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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly look into that. Perhaps he is picking on a technicality in the bill. My understanding is that under the Liberal and NDP versions of justice in this country, people who burn down property should be eligible for a conditional sentence.

I noticed that the member did not mention anything about the fact that for people who break into other people's homes, for theft over $5,000 or auto theft, he had no problem with those individuals perhaps serving those sentences in the comfort of their own living rooms.

The Liberals and NDP just do not get it when it comes to crime. Canadians have had enough and they have said as much. One of the major reasons they elected a new government on January 23 was because they knew it was time to get tough on crime. Canadians want the Liberals and the NDP to stop dragging their feet and pass these important bills, bills that will improve the safety of our streets and communities.

I would like everyone who is listening at home to notice there was no mention whatsoever that persons who commit break and enters and car thieves should not be allowed to serve their sentences in the comfort of their own living rooms. That is the hon. member's view. It is not the view of this government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the hon. member for Palliser waved his arms about and told us that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois are making a mistake by not supporting this bill. I believe that the majority of the members of this House do not support this bill simply because it is a bad bill.

Most certainly, the Bloc Québécois does not support it because we base our position on what is happening in Quebec. When it come to justice in Quebec, we consider rehabilitation to be the most important thing, and this works. Proof lies in the fact that the crime rate in Quebec is lower than in Canada or the United States.

I wonder if the hon. member for Palliser believes in rehabilitation. Even more so, I wonder and I will put the question to the hon. member, although he says he wants our streets to be safer, why does the government, the Conservative Party wish to allow weapons to circulate freely and with no control on our streets?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, my friend opposite knows that is not the case. This government has actually introduced mandatory minimum penalties for crimes committed with firearms. We believe in effective gun control measures. What we do not believe in is a $2 billion boondoggle registry that did not prevent one crime or save one life.

The member opposite talked about the majority of this House. For the people watching this debate at home, that will be one of the reasons that more Conservative members will be coming to this place. We, on this side of the House, believe in rehabilitation of offenders as well, but in Bill C-27, we are talking about two dozen people in the country, the absolute worst of the worst, people convicted of multiple heinous crimes, people like Peter Whitmore in Saskatchewan who has multiple sexual offences against children. We are talking about putting the onus on those individuals and giving them an indeterminate sentence of seven years.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bluster from the member is quite something when we all know that right now it is possible to declare somebody a dangerous offender the first time they commit a heinous crime of the kind he is describing. The bill does not really add anything to protect Canadians. If someone is a dangerous offender, that is possible.

In my riding there is a group of dedicated, grass roots organizers and volunteers who believe in restorative justice programs. They have organized a youth restorative justice program. They are called the Burnaby Restorative Action Group, BRAG. They cannot get money from any level of government to assist them in that important work.

We all know that restorative justice programs work, that they reduce crime, that they bring offenders and victims together, that they resolve the problems and that they take the responsibility of solving the kinds of problems that led to crime in our cities, communities and neighbours very seriously. Here is a group of dedicated volunteers that cannot get one penny of assistance from the federal government to set that kind of program up, to run it and operate it effectively. I would ask the member if that is appropriate.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is certainly not bluster. This legislation has received the support of victims' rights groups across the country, as well as the Canadian Professional Police Association. Our new government's stance is in step with the opinion of the vast majority of Canadians that serious crime must equal serious time. It is high time we started looking at crime and punishment through the eyes of victims instead of criminals.

The member mentioned an association in his riding called BRAG. He should take that up with the Minister of Justice on another day. Today we are talking about locking up indefinitely the 24 most dangerous people in this country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, unlike members opposite, I will not stoop so low as to call members of this House deceitful. A colleague of my friend opposite was not being deceitful. He probably did not read the bill and was not prepared. He made a promise during the election with no intention to keep it and, therefore, felt no need to be prepared.

This bill deals with primary designated offences, offences committed, not once or twice, but three times. We are talking about sexual interference, incest, murder and kidnapping. Unlike what the member opposite suggested, kidnapping does not require a beyond a reasonable doubt defence. I am not suggesting members opposite were being deceitful. I just do not think they are prepared. Given that there is no requirement for a beyond a reasonable doubt defence, it is a balance of probabilities. There is still an opportunity for a judge to intervene in this case.

I would just like to ask the hon. member if he agrees that this is on a balance of probabilities, not on a beyond a reasonable doubt, as was indicated by members opposite who are not properly prepared.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, a comment was made earlier by a member opposite about arson of a dwelling house being removed from Bill C-9. He should have been prepared when he came to the House. The truth is that it is taken out if someone is in their home when it is burnt down. However, if people are not in their homes when someone burns it down, the Liberal and NDP members think the arsonist should be able to serve his or her sentence in the comfort of his or her own living room. The member should have known that before coming into the House.

To answer the hon. member's question, the Minister of Justice has been very successful in striking an appropriate balance. We need to keep in mind that these people have already been convicted and certainly this law will--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 9th, 2006 / 5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill. I may not be a lawyer, but I have enough brains to read bills. I can tell whether a bill is in tune or not with the reality. My 13 years of experience as a member of Parliament and lawmaker in this place have taught me the difference between good bills and bills that do nothing for society in Quebec or Canada.

Bill C-27 before us does strictly nothing to help fight crime, reduce crime or discourage potential criminals from offending. This is a totally pointless bill which does not meet these objectives.

I listened earlier to the hon. member from the Conservative Party according to whom being against this bill is to be against the victims of crime. What demagoguery.

Bills like this, which do no good, may in fact interfere with the normal court process. Judging by the experience of the Americans in recent years, after they introduced similar legislation, this is the kind of bill that can hamper crime-fighting efforts instead of providing additional tools to fight crime. No study has shown that this three strikes and you are out policy can do any good.

In the United States, where the crime rate is the highest in the world, experience has shown in recent years that having that kind of policy in place does not make the crime rate go down. There are mostly studies that establish a connection between the likelihood of reoffending and the length of incarceration. That is the exact opposite of what we have just heard in relation to this bill.

In addition, this bill ignores a basic legal principle: the presumption of innocence. Even before a criminal commits another offence, he has to prove that he is not a dangerous offender and that he should not be incarcerated indefinitely. The offender has the burden of proof. I do not believe that giving an individual such a responsibility in the justice system is the right approach or that it is in keeping with the principle that every individual should be given a chance. This reverse onus is not in the tradition of British law, except in certain specific cases, such as proceeds of crime.

Recently, through the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, we passed a bill under which, after being convicted, an individual who has taken part in organized crime activities must prove that he acquired all his property legally: the Mercedes, the house, the secondary residence. This type of exception is what we should have, when we look at all the organized crime rings.

Opération printemps 2001 showed us what it cost in legal resources and tax dollars to prove that all the property belonging to the Nomads, Hells Angels and other organized crime rings had been acquired illegally.

When we look at this bill, we can see that it can even undermine the legal process. I was listening to my Conservative colleague earlier. He said that he had received calls from his constituents asking him why we should wait for the third time before declaring someone a dangerous offender and incarcerating that person indefinitely.

I would ask him the same question in reverse.

Why wait for the third offence when today, depending on the seriousness and brutality of a crime, a crown prosecutor can ask that someone be declared a dangerous offender after the first crime?

It is not necessary to wait for the third time. If the first crime is particularly brutal, the crown prosecutor can ask that the individual be declared a dangerous offender. The judge may grant the request and declare the individual a dangerous offender after the first offence.

Why wait for the third offence to be committed when, in the current system, with the flexibility afforded lawyers and judges, we can use intelligence and discernment to determine, right from the first offence, if rehabilitation is possible based on the nature, seriousness and brutality of a crime?

I said earlier that the United States experimented with this type of policy. Their prisons are full. It has been said that the Prime Minister is a carbon copy of George W. Bush. The government wishes to copy the Americans not only in military and economic policies, and support for oil companies, for example, but also in the changes it wants to make to the current justice and correctional systems in place in Canada.

In the United States, prisons are bursting at the seams. The rate of incarceration is sevenfold that in Canada. Yet, even with a policy of “three crimes makes a dangerous offender”, the US homicide rate is triple that in Canada and four times greater than Quebec's rate. That must mean something. When a system does not work, for example in the United States—a country with one of the highest rates of criminalization—we must not copy that system and we should try something else. We must not duplicate the American system. To make themselves look good, the Conservatives have introduced this type of legislation while acting as though they alone can guarantee the safety of individuals, the prosecution of criminals to the bitter end, as though they alone will ensure that justice is served in this country. This is a completely twisted claim with respect to the discourse and the content of the bill.

As lawmakers, we bear enormous responsibility. This responsibility certainly includes the treatment of victims, both the past victims and potential victims of criminals. We need to look after them, but to do so, we need to have the right tools. In the last 10 years, serious crime in Canada has gone down. So they should not come to us with just the 2004-05 data and say that the situation is absolutely frightful and so terrible that something must be done. Certainly it should, but not through measures that are out of touch with reality, like these.

We need real action, but that is not what the Conservatives are offering. It is just the appearance of action. They want to show that they made some political promises that made no sense at all during the last election campaign, including this policy of three crimes equals a dangerous offender. So they introduce this bill. I cannot make head or tail of it. It has no relation to reality and adds nothing. It does not add any tools for fighting serious crime in Canada.

Among the things that should be done—but which they have not done—is the essential tool of firearms control. We just received the most recent data from Statistics Canada. We are not making this up; it is Statistics Canada. It tells us that Quebec and Prince Edward Island have crime rates that are much lower than the rest of Canada. The city with the highest crime rates and most serious crimes is Edmonton. Calgary takes second place. That is significant.

When people come from a region where the crime rate is the highest, could they not be a little bit more intelligent and find some way to deal with crime? Firearms control and the firearms registry are what we need. Yesterday, for example, they were saying on the news that 80% of the crimes in Edmonton were committed with unregistered firearms. Therefore, 20% of the arms were registered. Is that not a sign that controls should be tightened? We need to have a well managed registry.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has the floor and the Chair wants to hear what he has to say.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that you are prepared to hear what I have to say to the end.

When we are faced with a reality such as this, we sit down and pay attention to the crime rate. In some regions of the country it has gone down. Why? In Quebec, emphasis was placed on rehabilitation. There are dangerous offenders, but not many, and before an individual is declared a dangerous offender that person is first considered a long-term offender. This criminal can be supervised for 10 years.

Let us look at the crime rate in Quebec. It speaks for itself. Quebec is the place where there is the least amount of serious crime, but it is also the place where emphasis has been placed on rehabilitation. It is also the place in Canada where people are quite aware of the importance of gun control. This also says a lot. There are predispositions. There is intelligence in an approach.

The Prime Minister and his government have decided to do away with the firearms registry, to remove all controls and now weapons are pouring in from Montana, crossing the Canadian border, which is a real sieve. They are pouring in. Everyone is armed and it is a circus.

This is not how things work. First, we must keep the gun registry. Second, we must improve enforcement along our borders. Let us set up controls at the border, to prevent gun smuggling. One can go anywhere—a bar, a pub, whatever—ask for a handgun and get it very quickly. There is an incredible traffic going on for these weapons. That is the second measure to take, instead of passing cosmetic bills like this one, to make the Conservatives look good, because they want to show that they are the only ones defending justice. My foot!

I just said that these are two important measures, but the Conservatives are totally opposed to them.

Third, how about investing in prevention? We see some very young people—aged 10 to 12 or 13—working with henchmen from criminal organizations. For example, these young people help hand harvest cannabis plantations in Ontario, Quebec or elsewhere, and are paid $20 an hour. They work with organized crime and they learn to make quick money the easy way. Could it be that, as they get older, these young people will continue to deal with the criminal world and become part of it, instead of becoming honest members of our society? The purpose of prevention is to keep them from doing that. It is to ensure that those young people who are at risk can integrate our society and rehabilitate themselves, before they become adults and join the ranks of organized crime.

When do we hear about crime prevention for young people? When do we hear Conservatives talk about rehabilitation? Never.

I will conclude by simply saying that the Conservatives also claim to be great protectors of public funds. Looking at how they manage that money is my pet project. They claim to be great protectors of public funds. However, because of the measures that they want to take, jails will be full of people who, after three offences—regardless of the merits of the case and the good judgment of judges and coroners—will join the inmate population, thus increasing it significantly.

I would like to give you a few figures relating to the cost of rehabilitating a prisoner. In Canada, keeping a person in the prison system costs an average of $88,000. I am not talking about maximum security. Maximum security—incarcerating dangerous offenders—costs $120,000 per year. That is a lot of money.

Do you know how much it costs to supervise an offender? About $26,000 per year. $26,000 compared to $120,000 or $88,000 speaks volumes.

First of all, the Conservatives opted for Criminal Code reforms that provide no new tools for fighting criminals. Second, they did so merely to look good and give people the impression that they are strong supporters of a police state and the victims, even though they are doing nothing to help victims. What they are really doing is creating criminals, promoting recidivism and creating potential victims.

Third, they have not considered prevention and rehabilitation, even though that is what works. Wherever this approach has been used, crime rates have dropped and there have been fewer serious offences. Wherever there is a sense that the people's representatives do not support rehabilitation, we get situations like in Edmonton and Calgary, where the crime rate is sky-high.

Maybe this means something.

Furthermore, these ineffective measures, which are completely useless for protecting potential victims, cost an arm and a leg; they are a huge waste of public funds. As I said, measures like these create fertile ground for recidivism. There are people who go to prison and end up staying there 10, 12, 15 years. Most studies show that when they come out, their risk to re-offend is higher than it would be if they had had access to rehabilitation, as they do in Quebec and other countries. We have to think about this and stop going for the right-wing police approach by claiming to be the only ones fighting for justice. Give me a break.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I have one comment to make on the whole issue of the opposition's soft on crime stance and one particular question for the hon. member from the Bloc.

The first thing I would comment on is that apparently the opposition members think it is an appropriate sentence to have criminals sit at home watching a 52 inch plasma TV stolen from a house that they just burnt down. That is exactly what these members are saying should be an appropriate sentence as opposed to Bill C-9.

I am absolutely appalled that he would stand in the House and say that for $26,000, that is the reason we cannot afford to designate somebody as a dangerous offender.

In our province there is a man by the name of Peter Whitmore who has just recently abused two 12-year-old boys. It is the sixth or seventh time he has done this. He was not designated a dangerous offender. Had he been so, he would have been in jail.

Why does that member not come to my province and tell the parents of these 12-year-olds that $26,000 is more than the value of a young child? Please come out.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to resume with a more civilized tone. The Conservatives have a tendency to shout like that and sound off indignantly. They should express their indignation about their own government's failure to act on organized crime. They should stop throwing stones at the Bloc Québécois. I have a good memory. In 13 years, there were three major reforms to the Criminal Code to get the Hells Angels and other such criminal gangs behind bars. Those three major reforms were introduced by the Bloc Québécois. We did everything we could to get those reforms passed. The Conservatives were reluctant to adopt the reforms needed to fight real criminals with real tools.

Getting back to his example, what does Bill C-27 have to offer? From the first serious offence for assault or a heinous sexual crime—which we find just as heinous as my Conservative colleague does—a coroner can ask that the convicted individual be designated a dangerous offender. They want to give such criminals three chances. Where is the logic in this bill?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I might say at the beginning, as one of the ones you tuned up for shouting across the floor earlier, that you are to be congratulated for the non-partisan and fair approach you take to your occupancy of the Chair. You treat both sides the same.

I have a question to the member who spoke, and it spins off what the new government member said a minute ago when he outlined a serious crime and indeed it is a serious crime. However, when we are looking at these bills, the key question is, will it work? That is what is fundamental. We all know there are crimes out there and there needs to be penalties for them, but the key question in terms of the whole new approach the Conservatives are taking to law and order is, will it work?

I attended the justice committee the other day. There was no evidence nor concrete facts. The Conservatives are basically bringing in an Americanization of our justice system. Which country do we feel safer in walking the streets, this one or south of the border? So I ask the member--