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

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on the motion today which urges the government to direct the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to draft a victims bill of rights.

The government has continued a trend to be more responsive to victims. The improvements to the justice system, initiated by the federal government, were made without any victims bill of rights. The government took action because it was the right thing to do.

Earlier today we heard numerous examples of specific initiatives to benefit victims of crime. These initiatives go well beyond the principles that would be set out in a victims bill of rights. Actions do speak louder than words.

I support the adoption of a federal declaration on the rights of victims, but I believe there are several factors to consider. I am in favour of a declaration of rights for victims, but I believe we should be speaking about concrete rights for victims. In lending support for a national bill, which I assume suggests federal legislation, we must be careful not to prescribe rights over which the federal government has no jurisdiction and no authority to enforce.

Actions speak louder than words. Setting out principles and calling them rights which could not be effectively enforced would be pointless. We should direct our energy at addressing specific issues which we have the power to address.

Recommendations for a victims bill of rights are not novel. This debate has been ongoing since the mid-1980s. Ever since the American Congress passed its federal victims bill of rights, many Canadians have advocated that we follow suit. It is difficult to disagree with a bill of rights for victims. However, we should ensure that victims of crime will benefit from a so-called bill of rights.

We have had this discussion at both levels of government, federal and provincial. Since the report to ministers of justice of the federal task force on justice for victims of crime in 1983, the federal government, the provinces and territories have been engaged in ongoing consultations regarding improvements to the criminal justice system which would benefit victims of crime within the respective areas of responsibility. These consultations have squarely addressed the enactment of a victims bill of rights.

In 1985 Canada co-sponsored the United Nations statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. Canada's justice system already reflected those principles in 1985. The UN declaration prompted the federal and provincial governments to re-examine the issue of a victims bill of rights. There was an overwhelming consensus that a national bill of rights would not advance the cause of victims.

While all the provinces and the federal government were sincerely committed to making changes to the justice system, it was recognized that certain concerns could only be addressed by provincial legislation and other concerns could be addressed by federal legislation. The majority of concerns could not be addressed by legislation at all, but by changing attitudes about the role of the victim in the process and about basic human values of dignity and respect.

It was also recognized that in order to be meaningful a bill of rights must have a mechanism of enforcement. Rights without remedies cannot truly be said to be rights. For example, if a bill of rights states that victims have the right to receive timely information about the status of the investigation or the prosecution of the offender, what is the remedy when they feel they have not received

timely information? Who is responsible? Likely it is the police and/or the crown.

How can a single piece of legislation assign obligations to different participants in a justice system that play distinct roles and are employed by separate ministries? Moreover what is the remedy? Should the prosecution be called off because the victim did not get information? I do not think so. The advocates of a bill of rights do not think so either.

The example makes the point that all we really can do is prescribe a set of principles to guide all players in the criminal justice system and continue to encourage them to adhere to these principles. The victim is essential to the proper functioning of our criminal justice system and is deserving of the utmost consideration at all stages in the process.

The federal government is responsible for enacting the criminal law while the provinces are generally responsible for the enforcement of the law, the prosecution of offences and the administration of justice. Given that a bill of rights would not be of rights at all but of principles, the provinces and the federal government would get together and do something else.

In 1988 at a meeting of justice ministers, the federal and provincial governments endorsed the Canadian statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. The notion of a statement rather than a bill of rights addressed both the jurisdictional and the practical concerns. All jurisdictions would ensure that whatever initiatives they pursued would reflect these principles, whether in policy or in legislation.

Since 1988 several provinces, including Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and both the territories have enacted victim legislation which does refer to these principles.

The Canadian statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime states that in recognition of the United Nations declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime, federal and provincial ministers responsible for criminal justice agree that the following principles should guide Canadian society in promoting access to justice, fair treatment and provision of assistance for victims of crime.

First, victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their dignity and privacy. They should suffer the minimum of necessary inconvenience from their involvement with the criminal justice system.

Victims should receive through formal and informal procedures prompt and fair redress for the harm which they have suffered. Information regarding remedies and the mechanisms to obtain them should be made available to victims.

Information should made available to victims about their participation in criminal proceedings and the scheduling, progress and ultimate disposition of the proceedings.

Where appropriate the views and concerns of victims should be ascertained and assistance provided throughout the criminal process.

Where the personal interests of the victim are affected, the views or concerns of the victim should be brought to the attention of the court where appropriate and consistent with criminal law and procedure.

Measures should be taken when necessary to ensure the safety of victims and their families and to protect them from intimidation and retaliation.

Enhanced training should be made available to sensitize criminal justice personnel to the needs and concerns of victims and guidelines developed where appropriate for this purpose.

Victims should be informed of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance so they might continue to receive the necessary medical, psychological and social assistance through existing programs and services. Also, victims should report the crime and co-operate with law enforcement authorities.

As members can see, the majority of these principles relate to matters that can be addressed only by the police, prosecutors or court officials. In other words, the majority of victim issues fall to the provinces. It was therefore essential that the provinces had input into the statement and so overwhelmingly supported it.

The question is whether a national bill of rights for victims will do more than the existing statement of principles. A national bill of rights would likely be welcomed by victims, but they would be even more interested in concrete action on the government's commitment to issues like gun control, sentencing and the recently introduced initiatives of Bill C-17 and Bill C-27, which include provisions to strengthen or expand existing protections such as peace bonds and publication bans. Again, actions speak louder than words.

We must also look at the progress made in the last 15 years and talk to victims to find out what they really need in 1996.

In February of this year I read an article in the Vancouver Sun that highlighted the hon. member's proposal for victim rights, in many respects similar to the Canadian statement of basic principles: a right to information about services, a right to be informed of the offender's status, court dates, sentencing dates, a right to an oral or victim impact statement and a right to protection from intimidation.

It also went beyond the existing statement that proposed a right to participate in plea bargain discussions, a right to have police lay charges in domestic violence cases and a right to know if an offender has a sexually transmitted disease. These are certainly controversial issues but they are probably incapable of a remedy in the event of a breach. Moreover, they impact on areas that only the provinces can address.

I emphasize again that I strongly believe that victims of crime have a role to play in our criminal justice system and as such we must do whatever is feasible to ensure their participation does not result in revictimization. Ideally we would like to prevent crime and in consequence prevent victimization.

While we are making significant inroads in crime prevention, we know there will always be victims of crime. That is a sad but true fact. Therefore we must be responsive to their concerns. I believe the government has shown leadership and we know the work is not done. It still requires improvement in a variety of ways, all of which will in turn benefit the victims.

I am also aware the provinces continue to pursue initiatives to improve the administration of justice to benefit victims. I am aware the issue will be discussed at next week's meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for criminal justice. I am sure the provinces will be keenly interested in the hon. member's motion and in today's debate.

While I have no problem supporting a bill of rights for victims, I do not believe it is a cure-all remedy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is kind of sad to hear the things we hear. Sometimes when we are debating with the lawyers in the House, the legal industry, that is the very group which has provided a lot of the problems as far as victims' rights go.

To stand in the House, as the justice minister did this morning, and riddle off all these statements of principles the United Nations and others have dealt with is nice. However, the reason this is before the House today is virtually all of that is not done. It is nice to ascribe to a set of principles but when we do nothing about it, that is the problem.

There was the suggestion that it is only the Reform Party looking at some of these issues. Every victims' right group, virtually every one in the country, has had input into these legislative ideals we have tabled and agrees with them. I see a big difference in that we are not here to talk about only a statement of principles. We are here to have victims' rights somewhere in legislation.

I would like to hear the non-legalese version of my hon. colleague on whether is it better to have a statement of principles which no one is buying into in the legal industry or to have some form of legislation for victims and victims' rights.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it amusing if not ironic that we talk about the justice industry in this country. I have to turn it back and ask if the Reform Party is interested in doing away with those who represent people before the courts, if it would do away with their right to counsel, if it would do away with their right to a proper defence, if it willingly and wilfully eliminate people's access to knowledge of the law, and if it would say a person is going to go into court, not be represented, be accused by the full force of the state and be left to fly by the seat of their pants.

The hon. member wants to know if it is better to have a statement of principles or to have a bill of rights. I will give as an example witnesses who appeared before the justice committee two weeks ago. The hon. member was not at that meeting. There appeared before the justice committee two weeks ago-

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The policy in the House is not to refer to the fact that a member was not in the House or was not in the committee. I ask the member not to do that again.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago before the justice committee appeared victims' rights groups. The sole point raised in this testimony was that as victims they felt intimidated by certain gangs within a community. There is no question these people were the victims of a horrendous crime.

If the federal government had two years ago enacted victims' rights legislation there would be nothing the victims in this case could do to enforce those rights because, as we know, policing falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces. As a result, if the police do not respond to a call, if the police do or do not intervene, a federal bill giving them some sort of a right cannot be enforced provincially. It can be enforced only with respect to the jurisdiction of the federal government. We may not like this, but that is a fact of Canadian life.

Therefore I would suggest that in this case a statement of principles which becomes policy within the respective federal and provincial jurisdictions is just as effective as a bill of rights attempting to effect provincial jurisdiction but which will have no effect whatsoever on provincial authorities.

We can have a bill of rights but unless we are legislating within our purview the end result is that we are making a statement of principles. As we know, we cannot legislate, we cannot dictate to police forces how many officers they will have. Only the solicitor general of a province can do that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The time has expired for questions and answers.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Comox-Alberni.

When you are in your constituency you hear from people who manage to listen to the parliamentary channel every once in a while and what goes on in the Chamber. They are sick and tired of hearing this legal jargon. Over and over we hear all of these lawyers talking and illustrating all the good things they know and all the wonderful things they are to do. Let us not confuse things. Let us talk about this or that. They have people's minds totally confused.

What is it they stand for? What are they trying to do? What do they mean by doing this and that? I think everybody out there is coming to the conclusion I came to a long time ago that the more you keep the people confused, the public, the better it is for the people in the House of Commons, particularly the Liberals.

We came out with a document, a victims' bill of rights. We get all this rhetoric that they can support it, but. Certainly they can support it. They had better support it. It does not make sense that they constantly come up with this whole idea of all these wonderful things they have been doing for two and half years are the answer to victims. They are not. They are not listening at all.

There are eight points on this list. The reason they are on this list, the reason they are on our agenda is that they are on the people's agenda throughout the land. If anybody in the House thinks the majority of Canadians are really happy with our justice system, for heaven's sake let us all go home and ask them one more time how happy they are.

These eight items are on this list because they are on the people's list. That is what they want to see happen. Look at point eight, that victims have a right to now if a person convicted of a sexual offence has a sexually transmitted disease. I cannot believe all the lawyer rhetoric in the House trying to tell us what is wrong with that statement when it is pure and simple.

It is based on several cases, one in particular in Quebec, which is supposed to be doing all the right things, of a woman working in a church office, a secretary, on a Saturday, when she was raped, not sexually assaulted, raped, beaten by an individual on a day pass from prison. After all the trauma of being beaten and raped and humiliated and scarred for life, she simply wanted to know if this perpetrator had a sexually transmitted disease or HIV. She wanted to eliminate that possibility.

For goodness sake, if that does not make just plain old ordinary horse sense, I do not know what does. We heard this kind of rhetoric a dozen times from a couple of speakers.

Once again this is on our agenda because it is on the agenda of Canadians. It is on the agenda of the people from FACT, CAVEAT, CRY, Move the Rock, Remove the Rock, the Kid Brother campaign. More and more a whole pile of individuals are signing up to the victims groups across the land.

Why is it that in two and one-half years membership in the victims organizations is growing probably 10 to 100 times faster than the membership in the Liberal Party? Why is it when victims of crime are invited to a convention in Hamilton that come thousands come? It is because we are not doing our job.

We are now asking that we provide something which represents what they would like to have. We are listening to the people. These are the things the police are calling for. These are the things the public is calling for. It is not just the Reform Party. It is on our agenda because it is on the people's agenda. I am really tired of hearing about these wonderful bills the Liberals have passed in two and one-half years, C-37, C-68, C-41, all the wonderful things they are doing for the victims.

It is really amazing that in January 1994 all these things were supposed to be submitted to the justice minister in order for him to come up with some new ideas on the Young Offenders Act. He came up with Bill C-37. If C-37 was such a hot and wonderful bill, will somebody please explain why the justice minister has the justice committee going all across the country asking people what they want to do about young offenders? It is because he knows it is not even close to being solved. Yet three, four or five times today in the House I heard the Liberals saying what a wonderful thing they have done for victims.

Nobody talks about the fact that in Bill C-41 the Liberals wanted to put dangerous offenders in alternative programs which we opposed. Nobody even mentioned the legislation where if a member of this place or some other elected place commits a crime, as long as their sentence was not longer than five years-until we had it amended-they could still draw their pay and be a member of the government they were elected into. Nobody even mentions that. We had it reduced to two years. Is it not wonderful to know that if you are a parliamentarian you can go out and break the law and as long as your sentence is not longer than two years you can still get your pay and be happy?

All we are saying is to address the victims. These are some of the things we can do. These are some of the things that will give hope to the people from those organizations in our constituencies.

With Bill C-68, the same old rhetoric flies on and on. Nobody mentions the 150 pages that address the law-abiding people and the very little that addresses the criminal. Nobody mentions all the flaws that were in that legislation. Thank goodness we have our

member for Calgary North who has a little bit of law experience. He sat with me for a day or two and explained all the flaws that were in that law and what made it such a bad piece of legislation. It was not the principle of making certain that people are not hurt with guns. This was wise. However, C-68 certainly did not take care of that.

What a tragedy that case was in Vernon, but the law was followed to the letter when it came to C-68. All the right paperwork was in place, registration and everything. The only thing they failed to say was that the person had victimized people in the past. With a little bit of time and effort they would have realized that we cannot issue a gun to a person like that. That is all it would have taken. Now C-68 certainly did not do a lot of good in that case. Stop all that nonsense. It is not doing that much good and it will not do any good.

Think of the people who got out on bail. People are arrested at breakfast and bailed out at noon. There are over a dozen cases now involving serious offences where the person was arrested and bailed out. They then went on to finish the act before the day was over. They committed murder and sexual assault.

We should do something about protecting victims in those situations, but we do not do anything. We come out with thick documents which are flawed to no end and then brag about them. We get a bunch of lawyer talk to make people out there in the land think we know what we are doing. And they wonder what we are doing because they do not understand.

I am beginning to understand more and more. There is one thing I believe with all my heart. I was told this by an individual some time ago. I am beginning to see what he meant. He said that when the government fears the people we have a democracy and when the people start fearing the government we have tyranny. He said we had better watch what is happening in Canada and I believe him now more than ever.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of government legislation, the hon. member for Calgary Centre made some of the same points. Interestingly enough, the hon. member for Calgary Centre who spoke against the government's gun legislation today, supported the government when the legislation was before the House. I guess that is rehabilitation Reform style. The two members who supported the government have been rehabilitated. They have been taken to the woodshed.

I have in my hand the victims services pamphlet which is put out by the Waterloo regional police. It says that victims of crime need not suffer physical injuries to experience severe effects for weeks or months after the crime. They may feel anger, fear, guilt and helplessness. To assist victims in dealing with the effects of crime the Waterloo regional police established a victims services unit. Civilian counsellors in the unit provide assistance to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. Actually, a fair number of the services it offers fit in with the Reform Party's victims bill of rights.

Would the hon. member for Wild Rose and his party support the idea of letting the Progressive Conservative government in the province of Ontario know that the victims services as operated by the Waterloo regional police force are services which they support and that the provincial government should not be slashing funding to that organization as well as other victims organizations?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I will defend my colleague for Calgary Centre. He votes with his nose once in a while; he votes one way and holds his nose.

People are attempting to do a number of things across the land. A lot of good volunteer organizations are trying their best to help the victims. That is why we have all of these victims groups.

Of course there are a lot of things we would like to support financially. However, we all know from the record of Liberal and Conservative governments in the last few years that we are broke. The provinces are struggling. It is a real battle. We continue to waste money.

I really do not know what the situation is in the Ontario government, but I have a better idea. I doubt if it costs a great deal of money to provide certain things. Maybe we should come up with it this way. Why does the hon. member and his colleagues not give up their pensions? We could steer that money into the cause. What about that for a change? Maybe we could get the front line people to give up their limousines. We could use that money. Maybe you could show some leadership in that area instead of give, give, give. In the meantime, you are trying to figure out how much money you can get, get, get. The attitude on that side of the House stinks.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The other member was corrected. I would ask the member and all members, to please put their remarks through the Chair and not across the floor.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this Reform motion concerning victims rights put forward by the member for Fraser Valley West.

The point of the motion is very basic. We are asking the Liberal government to commit to draw up a victims bill of rights. The motion asks the government to direct the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to draft a victims bill of rights. In areas of provincial jurisdiction the Minister of Justice should consult with the provinces to arrive at a national standard. It is long past time that victims rights be recognized.

As a Reform member of Parliament I am proud to say that the Reform Party is the only party fighting for victims rights in the House. At the same time I am pleased that the Minister of Justice has agreed to support the motion. However, it is not enough to support the motion in principle. Policies must be followed up with actions. The government has been notorious for its promises, but its ability to follow through on the promises has left a lot to be desired. The GST comes to mind.

This is the third debate on victims rights in the House since the last election and Canadians are still waiting for a bill to come forward. We have heard a lot of rhetoric, but victims need far more than rhetoric. Principles carry little weight unless they are put into action. We need a victims bill of rights and I hope that the government will not keep victims waiting for much longer.

Canadians want a system that is fair, just and compassionate. Canadians expect this from a justice system that currently recognizes the rights of the criminal but refuses to entrench the rights of the victim in legislation.

Our justice system is meant to serve all in society. At present it serves just the criminals. There are three parts to a justice system: the law, the criminals and the victims. Somewhere along the line the victims have been left out of the equation. Victims have been neglected by the system to the point where they are the last ones to be consulted or considered and now they are going to be the last to be recognized legally.

The focus of our justice system has been primarily on the criminal. The victim has been shoved to the side and it is time that we realigned our priorities so that victims rights are first and foremost. The victim simply must come first.

In my constituency in Courtenay, B.C., on October 24, 1992 six year old Dawn Shaw was raped and then stomped to death by her babysitter, 16 year old Jason Gamache. Unknown to Dawn's parents, Jason Gamache had two previous convictions of sexual molestation. He had been convicted of two sexual assaults on four year old children, one a girl, the other a boy.

In 1991 a year before the murder, Jason was convicted in Nanaimo. He moved to Courtenay with his mother to attend court ordered sex offender therapy through the John Howard Society. Jason Gamache's probation order clearly stated that he was to have no contact with children under the age of 12. Yet the only people who knew about his background were his mother, his probation officer and the John Howard Society. The RCMP were not notified when Jason moved to Courtenay. They were unaware of his record. Why? Because the criminal's rights were put ahead of those of everyone else.

Jason Gamache was restricted from children under the age of 12, yet he was living right next door to an elementary school. On the same night that he murdered Dawn Shaw, he babysat Dawn Shaw's brother and sister because Dawn Shaw's parents did not know he was a convicted sex offender.

Jason Gamache received the maximum penalty of life with no parole for 10 years. In 1999 when Jason Gamache is 23 he will be eligible for unescorted release from day prison and will be free to roam the streets. The greatest tragedy is that this and many other crimes could have been prevented. Yet our system puts the rights of the criminals, like Jason Gamache, ahead of the rights of society and the rights of Dawn Shaw. Criminals like Jason Gamache have all kinds of rights.

What rights do the victims have? Surely six-year-old Dawn Shaw and her parents had the right to know their babysitter was a dangerous sexual offender. Convicted murderers demand their rights be respected, but rights of victims go unheard.

What about the rights of those who suffer for a lifetime? What rights do the parents of murdered children have? The rights of families with small children like Dawn Shaw who are left vulnerable and oblivious to the dangers of their environment are secondary to the rights of her killer. We cannot put the rights of criminals ahead of our children.

Canadians have the right to know the dangers that exist when there are violent offenders roaming the streets or living next door. Parents have the right to know when there is a child molester in their backyard.

There is a need for a victims' bill of rights. There are a number of rights victims should have yet they do not. Either they are not on the books or there is no mechanism to enforce them. Too often victims are not informed when there is an investigation and this should not be happening in our justice system.

Victims should be fully informed about the progress and outcome of the investigation and the charges to be laid against the offender. If charges are not laid, the victims should be informed why not. The victim must have the right to be informed of the offender's status throughout the process, including, but not restricted to, notification of any arrests, upcoming court dates, sentencing dates, plans to release the offender from custody, including notification of what community the parolee is being released into, conditions of release and parole dates. Victims should also be aware of the criminal's whereabouts at all times.

Victims' rights should also be extended to protect victims of domestic violence. If a victim files a complaint of domestic violence the police must have the authority to follow through tothe end.

The rights of the victim and compensation for the victim's losses should also be a priority consideration. The government must hold the criminal accountable for the crime. Restitution orders should be mandatory, not at the discretion of the courts. It is not enough to give victims their rights. Victims need to know what their rights are. Victims must be informed of their rights at every stage and all information should be made available on request.

Some provinces have taken the initiative to put forward legislation that protects the rights of victims of crime. In British Columbia the victim of crime act gives victims legal rights to information and rights to compensation. However, it only applies to those serving terms of less than two years who fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Ontario victims' right bill allows victims to be provided with information, yet the problem remains. Many of these measures apply only to provincial institutions and will not help victims of crimes under federal jurisdiction.

Provincial legislation is a move in the right direction but it is only a beginning. Provincial laws to protect victims will only apply to provincial violations.

Under the Constitution Act of 1867, Parliament has jurisdiction over the management of penitentiaries, so anything related to prisoners or parole are federal responsibilities. Yet victims have fallen through the cracks because neither the federal government nor the provincial governments have exclusive jurisdiction. Victims fall into both federal and provincial jurisdiction and it is the responsibility of both to work together to establish a national standard for victims' rights.

Why is it that we have a national standard for the environment, a national standard for health, a national standard for parks and a national standard for broadcasting? Is it asking too much to establish national standards for victims' rights? I think not.

It is time for the government to set things straight. It is time for us to show compassion and respect for the victim, that is at the very least equal to that which we give the criminal.

In conclusion, we are asking that the government look into a victims' bill of rights. It is not a huge commitment but it is a small but significant step in the right direction. I hope government members will support this motion, not only with their vote but also with their actions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to part of the member's speech and I wonder if I understood and if the member has really analyzed the situation in certain provinces. I will not speak about British Columbia, the example used by the member, I will speak about Quebec.

In Quebec we have the Crime Victims Compensation Act. It is not true that this act compensates victims or covers their rights only when the offence is punishable by imprisonment of more than two years. It applies to all crimes, as its name indicates. Therefore whenever anyone suffers damages as the result of a murder, theft or bodily harm, regardless of whether the crime is punishable by imprisonment for two, five or ten years or six months or a fine, the Crime Victim's Compensation Act applies.

Provinces without such legislation may be provinces where interest is lacking. It is not up to the federal government to establish it. This legislation is provincial. It is a provincial matter. In Quebec we created this legislation with the Crime Victims Compensation Act.

I would like to know from the member, with speeches being made, things proposed and people accused, whether the members of the Reform Party have at least done an analysis? Could the member who just spoke tell us whether, from his research in certain provinces, the legislation he has just quoted applied to all victims of crime or just some? I would like to know whether he really seriously analyzed the situation in British Columbia and Quebec.

I think he will conclude that it is not a matter of federal jurisdiction and he will follow our example of advocating each province's passing legislation to compensate victims of crime and to enshrine victims' rights. We in the Bloc say that victims' rights must be protected, but the right legislature must do the job, and I think the Reform Party is once again mistaken.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question, the member for Fraser Valley East checked victims rights' bills across Canada. The problem is that they are all over the board.

That is why a national standard is necessary. The standard should apply right across the country. Otherwise, people will move from province to province to get into jurisdictions where they may not have to pay or may have a lesser penalty.

We need a national standard. It is not in place at the moment. It is definitely required.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question. The gun control legislation gives police authority in cases where an individual has threatened violence against a spouse, another person or has committed an act of violence, under certain circumstances, to remove the firearms from that offender.

I wonder if the member is in support of leaving those firearms in the hands of the offender.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the law may be on the books all right, but my understanding is that the police do not enforce it. That is a major problem.

Speaking of the gun bill, we are going back to registration and the government's folly that people who are going to register their guns will not commit crimes. A criminal does not take a long gun to rob a jewellery store. Criminals use illegal weapons.

That was the problem with the gun bill right from the beginning. There was never a gun lobby in Canada. There is now, and the Liberals are going to pay for it in the next election.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support of the motion of my colleague, a motion I will read one more time for the benefit of the members. The motion is to introduce a bill for victims' rights:

That the House urge the government to direct the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to proceed with the drafting of a Victim's Bill of Rights, and that, in such areas where the Committee determines a right to be more properly a provincial concern, the Minister of Justice initiate consultations with the provinces aimed at arriving at a national standard for a Victims' Bill of Rights.

It is a very well constructed motion because it takes into account some of the points that were raised by a member a moment ago that the jurisdiction of the federal government does not extend to all areas. Some are under provincial control. It really requires provincial co-operation in order to make this work. I am pleased to note that a lot of Liberal members support this type of action. We certainly do need a victims' bill of right.

As I listened today to the speeches and I heard the reasons why we need this victims' bill of rights it really started to make me think about what has led us to this point where we have to talk about this victims' bill of rights.

What is the root cause of all this crime that has us so concerned about our safety and the type of environment that we are in that we have to go to this point of protecting so many victims? What is it that has led us to this point where we have the "Stop the Rock," "Get Rid of the Rock" and the CUSJ, CAVEAT and other groups? Why are they there? What has caused it?

Why is there graffiti all down the Sparks Street Mall that was not there just a year ago? I see graffiti on my office building in North Vancouver that was not there a year ago. Why is it that my parents felt safe walking the streets at night when they were my age? It was perfectly safe for them to let me out as child to play in the park or to go with my friends to the local forest to play games without having to be concerned?

Why was it safe for me to walk to school instead of the situation you see today where every morning hundreds of thousands of parents across Canada feel obliged to put their children in the car to drive them maybe half a kilometre or a kilometre to their school because they do not feel confident of the safety of their children?

How come there are drive-by shootings in Vancouver? There was at least one here in Ottawa in the last year. There were not drive-by shootings even five years ago. What is going on here?

Why does my wife have to be accompanied to her car in the car park in the evening when she leaves the office when she did not have to do that five years ago? There is something dreadfully wrong.

The more I thought about it today as I was listening to these speeches the more I could see that the root cause of the problem, the reason that we are standing here today working on this victims' bill of rights is that something terrible has happened over the last two decades that has brought us to this point.

I challenge every member in the House to ask themselves what has changed and they will soon come to same conclusion that I did. It has all happened because we do not treat criminals like criminals anymore. We have sent a message to the criminals, to the young offenders, to all of those people out there who are destroying our society that we owe them a living, that what they are doing is okay.

When the police come to my office building because young people are spray painting on the side of the building they stand back and they try to have some discussion with these young people, these young punks just tell the police to F-off. I cannot say the words here in the House but I think we are all familiar with the type of contempt with which the police are treated from these types of punks.

We have told these people by our actions is that it is okay to spray paint on buildings. It is okay to do all these petty crimes that increase our tolerance of crime.

Over the past 20 years or so the justice system has tended to concentrate on this theory of rehabilitation, claiming that we really need to get to the root cause of the crime. If we can just say to people we love you, please be good, that they will be good. Twenty years has shown us it does not work. With all of the examples that I have just given, I challenge members to think of their own examples. I hear a member on the other side saying nonsense, but of course he does not have a wife he has to worry about going to the car park to get to her car every day.

I invite members to think about that. I would also like them to think about the aggressive policing that has been taking place in

New York over the last little while and the effect that longer prison terms have had on the crime rate in that city.

It seems that perhaps a more punishment oriented system will actually get control of the type of crime that has led us to this point where we are asking for a victims' bill of rights.

I remind members about a police commissioner of New York, William Bratton, who said the root of crime is criminals. If we start to recognize that it is criminals who cause crimes and begin addressing that problem we will reduce the number of victims dramatically and we will not need all of the extra money, hundreds of millions, that we a pouring into victims' rights groups to help all the people who have become victims of these criminals.

In 1990 when Mr. Bratton was the security director for the New York subway system, he took a hardline approach in terms of the graffiti, loud radio playing and spitting on the sidewalk. He told his security people that he wanted to clamp down hard on all of these minor crimes and send a message of zero tolerance. There was an impressive drop in serious crimes. Robberies within one year were down 75 per cent and serious felonies were down 64 per cent in just five years.

Mr. Bratton so impressed the people of New York that he was subsequently elected police commissioner of New York where his methods have resulted in a 31 per cent drop in murders, a 25 per cent drop in car theft and a 22 per cent drop in robberies. These improvements appear to come directly from an increased concentration by police on minor crimes, the sorts of things that we have come to tolerate, the graffiti, the foul language in public, all of those minor crimes. If we would just send the message that we do not tolerate that, we could restore some sense to our system.

Like many other members in the House, I have visited high schools from time to time. Any time I ask high school students if they think the Young Offenders Act needs changing, at least 99 out of 100 students put their hands up and say the Young Offenders Act needs changing.

When I asked them if they think they are being influenced by the hype in the newspaper, the crimes that are reported, and really the problem is not that bad, that they are really being influenced emotionally and have not really thought about it, 99 out of 100 still thought it was wrong, that it badly needs changing.

I have an article which appeared in the north shore news. It is in the youth views section. It was written by a grade 12 student in my riding, Sarah Duro: "Get out of jail free is basically what the Young Offenders Act does for youth today. Children between the ages of 12 and 19 are protected for crimes that rank from shoplifting to murder. The consequences for the more major crimes are a mere slap on the wrist. It appears that young people have special needs since they are not fully mature and should not suffer the same consequences as adults. But surely if a child is mature enough to take someone's life, they are mature enough to pay the price".

That is the sort of feeling I hear regularly in the schools. I again challenge members across the House to think about the times they have asked questions about justice issues in high schools. They will know I am telling the truth about the reactions.

Sarah wrote: "If you are committing an adult crime you should be treated the way an adult would be treated instead of being treated as a helpless child". She goes on to say how they had a discussion in her class all about the Young Offenders Act and how the penalties should be increase.

It is my experience that students in high schools would be a lot more harsh on their piers than we would ever be as parliamentarians in the sorts of punishments we would propose.

Sarah finishes by saying: "Here is a small suggestion. Maybe our government should start issuing a licence to kill for youths today. Wait a minute, they already have. It's called the Young Offenders Act".

That is the sort of attitude youth have. The adults in my riding are also extremely upset about the way the justice system is operating.

In the August 29, 1995 edition of Investor's Business Daily there was close to a full page of statistical information in an article by John Barnes on the effects of punishment on crime rates. He headed the piece: ``Does crime pay? Not if criminals do hard time''. I urge members to get a copy of this article.

Mr. Barnes wrote that in 1994 University of Arizona economist Michael Block and researcher Steven Twist compared some victimization rates with imprisonment rates from 1960 to 1992, a period of 32 years. They found that the ten states which had the highest imprisonment rates experienced an 8 per cent drop in violent crime during the period under study. In contrast, the ten states with the lowest imprisonment rates saw their violent crime rates jump by 51 per cent in the same period.

Very clearly incarceration does work to reduce crime. That does not mean, as members opposite keep claiming, we need to lock up everybody. Obviously we need to use common sense. If a person who commits a minor crime or a robbery could be put on electronic surveillance and be permitted to stay at work, supporting his or her family, that would be much better than locking up that person. However, if a person is a danger to society they really should spend a little time behind bars, away from society.

In 20 minutes or so we will know for certain whether victims' rights will become a reality in Canada. At that time the bells will

ring, we will have a vote and the members who support victims' rights will be on the record.

I hope the Minister of Justice takes the issue seriously. When he votes in favour of the motion, as he said he would, I hope he takes it seriously. When the issues goes to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to draft the victims' bill of rights I hope he will enthusiastically put his weight behind the bill. I hope he will enthusiastically contact the appropriate people in the provinces and work with them to put together a workable victims' bill of rights.

I congratulate my colleague for bringing this subject to the House today. I support the victims' bill of rights. I hope members of the House will consider what I have said about the cause of crime and how, if we would place a little concentration on that aspect, we could probably reduce the need for the victims' bill of rights.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario

Liberal

Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest things that occurs in our country are these debates. It is always good to have points of view from all sides and not simply a narrow point of view.

How does the member explain the demographics? I understand that a lot of the reduction in crime in New York state is because many of the young people who were committing crime are now much older and when there are population shifts crime decreases. I do not know if we can attribute that to putting a lot of people in jail.

Who does he think are the people who put graffiti on walls? As I understand it, they often come from upper and middle class families. It is a highly sophisticated operation. They get away from their parents and they play games with the police. The kinds of people my friend is talking about are not necessarily the kinds the general population thinks.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned that maybe the reduction in crime in New York was due to the fact that the criminals got older. That is a very amusing way of looking at it.

Actually, if were just people getting older, it would be a bit difficult to explain because on the subway the drop in crime rate occurred in one year. In New York in five years robberies were down 75 per cent, serious felonies were down 64 per cent. Over a one year period in New York there was a 31 per cent drop in murders. I do not know whether these criminals are aging at 10 times the rate of everybody else, but I am surprised they were reformed so quickly in one year.

Another point the member raised was who puts graffiti on walls. I do not know why he said it is the children of wealthy families who do this. What difference does it make who the criminals are? I could not care less and I am sure most people in Canada could not care less whether criminals come from wealthy or poor families. If they are criminals, they are criminals. Saying we will not touch them because they are from a wealthy home or because they are from a poor home is a ridiculous way to approach crime.

If someone is putting graffiti on a wall they should be appropriately treated. That means taking action which discourages them from ever putting graffiti on a wall again.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, under cover of a motion that is, after all, fairly ordinary, we immediately recognize the hon. members' pet themes: young offenders; licence to kill-it is rather odd to hear that in Canada; violent crime; shocking statistics; example setting sentences; jailing people is never enough; the length of sentences, lock them up for as long as possible, get rid of them.

I think the discourse of the Reformers is rather difficult to follow. These are the same Reformers who voted against firearms registration, when we know that the most violent crimes, the most odious crimes, the ones most often reported in the sort of sensational newspapers the Reformers read, are crimes committed with firearms. It is rather odd coming from members of Parliament, but it is par for the course from Reformers. They are hard to understand.

I would like to say to the Reformers that we, in Quebec, looked at these questions at least thirty years ago, and again last year during the hearings on the future of Quebec. People from throughout Quebec came to tell us that in a sovereign Quebec there should be a charter on the rights and responsibilities of taxpayers. It was good for criminals, victims, youth, seniors, taxpayers, the unemployed and workers. We needed a charter that would lay it all out.

It is true that, in addition to rights, citizens also have obligations. This must be recognized, and perhaps put down in writing, if necessary, but it must be done. The first step is to reflect on the question, give the problem some thought. What is not needed is inflammatory speeches and statistics out of context.

That being said, if the hon. member wishes to give it the time, and that is the question, should he not be thinking about prevention and rehabilitation, with due regard for jurisdiction?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is obviously completely satisfied that there are no crime problems in Canada today, no crime problems in his riding. His wife, his children, his friends and family are completely safe on the streets at night. There is no graffiti in his riding. It sounds like he should start advertising a big tourist trade there: come to the safest place in Canada, no graffiti, no crime, nothing to worry about, we are in

paradise. It is not like that at all. I can see that it is a complete waste of time trying to work on changing his opinion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

Is the House ready for the question?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.