An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition)

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

Sponsor

Jim Hillyer  Conservative

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of June 17, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to create a new offence for the breach of conditions of conditional release and to require the reporting of those breaches to the appropriate authorities.

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2015 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

moved that Bill C-644, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, nine years ago, our Conservative government made a pledge to overhaul our criminal justice system. We told Canadians we would make sure that our laws, the police and the courts would be focused on the needs and rights of victims, and we have followed through on that pledge.

Notwithstanding the bleeding hearts who think that every violent criminal just needs a hug, most Canadians want a more just justice system, one that puts the rights of the victim above that of the criminal and one where punishments fit the crime.

As happy as people are with measures like the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, they shake their heads in disbelief when they find out why we needed such a law in the first place. They cannot believe that such a particular measure was actually needed to address a real problem that allowed foreign criminals, individuals who committed a crime in their home country, to enter our country on false pretenses, which is crime two, and then commit crimes in Canada, which is crime three.

These foreign criminals were able to exploit our generous nature and our generous systems by making appeal after appeal for up to 10 years before we had the legal right to get rid of them. Thankfully, that mind boggling problem is fixed. Even though, for the vast majority of Canadians, this change is simply common sense, I actually heard opposition members say that the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act discriminated against criminals. Canadians want to see us continue on with our commitment to common-sense reforms of some of our laws that clearly fly in the face of our sense of justice.

As part of our ongoing efforts toward a more just justice system, I have introduced my private member's Bill C-644, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition) to create a new offence for violating parole and requiring these violations to be reported.

Canadians would probably be astounded to know that violating parole is not a criminal offence. It is not even necessary to report parole violations to judges when criminals are being considered for early release or release in general. Currently, the singular method for parole review does not work.

It is well documented that a disproportionately small number of offenders are responsible for a disproportionately large number of offences. Yet, when it comes to parole, all criminals are reviewed in the same manner which permits the most dangerous offenders to slip through the cracks and back into society to offend again and again.

My proposed legislation will correct that shortcoming through two simple reforms. First, the bill would make parole violation a criminal offence. Second, the legislation would also make it mandatory for the Correctional Service of Canada to report to the police all cases parole violation.

Reporting parole violations will help ensure the justice system has all the information on an offender in order to make the best public safety decisions before determining whether an offender should be given parole in the future.

By legislating parole violation as a criminal offence and making it mandatory to advise judges and parole boards of these violations prior to sentencing and early release considerations, we establish firmly that early release from jail or parole is a privilege to be earned and not a right to be demanded.

This legislation is consistent with other kinds of release from jail laws. For example, it is already a criminal offence in itself to skip bail and it is already a criminal offence in itself to violate probation. Then why is the violation of parole not a criminal offence in itself? There is no good answer.

Let us look at how the system works today. Under the current law, offenders who are granted conditional release or parole are subject to a certain number of conditions. That is why it is called conditional release. Some are standard conditions such as staying within Canada at all times and reporting regularly to a parole officer. Some offenders receive additional special conditions depending on their specific risk for reoffending. This could include a condition to live in a halfway house, or to abstain from drugs and alcohol or to refrain from associating with certain individuals.

If offenders violate parole by breaching any of these conditions, such as showing up late for a meeting with their parole officer or breaking curfew, the law provides a range of options for correctional authorities on how to deal with that violation. They can either do nothing, other than tell the offender he or she should not violate parole, which is usually what happens, or they can add stricter parole conditions, like an earlier curfew, or they can revoke parole and send the offender back to jail.

If he commits a crime while violating parole, he will be charged for that crime, but there will be no additional penalty for violating parole. It is as if the only punishment for escaping jail is a return to jail, with no additional sentence. The violation does not even have to be reported to future parole boards. In fact, until the changes we made in 2012, police could not even arrest parole violators caught in the very act of violating parole. Now, thanks to the Safe Streets and Communities Act, they can do that.

Let me re-emphasize that it is possible, and based on research it is even highly likely, that an offender can violate parole and receive no penalty. Of course, this does nothing to promote respect for the rule of law, and it greatly increases the likelihood that offenders will reoffend.

After the initial astonishment of learning that violating parole is not already against the law, people gave strong support to this amendment. For example, the mayors and reeves of my region of southern Alberta have written a joint letter urging the government to support this legislation. The good news is that it supports this legislation.

Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said:

Our members appreciate the step taken...to introduce this legislation which will ensure accurate records are kept, and that a full history of an offender’s actions can be considered before any parole is earned.

This legislation is named after Constable Ezio Faraone, who was killed in action while he was attempting to arrest repeat criminal Albert Foulston. If one Googles Constable Faraone, Albert Foulston's name comes up over and over again, even though it was Foulston's accomplice, Jeremy Crews, who pulled the trigger.

Albert Foulston was out on parole. He had repeatedly violated parole, yet he was on the streets. He was under surveillance, but police were not able to do anything until he actually robbed a bank. Constable Faraone had him cornered in an alley when Foulston feigned surrender, allowing his accomplice to shoot Faraone with a sawed-off shotgun at point-blank range.

In 2009, Foulston was released on parole after just 20 years of a 30-year sentence. His parole was automatic, even though he was involved in about 100 incidents while in prison, including fights and assaults on staff, and even though the parole board assessed his risk of reoffending as moderate to high. According to the board, it had no choice but to release him, because the law said that parole was automatic after serving two-thirds of the sentence. All the parole board could do was impose various conditions on that parole.

The trouble is, no matter how many or how limiting the conditions of parole are, there are no criminal consequences for violating those conditions. If Foulston's parole conditions said he could not hang out with other drug dealers or bank robbers, it would not matter. It was not until he actually robbed a bank that he committed an actual crime. If my bill had been law, he could have been arrested just for hanging out with his accomplice, Mr. Crews.

Sure enough, the next page in our Google search shows that in 2012, Albert Foulston recommitted again and was facing jail time for trafficking illegal drugs. No wonder the Edmonton Police Association refers to Faulston as the poster boy for problems in the Canadian correctional system. Faulston has spent more than 30 years behind bars on more than 50 convictions. He has been released ten times.

Sadly, his name came up more recently. In fact, it was in an interview with retired police sergeant Tony Simione, the sergeant who replied to Constable Faraone's fatal shooting 25 years ago. Sergeant Simioni was responding to the tragic death of Constable Daniel Woodall recently, on June 8, in Edmonton. He said that the incident brought Faraone's shooting home like it was yesterday. He said that it was very vivid, very profound, and brought back very traumatic memories and emotions.

He said, “It's surprising how long it does last. And the [Edmonton police] who went through what they went through [June 8] will be experiencing the same, I'm sure”.

While this legislation would give police important tools for crime prevention, there are other important reasons to support these changes. According to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions...

There is more to it than just crime prevention. Critics of our tough-on-crime measures focus only on the impact of the measure on the criminal himself. Clearly no amount of deterrent would be enough to dissuade someone like Albert Foulston, but our laws are not in place just to control the criminal. Laws and the rule of law have great power over the minds of law-abiding citizens. One of Canada's great values is the rule of law, or respect for the rule of law. We are a law-abiding people.

Why do most Canadians honour and obey the law? It is not because we fear punishment and it is not because we fear a minimum sentence. It is because we want to be a law-abiding people.

However, law has the power to command a willing respect and obedience of those who are subject to it only if the law is legitimate. There are a few key principles or elements that make law legitimate. One, for example, is how the law was made. Was the process leading to the development of the law legitimate?

As well, the law must also contribute to a just, peaceful, and safe society. For law to be legitimate, it must satisfy our sense of justice. This is one reason that we say the punishment must fit the crime. Anything more or less than that violates our sense of justice. A society can only find themselves saying “that is ridiculous” about so many laws before they start saying that the law itself is ridiculous.

When we reach that point, there will never be enough police to monitor and enforce obedience. Of course we do not want to lock up someone for life for making a youthful mistake. While mercy cannot rob justice, mercy is actually compatible with our sense of justice. We do not want to live in a Hugo-like miserable society that would force Jean Valjean to live for a lifetime carrying a yellow passport for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving children. Punishments that are too severe are unacceptable, but so are punishments that are far too lenient. They simply violate our sense of justice.

This bill addresses an important particular loophole in the justice system, but it is just part of our overall common sense reform of our justice system. Simply put, Canadians want a more just justice system. Our sense of justice cries out that the rights of the victim must take priority over those of the criminal and that the punishment must fit the crime.

This legislation complements our government's ongoing work to support victims of crime in this country and further holds offenders to account for their actions. I look forward to receiving support from all parties on this much-needed piece of legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2015 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am truly proud to rise in the House as the deputy public safety critic for the official opposition and speak to Bill C-644. I will have the opportunity to do so in my speech.

I must say that I am rather surprised by this bill, which was introduced by a backbencher and pertains to the Criminal Code. There are specific aspects of this bill that will be very harmful to the Parole Board of Canada. The member mentioned in his speech that we have no choice but to release inmates after they have served two-thirds of their sentence. I would like to set the record straight by reminding members that that is not true. The people who work at the Parole Board of Canada do a very good job, and they always consider whether an inmate should or should not be released. They will always act in the best interests of Canadians.

The current system already allows for the return to custody of offenders who violate parole. I truly believe that the Conservatives are heading in the wrong direction by interfering in the operations of the Parole Board of Canada and the rehabilitation of offenders. Studies have clearly shown that a gradual, supervised and monitored release is the best way to keep the public safe.

I am wondering what my colleague opposite thinks about that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour for me to rise in the House and speak on behalf of the people I represent in Alfred-Pellan, in the eastern part of Laval.

I took the time to carefully study Bill C-644, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition). After what was presented to us and what was included in the bill, and after discussing it with various experts in a number of fields—and I will talk more about that later in my speech—I unfortunately must oppose such a bill, for a number of reasons that I will go over here today.

First of all, by introducing this bill, the Conservatives have proven once again that they are more interested in scoring political points than they are in bringing forward really effective measures to improve public safety. The current system, as we know it, already allows for a return to custody when offenders violate parole.

What is more, the courts are already clogged up and can barely keep up with the cases submitted in a reasonable timeframe, which is hurting victims and undermining the entire justice system. Not only does Bill C-644 exacerbate that problem, but it could also prove to be extremely costly for Canadian taxpayers.

As I mentioned, the current system already allows for a return to custody of offenders who violate parole. Such violations include breaking a curfew, associating with a criminalized group, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and so on. It is based on an individual risk assessment done for every offender by either the Correctional Service of Canada or the Parole Board of Canada.

I would remind the House and especially the member introducing this bill that conditional release is an integral part of the rehabilitation process and contributes to enhancing public safety. I am not the only one to say so. A number of experts in various fields, including people who work with victims groups, people who work with Correctional Service Canada, or other people who work along the way in the conditional release process all agree.

By disrupting the Parole Board of Canada's operations in this way and interfering with offenders' reintegration into society, this bill does absolutely nothing to improve public safety in Canada.

As I said, we on this side of the House took the time to consult a number of experts to ensure that we had good advice on this bill. A number of stakeholders support the NDP's position. I received an opinion from the Office of the Correctional Investigator, among others, expressing concerns about this bill. Furthermore, much like us, Steve Sullivan, a former federal ombudsman for victims of crime, the John Howard Society of Canada, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec have serious concerns about Bill C-644.

I would like to talk about what some stakeholders who oppose this bill had to say. I spoke with the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, which said that this bill will only complicate the system and burden everyone involved, especially the victims and their loved ones, who go through incredibly stressful and disappointing situations as a result of the slow process and the lack of consideration they face. The association is wondering how this bill will benefit victims and their loved ones. Unfortunately we cannot get a straight answer to that question.

I also took the time to meet with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. Although this is not being considered, this bill, as it is now, will have a direct impact on the officers' work. They have no idea how these new conditions will apply to their work. It seems that there will be a very significant impact on the procedures within Canada's correctional system and on the work of these corrections officers. They have some serious concerns and they also oppose this bill.

I also found it extremely interesting that the former federal ombudsman for victims called for better parole provisions and wanted the government to work on that. When he appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, he said a number of things, including this:

I would encourage all members to understand, and I'm sure you all know this, that parole is actually an integral part of public safety.

We absolutely must not forget—for public safety and for the safety of the many victims all across Canada—that we need good laws.

The bill before us conflicts with everything we know about the parole system. We have to make sure that people reintegrate successfully. Unfortunately, what this bill proposes will just make things worse.

If I may refer to my notes, there are several other things I would like to mention. For example, various provisions of this bill suggest that it also conflicts with several UN conventions we have signed. What is more, it conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All in all, what we have before us today is very serious.

In summary, I would have liked to see a more useful bill. If the members on the other side of the House really want to protect victims as much as they say they do, then could they propose concrete measures to truly ensure that victims are protected? Could they ensure that we have an effective conditional release system? It already is, as there are some extremely competent people working in that area. However, there is currently a very heavy burden in terms of timeframes. The system is often too slow and if the government really wanted to improve things, it should have invested its energy on improving conditional release measures.

I think that was all I wanted to say about this bill. As I will say again to the House, I will oppose this piece of legislation. I think that as the official opposition, the NDP did a very good job and held meaningful consultations on this bill. We consulted people from various sectors, including Correctional Service Canada officers who will be directly affected on the ground.

What is more, the people who represent victims across the country or who have done so in the past have some serious concerns about Bill C-644.

That is why I am with them, I am standing up for them, and I will oppose Bill C-644.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would not say I am pleased to speak to Bill C-644 because it is just another one-off bill by a government that is continuing, by a private member in a governing party, to complicate the criminal justice system at the end of the day in order to make the system work.

The purpose of the bill is yet another in a long line of punishment rather than any effort of rehabilitation legislation from Conservative backbenchers. It is designed to achieve the following or claim to achieve the following.

It would amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to create a new offence for the breach of conditions of conditional release and to require the reporting of those breaches to the appropriate authority. It would do absolutely nothing to enhance justice.

We cannot support the legislation because it is only based upon punishment and misses the point on making Canadians safer.

There are no costs attached to it and there will be substantial costs, both in real financial terms and in human terms as a result of the bill.

Reports by Correctional Services Canada and Public Safety Canada state that the rate of reoffending while on conditional release has been steadily declining. We should be making evidence-based decisions here. If the Conservatives were concerned with reoffenders, they should consider proven ways to limit reoffending, such as rehabilitation and other ways, in terms of which the Parole Board, which has the expertise, can deal with these issues.

Further, we question that the repercussions of the bill have been properly accounted for. There are no provisions for adequate resources for the enforcement of this policy, both within Correctional Services Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.

According to the definition from the Parole Board of Canada:

Conditional release includes those federal offenders conditionally released on day parole, full parole and statutory release...It contributes to the protection of society by allowing some offenders to serve part of their sentence in the community under the supervision of a Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) parole officer, and subject to conditions.

On average, for the past 10 years, approximately 8,500 offenders are participating in conditional release programs. Of these, approximately 5,500 are released under statutory release provisions. The remainder fall almost entirely under the day and full-time parole category.

According to the Parole Board of Canada, “All federal offenders serving determinate sentences are entitled to statutory release after serving two-thirds of their sentences”.

This provision does not apply where it is determined an offender is likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harm to another person, a sexual offence including a child, or a serious drug offence.

According to the Parole Board of Canada's 2013-14 performance monitoring report on successful completion rates for federal conditional release, the following is stated: full parole, 90% successful completion; day parole, 85% successful completion; and statutory release, lower, at 62% successful completion.

It shows the importance of gradual entry into society under the Parole Board system.

The Parole Board has examined the issue of low successful completion rate for those on statutory release and provided the following remedy.

This is from a Parole Board document. It states:

Over the last ten years the successful completion rate on statutory release for offenders who had a day and/or full parole supervision period prior to a statutory release supervision period on the same sentence was on average 11% higher than the rate for offenders who had no prior supervision period. Two possible explanations for this are:

1. Offenders that had a day or full parole supervision period prior to statutory release are less likely to reoffend and this is part of the reason they had the prior supervision periods.

2. Offenders that had a day or full parole supervision period prior to statutory release have learned from their time in the community and are thus more likely to successfully complete statutory release.

The whole point is the importance of parole: gradual entry into the community, the Parole Board, officials with the Parole Board and supervisors on the ground working with these inmates as they re-enter society.

The report confirmed:

In the last ten years, violent reoffending on statutory release was considerably lower for offenders who had a prior day and/or full parole supervision period...

While there are a number of conditions, it is important to consider what conditions, if breached, would be criminalized if Bill C-644 were passed: if an offender leaves the residence and forgets the release certificate; failure to report any change, regardless of significance, in the domestic or financial situation of the offender; and any change to the offender's normal occupation, including employment, vocational or educational training and volunteer work. Those are minor, and the bill gives the Parole Board and others no option but to throw away the key and lock them up for a little longer. Will that do anything for society? I do not think so.

Breach of any of these conditions could, with Bill C-644, result in a criminal charge being laid, which could result in the offender being liable for a term not exceeding two years in prison. Yes, serious breaches need to be dealt with, and dealt with harshly, but the ability to do that right now is already there with the Parole Board.

Bill C-644 would also require a parole supervisor to report a breach of condition, not only to the Parole Board of Canada but to Correctional Service, the Attorney General and the police force which has jurisdiction.

If one takes note of the Parole Board's decision-making policy manual, it is clearly evident that the relationship between the Parole Board and local police authority is already well established.

Under the provisions of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act, section 161, the police are very much involved in the process involving parole and statutory release offenders, and a critical component of the supervision of those offenders, if required.

It is my opinion that members of this party cannot support the legislation because the measures are excessively punitive and do not address the real issue, which is how to ensure high profile offenders do not offend again. The Liberal Party of Canada believes in relying on facts and evidence, particularly when changing laws that alter our criminal justice system and affect the public safety of Canadians.

Evidence provided by Public Safety Canada itself confirms that the vast majority of inmates on conditional release, which includes full and day parole, and statutory release, do not breach the conditions of their release, and this success rate is steadily increasing over the past decade.

Clearly this legislation is unnecessary, whether it is one-off for political gain in the member's riding, I do not know, and it will actually jeopardize the Criminal Code of our country.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2015 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Centre Ontario

Conservative

Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my privilege to rise today to lend my voice in support of private member's Bill C-644, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition).

I would like to begin by first thanking the hard-working member of Parliament for Lethbridge for his initiative in bringing this bill forward. In considering the elements that he has proposed in this bill, it becomes apparent that he is also concerned with improving offender accountability and improving public safety, improvements which our Conservative government has long advocated.

Indeed, since 2006, we have made it a top priority to help ensure that Canadians can live, work and raise a family in communities that are safe and also secure. This has meant investing in crime prevention programs and strengthening our laws to give police the proper tools to fight crime; tackle crime by holding violent offenders more accountable for their crimes; give victims of crime a stronger voice in the criminal justice system; and increase the efficiency of the justice system. Holding offenders to account, which is a critical goal of the bill before us, is an important part of our efforts to reduce crime and to improve the chances for offenders to reintegrate into the community as law-abiding citizens.

For example, we passed the Truth in Sentencing Act, which provides the courts with clear guidance and limits for granting credit for time served in custody prior to conviction and sentencing.

We also passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which made a number of important changes, including restricting the use of conditional sentences, including house arrest; providing better support for victims of crime; increasing offender accountability; and preventing individuals convicted of sexual offences against minors from applying for a record suspension.

We also passed the Drug-Free Prisons Act to improve opportunities for drug testing in our federal penitentiaries and thereby give offenders more chances to succeed in rehabilitation and reintegration. We also passed the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, which will better protect children from a range of sexual offences and exploitation at home and even abroad.

These measures are working in tandem to help us keep our pledge to Canadians that we will support victims and keep dangerous offenders off of our streets. Bill C-644 is one more step in the right direction.

Allow me to begin with a brief overview of how the conditional release system works today.

Offenders may be released on a number of forms of supervised conditional release, including day parole, full parole, or statutory release. This type of release is granted based on an assessment of the risk of reoffending, with a view to gradually returning offenders to the community under supervision. When an assessment indicates that it is safe to release an offender into the community, the Parole Board of Canada, in its capacity as releasing authority, imposes conditions on offenders in an effort to guide their behaviour. It must be said that public safety is always the paramount consideration in how these decisions are made. It is absolutely critical.

All offenders who receive conditional releases are subject to a number of standard conditions. For example, they are required to report to police as instructed, report to their parole officer any changes in address or their financial or domestic situation, and at all times must carry an identity card and release certificate. In addition, special conditions of release that are specific to their risk and needs may also be imposed on offenders. For example, some offenders may be ordered to abstain from alcohol, or be required to observe geographical restrictions. Still others may be ordered to refrain from initiating any contact with their past victims.

As it stands, authorities have a range of potential responses to address any breaches in these conditions, depending on the severity of the breach that has occurred. It is quite possible, however, and sometimes very likely that individuals who do not abide by their parole conditions simply receive a slap on the wrist and sometimes they do not receive any sanctions whatsoever. I think most Canadians would be alarmed by that. In fact, I have stood in this place many times and said that it is important to ensure that the correctional system actually corrects criminal behaviour. Teaching offenders that there are consequences for their actions will help achieve that goal. A slap on the wrist or no recourse at all has the opposite effect.

Let us discuss the two main elements of the bill. The first is to create a new Criminal Code offence for offenders who breach the conditions of conditional release. The second is to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require that breaches be reported to the appropriate authorities.

The member's stated intention is to ensure that the justice system has the most complete information possible on an offender. I think this is absolutely critical. This includes accurate records on previous breaches of release conditions. In this way, authorities would be able to make the best public safety decisions by taking all available information into account.

Given that the intent of the bill is to increase the accountability of offenders who violate the conditions attached to their conditional release, I am pleased to note that it is a proposal that our government believes has strong merit.

There are further refinements that could be made when this bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I look forward to continued debate and discussion on this bill, and I certainly hope that all parties will support this important legislation.