Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-478. I would like to begin by recognizing the member for Selkirk—Interlake for his considerable efforts in bringing this important bill forward. I would also like to share with all the members of this place why Bill C-478 is of great importance to the citizens of Okanagan—Coquihalla.
As some members may well know, Westbank, sometimes referred to as West Kelowna, is a community in the heart of my riding. Many years ago a local Westbank family set off to the back country for a scenic family camping trip. The family was made up of proud grandparents George and Edith Bentley, their daughter Jackie and her husband Bob Johnson, along with their granddaughters Janet, who was 13 at the time, and her 11-year-old sister Karen. The destination was scenic Wells Gray Provincial Park for a two-week camping adventure. We can imagine how close and tightly knit this family was in planning for two weeks together, enjoying all of the special moments that life brings us.
A little over two weeks later, Bob Johnson failed to show up for work. This would be the first time in over 20 years that Bob Johnson had missed a day of work.
I will apologize to the House in advance. The details I am going to share next are unpleasant. They are vile. They are disturbing. However, I believe they are necessary, for it is precisely these situations that speak to the necessity and importance of Bill C-478.
After the Johnson-Bentley family disappeared, a large-scale search and rescue operation was led by the RCMP. If ever there were a reminder of the challenging and difficult work that RCMP members perform, this would be it. One cannot fathom the shock and horror of finally locating the family vehicle of Bob Johnson after a month of searching. Inside the car were the burnt bodies of Bob, his wife Jackie, and her parents George and Edith.
Sadly, it did not end there. Located inside the trunk were the burnt bodies of the grandchildren, 13-year-old Janet and her 11-year-old sister Karen. All had been executed. They had been murdered: shot in the head with a .22 calibre bullet.
It still did not end there. The RCMP later learned that the monster responsible had first killed the four adults and then abducted the two granddaughters. For six days, this monster did unspeakable things to the girls, before finally murdering them and burning them in the Johnson family car along with their parents and grandparents.
Truly, this is one of the most horrific and disturbing acts imaginable.
In 2008, the monster responsible for these heinous acts, David Shearing, applied for parole, only now he goes by a different name. His name is now David Ennis, assumedly so that if he obtains parole he can more easily disappear into an unsuspecting public.
When citizens in Westbank learned of this parole application, they were shocked, terrified and angry. They were again being victimized by the senseless murder that took away their family, friends, co-workers and neighbours. They took action, and soon a petition with over 9,000 names was sent to the Parole Board of Canada to oppose parole for this monster.
I was elected in 2011, and to this very day I hear from citizens in Logan Lake, Westbank and Merritt that they are fearful of this monster. They fear that he will be paroled and will return to the region where he once lived and committed these disturbing acts that took so many innocent victims. That is why I am here today speaking in strong support of Bill C-478 on behalf of the family, friends and co-workers, who went through the parole process and are forced to revisit this tragedy far too frequently.
I apologize for sharing these details with the House. However, all too often when we talk about bills like Bill C-478, I find the victims are often neglected, if not forgotten.
In fact, I have reviewed close to 20 different media stories on Bill C-478, and not one of them mentioned David Shearing, who now goes by David Ennis. However, murdering monsters like David Shearing are certainly not alone. Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, Russell Williams and Clifford Olson are other examples of people who have taken lives and continue to haunt the victims through the parole process. I submit that this is wrong and that Bill C-478 is a needed and necessary step to end the ongoing suffering of victims. It cannot and should not be allowed to continue to occur.
I believe it is also important that we recognize what Bill C-478 ultimately proposes to do. Bill C-478 would not guarantee a 40-year sentence, as some media stories have suggested. This bill is specific on applying to those individuals who have committed the most serious of combined crimes that include abduction, sexual assault and murder. This bill does not propose minimum sentences for those who have committed these disturbing acts, but rather would provide new tools for judges in sentencing.
I believe it is also important to recognize that research has indicated that individuals who commit these most serious of crimes have yet to be successful in being paroled. Some would ask why there should be a change of the parole eligibility if the most serious of criminals in fact are not successful at being paroled. The answer from the citizens of Okanagan—Coquihalla is to please stop this ongoing parole process that revictimizes innocent friends, family and neighbours, and causes citizens to live in fear. Bill C-478 would create legal tools that would allow judges the discretion to do precisely that, and that is why I encourage all members of the House to vote in support of it.
Before I close, I would like to share a few further thoughts with my hon. colleagues. In 2011, a life was tragically taken in a senseless and brutal act of domestic violence in my riding. The family members now wear a tattoo of a dragonfly in memory of their lost loved one as they seek justice for this tragedy. A tattoo, much like the scars of loss through victimization, is something that lasts a lifetime.
The final point I would like to share stems from last September. It was in September of last year that a parole hearing was held in Bowden, Alberta for David Shearing. Some 30 years after this horrific event occurred, over two dozen friends and family members of the Johnson and Bentley families were forced to travel a great distance to appear at a parole hearing to relive this brutal act of unspeakable tragedy. Let us all take a moment to reflect on that.
At a time of year when children and families are excitedly getting ready for a new year of school, the Johnson and Bentley families were forced on a journey of great distance, only to arrive in time to relive a life-altering tragedy and face the monster who forever destroyed their families. How many times should the Johnson and Bentley families be forced to make this journey and relive this horror? It should not have to be this way. No family should be forced to endure what has happened to the Johnsons and Bentleys and that continues to occur as they relive this horrific event over and over at parole hearings.
In closing, I would like to thank the members of the House for taking the time to listen to the concerns of my constituents. This is not a subject or speech that I take any pleasure in sharing. However, there are times where we, as parliamentarians, have an opportunity to speak out on the matters of great concern to the citizens we represent, and this is certainly important to my riding.
Let us never forget the victims. I ask that all members of the House support victims of very serious crimes by voting in favour of Bill C-478.