Pursuant to order made on Friday, June 17 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-229.
Ron Liepert Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
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.
Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business
September 21st, 2016 / 6:25 p.m.
The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan
Pursuant to order made on Friday, June 17 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-229.
The House resumed from June 17 consideration of the motion 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.
Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business
June 17th, 2016 / 2 p.m.
Northumberland—Peterborough South Ontario
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 / 1:50 p.m.
Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB
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 / 1:40 p.m.
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 / 1:35 p.m.
Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC
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 / 1:30 p.m.
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.
The House resumed from May 19 consideration of the motion 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.
Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business
May 19th, 2016 / 6:20 p.m.
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.
Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business
May 19th, 2016 / 6:05 p.m.
Winnipeg North Manitoba
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 p.m.
Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB
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 / 5:50 p.m.
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 / 5:45 p.m.
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 / 5:30 p.m.
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 ActRoutine Proceedings
February 24th, 2016 / 3:20 p.m.
Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB
moved for leave to introduce 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).
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the bill today. The bill would ensure that judges and juries would have the option in sentencing to ensure that those who were convicted of heinous crimes would not walk the streets of our country again.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)