House of Commons Hansard #147 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crown.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

This is a serious issue. I would ask through you, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of the Environment stop making comments that tickle my humour and distract me from the points I am attempting to make. I believe I am making them very well notwithstanding his diversionary tactics.

The Liberals approve of the provisions that would strengthen the recognizance sections of the Criminal Code, sections 810.1 and 810.2. We think those are excellent.

We also think that some of the technical amendments or changes are good, but where we think the bill fails is that, one, it does not make a dangerous offender hearing application automatic or mandatory on a third conviction and, two, it does not make the breach of a long term offender order an automatic trigger for a dangerous offender hearing.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today and speak to Bill C-27. The constituents of Newton—North Delta are fully aware of my full support of any legislation that punishes violent or sex offenders, which is why I will be supporting the bill at second reading.

However, my colleagues and I have serious concerns about the constitutionality and the strength of this bill.

Since being elected, I have consistently supported legislation that is both tough on crime while supporting an activist social agenda that seriously addresses the causes of crime.

I support tougher sentences so that those who commit serious crimes do serious time. However, at the same time I support creating more social programs, which include child care spaces as well; all efforts aimed at poverty reduction and substance abuse; and any legislation that will help take guns off our streets. We must strike a balance between the two to be effective. We must try to see the big picture.

These changes cannot be debated in isolation, as the government does. With this legislation being debate today, before the accused can be found to be a dangerous offender, we must ensure that the offence is not an isolated occurrence. We also must establish that the pattern is very likely to continue.

Even after this, the court still has the power not to designate the offender as dangerous or to impose an indeterminate sentence. However, the dangerous offender section that we currently have in this country, which has put 360 dangerous offenders behind bars, is charter-proof and is working.

In fact, the former Liberal government 1997 created the long term offender designation. This was targeted at sexual and violent offenders because many sexual and violent offenders required special attention even if they did not meeting the criteria for a dangerous offender. This was a necessary change because, as of June 2005, we had 300 offenders under the long term offender designation in Canada.

The Liberal Party strongly supports real efforts to protect Canadians and punish offenders who represent threats to the safety of our communities across Canada. However, any changes that we make to the current system must be done in a manner that would not jeopardize the victims' rights.

Changes proposed should not back up the courts. If there are charter challenges, the courts could be jammed for years. Our amendments to Bill C-27 are not designed to weaken the bill, as the official Liberal critic spoke earlier in favour of this, but to make it stronger and effective, which can only be done by being non-partisan. By doing that we would ensure that the criminals are sentenced and put away as fast as possible.

We would like to introduce provisions that allow crown prosecutors to seek a dangerous offender hearing if someone currently considered a long term offender violates any term of the supervision order. This would toughen the law from its current version and keep career criminals off the streets.

There is no reason we cannot have mandatory dangerous offender hearings following a third conviction for serious crimes. This would be more effective than the current reverse onus provisions in the bill. Once again, this would toughen the bill from its current version. It is not efficient if the reverse onus legislation cannot pass a constitutional challenge. We just back up the appeals process by doing that.

I would now like to focus on the issue of the constitutionality of Bill C-27. The bill has proposed sections on which legal experts have big questions with regard to their constitutionality. The bigger problem with many of the reforms in the bill, as many of us know, is that the administration of justice falls within provincial jurisdiction. It is beyond the jurisdiction of the federal government to impose statutory duties on provincial prosecutors. We cannot step in and control how justice works in the provinces and regions, particularly where those duties are meant to influence the prosecutor's discretion.

In the view of the legal experts, that could make a significant part of the bill unconstitutional and, by making this unconstitutional, we are putting victims at risk.

Unfortunately, I predict that rather than working with the Liberal Party to fix these problems, the Conservative Party will instead try to say, with its usual bluster, that we are gutting the legislation and being soft on crime.

I would say, first, that this is an issue that the citizens of Canada expected a far more serious dialogue from their elected representatives; and second, that if the Conservative Party tries to push this legislation through without taking the very serious concerns raised with respect to the charter, not only will this demonstrate that it is soft on charter rights, it will potentially put the entire section of the Criminal Code, which it is seeking to amend, in jeopardy.

What does that mean? It means that more victims will get shortchanged. I can tell the House that when I speak to my constituents of Newton—North Delta, that is not what they want. They want a real, effective crime prevention strategy but that is not what they are seeing in the present government's agenda. They want to toughen the laws to keep the violent and career criminals off the streets.

It is not just my constituents of Newton--North Delta. All Canadians are looking for tougher measures to stamp out crime, but not flawed legislation that puts this aim in jeopardy.

I hope the justice committee will work in a diligent and bipartisan manner to ensure that this flawed legislation is amended to take into account the concerns of my constituents, Canadians and the legal experts across the country to make the toughest and most effective crime legislation in the country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his vote of confidence in the bill but I do have some problems with his criticisms of the bill.

Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale is part of the amalgamated city of Hamilton. In Hamilton we have a secure release facility where some of the most dangerous offenders are housed.

Years ago, one of those dangerous offenders walked across the road to a shopping mall in downtown Hamilton, one of these places where the member previous to that member spoke about one of those unusual stories happened, and repeatedly stabbed a young woman. It took the crown attorney in Hamilton almost two full years, under the existing legislation, to build a case to finally have this man labelled a dangerous offender and put him away.

It is necessary for us to have this reverse onus so that our crown attorneys have the capability of building the case required in order to accomplish this with what both the last two Liberal members said, effective law enforcement legislation.

What does the member mean by lack of effectiveness when this would clearly give a tool to the crown attorneys to put these dangerous offenders away much more effectively?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to being tough on crime, the member needs only to look at my record. I have always been an advocate for tougher laws.

What we are proposing is that after the third offence, if the criminal who is committing the crimes is a dangerous offender, there should be an automatic hearing and that person should be put behind bars.

On the other hand, the way that member is thinking, the criminal might go to the appeal courts which might lengthen the trial and put the victims in jeopardy.

We are saying that after that third offence, the person should automatically be tried as a dangerous offender while, on the other hand, the member is saying that we should put the onus on the criminal to prove that he or she is not a dangerous offender.

I personally feel that our amendment to the legislation is much stronger and I know Canadians and the people of Newton—North Delta feel the same way.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns is that when any government at the federal level brings in tougher legislation on crime there is usually a financial cost to it in terms of who pays for this.

We know that legal aid itself is a provincial responsibility but when the federal government brings in an initiative such as this it adds more cost and burden to the provinces.

Does the hon. member not think that if the government wishes to do this, which, in many ways it is correct in doing to ensure the safety of our citizens, that it should first negotiate with the provinces to include more funding in terms of legal aid services for all victims in that regard?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot agree more with the member when it comes to giving the funds to the provincial governments. In fact, my leader of the Liberal Party has committed to providing more funds to the provinces to take care of the legal aid situation .

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace).

With this bill, the government purports to make it easier for crown attorneys to obtain dangerous offender designations. I will support the bill so it can go to committee.

Unfortunately, the bill is not tough enough on dangerous offenders, and I am surprised. We always hear from our Conservative colleagues across the floor that they are the group that will get tough on crime.

This is a pretty weak bill. It does not deal with the issue of dangerous offenders completely enough. I will come back in a moment to the reason why I say that and why I will support our party's proposed amendments if it does get to committee. Our amendments would strengthen the bill and make it more difficult for dangerous offenders to create havoc in our communities and make our streets unsafe and our communities less secure.

I think of circumstances in Toronto and Etobicoke North and Rexdale in my riding. Unfortunately, there has been a long history of gun related crimes tied to drugs and gangs. Fortunately, in the last year there has been a decrease in that because of some raids by the police, in which 100 people were arrested. We cannot let our guard down. There is still a lot of work to do. I will come back to this in a moment.

One case that comes to mind happened in 2005 in Mayerthorpe, Alberta where four RCMP officers, Constable Brock Myrol, Constable Leo Johnston, Constable Peter Schiemann, and Constable Anthony Gordon, were regrettably and tragically killed. James Roszko, who took his own life, was the perpetrator of that horrific crime. That 46 year old man was a convicted pedophile and had a long history of violence and mental illness. People in the community called him a ticking time bomb. If I recall correctly, the police and the crown prosecutors had tried to have him put away as a dangerous offender or a long term offender, but were unsuccessful.

Hindsight is 20/20. If we had the provisions in this bill and the amendments, which our party will introduce to toughen it up, perhaps this unfortunate and tragic incident would not have occurred, but of course we do not know that for sure. That is why I will be supporting the bill.

I mentioned earlier that the bill does not go far enough and is not tough enough in a number of respects, and I will give the House a couple of examples. My colleague, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, talked about a couple of them.

The bill is deficient because the decision to pursue the dangerous offender designation is entirely within the designation of the Crown. There is nothing that mandates that a crown attorney must seek a designation either for repeat offenders or for specific types of offences. We should insist on an amendment that would create a provision that the Crown must seek a dangerous offender hearing for those who have three convictions for serious offences. We should be looking at mandatory offender hearings for those who are involved in certain crimes like violent gun crimes.

That would help my riding in Toronto where we unfortunately have repeat offenders, people who are involved in gangs, drugs and have handguns. They commit offences, are taken to court, released in many cases on bail and they reoffend. Then they are arrested and convicted again. These people are not really a benefit to the community while they are engaged in that type of behaviour. For certain types of violent gun crimes, we should look at mandatory hearings as dangerous offenders, and I will support that.

Another flaw in the Conservatives' legislation is this. Some people are on long term offender supervision orders. Some will violate the provisions of that order. In other words, they might be required to report to a parole officer, or they might be required not to go to certain areas such as parks, swimming pools, public places, or there could be a whole range of provisions. If they violate the terms of their order, it is my view that we should allow crown attorneys to order a new dangerous offender hearing for those types of individual. This is an area where the bill could be toughened up to make it more difficult for dangerous offenders to create havoc in our communities.

Our party is supporting the increase in the age of consent. We support mandatory minimums for certain targeted offences. For gun crime offences, we support mandatory minimum sentences. That is why we have proposed an increase. This is in line with the changes.

When we were the government, before the last election, we tabled those types of changes to the mandatory minimums for gun related crimes from one to two years for certain offences and from four to five years. It is important to do that. We should not get carried away with mandatory minimums. The research it is quite clear that mandatory minimums do not always have the kind of results that people would like to see.

The other thing we need to do, in dealing with criminals and violent crime, crime of any sort, is to approach it in a way that is multi-faceted. We cannot only toughen sanctions. We need to toughen the penalties as well. We also need to look at how police operate. We know more visible policing in the community has an impact. We also know community policing is helpful, where the police can work closely with young people in the schools and develop relationships. That is then used to build trust and to help young people, who could find themselves getting into trouble, and to prevent crimes. We should really be focusing on preventing crime. When we formed the government, we brought in the national crime prevention strategy and the national crime prevention program, and I was pleased about that.

In my riding of Etobicoke North, we have launched a whole range of programs over the years that help young people to get out of gangs and stay out of them or to not get involved with gangs at all. They give them an alternative to guns, drugs and violence.

It is a tragic development that the Conservatives on the other side want to scrap the gun registry. That is a big mistake. All we have to do is look at the events in the United States recently where access to handguns is almost as easy as buying a pizza. We need to keep reinforcing the need for people to licence and register guns. We need this multi-faceted approach. That is why I will support the bill, to send it to committee, to toughen it up, to make it a better bill and to ensure that dangerous offenders do not create problems in our communities.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments by the member for Etobicoke North. I agree with many of his sentiments, especially expressing support for Bill C-27 and getting tough on dangerous offenders. This is the way we want to go.

However, I disagree with one comment in his statement. The member was making good sense until the very end when he talked about the gun registry, which everyone knows was a $2 billion boondoggle and has not saved one life or prevented one crime involving the use of a firearm.

I will not touch on that today. I will touch on Bill C-27. I sincerely appreciate the member's support for this legislation. It is important legislation. It is the right thing to do. However, there is no unity within the Liberal caucus on the bill.

Will the member commit today to pushing this issue in his caucus, perhaps organizing some informational meetings to get people of like mind on his side and to join with us in supporting this legislation? Would he perhaps commit today to meeting with the leader of the official opposition to ensure that he is on side with Bill C-27?

While the member has indicated his support for Bill C-27, important legislation to get tough on sex offenders, the reverse onus on sex offenders, his caucus is not united on the bill. Will he commit today to pushing this issue forward and having special meetings on this issue with his caucus and a meeting with the leader of the official opposition?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have a rich imagination when it comes to boondoggles. The gun registry now is operating on a very sound financial basis. The registry itself is costing less than $24 million to operate. Yes, it cost too much to build the system. We know that now. We have dealt with those questions. There is no question about a $2 billion boondoggle. The member knows that full well.

With respect to his question, I am not aware of great dissension within the ranks on this side of the House on this bill. I find it strangely ironic when the members on the Conservative side would look to the Liberals as baying sheep and following the Prime Minister and their leader. On this side of the House we have a good and honest and open debate on matters. Then we look across the floor and the Conservatives are all stacking up and voting like sheep with their leader.

I am unaware of any dissension on this bill on this side. Good healthy debate and division is not necessarily a bad thing. I thought that is what the Conservative Party had been promoting over these many years. I will support the bill and I think the vast majority of my colleagues will as well.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the debate on this matter resumes, there will be two minutes remaining for questions and comments on the hon. member for Etobicoke North's speech.

It being 11 o'clock, we will now proceed with statements by members.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 21, I had the distinct honour and privilege to meet and welcome home 12 of our finest soldiers from their recent tour of duty in Afghanistan. They are proud members of the well-renowned Grey and Simcoe Foresters, and were guests of honour at a barbecue and dance held at the Owen Sound Armouries.

We thank God for the safe return of Warrant Officer Dean Henley, Master Corporals Dennis Dietrich, Kevin Kelley and Jamie Bull, Corporals Joel Chidley, Mike Cottenden, Danny Khoury, Travis Polaniec, Christopher Saumur, Jordan Webb and Ted Runyon-Lloyd, as well as Private Dean Laporte.

I felt great pride in observing this military family mingling with family and friends: Master Corporal Dietrich, with his quiet leadership style; Corporal Cottenden, a true character and inspirational leader; and the youthful exuberance of Private Lapointe.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I thanked them for their great service to their country and I ask the House to do the same.

Old Age Security
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, introduced in 1952, Canada's old age security program is intended to be universal and to act as the cornerstone of Canada's retirement income system for all Canadians.

Regrettably, the Old Age Security Act presently requires a person to reside in Canada for 10 years before he or she is entitled to receive a monthly pension. This residency requirement effectively excludes many seniors from its benefits, especially new Canadians. Indeed, because of the 10 year residency requirement, it is not at all uncommon for senior citizens to go without the benefits of old age security for many years. In my view, and in the view of a great many seniors across Canada, this outcome is unjust and unacceptable.

Today, poverty among seniors is epidemic, especially among women and immigrants. Reducing the residency requirement is one important measure the government could take to address the injustice of poverty among its seniors.

Jean Nadon
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the Dunamis gala on March 22, Jean Nadon of the Riviera residence won one of the awards for long-standing businesses in Laval.

This seniors' residence has been family run since it opened in 1959.

Creating a family atmosphere is central to the philosophy of the residence, which provides personalized programs for each of its elderly residents to promote physical and intellectual independence. This approach garnered an award of excellence in the personalized care and services category from the health and social services network in 2002, a reward that highlighted the residence's exemplary attention to client centred intervention.

Congratulations to the Nadon family, which has been passionate about caring for the elderly for 48 years. They are models of success and devotion for the whole community.

Netherlands Liberation Anniversary
Statements By Members

May 4th, 2007 / 11 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, at 11:30 today at the National War Memorial there will be a wreath laying in honour and commemoration of the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.

Those of us from Holland and those of us of Dutch ancestry wish to continuously thank the Canadian people and remember the sacrifices of our armed forces personnel during that terrible time of World War II.

We in Holland have a saying that if you are not Dutch, you are not much, but we only get to say that because of the liberation by the Canadians and her allies.

There are 5,700 brave Canadians who are buried on Dutch soil. Today we remember their sacrifices. This weekend, we also remember the sacrifices made in the Battle of the Atlantic. Thousands of armed forces personnel and merchant mariners laid down their lives in the great blue Atlantic Ocean in order that all of us can be free.

This is a wonderful weekend to commemorate those who passed on before us. We would also like to say congratulations to our current armed forces personnel who serve us so gallantly around the world.

It is we in the House of Commons who salute all of them.

National Security
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics had to write a dissenting opinion regarding one significant recommendation that was presented in the House.

The opposition parties, including the Liberals, voted to completely remove a section of the PIPEDA legislation that goes directly to protecting Canadians from any threat of any future terrorist attacks. This was without any input from stakeholders, including airport authorities or any other security agency for that matter.

The Liberals want to prevent our security agencies from collecting and using information related to national security, defence and international affairs. They do not even support the anti-terrorism protection measures that they included in legislation that they created. This is a sad and ridiculous attempt at partisan politics.

We have a responsibility to protect the lives of our citizens. Our new government will always stand up for the safety and security of all Canadians.