An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act to facilitate the implementation of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act, chapter 25 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005. The enactment makes certain technical changes to those Acts. It also

(a) specifies that the provisions in section 487.051 of the Criminal Code relating to orders for the taking of samples of bodily substances for forensic DNA analysis apply to persons who are sentenced or are discharged under section 730 of, or are found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder for, designated offences committed at any time, including before June 30, 2000, and makes similar amendments to the National Defence Act;

(b) allows an order to be made under section 487.051 of the Criminal Code at a hearing whose date is set within 90 days after the day on which a person is sentenced, discharged under section 730 or found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, and makes similar amendments to the National Defence Act;

(c) adds attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder or to cause another person to be murdered to the offences covered by section 487.055 of the Criminal Code;

(d) permits an application to be made under section 487.055 of the Criminal Code when a person is still serving a sentence of imprisonment for one of the specified offences, rather than requiring that they be serving a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more for that offence;

(e) in certain circumstances, allows a court to require a person who wishes to participate in a hearing relating to an order or authorization under the Criminal Code for the taking of samples of bodily substances for forensic DNA analysis to appear by closed-circuit television or a similar means of communication;

(f) allows samples of bodily substances to be taken under the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act at the place, day and time set by an order or a summons or as soon as feasible afterwards;

(g) specifies that it is an offence under the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act to fail to comply with such an order or summons;

(h) requires the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to destroy the bodily substances collected under an order or authorization and the information transmitted with them if, in the opinion of the Attorney General or the Director of Military Prosecutions, as the case may be, the offence to which the order or authorization relates is not a designated offence;

(i) enables the Commissioner to communicate internationally the information that may be communicated within Canada under subsection 6(1) of the DNA Identification Act; and

(j) allows the Commissioner to communicate information for the purpose of the investigation of criminal offences, and allows the subsequent communication of that information for the purpose of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

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 CodePrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2008 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recognize I may not have the full allotment of time, but I will give it my best and you can pull the plug if I go over.

I am happy to speak to Bill C-519, introduced by the member for Palliser. We have already told him what a great member he is, so perhaps we should stop that.

The bill addresses an important aspect of the bill system. More specific, the bill provides that where an accused is charged with a serious personal injury offence, as defined under section 752 of the Criminal Code, the prosecution shall present all the relevant evidence in its possession before a justice makes an order for the release of the accused.

Bail has been described earlier. The type of evidence that would be required is all the evidence that is relevant to the release of the accused, including all relevant evidence respecting the alleged offence and its commission.

As the bill summary notes, the purpose of the proposed reform is to ensure that an accused in such a case is not granted bail as a result of an agreement between the prosecutor and the defence counsel without the judge being fully informed by all of the relevant evidence in the possession of the prosecutor. As the member mentioned in his original comments, he personally knew the people involved in the crime of which he spoke and it is important that these relevant pieces are taken into account.

Bill C-519 is a private member's bill, not a government bill. Regardless, I am of the view that the bill is consistent with the government's overall crime platform. The government's criminal law reforms have sought to ensure the justice system operates in an effective manner in order to protect victims.

For example, in the last session of Parliament, Bill C-9 was passed in order to prevent the use of conditional sentences, which also refer to house arrest for offences proceeded on indictment that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Bill C-18, the DNA databank legislation, also received royal assent, thereby strengthening the Criminal Code regime with this powerful crime solving tool. Also street racing laws were passed with the proclamation of Bill C-19.

In this session of Parliament, Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, received royal assent. This important omnibus bill addresses a broad range of concerns. It tackles serious gun crimes by imposing higher minimum sentences for imprisonment and tougher bail rules. It allows stricter conditions and more effective sentencing and the management of dangerous and high risk offenders. It raises the age of consent for sexual activity to protect our youth from sexual predators. It strengthens the laws against impaired drivers to protect Canadians from those who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for the member but I must background it because of the games that the government plays.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals made the first offer to fast-track a package of justice bills through the House. This offer effectively guaranteed the Conservatives a majority in the House to pass this legislation.

On March 21, 2007, we attempted to use an opposition day motion that if passed would have immediately results in the passage at all stages of four justice bills: Bill C-18, Bill C-22, Bill C-23 and Bill C-35.

Incredibly, the Conservative House leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. In other words, the Conservatives fought the Liberal attempt to pass the four Conservative justice bills. Why? They wanted to get to the attacking violent crime bill where they could try to confuse Canadians and try to blame the Liberals that they did not pass them.

Would the member for once withdraw from his fantasyland, be honest in this House and admit to the facts that I just outlined to him?

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin to speak to Bill C-2, I have to address my hon. colleague's contradictory comments about the lack of mandatory minimums. On the one hand, he lambasted the Liberal Party for not wanting mandatory minimums. On the other hand, he said very clearly that we had them and we called for a strengthening of them.

When the member for Mount Royal was the justice minister, he introduced mandatory minimums for weapons offences. That was a good thing. That is why we support Bill C-2. We have been trying to drive forward much of what is in the legislation. Ironically, we have been obstructed by the government.

I will go through the facts. Unfortunately, in the House one could look at the old adage that “in war, truth is the first casualty”. What we have here is war by another name. Sometimes truth is the first casualty in the House of Commons, and that is sad for the public.

Let me talk about the facts for a minute and give viewers a bit of history on the bill.

Bill C-2 is an omnibus bill involving a combination of five bills, including mandatory minimum penalties. We support mandatory minimum penalties. I caution the government, however, to ensure that the mandatory minimum penalties for weapons offences, violent offences and sexual offences cannot be plea bargained away and that they run consecutively and not concurrently. Too many times people who have committed serious offences receive penalties that get plea bargained away, so there is no effective penalty.

We also support an increase in mandatory minimums for weapons trafficking. My colleague from Mount Royal introduced many mandatory minimums for these offences in the last Parliament.

The Liberal Party supports the provisions for dangerous offenders, impaired driving and reverse onus in firearms offences. Many years ago there really was no penalty for a person using a weapon in the commission of an offence. That was changed by the last government. The Liberal Party supports the changes in Bill C-2.

Let me talk for a few moments about a few facts around the passage of the bill.

On October 26, 2006, our Liberal leader made a first offer to fast track a package of justice bills in the House, including Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. We also added Bill C-35, on March 14 of this year, a bill for bail reform, and we support that.

On March 21, we attempted to use our opposition day to pass the government's four justice bills: Bill C-18, Bill C-22, Bill C-23 and Bill C-35. The Conservative House leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. Those four government bills would have been fast tracked through this place in the same day, yet the government House leader, for reasons unknown to us and the public, blocked this. Those are facts.

What has been the path of government justice bills through the Senate? Of the six justice bills that had been passed before the summer break, only four went to the Senate. How on earth could the Senate pass bills that it just received prior to the government proroguing Parliament? It could not do that. It is disingenuous for government members to stand and suggest that the Senate was trying to block their bills. By the time the Senate received the bills, the government closed Parliament. Those are the facts. Anybody can check them out if they wish.

We support Bill C-2. However, I want to bore down on a few dangerous issues that the government is pursuing. One deals with the issue of drug trafficking. The government has said that it will increase the penalties for those who traffic in drugs.

There are two populations of traffickers.

There are those parasites in society who are involved in commercial grow operations, frequently attached to organized crime. We should throw the book at them. Those people are a cancer in our society and they deserve to be in jail.

There is another population that will be swept up in the government's anti-trafficking bill. It is the low level dealers who sell small amounts of illegal drugs to people, but they themselves are addicts. In essence, they are selling drugs to pay for their addictions.

If we criminalize people who have addiction problems and throw them in jail, they come out being hardened criminals. We also do not deal with the underlying problem, which we will have at the end of the day when they come out. In effect, we increase public insecurity and costs to the taxpayer. We do not address the underlying problem and we make our streets less safe. That is stupid, not to put too fine a point on it.

If the government goes through with the bill to criminalize people who are addicts, the low level people buying and selling drugs, it will end up with the situation we see south of the border, which has used a war on drugs approach. It has proven to be an abysmal failure.

What we see south of the border is a view of the future for us if the government pursues its course of action. There have been increased rates of both soft and hard drugs use, increased numbers of people have been incarcerated, increased costs to the taxpayer and more violent crime. Society loses.

The government ought to work with the provinces to implement solutions that address some of the underlying problems.

I will get to the organized crime aspects in a moment.

For the drug problems, I cannot overemphasize what a disaster this will be. The government has been warned of this by people across the country.

Let us take two projects, in particular, that have been extremely effective in dealing with people who have intravenous drug use problems. Both of them are found in Vancouver and championed by Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Thomas Kerr, superb physicians and research scientists, who have underneath them the Insite supervised injection program and the NAOMI project.

The supervised injection program is a place where addicts can go to a supervised setting and take the drugs they are given. What has that done? It has reduced harm, put more people into treatment, reduced crime and saved the taxpayer money. Fewer people have gone to emergency and there has been less dependence on our health care system. It works.

The other project I would recommend we pursue is the NAOMI project. Before I get to it, I point out that in the eleventh hour the government extended Insite's ability to engage in its program up until June 2008.

All the evidence published from The Lancet to The New England Journal of Medicine shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Insite supervised injection program saves lives, reduces crime and gets people into treatment. It is good for public security and it saves the taxpayer money. Why extend it to only eight months?

If the government gets a majority, it will kill the program. That, in short, will be murder. The government knows full well the program saves lives. To remove that program, would result in, essentially, the killing of people.

A program that works better, which the government does not support but ought to expand, is the NAOMI project. The NAOMI project deals with hard-core narcotics abusers. These people are over the age of 26. They have had five years of drug addictions and two failed attempts at treatment. They are the hard nuts of intravenous drug use.

The NAOMI project took 243 addicts and randomized them into three populations. One population received intravenous heroine, the other one received intravenous dilaudid, which is a prescription narcotic that is legal, and the third was to take oral methadone, which is a weak narcotic.

What happened to those populations? Of the population on IV drugs, more than 85% of people were still taking those drugs, receiving treatment and counselling, getting their lives together, obtaining skills training and being able to live while not being on the street and not engaging in criminal behaviour to feed their addictions. Of the third population, the ones in the methadone program, 50% of people were still in treatment after a year. It works.

What the government should be doing for both Insite as well as NAOMI, is expanding those programs across our country. Our urban centres need it.

In Victoria there are 1,243 people living on the street, 60% of which have what we call dual diagnoses, which means some of them have both a drug problem and a psychiatric problem. I would also add that some people within that population have had brain injuries in the past and have fallen into the terrible spiral of drug use by being on the street. Those people could be you or I, Mr. Speaker, who one day fall off a ladder or get into a car accident, sustain a significant closed head injury, have major cerebral trauma and as a result their lives are affected forever.

Some of those people are on the street and take drugs. Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw the psychiatric patient, who is dealing to pay for his or her addiction, in jail? That is what would happen with the bill that the government has introduced. Those people need medical treatment. They do not need to be in jail.

My plea to the government, to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister is to bury their ideology, follow the facts and implement the solutions that will help people with addictions, keep our streets safe, and reduce costs to the taxpayers. It is a win-win situation for all concerned.

The interesting thing about the NAOMI project is that because NAOMI actually gave the drug to an individual who was proven to be an addict, that person did not have to go on the street to get the drugs. If that were done in a broader sense, it would be horrific to organized crime that benefits from this situation because the NAOMI project severs the tie between the addict and organized crime. That is what we need to do.

Organized crime would be horrified if a forward thinking government one day were to enable drug addicts to receive their drugs. Doing that enables addicts to get into the treatment programs that they need. It enables them to detoxify, obtain addiction counselling, skills training and the psychiatric therapy they need. If we do not do that, we will not make a dent in what we see on the ground. There will not be any affect on addictions and it will actually increase the criminal population in our country.

The other side of this coin, of course, deals with organized crime gangs, as I mentioned, the parasites and cancer in our society. These parasites are essentially people in $3,000 suits who benefit from a substance that is nearly worthless but has a value well beyond what it ought to have because it is illegal.

I have a bill on the order paper that would decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. No one condones anybody using marijuana, everybody wants to prevent people from using it, and everyone certainly encourages children not to use this or any other illegal drug. The fact of the matter is that people do use it and a significant percentage of Canadians have used it at one time in their lives, particularly when they were very young.

Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old who has a joint in his or her back pocket in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old in jail who exchanges or sells or gives a couple of marijuana cigarettes to a friend? That would be trafficking under the government's bill. Do we throw that 18-year-old in jail? Do we give an 18-year-old a criminal record, which is what we have today, affecting his or her ability to work or gain employment and have access to professional facilities for the rest of his or her life? Is that a humane way to deal with our population? It is not.

The worst news for organized crime, in my personal view, would be that marijuana is legal and regulated. It is not to say that marijuana is safe. It is not. It is dangerous, but so are alcohol and cigarettes.

If we can imagine today that cigarettes were going to come onto the market and were proposed as being something that ought to be sold today, do we think for a moment that they would be allowed, with all the cancer, respiratory and cardiac problems that cigarettes cause? No, they would not be, and neither in fact would alcohol. Alcohol would not be allowed today either, for all of the damage it does, but the fact of the matter is that cigarettes and alcohol are legal today.

The groups that benefit the most from the status quo, from marijuana being illegal, and it is just a weed with its value elevated well beyond what it ought to be because it is illegal, are the organized crime gangs. They are making billions of dollars off the status quo, and those billions are used to do any number of things including: trafficking of weapons and people, prostitution, embezzlement, fraud and murder. That is what organized crime is involved with.

What the government should be doing is coming up with a more comprehensive plan to deal with the biker gangs and organized criminal gangs who are--

Motions in amendmentTackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was mentioning, as parliamentarians we have to be cognizant and not pass bad legislation. We have to ensure that we do not interfere in the justice process as well.

These bills were thoroughly debated when they came before committee. Bills have to be handled properly if they are to get through Parliament. If they are to be handled properly, they have to be prioritized. It appears the Conservatives have no priorities. They only want to create a hodgepodge of stuff.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals offered to fast track a package of justice bills through the House. These included Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. This offer effectively guaranteed that the Conservatives would have a majority to pass the legislation.

On March 14, the Leader of the Opposition added Bill C-35, the bail reform legislation, to the list of bills the Liberal caucus would fast track. Despite this offer, it took the Conservatives until May 30 to get the bill through committee. If the Conservatives were so keen on being hard on crime, as they have claimed, they should have taken this offer.

According to a report entitled “Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population”, produced by the JFA Institute, the tough measures, which the government claims it is bringing through its omnibus bills, are costly and pointless. The report says that due largely to tough on crime policies, there are now eight times as many people in U.S. prisons and jails as there were in 1970, yet the crime rate today in the U.S. is about the same as it was in 1973. There is little evidence that the imprisonment binge has had much impact on crime.

As legislators, we are supposed to be here to pass good legislation, not bad legislation. We are here to debate and to amend. Amendments were proposed to the bills and the members of the Conservative Party on the committee did not want to pass them.

It is important that we reflect on what these bills talked about.

Bill C-10 talked about minimum penalties. It proposed five years for a first offence and seven years on a second or subsequent offence for eight specific offences involving the actual use of firearms, attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery, extortion and when the offence was gang related or if a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun was used.

The bill was brought to committee and the committee made the necessary amendments. The committee still has very grave concerns that the bill needs to be properly documented and it has to be properly put in place so legislators know the intent of the legislation.

There is the creation of two new offences, an indictable offence of breaking and entering to steal a firearm and an indictable offence of robbery to steal a firearm. There is no difference with the version of Bill C-10, which passed through the House, and the language used in Bill C-2.

The question to be asked is why then group this in an omnibus bill? No one on the government side seems to give us an answer. All the members do is repeat their mantra that they are hard on crime. However, as I pointed out, the U.S. crime policy, which they so desperately want to follow, fails the system. It does nothing right.

Bill C-22, which was the age of protection bill, proposed to raise the age at which youth could consent to non-exploitative sexual activity. The age would be raised from 14 to 16 years of age and the age of protection of 18 years would be maintained for exploitative sexual activities.

Through amendments, the committee brought about a five year close in age. This was not there when it was proposed by the government. Therefore, another question arises. What happened to the good amendments in the mandatory minimum penalties in the age of protection?

What about Bill C-23, which was criminal procedure? According to the Official Languages Act, the committee ensured that there were changes to the bill. We said that a person who was a French-speaking person, if he or she were in court, should get a French counsel. It is important to protect language rights. In a country that has two official languages we have to protect minority rights as well. Why is this bill not mentioned at all?

Bill C-27 deals with dangerous offenders. It would provide that an offender who was serving a long term supervision order in the community and who was violating the conditions of the order would be guilty of an offence and the crown could choose to hold a dangerous offender hearing following convictions.

That was originally proposed by the Liberal justice critic. The bill would expand the possible sentence available to a judge following a finding that an individual would be a dangerous offender. The judge could now impose a long term supervision order or simply impose the sentence for the offence for which the offender had been convicted in addition to the previous option of detention in prison for an indeterminate period, which was previous available.

The Conservatives love to introduce bills. They want to take credit for a lot of things and make it on the six o'clock news. If something does not make the six o'clock news, like Bill C-23 because it was protecting minority language rights, they do not bother.

The last bill I will speak about is Bill C-32, the drug recognition experts to conduct roadside sobriety tests. It is good to promise all sorts of things, but there is no funding. When we do not have funding, how will we get these experts? For example, in Seacow Pond where would we get a person who is an expert?

It is very important that when we prepare bills and we make promises, those promises have to be kept. We have to provide the legislators with enough resources.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the so-called tackling violent crime bill, something which our party has been working on for some time. I am quite proud of the work that we have already done on this very issue. It is critically important that Canada have safe communities and that we do everything possible to ensure that.

Canada has long been and continues to be one of the safest countries in the world. Although firearm homicides decreased between 1975 and 2003, even one death, or one violent episode involving guns, is one too many. When our communities challenge that it is decreasing, I am sure the reason is that statistics do not matter if people feel unsafe in their communities. People in my riding are very concerned about this issue, as are people in other ridings. It is important that we do everything we possibly can to ensure the laws are there to protect Canadians.

The Liberal government implemented a wide variety of measures in order to make our streets safer. We had a very successful crime prevention strategy that involved more than imprisonment. There is much more required than just imprisonment, which is why the former Liberal government took a more proactive role with a wide range of measures to stem gun violence and crack down on organized crime.

Since 2002 our anti-gang legislation has meant new offences and tougher sentences, including life in prison for involvement with criminal organizations. It is currently being used in cities like mine, Toronto, where it has been used numerous times. It is a tool the police are very pleased to have and they use it to its maximum amount.

We also broadened powers to seize the proceeds and property of criminal organizations. As well, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy, which is something again, we cared very much about and it was very effective. The decrease in crime clearly is because the Liberal government's crime strategy was effective and it continues to be effective.

Since it was launched in 1998 the national crime prevention strategy has helped numerous communities across Canada by giving them the tools, the knowledge, and the support that they need to deal with the root causes of crime at the local level, which is where it has to start. It has supported more than 5,000 projects nation-wide dealing with serious issues like family violence, school problems, and drug abuse.

These are just some of the measures that my party, while in government, undertook. Our campaign was working, hence, the reason there has been a decrease in crime, especially in violent crime. Whether funding programs to prevent crime or ensuring that violent criminals are brought to justice, the Liberal Party while in government was and now continues to be committed to protecting our communities.

Even though we are now in opposition, we, the Liberals, have been dealing seriously with crime legislation for the past year and a half while the Conservatives have been playing partisan games and doing everything they can to prevent those bills from being passed. We actually put more effort into passing the government's crime bills in the last session than the Conservatives did. So, we will not take any lectures from them on how we should be proceeding. Had they not blocked it, the legislation would have been passed and enacted already.

People will remember that on October 26, 2006 the Liberals made the very first offer to fast track a package of justice bills through this House. In spite of the government saying something different, we made every effort to work with the Conservatives to ensure the passage of anything that would make our country safer. This included Bill C-9, as amended; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-22, on the age of consent; Bill C-23, on criminal procedures; and Bill C-26, on payday loans. All were important legislation.

The Conservatives like to claim, as I said earlier, that the Liberals held up their justice bills, but anyone who has been paying any attention knows that simply is not true. We are doing our job as a responsible opposition party. We are certainly not going to play partisan politics with the Criminal Code. I would ask the government to keep that in mind so that we can work together in a positive way to ensure the safety of Canadians and our country.

The Liberal Party, while in government, made great progress on making our communities safer. As I mentioned earlier, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy. We took steps to prevent gun violence by cracking down on organized crime in a very concentrated effort across the country. We focused on attacking the root causes of why people get involved in organized crime. We worked together with all of the crime prevention people across the country and with all of the officials in the various policing jurisdictions, because it certainly takes a coordinated effort in order to tackle organized crime.

When we are back in government, and we look forward to and expect to be the government after the next election, we have our own plans.

A new Liberal government would immediately provide additional funds to the provinces so they could hire more police officers. We would give the RCMP money for 400 additional officers to help local police departments deal with guns and gang activity, organized crime and drug trafficking.

We would also ensure that more money was made available to the provinces to hire more crown attorneys, which continues to be a problem and clogs the courts. It is one thing to arrest people but it is another thing to get them through the system.

We would continue to support reverse onus bail hearings for those arrested for gun crimes. We would establish a fund that would help at-risk communities cover the cost of security in their places of worship, which was started by the previous Liberal government, but which unfortunately was abandoned by the Conservatives.

A new Liberal government would make sure that children in vulnerable neighbourhoods got the very best start in life. We hear that all the time. It costs approximately $120,000 a year for each person who is kept in prison. We would reverse that and invest right at the very beginning. We are talking about early learning programs and high risk communities.

I represent a high risk community and I talk to many of the kids and their parents. Those parents are struggling to keep their kids on the straight and narrow. They truly need a variety of programs and help at that point. I realize that the Conservatives understand that as well. It is important to be investing early so that we can keep kids out of the justice system and make sure they know they have options and alternatives in life so that they are not dragged into the drug and gang culture, which is clearly happening now.

Many of the parents I talk to, the single mothers, are frantic with worry. They are looking for other places to live where it will be safer, where their kids will not be drawn into the gang activity that is very prevalent in my own riding.

By ensuring that children get the best possible start in life, we will be encouraging them to become positive contributing members of society and do not fall victims to poverty and crime. From providing resources for young mothers to interact and to learn about nutrition, to supplying early learning opportunities for their precious children, our communities need our support and we must provide it.

We invested in many worthwhile crime prevention initiatives. A few of those programs are the gun violence and gang prevention fund, support for community based youth justice programs and partnerships to promote fair and effective processes, community investments through the youth employment strategy, and the justice department's programming and partnerships to provide hope and opportunities.

We also committed another $2 million to the city of Toronto in support of programming under the Liberal government's youth employment strategy. This was all part of the $122 million that was dedicated to the youth employment strategy programming to help youth across the country.

Conflict Mediation Services of Downsview was a not for profit organization that helped people and families, workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, its restorative justice program was not funded because priorities have changed of course with the new government, and that no longer fits into that grouping.

In closing, I would like to say that this legislation is important. We look forward to it getting through the House and being enacted as we all move forward in a joint effort to ensure safety. Our communities will appreciate it.

October 30th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you very much, Minister, for your presentation. There are a few facts I would like to raise before asking you two questions. I will be very brief.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals made the first offer to fast-track a package of justice bills through the House. This included Bill C-9 as it had been amended; Bill C-18, which is the DNA identification; Bill C-19, street racing; Bill C-22, age of consent, which we now find as part of Bill C-9,; Bill C-23, criminal procedure; and Bill C-26, payday loans. This offer effectively guaranteed the Conservative government a majority in the House to pass those pieces of legislation, including the one that is in Bill C-9, the age of consent, at that time. Had the government accepted the Liberal offer, Bill C-22, the age of consent, would have become the law before the end of 2006 and our children would no longer have been vulnerable to sexual predators.

On March 14, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, leader of the official opposition, added Bill C-35, bail reform, to the list of bills that the Liberal caucus was offering to the Conservative government to fast-track. Despite again this offer of majority support, it took the Conservatives until May 30 to actually move it up on the order paper so that it would get to committee.

Finally, on March 21, 2007, Liberals again attempted to use an opposition day motion that, if passed, would have immediately resulted in the passage at all stages of four justice bills: Bill C-18, DNA identification; Bill C-22, age of consent, which is the bill that we see again before the House in your tackling crime bill, Bill C-9; Bill C-23, criminal procedure; and Bill C-35, bail reform. Incredibly, the Conservative House Leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. In other words, the Conservatives have in fact fought the Liberals' attempts three times to pass justice bills, including the one that's incorporated in Bill C-9.

Now, I notice that in Bill C-9, the section that deals with the dangerous offender, two categories of amendments have been brought forward. One deals with the long-term offenders. A breach of supervision orders, for instance, could trigger a new dangerous offender hearing in order to make them liable to the kinds of sentences that dangerous offenders can be liable to. Minister, if you studied the transcripts of the House committee that studied Bill C-27, or was in the process of studying it last spring before the prorogation of the House, you would see that Liberals actually made proposals for the very kinds of amendments that we now find in the Bill C-27 section of Bill C-2, and they received support from the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Tony Cannavino, and from other witnesses who appeared and who thought it was a great idea and that it would actually strengthen Bill C-27 and make the system more effective.

So I'm pleased that the government listened; however, we also made another proposal. Right now the Crown continues to enjoy discretionary authority as to whether or not an application for remand and assessment for a dangerous offender designation will actually be made, and so your reverse presumption will operate and become effective only if the Crown makes that application. Liberals had been proposing that a third conviction automatically trigger a dangerous offender hearing. That would then allow every single offender who had been convicted three times of a type of crime that can lead to a dangerous offender hearing to actually be called before such a hearing, to actually be assessed and evaluated.

May I ask why the government has decided, in its wisdom, not to go forward with an automatic trigger rather than a reverse presumption, which will possibly never or very rarely be put into effect because the Crown retains the discretionary authority to make the application or not?

I am finished.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating what the government considers to be the most important component of the throne speech presented a few days ago, Bill C-2.

First of all, there is a myth that I would like to dispel. On several occasions the members on the government side have unfortunately taken some liberties with the truth. They have suggested that, in this Parliament, the opposition parties—the official opposition, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP—did not cooperate, that they acted like spoilsports and had unduly and excessively delayed passage of the justice bills. We need to set the record straight. This presentation of the facts is false, dishonest and, at the very least, misleading.

Since coming into power in January 2006, the Conservative government has tabled 12 justice bills. They were studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the legislative committee and six of them have received royal assent. Therefore, since the government came into office in January 2006, six bills have been adopted and received royal assent.

I will mention them quickly, for information purposes: Bill C-9, on conditional sentencing; Bill C-17, on the salaries of judges; Bill C-18, on the DNA data bank; Bill C-19, which was meant as a tribute to a Conservative member who unfortunately passed away, and which makes street racing a new offence under the Criminal Code; the fifth bill, namely Bill C-48, on the United Nations Convention against Corruption and on international crime, was fast-tracked and supported by all opposition parties and the government; finally, the sixth one, is Bill C-59, creating a new offence, under the Criminal Code, for the unauthorized recording of a movie in a movie theatre. That legislation was quickly passed, at the request of the Bloc Québécois, which had enlisted the support of the official opposition and of the NDP.

Again, of the 12 bills introduced by the government, six received royal assent. That left six, with four of them being in the Senate. That was the case for Bill C-10, on minimum penalties for offences involving firearms, and for Bill C-22, on the age of protection. The Conservatives proposed to raise the age of protection from 14 to 16 years. As mentioned earlier, opposition parties requested that a close in age provision be included, to provide for a difference of five or two years, depending on the age being considered.

As I just mentioned, Bill C-10 and Bill C-22 were before the Senate. Bill C-23, which is a rather technical bill on the language used during a trial before a jury, was also before the Senate, as was Bill C-35, dealing with the reverse onus, at the pre-trial hearing, for a number of very serious offences. The committee was told that this was already the usual practice, and that a justice of the peace or a superior court judge very rarely grants bail at the pre-trial hearing, when the individual is accused of murder, assault or sexual assault. This was already an established practice.

In summary, six bills have been passed and have received royal assent, and four had already gone through third reading in the House of Commons and were in the Senate. This left us with two bills: the dangerous offenders bill, Bill C-27, which I will address later, and Bill C-32 dealing with impaired driving.

Could the Prime Minister and the Conservative team be asked to be a little more relaxed and show a more nuanced and respectful attitude toward the opposition?

We are going to do our job. In the past, we have given the government our cooperation when that was necessary, but we have introduced amendments because, unfortunately, an entire segment of the Conservative caucus has no idea of nuances. I will give examples. Had Bill C-32 been passed as written, without amendments, anyone driving his or her own car with a passenger on board who was in possession of a small amount of marijuana could have faced prosecution or arrest.

Was that the purpose of the legislation? This bill was intended to address a public safety issue, recognizing that no one should be operating a vehicle on public roadways while under the influence of drugs, and to allow for drivers to be subjected to standardized tests known as standardized field sobriety tests. The intention certainly was not to pass legislation to target drivers carrying drugs without their knowledge. That could happen. I could give three people a ride to my cottage without knowing that one of them has marijuana in his or her pocket. This would have made me liable to prosecution.

This is the sort of excess the Conservatives are guilty of, when we are talking about a bill, a motivation, and an intent that are utterly defensible in terms of public policy. But when the Conservatives are left to their own devices, when they are ruled by that extreme wing of their caucus and blinded by the idea of law and order, they come up with bills that have to be amended.

Conditional sentencing has been mentioned. When we began looking at Bill C-9, the first justice bill the Conservatives introduced—the member for London West will recall—we were told that conditional sentences represented only 5% of sentences.

If you look at all the sentences handed down in all the courts in Canada in recent years for which records have been kept, you see that conditional sentences, which allow offenders to serve their sentence in the community under supervision, represented only 5% of sentences.

If we had adopted the bill as introduced by the Conservatives, all offences punishable by more than two years in prison might have been excluded from this tool judges have for determining how a sentence can be served in the community.

I repeat that I am extremely disappointed with the attitude of the Prime Minister, who asks the opposition to vote for bills, but will not tolerate any amendments to those bills. How can anyone be so authoritarian? How can anyone be so cavalier? How can anyone be so disrespectful of Canadian democracy and tell the 57% or 58% of Canadians who did not elect Conservative members that if their representatives do not fall into line with the Conservative platform, they cannot introduce amendments in this House?

I assure my colleagues that we are going to consider the issue and that we will work very quickly, with all due diligence. And we will introduce amendments if we feel that they are in the interest of the people we represent.

The government wants this bill to go to committee quickly. The leaders have agreed on this. Later today, the whip will introduce a motion, and once again we have offered to cooperate.

Next week, we will have this bill before us, but we will not allow ourselves to be led by the nose by this government. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they were intractable and often mean-spirited. They constantly, systematically filibustered. Never have I seen such filibustering. Sometimes it went on day and night.

The current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food did the filibustering. He led this House in circles regarding employment equity. At the time, I was a young, naive and vulnerable member. I had just been elected and was experiencing my first filibuster. Furthermore, the current Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was uncompromising on the issue of employment equity, which was under the responsibility of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

They cannot have it both ways. A person cannot say that it is fine to filibuster when they are in opposition, only to turn around, once they are in the governing party, and refuse the opposition's right to present amendments. This is irresponsible and disrespectful.

Bill C-2 merges five pieces of legislation. Of those pieces of legislation, the Bloc Québécois supported four of them, with amendments. In committee, of course, we will not ask to repeat the work that has already been done.

However, we have a problem with Bill C-27, concerning dangerous offenders. As we all know, the Criminal Code has included provisions on this matter since 1947. In the past, we did not use the term dangerous offender, but rather habitual criminal. I wonder whether certain members, those who have been practising law for some time, remember that expression. The Liberals already changed those provisions by creating a new category of dangerous offenders—long-term offenders—in Bill C-55.

What is our line of questioning? I would like to be clear. I am telling the government that the Bloc Québécois would like to see three main groups of witnesses. First, we would like to hear constitutional experts on the constitutionality of the reverse onus principle, in the same terms in which this bill was presented.

We would then like to see a second group of witnesses. I would remind the House that when the Minister of Justice appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, he was unable to tell us what it is about the administrative and judicial process for dangerous offenders that is not working.

Currently, a person can be labelled a dangerous offender after committing a first serious offence. Section 753 of the Criminal Code is very clear. If there is any reason to believe that that an individual is likely to cause a death, is out of control, or is likely to reoffend, that person can be declared a dangerous offender after a first offence. I am not saying that this is what usually happens. We are not talking about a large number of people here. About 350 people have been declared dangerous offenders, and some of them have been released under mandatory supervision. Of course, most of them are inside federal prisons.

We will run this by constitutional experts. It is our responsibility to ensure that this bill is not unconstitutional. We will ask people who make their living dealing with this issue before the courts to explain to us which parts of the current legislation are not working.

We will also ask a third group of witnesses about the list of offences. In the bill before us today, five types of offences would result in an individual being declared a dangerous offender. Naturally, most of them are serious crimes, such as attempted murder, murder, homicide and serious sexual crimes.

The government wants to expand this list to include 42 offences. The preliminary list includes 22 offences, one of which is assault. I do not wish to downplay the importance of assault. However, should an individual who has been convicted of assault three times be put on a list of dangerous offenders, with all of the consequences that entails?

There is a list of designated offences, which, I agree, are offences generally punishable by a sentence of more than five years. The question is, do we need to take this further? Is it important to have these two lists of offences?

Why ask this question? We are not questioning the fact that we need provisions in the Criminal Code for people who are so dangerous and present such a risk of recidivism that they need to be designated long term offenders, or dangerous offenders. A dangerous offender is someone who can be imprisoned for an indefinite period. Obviously, they are denied their freedom and denied eligibility for parole. Certainly—and I am not afraid to say so—this is justified in some situations. We understand that for some individuals there is no chance for rehabilitation and they have to be imprisoned for an indeterminate period.

Nonetheless, it is our responsibility to ensure that if we are going to pass legislation that considerably broadens the scope of this rule—which is in fact an exception to the general rule—then we have to be able to verify the facts in committee in order to make sure there is no risk of abuse or excess.

As hon. members know, the Conservatives are driven by partisan political considerations. That is “partisan” with a capital “P”.

As it stands, the crime rate has gone down in Canada. In any event, the homicide rate has gone down. The incidence of violent crime has gone down. I am not saying there has not been a worrisome increase in property crime in certain communities. However, generally speaking, we know full well that for a number of years now, major crime, such as homicide—crimes involving violence—has gone down year after year.

Criminologists who have studied these issues are saying that there is no correlation between a reliance on imprisonment and lower crime rates in a society. We do not live in a safer society and the communities are not safer because of widespread prison sentencing.

We know that the United States has an incarceration rate seven times greater than Canada's. In Canada, there are 132 or 134 prisoners for every 100,000 people.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-2 and justice issues in general, I heard just recently in the House the term “a revolving door”. The only revolving door is the justice minister and officials in the Conservative Party going in and out of press conferences announcing and reannouncing the same bills on which they pulled the plug.

With respect to Bill C-2, I have reviewed all the material. I sat in on all the committee hearings. What I have recently discovered, through obtaining a bill briefing, is a note from the Prime Minister about Bill C-2, in that it regurgitates all the bills we dealt with in the last Parliament. The message from the Prime Minister is that he is sorry that he pulled the plug on Parliament and flushed all the good work of the justice committee down the drain.

That is what happened. All these bills were well on their way. They were going through the due process of Parliament, which followed the rules of parliaments before, and they were on the way to being in effect.

The reason we are here today is that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and those bills were killed in their tracks. It is not true that perhaps that is why the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament but I think it is. In fact, I think that is why we have a new session.

I may be new and I may be in the back row but I read the papers and I know what is going on. Parliament was prorogued and all legislation was stopped in its tracks.

What is important to remind ourselves, and the Canadian public will want to know, is that there were 13 bills in the justice dossier and 7 of them were passed and are now the law of Canada.

As a member of the justice committee, I would expect all parties to tell all members of the justice committee that it was a job well done, that seven out of thirteen justice bills that affect the citizens of Canada are now law. Five of those bills are currently the subject of Bill C-2, which I will turn to, and one, mysteriously, of the thirteen bills, the criminal procedure act, which all parties agreed to unanimously, was a creature of a previous Parliament and which all prosecutors are waiting intently for. These prosecutors are the people who are on the front lines, as well as the police officers, in the criminal justice system. I suppose they are wondering why, despite the offer to fast track the bill by this party and despite the unanimous support by the justice committee, Bill C-23 has not been moved up. Perhaps in the government's haste and the revolving door of the press circle and the press club, it forgot to bring along an important bill.

Overall, the 13 bills, the 7 passed and the 1 dropped by an incompetent justice minister and the parliamentary secretary for forgetting that, and the 5 we are about to discuss, all of these bills need to be enforced. Each police officer, prosecutor, probation officer and corrections official, all those people in the system need to know that if there are 13 new laws, 12 because 1 was dropped by the incompetent ministry, but if there are 12 new bills we need to know we have the resources to put them into effect.

It is urgent for the public to know that despite a promise by the government, the law and order government, the tough on crime government, it is toothless without following up on the promise of 2,500 new police officers and the false promise in the Speech from the Throne for 1,000 new RCMP officers when the RCMP cannot recruit 1,000 officers. It is behind in its recruitment. It is a meaningless, toothless promise to the people of Canada but, even worse, it takes away the hope of the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the prosecutors and the probation officers, all the people who must put into effect, on a daily basis, the laws of the justice system.

I want to emphasize that the party on this side of the House is not so fickle. We support our justice system. We support our judges, our prosecutors, and all of the police officers who are responsible for protecting Canadians.

Over the past 18 months, the Liberal Party has undertaken a thorough review of the legislation pertaining to crime while the Conservatives have been busy playing political games. The Prime Minister put an end to this Parliament's activities and committee work, thereby throwing out the amendments that this bill sought to make to five acts. It is his fault that these five acts have not yet been amended.

We on this side of the House have faith in our justice system and are convinced that it will keep the peace in our communities.

I say that because it should be a non-partisan issue that we all believe in a safe community. We are all here as parliamentarians, surely, to ensure that we have a safe community. We may differ on the avenue to get there, but how much did we, the Liberal Party of Canada and its members on the justice committee, really differ from the plan of the Conservative Party in general and, more importantly, in the organic process which is called the development of criminal law through amendments to the Criminal Code?

I say to the House and to the public: not much.

There were 13 bills proposed. Seven passed and there are five in Bill C-2 that we are substantially in agreement on because they would have been law by now had Parliament not been prorogued, and I must say for the record that there is one that has been dropped by the government and that we are also in favour of.

So how is it that we, in trying to keep the community safe, are against the elements in Bill C-2 and the elements in these bills? I will repeat them: Bill C-9, on conditional sentences; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-25, on proceeds of crime; Bill C-26, on criminal rate of interest; and just to add two others that were not part of Bill C-2, Bill C-48, on the implementation of a UN convention against corruption, and Bill C-59, on the unauthorized recording of a movie. These have all been supported.

But there is more. I hear members on the opposite side talk about 13 years of inaction with respect to criminal justice and I think the Canadian public would be interested to know that these laws, while continuing on the evolution of our criminal law and making our community safer, are but part of the Criminal Code of Canada.

On the Criminal Code of Canada, I might say this in a moment of non-partisanship and to congratulate a Conservative politician, albeit a dead one.When Prime Minister John Thompson, a Conservative prime minister, was minister of justice he essentially created and adapted the criminal law of Canada into a code that we would follow in this country. I want to get credit for giving plaudits to a Conservative in this place.

A principal part of the Criminal Code of Canada, which we have been talking about since I have been in Parliament, is sentencing. What is sentencing? The purpose and principles of sentencing are set out in section 718. I hear very often in this place and at the revolving door of the press conference centre for the Conservative Party of Canada that there is but one principle in sentencing, that is, to put the bad guys away.

I know this is a novel concept for those who are directing the Conservative justice agenda, but why do we not refer to what the law says about the purpose and principles of sentencing? They are set out in section 718. I am not going to read this word for word because it tends to be bogged down in particularness and assuredness and literal things that, again, the Conservative justice team really knows nothing about, having adopted and written such sloppy legislation that it had to be sent to committee to be fixed.

However, in general, there are six important factors or principles in sentencing. It is the reason we have sentences for people who have committed crimes. One principle is to denounce unlawful conduct. That is the one I hear about most often from the Conservative justice team. That is a valid principle, but it is one of six.

What are the others? One is to deter the offender from doing it again. That is another one I hear a lot about. The point over here is that those two of the six are very important. We are not shirking the importance of those. The law does not say that any one is more important than the other. It is a guidepost to judges who make our law pursuant to what they read here. It is a guidepost to say that we will denounce unlawful conduct. Yes, we will, by bringing in this sentence. We will deter the person or any person in the public from doing it again. They are two very important objectives.

However, that is where the Conservative justice team stops most of the time. The Conservatives forget that they must separate offenders from society when necessary and that they must assist in rehabilitating offenders. This is not to mean that the criminal gets more justice than the victim. What it means is that if there is a chance to rehabilitate an offender before that offender is reintegrated into society, or after, we ought to take that chance. Society is not safer, and let us remember that this safety is the principal goal of all parliamentarians here, by sending a more dangerous person back into the community after his or her sentence is served. It is a very important principle, as important as deterrence and as important as denouncing unlawful conduct.

The fifth aspect is to provide reparations for harm done to victims. That is very key. I will get into speaking about Bill C-9, which was a failed bill and flawed until it was amended at committee by all parties. One of the key aspects of Bill C-9 was to amend it to allow some white collar criminals, for lack of a better term, who had done a very denunciatory offence, which should be deterred, such as acts of stealing money through a breach of trust from someone, say, the option of a conditional sentence. It was to allow them to make reparations and restitution during the term of their sentence when it might mean the difference between an aged person with a stolen RRSP account getting that money back or not.

It gave back discretion to the judge, which he or she had in the first place, and it was a very necessary amendment to a flawed and hasty bill to make sure that this principle of sentencing, that is, to provide reparation for harm done to victims, was put in place. It was made better law by the intervention of the committee.

The final principle is to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community. What that is about is making sure that these offenders are not so divorced from the community in which they live, so that they know when they have done wrong that they have a responsibility to that community to be remorseful, to make amends and, I think very importantly, to reintegrate into that community if possible. We should never forget that.

The overall principle, and it is written as the fundamental principle in section 718.1 of the code, is that of the proportionality, of the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. This is a very important principle, which judges rely on all the time.

I hear members speak about 13 years of Liberal inactivity. Actually I was not here for any of those 13 years. I was on the outside looking at all of the criminal justice bills that had been brought in during that time. I remember that it was a Liberal minister of justice who brought in the whole concept of mandatory minimums, which at the revolving door of the Conservatives' press circle was as if it was invented by them. I wonder if they invented the laws of gravity and found the North American continent. I suspect not, Mr. Speaker, and I do not suppose you could answer objectively if they say they have somewhere else, but I am not sure that they would not stand here and say that they have.

They did not invent mandatory minimums. The other sentencing principles in section 718.2 were brought in, in successive Liberal governments, by amendments in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2005. All of those amendments in section 718.2 were brought in to recognize the changing nature of our society and to allow judges for the first time in the history of the Criminal Code to take into account these factors when sentencing, either in increasing or in decreasing the sentences, and I am very proud of that.

These factors include evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. It is the first time that it was codified that a judge should take into account hate crimes when sentencing. For any crimes committed based on someone's ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation and other factors, is it not correct, right and fair in this society that those sentences were brought in and that judges should be told to take into account those factors in section 718.2, or whether the violence was against a spouse or common law partner?

Is it not important, for instance, that a judge be given that discretion to increase a sentence if the crime was against a spouse or a common law partner, or if the crime was done to a person of tender years under the age of 18? Is it not important that this be taken into account?

Is it not important, as it says in subparagraph 718.2(a)(iii), whether or not the person who committed the crime “abused a position of trust or authority”, or also whether the person was a member of a criminal organization, or that the offence was a terrorism offence?

All of these factors were in judges' hands before 2005. These were not invented by the Newtons over there in the last 18 months. They were there, it was Liberal legislation, and I presume it had all party support because it makes such sense.

Finally, in the principles of sentencing categories, paragraph 718.2(e) has the all important factor of recognizing that if an offender is of aboriginal origin or from a first nations community special circumstances should be put in place. We found during much of the deliberation at committee that this sentencing principle was often ignored.

I look at the amendments in place with respect to Bill C-10 and Bill C-9. It is a particular affront to this established sentencing principle, and it seems to have been completely forgotten by the Conservative government, that these two important sections of the code had existed before the Conservative government took place and certainly will exist when it moves on into the sunset.

About the laws in Bill C-2 and why it is so easy on this side for us to say we support the bill, it is important to remember that we on this side, and the members of the justice committee from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois will vouch for this, and the members of the justice committee had made Bill C-10 and the mandatory minimum aspect a better bill when it left committee. Arrogantly, and without respect for the work of the all party committee, the Conservative justice team, coming yet again from the revolving door of the press club, suggested that it would put in at report stage the entire bill as it was before.

However, over the summer I think the Conservatives had blueberry festivals and strawberry festivals and must have eaten some humble pie at some festival, as they decided that they would accept the amendments as they came from the committee, reintroducing Bill C-2 with the Bill C-10 amendments to make our community a better place and enlarge upon the mandatory minimums that were already in place under the Liberal justice program before the Conservatives took office.

The other bill that needs clarification on why it is an acceptable bill now, and why it was never acceptable when the amateur Conservative justice team brought the topic up before, is Bill C-22, the age of consent bill.

I have heard well-meaning, honest and forthright members of the House, such as the member for Wild Rose, say that he and his colleagues could never get an age of consent or age of protection bill through the Commons. I was disturbed by that. I asked why we would not protect our young persons. Why would we not get in line with many of the communities around the world which recognize that consent may not be freely given by a 14 year old when the world has become smaller and the age of the predator is upon us?

I looked into it. There were two very fundamental flaws with all bills that were presented as part of a justice package by an opposition entitled the Conservative opposition. They are as follows.

There was absolutely no close in age exemption. This bill, Bill C-22, contains a close in age exemption, making it flexible enough to recognize that not every relationship that is separated by a number of years is a relationship between an innocent young child and a sexual predator.

Finally, as I wrap up, age of consent as presented previously would have criminalized normal adolescent sexual activity which, whether the Conservatives like it or not, is out there, and 14 year olds and 15 year olds having relations are protected by this. It does prevent sexual predators from preying on the young. It is good legislation.

In summary, the five bills in Bill C-2 are good law because the committee made them so. I encourage the Conservative justice team, the Prime Minister and all Conservatives out there to watch what they write, to watch what they present to Parliament, and to not keep going through that revolving door called the press circle to give press releases without having done their homework to ensure that they are passing good laws which will make Canada safer.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in the debate on Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act.

As the Minister of Justice noted when he spoke in reply to the Speech from the Throne, safe streets and secure communities are the Canadian way of life. This is what I would like to focus my remarks on today, how we are building a stronger, safer and better Canada, beginning with Bill C-2.

I have had many opportunities, as probably all members in the House have had, to talk with my constituents, parents, community leaders, police, lawyers, and many others about their concern with crime and what we should do about it.

What I have heard has likely been heard by all hon. members as they have travelled throughout their ridings and indeed across Canada. Canadians are clearly expecting their government to take concrete and effective action to tackle crime.

Unlike previous governments on this issue, the current government listens. We share these concerns and we have made tackling crime a key priority for our government. We have made it a key priority for our government because it is a key priority for Canadians, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

We know what crime looks like in Canada. Crime statistics have been recorded since 1962 so we have 45 years of information. Statistics Canada reported last July that the overall national crime rate has decreased for the second year in a row.

We all want to see a lower crime rate. So this is the good news. But the national crime rate is an average and does not tell us about some of the more serious problems or localized problems.

The long term trends over the last few generations show us what we all know in the House, that crime has increased drastically. Since the 1970s, for example, the violent crime rate has increased 98%, but the national crime rate does not tell us what may be going on in individual communities. Community leaders, victims groups and law enforcement know their particular challenges, and we are listening to them.

Many Canadians have lost confidence in the criminal justice system and question if it is doing enough to protect them. They know that violent crime is all too common. They dread hearing statistics like those released on October 17 by Statistics Canada.

Those statistics tell us that 4 out of 10, or 40% of victims of violent crimes sustained injuries. They tell us that half of violent crimes occurred at private residences. They tell us that firearms were involved in 30% of homicides, 31% of attempted murders and 13% of robberies committed. They tell us that one out of every six victims of violent crimes was a youth aged 12 to 17 years old and children under 12 years of age account for 23% of victims of sexual assaults and 5% of victims of violent crimes.

Canadians are looking to the federal government to work with them to restore community safety. The government understands the need for leadership in criminal justice and this is what our tackling crime priority, and our commitment in this regard is all about. It is about reducing all crime and providing an effective criminal justice system. Our plan is ambitious, but Canadians can count on us to get it done. As they have seen on other issues, we have been able to get things done for all Canadians.

In the last session of Parliament the government tabled 13 crime bills. This is proof of our commitment to address crime and safety issues in our communities. It is interesting to note that it was 13 crime bills as it was 13 years of Liberal governments that have left us with a revolving door justice system in which Canadians have lost faith, a justice system that Canadians feel puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of everyday, law-abiding Canadians. This is what our government is going to address.

Six of these crime bills, of the 13, received royal assent and are now the law or will soon become the law. For example, one of the government's first bills and first priorities was to curtail the use of conditional sentences or house arrest for serious violent crimes.

We all know the issue of house arrest. In all of our ridings we have heard cases where someone has committed a very serious, sometimes violent, crime and there is an expectation in the community that there will be a severe consequence for someone who commits a severe crime. All too often the community is outraged when it hears that criminals will be serving out their sentence from the comfort of their own home.

Bill C-9, which received royal assent on May 31, 2007, and will be coming into force on December 1, 2007, makes it clear that conditional sentences or house arrest will not be an option for serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences, and organized crime offences where the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.

This change was a long time coming. It is well past due and Canadians will be better served by a justice system that does not allow, for these serious offences, criminals to serve a sentence in their own home. Canadians wanted this change.

Bill C-18 strengthened the laws governing the national DNA data bank. This will facilitate police investigation of crimes. Bill C-18 received royal assent on June 22, 2007. Some provisions are already in force and others will soon be proclaimed in force.

Bill C-19 made Canada's streets safer by enacting new offences to specifically combat street racing. These new offences built upon existing offences, including dangerous driving and criminal negligence, and provide higher maximum penalties of incarceration for the most serious of street racing offences.

As well, mandatory driving prohibition will be imposed on those convicted of street racing. In the most serious cases involving repeat street racing offenders, a mandatory lifetime driving prohibition can now be imposed.

We also took concrete steps to protect users of payday loans. Bill C-26, which received royal assent on May 3, 2007, makes it an offence to enter into an agreement or an arrangement to receive interest at a criminal rate or to receive payment of an interest at a criminal rate. The criminal rate of interest is defined as exceeding 60% per year.

We also took further measures to combat corruption. Bill C-48 enacted Criminal Code amendments to enable Canada to ratify and implement the United Nations convention against corruption on October 2, 2007. By ratifying the convention, Canada has joined 92 other state parties committed to working with the international community to take preventative measures against corruption.

Our bill to stop film piracy or camcording, Bill C-59, received widespread support. It was quickly passed and received royal assent on June 22, 2007.

Unfortunately, none of our other important crime bills progressed to enactment before Parliament prorogued. That is why the tackling violent crime act reintroduces the provisions of the following bills that died on the order paper.

The bill imposing mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for firearms offences, Bill C-10, is included in Bill C-2 as passed by the House of Commons.

Bill C-22, which increased the age of protection against adult sexual exploitation, has been included, as passed by the House of Commons.

Bill C-32, addressing drug impaired driving and impaired driving in general, has been introduced as amended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and reported to the House of Commons.

Bill C-35, imposing a reverse onus for bail for firearms offences, has been included in this new bill, as passed by the House of Commons. This bill will make it tougher for those who have committed a firearms offence to received bail and be back out on the street.

Bill C-27, addressing dangerous and repeat violent offenders, as originally introduced, is included in this bill, but with some further amendments, which I will elaborate on shortly.

The tackling violent crime act respects the parliamentary process and includes the bills as amended by committee or as passed by the House of Commons, and in the same state that they were when Parliament was prorogued. As a result, these reforms are familiar, or should be familiar, to all members of this House, and so I would call on all hon. members to quickly pass the tackling violent crime act.

Indeed, many hon. members have already stated that they support these reforms. There is therefore no need to further debate these reforms or for a prolonged study of the provisions that Parliament has already debated and committees have already scrutinized. It is time for us all to demonstrate our commitment to safeguarding Canadians and for safer communities, and to quickly move this bill forward.

For those who need more convincing, I would like to reiterate that the tackling violent crime act addresses a range of serious issues that put Canadians at risk: gun crimes, impaired driving, sexual offences against children and dangerous offenders.

We know that Canadians expect their government to take action and to protect them from these crimes. To do so, we need the support of all hon. members, as well as Canadians, our partners in the provinces and the territories, and law enforcement and community groups.

Time does not permit me to address each of the equally important elements of Bill C-2. I know that other members will rise to speak to the reforms that are of most concern to them. I propose to highlight a few of the issues that have been raised repeatedly with me by my constituents, and I am sure by constituents in ridings held by all hon. members, in particular, about impaired driving, the age of consent and dangerous offenders.

Alcohol and drug impaired driving have devastating effects for victims, for families and for communities. Impaired drivers are responsible for thousands of fatalities and injuries each year, not to mention billions of dollars in property damage.

Once the tackling violent crime act is the law, impaired drivers will face tough punishment, no matter which intoxicant they choose, and police and prosecutors will have the tools that they need to deal with these offences.

Although drug impaired driving has always been a crime, until recently, police have not had the same tools available to stop those who drive while impaired by drugs that they have to address alcohol impaired driving. Under this bill, they will.

The tackling violent crime act strengthens the ability of police, prosecutors and the courts to investigate, prosecute and sentence those who endanger the safety of other Canadians through alcohol or drug impaired driving. I know that all hon. members recognize the pressing need to ensure the safety of our streets, highways, communities and our schools. By giving police the tools they need to combat impaired driving, we are doing that.

These reforms were applauded by the stakeholders and supported in the House of Commons. I am sure every member of Parliament in the House has received correspondence urging them to support the bill. There should be no impediments to making progress on this part of the tackling violent crime act.

The act also reintroduces the reforms to raise the age at which young people can consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years of age. The bill takes away the ability, and let us be clear on what the bill does, of adult sexual predators to rely on claims that their young victims consented.

Again, these reforms were welcomed by child advocates and supported in the House as part of former Bill C-22, so there is no need for further debate. We can move ahead.

It is worth spending a few moments to focus on the dangerous and high risk offender provisions of former Bill C-27. Some of these provisions have been modified and, therefore, hon. members may want to scrutinize these aspects more than the other reforms included in the tackling violent crime act.

The dangerous offender reforms in Bill C-2 respond to the concerns highlighted in the debates and before the justice committee, and by provincial attorneys general. I am sure that all hon. members will agree that these modifications are welcomed.

As members will recall, former Bill C-27 was tabled in the House last October. That bill included dramatic enhancements to the sentencing and management of the very worst of the worst, those offenders who repeatedly commit violent and sexual crimes and who require special attention, because it has become clear that the regular criminal sentencing regime simply cannot effectively manage the small but violent and dangerous group of offenders.

The tackling violent crime act includes all of the original amendments to the Criminal Code from the former Bill C-27, as well as two important changes which will go further in protecting Canadians from dangerous offenders.

First, let me provide an overview of the provisions brought forward into the House under Bill C-27. It includes the requirement in dangerous offender hearings that an offender be presumed to meet the dangerous offender criteria upon a third conviction for a primary designated offence. In other words, an offence that is on the list of the 12 most violent or sexual offences that typically trigger dangerous offender designations.

Second, the bill would also place a requirement on crown prosecutors to inform the court that they had fully considered whether to pursue a dangerous offender application. This is to prevent these applications from falling through the cracks. This would occur in cases where an offender had been convicted for a third time of a relatively serious sexual or violent offence.

The declaration is intended to ensure more consistent use of the dangerous offender sentence by the Crown in all jurisdictions. Although the Crown must indicate whether it has considered bringing a dangerous offender application, we are not dictating to it that it must do so. We are not attempting to arbitrarily fetter the discretion of the Crown or of the court. Rather, we are providing a way to make sure that the Crown turns its mind to the issue of a dangerous offender application.

Third, Bill C-2 would also bring forward the very significant reforms to the section 810.1 and 810.2 peace bond provisions that enable any person to apply to a court to ask for stringent conditions to be imposed against individuals who are felt to pose a threat of sexual or violent offending in the community.

We have all heard the horror stories from one end of the country to the other of someone who is known to be a threat to commit a sexual or violent offence against an innocent member of the community. There is often great frustration among Canadians at the perceived inability for government, for officials, for police, to act to protect the community from a subsequent violent or sexual offence.

Specifically, we are doubling the duration of peace bonds from one year to two years. We are also providing specific authority for the court to impose conditions regarding curfews, electronic monitoring, treatment requirements and other prohibitions as well as making it very clear that the court may impose any conditions it feels are necessary to ensure public safety.

Since the tabling of the former Bill C-27 last October, provincial attorneys general have raised concerns about violent offenders who are found to be dangerous offenders, but are not receiving indeterminate sentences. This is due to a finding that they could be managed under the long term offender designation.

The long term offender sentencing option currently in the Criminal Code allows a court to sentence an individual to a regular sentence of imprisonment, but add up to 10 years of intensive community supervision to the sentence.

Based on the interpretation of the lower courts of the 2003 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Johnson, many individuals who fully meet the designation of a dangerous offender have nonetheless been given long term offender designation instead. The Crown has been unable to convince the sentencing court that the offenders could not be managed under the less severe sentence option.

The big concern is that some of these individuals may not in fact be suitable for community supervision sentences. Yet, until they commit another violent sentence, their status as a dangerous offender cannot be reviewed by a court. I should mention, and it should be obvious, until they commit another violent offence, then it is too late for the community, for innocent victims and for families.

Given the concerns expressed since former Bill C-27 was tabled, the government has been examining the scope of this problem and developing potential solutions. It is clear that a large proportion of the individuals who meet the dangerous offender criteria, but have been given a less severe sentence, have demonstrated that they simply refuse to cooperate. The majority eventually breach one or more of the conditions of their long term supervision order. This is a clear indicator that the original sentence was based on a flawed presumption that the offender was manageable. As such, there is a real need to revisit the original sentence in order to stop the reoffending right then and there before another tragedy occurs.

The tackling violent crime act addresses this problem and includes new provisions that were not included in the former bill.

First, the tackling violent crime act makes it clear that from now on if offenders meet the dangerous offender criteria, they will always be designated as a dangerous offender first, and that designation is for life. The court must then determine the appropriate sentence, either an indeterminate sentence or a determinate sentence, with or without the long term offender supervision order. Critical to this scheme is that from now on the court must impose an indeterminate sentence unless it is satisfied that the offenders can be managed under a less severe sentence.

Second, in cases where dangerous offenders are able to satisfy the court that they can be managed under the lesser sentence and are subsequently charged and convicted with a breach of a long term supervision order, they can be brought back to the court for a new sentencing hearing. At the new hearing, dangerous offenders will have to satisfy the court once again that they can still be managed under the lesser sentence. If not, the indeterminate sentence must be imposed.

The government believes that the impact of these new reforms will be significant. Because of the clarification to the sentencing provisions, fewer offenders will escape the dangerous offender designation. In addition, for the few offenders who are declared to be dangerous offenders, but given a long term offender sentence, they will know that if they do not abide by the term of their supervision orders once released, they will be returned to court for a new sentencing hearing and an indeterminate sentence will be the likely outcome.

It will not take a second sexual assault or a second violent offence to bring the offender back for a new dangerous offender sentence. This new provision would be available, for example, even if the violation were simply that the offender failed to return to his residence before curfew or consumed alcohol or drugs in violation of a long term offender supervision order.

Our government remains committed to ensuring that all Canadians live in safe and secure communities. The tackling violent crime act will protect Canadians. It is fulfilling our commitments to Canadians. The government is committed to taking action, acting on behalf of the safety of all Canadians. I urge all members to support the tackling violent crime act.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 23rd, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your team a good session, and to welcome the new pages as they start their new jobs.

No one will be surprised if I speak specifically about justice. Overall, the Bloc Québécois was disappointed in the throne speech. Our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, clearly indicated our conditions and expectations.

We also spoke about the Kyoto protocol. We clearly wanted the government to confirm that it would follow through with the commitment we made when Kyoto was signed: to bring greenhouse gases down to their 1990 levels and then reduce them further still. We do not have a green government—this we know. This government is very irresponsible when it comes to the environment, and the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has had many opportunities to speak about this.

We would also have liked the government to agree with the views of many important representatives of civil society and our fellow citizens, that Canada's mission in Afghanistan must end in 2009. Since the beginning of the mission we have been critical of the fact that there has not been a satisfactory balance of development assistance, international cooperation and military objectives.

Obviously we hope that attention will be focused on the entire question of forestry and the manufacturing sector. We know what hard times those sectors have experienced. Certainly we hope that supply management will also be discussed, for it is an extremely important issue in rural communities. And we hope that the government will eliminate the spending power in relation to matters under provincial jurisdiction. There have been calls for this for 50 years, and the Bloc Québécois is certainly not going to be satisfied with the government’s dishonest subterfuge.

With that introduction, we must now talk about the justice system. First, what an exercise in cosmetics this is, what an exercise in stage management! Watching the press conference given by the Minister of Justice, his colleague the Minister of Public Safety, and the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, we had the impression that we were attending a play by Molière, starring Tartuffe. We were given to think that since the Conservatives took power in 2006 the House of Commons has been the victim of obstruction when it comes to the justice system. We were also given to think that the government has been prevented from having its justice initiative passed.

And yet when we look a little closer, we see that since January 2006 the Conservative government has tabled 12 bills relating to the justice system. As we speak, six of those bills have received royal assent and have thus become law. Of those six bills that have become law, three were passed using what is called the fast-track procedure, with the unanimous consent of all leaders in the House of Commons.

So out of 12 bills, six have become law, and three of those were passed with the consent of all parties using the fast-track procedure; four reached the Senate, at first, second and third reading, while both in the House and in committee there were only two bills remaining. It has to be said that in parliamentary history there have been more vigorous examples of obstruction. When six bills receive royal assent, four are being considered in the Senate and only two are left, you cannot, in all honesty, appear at a press conference and say that you have been unable to get your bills passed.

For the benefit of our constituents, I will mention the bills that were passed.

First, there was Bill C-9, on conditional sentences. It is true that we did propose some amendments. It is our job to do that. We are a responsible opposition. What is the role of the opposition? It is to ensure that bill are improved and made as perfect as possible. We would be completely irresponsible if we did not do our work. As far as the bill on conditional sentences is concerned, the government ultimately wanted to do away with that option for judges and we highlighted that.

Bill C-17, which dealt with judges’ salaries, was also passed, followed by Bill C-18, a rather technical bill on DNA data banks. Moreover, in tribute to our unfortunately deceased colleague, Bill C-19, which creates a new offence under the Criminal Code with regard to street racing, was passed unanimously.

Two other bills were passed within 48 hours, which is an indication of the cooperation among opposition parties. One of those two was introduced by the Bloc Québécois, because of incidents of piracy, the unauthorized use of camcorders to record movies in theatres, particularly in Montreal. The other bill dealt with the signing by Canada of an international convention to fight organized crime.

Four other bills were being dealt with in the Senate, or I should say, “the other place.” There was, first, Bill C-10, concerning minimum penalties for offences involving firearms.

Next, there was Bill C-22, which dealt with the age of protection under the Criminal Code. Some of my colleagues followed that subject with a great deal of interest. The Bloc Québécois had asked for a five-year proximity clause. The Bill was before the Senate. In spite of some questions, our position was relatively favourable. The bill had been amended in committee.

Then there was Bill C-23, somewhat technical, on the language of juries and the accused.

I do not want to forget to say, Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing the time allotted to me with the likeable and charming member for Sherbrooke.

Finally, Bill C-35 on reversing the onus of proof was also passed. Some television journalists described this bill as reversing the onus of proof for parole. However, the bill was not about parole but about pre-trial bail hearings.

There were two bills remaining about which we had and still have questions and amendments to propose.

The first deals with drug-impaired driving. We are in favour of the new provision in the bill requiring individuals to take sobriety tests. Peace officers and police could stop people who are driving erratically under the influence of drugs. We were in favour of certain provisions to require people to submit to sobriety tests.

We amended the bill however because, as unlikely as it might seem, it would have been irresponsible to pass this Conservative bill without any amendments. Imagine someone driving along in his car together with a friend. They drive down the road—let us say the Trans-Canada highway, for example, to please some of my colleagues here—and it turns out that the friend, who is driving, has marijuana in his pockets or his luggage. If we had passed this bill, the car owner would have been held liable. That did not seem responsible to us or legally sound.

There was also another bill about which we had a lot of questions. Unfortunately though, I have only a minute left and so I am going to proceed to my conclusion and allow the hon. member for Sherbrooke to take over.

We are going to take our work in committee very seriously. We will not allow ourselves to be dictated to by the government which, in a fit of authoritarianism, might demand that the opposition propose no amendments to Bill C-2.

We will amend Bill C-2 if we think that is the direction in which the testimony we hear is taking us. As always, I can assure the House that the Bloc Québécois will act in a serious, responsible, reasoned way. We would also like to remind the House of the justice proposals we made last June.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

June 22nd, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts--Chapter 15;

Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (sports and recreation programs)--Chapter 16;

Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act--Chapter 17;

Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter 18;

Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter 19;

Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)--Chapter 20;

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act--Chapter 21;

Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification--Chapter 22;

Bill C-60, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 23;

Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)--Chapter 24;

Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 25;

Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, An Act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 26;

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act--Chapter 27;

Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie)--Chapter 28;

Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007--Chapter 29;

Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol--Chapter 30.

It being 12:23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2007, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

The first session of the 39th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 14, 2007.

JusticeStatements By Members

June 19th, 2007 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians do not want to wait any longer for mandatory sentences for gun crimes or for an increase in the age of protection for young people. They waited long enough while the opposition stalled and delayed at committee.

In fact, just this morning the member for Yukon filibustered a discussion on Bill C-32 which would increase minimum penalties for alcohol and drug impaired drivers.

Bill C-22, increasing the age of protection from 14 to 16 years, was held up at committee.

Bill C-18, the DNA identification bill, was held up at committee.

Bill C-10, the bill for mandatory sentences for gun crimes, was also held up at committee by opposition members who are so out of touch with Canadians and still prefer to coddle criminals.

The good news is these three bills have finally passed the House. The bad news is that they are down the hall at the Senate.

Will the Liberal interim leader tell his unelected senators who are preoccupied with protecting their terms to protect Canadians and pass these bills?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak at the report stage on Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection).

I would like to say, for those who are listening, that the Liberal Party of Canada supports this legislation.

Before I begin discussing the bill in detail, I wish to briefly address several remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in his speech several minutes ago. He said that there were delays with the bill and that the government was happy that the bill was finally at this stage.

I wish to inform people that the Minister of Justice tabled Bill C-22 in the House of Commons on June 22, 2006. The House then adjourned for the summer. It came back at the end of September.

It is the government's prerogative to determine when it wants to move second reading and debate of its own legislation. The government moved debate at second reading on October 30, 2006. This was after the Liberal justice strategy was announced, after Liberals and the then Liberal justice critic offered to fast-track Bill C-22 and a number of other justice bills that the Conservative government had tabled.

Debate at second reading ended on October 30, 2006, which meant that there was an agreement by all parties not to delay debate in the House and to get the bill into committee as quickly as possible. It was referred to the justice and human rights committee, which was already conducting hearings on a series of other government bills and private members' bills.

The justice and human rights committee held hearings on Bill C-22, the age of protection bill, on March 21, March 22, March 27 and March 29, 2007. Members will remember that there was a two week adjournment for the Easter period.

The House returned on April 16 and the justice and human rights committee, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, met on Tuesday, April 17 and on Thursday, April 19. The committee concluded its clause by clause and reported the bill back to the House on April 23.

The government decides when to move debate at report stage and it only decided to move Bill C-22 at report stage this week. It was in a line of bills for which the government determines the order.

If any member of that government is dissatisfied with the length of time it has taken for Bill C-22 to pass through second reading debate, committee stage and reported back, and now be at report stage debate, they need only to look at themselves in the mirror.

As the House knows, the bill has returned to the House from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It has been reported with an amendment, as was mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

The amendment added marriage as a defence where an accused is charged with: sexual interference, which is section 151 of the Criminal Code; invitation to sexual touching, section 152 of the Criminal Code; indecent acts, section 173.2 of the Criminal Code; and sexual assault, section 271 of the Criminal Code, in cases where the complainant is 14 years or older but under the age of 16. We Liberals worked alongside the other parties to bring this amendment through.

We are happy to see it included in the committee's report on the bill. We are also happy that, notwithstanding the fact that the Conservative members on the justice and human rights committee, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, opposed the amendment in committee, those members have not brought forth a motion to amend the report stage bill and remove that defence.

I had proposed an amendment to the bill. The amendment would have repealed section 159 of the Criminal Code. This section sets out anal intercourse as a criminal offence. This outdated section of the Criminal Code is a relic of Canada's past and in fact has been found contrary to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Two appellate courts, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario, reached this conclusion.

When the government drafted Bill C-22, it could have acted then to remove this archaic section of the Criminal Code or, having failed to do that, perhaps through inadvertence--I gave them the benefit of the doubt that it was by inadvertence--the government at that point could have supported my amendment in committee, because even if an amendment is beyond the scope of the bill, if the government agrees to the amendment it is then admissible and can be debated, voted on and adopted.

The government, however, decided on two occasions, when it was forced to take on the issue with this outmoded, archaic section of the Criminal Code, which is clearly a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that it would instead champion discrimination and homophobia. I think this speaks volumes to that Conservative government's values and the members of that government.

Be that as it may, the bill did pass through the committee without other changes. The committee hearings on Bill C-22 proceeded smoothly and brought forth the views of many Canadian individuals and organizations who have a stake in this issue. Most stakeholders spoke in favour of the bill, while some did speak against it.

Among all parties there was a strong desire to support the bill and to see it clear the committee process quickly and efficiently. I believe the dates that I mentioned show that this is exactly what we achieved.

I would like to repeat that our party supports Bill C-22. Since October 2006, we have repeatedly offered to fast-track a number of justice bills. Surprisingly, the minority Conservative government has refused our offer. It would seem that the government addresses justice issues only when it thinks it can manipulate them for political gain. This is a government that would have Canadians believe it is taking action, but that is not delivering the goods. This is a government that is far more interested in grabbing headlines than getting results that will make Canadians and Canadian communities safer. This is a pattern that has been repeated a number of times already, as in the case of Bill C-22.

In October 2006, my colleague, the member for London West, who was then our party's justice critic, offered the government the chance to fast-track a series of six justice bills that the government had tabled in this House, including Bill C-22. The government turned us down flat. With my colleague, the member for Wascana, who is the Liberal House leader, I made the same offer again in mid-March, and again the government turned a deaf ear.

Towards the end of March, the Leader of the Opposition also made the same offer. The government again did not listen and completely ignored this last offer. To top it off, the government even had the audacity to oppose a motion I tabled to immediately move to third reading of four bills that the government itself had tabled, that is Bills C-18, C-23, C-35, and of course C-22.

Bill C-18 deals with DNA identification. Bill C-23, which is presently before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, is an omnibus bill that makes corrections and technical amendments to the Criminal Code with respect to various procedures. Bill C-35 deals with the reverse onus of proof in bail hearings. This government has stated that this bill is all-important to its agenda and to its justice policy but has flatly refused to accelerate the process in the House. The last bill is Bill C-22, which we are currently debating. This is the first time, in my almost 10 years as a member of Parliament, that I have seen a federal government impede the progress of its own legislation. Who would have thought it possible? Anything is possible, its seems, for this minority Conservative government.

In conclusion, I simply wish to say that, from the time Bill C-22 was tabled in this House, in June 2006, the Liberal Party of Canada, the official opposition, has shown its support for this bill and has attempted to convince this government to fast-track it. However, it was the government that blocked any attempt by the official opposition to quickly adopt Bill C-22. We are very pleased that, finally, this bill is in the House at the report and third reading stage. We intend to vigorously support this bill.

April 24th, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
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Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I'm pleased to be back in front of you.

I'm pleased to see Mr. Rick Dykstra, one of my colleagues from the Niagara Peninsula and now a member of this committee. It's nice to see him here. I know of his dedication to justice issues, and I appreciate that.

Mr. Chairman, I've learned over the years that any time you get up to speak, if you're going to start recognizing people in a crowd, then you should have the names written down in advance so that you don't miss anyone. I missed someone yesterday. I was at the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week symposium in Ottawa, and when I got up to introduce the first federal ombudsman for victims of crime, I recognized my colleagues Stockwell Day, Dean Allison, and Laurie Hawn. I didn't see Ms. Jennings in the audience, and I apologize to her for that.

I actually noticed you, Ms. Jennings, as I was walking off the podium, when I saw you in the second or third row. That's not something I would do; I would certainly acknowledge all my colleagues in the House of Commons. In future, I'll revert to my usual procedure, which is to write down the names of the people I'm going to acknowledge—or not do it at all.

In any case, I'm glad to see you here, and I'm glad you were at the meeting yesterday.

It is a pleasure for me to meet with the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss the main estimates for the Department of Justice.

And I'm pleased to have my colleagues joining me here today—and you have introduced them, Mr. Chairman.

You would know, Mr. Chairman, as well that not only am I Minister of Justice and Attorney General, but my portfolio also includes the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Minister of Justice, of course, is also responsible for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, created last December by the Federal Accountability Act to enshrine in legislation the notion of prosecutorial independence.

I'll speak more about that in a moment, but first of all, I want to say that the work of the Department of Justice focuses on ensuring that Canada is a just and law-abiding society, with an accessible, efficient, and fair system of justice, providing high-quality legal services and counsel to the government and to client departments and agencies, and promoting respect for the rule of law.

Within this broad context, the department has a specific priority to develop legislation and policy that address crime more effectively and increase the confidence of Canadians in the judicial system. Ultimately this will promote safer communities for all Canadians and have a very real impact on their lives.

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased with the progress that our government has made on the priorities of Canadians, particularly in the realm of tackling crime. My predecessor, Minister Toews, was placed in charge of an ambitious legislative agenda. I have now taken on the challenge of that agenda and will continue to work diligently to guide the legislation through the House and of course will work with this committee.

One overarching priority has guided our government's work over the past 14 months, and that is safer communities for all Canadians. Part of that priority is tackling crime. From the beginning of our mandate, we have been committed to stronger laws that deal with gangs, guns, and drugs; ensuring serious consequences for serious crimes; and ensuring that our communities are safe from crime. That commitment has not wavered.

We also believe that Canada's justice system must adapt to the needs of the 21st century so that it can remain in step with changes in technology and an increasingly sophisticated population. In these endeavours, I've been working closely with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, to deliver on that promise to tackle crime.

We have introduced legislation on a number of fronts. For example, Bill C-35 proposes to shift the onus to the person accused of serious gun crimes to explain why they should not be denied bail. And Bill C-18 intends to strengthen our national DNA data bank and help our police forces identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent.

I am pleased to say that with the support of all parties in the House we brought into force Bill Bill C-19, which creates new offences that target street racing specifically. These new offences recognize street racing for what it is, a reckless and dangerous act that too often kills. With our new legislation, people who treat our public streets as race tracks will be dealt with more seriously.

We also passed legislation, introduced by my colleague, the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Jim Flaherty, to strengthen the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. These changes will help ensure that Canada continues to be a global leader in combatting organized crime and terrorist financing.

We are also committed to better meet the needs of victims of crime in areas where the federal government is responsible. Our government has listened and responded to victims of crime, giving them the respect they deserve. We have established the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Just yesterday, I was pleased to name Steve Sullivan as the first federal ombudsman. This office will be an independent resource for victims who have concerns about areas for which the federal government is responsible, including the federal correction system. Mr. Sullivan will work at arm's length from the government so that victims will be more confident that their views are being heard.

We also recently provided $52 million in funding over the next four years to boost programs, services, and funding for victims of crime, including: enhancing financial assistance to victims to travel to sentencing hearings to deliver victim impact statements, as well as to National Parole Board hearings; increasing funding for services in the north, where rates of victimization are much higher than in the rest of Canada; and providing limited emergency financial assistance for Canadians who become victims of serious violent crimes while abroad.

However, Mr. Chairman, the government also recognizes that it is equally important to prevent criminal behaviour before it has a chance to take root. We are addressing the root causes of crime by supporting community programs with effective social programs and sound economic policies.

In support of these goals, Budget 2007 commits $64 million over the next two years to create a national anti-drug strategy. This investment builds on ongoing annual funding for current programs and initiatives. This government is determined to sever these links by implementing a coherent, comprehensive national strategy against drugs. Although some details of the strategy remain to be worked out, I can say that it will focus on preventing drug use, treating drug addiction, and combatting drug production and distribution. Together, these three action plans will form an integrated, focused, and balanced approach to reducing the supply and demand for illicit drugs as well as the crime associated with them, leading to healthier individuals and safer communities. The strategy will address all illegal drugs, including marijuana, and will include a national awareness campaigned aimed at young people.

To succeed over the long term, I believe we must educate young people about the real risks associated with drug use, such as the dangers to mental and physical health, potential legal consequences, and impacts on career and travel options. It will also spur communities into action and engage local leaders in preventing the harm caused by illegal drugs.

Our government is also providing $20 million over two years to support community-based programs that provide youth at risk with positive opportunities and help them make good choices. And we will continue to work with the provinces, municipalities, police, and community leaders in areas threatened by gun and gang violence to support programs that reach out to young people.

We've also continued the drug treatment court program, which is an important initiative of the Department of Justice. In conjunction with Health Canada, my department has been instrumental in expanding the concept of drug treatment courts beyond the initial pilot program in Toronto to several communities across Canada. Our government supports the use of drug treatment courts because they help reduce criminal behaviour and drug use while holding offenders accountable for their actions.

We've also made changes to improve and strengthen the justice system. Last November, my predecessor implemented changes to the judicial advisory committees. These changes have broadened the base of stakeholders who will contribute to their discussion and assessment of competence and excellence required for federally appointed judges.

More specifically, we've included members of the law enforcement community, a community no less implicated in the administration of justice than lawyers and judges. These new members contribute another perspective on the competent and qualified individuals recommended to me for appointment to the bench. And we have moved expeditiously to fill vacancies in federal and provincial courts. To date, we have appointed 84 federal judges. I think this is an impressive record, given that the coming into force of Bill C-17 on December 14, 2006, provided federally appointed judges with new options for electing supernumerary status, which created even more vacancies. However, I must emphasize that we will not sacrifice the quality of our appointments in the interest of speed. These appointments will continue to be based on merit and legal excellence.

Additionally, in the interests of accountability we have created the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and have now begun the process of selecting a permanent director. Candidates will be assessed by a committee, with representation from each political party, the senior public service, and the legal profession. As Attorney General, I will make a choice from among three candidates, and that choice will be referred for approval to a committee of Parliament.

By establishing this office as an entity separate from the Department of Justice, our government has it made absolutely clear that criminal prosecutions are independent from political influence.

At this point, I must clear up two misconceptions.

First of all, this action does not suggest that the government believes federal prosecutors were unduly influenced in the past. As my predecessor Minister Toews has said:

We are not here to correct a problem that has already occurred; we are here to prevent problems from arising in the future.

Second, it's simply incorrect to state, as has been reported, that creating this office has cost the taxpayers an additional $98 million. The truth is this figure represents the budget of the former Federal Prosecution Service, which was a division of the Department of Justice. After the transfer, the budget for the department decreased.

The key driver in creating this office is to be as cost neutral as possible. It is in fact an investment that will benefit Canadians and increase their confidence in the justice system.

Mr. Chairman, although our government has been making great strides in improving our justice system, there is still a great deal left to accomplish.

There are still nine bills in Parliament for which I am responsible as Minister of Justice and which I am committed to bringing into force.

We introduced Bill C-9 to restrict the use of conditional sentences to ensure that people who commit serious crimes will serve their time behind bars, not in the community.

We introduced Bill C-10 to impose escalating mandatory minimum penalties for serious gun-related crimes. This legislation outlines clear consequences for gun crimes: prison sentences that are in keeping with the gravity of the offence.

As I mentioned, Bill C-10 seeks to increase the minimum penalty for gun crimes. This matter will soon be discussed in Parliament, and I hope that bill will be restored to the way it was prior to being amended.

Our legislative priorities also include Bill C-27, which will ensure tougher sentences and more effective management of dangerous offenders, including imposing stricter conditions on repeat offenders to keep such criminals from offending again. Bill C-27 responds to concerns that repeat and violent sexual predators are not being properly sentenced or managed once released into the community by strengthening the dangerous offender provisions and sections 810.1 and 810.2, the peace bond provisions, of the Criminal Code. No one will be automatically designated a dangerous offender upon third conviction, and that's another misconception, Mr. Chairman, that I would like to clear up. Crown prosecutors may or may not elect to seek dangerous offender status. In those cases where the Crown elects to proceed, the offender will be given the opportunity to explain why they should not be designated as dangerous, and judges will determine whether the offender should be designated as a dangerous offender.

We are also working to strengthen the laws against alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving. Bill C-32 will ensure that drug-impaired drivers face similar testing to that which drunk drivers now face. It will give police better tools to detect and investigate drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and it will increase penalties.

Bill C-22, which this committee recently considered and supported, will better protect youth against adult sexual predators, including against such predators on the Internet, by raising the age of sexual consent from 14 years to 16 years. I believe there is a broad consensus among Canadians that raising the age of protection is the right thing to do. We know it is strongly supported by many who work with youth or advocate on their behalf. I know there's a great deal of support across different levels of government, and indeed across the political spectrum.

This law would also bring Canada in line with many other developed countries throughout the world. It's time to get serious in dealing with the crimes of adult sexual predators and it's time to take a realistic and respectful approach to protecting our young people.

Beyond the legislative agenda is our role as the lead department on the national anti-drug strategy, as announced in Budget 2007. The Department of Justice has traditionally had a role in supporting the development of drug policy, and until recently played an integral part in the prosecution of drug offences. It also has responsibility for the youth justice policy development, including the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

As mentioned previously, along with preventing illicit drug use and treating dependency, this strategy will also crack down on gangs and combat illicit drug production such as grow-ops and methamphetamine labs.

I will work hard to ensure that the government's tackling crime agenda progresses through Parliament in my role as justice minister and Attorney General, so that we can all enjoy safer streets and more secure communities.

Mr. Chairman, our government has done more than just promise to improve Canada's system of justice to create safer communities; we have backed it up with financial resources. I am pleased to note that Budget 2007 reflects the government's commitment to building safer communities and creating a better Canada. We are cooperating on a number of initiatives.

On the new national drug strategy, which I have mentioned, we are committed to $64 million over the next two years to refocus current efforts on combatting illicit drug use and manufacturing, as well as prevention and treatment.

We renewed the aboriginal justice strategy with funding of $14.5 million over two years. This will significantly increase the number of aboriginal communities and people that have access to community justice programs. Under the strategy, aboriginal communities will take greater responsibility for the administration of justice, leading to a further reduction in crime and positive impacts at the community level.

We have allocated an additional $6 million per year to strengthen current activities on combatting the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and to ensure that those who commit these heinous crimes are brought to justice.

In addition, for the first time in more than 10 years, the provinces and territories will have stable and predictable funding for criminal legal aid. This approach will permit jurisdictions to develop long-term strategies to support the delivery of criminal legal aid.

Budget 2007 takes important steps to prevent crime, as well as the precursors of crime, and to ensure that our corrections, intelligence, and security systems are strong.

Finally, the government recently received the House of Commons subcommittee and special Senate committee reports on the review of the Anti-terrorism Act. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of both committees for their excellent work in tackling the numerous issues they were confronted with in the course of their review.

Both committees addressed issues of great concern to the government, and we will consider these recommendations very carefully.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank you and your committee members for your important work. It is an honour for me to take part in this process as Canada's Minister of Justice.

However, I am acutely aware that improving Canada's system of justice is a collaborative effort. Our system is a shared responsibility with the provinces and territories, and our many programs and initiatives require collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners as well as municipalities and other government departments. Together we will continue to work to ensure that Canada's system of justice contributes to the safety and security and well-being of Canadians.

Thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to any questions or comments you may have.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

March 23rd, 2007 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences).

I have long been a strong advocate for tough, smart and effective law and order measures in my riding of North Vancouver. In my previous role as mayor of the district of North Vancouver, I worked closely with local law enforcement officials to address crime and justice issues in our community and to ensure that North Vancouver is safe for residents and families.

Superintendent Gord Tomlinson and the North Vancouver RCMP detachment do excellent work in our communities with a comprehensive policing approach which includes working with concerned members of the community to ensure we are all doing our part.

The North Vancouver block watch program immediately comes to mind. Designed to build safer neighbourhoods by providing support, guidance, training and resource materials to develop and operate neighbourhood block watch programs, block watch has flourished in my riding by informing and engaging citizens about keeping our neighbourhood safe.

The North Vancouver RCMP also facilitates the local citizens on patrol program which utilizes local volunteers to monitor areas where the community is requesting more patrolling and where history and statistics demonstrate crime is more likely to occur.

Volunteers are paired up, given a combination cell phone-radio and they patrol in their own vehicles looking for any suspicious activity, which they phone in to the RCMP. The volunteers receive training on what to look for and how to react when they observe suspicious activity.

The decision to start this program in North Vancouver was prompted by the success of similar programs in Coquitlam, Mission and Vancouver, and it is part of the way the RCMP is expanding its level of service throughout British Columbia through the use of enthusiastic local volunteers.

As well, community policing offices located in neighbourhood shopping centres across North Vancouver are staffed by local volunteers and provide a friendly local face and convenient location for residents to come to for information on policing services and crime prevention programs.

While Bill C-35 makes appropriate changes to better deal with those already charged with firearms related offences, we cannot forget the value that preventive measures, such as block watch, citizens on patrol and community polices offices, have in preventing crimes from being committed in the first place.

While I have always been an advocate for being tough on crime, government can do more to prevent crime in the first place. We can be tough and smart on crime at the same time, while building safer communities with a view to future generations. Constituents in my riding understand this. It is therefore disappointing to see the government is more content playing politics with its law and order agenda.

Like my constituents, the Liberal Leader of the Opposition, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, understands this and is not soft on crime as the Conservative government is attempting to portray him with its latest republican style smear campaign.

A Liberal government would sit down to negotiate with the provinces to give municipalities more money to hire more officers and give the RCMP an extra $200 million to hire 400 officers for rapid enforcement teams across Canada that would boost local police and communities in their fight against guns, gangs, organized crime and drug trafficking.

Unlike the Conservative government, we will walk the walk and not just make hollow promises when fishing for votes. A Liberal government would also give provinces more money to hire more crown attorneys to speed up trials and to establish organized crime secretariats in every province, similar to Ontario's very successful guns and gangs task force to fight organized crime.

In addition, we will actually fill the judicial vacancies that currently exist across the country. How can the Conservatives claim to be tough on crime when they sit on their hands as judicial vacancies grow and the courts get more and more backlogged by the day? That is not providing justice for Canadians. Justice delayed is justice denied.

There are examples at all court levels of charges being dropped due to unreasonable delays in proceeding to trial. It is not good enough.

While the government has failed to convince Canadians it is capable of doing more than just talking tough on crime, let us turn to Bill C-35.

Bill C-35 would amend the Criminal Code of Canada to provide that the accused will be required to demonstrate, when charged with certain serious offences involving firearms or other regulated weapons, that a pre-trial detention is not justified in their case. These offenders have shown they are a danger to the public simply by using a firearm in the first place. Why should the onus be on a prosecutor to oppose bail being given in light of the serious nature of the crime for which they have been charged? Surely our law-abiding citizens deserve to feel protected from perpetrators of serious crimes.

The bill also introduces two factors relating to such offences that the courts must take into account when deciding whether the accused should be released or detained until the trial. Bill C-35 would require the courts to specifically consider: first, the fact that a firearm was allegedly used in the commission of the offence; and second, the fact that the accused faces a minimum penalty of three years or more imprisonment if convicted.

I strongly support amending the Criminal Code to add this provision. Police officers in my riding support this change, and constituents who simply want safe communities for their families support this change.

In addition, the Liberal opposition supports this change and we have demonstrated that in the House on repeated occasions.

For the fourth time in the past six months, the Liberal opposition this week attempted to get this bill and several other justice bills we are prepared to support, Bill C-18, the DNA identification act, Bill C-22, the age of consent bill, and Bill C-23, criminal procedures, passed without delay through all stages of consideration by the House. Had all members of the government and the NDP agreed, these bills could have cleared the House yesterday and now be on their way to the Senate as we speak. They would have been closer to law and the Liberal proposal would have advanced more than half of the government's entire justice agenda.

That is what my constituents in North Vancouver want. They do not care about politics or the next election. They just want safer communities and results from the minority government. It is too bad the Conservatives are not more interested in getting results than getting headlines.

I support Bill C-35 because I believe that the offences for which it would require a reverse onus for bail provisions are serious and that the bill would help ensure a safer community in North Vancouver.

These offences include any one of the following eight serious offences committed with a firearm: attempted murder, robbery, discharging a firearm with intent, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, kidnapping, hostage taking or extortion.

In addition, the reverse onus provisions will be required for any indictable offence involving firearms or other regulated weapons if committed while under a weapons prohibition order: firearm trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking or firearms smuggling.

I am more than comfortable with a change to the Criminal Code that would require individuals charged with these offences to make the case why they should be back on the streets while awaiting trial. I know citizens in my riding, who are going above and beyond to do their part to create a safe community, such as Block Watch and Citizens on Patrol, would be more than relieved to know there will be less of a chance of encountering individuals charged with such offences.

The government, in its effort to unjustly brand the Liberals as soft on crime, repeatedly attempts to assert that the opposition is opposed to these reverse onus measures as they are not in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While this party's commitment to the charter is unwavering, such an assertion is factually incorrect. It is true that the charter protects the presumption of innocence and the right not to be denied bail without just cause pending trial but within this basic presumption, however, bail can in fact be denied in order to ensure that the accused does not flee from justice, to protect the public if there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will reoffend and to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.

Although the prosecutor usually bears the onus of demonstrating why an accused should be denied bail, there are currently situations where it falls to the accused to demonstrate that detaining him or her is not justified. For example, the onus already shifts to the accused if they are charged with: an indictable offence committed while already released on another indictable offence; if they fail to appear in court or allegedly breach a release condition; for certain organized crime, terrorism or security of information offences; for drug trafficking, smuggling or drug producing offences; and, if they are not ordinarily a resident of Canada.

The Liberal opposition has made repeated efforts to have Bill C-35 fast-tracked through all stages of the House only to be blocked by the government. The Liberal Party's support for measures similar to those found in Bill C-35 go well beyond this debate today and even this 39th Parliament.

I was pleased, as were law enforcement and residents in North Vancouver, with our party's proposals during the last election in support of the reverse onus bail hearings for firearms related offences.

Our position on this issue has not changed. Canadians sent us to Ottawa to work together and that is what the Liberal opposition is attempting to do with our proposal to fast-track Bill C-35 and the three other bills.

The Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, MITA, from the previous Parliament, will be reintroduced later today as a private member's bill by the Liberal justice critic and the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. I can only hope the government will not block this bill too. The government needs to prove that it is more interested in getting results than headlines.

I will continue to support Bill C-35 and I encourage the minority Conservative government to work with this Parliament, including the Liberal members, and pass these laws that will enhance Canada's Criminal Code and justice system. Families in my riding want these bills passed. Police officers favour these changes and I stand here today to demand that the government listen to Canadians and do the right thing.