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.


SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to make my statement very quickly.

Nobody on this side of the House including myself disagrees for a moment that prevention has to have a high priority in our system of dealing with people, particularly when it comes to crime.

I want to get down to the grass roots, down to the level of things. How is this government finally going to answer? I say finally because I have been involved in this since the early 1970s and even before when I was mayor of a town and crime was a serious problem.

I am thinking particularly of violent crime. When is the government going to come forward with something for the seniors I talked to on a radio talk show in Calgary, which is certainly not a renowned city of crime in comparison with others, who say they are scared to death. One lady said she lives alone with her cat and she is scared to death every night that somebody is going to tear her door down, bash her head in and steal all her belongings. They live in fear.

In rural communities you see bars on the stores and on private homes. Law-abiding citizens lock themselves in to try to protect themselves from what is on the street on the loose.

During the lifetime of this 35th Parliament, we are going to have 80 parole hearings. My research shows 80.

If we have a record like we have had in the past I fear for a lot of people. Our research has already provided approximately 40 names of people who have been released on parole who have killed a high number of people. One of those persons who got out of jail said before he killed four other people: "The only thing crazier than me is a system that allows me to get on the street and do what I did".

We hear this from the criminals themselves. We hear it from the victims. When is the government going to quit the rhetoric and get down to the grassroots, talk to the people who are suffering and listen to what the victims of violence are saying and do something about their causes and concerns?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Time is almost up. Please be brief in your reply.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Allan Rock Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

I will be brief, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member says that he has been involved in this for 20 years. I respect his experience, but I predict that we are going to be involved in this for a lot longer than 20 years to come. It is part of the human condition.

We are going to do our level best to balance the interest we have been talking about. So far as fear is concerned, I am aware of the fear to which the hon. member refers. One thing we must be careful not to do is feed into or amplify those fears if they are disproportionate to the reality.

The unkindest thing we can do to the senior citizens to whom the hon. member referred is to play on those fears, to make them worse by suggesting that the problem is worse than it really is, that the challenge is greater than it really is.

Of course we have a challenge in front of us, but let us keep it in perspective. As I said earlier concerning high risk offenders in the parole system, we recognize that changes have to be made. We have to take the person at the end of the sentence and examine them to determine whether they are fit to be returned to society. If they are not, we have to find a way of working with the health system to keep them confined for our own protection.

Next week when I meet with my colleagues in the provinces I will be talking about that, among other things. We cannot do it alone. We will do it in concert with them. I am very aware of the problem and we will address it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion put forward by the Reform Party is not a simple one. If we are not careful, it could foster an ideology which is not in agreement with who we are as Canadians and Quebecers. What this motion calls for is not approval or disapproval, but a thorough review of the current system.

In my legal practice, I sometimes heard people say, in a fit of anger over a gross injustice in a court of law or an irrational judgement on the part of a judge, that the legal and judicial system protects criminals better than victims.

Let us not jump too quickly to that conclusion. Many extraneous factors, factors outside the legal system, can influence a sentence, a release, the judgement of a lenient judge and even-and we hear of it happening more and more on the news-of a dissident judge or one advocating reform.

We must, however, look at the means at the disposal of the judicial branch to enforce the legislation that we legislators pass in this House. For example-and I shall be brief since I have only 20 minutes-how can a judge send a first-time offender to jail, knowing that our penitentiaries are overcrowded? If the judge finds in favour of the Crown and the victim, the offender will indeed be sentenced to imprisonment. But he will soon be discharged, conditionally. It happens all the time.

When faced with this kind of judgement or finding, people dealing with the judicial system are always left to wonder. But the judge has no other choice.

For years now, there has been a general consensus that violence can take many forms. This is not to say that our society is necessarily more violent than others on the whole, but rather that we are better at recognizing violence and its various manifestations and at doing so more quickly. There has always been violence. It is just that we talk about it more today. Victims are less intimidated by the system and come forward more freely, but violence in itself is nothing new.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Do the rights of criminals supersede those of the victim in the present legal framework? If so, what can the government do to correct the situation?

I think that this issue involves competiting rights between victims and criminals and the two members who spoke earlier really put their finger on it. Both Quebec and Canada have passed legislation that brings out this duality.

However, discrepancies between the rights of the parties to a criminal case have existed for a very long time, since the Quebec Act of 1774 clearly addressed these concerns by introducing British criminal law to Canada. Section XI of this act reads in part as follows: "And whereas the Certainty and Lenity of the Criminal Law of England, and the Benefits and Advantages resulting from the Use of it, have been sensibly felt by the Inhabitants, from an Experience of more than nine Years [-]shall continue to be [-]observed as Law in the Province of Quebec, as well in the Description and Quality of the Offence as in the Method of Prosecution and Trial; and the Punishments and Forfeitures thereby inflicted-"

We must not forget that they had capital punishment back then and that the victim's only consolation was the condemned person's last breath.

That said, we must define the issue raised and, in order to resolve it as clearly as possible, we must first determine if this finding is justified and true, or quite simply false in legal and social terms.

What in our current system could help us weigh the pros and cons without being swayed by feelings and sensational cases that quickly stir up the emotions?

Daily newspapers emphasize the system's failures rather than its successes. The press usually focuses on the negative and that is what readers remember.

It must be said that, in recent decades, our society and therefore our legislation have quietly put a particular emphasis-I am not saying that everything is just rosy and that there is nothing left for us to do-on the victims of crime, at the urging of federal and provincial lawmakers.

The laws of Quebec and several other provinces that deal with the victims of crime are a striking example.

We must also be honest and mention that the Criminal Code contains provisions aimed at helping crime victims. There are for instance the provisions on the identification of criminals and the restitution of stolen goods. An hon. member said earlier that there should be such provisions, but I think they already are in the Criminal Code. We would only have to enforce them. We should urge the courts to enforce the current legislation designed to protect witnesses who testify and to award exemplary damages or impose fine surcharges-this principle still exists today. Do the courts apply the law in all cases? That remains to be seen.

Legislators are not here to make laws for the sake of it because they could make a lot that would never be enforced. I think there is a principle that legislators do not act frivolously. If they make changes, it is to make things better and not to leave everything up to a court that would not enforce them anyway.

Is this not enough for victims? Perhaps, but we should not endanger the whole legal system by trying to correct an age-old duality.

Another argument in favour of balancing rights between the victim and the criminal is the release on bail of the accused. It may be where we see an increasing number of reports in the press, which has a field day whenever a judge makes a wrong assessment. Again, society gets a negative impression of the legal system.

Under the Criminal Code's general rules, the police officer responsible for the temporary detention of a person charged with an offence punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of five years must release this person, unless he has reason to believe that it is necessary in the public interest or to ensure that the accused will show up for the trial.

Of course, the decision to release the accused is left to a justice of the peace. As the legal evaluation criteria are very complex, I will not go into them in this debate. One thing is for certain: a presumably impartial judge-and I think it is true in major cases-looks at the facts before deciding to release the accused.

In some cases, in particular in murder and hard-drug trafficking cases, it is up to the accused to prove that he should not be detained while waiting for his trial. In both cases, there is a major reversal of the burden of proof that somehow helps make the victim more secure.

The current code also requires the judge to issue a firearms prohibition order for anyone released on bail who is charged with an offence involving actual, threatened or attempted violence. In many cases, the judge will also ask for a commitment not to disturb the peace.

Of course, the judge can ask any accused person to make certain commitments and you will say that in many cases they are not respected. What little experience I have, although I am not a criminal lawyer, shows me that in most cases, people who are released under certain conditions respect them. We do not see them in the newspapers, because what is interesting about knowing that someone obeys the law; it is much more interesting to know who does not obey it.

You will tell me that is all very well on paper, but that in reality there are injustices and victims who are afraid, victims who are victims of the system. I must reply that unfortunately it is so. A perfect system where everyone would seem to win in a balanced legal system does not exist. The big problem in this question of justice between the victim and the criminal is, I think, one of society's perception.

Yes, the verbal excesses of some judges have damaged the esteem in which the present legal system is held. Fortunately, these verbal excesses are condemned by scathing criticism from society and by the peers of those who commit these excesses. Legal cases which make it to the front pages of the newspapers are not necessarily typical of everyday reality. These articles contribute to the mistaken opinion people have of justice.

I think that the observation we are considering does indeed reflect society's perception, but it should be qualified from the legal point of view. To show why I am saying this, we must refer to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I wish to remind this House that this charter is the same one that Quebec did not have the privilege to endorse when the Constitution was unilaterally repatriated in 1982, as the present Prime Minister surely recalls. So I am in a special position to criticize it.

Let us look for a moment at some provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms regarding the rights and legal guarantees of individuals and of criminals. We are told that the Charter is the highest law in trials and in the legal system, so let us look at what this charter provides both for criminals and for victims.

Section 7 says: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." Section 8 gives "everyone the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure." Section 9 says: "Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned." Section 10 says: "Everyone has the right on arrest or detention ( a ) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor; ( b ) to retain and instruct counsel without delay -and ( c ) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus .''

In any case, I thought on reading these sections that everyone, criminal or victim, is indeed protected by law. Nevertheless, the legislators felt the need to insert additional sections on the rights of an accused person. That is the whole series of section 11 of this charter, where it says that "any person charged with an offence has the right to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence" -I thought this redundant, given the previous sections-to be tried within a reasonable time, not to be compelled to testify against himself, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, not to be denied bail without just cause, to the benefit of trial by jury, except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission, if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again, etc., etc.

Section 11 adds several factors to what was already there for the accused.

I wanted to read this, even though the members of this House are well acquainted with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to highlight the existing imbalance, in my view, in a law which supposedly supersedes all others, between the rights of the accused, the criminal, and the rights of the victim.

The Charter of Rights of which the Prime Minister is so proud clearly brings into focus our negative perception of the justice system. There is absolutely nothing in the Charter to protect the victim, to ensure that he or she benefits from the support of the state throughout the lengthy criminal justice process. And this process is very lengthy indeed. More money needs to be invested in this process. It is not legislation that is lacking. We need to allocate more funding to the administration of justice. It is not by enacting laws that we will strike a better balance between the rights of victims and of criminals.

However, I think it should have been stated clearly in the Charter that victims' rights always take precedence over the rights of the accused, of criminals. Since no mention is made of the need for this kind of balance, those who come before the courts only hear about how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the accused, about how it is invoked to obtain the release of an accused person or to quash a ruling by a lower court which convicted a person, or how, as a result, the accused is released following a review on appeal.

Quite often, at the appeal stage, the issue is not whether a crime was committed, but whether all of the provisions of the Charter were upheld. The victim ends up being the one who, quite often, suffers extreme prejudice. Using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an example, we can easily demonstrate the apparent imbalance between the rights of the victim and those of the criminal.

However, the public's generally negative perception of the system goes much deeper than its appreciation of a particular piece of legislation. That is why I believe in the justice system given to us by our ancestors. We must not call everything into question for the sake of achieving a punitive, excessive objective. We have to be rational and pursue efforts to modernize the system, while looking to education. A more highly educated society which understands its rights is a society that has a greater appreciation of its justice system.

Since we know what the priorities of the Minister of Justice are in this 35th Parliament, and we heard them again in the House this morning, we will have an opportunity to get some messages across to him. We should seize this occasion to give greater importance to victims and, in the process, improve the perception that those who come before the courts have of our justice system.

In conclusion, it would not necessarily be viable for Quebec and Canada to seek to improve the lot of victims solely at the expense of criminals. We should be focusing our energies on education, prevention and rehabilitation instead of on handing down heavier sentences to criminals. Does Canada want to become a totalitarian country insofar as the treatment of its criminals is concerned?

The members on this side of the House would like to establish a sovereign country, one in which a fair balance will be struck between the rights of victims and the rights of criminals. In my opinion, this balance will not be achieved by pitting the rights of one party against those of another.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Sheila Finestone LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member's speech, I appreciated his carefully prepared arguments, and I think he gave a very clear analysis of the situation.

Certainly, individuals who commit violent crimes against women make us hate both the nature of the crime and the person who commits the crime. We must realize, however, that the proportion of such crimes is much smaller than you would think when you read the newspaper headlines and listen to the news, because we never talk about what is good and normal in society. When crimes are committed, they make the headlines and cause high levels of fear and anxiety, because these are very serious matters.

Since my colleague, the Minister of Justice, has shown that he has an open mind on the matter and would appreciate the participation and collaboration of all members of the House to find out what they think and let them help us all make any necessary improvements, could the hon. member tell us what he sees as the most important initial step towards dealing with the situation?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the people facing me were elected to govern and to draft legislation, and that they should do what they feel is useful and necessary, on the basis of their consultations and the principles outlined in their red book.

I would say that in many respects, the changes being requested are unnecessary. Take the bill to amend the Narcotics Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act, which is before the House. We already have a Narcotics Control Act. The government wants to update and amend this legislation, but as was explained in the House, in some very obvious cases this legislation is not even enforced.

We can pass as many bills as we want, but if the legislation we adopt is not enforced, if we do not have the political will to do so, what is the use? I say we should first look at what we already have and see if we can enforce those laws.

Another item that will soon be before Parliament is the Young Offenders Act. I discussed this with judges on several occasions, and they said: Mr. Bellehumeur, the existing legislation is not even enforced. We could refer some young offenders to adult court but we do not, although we are allowed to do so under the Act.

That is my question: why? Because the system does not give us the tools we need. Are we going to send a young offender to a prison for adults, where they learn more about crime than anything else? Judges prefer to hand out a minimum sentence and then release young offenders or make arrangements to have them supervised by someone who will help them get back on the right track.

I think that before we consider extensive changes, we should look at the system we have now, and draw our own conclusions. Are these laws enforced? Do we give judges and the courts enough power to enforce them? Instead of extensive changes, perhaps we should improve the way this legislation is used.

Even if the hon. member wished, I will not go into great detail about extensive federal amendments to Canadian laws. I simply want to say that we already have laws, and we should find out whether they are properly enforced.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 17th, 1994 / 11:35 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments. He explains the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and some of the problems in the charter very well, and also some of the laws that we have on our books.

We have many laws on our books, but the frustration is that people perceive that the courts are not really carrying out the mandate they have been given.

I would like to say too that while we disagree on a lot of things like debt and deficit and so on, if there is one issue we must get together on it is the issue of criminal justice reform and the need for it. We need to be co-operative about this thing, not confrontational.

One of the problems people see is that the courts often hand out very light sentences for very serious crimes. For example, in the southern part of my riding very recently an elderly gentleman was lured out of his home and savagely killed. The main perpetrator of that crime received four years and will be getting out shortly on parole. People find it very unacceptable that this man committed a terrible murder and will be out in a very short time because of extenuating circumstances. But the courts have found him guilty. People find this a real problem. It is not that the laws are not there but it is perceived that many of these people are getting away with murder.

I have a question that people have asked me to pass on. When these people are sentenced should they not lose some of their rights? For example, could these people not be put into work programs when they are in prison? The issue of restitution has been brought up. People feel that a percentage of the earnings of prisoners could possibly be used to compensate victims of crime. In this case, it was a terrible hardship for the wife when her husband was lured out of the home and killed. Work has a way of producing self-esteem and people very often feel this is something that is lacking and can have a very therapeutic effect.

I wonder if maybe the hon. member would like to make some comments about the courts being part of the problem and not just our laws.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, this debate should not be on specific cases or on a particularly disgusting crime. If you use a specific case where the victim went through hell and the sentence was relatively light, you will obviously come to the same conclusion as the Reform Party. But these cases are a minority and as long as our laws are implemented by judges who are human beings, there will be some personal appreciation involved in their decision, which can lead to differences, as I was saying earlier.

As for the second part of the hon. member's question regarding the judge's comments, I think that a whole set of measures are already in place to compensate victims. I said earlier that in the case of stolen goods, I have seen judges sentence the guilty parties to return or repay the goods or even do community work. In Quebec, a whole series of measures are in place regarding community programs. But the problem is the follow-up. Indeed, the problem lie not in the legislation but rather in the means and how to deal with the whole issue.

We could pass laws which, for example, would provide that for a specific offence, the offender would have to pay a certain amount. However, if that person is on welfare, or is so well organized that he or she does not own anything, what are we going to do? What are we going to seize to recover the equivalent of what was stolen? We will get into proceedings and we will go through trials just to save face, because in the end we will be left with unenforceable sentences. What good will that do? None whatever. I think that we already have the necessary legislation. It is simply a matter of implementing it. Perhaps the judges and those who administer the law should be given additional resources for a follow-up, but it is especially important not to get into specifics, otherwise we will really get bogged down.

The hon. member might want to formulate his question during Oral Question Period and address it to the Minister of Justice in the coming month, so that we have something before us regarding his suggestion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Macleod is next. I believe he plans to share his time with the hon. member for Yellowhead.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I feel this is probably one of the easiest topics to speak on in the House. Surely we have a very common desire on this topic, to see justice and fairness in our justice system enacted.

I would like to start off by saying that in my view Canada does have a justice problem. It is a problem that is typified by the fact that homicides are climbing, our schools are unsafe and smuggling is rampant. We have recently had House business that dealt with smuggling. Fraud in our country is commonplace.

I would like to put criminal justice on a priority list for members who are close to me on this side of the House. We have gone through social programs and priorized them. We put health care at the top of our priorities along with education, pensions for the needy and environmental issues. We put justice as the one area in our social program system that we would spend more money on. This is the one area, in spite of our deficit and debt problems, we would spend extra money on. We put a high priority on this specific issue.

This discourse is not in any sense meant to be confrontational. This discourse is meant to be informational. I hope it will be taken in that context.

Some statistics in our country trouble me: 3 per cent of the population are natives and 11.3 per cent of our penitentiary inmates are natives. I have talked to the native elders and have tried to ascertain what they thought the answer to that problem was. They think the old values of the native community need to be better taught. They talk of sweetgrass ceremonies, sweat lodges, and improving the status of the individual by their old cultural methods. I say we need a return of dignity and self-sufficiency for natives. People can only be proud of their culture when they are proud of themselves.

Another thing I would pause to reflect on is something I call a prison revolt. This revolt comes from the sociologists and criminologists in our society. They approach crime with the viewpoint that crime is not the fault of the criminal in many instances. It is simply the fault of upbringing, of poverty and of abuse. I recognize there are major problems in our society that contribute to crime. I recognize that education, prevention of poverty and prevention of child abuse are extremely important. They say the answer to the problem is compassionate, caring

therapy in a nice warm jail, with retraining opportunities and better recreation and library facilities than people on assistance have. I frankly disagree. That is not the answer to that problem.

We allow prisoners to vote. We release dangerous offenders on unsupervised leave. We sentence them to life but that means little. In my view in some ways we as Canadians have lost our marbles.

Turning to some other backward moves in our criminal justice system, we take our law enforcement officers, our RCMP trainees, and do not pay them very well. As trainees we give them a relatively low wage scale. As they go through their training process they reach a point at which they are ready to take on the more major responsibilities and with our frozen civil servant wages we leave them at the training wage scale. What talented young men would want to serve in the law enforcement agency realizing that they would be penalized? This is one area in which the civil service wage freeze is absolutely unfair.

When gun control measures were started, they were started to curtail violence with guns, a proposition that no one could argue with. Homicides with guns have not improved over the lifetime of gun control. Stricter gun control has no correlation whatever to better results on homicides with guns. I hear now that one of the reasons for stricter gun control is that guns are inherently dangerous. I also hear that we are going to prevent accidents and suicides by having stricter gun control. It just is not the reason to have gun control. On the other end of the scale we have a free vote coming up that is going to allow doctors to assist in suicides. These are the two ends of the scale that I think are completely wrong.

Honest gun users are also having weapons declared restricted and then confiscated without pay, a provision that is entirely unfair.

Another issue that I found fascinating about gun control is that when RCMP officers take their weapons off their hips, either in the detachment or in their homes, they must place bore locks in their weapons. Their weapons are then locked so that they cannot be used.

I spoke with RCMP officers at home and asked: "What advantage is there to you in doing that?" They said: "There is no advantage to us at all. We have always been extremely careful with our weapons, extremely careful because our own children could get the loaded weapons. The only advantage in that is to the criminal". In fact a criminal could wander into the detachment and spray the RCMP officers with rifle fire while they scramble to unlock their weapons. Again in my view in Canada on some issues we have lost our marbles.

It is not good enough to stand in the House and just complain, mutter and say that everything is wrong. It is only useful if we have some constructive comments to make. I would like to turn to that portion of my address now.

In our society family values have become less important. This has a major part to play in our problems with our criminal justice system. Single parent families today are 13 per cent of the families in society. Many reasons are given for this but a few stand out to me. More teens today are choosing to keep and raise their babies. There are fewer forced weddings and there is much more divorce in society today. I have tried to look very critically at why families are breaking down. I am partial to the one that says that families are spending too much time trying to raise their sights financially rather than raise their sights on their children.

When I was a young man of about 13 years of age and in grade seven my parents got their first home. It was a 1,300 square foot home; not very big, not very expensive. If they had paid for that mortgage over the span of their lives, they would have paid for it by the time that they were in their early sixties.

I look with interest as young families today set out very early in their lives to get big homes. Homes much bigger than 1,300 square feet would be the average. They borrow earlier. They take on more onerous financial duties. This forces both parents to get out into the workforce to try to pay that debt. This conscious decision does not allow as much direct parental contact with the children. I believe that contributes to some of the problems in our justice system.

Day care is not the same as parent care. Television care is not the same as parent care. A new BMW in the garage is not the same as close, loving parental care of a loved child.

The solution in part would be to change the tax rules so that there is encouragement for one parent to stay home. That need not be the woman; it could well be the man. Another change that could take place would be to allow our workforce to adjust hours so that there could at least be one parent at home.

The other specific area I wanted to address does not have very much to do with jails and what not. There is a very expensive area in our justice system. I want to refer to an article in the Medical Post from December that talked about obstetricians recommending defensive medicine to prevent lawsuits. The obstetrician in this article said that every single baby, just after it is born, should have a brain scan and the brain scan should be done to prevent a lawsuit ensuing in the future if things showed up in that baby's development. If cerebral palsy ensued the obstetrician could be blamed for problems at birth. Every single baby that had potential problems should have a brain scan, according to that obstetrician.

The lawsuits that this obstetrician is trying to prevent are lawsuits that involve huge amounts of money in our court system and huge amounts of money in terms of the actual awards that are given, settlements of up to $7 million.

In my view the confrontational legal system we are developing in our country mimicking the U.S. system when it comes to medical legal issues is costing untold amounts of money. The end result of the meeting-and this was a meeting that had a number of solicitors in it-was to suggest that no fault medical insurance would go a long way toward preventing the gladiatorial events of doctors against lawyers in our court system. I propose that as one specific item that we should be looking at. It involves the health ministry. It involves the justice ministry as well.

The justice issue transcends every political party. This issue transcends every personal philosophy, every level of income, and every age group. I want to co-operate in the House to make sure our criminal justice system is improved.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the hon. member.

As a model prototype of the penal reform system we are in the process of building a women's prison in Truro, Nova Scotia. That prison will be built on the model of a small home where women will learn to cook nutritionally with the guidance of a dietitian. They will take care of the home properly. They will have their children brought to them. They will be integrated into our community; into community recreation, into community education and into community training of various types. This is an integrated model so that when these women are free to be released to society they will be productive, sensible, mature women in the sense that they can be self-sufficient and go back to a so-called normal life. I hope this will be the model the country will establish and follow so that we do have results for the tax dollars invested.

The second point I would make is that in his comments the member appears or seems to project the notion that moral values can be legislated. We on this side of the House and I believe the people of Canada will watch with great interest and anticipation as his leader takes on the role of delegating moral activity and moral responsibility with regard to their own membership.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I might comment on the idea of legislating moral values.

I am sure the issue of code of conduct is one the member opposite would not care to disagree with. This issue has been blown all out of proportion, as a code of ethics is simply a statement that as public persons a very important part of our lives is now public. I am sure the member opposite will be most interested in seeing what our code of conduct looks like when it comes out.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask three questions of the previous speaker.

First, he referred to the aboriginal people of Canada and I would agree with him 100 per cent about the condition in which they find themselves. Has the hon. member taken the time to read our red book? It speaks of giving Canada's native people their own place, their own lives, their own destiny.

That has been the subject of many questions here relating to better education, better training for the workplace, a better health system and conditions. Finally it speaks of giving them their own justice system and eventually transferring to their hands the whole of the huge budget of the department of Indian affairs. Does the member not agree that the solution has already been advanced and should be debated very constructively here?

Second, in regard to better gun control I do not think solutions are simply in gun control. The minister of justice has advanced the positive idea that unless society as a whole works itself on a holistic basis and we clean ourselves from within, gun control once more is only part of the puzzle.

At the same time to argue today that gun control is not necessary is to fly in the face of the opinion of 85 per cent of Canadians. It flies in the face of the fact that one of my friends in Montreal, Michael Hogben, was killed by a fellow teacher because of loose gun control. It flies in the face of Marc Lépine who killed 14 young women at the École polytechnique in Montreal. It flies in the face of Brady who was pleading for more gun control in the United States-

SupplyGovernment Orders


The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member for Macleod very briefly.

SupplyGovernment Orders



Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, to talk specifically about the gun control comment, I am not for one second saying that gun control should not exist. What I am saying and will say very strongly is that more stringent gun control measures are not the answer.

As the member speaks of Lépine's gun, he should realize that Lépine's gun would not be removed from Canadian society under our current gun control legislation.

SupplyGovernment Orders



Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak in support of this motion. This House has been in session for two months now. Finally we are dealing with an issue which many of my constituents have told me is very important to them.

I am in the process of drafting a private member's bill on victims' rights. I welcome this opportunity to address an important dimension of victims' rights, namely restitution and compensation.

One hon. member mentioned we should not look at individual cases. Too often we speak in general terms and we lose touch with real events and real persons.

One of the first inquiries I received in my office was from a man in Sturgis, Saskatchewan who had his vehicle trashed by a group of teenagers in June 1992. The car was totally written off by the insurance company for a total cost of $6,500. The victim was required to pay the $500 deductible and the cost of a rental car so he could get to work. Total out of pocket expenses for the victim were $817.45.

The owner applied for restitution to the RCMP in August 1992. In September the victim wrote to the Saskatchewan minister of justice expressing his disappointment that charges had not been laid against the teenagers who had destroyed his car. In December 1992 the RCMP advised the victim that charges were being laid against a number of individuals.

In May 1993 the crown prosecutor and the defence council negotiated for four hours. Charges were dropped against the six young offenders and one adult and charges proceeded against three others.

It appeared to the victim that the main consideration of the courts during the sentencing was that there would be no hardship imposed on the accused. What about the victim being out of pocket over $800? What about the $6,000 paid out by Saskatchewan Government Insurance? What about the inconvenience of losing the use of his car until he got another one?

The three convicted teenagers were ordered to pay $500 restitution and two were fined for assault. The fines and restitution were to be paid by August 31, 1993. At the end of September after numerous phone calls to the provincial officials, the victim again wrote the Saskatchewan minister of justice complaining that he had not yet received the $500 restitution. In November the minister responded saying the criminals had paid $50 to the court and that he should be in receipt of it. After many phone calls to the RCMP, the provincial court wrote a cheque for $50 which arrived on November 25. The victim wrote another letter of complaint to the courts and asked for the remaining $450.

I remind this House it is now a year and a half since the victim's car was demolished. The victim, by this time in a total state of exasperation, wrote to me, his member of Parliament. We wrote the federal Minister of Justice on behalf of the victim.

In January the victim wrote informing us that the balance of the restitution order had been received. In February 1994 the minister responded saying there was nothing he could do and suggested the victim file the restitution order with the courts and have it enforced as a civil judgment in accordance with section 725 of the Criminal Code.

I have taken the time to explain this case because I want members of this House to get a feeling for what it is like to be a victim of a senseless crime. I want members of this House to put themselves in the victim's shoes and try to feel how this victim felt as he was being jacked around by the system.

Our goal as Reformers in this House is to make sure that laws are passed that put the rights of the victim first, ahead of all other considerations, especially the rights of criminals.

When we researched this particular case we proposed a number of possible improvements to the existing laws with respect to restitution and compensation for the victims of crime. The Minister of Justice in his reply to our letter also suggested some improvements which should be enacted.

Following are some suggested improvements which we will be including in our victims' rights bill. The rights of the victim and compensation for the victim's losses should be the top priority of the courts.

Restitution orders should be mandatory and not at the discretion of the courts. Restitution orders should compensate the full costs incurred by the victim, including losses resulting from personal injury and/or loss or damage to property, including insurance claims. Restitution orders should be enforceable.

Why should the only recourse be for the victim to pursue the matter in civil court? We send people to jail if they do not pay their fines. Why not garnishee a portion of the criminal's wages until the restitution order is paid in full? I believe there is far too much emphasis on rights and we forget that we also have responsibilities. In fact, we should not be entitled to our rights until we first discharge our responsibilities.

The province of Saskatchewan places a surcharge on every $100 paid in fines. These are set aside in a victim services fund, but there is no legal obligation on the part of the province to spend the revenue collected exclusively on victims. Nor is there any compulsory requirement for the victims to be financially compensated for their losses.

In some provinces criminal injury compensation has been combined with workers compensation providing quicker response to the victim. This may be a solution for compensating victims of crime where convictions are not obtained.

What about the responsibility of the convicted criminals to pay for their crimes? Are they only responsible to the state after they are convicted? Are criminals not also responsible for repairing the damage they have done? I and many other Canadians feel they are not only responsible but should also be totally accountable for their actions and compensate their victims in full.

The charges against the young offenders in the case I reported earlier should never have been dropped. The very least the court should have done was make the young offenders pay their share of the damages. They had the fun of wrecking the victim's car; let them at least learn a lesson by having to pay their share of the damages out of their own pockets.

How many of these young offenders who are let go have gone on to commit other crimes? If young offenders are unable to compensate the victims of their crimes, then the parents of the young offenders should be held totally responsible for compensating the victim. This will ensure that parents take a greater interest in what their children are doing outside the home.

When criminals are serving time-and I am talking about low risk offenders now, those who do not pose a risk of physical violence-they should be involved in work programs. They should not be granted the luxury of lounging around at taxpayer funded correctional centres. Convicted criminals involved in work programs should have a portion of their wages deducted. This revenue should be used to repay the victims of the crime. Another portion of the wages should be used to help pay for the cost of the correctional services, including guards, food, accommodation and so on.

I have outlined nine ways in which the government could act to place the rights of the victim ahead of those of the criminal specifically as they relate to restitution and compensation. As a now famous politician once said, we have a lot of work to do. For far too long victims' rights have had to take a back seat to the rights of criminals. It is time to bring some real justice to the justice system.

The man who had his car trashed by the teenagers did not get justice. He lost the use of his car for days. To get to work he had to rent a car for which he was not compensated. He had to wait 20 months to get the partial compensation the courts awarded. He had to make many phone calls and write many letters at his own expense to get the restitution ordered by the court. Add to that 20 months of worry and frustration.

The criminals in that case got away with one more thing: They have not made restitution for the $6,000 paid out by Saskatchewan Government Insurance. Every policyholder in Saskatchewan will have to pay higher premiums as a result.

The government can take action which would improve the situation for victims immediately and would not require any change in legislation. As an interim measure victims must be better informed of the limited rights they now have.

Much of the frustration suffered by my constituent could have been avoided if he had not been forced to fight for his rights with bureaucrats and politicians for over a year and a half to get back just some of the money owed to him.

If the victims of crime were a real priority of the justice system this travesty of justice would not have occurred. Why should honest, law-abiding citizens have to pay for the misdeeds of criminals? It is cash out of their own pockets in higher premiums paid to insurance companies.

In closing, as a member of this House I vow to support common sense criminal justice reforms regardless of the party or member initiating them. That is why this morning I was pleased to second a private member's bill introduced by the hon. member for York South-Weston calling for the repeal of section 745 of the Criminal Code which would put an end to early parole for first degree murderers who have been sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

I look forward to the continued debate on this. We need to work together.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Michel Daviault Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I found the hon. member's comments very interesting. I am not a lawyer or a notary, and I have no particular interest in judicial matters, but I represent a constituency that includes the inmates of Bordeaux, a well-known prison in Montreal. In fact, I heard several remarks during the two previous speeches made by members of the Reform Party which seem to reflect some prejudice against the penal system, in that they call for yet more legislation but ignore the lack of resources endemic in the system.

Bordeaux prison is a provincial institution, in other words, for offenders sentenced to two years or less, and it is full of so-called weekend inmates. The penal system does not provide enough prisons, and often when inmates who serve their sentence on weekends come to the prison, they are told: No room, come back next week. And this can go on for two years.

We do not need more legislation. We need resources, as my colleague argued earlier.

I heard some remarks by my Reform Party colleague-speaking of prejudice-who referred to nice, warm jails. I do not think they are nice, warm jails. This smacks of demagogy, and we can do without that. I think we should concentrate on improving the availability of resources.

I have a more specific question about the hon. member's speech. He made a presentation on a private member' bill concerning compensation for victims of crime. At the present time, victims can go to civil court to sue criminals. However, criminals usually do not have any income or resources to pay fines and that sort of thing.

Could he explain how this would be dealt with in his bill, to give victims a better chance to sue criminals for damage arising from their crimes?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on a couple of things the hon. member has mentioned. One is the people who spend their weekends in prison. Very often we sentence people to sentences that may not be appropriate. I would like to put this idea forth.

Many times when we send people to prison, instead of improving on their attitude and their lot and so on, they in fact deteriorate because they get to mix with other people who may be of more disrepute than they are.

With regard to non-violent offenders, possibly the courts could have the option of putting them into work programs rather than sending them to prison. The prisons could be reserved for the worst offenders, the most violent offenders in society. This ties in with the second matter that was raised, how would these people be compensated.

That is where work programs need to be put in place in the prisons. A percentage of the wages these people earn could then be used to compensate their victims. A problem we have is that a victim has to go through the civil courts, through the whole legal and justice system to try to get back some of that money. It is a great inconvenience and very often unsuccessful because the criminal has no income to be able to pay the victim.

If there were a work program this would help solve that problem. Work would also give these people a better feeling about themselves. It is no different for them than for us. When someone meets someone else for the first time, the one thing they ask is: "What work do you do, what job?". It does something for us and I think it would do the same for many of these people in society.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief.

In terms of charging the parents under the Young Offenders Act if they cannot charge the child, what is the hon. member's recommendation as to punishment? Quite often we find that the parents have very little asset or ability to pay or to compensate the victim.

I work closely with the Citizens United for Safety and Justice in my community and we see that there is no real asset or opportunity to make the parent pay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not saying that we should be charging parents. Do not get me wrong. My constituents are telling me that very often parents have the attitude that it is someone else's problem. I think it is that attitude we are trying to get at. If they were required to make some compensation in that regard and if they were held accountable for what their children are doing, they might take a greater interest in what they are doing. This is the kind of attitude we need to foster. It all ties in with the erosion of family living that we have in Canada and I think we need to address that whole area. It is not going to be done in just one minute.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia


Russell MacLellan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity this morning to speak on this motion.

I realize in our country at the present time there is a tremendous outrage against crime. It is not the outrage against crime with which I have a problem. On the contrary, I have trouble understanding and I condemn the simplistic solutions to complex interdependent and intertwined problems that exist in our society which cause crime.

As long as we as members of Parliament and members of society say that there is a possibility for quick fixes, we cannot count on the support of the people of Canada to work with us.

The problem today is that crime is not like a common cold, it is not like a mortgage, it is not like foreign aid. It is something that is entirely different. It is something with which all of society must become involved.

I have listened to the member for Yorkton-Melville and I appreciate the point he made that prisons are not the answer for punishment for all those who have offended. This is true.

This is especially true with respect to young offenders. In prison young offenders do acquire some of the tricks of the trade that allow them to be professional criminals when they are released.

Maybe there is a way of working with young offenders that will be to the benefit of young offenders other than the standard incarceration in adult institutions. Certainly watching television and playing pool during the incarceration would not be the answer. There has to be rehabilitation but there has to be an appreciation.

I do not agree that people who offend should not be entitled to rights until they discharge their responsibilities. There we are creating a very dangerous line, a line that people in our society are not entitled to rights. Criminals, people even though incarcerated, have to be entitled to rights. We have to say that all Canadians are entitled to rights. If not then we absolutely revert to barbarism.

These rights are defined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Criminal Code. We cannot say that these rights can only be extended to some Canadians.

The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley talked about the fact that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been a problem. There are people who have offended who got away from the punishment they deserved because the lawyer was able to rely on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is just absolutely and utterly wrong.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms takes the rights of all Canadians and enshrines them. These rights are fundamental. If we do not abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and acknowledge these rights are applicable to all Canadians then we are in fact one step closer to chaos.

We are one step closer to saying that there are certain rules that apply to one group of Canadians and not to another group of Canadians. Incarceration takes away privileges that certain Canadians will hold. There is no question about that and that is as it should be. Rights have to be fundamental. If they are not we get into the situation in which people in our society tell other people what they can have and what they cannot have, not only the courts.

The courts then lose the power to weigh a matter and decide what is going to be the punishment. If we take away these rights, then when do these rights reappear? Who is to say when these rights reappear? Who is to say that the person taking away the rights from somebody is not going to be the person who loses these rights at some later date?

We cannot destroy the fabric of the law in trying to solve the problems in our society today. That is not to say of course that there is not a great deal that needs to be done.

The resolution talks about condemning the government for its action with regard to reform of the criminal justice system. I do not think any politician can cop out and say: "Well, we inherited this from the former government". I think it has to be a consideration. To say that we should have legislation in place is somewhat unreasonable in many instances considering the fact that the House did not convene until January 17.

However, there is a great deal that is in place and ongoing at the present time. The Minister of Justice mentioned that next week on March 23 and 24 there is going to be a federal-provincial-territorial conference on justice matters that will examine all of the important details, concepts and subjects that have been brought forward in this debate today.

This is very important. It is fundamental because we live in a federal system of government in which certain responsibilities in the same sphere of activity are shared by the federal government, provincial governments and territorial government. We must get these governments working together.

In so many areas things have fallen between the chairs so that justice is not being done, not because the rules and the laws are not there, not because the determination is not there, but because we have not had the two systems of government working together. That has to be the case. It has to be the case certainly in family concerns, in violence against women and in custody matters with respect to children where there are federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions in these subject matters.

We have to be able to enforce maintenance orders to look after the children who are left by fathers and in fewer cases mothers who do not want to remain with their family.

In the red book we call for a national council on crime prevention. This is tremendously important. We have here in this interlocked system this complex problem with really two main aspects.

First, what do we do with those who are offending at the present time? Second, how do we prevent these types of offences from happening in the future? While it is unrealistic to say that certain offences will not happen in the future, if we work together and if we are prepared to look at new concepts, we have in our power the means of reducing these crimes. We have to do that.

I want to start with the recommendation in the red book which calls for a national council on crime prevention. The Minister of Justice has said he has spoken with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible. This matter will be brought up at the conference next week. The concept is taking shape. How it is going to be implemented is not an easy matter but one which is well on the way to complete definition.

This will bring together departments whose activities can relate to the prevention of crime. For example, Canada Mortgage and Housing with respect to housing, which is a factor in crime; the Department of Health which is a factor in crime; the Solicitor General-these departments will come together and work together through this council under the leadership of the Minister of Justice.

What will they do? They will be able to look at all legislation. We look at the legislation and we want the best for all Canadians. Through this council legislation will be looked at to find out how crime can be prevented more effectively. How can this legislation deal with possible crime in the future? This is an aspect that is so important.

Also on this council will be agencies from the aboriginal society, from the provincial society, from all of the working groups that are dealing with crime prevention.

Through the council we will look at how we can prevent crime, with the input of these groups, which will enable us to work down into society itself through the provincial and munici-

pal levels and determine how on each of these levels the work of the national council can be broadened and improved to become more effective.

At the municipal level, for instance, how can community policing more effectively deal with crime. How can we have police stations or depots in more areas of the community, where officers can patrol the community on foot, and where people can relate to the officers of a particular police station and go to them for advice?

On the provincial level as well, how can we work through education. Right now the situation is that education is the right of every young Canadian, regardless of how obstructive or how destructive a student may be. Is that going to continue to be the case? Can we have an educational system, for instance, where we can at an earlier age try to identify the children at risk? We have to be able to identify children at risk at an earlier age. They are together in our educational system, certainly today that is not the role of the teacher. But should it be? Should it be an aspect of education? Should we have special classes that deal with children at risk? Should we be able to say that this is a common problem of society and not just the problem of the parents?

Perhaps the parent is a single mother who is working as hard as she possibly can to keep a roof over the head of herself and her children. She wants to do more but she cannot and still provide for that child. Is it not then that society must step in to try to help? We cannot just throw money at people in need, at low income people with children at risk. There has to be community involvement. We have to start identifying where we can best make this involvement, where we can best have this input.

When we did our study on crime prevention last year, a psychiatrist appeared before us. He was asked at what age could we have the best impact on children and how they conduct themselves as they grow up. The psychiatrist said that from the day a child is born to that child's third birthday is the time when we can have the biggest impact on how that child will turn out through his or her youth and adulthood. This is a very important consideration.

A teacher came to me two years ago from the Toronto area who wanted the age of the Young Offender's Act lowered because in his school where he was principal a 10-year old and an 11-year old both turned up at school with handguns. No one would take responsibility. No agency would get involved and finally the principal sent the two children home with the handguns. Later on that afternoon he received a call from somebody in the children's neighbourhood blasting the principal for daring to send two children into the neighbourhood with handguns. As far as that person was concerned it was fine to have them in school with handguns but it was not fine to have them in the neighbourhood with handguns.

Something is sadly lacking. We have to find out where we are going in this regard. We are not only talking about victims although victims are tremendously important and we have to be more mindful of their rights. They are in the law. We have always considered victims to be part of the law that we dispense in this country.

Perhaps we can do more with compensation for the wrong that was done to a victim. We have to consider it more in terms of compensation rather than incarceration. We cannot have both. One cannot have someone paying what in the opinion of the court is a full penalty and then come out of incarceration and have for a good part of his or her life thereafter to pay a large sum of money to the victim. It does not give the person who committed the wrong any incentive to change his or her ways if he is constantly being reminded and torn by his or her mistake.

The victim suffers a tremendous harm, there is no question about it. This harm has to be compensated as best as possible. Part of this compensation to the victim however is that we have that person coming out of incarceration able to live in society.

With young offenders no matter what crime they have committed, they are going to be coming out of incarceration. If they come out of incarceration more confused, more jaundiced toward society than when they went into incarceration, then we have failed. We have paid $60,000 a year for the right to fail.

This is a very complex situation but we have to be able to address the wrongs that are done today. We have to be able to anticipate and guard against future wrongs and reduce our crime rate. The two working together have to mesh but they both have to be aspects of what we are trying to do.

The government is beginning well with the co-operation of all members of the House of Commons and with the open dialogue which the Minister of Justice has encouraged. I think all members would agree he is open to discussion, and of his own volition has initiated dialogue on gun control, and will be doing this with other subject matters as well.

I look forward, as I know the Minister of Justice does, to working with all members in dealing with this very complex and important situation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments and speech of the hon. member for Cape Breton-The Sydneys. I would have two questions for him.

First, does the hon. member agree with me that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms puts too much emphasis on the accused and the criminal and not enough on the victim? Does he

agree with me on that? Would he be prepared to add something to the Charter to favour victims, to have the rights of victims supersede those of the accused?

Second, and this is more a clarification than a question, I hope I heard wrong, in the part of the hon. member's speech where he talked about municipalities, community policing and an educational system providing special classes for children at risk. I just want to make sure that the government does not intend to intervene in areas which could not be more under provincial jurisdiction.

I would like the hon. member to confirm that he brought this up in his speech but that the federal government plans no direct intervention in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Russell MacLellan Liberal Cape Breton—The Sydneys, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to deal with both of those questions.

First, the rights of victims are very important and have to be of paramount consideration in our criminal justice system. The Minister of Justice stated in his speech that they are being considered at the present time in the Criminal Code and that they are a very integral part of the dispensation of justice in Canada right now.

We have also said that we are looking at ways of increasing this. The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley spoke about the rights of the victims and said there should be more dialogue and interfacing between the offender and the victim. That is a very good point if the offender, especially if it is a young offender, can get an actual appreciation of what he or she has done, then it may go a long way toward helping that young person rethink the way they have conducted their activities.

I think that maybe we can, through diversion programs, deal more with the compensation of the victim, more with the rights of the victim. Certainly to say the rights of the victim are not being considered would be incorrect.

With respect to community policing and education I was talking about them on two different levels, with the community policing on the municipal level and education on the provincial level. Just to give the hon. member an idea of what I meant, there is in my riding right now a project which I am working on and which I am encouraging called The Learning Centre.

This centre has young people who have dropped out of school and who have had problems with different types of learning systems. The centre offers a learning mode in which there is more of an interest in the individual. The success of this institution has been absolutely incredible. I hope we can develop and expand it so that it will have positive effects through the whole country in time.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to comment on a couple of things in regard to crime prevention of which I am a strong supporter regardless of what some people might say. I am also a strong supporter of punishment. I believe in both ends of the spectrum.

I like the idea of setting up the national council. The minister suggested some ideas of who should be members of this council. I did not hear the possibility of there being members from Victims of Violence, from the good old grassroots, the farmer who never had anything more than a grade six education, or the ordinary Canadian. From his speech it seems it could be stacked with people who have the class and the ability to speak rhetorically, as we hear so much, and yet do not get to the root of the problem. Would the government consider including all kinds of people on this council?

Second, on the children at risk program, I tried to implement that program in the school where I was principal. We had a great deal of success with it at the beginning but that success deteriorated. It was hindered because parents complained that we were attempting to move in on certain children without their permission although they were targeted. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms we virtually had to withdraw and therefore could not provide any help. The charter was a hindrance to the program in my view.

I would like the hon. member's comments on those two points.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Russell MacLellan Liberal Cape Breton—The Sydneys, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Wild Rose for those questions. With respect to the national council on crime prevention I agree with him most emphatically that at least one member on the council should be from Victims of Violence or a similar organization.

The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley talked about CAVEAT and her appreciation and tremendous respect for it. However, one problem she had was that there had to be these organizations to bring these concerns forward.

We are always going to have these organizations and we are going to be better for it. They have done a tremendous amount of good in bringing concerns forward. They certainly helped me in understanding the concerns. Only people who have gone through the trauma and tragedy can fully understand, but the work these organizations do allow the rest of us to understand. It is very helpful.

With respect to children at risk, there really are two problems. The hon. member identified one as being the parents. There is a concern here. The other of course is that it is a provincial jurisdiction and the federal government is very limited in what it can do.

There is a precedent in that the Canada food guide is very much a part of the school curriculum. We have to deal with this matter at some point in meetings of the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

I applaud the member for having tried the program. I appreciate what he ran into but I still feel he was on the right track. It is hoped that with a more broadly based project and an idea of the pitfalls, thanks to his sharing with us the problems he ran into, we will be able to anticipate where the problems lie. Then if it is decided this is the way to go, we will be able to carry it through to society's benefit.