House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.


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3:30 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I sometimes wonder whether we all are speaking the same language even when we are speaking English. I thought I said-and I have said it over and over again-that I am opposed to automatic parole. There is no such thing as automatic parole in the country. I never suggested at any time in my entire life that anybody be paroled automatically.

What I was saying and what I continue to say is that I believe at a certain date people should be eligible to go to the parole board and present their case. They would have to show they were totally rehabilitated and no longer a danger to society. If they cannot demonstrate it then they are not paroled. The last thing I would recommend would be releasing into society on parole people automatically, simply because they had reached a date.

At the end of a sentence is a different thing which I will deal with in a moment. I have never recommended automatic parole for murderers and I will not. I assure the hon. member of that. He may have read things like that, but I have never recommended that.

I have recommended the right to apply for parole at 15 years, just as they have the right to parole at one-third of sentence. For example, if they have a six-year sentence they can apply at two years. It does not mean they are going to get it. The parole board will hear their case but it may say no.

We hear of certain cases where people have gone before the parole board six times and were turned down six times because they were still bad actors. All the evidence that comes in on them with respect to their case before the parole board is that they are not ready for parole. I support that. I do not believe in automatic parole. I want to put that to rest.

The member raised a good point when he said that some people have demonstrated by committing their crimes that they are not good and need some time in prison. I agree with him.

Violent individuals who committed crimes of violence should be kept in prison, but they should be given a system of treatment or correction which, when they go back on the street, will mean that they will be safer. They will be less likely to commit the crimes that they went in for.

There are provisions. We find, for example, that the rate of literacy in prison is very low. People have a very low rate of literacy, very low education. They do not have trades. If we can help them in prison to learn trades, learn how to work, learn to live like ordinary people who get up in the morning, go to work, save their money, and learn the skills of ordinary people who live in society, we will be doing a great deal.

If we have a system of release whereby they are released with support when they go back in the community, whereby they have parole officers who will help them get jobs, get settled, reintroduce them to their families and so on, we will have less chance of crime when they return to society.

I believe in keeping people in prison, but when they are in prison they must be given a program that will help them do better when they get out.

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3:35 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce has a great deal of experience in this matter having served as Solicitor General of the country.

He describes to us the American system which most of us regard with a considerable amount of concern and is obviously not providing a sensible solution by building more prisons and having longer sentences. It seems to be an infernal industry in the United States. They create the crime. They create the crime chasers and then they create the incarceration. There is no end to it.

The member gave a very cogent description of the problems in Florida and the juxtaposition of a death penalty in the morning and a murder in the afternoon. I understand his point about the lack of deterrence.

We also have the problem of the Canadian public desperately trying to understand what we can do. In our inner cities today we are confronted with serious problems. In my own riding of Rosedale I have serious problems in downtown Toronto. At a time 15 years ago gunshots did not ricochet off downtown buildings. Now there are women and children who are afraid to walk around at night in parts of downtown Toronto. It is no good to say we will seize all the guns. Admittedly that is a start but only a start. There will always be guns there.

Has the member found another model? Does he know of somewhere else? Is there some other model that he can draw to our attention from the depth of his experience that we could be looking at, something concrete to which we as Canadians can turn to address the problem of the violence that is getting worse in our inner cities and not react in the American way?

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3:35 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Rosedale. As I said there is no quick fix for increasing criminality. If we delude our citizens into believing there is a quick fix we deserve condemnation.

If we suggest to them that we can solve the problems of crime in the streets in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver simply by amending provisions of the Criminal Code or by making the sentence 20 years instead of 10 years which they have done in certain American states, if we suggest that is a solution and five months later there is even more crime, we are not serving our public very well.

We must show leadership in the House on these issues. We must deal with the causes of crime. We must make sure that we have child protection acts that intervene at an early age when children are being abused or when they start going wrong, whether it is eight or nine. They have such an act in Quebec called the Child Protection Act. I am sure they have one in Ontario which deals with children under 12 who are lower than the age for the Young Offenders Act.

Whether these are children going from foster home to foster home, whether they are abandoned by their families, or whether they are caught up in drugs or whatever, we have to intervene quickly to try to prevent these things. We also have to make sure that we have proper educational systems, employment policies and so on that help turn people to productive ways of life and not criminal ways of life. That is the model I suggest but it is not a quick fix. It means we have to spend some money but it is money that will show dividends. If we have safer communities in the long run it is money that pays off.

There may have been some terrible crimes in Toronto in recent years but I have looked at the statistics. Toronto had somewhere between 50 and 60 murders last year. It is a city of over three million people. If we compare it with Detroit, Cleveland or New Orleans, those communities have over 500 or 600 murders per year. Toronto is a safe city compared to those others.

I do not show any sort of toleration for the terrible murders that took place in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or wherever, but the rate of crime is much lower than it is in the United States, maybe because we have traditionally taken an approach that was not simply a criminal justice approach.

We have had broader social programs and better educational programs. When we talk about the United States, criminal law is a state matter unlike here where it is a national matter. Some states in the United States have much better programs and systems than others. I referred to the ones that were very punitive and did not take a preventive or rehabilitative approach. There are some states that do and do much better, by the way.

If we look at states like Minnesota, some New England states and some other states there are much lower rates of crime per 100,000 than some southern states with very tough, long sentencing policies.

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3:40 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley and the other members of our caucus will be on during the time allotted for 20 minutes.

It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to address some remarks on Bill C-41 that deals with sentencing in our criminal justice system. The Minister of Justice is to be congratulated for bringing the bill forward at this time and for his other attempts to deal with young offenders and with restrictions on firearms.

While we may not always agree with the minister's proposals on this side of the House, there is no question that he is giving us food for thought. I cannot help but think that if the current Minister of Finance was working this hard on behalf of the Canadian people the deficit would be well under control.

In any event, we are here to address the various aspects of Bill C-41. I would like in my remarks today to address some of the positive aspects of the bill and then deal with some of the deficiencies-at least deficiencies as I see them-that hopefully can be cured when the bill is dealt with in committee.

As my colleagues have pointed out, one of the most important, positive elements of the bill is that for the first time a statute will contain a statement of the purpose and principles of sentencing.

There is nothing new in this statement, but it does codify the existing law and will provide explicit direction to judges in our criminal courts on the principles that must be applied in each individual case. While this is a positive aspect to Bill C-41, there are a number of negatives that I hope will be addressed in committee.

When I talk to my constituents about the criminal justice system the comments I hear most often concern the lack of predictability about sentencing. This lack of predictability can range from comments on different lengths of sentences being imposed for similar crimes, to comments that sometimes express outrage at the short amount of time some criminals have to spend in prison.

People feel that like crimes should be treated alike. That is, if a white collar criminal steals through breach of trust he or she should receive the same sentence as any other person convicted of theft. I know that in some cases white collar criminals do receive stiffer sentences than others, but because of the way our system operates most of the sentence is served on the street and not in prison.

White collar criminals should spend their sentences in prison. This is the deterrent aspect of sentencing: accountability or being held responsible for our actions. Our criminal justice system must send a clear message to all who are contemplating the commission of a crime that if you do the crime then you must do the time. It is time spent in incarceration with no special treatment.

The second issue raised by constituents deals with the length of time served in incarceration. We are all aware of anecdotal evidence of people being sentenced to long prison terms and then in a very short time they are back on the street. Our system seems to be full of opportunities for criminals to manipulate it so they do not spend nearly as much time in jail as the judge or those who are victims originally believed the convicted person would spend in jail.

Bill C-41 addresses this issue to some extent by allowing victims to make representations at early parole hearings.

Why should we put victims through this trauma? Indeed, why should there be early parole hearings at all? When a person has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, what is wrong with that person serving at least seven or eight of that 10 years before looking at parole or other means to put the person back on the street?

This raises a question. Should offenders of violent crimes be paroled at all? Should their sentences be reduced? Today more than ever before we are made aware of the anger of all Canadians when offenders of violent crimes are out on day passes or paroled at a very early date or receive a reduced sentence and a violent crime is the result. One death from the hands of a violent

offender who should not be out on the streets of our country before his or her sentence is up is one death too many.

The people of Canada want to see some measure of certainty in the system and this bill does not provide it for them.

Another point that I take issue with is the aggravating factor of hate in relation to the sentencing for some crimes. We in the Reform Party believe that we are all created equal. No group should have more rights than others. It makes no sense to me to grade severity of punishment on the basis that the victim belongs to a protected class. Can it be any worse to kill or wound a person of a protected group than to kill or maim someone who is not in a protected group? I do not think so. If a crime is committed, the criminal should be punished and the public should know that if you commit crime x then you get y years. Maybe that is too simple for our seemingly complex society today but it is the way we see things on this side of the House.

I heard Tuesday in this House that if a crime is perpetrated as a result of hate against the individual, there should be a harsher sentence, a stronger sentence. As I understand the example given, it was a member of the gay community who was brutally beaten causing death.

I ask the House to consider the senseless death of a 31-year old Coquitlam man, I believe it was Mr. Niven, who outside a convenience store was brutally kicked and beaten to death just recently. Is there any difference in the savagery of such a crime? Can we really state that one is worse than the other?

Does one deserve a harsher penalty than the other? Has not in each case a man been brutally beaten to death? Is one life worth less than another? I sincerely hope not. Is not all life precious and of equal value? I sincerely hope so.

We are also concerned that this bill allows provinces to establish alternative measures programs. Again, such a system while in theory its goals may be laudable will create unevenness in the system. Some crimes in some provinces will be treated differently than similar crimes in other provinces. Again, there is enough uncertainty in the system. Let us not introduce more uncertainty.

One glaring omission from this bill is that when a crime is committed and a firearm is used, a longer sentence should be automatically required. The Minister of Justice talked about this in relation to gun control. So have those who are lobbying for stronger restrictions on the use of firearms.

At this point, I want to refer to the recent report released August 25, 1994 by the Correctional Service of Canada. After it had completed its investigation report into the escapes from Ferndale Minimum Security, which happens to be in my riding, two prisoners, Timothy Denis Cronin and Michael Kelly Roberts, walked away from the institution May 3.

They were subsequently picked up in Salem, Oregon and charged with the murder of an American, all within the short time they had been free. Both men had been convicted of violent offences, each having used a firearm in criminal offences for which they were convicted. Why were these two inmates in a minimum security institution?

One of Robert's psychologists in 1979 stressed that Roberts should remain in a maximum security institution.

These are the findings of the investigation: "The board concluded that, notwithstanding the best judgments of staff and the advice of psychologists and psychiatrists in the cases of Roberts and Cronin, their placement in a minimum security institution was inappropriate and in one case was based partly on an assessment tool being incorrectly applied".

I am pleased that the error was admitted to and recommendations made to try to prevent such happenings in the future. I quote statement number eight of the report: "The Correctional Service of Canada should adopt an approach which incorporates both intensive supervision and clinical service for new arrivals and higher risk cases in minimum security".

This is the action plan: "No offender who is generally of high risk should be in minimum security". I wish it had ended there. It went on to say: "However, it must be recognized that some offenders who are suitable for minimum security require more attention than others".

I find problems with that. Upon reviewing the percentage of the types of crimes committed by the inmates of Ferndale I found that 43.8 per cent of the inmates in Ferndale institution are still there and they are violent offenders. I would presume as murder or violent death formed over 29 per cent of these offences that many of these crimes would involve a weapon, more than likely a gun.

Who will be the next high risk offender to walk away from Ferndale? When will we start to put the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of the rights of criminals? Again I stress that if one more high risk inmate walks away from Ferndale minimum security prison in Mission, as they can easily do, and another death of an innocent victim is the result we are paying too high a price.

This bill would have been the ideal place to put in a provision which requires longer, harsher sentences for crimes committed with a firearm. This is perhaps the only restriction on the use of firearms which directly affects those who use firearms the most, criminals. It is high time we addressed this part of the gun control issue. I hope the government will make the bill stronger.

In closing I believe it is time that we had a comprehensive bill dealing with sentencing and, as I have said, this is a good start. In the months to come I look forward to receiving other initiatives from the Minister of Justice, perhaps in the areas of appointment of judges and proposals to reduce the tremendously high cost of our legal system. These will have to wait for another day.

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3:50 p.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has indicated that people engaging in white collar crime should do the time. Earlier today her colleague from the constituency of Wild Rose indicated that perhaps there are mechanisms other than incarceration to deal with non-violent offenders.

How does the hon. member explain the inconsistency that has been brought forward by her party on a single day?

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3:50 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. for his question.

Yes, I did make that statement. I do think that all people who commit crimes must pay for those crimes and must be incarcerated. However if the occasion should arise, and I say if the occasion should arise, that in our institutions we are overcrowded then the logical thing would be to look for avenues to relieve that overcrowding. Logically we would then find a way for non-violent offenders to spend time in another way. Within the community would be an excellent way to do it but only if we find we do not have places in the prisons for them.

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3:50 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I was quite interested in the comments made by the hon. member. We are informed that there are fewer resources now available for incarcerating people in our prison system. We are aware that it costs approximately $50,000 a year to keep a person in prison.

We are faced with overcrowded prisons. We are also talking about the possible increase of 30 per cent over the next few years of incarcerated people in our prisons. However we also know that in the United States where they have reduced actually the levels of liberté conditionnelle, as we say in French, that their levels have not been very satisfactory, that is to say that even if they are not allowing them to leave prison, the crime levels in these states have not decreased.

I am also curious to find out why the Reform Party believes that by not having gun control as we propose that crime levels will actually fall. I find it very curious that we are more concerned about sentencing when we should be concentrating on trying to control the use of firearms in society. If we were able to register firearms in this society we would have better control, but now we are more concerned about sentencing people who have already committed a crime. This is what I found illogical in the arguments presented by the hon. member.

I would like to know how they can reconcile the fact that we do not have to control the use of firearms as proposed by the minister, by this government, but we are better off trying to spend more in terms of sentencing and throwing people into prison when we could simply reduce the murder rate in this country if we had a real serious and comprehensive bill and law controlling the use of firearms. I would like to hear the member's comments on that.

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3:55 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

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

You mentioned two or three things. First, I was very concerned every time you mentioned control of firearms. What you are really saying is that we prevent law-abiding citizens-

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3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I would just like to remind members on both sides of the House that when intervening to direct your comments through the Chair.

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3:55 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

I apologize, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize to the hon. member opposite.

What I would like to stress is that I find this whole situation very disturbing because I have respect for every member in this House. I try to think that you say what you honestly mean and you honestly believe, as I try. When I say that I mean we have in Canada today responsible gun owners. Every time we put laws in force on firearms we hit at them one more time. That is not acceptable. We have to find another avenue. You can never justify putting more laws in place that will withdraw rights from law-abiding citizens. You cannot justify that in a just society.

As far as this business of overcrowded prisons goes, is the answer because we have overcrowded prisons to open the doors and release them? Did that not happen in Russia in 1917? Are any of you aware of what happened in the small villages around the steplands in Russia to all of the innocent people? Think about it for a minute.

No, we do not open the doors. We do not let prisoners out. We try to convince even the young people of today who because they are under age can go ahead and commit any crime they want because they cannot be held responsible. We do not start a new slogan: "Do the crime and spend less time". Instead of that we stick with what we have and we make it better. We show that people have to be responsible. There is only one way and that is to serve your time. If you are not guilty of a violent offence then it is possible to look at other avenues of serving. I think we can do that but we have to work together seriously on it.

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3:55 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could be as generous as my colleague in commending the government for Bill C-41, but I find it is like many other pieces of legislation. It is a mere camouflage. It is a

life sentence tinkering instead of truly changing a system that needs to be changed.

I feel that Bill C-41 will not make those substantive changes that Canadians are expecting of this government. However, the true value of Bill C-41 will be and must be measured by whether it will provide safer streets for Canadians. I personally do not think that it will.

I would like to concentrate most of my talk this afternoon on one aspect of the proposed legislation and that is crimes that are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. I agree with everybody that we need to condemn that type of crime, but we should not be creating a hierarchy of victims in doing that.

Section 15(1) of the charter of rights states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection. I feel that Bill C-41 is going to change this. It will say that there are certain crimes against classes of victims that are worse than the same crime against other classes of victims. I would suggest that is against the fundamental principles of the charter of rights and that is that every Canadian has the same equal right to protection under the laws of Canada.

An example of how this could be applied happens more regularly than I would like to see. That is the home invasions which are occurring in the Vancouver area. Individuals, either alone or in a group are breaking into homes and terrorizing the occupants. They are not waiting until the homes are empty. They are breaking in when people are at home and they terrorize the homeowners and steal all the valuables. Many of these home invasions are committed by Asian youth gangs and they are targeting Asian members of the community. That is bias and it is victim selection. That would be considered an aggravating factor under Bill C-41.

In another instance there is gang activity. They indiscriminately invade homes, again harassing the victims and stealing all of their valuables. There is no aggravating factor yet that crime is just as serious and just as damaging to the victims.

They are two equally deplorable crimes. But one gang would get stiffer sentences because they were more selective in their choice of crime.

Judge the act. Judge the criminal activity, not the motivation. By judging the motivation we are delving into a risky proposition and it smacks of Orwellian thought policing. We are treading on very dangerous ground when we start to invade what we think are people's thoughts.

I would like to know whether this is there for the profit of lawyers and self-styled psychologists and psychiatrists who will soon become legal experts on this subject. Why should senseless assault be viewed as any less serious than one that is biased, based on bias, prejudice or hate?

We would have fewer problems with considering crimes where offenders abuse the position of trust with the victim to be considered aggravated. The Minister of Justice used adults and children, doctors and patients as examples. I would hope that he would also consider lawyers who abuse their position of trust with clients and politicians who abuse their position of trust with the electorate as other examples of breach of trust that should be considered aggravating circumstances.

Not only special mention of classes of victims but special consideration of aboriginal offenders also concerns me. This seems to offend the equality section of the charter. I am not suggesting there is an over-representation of the native population in our prisons, but I do not think this is the way to deal with it.

I spent 15 years in northern Alberta living in a native community. I have more experience than most on the inequalities and injustices that our aboriginal people face. They would be the first to agree that the problem is not solved in legislation. The problem is solved in the administration of justice.

I would like to give another example to consider. Suppose two individuals with identical criminal records participate equally in a crime, but one is aboriginal and the other is not. Does this legislation mean that the aboriginal offender would be given a lesser sentence even though he participated equally in committing the crime? What about an aboriginal offender who commits a hate crime? Does the mitigating factor of being aboriginal cancel out the aggravating factor of it being a hate crime?

We should not even be asking those questions. It is not for us to question the motivation of a crime. We must judge it on the act itself and make sure that every Canadian is treated equally under the law, that the law is not looking at race, colour or gender.

Generally I agree with incarceration being the last resort. I am well aware of the potential overcrowding in our prisons and the ongoing concern of what that will mean, but to suggest that we only want violent criminals in our jails only addresses part of the problem.

However, this bill does not in any way deal with white collar crimes. In those cases financial penalties may not be enough in themselves to deter fraudulent behaviour by corporations or people who ought to know better. Those people can easily pay a fine and need a more substantive deterrent than just paying some money.

I had hoped for more in the sentencing package. I had hoped for a greater recognition of the concern of Canadians that we need to have more control over violent offenders, that we need to

have some measure of deterrent, and that we need to consider that all Canadians should be treated equally.

The prime purpose of sentencing should not only be to have a penalty for the act but there should also be a deterrence factor. We cannot omit the deterrence factor in our sentencing legislation.

Sentences, like probation and prison terms are effective in the short term but long term supervision is needed. When a person is given a prison term of two years as the appropriate sentence for the committed crime, they should serve two years and an additional sentence of community supervision should be added on to that.

One might say that is similar to what parole is now. However there would be a greater acceptance and understanding by Canadians if they knew the courts deemed the penalty for a crime was x number of years and then deemed that the criminal would be assisted in getting back into the community under a period of supervision to be determined by the courts. If that happened there would be much greater acceptance for some of the sentencing that is handed down.

Serious violent offenders should have a lifetime of supervision. People who have committed murder or vicious assaults against another person should be under lifetime supervision in addition to their sentence. If Canadians were assured that long term supervision was being provided they would be a little bit more willing to allow offenders back on to their streets.

Although Bill C-41 is giving direction, it certainly does not go far enough. I wish this government would have a little bit more strength and a little bit more courage in making the tough decisions that have to be made.

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4:05 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel constrained to make a couple of comments on the content of the last address. There are some fundamental errors in terms of what information has been promulgated in that argument.

First of all, it is very important when discussing parole and the issue of when or whether someone might be paroled to understand that parole is, in effect, a community based continuation of the sentence. A person who commits first or second degree murder is sentenced to prison for life. If he or she subsequently is paroled, they continue serving their sentence in the community under the supervision of parole officials.

It is misleading to suggest that a person who receives parole after 15 years is suddenly absolved and walks away. There are limitations on that individual's behaviour which are set out under the terms of the parole. His or her life is supervised. They can no longer simply live wherever they want or associate with whomever they want. They have to report regularly.

That part of the system may have strained resources. There may be other ways to strengthen or improve that system, but a person who commits murder is punished for life by the combination of incarceration and ongoing community supervision. It is misleading to suggest there is any other structure that somehow absolves that person at the conclusion of their jail term.

I would also like to point out that a false example was given of the amendments which relate to crime which is affected as a result of hate. In the example the hon. member gave of a home invasion perpetrated against members of a particular ethnic group, there would not be an automatic increase in penalty, nor would the issue of the victim's race come into play unless the prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of the court that the crime itself was motivated by the hatred of a member of that group. To invade the home of a person of a particular ethnic group may not be motivated by hate. It may just have been the most convenient place to hit on that particular night.

It strikes me that the government is absolutely right in recognizing that crimes motivated by specific hatreds of race, of sexual orientation or any of the other specified classes is particularly heinous in our society.

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4:10 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am little concerned. I am hearing the government suggest the same crime may be considered more heinous simply because it has a bias or hate or prejudice attached to it. I would like to think the crime itself is heinous no matter what the motivation or no matter who the victim is.

One thing I would like to address is there are people who have killed. Perhaps they did not get murder one or murder two. Perhaps they got manslaughter for the convenience of the courts or whatever reason, but the point is there are people who have killed and have been sentenced for five or six years. With mandatory supervision or the legislated statutory release they will be out on the streets after two years.

Canadians do not like to see that. They want some sort of protection. Maybe this person made a mistake and did not mean to do it but surely to god there should be some supervision to make sure it is not going to happen again.

Canadians are concerned because there are people who do get out and are on the streets without any supervision. May I mention the name of Mr. Larry Fisher who is out wandering the streets without any supervision because the law does not allow that supervision. I would suggest that is what Canadians want this piece of legislation to do: make sure the streets are safer by protecting them from people like him.

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4:10 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 is yet another fulfilment of Liberal red book promises. It is part of this government's safe home, safe streets policy. This policy in connection with our plans and our actions in the direction of job creation and our fundamental respect for

human rights-I see the member to whom I was addressing my remarks is leaving in any event-gives Canadians the comfort of the quality-

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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. Regrettably I was not possibly paying as close attention as I normally would. Certainly with regard to the presence or absence of members in this Chamber, we well know the demands on our time for House duty, committee duty and so on. Therefore, we should all be mindful and respectful of one another in terms of our coming and going, presence or absence in the House. I would ask all of us to keep that in mind in our interventions.

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4:10 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, these policies dovetail together rather nicely to give Canadians the comfort of a better quality of life.

Canadians trust our right hon. Prime Minister and our government to deliver on our promises. That is evident by our presence in the government and our strength in the government. Indeed we published these promises in the red book and Canadians can literally check them off as we deliver on them.

Our job creation programs can be seen across the country in our infrastructure works which are completed and which are in progress. As promised by the Prime Minister the country is starting to feel better about itself. I might point out that nowhere is this more evident than in Windsor, Ontario where unemployment is down, welfare claims are down and crime is down.

Jobs mean prosperity and prosperity reduces the stress in our society. Sometimes as is the case today it is necessary to deliver legislation which seeks to aid Canadians to feel safer and to correct inadequacies in the system where they exist. This is the reason for Bill C-41.

Canadians need reassurance. Canadians need comfort. I would suggest that Canadians do not want this reassurance and this comfort to be at the expense of human rights. The government has consulted Canadians across the country and found out that Canadians are concerned about certain aspects of our criminal justice system. Canadians are not hysterical. Canadians are not narrow minded. Canadians believe that there are some injustices in our system. Canadians believe that aboriginal people for instance receive inappropriate sentences disproportionately.

Canadians believe that poor Canadians are sometimes treated more harshly by the courts or by the system than Canadians of financial substance. Canadians think that we should seek some alternatives to custody in certain circumstances. We also know that Canadians do not want all crimes to be treated the same way. Canadians recognize that the quick fix is not possible.

They recognize that there is a difference between crimes and they draw that distinction often based on the presence or absence of violence in a criminal act. They know that there are often compelling reasons to promote an offender's rehabilitation over his or her punishment. At the same time they want consistency in sentencing and a rationalization of the process.

This bill comes to grips with these expressions of public opinion through amendments to the Criminal Code. First and foremost, these amendments set out a general statement of principles and purpose in the sentencing process which covers rehabilitation, the segregation where necessary from society of certain offenders. It covers restitution. It covers the actual promotion in a convicted criminal of a sense of responsibility for his or her acts and it denounces unlawful conduct while deterring both the offender and others. At the same time it recognizes certain fundamental principles that Canadians have told us they are interested in upholding.

The sentence must reflect the seriousness of the offence. The sentence must reflect the degree of responsibility of the offender. The sentence must take into consideration aggravating or mitigating circumstances. The sentence must at least consider alternatives, especially for aboriginal offenders. When a crime is motivated by hate based on race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, disability or sexual orientation Canadians want it to be punished accordingly.

The Minister of Justice has considered all of these factors and has presented a bill which respects the wishes of Canadians and the rule of law. There is no quick fix. Our friends opposite would like us to think that there is a quick fix, a year is a year and a day is day. There are always circumstances that require flexibility. There are always circumstances that require us to take off our punishing hat and put on our rehabilitating hat.

I would suggest to our friends opposite that as they consider the fiscal bottom line they consider the difference between the cost of rehabilitating someone over the long term to our society versus keeping that person indefinitely incarcerated with no programs and no opportunity to recover.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce spoke eloquently this afternoon about attacking not only the results of criminal activities but also the causes of criminal activities. We hear nothing about that aspect from the benches opposite.

Members opposite make it all sound so easy. Just throw them in a cell and throw away the key. This I would suggest is the result of simplistic thought and, quite frankly, knee-jerk reactions. The funny thing is it is not even what Canadians want.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, I would suggest, hit the nail on the head when he said that crime is not just a justice issue, it is a health issue, a human resources development issue and it is a human rights issue.

In Canada, sadly, some groups do not enjoy the same advantages as others because of social class, colour or a variety of other reasons. Canada is a much better and freer country than many others, most others for these people, but we have to recognize that not all of our citizens have the same advantage.

Canadians have recognized this and Liberals have recognized this. That is why we do not offer these amendments in a vacuum. When we look at Bill C-41 we also have to look at the movement that we are making to rationalize the national health care policy and the extensive social safety net reform that will be introduced shortly. This social safety net reform is intended to deliver better social security in our country. The rest of the country can then follow the example of the greater Windsor area, less unemployment, lower welfare payments, fewer welfare cases and a lower crime rate.

It is not as easy as our friends opposite make it. We cannot jerk our knee and solve the problems with a simple saying or a simple quote. We have to be versatile and we have to be flexible. I would suggest to members opposite that is exactly what the hon. Minister of Justice has done here and that it is consistent with what Liberals do and it is consistent with what this government has done and will continue to do in the future.

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4:20 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a clarification with respect to allegations made toward the Reform Party's view of this.

I do not think that any of us have ever made the statement or even intimated that it is a simple thing, you just throw them in jail and throw the key away, as the hon. member stated. That is not an accurate description of the feelings or convictions of people in our party.

I challenge the member opposite to think about the real issues that are involved here as we are trying to do. How do you solve the problem of crime? One of the most fundamental areas in which we have failed our young people, who then become older and at whatever age become criminals, is that we are no longer strongly teaching them by example and by word what is right and what is wrong. I am finding that even in present law making there is this intimation now that we are going to have laws that will prevent parents from spanking their children.

I do not in any way condone violence against children but children will learn to obey and respect authority if they are taught in a loving way with firmness.

That is how I was taught and that is very important. That is where we need to work in order to empty our jails. We need to make sure we have strong, loving families. I would like to see this government really emphasize that end of it. Perhaps the member has some comments on what I have just said.

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4:25 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, one way we can ensure Canadians develop a strong, loving base in the home is to provide homes that are safe and prosperous. One of the problems we have that we see time and time again in our society is as there is less prosperity, as the economic and other stresses are placed on a family, when they cannot find food, when they do not have sufficient warmth, when they do not have sufficient shelter, when they do not have the basic, fundamental things that families require in which to thrive, then other things develop.

Parents become busy working harder or trying to find ways to bring food into the home, to raise money to support their children. They have less time for their children. It is important to accept that the issue here is not the result of crime or the criminal act itself.

The issue is making that go away, making this a better society, so we do not have to deal with it anymore. If we can do that by reforming our social safety net, by creating jobs and by making it a better country in which to live economically and socially, by acknowledging for instance that some crimes are motivated by hate and by trying to come to grips with those types of problems, then we can make it a better society, a better country, stronger families.

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4:25 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was not aware of whether I could get up twice in these situations, so thank you for that lesson.

I am wondering if one of the pressures that we have control over-when I say we I mean the Government of Canada-is in the area of financial pressure. There are many parents who are forced to work because of the huge tax load they face among other things.

Perhaps what we need to do as a fundamental root, way down deep solution to this problem is to manage our financial affairs to reduce the tax burden so that in those families where those stresses occur they could be reduced. Perhaps those who choose could then remain home with their children to provide them with a good, secure, solid, loving environment in which to grow up.

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4:25 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I happen to agree with the hon. member in terms of the basic premise that there should be lower taxes. I do not think there is anyone in this Chamber who would not like to be able to help lower taxes right away.

I also agree there are families now forced to have two incomes in order to make the same sort of home that our parents perhaps made with one income. There is no question about that. Let us not cross that line. Let us not assume that all families have two working parents because one of them is being forced to work.

There are many families that exist today because two parents want to work and have careers. That is a part of our changing society. I see heads nodding. I see some agreement, which is pleasant.

I must point out that without the social safety net we cannot provide the atmosphere in which these parents can work. That is why we need-this will be a little segue here-to have some form of national child care standards so we can make sure that families with two parents who want to seek careers can have the type of support they need for their children. Then they will know their children are secure and living in a healthy and safe environment and they can continue to pursue their total goal as a family unit.

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4:30 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stayed down long enough to give everyone else an opportunity. I really want to challenge that because it is undoubtedly true that if we do pursue this goal of national child care, nothing is going to do more to drive taxes up and put pressures on families higher. We are defeating ourselves and I strenuously object to that.

Certainly in the other areas, there are some families-I am thinking particularly of single mothers because we have so many of them now in our society-who have no choice. We must bend over backward to do what we can for them.

I do not, however, buy into the premise that the only way it can be done is by the taxpayer being plucked by the government to provide the service. There have to be many other ways to solve those problems.

Coming back to the bill that we are discussing, I would like to also say with respect to criminals that when they finish their time, we need to recognize that we are not going to put everybody in jail for life, no matter what they do.

I agree certainly that we must do something to get them ready to integrate back into society. Here again I would have a very good low cost solution to propose, particularly for people who are guilty of non-violent crimes. I would propose that they be placed into the keeping of good loving homes. It is a requirement. It is their sentence. They would spend their time there instead of in a jail so that they get a model of how life ought to be lived.

With that, I am going to quit this time. I promise.

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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Do not make too many promises now just for this time. Certainly I sense if this dialogue and debate went on between the two members who have been rising on the floor that we would find some points of disagreement.

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4:30 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel like I am going to a dance here. I thank the member opposite for allowing an opportunity to engage in this dialogue even though it is in a very structured environment.

I must say that I cannot think of very many acquaintances or friends who would want to open their houses to persons such as my friend is suggesting. However, it is not an idea that should be dismissed.

These are the types of creative ideas that I suggest this bill envisions. These amendments provide for great flexibility and versatility in terms of sentencing arrangements.

In Windsor, which is where I am from as members know I am sure by now, we have some very creative and excellent judges on our provincial court and our general division benches. Some have worked very hard to find alternative sentences within the limits of the current legislation.

As a result, we have seen in our community many community-based solutions that have been promulgated by those judges and by some programs and social workers whom we have in our community. The result is that we have had an opportunity in our community to look very closely at alternative sentencing structures.

This has been an eye opener for me as a criminal lawyer, both as prosecutor and as defence counsel. These have been very productive types of programs. I would suggest that my friend opposite has an idea that is worth exploring.

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4:30 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in a document published in May 1993 from Ottawa the Prime Minister, in an election mood at the time, said: "Safe streets and homes should be a basic right of every Canadian". As he noted Canada's 40 per cent increase in violent crime he said: "Since 1984, the Conservative government has done almost nothing to combat the growing crime rate except half measures and lots of macho talk".

The Prime Minister has served Canada in this House for over 20 years. Perhaps some of the influence of the Conservatives in proposing half measures has rubbed off on the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

Bill C-41 in its intent and as far as it goes has many things that are supportable. I submit, however, that with this as with other legislation currently before the House, the Liberals are consistent. They are moving. I believe that is because the Reform Party members are listening to their constituents and are saying things on the floor of the House of Commons that typically have never been said here before. Through the pressure of the voice of Canadians being brought to this Chamber by the Reform Party the government is moving but, I submit, in half measures.

Let us reflect also on what my leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, was saying in 1992. While speaking in Belleville, Ontario on the issue of reforming the criminal justice system he proposed the two following things:

Number one: Reformers believe that a better balance should be struck between the amounts of public money spent on the apprehension, care and protection of the perpetrators of crime and the amount of public resource spent on helping the victims of crime. Combined federal and provincial spending on jails alone is about $2 billion a year. Police spending is $1.7 billion for the federal government alone. The court costs another several hundred million dollars each year, whereas the resources committed to helping or compensating the victims of crime are minimal.

The second thing he said was that sentencing and parole procedures should be reformed. He said: "We have proposed that automatic parole be eliminated altogether; that 25 per cent time off for good behaviour be the maximum amount by which a sentence can be reduced; and that sentencing guidelines for judges and juries be improved to ensure greater certainty and consistency in sentencing".

These proposals are in line with the recommendations made by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in 1987 but largely ignored by the federal government.

I believe that in 1993 when my leader made those comments that they were reflecting the values and judgment of Canadians just as they reflect those same values today in a more substantive way than is evident in the bill currently being considered by the House, which I have judged to be a half measure.

On the first issue raised by my leader that there must be a better balance struck between the money spent on criminals and their victims, I would like to present a couple of ideas. First, I think quite frankly that there is a problem in our wonderful free and democratic society with our news gathering systems and media. They have to set their own agenda and perhaps have to sell their newspapers or their advertising time on television.

Unfortunately, we have articles, for example from the Ottawa Sun on March 12, 1994, a two-page article outlining communications telling of a complex person expecting to emerge from jail as though her past and her crimes will be erased. It published a whole series of Karla Homolka's letters. In those letters there appeared, for example: That card fits perfectly with my Mickey Mouse posters. Hey, I'm getting Sesame Street towels and sheets on Friday. My room is going to be the most juvenile in the whole institution but, hey, I like it that way.'' Another letter:I'm growing bangs, or at least I am trying to''.

This kind of sensationalism by the news media in my judgment does a major disservice to this whole issue. I believe that the fundamental tenets of our society are based on freedom of speech and access to information. But I challenge the news media in the way that it takes that information, distorts it, twists it, sensationalizes it and sells more issues of its newspapers by so doing. I do not think that is excusable.

However, there are responsible articles. I refer in the context of this speech to one from the Toronto Star dated June 26, 1994. I read in part:

Rick Sauve, serving a life term for murder, is the first lifer in Canada to earn a university degree behind bars.

Friedman, one of the people who was an instructor to him and who used to teach classes inside prison, said:

The greatest reward is when I talk to someone who has gotten an assignment back and they have got a 65 per cent and they are pleased as punch and say `wow, I can compete with those guys'. It literally brings tears to your eyes.

Claire Culhane of the prisoner rights group in Vancouver believes strongly that the public should support prisoners' attempts to get post secondary education. Our policy now is to warehouse them. If you are doing 10 or 20 years, are you supposed to sit there and vegetate? If they do not want tension in prisons they have to provide something for everyone.

The second part of the article is that in May Sauve was granted the right to apply for parole. A hearing will be held later this year.

There are two fundamental problems here. I do not want to comment on the issue of this prisoner receiving the ability to be able to have the resources to get his university degree but I suggest that it is hard to imagine that the family of Rick Sauve's murder victim earned a university degree at government expense as a result of the loss of their loved one. What has the government been doing in terms of looking after them in the same way that the offender is currently being looked after?

I am not discussing the issue of whether Rick Sauve should have worked for his university degree. The issue I am raising in this case, as in others like it, is how much time, money and government resource is put at the disposal of victims versus the money and resources put at the disposal of the perpetrators.

The second issue is what my colleague from Fraser Valley West said on Tuesday. He made it very emphatic. Life is life, or at least it should be. Yet we see from this article that Rick Sauve was granted the right to apply for parole. We see a measure in this legislation that victims will be allowed to make representation at section 745 hearings.

While this is an improvement I believe that section 745 should be repealed in its entirety. The judge at the presiding jury or judge trial should have the ability to be able to set the sentence. The sentence should not be overridden at some future

point in time by people who were not party to the case in the first place.

This brings me to the second issue which my leader raised. Surely there must be some ultimate protection for law-abiding members of society.

In a paper produced by the MacKenzie Institute entitled "Streets of Fear, the Failure of the Criminal Justice System" the author, Brode, cited some very interesting examples of the problems with sentencing procedures in Canada.

Two Nova Scotia cases recently underline the inadequate judicial response to attacks on women. In Regina v. Swinamer a man forced his estranged wife into a truck and threatened to kill her. She escaped. Charged with unlawful confinement he was released on condition that he have no contact with his wife. Again he captured her. He drove her to a secluded area and raped her.

At his sentencing the court considered the offender's situation, that he had already spent five months in custody and had a good work record. His sentence, three months' imprisonment and 19 months' probation.

In Regina v. Desmond the husband had severely beaten his wife, thrown her out of the house. She suffered a fractured shoulder and pneumothorax of the lung.

Again it was the offender's situation that mattered for the trial judge considered that it was his first offence of this type and that he could lose his job if in prison. His sentence, 90 days to be served on weekends and two years' probation. This man except by the grace of God would have murdered his wife and he gets 90 days' sentence and two years on probation.

In my home town of Cranbrook this past weekend there was a march of citizens concerned about family violence. They were looking for changes in the criminal justice system and to see that inadequate sentencing for sexual assault is carried over into sentences for spousal abuse.

At an Ottawa conference on women's safety a couple of years ago Chief Brian Ford said that a first offence for assault on a wife usually results in a suspended sentence. Those for drunk driving are stiffer. Inexcusable.

What the government today is missing is the understanding that the late Judge Les Bewley observed, and I quote: "The control or reduction of crime depends on three essential elements: the certainty of detection of the offender; the speediness of the trial; and the certainty of punishment". He goes on to say: "These were all observed and taken for granted 30 or 40 years ago". Not any more.

I would like to introduce for consideration of members today the concept of retribution because the Liberal concentration has totally smothered this concept.

Take for example events which occurred in 1989 and 1990 in Perth, Ontario. Kenneth McLean, the convicted killer of Ruth Moore, had originally been convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 13 years. McLean had told friends: "If I cannot have her, nobody else can". He strangled her and then stabbed Ruth 24 times.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial because of technical errors in the judge's rulings. At his retrial McLean pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and thereby became eligible for parole in another 18 months or released on mandatory supervision in three years. In effect, he would serve six and a half years for Ruth Moore's death.

The victim's family was outraged and violence almost erupted in the courtroom when the new sentence was imposed. The presiding judge, Dan Chilcott, sympathized with the family. He told them he understood their feelings of outrage but then he added: "Retribution plays no part in our system as far as I am concerned".

About retribution the Mackenzie Institute says: "Retribution is the root of society's motivation to punish those who seriously breach our standards of accepted conduct. Retribution is not revenge, for revenge is arbitrary and self-seeking. Retribution is a measured response to a past offence imposed after due process and it is proportional to the gravity of the offence. It does not gratify individual loss. It enforces the legal order and reflects society's abhorrence to violence. To grant lenient sentences is to say that violent acts are acceptable and are not to be truly punished".

Again, there was a recent incident in my hometown of Cranbrook. An individual had been sitting with his ex-girlfriend. She decided to have a bath. Following an argument he went in and shoved her face down in the water. She smothered to death. I grant you he confessed to the crime, but after both the crown prosecutor and the defence asked for a five-year sentence for this murder, the judge in his wisdom said: "Oh, no that is not good enough. We are going to give seven years". What is this? What is a life worth?

When we have lost the concept of retribution, of making the penalty fit the crime, we have lost an essential element of our judicial system. All judges should understand they are on the bench to administer retribution. Courts do not exist to sympathize with the criminal, but to adequately punish for a wrongdoing.

The greatest deterrent to crime is not necessarily the severity of punishment, rather it is the certainty of punishment. The prevailing system of parole and automatic remission of sentence has made punishment uncertain and in many cases unlikely. The

danger lurking in the criminal's mind that he will pay the prescribed penalty for his act simply is not there. He knows the parole system will spare him even in so-called life imprisonment. The criminal justice system therefore becomes a deception. It leads the public into believing that criminals are being punished and it shields the criminal from paying the penalty.

I wish to introduce the major reason I will vote against this bill and in conclusion I want to briefly address the declaration of this bill, that where crimes are motivated by hate this is deemed to be an aggravating factor. The minute this House strays from the fundamental principle that all Canadians are equal regardless of race, language, creed, colour, gender or religion, we open up the entire Pandora's box of inequality.

Let me give an example which was reported in

B.C. Report magazine on September 12 of this year. George Mammolitti, the 32-year old NDP MPP from Toronto who spoke out forcefully against Ontario's same sex benefits law before it was defeated in June has been the target of harassment, abuse and threats.

The magazine reported that after the defeat of the bill Mr. Mammolitti received about 300 abusive and threatening phone calls often in the middle of the night. Many of the callers uttered racist epithets and told Mr. Mammolitti to go back to Italy. He was also sent a handwritten note containing a threat to kill him in front of his children. Police determined the note had been mailed near the legislature but were unable to determine who had sent it.

Mr. Mammolitti has call display telephones in his office. As a result, Craig Smith, assistant to the associate culture minister, Shirley Coppen, was found to be responsible for at least some of the abusive calls Mr. Mammolitti had received. When Mr. Smith was approached he admitted to making the calls. He was suspended with pay for three days and no criminal charges were laid.

The hate provision strides into very dangerous territory. It pits members of supposed majorities against citizens of appointed minorities. A victim is a victim and a perpetrator is a perpetrator. If the shoe had been on the other foot, if Mr. Mammolitti supposedly representing the majority of Canadians had been going after Mr. Smith supposedly representing the minority of Canadians, Mr. Mammolitti would have been in serious trouble. As it is, it does not work that way.

What are we doing getting into this with this kind of judicial law? When a person's head is kicked in, it is kicked in. Curbing is a very gross action which I believe is coming out of the slums of New York or the American inner cities. The victim is put down with the back of his head to a curb and then someone applies boots to his forehead with great force. Something has to give. A murder of that type occurred in Coquitlam within the last three months.

Now I ask: What possible service does this law serve? If the people going through due process are convicted of that crime, what possible service does it serve our society? Does it serve the victim's relatives? Does it serve the offenders if the judgment of the penalty is based on whether the victim was an identifiable minority? Clearly these people did it out of hate. Was the victim just an ordinary guy and these were a bunch of goofball fools who took this person's life? Well that is okay, we do not have to give them as tough a penalty I suppose but remember, the victim is still dead.

We are entering into very dangerous territory with this particular provision in the bill. I truly understand the motivation, but my father said it best: You cannot legislate morality.

In conclusion this is a situation of half measures. It is dangerous because it raises expectations of citizens. That leads to lost hope which when these half measures do not work leads to loss of faith in law and order.

If I could have the attention of members opposite I will make them an offer. I will provide the Q-tips for cabinet if they pledge to use them so they can hear what ordinary citizens are saying. Canadians want an end to the half measures this bill represents.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before proceeding to the period of questions and comments to the hon. member for Kootenay East, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Yukon-Transport.