Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility)

Sponsor

James Bezan  Conservative

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

Status

Report stage (House), as of June 18, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-266.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of the abduction, sexual assault and murder of the same victim in respect of the same event or series of events is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until the person has served a sentence of between twenty-five and forty years as determined by the presiding judge after considering the recommendation, if any, of the jury.

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

May 16, 2019 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-266, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility)

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Etobicoke Centre had the floor on a point of order, as you will recall. When a member stands and asks for unanimous consent or indicates that there have been discussions among the parties, in every situation I have witnessed, it has always been the case that the member is at least afforded the opportunity to express what he or she wants to get unanimous consent for—

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats support progressive crime and justice legislation that seeks to reduce instances of violent crime and offer chances to increase rehabilitation for those convicted, all the while upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In our 2018 policy paper, adopted by democratic convention, New Democrats clearly stated absolute support for the following: investment in crime prevention, with a focus on at-risk youth and gangs; support for community and not-for-profit organizations active in crime prevention; emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration wherever possible, particularly for treating addictions; maintenance of a youth criminal justice system that is distinct from adult courts; support for restorative justice initiatives, including redress and restitution whenever possible; safeguards for the rights, health and dignity of prisoners; adaptation of sentencing rules to allow, under judicial discretion, more severe sentences for violent crimes; strengthening the rules for sentencing dangerous offenders; and the prohibition of reinstatement of the death penalty.

Legislation like Bill C-266 tries to create the appearance of a tough-on-crime stance without addressing the issues at the heart of the matter, and that is the reason we will not be supporting this bill. How could we, when it misses the entire point of protecting the public and does nothing to prevent recidivism?

In contrast to Conservatives, who believe in tough-on-crime policies that please their base and do little to reduce crime, and in fact cost so much more, New Democrats believe that our criminal justice system should be structured around the principles of restorative justice. Canada's justice department defines restorative justice as a strategy that “focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime, while holding offenders responsible for their actions. A restorative approach is being used in different criminal justice cases across Canada. When effectively used [and supported by governments], restorative justice can lead to better outcomes for victims and offenders and reduce the number of cases that go to trial.”

The Conservatives may be able to fundraise by claiming that progressives are soft on crime, but restorative justice is not soft on crime. It is effective, both in terms of costs and in terms of reducing the potential for traumatizing victims. We know, for instance, that there is empirical evidence to prove that when a restorative justice framework is applied in a conviction, the victims are more satisfied with the outcome than when restorative justice is not employed. Restorative justice substantially reduces repeat offending for many, many offenders. It helps reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms in victims and the related public and private costs. It often results in a reduced desire for revenge on the part of victims against their offenders, and it helps reduce the cost of administering the criminal justice system.

Bill C-266 is not based on the principles of restorative justice. It proposes to increase the period of parole ineligibility from 25 years to up to 40 years for those who are convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder of an individual in a single event or a series of events. While we absolutely understand that this bill is designed to protect the victim's loved ones from appearing at parole sentencing, it removes any foreseeable chance of release and therefore reduces the potential for rehabilitation. It is an approach that stubbornly refuses to take into account any and all circumstances regarding the offending individual.

There is also the question of whether this bill would stand up to a charter challenge. As life sentences are currently viable only with parole to 25 years, and with the abolishment of the faint hope clause, any longer sentence may fall under inhumane and degrading punishment. The Harper government fulfilled its 2011 election promise to abolish the faint hope clause, which allowed prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment with a parole eligibility period greater than 15 years to apply for early parole once they had served 15 years.

To compound this situation, the legislation before us serves to remove good behaviour as an incentive in correctional facilities, which of course increases the potential of violence toward other inmates and correctional workers. We should absolutely be concerned about the safety of correctional workers.

In Canada, the constitutionality of indefinite detention imposed by life sentences is based on the potential for eventual release on parole. This has resulted in the 25-year maximum before eligibility for parole. In the past, courts have allowed, on a case-by-case basis, sentences where eligibility exceeded 25 years. This gave the courts the needed discretion in the most serious crimes involving dangerous offenders and in situations where the full 25-year sentence was not appropriate. However, this was prior to the abolishment of the faint hope clause. Now that the faint hope clause is no longer in effect to mitigate increases in eligibility periods beyond the 25 years, any increase beyond that would likely be deemed unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment.

Harper's Bill C-48 passed in 2011 and was used only four times to issue 75-year parole ineligibility. All four of these cases are currently under appeal. One has been challenged in Alberta's court of appeal because of constitutional concerns. Legal experts expect to see the case appear at the Supreme Court of Canada in the coming years due to the length of sentences that could be unconstitutional.

As I am sure members will recall, the rationale for the faint hope clause was to incentivize offenders to participate in programming and work towards rehabilitation. This, in turn, leads to reduced violence and better behaviour towards other inmates and our correctional workers. Inmates with nothing left to lose are more likely to resort to violence and to be more difficult to manage in the prison population. In 2010, internal studies by the justice department found that this was precisely the case, with lower recidivism rates among faint hope offenders and better behaviour in the community.

The faint hope clause was not a free pass to parole. Canada is very selective in who is granted parole. It is very rare for those who are convicted of the most serious crimes to ever be granted parole. Those who are granted parole have shown good behaviour and are less likely to offend than the general population of Canada. It is fascinating that the rates of offence are below those in the general population.

It is more humane and much cheaper to release those who qualify for parole than to keep them behind bars. Those who were given life sentences who are paroled are still supervised until their deaths, with regular reporting to parole officers.

It is also worth pointing out that despite opposition from Canada's defence lawyers, the repeal of the faint hope was supported unanimously by Conservatives and Liberals alike. The NDP and the Bloc opposed it, of course.

Much like the abolishment of the faint hope clause and the introduction of consecutive periods of parole ineligibility, Bill C-266 would remove the incentive for good behaviour in correctional facilities and thwart any possibility of rehabilitation. It would create tension in Canada's prisons, and prisoners and correctional officers would be endangered.

The Canadian Bar Association said:

[it] does not believe that Canadians would benefit from a system where individuals are condemned to spend their entire lives behind bars, with no hope of ever being released. Even those convicted of homicide, the most serious of all crimes, should know there is some slim possibility, after serving lengthy periods of their sentences...of being released into the community and contributing to society, provided that their behaviour while incarcerated makes them deserving of such a privilege.

We understand the trauma that victims' loved ones face when an offender is eligible for parole, but we cannot support legislation that will do more harm than good. We must take into consideration the fact that this legislation proposes a solution that is likely to be deemed unconstitutional.

We believe that our justice system should be structured for the best possible outcomes, and this particular bill would not achieve that.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-266, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to increasing parole ineligibility.

I want to begin by thanking the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for introducing the bill. It is certainly consistent with his great record here in Parliament. I was pleased and honoured when I served as Minister of National Defence and he was parliamentary secretary. He worked very hard to see that justice prevailed in every possible opportunity, whether it involved Ukraine or Iranian human rights and democratic issues.

The member has always stood up for the rights of victims, and I support and laud his efforts here in Canada and abroad. He was one of 13 Canadians banned from travelling to Russia under retaliatory sanctions imposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014. I loved his retort to that. He said, “Sanctions by Russia will not silence me standing up for Ukraine. This is a badge of honour for all critics of the Crimea Invasion”.

This is what this legislation is all about: standing up for what is right.

I have to tell the House how proud I was as defence minister when he went personally to Ukraine to help get the equipment and all the supplies that people in Ukraine needed. I remember seeing him on television and thinking what a great moment it was for a member of Parliament and for him personally.

Under Stephen Harper, I was justice minister for six and a half years. One thing about the Harper administration is that it was completely consistent in standing up for the rights of victims. We did not hear too much from the NDP about victims, but it was certainly a priority of the Harper government to make sure that people had confidence in our criminal justice system.

I had the opportunity to meet with many victims over the years. I remember the grandparents of one of Clifford Olson's victims telling me how awful it was that Clifford Olson was not even prosecuted for the murder of their grandchild. Why? It was because it was already locked in. He received 25 years with no parole, so the Crown decided not to proceed.

How did that make the family feel? They told me they were victimized themselves, because there was no justice at all for their grandchild.

As a result of those kinds of cases, our Conservative government introduced the possibility of consecutive sentencing, which again is up to the courts to decide. It is not mandatory.

The first case involving consecutive sentencing was in New Brunswick, after three members of the RCMP had been murdered. The person convicted of that crime became ineligible for parole for 75 years, and I did not get one email. There were no letters, no phone calls, no demonstrations whatsoever from people who thought it was a bad idea that this individual would have to basically spend the rest of his life behind bars.

It was the same with the faint hope clause, which we heard quite a bit about. I have to disagree with the hon. member as to why that legislation was put in.

I remember the day I introduced that bill in Parliament. I went outside for a scrum, just outside the House of Commons chamber. I remember one reporter asking me if I thought people were going to stop committing murder now because they would not be eligible for the possibility of parole after 15 years. I told her the truth. I said I was not sure why anybody would commit murder, that it was a mystery to me, but I told her that what I did know about the bill was that it would reduce victimization of the people who have suffered because of what someone else had done.

Here is what was happening: No matter how disgusting the individual was and how unlikely it was that he or she would get parole, many times they would apply after 15 years. The families would tell me they were victimized again. They told me they were worried and upset at the possibility of the person who killed a member of their family getting out.

Their victimization does not stop there. It would happen again after 17 years, 19 years, 20 years, 21 years, 23 years. Every time it came up, they would tell me the same thing: How awful it was that there was a possibility that the person could be released.

When we introduced the bill to get rid of the faint hope clause, we were thinking about victims. That is who we were standing up for. That is what wanted to do during our time in government.

There is another part to this. If people see sentences that do not align with the seriousness of a crime, people's confidence in the criminal justice system will be reduced. It is absolutely vital that Canadians have complete confidence that the criminal justice system will do the right thing. If the penalty for people who commit terrible, serious crimes does not align with those crimes, people's confidence in the criminal justice system will be decreased. This is not what we need.

One of my constituents, a woman by the name of Marcia Penner, recently wrote to me about the Tori Stafford case. She said:

“I am writing you today to ask you to fight for the justice of Tori Stafford. The monster (Terri-Lynne McClintic) who took this sweet girls life needs to be put back behind bars where she belongs.”

“As you may or may not remember, I was best friends with Kristen French. Over 26 years later we are suffering the adverse effects of the lack of justice.”

“Please don't let this happen for Tori. Let's fight for her, and keep her killer locked up where she belongs. Behind bars, and away from more innocent children.”

This is consistent with what I have heard over the years.

Members may remember the Bernardo case, which took place in my area. On the 25th anniversary of the death of Kristen French, Donna French and the mother of Leslie Mahaffy went to a hearing. As members remember, both girls were abducted, brutally tortured, raped and murdered by Bernardo and Karla Homolka. When Bernardo was up for the possibility of parole for all his crimes, Debbie Mahaffy stated at the hearing:

We have had to relive Leslie’s pain and horror—our pain and horror, as if it happened yesterday, not 27 years ago.

Leslie’s violent, horrific death changed everything in my psyche and in my life.

I do not want to be in the same room as Bernardo but here I am

She went on to say:

The effect of this parole hearing allows Bernardo to abduct our beautiful memories of Leslie as he had inserted himself and the ugliness of her death into our lives yet again.

Donna French added:

It’s painfully unthinkable that Paul Bernardo’s parole ineligibility did not change by a single second, a single minute as a result of his unspeakable murder of Kristen.

It so diminishes her life. I appreciate that the Criminal Code has been amended to lengthen the parole period, but it is not retroactive.

However, going forward, it will be.

That is why I am supportive of this. I am sure there are members in the Liberal Party who, in the previous Parliament, voted in favour of a bill identical to this one.

I know I am speaking on behalf of my Conservative colleagues when I say that we will continue to stand up for and worry about victims. We will continue to ensure that people can have confidence in the criminal justice system. Our party was all about that in the years we governed. I hope people will support my hon colleague who brought this forward and do the right thing.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to private member's Bill C-266, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to increasing parole ineligibility. The bill seeks to protect victims and reduce the possibility of re-victimization by limiting the number of parole applications victims are required to attend.

The underlying assumption of Bill C-266 is that its proposed reforms would spare families from the heartache of reliving the loss of a loved one who may have been murdered in unspeakable circumstances, as is often the case.

It should be noted that Bill C-266 is similar to previous private members' bills, specifically Bill C-478 and Bill C-587. Bill C-478 got through second reading stage and was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, but it did not go further than that. Unlike Bill C-266, former Bill C-478 did not require that the offences for which the offender was convicted be committed as part of the same criminal transaction.

I want to take a moment to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for the laudable objective of the bill. I think all hon. members of the House can agree that minimizing the trauma, psychological suffering and re-victimization of families whose loved ones have been murdered is a worthwhile cause that merits our full consideration.

Victims have rights at every stage of the criminal justice process, including the right to information, protection, restitution and participation. These rights, previously recognized by internal policies of the Parole Board of Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada, are now enshrined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and give clear rights to all victims of crime. For example, victims have the right to receive certain information about the offender in the charge of the Parole Board of Canada or the Correctional Service of Canada.

Victims' participation rights include the following: attending the offender's parole hearing or listening to an audio recording of a parole hearing if the victim is unable to attend in person; presenting a written statement that outlines the continuing impact the offence has had on them and any risk or safety concerns the offender may pose and requesting that the Parole Board consider imposing special conditions on the offender's release; and obtaining a copy of the Parole Board's decision, including information on whether the offender has appealed the decision and the outcome of the appeal.

I would like to provide some examples in English.

I would note that currently victims who do not attend a parole hearing are entitled to listen to an audio recording of the hearing, but if victims do attend, they lose their right to listen to the recording. Simply stated, parole hearings can be quite difficult for family members, as I said in French. Despite attending the hearing, they may not always remember everything that was said. They may, for a variety of reasons, wish to listen to an audio recording at a later date. I am pleased to know that changes proposed in Bill C-83 would give all victims the right to listen to an audio recording, regardless of whether they attend the parole hearing.

These legislative provisions and policies were designed to be respectful of the privacy rights of victims who do not wish to be contacted or receive information about the offender who has harmed them.

This recognizes the fact that victims are not a homogenous group and that while some victims may choose not to attend or receive information about parole hearings to avoid emotional trauma, others will attend parole hearings as a means of furthering their healing and feel empowered by having their voices heard.

Anything we can do to better support victims of crime merits serious consideration, and I support sending the bill to committee for further study. I am also mindful that changes to the laws governing our criminal justice system can sometimes have unintended consequences, so I hope that committee study of this legislation, either in this Parliament or in the future, will include a range of witnesses and perspectives.

Clearly, there are various ways of providing support to victims. The proposed changes in Bill C-266 could be one way to improve the experience of victims during the post-sentencing stages of the criminal justice process.

As parliamentarians, we should strive to have a fair, just, and compassionate criminal justice system for all those involved.

For all these reasons, I will be monitoring closely the debate on Bill C-266 and look forward to hearing the views of other hon. members on its potential impacts.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am truly honoured to participate in the debate on private member's Bill C-266, which was introduced by an opposition member. This is the second time that the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman has introduced this piece of legislation. He previously introduced it in 2013, also as a private member's bill.

First and foremost, this bill is for victims of crime. The principle of balanced justice is essential in Canada. It is important in our lives as parliamentarians and, especially, in our lives as citizens. Any time we want to, or have to, amend the Criminal Code, we should be making sure that victims are treated just as well as anyone else, which is exactly what this bill would do. It would spare victims from having to relive their painful experience at a parole hearing after having already relived it during the original trial.

The bill essentially seeks to increase the period of ineligibility to automatic parole from 25 years to 40 years. The reason the hon. member introduced this bill is that far too often we have seen criminals who committed sordid acts get released after 25 years. By the way, I will point out that the bill we are discussing does not concern all offenders. It specifically concerns those who were convicted of abduction, sexual assault or murder.

Not only are these people released after 25 years, but their victims have to testify again before the Parole Board of Canada so that the judge can determine whether the offender will be released on parole. That is the problem: the victims of a crime committed 25 years ago have to relive these events and testify all over again about the pain they suffered, the legitimate fears they might have 23 or 25 years later, and especially the horror they have lived with this entire time.

In those situations let us think first and foremost of the victims. That is why Bill C-266 is specifically designed to protect victims from having to relieve this pain so soon after their assault. For victims of such serious crimes, the scars never heal.

The bill is not dictatorial, because ultimately, the judge will be the one who decides whether to grant parole after hearing the case and analyzing the situation. It is not automatic or official, and there is no cause and effect.

It is also important to realize that the families affected by the tragedies may suffer as much as the victims themselves, and they are also asked to testify about why the criminal should not get parole. This causes them further pain, and they could be revictimized if they have to testify again under similar circumstances. We need to think about them.

As I said earlier, this is not the first time this bill has come before the House. Apart from a few details, it is virtually identical to the one tabled in 2013 by the same member. The interesting thing is that, at the time, certain people supported the bill. I would like to quote something that was said at the time, presumably in English:

I am pleased with what I have heard from the member, especially given the fact that the bill would allow the judge to use it as a discretionary authority. As such, I feel comfortable supporting what the member has brought to the House today.

I could not have said it better myself. Who spoke those fine words? It was none other than our friend, the ineffable and very vocal member for Winnipeg North. Back then, he supported the bill. As I said, I suppose he made the comments in English, but I had fun quoting them in French.

He was not the only one who supported the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman's private member's bill. At the risk of repeating myself, I must say I would rather say his name than the name of his riding.

Many members on the government's front bench supported this initiative. They included, among others, the following members: the member for Charlottetown; the member for Cape Breton—Canso, who has sadly announced that he will not be running in the next election and we do not know whether he would have been re-elected for that is up to the voters; the current member for Bourassa, with whom I had the pleasure of serving in the National Assembly; the member for Malpeque, chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, who works very hard; the member for Sydney—Victoria; the member for Toronto Centre; the member for Vancouver Centre; the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, the current Minister of Transport; the member for Wascana, the current Minister of Public Safety; the member for Labrador; the member for Winnipeg North, as I said earlier; the member for Beauséjour,whom we wish a speedy recovery of course; the member for Cardigan,who is still Minister of Veterans Affairs; the member for Ottawa South; the member for Scarborough—Guildwood; the member for Vancouver Quadra, the fourth President of the Treasury Board in the last six months and my counterpart as I am my party's Treasury Board critic; the member for Halifax West, the Speaker of the House; the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, with whom I had the pleasure of serving on the parliamentary committee that studied physician-assisted dying; the member for York West; the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor,whom I hold in high regard and with whom I have had the pleasure of appearing before a few parliamentary committees; the member for Trinity—Spadina, a riding in the Toronto area; and the member for Papineau, the current Prime Minister of Canada.

All of those people are current government members. They are examining this bill, which is a good thing. However, I would like to remind them that, in the past, in 2013, they voted in favour of a bill that was more or less identical to Bill C-266.

In closing, I would like to point out that, just a few minutes ago, I was very impressed by the remarks of the member for Niagara Falls. As members know, he has been diligently serving this country since 1984, when he was first elected to Parliament. He has held high-ranking positions with dignity. He is an inspiration to all those of us who aspire to be part of the executive branch of our Parliament.

The member for Niagara Falls served as defence minister and justice minister, as well as in other capacities. For six years, his honesty and fairness served as an inspiration to us all. As everyone knows, that is an extremely sensitive job, and that was especially true at the time. It requires a great deal of delicacy and exemplary and inspiring honesty. The member for Niagara Falls served for six years. He is probably the one who has held the position of minister of justice and attorney general the longest. He will always be an inspiration to his successors.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-266, respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act, which was tabled by my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.

This bill would see the parole ineligibility for Canada's most heinous and degenerate criminals have the possibility of being raised up to 40 years. As it stands currently, the maximum time for parole ineligibility is 25 years, with the first hearings starting at 23 years. One can imagine the families of the victims of these heinous crimes having to return and relive the events that took their loved ones away from them, and not only once. If the convicts are denied parole, and many times they are because of the brutality they undertook, then new parole hearings happen every two years. This, of course, creates the potential to make the families of the victims relive their nightmare over and over again.

This bill is not designed for the average criminal committing the average crime. It is designed for the worst of the worst, offenders who had such disregard for the dignity of the human person that they ought not to see the light of day. This should not be seen as a bill to increase the punishment of these individuals, but to protect the victims' families.

This bill would empower the courts to make decisions based on a jury's recommendation. I will quote from the bill:

[The judge] may, having regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offences and the circumstances surrounding their commission, and to the recommendation, if any, made under section 745.22, by order, substitute for twenty-five years a number of years of imprisonment (being more than twenty-five but not more than forty) without eligibility for parole, as the judge deems fit in the circumstances.

This is a good piece of legislation, and it will protect the families of the actual victims of a heinous crime.

I would just like to draw the attention of my colleagues on the government side to the support of some of their members who support this bill. That includes the member for Charlottetown, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, the member for Bourassa, the member for Malpeque, the member for Sydney—Victoria, the member for University—Rosedale, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member for Vancouver Centre, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, the member for Regina—Wascana, another minister, the member for Labrador, the member for Winnipeg North, the member for Beauséjour, the member for Cardigan, the member for Ottawa South, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Vancouver Quadra, the member for Halifax West, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, the member for Humber River—Black Creek, the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, and the member for Spadina-Fort York.

Most importantly, I would draw to my colleagues' attention that the Right Hon. Prime Minister, the member for Papineau, also expressed his support during this bill's previous introduction to the House in the last Parliament.

This bill, with the support of all of those members, who now sit on the government side, goes against the standard operating procedure for the government, because when it comes to the victims of crime, we have not seen a great track record of the Liberals doing the right thing. The Prime Minister, a supporter of this bill in its first incarnation, has long tried to paint criminals and the perpetrators of crime as victims of society.

The Prime Minister said, in the wake of a horrible terrorist attack in the United States, that the terrorists must have been feeling excluded and marginalized by society, and that we really need to look at the root causes of these actions.

These terrorists killed three people and maimed hundreds more, but according to the Prime Minister, they are the victims here. The Prime Minister, again, showed how much he cares for victims when he paid a convicted terrorist $10.5 million, after he killed a U.S. medic, Sergeant Chris Speer, leaving behind a wife and children who are still trying to find justice.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, that parliamentary secretary, the member for Winnipeg North, supported that bill, so we look forward to his vote on it coming up. I am sure it is because of his support for the bill that he did not need to hear all I had to say. The member also serves a Prime Minister who thinks it wise to treat Canadians who fought for ISIS with poetry classes instead of locking them up where they belong.

We are looking for a stronger standard. Canadians deserve better. The families of victims deserve this bill. I am proud that it was my Conservative colleague who put forward this important bill to stand up for the victims of crime and their families. I am proud to stand with my colleagues who will support it. I look forward, again in this Parliament, to see the members who supported it during the last Parliament standing with us to support the families of victims who have suffered enough and deserve to see true justice done.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I have been enjoying listening to my colleagues in this debate. I do not have a full 10-minute speech, but I did want to briefly make a couple of observations on the record.

I have heard some of my colleagues speak in favour of the bill and make what I think is a very important and compelling point, which is that when someone has committed an offence and is called before the Parole Board, often victims' families are involved in those parole hearings, and their presence in those hearings can be very painful in the context of hearing about and reliving those discussions.

I also heard colleagues from other parties make the observation that if someone has been through a process of rehabilitation, and if the determination is that the person is no longer a risk to society, then it is not in the public interest for that person to continue to be incarcerated.

I want to briefly observe that I do not think these points are necessarily incompatible and that there can be a reconciliation of those objectives through perhaps broader reforms to the parole system. For instance, reforms could require a two-step application or that an initial step be surpassed before families are involved in a hearing. That is not in the bill currently before us. However, I think it is important for us, as much as we can, to look for opportunities to reconcile these dual objectives, which are both part of our criminal justice discussion.

I think all members would accept that if someone has been through a complete rehabilitation program and is no longer a risk to society, it is not in the public interest for the person to continue to be incarcerated. That continuing incarceration creates a cost to society, a cost to the system, resources that could be better spent on programs that prevent crime in the first place. These decisions do not require a strict binary.

It sounds like this bill is going to go to committee, and I look forward to the process of study that is going to happen there. However, I would also encourage members to contemplate legislative alternatives that could potentially bring about reforms to the parole process that would achieve both objectives and address the concerns that have been legitimately raised by members on both sides of the debate on this bill.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

moved that Bill C-266, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to speak to Bill C-266, an act respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons. This bill would amend section 745 of the Criminal Code.

This bill has been before the House before. To quote one of my previous speeches in the House, from 2014, in this bill I want to empower our courts “with the ability to increase parole ineligibility when sentencing individuals who have abducted, sexually assaulted and killed our innocent and often most vulnerable Canadians from the current 25 years up to a maximum of 40 years.”

The bill is not about creating stiffer penalties for sadistic murderers. These depraved convicts do not qualify for parole. My bill is about saving the families of the victims from having to go through the agony of attending unnecessary and traumatic parole hearings.

Let us be perfectly clear. Bill C-266 is not about mandatory minimum sentencing. The bill is in compliance with section 12 of the Charter of Rights. It is based on the discretion of the presiding judge through a recommendation to the jury. A judge could set parole ineligibility of between 25 and 40 years. It would not be prescribed where in there it would fall. The judge would have the discretionary power to make it anywhere from 25 years of parole ineligibility to 40 years.

This legislation is modelled after a bill brought forward in a previous Parliament, Bill C-48, the protecting Canadians by ending sentence discounts for multiple murders act, which we are seeing in use today at the McArthur trial as well as for the murderer who committed the mosque massacre in Quebec. That piece of legislation affords judges the opportunity to make the parole ineligibility periods for multiple murderers consecutive rather than concurrent. Most of those convicted of these multiple murders or these heinous crimes of abducting, sexually assaulting and murdering our loved ones never get parole. Therefore, why do we continue to put families through unnecessary Parole Board hearings? There is absolutely no need to re-victimize those families.

As I mentioned, I brought the bill forward in a previous Parliament. It was introduced on February 27, 2013, as Bill C-478. The bill made it as far as the committee stage, when I was appointed parliamentary secretary, so I had to withdraw the bill. Colin Mayes, our former colleague from B.C., then picked it up as Bill C-587. That bill made it through committee and came back to the House at report stage and third reading on June 2, 2015. Of course, it never made it to the final vote before the House recessed and the election took place.

This legislation would amend section 745 of the Criminal Code, as I have previously said. Increasing parole ineligibility from 25 years to 40 years would save families from having to go through the process of attending unnecessary Parole Board hearings and making victim impact statements, which are traumatic, to say the least, and heart-wrenching for those families. The bill would eliminate eight unnecessary Parole Board hearings families would have to attend.

Sadistic murderers often apply for parole every two years, starting at year 23, for the sole purpose of toying with the families, of revictimizing them and making them relive the gruesome killings that were committed.

The bill would change a number of subsections under section 745. It would be based upon the recommendation of a jury. The bill says that a judge would ask a jury at the time of sentencing if it wished “to make any recommendation with respect to the number of years that the accused must serve before the accused is eligible for release on parole”. When the jury was passing judgment, it could also recommend what the parole ineligibility could be. The judge would have discretion as to whether to accept that, and he or she could set it at a level he or she found appropriate. Judges on the board, when determining parole ineligibility, must have regard for “the character of the offender, the nature of the offences and the circumstances surrounding their commission”.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of people on the legislation, along with Colin Mayes, the former member of Parliament from B.C. In the other place, Senator Boisvenu was a big help on this over the years. He founded an organization called Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association. This is something that he is incredibly passionate about.

Sharon Rosenfeldt's son Daryn was murdered by the notorious Clifford Olson and her organization is Victims of Violence. Susan Ashley is the sister of Linda Bright, who was killed by Donald Armstrong. Terri Prioriello's sister Darlene, also called Dolly, was murdered by David James Dobson. The organization Canadian Parents of Murdered Children has provided input over the years. This goes back some time.

I was interested in doing something for families. At the end of 2009-10, members will remember the terrible abduction, rape and murder of Tori Stafford. Terri-Lynne McClintic was arrested and prosecuted in 2010 and Michael Rafferty in 2012. During that time, while my heart was breaking listening to the Tori Stafford story, Clifford Olson was dying from cancer in prison and Sharon Rosenfeldt talked on the radio about how this killer had impacted her family over the years. He sent letters describing how he murdered her son Daryn. Because of that type of sadistic behaviour, tormenting families and using Parole Board hearings to feed his own sick appetite, it became clear to me that we needed to do something for families.

I knew full well that both murderers of Tori Stafford, Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic, will be applying for parole in the year 2023 after the murder in 2009. I think all Canadians would consider it unacceptable that families have to go through this ongoing saga of Parole Board hearing after Parole Board hearing.

We need to make sure the legislation targets the most depraved of society, the sadistic murderers out there who often prey on children and the most vulnerable, those who abduct, sexually assault and murder, often in a very gruesome manner. We are talking about people like Robert Pickton, Russell Williams, Michael Rafferty, Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo, David James Dobson, Donald Armstrong, Luka Magnotta and we are watching the McArthur case unfold now in Toronto. This would apply to those individuals, particularly those who do not get consecutive life sentences. They could be given a 40-year sentence before they could apply for parole.

It is important that we talk about some of these families, like the family of Linda Bright, who was just 16 when she was abducted by Donald Armstrong in Kingston back in 1978. He has applied for parole numerous times. I have been talking to Susan Ashley, Linda's sister, and she said about the Parole Board hearings in the past, “My heart breaks having to live through this again. My heart breaks having to watch my Mom and Dad drag up their thoughts and pain from that deep place inside them where they tuck their hurt away”.

Linda's mother, Margaret, said during her victim impact statement, “This is not fair. We should not have to relive our tragedy. When I remember my daughter, let me remember her as a little girl. Don't make me think about the other awful time in 1978.... Let me tell you this has been the most difficult thing I have had to do in the last twenty years.”

Gary Rosenfeldt, who was Johnsrude's stepfather, has now passed away. His wife is Sharon Rosenfeldt. He said publicly, after going through a number of Parole Board hearings in 2006 and 2010, and even back in 1997, when there was still the faint hope clause, “What's really horrendous about this is this is only the beginning. We're going to have to do this every two years as long as Olson lives, and this is a very painful experience for myself, my family.”

It should be noted that Clifford Olson died in prison. He was never paroled. These individuals do not get parole.

Darlene Prioriello was abducted, raped, mutilated and murdered by David James Dobson in 1982. He is at the Bath Institution. Darlene's sister Terri has said this about having to go through these painful, repetitive and unnecessary Parole Board hearings: “Families have already been victimized once. They shouldn't have to be victimized every two years. Having to face a loved one's killer and to read what he did to her and how her death has affected our lives is something nobody should ever have to do once, never mind twice.” Unfortunately, that goes on.

We have had the Library of Parliament research how these murderers have been treated in prison and whether or not they have ever received parole. The best we can find is that some of them have been given day parole or temporary leave. They have never, ever been released back into the public on full parole. They are serving life sentences, and they will continue to do that.

A lot of people wonder how I came up with the 15 extra years in the 25 plus 15. Murder is 25 years without parole, abduction is a maximum of 10 years without parole, and sexual assault is a maximum of 4.6 years without parole. Added together, we get 40 years.

Let us be clear that I am not saying we are setting mandatory minimums, taking it up to 40 years. It is anywhere in between. The judge and the jury decide where the parole and eligibility should be set. It could be 25 years, 30 years, 35 years or 40 years. It is up to the judge and the jury to make those decisions. By respecting the independence of the court we are in compliance with chapter 12 of the charter.

We have seen this type of approach being taken with previous legislation. This judicial discretion is incredibly important, because the judge will take that recommendation, along with the regard he has to have for the character of the offender, the nature of the offences and the circumstances surrounding their commission. If the jury chooses, it can provide input as well.

I am looking forward to hearing the position of the government on this, as well as that of the NDP, but I am appealing to all members of the House to support the bill.

It should be noted that in the previous Parliament, all Liberals voted yes at second reading for this legislation. Many of them sit on the benches today, and are still here.

I want to make sure people understand that these depraved murderers, these brutal and sadistic members of society, will never be released back into society. They are not going to be released. The Parole Board of Canada continues to hold them in institutions, knowing they are dangerous offenders who potentially could reoffend, because so often they are psychopaths. Therefore, let us ensure we are not revictimizing those families by having them go to all these unnecessary Parole Board hearings and relive the murder and brutal details of how their loved ones were killed, all to the gratification of those incarcerated psychopaths.

I ask that everyone support this legislation. Let us get it to committee and let us hear from the victims organizations, the families who have been impacted and the families who are calling for this. Let us give them some peace. Let us respect their wishes and their lives so they do not have to go on and on living this nightmare.

As Yvonne Harvey of the Canadian Parents of Murdered Children said, “Although I have not personally faced the ordeal of a parole hearing, I have spoken to many individuals who have. I am certain that the primary intent of this bill, to spare the families of victims from having to attend unnecessary parole hearings, would be most welcomed.”

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the work of my friend from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing forward this initiative.

The member indicated in his remarks that he did not think the bill transgressed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the point about presumed cruel and unusual punishment. He claims that there is this discretion available to judges or juries on sentencing, between 25 and 40 years in his scheme. Does the member have a formal legal opinion to that effect or is that simply his idea?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, in the previous Parliament, I discussed this with the Department of Justice, along with the judicial team at the Library of Parliament, to ensure this was in compliance. It falls along the same suit of Bill C-48 from that Parliament, which is still in use today and is in compliance with the charter. This is not about anything that is considered cruel and unusual punishment. This legislation would provide full flexibility and independence to the courts to make those decisions.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, despite the fact that the bill might be in compliance, as the member has suggested, I am curious if he can explain the process of it coming through the House last time and being voted on. I understand that it sat on the Order Paper for a while. For some reason, it did not move forward from there. Why did the previous government not pick up on it? Is there any insight into why it was not moved along by the former Conservative government?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, the legislation I tabled in February 2013 was given second reading June 5, 2013, because that is when it came up in the draw. It was reinstated after the recess. It was already through second reading and referred to committee. I was then appointed parliamentary secretary and as parliamentary secretary, I was not allowed to carry any Private Members' Business.

Therefore, it was picked up by colleague, Colin Mayes, who then brought it back in April 2014. It was then given second reading around that time and referred to committee, after the summer break, on September 24. It came though committee, and if I recall, the committee was jammed up with a number of pieces of legislation. However, it was reported back on April 1, 2015, with report stage on June 2 and third reading at the same time.

Therefore, it came through the normal process of private members' bills. As the member fully knows, often we are lower in priority and have only an hour a day in the House for these types of debates. Government business takes precedence at committee over private members' bills.

I am hoping we can get everyone onside and move the bill through quicker, knowing the time frame we have in front of us, recessing at the end of June.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for his leadership in bringing forward the bill.

The fact is that murder is the most serious offence in the Criminal Code, but not all murders are equal. Some are so heinous, so sadistic, so violent that they are really in a special category. As the member pointed out, that is the object of the bill. I agree wholeheartedly with him that it is important that we pass the bill at second reading to get it to committee to hear, as he said, from some of the victims' families and friends.

However, as the member pointed out, the bill was studied at committee in the last Parliament. I was not there in the last Parliament, but I did read the transcripts from the committee, and there was some very powerful testimony from victims. Could the member comment?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2019 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, Susan Ashley and Sharon Rosenfeldt were there. It was heart-wrenching for them to be there to talk about how their loved ones had been murdered and how important this legislation was. I hope we can get the bill back to committee as quickly as possible.

However, to go back to the point raised in the previous question, the reason the bill is only coming forward now is because this is when my name came up in the draw. This is why it has been sitting around for three years since I tabled it at first, and we are only getting to second reading now.