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.


Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak on Bill C-45, particularly with the new rules of procedure under which it is now possible to refer a bill to parliamentary committee before second reading. These rules, which we have unanimously ratified in this House, will permit broader debate, as the positions of the government and the opposition will not have hardened before debate at second reading.

The various provisions in Bill C-45 are of great interest and address a concern of a large majority of Canadians and Quebecers, especially the release of criminals determined likely to commit a repeat offence immediately or at some time in the future. In this regard, the bill is on the right track.

One might, however, question the manner proposed by the government for detaining likely repeat offenders. It is the National Parole Board which is given these powers under Bill C-45.

We have a different approach. We would much prefer that the decision to detain potential repeat offenders be left to a court of law rather than to a quasi-judicial tribunal, appointments to which would often be open to criticism. I will come back to this in a few moments.

We cannot have it both ways-either we choose the approach of mandatory sentencing, of sentence without parole handed down by the trial judge, or another possibility would be to leave this decision with the Parole Board, with the possibility of appeal to a court of common law, the right to review by another tribunal to which judges would be appointed according to generally accepted and well known criteria.

Which brings me to the subject I touched on earlier, the Parole Board. The process to appoint Parole Board members should be much more open and we have an excellent opportunity to look at what other parliaments did, that is, hold confirmation hearings on the appointments this government wants to make. Before securing an order-in-council appointing someone to the Parole Board, the government should have to submit the names of the candidates either to the Standing Committee on Justice or to the

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and appointments should be subjected to confirmation hearings in such a way as to avoid media circuses like we saw in the U.S. during confirmation hearings for certain candidates to the position of Supreme Court judge. In my opinion, this confirmation process would enhance the work of parliamentarians and the role citizens want to see them play in this Parliament and in all parliaments in general.

Until the appointment process for Parole Board members is reviewed, Canadians have a right to ask questions on how these people are appointed, on the decisions they make and on the validity of these decisions, as they prevail every time.

Some of the provisions in Bill C-45 seem a little strange at first and perhaps should be reviewed by the parliamentary committee. First of all, clause 12 of the bill before us states that inmates are not entitled to a hearing when their case is being reviewed. Why deprive inmates of such a hearing? Is there a valid reason to do that? I think the burden of proof should rest with the government, with the minister introducing this bill, who should demonstrate that inmates should not have the right to be heard when their case is being reviewed, because there may be new evidence justifying a hearing. I think it would be much wiser to preserve the right to a hearing, even if it must be cut short if no new evidence is produced.

Clause 25 of the bill stipulates that the head of the Parole Board may automatically allow a person to serve the rest of their sentence. The institutional head may do so automatically or at the inmate's request. If it is at the prisoner's request, we would have to see under what circumstances he could ask to serve his full prison sentence, if he does not consider himself fit to be released, but if the institutional head can act on his own authority, there would have to be a hearing before a judicial tribunal. I have trouble seeing a public official who is not a judge deciding issues of basic rights like an offender's release on his own say-so, without the possibility of having his decision reviewed by a judicial tribunal. I have some concerns about this provision.

Clause 27 provides a new definition, a flagrant example of expansionist centralizing federalism. Clause 27 as it now stands defines the board as the National Parole Board. The new clause 27 would define it as the National Parole Board and adds:

and includes a provincial parole board where it exercises jurisdiction in respect of parole as provided by section 112-

But if provincial parole boards are to be included, would it not be preferable to do so under clause 27 at the request of the lieutenant governor in council of a province? Why force the provincial parole boards to join? Since it is not the case now, why bring them in, unless it is at the province's request? That would show respect for provincial jurisdiction.

A rather disturbing provision is that those in detention for less than six months could not be paroled. Such prisoners are usually held for minor offences. Why would there not be a fast-track procedure in such cases so that a request for release from a person held for less than six months could be heard quickly, in summary fashion, especially given the overcrowding in prisons in Canada and Quebec. These matters should also be reviewed.

Clause 56 would add to the Act. It provides for the appointment of a judge to review the conduct of members of the parole boards. It is all well and good to add clause 56, but subsection 7 says that the judge conducting an inquiry is not bound by any legal or technical rules of evidence and may receive and base a decision on evidence adduced in the proceedings and considered credible or trustworthy in the circumstances of the case. The judge could act on hearsay; he is not bound by any rule of evidence.

I think that the judge named to investigate the actions of a member of the Parole Board should do so in accordance with the rules of evidence in Canada and the other legal provisions that ensure the supremacy of the rule of law. I find a provision like 56.7, which sets no rule of evidence for an investigator to follow, to be unacceptable.

Finally, section 155.1 as it now stands allows the minister to act as soon as the judge's report is filed; if it is unfavorable to the person under investigation, the minister can revoke that person's mandate. I think that an appeal procedure should be allowed at this point.

That is, the minister should not decide immediately once the judge's report is filed with him; rather, the judge's report should be filed with the Federal Court and any interested party should have a certain period, say 30 days, to appeal to the Appeal Division of the Federal Court so that the issue can be discussed in a judicial forum, in the absence of specific rules of law that are not mentioned in the Act.

These are the brief preliminary remarks that I had to make; in committee, we will no doubt be able to improve what is proposed in Bill C-45, which on the whole meets our concerns.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to talk to the particular aspect of Bill C-45 which is going to committee.

Several items in the bill are actually good points that we could support. However the proposals are yet another example of the Liberal government wanting to do something to convince Canadians that it is really getting tough on law and order. In many cases it is much to do about nothing. This is the story of our lives in Canadian government in 1994-95, is it not?

We support some of the points. We obviously support the measures to counter child sexual abuse. Full term sentence before release is and has been a Reform position since time immemorial, since the party was started. We obviously support it and agree the government should pursue it in Bill C-45.

We also support empowering any law enforcement officer to detain and return an offender violating parole requirements. That is a good step. The government is to be complimented on that. It is not often I stand in the House to compliment the Liberal government on something it does.

The other item I wish to compliment it on is expanding offences wherein an offender must serve full term sentences to include serious drinking and driving offences, criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death, criminal harassment or stalking, and conspiracy to commit serious drug offences. That is also a positive move in the right direction.

Let us get down to some of the concerns that are obviously omitted. This is where we get into the flaccid approach. I always said the dictionary term for flaccid means limp wristed and so on. I like to think of flaccid meaning the federal Liberals are crafty Conservatives in disguise. I will explain that at the end of my 10 minutes.

The legislation does not insist child sex offenders must receive treatment during or after their incarceration. How could that be missed? The country must stress that no serious child sex offender should be allowed to enter society whether or not full sentence completion exists, without assurances that future child sexual abuse by the offender will not occur. They should think about that when they are sitting on the committee. It is something that is very important to Canadian citizens. If they look at the area I come from in the lower mainland of British Columbia they will see this is a serious problem.

Mandatory treatment must take place. Currently if an offender refuses treatment no treatment is forced upon the offender. If an offender refuses treatment during incarceration some means must be at the disposal of correctional services that force the individual to take treatment. The offender should not be allowed to re-enter society until assurances are received that the offender will not reoffend.

There are no provisions in the legislation to account for sexual offenders that stalk and with violence violate adult women. It is not only young sex offenders we are looking at. They had better get real serious about looking at all sex offenders.

The proposed legislation does not force mandatory review of parole board decisions that go wrong. The legislation states the chair of the parole board may recommend such a hearing take place. This is really preposterous considering some of the boondoggles parole boards have been undertaking. We know that in many cases they are patronage appointments. Liberal Party hacks came into the jobs. Perhaps their qualifications and abilities do not quite match the job they are used to.

However let me give a little indication about a fellow by the name of Wayne Perkin in my area who was supposed to do six years for taping up a young lady's arms, beating her over the head with a hammer and sexually assaulting her. He served about 14 or 16 months and the parole board let him out. After that he bludgeoned to death Angela Richards in Langley, and the story goes on.

When I went to the sentencing in this particular case I thought how ironic it was the parole board was not even represented there to listen to the damage that was done after it let this person out. I really think accountability of the parole board has to come into play. It is not in the legislation and I suppose those folks over there will let it go by. The committee should really look at the matter. I know that Reform members of Parliament will be talking to it extensively at committee level.

The chair of the parole board has a vested interest to keep foul-ups by board members as quiet as possible unless media make a big fuss about board foul-ups that forces the chair to ask for an inquiry. Why would the chair of a board actually critique what happened in the bad mistakes made by a board? It would do our country well to have some of the Liberal MPs involved in assessment at committee level of Bill C-45 go to a parole board hearing. They might have their eyes opened.

The proposed legislation still leaves board members as investigators and decisive people in parole. Nowhere does the legislation insist frontline workers like case workers, prison guards and those types of people, make direct representation at hearings. The frontline people know the serious offenders very well. Their input would offer board members details that otherwise may escape their investigations. Let us think about that. The onus is on a parole board to assess whether or not an individual should be eligible to get back on the street. What it really needs is the maximum amount of input it can get, not the minimum amount.

The legislation makes a half hearted attempt at correcting a problem with short shrift eligibility for parole violators. Instead of saying parole violators must serve one-third of a new sentence the legislation should state that if an offender commits another crime while on parole the offender should be forced to fill the entire remaining period of the old sentence, face a minimum sentence for committing a crime while on parole, and face full term for the offence committed while on parole.

It is rather ironic to talk about the next item since I raised it in the House in the last session. It is nice the government wants criminals to contribute toward their room and board. What about the victim? If the criminals have any income that income must

be directed toward restitution to the victim prior to or as well as the cost of their upkeep. Once again the victim is forgotten.

We disclosed in the House in last session that the government's benevolent attitude is allowing criminals in our system to get old age security, income supplement, GST rebates and CPP. What I heard from the Solicitor General was that it really did not work and they would make a change. Then I saw in the change they would have to pay 30 per cent of it, which is ridiculous.

They should not get one cent of old age security, the people I checked up on. There was one person in for a double murder who was getting old age security. The government should tell me the logic of that. Why should that money not go toward the victim? Why should all that money not go toward board and upkeep? For the government to suggest that it is going to take another tough measure, that it is going to take 30 per cent, is ridiculous.

The Liberal government will have to smarten up one of these days and look at what is right in the country. It should not be too shy about being tough.

Currently our investigations have discovered that there are far more sexual offenders needing treatment than there are treatment facilities. We have been told of 1,800 serious sex offenders currently incarcerated. There are only 200 slots for treatment at any one time. The legislation only promotes treatment for sex offenders abusing children. What about offenders who assault teenage or adult women? Once again the victim is forgotten. Where is the treatment for victims of assault? Have you not remembered the victims? It should keep that in mind.

How will the government pay for increased treatment? We must push for treatment for all violent or sexual offenders. At the same time where will the money come from? I know they are not overly concerned about where the money comes from in Canada today, but they should try to think about it in Bill C-45.

I have a final point. This was a fine opportunity for Liberals concerned about guns to include full sentences served for offences where any gun is used. Why did you not do this? Why is it not in here? Where is it going to be?

Once again I do not think the courage exists on the other side to deal with the tougher issues about taking away money that the criminal element should not have in our prisons, about dealing with gun laws, about dealing with violent sex offenders from an adult point of view, and about dealing with the victim.

I hope that in Bill C-45 they look at these issues in committee.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We have just come back and I again would ask members to please direct their remarks through the Chair. The theory is that it will reduce the conflict between members if remarks go through the Chair rather than back and forth across the Chamber.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Guy Arseneault Liberal Restigouche—Chaleur, NB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I will not take much of the time of the House.

Today is sort of an historic day in the sense that it is the first time I believe that Standing Order 73(1) has been invoked. I would like to point out to the House that on May 11, 1994 I stood here on a point of order. At that time I was introducing a private member's bill and I pointed out to the Speaker that I would like to invoke Standing Order 73(1) for my bill. I pointed out some of the problems as the standing order presented itself where a minister of the crown could send any public bill to committee before second reading and this would include a private member's bill sponsored by a private member.

In reply the Speaker took it under consideration and made a ruling on June 1 at which time he suggested the redrafting of Standing Order 73 to grant the sponsor of a private member's bill the same prerogatives with regard to that bill that a minister of the crown enjoys with regard to a government bill seems to merit further consideration. He referred that issue to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and asked it to take that into consideration.

I realize the standing committee has been very active and very busy on a number of subjects. I would ask on my point today, Mr. Speaker, that you again ask that committee, seeing that this standing order has been invoked for the first time and could be invoked again for other opportunities, since the matter is an urgent one, especially for private members, backbenchers, that we would like to have a ruling on that as soon as possible.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. member and I thank the member for giving notice of the point of order. He is absolutely right that the Speaker on June 1 did suggest that the committee look at the matter. As the member will know the Speaker does not have the power to direct, as I understand it, any committee to consider any matter.

If I can characterize what the member has said, he is really asking the committee to deal with the matter as quickly as possible. I see the chairman of that committee nodding. I hope he will take under advisement what the hon. member has said.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the government's plans to solve the pressing problem of public protection as it relates to the correctional process.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-45 will allow for a better control of those who generate the greatest fears, namely violent offenders. The changes proposed by the government will be supported by improved treatment programs for sexual offenders.

These changes are an essential component which the government intends to use to deal with violent crimes and to improve the public's faith in correctional services as well as in the conditional release program.

The Solicitor General pointed out that to pass harsher legislation to alleviate the public's concerns is not enough. Indeed, if we are to solve the social problems within our communities, we cannot merely increase the number of inmates in our jails.

In recent months, the media have given a lot of coverage to the serious and increasing public concern regarding some issues related to the judicial process.

Almost every day there are story headlines, news broadcasts, telling us of the violence which is present in our communities. The television programs we watch also recount quite graphically at times details of violent crime, whether real or fictional. It is difficult to escape the feeling that violence pervades in our lives.

This is why most Canadians believe that crime is on the rise in their communities. It must be remembered that studies on victimization, not the media, best describe the current crime trends.

These studies show that, in 1993, global rates remained stable or decreased compared to 1988 levels. Moreover, they show that the crime rate dropped by 5 per cent in 1993, the biggest decrease since we started keeping statistics on crime, over 30 years ago.

Statistics show a substantial decrease of some 15 per cent in the case of murders, for the second consecutive year. The figure for 1993 is 27 per cent lower than the all-time high of 1975. Nevertheless, Canadians are more and more concerned about crime and are asking the government to find solutions and put a stop to its presumed higher incidence.

It must also be recognized that certain ways of dealing with crime and the fear that it generates can have results opposite to their objective. One only needs to look at the situation in the United States to realize that some strategies against crime can have unpredictable and serious consequences.

Do you know that 13 states have abolished their parole system, essentially in an attempt to slow down the rise in crime? Yet, studies show that crime rates in these states have not decreased and are, in several cases, among the highest in the country. Canada is second to the United States as regards the incarceration rate.

Correctional Services Canada has determined that if the current rate of admissions to penitentiaries continues there will be over 18,000 offenders in federal penitentiaries by the year 2002. This would represent a 30 per cent increase in the next eight years. The cost of housing these offenders is not decreasing. On average it costs the Canadian taxpayer over $50,000 for each incarcerated offender.

While the public is concerned about the consequences of criminal activities, we are increasingly recognizing that, for the most part, crime arises from social problems, like unemployment, poverty and illiteracy.

As members of Parliament, we are responsible for protecting the public and, like all our fellow Canadians, we must look beyond the immediate repercussions of crime and take into consideration the underlying causes of criminal behaviour. That is why our government has implemented a national strategy on security and crime prevention in urban areas.

One of the key elements of this national strategy is the creation by the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of a national crime prevention council this past July. The objectives of the council are to unify crime prevention efforts across the country and to give them focus and direction.

Despite the creation of this national crime prevention council, we have to realize that repression and crime prevention are not the exclusive responsibility of the criminal justice system. To come to grips with the many social and economic issues leading to crime requires a multidimensional and integrated approach. We must co-operate and work in partnership with every segment of our society, including parents, teachers, social services organizations and all levels of government.

As the Solicitor General said earlier, in order to undertake an effective and in-depth reform aimed at protecting the public against crime, the federal and provincial governments must work together to find overall solutions.

However, the federal government realizes that control of violent offenders is a complex problem for which it would be pointless to seek a universal remedy.

As you know, governments share responsibility for criminal justice, but mental health is a provincial jurisdiction.

Since searching for ways to deal with high risk offenders is not the exclusive responsibility of any one level of government, a federal-provincial task force on high risk violent offenders has also been set up.

The task force is reviewing all policies and legislation that could help to treat, manage and monitor high-risk violent offenders.

In closing, let me emphasize that the legislative reforms of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act proposed in this bill are clearly measures that will contribute to the protection of the public; balanced measures augmented with comprehensive activities such as crime prevention through social development, through strengthening meaningful partnerships with other levels of government and through community involvement in order to ensure safer homes and safer streets for all Canadians.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Bernard St-Laurent Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, going through Bill C-45 raises a great concern about sexual offenders and sentences that they are given. In these days, sexual offences make headlines in all the media everywhere in the country.

Our duty, as elected people, is to legislate in such a way that the action we are taking will have positive results. Public safety is everyone's responsibility. But there is no point in passing legislation just to pretend we have done our job and this piece of legislation must be the least confusing possible. It is important that its enforcement be as easy as possible and, finally, this whole series of action must be efficient. Killers must not kill any more, thieves must not steal any more and rapists must not rape any more.

I will deal mainly with clause 3 of the proposed bill. It says, and I quote: "The Commissioner may in writing designate any staff member, either by name or by class, to be a peace officer, and a staff member so designated has all the powers, authority, protection and privileges that a peace officer has by law in respect of an offender subject to a warrant, and any person, while the person is in a penitentiary". It is that point I have a problem with.

I knew that the job of a correctional officer in a penitentiary was not well known, but I am very disappointed to see how badly it is known. In that clause of Bill C-45, it is clearly written that the commissioner may in writing designate, for instance, a night security officer from some warehouse to be a correctional officer in a penitentiary. I have nothing against security officers who protect warehouses and other buildings and I am sure they do a very good job. But that has nothing to do with the job and responsibilities of a correctional officer in a penitentiary. Absolutely nothing!

A correctional officer is a person who has been very carefully chosen. The time is long gone when people would offer their services as a policeman or a prison guard because they could not find jobs and had big muscles. That was the case at the beginning of the century. But this should not be the case at the end of this century. For instance, if there is no corrections officer around inside a penitentiary, it is highly unlikely anyone would try to break in. In fact for centuries, the tendency has been for people to try to break out.

However, in a warehouse without any security, it is very likely some people will likely help themselves, in the absence of security personnel. I mentioned earlier that corrections officers are very carefully screened. Among the many qualifications these people must have, there are some that everyone should have, including honesty and impartiality. I think we can assume every upstanding citizen has those qualities, but he must also have above average judgment and tremendous self-control.

He must also have very acute powers of observation. His personal safety and the safety of his colleagues and the public depends on it. And last, but not least, he must pass an impressive battery of tests to determine his personal and interpersonal strengths. Government personnel departments, also known as human resources, invest many months' worth of tests, analyses and studies in each case before they select the individual or individuals best suited to perform the duties of a corrections officer.

Do you know that at the Port-Cartier penitentiary, which opened in 1988 or 1989, more than 23,000 applications were received and processed? Port-Cartier has about 250 employees, including 188 corrections officers. The selection process took more than 20 months, from the day the initial advertisement was published in the media to the first day on the job.

In the same area, the Government of Quebec regularly takes from 16 to 20 months to complete its selection process. I am sure this also applies to the nine other provinces as well.

We must not wait until something terrible happens to take the proper action. We must act now, as soon as the bill goes to committee, to consider the impact some clauses may have. You do not wait until a book is published to correct the proofs.

About the proposed deductions from inmates' income mentioned in cluases 21 and 26, it seems inmates might see the cost of room and board deducted from their income. How would this measure be implemented? That is a question Bill C-45 fails to answer. What would it cost to introduce such a measure? Here again, the bill does not deliver.

Finally, and this may be why the bill does not provide an answer, how much will these measures save the Treasury? We

cannot afford to introduce measures for their own sake. Getting four quarters for a dollar is certainly not worth the trouble.

On the subject of parole, the bill proposes that individuals serving a second sentence for the same offence should not be eligible for parole. We must look at this very carefully. People complain that some individuals were poorly assessed before their release on parole. If we deny an individual the opportunity to be released on parole, this means there will be no evaluation, either negative or positive, in his file. Once he has served his sentence, he will be forced back into a society he has not seen for months or, in many cases, years. He will be on his own in a world that has continued to evolve and grow and which will certainly have changed. Do we have the moral right to do this?

In concluding, I wish to say that we in the Bloc Quebecois will work on improving this bill, in committee and in the House. We will do our utmost to make this bill as transparent and, above all, as efficient as possible.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in last year's federal election members on this side of the House listened to Canadians express their desire for the federal government to introduce reforms to the criminal justice system.

We listened to Canadians tell us that they no longer feel safe walking on our streets and that they fear for the safety of their children, a fear that has never been felt before in this country.

We listened as Canadians from all walks of life and from all parts of this country told us that they want a criminal justice system that is responsive and effective in dealing with the criminal element in our society.

When we took office we committed ourselves to reforming the criminal justice system to more closely resemble the kind of system that Canadians want. We continue to listen to Canadians and to their ideas for reforming our system. We listened as Canadians told us that they want the red tape of government replaced with the common sense of concerned citizens.

It is because this government is committed to listening to the concerns of Canadians and to acting in a constructive manner that I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-45.

Bill C-45 introduces amendments to key pieces of legislation resulting in a criminal justice system which is more consistent with Canadian values. The protection of our children must be our primary concern in the justice system. It is clear that more needs to be done in this area.

The statistics are staggering. Fifty-three per cent of females and 31 per cent of males are the victims of unwanted sexual acts. Eighty per cent of these assaults occur when they are children or youths. This is horrendous and totally unacceptable.

Under existing laws, the National Parole Board is able to detain an individual who has committed a sexual assault against a child only if the offender has committed serious harm to the child. Serious harm is defined as severe physical injury or severe psychological damage. Proving serious harm so defined with respect to a child is difficult because the psychological harm caused by an offender may not be visible for years to come.

Bill C-45 addresses this problem by removing the requirement to demonstrate serious harm for a sexual offence involving a child. This legislation authorizes the National Parole Board to detain an offender where it is satisfied that an offender is likely to commit another sexual assault involving a child before the expiration of their sentence. This really means no parole. This measure is in direct response to concerns expressed by Canadians that our justice system is too caught up in red tape to respond to the common sense concerns of Canadians and to the protection of our children.

Such a move cannot be made in isolation and Bill C-45 provides the necessary accompanying changes to ensure that the removal of the serious harm criteria with respect to child sex offenders is done in a responsible and effective manner. Rehabilitation programs for sex offenders will be strengthened under this legislation to ensure that the time which those convicted of a sexual offence against a child or an adult spent behind bars is constructive.

The strengthening of our rehabilitation programs is greatly needed. A recent study found that 40 per cent of convicted sex offenders reoffend within five years after being released from prison. This is simply unacceptable.

While significant progress has been made by the correctional service of Canada in recent years in the treatment of sex offenders further improvements are needed. Bill C-45 contains provisions to ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada has the resources to improve its capacity to treat offenders by allowing it to make deductions from an offender's income for room and board costs. This covers part of the spending.

The removal of the serious harm provision also places greater importance on the expert abilities of members of the National Parole Board. This legislation strengthens the accountability of the parole board by establishing a mechanism for the discipline or removal of National Parole Board members in instances where a member is clearly not performing up to acceptable standards.

Bill C-45 moves to fulfil a number of our red book commitments to promote safer homes and safer streets.

In addition to the provisions I have already mentioned which deal with the treatment of child sex offenders, this legislation expands the list of offences for which an offender could be ineligible for parole until the end of their sentence. Bill C-45 adds stalking, conspiracy to commit drug offences and serious

drinking and driving and criminal negligence offences which result in bodily harm or death to the list of offences for which an offender could be referred for detention until the end of their sentence.

The recognition of stalking and drug offences in particular as social societal problems in need of intensive treatment is relatively recent. This bill acknowledges their severity in law. By designating stalking, drug offences and drinking and driving as offences for which offenders could be detained until the end of their sentence we are bringing key criminal justice legislation into the 1990s.

These reforms are the product of consulting Canadians on the issue of justice reform. A representative of the Canadian Police Association has described the reforms contained in Bill C-45 as the best improvements in the overall corrections and parole system in this country in the past 15 years. I concur and attribute the responsiveness of this bill to concerned Canadians who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Canadian society. It is their willingness to address these issues in a frank and open manner which has shaped the proposed changes to the criminal justice system.

I congratulate the hon. Solicitor General on Bill C-45 and thank Canadians who participated.

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11:10 a.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill C-45, one component of the Solicitor General's safe streets package.

I have to confess that I am not very pleased as I stand here. Like most of the Liberal agenda for change, this bill tinkers with it. There is no bold face of change at all. The bill has taken an alarmingly wrong turn in making neighbourhoods safe for Canadians when considering changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

My Reform colleagues and I have often spoken of the need for widespread criminal justice reform. In order to demonstrate the poignancy of our arguments we often refer to specific cases. When we do members from across the floor dismiss our arguments as irrelevant because they are exemplified by anecdotes. However, we do not trot out examples to whip up public sympathy but to demonstrate in clear, understandable human terms what the real life implications are for Canadians when the justice system goes wrong and fails to protect the victims.

Today I will share with the House the real life tragic story of a woman and her family who live in fear. As I explain the particulars of the case it will be evident where and when mistakes are made in the processes involved for conditional releases, escorted temporary absences, known as ETAs, and unescorted temporary absences, UTAs.

In 1983 Robert Paul Thompson was issued a day pass from prison. He had committed numerous assaults dating back to 1969. Obviously his proclivity for violence was at that time not deemed sufficiently problematic and he was given a day pass. While out on this day pass Thompson went to the home of his former common law spouse Brenda Fitzgerald, the daughter of Mrs. Helen Leadley, a constituent of the riding I represent, Calgary Southeast.

When he arrived at Brenda's home Thompson found her in the company of another man. He tried to kill the man by beating him with a hammer and stabbing him. His viciousness was completely unleashed as he brutally stabbed Brenda Fitzgerald to death. How stupid, how irresponsible that he was issued a day pass.

For this brutal murder and attempted murder Thompson plea bargained and pleaded guilty to second degree murder. He was sentenced to life which made him eligible for parole in the spring of 1995.

The case does not end with his conviction and sentencing unfortunately. Two and a half years after his incarceration in December 1985 Thompson stabbed two prison guards and took a 63-year old prison nurse hostage. During the hostage situation it took 10 guards to restrain Thompson. For these subsequent crimes Thompson received a sentence of 11 years to be served concurrent to his original sentence with parole eligibility still in April 1995.

Thompson has been denied two requests for conditional release since his last conviction. In 1992 he was denied day parole and in 1993 he was denied an ETA. These decisions are extremely important for the Leadley family's safety. Since his incarceration this man, Thompson, has managed to get a letter to Mrs. Leadley threatening to kill the family. From prison a convicted murderer has been able to violently threaten the family of the woman he murdered. The family lives in fear and any quality of life has virtually disintegrated. The grandchildren have been given different names and moved out of the city and Mrs. Leadley is not even able to see her own grandchildren.

However, the reason that I stand here today should be of concern to the members of this House, as it is to me.

Thompson recently applied for an escorted temporary absence. His brother has a non-life threatening illness and is in hospital. Thompson wishes to visit him for two hours. In its infinite wisdom in an eight-page decision, the parole board has recommended that the ETA be granted.

The parole board gave its reasons for denying his first parole request: the viciousness of all of his crimes. Now has something happened in the past 12 months since his last denial to make the board suddenly comfortable with this man's criminal character?

The parole board cites the fact that Thompson has participated in some rehabilitation programs since his last request for release as reason for its sudden change of heart. In 1993 he was a dangerous criminal but just 12 months and a few courses later he is suitable for release it suggests.

To justify its new position, the parole board refers to anger management courses that Thompson has taken. He was required to participate in a program that required only one hour per week for 10 weeks. Are these 10 hours of participation enough for the board to have changed its position? Also in its decision the board encourages Thompson to request to be transferred to a lesser security prison.

These are the decisions and recommendations of a parole board that alleges its reason for being is to protect the Canadian public. There is certainly no accountability here. I fail to see how such decisions protect the Canadian public.

The parole board is saying to this criminal that he deserves a special treat for having been a good boy for 12 months. The irony of the situation is that the case management team supports Thompson's request, as does the warden of the prison and the parole board. The Canadian public does not support this request. I do not support it and the Leadley family does not support it.

The Liberals keep saying they want safer streets but I do not believe it. Whenever they get a chance to make a tough decision to make the streets safe, they balk. They fail to act. I sent a letter to the Solicitor General, the National Parole Board chairman and to the Minister of Justice. My office has had numerous contacts with these offices since the board rendered its reprehensible decision on September 13. The Solicitor General has the power to overturn this ridiculous decision but has done nothing. Not one of these people has acted yet nor has responded to my letter and phone calls requesting the reversal of the decision of the parole board.

In fact, the chairman of the National Parole Board has demonstrated his complete disdain for the safety of the Canadian public by responding to my requests by saying: "Mr. Thompson will be escorted. I really do not see what the big deal is". It is no small wonder that Canadian confidence in our criminal justice system is so low. What reason do they have to be confident when such ignorance is demonstrated by the National Parole Board?

In the board's decision for Thompson's pass, it is mentioned in a section on general statistical information on recidivism that two out of three offenders will not commit an indictable offence after release. The corollary of this is that 33 per cent will reoffend after release. This is a substantial number, an unacceptably high number. Further to this frightening figure is the amount of recidivism of day parolees. The number of people who have breached a condition of release or reoffended has increased by 41 per cent in five years.

Despite these alarming figures, the National Parole Board chairman still fails to see what the big deal is in letting a convicted murderer out on an ETA. I am absolutely furious. The irony is that it is his job to protect the Canadian public.

The big deal is simple. In the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, section 17(b) grants to convicts the privilege of receiving escorted temporary absences for the following reasons: medical; administrative; community service; family contact; personal development for rehabilitative purposes; or compassionate reasons, including parental responsibilities.

These people demonstrated no compassion when they killed their fellow man. Escorted temporary absences are expensive luxuries which should not be so easily obtained, especially for violent offenders.

As well, section 17(c) states that an inmate's behaviour while under sentence does not preclude authorizing absence. This section should be struck from the act and is worth pursuing at the committee stage.

Thompson's example is one case in point. He was out on a day pass when he committed murder. This fact should necessarily be considered when he applies for subsequent passes. In fact, it should be sufficient reason to deny all subsequent requests.

I have used the Robert Paul Thompson case to demonstrate some of what this bill fails but ought to do. In retrospect, the decision in 1983 to issue a day pass was flawed. I am very personally connected to this situation.

I challenge the Solicitor General on this matter. If he really cares about making Canada safer for all of us, then he can begin here and now by reversing the terrible and disgusting decision of the parole board to grant Robert Paul Thompson a day pass for family contact. Canadians demand no less.

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11:20 a.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today on Bill C-45. As a former prosecutor for Essex county in Ontario I recognize the need for changes in this area to provide Canadians with greater public protection and a greater sense of security. Police officers, prosecutors and victims groups with whom I have discussed these amendments tell me that this is a wonderful and a strong step forward in this area.

The Liberal red book told Canadians that we share their concerns. It told Canadians of our promise to take steps to help protect our citizens from repeat offenders. Safe homes and safe streets are a theme for this government, but it is a theme that goes hand in hand with our other themes of job creation and of respect for human rights. Indeed, these themes of prosperity, security and human rights merge to make Canada the kind of country that really is the envy of the world.

These amendments address the issue of public security. With these amendments our government is following through on our commitments to the public, commitments published in our red book, commitments we have consistently followed up on and that you can literally check off as we go through our mandate. They are sensible commitments which help to improve our security and our rights in this country.

Public safety is the primary consideration in putting forward these changes. As we follow through on our red book commitments we are improving protection from repeat sex offenders. These changes are part of ongoing reforms to increase and improve our handling and our management of these offenders within the federal corrections system. In particular we have focused on those offenders who victimize children, although of course others are included in the sweep of this legislation.

These changes will help to restore public confidence in the corrections process by closing gaps and by responding directly to shortcomings that have been perceived by the public. We will tighten the system for those convicted of sex offences against children. We will pass changes which will allow us to detain in the penitentiary until the end of their sentence sex offenders who victimize children.

Other offences will be caught within the mandate of this legislation. Those include: serious drinking and driving offences; criminal negligence offences which result in bodily harm or death; criminal harassment, more commonly known as stalking laws; and conspiracy to commit serious drug offences. All of these will be added to the list of offences for possible detention until the end of sentence.

Of those offences however I think all Canadians find crimes against children to be among the most reprehensible acts. That is why it is so important to increase the powers of the National Parole Board to enable that body to keep repeat sex offenders behind bars for their full sentence.

Under the existing legislation the National Parole Board must establish that serious harm was done to a victim during the commission of the offence or that it is likely to occur during a future offence involving a child. This criterion of serious harm can be difficult to identify among children who often do not exhibit the full effects of the trauma until later in their lives.

This legislation seeks to improve the protection of children and is also a response to the report on serious harm by the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General.

In addition to strengthening the sentencing side of sex offences the legislation will also strengthen and expand treatment programs for these crimes. This is another part of our red book commitment.

As important as it is to keep repeat sex offenders in penitentiaries as long as they remain a risk, it is equally important to recognize that their sentences will inevitably expire and that we must therefore strengthen our rehabilitation programs. Although we have made some strides in this area in the past, it is important to keep our focus in that direction and to make sure these programs improve. These amendments will also provide additional reasonable resources for those programs.

We are also following through on a commitment to create a mechanism for the discipline or removal from office of National Parole Board members where members are not performing competently. This proposal, together with increased training, the continued advertising of board vacancies and the appointment of qualified, competent board members will further increase the accountability of the board. This is something Canadians have demanded, something we have promised to Canadians and once again, something we have followed through on.

While this legislation targets repeat sex offenders and other serious criminals specifically, it also addresses the issue of sentence calculation. There has been a longstanding concern about the way sentences are calculated. Changes to the process will ensure that offenders on parole in the community who are convicted of a new offence are automatically returned to custody, and would serve a substantial part of the new sentence, at least one-third, in penitentiary before being eligible to be considered for parole.

Like other legislation we have promulgated since our election and which we will table throughout our term this act is the result of consultation with Canadians. I speak specifically to my friends across the way when I say that unlike some legislators, Liberals do not limit their consultations only to those who share their own view. We have the nerve, we have the mandate and we have the strength to dare to involve all Canadians. We are not afraid to hear other views. We do not sit with narrow, little minds hiding in a hot house. Instead, we go to all Canadians. We seek to widen our horizons. We seek to criss-cross the country and to consult widely in both languages.

That is something the Solicitor General has done. I know my friends on this side of the House join me as should those across the way in commending him for this consultation and commending him for having the guts and the courage to go out and speak to all Canadians.

I ask all members in this House to support this bill.

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11:25 a.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Solicitor General had been promising major amendments to the current legislation in order to crack down on adults who commit crimes against children. In particular, the government said it would take extremely harsh measures in view of the demands of

a society totally disgusted with the courts' failure to deal with child molesters.

Like all Canadians, I was expecting a massive overhaul of the current legislation. It seems, however, that the Solicitor General does not have the same perception as the vast majority of Canadians on this point. It seems that the government has chosen to continue to favour administrative justice, which is arbitrary and secretive, over the courts. Clearly the Liberal Party does not want to toughen the act with regard to with rapists and child abusers.

If I understand this bill correctly, individuals serving a two-year sentence following assault on children, will be referred to the Parole Board which will determine whether they can be paroled at the time legally set or whether they should be kept in jail until the end of their sentence or subjected to special control measures.

People should not be led to believe that the amendments proposed by the Solicitor General could be used to keep these individuals in jail after the end of their sentence.

You should not think either that this is tougher for abusers and pedophiles or that it would apply to all sexual offenders.

All the Solicitor General is doing is proposing to give the Parole Board the discretionary power to parole before the end of their sentence individuals guilty of sexual crimes against children.

This measure already exists for violent offenders and drug dealers; we are merely adding pedophiles.

Two observations before I move on to more legal aspects. Sexual crimes against children are probably the most horrific, the most despicable and the most repugnant crimes that a court can find an individual guilty of.

It is not without reason that nearly every crime of that nature is punishable by maximum penalties going from a 10-year prison sentence to life.

When an adult sexually assaults a child, he destroys the person within the child, the child's vision of the world as well as his or her trust in mankind. Such crimes are no less serious when the victim is an adult, but the latter is already equipped with a psychological immune system that might help him or her get over the pain and suffering. The assaulted child dies inside.

I feel no sympathy, no mercy for molesters; I despise and loathe these cowards who take advantage of a child's innocence to satisfy their narcissistic drive. Until proven otherwise-the burden of proof rests on the criminal's shoulders-I do not believe that rehabilitation is possible. I do know that in certain rare cases there appears to be a change in behaviour, at the cost of tremendous personal sacrifices and after a painful process. But certainly not as a result of some ridiculous prison therapy criminals agree to with the sole objective of improving their chances to get paroled.

Crimes of a sexual nature against children deserve the maximum sentence; those which leave them injured, mutilated or harmed in their physical or moral integrity should result in a life sentence for the offenders.

This brings me to publicly question once again the professional competence of the members of this inept organisation, namely the Parole Board.

I do not question the need for a parole monitoring body or its usefulness. Every western nation relies on such government agencies responsible for closely monitoring criminals in the community at large, until the end of their sentence.

However, I am extremely sceptical about the professional competence of the Parole Board members who are all political appointees.

This body has become the haven for the friends and survivors of defeated governments or governments reaching the end of their mandates, whichever the case. The good faith of these people in carrying out their duty is not at issue, but I cannot help but notice that the lack of professional hiring criteria sheds a cloud of doubt on the credibility of their decisions.

And yet, the Solicitor General has decided to entrust this board with the authority to release criminals convicted of abusing or raping children.

The board's job would amount in fact to reviewing the sentence imposed by the court. If at least the Solicitor General had given authority to the court to impose a prison sentence without parole in the afore-mentioned cases, we would be closer to a reform. But such is not the case.

The court already has the power to give very harsh sentences to child abusers. Every sexual crime involving children is punishable by penalties that the court should not hesitate to pass.

The court already has in hand all the elements necessary to determine the sentence. We will discuss later, probably at the end of the day, the amendments that Bill C-41 brings to sentencing principles. The court will have all the facts at hand and will be able to evaluate all the factors relevant to the case, including elements of the pre-sentence report describing in detail the personality of the accused.

I believe that by simply giving the courts the power to order that the sentence imposed be served completely before a criminal can be released, we could have achieved what the bill seeks to do.

I am against giving this new quasi-judicial role to an organization which has neither the stature nor the competence to assume such responsibility towards society. We must give the courts all the necessary latitude to reach the legislation's goals. Those were my comments, Mr. Speaker.

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11:35 a.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-45 brought in by the Solicitor General as part of the strategic framework of initiatives to which the government committed itself in the red book during the last campaign. It seeks to implement the safe homes, safe streets strategy which is being very much demanded by Canadians from coast to coast to coast as we in all parts of the House know.

The bill recognizes the all time low level of confidence Canadians have unfortunately demonstrated in our courts and in our current parole system. I must confess that this low level of confidence is justified and as a Canadian I certainly share it to a large extent.

Contrary to some opinions we have heard today from other members of the House, the bill is worthy of support. It is a major step in the right direction. It puts forth several important initiatives much awaited by Canadians and I would like to speak to them briefly today.

It adds several offences to the list of serious crimes for which people can be required to serve their full sentence such as drinking and driving and drug offences, to name two.

There is an important initiative in that the bill would seek to increase the accountability of the National Parole Board by establishing a mechanism to discipline and remove members that have performed in an unacceptable and indeed incompetent manner in some cases. Unfortunately we know that this could be the case and the provision is badly needed.

The bill seeks to strengthen rehabilitation programs for sex offenders. This is one of the most important initiatives undertaken. All too often repeat sex offenders such as pedophiles come out of the institutions in which they were incarcerated just as unbalanced individuals as when they entered incarceration. This is simply unacceptable and must be addressed. The bill seeks to do that.

The bill increases the authority of officials to make deductions from the income of offenders to help defray the increasing costs of incarceration. This is something which Canadians will applaud no matter what is their overall view of the bill. It is obviously a very important initiative and makes good common sense.

In my personal view the most important guiding principle in our system of criminal justice should be that violent criminals will be considered in a category altogether separate from non-violent criminals. Violent criminals should be experiencing stricter sentences from our courts and much stricter conditions for early release.

It is my view that the almost automatic release after one-third of the sentence of criminals has been served, even the most violent criminals, is a big mistake. Violent criminals, whether they be sexual offenders or non-sexual offenders, should be serving much closer to the full sentence. I would hope to see the day when repeat violent offenders will be serving the full sentence.

Bill C-45 moves substantially in that direction. It permits the retention for full sentence of criminals that have offended against children. While I applaud it as a step in the right direction I hope to see the day when such heinous crimes will be met with a mandatory serving of a full sentence for violent criminals, be they sexual offenders or non-sexual offenders. This is very important in the case of someone who has demonstrated a pattern of repeat violent offence.

Canadians know, and we in the House know, that in many cases sentences have been too light and out of all proportion to the nature of the crime and to the incredible harm inflicted on the victim, be they children or adults. For any adult who has been a victim of violent crime, particularly violent sexual crime, it is an horrendous experience to try to live through.

Bill C-45 requires an offender on parole who reoffends to serve at least one-third of his or her sentence for the latest crime before being eligible for parole. I applaud that. I say again I hope to see the day when repeat violent offenders serve their full sentence and not one-third. I hope to see the day when they forgo any opportunity for early release if they have established a pattern of repeat violent offences. The bill is a major step in that direction.

The issue of the serious harm provision against children is very important. The bill removes that condition and states it is not required for serious harm to be demonstrated. This makes good sense. For me personally violent crime is by definition serious crime. It inflicts serious harm on the victim especially if the victim is a child. Violent crime of a sexual or a non-sexual nature against an adult obviously is serious and should be treated in such a manner.

I very much applaud Bill C-45 and the Solicitor General for the initiatives he has undertaken. It is not a perfect bill. I suppose we see very few of those in this land or any other. I personally hope to see the day when we will go further, when we will be stricter on repeat violent offenders whether they be sexual or non-sexual offenders, and when we will be much more vigilant on early releases than what we have been.

The bill is a major step toward the stricter approach being called for by Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

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11:40 a.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on this occasion to speak in favour of Bill C-45 which was given first reading in the House last June.

Since 1984 there has been a marked increase in violent crime across the country. Dealing with this growing incidence of crime was certainly listed as one of the priorities of the Liberal Party and the new government as set out in the red book.

There is no doubt that for many years Canada was viewed and is still viewed, and rightly so, as a non-violent nation. It was a nation in which all of us could carry on our business, our daily affairs, without fear for our personal safety or for the personal safety of our loved ones. However in the last decade Canadians have become less certain about that reality as we have seen example after example played out across our television screens and in our newspapers of violent crimes being perpetrated within our communities.

Our government believes the issue of safe streets is not achieved simply by strengthening legislation in relation to criminal behaviour such as the Criminal Code, the Young Offenders Act or the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the present legislation. There are some in the House who tend to simplify the issue of public safety to the extreme by saying that by making harsh incarceration rules, by sentencing people to long sentences or by introducing corporal or capital punishment our streets will suddenly or magically be safe.

Some would have us believe that if we toughen our parole release provisions to the extreme in all cases suddenly there would be no more crime and we would not suffer from violence to our person and to our families. The government disagrees with that approach.

We recognize that in order to reduce the incidence of criminality within our society that society must provide meaningful employment opportunities for all people. The direct link between economic hardship, lack of opportunity and criminality is well known. To that end the government has implemented policies which allow for economic growth.

Roughly 275,000 new jobs have been created since the new government took office. The Canadian economy has grown by 4.2 per cent annual growth rate in the first quarter and an astounding 6.4 per cent in the second quarter. This assists to reduce the incidence of criminal behaviour within our society.

Another factor that certainly helps reduce the crime rate and the violence within our society means doing something to alleviate underlying social conditions which create an environment where criminal behaviour can flourish, whether it is poverty, racism, hunger or whatever the social issue might be.

We have begun to address those issues as a government. We must continue to alleviate negative social conditions which create an environment where crime can flourish, whether it is fighting racism or increasing educational opportunities or providing our young people with experience in the workplace through the Canada youth corps. We are moving toward safer communities in our nation once again.

No doubt there are other things that governments and communities can undertake to increase public safety. The creative nature of our communities will make this happen from coast to coast. I am not saying that the government cannot move to improve the Criminal Code, the Young Offenders Act or the legislation currently before the House where it makes sense to do so.

The government recognizes that action to combat crime must be a multi-pronged approach involving the enhancement of criminal laws, the Young Offenders Act, the parole legislation where it is reasonable to do so and demonstrably justified. Where flaws are located in the current legislation we must move to correct those flaws. We have a responsibility to do so.

Not only must our economies be strong, not only must our social programs be relevant and scratch where the country itches but also we must deal with our criminal legislation through these various criminally related statutes and to fix them where they have proved inadequate.

We see this approach being taken whether it is in this bill brought forward by the Solicitor General or whether it is other bills such as the Young Offenders Act being brought forward by the Minister of Justice or amendments to the Criminal Code. These types of approaches allow for the House and our society to improve, to enhance the laws which govern our land, the laws which make it safe for all of us to enjoy our communities and to enjoy our homes without fear of violence.

Within this specific legislation a number of changes have been made which will make our parole system better, our criminal justice system better and will ultimately improve the safety of our communities across the nation.

The individual legislative proposals which I support make it easier to detain in penitentiary until the end of sentence sex offenders who victimize children by removing that serious harm must be established as a criterion for detention in these cases. There is no doubt that the young person by having to provide testimony as to serious harm is revictimized and we certainly see no need for that. The fact that an offence has been committed

certainly establishes beyond doubt that serious harm has been done.

This legislation will also establish a mechanism for the removal from office of National Parole Board members who become incapacitated from executing their duties by infirmity or misconduct or have failed to carry out their role in a manner that is expected of them. This is to maintain the integrity of the system. We certainly will reduce the number of errors that are made in releasing people who should not be released.

In addition to these types of changes, we are also expanding the list of offences for which an offender could be referred for detention until the end of sentence. These offences include serious drinking and driving and criminal negligence offences which result in bodily harm or death. In addition there will be more emphasis placed on the rehabilitation of people through programs. This is also a very important step forward.

What is typical of the government is that we are utilizing some of the parliamentary reforms we have brought forward in this term to allow individual members more say in the development of legislation.

I want to commend the Solicitor General for referring this bill at this stage to the committee so that we can, as individual members, provide input and make additional changes. Certainly where it is clear and obvious that changes ought to be made the government has made those changes but it is allowing the opportunity for further changes, for further amendment, as the bill moves along.

This is a very progressive step. Through the committee stage we can hear what Canadians think of these changes and write a bill that reflects the desires of our people for a safe society but one balanced with our desire always to ensure that people can have the opportunity to be rehabilitated.

I am very proud of the efforts the government has made so far and will support these legislative changes as the bill moves on to committee.

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11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As no other member is rising, is the House ready for the question?

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11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


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11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


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11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to.)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, as I rise to begin the debate on second reading of Bill C-41 with respect to sentencing, may I first observe that the bill is a response to and product of over 14 years of effort to achieve comprehensive reform in the sentencing process as part of the criminal justice system in Canada.

Indeed the need for such reform in the sentencing process has been long recognized by judges, by parliamentarians, by lawyers, by Canadians themselves.

For over a decade there have been calls for such reform: a royal commission on the subject, the law reform commission, the Canadian sentencing commission which reported in 1987, and in 1988 an all-party committee of the House which had a comprehensive set of recommendations with respect to sentencing, conditional release and corrections.

Many of those recommendations are reflected in this bill. It is in recognition of that need for reform that my party gave its commitment last year during the election campaign to introduce this legislation.

I tabled Bill C-41 on June 13 last and today I recommend to the House that it be considered and approved in principle and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

The bill we are considering today is a significant one. By its terms, for the first time Canadians would have a say through Parliament on the purpose and the principles of criminal sentencing. No such statement exists at present in the Criminal Code. Parliament's role to date so far as sentencing is concerned has been limited to setting certain maximum levels of incarceration and rarely minimum levels rather than dealing with the policy objectives of the sentencing process.

Bill C-41 brings together first, a statement of the purposes and principles of sentencing; second, the rules governing procedure and the admissibility of evidence in the process; and third, the various sanctions that the courts may impose to punish, to deter, to rehabilitate, all in a form that represents the collective view of Parliament.

The changes proposed in this bill have been broadly accepted by criminal justice professionals, by the provinces and by the territories. The establishment of these statements of purposes and principles has been endorsed by the Canadian Sentencing Commission, by the justice committee of this House and the former Law Reform Commission of Canada. I would not want it to be thought that Bill C-41 is the product only of the so-called elites, the professionals, the government administrators of the

system. The bill reflects rather, in my respectful view, the broadly based need, the widely felt need in Canada for uniform and effective statements in the code for what sentencing is to achieve.

I believe that sentencing practices in Canada must consistently reflect the values that Canadians have told us are important to them in the treatment of offenders. But considering the fact that criminal sanctions provide for one of the most serious intrusions by the state into the lives of individuals, indeed depriving them of liberty, it is really quite remarkable that the criminal law to date has not contained such a policy statement.

Through this bill, Parliament provides the courts with clear guidelines. Parliament stresses the need to punish certain types of behaviour by clearly stating that the purpose of sentencing must be to denounce unlawful conduct, to deter offenders and other persons from committing crimes and to separate offenders from society, where necessary.

In addition, the statement of the purpose and principles of sentencing provides that the sentence must take into consideration the will to protect society, to assist in rehabilitating offenders and promoting their sense of responsibility and to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community.

The bill also defines various sentencing principles, for instance that the sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the offender's degree of responsibility. When appropriate, alternatives must be contemplated, especially in the case of Native offenders.

The bill provides courts with clear policy direction from Parliament. The elements of punishment are addressed. Denunciation is there, as are deterrents and separation from society. The bill is a comprehensive and detailed one. I would like in the moments during which I will speak to the House today to highlight a number of issues that I feel are particularly important.

First, the statement of purpose and principles augments the normal sentencing practice of considering extenuating factors by specifying two important circumstances. It provides that when the evidence demonstrates that an offence has been committed by a person who abuses a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim, that shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance in determining the penalty.

Numerous recommendations have been made respecting breach of trust for offences involving violence against women, for example, and involving vulnerable persons including children. The 1993 violence against women survey by Statistics Canada demonstrated that almost one-half of women reported experiencing violence during their lives by men known to them. In too many cases positions of trust were exploited, for example, by adults against children or a physician against a patient.

The 1984 Badgley committee called for protection of children from persons they already know and trust. Including this specific aggravating circumstance will express Parliament's determination to extend criminal law for the purposes of protecting such persons, persons made vulnerable through the disarming effects of a trusting relationship.

The bill also specifies that if an offence is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, this shall be considered an aggravating factor in determining the sentence. It seems to me that this provision responds to growing concerns about hate motivated crime.

The last report of the league for human rights of the B'nai Brith established that the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has grown significantly over the last few years.

Moreover, hate motivated violence against individuals based on the offenders bias toward other sexual orientations has sparked public anxiety. General concerns have been raised about the pervasiveness of racism in Canada.

Recognition in the Criminal Code of hate motivation as an aggravating factor in sentencing will send an important message to minority communities and to the public at large.

A second feature of Bill C-41 merits special treatment in this debate. The bill reflects also the importance of our recognizing the plight of victims of criminal acts. Bill C-41 goes some distance in achieving that objective.

The statement of purpose and principles specifically indicates that objectives for sentencing include the provision of reparation for harm done to victims or the community and the promotion of a sense of responsibility in offenders, an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and the community.

It goes further, specifically in relation to section 745 of the Criminal Code. That is the section that makes it possible for a person who has been sentenced to life with a period of parole ineligibility longer than 15 years to apply after 15 years for permission to seek parole. Such an application is heard by a court composed of a judge and jury, and two-thirds of the jury must agree before such a person is given permission to apply for parole.

The section has become controversial and it is alleged that life should mean life, that no such application should be permitted. Against that there are those in the correctional system who insist that persons who are rehabilitated after 15 years should have the opportunity to appear before a court and seek not parole but permission to apply for parole, to establish that they have

changed and society's best interests would be served by their being considered for parole release.

Earlier this year I met Marie King Forest, a woman from Saskatchewan whose husband was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, murdered in the course of his duties.

Mrs. King Forest attended court earlier this year during the hearing of an application under section 745. She was accompanied at the meeting by three other women whose husbands had been police officers and who had been killed in the course of their duties.

Mrs. King Forest described to me the anguish she felt at reliving the tragedy of her husband's death and at the whole process surrounding the 745 application. It is out of respect for that anguish, for the feeling on the part of the families of murder victims, homicide victims, that they should have some role to play in the process.

Bill C-41 proposes a change to section 745, a change that would specifically require the court to take into account on such an application the perspective and the evidence of the victim's families in deciding whether permission should be granted to the applicant to seek early parole.

While it does not go as far as some would have it go-indeed they would have us revoke the section-that change goes a long way toward accommodating the concerns that have been expressed by, among others, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. I believe it achieves a balance. It permits the court to take into account at the time of such an application the continuing anguish and loss of the victims' families and measure it against other societal values and objectives, including the importance of reintegrating into society someone who has been rehabilitated and who can demonstrate so at the time of the hearing.

Still on the subject of victims in the criminal justice system, the restitution provisions which have been in the Criminal Code for some years, since they were passed in 1988, have largely remained unproclaimed due to provincial objections with respect to the complex procedures that they contemplate.

Bill C-41 sets out a new set of measures respecting restitution developed co-operatively by the federal government and our provincial colleagues. There is a priority given to restitution. If a court finds it appropriate to award both a fine and restitution, the priority will go to the victim. Restitution must be honoured first.

Provision is made to ensure that restitution orders can be enforced by the civil courts. One can register them, like a judgement, then ask that they be executed upon so the property or the money of the offender can be seized to satisfy the order.

Finally, the Criminal Code will specifically state that any restitution ordered by a criminal court will not limit a victim's right to sue for damages in the civil court. A victim will be able to take a restitution order to the civil court for execution.

At the present time, nearly a third of the people liable to incarceration in provincial jails are in that situation because they did not pay fines. Studies have shown that Natives are the most at risk of being incarcerated for failing to pay fines. Since we know that these offenders rarely go to prison for long periods and, in fact, often do not spend any time in jail, the administrative burden involved in treating these cases is heavy and of little use.

The bill recognizes this situation.

These provisions state that the court must be convinced that the offender can pay the fine contemplated before imposing it. In case a fine is not imposed because the offender would not be able to pay it, the offender will be liable to other penalties such as probation or community service.

Measures are provided in the bill to help provinces collect outstanding fines. Provinces will be able to use the same mechanisms to enforce fines under the Criminal Code as they use for provincial statutes. Persons designated by the court will be able to make adjustments to the order. Provinces will be able to refuse to issue or to renew permits or licences until a fine is paid. They may refer the case for civil enforcement. Incarceration would be retained only as a final enforcement option.

Ultimately I believe that these proposals will result in less crowded institutions and should decrease the costs for the system. They will do this without compromising the effectiveness of criminal justice and its administration.

In the last few years, we have learned a great deal about the administration of justice, about how to protect the public better. Incarceration must remain an option for offenders who need this form of punishment and must be separated from society to ensure the safety of the population. It is worthwhile to remind the House that Canada's incarceration rate is extremely high compared with other industrialized countries.

Furthermore, studies show that for minor and first-time offenders, incarceration is not very useful or effective and may even be harmful if the goal is to turn the person into a law-abiding citizen.

The provisions of this bill concerning alternative sentences for adults and the new approach to collecting fines, which I talked about earlier, will allow the courts to handle cases differently according to their specific sets of circumstances by expanding the range of options available for serious and minor offenders alike. Our goal is above all to create a more equitable, less costly and more effective system which Canadians can trust.

A general principle that runs throughout Bill C-41 is that jails should be reserved for those who should be there. Alternatives should be put in place for those who commit offences but who do not need or merit incarceration.

What alternatives will be available? For the first time Bill C-41 introduces diversion for adult offenders. At the discretion of the investigating officers and the appropriate authorities persons charged with a minor offence, particularly the first time, can be sent into a parallel stream away from the courtroom to be counselled or to be helped to overcome whatever problem led to the infraction.

Courts will continue to have probation as an appropriate sanction in the cases which require it. Fines, as mentioned, will be improved. There will be a new sentence provided for in Bill C-41 called the conditional sentence. I will speak to that remedy for a few moments.

Where a court imposes a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years and where the court is satisfied that serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of society as a whole, the court may order that the offender serve the sentence in the community rather than in an institution.

Offenders who do not comply with such conditions as may be imposed at that time can be summoned back to court to explain their behaviour, to demonstrate why they should not be incarcerated. If the court is not satisfied with that explanation, it can order the offender to serve the balance of the sentence in custody. This sanction is obviously aimed at offenders who would otherwise be in jail but who could be in the community under tight controls.

It seems to me that such an approach would promote the protection of the public by seeking to separate the most serious offenders from the community while providing that less serious offenders can remain among other members of society with effective community based alternatives while still adhering to appropriate conditions. It also means that scarce funds can be used for incarcerating and treating the more serious offenders.

There is much in the bill to remove uncertainty and mystery about the sentencing process. The principles and purposes are spelled out once and for all. The theme of the bill is that such matters should not be left just to the justice professionals but should be there for all members of the public to see.

In keeping with that approach there is a provision in C-41 requiring reasons for sentencing to be given in all cases. This measure will encourage well-reasoned decisions, will assist courts of appeal in dealing with appeals from sentences and will serve an educative function.

Giving reasons will assist the courts in expressing their objectives in demonstrating how they are applying the principles of sentencing and should enable the public better to relate to what is done in sentencing and to the policy approved by Parliament. Without overstating the provision, I hope it will help us to evolve sound government policy in criminal justice with broad and better informed public support.

All of these proposals and C-41 in its entirety are designed to increase public accessibility to the law concerning sentencing, to make it more understandable and to make it more predictable. The bill includes a complete restructuring of part XXIII of the Criminal Code of Canada. It brings together most of the provisions relating to sentencing now in the code. It presents them in such a way as to make them, I hope, more logical and more accessible both to criminal justice professionals and to the public.

With this bill and with the other initiatives in the area of criminal justice the government is providing a balanced and a comprehensive approach to the challenge of crime in Canada. Improving the process and clarifying the principles of sentencing is not going to solve all of our social problems but the bill will, I hope, contribute along with crime prevention initiatives to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

Jails and prisons will be there for those who need them, for those who should be punished in that way or separated from society. We must remember as well that only 10 per cent of all crime is violent and that over 53 per cent of all crime involves property, not people. Therefore, this bill creates an environment which encourages community sanctions and the rehabilitation of offenders together with reparation to victims and promoting in criminals a sense of accountability for what they have done.

It is not simply by being more harsh that we will achieve more effective criminal justice. We must use our scarce resources wisely. It seems to me that Bill C-41 strikes that balance and I commend it to this Chamber for its consideration.

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12:15 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, before stating my position on Bill C-41, I would like to point out both in my own name and on behalf of all voters in the sovereigntist federal riding of Saint-Hubert the resounding victory of the Parti Quebecois in the elections. The party was voted in with a much higher global percentage of votes than the one allowing

the Prime Minister of Canada to claim to be governing on behalf of all Canadians in Ottawa.

I speak as a sovereigntist member of Parliament and, whether we debate Bill C-41 or any other issue, the laws of this country entitle me to do so as a member of the Official Opposition in accordance with the mandate I was given by nearly 60 per cent of the voters in the federal riding of Saint-Hubert. I did not hide my stance. Must all those who strive to disprove the logic and legitimacy of our position be straightened out at the beginning of this new session? My sovereigntist beliefs do not interfere with displaying all the judgement and competence required to carry out my duties as Official Opposition critic for matters under the jurisdiction of the justice minister.

To those who, contrary to all rules of democracy, dispute our right to sit in this Parliament as the Official Opposition, I say this: my voice and that of my 52 colleagues joins the chorus of the 77 sovereigntist members elected in Quebec. Sovereigntists now account for about 70 per cent of the total deputation in both Quebec City and Ottawa.

May those who dispute our legitimacy and continue to doubt that our constituents voted for our program stifle their fantasies. The voters in Quebec like anywhere else in Canada vote according to their beliefs and with their heads, contrary to what the Prime Minister would have the rest of Canada believe.

This Prime Minister, whose party barely managed to muster one third of the vote in Quebec and a little over 40 per cent in the rest of the country, has no qualms of conscience about claiming to have been elected by all of Canada, while in fact more than half of his caucus comes from Ontario, where 45 per cent of the vote "from coast to coast" was concentrated.

I maintain that the legitimacy of the Parti Quebecois in Quebec and that of the Official Opposition in this Parliament is stronger than that of the federal Liberals. I would add that the Prime Minister would never have won the latest elections in Quebec and that Canadians should be aware of who speaks for Quebec from now on.

In my analysis of Bill C-41, I speak for all the people of Quebec and the 60 per cent of voters from other provinces who did not vote for the Liberals. The Parti Quebecois is now in power in Quebec, with nearly two thirds of the seats in the Assembly. It was voted in with 53 per cent of the francophone vote and massive support from the community which says "no" to stupor and lethargy and refuses to be bogged down in the status quo.

If the Prime Minister did not want to hear any more about the Quebec issue and if he thought that the pitiful attempts of Meech and Charlottetown would end the debate, he now realizes, after the September 12 election held in Quebec, that he was fooling himself as well as Canadians.

Just as I am about to do regarding Bill C-41, the Bloc Quebecois will always fulfil its role of Official Opposition loyally in this Parliament. As long as Quebec remains an integral part of Canada and as long as Quebecers pay their share of taxes to the federal revenue minister, the Bloc Quebecois will play its opposition role and fulfil the mandate it was given by Quebecers on election night, October 25, 1993.

I now open the debate on Bill C-41 as the official opposition critic on justice. I will never give up my responsibilities and my convictions in this House for the sole reason that my opinions on the future of this country differ from those of the Prime Minister of Canada and his regional caucus.

It is with these principles in mind that I now turn my attention to Bill C-41. The Minister of Justice will be pleased to learn that I have no hesitation in saying that this legislation is a positive one, even though the minister did not make the full necessary reform to protect the rights of victims.

I see that all of Part XXIII of the Criminal Code is amended to make way for new measures to deal with offenders through an appropriate reform of the sentencing process. Thus the bill introduces a measure similar to the procedure we find in the Young Offenders Act, to deal with suspects who admit their guilt by using alternatives to judicial proceedings. According to the bill, alternative measures designated under a provincial program may be substituted for the usual trial, conviction and sentencing proceedings.

Our courts, especially our criminal courts, have a huge backlog of cases that never go to trial because they are constantly postponed. The courts are dealing with an ever-increasing number of criminal cases, mostly cases that should be tried on summary conviction.

Visit the courts when they are in session, and you will get a good idea of the frustration felt by witnesses, victims, investigators and, in fact, all those who are faced with the inefficiencies of an outdated system that puts a heavy financial burden on governments and taxpayers.

Our current criminal procedure requires the presence of the accused and witnesses at every stage of the trial, even in the case of a guilty plea.

In most cases where there is so much evidence that a preliminary hearing is a waste of time and a trial an unnecessarily costly

exercise for the government, although compulsory for the accused, the case could have been dealt with by administrative means.

By proposing alternative judicial proceedings to deal with cases where suspects are prepared to co-operate, the minister has opened the way to some very interesting changes in criminal proceedings.

If efficiency is the goal, I think that will be achieved. However, I can imagine how some people will react. They will say this is another case of criminals getting off scot-free and legislation that is more intent on encouraging crime with these ridiculous measures than on punishing criminal behaviour. I suppose some people might have that impression.

I would be the first to say that the law should concentrate, first of all, on preventing and punishing crime. We must pass laws to protect society. That should be our only objective. The rehabilitation of offenders comes later, when society has all the instruments it needs to protect itself.

That being said, I suggest that those who may tend to react hastily take a very careful look at this bill. In section 717(1)( a ) they will see that provincial jurisdictions may designate the type of offences to which the legislation will not apply when they set up their program.

In other words, provincial governments will be able to develop a program of alternative measures according to their perception of the priorities and views of the majority.

I am very pleased to say that if this bill is passed, it would restore much of the initiative in this area to the provinces. It will give the provinces greater flexibility to implement these measures in line with the interests of the local community, as is the case for alternative measures programs under the Young Offenders Act.

Is the Chair signalling?

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12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

No, and I would point out that you have 20 minutes left.

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12:25 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

So that might have been a nervous tic I noticed.

In addition, this would allow the courts of each province to clear thousands of minor cases or summary proceedings through admissions of guilt, thus sparing the taxpayer enormous legal costs. This is a laudable attempt to reduce public expenditure and contribute to administrative efficiency and I congratulate the Minister of Justice.

However, the bill seems to be trying to cover too many bases.

In fact, in order to attain the stated objectives, it is not necessary to subject co-operative suspects to publicity not imposed on those electing to be tried in a court of law. Thus, for example, the police will always have a suspect's fingerprints and photograph on file. And this file will be open, with the appropriate authorization, to various parties, including insurance companies, government departments and agencies, the courts and the general public so that the interests of justice may be served.

There is a large measure of naïveté here. We must ask ourselves what will motivate a suspect to co-operate with the police if his file can be accessed for two years by just about anybody and he is still subject to criminal proceedings, despite his desire to settle the matter once and for all through an alternative measure.

It should be obvious to the Minister of Justice that those who drafted this bill have never seen a suspect in their life, or have never witnessed the plea bargaining that takes place on a large scale just outside our courts of law.

For these alternative measures to be attractive and the program to work, the file must travel a private, administrative route, without publicity, eventually reaching the offices of the provincial ministers of justice, after all conditions have been faithfully met by the offender.

It is wishful thinking to believe that a suspect will co-operate with the police for the pleasure of repenting twice and having a file that resembles that of a criminal who has already been sentenced.

The bill also consolidates a number of sentencing principles which are, for the most part, laid down in our case law and applied by our courts across the country.

The need for a codification of guiding principles regarding sentencing is obvious. Most of the applicable criteria and factors have become standard with time. They have been used and considered in criminal cases since the first Criminal Code of Canada was published. While the common law tradition gives preference to case law over written law, it may be a good idea to set some general guidelines to be followed by the courts in their consideration of the circumstances of each case. The criteria proposed in the bill, including the statement of principles, are not restrictive but cover a range of actions wide enough to apply to most cases.

There is nothing very novel about this. I would point out however that in the part dealing with the purpose and principles of sentencing, the bill very vaguely refers to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society. I do hope that these words make sense to the people of Canada and that they will mean something to the courts because, as far as I am concerned, they simply reflect good intentions that the legislative background of the Liberals does not uphold. I would be inclined to believe that such principles could even lay the foundations for political courts. It all depends on what partisan view the power takes on a "just, peaceful and safe society".

Was it not just, peaceful and safe in the eyes of the Nazis to exterminate the Jews? What kind of just society do we have in mind now in terms of sentencing? That of the 60s? Is it through sentencing that we achieve just society status? Does the Minister of Justice leave it up to his predecessors, the illustrious instigators of Canadian liberalism, these great humanists who in 1970 had no other means to create their just society but mass imprisonment under the War Measures Act?

It all depends on one's perception of what constitutes a just society. From this flows the question: can a just society be achieved through sentencing?

This is the kind of wording you come up with when you do not have a clue what to do to look good in an enactment. Everyone is for virtue and against evil; everyone wants a just society. I simply wonder about this need for preserving a just society through sentencing in the country best liked in the world by its citizens.

This is hardly surprising on the part of the Liberals, always inspired by the model of generosity that was the former boss of the present Prime Minister, himself closely connected to the decision center in 1970. But this unfortunate legislative slip that the Liberals themselves must be embarrassed about must not prevent us from recognizing that this bill also contains innovative ideas that should be favourably considered.

For example, the principle of mitigating or aggravating circumstances is introduced in positive sentencing law. Aggravating circumstances include all aspects of an offence which reflect bias, prejudice, breach of trust and abuse of power.

Let us take for example the therapists recently convicted of sexually abusing their female patients. These professionals who were then in a position of authority abused their patients' trust. I would have liked a better French translation for the expression "position of trust" found in the English version but I imagine the courts will take this into account.

Offences committed within a therapist-patient relationship would come under this provision and the courts would be authorized by law to impose sentences more in keeping with this type of offence.

Finally, again with respect to the purpose and principles of sentencing, it is deplorable that the bill tries to sneak through the back door the concept of a parallel system of justice for Aboriginals. It is so well hidden that it is almost necessary to read Clause 718.2( e ) twice to discover this enormity hidden under nine sneaky words, and I quote:

718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

We have ( a ), ( b ), ( c ), ( d ) and e ) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

The French text fails, unintentionally no doubt, to point out like the English text that the said sanctions would exclude imprisonment.

Why should Aboriginals, who make up less than 2 per cent of Canada's total population, benefit from a legal system different from that which applies to all other Canadians? Why should an Aboriginal convicted of murder, rape, assault or of uttering threats not be liable to imprisonment like any other citizen of this country? Can we replace all this with a parallel justice, an ethnic justice, a cultural justice? Where would it stop? Where does this horror come from?

Why should Aboriginals, who are adamantly opposed to the distinctiveness of Quebec society-which is still subject to all Canadians laws without exception-, who claim full Canadian citizenship, who take full advantage of the generosity of our welfare state and who enjoy tax exemptions and benefits, be treated differently from other Canadians when they commit crimes? If such is to be the case, I ask that all criminal laws applicable to the Quebec nation be transferred to the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec's National Assembly.

Other aspects of this bill deserve special attention. Not because it proposes reforms but because these reforms are incomplete, when we had an opportunity to correct some clearly unacceptable shortcomings of our criminal justice system.

The government seems concerned about the fate of victims in criminal trials. It seems to care, but its intentions are expressed so timidly that we cannot take them seriously. Indeed, the bill adds nothing that could reassure Canadian society that this government wants to protect victims.

I agree with all those who tell you that it is time to forget about the fate of unfortunate criminals and think of the victims, it is time to punish crime and compensate the victim, it is time to silence the criminal and listen to the victim. This talk about rehabilitation puts us to sleep or revolts us when we see that victims are obviously pawns in criminal proceedings, mere witnesses tossed about as the court case drags on and called at the whim of the Crown's lawyers.

We must finally see that the victim is the key person in the criminal trial when the crime involved a violation of the person or his property. The victim is the one who was assaulted or lost property, so the criminal's sentence should depend on the victim. The victim should be what drives the criminal justice system and gives society the opportunity to impose just sentences on criminals in order to prevent them and their kind from making more victims.

Countless pressure groups in all provinces denounce lawmakers for their laxity in treating victims of crime. It is time to think of the victims of crime.

Despite the public outcry, the calls for redress and the continuous pleading from these thousands of women, men and children who are victims of horrible acts, what does the bill give us on this score? A timid concession made very condescendingly, probably in the name of archaic common-law principles. That is why a victim's written statement on the damages suffered can be read during sentencing. If the public prosecutor wants to consider the loss or damage incurred, he can ask the judge to impose a financial penalty that would have the effect of a judgement rendered by a civil court.

All the groups dedicated to the protection and support of victims, mainly women, will tell you that such measures are quite simply insignificant and insultingly inadequate. They are insignificant in that they are trifling and ridiculous because they will have no real effect on the outcome of the trial and the judge's decision. What should be done, and I ask the House to set partisanship aside, is more radical.

That the victim has the right to examine the accused and the witness; that the victim may object to the admission of evidence and has the same right to contest the evidence as the prosecution and the defence; that the victim may make representations on sentencing and, if necessary, appeal the verdict and the sentence.

I may refer to the French penal system where the victim may take part in the proceedings. We see this in cases involving non-political crimes, and we saw this at the trial of the Nazi criminal Barbie for crimes against humanity, where survivors and parents of victims who had died took an active part in the trial.

Under this system, the victim is able to play an effective and active role in the proceedings. I am convinced that when the victim is able to take part in the proceedings on the same terms as the Crown and the accused, instead of being a mere witness, at the mercy of parties who do not share the victim's involvement, the outcome will not be the same.

I am not saying that the trial is all about the victim. It is not. I have no intention of introducing a concept in our criminal law that would be entirely alien. I am simply saying that the victim is one of the parties concerned, on the same terms as the Crown and the accused. There is no rule of law that justifies excluding the victim, and we cannot afford to do so if we are to rehabilitate the victim's status in a judicial system that still lets many criminals escape or diminish its authority; a system that most Canadians see as a sinister farce in which criminals and their lawyers "get away with murder".

I know that is not true and that the vast majority of offenders are found guilty or plead guilty. I do not deny that, but I have a problem with the way criminals are treated by the system.

What is the use of finding a rapist guilty of rape if he only gets six months? I find that outrageous, Mr. Speaker. Let the victim take part in the proceedings and, mark my words, there will be some major changes.

I will conclude on this note, Mr. Speaker, and I want to say that I am pleased nevertheless with this very prudent attempt which I see as a sign of progress, considering this government's generally conservative approach to criminal law and criminal proceedings.

I would have liked to take this opportunity to say that personally, the whole field of criminal law should be turned over as soon as possible to the provincial legislatures, but I will have plenty of opportunities in the course of this session. The usual unavoidable overlap between bureaucracies will provide a splendid excuse.

I also want to say that the Minister of Justice can count on my full co-operation in preparing legislation that would change the status of the victim in criminal proceedings. It is a matter of great concern to me, and I believe we urgently need to address these issues. I would ask all groups and individuals who share my concern to get in touch with me.

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12:40 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, there comes a time in the affairs of a nation when the opportunity is at hand to change the course of events. Most often at that particular moment, little notice is given and the significance of the missed opportunity arises only in retrospect when we search for the cause or the seeds of some disaster. Such may be the situation before us today with Bill C-41.

We have in this bill many technical amendments to the Criminal Code which the public may not deem as momentous or strategic. It will be interesting to see if the press gives this bill much more than a day's worth of print. This is a sad and disheartening situation. In many respects the Canadian Criminal Code is a national document, is a particularly Canadian creation and has been one of the things that has bound us together as a nation. How we as a society write down the limits of personal conduct and define our sense of national morals reflects the basic character of what it means to be a Canadian. The written code gives substance to the national sense of community.

In the Criminal Code we are dealing with life and death, with the very tools of peace, order and good government. In a most basic way it is an aspect of how we as Canadians describe ourselves, who we are. We are not American or European but distinctly Canadian in our interrelationships with one another in our local communities.

The Criminal Code is a statement of how we as a national community attempt to protect our society. The Criminal Code by reflection describes what Canadians hold dear and value. It can also reveal the limits of our ability to govern ourselves through our institutions. Unlike the United States and most of the less viable principalities of the third world, our Constitution does not include a lofty statement of transcendent national principles. Nor do we have a charter mythology.

We are very permissive in allowing our fellow citizens, provincial governments and business establishments, to fly the flags they prefer for allegiance or anticipated commercial advantage. We have disloyal parliamentarians in the Chamber who have given up on Canada and who are working to have the representative voice of their great province no longer heard from these desks.

July 1 is our Canada Day but some Canadians get more emotional satisfaction out of celebrating St. Jean Baptiste, Christopher Columbus or Robert Burns. No doubt for a few here and there it would be Queen Victoria or even Joey Smallwood. When a most gracious and forbearing lady visits one of the countries under whose constitution she continues to be the head of state, she is met by most Canadians with respect and adulation, some with indifference and a few with discourtesy.

If nationhood is sharing and Canadians seem to share few common sentiments, what are the bonds of Canadian association? It is meaningless to say we share a common territory, that citizens of Windsor share a common territory with their fellow citizens of Halifax or Yellowknife but not with their neighbours in Detroit, only because of the way the national boundaries are drawn. It is not very helpful to say that Canadians share a common citizenship without some account of the obligations and the privileges of that citizenship.

There is perhaps an alternative definition of nationhood. A national community is based on a sharing of claims both individual and collective. These claims are made against individual citizens, private groups and public authorities both within the nation and outside the nation. These claims are honoured by a structure of political relationships that acknowledges no superior authority. In the idea of shared claims and responsibilities we find the reality of Canadian nationhood in such places as the Statutes of Canada and the Public Accounts of the Government of Canada. Here are some things Canadians share.

The first is a national Criminal Code and rules of criminal procedure. In these are embodied some of the most important mutual claims of citizens and the Canadian community. Canadians share a common system of penitentiaries for the incarceration of those guilty of the graver offences against these laws.

Second, we have a national commitment to the Canadian social safety net to be implemented through joint action of the federal, provincial and local authorities. The most important elements are the various programs of income maintenance and the removal of financial barriers between citizens and their access to medical, hospital and educational services.

Canadians can move freely throughout the nation without thereby suffering a termination of health or income security benefits. Yet within these national characters Quebec has been permitted the freedom to go its own uncoordinated way and create duplication in medicare, unemployment insurance and immigration.

As Canadians we are proud we have a national commitment to the alleviation of regional economic disparities and to interprovincial fiscal equalization. We have had a national commitment to the support of the arts, letters and sciences, along with other creative activities in broadcasting, film making, et cetera. We have a commitment as a nation that wherever practical Canadians will have access to the Government of Canada and its departments and agencies in the official language the citizen chooses.

Through trade and tariff policies and national taxes we have a national assertion that Canadian capacity to produce can be shared on a nationwide basis. This list is by no means exhaustive. Other items might be added in terms of environmental policy, public legal aid, equality before and under the Canadian law, foreign ownership rules, the extension of broadcasting services to remote uneconomic areas and a national approach to international competition in sport.

Only in terms of national community is it possible to explain or defend the magnitude of the budget of Indian affairs compared to the absence of Canadian assistance to other traditional peoples undergoing the strains of modernization elsewhere in the world. Only national community justifies Ottawa's help for Newfoundland fishermen and its lack of help for the people in similar circumstances living in nearby St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Bill C-41 is certainly a measure of the view of the government about what it thinks is going on in our Canadian society and community. Amendments to the Criminal Code can be a measure of the government's sense of the need to move, to change or to alter the status quo. The bill represents the status quo, business as usual and perhaps maybe even a cynical view of Canada. It sends the message that the best we can do is a little maintenance and housekeeping, and that a sense of vision of a new and better Canada is not worth seeking. More likely the vision of a new Canada is not within the capability of the government.

The sense of urgency I hear from constituents about the grave need of government to mind the store, to take care of the business of the people and to reform the justice system is a theme that comes from every region of Canada. Like so many other things for which the government has lost the sense of proportion, the lack of fundamental inspiration to govern responsively is clearly evident in this timid housekeeping bill. It seems that the times have passed by the government. My

colleagues across the floor do not seem to have heard the cry from Canadians concerning law and order.

My Reform colleagues represent, therefore, a new wave of change. In Bill C-41 we can see the comparison that the government is stuck in the past. The bill is clear evidence that the old line parties which embody the old line attitudes and ways of thinking do not adequately address community expectations of today.

From this side of the House we have been calling upon the government to wake up. We call it to action to deal with the needless tragedy we are facing from debt and deficit, to rethink the responsiveness of our democratic institutions, and most especially to address law and order reform.

I am here to tell the government benches that the justice system is not sound. The justice system needs more than tinkering from a Bill C-41. There are few, save those within the professional criminal justice community, that have any respect or even basic tolerance of how the government minds the store concerning crime. They know the justice system does not work sufficiently well.

It is from within this context that Bill C-41 and Bill C-42 come to the floor of the House of Commons. It certainly is a measure of where the government is at. I do not need to get into name calling for evidence of inadequacy and the lack of vision is on the table for the nation to see. Bill C-41 will do little to respond sufficiently to what the community wants and needs. Here we have a piece of legislation that is interesting in parts, irritating in others, but utterly fails to respond to what the country is asking for in terms of reforming the criminal justice system.

The government desperately needs to get the machinery of the justice system moving to respond to community needs. I have heard the pleas of my constituents and have responded by stating them clearly in the House. The time has come for the government to listen to all Canadians.

At some point one must draw a line in the sand, draw attention to a bill and then the attitude it represents, the magnitude of the inadequacy, the missed opportunity and the disappointment of the community when comparing results with promises. The bill is such a disappointment.

As Canadians begin to understand that in bill after bill the same pattern emerges, that there is no vision or comprehension of what the community wants, they will likely elect Reformers in sufficient numbers to govern. The nation then can get on with real law reform and build a criminal code that would probably be half as long but clear and resolute, understandable and, above all, would operate in a manner that represents mainstream Canadian values.

The change that my election to the House represents is a new type of change. Reformers represent not business as usual, incremental change as reflected in Bill C-41, but discontinuous change that is not part of old patterns. The courage to make bold changes is sometimes confusing and disturbing, particularly to those in power and to those who are being left behind like the authors of the bill.

It is sometimes small, fundamental changes that can make the biggest difference to our lives. Even if it goes unnoticed at the time it is the changes in the way we view our relationship to our constituents that make the biggest difference in the way we legislate. If we can change the justice system, this nationally shared structure, we can demonstrate that in all areas we can build a Canada where all its citizens will want in for the goodness we share rather than want out to keep for themselves what serves their own purpose.

The discontinuous change I am talking about, the vision of a new Canada, may require upside down thinking different from the old patterns even if the bold changes appear not understandable or discordant at first sight.

Certainly the self-described Quebec militants on this side of the House have a quest that has outlived its usefulness. Their aspirations longed for in view of the problems we all face cannot be fulfilled by the passé dreaming of the militants for a former age. No longer can they squarely respond to the problems in a world of new international realities. We are all in the same boat. Indeed the ship of state is leaking and the tired ideology of the current government can only think of patching a little here and there as evidenced by the inadequacy of Bill C-41.

There is a leaner ship to be built of a new order of technology and thinking. For the militants to use a lifeboat to try to separate from the old ship will only bring them to a situation of drifting through rough seas in a small boat with no protection or capacity to ride the storm waves of international change. It will not accomplish the results they seek.

There is too much crime in Canada. We want safer streets. We want community mechanisms to break the cycle of violence. The Criminal Code sets the standards and the boundaries; our community institutions must fill the need.

Change begins with the recognition that a problem exists. In Canada everyone knows we have a crime problem that is at unacceptable levels. Our justice system is operated apart from the community. It is time the justice system accounts for its results and what it has done on a delegated basis on behalf of the community.

Who owns the justice system anyway in the long run? Crime, and society's response to it, is a big industry. A lot of precious community resources are spent on its seemingly unaccountable operations. The way it operates Canadians could believe that it is the insiders in the criminal justice community that run things for themselves.

We need an interrelated sequence of process in the administration of criminal justice that is simple and cost effective. There must be consistency in philosophy from the moment an offender has the first contact with the police to the time of final discharge. The new thinking required hopefully will bring a general policy which woven into the entire system would guide the various services with a uniform theme.

The community intuitively knows a coherent philosophy to integrate the various stages of administration of criminal justice does not exist. The system as a whole is more like subsystems within which pragmatic guidelines have been developed to enable the professionals involved to fulfil their occupational roles as they perceive them. This situation must change.

For example, what frustrates an outrageous public opinion is justice delayed. It is offenders roaming the community unaccountable. It is sentencing that does not reflect mainstream community values. It is the misplaced priorities of an offender focused system. It is a system that by its poor account of itself fails to earn the confidence and support of the community it is supposed to serve.

Specifically in the bill we have heard the government side describe the efficacious substance of Bill C-41. It is a reworking of Bill C-90 from the last Parliament. I like some things in the bill as it codifies what we have been doing in British Columbia for years, specifically alternative measures in the adult system akin to the provisions of the Young Offenders Act. In B.C. the crown simply exercises its prerogative to refer files to the B.C. corrections branch where probation officers will explore alternatives to court and arrange dispute settlement arrangements. We have even had some private contracts for offender-victim reconciliation projects.

The form of the law is now following the function of the law. However, what the government gives with one hand in modernization in this section, it takes away with the other by denying victims assistance in establishing responsibility in civil proceedings. Disclosure of records of diversions can be made to insurance companies but cannot be used to establish liability in civil proceedings. A nice double standard. The records of the alternative measures cannot be used in evidence in subsequent offences after two years. This is unacceptable.

Specifically section 718.2 goes in the right direction by outlining sentencing principles but the aggravating circumstances section is incredible to say the least.

A vicious assault based on hate criteria is to be dealt with more harshly than an equally violent assault that was done for money or just for kicks.

In this section interestingly the grounds listed are the same as in the charter of rights except this bill has added sexual orientation.

Section 718.2 goes in the right direction in part (b) by saying that a sentence should be similar to sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances.

This notion has always been an operative principle of argument at the sentencing stage of the court process. However, with our tremendous capacity to quantify statistics with computers we have the ability to produce a comprehensive sentencing grid of what currently is happening across the nation in sentencing. A rational sentencing grid that plots the hierarchy of offences with their prevailing tariffs against the culpability and history of the offender could go a long way in responding to the inequities of sentencing and the lack of public confidence in the system.

If there are no benchmarks to compare the principles of specific deterrence to the individual and general deterrence to the community it fails to operate very well. In producing a national sentencing grid document the community could then deal with appropriate retribution as distinct from revenge.

Retribution is based on the principle that the punishment should fit the crime and be properly meted out and controlled by the state. Revenge on the other hand is characterized by lawlessness and its excesses.

The government had an opportunity here to be bold in this respect and it has failed. This bill outlines old principles but then fails to provide the tools to accomplish them. Then to top it off the very next section in part (c) reads, and pay attention now because I know my community will chortle at this one: "Where consecutive sentences are imposed the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh". What is the sense of this type of language in the Criminal Code?

While I am talking about basic sense I can hear the insult to aboriginals inherent and implied in section (e) of this part: "All available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders". Here we go with paternalism again.

Further in this section it is time that a sentence including a fine, some jail and probation be possible rather than just two of the three. Again this bill fails to modernize and provide latitude for innovation.

It is heartening to see that in the last few years because of community agitation the victim is gradually being written into the statutes as having standing in law and a valid interest and stake in criminal proceedings. Nevertheless the wording of 722 prescribing what is permissible in victim impact statements is far too narrow.

Nowhere is the relationship of the victim to the offender allowed to be described. Neither are the views of the victim concerning appropriate consequences allowed to be heard. This paternalistic controlling view over victims at court is out of date and not worthy of this well intentioned but inadequate bill.

In section 722.1 a similar controlling attitude is reflected in the letter of the law where the clerk of the court shall provide a copy of a document after filing. At the behest and convenience of the author presentence reports and psychological evaluations should optionally be made available directly to the offender or counsel and the prosecutor. There is no need for the clerk to control or have complete ownership of the transmittal of documents. Here is another case where the law should follow function and practice but it does not.

In section 724(e) proof beyond reasonable doubt is unreasonably harsh for the crown to refer to any previous conviction by the offender. In the same vein section 727 is completely archaic and unnecessary as it does not accomplish any tangible objective.

It is an anachronism to have special procedure requiring the crown to give special notice that a greater punishment would be sought because a criminal is a repeat offender. There should be no such item in the code.

Section 732.1 is irritating in sub (3)(g) where an offender's permission is needed for the judge to be able to sentence them to a treatment program when offenders have specific problems such as substance abuse or sexual problems.

Sentencing is given to an offender in court on behalf of the community. There is not a community meeting to explore palatable choices to the likes of the offender. Here we have 1960s thinking again that invokes all the arguments about the utility of court ordered treatment.

We are long past this mentality with the vast experience of dealing with sexual offenders. I suppose the justice minister's advisers hang on to their old fashioned notions about criminals. The outdated principle is repeated again in section 747.3 concerning hospital orders.

Certainly a probation order should be able to be extended beyond three years for special cases. Under section 732.2(1) an offender can be called back to court by the initiative of the probation officer. The section allows the offender and the prosecutor to be heard in such circumstances, but what about the probation officer who initiated the proceedings in the first place?

When an offender is messing up or revealing new or previously undisclosed problems new, more onerous conditions should be allowed to be added to an order. This only makes sense but the law prohibits common sense response.

Additionally when a probationer violates the order of the court section 733(1) should involve a reverse onus provision for the offender to show cause why a sanction should not be applied for breach of the sentence and make the section parallel to section 742.6(9) of the breach of the conditional sentence.

Section 743 states: "Everyone who is convicted of an indictable offence for which no punishment is specially provided is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years". Simply put, it should read 10 years.

I now come to section 745.6. This section is so disturbing it alone brings the law into disrepute. This section allows first degree murderers to apply parole after serving only 15 years of their sentence. Private members' bills have been introduced to repeal this provision. There is little support from the community for this measure. I cannot emphasize enough how fast this procedure should be done away with.

The minister is all too well aware of the national feeling on this clause, yet he persists. It is utterly incredible and an insult to Canadians.

Section 750 spells out when holders of public office such as members of Parliament will be vacated for conviction. Five years in jail is a most lenient if not absurd standard. I suggest the mere conviction of an indictable offence should be sufficient.

Section 751.1 outlines the civil option to recover costs for defamatory libel. Of course unless the personal bankruptcy provisions are also changed in other statutes this provision is meaningless as it is for civil court judgments arising from deliberate and malicious harm.

This bill really does nothing to address bringing greater certitude to the criminal sentencing process. Despite the codifying and writing down of the purpose and principles of sentencing judges will still have too wide a latitude in imposing inconsistent sentences. The aggravating factors section certainly flies in the face of the principle of equality before the law.

How can we on this side of the House support this most disappointing bill? I call on the government to bring in some

amendments so we can speed the bill on its way. Let this bill reflect Canadian values and bring forward Criminal Code amendments that are needed, rather than just tinkering with the system.

A needed change for example is the category of sex offences that are just summary and not dual which removes these offences from the identification procedure. Street prostitution is dealt with by the issue of a street-side ticket, a consequence of the summary status of section 213.

In this bill where is the ban on replica firearms and the needed amendments to section 85 of the criminal use of firearms? Where is the section on the public disclosure with respect to dangerous offenders and also the designation of such to be done at any time during a sentence, not just at the beginning? Where is the provision for the collection and analysis of DNA testing? I could go on.

The picture is clear. This government is in no mood to give Canadians the legal climate desired because it is not predisposed to renew a system that we have inherited from its type of outdated thinking. Criminal justice in Canada is not particularly systematic. At the heart of the system is the necessary conflict between the competing value systems of crime control and due process.

The administrative and legislative responsibility for its functioning is fragmented between different agencies responsible to different levels of government and in some cases between a number of private organizations and different levels of government. There will always be the task to balance individual rights and the general security of the community. I had hoped that Bill C-41 would have clarified what is paramount in this regard but it does not.

The next step needed is to inculcate a sense of the interdependence of the criminal justice system with broader social and political processes which have an impact on every Canadian.

The criminal justice system in turn is part of a larger whole, the social forces such as health care, education and welfare services which bear upon the quality of Canadian life.

Those who have the disposition to resist the disintegration of the Canadian community from within or its absorption into the maw continentalism from without have for too long been on the defensive. We have been too slow in formulating the credentials of this glorious community, too bemused by academics who would rather define it out of existence, too preoccupied with the emotional, symbolic and cultural dimensions in nationhood.

It remains that as far as the political order is concerned, there is only one Canadian question. How can the over 27 million people who live within our national boundaries establish and sustain governmental institutions which are at once humane, effective and responsive?

The times now require a national community to be held together by a national government of a first class, triple-A rating; one that is approachable, accountable and most of all affordable. The bonds that we do have, the national values and national commitments of this country, are concretely embodied in particular measures for honouring the mutual claims and responsibilities of citizens and governments for each other.

If the present claims and ties can be sustained and new definitions agreed upon such as a renewed justice system, Canadian nationhood may need nothing more to reflect the greatness of the human spirit working together in common enterprise.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege and honour to rise in this House to speak to Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code, sentencing and other acts in consequence thereof.

Legislation regarding criminal justice reform has always been of great importance to me. The legislation before us today on sentencing reform is no exception to that rule. As stated in our red book, this government has committed itself to introducing a broad range of crime and justice initiatives to reserve Canada's growing crime and violence rates.

People across this country have said that they want significant changes to the criminal justice system. Thankfully this government, through the work of my hon. colleague, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, has not only taken the time to listen to the people but we are doing something about it.

So far this government has introduced legislation in several key areas of criminal justice such as the recent amendments to the Young Offenders Act, amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and amendments to the Immigration Act. These initiatives are reflective of a balanced, fair and reasoned approach to the changing and challenging times and of course our criminal justice system.

Bill C-41 marks yet another important step in the delicate process of criminal justice reform. As the minister has indicated, the proposed legislation contains a number of key provisions including a statement of purpose and principles, measures to strengthen the level of fairness in our system of fines, greater penalties on offenders who have breached their probation, the introduction of conditional sentences, clarification of rules of evidence and procedures for sentencing hearings, as well as amendments to part 23 of the Criminal Code in order to create a more coherent and understandable method of documenting provisions related to the sentencing process.

Perhaps the most significant provisions of Bill C-41 are those related to enhancing the rights of victims. In this regard the Minister of Justice has proposed what I believe to be unprecedented amendments to section 745 of the Criminal Code which

deal with early parole hearings for persons sentenced to life in prison.

During the last Parliament through my private member's bill, Bill C-330, I attempted to introduce similar changes that at the very least would allow victims of violence to present information during a judicial review or early parole hearing.

Consequently I applaud the minister's intent to amend section 745 of the Criminal Code in order to provide victims of violence with the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the criminal justice system by presenting victim information when convicted criminals apply for early parole consideration. This measure will ensure that victims of violent crimes have the opportunity to speak out about the harm done by the offender. This means that the victim's experience will be taken into consideration when deciding whether the parole eligibility period should be reduced.

This particular provision also has been advocated by various victims rights' organizations and advocacy groups such as the Canadian Police Association, which has publicly acknowledged the merits of the proposed amendments to section 745 of the Criminal Code.

In fact, as I speak, right in downtown Hamilton in my riding of Hamilton West, the Canadian Police Association, the Centre for Victims of Crime and CAVEAT, an acronym for Canadians Against Violence Everywhere Advocating its Termination are concluding a three-day conference on various criminal justice issues including victim's rights and parole reform.

Today representatives of the 150 or so conference delegates will be tabling further recommendations to the federal government that will help us continue along the challenging road of criminal justice reform.

According to National Parole Board statistics there are over 2,000 offenders serving life sentences in the Canadian correctional system. According to the National Parole Board, on average approximately 40 offenders per year will be eligible to apply for a judicial review over the next 15 years. At the beginning of this year there were 128 offenders eligible for a judicial review.

The sheer volume of impending parole eligibility hearings which will take place in the immediate future necessitates swift action in the area of parole reform.

Crown attorneys tell me they are not prepared to handle the workload that is about to come crashing down on them. That is why it is necessary to take swift action.

Getting back to the statistics, as of March of this year, 42 decisions were made on early parole applications by first degree murders. Of those 42 decisions, 32 parole eligibility reductions were granted. That means 76.2 per cent of the offenders who applied for early parole consideration had their parole eligibility period reduced.

Many questions arise from this scenario. For example in each of these cases and in the first instance the accused must be convicted of his or her crime by a unanimous jury decision. Yet at the judicial review early parole consideration can be granted to that first degree murderer based on only a two-thirds decision of that jury at judicial review. Why?

In my humble opinion the status quo is unacceptable. I look forward to addressing these and other equally compelling questions when Bill C-41 is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

The government recognizes the shortcomings of section 745 and is ready, willing and able to initiate the ongoing process of change.

In closing I would like to encourage my hon. colleague, the Minister of Justice, to vigorously pursue his criminal justice reform agenda by continuing to weed out those inappropriate provisions such as section 745 of the Criminal Code in order to develop a balanced, fair and reasonable criminal justice system in this great country of ours. In doing so the government will fulfil its commitment to the people of Canada who have so passionately expressed the need for meaningful and progressive criminal justice reform.

With the support and co-operation of the concerned members of the House, the challenging work going to be faced by members of the justice committee and indeed the concerned citizens throughout this nation I am sure we will be able to meet the challenges we face in the process of rejuvenating Canada's criminal justice system.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-41 which is an amendment to the Criminal Code regarding sentencing.

I want to focus specifically on what the hon. member had touched on in his speech, that is, section 745 of the Criminal Code. This bill leaves section 745 in the code which makes a mockery of the term life imprisonment.

In 1976 the government abolished the death penalty and assured us that society would be protected by sentencing murderers to life imprisonment with no chance for parole for 25 years. However Bill C-84 which was to accomplish this contained a little known clause which created section 745 of the Criminal Code.

Section 745 nullifies the term life imprisonment and grants murderers the right to apply for parole eligibility after serving only 15 years of a life sentence. Section 745(1) of the Criminal Code reads: "Where a person has served at least 15 years of his sentence he may apply to the appropriate Chief Justice in the province in which the conviction took place for a reduction in

his number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole".

This section makes a complete mockery of the so-called life sentence which was a trade-off for the elimination of capital punishment in our statutes.

One parliamentarian in support of section 745 called it "a glimmer of hope if some incentive is to be left when such a terrible penalty is imposed on the most serious of all criminals". This parliamentarian reflects the typical, irresponsible, unaccountable, bleeding-heart mentality that underlines so much of the legislation passed in this House over the last 25 years, including our parole system, our Young Offenders Act, our Immigration Act. The same mentality has created the federal debt of half a trillion dollars and produced a budget that will add $100 billion to that debt in the next three years.

This irresponsible, unaccountable, bleeding-heart mentality has ignored the rights of the victims of crime, their families and society. This is the type of mentality that has betrayed our country. What murderer ever gave a victim a glimmer of hope when he or she viciously tore life from the victim?

Did Norman Clairmont give the 19-year old Potts girl a glimmer of hope when he brutally and savagely murdered her in 1978? No he did not. Did Larry Sheldon extend a glimmer of hope to the nine-year old girl he raped and murdered in 1974? No he did not. Did Charles Simard offer a glimmer of hope to the two teenagers he murdered in the province of Quebec? No he did not.

Now these murderers are lining up to take advantage of a glimmer of hope they denied our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, a glimmer of hope provided by irresponsible politicians and governments.

Murderers, rapists and vandals lose all their rights the moment they launch their deadly attack upon the life of another. In spite of this undeniable fact, we have watched the bleeding-heart politicians restore the rights of these criminals through legislation devoid of common sense, legislation like section 745 of the Criminal Code.

In a judgment rendered on April 28, 1994, Judge Demetrick of the Alberta Provincial Court declared that portions of the definition of a firearm contained in section 84(1) of the Criminal Code is so convoluted as to be "legal fiction" and "twice removed from reality".

How is it possible that the Government of Canada is producing legislation so convoluted that it is declared by our courts to be fictitious and twice removed from reality? The answer to this question is that the thinking that is producing this type of legislation has to be equally fictitious and twice removed from reality. It is the kind of thinking that comes from an ivory tower mentality, the kind of mentality that produced the Young Offenders Act, the Immigration Act, the national debt, this government's approach to gun control legislation. It is the kind of mentality that produced section 745 of the Criminal Code which returns rights to the murders of Canadian citizens.

In March of this year the hon. member for York South-Weston introduced a private member's bill to get rid of section 745 of the Criminal Code which gives convicted killers the right to apply for early parole. I can tell the House that this member has a great deal of support from our party and I believe from Canadians all across Canada. We will watch to see how much support he has from his own governing party.

We will see if the ivy tower mentality, the twice removed from reality mentality identified by Judge Demetrick still controls the agenda in the Liberal caucus. If it does, then the only alternative the people of Canada have is to wait until the next election and remove this government from power as decisively as they removed the Tories from office in the last election. I stand in opposition to this bill.