An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Guy Lauzon  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (Senate), as of Feb. 5, 2014
(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 Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that any monetary amount awarded to an offender pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada be paid to victims and other designated beneficiaries.

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

Oct. 31, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Sept. 26, 2012 Passed That Bill C-350, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 2 with the following: “result of an order for maintenance, alimony or family financial support”
March 28, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

May 1st, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

You also raised an important issue that we'll keep monitoring on this side, which is that you've opened a lot of new files. Our side will be monitoring the funding of your office and making sure that you're adequately funded.

You mentioned your recommendations and you said that you'd let us look at them again. Given that we're taking about Bill C-350, I wonder if there is any one of those recommendations you think might particularly relate to this bill that you would like to highlight for us?

May 1st, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.
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Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

I would defer to Mr. Toller on the offenders' accounts and the issues around that.

I do want to say that I am here in support of Bill C-350, because it will help to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their monetary debts.

In looking at the bigger issue of restitution, I won't go over the recommendations; you have copies of the report, and they're there. I think we do need to be taking a bigger picture.

I did find some data. It's not my data, but I did find through the director of parliamentary relations at the CSC some data that looked at these awards—although the data clearly indicates that CSC does not keep statistics for claims against the crown paid to inmates where they are less than $1,000. Again, the data is not comprehensive, but I was able to see, for example, that from 2006 through 2007 the claims against the crown totalled $2,500,000. Of that, $279,000 was paid to inmates in 26 cases. So there is some data out there, but again, it's not comprehensive and it's not my data.

I tried to find from Statistics Canada all the guilty cases in adult criminal courts in relation to restitution orders, but these weren't specific. They were lumped together—federal, provincial, and territorial. For example, in 2009-10, there were 6,000 offenders. It says here, “The following statistics represent all guilty cases in adult criminal courts in Canada, including offenders for restitution.” It looks like there were close to 7,000.

I was looking at the data and what it means. Part of the issue around restitution is of course that in many cases the courts aren't ordering it. There are many reasons for that.

I mean if you're a victim of crime and you want restitution, it has to be done at the time of sentencing. That means, and I'm going to use an example, if I suffered a property loss or I was injured in an assault and lost two weeks' pay, I would have to prove how much that loss was at the time of sentencing. You won't know to do that unless somebody tells you to do that. You have to be able to prove that with receipts and bills. Then you have to have the crown attorney ask for that restitution.

There are huge issues. I know you've got limited time here, but I wanted to paint a bit of a picture for you.

Even if a restitution order is given, if the offender doesn't pay it then the victim has to go to civil court to try to figure out how they're going to get money from the offender. We need to be doing a better job at how we are dealing with restitution in this country and putting in place some of those frameworks to do that.

Thank you.

May 1st, 2012 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thank you very much.

Ms. O'Sullivan, if I understand correctly, rehabilitation is one way to help victims of crime who find themselves before individuals who are often—we hope—more responsible and "accountable" upon their release. Do you have any suggestions on how we could use rehabilitation more to support the victims? For example, I'm thinking about the possibility of combining Bill C-350 with a program on fiscal responsibility, depending on the resources of our correctional system, of course.

May 1st, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, Ms. O'Sullivan, for being here and telling us about how you see things. To be honest, it's nice to hear a point of view that's different from the one around this table. Given the work you do, in particular, you are fully aware of the needs of victims.

I agree with several aspects of Bill C-350. Usually, in society, a person must fulfill his or her obligations. In fact, all victims should have access to compensation of this kind. In your presentation, which calls for greater respect for victims, you made a number of very interesting recommendations that should be taken into consideration.

Like you, I think that Bill C-350 includes improvements, especially with respect to the previous one, Bill C-292. Among other things, compensation will from now on be shared more equally among the parties. And an order of priority has been set.

However, Bill C-350 seems to take on only a small part of this large problem of victim compensation. Would you like more improvements made to this bill? I'll go even a little further and ask this: if you could amend the bill or make it perfect, what changes would you suggest to us?

May 1st, 2012 / 4:33 p.m.
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Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

Mr. Chair and members of the committee, good afternoon.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today about Bill C-350, which concerns offender accountability.

As you may know, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime was created to provide a voice for victims at the federal level.

We do this through our mandate, which includes: receiving and reviewing complaints from victims; promoting and facilitating access to federal programs and services for victims of crime, by providing information and referrals; promoting the basic principles of justice for victims of crime; raising awareness among criminal justice personnel and policy-makers about the needs and concerns of victims; and identifying systemic and emerging issues that negatively impact victims of crime.

The office helps victims in two main ways: individually and collectively. We help victims individually by speaking with victims every day, answering their questions, and addressing their complaints. We help victims collectively by reviewing important issues and making recommendations to the federal government on how to improve its laws, policies, or programs, to better support victims of crime.

I would like to thank the committee for inviting me here today to speak to the payment of court-ordered debts owed by offenders, and its impacts on victims of crime.

Bill C-350, if adopted, would help to ensure that offenders are held accountable for the monetary debts they owe, including spousal and child support, restitution, the federal victims surcharge, and civil judgments. This bill will ensure that offenders who are successful in obtaining monetary awards from government are mandated to pay their court-ordered debts.

With respect to restitution and the federal victims surcharge, this bill provides a mechanism to further hold offenders responsible for providing reparation to victims for the harm they have caused, and to promote a stronger sense of responsibility and accountability. Similar to the garnishment of spousal and child support already occurring at the federal level, this bill will go further to ensure that offenders are responsible and accountable for their debts.

Our office supports measures that seek to better address the needs of victims of crime. Given that Bill C-350 seeks to hold offenders more accountable and ensure that victims of crime receive the money they are owed and have access to services following a crime, our office supports its passage into law.

To provide some context related to the financial impacts of victimization, a recent study by the Department of Justice estimates that the total tangible and intangible costs of Criminal Code offences in Canada in 2008 were approximately $99.6 billion. When looking at the combined costs measured in the study, the financial burden on victims, which can include lost wages, medical attention, and stolen or damaged property, is estimated at 83% of the total cost of crime. This, frankly, is unacceptable.

Given this burden, tangible supports, including restitution and the federal victim surcharge, become extremely important to victims. They are a means through which to recover loss and to promote access to much needed services. They also serve to acknowledge and provide reparation of harm to victims on behalf of offenders.

Further, when one considers that victimization often occurs within the family context, the payment of spousal or child support may also be extremely important for victims. A statistic that illustrates the familial ties between federal offenders and victims is the number of homicides solved in 2009, where 33.6% of victims were killed by a family member. As victims of crime are estimated to bear 83% of the cost of crime and federal offenders are often family members of victims, measures to ensure that victims receive the debts owed to them, including spousal and child support, and restitution, are necessary to address the needs of crime.

To elaborate, restitution is a payment made by an offender to the victim to cover expenses resulting from the crime, such as property loss or damage, or personal injury. Where a restitution order is made, the offender must pay the amount ordered directly to the victim named in the order. If the offender does not pay the amount ordered, the victim can file the order in civil court and use civil enforcement methods to collect the money.

Legal advice and representation is often needed to pursue these methods of collection, which are cost-prohibitive for many. For victims of crime who have already experienced loss and trauma, the additional legal and financial burden of having to track down moneys owed to them as a result of a crime committed against them can simply be overwhelming. This cannot and should not be the reality. Victims do not deserve to be revictimized. It is for this reason that measures that encourage the enforcement of the payment of restitution by offenders to victims are a necessary and welcome step forward.

In addition to restitution, the federal victim surcharge is also an important payment made by offenders to provide financial support to provincial and territorial victim services and to promote a link between an offender's crime and his or her accountability to the victim. The government recently made an announcement to introduce legislation to double and automatically apply the federal victim surcharge. This is indeed a very positive step forward in response to recommendations made by our office.

While the doubling and automatic application of the surcharge will serve to better meet the needs of victims, mechanisms to ensure that offenders pay the surcharge, such as Bill C-350, are necessary to help ensure that provincial and territorial victim services are given the funding they need and deserve. This bill is one small measure that will contribute to offender accountability.

However, measures to ensure that offenders pay their court orders, regardless of whether they have received a monetary award from government, need to be implemented to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their debts and for providing reparation of harm to victims. To this end, my office has made several recommendations to government to promote the reparation of harm to victims and to mandate that offenders be held accountable to victims for their court orders.

These recommendations were made in our most recent report, Shifting the Conversation, and they include the following: requiring judges to consider restitution in all cases involving a victim and to state their reasons for not ordering restitution, similar to provisions for the federal victim surcharge; giving victims the right to make an application for restitution and the right to appeal if an application is refused; providing victims with detailed guidelines on how to document their losses for the purposes of restitution; removing the requirement that a restitution amount be readily ascertainable, or allowing a court to order a “to be determined” restitution order if the costs are not fully known at the time of sentencing; examining the ability of the federal government to deduct restitution awards from federal government payments, such as GST rebate cheques and employment insurance payments; and holding offenders accountable by including conditions to ensure that they fulfill their court orders for restitution and the federal victim surcharges by authorizing the Correctional Service of Canada to deduct reasonable amounts from an offender's earnings.

These recommendations to government are aimed at promoting reparation of harm to victims and mandating that offenders be held accountable to victims for their court orders.

In conclusion, if adopted, Bill C-350 would help to ensure that offenders are held accountable for the monetary debts they owe, including spousal and child support, restitution, the federal victim surcharge, and civil judgments. This bill will ensure that offenders who are successful in obtaining monetary awards from government are mandated to pay their court-ordered debts.

From a victim's perspective, ensuring that an offender pays his or her financial debts, including restitution and the federal victim surcharge, upon receipt of a monetary award would seem to be common sense. In fact, many victims, and even Canadians at large, would perhaps be surprised to know that this is not already the case.

For this reason, we support the passage of Bill C-350, but we encourage members to understand that increasing offender accountability in relation to court-ordered restitution and the federal victim surcharge will require more comprehensive solutions above and beyond the measures proposed in this bill.

Merci. Je serai heureuse de répondre à vos questions.

May 1st, 2012 / 4:33 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

In our second hour today we're going to continue with our consideration of Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders).

Our committee welcomes this afternoon Ms. Susan O'Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

Welcome here. It's good to have you.

May 1st, 2012 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank Ms. Budgell and Mr. Toller for being here to answer our questions about Bill C-350.

Some of these proposals are interesting, especially the idea of support for victims.

I am also interested in offender rehabilitation. A few weeks ago, I met with a prison warden who explained to me that he worked with rehabilitation a lot. He told me that such a person could live two houses down from me and that he wanted that person to become a good citizen again and the person not to be a danger to the community anymore. We also work a lot with rehabilitation in Quebec.

I noted in your remarks, at the end of your presentation, that you spoke about gaining the skills the offenders would need to change their criminal behaviour. How could we apply skills acquisition to this type of bill or to this way of doing things? Would there be a way to implement Bill C-350, or the provisions it contains, while making offenders accountable and, perhaps, getting them involved in the process?

May 1st, 2012 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to Mr. Toller, and Ms. Budgell, for appearing today.

On this side we voted to bring this bill to committee, because we accept that there is a good principle involved here in encouraging responsibility and accountability. But we have some questions about the mechanisms used in this bill.

Mr. Toller, you said at the end of your remarks, which are quite measured, I would say:

This includes measures that would ensure that offenders assume greater responsibility and accountability

It seems to me that you're saying that Bill C-350 is only one of the tools in rehabilitation, re-insertion, and such. Would you prioritize the other tools that might be available in the toolbox for promoting this, besides this bill?

May 1st, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ms. Budgell, and Mr. Toller, for being here. We appreciate your being here at the onset.

We spoke to the introducer of this bill and we heard from him. We got a good sense of why he introduced this bill. He talked a lot about people in his riding who are victims and have been victims of crime. He talked a lot about the children and spouses of the offenders also being victims and many times suffering because of what the offender has done, including not being paid things like child support or spousal support.

We got a good sense of the reasons, but it's good to have you here for some very specific questions.

Mr. Toller, in your comments you said at the onset that you wanted to make the distinction that Bill C-350 applies not only to an offender initiating a lawsuit or a claim against the Correctional Service of Canada, but also to monetary awards to offenders across all government departments.

You did explain how monetary settlements would be awarded regarding CSC. Could you give us some examples or explain how inmates would possibly receive monetary settlements from other departments?

May 1st, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

This is meeting number 36 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Today we continue our study of Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders).

In our first hour, we will hear from the Correctional Service of Canada, Mr. Ross Toller, deputy commissioner of the transformation and renewal team; and from the Department of Justice, Ms. Alexandra Budgell. I would invite each of you to make an opening statement on behalf of your different departments. Then we will proceed with a few rounds of questioning by members of Parliament.

Welcome. Mr. Toller, go ahead.

April 26th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Lauzon, for appearing before the committee today to introduce Bill C-350. We sincerely appreciate it.

Your bill seems to have considerable merit. I wasn't sure I would have any questions, but the more questions people asked, the more things came to mind.

When answering, you often used the phrases “my understanding of the bill is that” or “I think that”. I do not doubt your good intentions, but I want to know whether this bill really comes from you or from your government.

April 26th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Thank you very much for having me, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon.

To begin with, I'm very proud to speak to Bill C-350, which will take a step in the right direction, I believe, toward increasing offender accountability and improving restitution measures.

Let me begin by saying I believe that Bill C-350 is simply common sense. This legislation will ensure that any monetary award owed to an offender as a result of a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada will first be put toward financial obligations and not into the offender's pocket.

Bill C-350 does this by amending the wording in the purpose section of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which currently refers only to custody and supervision and rehabilitation and reintegration. The new wording will clarify that one of the purposes of the federal corrections system is the following: encouraging the accountability and responsibility of offenders, with a view to ensuring that their obligations to society are addressed.

The bill sets out the priorities for debt repayment in cases where an offender is owed a monetary award as a result of a legal action against the crown. This means in essence that an offender will first have to satisfy outstanding debts before collecting any award, which I think is pretty much common sense.

The debt owed to the offender would be paid based on the following order of priorities: first, to a spousal or child support order; second, to a legal restitution order, any victim surcharge order, and any person with a civil judgment against the offender. If any money remains after all these judgments are satisfied, then the balance would go to the offender.

A prime example of why action needs to be taken on this issue is the case of multiple murderer Gregory McMaster. Mr. McMaster has a long criminal history as an adult and as a youth, which includes charges of assault, weapons offences, burglary, and the murder of three Canadians and a Minnesota police officer.

Throughout his time in the correctional system, Mr. McMaster has filed four lawsuits resulting in monetary awards that have gone directly into his pocket, instead of toward fulfilling his obligations to society.

The case of Peter Collins also demonstrates why action needs to be taken on this issue. Mr. Collins murdered a police officer in 1983 and since that point has been serving his sentence in a Correctional Service Canada penitentiary. He filed a complaint against Correctional Service Canada at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, claiming that he was targeted in a discriminatory way by correctional staff who required him, per standard procedure, to stand during regular inmate counts. He claimed that due to a physical disability he is unable to stand for the mandatory counts and that staff continued to unfairly make him stand.

Mr. Collins was awarded $7,500 for pain and suffering and an additional $2,500 in special compensation by the CHRC. This compensation was awarded on the basis that staff behaviour was reckless and that they had knowledge of his disability. The monetary award went directly into his pocket.

Bill C-350 will correct that problem of offenders receiving a judgment and not using it to settle outstanding debts, by ensuring that any monetary award owed to an offender as a result of a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada be put toward financial obligations, including child support and restitution orders.

Although they are often overlooked, spouses and children of offenders are also victims of crime. I can't stress that enough. I believe that the spouse, whether it's a male or a female in the family of an offender, is shamed and hurt. They're victims as much as the actual victim.

If the breadwinner of a family is convicted, that family's financial stability is suddenly gone. This could leave innocent children without food, a warm home, or clothing. These types of financial hardships can be extremely detrimental to children and to all victims. This is why it is only right that any monetary award be distributed to the offender's family as a first priority.

Secondly, these funds should be put toward any damages or injuries caused as a result of the offender's crime. Our government has always emphasized the importance of protecting the rights of victims, as opposed to the rights of criminals. This bill strives to add to our record of victims' rights.

Victims of crime can face years of physical and emotional distress. It is only fair that the recovery and stability of victims of crime is taken into account before issuing the balance of a financial award to an offender.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can speak to the emotional distress suffered by a victim of crime; I can't speak to the physical distress, but certainly the emotional. About 30 years ago, someone entered my home in Sudbury while our family was sleeping, came into my and my wife's bedroom, and stole my wallet off my dresser. Neither one of us woke up. I can't begin to tell you how traumatizing that is, when you wake up and realize somebody has invaded your privacy and stolen your money and you weren't even aware of that.

This was 30 years ago, but I can still remember the emotional distress that particularly my wife and my children, but I to a certain extent as well, went through over that incident.

Those were the days when we didn't lock our doors. I can assure you, as a result I certainly lock my doors now. I've lived that experience. None of us were physically hurt, but the emotional distress was certainly there.

Further, the property of victims is often damaged—in our case, there was no damage—during a crime, leaving them unable to afford the repairs.

This piece of legislation will ensure that when an offender receives a monetary award, any outstanding victim surcharge will be taken into account before the remaining balance is awarded to the offender.

The next two priorities, which also focus on supporting victims of crime, include payment of any victim surcharge orders in any outstanding civil judgments against the offender. Only after those priorities have been carried out will the outstanding amount be paid to the offender. This is a fair process. It is only fair that when offenders receive a monetary award while incarcerated that debts be paid before they are able to benefit from it.

This bill takes strong action to increase the accountability of offenders and improve restitution orders to protect spouses, children, and victims of crime.

Since elected, our government has taken action to provide Canadians with safe streets and communities. This bill actually builds on that. Not only do offenders need to be off our streets, they need to be held accountable for their actions. The bill holds them accountable, assisting in their rehabilitation.

Many offenders have never been responsible for a day in their lives. This will teach them that in society we have obligations and we need to meet them. The bill makes sure that their obligations to society are addressed. The measures proposed in this bill will help offenders take more responsibility for their rehabilitation by reforming them to be responsible members of society.

The emphasis that this legislation puts on offender accountability helps to correct negative offender behaviour, which is the ultimate goal of our correctional system. Measures that encourage offender accountability will ultimately prepare them for the responsibilities of life after prison and help them reintegrate into Canadian society. Paying their debt to society starts with paying outstanding debts owed to their victims.

As our government has stated in the House of Commons, we hope to amend the bill to add clarity regarding the role of the Correctional Service of Canada in the administration and operation of these provisions.

I welcome and look forward to seeing any amendments that come from this committee. Since introducing this bill, I've met with a number of victims and one advocacy group in my riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. For example, I met with a local association in my riding that goes to great lengths to help victims of crime. They support this kind of legislation overwhelmingly.

The message from this group, and from my constituents—from all constituents—is that the rights of victims need to be strengthened. By the way, as an aside, the rights of landlords also have to be strengthened. That's the thing I seem to hear, that the rights of victims and landlords are the rights that are most contravened.

They want to see offenders held accountable for their actions and mechanisms created to protect victims of crime.

As a government, we've listened to victims of crime and committed to delivering on our promise in the 2011 Speech from the Throne to support the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals. The passage of this legislation is another important step in accomplishing this.

I look forward to hearing from my colleagues and witnesses participating in the study of the bill.

And colleagues, I began my remarks by stating that Bill C-350 was simply common sense. I hope you agree, and I look forward to your questions and your comments.

Merci. Thank you very much.

April 26th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much for that folks, and for the extra information that we gleaned from that. We will just invite Mr. Lauzon to come to the table. I don't even believe we have to adjourn, even for a short period of time.

You have the bill in front of you. Mr. Lauzon has drafted Bill C-350. First of all, today we are going to commence our study on Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders). We're hearing from the member of Parliament who's brought this bill before the House.

Our committee welcomes Mr. Guy Lauzon, MP from Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry in Ontario. We congratulate you for shepherding your bill thus far through the House, and also for being one of the fortunate that had their bills drawn early. We look forward to your comments as to why you drafted this bill and your reasons for it.

Thank you for appearing before this committee, Mr. Lauzon.

April 26th, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

This is meeting number 35 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, on Thursday, April 26, 2012. Today we're continuing our consideration of Bill C-293, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (vexatious complainants). Today we are scheduled to go through the bill clause by clause.

In the second hour, we will commence hearing another private member's bill, Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders). I think Mr. Lauzon will appear and give us the reasons why he brought forward this private member's bill.

I will now turn to our clerk for direction and we will proceed on the clause-by-clause of Bill C-293.

I have had a chance to speak to counsel in regard to the amendments that have been brought forward. We've just had four or five more amendments brought forward by the Liberal Party. However, I need to disclose that the first amendment will be the government amendment brought forward by Ms. Hoeppner, because it deals with the bill.

Ms. Hoeppner, did you want to speak to your amendment?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-350 under private members' business.