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 judge.

Topics

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

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

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

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, here we go again. This is yet another bill where the government is likely more concerned with how it will be perceived by the public for bringing this bill forward and trying to portray an image of getting tough on crime. If the government really wanted to get tough on crime, it would show it in the types of expenditures and programming that would ensure fewer crimes would be committed.

Bill C-48 has appeared before the House in the past, in a different form of course. That was prior to the time when the Prime Minister and government House leader saw fit to prorogue the session, ultimately killing everything on the order paper at that time.

Following caucus, cabinet or, more specifically, the Prime Minister's office discussions, the determination was made that the government could still get more points on this bill by reintroducing it in the form we see today, Bill C-48.

To make matters worse, the government often tries to give the impression that the Liberal Party is causing problems with the bill not passing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Liberal Party has gone out of its way to try to accommodate the government in regard to coming up with legislation and supporting legislation that would be of benefit.

The members for Newton—North Delta and Mississauga East—Cooksville had championed a private member's bill that dealt with concurrent versus consecutive sentencing. We only wish the Conservative government would give the same sort of attention to that bill such as it gives to its own bills. The private member's bill had a great deal of merit and ultimately could have been brought before a committee.

Instead of doing that, because it did not necessarily fit its agenda, the government felt it was in its best interest to reintroduce a bill that previously failed because the it decided to prorogue the session, killing a number of bills that were on the order paper.

Today we find ourselves, once again, at second reading, with the government asking members of the opposition to allow the bill to pass. The bill is pretty straightforward. I suspect there is a sense of co-operation in wanting this bill to go to the next stage to see if there is the possibility of the government being willing to accept friendly amendments that would give it that much more appeal and would ultimately allow it to receive passage in the House.

Opposition members look forward to the government having an open mind as this bill goes through the stages. We are a little bit skeptical in terms the government's willingness to acknowledge ideas that come from the opposition.

In terms of the actual need for the legislation, one of the things we need to take a look at is some statistical information in regard to homicide. In terms of public response to different types of homicide, there are very few that are viewed as horrific as those involving more than one victim. There are examples.

Canadian history shows we have had some fairly horrific cases involving a number of victims where one individual took a toll on social justice. These individuals did so much damage or caused so much concern when in fact something could have been done if more programming, services and supports were in place to prevent some of these horrific acts.

I understand we are at third reading stage of the bill. I recognize there is always the opportunity for changes. I look forward to the bill ultimately going through its final stage in the House of Commons.

I want to focus my attention on some of the statistics. The information the legislative library provides us with is great. In 1999 the number of cases involving 2 victims was 26, 3 victims were 2 and 4 and more victims was 1. The number of victims has been relatively consistent through the years. In 1999 there was one multiple homicide case involving four or more victims. In 2001 there were two. In 2002 there was one. There were no convictions in 2003-04. There was one case in 2005. In 2006 there were three. In 2007 there were three. In 2008 there was one. Fourteen cases involved four or more victims. This bill would apply to them.

If we canvass the different stakeholders, some would ultimately argue to what degree individuals have been convicted of four or more murders and have been released before serving 25 years. This question has been posed to me, but I did not know the answer. I am not sure if the government provided that information. However, it is relevant to know to what degree individuals within our system who have been convicted of four or more murders are provided with the opportunity to be released prior to serving 25 years. I suspect, and I could be wrong, that we would not find any at that level. I look to the government to please inform me if I am wrong.

In regard to three victims or less in that same period of time, we are talking somewhere in the neighbourhood of 31 cases. Where the increases get significant is the multiple factor of 2 where the number jumps up to 210 cases between 1999 and 2008.

The issue of multiple murders is something that gets a great deal of attention from the media as the public responds hastily toward individuals who commit these types of crimes. The public wants to know that punishment is taken into consideration when someone commits a horrendous crime such as murder.

A number of different cases in the history of Canada clearly highlight the need for us to look at the difference in the wording of consecutive versus concurrent based on different reports, whether it is through the media, or stakeholders, or individuals or discussions with constituents over the years.

As a justice critic at the provincial level, I often have to meet and consult with a wide variety of individuals at that grassroots level. Over the years I have heard from literally hundreds of victims of crime; there is that sense of helplessness, a sense that the government is not listening to what is being done or what is happening in the communities, and they do have a high expectation that the justice system will in fact work for them.

When I look at the legislation as it is, in third reading and in these final stages, I am interested in seeing how it fits in with what the expectation of the public really is. What I find is that generally speaking, the public as a whole will support it. They support it, I believe, because they want to feel comfortable in knowing that there is a significant consequence to some of these horrific crimes that are being committed in our society.

I have looked at the government over the last couple of weeks in particular. I started off my comments by saying, “Here we go again”. What I was referring to is that the bill before us today would have very little, if any, impact in preventing crimes from occurring. Having this piece of legislation is not going to stop a multiple murder from occurring--at least, I do not believe that to be the case--yet the government seems to want to put its priorities in terms of bringing in legislation of this nature, while at the same time--and maybe I would not be as offended if it were not doing it at the same time--it is cutting back on what I believe are some programs that would go a long way in protecting society.

Ultimately I would make reference to the cutbacks happening in Winnipeg, in particular in the Winnipeg North-Winnipeg Centre area, which I believe is most affected. These cutbacks will ultimately prevent organizations from being able to keep kids out of gangs and gang activities. I say that because in reviewing some of those statistics that I referenced, we will find that a number of those individual cases are in fact gang-related. There are gangs that do commit multiple murders. That is nothing new to the House of Commons. I am sure that the House has heard that on numerous occasions. However, the point is that by cutting back funding or by not allowing the funding to continue for these anti-gang measures in Winnipeg, we are causing potential harm going forward.

We can look again at some of the statistics that have been provided. We will find that in most cases multiple murders are family-based or relation-based situations, but there are areas where on numerous occasions it has come from a stranger, and quite often strangers or unknowns involve, in essence, elements such as gang activities. In Manitoba we have had some gang incidents involving murder, and the government, I believe, could have played a role in being able to address those types of crimes going forward.

It is nice to see a government respond to the issue of multiple murders and consecutive versus concurrent sentencing. This is nothing new per se. It has been talked about for a while; I made reference that some of my Liberal colleagues have introduced a private member's bill dealing with that particular issue. It is nice to see some action being taken on it, but the real concern for me is that we take advantage of opportunities such as this to say to the government that there is so much more it could be doing that would make a difference.

I am very disappointed that the government has chosen not to make the commitment for the funds necessary to keep kids out of gangs. Some of the programs the government is effectively saying “no more” to include things such as O.A.S.I.S. in Manitoba, which has helped refugees to not slip into potential gang-type activities by ensuring that there are skill sets programs, English as a second language, and other similar programs. There are intense mentorship programs engaging high-risk youth. These programs will be disappearing unless alternative funding is found, because this government is pulling the money away from these groups. As a result, we are putting those kids at risk.

I believe it is dishonest to do that and think that the issue of crime is being dealt with. To deal with crime, we need to provide support. We have to start dealing with the issue of what is causing crime to take place. It is great that we are able to deal with legislation for crime after the fact, but at the end of the day I am just as interested in trying to prevent some of those crimes from happening in the future.

When we look at this bill and at some of the murders that take place, we may find that some could have been prevented if we had better programming at the other end. I suggest that it would be far more cost-efficient to invest at that end than to have to store individuals who have committed these types of crimes in jails for 25-30 years and beyond, especially when we get into the area of multiple murders.

At the end of the day, with the information provided to us, there is a strong argument that the bill will be passing in the House of Commons and ultimately become law if we believe, as we do, that at this point the government is prepared to see the bill carry its way through. We see that as a positive thing.

However, yesterday we talked about the faint hope clause. In dealing with issues such as this, involving concurrent versus consecutive sentences or the faint hope clause, what we are really talking about is longer periods of time of incarceration. Many would argue that having consecutive sentences or getting rid of the faint hope clause may cause other issues within the system that would need to be dealt with.

Those issues are related in good part to behaviour. Typically an inmate will review many different things in terms of how their behaviour might impact--

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

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member has run out of time for his speech, but we have time for questions and comments.

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

I see the member for Vancouver Kingsway may wish to speak to the bill. I will give the floor to the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

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

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to this important bill, Bill C-48, which deals with the issue of the desirability or undesirability of concurrent or consecutive sentences when dealing with multiple murderers.

The bill, by way of background, would amend the Criminal Code and make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, and was given first reading in the House in October of last year.

The bill specifically amends the Criminal Code with respect to the parole inadmissibility period for offenders convicted of multiple murders. This is done by affording judges the opportunity to make the parole ineligibility period for multiple murderers consecutive rather than concurrent.

Consecutive parole ineligibility periods for multiple murderers would not be mandatory under the bill. Instead, judges would be left with the discretion to consider the character of the offender, the nature and circumstances of the offence and any jury recommendations before deciding upon whether consecutive parole ineligibility periods were appropriate or not. The bill would require that judges state orally or in writing the basis for their decision not to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on multiple murderers.

The current law is this: in 1976, when Parliament repealed the death penalty, it imposed a mandatory life sentence for the offence of murder. Offenders convicted of first degree murder serve life as a minimum sentence, with no eligibility for parole for at least 25 years. For offenders convicted of second degree murder, a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment is also imposed, with the judge setting the parole eligibility at some point between 10 and 25 years, depending on the circumstances.

Those serving a life sentence can only be released from prison if they are granted parole by the National Parole Board. Unlike most inmates who are serving a sentence of a fixed length--for instance, two, five or 10 years--people who have received a life sentence are not entitled to statutory release. If granted parole, however, they will, for the rest of their lives, remain subject to the conditions of parole and under the supervision of the Correctional Service of Canada and the parole officers who would be assigned to them.

It is important to understand that parole may be revoked and offenders returned to prison at any time if they violate the conditions of parole or if they commit a new offence. Of course, it is important to understand that not all people who have life sentences will be granted parole. Some--in fact, many--may never be released on parole, because they continue to represent too great a risk to reoffend.

We talked yesterday about the faint hope clause, which gives people who have been given a life sentence and who have not committed more than one murder the opportunity to apply for parole earlier than 25 years. In the House yesterday we went over the many stringent conditions that would have to occur before that would be allowed to happen.

I think it is important to understand that what we are talking about here is something different, which is what the appropriate sentence would be for someone who has murdered two or more people. The Criminal Code typically provides that all sentences shall be served concurrently unless a sentencing judge directs sentences to be served consecutively or legislation requires that they be served consecutively. For example, subsection 85(4) of the Criminal Code requires that a sentence for using a firearm in the commission of an offence shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events. Section 83.26, which mandates consecutive sentences for terrorist activities, is an example other than in the case of a life sentence, and section 467.14 requires consecutive sentences for organized crime offences. One example of when a consecutive sentence may be imposed by a sentencing judge occurs when the offender is already under a sentence of imprisonment.

We see that in our criminal law we have situations in which consecutive sentences are specifically provided for automatically, and in some cases we have situations in which a judge has the discretion to impose sentences to be served consecutively, as opposed to concurrently or at the same time.

In cases in which more than one murder has been committed, at present the offender serves his or her life sentences concurrently. A sentence of a term of years imposed consecutive to a sentence of life imprisonment is not, under the present law, valid.

Life imprisonment means imprisonment for life, notwithstanding any release on parole. The consequence of this is that a consecutive life sentence cannot take effect until the offender has died. The courts have held that Parliament cannot have contemplated this physical impossibility, which would tend to bring the law into disrepute. Nor is the faint hope clause available, so long as at least one of the murders was committed after January 9, 1997.

What we are dealing with today is a legislative proposal that would give judges in this country the discretion, in the case of a person convicted of multiple murders, two or more murders, to consider the advisability of levying consecutive life sentences, which would mean 25 years for one conviction and then a further 25 years for the second.

The New Democrats are supporting this bill at this stage and I want to go through some of the reasons we are supporting it.

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

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

It's the best thing you have done so far this year.

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

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I hear some welcome applause from members on the opposite side.

One of the major reasons we are supporting this bill is that it enshrines in law a concept that we New Democrats have been championing and pushing for consistently for decades, and that is the concept of judicial discretion.

One of the cornerstones of our justice system is the notion that we have an independent judiciary and that within that judiciary, judges have the ability to exercise their discretion to fashion the appropriate remedies in the appropriate cases. That is a hallmark of the western judicial system, and that is because no two cases are alike. It does not matter how many cases we read: each individual has some unique circumstance present in his or her case that requires the judge, or judgment, to reflect.

Our country is based very strongly on what, of course, are sometimes two competing values. One is the concept of collective rights and the other is the concept of individual rights. In a modern democratic society, respect for the rights of the individual is something that is very important as a bulwark against the excesses of the state.

We are seeing right now in Egypt a people rising up against an oppressive autocratic regime that has not respected the democratic rights of people. We see what happens when people join together and say that is enough. It is important to build into any respectful society strong respect for the rights of an individual.

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

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway will have 12 minutes remaining to conclude his remarks after question period.

Elizabeth Buhler
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, on January 23 of this year, Manitobans and Canadians alike mourned the loss of their oldest living citizen. Elizabeth Buhler died just two weeks short of her 112th birthday, in her long-time home of Winkler, Manitoba.

Elizabeth was a pillar of the community and active until the very end. When asked the secret to her incredible longevity, Elizabeth, a regular participant in Winkler's fundraising walkathons, simply answered, “It takes much walking”.

Elizabeth lived a rich life, extraordinary not just for its length but also its content. Her incredible strength and kindness were firmly rooted in her faith in God. She was a mother of six who also worked on the family farm, helped in her local church, and opened her home to new Canadians.

In her last days, Elizabeth was surrounded by her loving family, her three daughters, 23 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren, and 40 great-great-grandchildren.

Elizabeth Buhler was an amazing woman who will be remembered fondly by the residents of Winkler and all Canadians.

Veterans
Statements By Members

February 1st, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to all Canadian veterans, but in particular to those who have fallen on hard times since leaving the Canadian Forces.

In early 2009, the Veterans Affairs ombudsman noted the serious constraints the government faces when trying to help homeless veterans, who often require urgent assistance but lack the required proof of identification to obtain it.

More recently, a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario drew attention to the plight of some Canadian homeless veterans. Often afflicted with addiction or mental health problems developed during their military careers, the study found that many of these once-decorated Canadians now find themselves in grave need. While this study identified only a few dozen homeless veterans in two Ontario cities, there is no doubt that countless others need help in cities from Victoria to St. John's.

For this reason, I encourage all members of this House to make great efforts to identify and assist the homeless heroes in their communities, and I ask all of them to rise to pay tribute to these brave men and women.

Lucien Messier
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to inform the House of the death in January of Lucien Messier, the mayor of Stanbridge Station, at the venerable age of 91.

Mr. Messier was the dean of Quebec mayors when he retired before the last municipal elections in November 2009.

Mr. Messier devoted his life to his municipality. He worked as a municipal inspector before being elected councillor. He was subsequently elected mayor 14 times, from 1971 to 2009. He served as mayor of this municipality for a total of 38 years.

The Bloc Québécois and I extend our deepest condolences to the people of Stanbridge Station, his family and his friends.

Food Labelling
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, currently the ingredient labels on pre-packaged foods sold in Canada are not sufficiently clear or comprehensive enough to protect the health of Canadians living with food allergies or celiac disease. Consequently, organizations like Anaphylaxis Canada and the Canadian Celiac Association have been advocating for improved labelling for over a decade.

In 2008, the government announced that it had drafted regulations to update these labels. However, here we are two and a half years later, and the government continues to stall the introduction new regulations, possibly because of last-minute lobbying by industry groups. In December, the health minister wrote that the new regulations would be ready in early 2011. However, a week ago the department spokesperson stated that it was still in the consultation phase.

These regulations are long overdue and the health of millions of Canadians is being jeopardized by the delay, putting them at risk of eating or drinking something that could have serious consequences. When will the government introduce these critical regulations to help ensure the good health of Canadians?

Multiple Sclerosis
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to congratulate a team of extraordinary adventurers who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in January to raise money for multiple sclerosis. Cindy and Mélanie Simard, Patrice Gagnon and Denis Lafrance—who has multiple sclerosis—rose to the challenge and, together with other participants, raised more than $600,000 for the cause.

I am extremely proud to recognize the dedication of people from my riding to a cause that touches thousands of people in Quebec and Canada.

Congratulations to the entire team. You are shining examples of commitment.

Black History Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, before being officially recognized by Parliament in 1995, the celebration of African-Canadian history and culture was just a modest community-based movement.

February is Black History Month and an excellent opportunity to pay tribute to the efforts and accomplishments of the African community in Canada. Whether we are talking about athletes, politicians, artists or businesspeople, the contribution by this community over the years has been truly outstanding.

I know first-hand that through their perseverance, determination and courage, they have proven to us that dreams can come true, that we can overcome obstacles and succeed at anything we do.

I am very proud to join Canadians in thanking Canada's black community for contributing its rich African heritage to our multicultural society.

London Military Family Resource Centre
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend I had the privilege of supporting the Elmira Sugar Kings junior hockey club, as it raised funds for the London Military Family Resource Centre.

Our brave women and men in uniform risk their lives in service of this great country. They leave their spouses and children for extended periods of time. While our troops miss their loved ones, their families are left hoping and praying that mommy, daddy, son or daughter will make it home alive and well.

The Military Family Resource Centre provides support to the military families in Waterloo region. I was honoured to be asked to support its event, and I am humbled to announce that 1,200 fans joined the Elmira Sugar Kings to raise over $4,000.

Waterloo region is known as a community of neighbours helping neighbours.

On behalf of this government and the people of Kitchener--Conestoga, who I am privileged to represent, I thank the people of Woolwich and the entire Sugar Kings organization for continuing this tradition and supporting our troops.

Go Kings go.

Black History Month
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to highlight today's launch of Black History Month.

Quebec has celebrated Black History Month for the past 20 years. This year's celebration is about reclaiming back history and values and is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the significant contribution that people of black heritage have made to the development and advancement of Quebec. It is important to reflect on their history and celebrate all that they have brought to our culture, no matter where they have come from.

Events will be taking place all over Quebec, and particularly in Montreal, throughout the month of February, to teach us more about black heritage and to ensure that Quebec society remains a place where everyone is equal and we all enjoy the same rights, no matter what colour our skin.