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

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

Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that if we believe in something, we do it, and many of us on this side of the House do believe that this is the type of legislation that is required.

There may have been certain circumstances where particular legislation may not have been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. That should not stop us from doing what we believe Canadians elected us to do, and that is to bring in legislation about which we feel strongly. In this particular case, through a private member's bill, I feel very strongly about protecting the rights of victims' families who have gone through a traumatic experience with a crime of heinous nature.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all the work he has done on his private member's bill and how hard he has worked on bringing this forward.

However, judging by some of the comments from our colleagues across the floor, I think they are missing the point. This is something we are trying to put forward for victims' families.

I would like my colleague to talk about the impact on the families of the victims because they have to go through the parole process time after time, and it forces them to relive the nightmare. The bill would protect them from having to go through the nightmare of losing a loved one again and again. Could he please talk about the impact of not having to go through that parole process?

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague because that is exactly what the bill would put to rest to a large degree for the families of victims.

We see it happening every day. We see how traumatic it is when the family has to go through the court process and provide victim impact statements.

I have not, thankfully, had to be involved in this kind of situation, but I can imagine how difficult that must be to have to face that particular situation and sometimes continue to relive it and maybe face the criminal in terms of the parole process. The bill makes it very much an end decision, so that the families of victims can move on with their lives and not have to worry about going through that process time and time again.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 5:45 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 am pleased to speak to Bill C-229, which aims to change the law concerning life sentences for the most serious offenders. Bill C-229 proposes mandatory and discretionary sentences of life without parole for certain murders. I will not be supporting this bill.

Bill C-229 is nearly identical to former Bill C-53, the life means life act, which was introduced by the previous government on March 11, 2015. That bill died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of Parliament.

The bill would change the existing criminal law in three ways.

First, it would make imprisonment without parole mandatory for high treason; for planned and deliberate murder if committed during a sexual assault, kidnapping, or terrorism offence; where the victim is a police officer or correctional officer, or if committed in a particularly brutal way.

Second, the bill would provide judges with the ability to impose a life sentence of imprisonment without parole for any other first degree murder, as well as for any second degree murder where 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 may 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.

We agree that public safety is of paramount importance; however, I am not convinced that the measures contained in the bill would actually result in increasing public safety. Our government made a commitment to use evidence in our decision-making and there is precious little of it which stands to support this bill.

The amendments contained in Bill C-229 would be unprecedented in Canadian law. They are also, in my view, unnecessary. I agree that the most serious offenders, murderers, should be dealt with accordingly by the criminal law. I can also confidently say that the most serious offenders, in fact, are dealt with accordingly by the criminal law.

Our judiciary and the Correctional Service already possess the tools necessary to ensure the most serious offenders will not be released from custody, specifically in the form of a dangerous offender designation. This bill would seek to limit the discretion of our judiciary and the Correctional Service. That is not something I can support.

While it is true that some individuals may eventually be released from prison, this would only happen after their application has been carefully reviewed by the Parole Board of Canada. In addition, those who are released have lifelong restrictions placed on their liberty and may be re-incarcerated if they breach a condition of their release. I believe that our current system works effectively and I have confidence in the ability of the Parole Board of Canada to make appropriate decisions, taking into account all relevant circumstances. Therefore, I question why these changes would be required.

Indeed, for that group of offenders who, under the current regime, would benefit from rehabilitation and gradual reintegration into society, Bill C-229 would require them to stay in jail longer. This bill only favours punishment for punishment's sake and does not meet our other sentencing objectives, including, for example, rehabilitation. I do not believe that Canadians would accept such an approach.

I also have concerns about the constitutionality of this bill, and I am not alone in this view. Stakeholders, including the Elizabeth Fry Society, have raised questions not only about the bill's constitutionality, but also whether its measures are even required. Our government has indicated repeatedly the importance of respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and ensuring that our work is consistent with it. Supporting this legislation would not be in keeping with that commitment.

It should be noted that the Liberal Party has consistently opposed the measures contained in this bill, including when it was introduced as the former government's Bill C-53.

At that time, we noted our objection to the proposed introduction of a new regime that would require an offender to submit an application to the Minister of Public Safety for executive release by the Governor in Council after serving 35 years of their sentence, rather than to the Parole Board of Canada.

Others raised similar concerns about Bill C-53, including the Canadian Bar Association and the John Howard Society. These stakeholders were of the view that Bill C-53's proposed measures, which are replicated in Bill C-229, would not improve public safety and that there is no evidence that offenders convicted of serious crimes are paroled unjustifiably.

Some stakeholders, when discussing Bill C-53, also noted that excessively long periods of incarceration that eliminate the prospect of offender rehabilitation are destructive to offenders' physical and mental health, and fail to properly balance the principles of punishment with those of rehabilitation and reintegration. These principles are a core part of our corrections philosophy. Nothing in Bill C-229 would address these concerns.

To be fair, some stakeholders may support the objectives of Bill C-229, if they believe it would protect society by keeping violent or dangerous criminals in custody for longer periods. However, as I have already said, the most serious offenders who would be caught by this bill would already be unlikely to ever be released, given the public security risk they pose.

I would also like to point out the concerns that I have with respect to the impact that Bill C-229 may have on indigenous peoples. As members know, the government has recently put forward Canada's new position with respect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons.

The government has made clear its commitment to change the relationship between Canada and the indigenous population. We know that there is an overrepresentation of indigenous people in federal custody, for a multitude of reasons. I am concerned that Bill C-229 would do nothing to address this problem. I do not believe we should be advancing initiatives such as Bill C-229 at a time when crime rates continue to decrease and the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in prison continues to persist.

The government has signalled its intention to comprehensively examine the current state of the criminal justice system, and I am hopeful that this issue will be examined thoroughly. It is an issue which demands attention and, more importantly, action.

I urge all members to oppose Bill C-229. Its proposals are ideologically driven, not supported by available evidence, and would do nothing to improve public safety. It would further limit the discretion of the judiciary and is not the kind of legal reform we need in this country.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today. It is always a pleasure to represent my constituents, the people of Jonquière. I am always proud to speak in the House of Commons.

Issues that affect my region's economy are especially important to me. We talked about this a lot earlier. Unfortunately, the government is dragging its feet on many files, and this includes protecting jobs in the forestry sector. Our farmers are still fighting against diafiltered milk. We have yet to see any measures to improve access to employment insurance, for example in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, since we have a two-tier system.

Today in the House we are debating Bill C-229, which amends the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Let me be very clear: the NDP will be opposing this bill at second reading. It reminds us once again of the many reasons why Canadians sent the previous government packing. This is a bill that seems to have been written on the back of a napkin. It in no way reflects reality.

Instead of spreading misinformation and vote-seeking propaganda, the Conservatives should tell Canadians the truth. Under the current system, the most dangerous offenders who pose a risk to public safety never get out of prison.

We believe in evidence-based policy. Any reforms made to the sentencing regime should focus on improving public safety, not on political games.

The Conservatives have been talking about this bill since 2013, but waited until just a few months before the election was called to announce its introduction at a flashy election-style event. That same day, a Conservative member sent out an email to raise funds and add to the list of Conservative Party members. The subject line of the email was “Murderers in your neighbourhood?” This is another example of the troubling use of the politics of fear by the party that was in power at the time.

The ironic thing about the Conservatives is that they are always the first to want to talk about safety in our communities, but in the last three years, the Conservatives cut RCMP expenditures by millions of dollars. Not so long ago, the commissioner of the RCMP said that they had exhausted their budget and needed more money. That is where investment is needed: in the RCMP and public safety.

I believe that Canadians expect better from politicians. Major issues demand our attention, such as setting a decent minimum wage of $15 an hour and providing better access to employment insurance by making it accessible to everyone in every region.

There is work to do on pay equity and restoring home mail delivery. More resources need to be given to public safety, including the RCMP. Bill C-51 needs to be revisited and the order in council for Bill C-452 on exploitation and trafficking in persons needs to be signed.

Instead, the Conservatives would rather continue to introduce biased bills. Public policy must first and foremost be based on facts, and the objective of such policies must be to keep the public safe, not to win political points. We need to give our public security agencies more resources. We need to take action. We need to invest in prevention in order to prevent crime and help offenders reintegrate into society.

A brilliant lawyer named Michael Spratt said, and I quote:

Throwing away the key is an admission of failure. It amounts to admitting that our prisons are warehouses, that rehabilitation is a lie, that the law that holds us together as a society is still the law of the jungle — an eye for an eye. It’s the politics of despair.

I cannot give a speech about crime without thinking of the victims. Today, my thoughts are with all the victims, particularly the victims of crime. Some of them may be watching right now. Too often we forget the impact of crime on their lives and on the lives of their families, particularly when someone is killed. The NDP has always cared about victims and that is why we think it is so important to implement truly effective policies to keep the public safe.

The Conservatives should do a bit more research before introducing bills. In the current system, the most dangerous criminals who pose a threat to public safety never get out of prison. That is why any reforms made to the sentencing regime should focus on improving public safety and increasing financial resources, rather than on unconstitutional bills.

My opposition colleagues should know that it is up to the Attorney General to ensure that the laws that are introduced by the government are constitutional. However, once again, the Conservatives are introducing a bill that will more than likely end up being challenged in the courts. Many of their bills, some of which were mentioned today in the House, have already been deemed unconstitutional by the court.

I wonder whether my Conservative colleagues respect the principle of constitutionality and the separation of powers. We live in a democracy, but I all too often have the impression that they do not really believe it.

I will come right out with the question and it is up to them to answer it. Do they believe that it is important for parliamentarians to introduce bills that are constitutional? I will give them a chance to answer this question, which I believe is a very simple but important one.

In my view, it is essential that we put forward public policies that are based on facts and comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Constitution.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to support Bill C-229, introduced by my colleague the hon. member for Calgary Signal Hill.

Bill C-229 recognizes that there are some crimes that are so serious and heinous that the only appropriate sentence is life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

It is a truism that anyone who is convicted of murder has committed a deplorable act worthy of severe sanction. At the same time, it is also a truism that not all murderers are equal, yet under the Criminal Code all persons convicted of first degree murder are treated equally.

Proportionality is an important principle in sentencing, yet under the Criminal Code no allowance is made for proportionality when it comes to those convicted of first degree murder. If we take someone who plans, deliberates to commit, and commits a murder, that would be the classic case of first degree murder. That person, under the Criminal Code, would face a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years behind bars. Then if we take someone who not only plans and deliberates to commit a murder but in the course of committing that murder commits other serious crimes, such as crimes of domination, under the Criminal Code that individual would be subject to the same sentence notwithstanding the presence of aggravating factors.

In order to maintain public confidence in our justice system, it is important that the punishment fit the crime. Bill C-229 seeks to enhance public confidence in our justice system by rationally providing a more severe sentence for the most serious of crimes, including the most serious of first degree murders.

There are some who say that, quite frankly, Bill C-229 is not charter-compliant. While I acknowledge that there are arguments in favour of that position, I would submit that, in looking at the case law, Bill C-229 is very likely charter-compliant. While there is not sufficient time in the relatively short time that I have to speak to this bill with respect to the case law, I would note the Luxton case of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In that case, Luxton, who was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years, appealed and challenged his sentence. He challenged his sentence on the basis of section 7 of the charter, which deals with life, liberty, and the security of the person, and section 9 of the charter, which deals with arbitrary detention, and section 12 of the charter, which deals with cruel and unusual punishment. In a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, Luxton's sentence was upheld. Not only was it upheld, but the Supreme Court pronounced that it is within the prerogative of Parliament to treat the most serious of offences with the appropriate degree of severity in order to maintain a rational sentencing regime. That is precisely what Bill C-229 provides by rationally providing a harsher sentence for the most serious of murderers and other criminals.

I should also note that, in the Luxton decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that the Criminal Code provides sensitivity to each individual offender. Bill C-229 also provides sensitivity to each individual offender inasmuch as it provides that anyone who is convicted and sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole does have an opportunity to apply for executive parole after 35 years.

There may be certain case where, even in the most serious of crimes, parole is appropriate, but only after an extended period of incarceration, and rationally a longer period of time, having regard for the particularly serious nature of the offence that the individual would have been convicted of.

What Bill C-229 does is that it ends this circus of mandatory parole reviews every two years for the most serious of first degree murderers.

Right now, if an individual is convicted of a first degree murder and thrown in jail for life without eligibility for parole for 25 years, after 25 years, they may apply for parole. If their parole application is turned down, every two years there is a mandatory parole eligibility review. Bill C-229 puts an end to that. It puts an end to families having to go every two years to these hearings where the horrors of the crimes inflicted upon their loved ones are relived, no matter how unrepentant the killer may be, and no matter how unsuitable for release the killer may be.

There are those who say that Bill C-229 is just too tough. I say, tell that to the victims' families. Tell that to Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son was brutally murdered by Clifford Olson. Ms. Rosenfeldt supported Bill C-53. She supports life means life, and in so doing she has said, after almost 40 years, the impact that the crimes by Olson has had on her and the Rosenfeldt family never go away. They live with that family every single day.

Indeed, the sentence that Olson imposed on the Rosenfeldt family, as Rosenfeldt said, is tantamount to a life sentence. I say, then, so too should the sentence for the killer be a life sentence. Very clearly, in some cases, life must really mean life.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 6:05 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, it is with pleasure that I rise today to address what I know is an important issue in the minds of many individuals in dealing with the broader issue of crime.

When I look at Bill C-229, I see a flashback to the Conservative government. I know a number of the Conservatives who are here today will reflect on Bill C-53. I can recall there was a great deal of fanfare about Bill C-53, because it fit the Conservative mould and their tough-on-crime approach to politics.

An impressive image was just given to me. However, it is something that has been portrayed on numerous occasions from the Conservative Party. I will not attempt that image, but it is consistent with Conservatives. They like to cater to that group of individuals by saying they are tough on crime.

I wish the Conservatives would develop that same attitude in being tough on preventing crime, at which they have failed. If we talk to the people we represent, we will find there is a general feeling that the Conservatives missed the mark in making our communities feel safer. To me, that is really what we should be looking for when we bring in private members' bills.

However, this private member's bill is a regurgitation of a government tough-on-crime approach. After all, who is going to oppose convicting felons who have killed several people, the Clifford Olsons of society? There is not very much public sympathy, even from me, toward those individuals. However, it is that imagery that really concerns me.

When I was on the opposition benches and the government brought forward legislation, I argued that government needed to play a stronger role in dealing with preventing crimes from taking place in the first place.

Last night, I was talking to my daughter, the new MLA for Burrows. Today was her first day in question period, and she chose to talk about the issue of crime. She wanted to highlight what she believed was important in dealing with crime in the communities.

In the door-knocking that we did together, both in the federal election and the provincial election, we realized very clearly, as I have over the years, that we could talk about education or health care, but there was a common issue for people, no matter what political party or candidate they were inclined to support, and that was their concern about crime and safety in their communities.

As an elected official for the people I represent, one of the first things I look at in government legislation or in an opposition private member's bill is whether the legislation will have a positive impact on making the communities and neighbourhoods in which we live a safer place to be.

However, when I look at the legislation before us, the parliamentary secretary to the minister was quite accurate when he talked about the issue of designated dangerous offenders, which is already addressed in our system for the Clifford Olsons and others who have that designation. Therefore, in good part, the private member's bill before us becomes somewhat redundant, not completely but somewhat.

The bill would not do anything to discourage crime from taking place on our streets. At least I do not believe that it would. I would be interested in hearing from the sponsor of the bill whether he believes that there would be less crime as a direct result of the legislation.

What I thought was interesting in the bill is the fact that the Conservatives are aware that when we say “life for life”, there is a constitutional component or a charter-related issue with regard to making that sort of proclamation and putting it in the form of legislation. Would it be challenged in the courts? The short answer to that is, yes, it would be challenged.

What was the Conservative Party's idea to prevent that from taking place? It said that after I believe it is 35 years, then the individual can then appeal it, not to the Parole Board but to the Government of Canada, in particular, the cabinet.

In terms of the fact that the individuals on the parole boards have the expertise, I am fairly confident in their abilities and so forth. That is the reason they have actually been appointed to parole boards. That is why we have parole boards, because they offer a sense of professionalism and expertise that members of a cabinet or members of Parliament might not necessarily have, collectively anyway. They may possibly have some contributions toward that expertise. However, in terms of the whole review process, is there more confidence in the cabinet or a review panel of professionals?

After 35 years of incarceration, because that is in essence what the private member's bill is alluding to, then they would be able to go to cabinet. I do not think that is the best way to go. I can understand the politics of making that suggestion, just like I can understand the politics of why I believe we have this particular private member's bill before us today.

I do not know if it is out of frustration that the private member has in terms of the government's failed attempt to materialize on the bill. I am going to assume that it is, that we have certain members of the Conservative caucus who believe that the government's inability to pass Bill C-53, or to get the work done that they were hoping to get done on Bill C-53, was in fact incomplete. Therefore, this is that regurgitation in the form of a private member's bill.

We know and appreciate the efforts of all members and the time and energy they put into bringing forward private members' bills. I do not want to take anything away from that, because I recognize that on all sides of the House there is a high sense of commitment to the process of bringing forward a private member's bill or motion, and I do respect that.

However, I would try to highlight, in the best way I can, to the sponsor of the bill but also more broadly to the Conservative caucus as a whole, that, at the end of the day, if we want to make our communities safer places to be, they need to refocus that image they are trying to portray of just purely tough on crime. I, too, believe in consequences for crimes, and I suspect that all members do. From the perspective of being tough on crime, there needs to be a consequence when someone commits a crime, but at the end of the day, I think what we want to see is how we can prevent crimes from taking place in the first place.

These are the types of initiatives I would like to see more debate on in the chamber. That is one of the reasons that I support the federal Liberal budget and the measures it is taking to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

At the end of the day, I cannot support this private member's bill. I think it has missed the mark, and it should be refocused on something entirely different.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

May 19th, 2016 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to say that I am pleased to rise this afternoon to discuss Bill C-229, but rather that I am surprised to rise in this Parliament to be discussing a bill that has been brought forward from the last Parliament.

It is unexpected to see what was clearly a political showpiece, introduced by the Conservative government just before the last election as Bill C-53, reintroduced into the House. It shoots some holes in one of the arguments I used to make, having been the NDP public safety critic for the last five years, that these bills tended to come from the PMO. Clearly, this time they cannot come from the PMO. They are coming from some other place and the former PMO.

It is also surprising, because this tough on crime agenda that the member for Calgary Signal Hill introduced, endorsed the tough on crime agenda idea. This is an agenda that has been rejected by many jurisdictions in North America that have gone down this path. It was rejected by many U.S. states, including the State of Texas, which was probably the poster child for tough on crime agendas. It realized that these kinds of bills do not work.

The former U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder said:

statistics have shown -- and all of us have seen -- that high incarceration rates and longer-than-necessary prison terms have not played a significant role in materially improving public safety, reducing crime, or strengthening communities.

I am also surprised because I thought it was pretty clear that this tough on crime agenda was rejected by Canadian voters at the last election.

As I said, as the NDP public safety critic in the last Parliament, I had the task of opposing the raft of so-called tough on crime bills that made up an agenda for the last government. I am surprised to see the member for Calgary Signal Hill donning this cloak of tough on crime as if it helps to promote his bill, which it does not. However, it does clearly situate the bill among that sea of bills that the Conservatives introduced that had common characteristics.

These characteristics are that they had a certain popular appeal because they were directed at horrible crimes, or at deservedly unpopular criminals, a common characteristic that gave a false impression of how our criminal justice system actually works. In fact, they are bills that were largely unnecessary. They have a common characteristic in that they are singularly ineffective at improving public safety. Finally, they often had the common characteristic of claiming to serve the interests of victims. As someone who taught criminal justice for 20 years and worked a lot with victims and victims' families, I know that what victims' families say they want is for no one to go through what they have gone through ever in the future.

The last characteristic that almost all of these tough on crime bills have in common is that they are almost certainly unconstitutional. Cases are now working their way through the judicial system that will invalidate most, if not all, of these bills adopted in the previous Parliament from the tough on crime agenda. There were harsher sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, barriers to parole, or even in the most baffling case, the retitling of pardons as record suspensions and increasing the barriers to getting a pardon for those who had been rehabilitated and were trying to reintegrate into society. They increased the barriers to getting a pardon, which would allow them to get a good job, return to the community, and support their families. This whole sea of laws are now in the process of being struck down.

I know that the Minister of Justice has launched a review of the entire Criminal Code, which will also address all of these tough on crime bills that resulted either from private member's bills or from the government's omnibus crime bills.

What we saw recently, in April, was that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two portions of the tough on crime agenda. It struck down mandatory minimums of one year for drug offences, and struck down the provisions that take away the right of those who serve time before being convicted and sentenced to get additional credit for that time served. It was just 10 days later that the B.C. Court of Appeal also overturned mandatory two-year minimum sentences for drug trafficking for those under the age of 18 or in places frequented by youth.

I will turn now to the actual provisions in Bill C-229, which are really life without parole for murder when associated with certain other offences or which involve certain victims, or murders which are carried out with special brutality, or high treason.

The very title of the bill, life means life, is false. It really distorts what goes on in our criminal justice system. Those with life sentences, even if they are released from the institutions, which most are not, remain under supervision for the rest of their lives and remain under restrictions even if they are paroled. A life sentence in Canada does mean a life sentence under supervision.

As I said, with those who are convicted of first degree murder, we heard talk about families having to go through the application for parole again and again, but they do not start that process for 25 years. Those convicted of first degree murder most often have a 25-year period before the parole thing kicks in. At minimum, they are going to have a 10-year period. That is a bit of a distortion of what actually happens to families in the cases of these most serious crimes, but not in the cases of some minor crimes, I will concede.

There is an irony also in the bill in its content. The Conservatives were very intent on removing what used to be called the faint hope clause, former section 745.6 of the Criminal Code, which allowed those convicted of the most serious crimes who had received a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for more than 15 years to request a hearing to allow them to have a parole hearing. That was seen as very effective by those who work in the corrections system.

The Conservatives in 2012, through a bill from the Senate, Bill S-6, repealed that faint hope clause, yet it comes back in this private member's bill as after 35 years, admittedly longer, but it does restore a version of that faint hope clause. I find that ironic.

If it should every be passed, I believe that the courts will find the bill unconstitutional on two grounds. One, it would be arbitrary in that what is the penal purpose? What purpose is served by the bill? I submit that there is no penal purpose being served by the bill, because as I said, those who commit these most serious crimes are almost never released. Two, it would probably be declared unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.

I know the member for St. Albert—Edmonton said he believes it is constitutional, but we can cite a very large number of legal scholars, Isabel Grant from UBC being one, and Debra Parkes from the University of Manitoba as another who would differ quite strongly with him. Of course, so does the trend of the recent Supreme Court decisions and the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, and a year before, the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which I forgot to mention, which overturned aspects of mandatory minimum sentences involving firearms.

The real impact of the bill would be to ensure that those convicted of these admittedly terrible crimes serve longer times in institutions, but we know from what happened in the United States that this has no impact on public safety, and note that in Canada we now have a murder rate which is at its lowest since 1966.

What it would do is create a management problem in our prisons. Those who think they are never going to get out have no incentive to engage in rehabilitation programs and they have no incentive toward good behaviour. I am going to quote what Don Head, the commissioner for Correctional Service of Canada said on this:

As the proposed legislation would lengthen the incarceration period for some offenders, it's possible that it can reduce incentives to rehabilitation and good behaviour, potentially compromising institutional security as well as the safety of my staff and other inmates.

We have to be very careful about creating a situation which would endanger the safety of our correctional staff who already work in situations of great stress and also that of other inmates.

In conclusion, of course, I will not be supporting this private member's bill. Instead, I would like to see the House deal with provisions that would provide greater opportunities for rehabilitation, an addiction treatment in prisons, greater access to pardons, and all those kinds of things that might help us avoid these kinds of crimes in the future.