House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victim.


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12:50 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of our Reform motion. It is to stimulate new Canada thinking about where we have been with the justice system and what are the emerging expectations of the community about where we need to go. As we formulate a vision of hope for a new Canada of equality, the sense of proportion and balance in the justice system needs to be examined.

Many in my community of New Westminster-Burnaby are fearful, frustrated and angry about the operation of the justice system. In fact they make the point that we do not have a justice system at all; we merely have a legal system.

It is seen that this legal system is largely unaccountable to the community and that the community has no sense of ownership of what goes on in this seemingly convoluted system. The legal system operates on doublespeak, legalese and jargon and is characterized by a professional "we know best" attitude toward an interfering community.

There are glimpses of hope, however, such as the community policing efforts of the last few years, the block watch programs, and extensive volunteer programs such as the Burnaby RCMP victims assistance program.

This program began in January 1987 and currently involves 50 volunteers. During the seven years of service the program has been in contact with 9,250 victims or witnesses. In 1993 it handled over 1,650 files and volunteered 6,700 hours.

The primary role of the victim assistance program is to provide emotional support. It provides information and updates on police files, court information, court orientation and accompaniment, referrals to community agencies and information on legal services and criminal injuries compensation.

In Burnaby the police based team of volunteers is on call 24 hours a day to provide assistance in whatever way possible. Also in New Westminster-Burnaby and in New Westminster specifically we have a similar program which is run out of the crown counsel's office.

However, it is time that a more cross-systems approach be applied in bold terms to put the victim's and the community's general concerns before the offender's concerns. There is a relationship between the offender and the offended, whether that be another individual, a family or a community.

In reference to the community as victim, the Young Offenders Act passed by a previous Liberal government has become the single chapter of criminal law that is in most disrepute. Poll after poll reflects it and the news clipping service of the Solicitor General is full of references to community dissatisfaction. Even the Liberal red book reluctantly admits the act needs review.

It is with the Young Offenders Act that the community feels most left out. The operation of the act violates the fundamental sense of equity and balance the community expects.

The wording of the motion today and our proposals for amendments to the Young Offenders Act are directly connected.

For example, section 3(1) of the act states: "Policy application with respect to young offenders". There are nine paragraphs of definition, then a total of 70 sections limiting how the substantive part of the Criminal Code and other criminal statutes will be administered for young offenders.

Allow me to paraphrase parts of section 3(1) of the Young Offenders Act: (b) society must be afforded the necessary protection from illegal behaviour; (c) a young person who commits an offence requires supervision, discipline and control, and because of their level of maturity they also have special needs and require guidance and assistance; (e) a young person has rights and freedoms as is stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and should therefore have special guarantees of their rights and freedoms; (g) young persons have the right to be informed as to what their rights and freedoms are.

Not once in the preamble list is there mention of the rights of the victim. The act largely drives how social services are administered. There is little to make a young offender realize there is a victim or someone who has been hurt and that it is the community to which the offender should be held accountable.

We need an additional paragraph in the Young Offenders Act preamble that reads something like this: "The community, or victims in particular, shall be given equal consideration where making dispositions for youth and victims shall be heard upon their request at sentencing and at reviews".

In almost every instance the victim or the community is barred from knowledge of what is happening or is going to happen to the offender. The system is similar to what goes on at most job interviews when the employer tells the hopeful candi-

date: "Don't call us, we will call you". All of us know the employer will only call if the candidate is needed.

In the case of a victim, the victim is forgotten after the offence has occurred. They are made to feel they did their part and should now step aside because the offender is the one who really needs the attention. Is it any wonder then that the public is so frustrated with the justice system.

A victim is usually not asking for a great deal. In most cases it is just for a bit of involvement, some dignity and more than anything else, some empathy. In response to that my riding has two volunteer programs but it is now time for recognition of victims in legislation.

In some jurisdictions an overreaching interpretation of the Young Offenders Act does not permit the young offenders court list to be displayed on the courtroom door.

In British Columbia fortunately the youth court is open to the public and exclusion orders are not very common. However, no local reporter can advise the community as to what goes on there or report when an offender is going to be released. The community as victim has the right to know who the offenders are through the media.

It seems disproportionate to the public for youth court to revolve only around the offender. For example youth workers cannot disclose what they know to a high school counsellor. Social workers in the community cannot always inform the court of everything they know about a situation.

We fall all over ourselves to protect or avoid a potential negative circumstance for the offender with secrecy. The Young Offenders Act also contains provisions to deliberately mislead the court at sentencing concerning a youth criminal record because of the time limits stipulated in the act.

Who focuses on the victim? When one carefully looks at the act it is glaring in its absence of a provision that the plight of the victim be heard at court or become real to the young offender in the process. I recently read an article in the Toronto Star . It concluded that victims of crime can be victimized twice, first by the criminal and then by the system.

Victims and witnesses have special needs and they must be treated with dignity and respect. Offenders must be held accountable for their acts. The law should reflect current values held by the majority of Canadians. The legal system should be accountable to the society it serves for its operations, methods and results.

What should be paramount in the Young Offenders Act is the protection of the community. Let me give an example of a case that took place in Alberta in 1990.

A young offender was so infatuated with his girlfriend that after she broke off the relationship he knifed her but fortunately did not kill her. As a young offender he only received eight months in custody. Apparently he told workers he still wanted to kill his former girlfriend. Exactly one year from the first incident the young offender killed the girl. In this case the victim had no chance because the rights of the young offender had to be protected.

The act has a title: the Young Offenders Act. It should truly deal with young offenders, not youthful adults. The natural sense of balance the victims want restored would envision an age application of 10 years to 15 years inclusive. This is the most significant and fundamental required change to restore credibility to the trust that is now broken within the Canadian community.

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12:55 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member on his thoughts. I want to relate to him some incidents with regard to people falling into that category. My 31 years in the field of education gave me the opportunity of coming across many youngsters who would fall into that category.

More specifically, I made reference in my maiden speech in this House to one young fellow who had run away from a boys' school where he was being held in custody. He returned after going home to North Battleford to his parents. Upon his arrival his father said: "What are you doing here? I thought you had run away. Get your belongings. You have 15 minutes. Get out of this house and don't ever come back". I remember the cases of many others. In particular I asked one individual: "What was your family background? How did you get into this kind of thing?" He could remember 30 homes he had lived in and he was about 15 or 16 years of age.

In the city of Regina two youngsters of about 10 or 11 years of age physically abused youngsters who were 7 and 8 years of age. My concern is what we are to do with them. A speaker on our side said that between the ages of zero and three we had to make some impact on the lives of young people. Having heard the proposals and knowing the youngsters with whom I have come in contact, I would ask the hon. member opposite what should we do to alter the lifestyle of these people? Does he really think that if we incarcerate them we will resolve the problem?

Specifically I think of a young fellow from the Northwest Territories who spent six months in incarceration where more damage was done to him than he would have ever done in the north in 60 years.

In summary, the member may have some answers. I would be interested in knowing them because I had to deal with some of these youngsters. How would he resolve some of these issues in light of where we are going?

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1 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, the medical model or philosophy in correctional rehabilitation that someone is sick and therefore an institution is somewhat like a hospital has been long abandoned.

The Young Offenders Act in general sends the wrong message to the community. We should check with the young people themselves instead of with professionals in the justice system. We should go to high schools to find out what seems to be the community sentiment. The greatest pressure I receive from my community is often from the high schools indicating that the balance is off and that balance needs to be restored more in favour of the victim and accountability to the community.

That is not to say that the Young Offenders Act is completely unworkable. There are some good measures it, especially the provision of alternative measures and the possibility of giving due process. It was certainly an improvement over the old juvenile delinquents act.

The typical response is to throw more money at the problem. We need more community learning situations, work programs, more social workers or whatever, rather than continue to throw money at dispositional alternatives.

My comment today arises out of the community sentiment that the Young Offenders Act inherently sends the wrong message. We must bring the impact of the consequences more directly to offenders. The community message out there that the Young Offenders Act is a soft touch must be changed.

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1 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to approach the motion from a different angle. I support the motion and I want to talk about the healing process victims must go through.

Because of legislation and certain things that seem to take place in our government the healing process is hindered a great deal. This motion is intended to help-and I believe it could-a great deal in the healing process. The thing I fear about raising a motion in the House is that it seems like, in my short four months, that if a Reformer from the west stands to speak about a motion he or she has to be one of those ultra right redneck scoundrels. We should be careful about what how strongly we say things. At the same time a person like me could stand and think of experienced individuals on the opposite side of the House who have been here for a number of years. I could attach the name Liberal to them, but I have to be cautious that I suddenly do not think I am trying to talk sense to some people who are nothing more than bleeding hearts and surely it will fall on deaf ears. Those extreme attitudes should not exist. I hope somehow or another we can pull those attitudes together and address a motion which I believe is essential to helping victims.

I refer to the specific case of a lady in her mid-forties, a mother of three children. I may not have all the facts straight, but I know about the case. She was apparently working in the church secretarial office on a Saturday. An intruder came in and apparently beat the lady severely, raped her a number of times, and caused a great deal of havoc in her life. By the way, the perpetrator was out on a day pass. Apparently he had been incarcerated in the past for the same kinds of charges.

This lady went through the turmoil and trauma of the event. She is scarred the rest of her life, physically to some degree but certainly mentally to a larger degree. This will impact on the lives of her family, her children and her husband, over the years. I realize they are seeking help and would like to do something about the healing process.

The victim in this case would very dearly like the criminal tested for HIV-AIDS since he comes from a high risk category. That is a very simple request. It comes from the heart. With all the other traumatic things they will have to live with, they would certainly like to be able to eliminate that thought. When it reached the courts under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms it was declared that he did not have to submit to an HIV test, to protect his rights.

In a nutshell the motion is trying to address those kinds of situations. It is not that the criminal should not have some rights. However, if the situation is going to create a conflict, for heaven's sake let us use common sense and help the healing process to take place in the lives of this woman and her family. We should demand that criminal be submitted to this test and eliminate that problem or worry, or at least give them the opportunity to do something about it.

It is a conflict between the rights of two individuals. We constantly see these conflicts in our judicial system. The circumstances are not the same but there are similarities. We must consider the rights of the criminal and the rights of the victim. In practically every case the criminal's rights override the rights of the victim. The particular case I have just illustrated would probably be the worst example of saying to a victim: "We are sorry but we cannot do it because of his rights".

This is not a simplistic solution. It is a common sense solution. For the life of me I cannot understand why any government would say that it is going to take ages to resolve these problems. They could be resolved overnight if there is the political will to do it. These problems do not need to exist. We could wipe them out if we developed an attitude in the House that regardless of where the motion comes from it makes sense.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit for a length of time with a mother in the city of Calgary. She was the victim of violence in that her five-year old daughter was taken from her backyard where she was playing. It was not until later that night

that the young girl was found. She had been mutilated, beaten, her throat cut and dumped in a garbage dumpster in an alley behind their home.

An arrest was made of a 37-year old man who admitted to the crime. He was quoted in the papers as saying he had a difficult time controlling himself because he was sick and tired of this little girl always coming on to him. Everyone in the House must agree that some pretty traumatic things are taking place in that family. This little girl had brothers and sisters as well.

Immediately the 37-year old man had a lawyer to provide legal assistance. There was nothing for the victim. Immediately the 37-year old man had psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors at his disposal. There was nothing for the victim. There was nothing for the mother. I take that back. There was something for the mother. She could have the same services but she had to pay $50 to $100 an hour out of her own pocket.

When we asked for help to be provided to this family we were brushed aside. We do not have anything in legislation that would allow for this to happen. The boys on the great white hill in Ottawa have not come up with anything in the charter of rights to protect victims.

I cannot for the slightest moment believe anybody would not want to vote in favour of a motion that would protect the rights of victims like the ones I am talking about. It is high time we did it.

My last point is why have we not brought in some legislation that would help tremendously? It has been proven throughout many countries, parts of the States and other parts of the world, that we could legislate DNA testing. There would be some real value in that. It is my understanding that it is incorrect one in thirty billion times. In samples of skin, hair, semen or whatever the case may be, no two people in the world can have the same DNA with the possible exception of identical twins.

It would be a useful tool for our enforcement officers to apply for a conviction and, believe it or not, to have someone released who was wrongly charged.

It is has been reported to me that in British Columbia there are 45 unsolved murders, 20 sexual assaults and several other serious crimes where DNA evidence is available, but there is no law that allows them to make a suspect give a sample. A sample cannot be taken from the suspect because under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the criminal has the right to refuse the test. I could go through several examples. Consequently there are people walking the streets who ought to be behind bars.

Do we have the political will or the courage to stand and allow the people of our country to have the right to be safe from people who would be behind bars if we took the proper action? The first step is to recognize the rights of victims.

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1:15 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the hon. member's speech and he said a few things that I do not agree with. I cannot understand how, in 1994, we can still hear such comments.

I said earlier that today's debate should not be limited to repugnant cases that were extensively covered by the press. I too could mention cases showing the opposite, cases where, after a realistic rehabilitation period, young offenders were successfully reintegrated into the system. Some people returned to society after psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

If I understand the logic used by the hon. member from the Reform Party, we should put everybody in jail without treatment. My question is how will we have enough prisons if we put everybody in jail without anything to treat them?

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1:15 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

The cases I cited are sample cases of an extremely violent nature where there is a direct conflict between the rights of the criminal and the rights of the victim and it has always gone toward the rights of the victim.

I did not talk about incarceration other than the fact that when we have those kinds of dangerous people on the street they should be locked up. Does that mean we throw away the key, not feed them and not treat them? I did not address the penal system. I will be more than pleased to give another 10 minute speech on what I think we should do there.

I believe in rehabilitation. I believe that we need to treat and do as much as we possibly can, but I also believe that we have to be realistic in our penal system, realistic enough to realize that across the way or anywhere the world, if we work hard and earn money, we probably will eat pork chops and steak and will love it. If we go out into the same world and do not work and are not able to achieve as much as some other people, we may have to resort to something less than that.

Maybe in a realistic sense that is part of the treatment that needs to take place in the penal system. Let us provide a work program. If one works hard in this penal system it will be like in society, one will eat well. If one does not work in this penal system, one's reward will be the same as in society. One will eat macaroni and cheese and may not get any cheese.

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1:15 p.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I found the discourse by the member for Wild Rose extremely interesting.

In a sense I thought it was an overview given by Reader's Digest . It was very anecdotal. At one point he mentioned two examples, two anecdotes, one being the very tragic case of the lady who was raped. He made the observation and the conclusion that in most cases the rights of the accused are greater than those of the victim.

I would like to ask the member what empirical data he has for this. This is one example given. He jumps to a very broad conclusion.

He also made the observation of the very tragic case of the young girl who was murdered. He then made the conclusion that there is no one to act for the wife or the mother in this case. I want to ask him in a very open ended way, who does the crown act for if it does not act in this case for the mother of this child?

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1:15 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the crown acts for the state. If we take it down to an individual case, we have a different ball game. When we talk individually we talk about (a) one person, the criminal, and (b) person number two, the victim.

I referred to a conflict where a person was a rape victim, requested an HIV test and that request was denied to protect the rights of the criminal. I can give lots of examples. I have a whole briefcase full of them. That is difficult to do in 10 minutes. If every member of this Parliament has been paying attention to what is going on out there, I am sure they can find case after case.

Another examples is a fellow by the name of Thompson-no relation. When in prison he stated that he was going to kill his estranged wife when he got out. He was going to eliminate her and others associated with her. He stated that over and over. The victim, the lady in question, requested the authorities to please not let him out as he meant it. Nothing was done about her request. They simply followed the line of the rule: He was up for parole and was eligible because he had been a good boy and he really did not mean it. However, we will request that he stays in Toronto and does not go out to the west coast.

Big deal. He got to the west coast and he accomplished his mission. Three people are dead because nobody listened to the potential victim.

That is not asking too much. I am sure the hon. member will agree that if we ignore the wishes of the victims as we have in the past and only concentrate on the straight legal legislation, we are doing a disservice to our people.

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1:20 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the motion put before this House by the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley.

The hon. member has put forward the motion that this government should be condemned for its inaction with regard to the reform of the criminal justice system. Specifically the motion accuses this government of allowing the rights of criminals to take precedence over the rights of victims.

The hon. member is quite right. In the five short months that this government has been in power it could have done much more than it has done to take action on criminal justice issues. We could have taken the easy road and won cheap popularity by pandering to those who want change without proper consideration of the consequences. We could have acted precipitously rather than proceeding deliberately and systematically.

We rejected this type of approach in favour of a broad and reasoned strategy to reform our criminal justice system. In short, this government honoured the pledge it made to Canadians in its electoral platform to work for a fair, balanced and humane justice system.

Finally, a key component of our election platform, better known as the red book, is a program designed to ensure safety in public and private places. We propose a comprehensive approach, namely a twofold initiative which recognizes the need for measures against violent crimes and high-risk criminals, while also emphasizing the importance of crime prevention.

The project is well under way in all these important areas. It is obvious, however, that some members are not aware of the work being done, or of the reasons why we concentrate our efforts on these particular areas.

I want to provide members with some information to enable them to better understand what the government is doing, and why it is doing it. Let us first look at the important issue of crime prevention. It is no surprise that the costs associated with crime in our country are enormous, both human and financial costs.

We know that the United States is the only nation in the Western world which has a higher rate of incarceration than Canada. In 1991, the costs related to our police, courts and correctional services reached a staggering $8 billion. We know that the human costs of crime and fear of crime, including the consequences of victimization for communities, are also very high.

The facts speak for themselves and we must adopt a comprehensive approach against crime in our society, one which recognizes the traditional role of our established organizations but also takes into account our social policies.

To be truly effective, crime prevention must tackle the social and economic factors linked to crime; it must go to the roots of the problem, which include poverty, unemployment, drug addiction and family violence.

We know that the human costs of crime and the fear of crime, including the effects of victimization on individuals in our society, are all too high. I believe the facts speak for themselves when I say that we must pursue a broad based approach to crime in our society, an approach that recognizes the traditional role of our established agencies, but also examines social policies.

To be truly effective the prevention of crime must involve examining the underlying social and economic factors associated with crime and criminality, the root causes of crime such as poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse and finally violence, to name but a few.

Fundamental to this approach is a shared responsibility among governments, their criminal justice systems, social service agencies, education systems and communities not only to fight crime but to deal with the social problems which ultimately lead to criminal activity.

The establishment of a council on crime prevention that would bring key players together to address crime prevention and safety within our communities is one of the commitments of this government. It is one that the Solicitor General is working on in collaboration with the Minister of Justice. The council will serve as an advisory body to all levels of government on broad policy priorities and activities related to crime prevention.

The composition of the council will reflect the wide variety of stakeholders in crime prevention and social development. To succeed then in our efforts to prevent crime and find practical solutions we must not only work in tandem with our partners in the criminal justice system but broaden our partnership to include our communities and neighbourhoods.

Without this support we cannot present a strong and united front in solving the difficult problems that touch us all, whether our efforts are directed at family violence, youth at risk, illiteracy, high risk offenders stemming from the drug trade or eliminating hate crime. Crime prevention is also an important part of the work of the National Parole Board and Correctional Services of Canada. Both of these agencies are concerned with the safe reintegration of federal offenders, those who have served sentences over two years, in society.

It is a fact that the majority of federal offenders, two-thirds, serve their sentence and do not break the law after being released into the community. Ensuring greater public safety for Canadians entails reducing the risk of those who do reoffend. Public safety remains the primary and constant factor of all correctional decision making. It is recognized that public safety is best served when offenders are given the treatment and training they need to successfully reintegrate into the community.

Correctional Services of Canada's life skills program for offenders is a good example of the type of fundamental work under way in our federal penitentiary system to help offenders acquire the skills they need to make a clean start in life.

I said earlier that our approach to fighting crime is a two pronged approach. The other side of the public safety coin is the need to find more effective ways of dealing with repeat violent and sex offenders. Improvements to handling and treatment of these offenders in the federal corrections system is a priority.

In its election platform the government recognized that Canadians want better protection from dangerous offenders and we are serious about following through on our commitment. Several reports, including those coming from inquests and Commons' committees on justice and legal affairs, have stressed the need for action in this regard.

We are developing a series of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. For example, we are working on measures that would enable us to more easily detain until the end of the sentence repeat sex offenders who victimize children.

The Solicitor General has also stated that he wants to look at tightening up the sentence calculation process so that offences committed by repeat offenders on conditional release will result in more time served in penitentiaries.

We are also reviewing with the provinces a number of measures which could improve public protection from high risk offenders, including the greater use by the provinces of the dangerous offender provisions at the time of original conviction and sentencing. As well, the federal government will take steps to address the release of high risk offenders into society at the end of their custodial terms.

Society must protect itself from individuals who may be unfit for release and we are working with the provinces to deal with this issue in a way which is consistent with the charter.

Also being studied are methods of bringing the corrections and mental health fields together in a co-ordinated and integrated manner. While supporting tougher measures for violent and repeat sex offenders we must also highlight their need for enhanced rehabilitation programs while in prison to reduce the chances of these individuals reoffending.

The government in line with its red book commitment is putting various measures in place to improve the parole process. Among them are better training for National Parole Board members, legislative changes to better deal with those who are not performing satisfactorily and the requirement that members' appointments be based on merit, competence and integrity. After all, parole board members have a difficult and demanding job and only the best qualified people will be considered for future board positions.

In recent years a relatively small number of well publicized cases involving high risk offenders on conditional release have done much to erode public confidence in the institutions that have been entrusted to protect society.

In the parole system the Solicitor General is working to rebuild that public trust and restore that confidence. I believe the government's commitment to work to improve public safety from high risk offenders and to improve the parole process are firm examples of the type of action that will put us on the right track to win back that confidence.

Another example is the government's commitment to address the issues of youth violence.

I can of course only be concerned about the marked increase in violent crimes committed by young Canadians in recent years. We have all heard or read media reports on youth gangs and their criminal activities. Most incidents occur in large cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but small communities are not completely immune to the problem.

We do not yet know the real scope and seriousness of the problem of violence and criminal gangs among young people in Canada. According to some research on criminal justice, the crime rate among young Canadians is rising, but the rates for homicides and serious offences involving violence have remained relatively stable.

The number of charges for minor assaults such as slapping, punching and kicking has significantly increased. However, we do not know if this reflects an actual increase in the number of violent offences, or if it simply means that victims are more inclined to go to the police, or that the police is more likely to lay charges.

I want to be clear: I am not trying to minimize the problem of violence among young people, which is unfortunately worrisome. As a concerned citizen, I know how acts of violence can generate fear and intimidation in our communities.

In its program to promote justice and fight crime, the federal government clearly states that one of its priorities will be to take action on the increase in violent offences and delinquency among young people. Canadians of all ages should be able to enjoy the fundamental right of being safe in public and private places.

Last, I would like to turn to the issue of victim's rights. When the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley tabled the motion we are debating she was obviously unaware that victims have more rights under today's criminal justice system than at any other time in Canadian history. Victims of crime are now formally recognized as legitimate and essential players in the federal corrections and parole process.

This recognition ensures that victims can be kept informed of an offender's prison and parole status if they so do request. Information from victims can now be considered at parole hearings and the victims may now attend parole hearings at the discretion of the parole board. No longer is their attendance dependent on the agreement of the defendant.

Aside from these changes police services and courts across the country are now much more sensitized to the needs of victims and this sensitivity is embodied in guidelines and new police policies which reflect an understanding of victims and the emotional trauma that they have often suffered.

These are positive and much needed changes. The government also recognizes that further change to accommodate the needs of victims is still necessary. As I said in my opening remarks we are not going to act in haste only to have to repent at leisure. When the government brings about change to the criminal justice system it will be lasting change, change that will stand the test of time.

Last year we travelled across the country meeting and listening to thousands of Canadians and seeking their input as we built our electoral platform. We did not spend all that time reflecting, consulting and listening just to turn our backs on Canadians the moment we were elected to office.

Canadians told us then and they are telling us now that they want change based on a thorough examination of all the issues, consultation with all interest groups, and a calm and rational appraisal and weighing of all the facts.

That is the type of change that we are committed to bringing to the criminal justice system and that we are working for even as I speak. It is the type of change that Canadians expect and deserve and the type of change that the government will deliver.

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1:35 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the hon. member's speech. I found it an affront that this member would suggest we are asking for a quick fix.

I have a newspaper clipping here that tells about an injustice that occurred to Mr. Howard Gowan from the Swift Current area of Saskatchewan where 27 years ago he was picked up by the RCMP and taken from his farm and interned in the Weyburn Psychiatric Centre where he underwent a month of electroshock and drug therapy. After that month was up he was released.

The commissioner of the RCMP then sent him a letter expressing his sincere regrets, trusting he had not been inconvenienced and acknowledging that the RCMP member strictly speaking acted outside the authority provided by the Saskatchewan Mental Health Act. This man and his family have been striving for some degree of reconciliation with the justice system for 27 years without avail. I am sure that this man would find the comments of the hon. member quite hard to understand and accept.

The weaknesses of the Young Offenders Act have been emerging over the last number of years and are clear to all who want to examine it. We have been waiting and waiting for some kind of action that would show up the weaknesses of that act. We are still waiting.

I suggest that we have a cottage industry built around consultation in the justice system which simply results in delay and more delay. It was this government that produced the Young Offenders Act and the Conservative government that implemented it. Where was the leadership at that time when it came to enacting new laws? Where was the foresight and the vision that produced that kind of a flawed legislation?

We have talked, both in the House and privately with members, concerning the whole question of the mercy applications I have spoken about here and privately with the Minister of Justice where again there seems to be an inordinate amount of delay in the process of our justice system.

Look at the stories in the newspapers today with regard to over 30 charges, indictments against Alan Eagleson by the American justice system. My examination of that case indicates that the law enforcement agencies in this country did nothing for long periods of time, which included the RCMP, the Toronto Metro Police and the Law Society of Upper Canada which is the law society of this province. They did nothing with the complaint information and nothing was done until the information was being looked into by the justice department of the United States of America. Only then was something done here.

This motion is appropriate and I believe we are filling a proper role. We do not know what the justice department is doing at the present time. Understandably this is all done behind closed doors and it will be brought forward at a later date.

Perhaps our job in bringing forward this motion is to put the pressure on the government and hold it accountable as is the rightful role of members in the opposition. I believe this motion is proper at this time.

I would invite the hon. member's comments on anything that I have had to say in response to his speech.

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1:40 p.m.


Patrick Gagnon Liberal Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised a number of interesting comments.

He should keep in mind that the percentage of incarcerated people in Canada is second to the United States. We should also add that there are costs, $8 billion a year. He is also telling us that the U.S. judicial system is somewhat better than the one that we have in Canada. When we look at the number of crimes, murders committed in the United States, it is nothing comparable to what we have here or anywhere else in the civilized world I should add.

I am shocked that the hon. member is saying that they have a better system when we know in the city of Detroit there is more criminality going on in one year than all of Canada put together. Look at the statistics.

I am asking the hon. member to check the facts. We have been here for four months. We have taken various initiatives. It is a very complex matter. We are dealing with aboriginals. We are dealing with children. We are dealing with all walks of Canadian life. It is not an easy issue to solve, granted. We know there are problems. There are cracks in the system.

The initiative being taken by the government is to ensure that we close these gaps. That is why we need the co-operation of the opposition. We also need their compassion. That seems to be lacking with the party opposite, certainly with the member opposite who says he is appalled at the way we want to address this issue.

In conclusion, I find it really offensive to hear the opposition member tell us that the American system is much better than the one we have here in Canada.

In closing, I am convinced that the plan in the government's red book will make all Canadians more secure in the years to come.

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1:40 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard everything today. Some members on this side want to separate while others seem to want annexation. There are some things that I do not understand.

Still, we have been discussing this Reform Party motion since the morning and many speakers have talked about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would like the member for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine to tell me which section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of victims and whether there is a balance between the rights of victims and those of the accused.

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1:45 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General

Mr. Speaker, I am not able to talk to you about the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but I am here to confirm to hon. members that the government intends to deal with this rather sensitive situation.

We know that the crime rate is rising in Canada. The other opposition party tabled a motion asking for a total change in the way we treat not only victims of violence but especially prisoners. I will simply remind it that the government's purpose, which I am sure the hon. member will applaud, is to strike a better balance in the penal system and justice system we have in Canada.

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1:45 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion presented by the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley on behalf of the Reform Party reflects in its wording and intent the obsessive fears of a society manipulated by certain media.

What I find disturbing in this motion is that it is a perfect example of disinformation. It cultivates and takes advantage of a tide of public resentment. Clearly, the motion before the House today is an expression of the gothic fantasies of an extreme right that is not living in the real world. I hope the hon. member does not base her concept of what is wrong with society by listening only to public rumours.

The motion asks us to condemn the government on two accounts. First, for its alleged inaction on reform of the criminal justice system and, second, because its penal laws allow the rights of criminals to supersede those of the victim.

Every single word, idea and gratuitous statement in this short motion raises a host of questions. What we have here is a compendium of reactionary, preconceived ideas. While we are at it, we might as well blame the government for the terrible winter we just had. The Liberals were elected in the fall, remember.

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1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

It is not over yet.

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1:45 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

And as the hon. member just said, winter is not over yet.

According to this motion, we should reform the whole criminal justice system. Does the Reform Party know why it wants this reform? Does it have any alternatives to suggest? What does it not like about the system? We all have complaints about the judicial system. Saying the system is not perfect is one thing, but to say it should be overhauled, without suggesting any alternatives, is something else altogether.

Does the Reform Party want to change our penal laws and the Criminal Code? Does it want to change the powers of the Minister of Justice, of our judges and lawyers? Is it dissatisfied with the procedure in the courts? Does it want to abolish the presumption of innocence? What does it want, Mr. Speaker? We do not know, and I really wonder whether the Reform Party has a single constructive idea on the subject.

If I understood the motion correctly, it raises the whole issue of the rights of criminals as opposed to the rights of their victims. Here again, the Reform Party is echoing public dissatisfaction. I think this House should remind them of certain facts and explain some of the centuries-old principles of our criminal law. For better or for worse, since the Magna Carta, Canada, the United States and all democracies that adhere to the British system of law have enshrined certain incontrovertible rules in their laws and judicial systems.

The Reform Party is actually blaming the government for five centuries of Western jurisprudence. This may enhance their prestige with people who listen uncritically to what they have to say, but it is a clear demonstration of ignorance taken to rhetorical heights.

The presumption of innocence, to start with this absolute of our criminal law, protects and, unfortunately, will continue to protect for many centuries, all criminals in society. Our laws oblige the police arm of the state to prove that an accused person is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The Reform Party cannot change this. It is the basis of our criminal law. Fortunately, that same rule of law also protects the honest citizen who is accused by the state.

When we say rule of law, we also mean procedural fairness for all accused persons. Our civilized society does not condone lynching. At one time, in some parts of America, people were hanged on mere suspicion. People wanted a conviction at any price, so they took the law into their own hands, committing murder in the process. In these societies, the presumption of innocence, reasonable doubt, due process and the right to a fair trial were concepts as foreign as cellular telephones. Sometimes I wonder, when I hear this kind of motion, whether its movers realize we are more living in the era of the cellular telephone.

The right to a fair trial is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the Reform Party wants to withdraw the fundamental constitutional document of this country, let it say so, and we will have an interesting debate on the kind of society we want. I am not sure Canadians are prepared to tear up the Charter, which represents what is universal in our society. How many citizens would follow the Reform Party in a crusade against the Charter? I think all the converts to this new religion would comfortably fit into a telephone booth.

I agree that our democracy pays a very high price for protecting fundamental rights and democratic freedoms. I am as upset as the next person about abuses of a judicial system that is often defeated by criminals who are aware that its weaknesses are in direct proportion to the generous principles by which it is guided. I know that murderers, rapists and swindlers manage to

survive because they are able to take advantage of the rules of law that protect them as they protect all honest citizens. However, the Reform Party should have checked certain statistics, and especially one that is very reassuring. In this country, nine out of ten accused plead guilty or are found guilty. Ten per cent of accused persons are acquitted, and I am sure that even if any of these were guilty, the rule of law helped to prevent conviction of the innocent. That is democracy, Mr. Speaker.

The Reform Party should have made certain distinctions in its motion and subsequent presentation. It should have told Canadians that the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act are two different things. It should have said that the Criminal Code cannot be any stricter than it already is. If the judge does not impose the maximum sentence provided under the Criminal Code, as often happens, his judgment is dictated by the circumstances. Every case before the court is different, and judges have wide discretion in sentencing a person who has been found guilty.

We cannot say that the system gives criminals an unfair advantage in this respect. The police and the Crown prosecutors do their best with the resources they have. The courts hand down judgements. They are the judicial arm of the government. They are, and must remain, independent. When a judge hands down a judgement, he speaks as the judiciary power, not as the government. That is another fact that is often overlooked.

I believe our Criminal Code is an effective instrument in the fight against crime. It will be amended again and as often as required by changing circumstances, but it reflects a contemporary social consensus on what constitutes reprehensible behaviour.

Once the sentence has been handed down, it is no longer the criminal justice system, but the Correctional Service, which is responsible for the individual who has been found guilty and sentenced to a prison term. I do not know if the Reform Party is calling for the repeal of the legislation governing the Correctional Service of Canada, but, hey, why not. And since we are considering reviewing all of the legislation governing the criminal justice system, why not simply throw everything out and start over, using the brilliant ideas of the right wing which is all-knowing since it has a direct line to God Almighty.

I would have liked to see the Reform Party deliver an enlightened and motivating speech, a speech inspired by a serious review of the shortcomings of our criminal justice system. Yet, even when she expresses compassion for the fate of victims, the hon. member who presented the motion is using a well-worn argument. The hon. member could have pointed out that the Criminal Code allows a judge to order the guilty party to compensate his victim. He can do so at the moment of sentencing by ordering the persons found guilty to reimburse to the victim an amount equal to the value of the material damage suffered. The judge can also order the guilty person, in a probation order, to compensate his victim for bodily harm inflicted. The courts have these powers. They are in the legislation. We can only encourage the system to use them.

Mr. Speaker, do I have time to continue?

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

You have at least one minute remaining.

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1:55 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will not have time to finish, but I will continue, nonetheless. I would have liked to see the Reform Party give an objective speech. I would have liked it to focus not only on the public's dissatisfaction which itself is aroused, fuelled and sustained by the media which regards the public as someone it can easily win over. The public, whether rightly or wrongly, has a negative view of the protection which the courts afford victims of crime. It would be easy to go on and on about public sentiment, but we are being remiss in our duty as elected representatives when we use this dissatisfaction for purely political purposes.

When they speak about victims, why do Reform Party members fail to mention that the purpose of the criminal courts is not to arrange compensation for victims, but, first and foremost, to punish the guilty, according to the applicable rules of law?

Mr. Speaker, I see that you are about to rise.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being two o'clock, perhaps the hon. member would agree to continue following oral questions.

Pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Sexual HarassmentStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, International Women's Day and Week for 1994 have passed into history. Tragically what is still with us is the violence that has damaged the lives of more than half of Canadian women.

One form of violence against Canadian women is sexual harassment. While 37 per cent of women experience sexual harassment, less than 40 per cent do anything about it because they feel they have no options.

A survey in our Canadian forces shows these equally frightening statistics.

Sexual harassment both reflects and perpetuates womens' economic inequality. Like other employers the federal government is legally responsible to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment. Yet I continue to hear from victims of harassment who are often revictimized when they try to take action.

I therefore urge ministers of the crown to take personal responsibility to ensure that in their departments zero tolerance is not just a pronouncement but a reality.

St. Patrick's DayStatements By Members

March 17th, 1994 / 1:55 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this March 17, St. Patrick's Day, I am pleased to pay tribute to all our fellow citizens of Irish origin for their outstanding contribution to the development of Quebec and Canada.

In my riding of Bellechasse, the Grosse-Île sanctuary, which for many years was a quarantine station where thousands of Irish families stayed after fleeing the hardships in their country, still symbolizes the courage and determination of our fellow citizens of Irish descent.

To my Irish friends and neighbours of my constituency and to the whole Quebec Irish community, my best wishes for this very particular day which reminds us of our origins and the way we have achieved our common contribution to Quebec.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, last evening the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on its Canadian Newsworld Service broke into regular programming for an emergency half-hour telecast. It showed us the interior of a courtoom in Portland, Oregon, in the United States.

The emergency telecast was the entry of a guilty plea by Tonya Harding in a made-for-America television soap opera of Tonya and Nancy "As the Skate Turns". The Tonya-Nancy show distorted television coverage of the recent Olympics, dominating American television for weeks.

Why are Canadians paying $1.1 billion per year to support the CBC in its role of protector of all that is good and Canadian when it does quick knee-jerk reactions and follows the lead of the made-for-TV news of the U.S. commercial networks?

Canadians expect better from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and demand value for taxes.

St. Patrick's DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I see from the shamrock you are wearing that you well know that today is March 17, St. Patrick's Day.

In this House we have many honourable members who are proud of their Irish ancestry. We have Clancy, Collins and Galloway, McGuire, Murphy and Shaughnessy, Tobin, Torsney and Whelan, O'Brien, O'Reilly and even Sergi O'Marchi.

Mr. Speaker, from the Irish harp and the shamrocks on our Canadian coat of arms above your chair to the beautiful ceiling of this very chamber, fine hand-painted Irish linen, there is evidence everywhere of the contributions of the Irish culture to Canada.

On behalf of all hon. members in this House, I would like to wish all Canadians, especially those of Irish ancestry, a very happy St. Patrick's Day.

RacismStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, Monday, March 21, is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Since 1989, the City of Montreal, in co-operation with the provincial and federal governments, has held an event to mark this important day and I want to congratulate them for this initiative.

I invite all hon. members to participate in events organized in their ridings to mark the importance of that day, and to work harder to fight racism and discrimination.

I want to remind hon. members of the words of Martin Luther King who said: "I have a dream that one day. . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. . . I have a dream that one day all forms of injustice will disappear on Earth, for the greater benefit of all human beings. And when that day comes, we can all hope that freedom will be with us soon after."

I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but on the content of their character.

Let us work together to fulfil this dream.

Irish CanadiansStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this very special day I too would like to pay tribute to all Irish Canadians and especially those in my riding.

I would like first to pay tribute to my Irish wife of 22 years, Mary Alice, whose contributions like so many housewives and dedicated mothers are often taken for granted. She has dedicated herself unselfishly to our family and without her devotion I would not have the honour of serving in this House today.

I would also like to pay tribute to a long time friend and fighting Irishman in my riding. Last Sunday the residents of Kirkland, selected as one of Canada's top 10 towns best to live in, elected their sixth mayor and for the first time in their history an Irishman. To Mr. John Meaney and his wife Evelyn who have served the community with pride, love and dedication for over 23 years, I wish them all the true luck of the Irish as John faces the challenge of being Kirkland's chief magistrate.

Mr. Meaney has the difficult task of following in the very, very small footsteps of a colleague and former mayor in Nick O'Discepola. I am confident he will take Kirkland forward in great strides.