Debates of Oct. 20th, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vehicle.
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The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
October 20th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
Before the House had its break for question period and statements by members, the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla had just finished his speech. There remain five minutes for questions and comments consequent on his address. Questions and comments.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for North Vancouver.
Don Bell North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, street racing is a matter of serious concern in my riding of North Vancouver, as I am sure it is in all areas of Canada. This is why I gladly support Bill C-65 as a logical step by this government toward the goal of the much respected, late member of this House, Chuck Cadman, and his proposed private member' bill, Bill C-230.
Bill C-65 will now provide a clear, express direction for the courts to conclude that street racing, if found to be a factor in the commission of the offence, is to be an aggravating factor.
The Criminal Code does not have many factors listed as expressly being aggravating circumstances. Therefore, the addition of street racing will certainly be noted by the judiciary.
Bill C-65 also goes further than Mr. Cadman's proposed bill, by extending the possible maximum driving prohibition from three years to a possible maximum lifetime prohibition.
Street racing is an area that I know we have many examples of in my riding and in adjoining ridings where lives have been lost as a result of street racing. Therefore, it is important that this House shows its concern, through the passage of Bill C-65, to the people of Canada that this is an offence that must be dealt with seriously.
I know that this bill does not propose minimum mandatory sentencing. Minimum mandatory sentencing is something that I have supported in this House, both in my statements and in my votes on previous motions and bills. However, I believe that Bill C-65 is worthy of support at this time because it indicates the very serious nature of which this House holds street racing. As I have said earlier, it sends a very clear message to the judiciary to treat this as an aggravating factor and extends the maximum prohibition.
Many families have suffered lost ones as a result of street racing. It is something that puts at risk the lives of people and communities, as it has in my riding. It is something that this House, I believe, needs to show support for as being not acceptable behaviour in Canada.
Therefore, I would ask the members of this House to support Bill C-65.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, it has been quite a while since I had the opportunity to rise in the House and speak to certain issues. I am very pleased to do it in respect for one of the finest men that I have had the opportunity to meet in Canada since I came to this place, and that is Mr. Chuck Cadman whom I met in 1993 when I was first elected.
At that time, Mr. Cadman was very active with various victim groups throughout the country. The organization was called CRY at that time in the British Columbia area. I was very pleased to see him arrive in Ottawa as a member of the House to work on justice issues because I knew where he was coming from and it was on behalf of victims of crime.
I am also very pleased to have listened to various members of my party who have risen and spoken to this issue. In particular, I think of the member for Fundy—Royal, Regina—Qu'Appelle, Palliser, Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, and Kildonan—St. Paul. I believe the member for Kildonan—St. Paul is the mother of a police officer. I want to commend every one of these members because they are speaking from the heart and strongly in favour of victims' needs and rights. That is something that has been lacking from the federal Liberal government for a long time.
I recall talking to Mr. Cadman on first arriving here about the rights of victims and how they seemed to be so blatantly ignored, while the rights of criminals were exaggerated in so many ways. At that time, I shared with him the story of a death of a five year old girl in the Calgary region who was murdered by an individual whom was later captured. He kidnapped her out of her backyard, assaulted her, cut her throat, and threw her in the garbage. It is the sickest story one could ever hear.
It had a major impact on her family members, but the one who received all the attention and had all his legal process paid for was the criminal. He received all the psychology, all the treatments by psychiatrists, and all the benefits afforded to him by the taxpayers of Canada to ensure he was treated fairly. Yet the siblings and members of the family of the five year old girl never received a penny toward any kind of assistance. That entire family received a life sentence because of this tragedy, yet the individual who committed the crime will be eligible for parole in the very near future and be back on the streets.
This did not make sense and it was not making sense to Mr. Cadman. When we talked about various issues, and I know that street racing was one of the latest ones, he was trying to put an emphasis in the hearts of the people in this place on the importance of addressing the will of the victims, the need to go all out with all strength, to put a stop to a very dangerous activity, and in order to do that, it required severe penalties and serious deterrent sentencing. What has been proposed in Bill C-65 has dishonoured Mr. Cadman's memory, by moving forward with this watered down version of what I know Mr. Cadman was fighting so hard to achieve, not only on this bill but on a number of other bills.
We sat side by side in the justice committee for a long time on many issues. I remember the conversation we had one day regarding some individuals who were sent to jail. These individuals were handcuffed, put in leg irons, taken out of court in front of their families and went directly to jail. Does anyone know what the crime was? These were farmers who had taken a bit of grain across the border without a Wheat Board permit. They were going to be made an example of. This government and its legislation sent those vicious farmers to the penitentiary.
Mr. Cadman would ask, “Good grief, what is going on?”. At the same time, this government, as we heard today in question period, was leaning toward sentencing people who abused, attacked or assaulted children to house arrest or community service. I think what Mr. Cadman wanted more than anything else was that the punishment of any kind of crime in this country should fit the crime that was committed. There should be a matchup.
To send farmers to jail at that time was mind-boggling to all of us, as to why this severe action had to be taken when we were putting other criminals who were violent and dangerous to society on the streets, under house arrest, or doing community service. Today we are still mind-boggled by this Liberal government when we constantly see in courts across the land, such as a person being convicted of 15 counts of fraud, virtually stealing $1.5 million and being sentenced to house arrest, I think he has to be home by 9 o'clock, and having to teach business ethics in certain schools across the land.
Can anyone imagine? That is a very lenient sentence. Yet those farmers who took the dab of grain across the border, which they owned and should have a right to move and sell as they see fit, went directly to jail because they did not obey the law. Can anyone tell me where any of that makes one bit of sense?
In 1994 Mr. Cadman was involved with these victims groups very strongly. I remember a very strong lady. I cannot recall whether it was 1994 or early 1995, but it was in those early years. Priscilla de Villiers was the president of this victims association. The numbers were growing by the thousands and that organization under her directorship brought over 2.5 million signatures on a petition to this place. I know you, Mr. Speaker, will remember the day that petition was brought to this place demanding that the House and the government get serious about crime in this country and do something about it.
It is now 10 years or 11 years later. Let me assure everyone that all the victims who belonged to this and other organizations across this country have worked very hard to achieve some good law and order, some good sense that would truly bring justice to this land. This government has ignored those 2.5 million signatures just as sure as the day is long and it continues to ignore the crime petitions from victims all across the country who send them to every member of the House as we table them.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why any Canadian would continue to have a group of people in charge of this government who do not recognize that victims mean a heck of a whole lot more than the criminals who perpetrate crime.
We have to start recognizing the seriousness of those crimes and the effect that they are having on our children. We have to start addressing them in the manner that Mr. Cadman wanted to do with the street racing bill. Instead the Liberals continue to water everything down, making everything so soft while the victims are growing in numbers.
Do members believe we would have victims' organizations if we were doing our job in this place? I think they would not be there. We have to start doing our job.
Mark Warawa Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Wild Rose, Alberta. He has been an example to all of us in the House of Commons. He has stood up for justice and victims' rights. I see the same passion in the member as we saw in Chuck Cadman, a passion to see justice and appropriate sentencing. That is what he is expressing this afternoon. I thank him for representing his constituents and for standing for the same values that Chuck stood for and speaking eloquently.
The previous speaker, representing the Liberal perspective, felt that the Liberals had made Chuck's bill even stronger. Chuck's bill had a very important component and that was to have increased sentencing for repeat offenders. I agree with that philosophy.
Does my colleague from Wild Rose believe that the watered down Liberal bill will make Chuck's bill even stronger by removing the consequences for repeat offenders? I believe it water it down and totally changes what Chuck wanted.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. This is one of the major components of the bill, which shows that it has been weakened and watered down. It is not what Chuck Cadman was after. We all know what he was trying to seek and that important part that has been left out.
There is something really strange about the justice minister and the ones before him. They put emphasis on certain things that never seem to have an impact on crime. The minister today constantly refers to minimum mandatory sentences as being something he favours, but his studies show it does not work. I do not understand that kind of comment. They can find all kinds of studies to show different effects of different decisions. What I would like to see is somebody in charge of the criminal justice system who not only has the fortitude but who has the heart to start doing what is right for our country. This place has been lacking the heart and the willingness to stand for victims and do what it right from that side of the House.
I virtually am sick and tired of hearing over and over again that they must ensure this passes the charter test, lest the criminal be offended. It is not about a charter test. It is about doing the right thing for the people in our country. Just for once, let us start doing the right thing.
Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL
Mr. Speaker, anytime we listen to the member for Wild Rose and his concerns about the justice system, we learn a lot.
Yesterday, representatives from the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving visited me. One of their major concerns, as the member expressed, is the lack of attention being paid to people who go on our streets under the influence, cause accidents, quite often resulting in death and there are absolutely no deterrents. Quite often the courts slap them on the wrists. Police chiefs have talked about the work that they do, the investigative time and effort and the paperwork to get people into court and they get a slap on the wrist.
Could the member tell us if our justice system is completely out of control? Are we turning over our cities to the criminals? If not, then something is wrong out there.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, the member's last statement was right on. There is something wrong out there.
The Liberal government soft peddles on crime and has a mushy attitude toward it. One guy committed 15 counts of fraud. His sentence involved teaching business ethics in college and being home by 9 o'clock at night. Those kinds of sentences reflect on the philosophy and the beliefs of the Liberal Party. Those members are in charge. The courts continue to reflect Liberal philosophy on dealing with crime.
That is not what the people of Canada desire. They want us to quit soft peddling around with criminal issues and start going after the real problem. The problem starts over on that side of the House. Those members do not have the courage to do what is right because they are afraid they might offend somebody under the Charter of Rights or whatever it might be. They have to start doing the right thing.
Training convicts in prisons to be good gang members is sick, and that goes on today. What kind of prison system is that? What kind of prison system would release convicts onto the streets, knowing they have been well trained by Hells Angels or other gangs in the penitentiaries? We allow that kind of thing to go on in our prisons. We have to stop this nonsense.
The member is absolutely right. There is something dreadfully wrong, and that is the wrong people are in charge of the country and that has to change.
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to debate this issue today. It certainly is timely in my case.
The distinguished member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl a minute ago referred to the crime situation as a run away rampant situation in cities. I represent an entirely rural riding in Nova Scotia. We have seen an incredible increase in vandalism, minor crimes, repeat offences, issues that make people's lives miserable. It prevents them from enjoying their own properties, and they feel insecure in their homes. I feel this.
I have been here for quite a while. I did not feel this until just within the last two years. It is coming to my riding and if it is there, it is everywhere.
However, I want to speak to Bill C-65 today and acknowledge the contribution that Chuck Cadman made on these issues. He had several issues of which he was a tireless supporter, always in the interest of other people's security and safety. He brought this concept to the House through two bills, Bill C-338 and Bill C-230. One was on misidentification of VIN numbers on vehicles a crime and the other was on street racing. At the time the Liberals opposed these bills, making all kinds of statements about them. They blew them away and said they were not appropriate.
I have a quote from the minister of justice at the time, Martin Cauchon, who in speaking to Mr. Cadman said:
Your proposed bill would result in a mandatory driving prohibition....As you are aware, the Canadian criminal justice system is premised on the notion that sentences should be individualized for each offender... Research indicates that mandatory minimum penalties do not work from the point of general deterrence and recidivism.
That is exactly what we need. The other part that has been watered down in Bill C-65, as compared to Chuck's bill, is the penalty for repeat offenders.
In a recent incident in Halifax, a young woman was killed and the driver of the car had something like 15 or 20 outstanding offences. Despite repeated offences, he still drove and he was the cause of a fatal accident. It has had a profound impact on the community. Bills like those proposed by Chuck Cadman, not like this one, would have helped prevent that.
I want to go into other issues that affect my riding in northern Nova Scotia. As I mentioned, we have seen an increase in criminal activity such as theft, vandalism, damage, cars stolen and break-ins. I want to go through three little communities in my riding that have experienced virtual crime waves for the first time in their history.
I went to a meeting in a community hall in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia about a month ago, and 80 people attended. I could not believe the stories of vandalism, theft and break-ins. I could not believe the number of people who now were scared to stay in their own homes. I also could not believe the fact that they would call the police and there was no response. Most of these people know many of the criminals and they are already on the list of offenders. However, because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, they are repeat offenders and the police have very few tools to rein in these criminals.
Stewiacke has a lack of RCMP officers now, although they used to be present. I then found out their building had been shut down because of a mould problem and nobody had done anything to resurrect the building so Stewiacke lost its RCMP presence. I raised it in the House and as a result of that, a temporary building is under construction now. Now Stewiacke will have a building and hopefully an RCMP presence to deal with these issues.
The Liberals seem to be turning the other way on all these criminal justice issues.They do not seem to be interested. It is puzzling to us why they do not care and why they allow these issues to go on and on.
Earlier this year we had an issue in Truro. It was rumoured that the northeast drug section, the most successful drug enforcement operation in the region, was to be shut down. We raised the issue in the House and I think we slowed it down and perhaps stopped the elimination of the drug enforcement section. However because the RCMP officers have been moved around it is hard to tell whether they are there or not. However senior RCMP officials have told us that they do not have the number of officers they need to provide the minimum level of law enforcement in Nova Scotia.
The other thing that came out was that when they do have a number of officers and one goes on maternity leave or sick leave, there is no allowance for the replacement of those officers. Therefore, even though they can show an allotment of officers on duty and available, they are not really there. This is another issue we raised in the House and hopefully the Solicitor General or the Attorney General will deal with this.
Another small community in my riding is Debert. We have had all kinds of vandalism there. People are afraid to go out on the streets. They are afraid for their homes and businesses because of the buildings that have been burned. They are afraid of property damage. They are afraid of threats and intimidation. The RCMP came back and reported to us that they do not have enough manpower to have the RCMP presence there to deal with these issues. They tell us that they do not have the types of vehicles they need to apprehend the criminals. They tell us that they just do not have the equipment or the people.
This is not just about street racing. It is a whole attitude on behalf of the Liberals, and I do not understand it. They are looking the other way. They do not care about these issues which are going to grow and grow, as street racing is in my riding, and then soon, hopefully, they will deal with the issues. However if they do not, we will.
Street racing is a growing issue and it is right across the country but it is not just about street racing. It is the lack of RCMP officers and the support they have. The government does not give them the support or the resources they need to hire replacement officers and new officers when they are needed. They do not have the money for the proper facilities. Stewiacke has a perfectly good building but it is empty because it cannot be maintained. People in Stewiacke are demanding that the Youth Criminal Justice Act be strengthened and that stiffer sentences for repeat offenders be applied.
This is exactly where the bill falls flat. It does not allow for stiffer sentences for repeat offenders and that is the single biggest reason why I will not be supporting the bill.
Yesterday almost all of our questions were on justice issues. It was amazing to hear the number of issues that come up around the country. We represent the whole country and everybody is experiencing these problems. We heard no answers and there was no indication that the Liberals want to deal with these issues. They are turning a blind eye to this issue and it will come back to haunt us all if we do not address it.
The RCMP needs the tools to work with. The justice system needs the tools to work with. The youth justice system needs to be strengthened. Certain crimes need mandatory sentences, as we have advocated for years. This is not just about one or two little issues. This is a whole attitude toward justice and it must be increased and strengthened.
Rob Moore Fundy, NB
Mr. Speaker, I was particularly interested in my hon. colleague's comments about his rural riding. I have a similar riding in Fundy Royal, New Brunswick, that has many small towns and villages. I hear a lot of the same complaints that he raised about a fear people have in their own homes, which is absolutely unacceptable. I also hear about RCMP detachments that have, for example, six members but only one is on duty because of one circumstance or another. However if that officer should run into, for example, a domestic dispute, he or she will need the next available officer for backup, who is over an hour away, before he or she will even enter a premise to help out if someone is in need.
We did talk a lot recently about justice issues. We are dealing with this bill right now. Who is being served by the Liberal approach to the criminal justice program? To me, there seems to be a distinct lack of compassion. Where is the compassion? My hon. colleague mentioned the young woman who was killed by someone who had 15 to 20 prior offences. Where is the compassion for the victims? Where is the compassion for the families of victims and the compassion for Canadians, in particular, seniors, who fear being alone in their homes?
I am wondering if my hon. colleague can comment on who is being served by this approach to crime.
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, the member for Fundy Royal and I do have similar type ridings. They are both rural ridings that are very involved with agriculture and dairy farming.
In the towns in my riding, most people leave the keys in their cars. They do not even lock their doors, or they did not until recently, but this is now changing. People are afraid for their lives, their security and their cars. They are especially afraid for their wharves.
I was first elected in 1988 and I have been here off and on since 1988. I was defeated in 1993 and I came back in 1997. However I have never seen the workload in our office as we have now with respect to criminal justice issues.
The member mentioned that the RCMP in one of his communities has six officers but only one is available. When they closed the RCMP office in Stewiacke and did not bother to open it, the people had to call Tim Horton's to get an RCMP officer because the RCMP office was closed.
Some hon. members
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
It is a true story.
The question is, who is being served by the Liberals' attitude? Criminals are being served by the Liberals' attitude while the innocent are the victims of the Liberal attitude.
Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley raised a very important point.
We only have to look at the overall security of the country and the lack of willingness by the government to deal with it. We only have to look at the contracts that a lot of municipalities and small towns have signed with the federal government, or directly with the RCMP, for RCMP coverage. The RCMP puts 10 or 12 officers in a detachment but if two of those officers are sick or injured and not able to report for duty, the government does not see any reason to fulfil its contract by bringing two other officers in. Actually, the municipality or town pays for 12 officers but only receives the attention of 10 or 8 officers some of the time.
Would the hon. member care to comment on that?
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, as luck would have it, I would care to comment on that. I have run into that exact problem, as I am sure the member and other members have. When the RCMP officers are out on maternity leave or sick leave, they are not replaced, so even though everybody thinks there are six officers, there may only be two. It is one of the biggest problems they have as far as maintaining a level of operations.
One thing the government should do right now to make it nice and simple is to change the policy. If an RCMP officer is out sick, he or she should be replaced. The level of service should be maintained.
I know that in Nova Scotia, officers are seconded. If there is a need somewhere else, an officer is pulled out of one branch and taken to another without the original community being advised. That community may not even have any protection while all the time everyone in the community thinks they do have RCMP protection.