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 18th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague.

I would like to ask him why it would be important to send this bill to committee to study the fact that not every province or territory necessarily has community work programs.

Why is it important to have standardized programs in this specific case?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry for her question.

In committee, territories or provinces where these programs do not exist could be discussed. The federal government could perhaps create the programs or give the provinces and territories money to create these programs. However, it would be up to them to decide how to proceed. What is important is that this be standardized across Canada.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-37. It is a bill that we in the Liberal Party are greatly concerned about, and we are a bit surprised by the amount of support the New Democratic Party has decided to give it.

It was interesting listening to the debates and to some of the questions and answers yesterday. I believe it is a fairly simple message that the government is trying to communicate with this particular bill, as it has done with other justice-type bills, and that is that the government wants to start getting tough on crime. It is a message that the government consistently states.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that just because the government said it does not necessarily make it true, and just because it is passing the type of legislation that it is passing, does not necessarily mean that our streets are going to be safer at the end of the day.

I think that if the Prime Minister really wants to get a sense of how the population feels about the issue of crime and safety, he would be best advised to start meeting and talking to people, maybe attend an actual town hall meeting. He should go out to some of our larger cities and smaller communities and get a sense of what people are thinking about in regard to crime.

I would like to make reference to the people I represent, the people of Winnipeg North. Crime is a very serious issue. My constituents want to feel safe in their communities. I would argue that they have a right to feel safe in their communities. I love my city. It is a great place to live, and I would recommend that all people visit, maybe spend a little bit and enjoy the beautiful city of Winnipeg. Having said that, there is a significant crime rate there. It is very real. It is tangible.

What the people I represent want to see is a government that is more inclined to prevent crime from happening. I do not believe the government is doing a good job on this. At the end of the day, there are initiatives that the government could take that would have a very real and tangible impact in terms of preventing crime.

Interestingly, the member for Kootenay—Columbia, in British Columbia, posed a question yesterday. I actually printed out the question. I just want to read a small part of it because it is so relevant to what I am trying to highlight here. The member stated:

The way I look at it is that if offenders do not want to pay the victim surcharge, maybe they should not commit crimes.

Even though I would ultimately argue that one of the biggest priorities of my constituents is to get the government to prevent crimes from taking place, I can assure everyone inside this Chamber that increasing a surcharge is not going to prevent any crimes from taking place. Whether it is in a remote area or an urban centre, it is not going to reduce the crime rate.

Anyone who tries to imply that is just wrong. No one is going to think, “If I have to pay x number of dollars more because of a surcharge the court is going to give me, I am not going to commit that crime”. I do not believe that would happen. It is not going to address that particular issue.

That is what this bill is all about, increasing the surcharge for individuals who commit a crime. There is nothing new about that. This is something that has been talked about. Legislation was brought in. I believe it was in the late 80s, possibly the early 90s, when it was decided that we should have some sort of surcharge or a financial penalty for those individuals who commit crime. It was the Chrétien government that went as far as to say it should be applied to individuals who commit crimes, but we have to enable a judge with the judicial discretion as to whether or not to apply the surcharge. That makes a whole lot of sense to me.

Not everyone is in the same position. Not everyone is able to facilitate the payment of a surcharge, and quite often it works at odds. I talked to a constituent yesterday about this particular bill, and what I was thinking of right offhand was someone who commits an illegal act in order to provide food on the table. I have had presentations on this. Many individuals are involved in the sex trade not because there is a desire to be there or a desire to feed their drug abuse and so forth, but because it is a source of income. Individuals who find themselves in that position and are ultimately fined are, at the end of the day, going to have to pay more for the food on their table.

Maybe there are other ways, such as social services, that we could be assisting people, but unfortunately that is not happening. Certain individuals within our communities do not have the luxury that many of us have in terms of disposable income in order to be able to pay the type of fines that might be levied. If the individuals do not pay the fine, they could end up being put in jail as a direct result. I would suggest that is not in society's best interest. Ultimately one could argue that there is always a way in which they could deal with it through working. Manitoba has the fine option program. Under the fine option program if an individual cannot pay a fine, there are certain places to go and work where minimum wage is paid in order to pay the fine. Not all jurisdictions have similar programs so that might not necessarily be an option for everyone.

The point is that the current system provides our judges with the opportunity to make an evaluation if someone who has committed a crime is able to convince the court that he or she is not in a position to pay the fine. That should suffice in this situation. It is not in the best interests of the public to assume that our judges do not know what they are doing when it comes to using the waiver they have in legislation. That waiver enables them to say to someone convicted of a crime that given their hardship or their circumstances there will be no surcharge. A judge has the expertise to make a good judgment on that issue. If the government lacks confidence in our judges then maybe it should be having discussions with ministers of justice across Canada on that particular issue. Nothing prevents the Crown from being able to raise the issue.

The government had other options as opposed to bringing in this particular legislation, taking the responsibility away from a judge and just arbitrarily making the decision to dramatically increase the surcharge on crimes or fines.

Ultimately the government would say that the reason for this legislation is to support victims. I am exceptionally sympathetic and I like to think that all my caucus colleagues understand and appreciate the need to support victims of crime in all of our communities. That issue does need to be addressed.

However, I do not believe that we should be totally reliant on a charge that is given to individuals who commit crimes to finance the programs necessary to assist victims of crime. There is a responsibility of government to be at the table through general revenues and more, in terms of supporting victims of crime. There are many different ways in which we can do that.

To deepen the reliance on a judge to penalize individuals, who may not be able to pay anyway, is not the best way to finance the programs that should be put in place to support victims of crime. Yes, it could supplement it. I do not know the percentages, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with surcharges supplementing programs. I am quite comfortable with that.

What I am not comfortable with is when the government gives the message that it is sympathetic to victims, but demonstrates that sympathy by taking away the responsibility of judges to use their discretion on whether or not there is a hardship case, and applying the surcharge to everyone. I do believe there could be circumstances that would justify a waiving and it would be inappropriate for the government to take that away. I believe that we have more confidence in the judicial system than the government does. I also believe that the government does have a role to play in standing up for the victims of crime, and there are different ways in which we can support that.

Over the years I have met with hundreds of individuals who have shared their stories with me as victims of crime. I myself have had the unfortunate incident of my home being broken into and property stolen. I felt that there was little support, for example, to provide information, and in many ways, that is what it is.

If someone breaks into my or my neighbour's house, I want to have an understanding of what happens next. Victim services could provide that type of education or a phone number that an individual could call if their home was broken into or there was an incident at their workplace or if they witnessed something and allegations were made. There is a wide variety of incidents and I have only mentioned the less severe ones.

I was present when a good friend received the news that one of her children was murdered in cold blood. I witnessed the impact it had on her. What type of services were there? She was a victim but she was not alone. There are a number of individuals out there with horror stories. I can appreciate the need for victim services.

I believe most, if not all, members of the House of Commons would recognize the importance of victim services and would encourage all governments to provide some form of those services. It is amazing that now with the Internet, people can go, for example, to the Manitoba department of justice and can access web pages that talk all about victim services. We have made some significant strides over the years.

However, at the end of the day, we really need to work toward, and the government needs to focus more attention on, preventing crimes from taking place. The emphasis of the government should be on that. This is a bill which I question the value of bringing forward because in government it is all about priorities. What are the priorities of the government when it comes to dealing with crime in our communities? Obviously, it has put this bill as a very high priority.

When I first was elected, it was during the by-election. The Conservatives, the New Democrats and Liberals all had a wonderful opportunity to go to Winnipeg North and get a sense of the important issues. Because it was a by-election, the individual caucuses would have been aware of what was happening in Winnipeg North and in the other two areas where there were by-elections and would have known that the number one issue was crime and safety.

I was very honoured and privileged that the people of Winnipeg North chose me, but I went right from the by-election into the chamber. One of the first things I raised was the government's cutback on gang initiatives, on alternatives to gang lives, on assisting refugees and others in not becoming attached to gangs and to be more productive citizens. I know how critically important it is that we provide those types of alternatives to gang lives.

As I made reference to earlier, when I was the justice critic, we had a huge problem with automobile thefts. During 2000, 2005 and 2006, 14,000 vehicles were stolen in the province of Manitoba. For months I argued that the issue had to be dealt with. We found out that a relatively small number of individuals were causing half the problem, roughly 300 individuals. A high-risk program was developed where these individuals were monitored and as a result automobile theft decreased by half, from 14,000 down to 7,000 over a couple of years, so there were fewer victims.

This is the type of thing governments need to demonstrate more. When I asked a question of the parliamentary secretary, I suggested that she should look at the national government's important leadership role in what happened in other provinces and bring provinces together to look at which programs worked well in the different provinces and get a consensus, more like best practices, and promote and encourage those good ideas in other jurisdictions.

Ottawa has a responsibility in preventing crime. The bill will not prevent a crime from taking place. The bill is not necessary in the sense that the judge has discretionary authority. It is already mandatory. In terms of the amount of the fine, we are open to that discussion. We will wait and see what happens at committee.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I address the hon. member for Winnipeg North, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. This is twice as nice for me because I am now the justice critic, and I find myself in this position because you trained me well. I will try to do my best. We will try not to be too annoying so that your job will be as pleasant as possible when you are in the chair.

I would like to tell the hon. member for Winnipeg North that I really appreciated his speech on Bill C-37, which he delivered with deep conviction. I think we share many concerns because, as he said so well, it is not all black and it is not all white. With the Conservatives, beyond the headlines and the front page, it not always clear whether the measure that has been put down on paper will actually achieve the desired objectives. We can work on all that in committee.

Bill C-37 duplicates Bill C-350, which deals mainly with the order of collection of fines. This could affect Bill C-37. I am wondering whether the members of the Liberal Party considered this issue and whether we are going to be able to work on this in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights if the bill is passed at second reading.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not as familiar with the other bill, but I am somewhat familiar with the way in which fines can have a profound impact in the size of the fine and a person's ability to pay the fine. We need to ensure that in all locations in Canada, where there are opportunities to have ideally a uniform approach to dealing with fine options and work toward that. We need to look at the bigger picture of where fines might come from and allow it to be funnelled in such a way that it is dealt with at one time as much as possible. By doing it that way through the courts or whoever might be ultimately responsible for the collecting of a fine, there is a standard procedure that allows for individuals to claim they do not have the financial means or maybe they can afford to pay a certain percentage and are prepared to work out some sort of a fine option where they would go to a community facility and work perhaps for the minimum wage instead of paying 100% of a fine.

I do not know how accurate I was in answering the member's specific question, but I do appreciate the thought on fines.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of discussion around fines and whether the offenders would have to make application or why the offender would be predetermined to have a victim fine surcharge and that it should be up to the judge's discretion.

Judges are ultimately still deciding the fines and the fine amount. Fines are an alternative to jail, which is positive and allows offenders to remain in the community to contribute to their families and social and economic development. However, the point of accountability is that when a victim fine surcharge is assessed automatically, the offender still has the option of presenting undue hardships or mitigating circumstances where a judge could consider reducing the fine option or fine generally. To be accountable for that, it is up to the offender to present that case. It should not be up to the taxpayer or the crown and it should not be up to the victims or non-government organizations to present to the judge why a victim fine surcharge should be imposed. For accountability to work, it should be up to the offenders to present a case why they cannot manage the fine or how the fine should be managed so they can pay it and not the reverse.

Would my hon. colleague not agree with that being an important part of accountability?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in good part, that is in fact the way it works currently. If a criminal is told he or she will not go to jail but will have to pay off a $2,500 fine and the criminal can afford to do it, which many individuals would not be in a financial position to do, the judge has the discretion today to take that into consideration. If a person does not have the ability to pay a $2,500 or $5,000 fine, as opposed to putting the individual in jail, a judge has the discretion today to make a decision in that situation. Quite often, it will still include a fine and possibly something that would allow for an individual to work it off within the community. The bottom line is a judge has the discretionary authority to make the decision.

My understanding of the legislation that the government proposes to pass will take that discretion away from a judge. At the end of the day, that goes against what the member has just advocated for. If the member reads the legislation, he might be surprised at what the legislation actually proposes to do. It is taking authority away from judges. On the basis of his question, he seemed to think that the judge should have the authority.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker of the House. That shows how highly regarded you are in this House.

I would like to thank the hon. member for his very interesting speech. Actually, he has raised a number of questions that deserve to be addressed in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Getting back to our topic, I am going to refer to the title of the bill: Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act. In response to the question from the hon. member for Yukon, my colleague just talked about the loss of discretionary power. It is a major responsibility for judges to establish the preponderance of evidence and to paint the full picture when they have to make a ruling in a criminal case.

Could the hon. member for Winnipeg North comment on this loss of responsibility for judges, which is a bit ironic when we think about the goal of the bill, based on its title?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to sit on a quasi-judicial body, a youth justice committee. When sitting on a youth justice committee and dealing with young offenders, one thing people like to do is have some discretion with regard to what sort of a disposition they want to give. There is no doubt more of that discretion is being taken away from judges. Generally speaking, our judges are fairly well educated. They have come to the table with a great deal of experience and it is a question of whether we trust judges to make good decisions.

We should work within the system to try to effect more positive change and maybe meet with the ministers of justice across the country to hear what they have to say. With teamwork in dealing with stakeholders, they could maybe achieve some of the things they are hoping to achieve.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me first say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I would also like to congratulate you. I am very pleased to see you in the Speaker's chair. It must be a very interesting experience and a great challenge for you.

It is a pleasure to stand once again to support, in part, with some reservation, Bill C-37 on behalf of my constituents.

In any modern liberal democracy, the presence of a trustworthy legal system and judiciary is essential in maintaining the confidence of the population. It is the responsibility of all elected officials to respect the constitutional separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of good government. A fundamental respect must be had by members of the government and opposition alike for the legal system, its procedures, customs, practices and powers. This, of course, also includes respect for its magistrates and judges.

Recently, I had, in my functions as Treasury Board critic for the official opposition, a delegation from an African country that is just developing its democratic institutions, those institutions necessary to have good government for its citizens. Though we spoke primarily about how a government can be more accountable and transparent to its citizens with regard to the budgetary processes and presenting public accounts, our more general conversation underscored to me how fragile our democratic institutions can be and how much they depend on a just, equitable and fair legal system. It also underscored to me how fundamental culture dedicated to this respect is.

My hon. colleagues will no doubt agree a basic fundamental belief and respect for the rule of law is an essential characteristic of any democratic society, but at the same time this respect from the people must be earned. The reality is that it has taken several hundred years for us to develop our system. It was not perfect from the beginning and open to all sorts of machinations, corruption and elitism. No, respect of the population must be gained and it must be preserved.

Our legal system and those labouring in it must inspire confidence to be legitimate. Sadly, the reality is that many Canadians, particularly marginalized and racialized Canadians, do not view our legal system and its enforcement as legitimate. In fact, many communities across our country have a deep suspicion about the fairness of our legal system. There is no doubt if we were to ask a Jamaican in Toronto or an aboriginal person in Winnipeg or Vancouver how legitimate our legal system is, we would get a completely different opinion from that of someone on Bay Street or in Rockliffe Park. For too many Canadians, our legal system is simply there to protect the property of the most well-to-do in our society. It is up to us to prove that things can be different. This is our burden as legislators. It is also one of the reasons that I support this bill.

Though I doubt very much the government of high finance is motivated by such questions as fundamental equality before the law, we must take the good where we can find it. On one principle at least the government and I see eye to eye. At the core of the skepticism of many Canadians toward our judiciary system, the issue of appropriate punishment of criminals and just compensation for victims is at the core.

I will take a moment to tell Canadians who are watching now and who deeply care about this issue that this issue is by no means a monopoly of the Conservative Party of Canada. For decades, the New Democratic Party has been calling for greater respect and compensation for victims of crime. We have at every occasion possible supported well crafted legislation that helps the victims of crime and their families. We have respected and continue to respect the recommendations of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

The reality is that this is a non-partisan issue. It is not a left or right issue. Crime is wrong, from whatever political perspective we look at it, Conservative, Social Democrat or Liberal. We may disagree on the solutions in eliminating crime but the goal of reducing crime is shared by all of us. I will offer the hand of peace therefore and give credit where credit is due. I think of many of the bills on crime that the Conservative government has come forward with, this particular bill is well justified and constructed.

This bill is based on one of the Conservatives’ election promises in the last election, that they would double the amount paid to victims and make the surcharge mandatory in all cases, with no exceptions, in order to make offenders more accountable to victims of crime, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has been fighting for better funding for victim services for a long time, and the facts support those recommendations. In 2003, for example, crime cost roughly $70 billion, $47 billion of which was the cost borne by victims. That represents 70%, which is far too much.

The effect of this is to create an image of our judicial system as not doing a good job of representing the interests of law-abiding citizens. As well, a 2004 study estimated the cost of the pain and suffering experienced by victims as being in the neighbourhood of $36 billion. In addition, many eligible victims do not even seek compensation, often because they do not know they are entitled to it, and that is completely unacceptable.

So the principle of better funding for victims is based on solid facts and a fundamental principle of justice. I recognize that, and I acknowledge it. But I still have a few reservations, so I cannot give this bill my unconditional support. We have a number of questions on this side, things that my colleagues on the government side may be able to reassure us about.

One has to do with respect for federal and provincial jurisdictions—a fundamental question in my province, Quebec. Technically, the surcharge money has to be used by the provinces to fund services for victims of crime. So will victims benefit directly from the increase in victim surcharges or not? Also, are the provincial fine option programs standardized? Not to my knowledge. So how will the government ensure that the money from this surcharge will really reach the victims’ groups that need it, particularly if their funding remains the same?

A second is that Bill C-37 overlaps with another private member’s bill, Bill C-350, which is also meant to make offenders accountable to victims. How are these bills going to affect each other? That is another question.

And third, and more fundamentally, is the reservation I have about the role of judges in our system. Judges are independent for excellent reasons. It is up to them to interpret the law justly and fairly. That is their burden to carry, not ours. This government seems to have trouble understanding that principle and respecting the important role that judges play in this country.

Is Bill C-37 an example of that lack of respect? Well, by taking away judges’ discretion to waive the surcharge, does this measure not fetter the good judgment of our judges? There are many situations in which punishment should be mitigated, and there are exceptional cases, in particular low-income offenders or offenders who have mental health problems.

Nonetheless, this bill has my conditional support, because, like my party, I support victims of crime and their families. I want to help build Canadians’ confidence in our judicial system.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.

My question will be simple. My colleague mentioned that, in various sectors, we often tend to just slap a number on the back of each citizen and establish an excessively rigid system. This always leads to high costs and serious consequences. So we always end up giving discretionary power to various sectors. I think that this is essential for judges, given how a court works.

I myself have worked in the correctional sector, and I have seen how important it is for each case to be handled individually and just how important the human relationship is.

Could the hon. member comment further on the fact that we need to help judges, not hinder them?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

What concerns me is the, shall we say, healthy relationship that must exist between a majority government and the judicial system. We need to ask ourselves why there is a separation between politics and law in Canada. There is a very good reason for that: we do not want to manipulate the judicial system. That is not what the government is there to do.

What concerns me, and we see it almost every day with every new justice-related bill, is that the government wants to impose minimum sentences and to tell judges how to interpret the law. That goes against the very principle of an independent judicial system.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to build on the comments or the line of questioning that I just witnessed from my colleagues with regard to the notion that so much of the legislation dealing with the criminal justice system that we have been dealing with in this 41st Parliament has really amounted to members of Parliament interfering with the discretionary judgment of the justice system, even up to and including prescribing sentences.

I am a carpenter by trade. I do not know enough about the criminal justice system to dictate what should be the sentence for certain crimes. That is why we appoint competent and capable people to the bench, so they can make that determination free of political interference.

While I am aware that the particular bill we have before us is perhaps not in that category, could the member speak to the folly associated with and perhaps, just as a precautionary tale for subsequent legislators, the danger of that kind of tampering and interference by political influences into the judiciary and the crossover of those three pillars of how we govern ourselves as a nation?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, here is the danger that justice is not done because what winds up happening is that instead of the peculiarities or particularities of a case that is in front of a judge being taken into consideration, what is taken into consideration is the opinion of a government on sentencing, an opinion which, of course, is backed by certain values. The whole point of the judiciary system is objectivity and independence.

If we impose upon our legal system the values of a particular political party, a particular lobby group or a particular interest group through this type of legislation, although I am not saying that is the case for Bill C-37 but it certainly was the case for certain parts of Bill C-10, then we are on a slippery slope indeed.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member for Pontiac to continue because I know that there is a very high unemployment rate and a lot of poverty in his constituency. This type of provision affecting discretion often has an even worse effect on the people who are least able to pay, such as people with mental health problems, for example.

How does he see this in his constituency?