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

Topics

Centennial of the Polish Alliance of Canada
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition in this House on behalf of a number of people and especially the Polish community of Canada.

A former member of this House, Jesse Philip Flis, to whom I extend warm greetings, recently met with me and asked me to support the Polish community in its initiatives.

This petition asks Parliament to recognize the centennial of the Polish Alliance of Canada, which will take place in December 2007. It therefore asks that a commemorative stamp be issued to mark the occasion.

Child Exploitation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was the International Day Against Child Labour. Today, I am pleased to present a petition that is part of a larger batch of 12,000 signatures from people asking the government to promote the International Labour Organization's Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour.

An initiative of Amnesty International and Children's Care International, the day promotes awareness of the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, prostitution and exploitation that is likely to harm children's health or safety.

I am pleased to present these signatures in this House.

Darfur
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to introduce a petition from Christine Johnston and students and teachers at Ashbury College.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to uphold its responsibility to protect under the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. They call upon the House to play a leadership role in lobbying the United Nations Security Council to send a peace making force to the Darfur, Sudan region and for Canada to play a key role in that peace making force.

Citizenship and Immigration
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition of 30 some pages, containing the signatures of over 1,000 citizens from across Toronto and Canada. It concerns the elimination of the $550 fee that has to be paid by refugees in order to apply for permanent residence in Canada. The petition also asks that the fee be eliminated for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Because of this very expensive fee, some families are unable to be united and are unable to establish in Canada. If one considers a family, the fees amount to over $1,000 for them to move to Canada. The petitioners ask that the fees be dropped.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

June 13th, 2006 / 12:20 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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Value of the Canadian Dollar
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning we learned that the Canadian dollar had risen above 90¢, its highest level in 28 years.

This is an important milestone that is disrupting economic activity in Canada and that, in my opinion, calls for an emergency debate in this House. We need to have, on behalf of the people of Canada, an opportunity to clearly tell the Bank of Canada and the Conservative government that action is urgently required.

The current situation is causing thousands of jobs to be lost. Just last weekend, we heard of 71,000 jobs being lost. But today's announcement of such a rise in value is creating an emergency situation, as the effects of this rise will become apparent in the very short term.

This is also sending a signal internationally, which will hinder investments in our country.

I would therefore like the House, through the Speaker, to grant my request for an emergency debate, so that such a debate can be held and the will of the people can be expressed in this House through their elected representatives.

Value of the Canadian Dollar
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

The Chair will come back with an answer later today.

The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in opposition to Bill C-10. My constituents in Etobicoke—Lakeshore made their concerns about public safety very clear during the last election campaign.

I will not forget knocking on the door of a family in my riding who had just lost its nephew in a gun crime shooting in Montreal. I went to a memorial service held in the young man's honour and we all felt shock and anger at the senseless waste of a young life. The young man's uncle asked me what I would do to reduce the incidence of these terrible crimes and I pledged to support any reasonable measure that would make such tragedies less likely in the future.

Everyone in the House, especially this member of Parliament, wants to keep faith with families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Everyone in the House wants to reduce this scourge of gun crime.

The question before us today is not who is tougher on crime. The question is, what is the most effective way to do so? That family in my riding does not want us to play politics with its grief and anger. It wants balanced measures that work. Balance means measures that address all features of the crime problem in our society rather than using sentencing tariffs as the unique yardstick of whether criminal justice policy is sufficiently tough.

Balance means giving all our crime fighters, the police, the crown attorneys, the judges, the neighbourhood watch organizations, the youth workers, the school teachers, the parents, the parole and probation officers, the correction officers and, yes, the good people who run the gun registry, the support and resources they need to work together to reduce crime in our society. Recent arrests of drug gangs in Toronto prove the effectiveness of a targeted and tough police action, and the Toronto police deserve all possible praise for these raids.

A balanced approach includes tough sentences for heinous crimes, but the Criminal Code already contains 42 mandatory minimum penalties. Many of these were placed on the statute books by previous Liberal administrations. The political charge that this side of the House is soft on crime just will not wash.

The question before the House is not whether there should be some mandatory minimums for serious crimes, but whether it is good public policy to increase their number and severity and to make this the sole focus of criminal justice policy in the government.

Instead of a balanced approach—increased funding for police forces and the RCMP, the courts, legal aid, youth employment programs and crime prevention in schools—this government proposed a single new tool: a new series of minimum sentences for a variety of crimes committed with a firearm.

Instead of listening to the valiant army of people who fight crime, this government decided that petty politics took precedence over efficiency in fighting crime.

The people of my riding do not want to play petty politics with crime. They want a balanced approach that is based on actual facts and delivers tangible results.

Bill C-10 fails the test of balance. Instead of investing new resources in the police, in the courts, in the probation and parole systems, the federal government, and provincial ones as well, will be forced to invest millions of dollars of scarce criminal justice resources in new prisons. This is not balanced. This is just ideologically driven public policy.

The second test that criminal justice measures must pass is evidence. In his testimony before the justice committee, I heard nothing from the Minister of Justice that approached an evidence based approach that would justify the new tariffs. There is good reason for his silence. There are no studies that prove, with any degree of conclusiveness, that increases in mandatory minima do actually reduce the incidence of gun crime.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said in the House on June 6 that he “wanted to send a message to criminal gangs”, but he went on to say:

Whether or not they are paying attention and will think twice before committing a serious crime with a firearm remains to be seen....

This suggests that the government does not know whether mandatory minima deter. It wants to send a message but it has no idea whether the message will get through.

The United States has just come through a 40 year experiment with mandatory minima. No reputable criminologist believes that this explains the fall in serious crime rates in the United States. The causes, the experts agree, can be traced to jobs, to prosperity, to better prospects for the poor and a demographic decrease in the proportion of young adult males who are responsible for most serious crime. Already many American states are abandoning mandatory minima. Why should Canada rush to adopt a policy that many thoughtful Americans reject as a failure?

The use of mandatory minima, however, has had one obvious effect. The U.S. now has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.

When I was a young graduate student, I used to spend every Tuesday night for about four years in a medium security prison working with the prison chaplain with a bunch of young lifers who were doing mandatory minimums for serious crimes. After that experience of four years, I came away with one very clear conclusion: Prisons are essential to remove dangerous offenders from society but prisons also render most offenders worse.

The unfailing consequence of Bill C-10 would be to increase the Canadian prison population and, as a consequence, increase the number of criminalized individuals who, when released, are likely to reoffend. Instead of reducing crime, Bill C-10 might just have the opposite effect.

Because Bill C-10 would increase the prison population, this would have serious public expenditure consequences. The House and the country is entitled to know what these measures will cost. Nowhere has the government presented real estimates of what it will cost to increase our prison population, but we can have some idea.

We already know that it costs $80,000 to keep a Canadian in prison. The House and the country will want to know why the government believes it should spend more scarce criminal justice dollars on keeping people in prison and possibly making them worse, when the same money could be spent on a balanced investment, in more police officers, probation and parole personnel, improvements in legal aid and the court system.

Bill C-10 fails the test of balance. It fails the test of evidence. It also fails the test of justice. By justice, I mean the requirement that sentences fit the crime. As my colleague, the member for London West, so ably pointed out, a person who commits a crime with a long gun under this legislation is likely to face a lower penalty than someone who commits an equivalent crime with a handgun. Where is the proportionality? Where is the fairness in this?

In our system we leave the adjudication and proportionality to judges. They are trained to determine the circumstances, mitigating or aggravating, that ought to determine what penalty fits the crime. The escalating tariff proposed by the government makes it more difficult for our criminal justice system to achieve proportionality and fairness.

My party has always believed in a different balance between the legitimate prerogatives of the legislature and the courts and between the imperatives of public safety and the need for proportionality.

In conclusion, Bill C-10 is not a balanced approach to public safety. It is not evidence based and it fails the test of proportionality. On these three grounds, I will vote against it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what the hon. member for Etobicoke--Lakeshore had to say and I disagree with him wholeheartedly.

It was not that long ago that a heinous crime occurred in Toronto and the former chief of police, Julian Fantino, indicated that he had had it with the revolving door justice system and that the age of hug a thug, as he put it, was over. Our government never presided over the age of hug a thug but members opposite did. Obviously the whole notion that they are soft on crime is coming from society and not from us.

I would like to suggest that the member opposite look into what occurs in our federal prisons which actually have a very good record of rehabilitating prisoners. He may want to refer to them.

I would like to suggest to him that the bill is about justice, justice for victims and justice for society. Where does that enter into his paradigm of considering whether it is a balanced approach or not? I would like to hear the answer.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take some exception to the idea that previous Liberal governments were associated with hug a thug. As I made perfectly clear in my statement, the previous government took added mandatory minima where it felt there was a public order justification. I would point out to the hon. member that over the last 13 years Juristat statistics make it perfectly clear that crime rates fell on the Liberal watch because we took a tough and balanced approach.

As the hon. member rightly said, this is a question of justice, but justice does not consist of locking people up and throwing away the key. If the hon. member is as concerned as he says about rehabilitation in prisons, then I would see measures in the government's estimates that would amount to an investment in rehabilitation programs in prison. I see no such evidence of any investment in those programs.

Once again the hon. member is trying to play this as being that side of the House is tough on crime and we are weak on crime. The Canadian public is entirely sick of this falsely polarized debate. The entire House takes the most serious view of serious crime, as I made pretty clear in my statement. Let us move beyond this and assess this measure on its merits. I have assessed it according to three criteria and it has failed to pass the most elementary test of justice.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the hon. member who asked the first question, I thought this speech was remarkable. It was quite thorough, well balanced and in-depth.

Nonetheless, there is an aspect my colleague did not touch on—perhaps he was short on time—and that was the legal aspect. Many arguments to justify minimum sentences are horror stories. The sentences seem totally unreasonable in relation to the seriousness of the crime.

Of all these objections raised, has my colleague heard of a single case that went before the Court of Appeal in the country? If these sentences are so awful, they can be corrected in appeal. Before changing the legislation, we should look just at the sentences, considered unjustifiable by some, that were approved by the appeal courts.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful to the hon. member for his comments about me.

He agrees with me on the political line I addressed in my speech. I fully agree with him that if these crimes are not properly punished, it is always possible to turn to the Court of Appeal.

I would add that in the Canadian system, Parliament creates laws and judges apply them. We accept and respect the possibility of a division of labour between the judiciary and Parliament. I accept this division and the respect that exists between the two—