House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was services.


Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


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


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend Part XXIV of the Criminal Code-Dangerous Offenders-to provide:

  1. that where an offender is convicted of a ) a sexual offence involving a child, or b ) an offence set out in i ) section 271 (sexual assault) that has been proceeded with by way of indictment, ii ) section 272 (sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm), or iii ) section 273 (aggravated sexual assault),

or an attempt to commit any of these offences, the offender shall, before being sentenced, be examined by two psychiatrists to determine c ) in the case of sexual offence involving a child, whether the offender is likely to commit or attempt to commit such an offence in the future, and d ) in the case of an offence referred to in section 271 that has been proceeded with by way of indictment, or section 272 or 273, whether the offender is likely to cause or attempt to cause death, injury or serious psychological harm to another person through a failure in the future to control his or her sexual impulses; and

  1. that where the psychiatrists conclude a ) in the case of a sexual offence involving a child, that the offender is likely to commit or attempt to commit such an offence in the future, or b ) in the case of an offence mentioned in section 271 that has been proceeded with by way of indictment, or section 272 or 273, that the offender is likely to cause or attempt to cause death, injury or serious psychological harm to another person through a failure in the future to control his or her sexual impulses,

the Attorney General of the province in which the offender was tried shall direct that an application be brought to have the offender declared a dangerous offender.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about the safety of all Canadians. M-116 is a motion to amend part XXIV of the Criminal Code regarding dangerous offenders.

The motion is a culmination of an effort by my colleague the hon. member for Calgary Southeast and myself, to find a way to protect Canadians from sexual predators. This motion will make Canadians safer in their homes and in their streets.

With this motion an individual convicted of a serious sexual assault against an adult or any sexual offence where the victim is a child must be examined by two psychiatrists. If the two psychiatrists conclude that the convicted offender is likely to reoffend, the attorney general must direct that a dangerous offender application be initiated. The convicted offender would then proceed to a dangerous offender hearing. The offender would be declared a dangerous offender if the crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender was likely to reoffend.

There is nothing draconian about this motion by any stretch of the imagination. This motion would only apply to individuals convicted of serious offences. By having a convicted offender reviewed by psychiatrists, we are providing the crown and the courts with the most comprehensive information possible about the likelihood of this offender reoffending. There is nothing arbitrary or unconstitutional about this. The motion respects accepted judicial practice while protecting Canadians against dangerous offenders. What this motion would do is perhaps identify a Paul Bernardo, a Clifford Olson, a Fernand Auger or a Mitchell Owen after they had committed their first sexual offence.

Auger is the man who kidnapped, assaulted and murdered Melanie Carpenter. I have already introduced a petition to the House from the Melanie Carpenter campaign. Over half a million people signed this petition calling on Parliament to enact legislation to keep dangerous offenders, especially dangerous sex offenders, off our streets.

What is particularly disturbing about Auger's murder of Melanie Carpenter is that it could have been prevented. Almost 10 years

before Auger killed Melanie, he was convicted of two brutal sexual assaults on teenage prostitutes. Because the victims were prostitutes, Auger only got a sentence of two years less a day.

It was not until some five years later, after being convicted on a robbery charge and receiving a federal sentence, that Auger was closely observed by psychiatric professionals. Once they had an opportunity to assess Auger, they realized that they had a walking time bomb on their hands but under our current laws he had to be released. As a result Melanie Carpenter is dead. If Auger had instead been assessed by professionals after his sexual assault convictions of the two teenage prostitutes, maybe the courts and corrections would have known what they were dealing with: a dangerous offender.

This motion is a response to the demands of Canadians who are fed up with the failure of our justice system to protect women and children. We are not suggesting that we should randomly lock people up. We are talking about convicted sexual predators.

Another example is Mitchell Owen, the man who murdered 16 year old Pamela Cameron in October 1994 just two blocks from my constituency office. Owen had previously been incarcerated for the brutal sexual assault of a female in an underground parking lot. When he was sentenced the judge called him a walking time bomb. When he was released Corrections Canada advised that he was at high risk to reoffend. Would Pamela Cameron still be alive today had the contents of this motion already been in place?

What about Clifford Olson? Here is a man who had a lengthy criminal record before his murderous rampage which left 11 Canadian children dead.

It is time for the justice system to consider the seriousness of sexual assault and realize that this type of behaviour is a clear indicator of a pattern of future violence. We are not trying to lock people up and throw away the key. A dangerous offender designation simply means that an offender is kept in custody until the parole board is convinced that the offender does not pose a serious threat to society. Parole eligibility would be after three years and then every two years. If rehabilitation and treatment were successful, the offender would not be incarcerated forever.

Motion M-116 would increase the odds that we would capture those offenders who pose a serious threat to the safety of every Canadian should they be released prematurely. This motion ensures that the correctional system is not pressured to release offenders who show no potential for rehabilitation.

Motion M-116 meets the Reform Party's objective of ensuring public safety. I would expect the motion to receive considerable support by all the parties in this House who are concerned with the safety of Canadians.

The Bloc Quebecois justice critic has frequently expressed her concern for the safety of women and children. I hope she is as concerned with protecting them from sexual predators as she is in protecting them from firearms.

I must admit that when we debated this motion on December 13 last year, I was very surprised by some of the comments from the government side. It seems the government member for Hamilton-Wentworth does not see the need for this motion because he "cannot accept that a Paul Bernardo necessarily will offend again". I found these comments from the government side to be shocking. I am not sure what could possibly make the member utter a comment like this. I am certain that Canadians are relieved he is not sitting on the National Parole Board. I doubt there are many Canadians who believe Paul Bernardo should ever be released because the member for Hamilton-Wentworth believes that he may not reoffend.

Then we have the comments of the member for Kingston and the Islands who criticized me and the Reform Party for our obsession with law and order issues. I do not apologize for my so-called obsession with crime prevention and the protection of Canadians. Perhaps if some of the government members were obsessed with law and order issues, they would be more willing to support motions such as this to protect Canadians against sexual predators.

In its red book the Liberal government devoted an entire section to safe homes, safe streets. It surprises me that the government would not wholeheartedly support Motion M-116 which is designed to protect Canadians and to ensure their homes and streets are safe. In fact, we are actually helping the government to keep its own red book promises.

On page 84 of the red book the Liberal government claims: "Dealing with the growing incidents of violent crime will be a priority for a Liberal government". According to the red book: "Every person has a right to personal security and a Liberal government will move to protect that right". Also on page 84 of the red book, the government claims to be particularly concerned with protecting women and children against violence. This motion would help the government fulfil its own promise. Motion M-116 specifically targets sexual predators and pedophiles.

Given this, I do not see any reason why the government would not strongly support this motion. Once again this government plays partisan games rather than putting the interest and safety of Canadians as a priority.

Unlike some of his colleagues, the Minister of Justice did express concern about the situation of dangerous offenders in our communities. According to the minister, the government is in agreement with the objectives of this motion. The minister indicated by his comments on this motion that the government recognizes there is a problem with dangerous offenders being released and possibly reoffending. He said that the courts may

indeed need extended powers to deal with these cases in order to protect the safety of Canadians.

I am pleased to see the minister at least recognizes that Parliament needs to enact legislation to protect Canadians against sexual predators. Given that the minister recognizes the need to protect Canadians against violence, we would expect the government to be eager to support this motion.

Motion M-116 will prevent tragedies where sexual predators reoffend. If this motion were adopted, perhaps Melanie Carpenter and Pamela Cameron would still be alive today.

Motion M-116 reflects the view of the over half a million individuals who signed the Melanie Carpenter Society petition and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians supporting the Peace and Justice for Canadians Association. They believe as I do that dangerous sex offenders and pedophiles belong behind bars and not on our streets until such a time as they will no longer pose a risk to Canadian society.

Canadians have had it with our judicial system which fails to protect Canadians against sexual predators. Motion M-116 would be a start in reforming our justice system to recognize the rights of women and children to the protection they deserve by the judicial system.

Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion by the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley is a reflection of the Reformers' reactionary mentality since their first day in this House. The motion we are examining today would force the government to amend the Criminal Code so as to declare all individuals convicted of sexual assault dangerous offenders.

Such an amendment would, to all intents and purposes, eliminate all crown discretion. It would oblige the attorney general of the province in which the offender was tried to direct that an application be brought, each time there was a conviction, to have the offender declared a dangerous offender. This obligation would arise each time two psychiatrists concluded that there was a likelihood of re-offending. What the hon. member is proposing amounts to letting psychiatrists usurp the roles of the prosecutor and of the judge. This is tantamount to turning the justice system totally upside down.

It is clear in the hon. member's mind that the way to eradicate the problem of violence in Canada is to overload our courts and crowd our penitentiaries. The third party is never one to propose anything innovative, nor anything with a potential for consensus among the members.

The Reform Party persists in clouding the issue by fiddling with crime statistics in order to justify their ill-advised interventions. Where the law is concerned, these hypocrites claim to be defending victims' rights, but in reality they are making political hay at the expense of the sufferings of victims of crime. Like Don Quixote jousting with windmills, these extreme rightwingers will do anything to get attention. As I said last week, demagogy has no place in criminal law.

I wonder: what is the justification for such a motion? Has there been a sudden sharp upswing in violent crime? No, on the contrary. The latest statistics available indicate the crime rate dropped by 5 per cent during 1994, the third year in a row that it has gone down.

In 1994 as well, the figures for violent crime were down 3 per cent, the greatest annual drop since 1962. In fact, without exception, all categories of violent crime were down in 1994.

There was a 10 per cent drop in sexual assaults, regardless of type. The homicide rate was the lowest recorded in the past 25 years. The combined total of homicides and attempted murders continued to account for less than one per cent of violent crimes.

In the light of these statistics, we cannot help but wonder about the seriousness of the member's motion. The existing procedure for declaring an offender dangerous works very well. I am not alone in saying so; it is the opinion of all the provincial and the federal attorneys general.

But what about the existing procedure? Section 753 of the Criminal Code allows the courts to declare an individual found guilty of a serious personal injury offence or a sexual offence a dangerous offender.

Once the accused is found guilty of one of the offences in section 752, the court hears the evidence by the crown and bases its decision on the following: demonstration of the offender's inability to restrain his behaviour; a substantial indifference on the part of the offender respecting the consequences of his acts and the behaviour of the offender associated with the offence is so brutal that normal standards of behavioral restraint would be insufficient.

The court gives its decision following conviction, but before sentencing. The court declares the offender dangerous and then imposes a sentence of detention for an indeterminate period in lieu of any other sentence. This is one of the harshest sentences a court can impose, as the offender is not automatically entitled to parole. An individual's file is then reviewed three years after conviction and every two years thereafter.

In practice it is merely a pro forma review, since, only in very rare instances do the case management officers of the National Parole Board not recommend continued detention.

My colleague has already proposed a bill whereby the whole legal proceeding would be repeated just prior to the conclusion of an individual's sentence. Clearly, the least we can say is that she is single-minded. The only question this motion raises is that of relevance.

The hon. member acknowledged herself in the House that her earlier bill applied to very few individuals. The problem posed by repeat offenders is much greater and requires solutions much broader than those proposed by my colleague.

The hon. member puts excessive emphasis on isolated cases when she claims that her motion would be the solution to this kind of problem. The fact is that her motion proposes impractical solutions and targets dangerous offenders who represent only 0.5 per cent of Canada's current inmate population in federal penitentiaries.

By the way, in 1994, Quebec only had one dangerous offender. A second one was just added to the list. The vast majority of inmates considered to be dangerous offenders are in Ontario and in western Canada. From 1985 to 1994, only one dangerous offender was paroled every year. That number always remained constant.

The difference between Quebec and the other provinces is easy to explain. For several years now, Quebec has had an effective medicolegal system in place to deal with court referrals, including dangerous offenders. The system works well and people suffering from mental disorders get adequate psychiatric treatment. All in all, the Quebec initiative is a proven solution to the problems experienced in the rest of Canada, and other provinces should have the wisdom to follow our example.

The current situation certainly does not justify an intervention as drastic as the one proposed by the hon. member. Moreover, the proposed reactionary measures are uncalled-for, because the courts already have effective tools to decide whether an offender should be declared dangerous. A judicious application of the Criminal Code would greatly alleviate the problem.

It is not enough to merely react to public opinion fuelled by gutter papers trying to improve their sales. Nor is it enough to target a very small number of individuals. The government must, in co-operation with the provinces, have a comprehensive approach to detect repeat offenders and ensure that society is better protected. The Quebec model should be followed.

One step was taken with the federal, provincial and territorial task force on violent high-risk offenders. The hon. member should carefully read the report released last year. She will find interesting suggestions and, more importantly, a more realistic picture of the current situation.

It goes without saying that, unfortunately, I will not support her motion.

Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. M-116 is identical to motion numbered M-461 debated during the last session. It did not win approval of the House. I note that the hon. member keeps trying on this subject.

At the outset, I do not believe that the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley has thought this idea through, either in terms of its legal impact or its practicalities. Let us be clear on exactly what this amendment to the Criminal Code would require if it were approved.

First, every criminal who is convicted of a serious sexual offence, namely sexual assault under sections 271, 272 and 273 of the code would have to be examined by two psychiatrists in order that the risk of reoffending be determined. If they conclude that the risk is high, then a dangerous offender application would, of necessity, have to be launched. There would be no discretion on the part of the judge and certainly not on the part of the crown prosecutor.

Under the present system, the judge considers relevant information about the offender's criminal history and the mental state of the offender at the time of the offence. This usually takes the form of a formal pre-sentence report. Of course the perspective of the victim is considered.

In other words, in a normal case a whole range of information is taken into account in order to determine the appropriate sentence. If this motion were to be adopted, every convicted sex offender would be remanded to a psychiatric facility for a thorough examination by two psychiatrists. These psychiatrists could give a precise prediction of the risk presented by every criminal.

Under current law the crown attorney and the judge are the authorities who decide whether to seek the opinion of psychiatrists on the danger posed by a convicted person. It is not the other way around. The psychiatrists do not tell the officers of the court whether to proceed with a dangerous offender application.

There is good reason for giving the crown and judges the discretion to seek a detailed psychiatric examination of the offender and to initiate a dangerous offender application. It is because the dangerous offender process is essentially and primarily a legal one, it is not just a question of psychiatric prediction.

The crown attorney has to decide whether the dangerous offender application will meet the legal standards set out in part XXIV of the Criminal Code. For example, section 753 of the code requires the crown to show that the offender "by his conduct in any sexual matter, including that involved in the commission of the offence for which he has been convicted," has shown a failure to control his sexual impulses and a likelihood of causing serious injury in the future.

This is a legal test, as the courts have repeatedly pointed out. There is no point in making an application under part XXIV if it has no chance of succeeding.

I do not wish to denigrate the role of psychiatry in this process. Indeed, dangerous offender rules require that psychiatric evidence be presented for both sides at the dangerous offender hearing.

I also note the references which the hon. member made in the last debate on this issue to the work of Dr. Robert Hare in predicting the risk of recidivism by psychopaths, including psychopathic sex offenders.

The ability of psychiatrists and psychologists to assess the nature and degree of risk of offenders has certainly improved in the last decade. I have heard Canada described as a leader in this field. I further note that the Correctional Service of Canada employs a wide range of clinical and actuarial testing in its intake and case management programs for federal inmates.

The proposed amendment to the Criminal Code has the balance wrong. It would compel the crown to bring a dangerous offender application every time a pair of psychiatrists reach a medical conclusion about risk. Perhaps if the motion called for discretion, it might receive more support. However, the motion advocates a sweeping measure that would diminish the role of judges and prosecutors and indiscriminately force every case of sexual offending to proceed through a lengthy and expensive examination by psychiatrists, even when there is little chance of those psychiatrists labelling the offender as high risk.

I am glad that the hon. member has such faith in psychiatrists. Perhaps she is unaware that the Canadian Psychiatric Association has stated that there is already a shortage of qualified forensic psychiatrists in Canada. The Correctional Service of Canada and provincial departments of justice are already hard pressed to find psychiatric advice even for priority cases.

I find it interesting that the Reform Party will spare no expense in this area, even if the chances of winning a dangerous offender case are thin or remote. To put this in context, I refer members to figures which were recently released by Statistics Canada.

In 1994-95 the federal government spent $913 million on adult corrections. The provinces and territories spent another $980 million. The capital cost of building federal penitentiaries increased 70 per cent between 1990-91 and 1994-95. It costs taxpayers $44,000 per year to keep a person in a federal penitentiary. The per capita cost to operate the adult correction system represents $65 for each Canadian.

Could we not be a bit more selective in where we focus our resources? Did the hon. member do a cost analysis?

I would like to suggest there is a way to be selective and strategic in the way in which our limited resources are employed. The speech from the throne of February 27 of this year contains the following statement:

The government will focus corrections resources on high-risk offenders while increasing efforts to lower the number of young people who come into conflict with the justice system. The government will develop innovative alternatives to incarceration for low-risk offenders.

This motion is typical of measures that unselectively demand indeterminate detention for crimes that should be targeted much more carefully. I believe the important word here is carefully.

I trust prosecutors, courts and juries to pass the appropriate judgments on sex offenders. We all expect that. The question that must be asked is whether sex offenders are slipping through the system. Are opportunities for dangerous offenders being missed?

Federal and provincial ministers of justice certainly agree the dangerous offenders provisions are an extremely valuable tool if used properly.

I note that during the last debate on this identical motion the Minister of Justice made reference to the dangerous offender flagging system. This system has been set up by the RCMP working closely with the provinces. It allows police and prosecutors to identify criminals who appear to demonstrate a high and continuing risk of future violent conduct.

Police and crowns can then become aware of these individuals through a flag placed on the data banks of the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC. I am informed that most provinces and territories have designated co-ordinators to operate the provincial end of the system and that a number of offenders have already been flagged. It is this kind of targeted measure that will make the dangerous offender procedure more effective.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the dangerous offender sentencing procedure as set out in part XXIV of the Criminal Code is a well tailored scheme that meets the requirements of the charter of rights and freedoms. The criteria are reasonable and focus on a select group of high risk offenders.

If the sweeping, unselective amendments anticipated in this motion were implemented there would be a considerable risk that the entire dangerous offender scheme would be undermined and discredited. I cannot support the motion.

Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague who sits on the Justice committee with me. I wonder if he feels that lawyers are the ones who should do the psychiatric examination of people who have demonstrated by their actions that they are dangerous to our children and other people within society.

I rise to support my colleague's motion to amendment the Criminal Code. If Motion No. 116 is adopted, the section of the Criminal Code dealing with dangerous offenders will be altered to allow for the examination of sex offenders by two psychiatrists to determine their propensity to offend again.

If the psychiatrists conclude the offender is likely to commit or attempt to commit another offence in the future, the attorney general of the province may direct that an application be brought to have the offender declared a dangerous offender.

On September 14 last year an article appeared in the Financial Post containing figures from Correctional Services Canada. I concur with the author's observations that these figures are worrisome and clearly indicate the system does not protect the public from convicted murders and other dangerous predators. These figures demonstrate the need for my colleague's amendment to the Criminal Code.

According to a chart furnished by the solicitor general to Diane Francis, editor of the Financial Post , between 1989 and 1994 no fewer than 78 people committed murder while on conditional release.

If we had in place legislation allowing for the designation of dangerous offenders prior to and following sentencing, if we had eliminated statutory release and if we eliminated the patronage appointment of parole board members, thereby ensuring only qualified people are making the decision regarding the parole of violent offenders, measures Reform has been advocating for well over two years, we would have saved 78 lives in this five year period, or at least the possibility of doing so would have been present. We would have saved 1.3 lives each month during this time.

We must move immediately to amend the Criminal Code to ensure the public is protected from potential repeat offenders who have demonstrated by their actions that they are a danger to our children and members of society.

The same figures reveal that some 4,960 persons convicted of lesser violent offences such as child molestation, manslaughter, rape or attempted murder repeated their crimes while on conditional release. These figures show we have a terrible record in terms of judging whether a person has been rehabilitated after they have demonstrated they pose a violent threat to members of society.

Ms. Francis concluded that those figures are awful, and I agree with her. Five thousand crimes against our children and other innocent victims could have and should have been deterred or prevented. Clearly the Criminal Code amendment my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley has proposed will assist in the prevention of these types of assaults.

The examination of these offenders and therefore the indefinite incarceration of dangerous offenders will enhance public safety. Sex offenders, especially child molesters, have a high rate of recidivism. The only way to keep our children safe, the only way to prevent sexual predators from taking victims and destroying the life of another innocent child is to keep them locked up, to keep them incarcerated indefinitely until there is absolutely no risk of reoffending.

If we cannot protect society from those who have identified themselves by their actions as dangerous to others, what chance does our justice system really have?

A recent article in MacLean's reveals that psychologists and criminologists agree that the best way to reduce recidivism rates is by classifying offenders on the basis on the continuing risk they represent to society, and in those cases in which the risk of reoffending is high, classifying such offenders as dangerous.

Years ago the process of classification was fraught with guess work but today research in Canada has led to vastly improved techniques for classifying offenders. University of British Columbia psychologist Robert Hare has developed a widely used scale known as the psychopathy check list. Employing this list during intense interviews with offenders, psychologists can with 75 per cent to 80 per cent accuracy determine whether an offender is a dangerous psychopath.

This test is not only valuable in determining an offender's risk of reoffending for the purpose of classifying them a dangerous offender and thus providing for indefinite incarceration, it also assists correctional services in determining how they may, if at all, rehabilitate such offenders. Many experts agree the best way to reduce the risk of repeat offenders is through intense counselling.

If Melvin Stanton and Joseph Fredericks had been examined by psychiatrists, as recommended by my colleague, and if Daniel Gingras had been subjected to Mr. Hare's test, the parole board may not have had the opportunity to make such a disastrous decision regarding the temporary absence or parole of this convicted murderer and these two sex offenders.

In January 1988 Melvin Stanton, a violent sex offender, was granted a temporary absence from an Ontario penitentiary and within hours of getting out raped and murdered a young woman in downtown Toronto.

If Mr. Stanton had been classified a dangerous offender or if the risk of his reoffending had been known, the parole board never would have granted him leave and an innocent life never would have been so violently snuffed out.

If parolee Joseph Fredericks had been recognized by the justice system for what he really was, a sadistic pedophile, and incarcerated accordingly, 11-year old Christopher Stephenson of Brampton, Ontario would not have been abducted, raped and fatally stabbed in June 1988.

If convicted murderer Daniel Gingras was not given a temporary absence from an Edmonton institution in the summer of 1987, two lives would have been saved. I urge members of all sides of the House to vote in favour of this motion.

In the absence of such an amendment, Canadians will have to take measures to defend their own lives and those of their children. They will have to do what the mothers of Val-d'Or, Quebec have done to protect themselves. They will have to plaster warning pamphlets throughout their communities. They will have to keep their doors locked and they will have to keep their children within close range at all times; no bike rides through the park, no walking home alone after school because they live in constant fear for their children that they may fall victim to a sex offender.

Convicted sex offender Joe Cannon, who is serving six months for gross indecency and who has been convicted of six sexual offences since 1988, will soon be eligible for temporary leave from a prison in Val-d'Or. With no assurance from the justice system that this offender will not strike again, residents can only minimize, not eliminate, his chance of victimizing one of their children again.

In our judgment the only way the children of Val-d'Or can be completely safe from this sex offender is if he kept in prison until examiners, two psychiatrists, are absolutely certain he will not reoffend. My colleague's amendment could provide that assurance.

The main objective of any proposed justice legislation or amendment to the Criminal Code is to improve public safety. This amendment meets that criterion. It will enhance personal security by providing us with the assurance that sex offenders, those offenders labelled dangerous, will not be released from prison until there is an absolute sign that there is no risk of their harming our children.

I urge members on all sides of the House to support this motion.

Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this motion. I have many reservations about the motion which I will put on record.

The hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley has introduced a motion that calls for making it mandatory for the crown, in all cases in which a person has been convicted of a sexual offence involving a child or sexual assaults, to apply to the court to have the offender declared a dangerous offender whenever two psychiatrists are of the opinion that there is a danger the offender will strike again.

The hon. member is asking the government to implement this through an amendment to part XXIV of the Criminal Code, the part that deals with dangerous offenders. Obviously the hon. member is of the view that the dangerous offenders provision of the Criminal Code needs improvement. Quite possibly it could be improved but I am not sure the measure proposed by the hon. member would carry the appropriate result.

I am not saying part XXIV should never be changed, but the evolution of the dangerous offender concept and the restrictions the charter of rights imposes on that concept indicate we should proceed cautiously in broadening it or oversimplifying it.

The existing dangerous offender system has three components: a focus on the most serious offences, a focus on the pattern of the offender's conduct, and an assessment of the likelihood of the offender's continuing his serious offending. These criteria must be met if we are to justify locking up individuals indefinitely.

I will address one proposed change with which I disagree, a proposal central to this motion, the mandatory aspect. The motion provides that every time two psychiatrists determine that in effect an offender poses a high risk of reoffending, the attorney general of the province in which the offender was convicted shall direct that a dangerous offender application be brought.

I do not support the elimination of the discretion of prosecutors in the bringing of dangerous offender applications. It would be unwise to do so. The criteria for a dangerous offender finding are contained within the Criminal Code. This is a concept created by criminal law and supported by criminal procedure.

It is true these criteria rely heavily on psychiatric prediction of risk, but medical standards are not the only ones that have to be met. Section 753 of the Criminal Code requires that the likelihood of the offender's committing further harm must be established to the satisfaction of the court. This is not entirely or even primarily a matter of medical or statistical prediction but a legal decision made according to criteria legislated by Parliament.

The crown should possess the discretion, considering all evidence available to it, to estimate whether an application will be strong enough to meet this legal standard. If an application is brought without meeting this legal standard, it is a waste of time and resources and will not succeed.

I also want to address the issue of broadening the scope of the legislation. The motion would broaden part XXIV to capture any sex offence against a child. This would include cases of sexual interference under section 151 and an invitation to sexual touching under section 152 of the Criminal Code. While these crimes carry a maximum penalty of 10-year's imprisonment, individual offences usually do not receive such lengthy sentences nor do they typically involve the degree of violence envisioned in part XXIV. In broadening the target group so much, the motion before us runs a serious risk of conflicting with the charter and a 1987 Supreme Court decision.

The current dangerous offender provisions came into the Criminal Code in 1977 and replaced the habitual offenders provisions that had been found to be too broad. These amendments were designed to be more precise, to target the most serious offenders and, similarly, to avoid widening the net too much. In essence, Parliament was saying, let us target the worst offenders without sweeping in the low risk and the nuisance cases.

The dangerous offender legislation passed a major hurdle with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Lyons in 1987. The court ruled that the dangerous offender provisions did not violate the charter of rights and freedoms. This case constitutes a firm indication by the Supreme Court that any law that seeks to sentence a citizen to an indefinite term in a penitentiary must be well tailored and confined to the most serious circumstances.

In broadening the target groups so much, the motion before us runs a serious risk of conflicting with this decision. I doubt that the Supreme Court would find this much net widening consistent with the charter, particularly when given the new rules prescribed elsewhere in this motion. Crown attorneys would be forced to launch many more applications. The court, as in the Lyons case, would be vigilant to the potential for abuse in the overall structure of the procedure.

In the same Lyons case, the Supreme Court also stated that it was important for the crown to have some discretion in bringing dangerous offender applications and that the absence of any such discretion could lead to a conclusion that the law is arbitrary. That could very well be the case if Parliament was to legislate according to this motion before us today.

I would like to point out how successful part XXIV of the Criminal Code has proven to be. Between 1977 and 1995 approximately 143 offenders were found to be dangerous offenders and sentenced indeterminately to a Canadian penitentiary. Of that number, 134 remain there still.

There are signs that the provinces are using the procedure more often. Successful applications usually average eight or nine a year. In 1993 there were 15 successful cases. In 1994 there were 13 cases. We all remember the recent designation of Paul Bernardo as a dangerous offender.

I suggest that the current motion is not an appropriate way to improve the dangerous offender legislation. I regret that I cannot support this motion.

Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not pleased to speak on this bill today. As a matter of fact, I am very upset that this Liberal government, which has a majority in the House and has the power to enact laws to protect our society, our families and our children and to follow through on a promise of recognizing the need for safety in our society, refuses to enact legislation that will do exactly that. It leaves it up to the Reform Party, the opposition, to bring this type of motion to the House of Commons.

While I am certainly anxious to support M-116, the motion of the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, at the same time I am really upset that it has been left up to an opposition party to do this. Reformers have recognized the need to protect society and are proud to do it.

After listening to the hon. members from the Bloc and the Liberal Party speak, it must be said that we have just heard members from these parties prefer to argue for the rights of sexual offenders and sexual predators. They prefer to argue for those kinds of rights as opposed to arguing for the rights of society as a whole and the victims of these very sick people.

The motion the hon. member from Surrey-White Rock puts forward seeks to amend the dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code to ensure that sexual offenders, these predators, will not be free to walk in society and offend again. They would be declared dangerous offenders. This would happen if two psychiatrists who are trained in assessing the character and the mental makeup of the people who have committed these horrible crimes stated that these people would reoffend again. The courts would be bound to keep them in jail which is where they should be.

Being labelled a dangerous offender involves an indeterminate prison sentence. There is a need for this amendment to the legislation. One need only look back a few years to get a sense of how poorly the justice system deals with people who sexually offend.

It has been mentioned before but the House will remember the case of Melanie Carpenter and her killer Fernand Auger, an individual with a tremendously long history of sexual offences. Before being released from prison a psychologist stated that beyond a shadow of a doubt Mr. Auger would reoffend. The system

knew he was going to reoffend but it let him go free. Now Melanie Carpenter is dead because of it.

I am just amazed at these Liberal and Bloc members who, when speaking against this motion, constantly refer back to the criminal justice system as their rationale. The Canadian people know that the criminal justice system stinks. It needs a complete overhaul. Yet the Liberal and the Bloc members use it as their rationale to speak against motions which will protect society. They say it cannot be done because the criminal justice system states so and so and they go on to relate what the justice system says.

The thinking that goes on in the minds of some members is astounding. They try to defend the criminal justice system which no Canadian would ever defend.

The present system is such that psychologists could have done nothing to stop Mr. Auger's release. The system allowed this Auger fellow to refuse treatment while he was in prison. This guy was a sexual predator, a sexual offender. He was convicted. He went to prison and he stated: "I'm just going to stay for a while but I don't need any treatment and I am not going to take it". What happened? The system let him out and he brutally killed someone.

Joseph Fredericks, a man with a long history of sexual offences against children was released from a Toronto jail in 1988. Despite the fact that there was a 99 per cent chance that he would reoffend, the system let him go. The system put him back into society. The system did not have the power to keep him incarcerated even though the system knew he would reoffend. He abducted, raped and killed Christopher Stephenson. The system let him go. Once again the system failed. As a result the Stephenson's lost their son.

More recently, in my home town of Prince George, we learned that Bobby Gordon Oatway, a twice convicted sexual offender, a pedophile, a predator of little children, was being released from prison on parole even though he had refused treatment in prison, even though the corrections people, the parole people, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was most likely to offend again. Out the door he walks. He was coming to Prince George.

Had it not been for a phone call from one of his victims in the lower mainland of B.C. to Prince George letting people know he was coming, he would have come back into our community probably totally undetected. Chances are that he would have committed an offence there.

After the citizens were warned that he was coming, on their own and without the help from the justice system because the system let this Mr. Oatway out in the first place, mounted a campaign and distributed posters. This changed Mr. Oatway's mind and he did not come to Prince George. Unfortunately he is in Toronto now and they are faced with the same problem. They have a predator in their community who is likely to offend again. The system failed. He will offend against innocent children who are just enjoying being kids only to be victimized by some sexual predator, some sick person.

Canadians believe that the justice system is severely deficient when it comes to protecting society from these sick, sexual predators. M-116 goes a long way to addressing the situation. It ensures that dangerous sexual offenders will be kept in prison so that our streets, our playgrounds, our schoolyards and our communities can be safe again.

Why should parents have to worry about where their kids play, how they go to school? Why should parents have to worry about their kids going to a playground and having a good time, like kids are supposed to do? They have to worry because the justice system lets people who are sexual predators out on the streets. That is unfair.

The government has had lots of chances to improve the law as it applies to this type of offender. When the Liberals passed Bill C-45 last year, my colleagues in the Reform Party put forward a number of amendments to address sexual offenders and ways to fix the system so that society would not have to fear these people. Specifically, they argue in favour of a child sex offender registry which would identify them so that citizens could take precautions on their own where the justice system fails them.

As well, they argued in favour of sex offenders having to serve their full sentence and undergo-this will come as a real shock to Liberals-mandatory treatment while in prison. Needless to say the Liberals did not adopt any of these proposals and society remains vulnerable to these sick people who prey on little children and commit other sexual offences.

The problem with the government, as mentioned in the opening part of my speech, is that it is concerned more for the rights of criminals. Victims' rights come second as far as the Liberals are concerned. While a lot of bureaucrats sit around and muse over how to protect criminals' rights, these offenders are wandering around anonymously in our neighbourhoods.

The Canadian Police Association got into the heart of the issue in a submission given to MPs in 1993. It stated: "We think we should rethink the basic assumption that dangerous risk high offenders must be released no matter what danger they pose". Policemen in our streets are dealing with these people on a daily basis. They know these people. They know the chances of them reoffending.

They want to keep them off the streets. That is exactly what Motion M-116 addresses.

We must question the logic in simply allowing the justice system to keep releasing these offenders. I might add that we have to question releasing them when their chance of reoffending is very high. Seventy per cent of all inmates who are dangerous offenders have at least one prior federal sentence. These individuals are hard core criminals and it is not overly difficult to identify them.

Similar to the Canadian Police Association position, the group CAVEAT released a report called "Safety Net". It called for dangerous offender applications to be brought against high risk offenders in order to protect the public. This should be the ultimate role of our justice system: the protection of society, our families and our communities. Unfortunately, it seems as though it has been turned on its head according to the Liberal and Bloc members, and criminals' rights come first. That is a shame.

In November 1994 the supreme court ruled that sex offenders could no longer be automatically banned for life from hanging around parks, school yards and playgrounds. The justice system says that people who prey on and victimize little kids cannot be kept from areas where little kids play. That is a sign of a very sick system. What is even more distressing is that the government supports that decision.

I cannot support the government's position on this. I will support Motion M-116. I urge all members who are concerned about the public, the families and the children of the country to support it as well.

Dangerous OffendersPrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

My colleagues, the hour for consideration of private members' business has now expired. Therefore, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from Friday, March 22, consideration of Bill C-14, an act to continue the National Transportation Agency as the Canadian Transportation Agency, to consolidate and revise the National Transportation Act, 1987 and the Railway Act and to amend or repeal others acts as a consequence, as reported with amendments from the committee, and of motions in Group No.8.

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Paul Mercier Bloc Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 18 relates to clause 98, which reads:

98.(1) A railway company shall not construct a railway line without the approval of the Agency.

(2) The Agency may, on application by the railway company, grant the approval if it considers that the location of the railway line is reasonable, taking into consideration requirements for railway operations and services and the interests of the localities that will be affected by the line.

These are excellent provisions, and an effort is made to take into consideration the needs of the users, the company and the region. All that is fine but incomplete. There are two other equally important elements, which our motion is designed to include.

The first of these two elements is the environment. We are surprised to note that the legislation does not state that, before granting approval, the environmental impact must be considered, given that constructing a railway line will obviously change the urban or rural landscape and that an environmental impact assessment is therefore required.

The second element that was overlooked-and this clearly reflects the general attitude of this government, which constantly overlooks the interests, priorities and jurisdictions of the provinces-as part of the process for granting the approval to construct a railway line is consultation, the mere fact of consulting the province or provinces affected before granting this approval.

Yet, land use planning is specifically a provincial field of activity, a provincial area of jurisdiction, either directly or by delegation, because the development plans are prepared by the provinces and approved by the provincial government under which the municipalities come. In particular, corridors may or may not have been provided or approved by the province in these plans for a line to eventually go through the area.

If the allowance, the right of way was not provided for in the development plan for a railway line to go through, it is obvious that changes will have to be made. It is really unthinkable that the federal government go ahead without even consulting the province concerned. This is typical of the way the federal government deals with the provinces, and that is why our motion adds that the granting of the approval to construct a new railway line shall also be subject to "the obtaining of an environmental assessment and compliance with zoning by-laws in the municipalities in any province affected by the railway line".

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Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Bloc motion, there is some merit in it in terms of environmental considerations however, on reviewing this, had it been worded a little differently it would have been easier to support. The way the motion reads it is a cumbersome process which would grind work to a halt. It is not workable.

Motion No. 19 is also connected in some way to what the Bloc raised, which were the concerns of municipalities within the various provinces affected by rail activity. Railways have property which must be crossed from time to time either by the municipalities for infrastructure work or by utility companies in order to supply service to the general public. Often permission is required to make these crossings, either with an overhead crossing or more often an underhead crossing.

The concerns raised by both the municipalities and utility companies are that in the event of rail line abandonment or selling off of the rail lines, they have no tenure on these crossings. They would like something put into the bill which would ensure the infrastructure would continue in the interests of the general public. Obviously, it would be a great hardship for a municipality if suddenly a water or sewer line which crossed rail property was ruled improper and had to be rerouted.

I suspect it will be suggested by the other side that it could be taken care of by getting an expropriation and that is right. The land could be expropriated which would of course mean going to court with lawyers and delays and uncertainty. This is not a company benefit or profit for an individual or an individual company. This is just something to address the needs of the taxpayers in the affected area. It is worthwhile. It is not something which will be a hardship to the rail lines. I ask that all members of the House give it serious consideration.

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Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite carefully to the amendment proposed by the member. I should say that the government does not support the motion because it is not consistent with the current environmental legislation regarding circumstances and responsibilities for conducting environmental assessments. While I understand where the hon. member is coming from, he should realize there is an inconsistency in the motion.

With regard to the subject of local conditions, the hon. member should read section 98(2) again. We believe that the consideration of local conditions is already adequately covered in 98(2) and for that reason we do not believe that this motion should be supported.

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12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 18 in Group No. 8. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Deputy Speaker

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The next question is on Motion No. 19. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.