An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (maximum security offenders)


Bernard Généreux  Conservative

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


Defeated, as of May 1, 2024

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-351.


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 require that inmates who have been found to be dangerous offenders or convicted of more than one first degree murder be assigned a security classification of maximum and confined in a maximum security penitentiary or area in a penitentiary.


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.


May 1, 2024 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-351, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (maximum security offenders)

May 23rd, 2024 / 11:10 a.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Thank you, Chair.

I'll be relatively brief here, but I want to add a couple of quick comments. There has been a desire for other members to offer commentary, and to do so through points of order. I don't understand why they don't just speak to the issue in the usual fashion.

I want to add that what we're doing here is pushing for the committee to complete its report on the Paul Bernardo prison transfer. My colleague Mr. Caputo has done a great deal of excellent work on the issue of prison transfers, which includes going to prisons and understanding the situation that is on the ground in those places.

He's talked about the importance of getting it right when it comes to protecting the rights of victims and ensuring that heinous criminals remain in the appropriate level of security prison.

In the context of this committee, we are saying that, whatever one's view on that issue, it is appropriate that the committee, having done this study, should provide a report to the House. There is a draft report, and it should simply be completed and presented to the House. Liberals are trying to block this report.

That's the context. Conservatives are fighting for the release of the report on the Bernardo prison transfer. We have proposed an amendment to the subcommittee on agenda and procedure's report that calls for the release of that report. We're certainly prepared to discuss, engage and negotiate on all other matters, but we are insisting on the release of the Bernardo report and that that work be completed. I hope members will see the value of that substantively and will work with us to realize that objective.

I did want to add to the conversation by saying that this is another case where we have Trudeau Liberals trying to avoid responsibility for what are in fact government decisions. Persistently across a range of different areas, Liberals want you to believe that they are not responsible for the things that happen under their watch. Justin Trudeau has been the Prime Minister of this country for nine years, yet he denies responsibility for any of the things that happened under his tenure.

In this particular case, with the question of prisoner transfers, it is up to Parliament to establish rules and to propose and consider amendments to the law that deal with the level of security that a person experiences in prison.

The decision not to pass a law is a policy choice, just as the decision to pass a law in that regard is a policy choice. All of the other systems and people who work within the public service operate within a framework of law established by Parliament.

We have a system of rule of law and parliamentary supremacy, so public servants don't make arbitrary decisions without reference to law and policy; they act within laws that are established. As you would expect, Conservatives proposed a change to the law in Parliament as it relates to these issues of security.

That law was proposed by a Conservative MP, Mr. Bernard Généreux. The bill is Bill C-351. Those members of the public who are interested in this issue of the prison transfer can and should consult the appropriate sites for details on what happened with this bill, what was said in the various debates, how it unfolded and what the final vote on that bill was.

Sadly, it did not pass; and it didn't pass because the other parties voted against it—all of them, as Mr. Caputo mentioned.

I'll just very simply read the summary, so there's no doubt about what this bill would have done:

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require that inmates who have been found to be dangerous offenders or convicted of more than one first degree murder be assigned a security classification of maximum and confined in a maximum security penitentiary or area in a penitentiary.

If this bill had become law, Paul Bernardo would have been sent back to maximum-security prison. Parliament did have a chance to vote precisely on this matter. The bill didn't name any individual, but it invited the House to make a determination on a matter of law related specifically to the circumstances that were at play in the Bernardo transfer case.

That bill is no more. If it had passed, it would have gone to a committee, perhaps this committee or perhaps the justice committee; I'm not sure. However, had it passed, it would have been referred to a committee and at least for study.

I would submit to members that, at second reading, the vote is not on this specific text but on the principle of the bill. The principle that was being considered with Bill C-351 was the principle of the bill, but there would have been plenty of time for study and amendment. I know there are cases in which members do vote at second reading for a bill that they think merits further study, even if they have concerns about aspects of the text and even if they might well plan to vote a different way at third reading. Second reading is a chance to consider the principle before the House.

Members of other parties voted against it.

During debate on Bill C-351, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Mr. Kevin Lamoureux, spoke to the bill. That will surprise some members, but Mr. Lamoureux did speak to Bill C-351.

He said:

It is one of the planks the Conservative Party's members talk about. If we remember, there are four things that they talk about, saying these are the things they would do if they were—

He said “heaven forbid”.

—to form government. One of them is to abolish crime.

He continued:

I am not too sure exactly how they are going to abolish crime. I think they have some sort of wand or, through legislation, they are going to make it illegal to commit a crime and, therefore, if it is illegal to commit a crime, crime will go away. I suspect that is what they are thinking.

Those were the profound reflections of the member for Winnipeg North in the House of Commons.

He is right, to a point, that the Conservative priorities we have been articulating in Parliament are to “axe the tax”, “build the homes”, “fix the budget” and “stop the crime”. “Stop the crime” is one of those four.

Mr. Lamoureux is wondering how, exactly, the Conservatives will go about stopping the crime. The modest proposal I would maybe start with is that we will repeal the Liberal policies that have demonstrably led to an increase in crime. Violent crime was dropping in this country prior to the change in government.

Liberals made specific policy changes, based on their ideology, and those policy changes had consequences. The trajectory of crime in this country was reversed. We've talked about some of these statistics. There's the astronomical growth in crime under this government, or, in particular, certain areas of crime, such as auto theft. I was sharing statistics earlier on the numbers around auto theft.

I didn't get to mention the numbers for Winnipeg, but since I'm referencing Mr. Lamoureux's comments, I should say that the rate of auto theft in Winnipeg went up by 62.5% during the time the Liberals were in government.

What are we to make of that, Chair?

The 62.5% increase in auto theft in Winnipeg is not of the same magnitude as the increases in other areas, like the well over 200% increase in the greater Toronto area and the over 100% increase in Montreal.

Crime has gone up dramatically under the Liberals. The Liberal parliamentary secretary is asking, as part of the debate on Bill C-351, what Conservatives would do to stop the crime.

Well, we would start by stopping the Liberal policies that have led to an increase in crime. There may well be more to do after that, but that would seem like a logical place to start.

In the course of debate on Bill C-351.... Again, we had a bill before Parliament that would have addressed precisely this problem. The Liberals want to know how it could happen that a person would be transferred from maximum security to medium security. Well, how could it happen that they voted against the bill that would solve the problem?

It's a very simple matter that could have been addressed with a vote at second reading on the bill. Any members with specific concerns about specific mechanics could well have brought those concerns to the committee study and maybe proposed reasonable amendments to the bill.

Sadly, Bill C-351 was defeated. When given the chance, other parties voted against fixing this problem. They voted, in effect, in favour of continuing to allow prison transfers for Bernardo and people like him, from maximum to medium security.

I will say that, in particular, this bill would not just have prevented things like this from happening again. This bill would have required that inmates who fit a particular description be assigned a maximum-security classification. The effect of this is that Mr. Bernardo would have been sent back to a maximum-security prison as soon as this legislation passed.

In any event, this bill was defeated.

Our position is that the report related to the prison transfer, which has now been sitting on the shelf for six months at this committee, be published. Because of the rules of in camera, members and staff are not able to share that report with the public. The committee should finish its work on that report. We know drafting instructions were given and, as such, we can presume there is a report that is ready, but it has not been tabled in the House.

To honour the victims and, hopefully, to hear some concrete recommendations, I suggest we proceed with that report. That is our position. That is what we're establishing through this process.

I hope we'll see support for my amendment, which would ensure that work gets done.

I hope the report contains a recommendation that measures like Bill C-351 are reconsidered. Of course, procedurally, I don't that think can happen in this Parliament, but you can be sure that in the next Parliament, members will be fully engaged with these issues of protecting the rights of victims.

A Conservative government led by Pierre Poilievre will put the rights of victims first. We will ensure that victims who have suffered at the hands of violent criminals are not shocked and revictimized by finding out that in the middle of the night the person who brutalized their family was transferred to a medium-security prison and they weren't even engaged in the process in any way.

You can be sure we will use the legislative authority that the House has and not constantly pass off responsibility, as this government has always done.

Chair, I've spoken mainly on Bill C-351 and the prison transfer. There are a number of other issues dealt with in this amendment, and one of them is auto theft. Maybe that's what he's going to focus on, or maybe it's something else. I don't know, but I'm eager to hear from my colleague Mr. Viersen, who has forgotten more than I will ever know about cars in general. I will cede the floor, but I'd like to be added back at the bottom of the list.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2024 / 6:20 p.m.
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Ben Carr Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was having technical difficulties earlier this afternoon during the vote on Bill C-351.

I am asking for the unanimous consent of the House for my vote on the bill to be recorded as a nay.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2024 / 3:35 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-351 under Private Members' Business.

Before the Clerk announced the results of the vote:

The House resumed from April 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-351, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (maximum security offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2024 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to deliver a final reply in the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-351, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act regarding maximum security offenders.

I will not go into the details of the context surrounding the introduction of such a bill. I will simply point out that what prompted it was the news last June that serial killer Paul Bernardo had been transferred from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security one. It was news that shocked the public and forced the families and victims to relive their trauma. This bill seeks to ensure that maximum-security offenders remain in a maximum-security facility, where they deserve to be.

I would once again like to thank my colleague from Niagara Falls, who introduced a similar bill, as well as a motion calling for the immediate cancellation of Bernardo's transfer. Unfortunately, his motion was defeated.

I listened carefully to my colleagues' speeches, in the first hour of reading and today, and I have a few comments to make.

My Liberal colleagues mentioned that we do not care about women. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Conservative Party has always stood with victims. Unfortunately, when it comes to dangerous offenders, the vast majority of victims are women. I also heard the Liberals say that we are using this bill to fearmonger. They falsely claim that we want to make people believe that offenders like Bernardo could end up being released. That is not the purpose of this bill at all.

The probability that such a dangerous criminal would be out on release is extremely low. However, the fact that he was transferred from a maximum- to a medium-security prison is something we want to prevent. I repeat, the very simple goal of this bill is to ensure that such criminals, given their horrific actions, are kept in maximum-security prisons, not in institutions where they would receive much more generous privileges. Most importantly, we want to prevent the families of victims from having to relive a trauma that no one would want to experience.

Other colleagues have also talked about rehabilitation. I heard someone say earlier that we do not believe in it. That is absolutely not the case. Our party does believe in rehabilitation, especially for young offenders. For some offences, a second chance is the way forward, but in the Bernardo case, for example, I am sure members will agree that rehabilitation is impossible. A second chance for such a monster is out of the question. We are talking about at least 1,000 inmates in Canada who are considered dangerous offenders.

As evidence of the current government's soft-on-crime attitude, the response to an Order Paper question submitted by my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo revealed that most of these offenders are serving their sentences in medium- or even minimum-security prisons. There are dangerous offenders in minimum-security institutions. That is what happens when a government does not have its priorities straight, when a government believes that the right thing to do is to offer dangerous criminals the least restrictive environment. That is what happened in 2019 with the passage of Bill C-83, which puts the comfort of criminals ahead of concern for victims' families. That is pure liberalism. That is the legacy of the Liberal government after nine years in power.

On this side of the House, we stand by the victims and not the criminals. That is why I introduced this bill and I am proud of it. Where the Liberals have failed, we will succeed. We will restore common sense in our justice and correctional system.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2024 / 1:20 p.m.
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Brad Redekopp Conservative Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, it has been almost a year since one of the most notorious serial killers in Canada was moved from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security facility under provisions of the NDP-Liberals' so-called justice legislation, Bill C-83.

This serial killer is infamous for his long string of rapes in Scarborough; the rape, torture and murder of his sister-in-law; and the rape, torture and murder of two very young, innocent girls from St. Catharines. We all know his partner in crime, his wife, Karla Homolka, skated with a 10-year sentence, despite actively participating in the crimes as per the videotape the police had in their possession. This rapist, this serial killer, this monster is Paul Bernardo.

Let me acknowledge the pain and suffering, and the repeated victimization, of the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. I cannot imagine the pain that they live with everyday. God bless them.

After Bernardo, that monster, was found guilty of his crimes, the judge correctly sentenced him to life imprisonment as a dangerous offender, meaning he should have stayed locked up in maximum security until he died of old age. However, no, our current government, this woke bunch of MPs who are running our justice system, decided that Paul Bernardo is the real victim, a nice, fine, misunderstood fellow who deserves medium security.

The Liberals passed a law, Bill C-83, which explicitly tells police, judges and Correctional Services Canada to impose the least restrictive measures on a person as possible. In practice, this means that this monster, Paul Bernardo, now lives in a dormitory, has a tennis court and ice rink for recreation, and access to sharp instruments when he gets that urge to murder again. It is not even close to maximum security. That makes no sense.

On June 23 last year, I asked the justice minister, in this very House. why Paul Bernardo gets such special treatment. What was his answer? Of course, he did not answer at all. Instead, one of the Prime Minister’s attack dogs got up to say that, just because Paul Bernardo is a bad man, it does not mean the Liberals did anything wrong with their legislation.

Yes, everyone heard me right: the Liberals refused to take responsibility for their own actions. However, members need not worry. Since the current NDP-Liberal government refuses to take responsibility for its own actions, it will be the Conservatives who once again step up to the plate to fix the situation.

What would that fix? Bill C-351 is a bill introduced by my great Conservative colleague from Quebec. This legislation would fix the mess created by the Liberals in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It would amend section 28 of the act, which currently states, “If a person is or is to be confined in a penitentiary, the Service shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the penitentiary in which they are confined is one that provides them with the least restrictive environment”.

That is what the Liberals have changed it to say. They made it as easy on the convicted criminal as possible. This is why Bernardo is getting all the special treatment.

My colleague's bill proposes to change that section to say, “ensure that the penitentiary in which they are confined is one that provides them with an environment that contains only the necessary restrictions”. In other words, only make it easier on a convicted criminal if it is absolutely necessary. This legislation is making a significant fix through changing the words “least restrictive environment” to “environment that contains only the necessary restrictions”. While it is a simple language change, it is a massive policy change.

When it comes to crime and what to do with criminals who victimize Canadians, Conservatives, such as myself, my colleague and our leader, have very different approaches than those of the NDP-Liberal government. Conservatives believe that victims of crimes, those who are innocent, who have been terrorized in their own homes, have had their cars stolen, have been mugged on our streets, who have been are raped and those who have had family members murdered, should come first.

The NDP-Liberals have a very different approach than Conservatives do to crime. I believe in common sense. If a crime was committed, the criminal needs to answer. The woke, NDP-Liberal approach is that the criminal is the single most important person in the justice system. They believe, and they have written into law, that police, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and jailers must take into account diversity, equity, inclusion and critical race theory when dealing with criminals. They have put into place checklists. Does this criminal have any sort of skin colour, racial background, sexual identity or anything in their background that would warrant that criminal to walk away scot-free? If so, let them go. That is the NDP-Liberal approach to criminal justice.

This woke crowd does not care if a criminal has raped a woman, kidnapped a child or murdered a indigenous man because, in their minds, that so-called underprivileged criminal is more important than any victim can be. In their topsy-turvy world view, it actually sees those committing the crimes as the people who need to be cared for, while the actual victims continue to suffer over and over again.

Senator Kim Pate, appointed by the current Liberal Prime Minister, summed up the Liberal hug-a-thug position quite nicely last year when she addressed the Fredericton City Council. She said, “Canada’s criminal legal system is unjust, discriminatory and biased against indigenous people and people of colour.”

I agree that it has been unjust against indigenous victims of crime like those on the James Smith Cree Nation. The coroner's inquest, which was held in my home riding of Saskatoon West, by the way, was clear on the point. The man who murdered all those indigenous people on the reserve should never have been released in the first place. However, folks like Senator Pate do not particularly care about those victims, do they? Instead, they are making excuses for the inexcusable. Senator Pate is one of the many examples of what is absolutely wrong with NDP-Liberal justice.

Once a crime is committed, the criminal must be punished, period. That is why a common-sense Conservative government will bring in tough-on-crime legislation. We will lock up the criminals. We will stop the crime. “Diversity, equity, inclusion” and critical race theory approaches that lead to “hug a thug” and to repeat offenders will be swept away. Common-sense Conservatives will bring back mandatory minimums. We will crack down on the people who sexually exploit our children and on the people who peddle sexually explicit images of children on the Internet. Indeed, my Conservative colleague for North Okanagan—Shuswap brought in his private member’s bill, Bill C-291, to do this very thing.

We will take the issue of women being trafficked into sexual slavery seriously and not laugh it off as sex workers and body positivity, as men pay their pimps in order to abuse and demean women. My colleague, the Conservative MP for Peace River—Westlock has introduced legislation in the House to accomplish this through Bill C-308, an act respecting the national strategy to combat human trafficking.

We will ensure that men who commit violence against pregnant women face stiffer sentences. The NDP and the Liberals voted to kill the legislation, based on the justification that beating a pregnant woman senseless is just another form of abortion, almost as if that were a good thing. I would argue that the last thing a civilized country like Canada should do is beat pregnant women and not punish criminals properly for it. I proudly supported the legislation brought forward by my Conservative colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville, that would have allowed the judge to consider pregnancy as an aggravating factor when sentencing someone who has beaten a pregnant woman.

Shall I give another example? Why not? Let us contrast, juxtapose and expose the soft-on-crime approach of the NDP-Liberals. My Conservative colleague, the MP for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, has introduced Bill C-296, the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act, which would make life imprisonment actually life imprisonment. That means that if someone commits—

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2024 / 1 p.m.
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Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C‑351, which is sponsored by the Conservative member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup. I followed the saga surrounding the transfer of inmate Paul Bernardo from a maximum-security penitentiary to the medium-security facility in La Macaza, because the La Macaza institution is located in my riding of Laurentides—Labelle.

On March 27, at the invitation of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers , I spent the day inside the institution. What I heard that day had absolutely nothing to do with the inmate in question. We agree that his crimes are revolting, but quite honestly, we are not concerned about his transfer to that facility. What revolts us is what is happening inside the walls of this institution. The correctional officers told me about some things that I want to share.

They told me about the delivery of drugs by drone, faulty and outdated equipment and staff retention issues. They told me about shivs, physical assaults on employees and the list goes on. I spent the day there. Rather than addressing the real problems in federal penitentiaries, since it is not just at the La Macaza facility that we need to take action to ensure the safety of staff who work every day to keep the public safe, the Conservative Party has introduced a populist, sensationalist bill.

That is not taking care of people. When a party aspires to form the government, its absolute priority should be to take care of people. Instead, the Conservatives want to instill fear in everyone by making up problems where there are none. The member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo came to La Macaza in early February for a photo op. Unfortunately for him, some of the facts were wrong.

When I went there, it was not to engage in self-promotion. I was there to get input from the correctional officers and all the employees who work to ensure public safety. I was there to understand their reality, to understand what happens behind the walls, to understand this universe that is completely foreign to me, but is important to grasp in order to avoid coming to hasty conclusions and to have a better sense of this critical problem in our democratic society.

The Bloc Québécois has always stood up for victims. My colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, who has already spoken about this bill, had this to say:

I can assure him that the Bloc Québécois [also sides with the victims]. It always has and always will side with victims. The Bloc also sides with society. We must never lose sight of the fact that our justice system is not just about avenging a victim or punishing a criminal. The purpose of our justice system is to build a safer society...

I can say that I am quite partisan about what comes next. As I often say, in a mature, democratically evolved society where the rule of law is a fundamental value, we cannot accept even the slightest encroachment of politics into the judiciary. To me, that is key.

In his work The Spirit of Law, Montesquieu outlines his theory of the separation of powers. He states that, in order to avoid despotism, it is absolutely essential to separate the legislative, executive and judicial powers. This bill is nothing less than a proposal to reverse that sacrosanct separation. The Government of Canada, regardless of its colour, whether it is red, blue or potentially orange, may well seize arbitrary powers for itself, but when it comes to judicial powers, politics should not play a part.

The independence of Correctional Service Canada's and the Parole Board of Canada's decisions about incarcerated individuals, including assigning and changing their respective security classification, stems from the quasi-judicial nature that the law confers on them. Even if these two organizations are attached to the government apparatus, they are effectively equipped with an administrative tribunal that must make decisions independently. I like that word.

The Conservatives are proposing to remove that independence from bodies that make decisions based on objective and impartial criteria. The fact is, that worries me. We need to have governments that respect the independence of government agencies. We saw that the Harper government often trampled on that independence. We see that the Conservative Party wants to go down that road again. That does not bode well for the future. On one hand, we have the Liberal Party that interferes in provincial jurisdictions. On the other hand, we have the Conservative Party that wants to interfere in the independence of government organizations. I believe that is going too far, and it does not bode well.

I will wrap up my speech. The bill introduced by the Conservative member from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup is a complete departure from the principle whereby these offenders can be on a path to rehabilitation.

In our society, we do not want penitentiaries to become factories to turn out criminals. Yes, we want them to be places where people are detained, but we also want them to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation. In our society, we want the separation of powers to be respected. We want human rights to be respected. We want those who have demonstrated a willingness to reintegrate into society to have a second chance and to turn their lives around, when possible. We want governments that respect everyone's jurisdictions.

That is the society that we will build when Quebec becomes a country.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2024 / 12:50 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and add a few thoughts on Bill C-351.

It is one of the planks the Conservative Party's members talk about. If we remember, there are four things that they talk about, saying these are the things they would do if they were, heaven forbid, to form government. One of them is to abolish crime. I am not too sure exactly how they are going to abolish crime. I think they have some sort of wand or, through legislation, they are going to make it illegal to commit a crime and, therefore, if it is illegal to commit a crime, crime will go away. I suspect that is what they are thinking.

I say that somewhat sarcastically, but when I look at this bill, it reinforces the need to maybe chastise the Conservatives and their approach in terms of how they like to say one thing when they are in opposition and do something else when they are in government.

I was surprised when going over the summary. I would ask my friends across the way to follow along. I am sure they would agree with me that there is quite a bit of hypocrisy they might be witnessing first-hand. I will read the summary of the bill. It states that Bill C-351 seeks to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require that inmates who have been designated as dangerous offenders or convicted of more than one count of first-degree murder be classified as a maximum-security offender and be confined, and this is the really important part, in maximum security by Correctional Service Canada.

There are many thoughts that come to my mind regarding what is being proposed. I could talk about the technicalities of trusting the people in place who are professionally trained individuals and have done a fairly incredible job in our jails, correctional facilities and so forth, and of having more faith in them. I could comment on that, but, rather, I want to point out and expand upon the comments I made about the hypocrisy issue.

Many members will recall the horrific brutality of the killing of Tori Stafford and the abuse and murder that ultimately took place. In fact, it was not that long ago when we heard a regurgitation of it by a number of Conservative members of Parliament, who were raising the issue in fairly graphic detail at times. They were doing that because Terri-Lynne McClintic was transferred to a healing lodge. The Conservative Party was absolutely outraged because that had taken place.

A number of Conservatives took it upon themselves, as I said, to graphically explain what happened to the victim, somewhat referring to the family. Even to this day, I extend my most sincere condolences to them in recognizing the horrific actions that took place. The family and the community are still living with that tragedy.

Having said that, we were soundly criticized. I believe Ralph Goodale was minister of public safety at the time and he was being criticized because of this transfer. I remember it quite well because it was being debated and I commented on the issue. As the debate went on, one of the things we found out was that it was actually Stephen Harper's government that saw Terri-Lynne McClintic transferred out of a high-security prison into a medium-security prison, which enabled her to be transferred to the healing lodge.

With a little more research, what can be found is that this is not the first person. When the Conservative Party was in power, we saw a mass murderer actually being transferred out of high-security into medium-security prison. Now we have a private member's bill that is against what Stephen Harper and his government did. They allowed the professionals, the individuals charged with the responsibility for issues such as jail conditions, the type of incarceration and so forth, to make the decisions. Stephen Harper did what was expected of him as prime minister.

Where were the Conservative voices back then? The leader of the Conservative Party was actually in Stephen Harper's cabinet. I am sure members could appreciate why I am a little skeptical of how the Conservatives are now taking the position that they want high security and that it is absolutely mandatory.

At the end of the day, it is all about the votes for the Conservative Party. It is not about the issues, and they have demonstrated that. It is interesting. The Conservatives recently started talking about auto thefts. Now they are being critical of the government, and we have taken tangible actions on that.

I think back to 2007-08, although I might be off by a year or two, when I was in the provincial legislature in Manitoba. The prime minister was Stephen Harper, and today's leader of the Conservative Party was with him. At that time, no province in the country had more auto theft than the province of Manitoba did, and it was by a long shot. This was not even on a per capita basis. On a per capita basis, it would have been an astronomical difference. We had a serious issue.

What got Manitoba back on the right track was when law enforcement, the federal government and the province came together to come up with a solution to deal with auto theft in the province of Manitoba. It was very effective once it really got going.

One should not quote me on the numbers, but we are talking about thousands of vehicles. If we look at Manitoba, with a population base of under 1.2 million back then, and Ontario, with 14 million-plus people, we still had more vehicles being stolen. It took the governments coming together to make a difference. That is what we are seeing with Ontario and Quebec in trying to deal with this very serious issue.

Therein lies the difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals. As a government, we are prepared to work with other jurisdictions in order to have their backs and support Canadians in whatever way we can. We can contrast that with the Conservatives, who are more interested in bumper stickers than they are in resolving problems. That is how I see Bill C-351, which is actually a flip-flop on the position Conservatives held when they were in government and Stephen Harper was the prime minister.

The House resumed from November 28, 2023, consideration of the motion that Bill C-351, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (maximum security offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

December 4th, 2023 / 11:45 a.m.
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Tony Baldinelli Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

You also mentioned that there must be a law, a separate law.

I've put forward a private member's bill, Bill C-342—and a colleague of mine has also put forward another one, Bill C-351—that would require that all court-ordered dangerous offenders and mass murderers be permanently assigned a maximum-security classification. It also would repeal the Liberal's “least restrictive environment” standard for assigning inmates to prisons and restore the language of “necessary restrictions”.

I thought, perhaps, you could comment on that.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2023 / 6:15 p.m.
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Tony Baldinelli Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in my place today to participate in the debate with respect to Bill C-351, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, maximum security offenders. My Conservative colleague, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, has done an incredible job in bringing forward this important bill, which builds on the private member's bill I introduced last June.

On June 14, I introduced Bill C-342 at first reading in the House of Commons. I felt motivated and compelled to introduce this private member's bill after learning that Canada's most notorious criminal had been transferred by Correctional Service Canada from a maximum-security institution to a medium-security prison. In my community, the name Paul Bernardo is synonymous with evil, given the heinous crimes he committed not only in the Toronto area but also in St. Catharines. His actions are so vile that I will not speak of them here. What I can say is that he and his ex-wife took the lives of three young women in Niagara, and the families and friends of those victims have been left to deal with the insurmountable loss, pain and grief he caused for over 31 years now.

Bernardo is a monster who belongs locked up in maximum security for the rest of his life. This prison transfer, which was a downgrade of Bernardo's prison security classification, is completely abhorrent, unimaginable and unacceptable. This decision, which was made last spring by CSC officials, sparked outrage from residents of Niagara, whom I help represent, and from Canadians far and wide across the country. Local municipalities in Niagara, including the cities of St. Catharines and Thorold, passed municipal resolutions to notify the federal government of their alarm and their grave concern regarding Bernardo's prison transfer to medium security. Thorold officials also demanded that Bernardo be sent back to maximum security where he belongs.

In response to this shocking news about Bernardo's downgrade, I tabled Bill C-342, which is common-sense legislation that proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require that all court-ordered dangerous offenders and mass murderers be permanently assigned a maximum-security classification. It also proposes to repeal the language of the least-restrictive environment standard for assigning inmates to prisons and replace it with the language of “necessary restrictions”, which is used in the public safety legislation passed by the previous Conservative government to support safe streets and communities.

While Bill C-351 is similar to my bill, its key difference is that it adds a coming-into-force clause, which would see it come into force three months after royal assent. This clause is necessary to make sure that prison transfers such as Bernardo's would not happen again and that this act could take force as soon as possible after it is passed in Parliament.

After eight years of the Liberal government, events like Bernardo's prison downgrade reveal just how out of balance and broken our public safety, corrections and justice systems are and just how far off track the federal government is from its public safety obligations. It is also telling that we cannot even get unanimous consent from all parties in the House to send Bernardo back to maximum security where he belongs. Last spring, I tried twice to get unanimous consent from the House to achieve this outcome, and both times my motion was rejected.

Disappointingly, members of the Liberal government decided to not support our common-sense solution. In fact, one member was quoted in our local Niagara Falls Review as saying that we need to have an adult conversation about this and not be playing politics. They asked for an honest conversation.

Well, this is the time to have that honest conversation. We are in a parliamentary debate about a bill that, if passed, would send dangerous offenders and mass murders such as Bernardo back to maximum-security prison, just as the people in Niagara and their municipal elected representatives have requested, and just as law-abiding Canadians want to see happen. The fact that this prison downgrade took place is evidence enough that something is broken with our core institutions. They need to be fixed to not only correct the mistake of transferring a monster such as Paul Bernardo but also ensure it never happens again in relation to that vile monster and the other dangerous offenders and mass murderers now serving time in maximum-security prisons.

While Bernardo is the primary subject of this debate with respect to Bill C-351, many other dangerous offenders and mass murderers have also been transferred from maximum- to medium-security prisons.

Canadians remember the names of Laura Babcock and Tim Bosma. They are innocent victims who were abducted and killed by Dellen Millard and Mark Smich in July 2012 and May 2013 respectively. The national outrage about Bernardo's prison transfer helped prompt Laura’s mother, Linda Babcock, to speak out on behalf of her family and the Bosma family last June. In May 2021, just five years after his conviction, Smich was transferred to Beaver Creek Institution, a medium-security prison in Gravenhurst, Ontario. It is absurd to believe that someone who commits two first-degree murders can be transferred out of maximum-security prison at all, never mind so quickly, yet here we are again.

This perplexing pattern of dangerous offenders and serial killers being downgraded in our prison system is deeply disturbing. It ultimately erodes faith, trust and confidence that law-abiding Canadians place in their public safety, corrections and justice system to protect them. There is only one political party proposing practical policy solutions to fix these issues and restore confidence in our institutions. The other parties, including the Liberals, can choose to support us or they can be silent by their complacency and ignorance of the deeply troubling problem at hand.

Just because the current policies are weak does not mean these policies cannot be strengthened like they were before. Just because this Liberal government let the Bernardo transfer happen does not mean it has to double down to keep Bernardo in medium-security prison.

This is not a Conservative versus Liberal issue. This is an issue we should all be able to agree upon as elected parliamentarians who work to achieve the common and public good for the country. This government has an obligation to law-abiding Canadians and it must start prioritizing the interests of victims of crime over criminals and protect public safety and our communities. Conservatives are calling on members of all parties to support this legislation so that it can pass as quickly as possible. We must do the right thing. It is about standing up for the victims’ honour, their dignity, their memory and their loved ones. It is about doing what is right for law-abiding Canadians who want to keep their loved ones, families and communities safe. Bill C-351 gives us a chance to do what is right and to do what Canadians expect of their elected officials.

Marcia Penner was one of Kristen French’s best friends growing up. Today, she is a prominent business owner in Niagara-on-the-Lake in my riding, and she is a steadfast victims advocate.

On June 8, Marcia wrote to the CSC commissioner, Anne Kelly. In her email, she wrote, “Paul Bernardo is a monster, and one that is beyond rehabilitation. He is a serial pedophile rapist, abductor, and murderer. He has been deemed a dangerous offender. The worst of the worst. If he doesn’t fit the mandatory requirements for maximum security for his entire prison stay, then please tell me who does.”

Marcia is right. If monsters like Paul Bernardo and Mark Smich are not eligible to stay in maximum-security prison for the rest of their living days, then which dangerous offenders and mass murderers are?

Politics aside, let us support doing what is right. Bill C-351 presents us with this opportunity. I hope members from all parties can come together to support this bill, which is common-sense legislation that will help restore Canadians’ trust and confidence in our public safety, corrections and justice system.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2023 / 5:55 p.m.
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Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I was listening to my colleague who is introducing this bill and he said that he sides with the victims. That is good. I can assure him that the Bloc Québécois does as well. It always has and always will side with victims. The Bloc also sides with society. We must never lose sight of the fact that our justice system is not just about avenging a victim or punishing a criminal. The purpose of our justice system is to build a safer society where life is good and everyone feels comfortable.

Respecting victims' rights is important. I truly believe that. However, we must also respect the rights of people who have committed crimes. What I just said may seem contradictory, but it is not. We often lose sight of the fact that most people who are sent to prison today will get out at some point. What type of individual do we want to see leave our prisons in five, 10, 20 or 30 years? Do we want these people who committed crimes at the time of their conviction to be comfortable in their role as criminal and to consider resuming the same type of life and behaviour upon their release? Would we not rather want these people to be rehabilitated over the years? That is what I would want.

We have all lost people or been harmed in some way. We have been victims of various crimes in different ways. We must never lose sight of the importance of rehabilitation. We must never lose faith in human beings and in society, even though there may be times when we want to do just that. The Bloc Québécois sincerely believes that we must stay the course on rehabilitation.

Obviously, the Bernardo affair is haunting this debate. My colleague spoke about this earlier. Had it not been for the events of last spring when Mr. Bernardo was transferred from a maximum-security facility to a medium-security facility, we probably would not be talking about it today. This bill might not have been introduced. Members will recall that Paul Bernardo committed crimes in the early 1990s that we will never be able to understand as a society. Can he ever be rehabilitated? I do not know. One thing is certain. The crimes he committed will never be considered acceptable in our society.

In September 1995, he was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. That amounts to a minimum of 25 years of incarceration before he can apply for parole. It has been about 30 years since he was sentenced. He can apply for parole, but is he likely to get it? It is not up to me to decide, but I have not seen anything in all that I have read or heard about him that would lead me to believe he has been rehabilitated and is ready to reintegrate into society.

As I was saying earlier, last May, he was transferred from a maximum-security to a medium-security penitentiary. I have not seen or heard anything to convince me that Paul Bernardo has been rehabilitated. That being said, is it possible that he has been rehabilitated? Who am I to decide? Thank heavens the decision is not mine to make. We have established authorities, specialized courts and a process to assess these things, and I have faith in the people who handle it all.

The Parole Board of Canada does important work. It decides whether a prisoner can or cannot reintegrate into society, and it grants escorted or unescorted temporary absences, depending on the stage of the sentence. The decision is up to the Parole Board of Canada.

It has the exclusive power to grant, deny, cancel, terminate or revoke day parole and full parole. It also has the power to authorize or approve temporary absences. It is not I, nor is it the Speaker, nor is it my Conservative colleague who makes those decisions. The Parole Board is an independent administrative tribunal, a so-called quasi-judicial tribunal that, as part of the Canadian criminal justice system, makes quality conditional release and record suspension decisions. It makes clemency recommendations and manages the whole process.

The board contributes to the protection of society by facilitating the timely reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens. Public safety is the primary consideration in all parole board decisions. I want to emphasize the “timely reintegration” part because, regardless of what people want or would like to see in a perfect world, here in Quebec and Canada, we no longer hang people who commit crimes like the ones Paul Bernardo committed. We do not electrocute them either. We put them in jail. We try to rehabilitate them. Sooner or later, 90% or 95% of them are released. As I said earlier, that is important, essential even. If we care about keeping our families, our children, our neighbours and society in general safe, it is important—indeed, crucial—to ensure that they are rehabilitated by the time they are released.

The purpose of Bill C-351 is to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in order to take away the discretion that Correctional Service of Canada officers currently have to change the security classification of individuals deemed to be dangerous offenders, as well as those convicted of more than one first-degree murder. The security classification is what will be used to determine the setting in which the individual is detained. What services can be provided to try to rehabilitate them? What conditions must be met in order for the individual to be eligible for visits, either under escort or alone, or for parole? I do not think it is wise to think that they are always going to have a maximum-security classification. This individual will be detained under maximum-security conditions, but one day, they may be released without a rigorous, step-by-step rehabilitation process. That goes against my belief, my faith in the human race. I think that even if we do not want to do it, we have to do everything we can to rehabilitate these people.

In closing, I would like to mention that Anne Kelly, the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security yesterday. She told us that Bill C‑351 could make things more difficult for the people who manage our penitentiaries. If inmates know ahead of time that they will never be downgraded from a maximum-security classification to a lower one and get into a lower-security penitentiary, they may lose all motivation and interest in rehabilitation. If we want these people to rehabilitate themselves, they need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. They need to believe that by working hard and by being good citizens, they will one day be able to see their families, friends and loved ones again and reintegrate into the community, ideally to become active members of society again.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2023 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

moved that Bill C‑351, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (maximum security offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise in the House to speak to the private member's bill I introduced on September 18.

Bill C‑351 amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require that inmates who have been found to be dangerous offenders or convicted of more than one first degree murder be assigned a security classification of maximum and confined in a maximum security penitentiary or area in a penitentiary.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Niagara Falls, who introduced a similar bill last June. He is a strong advocate for victims' rights who worked long and hard to deliver the first version of this bill.

This bill differs from the previous one in one respect. It states that the act will come into force in the third month after the month in which it receives royal assent. This change was made to ensure that the bill is brought into force as soon as possible once passed.

No victim's family should ever again have to endure the trauma of seeing the murderer of a child, a parent, a brother or a sister. However, that is what happened to two families this year, which is what gave rise to this bill.

Everyone has heard of Paul Bernardo, the infamous rapist and serial killer. I will spare my colleagues the details of his absolutely horrific crimes, but he kidnapped, tortured and killed 15-year-old Kristen French and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy in the early 1990s near St. Catharines, Ontario. He also committed roughly 40 rapes and sexual assaults. He is a real monster.

On September 1, 1995, he was sentenced to life in prison and declared a dangerous offender. In our justice system, this means that he must serve a minimum of 25 years before he can apply for parole. He has applied twice since 2018. Fortunately, both applications were rejected by the Parole Board of Canada.

Donna French, Kristen's mother, addressed her daughter's killer. She quite rightly described their pain as a life sentence. She said that that is what they got and that a dark cloud always haunts them. She said a psychopath like him should never get out of prison.

This dangerous murderer deserves every day he spends behind bars, and that is where he needs to stay forever. Bernardo had been serving his sentence in a maximum security prison in Kingston since 1995, and that is where he should have stayed until the end of his days.

However, in June 2023, we were shocked to learn that Bernardo had been transferred from the maximum security prison in Kingston to La Macaza, a medium-security prison near Labelle in the Laurentians in Quebec. The day his transfer was announced, a huge shock wave rippled across the entire country, as people relived the horrific events that occurred 30 years before. The prison transfer was done on the sly. We found out about it through an announcement made by the lawyer of the victims' families. What is more, the families were informed of the transfer only the day of. Imagine the trauma that this caused for the families who had to relive this unspeakable tragedy.

According to the Correctional Service of Canada, that situation was in line with protocol. Okay, but the transfer in and of itself should never have happened. The families of the two victims were right to condemn this situation. The families' lawyer said that the victims' families had asked that Bernardo's transfer be cancelled. The lawyer also expressed concerns about how the federal correctional service had informed the victims' families of the controversial decision. However, months later, the transfer has not been cancelled. Worse still, the public safety minister at the time, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, feigned surprise and indignation. He claimed to have been informed only the next day. Later, it was revealed that he had been informed months earlier. Email exchanges were obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

They showed that the Correctional Service of Canada had notified the minister's office on March 2, 2023, of the possibility of the serial killer being transferred. Cabinet was informed in May, after a transfer date had been set. We are used to cover-ups with this government, but trying to hide the truth about something so troubling is beyond the pale.

It was discovered that the associate deputy minister of public safety had been notified about the transfer by the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada three days before it happened. The commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada told them that the federal Public Safety Department, the minister's office, the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office “have been advised” and that “we have media lines ready”.

In a tweet posted the day after the transfer, however, the minister described CSC's decision as “shocking and incomprehensible”. After being confronted with these facts, which were embarrassing to say the least, the minister blamed his staff for keeping him in the dark. It is pure incompetence at every level. For all his tangled explanations, the problem remained. Bernardo was moved to a medium-security prison, enjoying privileges that such a sadistic murderer should never be entitled to.

We on the Conservative side questioned the minister and asked him to cancel the transfer, as requested by the victims' families. The minister simply replied that there was nothing he could do, that the Correctional Service of Canada is independent. That is another independent entity. He seemed to forget that, as a minister, he had powers. He had the power to issue instructions to Canadian prison officials and make regulations concerning the incarceration of prisoners.

As usual, he and the Prime Minister refused to accept any responsibility. This is yet another example of incompetence. It is not surprising that the MP for Eglinton—Lawrence is no longer a minister. That is a very good thing. Not only do the Prime Minister and his cabinet say there was nothing they could do, but they have taken steps to make it easier to transfer dangerous criminals.

In 2019, this government passed Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. Once it was passed, the bill ensured that prisons would be chosen based on the least restrictive environment possible for the inmate. Victims are not part of the equation. Bill C‑83 reversed a policy introduced by the previous Conservative government that imposed stricter standards for dangerous offenders. The Correctional Service of Canada used this policy to try to justify transfers.

The lax system introduced by the Liberals allows nonsensical transfers like this. I read a chilling statistic. In Canada, as we speak, 58 inmates who have been declared dangerous offenders are currently in minimum-security, not even medium-security, prisons. It beggars belief. That is the legacy of eight years of this Liberal government: a lax justice and correctional system that allows this kind of aberration. The government is doing everything it can to accommodate criminals, but nothing for victims. It should be the other way around. This situation is deplorable, and it has to change.

We, the Conservatives, stepped up our efforts to try to have the decision reversed. I have to commend my colleague from Niagara Falls for all of the work that he did on this file. The murders and many assaults were committed in cities near his community. On June 14, he sought the unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion:

...that the House call for the immediate return of vile serial killer and rapist Paul Bernardo to a maximum security prison, that all court-ordered dangerous offenders and mass murderers be permanently assigned a maximum security classification, that the least-restrictive-environment standard be repealed and that the language of necessary restrictions that the previous Conservative government put in place be restored.

Unfortunately, the motion was rejected.

My colleague supported the cities of Thorold and St. Catharines when they wrote to the government expressing their grave concerns about Bernardo's transfer and demanding that he be sent back to a maximum-security prison. These letters were sent to the Prime Minister, his public safety minister at the time, and local Liberal MPs, but they fell on deaf ears. The government continued to refuse to use its power to require that mass murderers serve their entire sentence in maximum-security prisons.

He refused to take measures to resolve the problem created by his government. Worse yet, the member for St. Catharines accused those who were offering solutions and those who were trying to convey the families' concerns and suffering of playing politics. As usual, the Liberal government divides and blames instead of taking responsibility and making changes to fix the problems it created.

Another initiative that my colleague took was to propose a study at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on October 5 to fully investigate Bernardo's transfer. The Bloc Québécois and the NDP supported the government and shut down the whole thing. Apparently, the trauma caused by the transfer did not matter all that much to them. How typical of this government to systematically side with criminals.

Before I conclude, I have two recent examples that show how lax this government is and how it is ignoring victims. These are two examples of cases where the Conservative Party intervened to cancel out this government's reckless decisions. In March, my colleague, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and political lieutenant for Quebec, introduced Bill C-325, which sought to significantly reform the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, in order to make our streets safe again.

This bill would repeal certain elements of Bill C-5, which was passed by the Liberals last fall, and would put an end to the alarming number of convicted violent criminals and sex offenders serving their sentences at home. It is unthinkable that sex offenders and other violent criminals would be released to serve their sentences in the comfort of their living rooms, while their victims and peace-loving neighbours live in fear. This is a common-sense solution from my colleague, whom I would like to commend for his hard work on behalf of victims.

Despite all our efforts, this government remained unmoved by the suffering and trauma that the families of victims went through a second time as a result of this unacceptable transfer. On this side of the House, we stand with victims, not criminals. That is why I introduced the bill we are debating today. The Liberals made a mistake, but we, the Conservatives, will correct course. We will put common sense back into our justice and correctional system.

I hope that my colleagues in the other parties will listen to reason and support victims by voting with us in favour of this bill.

November 27th, 2023 / 12:15 p.m.
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Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you.

On that note, I'd like to hear your comments on Bill C‑351, which was tabled by a Conservative MP and which will be debated in the House tomorrow. The bill basically seeks to remove the discretionary power of the Correctional Service of Canada officers to change the security classification of people designated as dangerous offenders and people convicted of more than one first‑degree murder.

Will this bill help strengthen the rights of victims of crime, or does it seem to do little for them?

November 27th, 2023 / 12:05 p.m.
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Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

On the topic of Bill C-351, for Ms. Kelly, with the potential requirement of maximum security, would that impact safety within an institution?