House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was dangerous.

Topics

Norman Spector
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, that individual does not speak for the government. If he speaks for anybody, he is doing it for himself, and that is all.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

October 31st, 2006 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, today during question period the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration misled the House when he talked about my new-found interest on the issue of undocumented workers.

I have been working on the issue for a very long time. Had he listened during question period and certainly during routine proceedings, he would know that many petitions have been presented in the House, dealing with the issue of undocumented workers.

Clearly, the minister is not paying attention to petitions, which I and many people are presenting in the House, and he obviously does not care about the issue of undocumented workers. I am very sorry for his misleading the House. He should apologize to me and also to my constituents.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Rather than a point of order, it sounds like a matter for debate. We do have these kinds of suggestions made in the House from time to time on either side. Therefore, I will treat the hon. member's point of order as having made his point in the debate, which no doubt will be ongoing.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the House was last considering this matter, the hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development had the floor. There are 17 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call on the hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development who I believe will want to resume his remarks.

We will have a little order, please.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I did not appreciate how unruly the House is after question period. I am sure it is a continuing challenge.

Before I adjourned in preparation for question period, we were discussing this particular legislation, the dangerous offender legislation, Bill C-27. I had taken some exception to the comments of members from the New Democratic Party that had referred in their speeches to this being a matter of cooperation or a matter of the health of communities.

The NDP takes umbrage with Bill C-27. I was simply saying before we adjourned that the purpose of this legislation is to deal with the safety of our streets, the safety of women and children in our society, and the treatment of people who are dangerous sexual predators. For the life of me, I am not sure what the NDP is talking about with respect to this.

This legislation is extremely important. It results from a need to follow up upon a previous decision of the Supreme Court, Regina v. Johnson. That case made it very difficult in the minds of some, almost impossible for the police and crown prosecutors to actually secure dangerous offender designations against dangerous sexual predators. The consequences were very clear and the empirical evidence supports the fact that there were fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions. I do not think it is difficult to extrapolate to say, as a result more sexual predators left on the streets.

Certainly, it is an issue in Calgary that I have talked with city police about. I am well aware of the issues that they have undertaken to use scarce policing resources to manage people on the streets who are incorrigible sexual predators and dangerous offenders.

The legislation itself follows up as an amendment to section 753 of the Criminal Code. Canadians need to appreciate, as other parties in the House seek to protect dangerous offenders, the kinds of individuals that we are talking about. If individuals were to make a passing reference to section 753 of the Criminal Code, they would see that we are talking about people who constitute a threat to the life, the safety or the physical or mental well-being of other Canadians.

We are talking about people who show a failure to restrain their behaviour with a likelihood of causing death or injury to other persons or inflict severe psychological damage on other persons. We are speaking about individuals who show a substantial degree of indifference on their part in respect of the foreseeable consequences of their action and the effect of that action on other people.

Frankly, we are speaking about people whose conduct is of such a brutal nature as to compel the conclusion that the offender's behaviour in the future is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint.

Simply stated, we are dealing with dangerous offenders, with the most dangerous criminal predatory elements in our society. What the Minister of Justice is attempting to do with this bill is to escape from the logic of the previous court decision which essentially said that the only way these people could be incarcerated as dangerous offenders was if the Crown and the police were able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that these people could not be on the streets.

That is an unfair test. We have heard much in the House about the necessity for balance. Clearly, that kind of a situation lacks any sort of balance at all. I speak on this because I feel very strongly about it. The existing law in this country does not provide the degree of protection that is required for women and children on the streets of our cities and communities.

It is high time that Parliament did something about it. This is not the first attempt either. In 1995 and 1997 there were unsuccessful attempts to tighten up the dangerous offender provisions of the legislation.

One of the issues is whether or not this particular legislation, and in particular the provision that relates to offenders who have two previous convictions, is balanced and whether it respects the Constitution.

I would like to refer the House to the actual legislation, Bill C-27, which is before us and specifically the amendment to section 753, which states:

If the court is satisfied that the offence for which the offender is convicted is a primary designated offence for which it would be appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more...the conditions in [section 753]...are presumed to have been met unless the contrary is proved on a balance of probabilities.

Therefore, the discretion on the part of the judiciary remains. It still has to assess the evidence. It still has to examine the circumstances of the case and it still has to decide on the balance of probabilities. However, the constitutional jurisdiction or discretion on the part of the court remains. This legislation therefore has the necessary balance between these presumptive provisions and the ability of the court to make its determination based on the evidence.

It carries on and specifically defines a limitation in proposed subsection (1.2), where it says:

Despite subsection (1), the court shall not find the offender to be a dangerous offender if it is satisfied by the evidence adduced during the hearing of an application...would adequately protect the public.

So there is a limitation in this legislation that allows for the court to assess the evidence, weigh the evidence, and make the determination which the court is required to do.

In the time available, I will not speak about Correctional Service Canada and the National Parole Board, and the power they have to extend an offender's stay in custody past a conditional and, in certain circumstances, past the statutory release date. For certain groups of offenders, typically those with two or more violent offences, a dangerous or a long term offender designation may be imposed during the sentencing process.

Dangerous and long term offender designations are set by the court after an application by a crown attorney at the time of sentencing. A designation can be given as a result of a single act of brutality or a number of offences. This legislation allows for such applications to be conducted in a reasonable way, based on the evidence that is before the court.

The nature of the offence that we are speaking of would be a serious personal injury offence as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code. I would implore other members of the House from other parties who have not yet decided whether they support this legislation, and who should, to look at section 752 and look at the list of criminal offences of which we are speaking.

I reiterate my point that these are the most dangerous offenders in our society. They include indictable offences such as first degree murder involving the use or attempted use of violence, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person.

These offenders represent a continuing serious threat to life in our society, to the safety, physical and mental well-being of other individuals. Surely, the first obligation of Parliament, the first obligation of this hallowed chamber, is to ensure that we have sufficient protection for women and children from these kinds of people who are on our streets, sadly, in our cities.

The amendments in Bill C-27 would strengthen the dangerous and long term offender provisions to ensure that violent and/or sexual criminals would receive some of the toughest sanctions in the Criminal Code.

There are those in this House who say that this is unwarranted. I ask them to stand in this House, to face the Canadian public who are justifiably concerned about this, whether we be parents, whether we be husbands who are very concerned about this, and say that they are prepared to mollycoddle violent and sexual criminals who are a threat to vulnerable people in our society. That is essentially what they are proposing.

Designation as a dangerous offender means that the offender must serve an indeterminate sentence with no entitlement to statutory release. It also means that offenders can be detained in a correctional facility for an indefinite period if they have a history of serious or violent offences and pose a safety threat to the public. That is the way it should be.

The legislation will ensure that the judicial responsibility to weigh the evidence carries on, that we have a balanced and fair trial process with respect to these people, and that the designation of a person as a dangerous offender will be conducted in a way that accords with the Canadian charter. However, at the end of the day, those who are the most serious risks to the health and the safety of women and children in our society will be incarcerated in circumstances where they should be.

Like other offenders, dangerous offenders may apply for conditional release. However, they may only do so after serving seven years of their sentence. A conditional release will be granted only if it is determined by the National Parole Board that the offenders can be safely reintegrated into the community and if released, these offenders are monitored in the same way as other parolees who are under supervision for life.

Again, the chances of a dangerous offender achieving conditional release are very low because of the nature of the individuals about whom we are speaking and the fact that this type of behaviour is incorrigible and is not readily changed. It is fair to say that many of these individuals who are dangerous offenders end up spending much of the rest of their lives behind bars.

The reason that this legislation is warranted goes back to a previous court case and to previous attempts to remedy this defect in the Criminal Code. It is quite clear that over time, if one looks at the evidence, the dangerous offender applications and the convictions have decreased as a result of previous judicial decisions. That makes it difficult to secure prosecutions successfully. If one talks to crown prosecutors and the police, they will say this.

The effect of this legislation, which is put forward by the Minister of Justice, including the third strike presumption, is reasonable. If one has been previously convicted of two such incidents that are dangerous offender designations, there is no reason why there should not be a presumption and a shift of an onus in terms of the third such conviction that is brought before the court. Surely, that is a minimum requirement that Parliament should impose to keep our streets safe and the security of our women and children tight.

Those are the submissions I would make with respect to Bill C-27. I am pleased to answer any questions.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin today by talking a bit about the theory of criminal justice and how we get tough on crime, which is the slogan often used by those across the way.

We cannot get tough on crime without being smart on crime and that means not just descending into slogans, such as “getting tough on crime”, “war on crime” and “three strikes you're out”. We know where that rhetoric comes from and we know that it is based on false analysis. It is based on ideology and sloganism, not on criminological research, social research or demographics which all gives serious concern to knee-jerk, superficial stoking of the fears in society about a situation that may not exist. That is done for purposes that are ideological and polemical and they carry a real danger of being self-fulfilling.

I would like to take a few minutes to speak about how being tough on crime means being smart on crime first.

Let us just take the 12 bills dealing with criminal justice that are before this House and the one that is before the other place. The official opposition has offered this week to cooperate and fast track eight out of the eleven of those bills, and I will speak to the other two in a moment, but that is in no way doing anything but making this place work with sensible dialogue and debate over how to, without holding up any of these bills, ensure they are not more dangerous than what we are to believe they are to protect us against.

We have offered to fast track Bill C-9, the conditional sentencing bill. It has had serious debate and an appropriate amendment was moved by opposition parties so it can now go ahead. We will give it all the speed it needs.

We will fast track Bill C-18, the DNA identification act; Bill C-19, street racing; Bill C-23, criminal procedure improvements; and Bill C-26, payday loans. I would pause to say that five out of the six bills that I have just mentioned were actually initiated under the previous Liberal government. They will go forward with our support and with sensible amendments where necessary. We will fast track two other bills.

We opposed the judicial salaries bill because we opposed the suggestion by the government that it disregard the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission which recommended appropriate increases for judges' salaries over the last four year period. While we opposed that, we allowed it to pass on division so there would be no slowing up of that process.

The 13th bill is Bill S-3, the military sex offender act, which is now before the other place. We will be supporting that bill and are willing to fast track it in every way we can.

In the context of discussing the dangerous offender legislation, it is important to underline the cooperation that is going on in the House to identify what is important, to carry on work that was done by the previous government and to get some of these things moved ahead.

However, Bill C-27 is of a different order. The dangerous offender legislation before us has some major flaws that I will speak about but I would first say that we need a reality check. Let us take a reality check first on the criminal conviction statistics in Canada which have been steadily coming down over the last 10 to 15 years. That is what the research tells us. The demographics themselves in society are leading through analysis to that decline in the crime rate. While we may raise the fears of the public to justify simplistic solutions through sloganeering and superficial claims to put fear in the hearts of Canadians, the crime rate comes down.

Let us take another reality check on the situation in the U.S. where these slogans come from and much of this legislation seems to be patterned after. The United States has the highest crime rates and incarceration rates. It also has the most dangerous communities and the most expensive criminal justice system.

If we are to follow any model in the world when we amend our criminal justice statutes, we certainly do not want to follow the so-called war on crime in the United States.

Let me pause to mention that the state of California spends more on criminal justice and corrections than it spends on education. That should be very edifying to all of us.

Let me give another example about the folly of pretending that just by putting people in jail on very restrictive terms without any adjustment for the context of a particular case can be more dangerous for society. Most convicted people, dangerous or not, will get out. We have the Bernardos and some of the most horrid criminals in our country's history who will be behind bars, blessedly, forever, but most criminals will get out.

Let us think of those people who go into a prison situation, which members opposite would like to see everyone go into. It is a bit of an irony to consider that prison life, if that is what we can call it, prison for life, is the place in society which should be the most protected but is in fact the place where one is most likely to be assaulted, raped, infected and injected, and these people will come out.

Therefore, we need to take particular care for the correctional services, the proper services within them and who we put behind bars and for how long.

Let me speak about the fact that 25% of the prison population in this country is made up of aboriginal people. This is a stunning statistic of despair. Can this be the result of a fair criminal justice system or is this a result of despair in aboriginal communities? Is it part of the despair of our prevention system and our criminal justice system of preventative crime? Is it a matter of racism in society? What is happening?

These are the underpinning questions that we must be asking ourselves in the House as we respond to the reality of the criminal justice system. This is 1% of the population and 25% of the prison population.

Let us ensure that when people do come out of prison, if they are going to be spending time there, that they have been rehabilitated and they are safe to society because the vast majority will come out.

We will not ensure that the context of the situation is properly taken into account in peculiar circumstances unless police officers, prosecutors, judges, correctional officers and parole officers have the discretion to identify where the dangers are and where someone may have a better response to a criminal justice sanction than simply putting someone in jail for an indefinite period.

Turning to Bill C-27, the dangerous offender legislation, the member opposite has mentioned that there is dangerous offender legislation on the books now and it is operating. It operates as a companion with long term offender legislation which can kick in. Prosecutors have the discretion to bring forward at sentencing applications before a judge for a long term offender or a dangerous offender designation. That works. It has been covered by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Lyons and Johnson cases in 1997 and 2002. It has been found to be constitutionally appropriate. I would suggest that it is working because it allows for all the proper discretions to be exercised.

The problem with what is being suggested in Bill C-27, and it has been referred to by numerous members of the House, is the reverse onus provision at sentencing after a third conviction of a certain type of very serious crime.

We have heard some people say that this offends the presumption of innocence, which is an historical criminal law principle in our legal system. However, the trouble is not with the presumption of innocence, which is subsection 11(d) of the charter. The question is about the reverse onus of the burden. This is not a conviction matter. It is not a presumption of innocence because the person has already been convicted for the third time.

What we are talking about is whether fundamental justice, in reversing the onus on such an extraordinary punishment, can meet the tests under section 7 of the charter for fundamental justice. There is strong authority that this simply cannot be done. This does not meet the tests of fundamental justice. It involves, for instance, the convicted person proving a negative into the future. Yes, it is on the balance of probabilities and, yes, as the member opposite said, there is judicial discretion to determine whether that onus is met or not, but there is still a reverse onus and, in many cases, it is an impossible burden to attempt to prove a negative into the future.

It is also a problem because it offends section 7 as being against the principles of fundamental justice and it is a problem under section 1 as to whether this is a justifiable limit on the rights under the charter. Is it a substantive need? Is it a rational connection? Is there minimal impairment? I would say that under all those cases this reverse onus does not meet the test. This is highly constitutionally suspect. Why, when we have a provision that is working well, would we want to throw ourselves into very likely years of constitutional charter litigation when we have charter compliant provisions now for dangerous and long term offenders?

We also have a problem that this will not be enforceable. This is ultra vires of the federal government to tell the provincial governments, which are responsible for the administration of criminal justice, who they should prosecute and what sentences they should ask for. That simply cannot be supported in our constitutional division of powers and, therefore, it is inappropriate for the government to put this forward.

There are also dangerous unintended consequences that could come to the fore here. We have long delays in our criminal justice system today. A report in the paper last week showed that in the province of Ontario 100,000 charges have gone beyond the nine months before they actually go to trial. This is bouncing very perilously close up against the Supreme Court of Canada Askov decision where all members will remember with regret that 30,000 criminal cases were dismissed because it took too long for people to get to trial.

If people are facing this so-called simplistic, superficial three strikes and they are out law, which has been so disastrously unsuccessful and dangerous in the United States, they will insist on going to trial more often. There will be less guilty pleas which will cause further delays in the courts and perhaps more cases will be thrown out because of charter violations.

The one side of it is that there will be more trials, longer delays and more costs to the prison system. I have not even begun to talk about the hundreds of millions of dollars in capital costs that will be required to build the prisons that will hold these long term offenders.

Costs will be going up, delays will be longer and cases will be thrown out for charter violations because of delay. The other dynamic that may happen and where prosecutors, with long dockets and not wanting to have further delays in trials, may charge people with lesser offences than would otherwise justify a conviction for a more serious case that may give them a longer prison term, or the convicted person may plea bargain to a lesser offence.

Both of those dynamics are more likely to put dangerous people on the streets and put in danger the men and women the member opposite was just speaking about. We have to be very careful when we tinker with these laws, especially if we are doing it superficially and against the evidence of criminologists and social scientists as to what is effective and what is not.

Let us turn for a moment to what being tough on crime by being smart on crime really means. It means a national crime prevention strategy, such as the one the previous government put into place across this country over a period of 13 years, funded in a very targeted way, to help kids have things to do after school. If I may indulge myself in a short phrase, it is about shooting hoops, not drugs. There are sports programs across this country in the evening and even far into the night where kids who otherwise would have been getting in trouble are involved in healthy activity.

We have to watch for issues of poverty and cultural exclusion.

We have to look at the issue of legal aid, which is in underfunded disrepair across this country, thus involving people in perhaps building up criminal records when they should have been having trials and pleading not guilty. They are pleading guilty because they cannot defend themselves in the courts without assistance.

We have to look at issues of homelessness. We have to look at issues of mental illness. The Kirby-Keon Senate report was an extraordinary statement of sound thinking about how to deal with those with mental illnesses, who unfortunately fall into the ranks of the homeless as well as the ranks of the criminal justice system, which is the worst place for them to be. We have to rethink this and meet our social contract around the concept of deinstitutionalization, whereby governments emptied the mental hospitals but then did not provide services in the community to support people.

We have to look at drug courts. They are operating in Toronto and Vancouver and in numerous American states. That is one example of where the American criminal justice system has actually been a stunning success at diverting people out of the criminal system if they will go into detox and treatment.

We have to look at issues of harm reduction. Drugs, addiction and substance abuse are great parts of the despair that leads people into the criminal justice system. Harm reduction, of course, involves needle exchanges and safe injection sites, which the government has failed to guarantee would be extended in Vancouver, when it has been an example for literally the world to consider the effectiveness of harm reduction in that situation, to help motivate people into detox.

We need shelters for them. We need transitional housing. We need skills training. We need affordable housing. We need jobs. In fact, the social enterprise initiatives of the last Liberal government, which were ready to go across this country, certainly in my province of British Columbia, were cancelled by the current government in its last budget. Those are the things that can assist people to not fall into crime and into despair, which leads them to become dangerous for other members of society.

What are we going to do instead? We are going to dismantle the gun registry. It is amazing that any thought could be given to that at this stage after the tragedy at Dawson College in Montreal.

We have a Prime Minister who will not go to an international AIDS conference in Toronto. We have a Prime Minister who did not go to a world conference on harm reduction in Vancouver last April.

We are simply looking in the wrong direction. We have to be tough on crime, I agree with all members opposite, but we are going to be tough on crime by being smart on crime and not by being simply superficial and using slogans.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, a member opposite has mentioned that I am a little slow getting out of my chair--

Criminal Code
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3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

He's old.

Criminal Code
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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Yes, I am getting old, Mr. Speaker. There are only five MPs in this House who are older than I am, so I will take my time getting up.

The member opposite, speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, misses a whole bunch of points. One thing he said, to which I took great offence, was that he mentioned that our party just wants all of them to go to jail. This is not accurate. It is a downright misrepresentation. I will tell him personally and all who are in the House and anybody else who will listen that I think the saddest thing in the world is for people to get into in crime and end up wasting their lives in jail. That is absolutely true.

There is a maximum security institution in my riding. I visited it a number of times even before the boundary changes put it in my riding. It is incredibly sad in there. No one knows how I wish that every one of those people, mostly young people, although some are older, would have had a decent, moral education when they were growing up so that the type of activity they were involved in was just so wrong they would not contemplate doing it.

Where do we get the idea that it is all right to bludgeon a person to death? We get that in our society. Where does that come from? That would be impossible for me. I venture to guess that it would be impossible for my children because of what we have taught them about what is right and what is wrong.

I think that is the part that is missing in our society. In regard to anything moral, we have decided that we cannot impose our morals on anybody. However, we impose morals on people when somebody comes up to a member of my family and kills them. That has happened. It is not acceptable. That is an imposition of morality. Teaching of a morality and having them make their own choices because they have been taught correctly is valid and good.

I take great umbrage at that remark of the member.

I went to a youth incarceration centre and saw 13 year olds and 14 year olds who were there because they knifed somebody. Where did they get that idea?

This is not the venue in which we can contemplate this, but I absolutely believe that we need to do more to prevent people from going to jail.

When they do go to jail, we give them a sentence and we say, “Yes, they have another chance”. They go out and do it again and we say, “Okay, one more chance”. We are talking about serious crimes here, not just petty theft or things like that, as bad as that is. We are talking about attacks on human beings, brutal attacks. We are saying to them that obviously after someone has been convicted the third time, that person is a dangerous offender. Unfortunately, as much as we regret it, we tell criminals that for the good of society and the protection of law-abiding citizens, they are going to find some way to spend their lives usefully behind bars because we cannot trust them.

To me that is dreadful, but it is a valid choice we have to make if we are going to have a society in which our citizens feel safe.

The member is just wrong in his approaches and some of his statements.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I think the member set up a straw person to burn down. I do not think I said or suggested in any way that the Conservative government wants everyone in jail. I do not believe that and I did not say that.

However, the member makes a very good point in terms of the life chances of young people and the tragedy that occurs when, because of a lack of life chances, they get into criminal activity and end up in jail. I cannot think of anything that could possibly be worse for a child of mine or any other children.

When I hear comments like this that make perfect sense to me, I wonder how that could equate to the decision to cut literacy programs, which actually give people life chances so that they do not end up in poverty or despair. I wonder how the court challenges program could be cut when over the years it has championed charter rights for people who sometimes are in the greatest despair in our society and in the most marginalized groups. It is those people, of course, who are most at risk, through despair, poverty and exclusion, of ending up involved in criminal activity.

I agree partially with the member opposite. We need to improve and we need to do do everything we can for real early childhood education and development, for instance, to ensure that the life chances of our young people steer them away from crime, not toward crime.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the hon. member's distinction between being smart and being tough. I do not think there is any argument about being tough on crime. The question is whether we are smart at the same time. Any fool can be tough. It is much more difficult to be smart.

It seems to me that there is a pattern here. I want my hon. colleague to comment on it. The pattern is that we create a fear, which the party opposite seems to be particularly skilled at, we propose a solution to a fear, and then we pat ourselves on the back and walk away, having created a whole bunch of unintended consequences.

I want the member to comment on why he thinks this is a stupid bill. It is tough, but it is stupid. Why does it not make Canadians any safer? What are the unintended consequences? What is it really like, if one has three convictions, to try to prove, either on the balance of probabilities or beyond a reasonable doubt, that one will not likely commit the fourth crime?

Criminal Code
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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I may correct the hon. member at the outset, I did not call this stupid. I called it superficial. I think that is the danger. I do not attribute this intention to the government, but I do warn of the consequences. When we raise fears beyond reality in order to justify, for whatever reason, having tougher laws in terms of putting people in jail for a longer time, and having more people in jail, which is a hateful and depressing situation for anyone to be in and a very poor place for people to actually recover balance in their lives and become responsible citizens, then we waste money. In fact, we cause more dangerous people to get out of those prisons sometimes.

As I say, the vast majority of them get out eventually. They are not all Clifford Olsons. If these people are not treated in the context of their lives and measured against their contribution and their determination to improve their lives with the prison correctional programs that are available, if they are treated improperly because they do not have proper legal representation due to legal aid funding cuts and do not get a balanced trial and feel as if they have been stuck in a place where they are being improperly punished, they perhaps in the end will come out being more dangerous. That is one of the unintended consequences.

The other, which we see in minimum sentences as well, is that the prosecutors simply do not charge at the appropriate level sometimes when they do not believe that the minimum punishment, or in this case the dangerous offender designation, is appropriate. They will undercharge and the person may get away with an inappropriate sentence because it is a lesser charge, so then the streets are more dangerous as well.

Criminal Code
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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat dismayed and rather surprised and shocked to hear the comment made that this side of the House is creating fear. With all due respect, there is fear all across our nation because victims of crime are just afraid to come out onto the streets.

What do we tell the family of the woman in Winnipeg who was swarmed the other day by children 12 years of age and under who kicked and beat her until she died? What about her rights?

What about Mr. McLaughlin? What do we tell him when his son is murdered behind a hotel in Fort Garry because he was beaten up and the offender gets out in a very short time?

What about the rights of the victims of crimes, the rights of Canadian citizens who want to live and work in their communities and walk on their streets at night? What about their rights?

Criminal Code
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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, a short response, please.