House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a thoughtful question, as is usually the case, from the member from Edmonton—Strathcona. It gets to the nub of the matter.

I think Canadians want parliamentarians to focus on the programs being delivered in prisons. This is not because we feel bad for them or because we feel a sense of compassion, although that may be the case for many people. It is because we have a vested interest in making sure that people who come out of prison do not reoffend.

A full 96% of those individuals will return to society. It is not a question of if; it is a question of when. Think of that person in federal prison coming out and taking a bus in our communities, or walking near our schools, or shopping in our shopping centres, or walking down our alleys. We have a vested interest in how that person behaves.

I think that the question asked by the seniors in the hon. member's fair city is a thoughtful one. We need to ensure that those people have the kind of assistance they need in prison, so that when they come out they do not reoffend. That is what I would like all members of this House to focus on. This is how we can best ensure that the people in our federal institutions come out less likely to offend.

Taking away inmates' money may be justified. I understand the argument that the taxpayer is already paying for their stay and their food, and that is a compelling argument. On that basis, our party will support this bill. However, let us not be overpowered by a gut reaction to Clifford Olson and make legislation on the fly, as this government has done. We need a thoughtful, mature, and effective approach to prison policy in this country, and we have not seen that from this government.

Our prisons are full of mentally ill people. They are full of people with addictions and alcoholism. They are full of people with FASD, brain damage, and cognitive malfunctioning of all types. It is an absolute fact that these people are not getting anywhere near the kind of support or programming that they need, not only to improve their lives, but to keep Canadians safe.

Cheap politics such as we see practised by this government, politics that prey on people's fear, is not the way to improve safety in our streets.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to the last question was in itself a very good speech. The member has drawn on input received from a large number of parliamentarians today in this debate, at least from the opposition side.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh raised a concern about whether or not this bill was charter proof. His opinion was that, given the small number of people involved, 600 or less, and taking away all those who have enough resources that they do not want to go into that battle, as well as those who cannot afford to, leaves it to the middle core. These people probably will not do it. His view was that we would not have a charter challenge by any of the people affected by this.

I wonder if the member cares to comment on whether Parliament should be put in this position. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has already opined, and signed off on the bill, that it is charter proof. Yet, organizations that came to committee stated, as their first point of concern, that the bill was not charter proof and probably would be challenged.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, one thing that is absolutely clear is there will be a charter challenge to this legislation. I would find it very surprising if there were not an offender or group that deals with offenders or the criminal justice system that does not make a charter challenge. Right then and there it will probably cost the government $2 million in defending a charter challenge as it inevitably winds its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

There is no way to know if the legislation is in compliance with the charter or not at this point. Some of it depends on whether it is applied on a proactive basis. Certainly any person who is in prison now and has his or her pension taken away could argue that this amounts to the imposition of a sentence by Parliament beyond the sentence imposed by the judge.

At the time of sentencing, an offender may have received a fine, a period of incarceration or an order for restitution. If we now say we are taking away his or her pension for a period of time, there very well could be a challenge by that offender, saying that we are attempting to unjustly and illegitimately add to that person's sentence. I am not sure if that will prevail or not, but that is definitely a risk.

I want to make it clear that my party will support the legislation on the basis that taxpayers ought not to be paying twice. I know that people in the community wonder why someone who goes to prison gets to bank his or her old age security and GIS. It could be argued that people are in better shape going to prison than those in the community and we have to be sympathetic to that argument. That is why my party will support the bill. However, let us not pretend that this bill is going to do anything for community safety or is getting at the real issues on the minds of Canadians and the issues taking place in our prisons because the bill does not do that.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-31. I have listened to a number of good presentations today on the bill. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh spoke at length about how the government had missed a good opportunity to offer restitution to victims of crime.

It was either in 1970 or 1971 when the Manitoba NDP government of Ed Schreyer became the first in Canada to bring in the criminal injuries compensation program. The program has been updated since that time. Compensation for victims of crime has been an issue in Manitoba for the NDP since 1971.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out that Ontario had a similar fund as did some other provinces, but the federal government did not. For the enterprising Conservatives on the government side, it seems to me that this would be a logical thing for them to consider because they want to align themselves with victims. They want to do the right thing for victims. Setting up a parallel federal compensation program for victims of crime would be a well-received government initiative.

In terms of funding for the initiative, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has suggested that the moneys that would be received in general revenue by cutting off the pensions to federal inmates could be put into that fund for compensation to the victims.

I know I only have a few minutes today, but tomorrow I can read out a list of the rules and restrictions on the compensation fund for Manitoba and I am sure the federal government could set up a similar type of fund.

In terms of how much money would be put in that fund, the parliamentary secretary mentioned today that the government was looking at saving a potential $2 million on federal prisoners alone, all 400 of them, and another $10 million perhaps on the 600 provincial prisoners provided the government could get all the provinces to sign on to the program.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed that when the bill went through committee, members were unable to determine exactly how many prisoners were drawing a pension. There is really no way for the government to know how many people are collecting pensions while in prison. This $2 million may be more or less a bogus figure that the government is perpetuating when it says that it plans to save on the federal portion of the pensions to prisoners.

Nevertheless, this is just another example of the government proceeding on the basis of projections without having them fully worked out, thought through and written down. We proved that with the government's crime bills earlier this year. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has provided information indicating that these bills will cost a lot of money. If we base it on the parliamentary secretary's assumption, we are already proving that $2 million is not really an accurate figure. Regardless of what the money is, if the government could at least use this opportunity to put the money into a compensation fund for victims that would be a positive thing.

As has been mentioned, there are a number of court ordered restitution orders that prisoners have to follow. They may be impacted when we take away these pensions. There is also the possibility of opening up lawsuits against perpetrators. Russell Williams certainly would have assets that some of the victims could access.

Exposing criminally obtained assets to the victims would be something positive. The government has now sort of missed the opportunity to do this. This is an opportunity on which it should have perhaps followed up.

In terms of why the government—

The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Thursday, November 4 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #127

Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from November 15 consideration of Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at report stage of Bill C-22.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If you were to seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the vote from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes, as well as the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, Liberal members will be voting no.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bloc members will be voting no.