Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak before the committee. Good afternoon to everybody.
It was very quick notice to get to this committee, and I apologize that I don't have notes to hand everybody. I can certainly type up what I've quickly typed up and email it out. However, I have one piece that I will give you later for all the members. It's in a suggestion that I'm going to put forward.
This long-sought-after reform on sentencing made its way through the House in Bill C-247, which was authored by Liberal MP Albina Guarnieri 10 years ago. This is not a new issue; this has been around a long time. The bill died in the Senate, but we are very glad to see it returned through Bill C-48, introduced by the current government.
I know the current government. I've heard them speak many times, and they also give tribute to Ms. Guarnieri. As I said, this is a very important issue and has been around for a long time. I think it would be really good at this point to be able to settle it once and for all.
As you can tell, the bill simply gives a sentencing judge, in the defined circumstances of sentencing a person who is convicted of more than one murder, the discretion to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods for the multiple murders. This is accomplished in proposed section 745.51 of the Criminal Code.
From our reading, this would apply to cases of persons who are convicted of a second murder, or more murders, following an early murder conviction, such as Daniel Gingras--if you're not familiar with Daniel Gingras, I'll be happy to answer that during questions--and also apply to persons who are convicted of multiple murders at the same trial, such Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo, or Russell Williams. That is our reading of the section, but we urge you to make sure this is the case, because it makes no sense to not allow both scenarios.
We understand, in following the discussion on other bills, that there has been concern expressed by some members of Parliament over mandatory minimum sentences because they reduce judicial discretion. As you know, murder already has a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment, although, with parole eligibility, the “life” part of the sentence does not necessarily mean being imprisoned. Bill C-48 would actually give judges more discretion at sentencing, so hopefully those MPs who have taken the position opposing a reduction in judicial discretion will support this bill, because it actually increases it.
This bill will apply, thankfully, to relatively few offenders, but that does not diminish its importance. Our system should have the sophistication, integrity, honesty, and discretion to treat multiple murderers differently. A consequence of this bill will also be, at least once it's passed, to possibly prevent victims' families, such as Ray and me, from having to go through the two-year nightmare of our children's killer demanding parole. This bill, as currently drafted, won't help us. Other changes are required for that, but it is a very important step to prevent the unintended and needless revictimization of victims' families in the future.
While I appreciate that it may be too late to incorporate into this bill the changes I just mentioned, I want to leave the committee draft amendments to the Criminal Code modelled directly on the judicial screening mechanisms that the former Liberal government enacted when it restricted the right of access to the section 745 advanced parole release of convicted murderers. It basically replicates the judicial screening process for a future parole hearing for murderers like Clifford Olson if they are denied parole at the 25-year point.
The screening judge would consider the request and could deny it, if unrealistic or without grounds, and disentitle the murderer from reapplying for a period of up to 15 years. It has narrow application to these horrendous cases, but it will prevent the revictimization that our families have just endured and the revictimization of others in the future.
Frankly, we are capable of better than what the current law permits. I hope that Bill C-48 can either be amended to include these provisions, or that one day, before Olson's next parole hearing, I will be back before you to urge passage of these measures.
I urge all members of the committee to support this bill, which provides judges with greater discretion to recognize the increased severity of multiple murders at sentencing by providing consecutive parole ineligibility periods.
That's all I have to say on that.
On a personal level, I can tell you one thing: it's tough. It's tough after 29 years, it's tough after 26 years, and I'm not so sure why we have to go through it. I have been around a long time; I understand laws and I understand people who work with offenders. Honestly, I'm not a vindictive person. I know all offenders aren't like Clifford Olson. I know that.
Honest to God, it's tough. I'm still coming down from it. I'm turning 65. When can I put my son to rest? My husband is gone. The last time he had his eyes open, he had brain tumours. He was right out of his mind and rolling on the floor. He climbed out of his bed and he was screaming, “Parole? Clifford Olson?” I don't think I can take it anymore.
I'm so sorry; I know we're not supposed to be emotional. I know better than that; I truly do. I know better than that. I didn't mean for this to take place. It really is tough, though. There has to be a way. If this bill isn't passed, maybe....
This is what I brought. Our policy adviser quickly drew this up for us. We're getting pretty desperate. There are five family members, five parents who have already died. When can we bring some justice for our kids? We don't have anything for them.
People talk about Clifford Olson all the time. He talks about himself. We're in a real catch-22. We attend these parole hearings because we have to put a face to the children he murdered. We're serving a life sentence along with him—we are—and it's not just us and it's not just Clifford Olson. His name makes me sick, because everything seems to relate to Clifford Olson, when there are other characters like him that we're talking about in this bill. It isn't only a Clifford Olson, and there are other families that will come after us.
Oh God, I didn't mean to do this. I really apologize, committee; I really do. I haven't done this in.... I'm sorry.