I'm Joe Wamback.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I want to thank you for for giving me the opportunity to testify today.
I am the chair and founder of the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation, which has been in existence since the year 2000. We have almost two decades of experience in dealing with victims of extreme violence from coast to coast, from Victoria to St. John's.
I've also partnered with the health sciences psychology department at York University so that we can create a greater understanding of psychopathy and extreme violence among individuals in Canada and the resulting trauma to victims and their families. We also sponsor psychological counselling for victims of extreme violence throughout the country.
I am here today in support of Bill C-266. I believe it is a win-win situation for all involved. The bill maintains the judicial independence that we all seek in Canadian society. Secondly, it prevents the continued revictimization of those who have suffered so much through acts of horrific crime in Canada.
We're not dealing with a large constituency. We're dealing with a handful of individuals who have created such devastation in Canadians' lives that we have to find a better way of dealing with them than by revictimizing those who have to attend Parole Board hearings time and time again.
My first introduction to this type of situation was Clifford Olson. We are now friends with 11 family members of victims of Clifford Olson. The revictimization that those individuals had to suffer and live through during those parole hearings—Clifford Olson was a master at calling for these hearings almost every year—was just unprecedented.
Throughout the 20-year history that we have been working with victims of crime and from the 20 years of research, we've specifically seen increases in disease. Cancer is four times the national average in that particular constituency, as well as heart disease and mental illness. The revictimization that occurs through continued parole hearings takes it toll on the lives of not only the direct victims but also on the victims' families. It is a large circle, and it gets larger and larger as time goes on. For example, when my son was hurt, my grandmother passed away. She could not deal with the injuries my son incurred.
Typically when you're debating and deliberating on criminal justice changes, measures and policies, including parole, for the most part those debates have ignored one vitally important variable, which is the victims and their families. I believe the victims' lives have value that is of equal value to anybody else's in this country. They should not be ignored when we are concerning ourselves with any factor in criminal justice reform. Our obligation here, as Canadians, is harm reduction. I'm convinced that Bill C-266 is a step in the right direction.
I've looked at the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report, which indicates that we're dealing with nine to 10 individuals a year, but I don't know where he got the number from statistically. If they were kept incarcerated for another year, the cost is approximately $1 million per incarcerated individual. That was the end of the report.
Unfortunately, the analysis—either intentionally or unintentionally—did not consider the cost to society of allowing earlier parole applications for those most violent individuals who are targeted by Bill C-266. It deals singularly and specifically with the increased length of incarceration.
It does not consider the cost of repeat offender parole programs, which police-based statistics tell us are in the tens of millions of dollars annually. It does not consider the financial impact of social services for supporting the victims. I have witnessed first-hand the agonizing grief and revictimization forced upon victims, families and even their communities at large when they must relive the horrific details of the most heinous crimes committed against their loved ones.
Trials, convictions and sentencing are not cathartic for survivors. Grief is a never-ending journey, and parole hearings extend and reignite that grieving process. Many victims, survivors, friends and family members are unable to work for months before a hearing. After the hearing, they are terribly affected by having to relive those experiences. Some lose their jobs. They can't participate. They can't continue to become participating members in Canadian society. They can't pay their taxes or any other societal obligations, and many rely on the social safety nets we have in Canada today. All these have costs that are associated with revictimization.
My research also demonstrates that divorce is the inevitable consequence of a child homicide, which creates incredible financial and societal inequities for siblings of homicide victims. Some become a permanent burden on Canadian society. Medical complications are rampant, and revictimization is rampant, equally staggering and profound.
In 2016, Alberta justice minister Kathleen Ganley stated that consecutive parole ineligibilities can be a “useful tool” as a signal to criminals that multiple crimes may lead to a longer sentence. She stated, “It can potentially have a beneficial effect in terms of signalling to people who are doing these things that it's not a good idea.” These are direct quotes, by the way. “It can have a sort of deterrent effect. That being said, obviously it's only intended to be used in certain circumstances.”
She is referring to the most violent and horrific of crimes. We don't see a lot of those in Canada, fortunately, but they are becoming more frequent. I've just attended a conference in Toronto on mass homicides. People in this country and around the world are dealing with this, because it's becoming more and more prevalent as society moves forward. We've had two of them in Toronto just recently. One was the van attack on Yonge Street. The other one was the shooting on Danforth Avenue.
The victimization that occurs, and the cost of that victimization, cannot be calculated. It's the same thing with parole hearings. When victims have to attend parole hearings and face the individuals who have harmed their child or loved ones, the effects are devastating.
My hope is that you will give great consideration to Bill C-266 to allow the judiciary to introduce extended parole ineligibilities for the worst of the worst.
I want to thank you for your time.