House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.

Topics

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, all we do is put the onus on those individuals to explain why they are not dangerous offenders. All the protections we might expect in terms of rebutting that are available to those individuals.

I do not want to leave this topic without saying something about the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I have had the honour of knowing the member for 10 years. I knew him as the mayor of Keppel Township. He was the warden of Grey County. He has had a distinguished political career.

I can tell members that in the 10 years I have known him he has been very consistent in his opposition to the proliferation of violent crime in this country. He has been supportive of every measure to make the streets of this country safer. I have to thank him publicly for that support, because it certainly made my job and the job of the government a little easier.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate this bill and amendment introduced by the New Democratic Party.

I think the Conservatives have a weak argument when they say that the Liberals used the Senate to slow down the passage of some bills. On the contrary, throughout the legislative process the House was asked a number of times for unanimous consent. Such a motion was even introduced on one of the opposition days. This motion would have ensured the quick, the immediate passage of the vast majority of these bills. It was voted against by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Conservative Party.

I think they preferred to make it look like the Liberal Party and its members did not support tougher, more enforceable crime legislation, which is completely absurd.

When I look at the motion presented by the New Democrats and at the bill it modifies, the bill it would amend, I note that we as a party have indicated and continue to indicate that we support the bill before the House.

All through the process, three of the five bills contained within this bill have had and have the full support of the Liberal Party. The fourth we had questions on. That is the one about the famous reverse onus question, the question on dangerous offenders.

As for the reasons we had the questions, there are multiple reasons that can vary among members, of course, but one is that the current dangerous offenders legislation process in Canada is working. There is discomfort with it, but it is working. By the number of applications that are made and by the number of people held behind bars by this process, and we could name a lot of them, the system seems to be working.

What this bill does now is go to reverse onus. If we listened to the minister earlier and if we saw the types of offenders being sought by this, I think we would all agree that these people would inherently pose the threat of being dangerous. I do not know that it is unreasonable to say that these people warrant special consideration and special identification. If somebody has had three offences, has been indicted three times on the same offences and has been found guilty in those areas of very dangerous criminal activity, they warrant special consideration. I do not think one would argue that.

We had a consideration of the Charter of Rights and whether this was within the Charter of Rights and whether it would meet constitutional challenge. We are somewhat assured by the presentation at committee by Mr. Stanley Cohen, senior general counsel in the human rights law section of the Department of Justice.

I still have a little bit of a reservation about the question that it is “not manifestly unconstitutional”, but I will not spend too much time on that, not being an expert on the matter. However, that does give support. Therefore, for that reason, we will continue to support the bill and we will find it very difficult to support the amendment now proposed, which would gut the bill.

In the little time remaining, I would like to point out one area in the bill with which I have certain concerns. It is the question of mandatory minimum penalties. If at first we look at the list that is proposed in the bill where we would apply mandatory minimums, I think all Canadians would agree that these are very serious offences and should be taken very seriously by the judicial system. I think they would agree that there should be a message sent out to anybody who is considering that type of offence and also that there should be protection for the public from the type of people who do those types of offences.

However, there is always the case out there that is a little different. Having some leeway, some discretion in the judicial system for the justices in this country to exercise, I think is always warranted. I will bring the attention of members to one of those cases. I will try to remain as vague as I can because I believe some aspects of it may still be before the courts.

A few years ago in an insular community in New Brunswick, not that long ago, there was one house in that community about which there were a lot of allegations of criminality. There were allegations of drug sales and illegal weapons. All sorts of problems were happening there. There was huge frustration in the community that the RCMP or the police system was not able to take care of the problem and not able to provide security to the community.

It came to the point that there was a blow-up in the community. Although I do not believe anyone was shot at, gunshots were fired. A house was burned. A vehicle was burned. Charges were filed by the RCMP. When I look at that case and those people, I cannot condone their actions. I do not believe in vigilante justice. However, I sort of understand the situation they were in. There is some compassion from me in that regard.

I look at the prescriptive list of penalties. Should these people be incarcerated for two or more years because they were part or party to that activity? Will justice be served? Will we provide more security to the communities or will we have an adverse effect on communities by breaking up families?

I am not the judge in that. Nor am I a legal expert. However, I have enough confidence in our judicial system that we could have some leeway for justices to look at situations around cases similar to that and not necessarily have a system that is this prescriptive.

On the question of impaired driving, Liberals offered to move it along as quickly as possible. There was no holdback by us. Another bill on the list was at the committee, but the House leader in the committee would not bring it to the Senate. It was brought forward by an opposition member on the Senate floor. The Conservatives talk a lot about the bills being stalled, but there was a lot of willingness on their part to stall them. It made their lives and arguments a lot easier.

Liberals support the provisions dealing with drug impaired driving. I do not know if a set of laws can be created to solve the whole situation, but we need to have laws and penalties that discourage people from doing this. It has had an effect. As we have made the laws stricter, both federally and provincially, in the areas of driving while drunk, we have seen a great reduction. Also the population understands that it is unacceptable behaviour.

Great credit for that should go not only to the people who created and applied the laws, but organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It has done a great job of sensitizing the population and getting people to understand that when people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while impaired, their competency is reduced because of alcohol or drugs. It is not unlike walking around with a loaded gun. People take the chance of causing serious harm.

We all know people in our communities who have been seriously harmed. We also know people who have caused that harm. We know people who have been in accidents because of driving while drunk and themselves have been seriously harmed. My hat is off to all of them who, after having lived through that, have gone to the schools, have talked to young people and have educated them without excuse for what they have done. They show the kids the risks of that type of behaviour.

I am encouraged to see young people in our communities take a very responsible approach, with the designated driver rules, safe graduations, all those other activities that young people live up to and espouse. This is a great advance in our communities.

When we look at the current dangerous offender legislation, my empathy goes to the families of the people who are now behind bars as dangerous offenders. I understand the concerns they have. Every few years dangerous offenders have a right to apply for bail, although they are almost always refused. We know the difficult cases where the families of the victims are again put through the stress, knowing that these people could be freed or they have to relive looking at the evidence again, preparing themselves or being present when the appeal is heard. It is very costly to them emotionally.

However, I thank them because freedom has a huge cost. The right to appeals and hearings of even the worst elements of our society are part of the rights that protect all society. Unfortunately, the cost of freedom is not always borne evenly and a lot is disproportionately toward the victims in the case of criminal justice. We know the cost of the military in the case of our freedoms generally.

It would be difficult for Liberals to accept the amendment proposed by the New Democrats. We will continue our support for the bill.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for West Nova was not on the committee as this went through. I do not know if he knows much of the history of that part of the bill, which deals with the dangerous offender designation. When the bill was originally introduced as Bill C-27, the spokespersons for his party spoke very strongly against it, along the same lines of what our amendment intends to do, which is to ensure it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Then at committee that same spokesperson, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, heard the same evidence I heard from all the experts, all the people with legal backgrounds, with the exception of justice officials and the minister, that this would not pass muster as far as the standard set by the charter.

Is his party's unwillingness to support the amendment motivated entirely by the fact that this is a confidence motion or is there some other reason why it is opposed to it?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we support a lot in the bill and we have all along. We have agreed to the increase in the age of sexual consent. We have agreed with the use of alcohol and driving provisions. We have agreed to most of the bills as brought forward by the government on criminal justice. We even offered to fast track them. We have offered amendments. We have worked with all parties, through committee and through the House, to offer amendments to improve some of the bills, and we see some of those improvements in these bills. That is how a minority Parliament should work.

Members of our party have some concerns about the reverse onus. However, if we look at the question of three offences in a very limited class of the most serious offence, an individual having three offences under that class before this provision applies tempers it somewhat. Then we look at the expertise of Mr. Cohen provided at the committee. While I am no constitutional expert and I do not have the distinction of the member as being one of the most intelligent parliamentarians and not a graduate of a law school, I am concerned about the question of manifestly unconstitutional. I do know how strong this is in giving us confidence that it would meet charter challenges.

However, I also know that it is pretty well impossible for experts in the field of constitutional law to give absolute guarantees on anything because we cannot prejudge the court. The court is an independent body that looks at the laws by itself, and we have seen many instances. I remember one in the fisheries role in the Marshall decision, where the government was not prepared for the Marshall decision that came out of the Supreme Court. All experts had told us that the federal case was strong.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 23rd, 2007 / 10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and I agree with his comments on driving while drunk and those kinds of crimes. Having been a high school teacher and principal for about 30 years, one thing I have seen increasingly is more young people are committing crimes under the influence of alcohol. The member related to a lot of excellent programs such as safe grads. However, does he realize that a great number of these youth are under the age of 18?

We have heard of tragedies that have happened at house parties or block parties because of underage drinking. I cannot remember the last time an adult was arrested for supplying liquor to a minor. It seems as if we are really getting loose on that. Would the member agree with that?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree it is a serious situation, but youth at the age of 14, 15, or 16 will always experiment and they will be adventurous. Should that happen, it is very important that they be provided with supervision. If we can control it and make it not happen all the better, but I do not think we can guarantee this will happen. I do not think it happened when my hon. colleague was 16 and it did not happen when I was age 16. We sought adventure.

With that, we have to ensure, through our school programs and great work by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that our youth recognize the danger they put themselves in when their faculties are reduced with drugs and alcohol. They need to be encouraged not to do this at all and to understand the dangers that come from it.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate at this stage, and I want to say how disappointed the Bloc Québécois is that the government has opted to make the vote on the amendments proposed by our NDP colleagues a confidence vote. Making room for some discretionary power and giving the Crown more room to manoeuvre and interpret the law is something that we have always supported and that we want to keep supporting.

That being said, the government has decided that the NDP amendment is a matter of confidence in the government, and since we want to support the bill, we will not support our colleagues' amendment.

Since the early days of the Bloc Québécois, our party has been interested in issues surrounding organized crime and violence and safety in our communities. I was the first member of this House to introduce a bill to make gangsterism an offence. Members may also recall that my former colleague from Charlesbourg was the member who worked to fight organized crime by proposing that the $1,000 bill be removed from circulation. My former colleague from Charlesbourg—

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

An hon. member

Mr. Marceau.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

—Richard Marceau, also introduced a bill to reverse onus with respect to proceeds of crime acquired by criminal organizations. That bill was passed unanimously.

We have a history of being concerned about fighting organized crime. A series of events began in 1995 when a car bomb took the life of young Daniel Desrochers and ended in 1997 when Allan Rock, the justice minister at the time, introduced an anti-gang bill. During that time, our party carried out a media campaign with our partners—police services and other law enforcement agencies—to bring in new legislation.

I remember that in 1995, a number of senior officials believed that the Hells Angels, the Rockers and the Bandidos were going to be brought down using the conspiracy provisions of the Criminal Code. The Bloc Québécois said that there was no way to stop major criminal organizations. There were 38 such organizations across Canada at the time. We said there was no way to stop them on the basis of conspiracy alone. We knew full well that the people giving orders at the head of these criminal organizations were not the people carrying them out. We also knew that, when it came to evidence or charges of conspiracy, these objectives could not be met using section 465 of the Criminal Code. I will have the opportunity to talk about this after question period.

In June, the Bloc Québécois made public 20 extremely progressive measures. If they became law, they would be much more effective than many other measures the Conservatives have introduced. After question period, I will have the opportunity to explain each of these measures in detail.

If my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin were here, for example, he would agree with me that we have never understood why the government did not focus first on accelerated parole review, a procedure under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act whereby an offender can be released after serving one-sixth of his or her sentence. We also do not understand why, with the parole system, people do not take part in programs and why the concept of merit and rehabilitation is not being looked at as an absolute priority.

These are some amendments and bills that we would have liked to see adopted and that we believe are far more effective than the whole philosophy of imposing mandatory minimum sentences.

I understand that it is time for oral question period. The stars have favoured me this morning, because I will be asking a question myself. Therefore, I will be quiet for now.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I regret to inform the hon. member for Hochelaga, but, it being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to statements by members.

Special Olympics Month
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize the importance of support for people with an intellectual disability by supporting the declaration of November 2007 as Special Olympics Month by Special Olympics Canada.

There are more than 800,000 Canadians with an intellectual disability. Special Olympics Canada is a national not for profit grassroots organization that seeks to enrich lives by providing sports training and competition opportunities to 31,000 athletes. They are supported by more than 10,000 volunteers.

In the spirit of Special Olympics Month, I call upon all Canadians to set aside some time to think about their families and communities and how they can make a difference in the lives of persons with an intellectual disability.

Diabetes
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, November 14 marked World Diabetes Day. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada launched a campaign across Canada to urge the federal government to commit to funding for type 1 diabetes research in the budget of 2008.

After meeting with several constituents regarding diabetes, I was surprised to learn that globally, Canada has the third highest occurrence rate of type 1 diabetes in children 14 years or younger.

Because diagnosis often occurs in childhood and adolescence, type 1 and other forms of diabetes threaten to place a heavy burden on Canada's health care system.

In one of those meetings, I was presented with two keys to deliver to the Minister of Health and Minister of Finance signifying my support for the foundation's funding initiative.

I believe Canada has the potential to play a role in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Bangladesh
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Lussier Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has contributed more than $86 million in development aid to Bangladesh, according to CIDA statistics for 2005-06.

After tropical cyclone Sidr, which has left thousands dead, Canada has promised to donate up to $3 million in humanitarian aid. With the damages caused by the hurricane, there will be a lot of rebuilding to do. Canada must commit to increasing its development aid to Bangladesh.

In light of the current political situation in Bangladesh, which needs political, electoral and institutional reform, it is essential for Canada to ensure that the donated money will contribute to reducing poverty and not to supporting the current interim regime.

The release of political prisoners is the first step toward democracy in Bangladesh.

Omar Khadr
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, for more than five years, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, has been languishing in the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. He was captured and detained at the age of 15 and remains the only detainee from a western country not to be repatriated.

The United Nations has launched a formal protest to the U.S. over Mr. Khadr's continued detainment. Members of the European Union and the international community have spoken out on his detention, and Mr. Khadr's military lawyers have gone to Britain to help secure his release to Canada.

All the while the Government of Canada has refused to involve itself. We have a responsibility as a government to protect our citizens, whether they are here in Canada or in other countries. However ,we see this government reversing the decades-long policy of seeking clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty, failing to make representations on behalf of Canadians detained abroad, and allowing children to languish in solitary confinement in a U.S. military prison. It begs the question: Why?

Ottawa Book of Everything
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I encourage every member of this House and all listening to get a copy of the Ottawa Book of Everything, written by Arthur Montague and published by John MacIntyre, a resident of Lunenburg in the constituency of South Shore--St. Margaret's.

This book gives an in-depth look at the city of Ottawa, covering a wide variety of topics, past and present, such as culture, crime, the economy, politics and weather. This book is interesting, entertaining and informative.

Following the success in 2005 of the Nova Scotia Book of Everything, John MacIntyre decided to branch out and cover other provinces and larger cities in Canada. In 2006 his company, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc., launched two more books, one for New Brunswick and one for Newfoundland and Labrador. This fall, along with the release of the Ottawa Book of Everything, there are books being released about P.E.I., Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan.

Mr. Speaker, you and any of my colleagues who do not have a copy of this book need one.