An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate)

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 by exempting persons from the application of section 347 of that Act in respect of agreements for small, short-term loans. The exemption applies to persons who are licensed or otherwise authorized to enter into such agreements by designated provinces that have legislative measures that protect recipients of payday loans and that specify a limit on the total cost of those loans.

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.

Votes

Feb. 6, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Jan. 31, 2007 Passed That Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate), be concurred in at report stage.

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.
See context

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 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not realize we were going to be moving on this quickly, which is a good development because it will move these bills along, as opposed to the government's approach, which has been one of delay.

In that regard, I want to do a quick resumé of what has happened in this Parliament starting in roughly mid-February of 2006, at which time we were faced with a large number of crime bills by the government. I took the opportunity to go through the list of bills that have been dealt with in one form or another.

The list was quite lengthy, starting with Bill C-9, which was a bill on conditional sentencing. That went through both Houses and has royal assent. There was one on the Judges Act, Bill C-17, and it also went through all stages. Another one relating to DNA identification went through all stages. As for Bill C-19 on street racing, a particularly emotional point for the Conservative Party, we got that one through. There was one on criminal interest rates, Bill C-26, and it got through. There was one, Bill C-48, which dealt with international crime syndicates and the need to fight corruption at that level, coming out of the UN, and it got through. The next one, dealing with the illegal recording of movies, went very quickly through the House with all parties cooperating. It never even went to committee.

In addition to that, we have had Bill C-22, which actually is part of Bill C-2, the bill that is before us now, passed at second reading in the Senate. It went through the House all the way to the Senate. We have had Bill C-10, an important bill on mandatory minimums, go through this House and into the Senate, where it was at first reading.

Similarly, Bill C-23 went through this House and got to the Senate, but it is not part of this bill. I am not sure if the government is going to bring that one back or not. On Bill C-35, which was the bill dealing with bail reviews involving alleged gun crimes and the reverse onus being placed, again, it got through all the work in this House and went to the Senate.

The final bill with regard to work that we had done and which was almost through this House was the bill dealing with impaired driving. That had cleared the committee and was coming back to the House. It would have been back in the House if we had not prorogued in the middle part of September.

These are all the bills we have had from the government. The final bill was still in committee and we had just started on it. We had three or four meetings taking witnesses on that bill, which deals with dangerous offenders and amendments to recognizance in the Criminal Code.

In addition, there were at least four to six private members' bills, all of them coming from the Conservative Party interestingly enough, which we dealt with and passed or dealt with in some fashion. One had to be withdrawn. We dealt with those as well.

All of that work was being done at the justice committee, with the exception, and this is really interesting, of two bills that went to special legislative committees. Because the justice committee's workload was so great, we moved them into special committees. However, we worked on those bills and got them through.

All of that is work we have done in a little over 18 months, yet in spite of that, there are two things the government does. It constantly complains about the length of time it takes, in regard to which the Conservatives could have done much better by originally having omnibus bills. I have said that in the House to the point where I am almost sick of hearing it myself, and I am sure everyone else in the House is, but it is the way they should have conducted themselves. Of course, though, because of their political agenda of wanting to highlight each one of these bills, they did not put them together. They finally came to their senses and realized that it is a way of moving bills through the House more rapidly.

However, we did all of that work, and now what we are hearing, which is the second point I want to make about the government, is that the delay is the fault of the opposition. That is absolutely false.

One can see from the length of the list of bills we have had to deal with, plus the private members' bills, plus working on two legislative committees in addition to all the work that we have done at justice, that nobody in the opposition has done any delaying. The delay with regard to the five bills that are incorporated now into Bill C-2 is entirely at the feet of the government. It prorogued and that cost us a month.

It is interesting to note what could have happened in that one month's time. It is my opinion that all three of the bills that were in the Senate would have been through and ready for royal assent, which again is in the hands of the government. If the government had conducted itself with any kind of efficiency, those bills probably would be law today.

The fourth bill, the one dealing with impaired driving, which again is part of Bill C-2, would have come to the House in the middle part of September when we came back. There was not a great deal of debate, and although I and my party have some reservations about it, we in fact would support it.

The bill would have had some debate in the House at report stage and third reading, but it would have been through the House and at least at first reading in the Senate now, perhaps at second reading. It is not beyond the pale to think that the bill also would have cleared the Senate and would have been ready for royal assent.

This bill bothers me. Of all the ones we have, this one bothers me the most because of the conduct of the government in dealing with the individuals, including the police officers and police associations, who lobbied really heavily to get this legislation, and in particular the families and supporters of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It bothers me that the government would have misused the loyalty and the support that those groups had given to the bill by leading them to believe that somehow it was the opposition that was holding it up, when in fact it was prorogation. Now there is this tactic of combining that bill with the other bills to actually slow down its passage. Otherwise there is a reasonably good chance it would have been law by now, and if not, it would have been in its final stages at the Senate and it certainly would have been law by the end of the year.

That is much less likely to happen now. It is more likely that this bill will not get final approval and royal assent until well into the spring, no matter what the government tries to do. Quite frankly we will do whatever we can to be cooperative in moving these bills forward.

Our party was quite prepared to have all four of those bills that I have mentioned which form 80% of Bill C-2 back at their original stages, again so they would be law or on the verge of becoming law, that is, receiving royal assent today, as opposed to what is likely to happen now. It is going to be into the new year and maybe well into the spring before these bills become law, assuming of course that the government does not collapse and there is an election, which is another problem.

The government has delayed it, and in addition, it has clearly pushed it back at least until the new year, with the real possibility of an election intervening and a number of these provisions never seeing the light of day until after the election, when we would come back and start the process all over again.

That is reprehensible conduct on the part of the government. The only reason the Conservatives are doing it is so they can stand up in public and say, “We are tough on crime”. They do the macho thing. They beat their chests. They do the King Kong thing as if they are coming out of a jungle. The reality is that the delay is all at their feet.

I am really angry when I think of all the work that so many groups have done, the victims of crime in particular, and now are being misused by the government in such a way.

I am not going to take up much more time but I do want to address the final bill that was at committee. Former Bill C-27 is now part of Bill C-2. It deals with two amendments to the Criminal Code. One would be on the provisions relating to dangerous offenders and the other is with regard to recognizance.

With regard to recognizance, I think I can safely say that all the opposition parties are in support of those provisions. They give additional authority to our judiciary to deal with people who are out in the community on their own recognizance, but we can put additional conditions on them.

The bill provides for things such as requiring them to wear a monitoring device. There is a number of other provisions that would substantially improve security in our communities regarding people who have now been released from charges and who have already served their time. It is a substantial step forward and one that has been needed.

I have said this in the House before, that when I started practising law back in the early 1970s we needed it at that time. Successive governments have tended to shy away from it. Our judiciary has attempted on a number of occasions to introduce these types of control devices, if I could put it that way, in terms of sentencing or conditions imposed on people and it has consistently lost in our courts of appeal. It required legislative intervention. The provision is in this bill and we need to pass that and get it into play so our judges can do a better job of helping protect Canadians, which they want to do.

The other part in this provision, the old Bill C-27 now part of Bill C-2, is with regard to dangerous offenders. We have significant problems with this. Originally when the bill came before the House as Bill C-27, all three opposition parties indicated that on principle they had to vote against it because it has a provision of reverse onus with regard to the dangerous offender.

All of us believe that that part of the bill would suffer a charter challenge that would be successful in striking it down. What I do not think the government has ever understood is that not only would it be struck down, but perhaps the whole dangerous offender section would be struck down. Just as we saw with the security certificates where the Supreme Court said that if it could not be fixed, they were all going down, the same type of thing could happen in a ruling on dangerous offenders. The government has never understood that.

Ultimately, the opposition parties decided that there were perhaps ways of amending this in committee to improve the use of the dangerous offender section, because we know we need to do that, and at the same time make sure that the section was not jeopardized by a successful charter challenge at some point in the future.

We were working on that when we ended in June. We fully expected that was one of the bills for the special legislative committee and that we would be back and working on it in September, that we would complete the witness testimony and improve the bill by way of amendment and if not, then I suppose we would have been faced with a conundrum of whether we could support it or not. That is where we are at this point.

That bill needs significant work in order to be sure that we do not lose the entire dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code. We will be doing that work as soon as we can get the committee up and running again and the bill into the committee.

It is very clear that the government, and I do not say this about the opposition parties, is prepared to play politics with public safety. The Conservatives want to be seen as the champions and they are prepared to take these kinds of manoeuvres of delaying these bills by incorporating them all into Bill C-2 so that they can do that. They want to stand up in the House and in the media and out on the hustings and say “we are the champions of it”, when in fact the truth is just the opposite. They were guilty. They are guilty of delay. The opposition parties are not.

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.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 17th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I would not do that.

Tomorrow is an allotted day.

Next week is constituent consultation week, when the House will be adjourned to allow members to return to their ridings and meet with constituents to share with them the activities of Parliament since the last constituency break.

For the interest of members, I will quickly review our plan for the context of our overall legislative agenda.

As he requested, this is currently strengthening the economy week, where a number of financial bills moved forward. The budget bill was sent to committee and, hopefully, it will be reported back tomorrow, or soon, so we can deal with it at third reading when the House returns after the break.

Bill C-40, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. Bill C-53, an act to implement the convention on the settlement of investment disputes, Bill C-33, the sales tax bill and Bill C-47, the Olympics symbol bill were all sent to committee and we all would like to see those back in the House for report stage and third reading.

In an earlier week, Bill C-36, the bill that makes changes to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, was made into law after receiving royal assent.

Strengthening accountability through democratic reform week was a success with the consideration of Bill C-43, Senate consultation. We had three new democratic reform bills introduced that week: Bill C-55, to expand voting opportunities; Bill C-56, an act to amend the Constitution Act, democratic representation; and Bill C-54, a bill that would bring accountability with respect to loans. We hope to continue debate on that particular bill later today.

Bill C-16, fixed dates for elections, was given royal assent and is now law, which I think is the cause of the commotion now in all the committees where Liberals are using procedural tactics. Now they feel they can do it with a free hand.

Two other democratic reform bills are in the Senate, Bill C-31, voter integrity, and Bill S-4, Senate tenure. I really would like to have the term limits bill from the Senate for an upcoming democratic reform week if the opposition House leader can persuade his colleagues in the Senate to finally deal with that bill after 352 days. We may get 352 seconds in a filibuster, but they have had 352 days so far. They have been stalling for a year.

During the consultation week, I will be interested in hearing what our constituents think of the plight of Bill S-4 and the irony of those unaccountable senators delaying it.

We dedicated a good deal of our time focusing on making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime. Now that we have had the help of the NDP, we restored the meaningful aspects that the Liberals gutted in committee to Bill C-10, the bill to introduce mandatory penalties for violent and gun crimes. We are continuing to debate that bill today at third reading.

Bill C-48, the bill dealing with the United Nations convention on corruption, was adopted at all stages.

Bill C-26, the bill to amend the Criminal Code with respect to interest rates, was given royal assent.

Bill C-22, the age of protection, was given final reading and sent to the Senate, although it did spend close to, if not in excess of, 200 days in committee where the Liberals were obstructing and delaying its passage.

We made progress on Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders legislation. We would like to see that back in the House.

Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) and a host of other justice bills are working their way through the system.

Members can advise their constituents that when we return, we will be reviving two themes, back by popular demand. Beginning May 28, we will begin again with strengthening accountability through democratic reform with: Bill C-54, political loans; Bill C-55, additional opportunities for voting; and Bill C-56, democratic representation.

Up next is a second go-round on strengthening the economy week with Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, which will be called as soon as it is reported back from committee.

In the near future, we will have the improvement of aboriginal people quality of life week with Bill C-44. This bill will grant first nations residing on Indian reserves access to the Canadian charter of human rights. They have been denied this right for 30 years. Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is being delayed by the opposition. This is another bill being delayed by the opposition in committee.

After Bill C-44, I intend to debate Bill C-51. The agreement establishes the use and ownership of land and resources and will foster economic development. This bill illustrates Canada's commitment to the North and to settling land claims.

I wish all members a productive constituent consultation week and look forward to more progress on the government's legislative agenda when the House returns on May 28.

May 3rd, 2007 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 3, 2007

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 3rd day of May, 2007, at 10:30 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila-Marie Cook

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate)--Chapter 9, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act--Chapter 10, and Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act--Chapter 11.

March 21st, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Thank you so much for being here today, Minister, and thank you for your presentation.

As you know from the speeches the Liberals made at second reading of this bill, Bill C-22, and from our Liberal justice strategy, which we announced in October 2006, Bill C-22 is in fact one of the bills the Liberal Party and the Liberal caucus supports. And back in 2006 we offered to fast-track it for the government, to work with the government to see that it was fast-tracked.

I'm pleased to hear in your response to my colleague Brian Murphy that you're delighted that the Liberals are supporting C-22 and that you want to see it come into effect and be enacted as quickly as possible.

So you have obviously been made cognizant of the Liberal opposition day motion, which will be debated tomorrow as part of the supply day for opposition, which makes an offer, for the third time, to this Conservative government that we are prepared to work with the government to have Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification; Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act—on which you're appearing before us right now—Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments); and Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences) deemed to have been considered by the House of Commons at all stages.

Should the government agree to vote in that way, this bill, C-22, Bill C-18, Bill C-23, and Bill C-35 will have been deemed to have gone through the House of Commons at all stages.

So I would hope that, given your delight in hearing that we're prepared to support Bill C-22.... You're not learning of this for the first time, because that was announced back in October 2006. The offer was made back then. Unfortunately, the government only took us up on three bills: C-9, conditional sentencing; Bill C-19, street racing; and Bill C-26, payday loans. But Bills C-18, C-22, and C-23 were part of that offer. You and your government, in its wisdom, decided not to take us up on it in October. The offer was again made when we came back after the Christmas break. The government decided not to take us up on it.

We're now making it for a third time, this time in writing, as part of an actual motion on which you and your colleagues will be called on to vote. I'm hopeful, and I'm asking if you will be prepared to recommend to your Prime Minister, to your colleagues, that they vote in favour of the Liberal opposition day motion, which would deem Bills C-18, DNA identification; C-22, age of protection; C-23, criminal procedures; and C-35, reverse onus for bail hearings, to have been considered by the House at all stages and adopted.

February 22nd, 2007 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.

I did make quite an extensive presentation the last time we had this, so I don't want to make too long a presentation. Obviously I accept the amendments.

I do want to say something about the process.

I don't come from a criminal law background. I come from more of an industry, science, and technology background. It's interesting that Mr. Bartlett was before our committee recently on Bill C-26; he has expertise in a lot of areas.

I actually think this process has been quite healthy. It started when I read an article in Macleans magazine about our current Privacy Commissioner's phone records being accessed. I approached the legislative office and said I wanted to do a private member's bill on this issue. I was drawn for the first time and submitted the bill.

I had some very helpful suggestions at second reading from members of this committee from all parties. They said they liked the intent of the bill and that it addressed part of the identity theft problem, but that they would like these sections to be clarified. I think Mr. Murphy raised the issue of definition of information at that time, and why I had chosen PIPEDA. I think Mr. Moore as well raised a lot of questions about the Criminal Code sections.

Obviously, what the government has suggested is taking the Competition Act amendments not as amendments but as policy statements and putting them to the committee reviewing PIPEDA legislation; I've accepted that. The amendments they've suggested today, in my own view, have improved the bill and have accomplished the intent of what I set out to do in the beginning.

I think it's been a healthy process overall, and I appreciate this committee's work on it. I think it's been excellent from all parties' points of view. I should also recognize Monsieur Ménard and Mr. Comartin for their speeches in the House of Commons; I think they were very good as well. I appreciate that, and I also appreciate the officials' being here and being so responsive.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I am open for any questions members may have.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with rapt attention as the chronicled the history of pecuniary matters in parts of Canada. He speaks warmly of the work of Moses Coady in my part of the country. I share with him the deep anxiety we have in parts of maritime Canada that banks in regions of our country seem to be leaving and people are without that service, but back to the bill.

I would like the hon. member to comment on this. It amazes me that the Criminal Code has not been effective all these years in its pursuit of unjust, unfair and criminal loans. As a parliamentarian of some breadth of experience, could he comment as to why he thinks this has happened?

I would also like his comments on the intended application of Bill C-26, which I support fully, as I have stated before. For example, the Mike Harris government would have completely ignored anything touching capitalist and pecuniary interests such as the payday lenders. What does he see in the application of this from province to province, being an effective and fair federal law? What suggestions does he have?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak to Bill C-26, a bill which has been very much pushed by the New Democrats for some time in order to deal with the fact that more and more of our working families and individuals are falling through the cracks because they are not able to access proper banking services and they are being left in the hands of the ATMs, the free mail-out credit cards and the payday loan companies.

In the previous Parliament the member for Winnipeg North had written to the finance minister, who is now the House leader for the Liberal Party, and asked him to work with us and the provinces who were sending a clear message that we did need to make the provisions to set aside parts of the Criminal Code so the provinces could start to set some standards in dealing with the usurious rates we are seeing in the payday lending schemes.

I am pleased now to have this issue back before Parliament. It speaks to the nature of Parliament that we actually are moving for it, except of course for our friends in the Bloc because whatever the political I Ching or the shaking of the bones in their separatist camp, it has made them come out on this bill in whichever way they have. I am still trying to read their tea leaves and I still cannot quite figure out where they are coming from. But that is not really a change in course, that seems to be standard depending on whatever bill comes before the House. I am glad however that at least the majority of the House is taking this issue very seriously.

I would like to point out for the interest of members of the House and anyone back home the long history of banking in my family. I know I might not look like I come from banking stock, but I have a great long history in banking. In fact, both sides of my family were bankers.

When the mines first started to open up in the Porcupine region, the miners were immigrant families and they did not have access to credit. When a miner was injured, he did not have worker's compensation in those days and many people lost their homes. They would have to go to the company stores to get bread. The idea came to the miners to form their own system of credit.

The very first credit union I am aware of in the Timmins region was the Worker's Co-op. It was started by Charley Haapanen, a very good northern Finlander who thought we should bring the miners together. So it was the Finns, the Ukrainians and the Scots who came together and formed the Worker's Co-op. The Worker's Co-op gave credit to people who would not be able to get credit otherwise.

Over time there were political fights within the Worker's Co-op. Some people in the community thought it was becoming a little too red and definitely that was not Liberal red, so they formed another co-op which was the Consumer's Co-op which was a little bit more pink, which is not necessarily the pink we are identifying today. There was the Consumer's Co-op and the Worker's Co-op.

Charlie Angus, my grandfather, believed that the only credit union was the Worker's Co-op and we bought all our shares in it because he felt that was what served the working people of the north. My mother's father, Joe MacNeil, was a gold miner from Cape Breton and broke his back in the Macintyre Mine. He became the credit manager at the Consumer's Co-op. As a child I was at the Consumer's Co-op many times and like its counterpart it provided credit to families who would otherwise not have credit.

While other children on Sunday afternoons and on rainy days were playing Monopoly and trying to gather up as much property as possible, our family was learning the good principles of working together in the consumer credit union game. We were raised at a very young age to believe in the principles of the credit union. It is an interesting angle when we are looking at what we are dealing with today.

I should mention that the other credit union that grew out of the area in the north was the caisse populaire in the francophone communities. The caisse populaire remains in my region one of the central bulwarks for credit, for family finance. It plays a role in our community that is unlike anything done by the banks.

I am raising these examples because when I travel across my vast riding in the north I see that the banks are leaving. They are pulling up stakes. They are leaving and shutting down in communities where they made money year after year. We see them pulling out of Elk Lake, Larder Lake, Virginiatown, Cobalt.

The first bank in Cobalt was the Bank of Commerce. It was a tent in the centre of town. It was there at the beginning of the mining rush, but it is gone now, even though many families still rely on banking services. What do they have when there is no banking service in the town? An ATM at the corner store is their banking service now.

Also, families that cannot get banking services are being mailed credit cards, with a free limit, from these hucksters. We also see payday lenders moving into some of the urban areas now because the banks have pulled out. The banks make $19 billion a year in profit. They have decided that it is not worth serving average working people. We are talking about an issue of fairness. People who want to have credit and have a savings account have been denied access.

I have a number of examples of how this is done. If people are not exposed to how the banking system runs today, they may not be aware of how people fall through the cracks.

I know a student who tried to open an account the other day. The bank wanted two pieces of picture ID and an ID card with an address. She is a student who recently moved to this town. She brought a signed copy of her rental agreement as proof of where she lived. She had two pieces of photo ID, including a passport, but her photo ID did not have her address on it. The bank would not accept her as a client. Where is she supposed to go? As she was being denied service, an immigrant man beside her was also trying to get an account for his family and the bank was not interested in him.

What happens is students have to cash their cheques, so they end up going to the Money Mart. That is simply unacceptable.

Now the banks, with their $19 billion of profit and their increasingly lousy service to average Canadians, want to expand services, such as insurance, in areas where they have traditionally have had no business. One morning last week in Timmins I met with a financial advocates group. These individual brokers provide good service. They have small businesses and have provided service for years. Now the banks want to come in and compete against them.

We know what this will be like. The banks will lower their rates to put them out of business. Then they will jack the rates up once they have no competition. The banks should be focusing on their fundamental job, which is providing credit in communities such as mine in northern Ontario and in places such as Winnipeg. The member for Winnipeg North talked about how the banks pulled out all together. The banks should leave insurance to the independent insurance brokers.

We need to speak about a number of issues in terms of fairness and the ability of people to access credit. We need to look at this proliferation of payday lending schemes that are catching the people who are falling through the cracks because the banks have walked away on their obligation. The banks should address the need for credit by families. People who are falling through the cracks are now having to go to the payday lenders and are paying exorbitant rates. This is creating a cycle of poverty.

We want to deal with helping people get out of poverty. We want to help the working poor. We are speaking about people who want to have a bit of savings and some stability. The last place these people need to be going to are the payday loan companies. Yet in some places that is the only form of financial enterprise that exists. They exist because they are allowed to get away with charging outrageous levels of interest, and the hands of the provinces are tied. We now have before us the opportunity to finally regulate these players and ensure that the area of fairness is addressed.

Banks are private businesses and they are allowed to pull out of communities. We have to start looking at this issue. We have to look at ATM fees and the unfair practices of the banks. We also have to look at the need to encourage our credit unions.

My colleague from Sault Ste. Marie pointed out that just as the credit unions came into the north back in the days when the banks refused to provide credit to working families, we have a role today to ensure that we get the small inner city credit unions up and running. Credit unions are moving into some of the communities I know of where the banks have pulled out. That will provide some measure of stability for families.

However, the larger issue is we have to ensure that when people want to cash cheques, they have access to financial services and if they have to cash cheques, they are not charged exorbitant rates and become trapped into the cycle of poverty.

The New Democratic Party is very supportive of the bill. As I said at the outset, the NDP finds it cynically amusing that the Bloc has taken the stance that the federal government, through this bill, will devolve powers to the provinces and somehow, once again, that is an insult to Quebec. That is an absurd argument.

I wonder if my colleagues from the Bloc might change the argument and say that from now on they will only support bills that centralize power in Ottawa and that they will oppose any bill that devolves power to the provinces. Perhaps the real argument is that they will oppose any bill that devolves powers to the provinces unless Quebec has already thought of it. We saw this before when the Bloc opposed a bill in the House to protect children across Canada against pesticides because Quebec already had a bill, so the rest of the country was on its own.

Bloc members say that they have already looked after the payday loan sharks, that people are sitting pretty in Quebec and the rest of Canadians are on their own. They say that if the federal government changes the act in order for the provinces to regulate it, they will oppose it. It is an extremely cynical position and I am very sorry to hear it. Unfortunately, it is typical of the kind of arguments we have heard from the party across, at least since I have been in Parliament. I know the arguments go back a long way.

However, I am very pleased that we have an overall consensus on the need to move forward on the bill right now. It speaks to a notion of fairness. It speaks to the need to ensure that we have some measures in place so our working poor and our young students, who are coming into the workforce, have some protection. The issue before us is that people are being preyed upon because there is no regulatory climate for these payday loan schemes.

I will give another example of how this affects people. I worked with some young first nations people, who needed to cash cheques. They have no banking services on the reserve. They found it very difficult to get banking services when they went into major towns. When payday came, they all went to payday loan companies. That was the only banking service they knew.

Once again, we are talking about breaking the cycle of poverty, of giving people a leg up. A very important and fundamental principle of giving people a leg up is by giving them credit.

A great example of this is the whole history of the co-op credit union movement that came out of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, with Father Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins. The priests who started to work on the Antigonish movement brought that principle to the third world.

Father Harvey Steel, who was a Scarboro Foreign Mission priest, was very active in bringing the notion of co-op credit to the third world. It was a way of getting people out of poverty. When I interviewed him before he died, he said that in the Dominican Republic, giving people access to credit, allowing them to control credit and to get micro loans was a fundamental in order to give these people a chance to have a decent society.

This is a similar principle. Whether it is in the Dominican Republic, in a reserve in northern Ontario or in inner city Winnipeg or Toronto, people want to be participants of an economy. They want to have access to credit.

To reiterate my point, right now banks are walking away on their traditional role of providing credit, loans and financial services to average people, so these people are falling through the cracks. The banks would prefer to start moving into jurisdictions that they have no business moving into. New Democrats are very opposed to allowing the banks to move in and act against other business sectors, such as on insurance, because they are not providing their fundamental obligation.

What do we need to do? We need to do two things. First, we need to set this provision before us so the provinces can begin to move to regulate the payday loan scheme. This will some measure of fairness on the ground for families and individuals to utilize these services. Second, we need to find ways of encouraging the access to credit, whether it is in rural regions or inner city regions.

I go back to the fundamental argument I made at the beginning, which is the notion of the credit union. The credit union has proven itself over the last century. It is a way of giving people access, some control and some empowerment, whether it was the old workers co-op back in the days of the boarding houses, the mines and the porcupine in Larder Lake and Kirkland Lake or whether it is in my region today where the caisse populaire is stepping in to offer cultural programming, support for regional economic development and ensuring that its members have access to fair loans in a timely manner.

When I first moved back to northern Ontario, I was in a financially risky situation. I was a young worker with a young family and did not have any kind of credit history. It was the caisse populaire that gave us credit and allowed us to get that foot up. I will always remember that because we were in some pretty dicey financial situations then. I see young families today who are in that situation. The caisse populaire allowed us that first step up and it was a very important step. If there had not been those services and the only option had been the payday loans, I do not know what we would have done at that point.

I will be more than willing to entertain questions and comments at this time.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2007 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not question the statistics on poverty or the increase in poverty that the hon. member was just mentioning. I agree that indeed, there is increasing poverty and that is unfortunate. I too have mentioned the data from Statistics Canada on this.

I hear this question from the NDP often. They ask Quebec, which already has a law or legislation that is better than or equivalent to what is in the rest of Canada, why it refuses to allow the same type of legislation to apply elsewhere in Canada. We are not refusing to allow other places in Canada to legislate in order to counter, or at least limit, the actions of these businesses. What we are saying is that Bill C-26 is an encroachment into provincial jurisdiction.

I do not think this a concern for the NDP. It has always introduced centralist measures. That is the NDP's choice and its right. If people want to elect those members to defend that in Ottawa, that is one thing, but often those members will say that such and such measure needs to be imposed on the provinces because that is what should be done.

In Quebec, we do not operate that way. That would not be accepted and we would not be here in this House if ever we dared operate that way.

Every province is free to legislate on this and so they should. However, it is not up to the federal government to dictate what to do and impose its veto, or to put conditions on this jurisdiction since it belongs to the provinces. That is the problem.