House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard this from my Conservative colleagues not only today but many times. They have talked about how they are standing up for victims and how they get behind victims.

The mandatory minimum sentence for marijuana is more than that prescribed for child rape. How is that standing up for victims? That is troubling to me. Members across the aisle need to look at this. How is that standing up for victims?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, it struck me during one of the first speeches in the House by the member for Surrey North that his speech had a common sense to it, a balance of what we should be talking about in the House.

The point he just raised is so troubling. When we pause to think about it, we see that the mandatory minimums for marijuana are more than for child rape. Someone somewhere in the government did not take a good solid look at what the Conservatives were about to do. I would like to hear the member's views on their lack of common sense, which I would suggest is not necessarily common on the other side of the House.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am the father of two children. I have a 15-year-old and a 5-year-old and I am very concerned that the government proposes a longer sentence for a marijuana offence than it does for the rape of a child. That is troubling to me, as well as the whole concept of where the government is going in regard to how many billions it is going to cost. In the United States it has almost brought a number of states to bankruptcy, and they are reversing much of the tough-on-crime legislation introduced in the 1980s and 1990s. We need to learn from our neighbours and not repeat those mistakes.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the member for Surrey North to the House and congratulate him on his position as critic for the official opposition on public safety.

I was troubled by his speech. He talked several times about the so-called U.S. failed system and how sending more people to jail does nothing to deter crime or protect citizens. If he truly believes that, if he truly believes that sending more people to jail does nothing to protect society, he must believe that no one should be sent to jail.

Is that his position? If jail is so ineffective as a crime deterrent, does he subscribe to the notion that no one should be sent to jail?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly the premise of the question is absolutely wrong.

We believe people should be punished for crimes that are committed, but the punishment must fit the crime. We must look at it in a little bit bigger context. We cannot just narrowly focus on setting minimums. It is very troubling when a minimum sentence for marijuana use is longer than for the rape of a child. That is very troubling to me.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech. He talked about crime, the drug problems that exist in his community, and street gangs. He also spoke very clearly about the ineffectiveness of the harsh legislative measures that have been taken in other countries to try to reduce crime. Those measures have not worked.

I wonder if he could give us some examples of measures that he believes would be more effective in reducing crime and recidivism.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of ways corrective measures have been put into place.

We can have better programs in the prisons to help rehabilitate prisoners so that when they do come out, they are better able to integrate into society more productively.

We need to have better programs for our children and our youth, and more programs in schools. These programs would keep our youth from hanging out at the local 7-Eleven stores or from being recruited by local gang members. We need recreation programs for our kids so that they would not only have a healthy life but would also be able to stay away from criminal activities.

Certainly there are many things that can be done in order to have safer communities

However, this approach by the Conservative government, this tough-on-crime approach, has not worked anywhere in the world. In fact, anywhere it has been tried, they have been repealing those laws. They are getting rid of them and focusing more on youth and more on preventative programs.

In Texas alone there were 21 youth detention centres. Can we guess what happened? They have now reduced that number to about five or six. That is clearly the right approach, and they have saved billions of dollars in prison costs.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 21st, 2011 / 5:40 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today to speak at second reading of Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

As many of my colleagues know, this government committed to introducing once again—yes, once again—any law and order bills that died on the order paper at the dissolution of the 40th Parliament.

The proposed changes aim, for example, to protect children from sexual crimes, to clarify ineligibility for conditional sentences and pardons, and to protect other vulnerable members of our society.

With all that in mind, the bill before us constitutes a comprehensive bill incorporating all the changes previously proposed in nine separate bills introduced during the previous parliament.

The first part of the bill—clauses 2 to 9—contains the changes suggested in the former Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Part 2 contains clauses 10 to 51 of the bill, which include the amendments found in former bills C-54, the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, which was designed to protect children from sexual predators and certain sexual offences; C-16 , the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act, intended to limit the use of conditional sentences; and S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, to increase sentences for serious drug-related offences.

Part 3—clauses 52 to 166—includes measures to increase the accountability of offenders, eliminate pardons for serious crimes and modify the factors considered in the international transfer of Canadian offenders. These amendments were contained in former bills C-39, the Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; C-23B, the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; C-59, the Abolition of Early Parole Act; and C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act.

Part 4 of the bill—clauses 167 to 204—amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better protect Canadians against violent young offenders. These amendments were included in former Bill C-4 , Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders).

The last part of the bill—clauses 205 to 207—proposes amendments contained in former Bill C-56, the Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act, that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to protect workers who want to work in Canada and are at risk of being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation.

In particular, I would like to elaborate on clause 34 of Part 2 of the bill, which seeks to curtail the use of conditional sentences for some property crimes and other serious crimes.

As I mentioned earlier, these amendments were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-16, which died on the order paper with the dissolution of the third session of the 40th Parliament. However, there are some technical differences, which I will discuss later.

Currently, under the Criminal Code, conditional sentencing, sometimes referred to as house arrest, can be imposed when an offence is not punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence and the court hands down a prison sentence of less than two years.

In fact, since December 2007, conditional sentences have no longer been available for indictable offences with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more in the case of serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences or organized crime offences.

What is more, the court imposing a conditional sentence has to be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community will not jeopardize the safety of the community and that the sentence is consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing.

It is important to note that the fundamental purpose of sentencing, as set out in section 718 of the Criminal Code, is to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives: to denounce unlawful conduct; to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences; to separate offenders from society, where necessary; to assist in rehabilitating offenders; to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community; and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.

The Criminal Code also informs us that a just sanction is a sanction that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. To achieve this, the courts take into consideration aggravating and mitigating factors in each case. Before describing the key aspects of the proposed changes, I want to provide some background on the provisions in the Criminal Code on conditional sentences.

Conditional sentencing came into effect in 1996, when the government wanted, among other things, to reduce excessive use of incarceration for less serious crimes. I repeat: less serious crimes. Moreover, the information document that accompanied these sentencing reforms states that the addition of conditional sentencing as a new form of sentencing means that offenders who have committed a less serious crime and who otherwise would be incarcerated can serve their sentence in the community under close supervision.

The limits that I mentioned earlier were established in order to guarantee that conditional sentences could be given only for less serious crimes, in keeping with the fundamental principles and purpose of sentencing. However, in the years following the creation of this type of sentencing, there has been a complete lack of consistency when it comes to determining when conditional sentencing is appropriate.

At the time, many court decisions gave a conditional sentence for serious and violent crimes. This contributed to the public's loss of faith in the justice system. Clearly, many people, and some provinces and territories, wondered whether the limits on conditional sentencing set out in the Criminal Code were sufficient.

In order to deal with this lack of consistency in conditional sentencing, this government introduced Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) on May 4, 2006. This bill proposed the elimination of conditional sentencing for any indictable offence with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more. However, Bill C-9 was amended by the opposition parties to limit the ban on conditional sentencing to indictable offences with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more that constitute serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences or criminal organization offences. These amendments took effect on December 1, 2007.

The definition of serious personal injury was developed in the context of dangerous offenders, which is why this definition is found in part 24 of the Criminal Code. According to this definition, serious personal injury offences include any indictable offence, other than high treason, treason, first degree murder or second degree murder—punishable by at least 10 years in prison—involving the use or attempted use of violence against another person, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person.

The second part of this definition is clearer, as it lists sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault as serious personal injury offences.

It is important to understand that the opposition parties borrowed a term straight from the dangerous offender regime in order to put limits on a sentence that should only be applied to less dangerous offenders. That created two philosophical approaches for interpreting the definition of serious personal injury in the context of conditional sentencing.

Another issue with the definition of serious personal injury is that it only targets violent offences. The definition of serious personal injury cannot ensure that a conditional sentence will not be used in the case of serious fraud or theft over $5,000.

The amendments in this bill will ensure that certain non-violent serious offences will still be treated as serious offences, thus avoiding the use of conditional sentencing. The amendments to the conditional sentencing regime proposed in this bill aim to establish clear benchmarks to allow for consistent use of conditional sentencing in order to respect Parliament's intention when it created this sentence.

That is why the bill proposes eliminating the reference to serious personal injury offences and restricting the availability of conditional sentences for all offences for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life.

The same will apply to indictable offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment when they result in bodily harm, involve the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs or involve the use of weapons.

When an offence is committed under these circumstances, it is even more important to deter the offender and denounce the crime. This justifies restricting the availability of conditional sentences in such cases. It is possible however that the limits I just described do not cover all offences prosecuted by way of indictment and punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Therefore, the bill also proposes limiting the availability of conditional sentences for prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, abduction of a person under 14, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling-house, being unlawfully in a dwelling-house, and arson for fraudulent purpose.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, there are technical differences between the changes proposed in this bill and those contained in the former Bill C-16.

For example, Bill C-16 proposed the abolition of conditional sentencing for the offence of luring a child, described in section 172.1. This is no longer on the list of offences that would not be eligible for conditional sentencing, since article 22 of this bill proposes a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year in the case of an indictable offence, or 90 days in the case of a summary conviction.

Another change from Bill C-16 is that the list of offences that are no longer eligible for conditional sentence includes the new offence of motor vehicle theft, described in section 333.1 of the Criminal Code.

The final change would correct an error that slipped into Bill C-16. That bill did not include the offence of abduction of a person under 14 by a parent or guardian. The intent was, however, to target the offence described in section 281 of the Criminal Code, which has to do with the abduction of a person under 14 by a stranger.

I want to reassure my colleagues that even though the reference in section 742.1 to serious personal injury offences is set to be eliminated, the changes in this bill will ensure that those who are convicted of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault will not be eligible if prosecuted by way of indictment.

Note also that conditional sentencing will no longer be available for persons convicted of sexual assault against a person 16 or under since clause 25 of the bill proposes a minimum sentence of one year when the offence is prosecuted by way of indictment, and 90 days on summary conviction.

This government is addressing the concerns of Canadians who no longer want to see conditional sentences used for serious crimes, whether they are violent crimes or property crimes.

For the reasons I have just mentioned, I urge my fellow members of this House to unanimously support the proposed changes to the conditional sentencing system.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments.

He said that the government is very attentive to Canadians' concerns, but we already know that this bill will cost us billions of dollars that could be invested in the education or health care systems. I think that the government is not very attentive to what is actually of concern to Canadians.

We know that this bill will criminalize and target the people who are already the most marginalized in society, such as youth and people with mental illness. We also know that the first nations represent 10.8% of the population of Canada but 18% of the population of federal prisons.

I would like to hear the hon. member's reaction to these figures, and I would like to know why he wants to pass a bill that will increase the overrepresentation of first nations people in federal prisons.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.

Certainly, many people who pass through in the penal system may not have the same mental capacity as an ordinary Canadian citizen. However, methods of defence are available for people who lack this capacity. In addition, it is important to remember that, as painful as it may be for the person who is incarcerated, the prison system has rehabilitation programs. In many cases, the problems that people in the system have were not identified at a young age. It is often once they enter the penal system that they are diagnosed with mental or other problems. In such cases, it is always possible to transfer them to another centre that can help them to become more productive members of society.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, for a number of years I was the justice critic in the province of Manitoba. When Ottawa makes changes and brings in legislation, quite often it has a profound impact in terms of the budgets at the local and provincial levels governments. That impact is fairly profound on this bill. We have had great difficulty in terms of trying to come to grips with just how much Bill C-10 will cost the taxpayers and how much money the provinces will have to come forward with in order to compensate the bill.

When I was the critic, I was always pretty gung-ho on wanting to prevent crimes from happening. That meant taking those scarce resources and trying to invest them so that little Johnny, as opposed to getting involved in a gang activity, would be involved in a school activity.

Does the parliamentary secretary have a sense of how much money this will cost the different types of jurisdictions, or can he take this as notice and provide us information on how much, for example, it would cost the province of Manitoba to implement Bill C-10?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I was elected on May 2 and I am not aware, of the hundreds and hundreds of pages that were tabled, of the cost of these systems. I know, in speaking to the hon. minister, that there has been much co-operation between the provinces and the federal government. In fact, many of these bills have been on the order paper and have been debated. The provinces have asked for them to be put in place because they also want their streets to be protected.

I am sure the provinces could perhaps provide a more detailed look at what the cost would be. It appears from their willingness to co-operate that they are more than willing to see these measures put in place so that they, like us, will stand up for Canadians and protect them.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues missing from this debate thus far is the issue of judges and their ability to make rulings and judgments. When mandatory sentencing is present, a lot of the discretionary power that judges have is taken out of their hands.

One of the reasons our justice system works as well as it does is because judges do have discretion. There will be many situations where we must remember that these are actual people appearing before judges and not pieces of paper or machines. Judges need to have that discretion.

Would the member like to make a comment about that issue?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly a very relevant question, which was canvassed at length by the Canadian Bar Association and on which it focused.

However, in our role as parliamentarians, we fix maximum sentences, we fix minimum sentences and we give guidance to the courts as to what is appropriate and which crimes are determined to be more heinous than perhaps others. We dictate the severity.

I do not remember the exact year, but not long ago Parliament abolished the death penalty. That was our call as well. Yes, there is a spectrum, but it is Parliament's call to give the courts guidance on where the crime fits with respect to the question of severity.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the honourable member point the House, in any way, shape or form, to a scintilla of evidence that shows that minimum mandatories actually contribute to the reduction of crime or repetition of crime?