Life Means Life Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (life sentences)

Sponsor

Ron Liepert  Conservative

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

Status

Defeated, as of Sept. 21, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-229.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to make a life sentence of imprisonment without eligibility for parole mandatory for high treason and for planned and deliberate murders that are referred to in subsection 231(4), (5) or (6.‍01) of that Act or in which the accused’s behaviour, associated with the offence, is of such a brutal nature as to compel the conclusion that the accused’s behaviour in the future is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint.

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to give a judge the discretion to impose a life sentence of imprisonment without eligibility for parole for any other first degree murder and for any second degree murder if the accused was previously convicted either of murder or of an offence referred to in section 4 or 6 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act that had as its basis an intentional killing. The enactment provides that the court’s decision is to be based on the accused’s age and character, the nature of the offence, the circumstances surrounding its commission and any jury recommendation.

The enactment also amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to allow an offender who is sentenced to life without parole to apply for executive release after serving 35 years of their sentence. Executive release is granted or denied by the Governor in Council.

Finally, the enactment makes related and consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act and the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

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

Sept. 21, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-229, also known as the “life means life act”.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Calgary Signal Hill, for putting this important bill forward.

I think that most of us would agree that Canada is a peaceful and safe country. However, we must also acknowledge that there are some in our country who seek to do us harm. These individuals seek to harm others and make us feel unsafe in our homes, on our streets, and in our communities.

We judge people to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that principle should never change. However, when someone is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of heinous crimes, such as brutal multiple murders, or murders so brutal that they upset us just to hear about them, then that person must be seriously punished for their actions. For too long in this country, those individuals convicted of heinous crimes are able to apply for release after serving just a portion of their sentence, instead of being locked up for the rest of their lives.

When we consider the finality of murder, the ending of someone's life, I think many would agree that it is too light a punishment. How is it fair that a person who murders a child, who ends a young life that is just beginning and is yet to experience the wonders of this world, has a chance to be set free when that child will never again walk the earth?

The sad reality is that in this country when a judge sends a murderer to prison for life, it really does not mean prison until the day the murderer dies. After having served some time, the murderer applies for parole, and the family of the victim goes through the nightmare all over again. Too often, the victim's family sits through a parole hearing and watches as the murderer gets released on some perverse rationale. The victim's family wonders if life in prison really means anything at all.

Bill C-229 would correct this injustice. In this bill, life would mean life. It would automatically sentence those convicted of certain heinous crimes to life sentences with no eligibility for parole, except for a chance to petition the minister directly after 35 years.

The bill would also give judges and juries more power to determine if a murderer represents a serious threat to society and if that murderer should be imprisoned without parole. A sentence of life without parole would punish the most serious crimes with the most serious penalty. It is proportionate sentence for the gravest crimes and consistent with the parity principle that like offenders committing like offences be treated similarly.

I know that some of my colleagues in other parties will object to this bill. They will say that it is harsh and unfair. They will say that it is born of crude and unenlightened thinking. However, this bill is consistent with established principles of sentencing, such as denunciation and retribution, which are very important when dealing with serious and violent crime.

Denunciation was described by then Chief Justice Lamer in the seminal sentencing decision of the Supreme Court in R v. M. He stated that:

The objective of denunciation mandates that a sentence should also communicate society's condemnation of that particular offender's conduct...In short, a sentence with a denunciatory element represents a symbolic, collective statement that the offender's conduct should be punished for encroaching on our society's basic code of values as enshrined within our substantive criminal law.

Those opposing this bill may say that it is wrong to lock someone up for life, because the person could be rehabilitated. To those people I say that no amount of rehabilitation can bring victims back to their families. Ending a life, particularly in an egregious and heinous way, should have as steep a penalty.

Let me be clear. Do we really think someone like Justin Bourque, who murdered three RCMP officers in Moncton could ever be rehabilitated? Do we think someone like Paul Bernardo could ever be rehabilitated, or that Clifford Olson could have been?

There are some in the House who will say yes, but I believe that Canadians will largely agree that some crimes should result in the murderer never again walking free. The victims of these murderers deserve nothing less, and the families of these victims deserve nothing less. Let us think of a mother and father of a murdered child; they will attend every parole hearing to see that the murderer who ended their son or daughter's life never walks free.

Sharon Rosenfeldt who helped found the organization Victims of Violence, after her son was killed by Clifford Olson stated, “When Clifford Olson murdered our son, we also received a life sentence...It was not the state that was abducted, raped and murdered, it was my son.”

She describes the parole hearings as “undeniably traumatic”, yet she had to go through three of these. She was said to have attended them every two years, except, thankfully, the monster that was Clifford Olson died in prison before the fourth hearing.

A 2009 study of families of the victims done by the parole board found the obvious. They do not want to go through the anguish of repeated parole hearings. Yet in 2010-11, 45% of victim presentations at the parole board hearings in Canada were the families against the murderers of their family members. Almost half of the parole hearings are dragging the families of the victims through this hell. These families deserve a lot better than this. We as a society are failing these families, and this has to end.

We must also think of society's safety. Parole Board of Canada statistics show 58 Canadians were murdered by convicted killers who were out on parole. Fifty-eight innocent Canadians were murdered by people who were previously convicted of murder, which our system simply let out of prison to kill again. Further statistics show that 3 out of every 100 paroled murderers are sent back to prison for committing violent offences, such as rape and kidnapping. Almost a full quarter of murderers paroled between 1994 and 2008 were sent back for reoffending.

We have forgotten the victims of these murderers and those who survive them, the families. With this bill, that would end. With this bill, imprisoned heinous murderers would stay in prison where they belong.

I am proud to stand and support Bill C-229 put forward by my colleague, the member for Calgary Signal Hill. It is time we say “life means life”.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-229, introduced by the member for Calgary Signal Hill. Let me be clear from the outset that we in the NDP oppose the bill.

Bill C-229 is based on a measure from the dying days of the last Parliament. This is not a bill that was on the agenda of the previous government during its 10 years on that side of the House. Instead it was introduced in the pre-election period at a flashy campaign style event. I am afraid it is a bill that is more about playing politics than making good policy. It is a costly and ineffective bill, one that runs against the grain of evidence and one that would continue with the very agenda that Canadians so decisively rejected last October.

Bill C-229 would lengthen the custodial sentences for a number of the most severe offences. We should bear several things in mind.

We should remember that life sentences are already applied for the most serious offences and, indeed, are already mandatory for some. We should remember that the mechanisms, such as Parole Board assessments and dangerous and long-term offender designations, already keep the worst offenders behind bars if they continue to represent a threat to society.

When looking at offenders who do not continue to pose such a danger to society, we should remember that overwhelming evidence concludes that punitive sentences do not make communities safe. In fact, while failing to deter potential offenders, mandatory minimums actually increase the risk of future offences.

In short, the bill offers ineffective solutions to a problem that does not exist. As an editorial last year in the National Post put it:

It is hard to imagine this bill surviving constitutional scrutiny, it is so disproportionate, so lacking in evidence either of its necessity or effectiveness.

However, worse than that, the bill, as drafted, would introduce a truly bizarre concept in our judicial system, and that is a mechanism for cabinet to control the release of particular offenders. Canadians know these decisions should be made by professional assessment, not at political discretion. We believe the only responsible approach is for parole decisions to be based on careful assessment of risk that an offender poses to the community and to public safety. Today, these decisions are made by the Parole Board of Canada, an independent administrative tribunal free from political interference. That board is clear that its paramount consideration in all decisions is the safety of the public.

Again, it is important for Canadians to remember that a life sentence already means just that. Let me quote from the Parole Board of Canada:

Myth... A life sentence in Canada means that offenders only have to serve 25 years before they are released. Reality: A life sentence means life. Lifers will never again enjoy total freedom.

The Parole Board makes the realities of our current laws very clear. I applaud it for providing this information to all Canadians to clear up some of the misconceptions that surround these issues.

Let us be clear. Offenders serving life sentences can only be released from prison if granted parole after an assessment to confirm that they do not pose a risk to the community. Even if they are ever released, they remain under supervision and various restrictions for the rest of their life.

Again, to quote from the Parole Board, “Not all lifers will be granted parole. Some may never be released on parole because they continue to represent too great a risk to re-offend.”

It is these individualized judgments that are crucial to keeping our communities safe. Removing them would also have a serious side effect.

The Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada has stated that lengthening incarceration periods or removing the possibility of even applying for parole can eliminate the incentive for rehabilitation and good behaviour, putting the safety of correctional staff at risk. That makes sense. Prisoners who are serving life sentences know that they have virtually no chance of getting out. What possible incentive is there for them to correct their ways to try to make themselves better members of society?

There is too much to criticize in this bill, and unfortunately, too little time in which to do it. However, let me turn to what we should be doing to not only improve public safety but to increase transparency and public trust in our judicial system.

The Liberal government has promised a review of the changes to our criminal justice system over the last 10 years, including the much criticized increase in the use of minimum sentences. This process, which should be a priority for the government, must seek to increase the use of proven alternatives to custodial sentencing, where appropriate and to implement the recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquest with respect to solitary confinement. It must also take real action to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous Canadians in the criminal justice system. That is a statistic that is an absolutely shameful mark on our country's affairs.

Those are the priorities Canadians expect us to address in this House. I would urge every colleague in this House to join with us in the NDP on this side of the House in rejecting this bill, which is simply a remnant of an agenda Canadians have rejected. Instead, I hope that the government will soon bring to this House its own proposals for positive reforms to our criminal justice system.

Canadians have been very patient, but these are urgent issues of justice and public safety, and they deserve to be treated as priorities.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in support of the life means life legislation as put forward by the hon. member for Calgary Signal Hill.

I would like to take a moment to talk a bit about something that happened in my riding of Foothills not long ago. Some good friends of mine, Debbie and Ed Sands, lost their daughter Amy Sands. Amy was murdered in Calgary. I saw what that incident did to the family. The court case went on for more than a year. Each and every time I spoke with Ed and Debbie after they attended the court hearings, I could hear the toll it took on the two of them and their family. Debbie Sands has just published a book called A Moth to the Flame . It is about her daughter and what transpired not only in her life but also unfortunately culminating in her murder. This has had a lasting impact on the Sands family and the Okotoks community as a whole.

The life means life bill would protect families of victims so they would not have to relive their nightmares over and over again by continually going to parole hearings, whether it was every two years or five years, especially when there was faint hope that the perpetrator would ever be granted parole. Regardless of that, the system does not protect the victims. Unfortunately I am sure the Sands family will have to go through this process for decades.

I would like to also talk about the essence of the legislation.

By eliminating parole eligibility for high treason and for the most heinous murders, the criminal law amendments in the bill would ensure that the worst offenders would spend the rest of their lives in prison. The bill would help to protect Canadians because it would ensure that the most violent offenders would remain locked up for their entire natural lives.

As I said, for me one of the most important things about this legislation is that it would protect the victim's family. For example, let us consider Sharon Rosenfeldt, the mother of one of Clifford Olson's victims, who, along with her family, had to go to parole hearings every two years to hear Clifford Olson tell them why he should be released. They had to relive the trauma of losing their son every two years, over and over again.

The proposed life means life act also provides a more clear proportionality in sentencing between first and second degree murder. Through various acts of Parliament we have made some second degree murders fit under the same sentencing regime as first degree murder, including having 25 years without parole.

Let me use Robert Pickton as an example. He murdered several women on his British Columbia pig farm in a case that certainly garnered international attention. In the absence of proof of planning and deliberation, he was convicted of second degree murder but subjected by the court to a 25-year parole ineligibility period under section 745.4 of the Criminal Code.

The bar for first degree murder is understandably high, as it should be. To get a conviction requires the strongest possible proof on behalf of the state. The penalty therefore for those convicted should be equally as strong. Canadians often are surprised to learn that when a court of law gives a life sentence, it actually does not mean the person convicted goes to prison for life. Far from it in most cases.

Our colleagues across the floor will say that the life means life bill is unreasonable, that it is different than maybe other countries, especially western democracies, but I digress. That is just simply not the case. Bill C-C-229 would align Canada's criminal justice system with those of other parliamentary democracies, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

The system in the United Kingdom is quite interesting, and I would like to share a bit about how that system works.

While we set minimum parole eligibility dates in Canada, England does it somewhat differently. In England, the court determines the seriousness of the murder and selects an appropriate time for parole eligibility. It usually starts with 15 years, but more serious murders will naturally go up to 25, 30 or even more, including an entire life before the individual is granted parole.

The court then considers aggravating and mitigating factors and adds to or subtracts from the 15-year starting point as warranted.

The English system has the ability to hand down life without any chance of parole for the most serious of crimes. The English law, similar to this bill, gives only the minister the ability to grant parole on compassionate grounds.

In England there are four categories of murder for which the sentences are exceptionally high. The first is multiple murders involving premeditation, abduction, or sexual or sadistic elements. The second is the murder of a child that involves abduction or sexual or sadistic elements. The third is murder to advance a political, religious, or ideological cause. The fourth category is murder by any offender previously convicted of murder.

As members can see, what is being proposed by my colleague is not unreasonable. In fact, I would argue that it is common sense. It is not just another Conservative get-tough-on-crime bill. This is something that one of the oldest democracies in the world, the United Kingdom, already has and has successfully implemented. Australia and New Zealand have as well, just to name a few examples. I make this point to outline the common sense in the life means life act brought forward by my colleague.

Again, if members listen to the comments from my colleagues opposite, they will argue that this is unreasonable or is in some way inhumane. My argument is simply that it is not. This would impact only the most heinous of crimes.

We have also heard from my colleagues across the floor that this would somehow have a substantial impact on the cost of our judicial system, especially our penitentiaries and jails. However, again, I want to stress the fact that the life means life law would only come into effect for the most heinous of crimes, so really, it would only be for a small number of criminals and criminal cases.

Still, the message we are sending is very important: when people commit a heinous crime, whether it is kidnapping or treason or an exceptionally vicious murder, life means life. When someone is given a life sentence under those circumstances, it means life in jail.

I would like to now turn my attention away from a comparison of this bill to its counterparts in other countries and instead make a plea to my hon. colleagues. I ask those members across the way who are dead set against this bill to think for a moment about the victims' families. I ask that they think for a moment of those families whose loved ones have been taken away at the hands of a murderer, a murderer who planned those actions in cold blood. It was not about rage. It was not about spite. It was a hard, cold calculation.

I ask that members try to imagine, as a father, a mother, a sister, or a brother, losing a loved one or a child. Would members really want to relive that death over and over again at parole hearing after parole hearing? Would they really want the fear of the murderer being released back into a community hanging over their heads? Would they really want to believe that the person who murdered their loved one in the most heinous manner had any opportunities to be rehabilitated? I would argue that I do not think my colleagues on the other side would believe that. None of us would.

It is only fair, then, that we finally take a stand for the rights of victims and their families. It is only fair that when a heinous murder is committed, we realize the finality of that action and we respond in kind. It is only fair that we recognize the loss of family members, friends, and loved ones.

The life means life act would finally put victims and their surviving families ahead of the rights of the murderer. It would finally acknowledge that there are some among us who should never be allowed to walk freely among us again. Finally, this would mean that a life sentence would actually mean life in prison.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to support Bill C-229, introduced by my hon. colleague, the member for Calgary Signal Hill.

As members know, the bill is called the life means life act. It would deal with people who commit the most heinous crimes in Canada.

I would like to take a moment to put the bill into context. I would like to speak for a moment about the record this party, my party, the Conservative Party, is proud to have when it comes to criminal justice issues. The bill represents another step, another milestone, in our record as Conservatives.

We all too often hear that the criminal justice system is a revolving door for criminals. This is a metaphor.

As Conservatives, we have tried to improve and develop a record to change that, and I am very proud of that. We introduced legislation that ended the two-for-one credit. Just imagine, we were giving people a two-for-one credit while they were staying in jail. We ended the automatic statutory release for violent offenders. We targeted white-collar crimes and established mandatory minimum sentences. We ended the faint hope clause that allowed murderers to be released from jail.

We also ended discounts for multiple murders. Just imagine if a person committed three murders, the way the system was set up he could serve one sentence, working all three sentences in together. We changed that, which was good. Would anybody hire a person knowing he was working for another firm at the same time and another firm at the same time and have him work for him? No.

These are just a few examples. The pattern is clear. When it comes to standing up for Canadians, our party, the Conservative Party, takes the best interests of the ordinary, law-abiding citizen to heart.

I would like to tell a little story. A number of years ago, when I was a young officer on patrol, I got a call to stop a red pickup truck that was travelling from Chase, B.C., to Kamloops. Inside, they said, there is an armed individual who had just committed murder.

Now I am going to go back one day from the day I am talking about. A person was released from the B.C. Penitentiary for a previous murder charge. He ended up going into Vancouver, somehow acquired a sawed-off .22 rifle and a packsack, and then got on the 401 and hitchhiked toward central British Columbia.

A young man and his girlfriend stopped and picked him up, in a pickup truck. They continued on for about four hours, until they got to Kamloops, where they thought he was going to get off, at which point, he pulled the .22 out of his satchel and said, “Keep driving”. He forced the young man and the young lady to drive toward Chase, a community about one hour away. Imagine the fear in the eyes of those two people.

He then made the driver pull off to the side of the road, just a short distance off the Trans-Canada Highway, a distance short enough they could hear the traffic going by. They were pleading and he coldly, and I say very coldly, turned and shot the young man in the head. He then proceeded to rape the young woman several times throughout that afternoon and into the night, Then, in the morning, when he got tired, he beat her what he thought was to death. He then calmly walked back to the Trans-Canada Highway and started to hitchhike back into the interior of British Columbia.

Thank God a service station owner saw him get into another pickup truck, the red one I mentioned earlier. Thank God the young lady recovered and she was able to stumble from where she was to the service station and relate the heinous crime that had taken place.

That day, I was on a motorcycle, the only person on the highway, with no one to back me up, and there is a red pickup coming towards me. I pulled the pickup over. In those days I used to carry a sawed-off shotgun on my motorcycle. I had it loaded. I stopped the truck. There was no one around, just me, the pickup truck driver, and a passenger. The driver stopped the truck. I jumped on the hood and watched this guy on the right side of the truck look at me with cold eyes as he reached down and started to pull up his .22 to begin a gunfight.

Thank God within those moments I was pulling back on the triggers. He was going to have both barrels. However, the guy froze and we took him into custody with no problem.

We cannot rehabilitate a person like that. That man was cold, vicious, and loved to kill. We should think about that young man in the pickup truck: no more birthdays, no more anniversaries. Maybe he and that girl would have gotten married and had children. They would probably have had grandchildren by now if that did not happen. That young lady has had to go through trauma for so many years and will have to continue to do so. Society needs to be protected from people who commit the most heinous crimes.

I do not want to count how many murders I have investigated or been involved in. I have watched kids as young as 13 shoot their brother, or a family domestic fight where someone gets shot. I am not talking about those people. Those people could probably be rehabilitated, but there are people out there who are born killers. They want to kill. We need to protect the public from them. We have the ability to do that when we go to trial and the evidence comes out.

I will give the House another real quick story because I know I am running out of time.

A gentleman was released from a United States penitentiary. for murder, and found himself a girlfriend. From the evidence, they went to a motel room, bought a map of Canada, and threw a dart. It landed at Fort St. James, British Columbia. They then hitchhiked across Canada to Fort St. James for one motive: to kill people.

The first game was to start with the RCMP. They actually came to the RCMP detachment and stole the vessel from one of our members so they knew they would get us into a heated chase. There was a six-day search with them trying to get us and us getting them with the ultimate motive that they wanted to kill people. We tried to keep them away from the public, and we caught them alive. It took a great effort, but we brought them in. However, when the evidence was brought forward, their sole purpose for being there was to kill people. We fought, as RCMP officers, to keep them away from the public. We did. We ran them aground, we ran them dry, and we ran them tired.

The hon. member who brought the bill forward knows that some people cannot be rehabilitated. When that evidence comes out in the court trial, and it may be a jury or it may be a trial by judge alone, let us trust the people in those judicial opportunities to make that decision and place that person, guilty of a heinous crime, in jail for life so that no other person will be harmed later on.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 2 p.m.
See context

Northumberland—Peterborough South Ontario

Liberal

Kim Rudd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today on Bill C-229. For the reasons I will briefly outline, I will not be supporting this proposed legislation.

Bill C-229 aims to change the law concerning the amount of time an offender who has been sentenced to a life sentence would remain in prison. It proposes mandatory and discretionary sentences of life without parole for offenders who have been convicted of murder in certain circumstances.

Bill C-229 would make imprisonment without parole mandatory for high treason or for a planned and deliberate murder if committed during a sexual assault, kidnapping, terrorism offence, or where a victim is a police officer or corrections official, or if it is committed in a particularly brutal way.

Second, the bill would provide judges with the discretion to impose a life sentence and imprisonment without parole for any other first degree murder and for any second degree murder if the offender was previously convicted of murder or of an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Finally, the bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that an offender sentenced to life imprisonment without parole could apply for an executive release by the Governor in Council after having served 35 years in custody. If released by the Governor in Council, the offender would be subject to conditions similar to parole conditions, and the offender's sentence would continue to be administered under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. This means that if the offender committed another crime, he or she would go back to prison.

I am opposing Bill C-229 for two reasons. First, the amendments proposed are, in my view, unnecessary and would be unprecedented in Canadian law with respect to their harshness and treatment of offenders. Second, I am very concerned about the charter risks associated with this initiative.

To be clear, there is no disagreement that the most serious offenders, murderers, should be dealt with accordingly by criminal law. However, in my view, the law already does just that. It is important for all members to appreciate the current state of the law and what this means in practical terms for those convicted of murder.

The offence of murder is the most serious crime in Canadian law and is accordingly subject to the most serious punishment available in Canadian law. All murder convictions carry a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. As is well known, someone convicted of first degree murder is ineligible for parole for 25 years. A person convicted of second degree murder is ineligible for parole for at least 10 years and up to 25 years. Once eligible, offenders may apply for parole, but that does not mean they will necessarily receive it.

A decision to release someone on parole is one taken by the Parole Board of Canada. The safety of the public is the foremost consideration in deciding whether to grant someone parole. Accordingly, in reality, the most serious offenders, who pose an ongoing risk to public safety, will never, under our current law, be released from custody. In fact, the majority of persons convicted of murder are never released from custody, and the few that are rarely reoffend.

The Parole Board of Canada reports that of those convicted of either first or second degree murder who were conditionally released on full parole between 1994 and 2014, only 4% were re-incarcerated for having committed a violent offence. To take but one example, the notorious serial killer Clifford Olsen died in prison, despite repeated applications for parole, after serving 30 years in custody.

Quite frankly, I see no gap in the current law such that Bill C-229 should be supported.

Moreover, I am also very concerned about the charter viability of the bill. The government has indicated repeatedly the importance of respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and of ensuring that our work is consistent with it.

I believe that if we were to support this bill, we would not be respecting the charter, particularly an offender's sections 7 and 12 charter rights.

The proposed measures contained in Bill C-229 carry significant vulnerabilities in relation to section 7, the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, and section 12, the right not to be subject to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is due, in part, to the proposal in this bill for increased parole eligibility date for all offenders convicted of first-degree murder from 25 years to 35 years. Canadian legal principles do not contemplate the creation of a sentencing regime under which there would be absolutely no possibility of legal consideration, during an extended sentence, of the merits of an offender's continued incarceration.

Based on existing case law, it seems to me that the proposal to detain beyond 25 years would raise significant charter issues. As parliamentarians, we can be firm in our responses to serious criminal behaviour. We can take measures to improve the safety of our citizens and our communities. However, we must ensure that we do so in a manner that is fair and respects the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Canadians.

The government is working to increase the safety and security for Canadians in many ways. Bill C-229 would not make our communities safer.

I am confident in the ability of the Parole Board of Canada to make appropriate decisions regarding which individuals may or may not be released from prison and what types of restrictions may be placed on their liberty.

The existing sentencing provisions for those convicted of murder and the related parole system reflects an appropriate balance that effectively prevents the most serious offenders from ever being released on parole. Life without parole for most offenders as proposed is unprecedented in Canadian law and would generate criticism and increased costs.

I am opposing Bill C-229 as it would not improve public safety and is not a bill that would achieve the objective of a justice system that Canadians can be proud of. I urge all members to join me in voting against this unnecessarily punitive legislation.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly support my colleague's initiative about life means life sentencing. I would like to share with my colleagues why I support the life means life act.

I would like to read a victim impact statement of a friend of mine regarding the 2011 murder of my lifelong and childhood friend's sister, friends who I consider family. My friend Paula has not yet read her victim impact statement at sentencing, but will do so. She asked me to share this with the House. She states:

Dana Jane Turner has been my little sister since October 28, 1979. I have 4 other sisters and two brothers. I am the oldest of the 8 children and Dana is my second sibling. Paula, Leah, Dana, Brendan, Jessica, Russell, Cara and Sarah.

From the moment that Dana was missing I felt sick to my stomach. I had an all consuming feeling Dana was cold and outside and I had no idea where to look for her. My friends, family and I immediately started hanging missing persons’ posters around Alberta and we all prayed for her safe return. I quickly became the liaison between the RCMP and my family relaying updates back and forth on a very regular basis. I made two appearances on the news hoping that someone would know something about where Dana was and that she would be brought home. I remember the morning in October when the RCMP called me at work to let me know they wanted to meet me face to face. I knew that I was going to be served the most terrible news of my life and that I would have to share this news with my Dad and family in Newfoundland. I wanted one more day to pretend that Dana was still alive, that life would go back to normal and we would not be here today. That was not the case.

To articulate the impact Dana’s murder has had on my life is very overwhelming and almost impossible to put into words. I have written this statement over and over in my head for more than 4 years but have never been able to commit it to paper as the impacts are gut wrenchingly painful, constant and ever-changing. The emotional and physical impacts of losing my sister in this tragic manner has forced me to live a life I did not choose and I have become a person at times I don’t even recognize as myself. I find it impossible to say that even one part of my life has not changed since Dana’s murder.

Dana’s death has left me often depressed, anxious, suspicious, scared and angry. Dana’s murder required me doing things that I would never wish on anyone. I, along with the help of my parents and siblings had to go through Dana’s belongings item by item, box by box, sorting through her clothes, baby memorabilia, mail, and personal belongings all of which made me feel like I was stealing and violating her privacy. I had to decide what items to keep for her children when they got older, and sold the rest at a garage sale almost giving it away like everything she had worked for her whole life was suddenly garbage. I made phone calls to and met with Dana’s pastor and helped arrange her memorial. I had to print large photos of her to place on a table at the front of the church as there wasn’t a body to put in a casket as her “remains” stayed with the medical examiner as evidence....About a year later, when Dana’s remains were released to our family and we were able to have a funeral for my sister. I will always be haunted by the image of my father falling to the ground at her casket in a small room at the funeral home and there wasn’t anything I could do to comfort him. I wanted to hold Dana’s hand and say good-bye but when I felt in Dana’s casket for her hand I wasn’t able to find it in the vacuum sealed bag of bones that was placed under a satin sheet where an inflated pillow was where her head would have been.

Dana and I had a very close relationship. Most of my early childhood memories include Dana. As teens and young adults we enjoyed live music, singing in the car or just evenings in doing a puzzle. I was there when Dana had her first son Ethan, and was with Ethan making a pumpkin pie with blue whipping cream to bring to the hospital after Dana gave birth to her second son. Dana and I worked together for about 8 years just cubicles apart...Along with spending countless lunch hours and coffee breaks together we spent many evenings together with her children or I would take the boys for her to give her a much earned break. Dana was a single mother to 3 young boys and I often referred to her as my hero. I miss Dana every single second of every single day but I missed her the most for me when I was planning my wedding....I tied little ornamental angel wings around the stems of our bouquets and pretended she was with us....She was not able to stand up for me, dance with us, or toast my marriage....

After Dana’s murder and after finding Dana’s last will and testament I chose to fulfill her final wishes and raise her youngest two sons. Dana’s oldest son will no longer grow up with his younger brothers. He is now living in New Brunswick with his father, step-mother and little sister.

Although I made the decision to parent the younger boys quickly, it was not one that I took lightly. I had to appear before a judge and ask for parental rights for two amazing and strong little boys. Without parental rights I was not able to do simple things like take the boys to the doctor, enrol them in school or counselling. I was not able to grieve the death of my sister as I had to engage in my new role. I had to do things most sisters would never have to do while grieving. I had to pack up my whole life into boxes, move across the country, take a year off work, try to manage Dana's estate, and learn to be a single parent to two all at the same time. I had to rely on my family for support at age 35 like I [have] never had [to do] before in my adult life. Dana's youngest son, only 2 at the time of her murder and clung to me like a koala bear for the first year we were together...[never] letting me out of his sight. Dana's middle son, 4 at the time was anxiously waiting for his Mom Dana to come home and was very confused as to why I was in his life as much as I was. I love being a mother to Dana's sons but there are many challenges with raising your murdered sisters' children that most mother's don't have to face. These little boys have questions that little boys should never have to ask like, “Where is my Mom?”, “Why did my Mom die?”, and “Why can we take a plane to Newfoundland to see Poppy but we can't take a plane to Heaven to see our Mom Dana?”. Simple school projects like filling in a family tree become confusing for the boys and often leave them sad. I do my best to share with them memories of their Mom Dana but this usually ends with me trying my best to hold back [my] tears. I tell them she is always with them and they can see her in the sky. I let them know if they ever need her in the day that they can find her near the sun and if they need her at night she is watching over them with the moon. I will forever be saddened that they will never remember her touch, a lullaby she sang to them or her infectious laugh. The boys and I have placed many angels around the house and yard to remind us of their Mom Dana. I overheard a conversation the boys had while looking at the angel lawn ornaments in Walmart, trying to decide which one is their Mom Dana. I have taken the younger boys to visit Dana's gravesite many times. This past Christmas break I took her oldest son Ethan who was guided by his younger brothers directly to her tombstone. I stayed near the car trying not to cry and so proud of how strong they all are. My heart aches that she has missed out on so many wonderful milestones of their lives already and so many more to follow. I am doing my best to raise good boys that will grow up to be good men.

Because of Dana's murder I will also mourn the loss of my own identity. I was once an independent, carefree soul with a love for adventure. I had very close friends that I used to enjoy spending time with for many years. I no longer contact them as much as I used to, they all know I have changed as a person, and now that I am a parent I have even less in common with many of them than I did before. I often used to seek out social events and coordinate plans, activities or vacations before Dana died and now I struggle to even keep in touch. My friends will never see the fun and free-spirited person I used to be as that Paula no longer exists.

I do not know if that is true.

I feel isolated and lonely with my grief. I have found some solace in others that have lost a sibling or a loved one to homicide. Some days I am seeking support and some days I am strong enough to provide it. There are no words to explain how one feels after losing a sibling to murder. I have actively attended counselling since Dana was missing, not only for myself, but with my boys and my family. The boys will continue to have harder questions and I will do my best to have the age appropriate answers.... I mourn the loss of my family as it once was, although not perfect, it was ours and we were always there for each other. For the rest of our lives we will have family gatherings and holiday celebrations that were once joyous and are now overshadowed by sadness that Dana is not there. We were a giant puzzle and now a piece is missing. I will never see my Mom smile like she did when all of her children were together with her. I cannot remember the last time I heard her laugh. I have seen my Dad cry more than a daughter ever should have to see her Dad cry. My family is not the same without our Dana Jane.

My heart breaks to know that if anyone, especially Dana's children Google her name they will not find anything about who she really was. The internet is filled with stories about a very small window of Dana's life and how it was violently ended. Today and always for the rest of my life I will mourn the loss of my sister Dana Jane. [She]...was a mother, daughter, sister, co-worker and friend...[who] saw the good in people and was often able to see past the bad. [She]...loved everyone, even those that did not deserve her love and everyone loved Dana.

I have not calculated the financial impacts of Dana's murder....There have been [so many] expenses....[and] Although [they]...are plentiful I am glad to be the person that Dana trusted enough with her children.

The last four and a half years have been hell for my whole family. We have all been served a terrible life sentence of grief and loss....I am looking forward to my family not saving vacation days and money to spend here in Red Deer in the same room as my sister's killer but instead trying to find our new normal.

That was during the trial.

I am thankful to my colleague for putting forward an initiative to ensure that life means life.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 2:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, rising to participate in the debate today, one cannot argue with the reality that those impacted by crime is real. Are there lives affected and changed? Of course they are. Do they go back to normal? No, never. Everybody who is impacted by acts of crime are impacted for life and normal is never achieved again. That is a clear fact.

However, as a parliamentarian and as a former legislator, I often think of the times that we look to legislation to address numerous issues that sometimes we have no control over. It is from that perspective that I wish to speak.

I have been sitting in the House listening to very compelling stories given by members of the opposition. They gave a very real and very vivid descriptions. Unfortunately, in any of those situations, we cannot roll the clock back. We cannot change what happened. Those people are impacted, their lives turned upside down, and nothing we can do as parliamentarians can change that.

We experience as a society crime. We experience evil. As parliamentarians, we must look at how we will deal with this. Sometimes I feel we often look to present or change legislation and by doing this, we think we have done something that will prevent situations from happening in the future. lf it were that simple, it would be a position that I would look at and consider supporting.

However, that is not the case. The very real stories we have heard today are situations that, regardless of the legislation that may be amended or changed, will not change the lives of those people impacted. We see a number of those across the country.

Instead, I would like to look at whether as a society have we done enough to ensure that what began as someone's life does not lead to one of crime or where they may go. From that, we have a lot to do as parliamentarians to ensure that the positions we take and the changes we make in society are always driven to ensure those people have the opportunities that we have on an ongoing basis.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank everyone who participated in this debate, whether supportive of the bill or not. I certainly would, however, like to recognize my colleagues who in some cases poured their hearts out relative to why this kind of action is necessary.

It is obvious, through the previous remarks by the parliamentary secretary for justice and today's remarks by the parliamentary secretary for natural resources that the government will not be supporting the bill. Even though it is a private member's bill and generally private member's bills are subject to free votes, we have seen consistently in the House, as recently as two days ago with the organ donation bill, that the Liberals do not allow their members to have free votes on virtually anything, and they certainly are not going to let caucus vote on this particular bill in a free vote. I am resigned to that fact, even though we have significant views by people, including a number of my constituents, that this is the right way to go.

In both the presentations by the parliamentary secretaries, there was mention of a number of things, but they were very consistent. There was the concern that the bill would not survive the charter issue. We have just dealt in the House extensively with a particular piece of government legislation that has been criticized many times that it would not withstand a charter challenge, yet the government went forward with that particular legislation. On one hand, the Liberals hide behind the fact that this bill would not be charter compliant. On the other hand, they refuse to consider that of a bill that they bring forward. Instead, they say they will just take their chances on the Charter of Rights.

The other thing that I found quite disturbing by especially the two parliamentary secretaries was this. I do not recall any recognition of the victims in this particular case. In all of the speaking notes that both of them were delivering, there was—

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 2:25 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the interruption of the member's speech.

At this point, there have been some consultations among the parties in the House, and if you seek it I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, at 2:30 p.m., the House not adjourn and instead be suspended until 3:30 p.m. or until a Minister rises on a point of order for the purpose of seeking unanimous consent to move a motion, whichever is earlier.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe what I was mentioning was the fact that in neither of the presentations by the parliamentary secretaries was there recognition of the victims of these particularly heinous crimes. What we have in all instances is victims having to go through that parole process time and time again.

One of the concerns that I have is that I know that the parliamentary secretary for justice, in his remarks, referenced the fact that this particular initiative is supported by neither the Elizabeth Fry Society nor the John Howard Society. From what I have seen of these two organizations, the bill is absolute evidence to me that this is on the right track.

One of the other things that was mentioned today by the parliamentary secretary for natural resources and I believe was also mentioned by the parliamentary secretary for justice was the fact that there would be increased costs associated with this. After sitting through the debates we have had on this particular budget that the current government brought forward, it seems to me that costs are the last thing that the government is concerned about.

They are hiding behind a bunch of weasel words in order to defeat what I believe is a bill for which the time has come. As has been mentioned by some of my colleagues, clearly the Liberals will oppose this because it is, in their words, another tough-on-crime initiative by the Conservatives. Yes, it is another initiative by the Conservatives to be tough on crime. However, it is time that the Liberal government stopped being soft on crime and allowed a free vote by its members to approve the bill.

Sitting ResumedLife Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2016 / 3:25 p.m.
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Peterborough—Kawartha Ontario

Liberal

Maryam Monsef LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations with the parties, and if you seek it you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, when the House adjourns today, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, September 19, 2016, provided that, for the purposes of any Standing Order, it shall be deemed to have been adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and be deemed to have sat on Monday, June 20, Tuesday, June 21, Wednesday, June 22, and Thursday, June 23, 2016; provided that, notwithstanding the Order of Tuesday, June 7, 2016, the deadline for filing the list of members to serve on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform be Thursday, June 23, 2016; that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, be deemed read a third time and passed on division; and that the recorded divisions on motion M-43, on the motion for second reading of Bill C-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), and on the motion for second reading of Bill C-229, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (life sentences), be further deferred to Wednesday, September 21, 2016, immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

moved that Bill C-229, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (life sentences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-229, which would amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Before I outline my reasons for bringing this bill forward, I want to make a few general comments, primarily for the members of the opposition who, I am sure, when speaking to this bill, are likely to say that it is just another approach to legislation by a hard right-wing Tea Party Conservative member.

However, I supported Bill C-14 at second reading and in all likelihood will support the bill at third reading. I will be supporting Bill C-16 because I believe all Canadians should be treated with equality and, frankly, it is the motivation behind proposing this legislation, which I will explain in a moment.

I am sure we can all agree that Canada has a reputation as a peaceful country of compassionate neighbours who live in relative comfort and security. We are fortunate that as a country our crime rates are low and we are generally able to walk our streets without fear. However, we must also acknowledge that there are some in our country who seek to do harm. There are some individuals who do not respect our values of peace and compassion. These individuals seek to harm others and make us feel unsafe in our homes, on our streets, and in our communities.

In our country, we perceive that people are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that principle should never change. However, when someone is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of heinous crimes such as multiple murders or murders which are so brutal that they upset us to even hear about them on the evening news, that person must be seriously punished for his or her actions. When a life is taken in such a manner, the families and loved ones of the victims are in essence given a life sentence with no chance of ever seeing that loved one again.

In the past 10 years, the former Conservative government introduced and passed over 60 substantive pieces of legislation to help keep criminals behind bars, to protect children, to put the rights of victims ahead of criminals, and to crack down on drugs, guns, and gangs.

I want to highlight some of the former Conservative government's justice accomplishes. They include the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act, the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the Abolition of Early Parole Act, and the Drug-Free Prisons Act.

The most serious offence in the criminal code is murder. First degree murder, a murder that is planned and deliberate, carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment with an ineligibility of parole for 25 years. Murders that are not planned and deliberate carry the same penalty where they are committed in certain circumstances, including where they involve the killing of a police officer or sexual assault.

Through previous legislation, the former Conservative government strengthened penalties for murder, including eliminating the faint hope clause, which allowed a murderer to apply for parole after 15 years, and enabling consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murderers so they would no longer receive a sentencing discount.

Today, I am introducing the life means life act to ensure that the most heinous criminals would be subject to mandatory life sentence without parole. The life means life legislation would ensure that offenders who were convicted of heinous murders and those who were convicted of high treason would be imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives with no access to parole. This would include murders involving sexual assault, kidnapping, terrorism, the killing of police officers or corrections officers, or any first degree murder that would be found to be of a particularly brutal nature.

The life means life act would amend the Criminal Code to make a life sentence without parole mandatory for the following crimes: first degree murder that is planned and deliberate and that involves sexual assault, kidnapping or forcible confinement, terrorism, the killing of police officers or corrections officers, or conduct of a particularly brutal nature; and high treason.

The bill also gives courts the discretion to impose a sentence of life without parole for any other first degree murder where a sentence of life without parole is not mandatory, and second degree murder where the murderer has previously been convicted of either a murder or an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

The law allows a criminal serving life without parole to apply for exceptional release after serving 35 years. This application would be made to the Minister of Public Safety and the final decision would rest with cabinet. The family of the victim would be able to provide input before any decision. This is consistent with the traditional approach of granting clemency and addresses legitimate constitutional concerns.

I recognize that some of my colleagues will object to this bill. They will say it is wrong to lock up someone for life because the person can be rehabilitated. To them I say, no amount of rehabilitation can bring back the victim of a murder. No amount of rehabilitation can bring back the stolen birthdays, holidays, and special moments in that victim's life. No amount of rehabilitation can bring back that victim to his or her family.

I believe Canadians will largely agree that some crimes should result in the murderer never walking free again. The victims of these murders deserve nothing less. As I said at the outset of my remarks, some of my colleagues will say this is just another Conservative tough-on-crime bill. Well, I am a Conservative and this does fit the definition of tough on crime. Similar laws already exist in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. These governments have found similar measures to protect victims and their families.

To those who would call the bill another Conservative tough-on-crime bill, I would say to them that they are right. As mentioned earlier, when in government, our party introduced a series of measures to restore the balance between the rights of the criminal and those of the victim's family. I believe this bill is the final piece of the Conservatives' efforts to ensure that the scales of justice in the future are never tipped in favour of those who commit heinous crimes at the expense of the family of the victim.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the hon. member.

He indicated that the bill is designed to ensure that those who commit the most serious crimes do not walk the streets. We already have a mechanism for that. It is called the dangerous offender designation. Perhaps he could explain why that is inadequate to address the problem he seeks to address through this private member's bill.

Also, there is a provision in the bill that allows for an application to the Minister of Public Safety after 35 years and for a determination to be made by the cabinet as opposed to the current system which has that designation made by trained professionals at the Parole Board. We do have an eminently qualified cabinet, but what is it about the Parole Board that makes it uniquely unqualified to deal with the most serious cases?

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the first question relative to a dangerous offender, it seems to me that it is easier said than done to declare someone a dangerous offender. I have seen numerous situations where application has been made to have someone deemed a dangerous offender and it has been unsuccessful. This is pretty straight and clear as to what the rules would be, what the direction would be to the courts. Having it written in law is more fair to the victims' families and for that reason, I believe the bill is warranted.

Relative to the Parole Board, one of the things in determining how special circumstances would apply, the elected official, the Minister of Public Safety , and ultimately the cabinet, are responsible to Canadians. They are elected by Canadians and they have a responsibility to Canadians. I am not trying to say that the Parole Board does not work well and does not take all considerations into account, but at the end of the day, the Parole Board is not reportable to anyone. In other words, board members are not elected by Canadians. I would prefer that it would be those who are elected by Canadians who would make the special circumstances exception.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech even though I do not share the values or the opinion he expressed.

I will ask him a question. Considering that the Supreme Court declared several of the Conservative laws he referred to in his speech unconstitutional, why is he introducing such a bill?

Why is he bent on taking that approach when it is clearly not working?