House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall Ottawa

November 29, 2011

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 29th day of November, 2011, at 4:15 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, were Bill C-22, An Act to give effect to the Agreement between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada concerning the Eeyou Marine Region, Chapter 20; Bill S-3, A third Act to harmonize federal law with the civil law of Quebec and to amend certain Acts in order to ensure that each language version takes into account the common law and the civil law, Chapter 21; and Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges), Chapter 22.

Message from the Senate
Royal Assent

November 29th, 2011 / 5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing the House that the Senate has passed the following bill: Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day.

Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, we are told that the safe streets and communities act will harden criminals and increase recidivism, yet experts agree that rehabilitation strategies work. Many of these programs occur within the correctional environment and the length of a sanction should be proportional to the offence, and must consider the victims of crime who are all too often ignored.

The bill has many facets designed to protect the rights of victims by enshrining a victim's right to participate in parole hearings and address inmate accountability. At the same time, the bill will allow judges to defer sanctions for offenders enrolled in drug and alcohol treatment programs. Our government continues to invest in prevention strategies which are critical in ensuring safe streets and communities.

A key pillar of our national anti-drug strategy is prevention and treatment for those with drug dependencies. Since 2007 the health portfolio has invested $577 million over five years for the strategy's prevention, treatment and enforcement activities.

Our government has made significant treatment investments to strengthen existing treatment programs through the treatment action plan. Communities can celebrate funded health promotion and prevention projects for youth through the drug strategy community initiatives fund with over 100 approved projects across Canada. This represents approximately $40 million in multi-year community based investments. The national crime prevention strategy's priorities include: addressing early risk factors among vulnerable children, youth and young adults; preventing recidivism among high risk offenders; fostering crime prevention in aboriginal and northern communities; and preventing youth gang and drug-related crime. It also includes the SNAP Girls Connection program.

All too often, the message of media fixates on the silos of government. When one looks across departments, there are tremendous and well-balanced approaches to safer streets and communities.

We continue to hear the NDP bring up Texas. I fundamentally disagree with any comparison between the Canadian correctional system and the Texas model. Texas has a population nearly equivalent to Canada in its state alone, yet it incarcerates its citizens at a rate five times higher than Canada.

The NDP quoted a recent article, but experts from Texas failed to mention that its relative crime rate has actually gone up for offences of murder, forceable rape, robbery and burglary, despite its enlightened approach to crime and sanctions. Texas still boasts the death penalty and has eliminated last meal rights for the condemned. Texas crime rates have fluctuated up and down since 1960 and will continue to do so. Texans will certainly be left scratching their cowboy hats when their rates continue to fluctuate over time. I encourage members opposite when discussing Canadian realities to remember these facts and to please not mess with Texas.

In respect to marijuana grow operations, there has been a tremendous amount of fearmongering and misinformation around this aspect of the bill. First, one must consider the volume and value six plants of marijuana can create. The proliferation of the idea that it is just six plants, meaning no harm can be caused, is both irresponsible and wrong. Once again, there is failure on the part of critics to consider victims and innocent people.

Take for example drug endangered children. Carbon dioxide enhances plant growth, but poses serious health risks to humans. High concentrations can displace oxygen in the air, resulting in oxygen deficiency, combined with effects of carbon dioxide toxicity. Grow operations contain high levels of humidity and are prone to build-up of various moulds which can damage human health, causing aggravating immunological diseases such as hay fever allergies, asthma, infections, and even cancer. The likelihood of a house fire is 24 times greater in a home with a grow operation compared to an ordinary household.

Drug endangered children are at greater risk of neglect, domestic violence, pre and postnatal alcohol abstinence syndrome, and sexual abuse. Grow operations are often linked to criminal activity and organized crime. The environment is also very high risk for physical assault, home invasions, gang violence and homicides. Increasing liberal attitudes toward marijuana has led to an increase in the number of child neglect and abuse cases that can be directly attributed to marijuana, according to Lori Moriarty at the Stafford conference.

There is also a misnomer that this bill creates new criminals, when in fact all of the offences dealt with are criminal, and our government is committed to dealing with the most reprehensible crimes in our society. One is protecting children from sexual predators.

One is protecting children from sexual predators. This point I find particularly positive considering the recent RCMP intelligence report, which stated, “The availability of child sexual exploitation material for purchase, over the Internet, remains a problem”.

Penalties for organized drug crime and protecting the public from violent and repeat young offenders are others. I emphasize the words “violent” and “repeat”.

Another is preventing trafficking abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants.

Corrections Canada applauds the bill's efforts to address inmate accountability, responsibility and management under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which protects and encourages inmates engaged in a rehabilitation program.

On the topic of new prisons, initial projections of population increases from past legislation has not been realized. There is no link between new prisons and this legislation. New prisons are required to reflect the rehabilitative and corrective model essential to achieving objectives of health, hope and healing of inmates.

The opposition criticizes new prisons yet presses for more programming and single cells for inmates. It fails to realize the intrinsic link between the building of new correctional facilities with cleaner, safer environments with more room and controls in order to allow staff and inmates the best possible environment to engage in rehabilitative programs.

The Yukon corrections model is an excellent example of moving from a close supervision model to a direct supervision model, which will be greatly enhanced with the move to its new correctional facility in 2012.

When one considers the cost of correctional facilities in housing offenders, it must be remembered that the tangible costs of crime on victims is much higher, 80% of which is borne by the victims themselves. The Canadian Bar Association stated:

This bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs, but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse. It could eventually create the very problems it’s supposed to solve.

If there are imaginary problems, then we will not see the contradictory message it is suggesting of an increased prison population as there will not be imaginary criminals, imaginary trials, and imaginary sentences that would have such a result.

We do know that the problems are real and I would invite the Canadian Bar Association to write to the community of Citadel, which was devastated when an illegal grow operation caught on fire and damaged seven neighbouring homes. It should also write to the province of Alberta, where the ALERT organization dismantled 200 grow operations in Calgary, seizing nearly 70,000 plants. Of those grow operation locations, 151 were unfit for human habitation. In 2011, almost 46,000 plants worth $56.3 million has been taken off the streets of that province. That is not imaginary.

According to a justice department study, only one in every six individuals convicted of running a grow operation in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, between 1997 and 2005 actually served time in prison.

The killer of RCMP officer Dennis Strongquill, Laurie Ann Bell, was an impulsive drug-addicted alcoholic whose contempt for the courts had shown little remorse or understanding for the impact of her crime. According to National Parole Board records, whose hands were tied under the current legislation, she was released after serving less than seven years. Corporal Brian Auger, Strongquill's former partner, was not told of Bell's impending release. “Nobody ever spoke to me”, he said. “They should maybe talk to the people that were involved and get a better idea or understanding as to what the victim goes through.”

Bill C-10 will do just that and enshrine victim participation in Parole Board hearings and keep victims better informed about the behaviour and handling of offenders.

Perhaps the Canadian Bar Association and the NDP would like to reaffirm their positions to Corporal Auger and Dennis Strongquill's family that our government is reacting to imaginary problems.

Under this government, we have another 1,000 RCMP officers on the front line and we have invested $400 million to help the provinces and territories recruit more police officers.

The 9/11 attacks claimed 3,000 people including Canadians. The 2002 Bali bombing attack was the deadliest attack in the history of Indonesia. That killed Canadians as well. Were these imaginary problems?

On a personal level, I have engaged youth in the communities to deliver teamwork, leadership, health and anti-bullying workshops which have engaged youth and community leaders, and increased self-esteem in both the boys and girls who have participated. This demonstrates what we can do as individuals to raise a respectful, healthy, law-abiding community.

Therefore, when we step outside the silos we create and see the bigger picture beyond the body of legislation, our government is achieving the right balance between victims' rights, crime prevention and rehabilitation for a better Canada.

Bill C-10--Notice of time allocation motion
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the last election the Conservative Party received a mandate to take action with tougher sentences for child molesters, tougher sentences for drug dealers, and tougher sentences for organized criminals. All of those measures are included in Bill C-10, the bill the House is currently debating, which the government committed to passing within 100 sitting days.

With that in mind, I must advise that an agreement has not been reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78.(1) or 78.(2), concerning the proceedings at report stage and third reading of Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78.(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at those stages.

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion. That, notwithstanding any Standing Orders or usual practices of the House, proceedings at report stage of Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, be discharged and that the bill be immediately referred back to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for the purpose of more fully conducting clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, and that it not be reported back to the House in fewer than 15 sitting days.

We are proposing this motion in order to ensure that this bill receives proper consideration. We saw at report stage this morning, half a dozen or more amendments by the government itself that were ruled out of order because they could have been, I think in the words of the Speaker, presented at committee. That is what the Speaker said in his ruling this morning.

It seems pretty obvious that the government itself now recognizes that there was not sufficient time at committee to give consideration to proper amendments, that the bill is flawed, and that the way to resolve this is to send it back to committee. So I am assuming that we will have unanimous consent from members opposite for this motion.

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to propose the motion?

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

There is no consent.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we heard a lot of words about how spending on prisons is somehow going to help children. It was a little lost on me, but I noticed an interesting story from the member for Winnipeg North about two wallets. It seems to me the Conservatives do have two wallets. They have a bulging wallet of about $3 billion a year in burgeoning prison costs, but there seems to be little or nothing in the wallet for school nutrition programs, dental care for children, early childhood education, a national child care program, and elementary and post-secondary education.

I would like to ask the hon. member, if he really does care about children, why is there no investment in that wallet?

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that the hon. member's comments were directly related to the bill at hand, but let us talk a bit about that wallet that we are carrying, including $577 million over five years for the strategy, prevention, treatment and enforcement activities, our anti-drug strategy.

Our health portfolio has invested millions of dollars. It is the one thing I commented on in that speech about not operating in silos. When we look at our investments in education, health, sport and recreation, across all those pillars, our government is making exceptional investments in the people of our country.

It is when we just look at the one bill and if this were the only strategy we had for improving the lives of Canadians, I would agree that this would be problematic. However, it is one tool in a whole host of tools we are using to improve the lives of Canadians.

I do take exception to the fact that the member said there was any link, or I made any suggestion in my speech, to how prisons were going to help children because nowhere in my speech did I mention that.

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that we have provincial governments and we have many professionals across Canada who have expressed great concern in regard to Bill C-10. Close to one third of our chamber, I believe, is made up of new members of Parliament. Yet, we just had the government House Leader stand in his place and move yet another motion of time allocation thereby preventing many members of Parliament from being able to speak to the bill and provide comment on the bill as to what their constituents might have to say and so forth.

Why is the government so focused on taking away the ability of members to contribute to the debate on Bill C-10? Why is the government so focused on ignoring the professionals across Canada and the many different provincial jurisdictions that say that this is a bad bill? Why are the Conservatives doing it?

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder there are other organizations and jurisdictions concerned about this. A large part of that has to do with the tremendous amount of misinformation and fear-mongering that has been done by the members opposite.

It has been outstanding to hear the comparisons to a Texas model, the warnings to people that we will be throwing six year olds in jail over two marijuana plants growing in their basement and all kinds of misinformation.

What we are doing during this debate is correcting the record. We have heard time and time again that many of these bills that are now combined into one to make it more efficient were already passed and presented were it not for an untimely election that we were thrust into, courtesy of the Liberal Party that is now relegated to the back benches.

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was a pleasure to listen to the member for Yukon. I appreciate his experience as a former RCMP officer.

I have met with corrections officers who are very pleased with the provisions in this bill as they would allow accountability for inmates who often before had no consequences for their activities in correctional facilities.

Could the member address the positive measures in this bill that corrections officers and the correctional system can use to ensure that inmates are accountable for their activities when they are in prison?

Report Stage
Safe Streets and Communites Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, having been a deputy superintendent of operations at a correctional facility in Yukon, I can say that when inmates have a plan and when that plan is worked with case managers and there are goals and objectives, we can find correctional environments to be a place of help, hope and healing.

Recidivism programs, the opportunity and time for them to work on things that have brought their criminality to the point where they are in jail, are very important locations for them to do that. The investment in new facilities, clean environments, safe places where staff and inmates can interact together are very important to close that gap so that we actually can work on those recidivism programs and truly reduce crime in this country.