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.”