House of Commons Hansard #18 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
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1 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, rehabilitation is fundamental. I would like the House to know that the Canadian Paediatric Society has also expressed disapproval for the bill.

The society reports that changing the youth crime law to allow stiffer sentences for children as young as 14 will have significant negative consequences. The society says the current Youth Criminal Justice Act supports rehabilitation and reintegration instead of putting the emphasis on incarceration, and it recommends that the federal government work with the provincial and territorial governments on youth crime prevention strategies that would include early detection and treatment of behavioural and mental health issues that might lead to criminal activity.

I will take the example of Texas. In just two years, the focus has been on more education and therapeutic programs and on transitioning back to their home communities so that there is a greater chance for successful re-entry. The result is that youth incarceration rates have been halved in a number of years.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question on her comments.

I understand from her comments that the Canadian Paediatric Society has approved our bill, the bill that is front of the House as we speak. I am very concerned that she is worried about that, because these are the front-line doctors. These are the people who see children hurt. These are the people who see the ravages of abuse. They see the ravages of sexual abuse on young children.

I am thrilled that the Canadian Paediatric Society is supportive of this bill, because their members are the first line and are able to see that.

Could my hon. colleague please explain why she is concerned with their support? They are the front-line people who see the hurt done to young people.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments.

I will be very clear. Everyone in this House and everyone in Canada wants our most vulnerable, our children, protected.

I will be very clear that the Canadian Paediatric Society has expressed disapproval for the bill and wants the emphasis to be on rehabilitation and reintegration. I think it is really important for that point to be brought out.

I also think it is important to bring evidence here again. I want to bring out that the recent statistics and other surveys simply do not show that we are in a crime wave. Attempted murders are at their lowest levels in 30 years. There has been a 15% drop in auto theft. That is continuing a downward trend that started in the mid-1990s, and last year there were 15,000 fewer youth crimes, a drop of 7%.

Alan Young, a law professor at York University, said that the Conservative vision for criminal justice ran its course 30 years ago. He said they had been there, done it, tried it and failed.

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1:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at the second reading debate on Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts.

Part 2 of the bill proposes sentencing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Clause 34 of the bill, within part 2, proposes to restrict the availability of conditional sentences in the same manner as was advanced in former Bill C-16, which had received second reading and had been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights but had not yet been studied when it died on the order paper at the dissolution of the 40th Parliament.

Conditional sentences are an appropriate sentencing tool in many cases, but not when it comes to serious property crimes and violent offences. Conditional sentences became a sentencing option with the proclamation in September 1996 of Bill C-41, chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1995. They were created in recognition that many less serious offenders who would otherwise be sentenced to custody could remain among other members of society as long as they adhered to strict and appropriate conditions.

When first introduced, conditional sentences were available if the sentence imposed was less than two years of imprisonment, the offence for which the offender was sentenced was not punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty and the court was satisfied that allowing the offender to serve the sentence of imprisonment in the community would not endanger the safety of that community.

Shortly thereafter, a requirement was added to require the court to be satisfied that sentencing the offender to a conditional sentence of imprisonment would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in section 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code.

Where a conditional sentence is imposed, the effect is that the offender serves his or her sentence in the community with conditions, and sometimes with a condition of house arrest. This new sentencing option generated considerable debate following its creation because it was available at sentencing for any offences not punishable by a minimum sentence, including serious and violent offences, provided that the accused met all the above-mentioned prerequisites. Parliament intended that conditional sentences would be available to non-dangerous offenders who would have been, before the creation of conditional sentences, sentenced to a term of incarceration of less than two years for offences with no minimum term of imprisonment.

In 2000 this debate on certain controversial cases led the Supreme Court of Canada to examine the conditional sentence regime in R. v. Proulx. The court explained that a sentencing court must first find that a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years is appropriate before examining the other prerequisites to the availability of conditional sentences.

In other words, a conditional sentence is not on an equal footing with the rest of the sentencing options available at sentencing, because the court must be of the opinion that other non-carceral sentencing options, such as a probation order or a fine, would not adequately address the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. It is only in situations in which the court is of the opinion that the term of imprisonment should not be more than two years that a conditional sentence order may be considered, if the court is also satisfied that allowing the offender to serve the sentence in a community would not endanger public safety.

Over the years there has been a loss of public confidence in the appropriateness of conditional sentence orders because of the wide array of offences that received conditional sentences of imprisonment, including offences punishable by the highest maximum in the Criminal Code.

Our government responded to these concerns by tabling Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) on May 4, 2006.

Bill C-9, in its original form, proposed to eliminate conditional sentences for offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years or more. It was, and still is, the opinion of this government that offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, 14 years, or life are serious offences that should never, ever, result in a conditional sentence order.

However, the scope of Bill C-9 was amended in committee to only capture offences that are punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years or more and prosecuted on indictment, that are terrorism offences, organized crime offences, and serious personal injury offences as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code.

The use of the term “serious personal injury offence” to restrict the availability of conditional sentences has not accomplished the objective of ensuring that conditional sentences are not available for serious crimes. In fact, this approach allows certain serious offences, punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment or more, such as robbery, to be eligible for a conditional sentence or house arrest.

As defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code, a serious personal injury offence has two components. First, it specifically includes the three general sexual assault offences in sections 271, 272 and 273 of the code. This is pretty straightforward. The second component of the serious personal injury offence does not provide the same certainty because it includes indictable offences 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, and for which the offender may be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years or more. This calls for interpretation of whether an offence endangered the life or safety of another person or was likely to do so. For some offences this will be clear, but for others it will not be clear.

This government wants to clearly indicate the offences for which a conditional sentence is never an option. This is what the relevant amendments contained in the bill before us address. Rather than leaving it to individual courts to determine whether a particular offence qualifies as a serious personal injury offence, it clearly identifies all offences which should never be eligible for a conditional sentence. It removes all of that uncertainty.

Until the coming into force of Bill C-9 on December 1, 2007, sentencing courts only interpreted “serious personal injury offence” for the purpose of determining whether the threshold for a dangerous or long-term offender application had been met. That is from part XXIV of the Criminal Code. This is because the term had been enacted and defined for the dangerous and long-term offender provisions only.

Since Bill C-9 came into force, courts have had to interpret the definition of “serious personal injury offences” in the context of conditional sentences, a context which is quite different from that for dangerous and long-term offenders. For instance, in the 2009 decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal in R. v. Ponticorvo, the court held that serious personal injury in the conditional sentence context included the use, or attempted use, of any violence and was not restricted to only the use of serious violence. In so doing, the court applied a different interpretation than it had to the same term in the dangerous offender context in R. v. Neve in 1999.

In 2010 in R. v. Lebar, the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed this approach and concluded that for the purposes of the availability of conditional sentences, Parliament created “a divide between crimes where violence is or is not used, not between crimes of serious violence and less serious violence”. That is in paragraph 69 of the decision.

These cases illustrate there is considerable uncertainty about how the existing conditional sentence regime will be interpreted. This bill will provide the needed clarity and certainty to say which offences are not eligible for a conditional sentence. This will in turn prevent the need to wait for these issues to be finally resolved by the appellate courts, including perhaps the Supreme Court of Canada.

Another concern we have is that the definition of “serious personal injury offences” on its face does not cover most serious property crimes which could still be eligible for a conditional sentence. For instance, fraud, which is an offence punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years, is a very serious crime that can have a devastating impact on the lives of its victims, yet, according to the definition of “serious personal injury offence”, it is still technically eligible for a conditional sentence.

I should note, however, that a recent amendment to the Criminal Code which is not yet in force provides for a mandatory sentence of two years when the value of the fraud exceeds $1 million. In those cases a conditional sentence would not be available.

In addition, the current prerequisites to the availability of a conditional sentence do not exclude drug offences, such as the production, importation and trafficking of heroin, unless they are committed as part of a criminal organization and provided that they are punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more and prosecuted on indictment.

However, as hon. members well know, this bill also includes the amendments that were proposed in former Bill S-10, which also died on the order paper at the dissolution of the last Parliament. It is proposed to create mandatory minimum penalties for certain drug offences which would make them ineligible for a conditional sentence.

It is my view that the current conditional sentencing regime fails to categorically make conditional sentences ineligible for many very serious crimes. Permitting the use of conditional sentences for some offences punishable by the highest maximum available in the code sends a message that certain offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life are less serious than others punishable by the same maximum. This is not the message this Parliament should be sending to Canadians.

Greater clarity and consistency is needed to limit the availability of conditional sentences and to protect Canadians from serious and violent offenders. In order to address these concerns, the proposed amendments contained in this bill would retain all the existing prerequisites for conditional sentences but would make it crystal clear which offences are ineligible. Specifically, the reforms would eliminate the reference to serious personal injury offences in section 742.1 and would make all offences punishable by 14 years or life ineligible for a conditional sentence.

This would, for instance, make the offences of fraud, robbery and many other crimes clearly ineligible for a conditional sentence. It would also make offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years ineligible for a conditional sentence if they: result in bodily harm; involve the import or export, trafficking and production of drugs; or involve the use of a weapon. It is the opinion of the government that where these circumstances are present, there is a need to emphasize the sentencing objectives of denunciation and deterrence and therefore eliminate the possibility of a conditional sentence.

In order to ensure that all serious crimes are caught, this bill also proposes a list of 11 specific offences prosecuted on indictment and punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years that would be ineligible for a conditional sentence. These offences are: prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, abduction of persons under the age of 14 years, 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 purposes.

Some hon. members might notice there are three differences from the list that was contained in Bill C-16.

First, the offence of luring a child was taken out of the list of offences punishable by 10 years' imprisonment on indictment because clause 22 of the bill proposes a mandatory minimum penalty of one year on indictment and 90 days on summary conviction. Therefore, this offence would be ineligible for a conditional sentence.

The second change was the addition of a new motor vehicle theft offence described at section 333.1 of the Criminal Code. This addition would ensure consistency with the restriction on the availability of conditional sentences for theft over $5,000.

Last, former Bill C-16 eliminated the possibility of house arrest for the abduction of a person under the age of 14 by a parent, guardian or person having the lawful care or charge of that person. The intention, however, was to target the abduction of a person under the age of 14 by a stranger. This has been rectified in the bill by replacing the reference to section 283 by a reference to section 281 in the list of offences punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and prosecuted on indictment that are ineligible for a conditional sentence.

This government is committed to ensuring that conditional sentences are used the way they were originally intended to be used, and that is for less serious offences. I am confident the more appropriate use of conditional sentence orders will strengthen public confidence in the sanction and administration of justice.

I am the chair of the Conservative Party's law enforcement officers caucus, which is made up of 11 people from both the House of Commons and the Senate who have previous experience in police investigations, in corrections and in other law enforcement agencies. We stand together to support this bill, because we have seen first hand how detrimental these conditional sentences and many of the other aspects of the bill have been to our communities. We have seen the victims of these offences suffer terribly. We have been at the front line to say that we are sorry the system failed them.

We will not stand by and allow the system to continue to fail them. We are the police officers, the corrections officers and the law enforcement officers in this House. They do not exist in any other party. We stand together to support this bill.

I would ask, in fact on behalf of victims I would beg, members of the opposition to please support this bill to make sure that our streets and communities are safe. This is imperative to continue to live in the most incredible country in the world.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to answer questions from members across the way, and I would implore them to think about the victims as they ask their questions.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the system failing. Ashley Smith was a young girl who entered the correctional system at 15. By October 31, 2006, Ms. Smith was transferred to Nova Institution for Women in Nova Scotia, a federal institution. Through 2007, Ms. Smith was transferred a total of 17 times between eight institutions during 11 months in federal custody. The beginning of Ms. Smith's journey in the criminal system was for throwing crabapples at a mailman.

The government talks about law and order, but how will it prevent the next Ashley Smith case within its correctional service if it does not fund programs for rehabilitation and mental health?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the case of Ashley Smith is very tragic. As a former member of the public safety committee in the last Parliament, I was very fortunate to travel across this country and to other countries to observe the programs that are available in our corrections system for those who suffer with mental illness and to compare them to systems that exist in other countries.

Time after time we spoke with people involved in the corrections system, those who were caretakers, those who were involved in the actual delivery of the health care that was being provided, and some of the people who were incarcerated and were benefiting from the program.

I can assure the member there are programs. We invest millions of dollars in those programs because we, too, believe that we have to address some of these problems, such as the mental health situations of the incarcerated, and the addictions of the incarcerated. That is an important priority for the government. That is why we have a national anti-drug strategy that focuses not only on enforcement, but on treatment and education.

We will continue to put that money toward those efforts because we know it makes our communities safer.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, as someone involved in law enforcement, the hon. member undoubtedly knows that the vast majority of conditional sentences are granted in cases that are less serious. Conditional sentences in more serious cases or for more serious offences are extremely rare.

Given the focus of the remarks on conditional sentences, if we were to tighten up on conditional sentences, we would be putting more people on the lower end of the severity scale in jail. These people would end up in provincial institutions, not in federal institutions.

In many institutions across the country the provincial incarceration facilities are absolutely stretched to the max; they are at capacity. If we take away discretion from judges, if we do not trust them to apply this law properly and we tell them they are required to put these people in jail, I would like the hon. member opposite to lay out for the House the compensation package her government has in mind to cover the costs that would be downloaded to the provinces for putting the people in jail who would otherwise be serving their sentences in the community.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, there were several questions and comments in that.

Let me first address his statement with regard to conditional sentences and there being people who would be incarcerated for lower-class sentences. I want to ask the member this. Of the list that we are trying to include as serious offences, what does he think a lower-class offence is? Was it the sexual assault that was benefiting from a conditional sentence? Was it perhaps the kidnapping that was benefiting from a conditional sentence? Was it the trafficking in persons? Was it the motor vehicle theft? Was it the prison breach?

These are offences for which I, as a police officer, spent much of my time chasing the offender while out on house arrest. These are serious offences that must be dealt with and there must deterrence and denunciation. These must never have the ability of an offender to receive a conditional sentence.

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1:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her clarifications regarding criminal law. I know that she has a great deal of experience in this area.

I would like her to provide some examples. We know that opponents of this bill, in Quebec especially, will always pit rehabilitation against deterrence, but these are not exclusive of one another—they are complementary. Once again, I would like my colleague to share some examples from her experience, regarding what she sees in this bill, and of the benefits that this will have for the public in terms of protecting Canadians and Quebeckers.

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for this excellent question.

As the minister indicated, I do have a great deal of experience in this area. The bill aims to protect the safety of our society and our communities through such measures as the elimination of conditional sentences, because we know that they only cause further suffering to the victims. However, this is not only about victims. When those who commit crimes are incarcerated, they have access to programs that could benefit them and help them become law-abiding citizens. It is important to remember that. Access to such programs is crucial to offenders. Our government is investing its efforts and financial resources in order to support and promote these programs and to give incarcerated offenders a chance to do their best to change their lives, to get out when their sentence ends and to become law-abiding, contributing members of society.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the parliamentary secretary on her admirable defence.

I would like to ask the same question as the person who preceded me on this side of the House, since the hon. member did not answer the question. I know this government prides itself on being a responsible government. I would like to know the additional costs associated with this bill. I also want to know what percentage of the cost of the bill will be downloaded to the provinces.

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

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

As he can see, in the House we sometimes ask three, four or five questions at once and, unfortunately, the person speaking does not always have time to respond to all those questions.

Let us talk about costs. In my opinion, the most significant costs are the costs to victims. Generally speaking, it is the victims who pay. It is said that it is the victims, not the offenders, who pay between 83% and 86% of the costs associated with crime.

The hon. member referred to the cost to the provinces. He was not here when this bill was first introduced in the third session, but crown attorneys and attorneys general from all provinces supported the changes we are proposing. The hon. member is saying that the prisons are full, but that is not true. There is room. We will make more room because victims should not be paying the costs of crime. We will make sure that they are not.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, Bill C-10 perfectly illustrates the government's indifference: indifference to the facts, indifference to the evidence and indifference to a government's obligation to govern effectively.

The facts are clear. So far, a number of members have reported them and members will continue to do so throughout the debate. According to Statistics Canada and many other organizations, crime in Canada has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years. We are not currently in the midst of a crime crisis. Yes, crimes are being committed. Yes, we must address the issue of crime. However, we do not need to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly, like Bill C-10. In light of this fact, we see that the government is basing its actions on fiction. Clearly, Statistics Canada includes only reported crimes; yet, the number of unreported crimes has allegedly skyrocketed. However, by definition, unreported crimes are not counted or countable. This is a work of pure fiction created by a government that refuses to see the facts, refuses to acknowledge them and refuses to take them into account. The government is using fiction to justify its bill.

The evidence is also clear. This is nothing but a tough on crime bill. However, minimum sentences and tougher sentences for crime are absolutely not deterrents. I challenge anyone across the way to present a credible study that shows that crime in Canada will be significantly reduced or dealt with because of deterrents. That is not the case.

I think this government is also profoundly indifferent to good governance. The previous question was addressed to the parliamentary secretary, but she did not answer it for obvious reasons: this government has no idea of the exorbitant costs ahead for the federal and provincial governments of the measures it wants to put in effect. That is quite clear. I will come back to the issue of cost because it is central to the NDP's opposition to this bill.

Something else that illustrates this government's indifference to good governance is the Canadian Bar Association's opposition to these measures. We keep hearing about the fact that law enforcement is in favour of these measures, but if we look at the administration of justice side of things, which will have to deal with the consequences of increased measures on the enforcement side, we see a rather fierce resistance.

I would like the government to take into consideration not just what the Canadian Police Association is saying, but also what the Canadian Bar Association thinks of all this. Both are important.

I will read what the Canadian Bar Association said barely two days ago:

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has concerns with several aspects of the government’s proposed omnibus crime bill, including mandatory minimum sentences and overreliance on incarceration, constraints on judges’ discretion to ensure a fair result in each case, and the bill’s impact on specific, already disadvantaged groups.

The government must stop talking about law enforcement and start taking other considerations into account, including the administration of justice, which will be adversely affected if this bill is passed.

I was happy to hear the Minister of Public Safety speak this morning. He clarified something very important that we knew on this side of the House but that had always been avoided by the government. I am talking about the fact that this bill has essentially been inspired by the United States. I think that if we look at Hansard, it is clear that this bill was inspired by the United States. Not only was it inspired by the United States, but it was inspired by an American approach that failed in the United States, because it did not provide any deterrent. The crime rate is higher in that country.

In the United States, this approach also failed to provide security and to ensure public order. Yet the government would have us believe that this bill would do just that. Earlier this morning, my colleague from Ottawa Centre made reference to the advice of Newt Gingrich, whom no one could confuse with a progressive and who had this warning for jurisdictions in Canada and Europe that wanted to follow the American example: it did not work.

We can also see the impact this approach had on a state like Texas, where skyrocketing costs greatly contributed to the economic and tax crisis experienced by the state government. This led to the abolition of measures such as minimum sentences, which did not work and which are extremely expensive in comparison to the impact they can have.

I am also happy that the Minister of Public Safety's comments demonstrated that he was fully under the illusion that the provinces are demanding such a bill en masse and that they are prepared to take on the soaring costs that will result. There are anecdotal examples of provinces that would like more serious legislation, but that is not the case in Quebec, for one. I will quote a motion adopted by the Quebec National Assembly in 2001 that, I believe, would be adopted again today. It states:

THAT the National Assembly ask the Government of Canada to establish within the criminal justice system for young persons a special plan for Québec, namely the Young Offenders Act, to fully take into account its specific intervention model.

The young offender issue means a lot to me, because for two years in a previous life, I worked in a youth centre that deals with young offenders, a centre called Ressources Alternatives Rive-Sud. I worked there for nearly two years and had to deal with young people who had committed crimes ranging from shoplifting to assault. My responsibility was to meet with groups of these youth in order to make them aware of the consequences and the social cost of their actions.

This approach worked, and I will explain why. I gave dozens of sessions to hundreds of youth over the course of nearly two years. I saw only five cases of recidivism, cases in which the young offender came back to the centre. This clearly shows that the approach taken when dealing with young offenders in Quebec is working. This approach is not based on incarceration and cracking down on crime, but rather on rehabilitation and restorative justice for the victims.

By combining provisions for young offenders with eight other bills, this bill is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. This bill addresses some serious problems that we might all agree on, but they should have been dealt with individually. The government's irresponsible decision, and that is what it was, was to lump them all together, which means we cannot address the serious, real problems because the bill covers things that are not necessarily problems at all and that undermine solutions that have been successful in the past.

I mentioned the question of the cost. It has been difficult to get an answer from the government on that. According to estimates by Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, it could cost up to $2.7 billion over five years. That is a huge amount of money, which the government has not taken into account or confirmed. It has mentioned, however, that this $2.7 billion is but a drop in the bucket compared to the victims' costs, which it calculated at about $99 billion.

There is nothing at all in Bill C-10 to ensure that the cost of crime and the cost to victims will be less than $99 billion. There is nothing in this bill to really help victims. This bill puts forward an approach with a much stronger focus on imprisonment and deterrence, but deterrence does not work.

If the cost to victims is truly $99 billion, as stated by Senator Boisvenu, I challenge the members of the government to show us how passing this bill will decrease this amount.

Once again, I would like to focus on the issue of good governance, which the government has not adequately addressed.

As members will recall, when Bill C-25 was introduced, we repeatedly asked the Minister of Public Safety about the economic impact of this bill, which dealt, among other things, with the two-year credit for each year of pre-sentencing custody.

After being asked the question repeatedly, the minister finally said that the bill would cost approximately $90 million. Then, after more questions were asked and more evidence was presented, he had to adjust that figure, and he said that, in the end, it would cost approximately $2 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer disagreed with that figure as well and demonstrated that the bill would not cost the Canadian treasury $90 million or even $2 billion but rather $5 billion.

This type of approach, where the government tries to shove an omnibus bill down Canadians' throats without regard for the cost, without even calculating the costs and without telling all Canadians what those costs are, is completely irresponsible.

I mentioned minimum sentences. This will be a very expensive measure. We know what happened in Texas, where they have decided to abandon this approach. More and more jurisdictions are dropping this approach because it does not have a deterrent effect. It is not an effective deterrent. At present, the Conservative government does not seem interested in controlling the cost of the prison system. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, the cost of the prison system has increased by 86% and, in 2013, it is expected to double compared to the first year. We are talking about $3 billion more.

What further costs will this bill entail? We have no idea.

The government is trying to use rhetoric as well to bring forth its argument or to try to discredit arguments. Rhetoric is fine, but it has to be accurate at some point.

The government is talking about being tough on crime. It is hard to be tough on crime when it does not concern itself with the facts and evidence and replaces them with fiction. That does not demonstrate good governance. That is not being tough on crime; that is being stupid on crime.

I would like to remind this government that, in the May 2, 2011 election, more than 60% of Canadians rejected this approach. The Conservatives should not be talking about a strong mandate and trying to shove this down Quebeckers' and Canadians' throats, because more than 60% of Canadians rejected it after the Conservatives made it central to their election platform.

The NDP will respect the message sent by Canadians and oppose this American-style bill, a bill that will not lower the crime rate, that will not reduce the number of crimes committed.

As an aside, I would like to mention the impact that such a coercive and repressive approach has had in the United States. In absolute terms, the United States now has the largest prison population. More than 2.3 million Americans, or almost 1% of the population, are currently locked away in U.S. prisons. That is more than in China, more than in Russia.

Is that really the model we want to adopt? Do we really want to build prisons, as the Americans have done, without any impact on the crime rate, since the crime rate in the United States is much higher than it is in Canada? When we are looking to take measures to deal with crime, we have to adopt measures that are smart and follow concrete examples of good management in other countries, not from countries whose approaches have been proved a failure.

Indeed, we have to fight crime. Indeed, victims need to be supported by Parliament, but offering them a bill like this is completely off target—I know: I have been a victim of crime, including burglaries.

The NDP approach has always been a balanced approach between rehabilitation, restorative justice and addressing the problems in the legal system and the parole system, which would help reinforce what deserves to be reinforced. Again, this bill is all over the map. Instead of addressing this issue more precisely and effectively, the government is taking a scattershot approach and trying to pass something, which in some ways will succeed, but in several other very significant ways will completely change Canada's philosophy of justice.

The government talks about law and order, but it is clear that when it comes to law enforcement, the Conservative government has already made up its mind, as it completely ignores the other side of the law, which will be accepted and administered by judges, lawyers and members of the Canadian Bar Association. I quoted the Canadian Bar Association earlier. Its voice deserves to receive more attention than it has so far.

Other people, other lawyers, others in the justice system have spoken out as well. I would like to mention what Daniel MacRury, crown attorney for Nova Scotia, had to say. Among other things, he said that sometimes judges have no alternative but to incarcerate people who are mentally ill and could be placed in the health care system instead. This is one of the major consequences that is completely ignored by the government in its bill.

Other organizations have already spoken out against this bill. The Canadian Paediatric Society represents more than 3,000 pediatricians—child specialists—throughout the country. They are very concerned about the impact that this bill will have on children. Not only is the society very concerned, but it is proposing that a national youth crime prevention strategy be adopted instead. Such a strategy does not exist at present. We do not have a strategy to prevent youth crime. The Conservatives do not want it and prefer to play hardball in order to please one particular voter base, among others, that they have attracted.

I can also say that the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates opposes this bill. We are debating a bill that is supposed to help victims and take the best interests of children and youth into account. But it obviously does not do so.

Even the media is starting to get on board with the opposition bill. It actually sees what the bill is about.

I will quote the Nanaimo Daily News today, which has some interesting comments and insights into what is going on right now. It states, “Determined to pander to his political supporters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled an omnibus crime bill Tuesday that is both unnecessary—

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would just like to remind the member and all other members that you cannot refer to other members in the chamber by their given name, whether you are doing it directly or indirectly in a media quote.

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Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I was reading from the article but I understand the point. I will restart. The article states:

Determined to pander to his political supporters, [the] Prime Minster tabled an omnibus crime bill Tuesday that is both unnecessary and foolish....The bill is foolish because it comes with a huge price. Prior to the last election, the Harper government said it wanted to spend $2 billion to expand—