Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Kings--Hants for his comments. It occurs to me that he is the only member in the House who has spoken, other than my colleague from Crowfoot, who actually read and was aware of the content of the motion.
The motion basically asks for a public independent inquiry. I may differ with the Bloc member and with the Liberal member but I will express my point of view, as have many other people. As the Progressive Conservative member just pointed out, there is a lot of anecdotal stuff out there and it is growing. There is some statistical stuff and so on. We get all this information on the table and see where it goes from there.
I want to touch on a couple of other things, particularly with respect to the police association's campaign that is going on now. The whole issue of the treatment of prisoners is also a serious concern and it is where the club fed rhetoric came from. There is a growing dissatisfaction with the luxurious living standards that many prisoners now enjoy. That kind of easy living is now being enjoyed by violent offenders as well as less dangerous criminals.
I want to be clear that I believe convicts are human beings and should be treated as such. Their dignity and capabilities should be nurtured and strengthened even while in prison to increase their chances of successful reintegration into society after being released. That idea should be basic to the correctional system's commitment to public safety.
However, at the same time, and this must be the priority, historically and long held, criminals must also face and feel serious consequences. We can call it punishment if we want, which is all right by me, but they must feel that. Simply putting a prisoner behind bars is not sufficient to get the message across that the person has committed a terrible act that society considers unacceptable. Just being behind bars does not do that.
Other consequences must also exist, including most obviously the deprivation of the pleasures of life. I do not believe Canadians are particularly impressed with giving prisoners, including murderers and rapists, access to golf courses, big screen televisions, fishing and horse stables. I am quite sure that most Canadians would not consider appropriate the availability of pornography, easy access to drugs and the facilitation of sexual liaisons as priorities for prisoners.
Real rehabilitation involves character development and skills training, teaching convicts to accept responsibility for their actions, helping them to develop a mentality that enables them to share the values of the majority of the Canadian citizenry out there as to what is and what is not acceptable behaviour, and of course, very importantly, making them employable.
Instead, the priority of Correctional Service Canada seems to be that of making prisoners feel good, to boost their self-esteem but going about it in a backward way. Prisoners can develop good character and become employable. I have had contact through prison ministries and so on with people like that. I am convinced that self-esteem is a byproduct of those other attributes that are developed and built into an individual. We do not create self-esteem directly. We create it with other kinds of conditions where the byproduct is self-esteem.
If Correctional Service Canada would focus on the important issues and frame its rehabilitation policy accordingly, self-esteem would follow. It is a natural corollary of that, and Correctional Service Canada would have a better track record than it does today.
I should also make mention of the whole issue of sentencing as time moves along. I have introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-467, that would make amendments in that direction. It would require that any person found guilty of an indictable offence committed while out on conditional release must serve the remainder of the original sentence and at least two-thirds of the new sentence. The member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough introduced a similar bill and it has come up from time to time.
The issue of concurrent sentences needs to be examined and looked at seriously. The Canadian Police Association recommends that offenders who commit more than one murder or serious sexual assault should receive consecutive parole ineligibility periods. The faint hope clause needs to be looked at. According to the National Parole Board, 80% of offenders making application under this clause have been successful. Mechanisms like the faint hope clause revictimize the families of slain people and therefore I think are unacceptable in a modern corrections model.
The sentencing system also needs to make real room for the role of the victims and the inclusion of victim impact statements. In some small ways attempts have been made at that, but not in a serious way. That must be done as victims deserve better. They need to be provided with victim impact statements and know that they would be used. Victim impact statements would be on file and may help in the rehabilitation of convicts if they are willing to be a part of that. Victims should be able to receive closure by knowing that the one convicted for causing them harm is being punished effectively.
I and other members of the Canadian Alliance are supportive of restorative justice if it is not premised on a soft on crime philosophy--