An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on 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

Mark Warawa  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

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 section 161 of the Criminal Code to require a court to consider making an order prohibiting certain offenders from being within two kilometres, or any other distance specified in the order, of any dwelling-house where the victim identified in the order resides or of any other place specified in the order. It also amends subsection 732.1(2) (probation) to ensure that the offender abstains from communicating with any victim, witness or other person identified in a probation order, or refrains from going to any place specified in the order, except in accordance with certain conditions. It makes similar amendments to section 742.3 (conditional sentence orders) and subsection 810.1(3.02) (conditions of recognizance).

The enactment also amends section 133 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that the releasing authority may impose any conditions on the parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence of an offender that it considers reasonable and necessary in order to protect the victim or the person, including a condition that the offender abstain from having any contact, including communication by any means, with the victim or the person or from going to any specified place.

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. 4, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2013 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues in the House today, on this side and the other side. I was quite impressed with the way that the justice committee seriously considered the benefits of Bill C-489, the safe at home bill. I started from the beginning with a willingness to have amendments to strengthen the bill. The committee participated in that, and there were some important amendments that were installed into the bill. Therefore, I want to thank everyone.

Initially, this came to my attention, as I shared with the House, from the story of a mother who came to my office saying her daughter had been sexually assaulted by the neighbour across the street. After six months in jail, the neighbour was able to serve the rest of his sentence at home. It was horrific to hear from witnesses, particularly the family of the victim, of the horrific experience of having an offender live right across the street from them. They eventually had to move out of that neighbourhood. They just could not take it anymore.

The bill is an important step to deal with this issue of the needs of victims to be able to heal. The courts would retain the important discretion to decide on an appropriate distance. The bill asks for two kilometres, or what the courts would deem as an appropriate distance. The other big improvement with Bill C-489 in our Criminal Code would be with the administrative bodies, Corrections Canada and the National Parole Board. They would then have to carry through with making sure that if the courts deemed a distance was needed, then the distance would need to be maintained throughout the sentence, including after sentencing, through section 810 of the Criminal Code if necessary.

We need to protect the victims and give them a chance to heal. That is what Bill C-489 does. The witnesses we heard at committee unanimously said it is a very good step.

Again, I want to thank the House. I would like to keep my comments short so that debate can collapse in this hour and we can move on to a vote as soon as possible.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2013 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill today.

I will be using the full 10 minutes that I have. It is not that I do not want to proceed to the vote, but I do believe that it is important to highlight my colleague's hard work. This proves to victims that we are here to listen to them and that all we want is to be able to help them get through those extremely difficult times.

All too often, a bill's shortcomings emerge only after a family finds itself in a certain situation. In the case of Bill C-489 introduced by my colleague, the shortcomings and problems related to the role of victims in the justice system will become known only after a particular case that will unfortunately reveal the work that still needs to be done and the steps that need to be taken to improve the legislation and enhance the role of victims in our justice system.

If I am not mistaken, the member who introduced Bill C-489 had the idea after meeting with families and people in his riding who went through extremely difficult situations. I commend him for wanting to change things.

I also commend him for listening to these families and making their voices heard in Parliament, because that is why we are here. Parliament is here to give a voice to the people who are too often silenced, people who are not necessarily heard or who feel no one is listening to them. I want to tell them they were very lucky to have elected a member who could speak up for them here. We are very pleased to be able to support his bill.

I would like to give a brief overview of the bill's provisions and the amendments that have been proposed. I think the amendments made the bill even better. There were a few gaps that we were able to address in committee. That is why we are here today and will support Bill C-489.

The bill amends both the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

I will refer to sections and subsections, but since I do not have their precise wording, I apologize in advance for speaking in vague terms. For example, section 161 deals with the prohibition order and conditions that may be imposed by a judge when someone is convicted. Subsection 732.1(2) addresses probation and section 742.3 concerns the conditional sentence order, commonly called house arrest. This can be thought of as an offender serving his or her sentence in the community. Finally, we have subsection 810.1(3.02), which deals with conditions of recognizance.

Since Parliament has not passed the bill yet, it is currently at the discretion of courts to issue one of these four orders. They have complete discretion as to whether to impose or not impose conditions.

Once Bill C-489 is passed and enacted, it will be mandatory to issue one of these orders, except in certain circumstances. Therefore we are still leaving some discretion to the courts and judges, but they will have the obligation to pay closer attention to this aspect and to issue one of these orders.

This provides the courts with some leeway to not impose this condition in exceptional circumstances.

Nonetheless, it is important to show that we want to fill the legislative gaps in order to protect victims and defend their rights without encroaching on the discretion of the courts. This is a good bill because it gives judges the room to justify their decisions. As legislators, we are telling them to take certain conditions into account, except in exceptional circumstances.

Bill C-489 amends the Criminal Code to that effect, and the second part of the bill amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in exactly the same way. It tells the courts to impose one of these conditions except in exceptional circumstances.

This bill amends the law and gives the courts and judges the discretion to impose certain conditions or not to do so in exceptional circumstances.

It is very important to mention that this bill came out of a number of situations, but one in particular, which received a lot of media attention. In that situation, a family had to live across the street from the person who assaulted their young daughter. They had to deal with this nightmare day after day. Implementing a mandatory distance measure is what this bill is all about.

When an offender is found guilty of a sexual offence involving a minor, the courts will be required to make an order prohibiting the offender from being within two kilometres of his victim. They will have the discretion to decide whether there are exceptional circumstances making it inappropriate to impose the condition.

I think this is a very important measure. That is why we are passing a bill that defends victims and prevents them from having to deal with extremely difficult situations. We are allowing them to cope with their ordeal in their community without any added stress on their daily lives.

I cannot speak from experience, but I can appreciate how stressful it must be for families who have to live so close their child's attacker. I do not have any children, but I can imagine how I would feel if I did.

This bill helps victims, defends their interests and gives them their rightful place in the justice system, all without unduly restricting the courts. That is what makes this such an excellent bill.

I would like to thank my colleague for bringing the voice of his constituents here to Parliament. However, there is a caveat. It is important that the government invest in our justice system so that victims are given their rightful place. For that to happen, we need funding, we need to lessen the burden and we need to respond to provincial requests.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2013 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-489. I would think that all members would support the intent of the legislation in principle, the necessity for those who have been victimized to be assured of some degree of security that the offender will maintain a certain distance from them.

The question that was often raised during discussions of the legislation at committee was whether the legislation, as drafted, was necessary and would withstand a constitutional challenge.

We have increasingly seen that the courts are beginning to respond negatively to the blank mandatory minimum sentences that the government has been imposing on virtaully any and all offenses.

No one argues that in some cases mandatory minimums are not required. No intelligent person argues, given the current government's use of this practice, that a full review of those sentences should not be conducted.

When the sponsor of the bill was asked in the House during second reading about his consultations prior to the bill's introduction as to whether the amendments proposed in the bill would meet a court challenge related to the charter, the member indicated that he had consulted, but he provided no evidence as to whom he had consulted. That I did find troubling.

Changes to public policy, and especially changes to the Criminal Code, should be done to meet a specific and widely held need. This is national legislation that would impact all Canadians. It is not a bylaw in a community or one that might apply to a specific part of a small community. It is the Criminal Code of Canada, and amendments to it should be based on evidence and due diligence.

In that regard, I would put on the record the following exchange. It does not minimize the impact of criminal activity on any individual but places in context the wider concern, which may not exist, according to the member who proposed this legislation.

On November 5, 2013, the following question was posed to the member:

Do you have any numbers on how many people who would be impacted by this bill specifically have found themselves in a situation of having the offender within two miles of their residence?

The answer from the member for Langley was “no”.

Again, the intent of the bill is worthy of support, but what remains troubling is that no evidence as to the extent of the problem is apparently available, and it should be.

Extending from these issues is that the bill itself was subject to a number of amendments in key areas that were of concern to members and witnesses. As a case in point, the bill in its original form mandated that an offender could not reside within two kilometres of the victim and that there would be a requirement that the offender be obligated to have knowledge of the residency of the victim or where the victim could be present.

When asked how the two kilometres was reached, the member indicated that his intent had originally been to set it at five kilometres, and it was reduced to two kilometres to take into account smaller community situations. However, the two kilometres appears now to have been arbitrarily set, the same way five kilometres was. The bill has now been amended in regard to both provisions.

On strict adherence to the two kilometres, government members, on behalf of the government, eliminated the mandatory two-kilometre restriction, allowing judges the discretion, which they currently have under the Criminal Code, to allow, and I will quote the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe at committee, who moved the amendment, “the courts to impose greater or lesser geographic restriction where it is reasonable to do so”.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on private member's Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act with regard to restrictions on offenders.

On the comments of the previous speaker, the member for Malpeque, I am pleased to say that in the House, perfection is never the enemy of the good.

This bill has received the unanimous support of all members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I would like to thank the committee for its thorough review and for reporting back so quickly to the House.

Before I get into the amendments adopted by the committee, I would like to congratulate the member for Langley, British Columbia. I note his important work in promoting the interests of victims, of which this bill is a direct result. I would also note how the member for Langley worked with all parties to gain support for this bill and was open to a number of suggestions to improve the bill, all of which, I believe, makes this bill worthy of the unanimous support of the House.

The government indicated its support for the objectives of this bill, given its consistency with the government's commitment to the rights of victims of crime. In previous Parliaments, this government has taken bold and decisive action in this area, including the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which, among other things, established a new and higher mandatory minimum sentence for sexual offences against children, eliminated conditional sentences for serious and violent crimes, and eliminated record suspensions, formerly known as pardons, for serious offences.

As indicated in the Speech from the Throne on October 16, 2013, this government has committed to introduce and support new legislation that follows through on our belief that victims come before criminals. The Minister of Justice has already fulfilled one important government commitment to crack down on cyberbullying with the introduction of Bill C-13, the protecting Canadians from online crime act, on November 20, 2013.

Bill C-489 is completely consistent with the government's commitment to strengthen the rights of victims at every stage of the criminal justice process. This bill would require judges to either impose or fully consider specific conditions prohibiting contact between offenders and their victims, witnesses, or other individuals to protect them against contact from offenders.

The bill proposes to amend provisions of the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would allow courts and the Parole Board of Canada to impose conditions on offenders released into the community. These include prohibitions for child sexual offenders orders, probation orders, conditional sentences, peace bonds for child sexual offences, and federal penitentiary conditional release orders.

It is estimated that about 110,000 offenders each year would be subject to this new requirement proposed by Bill C-489. The source for this figure is the 2012 Juristat, Statistics Canada, and the Parole Board of Canada's annual report on conditional releases.

Turning to the report of the justice committee, I note that a number of amendments to the bill were adopted by the committee. I would like to briefly summarize these amendments.

The bill proposes to amend section 161 of the Criminal Code. This is a prohibition order that currently requires a judge sentencing a child sexual offender to consider imposing specific prohibitions on the offender that come into effect once the offender is released into the community. These can include prohibitions to stay away from specific places where children might be present and/or not to work or volunteer with children.

The bill proposes to also require the court to consider prohibiting the offender from being within two kilometres of any dwelling house in which the victim can reasonably be expected to be present without a parent or guardian. In considering this proposal, the justice committee expressed concern that it was too rigid, as the court would only have two choices: either impose a two-kilometre restriction or impose no restrictions at all.

While a two-kilometre restriction might well be appropriate in many cases, the committee expressed concern that in many instances it might be too big or possibly not even a big enough distance to achieve the objectives of preventing contact between the victim and the offender. As a result, the committee adopted a motion to require judges to consider conditions of two kilometres or any other distance. I believe this change in the bill makes sense and I will fully support it.

The justice committee also adopted a motion to require the court to consider imposing a condition prohibiting an offender from being in a private vehicle with a child. In adopting this change, the committee recognized that the recent Safe Streets and Communities Act had already enacted a new condition against any unsupervised contact with a child under the age of 16.

Bill C-489 would also require a court to impose mandatory non-contact conditions for all prohibition and conditional sentences under the Criminal Cod”, although there is some discretion retained by the court not to impose such a condition if it finds there are “exceptional circumstances”. In addition, the condition can be waived by the victim if they consent to the contact. The provision would also require a court to provide its reasons in writing if it does find that “exceptional circumstances” exist.

The justice committee also adopted a small number of amendments to these proposals. First, the bill was amended to change the requirement that the judge give written reasons to require the judge to provide reasons in the record.

The committee felt this change was important, as the requirement to provide reasons in writing would have a potentially significant impact on court resources. The new formulation of requiring reasons to be stated in the record would still achieve the desired results of the original clause.

Second, the committee amended these proposals in cases where the identified victim consents to the contact by the offender to require that the victim's consent be in writing or in some other form specified by the court. This would ensure certainty in subsequent proceedings regarding whether or not there was in fact consent. Again, I believe these amendments make sense, and I support them as well.

Bill C-489 proposes to include similar non-contact conditions for section 810.1, peace bonds that are imposed on suspected child sexual offenders. This provision in the Criminal Code allows a recognizance with conditions to be imposed on any individual by a court if there is a reasonable fear that the defendant will commit a sexual offence against a child under the age of 16, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

To maintain consistency and to avoid any confusion in the courts, Bill C-489 has been amended to remove the reference to “exceptional circumstances” in this provision, given the fact that the judge has full discretion to impose any of the listed conditions under section 810.1.

The bill has also been amended to remove the requirement of the court to provide written reasons for the peace bond condition, given that all peace bonds are already required to be provided in writing and filed with the court.

As introduced, the bill also proposed to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that the releasing authority has the ability to impose non-contact conditions on offenders as well as geographic restrictions.

While the Corrections and Conditional Release Act currently authorizes conditions to be imposed upon an offender when granted conditional release, there is no specific obligation to consider the input of victims in determining appropriate conditions.

The committee adopted an amendment to require the releasing authority, either the Parole Board of Canada or the head of the institution, to impose reasonable and necessary conditions on offenders, including non-communication or geographic restrictions if a victim or other person has provided a statement regarding the harm done to them, the continuing impact of the offence, or their safety.

Finally, the committee amended the bill to come into force three months after receiving royal assent to provide adequate opportunity for courts and correctional institutions to prepare for these reforms.

I fully support the efforts of the sponsor of the bill to enhance the level of protection afforded to victims when offenders are released into the community.

Bill C-489, as amended by the justice committee, goes a long way to address concerns that all too often offenders are able to come into close proximity to their victims. I agree that Bill C-489 will help to ensure that victims, their families, witnesses, and other individuals will feel safe in their homes and in their communities when offenders are released.

I hope all hon. members will join me in passing the bill.

Private Members' BusinessOpening Of The Second Session Of The 41St Parliament

October 16th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members’ business from session to session within a Parliament.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 41st Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

As such, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the Order Paper at the conclusion of the previous session are automatically reinstated to the Order Paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

All items will keep the same number as in the first session of the 41st Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the Order Paper but had not yet been introduced will be republished on the Order Paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be recertified by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

Of course all items in the order of precedence remain on the order of precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

Specifically, at prorogation there were three private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees will be required to report on each of these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, prior to prorogation, nine private members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House: Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials); Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II day; Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity); Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting); Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue; Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders); Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); Bill C-394, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment); and Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted these nine bills.

Consideration of private members’ business will start on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

As members may be aware, among the items in the order of precedence or deemed referred to committee, there are four bills standing in the name of members recently appointed as parliamentary secretaries who, by virtue of their office, are not eligible to propose items during the consideration of private members' business.

Bill C-511, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence) and Bill C-517, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) were awaiting debate at second reading in the order of precedence at the time of prorogation.

Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), and Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), were in committee at the time of prorogation and, as stated earlier, have been returned there.

This is in keeping with the principle expressed at pages 550-551 and 1125 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which provides that bills remain on the order of precedence since they are in the possession of the House and only the House can take further decision on them.

These items are therefore without eligible sponsors but remain in the possession of the House or its committees. If no action is taken, at the appropriate time these items will eventually be dropped from the Order Paper, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(c).

Hon. members will find at their desks a detailed explanatory note about private members’ business. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this session. The table officers are available to answer any questions members may have.

I thank all members for their attention.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-489, a bill that proposes to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

I would like to begin by recognizing the member for Langley for his hard work in bringing this important bill forward.

I would like to start by commending the hard work done by the member for Langley to introduce this bill to the House.

Like others in the House, I am a relatively new member here. However, in the few years I have been the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, I have already encountered the very challenging situation on which this bill proposes to take action. I suspect I am not the only parliamentarian who has encountered these difficult situations.

When a victim who has been violently sexually assaulted learns that the criminal responsible seeks to return to the very same neighbourhood where these crimes were committed, serious challenges arise. Likewise, when a child predator desires to return to a neighbourhood, there are similar challenges.

These are not hypothetical situations. In fact, there have been three such incidents occurring in my riding over the past few years. These situations re-victimize and create legitimate fear. In some situations, it is even worse. No citizens should be forced to live in fear within their own neighbourhood.

When these situations arise and fearful citizens meet with their elected representatives, they need our help. They need action. That is why I commend the member for Langley, as his bill creates new tools that would help find the solution to these challenging situations.

This bill would enhance the safety of victims, children and the public when an offender is released into their community. Specifically, the bill proposes to amend existing provisions that provide authority to impose conditions on offenders who are already subject to probation orders, conditional sentences, child sexual offender prohibitions, child sexual offender peace bonds and conditional release orders made pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which include parole and temporary absences from federal penitentiaries. These five different orders cover the vast majority of situations where criminal offenders are released into a community.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-489 would ensure that courts take into consideration the implications that contact could create between an offender and victims, their families and witnesses. As an example, some of the proposed amendments would create mandatory non-contact conditions, while others would create new legal tools for the court to impose similar conditions on a discretionary basis.

Currently, section 161 of the Criminal Code does provide sentencing courts with the discretion to impose post-release conditions on offenders convicted of child sexual offences. These conditions can include prohibitions from attending a public place such as a park, playground or community centre where children are present; seeking, obtaining or continuing any employment that involves being in a position of trust toward a child; having any contact with a child; and using the Internet. In contrast, Bill C-489 proposes to add two new conditions to this list that would allow a geographical condition restricting the offender from being within two kilometres of a home where a victim might be present without a parent or guardian, and the ability to prohibit an offender from being in a private vehicle with a child.

Bill C-489 also proposes important amendments to the list of mandatory conditions imposed upon an offender released into the community under a probation order, a conditional sentence order or a conditional release order made pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

In particular, it is proposed that sentencing courts or the Parole Board of Canada be required to prohibit offenders from communicating with victims, witnesses or other persons named in the order. This could also include a prohibition from going to any specified place.

What I view as important in Bill C-489 is that these conditions are considered mandatory. In other words, it becomes the default standard that in these situations offenders are prohibited from making contact with their victims.

However, Bill C-489 also recognizes that if exceptional circumstances exist, the court or parole board may choose not to impose them. In other words, there is still flexibility. However, the default standard is to protect the witness and not the offender. In these exceptional circumstances, the court or parole board would be required to provide written reasons for not imposing such a condition. This would bring increased accountability and transparency to the process.

Bill C-489 also proposes to amend peace bonds, as defined under section 810.1. Currently, peace bonds are court-imposed orders that are issued when there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual may commit a child sexual offence. These orders may be in effect to a maximum of two years and can also be renewed. Currently, these orders contain conditions that a judge believes are appropriate in the circumstances to prevent an offender from committing a child sexual offence.

Bill C-489 proposes to add new discretionary conditions that could prohibit communication with a person identified in the order or prohibit going to any specified place identified in the order. These new conditions would not be mandatory, and as such, would maintain the current discretionary approach that could be used by judges in issuing these orders. Ultimately, I believe that the measures proposed in the bill would help to ensure victims were better protected from offenders.

There is no question that Bill C-489 would strengthen the tools of our justice system that could be used to prevent offenders released into a community from contacting victims or from travelling to other locations where such contact could occur. In other words, it would eliminate loopholes that can be exploited under our current system.

These proposals would also ensure that, by default, victims had protections that often can only occur under the present system after an unfortunate incident has occurred.

Victims of crime, their families and witnesses deserve this default level of protection from offenders. People deserve to feel safe in their communities. That is why I will be supporting Bill C-489 moving forward to committee for further review and study. I believe these amendments are important in helping to close existing loopholes and to better protect victims.

I sincerely believe that these amendments are essential to improving the Criminal Code's current provisions and ensuring better protection for the victims of crime.

I also believe that increased clarity and enhanced public safety provisions in the bill would be of benefit to offenders' long-term interests as well. The current system, in my view, allows too much potential for conflict and has too many loopholes. These amendments would increase public safety by better protecting the rights of victims and their loved ones.

I had the opportunity to teach martial arts professionally for 15 years. During that time I trained hundreds, if not thousands, of young persons to better protect themselves from child predators, to look out for themselves. One of the things I did during that time was to give them the tools to help protect them.

Recently, a child asked me if I missed teaching martial arts. I certainly do miss elements, but I am devoted to helping make sure children get the protection they need.

The member for Langley has put together some very important amendments that I feel would help close these loopholes and better protect these children. There are also the members for Kootenay—Columbia and for Brampton—Springdale. All of them have brought forward important amendments to help protect children.

I ask all hon. members to join with me and with the member for Langley and support these important changes that would help keep our families safe.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is never an easy thing to talk about a subject that concerns people who have been the victims of crimes such as violence or sexual assault. I can very clearly imagine the victims’ frame of mind.

Although the legislation permits a certain level of control over the accused or the person convicted of a crime, the restrictions with regard to the victim are not enforced immediately. At the moment, these restrictions are the responsibility of wardens, the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Parole Board of Canada.

Bill C-489 makes it mandatory to impose certain provisions, which until now have been imposed on an ad hoc basis. This should help the victims of crime feel safer while at the same time giving them the tools they need to know what is happening with their attacker once the sentence has been handed down. Unlike other measures that have resulted from the Conservatives’ “tough on crime” mentality, I must admit that the bill is just common sense and it should be allowed to continue its course. I will therefore support the bill at second reading.

That said, I recommend that the government hold all the necessary consultations—I repeat, all the necessary consultations—and listen to what all those involved have to say, in order to draft legislation that is truly appropriate.

I am in favour of the bill because I fully support measures that promote fairness and protect victims. I approve of this measure in the same way and in the same spirit as I would approve of subsidized housing, for example. It is a social justice issue. It goes without saying that some victims of crime have suffered immeasurably. My desire to help them arises not from sensationalism, but from the point of view of a world where everyone is treated fairly. From this perspective, it makes sense to try to offer greater peace of mind to those who have lived through difficult and disturbing events.

That being said, the NDP will consult with victims’ groups in order to find out whether Bill C-489 really responds to their needs or whether it will only apply in rare cases. We have an opportunity to listen to them and draft a bill that is based on fact. We must seize this opportunity at any cost, and work together with the citizens of this country.

In addition to listening to what victims of crime have to say, I would also like to ensure the bill is scrupulously constitutional. Bill C-489 has all the elements for success, but we know that there is a weakness in terms of clause 1, the clause amending subsection 161(1) of the Criminal Code.

This reservation comes from the clerk of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, who expressed concerns about the constitutionality of such a measure, one of his reasons being because the offender is expected to know the address of the victim’s residence. It should be noted that the committee nevertheless deemed the bill votable. It is surely not a shortcoming that is impossible to correct, and I am convinced that we will be able to clarify the matter before third reading.

In order to give the victims of crime the best protection we can, I think it is important to consider these few reservations. We have before us an opportunity to improve Bill C-489 and give Canadians a bill that lives up to their expectations.

Furthermore, it is interesting to mention the point of view of Michael Spratt, of the Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario. In Mr. Spratt's view, Bill C-489 may be difficult to enforce in its current state, because it may lead to disproportionate measures.

This bill is quite restrictive because of the mandatory nature of the measures it puts in place.

In addition, there are already provisions that impose a minimum distance of 100 metres between the criminal and the victim, and others that prohibit contact between those on probation and their victims. We know that it is not always a simple matter to ensure this is respected.

Mr. Spratt concluded that Bill C-489 would be difficult to enforce in small communities, as well as in urban areas, as the distances are smaller. In his view, the fact that the bill could technically be used in an extreme way in the case of relatively minor offences threatens its constitutionality.

These are interesting issues that have been brought forward by someone who knows what he is talking about. We will therefore have to consider the bill in greater detail and ensure that everything is correct. After all, if the Conservatives are defending the constitutionality of an institution as antiquated as the Senate, surely they will not have any problem refining Bill C-489.

I will not go as far as to say, as Mr. Spratt did, that the bill is a disproportionate response to very specific cases, but this is my own opinion. I think that there is in fact room for providing better protection for victims of crime. For instance, the bill could allow victims to have more information about the stages in their attacker's correctional process.

It may well be very worrying for a victim to be unaware of what is happening to the person who caused him harm, once the sentence has been handed down. Will the offender be getting out of prison soon? What is his behaviour like? Has he begun the rehabilitation process? For a person who has suffered enormously from someone else’s actions, it may be reassuring to believe that it is possible to correct deviant behaviour.

Furthermore, this is the underlying principle of our correctional system. I am pleased to see that the Conservatives all believe that a person can change and correct his behaviour, as it partly opens the door to many options that the core of their “tough on crime” approach obsolete.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I support Bill C-489 at second reading because I believe we must help victims of crime for the simple reason that it is fair to do so. However, I urge the House to listen carefully to the recommendations made by those who are the most affected by considering the recommendations made by groups representing victims of crime.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, like so many of my colleagues, I am happy to be able to speak today with respect to my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders).

I am proud to support this bill. It is another great piece of legislation that has been brought forward either by our government or members of our government who bring forward what I like to describe as, in many cases, common sense and practical solutions to some of the issues that are facing our criminal justice system today.

It reminds me of a couple of other pieces of legislation that we have brought forward, for example, when we brought forward the issue with victim surcharges. Part of the problem in that case was that judges were not imposing the surcharge, and when they did not, they were supposed to give written reasons. We found out that 90% of the time that surcharges were not imposed, the judges did not actually give written reasons. We made it mandatory that those victim surcharges would be put in place.

This bill would continue to support our agenda to make sure that our streets and communities are safe for all Canadians. It does it in a couple of meaningful ways, and I will go into that as I speak about it.

In a quick summary, the bill would ensure that sentencing courts and parole boards more regularly impose conditions when appropriate to prohibit specific types of contact between offenders and their victims. It proposes that such conditions be imposed to protect witnesses and other individuals who need similar protection.

Again, I say these kinds of things that are being brought forward just make sense. If we asked the average person if there should be conditions to prohibit types of conduct between offenders and victims, people would say, “Yes, that makes sense”.

I am not surprised that in many instances the opposition and opposition members would suggest this bill is not necessary, because the current law already provides that this could take place, but that is the problem. These conditions are not being put in place in many circumstances.

That is the same issue as the victim surcharge issue. For example, in this case, prohibition orders always include three mandatory conditions. These conditions are to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, of course the promise to appear when required, and to notify the court or probation officer in advance of any change of name or address, or any change of employment or occupation.

A sentencing court may also impose any of the optional conditions that are set out in subsection 732.1(3) of the Criminal Code, which includes drug and alcohol prohibitions, restrictions against travel, weapon prohibitions, requirements to support dependants and community service conditions.

The list of mandatory and optional conditions does not include conditions that restrict contact between offenders and victims. This is what I go back to when I say these reforms are such common sense things. One would think that would be at the top of the agenda, restricting contact between the perpetrator of a crime and the victim of a crime. Sentencing courts are also not required to provide reasons when they do not choose to do that. I would submit that makes absolutely no sense when we take a moment to think about it.

Lastly, subsection 732.1(g.1) provides a residual condition under which a court may impose reasonable conditions that are desirable for protecting society and for facilitating the offender's successful reintegration into the community. It is only pursuant to this residual provision that a sentencing court has the authority to impose a condition that would limit contact between the victim and the offender, or prevent the offender from moving across the street from the victim. It is a residual provision.

This is why a reform like this is so absolutely necessary. There are some examples in the case law where sentencing courts have imposed conditions restricting contact between offenders and their victims. For instance, in the case of R v. Horton, the offender, a G20 demonstrator, was made subject to a condition of non-contact with a named police officer who was a victim of the offender's actions.

That said, the appellate decision on the use of this provision underlined the problems with respect to its use in limiting contact between offenders and their victims. Specifically, the courts may refuse such conditions if by their nature they act against the successful reintegration of the offender. This is upside down. This is topsy-turvy. This is what we are talking about. We are putting the rights of the person who perpetrated a crime ahead of the rights of a victim. These imbalances need to be addressed in our justice system.

The Supreme Court of Canada stressed that in order for the probation order conditions to be lawful, they must not offend the objectives of protecting society or the successful reintegration of the offender. It is saying both are important and have to be given due consideration. Two Supreme Court of Canada cases, R. v. Proulx and R. v. Shoker, were very clear about this principle. There must be a nexus between the condition imposed, the offender's behaviour, the protection of society and the successful reintegration of the offender into society. We are trying to reinstitute that balance to make sure that the victim and protection of society is going to be back in that equation. However, as I said, the offender's interests supersedes the rights of the victim and the protection of society, and that is exactly what we are going to address with this legislation.

A good example of this can be found in the decision of R. v. Rowe, where the Ontario Court of Appeal found that a condition directing a repeat domestic violent offender to stay out of the province of Ontario for the duration of the probation order would be an obstacle to the successful reintegration of the offender, a repeat domestic violent offender. That kind of an order is an obstacle to reintegration. What about the obstacle to the victim? That is what we are trying to put back into focus. This is a problem that makes relying on the existing provision difficult and why we need this reform.

As I stated before, the courts are not required to provide reasons for not imposing such conditions, so we do not even know if that condition was considered by the judge or why the judge considered it and did not impose it. These are the kinds of problems that we have with the existing legislation. As a result of this, non-contact conditions simply fall through the cracks, and victims are asking why no one thought about them, why are they falling through the cracks? These are important reforms.

Bill C-489 proposes a real sound solution to the problem that we are talking about. I go back to this again. What I say often is that it is common sense. When explained to average people on the street that we are making this kind of a change, they are shocked that the law did not provide for this before. They cannot believe it. The justice committee is studying some of the changes to not criminally responsible, and we let them know what some of the changes are. People cannot believe that the changes that we are proposing are not already in existence now.

Bill C-489 proposes to amend the probation provisions to make it mandatory for the courts to impose non-contact conditions, unless there are exceptional circumstances not to do so or unless the victim or other individuals mentioned in the order consent. This is going to give more protection, more mental protection as well, to victims. Imagine that a perpetrator continues to be in contact with a victim of domestic violence. The victim will ask why some kind of prohibition order was not put in place.

Many of the concerns I have identified are applicable to other orders. This is why Bill C-489 proposes that the same types of conditions be mandatory for conditional sentence orders imposed by sentencing courts and for all conditional releases imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.

This bill would also require courts to consider imposing such conditions in all child sex offender peace bonds. This just makes sense. It is a reform that we absolutely need to move forward with.

Victims, their families and witnesses need the protection of the courts and parole authorities when an offender is released into the community. We have to get this done; it is going to provide more safety and ensure that witnesses and victims are protected.

This legislation is consistent with our government's commitment to putting victims' rights back on the agenda. That is why I am proud to support the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to speak to Bill C-489. However, I definitely do not share the enthusiasm of my colleague who has just spoken.

I will explain that. I have had the honour of serving on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and having the opportunity to examine various private members’ bills brought forward by Conservative members. I will not pretend that it has not been somewhat dismaying to see the Conservatives’ remarkable talent for transforming gold into lead, using some process of alchemy that completely exceeds my powers of comprehension.

I sound like I am teasing or trying to make a joke about it, but we must always be very careful when we embark on amending the Criminal Code. This is fundamental, because the Criminal Code is very complex and has very wide application. Amendments can sometimes create more complications than solutions, at least when they are made without due care and attention.

However, I have to say that the bill introduced by the member for Langley is in fact very important. What is particularly worthwhile about it is that it potentially offers some real measures to protect and support victims of crime. That is what my New Democratic colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will be looking at very closely. I have absolutely no doubt of that.

We cannot deny that the bill is relatively promising. What concerns me, first, is the marketing job being done by the member for Langley and his colleagues. By focusing attention on the protection of minors, they are pandering to their political base. They are tugging at people’s heartstrings and then trying to score an easy goal in an area like this.

This is a very debatable approach. However, compared to a number of bills proposing Criminal Code amendments that were very punitive and went down the road of lengthening sentences for criminals, without a thought for victims, this is something innovative and different. As I said, it is promising, from what I have been able to see of it.

First of all, we will have to see what the effect of this bill is and what problem it will remedy. I am going to cite a case in Quebec City that received a lot of media coverage, the case of police officer Sandra Dion, who was a victim of a violent crime. She was assaulted with a screwdriver and was very traumatized. The worst thing is that Ms. Dion learned that the offender who had savagely attacked her, and who has psychiatric problems, was potentially eligible to live in a halfway house in Quebec City near her own home. This distressed her enormously. She reacted by moving to Ottawa for a few days. In fact, she came to try to meet with members and make them aware of her case, particularly members of the party in power. Her efforts met a somewhat disappointing fate.

However, based on her testimony and her case, and other similar cases, we can perhaps hope to improve the bill or at least determine whether it covers her situation. If not, we should improve the bill so she will have a way of getting what is needed so she can have some assurance of her safety and some influence over the situation and the release of the assailant who savagely attacked her.

I should note that Ms. Dion was in fact able to use the existing system to ensure that the authorities who supported releasing her assailant did not send him to the halfway house that had been planned, because it was not equipped to handle him, given his very significant medication needs.

As I said, I will support the bill at second reading because I have confidence in the work that will be done at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I would nonetheless like to share some concerns with my colleagues. When I was a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I observed the Conservative members' very bad knee-jerk response as they sought to limit the powers of the judges and other authorities who carry out decisions.

I understand that some decisions made by the courts can sometimes be difficult for the public to understand, and decisions can seem out of sync with the media reports of a case, which unfortunately often do not tell the whole story.

Our justice system is predicated on the presumption of innocence. Obviously, it then provides for justice to be done, both for the complainant and for the defendant. If we do not maintain that balance, what confidence can all of the parties involved, not to mention the general public, have in our justice system?

When we too readily do an injustice, and do it repeatedly, it may offer a false sense of security, and that can lead to a great many problems in our society. There is nothing worse than an innocent person having to suffer the stigma associated with a charge and the impossibility or serious difficulty of restoring their good name or being able to shed all of the suspicion they have been tarred with.

To come back to the accused persons who are affected by the bill, we must never forget that every case is unique, although the law tries to cover all cases. One of the ideals is to make rules and provisions that apply generally and allow for some individualized interpretation or involvement by judges, with the help of the justice system and the lawyers, both for the Crown and for the defence. Instead of easily applying a strict rule that is inappropriate in some cases, the judgment of justice system experts can be applied in an individualized manner.

That is something that will have to be investigated and ascertained when the bill goes to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I cannot emphasize that enough. I am in fact confident that my colleagues on the justice committee want to take a good look at this aspect, and I am going to watch the proceedings very closely.

To conclude, I cannot emphasize enough that, as I said at the outset, what is most worthwhile about the bill brought forward by the member for Langley is that it opens the door part-way to concrete measures that will potentially assist victims of crime in order to provide them with support. I think this is really the point we have to focus on. We have to hold onto that so we can find common ground, so we can propose a bill that will amend the targeted provisions in fairly and efficiently and genuinely protect the public interest.

I will hold onto that thin ray of hope.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2013 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak to the bill.

I want to share with the House how the bill came about. About two years ago, a constituent visited me in my office. She was a mom and she told me the story about her daughter who had been sexually assaulted by the neighbour right across the street. That was a horrific experience for the whole family. Then the horror continued as the courts permitted the offender to serve a large portion of the sentence at home.

The family lived in terror, keeping its blinds closed. The members of the family were afraid to go out because they might have seen the offender. Every time they would return to their neighbourhood and home, a home that should be safe in a neighbourhood they loved, from work or school, the whole family, the mother, the father, the siblings would have this horrible feeling in their gut of whether they would see this person and how would they respond to the person.

It was a very friendly, close-knit neighbourhood, with neighbourhood barbecues on the street, and that all ended when the courts provided the offender the opportunity to serve the sentence at home, which was right across the street from the victim.

I appreciate my colleagues across the way expressing concern that this may be a knee-jerk reaction. I can assure them this is not. Shortly after reviewing this horrific story, I contacted other members, including the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca. I knew of his legal experience. Through the consultation process, even talking to members across the way, Bill C-489 was developed.

I thank all members of the House for indicating support for the bill to go to the next step, the justice committee. It is important we develop something that will consider the victims and the impact of sentencing on the victims, and I believe the bill does that.

I thank the legal experts from private members' business. I thank the Minister of Justice and the minister's staff, particularly Dominic. I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, the member for Brampton West, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, the opposition members and the critics. I would not have been able to move forward without their help.

The duty of each of us is to make Parliament work. We are doing that with Bill C-489. I look forward to critiquing it, amending it, so it makes it even safer.

On behalf of all Canadians, I thank all members of Parliament as we work to make all Canadian homes safer.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 21st, 2013 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

moved that Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon for seconding this motion.

I am honoured to stand here and speak on my new Bill C-489, which is also called the “safe at home bill”. I do so on behalf of my constituents in Langley and other young victims who have lived in fear of their offenders. I am in awe of their bravery and courage to fight for the rights of future victims.

In my riding of Langley, two brave families lived in constant turmoil when the sex offenders of their children were permitted to serve house arrest in their neighbourhoods. In one case, the sex offender served a sentence right across the street from the victim, and in the other case, right next door. That is outrageous.

Neither child felt safe in their home or their neighbourhood, which is the very place where they should feel the safest. Their doors were locked and the blinds were kept closed. Every time they saw the sex offender the entire family was re-victimized. The families lived in continual turmoil as they watched the offenders possibly looking for an opportunity to reoffend or hurt somebody else. Their homes in the neighbourhoods that they had loved were now places they dreaded because their attackers were there. One family could not take the stress any more, which forced them to move out of the neighbourhood they had spent so many years loving.

One mother came to my office and asked me, “Why should we have to move from our home when we are the victims?” That is a good question. Everyone should have the right to feel safe in their home, and victims of sexual assault should be no exception.

This is why I brought forward Bill C-489, which I believe meets these important concerns head-on. If passed, the bill would help to ensure the safety of victims and witnesses from convicted offenders. It would enhance the level of confidence that victims have in the justice system as well as help them feel that the justice system is hearing and responding to their concerns. The bill would achieve these objectives by proposing a number of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Bill C-489 would prevent offenders, when released from prison, from contacting victims or witnesses. Specifically, the bill proposes that when an offender is convicted of a child sexual offence, the sentencing court would be required to consider imposing a specific geographic restriction of two kilometres from any dwelling in which the offender knows or ought to know that a victim may be present as well as a condition prohibiting the offender from being alone in any private vehicle with a child under the age of 16. Efforts to prevent contact between offenders and their victims should serve to increase public safety and victims' confidence in the sentencing process.

The bill would also require courts to impose conditions in all probation orders and conditional sentencing orders prohibiting an offender from communicating with any victim or witness, or from going to any place identified in the order. Although these conditions would be mandatory, the court could decide not to impose them if the victim or witness consented or if the court found exceptional circumstances, in which case written reasons would be required to explain the findings. I believe this would enhance public safety and confidence in the justice system by helping to ensure that victims and witnesses would not be contacted by offenders upon their release into the community except in exceptional circumstances or where the individual consents.

The bill also proposes to amend recognizance or peace bonds against individuals when there is a reasonable fear that they may commit a future child sex offence.

Specifically, the bill proposes to amend Section 810.1, peace bonds, to require a court to consider imposing conditions prohibiting the defendant from contacting any individual or going to any place named in the recognizance. As with the proposed probation and conditional sentence order amendments, the court could choose not to impose the conditions in the peace bond where there is consent of the individual or where the court finds exceptional circumstances. This amendment would also lead to enhanced public safety for victims and witnesses.

Lastly, Bill C-489 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or the CCRA, to require decision-makers under that act to consider similar conditions. I would like to consider this amendment a bit more fully.

Currently under the CCRA, Parole Board of Canada tribunals and correctional officials are authorized to impose conditions on an offender when the individual is being released into the community under parole, stat release or temporary absence orders. This type of gradual and supervised conditional release into the community prior to the expiration of sentence is intended to help ensure public safety and successful reintegration of the offender into society. This is especially true where the offender has been imprisoned for many years and will have difficulty re-entering society without a carefully planned and monitored release strategy that includes tailored conditions and specialized programs that the offender must abide by at all times.

According to the 2012 Conditional Services of Canada annual report, there are currently about 22,000 offenders under the authority of the federal corrections system. About two-thirds of these offenders were convicted of a violent or sexual offence. About 38%, almost 9,000 offenders, are at any given time under active supervision in the community by corrections officers. All 9,000 of those offenders are required to abide by a mix of mandatory and discretionary conditions imposed by the authority of the CCRA. If offenders breach their conditions, they are subject to disciplinary measures, including having their conditional release revoked and being required to serve out the remainder of their sentence in prison. As the CCRA is currently structured, Section 133 provides the authority of the Parole Board of Canada, for example, to impose at its discretion any type of condition that meets the two objectives of conditional release. The first and primary consideration is public safety.

The second consideration is the successful reintegration of the offender into the community. Section 133 also references the regulations of the CCRA regarding mandatory conditions of release. Under this legislative authority, Section 161 of the regulations prescribes a number of specific conditions that must be imposed for all offenders in the community under conditional release, such as reporting as required to their parole officer, not possessing any weapons and reporting any changes in their address or employment, among other things.

While it is not uncommon for the Parole Board of Canada under the current regime to exercise its discretion to impose conditions prohibiting contact between offenders and victims when released, the point is that these are not mandatory conditions nor are these conditions that the Parole Board of Canada is required to consider under the current Section 133. I spoke earlier about the two cases in my riding of Langley where the victims and their families felt that their welfare had not been taken into account when these decisions were made by the Parole Board of Canada.

One of the objectives of Bill C-489 is to respond to these types of concerns. It proposes new mandatory conditions prohibiting the offender from communicating with any identified victims or witnesses and from going to a place identified in the condition. This objective is entirely consistent with the government's initiatives that have provided a greater emphasis on safer communities in general and victims in particular.

As with the bill's other proposed amendments, the releasing authority would not have to impose the condition if there were exceptional circumstances or if the identified individual consented. These two exceptions would ensure that the provision is flexible enough to accommodate the types of circumstances that would undoubtedly occur in practice.

Where the releasing authority does find that exceptional circumstances do exist, reasons for making that finding must be provided in writing explaining how it came to that conclusion. I believe this requirement would ensure that victims and witnesses better understand the Parole Board's decisions.

I expect that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will want to fully consider this bill and its operational impacts to ensure that it operates as intended and that its objectives are fully achieved.

Public confidence in our justice system is important. It pains me to hear from victims of crime that they have to speak out to say that they have been forgotten and that the justice system does not consider how sentencing affects them. This is a gap that Bill C-489 seeks to address and I believe it hits the mark.

I hope by tabling this bill that this House and this government will act to enhance public safety by holding criminals accountable, by enhancing the voice of the victims and by making victims feel safe in their homes and neighbourhoods. I ask for support from the hon. members in the House in helping to get the bill passed into law so that young victims and their families can feel safe at home and in their neighbourhoods.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 21st, 2013 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Conservative colleague for his Bill C-489.

I would just like to ask him a quick question. I understand that the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business studied the bill and deemed it votable, which is why we are now considering it in the House. However, the clerk stated that clause 1 of the bill, amending subsection 161(1) of the Criminal Code, could pose problems. He pointed out that although this clause was not clearly unconstitutional, it could still face a constitutional challenge.

I would therefore ask my hon. colleague whether he consulted with constitutional experts—other than the law clerks who help us draft bills—to ensure that the bill was indeed constitutional.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 21st, 2013 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-489, introduced by the hon. member for Langley. This important bill certainly addresses a number of problems that many people have raised, including the ombudsman for victims.

The New Democratic Party does not play political games with bills amending the Criminal Code. We feel it is better to address serious issues and solve serious problems in a logical way that is consistent with the Criminal Code.

Since I like to get straight to the point, I will say to the member opposite that we are going to support his bill at second reading. We believe that everyone in the House should be concerned about victims, not for a political purpose, but because we really want to help them on the path to recovery—if there is such a path, because it is not always clear. Some horrible crimes cause such terrible harm that, regardless of what we can do to mitigate things, regardless of anything we can do, it will never go away.

To follow up on the question I asked my colleague about Bill C-489, I think the study by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will help us see if the bill can pass the charter compatibility test. When the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business was studying the bill, the clerk said that it was not clearly unconstitutional, but that it could be susceptible to a constitutional challenge. That sends a message. The committee will determine if this passes the compatibility test.

When she asked her excellent question, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue clearly said that, for a number of reasons, it might be difficult to apply Bill C-489 in some cases. For one thing, it would prevent someone from moving to an area near the victim. That implies that the criminal serving a sentence would know where the victim lives, which seems problematic to me. Something about that bothers me.

However, as I told my colleagues when we were studying Bill C-489 before recommending that it be supported at second reading, I appreciate that some discretion was left to the courts. The committee will also have to verify whether the courts will be able to fully exercise their discretion.

This discretion should not be seen as some undefined power. The public sometimes sees it as being soft on criminals, to the detriment of victims. Here, it simply means that judges will look at the facts of each individual case.

In some circumstances, it may be difficult to set certain conditions. For example, it may be more difficult in a town than in a city, where the offender could live 5, 6 or 7 kilometres away.

I appreciate how my colleague from Langley crafted his bill. He did not strip the courts of all discretionary power, as the government opposite so often does. That approach jeopardizes bills, even those that the Conservative government passes, because there is a large black cloud hovering over their heads, and it leads defence lawyers to challenge certain provisions.

We cannot allow this legal game to even get started. We need to make it clear that the facts will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, the best sentence will be applied in each situation, once the person is found guilty. The judge is in the best position to do that, or the jury in certain circumstances.

That is why this bill is so important. We have been saying that all along, despite what is being said at press conferences. I am tired of hearing it, particularly from the Minister of Justice. In my opinion, he should rise above the fray. The justice minister and Attorney General of Canada is not simply a political partisan, he is the keeper of Canadian laws. In that context, I feel that always bringing the debate back to “we're tough on crime, they're soft on crime” demeans his public office. It is a question of respect for the law.

All the NDP justice critics have taken this position. I would have liked to name them, but since I am not allowed to do so, I will just say that I am talking about the hon. member for St. John's East and his predecessor. I can never remember the riding names. What matters is that I remember the name of my own riding.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 21st, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to enumerate some of the goals of the justice system, because it is important that we place legislation dealing with criminal offences and so on within the context of the principles that guide the justice system. We could say that the point of the justice system is, first, to reinforce acceptable norms of behaviour; second, to protect society from those who have proven that their actions can cause harm; and third, to ensure that only the guilty pay for their crimes and that the innocent are not convicted. These seem to be, in general, the overriding goals of our justice system, a system that has evolved slowly but surely over centuries.

It turns out that because the justice system is focusing on these three principles, often the interests of victims are ignored, albeit unintentionally. Bill C-489 would attempt to provide some assistance to victims.

Bill C-489 would deal mostly with sexual offences, though not exclusively, as I understand it. Sexual offences create a unique kind of vulnerability among the victims. They are a unique kind of violation compared to, for example, car theft or house break-ins when individuals are not at home. Both of those crimes create a terrible sense of vulnerability as well, but we are talking here of sexual offences and the particular sense of vulnerability they create.

I agree with the hon. member that the interests of victims of sexual crimes have often been overlooked in our criminal justice system. Liberals support the intent of Bill C-489. We are not certain that the bill would bring about meaningful progress in all cases for victims or prospective victims of sexual crimes. I say “prospective” victims, because the bill would also deal with recognizance orders, where an individual has not committed a criminal act but poses a threat to another person.

We support sending the bill to committee to ascertain its merits in attaining a goal that, obviously, we all share in this House.

I understand that the bill is motivated by the MP for Langley's particular experience with some victims in his riding. In fact, the member stated:

[A] sex offender...was permitted to serve House arrest right next door to his young victim. In another case, the sex offender served House arrest across the street from the victim. In both cases, the young victims lived in fear and were re-victimized every time they saw their attacker.

Obviously, that situation, which the hon. member for Langley described, leaves all members in disbelief and with a view that something should be done.

Bill C-489 would introduce two prohibitions through amendments to two laws. Number one, it would amend the Criminal Code, and number two, it would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

In terms of Criminal Code changes, as I understand it, the bill would deal with subsection 161(1) of the Criminal Code, which allows conditions to be placed on offenders who receive conditional discharges for sexual offences. This discharge is sometimes granted in cases where the offence carries no minimum sentence and a maximum possible sentence of less than 14 years. In this case, as I understand it, the accused would not have a criminal record if all of the conditions imposed as part of the conditional discharge were respected.

Bill C-489 seeks to add to the list of conditions that may be imposed by a judge. This is a very specific list, and as I understand it, the judge cannot impose conditions beyond this list. It is important that a specific point be made in adding this condition, because it is not something the judge could impose if he or she saw fit. We are talking about the condition that an offender must be no closer than two kilometres from the house where he or she knows or ought to know that the victim is alone. Similarly, another condition would be that the offender would not be allowed to be in a private vehicle with any person under the age of 16 without his or her guardians' consent.

It is important to note that the list of possible conditions in this instance is finite. There is no flexibility here for the judge to impose other conditions beyond those listed. Therefore, this is the only place where adding conditions might make sense, since it gives the sentencing judge the ability to prohibit the offender from living near the victim. As I said, it is important to specify the condition, because there is no latitude for the judge to impose it.

In the bill there is also a restriction on contacting victims. I am not sure if it pertains to those who have committed sexual offences. The bill extends the list of conditions the court must, or shall, prescribe for offenders on probation.

At the moment, section 732.1 of the code has two sets of conditions. One set is conditions the judge shall impose. The second set is conditions the judge may impose.

In this case, the bill would add a new “shall” condition. The court would have to impose this condition on an offender, for example, who is on probation or is under a conditional sentence. If it chose not to impose the condition, the court would have to explain, in writing, why it was not choosing to add this condition.

We understand the intent of this part of the bill. What I would say is that, at the moment, the list of possible conditions for probation orders and conditional sentences both include “such other reasonable conditions as the court considers desirable.” In other words, in this case, the judge has the latitude to impose conditions that are not specifically prescribed on a list. Presumably, the court could already order offenders not to have contact with their victims or not to visit certain places, if it saw fit to do so.

The point I am trying to make is that unlike the first amendment, about staying within two kilometres of where the victim would be residing, in this case, we have to ask ourselves if this particular amendment to the Criminal Code is necessary, given that the court already has the latitude to impose this condition.

I congratulate the hon. member for bringing this bill forward. I know that he is attempting to address a very serious flaw in our criminal justice system. I look forward to discussing and studying the bill at committee so that we can see and understand the extent to which the bill achieves its stated goals.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 21st, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to rise today to speak in support of private member's Bill C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders), introduced by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Langley.

I want to begin by congratulating the bill's sponsor for the work he has put into this very important piece of legislation. I believe it is entirely consistent with our government's commitment to making our streets and communities safer for Canadians and to better meeting the needs and concerns of victims.

The bill's objective is clear. It proposes to enhance the protection of victims and witnesses and to prevent their re-victimization when an offender is released into the community. It addresses concerns expressed by victims and witnesses across Canada that they should not have to feel threatened by the prospect of an offender watching them, following them, phoning them, or attempting to contact them in any way once they are released into the community. The bill meets this objective by targeting existing provisions that currently provide authority for conditions to be placed on offenders after they have been convicted of a criminal offence, or in some cases, if there is reason to believe that they will commit a child sexual offence.

Generally speaking, the purpose of these types of existing conditions is to ensure public safety and the successful reintegration of the offender into the community. They are imposed at various stages of the process, such as at sentencing; for child sexual offender prohibition orders, probation orders and conditional sentence orders; just prior to release from prison on parole or conditional release orders; and before someone is charged, but there is a reasonable belief that he or she may commit a child sexual offence while under a peace bond.

Statistics Canada data indicates that about 105,000 or more orders per year may be affected if Bill C-489 becomes law. Our government will be supporting the bill while proposing amendments to ensure clarity and consistency and to take into account recent Criminal Code amendments.

I would like to take a few moments to consider the first order Bill C-489 proposes to amend, section 161 of the Criminal Code prohibition order. Under this section, at the time of sentencing an individual convicted of a listed sexual offence against a child under the age of 16, the court must consider imposing listed prohibitions, such as not attending public parks, school yards and other places where children are often present. While the current provision makes it mandatory for the court to consider these conditions, the court retains the discretion not to impose the order. The prohibition order takes effect upon the offender's release into the community and can last up to the lifetime of the offender.

First, the bill would require the court to consider imposing a geographical condition restricting the offender from being within two kilometres of any dwelling house in which a victim could reasonably be expected to be present without a parent or guardian. Second, it would require a court to also consider prohibiting the offender from being in a private vehicle with any child under the age of 16 without a parent or guardian.

It is possible, however, that this two-kilometre limit may be challenging to implement, something I believe the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights should consider when it studies the bill.

I also agree that a child sexual offender should not have unsupervised access to a child. In fact, members will recall that the Safe Streets and Communities Act amended section 161 of the Criminal Code by adding two new conditions: prohibiting the offender from having any unsupervised contact with a child under age 16 and prohibiting the offender from having unsupervised use of the Internet.

The bill before us would also amend both the probation and conditional sentence provisions of the Criminal Code by prohibiting the offender from communicating with the victim, witnesses or any other person identified in the order or from going to any place specified in the order.

These proposed new conditions would be mandatory whenever a sentence included a probation or conditions sentence order, with two exceptions. First, the court could choose not to impose the condition if the identified person in the order consented. Second, the court could decide not to impose the condition where it found that exceptional circumstances existed. In the latter case, the court would be required to provide written reasons explaining this decision.

This proposed approach would provide the court with some flexibility, which I believe is needed. It is possible, however, that requiring written reasons for declining to make the order in exceptional circumstances may have some impact on the day-to-day operations of the courts. I am also aware that similar provisions exist elsewhere in the Criminal Code and instead require reasons to be stated on the record. This, too, is something I believe the justice committee will no doubt take into consideration and look at when it is studying the bill.

The bill also proposes to include similar conditions for section 810.1 of the Criminal Code, recognizing orders often referred to as peace bonds. These are imposed where it is reasonably feared that the defendant will commit one of the enumerated sexual offences against a child under the age of 16. The bill proposes to amend this provision to require the court to consider imposing a condition prohibiting any form of communication between the defendant and any individual named by the court, or prohibiting going to any specified place, unless the named individual consents or unless the court finds, as I mentioned, exceptional circumstances exist to permit such contact.

I agree that the court must consider these types of conditions, and I look forward to this proposal being reviewed in more detail at the committee to ensure that the provision will function as the sponsor of the bill has intended.

Finally, the bill would also provide the authority for imposing specific types of non-contact conditions under conditional release orders pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which includes parole orders, statutory release orders and orders for temporary absence from federal penitentiaries. Specifically, the bill proposes to amend section 133 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require the Parole Board of Canada or other releasing authority to impose conditions that prohibit contact with a witness, victim or other specified person, or from going to specific places unless there is consent or there are exceptional circumstances for not doing so. For the same reasons I have already mentioned, I do support the proposal in Bill C-489.

The sponsor of the bill, the member for Langley, has explained why he introduced the bill, namely because the safety and well-being of victims in his riding were not being taken into consideration. Indeed, if it is happening in his riding, we know it is happening in other parts of the country.

The victims were not being taken into consideration when decisions were being made regarding the release of offenders into his community. I agree that Bill C-489 responds to these concerns and would help to enable victims, their families, witnesses and other individuals to feel safe in their homes and in their communities when these offenders are released back into the community.

Moreover, the bill is consistent with our government's commitment to make Canada's streets and communities safer by holding violent criminals accountable and by increasing the efficiency of our justice system. It is also very consistent with our government's commitment to giving victims of crime a stronger voice, one that can be heard, listened to and given consideration in our criminal justice system.

We support Bill C-489. I look forward to other members of the House supporting it. We can study it further in committee.