House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, today I rise to share my thoughts on Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, with my colleagues.

I want to begin by stating that my deepest desire is to see an environment that promotes safety everywhere in Canada so that all Canadians can be safe no matter where they are.

There are many ways to achieve that goal. Today we are debating one of those ways.

Bill C-5 would amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act. This bill would enable the government to request the transfer of Canadian prisoners serving sentences in countries other than Canada.

Bill C-5 is part of the Conservative government's extreme law and order agenda. The militant western Conservative base strongly supports this vision.

Make no mistake about it, this bill is an opportunistic attempt to garner votes. It seeks not only to protect Canadians, but also to get the law-and-order Conservatives re-elected at any cost.

According to the bill summary, one purpose of the bill is to enhance public safety. Clause 3 adds another objective to the Act:

The purpose of this Act is to enhance public safety and to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

I think that if we add this new objective and give the minister discretionary powers with respect to factors he may take into consideration, the minister will be able to use public safety as grounds to deny as many requests for the transfer of Canadians incarcerated abroad as possible, thereby undermining all of the other objectives of the Act.

I will attempt to show that this bill will weaken public safety, not enhance it. Prior to this, the notion of public safety was, in practice, limited to terrorist threats and threats of war against Canada or against the general population.

In a Federal Court case, Getkate v. Canada (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), the judge had this to say about public safety:

—the Court also finds that there is no evidence on the record demonstrating that the applicant constitutes a potential threat to the safety of Canadians or the security of Canada. While the minister attempts to invoke the section as a means of demonstrating that the applicant poses a general threat to Canadians should he be returned to Canada, use of the phrase “threat to the security of Canada” has traditionally been limited in other legislation to threats of general terrorism and warfare against Canada or threats to the security of Canadians en masse. In the case at bar, while the applicant may pose a general threat to specific pockets of Canadian society should he re-offend, he clearly poses no “threat to the security of Canada” as the term has been interpreted in other legislation, such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act...or the Canadian Security Intelligence Services Act.... If the threat to Canada was the mere risk that the offender would re-offend, then such a consideration could be applied to every inmate seeking a transfer.

In this matter, the judge set aside the minister's decision.

Is this bill the minister's way of reacting to the judge's decision in the Getkate case? Is it an attempt to close the door to any judicial control over decisions? It is already very difficult for a judge to set aside a minister's decision.

I am not a legal expert but I know that, to be set aside, a ministerial decision must be found to be “unreasonable”. The burden of proof was very high for the individual and he had little chance of winning.

However, in the Getkate case, the judge set aside the minister's decision, despite all his discretionary power and the substantial burden of proof.

Bill C-5 gives the Minister of Public Safety a great deal of discretionary power and opens the door to abuse of power.

Under the current act, the minister considers four factors in determining whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender. Those factors are: whether the offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada; whether the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as their place of permanent residence; whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada; and whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights.

Bill C-5 gives the minister some very important additional discretionary power. The minister may consider other factors. The bill does not say that the minister does or shall consider these factors, but that he may consider them.

These are the factors added in the bill:

(b) whether, in the Minister’s opinion, the offender’s return to Canada will endanger public safety, including

(i) the safety of any person in Canada who is a victim, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, of an offence committed by the offender,

(ii) the safety of any member of the offender’s family, in the case of an offender who has been convicted of an offence against a family member, or

(iii) the safety of any child, in the case of an offender who has been convicted of a sexual offence involving a child;

(c) whether, in the Minister’s opinion, the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer;...

(g) the offender’s health;

(h) whether the offender has refused to participate in a rehabilitation or reintegration program;

(i) whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence for which they have been convicted, including by acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community;

(j) the manner in which the offender will be supervised, after the transfer, while they are serving their sentence;

(k) whether the offender has cooperated, or has undertaken to cooperate, with a law enforcement agency; or

(l) any other factor that the Minister considers relevant.

This list includes everything but the kitchen sink. It is broad. It is a very significant power to put in the hands of a single person, especially when we know that the current government is a government of law and order whatever the cost. This is all very subjective and is an attempt to win votes.

We live in a democracy based on the rule of law where every decision must be fair and meet objective criteria.

I sincerely believe that when we entrust so much power to a minister in the absence of any objectivity, we may be abandoning Canadians to the whims of this government. When the public no longer knows how the government will handle requests, it may lose confidence in a system that is neither fair nor transparent.

I would like to read an excerpt from an article by Nathalie DesRosiers, professor of law at the University of Ottawa. Ms. DesRosiers was the dean of the faculty of law and she is speaking on behalf of the Civil Liberties Association about Bill C-59, which preceded the current Bill C-5 before the unnecessary prorogation of last December:

Even if some Canadians believe that Ministers in Canada would never make decisions based on such sordid grounds as political contributions, there is the appearance that they may. Indeed, the lack of boundaries to such discretion prevent an analysis of whether a decision is fair, sound and wise, based on a consideration of all factors.

It also prevents any legal accountability. This, in my view, is going in the wrong direction. Although politicians certainly have the power to conduct international relations on behalf of Canada: they should want to exercise it in a way that is fair and transparent. The absence of rules prevents Canadians from knowing how they will be treated and exposes the government to charges of favouritism when they act or refuse to act. Indeed, when a white Canadian is repatriated speedily from Mexico while an Afro-Canadian is left in jail in Sudan, Canadians wonder whether the government is acting fairly and reasonably or in a racist manner. A stronger legal framework helps dispell such accusations and allow for more transparent ruling.

I believe we must not only avoid putting decision makers in positions that could lead them to abuse their power, but we must also avoid any appearance that they may have such power.

I would like to share with my colleagues the case of a young constituent from Hull—Aylmer, who is currently being detained in a penitentiary in Florida after being found guilty of crimes committed in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, since my presentation on this young resident could take several minutes, I suppose we should stop now so that you can proceed—

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. He will have eight minutes for his remarks when the House resumes debate on this issue. We will now proceed to statements by members.

Rail Transportation
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the past 40 years, Earth Day has grown into a global movement that mobilizes more than 1 billion people in more than 190 countries working to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs in a global green economy.

As the chair of the all party rail caucus, I am pleased to say that rail is doing its part. In fact, Canadian rail is increasingly becoming the 21st century's green transportation leader for passengers and freight. Canadian railways are an economic engine for the economy, moving 75% of all freight while transporting 72 million passengers just last year.

While transportation accounts for 26.8% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, rail accounts for only 3% of GHG emissions for the transportation sector.

How efficient is rail? One train can haul 1 tonne of goods 180 kilometres on just a single litre of fuel and, in doing so, remove 280 trucks from our congested highways. Moving to rail unclogs our highways, eliminates destructive emissions and creates jobs.

When Canadians choose rail, they choose to go green.

Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada was formed in Toronto on April 26, 1860. The regiment has been standing on guard for 150 years.

The Toronto branch is the oldest regiment of its kind, in fact, older than Confederation itself. This week, the regiment's colonel-in-chief, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, was supposed to be the guest of honour to commemorate this remarkable accomplishment in Victoria, Calgary and the biggest gala in Toronto. Unfortunately, the volcanic ash disaster hindered her flight plans.

I am sure all members will join me in wishing the Queen's Own Rifles a happy 150th and much continued success.

Now the bad news. The Queen's Own Rifles Toronto branch asked Veterans Affairs for financial assistance for its events in Toronto. Its request was denied. Today I learned that Calgary received money for its commemoration while the Toronto branch did not.

The Conservatives will honour requests from western Canada while the same requests from Toronto fall on deaf ears and that is not fair. It is too bad the Conservatives ignore pleas from the Toronto veterans.

Regardless of the Conservatives' failure to act, I know the Queen's Own Rifles will continue to stand on guard and I wish them congratulations and a happy 150th.

Ginette Bernèche
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with emotion that I rise to pay tribute to a woman of conviction, Ginette Bernèche, who retired on March 31, after serving as an MP's assistant for 17 years, seven of them on my team.

Ms. Bernèche began her career in 1993 in the service of my predecessor, Michel Bellehumeur. For all these years, she has devoted herself to the sovereignist cause with loyalty, passion and expertise. I would like to take this opportunity to point out what all members of the House know only too well, that behind every elected representative there is a team of dedicated and indispensable people, and that team includes their assistants.

I and all those who were lucky enough to have worked with this very capable woman hope that Ginette will use this well-deserved retirement to take care of herself and her family with the same enthusiasm and dedication that she brought to her job.

Vale Inco
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the government does not end its shameful silence and call on Vale Inco to return to the negotiating table, we could face a possible disaster. Constituents are raising alarm bells about Vale Inco's reported plans to reopen the nickel refinery near the town of Copper Cliff with replacement workers.

Having been there, I can say that this refinery is one of the most complicated and intricate plants in the world. When operated by skilled, experienced workers, it produces high quality nickel pellets and powders.

The process at this plant yields gas and liquid forms of nickel which are stored under high pressure. If inhaled, the nickel carbonyl gas can cause death. A leak, with the wind blowing in a certain direction, could reach populated areas. I cannot overestimate how tragic the consequences would be.

For the sake of the well-being of residents, I demand that the government prevent this plant from reopening with replacement workers.

Egypt
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 12 of this year, an Egyptian bishop reported: 23 Coptic Christians wounded when a crowd of fanatics attacked them at a western province. January 6, 2010, on the Coptic Christmas Eve: three terrorists killed, six Christians and wounded a dozen more. November 2009: terrorist rioters looted and burned Christian businesses in an Egyptian village.

Those are but three examples of the abuses that Egyptian Christians are forced to endure.

Our government stands with all victims of religious persecution, regardless of their faith. I rise today to call on the Egyptian government to aggressively combat any further abuses of the Christian minority in Egypt.

Canwest Canspell National Spelling Bee
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my constituent and grade seven student, Laura Newcombe. On March 28, Laura won the Canwest Canspell National Spelling Bee.

After 20 rounds of intense spelling drama, Laura won the title for a second year in a row. Canspell is a free grassroots initiative designed to engage middle school students in celebrating excellence in academic achievement, promoting literacy and encouraging positive study habits.

In 2010, Canspell engaged thousands of schools from St. John's to Victoria and 250,000 students registered at the entry level to compete in school, regional and national competitions. Laura emerged the victor.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Laura and her mom, Zeuming, when they visited Ottawa for the competition.

On behalf of all constituents in Eglinton—Lawrence and, I dare say, all members of the House, I congratulate Laura. She has done Eglinton--Lawrence proud.

Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital
Statements by Members

April 22nd, 2010 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday I joined the Minister of National Defence at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton to announce a program that will make a huge difference in the quality of life of our wounded soldiers and civilians alike.

Our government has provided $1.5 million to purchase a computer-assisted rehabilitation environment, CAREN, system at the Glenrose. This system immerses patients in a virtual reality simulator that uses a moving platform and surrounding visual system. It will enhance rehabilitation treatment for a wide range of patients, including amputees, spinal cord injury victims and those with post-traumatic stress disorder. It is state of the art and will be one of only two systems in Canada.

Besides caring for our troops, this will give the Glenrose incredible opportunities to collaborate with hospitals across Canada and around the world. Everyone wins.

I am very proud to know the people at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital who have already done so much for our brave men and women of the Canadian Forces. They are truly the gold standard for Canada in rehabilitation medicine.

I am honoured to be part of a government that goes the extra mile for our troops and all Canadians.

Earth Day
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, April 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Forty years of climate change, biodiversity loss and deterioration of the environment, but also 40 years of efforts, protection and survival.

A number of projects have been implemented to fight climate change, including the Sauvons le hockey event, an outdoor hockey game on the Toussaint-L'Ouverture rink in Montreal; the Hometown Heroes 2010 program, which recognizes environmental achievement; the Fonds Écomunicipalité IGA, which encourages communities to carry out sustainable development projects; and Une oasis dans le béton, the first exterior green wall in Montreal.

Let us all become eco-citizens. Let us take action for the planet; it needs our help. This April 22 can be an opportunity to launch our promising biodiversity and sustainable development projects.

Automotive Industry
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, just over a year ago, we were in the eye of a global economic storm. The automotive industry was being hit particularly hard and almost half a million Canadian jobs were at stake.

Our government acted quickly and responsibly with the Obama administration and now we are seeing more evidence that the right decisions were made.

Yesterday, GM announced that it had repaid its loan in its totality to the Governments of Canada, Ontario and the U.S. Not only has GM repaid its loan, but we also continue to see the announcement of new shifts at auto plants in Canada. That means more jobs for Canadians and for the people of Oshawa.

Just recently a third shift has been added at the GM plant in Oshawa and laid-off auto workers are being recalled.

CAW president, Ken Lewenza, credited action taken by our government with “saving tens of thousands of jobs in the major auto and auto parts industry right across Canada”.

We welcome the news from GM and we will continue our work to see that the economy continues its recovery.

Victims of Crime
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, on this annual Victims of Crime Awareness Week let us remember that every crime inflicts on its victims not only loss and obvious physical damage but also fear, grief and psychological trauma that changes their lives forever.

So it is ironic that during this week the outgoing Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime should expose the hypocrisy of the government, which spends more on prison systems than on programs and services to help victims heal.

It is also shocking and disturbing that this week the member for Yorkton—Melville poured his vitriol on our police chiefs, the very people in whom victims of crime place their trust. He called police chiefs “a cult”, corrupt and in the pockets of lobbyists.

This type of virulent language from government benches happens so often that it cannot be dismissed as mere ignorance but exposes a core culture of deceit. Sad that this time it re-traumatizes victims who have been so hurt already.

Justice
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, today our government is introducing a bill that would put an end to house arrest for dangerous and violent criminals convicted of an offence.

Dangerous and violent criminals should serve their sentences in prison and not in the comfort of their living room. Earlier this week, the Bloc leader said his party has done a lot by adopting a constructive and rigorous attitude when it comes to justice.

We will see if the Bloc will adopt a constructive and rigorous attitude and support this bill instead of taking its normal course of action, which is to oppose justice and crime initiatives. It is time for the Bloc to represent Quebeckers and support this Conservative bill.

Our government is implementing measures to get tough on crime and defend the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens. Dangerous and violent criminals will no longer serve their sentences with their feet up.

Food Sovereignty
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge over 2,200 people in my riding who are concerned about food sovereignty and hunger in the developing world.

These concerned citizens brought thousands of hand-signed cards to my office asking that Canada speak up for small-scale farmers, sustainable agriculture and local food production at the upcoming G8 meeting in June 2010.

Canada needs agricultural and trade policies that support people's access to safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable food. As my constituents have reminded us, that commitment should include people in the developing world.

I applaud the organizers of this campaign and their schools and parishes, including Robert Parent of the Diocesan Council for Development and Peace and Sacre Coeur parish, Linda Bowron and Eileen McCarthy of St. Kevin parish, and Chaplain Steve Marischuk and student Dana Savona of Notre Dame School.

I also applaud the other churches and schools that participated, including St-Jean-de-Brébeuf, Lakeshore Catholic High School and École Saint-Joseph, and all the people in my riding who joined this campaign. Their compassion is an example to all Canadians.

Justice
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely thrilled to report that today our government tabled legislation aimed at putting an end to conditional sentences or house arrest. A great news story. This is for serious and violent crimes including, among other things, aggravated assault, human trafficking, luring a child, street racing causing death, arson, fraud, counterfeiting, most auto thefts and extortion.

In 2006 our government introduced similar legislation; however, the bill was repeatedly stalled and eventually gutted by the opposition.

House arrest for serious and violent crimes offends Canadians' sense of justice. Our government needs to put an end to it.

Today's legislation is the next step in our efforts to get tough on crime, and to stand up for the rights of victims and law-abiding Canadians. I encourage all members of the opposition to vote in favour of this legislation.