was bad. Canadians are confused enough by some of the Criminal Code provisions that were put in by the Liberal government.

In wrapping up, I would encourage all members of the House to support private member's Bill C-221 because we must bring back to this country truth in sentencing and, indeed, life imprisonment should and must mean life imprisonment.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Calgary. It is a necessary bill and one whose time has come.

I remember asking my colleague a question about the bill when he first debated it not too many weeks ago. He talked about life meaning life, as my colleague from Prince George just alluded to as well. It is necessary in a criminal justice system to send a message to those who are going to commit a crime such as murder, that if they are convicted to a life sentence, then that sentence should mean life.

Too many times we have run into cases in our ridings where individuals, family members, have been victimized by somebody else's cruel action toward a family member. They have lost not only that loved one but they also have to live with the pain and feelings that go along with that. They are often victimized a second time when the offender who took their loved one's life comes up for parole. They have to relive the whole event over again.

I have been to a number of parole board hearings on behalf of families who have asked me to attend. It is just shocking some of the processes that go on there. I am not sure that many people know exactly what happens in a parole board hearing.

At a parole board hearing the perpetrator of the crime gets to speak to the parole board, to give his or her story about the crime he or she committed. A victim impact statement is allowed to be read by the family but the family has no real ability to have an impact on how the parole board is going to rule on that decision. There is no cross-examination of the offender's comments or testimony at the parole board hearing.

It is often laughable to hear about some of the things that are said. The family members will tell what actually happened in the crime that was committed against their loved one and then to hear the story of the offender, it is often very different, skewed and untrue in many instances. As a result of this kind of process, often individuals who are able to obtain parole are released into the community, often into the same community where they committed the crime and where the family happens to be.

I remember one case where an individual contacted me. His father had been killed by an offender, a family member. The person who committed this terrible, awful and horrible crime had then threatened the other family member that when he got out he was going to come after him and do the same thing to him. The offender was in the same community.

The victim of the crime had lost his father, had been terrified by the other person in the family who had committed the crime. He was being told that this person was very likely to be released into the community under early parole. The family member ended up moving from the community. He was victimized by losing his father and then lived in fear that the individual was going to get out.

The individual was released into the community even though there had been a threat uttered against the victim. The victim ended up having to move from British Columbia to another province to get away from the perpetrator of the crime.

That kind of thing highlights a real problem in our system. My colleague's bill goes a long way to ensuring that victims of crime who have faced this kind of event in their lives will not again be victimized by the early release of someone who was convicted of a life sentence. Life should mean life.

I am sure we could all draw on many examples in our ridings that would highlight the need for this bill to go forward. It is not a difficult bill to understand. It is not long. It is not overly involved. It is very clear.

Other jurisdictions are asking for this kind of bill to be put in place, for these changes to be made to the Criminal Code. My colleague referred to the premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer. He is asking for this kind of change to the Criminal Code, where life means life.

It is for that reason that I would encourage my colleagues from all parties to support this common sense amendment to the Criminal Code. It would, in effect, have the impact of meaning that a life sentence would be a life sentence. The victims of crime would not be further victimized by individuals being released into the community. We would have an enhanced and safer criminal justice system in our country. That would be worthwhile.

We should support our colleague's bill. We should make sure this is something that happens, that the bill is passed into law before we leave this place for the upcoming election.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is taking note that no other member is rising. Under the right of reply, we will now give the floor to the hon. member under whose name the motion stands for a maximum of five minutes.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, again I feel privileged to speak to my private member's bill on this particular issue.

The bill, if passed, would ensure that those sentenced to life imprisonment would serve the remainder of their natural life behind bars. Too often, criminals convicted of heinous crimes are released onto our streets after serving only 10, 15 or 20 years, unless they are designated as dangerous offenders, and that really does not define the length of their sentences at all.

When I speak about 10 to 15 years served on a life sentence, we could look at first degree murderers, second degree murderers, maybe those who have committed hijackings or treason. Even acts of terrorism could come under parole eligibility after 25 years, if the courts and the government do not change the existing legislation.

Again I am going to refer to something that happened in my riding recently. This point was brought home to me again last Friday when I attended the parole hearing of Oskar Chan, who had murdered 18 year old Jonarhey Olivo back in 1994 in a drive-by shooting. The young fellow was just standing in front of the Marlborough Mall. Two rival gangs were at one another. He took a bullet in a drive-by shooting and was killed, and the only son of Regina Olivo was gone.

Chan was released on parole after serving his mandatory 10 years, and that was a life sentence for second degree murder. It was a very emotional time, I dare say, because even the mother of the youngster who was killed was not allowed to see the perpetrator, the accused, because he was kept behind a barrier. She was not allowed to look at him and look at his body language. Finally she did have an opportunity, after she gave her impact statement. It was a very emotional time. Ten years after the murder, Chan is now on the street, free to go about his business, while members of the Olivo family still suffer with that pain.

I do not think that is quite the way it should be. That is why, after a time, I brought this bill forward. It has been in the House before. I am not the only legislator who is calling for life to actually mean life in a life sentence. The Doer government in Manitoba, as my colleague from Dewdney--Alouette has mentioned, is asking Ottawa to get tougher on killers by making life sentences real life sentences. It is specifically pointing to the shootings of several police officers in the province of Manitoba. This was two years ago. It sees that there is a need to step down on that kind of offence, to indicate to those contemplating any kind of action, whether it is a deliberate action against a police officer as it was in Manitoba, or a retaliation shooting which would reflect first degree murder, that it is unacceptable. That deterrent is in the legislation.

A real life sentence would send a strong message to those in society who would commit such crimes, that they would spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The bill is about deterrence and about protection. It is about protection from those who otherwise would be released onto our streets to commit another criminal act.

I trust that the members in the House on all sides will lend their support to this bill. In so doing, we will send a strong message to criminals that there are serious consequences, consequences that are not too often used in the justice system, for taking the life of another person, the worst of which is life imprisonment.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?