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.

Victims' RightsStatements By Members

September 18th, 2014 / 2:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is an important occasion for me, for Canada's Parliament, and for victims across Canada. Tomorrow, Bill C-489, the safe at home bill, comes into effect. I want to share this milestone with a victim and her family.

A few years ago, they came into my Langley office and told their story of a sexual assault. They lived in anguish when the sex offender was sentenced to serve house arrest right across the street from their home. The neighbourhood that they had once loved was now the place they dreaded to be, because their attacker was there. The mother, with tears, asked me why they should have to move, since they were the victims. That was a great question. Everyone should have the right to feel safe in their own home. This bill helps to ensure that victims' concerns are being heard and considered.

The safe at home bill is now the law because of the strong support from our Prime Minister, the justice minister, and my colleagues on both sides of the House and the Senate. I thank them for working with me to make a stronger, safer Canada.

June 19th, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, royal assent to the following bills:

C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders).

S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills: Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; Bill C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders).

I also have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

April 9th, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the private members' bills in question are Bill C-489, Bill C-479, and now Bill C-483. I would suggest that this is a matter the Chair might wish to carefully examine.

With respect to Bill C-483, I would like to cite a number of references made by the member for Oxford and other members of the government with respect to what the intent of the bill was and what in essence the principle of the bill was.

At page 1236 of Debates, November 21, 2013, the member for Oxford stated what the purpose and the principle of Bill C-483 was. He said:

The bill proposes to grant the Parole Board of Canada authority for the full length of the sentence to grant or cancel escorted temporary absence for offenders convicted of first or second degree murder.

...This would mean that the wardens of federal prisons would no longer have authority to grant temporary escorted absences to inmates convicted of first- or second-degree murder, except in a medical emergency.

There is no ambiguity in the statement by the member as to the intent of the legislation. The bill was written to specifically remove the ability of wardens to grant escorted temporary releases.

Under the current legislation, Correctional Service of Canada, through the wardens of federal institutions, has the authority, when offenders serving a life sentence are within three years of their eligible parole date, to grant escorted temporary absences.

The reason the member has moved, through Bill C-483, to undertake these changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, were stated as follows during second reading debate on November 21, 2013, at page 1236 of Debates:

...for some victims' families, the decision-making authority of wardens to grant escorted temporary absences to murderers has been a matter of great concern. ...

...no hearings are conducted, as decisions are made on an administrative basis by institutional heads. In contrast, when decisions by the Parole Board of Canada are made, hearings are conducted....

The member continued by saying:

...when the Parole Board of Canada conducts a hearing, a victim or a member of the public who applies in writing is permitted to attend....

During the course of second reading, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness contributed, at page 1241 of Debates, November 21, 2013, to the declaration as to what Bill C-483 would achieve. She stated:

...the bill we are here to talk about today relates to escorted temporary absences from prison. More specifically, it is about ensuring that only the Parole Board of Canada has the power to release prisoners except in very limited circumstances.

There is no ambiguity as to what the member for Oxford or the parliamentary secretary believes Bill C-483 would bestow upon victims. They would have a direct role as participants in the escorted temporary absence system from the first day of incarceration until the last day of incarceration of those convicted of first and second degree murder.

The parliamentary secretary continued at page 1241 by stating:

As the member for Oxford has said, we continue to hear calls from victims of crime who feel that decisions on these absences should remain with the Parole Board, rather than an unaccountable official.

During the course of the hearings on the legislation before the public safety committee, the statements related to the key principles of the bill were restated a number of times. I will not go through all of those particular statements from witnesses, other than to say that as noted on page 11 of the Evidence, Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, stated on March 25:

Bill C-483 seeks to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to shift the authority of the warden to authorize the escorted temporary absence, or ETA, of an offender convicted of first- or second-degree murder within three years of full parole eligibility to the Parole Board of Canada. At its core, this bill aims to bring a more transparent and inclusive process to victims of crime.

Let me sum up in layman's terms.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

April 9th, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order in relation to private members Bill C-483, which stands in the name of the member for Oxford.

I want to begin by stating that my concerns are not related to the intent of the bill. I also want to acknowledge that the member for Oxford placed this bill before the House and the committee with the best of intentions, and in his remarks both in the House and at committee, he stated eloquently and with conviction the intent and principle behind the bill.

However, I would submit to the Chair that in the process of the committee's examination of both the bill and the amendments that the government was compelled to bring forward, the bill as amended has in fact moved a great deal away from its original intent and principle as articulated by the member for Oxford, as well as other members of the government in speaking to the bill and witnesses who testified before committee in support of the bill, all of whom were in support of the bill prior to the government amending the bill, but which is now substantially different from what those witnesses and members were speaking to.

At this point I would also draw to the attention of the Chair the fact that each of the private members' bills by government members that has come before the public safety and justice committees have required amendments that most often have exceeded the number of original clauses in the bills.

This, I would submit, is a situation of either bad drafting of bills or of government members insisting upon a specific course within their private members' bills, resulting in legislation that is so flawed that the government, with its legal advisers, literally has to redraft the legislation through the use of amendments.

The private members' bills in question were Bill C-489, Bill C-479, and now Bill C-483.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion moved by the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington seeks to amend Standing Order 4 regarding the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

We in the NDP are always in favour of examining any parliamentary process that promotes democracy. That is why, like my colleagues, I support Bill C-489 going to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The committee will therefore be mandated to examine the possibility of instituting a single, preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker of the House. I would like to go over the key elements of the proposed preferential ballot system.

Members would receive a ballot paper that contains the full list, in alphabetical order, of the names of those members who are candidates for the position of Speaker. Rather than voting for a single candidate, members would vote for their preferred candidates, in order of preference. The Clerk would then count the number of first preferences recorded in the ballots, and if a candidate had received a majority of first preference votes, then that person would be declared elected.

If, after the first count, no candidate had received a majority of first preference votes, the Clerk would eliminate the candidate who received the least number of first preference votes from further counts. The Clerk would distribute the eliminated ballots based on the second choices, third choices, and so on. This process would continue until a candidate had obtained a majority of the votes. In the event of a tie, another vote would be held with a list of the remaining members.

At present, members vote several times in each round, and the members who received the fewest votes are eliminated, until one member receives a majority of the votes. Ultimately, both methods require that one member obtain the majority of votes in order to be elected Speaker of the House.

However, the preferential ballot system has the advantage of being faster. The election in 2011 took six rounds for a candidate to get the majority of votes. I would remind the House that the Standing Orders require at least an hour to pass between ballots, and the process of balloting itself takes a certain amount of time. As it stands, the election process takes quite some time. With this system, we would have only one round of voting, except to break a tie, which would make the process much more effective and efficient.

However, I would like to qualify my support for the preferential balloting system. Each new federal election brings new MPs to the House of Commons. As a newly elected member in 2011, I can attest to the fact that we have to learn the rules and procedures of the House and become familiar with them very quickly.

The preferential balloting system is very easy to understand; there is no doubt about that. My concern is about the fact that new members do not know the candidates. To vote in order of preference, one has to know something about the candidates. The committee must take that into consideration. How can MPs rank candidates in order of preference if they do not know them very well? For virtually all of us, electing the Speaker at the beginning of each parliament is our first task as parliamentarians. This cannot be taken lightly.

Another concern I have is about the impartiality of the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is always helpful to revisit Parliament's democratic practices and assess which procedural methods are the most democratic. However, we need to ensure that the Speaker of the House of Commons remains impartial, which is why it is important that the committee carefully examine changes to the voting process.

To conclude, I would like to point out that Bill C-489 would instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study the possibility of adopting a preferential ballot to elect the Speaker and to table a report on the issue within six months of this motion being adopted.

The motion takes a similarly logical approach. It aims to make the process of electing a Speaker more efficient. That is why I am supporting it, and I look forward to reading the report by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent OffendersPrivate Members' business

December 10th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, this is the second hour of debate on this legislation, which was introduced in the last session of Parliament. It is Bill C-479, the fairness for the victims of violent offenders act. I will support this legislation going to committee for consideration and, where necessary, for amendment. I want to underline the fact that Liberals want some amendments to this bill.

Again, the intent of this bill is to provide additional measures for victims of crime, in this case the ability to ensure that victims of violent crime have a greater legislated role in any parole actions related to offenders.

The major elements of the bill are that the bill would extend the period between parole reviews from two to five years for violent offenders who are not granted parole at first or subsequent reviews or whose parole has been revoked. This change would apply only to offenders incarcerated for violent crimes.

Ostensibly, this bill is aimed at relieving the victims of violent crimes or their families from having to attend frequent parole hearings. That is a good intent.

The bill does not alter the rules governing initial parole eligibility. The bill also contains uncontroversial changes that codify victims' rights already recognized and applied in the parole process.

However, the bill's evidentiary basis remains entirely unclear. The rationale for choosing a maximum interval of five years between parole hearings for those denied parole instead of, for example, four, as in the previous iteration of the bill, remains unclear. The impact of extending the maximum time between parole hearings on offender rehabilitation is also unclear. Study at committee would allow members to debate the bill's merits on the basis of evidence from expert testimony.

I would reiterate the concerns expressed by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis with respect to the constitutionality of the legislation. I note that the courts are now beginning to challenge the efficacy of the mandatory minimum sentencing and the manner in which the government has attempted to alter the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to support an ideological agenda based on public fear of criminal activity.

This is another in a long list of private members' bills coming forward from Conservative backbench members. They all may be great in terms of their intent, but these are members of the government, and this is the Criminal Code that we are dealing with. It is a complex, massive code. Coming forward with off-the-wall requests for legislation could jeopardize the very intent of what members want to do with this legislation.

I see members smiling on the other side. This is not a joking matter. We are talking about the Criminal Code of Canada. What is happening on that side of the House is that they are allowing Conservative members to come forward with little private members' bills from their own riding so they can cater to their own power base. Do they not realize that they could, in the process, have a court throw out the legislation and make a victim of the very person we do not want to make a victim? That is the possible consequence.

I will turn to the Correctional Investigator's message in terms of how the government is really dealing with its tough-on-crime agenda. In the beginning of the report, he speaks of the time in 1973 when the first correctional investigator was appointed for federally sentenced inmates. It was a time when there was rioting in prisons. There were burnings and real trouble within the prison system.

He made a point in his report that I want to quote.

He stated:

Today, as my report makes clear, many of the same problems that were endemic to prison life in the early 1970s – crowding; too much time spent in cells; the curtailment of movement, association and contact with the outside world; lack of program capacity; the paucity of meaningful prison work or vocational skills training; and the polarization between inmates and custodial staff – continue to be features of contemporary correctional practice.

He is basically saying that what we are seeing under the government's justice, as it calls it, is moving back to a time that created riots in the prison system in the first place. That is not the answer to dealing with the justice system in a smart way.

With this specific bill, I would request, and will do so at committee, that the member present a list of experts and the evidence they provided, which he referenced in his remarks on May 10 of this year, as to his claim that “this bill has a sound legal and constitutional foundation”.

I will also be requesting that the member provide the evidence upon which this legislation was based. For example, upon what evidence did the member opposite base the determination that a period of five years between subsequent applications is justified? I trust that the member will provide that evidence at the committee.

I make note of the concern, given the recent case of Bill C-489, introduced by his colleague the member for Langley. In the course of second reading of that bill, the member gave the House the assurance that the bill was well drafted and was adequate. He did acknowledge that he was open to amendments, and indeed the elements of the bill were subsequently amended.

With regard to the amendments, there were six amendments to a bill with five clauses. Let me repeat that: six amendments to a five-clause bill. They were moved by members of the government on behalf of the Government of Canada. During this process, a representative of the Department of Justice was in attendance to ensure the amendments accorded with what even the government determined was the need to ratchet back on some of the extreme and likely challengeable features of the member's original bill.

It goes to my point. The government has all these backbenchers over there, but it is not bringing forward legislation in a comprehensive way on an issue as important as the Criminal Code of Canada. I believe we are getting 16 private members' bills on various subjects by members. As this bill clearly shows, it needed to be amended or the Department of Justice knew the bill would be thrown out by a court. The extent would be that it would create new victims as a result of the bill.

In the end, the bill was attempting to institute a mandatory minimum distance for offenders to have to maintain from the dwellings of the victims of specific crimes. It was amended in such a way as to add to the list of locations already in the Criminal Code from which a judge can currently apply a limitation on that of dwelling. We were told the whole intent and purpose of the legislation was so the judge could not use discretion, but the end result was that the ability of the judge to use discretion remains within the code.

In conclusion, we will support the bill going to committee. We will see if there will be amendments.

In closing, I want to underline that while we see some merit in this bill, we would prefer to see legislation from the government after they have talked in their caucus on various proposals in an all-encompassing way, in a way that fits legitimately within the Criminal Code of Canada. We do not want to see it add more risk to what a court might do in terms of challenging that legislation and throwing it out. It should be done in a comprehensive way, rather than these simple bills coming forward to play to the Conservative base.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2013 / 3:05 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 3:05 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, November 26, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-489.

And the bells having rung:

The House resumed from December 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders), be read the third time and passed.

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.

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 / 11:10 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 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

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.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 18th, 2013 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders)”.