House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentencing.


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3:05 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec


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

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-41 because I believe that the bill that will review and examine sentencing practices must be responsive to the concerns and values of Canadians.

The bill reflects our commitment to a justice system that is balanced, fair and encourages respect for the law. This is an omnibus bill, as we all know, and it responds to a number of very important issues.

I wish to commend the Minister of Justice for the nature of the consultations that he undertook, the wide scope of this bill, which in the end clarifies and ensures improvements in the application of the Criminal Code.

I have been listening to concerns in this regard and I am sure that members can be very satisfied with the improvements and the strengthening of actions and sentencing around criminal acts.

I fully agree with the objective of this bill as well as with all its provisions. That being said, my remarks will deal with two points in particular: first, offences motivated by hate and second, offenders abusing a position of trust.

I believe that equality for all Canadians includes freedom from hatred and from harassment. Expressions of hatred have absolutely no place in Canadian society. Openness, understanding and sharing are features that shape our collective identity. Most Canadians believe that each one of us has the right to live free from hatred or expressions of hatred and actions that are motivated by hatred.

I have always felt, and I have actually been convinced, that a crime motivated by hate based on one's race, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, mental or physical capacity or any other form of that nature is a very serious crime and needs to be looked at in a particular light.

With this bill, such hate motivations will be considered an aggravating circumstance in the Criminal Code for the first time. It therefore will define and ensure that these crimes will be treated much more severely.

One of the strongest aspects of the new hate crime proposal is in its broad scope. It enshrines even further the principles that one finds behind section 15 of the charter which is a fundamental value for all Canadians.

While we are generally more aware of hate crimes related to religion, racism or sexual orientation, we must not forget that women as a group also come under attack simply because they are women.

In the aftermath of the massacre of 14 women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989, our country was shocked to discover the hatred that some men feel toward women. That was a very shocking moment and made many Canadians sit up and take note.

Women's experience in the criminal justice system is primarily that of victim. The way they are treated in the justice system is critical in their efforts to achieve equality as a right. Our vision, reflected in Bill C-41 and other initiatives, is one of a society and a justice system in which all Canadians are full and equal partners, confident that their rights will be upheld by the law.

The disturbing increase in the expressions of hatred and discrimination in our society is well documented. Since 1989 there has been a marked upsurge in hate group activity throughout the world, certainly right here in Canada. These groups are now better organized, they are far more subtle in their approach, and they have developed new strategies which really need to be addressed. One needs to be far more sensitive to read the message behind the message. It is subliminal in many cases and much more invidious in its intent.

The Solicitor General has estimated that over 52 neo-Nazi groups and 85 other associations promoting hatred are currently operating in this country. I believe that is cause for serious concern.

In its 1993 annual audit of anti-semitic incidents in Canada, the league of human rights of B'Nai Brith Canada recorded a 31 per cent increase in anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism. The league documented a disturbing increase in hate group activity. They have, to quote the league: "adopted a more militant and activist stance than in prior years". I can tell the House that those acts of vandalism and those expressions of hatred, which I have seen on the walls of synagogues and buildings in my riding of Mount Royal, are really distressing and very disturbing. Young people who come to schools or go into the cemeteries are really quite shocked and it leaves a mark on them.

Often, our personal knowledge or experience of ways hatred can be expressed gives statistics a sense of reality and urgency. I am convinced that all the hon. members of this House can remember a specific incident or action intended to frighten or harm someone by reason of his or her race, religion, colour or sexual orientation, just because they were different.

The increasing diversity of our population's make-up poses quite a challenge to Canadian society as a whole.

We all have a sense of pride and are all very thrilled when we read that the United Nations finds Canada the finest place in the world in which to live. Notwithstanding that, we have a series of warts. It is important to look at these and see how we can excise this unacceptable behaviour from our society.

We know that Canada is a multicultural and multilingual country from its beginnings. Our native peoples, our aboriginal peoples, are multicultural and multilingual. They were joined by

English and French, both languages and both cultures, to form a beautiful mix. Now, according to the 1991 census, 42 per cent of Canadians have origins other than British or French.

It is important to note that in Mount Royal riding-and I think it is a perfect example, although perhaps a little bit more concentrated than in other cities-the statistics show that 43.5 per cent of the population is first generation immigrants to Canada. This does not take into account the balance of the population in my riding who are of ethnic origin and who have been here since the early 1800s. It is a very diversified riding and I am proud to have about 60 different ethnic minority groups represented. They speak the languages of the world. These are the languages and the cultures of multicultural business in this global economy. They are important to us for a variety of reasons and it is exciting because you can have the wonderful experience of living in such a multicultural society.

They make up, all these Canadians, the majority in every major urban centre. By the year 2006 the proportion of Canadians who are visible minorities is expected to be between 13 and 18 per cent. In Toronto, the city with the greatest diversity, some suggest that the proportion could be as high as 50 per cent. These great urban centres reflecting our diversity make for culturally and socially exciting and dynamic communities in which to live, ones in which we can really flourish and grow.

However, we have to be forever vigilant. Hate motivated crimes can be found in this kind of a mix if we do not take care, if we are not vigilant. It could be a threat to the social cohesion of these communities. It could impede equal and full participation for all. It leads to alienation, a sense of disenfranchisement and a feeling of powerlessness.

There are some basic trusts we as a nation cannot afford to break. I will enunciate some: the right of all persons to enjoy their own language and culture; the right of a family to worship without fear of violence and distrust; and the right of women to walk safely on the streets in their communities.

To avoid conflict and maintain social harmony, our institutions must redouble their efforts to develop policies, programs and practices that recognize the reality of Canadian diversity and move to ensure this social cohesion. We need access, understanding and respect if we are to live together in peace and harmony.

Among those institutions that are ensuring this happens is our justice system, which has a great responsibility and a fundamental role to play in ensuring this trust and fairness. The system must demonstrate without ambiguity that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Canada. It is just not to be tolerated. It is not the Canadian way and it is absolutely not acceptable.

The provisions of this bill by which hate motives constitute aggravating circumstances for the purpose of sentencing should have been implemented a long time ago. They reflect this government's commitment to protecting the fundamental right of all Canadians to live without being afraid, to live in peace and security and to live as equals. Obviously, it does not suffice to ensure that hate will be deemed an aggravating circumstance, this must be part of an integrated approach to promote understanding and respect within the society.

We must work together in a broad range of legislative and non-legislative areas. It is the responsibility of the people in this House representing all Canadians to ensure that hate and the manifestations of hate are eradicated from this society.

It is very important that we educate today's youth about hate crime: how to understand it; how to sense it; and how to speak out against it. We have to emphasize the determinant role they will play both in terms of prevention and in terms of the promotion of peace and goodwill.

In that spirit our multiculturalism department in many ways with its cross-cultural and intercultural activities and its race relations undertaking and in partnership with society has developed many programs. Among them are the very helpful programs of educational materials developed for students and teachers on human rights, prejudice, racism and racial discrimination.

We have acted in many ways with the schools. I have travelled across this country and have seen students in action. It has been a pleasure to listen to these young students who understand, recognize and respond to racism. They know prejudice when they see it. Unfortunately, it is when they get home that it often gets reinforced. It is very important that they learn the lesson of speaking out, so it never happens again.

Our program uses a variety of public educational tools to speak out against hate and racism. It explains that each one of us can make a difference and that Canadians need to work together to ensure peace and harmony. It works particularly when we work in collaboration with different ministries, for example with the Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice.

The multiculturalism department has done some very extensive work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and many other such structured institutions.

This bill will give all of us another tool that can be used to educate while addressing the issues of hatred.

Unfortunately this century has and continues to demonstrate in many parts of the world the end result of unchecked acts of hatred based on who you are and not what you are. Canada is a place where this is not to happen any more. Canada is one

example to the world that we are determined to live in a respectful environment in a respectful society. Those who do not wish to share and participate in this Canadian experiment shall be given an appropriate sentence with this new bill which indicates we shall not accept these expressions in our society.

I said I wanted to pay attention to two aspects of this very extensive bill. The other aspect I want to discuss is the key element of the amendment package, sexual assault involving a breach of trust.

Under this bill if a person is found to be guilty of sexual assault and that person was in a position of trust or authority with the victim, that fact will be considered an aggravating factor which will affect the severity of the sentence. This is very important particularly for women and children for they are the primary victims of sexual assault.

The fact that sexual assault involving breach of trust is a grave problem in this country is very disturbing on the one hand and is plain to see on the other. Canadian statistics revealed that in 1993 over three-quarters of reported sexual assault victims knew their assailants. That StatsCan survey was a true eye opener. On taking the microscope and magnifying the study through the language in the Criminal Code we found statistics that were quite revolting with respect to sexual assault and the victims. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to a national phone survey done by StatsCan, only 6 per cent of the women who told interviewers they had been assaulted had never reported it to the police. They were frightened. Why? One of the reasons is that that women report sexual assaults they do not believe they will be treated fairly by the judge listening to the case within the court system.

The new directions and the new directives on sentencing are going to help change that attitude. The judges will be enlightened as to what this government believes should be the proper action and the proper response given in these circumstances.

In a society in which prejudice and stereotype still exist, a woman is often blamed for being sexually assaulted. What is happening as well is women are seeing the inappropriate sentences that are given to perpetrators. This helps reinforce their attitude that they are not being considered fairly in the decisions that are rendered.

For too long our justice system has operated without any clearly defined understanding of breaches of trust in cases of sexual assault. Indeed in some cases the fact that the aggressor occupied a position of trust either as a good parent or a pillar of the community has even led to lighter sentencing. This is wrong, terribly and shockingly wrong. It is totally unacceptable. I am very pleased that the Minister of Justice acknowledges this and has brought to bear some changes in the system which will enlighten the judges in this regard.

To state it plainly, when someone violates a position of trust, whether he is a relative, an employer, a teacher, a doctor or some other figure of authority, he may do even greater damage to the victim than the anonymous rapist who attacks in the dark alley. This is particularly true if the victim is young. I would like this House to know that 63 per cent of sexual assaults involve victims under the age of 18 years. I say this is wrong. It is terribly wrong and it has to stop.

Victims of aggressions involving breach of trust could well suffer irreparable emotional and psychological damage.

Women and children who were molested by a friend, a family member or a mentor can no longer trust and love. They lose part of their humanity.

It may be difficult for a woman who has been victim of an aggression to maintain healthy intimate relationships, whether with close male friends or members of their family and even with their own spouse.

Many have to quit work, while others can no longer trust certain professionals. Their pain and suffering is often exacerbated by the fact that their aggressor does not face prosecution or gets off with a slap on the wrist.

A national study of court cases conducted by the metro action committee on public violence against women and children looked at how sexual assaults involving breaches of trust are dealt with in our justice system. It concluded that judges often fail to recognize a breach of trust.

In the many court cases studied 47 per cent involved an offender who was a father, a paternal figure, a relative, a friend of the parent, someone in a position of authority, or someone in a professional role. They all had had privileged relationships with the victim. Yet in over 40 per cent of these cases this privileged relationship was not even mentioned in the judges' comments or in the discussion of aggravating factors.

Furthermore when judges do recognize a breach of trust it is not always evident that they have given it appropriate weight in determining the offender's sentence. This bill will begin to rectify that situation by giving judges clear directives about what constitutes a breach of trust. The reformed Criminal Code will be better equipped to deal with this form of sexual abuse.

This provision will also send a message to individuals in a position of power. It says that if you use your relationship to take advantage of women or children, you will be treated harshly by the system. In other words, the greater a person's influence, the greater the responsibility to treat others with respect, and the

greater the consideration of a stiffer fine and sentencing. Not even a fine, sentencing.

The amendments in this reform package, especially those dealing with hate crimes and breach of trust, will help rebuild people's faith in our justice system. It will encourage women to be far more courageous and more open and to feel that they will be better treated if they bring the cases before the courts. That faith has been sorely tested in recent years as we have learned of the extent of violence against women and have lived through many incidences of hate motivated crimes.

I am grateful to the Minister of Justice for moving swiftly to deal with these problems. This bill is an example of our government's commitment to a just and peaceful society, a safe society with safe streets. If those words sound familiar it is because I am repeating them. They are printed and published in our best seller, the red book. We have kept our promises. These proposals follow through on the commitments we have made. They are the result of extensive consultations and co-operation with the provinces and the territories on sentencing reform.

In the name of all of our citizens, the women, men and children of this society, I am very pleased with this bill. I hope as it goes though this House people will recognize the importance of the fairness of this bill.

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3:25 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the hon. member had to say. She mentioned hate, and I agree that is not acceptable. However, legislation does not necessarily make certain acts more acceptable. And she had something to say about what is legislated and what is not legislated, and she has a point. I would like to ask her something in this connection. When she started on the word hate, I thought: hate is the opposite of love.

In Canada, there are broken families and broken individuals as well. She referred to big cities like Toronto and Montreal. And she is right.

She referred to what happened at the polytechnical institute, which shook us all. These were young women with a brilliant future. Today, in our schools, even in our secondary schools, twelve, thirteen and fourteen year-olds have suffered because we have no comprehensive social plan, as far as I am concerned. We have no plan for families, and as a result, we end up with laws that are harsh and sometimes very much so.

It is easy to say we have no choice, that the facts are there and crimes are being committed. However, if we look at the causes, and my question is all about this, could we not do a lot more in the way of prevention? Could we not provide more help for Canadian families? Could we not give more help to single-parent families and children? What about changing family allowance payments, considering the reduction in unemployment insurance benefits, and the increase in the number of hours people must work, since the unemployed have so much trouble making ends meet?

I think we should look at the whole picture and not just this particular legislation, even if we must change it.

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3:30 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that the question, if we can call it a question, was actually an expression of concern and an analysis of our society which, I think, is well-founded and I share the concerns expressed by the hon. member. As I believe I said at the beginning of my speech, legislation is part of the greater picture, which includes education, awareness and appreciating the differences in our society. And that is probably why I referred to the diversity that, to me, is a splendid aspect of our society but also a very fragile one, just as democracy is fragile. If we do not take care of it, if we do not approach it with that "stirred in the pot" love when we tend this splendid and colourful garden, if I may use this metaphor, our failure to do so will cause problems and a great deal of pain.

The problems are caused by a lack of understanding, a lack of information and stereotypes that are rooted deep down. That is why the department of which I am Secretary of State, the multiculturalism department, is so important. For what it takes to buy one chocolate bar a year for everyone in Canada, we are setting up programs to bring people together, education programs, awareness programs and programs to promote what we are as Canadians and the mutual respect that should be part of everything we do.

We must understand this. We must realize that when you come from another country, another culture, and speak a language other than English and French, you have a lot to learn, and it takes more than a year or two to do that. After a few years, you get to the point that you are in a position to learn and you can learn. The groups we find in our communities and our neighbourhoods are there to help each other, to give a helping hand to new residents and help them understand Canadian democracy, the way we act and the way we speak and what is acceptable and what is not, and that hate and any kind of sexual assault are not acceptable, period.

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3:30 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, before getting back into the routine, I would like to wish the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Acting Speakers the very best for this session. Your patience no doubt will be tested and I pray you will continue to make the decisions that are in the best

interests of all of the citizens of this great country. I wish you the best.

I also bring greetings from the constituents of Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan to all the members of Parliament and sincerely hope that all the members will direct their efforts to the most serious problems facing us at this time, problems like the debt, the economy, unemployment, criminal justice reform, as we are dealing with now, and the desperate need to reform our social programs.

I hope that we will focus on these things and apply ourselves to dealing with them.

We have heard from a number of Reform MPs who have expressed their qualified support for certain provisions of Bill C-41. We have also heard of some of their recommendations for improvement. While I share my colleagues's support for the general principles and intent of this bill, it is clear that it is not a bill that a Reform government would have drafted.

For example, section 745.6(2)(d) will now permit judges to receive and consider information provided by a victim at early parole hearings of murderers sentenced to life imprisonment supposedly without eligibility of parole. These people have been sentenced and now, under section 745, they have the possibility after 15 years of applying for parole.

While Reformers would rather have seen the complete repeal of section 745 and have these convicted murderers stay behind bars and serve their full sentences, we commend the government for at least taking a step in the right direction by recognizing that victims do have some rights to be heard at these hearings.

I am concerned that this specific amendment does not specify how the judge may receive the information from the victims or the victims' relatives. Will it simply be a victim's statement or will the victims themselves be allowed to appear in court and give evidence under oath? This has to be clarified during the committee stage. There is no clear evidence here that victims will have any more rights than criminals throughout this entire reform of the criminal justice system. That is a principle that we must clearly enunciate in our legislation and that has not been done in this amendment.

The minister cited the experience of Marie King Forest. Will she have the right to appear before the parole committee and give evidence of the impact the murder of her husband, a policeman, had on her life and the lives of her children? That murderer is now applying for parole and these people are still trying to put their lives together. Will there be clear, ample opportunity for her to personally testify at these parole hearings? That is not specified in this amendment.

After reading Bill C-41 I could not help but conclude that it is a make work project for lawyers. I was listening to the hon. minister a few minutes ago. I am convinced that this legislation will provide more and more work for lawyers in our courts. There seems to be more of a focus on bureaucratic procedures than imposing sentences and getting tough on crime. That is not acceptable and Canadians are calling for this government to get tough and not make more procedures and more work for the lawyers.

When I see that certain murderers will get a more serious or stiffer sentence because their crime was motivated by hate rather than doing something for kicks, as was the case with this policeman, or for some other reason there is a serious flaw here. It will be a lawyer's dream to now work with this new legislation.

Trials will now have this new added dimension. As they discuss this they of course will be accumulating revenue. Let us focus on the crime.

Now to my real concern about this bill. The Minister of Justice has spent the last six months getting Canadians all riled up about gun control. The first opportunity that he has to do something about it, the first opportunity that this government has to address this problem and to do something about the criminal use of guns, they do nothing. They have missed their chance. That is a major concern of mine and of many Canadians. Everyone knows that this is a serious deficiency not only in the use of section 85 of the Criminal Code but also in the sentences meted out by judges.

For the benefit of this House and the Canadian people, section 85 provides for a mandatory sentence for any person using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. The sentences can range from a minimum of one year to a maximum of 14 years for the first offence, and for a second or subsequent offence a minimum of three years and a maximum of 14 years. Section 85 also requires that the sentences be served consecutively, added on to their other sentence.

The Minister of Justice talks about imposing more inane restrictions, empty foolish restrictions, on law-abiding, responsible gun owners while he did not take this opportunity to put more teeth into the sentencing of criminals convicted under section 85. That is a grave omission.

I know the Minister of Justice has asked the provincial attorneys general to ensure that more charges are laid under section 85 rather than using it primarily as a plea bargaining tool. The studies show that even when section 85 is used by the police the sentences are rarely in line with what the public would consider punishment fit for the crime or anything near what the people would consider a deterrent-completely lacking.

Before we look specifically at the sentencing under section 85, we must look at the overall leniency of our criminal courts. In 1991-92 the Canadian centre for justice statistics completed a study of the sentencing of adult criminal provincial court in six provinces using a data base of over 600,000 criminal convictions. It found that the maximum penalties were imposed very rarely in adult provincial courts. Of the 52 offences carrying an identifiable maximum penalty, 31 of the crimes had never had the maximum penalty imposed; 17 had the maximum penalty imposed only one per cent of the time and only four had the maximum penalty imposed over 5 per cent of the time.

I ask the members of this House is this what the government means by getting tough on crime?

Let us look at this study and see what it tells us about sentences for the use of a firearm during the commission of an offence. First of all, the number of convictions is important to look at. The study by the Canadian centre for justice statistics found that in the 1991-92 year in just six provinces there were only 52 convictions under section 85 for using a firearm in the commission of an offence. Compare this with 12,287 convictions for violent crimes that same year; 52 convictions out of 12,287 convictions for violent crimes under section 85 for using a firearm in the commission of an offence.

Here is a breakdown of those violent offences: manslaughter, 73 convictions; robbery, 2,181 convictions; sexual assault with a weapon, 94 convictions; assault with a weapon, 5,787 convictions; careless dangerous use of a firearm, 2,130 convictions; the possession of a firearm or weapon, 2,022 convictions. Out of all of these, there were 52 convictions under section 85 of using a firearm in the commission of an offence. This is a total of 12,287 convictions for violent crimes.

Granted I can hear some people saying we do not know how many convicted criminals actually used a firearm, but we are certain that it was a lot more than 52 times out of 12,287 in all of these violent crimes that I have given here. Robbery, 2,181-did all of these people rob without a gun?

Section 85 is not being used. The Minister of Justice is trying to convince the provinces to instruct their police forces to use section 85 more. Let us look at the sentences for 52 section 85 convictions in 1991-92. The minimum sentence under section 85 of the Criminal Code is one year and the maximum is 14 years.

In all 52 convictions under section 85 every single one of them received the minimum one year sentence. That is getting tough on the criminal misuse of firearms? I find this statistic so amazing I have to say it again. In 100 per cent of the 52 convictions for using a gun during the commission of a crime the criminals received the minimum one year sentence, one year in jail. This is proof positive that something has to be done with regard to sentencing for section 85 convictions.

Bill C-41 that we have before this House must be amended. If the courts will not use the sentencing provisions of section 85 to deter the criminal use of guns then Parliament must. We must not neglect our duty. We must use the responsibility that people have entrusted us with to make our criminal justice system work in this country.

If judges persist in sentencing criminals who use guns to the minimum time in jail then Parliament must act to increase the minimum mandatory sentence to three years. I think section 85 should be amended to read "use of weapons", not just "firearms". That is a serious loophole in the law that must be closed.

I ask the government to do what makes sense and do what the vast majority of Canada is asking: get tough on crime. Do not look at legitimate gun owners and see what restrictions we can put on them. Target the problem where the problem exists.

I cannot believe that this government left such an important provision out of the sentencing bill. What possible reason could it have for this oversight? Could it be that it is not serious about getting tough on crime? Could it be that all the focus of its efforts to control crime will be directed, as I have said, at law-abiding, responsible gun owners rather than at the criminal who uses guns? Why should it be left to Reform MPs to identify the major deficiency in Bill C-41?

I hope now that it has been pointed out that all the members of the justice committee will support an amendment of this bill related to the sentencing for convictions under section 85.

Let us look at how section 85 might be better applied in a recent case. Everyone has heard about the Just Desserts killing in Toronto on April 5. Four men walked in, robbed the patrons of the restaurant and used a sawed-off shotgun to kill one of the customers. Three men have been charged so far, one with murder and 12 robberies and the other two with manslaughter and 12 robberies. As far as we know charges have not been laid under section 85 of the Criminal Code.

Since the Just Desserts killing there have been calls for more gun control by people with the mistaken belief that controlling guns will somehow control crime. It will not. The criminals in the Just Desserts killing were already using a prohibited weapon, a sawed-off shotgun. What are we doing? Are we going to prohibit them even more than they already are?

There have been very few calls for what is really needed, more crime control and not gun control. One way to control crime is to send a clear message to all prospective criminals that the public and our criminal justice system will not tolerate the criminal use

of guns. The best way to send this message is to hand out tougher sentences.

The persons in the Just Desserts killing should not only be charged with murder, manslaughter and 12 robberies but should also be charged under section 85 for using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence, one section 85 charge for each of the robberies and another section 85 charge for the murder.

This would give the judge the option of sentencing another 182 years in jail for the sentences for each of these convicted of the senseless, horrific crime. What if, after the conviction, the newspaper headlines read: "Just Desserts killers get just desserts, sentenced to a maximum of 507 years each"? "Justice minister promises they will never get out to kill again". This would be the maximum life sentence for the murder, the maximum life sentence for each of the 12 robberies and the maximum sentence of 14 years for using a firearm in each of the robberies and another 14 years for using a firearm in the murder.

Would this not send a clearer signal to those who are going to use guns with criminal intent? Would this not be a clearer deterrent than making laws which ban guns which the criminals disobey anyway? They will still continue to saw off their shotguns and use them any way they want to.

There will always be those who will be saying that sentencing a criminal to 507 years is ridiculous and of course 507 years is impossible to serve. However, it is even more ridiculous to let killers serving life sentences with no eligibility for parole back on our streets in 15 years by using the Liberal loophole of section 745.

What is more ridiculous? Compare those two things. It sounds ridiculous to sentence somebody to 507 years but it is even more ridiculous to let them off easy. I appeal to this government to get tough on crime. The criminal misuse of guns,rather than what they are doing now should be addressed instead of putting in more stupid regulations on law-abiding citizens.

Liberals are very famous for big government, higher taxes and intrusion into the lives of Canadians. More common sense is needed in this legislation. Do not just make it appear like the government is doing something. Really get to the root of the problem and solve it. Do not just talk the talk, walk the walk.

The Minister of Justice said this morning that he has been planning this for 14 years. Why did the government not come up with something more substantive if it has had that much time? Surely it could have closed some of these loopholes and addressed some of these problems.

The minister had many Canadians telling him this summer the ideas that he has been floating with regard to gun control do not get to the heart of the problem. He had an opportunity to do something and he never did it. I hope some amendments will be made in this committee. I look forward to making some suggestions to the minister.

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3:55 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer to the hon. member's comment about the Liberal loophole of section 745. The rationale I believe the member used for not removing section 745 entirely was the will of the Canadian people to get tough on crime.

I would like to draw to the hon. member's attention that section 745 is a judicial review heard with a judge and jury where two thirds of the jury must make the finding for a convicted person to be released.

I would ask the hon. member is that not dealing with the people through our judge and jury system, trial by our peers? What objection does he have to that?

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3:55 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the question is a good one.

If the member is familiar with what is happening with regard to section 745 at the present time, I do not have the statistics at my fingertips, but what is happening is that over half of these people are being released because a lot of the evidence is not admissible in these court trials and it is being used as a loophole to get these people off after 15 years.

Part of the problem is being addressed by the legislation and I commend the government for doing that because it will allow victim impact statements to be submitted but it does not indicate how those victim impact statements will be used in these trials. Will the person be able to testify before this jury? At the present time they are generally not allowed to do so unless the judge rules otherwise in some provinces.

In most cases those people who, if we had capital punishment, would not even be here are being released on to our streets. That is what people find unacceptable. These people who in more than half the cases were given a life sentence are now being released. That is the problem.

Much of the testimony that should be given because of other legal loopholes is not even allowed at that trial. It is a very interesting study to see what is happening under section 745 and to see how the criminal element has more rights than the victim with regard to all of this legislation. That is why we would like to close some of these loopholes.

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3:55 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment and a question for the member of the Reform Party.

It seems like every time we deal with the issue of crime and justice which is certainly a very difficult issue, I get the impression that they would have us be like the United States of

America with the death penalty and sentences that go into hundreds of years.

The member made a comment about not talking the talk but walking the walk. I wonder if the member is aware of a number of studies that have been done particularly the one by Dr. Anthony Doob, one of the foremost experts in the area of public perception of the judicial system. The points Dr. Doob made in his conclusions were based on the following.

He gave a group of people the transcripts of what actually went on in a court case. Covering the same court case, he had another group of people who got the reports from the printed media. The findings were that people who responded on the appropriateness of the sentences and who used the media as the source of their information in many cases had the same attitude espoused by members of the Reform Party such as the justice system is not working and that judges are being much too lenient.

The other group of people who had transcripts to refer to so they could decide if the sentencing judge had given an appropriate sentence concluded that the system was working quite well and that in some cases the judicial system was more harsh than it needed to be. The public even proposed that things like fine option programs and alternatives to incarceration should be tried.

The question I want to pose is this. Surely the members of the Reform Party recognize that we do not, in Canada, follow the model of the United States in terms of criminology. We happen to be a little bit more enlightened. Surely the member of the Reform Party recognizes that Canada is a much safer society than is the United States. If capital punishment and the kind of justice they are talking about were to work, the United States of America would be a safe place to live. It is not. Compared to it, we are doing very well.

I am really troubled with this pandering to the worst misconceptions that the member and his party seem to cater to.

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4 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question. I will address the first part of his question concerning capital punishment. We do not have to decide that question here. We can have a discussion.

That question can be decided by the people of Canada in a binding referendum. That is who should decide it. I call on this government to hold that binding referendum.

In reply to the other issue that was raised, if the hon. member has had any experience with the criminal justice system, if he has been wronged, if his constituents come to him and describe their experience with our criminal justice system, he will realize very quickly that it needs fixing.

I could cite example after example of where people have been the victims of crime. Those people then go to the trials; they appeal to the judge for some justice; they go to the police and cannot get justice because people hide behind loopholes in the law.

That is the kind of experience I am talking about now. People have had experiences like this. They see that horrific crimes have been committed. There was a murder in my constituency of an elderly man just a very brief time ago. One of the perpetrators got four years. Now he is eligible for parole. That man's wife cannot understand how this can be. You can use all the elitist arguments about how the biggest brains in this country know so much more than the ordinary person, but I do not buy it. That is a typical Liberal attitude: they know better.

It is about time we listened to some of the people who have experience with the way the criminal justice system works and how they, the victims, have virtually no say in that system.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties. I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That on Wednesday, September 21, 1994, the House shall continue to sit from 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. for the purpose of considering the motion by the Minister of Foreign Affairs with regard to peacekeeping, provided the proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 38 shall be taken up at 8.30 p.m. and provided that no dilatory motions or quorum calls should be receivable after 6.30 p.m. on that day.

(Motion agreed to.)

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

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4:05 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The previous speaker referred to the fact that if one had some experience in the criminal justice system. I wish to inform the hon. member that for 15 years I worked with victims and offenders in the criminal justice system.

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I say respectfully to all our colleagues in the House of Commons that is not a point of order.

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4:05 p.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, as a practising defence lawyer with 17 years experience in the criminal justice system I commend the Minister of Justice for introducing sentencing practices which are responsive to the concerns and values of Canadians and which address the many existing injustices inherent in the criminal procedure process and the practices of our criminal justice system.

Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to sentencing is a bill which reflects the government's commitment to a renewed criminal justice system that is balanced, fair, and encourages respect for the law.

Justice, law and equality are the fundamental elements required to maintain a balance within our criminal justice system. However, the determining factor is the human element.

It is the human element that determines the success or failure of our criminal justice system. The human element includes ourselves as individuals who are to be law-abiding citizens, the community at large which develops public opinion, the role of our law enforcers which is to enforce law, the role of our prosecutors administering justice within the system, the role of defence counsel defending and protecting rights of the accused, the role of the judiciary rendering a decision, the role of our probation officers, psychologists, social workers, health care professionals, penal institution employees, our clergymen regarding the rehabilitation of the accused, and the role of we here today, the legislators, enacting the law.

The success of the system does not primarily rely on legislation. The fundamental success of our criminal justice system relies on the ability of man to administer justice without abuse of authority and power, and the ability of man to administer justice coupled with equity and mercy.

Justice, law and morality are inseparable. If a moral society existed there would be no need for criminal sanction. It is a requirement for this criminal sanction in our society that necessitates government to deter, to punish, to rehabilitate its members of society.

Bill C-41 on sentencing reform introduces changes to the sentencing system while also reorganizing and rationalizing it. The reforms provide a balanced, sensible and broad range of options that address the public's need for safety, the victims' desire for restitution, and the important principle that serious offenders should be treated differently from minor or first-time offenders.

The amendments are the result of extensive consultations in co-operation with the provinces and territories that are responsible for administering the criminal justice system.

This bill provides the courts with more options to distinguish between serious violent crime requiring jail and less serious, non-violent crime that could be addressed more effectively at the community level.

For those Canadians who demand equity in sentencing, Bill C-41 addresses this concern by introducing a statement of purpose and principles of sentencing within the Criminal Code.

No statement of purpose and principles of sentencing currently exist in the Criminal Code. While court rulings have determined principles, these may vary from province to province. To date Parliament's role has largely been limited to setting maximum penalties for specific offences rather than dealing with the policy objectives of the sentencing process.

Under the proposals, a statement of purpose in principles of sentencing will be added to the Criminal Code. This statement will provide direction to the courts and the fundamental purpose of sentencing to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

The statement describes the objectives of sentencing as follows: first, helping in the rehabilitation of offenders as law-abiding persons; second, separating offenders from society where necessary; third, providing restitution to individual victims or the community; fourth, promoting a sense of responsibility by offenders, including encouraging acknowledgement by offenders of the harm done to victims or to the community at large; fifth, denouncing unlawful conduct; and sixth, deterring the offender and other people from committing offences.

In achieving these objectives the court will be guided by a number of fundamental principles: first, a sentence must reflect the seriousness of the offence; second, the degree of responsibility of the offender; third, courts must consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances; fourth, give similar sentences to offenders who have committed similar acts; fifth, when an offender receives more than one sentence, the total should not be unduly long or harsh; sixth, the offender should not be imprisoned if less restrictive alternatives are appropriate; and seventh, all reasonable alternatives should be considered when sentencing offenders.

The statement of purpose and principles will also note the importance of crime prevention to public safety. In addition, it will recognize that wherever appropriate, alternative measures designed to meet the special needs of aboriginal offenders should be used. The statements of purpose and principles in the Criminal Code will emphasize unity and coherence in the criminal justice system. These measures will ensure greater

consistency, balance and fairness within the criminal justice system as a whole.

Adding a statement of purpose and principles makes the sentencing process responsive to public concerns by ensuring that it is governed by principles set out by Parliament. Clearly defining the purpose of sentencing also makes the system more understandable, predictable and accessible to the public.

A national policy statement on sentencing will also provide the legal community with a more consistent direction on how to approach sentencing in Canada.

The proposed statement of principles also says that when an offence is motivated by hate based on the race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation of the victim, this must be considered an aggravating circumstance.

Any offence motivated by hate against any individual in Canada should not be tolerated. I wish to reiterate this statement, that any offence motivated by hate against any individual in Canada should not be tolerated.

However, I wish to go on record today as taking exception to the specific inclusion of the wording of "sexual orientation" in the Criminal Code amendment. The inclusion of this wording in effect gives special rights, special consideration, to homosexuals. The reference to sexual orientation in the code and its proposed inclusion in the human rights legislation gives recognition to a faction in our society which is undermining and destroying our Canadian values and Christian morality. Such a special recognition of sexual orientation in our federal legislation is an overt condonation of the practice of homosexuality which is being imposed on Canadians. It has the effect of legislating a morality that is not supported by our Canadian and Christian morals and values.

Canadians do not have to accept homosexuality as being natural and moral. Homosexuality is not natural, it is immoral and it is undermining the inherent rights and values of our Canadian families and it must not and should not be condoned.

The public expresses legitimate concerns for victims of crime. Bill C-41 provides enhanced provisions for victims. Some courts have excluded victim information from being considered at section 745 hearings because this information was felt to be a form of victim impact statement, which according to the Criminal Code can only be heard at sentencing hearings.

The amendments to the Criminal Code would allow victim information at section 745 hearings. This would ensure that a victim has the opportunity to speak about the harm done by the offender and that the victim's experience is taken into account in determining whether the period of parole ineligibility should be reduced.

Bill C-41 addresses the concerns of Canadians with respect to the issue of restitution. The bill contains proposals that were developed co-operatively by the federal government and the provinces. They would allow judges to consider restitution to cover property and personal injury.

Expanded restitution would also be available in situations where a person acting in good faith unwittingly becomes the victim of criminal activities by, for example, unknowingly buying stolen property that is later confiscated by police.

Provision is made to ensure restitution orders can be enforced by the civil courts. Victims will also be notified of restitution orders. As well the code would specifically state that any restitution order by a criminal court would not limit a victim's right to sue for damages in a civil court.

Bill C-41 also addresses payment of fines. Currently one-third of adult offenders in jails in Canada are there because they did not pay a fine. Research shows that aboriginal people are especially likely to be jailed due to non-payment of fines. To ensure that fewer persons are ordered to pay fines they cannot afford, the proposals would require courts to determine that an offender can pay the fine being considered.

Offenders who cannot pay can instead be subject to other options such as community service or probation. A number of measures are also being proposed to help the provinces in collecting fines. These include authorizing the provinces to use the same mechanisms that they use enforcing fines imposed under federal statute.

Designate officers of the court such as the clerk or registrar to enforce fines rather than the court itself allows for more cost efficient administration with respect to the collection of fines.

Ultimately these proposals would result in less crowded, safer prisons as well as decrease costs. They would also lessen the potentially damaging effect of imprisonment on people unable to pay fines. However, maintaining prison as a last resort for people who can pay fines will ensure that the law is respected.

Another important issue the bill addresses is with respect to reform regarding probation. The probation provisions of the Criminal Code have been changed to encourage better information for the court. Together with greater penalties for breach of probation this is intended to increase confidence in this widely used sentence.

Under the proposals the Criminal Code would be intended to specify the basic information that must be included in a pre-sentence report. The provinces will also be given the flexibility to include in their own regulations any other information they wish to have included in this pre-sentence report.

The criminal justice system often fails Canadians and therefore we need alternatives in Canada to court proceedings. Alternative measures are ways that disputes and minor offences can be dealt with rather than using expensive and unnecessary formal court proceedings.

Alternative measures have two central aims: to prevent more criminal behaviour and to lessen the harm that can sometimes be done when minor offenders are dealt with through the courts.

They also involve the community and put greater emphasis on victim-offender reconciliation than do formal court proceedings. At present the Criminal Code contains no provisions for alternative measures.

The bill would allow the use of alternative measures for adults by permitting each province to set up and administer its own alternative measures program. This proposal is similar to one successfully used in various jurisdictions for young offenders. As a result first time and less serious offenders could be diverted from the courts. This would promote protection of the public by lessening the negative impact of incarceration on less serious offenders while freeing up valuable and scarce resources to deal with the more serious cases. Canadians should know that the bill would add a new sanction called a conditional sentence to the Criminal Code. Courts would be permitted to use conditional sentences when the jail term that would otherwise be imposed will be less than two years.

A judge would impose certain conditions on an offender similar to the conditions of a probation order. At the same time the judge would impose a jail term but suspend it as long as the offender meets the conditions that had been imposed.

Offenders who do not comply with these conditions can be summoned back to court to explain and to demonstrate why they should not be incarcerated. The court can cancel the suspension of the sentence and send the offender to jail for the remainder of the sentence, or it can impose new conditions.

The proposal would mean that less serious and first time offenders who otherwise would be in jail could serve their sentences under tight controls in the community. This promotes protection of the public by seeking to separate more serious offenders from the community while providing less serious offenders with effective community based alternatives. It could also mean that scarce funds could be used for incarcerating and treating more serious offenders.

As a defence lawyer I have great concern with respect to the existing rules of evidence and procedure for the sentencing hearing. At present there are no clear guidelines in the law governing the sentencing hearing to indicate when information should be made available to the court, what powers the court should have to obtain that information, or how that information should be assessed in determining sentences. Previous court rulings may be referred to but they do not cover all situations and may differ significantly from province to province.

The bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Code to clarify how sentences should be handled in the courts. The bill also requires every judge to present reasons for their sentences in cases. These amendments bring greater consistency and fairness to the sentencing process.

The Criminal Code of Canada as a statute requires restructuring and in particular the restructuring of part 23 of the Criminal Code. Our current legislation with amendments leaves us with a piecemeal approach to our Criminal Code. The bill would amend part 23 so that most matters dealing with sentencing would be consolidated within this part of the Criminal Code rather than scattered throughout. Because of the restructuring in such a logical way our Criminal Code would be more understandable and accessible to criminal justice professionals and to the public at large.

Often injustices arise in a criminal justice system on the basis of technicalities. Technical amendments are required and Bill C-41 addresses this point. A variety of technical issues are either not addressed by our current legislation or are being confused. These include when a probation order should begin, how a judge can direct the manner in which escape sentences are to be served in relation to previously imposed sentences, what happens to a sentence while an inmate is unlawfully at large and who can authorize the transfer of a probationer from one province to another. The bill intends to clarify some of these issues.

In conclusion the reform and the renewal of the criminal justice system in Canada must be priorities with our government. Canadians demand justice and equity. They must be reflected within the criminal practices, procedure and process in our criminal justice system.

The sentencing amendments proposed by Bill C-41 affords Canadians sentencing practices and procedures that are just and equitable throughout Canada.

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4:20 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I also wish you a good session, because I am glad to see you again after the summer break. I want to thank my colleague for her speech; to tell you the truth, I do not at all consider myself an expert on justice issues, but having listened very closely to the hon. member's speech, I feel some obligation to get into debate with her, in my capacity as human rights critic for my party, especially on one aspect of her speech.

She said that this bill is a necessary reform and talked a little about homosexuality in what I thought were rather pejorative

terms. She said that homosexuality was immoral and that Canadians were not prepared to tolerate it.

I remembered the speech that her colleague, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, gave earlier this afternoon, saying that Canadians should become more tolerant of one another.

I feel the need to say so because I really have the impression that the present Minister of Justice will also propose some reforms concerning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, making it an illegal ground for discrimination.

I would like to ask my colleague whether we as parliamentarians should not rather recognize that homosexuality is a different way of expressing one's sexuality. Should we as legislators not recognize, especially when discussing this kind of situation, that homosexuals are estimated to constitute about 10 per cent of the population in nearly all societies and that they are entitled to legal rights? Is calling homosexuality immoral not rather reactionary and intolerant, contrary to what the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism urged us to be?

I would like to know what she thinks because I want to say where I stand when we have the opportunity to discuss these issues in connection with the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act that the Minister of Justice will present to us. I hope that, whatever side of this House we sit on, we will find a little more open-mindedness.

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4:25 p.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a very important issue which I think has to be and should be addressed on the floor of the House. Certainly it is an issue that I have not shied away from. It is not always a very comfortable issue to talk about.

My learned friend indicated 10 per cent of the population. We have the majority. We have a democracy. I am representing in my viewpoint the majority of Canadians. We have to concern ourselves with the fact that justice, law and morality are inseparable. We are legislators. When we are legislating and making laws we must ask ourselves whether our laws are just and moral.

Morality is constant. Morality does not change with the tide. We cannot change morality to adhere to a particular faction or special interest group or to adhere to the whims of 10 per cent of our population.

When we talk about sexual orientation we are talking about imposing upon and insisting that all Canadians condone what in my opinion is immoral and unnatural. We have natural law. I have gone on record as stating quite clearly that I am opposed to the inclusion of the words sexual orientation in our Criminal Code. I have also gone on record as saying in my speech that certainly in Canada we cannot and should not tolerate hatred of any kind toward any individual.

As far as the moral issues that are raised here, we have to be very concerned and considerate of the rights of families in Canada. Families have inherent rights. Families have existed before the church and families have existed before the state. The rights of families in my opinion are being undermined and are being eroded because of 10 per cent of the population that is promoting special rights and interests for homosexuals. I am strongly opposed to that. I will continue to be very vocal about it. I feel it is time the majority of Canadians stood and were counted.

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September 20th, 1994 / 4:30 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am one of the 10 per cent to whom the hon. member just referred. I am not a member of a special interest group. I am not a member of a faction. I am a member of a family and gay and lesbian people in this country, as the member should know, are also very much not only members of families but are also families themselves.

I want to take a couple of minutes to respond to the comments of the hon. member. I want to tell the hon. member that what we are debating here is legislation which which will ensure that when a crime is motivated by hatred or intolerance or bigotry, whether it be based upon sexual orientation, religion, or race, that crime is punished more severely.

A couple of weeks ago for example the brother of a young teacher from Toronto came to my office and told me about how his brother had been brutally murdered by five teenagers in a Toronto park. He had been kicked to death because he was a faggot according to them.

I also met with people who were attacked and whose arms were broken by a group of thugs in a restaurant on Davie Street in Vancouver. They were attacked for no other reason than the fact that they happen to be gay.

This legislation says that when attacks are motivated by that kind of hatred they should be punished more severely.

I want to challenge this member and I want to leave her with time to respond to this. The hon. member, and I use those words advisedly, has suggested that "homosexual couples are not families in natural law. They will not be family. To condone homosexuality which is an inhuman act would make us a pagan nation". She goes on to suggest that gays and lesbians do not deserve any protection against discrimination and that homosexuality is in the same class as pedophilia and bestiality. I might say as well that I heard hon. members from the Reform Party saying "hear, hear" as she spoke.

My question for the hon. member is a simple one. Will she now stand in her place and retract those hateful comments she made suggesting that people, homosexualists as she called them, were promoting and advancing the homosexual movement which is spreading AIDS. That kind of fear mongering, that kind of hateful conduct has no place in this House.

I want to ask the hon. member to stand in her place and take this opportunity to withdraw those hateful words. Failing that, I want to ask other members of the Liberal caucus when will they end their silence and when will the Prime Minister end his silence and say that this woman has no place in the Liberal Party of Canada?

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4:30 p.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I have probably squared off on this issue before. I stand here in my place as a member of Parliament and under no circumstances would I ever retract the statements I have made. I have a right as a Canadian. I have a right as a Christian to defend the values of our country and to defend the traditions and to exercise my right of freedom of expression on this issue.

My learned friend raised the issue that they were hateful comments. They are not hateful comments. They are true comments shared by the majority of Canadians with respect to issues regarding morality.

My learned friend talks about families. The sole purpose, the sole agenda behind the homosexualists in our country is with respect to redefinition of family. I oppose that. I will fight strongly against that and I ask my colleagues to do the same. I ask all Canadians to do the same.

Homosexualists enjoy the same rights as every other Canadian. They do not enjoy any special rights. I as a member of Parliament will work to ensure that the rights of the majority of Canadians and that the values and the morality of this country are upheld.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-Human rights; the hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing-Social spending; the hon. member for Yukon-National forum on health; the hon. member for Richelieu-Mass layoffs; the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton-Great Lakes sport fishery.

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4:35 p.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia


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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on Bill C-41. I am very pleased we are now dealing with the subject of amendments to sentencing and other aspects dealing with crime.

It is surprising when we look at the economic difficulties this country has that the public's concern on economic issues is pretty well at the same level as its concern on crime and public safety. We have to ask ourselves why that is happening and what the reason is for this concern.

First we have to say that on reflection our criminal justice system is working quite well. A lot of things need to be changed and that is what the Minister of Justice and this government hope to achieve in this Parliament. Then we will be able to say to the people in the next federal election that we have done a great deal to add to public safety.

Before starting down that road however, we have to say that our system operates quite well. We could bring forward statistics which say that crime is not increasing to the level some people would have us believe but frankly, when it comes right down to it statistics are of limited value.

What we have to face is the public perception of what people feel is their relative level of safety. That is what we have to deal with. Canadians must tell us what their concerns are and we have to listen. In that respect we have to dialogue with Canadians. We also have to bring forward laws that are going to work for Canadians, that are meaningful and are going to have an effect. This bill is very standard in that regard. The people of Canada have expressed concerns. This piece of legislation goes a long way in addressing those concerns.

I want to mention some of these concerns and how this legislation has addressed them. First, the very question of balance is paramount. We have to balance the needs of Canadians with good judicial legislation. I think we have done that here.

Bill C-41 addresses directly the purpose and principles of criminal sentencing. No such statement currently exists in the Criminal Code. There is no statement in the Criminal Code which deals directly with the purpose and principles of criminal sentencing.

We compare that with other areas of activity in this country. For instance we compare it with taxation, international trade, or unemployment insurance. All of these areas deal with very important subjects. In one way or another all of them have purposes and principles set down as to what has to be achieved and how the desired effect is going to be achieved.

That is as it should be. Bringing into this bill and bringing into the criminal justice system the purposes and principles in sentencing is paramount. In sentencing we are dealing with the very question of incarceration. There can be no greater infringement on the lives of individuals frankly, than to incarcerate them. So the very least we can do is to have purposes and

principles of criminal sentencing in the bill that deals with that very important subject.

Sentencing is an area around which the whole court system revolves. When someone is charged and brought before the courts, the whole exercise revolves around the sentence this person is given. We have listened to the counsel on both sides, the prosecutor and the defence counsel; we have read the laws and the briefs they presented. We have tried to understand the societal implications. We are familiar with incarceration and the other penalties. With all of this knowledge, background and experience in our criminal justice system, we then bring forward a sentence. That sentence is vital. That sentence is tremendously important in the future of our community safety. If we do not sentence properly, we are not only abusing the system but we are not doing society a favour.

If we incarcerate someone who perhaps could be rehabilitated, a young person who has not committed a violent crime, we are not really doing that young person justice nor are we doing society justice. Incarceration might make that young person bitter. Perhaps by putting that young person to work in a community program he or she could achieve a better understanding of his or her place in society. That is very important.

This bill does another important thing. It sets out a number of objectives for the sentencing process. For instance, in this bill one of the objectives is that we denounce unlawful conduct. We also speak of separating the offender from society where necessary. I say where necessary because it may not be necessary or even preferable in certain circumstances.

We also talk about rehabilitation of the offender. Regardless of how people feel the offender should be punished, in most cases that offender is going to leave incarceration and will be back in society. Part of our system has to cast an eye to that time when that offender is back on our city streets. We have to try to anticipate what kind of a person will be released back onto the streets. If we can make that person someone who is less likely to offend then that is also something we should consider.

Another objective in this bill is reparations. This bill says that it is important to fine somebody, but it is also important to give that person an appreciation that while they cannot get away with the crime, that going to jail may not be the greatest punishment for them.

Maybe it is where they can do it that they should be made to pay back a certain portion of what was stolen or damaged that will give this person a true appreciation of exactly what the victim has lost. That may seem rather simplistic and silly but sometimes when people commit crime they do not put themselves in the place of the victim.

They are only doing what they think they want and what they want to achieve. They do not in the heated moment when the crime is committed think of the victim and the ramifications for the victim. In that regard it is important that any person where possible who is going to be punished be made to think of what the victim has suffered and as distinctly and as carefully as possible that offender should be put in the place of the victim.

Reparations would do that by having to pay back. It should not be necessary that the victim have to apply to a court that these reparations be made. The court should consider it and we are saying that these reparations should be a consideration as an objective of sentencing. The victim should not have to apply.

We also in that same vein are trying to promote responsibility in the offender. We are trying to make the offender more responsible from that point forward. We are also saying that an objective is that the penalty should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

These objectives are very important. It is a checklist for judges and those involved in the criminal justice system. We should be looking for and achieving this. As I said initially we should be looking for this balance in our criminal justice system so that there is repudiation and punishment but there should also be a benefit to society in reparations, fines and in the fact that when that person goes back to society we have looked to that day and tried to do everything we possibly could to make that person more acceptable and more responsible in society.

No one would deny that punitive acts should be deterred by incarceration and that incarceration in most cases is a deterrent. There is no easy cause and effect relationship between the crime and the deterrent as to the value that is going to have. There is no magical formula which says that certain punishment is going to be the best way to deal with certain crimes.

There are these intangible factors in dealing with human beings in our criminal justice system that do not allow anyone to make a hard and fast rule. This is the reason we have to allow the flexibility in the courts. This is why we need the best minds possible on our benches in Canada.

We need the best judges we can possibly have and we need the best support system for these judges. We also feel, as I mentioned, that restitution be given priority in the courts. We think this is something that has to be considered.

We have also looked in this bill at section 745 of the Criminal Code which allows for a review of life sentences and allows the person serving a life sentence to apply for parole after 15 years.

We have not said that we are going to do away with that provision. We have said, however, that we want to include in that review victims' impact statements. Those impact statements

have not been a part of the review before now and the Minister of Justice certainly feels very strongly that they should be.

I and the minister think that this is going to have a tremendous impact on the hearings and on final decisions on these section 745 reviews.

We also state in this bill that where a victim impact statement is provided to a court the court shall consider the statement. That is not something that is just shoved in with exhibits and literature in a court hearing. The actual victim impact statement has to be taken into consideration.

This is important because most people in the House have been conscious of the fact that victims certainly have not received the attention they should. Certainly victims have brought forward that message loud and clear. We have to in our legislation look more to the victims and what they are suffering, the loss that they have endured and how we can possibly make their point of view known at the time of the hearing and have the impact of what they have gone through and what they have lost impressed upon the mind of the judge and all of the pertinent officials.

We also, where possible, need alternatives to incarceration. We can look at that from various points of view. The first thing is that one-third of all the people incarcerated in this country are incarcerated because they have not paid a fine or some other sum of money that they have been required to pay. In a lot of cases the people do not have the money to pay the fine or the required sum of money. We are putting these people in jail.

We are also saying that people who commit sexual assaults or violent crimes need to be punished for longer periods of time. If we are saying that we want to keep some of these people who have committed violent crimes in our penitentiary system for longer periods, we have to look to our correction system. To put people in a penitentiary because they have not paid fines in this day and age really has to make us wonder, particularly if they cannot afford to pay.

There has to be a better way of doing it. One of the ways would be public service. If they cannot pay the fine then why can they not be allowed or forced to provide some kind of public service?

A second area that we are recommending is the curtailment of provincial services. If a person has not paid his or her fine then perhaps they should not be issued a hunting licence or a driving licence until that fine is paid. These are things that we with the provinces should look at to perhaps get away from incarceration for non-payment of fines. This would go a long way not only as far as having a better result, but it would give more respect to our criminal justice system.

Another thing that we want to try as a result of Bill C-41 are conditional sentences. At the present time we have the process where a person is put on probation. If they reoffend they are brought back and charged, they go through the court process again and they are once again sentenced. Here we are saying that through conditional sentences a sentence will be levied on the person. The person then will be granted freedom to act in a diversion program in their community or an alternative to incarceration but the sentence has been imposed.

If the person violates the terms of his or her sentence while they are in one of the alternate processes they are then brought back to court and it is determined if in fact they have broken their conditions. If it is determined by the courts that they did then what they must do is finish the unfinished portion of their sentence that was imposed on them initially. You do not go through the whole trial re-evaluating or reappraising their past history. The sentence is there. If it is proven that they have violated the conditions of that conditional sentence then the unfinished portion of their sentence has to be served. I think that will do a lot to ease the burden of our court system and once again be more meaningful to those involved.

We are also saying to those who are on probation that if they break probation they break the trust of society. They are not only breaking the trust of the criminal justice system. They are breaking the trust of society that wants to give them a chance. We do not want to impose incarceration. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt as much as possible because we think they are worth it. Now if a person violates probation then he or she is breaching that trust.

We are saying in Bill C-41 that there should be harsher penalties for those who breach their probation. We are also saying, as was brought up earlier, that if there is a hate factor in the committing of a crime then this is an additional motivating factor and should result in a harsher penalty. We are saying this unequivocally. We are saying this as a result of a good deal of dialogue and consultation we have had with minority groups and different religious groups all across the country. This is something they want very badly and which they feel is needed and it is something to which the Minister of Justice agrees.

I think this bill is going to go a long way to help us fight crime in Canada and get back a lot of the respect for our criminal justice system that we have lost and will give the people of Canada more confidence that the government has control of the fight against crime and the restoration of safe streets in this country.

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4:55 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member opposite. First of all in terms of alternatives to incarceration you mentioned several possible

alternatives. I am just wondering if you have considered seriously-

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I know we are just coming back from the summer recess but I think we want to remind one another to direct questions, comments, any interventions through the Speaker. I know good habits are hard.

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4:55 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member if he has considered corporal punishment as an alternate deterrent to crime, an alternative to incarceration.

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4:55 p.m.


Russell MacLellan Liberal Cape Breton—The Sydneys, NS

Mr. Speaker, no we have not.

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Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address a question to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

The parliamentary secretary is a member of this House for whom I have considerable respect. We have worked together on the justice committee over the years. The member was present in the House a few minutes ago when one of his colleagues from his province of Nova Scotia made certain comments with respect to this bill and in particular with respect to the provisions dealing with crimes motivated by hatred, prejudice and bias on the issue of sexual orientation.

The parliamentary secretary may be aware as well of the fact that this Liberal from Nova Scotia in question has made a number of similar comments to those that she made in the House. In the House today she stated among other things that homosexuality was immoral and unnatural.

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An hon. member

Right on.