An Act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Daryl Kramp  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 28, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2007 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

It has and the statistics prove it. I ask the hon. member to check the testimony given at the justice committee when Bill C-215 was presented. The verification of those facts came forward from the justice committee as well as all the independent expert witnesses.

The reason I am a little more familiar with Bill C-215 is from having presented the bill which I authored. However, at that particular point it should be noted that the bill passed second reading with the support of a member of the Liberal Party as well. Quite obviously, regretfully, Parliament was dissolved and the bill did not go on.

The member mentioned that everyone was backing away from this. I can assure him that is not the case. A number of people are backing away from minimum mandatory sentences but they are not for violent crime. They are for small summary conviction offences. I totally agree that we should not have minimum mandatory penalties. However, for certain serious violent crimes, where people are threatened with a gun, I ask the hon. member if he has ever looked down the barrel of a gun or talked to the families of the victims that have been devastated by these potentially deadly weapons.

December 6th, 2006 / 3:50 p.m.
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Professor, Centre for Criminology, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Dr. Anthony Doob

Thank you very much.

To understand whether increased penalties affect crime, I would suggest that you have to look at the overall weight of evidence. The conclusion that Professor Webster and I came to, based on a thorough survey of the evidence, especially that which was carried out in the last fifteen years, was that variation in the severity of sentences does not affect crime rates.

The reviews that come to different conclusions have generally looked selectively only at the occasional paper that finds some evidence that harsh sentences deter. In other words, for more than 25 years, the overwhelming weight of evidence has been consistent with the conclusions that harsh sentences, in legislation or in practice, will not have any consistent or appreciable impact on levels of crime in the community.

I would now like to turn to two sets of data that have received a lot of prominence here in Ottawa. Each of these has been used to demonstrate that harsh sentences deter. The first example comes from an analysis of a paper that has been referred to in the context of the current bill. It seems that when the deterrent impact of harsh sentences is raised, the name Steven Levitt, one of the authors of the best-selling book, Freakonomics, is mentioned, and his paper with Daniel Kessler, published in 1999, is cited.

On the basis of their evidence of the effects of the June 1982 California initiative, Proposition 8, these two economists concluded that the increase in sentence severity that came into effect in June 1982 was responsible for the reduction in crime in California. As a result of this 1982 change in sentencing laws in California, sentences for certain crimes committed by repeat offenders were made considerably longer. From a deterrence perspective, the change in sentencing laws was seen as a good opportunity to test the deterrence theory, since the change in the sentencing was dramatic, sudden, and well publicized. The typical finding is what's shown here, and it is also shown in the translated document.

These are data from Kessler and Levitt's original paper, and what you see is the timing of the law changes marked by the vertical line. From this graph one could easily conclude that crime was going up until the time the sentencing law in California became dramatically harsher. Crime then dropped dramatically, immediately after the law, one could conclude, and these would obviously be quite impressive results.

The findings are similar for four other crimes that were covered by the change in law. Crime went up before the change in the law, Kessler and Levitt's data would show, and then dropped dramatically afterwards. It's no wonder that the supporters of the current bill have repeatedly cited this single study by a quite famous economist, but I'd like you to look again at these data.

Look at this curve carefully and what you'll see is something that's quite peculiar. Levitt, in the published paper, presented data only for the odd-numbered years. That's what's in the figure; that's what was in his paper.

Let's look at the full set of data that were never publicized and never presented in this very highly cited paper on deterrence. This slide simply adds the even-numbered years. The data for the odd-numbered years is identical to what you saw before. Again, the vertical line is when the law change occurred. Unlike the partial set of data, which Kessler and Levitt relied on, what you see is that crime was going down, and started going down before the law changed. The other offences examined by Kessler and Levitt, which were subject to these especially new harsh sentences, show the same kind of pattern.

On the left of these panels, I've presented the data as published by Kessler and Levitt. On the right panel, all I've done--all, in fact, Cheryl Webster, from the University of Ottawa, and Frank Zimring, from California, and I did--was to add the data for the even-numbered years. By choosing, as Kessler and Levitt did, to present the data only for the odd-numbered years, they gave you a picture of the trends that is completely different from the picture you see when all of the crime rates for all of the years are included.

If you wish, you can look at the monthly data to get a more exact estimate of when the crime drop occurred. We did this as well. Here's one example of it. Again, we marked the time when the law changed by the vertical line, and what you see is that the crime drop started before the law changed, not after, as you would expect if it were the law that was responsible for the change in crime rates.

These graphs are part of a paper that I co-authored with Professor Webster, and Professor Franklin Zimring, from the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Zimring is one of the world's experts on deterrence, having written extensively on deterrence, beginning with his classic book on the topic in 1972.

As you can imagine, Professor Levitt is not very pleased with our analysis. The best one can conclude I think from Levitt's very interesting, very selective use of data is that it would be risky to base any policy on a study such as this.

About a year ago, in the last session of Parliament, when you were examining Bill C-215, you had a witness before you who indicated that sentence enhancements had helped to drive down the rate of violent crime in Florida. His evidence, like that of your local witness last week, concluded that Florida's 10-20-life law may have sounded convincing. The implication of their statements is clear: tough sentencing regimes drive down crime.

I'm old-fashioned. I think you should look carefully at the data. From the data I presented to you at the outset, you should already be skeptical about such assertions. Crime was already on the downward trend in the United States. Violent crime peaked in the United States and Canada in the early 1990s and then drifted downward.

So let's look at this trend in California. The next two figures show total index crime, which is a measure of the total more serious kinds of crime, and index violent crime for Florida in the 1990s. The timing of the implementation of the so-called 10-20-life law in Florida is marked again by the vertical line.

If you look at this figure, or the next one, which deals with violent crime, the problem with the inference that the law created a change is immediately evident. Crime was going down anyway. If these two figures didn't have a vertical line in them showing where the law change took place, you wouldn't have any idea that anything special was happening. Crime was going down in Florida, just the way it was going down in other parts of the United States and in Canada. There is no evidence that the change in law changed anything.

There are obviously many more studies on this topic. The best research examines more than one jurisdiction and attempts to control for other factors known to correlate with crime rates. Considerably more sophisticated studies have been carried out.

In the United States in the 1990s, largely as a result of the popularity of the so-called three strikes laws, many U.S. jurisdictions brought in very harsh sentencing regimes for at least some offences. Some studies have looked, overall, at the impact of these sentencing changes. One set of investigators, for example, examined the impact of the sentencing changes on seven different crimes in 21 states, using the data from states where no changes were made as a form of a control.

This slide shows you a summary of their findings. The authors report that there were as many increases in crime as there were decreases that followed the imposition of three-strikes sentencing laws. Clearly, it is just as inappropriate to focus on only those changes in the law where crime decreased as it would be to focus on those instances where crime increased after sentencing got tougher. But these findings do show you the dangers of taking isolated findings out of context.

There are two other sets of problems with mandatory minimum sentences that I would like to mention. It is almost inevitable that mandatory minimum sentences will result in disproportionate sentences for at least some offenders. We already have a requirement in the Criminal Code that sentences must be proportionate to the severity of the offence and the offender's responsibility for that offence. It is my impression that most Canadians endorse proportionality in sentencing.

Clearly, Parliament, in attempting to constrain judges with mandatory minimum sentences, is purposefully sending the message that it does not trust judges to judge the severity of offences. But in addition, mandatory minimum sentences almost certainly force judges to hand down sentences that violate section 718.1, the proportionality principle in sentencing.

If the proportionality principle needs strengthening in the Criminal Code--and I, for one, believe it does--then there are ways in which this can be done. But mandatory minimum sentences have been shown repeatedly not to be an appropriate tool to accomplish this goal. There are other harms that can come from proposals such as this one. If the Parliament of Canada were to approve Bill C-10, it would be telling Canadians that Parliament can make our communities safer by increasing mandatory minimum sentences. This is, quite simply, a false promise. If you were to vote in favour of this bill, therefore, you would be, in my opinion, making a promise to Canadians that is known to be false. But it is worse than that. Focusing on such matters as mandatory minimum sentences also distracts you, the Parliament of Canada, from considering approaches to crime prevention that might actually make our communities safer. In other words, by convincing yourselves and others that the proposals such as this one will improve our communities, you necessarily do not adequately consider approaches to crime prevention that would improve our communities.

Thank you very much.

November 27th, 2006 / 3:40 p.m.
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Tony Cannavino President, Canadian Police Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, committee members, good afternoon.

The Canadian Police Association welcomes the opportunity to present our submissions to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with respect to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms).

The CPA is the national voice for 54,700 police personnel serving across Canada. Through our 170 member associations, CPA membership includes police personnel serving in police services from Canada's smallest towns and villages as well as those working in our largest municipal cities, provincial police services, members of the RCMP, railway police and First Nations police associations.

The Canadian Police Association is acknowledged as a national voice for police personnel in the reform of the Canadian criminal justice system. Our goal is to work with elected officials from all parties, to bring about meaningful reforms to enhance the safety and security of all Canadians, including those sworn to protect our communities.

Urban violence has been a significant concern for our association. For over a decade, police associations have been advocating reforms to our justice system in Canada, and in particular we've called for changes to bolster the sentencing, detention, and parole of violent offenders.

At our 2004 annual general meeting, CPA delegates unanimously adopted a resolution that includes a call for federal legislation to be introduced to ensure tougher and more adequate mandatory prison sentences for individuals involved in firearm-related crime.

Repeat offenders are a serious problem. There's been considerable debate at this committee about the use of minimum sentences and the frequency of repeat offenders. Make no mistake about it: repeat offenders are a serious problem. Police understand this intuitively, as we deal with these frequent flyers on a routine basis.

Statistics released by the Toronto police homicide squad for 2005 demonstrate this point. Among the 32 people facing murder or manslaughter charges for homicide in 2006, 14 were on bail at the time of the offence, 13 were on probation, and 17 were subject to firearms prohibition orders. The revolving-door justice system is failing to prevent further criminal activity by these repeat violent offenders.

Gun violence requires a non-partisan approach. Support for tougher measures to thwart gun violence transcends party lines. During the last federal election, three major parties promised tougher sentences for crimes involving firearms. The NDP platform promised to “Increase the mandatory minimum penalty for possession, sale and importation of illegal arms such as hand guns, assault rifles and automatic weapons”, and “Add mandatory minimum sentences to other weapons offences”, including a “four-year minimum sentence on all weapon offences, such as possession of a concealed weapons'”.

Former Prime Minister Martin promised to toughen penalties “by re-introducing legislation to crack down on violent crimes and gang violence, by doubling the mandatory minimum sentences for key gun crimes”. Former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler introduced Bill C-82 in November 2005 to address gun violence. Bill C-82 would include increasing certain minimum penalties relating to smuggling, trafficking in, and possession of firearms and other weapons, and creating two new offences, breaking and entering to steal a firearm and robbery to steal a firearm.

When Bill C-10 was introduced this spring, Premier McGuinty was quoted as stating that the bill will “make a real difference when it comes to promoting safety for our families and our communities”. Last year, Conservative MP Daryl Kramp introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-215, that would require that a sentence for commission of certain serious offences be supplemented if a firearm is used in the commission of that offence.

A justice department survey conducted in March 2005 by Decima Research confirmed that an “overwhelming majority” of Canadians support mandatory minimum jail terms for gun crimes such as robbery with a firearm and criminal negligence causing death with a firearm. According to CanWest news, the poll of 2,343 Canadians revealed that “Support for mandatory jail terms for robbery with a firearm was as high as 82%, compared with 14% who opposed the prospect”.

Similarly, an Ipsos Reid CanWest Global poll conducted December 30, 2005, to January 2, 2006, of 8,336 Canadian voters found that 73% of the respondents supported changing the current laws so that being convicted of committing a gun crime would carry a mandatory 10-year prison sentence with no eligibility for parole or early release.

Clearly, there is broad political and public support for tougher measures to deal with firearm crimes. We urge Parliament to move swiftly to address the areas of consensus as quickly as possible. The CPA supports in principle the measures contained within Bill C-10 with necessary modifications.

On amendments, although the CPA supports the vast majority of proposals contained within Bill C-10, we do have one significant area of concern. It relates to the proposal dealing with the use of firearms in the commission of attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery, and extortion.

Bill C-10 contemplates a tiered response. Offenders who commit these crimes, whether with a restricted or a prohibited firearm or any firearm in connection with a criminal organization, are subject to escalating penalties—five years for a first offence, seven years for a second offence, and ten years for a third or subsequent offence. Conversely, if the firearm is not used in connection with a criminal organization and the weapon is not restricted or prohibited, the mandatory minimum sentence is only four years, regardless of whether it is a second, third, or subsequent offence.

We find the different treatment for long guns to be misguided, and we are at a loss to understand the rationale for distinguishing the penalty on the basis of the class of firearm that is issued by a person in the commission of a very serious crime. Police officers routinely discover these weapons in firearms seizures, clandestine drug labs, and marijuana grow-ops. Will shotguns and rifles become the weapons of choice for repeat violent offenders? In many situations, a rifle or shotgun is a far more lethal threat in the hands of a criminal than a handgun.

For example, high-powered rifles are capable of shooting through body armour and other protective equipment. Shotguns can be extremely powerful weapons when used at short range. A tragic example is the murder of Constable Valerie Gignac of Laval last fall, who was shot through a wall with a high-powered rifle. Of the 13 police officers killed with firearms in the past decade, only three were murdered with handguns; 77% were murdered with long guns, and it's unlikely that any of the offenders in these cases would have met the threshold for participation or membership in a criminal organization.

This latter threshold of connection with a criminal organization also presents an additional hurdle for prosecutors to prove in order to obtain the higher mandatory penalty. While we applaud measures to deal proactively with criminal organizations, we contend that any person who uses any firearm in the commission of an offence should receive the full mandatory minimum penalty available, and particularly repeat offenders.

The recent tragedy at Dawson College in Montreal has reinforced the need to strengthen Canada's control over civilian firearms possession. To our knowledge, no new firearms have been added to the restricted or prohibited categories in Canada for over a decade, yet many new firearms have been designed that are being offered for sale in Canada and would arguably meet existing criteria. As a consequence, some weapons are being legally sold in Canada despite the fact that they meet existing criteria for restricted or prohibited status and present significant concerns for public safety.

Retailers understand and exploit these loopholes, as demonstrated by the website for Wolverine Supplies in Manitoba. You'll find that in our brief. We submit that further steps must be taken to close the loopholes by updating and maintaining the restricted and prohibited firearms classifications.

In conclusion, I'll say that one of the concerns of police officers across the country is to stop the violence. The solution to this begins with bringing an end to Canada's revolving door justice system. Canada's police officers have lost confidence in a system that sees violent offenders regularly return to the streets. We need to restore meaningful consequences and deterrence in our justice system, which begins with stiffer sentences, real jail time and tougher parole eligibility policies for violent offenders. We need stiffer minimum sentences for offenders who commit crimes with guns, or any type of weapon.

Bill C-10 provides a positive component in an integrated strategy to address current shortfalls, specifically pertaining to the concern with gun violence. We believe that it can provide an effective deterrent against violent gun crimes, and we fully endorse the principle of creating tougher mandatory minimum penalties for the commission of serious offences involving the use of a firearm.

We thank you for your attention and we welcome your questions.

Thank you.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 18th report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

In accordance with the orders of reference of June 7 and June 27, and its mandate under Standing Order 108(1), the committee has established a subcommittee with a mandate to examine the process for appointments to the federal judiciary and make recommendations for reform.

I wish to thank the member for Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles, chair of the subcommittee, for bringing forward this initiative, and also the members of the subcommittee and the standing committee for their contributions.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

In accordance with the order of reference of Wednesday, May 4, the committee has considered Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), and agreed on Monday, November 28 to report it with amendments.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2005 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the recorded division scheduled to take place on Wednesday, November 2, 2005 on the motion to concur in the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness requesting an extension of the time to consider Bill C-215. I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the recorded division scheduled to take place later on Wednesday, November 2, 2005 on the motion to concur in the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, be deemed concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 31st, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(3)(a), I request an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding consecutive sentence for use of a firearm in the commission of an offence.

JusticeOral Questions

October 27th, 2005 / 2:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a sad mockery of a response to a very serious question and a shameful denial of responsibility. The Prime Minister is trying to blame American gun smuggling for our lethal gun violence.

I remind the Prime Minister that it is the criminals right here in Canada who are committing these crimes. The present laws are simply not a deterrent. Canadians have a right to live without fear for their safety.

There is a bill before the justice committee right now, Bill C-215, that would strengthen minimum mandatory sentences for violent gun crimes. With all due respect, I ask the Prime Minister, will he or will he not support the bill?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 24th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to do something truly good about protecting citizens, then Chuck Cadman would have been leading debate in the House on his own private member's bill and it would have sought unanimous consent to pass it at all stages so Canadians would have been protected. That would have been a fitting tribute while he was living. That is what it should have done in the House. Instead it brings forward a watered down bill.That is the worst argument I have ever heard over there, that it is somehow doing some on behalf of Canadians to protect them.

I rise on behalf of the people of Essex to speak to Bill C-64. I am here also with thoughts of my former seat mate, Chuck Cadman. I have to be honest, I miss him terribly.

Chuck's brought forward his private member's Bill C-287, on the alteration and obliteration of vehicle identification numbers, because there was no provision for the direct prosecution of a person engaged in the physical act of tampering with a vehicle identification number, a loophole that has been masterfully exploited by organized crime. Instead what we have is Bill C-64, a partial attempt by the Liberal government to address that loophole, which is insufficient.

Also, I am here to talk about what the Liberals have been falsely claiming as a fitting tribute and honour to the late Chuck Cadman, member of Parliament. The only fitting tribute to the memory of Chuck Cadman would be to take his private member's bill, ironically unaltered, and pass it in the House. Instead what we have is the Liberals trying to fulfill a promise they made to Chuck after he gave the government life in that crucial May 19 budget vote.

I was sitting in my seat next to Chuck after that vote. It was interesting to watch the long lineup of Liberal members of Parliament eager to shake Chuck's hand. I thought the most interesting moment of that whole night was when the justice minister was face to face with Chuck. If we can believe it, he looked him in the eyes and said that he did not know why Chuck came to this Parliament, but that he would do something about the issues that were important to him.

It is very interesting that our justice minister did not know that the reason Chuck Cadman came to the House for eight years was because of the death of his son and the fact that the criminal justice system did nothing about it. Shame on the government.

What has the government brought forward instead of bringing Chuck's bill forward and passing? We have a nice little add-on to the bill, and will read it. First I will read the words in Chuck Cadman's bill. It states that every one commits offence who, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse.

The government decided it wanted to make an ad-on to that. It states, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.

That is a substantial change from what Chuck wanted to achieve. Chuck's intention was that we would have a justice system that would get tough on criminals. He was a tireless crusader of rights for victims over the rights of criminals. Chuck's previous private member's bill on the issue put the onus of proof for lawful excuse on the person indicted, on the accused criminal. That tilts the balance in favour of the Crown on behalf of the victims of crime.

What the Liberals have done with Chuck Cadman's idea is change the onus now to put a double onus on the Crown.

It was Chuck Cadman's intention that someone caught with an altered vehicle identification number would have to explain themselves. It is not a great demand to put on somebody who is caught with a vehicle that has an altered VIN. If I were working at a wrecking yard and, as part of the normal process of business, removed a vehicle identification number, I would have a lawful excuse why that vehicle identification number was altered and removed. That would have sufficed under Chuck Cadman's bill. Now, the Crown, on behalf of the victims of crime, has to prove an additional burden that the vehicle identification number was altered or removed to conceal the identity of that vehicle. I can hear the criminal defence lawyers laughing already. Those are the people who the Liberals consulted, between talking to Chuck Cadman and bringing the bill forward.

I was thinking a little about lady justice earlier today. I think we all remember the lady justice symbol of her holding up the two scales, literally weighing the evidence, with a blindfold across her eyes to symbolize her impartiality in the weighing of that evidence.

Under the Liberals there is a new lady justice. Her arms are thrown up in the air in a show of helplessness as criminal after criminal gets soft treatment, or gets day passes to amusement parks or gets house arrest, while victims in our system get re-victimized.

This new lady justice has dropped the scales at her feet because the evidence seems to no longer matter. Witness a lot of the court decisions. The evidence suddenly does not matter any more. This new lady justice still has her blindfold on, not to reflect her impartiality any more but because she needs to shield her eyes from the injustices that are committed. This new lady justice has been brought on by 12 years of Liberals being soft on crime.

Let the numbers speak for themselves. Already this year there have been 64 murders in Toronto, 44 violent crimes committed with guns. The Liberals say that the gun registry that is supposed to protect people. It is their answer to everything, like Kyoto is their answer to everything in the environment. They have a gun registry to protect everybody. It has not. People are being gunned down in our streets.

James Caza has 42 convictions. He is roaming the interior of British Columbia. I am sure the people in British Columbia feel real safe these days.

Serial rapist Larry Fisher was surprised himself that he was let out of jail so quickly. While out on parole he raped and murdered.

Liberal Senator Larry Campbell wants a soft approach on hard drugs like crystal meth.

Legal counsel from the Liberal government testified before the justice committee that mandatory prison terms for criminals would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

A parole board handed out day passes to pedophiles to attend children's theme parks. I have four young kids. I will rethink how I spend my summers. Will we go to Canada's Wonderland? I have no idea who will be roaming around there and who will be a threat to my children.

This is wrong. Canadians should not have to restrict their freedom from operating in society because they do not know what criminals are lurking there, criminals that the Liberal justice system has let go.

The Liberal government opposed Bill C-215, a bill sponsored by my Conservative colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings, which proposed mandatory minimum sentences on indictable gun crimes. The bill has gained support from the victims of crimes and from those who enforce the laws in the land, our police. They know the bill makes sense, but the government does not support it.

The Supreme Court of Canada refused to consider the case of Dean Edmondson who was convicted of sexual assault for trying to have sex with a 12 year old girl. Instead of a prison term, he got house arrest.

It brings me to the obvious question. What is the Liberal priority? The Liberals want to solve overcrowding in our prisons. They want to solve our court backlogs, the mountain of cases that have clogged up our courts. They want to do it by making it easier to stay out of jail, even though these people wreak havoc on society. The Liberals want it to be easier to make bail. They want to make it easier for the courts to give the criminal house arrest and to give concurrent rather than consecutive sentences. God forbid if one were convicted of multiple violent crimes that one would have to serve sentence after sentence. Why not get a group discount? That is what the government approves.

The Liberal priority is to make it easier for a Liberal patronage appointee filled parole board to give day passes to fun parks to convicted pedophiles.

With Bill C-64, Liberal so-called justice means to get the handcuffs off the criminal and put them on our crown attorneys instead. That is what the bill proposes to do. Once again the Liberals are siding with the criminals. They are not standing up for victims of crime. They are siding with the criminals and the Liberal defence lawyers who donate to their election campaigns.

I think we all remember that Allan Rock was the Liberal justice minister for a time. He gave us the failed long gun registry on which the government has spent $2 billion. For what? It is not serving its purpose. It is allowing the criminals to continue wreaking havoc on society. It goes after law-abiding farmers and duck hunters instead.

Allan Rock gave us the Liberal policy of conditional sentencing with no direction to the courts as to which serious violent crimes should be exempted from the concept of conditional sentencing. What is the result? Liberal appointed judges rightly interpret that the Liberal government's desire is to let violent criminals get out of jail free. That is the Liberal priority.

Bill C-2, the Liberals so-called child pornography legislation, is sitting on the Prime Minister's desk. It has the legitimate use defence in it. It used to be called the artistic merit defence. We can dress it up, paint it up or call it whatever, but it is a loophole one could drive a truck through. It leaves our vulnerable children unprotected.

The Liberals voted against raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. That is not much to ask to protect our young adolescents. Instead, the government wants to keep it legal for a 40 or 50 year old man to have sex with a young adolescent.

I think it is clear that the Liberals are soft on crime in general and on vehicle crimes specifically. Our Conservative colleague, my seatmate, had his private member's bill, Bill C-293, a bill I spoke in support of in this House, a bill that proposed mandatory minimum sentences for vehicle theft.

The other so-called Cadman bill, Bill C-65, the companion to this legislation, dealing with street racing, does not honour Chuck. The Liberal government this time left out something very important from that legislation, which was the scale that Mr. Cadman had built into his bill of increasing punishment for repeat offenders. Apparently those who continue to threaten the safety of our communities get a discount for their anti-social choices.

Mr. Cadman was on a crusade for eight years to get tougher on criminals in crimes involving vehicles before his premature demise. During those eight years, seven were under Liberal majority governments, not a minority government like it currently is. The Liberals, if they were serious about vehicle identification number alteration, could have passed Chuck's bill quite easily. They could have rubber-stamped it post-haste. They had majorities for seven years in this House and instead they reserved the right to fast-track things for political pork-barrelling to Liberal cronies and friends. The talk of Liberal concern for Chuck Cadman's crusade is hollow, quite frankly.

The least the Liberals could have done this time around, if they truly wanted to honour Chuck's memory, would have been to bring forward his bill unaltered. I find it a curious irony that we are talking about altering vehicle identification numbers and yet the Liberals altered the bill of the late Chuck Cadman, an honourable and distinguished man, for their own political purposes. It is a moral crime, a crime against Chuck's memory, to allow the Liberal government to alter a good bill.

The Liberals can talk about Chuck's memory all they want but they are waxing poetic. They did not listen to Chuck Cadman at all. The loophole in Bill C-64 is proof of that. The Liberal government listened instead to Liberal defence lawyers and now defence lawyers and organized criminals will have a great time watching the crown frustratingly try to prosecute under this legislation.

I would contend that the Liberals, with their loophole in Bill C-64, have dishonoured the memory of Chuck Cadman. I do not say that lightly. I sat next to the man for my short time in this House and I spent my time getting to know him. He was one of the most decent men I have ever known, a good family man, a devoted husband and devoted father. He was not planning on being a member of Parliament. That was not his design, but he made it his crusade because he loved his son that much, to come here and ensure we had the laws and the direction to the courts that society wants criminals to be prosecuted to the fullest, that they should pay for their crimes, that Canadians should be protected and that they should not be revictimized in this process. Chuck was here to do that. I can say proudly that Conservatives have always stood for the principles in Chuck Cadman's original private member's bill.

Conservatives will continue standing up for safe streets, for healthy communities and on behalf of victims of crime and say, “No way”. The rights of Canadians should be respected in this country.

JusticeStatements By Members

October 4th, 2005 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the past year Canadians have watched as families have been torn apart by rising levels of gun violence in our communities. Over the summer, I met with criminal defence lawyers, municipal leaders, heads of national police associations and local law enforcement officials to discuss Bill C-215, my private member's bill, which would introduce mandatory minimum sentences on indictable gun offences.

Support for this initiative is growing in this country, both at the grassroots and among provincial attorneys general. Yesterday I had the opportunity to discuss these and other issues with the chief of the Toronto Police Force, Bill Blair, a man who has had to deal with over 40 gun deaths in his city alone. He joined numerous others in identifying the links among gangs, guns and drugs.

It is time for this government to send a clear message to the criminal element that their actions will no longer be tolerated. The first opportunity to do this is on October 18, when Bill C-215 comes up at the justice committee. I urge my colleagues to demonstrate clearly their commitment to the ultimate responsibility of parliamentarians, which is to provide for the health and safety of their constituents.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2005 / 6:30 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-215 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion:)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. colleagues who have supported this bill. For those who either take some offence or appear to be unduly concerned about it, I would like to maybe allay some of the concerns and address a few of them, but also make a number of points that I believe are very important.

Probably the most important point that I have to make on this bill right now is that the status quo is not acceptable. I am talking about people like Barbara Turnbull, who was paralyzed many years ago in a gun attack, and the drive-by shooting of Louise Russo. I am talking about the hundreds and hundreds of armed robberies that take place at our mom and pop grocery store operations or variety stores, and the hundreds of assault and weapons charges that are laid. That is suggesting that we just leave things as they are and hope it works.

We are talking about human lives here. We are talking about safety and we are talking about a responsibility of this House. It is not up to us to enforce the law, but to make the law and to give the tools to our police officers, so that they can readily protect society. If we stop anything short of that, we are not serving society.

If what we have now were working, I would suggest that by all means let us not touch it and leave it alone. Every day when I drive into work, I have the radio on at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning, and there is not a day that I do not hear of yet another assault or another murder.

We have just finished the deadliest weekend in metro Toronto's history since I introduced this bill for the first time. This is taking place across the country including the terrible tragedy of the RCMP situation. There is no end to this.

We must stem the tide, so this does not continue ad nauseam, for the safety of our citizens. We cannot have a society where people are walking around fearful of their right to travel the roads, fearful of their right to go to a party, fearful of their right to shop in a grocery store, or fearful that somehow some ill-advised individual is just going to come in and say, “Excuse me but your rights do not matter”. That is not acceptable. We must do something about the status quo.

Some of my Liberal and Bloc colleagues have expressed reservations and others are supportive of this bill. I am not suggesting Bill C-215 is the entire answer. As a former police officer many years ago, I am not a great fan of minimum mandatory sentencing across the board. I recognize that reality does not work, but there are occasional situations where it does work, and where a very clear message must be sent. I honestly believe this is one of those situations.

There has been a lot of collective data used by my hon. colleagues here today. One colleague mentioned that a person would get 19 years for an armed robbery with the culmination of what I am suggesting and the penalties that exist now. I do not know which province or country he is living in, but if he takes a look at the sentences that are coming out of our courts right now, I have not yet seen a situation where the criminal gets the mandatory sentence. Plea bargaining is rampant and somehow, someway this needs to be addressed. We need to toughen the Criminal Code. There is no doubt about that.

I am suggesting, quite honestly, that this is a start. This is a bill that should go to committee. We must send a message of deterrence. This is not a message of incarceration. We must wake up criminals to the fact that they cannot continue carrying a weapon as if it is a way of life. A weapon cannot be a status symbol. To say that this is out of proportion and an offence against the charter is an absolute joke.

I cannot believe that argument could even be properly put forward at this particular time. When it comes time for proportionality, Bill C-215 carries the punishment. There is not one criminal who does not know that when he picks up a weapon. It is not a case of leaving the scene of an accident or whether a mandatory minimum would be suggested. That is a wrong situation, I would argue. This is a clear decision by the criminal and that simply cannot and will not be tolerated in a society if we really care about the people who we are here to protect.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2005 / 7:05 p.m.
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Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I too am pleased to speak to Bill C-215.

Like all those who spoke during the first hour of debate, I too share the view that the objectives of the bill are laudable. However, I, like most of the members who spoke, am concerned that the approach taken to address the issue raises significant problems.

Having reviewed the transcript of the first hour of debate, I could not help but notice the strong tone taken by the member for Calgary--Nose Hill with respect to the remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. She said that the parliamentary secretary could not have read the bill. This was in relation to the concerns that he raised with respect to the potential application of the minimum penalties proposed in the bill.

The member for Calgary--Nose Hill took great pains to read out the offences that are listed in Bill C-215. The point she wished to make was that the hypothetical case of an 18 year old shooting a bunch of car tires was not an offence captured in the bill and that it was irresponsible for the parliamentary secretary to say that it was.

I have read the bill and I am certain that the parliamentary secretary has read the bill. It seems to me that the member for Calgary--Nose Hill has not read it herself. Perhaps it was she who was acting irresponsibly in enumerating all the offences amended by the bill but neglecting to mention section 85, which is the offence of using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence.

Mischief causing damage to property over $5,000 is an indictable offence. It is indeed captured by this bill which seeks to amend section 85 by providing a minimum penalty of 10 years for discharging a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. This penalty must be consecutive to the one imposed for the underlying offence.

The possible application of such a severe penalty, given the nature of the hypothetical crime we mentioned, must undoubtedly be the reason why the parliamentary secretary felt compelled to highlight the problem.

Another issue the member for Calgary--Nose Hill took issue with was the concern most of the other members expressed with respect to the proposal to add supplementary penalties. Ironically, she did mention section 85 in this context immediately after having omitted it from the list of offences being amended. Therefore she appears to be aware of section 85's existence. Perhaps it is just that she did not know how it applied. The Liberal, Bloc and NDP members all understood and made the point that the supplementary sentences proposed were problematic.

I would like to take the time to explain, for the benefit of members of the other party, the problem with supplementary sentences. It is actually not that complicated.

It is not possible to have two penalties of imprisonment for one offence. As an example, let us look at how Bill C-215 proposes to amend the robbery offence. Clause 10 proposes that every person who commits a robbery is guilty of an indictable offence and liable:

(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence or in flight thereafter, to imprisonment for life, and to an additional minimum punishment of a term of imprisonment, to be served consecutively to the term imposed for the offence, of

(i) five years if the firearm is not discharged--

(ii) ten years if the firearm is discharged...or

(iii) fifteen years if the firearm is discharged...thereby caused bodily harm or death;

It is not possible to provide two terms of imprisonment upon conviction for one offence. The member asked why this was a concern when currently section 85 sets out an additional minimum penalty, to be served consecutively, for using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. My colleague mentioned that we do use minimum sentencing in our law for firearms offences.

Two things are important to note: first, section 85 is a separate offence and it has its own penalty; second, section 85 does not apply when the underlying offence is one of the 10 serious offences listed.

The 10 serious offences listed are: criminal negligence causing death, manslaughter, attempted murder, intentionally causing bodily harm with a firearm, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery and extortion.

A higher minimum penalty of four years has been incorporated in the penalty provisions for those ten serious offences already if they are committed with a firearm.

This was the principled approach taken in Bill C-68, which provided significantly higher minimum penalties for specific serious offences committed with a firearm, a bill that I supported.

The additional minimum penalty of one year or three years, depending on whether it is a first or subsequent offence, at section 85 can apply to other indictable offences: those that do not currently attract a minimum four year penalty.

Some indictable offences provided in the Criminal Code can be less serious in nature, even when they are committed with a firearm. This is why it is so important that we consider reasonable hypothetical scenarios.

The parliamentary secretary, in the first hour, mentioned one example, which some members found to be too far-fetched. However, given that it is almost identical to a hypothetical case considered in an actual judgment on the issue of section 85, I would suggest that it is not at all unreasonable to consider it.

The member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles gave another reasonable hypothetical case of someone who agrees to stand as a lookout while an accomplice carries out a robbery in a store. This lookout person would receive 19 years if Bill C-215 were passed.

The fundamental problem with Bill C-215 is that it would establish an inflexible penalty scheme, one which would force the courts to hand down grossly disproportionate sentences in cases that could quite reasonably arise.

As I stated at the outset, although the goal of the bill is commendable, that is to send a clear message to deter those who would use a firearm to commit a crime, it would not be of any use if the scheme proposed is not viable and, as such, stands a very high risk of being struck down by the courts.

I will not be supporting the legislation and I encourage my colleagues to oppose it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2005 / 7 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to comment on Bill C-215 and to follow my hon. colleague from Yellowhead and my friend from the Standing Committee on Health.

The bill was tabled on October 18 by the member for Prince Edward—Hastings. It is a bill proposing harsher sentences for serious offences under the Criminal Code in the commission of which a firearm or imitation is used.

The most important aspect of Bill C-215 is undoubtedly the extent of the proposed increase in minimum sentences. The bill proposes minimum sentences that go way beyond those currently prescribed in the Criminal Code. In fact, the use of minimum sentences in the code is quite exceptional. Although they are most commonly found in the part of the code that deals with firearms and other weapons, the increased use of them is fairly recent and not much is known about the effectiveness of the 1995 amendments.

I would therefore like to begin by focusing my comments on the principles of sentencing. Following that I would like to talk a bit about the problems Bill C-215 seeks, well-meaningly, to rectify: what is it that is not working well in the application of the existing provisions that would justify the amendments that are proposed?

We would all argue that crime is a major issue. In my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour it is a particularly problematic issue. We have had a rash of swarmings and robberies and people do not feel safe in their homes, as they should. How do we fix it is the question.

To begin with the principles of sentencing, let us examine what is provided for in sections 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code. In section 718, we find the following:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:

(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;

(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;

(c) to separate offenders from society, where necessary;

(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community; and

(f) to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community.

The principle of proportionality, that is to say, the principle that the sentence imposed should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the offender, is a fundamental principle.

Furthermore, the courts are required to take aggravating and mitigating circumstances relating to the commission of the offence or the situation of the offender into account. They must consider the harmonization of sentences, that is to say, the imposition of similar sentences for similar offences and in similar circumstances, the totality of sentences when consecutive sentences are imposed and they have a duty to consider less restrictive sanctions before depriving an offender of his or her liberty and pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

Mandatory minimum sentences, especially those that are higher, can be contrary to several of the principles of sentencing codified in the Criminal Code, especially the principle of proportionality. They may also infringe the charter when the mandatory sentence is excessive or unusual.

That is why, in light of the principles set out in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have in Canada a sentencing regime that promotes an individual approach. Our system allows the courts to impose sentences that are appropriate in light of the particular circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence and the offender.

The law that applies in sentencing does not authorize the courts to promote one of the stated principles to the exclusion of all others. Minimum sentences, especially those at the high end, are designed to give precedence to the principle of denunciation. Furthermore, the primary objective is to highlight the punitive aspect of a sentence, although retribution as such does not appear in the list of codified sentencing principles.

I am afraid that there is in our society an erroneous impression that minimum sentences are effective as a deterrent measure. I do not believe that is the case. The many studies that have been conducted in Canada and elsewhere show that minimum sentences have no effect on reducing crime. We merely have to look at the rate of gun crimes committed in the United States and the harsh penalties that apply there in order to understand that there is no direct link between the existence of harsh sentences and the commission of offences, though we would like to think otherwise.

In any event, even if we were to consider adopting minimum sentences that are significantly higher than those presently, it is our duty to examine the application of the existing provisions in order to identify whether there are shortcomings or gaps to be corrected. Criminal sanctions are the harshest measure of coercion in our society and we have a duty to resort to them when justified, and only when justified.

In the case of many of the offences targeted in Bill C-215, the current applicable sentences can range from a minimum of 4 years to a maximum of 14 years or life imprisonment.

By making use of much harsher minimum sentences, Bill C-215 seeks to make substantial changes in the approach to sentencing in Canada. I have commented on how minimum sentences generally risk being inconsistent with the principles of sentencing. I will not spend much more time on that.

I will simply conclude this part of my remarks by noting that with the large range of possible sentences in the existing relevant provisions there is ample room for the courts to impose as harsh a sentence as is desirable in the particular circumstances of any case and that there are no shortcomings to be rectified through this approach.

What is more, on the subject of current trends in the use of firearms to commit crimes, especially in the case of violent crimes, the rates are not increasing. On the contrary, recent justice statistics show a substantial decline in the rate of violent crimes committed with firearms, including homicide and robbery.

In 2002, 72% of violent crimes were committed without any weapon and 2.2% of violent crimes were committed with a firearm. That does not mean that action is not required and that is no comfort to those affected, but it must be effective and not just a show of force.

The existing sentences with respect to firearm use in crime are among the harshest in the whole of the Criminal Code and the current situation with respect to the use of firearms in crime in general does not show an increase. On the contrary, the current trend is clearly in the direction of a substantial decline.

So how would we be justified in passing the extremely high minimum penalties proposed in Bill C-215?

In conclusion I would like to reiterate my point with respect to the importance that we must give to the principles of sentencing when we examine any bill that proposes criminal sanctions. This task should engage us as parliamentarians here in the House even more when a bill proposes exceptionally harsh measures as Bill C-215 does.

Mandatory minimum penalties adopted in an ad hoc fashion result in great disparities in the law and undercut a principled, rational approach to sentencing reform. We need to do something about crime. Let us focus on the ways to reduce crime that work, that do make us safer and do make us more secure.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2005 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak to the bill. Bill C-215 is important legislation.

When we talk about legislation and we get consensus on an issue on both sides of the political spectrum, we know we have an issue that transcends the political pressures that sometimes get in the way of good common sense.

The legislation is a private member's bill. I give full accolades to my hon. colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings for bringing it forward. It is important and it points to a serious problem in society, a problem where it has taken such a soft approach on criminal justice from so many aspects. The pendulum has swung so far.

It is important for the House to consider how it can stop the pendulum from swinging farther. We need to bring it back to where we can deal with the criminal justice elements in our society in a very aggressive way and in a way that will protect society from itself. A society that does not protect itself from criminals is one that is in serious danger.

I want to lend my support to the bill. It speaks significantly to more pressures on the criminal justice element. We cannot do everything in one legislation, but this legislation specifically adds additional sentencing to firearm use crimes. I want to concur with the intent of the bill. It addresses the serious problem out there and it tries to correct it. Any time we have legislation that will do that, it is a good thing.

The bill is not just about incarcerating people and throwing away the key. It is about deterrents. It would give criminals a sober second thought of the consequences of being caught in this kind of activity.

The four slain RCMP officers who were serving society in Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt is in my riding. I had the opportunity to attend the funerals and memorial services. I also had the opportunity to talk to many front line RCMP officers. I talked to them about the four slain RCMP officers, the worst incident since 1885 as far as the RCMP is concerned. It staggers the normal thought process to understand what went on there. It shook the nation from coast to coast because it was so dramatic.

The questions flowing from that are intense and are worthy of consideration. How could something like this happen? The RCMP say that this is not the only incident that has happened. It is seeing a different kind of criminal element on our streets today, criminals that have no regard whatsoever for front line RCMP officers. In fact, they will target them. When they become the target, then they are not just walking into dangerous situations, whether grow ops, drug use, family violence or other situations, they now are the target of the criminal.

When criminals have that much disrespect for our law enforcers, then we have a serious problem. They know nothing will happen to them if they are caught. Our criminal justice system has become so soft . Some of the penitentiaries and prisons are so soft and easy to be incarcerated within, something with which I have a difficult time.

In my riding I have a minimum security prison in Grande Cache. The warden took me around the prison a few years back when I first became a member of Parliament. He explained how proud he was of the prison because prisoners could get their first year apprenticeship, a first year NAIT program, which is post-secondary education. He was very proud of the shop and rightly so. He showed me the welding courses, the woodworking and culinary programs. It was state of the art facilities.

The natural question for me was this. They have 24 hours in a day, the same as me, how many hours do they work? They are being prepared to go into the workplace where they will work an eight or ten hour day. If they are here 24 hours, maybe 12 hours a day would apply to getting this program under their belt. I said this to the warden and I could not believe what the he told me. He said no, that they could work only four hours, maybe four and a half hours a day. I said to him that they would be going from prison out into the real world and the workplace. They had nothing to do for 24 hours, except eat and be looked after, but they could only be worked four hours a day. I told him that this did not work for me.

The warden phoned me back about a year later. He said that I would be very proud of him. He said that the prisoners were working seven and a half hours a day. This is seven and a half hours a day for minimum security, where they are preparing them to face the real world, still is not adequate to me. At least it is a step in the right direction. We can understand how little the fear is in that minimum security prison, when that is the penalty.

The front line RCMP officers were slain in a very violent incident. This individual who took those lives had no business being on the street. His rap sheet had 30 criminal charges over three decades. Eight times he was convicted. His charges ranged from firearms, break and entry, unlawful confinement, death threats, possession of stolen property and assault. Our criminal justice system failed those RCMP officers. It failed the communities of Whitecourt and Mayerthorpe and it failed society.

This will be repeated again and again. Individuals such as James Roszko, who took the lives of the officers, are in every riding in this country. Every detachment has a list of these kinds of individuals who could in the right circumstances be equally as dangerous.

If we do not put laws in such as Bill C-215, we will not have any hope of changing our the system. We will not have any hope of criminals becoming more responsive to understanding the penalties of their action.

Another example is the grow ops. These are not individuals who are in possession of marijuana. These are actual grow ops of marijuana. When we look at the statistics, most are anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. Last year In B.C. one in seven did prison time. In Calgary, one in ten did prison time. When we see that kind of lax approach in our criminal justice courts, then we understand we have a serious problem.

It is not only the judges who are at fault here. It is also our crown prosecutors and our whole justice system. They plea bargain away case after case. Many of our crown prosecutors are stretched to the maximum. They do not have the opportunity or the time to do their work on each case. They are told to run them through and get them back on the streets. If we talk with the front line RCMP officers, they will tell us that.

The Conservative Party has a significant amount of changes that we want to make to the criminal justice system. I will quickly read some of the changes.

First, we want to institute mandatory minimum sentences for violent repeat offenders. Second, we would require that sentences of multiple convictions be served consecutively. We want to make time mean time. Third, we would eliminate statutory automatic release. Fourth, we would reform the National Parole Board, including increasing input from the community and from the victim. Fifth, we would repeal the gun registry.

The Conservative Party also would do things such as minimum sentences for criminals who use a firearm, strict monitoring of high risk individuals, a crackdown on smuggling and put more law enforcers on our streets.

We see these things as important to changing the paradigm in our criminal justice system. Society has been jolted by these kinds of incidents, so much so that the House has to recognize just how serious it is out there. We have to bring into this House laws, debate them and change the laws so we give the direction to our judges and our court system so they will do what needs to be done to stop criminals in their tracks and protect society from these individuals. It is important that we do all of these. I cannot impress upon my colleagues enough how important it is.

We have to look at this legislation in a very serious way. I support it and I encourage everyone in the House to support it. It is the first step. Let us send it to committee. We can change it a bit if we need. Let us send a message to law enforcers and to our criminal justice system.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-215. I congratulate the member for Prince Edward—Hastings for initiating this legislative proposal. It is a significant contribution toward addressing a very serious problem in our society today.

I join with other members in my caucus who have already indicated support for the bill. I want to tell the member who initiated this piece of legislation, as well as all members in the House, that I am quite delighted to support the bill. I would be very happy to see it sent to committee as soon as possible so that the specific provisions of the bill can be addressed and any concerns focused on at that time.

In general terms it is a very important step in the right direction. The purpose of the bill is to get tough on crimes that are committed with guns. The crime could be in any circumstance or any situation. It recognizes the lethal nature of the crime and the particular danger that is faced by the victim in such a circumstance. It is a reflection of a serious problem in our society today. So many crimes of late have been committed with guns which puts individuals at much greater risk of being wounded or dying. It is a serious problem.

The bill says very clearly that if a crime has been committed with a gun, there should be an additional sentence imposed on the culprit. The bill indicates the need for a tougher provision in the law which says that we as a society will stand firm against the widespread use of guns and that we will remain absolutely vehement in our expression of concern for the victims who are faced with such a horrific experience. I cannot even begin to imagine how horrifying an event like that must be. That certainly has been driven home to all of us by the news reports of late, by individual police reports and by first-hand experiences recounted to each one of us.

The statistics have been repeated on numerous occasions in the House but it is worthwhile to repeat some of them and talk about some of the reports that the police have actually presented to the public and to parliamentarians. I appreciate the hard work done by the member for Prince Edward—Hastings who initiated the bill. I commend him for giving us such a clear picture of the problem at hand.

I note in particular that his findings show a robbery rate which increased for the first time since 1996. Robberies committed with a firearm increased by more than 10% in 2003 and they continue to account for about one in seven robberies. That was quite a new statistic for me. It opened my eyes to the depth of the concern expressed by the member and others.

The fact that two years ago there were 2,300 robberies committed with a firearm is just mind boggling and very alarming. I also note the statistics showing that 88% of robberies with firearms reported by police were committed with guns that were either already banned or handguns that should have been registered.

We can think of the harm these crimes do to our society. For someone who is wounded or frightened by a gun in a robbery or an assault, the scars must be very deep. And let us not forget those people who have actually lost their lives as a result of the use of handguns and firearms in robberies and other aggressive incidents.

In 2003 of the 161 firearm homicides in Canada, 109 were committed with handguns. It is a serious problem and one that we want to see addressed with every resource available.

One way this could be dealt with is in the kind of sentences that are handed down to those who use firearms while committing crimes. The provisions of the bill are very clear. Let us have tougher prison sentences for those who use guns when committing crimes.

This is an important initiative for many in our society. Victims' rights groups support it. The police forces across the country certainly support it, as does the Canadian Bar Association.

Many women's groups support this initiative as well. These are organizations who fight on behalf of victims of violence, many of whom happen to be women. These organizations really believe that the use of firearms must be reduced because women primarily are the victims of such a prevalence of guns in our society. Women are impacted by gun related violence at a much greater rate than men. We should not forget the impact that this has on all of the families and communities across Canada.

It is quite obvious from the police reports that women are affected disproportionately by the use of firearms in the case of criminal activities. I think about the Toronto police service report that we received for February, just a couple of months ago. One report indicated that two men entered a bar and were asked to leave. One of the suspects pulled a handgun on a woman, pulled the trigger twice but the gun malfunctioned fortunately. In another incident a man and a woman were found shot in an underground parking garage.

I could go on with all kinds of statistics showing the incredible impact that crimes involving guns have on our society. Our responsibility as MPs and representatives of the people is to actually deal with this issue.

We should support the bill. We should send it to committee. There may be some concerns regarding how such a law would be applied, how it could actually be made effective. The specifics of the bill have to be sorted out at committee. That is the appropriate place to deal with it clause by clause. Needless to say the principle is the point of our debate today. As an individual member and with the support of many of my colleagues in the NDP caucus, I want to give my support for the bill. It will have a significant impact on families and communities across Canada.