International Transfer of Offenders Act

An Act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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.

Message from the SenateThe Royal Assent

May 14th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 13, 2004

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of May, 2004 at 6:56 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck,

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act--Chapter No. 18; Bill C-20, an act to change the names of certain electoral districts--Chapter 19; Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act--Chapter 20; Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences--Chapter 21; Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004--Chapter 22; and Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa)--Chapter 23.

I also have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 13, 2004

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of May, 2004 at 9:10 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act--Chapter 24.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 27th, 2004 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-15.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 4 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but does he have a question or comment on Bill C-15?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Let us try to keep some relevance to Bill C-15, please.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading of the government's initiative to update the Transfer of Offenders Act.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as it then was, after diligent and detailed consideration as has been pointed out by previous speakers, has returned Bill C-33 for the House's final consideration. These legislative proposals have since been reinstated as Bill C-15. I agree with previous speakers who have noted that there is nothing in the legislation that might delay the passage of the bill.

Bill C-15 is an important and necessary piece of legislation in which we take great pride in helping to fashion it into a final product that will become law. As the name implies, the force of the legislation will be felt far beyond Canada's borders. It provides the international community with yet another example of Canada's progressive criminal justice system which combines the best aspects of correctional practices and the implementation of the law. Bill C-15 would do so by balancing the need on one hand for fair and humane treatment of offenders with on the other hand the need to respect the systems and philosophies of other countries.

The proposed bill maintains most of the purposes and principles of the Transfer of Offenders Act as it was proclaimed back in 1978. However, it should not be surprising to any members that a 25 year old law might well be due for some important changes.

At the outset, I would like to answer a number of questions raised during committee proceedings and asked by hon. members opposite.

The government has been asked if the amendments to the Transfer of Offenders Act violate in any way Canada's sovereignty or bring into disrepute the administration of Canada's justice system. The answer is in the negative. They do not. As a matter of fact, most states wish to cooperate with one another within the parameters of criminal justice. All states prohibit certain conduct and attempt to deter it through the enforcement of criminal laws and penalties.

Modern technology and the ability to travel very quickly have increased the opportunities for the commission of crimes in countries other than one's own. Numerous examples of that have occurred in the last few weeks.

States have a common interest in working together to prevent and respond to criminal conduct that transgresses and transcends those boundaries. Such cooperation actually protects the sovereignty of states by preventing offenders from escaping the justice systems. This is exactly what the transfer of offenders scheme allows states to do by allowing for the transfer of offenders and the enforcement of the foreign sentence by the receiving state.

One of my colleagues has described how the bill deals with differences in the severity of sentences. In brief, if a foreign sentence by its nature or duration is incompatible with the law of Canada, the sentence must be adapted to the sentence prescribed by Canadian law for a similar offence. For example, a foreign court may hand down a custodial sentence of 10 years for common assault. In order to be enforced here in Canada, the foreign sentence would be adapted to the maximum custodial sentence of five years for assault provided by the Criminal Code of Canada. Bill C-15 would reflect the standard treaty of provision of adaptation of foreign sentences to meet the parameters of Canadian legal requirements.

Finally, how will Canada deal with a different system of offences where the offence is not recognized under Canadian law? The answer is somewhat technical.

Bill C-15 sets out what is known as the rule of dual criminality. This rule is satisfied when an act is criminal in one state and has the same general qualification in another. This is a rule of customary international law and a requirement of most treaties signed by Canada, because the enforcement of a foreign sanction for an offence that does not exist in Canada, such as adultery, could violate essential constitutional principles or even contravene protected fundamental human rights. Bill C-15 sets out the concept and principles of dual criminality as a condition of transfer.

Having said that, Bill C-15 provides that the rule of dual criminality does not apply to the transfer of children. That was the intent of the question that I asked the previous speaker. Although a child may have been convicted of an offence for which there is no equivalent in Canada, this will not preclude his or her transfer to Canada.

Let me add that Bill C-15 provides that children are not incarcerated when they are transferred to Canada. They are remitted to their legal guardian and the child welfare system will provide the framework within which their particular needs will be met.

Providing necessary continuity, the new international transfer of offenders act will continue to provide for the implementation of treaties with other countries for the international transfer of offenders.

The purpose of the act and the treaties signed between Canada and foreign states could be generally described as essentially humanitarian. Canadians convicted and detained abroad in difficult conditions may be allowed to serve their sentences at home and foreign nationals may be returned to their home country. In the case of returning Canadians, the treaties promote public protection, as offenders are allowed to serve their sentences in Canada and to be gradually released into the community according to the legal restrictions that are applied through the criminal justice system. Otherwise they would simply be deported from the country where they were convicted of an offence, however serious, at the end of their sentences and would arrive in Canada with no controls being put upon them whatsoever.

At the same time, as has been mentioned, the treaties in all cases respect foreign sentences. Countries that send offenders back to Canada are assured that the sentences determined by their courts will be enforced by the Canadian criminal justice system. Let us make it clear that offenders who are returned to Canadian institutions will not be coddled. Other nations recognize this and agree with the condition that will be imposed and implemented through this treaty, that the terms of transfer before the offender is moved will be agreed upon.

The Transfer of Offenders Act as it stands continues to serve useful purposes. We are here today to bring it up to date. The world has changed; to say that would be an understatement. The style and content of international treaties must change to keep up with these circumstances.

There are the obvious changes brought about by the birth of new nations and the rebirth of others. We need only look today at the expansion of the European Union by 10 nations to know that the map of the world is in a state of change itself. Many of these are also nations that have become independent of former allegiances, thereby growing more attuned to democracy and a concern for human rights.

These countries have a need to express these transformations internationally. What better way to extend our hands across cultural divides than by getting together to negotiate meaningful treaties, in particular within the criminal justice realities that we all face. This is the essence of international co-operation. I would suggest that within the context of international terror and the deportation of it, those are the kinds of treaties and relationships that we should be building upon.

In the process we learn from each other and forge new bonds of international understanding and co-operation. In this regard I might mention that the very first country with which Canada negotiated a treaty to transfer offenders was of course our friend and ally to the south. This treaty, dating back 25 years, with the United States is but another example of how the policies and programs with our American neighbours coincide with our own.

Since the act's proclamation in 1978, only technical amendments have been made to it, although more substantive issues have been identified. These issues have been brought forward with a broad range of interested parties since a consultation document was released in 1997. We have been developing in a very progressive way the stages and steps,and meeting different thresholds in the evolution of this legislation.

The wide ranging consultation identified what amendments would be advisable and necessary. This exercise has been followed by an exhaustive drafting exercise during which expert officials have identified what changes are possible given Canadian and international law.

As was outlined when Bill C-15 was introduced, central clauses of the amended act will set out the purposes and principles of the legislation. This may seem to be an obvious consideration in the formulation of a statute but a cursory survey of existing laws soon indicates otherwise.

An outstanding example of a statement of principles and purposes may be found in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as passed by Parliament in 1992. These important clauses have been invaluable as a guide for correctional practitioners. Having the force of law, they cannot be easily modified or tampered with and therefore they set a precedent of consistency in the administration of sentences.

In this age of mission statements and similar corporate commitments, one can easily recognize the importance of clear and steady guidance for those who must work within the confines and spirit of an act established to carry out the will of Parliament.

An equally modern aspect of these legislative proposals is that measure requiring a new level of information sharing between government authorities and offenders. Simply put, Canadian officials will be obligated to inform a foreign citizen under its jurisdiction of the existence and substance of an international transfer treaty between Canada and the country of citizenship, a function that our Department of Foreign Affairs carries out with regard to Canadians convicted abroad. While the duty is routinely discharged, the added force of law will formalize the practice to the satisfaction of those signing treaties with Canada.

Another new provision will make it possible for a foreign offender in Canada to reverse his or her application for transfer at any time before the physical transfer takes place. This important change would accommodate the rare occurrence where circumstances in the offender's home country change negatively in the period between application and the actual transfer.

The last specific point I would like to mention may prove to be the most important. This entails the new provisions to extend certain aspects of the transfer of offenders scheme to nations that have not yet joined the family of countries that currently have treaties with Canada for the transfer of offenders. One can see that circumstances might arise where such an accommodation would be essential to the well-being of a Canadian incarcerated abroad.

There are other aspects of Bill C-15 to explore but I will leave those to my hon. colleagues and, in due course, to the consideration of those in the other place. I urge them all to join in the passage of these necessary measures. I urge all members of the House to support the bill and send it on to be scrutinized and passed in the other place.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the government to speak to Bill C-15. As we all know, the bill was reinstated after the House resumed, having been thoroughly reviewed by the justice committee when it was Bill C-33. The fact that we are debating final reading so soon after the deliberations of the committee speaks volumes about both the work of the committee--and I compliment members from all parties on the work they did on this bill--and the importance of the piece of legislation in front of the House.

The bill before the House repeals the current Transfer of Offenders Act, which was passed in 1978 and really has had fairly minor technical amendments since then. It replaces that act with an enhanced and modernized version that reflects international developments since the original piece of legislation was passed.

Legislative initiatives such as those contained in Bill C-15 form an important part of the work of Parliament. This bill is a good example of the effective modernizing of an existing scheme in order that it remain true to its objectives and current world developments.

As I said, Bill C-15 updates the original Transfer of Offenders Act in accordance with its basic principles and guarantees that the legislation in this area continues to meet its public safety and humanitarian objectives. These are achieved through cooperation with other nations. In fact, the concept of transfer of offender legislation and international treaties originated in discussions held at a United Nations meeting attended by many of our global neighbours.

At that time, it was agreed that it was necessary to create a system for the international transfer of offenders so that individuals convicted of a crime in a foreign state could, under specified circumstances, be allowed to serve their sentence in their home country. This has ramifications both for the convicted offender and for family and friends here in Canada, about which I will speak more later.

The Transfer of Offenders Act that created the framework implemented specific treaties which set out the circumstances in which offenders may be returned to their home country to serve their sentences. The legislation operates so that foreign offenders who are convicted in Canada also do not escape justice, as might be the case if they were simply deported from this country.

Since the present version of the act was enacted nearly 30 years ago, Canada has ratified treaties and conventions that allow transfers between us and over 40 countries, including, among others, the United States, Mexico, France and Egypt. In accordance with these arrangements, approximately 85 offenders are transferred to Canada each and every year. Ensuring that the legislation governing the transfer of offenders is modernized is vital if we wish other countries to sign treaties with us so that they can be used when the situation warrants.

Transfer of offenders legislation accomplishes several valuable purposes. The legislation makes contributions to public safety, a priority of the government, and this objective is met by a number of means. First of all, it is commonly recognized that the existence of a support system for offenders serving a sentence, a support system of family and friends, is a factor in the rehabilitation of offenders and their eventual reintegration into society. As for allowing Canadian offenders to serve their sentence in Canada with that kind of a support network, allowing them to maintain contact with family and friends, the research has shown us that the positive effect is less recidivism, less returning to a life of crime.

In addition, the legislation enhances public safety by virtue of the fact that an offender who is returned to Canada is then exposed to our correctional system's rehabilitative and other programs, including the processes for the gradual and controlled reintegration of returned offenders into society under supervision.This might not be the case if they served their sentence in another country and then returned to Canada.

Another aspect, however, is that it serves an essential humanitarian role. I would not for a moment question that those found guilty of crimes in other countries should be subject to punishment according to the laws of the country in which the illegal acts were committed. However, it must be recognized that situations exist where a foreign sentence and the associated foreign standards of justice and conditions of confinement might very well result in the imposition of severe hardship on Canadians when those conditions are compared to our North American standards.

For instance, hardships suffered by Canadians are generally seen to be the result of cultural and language differences. That can lead to Canadians being subjected to severe psychological stress brought about by language isolation, an unfamiliar legal system, and different lifestyle, health care, religion and diet.

Finally, on the compassionate front, it is important that we not ignore the distress and anguish suffered by family members and friends of Canadians held abroad, even though they, as family and friends, are totally innocent of any wrongdoing. For example, it is often the case that travelling to visit an imprisoned loved one and obtaining legal representation on their behalf can involve prohibitive financial costs. There are also cases where family and friends feel obligated to provide considerable sums of money to ensure that the prisoner receives basic nutrition, for instance, and medical services and other necessities of life. The hardship suffered by an offender's family and friends may also be aggravated by their lack of familiarity with the foreign legal system, culture and language.

Although the Canadian diplomatic corps strives to do its utmost to ease the difficulties associated with being under sentence in foreign countries, one must acknowledge that there are real and substantial limits to what they can do, to the role they can play abroad. Generally speaking, the role of the consulate does not go beyond efforts to ensure that the offender's rights under the domestic law of the country where the offender is being held are respected, to assist in retention of legal representation, and to endeavour to facilitate family contact.

It should go without saying that the government continues to encourage all citizens to observe the laws, regardless of what country they happen to find themselves in, and at the same time continues to be responsive to the circumstances of Canadians sentenced abroad and their families back home. Therefore, the international transfer of offenders accomplishes both the objective of reducing both recidivism, or the return to crime, and the objective of reducing the hardship suffered by Canadians in other countries and by those persons who wish to provide support to the person serving the sentence and assist in their ultimate rehabilitation.

This bill contains amendments that meet several vital objectives. I said that things have developed internationally and, in order to ensure that countries will continue to enter into treaties with us, we need to update our legislation substantially. The bill adds several legally essential treaty obligations and principles such as the non-aggravation of the sentence by the receiving state. In other words, a prisoner who returns to Canada should not be subject to a lesser sentence than he or she would have received or in fact was given in the country where they were tried and convicted.

The bill also extends the eligibility criteria to include Canadians who are not currently eligible for transfers, such as young persons on probation, children, and persons with mental disorders. It clarifies the provisions related to the decision making process by such measures as requiring provincial consent for the transfer of offenders within provincial jurisdiction, and I should say here that the provisions in the bill that affect the provinces and territories have been accepted by the provinces and territories of Canada.

The bill also aligns the sentence calculation provisions with other legislation to ensure the equitable treatment of transferred offenders and to ensure that Canada takes appropriate action where the foreign state grants relief in respect of the offender's foreign sentence.

Finally, it adds provisions enabling the negotiation of administrative arrangements on a case by case basis to extend the act's humanitarian objectives to offenders held in harsh conditions in foreign states with which Canada does not have a treaty, or is negotiating but has not yet concluded a treaty, or in foreign entities which are not yet recognized as states. For instance, Canadians incarcerated in jurisdictions such as Hong Kong or Taiwan cannot be repatriated to serve their sentence at this time because the current legislation does not authorize arrangements for the transfer of offenders to be negotiated with countries that are not legally recognized states.

I ask members of the House to support the passage of Bill C-15 so that Canada can have the ability to be responsive to international developments in this area and so that we can move forward in the spirit of international cooperation.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak in support of Bill C-15, which is the international transfer of offenders act.

The amendments introduced in Bill C-15 would modernize the Transfer of Offenders Act to reflect the many changes that have occurred since this legislation was proclaimed in 1978.

The provisions contained in Bill C-15 would allow Canada to negotiate the transfer of offenders in a manner consistent with current international standards and would provide a mechanism for cooperation in criminal justice matters.

To elaborate, the Transfer of Offenders Act allows Canada to implement treaties with other countries for the transfer of offenders. Under the terms of these treaties, Canadians convicted and sentenced in a foreign jurisdiction would be allowed to serve the remainder of their sentences in Canada. Similarly, foreign nationals convicted and sentenced for crimes committed in Canada would be permitted to return to their home country and to serve the remainder of their sentence there.

I should make it clear that the terms of the act would apply only to individuals actually convicted of a criminal offence and would not apply to individuals held in remand or detention, awaiting trial or appeal. In addition, I would like to note that transfers, pursuant to the Transfer of Offenders Act, require the full consent of the offender, as well as the receiving and the sending state. Without the full consent of all parties, an international transfer cannot proceed.

Some might wonder why we should occupy ourselves with the plight of Canadians who find themselves incarcerated in a foreign jurisdiction. Why not let them stay there and do their time? Why not let the experience be a lesson to them and a warning to others who might be considering criminal activities while abroad?

To those who would respond in this way, I would draw attention to two interrelated objectives of the transfer of offenders act, namely, public safety and the humane treatment of offenders. These objectives, which derive from Canadian criminal justice policy, recognize that the vast majority of offenders will eventually be released back into the community and that the best way of ensuring public safety, in the long term, is to prepare them for their eventual return to society as law-abiding citizens.

I am well aware that there are some who would challenge the notion that Canada's approach to criminal justice generally, and corrections specifically, is effective in protecting Canadians from crime.

To those who take this view, I would point to public records showing a steady decline in crime rates across most of Canada. At the same time, I would invite critics of Canada's criminal justice policy to examine the impressive success rates of offenders released from our penitentiaries while under supervision. These results are a product of sound, evidence based policies and programs for the treatment of offenders, and clearly they work. The Transfer of Offenders Act ensures that Canadians sentenced abroad and who elect to return to Canada while under sentence will be managed in accordance with the policies and programs proven to reduce the long term risk to the Canadian public.

During the debate on Bill C-15, we have become aware of the issues facing Canadians sentenced abroad, often under difficult conditions. I am referring specifically to factors relating to sanitation, health care and nutrition. I am also referring to the added burden associated with the differences in culture and language and to the hardship of being far removed from friends and family. The Transfer of Offenders Act responds to these humanitarian considerations while protecting public safety by addressing the offender's criminogenic factors before sentence expiry.

Let us be clear. The Transfer of Offenders Act is not based on some well-intentioned but misguided humanitarian notion. The realities are that Canadian offenders sentenced abroad would in all probability be deported back to Canada following the end of their sentence without any supervision and lacking the benefit of rehabilitation programs.

The treaties enabled by the Transfer of Offenders Act do not allow offenders to somehow evade justice. These treaties allowed by the act stipulate that the receiving state shall neither interfere with the finding of guilt nor lessen the sentence handed down by the sentencing state.

At the outset, I noted that the Transfer of Offenders Act dates from 1978, which is some time ago. Principles of good governance require that legislation be reviewed from time to time in order to evaluate its continuing relevancy and effectiveness. Consequently, the Transfer of Offenders Act was the subject of broad consultation, which included over 90 private and public sector agencies.

Pursuant to this review, there was strong support for the Transfer of Offenders Act. However, the consultations also revealed that the act could benefit from some amendments, which are included in Bill C-15.

The amendments introduced in Bill C-15 can be placed in one of three categories. First are amendments that reflect the traditional treaty principles that have developed over time. Second are those that address the gaps in the Transfer of Offenders Act. Finally, the last category of amendments contains the proposals that would contribute efficiencies to the current process.

Allow me to cover the main points covered by these reforms in Bill C-15. First, the purpose and the guiding principles of the act are identified. This is an important feature of modern legislation. It helps promote consistency within Canada's body of criminal law, namely, the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Specifically, the purpose of the proposed new international transfer of offenders act is:

to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

Next, the international treaty obligations and principles considered legally essential are included. These principles include those that ensure offenders have access to processes consistent with natural justice and due process. Enshrinement in the act of legally sound principles is necessary to ensure that the courts do not strike down the transfer process that could result in the unsupervised release of an offender into the community.

Eligibility criteria have been broadened to permit an increased range of Canadians to be transferred. Presently, young persons under probation, children, and mentally disordered persons are ineligible for transfer under the Transfer of Offenders Act. Amendments introduced in Bill C-15 would make these individuals eligible for transfer. This proposed amendment is in line with the humanitarian objectives of the new international transfer of offenders act.

Clarification on the decision making provisions has been included where provincial consent is required for the transfer of offenders on probation, provincial parole and provincial temporary absence and for offenders under a conditional or an intermittent sentence. Also, updated provisions are included, which will result in the consistent and equitable sentence calculation for transferred offenders and will ensure the equitable treatment of transferred offenders when a pardon is granted or when a conviction or sentence is set aside or modified.

As well, reforms have been introduced to allow the negotiation of transfers on a case by case, ad hoc basis between Canada and states with which Canada has no treaty or jurisdictions, or territories that are not yet recognized as states, or other entities such as Hong Kong or Macao. I would just note that in light of today's rapidly changing political landscape, this is a particularly relevant feature.

There are other primarily technical amendments introduced in Bill C-15, which will strengthen the provisions of the current Transfer of Offenders Act, but time does not permit me to elaborate on them.

However, there is one last point related to the reforms introduced by Bill C-15. Most states are convinced in today's global climate of the need to work multilaterally and bilaterally to address criminal conduct in a way that is in harmony with longstanding principles of territoriality.

In the absence of an instrument to enforce foreign laws, crime could be encouraged rather than prevented. By working together with others through the transfer agreements enabled by the new international transfer of offenders act, Canada will have the flexibility to work with a broad range of countries and other entities in matters of criminal justice in a way that would lead to public protection through the safe and gradual reintegration of offenders into society.

In conclusion, let me say that Bill C-15 builds on a proven and effective correctional policy, a policy that delivers public safety by treating offenders fairly and humanely during their period of incarceration and by preparing them for their eventual safe reintegration into society. As such, the reforms introduced through Bill C-15 demonstrate Canada's enduring commitment to maintaining public safety and a willingness to work cooperatively with our global partners on criminal justice issues.

Finally, I would like to thank the members of the standing committee for their perseverance and responsiveness in the examination of Bill C-15 throughout their deliberations and for presenting a bill that is worthy of support within the House.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate my support of Bill C-15, the International Transfer of Offenders Act. The amendments it contains will modernize the legislation in order to reflect the numerous changes that have taken place since it was enacted back in 1978.

The provisions of Bill C-15 will allow Canada to negotiate the transfer of offenders in a manner consistent with current international standards, and will provide a mechanism for cooperation in criminal justice cases.

In short, the International Transfer of Offenders Act will enable Canada to enter into treaties with other countries for the transfer of offenders. Under the terms of such treaties, Canadian citizens convicted and sentenced in another country may serve the rest of their sentence in Canada, while foreign nationals convicted and sentenced for crimes in Canada could return to their country of origin to finish serving their sentence.

I must point out that the provisions of the International Transfer of Offenders Act would apply only to those persons actually convicted of a criminal offence, and not to those in preventive detention awaiting trial or appeal.

As well, I should point out that transfers under this act would require the full consent of the offender, as well as that of the receiving state and the sending state. Without the full consent of those three parties, an international transfer cannot proceed.

Some people may wonder why we ought to be concerned about Canadian citizens who are incarcerated in a foreign jurisdiction. Why not leave them there to serve their sentence? Why not let them learn a lesson from their experience, and serve as a warning to others tempted to commit crimes while abroad?

To answer that, I would draw attention to two interdependent objectives of the International Transfer of Offenders Act: the humane treatment of offenders and public safety. The purpose of these objectives is to ensure the human rights of the incarcerated offender, as well as to confirm the concepts behind Canada's criminal justice policy.

These objectives recognize that the vast majority of offenders will eventually be released back into the community and that the best way of ensuring public safety, in the long term, is to prepare them for their eventual return to society as law-abiding citizens. I am well aware that there are some who would challenge the notion that Canada's approach to criminal justice, generally, and corrections, specifically, is effective in protecting Canadians from crime.

In this regard, I would point to public records showing a steady decline in crime rates across most of Canada. In addition, the success rates of offenders released from our penitentiaries while under supervision are available and speak very positively for themselves.

The International Transfer of Offenders Act would ensure that Canadians who are sentenced abroad and who elect to return to Canada while under sentence would be managed in accordance with the policies and programs proven to reduce the long term risk to the Canadian public.

During the debate on Bill C-15, we have become aware of the issues facing Canadians sentenced abroad, often under difficult conditions. I am referring specifically to factors relating to human rights, sanitation, health care and nutrition.

I am also referring to the added burden associated with the differences in culture and language and to the hardship of being far removed from friends and family. The International Transfer of Offenders Act would take into account these humanitarian considerations, while also protecting public safety by addressing the offenders' criminogenic factors before sentence expiry.

Nevertheless, we must be very clear. The International Transfer of Offenders Act is not based solely on humanitarian intentions. The treaties enabled by this act do not allow offenders to somehow evade justice. These treaties stipulate that the receiving state shall neither interfere with the finding of guilt nor lessen the sentence handed down by the sentencing state.

I noted earlier that the Transfer of Offenders Act dates from 1978, which is some time ago. Principles of good governance require that legislation be reviewed from time to time in order to evaluate its continuing relevancy and effectiveness.

Consequently, the Transfer of Offenders Act was the subject of broad consultation, which included over 90 private and public sector agencies. This consultation revealed strong support for the Transfer of Offenders Act. However, the consultations also revealed that the act could benefit from some amendments, which are included in Bill C-15.

The amendments introduced in Bill C-15 can be placed in one of three categories. The first type are amendments that reflect the traditional treaty principles that have developed over time. The second, are those that address the gaps in the Transfer of Offenders Act. Finally, the last category of amendments contains the proposals that would contribute efficiencies to the current process.

I would now like to cover the main points covered by these reforms in Bill C-15.

First, the purpose and guiding principles of the act are identified. This is an important feature of modern legislation, and it helps promote consistency within Canada's body of criminal law, namely the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Specifically, the purpose of the new international transfer of offenders act is to, and I quote,“contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals”.

Second, the international treaty obligations and principles considered legally essential are included. These principles include those that ensure offenders have access to processes consistent with natural justice and due process. Enshrinement in the act of legally sound principles is necessary to ensure that the courts do not strike down the transfer process that could result in the unsupervised release of an offender into the community.

Third, eligibility criteria have been broadened to permit an increased range of Canadians to be transferred. Presently, young persons under probation, children, and mentally disordered persons are ineligible for transfer under the Transfer of Offenders Act. Amendments introduced in Bill C-15 would make these individuals eligible for transfer. This proposed amendment is in line with the humanitarian objectives of the new international transfer of offenders act.

Fourth, clarification on the decision-making provisions have been included where provincial consent is required for the transfer of offenders on probation, provincial parole, provincial temporary absence and for offenders under a conditional or an intermittent sentence.

Fifth, updated provisions are included that would result in the consistent and equitable sentence calculation for transferred offenders and would ensure the equitable treatment of transferred offenders when a pardon is granted or when a conviction or sentence is set aside or modified.

Sixth, reforms have been introduced to allow the negotiation of transfers on a case by case ad hoc basis between Canada and states with which Canada has no treaty or jurisdictions, or territories that are not yet recognized as a state, or other entities such as Hong Kong or Macao. In light of today's rapidly changing political landscape, this is a particularly relevant feature.

There is one last point related to the reforms introduced by Bill C-15. Most states are convinced in today's global climate of the need to work multilaterally and bilaterally to address criminal conduct in a way that is in harmony with longstanding principles of territoriality.In the absence of an instrument to enforce foreign laws, crime could be encouraged rather than prevented.

By working together through the transfer agreements enabled by the new International Transfer of Offenders Act, Canada would have the flexibility to work with a broad range of countries and other entities in matters of criminal justice in a way that would lead to public protection through the safe and gradual reintegration of offenders into society.

In conclusion, and for all the reasons I mentioned here, I ask my colleagues from all parties in this House to fully support this legislation.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to add some input as a non-lawyer on Bill C-15. Members will know that the bill was reintroduced in this session of Parliament from the second session of the 37th Parliament. Formerly it was Bill C-33.

It would be appropriate to remind the House of the purpose of the bill. This enactment repeals and replaces the Transfer of Offenders Act, sets out the principles that govern the international transfer of offenders and authorizes Canada to enter into administrative agreements for international transfers of offenders.

The enactment expands the class of offenders who may be transferred. It expands the class of jurisdictions with which Canada may enter into agreements. It identifies who must consent to a transfer. It sets out how the foreign sentences of transferred young persons are to be enforced in Canada. It clarifies the sentence calculation rules that apply to transferred Canadian offenders and aligns them with those contained in other federal legislation. It also contains transitional provisions and makes consequential amendments to other acts, as is normally the case.

It is interesting that there are very few people who are speaking against the bill. In fact, what is happening is we are having an opportunity to speak about related areas, and that is always a good thing. Members will know that when this bill, formerly Bill C-33, went to the justice committee, it did the appropriate review. The justice committee has a good reputation of being rigorous in its review of legislation. It came back with a report on the bill, Bill C-33, with one amendment to the entire bill after doing a rigorous review.

That amendment was to clause 10 and added one additional clause. I will read that into the record because it touches on an area on which I would like to make a few comments. Clause 10 in the bill as reprinted states:

In determining whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender, the Minister shall consider the following factors--

The first is whether the offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. That is understandable.

The second item is whether the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as his or her place of permanent residence. That is a fairly straightforward criteria.

The third was that the offender has social or family ties in Canada. That obviously is quite relevant.

The last item that was added by the justice committee and is now part of the bill we are debating today is clause 10(1)(d) which states:

--whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights.

All of a sudden the context of human rights has become a matter for consideration. The justice committee agreed that human rights considerations should be taken into account with regard to the transfer.

Members started to talk about cases such as the Maher Arar case in which a Canadian citizen was deported, not to Canada from the United States, but to Syria. It is a very serious situation which occurred. Thankfully, Mr. Arar is now back in Canada and reunited with his family and friends, but very serious questions have arisen with regard to the human rights issues. Members will know that this matter will be before the courts as well. Not being a lawyer, I am not in a position to talk about the elements of the case, but simply from the standpoint of the human rights component which is now incorporated in the bill.

We are in a much different world than we were prior to September 11. There have been an enormous number of changes into how we have looked at our provisions in law, and in fact, the event of September 11, 2001, has spawned a substantial amount of legislation with regard to security and sovereignty issues.

The transport committee visited our counterparts with regard to issues flowing out of September 11. The United States had taken the position that virtually everything that anybody wanted, it was going to put into legislation. It was almost an overreaction and some would question whether or not there was an overreaction which may in fact have lead to not good laws. We say prayers as we start the House each day, that we make good laws and wise decisions.

If we react over the top, as it were, and ask all things that anybody could ever want to increase the safety and security, whether it be of airline travel or border protection et cetera, all of a sudden there are some questions that come to mind. In recent months I had a personal challenge of sorts in terms of my own nomination. During my nomination, one of the issues that came up within the community was in regard to the charter of rights and the human rights provisions provided thereunder, and the need for security concerns to be embraced as well.

We now have a question, when can human rights be discounted somehow by the need to protect the sovereignty or security of a country? I took a very strong position during the last few months. I could not think of an appropriate time when human rights should be somehow discounted or set aside for safety and security reasons. Within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have wonderful protection that Canadians have earned and that all residents enjoy.

The Maher Arar case was a dramatic example of where a person's rights were set aside under the guise of security reasons. I think that most Canadians, and most observers objectively would say, what happened was wrong.

In this particular bill we are talking about something slightly different. We are talking about the transfer of prisoners who are in one jurisdiction, but under certain circumstances could be transferred back to their own jurisdiction, their own home. What are the rules surrounding that?

There are a number of provisions within the bill. I found it interesting that it dealt with a wide range of items including special treatment for young offenders. It dealt with probation and a number of aspects that I would think that Canadians otherwise would not be very familiar with, but the principles still remain fundamentally sound.

In 2003, when Bill C-33 at the time came forward, the Solicitor General of Canada spoke to the bill. I would like to remind the House of a couple of things that the Solicitor General had to say.

He said:

The Transfer of Offenders Act serves an important public protection purpose. Offenders incarcerated in foreign states may be deprived of the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves in the absence of treatment programs in those countries, in the absence of a structured parole system, and in the absence of direct contact with family and friends in their home community. As a result, the chances of long term reintegration of these offenders, and ultimately of better public safety, are greatly reduced. This holds true even when offenders are incarcerated in a country with social standards and customs relatively similar to Canada's.

I thought that was a very interesting statement. I think that I understand and I am quite sympathetic to the reasons why.

But we can also understand how it is very easy for some to say that we are now talking about the best interests of someone who has been convicted of a crime. Members will, and have, in the debates that have occurred before, and again today, talked about victims. There is no question in my mind that the debate surrounding the rights of those convicted, and the rights of victims and families will always be an issue in Canada.

The Solicitor General spoke of rehabilitation. The previous speaker spoke very well about the need to show a rehabilitation balance so that when people are finished their sentence, they can reintegrate into society.

In some cases, where people are emotional about an event, about a crime that occurred, or about a victim's circumstances, it is really easy to say that we should forget about those who committed the crime, put them in jail, throw away the keys and we do not want to see them ever again. That usually tempers itself down and says the sentence is the sentence. Maybe we ought to consider having harsher sentences or longer sentences.

We can start talking about the faint hope clause. We can start talking about other conditional release programs. We can talk about probationary provisions. We can talk about every case where it is clear that the probationary system has let us down.

The expectations of Canadians should be to the highest possible standard. I wonder whether or not in times of emotion, never mind just the public at large, but even members of Parliament can be objective enough to say that our system should not be totally black and white. There has to be some flexibility built into the system. There has to be principles which allow people to rehabilitate themselves so that one day, once they have served their sentence, they can get back into society, and that they stop being a burden on society.

I heard members in this place argue that it costs so much to have someone in jail. This is awful. That is a problem. But the very next debate, we will have someone saying they are not away long enough. So how do we balance this?

The issue or the concept of public good has come up. Unfortunately, even that terminology has been jaundiced somewhat because the concept of the public good has been talked about in legislation dealing with child pornography. Is there a public good which is served by someone being in possession of child pornography? I would say absolutely not.

I have said it in many speeches in this place that the existence of children pornography must necessarily mean that a child has been abused and, therefore, by possessing child pornography, whether one is the creator or the perpetrator of it, one is a participant. Public good gives me some difficulty.

However, we do have a criminal justice system. There are people who do things which are wrong and contrary to our laws, some of them very heinous. We have just had the case of the young girl who was killed by her parents. They were found guilty of killing and dismembering the body of their child. The father has been sentenced to 25 years, without chance of parole. I think the mother has been sentenced to second degree murder, with a 10 or 15 year sentence.

Is it enough? Should those persons ever come out of jail? For some, I am sure that the answer will always be no. They took a life. They should never be able to enjoy what we have here in Canada.

However, what is the humane thing to do with people who commit crimes? For some, it is hard to understand and have compassion for them, other than the fact that they are human beings and as human beings we are all vulnerable. We are all weak by our very nature. We want our sentences to be tough; we want them to be fair, but we also want to deal with the situation about what happens once a sentence is finally discharged.

In the absence of capital punishment, which we do not have here, that means that members are either going to have to argue in favour of capital punishment and let us go that way, and see whether or not there is an appetite in Canada. If not, there must be a justice system which is based on rehabilitation, which acknowledges that people eventually come out of jail and that rehabilitation is better than simply incarcerating them and letting them rot in a cell until their time is done, and then throw them out into society without the tools that prepare them to be able to integrate and be safe themselves, and safe for others to be back in society.

This is a very difficult question. It is a question that I think will always be with us because there will always be heinous crimes. There will always be bad people out there out there who do bad things. However, should our laws continue to be directed at those who commit the most serious of crimes?

I recall that some years ago I gave a speech related to the crime of murder and sentencing. I do not remember the statistics specifically, but the incidents of murder committed by a family member against another family member was very high.

Murder is murder, but now we have to look at what happened and why, and what are the other reasons why things occurred. Those are taken into account by the courts and by the justice system as to what is an appropriate way to handle things.

Sometimes there are circumstances which take some understanding. I do not think very many people in this place have the training that people have in being judges, people who are involved in the parole system, and people who are lawyers and argue these cases and have eminent experience in how to deal with them. However, if we were to put all that wisdom together, I doubt it would be found in any one person in this place.

We acknowledge that. That is why we will be bringing in and discussing points on legislation, just as with this one, which are elements of a much broader picture.

What does our criminal justice system look like? I have looked at some of the debate that occurred back about a year ago, last April. I believe one of the points put forward by the member for Crowfoot when he was talking about clauses 13 and 14, concluded by saying:

--a Canadian citizen can go to another country, commit a crime, for which there could be a much more substantial penalty, and be transferred back home here to serve a much lesser sentence

I suppose technically and mathematically that may be the case where the sentencing provisions in one jurisdiction might be different than another. However, the principle of the law in this bill is that the sentence will be the sentence had the crime been committed within Canada. That is the principle, notwithstanding what the other jurisdiction may have.

Members must keep in mind that it will be very difficult to balance or to understand and equate two systems of justice, how they are arrived at and what the provisions are, whether or not there is any chance of parole, whether there is any chance of rehabilitation, et cetera. The systems are very different. I am sure we could think of many countries where in fact the provisions of the criminal justice system are quite different.

I am confident that the justice committee has done its job with regard to this bill and that there was the one amendment to clause 10(1)(d) that would provide this humanitarian element, which I think has been very appropriate.

Having listened to members, I have been reminded about their concerns and about the criminal justice system generally. However, with regard to the principle of the bill to permit where a sending country, a receiving country and the person who has been convicted of a crime and is serving a sentence all agree that this is an appropriate thing, and takes into account existing treaties, it would probably give us a better opportunity to expand those treaties to other countries where we have Canadians abroad.

I understand others have given the numbers. Generally, from what I have heard, the House believes that the principles are fundamentally sound. For that reason I will also be supporting this bill.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

London West Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I wish to participate in the debate today because it deals with an issue of concern to some of my constituents, thankfully, a small portion of them. I am pleased today to participate in the third reading debate of the government's initiative to update the Transfer of Offenders Act. It has been quite some time since it has been updated.

The parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights gave detailed consideration of the measures, and has returned Bill C-15 to the House for final consideration. I see nothing in the legislation that might delay its passage.

Before proceeding to the specifics of amending the Transfer of Offenders Act, I believe members of the House would indulge me for a brief reflection on the progress of the bill since its introduction.

It is gratifying to see and observe the spirit of cooperation that has brought us to third reading of Bill C-15. I am aware that some hon. colleagues opposite do not feel the same strength about humane treatment where offenders are concerned, but I think the vast majority in the House agree that this is not only right but necessary. However, the broad support of most of my colleagues in this place reflects several factors in relationship to the proposals contained in this legislation. First, there is recognition that the legislation is necessary. Second, the confidence of hon. members in the proposals put forward by the legislation is a fair indicator of the thoroughness of the consultative process that preceded the introduction of Bill C-15.

There is no doubt that all parties, with a stake in this area of criminal justice, were carefully canvassed. The bill reflects a broad range of inputs in numerous sensitive areas in such a way that the approbation of the House and the committee were forthcoming with neither delay nor, I am glad to say, rancorous debate.

I would like to thank the members and the chair of the standing committee for their timely review of the legislation and approval of the bill. This committee has had much business before it. It always has a busy schedule and all of that schedule is important.

There are those who would ask why we should concern ourselves with the circumstances in which offenders serve their sentences in lands foreign to them. I must point out that Canadians who offend abroad and those from foreign lands who are sentenced by Canadian courts are as worthy of humane treatment as are Canadian inmates punished in Canada.

We have laws, policies and practices applicable both at home and abroad that recognize that the deprivation of liberty should be the only penalty for an offence against society. Capital and corporal punishments are things of the past in most democratic countries and we, as Canadians, would support efforts to eliminate physically onerous penalties anywhere in the world.

Offenders come from communities and are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and our extended family. In Canada, almost one in ten citizens has some sort of criminal record. No right thinking individual would maintain that one in ten of his fellow citizens in Canada presents a continuing, serious threat to the community.

I have had parents come to my constituency office, trying to get a child back to Canada to complete a sentence that has been doled out in a foreign jurisdiction. It is a difficult situation, as my hon. colleague pointed out, not just for the offender but also for the extended family who are trying to support that member of their either immediate or extended family.

By the same token, it is not up to us to determine that a Canadian teenager convicted of drug abuse abroad, that might result in a fine in Canada, should serve a sentence of a number of years in an over-crowded jail with adults serving sentences for much more serious offences, and this does happen. Even if it were true that the offender apparently deserved the extent of the foreign sentence, is it up to us to decide that he or she should always serve time in an environment foreign to the individual in all ways, where nutrition, health care and attention to human rights may all be compromised in comparison to the Canadian correctional milieu?

I am not saying that our correctional milieu is without fault. There are some jurisdictions that have quite difficult positions, and I think I am being generous when I say that.

Do the families of our Canadians incarcerated abroad deserve to be deprived of their loved ones and kept in uncertainty as to their condition and whereabouts for the duration of their sentences? It is well known to practitioners in the areas of corrections and conditional release that offenders do far better upon release if they have the support within the community, both during and after their incarceration.

If we leave Canadians abroad for the full term of their sentences, we will welcome them back, untreated and not rehabilitated, as offenders to our own shores inside Canada. It is far better if they are returned to Canadian custody, to the support of their families and communities and eventually to supervised release. I think it is apparent to us that this latter course is a preferable course for our jurisdiction.

I agree that the community at large should be protected from the reoccurrence of criminal activities to the extent possible. The legislation before us contributes to that goal. It will provide the framework by which Canada can continue to treat its citizens humanely while ensuring that they are gradually and safely reintegrated into Canadian society. It is because of initiatives such as the one before us that Canada is a respected leader in criminal justice and corrections in the international community.

As pointed out by others in the House and in deference to those who promote “the law and order approach” above all others, it is recognized that the legislation contains principles that ensure that due deference is shown to the sentences handed down by any of the courts that may be involved. Each country receiving one of its nationals from a foreign correctional system is bound to respect foreign sentence as rendered to the extent that it is compatible with our own legislation. As with all other international agreements, any variance of this practice would soon lead to the disuse of the very mechanisms established by the bill before us.

Some hon. members opposite have asked if the bill is more concerned about offenders than victims. I heard that again this morning. As my colleagues have pointed out, we are considering a bill that is not only designed to implement transfer of offenders treaties, but also to assist in carrying out the correction principles and practices that are known to work.

Some hon. members find these measures unpalatable and that is most unfortunate. What is preferable? Transferring Canadian offenders back to Canada while under sentence so that they can be gradually reintegrated into our society under the supervision of correctional authorities or having a foreign state deport them at the end of sentence to arrive here without any controls? Our research has shown that the control on the offender is helpful to the safer reintegration into society.

I put that this option is by far the most sensible. Once offenders are transferred to Canada, correctional authorities carefully assess their needs and the risk to the public. Those who are eligible and can be safely managed in the community are released under supervision. Offenders, on the other hand, who pose a risk and cannot be managed in the community remain in incarcerated in Canada. This is not coddling offenders. It is realistic, it is appropriate and it is the responsible management of offenders in keeping with sound correctional principles and practices.

It does not make sense to incarcerate offenders beyond the point in the sentence that they can be safely reintegrated into society. In fact research indicates that the extension of imprisonment by itself does not contribute to public safety. Members opposite who favour penalties that would extend incarceration for reasons of deterrence should take heed.

Victims are not excluded from the process. An offender who wishes to leave Canada will have been convicted in open court and held at a penal institution. In both instances it is common for victims to make statements that will henceforth follow the offender as part of his or her record. A victim impact statement may influence sentencing or it may be germane to the administration of an offender's sentence in determining the security level of an offender's custody, for example. Those with an interest in the circumstances of how a foreign offender might be serving his or her sentence can make their view known for the record.

In the case of a Canadian offender wishing to leave a foreign penal system, local laws would prevail. Before the application is processed, we know that the foreign state has consented to the transfer. Presumably, if a mechanism exists for hearing victims' views, the state would factor that input into its decision.

There is nothing in Bill C-15 that would prevent victim participation at either end of the process. It seems to me that victim participation should be considered entirely relevant to the international transfer process, but by the time a transfer to or from Canada could be considered, victim input would have already been on the record. Therefore it is outside the process in this particular bill. I do not want to say that victims are not important in the system. That is not the case.

Although not directly related to the bill before us, it has come to my attention that an hon. member opposite has recently stated in the House that Bill C-16, the sex offender information registration act, does not have a retroactive application. Let me set the record straight. Bill C-16 is retroactive. It provides for inclusion in the federal registry all offenders previously convicted of a prescribed offence who were under sentence as of the date of coming into force of the legislation, as well as offenders registered under the provincial Ontario sex offender registry act. This is what all provinces and territories agreed to and that is what is provided for in Bill C-16. I just wanted to take a moment to clarify that.

In the case of the proposals we have before us today in Bill C-15, the government of the day, in recognizing the importance of implementing change in the area, and quite frankly for modernization since it has been since approximately 1978, proceeded to study options for reform and to present a government bill to the House. This bill proposes simple but comprehensive reform and results from a consensus of those with knowledge in the subject.

The justice committee was fully informed of the balancing of the various interests and alternatives considered before the objectives of the legislation crystallized. They were cognizant of the need to create an act and have acted accordingly. Bill C-15 in my opinion, and I hope in the opinion of many hon. members in the House, clearly promotes public safety by allowing offenders to resume productive lives in their home countries.

Therefore I do urge all hon. members of the House to help with the passage of this necessary and sensible legislation.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I briefly want to speak on this bill entitled the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

Briefly, several questions have been raised about this bill in the House of Commons. For example, a bit earlier today, we heard a member of the Conservative Party of Canada say that, in his view at least, existing legislation on parole is extremely liberal.

In my opinion, that is the wrong approach here. Canadians need to know that the transfer of offenders at the end of their incarceration and their reintegration into society must be subject to supervision and, of course, be done gradually, so that they can then function like any other member of society.

This is not a western where the guy gets out of prison with his belongings strapped to his back, not knowing a soul, and is expected to be fully reintegrated into society and to never make another mistake, because he has already been incarcerated and certainly has no desire to repeat the experience. We all know that real life is more complicated.

When that person leaves, after being incarcerated with other prisoners and knowing little else but the prison system during his years in jail, there has to be a kind of transition into the same kind of life as all those who function in society.

How? It is done, of course, through parole. I want to mention certain statements and say that I disagree with the members opposite who are saying that there should be no more parole. That is ridiculous. I think that the prison system in general must include parole if, in the future, it seeks to rehabilitate individuals, and I hope it does.

Members should ask the question the other way around. We certainly do not want individuals to reoffend. Therefore, if we do not want them to reoffend, obviously, we want to rehabilitate them to ensure they do not act the same way in the future. This is already positive not only for them but also for society, because a crime is clearly a wrong done not to oneself, but to society in general. That is the definition of a crime.

That is why we should have the system we have. Is it perfect? Of course not. It would be ridiculous to say that it is. There is always room for improvement to reintegrate into society those who were offenders in the past and those who are on parole, while at the same time ensuring maximum public safety.

Clearly, this can be quite a difficult balance to maintain in society. Nonetheless, to members opposite who say that offenders commit all sorts of horrible crimes when they are on parole, I would say that first, the members tend to make a lot of unwarranted assertions.

Second, do those members not think that the rate of recidivism, since that is what we are talking about, would be worse if individuals suddenly left the penitentiary system from one day to the next, like the cowboy I described earlier with his backpack, no money and no idea where to go?

If offenders were so ill-prepared to reintegrate into society, then of course they would reoffend, if only to survive.

I am someone who believes that a parole system is essential to public safety. It does not reduce public safety, but can improve it greatly.

Let me get back to the matter at hand, the Transfer of Offenders Act. Some have asked why the Transfer of Offenders Act needs to be amended. The reason is this. Only technical amendments have been made to it since it came into effect in 1978. A quarter century later, there have been no substantive amendments. It goes without saying that, for better or worse, many things have changed in society and in international relations.

We are told that the amendments will provide a far more modern and complete framework for the negotiation of international treaties on offender transfer and the administration of transfers.

The hon. member for Burlington has just been telling us that, for the most part, these offenders come from the United States, that this is the country from which the highest number of offenders are transferred back to Canada. That is fairly normal, given the high number of border crossings between our two countries. Then, of course, there is the geographic proximity for trade, holiday travel and so on. So it is not unusual that the highest number would come from there.

The second country is Mexico, we are told. Once again, this is a favoured holiday destination for many Canadians. It is therefore not unlikely for crimes to be committed there, but I must admit I am surprised to learn that the third-ranking country is Peru. I did not know that were high numbers of Canadians incarcerated in Peru, and that many were repatriated to Canada under existing agreements.

Another question that has been asked on several occasions concerns the nature of the proposed changes.

In-depth consultations have been held and the legislation thoroughly examined. The amendments introduced in Bill C-15 can be placed in one of three categories, which I will list here. The first are amendments that reflect the traditional treaty principles that have developed over time. The second, are those that address the gaps in the Transfer of Offenders Act and are aimed at ensuring uniformity with other legislation. Finally, the last category of amendments contains proposals that would contribute efficiencies to the current process, thereby enabling it to operate as expeditiously and well as possible.

The NDP member who has just spoken has used the case of one Canadian incarcerated in another country as an example. An investigation has been carried out into this specific case, because it would appear that he was mistreated in the prison system of the country in question. On top of that, the individual in question was deported to that country even though he was in transit through the United States when arrested by U.S. authorities. All these are the specific circumstances in this case.

I do not know whether this bill could have improved that individual's situation. The underlying issue still remains, without a doubt.

Canadians want such a system to work well for the largest possible number of individuals wherever, of course, it applies.

There is also another issue. I am sure that a number of Canadians are already wondering whether the bill will help deport or extradite foreign nationals from Canada. Indeed, if a Canadian is incarcerated abroad and everyone agrees that this individual should be brought back to Canada, I am convinced that a number of voters want to know if this also means that the individuals who are imprisoned in Canada and who are citizens of other countries could go back to their country. This situation is already covered by the existing legislation.

The bill before does not have anything to do with deportation and extradition. These are totally distinct processes, which are managed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and by the Department of Justice. They have nothing to do with the bill before us. This bill replaces an existing act, but nothing is changed in this regard.

The bill will implement the treaties signed by Canada and other countries to allow Canadian or foreign nationals who have been found guilty and who are serving a sentence abroad to be transferred and to serve the rest of their sentence in their country of origin. The legislation applies to such cases, where people are incarcerated, but has nothing to do with deportation or extradition.

People wondered how many Canadians are being detained in jails abroad and would be eligible for a transfer to Canada under this legislation. I must say that I am always stunned by these figures because, as Canadians, it is hard to imagine that a large number of our fellow citizens are in imprisoned abroad.

As parliamentarians, we are usually informed of such situations when the parents of a young person incarcerated abroad come and ask us: “What can you do for my son?” This is typically what happens in our constituency offices. However, people often think that there is only one such case at a time in a riding. Unfortunately, the reality is different.

In fact, some 3,000 Canadians are being detained in foreign prisons. In fact, about 2,700 of them would be eligible for a transfer to Canada under the act. Each year, some 85 Canadians return home to serve their sentences. These are the approximate figures; I know a number of people wanted them.

We have also been asked how many foreign nationals are detained in Canadian penitentiaries—coming back to the question asked a while ago—and how many are eligible for transfer to their home countries under the act. On this point, we are told that there are about 1,000 foreign prisoners in Canada's penitentiaries. Under the act, nearly one third of them are eligible for transfer to their own country.

It is interesting to note that there are three times as many Canadians incarcerated abroad as there are foreigners incarcerated in Canada. How can that be explained? I do not know, but it is probably that Canadians travel a lot, and often work abroad in all kinds of fields. Of course, it is probably for these reasons that we see more Canadians in foreign jails than the opposite.

Every year, two or three foreign nationals are transferred to their own countries. That is not surprising. The number is quite small. Still, it is another reason for us to improve the act now before us, as this bill intends.

Now, as for public safety and rehabilitation, we have been asked why Canadian offenders should be transferred to Canada instead of finishing their sentences abroad before returning to Canada.

Some are asking this. Some members have learned of very sad cases of constituents imprisoned abroad, often in less than adequate conditions, sometimes in even worse conditions. Parliamentarians, when dealing with such cases, do not ask themselves such questions but others do. The answer to that question is obviously for humanitarian reasons, as I just described. It must also be recognized that Canadians incarcerated abroad are subject to extremely harsh conditions, making their lives very difficult.

I know that some people will say that the offenders should have thought of that before they committed their crime and so on. Of course, anyone committing a crime should first consider the consequences, not only of getting caught, but also the harm to society and individuals where the crime is being committed. Clearly, this is very true. Nevertheless, humans are not perfect and they make mistakes or missteps and must pay the price.

We do not want, however, to bring these people back to Canada to release them unconditionally. It is to allow them to serve the rest of their sentence in Canada. So, their sentence is not being erased.

I would like to come back to a question from a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He asked how the Canadian public will be protected from criminals who are transferred to Canada. I told him that the purpose of the International Transfer of Offenders Act is to ensure that offenders do not escape justice. Back to what I was saying a little earlier, when a Canadian is transferred under a treaty, that person must serve the remainder of the sentence that was imposed abroad under the supervision of correctional authorities.

In other words, this is all part of the treaty. The goal is not to release these people when they arrive, but to respect the treaty and other countries by ensuring that the offenders serve the rest of their sentence.

The protection of society is ensured by the gradual and controlled reintegration of the transferred offender through our parole system, as I said at the beginning of my speech.

People wonder how much these proposals will cost the Canadian taxpayer. The answer is short: there is no additional cost.

Another question was raised: Will the amendments aggravate the problem of overcrowding in Canadian prisons? We know there is a problem. Moreover, many countries have this same problem. We are told not. The proposed changes should not increase the number of transferred offenders.

So there is an overview of the measures in the bill and the questions some people have. In conclusion, I ask all my colleagues to support Bill C-15, to vote for it so that it can take effect as soon as possible.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on Bill C-15, the international transfer of offenders act.

I will give the House a bit of the background of the bill. The bill would allow Canada to implement treaties and administrative arrangements with other nations for the international transfer of offenders. The purpose of the act is to allow Canadians convicted abroad to serve their sentences here in Canada.

This legislation would close the identified gaps in the existing Transfer of Offenders Act and aims to ensure consistency with other legislative provisions. By allowing offenders to serve their sentences in Canada, we would ensure that the public's interest is also served, because offenders are gradually released into the community in accordance with an overall Canadian rehabilitation strategy rather than simply having offenders arrive in Canada at the end of their sentences without any checks on their reintegration into society.

The bill would permit Canadian offenders who face incarceration in foreign prisons, which may include unfamiliar and difficult situations, to serve their sentences in Canada, and vice versa. This function is crucial for Canadian nationals where foreign states do not accommodate Canadian standards of rights and rehabilitation. In a case where no transfer agreement exists between Canada and a foreign entity, the countries could nevertheless enter into an administrative arrangement and provide for the transfer of an offender.

The provisions of the act would apply to criminal offenders, including young offenders and mentally incompetent offenders. Consent to be transferred must be given by the offender, the foreign state and Canada. All three must consent before transfer is made. The act and the consent thereunder are governed by the Solicitor General of Canada.

This bill, which we are dealing with at third reading, has made some progress in the committee. An amendment presented by our NDP caucus passed in the committee by a seven to six vote when, before Christmas, the chair of the committee, who is now in cabinet, broke the tie in our favour.

The amendment adds the following to the list of factors the minister should consider when determining whether to accept the transfer of a Canadian offender:

(c) whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada; and

(d) whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights.

Hopefully this will help guide the decision of the minister and create a more explicit link between the threat a foreign state or prison poses to an offender and the need to repatriate our own. It simply creates an explicit link where one is obviously implied in the spirit of the bill. It becomes explicit rather than just implied.

There are some additional arguments in favour of the bill. The NDP amendment passed by the committee will ensure that the minister would consider the humanitarian circumstances of an offender incarcerated in a foreign state. It would help to ensure that our citizens who are incarcerated abroad are going to have their safety and human rights taken into consideration when asking for a transfer.

The act maintains the integrity and values of the Canadian justice system and correctional system by transferring offenders back to Canada where these values prevail. Foreign nations often have different standards in their prison systems, which may be considered a violation of rights in Canada, or may do nothing, on the other hand, to rehabilitate the offender.

The act would give Canada custody of Canadian offenders abroad and would make Canada responsible for the enforcement of its own values. The act is also humanitarian in the fact that it would allow for foreign offenders to serve their sentences in their countries of origin if they wish and consent to do so.

Our main concern was addressed at committee, where an amendment was passed. The humanitarian spirit of the act should be applauded. These proposals would permit Canadian offenders abroad to be transported back to Canada where they can be detained and rehabilitated in accordance with the standards and principles of Canadian justice. It also would allow foreign nationals to serve their time in their home countries.

Since this proposed act is based on treaty negotiations, its benefits are mutual. The treaty negotiations and administrative arrangements contemplated by the bill would give equal protection and advantage to Canada and foreign states alike. This reciprocity has the added benefit of enhancing certainty and good faith in international relations and negotiations.

Bill C-15 should be supported for its humanitarian purpose, but we should not assume that the transfer of prisoners back to Canada necessarily results in humane treatment. We should not allow the government to pat itself on the back for too long, because we have our own major problems in our own Canadian correctional system. One need only think of the lack of correctional services and facilities for women or the lack of services and facilities for aboriginal people to realize that there is a great need for development of our own prison system in Canada.

Moreover, cases like that of Maher Arar--and of course there is going to be an inquiry into that case--demonstrate that we have serious problems not only in how we treat offenders but also in how we go about investigating and deciding who is an offender and who is not. Let us not rest on our laurels for too long. There is still a great deal more progress to be made.

Bill C-15 is a step in the right direction and, because of that, we will certainly be supporting the bill on third reading. We hope that it does have some real impact in terms of being a step along the road toward the reform of our correctional system.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-15, the international transfer of offenders act, is very important legislation and one which responds to a number of concerns that I have heard from constituents about foreigners who are jailed in Canada and Canadians who are jailed in foreign jurisdictions. I have had many calls to my office over the years asking me why we keep prisoners from other nations in Canada and why do we not transfer them out and have their countries assume their costs.

We do have a system as we are party to number of treaties and administrative arrangements with international partners. If we look back at the period of 1978 to 2003, a total of 118 prisoners were transferred from Canada to a total of six nations. The overwhelming majority of these individuals, 106, were transfers to the United States. Over the same period 1978 to 2003, 1,066 prisoners were transferred to Canada from a total of 25 different nations. The overwhelming majority again, 836, were transfers from the United States. The other nations returning the most number of prisoners to Canada were Mexico with 54, Peru with 29, the United Kingdom with 31, and Thailand with 17.

What is the system that we have in place? We already have a system that enables offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals. This bill would repeal and replace the Transfer of Offenders Act, which sets out the principles that govern the international transfer of offenders, and would authorize Canada to enter into administrative agreements for those international transfers of offenders.

The bill would also expand the class of offenders that may be transferred, expand the class of jurisdictions with which Canada may enter into transfer agreements and, very important, expand the number of individuals who have to consent to such a transfer. For instance, if the sentence were two years less a day, the province in which the person was sentenced would need to consent to the transfer.

To answer the concerns of my colleague opposite, the act would clarify the sentence calculation rules that apply to transferred Canadian offenders. Let us be clear that a transfer is not available unless the Canadian offender's conduct would have constituted a criminal offence if it had occurred in Canada at the time the Solicitor General received the request for a transfer.

The verdict and the sentence imposed by a foreign entity are not subject to any appeal or any other form of review in Canada.

Along with setting out the conditions for transferring offenders, the bill makes consequential amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Canada has been a party to offenders treaties since 1978. There are 13 bilateral treaties and we accede to three multilateral conventions on the transfer of offenders, totalling some 60 sovereign entities.

With regard to the United States, the treaty between Canada and the United States of America on the execution of penal sentences applies not only to the U.S. federal authorities but also to all the states, except for Delaware and West Virginia.

The international transfer program is administered by the Correctional Service of Canada's international transfers unit, with the assistance of the consular services of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

As I mentioned, Canada has several international multilateral conventions to which we are a party. One is the Council of Europe's convention on the transfer of sentenced persons. That entered into force on July 1, 1985 and applies now to some 53 states. It is primarily a treaty that is intended to facilitate the social rehabilitation of prisoners by giving foreigners convicted of a criminal offence the possibility of serving their sentence back in their own countries. As to the concern of my colleague opposite about victims, if we rehabilitate individuals we can prevent the further victimization of individuals here in Canada or abroad.

In the past there were some difficulties and there continue to be some difficulties in communications for some of the offenders, perhaps because of a language barrier or the absence of contact with relatives, which we know has a positive effect on those who are in prison. Sadly, too many of our prisoners have no familial contact, which increases their risk to reoffend when they return to society.

The transfer may be requested by way of this convention by either the state in which the sentence was imposed or the state in which the sentenced person is a national. The transfer is subject to the consent, as I mentioned, of those two parties, as well as that of the sentenced person. A condition of any transfer is that the acts or omissions on account of which the sentence has been imposed must constitute a criminal offence in the administering state, the state in which a person is a national.

Other conditions are that the sentenced person must have at least six months left on his or her sentence to serve and the convention sets out the procedure for enforcement of the sentence following the transfer. We have to be very clear, on the point of the member opposite, that we in fact have these sentences, that if it is a period of incarceration it continues, that if it is a period of probation it continues and that the terms are consistent.

I would remind the member for Prince Albert that judges know full well how sentencing works. I think we should be honest with Canadians. If judges impose a period of 10 years, they know that a third of that is definitely behind bars, a third of that is with probation and a third with some other kind of release. They know whether someone is a long term offender and they understand that the sentencing is indefinite. Judges are aware of the rules and to suggest otherwise is a bit inappropriate.

Whatever the procedure chosen by the administering state, a custodial sentence may not be converted into a fine and any period of detention already served by the sentenced person must be taken into account by the administering state. The sentence in the administering state must be no longer nor harsher than that imposed by the sentencing state but it has to be consistent.

All parties to this convention are obligated to inform sentenced persons of the substance of this convention so that people can make arrangements. Once a transfer has taken place, the enforcement of the sentence is governed by the law of the administering state only. That is the state to which the person is transferred.

While the administering state is bound by the legal nature and duration of the sentence as determined by the sentencing state, if that sentence is incompatible with the law of the administering state that state may adapt the sanction to the punishment prescribed by its own law for a similar offence. The administering state shall not aggravate by its nature or duration the sanction imposed by the sentencing state nor exceed the maximum prescribed by the law of the administering state. The sentencing state alone, and only the sentencing state, which is the case of someone being transferred out of Canada, has the right to decide on any application for review of the judgment but either state may grant pardon, amnesty or commutation of the sentence.

As I mentioned, Canada is party to two other multilateral conventions: the scheme for the transfer of convicted offenders within the Commonwealth, which came into place in 1990, with seven nations adhering; and the inter-American convention on serving criminal sentences abroad which came into effect in 1996. These agreements have been ratified or adhered to by nine nations. I assume those are the agreements by which we had prisoners moved from Peru.

Both of those conventions state that prisoners are not allowed to be moved between nations against their will and must be informed of the consequences of agreeing to such a transfer. The conventions have other requirements in common. One is that the governments of both the sending and receiving nations must agree to the transfer, which is a pretty important agreement.

In Canada, as I mentioned, for offenders who are sentenced to two years less a day, the approval of the relevant province or territorial government is required, along with that of the federal government. The convicted person must be a national of the receiving state. We cannot, for instance, transfer from Canada to France a German citizen. It would have to be a French citizen.

It is also a general requirement of eligibility that a prisoner shall be considered for transfer only after all appeals have been settled and he or she has no further legal matters pending.

A sentence may not be lengthened by the receiving state but the enforcement of the sentence is governed by the laws of the receiving state. For instance, if they do not have the same kind of Corrections and Conditional Release Act that we have, perhaps they have a 50:50 split or they have less than a third-third split, then they would be able to govern the sentence arrangement.

In both of these conventions, the sentencing state retains full jurisdiction to grant pardon, amnesty or commutation of the sentence.

Interestingly enough, in 2001 some 5% of all offenders under the jurisdiction of Correctional Service Canada were foreigners: that is 5% of all offenders in Canadian jails. This is an important point since we often hear about foreigners coming to Canada and committing crimes. In fact, only 5% of all offenders in the federal corrections system were foreigners.

The overwhelming majority of those individuals, who total 1,100 people, come from the United States. As I mentioned, we have transferred 118 prisoners from Canada to a total of six nations, the majority of which were transferred to the U.S. Over the same period we have transferred some 1,066 prisoners to Canada from 25 different nations.

That is a fairly conclusive description of what this act seeks to do: how we must have agreements from both our nation and the receiving nation and the prisoners themselves; how we have to exhaust all the appeals; and how the sentencing nation, in this case if we are transferring somebody out of Canada, has the power too decide on any application for a review of their judgment. In fact, either state may grant a pardon, amnesty or commutation of the sentence.

I am sure Canadians will remember the intense lobbying that took place over the Canadian individuals who were sentenced to jail in Brazil. There was an agreement, they were brought home and they are serving out the rest of their sentences in Canada.

I hope that all members of the House will support the bill and ensure that we are implementing the treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, and pass Bill C-15 forthwith.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / noon
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

At the end of the debate on Bill C-15 last week, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development still had seven minutes left in questions and comments. I am informed that he was in the middle of answering the first question or comment, and he wants to finish this point.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2004 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, in recognition of National Volunteer Week I want to congratulate the thousands of volunteers in my riding of Yukon for all their help.

The second previous speaker in this debate suggested that the government had no agenda with regard to Bill C-15. It is fairly ironic that party would suggest such. The reality is that party has no agenda. That is why those members are frightened to go to an election.

Since we came back after Christmas, those members have had very few questions with regard to taxes, debt, foreign aid, or social programs. They have had few questions with regard to helping businesses. They have had few questions with regard to anything.

That party has no agenda. The media is finally realizing that the king has no clothes. The Conservative Party has no platform or policies. When we ask the ex-progressive conservatives to name one single policy that the new combined party has adopted, they cannot name one. They have the old polices of the Alliance. Because no one can agree, how can they put a policy program forward to the public? I sympathize with the difficult problem they will have in coming up any kind of policy. I am sure they will not have any questions in question period and will keep trying to avoid an election until they come up with some kind of policy.

The throne speech contained very vibrant policy. Once again they could not ask questions about it in question period or criticize it because it was popular. There was a whole section on social programs for aboriginal people. There were three different initiatives included for disabled people. Early childhood education was also included in the throne speech. Also included was the broad theme of the new economy in the modern world which included initiatives in learning, skills, and innovation.

The third broad topic on the agenda that those members say we do not have is increasing Canada's place in the world. This includes increasing our foreign aid and our role in both Afghanistan and Haiti.

There is also the important new bill regarding Africa. Canada is the first country in the world to deal with the tricky regulations and patents of multinational drug firms, which will make it possible for people with disease in Africa to receive more relief than they otherwise would. Other countries agree that Canada has taken a leading role in the world. We received feedback from people in my riding and from other ridings about that bill and made important amendments to it to ensure that it would work and be effective.

With regard to environmental contamination, the government has included a contaminated sites bill, which will involve the biggest expenditure in the history of Canada. How can those members say the government has no agenda?

The government included in the Speech from the Throne very creative initiatives relating to the voluntary sector. We have added to our research agenda. We have provided a new deal for communities by giving them relief from the GST. We have formed new partnerships, not only with municipalities, but with the aboriginal people, as members saw on Monday with the historic meeting with aboriginal people.

I do not think the Conservative Party should suggest that the government does not have an agenda when it has been unable to demonstrate in question period all year that it has one. It has been unable to demonstrate that it has anything new from the old Alliance party. We would appreciate it if those members would refrain from making such ironic and inaccurate statements.

We are debating the transfer of offenders act today. In fact we have debated a number of acts all week so I do not know how the Conservative Party can say that we have no agenda. The House has been full. We debated the Westbank self-government agreement. We debated the Tlicho land claim and self-government agreement. We debated a number of smaller bills in between. Today, there are four or five bills waiting. The financial institutions act is waiting for discussion.

I do not know where those members could possibly have dreamt up the idea that the government has no agenda. If they would be a little more cooperative, we could get a lot farther in our agenda. If they would like to challenge that statement, I could tell them the number of times they have used obstructionist methods since Christmas which have actually delayed our agenda. They obstructed good bills which would help Canadians and wasted several days of Canadians' time by delaying them. I will not go into more of these until they challenge that assertion.

On the Transfer of Offenders Act, this act provides for the implementation of treaties with other countries for the international transfer of offenders. The purpose of the act and the treaty signed between Canada and foreign states is essentially humanitarian. It allows for Canadians convicted and detained abroad under difficult conditions to serve their sentences at home, and for foreign nationals to return to their home countries.

The Transfer of Offenders Act serves public protection purposes. It allows offenders to serve their sentences in Canada and to be gradually released into the community. Otherwise, they would simply be deported at the end of their sentences.

For Canadians, primarily their highest priority is not revenge, it is rehabilitation. What they would like to see is that they will be safe in the future, and that the person will no longer reoffend. We obviously do not have all the answers yet because of the high rates of recidivism. It involves a very thought out process in the treatment of offenders, reintroducing them into various stages of society, halfway houses, and training to ensure that it is not a huge, impossible leap back into society. We want them to integrate slowly and effectively, under more and more reduced supervision, so that we can protect Canadians and ensure that they are safe when they ultimately have their total freedom.

That would not happen without the Transfer of Offenders Act. What would happen is that the person convicted of a serious crime in another country would serve whatever the length of the sentence was in that country. A number of countries do not have any rehabilitation programs, education programs, or reintegration into society programs because the offenders are not even of the society into which they are going to have to reintegrate. They would be dumped back into Canada the day they got out of prison as hardened offenders. Then, we would all be at risk.

By allowing Canadians to be transferred back, they can go through our system. We can help them out through training programs that are relevant in Canada, in social support, in anger management training, in interpersonal relationship training, and all the programs that they would need to successfully reintegrate into society.

Then they can go into partial reintegration with probation, with halfway houses or whatever the system feels would be most effective to ensure that under partial supervision they could slowly integrate under careful, watchful eyes, and take remediation steps. This way Canadians will be safe. That is one of the advantages of the Transfer of Offenders Act.

This act is in place today, but we are talking about some amendments. There have been no major amendments since its proclamation in 1978. Only technical amendments have been made to it, and substantive issues were identified. We did some consultation, and through those consultations these issues were documented. We put out a consultation document in 1997. There was then a comprehensive review which revealed that the Transfer of Offenders Act was in need of modernization and clarification.

The consultation was fairly broad. There were 91 private sector and government agencies consulted. Overall, the majority of the agencies responded to the consultation document, reacted favourably to the consultation questions, and expressed support for the proposals set out in the document.

I want to outline what some of these proposals were. To make it easier to understand for people watching at home who may have just tuned in, I am going to break them down into different categories so they are easier to follow.

The first category contains proposals that reflect the traditional treaty principles in order to broaden the act out and have a better description of those principles of the treaty that it is meant to fulfill. We are going to incorporate a purpose clause and principles, such as non-aggravation of sentence, dual criminality, adaption and continued enforcement that support the legislation's purpose.

The second thing we are going to do is add a new information sharing requirement. The person designated by the minister and the authority responsible in the province or territory for the administration of prisons would have the duty to inform a foreign citizen under its jurisdiction of the existence and substance of an international transfer treaty between Canada and the country of that person's citizenship.

We can understand how people would feel in a foreign country where they did not understand the language. In some countries people would probably be treated very badly after having committed a crime. Some countries do not have full human rights, where one would have no idea of the jurisprudence. That is difficult even in Canada, if one is not a lawyer, but imagine how difficult it would be for someone to understand the laws of another country if for some reason a person ended up, rightly or wrongly, in one of their jails.

Under those circumstances, how would people know what their rights are? How would one know, especially a first time offender who has no experience with the legal system, that there is an international transfer treaty?

We have to guarantee Canadian citizens their rights so that they know that such a treaty exists. We must put that into the law so that they have those rights and it is mandatory that they be informed of their rights.

Canada has the highest standards of human rights. We want to ensure that all our officials in those prisons and institutions are aware of the treaty and of their obligations to tell the prisoners who are residing temporarily in our institutions of their right to be transferred home so that they can start their healing, reparations, reintegration, and move toward being a safe citizens back in their own country.

The next category of amendments is related to new provisions regarding the consent to transfer. For example, foreign offenders in Canada could withdraw their consent to the transfer at any time before the transfer takes place.

Perhaps foreign offenders, for whatever reason, may determine that they would be in danger and may not understand the full consequences of being transferred, but for whatever reason, they would have the right to not have to take that transfer, up to the time when the transfer is made.

The next category of gaps in the Transfer of Offenders Act is a set of proposals to ensure consistency with other legislative provisions. These are more housekeeping tools to ensure the legislation fits in with other legislation.

These proposals would include provisions for the transfer to Canada of young offenders who are on probation, children under the age of 12 years, and the transfer of mentally disordered offenders.

It would add provisions requiring explicit provincial consent for the transfer of Canadian and foreign nationals who are under probation, provincial parole, provincial temporary absence, conditional sentence or intermittent sentence.

As our esteemed colleagues from the Bloc pointed out, it is very important that when there are services that are under provincial jurisdiction, the province should have to provide its consent if it is going to have new costs, new customers, new inmates, or people it has to place on parole or probation throughout its system. This would include all the accompanying remedial activities that could occur which we talked about earlier in this debate.

The third item under this category of consistency provisions will be to incorporate a provision requiring that offenders be informed of the minister's reason for not consenting to a transfer.

Therefore, if prisoners ask for a transfer and it is denied, they will feel they were denied their human rights. They could feel they were segregated for one reason or another. They need to know why the transfer was denied. Of course, there may be legitimate reasons. There could easily be legitimate reasons why one country would not allow the transfer of an offender, either out or into its country. However, the offender has every right to know what those reasons are. One cannot stand accused of a crime or accused of something, or denied a right without being told why this right is being denied.

The fourth provision is under the block of revisions that are to ensure consistency with other legislative provisions. They are provisions to clarify the sentence calculation rules and align the Transfer of Offenders Act with the Criminal Code, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and other legislation, such as the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In more recent times, some of these acts have been amended, so we have to make the clarification to ensure that the Transfer of Offenders Act matches the other acts in the system.

The fifth item under this group of identified gaps is to ensure consistency with other legislation. It involves adding a new provision to reflect the legal requirement that Canada must take appropriate action upon being advised by a foreign state that it has taken compassionate measures in respect of an offender's conviction or sentence, such as setting aside the conviction or reducing the sentence.

The sixth item under this category of ensuring consistency with other legislative provisions is to incorporate a new provision that would ensure that unless the court declares the transfer of an offender invalid because he or she is not a Canadian citizen, the sentence would be enforceable in Canada. Also, where the transfer is declared invalid, the minister would notify the Minister of Justice for possible extradition and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for possible removal of the offender from Canada.

The seventh proposal in closing the identified gaps of the Transfer of Offenders Act and ensuring consistency with other legislative provisions would be to include the considerations for transfer, which are currently set out in the regulations, into the act. This would give more permanency and make it much harder to change. It could not be changed as easily and would give more certainty to those involved.

The last set of proposals that would improve efficiencies include the following. It would remove the reference to schedule and the schedule from the Transfer of Offenders Act. The item is a technical amendment. It would add provisions to allow for administrative arrangements for the international transfer of mentally disordered persons and offenders detained in countries or regions that are not recognized as states, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong or states with which a treaty is not in force.

There are many communities around the world, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong that Canada, although it does not have official formal relationships, with which Canada has excellent diplomatic relationships. We have excellent trade. We have friendships. We have many relatives and immigrant families that have come from those parts of the world and they have close interaction with Canadians and our culture. It is one of the things that makes Canada so exciting and culturally diverse.

There is a lot of interaction among these communities in the world. Because of that, of course, these provisions, which apply to the countries with which we have treaties and other countries of the world that have this legislation, should also apply to these areas where we have a very large amount of interaction, of flow, of interpersonal family connections and friends. Just for efficiency, we would want those provisions of the act to apply.

In summary, I would like to say that looking at this act and making sure that it works well is in the interests of everyone, so that primarily offenders get back to society with the best and safest conditions possible for those other people in society.