House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Judges Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Judges Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Judges Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Judges Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Judges Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, November 21, at 5:30 p.m.

The House resumed from October 31 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

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to conclude today the speech I started two weeks ago on Bill C-27, which seeks to amend the Criminal Code so that the courts designate as dangerous offender an individual who is convicted of three serious crimes, unless that person can prove that he or she does not meet that definition.

Just before I was interrupted the last time I spoke to Bill C-27, I was questioning the approach taken by the Conservative government that now wants to automatically determine the extent of the sentence imposed and reverse the burden of proof. In our opinion, this approach is irresponsible because, as my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue so clearly explained, we believe that the justice system must be based on a personalized process that is geared to each case and based on the principle of rehabilitation.

However, with this bill, sentencing is no longer a personalized process but rather an automatic process, and the fundamental principle of rehabilitation is eliminated.

That is not all. The bill goes much further in providing not only for automatic sentencing, but also for the reversal of onus. At present, our legal system rests upon the basic principle that it is up to the Crown to prove that an individual is guilty.

Due to the reversal of the burden of proof, the Bloc Québécois has serious concerns about the constitutionality of the bill. We believe that the reversal of onus will represent a very heavy burden of proof. The fact is that any accused who wishes to challenge the assessment filed in support of finding him to be a dangerous offender will likely have to produce an expensive second assessment. But the Conservatives ought to know that the presumption of innocence was introduced precisely because the accused are all too often destitute and may not even be able to afford counsel to defend them.

Why change the procedure for finding individuals to be dangerous offenders when the existing one is working well? The procedure allows the prosecutor to ask the judge to find an offender to be a dangerous offender after a first offence, instead of the third one—it is not three strikes and you're out—if the brutal nature of the crime is such that there is no hope of rehabilitation.

In Quebec, statistics show that, for repeat offenders, prosecutors prefer the long term offender designation procedure over the dangerous offender designation procedure. Members will recall that, after serving their sentences, long term offenders remain under the supervision of the correctional service for a period of up to ten years upon returning to live in the community. This is more conducive to rehabilitation. Fewer violent crimes per 100,000 of population are committed in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. This seems to indicate that the Quebec model, which is based on rehabilitation instead of repression only, is working.

The government wants to continue deluding itself into thinking that this bill will be, and I quote, “protecting innocent Canadians from future harm”.

The government is unable to provide us with studies supporting this statement. The Conservatives are trying to convince people that those who oppose their plans do so out of lack of concern for the victims and public safety. That is what the Conservatives are currently saying. But the public knows full well that the changes to the Criminal Code proposed by this government are not real solutions to violence in our society.

I realize that the Conservatives are quite influenced by the U.S. model and that they very much like the U.S. approach, but the hon. members of the government have to understand that it is not by filling our prisons and building new ones that the federal government will reduce the crime rate. It is important to remember that the United States, according to hard statistics, has an incarceration rate seven times greater than Canada's and a homicide rate three times higher than Canada's and four times higher than Quebec's. So why adopt the American model? I am convinced that to better protect the public, we should address the root of the problem, in other words, the causes of crime and violence in our society.

The Conservatives should understand that poverty, inequality and the sense of exclusion are three significant elements of the emergence of crime, which is why it is important to adopt social policies that do more to foster the sharing of wealth, social integration and rehabilitation.

I worked for a number of years at a CLSC, in the early childhood, youth and adult departments and with seniors. Often, prevention measures are already needed early childhood to help young parents properly raise their young children, and to help and support them in their education. If this support is not given in early childhood, quite often these children can, unfortunately, turn to crime.

It is also important to remember—and for the Conservative government to clearly admit—that this bill will entail additional costs for the prison system, which is already overburdened. This is money that will not go toward fighting the deepest source of violence—poverty.

If the government absolutely wants to go ahead with reforms, then it should focus on the parole assessment process so that release is based on the merit principle and on the assurance that the individual no longer represents a danger to society.

Lastly, instead of trying to do something after the fact through reverse onus provisions in the Criminal Code, the government would do better to address the source of the problem by adopting effective social policies and by maintaining the firearms registry, which limits the movement of weapons and increases people's awareness regarding the responsibilities involved in owning a firearm. Clearly, tackling the causes means tackling social policy.

When funding is cut from employment insurance benefits and from literacy programs, when funding is cut from communities in need and their resources taken away, crime rates will rise. Statistics show that when we intervene in communities—and I worked in underprivileged environments for years—crime rates, poverty, social injustice and inequality are all closely related.

In short, the Bloc Québécois does not support this bill, which, we believe, does not promote rehabilitation, but rather an increase in recidivism. I would also like to add that the Criminal Code currently contains all the provisions we need to put away people who commit serious crimes. We are not against punishing serious crimes, as the Conservatives suggest.

To conclude, the Bloc Québécois will vote against this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the members opposite, in their speeches regarding clamping down on crime and protecting our society, focus on the criminal and his rights, privileges and treatment. I never hear a whole lot from the opposition, particularly the Bloc, about the victims of these people, who are considered to be extremely dangerous because of their proven past.

I do not understand how any human being could think for a moment that extreme, serious consequences should not occur when an adult rapes, murders, or tortures a child. I have a five year old grandchild. If somebody did something like that to my grandchild, I would not care if he ever saw the light of day again. Why should he?

We can look at the root causes all we want, but we have not done very well in the past 13 years with respect to child poverty and all that. We could look at a number of things that could be considered the root cause of a lot of attacks on our children.

For 13 years, I have been trying to get this place to do something serious about child pornography. That group of people on the other side of the House has always balked at getting tough on child pornographers.

Does the member not know that child pornography is a real root cause of a lot of these problems? It affects people's brains. They go out and attack children. They love to attack children. That is their way of life. I do not want to spend one penny trying to rehabilitate somebody with that kind of poisoned mind. I really do not care. I want him off the streets and I want him in a place where he can never hurt another child.

I really get tired of hearing about root causes. I never hear mention of child pornography, a major root cause for attacks on our children. Why do they not grow up, get smart and start to deal with these people the way they ought to be dealt with?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very troubled by the Conservative member's comments. He stated that the Bloc Québécois does not care about the victims of crime. In fact, we have community agencies that work with victims of crime and work to prevent youth crime. These organizations are under-funded.

If the Conservatives are truly interested in helping victims of crime or sexual assault, then I ask the Conservative government to increase provincial transfers for health and social services which would allow us, in Quebec, to better support our agencies that look after victims of crime and sexual assault.

Unfortunately, that is not the case at present because social policies are taking a hit. The Conservative member claims that we do not care about these individuals. The government has just cut social programs.

We are speaking of the Criminal Code. That does not mean that we do not care about victims of crime. On the contrary. Action in this area must be based on programs to support these individuals. The Conservatives are cutting in all areas related to crime prevention. They want to send more people to jail.

The Conservative member should not be lecturing us.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to introduce an act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts. I am also tabling explanatory notes to legislative proposals on the same subject.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

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

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the Criminal Code, there are already provisions with respect to the sentencing of dangerous offenders. One of the concerns that has been raised is that if this bill is passed in its present framing, portions of the existing Criminal Code, dealing with dangerous offenders, could in fact be struck down as well. Could the member comment on whether he thinks that is a valid enough concern for this bill to be given further consideration?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois members believe that the Criminal Code contains nearly all the elements needed to declare someone a dangerous offender, or what Quebec calls a long term offender.

The Bloc members feel that the bill does nothing but further criminalize a dangerous offender. It is up to the judiciary, not a bill, to determine who is declared a dangerous offender. There is no automatic way—after three strikes, you're out. In that respect, I agree completely with the hon. member. And we are concerned.

At present, the Conservative Party wants to improve judges' working conditions. But the Conservatives have to let justice take its course, and they have to provide the means to enable it to do so. That might be a bill that would provide more resources, make it possible to further assess the chance of parole or add to the number of psychosocial experts to conduct follow-ups.

But we have no need of a bill that, in a move calculated to appeal to public opinion, simply proposes to improve public safety by tolerating the first three offences. A person could just as easily be declared a dangerous offender after only one offence, and the member knows that as well as I do. I want to thank him for his question nonetheless.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the hon. member for Wild Rose, raised the issue of how the Bloc Québécois argument disregards interest in the victim. That is an excellent point. We on this side have raised that many times and of course the Bloc has responded by saying that not enough money has been given to victim organizations. That is not what this legislation is all about.

This legislation says that the third time someone is convicted, not charged but convicted, for a very serious offence the onus is on the convicted person to show why he or she is not going to be a dangerous offender. That is what it is all about. It has nothing to do with all the other garbage that the Bloc Québécois is talking about.

I would like to zero in on one of the areas that my colleague from the Bloc raised when he said it is going to cost too much money because there is no room in the jails to put these terrible people. I assume from that he is saying, we should let them go. I do not think the member realizes what the whole purpose of this is about. It is about, first, a penalty and, second, protecting the public and the victim.

I ask the member to reconsider his position and support this legislation.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was answering a question from a Conservative member that, in fact, did not pertain to the bill.

As I said in my speech, Quebec has the fewest major crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. We have rehabilitation measures and community support measures. Here, we also have a justice system, a Criminal Code, that we can use to punish people. What does this bill add, then? We feel that it adds nothing other than the idea that after three strikes, you're out. A person might be convicted and sent to jail for life after his first dangerous offence. It is up to the judiciary to decide. A bill like this is not going to improve public safety.

I would also like to point out that we are not opposed to prison terms for people who commit serious crimes. Of course we are not opposed to that. But we also know that there need to be rehabilitation mechanisms and inmate services. I am not sure that when someone who spent 20 years in prison and received no rehabilitation services leaves prison—