House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The short title of this bill is “eliminating pardons for serious crimes act”. That is what we believe to be the fundamental objective of these efforts.

With the introduction of Bill C-23, the government has moved forward to significantly reform the current pardon systems and to make good on a commitment to address public safety concerns swiftly and sensibly.

Foremost, these reforms acknowledge that a pardon is not forgiveness. It is an administrative tool to keep someone's criminal record separate and apart, but not erased.

These changes would clearly establish who would not be eligible for a record suspension and, as well, bring about more scrutiny and rigour to the decision-making process for those who apply.

The government has taken action to introduce Bill C-23 because we firmly believe that a pardon is not a right. The commission of serious offences does not warrant a pardon, such as in cases where a sexual offence has been committed against a child. We believe this sentiment is shared by Canadians, in particular victims, who have spoken of the impacts of crime, in particular sexual crimes, and the need for adopting changes to the pardon system.

I urge all hon. members to give their full support for Bill C-23 and work in co-operation with the government to ensure swift passage of this important legislation through Parliament.

One key element of this bill, which I have mentioned, is a shift in the use of—

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Ajax--Pickering on a point of order.

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

June 7th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the speech of the hon. member, but I had just left to do an interview and upon returning, was informed that the reason the Speaker, then Madam Speaker, had interrupted my speech was to say that a member had used unparliamentary language. It has come to my attention that the member for Essex, when I was referencing my children, questioned the paternity of my children in a personal smear against me.

That is unacceptable in this place. For somebody to launch a personal attack on a person's family, on their children, is deeply upsetting to me and I would ask the member stand in his place and apologize.

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member for Essex is not present at the moment. The Speaker will examine the blues.

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park on the same point.

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member referred to say, “Are they all his children?”

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I think what the members opposite are talking about is when the member was going on about how he preferred to protect his children, I said that because I prefer to protect my children, it does not make our opinions different. That might be what the member heard. If that is what he heard and he took it that way, I fully take it back and apologize.

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member for Ajax—Pickering was referring to the member for Essex.

I think I have heard enough, unless the member for Ajax—Pickering wants to bring in a new point.

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I can, so the matter is extremely clear, what I was referencing actually was that all members of the House care about their children and care about the community. As a father, of course I care every bit as much as a Conservative member about my community and my children. It was at that point that the member for Essex very specifically and very clearly questioned whether they were my children. He was questioning the paternity of my children. It was an attack against my family.

I would ask, if the member is not present right now, that he be requested to make that retraction. It is unbecoming of this place and I find it very upsetting.

Alleged Comments by An Hon. Member
Points of Order
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I can assure the member for Ajax—Pickering that the Speaker will examine the transcript and perhaps other forms of recordings, if necessary, and if the member for Essex is notified of this point, I am sure he will want to come to the House to clarify.

We will move on with debate. The hon. member for Brant has 15 minutes left.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, to recap where I was, I was encouraging all hon. member to support our government and Bill C-23 and to work in co-operation with our government to ensure the swift passage of this important legislation through Parliament.

One key element of the bill, which I have mentioned, is a shift in the use of terminology from pardon to record suspension throughout the Criminal Records Act. We need to be clear about what this mechanism does and does not do.

We consider the term “record suspension” to better reflect the purpose of the legislation which is to close off general access to a criminal record in appropriate cases as opposed to expressing forgiveness for the offence. This change in terminology is an important one in terms of reinforcing the role of this legislation and eliminating pardons for serious crimes.

The government is clear in Bill C-23 that in order to be eligible for a record suspension an applicant must not have been convicted of an offence involving sexual activity relating to a minor as set out in the schedule of offences in the bill. This includes those with a conviction, for example, of sexual interference or sexual exploitation of a child or luring a child, all serious and grave offences that we do not believe ever warrant a record suspension.

Further, eligibility for record suspensions will be more restrictive in that individuals convicted of more than three indictable offences will not be eligible to apply for a record suspension. We believe this is a fair balance between those with a few youthful indiscretions and those with serious repeat criminal histories. In addition, the waiting period to apply for a record suspension for summary offences will be increased from three to five years and from five to ten years for indictable offences. We believe this sends a strong message that the ineligibility period must reflect the seriousness of the crime committed.

Bill C-23 also proposes significant amendments to the Criminal Records Act to end what many view as a virtual automatic process of granting pardons. As we have indicated, the legislation will provide the National Parole Board with the discretion required to ensure individuals convicted of serious crimes will not be eligible for a record suspension. It will also establish multifaceted criteria that must be considered to ensure the ordering of a record suspension is appropriate and does not bring our justice system into disrepute. The bill gives the National Parole Board the tools it needs and which are currently lax.

Under the new system, the changes our government is proposing would authorize the board to examine factors such as nature, gravity and duration of an offence when it is considering applications for those convicted of indictable offences. As well, the board may consider the circumstances surrounding the commission of that offence and information relating to an applicant's criminal history in making its decision. We believe these are sensible additions to the legislative scheme.

There is also a new level of accountability built into the record suspension making process. Those convicted of an indictable offence would need to prove to the National Parole Board that receiving a record suspension would contribute to his or her rehabilitation. This places an onus squarely on the applicant to satisfy the National Parole Board that this condition is met.

The proposed reforms in Bill C-23 will also bring about more transparency through a report to Parliament on an annual basis from the National Parole Board, which will include statistics on the number of applicants for record suspensions and the number of record suspensions ordered for both summary conviction and indictable offences indexed by offence and province and residence of the applicant.

Further openness and scrutiny of the decision-making process will be achieved through public access to the National Parole Board's decisions regarding orders or refusals for record suspensions. This will be done in a way that does not compromise the privacy of the concerned individuals unless they consent to such disclosure.

In closing, Bill C-23 contains a comprehensive package of vital amendments and I urge all hon. members to give Bill C-23 speedy passage through the House so that these new measures can be implemented without delay.

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have indicated before that we support the bill going to committee, but we are concerned about getting action before the House recesses for the summer which is why my colleague has proposed a motion, actually gave it to the government last week. It says:

That, in the opinion of the House, urgent changes to the Criminal Records Act are required to prevent pardons from being granted that would shock the conscience of Canadians or bring the administration of justice into disrepute, and therefore the government should immediately introduce legislation with the specific purpose to empower the National Parole Board to deny pardons in cases where granting a pardon would shock the conscience of Canadians or bring the administration of justice into disrepute, with cooperation and support from all parties to move swiftly such legislation through the House and Senate before Parliament rises for the summer,--

That is what we suggest will solve the problem that the government has identified with Karla Homolka possibly applying for a pardon. Having done that and getting this legislation through quickly, at that point the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security should be directed to conduct a thorough study of all other changes that should be made to the Canadian pardon system to ensure it is strengthened and fair for all Canadians. That would go along and support what the Conservatives' member for Surrey North introduced as Motion No. 514. Back in the middle of May, we debated the member's motion and the NDP supported it. Her motion read:

That the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security be instructed to undertake a review of the Criminal Records Act and report to the House within three months on how it could be strengthened to ensure that the National Parole Board puts the public’s safety first in all its decisions.

We support the member's motion. We think that can happen over the summer, but in the meantime, we cannot wait to deal with the issue that the government identified a couple weeks ago, which it says is the reason for bringing in Bill C-23 in the first place.

Therefore, let us get immediate action on this. Let us support it--

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brant.

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I heard a question there, I think I heard a mini speech. I am wondering what the question might be, but let me state very clearly that our government believes that the system needs to be swung back, the pendulum needs to be swung back to protect the rights of victims instead of the rights of criminals. That is what the legislation is about. It is about a government agenda to do that. It is about numerous pieces of legislation.

It seems when we come to votes on many of these issues, the hon. member opposes us on many of these things, so I understand sometimes his party's frustration with the fact that we want to move ahead to get tough on crime. The NDP does not, but in any regard, we are moving forward. This is a good piece of legislation. This protects victims and we urge all members to support the bill.

Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if he believes that for someone who has served his sentence and wants to live an honest life, the hope of obtaining a pardon after a reasonable timeframe would be incentive to maintain good behaviour?