Evidence of meeting #5 for Public Safety and National Security in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was risk.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Philippe Bensimon  Criminologist, As an Individual
Dave Blackburn  Former Member at Parole Board of Canada, As an Individual
Catherine Latimer  Executive Director, John Howard Society of Canada

10 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Blackburn, you said in your remarks that this tragedy occurred as a result of the procedures for appointing members, which were changed in 2018 by the government at the time.

However, violent offences committed by parolees are very rare and are becoming increasingly rare. In any given year, generally between 7,000 and 8,000 Canadians are on some form of parole or day parole. I'd like you to take note of the following years.

In 2013-14, 17 people were convicted of committing a violent offence while on parole. However, in 2017-18, this number dropped to five. In 2018-19, 99.9% of people on day parole didn't commit a violent offence. This data shows a decrease, even with the changes to the appointment process that you mentioned.

Do you have anything to say about this?

10 a.m.

Former Member at Parole Board of Canada, As an Individual

Dave Blackburn

My goodness, yes, I have plenty to say about this.

First, we're not calling into question the quality of the board's decisions. The quality is there. We're doing a very good job in Canada, and that must continue.

You say that recidivism cases are rare. I'm saying that one murder is too many. We're talking about a case where shortcomings at various levels led to the murder of this young woman in a hotel in Sainte-Foy.

In this area, there's no such thing as zero risk, as Mr. Bensimon said earlier. The best members would be unable to—

10 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Sorry for interrupting you, Mr. Blackburn.

No one wants murders to occur. However, you can see a clear decrease in that area. You're concluding and making a concrete allegation that the changes to the appointment process led to this murder. Yet we can see that, over the years, the number of murders has decreased. My question addresses this.

Why has this percentage changed? That's what I want to know.

Could you tell me why the percentage was 99.9% in 2018, and a total of 17 murders occurred in 2013-14?

10:05 a.m.

Former Member at Parole Board of Canada, As an Individual

Dave Blackburn

I'm not in a position to provide specifics regarding the basic reasons for this, because I haven't looked at the case.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

That's fine, thank you. You answered my question very well.

10:05 a.m.

Former Member at Parole Board of Canada, As an Individual

Dave Blackburn

However, in this specific case, mistakes were made.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Chair, I want to ask another question.

Ms. Latimer, you understand what I'm asking about. I referred to a decrease in the number of murders.

Could you explain how that decrease could have occurred?

What could have led to this decrease in the number of murders?

10:05 a.m.

Executive Director, John Howard Society of Canada

Catherine Latimer

I think there are a number of factors that go into it. I think having good case preparation, more focused programming, better support in the community, good links with community organizations that provide some support for people coming out all bode well for successful reintegration.

It would be a shame if the focus of looking at what specifically went wrong in this case devolved too much into a sense of who's on the board. The quality of the decisions, I think, is varied. Sometimes, back in the day, you had some bad decisions and sometimes today you have some bad decisions, but generally, the quality of the decisions is pretty good and improving.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Blackburn—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, Monsieur Iacono, Mr. Trudel is not here yet—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

I was just getting started.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

—so I'm going to Mr. Harris for two and a half minutes. If Mr. Trudel comes, then we'll go to him, and then after that to Mr. Dalton.

Mr. Harris, you have two and a half minutes, please.

March 12th, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you.

I'd like to ask Monsieur Bensimon or Mr. Blackburn to answer this question.

Ms. Damoff, in her opening remarks, indicated that the board had categorically refused to accept the so-called strategy of allowing Mr. Gallese to have his sexual needs met as part of his rehabilitation program. A CBC story says the board raised serious questions about that as a “risk management strategy”, but nevertheless listed his likelihood of reoffending as “low to moderate”, and then said that the board “expects the assessment that culminated in this approach to be re-examined.”

This seems to me to be a little less than categorically refusing to allow this to be part of his conditions of release, but would you agree with that, or am I off base here?

10:05 a.m.

Former Member at Parole Board of Canada, As an Individual

Dave Blackburn

I think that this is part of the issue. Yes, if it's denied at the hearing, that's one thing. However, no concrete action is taken at the hearing to protect young women. Even if the inmate is told not to go, the inmate isn't subject to any special conditions because the decision doesn't include any. That's the first thing.

Then, as I said earlier, this new information was discovered at the hearing. The new information must be reviewed and clarified. Measures should have been taken at that point to either adjourn the hearing and immediately revoke the offender's conditional release, or to place the offender under house arrest until the strategy was clarified.

Concrete measures must be implemented to protect women and Canadian society.

10:05 a.m.

Criminologist, As an Individual

Dr. Philippe Bensimon

In my view, only an external and completely independent investigation involving access to all the case files can work. Personally, as a professional, I won't rely on what journalists say. I need to see how the case was managed and how the events unfolded.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

If you can't tell if it was a result of that, let me put it to you that there was a condition placed on Mr. Gallese's release that he was required to report any sexual relations or contact he had with women.

How strong of a condition is that if there are no parole officers directly involved in that supervision? Would either of you care to comment on that?

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

You're going to have to leave it there, unfortunately. We're over the two and a half minutes.

Mr. Trudel, are you prepared to proceed?

Why don't I do this. I could go to Mr. Dalton for five minutes.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Yes. Sorry for all the commotion.

Good morning, everyone.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Okay. Would it be better if I came back to you? Is that all right?

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Okay.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'll go to Mr. Dalton for five minutes. I'll go to Mr. Trudel for two and a half minutes, and then I'll go to Mr. Sikand for the final five minutes. There has been a little bit of back and forth. Time has been lost over the course of the hour and a half.

With that, Mr. Dalton, you have five minutes, please.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have a few questions for Mr. Bensimon.

I want you to comment on the following sentences in the Auditor General's report:

We found that when Correctional Service Canada (CSC) calculated post-sentence outcomes, it included only the convictions that resulted in a return to federal custody. CSC did not include data on the convictions recorded by other levels of government.

10:10 a.m.

Criminologist, As an Individual

Dr. Philippe Bensimon

Can I see the sheet?

I'd rather read it myself, if you don't mind.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Okay.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Let's just wait for a second so he has a chance to read it.