Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act

An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

Report stage (House), as of Feb. 7, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the International Transfer of Offenders Act to provide that one of the purposes of that Act is to enhance public safety and to modify the list of factors that the Minister shall consider in deciding whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender.

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

Sept. 27, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I understand the member's passion about this. But his passion is obscuring the reality and the facts from him.

The truth is that Canadians need to come back from another country under the transfer of offenders program to get rehabilitated, to make his streets in Orillia and my streets in Pickering safe.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here today and debating Bill C-5, to which the Bloc Québécois objects.

Before continuing, I would like to mention a practice to which this government increasingly resorts, even though it verges on the grotesque. The Conservatives have developed a habit of giving ridiculous names to bills instead of focusing on the legal nature of the bills. Our parliamentary tradition is to identify the real purpose of a bill, but the Conservatives are increasingly giving them subjective names in order to sway people's opinion.

People watching us on television can see what we are discussing today at the bottom of the screen. It is the Keeping Canadians Safe Act. The government is trying to imply that people who oppose Bill C-5 are also opposed to keeping Canadians safe. It is totally ridiculous.

There are more examples of this increasingly common practice in other items on today’s agenda, for instance Bill C-13, the Fairness for Military Families Act. I do not want to go into this bill right now but there is obviously already a very subjective twist in the title. We also have Bill C-4, Sébastien's Law. It is even more pathetic because they are trying to take advantage of our horror at the type of tragedy that befell young Sébastien, who was killed in battle. The title implies that anyone who honours Sébastien’s memory should support the bill and anyone who dares to oppose it is against honouring his memory. It is totally absurd.

We saw it as well in the budget. They talked about an act to stimulate economic activity in Canada, or some other aberration of the kind. Another Conservative bill was called the trafficking of minors act, even though the word trafficking did not appear anywhere in the bill. Honestly.

This practice must stop. I do not know whether the bill before us today will go to committee, or if the others will, but I hope the committees that study them will be more objective and will give them names that reflect the legal reality. Today, for example, we are discussing the International Transfer of Offenders Act. That is the real name of the act. People can agree or not agree, but that is what this bill is really about.

If this practice continues, things will get absolutely absurd. There will be a bill to make Canadians happy or put them in good shape and good health or some fine bill to make things better. This does not make sense and should stop. I find this practice, which comes to us from the United States, particularly detestable.

Members may well remember George W. Bush introducing the Patriot Act after the attacks of September 11. It was anti-terrorist legislation and the purpose was to imply to the senators and representatives voting on it that if they were opposed, they were not patriots.

This completely subverts the debate and, most of all, insults our intelligence. It implies that people are not smart enough to discuss the heart of the issue. They think they are going to simplify things by calling it the Keeping Canadians Safe Act and everybody will be in favour because it is about the safety of Canadians.

This is a dangerous gamble on the part of the Conservative government. I would rather appeal to the intelligence of people. I think we can discuss bills just fine without giving them grotesque names.

It starts as the Keeping Canadians Safe Act.

In future, if Parliament wanted to amend this legislation it would have to call it an act to keep Canadians even safer than the Keeping Canadians Safe Act currently does. You can see where this is going. It is utterly ridiculous.

I want to come back to Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act. The issue before us is the following. Under the current International Transfer of Offenders Act, what factors does the minister have to consider in determining whether to transfer a Canadian sentenced abroad to Canada or to transfer an American sentenced in Canada to the United States? I am giving the United States as an example, but obviously this applies to all countries.

The current legislation has a certain number of factors that the minister must take into account. He must, for example, take into account the person's health. He must ask himself whether the foreign prison system satisfies recognized principles of basic justice and rights for all. Has this system violated the basic rights of an individual and does it represent a risk to the individual's health and safety? For instance, has the individual been handed over for torture?

This is already in the act, but the government wants to make a change. The act would say that the minister, instead of having to consider all these factors, could consider them, but is not required to. Just imagine. He can look into whether the person incarcerated abroad is being tortured. He might like to know that, but then again he might not. Are the basic rights of the person incarcerated abroad being violated? The Conservatives may or may not be interested. They want the minister to have more discretionary power.

The Bloc Québécois obviously has serious reservations about this. We are already aware of the government's contempt for the rule of law and its contempt for our basic principles of natural justice. Leaving aside the government currently in power, what about a future government? We have to stick to the rule of law in place.

I will digress for a moment. This debate might seem a bit technical for many people at home, but there is something even more fundamental, which is our sense of justice. Do we want to continue to defend the rule of law and the system of natural justice? It is not easy; it is an ongoing battle, and it is intellectually challenging, since it is not necessarily what comes naturally for people.

Do we want to go back in time, to systems that slowly but surely become more and more arbitrary, subjective and inconsistent? Today's legal systems are sometimes complex. The public often believes that the system is costly and complicated and does not always work well. But if we look at the evolution of humanity, we have made incredible progress compared to what was done during medieval times.

People may tell me that is quite a stretch, but I think it is important to keep that perspective. In medieval times, people were tortured and imprisoned for no reason. The king made the decisions, and it was summary justice. Later, people realized that this did not help control crime, that human beings were too intelligent for it, and that we should develop systems to ensure independent justice with effective results.

At the time when certain countries first banned torture, it was not even on humanitarian grounds. They believed that if someone was tortured in order to get them to admit something, that person would always end up saying what the torturer wanted to hear. That is clear. If we want to convict someone, we can torture them and they will incriminate themselves. Does that really serve justice? Of course not.

Our western societies and those elsewhere in the world have developed a rule of law based on numerous principles. I will not list them all, but I will talk about those that I believe to be important.

First, there is the presumption of innocence. According to this principle, we assume that a person is innocent. It is too easy to accuse someone without any proof, to tarnish his reputation and interfere with his rights. We believe a person to be innocent until proven guilty, which is not easy. It tends to go against human nature. When a reprehensible and sordid murder has been committed and the police arrest someone, we want that person to go to jail and suffer. We say that we can sense that he is guilty.

A system has been put in place to curb that tendency and consider a person to be innocent until proven guilty.

The Canadian system also provides for the possibility of rehabilitation, which is important, and even fundamental. If we did not believe that a person can be rehabilitated, why would we hand out sentences other than life in prison? If we believe that someone will be a criminal their entire life, why release them? Our laws allow for different prison terms because we believe that a person can be rehabilitated at some point. We try to gauge that.

We believe that everyone has the same rights. The Conservative government often attacks this principle with an extremely unhealthy populism by saying that the opposition members—the Bloc Québécois, the Liberals and the NDP—are defending criminals. We are not defending criminals but defending fundamental rights and the fact that everyone should have the same rights. If they are not the same for everyone, then they are no longer fundamental rights. Defending the fundamental rights of a murderer is never very popular. However, fundamental and universal rights apply to everyone, even murderers and people who commit the most horrific crimes.

Under the rule of law, everyone is entitled to a fair trial before an unbiased judge or jury, in which the various parties have an equal opportunity to prove the guilt or innocence of the individual in question. These principles seem rather basic, but the government is undermining them more and more by meddling with the rule of law.

We believe that the powers of the executive branch and the judiciary should be kept separate. It is not up to us as elected officials, and especially not to ministers who are biased and have their own convictions, to determine who should be convicted or acquitted based on the law. Parliamentarians pass laws, but it is the judges and the judicial system that, separately, must enforce legislation and determine who has obeyed and who has disobeyed. Lastly, there must be a mechanism to correct cases of wrongful conviction.

Bill C-5 has only a few clauses. It might seem insignificant, but it could attack the principles I just talked about and could represent a considerable step back.

I have three examples.

Let us consider the case of Maher Arar. Hon. members will recall that this Canadian was deported on the strength of false information obtained by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada's secret service. He was tortured abroad and finally returned home. A commission on the Arar affair completely exonerated Mr. Arar, proving that he had no connection with terrorism. The Canadian government did not apply the principle of the presumption of innocence in Mr. Arar's case. He did not get a fair trial. The separation of the judiciary and the executive was not maintained in his case. In fact, it was the executive that authorized his deportation, first to the United States and then to Syria. Today, the government is asking us to give it even more power. Is it so that the government can attack our system of natural justice even more?

Let us consider the case of Allen Smith, who was convicted of a series of murders in the United States. Admittedly, Mr. Smith is no choirboy, and defending him is not a very popular thing to do. But even without defending Allen Smith, we can defend people's basic rights. In Canada, we believe, or at least it is the position of this Parliament, that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment that goes against our belief in the right to life. If this is true in Canada, then it is also true in the United States. It would therefore be fair to ask the Americans to give this Canadian citizen the same treatment he would receive here, which would mean commuting his death sentence to life in prison. But the Conservative government could not care less about the principle of the rule of law, where everyone enjoys the same rights, or the principle of separation of the executive and the judiciary.

When questioned in the House of Commons, the government answered that, in its opinion, the crimes committed were very serious and that, therefore, it would not intervene. Since when is it up to the minister to assess the seriousness of the crime? That is something new in our system and it is deplorable. It is not up to the minister to make that assessment, but up to the courts, which must establish whether or not the person is guilty and decide on the seriousness of the crime and the appropriate punishment. Furthermore, it is the House that passes the laws to punish various crimes. It is not the minister who decides whether or not to apply them.

In the case of Omar Khadr, it is even worse. Without exception, all the principles I mentioned previously have been violated. Omar Khadr is a child soldier who was arrested seven years ago and is still imprisoned by the Americans. He has not yet been put on trial. He is accused of killing American soldiers and, despite a Supreme Court decision, the government refuses to ask for his return to Canada.

There is obviously no presumption of innocence in his case. Nor does he have equal rights. His cruel treatment, bordering on torture, has been contracted out to the United States. He has not had a fair trial after seven years of imprisonment. There is no separation between the executive and the judiciary. The government has told the House that, in its opinion, the crimes are serious and therefore it has decided not to intervene, as though it was up to the minister to decide. The possibility of judicial error was not examined in the least. The government absolutely does not want to hear about the possibility of rehabilitation if—I did say if—Omar Khadr is found guilty.

Since I mentioned the possibility of rehabilitation, I would like to close by saying that we have to keep in mind one thing about this bill: if this bill is passed, the number of Canadians serving sentences abroad will increase. These Canadians, once they have served their sentences, will return here and will not be ready to be reintegrated into society. In many cases, it would be better to return them to Canada and have them serve their sentences here so that they are in a better position to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on the various elements of his presentation. Since he is a Quebec member too, I would like to know what he thinks of the fact that the Archambault Institution has a special wing for prisoners with mental illness, such as bipolar disorder. When incarcerated in foreign prisons, especially in the United States, such individuals do not receive appropriate care and medication. They are ignored, more often than not. Unfortunately, when they do receive medication, it is not necessarily the right kind.

I would like my colleague to tell me whether he agrees that when individuals with mental illness are incarcerated abroad, they should be brought back to Canada as quickly as possible so that we can take care of them. That way, when they have finished serving their sentences, they will not be a danger to Canadian society.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree with what my colleague said. My speech was focused on the principle of equal rights.

In Canada, we believe that we must invest money and put these types of wings in our prisons. That is the least we can do to properly treat people with mental illness. We want to adopt universal principles, but why, when we cross the U.S. border, is this no longer necessary? The United States is perhaps not the best example, since they have a rehabilitation system, and in some cases, a support system for prisoners. However, in some parts of the world, they do not care about mental illness. Some countries even believe that homosexuality is a mental illness. That is not something that is taken into account in some places.

If we want to do something sensible, reasonable and in line with our values, we must look after and repatriate the individuals who have sometimes committed atrocious crimes. We must give them the treatment they need, and make them participate in appropriate rehabilitation programs. They will then be better able to reintegrate into society once their sentence is over than if they had been left in prisons abroad, where they would have no access to services or treatment. In many cases, they would return to Canada even more deranged and unbalanced than they were before they committed the crime.

That is the right thing to do. We must not shut our eyes because we find the crimes shocking. We must be rational and let our values dictate our actions.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I really enjoyed the speech delivered by the member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

Basically, Bill C-5 seeks to concentrate decision-making power in the hands of Conservative ministers yet again. Over the past few months, and especially this week, the government and its ministers have certainly displayed their culture of entitlement.

This bill was introduced because one judge presiding over one case questioned the minister's judgment. This was one case in which the minister did not do his job, and as a result, hours and hours were spent debating a law that does not need to be amended, and certainly not like this.

I have a question for my colleague. Does he think that the Conservatives' sense of entitlement is even greater than that which Justice Gomery observed in the former Liberal government?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not want to offer an opinion as to which of the two governments is worse. Neither of them is without fault. I gave the examples of Maher Arar and Omar Khadr. These two cases represent a problem for the current Conservative government, which has refused to act, but we cannot forget that both of these cases began under the Liberal government, which also failed to take responsibility.

The purpose of my speech is not to talk about Bill C-5 in detail because many in the House have already done that. I am more interested in trying to focus on the bill from a different angle. Bill C-5 is not the end of the world and democracy is not falling apart. It is simply another step backwards. We are moving in the wrong direction towards an increasingly arbitrary system and further from our fundamental values, with more political influence at the expense of justice. That is what is happening and that is what I wanted to talk about.

Those before us fought for justice, for rule of law and for important principles that are difficult to defend. They are difficult to defend, for one, because those sitting across the way are rather backward-thinking and each time we defend these principles, they claim we are defending criminals. I am not going to take the simplistic approach of the Conservatives. I believe that people are intelligent. I know that those listening to us realize that a judicial error, such as being falsely accused, can happen to anyone, including the hon. Conservative members across the way. It can happen to anyone. That is why we need a solid legal system and why we need to stop attacking and weakening it, which is what is happening with Bill C-5. We must be strong in our convictions and accept that justice can sometimes be frustrating, because it takes longer and is expensive. That, however, is the price we pay to live in a society where justice prevails.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, in reference to the beginning of the speech by my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, I would like to ask him whether he thinks that the title of the Keeping Canadians Safe Act should also include highway traffic acts, the National Building Code, transportation standards, fire safety standards, dangerous goods, nuclear power and pretty much everything else.

Does the member think that this government is trying to weaken the political class and undermine the place of politics in society? They are coming from a neo-liberal ideology holding that the less politics, the better.

Is giving fancy titles to micromanaging legislation just one more way to chip away at the powers of the people's representatives?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to show just how absurd this kind of title is. The opposition is saying that it is a bad bill. What would happen if the title of the bill were amended in committee to “not keeping Canadians safe”? We would end up in a completely senseless debate on semantics that would be a disgrace to the political class.

What is clear is that the Conservatives are trying to derail the debate. They are trying to distract everyone. They are taking a simplistic approach to try to make people believe that Bloc members are against keeping Canadians safe, and that they are the bad guys, while the Conservatives want to keep Canadians safe and are the good guys.

In the long run, the Conservatives are taking a risk by underestimating the public's intelligence. At some point, people will realize that the Conservatives are taking them for fools. Voters do not like that. Even though it is difficult, the Bloc Québécois believes that people are intelligent, and we believe we can explain to them that even though the title of this bill says it will keep Canadians safe, that is not the case.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, today I rise to share my thoughts on Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, with my colleagues.

I want to begin by stating that my deepest desire is to see an environment that promotes safety everywhere in Canada so that all Canadians can be safe no matter where they are.

There are many ways to achieve that goal. Today we are debating one of those ways.

Bill C-5 would amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act. This bill would enable the government to request the transfer of Canadian prisoners serving sentences in countries other than Canada.

Bill C-5 is part of the Conservative government's extreme law and order agenda. The militant western Conservative base strongly supports this vision.

Make no mistake about it, this bill is an opportunistic attempt to garner votes. It seeks not only to protect Canadians, but also to get the law-and-order Conservatives re-elected at any cost.

According to the bill summary, one purpose of the bill is to enhance public safety. Clause 3 adds another objective to the Act:

The purpose of this Act is to enhance public safety and to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

I think that if we add this new objective and give the minister discretionary powers with respect to factors he may take into consideration, the minister will be able to use public safety as grounds to deny as many requests for the transfer of Canadians incarcerated abroad as possible, thereby undermining all of the other objectives of the Act.

I will attempt to show that this bill will weaken public safety, not enhance it. Prior to this, the notion of public safety was, in practice, limited to terrorist threats and threats of war against Canada or against the general population.

In a Federal Court case, Getkate v. Canada (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), the judge had this to say about public safety:

—the Court also finds that there is no evidence on the record demonstrating that the applicant constitutes a potential threat to the safety of Canadians or the security of Canada. While the minister attempts to invoke the section as a means of demonstrating that the applicant poses a general threat to Canadians should he be returned to Canada, use of the phrase “threat to the security of Canada” has traditionally been limited in other legislation to threats of general terrorism and warfare against Canada or threats to the security of Canadians en masse. In the case at bar, while the applicant may pose a general threat to specific pockets of Canadian society should he re-offend, he clearly poses no “threat to the security of Canada” as the term has been interpreted in other legislation, such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act...or the Canadian Security Intelligence Services Act.... If the threat to Canada was the mere risk that the offender would re-offend, then such a consideration could be applied to every inmate seeking a transfer.

In this matter, the judge set aside the minister's decision.

Is this bill the minister's way of reacting to the judge's decision in the Getkate case? Is it an attempt to close the door to any judicial control over decisions? It is already very difficult for a judge to set aside a minister's decision.

I am not a legal expert but I know that, to be set aside, a ministerial decision must be found to be “unreasonable”. The burden of proof was very high for the individual and he had little chance of winning.

However, in the Getkate case, the judge set aside the minister's decision, despite all his discretionary power and the substantial burden of proof.

Bill C-5 gives the Minister of Public Safety a great deal of discretionary power and opens the door to abuse of power.

Under the current act, the minister considers four factors in determining whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender. Those factors are: whether the offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada; whether the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as their place of permanent residence; whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada; and whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights.

Bill C-5 gives the minister some very important additional discretionary power. The minister may consider other factors. The bill does not say that the minister does or shall consider these factors, but that he may consider them.

These are the factors added in the bill:

(b) whether, in the Minister’s opinion, the offender’s return to Canada will endanger public safety, including

(i) the safety of any person in Canada who is a victim, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, of an offence committed by the offender,

(ii) the safety of any member of the offender’s family, in the case of an offender who has been convicted of an offence against a family member, or

(iii) the safety of any child, in the case of an offender who has been convicted of a sexual offence involving a child;

(c) whether, in the Minister’s opinion, the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer;...

(g) the offender’s health;

(h) whether the offender has refused to participate in a rehabilitation or reintegration program;

(i) whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence for which they have been convicted, including by acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community;

(j) the manner in which the offender will be supervised, after the transfer, while they are serving their sentence;

(k) whether the offender has cooperated, or has undertaken to cooperate, with a law enforcement agency; or

(l) any other factor that the Minister considers relevant.

This list includes everything but the kitchen sink. It is broad. It is a very significant power to put in the hands of a single person, especially when we know that the current government is a government of law and order whatever the cost. This is all very subjective and is an attempt to win votes.

We live in a democracy based on the rule of law where every decision must be fair and meet objective criteria.

I sincerely believe that when we entrust so much power to a minister in the absence of any objectivity, we may be abandoning Canadians to the whims of this government. When the public no longer knows how the government will handle requests, it may lose confidence in a system that is neither fair nor transparent.

I would like to read an excerpt from an article by Nathalie DesRosiers, professor of law at the University of Ottawa. Ms. DesRosiers was the dean of the faculty of law and she is speaking on behalf of the Civil Liberties Association about Bill C-59, which preceded the current Bill C-5 before the unnecessary prorogation of last December:

Even if some Canadians believe that Ministers in Canada would never make decisions based on such sordid grounds as political contributions, there is the appearance that they may. Indeed, the lack of boundaries to such discretion prevent an analysis of whether a decision is fair, sound and wise, based on a consideration of all factors.

It also prevents any legal accountability. This, in my view, is going in the wrong direction. Although politicians certainly have the power to conduct international relations on behalf of Canada: they should want to exercise it in a way that is fair and transparent. The absence of rules prevents Canadians from knowing how they will be treated and exposes the government to charges of favouritism when they act or refuse to act. Indeed, when a white Canadian is repatriated speedily from Mexico while an Afro-Canadian is left in jail in Sudan, Canadians wonder whether the government is acting fairly and reasonably or in a racist manner. A stronger legal framework helps dispell such accusations and allow for more transparent ruling.

I believe we must not only avoid putting decision makers in positions that could lead them to abuse their power, but we must also avoid any appearance that they may have such power.

I would like to share with my colleagues the case of a young constituent from Hull—Aylmer, who is currently being detained in a penitentiary in Florida after being found guilty of crimes committed in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, since my presentation on this young resident could take several minutes, I suppose we should stop now so that you can proceed—

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister of Canada went to China in 2009, he said that he would teach the Chinese government about human rights. He said:

And so, in relations between China and Canada, we will continue to raise issues of freedom and human rights, and be a vocal advocate and an effective partner for human rights reform, just as we pursue the mutually beneficial economic relationship desired by both our countries.

But Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, which we will be opposing, makes it clear that the Prime Minister and the members of his government have nothing to teach the Chinese government. Allow me to explain.

Under the current International Transfer of Offenders Act, when the Minister of Public Safety agrees to a request for transfer back to Canada of a Canadian imprisoned abroad, he shall consider a number of factors, including whether the offender constitutes a threat to the security of Canada, if he has social or family ties in Canada, if he is truly a resident of Canada, what is his state of health, and so forth. In the case of a young offender, what is best for the youth is the main consideration when making a decision.

There is another key factor, set out in paragraph 10(1)(d) of the existing legislation, and that is “whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender’s security or human rights.” Bill C-5 replaces the term “shall” with “may”. Therefore, the minister “may consider”.

Consequently, it would be up to the minister to decide whether or not to take into account threats to the human rights or to the security of the Canadian citizen being held abroad. He would no longer be required to consider the human rights. He could, if he so wished.

That means that if a person is held abroad for committing any crime, even drug trafficking, they must remain in that country even if the minister knows they are being tortured. If that country engages in torture, the minister could, arbitrarily, decide not to consider this factor for any number of reasons.

The minister can make such a decision for a variety of reasons. It may be because the offender is homosexual or does not belong to the same church as the minister. The minister may consent to the transfer. Who knows, maybe the offender's father is a big party backer. That is the power that comes from “may” rather than “shall”.

Anything is possible when an arbitrary decision is made. Even the craziest reasons can come into play. Maybe the offender once ran for election against the minister and plans to run again. There is the potential for serious demagoguery.

Making arbitrary decisions that affect people's basic rights and security could lead to situations that are unacceptable and completely absurd. For example, a 20-year-old Canadian woman—this is a hypothetical but quite plausible situation that could happen anytime—might have to serve a lengthy sentence abroad for attempting to smuggle drugs. She might be held in extremely difficult conditions. She might be raped by her guards and suffer all kinds of abuse. And the correctional service and another government organization could tell the minister that this makes no sense.

This person should be returned to Canada because the living conditions in the country in question are dangerous and pose a threat to her physical and mental well-being. But with this bill, the minister could decide quite arbitrarily not to take this information into account. He could sign on the dotted line and refuse to bring the offender back to Canada, saying that her return would endanger public safety. He could also wait a year or two before giving an answer, just as he does now. It is just as serious, but that is another story.

What is most serious is that making the decision arbitrary not only helps feed rumours about a government, but opens the door to abuse, corruption and collusion.

I seriously doubt that this government wants to enhance public safety with Bill C-5, because the current international transfer law is based on balanced criteria under which the courts can exercise appropriate oversight over the minister's decisions. The minister must consider certain factors. When there are controls in place, checking is done. Case law shows that judges have ruled that the minister was wrong or right.

With this bill, the government appears to be looking for a way to prevent the transfer of more prisoners, probably because it is of the simplistic belief that keeping these people in prisons outside of Canada will better protect the public. Unfortunately, in many if not the vast majority of cases, we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that keeping Canadian prisoners overseas was a good way to protect Canadian society. In the end, the majority of them come back to Canada. They are Canadians. We cannot revoke their citizenship. Who knows—maybe they are planning to introduce a bill to revoke criminals' citizenship. These people are Canadians and they will come back. What condition will they be in when they do? Will they have taken part in programs?

The truth is that very few countries offer programs. In Canada, however, the correctional system offers a lot of programs. Right now, programs get 2% of the funding they need. I think we should increase funding for federal programs provided by the Correctional Service of Canada to 10%. Our system looks pretty good compared to those of other countries. However, the truth is that these programs are underfunded. When we compare ourselves to other countries, we see that at least people here may have access to programs provided by the Correctional Service of Canada.

It is highly likely that Canadian prisoners incarcerated in countries that do not offer such programs will be dangerous when they return to Canada. I have been to countries where the prison system is utterly antiquated and where people are crammed together in rooms. There are all kinds of prison systems in the world. We cannot expect that prisoners will have access to good rehabilitation programs. Individuals who return to Canada may or may not have had access to programs. They will be dangerous when they come back here. They will not have been rehabilitated, and they will not be monitored by the Correctional Service of Canada.

When prisoners are transferred, the Correctional Service of Canada takes responsibility and monitors them until the end of the sentence. What we have now are people who come back here after serving their sentence and are not monitored at all. Which is the better way to protect society? The answer is self-evident. Which is the better way to protect offenders? Yes, there is some ideological conflict here. Protecting society requires prisons and a certain degree of repression, but that is not all it takes. Rehabilitation, prevention and many other strategies are critical to protecting society, and they all require funding.

Many experts now say that international transfers already enhance public safety because they help ensure that offenders who would not have had access to rehabilitation will automatically have access by entering the federal system in Canada. As a result, these people, instead of being deported without having received any rehabilitation, will be sent to our system where they will have access to all of that.

The 2006-07 report from Correctional Service Canada stated that offenders who are not transferred are usually deported to Canada at the end of their sentence, without correctional supervision and without the benefit of programs. Therefore, international transfers play a key role in rehabilitation, and ultimately in protecting the public.

Let us be clear: the sole purpose of this bill is to give more discretionary power to the Minister of Public Safety, regardless of which government is in power. The bill will enable a public safety minister to do whatever he or she wants. That has nothing to do with protection. In fact, if the Conservatives are telling us that they want to strengthen this legislation for more protection, then they should not remove the words “shall consider”. They should be left as they are. They could add some criteria, but they should not remove the word “shall”; it should be left.

We see how this government treats Canadians and Quebeckers abroad, so we have to wonder: do we want to give this government more discretionary power? Would it not be risky to give any government more power? A government already has a lot of power, so would giving it more increase the risks?

Here is an example. Ms. Mohamud is a 31-year-old Canadian citizen who went to Kenya to visit her mother. She was unable to return to the country because she was accused of having stolen a passport. She was told that it was not hers. Eventually, after a long fight, this woman was able to prove her innocence. She is currently suing the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the former minister of public safety, the member for York—Simcoe, and the current Minister of Foreign Affairs for $12 million. Furthermore, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is accused of intentionally or negligently failing to conduct a competent investigation of Ms. Mohamud's case, and he is also accused of intentionally defaming Ms. Mohamud by implying to reporters that she was dishonest, that she was not who she said she was, and that she had committed criminal misconduct.

Are we supposed to trust people like this? Impossible. We cannot give them carte blanche. It does not matter who the minister of public safety is, now or in the future. They should not be given discretionary powers when physical safety or human rights are at issue. That is fundamental.

This bill paves the way for arbitrary decisions in terms of respect for human rights—and that is a threat to democracy—and opens the door to possible corruption or collusion.

If this bill is passed, the minister of public safety, no matter who it is, could decide that certain factors are more important than others when determining if someone should be transferred, all without having to take into consideration the individual's physical safety, health, family ties in Canada or basic rights. The minister could, as the bill states, take into consideration any factor he considers relevant. This leaves the door wide open.

This could lead to all sorts of problems: those who donate to political parties could be subject to a different standard of justice than other people, and the minister would have full rein to justify his decisions.

It will be impossible to prove cases of collusion or corruption because the minister will have the right to do whatever he wants and establish any criteria that he considers relevant.

If the government really wants to rid the international transfer system of all partisanship and collusion, it only has to ensure that the minister has the duty to take into consideration the criteria established in the legislation. And, yes, I said “duty”.

In closing, I asked myself a question. I asked myself why this law needs to be amended. According to most of the literature, this law works well and does a good job at protecting society, even more so because the minister has the duty to take this criterion into consideration.

The minister currently has some latitude in deciding whether or not to transfer someone. And if we look at case law, the Federal Court has backed most ministerial decisions. The best example is the De Vito case in which Justice Harrington of the Federal Court agreed with the minister's decision, even though the RCMP and Correctional Service Canada recommended that he be repatriated.

So why should we change a piece of legislation that works? Perhaps the government is trying to ensure it has the authority to eventually refuse to repatriate the child soldier Omar Khadr, if he is ever tried and sentenced. The United States wants to send him back to Canada, but the government does not want him here. But with this, if he is tried and sentenced, it will become a matter of international transfer. The Canadian government has already trampled this young man's rights, as the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized, but I have a feeling this bill will seal his fate.

Helping someone whose life is in danger is a fundamental principle for Quebeckers. This right is enshrined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The government's Bill C-5 flies in the face of the fundamental values of Quebeckers. This bill is completely consistent with the Conservatives' anti-human-rights ideology.

In any case, we watched as the Conservatives gladly cut several programs that allow people to fight for their rights. All United Nations member countries have signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, although the French title speaks of the rights of “Man”, I believe that women are people too, so “human rights” is better, but that is a different argument. As everyone knows, enforcing and recognizing these rights is problematic in a number of countries. It all lies in the ability to say either “I must” or “I cannot”.

I think the Prime Minister is leading Canada towards becoming that kind of country. In fact, he is working hard to do so, and is doing a good job of it.

I cannot wait for the day when we separate from Canada and we can create our society without the shackles of Ottawa, build a country that reflects our values, a country that knows how to defend the rights of all members of its population without exception, without arbitrary decisions, without collusion and most importantly, in a very humane manner.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, this is just another bill in a long list of Conservative crime bills that show more of a desire for publicity over substance.

For 30 years the transfer of prisoners has occurred in this country in very small numbers. Very few are being rejected. The fact is that people who are brought from other countries go right to jail in Canada where they get into proper rehabilitation programs. If we were to leave them in jails in other countries, they would come back to Canada eventually and they would have had none of the training and rehabilitation they would have received had they been in Canada.

This is all window dressing on the part of the government with an eye on improving its position in the polls. We have to expose that for what it is. Having said that, all bills can be improved in committee and I do not have a problem with that. However, we should be exposing what the government's real intention is. There really is not a problem to be fixed in the first place. The system is working reasonably well but it is another situation that the government can take advantage of for short-term publicity gain.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I have to agree with my colleague. That is just what I have been saying over and over again as I watch this government's justice and public security measures: they have just been for show. In short, I would say that its only achievement—if I can call it that—has been prorogation.

A number of justice and public security bills were on the table. They were very important to the government, but then we had prorogation. To date, not many have been brought back. However, the government is serving up leftovers and making a big show of it. It wants the people to believe that it is working on ensuring public safety.

Yesterday in committee we heard from Mr. Sullivan. He told us very clearly that the government took imaginary action against the so-called criminals. The witness did not use the word “imaginary”. That is my word. The government has done nothing for the victims. The witness was unable to give me a percentage for comparison. If we were to make the comparison for him, we would see that the government was putting more emphasis on sentencing. Its crime bills have never amounted to much. The government is unable to get things done.

It likes to blame the media or the opposition. However, it was neither the media nor the opposition that prorogued Parliament. It was the government.

The government is just warming up the leftovers of its so-called tough on crime legislation. It is not tough at all, because these bills do not amount to anything. These bills are supposedly going to strengthen something, but in fact, they provide nothing but rhetoric about punishment. These bills do not punish intelligently; they are intended to punish for punishment's sake. To punish intelligently, we could send people to prison to rehabilitate them, for instance. The Correctional Services' budget for such programs is 2%.

They are going to build prisons, but not implement any programs. They are going to abolish prison farms. They are not going to provide anything for the victims but they are going to put people in prison.

If this keeps up, soon the Conservatives will reinstate the death penalty. That would solve their problem and it would cost less. They are going to lock people up and throw away the key. It is not clear whether they can or want to pay for the lethal injection. Maybe they will consider a bullet to the head, which costs only 35¢. Such is the government's policy.

The worst part is that the government will not admit it. It quietly introduces bills to try to get its ideology through. It does not even have the courage to face the issues. I challenge the government to do so.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her fine speech and the great work that she does in the public safety committee.

From reading the international transfers annual report for 2006-07, I have noticed that over the last 10 fiscal years, 26.9% of the people requesting a transfer requested a transfer to Quebec. Offenders are asked when they apply for a transfer to indicate their region of choice on their application. I also noticed that from 1996 to 2006, an average of 22 offenders a year requested a transfer into Quebec. However, in 2006-07, the very first year of the current Conservative government, that number was cut in half. Only 10 transfers of offenders from outside the country were approved to transfer to continue to serve their sentence in Quebec.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has any comments on the current government's approach to the rehabilitation of offenders. I also wonder whether or not she questions the government's commitment to Canadians being able to serve their sentences in a jurisdiction like Quebec where they might get better rehabilitation than they would in a prison in the United States, Colombia, or one of the Conservatives' other favourite countries in the world that they think we should be dealing with.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He, too, does very good work on the committee.

When an offender requests a transfer, he does so to be closer to his family. The underlying principle of reintegration programs is to allow individuals, once they have served their sentence, to have ties that help them return to society as law-abiding citizens. To do that, they must have support. They need a family to help them. They need friends, a job, housing, there must be something waiting for them when they get out.

When we look at these figures we realize that Quebeckers ask to go home to serve their sentences. Ontarians do the same thing and return to their province—their nation—not just because they will have access to programs that will help them be better citizens, but also because they will have access to community support.

Some offenders have children. They do not want to stay in Colombia for 15 or 20 years. They want to see their children again and it would be cruel not to allow that. Children should not pay for their parents' mistakes. They must not pay for them. They are also victims. The offenders' spouses are also victims. There must also be some compassion.

My colleague gave the example of an offender held in Colombia or any other country that disregards human rights. Whatever crime that person has committed, he will serve his sentence in Canada. An international transfer does not mean that a prisoner hops a plane at government expense and comes home to frolic in the fields. It means that the Correctional Service of Canada picks the offender up at the airport and places him in an institution where he will have access to programs.

But programs are not treats, and they are not put in place just for fun. Programs are put in place so that criminals, offenders and inmates can become law-abiding citizens. Are they set up just for humane reasons or out of charity? They are mainly there to protect society. That is key.

One hundred inmates who have not had access to a program are far more dangerous than 100 inmates who have been transferred and have had access to a program. That is key.

I would like to remind the House about something that the current Minister of Public Safety inadvertently talked about in committee when answering a question from a party colleague. Referring to international transfers, he said that people wanted to come to Canada to serve lenient sentences. But who are these people? They are not Colombians; they are Canadians. They want to come home to serve their sentence, and they have the right to do so.

The Conservatives talk about lenient sentences, but they did not even want to do away with the possibility of release after serving one sixth of a sentence. So what are they talking about? The minister says that inmates can be released after serving one sixth of their sentence here. But that is the Conservatives' fault. If they had just done away with that possibility, there would not be a problem anymore.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the New Democrats on Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act. By way of background, Bill C-5 is virtually identical to former Bill C-59, which was introduced in November 2009.

When Parliament prorogued, Bill C-59 died before it received any debate in the House. It was one of a suite of criminal justice bills, 17 as a matter of fact, which bills were actually killed by the government when in December last year it chose to prorogue Parliament and hold up much of the legislation that Canadians want and hold up the debate on many of the issues that ought to be debated.

Bill C-5 contains amendments to the International Transfer of Offenders Act. It would be helpful for all members of the House to consider the history and background of this act. Canada has had legislation providing for the international transfer of offenders both from Canada and into Canada since 1978. The International Transfer of Offenders Act was enacted in 2004 and replaced the old Transfer of Offenders Act.

The act essentially provides a mechanism for a foreign national imprisoned in Canada to apply for a transfer to his or her home country to serve the remainder of his or her sentence. Similarly, the act provides a mechanism for a Canadian citizen imprisoned abroad to apply for a transfer back to Canada to serve out the remainder of his or her sentence here in Canada.

As I said, the old act and the current act together have been in force for over three decades in this country. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have been in power and overseen the administration of this legislation. Liberal governments and Conservative governments have overseen the transfer and repatriation of Canadian citizens back to Canada.

Between 1978 and 2007, which is the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics are available, 124 foreign nationals were transferred out of Canadian jails, and 1,351 Canadian citizens were transferred back to Canada.

The purpose and principles of the act are quite clear. The current purpose of the act is defined in section 3, which states:

The purpose of this Act is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

The Correctional Service of Canada has a website dedicated to the International Transfer of Offenders Act. This website gives more detailed background about the principles underlying the international transfer mechanism. I will quote from that. It states:

Canadians incarcerated in foreign countries often find themselves facing serious problems coping with local conditions. The most common problems involve culture shock, isolation, language barriers, poor diets, inadequate medical care, disease and inability to contact friends and family....In some prison systems, the offender's family is even expected to provide food and financial assistance. The purpose of these agreements is humanitarian to enable offenders to serve their sentence in their country of citizenship, to alleviate undue hardships borne by offenders and their families and facilitate their eventual reintegration into society. Once transferred, the offender's sentence is administered in accordance with the laws of the receiving country.

In the case of offenders, Canadians coming back to Canada, that means serving their sentences in accordance with sentencing principles of Canada. I want to emphasize that those are not my words that I just read. Those are the words of the Correctional Service of Canada. That is the description by the people we entrust, who have expertise in carceral policy in this country. It has been the policy of this country for 30 years. These are the principles the government seeks to change by this very flawed, poorly conceived, unjust and totally ineffective legislation.

Let us consider the current process for a transfer application under the act. For a transfer of a Canadian citizen to take place, the offender must consent to the transfer, the country where the offender is currently imprisoned must consent and the Canadian government must consent. Let us be clear. This requires tripartite agreement of all of the actors and it requires them to agree in every particular case, without which the transfer application will not proceed.

The Minister of Public Safety is then designated to review all applications for offender transfer. The present act specifies the factors that the minister shall consider when evaluating an offender's application for transfer. In section 10, four criteria are outlined. Let us consider whether these criteria are appropriate.

First, the minister must consider whether the offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. Right there, the national security of Canada is four-square in front of us as a criterion that must be considered. Second, the minister must consider whether the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as his or her place of permanent residence. Again, this is not a provision for fair-weather Canadians who then want to seek the protection of Canada. This is for Canadians who happen to be abroad when a criminal offence is committed by them.

Third, the minister must consider whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada. Fourth, the minister must consider whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights. These four criteria have been applied successfully and well by every government in this country for over 30 years. However, the current government suddenly has problems in applying these criteria.

I will pause here to say one thing. My research indicates that not one offender, who has been granted a transfer back to Canada to resume and serve his or her sentence, has ever reoffended. I think that the changes proposed by Bill C-5 will reveal to all Canadians and members of the House how poorly this bill is conceived. Bill C-5 seeks to add the words “to enhance public safety” to the purpose of the act. I am going to come back and talk about that in a minute because of course everybody is in favour of public safety.

The act currently states that the minister shall consider the factors that I just outlined. Bill C-5 would change this to read “the Minister may consider the following factors”. Bill C-5 also seeks to add the phrase “in the Minister’s opinion” to the existing factors laid out in the act. Bill C-5 would also add seven new factors, once again that the minister “may” consider.

I am going to stop there to say that the Conservatives have taken a judicial, legal process under a statute of Canada and have essentially said that the only Canadians who can be transferred back into this country, who have been convicted abroad, are people that the minister wants. That is it. There is no judicial way to challenge that. There is no legal way that a person could compel the minister to consider certain factors. It is whatever the Minister of Public Safety wants.

That is bad public policy and I would say that whether the minister of public safety was a New Democrat, a Liberal, a Bloc Québécois member or a Conservative. It is wrong.

There is a saying that we use in law schools to describe completely arbitrary law. We say that justice is measured by the length of the chancellor's foot. It might be six inches, eight inches or 10 inches. Nobody can ever tell because it is whatever is subjectively in the mind of that chancellor.

This is exactly the kind of legal thinking that typified our system 300 years ago, much before we had concepts like human rights, due process or rule of law. I would not expect the government to understand that, considering some of the legislation I see coming out of it.

These are some of the factors that the minister may consider: whether the offender is likely to engage in criminal activity in Canada, the offender's health, whether the offender has participated in rehabilitation programs, the manner in which the offender will be supervised after this transfer, and whether the offender has co-operated with police.

Let me stop here and say a couple of things. Think of this in terms of public safety. Say we had a Canadian serving a sentence in a Pennsylvania prison, much like David Radler, the person involved who was convicted and testified against Conrad Black. By the way, he applied under this legislation and was approved by the government to come back and serve his time in Canada. I did not hear the government complaining when a multi-millionaire applied under the International Transfer of Offenders Act and was granted the ability to come serve his time in Canada. I heard not a peep from the government.

However, if a person applied from Pennsylvania and came to Canada, that person would be coming here directly to jail. There is no public safety component to that. If that individual is serving time in a U.S. prison, that individual would continue to serve the time in a Canadian prison. There is no public safety aspect whatsoever. That individual is not coming back to this country to actually re-enter society. That individual is coming back to Canada to re-enter penitentiary.

One might say that people are going to be released into custody. This the major flaw and absurdity of the bill. When those people finish their sentence in Pennsylvania, the first thing the United States is going do is deport those offenders back to Canada and Canada has no choice but to receive them. So those people are coming back into Canadian society at the conclusion of their sentence no matter what. I will talk in a minute about how foolish that is and how this act actually makes Canadians safer by having those people transferred to a Canadian jail.

I want to talk about public safety because public safety is important. New Democrats agree that enhancing public safety should be given consideration when considering any piece of legislation that comes before the House. However, in this case the government has not presented one iota of evidence that public safety is being compromised under the current act. Nothing. But I have heard the public safety minister as well as members of the public safety committee say that they do not care about statistics, they do not care about the facts. They think they can define what are good criminal penal laws in this country by what they think or feel as opposed to the data.

It is important to remember that Canadians transferred back to Canada under the act are not being released immediately into the community and again, they are returning to serve out their prison sentence in a Canadian correctional facility.

I mentioned earlier why I think that public safety is enhanced by granting prisoner transfers. Offenders who serve their sentence in Canada will be subject to the oversight of a parole officer, released with conditions that must be followed ,and can have their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community carefully planned and monitored. The offenders who are sitting in a Pennsylvania jail or a Mexican prison have none of those things.

Offenders who serve their time in a foreign jail often have no rehabilitation, no programs, no substance abuse programs, no mental health programs, often nothing. In fact, often it is the case that they do not even speak the language of the country in which they are imprisoned.

Most importantly, Canada has no record of offenders who are not transferred back to this country, when they are released from a foreign jail and come back to Canada. They will come back to this country and we have no criminal record. We have no record of them serving time in prison. They will come back and they will be treated as a first offender if they do ever commit a crime in Canada.

Whereas, if they are transferred to a Canadian prison, we will have records. It will not be the criminal record. We will have records of them being in a penitentiary and then of course again, when the offenders are released into the community we can actually spell out the conditions of that release and supervise them. So it is actually less safe to pass this legislation. The Conservatives are endangering Canadians by passing this legislation because it will result in fewer people who are being approved for transfer.

I want to talk about whether there is actually a problem to be fixed here. The act is working. The Conservatives are trying to build a narrative that says that Canadians are being endangered because the Conservatives do not have enough power to deny applications for transfer. Again, I will trouble them with the facts.

From 2002-07, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, 367 applications for transfer were approved by the ministers involved and 24 were denied. So 367 times both Liberals and Conservatives decided to bring an offender back to Canada. Of those 24 denials, 3 offenders applied for judicial review of the minister's decision. One case was a denial based on the fact that the offender had spent 10 years in the United States and was deemed by the minister to have abandoned Canada as his or her place of permanent resident. So the federal court judge made a ruling stating that the court should not readily interfere with the discretionary decision of a minister and held that the minister's findings were not unreasonable.

Another case was a denial because the minister held that the prisoner had been identified as a member of a criminal organization and that the transfer would threaten the security of Canada. In that case, the CSC gave advice to the minister that the transfer would be highly beneficial and that the individual would not constitute a threat to the security of Canada. Nevertheless, the judge held that the decision of the minister was reasonable and the denial was allowed to stand.

Of the three denials, two cases were challenged and the minister's discretion was upheld. In the third case, the minister again made a denial on security grounds. The judge in that case, however, found that the decision of the minister was made with disregard to the “clear and unambiguous evidence” presented by the government's own officials. In this case the judge referred the decision back to the minister for re-determination.

The government points to this one case where a judge has overturned a ministerial denial, and on this basis it says, “Oh, we need to tighten the law”.

There was another case reported earlier this year, however, that I think is probably more revealing of the government's true feelings on this. This is where the judge did order a reconsideration of ministerial denial. In this case four individuals were convicted together of a single crime. Two of the individuals had transfer applications approved, but one was denied despite the unanimous recommendation of senior government officials.

The judge ruled that the minister's decision was inconsistent and arbitrary, and he gave the minister another 45 days to explain and justify or to reconsider the decision. This seems to me to be a very appropriate balance and a fair ruling, and yet the government continues to argue that it needs changes to this act.

I think this is the case, that the government wants to act arbitrarily and the current legislation prevents it from doing that. There has not been any case made that there is any reason to depart from the current scheme of the act, other than the government wanting to politicize the process and hand pick whoever it wants to come back into this country.

Again, the problem with Bill C-5 is that it does not strengthen the act, it shreds it. It does not strengthen the guidelines for the minister, it essentially eliminates them. Bill C-5 dictates that the minister may take certain facts into consideration, but then again he or she may not.

In the current act, the factors are presented as objective standards that can be evaluated by officials and, in the rare cases where it is necessary, ruled upon by a judge.

Now this opens up the process to bias. It does away with transparency and accountability. It allows the minister such wide-ranging discretion to ignore criteria completely and use his or her own subjective opinion as the test as he or she deems appropriate. That is wrong because it replaces an established law-based process with a politicized subjective one.

We might ask whether the government can be trusted to exercise discretion fairly. For New Democrats, this question of trust must be answered, unfortunately, in the negative. The government has demonstrated it cannot be trusted with unfettered power, whether it is the power to prorogue Parliament, or to hire and fire watchdogs and oversight officials, or to approve George Galloway, a British member of Parliament coming into our country and exercising his right of free speech as opposed to Ann Coulter who made derogatory and racist comments about many individuals.

We know what the government will do. It will exercise its political ideology instead of acting as fair and judicious public officials in this country.

With this bill the government proposes that the minister should be given absolute power and absolute discretion over who to bring back to Canada and who to leave overseas. It will do away with the judicial avenue for review by framing the minister's decision in such discretionary terms that it would be impossible for anyone to successfully argue that the act had been violated.

I want to ask, how do other countries feel about this? Because Canada has agreements with many countries for the reciprocal transfer of offenders. This is not just a Canadian plan. This is a program that involves dozens and dozens of countries. I suspect that if we ask other countries how they feel about the government wanting to essentially restrict the international transfer of offenders, which works beneficially for citizens of all countries, I would bet that those countries would express their displeasure to the government.

I want to talk a little bit about the politicization of justice because that is what I think the government is doing. If members go outside the Supreme Court of Canada or any court in this land, they will see a statue of the scales of justice with a blindfold on the statue, the goddess of justice. That is there for a reason. It is because justice ought to be objective and blind. It needs to have fair rules and fair law-based processes that apply to everyone equally, and not to allow judges to hand pick and not be accountable for their decisions by writing the rules that say it is whatever they think it is.

I want to end with a quote from the International Transfers Annual Report 2006-2007, which states:

In the 29 years since the first international transfer took place with the United States, there has been a steady increase in the number of agreements in place with foreign countries...increasing the number of applications received for processing...and of the number of offenders transferred to and from Canada. It ensures that offenders are gradually returned to society and that they have the opportunity—