This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #227 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was punishment.

Topics

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, not only is that opposition party trying to take Quebec out of Canada but it is also disrupting the House, and I see no need for it.

I referred to the amendment of the hon. member for Wild Rose, the amendment we are debating today. It is absolutely and totally unjustified that the member from the Bloc would interrupt me after I made the connection.

The amendment of the member for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine which we will be debating later calls for full term detention for those convicted of sexual offences against children because serious harm is understood. For all other cases serious harm must be proved in court. It is time serious harm is understood for more of these serious crimes.

I fully support the amendment of the member for Wild Rose. His amendment will put some of the much needed common sense, accountability and responsibility back into our justice system. His amendment takes into account the rights of the victim, an individual who is all too often forgotten in our so-called justice system.

The Reform Party believes that the rights of victims instead of the rights of criminals must receive the highest priority in our justice system. When the rights of the victim and the rights of the criminal are in conflict, the rights of the victim must in all cases be given the highest priority.

The amendment calls for the offender to pay 30 per cent of his or her income as restitution or for psychological counselling for the victim of a sexual assault, aggravated assault or sexual assault with a weapon. This common sense puts some responsibility where it belongs, with the offender. Thinking about this amendment, I wonder why on earth the offender even gets a salary in the first place.

When we talk about common sense and accountability in our justice system, I am reminded of an interesting editorial written by Ted Byfield in the September 11 issue of the Alberta Report entitled ``Memo to Allan Rock: Please check out what's going on in New York City''. The editorial deals with the opposing concepts of the root cause of crime. I quote from it because it sums up the Liberal philosophy and shows why our justice system is in such a mess. The editorial discussed effective deterrents to crime as does the hon. member's amendment:

Back in the '60s our sociological experts made an amazing discovery. Crime, they found, is caused by poverty and social circumstance. Criminals are therefore not responsible for what they do; "society" is responsible. Any notion of "blame" for a crime was thereafter reflected, or at any rate, any blaming of criminals. The idea of "punishment" was summarily jettisoned. Crime called for counselling, understanding, sympathy, not punishment. No longer must we think primarily of protecting the public from the criminal; we must protect the criminal from the public.

This type of thinking has been the theme of the politically correct and is still held by the Liberal government as it was held by the Conservatives and the NDP before.

Mr. Byfield went on to explain that this type of thinking has placed us in the mess we find ourselves in today. He cited the experience of William J. Bratton, a former police office who was the security director for the New York subway system and is now the police commissioner of New York City. Mr. Bratton took the advice of two rogue criminologists who advocated cracking down on petty crimes because it would send a firm message on what kind of behaviour would and would not be tolerated.

When Mr. Bratton was the security director for the subway system he began cracking down on so-called petty crimes like graffiti and panhandling. The incidence of crime on the subway fell almost immediately.

After five years, Mr. Byfield writes, serious felonies fell by 64 per cent and robberies by 75 per cent.

By giving harsh punishments for serious crimes, this also sends a message to criminals that serious crimes will be met with serious punishments. This is the theme the hon. member for Wild Rose carries into his amendment.

Mr. Bratton continued this policy as police commissioner and the city experienced very similar results. The drop in crime has been very dramatic. Yet as Mr. Byfield explains, the criminologists were not pleased with the results. In the words of one criminologist it would verify the contention that crime is somehow a voluntary activity, that crime does not represent in any way the drives and forces and compulsions that are beyond the individual's control.

This is a quote from a criminologist speaking out against the view that we should be tough on crime. To repeat, in the words of this criminologist, being tough on crime would, with the results found in New York City, in the subway system and later in the city, verify the contention that crime is somehow a voluntary activity, that crime does not represent in any way the drives and forces and compulsions that are beyond the individual's control.

This reminds me of the Liberal idea that crime is motivated by poverty and other socioeconomic factors; society is at fault, the criminal is not responsible for his or her actions. On the other hand, Commissioner Bratton's view about the root cause of crime is very simple. Mr. Byfield believes the root cause of crime is criminals. I agree with him, although I recognize there are individuals who have experienced abuse and neglect which may lead them toward a life of crime.

However, ultimately it is their own conscious decision to commit a crime. It is within the limits of our self-control to choose not to commit a crime. The choice is made by each one of us, every day, and each one of us should be held accountable for our actions and decisions. The law must be changed to recognize this, that each individual has the freedom of choice when it comes to committing crime.

As a result of the focus on the rehabilitation of criminals instead of protection of law-abiding citizens, our society is living in fear of criminals.

If we are looking to point a finger of blame for the breakdown of our justice system, or maybe it should be more accurately called our legal system, we could point to a lot of people. When looking at our law makers, members of Parliament who have sat in the House, we can point to all of those members who have supported legislation based on the politically correct but incorrect assumption that the cause of crime is anything but the criminal and that the criminal somehow does not have the power to choose not to commit a crime.

If I were to pick a pivotal time and a pivotal statement, I would look to a former Liberal solicitor general, I believe in 1972, Jean Goyer, who consciously changed the focus of our justice system from a top priority of the right of citizens to feel safe and be safe and the rights of the victim to a new focus in which the rights of the criminal and rehabilitation of criminals were given top priority.

This is a sad commentary not only on the Liberal government of the time but on all governments since that time. I believe it is time now for a political party that is willing to change the focus back to the right of citizens to feel safe and to be safe to take control.

If the government does not do what Canadians want and if it refuses to change the focus back to what it was before the Trudeau government, we will be the government that will make this change. It will happen sooner than most of the members across the floor would like to believe.

I support fully the amendment of the hon. member for Wild Rose.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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 the hon. member for Frontenac-Agriculture.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to take an undue amount of time in the Chamber this afternoon. However, there are two or three thoughts in my mind I would like to express to the members present.

There is an amazing paradox I would like to address for a moment. In an age when so many people benefit by proclaiming themselves to be victims of the system, victims of misfortune within their families and victims of circumstances, people who are victims caused by circumstances completely beyond their control, caused by the criminal activity of others, are almost if not totally ignored by the state and by their community.

People who have suffered enormous loss of property, health, vitality and life within themselves or of family members, which leaves them grieving for the rest of their lives, are given no credible attention. They are given no opportunity to express their loss. They are given no opportunity to recover from that loss. No one seems to be responsible for them. They are left to their own resources.

The attitude of some members of the House really startles me; an attitude of impatience as we talk about the victims who suffer the losses we all know about. The attitude in the House reminds me of a ruling class that does not care about what is happening to the

hurting of the people in our communities. I find that attitude deplorable.

When hear the parliamentary secretary to the solicitor general say it would be too cumbersome, too problematic for some department of the government such as the parole board to figure out what compensation might be, I consider this to be nothing more than a lame excuse, not taking seriously the suffering of people who had this brought on them through no fault of their own.

There seems to be an attitude that those who commit crimes have no responsibility to the victims. They may be called to account by the courts but for the damage, the suffering, the hurt and the loss they have caused they have no responsibility.

We live in an era when we talk about people not being able to protect themselves; this is the job of the police. The consequence of that in rural areas like mine is that people are left defenceless if they keep the law. Yet when they become victims of this foolish notion there is no recourse for them. They are left to their own resources.

Until we as a nation of individuals are called to be accountable and responsible for what we do, what we do to other people particularly, we can see there is no motivation to care about what happens as a result of our misdeeds, of the crimes committed.

I call on the House to think about what responsibility means, to encourage our citizens as well as ourselves to be responsible in the small things certainly but in the large things as well.

I support this amendment because I believe those who commit horrible things and do irreparable damage and who cause victims should be responsible to those victims for the rest of their lives until those victims are on their feet or have regained what they have lost.

Let us in the Chamber be responsible. Let us be concerned about the victims in our communities. This is not an idle thought that has simply come to my mind. I as the member representing Cariboo-Chilcotin and Reform members are trying to represent the thoughts of our constituents who are saying give the victim a break. Give the real victim a break for a change. Take them into consideration when they have suffered loss and hurt. Simply wash the idea away that the criminal is the victim because the criminal is the one who has known what is right from wrong from the beginning and who chose to do the wrong thing. Make that person responsible. Give the victim the break.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I assure my hon. colleagues from the Bloc and from the Liberal side that I probably will refer to Motion No. 1 no less than eight or nine times during my speech. I am sure the hon. member will be checking that.

I am pleased to address Motion No. 1 to Bill C-45. The motion put forward by my colleague from Wild Rose deals with clause 25 of the bill. We find in the bill clause 21 in its current form that would see deductions from the pay cheques of inmates who are involved in work programs within our prisons, deductions to go back to the prisons to pay for their room, board, clothing and things like that.

Like my hon. friend from Vegreville, I find it astounding, as I am sure do many Canadians who probably do not know about it today, that we are paying prisoners at all in our prisons. If someone commits a crime in Canada they are sent to prison as a punishment, although not for long enough, and now many Canadians will be astounded to find out they are actually getting paid.

The first thing that comes to my mind is whether this could possibly be another Liberal job creation program. The Liberals talk about their duty to create jobs. The Prime Minister has said they will give jobs, jobs, jobs. Now we find out our prisoners are getting paid. I did not know until today. The first thing I thought of was Liberal job creation. Now I understand. I find it unbelievable that prisoners are having a Canada pension plan. Are they having unemployment insurance deductions paid for them as well?

The main part of this is that they are being paid at all. Thirty per cent of their pay is being deducted and going back to the prisons. Nowhere in the bill can I see a significant acknowledgement as far as compensation to the victims of crime.

As my hon. colleague from Wild Rose stated in his motion, the least the government can do is recognize the victims in a meaningful way. The amendment put forward by the hon. member for Wild Rose would deal with that 30 per cent. I would rather my colleague had put 100 per cent in his amendment. One hundred per cent of anything paid to a prisoner should go to the victim of the crime that prisoner committed. I would have been happier with that than 30 per cent.

I would like to address the principle of the amendment. It is an amendment which would recognize compensation for the help which many victims have to obtain at their own expense following a crime. In the event that the victim of a crime has died, there should surely be compensation to the family to help them get over the trauma.

Motion No. 1 would see the clause amended so that the 30 per cent deduction would be redirected toward the victims. This is very important since we have seen that the bill does not effectively address the rights of victims. Motion No. 1 would see the 30 per cent turned directly over to the victim or the family of the victim

should he or she be killed or the family is left in a difficult financial situation as a result of the offence.

Every day all across the country millions and millions of Canadians are crying out for justice. Every day across the country hundreds of thousands of victims of crime are left having to compensate themselves in some way for what has been taken away from them by a criminal act. Sadly, all across the country there are victims of crime who have died. They cannot cry out any more for compensation for the death which was caused by the crime. Their families are left to cry out for them and indeed they are crying out.

The government had an opportunity to do something about this situation but it has not in the bill. This is typical of the way Liberals deal with the criminal justice system.

It is always the victim who is left out when it comes to reforms to the Criminal Code, the Corrections Act or the Conditional Release Act. The Reform Party has said for years that the obligation of a government in formulating and creating a criminal justice system which works is to have as the number one priority of the criminal justice system the protection of society and indeed the protection and care of the victims of crime. In this country the number one priority of the criminal justice system is to look after the criminals, to look after the perpetrators of crime.

At one time we did have a criminal justice system. We had it until Mr. Trudeau and his Liberals came into the House. They thought they would rearrange things to make it a more just system. Just for whom? Just for the criminals. In this country when criminals need a friend they call a Liberal. That is the way it has been for more than 25 years. Those colleagues who sit on the opposite side of the House know it. There are many lawyers over there. They know it. They know what the criminal justice system is all about. They know it is made for the legal system.

Every once in a while a government gets a chance to do something about the criminal justice system and in this case a chance to address the victims of crime. Because of their weak-kneed, bleeding heart philosophy the Liberals do not have the guts to turn away from the Trudeauism which has been instilled in that party for the last 30 years. We have heard from the gutless wonders across the way.

Our policy on victims' rights has been clear from the very beginning. As I mentioned earlier Reformers have always stated that victims should be compensated for the crimes committed against them. We have even extended this principle into the stand we have taken on the Young Offenders Act. We have also argued that the Young Offenders Act should include the payment of some form of restitution to victims. The Liberals have not heard this because in their opinion someone who commits a crime is not really to blame because it is society that made them that way. In the Liberals' minds individuals are not responsible for the criminal acts they commit because society has made them that way.

That is why we see our justice system in a complete shambles. We see serious criminals being let out on early parole. We see reoffence after reoffence because of the justice system members of this Liberal Party and the Liberals here before them chose to run with. They have ignored the cries of millions of Canadians. They are ignoring the cries of the victims of crime across this country.

As we talk about amending clause 21 in Motion No. 1 Liberals are making jest of it. They are making jest of the fact that our party believes that victims of crime deserve recognition and compensation. The very idea that they make jest of our motion which was put forward in a most sincere fashion to try to establish a form of compensation for victims of crime is an insult to the victims of crime. They should be ashamed of themselves.

As I have said before there are many lawyers in that party. In their real lives they dealt with crime on a daily basis. They have seen the victims of crime. They know what we are talking about but because their philosophy leans more toward the rights of the criminal than the victim they make jest of our motion.

I have no problem whatsoever in recognizing the many victims of crime, the people who become victims of crime on a daily basis. We ask that all members support Motion No. 1 which deals with clause 21 in Bill C-45.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on Bill C-45, amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act but it is also a disappointment. Once again we see another bill that shows the government is engaging in its usual modus operandi which is to do window dressing.

As I spoke about yesterday this bill can be viewed as a metaphor for governments not only here but in other parts of the world. There is one thing I have discovered since being in this House. When we have a problem do we address the problem? Do we find the best solutions in the country, apply them to that problem and implement those solutions if only on a pilot project? The answer is no. We nibble around the outside of the problem and make it look like we are actually doing something. We study it, examine it, report on it but do we truly act on it? No we do not.

The reason governments do not act on the problem is they are afraid of rocking the boat and incurring the wrath of usually a minority within the country. It is a shame and a disservice to every Canadian that we are engaging continually in this behaviour.

I would say to the government that you would win enormous points in the public's favour if you were truly to address the problems that affect us-

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would ask the hon. member to please put his remarks to the Chair rather than using that horrible word you.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my apologies, it is early on in the year.

The amendment to clause 21 in Bill C-45 which we wish to put forward addresses the victims of crime. It ensures that they truly have a legal standing within the system. It is unfortunate that this bill does not truly do that.

We want to give this bill teeth. We want to make sure that this bill has action, that it is going to actually address the problem. Therefore my colleague has put this amendment that would enable victims to have 30 per cent of whatever moneys the offender earns during incarceration. Those moneys would be applied to the victim.

Personally I find that insufficient. The moneys that should be applied which are earned by an individual who is incarcerated-and personally I find it amazing that they are actually earning anything at all-should go to two areas: one, the victim and two, the state, to provide restitution to the state for moneys that are spent by the state to incarcerate that individual.

The public might be appalled to find out that for adults incarcerated in a federal institution it will cost $60,000 to $70,000 per person per year. If it is a young offender that number jumps to $90,000 per young offender per year. Why should the public pay for that?

Here we have a solution which our party has put forward, that those moneys can be used for the victim. I believe other moneys should be used to be applied to the costs incurred by that individual being incarcerated.

When I worked as a physician and as a correctional officer in prisons, I found it absolutely appalling how the system failed in so many areas. It failed to prevent crimes from occurring. It failed in the restitution to the state and the restitution to the victim. It failed also in imparting to criminals that with their actions there is a responsibility for those actions. If a person is willing to commit a crime, no matter what their background is their past history does not exonerate them from the actions they have taken. The action they have taken almost always produces a victim.

That is why we are putting the amendments forth in this clause. It is to ensure those forgotten victims are achieving restitution, which I am sure in 95 per cent of the cases will be insufficient, to provide for the counselling, the loss of income, the hurt, the pain that those victims have endured through no fault of their own whatsoever.

There are other things I would like to say with respect to failures of the justice system in this narrow area we are speaking about. One thing I did see is there are very few disincentives to crime. When I worked in the jails, time after time I saw repeat offenders coming in who have shown and continue to show a wilful disrespect for society and for their victims.

That is why we are putting this amendment forward. In a society where being a victim is in vogue, and I say victim in parenthesis, the true victims we have in our society, the victims of criminal acts of others, are indeed being forgotten.

I will give a simple case. A young boy in my riding who was about 11 or 12 years old, disabled and wore a brace was sexually abused by an older teenager. After all was said and done and the conviction went through, the older teenager who had committed these offences received an amount three times as much as the victim received. In fact the victim did not even have enough money to afford the counselling he required.

What does that say about our system? I did not have anything to say to the mother who came to my office because I was appalled and ashamed that we allow this to happen in this country.

It is true that many people who do commit acts of crime are indeed victims on their own. That though is a different topic. We are talking about the victims of those crimes. Again we must ensure that those victims' rights are held in the highest form over and beyond those of the criminals. Criminals do have rights, yes, but in balancing those off with the victims it is important to realize that it is the victims' rights that should be held in the highest esteem.

There are other things that we are not able to do, that is, preventing crimes before they happen, identifying the persons who commit crimes and doing something about that.

I strongly implore the Minister of Justice to work with his counterparts in the provinces to look at interventions that can be made at a very early age. The pillars of a normal psyche are developed in the first seven years of life. It is imperative that if down the line we are to reduce the incidence of criminal activity we address the children who are at risk of not developing those pillars of a normal psyche.

A lot has to do with the socioeconomic and family milieu these children tragically endure. Some of them go on to a life of crime and then there is a duality of innocent people being victimized and the criminals who if they had been caught at an early age perhaps would not have engaged in criminal behaviour. I encourage the

hon. minister to please look at this. We could be very forwarding looking with this.

I draw attention to a private members' bill by my colleague to address a very important aspect of those individuals who when they are to be released from prison are known dangerous offenders in society. We must have the power within our justice system to incarcerate individuals beyond their length of sentence if at the time of their discharge they are proven to be a significant threat to society.

I encourage all members to support that bill. It is in the interest of public safety and all Canadians. I hope members will support my colleague's clause which will ensure victims receive the restitution they so justly deserve.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Motion No. 1 of Bill C-45 today.

Bill C-45 amends a series of acts which deals with all types of offences and the release of offenders from incarceration. There are 26 amendments proposed to the bill which members of the House will address over the next few days. Today we are debating Motion No. 1 brought forward by my colleague, the member for Wild Rose.

The bill has many shortcomings. One way to rectify this would be to address the concerns of Canadians. The one I must stress is the one I hear from my constituents and other Canadians: the victims are forgotten. There is no greater threat to the faith Canadians have in their justice system than the belief many have that criminals have more rights than the victims.

In the aftermath of a terrible crime it is the victims who must pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and move on. The impact of a crime committed against them is immense. It covers every aspect of their life. There is the emotional toll, the physical toll and the economic toll. Motion No. 1 attempts to address some of these concerns.

Simply put, the motion calls for amendment to clause 21 of the bill so that 30 per cent of the income an inmate earns goes to the victim or the victim's family. It is a simple concept that calls for the offender to pay some sort of restitution for the crime he or she has committed. If criminals had to pay 30 per cent of their income to the victims it would make a connection to the criminals that they have to pay in two ways for their crime, through incarceration and financially.

In my community of Maple Ridge there is a youth and justice advocacy committee. It is patterned after a program that has existed in the United States for some years. It deals with first time young offenders. It requires them to make some restitution for their crimes. In these cases they are not violent young offenders, not using guns, they are first time offenders, stealing cars and so on. There is a volunteer group in my community that meets once a week with the young offender who has to also be present with a guardian or a parent. The young offender is given a job and the minimum wage earned from that job goes to the victims. It has been very successful in the United States with an over 90 per cent success rate. In my community it has be operating for only a year but it is having a phenomenal amount of success.

In order for the impact to get to criminals on what they have done, whether they are young offenders or not, they have to somehow pay for their crimes. A financial payment always hits home.

In the more serious ones which we are talking about now, Motion No. 1 in Bill C-45, the criminal would have to make that financial payment to the victim. Victims would finally be getting some kind of recognition. That is very important.

In the case of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault with a weapon, the victim can request that 30 per cent of the offender's earnings would help pay for treatment for the victim. I think members on both sides of the House can appreciate the long and painful recovery process from such an assault. Therapy can take years and it can be costly. We believe criminals convicted of the crime should help pay for the victim's restoration.

I urge members on both sides of the House to support this motion because it will send a message to Canadians that the victims of crime do count and that they are not ignored.

Every day Canadians are feeling let down by the justice system. They feel it is too lenient on the criminal and not enough emphasis is placed on the victim. This motion would send a powerful message to the victims that their concerns do count.

Accepting this motion would also help strike a balance with a provision in the bill that calls for the treatment of sexual offenders. It seems treating an offender to lessen if not eliminate the possibility of repeat offending is a good idea. However, it should not come at the expense of treating the victim. If funding for treatment or facilities is lacking the victims should receive priority.

The Liberal government always mentions the provisions for offenders to be kept beyond their treatment date. Let those provisions be implemented if there is a likelihood the offender will reoffend. As it stands now section 21 of the bill calls for 30 per cent of the offender's earnings to go toward paying Corrections Canada room and board.

In short, the government wants the criminal to help pay for his or her stay in jail. This is a good idea but we in the Reform Party believe the welfare of the victim is simply too important to be

forgotten. There is no reason here for the government to reward itself over the well-being of the victim.

The amendment proposed by the member for Wild Rose is an important step to show Canadians the justice system and we as parliamentarians can and will respond to their needs. I urge members on the government side of the House to support this amendment.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will give the House a bit of history about why this 30 per cent for room and board is in Bill C-45.

About two years ago, shortly after the election, I found out prisoners in Canada were receiving certain payments. I asked the solicitor general why they were receiving those payments. His comment was to acknowledge it. He said that in his bill coming forward to the people of Canada he would address that. How he addressed it was to take 30 per cent out for room and board.

If we address a problem with an answer of 30 per cent I suggest that 70 per cent is wrong. He has left out 70 per cent. Our amendment is light. Although I am in favour of it, I wish our member for Wild Rose had put a higher percentage in it.

I will give 21 reasons why it is light. These 21 reasons are benefits, things given to inmates in our prisons. I have spent a lot of time going through prisons, at parole boards, at hearings and so on.

Inmates today receive a room. It is not much of a room but it is paid for by the taxpayer. They get meals. Check the menu sometime. The Liberals should go to some of the institutions and check what is on the menus. They would say it is not bad for people incarcerated for various crimes, and it is paid for by the taxpayers.

They get counselling. They should have counselling. After all, if they are to come out we should do something to improve on what went in. That is paid for by the taxpayers. They get education. Good old Karla Homolka has her education paid for by the taxpayer. They get their clothing, and it is not bad clothing, paid for by the taxpayer.

Let us get into some other things they get in our prisons courtesy of the government. They get the right to refuse work. In our prisons today if a prisoner does not want to work he says no. That is not bad. Most of us on the outside have to work.

They have access to legal aid. How many know Clifford Olson has about 30 litigation cases before the federal government today? The federal government tried to stop him by filing litigation to stop him from filing litigation. Talk about a government that has gone weird.

They get legal aid. You ought to see the lawyers inside those prisons, standing there saying: "You need my help".

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Perhaps the hon. member was not here earlier when a colleague used the word "you". I know we are all back at school, but I ask the hon. member to refer to the Chair if the word "you" is being used.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was using the word "you" in a different context. If I want to refer to the people who should be listening, I will say Liberals or government.

If a prisoner is incarcerated for less than two years in this country they can vote in British Columbia. Who has a litigation case before the crown that if they are in excess of two years in a federal penitentiary they will be able to vote? Yes, the inmates. I suppose they will get that. Next the Liberals will be in the institutions looking for the vote from the very people they gave it to.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

They will parole people to run.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Let us talk about the money inmates get in prisons. GST rebates, congratulations. They get old age security. They get the Canada pension plan. They get the guaranteed income supplement because they do not make enough money with old age security. They do get medical but you and you out there have to pay for it.

They get dental coverage. How many people have to pay for dental work?

The government is asking for 30 per cent of their income.

Let us not forget about the free condoms. Let us not forget they can grieve virtually anything they wish. In the observations I made last year there were in excess of 3,200 grievances by inmates in the Atlantic region and in the western region. When they file a grievance there must be a grievance committee assembled of staffers and inmates, the chairman of which may be an inmate. Congratulations.

How many people know about project bleach? That is where we give them a one ounce bottle of bleach to sterilize their needles for cocaine intake. Congratulations, Liberals.

This must have been a mistake, but I found that several inmates last year were getting UIC cheques when in federal penitentiaries in excess of two years. The problem was their stupidity because they usually mail them to an address outside the penitentiary where nobody can find it. These guys did not think. They sent it to the prison and got it from there.

Let us not forget subsidized cigarettes. From a study we did last year we found that cigarettes are cheaper inside penitentiaries. The difference between the cost of cigarettes inside a prison and in a

store on the outside is anywhere from 42 cents a pack to $1.62 a pack. I have had many people say that is not subsidization. However, when we checked with the solicitor general's department we found the reason they are cheaper by and large is because they are bought in bulk by government employees, they are stored or warehoused by government employees and delivered back to the prison by government employees. But that is not subsidization; that is a service provided to the penitentiary.

Last but not least, let us not forget number 21. Ferndale penitentiary has one of the best nine-hole golf courses in Canada on their grounds. Yes, indeed.

When the people on the outside think about all this, they wonder what the hell is going on in this country. When it comes down to us removing 30 per cent, I say that is small in proportion to what they get, compared to what our senior citizens in this country get from government. I say we should take the vast majority of that money to provide restitution to the victims. Or we should make them pay for golf. Let them buy their own darn golf balls.

Enough is enough. This Liberal government does not listen. This Liberal government is at fault for most of these 21 reasons. It is time this changed.

The victims in this system are virtually left on their own. I have gone through this with victim after victim. I want to provide one short case of some victims.

There is a fellow in this country by the name of Wayne Perkins. Good old Wayne was in my riding. He got a young lady, encouraged her to go into a little building in her backyard. Once he got her in there he beat her over the head with a hammer, taped her hands behind her back, injected her with cocaine and raped her. He was sentenced a meagre six years. That good old parole board let him out shortly after three years.

What did he do while he was on parole? This is where Angela Richards comes in. Innocent Angela Richards was stabbed to death. She was stabbed 21 times, injected with cocaine. There was the same MO as before. I looked at the parole report, which was disgusting. It said this guy was perhaps coming along.

To this day I often wonder. When I was sitting in that sentencing hearing I thought there was something missing in the room. It was the parole board that should have been sitting there with the other 50 of us crying and wondering what the heck happened. There is more to life than criminals in this country. We have to stop giving them a higher priority than the victims.

It is hard to believe that in this country a victim cannot even go into a parole hearing and give a verbal response to why a person should or should not get out of prison. It is truly hard to believe why a victim in this country is not advised at all times where a parolee is, if they want to know.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

I know. It is not the Liberal way.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

That is right, it is not the Liberal way. Bonnie Lucas in my riding found that out when her estranged husband went to her house, burned it down while they were sleeping, and she just got her two kids and herself out. The guy goes into the pen. She asks the parole board to tell her where he is, if it ever lets him out, in case he comes back, and it will not do it. Once again the victim is ignored in favour of the criminal. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. Wake up over there and do something about it.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the previous speaker for revealing some of the aspects of our prison system that perhaps a lot of the Liberal members on the other side are not aware of. Now, having been made aware of that, they would appreciate what we are attempting to do here by making amendments to Bill C-45, which is an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Code, the Criminal Records Act, the Prisons and Reformatories Act, and the Transfer of Offenders Act.

The first amendment that is being put forth by my colleague from Wild Rose is an amendment that will require offenders to pay restitution to the victim of an offence committed by the offender or to the family of the victim where the victim is killed or is unable to manage his or her financial affairs as a result of the offence. We are recommending 30 per cent of the gross of the prisoners' salaries be put into this type of an account.

As my colleague from Fraser Valley West suggested, perhaps that is too low. I agree. I feel that for too long now and for too many years Liberal justice ministers have basically developed and created a system of law where the criminals have more rights than the victims. I know there are a lot of lawyers on the Liberal side, who when they are in court know that with the criminal's rights they have to be careful how they tread or the criminal gets off, whereas in the whole shuffle the victim's rights, the parents of the victim if there is a death, and the people who are suffering are often forgotten.

The purpose of this amendment in a lot of ways is not just 30 per cent of $8 a day or 30 per cent of the GST rebate or 30 per cent of the compensation a prisoner gets. Perhaps it is something far beyond that. Perhaps it is something that is more symbolic and this is only a small step, as when they first landed on the moon: a small step for man but a large step for mankind. Perhaps this is a small step for justice but a big step for victims and victims' rights.

It is a symbolic gesture. If something like this is ever accepted and Bill C-45 amended then perhaps judges in the future will be

able to apply this principle. Future parliamentarians will then perhaps be able to look for other ways to compensate the victims who have been slighted or hurt. Rather than the current system where victims have to sue in a civil case to get compensation or remuneration, if a criminal has any assets at all perhaps this would be the small step that would allow victims or families of murder victims to get some compensation.

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe you were in the chair, but earlier during the debate my colleague from Wild Rose was the first speaker. He spoke in his usual loud and boisterous voice and I had to take out my earphone. I certainly heard him loud and clear when he was talking about a phone call he received a few months back that caused his heart to sadden. It was from a former student of his whose wife had been raped at knifepoint and the fully identified accused was allowed bail. He stated that his wife was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, knowing that the rapist was at large.

This was not the only indignity to be experienced by this law-abiding woman. The constituent did not have the funds for counselling, treatment, or medical services that would reduce the trauma of the brutal assault. Yet the offender was receiving full funding out of taxpayers' dollars for whatever was needed.

We hope this amendment will assist that constituent to receive these medical services to assist and overcome the trauma resulting from the brutal assault by the rapist. This amendment will make the offender responsible for paying some of that care.

Perhaps it will help if offenders knew they would be deprived of 30 per cent of the tax dollars they receive in prison. Once again, I like what my colleague from Fraser Valley West said: it is too low. Why are we being so nice? Make it higher. Make it 50 per cent; make it something that hurts them. They do not get much, and what they get they spend on items like cigarettes and other amenities that were described, which I find obscene. Take that 30 per cent to 50 per cent away from them and have it go into a fund that is available for victims and their families. Those amenities and privileges offenders get they find very valuable while they are in prison. This means as much to them as an automobile means to somebody outside. Cigarettes or these other amenities become something they really need. Therefore, while it is not much in dollars and cents, it does have some value to the prisoners. As I said, it is symbolic. Hopefully the legal system can use this as a stepping stone.

If they knew they had to pay a price even while they were in prison, while it may not prevent the crime of future perpetrators, perhaps it will make the criminal realize that crime just does not pay as much. When I heard the speech by my colleague from Fraser Valley West it almost sounded like some people have a better life in prison than out of prison.

For too long victims of crime have been an afterthought in our criminal justice system. Offenders receive full legal and medical support without regard to the hardships victims of crime are experiencing. This amendment will give victims of crime some consideration through this criminal justice system.

We have to start somewhere, and this is an opportunity to start, for the Liberal government to accept an amendment that is headed in the right direction. It is not huge. It is almost like we are recommending tinkering with the system by making such a small amount available to victims, as the Liberals do with the elimination of ferry services and with the introduction of these small taxes everywhere else.

The amendment will inform those who have committed crimes that there is a financial price to pay to the law-abiding citizen. Criminals are responsible for crime, not society. The amendment will make criminals realize that the justice system now accepts that if you break the law you pay two prices. One price is incarceration and the other price is paying money earned in jail from taxpayers' dollars to the victim for compensation or needed medical treatment.

For too long the government has talked about victims of crime but has done nothing for these victims. This is an opportunity for the government to put taxpayers' money where this government's mouth is. This is the opportunity for the government to finally do something meaningful for victims of crime. This is the opportunity for the government to really support women who have to try to live past a crime that has robbed these women of their peace of mind. This is finally an opportunity for the government to show Canadians that victims have rights and the government has a concern for victim suffering.

Once this principle is accepted in the Criminal Code it will help set the ball rolling, as I mentioned earlier. If the criminal has any assets, this is an opportunity for victims to at least get some compensation for what they have had to suffer. In some way, somehow and some day soon we have to do something for the victims. Far too long, far too often and far too much at a high cost to taxpayers we are supporting criminals and criminal activities and their rights over and above victims' rights.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but it being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support and work toward enabling legislation for a binding national referendum on capital punishment to be held concurrently with the next federal election.

Mr. Speaker, there are very few things in democratic politics that stir up more contention and trepidation than the use of referenda. There are very few issues in politics that stir up more controversy and emotion than the issue of capital punishment.

That makes Motion No. 431 a motion with potentially far-reaching implications for Canadians. It combines the contention and trepidation associated with referenda with the controversy and emotion surrounding decisions about capital punishment.

However it is important to stress that Motion No. 431 is not calling for a return of the death penalty as some critics would claim. Yes, the issue is contentious, but the underlying principle of direct democracy which led to the filing of the motion is one of the founding principles of the Reform Party.

At a personal level, when I think back over the events of the last 25 years that underlying principle is the very reason I am standing in the House today. It started for me as a teenager in New Zealand 25 years ago when I worked on a campaign to help get elected an MP of the National Party in the Auckland area of New Zealand.

It did not take long for my innocent 18-year old belief in democracy to be shattered by the realization that within a very short space of time party line politics and the power of a party whip could destroy everything that my candidate had stood for. It killed the fires of change burning within him. It killed his resolve. It made him afraid to represent the very people who had placed him in that predicament.

I had a dream those 25 years ago that one day within these shackles we call a parliamentary democracy MPs would be free to represent their constituents and to invite them to help govern the country they work every day to support.

I never dreamed that I would one day be one of those MPs. It was never my ambition to work for change from within the system. Somehow the pieces just came together, one at a time. I joined the party which in 1989 had barely begun. Yet it had the principles of direct democracy as a cornerstone of everything that it stood for.

One of its first policy positions was to state that the people of Canada should have the right to make binding decisions through referenda on issues of personal conscience. Capital punishment is one of those issues of personal conscience and Reform policy material has always identified it as an issue to be put before the people.

I submitted Motion No. 431 in April of this year, well before the controversial Bernardo and Deley cases came before the public. It was selected in the random drawing of Private Members' Business on May 29. In the first week of September I learned that it would be debated in the House today.

The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support and work toward enabling legislation for a binding national referendum on capital punishment to be held concurrently with the next federal election.

Every poll taken over the last decade has shown a major divergence of opinion between politicians and the public on the issue of capital punishment. Like it or not, public pressure will continue to build until we address this divergence of opinion either by bringing Parliament into line with the public or the public into line with Parliament.

Telling Canadians that they will not be allowed to decide is not going to make the problem go away. We need to place a clear question in front of them and allow them to make the final decision. All it takes is for us to agree to have an open and public debate followed by a binding referendum which will do the task of either bringing the public into line with Parliament or Parliament into line with the public.

Unfortunately there is a small problem standing in the way of implementation. Motion No. 431 is not presently votable, which means that the House cannot make its intention clear to the government. Without a vote we will be failing in our duty to represent the people who sent us here. For this reason, before continuing I would like to ask the consent of the House to make the motion votable.

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member has asked for the consent of members to make the matter votable. He will know as well as anyone that it requires unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent by the members present to make it a votable motion?

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Having hear some members indicate no, the hon. member may continue with his intervention.

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not suppose too many Canadians will be surprised that government members

do not want to make the motion votable. The elitism of an old line party is well entrenched and democracy does not easily penetrate its protective shell. In their hearts they must know that they have made a bad decision. They have ensured that we will face the wrath of the growing number of Canadians who see their justice system in disarray.

Canadians see a system unable to protect them from young punks who can commit crimes with immunity and hide anonymously behind the curtain of the Young Offenders Act. They see a system that releases dangerous offenders into their midst on bail or after minimum sentences for an outrageous crime.

They see representatives at a meeting of the Canadian Police Association in Vancouver telling the Minister of Justice that over 95 per cent of policemen want return of the death penalty. They see members of that same police association telling the minister that if he does not address their concerns they will make an election issue of capital punishment.

These are well informed law enforcement personnel telling us there is a problem. If they are telling us there is a problem, there is a problem. In the meantime it looks as though the government side will continue to hide its head in the sand, pretending that everything is working well and refusing to address the concerns of its citizens.

Canadians from coast to coast are sick of politicians and pointy headed professors telling them what to think about crime. They know that their streets are more dangerous than they were 20 years ago and all the statistics in the world will not convince them otherwise.

For example, Canadians hear academics arguing against the return of capital punishment by claiming that the murder rate has decreased since capital punishment was abolished in 1976. It is absolutely true that there has been a slight decrease in the murder rate since 1976. However those same academics seem to conveniently forget to mention that the last hanging in Canada took place in 1961, some 15 years before, and that there was a sharp jump in the murder rate in the 15 years following the last hanging. In fact it almost doubled. Even now, in 1995, the murder rate is still 50 per cent higher than it was in 1961 when the last hanging took place.

The slight drop in the murder rate since 1976 probably has more to do with demographics, the number of young males in society, than it does with the abolition of capital punishment. Are we going to allow the public to discuss these things and to learn the truth? No.

The House has let the people down again today. It has denied them a voice in the decision making of their government. Sadly the chances are that probably not many of them noticed. Their contempt for the system is well founded. They know that the outcome of virtually every vote in this place is predetermined long before the debate every begins.

I will try again another time with other motions and private members' bills designed to give the public a voice in government. This issue has not gone away and neither has the pressure for democratic change. The system has entered an irreversible period of evolution that I hope will soon see a majority of MPs insisting on their right to represent the people who sent them here instead of caving in to the orders of the whip.

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Did the member indicate that he wished to share his time with a colleague?

Capital PunishmentPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was my error. I meant to mention at the beginning of my speech that I would be splitting my time with the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley.