House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentencing.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised that no one wanted to ask the hon. member a question. He has been around here for a long time. He is a member who has taken an active interest in justice issues over the years and has been able to contribute to the justice committee in that time to make better legislation.

I was listening carefully to his remarks and there is much that I agree with in his synopsis of the history of what want on.

My recollection is a little bit different in some aspects. When the bill was originally brought forward, many people warned the justice minister of the time, which I suppose sometimes happens, that the judges would end up giving conditional sentences in respect of crimes that the justice minister and the people on the committee would not have expected them to do, which is exactly what happened. Some of the judges used conditional sentences in a manner that was really not intended by the act and by the committee. This upset justice ministers of the various provinces.

What has ended up happening is kind of like a pendulum. When the pendulum swings one way, namely, with the judges using conditional sentences in what I would consider an inappropriate manner, the Conservative government came in with a bill that was on the other end of the pendulum swing. These amendments have not only brought the pendulum back into the middle to permit conditional sentences in the appropriate crime situations, but also to ensure that judges do not use them for the kinds of crimes for which they were not intended, such as serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences and gang related offences.

I wonder if my hon. friend would care to comment on what I have said.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, our colleague is partly right. The problem is that when we look on a larger scale and more longitudinally, we have no evidence that judges have used conditional sentencing inappropriately. In addition, few cases of conditional sentences for organized crime offences, terrorism, homicide or equally serious offences were brought to our attention.

Moreover, for the latest years for which sentencing statistics are available, conditional sentences account for 5% of cases resulting in conviction.

Did some courts hand down rulings that were more questionable? Certainly, but the remedy for that is appeal, and the parliamentary committee has amended the bill to send a clear message.

Section 752 of the Criminal Code, in the case of personal injury offences, and section 477, in the case of criminal organization offences and terrorism, provide that conditional sentencing must not be used for such offences. We are in favour of having this clearly set down in a piece of legislation. However, the minister had proposed a list of 120 offences, and we disapproved of that approach.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to my colleague as he talked about his friendship with the justice minister. I know the member has served on the committee in years gone by and that he is a member of the committee who takes it seriously.

Some of the comments we are getting from Quebec and Montreal are from people who are very concerned about home invasion, break-ins and people coming into their homes. Seniors and others are very concerned about the increase in home invasion.

Earlier this morning in my speech, I mentioned the case of R. v. Bratzer where the offender had committed three armed robberies in a period of one week. The court heard that the individual planned the armed robberies, put on a mask, picked up the weapon of choice and carried out three planned robberies. He had a history. It also came out in the court that the individual loved and anticipated the rush that he would get from carrying out this criminal offence. Despite all the information that came out in court, the court sentenced the accused to a conditional sentence, to house arrest, to no prison term, to no incarceration and to go home to his living room for two years less a day.

Given the increase in home invasions in Montreal, why does the member not stand up and say that it is time that we deal with this to prevent this type of sentencing structure for people who are criminals and who get a rush from this type of criminal activity?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, if an individual, regardless where—in Montreal or anywhere else—broke into homes three times, it will not be hard to convince me that it is not a case for conditional sentencing.

Is my colleague asking if this was appealed, if an appeals court upheld the decision? It is easy to understand that this is not a case for conditional sentencing.

Statistics presented in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights indicate that for break and enter offences conditional sentencing is rarely used. We cannot assume that the exception is the rule.

At the risk of repeating myself, I would say that according to the data provided to us, conditional sentencing is a marginal reality of the sentencing system. It happens in only 5% of the cases; three times out of four it is a property offence. It is not about cases where an individual commits three offences of residence theft. In such a situation conditional sentencing would not be recommended.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across made some good points in terms of the various crimes that we are dealing with. Quite clearly, we are in the twilight of a time called the war on drugs. This has created a lot of the crime that we are dealing with in Canada right now, as well as the sentencing. It is in the twilight because I think we have recognized that it does not work. In the last Parliament, we had some debate and discussion. We even brought some bills forward to look at how we could deal with this better.

Part of getting tough on crime is taking the oxygen out of the system that criminals live on. In reality, if we want to get tough on crime we need to find ways to eliminate crime. I would like the hon. member across to comment on that.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but I thought the period for questions was over, so I left the House and did not hear the beginning of my colleague's question.

I believe he was referring to the end of the war on drugs. I agree: it used to be a bigger problem than it is now.

In general, crime rates are dropping for demographic and economic reasons. The economy is doing well, although some urban centres are more affected than others.

Statistically, the concerns we should be focusing on are economic crime and property crime. There has been a net decrease in offences against the person.

Once again, I am sorry I did not hear the beginning of the first part of the question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 3rd, 2006 / 1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to address Bill C-9.

The bill was amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I was pleased to support the amended bill when it came before the House at report stage this past Wednesday evening. I commend the members of the justice committee for their efforts, and particularly the member for London West for her diligent work on this bill and all justice legislation that has come before this 39th Parliament.

I have taken a keen interest in law and order issues and safe communities throughout my time in elected office. Prior to becoming the member of Parliament for North Vancouver in 2004, as mayor of the district of North Vancouver, I worked closely with local police, legal and judicial officials to continually monitor crime, law and order and sentencing issues in our community.

My constituents in North Vancouver, like all Canadians, want to be safe in their homes and communities and, as elected officials, it is our duty to ensure that the laws we craft in this place achieve that goal and do not have unintended consequences because they were rushed through Parliament without proper consideration.

I support the principle of Bill C-9 as it was originally tabled by the government in May, namely, the tightening up of the use of conditional sentencing. However, the amendments made to Bill C-9 at committee were necessary and they improved the bill. They certainly do not gut the bill, as some government members and the Minister of Justice have suggested. In fact, this bill provides that a person convicted of, first, a serious personal injury offence as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code; second, a terrorist offence; or, third, a criminal organization offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more, is not eligible for a conditional sentence, nor can a conditional sentence be given where a minimum sentence for the offence applies.

We have heard rumblings that the Conservatives are planning to use justice issues as a wedge issue in the next federal election, and it appears this strategy has already begun. The Conservative government has introduced 11 justice related bills in this House, knowing full well that due to the short life of minority Parliaments, some of these bills will die on the order paper. In the next election, the Conservatives will then try to convince Canadians that all other parties are soft on crime, wrongly suggesting that we delayed or blocked this legislation.

In fact, the Liberal justice plan will fast-track 6 of the 11 justice bills, but this is typical of its style of politics. The Conservatives have yet again looked south at their republican idols and pulled a page from the Bush-Rove playbook, namely, “you either agree with us, or you're with the enemy”.

Despite the recent efforts of the party opposite, this is not the United States and this strategy will not work. It is dishonest. The Liberal Party and Liberal members in this House are not soft on crime. We want effective, smart laws. Despite what the Conservatives may try to convince Canadians, they know where we stand and the Conservatives know that I stand for effective, smart law and order measures.

I understand my time is running out. I had much more to say but I will say that we are pleased, from the opposition side, to have made our offer to fast-track the bills initiated under the former Liberal government, plus two new ones, for a total of 6 of 11 bills, and to get on with making thoughtful, smart improvements to Canada's Criminal Code, not for political gain but for the safety and well-being of Canadians.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., pursuant to the order made on Wednesday, November 1, I must interrupt the debate and put the motion to a vote.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think we are under a House order that was negotiated between the parties that after two hours of debate, the question would be deemed put and passed on division. Could you just check that, please?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. the government House leader for his advice but it is very important that the Chair have clear instructions from the House as to what is the intention of the House. I will look for that order now.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In response to the point of order raised by the government House leader, I am reading from page 609 of the Journals of November 1. It states:

--and that the time allotted for the report stage of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), shall not exceed one hour and the time allotted for the third reading of Bill C-9 shall not exceed two hours.

That is the extent of the order.

If the House wishes to pass it on division, the Chair will agree with that, but the Chair does need a clear instruction from the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.