House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghan.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should never mistake this. We never side with the government and its misconstruing of what should happen in our country. We side with the Canadian people.

Today it was our House leader who stood up. It was not the government members. They were all glued to their seats and bubbling over with outrage. Our member for Wascana stood and said “unanimous consent”.

Therefore, the facts for the Canadian public are that the bill is moving as quickly as it can. At the end of the day it will go to committee, thanks to the Liberal Party of Canada and not thanks to the sleepy and somewhat separated from reality government of the day.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to point out the error by the member. I was in the House when he was talking, just before I stood to speak. The member will say that he supports veterans who serve their country, defending their country for liberty and freedom. Today he is saying that he supports other people who choose not to support their country, defending liberty and freedom. He feels Canada should be a safe haven. He is giving contradictory messages.

My point is he is also giving contradictory messages on crime. The opposition members will stand and say that they support crime, but when it comes time to vote, they delay and obstruct. That is exactly what happened today.

I see the Minister of Justice here, and I thank him for his support this morning.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that the last few minutes did not make a very eloquent contribution to the current debate. The problem is settled and I would have liked the Minister of Justice to hear this. I hope that he will listen to what I am going to say. My colleagues opposite are not very knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure. That is the least I can say given these circumstances, so as not to offend them even more.

Mr. Speaker, I have not had the opportunity to greet you. I knew you as Chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This is the first time that I have risen to speak in this chamber when you were presiding over the deliberations. I want to congratulate you on your appointment to the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and thank you for the work you did as Chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I hope, and am in fact convinced, that the work you are doing here now will also be very productive, especially during the kind of debate we are having today.

We are debating Bill C-14. Our Conservative friends made this a top priority in the fight against organized crime, something they seem to think has only appeared in the last few years. Unfortunately, I will have to give them a history lesson. Memory is well known as that faculty which forgets, and the Conservatives probably have the shortest memory on record. We should remember that the Bloc Québécois, since 1994—not just for the past two weeks—has been informing this House of the fact that there is a serious problem with organized crime and that steps need to be taken. Several were taken thanks to our efforts.

In spite of what the Conservatives will be saying, if not for the Bloc Québécois, thousand dollar bills would still be in circulation. The Bloc Québécois forced the government to make that change. I do not want to attack the Conservatives or the Liberals, but the fact is that governments finally understood that thousand dollar bills were causing an increase in organized crime and in money laundering. I can talk about this not because I have had several thousand dollar bills in my possession, but because before my election in 2004, I was a criminal lawyer for 30 years. I practised criminal law for the defence and I am very familiar with the organized crime file.

Whether the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles likes it or not, the measures put in place are the result of repeated requests by the Bloc Québécois. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, who sits on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as parliamentary secretary, does not seem to have known about this before 2000. We have known about it since 1990. It seems to me that he lives in Quebec, but he did not know about it either. It took some time for them to recognize the existence of organized crime. Now everyone knows who the Hells Angels are. We know a little about how its members are recruited and how we can combat these organized gangs, whether the Bandidos or the Hells Angels. It is easier for us, and I am choosing my words carefully, to understand how these organizations work.

However, we are facing a new phenomenon. Whether my Conservative friends, including the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, admit it or not, street gangs have existed for at least five or six years now. They have never understood that. For them, street gangs are the same as the Hells Angels. That is not the case. Streets gangs are a new phenomenon, and a growing concern. Whether in Vancouver, Toronto, in the east end of Montreal, even in Halifax and many other places in Canada, idleness is a phenomenon that is triggering senseless crimes. That is what they really are: senseless crimes.

First there was the mafia—and we need not look back at the godfather—with people killing each other. We could understand, follow and watch how it worked, but street gangs are completely different.

Street gangs might decide that tonight, they are going to shoot at anyone wearing black. Street gangs operate differently. They are radically changing how we see and deal with crime.

I want to say right away that we will support Bill C-14, despite its flaws. We will ask that it be studied in committee. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, on which I also sit, has already begun looking at organized crime. We will take a very close look at the new phenomena around organized crime as we study Bill C-14.

The bill is important, because it redefines murder. I feel that part should be clarified, such as the fact that a contract killing is not an ordinary murder. I am sorry, I am weighing my words and that is not easy, but murder is murder. Murder itself is bad enough. But contract killings, gratuitous murders, murders to intimidate and murders to send a message are a new and unacceptable phenomenon, and I think it is time we took action.

These new definitions in subsection 231(6.01) will be important, because they will go further. That is the purpose of the bill: to make murder committed for the benefit of or at the direction of a criminal organization first degree murder.

Let us think back to what used to happen. It has not been so very long since I was a criminal defence lawyer. We made deals and tried to find solutions so that an individual got off. We said a killing was murder, but that it could be considered second degree murder because it was not premeditated. That will no longer be possible. We are going to close that door, which allowed a person to put a contract out on someone, I am sorry to put it that way. I do not like that sort of language either, but I use it and we all know what it means.

We are finally going to close that door in the Criminal Code. That will put an end to the dilemma around criminal organizations and the people associated with them. We will at least close that door. The same thing will hold true for murders committed during an attempt to commit an indictable offence, and we will have a chance to look closely at that. That will target criminal gangs. We will be able to deal with criminal gangs and hit them with heavier penalties.

Now here is where I must plug my message. The Conservatives do not yet understand this. They really do not understand this and, once again, Bill C-14 must be looked at carefully, because minimum prison sentences will not solve the problem of crime. I want to repeat this, so it can be properly translated into English and so they understand clearly. Imposing minimum prison sentences will not reduce crime. That is exactly what the Americans did and crime rates skyrocketed. Convicted offenders must serve their prison sentences.

As someone I know has said, the problem is not when offenders go to prison; it is when they come out. They get out too quickly. The problem is that the Conservatives are telling themselves and everyone has said that this does not make sense. Someone can be sentenced to 18 months, but get out of prison in two months. That is unacceptable. The Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice need to have a chat. As far as I know, they are in the same political party. But they need to talk to each other, because something must be done about the parole system.

I know a bill is to be introduced tomorrow. We will have to wait and see what is in that bill. We think it is important to eliminate the two-for-one provision. We know what this means, but we can debate that another time.

For the time being, the Conservatives must realize that we need to do something about parole to ensure that an accused sentenced after a fair trial serves his sentence, does not get any goodies and does not get out earlier because of good behaviour.

I have some examples. That is the problem with Bill C-14. It calls for a minimum prison term of four years. There would still be plea bargaining to reduce the sentence and change the charges. That is not the right solution. We will examine it in committee; it is an interesting bill in that regard. We will see how we can ensure that the sentences handed down—and it is not a question of giving the judges a set of directives—are served.

There are many other amendments in the bill. There are some minor, but interesting, changes. We will definitely be targeting organized crime as well as street gangs. We will probably have to rethink the interception of communications because, with respect to organized crime, there has been no change in the past 10 to 15 years in ways of intercepting communications. Because of the Internet and all the changes in that time, police have asked for amendments.

I do not wish to speak much longer, but Bill C-14 is truly interesting. The light has gone on for the government, but it still has a long way to go before understanding that crime will not be reduced when offenders enter jail or by imposing minimum mandatory sentences, but rather by having offenders serve the sentences handed down. That is the important point. However, this will probably be the subject of another debate.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his speech and for his work on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I have one simple question to ask him. It seems that there is a lot of confusion on the other side. They seem to think that their actions resulted in the parties on this side deciding to proceed with Bill C-14. Does the hon. member share the opinion that it was our side, not the government, that decided together to send the bill to committee as quickly as possible?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I am pleased to remind hon. members opposite that they are in a minority government. They have to understand that. It would at least be a step in the right direction. Second, when you are in a minority government, you try to work with the opposition parties to move matters forward. Bill C-14 is the best example.

If the government knew what common sense was, it would, at 9:00 a.m. this morning, have sat down with the opposition parties and asked them if they were in agreement. We are in agreement that the bill should be sent to committee. This is why debate in this House is being limited. The government must understand. It is a minority government and it is having a little difficulty understanding that.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague not to anticipate the future too much, even if there is a dash of clairvoyance in all of this. I want to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech and tell him how much—and I do so on behalf of all of the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights—we appreciate his presence at the committee. Not only does he have theoretical expertise on the Criminal Code, but he also has a very practical knowledge of it, since he was himself a sought-after criminal lawyer for more than two decades.

Is it not unfair to see the Minister of Justice completely lose all personal dignity and rise to have a temper tantrum, which could put him in the same league as young offenders and cause the loss of all decorum in this House? Would we not be remiss in not reminding people that it was this government that prorogued this House? If we had had more time, we could have had analyses of the bills. It is irresponsible to attack the opposition, when it was the government that prorogued the work of this Parliament not so very long ago.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague the member for Hochelaga, an extraordinary leader at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, gifted with a composure that will undoubtedly serve him well in his future endeavours. Personally, I would be very disappointed to lose him, should he go.

That being said, I think that there is a blatant lack of communication within the Conservative Party. If the Minister of Justice, rather than behaving in this way—my colleague is perfectly right—had spoken to his whip, things would not have come to this pass and this little crisis, which lasted 10 or 15 minutes, would have been averted. This does not reflect well on the image of a minister of justice.

That said, it is important that we be given the proposals ahead of time, and that we also move forward with Bill C-14, which will be referred to committee within a few minutes.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.

New Democrats are supporting this bill but we are asking the government to do more to provide a comprehensive federal anti-gang strategy. Although we are supporting this bill, we are saying very clearly that this bill alone is not a strategy and it is not enough to combat gangs.

A comprehensive strategy must include, not only tougher sentences, but more police officers on the street, improved witness protection, tougher laws to tackle the proceeds of crime, modernizing our laws that cover surveillance and evidence-gathering and a comprehensive plan for prevention to ensure that our kids are not attracted to the gang culture and that they stay away from joining gangs in the first place.

In the last two months alone, there have been at least 31 shootings in the metro Vancouver region and 15 people have been killed. These are not petty thugs. These are notorious criminals, decked out in body armour and emboldened with a sense of invincibility, who are wielding guns and ready to do battle.

We need strong and effective action from all three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. Stiffer penalties for those involved in gangs are certainly appropriate but it is not a sufficient response to this problem.

The metro Vancouver region has one of the lowest police to population ratios in the country, but what have the Conservatives done as an answer to this desperate need for investment in policing services? They have torn up contracts with the RCMP, have rolled back their wages and have made worse an already difficult recruitment and retention situation.

The Conservative approach to gang violence has been to latch on to the most simplistic, headline grabbing component of the action we need, which is tougher sentences.

New Democrats have already said that we support tougher sentences for gang violence but tougher sentences will not mean much if we do not get convictions. Tougher sentences will be ineffective unless they are part of a comprehensive strategy because tough sentences alone do very little to divert kids away from gangs. They need to be coupled with diversionary programs and activities, things that give young people alternatives to the gang lifestyle.

A comprehensive anti-gang strategy requires substantial investment to bring hope to communities that are hurting. These efforts need to be well thought out, carefully implemented and monitored to see what is working and what is not. Diverting kids from gangs is far from an exact science. This is what is lacking from the Conservative government that says that it is tough on crime but is either unwilling or unable to come up with the creative kinds of ideas that are necessary to solve the problem.

One place that we can look to for an example of a program to divert youth away from gangs is in the U.S. The program is called GREAT, which stands for gang resistance education and training. This program sees police officers visit elementary and middle school classrooms, teaching life skills to help kids avoid delinquent behaviour and violence, and encouraging the building of positive relationships between law enforcement, parents, children and the whole community. It has proven to be effective. It has proven to give students a more negative view of gangs and a more positive view of law enforcement. This program operates right across the country, thanks to funding from the U.S. federal government. It sees programs like this as an investment in our children and in healthy and safe communities.

I urge the government to make a similar substantial investment in our children in programs to keep them out of gangs. Tougher sentences are meaningless when our police departments and our prosecutors do not have the resources needed to ensure that guilty gang members are brought to justice and convicted. At both the federal and provincial levels, we have seen governments that profess to be tough on crime and howl with indignation when they see criminals walk free through the gaping cracks in our criminal justice system, and yet they have systematically cut our police and our prosecutors.

Again I draw attention to the Conservative government shredding a negotiated contract with the RCMP. This is but one example. It is an absolute disgrace and particularly shameful coming from a government that claims to be tough on crime when we need to be going in exactly the opposite direction. We need greater investments in putting police officers on the ground because they are the front line in stopping gang violence.

In my own riding, the city of Coquitlam has one of the lowest police to population ratios in the entire country. The Conservative Party made promises in the 2004 and 2006 elections to ensure there would be 2,500 more police officers in municipal departments, a still unfulfilled promise.

A model for the integrated approach to policing and prosecution that is needed to tackle gang violence can be found in the city of Toronto's anti-guns and gangs task force. The task force has a dedicated staff of police officers, crown prosecutors, victim and witness support workers, probation and parole officers. The task force is headquartered in a state of the art operations centre, which allows for the highly coordinated investigations and prosecutions needed to combat gang violence.

If the government were really serious about tackling gang violence, it would provide funding to assist provincial governments in setting up similar task forces in major cities across the country.

Another area where the police need the support of the federal government is to pass legislation to modernize the laws around surveillance and wiretapping. These laws were written before the Internet age and wireless technology, which has changed society. Criminal organizations are operating and conducting business with all of this technology, cell phones, BlackBerries and online, and they know the police are unable to combat that. Criminals are taking advantage of the most cutting edge technology and we must give our justice system the same kinds of legislative tools to combat them.

I want to touch briefly on the proceeds of crime. I share the anger of citizens in my communities who have been terrorized by gang violence, only to see gang members profiteering freely from dangerous and violent activities. Police and prosecutors need to be able to go after the luxury cars and the million dollar homes that upper echelon gang members flaunt in our communities. Otherwise, how can we truly tell our children that crime does not pay?

We propose that the proceeds of crime recovered by government should be reinvested in communities that have been victimized by gang violence. I can think of nothing more appropriate than auctioning off the possessions of gangsters to fund school programs or community centres.

I know all members of the House want to see an end to this kind of violence. I join with my New Democrat colleagues in calling upon the Conservative government to move further and faster to put forward a comprehensive strategy to end gang violence. Every day that goes by that the government does not have a strategy to end gang violence is another day wasted. That is a shameful reality. Communities are looking to the government for hope and action but so far they have been sadly disappointed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I must interrupt at this point. The member will have two minutes remaining in her speech when we return to this matter.

Youth Involvement
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House to recognize a remarkable constituent of mine.

Recently featured as one of southwest Saskatchewan's five most fascinating people, Lonnie Hunter is a teenager living in Waldeck, just outside Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Lonnie Hunter has a lot in common with teenagers across our nation. He is a high school student who likes sports, music and spending time with his friends. Lonnie Hunter is also far from typical. He is deeply passionate about youth involvement in the community and the political arena. He sits as the local Chamber of Commerce youth ambassador and serves on school and community boards.

In the last election Lonnie Hunter encouraged many young people to play an integral role.

This nation's potential to succeed is magnified when our youth are willing to step up to the plate.

I want to congratulate and thank Lonnie Hunter for everything he has done for southwest Saskatchewan and for his country of Canada. He believes that youth can make a difference in our community now.

Polish Canadian Community
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a Polish Canadian, I rise today to ask the government to take action and deliver. As my mentor, Jesse Flis, did for many years in this very House, I intend to do the same, to stand up for Polish Canadians and deliver the goods. The Conservatives talk the talk, yet the only thing they deliver is the photo op.

It has been over a year and Polish Canadians around the country, including Wladyslaw Lizon, president of the Canadian Polish Congress, are waiting for ratification on pension portability, youth mobility and Allied veteran pension benefits.

On April 2, 2008, an agreement was signed between Poland and Canada regarding social security. Where is the ratification of this agreement and when will it be signed?

Last year there was an agreement between Poland and Canada regarding youth mobility. Where is the ratification of this agreement and when will it be signed?

During every election the Conservatives promise to extend benefits to Allied Polish veterans. What came of these promises and when will the goods be delivered?

It is time the government stopped with open-ended promises and delivered the goods--

Polish Canadian Community
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Laval.

Pierre Brisebois
Statements By Members

March 26th, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, Pierre Brisebois from my riding has recently finished an assignment with CESO, the Canadian Executive Service Organization. He went to Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, where he prepared and trained restaurant employees in a new hotel in modern technologies and new methods of food preparation. He went on to evaluate the proposed menu and to make changes to reflect staff abilities and the restaurant themes.

He trained the staff to prepare the 15 new menu items he had created for the hotel.

The hotel was so satisfied with Mr. Brisebois' work that they then asked him to assess staff professional standards.

I and my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois congratulate Mr. Brisebois for giving his time and sharing Quebec's expertise with those who can get the most benefit from it.

Colombia
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, just last week Amnesty International condemned the Colombia authorities for abusing the country's judicial system “to undermine the legitimate work of human rights defenders”.

More than a dozen human rights defenders and 46 trade unionists were killed by paramilitaries in 2008 alone, double the number in 2007.

According to testimony received today at the trade committee, thousands of paramilitaries with ties to the government are forcing poor peasants off the land and taking it over with the regime's complicity.

More than 1,500 peasants have been massacred so far by the Colombia military as so-called “false positives”. This is no less than the cold-blooded murder of innocent people.

Incredibly, the Conservative government is pressing ahead with a Bush-style free trade agreement with the regime.

What is more incredible is that theLeader of the Opposition is supporting this trampling of human rights in the name of powerful corporate interests.

The NDP is standing on the side of millions of Canadians who oppose murder, torture and human rights abuses. We oppose the blood that is on this agreement.

Thompson Rivers University Scholarships
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to an extraordinary gentleman from my riding, Mr. Alvin Grunert.

Mr. Grunert has generously donated $1.5 million to Thompson Rivers University, allowing for the creation of an endowed scholarship for the top students in each of the faculties.

It was Mr. Grunert's desire to carry out his wife's wishes, making post-secondary education a reality for those students who might not otherwise afford it. Lydia Grunert's legacy will add to the spectrum of opportunities provided by TRU. This unique university offers not only post-graduate degrees but also professional diplomas and apprenticeship training.

This remarkable donation is made even more special because it did not come from family wealth. Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Grunert worked tirelessly throughout their lives saving where they could and investing wisely. They believed that this act of altruism would be the best investment they ever made.

I ask all members of the House to pay tribute to these fine Canadians. They are a shining example of what our nation has to offer.