An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Gord Brown  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 18, 2006
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

The purpose of this enactment is to increase the punishment and impose a minimum punishment for the commission of an offence with a concealed weapon. The enactment also ensures that victims’ interests are taken into account during the conditional release process and that only the actual time spent in pre-trial custody is credited toward a term of imprisonment.

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

June 4, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Truth in Sentencing ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak at third reading to Bill C-25, a proposal to restrict the amount of credit awarded for time an accused person spends in pre-sentencing custody.

The proposed legislation is part of our government's commitment to tackle crime and make our streets safer.

It is similar to a proposal I made in my private member's bill, Bill C-393, referred to as the knife bill which passed second reading in the 39th Parliament. That bill was introduced because of the senseless slaying of Andy Moffitt from Brockville.

Bill C-25 will provide the courts with guidance in sentencing by limiting the amount of credit that the courts may grant to convicted criminals for the time they served in custody prior to their sentencing.

Courts have traditionally granted two to one credit for pre-sentencing custody to account for certain factors such as overcrowding in remand centres, lack of rehabilitative programs commonly available in sentence custody, and the fact that the time spent in remand did not count toward parole eligibility.

In some cases the credit awarded has been as high as three to one, especially where the conditions of detention were very poor, for example, because of extreme overcrowding.

Enhanced credit has contributed to the growing size of the remand population who are those accused in custody awaiting trial and sentencing across the country which is now greater than the population found in sentence custody in Canada's provisional and territorial jails.

Across Canada court cases are becoming more complex and therefore longer. Many criminal cases now involve 10 to 20 court appearances which translate into longer stays in remand. For example, in 1994-95, 34% of those in remand were being held for more than one week. Ten years later, 2004-05 those held for more than one week had grown to almost 45%. The result is that offenders spend less time in sentence custody because they spend too much time in remand.

All this adds up to the increase in the remand population compared to the sentence population of convicted criminals. This explains why provincial attorneys general and correctional ministers encouraged the Minister of Justice at their September 2008 meeting to limit credit for pre-sentence custody as a way to help reduce the growing size of their remand population.

The practice of awarding double or even triple credit for pre-sentencing custody puts the administration of justice into disrepute. It creates the impression that offenders are getting more lenient sentences than they deserve.

Canadians have told us loud and clear they would like to see more truth in sentencing by bringing the practice of giving double time credit for pre-trial custody to an end.

This is exactly what Bill C-25 does. It proposes that the general rule of limiting credit for pre-sentencing custody to one to one in all cases. However, it gives courts the discretion to grant up to one and a half days for every day spent in pre-sentencing custody where it is warranted. Those circumstances are not defined in the bill, but we would expect that severe overcrowding for example would be such a circumstance.

Where accused are remanded for having violated bail or because of their criminal record, the credit must be limited to one day for every day spent in pre-sentencing custody in all cases. These are factors that courts have recognized as warranting less than two to one credit for pre-sentencing custody.

The government will not allow extra credit for repeat offenders and for those who have violated their bail conditions.

Another problem with the current practice of awarding credit for pre-sentencing custody is that only the resulting term of full sentencing custody is reported and no statement of the consideration of pre-sentencing custody is communicated in the reasons for sentencing.

This is another problem that Bill C-25 proposes to address by requiring courts to note on the record the sentence that would have been imposed without credit, the amount of credit awarded, as well as the sentence imposed.

Courts would also be required to record that the offenders have been remanded because of their criminal record or because they have violated bail.

These requirements will meet several objectives including more clarity in how the length of the custodial sentence is determined and I believe that it will result in greater certainty and consistency, and will improve public confidence in the administration of justice.

As a result of this initiative, more offenders will now have a federal sentence of two years more and an increased number of federal offenders will be spending a longer time in federal custody.

From a rehabilitation perspective, this time in the federal system may present the opportunity for longer term programming that may have a positive impact on the offender.

I appreciate the support of our provincial and territorial partners for this legislative amendment to provide greater truth in sentencing. We are continuing to make laws to strengthen the justice system, and Bill C-25 is an important contribution to this objective.

I urge hon. members to support a quick and hasty passage of this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. It being 3:10 p.m., pursuant to order made Tuesday, June 3, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-393, under private member's business.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2008 / 5:35 p.m.
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Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there has been consultations between all the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following two motions concerning upcoming votes. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the deferred recorded divisions on second reading of Bill C-393, on report stage amendments, concurrence and third reading of Bill C-377, and on second reading of Bill C-490, currently scheduled to be held immediately before the time provided for private members' business on June 4, be held instead at 3 p.m. on June 4.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 7:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members for participating in the debate and for their consideration of the important issues contained in Bill C-393. Its goals are straightforward and they deserve our support.

The bill will break the escalation of violent knife crimes by applying deterrent measures, including for the act of criminally carrying a concealed weapon. It will end the abuse of judicial discretion that results in career criminals and bail violators being rewarded at sentencing and ensure crime victims are kept properly informed and not subjected to procedural abuse in their interaction with the National Parole Board.

These measures are intended to deal with systematic issues that are not theoretical or ideological. Their origin comes from the current realities of crime and the justice system in Canada.

When the bill was debated on April 11, I was surprised to hear some members opposite suggest that it was the response to a single case. In fairness, the member for Burnaby—Douglas did ask if there were other examples, and while I mentioned some in general terms during my original remarks, let me now provide greater details.

Members no doubt took note of the recent release of the youth crime stats which reported that youth homicide rates have risen 41% since 1997. About 44% of homicides committed by youth involved a knife, while 17% involved a firearm. Violent crime has risen 30% since 1991.

In preparation for this debate, my office did by no means a complete media scan. We started back on October 24, 2007, and ended just the other day on May 25. I have assembled clippings, and I stress that they are not complete, but we have recorded 170 stabbings or robberies with a knife and 44 separate homicides with a knife.

To be more precise, since our last debate on the bill on April 11, we have noted 45 stabbings and 14 knife homicides in just six weeks. These incidents involved swarmings, home invasions, robberies and assaults, and fights tragically escalated through the use of a previously concealed knife.

There are other systematic factors involved in at least some of the cases, but having the House send a deterrent message, a preventive message such as recognized recently by the Supreme Court of Canada, is a positive step to make this country a safer place.

The same clipping survey details cases of violent offenders, who were denied bail because of their past criminal records, being rewarded with not only credit for the time they earned in precustody but with double and in one case even triple credit for their ongoing criminality.

In one case extra credit was awarded for a vicious knife attack, even though the offender had his bail revoked when he was charged with being an accessory to murder while on bail for the stabbing.

The law does not require such credit, but I would suggest that the law needs to be changed to prohibit in these narrowly defined circumstances.

My background is not in criminal law, but working on the bill has shown me that we need more than just a legal system with rules to be followed without question. We need a justice system where those rules actually support the principles of justice, like past misconduct not being rewarded when it is followed by continuing criminality or consequences for breaching court orders.

Bill C-393 is limited in scope and in purpose. I welcome suggestions about how it could be improved to achieve its goals. I have already received several constructive wording suggestions which I think will do exactly that.

This is the rationale and mandate of our committee system. I urge members to vote to send the bill to committee so we can do the work that we do best.

The bill has received public support from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and from Commissioner Julian Fantino of the Ontario Provincial Police. Let me quote from his remarks, “It is a regrettable but undeniable reality that the carrying of criminally concealed knives and violent knife crime itself has increased dramatically in Canada recently, with all too often deadly consequences. I am confident that your bill will prove to be a deterrent to such actions for some offenders”. He also said, “I am very pleased to see that Bill C-393 also addresses a development of sentence calculation which has crept into our justice system”. He has offered to appear at committee.

Finally, I recently spoke with the Moffitt family who are visiting Ottawa again today to let them know what was going on with the bill and to update them about the bill. I was again overwhelmed with the quiet dignity of this family who wanted to know how they could help make these improvements a reality. Mrs. Moffitt summed up all the deficiencies that her family had to encounter over the years when she said, “tell them we can do better than this”. She is right. We can do better and now is our chance to do so in these specific areas.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 7:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak in favour of Bill C-393.

I also want to acknowledge and commend the member for Leeds—Grenville. He has had a very active role in developing this legislation.

There are reasons for legislation to come forward. This is an example where a member of Parliament, through a cause in his community or a cause on behalf of people he knows, has developed legislation that would actually work for victims and the victims' families. That is an important part of our job as members of Parliament and as makers of the laws of Canada. People's experiences, and not always good experiences, give them the ability to communicate and work with members of Parliament on these types of bills and allows these types of discussions.

I support the bill at second reading and support the idea of moving the bill to committee so we can have more discussion. People in other organizations have lots of concerns about some parts of the bill. That is why it should go to committee. It can be worked on there and people can bring their own experiences to committee and offer changes that may or may not be needed. I will certainly be following this very closely.

As many people have said, the bill proposes to create new mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for carrying a concealed weapon, as well as for manslaughter committed with a concealed knife against an unarmed victim.

When people are awaiting their trial and sentencing there is sometimes a trade-off in days spent and three days may be traded for one. That is not what Canadians want. People have told me time and time again that this is not what they want, and the member has addressed this issue in his bill. Canadians want people to be accountable for their actions and to be responsible to the public. It is our job as legislators to develop laws that protect the victims and their families. Often friends in my community tell me that they have a real problem with people being kicked back into the community, barely having served any time, and not accepting full responsibility for, or understanding the implications of, their actions.

I am certainly supportive of the bill. I have spent a lot of time speaking to the member for Leeds—Grenville. He has been a tremendous advocate for this type of protection for victims and their families. I look forward to the bill going to committee. We are going to come up with a substantive bill that will protect Canadians. I see that as our main job as legislators.

I will end my debate there as I know the hon. member wants to wrap up and I am certainly prepared to let him do that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 6:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-393 introduced by my colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville.

Like the member for Leeds—Grenville and others who speak in support of the bill, working to improve the operation of the criminal justice system in Canada is a priority for me as well, not just on behalf of the country, but in particular on behalf of my constituents in Cambridge and North Dumfries. I know that this is also the case for many members of this government, apparently not all members of the House, but perhaps we can discuss this as parliamentarians do and convince the Liberal members who are opposing the bill of their wrongful ways.

I want also to echo remarks that have been made in debating these matters. What I seek is to genuinely improve the justice system. Even though we may have disagreements on how to do that, I am encouraged that perhaps if members opposite listened and paid attention they may actually agree that we need to change some of the things that we have done in the past.

I think all of us will agree, however, that in considering changes, we are well served by ensuring that we know the facts of what we intend to do, the facts behind the issue and the consequences of any changes that we might wish to make.

This is second reading debate of this bill. I am encouraged that the committee, which will seek information from witnesses and experts, potentially offering some amendments is exactly the right thing to do and exactly why the bill needs to be supported. Further, it seems to me that the best legislation is usually as a result of having a clear understanding of why we seek to do what it is that we are seeking to do.

Finally, I am sure members will agree that the justice system is one that inherently relies on public confidence, and that is a key word these days, and that it and the Canadians it is designed to serve are entitled to a system, not entitled as parliamentarians to their entitlements, but as Canadian citizens they are entitled to a system that avoids artificiality, speaks the truth in what it does and recognizes the difference between right and wrong in how it makes those decisions.

These observations may seem self-evident, but as many of us are familiar with a justice system or who have listened to the descriptions of the proceedings in the Moffitt case, the terrible case that caused my colleague to present this bill to the House, it is true that it is not always the case that these observations are in fact self-evident.

Bill C-393 deals with three areas of criminal procedures. These include the exercise of discretion in determining pretrial custody credits and enhancing victim interaction in the parole process. There cannot be anything wrong with those two. The third is in the area of establishing mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving weapons and specifically those involving knives. Other members may wish to speak to the first two subject areas I mentioned, but I just wanted to indicate that I support those areas and what I would like to do in my time allocated is focus my remarks on the mandatory minimum sentencing.

As members have heard, there is a regrettable but undeniable growth in the number and seriousness of violent crimes committed with knives in Canada. Today I looked up statistics for my own region of Waterloo. I do know the member for Kitchener--Waterloo has suggested there is no problem with crime in that region, but if he checked the statistics he would see that other violent crimes are up 28%. Offensive weapons have gone from 427 cases in 2005 to 535 cases in the next year. That is about a 20% increase. We cannot stand back and do nothing.

As it frequently is the case in dealing with criminal justice reform, there is not necessarily a single answer, but instead a response that covers the spectrum of principles that underlie our justice system.

Certainly measures that attempt to prevent people from engaging in criminally carrying knives or in stopping such behaviour is part of that solution. The bad guys have to know that if they are going to do serious crimes, they will do serious time. At this stage of the bill we can leave the balance to the experts at committee.

The point of Bill C-393 which I completely support is that for some people the knowledge of a certain and unpleasant consequence does work as a deterrent. This is the root of mandatory minimum sentencing. It is, as members know, a long-standing part of our justice system. This kind of stuff already exists. I might point out that the Supreme Court has just upheld that it is in fact constitutionally valid.

In fact, let me quote from that case where Chief Justice McLachlin, speaking for a unanimous court, rejected the idea that there could be an exemption to what Parliament enacted as a four year mandatory minimum sentence for causing death with a firearm, which is the same one as proposed in Bill C-393. She said:

In granting a constitutional exemption, a judge would be undermining Parliament’s purpose in passing the legislation: to remove judicial discretion and to send a clear and unequivocal message to potential offenders that if they commit a certain offence, or commit it in a certain way, they will receive a sentence equal to or exceeding the mandatory minimum specified by Parliament. The discretion that a constitutional exemption would confer on judges would violate the letter of the law and undermine the message that animates it.

If any of my colleagues want to look that up, that is from R. v. Ferguson , paragraph 55. I selected this quote simply to remind members of two things: one, this type of thing already exists in the Criminal Code; and two, it is constitutionally valid.

The point behind mandatory minimums is not simply to cause courts to sentence more severely but, as the member opposite just said, to actually contribute to there being less need in the long term for courts to sentence because at least some people would be getting the message. It is not a total solution, but it is part of the solution.

One of the mandatory minimum sentences proposed simply adds homicides committed with a knife to section 236, which already requires such sentencing, as I have stated, for homicides committed with a firearm.

Given the disturbing reality of knife homicides actually now outnumbering firearm homicides, I trust that members will come to their senses and all members will support this bill at second reading.

Bill C-393 creates a new mandatory minimum sentence with escalating time for repeat offenders for persons convicted of criminally possessing a concealed weapon, which includes a knife. This does not create any new kind of criminal liability for someone in lawful possession of a knife. It does, however, do several important things. It creates a mandatory minimum custodial sentence of 90 days' incarceration with a minimum one year sentence for subsequent offences. This is a clear and unequivocal expression of Parliament that a dangerous behaviour that too frequently and increasingly frequently leads to deaths like that of Andy Moffitt is unacceptable and Canadians deserve better care.

I want to conclude by saying that anyone who practises criminal law will attest that such actions as increasing maximum sentences that we have seen from the previous government are literally useless. It does not mean anything simply because the courts virtually cannot ever hand out maximums.

I have to salute my colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville, for introducing a bill with practical, specific, targeted measures which I do believe will produce tangible results.

I am supportive of the bill being referred to a committee for study. I hope that all aspects are fully assessed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to say a few words on Bill C-393.

The bill has three points. It would invoke a mandatory minimum for the commission of a criminal offence with a concealed weapon. It would also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide victims and their families more information on release applications. It also seeks to codify the remission for time served. I do not think it is in the Criminal Code now, but a lot of the judges use the two for one formula and this would go one for one.

At the outset, although I respect the member for Leeds—Grenville and I appreciate the work he has put into this and I appreciate his motivations, I cannot support the bill, mainly because of the implementation of the mandatory minimum sentence for this offence. It appeals to certain individuals, but the bottom line is it takes away or it fetters any use of judicial discretion.

In any case, coming before a judge, the judge is required to apply the fundamental accepted principles of sentencing, the established ones being retribution, deterrence, possible rehabilitation of the offender, protection of the public, circumstances surrounding the offence, circumstances surrounding the offender and others.

No two cases are alike. A judge could practise for 40 years and he or she would never see two cases that are the same. I had the privilege of practising law for 25 years. I acted both as a part time prosecutor on these cases and as defence counsel. I have looked into the eyes of these individuals. There are no two cases alike.

It has been done in certain cases, but the imposition of a mandatory minimum in offences such as this would, in my opinion, be a step backwards.

We are dealing with a first offender, and this again goes back to the fact that no two cases alike. It is perhaps the person's first real run-in with the law. I have seen situations of younger people getting in with the crowd or they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The judge has to take into account deterrence, retribution, circumstances of the offender and protection of the public. However, in that case, as in a lot of the cases, rehabilitation of the offender has to be a primary consideration.

The circumstances change fundamentally if we are dealing with a person with a record of three or four criminal offences. Then those other principles give way to protection of the public.

I do not suggest that sentences be lenient or that there be no sentences. What I am saying is no two cases are the same and we cannot throw out of the back of the truck the fundamental principle of judicial discretion. I am like everyone else in Canada. I see situations. Sometimes I up the paper and read that somebody convicted of an offence, which sounds terrible, and probably is, gets what I consider to be a light sentence. Now that could be one of two situations. The first is that in actual fact the sentence was quite a bit lighter than it should have been, maybe there was an appeal or maybe the judge screwed up. The second, and more likely, is that the media got the facts screwed up totally. It does not describe the offence or the offender, and we are left with an erroneous impression that this has come about.

The bill does not take into consideration regional differences. We have the northern communities. We have east and west. Everyone has different crime rates, different causes of crime. This would be an amendment to the Criminal Code and would be binding on all regions in Canada.

The bill does not take into account differences in cultures. We have a situation where people who come from the western province, where you come from, Mr. Speaker, where the first nations population has a certain percentage, but the percentage in prisons is five or six times that. Why is that? Why do we have five or six times the percentage of first nations in our prisons? Is there a reason? Will imposing the mandatory minimum sentence improve that? Everyone knows it will not. What is the cause of this? It is early in the game, but I believe some things such as healing circles and restorative justice are working. Once we pass this legislation, a lot of that may be go out the back door.

I have concern about the whole administration of justice. A lot of these cases are bargained. Literally the system cannot handle the cases before it, but if there is a mandatory minimum, no defence counsel will agree to anything and we will go to trial.

Those are some of the considerations. In principle, it sounds great, but there is fundamentally one problem: it does not work.

The previous speaker talked about the situation in the United States. This was a movement, which started in the United States about 20 years ago, where once it invoked the mandatory minimums, the crime rate would go down and everything would be great. It did not happen. The previous speaker said that some states had repealed their mandatory minimums. I actually know the number of states. Since 2003, 25 states have repealed the legislation dealing with mandatory minimum sentences. That probably represents half of the people living in the United States. The research indicates that it generally does not work. Our southern neighbours are realizing this now and that is why they are repealing it.

I make these comments with the greatest respect to the member for Leeds—Grenville and the motivations behind this draft bill, but I cannot support it.

On the principle of the so-called two for one formula, as far as I am aware, that is not in the Criminal Code now. It is a practice that has developed over the years. It is generally widely accepted. I am not saying I agree or disagree with it because every case should be dealt with on its merits. We had the high profile case of Brenda Martin back from Mexico and there was speculation a judge would be hearing the case in Canada and would give her the so-called two for one credit. Again, it comes back to the judicial discretion in a particular case.

The two for one is not codified now. It is just a rule of thumb. If we had the one for one codified, that would go forward with the actual sentence the judge gave. Every circumstance is different. If people were in jail for protection of the public, that is one situation. However, if they were in jail for two years because they could raise the $20,000 bail, that is an entirely different situation. I would argue in that case probably they should get more credit than one day for one day. Do not forget in that two year period they were in jail because they could not raise the bail, they would not be eligible for parole. If it worked the way it often does, people might be eligible for parole after serving half the sentence, but the two years they were in jail would not apply.

The point is that we will never have two cases that are the same. Each case has to be dealt with on its merits and on the circumstances surrounding the case. In a situation like this where we are trying to invoke mandatory minimums, I suggest it is a step backward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-393 purports to amend the Criminal Code in several ways and to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, more commonly referred to as the parole act.

It has at its base with regard to the Criminal Code amendment the introduction of mandatory minimums, basically when the crime that has been committed involves a concealed weapon. We heard from the member for Leeds—Grenville about the horrendous experience that he and members of his family experienced as a result of the use of a concealed weapon.

It is generally the position of the NDP, policy-wise, that we are not supportive of mandatory minimums. We strongly believe in the use within the judiciary of judicial discretion so that the crime and punishment fit the individual facts, as opposed to applying across the board mandatory minimum sentences and taking away from the judiciary the right to apply appropriate sentences based on the facts that are before them, and as opposed to being compelled to impose a penalty no matter what the facts are.

As a political party, we certainly in the past have made exceptions to the rules. We are quite supportive of the use of mandatory minimums in a variety of ways with regard to impaired driving, where in fact their use has been successful. More recently, we have been supportive of the use of mandatory minimums with regard to the use of firearms in the commission of crimes, because in both of those cases we are faced with an epidemic of crime of crisis proportions.

We are able to show, perhaps not as fully as we would like, that the use of mandatory minimums, a more severe form of punishment and penalties, is successful when it is targeted and when we are dealing with a crime that is at a particular crisis level. It is effective there.

We are able to show, particularly by looking to the experience in the United States, where the use of mandatory minimums grew out of all proportion, that it did not have any particular impact on the reduction in crime in those states where it was used extensively. In fact, we are seeing a number of state governments in the United States now repealing mandatory minimum sentences because they have been shown not to be at all effective and in fact have been shown to be useless when they are used broadly.

To come back to Bill C-393, I think we all can appreciate and be concerned about the process that the member for Leeds—Grenville went through and understand his motivation in moving this bill before the House. Unfortunately, that is not the way law should be drafted. In particular, criminal law should not be drafted from that perspective. I do not want that to sound in any way critical of him, but it is simply an observation of the methodology that one should apply when one is creating criminal law.

I do want to be critical of the government and maybe the Conservative Party and its members. The government cannot continue to try to amend the Criminal Code piecemeal. This is another example of it.

If the government is really serious about widespread reform as the government sees it, or as changes to the Criminal Code and maybe to the ideology behind the Criminal Code, to the philosophy of sentencing and the philosophy of punishment as the government would see it, then it has to be government policy. We cannot be doing this ad hoc and piecemeal, one section of the code at a time. It is just simply not the way to have a criminal justice system that makes any sense.

The government is not doing that. I have stood in the House repeatedly over the last couple of years, since the Conservative government has been in place, and criticized it for not doing that. I have implored it, if it is serious about amending the Criminal Code, to do it in an omnibus way and bring in massive legislation.

The code is in terrible shape in many respects. It has contradictions in it. Penalties are too severe in some cases and not severe enough in others, when the crimes are juxtaposed with the resulting range of penalties that can be imposed. It needs to be updated in a number of ways because of the advance of technology. Rather than do this in a way that would be systematic and effective, the government has not done that. It has brought in a series of bills. In addition to that, private members have brought in a series of bills.

I do not have the number, but Parliament, since January of 2006, has to have been faced with at least 50 bills on crime, between the 10 to 20 that the government has brought forward and then at least the 30 to 40 more in the form of private members' bills. It is confusing. It is an erratic way to proceed with reform of our criminal justice system. It is just not the right way to do it, but the government continues.

I want to be clear. As individuals, there is always a free vote. However, members of the NDP always discuss it and we have not collectively come to a decision as to whether we will support the bill at second reading and send it to committee or vote against it second reading.

I want to express another concern about the bill. The very first major criminal law bill, an amendment to the Criminal Code, which the government introduced shortly after it was elected, was Bill C-9. That was back in the first session of the 39th Parliament. The bill went to the justice committee and was significantly altered in the committee. It dealt with conditional sentences. When it came back to the chamber and was finally passed, it expressed the will of Parliament, the significant majority of parliamentarians who were elected in the last election.

We made it very clear to the government that the use of conditional sentences was not to be cut way back as Bill C-9 originally proposed to do, again leaving to our judiciary the discretion as to when a conditional sentence was appropriate. That message was very clear. My estimation was that perhaps as many as 90% of the crimes that the government wanted to exclude from the purview of conditional sentences were in fact put back in by the justice committee in the amendments and then adopted by Parliament, by the expression of the will of a significant majority of parliamentarians.

This bill, and it is just a small part, would preclude the use of conditional sentences by introducing a mandatory minimum in these circumstances. It seems to me the bill is contrary to the intent of the spirit of the vote that we took under Bill C-9. I almost question whether the bill should have been allowed to proceed because we had a vote in the House. It was a government bill altered by the opposition parties quite significantly and I believe that vote would have precluded this bill from coming forward.

I believe it should never should have come forward to the House, given the rules. However, it has and it is before us, but it causes me great concern as to whether we should support the bill, given the vote that has already taken place in the House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer my comments today in support of Bill C-393, introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville.

Like him and many members of this House on both sides, I have serious concerns about the way our criminal justice system is functioning. Like other members, dissatisfaction or perception of general dissatisfaction with the justice system in Canada is a sentiment I hear expressed regularly by my constituents of Westlock—St. Paul.

As we have heard, Bill C-393 contains three general issues.

The first deals with sentencing for crimes involving carrying deliberately concealed weapons and homicides committed with a knife in defined circumstances.

The second deals with increasing the discretion of the National Parole Board to provide relevant information to victims and to prevent abuse through offender adjournment of parole hearings.

The third area, which I wish to address today in greater detail, deals with clarifying the discretion available to sentencing judges in calculating what credit, and indeed what extra credit, should be given to persons who have been denied bail prior to their sentencing. While these are clearly distinct areas of criminal procedure, they have a common feature of dealing with systematic discretion in one fashion or another.

In the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, the bill clearly is replacing the lower end of the discretionary sentencing range with a minimum sentence. Quite literally, this bill says to sentencing courts that at least a specified custodial sentence must be imposed, and that, of course, is a partial elimination of an existing judicial discretion.

There are dozens of like provisions throughout the Criminal Code, so its use is nothing new. However, its application to these offences is new. I should add that the choice of mandatory minimum sentences by Parliament has recently been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Ferguson case.

In the area of enhancing victim rights, Bill C-393 actually increases the discretionary power of justice system officials responsible for decision making at the National Parole Board. This is an important point to make, as rather than issue a blanket entitlement to any and all offender information, Bill C-393 carefully weaves that outcome into defined relevance and discretion through the parole board.

The third area of the bill deals with what has come to be known as pretrial custody credits. Before analyzing this further, I should point out that this term comes about not as a result of a law passed by Parliament, but instead as a result of the way a discretion bestowed by Parliament has been misused, in my view, by some sentencing judges.

In this area, Bill C-393 clarifies how that discretion can be used by providing specific disqualifications based, it is important to note, on existing provisions within the Criminal Code.

Bill C-393 clarifies how a vested sentencing discretion is to be used and how it is not. In assessing the impact of this bill, it is wise to start with the specific section it modifies, namely subsection 719(3) of the Criminal Code, which states:

In determining the sentence to be imposed on a person convicted of an offence, a court may take into account any time spent in custody by the person as a result of the offence.

Four things stand out in this wording. The first is that the court “may”, not must, take pretrial custody into account. I am advised that on some seemingly rare occasions judges have refused to give such credit precisely because of past criminality and breach of existing bail orders.

The second is that the time considered is that spent in custody, not on bail under restrictive conditions but in custody.

If there were any doubt about that, judges need only look above subsection 719(3) to subsection 719(2), which expressly says that time spent:

--at large on interim release granted pursuant to any provision of this Act does not count as part of any term of imprisonment imposed on the person.

In other words, what the sentencing judge did in the Moffitt case was contrary to the express provisions of the Criminal Code. Members will be interested to know that this view has been accepted by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The third item that stands out is that the section does not specify any mathematical formula such as the two for one or even three for one calculation currently in vogue.

Fourth, and I think most important, is that the section specifies that the time to be considered is time spent “because of the offence”, not “because of breaching previous bail” or “because of a lengthy record” but “because of the offence”.

This is consistent with the way our system handles life sentences for persons convicted of murder. Pursuant to section 746 of the Criminal Code, the clock on parole ineligibility starts running from when the person is arrested and held in custody, as used to be almost always the case on murder charges in years gone by.

In other words, if a person is denied bail not because of the offence, but because of the offence and his or her lengthy criminal record or violation of bail, then that person should not qualify for this consideration.

In enacting subsection 719(3), Parliament has deliberately expressed the qualification for this benefit, and it is not up to the courts to add to it, especially when the grounds for the denial of bail are themselves expressly stated in the Criminal Code directions to courts about when to deny bail. In plain English, it is called common sense.

Not only have courts abused this discretion by applying it to the wrong people, they have taken it upon themselves to artificially create “extra” credit based on their view of the nature of the remand facilities. This is where the two for one or three for one calculation comes from.

The irony of the no doubt well-intentioned judicial inmate advocacy has apparently escaped judges who follow this practice. By giving extra credit for remand, they are providing an incentive for people denied bail for past criminality to stay in remand to take advantage of the extra credit. Then they have their lawyers complain about the overcrowding as justification for extra credit. If there was ever an artificial absurdity in dire need of correction by Parliament, this is it.

It used to be that in the old days when the career criminals got caught and were denied bail because of their past records, they quit the delaying tactics and pled guilty to what they knew they were going to be convicted of. They did it to avoid what was known as “dead time”. Today, thanks to misguided judicial misuse of a legitimate discretion, that dead time has been converted into the gift that keeps on giving.

Canadians following the debate will be shocked to learn that this abuse of discretion has literally caused their justice system to reward past misbehaviour and violation of bail by giving it extra credit when it comes to sentencing. I know this will come as a shock to those who think complexity is always better, but we need a system that rewards non-offending and compliance with court orders. We need a system that punishes continuing criminality and breach of bail.

Put simply, we need to restore to our justice system the capacity and willingness to tell the difference between right and wrong.

Bill C-393 does exactly that and it will also restore public confidence in our judicial system. Canadians are rightly wary of a justice system that says one thing but does another, and where we have to read the fine print to see what the truth is. Quite frankly, Canadians deserve better than this. It is up to us to make sure they get it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague for Leeds—Grenville for the hard work and dedication he has put into the creation of the bill.

As with all legislation, there are some changes we need to look at. If the bill is sent to committee, the committee will study it and will even make the bill better in some cases, but I think it is important to remind all colleagues in the House that we all ran on the idea of fixing our judicial system to make it stronger and better for all Canadians and for future generations.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today at second reading of Bill C-393, introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville.

As with all private members' bills, the basic goal is always the same—to improve the laws in order to improve the environments in which our constituents live.

In this case, we are talking about Bill C-393, which would amend the Criminal Code to increase the punishment and impose a minimum punishment for the commission of an offence with a concealed weapon, be it a knife or a firearm.

At the same time, the bill would amend the Criminal Code so that only the actual time spent in pre-trial custody is credited toward a term of imprisonment when the judge hands down the sentence. I will come back to this amendment later.

Finally, the bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act so that victims’ interests are taken into account during the conditional release process.

The bill introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville deserves to be studied further because it contains both positive and negative aspects. I will start by presenting the negative aspects of this bill.

First, the bill proposes tougher mandatory minimum sentences for offenders. Here again, we see the Conservative Party's mantra: impose mandatory minimum sentences. The Bloc Québécois does not necessarily support that. That way of thinking is harmful in the sense that there are no identical crimes, just as there are no identical offenders or identical circumstances. As such, minimum sentences can often be detrimental.

This would also have a negative impact on the freedom of the judge who must assess circumstances that differ from case to case. It is important to understand that the context of each crime must be considered in order to hand down an appropriate sentence. Imposing mandatory minimum sentences would needlessly tie judges' hands. When judges sentence an offender to prison, they take into account the offender's degree of responsibility, the seriousness of the offence, and the best way to serve justice while increasing the likelihood of rehabilitation.

A closer look reveals that section 90 of the Criminal Code already sets out a maximum 10-year sentence for individuals who commit crimes involving concealed weapons, whether knives or guns. A maximum sentence has been established. Of course, the judge is free to consider the circumstances and the individual's record. In some cases, a minimum sentence may not necessarily be appropriate.

Furthermore, heavier minimum sentences do not necessarily dissuade people from committing crimes. Recently, I was saying that would-be offenders decide against committing crimes because of the likelihood of being caught and charged, not because of the sentence they might receive. Also, it is hard to believe that an individual would read the Criminal Code before committing a crime in order to choose a crime that carries a lighter sentence.

Once again, prevention is the only proven way to proceed. Quebec is a good example that proves that prevention and rehabilitation produce results: we have a lower crime rate than anywhere else in North America.

Nonetheless, Bill C-393 includes aspects that merit much more thought in terms of their effects. Incidentally, when we are talking about considering the question of eligibility for parole, the idea that the interests of victims have to be taken into account and forums provided for doing that is not bad in itself. Of course, the principle should be examined together with a number of other factors. Nonetheless, the principle does merit, if not adoption, a thorough examination as part of a more comprehensive study.

Regarding parole, on June 15 my party made a number of reasonable suggestions about parole to respond to all of the members of the public who would like to have a more balanced system, one that is better suited to the new social reality, that has a real influence on crime, but without the ideological hard line taken by the Conservatives.

One of our proposals was to eliminate what is now virtually automatic parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence, to remedy some of the bizarre and most often criticized situations, such as sentences for economic crimes, for example, that result in imprisonment for only a few months.

Similarly, we proposed that we end the virtually automatic statutory release that occurs after an inmate has served two-thirds of his or her sentence, by instituting a formal assessment of inmates by a professional to determine the overall risk of recidivism that they present for the community.

These are only a few examples among many where the Bloc Québécois has eloquently demonstrated that it is actively responsive to the needs of Quebeckers in relation to the justice system. And this brings me to the second point in Bill C-393 that deserves consideration.

The bill proposes that only time “spent in pre-trial custody is credited toward a term of imprisonment”. To be clear on this, section 719 of the Criminal Code provides that before determining sentence, a judge may deduct two days for each day spent in custody before trial from the final sentence imposed on the offender. It therefore creates a double time phenomenon which, in my view, brings the administration of justice into disrepute. It is also very exasperating for the victims and their families, who sometimes see offenders released within a short time after committing their crimes. At the least, days spent in custody before sentence should still count, but as straight time only.

Thus, Bill C-393 would establish that in all cases, the credit granted would be calculated on the basis of one day of imprisonment for each day spent in pre-trial custody. Furthermore, the credit would not be granted to individuals who are being held by reason of previous convictions or as a result of the review or revocation of an order to release the person.

This is an interesting proposal and one the Bloc Québécois supports. I remind members that this idea was in our constructive approach to justice matters unveiled last year. The people of Quebec know this: we are not a silent opposition. We, the Bloc Québécois, are pragmatic and can keep things in perspective when it comes to introducing good practices in order to fight crime more effectively and ensuring that the public has confidence in their justice system.

In conclusion, in light of the arguments I have presented in this House, Bill C-393 in its current form has some positive aspects and some negative ones. However, minimum penalties and their negative effects that have been discussed many times in connection with previous bills are not the solution to help Bill C-393 meet its objectives. Consequently, like my Bloc colleagues, I will not support the bill of the member for Leeds—Grenville.

Let us be clear. I never once doubted the member's desire to better protect the public. We have all directly or indirectly been witnesses to incidents involving concealed weapons. But as I was saying, there are already provisions in the Criminal Code, and I think we should make more use of them.

The House resumed from April 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 11th, 2008 / 2:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a distinct honour and privilege to speak today to Bill C-393, a bill introduced by the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville, my friend and colleague.

As the summary of the bill indicates, Bill C-393 proposes to increase the penalty for the commission of an offence with a concealed weapon to ensure that victims' interests are considered during the conditional release process and to ensure that the sentence imposed on a convicted offender is only reduced by the actual time spent in pretrial custody.

I propose to limit my speech today to the bill's proposals addressing the Criminal Code, penalties for section 90, carrying a concealed weapon, and section 236, manslaughter, as well as for credit for pre-sentence custody.

Bill C-393 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to provide new mandatory minimum sentences for imprisonment for certain weapon related offences.

Currently, section 90, which makes it an offence to carry a concealed weapon unless authorized under federal legislation, carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for an indictable offence and a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment for a summary conviction offence.

Bill C-393 proposes to amend section 90 to provide a minimum penalty of 90 days imprisonment on a first offence of carrying a concealed weapon and one year imprisonment on a second or subsequent offence. For this offence it also proposes to reduce the maximum penalty from the current five years to five years less a day.

Bill C-393 also proposes to amend section 236 of the Criminal Code, which is the manslaughter provision. Currently, section 236 provides the maximum penalty of life imprisonment and, where a firearm is used, it also provides the minimum punishment of four years imprisonment.

Bill C-393 proposes that a minimum penalty of four years imprisonment also applies for manslaughter where the person uses, in the commission of an offence against an unarmed victim, a knife that the person concealed for the purpose of committing the offence. Upon conviction for this offence, it also proposes that the parole and eligibility period be set at one-half of the sentence instead of the standard one-third, or 10 years, whichever is less.

Not only does Bill C-393 propose to introduce mandatory minimum penalties for carrying a concealed weapon and for manslaughter where a knife is used, it seeks to make sentences for carrying a concealed weapon consecutive to sentences imposed in connection with the same event.

Consecutive sentences or sentences that are served one after another are normally imposed for multiple offences arising out of separate criminal transactions. However, when multiple offences arise out of the same event or a single transaction, generally the sentences are imposed to be served concurrently, meaning at the same time. This would not be the first time that an exemption to the single transaction rule would be introduced in the Criminal Code.

Currently, a sentence imposed for using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence, as well as certain criminal organization and terrorism offences, must be served consecutively to sentences imposed in connection with the same events.

Bill C-393 also proposes to make minimum penalties for carrying a concealed weapon consecutive to any punishment imposed for an underlying offence or to a sentence already being served.

When imposing mandatory consecutive sentences, judges must consider the sentencing principle set out in section 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code, in particular, the principles of proportionality which require that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

The principle of totality provides, where consecutive sentences are imposed, that the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh. These principles would still apply to the new mandatory consecutive sentences proposed by Bill C-393 for section 90 offences.

Bill C-393 also proposes to limit the amount of credit that can be given to an accused for the time spent in custody prior to sentencing. We just heard an hon. colleague from the NDP talk about pre-sentence custody. He talked about it as an impetus for the justice system to move. However, what we currently see, which happens all too often and we need to work toward repairing, is a system where offenders are encouraged to spend time in pretrial custody so that they can shorten their sentence, a sentence that is being given as a measure of justice. That is unacceptable to Canadians.

Under the current legislative system, an accused not granted bail under section 515 of the Criminal Code is held in custody on remand awaiting trial and sentencing. Bail can be denied when it is necessary to ensure that the accused will not leave the court's jurisdiction, referred to as flight risk, for public safety reasons when the justice of the peace or judge presiding over the bail hearings finds that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will commit further offences if released into the community, and when it is also necessary in order to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.

The Criminal Code does not presently prescribe a mathematical formula for taking into account time spent in custody awaiting trial. Subsection 719(3) of the Criminal Code simply states that a court may take time spent in pre-sentence custody into account in determining a fit sentence.

As a result, courts typically credit 2:1 in pre-sentencing custody because of the lack of programming or activities for inmates in remand, the fact that statutory provisions for parole and remission do not take into account time spent in custody before trial and because of overcrowding in correctional institutions.

Under a typical 2:1 credit regime where an offender serves nine months in pre-sentencing custody and is then sentenced to four years of imprisonment, courts will impose a sentence of two and a half years after crediting the offender with the time in pre-sentence custody. That is four years less eighteen months.

Courts have departed from the typical credit of 2:1 for pre-sentencing custody in certain circumstances. Courts have applied a ratio of less than 2:1 where the remand conditions are acceptable and programming is available to the accused.

Courts will also grant less than 2:1 credit where the offender is unlikely to obtain early parole because of his or her incarceration history, where the offender was remanded because of repeatedly breaching bail, or where the court is satisfied the offender deliberately chose to stay in remand in order to have a more lenient sentence.

On the other hand, there have been some isolated incidents where courts will credit more than the typical two days for each day in remand. That is right, more than two days. This is the case where the conditions of detention have been particularly egregious.

For instance, in 2003, courts were granting 3:1 credit to offenders who had been remanded at the pre-Confederation Toronto Don jail because it was operating above its maximum capacity, which resulted in double and even triple bunking of inmates. Some of them contracted tuberculosis as a result of the conditions.

Bill C-393 would limit the credit for time spent in custody for sentencing in all cases to a ratio of 1:1 and would disallow credit for individuals remanded because of their previous convictions, or as a result of a review or revocation of bail.

This is where justice re-enters the equation. This is where families are truly the victims. What concerns me is when we go through the process of the justice system, we lose track of who the victims really are. The victim is the victim of the crime. The victims are the family and friends of the victim of that crime. It seems too often in this society we start to believe that the victim is the perpetrator of the crime. When we award 3:1 credit for pretrial custody, the families, the victim, society in general look at it and ask where is the justice? When we look at mandatory minimum sentences and we say that there is no evidence that this is a deterrent, first, I disagree with that argument. There is empirical evidence that proves it is a deterrent. Second, I say to those individuals who make that argument, what about justice? What about what is right? What about what is fair? What about the victims, the real victims, the people who have to go on and live their lives knowing that the person who perpetrated a heinous crime was given a light sentence?

The person was given a light sentence, not because what the offender did was okay, not because society says it is okay, and in fact society says exactly the opposite. The person was given a light sentence because the justice system is operating with pretrial custody credits of 2:1 and 3:1 and because sentencing guidelines are not strict enough to ensure that justice is served and that the victims can leave the court and know that what happened to their loved one meant enough to society that there is going to be a real penalty when those crimes are committed.

I support this bill wholeheartedly.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 11th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville,

I want to begin by speaking about the example he gave as the prime motivation behind the changes he has introduced and the experience of the Moffitt family from his community. I appreciate the difficulty in which this kind of situation places a family.

Thirty years ago this fall, a close friend of mine died as a result of a knife attack. I think he was stabbed 39 times. No one was ever charged in that crime. I remember being at home watching the TV news and seeing the report. That is how I found out about his death.

Duncan Robinson was my friend. The relationship probably was not as close as a son or brother, but that affected me profoundly and still does to this day, when I remember what happened to him back in 1978. No one was ever charged in that crime so there has never been that kind of resolution to the situation. I have often thought about what happened.

I remember walking the streets of Toronto not long after that. There had been an artist rendering of a potential suspect. As I walked down the street a number of times, I thought I saw somebody who looked vaguely familiar to that drawing. I sometimes even followed someone for a few blocks to see if I could get another look at the person, never being able to make that kind of identification.

Therefore, I have never had the experience of having to sit through a trial for a loved one who was murdered. I do not know how my views of our justice system might have been changed on the way it worked or did not work.

I do know the murder of my friend Duncan was a major motivation in my political involvement. The situation that I saw surrounding his death led to so many questions about how we perceived the place of citizens, how we dealt with crime, how we reported crime in the media, how the police characterized their investigations and how the church dealt with my friend's death.

I had so many questions about how it had all happened. Because I identified so many serious problems as a result of that, I decided I could not remain silent any more and became very politically involved to try to address the social conditions I saw surrounding my friend's death.

As I say, had I the experience of seeing the matter go to trial, my interest in the justice system and the judicial process may have been different, but I chose to work on the social conditions surrounding my friend's death.

I appreciate that the Moffitt family has chosen to be politically involved and to raise the concerns and shortcomings they experienced, as outlined by the member Leeds—Grenville. I believe those are all serious questions that should be asked of legislators and of our judicial system.

However, I have some serious questions about the solutions the member has proposed in his bill. Not unlike my colleague who spoke previously, I have serious concerns about the use of mandatory minimum sentences. I also believe they have not been proven to be effective in reducing crime. I do not believe they make us safer, as citizens, from this kind of crime, from any kind of crime for that matter.

I believe in the experience of many jurisdictions in the United States for example. They are undoing that kind of legislation because it has been shown not to be effective in reducing crime. In fact, they may create other problems related to lengthy imprisonments of people, where there is not any hope for reintegration into the community successfully.

Therefore, I have serious questions about measures that would impose a mandatory minimum sentence. It is not something I easily would support and, in fact, I have not supported it in this chamber. I am also concerned about measures that would call into question conditional release. That is an important part of our judicial system, justice system and correction system.

Conditional release has served us well for the most part. That does not mean every conditional release has gone well, that there have not been problems with it. In any system we design there will be problems. There will be specific instances. That does not mean we do not take those problems seriously when they crop up, but I believe every system will have its shortcomings.

We are served well by conditional release. Release into the community, with specific conditions and supervision, is an important step in reintegrating an offender back into the community. Also, the way the community takes responsibility for the integration is also an important feature of our justice system.

Credit for pretrial custody is important. It is a major impetus to ensure timeliness in our justice system. To incarcerate people prior to a trial, prior to their conviction, should be taken very seriously. That needs to be recognized in our justice system. Again, the specific case raises some particular questions about that, questions that deserve an answer. However, generally the principle of credit for pretrial custody is very important.

I also believe judicial discretion is important in our system. This is one of the reasons why I have a difficulty with mandatory minimums. I agree there should be clear indications from Parliament, from legislators about what appropriate sentencing parameters would be for particular crimes. However, the people we ask to hear evidence, to make judgments on the situations of the people involved in crimes should have some discretion in how they mete out justice on our behalf. Judges do that responsibly. They take their role in that very seriously and they make very responsible decisions.

Again, that does not mean mistakes are not made. That does not mean there are exceptions to the rule where things have not worked out probably the way everyone involved would have liked them to have worked out. For the most part, this is exercised appropriately in our society and it should remain a feature of our justice system.

I want there to be a point in our justice system where there is the ability to exercise some humanity and to hear the particulars of the case and to respond to the specific situation in which those people are involved. We are well-served by judges who on our behalf exercise that humanity. I also have concerns about limiting judicial discretion.

There are a lot of reasons to be very concerned about knife crime in our society. We know that is a significant problem in so many places. I do not want for a second to dismiss the concern about knife crime and the tragedies and problems that causes in our communities. However, we need to seriously consider not just crime punishment measures, but also measures that seek to prevent crime in the first place, to prevent those situations from happening.

We have heard that youth crime is on the increase. We have to put some programs in place that specifically try to address this issue. I am not sure that increasing punishment for crime is going to effect that kind of change. We know increased punishments do not serve as a deterrent for crime, that it is a punishment measure and is something completely different from deterrence and from crime prevention. We need to put more effort into those areas.

I can commit on behalf of the NDP that our justice critic will carefully examine this legislation, that it is a measure we believe should be taken seriously. We may not always agree with the solution, but we believe this is an important issue about which Canadians are concerned. Clearly the member for Leeds—Grenville has put forward a very reasoned argument for this kind of legislation. We know the Moffitt family is very concerned to see this matter addressed.

For our part, we will ensure that we look carefully at the implications of the legislation. We will look carefully at the proposed solutions. We will look carefully to see that the solution proposed actually does the job that the bill hopes to do, which is to make us safer, to ensure that crime is appropriately addressed in our society, that punishment is appropriate and that our justice system works effectively to keep us all safe. We can safely make the pledge to ensure it takes place.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 11th, 2008 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are kind words from my hon. colleague. The fact is that this bill was first introduced in the 38th Parliament. I reintroduced it in this Parliament. It has been working its way through the system.

However, in the time since our government took office we have been taking action in terms of judicial reform and getting tough on crime. We of course have tougher jail times for those who commit crimes with firearms. We have new bail provisions that require those accused of serious gun crimes to show why they should not be in jail while awaiting trial. As well, of course, we have better protection for our youth with the raising of the age of protection from 14 to 16. These are just a few of the important criminal justice reforms of this government.

I am proud to stand in this House with Bill C-393. I encourage all members to support it because it is something that is very much long overdue.