House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.


Lower Churchill Development Corporation Ltd.Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Moncton New Brunswick


George S. Rideout LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the 1993 annual report of the Lower Churchill Development Corporation Limited.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by voters of the riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard stating their opposition to the proposed amendments to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The petitioners are asking Parliament not to amend the Canadian Code of Human Rights by adding the rather vague expression "sexual orientation" to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise under Standing Order 36 to present two petitions signed by 60 residents of Kaleden and Oliver in my riding of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt. I would like to point out that to date 413 people from my riding have signed petitions regarding the same subject, gun control.

The petitioners oppose further gun legislation. They call on the government to provide strict enforcement of existing statutes governing the use of firearms in the commission of a criminal offence, with particular emphasis on the rigorous use of section 85 of the Criminal Code. Further restrictions on law-abiding citizens will not solve the problem of crime in Canada. Government must deal with the real problem and not punish law-abiding citizens.

I support my petitioners.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise on behalf of 685 residents of the constituency of Edmonton Southwest to present a petition that speaks against euthanasia.

The petitioners pray that the Parliament of Canada will ensure that palliative care is active and compassionate, that it can relieve the pain and suffering of the terminally ill and help families without the danger of suicide.

It is my pleasure to present the petition and I concur fully with the petitioners.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


David Berger Liberal Saint-Henri—Westmount, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if I could seek the unanimous consent of the House to revert to committee reports for the purpose of tabling a report.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Members have heard the request of the member for Saint-Henri-Westmount for unanimous consent to revert to presenting reports from committees. Is that agreed?

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


David Berger Liberal Saint-Henri—Westmount, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Industry entitled "Taking Care of Small Business" or, in French,

Pour financer le succès de la PME.

This report contains 24 recommendations aimed at creating a financial climate more favourable to the development of small business in Canada.

The report could not have been done without the tremendous hard work and non-partisan co-operation of all members from all parties of the industry committee. I wish to thank everyone who participated in the report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the tabling of this report I would like to join the chairman in saluting the 58 witnesses who participated in the committee proceedings and thanking the people who sent us 62 briefs.

I also want to stress the highly positive atmosphere in which the proceedings took place. I must say however that, in spite of this positive attitude, we had to dissent on two major points which we believed not to be in the best interests of Quebecers. The first point concerns the fiscal relationship between the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec and the federal government; we will comment on this further during the forthcoming press conference; the second point regards the Small Businesses Loans Act; instead of restricting its scope, we would like to see it broadened to include all small businesses, not only those involved in exports, so that in the new economy, small and medium sized businesses can rely on this act for their working capital. That is all for now, Mr. Speaker.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before I see the member rising, according to our standing orders concerning the tabling of reports from committees, if and when there should be a dissenting voice, members from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition have an equal amount of time to that of the presenter of the committee report.

I submit with the greatest of respect to all my colleagues that the Chair cannot extend the floor to another member to speak on the same report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With unanimous consent, could we be afforded that privilege just for a very brief comment?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Of course the Chair is the servant of all members of the House. Is it the wish of the House to extend the privilege to the hon. member? Is there unanimous consent?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here this morning and to be able to support and to be part of a process in which democracy is operating in its truest form.

The committee developed recommendations that will support small business. These were developed based on the people's commentary. The committee has come up with recommendations that in my opinion will definitely help to develop small business in Canada.

Some of the key recommendations are the increase of competition among financial institutions by increasing the number and kind of institutions that provide financing; setting interest rates under the Small Businesses Loans Act that are commensurate with risk; developing a code of conduct for banks; and the establishment of a bank ombudsman with the power to investigate and order compensation on matters of breach of duty or maladministration in order to ensure a level playing field between businesses and banks.

We know that small businesses play a major role in the economic development of Canada. We need to shore up this part of our sector. Our economic future is dependent upon them and this report. If the government sees fit to implement the recommendations, we will have a better climate as a result of this development.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all the questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Shall the questions be allowed to stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from September 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing) and other acts in consequence thereof, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I will recognize the hon. member for Scarborough-Rouge River. I want to apprise the House we are at the stage of debate where members have a 10-minute allocation without questions or comments.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 addresses an area of the criminal justice system which we call sentencing. There is for me a certain sense of déjà vu. A bill not identical to this was introduced in the last Parliament.

Colleagues on the justice committee at that time viewed the bill as flawed and made a collective decision not to proceed. As a result the sentencing legislation, which has been in the works for some 10 years or more, languished for another period of time. That legislation was flawed from the point of view of properly defining what sentencing should be or could be and it

also failed to take adequate account of the role of the victim in a criminal law sentencing decision.

At least members on this side of the House and to some extent all members are the authors of the bill currently before the House. I am proud to stand with the Minister of Justice in presenting this bill for its consideration.

Certain refinements have been made to the bill. There have been a lot of contributors. It is only fair to acknowledge these contributors over all of the years. This is not something that came off the assembly line and was cobbled together quickly.

Over the years contributions have been made in the area of criminal law sentencing, at least in laying the new groundwork, by the Law Reform Commission of Canada, the Canadian Sentencing Commission, and former members of the House of Commons. I recall members of the other place also contributed to the debate. There have been some special individuals inside the House.

We should give credit to those in the Department of Justice who have shepherded the bill through to the present time. Last but not least is the Minister of Justice. He has come forward with what we believe is a landmark in the sense that not previously in our history have we attempted to codify the sentencing regime in the Criminal Code. We have not had a statute that specifically targeted the issue of sentencing.

Sentencing was referred to in the government's election platform. Some credit is due to a lot of members in the last Parliament, not just on the government side, but some credit is also due to the flexibility and foresight of the current Prime Minister who accommodated this in the party's platform. Now it is our job in the House to review it, refine it should the need be there and put it into law.

What is worth noting for the record is this bill is not corrections legislation. It does not deal with penitentiaries. It does not deal with parole. It does not deal with sentencing terms per se. The sentence that could be given by a judge is set out in the Criminal Code, minimums, maximums or whatever. This bill does not set out the penalty or potential penalty for a particular crime. This bill does not deal with gun control per se. It does not deal with the way we deal with gradual release of our inmates. It is not any of those things. Notwithstanding, it is a landmark piece of legislation.

This bill consolidates and updates in a codified form our Canadian developed law of sentencing. Much of this law has been developed in the courtroom by judges. It was created judicially with reference to the Criminal Code, our criminal law traditions, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other common law elements that judges have taken into account over the years.

This is perhaps an opportunity for the legislators to play their role in giving the appropriate definition, guidance and framework to the judges who have for the last 100 or more years carried the burden of sentencing in the discretion that has been given to them under the Criminal Code. Here is our chance as legislators to provide a framework for them.

One of the major functions of this bill is to define the purpose and principles of sentencing. This was an issue in the previous legislation. It still may be an issue. It may be an area in which some refinement may be useful at committee stage recalling that as we debate the bill now we are debating the bill in principle. I am certainly going to support the bill in principle.

In terms of these actual definitions, it might be useful for the committee which will study this bill to look with a magnifying glass at the actual wording of the purpose and principles of sentencing as set out in the bill. There is some alleged fuzzing thinking. It is just alleged. I am not saying it is fuzzy, I am saying that from my point of view the wording in section 718 could be slightly more simplified and perhaps more orthodox than it is written at the moment.

In that regard, and I will put it on the record, I have a sense that in trying to define the fundamental purpose of sentencing Department of Justice officials have used the definition of purpose of criminal law. There is a difference between the purpose of criminal law, that being generally or usually defined to be the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society, and the purpose of sentencing which is just an element of the criminal law. The purpose of sentencing, in my view, is to promote respect for the law and respect for the criminal law system which does all of these other things for us. However, that is a rather narrow perspective at the moment as we debate the bill in principle and that can be taken up later.

I want to address the sections of this bill dealing with potential for change from the aboriginal perspective. It would be wrong to say there is now in existence an aboriginal system of criminal justice. There are some pilot projects through the goodwill of aboriginal Canadians, the people on their reserves, people in the criminal justice community, the police and the judges.

There has been some leadership there in an attempt to develop a system in the aboriginal community that works. I do not think there is a member in this House who would walk into a reserve in northern Canada and say they believe affairs on the reserve ought to be run the same way they are in downtown Montreal or Vancouver or at King and Bay Streets in Toronto. These are two different worlds.

Our aboriginal Canadians never did apply for Canadian citizenship. We bestowed it on them. There is plenty of good reason to look for ways to make the criminal justice system work on these reserves that are very much removed from the urban way of Canadian life.

I look forward to working on that aspect of the bill. I will make note of my interest in section 745 of the Criminal Code which is related to sentencing provisions. This bill does not address that specifically. It might be constructive and useful to take a closer look at section 745 of the Criminal Code, the section that permits a decreased or reduced parole eligibility date for those serving life sentences, and at the wording of section 718(2) which deals with aggravating and mitigating circumstances that a judge may take into account at the time of sentencing.

There is an initiative put forward in the bill which may be useful. It would certainly bear discussion at the committee stage when we look at the entire package.

I will indicate my wholehearted support for the bill in principle. I look forward to further deliberations at the committee stage.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-41. The purpose of this bill is to introduce changes to the sentencing system of the Criminal Code. A number of aspects of this bill do improve the sentencing process.

Canadians are demanding improvements to the criminal justice system. Perhaps Bill C-41 will address a few of their concerns. However, some aspects only appear to be positive. Half measures or blatantly misleading proposals are not what they want.

Despite the introduction of the statement of purpose and principle of sentencing, judges will still have the same latitude under this legislation as they do today in imposing various and inconsistent penalties.

This month I have received over 4,000 letters and faxes as well as petitions containing the signatures of over 12,000 residents of the lower mainland demanding real deterrents as a fundamental part of the justice system. I believe that inescapable, real consequences are part of such a deterrent.

Respect for the criminal justice system stems from equality before the law. Where is the principle of building confidence in Canadians that their safety and security is a primary goal of an accountable justice system that must include the principle of equality?

As I address the issue of equality before and under the law, I would like to address the so-called hate crime section of this bill. It reads as follows: "Evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation of the victim shall be deemed to be aggravating circumstances".

There is no question that it is totally reprehensible that a person should be attacked viciously or otherwise because of their personal characteristics. The attacker should be punished fully for the offence. However, this section of the legislation poses several dilemmas which need to be addressed.

How will the courts determine that a crime was motivated by hate, prejudice or bias? Will prosecutors launch investigations into the backgrounds and motives of every person convicted of assault in order to determine whether that assault was based on a personal bias against the victim?

How will this affect current backlogs in the courts? Will only the most obvious crimes be subject to this section? Will the courts later overturn a verdict delivered by a lower court because it later seemed that the assault was or was not motivated by hate, prejudice or bias, even though the assault on the individual took place?

Why should one form of assault be judged as more hideous or unacceptable than another? What happened to the fact that any assault on a man or a woman is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated regardless of motivating factors? It is the viciousness of the attack that needs to be judged, not whether the accused harboured personal prejudice toward the victim. There is a problem with the enumeration of categories upon which bias, prejudice or hate will be decided. Is hate only an aggravated crime if it falls within these categories?

What about a person who is attacked because someone does not like their chosen profession? Consider for a moment the popularity of lawyers and politicians. Occupational bias is not on this list. What if they hate someone because they are rich or because they are poor? Class distinction is not on this list. The person who is mugged and beaten half to death for their wallet and keys to their expensive car by someone who resents their status or achievement will see their accused face a lesser sentence than if the same accused had attacked them for their religious beliefs. There is great inequity in this type of legislation.

I would like to bring to the attention of this House a couple of incidents from my own province of British Columbia which will help illustrate the problem with this particular clause.

The first occurred in B.C. to a young man by the name of Andre Castet. Let me read from the coverage of this case provided by the Vancouver Sun : `But no less than a month after the Sidney teenager died from a beating, its his former classmates and the community who must regain voices and steps broken by the tragedy.People are still grappling for an explanation for this-something they can latch on to', says Derek Peach, a grade 12 English teacher at Parkland secondary, the 800

student Sidney school where both Andre, 17, and his two accused killers attended classes last year".

Would the parents and friends of the victims feel any better about this tragic death if they knew that the accused would be facing a stiffer penalty because the crown prosecutor could prove that the attack was motivated by hate, prejudice or bias? Since there does not seem to be any such evidence should there not be an outcry of injustice from those same parents and friends because the accused will not suffer as harsh a penalty as they might if it could be proven that they hated him?

What about the case in my own riding of Coquitlam, the tragic and senseless death of Graham Niven? His death sparked an outcry from the public which resulted in a rally attended by over 5,000 people demanding stiffer penalties for those youth convicted of crimes of violence.

Again, I quote from an article in the Vancouver Sun : `A man who was kicked to death last weekend was helping a teenager in trouble, the victim's roommate said Tuesday. Graham Niven, 31, had just called a taxi for a stranded Burnaby youth before a confrontation with a group of youths outside a Mac's convenience store in Coquitlam early Saturday morning.He was being a good Samaritan' said roommate Steve Hoskins Tuesday. `He gave his last $7 to a kid from Burnaby who had missed the last bus home.''

The people in my riding do not want the accused getting off lightly because they are young offenders but they also do not want them getting off lightly because they cannot be found guilty of hate, prejudice or bias. They destroyed a man, along with his dreams and goals, and left his family and friends with nothing but their memories and their pain. No matter what the motivation for the crime the sentence must reflect the tragedy and hideousness of the crime. An assault is an assault and must be treated with the full extent of the law.

I would also like to address the inclusion of sexual orientation in this legislation. I am personally opposed to the inclusion of this term and would like to outline the reasons for my stand.

My party affirms the equality of every individual before and under the law and the right of every individual to live freely within the limits of the law. I assert that homosexuals already have the same rights and privileges as all other Canadians as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sexual orientation in itself is not a legitimate basis for special enumerated protection. I will give several reasons.

First and foremost sexual orientation does not possess the characteristics essential for inclusion in the list. Human rights are protected on the basis of immutable characteristics such as age, gender and race, or the universally accepted positive characteristic of religion. These criteria have not yet been established for the category of sexual orientation and in particular the undefined term as presented in this legislation.

As well my conclusion is based on the position of my constituents. Recently in a questionnaire sent out from my office I asked whether my constituents agreed that sexual orientation should be included in the charter as a protected category along with race, colour, religion or gender. A decisive 65 per cent of respondents rejected that notion.

It is my duty to represent the concerns of my constituents. It is also my duty as an elected representative to consider all consequences and implications. As illustrated in the debate in this House, the inclusion of such a term as sexual orientation would result in a profound infringement on the longstanding rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Would the label of crime of hate be applied to even the expression of one's deeply held religious or personal convictions if those personal convictions were that homosexuality was immoral? That has been proposed.

Would it be a crime of hate to express personal freedom of association by the exclusion of homosexuals in churches or private associations or even as roommates? These and other questions will be raised in broader ways as we discuss the government's proposed changes to the Human Rights Act.

May I say that a government that denies the moral will of the majority of Canadians by forcing a vote on party lines is denying the very basics of democracy.

In conclusion, society demands that a criminal justice system enforce deterrence of the offender with just and predictable consequence. It demands the principle of equality under the law to be applied to all Canadians. Assault or any other crime for whatever reason should receive the full force of law regardless of the range of emotion behind the motives for the crime. Canadians want justice applied without the intrusion of mind police or political correctness. Canadians want laws and systems better defined to protect society as a whole.

Bill C-41 introduces more potential for inequities and unpredictability in an already flawed system.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can think of nothing more frustrating for Canadian people than laws which are in theory intended to protect and reflect our sense of what is right and what is wrong but which in practice continuously prove to be ineffective or variable in their application and result.

Our legal system forms the network that binds us as Canadians. It is the framework under which we all agree to live and be judged. With variability or uncertainty of application and use, the strength, control and credibility of this vital tool of human management is undermined and society as a whole is weakened.

In response to a growing sense of frustration on the part of Canadians, the Minister of Justice has tabled Bill C-41, an act on sentencing reform. In an effort to refocus the application and use of our laws Bill C-41 provides clear direction and guidelines to the courts on the purpose and the methods of sentencing. Prior to Bill C-41 the role of Parliament was simply to set maximum penalties for offences under the Criminal Code. With this legislation Parliament is looking at the fundamentals, the policy objectives of the sentencing process.

This legislation sets out that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society. The framework provided is of enormous significance. Sentencing is not simply about giving sentences. Rather, sentencing must serve the fundamental purpose of creating a just and safe society.

Bill C-41 provides as well a holistic vision of sentencing. Sentencing should not be solely about jails and prisons. Effective sentencing, sentencing that deters repeat offenders, also involves alternative measures such as restitution and conditional sentences.

Research has clearly shown that these forms of sentencing are more effective in combating crime than a strictly law and order approach. One only needs to look south of the border for evidence of this. In the United States the rate of imprisonment is 400 per cent that of Canada's yet 200 Americans are victims of violence every hour despite annual expenditures on police, courts and corrections that exceed $70 billion. One cannot seriously argue that the United States is a safer country due to its bigger jails, tougher sentences and capital punishment. In fact, the opposite seems true.

Bill C-41 outlines another sentencing principle that I would like to briefly address. Under this legislation the courts should take into consideration the principle that a sentence should be increased if there is evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on the race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation of the victim. Some say that this provides special status for these Canadians, particularly homosexual Canadians. If these people have any special status, it is the special status of often suffering abuse simply because of their minority characteristics.

Bill C-41 ensures that the courts consider these circumstances when deciding upon sentences. This is not about granting special status. Rather it is about affirming equality for all Canadians. Homosexual Canadians should be able to walk on our streets without the fear of being attacked just because of their sexual orientation. Just as heterosexuals do not have to live with this fear neither should other Canadians who have a different sexual preference.

This is about promoting equality, not granting special status. It is also saying that Canadians will not stand for crimes based on hate.

Many of my constituents have expressed to me their concern that the criminal justice system does not do enough for the victim. I strongly support Bill C-41 because it does address this concern in several ways. One obvious way is that it provides for victim impact statements at section 745 hearings. Victims will no longer go voiceless at the early parole hearings.

A second provision for victims that I would like to discuss in more detail is restitution. Bill C-41 would allow the courts to consider ordering restitution to individual victims or to the community to cover property damage or personal injury. This provision responds to the demands of victims to have their needs considered by the justice system.

Crimes can have a tremendous financial impact upon victims. Is it more effective to have these offenders only put behind bars? Where does that leave the victim? Or should the perpetrators be hit where it hurts, in the pocketbook, which will promote responsibility for their actions?

Previously victims had to apply to receive compensation for their losses. Bill C-41 provides a process for restitution to be considered as part of the normal process of sentencing.

In cases in which the court orders an offender to pay restitution and a fine but where it is clear that the offender does not have the means to pay both, Bill C-41 states that restitution must take precedence. This demonstrates that this legislation is committed to helping the victims of crime.

I strongly support this move toward restitution. Why should victims of crime go uncompensated while the offenders simply spend time in custody? I would think for non-serious crimes rehabilitation of the offender can be more effectively achieved through directly seeing what damage has been caused to the victim.

I believe and would request that the framework for restitution as set out in Bill C-41 be extended to cover the special circumstances of certain specific crimes. I am particularly thinking about the issue of domestic violence. In most cases a severe economic inequality results from these situations.

If a woman makes a horribly difficult decision to press charges and leave the scene of abuse she in most cases retains responsibility for the children. She is forced to seek temporary shelter, needs to find child care or care for her children, often with very limited economic means.

I believe that restitution would be particularly important in cases involving domestic violence because of the economic inequality that results. Women and their children are too often left at a severe disadvantage. Too often the abuser spends some weekend in jail or pays some fines but the victim is left with

financial stresses in addition to the obvious physical and emotional trauma.

Under Bill C-41 restitution orders for bodily harm only cover pecuniary damages specifically including loss of income or support. It is unclear how broadly the courts might interpret pecuniary damages in ordering restitution in the cases of domestic violence.

I am suggesting that we should not leave this judgment to chance. We should define pecuniary damages in cases involving domestic violence to specifically include loss of income as well as costs related to temporary shelter, child care and transportation. These are costs that are directly incurred as a result of the abuse. The courts should consider these when ordering restitution.

Abused women are often forced to spend time in battered women's shelters since they are the only places they can afford and which offer protection. Perhaps a portion of the restitution order dealing with temporary housing could go directly to support these shelters as well.

I acknowledge this is not a solution to the problem of domestic violence. Solutions have to be found in addressing problems before the abuse occurs in looking at the inequality between men and women and looking at the problems of poverty and alcoholism. However, I think that restitution offers an excellent opportunity to address the economic inequality that can result from domestic violence.

Another significant problem is that women often do not report abusive situations. Restitution would only be ordered after a conviction is obtained. I realize that this is only a small consideration to the emotional and physical challenges, but if women knew that compensation would be there in the end they might be more encouraged to report the abuse.

Requiring the courts to consider the specific circumstances of domestic violence cases in ordering restitution would help the victims of domestic violence. Requiring convicted abusers to financially compensate their victims would provide another good indication to offenders that they are responsible for their actions.

In closing, I strongly support the measures that are included in Bill C-41. The maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society depends on good and fair sentencing. This legislation provides a framework for our courts so that they in turn can give our community, Canadians, just that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-41. I do so on experience gained as a community worker in the criminal justice system from 1975 to 1993. I have 18 years experience working with offenders, victims, police, prosecutors, judges, correctional workers and the public. I have also worked with many volunteers involved in the justice system.

My work was in the Waterloo region where we pioneered many programs in the field of community justice and corrections. Victim reconciliation, community mediation, Kitchener House where offenders serve provincial time in a halfway house, the first bail program in Ontario, law day and justice weeks were all pioneered in the Waterloo region. In the Waterloo region crime and justice are a community responsibility.

Bill C-41 is an omnibus bill that updates sentencing practices. I applaud in particular the section dealing with the imposition of fines. Under the current law close to one-third of admissions to Ontario jails are for the nonpayment of fines. We have a ridiculous situation where in lieu of collecting a $200 fine we end up spending thousands of dollars to jail the offender.

For too long we have been incarcerating people for no other reason than their being poor. It is reminiscent of debtors prisons. Too many of our aboriginal people and too many of our economically disadvantaged people occupy our jails. This bill will address this injustice and will use community service work to replace costly incarceration.

It is important when we talk of crime and justice issues to recognize that offenders and victims are people who come from communities and are not aliens from another planet. Solutions to issues of crime are complex and involve all segments of our society.

Having reviewed the debates on Bill C-41, I am troubled by the simplistic solutions put forth by the Reform Party. It would have us believe that capital and corporal punishment along with longer prison sentences would produce a safer society in Canada. If the simplistic solutions dictated by the Reform Party had any basis in fact then I submit that the United States would be the safest society in the western world.

We know and I am sure the Reform Party knows this is not the case. The United States has the highest crime rate and the most violent crimes in the western world. It executes and jails more people than any other in western society. Surely the Reform Party would not want to trade the safety of our streets in Canada for that of the United States.

One of the biggest problems we have with the issue of crime is the perception created by the American and our own news media. They create a perception that in Canada we are living in a society where crime and violence are much more prevalent than the statistics indicate. Canada is not the United States.

Our society is much less crime infested than the United States. We do a disservice when we pander and reinforce misconceptions. I would suggest that the Reform Party is pandering to misconceptions. I would further suggest the debate on firearms we are engaged in today is driven by the images of

gun laws in the U.S., along with its horrendous crime statistics, rather than by the reality in Canada.

There is no question that our justice system needs improvement, but in reality we have one of the best justice systems in the world. To continually attack the integrity of our justice system as the Reform Party does is to undermine it. If Canadians were to believe that our justice system does not work they would not report crimes and would not sit on juries. If the public is not supported the justice system breaks down.

There is no question that one victim is one victim too many. The issue becomes how to keep our communities safe. There is no question that to deal with crime we have to make crime prevention and community safety everyone's concern.

In the Waterloo region we have one of the safest communities in Canada and we do not rest on our laurels. We have established a regional committee on crime prevention and community safety that has two main mandates. The first is to mobilize the community to fight crime, for crime prevention is everyone's responsibility. The second is to deal with prevention through programs. We all know that a child who goes to school hungry or a child who is victimized is tomorrow's offender.

The community in the Waterloo region, in co-operation with the provincial and federal governments, has to deal with this social reality. It is of interest that the strongest proponent of dealing with the root cause of crime on the Waterloo crime prevention and community safety committee representing a broad sector of our community is the police.

There are no simple solutions to the problem of crime. To deal with crime we have to attack the root causes of crime and not just deal with symptoms. The answers to crime prevention lie at the level of individual communities where we work to enhance our own, our neighbour's and our community's safety. Crime and justice is a collective responsibility that we all share.

Much of the debate on Bill C-41 centred on the clause of the bill dealing with an offence being motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on the race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation of the victim. If the crime was based on any one of these points it shall be deemed to be aggravating circumstances in the case of sentencing.

We have heard arguments that all crime should be treated the same. I cannot disagree in stronger terms. I am defending this clause because I believe if at any time somebody is attacked for no other reason than being part of a minority group, surely the law has to take a much stronger measure in preventing others from doing the same.

It is imperative to remember that in the case of the Holocaust we had persecution on the basis of religion. It took six million deaths to raise consciousness with regard to this problem. I cannot understand how anybody could extend the clause of the bill which specifically talks about sentencing to talking about spousal support for homosexuals. It talks about someone being attacked for no other basis than sexual orientation, religion or nationality, and about the offender being more harshly dealt with.

That is one of the more important clauses in the bill. I thoroughly support it. I regret some members of the House would have the public misinterpret what that clause says.

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10:50 a.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased I arrived on time from my riding to speak in this debate. It is a very important one that raises some fundamental questions about who we are as a nation, the values we hold dear, whether or not we are compassionate or just seek vengeance when we are wronged. It also says a great deal about the type of society we are trying to build for our children who, after all, are the people for whom we are holding the country in trust.

Everybody has spoken about Bill C-41. They talked about all the major provisions of the bill. I am not going to attempt to go through them again. However there are a couple of provisions in the bill which I think the public in the riding of Dartmouth will be very pleased to hear about.

During the election campaign law and order, whatever that means or whatever was the definition of the day, seemed to be the thing most people were concerned about. I knocked on doors and received calls from people concerned that the criminal justice system simply was not working. These people were not rednecks, right wingers or crazy people; they were concerned about the safety of their communities.

Somewhere in the mix over the last number of years there has been a problem. The fundamental problem has come from the fact that when we came in with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was a very bold initiative of the government of the day that was applauded by nearly all Canadians, it switched the pendulum over to individual rights and away from community rights. Indeed at times there are community rights which must be taken into consideration.

How often have we heard individuals ask why it is always the rights of the individual who has broken the law, who has wronged the community, who has sought to injure an individual, steal their property or whatever, that are paramount and more heavily weighed than those of the victim?

The bill deals with sentencing. It starts to address some of the real concerns expressed by Canadians. I am not going to indicate that I have done a study and that I understand or I know that the concern of Canadians about rising crime is founded in fact or not, because that simply does not matter. Everyone can quote statistics. The most recently quoted ones are that we are not becoming a more violent society and that crime rates are actually down. As a legislator I am concerned about the perception in my community that people are less safe today than they were 3, 5, 10 or 15 years ago.

From time to time it is up to us as legislators to come forward to debate and try to figure out if the laws and the principles they were founded on, like the Young Offenders Act and some of the sentencing provisions in legislation, are actually attaining their goals and if they are not to try to change them. It does not mean we always have to respond to public opinion or that legislation should be a knee-jerk reaction. It should not be that at all. If members have their ears to the ground in their constituencies and if they strip away their partisan approach to public policy making, they can get a fairly good idea about what is in the public interest. Clearly some of the reforms in the bill are in the public interest.

The optics of the bill have to be seen to be fair as well. One thing that disturbs me a great deal is the focus of the public eye, through the media and through members of this place and others in public, on a very specific provision of the bill. I am saddened that the level of debate on sentencing has fallen to whether or not individuals should be subject to harsher sentencing, or if the crimes they have perpetrated were against persons and based on hate then the judge should look at that provision. The debate being about whether or not any group in society is being conferred special rights does a great disservice to the level of debate that has taken place in the Chamber since Confederation.

We are not here to respond to those who will slap us on the back when we make remarks either overtly or thinly veiled against minorities. The previous member who just spoke put it quite nicely. He referred to a tragic piece of history; he referred to the Holocaust and how in the minds of the people who supported the Nazi regime in Germany it was fine to discriminate based on a person's religion. It is not fine and if anybody thought it was, society has changed. It is not fine to discriminate against persons because of the colour of their skin.

I have the largest, oldest, indigenous black community in Canada. When I have an unemployment rate of 10 per cent in my riding, three miles away their unemployment rate is 48 per cent. I may not be able to prove it because there is systemic racism. I am sure if every employer were blind we would probably have a more even distribution of the unemployment load in my area.

Any type of act predicated by hatred for a group based on whatever factor-if they have two green eyes, if they have an arm or two arms or one is shorter than the other, or if it is sexual orientation-has to be recognized as something that is not supported by the legislators and is not supported by the people of Canada.

It has done a great disservice to the bill and to individuals who have been harmed far too often in the past by our refusal to discuss these issues as well as the issue of hate crimes in a full and unbiased atmosphere.

A couple of things are not in the bill. We are talking about Bill C-41 and its impact on sentencing. We have heard of all the great things in the bill. There are a few things I think should be in there, and if they are not they should find their way into legislation.

Unfortunately I live in an area that is now the pimping capital of Canada. In the riding of Dartmouth we lay claim-and we are not pleased with or proud of it-to probably the largest illegal pimping ring in Canada. It extends into the United States as well. That pimping ring has been going out and luring girls-and this is a victim crime-as young as 11 years of age into juvenile prostitution. They are luring them into illegal drug use and then into prostitution on the streets of New York, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Halifax, Truro, and small towns near any of us.

All too often very few of these girls are ever rescued. They are children. They are not adults who choose to get into this way of life. They are children who are literally stolen from our schools and off the streets. If they ever get out of the cycle of prostitution they are like walking zombies. They have no self-worth left. They are usually addicted to drugs and alcohol. They have no life ahead of them. Their lives are destroyed; their families' lives are destroyed.

However, when we deal with sentencing in the law most of these guys get off with three to six months in jail. In Nova Scotia that means they go to a minimum security institution and three months later they walk out. They have not lost even one penny because one of their friends will have taken over their stable of young juvenile girls on the streets and they will still maintain the financial incentive to break the law.

This has to stop. This is murder of the worst kind because the soul and the spirit of the child, of the woman, or the young girl are being killed, but she is not being killed physically. They are hollow empty vessels after these low life scum are finished with them. In our laws we most often treat that type of crime less seriously than if somebody absconds with $100,000 or $10,000 from the Bank of Nova Scotia.

Crimes against children when the sentencing comes down from the judge in a court of law in many cases are dealt with less

harshly than crimes against property. That is simply wrong. For anyone who does not understand the full implication, there have been a number of articles written in Chatelaine and Reader's Digest in the last number of months. This is one of the worst crimes that happens in Canada because it happens to defenceless children.

I have spoken to the Minister of Justice a number of times and we could probably get support for one of the things I would have liked to have seen in the bill. If the government is not prepared at some point to deal with the issue then I am prepared to deal with the issue as a private member by putting a motion in the House.

I am not one of those right wingers who believes we should lock everybody up; I am the exact opposite. This is one of the few crimes, I am told, where the length of sentence will be a deterrent. For crimes against our children like sexual crimes against our children the legislation should indicate the revulsion of Canadians and of legislators. There has to be tough minimum sentences. In my view not one of those pimps who destroy the lives of young girls should get out of jail before a five-year minimum sentence is carried out. If I had my druthers it would be a 10-year minimum sentence, but they are out in three months.

For everybody who is out there watching and listening to these debates, if they have a young daughter or granddaughter, if their neighbour has a 10, 11, 12 or 13 year old and they think they are safe when they are going to school, they are not. There are predators out there, predators our sentencing law does not protect our children against.

Although I support this bill, I encourage members as I encourage the Minister of Justice, to be a little more bold. I ask the minister to bring legislation into the House as soon as he possibly can to deal with this most abhorrent crime of pimping juvenile women, juvenile girls, our children.

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11 a.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-41, a bill that fulfils yet another Liberal red book promise, sentencing reform within the criminal justice system.

During the past election campaign there was great debate over public security. That debate raged in some quarters as a debate of extremes. Some of these extremes have found their way through the electoral process into the House, which is as it should be.

The House, by its very nature and by its very culture, is a place of polar views and the residence of extremes, which are used sometimes as a vehicle for expressing opinion and as a vehicle for driving a point home. Other extreme views are strongly and I would suggest in some quarters unreasonably held.

That is the great risk and quite frankly the great beauty of the democratic system. The views will be heard. The views will be challenged. The views will be studied. They will be agreed with or they will be discarded. As in the case of the 1993 election, there will be a predominant view in the House which will succeed. That was reflected in the election by our forming the government. There was a predominant view in the land and Canadians overwhelmingly elected the Liberal Party of Canada to govern. From this overwhelming support, we have as we must taken our mandate. It is a mandate for job creation, for tolerance among disparate groups. It is a mandate for economic growth and a mandate for safer streets through tough but humane measures that recognize the supremacy of the rule of law.

It seems the charter has become inconvenient for some members of the House. The charter has become the subject of derision. The charter has become something for which some members have no respect.

Since 1979 I have practised law in the criminal courts of Ontario. Since 1982 I have acted as a prosecutor for the crown attorney's office in Windsor and Essex county. Between 1986 and 1988 I also served as a federal prosecutor. I know more than just a little about the subject matter in this debate.

I have defended and I have prosecuted the criminal. I have done both successfully within the bounds of the rule of law and since 1982, when it was enacted, within the bounds of the charter. I have seen the system at its best. I have seen the guilty convicted and punished even though the charter was in place. I have also seen the not guilty walk away. Most times when this happens the rule of law and the charter have prevailed. It is a tool for democracy and a tool for democratic resolution of disputes. It is also a tool that applies fairness within the system.

This bill is part of a fair, reasonable and responsible approach to the problems of public security that face our communities.

It is a bill that recognizes that intolerances exist in our society, intolerances that Canadians abhor. Sections which relate to hate crime and to crime arising out of hate recognize not special rights for individuals but recognize that our society abhors that kind of treatment of individuals. It is not there to create special rights for any given group and to provide excuses for individual behaviour. It is there because we as a society do not tolerate and promote hate. The bill has to be seen within the overall framework of Liberal philosophy and of the Liberal solutions to problems today.

I would like to take a moment to reflect on some of the problems in our society other than the Criminal Code, other than the behaviour of prosecutors and other than what some think are the causes of crime.

I suggest that what we should look at is crime as a part of the overall problems that plague our society. In the city of Windsor, part of which I represent, we have had an excellent recovery recently from the recession which has really wracked industrial Ontario and all parts of the country. Fortunately for Windsor our recovery has been on the leading edge of the recovery and has been quicker because of our excellent industrial base. We have found as we have begun to recover and as our unemployment rate has gone down that our crime rate has also gone down.

I suggest that the Liberal red book and the current government policy which promote economic recovery, job creation and reforms will give people a dignified means to make a living and contribute to our society. This will interact with bills like Bill C-41 to reduce and to handle crime in a way that is healthy and productive within our society. I would also suggest that as the greater Canadian community prospers, we will see a related decrease in the types of social problems that plague us.

No service is done to the community by firing the issue up to a point where it cannot be reasonably and responsibly addressed. No service is provided through disinformation to the electorate, through driving home a subject irresponsibly and emphasizing issues which serve only to inflame and frighten the citizenry without offering responsible solutions.

Increasing penalties for crimes-in particular I am thinking of non-violent crimes, property related crimes, regulatory offences and the like-and increasing incarceration penalties for those types of crimes do nothing but increase the financial burden on our citizenry and force the government into the pocket of its citizens in terms of taxation which some people see as another form of criminal activity.

I suggest that this bill addresses the financial bottom line in society in a very clear, creative and helpful fashion. It provides alternatives in terms of sentences which are based in the community so that offenders will be recognized as offenders. Offenders will be punished for their crimes and they will be rehabilitated within the community itself rather than being isolated and put into institutions which are phenomenally expensive to support.

On the other hand it takes a hard and I would suggest long awaited look at criminals whose activities are violent and extremely offensive to our citizens. By amending the parole section and by taking a good hard look at some of the sentencing problems that we have in our system for violent offenders, we are offering protection to our citizens where that protection is needed and where it is wanted.

This bill takes a balanced view. This bill takes a humane view. This bill respects the rule of law. It is a statute that fits withinthe overall Liberal philosophy, the red book philosophy, which respects the citizenry, which seeks to protect the citizenry and which seeks to elevate the quality of life for all Canadians.