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 21st, 2012 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-37, another Conservative bill that shows just how out of touch the Conservatives are with reality when it comes to crime and justice.

The bill changes the rules concerning victim surcharges, which are the fees that are imposed on a person who is sentenced for a crime. This proposal doubles the amount of the fine and removes the discretion of a judge not to impose the fine if it would cause undue hardship. That is the prerogative of the judge. I will explain why this is a flawed idea and why I will be voting against this legislation at second reading.

There is no dispute that victims of crime need support and assistance. Often the victims of crime are not just the people we think of as being the ones involved in the incident. Their families and communities can also be affected tremendously by crime, especially in areas such as hate and bias crimes.

Support for victims, their families and the community must take multiple forms. Financial support alone does not heal. There must be services. Government must take an active role in providing those services through providing grants, public-private partnerships, and many other forms other than simply imposing a fine.

We oppose this increase to the victim surcharge because it ignores the reality of those who are being placed in prison, who are primarily the poor, racial minorities and aboriginal people. Those who steal for subsistence certainly do not have the money to pay such a fine, and the removal of a judge's discretion based on the ability of the offender to pay the fine is untenable. It does not take an expert to see the problem. Even Conservative Senator Hugh Segal said this:

Less than 10 per cent of Canadians live beneath the poverty line but almost 100 per cent of our prison inmates come from that 10 per cent. There is no political ideology, on the right or left, that would make the case that people living in poverty belong in jail.

This is precisely what the bill would do. Those who are living in poverty and commit a crime would be forced to stay in jail longer because of their inability to pay the fine. While the government is content to say they can work it off through a provincial program, the government fails to understand that not every province has equivalent programs. We would be creating further disparities depending on the province in which the offender lived.

Nobody in the Liberal Party is suggesting that criminals should not be held accountable for their actions. What we are saying is that it is the role of the judges to decide how criminals should be sentenced for their crimes. Judges should be trusted to do that. An independent judiciary is at the core of a democracy. To tamper with the independence of the judiciary, whether it is to impose decisions on judges or set mandatory minimums means that the government does not accept an independent judiciary.

The government seems to be convinced that locking away more people in jail is the solution to both poverty and crime. It is not surprising, however, because it also sees prison as the answer to mental health and homelessness.

The point is that not only are we continuing this vicious cycle of poverty and disadvantage rather than addressing it, but the whole model is flawed.

Let us look at the victim. Remember that the fine is supposed to be collected when someone is found guilty, but what about those instances when, for various reasons, a person is not found guilty or the case is thrown out because the police did not follow the right procedure? All of those things occur. What happens when the victim does not want to press charges, as in the case of rape, because the victim does not want to face the accused or does not want to go to court? Will the government step up to the bar, pardon the pun, and actually do something for the victim? If there is no fine imposed or if there is no one to pay the fine, what happens? This is not helping the victim at all. All these points give rise to situations where there is a victim of crime but no victim surcharge is being imposed.

What about the family of someone who is attacked by a stranger who was never caught? Should we not ensure that family is funded and has available services to help with the healing process? The mandatory imposition of a fine is laughable. At the same time, the government speaks of hate crimes being a victimless crime and therefore, no one needs assistance because there was no victim.

The point is that we must trust our judges to impose a fine where it is warranted. The language of the existing provision in the Criminal Code should be changed if it is inadequate, but judges should not be stripped of their discretion, doubling the fine and providing no way for some offenders to work it off.

As I said earlier, the provinces are not equal in their ability to meet the provisions that have been placed in the bill. For instance, in British Columbia a $100 surcharge would help, but in the north and in rural areas where more money is needed to sustain programs for victims, that $100 may not be enough.

The government is actually shirking its role. It does not want to play a role in helping the victims of crime. It wants to lay it all on the shoulders of the “offender” who may or may not be found.

The point is that the very arbitrariness of the increase is the flaw. A 100% surcharge gets something different in every province as victims do not all have the same needs. We need a consistent level of support for victims. The government cannot shirk that responsibility.

How was the fine calculated? It is not based on evidence. It is arbitrary. We could be back here to increase it in two years and again in five years as time moves along. Committed direct funding from the government is a way to help victims deal with the effects of crime. This dithering by the federal government does not cut it.

I want to speak about the aboriginal people who tend to be over-represented in our prison systems. Aboriginal people make up 17% of our prison population but only 2.7% of the Canadian population. In fact, some people say that aboriginal people make up 30% of the prison population. However, the Conservative government is not talking about aboriginal justice here. Where is its plan to assist aboriginal offenders? Where is its plan to combat the cycle of homelessness, poverty, lack of education, unemployment and discrimination? Where is its plan for culturally sensitive sentencing, or will the government continue with a one-size-fits-all approach like Bill C-37?

The government does not seem to care at all about a person's inability to pay or circumstances that drive someone to commit a crime. It does not seem to want to talk about the prevention of crime. It does not seem to want to talk about the rehabilitation of offenders and helping them integrate back into society. None of that is here. It is just about punishment, having offenders pay fines and not even allowing them to work it off if they cannot afford to pay the fines.

Where is the youth criminal justice strategy in here? We do not see any. What about the soccer fields and after-school programs that would prevent young people from getting into crime? Why are we treating youngsters like hardened criminals and locking them up in jail where they will only learn how to become better criminals with no hope of joining society again?

Crime is a complex puzzle. No one disputes that victims of crime need support and assistance, but this one-size-fits-all focus on punishment is not effective. It is flawed.

Taking away the judges' discretion is flawed. Interfering with the independent judiciary is non-democratic. In fact, the Conservative member for Kootenay—Columbia is saying that if offenders do not want to pay the victim surcharge, they should not commit crimes. That is a fairly simple way of dealing with things, assuming that criminals go on Google every day to find out what the Criminal Code says the sentence would be if they commit a crime. If punishment were a deterrent for crime, the jails in the United States would be empty, but they are not. People do not check and see what the Criminal Code says before they commit a crime. This is a misunderstanding that drives an ideology of mandatory minimums and throwing people in jail. As I said, it is as if the government thinks that criminals spend their time searching on Google to see what the Criminal Code has to say.

Deterrence is not achieved by this surcharge, nor does it help the victims. It is not achieved through mandatory minimums. True deterrence, although the Conservatives would never admit it, is about giving people options and providing them with the ability to start living reasonable lives, to get out of poverty, to get an education and to be rehabilitated.

The Liberals will not be supporting the bill.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.

I would like to go back to a comment by one of her colleagues, a member of her party.

The member has a great deal of experience in the House. I am certain that she knows that just because a party supports a bill at second reading does not mean that it agrees with the bill in its entirety. The party wants the bill to be examined by a committee, which will hear from experts and have the opportunity to make minor and major amendments.

I am very surprised by the hypocritical comments to the effect that by supporting Bill C-37 the NDP opposes the discretionary power of judges. The NDP does not support this bill, but it does support referring it to committee.

I would like to give the member the opportunity to comment on the absurd remarks made by her colleague. Perhaps she has a concrete example of a bill introduced by the NDP that clearly undermines judicial discretion, but that would surprise me. The NDP believes that judicial discretion is important.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. I have been here for a long time and I have not seen in my time in Parliament a majority government that does not listen to witnesses at committee.

I think the hon. member knows in her own short experience that with this particular government, it does not matter what witnesses say and it does not matter what amendments are made, because amendments are not going to happen. To send the bill to committee and hope it will be changed is the ultimate in Pollyanna thinking. We know it will not happen. We know it has not happened with that majority government.

Let us just say no, put our cards on the table and say that we do not support it.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, while listening to the fine speech by my colleague from Vancouver Centre, I was reminded of an interview in Maclean's this summer of a professor of psychology, Dan Ariely. He stated:

Yet most of our attempts to overcome bad behaviour are about catching it after the fact, and exacting some kind of penalty. We think this will deter people from behaving badly, but it turns out to have no effect.

This is what psychologists who study crime are telling us. I would ask my hon. colleague from Vancouver Centre what relevance it has to this bill.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

As I touched on in the short time I had to speak against this bill, everything that we see on crime coming into this House from the government is about punishment. There is nothing about looking at the root causes of crime and ways of preventing crime.

We know what the root causes of crime are. Enough studies have done over the last 25 years. Even the United States is moving away from the idea of throwing people in jail, locking them up and throwing away the key and building more jails and filling them with people.

We need to understand what causes people to turn to crime. We need to look at populations that are the highest represented in jails and find out the reasons for that. We need to look at how to assist them to live different lives.

I talked about soccer fields, after-school programs, helping aboriginal people to get an education. I talked about looking at justice in culturally sensitive ways, looking at why people commit crime and preventing it at the outset. If we do catch people who have become criminals, let us look at how we can rehabilitate them. Let us look at how we really help victims, which is what this bill is about, and not simply put it on the shoulders of the offenders, especially if there is no offender.

The government is shirking its responsibility to help victims of crime by not putting forward its own solid and clear programs to help people who are victims of crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments are quite astute. I do not understand the Liberals' position that the bill should not be sent to committee because we have a majority government. I do not believe that having a committee study a bill means that it will pass. It seems to me that there are other votes.

We have a democratic system where people believe that they have less and less representation and that they are being heard less and less. It is vital that the experts and the people be heard in committee to prove that the government is not listening to them. Canadians must always have a voice. Our position is that committees are essential in order for citizens to participate at any time.

What does my colleague have to say in that regard?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course committees are essential. It was under a Liberal government in fact that we made a decision to send these to committees before they came back to the House for the final reading. We need to hear what people have to say.

I am speaking about the experience with this particular majority government. Even the past majority governments of Brian Mulroney did not treat committees as places where victims would be disrespected and not listened to.

In this House we saw a budget bill on which over 800 amendments were proposed and not one of them was accepted by the government at committee. Every one of them was denied. Then the government members stood in the House and high-fived each other every time they voted one down. This is a farce. Are we going to allow this farce to continue?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to address the hon. member on this side of the House and to ask her a question. From her comments and answers to questions, I gathered that this bill was unfortunately not going to do anything for victims.

I am not sure if she did some research to see who is in support of the bill, but the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime does support it. As she probably knows, we all agree that it is important to help victims so that they have more rights. We need a better balanced justice system, and I am sure that the hon. member agrees with that. It would also be useful for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to look into this issue to figure things out.

But does she not feel that she went a bit too far by saying that the bill does not help victims at all? Should we not perhaps take the time to study the bill further in committee before jumping to these conclusions?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member might have been distracted for some time during my speech. I did not say that the bill would not help victims. I said that it was arbitrary in that it would be unequally applied because the $100 fine would not apply in some provinces where the cost to help the victims would be greater.

I also questioned what would happen if the offender was not found or if the person did not press charges. The victim would be left with no help whatsoever if we were to place the burden of help for victims solely on the offenders and not on government to provide appropriate services to help victims and to help the provinces where that would not cut it for the victims either.

This is an arbitrary throw-it-together $100 fine. What is the basis of that fine? Where is the evidence to say that $100 would work? Have our provinces been consulted?

This is not a reasonable way to deal with the problem of support for victims.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise again to ask the hon. member some questions.

As she was answering my question, I kept nodding my head, for the most part, because it is true that we need to look at victims of crime and the funding they receive. Are programs appropriate? What more can we do to help the victims and to better balance our Canadian justice system?

Does the hon. member not feel that this would be a good opportunity to open the door to some of the recommendations that experts could make in committee in order to better assist victims in Canada?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not being frivolous when I say I think I answered that question at least three times.

I have said that we should go to committee to look at how we can modify the bill and make it better. With the majority Conservative government, this does not seem to occur.

I am on the health committee. I have watched witnesses come to committee and they have been disrespected by the Conservative members. I have watched proposals agreed upon by everybody to amend a bill thrown out completely.

All I am saying is this is a farce. Let us not allow this farce to occur over and over again. It is a waste of everybody's time until the current government learns how to respect the parliamentary process and its committees, especially when some decisions could lead to an outcome that would only create problems for victims and offenders, minority offenders like aboriginal people. Let us talk about doing this properly. Let us throw it out and come up with something new.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, which is at second reading in the House. First, I would like to say that the NDP is very pleased to support this bill at second reading so that it will be sent to committee.

Unlike what I just heard the Liberal member say on this side of the House, we are very interested in examining this bill more carefully. This is an excellent opportunity to open the debate on victims' rights in Canada. I was a bit sad to hear the member who just spoke say that her party did not support sending the bill to committee, calling the committees a farce. She was wondering why we would use committees, since they are useless and either way, the Conservatives will do whatever they want with this bill, that it does not go far enough, and so on. I agree, but in this case, are we supposed to block all of the bills and give up, saying that no matter what, this is a majority government, that there is no point because we will not be able to make amendments?

I am disappointed to hear such a thing. As my colleague said, I am still relatively new to the House, but I am familiar with this Conservative government. I sit on the Standing Committee on Public Safety, and all of the parties represented there agree on a number of things. For example, we succeeded in making amendments to a Conservative private member's bill, which we debated this week. We managed to flesh out the bill so that it better represents Canadian ideals.

I am very disappointed to hear the member suggest that committee work would be completely pointless, because the Conservatives have a majority. I do not believe that. On the contrary, I believe that progress in committee is possible. I agree with my colleague that it can be very difficult, but I think that most of the time, everyone is capable of being reasonable. We are all here to pass the best legislation in the interest of all Canadians. Why not take this opportunity to pass better legislation for the protection of victims and their rights, and ensure that victims have access to programs that are managed better financially?

I am not suggesting that Bill C-37 is perfect. I will come back to that point later in my speech. It is extremely important. A door is opening before us and we must take advantage of the opportunity. It is time to examine this bill in committee in order to come up with something better. I am almost certain that my colleagues across the way who are members of the Standing Committee on Justice also want to have a closer look at this in order to ensure that victims are properly represented.

I doubt there is any member here in this House who does not want to protect the rights of victims of crime. That is unthinkable; it would be in bad faith. All parties in this House, especially the NDP, want to explore this issue. We want to strike a balance in order to ensure that victims are well represented and supported. That is extremely important, and besides, who knows what could happen? Any member of the House could suddenly become a victim of crime or perhaps some already have been. This issue affects so many Canadians.

I will therefore support the bill at second reading so that it goes to committee. I hope that all my colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Justice will be fair in their discussions about this bill, so that it is a better bill when it returns to the House at third reading. I hope we get the answers to some questions we have about the bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues from Gatineau and Toronto—Danforth for the great work they are doing in the Standing Committee on Justice to represent our position on criminal justice in Canada so well.

My colleague from Gatineau is our justice critic and my colleague from Toronto—Danforth is the deputy critic. Their research on Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code was very thorough.

I was very interested in the type of recommendations they would make. I cannot say that I am an expert in justice issues; as a critic, I tend to address public safety issues. We are drawn to certain issues, but I found their explanations on what Bill C-37 could contain and where we could go with it to be very interesting. Furthermore, the bill touches on some of the recommendations made by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

I met with Ms. O'Sullivan several times in my work with the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and I also know that many of my colleagues who follow justice issues work closely with the Ombudsman.

What I liked about what the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime had to say was that, while there is room for improvement with respect to protection of victims' rights and compensation for victims of crime, we must also ensure that our criminal justice system is balanced. I will come back to that later on.

What is the infamous Bill C-37, which is before us today, all about? I see three main elements. First, the bill would amend Criminal Code provisions to double the amount of the victim surcharge. Because I am not an expert in the area of justice, I did some research to learn more about these surcharges. Here is what I learned: under this bill, the surcharge would be 30% of any fine imposed on the offender. Currently in Canada, the surcharge is 15%. If no fine is imposed, the surcharge would be $100—it is currently $50—in the case of an offence punishable by summary conviction, and $200—it is currently $100—in the case of an offence punishable by indictment. All of the amounts will double. These funds are channeled directly to programs that help victims of crime.

Second, the bill would eliminate the court's discretion to waive the victim surcharge if the offender demonstrates that paying the surcharge would cause him or his dependants undue hardship. Judges will, however, retain the discretion to impose an increased surcharge if the offender has the ability to pay.

The third main element is that Bill C-37 would make it possible for an offender who is unable to pay the fine to participate in a provincial fine option program.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to continue the debate on BIll C-37.

Before I was interrupted for members' statements, I was trying to give some background information on Bill C-37.

I said I wanted to talk about three main points. I had reached my third point, which is this: if the offender in question is not able to pay the victim surcharge, Bill C-37 allows that individual the opportunity to participate in a provincial fine option program. I knew very little about such programs, so I consulted the Department of Justice website, where I found the following definition:

The federal victim surcharge (FVS) is a monetary penalty imposed on offenders convicted or discharged of a Criminal Code offence or an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The underlying purpose of the FVS is to provide a rational link between an offender's crime and his or her accountability to the victim, as well as provide financial support to victim services. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for collecting the surcharge, which is used to provide programs, services and assistance to victims of crime within their jurisdictions.

What happens when offenders cannot pay the victim surcharge? Some territories and provinces have a fine option program that allows offenders to volunteer and help communities by giving their time. It seems like a very good idea, on paper. It is worth studying.

Participating in a fine option program is possible; however, my research shows that the program does not exist in every province and territory.

The first thing I would ask my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is to determine what will happen in the provinces and territories where this program does not exist.

What will happen to offenders who cannot pay and who cannot participate in a fine option program?

What options will they have? Will a fine option program be established in every province and territory? I do not know how that could be done, because these programs are set up in provinces that have agreements with the federal government. We will have to see what can be done in that regard. That is one of the questions I have about this bill. It will be interesting to study it further in committee. It will also be very important to decide how to address this rather important problem with Bill C-37.

I am also concerned about what will happen with low-income offenders. Previously, there was the possibility of applying the undue hardship clause, but Bill C-37 will eliminate this option.

The Victims of Crime Research Digest points out that some provinces and territories have a fine option program that, as I mentioned earlier, may have some weaknesses. At present, the judge can decide whether or not the offender can pay the fine, which is good. Now, the government is thinking of eliminating judicial discretion. We should take a closer look at this because, in this case, judges working in the Canadian penal system will lose some of their powers.

Once again, I think that this is something that should be studied in greater depth. A number of experts should be invited to the committee to tackle the issue and explain to us what can be done.

Many people have ruled either in favour of or against this bill. There are also people who feel the same way we do about the bill. Earlier in my speech I mentioned the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Sue O'Sullivan is the ombudsman and I have already met with her.

I have a great deal of respect for her and for the work that she does. I also have a great deal of respect for the information that she provides in committee, be it on justice matters or public safety. She has a very simple way of explaining the information and making it very accessible. She also has a very balanced take on our system. I very much respect her vision and her approach to her work.

In one of the last meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in the previous parliamentary session, she talked about the need to balance our criminal justice system and our justice system in order to have the least number of victims. For instance, when we met with her, we talked about programs for offenders inside penitentiaries, as well as the importance of their reintegration into society to ensure that they do not reoffend. At the same time, she ensures that our correctional system works well so that Canada has fewer or no victims. I greatly appreciate this balanced approach. We therefore share her vision.

The Elizabeth Fry Society has raised a rather interesting point. The organization asked how this bill would serve disadvantaged aboriginals who, from the outset, do not have the means to pay.

This raised some concerns because, as we know, aboriginal people are already overrepresented in our Canadian prisons right now. The number of aboriginal people who were incarcerated in a federal penitentiary increased by 28.1% from 2000 to 2010, and it is expected that the current aboriginal baby boom will cause the number of aboriginal offenders to rise still further. This information can be found in a document published by Public Safety Canada. I believe that we also have to consider this issue. I once again urge my colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to really pay close attention to what is said by the experts who come to speak about these issues. What will we do about these people?

Aboriginal poverty is nothing new, but it is a growing and worrisome problem. It has to be a concern. We know that, in addition to being overrepresented in our prisons, too many aboriginal people are living in poverty in Canada. The truly sad statistics speak for themselves. For example, among first nations, one in four children live in poverty, and over half of aboriginal people are unemployed.

Overcrowded housing is also twice as common among aboriginal families than among all other Canadian families. According to a recent government study, over half of Inuit families live in overcrowded homes. Sometimes up to 20 people are living in a three-bedroom home. This is clearly a problem.

I am going to try to conclude my remarks about Bill C-37 quite quickly. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, we will support this bill at second reading so that it is sent to committee. It is extremely important that we consider this issue. The door is open to offer more help to victims.

I hope that all my colleagues in this chamber will support this bill because it is important that we study it in committee. It is important to see what we can do to improve it. I hope that the government will be open to some amendments because, as I mentioned, this bill does have some small shortcomings, such as the fine option programs. What will we do about people who have low incomes?

What about the first nations, which are under-represented and whose members are, unfortunately, often poorer than the rest of the Canadian population?

I trust in our parliamentary system to examine this issue with all of the seriousness it deserves. I hope that we will be able to find a balance with Bill C-37 in order to better represent victims and to position them well in our penal system, in the Canadian legal system.

I leave this in your hands and I am ready for questions and comments from my colleagues.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the member's comments prior to question period, she seemed to take some exception as to why we would prevent the bill from going to committee.

We tried to explain that the principle of this bill is to take away judicial discretion, which is probably the most significant thing that the bill would do. Therefore, in principle, we in the Liberal Party do not like that. We want to support the victims of crime, and there are many things the government can do in order to do that, but the principle is judicial discretion, which would deal with many of the things she is talking about.

The NDP members seem to be saying that they have concerns about the bill but that they will still pass it to committee. The member's logical argument that she put forward prior to question period was that even though the NDP members are in opposition to this and have a lot of concerns about the bill, they will still pass it to committee. Given their position on this, could the member not use that argument for every bill? If that is the case, why would she ever vote against a bill going to committee?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to inflame the situation with my colleague, but I find his comment somewhat demagogic and partisan. That is rather sad in this situation.

A large part of this bill is extremely interesting and we are opening the door to a discussion that is essential for victims of crime in Canada. I agree with my colleague about the problem with judges' discretionary power to waive the victim surcharge, a power that judges had. That is something that will have to be examined in committee.

What I find even sadder when I hear these comments is seeing what little faith my colleague seems to have in our parliamentary system. In committee, we can really change things, even as members of the opposition. As I mentioned in my speech, before question period, the proof of this is in the bills we discussed in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, of which I am a member. Honestly, there are times when we do not really agree with the government, but we have some extremely interesting things to bring to the table. We see a shortcoming here, a hole in a bill and if we want to be sure that the bill works properly and that we create the best laws possible, then we have to work on fixing these holes.

Right now, we have something important that needs to be done. This bill is important. So yes, we have questions. However, I would like to remind members that the NDP's slogan during the last election campaign focused on working together with all parties. So this would be important to do, even in committee. We have an opportunity here to do so. Why would we pass it up?