House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

There being no motions at report stage on this bill, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, first of all, on this first day back in the House of Commons, I would like to thank all the voters and people in my riding who have kept me in the House of Commons for the past five years, through two elections.

I am honoured to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act.

The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code will authorize a judge, when an offender is convicted of more than one first or second degree murder or a combination of first and second degree murders and is sentenced to life in prison, to impose separate 25-year periods of parole ineligibility for the second and any subsequent murder. These additional 25-year periods would be consecutive to the period of parole ineligibility imposed for the first murder.

In exercising this authority, sentencing judges will have regard to already-existing Criminal Code criteria that will ensure that the proposed measures are applied to the most incorrigible offenders—those whose crimes are such that they would be unlikely to ever obtain parole.

Judges will also be required to give, either orally or in writing, reasons for the decision to impose or not to impose consecutive parole inadmissibility periods. This will benefit the families and loved ones of murder victims who have long complained that they are left in the dark as to why certain decisions are taken during the trial and sentencing process.

The measures proposed in Bill C-48 will accomplish three things. First, they will better reflect the tragedy of multiple murders by enabling a judge to acknowledge each and every life lost.

Under current law, multiple murderers serve life sentences and corresponding parole ineligibility periods for each murder concurrently. The result is that they serve only 25 years in custody before being eligible for parole, no matter how many lives they may have taken.

Many Canadians are dismayed by this. They cannot understand why a sentence for murder is unable to take account in a concrete way of the fact that more than one life has been taken. Many argue that the law as it now stands seems to give a “volume discount” to multiple murderers.

This symbolic devaluation of the lives of victims has a strong negative impact on the families and loved ones of murder victims. All too often they experience a greater degree of pain and experience a greater sense of loss because the justice system has failed to mete out a specific punishment for each and every life lost. Bill C-48 would help correct this.

The second thing that Bill C-48 would do is reinforce the denunciatory and retributive functions of the parole ineligibility period attached to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Murder is the most serious crime and must be denounced in the strongest terms. This has already been recognized by the highest court of the land. In the 1987 Vaillancourt case, the Supreme Court highlighted the extreme stigma attached to murder that flows from the moral blameworthiness of deliberately taking the life of another person.

This moral blameworthiness justifies the appropriately severe penalty that murder attracts: life imprisonment accompanied by a period of parole ineligibility of up to 25 years.

Many would ask whether it is appropriate that the penalty for taking more than one life is the same as the penalty for taking one life. That is a good question. I would note, in response, that a life sentence is, indeed, for life. An offender cannot be sentenced to more than one life sentence.

Bill C-48 is based on the proposition that killing more than one person reflects a higher degree of moral blameworthiness and ought to allow the imposition of additional periods of parole ineligibility.

Bill C-48 would ensure that the judge who presides over the conviction of a multiple murderer and who is therefore in the best position to assess that person’s degree of moral blameworthiness remains the one authorized to decide whether that more severe penalty ought to be imposed.

As I mentioned earlier, that decision would be based on the existing criteria in section 754.4 of the Criminal Code. Judges already use these criteria to decide how long a second degree murderer ought to serve in custody before being able to apply for parole.

I will elaborate on that last point which, I must point out, has already been discussed in previous debates.

As hon. members may recall, the punishment for first and second degree murder is life imprisonment accompanied by a period of ineligibility for parole determined according to section 745 of the Criminal Code.

For first degree murderers as well as for any second degree murderer who has killed before, that period is 25 years from the time of being brought into custody.

For all other second degree murderers, that period is 10 years, unless the judge uses the authority bestowed by section 745.4 to set a period of ineligibility for parole up to 25 years.

Such a decision will be based on “the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission and the recommendation, if any, made [by a jury]”.

In summary, Canadian law already sets out a sliding scale of parole ineligibility to account for particularly incorrigible offenders or particularly egregious crimes.

As for the application of these criteria, the courts have stated over and over again that the most important factor to consider in deciding whether to extend the parole ineligibility period of a second degree murderer is the protection of society.

Bill C-48 proposes to use exactly the same criteria for the imposition of consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on multiple murderers—again, multiple murderers. I am convinced that the same principles will apply, and that judges will therefore look to the protection of society in making their decisions.

This leads me naturally to the third thing that Bill C-48 will do, namely, to enhance the protection of society by permitting judges to keep the most incorrigible multiple murderers in custody for longer periods of time that better correspond to their crimes, which is only normal.

Bill C-48 would ensure that our communities are safe and that offenders convicted of multiple murders, who should never be released, will never be released.

In this vein, the proposed amendments would also protect the families and loved ones of multiple murder victims, who are forced to listen all over again to the details of these horrible crimes at parole hearings held after the maximum parole ineligibility period possible under the current act expires.

If Bill C-48 is passed, it will not affect the rights of those multiple murderers currently on parole nor will it usurp the role of the National Parole Board.

Bill C-48 will not prevent convicted multiple murderers now serving life sentences from seeking parole when their parole ineligibility periods expire, nor will it call into question National Parole Board decisions to release those who meet the criteria for parole.

Bill C-48 will only apply to those who commit more than one murder after the legislation comes into force.

In short, Bill C-48 is neither retroactive nor retributive. It represents the reaffirmation of our government's commitment to respond to Canadians' concerns about strengthening the justice system by ensuring that the most serious offenders do the most serious time.

Bill C-48 was studied thoroughly by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which saw fit to make one amendment.

This amendment would require a judge to give oral or written reasons in the event he or she decides to impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on a convicted multiple murderer. The bill, as originally drafted, called for reasons only if the judge declined to do so.

Our government believes this amendment is unnecessary and could even have unintended consequences. In fact, our government's original objective for requiring a judge to give reasons for not imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for a multiple murderer was to ensure that victims would be informed of the reasons for not doing so.

As I have already explained, the amendment proposed by the Liberal critic would compel judges to explain their reasons for imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on an offender convicted of multiple murderers. In other words and to put it simply, this amendment would mean that murderers will be told the judge's reasons. The ultimate aim of our bill was to restore the balance between victims' rights and offenders' rights, a balance that had been lacking for some time. I believe that the consequences of this amendment work against our objective.

The Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tried unsuccessfully to reverse the amendment, which was supported by all opposition members. Although we oppose that change, I believe that the need for this bill is more important than the political games that the opposition members are playing. For that reason, and so as not to slow the progress of this bill, our government supports the current version of Bill C-48.

I would like to ask all members of the House to help me achieve these objectives by supporting this bill.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member who has just spoken what happens in cases involving multiple second degree murders. Does the judge impose consecutive periods? A judge can always adjust these periods within the 10 to 25 year range, which may shed some light on the consequences of this parole eligibility bill in cases involving second degree murder.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, which is quite relevant.

I would like to point out that, in cases involving multiple second degree murders rather than first degree murders, the judge will still be required to apply section 745.4 of the Criminal Code, which already exists. As I mentioned in my speech, the judge will be able to take into account the circumstances, the manner in which the second degree murders were committed, the identity of the victims and the social and moral reprobation or blameworthiness that could result. At that time, the judge will also be able to determine, as he or she does now, whether the ineligibility period should be 15 or 25 years rather than 10. Judges will have that authority. They will be given new discretion. No authority will be taken from them; on the contrary, they will be given additional discretion. In cases involving multiple second degree murders, judges will be able to determine whether the ineligibility period should be increased from 10 to 25 years. In addition, concurrent sentences will no longer be imposed; rather, sentences will now be consecutive.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his overview with respect to this legislation.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on the role of the National Parole Board with respect to its adjudication on issues related to victims' rights. It has come to our attention that concerns have been raised with respect to the role of the parole board, and I wonder if the member, within the context of the bill, would like to comment with respect to that particular issue.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. We have been working together for a number of years and his question is highly relevant.

Our bill has no bearing on the parole board. The parole board only gets involved post-trial, after a conviction before a jury, which then makes recommendations for the judge's consideration. The judge has to justify, orally or in writing, the decision to impose, or not to impose, a period of ineligibility of a particular length, whether it be back-to-back periods of 25 years, or 25 years plus 10, or some other permutation. This will be at the judge's discretion. Judges will be given many more arbitrary powers than they previously had.

The difference is that the prisoner appears before the parole board. When the ineligibility period expires, the board must determine whether the prisoner is to be released or kept in detention. At that time, as in all cases, the parole board will have the individual's file on hand and will be able to see whether the prisoner has been well-behaved, has come to terms with his incarceration, and so on. There has been strong criticism over the fact that an individual handed a 25-year sentence is permitted to apply for parole every two years. Under the new system, an individual who has committed multiple murders will no longer be able to do that. The judge will be in a position to hand down a sentence of 25 years plus 25 years, which will mean 50, 35 or 45 years. The number of times victims will have to appear at a parole hearing will, as a result, be greatly reduced.

Victims are very glad to not have to start over each time, and have to revisit their child's, spouse's or grandparents' murder. That is painful, and we need to put ourselves in their shoes. This is an issue over which we have control.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice the same question that he was asked by my colleague, the hon. member for York South—Weston. The question is not what he thinks about the National Parole Board's power, but rather whether this bill is before us today due to public complaints about the board. There have been a lot of complaints about the board and its insensitivity towards victims' families, and we now have a bill before us today, which deals with the board's responsibilities.

I would like the member to answer that question.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He and I have served on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for several years,. Like me, he is a lawyer, and we each bring our contributions to the table, his from New Brunswick and mine from Quebec. We make up a good group, one that is careful to satisfy all Canadians. When we present bills, we have the perspective of Canada as a whole.

I will now answer his question. In fact, there have been complaints about the National Parole Board of Canada. Parole comes after the entire judicial process has been followed. We first have to let the judicial process take its course, that is, the eligibility periods that the judge imposes. The judge will have much more discretion. An individual who has killed 40 people will appear before a judge. There have been serious cases like that in several provinces of Canada. The judge will have to decide whether to impose 25 years plus 25 years, plus 10 years, depending on the case, which they could not do before. The judge knows that these are serious cases and they cannot be managed. Even if the inmates are put back “in circulation”, they could be just as dangerous as when they entered the detention centre.

Yes, there have been complaints, but we must not forget that the National Parole Board is always involved after the judicial system. We, the legislators, are the ones who make the decisions, through the Criminal Code. The board is involved only much later. We have to look at what comes ahead of the board before we look at what comes after it; we have to solve the problem that arises at the beginning before solving the one that arises at the end. The board has been criticized in some cases, particularly by family members who have had to constantly go through parole applications by an individual sentenced for the murder of one of their family.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-48. First, the title of the bill raises questions. Yesterday, the Minister of Justice stated firmly that it was not important to hold a debate on the short titles of bills. I do not agree with that, Madam Speaker.

I do not think it is unimportant to debate the short titles of bills. This short title phenomenon is directly imported from the United States of America. Its legislatures have been poisonous longer than ours even started to be and I hope that this new session in a working minority government Parliament will have some glimmers of good work and co-operation, but short titles do not help that environment.

The short titles “Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime” also “Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders”, these two bills being combined in the last two days in other words, would not lead a person reading them from afar to what the bills are actually about. It may not be a hill to die on, but let us send a message to the government that if it wants to avoid any debate on the bills, it should make the bills descriptive.

I realize fully that the long title of any of these bills would be lost. The long title on most of these bills are things like “an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to section 531”. That is not understandable. The purpose of a short title is to indicate what is being amended in the Criminal Code or what the government is trying to do. This is not Mad Men. This is not an advertising campaign to have a catchy title and make the consumer wonder what it is and ask whether it is chewing gum or an automobile. That is not what we are doing. We are trying to give the people of Canada an idea of what the bill is about.

This bill deals with consecutive life sentences and whether or not they should be meted out by a judge. Canadians who have an interest in this could understand that. That is my little presage on the whole title imbroglio. I want to, however, highlight that this bill, Bill C-48, which I will deal with in the committee stage when I refer to amendments that did not pass, actually does a disservice to the victims of crime. Let me begin with the overall overview of the bill.

It is a bill that seeks to make individuals convicted of multiple murders serve life sentences consecutively, one after the other, instead of concurrently, at the same time. At first glance, the bill looks like a good idea. All Liberals and citizens want strict sentences and restricted parole eligibility for multiple murder convictions. That is the first point. Congratulations to the government on that.

Congratulations to the government and the Department of Justice as well for moving from an original position that was anti-judge, anti-judicial discretion. Now with the passage of five years, listening to the experienced Department of Justice officials and, I might add, appointing a whole whack of their friends as judges, it does not want to be seen as attacking judges or judicial discretion as much and there is a stark difference between its first round of justice bills in and around 2006-07 and this bill with respect to that important pillar of our judicial system, which is judicial discretion.

This bill allows for some judicial discretion. Ironically, the reservation of that judicial discretion is the element under the doctrine of judicial restraint which does that disservice to victims, which I will get into shortly.

The bill may seem tough in a sound bite, but it would actually have limited effect on incarceration and parole. It would only change a system that has had its faults but still makes perfect sense. Parole boards are better equipped to decide if an individual is ready to get out at the time of his release. In Canada we have decided to give generous powers to the parole boards and they generally do not release those convicted of multiple murders as soon as they become eligible. That is a fact.

If the Conservatives want to scare the public into believing that a multiple murderer, a serial killer, a Clifford Olson, shall we speak the name, may get out of prison, they want to say that. That is a disservice to how the Parole Board acts. If they have a problem with how the Parole Board does its job, that is an argument for a separate bill.

Let me digress and say I, as an elected representative, have a complaint about how the Parole Board works and it comes out of a victim family, the Davis family. Ron Davis has been a friend of mine for a long time. He was a town councillor in Riverview for a number of years and a community leader.

Ron's daughter was violently murdered in a cornerstore on St. George Street many years ago. The convicted killer has shown no remorse, has taken no steps toward rehabilitation, and is up for parole eligibility as he goes through the system.

We have made a lot of noise about this in the local media and through letter writing and through active and positive roles by successive public safety ministers. I have to underscore here that sometimes there is co-operation. We said what happened to the Davis family is horrible.

Hours before a scheduled parole hearing it was cancelled at the criminal's behest. The criminal seems to control the date, time and place of a hearing. Members of the Davis family were travelling from Moncton to Quebec for this hearing and they had to travel back. To add insult to injury, they had to pay all of their expenses for this hearing in advance. That is an existing law in the books. That existing irregularity and insensitivity is built into the system. Why do we not attack that with legislation? Why do we not do something about that?

The minister wrote a letter. I was quoted in the newspaper. Mr. Davis has his own means and the victims' rights people have their own voice. It should not have to be that way. There should not be a hailstorm of publicity to change the way the National Parole Board does its job.

If there is a deep fear that people like Clifford Olson or the murderers of officers Bourgeois and O'Leary in Moncton are going to get out then why do we not deal with that? If we are concerned about the Parole Board then why do we not deal with it? There have been complaints about the Parole Board and that is why I asked the parliamentary secretary whether this bill is a reaction to how the Parole Board works or how people think the Parole Board works.

The public safety committee has had a review of the Parole Board's workings, but I am not sure that everyone in Canada has heard a full airing and has full confidence in the National Parole Board's workings. We need to do at least an investigation or some corrections, pardon the pun, to the Parole Board and how it works. If that is what this bill is about then it is in the wrong place and it is written in the wrong way.

If all Liberals and opposition members think that most serial killers walk out of jail after 25 years I would be just as worried as anyone else. That is not the case. To the contrary. We have statistics. Defence attorneys will tell us that very few serial killers are actually released after 25 years. What worries me is that the government seems to be trying to invent legal problems that scare Canadians and it has solutions to problems that do not exist.

Two months ago the Times & Transcript in Moncton had an article saying that murderer Clifford Olson was up for parole again. That is scary, but he was not granted parole. He will never be granted parole.

A few weeks later there were articles in newspapers across the country about Russell Williams. The Edmonton Sun, the Calgary Sun, the Winnipeg Sun and the Toronto Sun all wrote that Russell Williams will never get parole but no one can guarantee what is going to happen 25 years from now. That is the pith of the articles. Everyone knows that the crimes of Russell Williams were entirely repulsive but should this bring us to distrust the Parole Board system? If so, let us have an investigation into the Canadian legal principles that have served us well.

Russell Williams will not get out of jail. He committed multiple crimes and multiple murders. If the National Parole Board works the way I have observed it working on high profile, multiple murder cases, he will never get out of jail.

Another recent article in the Edmonton Sun tells us that those convicted of multiple murders would spend more time behind bars under this new legislation. There is no evidence of that. Multiple murderers who serve life sentences stay in jail a lot longer than 25 years.

Members may remember the debate yesterday on Bill S-6, the legislation with respect to the amount of time that murderers serve. First degree murderers in Canada serve 28.4 years on average. There are people who serve longer. Multiple murderers serve longer.

Because it is another committee and another set of legislation and has not been tested, does the National Parole Board now weigh the fact when discussing eligibility of multiple murderers before it?

Is it in the directives, the workings and the results of the National Parole Board to say that a person convicted of two murders is not going to be handled the same way after 25 years as a person who committed one murder? I bet it is. However, we do not have that evidence.

Professor Doug King of Mount Royal University said that the measures in this bill are unlikely to have any deterrent value either, so it will not remove multiple murderers from our community. It will not keep them away from the community any longer, nor will it deter them initially from committing the crime. The only purpose left for the bill is to send a message that life means life and that taking two lives effectively means life in prison.

I believe that already exists. We would like to have the evidence. We do not oppose a message on retribution or on removing the offender from society. We do not oppose the principles in section 718 of the code. However, the principles have to be balanced. There are principles that have to recognize that in lesser crimes there is a role for rehabilitation, even within the corrections system.

I had the opportunity to tour one of the oldest facilities in Canada over the Christmas break, Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. It houses all kinds of convicted criminals, including murderers. We might not think that rehabilitation for people who are going to be in jail for the rest of their lives is important, because they are never going to be back in society. However, that is not so. If we talk to the correctional officers and their union representatives, we learn that their lives are put in danger by persons inside who have no hope whatsoever of living any sort of acceptable life within the facility. They are in danger every day if internal programming does not keep up with the intake of criminals within the judicial system.

It is a message that is lost on the government. The government and all its members, front benches and back, had better wake up to the message. It had better talk to corrections officers and ensure that it does not lose the support of the corrections officers, who claim that it is flooding the prisons and not keeping up with its commitments toward rehabilitation, training and facility enhancement within the existing facilities and is putting their lives in danger and causing them more anxiety. As a result, they say they are not going to support the government and its programs. I say that as a clarion call to the Conservatives to wake up with respect to issues of law and order.

As a Liberal, I want to be tough on crime. I come from a family of tough-on-crime individuals. My Uncle Henry was a provincial court judge. He was nicknamed “Hanging Henry“. There were no actual life sentences in the provincial court in Moncton, New Brunswick, during his 30 years on the bench, but he was not seen as a softy on crime. Neither am I. Nobody is. Anyone with a family and anyone with regard to the community is not soft on crime. What kind of message is that? That is how the government paints anybody who does not believe what it is saying.

In real democratic debate, one is allowed to say, “Good effort on judicial discretion and good effort on clearing up the message on what a life sentence means, but you missed the mark and you should be working on other things”. That is what we are doing in the House. My message to the government is that it is not the government's sandpile; it is everybody's sandpile. Let us play together in a more reasonable fashion.

The bill really will not change very much. It is part of a tough-on-crime legislative agenda, but it really will not do very much. It is poorly drafted.

I want to talk about an amendment that would have done a better service to the victims.

There is a doctrine known as “judicial restraint”. It has been canvassed and written about. Essentially what it means is to err on the side of caution. If given two options, it is better to take the one that is less likely to be attacked.

I am quoting from the Library of Parliament's Oxford Journal of Legal Studies item on judicial restraint: “The question of how judges ought to exercise judicial restraint is a crucially important constitutional issue that cuts across most areas of public and private law”.

This is an international institutional issue that is dealt with every day by scholars, so it exists. I am not making it up. The point is that if a judge is given a choice between setting parole eligibility at 25 years or 50 years in a conviction for, let us say, two first degree murders, my thought--and also the thought of the authors who talk about judicial restraint--is that a judge will probably pick 25 years.

There was an amendment proposed at committee that would have given the judge true discretion. What is being said in the bill is that a judge will have the discretion of 25 years or 50 years. That is like being on Highway 401 and saying that one could drive in the busy rush hour at 30 miles an hour or 100 miles an hour, neither of which may be safe. In this case, being given the choice between 25 and 50 may not serve the victims and may not serve society.

That amendment was not supported. That amendment was not thoroughly researched before it came to Parliament. It was voted down, and voted down at the peril of victims. What could happen is that a judge may feel that this was an egregious set of murders and that it is not a one-murder eligibility. In other words, if there is a conviction of one crime of first degree murder, the parole eligibility--the time after which the accused convicted person can apply for parole--is 25 years. That is the way it is with one. Under this legislation, a judge with two murders in the same hearing might say, “I'm going to set parole ineligibility at 50 years” or a judge might say, “The accused convicted person is 40 years old; effectively, a 50-year parole ineligibility period is not sensible. There is a chance for rehabilitation. This might have been a crime of passion. This might have been a crime committed with respect to drug and substance abuse”. All those factors might mitigate so that a judge might say, “I will look at a period at 25 years, not 50”.

What the amendment offered and what could have come from the government--and it is not impossible to do this--was a law that would give the judge true discretion between the 25- and 50-year periods. The judge might have been able to say, “These are heinous acts. The convicted person is 40 years old. I will set the period of parole ineligibility to 35 years”. That would have been true judicial discretion. It is discretion that exists; neither I nor any members of the committee often emulate or talk about the American justice system, but it is something that exists in terms of judicial discretion in the United States.

As a lawyer, I thought this would encourage judges to apply their discretion. I thought it would rid judges of their own reticence to use this provision to give longer sentences to multiple murderers, because I do not think a lot of judges would use this extra 25 years. Judges are human. Determining the fate of a person for the next 50 years would put a lot of weight on a judge's shoulders.

I cannot resist quoting my own words, the words I spoke this morning and yesterday in this House about Bill S-6. Certainly these two bills worry me.

There are very real things the government can do, as I said, with respect to the previous legislation. We can be tough on crime for real. This chamber could legislate to protect Canadians from criminality. What are we waiting for? It has been five years. The Conservatives have had their hands on the tiller for five years. Why are they not more aggressive in other areas of the law? They should put more police officers on the street. They did this in New York City. It used to be a crime capital; now 2006 statistics show the lowest crime in that city since 1963.

Where are the promised police officers? Where is the money for rehabilitation? What policies can we borrow from successful experiences everywhere?

There are lots of stark contrasts between Conservatives and Liberals. The Conservatives want to promote their tough-on-crime agenda. They spend all kinds of money on advertising and speeches. We would better equip police forces so that communities across Canada would actually be safer.