House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Motions in Amendment
Patent Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The time allowed for private members' business has expired. The order will be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence. The hon. member from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar will have five minutes when the House returns to this matter.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2011 / noon

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on a very important piece of legislation. That, of course, is Bill S-6, the serious time for the most serious crime act, sometimes referred to as the ”faint hope clause bill”. It will get rid of that particular section.

As all members of the House know full well, Bill S-6 proposes important amendments to the faint hope regime.

The bill was first introduced as Bill C-36 and was reintroduced in virtually identical form as Bill S-6 in June of 2010. After debate and study in the Senate, the bill was, appropriately enough, passed without amendment.

I am always happy to rise in the chamber to talk about justice legislation and to discuss the issues that affect Canadians and the people of my riding of Niagara Falls, but I am saddened by the fact that we are still debating this bill, a bill that could have been passed before Christmas if not for the agenda of the opposition parties.

Unfortunately, as my hon. colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert explained during the report stage debate, some Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights chose not to listen to the testimony of victims and victim advocates and decided to delay this important bill by introducing unnecessary amendments, including deleting the title.

I have said this before about the opposition: that at some point it should take time to understand the needs of victims of crime. Unfortunately, it uses opportunities--as it did on this bill to get rid of the faint hope clause--to delay this government's important legislation and our attempts to fight crime and stand up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. The unnecessary amendments introduced by the Liberal justice critic and cheered on by the NDP and the Bloc were clear examples of the political tactics used by the opposition to delay our justice legislation.

I want to be clear in reminding the House that we are not talking about controversial legislation today. The bill before us is a bill that will get rid of the faint hope provision that currently allows a murderer to apply to be eligible for early parole after serving only 15 years in custody. It is legislation that will correct a law that has left many ordinary Canadians perplexed by the existence of a process that seems to allow murderers to get around the sentences imposed on them in open court after fair and public trials.

More importantly, it is legislation that victims have been asking for. I have met with victim after victim, and they have told me that the current faint hope regime must be repealed because it re-victimizes them and forces them to relive the horror that was the death of their loved ones. It is inconceivable to me that such an important matter as the protection of the families and loved ones of murder victims should be delayed because certain members do not like the title of the bill.

The measures proposed in Bill S-6 aim to accomplish three simple goals.

The first is to restore truth in sentencing by ensuring that the sentence pronounced on a convicted murderer in open court is the sentence that is served. It should not be too unreasonable for anybody that the sentence pronounced on a convicted murderer in open court is the sentence that should be served. That is reasonable.

The second is to keep those convicted of the most serious crimes in prison for lengthier periods of time, commensurate with the gravity of the crimes.

The third--and, in my opinion, the most important--is to ensure that the families and loved ones of murder victims are not themselves victimized at the whim of a convicted murderer who may decide to bring an application to be eligible for early parole. All this does is force families and loved ones to re-experience the pain of their original loss. They are victimized again and again. I do not think the goals of this bill are controversial or unreasonable and I believe the vast majority of Canadians agree.

As I have said many times before, this government is committed to redressing the balance in Canada's criminal justice system by considering the interests of law-abiding citizens. We are committed to ensuring that families and loved ones of victims are not themselves re-victimized by the justice system, and this is exactly what Bill S-6 accomplishes. This is a fair, balanced and reasonable reform of a controversial area of the law, and it should have the complete support today of all members of the House.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
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12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Justice a couple of questions, because it seems to me that we have very faint hope of actually getting straight answers from the minister on simple questions like this: why was this bill delayed?

He talked about Bill C-36 in the previous Parliament. Where was it in December 2009? It was well on its way to going through committee, and his government, his Prime Minister, cut the legs out from under him by proroguing Parliament.

It started at the bottom of the pile as the current bill in April 2010. Four months take place; it is the government's fault. Prorogation occurs; it is the government's fault.

The bill makes its way through the Senate and makes its way to the House only in September 2010. Why the delay? Why is the Prime Minister cutting the feet out from underneath the minister?

Second, on this bill itself, I want him to tell me precisely how many of the 146 persons who were given parole earlier than they were eligible for under this section of the Criminal Code have reoffended in the history of this offence? Is it one? Is it 20? Is it 40? How many is it? He should know the answer.

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12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what we are dealing with. They never quite get it over there.

First of all, they spent the first couple of years with their colleagues over in the Senate holding up our justice legislation. Now that, thankfully, there is a government majority in the Senate, they figure they had better do the dirty work themselves.

He has questions for me; well, victims in this country have some questions for them. Why would they hold this bill up before Christmas? All this bill would do is reduce victimization in this country. What was their complaint? I had to tell people that they did not like the title of the bill. I had to tell victims who do not want to be re-victimized over and over again that the Liberal Party does not like the title of the bill.

He wants to know how many people have reoffended. I am going to tell members something. They still do not understand what this bill is about. This is about reducing victimization. This is not necessarily about those people who got out after 15 years. These are the people who stayed in there, but the families of those murdered victims had to worry about this starting at the 13th or 14th year, and if they got by the 15th, then the 17th, 19th, or 21st years.

It is the victims we stand up for in this Parliament. That is what they do not get.

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12:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to ask a question. However, after the hyperbole coming from the minister, I could not resist.

The reality is that the victimization of the family members of people who have been murdered in this country is primarily at the feet of the Conservative Party and the ultra-right wing of that party. The Conservatives have gone around the country and have told family members of murder victims that they are going to have to appear repeatedly in order to see that this person does not get out. Their position is that if they do not want this person to get out at the 15-year mark, they have to appear repeatedly.

In fact, that is not what happens. We have had four cases of people applying more than once. There have been four cases, out of thousands, of people applying more than once. The jury that hears the application the first time has the right to deny any further applications, and they do that on a fairly regular basis.

The reality is that the minister and Conservative Party members have run around the country and said, “Look, we are going to fearmonger you to death. That is what we are going to do.” We see victims constantly coming forward and saying that, when in fact the reality is just the opposite.

I cannot help but ask the minister why they keep doing that. He knows the facts. Why do they keep putting that fear into the family members of murder victims in this country, when the reality is not that at all?

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12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really find that incredible. It is the exact opposite. Victims' groups have come to us, as they have to parliamentarians over the last 15 years, and they are the ones who say they are re-victimized again and again.

I give credit to those individuals who are prepared to stand by us when we introduce these pieces of legislation because they know we are responding to their concerns. I have had families who have been victimized by one of these murderers tell me that when that 15-year period rolls around, they are tortured over and over again. They are re-victimized.

The NDP would not get that. I understand that. Its members would not understand that at all, but they are the ones who tell us that the victims are worried about whether this individual is going to get out or not. Many times, if not most times, they do not get out, but that is not the point; they are victimized again and again. That is what it is all about.

Another bill we want to get passed would deal with consecutive parole ineligibility. I know what the NDP members will be saying. They will be saying that the poor fellow is not going to be eligible for parole for 50 years under our bill. I say, “Good enough for him. If you're committing more than one murder or something, that is what you should be looking at in this country.” However, the NDP will not be able to figure that one out either.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is specifically with respect to the victims in the process.

As a result of the government proroguing and the delays it has caused with respect to this bill, we have gone through it twice. The first time Conservative members on committee called for grandparents in one case and a parent in another case, family members of a person who had been murdered. They did not do it the second time because on the first occasion one of the two witnesses called by the Conservative Party was honest enough to say that after a recent experience with dealing with somebody who had been released on early parole under the faint hope clause was convinced there are times when the clause is useful. Interestingly, that person was not called when the hearings were going on a second time.

Could the minister tell me why that person was not called? Did the minister speak to that victim when he heard that evidence on the first occasion? Did he change his mind and realize that the faint hope clause is a useful tool on occasion?

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12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is sticking up for the faint hope clause. That is good coming from an NDP member. I am glad that party has come forward. For a couple of years those members were content to let some of their colleagues do the dirty work, get the bill out of the House of Commons and to committee where it would be amended or held up forever. Now at least those members have come out on the record.

I appreciate that the hon. member and his party think that the faint hope clause is a wonderful thing. I appreciate that he and his party are not going to support us on any measures that stand up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. That is their approach and their ideology and they are welcome to that.

I have talked to victims right across this country. They applaud the government's efforts to take their interests seriously, to make them paramount. That is what I said when I introduced this bill on getting rid of the faint hope clause. I am sure the hon. member would be pleased to sit down with some of the people I have spoken to, people who want to know if getting rid of the faint hope clause would stop people from committing first degree murder. It would be a challenge for someone to figure out why anybody would commit first degree murder and think that was a good idea.

I know for sure that getting rid of the faint hope clause will reduce victimization in this country. Not one more family will have to go through that torture and relive the pain inflicted on them after 15 years. But we are going further. We have legislation before Parliament right now that will have consecutive parole ineligibility. That possibility will keep the hon. member up at night I am sure. There should not be any discounts for people who commit more than one murder in this country. If someone commits two, three or four murders, that individual should have parole ineligibility consecutive to that.

Individuals have told me that their son or grandson was the second or third victim murdered by the same individual yet there are no consequences for that under Canadian law. We stand with them. We will do what we can to make sure that their child or grandchild counts for something in the Canadian judicial system. We owe that to those families.

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12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would not want the remarks of the minister to be stale in the chamber before I inform him and the House that in the history of judicial review under this clause involving over 1,500 eligible offenders, 181 reached the stage of court decisions, 146 were granted parole before their 25 year eligibility, and out of 146, two offended. I am afraid that the minister is not aware of that otherwise he would not go into the hyperbole that my friend speaks of.

The minister wants to put in the minds of Canadians an enormous problem that has to be dealt with urgently by legislation but he does not want to tell the public that when his government was elected in October 2008 it killed its own Bill C-36, which was similar to this bill almost in its entirety. The Conservatives killed their own bill in December 2009 of their own volition. That minister must have stood behind his Prime Minister and said that is fine even though a lot of people in his riding of Niagara Falls want the bill. I did not read about any dissent. I never read about any dissent on that side. It is not like there is a lot of independent dissenting thinking going on over there.

So the Conservatives killed their own bill in December 2009 and then after prorogation took 48 days to introduce this bill, essentially the same bill. It is not like those members are in a hurry with respect to the faint hope clause. It is not like the minister can go to his constituents in Niagara Falls and claim he is blameless, that he thought Mr. Harper should not have prorogued Parliament, that he thought this bill should--

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member is an experienced parliamentarian. Please do not refer to colleagues by their given names.

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12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that. Because of the recess, we have become a little relaxed on things. I apologize very much for that.

The Prime Minister of Canada killed his own bill. The Prime Minister of Canada took the legs out from underneath the Minister of Justice. However, he survived another day and then waited 48 more days to introduce this bill that is so important.

I will go back to the bill. On its merits, the bill is tough on crime. It sure is. It is late on crime, very late. There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. If the minister believes so vehemently in this bill, why did he delay it so much and do injustice to the people of Canada? That is a good question.

Some of my colleagues, particularly on the other side of the House, have tried to describe us on this side as weak on crime. Nothing could be more false. I wish our laws were tougher on a wide range of crimes. I wish the government and the minister would act with more dispatch on the important aspects that threaten Canadians today. Not two crimes out of 1,500 since 1987. There are far more important and urgent issues that involve the security of our public than this issue. Even when the Conservatives profess to think it is an important issue, they delay the heck out of it.

I consider the sentencing principles of denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring offences, and the separation of offenders from society to be very important. They are in the code that we believe in, the Criminal Code section 718. Every law should be seen through the prism of section 718 because it affects the balance of how we treat offenders. It is the Criminal Code. It is to put criminals in programs, including incarceration, that deal with their crimes. First of all there has to be an offender, there has to be a crime, and there has to be a punishment. We are talking about the punishment phase here.

The case that Liberal colleagues want to keep Canadians safe cannot be disputed. We want this country to be tougher on crimes and we believe we have very good ideas on how to get tougher. This does not mean we have to buy into the ridiculous idea that Bill S-6 is going to make Canada tough on crime. Let me be clear. The Liberals are not opposed to the repeal of the faint hope clause in this instance. The questions are why it took so long, why they are targeting something that is so minor in impact, and why they are dilly-dallying on the important criminal laws that need to be enacted.

Repealing the faint hope clause will likely have no drastic effect whatsoever. It affects such a small group of individuals that what negative impact it could have will likely be very limited. So we will not oppose it. However, we have to object to the shameless promotion of the so-called toughness of the bill and the whole Conservative agenda on fighting crime. It goes right to the top, not to the Prime Minister in this case, but to the short title.

The Minister of Justice went on about how inane it is to attack a short title. It is what Canadians believe the bill to be when they look at the short title. Someone looking at the short title of this bill, which was clearly crafted by some republican hack who also writes the tops of cereal boxes, would not have any clue what phase in the criminal justice system this deals with, and could not be guided by the short title.

This bill deals with the faint hope clause. It is to live or die, to eliminate it, to modify it, to let it live another day. That is what the bill is about. People may understand that, but they certainly would not understand the shameless self-promoting title chosen by the Conservatives, which engenders that they want a snappy title, they want to over-promise and under-deliver. Finally, it is their job every night to put the fear of potential harm that does not exist in the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Wow, what leadership that is, to say, “I am your leader and I am going to scare you tonight. Look at the 7 o'clock news”. That is what the government does, and in this crime, the Minister of Justice is an accomplice of the Prime Minister of Canada.

I am ready to support a government, if we could see one that would be tough on crime. However, the only thing tough about these bills is the short title. Getting to that, the short title of the bill is “Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act”.

If the Conservatives want to write poetry, if they want to write television titles, they should choose another occupation. However, if they want to stick to the realm of criminal law, they should look at the Criminal Code and pick titles that relate to it.

We Liberals have amended the bill to remove the short title. We amended the short title because it was disingenuous and misleading. Criminals who receive life sentences in Canada do serve serious time. How dare the Conservatives accuse us of delaying this bill for refusing to agree to a short title that tries to create a problem that does not exist.

Perhaps the problem is one of perception and the Progressive Conservatives, of which the Minister of Justice was a proud member and a cabinet member himself, can be part of the explanation as to why we have a perception problem with respect to life sentences for first degree murder, for example. If we asked Canadians what happens when someone is convicted of first degree murder, the answer would be that one gets a life sentence. I bet if we asked if that meant serving life in prison, most Canadians would think so.

We have to remember it was a Liberal government that enacted this law as a compromise for eliminating the death penalty. This very intricate compromise has been upheld by the Supreme Court and commented upon. It seems to be the balance with which we have lived in Canada for a long time. It says that a person who commits first degree murder will receive a life sentence and will be eligible for parole after 25 years served.

In addition, this faint hope clause we speak of recognizes that if after 15 years in prison a first degree murderer has shown elements of rehabilitation, denounces his or her own unlawful conduct, is likely to be deterred for life and fits all of the sentencing principles that we have lived with in society, that person might be eligible for early parole after passing through a whole series of hoops, including the empanelling of a jury, the selection of a chief justice to review the file and finally a parole hearing. That is a lot of hoops to go through. As I have said, of 1,500 who were eligible, I think only 146 actually received the faint hope consideration or early parole.

Let us remember the years when a Conservative government was in power. It did nothing to change these provisions of the Criminal Code because Progressive Conservatives believed that this was an adequate balance. However, today the Alliance Reform Conservatives believe this is an urgent and pressing problem. It is so urgent that they introduced it, let it die by their own hand and took 48 days to reintroduce it. They are really ragging the puck on something that is so urgent.

What is urgent for the Conservatives is to get out before the media and say that there is a real problem with murderers running around the streets of our home towns and they are going to make sure they never get out of prison. It is disingenuous because, in this chamber at least, everybody knows that a life sentence means 25 years with eligibility for parole. Everyone knows that in Canada the average sentence served is about 28 years for a first degree murder. Everybody should know that is just behind the United States where first degree murder has a combination of the death penalty and 29-odd years.

Everyone should also know that there are developed, civilized, important countries of the world that have average time served for first degree murder at a much lower number of years: 10, 11, 12 and 13 years for countries like Britain, Belgium, Australia and the Antipodes.

We are not lax on crime. If I were to take credit for this legislation as a Liberal from the 1970s, one could not say that being just a hair under the United States for time served is lax on crime. It can be said on a newscast and said in here, but out in the public there ought to be a little more truth and sincerity when addressing important issues such as crime and justice. That has been lacking in the whole debate on crime since I came here in 2006.

At committee we have had expert witnesses tell us that not only is there no evidence to suggest that the elimination of the faint hope clause will make our communities safer, but Canada is a world leader, as I just mentioned, in incarceration times. It means then we are tough on crime already in this respect.

I have underscored before that hope is already faint. Correctional Service Canada shows that the average time spent is actually 28.4 years, 10 years longer than in many other countries. Hope is already faint for criminals here. Time in custody is already serious for criminals.

I had occasion, after we rose in December, to visit Dorchester Penitentiary and to see the conditions under which criminals were kept. I heard from wardens and officials at one of our oldest units in the country. The said that they lived a bit in fiscal and security fear of what the Conservative government had in mind by overpopulating a prison that was as old, almost, as Confederation itself.

Time in custody is already serious. If it is the government's will to make hope even fainter for criminals, we cannot say that two individuals is a track record of a failure in this regard. What we have to say is that this overall section affects so few criminals and people in our country that it is not really the object we want to talk about today. We want to talk about what the government has done in other serious areas of the law in law reform.

As I have already mentioned, this bill will have a very limited effect on very few criminals. The faint hope clause has been in effect for 30 years and has made it possible for 130 people to be paroled.

The Conservatives are trying to make us believe that the bill tackles a serious problem. Is that how they protect Canadians and show respect for victims? Criminals are not fools, and neither are victims. Bills such as this will not reduce the crime rate. What this bill really does is make a minor change to how a small number of inmates are paroled.

The Liberal Party will vote in favour of this bill as quickly as possible because it is waiting impatiently for this government to bring forward a bill that is truly tough on crime.

We want to move on with the bill so the government can have the time and space to put forward a bill that is truly tough on crime. At the justice committee five different witnesses have said the same thing, that the bill is not tough on crime. As John Howard Society told us in its committee submission:

Eliminating the faint hope clause, which in practice only allows the earlier application for parole of a handful of already assessed, low-risk, rehabilitated applicants who have already served at minimum 15 years...is unnecessary...and will not improve community safety.

One would have thought in the ensuing years since Bill C-36 was introduced that there might have been new evidence. Alas, there was not.

The aspect of keeping people safe is far different than making them feel that they are safe. The government does a deep disservice to the latter by fearmongering and causing Canadians to feel that the system is not working. It is almost tantamount to treason to say that our criminal justice system does not work.

When first elected, Conservatives and the Prime Minister of Canada were not reluctant to say that Liberal-appointed judges were weak on crime. He also said, in his drive-by schmear, that the Liberal-appointed Senate was useless.

With the passage of time, Conservatives have now had their hands on the rudder for over five years and have appointed a lot of judges to the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal. I do not hear in the Prime Minister's speeches that it is now the fault of judges or that it is no longer the Senate's fault. Talk about victims. He is blaming a narrow number of victims for the perception that the battle on crime is not working because Conservatives have done precious little to actually attack crime. All they have done is make people feel that there is more crime.

This is the conundrum we have. If we speak against a law and order bill, we look like we are pro victim. If the government speaks against the judiciary, it looks like it is undermining the system. What it all means, unfortunately, is that Canadians cannot get a true picture of what is going on with respect to criminality in our country.

I would lay down the sword, along with the Minister of Justice and others, and say that some of us are lawyers and officers of the court. Law societies would be looking at me if I denied it, but that is extremely important. However, we have a higher duty than that. We have a duty to the Canadian public to be truthful and earnest and say, yes, that there are growing areas of crime that we need to attack surgically by implementations that we have spoken about at an all party committee in an in camera meeting. We have talked to judges in camera and know that these tools would be useful in fighting that criminality.

It is not helpful to go on the six o'clock news and say that it is a mess out there, that it is riotous, that judges and prosecutors do not care, that the opposition will not pass government bills, that people should head for the hills, lock their doors and turn out the lights or that they should get a shotgun because they do not have to register them anymore. The point is it is a disservice that all in Parliament is doing to the perception of public safety.

Let us talk about the Liberal agenda. Since prorogation, we have seen a series of bills on criminal law that simply fail to meet the expectation of being tough on crime. We have a different idea about being tough on crime. We want our country to be tough on crime we want to protect and respect victims. We will achieve that end with solutions that are based on evidence and on fact, not on being gluttons for glamour, TV, publicity and fearmongering that those on the other side are. The science of criminology has produced a multitude of sophisticated evidence based on research and fact and we are told how effectively tough on crime certain bills are.

In summary, it seems that the only part of justice the government gets is the word “just”. We want to protect the victims in the funding of witness protection programs and counselling not by just funding the advertising of victims' abuse programs. We want to fund crime prevention so we can avoid crimes altogether not just try to scare people with harsher punishment that we know to be ineffective. We want to equip police officers not just throw even longer sentences at criminals.

I will conclude with a real-life situation. People should talk to corrections officers at a place like Dorchester and ask them if they are not a little afraid about public safety with the onslaught of prisoners who are coming in without the adequate resources and training within the institutions. What are those inmates going to do when they get out of overcrowded prisons with no treatment? That will be cause for fear some day and it has to be corrected.

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I am perplexed by the position of the Liberals. This law was brought in by them as a result of us, as a society, doing away with the death penalty.

At committee, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine made it quite clear that her position was that although they would support the bill to get rid of the faint hope close, when “they got back into government”, they would bring it back. At a subsequent meeting of the committee, she backed off that position, making it clear that was her position and not necessarily that of the Liberal Party.

Is it the Liberals' position that at some point, should they or some other progressive government get back into power, they would support reinstating the faint hope clause?

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I like the comments of Justice Patrick Callaghan in the Vaillancourt case when he said:

—a very important "glimmer" of hope, "if some incentive is to be left when such a terrible penalty is imposed on the most serious of all criminals.

I will answer the question by saying that at the time of eliminating capital punishment and instituting the life sentence, it was felt this was a necessary provision. However, time has passed.

We have seen 1,500 people apply for this remedy and very few were eligible. It lends credence to the idea that a life sentence ought to be a life sentence. However, it will be a terrible outcome if after the 25 years of overcrowding and lack of programming that person gets back on the street and does harm to the community.

It really has nothing to do with this law. It has to do with the Minister of Public Safety's program to build the prisons to put the people in, but to provide no programs. It is a recipe truly for danger and increased crime when those people eventually get out after 25 years, if they are eligible.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, prior to the member's speech, he asked a direct question of the Minister of Justice about how many people this would affect in the last quite number of years.

We all know the Minister of Justice. We have a lot of respect for him. We know him not to be an unintelligent man and certainly outside of this chamber is quite a pleasant individual. Yet he quite clearly was either unable or unwilling to put before this chamber the evidence to support his initiative.

The Conservatives have had five years in government. We have gone through two prorogations and quite a number of these bills, which have fancy headlines to them, yet the minister was unable or unwilling to put before the House the foundational evidence for the need for this legislation.

If it is true that we are functioning on kind of an evidence-free basis for the criminal law initiatives that the government wishes to take, if it is true it is unable or unwilling to put forward evidence, what is the basis for these various initiatives that have these headline-grabbing titles?

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am shocked that the minister did not answer the question.

Since 1981 there have been 181 court decisions, 146 persons were eligible for early parole and, in that time, 2 people violently offended.

The answers are one of policy and it goes back to 718. Members may think any one of the principles of sentencing is more important than the others. Clearly, the separation of the offender from the public, one of the principles, has been put at the top.

I would not dare answer a minister's question but I think the answer for them is that not everyone reads the law in the same way the government does. Not everyone thinks that all criminals should be equal and put in a pot for a judge to decide, Early on it has been against discretion in judges. It has backtracked now because it has appointed enough people to the bench and it cannot criticize its own.

The government does not believe in the pot of discretion for the balancing of those issues. It thinks the separation of the offender is the most important issue. If the Canadian people think that too, well that will perhaps be the issue for debate in the coming election.

What I want for my 8-year-old daughter and my 81-year-old mother is to have a safe community. I do not know anybody in this House who is against safety in the community.

I think the government is skewing the facts in its favour for one piece of philosophy which it thinks is primordial to the others, and that is separating the offender.