House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was supply.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10. I will begin by saying that I believe all members and all political parties are concerned about crime. In fact, the Liberal Party takes the safety and security of Canadians very seriously.

We introduced legislation in the last Parliament to address some of the current concerns. We increased spending on policing and especially on the broader issues related to terrorism over the last number of years. We set up procedures for various police jurisdictions in Canada and across our borders internationally to work better together.

Through the development of the Department of Public Security, we ensured that all the security, the police and the border related agencies, came together for better protection of public security and improved coordination between those various agencies.

I gave that little bit of background to reinforce the fact that as a party we believe strenuously in fighting crime and utilizing all the best tools and approaches available to do so. I will be opposing the bill. With this bill I expect some government members, probably many, will say that those who oppose the bill are soft on crime. However, that is not the case at all.

Those of us who are opposed to Bill C-10 want to have an evidence based approach to changing the justice system and to ensure at the end of the day that we have better results. I just do not believe that Bill C-10, the way it is currently drafted, really cuts it.

The question really is whether Bill C-10 is the step forward that the Minister of Justice claims it can be. I sincerely think not.

As with so much that the new government has brought forward, the intent of Bill C-10 may be fine but the design of the legislation is such that it would not achieve the intended results. I think it could make things more difficult by ending up at the end of the day spending more money on building more prisons, more infrastructure and not dealing effectively with policing, rehabilitation and crime prevention.

I believe the government has taken a very simplistic approach to a very complex problem. There is an old saying, “don't let the facts get in the way of a good story”. I think that is what is happening with the approach that the Minister of Justice is taking with Bill C-10, and that does worry me.

Legislation should be evidence based. The Minister of Justice has failed to bring forward evidence on this bill in a comprehensive way that would lead at least myself and, I think, many others to support the bill. The Minister of Justice seems more intent on having the language sound right than on designing the legislation in a way that would lead to those intended results.

The legislation caters to the view that there is a massive increase in crime when actually the evidence, the statistics, would show otherwise. That is not to say that there is not serious crime in the country, there is. We could all pick an instance, blow it out proportion and almost make it into a movie. Those people affected by crimes feel very aggrieved, and rightly so. We have a responsibility as a country to see that justice is done, but would Bill C-10 deal comprehensively with the concern of those crimes? I most definitely think not.

In Bill C-9 and Bill C-10 we see a certain amount of Americanization of the Canadian justice system. I have had the opportunity to see both systems and our justice system is vastly improved over the one south of the border. We have less crime in Canada. We have greater rehabilitation and far fewer jails per capita. We have fewer repeat crimes and there is greater safety on our streets. We can ask any citizen which cities they could walk into and feel relatively secure and they would say Canadian cities. Our system of justice is far less costly than the system south of the border.

Does Canada's approach to crime need to be improved? I would say that it certainly does, but Bill C-10 is not the answer, at least not in whole. I could support some parts of the bill but I believe overall the bill is seriously flawed.

Do mandatory minimums have a place? Many critiques over the last 50 years would say no and many would say they do not. Personally, I believe they do in some instances but not with the kind of simplistic blanket treatment that the bill proposes.

The issue can be dealt with in other ways. I can give an example of where I think judges were lax and where the justice system is currently soft, and that relates to the marijuana grow operations in British Columbia. Police officers and the RCMP will tell us about going into marijuana grow operations, taking them down, putting their lives on the line to deal with the problem and that before they go to the office the next morning the people they charged are out on the street. That is wrong and it should not happen.

I know we are not supposed to criticize judges but I did this while I was in the position of solicitor general and I maintain to this day that in too many instances in the province of B.C. the judges are soft on marijuana grow operations. However, there other ways of dealing with the issue than mandatory minimum sentences. In those instances in British Columbia where it relates to marijuana grow operations, the intent of the law is not quite being followed. There is too much softness. The judge would have to explain his or her reasons for not imposing the maximum sentence that is in the law.

The bill is terribly flawed. I had hoped to quote the member for Mount Royal when he said that Bill C-10 was not evidence based legislation but I see I am out of time. I would refer members to the remarks by the member for Mount Royal in which he gave a very good legalistic argument in terms of why Bill C-10 cannot be supported as it is currently drafted.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made a few valid points. I would agree with him that there are instances where the justice system has been soft on grow operations and I would like to see that halted as well.

What we are really talking about in Bill C-10 is justice. Somehow that has been lost in the whole conversation. We have families, victims and citizens crying in the streets and asking why this is being allowed to happen, why criminals are getting off so soft and why are we not dealing with this. Bill C-10 seeks to deal with it. We are standing up for our citizens and trying to make their streets safe.

Why is the hon. member not delivering what our constituents are demanding, which is justice?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I said during my remarks, when we, as members of Parliament, try to debate a bill to get the best legislation possible and put in place a bill that would achieve the intended results, then there a legitimate basis for doing that. We have supported mandatory minimums in place. In some instances, we have brought them in.

Under Bill C-10, the government is extending those mandatory minimums to unreasonable levels. The result at the end of the day will not be what it intended to achieve. I think it will cost the system more money. As a result, we will not have the money to put the human resources in the streets to deal with crime. The government will not have the money to do the kind of crime prevention that needs to be done.

Because we are opposing the bill for a better approach, the member is saying that we are soft on crime. We are not. We believe there is a better way of doing things than the approach taken by the government, which is Americanizing the Canadian justice system, a system that has proven not to work as effectively as the Canadian justice system.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Malpeque, is a former attorney general. I do not have to tell him that sentencing has more than one purpose and one goal.

The first element of sentencing has a punishment and a consequence element to it. However, there is also a rehabilitation element, hopefully. If these people will be on the streets again some day, we want them to get the services that rehabilitate them. The third point I want to dwell on is that there has to be a deterrent factor.

I come from the riding of Winnipeg Centre. On a hot summer night, there is gun play every night. Kids, with a cavalier attitude toward guns, use them more and more frequently. Families will not sleep in the outside rooms of their houses; they sleep in the inner rooms. They are worried about a stray bullet coming through their houses.

From a deterrent point of view, what is wrong with mandatory minimum sentences in a crimes committed with guns, a violent crime perpetrated on the streets of Winnipeg where a gun is used?

We want the message out there that there is a deterrent so kids will take it more seriously. Instead of fooling around with guns in the back lanes, we want them to know that there is a serious consequence to that in my riding.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, if there is any member in the House with whom I am absolutely surprised, it is the member for Winnipeg Centre. He continually compromises his principles to get in bed with the Conservative Party of Canada. There are mandatory minimum sentences right now in terms of gun crimes. He knows it, but he wants to stay in bed with those folks over there.

If you would go out there and tell your constituents about those mandatory minimums and the deterrents, then he would be doing something. He abolished the principles of the NDP Party long ago to get in bed with the Conservatives.

Tell the public the facts on Bill C-10. Do not misrepresent them like the member for Winnipeg Centre is doing.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I would just remind the member for Malpeque to not let anger get in the way of using the third person.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Surely there is some obligation for hon. members to stay away from complete fabrications and untruths. Is there nowhere in the rules or Standing Orders that one has to tell the truth from to time? Is there nothing barring somebody like him from standing and making an insultingly, completely--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

It sounds to me more like a point of debate.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to resist getting into that pushing and shoving match which we just witnessed. I want to get to the issue of sentencing, as we debate Bill C-10.

As we all know, Bill C-10 bulks up the number of mandatory minimum sentences that would be in the Criminal Code. While there is room in every Criminal Code for some mandatory minimums, the easiest one is the sentence for first degree murder, which has a mandatory minimum sentence of life, at least in our country. Other countries have other penalties.

We are not really debating whether there should be a mandatory minimum sentence in place for any particular crime. We are debating the extent of those mandatory minimum sentences.

I used the term that the current bill bulks up. It really does bulk up or materially increases the number of mandatory minimum sentences that would be in the Criminal Code, if the bill passes, with particular reference to firearms offences. At the end of the last Parliament, an attempt was made to increase, by a small margin, the number of mandatory minimum sentences associated with the criminal use of firearms. In fact, the House passed a bill only within the last few years which did precisely that.

When I looked at the data, I came across what I thought was an interesting perspective on crime statistics. It has to do with how we look at crime statistics across the country. Although I have had many occasions to look at statistics over the years, I had not noticed any of this before. Members may or may not relate to this.

I represent a Toronto area riding. When I looked at the crime statistics for the Toronto area, the census metropolitan area called the CMA, the Toronto CMA was number 26 on a list of 27 Canadian metropolitan areas for crime. That means there are 25 other municipalities in Canada that have crime rates in excess of that in Toronto for the timeframe that ended with the year 2004. I thought that was peculiar. I would have thought the big cities would have had the highest crime rates. It turns out I am wrong.

Toronto was 26 on a list of 30 for criminal statistics kept by police forces across the country. Those are reliable statistics, too, but vary slightly from Statistics Canada. I will mention some of the places that were near the top of the list. This is not for the purpose of maligning these communities. A problem with crime in Canada is a problem for all Canadians as well as the communities involved. All five of the communities with the higher overall crime rates, Regina, Saskatoon, Abbotsford, Winnipeg and Vancouver, were all cities removed from the eastern part of Canada.

If I were an MP coming one of those communities, I would be telling the House that there is a relatively high crime rate in my community and that we have to do something about it. If I come from a community with a lower crime rate, I will say that there is a crime problem but we have to look at it in perspective. I had always been curious as to why there was a difference in perspectives among members of the House when it came to the current data.

Perhaps that is part of the explanation for communities that have higher crime rates. I am not talking marginally higher, I am talking double and triple the rates in some of the other eastern Canadian cities. If I were to be representing a high crime community, I would be pulling the chain a lot more firmly in terms of getting an appropriate response to dealing with those crime levels.

I want to point out that the sentencing regime, the sentencing used for both the cities with the lower crime rates and the cities with the higher crime rates is the same. Therefore, I do not think we can say it is the sentencing that is responsible for the higher crime rate.

We might also want to say that it is not the sentencing which is responsible for the lower crime rate. However, we are talking about material differences in crime rates, but the same sentencing regime.

We ought to look at the real crime data. I will ask members to look back 15 years or more to a report of a committee of the House, the justice committee. It was chaired by Dr. Bob Horner. At that time we looked at the crime rates in the United States of America. It had the highest imprisonment rate of all the countries where there was data on incarceration.

Looking back at our report, we said that if locking up all those who violated the law contributed to safer societies, then the United States should be the safest country in the world, which it was not. The U.S. Senate judiciary committee agreed. Using 1990 data, it said that the United States was a world leader in reported murder, rape and robbery rates. Yet it had the highest incarceration rate. The higher incarceration rates did not noticeably improve, in any way, the risk and crime rate levels in the United States.

At about the same time, it is true that the crime rates in Canada were relatively high. They had gone up, the prior 10 years leading up to 1991. Starting in 1991, the crime rates began to drop, and they have been dropping ever since in Canada, not because of the Horner report and not because of what Parliament did or did not do. Looking back, it probably had a lot to do with the sociological factors that caused crime.

I would love an opportunity to go into those today. I will not have a chance. I will simply make two or three points.

First, I believe enforcement is a major component of reducing crime. I think that has been proved in the community I come from. It is being proved now as police and prosecutors are learning how to do better enforce.

Second, crime prevention initiatives have payoffs, but it involves the long run. Factors that give rise to crime are poverty, physical and sexual abuse, illiteracy, low self esteem, inadequate housing, school failure, unemployment, inequality and dysfunctional families. These have all been identified as the root causes of crime. Increasing mandatory sentencing does not address any one of those at all.

That is with regret. That is why I am having difficulty with a wholesale entry in mandatory minimum penalties. I could accept that there would be a few serious crimes where society had an interest in increasing, the denunciation factor, the desire of Canadians to say that this offence is so serious that we have to attach a mandatory sentence, a one-off. However, the bill does not do that. It takes a whole file, a whole truckload of offences and creates mandatory minimums. I suggest that is not the way to go.

I encourage us to continue the debate here or at committee. Let us look at the sentencing principles contained in the Criminal Code. They are well enunciated. They were established by the House approximately 12 years ago. They are very good and they speak conceptually against the concept of mandatory minimums.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question to ask the member opposite based on what I have heard.

Everyone who commits a crime in Canada is a product of some exclusion of society. Therefore, it is justified that they are able to commit these crimes and we should all feel sorry for them.

If someone were to commit a sexual offence, aggravated sexual assault with a firearm, be convicted under the change in law and not able to commit another offence for five years, would the member feel good about telling the parents of a young daughter from his constituency that the individual was locked up for five years and not on the street able to do it again? That would be five years for an offence like that where victims would have some feeling of retribution and a sense of justice for the crime committed against them.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member takes the slam the cell door closed and throw away the key approach. I think every sentencing decision is based on its own merits and we rely on judges to do that with the general direction of appeal courts.

However, as a parent I would be concerned about any crime, but let me put this back to the member as a scenario. With the proposed mandatory minimum sentencing, what if a very well intentioned Crown prosecutor decides he or she wants to take a guilty plea to a lesser included offence? Instead of getting the mandatory minimum which the member would like to see, we end up taking a summary conviction plea or another lesser included offence and we end up without the mandatory minimum at all.

By imposing mandatory minimums across the board, defence counsel and Crown attorneys across the country will attempt to both use the higher penalty to induce plea bargaining and an attempt to avoid incarceration rates that will come with that.

As sure as night follows day and day follows night that will be a consequence of ratcheting up the mandatory minimums. I do not mind if the person culpable of the offence outlined by the hon. member is put in jail for five years or ten years provided that is a fair sentence determined by a court after a fair trial determined by a judge. I am happy to see the person put away for a long time, but not just on this chart of lock'em up and throw away the key approach that seems to be contained in the bill.

Leucan
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, June 11, the head office of Leucan in Montreal and nine regional committees simultaneously held the third provincial head shaving challenge. The event was an unprecedented success. In total, 4,700 people had their heads shaved, raising a record $2,200,000.

All the money raised thanks to the generosity of Quebeckers and the involvement of numerous partners, personalities and participants will go to the organization, to promote healing and well-being among children with cancer and provide support for their families.

I would like to thank my special advisor, Norm Vocino, for his involvement and the Conservative caucus and staff for their generosity.

Justice
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, Toronto newspapers recently reported on the case of Leslie Hoogland, a former Toronto high school teacher, who was convicted of possession of over 2,000 pornographic pictures of Toronto area under-age boys. He had also hired child prostitutes in the Toronto area.

For these heinous crimes against children, Madame Justice Faye McWatt gave him a two year conditional sentence, including one year of house arrest. How does a sentence like this send a message of denunciation and deterrence? It does not.

It is sentences like this, for crimes against children, which cry out for reform of conditional sentencing. Bill C-9 would address these irresponsible sentences imposed by judges since we cannot count on them to self-regulate their use of conditional sentences. Passage of Bill C-9 cannot come soon enough for the exploited children of Canada and the world.

Baha'i Community
Statements By Members

June 12th, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people freedom of religious expression.

The people in the Baha'i community in my riding and elsewhere in Quebec and Canada are very concerned about the persecutions of members of the Baha'i faith living in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In addition to being persecuted, they are being deprived of the most basic rights, such as the right to higher education for young people and the right to own property.

Baha'is seek only the unity of humankind, the equality of men and women, the reduction of the gap between rich and poor and the elimination of racial, religious and social conflict. For this they are tortured, raped, killed and stripped of their property.

I ask the Government of Canada to take the necessary steps so that the international community condemns this intolerable situation.

Rural Communities
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the process of the renewal of northwestern British Columbia, we are learning important lessons on how diverse groups can come together with common interests to achieve incredible things. The good news is we are turning a corner in northwestern British Columbia.

Here are a few examples. First, the expansion of the Prince Rupert container port could only have happened because government, workers, community groups and investors took the time to work together for a common purpose.

A few months ago, the sinking of the Queen of the North, a tragedy on all accounts, also delivered incredible results with a unifying spirit from the people of Hartley Bay and Prince Rupert who went out to save all those passengers.

Most recently, there was the phenomenon called Hockeyville in which my community placed in the top five across this nation. It brought together groups that never sat together at tables before. I would like to offer my congratulations on behalf of the people of Smithers to Salmon River, Nova Scotia for being named Hockeyville Canada.

We all know that rural communities contribute in a vital way to Canada. It seems that we also have a lot to teach our urban cousins on how to get things done.