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 21st, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree with the member. If we are talking about a Canadian-administered charge and a Canadian court case, I would absolutely agree. In fact, I read from section 718. I think it is evident that is taken into consideration.

We are talking about a crime that was committed in a foreign jurisdiction. Justice was meted out in a foreign jurisdiction. We are talking about a person imprisoned in a foreign jurisdiction. The victim is a non-Canadian national and has had justice in another jurisdiction.

The victims that we should be concerned about are the victims of the crimes that might be committed by someone who was in a sardine can prison in Dallas, Texas and arrives at the Canadian border without having had any rehabilitation or treatment for drugs or anything else and then poses serious public safety harm to future victims. That is what I think is off about this bill.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, as the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and many other members, especially those on this side of the House, have pointed out, Canadians who return to Canada after serving long sentences in foreign countries without access to rehabilitation programs and without a record to ensure follow-up will most likely pose a greater danger to society than individuals incarcerated and rehabilitated here who will have a record. That is not rocket science.

I have a question for my colleague. I am not a member of the committee, but I am really surprised at what is being proposed here today. It seems to me that the minister wants to introduce a bill for the sole purpose of giving himself discretionary power. There can be no other reason for this. Can the member explain to me exactly why the minister wants to do this?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question, and I wish his hockey team the best of luck—but not really—in the playoff games against the Moncton Wildcats.

Seriously, I have no idea. I am not a member of the committee either and I am not very familiar with this bill. However, when I read this bill, I can see that there are a lot of mistakes. The main one is increasing the minister's discretionary power. I have no idea why the minister needs more power. This is not a majority Parliament, and the current system is not posing a problem.

That would be a good question to ask the minister in committee.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe makes excellent points, both in his speech and his answers to questions. I think we could apply the old adage to the situation with this bill that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

In the conclusion of the International Transfers Annual Report, 2006-07, it clearly states:

An analysis of the information contained in this report doesn’t only demonstrate that the purpose and the principles of the International Transfer of Offenders Act have been fulfilled; it supports that the International Transfer of Offenders program is consistent with the Mandate of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and its Mission Statement in that the program contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control. It ensures that offenders are gradually returned to society and that they have the opportunity to participate in programming that targets the factors that may have led to their offence.

This program has been in effect for 30 years. There is no big outcry to make this change. Now the government, for whatever reason, has decided to focus on this particular bill to essentially give more discretionary power to a minister when in fact we currently have procedures in place under the old act which are procedurally based. The question is, why is this necessary?

This bill will go to committee. We could probably make improvements to every single bill in the House, but maybe not the changes the government wants to make. There are probably some other ideas that the Liberal critic, members of the Bloc or the NDP have that could be added to this bill at the committee stage, but I see no need to fix something that has been working fine for 30 years.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I am absolutely in agreement with the member.

I take comments seriously from credible people like the member for Edmonton—St. Albert. I quoted the principles in section 718 of the Criminal Code and that is what we live by. If that is part of the raison d'être that is great and that should be lauded at committee.

If there is a need to have an extra territorial aspect of this, the apology or the owning up to the crime that is inherent in this discretion, that goes to the victimization in the United States. I suppose if it were reciprocal we would appreciate it. Maybe there is some international law evidence on this that the committee could find out.

Other than cheap politics, I am at a loss as to why the victim's wording is relevant in this legislation. The victimization, as I see it, may well happen on Canadian streets at the end of a served sentence when the person from a foreign country lands here and has had no rehabilitation and is just crazy out for vengeance.

When we get a new victims ombudsman, maybe he or she should give evidence. Certainly the former ombudsman would be a great witness. He has done great work. I cannot imagine why his mandate was not renewed. He would be quite a telling witness now for sure because he has fired many volleys against the ineffective work of the Conservative government with respect to victims.

If this is all about victims, then the committee has its work cut out for it in hearing from people who actually, with respect, know something about it.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member talked about the enhancement of public safety that the Conservatives want to put in this particular bill.

As the member has rightly pointed out, how would public safety be enhanced if we leave these prisoners in their tin can jails in Texas, as he mentioned, without any treatment? How would the public safety of Canadians benefit when these people get out of prison after serving their sentence without having any sort of treatment and they are back on the streets in Canada? How will that improve public safety in this country?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, the short answer is that it will not. What will enhance public safety, and we have become very cognizant of this fact in the last few days, is a real commitment to our police and security services across this country. They were here this week and did not feel that the government had delivered on its promises to make our streets more secure or to have more men and women in uniform, and they are not in uniform, patrolling our streets and keeping our communities safe.

I have said this a hundred times. There is not one person in this chamber who is not for public safety and public security. We all should be trying to work toward that. It is just a matter of calibrating it, not recalibrating it, and getting it right.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, which is a carbon copy of Bill C-599 introduced on November 26, 2009. This bill 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 may consider in deciding whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender held abroad.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that we can learn a lot by listening to our colleagues in the House. I listened carefully to the Liberal member who spoke previously. He said that this bill would be studied in committee. What does that mean for the Quebeckers and Canadians who are watching? It means that the Liberal Party will vote in favour of the bill, but will want to improve or amend it in committee.

That is not what the Bloc Québécois is going to do. We have to stop being afraid of the Conservatives' right-wing philosophy. The Liberals are afraid. They wonder what the public will think. A bad bill is a bad bill.

The problem with the Conservatives is that the only place where they see an opportunity to make political gains is on law and order issues. They are trying to make sweeping law and order changes, even though those changes make no sense. Quebeckers have always held onto certain values, and we expect Canadian nationals who commit a crime abroad to be judged according to our values. If not, we expect the country where they are charged to honour our policies and our values. Otherwise, we will return our nationals home.

There are international agreements about offender transfers. This bill is designed to give discretionary power to a Conservative minister. The Bloc Québécois will always be against giving right wingers the power to decide whether or not to return Quebeckers and Canadians home, no matter what they may have done. Depending on the country, charges are laid. I will give some examples. In some cases charges are laid, but six or seven years later, they still have not been processed.

Bill C-5 is designed to give the minister more discretionary power when he decides to transfer a Canadian who is serving a sentence abroad.

Instead of having to take into consideration the offender’s health or, worse, the fact that the foreign prison system presents a serious threat to the offender’s security or human rights, the minister would now be allowed to consider any factors he likes, without being obliged to consider them all. We can see the right-wing philosophy. The government will repatriate Canadians when it suits it to do so, but leave them to their fate when it does not.

But human rights are, by their very nature, non-negotiable. Parliament cannot allow a minister to overlook potential human rights abuses. Every human being, even the most despicable criminal, has fundamental rights.

The Conservative ideologues want to use this bill to give themselves the option of evaluating the fundamental rights of Quebeckers and Canadians on a case-by-case basis, although the courts have consistently ruled against this and have called the Conservatives on it many times. Mr. Smith and Mr. Arar are just two devastating examples.

Knowing the Conservatives' dogmatism, particularly on this issue, it would be irresponsible of us to give them more room to manoeuvre when it comes to negotiating the basic rights of Quebeckers and Canadians, especially those being held in a country that believes that incarceration and mistreatment, such as torture, are the only solutions to crime.

The Conservative government has not provided any factual reasons for amending the legislation. What is worse, the minister has acknowledged that much of what is in the bill is already covered in the act, but says that Bill C-5 spells it out. He also added that he has cases in mind that he does not want to discuss, and these cases would justify the amendments.

Again, we see this right-wing philosophy whereby they are right and everyone else around them is wrong. Our fear is that the government has a hidden agenda.

Why would we trust people who see and present themselves as white knights, but are anything but? Just look at the case of Rahim Jaffer driving dangerously while impaired and in possession of cocaine—he once campaigned for drug free schools—or the violation of the Access to Information Act where criminal offences have probably been committed, or the matter involving the former Conservative minister who just left cabinet, or Mr. Blackburn, who fancies himself above the law, or the Afghan detainee abuse situation.

When we see their attitude toward the court challenges program or the Khadr case, they are anything but sincere. It is highly likely that the Conservatives see this as a way of imposing heavy sentences abroad rather than having to deal with parole and rehabilitation here. That is the crux of the problem.

The Conservatives would like to impose a right-wing philosophy on Canadians and Quebeckers. These are not the values that were passed down by our ancestors. The Conservatives were elected and they represent a certain segment of the population, but, again, the entire population is represented in the House and they have to accept that.

I say that in all politeness to my opposition colleagues. The NDP knows the score, but the Liberals have to stop being afraid of the Conservatives. We, in Quebec, showed them a long time ago what we were made of. The Conservatives have not bothered us in Quebec in ages. People have to stand up to them, not let themselves be run over. Only then will they realize that this American style, right-wing philosophy is not what our ancestors wanted for us. It is not the type of society I want to pass on to my children and my grandchildren.

I will always fight against extremists who, for purely political reasons, decide to manipulate things and change the law. Often, the government takes a piecemeal approach. When something terrible is sensationalized by the media, it decides to change the law. When it comes to law and order there needs to be balance. The beauty of law is in its balance.

We have seen how the Conservatives have attempted to introduce all manner of bills to shift the balance established by our ancestors. It is terrible to see the damage this can do in right-wing societies. The Americans chose the conservative route. We all recall the Republican era: incarceration was the rule, people were sent to jail. A few months ago, the American president had to release 20,000 inmates. He said that because of their lesser sentences, they should not be incarcerated and had to release them because of overcrowding in prisons. That is difficult to grasp. The Conservatives support incarceration but they would like all citizens to carry a gun. It is rather difficult to understand. They want to abolish the gun registry. They would like everyone to be able to defend themselves. They would like to play cowboys and Indians. That is how the Conservatives react.

Once again, that is not the society that the ancestors of Quebeckers and Canadians left them. That is not the type of society that we are used to. It is the Conservatives who want to change that. As I was saying, the Americans are changing course. They tried it and the crime rate did not go down. The prison population has risen and they do not have the money to look after, let alone rehabilitate these people.

The balance I was speaking of earlier is not achieved by simply incarcerating people. We must also be able to rehabilitate them. We have to allow citizens who have committed lesser crimes, who can be reformed, to be rehabilitated. We have to invest the necessary resources and not just use these people or punish them by incarcerating them.

We know that prisons are where people go to learn how to become criminals. First the Conservatives tried everything they could to send children under 18 to adult prisons. That was a terrible initiative. We must rehabilitate criminals, especially young ones. The younger they are, the easier it is to instill new values. This is what we should be doing, which is why a balance must be struck between repression and rehabilitation. That is what the Bloc Québécois has always advocated in all areas.

The Bloc Québécois has been the toughest party in the fight against organized crime. It was the Bloc Québécois that introduced a bill to reverse the burden of proof in connection with the proceeds of crime. Now criminal groups have to prove where their money came from. Previously, the burden of proof was on the government, and it was much more difficult. This measure allowed Quebec to mount Opération printemps 2001, which targeted organized crime, starting with the Hells Angels.

That is one way of going about it. We need to be tough at the right time, and not simply for the sake of being tough or because we want to jump on any kind of media bandwagon. Indeed, we often realize a few weeks or months later that the situation was not as serious as we thought and that it was blown out of proportion.

Acting on impulse is always a bad idea, even in our lives. We must take a balanced approach, even in our own lives, and never go on instinct alone. Acting on instinct or impulse can be costly to consumers and that applies to everything. That is why it is important to always be wary of the Conservative philosophy. As we know, instead of having to take into account established factors, the minister will now be able to consider whatever factors he chooses.

We talked about health and how offenders are treated. That is one philosophy. Torture is not allowed in Canada. We cannot allow a government, even a Conservative government, and a minority one at that, to outsource torture.

Serious accusations are being made because the government refuses to give the House all of the documents related to the Afghan prisoners. There are suspicions that torture was outsourced to Afghan authorities. That is the worst of them. I have a hard time understanding why the Conservatives refuse to release these documents. We need to be able to tell the public that we defend our society's values throughout the world.

That is not what Bill C-5 does. The minister is being allowed to choose why he will or will not bring an offender back to Canada. If it is left up to the minister, he could decide to leave an offender or Canadian citizen for a longer period in a country where torture is used, in order to get something from him. That is not right.

We cannot play with human rights and with the values our society believes in. These values are there in good times and in bad, and that is always what we strive for.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, this is a bad bill. Giving a Conservative minister the powers and the discretion allowed for in this bill is a bad decision.

The Bloc Québécois will oppose this bill and will not send it to committee as the Liberals are doing. Obviously, if the Liberals vote with the Conservatives, this bill will go to committee, but we will do everything we can to ensure that it does not pass. The minister was not able to convince us of the merits of this bill, other than the fact that it gives him the discretionary power to choose why or why not to bring an offender back to Canada, and gives him more latitude and flexibility. He must have some cases in mind, but he does not want to share them. This kind of Conservative, right-wing, extremist behaviour is very disappointing.

I am very surprised to see that my colleague, the member for Pontiac, now espouses right-wing values. I knew him in his previous life in municipal politics. I always thought of him as a balanced and conciliatory person, but he seems to have taken on some bad habits since joining the Conservatives. He was a Liberal in Quebec, but now he is defending American-style right-wing conservative philosophy tooth and nail. President Obama had to let 20,000 people out of prison because there was not enough money to look after them, let alone rehabilitate them. The member for Pontiac and his government want to invest more money in prisons and put more people in jail. Those are not the values our ancestors passed on to us, nor are they the values I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren.

Once again, I chose the right party: the Bloc Québécois. Bloc members will always stand up for human rights and the values we cherish. Those values should protect our citizens no matter where they are in the world. We will certainly not give a Conservative minister the power to make decisions for purely political reasons. They seem to think it is a good idea right now. They are impulsive. They see what is going on in the media, so they introduce a bill to fix the problem. They hope to win a few more votes. But the Conservatives will not win more votes in Quebec, and they know it.

We will never support Bill C-5. If the Liberals support it and it goes to committee, Bloc members of the committee will do their utmost to make members of every political party understand that this is a bad bill. Giving a discretionary power to a right-wing Conservative minister is not a good idea. Sometimes they have good ideas that we can support, but this is a bad one.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the Bloc member a question. As someone who has done a lot of work in this area, I am impressed with what he said.

Did he know that no transfers were denied in 2005, but 28 were last year? Does he take it for granted that some people who are not guilty may not be able to return to this country because of the Conservative government's hardline ideology?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is quite right. Even worse, we get the feeling that the Conservatives are outsourcing their philosophy to countries that do not respect the human rights we enjoy in Canada. They are probably doing this to try to get something out of Quebec and Canadian nationals, when these people should be able to expect their rights to be respected just as they would be in Canada.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.

I appreciate the opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-5 to speak about how this government is continuing to deliver on its commitments to Canadians.

As the minister has noted, one of the strongest commitments our government made when we were first elected was to make our streets, our playgrounds and our communities safer places for everyone. We promised to take action and we have delivered.

We have passed tough new laws to crack down on crime. We have taken action to ensure that offenders are held accountable and that they serve sentences which reflect the serious nature of their actions. We have given police and law enforcement agencies more of the tools they need to do their job.

The legislation before us today builds on this impressive track record while also helping to ensure that the appropriate factors are better taken into account when it comes to considering offender transfer requests.

Today, when a Canadian citizen serving a sentence abroad requests a transfer to Canada, the minister shall take several factors into consideration in assessing these requests. The minister shall, for example, consider whether an offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. The minister shall also consider whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada and whether the foreign government or prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights. These are important factors.

Under the amendments, which our government is proposing, the minister would still be able to consider these factors. Bill C-5 would not change that. What it would do is clarify in the existing International Transfer of Offenders Act that the minister may also take other factors into account when considering requests for offender transfers. Among these additional factors is whether the offender's return to Canada will endanger public safety. Surely that makes sense. All of us want to ensure that our homes and our communities are safe, and that is what Bill C-5 would help to do.

In particular, Bill C-5 would help to ensure that in all transfer decisions due consideration is given to the safety of any member of the offender's family, the safety of children and the safety of victims.

The government has already done a lot to give victims a greater voice in the justice system. Indeed, helping victims of crime has always been at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. Our government is committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts.

We have committed $52 million over four years to enhance the federal victims strategy so the government could better meet the needs of victims. Among other things, we have also created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and given victims the resources to attend parole hearings or seek help if they experience crime while abroad.

Our government has also taken steps to keep our children safe, most recently introducing legislation in the other place to strengthen the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

I am confident these measures have the support of all hon. members, as does our efforts to protect victims, family members and children under the provisions of Bill C-5.

Crime places a heavy toll on individual victims, their families, communities and society at large. That is why we need to take action to be sure that the scales of justice are balanced to include victims and some of the more vulnerable members of our society. That is why Bill C-5 is so important.

In addition to ensuring that public safety is a principal consideration of offender transfer requests, Bill C-5 would also provide for the consideration of other factors, many of which are in line with current reforms currently underway within the corrections system.

These include whether in the minister's opinion the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer, the offender's health and whether the offender has refused to participate in a rehabilitation or reintegration program.

In addition, Bill C-5 notes that the minister may consider whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the events for which he or she has been convicted, including by acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community, the manner in which the offender will be supervised after the transfer while he or she is serving his or her sentence, and whether the offender has co-operated or has undertaken to co-operate with a law enforcement agency.

As well, the legislation before us today notes that the minister may consider any other factor which he or she considers relevant.

All in all, the legislation before us today would help to ensure that Canadian offenders who request a transfer are treated fairly and equitably while not being allowed to escape accountability if an offence is committed abroad. It is fair, timely and what Canadians want.

I therefore look forward to working with all hon. members to ensure swift passage of this important legislation so that we can continue to ensure that our friends, our family members and our loved ones remain safe.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-5 and to outline yet another way our government is delivering on its commitment to keep our streets and communities safe.

As my hon. colleagues have mentioned, our government has already done a lot of things in that regard over the last four years. We have taken steps to ensure that violent criminals are dealt with appropriately. We have introduced legislation to ensure that serious crimes are met with serious jail time. We have given police and law enforcement officials the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. All of these initiatives are vital to our work of building safer communities for everyone, as is the legislation before us today.

Our government has made public safety the number one priority since we were first elected in 2006. That is what the legislation we have introduced today is all about.

Bill C-5 would help to ensure that Canadians continue to feel safe in their homes by strengthening the International Transfer of Offenders Act. Specifically, the legislation we have introduced recognizes that considerations of public safety are at the very centre of decisions about whether offenders serving sentences abroad are transferred to Canada.

Our government has also made sure that helping victims of crime remains at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. We have committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts. The legislation our government is proposing would help further strengthen this track record by ensuring that the safety of victims can be taken into account when assessing requests for transfer.

As well, the changes that our government is proposing stipulate that the safety of family members and children can be taken into account. The minister would specifically be able to consider whether the transfer of an offender with assault convictions against family members would endanger their safety. The minister would also be able to specifically consider whether an offender incarcerated for a sexual offence against a child in a foreign state is likely to commit a sexual offence against a child if transferred to Canada. Surely, these changes make sense.

The way things stand today, the minister is required by law to take several factors into account when considering a request for transfer. These include: 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 his or her 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.

Those are important considerations to take into account but nowhere in the current law is there specific mention of protecting the safety and security of law-abiding Canadian citizens. Nowhere is there any specific mention of victims, family members or children. These are serious omissions that the bill before us today would correct.

As well, Bill C-5 would allow the minister to consider a number of other factors when considering an offender's request for transfer. For example, the minister would be able to consider whether an offender who requests a transfer to Canada has refused to participate in career, vocational or educational programs while incarcerated in another country.

The minister would be able to take into account the circumstances in which the offender, if transferred to Canada, will be monitored and supervised after release. This is especially important given that one of the purposes of the act under the amendments our government is proposing would continue to be contributing to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community.

Bill C-5 would also allow the minister to take into account several other very important considerations when assessing an offender's request for transfer. These are: whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence for which he or she has been convicted, including acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community; and, whether the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer.

Again, those considerations should surely help to guide decisions about whether to grant a request for transfer from an offender serving a sentence overseas. At the moment there is no clear legislative authority for the minister to take them into account. Bill C-5 would change that while also providing the minister with more flexibility in decision-making itself.

The legislation that our government has introduced today is designed to keep Canadians safe. It is fair, timely and what Canadians want. I therefore urge all members to work with this government to ensure its speedy passage.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his speech, and also my colleague before him who also made a speech. I never had the opportunity to stand and ask him a question but I will ask a question of my colleague from Ontario.

Bill C-5, from what I understand, is to enhance public safety, which is the major key plank of this legislation and which was never thought of before, as was pointed out by him.

One of the things he said concerned the ability to rehabilitate, as assessed by another country. For example, if someone were in the United States right now and programs were available for him or her to rehabilitate, such as vocational and certain other programs, if that individual were unable or unwilling to take steps or measures to rehabilitate, that would be used against that individual applying for the transfer into this country. Is that necessarily the case? What about in countries that do not necessarily have the programs for rehabilitation? Should that not too be considered?

Is that my understanding of it? Is that what he is pushing for? In other words, to rehabilitate someone or to gauge that person's ability to rehabilitate also depends upon the system in that country.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to a prisoner in the country concerned, yes, if that country does not have a prison system that affords the prisoner the ability for rehabilitation or to further his or her education and develop skills, this legislation permits the minister to take that into account.

The United States, Great Britain, Norway and other countries have similar correctional facilities to Canada. I would particularly refer to countries like Norway and Great Britain. When we visited the prisons in those countries we heard that 60% of their programs were adopted from Correctional Service Canada. It then would make it very easy for the minister to make that assessment.

The member rightly reflects upon and mentions the fact that we really do want to ensure that people are rehabilitated. Yes, in answer to that question, that is all taken into account under Bill C-5 and that would be one of the principal considerations that the minister would make.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am please to rise to speak to Bill C-5. I have to start my comments by saying that it is not the first time the House has seen this bill. The bill was introduced last fall with much fanfare and a sense of urgency before being killed by prorogation.

As with most measures introduced by the government, we are seeing them introduced two or three times with a sense of urgency. The Conservatives attack the opposition because the measures are not adopted right away, that we are standing in the Conservatives' way, only for them to kill their own bills, bring them back and feign that they have to be passed immediately. There is a renewed sense of urgency, even though they are the ones who killed the bills. It is no different with respect to Bill C-5.

I want to talk about the purpose of the international transfer program. If we are seeking to amend it, it would be wise to consider why it is there in the first place. I will read directly from Correctional Service Canada's annual report for 2006-07 as to why we have a transfer system in place in the first place. It states:

The purpose of this program is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling them to serve their sentence in their country of citizenship.

It continues:

If offenders are not transferred, they may ultimately be deported to Canada at the end of their sentence, without correctional supervision/jurisdiction and without the benefit of programming.

It goes on to talk about the fact that we may not even have any idea they had any criminal record at all, because there would be no record of it in Canada. It continues:

At any given time, there are over 2,000 Canadian citizens incarcerated throughout the world. Canadians serving a sentence of imprisonment abroad are faced with serious problems such as isolation, culture shock, language barriers and have no means to address the root of their problems because of the lack of programs available to foreign nationals.

It continues:

Without the benefit of transfers, offenders are deported at the end of their sentence to their country of citizenship, often after having spent years in confinement and being totally unprepared for safe, secure and successful reintegration into society. Transfers provide offenders with the possibility of becoming productive members of the community, by contributing to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offender and their reintegration into society as law abiding citizens.

Given that the Conservatives were attacking voraciously the fact that individuals were being transferred from foreign prisons to Canadian prisons, it is passing strange that an annual report would come out while they are in power talking about the essential nature of this program, not out of some sense of feeling sorry for these individual inmates, but as a recognition that it provides a critical function to public safety. If somebody commits a crime abroad, is incarcerated and does not receive the rehabilitation and help he or she needs to get better, when the individual is released, and he or she will be released, and deported back to Canada, he or she will not be ready for reintegration.

When we consider individuals who might be facing mental illness, and we have to remember that one in ten of those who are incarcerated are suffering from a very serious mental illness, and in the female population it is one in five, these Canadian citizens who are jailed in foreign jails and faced with mental health illnesses will not only not be getting any help, but will get much, much worse. What will land back at our doorstep inevitably is a much bigger problem.

When we scrape away the veneer of rhetoric and cut to the government's own words in the annual report for Correctional Service Canada, we recognize this program has important value, and that playing politics with it is frankly wrong.

It might surprise individuals to know that over 79% of the individuals in question with respect to this transfer program are Canadians in the U.S. These are individuals who are incarcerated in the United States. It is ironic, because the policies the government is pursuing right now of dramatically increasing incarceration fall very much into the model that is in the United States. We hear what a disaster that system is for the Americans right now.

The U.S. system is so overwhelmed that the Americans have an inability to provide programs, services and rehabilitation, such that when experts are looking at Canadians coming back from U.S. prisons, they say they are at a much higher risk of reoffending. In fact, we know that in California, the rate of recidivism, the rate at which individuals repeat offend, is over 70%.

Imagine this. A Canadian citizen has perhaps committed a smaller crime. Most crimes are related to substance abuse. We know that more than 80% of inmates are facing substance abuse problems. We are going to take somebody who goes in for a non-violent drug-related offence and we are going to put that person into a crime factory in the United States. We are going to send people in as minor criminals and churn them out of a system that some, including the head of the John Howard Society here in Canada, have called “a gladiator school”.

Those people will return to Canada. What will they do then? I think it is a very dishonest portrayal when we try to scare people into thinking that these are criminals who have committed acts in other countries and they are going to come here and do bad things. Here is another way of thinking about that and a more honest way of putting it. These are individuals, Canadian citizens, who have committed crimes abroad and who will come home.

The question is, who do we want to come home? Who do we want to step off that plane? Would we prefer somebody who was transferred into a Canadian jail, received proper programming, was rehabilitated and would not reoffend, or would we prefer that people languish in a foreign jail, where they get no rehabilitation, where if they have a mental health issue, they are going to get no treatment and where if they have a drug issue they get no help? They return to Canadian soil ready to commit more serious, potentially violent crimes.

If we stopped and thought about it rationally for just a moment, we would realize that this program does have an important function in that regard. We also need to consider just how small a number we are talking about in terms of the number of people that were transferred in any given year. It ranges from a low, and we had it last year, of around 40 individuals who were transferred, to a high of about 90. The government makes this proclamation about how essential this bill is. Even if one forgets everything I just said, we are talking about 40 to 90 individuals.

The government goes on to say that under its administration, and it is very proud of this, it has stopped dramatically the number of transfers. Yet if we look at that same annual report and look at the number that was actually denied by Canada as opposed to by another jurisdiction, in the last year of a Liberal government, in 2004-05, there were four people denied. In the last year for which we have statistics, under the Conservative government in 2006-07, the number is seven.

Here is a matter in front of us of supposedly enormous urgency to change and a government touting how it has dramatically reduced the number of people it is allowing to come here. We have gone from four people denied to seven. That is in the annual report. That is some crisis.

It is under assault right now, but I think we have to recognize that Canada has one of the best prison systems in the world. Its mandate is rehabilitation. Our rates of recidivism are low. Despite the fact that the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge it, crime in this country has been consistently on the decline. I use Statistics Canada for my facts in this regard. I think Statistics Canada is an appropriate place to turn when we are trying to figure out what the crime statistics are in a country.

When the Minister of Public Safety was last before the public safety and national security committee, however, he said we cannot believe Statistics Canada; we cannot believe the facts, do not listen to them. He said instead that there were invisible crimes going on that were unreported and that those were skyrocketing. The types of crimes that we could not put our finger on or actually identify were going through the roof. I asked him where he was getting this information from, what was his source. His response was he got it from the Vancouver Board of Trade.

I submit that if I am going to use statistics on what is happening with crime in this country, I would be much more likely to use the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and Statistics Canada, all of whom tell us crime is in decline, particularly violent crime, as opposed to listening to the Vancouver Board of Trade on an issue that might be very local to whatever situation it is faced with.

The point is that the facts do not seem to matter, that what matters is the politics, that there is an attempt to use crime and issues surrounding crime as a wedge, as an opportunity to divide Canadians to try to extract political gain. I would submit that this is a relatively new phenomenon. In the House in the past, all parties have recognized that if there is one area in which we really should not be playing politics it is in crime, in keeping our communities safe, and that we should follow evidence-based systems that rely upon what actually works.

Let us take a look at what actually keeps our communities safe and reduces crime and focus on those things. Let us not play into false perceptions or sensational media reports with policies that do not work, cost billions of dollars, make our communities less safe but extract an inch or two of political gain at any given moment.

What we need to do in that regard beyond Bill C-5 is take a look at the trajectory of dealing with crime in this country. We need to look at the actual evidence of what has worked and not worked in other jurisdictions and at what we should be doing here in Canada. On that, I am going to come back to the American example of incarceration.

Many know that the American rate of incarceration is much higher than the Canadian rate. What people may not know is that was not necessarily always the case. If we go back to 1981, the Canadian and U.S. rates of incarceration were relatively similar, with the U.S. rate being about two times the Canadian rate per capita. However, Republican policies came forward that were aimed at “tough on crime” measures to drive up prison populations and that difference went from some 200% higher to nearly 700% higher, an increase of 500% in a very short period of time.

If there was a dramatic impact in terms of making the United States safer during that period of time, perhaps there could be an argument that literally tens of billions of dollars were spent for that additional incarceration. The fact is that in that period of time the United States witnessed the same decline in rates of recidivism and crime as did Canada. Violent crime rates and property crime rates right across the board are all down by about the exact same measure. The only difference is that the U.S. had to pay tens of billions of dollars more.

The evidence is that it has a far more sinister impact. If we consider the case of California, there is now a taxpayer cost of $8 billion a year with a prison system that is overflowing with more than 150,000 inmates. I mentioned before that over 70% of inmates reoffend upon release, are recycled back into a prison system that offers no programming or treatment to treat the underlying causes of their criminal activities.

Because the U.S. system is so overwhelmed, the same people are not being treated and are being pulled back into the system in a never-ending loop of crime, victimization and cost. This is the model the government wants to follow. This is the direction the government is headed.

In addition, the Federal Court ordered the state government to release 55,000 inmates before they finished serving their sentences because the conditions of the prisons were unconstitutional. Canada signed a UN convention against double bunking and ever since then, we have been bringing that rate steadily down.

The minister now says that to deal with the soaring prison population, we are going to return to that policy, the same kind of policy that is leading to higher rates of recidivism, which means less safe communities. Not only are we talking about billions in more costs, but ultimately we are going to be talking about higher crime rates with these policies. The question may be asked: Just how far have the Conservatives gone when it comes to spending on correctional services?

In two years' time, the budget of Correctional Service Canada will have increased by some 96%. The capital budget for Correctional Service Canada, in two years' time, will have been increased by 238%. Make no mistake, as staggering as those increases are, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of this month, Mr. Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, will submit for Parliament's consideration the total cost of the government's measures. Get ready for sticker shock. The cost will be astronomical.

When we consider how poorly this system has worked before, let us consider what our alternatives are. Instead of spending billions of dollars on prisons, what are some of the things the government should be spending on?

Let us start with crime prevention.

In 2005, the last full year of a Liberal government, the National Crime Prevention Centre supported some 509 projects, in 261 communities, for a total of $56.9 million. Today, the Conservative government has slashed funding and programming by more than half, cutting every year. Now less than 285 projects are funded and actual spending on crime prevention has been slashed to just $19.27 million. That is a cut of more than half on crime prevention.

This is deeply disturbing. We know from people like Dr. Irvin Waller, who has done extensive studies in this area, that for every dollar we spend on crime prevention, we save $7.00 on incarceration and $4.00 in eradicating costs dealing with both probation and re-entering. We are talking about saving $11.00 for every $1.00 we spend in prevention, yet the current government has decided to slash funding on crime prevention.

When I have gone across the country, I have had an opportunity to speak with boys' and girls' clubs, organizations that are right at the front line of helping youth at risk, of turning them away from a dark path toward a life of prosperity, paying taxes and happiness. I have talk to the Salvation Army and the YMCA. These groups are critical in providing that community support and resource to help young people. When I hear that their funding has been slashed, that they are in a position where they get less and less cash, even as they watch billions get dumped into prisons, it is tragic. It is tragic because It means there will be more victimization.

Perhaps this is one of the greatest flaws of the approach of the Conservatives to crime. They wait for victims. They let the crimes happen. Then they say that they will get the guys and really punish them. They say that they will throw them into really terrible, dark places, where they will learn their lesson.

However, because the Conservatives are cutting from the things that stop crime from happening in the first place, we have more victimization. Then because they are cutting from the ability of the prison system to deal with a manageable population, they are destroying their capacity, their ability to make those people better, ensuring that when they walk out the door, they are better and they do not commit more crimes.

We know that more than 90% of inmates will walk out the door of those jails. No matter how long we make those sentences, they will come back out. Again, we have to ask ourselves who we want walking out those doors.

The government often touts its position on victims of crime. The reality is it has been cutting there too. The Prime Minister has cut grants for the victims of crime initiative by 43% and contributions to the victims of crime initiative by 43%. Even on the front line of helping victims, the government is cutting, as it dumps billions into prisons. It is cutting from the prison farm system. It refused to act on the Correctional Investigator's report on Ashley Smith and the terrible problems in our prison system, with mental health and addictions issues. It is undermining police by refusing to even support its promise to put 2,400 more officers on the streets. something the Canadian Police Association called a betrayal. Despite engaging Mr. Iacobucci on Afghan detainees, the government ignores his recommendations when it comes to reforming the RCMP.

Enough is enough. It is time for the government to actually listen to evidence and take real action.