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 offenders.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the 20-minute speech by the member from Quebec. I think he may be missing the point, and perhaps his whole party is missing a very serious aspect to this bill.

We are not talking here about a reverse onus in terms of the conviction for the offence. Indeed, what we are doing is giving the perpetrator yet another chance. All the member has to do is read the bill. I noticed in several sections, but it is in proposed section 752.01 where it says:

If the prosecutor is of the opinion that an offence for which an offender is convicted is a serious personal injury offence that is a designated offence and that the offender was convicted previously at least twice of a designated offence--

We are talking about an individual who was charged and convicted. In other words, the crown prosecutor was able to prove that the individual was guilty, otherwise he would not have been convicted. The onus was on the crown to prove the conviction. The second time the individual appears, after he has served his two years or more, on a similar type of crime, again the crown proves that he is guilty and hence he is sentenced. He then comes before the judge a third time. The whole trial has to do with whether the person is guilty, and the onus is on the crown to prove it. The conclusion will be, if this bill is enacted, that that person just is not learning his lesson and he is a continued danger to society.

I would urge the member to read the offences that are being included here. We are talking of crimes as heinous as committing murder, discharging a firearm with intent; in other words, an individual fires a gun at someone and has the misfortune of missing, but still the individual is firing a gun at a person with the intent to murder. We are saying that for a person who has three of these offences, for the protection of society we are going to put that person in jail, but notwithstanding that, we will give that person yet another chance. If that person can prove to us that he or she is not a danger, we will listen.

I do not know how any member in this House can say that that is really tough, that we are getting too tough on crime. The NDP and the Liberals ran on a crime ticket last time just to try to gain a few more seats, and now that the election is over, they are arguing against a bill that is as soft as this one. I cannot believe it.

This legislation is reasonable. It is not a violation of the Constitution. The Constitution says clearly that the causes here can be given as pertaining to a just society. I would just urge the member and all members to think carefully before they vote against this bill. It is not nearly as onerous as they claim it is.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I will respond with two points.

First, I would remind the House that the Bloc Québécois worked very hard to have the Criminal Code amended with respect to the proceeds of crime. It is possible to seize the house—or mansion—of someone who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug trafficking. It is up to that individual to prove that their mansion was not purchased using the proceeds of crime. The Bloc Québécois achieved this.

I would have liked my hon. colleague to come to a court of law. Consider, for example, an 18 year old who discharges a firearm. That is one of the crimes. That young man is incarcerated for one year. At 22, that same youth is a member of a street gang and again discharges a firearm. He is imprisoned again and released at age 25. If he commits a third offence, any offence at all, his name will automatically be put on the list of dangerous offenders.

I have tremendous respect for my hon. colleagues across from me. However, their problem stems from the fact that, with this bill, they are sentencing the crime and not the individual who commits it. That is what the Bar reminds us and what judges will remember if this bill is enacted, which I hope does not happen. The crime must be dealt with based on the individual before the court, and nothing else.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by my hon. colleague and to the questions from my colleagues opposite. In my opinion, it is important to put certain people in prison to protect the Canadian public and to punish offenders who repeat various offences. That is why Canada has some of the toughest laws in the world on dangerous offenders.

In my opinion, we need to have intelligent laws and intelligent approaches to criminals and criminal law.

As my hon. colleague said, many members of the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian legal community have shared their concerns about this bill, especially when it comes to the issue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many of them have argued that this bill would be dismissed in court because of this concern.

In my opinion, it is not smart to create a risk whereby the part of the legislation on dangerous offenders may be completely dismissed. Does the hon. member agree?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question and I would refer my colleague—not to avoid the question—to two Supreme Court rulings.

I invite my colleagues opposite to go read them. In 2003, there were Supreme Court rulings in the Johnson and Mitchell cases. These rulings reminded us that the underlying principles of sentencing require that the sentence fit the offender's situation. In other words—this is at least the fifth time I have said this—we sincerely think that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, if by some misfortune Bill C-27 became law, constitutionally, it would not pass the test of the Constitution of Canada, with all due respect, given the recent Supreme Court rulings.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill is talking about convictions for very serious, horrible crimes, and not one conviction, not two convictions, but three convictions.

My colleague from the Bloc Québécois talked about how he has been in practice for 25 years. God bless him, I expect most of the time it has been in defending these terrible people and naturally his whole knowledge is with respect to the criminal.

I listened to his speech very carefully. It was a good speech. I did not agree very much with it, but I listened to it very carefully. He never mentioned the word “victim” once. It was all about the rights of the criminal; it was all about whether these people are receiving a fair deal. These are after the convictions. We are talking about sentencing.

My question for the member and all the Bloc Québécois members if they are all going to take this position is, do they not care about the victim? The people whom I speak to in my riding care a lot about the victim. They are fed up.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue has 30 seconds to reply.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to quickly answer in 30 seconds.

In Quebec, we have the crime victims compensation act. I would like to remind my hon. colleague opposite that the Criminal Code, as indicated by its name, is there to punish a crime committed by an individual. Nowhere in the Criminal Code is there any mention of the fact that we have to protect the victims. The Criminal Code does not state in any section that the priority is to defend the victims. However, in the Criminal Code—

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Mississauga South on a point of order.

Business of the House
Government Orders

October 31st, 2006 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to the debate scheduled for later this day on the motion by the member for Malpeque to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

(Motion agreed to)

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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, this being Halloween, it is with some sadness that I rise in the House. It is the first Halloween in the history of my fathering three children, Maeve who is 10 years old, Megan who is 8 years old, and Bronwyn who is 7 years old, that I will not be with them to go door to door. However, I do hope that their costumes, which I had a preview of, are effective. I hope they are nice little girls who go door to door and give a lot of joy on this joyous evening.

I also hope their costumes are more effective than what I would call the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice dressed up as sheriffs through their justice rubric, which is really disguised as effective and, to the point of Bill C-27, masquerading as good law. On all of those three counts, the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice and this bill fail. Their disguise is thin and their masquerade is not working.

I am pleased to address the House today on the matter of Bill C-27. This bill amends the Criminal Code with respect to dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace.

I will not comment on recognizance to keep the peace. We on this side of the House, myself included, agree with the provisions of this bill.

Although the main goal of Bill C-27 is to make it easier for crown prosecutors to obtain dangerous offender designations, it touches upon an important concept in our entire justice system. It is not just the justice system that prevails in Moncton, New Brunswick or, indeed, in Canada. The aspect that is being reviewed, which must be given the spotlight and the microscope, is a fundamental principle of justice in the common law world and that is the presumption of innocence.

This bill reverses the burden of proof from the crown to the defendant. If Bill C-27 were to be adopted in its entirety as it is, an offender found guilty of a third conviction of a designated violent or sexual offence would need to prove that he or she does not qualify as a dangerous offender. That in summary is the issue to be debated.

I might, by way of introduction, suggest that every criminal was a child at one time, and what night could be more fitting to speak about children than Halloween, and every child, as he or she goes down the road of life, makes steps, some wrong, some right and some in the middle.

Not every child has the privilege of coming from a home with two parents, from a home that is affluent enough to afford the necessities of life, from a home that advocates literacy or from a home full of love and caring. There are many homes where this is not the case. Many homes and families are broken either by economic ravages or social blight.

However, in the Conservatives' Leave it to Beaver world, everyone has this perfect home and everyone must grow up like Wally and Beaver to be productive citizens of society. Although we do not really know how Beaver and Wally ended up, I suspect some of them may have ended up on the other side. The social policies of the government are destroying the fabric of the community and they will lead to more crime.

When certain individuals have gone down the wrong side of the justice road toward the dangerous offender designation, things have gone terribly wrong for them. Let us leave aside the issue of mental health and the fact that the only option for some people is treatment for the long term. Let us talk about the people left behind on the social strata from leaving the field that the government has posited on social programs in the community. Those people could end up on the dangerous offender road.

The combination of these laws and this policy regarding social re-engineering, à la George Bush, will leave us with more criminal justice issues. It is an important context to remember.

We on all sides of the House agree that dangerous criminals should be kept locked up for our own safety and the safety of society but that is not the issue. We must do all we can to ensure dangerous criminals do not take advantage of legal loopholes to fall through the cracks of our judicial system. Most important, we, as members of Parliament, have the duty to ensure that the bills and changes we adopt meet constitutional standards and rigorous test and that they do not jeopardize the protections we have in place.

The theme of my speech and my point is that this bad law would actually put the victims of crime in greater jeopardy. If this law is, in any way, struck down, the people who perpetrate crimes, who might be designated dangerous or long term offenders, might go free. That does not help victims. We want laws that work.

Locking up dangerous criminals is not a new or Conservative idea. In 1997 the Liberal government created new legislation addressing long term offenders and ensuring sexual and violent offenders received the special supervision they deserved from our judicial system.

It is important to understand that in the long term offender and dangerous offender categories we are not talking about millions of people or thousands of people. We are hardly talking about hundreds of people. In the province of New Brunswick right now there is one application for a dangerous offender designation. In the briefing that members of the justice committee received from the justice department, the number of applications per year is about 24. This vacillates somewhere from a low of 12 to a high of 48. These people we are talking about are dangerous. They are bad apples and they need to be locked away.

That is why the long term offender legislation is also at play here. If someone does not meet the dangerous offender plateau, then a judge must consider the long term offender designation, which is less onerous and does not involve indefinite sentencing without parole for seven years at least.

The problem with this legislation, as justice officials indicated to us, is that it was well on the way to being introduced whether the Conservatives, the Liberals or, God forbid, the NDP or the Bloc formed government, and it was to close a loophole that had been created by the well-spoken upon decision of R. v. Johnson. The loophole had to be closed so that it was very clear that a judge must consider whether the accused met the long term definition before the dangerous offender designation took effect.

As of 2005, a total of 300 offenders across Canada have been designated long term offenders, not dangerous offenders.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act, and I would ask that an order of the day be designated for its consideration.