House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East, I am pleased to rise on the subject of criminal justice in Canada and Bill C-9, the conditional sentencing reform bill.

All Canadians value their safety and security. We want communities where we live, work and raise our children without fear and threat of violence. At the same time, we also desire something that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called “a just society”; that is a society built upon the principle of justice, fairness and the rule of law.

Throughout the world Canada is envied by other nations because individuals enjoy rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When the rights and freedoms of an individual are compromised by a criminal act, Canadians expect our criminal justice system to respond accordingly. We are not a vengeful people, but we do want our system of criminal justice to mete out sentences that are proportional to the gravity of the offence. In other words, the more serious the offence, the more serious the consequences will ensure.

That has always been the case since we enacted the Criminal Code over a hundred years ago. As the House is well aware, laws are not static and they must change over time. Over the past century, we have amended the Criminal Code to keep it in pace with changes in technology, changes in society and to develop new ways to deal with criminal offences.

Probation and conditional sentences are relatively new tools in the criminal justice system to prevent people convicted of less serious and non-violent offences from winding up in jail. Certain conditions are set out in the Criminal Code that a convicted offender must live up to or face more serious consequences if those conditions are breached. These tools can be very effective in crime prevention. In fact, these tools provide valuable alternatives to incarceration and allow people who can be safely managed in the community to remain in the community.

Probation and conditional sentences permit non-violent minor offenders the opportunity to continue with their jobs and provide for their families. Contrary to the rhetoric that we often hear in the House, my colleagues and I in the Liberal Party do in fact want serious sentences for serious crimes. Yet, at the same time, we do not want a hastily crafted bill with serious flaws to be rushed through Parliament just to satisfy vague election promises.

I want to share with the House a few statistics that my fellow members may find of use in this debate. Aboriginal people already make up nearly one in five admissions to Canada's correctional services, while they represent only 3% of the population. In Saskatchewan, the province with the highest percentage of aboriginal people, the minister of justice in that province has commented that the use of penalties focused on native traditions rather than simple prison time has had some success.

This form of conditional sentences encourages native communities to find alternatives to jail by, for example, providing restitution to the victim of a crime, volunteering with a charity or attending counselling or addiction programs. By wiping out these alternatives in legislation contained in Bill C-9, many more aboriginal Canadians will find themselves behind bars.

Bill C-9 would adversely affect remote communities especially. In Nunavut, for example, territorial judges handed down 203 conditional sentences in 2005, compared with 189 jail terms.

As my colleague from London West has aptly commented on this legislation, the bill appears to use the equivalent of a legislative sledgehammer where the equivalent of a legislative scalpel is required.

It is widely acknowledged that Bill C-9 covers a wide range of offences, several of which involve non-violence. The bill covers very serious crimes such as hijacking, manslaughter, attempted murder and sexual assault with a weapon. These are all serious offences. I am sure we all agree that they must be dealt with in a serious manner.

However, at the same time the bill was drafted in such great haste that it also includes unauthorized use of computer, cattle theft, mail theft and bestiality. I am not certain that the Minister of Justice had theft of livestock in mind when he considered, for example, what would be an appropriate sentence for sexual assault with a weapon. If he did, then the bill is serious flawed and so too is the logic behind the legislation.

According to David Paciocco, a criminal law professor at the University of Ottawa, not only would Bill C-9 put people behind bars who did not belong there, but lawyers and judges would be forced to find ways to avoid the ban on conditional sentencing. In addition, judges would also be forced to demand higher levels of evidence to secure a conviction while prosecutors may lay lesser charges to ensure conditional sentences are still an option.

Moreover, if the judges are further restricted and unable to assign appropriate sentences for non-violent crimes, we will witness certain increases in the number of people pleading not guilty, thereby our courts will experience more overcrowding and an increased court cost to the taxpayers.

A further problem with Bill C-9 is that it would force judges to arrive at a bleak choice, either choose prison or nothing at all. While this may appeal to sloganeers who would lock everyone up and throw away the key, in reality the stark choice between jail or nothing would more likely benefit the criminal rather than prevent crime in the future.

Judges need alternatives other than simply jail time. Unfortunately, Bill C-9 is a hastily drafted piece of legislation that is deeply flawed and should be seriously reconsidered by the government.

Bill C-9 in effect would affect approximately one-third of more than 15,000 conditional sentences set by courts each year. This number represents about 5% of all the sentences handed down each year. It is therefore estimated that Bill C-9 would result in an additional 3,000 to 5,000 being admitted to provincial jails. In many circumstances these are jail facilities that are already overcrowded, presenting a threat not only to the safety of the offenders, but also safety of the prison guards who we rely on to run these facilities.

In conclusion, Bill C-9 contains a series of unintended consequences that we can already identify. We need to take a careful and more considerate examination of the legislation before it ever becomes law.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech. I am concerned about the issue of how the conditional sentencing changes will affect the aboriginal population who are incarcerated at rates much higher than anyone else in the general population. In Saskatchewan 64% of conditional sentences are being handed out to aboriginal offenders.

Does the member have any thoughts on the implications of this for further incarceration of aboriginal people who need preventative programs to work with and conditional sentencing circles?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, statistics show that aboriginal people already make up an inappropriate amount of the population in prisons compared to that of the general public. Traditional justice and sentencing circles have been used in Saskatchewan. They have been more effective than putting them in jails.

The removal of conditional sentencing would disallow the aboriginal communities to use their alternative methodology to keep people out of jail and allow them to become contributing members of society.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her insight. Obviously there are many problems with the bill.

In previous questioning on the bill, some Conservative members seem to have understood that the bill only applies to violent crimes. Clearly it has a much wider application than that. In light of that and all of the comments we have heard from professors and people in the field of criminology and in this House through a very good debate, does the member think this bill can be saved at committee? Does she think the government took the time necessary to go through all of the applications? Obviously it is clear that the government's own members, some of them big spokesmen on crime and justice, do not even understand it. Can the bill be saved?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill looks at extreme cases such as sexual assault with a weapon and it also looks at mail theft and computer theft. It mixes and meshes many things. It is not a very thoughtful bill. It has been very hastily constructed. If the bill goes to committee, it is important that these things be removed. If hon. members on the government side do not understand the flaws in the bill, or do not even understand what it covers, then it is important that they first of all understand the bill in its totality, look at other legal opinions and not be so set on locking up everyone in jail.

They should understand the bill. They should understand the implications of the bill. It will give a person who has stolen some mail the same sentence as someone who committed a heinous crime. The bill could be saved if it is sent to committee and people put some thought into making appropriate changes.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the member's last answer.

There is a concern that the bill would not survive a charter challenge. There are many unanswered questions and we are being asked to vote on a bill that will have profound implications for the dispensing of justice right across this country.

Does the hon. member think that the government, in its haste to fulfill an election promise, has not done the appropriate due diligence to provide adequate legislation that will withstand charter challenges and actually be useful to courts and to people in the various provincial jurisdictions across this country?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the accountability bill, this bill will have a charter challenge and I thank the member for bringing it to the attention of the House. It will create more confusion in the system, more negotiations, et cetera, if it ever were to go through. If the bill is unconstitutional, I hope that the wisdom of the House will prevail.

Hockeyville
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, next week Canadians will begin the process of selecting Hockeyville, the community that epitomizes the Canadian hockey spirit. This competition, co-sponsored by Kraft Canada and the CBC, has narrowed down, from over 400 entries to a final 25, with voting beginning next week on June 6.

I want to urge my colleagues to support Pilot Mound, Manitoba. This community of 700 people has such a dedication to our national game that they banded together and purchased a surplus rink 1,200 kilometres away. Through volunteer efforts they dismantled, transported and reconstructed that facility, which is nearing completion and which houses not only a hockey rink but also a curling rink, a day care and a theatre.

Over the last seven years the people of Pilot Mound and the surrounding area have dedicated themselves to this wonderful $2.6 million project. Through dozens of fundraising efforts they have already raised about half that amount.

Check out the website at www.pilotmound.com/hockeyville. Next week let us make Pilot Mound Canada's Hockeyville.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, June 4 is Canadian Forces Day, a time to honour the courageous work our Canadian Forces members do day in and day out here at home and abroad, and the sacrifices their families make.

During the last Parliament, when in government we worked with the chief of the defence staff, General Hillier, whom we appointed, to arrive at a new vision for our forces of a versatile, combat capable force. We funded it to the tune of 13.5 billion extra dollars over five years.

The current government has put in $5.3 billion for five years. It has cancelled the Hercs. It forced this Parliament to vote on the extension of the troop mission to Afghanistan without giving us the chance to do due diligence for our troops by getting the information we needed to make an intelligent decision for them.

We will continue to commit to do our duty for the troops to ensure their security and care. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for what they and their families do day in and day out for our entire country.

Rights and Democracy Network
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, a special event called “Sur la piste des réfugiés” was held at the Université de Sherbrooke from May 1 to 3, 2006. In partnership with the Rights and Democracy Network, approximately 15 BA students in applied political science organized an outdoor simulation of a refugee camp.

The purpose of the simulation was to raise peoples' awareness about the plight and living conditions of refugees. There were four parts to the event: the creation of the camp and opening it to the public, an information forum, seminars, and a play.

The event was a resounding success and other universities who belong to the Rights and Democracy Network would like to see it reproduced on their campuses.

I would like to congratulate the organizers and the 50 or so participants who braved the cold and the rain to share in this instructive experience.

Workplace Health and Safety
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the health of most citizens in this country is protected by health and safety rights in the workplace. Sadly, this is not the case for those who work right here on Parliament Hill.

Instead, their basic rights are denied and they are essentially treated as second class citizens. Since there are no health and safety laws, workers cannot actively participate in the prevention of workplace accidents. No law means that workers cannot exercise their right to refuse dangerous work.

Over 20 years ago the government finally legislated a labour law known as the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act to protect its own employees. However, no government since has been willing to enact the law.

It is time to protect workers here who work to serve Parliament. They deserve the same protections that are afforded workers in all other sectors.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

June 2nd, 2006 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, we learn with great disappointment that the military-led government of Burma has again extended the term of detention for Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. This brave lady has now spent 10 of the past 16 years under house arrest.

Canada strongly condemns the renewed detention order against her. This act shows the Burmese government's callous disregard for fundamental freedoms, democracy and human rights. We call upon the Burmese regime to immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and work toward an enduring and lasting peace.

The Burmese people have suffered for too long. Universal condemnation has not produced any results. It is therefore time for the UN Security Council to become involved.

Grant Forest Products
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, since 1981 Peter Grant has done a remarkable job at building Grant Forest Products to an industry leader and innovator.

When the Grant Forest Products' Englehart operation produced its first panel of waferboard on December 10, 1981, no one could have imagined or predicted that the company would grow to the size and the scope it is today. Since that time, Grant Forest Products has truly emerged as a made in Canada success story and leader in the forestry sector.

Furthermore, by supporting local arts and amateur sports throughout Nipissing--Timiskaming and northern Ontario as a whole, literally thousands of people have benefited from Peter Grant's generosity. His passion for forestry and dedication to the north are clearly evident in all that Peter does.

As the member of Parliament for Nipissing--Timiskaming, I am proud to have Peter Grant as one of my constituents.

On behalf of hon. members I wish to congratulate Mr. Peter Grant on 25 years in business and wish him continued success well into the future. Well done, Peter. Keep up the good work.

Quebec City
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the citizens of my riding, Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, I would especially like to thank our Prime Minister for his openness toward and respect for Quebec City. We finally have a government that takes the interests of Canadians to heart.

By giving Quebec City, the oldest city in Canada, an international airport, the Prime Minister has allowed the city to welcome the thousands of tourists and delegates who will come to celebrate the anniversary of French Canada in 2008.

Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of my fellow citizens, I cordially invite you to come celebrate our anniversary with us in 2008.

Sainte-Julie Golf Tournament
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 29 I participated in the 25th Ville de Sainte-Julie golf tournament, with an illustrious resident of the city, former mayor Yvon Major, as honorary chair.

Mr. Major held public office for over 20 years as a councillor and then mayor. He is known to all as a man of unlimited generosity. Among his other good works was his participation with the South Shore's Alzheimer Society in establishing a home for persons suffering from Alzheimer disease.

I would like to thank Mr. Major—a man with a great heart, a man of conscience and action and a great sense of humour—for his exemplary involvement.

A long-time golfer, Yvon Major has made the Sainte-Julie golf tournament a charity event that benefits organizations in his community. I congratulate Mayor Suzanne Roy, the organizers, volunteers and many sponsors of this tournament, and I wish this wonderful activity continued success.