House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parole.

Topics

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker. If I understood the translation correctly, my NDP colleague said that justice is doing what you say you will do. Yet in September 2009 and March 2010, her party was willing to support a Bloc Québécois bill that aimed to do exactly the same thing as what Bill C-59 aims to do.

Why will they not keep their word?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina has 25 seconds to respond.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, we are not even debating the bill. We are debating the closure motion. I would love to have some time, rather than the 25 seconds, to look at the history of the bill and at the situation.

We do want to make changes to our law to eliminate accelerated parole for those convicted of serious white collar crimes, but the Conservatives and the Bloc members propose to scrap the entire system, a system that has been in place since 1992.

There is a lot of complexity to this law, which I cannot—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member's time has run out.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Albert.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Abbotsford.

I am proud to have the opportunity to join this debate and offer my support for Bill C-59. I will indicate in my comments why the bill needs to be passed expeditiously not only by the House but also by the Senate.

As we have heard, the legislation before us today would do away with the part of the parole system in our country, which gives some offenders an opportunity for early release because they are first-time non-violent offenders. Nevertheless, they are serious offenders.

The legislation would do away with a system that sends a message to people who commit fraud or steal millions of dollars from innocent Canadians that the seriousness of their crimes is not on par with those who commit violent acts. This adds insult to injury for those hard-working Canadian families that have lost everything in an investment fraud or who have seen their entire life savings wiped out and their relationships and families torn apart in the aftermath.

We need to change the system so the time fits the crime. The legislation before us today will ensure that offenders will not have expedited access to day parole or parole. They will become eligible for parole at the same point and under the same criteria as all other offenders. It means that offenders who prey on law-abiding Canadians and wipe out their hard-earned savings will serve the appropriate time in custody for the severity of the crime to which they have been convicted. That is what Canadians want. It is what this government is delivering.

Since we were first elected in 2006, our government has been very clear that cracking down on crime is one of our top priorities. That means all types of crime. We have listened to Canadians who have told us that they are tired of not feeling safe in their own homes and communities. We have listened to stakeholders and to law enforcement groups that have asked us time and time again to give them the resources they need to perform their jobs. We have listened to victims who have told us that their voices also need to be heard. That is why we have taken action over the last five years on a number of fronts to build safer communities and to stand up for victims.

We have introduced legislation to crack down on organized crime and drugs by imposing mandatory jail time for people involved in serious drug crimes. We have introduced, which has been passed by Parliament, legislation that automatically views murders connected to organized crime as first degree murders.

We have introduced, which has been passed Parliament, legislation to tackle drive-by shootings and other intentional shootings that involve a reckless disregard for the life and safety of others. As well, we have further protected police officers and peace officers.

We have introduced legislation, which has been passed by Parliament, to ensure that individuals who are found guilty of a crime will serve a sentence that reflects the severity of that crime by limiting the amount of credit they will receive for time served in pretrial and pre-sentence custody.

We have also taken action to provide the police resources in our community. We have hired over 1,000 new RCMP officers. We said that we would provide funding for the provinces and territories, allowing them to hiring additional police officers, and have delivered on that commitment.

We have also given police forces more of the tools they need to do their jobs by passing legislation to strengthen the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank. As well, we have introduced measures to support the ability of our law enforcement community to combat crime in the face of rapidly evolving communication technologies.

I am also proud of the fact our government has passed tough legislation to give police officers and the courts the added powers they require to fight identity theft, a major type of fraud which, by some estimates, robs Canadians of millions of dollars annually.

Hon. members will also know that our government has introduced legislation to get tough on all types of fraud by imposing mandatory minimum sentences of two years for fraud over $1 million and requiring the courts to consider restitution orders as part of the sentencing process.

We have already done a lot to make our streets and communities safer and to ensure that offenders are dealt with appropriately. However, we can, we will and we must do more.

Canadians are asking us to make changes to a justice system that has yet to find the right balance between the rights of offenders and the rights of law-abiding citizens. They want individuals who are found guilty of crimes to serve a sentence that reflects the severity of those crimes. Bill C-C-59 is all about that.

Bill C-59 would help ensure that individuals who committed non-violent or white-collar crimes could not get out of prison after serving just a small fraction of their sentence.

I am certain hon. members have heard the many stories of Canadians who have lost their entire life savings in massive fraud scams. It is hard to imagine how traumatic it must be for an individual to wake up one day and realize that his or her lifetime investments have completely evaporated.

It is also impossible to imagine how disappointed and frustrated these same individuals must be when a few years later they hear that the person who was convicted of fraud is allowed to apply for parole after serving only a small portion of his or her sentence. In many circumstances, the Parole Board of Canada has little choice but to authorize parole, unless there is a reason to believe the individual may commit a violent or drug-related offence once released.

This legislation would set things right and ensure that there would be justice for all Canadians who have been victims of crime. The proposed amendments abolish accelerated parole review, which currently grants offenders eligibility for day parole after serving only one-sixth of their sentences and full parole after serving one-third of their sentences.

Under the reforms that our government is proposing through Bill C-59, individuals who commit crimes such as fraud will be treated the same way as those who commit serious violent crimes. These so-called white-collar offenders would be eligible for regular day parole review six months prior to full parole eligibility and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentences.

What is more, the test for parole will no longer be whether they are likely to commit a violent offence. Like other offenders, they will qualify for parole only if the Parole Board of Canada is convinced during a face-to-face hearing that they do not present an undue risk of committing any type of crime, including fraud.

I point out that the proposed amendments in this legislation are in line with the recommendations found in the 2007 report of the Correctional Service Canada's independent review panel. In its report, “A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, it made 109 recommendations, including that the government abolish accelerated parole review.

I would like to quote from the executive summary of that report, which states:

The Panel is of the opinion that presumptive release is a key disincentive to offender accountability and is therefore recommending that Statutory Release and Accelerated Parole Review be abolished and replaced with an earned parole system.

Our government agrees with this panel's conclusion that accelerated parole review can be counterproductive. That is why the government has introduced Bill C-59. The reforms that our government is proposing today will mean that white-collar offenders will now get the prison time that their crimes warrant.

We are taking this stand on behalf of all Canadians who want the rights of law-abiding citizens properly balanced with the rights of offenders. We are taking a stand on behalf of everyone who wants action on crime now . That is what we intend to deliver, now and in the coming weeks and months, as we continue to work to improve legislation on matters affecting the safety and security of all Canadians.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member provided a fact-based explanation as to the elements involved in Bill C-59. One piece of this has to do with the government's reluctance or refusal to provide all the information to the House of Commons or, indeed, the finance committee with regard to the impacts in this case of justice legislation.

I would ask the hon. member not so much whether it is a matter of making laws because of money, but whether the justice system is based on rehabilitation, punishment, reintegration and other elements. That principle seems to be abandoned. Would the member care to comment on whether we are moving away from the fundamental principles of public safety and the justice system?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly rehabilitation and reintegration are a large part of our correctional system. It is, after all, called a correctional system. It is hoped that a person's behaviour will be corrected so he or she can eventually reintegrate into society. However, other aspects are equally important. The concepts of general and specific deterrents come immediately to mind.

Individuals have to be deterred from repeating the type of dilatory behaviour that causes problems and losses to society. However, society also has to be deterred through the concept of general deterrence by denunciating these crimes and letting society know that sentences will be appropriate for the types of crimes committed and that automatic parole will not be granted. Society will soon learn that those who prey upon innocent victims and rob of them of their life's fortunes will be dealt with appropriately and they will spend time in prison.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, all Canadians want to feel safe in their communities. I think all members of this House want to ensure that all communities are in fact safe. We may differ from time to time on how that gets done, but it is times like these that we need to have debate, not closure and the stifling of that debate. I would like to read a statement:

The choking off of debate today is the latest example of the disrespect the government has for Canadians, their jobs, their opportunities and their futures.

That was said by a former member of this House, Mr. Jay Hill.

Could the hon. member talk about what the cost of this bill will actually be?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, it is ironic that members of the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party always talk about the cost of these bills but they never talk about the cost of not passing them.

They never talk about the cost to victims, the hundreds of millions of dollars of life savings and RRSP accounts that have been bilked from innocent victims, including seniors and the infirm. Imagine the gall of people who would prey upon individual victims.

Crime has costs; we know that. Violent crime has costs in terms of lost wages, pain and suffering, and bereavement time. The costs of property crime are huge, both for the insurance system and the individual victims of property crime.

For once, this House needs to focus not on the cost of passing these bills, but on the cost of not passing these bills.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak about the importance of Bill C-59 and to encourage all hon. members to support its swift passage.

Our government has said from day one when we came to power in 2006 that our highest priority is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. In the very first Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister said that we would tackle crime, that we would introduce changes to the Criminal Code that would ensure tougher sentences for violent and repeat offenders, that we would put more police on the streets and improve the security of our borders. Since that day we have done exactly what we said we would do. As we used to say during the early years of our government: promise made, promise kept.

We have introduced numerous pieces of legislation to tackle violent crime. We have passed new laws that address the growing crime of identity theft and identity fraud. Our government has also introduced legislation to give victims of crime a stronger voice in Canada's justice system. This includes guaranteeing victims a chance to speak at parole hearings and emphasizing the responsibility of offenders to play a role in their own rehabilitation.

Each step along the way we have run into resistance from the opposition parties.

While our Conservative government has done many things already to strengthen the justice system and protect the rights of victims, there is still more work to be done. That is why we have introduced Bill C-59, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to abolish something that really has Canadians steaming, and that is the current system of accelerated parole review.

Essentially, what accelerated parole does is it accelerates the process of applying for parole for offenders convicted of non-violent crimes, such as fraud and other white collar offences.

Back when this law was first introduced, crimes like fraud were generally considered victimless because they were not directed at individuals. Instead, they were more likely to target large faceless corporations, but things have changed, and how. Today we hear stories in the media about someone dressed in a business suit, a confidence man, a con artist, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from average hard-working Canadians, including vulnerable seniors. Today we understand more clearly how a crime like fraud can affect people on a profound level, wiping out their life savings and putting unimaginable stress on their lives and those of their families.

Even when the offenders are finally brought to court and given prison sentences, victims feel that the justice system has completely failed them. Why? Under accelerated parole, these so-called white collar criminals can apply for day parole after serving only one-sixth of their sentence. Members heard right: one-sixth of their sentence.

Let me briefly review the specific differences between accelerated parole reviews and regular parole reviews. There are three key differences that I would like to address in turn.

First, under accelerated parole, the only way for the Parole Board of Canada to deny day parole to an offender is if he or she is likely to commit a new violent offence. The key word in that sentence is “violent”. Even if there was a fear that the offender would perpetrate new frauds against our communities, the offender would still have the right to go on day parole. That is much less strict than the one for regular parole. The test for regular day parole is whether the parole board has reason to believe that the offender presents an unmanageable risk of committing a new offence, any offence.

A fraudster is held to a different standard than all other offenders. Most Canadians question that. This is clearly an advantage for those white collar offenders, the con artists. An individual who is convicted of fraud, for example, may not have a violent past but may still have criminal intent. With no evidence that the individual is prone to committing a violent offence, the parole board must release him or her back into the community even if he or she continues to represent a significant financial criminal risk to the community.

Our government believes it is unfair to have an accelerated parole system where some offenders are treated differently based on their crimes. We intend to change this practice.

Under Bill C-59, white collar, non-violent offenders would have to face the same parole test as all other offenders.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I have to interrupt the hon. member for Abbotsford. He will have four minutes when this debate resumes.

Valentine's Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Madam Speaker, today there will be hundreds of people who will not be anywhere near their sweethearts on Valentine's Day.

In ridings across the country, parliamentary spouses and partners are making many sacrifices to allow MPs to serve their constituents.

Our time with them is precious and our privacy rare. Our spouses inspire us, support us, stand by us and show their love in so many ways. In return we offer them crazy schedules, public scrutiny and many nights at home alone taking care of our families.

Tonight, while many Canadians are spending time with their sweethearts, we will pause yet again to give thanks to our loved ones, because we truly are the luckiest people around.

Today, one of our own, the member for Prince Albert, celebrates his wedding anniversary. To him and his wife Jerri, a special wish.

On this day, let me honour the sacrifices made by the spouses and partners of our diplomatic corps and our armed forces.

On behalf of all members, I would like to thank my wife Judite and all parliamentary spouses and partners for giving to Canada in the way that they do. They are the unseen and unsung heroes.

Happy Valentine's day.

John MacLeod Fraser
Statements By Members

February 14th, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, John MacLeod Fraser was born in Montreal in 1935. When his father, the late Blair Fraser, became Ottawa editor of Maclean's in 1943, John moved to Ottawa and attended Ashbury College. He became a Rhodes Scholar before joining the external affairs department where he had a distinguished career.

In one of his first postings he opened Canada's embassy in Beijing after Prime Minister Trudeau had re-established diplomatic relationships with China 40 years ago. Then he served as ambassador to Poland, where he witnessed the rise of the solidarity movement. He became director-general of external affair's foreign intelligence bureau. After retirement, John worked as a consultant as an intelligence analyst until the end of his life.

John died on December 29, 2010. I offer my deepest condolences to his family. They have lost a loved one. Canada lost a friend and a formidable public servant, one of those who was responsible for Canada's excellent international reputation. My thanks to John.

Kyrgyzstan
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, from June 10 to 14, 2010, southern Kyrgyzstan was rife with violence.

According to the International Red Cross, 356 people died and 92,000 people fled to Uzbekistan in June and July 2010.

The Red Cross estimates that in Kyrgyzstan, there are some 375,000 displaced persons, all of whom are Uzbeks and most of whom are women, children and seniors. Witnesses report numerous kidnappings and the rape of women and children. What is more, Kyrgyzstan's own security forces turned a blind eye to it all. That is unacceptable.

On October 10, 2010, an internationally recognized election was held in Kyrgyzstan. Let us hope that the new political situation will ease the ethnic tensions in that country and that the Government of Canada will actively encourage this budding democracy to respect human rights and the rights of minorities.

Eco-Energy Retrofit Program
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, during the town hall meetings I recently held in my riding, many constituents called for the reinstatement of the eco-energy retrofit program that the government suddenly cancelled in March 2010.

This program helped thousands of Canadians renovate their homes, cut home heating bills by 20% and save an estimated three tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per home, or 1.5 million tonnes of emissions after four years of retrofits.

Constituents in my riding want to take advantage of energy-saving programs like this but many are living paycheque to paycheque and need the assistance of such a program.

The eco-energy retrofit program not only created jobs, but helped working families make needed improvements to their homes.

This program supports a green economy and stimulates jobs in the trades.

I call on the government to reinstate the eco-energy retrofit program.