Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to change the rules concerning victim surcharges.

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

Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Oct. 16, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Oct. 16, 2012 Passed That this question be now put.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member a question with regard to this whole sense of co-operation.

When the parliamentary secretary stood, she talked about how in different provinces there were all sorts of different types of programs being provided. I would argue that ultimately the federal government should have a stronger role to play in trying to provide more consistency across Canada.

We might have a program in the province of Quebec that works well or a program in Manitoba that works well. We need strong leadership coming from Ottawa. If we really want to try to assist our victims of crime, then one of the things we can do in Ottawa is show strong leadership for all the provinces.

Would she not agree that would be a benefit for victims of crime?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I personally believe that the first step is really dialogue. It really is important to sit down with the provinces, talk and discuss the various experiences, listen to what the provinces and territories have to say and listen to what civil society, which often works in this area, has to say.

True leadership—I am personally and firmly convinced—is being able to listen. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a government that is not naturally inclined to listen. Listening is not its strong point.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment for my colleague rather than a question.

I completely agree with everything she said. I think that prevention is very important; however, it is not something that the other side of the House considers very often.

I also wanted to say that I found it very regrettable to hear the comments made earlier by a Conservative member who was twisting the words of a Liberal member out of sheer partisanship.

I completely approve of my colleague's comments.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague's regret about some of the comments that have been made.

In my opinion, saying that poverty is a factor that has a significant impact on crime is not an attack on people who are in more difficult socio-economic circumstances. In actual fact, it recognizes an objective and scientifically proven reality. Once again, this is not one of the current government's strong suits.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech. I think she hit the nail on the head with regard to many of the precursors of the problem.

I would like to ask her how optimistic and confident she is about the democratic co-operation that will take place during the meetings of the committee that will examine this bill.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my dream is that we will sit down and discuss real issues to enhance the well-being of all Canadians and to help our country progress. Clearly, the things I have experienced since coming to the House of Commons do not make me very optimistic, but I am going to continue to dream.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member talked earlier about the root causes, the reasons why some people found themselves in the system and needing assistance. This bill addresses victims' surcharges moving from 15% to 30%. It looks at increasing funding to deal with programs that would assist people who find themselves incarcerated.

A comment was made about low income. When we look at the facts across the country and who is in our jails, we will find people of that economic status are overrepresented. About 70% or more of the individuals in jail are either low income or have some kind of addiction, whether it is a mental health problem or substance abuse. That means they need to be addressed.

Could my hon. colleague comment on whether this bill addresses that need?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill does not address that issue at all. In fact, the government does not address the issue at all. The main point is that it is good to help victims or groups of victims, but the first thing we should do is prevent crime, prevent there being victims to begin with.

We talk about socio-economic factors. I was also talking about housing. I visited social housing in my riding this summer. The kids do not have a playground, so what do they do? They end up on the street and with nothing to do, they think of getting into mischief. A lot of us could have fallen into that category if we had been in the same situation.

Those are the root causes and they are multiple and they are complex. They are not easy to deal with but it has to be done.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Along with my colleagues, many of us have said that we encourage this bill to be the source of great discussion and deliberation at committee. Therefore, our side of the House will ensure it goes in that direction. However, we have pointed to some very serious issues that are in the bill but are also recurring issues in the bills the government has put forward with respect to crime.

One of those main issues we have is the way the bill could allow for decreased discretionary power on the part of our judges. We know that judges do critical work, not only as part of our justice system but really as part of our society. Their side of work is one of those key pillars on which Canadian society and Canadian democracy are built. Unfortunately, that is something the Conservative government has tried to chip away at, the work that judges do, that important part around discretionary power that they have bestowed upon them and use with great care and sensitivity day in and day out.

The other piece we do not support is the increased pressure, the hardship that this legislation would put on so many victims, people who have already fallen through the cracks of society, who are among the poorest of the poor, who in so many cases have lived a life of poverty and immense challenge financially. The bill would do nothing to address that reality which so many people face in the justice system.

I also want to speak to the extent to which this and so much legislation put forward by the government when it comes to crime really points to the hypocrisy in its tough on crime agenda. Where we can see that best is in a constituency like the one I have the honour of representing. Just last week, the chief and council of Lac Brochet along with the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and the Denesuline First Nation in northern Manitoba came together and talked about the atrocious conditions people who were arrested in their community faced simply because the community had nowhere to put them. This is because the RCMP has closed the one holding cell that exists in the community and will only allow it to open if somebody with proper training can manage it.

The kicker is that there used to be a program funded by the federal government to ensure that people from Lac Brochet and northern communities could have the training to police their communities and to ensure that people who were apprehended would be in a safe space. The federal government has cut that funding. This program no longer exists for training and the end result is people have been taken to the arena of the community, have been chained to a door on the floor of that arena and treated with the kind of ignorance and offence that we cannot imagine in Canada. That is because this community has said it wants to ensure the public safety of individuals, it wants to ensure these people are away in a place where they will not harm anybody and themselves and the federal government is nowhere at the table to ensure they have a dignified way of doing so. Unfortunately, the government has turned around and absolved itself from any responsibility when that is not the case.

We are dealing with yet another bill where the government is claiming to want to do something to ensure our communities are safer and that victims are protected, but when communities in northern Canada want to do that very same thing, they do not have the support from the federal government to do so.

On the topic of prevention, the bill talks about fining criminals, but where is the money to make sure we do not have criminals to deal with or to reduce the number of people who end up falling through the cracks into a life of crime or on the other side of the tracks?

In communities like those I represent, and I will speak to The Pas, gang prevention funding has come to an end. A very successful program in the inner city run by The Pas Family Resource Centre has been told that its funding will not be renewed and it has no ability to service children above six years old to prevent them from joining a gang.

Is this the response that the federal government truly wants to show to a community that has struggled with gang violence in recent years? Are we going to wait for a shooting to happen, a death or another young person to be thrown into jail before that gang prevention money comes back to that organization?

Why is the federal government shutting out organizations like The Pas Family Resource Centre? Why is the federal government saying no to communities like Lac Brochet that want to prevent more criminals coming into our system? Why is the federal government not working especially with aboriginal communities that are often the source of so many people falling through the cracks, especially in northern Canada, and ending up in our correctional system?

If only that kind of passion for eliminating crime was infused into prevention, rehabilitation and supporting safer communities, then we could see a genuine approach to dealing with crime. Rather, there are half-baked bills like the one we have here and the rhetoric we see in the media where leaders in aboriginal communities have said that public safety and victims' rights are the very things they are concerned about, but when it is about partnering with the federal government, it is nowhere to be found.

I also want to point out that when we are looking ahead to try to truly deal with preventing and cutting down crime in our country we are in the best position to do that by looking at the evidence, listening to the advocate organizations that are on the ground and to the victim organizations that are on the front line, such as Elizabeth Fry or the John Howard Society. We should be listening to correctional workers who are increasingly concerned about what legislation like Bill C-10 would mean. We should be listening to the concerns of people who work with victims and to what the people within the justice system are saying.

Let us follow their lead. Let us follow the evidence-based research that indicates prevention and rehabilitation are the way to go. That is where the investments need to be made in order to truly cut down and eliminate crime and, at the end of the day, make our communities safer.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

I want to begin by saying that I agree with supporting this bill at second reading so that the committee can improve it. It could certainly use a lot of improving. I also want to say that the NDP recognizes the importance of supporting judges' discretionary powers. The NDP also supports victims of crime and their families. However, I also agree with my colleague when she says that true prevention means improving quality of life within the social fabric of the community involved.

I would like to ask my esteemed colleague how we can improve quality of life in communities instead of imposing surcharges. What impact would that have on prevention and on victims? True prevention means preventing people from becoming victims.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Clearly, investing in prevention will result in lower crime rates. Research proves that. We know that when the government stops investing in programs for youth, in education and in opportunities for young people, for example, the crime rate goes up. Unfortunately, this government keeps talking about its crime reduction strategy, but its actions belie that message. Those are the outcomes Canadians want but are not getting from this government.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with jaw-dropping amazement to the comments from the member for Churchill as she blamed the federal government for every ill in Manitoba. I hate to break it to her, but there is an NDP government in Manitoba right now that is responsible for the high crime rate that is in Manitoba right now. Winnipeg is the violent crime capital of Canada. If the NDP government cared about victims, cared about citizens, it would do something about it. The NDP government of Manitoba is implementing the policies that the gang across the way would want to implement. We have seen what the results are.

I would like her to comment on the Manitoba government, a government with which she has some familiarity. I would like her to comment on the abysmal failure of the NDP policies in Manitoba in curbing and controlling violent crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I might be bursting the member's balloon but the reality is that first nations are under federal jurisdiction, so when I talk about Lac Brochet, it is actually the federal government that is not at the table to help the community.

Let us be clear about the level of government that he is a part of and the fact that it is nowhere to be seen when it comes to working with first nations to ensure their communities are safer. Actually, he might know from the first nations he represents, who face very similar challenges to the ones I represent, that unfortunately the federal government is not part of the solution. What we are seeing as a result of legislation from his government is an expected increased incarceration rate for the aboriginal people he represents and I represent, something that is unacceptable in a country like Canada in the year 2012.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what my colleague thinks. When a surcharge is imposed without taking into account the circumstances a judge could invoke in deciding to waive it, and when there are children involved, are those children not being victimized by a system that does not allow judges any discretion?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised an excellent point. This brings us to one of the NDP's major concerns, the attack on judicial discretion. It is an attack against the very essence of the legal system and against the respect Canadians must have for the very foundation of our democratic system.

It is the Conservatives' preferred target and we are against this attack.