An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (withdrawal of applications for full parole by offenders serving two or more years)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Chuck Cadman  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 6, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

March 12th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act.

I would have liked to have been able to put some questions to the hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois who spoke earlier on the bill. I thank him for restoring my faith a little in the Bloc Quebecois after that diatribe from his colleague this morning on Bill C-233. I was shocked and I thought surely those members do not do this on everything. I felt that perhaps they were slipping away. He has partially restored my faith by sticking to the subject and speaking with great passion and interest on something that has certainly a big impact on his province.

The bill is really two bills in one. It sounds like one of those old Doublemint chewing gum TV commercials. We get two for our money. First, there is the Canada Shipping Act which is an old bill. Like many things the government has done in the past, it brings forward legislation and tells us when it is introduced that it is so important that the House must get going. It is so concerned about its legislation and feels it is so urgent to get it through that it has brought in closure 70 times since I have been in the House.

In the past the government brought forward a lot of legislation like the Canada Shipping Act. It has come forward with legislation and then diddle around with it until the clock ran out. It would either prorogue the House to get rid of legislation it knew was bad and was embarrassed by or, as it has done twice since I have been here, prematurely call an election which also torpedoed its own bills.

I cannot say I blame the government. Some of its bills are pretty bad and should be torpedoed. If I may use an analogy, it is interesting to use torpedo when we are talking about a shipping act. I have to be careful because we have enough problems with our shipping act right now without starting to talk about things of that nature.

As I have mentioned, the bill has two parts. One is the Canada Shipping Act which is regulatory in nature. The other one is the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act which is primarily a financial consideration. This was what the hon. member spoke to at some length. Coming from Quebec he mentioned his concern about shipbuilding, about trying to get more ships built in Canada or at least in his province, and having better tax flows in Quebec and from the federal government toward the shipbuilding industry. Certainly we want to see it preserved in British Columbia. He did make one particular reference to shipbuilding in British Columbia that I will come back to in a couple of minutes.

The Shipping Conferences Exemption Act is primarily financial in nature. It is something we should look at, particularly with regard to Quebec and funding for shipbuilding there. Part of the problem of getting funding is the collection of taxes and since this is the shipping act we should be looking at the shipping industry.

In Quebec there is a company known as Canada Steamship Lines which ironically is owned by our own Minister of Finance. He is one of the principals in this company. It is a very big company, a huge company with tremendous assets.

I would imagine that taxation on those assets would provide tremendous revenues for the federal government. Hopefully in its compassion it would provide some to Quebec and other regions to help with the shipbuilding industry. Canadians should be very proud of our shipbuilding industry, which is slowly slipping away from us.

As the hon. member stated, Quebec is putting quite a bit of money into this area already. There are many demands on tax dollars as we all know. Whenever Quebec does that, it is draining it from other areas where it perhaps would like to use it. Is it not ironic that the man in charge of raising taxes, who has such a wonderful asset located in the province of Quebec, has all those ships registered in other countries so that no taxes are paid on them in Quebec and in Canada? I was hoping to have the opportunity to ask the hon. member if he felt that was fair.

Before we start talking about the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, we should examine some of the exemptions that we already have. We have a Canadian based company that has all its ships registered in foreign ports to specifically avoid paying fair taxes in Canada toward the very industry that spawned those ships that are hidden away in foreign ports. I would love to hear the hon. member's comments on that. Perhaps under questions and comments he may be able to shed some light on his feelings in that regard.

The hon. member also mentioned British Columbia when talking about shipbuilding which has a great shipbuilding industry as well. We are very proud of it. Some tremendous ships have been built and there is the capacity to continue doing so long into the future. Certainly we like to be diversified in British Columbia. We have some problems out there right now, aside from government, in terms of employment, our industry and our economy.

If one flies over the province of British Columbia one may wonder if there are any towns, particularly in the interior. All one sees are forests. We are a province covered in great stands of timber. My region particularly has a very forestry dependent economy. We have had a great deal of trouble in our province because of the softwood lumber quota system. It has been absolutely devastating.

As we come to the end of the five year term we are now looking at the possibility of trade wars. The Americans have basically put us on notice that they intend to put countervailing duties in place, tariffs, to devastate an industry upon which British Columbia depends.

It would be excellent to get our shipbuilding industry and many other things going to diversify the economy in British Columbia and to soften at least some of the impact we will likely look at because of future problems with softwood lumber.

Notwithstanding that we have gone through the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement mechanisms three times to deal with the fact that Americans are making false claims against our product in British Columbia, they still end up threatening to do it yet again. It is very expensive for both the government and the industry to deal with these charges. I would like to see the shipbuilding industry flourish in British Columbia.

When the hon. member mentioned shipbuilding in British Columbia he made specific reference to ongoing aluminum shipbuilding, which is a bit of a sore point to British Columbians right now. The notorious aluminum shipbuilding involved the provincial government building three aluminum fast ferries to serve as a link between the mainland and Vancouver Island. Notwithstanding the incredible abilities and dedication of the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia, they were a tremendous anomaly. These things were an unmitigated disaster.

I spoke earlier about the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act being financial in nature. We will probably never know the final figure, but the aluminum ferries the government saw fit to build have blown somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars.

Do we know where the ferries are? They are tied up. The government is trying to sell them. The last I heard, it was trying to get $35 million for them. There are a lot of people in British Columbia who feel so incensed about this that they came to me with an idea as to how we can deal with it. They suggested that rather than trying to sell the ferries, even for $35 million, we should donate them to the government of British Columbia because it is about to be outgoing. As it has its final caucus meeting it might consider getting on board one of the ferries and heading west at a high rate of speed. We will see how sound they are once they get out on the open ocean.

I apologize to the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I realize it is a different type of pollution that we would be sending into the marine environment, but I hope he would agree that it might be a worthy exemption for this and perhaps we can let it go. Maybe it would not be quite as bilious as an oil slick. If it is we will need to boom it up, chain it up, take it away and hope that it never comes back again.

Another thing I am concerned about is that the bill is being rammed through in such a hurry. The government, as I mentioned earlier, has used closure so many times to rush forward bills and here is yet another one it is rushing forward. As the hon. member from the Conservative Party said, there are so many other things that need to be done, both in conjunction with this and with other issues entirely.

In terms of defence, at a time when we are talking about marine safety and the environment and doing a better job of looking after our oceans and our coastlines, the government is cutting down on patrols by the military off our coasts to ensure there is enforcement of our regulations and that the coastline is properly protected.

It is a little hard to do some of the things that are necessary in the marine environment with some of the equipment we have provided to our military. Sea King helicopters are a prime example. It would be appropriate if perhaps the Liberal caucus one day arranged for a little tour over the ocean, in rough weather, ideally, so it could get a sense of what it is really like in a Sea King helicopter. I think that would be good for a variety of reasons. I will let your imagination decide what the possible advantages might be.

There are so many other things that are such a priority to Canadians that one must wonder why the government is rushing forth with a bill like this. The bill failed before because the government let it sit there. It had the opportunity to bring it forward but obviously it was not a priority for it. It did the same thing with the Young Offenders Act.

From 1997 right up until the election call the Minister of Justice said that the Young Offenders Act was her highest priority. My God, if that is her highest priority I would hate to think what her low priorities are. Somehow this bill is a priority for the Liberal government when there are still things like the Young Offenders Act to be dealt with.

There are things like the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This morning we talked about a simple amendment that could make it much better but the government has absolutely no patience for a good amendment that was put forward by my colleague from Surrey North. It just wants to rush forward with something like this, which it obviously thinks has a much higher priority than the basic rights of victims. I think that is rather shameful.

We have organized crime in the country, particularly in Quebec. We talked about it this morning. The hon. member from Quebec, who talked about the Canada Shipping Act, is, I am sure, also concerned about organized crime. It is a problem in the province of Quebec and all across the country. Why is the government not bringing forward legislation that deals with organized crime as a priority instead of Bill C-14? It is sometimes very confusing as to what the government is really concerned about.

When we start talking about the marine system, the ports themselves are very much affected by federal legislation dealing with labour. We have had ports shut down on both our coasts. We have had them in labour strikes in Quebec. What does the government do about labour strikes? It waits until the whole thing shuts down. As if our poor farmers on the prairies do not have enough problems, if a port on either the east coast or west coast is closed down they are devastated. As bad off as they are now, they are 100 times worse off after a port gets shut down.

The government has done absolutely nothing to introduce legislation that would put into place some form of dispute settlement mechanism to ensure a fair settlement for workers in the ports and other places without having a labour disruption that is devastating to people all across the country. It is absolutely shameful. It is puzzling why the government is in such a rush with this bill when it is passing up on many other areas as well.

This bill is a transport issue put out by the Minister of Transport. What about the other things in transport that need to be dealt with? We are talking about regulations to make the marine environment a lot safer.

The hon. member from the Conservative Party talked about environmental issues. He specifically mentioned the freighters that flush their tanks out in the ocean and what a despicable thing that is. However VIA Rail, the government owned passenger rail system, has no holding tanks in any of its passenger rail cars. As they travel down the track, everything goes straight out onto the tracks.

There have been a lot of complaints already from workers from both CN and CP who work on the rails. They are very concerned about their safety because of what they must in some cases work in on the rails, which is quite disgusting, and the environmental problems that it brings forth. Never mind the poor fishermen on the river underneath a train trestle as a VIA Rail passenger train happens to go over it. That makes quite a statement. It is almost applicable coming from the Liberal government. I hear them firing up now. It is a kind of statement on that poor fisherman, “You-know-what on you”. There are so many things the minister could be working on instead of this bill.

Air Canada is an irony for both the east and west coast. We have regulatory agencies right now telling Air Canada it cannot cut its fares as much as it has done to certain parts of Atlantic Canada because it is anti-competitive. Ironically, at the same time they are telling Air Canada it must stop gouging British Columbians so much and that it must cut fares on some of its routes because it is overpricing and gouging Canadians.

Where is the regulation to deal with that? That is much more harmful to Canadians right across the country at this time. We need a general overhaul of the air regulatory system. Much of this bill is regulatory in nature. When there are so many things of a regulatory nature that need to done, why are we focusing so much time on this one while disregarding all the other things that need to be done?

The bill certainly deals with some issues that have worth. We think there could be a lot of improvements. As we have pointed out to many people, we do not write the legislation. Any legislation we ever get, good or bad, must come from the government. There is no other way. Sure, we can try a private member's bill, but we saw what happened this morning on that. The hon. member for Surrey North came out with a very good piece of potential legislation that was slapped down and made non-votable. Therefore, it automatically dies no matter how good the arguments that are brought forward.

We must live with legislation brought forward by the government any time something needs to be changed. If we need a change to the Young Offenders Act we need a piece of legislation from the government, even if it is bad. We need that to be the impetus to get us to start. We can then try two things, as we will do with this bill. We can first bring the attention of the public to the shortcomings of the bill. We can consult with the public, find out their concerns and listen to the changes they think are necessary. Once the bill gets to committee we can ensure that a consultative process goes on and that, ideally, the government listens to what comes in.

I have always found this an irony in the past. I remember one transport bill where over 100 witnesses appeared before the committee. There was a clause dealing with the dispute settlement mechanism that most witnesses found offensive. It happened on the Canada Transportation Act. I do not know the exact number, but over 90% of the witnesses who came forward were very clear that they did not want that clause in the agreement and he government ignored them. This begs me to ask why it bothered to consult. Why did it spend all the money and waste the time of this parliament consulting if it does not listen to what Canadians say?

We will support getting the bill through second reading so it gets to committee, where we hope the government will do the consultative process. We hope this time it will also listen to people who come forward to point out things that need to be changed in the bill, and that it will support the amendments no matter where they come from.

The government can bring in its own amendments or accept our amendments, but it should recognize that we are not here for partisan purposes. Once bills get back to the House they are here to serve Canadians, and we need to do that together. I hope government members will work with us in committee to ensure that the bills and the legislation reflect the needs and wishes of Canadians.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2001 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the House give its consent to make Bill C-233 votable?

Corrections And Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2001 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the Chamber to participate in the debate today.

The bill as it has already been laid out is meant to address an anomaly in the current Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Bill C-233 puts forward a specific change or amendment which would bring about more accountability, it is suggested, in the current method in which applications for full parole are put forward and then drawn back on occasion for strategic reasons.

The hon. member for Surrey North has put forward this proposed change to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in very good faith. Knowing this individual and his work within the system, one can only commend his efforts to bring this matter forward. This particular member for Surrey North is all too familiar with the current criminal justice system given the tragic circumstances that befell him and his family when his son Jesse was murdered. I have no doubt whatsoever that the member is completely sincere in his efforts to have this anomaly addressed.

Having said that, I will say that the purpose of this enactment is quite clearly to restrict the ability of an individual applying for parole to withdraw the parole request at the last moment, at the 11th hour, thus causing the system, but more important the victims and the victims' families, undue suffering, frustration and often significant financial loss.

This amendment, as already discussed in the Chamber, does propose that a penalty be imposed, that is, there would be a two-year minimum before an individual could apply for parole once again. My colleague from the Bloc suggests that this particular time period might be amended. I would very much associate myself with that remark as well. I think the hon. member for Surrey North would also be amenable to looking at this possible amendment to Bill C-233, because it is a discretionary act on the part of the parole board in any event. Its ability to restrict the time in which an individual could apply once again for parole should also perhaps be discretionary. This is a useful amendment and once again demonstrates the usefulness of this discussion.

At the very least, the response would be to caution or to send a message of deterrence and denunciation when there is evidence that a system is being abused or flouted. Clearly there may not be a rampant number of instances where this has happened, but I would humbly suggest to the House that if it happens at all it is an abuse. If the system allows it to happen it is an anomaly that should be addressed, which is the purpose of the proposed bill.

The legislation in its current form has no recourse. Even in instances where it has been demonstrated that there has been a frivolous reason given for withdrawing application for parole, there is no actual recourse available for the parole board. The bill will prevent an application from being withdrawn without good reason, after substantial preparation has been made, and then renewed again shortly. There is a very common sense approach in this legislation. There is a reason behind it that one can quite clearly embrace.

The Conservative Party will support the bill for the simple reason that the current practice allows offenders to waste resources of the parole board but more important because it allows mental anguish for the victims of the offender. Upon examination of the facts, a determination of the reason for the cancellation can be made quite easily. This would be weighed to determine the validity, and if it is not valid then surely some consequences should follow. This is consistent with all principles of justice.

This is not to say that further punishment should be unfairly meted out to individuals in addition to their sentences. It is simply a response when it becomes clear that a potential parolee has made a tactical decision to withdraw his or her application for whatever reason. One can only imagine the demented mind of a person who would do this for the simple joy of causing anguish to victims, but sadly there are those in the system who do just that.

Similarly, it may be done for a tactical reason. It may be done to throw off the efforts of the victims to attend the parole board hearing, for example, where their comments might have some impact on whether parole is granted.

The simple principle that there have to be consequences, as I have stated, is very consistent with principles of justice and deterrence. This would put in place some deterrents for the parole board if it was proven on fact and on evidence that a parolee had abused the system to his or her advantage.

The bill surely aims at subduing the antics of anyone who would behave in this fashion. Without mentioning the names of some of our more high profile heinous criminals in the country, we know that there are those who have engaged in this type of activity. The hon. member for Surrey North has recited some concrete examples of what has happened in the past.

The financial implications are also a consideration when examining the facts of the legislation. Costs for travel and accommodation are most often borne by the victims. We have a vast country and clearly we have institutions from coast to coast. Through no fault of their own, victims very often feel it incumbent upon themselves, as abhorrent as it seems to the offender, to see that justice is being done, to attend parole hearings and to have their say. They feel a personal attachment to the file.

I hasten to add that there have been improvements in our justice system. There have been efforts made to be more inclusive and to ensure that victims are heard within our system. There have been recent changes which I and our party applaud, but we are also familiar with the fact that there remain a lot of areas for improvement.

Often there is a lack of information. Lack of information plays into the situation that is the subject of the bill. Often this occurs when a victim is not given ample warning or advance notice of when a parole hearing is going to be cancelled; the victim therefore suffers all of the consequences of not having that information in advance. Having a national victims ombudsman office would address some of this lack of information which is sometimes inherent in the justice system.

The bill is one that I feel is laudable. It is a concrete effort by the member to close a loophole, which would very much be to the advantage, not an unfair advantage but a fair advantage, of victims who are striving to participate in our justice system at whatever level they choose. That is often key when dealing with victims. The key is to ensure that they have the discretionary power to participate to whatever level they choose within the current law and to ensure that they feel they have a voice, that their opinions and their input matter.

I would suggest that the individual who put the bill forward has personal knowledge and understanding from a victim's perspective of how the system is currently working and, in some cases, currently failing. He has identified quite clearly with Bill C-233 a substantive change that could be made which would address the current problem.

The Conservative Party has been a consistent supporter of victims of crime and will continue to support efforts such as this when they are brought forward with the best of intentions and with great honesty and integrity, as is the case before us. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime is also very supportive, as are other victims who have faced this situation in the past.

This is not in any way to undermine the laudable goals of rehabilitation and reintegration within our current system. However, support for victims is needed and enacting this legislation would inject fairness and greater access.

I suggest as well that it is a bill which should be made votable. We certainly would support the hon. member's motion to make this matter votable. I would hope all members would do the same.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2001 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This bill, which proposes to add two paragraphs to section 123 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, creates disproportionate penalties inappropriate to the logic of the legislation.

According to the bill of the member for Surrey North, an offender serving a sentence of two years or more, who withdraws a application for parole at a late stage in the review, without good reason, will not have a new application considered for two years. By contrast, in the case of an ordinary application for full parole the board turns down, the period before a new application may be submitted is only six months.

The excessive severity of the penalty proposed by the member for Surrey North is apparent. Withdrawal results in the imposition of a two year waiting period, while denial results in a six month period. The difference between the two situations is unjustifiable.

This bill, intended to limit a multiplicity of unwarranted withdrawals once the review process has begun, would be more relevant with an amendment to the penalty imposed for withdrawal.

Reference to subsection 123(6) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which states that, when the board decides “not to grant full parole following a review pursuant to this section, no further application for full parole may be made until six months after the decision, reveals that the bill introduced by my Canadian Alliance colleague would only introduce a degree of discord in the system.

How can the member for Surrey North want to impose a harsher penalty in the case of a late stage withdrawal than in the case of a full parole request made at the end and rejected? Inmates would be unduly penalized by such a measure. They might as well not bother to withdraw an application for a review of their case, at the risk of having that application denied and start the process all over again six months later. Given this situation, why not shorten the suggested period from two years to six months?

Since this bill does not seem, on the face of it, to be a bad piece of legislation, the only thing that should be changed is the penalty, to make it more equitable.

By setting a period similar to the one prescribed in the case of a new application for parole after a denial, namely six months, we would not lose sight of the objective pursued, while also establishing a fairer system. Inmates would not benefit from withdrawing their application for futile motives. They would have to take responsibility and face an appropriate penalty.

With its proposed two year period, the bill could create a problem in that it could deter inmates from withdrawing their application even though they no longer quite feel ready for parole, this in spite of the motives that they might invoke.

In addition to the adjustment of the penalty, however, another factor needs to be considered in connection with this bill. The statistics in a document dated April 2000 produced by the Correctional Service of Canada raise even more questions about the wisdom of Bill C-233.

These statistics concern applications for parole from female inmates. They reveal that none, 0%, of the 436 applications submitted between April 1998 and March 1999 were withdrawn. These results are very interesting and show how pointless it is to regulate a practice that, among women anyway, is exceptional, being quite simply non-existent. In these conditions, what purpose is served by introducing a measure such as this?

In conclusion, we therefore see the addition proposed by the member for Surrey North as a completely superfluous manoeuvre that has unfortunately done nothing but take up an hour of the House's time. It is superfluous because, on the one hand, it would include in the bill a measure that is not absolutely essential, as the figures tend to show and, on the other, it would propose a penalty completely disproportionate to the action it is intended to discourage. These are two reasons why such a bill is not votable.

It would seem that the member has been carried away by the vindictive approach typical of his party, which tends to favour a heavy-handed approach to justice. Imposing overly repressive measures is not the appropriate response to a situation that does not really require any particular action. Nothing is served by creating a threat-based justice system. In fact, laying down the law is the only vision some political systems have come up with.

Of course, there must be respect for the law, but prevention and rehabilitation must also be considered. Above all, experience has shown us that there must be a thoughtful, fair and equitable approach, as this is the only way of ensuring that justice becomes a tool for the evolution of society and not a mere reflection of its instincts.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2001 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the member's proposal contained in Bill C-233.

The bill is outlined and is put before us today to discourage an offender from cancelling or postponing his or her parole hearing within a certain period of time before it is scheduled to take place. I understand that this proposal is being put forward to stop the inconvenience that such a cancellation would cause.

I think it is fair to say that is a laudable goal. Last minute postponements can be an inconvenience, especially for those who have to travel great distances, as was pointed out by the speaker prior to me, and also for the victims, media representatives and other observers. Of most concern, obviously, is the situation where a victim has planned to attend a hearing only to have the offender then cancel the hearing after the travel arrangements have been made. This can only add to the upset the victims feel in that kind of situation and with the whole system.

Victims do not choose to be in the situation they are in. To the extent that it is possible to make the process work better for them of course we should do so.

However I fear that the hon. member has gone too far with this bill. If an offender cancels for any reason not found acceptable to the National Parole Board, he or she would not be eligible for another hearing for two years. This is extreme punishment for an offender for what may turn out to be a minor inconvenience. If an offender cancels his or hearing a month or six weeks before it is scheduled to take place, the bill would deny the offender another chance for a parole hearing for two years.

I am afraid that this lengthy deprivation of access to conditional release in cases where only a very minor inconvenience was caused would not stand up to legal challenge.

The hon. member also referred to the need to protect the taxpayer in the first reading presentation of the bill. Any initiatives that would make our system of delivery of services to Canadians more effective would certainly be welcome. That being said, however, I am afraid that is not really an area where substantial or even minimal savings can be made.

When the National Parole Board schedules hearings, it normally schedules a number of hearings on the same day. If one such hearing is cancelled it can still proceed with the other hearings and no additional costs are incurred.

If the case management work has already been done then it is not lost if a hearing is not held. Case management is an ongoing process and reports are continually updated to reflect the current progress the offender is making. A report may need to be updated for a future hearing but again the costs are minimal.

What we need to do in these cases is to ensure that the victims and other observers are told as quickly as possible of the cancellation or postponement. We need to ensure that they find out when the hearing is rescheduled and we need to assist them in participating in a way that is most meaningful to them.

I have to point out that the government continues to work hard to understand the concerns of victims and supports the goal of helping them. We have a track record in that area and will continue it. That is why the government has taken a number of initiatives that will help victims.

We have established the policy centre for victims issues in the Department of Justice. The policy centre is mandated to develop and co-ordinate federal initiatives to strengthen the voice of victims in the criminal justice system.

Bill C-79 was brought into force December 1, 1999. It is legislation to enhance the safety, security and privacy of victims of crime in the criminal justice system. It is intended to ensure that victims are informed about opportunities to prepare victim impact statements and permits victims to read the statements out loud if they so choose. It requires police and judges to consider the safety of victims in all bail decisions. It makes it easier for victims and witnesses to participate in trials and permits a judge to ban the publication of the identity of victims and witnesses in the appropriate circumstances.

Finally, it requires all offenders to pay an automatic victim surcharge, an additional monetary penalty, which will increase revenue for provinces and territories to expand and improve victim services.

The victims policy centre will administer a $10 million victims' fund which will help to ensure that the perspective of victims of crime is considered in the development of all policies and legislation that may affect them. These funds will support innovative programs and services, public education initiatives, conferences and research by non-governmental experts. It will also be used to involve victim advocates and service providers, in partnership with provincial and territorial authorities, to identify key concerns and to develop options and strategies to meet the needs of victims in their communities.

The funds will also assist provinces and territories to implement the new criminal code provisions benefiting victims of crime and the principles enunciated in the Canadian statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime agreed to by provinces and territories.

In May 2000 the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tabled its report on the five year review of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act known as the CCRA. In that review it made a number of additional recommendations that will assist victims. In its response, the government has committed to take action on those recommendations.

What victims have told us is that they want more information and they want access to information earlier in the process. They want more opportunities to be heard and more opportunities to provide information. To that end, the government is committed to build on those identified needs.

The government, for example, has agreed to expand the information that will be provided to victims in the CCRA.

Currently, victims can attend National Parole Board hearings as observers. They can submit an impact statement to the board for consideration. New policies will allow victims to personally read a victim impact statement during the conditional release hearing.

For those victims who cannot attend the hearing, we will be exploring how they can have an opportunity to listen to the tapes of parole board hearings at local offices of the National Parole Board or the Correctional Service Canada. This is an attempt to bring the hearings closer to the victim, recognizing that not all victims can or want to be at a hearing in person.

The government also made a commitment to setting up a national office for the victims of crime to improve the links between the federal correctional system and victims.

The office will work with the policy centre at the Department of Justice. It will develop information for victims. It will assist in preparing training materials to ensure that all victim liaison staff are well trained to meet the needs of the victims. That is important and Canadians will recognize that.

The office will work with the Correctional Service Canada and the National Parole Board to ensure that policies are sensitive to victims' issues and needs.

Finally, it will be focused on solving problems that are identified by victims who find themselves in the system.

To be sure that whatever measures are put in place meet the needs of victims, consultations are taking place right now across Canada to meet with victims and seek their input on what they want from the system and how best to meet their needs. These are the types of meaningful actions that will work to support victims once they find themselves in our criminal justice system.

I respectfully suggest that the approaches taken by the government and that are in the process of being taken by the government go a long way to improving the lot of victims.

However, I cannot support the hon. member's bill. While the inconvenience caused to other observers is regrettable, I think we need to ensure that whatever approach we take balances the rights of all participants, including the offender's right to have a hearing.

The vast majority of offenders do not cancel their hearings to cause inconvenience to either the National Parole Board members, their case management staff or the people who attend. In a small number of cases, unfortunately, this does happen. When it does, it reflects an attitude on the part of the offender that I am sure is taken into account by the parole board.

Having said that, I think it is important that we not support this non-votable item.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2001 / 11 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

moved that Bill C-233, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (withdrawal of applications for full parole by offenders serving two or more years), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, once again it is an honour to have this opportunity to debate a private member's initiative in this place.

Bill C-233 is neither extensive nor is it complicated. It is another attempt to bring balance to our justice system. Having been intimately involved with various aspects of our justice system over the past number of years, I can fully appreciate its complexities, its size, its drain on resources and the necessity to balance the interests of the state, the offender and the victim. Bill C-233 is merely an attempt to readjust one aspect of what I perceive to be an injustice in the process.

Before I start to get into substantive issues about my proposed legislation, I would first like to advise listeners that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has decided to make the bill not votable. I could question the rationale for that decision and I could criticize the government members who comprise the majority of that committee, but I will not. I was not privy to their contemplations toward deciding what bills will be deemed votable and what bills will be deemed not votable. I fully understand that as backbenchers we are competing against each other for a chance to bring our own interest to law. Perhaps the next time my issue will be more successful. Perhaps even some day I may have the opportunity to sit on that committee and be forced to decide among many competing interests and issues.

All I can say is that it is most unfortunate that Bill C-233 is not a votable bill. It would dramatically lessen some of the emotional damages inflicted on individuals who have already been victimized by crime. Our justice process should not further victimize these individuals. I will attempt to explain the problem presented by the current process and how I am suggesting that it be alleviated.

As we all know, the majority of incarcerated criminal offenders will at some time have served their sentences and be released back into the community. At some point during their sentences they are permitted to apply for parole. If successful, they are released back into the community under many forms of supervision. As a society we need to ensure this gradual reintroduction and reclamation to our streets is successfully accomplished without threat to law-abiding citizens.

My proposal only deals with one minor aspect of this process. Once the offender applies for consideration for parole, a number of other people are affected. Correctional personnel may be interviewed to provide impressions and reflections on the character of the offender and whether that offender has made steps towards rehabilitation and contrition. Parole personnel will prepare a file on the history of that offender in order to assist the hearing process to ensure adequate information is available to aid and determine the suitability for release. Victims may be interested in presenting their fears or opinions respecting the release of someone who may still present a danger of committing additional criminal activity.

The problem is that there is nothing to stop offenders from withdrawing their applications for parole at any time during that process. Some offenders make application only to withdraw at the last moment before the parole board hearing actually takes place. When this form of abuse occurs, time and money is expended to obtain and prepare the corrections aspect for these hearings. Some people might say the taxpayer is already paying the correctional employees so there is really not additional cost involved. In some cases that may be so, but we are all probably aware that Canada does not have an overabundance of resources within the corrections department.

We can also understand that because our corrections personnel are stretched so thinly additional demands for their attention often necessitates the working of overtime. It may also require some travel as corrections personnel move from one location to another for many reasons.

Similarly, parole board members have to prepare themselves to learn the file for each specific offender applying for parole. They must be able to adequately question witnesses who provide information to form the basis of a decision on whether or not to release an offender back into the community. This costs time and money. More significant, we all know how important it is to have these parole boards do their job properly and completely. It does not help when time and effort is expended on a specific hearing, only to have it wasted when the offender subsequently withdraws that application. The time and effort wasted could have been better spent on other applications.

When we are dealing with scarce resources it does not help when the process permits waste to occur. We cannot afford the waste. The parole board must expend limited resources on the cases that are going to come to decision. We must ensure that the proper decision to release or detain is made on the basis of all available information, otherwise offenders may be released back into our communities when they should not and others may be held in custody when they should be released.

The victim is another important participant in the process. The victim has the right to provide input into the granting of parole. Victims often have to travel great distances to attend hearings which are nearly always held in the institution in which the offender is incarcerated. The institution may be miles from the home of the victim.

Frequently it may be in another province. I have a very personal example. Members of my family wishing to attend such a hearing for my son's killer would have had to travel from the west coast to Quebec. When victims expend the time, money and effort to attend a hearing, only to have it cancelled at the last minute by the offender, I would suggest that the offender is revictimizing those individuals once again, both financially and emotionally. The offender can reapply almost immediately and the roller coaster continues.

Hopefully I have sufficiently outlined the problem. It becomes a question of control and balance. It is the offender who has violated our laws but, as is so typical of our system, it is the same offender who possesses almost complete control over the parole process. That is not right.

As it has often been said, quite derogatorily, “the inmates are running the asylum”. This is not a debate about the right to parole. I am speaking only about improving our present system. If we are to permit an offender to apply for parole there must be some controls and consequences to that offender so that everyone else is not disadvantaged. Offenders who play “silly-bugger” with the process affect the stress and workload of corrections and parole board personnel as well as the lives of their victims. The whole parole process is needlessly skewed by legislation as an attempt to make a minor adjustment to bring that process into balance. Reforming a process is not rocket science. All I am suggesting is that there be some form of a consequence to the offender who initiates the process and then stops it without an acceptable reason.

My amendment would permit withdrawal for “illness, mental or physical capacity” and that is for causes beyond the offender's control. All we are doing is holding the offender to account. Withdrawal without proper excuse would have a consequence. Reapplication would not be permitted for two years.

Some critics have looked at this legislation with a typical jaundiced view just because a member of the Canadian Alliance is proposing it. They have challenged the bill over who will decide whether there is a valid excuse for the withdrawal of the application. The legislation leaves that determination to the parole board. They are the experts on parole hearings. They can decide this simply aspect. The offender of course will have the power to appeal any decision of the board.

The legislation is not a partisan attack on the parole process. It is merely an attempt to bring some common sense to a problem. We have offenders who apply for parole, withdraw the application anywhere down the timeline up to the last moment without having to give a reason, and then reapply almost immediately without any consequence.

I will move to some real examples of what has been occurring under the current provisions of this process.

Donald Alexander Hay kidnapped, raped and tortured 12 year old Abby Drover and held her in an underground dungeon for six months. In November 1997 he withdrew his parole application after a public outcry over his possible release. In March 1998 he reapplied. It does not take much to appreciate how much he has been able to further emotionally traumatize Abby Drover and her family when this situation occurs every few months. There must be something to cause such a situation to be decided one way or the other or at least be put on hold for a set period of time. It cannot be left entirely in his hands to decide when and how often he can wreak emotional turmoil on others. It cannot remain completely in his hands to cause needless work for the authorities when he unilaterally and without consequence withdraws from the process.

Ali Rasai, in Edmonton, sexually assaulted Holly Desimone. In 1998 she travelled to Winnipeg for his parole hearing with the help of a stranger who donated enough air miles for the trip. In August 1999 Holly once again had to travel for another scheduled hearing. He was denied parole each time. Another hearing was to take place in July 2000 and Holly was once again being forced to make plans to attend to say her peace.

I know the government is most anxious to get offenders back on the streets in order to reduce incarceration costs. However, not only was Holly horrendously damaged by Rasai, she was being forced to become inextricably intertwined with her abuser almost constantly over the past few years. She became a puppet on a string being held and controlled by someone as devious and unfit to be a part of society as Ali Rasai. I should tell listeners that Rasai is a former bodyguard for the shah of Iran and was convicted of raping three Alberta women, including Holly. He is a martial arts expert who entered Canada as a refugee and then has treated his adopted home in this manner.

By the way, the July 2000 hearing was postponed to August and then Rasai backed out once again. Surely there is something desperately wrong with the process.

Then there is a much more public case of Robert Thompson. He murdered Brenda Fitzgerald in 1983 while he was out of prison on a work pass. Brenda's mother, Helen Leadley, has become another puppet on a string. She has been forced to spend time and money to travel from Calgary to Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick to attend the hearings that Thompson cancels at the last minute. Helen Leadley has stated:

I've spent a lot of money going to these parole hearings, plus sometimes as soon as you get there, they're cancelled.

She estimates that she spent at least $3,000 attending Thompson's parole hearings in the maritimes. She further states:

And it's not only the money, it's the emotional stress involved around this in trying to fight to keep him in prison.

I do not wish to leave the wrong impression that Helen Leadley voluntarily has taken on this grudge match against the interests of Robert Thompson. There is a much more societal interest in this case.

As I said, Thompson committed the murder while he was already serving time for other offences. He has continued to issue threats to the victim's family from the prison. He once took a nurse hostage and stabbed two corrections officers during his time behind bars. In short, he is not a nice guy but we still permit him to exercise almost total control over the parole process.

The Minister of Justice announced in August of last year that the government would allocate $25 million to help victims of crime. The vast majority of that money is targeted toward research, consultation and public awareness of victims' rights. Some will go to emergency and other programs to help victims over the next years.

As we have seen from many government financed programs, $25 million sounds great when it is first announced but when we consider $5 million per year will get divided among 10 provinces and three territories, we soon realize that the money is not all that significant. Then we have to fund the administration of the programs with that money. It is difficult to see any funding support being available to victims to travel to parole hearings. Besides, as Helen Leadley has said, it is not just the money, it is the emotional turmoil that is hard to overcome.

The bill is not votable. I would appreciate the support of all members to pressure the government into bringing forth this proposal as it is long overdue. The minister is often fond of talking about balance within justice. My suggestions will bring balance and accountability to the parole process. I am only trying to bring fairness to all participants, including the administration. These amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act will improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of a tiny but significant portion of the parole process.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

February 6th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-233, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (withdrawal of applications for full parole by offenders serving two or more years).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lethbridge for seconding this bill that would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The present act not only permits offenders to make application for parole but allows them to withdraw their application at any time with little, if any, repercussion.

My amendments attempt to protect the taxpayer and the victims. Unless there are reasonable and valid grounds for withdrawal by the offender, the reapplication would be delayed for two years.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)