An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims)


Colin Carrie  Conservative

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


Second reading (Senate), as of Feb. 29, 2024

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-320.


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

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that information that is disclosed to the victim of an offence regarding eligibility dates and review dates applicable to the offender in respect of temporary absences, releases or parole must include an explanation of how the dates were determined.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 28, 2024 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-320, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims)
Oct. 18, 2023 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-320, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims)

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 28th, 2024 / 4 p.m.
See context


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C‑320 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-320, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims), be read the third time and passed.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2024 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am also pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-320, which was introduced by the member for Oshawa.

This bill is very much in line with other private members' bills that have been introduced by various members from various parties. These bills demonstrate that there is complete unanimity on this issue, unlike in many other areas. All parties agree when it comes to the issue of protecting victims and integrating them better into the justice system.

For example, I can talk about two other bills that were debated very recently in the House, including Bill C-332, which was introduced by the NDP member for Victoria and seeks to criminalize coercive control. That bill focuses more on partners or spouses in a family context. I would like to read the bill summary:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create an offence of engaging in controlling or coercive conduct that has a significant impact on the person towards whom the conduct is directed, including a fear of violence, a decline in their physical or mental health or a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

This bill seeks to create a new offence for conduct that often occurs in a domestic context.

I was also pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-205, which was introduced by now former senator Pierre‑Hugues Boisvenu and has to do with intimate partners. Once again, by way of explanation, I want to read the bill summary as it appears in the bill. It states and I quote:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code in respect of interim release and other orders related to intimate partner violence offences. The enactment also provides for recognizance orders to be made when there is a reasonable fear of domestic violence.

This bill, which I spoke to in the fall, is rather large in scope when it comes to measures to protect victims of domestic violence.

The two bills I just talked about deal with keeping women safe and protecting female victims. We know that the number of femicides increased by roughly 7.5% between 2009 and 2019. My colleague from Shefford also mentioned this. There is a great deal of work to be done to protect women. That is also the purpose of Senator Boisvenu's bill. It talks about the use of electronic bracelets, but also about the obligation to give the victim a copy of the order regarding the accused and to ensure that the victim has been consulted about her safety and security needs when a bail decision is being made.

There was already a strong interest in ensuring that victims of domestic violence offences or sexual offences are given more information about, and also have a say in, an accused's release, should a peace bond be issued. The idea is to ensure that the victim is aware of the situation and that she can even be involved in the release process, in a way, by helping monitor the actions of an accused who is subject to certain conditions, such as maintaining distance. Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies do not always have enough eyes to ensure that release conditions are met. Perhaps this is one way to ensure better monitoring and enforcement of orders.

Bill C-320 has some minor nuances. In this case, we are talking about victims in general. It is not just about victims of sexual offences or victims of domestic violence, but would include the families of murder victims, for example. The definition of victim as set out in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act includes the direct victim, but it also stipulates that someone else can act on the victim's behalf. This could include the victim's spouse or the person who was their spouse at the time of the victim's death, someone who was cohabiting with the victim, a relative or a dependant. This means that the bill can apply to a broader definition of victim. What this bill does is make it mandatory to give the victim more information on certain aspects.

We are not calling into question the very concept of parole, for example. That is something that the Bloc Québécois supports, because we believe in rehabilitation. The parole system may not be perfect, but we must still support it in the sense that, in some cases, rehabilitation takes precedence over a very strict desire to simply keep people incarcerated when it is not necessary or appropriate and when there is a real possibility of social reintegration.

Under the bill, the victim must be informed of the eligibility dates and review dates applicable to the offender in respect of temporary absences or parole, and they must be given an explanation of how those dates were determined. The victim must also be informed when the offender is released on escorted or unescorted temporary absence, on parole and on placement, meaning when the offender is sent to a halfway house. The victim must be informed of the date on which the offender will be released and how that date was determined. In short, explanations are given regarding the parole system, temporary absences and orders to place the offender in a halfway house.

Without completely reforming the issue of parole, this bill ensures that the person does not learn through the media that an individual convicted of a crime committed against her or a member of her family was released without her full knowledge of the process, the mechanics of that decision. This will ensure greater confidence. In fact, I dare to hope that the bill will help give victims more confidence in the federal prison system and further involve victims in the process. If this transparency can make victims more confident, that can have an untold impact on certain aspects of the judicial process.

I mentioned this during the study of Bill S-205. One of the common problems encountered in court when the time comes to lay criminal charges against someone, and particularly in the context of domestic violence, is that the victim is often not a party to the case, but simply a witness. This witness is important because, often, they are the only witness the Crown can use to put someone in jail and proceed with a hearing. If the victim does not have sufficient confidence in the justice system, she may decide not to testify, for fear of retribution. It is often for these reasons that domestic violence hearings go nowhere, for lack of a victim.

This is an opportunity to improve overall knowledge of the justice system, from one end of the legal process to the other, as was done with the other two bills, and this one. We can help people understand the system better, have more trust in it and participate more in the process to ensure that those who have committed wrongdoing end up serving the sentence handed down for their actions.

However, we also need to ensure that better psychological supports are available. As soon as the institution is required to properly inform victims about the parole process, for example, this can retraumatize many victims. We must therefore ensure that there are sufficient resources and supports in place for these victims if we want to get this right. We will have to make sure that there is a useful purpose, but also that we think more about the victims in the sense that this bill puts victims at the centre of the process. We must not do just one part of the job. We have to make sure that the work is done properly and that victims are fully supported. Ultimately, we have to be able to say that the victim has been put at the centre of our concerns and is part of the judicial process. She is not just an outside witness.

This bill has good intentions, and that is why I am convinced that the parties decided to unanimously support it at second reading and in committee, and that they will support it now at third reading.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2024 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-320. The legislation has gone through a very productive process in which it has generated fairly wide support in the House of Commons. It is quite encouraging.

What we have witnessed over the years is a great deal of support for victims of crime. This is something that has been amplified through a number of pieces of legislation that the government has introduced and through legislation that has been introduced by private members. There is nothing wrong with recognizing when a private member brings forward legislation that would have a positive impact and it receiving the support it should.

In this situation, Bill C-320 is a bill that, from what I understand, all sides of the House are getting behind. There is an expectation that it will pass, and ultimately go to the Senate and hopefully pass through the Senate in a timely fashion. It is always encouraging when we see legislation, through the draw system and priorities, that members of Parliament have brought forward as individuals that gets to the point that, in all likelihood, it will achieve passage through the Senate of Canada and ultimately receive royal assent.

When we read the legislation in the form it is today, it is very easy to understand and appreciate why it has garnered the support it has. We all recognize the commitment to supporting victims of crimes and their families, and also their communities, because they too are often the victims of violent crimes, and how we can provide that support. This legislation is one step in ensuring that there is a higher sense of accountability for information.

I believe, as I know my colleagues do, that we need to look at ways that individuals who have caused harm to others are held accountable for their actions. On issues such as release, parole hearings or even conditional releases, there needs to be a sense of recognition, in a very strong and tangible way, that the victims and the family members of those victims are aware when someone has been released or granted parole. As well, details need to be provided on the rationale of the system in allowing that individual to be released.

The issue of protecting our victims or standing up for victims was amplified in one of the budgets we provided, through the victims fund, which was close to $30 million, that was made available to provincial and territorial governments, and non-governmental organizations, to increase awareness and knowledge of victim issues, as well as the legislation and services that are available. That was a couple years back.

Not only have we taken specific actions in certain areas of legislative changes, but we have also put the budgetary resources to support victims. I find it interesting, when we can build that support base, how relatively quickly we can come up with the consent of the House.

The other day I was talking about the former leader of the Conservative Party and her private member's bill regarding the education of judges, if I can put it as simply as that, on the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation. As a result of the wide level of support for the issue, not only was the House able to pass it but, from what I understand, provincial jurisdictions have also taken it into consideration, and I would like to think have actually acted on it.

There are things that take place here in Ottawa that can have a positive impact on the entire system. Here, of course, we are talking about criminal law, so it is somewhat different, but the principles are the same in the sense that the legislation received widespread support and ultimately is going to pass through the House.

Where I find I get a little offside at times with the Conservative Party is when its members try to give the false impression that they want to be tough on crime, such as when they talk about one of their four priorities and give the very simple statement, “We are going to stop crime.” What I refer to as bumper sticker slogans are often accompanied by misinformation to try to give the impression that, for example, the government is weak on the issue of crime.

The speaker before me made reference to a case where an inmate had been transferred. The first thing that came to my mind was when Ralph Goodale, when he was minister of public safety, brought to the attention of the House the issue of Tori Stafford's brutal murder that took place in 2009. When the sentencing came down, the perpetrator ultimately was put into a maximum-security facility and was then transferred in 2014 to a medium-security facility. That happened under a Conservative regime.

However, when something of that nature happens on this side, the Conservatives will say that the Liberals are soft on crime. There seems to be a double standard used by the Conservatives, one standard they will use when they are in opposition, to try to give the false impression of being tough on crime and the government of the day being soft on crime, and then another standard when they are in government. It would be interesting to know how many private members' bills dealing with the issue of crime have been debated, ones originated from the Conservative caucus. A couple of them have passed. How does this compare to the type of government legislation they brought in when they were in the position to do so?

I like to believe that supporting law enforcement agencies is really important in dealing with crime. When the Conservatives say they are going to stop crime, I like to remind my constituents that it was the Conservatives who actually cut $430 million from RCMP funding. That does not help stop crime; however, it feeds into the message, while they are in opposition, that the Conservatives are going to be tough on crime.

I would suggest that we need to see more consistency coming from the member opposite. In terms of Bill C-320, today, we are witnessing how the member has been able to build up a consensus that would benefit the victims of crime. To that end, I will be supporting this particular piece of legislation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2024 / 5:45 p.m.
See context


Leslyn Lewis Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise on behalf of the residents of Haldimand—Norfolk today. We have all heard the old proverb that knowledge is power, and it is for this reason that I rise to speak in support of Bill C-320, the bill my colleague from Oshawa has championed in the House.

We have heard the painful story that has inspired this bill. It is about a daughter who was blindsided by the early parole given to her father's killer. Because the killer was given a life sentence of 25 years without parole, early parole was not something that was anticipated by the family. It is the tireless advocacy of Lisa Freeman that has led to this bill coming before the House.

The goal of the bill is to simply lay out what needs to be done to include the families of victims in the parole process. Victims of crime would be given timely and accurate information, according to this bill, about parole eligibility. Victims would be included in the information about how those decisions are made and notified prior to the violent offender being released from the system. Bill C-320 would also provide clarity on a victim's ability to participate in the parole hearing.

There is an embarrassing trend in Canada in which the rights of murderers and violent offenders seem to overshadow the rights of victims of violent crimes. In May 2023, one of the most notorious killers, Paul Bernardo, was transferred from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security facility. His victim's family was not notified of this transfer until after it had occurred. This pattern continues today.

Just last week, news broke that a serial killer, Robert Pickton, who was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and accused of 20 very similar offences, was eligible to apply for day parole. This parole application came just 17 years into his 25-year sentence. It was one of the victim's close relatives who spoke up because the families of the victims were not informed of the parole eligibility.

There is an expression in law that justice must not only be done, but also must be seen to be done. In law, we are careful about ensuring that the sentence fits the crime. We are concerned that the accused should get a fair trial in every situation. All of these values are very important to the criminal justice system and to due process. It is important in upholding the integrity of our judicial system, but what is also important is how we treat victims.

The justice system owes a minimal level of decency and dignity to inform victims' families of these kinds of decisions and how these decisions are approved. Without doing so, the justice system is exacerbating and adding to the trauma of the families of victims when they are blindsided by early parole hearings or transfers to low-security correctional facilities.

Many Canadians assume that, when a sentence is given of 25 years, that is what the offender will serve. Victims and their families cannot continue to be retraumatized in this manner by being kept in the dark about the rationale of decisions in the parole system. Bill C-320 would be vital in ensuring that victims are able to feel free, safe and protected. I come back to the saying that knowledge is power.

Take the example of the personal case of Ms. Freeman, who has inspired this legislation. Ms. Freeman's father, Roland Slingerland, a Royal Canadian Navy veteran, was murdered in cold blood while he was working in a downtown Oshawa rooming house. If the victim's family had been informed before the transfer occurred that his murderer was being moved to a facility just 10 kilometres from the victim's daughter's home, she would have been better prepared emotionally, psychologically and mentally for that. Victims' families do not deserve to be revictimized by the parole system, nor should the system provide false hope and a false sense of security that the person who harmed or murdered their loved ones is behind bars.

The average person, when they hear of a sentence, does not think in terms of parole. They think in terms of that person's serving the entire sentence. Imagine that a family member could just be walking down the street and accidentally encounter, for example, their father's killer. Imagine how traumatizing this would be to the victim's family. Would it not make more sense to inform the family, or perhaps allow them to participate in the parole hearings and provide a victim impact statement?

My background is in law. I know how the process by which dates for parole eligibility are determined and how transfers to lower-security facilities are determined. It is not an arbitrary process. Someone does not just wake up and arbitrarily set a date for parole eligibility. There is a process, and the bill before us would include victims in that process by giving them access to information. This would increase the transparency and the trust in the system.

This simple bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to give some level of security, respect and dignity to the families of victims. Bill C-320 is a common-sense bill. The legislation would increase transparency and accountability for the government and the justice system by making sure that victims of crime are treated with respect and dignity, and are not arbitrarily left out of the parole hearing process. It would give a stronger voice to victims of crime, as advocates have said. It is quite simple: Victims should not be constantly revictimized by a system that prioritizes offenders' rights over victims' rights, yet this continues to happen over and over again.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty to represent the voices of our constituents and to put forward legislation that upholds the rights of all Canadians, that strengthens our laws and that fixes the injustices in our judicial system. This is exactly what my colleague, the member for Oshawa has done by bringing forward this legislation. I want to thank and commend him for bringing it to the floor of the House and for taking it to third reading. I also want to thank Lisa Freeman for her courage, despite the loss of her father.

Transparency and accountability must be at the heart of our democracy. Let us work together in unity to send the bill to the Senate and see that it is passed into law. Victims of violent crime deserve better from their justice system, and the bill is a critical step in the right direction.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2024 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House on behalf of the people of North Island—Powell River.

Before I start my speech on this particular bill, I want to take an opportunity to send my love and condolences to the “real” North Island, as they like to call it. It is an area of a lot of small communities and small indigenous communities that, unfortunately, have seen several deaths of young people in the last few months. I know they are reeling from this, and a lot of constituents have reached out to express their fear, their concern and their need for support for youth. I want to thank them for doing that, and I thank all the organizations in the region that are opening up their hearts and workplaces to accommodate and work with youth and their loved ones.

It is a very hard time. I just want to acknowledge that, for all of us in this place, we know that youth are the most important gift that we receive as humanity. When we lose them, in whatever way, it cuts us deeply. I just want to send my love and prayers to them and continue to work with them towards solutions so we can protect our youth much more effectively.

However, we are here today to talk about Bill C-320, which is a private member's bill from the member for Oshawa. The bill talks about having a requirement to provide victims with an explanation as to why a specific parole date had been chosen, so victims can better understand the parole system. I think it would be a minor change, but it could have a significant impact on people. We know that too many people who are victimized often feel revictimized when they hear information that they are surprised to receive. Therefore, as we move forward collectively in this place, making our systems as clear as possible just helps to build that connection and provide some orientation when people are going through very hard and difficult times.

When we look at the justice system, we see high rates of incarceration of indigenous and racialized people, those living in poverty and, of course, those with mental health and addictions issues, which is really concerning. I do not know if “justice” really belongs in the title. This reminds me of several indigenous communities and elders I have spent time with. Every story is a little bit different, but the main theme is this: When we have a person in our society who is behaving in a way that is hard, stressful or unpleasant for the society, we do not blame that person. Instead, we step back and look at the whole society to see what is happening within the collective that is creating this response in the person.

I think that is a really hard thing to do; it shows how strong so many indigenous communities are, because they have that capacity. When the system is broken, it breaks people; it breaks communities, and we see this way too often. It is extremely stressful for those who are experiencing it, but when we objectify it, push it away and say “those people are this way”, we dehumanize them. I hope that the idea here is to actually look at ways to collect people together to better inform them of the process, to make it collectively safer for everyone and to recognize that our system is broken. As we move through these small changes, we have to start looking at what big changes need to happen to really fix some of these huge, gaping holes.

We have heard a lot of talk, especially from the Conservatives, about Bill C-5. I understand that their methodology is about being tough on crime, but I am more interested in what actually works. I really believe that we should be listening to the people who spend their lives in these fields and explore these realities, because we need to make sure that our communities are safer. One thing that concerns me is that we often forget to invest in the preventative measures. Instead of dragging people out of the river, prevention means that we go upstream to find out why they are falling in the river. However, we do not see enough of that.

There were some recommendations in the report from the justice committee on improving support for victims of crime. We really need to start looking at this. This is one step toward it, but we need to do some work and make sure we are working with all the provinces and territories to provide support for victims across Canada. We need to look at it from a national perspective as well. I do not want to impose on provinces, but maybe we need to have some standards we need to meet. What is really unfortunate is when one rule applies here but does not apply somewhere else in our country, which can often create divisions. Also, it can be very confusing if we ever have anything that is cross-jurisdiction.

We also have to think of clarity of message so that when people are victimized, the more we are collectively doing similar processes, the more effective things will be. With more repetition, people will start to know what to expect.

In the report, there was a very important recommendation, “That sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights be amended to clarify that the information to which victims of crime are entitled should be provided automatically rather than on request”. The recommendation does go on from there, but this is an important action we need to start taking. Again, when a person is victimized, it can be very overwhelming. We know that when working with people who have trauma, one needs to repeat things and make sure they understand. Asking them to request is often asking too much from people who have already been victimized.

Another recommendation I want to touch on is recommendation 8: “That the Department of Justice promote and expand restorative justice opportunities, and that adequate funding be provided to restorative justice programs.” In my riding, for example, the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre does some very innovative work. It has multiple people trained. It works very closely with indigenous communities to make sure the process is inclusive. It does some very hard work. Restorative justice is not supported enough, so I would love to see more federal funding.

When people who victimize have to accept accountability, have to be accountable to their community and have to really sit and hear the impact on the person they victimized, it changes the dynamics. It gives the victim a lot more power to speak out, to share and to have impact. It really starts to create community. This is an important recommendation.

I will be supporting the bill the member put forward. It is a small step that is somewhat helpful, but we have a lot of work to do. The system is breaking people, and there are too many broken people in this country. We should all do better by them.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2024 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak to Bill C‑320, which amends the Criminal Code with respect to disclosure of information to victims. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill.

As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women since 2020, I have contributed to numerous studies aimed at addressing violence against women. The figures are very alarming. Many cities in Quebec and Canada have gone so far as to describe the situation as an epidemic. We need to come up with concrete solutions for victims, to prevent the violence from creating more victims. In a recent article, I promised to make this a priority in my status of women file.

Today, I will explain the Bloc's position in greater detail. Then, I will elaborate a bit on the benefits of this bill. In closing, I will reiterate the importance of making this a non-partisan issue.

First, the Bloc Québécois's position is consistent with its commitment to support initiatives that keep women safe and that address violence against women. We believe that victims have everything to gain from getting as much information as possible about their assailant and the situation surrounding the assailant's potential release. This position is in keeping with the Bloc Québécois's support for Bill C‑233. As a small reminder, that bill amended the Criminal Code to require a justice, before making a release order in respect of an accused who is charged with an offence against their intimate partner, to consider whether it is desirable, in the interests of the safety and security of any person, to include as a condition of the order that the accused wear an electronic monitoring device. The Bloc Québécois will always stand up to protect victims of crime and strengthen the relationship of trust between the public and our institutions.

Secondly, the bill before us now seeks to amend the Criminal Code to enable victims of a criminal offence to get an explanation about how certain decisions were made about their assailant. This includes the eligibility dates and review dates applicable to the offender in respect of temporary absences, work release, parole or statutory release. Adding a mechanism that would give victims access to additional information about their assailant's situation and decisions being made about that person is certain to strengthen the justice system.

Over the past few years, Quebec has positioned itself as a world leader in enhancing victim protection and strengthening victims' trust in the justice system. For example, the Government of Quebec has launched a pilot project in a number of courthouses to create courts specializing in sexual assault cases in certain courthouses; one of them is near me, in Granby. There is also the electronic monitoring device pilot project, which was successful and has been deployed across the province. These advancements meet the objective of recognizing how vulnerable victims of an offence are and putting all the tools at their disposal so they can be safe. This way, the justice system can evolve and adapt to better serve the needs of victims of crime. In an effort to be consistent, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C‑320.

If they pass, these legislative changes will represent an added value for the victims, including female victims of domestic or sexual violence, for example. The justice system has to be more effective in general and more transparent, not least to facilitate the legal process and ease the long-term effects on victims or their family, especially when a decision is made about releasing the assailant. It also strengthens public trust in the justice system so that no other victim of a crime will hesitate to report it to the police.

Statistics show that there has been a spike in femicide and domestic violence. Between 2009 and 2019, there was an increase of 7.5%. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to help reverse this troubling trend. The year 2024 is not off to a good start, since the first femicide in Quebec took place at the beginning of January in Granby, in my riding. Once again, my thoughts and sympathies go out to the victim's loved ones.

The reality on the ground highlights the gaps, including the status quo in the justice system: Many victims continue to fear their assailant, even while that person is in custody. We can only applaud an initiative that seeks to improve the victim's experience of the justice system throughout the process, starting from the moment she decides to file a complaint. We need to rebuild their trust. Actually, “Rebâtir la confiance”, or rebuilding trust, is the title of an important non-partisan report that was produced by elected officials in Quebec City on the issue of violence against women, highlighting victims' lack of trust in the system.

Thirdly, I would like to emphasize this non-partisan aspect that allows us to move this file forward. I know that the Conservative members will support this bill. We need to rebuild victims' trust in the justice system, which these same victims describe sometimes as lax. This bill seeks to better equip victims and their families so that they can obtain accurate and concurrent information on the court's decisions on their attacker. Victims and their families say that they are sometimes surprised to learn that the attacker is entitled to early release, long before the end of the 25-year sentence, for example. This needs to be taken into account. The Liberal caucus will also be in favour of this bill because it will improve the level of transparency in the judicial process. The NDP caucus, too, will be in favour of this bill because it will improve the level of transparency in the judicial process.

We all agree on the need to find solutions to help victims regain this all-important trust and further encourage them to come forward.

I would like to briefly come back to a few other measures that were recently brought in that seek to meaningfully work on this issue of violence. We know that adding meaningful proposals and establishing a real continuum of services will help victims. No magic wand is going to fix all of this in one shot.

I want to come back to the matter of the special court for victims of sexual assault. This is a recommendation from the report entitled “Rebâtir la confiance”, that is currently being analyzed. The purpose of such a court would be to give victims a safe space where they can be heard by the justice system, a space where the workers at every level, including judges, are sensitive to the needs of victims. The first such court was set up in Valleyfield on March 5, 2022. It was a world first. Yes, Quebec became the first place in the world to set up a court specialized in domestic violence.

With regard to electronic monitoring devices, Quebec has once again been a leader in better protecting victims. Quebec became the first province in Canada to launch a two-pronged monitoring system for domestic violence suspects. However, threats still exist. From what I heard in committee, we need to be careful that these devices do not create a false sense of security and ensure that they are worn properly. We also need to consider the fact that connectivity may be a problem in some places, especially remote areas, which means that the devices may not work properly there. We need to address that.

I had argued from the outset that the government should follow suit and recognize Quebec's leadership on this issue. On May 20, 2022, Quebec was the first jurisdiction in the country to do this. It was ridiculous that only criminals sentenced to two years less a day should have to wear an electronic bracelet. The federal government should follow suit so that criminals with the toughest sentences could also find themselves subject to this measure under the Criminal Code.

We have seen study after study in committee, but concrete action is slow in coming. There was the committee study on intimate partner violence, which also demonstrated the need to broaden our perception of violence and include the notion of coercive control. Recently, there was the clause-by-clause study of Bill S‑205, which specifically aimed to broaden the scope of electronic bracelet use. There is also this question of trust in the system that was raised during the study on abuse in the world of sport. Victims questioned the complaints system and called for an independent public inquiry to restore their trust and encourage reporting. In fact, that was the top recommendation in the report by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The government must take action now.

In closing, I would say that it is important to send a strong message to the victims and to take additional measures. We have to set partisanship aside and ensure that we actually mean it when we call ourselves feminists, that we walk the talk. I have had enough of fake feminism. On the other side, they cannot claim to be feminists by boasting about getting tough on crime if they also infringe on women's right to control their own bodies.

We have to remain vigilant and not fall prey to demagoguery, disinformation, and dare I say even the erosion of law and order. That would be the logical conclusion.

It is going to take a lot more than common sense to find solutions. Let us all—elected members, justice officials and community stakeholders at every level—work toward a common objective: to save women's lives so that there is not one more victim.

The House resumed from February 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C‑320, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims), be read the third time and passed.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 2:20 p.m.
See context


Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to discuss Bill C-320, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Victims who share their contact information with the Correctional Service of Canada and/or the Parole Board of Canada and who meet the definition of “victim” outlined in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, CCRA, are entitled to receive certain information about the person who harmed them.

This information includes review and release eligibility dates, which are provided to victims in an initial contact letter. Bill C-320 would require that victims be provided with an explanation of how those dates are determined. Across the country, victims of serious crimes may deserve to know how sentences are administered, including eligibility for temporary absences and parole.

Together, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada have over 8,000 registered victims. We have heard from them, and they and their families want clarity and transparency. I look forward to supporting Bill C-320 to provide that increased clarity and transparency that victims of crime are asking for.

Additionally, I want to thank the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, for its expeditious study. The committee has returned to this place an unamended bill, which received unanimous support. I look forward to that unanimity continuing in our debate today.

Ensuring that the rights of victims are upheld is important. Our government has passed new legislation to continue to support victims' rights in the form of Bill S-12. That legislation ensures that victims receive ongoing information about the offender after sentencing and would improve the law on publication bans by giving a greater voice and clarity to victims in regard to imposing and lifting a publication ban. Bill C-320 shares similar aims to Bill S-12.

As members know, the CCRA governs both the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. It is the foundation on which people serving federal sentences are supervised and conditional release decisions are made. It also recognizes that victims of crime have an important role to play in the criminal justice system. It provides victims with an opportunity to access certain information and participate in the federal corrections and conditional release process. With the CCRA and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights as a foundation, a variety of government departments, including the Parole Board of Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada, work together to provide information services to victims.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights expanded the information available to victims as it relates to hearings by allowing victims who were unable to attend a hearing to request to listen to an audio recording of the parole hearing. At any time, victims may also submit information that details the physical, emotional or financial impact the offence has had on them to the Parole Board for consideration in its decision-making. They may also raise any safety concerns they may have related to the offender's risk of reoffending.

As part of the victim statement, victims can also request that the board consider imposing special conditions on an offender's release. All this information assists board members in assessing risk and determining if additional conditions may be necessary to impose if release to the community is granted. They may also raise any safety concerns they may have in relation to the offender's risk of reoffending. As part of the victim statement, victims can also request that the board consider imposing special conditions on the offender's release.

All this information assists board members in assessing risk and in determining if imposing additional conditions may be necessary if release to the community is in fact granted. The protection of society is the paramount consideration in all parole board decisions. I will also note that Public Safety Canada plays a role in improving victims' experiences with the federal corrections and conditional release systems.

The National Office for Victims engages with victims, their advocates and service providers. It hosts annual round tables, develops information products about victims' rights and services and applies a victim's lens on corrections and conditional release policy development. Victims can also receive information in the format of their choosing, including through the Victims Portal. They can submit information electronically, including victim statements.

These services respect a victim's right to information, and this information serves to engage and to empower victims to make informed decisions in relation to their rights to participation and protection.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 2:10 p.m.
See context


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and speak to my friend from Oshawa’s bill, Bill C-320. Nowhere could 10 words and an explanation of how the date has been determined make such a difference, such a profound impact on so many Canadians.

I have stood in the House so many times over the last eight years to talk about victims' rights. We talked about the Paul Bernardo case. We talked about the Tori Stafford case, in which Terri-Lynne McClintic, the murderer of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was moved to a healing lodge.

We talked about Catherine Campbell, the Halifax police officer who was heinously murdered by a murderer who then claimed he had developed PTSD from the actual murder. He was put to the front of the line, ahead of victims of violence, ahead of veterans and ahead of first responders, to receive treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder. It is absolutely shameful.

There is the case that I have stood in the House to talk about so many times: the case of Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff, who was found in 2010, just 20 years of age, in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. He had murdered Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. He had murdered a friend of mine's daughter, Loren Leslie, who was 15 years old at the time.

I have stood in the House time and time again and asked, “Who speaks for the victims?”.

Cody Legebokoff was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in December 2014. That should have been the end of it. We found out, not through Corrections Canada's releasing information to the families but through the press, that Cody had been moved from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security prison just five years later, transferred mere kilometres down the road from Loren's sister.

Who speaks for families? When I questioned Corrections Canada and the public safety minister at the time on how this could happen, the answer I got was that it is not an exact science.

In Canada, “life” does not mean “life” for those who commit heinous crimes. It means “life” for the families' victims. They have a life sentence, and oftentimes they cannot get the information they require and deserve on why these transfers are happening.

Bill C-320 would simply promote transparency and victims' rights, equally important principles for democracy and criminal justice. It would simply give victims of violent crime and their families rights.

Finally, we are seeing some movement. This bill came to fruition thanks to the advocacy of Lisa Freeman, a constituent of our colleague from Oshawa. Her father was murdered in 1991. We heard the story. She was caught off guard when her father's killer was eligible for early parole 20 years into a 25-year life sentence. Often, the victims of violent crime and their families, the survivors, find these things out through the media. They are not told in advance. We heard earlier that they are the ones who have to keep pressing for more information. They have to be on it all the time.

Common decency would say that, if a loved one is murdered, whether a child, father, uncle, brother or mother, we owe the victims of violence just a modicum of decency. Thus, we should inform them when these killers are being moved, transferred to a different level of security or released into the community.

Our Bloc friend said that the aggressors need to fear. We see this now and again in the statistics on repeat and prolific offenders, on how crime has gone up, on how there are more victims of violence and on how that is impacting not only female Canadians at an alarming rate but also our families.

I applaud my colleague from Oshawa for his tenacity and undying pursuit of justice for victims and their families. By all accounts, from what we have heard here in the House today, Bill C-320 should pass here. It should go to the Senate, where we hope it will be unamended and swiftly receive royal assent; then, once and for all, we can all stand in this House and say that we fought for the rights of victims.

In preparing for this speech today, I looked over messages to me from Mr. Doug Leslie, a friend of mine, whose daughter Loren was murdered by Legebokoff. His messages are always the same: “Who speaks for me? Who speaks for the victims? Who stands up for them?” Today, we can say that we do, by passing Bill C-320, an act with, really, 10 little words that mean so much.

I opened my speech today by saying that nowhere in any of the legislation that we have done to date are there 10 little words that can provide such profound help to so many Canadians as those in Bill C-320. I will mention them again: “and an explanation of how that date has been determined”.

I applaud my colleague from Oshawa and those in this House who have offered a reasonable debate. I am thankful for this time.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 2 p.m.
See context


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Oshawa for bringing this bill forward.

He spoke very eloquently about the Freeman family. I certainly hope that the debate today, the fact that this bill is moving forward and that there seems to be consensus within the chamber provides some small measure of peace to that family.

New Democrats are supporting Bill C-320. We believe that providing information to victims to help them understand the parole process is a vital part of transparency and justice for victims and victims' families. That is why we are supportive of this legislation.

We also believe that we need to be doing a lot more for victims. Of course, we are aware of the fact that often victims are left aside following some of the most horrendous crimes. It is the victims that are not provided with the appropriate transparency from our justice system and with the appropriate supports. This is something that needs to be reinforced, that victims need to be provided all the supports that they should be getting from the system.

This bill is one example of how having that transparency around parole is vitally important. I will come back in just a moment to the vital function of parole, of that transition to avoid reoffending. Where societies have been most successful in lowering the reoffending rate is where there is a properly supervised and monitored transition in place, including parole systems. These are absolutely fundamental. I will come back to that in a moment.

With the Paul Bernardo case, we saw another example of victims not receiving information that was critical. We had a transfer within the system, but the reality is that that information flow, that transparency, that providing of information to victims, was not present. The public safety committee held a number of hearings with the victims and victims' families. In a trauma-informed way, I think all members of the committee really tried to ensure that this was removed from the standard type of political comments that sometimes occur at committee.

All members of the committee received that trauma-informed information so that, when the victims' families and representatives of the victims came forward, I think all parties were able to provide an appropriate level of questioning and really got the information that was so important about what happens when there are transfers within the correctional system.

With parole, which is targeted by this bill, it is absolutely essential that that transparency be there as well. I said earlier that I would talk a bit about the importance of parole. When we see, within correctional services around the world, where there is a properly monitored, properly supervised parole system, the level of reoffending goes remarkably down. Norway is often pointed to. The Norwegian correctional services, at one point, did not have that type of transition or parole. Offenders served their full sentences. The reality was the reoffending rate was very high. Norway tried a new approach, where there was parole put into place, a properly supervised, properly monitored system. As a result of that, the reoffending rate for offenders who were leaving the correctional services went down remarkably.

When we look at correctional services around the world, the reoffending rates are much lower. Where there are properly supervised, properly monitored parole systems, offenders do not reoffend. There is a consistent field of study that shows the difference.

Certainly, in a number of American states, where they have continued to ensure that offenders serve their full sentence without that transition, the reoffending rate is much higher. We can take lessons from that. Canada has a parole system that is often not properly supervised and monitored because of a lack of resources; this is unacceptable. We have the essential need of ensuring that offenders have every tool to not reoffend, and that victims' families are fully advised and apprised of situations.

Bills like Bill C-320 are an important component of that, but resources are absolutely essential. That is where we are coming from. In this corner of the House, we believe that there need to be more supports for victims. The transparency is essential, but we are also looking for transparency within transfers and correctional services, and ensuring that victims are provided with the supports that are so essential.

When victims' families are apprised of this information, often they are not provided with psychological and mental health supports. This is something that needs to change if we are really going to ensure that we have a correctional service that serves justice and provides for the lowest possible reoffending rate, but also does justice for victims and victims' families. We need to ensure that those supports are in place.

I would like to talk about other resources that we believe need to be brought in. Crime prevention programs were ended under the former government 10 years ago, like the B.C. crime prevention centre and others. They were closed across the country as crime prevention funding was cut back; it was simply wrong-headed. The reality is crime prevention funding is an essential tool to ensure that there are no further victims. We know that one dollar invested in crime prevention saves about six dollars in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. It is a no-brainer.

In this corner of the House, we believe in substantially funding crime prevention right across the country to ensure that there are fewer victims and that we are bringing the crime rate down. We believe this is an absolutely essential tool. Yes, providing supports to victims is a critical step, but actually ensuring that there are fewer victims is a much smarter approach. We believe in being smart on crime and smart on the causes of crime. This is how we can reduce the crime rate.

I note, sadly, when talking about resources, that last December, the official opposition proposed significant cuts with votes 23, 24 and 25. It was a sum of over $300 million in cuts to correctional services and the court administration services. It seems to me that it is wrong-headed to cut $300 million, when what we actually need to do is ensure that there is further funding to support victims, further funding to support the transparency that is a necessary aspect of correctional services, and further funding to actually ensure, for example, that the important recommendations of Bill C-320 are actually kept. The funding is a critical part of ensuring that we are responding, in a complete way, to ensure that the needs of victims are kept in place.

Once again, I would like to thank the member for Oshawa for introducing Bill C‑320. The NDP will support this bill. We feel it is an important step in ensuring that victims and victims' families have access to absolutely critical and important information. We look forward to its passage through the House and the other place in the days ahead.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 1:55 p.m.
See context


Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is moving to hear and observe how far we have come. The Bloc Québécois is eager to proceed with third reading.

I would like to add some more information and take the discussion a step further based on the situation before us. Members will recall that there was a surge in femicides in Quebec and in a number of locations in the west during the critical period of COVID‑19. This already alarming situation evolved into a true scourge. Every week, and almost every day, we woke up to media reports of a new femicide. The situation was alarming. Between 2009 and 2019, violence perpetrated against women, simply for being women, increased by almost 7.5%.

I am a woman. I am the mother of two young women and, on top of that, I am a member of Parliament. I have a responsibility, but at the same time I am still a person, and this news deeply upsets me. A mixture of disbelief, at times rage, and powerlessness often comes over me. I do not understand how this can still be happening in 2024. Women have the right to live in safety. It is not a luxury. It is not a privilege. It is a fundamental right. It seems to me that violence against women is condemned at every turn and has never been more socially unacceptable.

That said, women are unfortunately still the victims of men who are suffering or violent, who think that the life of their spouse, ex-spouse or the mother of their child is worth less than their own. There is still far too much misogynistic violence. Too many women still live in fear. From now on, fear must change sides. That is what the bill will do: turn the tables on fear.

Women living with a physically or psychologically abusive man must no longer be submissive. They must be supported. We need to work together to successfully turn the tables on shame and fear.

As legislators, it is up to us to bring about change. Obviously, we have come a long way, as my colleagues mentioned a few moments ago.

We in the Bloc Québécois are all allies. We will always be there to ensure that women's fundamental rights are all respected. We will not just use our defence of women's rights as a calling card. We truly believe in them. We in the Bloc Québécois will not pick and choose the issues on which we will defend women's rights. We will always defend women, their rights, their freedom and their safety. This is not just posturing for the Bloc Québécois. It is part of our DNA. We are a feminist party.

Quebec is once again setting an example for many jurisdictions around the world. In 2021, following tireless work by citizens' groups, women and MNAs from the Quebec National Assembly, including Véronique Hivon, who is someone you know well, Mr. Speaker, and someone I hold in the highest regard, Quebec created specialized courts for victims of sexual violence and domestic violence. I will take 30 seconds to quote what the Government of Quebec said about it:

The creation of this court specialized in sexual violence and domestic violence within a new division of the criminal and penal division of the Court of Québec is intended to ensure that victims receive better support and guidance before, during and after the legal proceedings. While respecting the principles of criminal law, each step of the judicial process will be reviewed to improve the experience for victims by being more responsive to their needs.

To turn the tables on shame, it is essential that we establish legal structures that treat women who are victims with respect and, most importantly, that make them feel that they are being heard.

Quebec became the first jurisdiction in Canada and the seventh in the world to implement electronic devices to give a sense of autonomy and safety back to women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is a major step for the safety of women, but it is also a paradigm shift. Now, it is the abusers who will have to live in fear—fear of their tracking device and fear of getting too close to their victims and violating their release conditions. Women will be able to slowly but surely return to living a healthy life, knowing that they will not come face to face with their abuser.

Bill C-320 has the exact same objective, which is to put information mechanisms in place to make sure that the victim can get an explanation on how correctional decisions were made regarding their abuser. That is worth mentioning. This mechanism will allow victims to access additional information on their abuser's status. It will only make the justice system stronger, which will improve confidence in the system.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Simone de Beauvoir, who said, “What's scandalous about scandal is that we get used to it”. We must never get used to violence against women or femicide. Our actions must reflect our humanity.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the discussion on Bill C-320. As we reach report stage of this bill, I would like to express gratitude to the hon. member for Oshawa for bringing this important bill to the House.

Bill C-320 is an important piece of legislation aimed at increasing victims' understanding of corrections and conditional release. According to existing federal law, victims who share their contact details with the Correctional Service of Canada or the Parole Board of Canada and who meet the legal definition of victim are entitled to specific information about those responsible for harming them. This information includes key dates indicating when offenders may be eligible for review and release.

Should Bill C-320 be accepted, it would amend the law to ensure that victims not only know when offenders could be released but also, importantly, understand how officials determined those eligibility dates.

The government supports this legislation, and I encourage hon. members to lend it their full support. The purpose of this bill aligns with the government's commitment to upholding victims' rights to information while taking into consideration offenders' privacy rights.

Victims of crime and their families seek clarity, transparency and opportunities to have their voices heard within the justice system. Bill C-320 aims to provide the clarity and transparency they seek, offering victims of offenders more information about crucial eligibility and review dates in advance.

This legislation lets victims know that we hear them. It clearly aligns with our commitments to support victims' rights, including their need for information. This bill builds upon the progress made in recognizing and upholding the rights of crime victims in our country.

Over the years, governments of various affiliations and members from both sides of the chamber have taken actions to advance victims' rights. This evolution began back in 1988. At that point, the House endorsed a statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. Subsequently, federal laws provided victims with a voice at sentencing hearings, emphasizing their rights based on an increasing understanding of their needs.

The enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992 first entitled victims to receive information about the offender who harmed them. In 2003, the government updated and re-endorsed the statement of basic principles, and in 2015, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights became law, solidifying victims' rights in various ways.

Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, victims of crime are legally entitled to receive information on inmates' progress towards meeting the objectives set out in their correctional plan, to name a representative to receive information on their behalf, to access a photo of the person who harmed them prior to release and to receive reasons if the Parole Board of Canada does not impose any release conditions requested by victims. Moreover, victims can actively participate in Parole Board hearings, virtually or in person, presenting victim statements and requesting special conditions for an offender's release.

Recent legislative measures, such as Bill C-83, further strengthened victims' rights by making audio recordings of parole hearings available to all registered victims of crime. As well, the National Office for Victims, in collaboration with federal partners, continues to produce informative materials on sentence calculation rules that are available online.

The progress made is a testament to ongoing conversations among victims of crime, elected representatives and government officials. These conversations, embodied not only in Bill C-320 but also in recent legislative initiatives, such as Bill S-12, affirm our commitment to victims' rights. Bill S-12, which received royal assent on October 26 of this past year, seeks to connect victims of offenders with ongoing information and to enhance publication ban laws. In addition, the Correctional Service of Canada and Parole Board of Canada work tirelessly to raise awareness of victims' rights.

In the government's view, Bill C-320 aligns with these sensible, non-partisan and multi-generational advancements. Victims of crime and their families want clarity and transparency. They want a voice, and they want that voice to be heard. This is why I look forward to passing Bill C-320 in the House today, and I encourage other members here to join me.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 1:45 p.m.
See context


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. colleague and thank him for his perseverance in putting forth Bill C-320. This is, after all, if my math is correct, the third iteration of it. He has worked for over a decade on this type of legislation. Much the same as soon-retiring Senator Boisvenu, the member has been a tireless advocate for victims' rights, and I want to congratulate him and thank him for that.

I wonder if the member has any further comments he would like to add.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

moved that Bill C-320, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims) be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleagues from all parties for speaking in support of this bill at first and second readings, voting unanimously in support of Bill C-320 at second reading and voting unanimously in support at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, without amendments.

I would also like to thank more than 5,000 of my Oshawa constituents for having made the time to support this important homegrown local effort. The response to this bill in my constituency and across Durham Region is impressive and has surprised me. Even more impressive is the support for the bill from across Canada. We have received positive comments and support from places far away from Oshawa, places including Abbotsford, Wainwright, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Churchill, Thunder Bay, Cornwall, Essex County, Chicoutimi, Montreal, Shediac, Summerside, Antigonish and Labrador.

It is clear that there is a huge appetite across the land for change and reform of our justice system. This bill is a small but significant step in achieving our shared goal.

I am also grateful to my Senate colleague, the hon. Pierre Boisvenu, a survivor himself, for his continued support and counsel and, most of all to my constituent and survivor, Lisa Freeman. Lisa's very personal and decades-long story is the inspiration for this bill. Lisa Freeman is the author of the 2016 book She Won't Be Silenced, “The story of my father's murder and my struggle to find justice within the Parole Board of Canada”.

After years of fighting to have her family's voice heard as decisions were made about parole and the passage of information concerning the killer's movements inside Canada's correctional system, Lisa petitioned the federal government to amend the charter of rights for victims of crime and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. For more than two decades, she has urged Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada to provide victims of violent crime with a more timely disclosure on the movement of incarcerated individuals within the federal prison system. She has also urged the Parole Board to provide victims' families with open access to the parole process, which has shut out Ms. Freeman and her family's participation on several occasions in recent years.

As I have stated before, this bill is intended to help families who are plunged into unfathomable situations, demoralized and retraumatized by the actions of the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service Canada. All too often we hear senior officials at this institutions say they are supportive of victims of crime, a view that often does not hold up in practice. As parliamentarians, this bill allows the opportunity to help them in that support.

As an example of how victims are retraumatized due to the lack of information, allow me to remind you a bit about Lisa Freeman's story. Ms. Freeman's late father, Roland Slingerland, an Oshawa resident and veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, was bludgeoned to death by an axe murderer in 1991 at the downtown Oshawa rooming house in which he worked as a custodian. He left behind his wife and three daughters. Upon conviction in 1992, Mr. Slingerland's killer was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years. However, to the shock of Lisa and her family, the killer was granted escorted absences from prison and became eligible for day parole in February 2012, many years ahead of the end of his court-ordered sentence. Worse still, it was only after the killer moved to another correctional facility outside Ontario, just 10 kilometres from her sister's home, that Freeman and her family were notified. “In the prison, security in no way matches the severity of the crimes committed by these wicked individuals”, Lisa told the media at the time. “When my father's axe murderer was sentenced in 1992, he received a life sentence.” Contrast that with the 1992's Toronto Sun headline that read, “Hatchet killer jailed for life”. We now know that that headline and the killer's sentence were a cruel joke on Lisa and her family.

Would members believe that her father's killer would enjoy the luxuries he has today at a halfway house? He is able to get a job; he is able to own a car; he has a roof over his head and has meals catered by an in-house chef. Most Canadians do not live as well as Roland Slingerland's axe murderer. While it is supposed to be the job of the correctional services parole board to ensure that dangerous offenders are kept locked up, it is clear that families are not receiving full disclosure from our federal agencies, but our systems are failing victims.

The aim of Bill C-320 is twofold. First, it would amend current federal laws to better meet the needs of victims of crime by providing timely and accurate information to victims upon the sentencing of an officer or an offender while also avoiding the false comfort of misleading parole eligibility dates. Second, it would ensure that victims of crime are provided with improved transparency and passage of information from Correctional Service Canada concerning the movements of an individual within the prison system and would also ensure that the Parole Board of Canada cannot arbitrarily deny victims' participation at parole hearings.

For too long, this country's justice system has put the rights of violent offenders ahead of their victims and survivors. That is altogether backward. Bill C-320 would aim to turn the tide. It would give victims and survivors greater transparency of information concerning an incarcerated individual's movement within our federal correction system and during the parole process. We must level the playing field for victims of violent crime.

Lisa believes, and I agree, that a lack of transparency regarding how parole dates and eligibility are determined cause the victims of crime to experience confusion, frustration, trauma and resentment, sadly, for the justice system. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that victims of crime are treated with the utmost respect and dignity. This legislation would make a simple amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would provide just a little more respect and dignity for these families and survivors.

Bill C-320 would require that information regarding the review and eligibility for all forms of parole be communicated in writing to the offender's victims, including an explanation of how the dates were determined for parole with an explanation of this process to be as transparent as possible.

None of us can argue against the logic of this bill, and I have been thankful all along the way that I have received unanimous support from members of each party of the House. We need to give less government support to criminals and much more to victims and survivors.

A murderer's rights should never trump a victim's rights, yet they seem to every single time. A sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years is meant to imply severity and punishment. This is simply not true and is misleading to families, and it is also misleading to the public. Offenders serving a life sentence without parole for 25 years can be released on other forms of parole well before for personal development, temporary absences and community service work.

What we are trying to correct with Bill C-320 is simply victims' access to this information, as well as an explanation in advance. A recent update from Lisa exemplifies this.

She said, “I was notified in July that: My father's killer's day parole was extended for 6 months and when it goes up again for renewal in January of 2024 and even if he doesn't request full parole, he can be automatically granted it at the same time.” There is “No hearing I can attend, and no opportunity for me to object...just an in-office, paper decision. Also, at the same time I was notified that the 'conditions on parole' that I have in place—no transfers to the province of Ontario, and parts of BC—can be lifted at any time his Case Management Team feels that he 'would benefit from attending courses in these areas'. What an outrage that the only comfort for me and my family from [an] axe murderer can be lifted at whim of his team.”

I can now inform the House that after Lisa was left to advocate for her own rights, which I may remind members heaps more trauma upon the victims, Lisa was finally granted the opportunity to attend and to provide a victim impact statement. On January 31, Lisa travelled thousands of miles from Oshawa to British Columbia at her own expense to make her statement at the killer's parole hearing.

Thankfully, her father's killer was once again denied full parole. However, what about everybody else?

Lisa is a shining example of a victim who has had the strength and fortitude to advocate for herself and her family, but at what cost? It is not her job to protect her rights as as victim; it is ours. Setting aside the mental trauma Lisa and her family have suffered, what about the personal costs she has had to bear, as well as the mental cost? This was just one example of the many times she has had to fight this fight for herself over the last 23 years.

Here we have it. A killer can be released into a community where his victims live at the whim of his case management team. There is no need to explain to the victims how the decision was made and when the release will take place until after the fact. I note all members agree that this is unconscionable, and it should not have to be a fight that victims have to fight year after year just to keep the most callous of murderers where they belong. Families members who have suffered because of an offender's actions do not deserve to be revictimized by the parole system.

Under the guise of rehabilitation, victims of crime often must stand back and watch while violent offenders exercise their rights, which, as most victims of crime find, are nothing more than a mockery of justice and basic common sense. The rights of victims should be made equal to or, rather, better than the rights of offenders.

We are not going to fix all these serious matters with just one bill, but I think we can all agree our systems need to be recalibrated. I also think we can all agree that we must pass this bill and take an important step in easing the burden on victims of crime and survivors.

I say victims deserve better. At the very least, they deserve accurate, timely explanations and information. Lisa and I are grateful to the committee and all members of this House. Let us get this bill to the Senate and get it passed into law. Let us do one good thing for victims of crime and survivors.

I would like to read a statement from Lisa into the record. She says, “My name is Lisa Freeman, and I am the inspiration for Bill C-320. I was 21 years old when my father, Roland Slingerland, was axed to death in Oshawa, Ontario. His murder brought the usual feelings that no one would expect: deep grief, trauma and an overwhelming feeling of loss.

“As the years move along, the weight of the crime is so heavy to carry, but you do your very best to recover from the very worst thing that ever happened to you. If you're strong enough, you will participate in the process, something that is truly only for the brave because everything you thought you knew or what you thought would happen doesn't. No one is locked away forever. No keys are thrown away, and there's truly no life sentence for anyone other than the victims. I often say that, if you are standing after the initial crime, navigating the parole system will bring you to your knees.

“Transparency is a word we often use, and Bill C-320 is based on that principle. Victims of crime should be given crucial information about the offender who harmed them or their loved ones in a timely manner. By backing this bill, the weight of what victims of crime carry will be lessened considerably. I urge everyone here today to take my words into consideration and ask for your support in moving this bill to the next stage.”