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Evidence of meeting #34 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was factors.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Roger Préfontaine
Mary Campbell  Director General, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Michel Laprade  Senior Counsel, Legal Services, Correctional Service Canada

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses.

Ms. Campbell, you brought up a very interesting case there, without names, and certainly I'm very familiar with it; I think I might even be named in the book.

But you raise a very important point and my colleagues should know this: there are victims in this country. In that case, it was a situation where the victims were here; they weren't victims overseas, where there was a murder committed. They were victims here. They were completely shocked. Their lives were turned upside down for a number of years. I've met with some of them, as you have, Ms. Campbell. We have to be cognizant of that.

Also, what you can't forget--I think my friend brought it up, and you've confronted it--is that when the original bill was brought forward in 1978 there were no cybercrimes, and there was not the video porn situation that we have with the Internet. We now probably all know.... I know that certainly in my riding, I have a situation--and I think Mr. Norlock does in his riding--where there's an individual in custody in another country for child molestation, but there are victims back here too. They are victims that got left behind when the perpetrator went to another jurisdiction and ended up being apprehended.

So my friends shouldn't be upset with having these issues in here. I think it's one of those things.... They are looking for something that isn't there. There were always challenges in the court to the system; there have been for a long time. But the solution is not to take away everything and say that everyone who applies is welcome to come home.

5:05 p.m.

Director General, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mary Campbell

I would just comment in response that, in a way, this system is somewhat analogous to the system of conditional release. I think most experts would agree that releasing someone under conditions, supervision, and support prior to the warrant expiry date is the best way to release someone from custody. But many years ago, the government made a decision that there were some people whose needs are so great, whose risk is so high, that notwithstanding that principle, the best thing we can do, in fact, is detain the person in custody until the warrant expiry date because there are so many concerns about the individual.

In a sense, that's a perfect mirror comparison to some of the issues here. You might agree that transfer in general would be a good option, but there may be competing priorities or issues that make it necessary to make a different kind of decision. So in fact, the system detains—I'm not sure of the current number—somewhere around 200 to 250 individuals every year until the very last day of their sentences, because that's simply the best and the most that can be done in those cases.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Sure.

When we look at the numbers, and we can all look at the same numbers.... There is some sense my colleagues have that all of a sudden when this government took power we shut it all off. But the numbers are not significantly different. They vary from year to year, as they have over the years.

To me, they should welcome this legislation, because it lists the factors the minister “may consider”. Even if you want to say “shall consider”, it's not going to change anything. He shall consider it and then he or she can say, whether it's your party or our party, “I've considered those decisions and it's not going to happen”. But I think Mr. Laprade has made very clear what the courts have ruled they have to do. I think if my colleagues would look at it openly, they would find that it's a far better blueprint to follow than what the existing legislation has been.

If I have any time, Mr. Chair, I would share it with Mr. Lobb.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

I'm afraid, Mr. Lobb, you have 50 seconds.

October 20th, 2010 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Well, that's great. Thanks very much.

In the short time I have, I'll say that the coalition on the other side asked questions about “shall” and “must” and “may”, but hardly mentioned victims at all. Obviously--

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

I've mentioned them all along.

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Come on.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Order.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

That was my observation. I think it's a shame that they've read the bill through and thought about it and still can't come to the conclusion that this bill is trying to take a look at the victims.

Some of the comments made by the coalition across the way were just incredible to me. Mr. Holland referred to it as a terrible bill. Imagine that. It's a bill that takes into consideration victims and safety, and he calls it a terrible bill. It's a first for me.

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Lobb. You're right on time.

We'll now go to Mr. Kania.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

I'm going to respond to Mr. Lobb. I'm going to mention victims and the point of view of the reform government.

Let's discuss victims--

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

It doesn't hurt--

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Well, it does, actually, for most Canadians.

In terms of victims, we're talking about victims in a foreign jurisdiction, because Canadians who are convicted and incarcerated in a foreign jurisdiction have committed crimes in a foreign jurisdiction against foreign victims. They are being brought back to Canada in circumstances in which there may be victims in Canada who would somehow be affected. If I were acting for those victims in Canada, I would be happy to have them back, because they could actually be charged and punished properly in Canada for what they did. I don't see how that's a problem. I think it is helping victims to bring them back in those circumstances, not the reverse.

Also, I don't quite understand the philosophy here, because what you have are people who have been convicted in a foreign jurisdiction who are going to come back to Canada at some point in time anyway.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

On point of order, Mr. Chair, this is not the time for debate. Mr. Kania has an opportunity to question the witnesses.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

It's Mr. Kania's time as long as it's relevant to the bill.

Go ahead, Mr. Kania.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I don't understand the philosophy of this, because you have criminals incarcerated in a foreign jurisdiction who are going to be brought back to Canada anyway.

Here's the point. I'm looking at page 4 of your presentation, where you say:

As such, they will benefit from the various rehabilitation programs offered in our federal institutions, as well as supervision by parole officers following their release to the community. And, their foreign conviction will be recorded in the RCMP's criminal convictions database, commonly referred to as CPIC, which otherwise would not be the case if they were simply deported back to Canada.

I would think that for public safety benefits, it would be better to make sure that those persons actually have meaningful rehabilitation, which the government will no doubt ensure takes place in the massive prisons being built, and when they come back to Canada and are eventually released out into society because of this wonderful new rehabilitation, Canadians will actually be safer. Would that not make more sense?

5:10 p.m.

Director General, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mary Campbell

The only comment I would make is again to bear in mind the enormous variance in fact patterns. I have seen files, for example, where the offender relocated to the United States, potentially for a fairly brief time, and in fact committed an offence in the United States against a family member and was incarcerated in the United States for that offence. The family has become estranged from the offender and has moved back to Canada.

So there's a situation where, indeed, the victim is not someone in the United States. In fact, it's a family member who is back in Canada and who came back for the specific reason of wanting to put some distance between themselves and the offender. I simply raise that again just to emphasize there's a wide variety of fact patterns.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Sure, but even in those factual circumstances in that entire example, you have a person who is in jail in the United States coming back and being put in jail in Canada. It's not like they're being brought back and you're saying, “Here you go, be released, and go mix with the victims”. That's not what's occurring. So how is this even logical or relevant?

5:15 p.m.

Director General, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mary Campbell

Again, I can only say that for some victims, simple physical proximity, even though the person is behind bars and a brick wall, is a concern to those victims.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

When they come back to Canada and they don't have rehabilitation, and they're released and they have no record, that's better for the victims...?

5:15 p.m.

Director General, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

That's right. It's not.

Do you want a minute, Mark? Go ahead.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Look, the point that I'm having a problem with is that the government is consistently trying--Mr. Lobb is repeating it--to ascribe motive to people, as if somehow I care less about the safety of my children than you care about your family. Shame on you.

We can debate the merits of a bill. We can have a discussion about how best to create public safety. There are honest divisions about how we come to that.

But to try to say that any member of this committee somehow doesn't care about victims.... The only thing it described, Mr. Lobb, is that you have absolutely no other arguments to stand on.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Holland.

We'll now move to Mr. Gaudet.

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC

Thank you.

Ms. Campbell, you state on page 4 of your presentation that 1,557 Canadian offenders have been transferred back to our country, while Canada has returned 127 foreign national offenders from prisons here to their country of citizenship. Are you aware of the reasons for these transfers?

If I look at the number of immigrants welcomed to the country in the last 30 years and if I estimate the number at approximately 30,000 per year—I may be overestimating, or underestimating—, I see that the total is about one million. And only 127 people have asked to be returned to their country of citizenship. That intrigues me.

Could it be that they are fed too well in our prisons? I'm just asking. Do they enjoy more freedoms in our prisons then they would in their own country? I'm interesting in getting at the truth.