House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was life.
House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was life.
Question On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings
Some hon. members
Question On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings
John Nunziata Liberal York South—Weston, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A lot that happens in the House is esoteric to the House in that people who watch, the thousands of Canadians who watch the proceedings of the House right across the country, do not know what is going on at times with respect to the proceedings of the House.
It makes it even more difficult for members who do not belong to any caucus to follow the proceedings. For example, the parliamentary secretary a few moments ago talked about some question number that, as a member of the House, I can review the document that will tell me. However, for the thousands of Canadians out there who are constant viewers of the parliamentary channel, they are at a loss to understand what is going on.
As a suggestion to the parliamentary secretary, he might want to in future explain or at least indicate what the question is that is being deferred or answered.
Question On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings
The Deputy Speaker
I fully agree with the member. We tend to use the jargon of this place. It would help if every one of us tried to avoid using standing orders by reference and so on. Maybe we can be a little clearer in what we say in this place.
The House resumed from September 16 consideration of Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code (judicial review of parole ineligibility) and another act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and on the motions in Group No. 1.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say it is a privilege to talk on Bill C-45 with regard to the amendment to section 745 of the Criminal Code.
I would like to say that, but it is really not a privilege. The fact is we should not be here talking about this amendment to section 745, the faint hope clause as it has become known. It really should have been repealed. To be standing here today talking about amendments from the Liberal government is really quite an insult.
If we were to talk to many of the people of the lower mainland of British Columbia and particularly in my riding, they would agree with what I say. Why did the government not repeal this section of the act?
Since it does not have the courage of the convictions of many people in this country, I will try to put in a wake-up call to the government and explain why it is necessary to repeal this part of the Criminal Code.
I may be the only MP in the House who has attended a parole board hearing for individuals who were put before a parole board hearing as a result of a federal review under section 745. That in itself may not be significant. However, what is significant are the circumstances by which I attended the parole board hearing for the two individuals who were released under section 745.
They killed a young RCMP officer in Cloverdale, British Columbia in the 1970s. They were sentenced to hang, until the Liberal government decided that hanging was a bad thing and decided that life, 25 years, would be a good thing with the possibility of getting out before 25 years. Lo and behold, at year 17 these individuals who killed that young police officer are now out on the streets.
One might say they had spent enough time in prison, perhaps they are sorry for what they did. They deliberately enticed a young 19-year old officer chase their car. They stopped their car, he got out of his car and they blew him away with a gun.
Before the parole hearing took place and after the judicial review, I was called by the sister of this young policeman who now
lives in Montreal today and his brother who lives in Vancouver. They told me: "We thought this was all behind us. We thought we were done with this and here we are once again sitting here listening and rehashing the horrible events that led to our young brother's death".
The constable's brother was sitting with me at the parole board hearing. He really made no input to the hearing, made no victim's impact statement and could not say how he really felt. His sister could not get to Abbotsford to the parole board hearing. She stayed in Montreal with bated breath waiting and hoping they would get their just sentence, life.
It turned out there was another policeman in the room who was a friend of the constable back in the 1970s. He just shook his head at what he heard. I think everybody in the room agreed that people had forgotten after all those years. It was such a big deal when this policeman was killed in the 1970s but now people had forgotten what it was all about.
Such are the problems with section 745, the faint hope clause. Those two individuals, cop killers as they were considered, who in earlier years would have been hanged or would have received life are now out. One is going to college.
I do not know what it will take to get this government to understand that first degree murderers are first degree murderers and that giving them an opportunity to get out as in the faint hope clause is only sentencing the victims to a lifelong series of events which never goes away.
For instance, you only have to talk to Sharon and Gary Rosenfeldt. I know people do not like to hear about Clifford Olson and nobody likes to talk about him and people like him. When you talk to Sharon Rosenfeldt she says: "What else can I do? The government is going ahead with all of these things. This guy has so many rights and privileges in a prison. We have to talk about it". Yet this government is talk, talk, talk but it does not listen.
There are many victims groups in this country which I have the privilege of knowing. They call this a revictimization. I do not think the Liberals understand that. What is the point of taking the victims, their families, their children and their brothers and sisters all through this time and time again?
If this government could only understand, for instance, the problems it has brought to bear on so many people with section 745 with regard to Olson. He flew at taxpayer expense from Alberta to British Columbia for a hearing. There are countless hundreds and thousands of people on the lower mainland who are appalled by this and yet the government sits blank and allows it to happen. That in itself is criminal in my opinion.
It is going to take the removal of the Liberals out of the House of Commons to make changes because they are not listening. There are probably 20,000 to 30,000 people who are ready to surround the building where Olson will have his federal hearing to give a statement. The member can laugh all right, but they will be there and they will give a statement and the member still will not do anything and will not understand, but they will speak out anyway.
Giving this glimmer of hope to these people is really the wrong thing. All the government is doing is giving them much more opportunity than the victims. We have talked about victim rights in the House. This government does not even know what victim rights are and it could not even speak to it if we asked anybody to stand up here in the House.
One says tsk, tsk. That is the insult you get from this Liberal government. Tsk, tsk. You have a Liberal laughing over here. I just do not understand. Breaks are given to some people.
Look at what Olson has done and the fact that he has in excess of 30 litigation cases against the crown. He is flown from hearing to hearing. He made tapes in his prison cell unknown to Correctional Service Canada. Steve Sullivan, executive director of the victims resource centre, wrote to the minister on March 1996 concerning those video tapes and the right to make them. Seven months have passed now and Correctional Service Canada did its own internal investigation and has been complete for a couple of months. It cannot get answers. Victims ask why this is being done.
When is this government really going to get the message? When is this government going to understand in the House of Commons that there are a lot of people out there hoping the right thing will be done?
In my riding there is a Liberal want to be, a guy pops up his head once in a while in our local newspapers who we beat in the last election. In the local newspaper he said: "It doesn't really matter anyway. A guy like Olson is not going to get a parole. He is going to get a federal hearing. He is going to use taxpayers' dollars for legal aid but he is not going to get out on parole, so don't worry about it".
Why are we spending all the money if in fact he is not getting out? Why would we not repeal the section if in fact they are not getting out anyway? What kind of sham is this, this cloak and dagger stuff the government pulls over on the people of Canada to show yes, it is going to do something about this faint hope clause; the government will deal toughly with it and the government cloaks it.
Why must we talk time after time in this House about sections within the Criminal Code? Why must we bring these events here to debate minor amendments when this government with the huge majority it has can do what is right and repeal it? That is an
interesting question for those who laugh and say tsk, tsk, for those who promise one thing and do another, for those who consider in this House on the Liberal side that criminal rights are more important than victims rights. Yes, members can shake their heads but that is what it amounts to.
I get one minute to tell the House what I think but we cannot say that on television. The difficulty anyone has coming to the House of Commons with a majority Liberal government is they do not do much of anything at all. There will be changes. I can assure the House if the government does not repeal section 745 and Olson shows up in Vancouver, we will be there. We will be there not with 10,000, not with 15,000 but with 20,000-plus people standing and telling Liberals just what they think of this Liberal government.
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Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC
Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me and allowing me to join in this very important debate. It is very important because in this debate we are exposing the true feelings of the government toward the issues of law, order, justice and security. The problem is that the government talks tough but acts in a weak, appeasing manner.
If the opinion of the people of Canada can be espoused on anything, surely we can gauge their feelings on law and order. The public is sick and tired of those who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison for a particular period of time reappearing prematurely on our streets and endangering the safety of Canadians.
Bill C-45 is just another example of the government caving in to special interest groups and not coming up with tough measures in amendments to the Criminal Code. Bill C-45 is 16 pages long. All it needed to be was one paragraph long. What did it need to say? Convicted murderers do not qualify for early parole. That is it.
Bill C-45 provides a complex formula which, if a convicted murderer follows, he or she may be back on the street well before the sentence has expired. Is it so difficult for the government to understand that the people of Canada do not want to make it harder for murderers to get back on the street prematurely? They do not want them back there at all.
Under this bill newly sentenced multiple murderers have no right to apply for early parole but those who were sentenced as serial murderers prior to the coming into force of the bill still can apply for early parole. Does the Minister of Justice believe mass murderers already in jail have some sort of protected acquired right to seek early parole? Is the minister afraid of a charter challenge that might result from removing this right from those already in prison? I say to the minister, have the courage to legislate. In this case let the serial killers bring their charter challenges regarding a law which would keep them locked up.
I recently received a letter from the Minister of Justice. In it he states: "Section 745 was enacted to offer a degree of hope for the rehabilitation of convicted murderers". Where was the degree of hope for the victims? Where was the degree of hope for the friends and relatives of the victims?
The minister went on to say that many groups oppose the legislation because they consider 15 years to be too light a sentence. That was in 1976, yet this minister decided Canadians were all wrong.
The minister told us repeatedly during the debates on Bill C-68, the gun control legislation, that he needed to have it passed because it would make our streets safer. Most of us know we need crime control, not gun control. However, a number of members of the House-none in the Reform Party-found this argument attractive and the legislation passed. Now that the streets are supposedly safer, according to the Liberals because of Bill C-68, the justice minister is quite willing to render them unsafe by continuing to allow murderers to apply for early parole.
My friends opposite say the new method is more difficult; the hoops that have to be jumped through are more complicated; the tests are more difficult. Yes they are. An application must first be made to a superior court judge. Now we are going to involve the precious time of our senior judges in this matter.
What are the costs to the taxpayers for such a process? What are the costs to the other parts of the judicial system when we have a senior judge involved in these types of hearings? These costs are on top of the costs of the original court cases which the taxpayers paid to convict these murderers.
Then, if the applicant for early parole is not happy with what he or she is told by a superior court judge, an appeal can be launched to the court of appeal. Again, at what cost to the taxpayers and to the judicial system? Lots of jobs for the legal profession though.
Pity the position in which the superior court judge is placed as a result of this bill. It is up to the judge to decide if the matter should go to a jury hearing on the basis of a reasonable prospect of success. What will be the basis upon which this is determined? Good behaviour? Repentance? Perhaps an argument that it really was not such a bad murder after all.
In his letter to me the justice minister went on to say: "The parole board has the discretion to grant or to deny parole. The paramount consideration for the board in every case is the protec-
tion of society". I can hear the gasps of shock from Canadians over that statement. How many murders have been committed while a convicted criminal is out on parole or early release? The horror stories are endless.
The minister continued: "Where the parole board grants parole, the offender remains subject to the life sentence imposed for the offence and hence, subject to supervision and to the specified conditions of release, literally for the offender's entire life. He or she can be reincarcerated at any time for a breach of the conditions of release". Is this paragraph supposed to convince anyone? I wonder what solace Melanie Carpenter's family and all the others killed and tortured by those out on parole can take from that statement. Oh, but the offenders can be reincarcerated at any time.
The Reform Party's position is clear on this matter, just as it is clear on all other matters dealing with justice and security in Canadian society. We see no reason to supply convicted murderers with a glimmer of hope. They gave no glimmer of hope to their victims. A life sentence for premeditated first degree murder is not about rehabilitation, it is about providing a fair and just penalty for the taking of a life, usually in a vicious manner.
The Reform Party and Canadians seek the full repeal of section 745 of the Criminal Code.
I believe there is a crisis of confidence in our justice system today. A Reader's Digest /Roper poll shows that 81 per cent of respondents rate the criminal justice system as being fair to poor in dealing with violent offenders. Canadians consider violent crime a very serious problem and have little confidence in how the justice system deals with it.
My riding of Mission-Coquitlam is, I feel, a very special riding. We are a mixture of academia, professionals, loggers, farmers, fishermen and small business. We receive more than our share of rewards for caring about the environment, providing young offenders programs, caring for seniors, and providing pages on a regular basis for the House of Commons. When I talk with my constituents they assure me that everyone must be responsible for their actions.
I asked a question of my constituents about capital punishment: Do you agree with the use of capital punishment after all appeals have been exhausted in the case of serial killers and mass murderers? At the time of the householder we had 42,000 households. I received answers from 2,680, which is 6.4 per cent, a very high return. Eighty-seven per cent said yes to capital punishment under those terms.
I believe the Canadian people want a referendum on capital punishment since they do not have a government who will listen to their wishes and legislate wisely.
Why is the government rushing this bill through the House? Second reading was given on June 18, 1996 and the bill was reported back to the House from committee on June 19, 1996. We are now rushing through report stage on the first day back and third reading is biting at our heels. What is the government afraid of?
One of the things that infuriates Canadians most is the fact that some of the worst crimes are committed by convicted criminals freed by the system, yet these Liberals are unconcerned.
According to the Digest poll, the only criminal justice institution Canadians think highly of is the police; 68 per cent rated their performance good or excellent. The public believes the police do a good job catching criminals but have little faith in what happens after the arrest. Why? Because in 1971 Solicitor General Goyer summed up the Liberal government's agenda when he told Parliament: ``We have decided to stress the rehabilitation of individuals rather than the protection of society''. Fundamental to the approach was the notion that it is society, not the criminal, that is responsible for crime.
Ontario lawyer Patrick Brode said: "Suddenly the whole system existed to serve the criminal. It was based on a seriously flawed view that there really are no criminals, that people drift into crime because of circumstances, and that everyone can be reformed".
We are talking here of cold blooded, premeditated murders. How about the victims? They are dead a long time. What about the victims' families and friends? They also have a lifetime sentence with no parole. We must repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code. It is hard to believe that members of this government actually believe that the criminal is more important than the victim.
I want to finish with a letter from a constituent. It states:
Please take our concern to the House of Commons this fall. Our concern is as follows: It is time that the prisoners stopped tormenting the families and friends of their murdered victims. It is time that the laws changed so that the serial and multiple killers will no longer be eligible for early parole. These murderers planned to kill their victims. These same murderers have no remorse and are never going to change their habits or their penchants.
Theoretically, everyone deserves another chance, which is why we have parole in the first place. Serial or multiple killers have stepped beyond the line. They do not belong back in society. It is time to give the victims the right to put their lives in order the best they can after such heinous crimes have been committed. As it stands now, the victims have no rights; only the criminals have rights. It is time to give the victims the rights. The murderer has no right to travel and further torment the families and friends of the deceased. Why not reduce the strife and money? The money saved from the expenses of the parole hearing, i.e., legal aid, travel and so on could be put to better use. Stop persecuting the victims and the wasting of the taxpayers dollars. First degree murderers have no right to any parole nor parole hearings. Section 745 of the Criminal Code needs to be amended now. Olsons, Bernardos and the like have committed crimes and should serve their sentences so that we the victims can stop being casualties.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB
Mr. Speaker, like some of the members who have spoken before, I will start by saying it is no pleasure to be standing here speaking on Bill C-45. Instead we should be debating Bill C-226. Bill C-226 calls for the complete abolition of section 745 of the Criminal Code instead of this tinkering which will only restrict multiple murderers from having access to early parole.
It is no pleasure for me or any Reform MP to stand here debating a bill as weak as this piece of legislation is. This bill reflects the weakness in the justice minister's approach to dealing with crime and the weakness that has shown up in other legislation that he has presented to the House. It is totally out of line with what Canadians want. It is no pleasure to be speaking to this bill when we should be speaking on Bill C-226.
I will summarize what is in Bill C-45, the legislation we are debating today. First, this bill removes the eligibility again only for multiple murderers to apply for judicial review and early parole. Somehow it is saying that multiple murderers should be denied parole but that we should consider early parole for people who have only killed one person. We are talking about first degree murder. Somehow in the minds of the Liberals it is not that serious anymore to kill just one person in a premeditated fashion. That is what they are indicating with this bill. That is my first point.
Second, the bill states that the applicants have to persuade a judge that they have a reasonable prospect for success before they are permitted to take their case to a jury.
The bill also deals with the point that a section 745 jury would have to reach a unanimous decision for an applicant's parole ineligibility to be reduced. Currently only a two-thirds majority is required. That is a slight toughening in that area.
Again, the government somehow indicates the idea that a person who has only planned and committed one premeditated murder is just not a serious enough offence to be denied early parole. This is a thought that is totally out of touch with what Canadians want.
The main point Reform makes and which I want to make is that nothing short of abolishing section 745 of the Criminal Code is good enough. Why are we wasting our time today and yesterday debating this very weak bill which will not abolish section 745?
What do Canadians have to do to get their point across on this issue? They have held mass rallies, signed petitions, gone to the justice minister and to Liberal members of Parliament in droves. I bet I could not find one Liberal member of Parliament who has not had constituents come to him or her saying that they wanted section 745 of the Criminal Code abolished completely. I bet there is not one, Mr. Speaker, you included. They have heard, but why have they not listened?
It is not good enough to tinker with section 745. It must be abolished. I make that as clear as possible because that is what Canadians are asking for.
At a recent June assembly, 98 per cent of Reform delegates said they wanted section 745 of the Criminal Code abolished. I believe that percentage fairly closely, although certainly not completely, reflects the opinion of Canadians as a whole. The percentage may not be as high. In some constituencies it is certainly very high.
MPs who took the time to survey their constituents found extremely high levels of support for abolishing section 745. What we saw at the Reform assembly very closely reflects what Canadians feel about the issue. It not just Reformers who want to get rid of section 745, but also victims of violence, the Canadian Police Association and the majority of Canadians.
During debate on Bill C-68, the gun control bill, the justice minister focused again and again on the fact that the Canadian chiefs of police and the Canadian Police Association supported the bill. The Canadian Police Association supports abolishment of section 745, not just tinkering. Its members have told that to the justice minister very clearly. They left no doubt. Why did the justice minister hang his hat on the opinion of the Canadian Police Association concerning Bill C-68 and then completely ignore its members on this bill? The answer is that it does not suit his agenda, the agenda of the Prime Minister or the agenda of the Liberal Party.
Bill C-45 still provides a glimmer of hope for first degree murderers. That seems to be an important issue to the justice minister, to the Liberal Party and to many of these Liberal MPs. It is funny how that is so important to these people. It is less important that the victim was offered no glimmer of hope before this murderer planned and committed that first degree murder. There was no concern about that expressed by the murderer.
The government should focus a bit more on the fact that the victim was not be offered a glimmer of hope by this first degree murderer. That is important.
Bill C-45 retains the right of first degree murderers to appeal their parole ineligibility while denying only multiple murderers this right. The taking of one life, as I said before, seems less serious than the taking of two. If the justice minister wants to make the distinction between single and multiple murderers he should have proposed consecutive sentencing rather than concurrent sentencing. That is the way to differentiate between the people who kill one and people who kill two. This would have put at least some value on the second victim of a first degree murderer.
Because that did not happen and because of what is not in the bill, it is important to once again point out the difference between the approach of the government and Reform MPs on this issue. I want to make this absolutely clear. Reformers want the abolition of section 745, nothing less. They want first degree murderers to serve at least the maximum 25 year sentence that is possible under our laws with no chance of parole. What Reformers are speaking for is what Canadians want.
When Liberals speak on the bill for whom are they speaking? It is clear Liberals speaking on this bill are speaking for the justice minister, the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party. Many of them are not speaking for what they believe. They certainly are not speaking for what they heard from the constituents that have come to them.
Reformers are speaking for the majority of Canadians on this issue. There is no doubt of that. Reformers are speaking for millions of Canadians on this issue.
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Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill C-45, which is a bill we oppose.
We oppose it on a number of counts. Primarily we oppose it because it sends a clear message to the Canadian public and to criminals. It says to the Canadian public that their lives are not worth more than 15 years in prison. It sends a clear message to the criminals that if they kill somebody in cold blood, in a premeditated fashion, they may be asked to serve 25 years but then after 15 years the sentence will be revisited and likely repealed.
It is not unusual for this to happen. Across my desk came a huge list of individuals who had committed first degree murder and who had been released after spending 15 years plus a small amount of time in jail.
Who are these people? These are people who have committed first degree murder for killing police officers. Many have killed police officers but all have killed individuals in cold blood. It is very difficult to actually get a conviction of first degree murder because premeditation has to be proved. This is not a person who comes along and kills during a crime of passion. These crimes have been planned and done in the most indiscriminate fashion imaginable.
This bill is opposed not only by the Reform Party but by the police associations that the Liberal Party profess to support. It is opposed by the vast majority of Canadians. They want to know that their lives is worth more than somebody spending 15 years in jail. If somebody is going to be convicted of first degree murder he or she is going to pay the penalty.
The Reform Party has been accused of being without sympathy but that is simply not true. Reformers believe that sympathy and consideration must be for victims and for criminals. However, a line has to be drawn somewhere and where a person has committed first degree murder that person has to pay the full price. Society demands it, Canadians demand it, police associations demand it and the people in this party demand it.
The fact that Bill C-45 does not actually address section 745 in a meaningful way goes back to the early 1980s when the attorney general of that time said: "We are going to change our focus in the justice department. Instead of focusing on the protection of society we are going to focus on rehabilitation of the criminal". The primary role of the justice department, contrary to what the public believes, is not the protection of innocent civilians, it is the rehabilitation of criminals.
The facts show that this government and previous governments have failed to do both. They have failed to protect society and they have failed to rehabilitate criminals. For example, everybody in this House realizes, particularly in youth crime, violent crime has increased dramatically with no decrease in sight. Those are the facts and there is no use denying it.
When we look at other aspects of crime it is true that adult violent crime has decreased somewhat, but crime in general in many areas is on the rise. Governments have not put into place any effective measures of preventing that and there are ways of doing that.
I spoke with the Minister of Justice before we left in June and I said that we can look at the United States and see some very important work that it is doing in urban centres to prevent criminal activity. In order to address future criminal activity and conduct disorders which go into youth crime and then often develops into adult crime, it has to be prevented. The way to prevent it is to address the children when they are very young, at four and five years of age.
Unfortunately what we are seeing here are individuals, particularly in youth correctional facilities, who do not have the pillars of a normal psyche. Those pillars are developed very early on in the first five to seven years of life and that is where we can have the greatest effect.
In the United States children are being brought into the schools and not only are they teaching them their ABCs, they are also teaching them self-respect, self-confidence, respect for others, appropriate conflict resolution, about drugs, alcohol and sex; a lot of the problems that teenagers are fighting and grappling with today.
They also brought in the parents. They are usually single parents, and interestingly enough these parents do not have the appropriate capabilities to be parents. What they have found is a twofold benefit. First is the obvious benefit to the children. Also, they
found that these parents started to develop the pose of a normal psyche which did not develop early on. They started to learn about self-respect, self-confidence, self-reliance, personal responsibility, drugs, alcohol, conflict resolution. The result was fewer conduct disorders, less teen crime, a lower dropout rate. It was extremely beneficial and it did not cost the system more money.
I ask the justice minister to take a leadership role in bringing together all the ministers of education from across this country to have a meeting in Ottawa to address this problem that would not cost more money but would have a dramatic impact on decreasing the number of youth crimes and therefore adult crime in the future. It is a win-win situation.
The government has also failed to protect civilians, and Bill C-45 addresses that. Bill C-45 does not protect citizens. It only says to criminals that if you kill somebody, you are not going to pay the price, and that is unacceptable.
To show how absurd this can get, I spent some time in jails both as a physician and as a guard. I will give two examples. There was a child in the juvenile correctional facility I was working at who had murdered somebody in cold blood with a bow and arrow to rob him. Someone else saw him commit this act. He and another murdered that person too.
This person is a psychopath. At taxpayer expense his lawyer brought in a psychologist from the lower mainland to teach this person remorse. And so this child was trying to practise remorse. What a tragedy. They tried this to ensure that the child, who showed psychopathic tendencies, would get a lesser sentence than what should have been coming to him. It would not only give him a lesser sentence but give people less of an opportunity within the system to address his problems. That does a disservice not only to the public but to the individual being convicted.
In another case, I had to go up to the jail once to commit somebody because their term was up. The person was a violent offender with a rap sheet as long as your arm. This person was going to be released the next day and the only way to get him back in the system was to commit him on psychiatric grounds.
This person had chosen to show on umpteen occasions a wilful ignorance of respect for human beings and it had been demonstrated that this individual was a grave threat to innocent civilians. Yet, the system would have allowed this person to be released. The people in the system said those were the laws.
We are here to change those laws and we are here to ensure that people who are going to be a danger to society are prevented from doing so not only for society's sake, which is most important, but for the individual who would commit these offences.
We may not be able to address all the problems in the justice system, but we have seen over the last three years that the government is willing to only tinker around the edges of the criminal justice system instead of addressing the fundamental problems that exist within it. It does so at its peril but also sadly at the peril of the public that demands respect and deserves protection from individuals who would prey on it.
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John Nunziata Liberal York South—Weston, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday and today I have been listening to the debate. I note that several Liberal members spoke yesterday, several of whom were critical of the bill. Today only critics of the bill appear to be speaking to the bill, and for some reason government members are not defending the bill before the House.
If this debate is to be meaningful at all-
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The Deputy Speaker
As all hon. members know, there is no obligation for anyone to defend a bill.
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Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I find the comment of my hon. colleague from York South-Weston interesting.
The government side has decided not to include itself in this debate today. It is interesting because the changes that were made to section 745 were actually brought in by a member of the present Liberal government. They were brought in at a time when there was discussion regarding how to handle capital punishment or how to handle getting rid of the death penalty.
Canadians were led to believe during that discussion that the saw-off for getting rid of the death sentence was going to be incarceration for a minimum of 25 years.
Although it is a life sentence, the eligibility for parole is 25 years. I would imagine at that time-not having been around for that debate-there was a great concern that 25 years was still not adequate for taking a person's life.
I know that debate continues at least in my riding as to whether the deliberate taking of a life should be first degree murder, that there should not be the element for capital punishment.
Canadian laws have changed. There was a time when it was capital murder. One was convicted either of manslaughter where a death happened not deliberately but through an event that the person was involved in or of deliberately murdering somebody. It was then capital murder.
The legislatures since that time decided there could be a difference. They determined there would be first degree murder and second degree murder.
That is what our courts have been able to use to determine the severity of the punishment that an individual should receive if they are responsible for the death of another individual.
Sometimes they determined there was no intention and the death occurred through an accident or unintentionally. Manslaughter was the conviction. Manslaughter being a conviction does not have a minimum sentence. It can be no incarceration or it can be incarceration to whatever degree.
Second degree murder was determined when the individual did not deserve a 25 year minimum sentence. With a minimum sentence of 10 years, second degree murder became an option. It was still murder with intent. If there was no intent, then it would be manslaughter.
Legislatures have already provided the faint hope or the ability for the courts to say "this individual, although there was intent, does not deserve to sit in jail for 25 years".
The courts have used that over the years. In my province two weeks ago a minimum 25 year sentence did not seem to be justified. Instead of convicting the person on first degree, they convicted them on second degree.
I would suggest that in itself is enough, that it is really a contempt of the court process and of the judge and jury who made the original decision after looking at the facts of giving a first degree murder conviction minimum sentence of 25 years and then later saying "we did not mean 25 years, 15 is good enough".
If the judge and the jury at the time when that individual was sentenced felt that 25 years was too much, was not an appropriate sentence, they would have convicted that individual of second degree murder.
I suggest that Canadians feel the same way, that they are losing respect for our courts because they precisely see what is going on today. The courts determine that an individual deserves the minimum incarceration period of 25 years. Then the courts down the road change that decision.
Canadians are losing faith. The Canadians who were there at the time of the event when the 25 year minimum sentence was handed out probably could live with that. With the passage of time after 15 years and they see this individual applying to be released early, they lose faith in the system that told them the replacement for capital punishment was to be a minimum incarceration of 25 years. I suggest the Canadian public feels betrayed. The Canadian public is expecting this Liberal government with its massive majority to do something about it.
I was part of the justice committee when it dealt with Bill C-41. We were looking at the sentencing legislation and all the changes that should be made to it. There was an opportunity at that time for the Liberal government to look at consecutive sentences and at abolishing section 745. My Reform Party colleagues who sat with me on that committee presented those amendments.
It was not just the Liberal members of the committee, the Bloc members of the committee also denied that opportunity. The amendments to the legislation were denied at committee stage and therefore did not get into the House for debate.
It surprises me, if my hon. Liberal and Bloc colleagues are in contact with the people in their constituencies, that they do not realize the mood of Canadians has changed. There is a feeling that our justice system does not work and that justice is not being meted out. I feel very strongly that the changes proposed by Bill C-45 do not come anywhere near addressing the serious concerns of Canadians.
I find it preposterous that the justice minister can tell Canadians that a vicious, violent murder of one person is not as serious as somebody who kills two people.
In my dealings with the justice community I was told of an instance, I believe it was south of the border but the same mentality is present in Canada, where an individual was skinned alive before they put a bullet go his head. The purpose for that was to send a message. No one can tell me that the horrendous killing of that individual is any less horrific than somebody who kills two people because there happens to be two people in the house when they go berserk.
I suggest those kinds of considerations are taken up when the original charges are before the court. When they are before the court the judge and jury of the day look at all the evidence when they mete our the sentence. It is those kinds of determinations which determine whether a person gets a first degree conviction or a second degree conviction. Anything more than that is not necessary. There is no purpose for having section 745 in the Criminal Code. There is absolutely no purpose to give someone the opportunity for early release when the court initially determined that the sentence was just based on the facts of the day.
Canadians are concerned with the concept of justice. It is not that they want revenge. It is not that they want to be unfair or do something unjustified. They want respect for the courts and they want to see the decisions made by the courts upheld.
Section 745 of the Criminal Code can put aside perhaps months of testimony and evidence which has been presented to the court. It can put aside the hours the jury spent deliberating whether the person deserved first degree with a minimum sentence of 25 years or second degree with a minimum of 10 years. That section of the Criminal Code puts aside all that time and effort, consideration and evidence. That should not be.
I join with my Reform colleagues and some members opposite, particularly the individual who saw that the will of the Liberal
Party was not there and who chose to sit as an independent. I believe that individual realized the Liberal Party does not have a long term goal. It does not seem to have the will to follow through in representing and respecting the wishes of the Canadian public which elected it.
It is interesting that this hon. colleague introduced a private member's bill. He is upset and concerned, as many of us are, that a committee of this House chose to disregard his private member's bill and refused to bring it back to the House for debate after it had passed through the House at second reading.
I would suggest it is time for the Liberal government to start showing the Canadian people that it has the guts and the will to do what is right for the Canadian public and not just worry about something that has been placed in legislation which has shown not to be appropriate and should not be there. Instead of debating whether or not amendments should be made, we should be debating the private member's bill introduced by the member for York South-Weston which deals with abolishing the section. I would support 100 per cent dealing with that private member's bill which seeks to abolish section 745.
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Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am happy for the opportunity to participate in the debate today at report stage of Bill C-45.
My constituents expect me to speak on this very important matter. It is a matter which concerns them greatly; the fact that we have a bill that would tinker with section 745 of the Criminal Code, known to some as the faint hope clause.
Before I begin, I would like to note that it is very strange that there are no speakers from the government side debating this very important issue. I think it shows a contempt for this House and for the Canadian people that they would place a bill before Parliament and then would not use the opportunity to explain why they want the changes they do. The Canadian public should look very carefully at those reasons. They do not want to debate this bill and I think there are reasons why they do not.
The faint hope clause, section 745, which the government wants to amend, concerns me greatly. As has been mentioned several times in this House, it would apply to those who commit multiple murders but not those who commit a single murder. This has been explained very carefully by my colleague so I will not go into it. It is not retroactive. It does not apply to killers such as Clifford Olson, the very person we would want to control and not have come up for early parole. He is responsible for one of the most serious crimes that has ever been committed in this country and it would not apply to him.
The section needs to be thrown out completely. I agree with my colleague from York South-Weston who introduced a private member's bill to that extent, that it should be withdrawn.
In the very way we approach this there is a common theme that runs through this whole issue of criminal justice reform. It comes from the Liberal Party. George Orwell would recognize it very clearly. It is doublespeak. What does a life sentence mean in Canada? It was a Liberal government that threw out the death penalty in 1976 and gave us the current life sentence. Life sentence means murderers cannot apply for parole before 25 years. It does not mean life, it means the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Furthermore, the doublespeak continues. Section 745 is the faint hope clause which states that in certain circumstances murderers can apply for parole in 15 years. What does life mean? It does not mean life at all. Let us be clear about it. I think we are going back to George Orwell's old scenario in 1984 which the Liberals seem to have adopted.
The other thing has been running right through the theme of the Liberal Party and the Liberal government for the last 30 years which is that they are soft on crime. It is a well known fact that they are soft on criminals. After all, it was a Liberal government which scrapped the death penalty. We know that the Canadian public from the polls I have seen, and Liberals often like to quote polls, for the last 15 years have consistently suggested that the Canadian public would like to return to capital punishment for those who commit first degree murder. However, that bill was not introduced by this government. What we have instead is that in 1976 it scrapped that and gave us the current system.
It was at about that time as well that it was decided that the Juvenile Delinquents Act should be scrapped and we were given the Young Offenders Act. They have tinkered with that a little bit, but it just seems to be another example of how soft they are in the whole area of criminal justice. Soft on crime, soft on criminals.
Early parole, parole abuses, abuses by the parole board by not putting competent people in place are other examples.
I would like to relate a little story about my chance to go through the Edmonton maximum security prison about a year and a half ago. It was an eye opener. Anybody who has not toured one of these types of prisons certainly should.
The warden at the prison told me that about 80 per cent of the inmates had a substance abuse problem. Of course, I asked what they were doing to try to rehabilitate these people. These inmates
do have the right to earn their way out of prison after a period of time. We have medium and minimum security prisons. If they do try to upgrade their skills they have a chance to be rehabilitated.
The warden told me that they had psychiatrists, psychologists and various others working with these people to try and help them overcome their drug abuse problem. However, at the same time drugs are getting into our maximum security prisons. Drug use is a common practice among prisoners in our maximum security prisons and at the same time we are trying to rehabilitate them. What does that tell us? What is Corrections Canada's answer to this? It is not to stop the family visitations which are identified by the wardens as being the main source of drugs getting into the prisons, although I doubt that would be the only source. I think in some cases some staff are probably involved. That would seem to me to be a pipeline for drugs getting into the prisons.
What does Corrections Canada and the Department of Justice answer to this? Of course, not to stop the family visitations or get tough on screening of guards. No. It is to give prisoners new needles, give them bleach kits so that they do not contact AIDS in prison. What does that say about our criminal justice system? What does it say about the Liberal government? It says a lot. It says that the Liberals are soft on crime and continue to be.
Where are we currently? The Canadian public is very concerned and rightly so. Canadians are buying security systems at an alarming rate. They are trying to guard themselves against break and enter. They are trying to arm themselves. Canadians have rallied on Parliament Hill asking for reform of the criminal justice system.
My home in Alberta is in a very quiet farming community with a very stable population and basically no crime problems in terms of break and enter but this past year we caught up with the rest of the Canadian public. We now have joined the big leagues. We had a series of break and enters in broad daylight throughout our little farming community. Now people are saying: "Well, I guess we have to get a guard dog or a security system". That is the concern people have. They feel that they are under attack as never before. I know that MPs opposite must be getting the same kind of mail I am getting, especially members who represent rural ridings where people are asking what has happened to their communities.
I operate a grain farm. We used to be able to leave the keys in our equipment in the fields. I had a truck stolen off my farm two years ago. That is what is happening in our society. I have received mail stating that people want this situation cleaned up. They want the government to get tough on criminal justice. They want to scrap the current Young Offenders Act and start over. Even the term young offenders has become very offensive now. It has been identified as an act that simply cannot be reformed, that it should be scrapped and we should start over. Polls have indicated that Canadians want a return to the death penalty.
What Canadians get from the government and from the current justice minister is tinkering. Tinkering with section 745 and gun control which will not be the answer to solving our crime problem in Canada.
In fact, gun control and registration for long guns was modelled on our current handgun registration which has been in place since 1935. Our handgun registration has not worked. There are as many or more crimes being committed with handguns than ever before, yet we have a registration system which is supposed to control that. Now we have a long gun registration that is supposed to give us peace, it is supposed to return us to the times when we had low crime rates. It simply is not going to happen. The government is going after the wrong people. There is also tinkering with the Young Offenders Act.
This might play in downtown Toronto but I doubt it very much. It certainly does not play in my riding. People want this government to get tough on the crime problem in Canada. We know there is a crime problem.
I see some members shaking their heads opposite, some of the same members that probably have prisons in their riding, like the parliamentary secretary who is yakking over there. He has a prison in his Prince Albert-Churchill riding. Perhaps he should go through that prison and see what kind of problems there are at the Edmonton maximum security prison.
Canadians want us to get tough on this whole section of criminal justice. They want us to provide some assurances that their families can go out on the streets at eleven o'clock at night and feel safe. That simply is not the situation now. They want us to toughen up the criminal justice system so that they are not subject to break and enters in their homes which provide criminals an income for substance abuse. Canadians are not going to get it from this government obviously, but at some point they are going to get the kind of reform that is necessary to clean up Canada's crime problem.
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Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise to enter the debate on Bill C-45. I wish to ask three questions this morning. First, what is the value of a life? Second, what message does Bill C-45 send to the Canadian people? Finally, what are the Canadian people saying?
Not too long ago a young little girl was playing on the street. She disappeared. Her name was Mindy Tran. She was found dead. I got a phone call about six months ago from a man whom I did not know. It was from the employer of Mr. Tran, Mindy's father. He said Mr. Tran was afraid to come and talk to me because he was a new immigrant to Canada and did not know exactly how to approach an elected government member. I told him to bring him in. He said: "He wants me to come within. Is that okay?" I said: "That is more than okay, please come". Mr. Tran sat across the
table from me. He said: "What can we do to make sure that my other little girl is not killed like this one was?"
It is an extremely difficult situation when the father of a young girl comes to a member and asks what the government is doing to protect him, his family and his little girl. It is serious when one looks at this kind of a question and one has to ask the question: What is the value of a life? What is the value of this little girl's life, Mindy Tran?
Mindy Tran in her death mobilized the community like I have never seen a community mobilized. There was not a police officer who was not personally stirred in trying to find the person who had perpetrated this crime. All kinds of neighbours, relatives, friends and the whole community got together to search first of all for the body because it was lost. Somehow they could not find it. It took days and nights. Twenty-four hours a day there was a search going on throughout that community. Finally they did find the body of Mindy Tran. The community is still in sorrow over that particular incident.
I ask the question again: What is the value of that life? According to this bill the life is worth 15 years of imprisonment for the perpetrator.
One can look at the value of a life in economic terms, which is what insurance companies do. It is what judges do in determining the liability when someone has been killed in an automobile accident. The economic value of a key man in a business is determined when key man insurance is purchased to replace the money that person would provide for that company in order to replace them.
There is an economic value to a person when they take out loan insurance, mortgage insurance and things of that sort. Insurance companies provide for personal insurance so that the individual who is the main breadwinner or the two breadwinners can supply food, clothing and shelter to the persons remaining after the death has occurred.
There is more than an economic value to a life. There is also the value of emotion, the feelings that we have, the love that we have for one another; parents, one for each other and parents for their children, as demonstrated by Mr. Tran and his young daughter who was killed. How does one replace that?
Yesterday we heard the story of Laurie Boyd and the trauma that created in the lives of the parents who had to recall that incident when they heard that Bill C-45 said that section 745 was not going to be deleted from the Criminal Code because the bill had not been allowed to be presented to this House.
Mr. Tran is thinking today about the possibility of parole for the person who murdered his family member. He says: "Mr. Schmidt, will you allow that to happen?" I said: "Mr. Tran, it is not for me to decide. I wish I were in that position. I am not".
We have a government in this land that was elected. Its members have decided and they are the ones who are responsible. "But Mr. Schmidt, can you not do anything?" I said to Mr. Tran: "I will do what I can".
He broke down and cried. He said: "Is that all my daughter's life is worth, you will try?" This is the question I ask every member of this House. Is that all Mindy Tran's life is worth, and the other person who has been murdered?
Parole creates that second trauma again for the indirect victims, not the ones who have been killed but the ones who remain who have the emotional tie. It is for them that the trauma is repeated.
There is another cost to a life, the life to the nation. It destroys the talents and takes away the skills and the abilities that person would have brought to our society, the untold talents and abilities found in these people, especially in the children who have been killed. The question we need to ask ourselves is what is suitable punishment for that kind of behaviour.
It draws me to the second question which is what message does Bill C-45 send to our people. What message does it send to other criminals? It says there is the hope of relief after 15 years. Really, the consequences of first degree murder are really not so great. Society paid with a life and now the criminal who did that says that society will pay to keep them and eventually release them back into society.
What is the message that it sends to our young people? It sends to them the message that life really is cheap. It is worth 15 years. It does not really matter very much what the victim's rights are. It does not really matter very much that all the victim's rights, the person who was killed, were taken away.
Society protects the rights of the person who perpetrated the crime. That is protecting, but it does not seem to matter that the rights of the person who was killed are destroyed.
Therefore the young people can say to themselves: "I can commit almost anything and get away with relative impunity". Where does that kind of thinking end? What does it do to all the other crimes that are not as severe as killing another person? It ultimately creates disrespect for law and order. The end result of that is chaos.
If this government or any government has any role to play, it is to push back the walls of evil and to prevent evil from taking over in our society.
Finally, what example does it set for our children? If that is how we as government officials behave and treat the worst possible crime that one person can perpetrate against another with 15 years of incarceration, what message is that to our children?
I want to ask why does the government not let the people speak. I cannot believe the kinds of responses I got from a recent householder where I asked: "What is bugging you about the government? What are your concerns about the government, the present government?" The response that came through hundreds and hundreds of times was: "When will you do something with the justice system? We do not feel safe in our streets. We do not feel safe in our homes. We feel that the time has come for us to do something serious about crime in our society".
They came up with some suggestions. They asked why we do not conduct a referendum on capital punishment in this country. "Let us tell the government clearly and unequivocally what it is we want".
Yesterday morning Parliament stopped Bill C-234 from entering the floor of this House. The member for York South-Weston understood very very clearly what his people were telling him. He listened to them. He presented to this House a private member's bill.
I support that bill. There are many of our constituents who are speaking the same kind of language. I am sure that his constituency is not an isolated example. And so I would urge the government to bring that bill back. Pass it. That would eliminate section 745 of the Criminal Code.
We need to recognize that with Bill C-45 we have an indication that the government is really not serious, that it is a wimpy, snivelling flirtation with what is just and fair. It sends a message that is symbolic of justice but which lacks the essence of all that is noble, upright and fair. It should not be passed.
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Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this bill. Much of what needed to be said has already been said by my caucus members.
I am very disappointed that the government side is not entering into this debate. This bill is a very high profile bill. It is supposed to be one of the jewels in the justice minister's crown, or he would like it to be one. Why the Liberals are not entering into this debate is a sad commentary on this process.
I will start by talking about the process itself, about what we are dealing with today, about the amendment to section 745. We should not be debating this bill today. What we should be debating in this House today is the bill brought forward by the member for York South-Weston. It was a private member's initiative brought forward in good faith to the House of Commons, adopted on second reading, in other words in principle by this entire House, sent to committee and ordered to report back to the House.
One of my jobs as party whip is to encourage my members to be on committees, to structure our caucus so that all the committee work is covered and so on. It is a very disheartening exercise when the members of our caucus find their hard work on private members' bills, their hard work on committee on amendments, their initiatives in committee to bring and raise the profile of important issues to the House of Commons are merely deep sixed in committee.
My heart goes out to the member for York South-Weston on this issue. His bill is just one of the very high profile examples. We have some in our own caucus. Our member for Mission-Coquitlam has had the same thing happen. It is very demoralizing and it is a travesty of the democratic process when something is passed in this House by members of all parties only to be sent to committee where the government used a roundabout way to send it off into never-never land. That is a real travesty and should never have happened.
On this issue, these questions bear repeating. What is the purpose of the justice system? What are we trying to accomplish with the justice system and the Criminal Code? What messages are we sending to the Canadian people? What are we as legislators hearing from the Canadian people? How are we reacting to what we hear?
People are getting hold of me in my office and one of the things they are asking me is what is the cost of the proposals of the Minister of Justice. How much does it cost to let people like Olson and others reintroduce their legal cases in an effort to get early parole? We do not know. cost. There is a royal recommendation in the bill, but we do not know the cost. I do not think the minister knows the cost. However, it is a significant cost.
It sends the message to the victims of crime that yes, these murderers are going to get legal help and all the help available through the system. The victims do not get any help. If they want they can make a presentation at the hearing, but they do not get any help. There is an actual financial cost involved, let alone the cost to the victims.
Many people are coming to me and saying they thought that what Parliament passed in the seventies when it did away with capital punishment meant that somebody who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment without parole would serve at least 25 years. Parliament was sending a message to the Canadian people and to the world that Canada placed a high value on human life and would not trade a life off for anything less than 25 years. Many people would argue that it should be a life for a life, that there should be a death penalty. Many people said: "I will accept 25 years without
parole if you can guarantee me that is where that man or woman is going to stay".
The statistics are very sad. The statistics are that about 78 per cent of the people who apply for early parole are successful. Canadians are none too pleased with that. They are none too pleased that this bill will continue to allow all the backlog of deviants and multiple murderers to continue to apply. It is not retroactive. These people will continue to apply for early parole. They will continue to drag the victims through the mire of reliving the horror. The bill will not eliminate that. It will make it a bit tougher, but it will continue.
What are Canadians demanding? I will give the House two examples. In the next little while I will be presenting in the House a petition initiated by some people in my riding. It has to do with a criminal who is currently in the prison system. This man is a sexual deviant who has been convicted of pedophilia. He has ruined many a life. These constituents came forward with a whole series of requests. They want a national registry for sexual pedophiles. They want no chance of parole for people who have been convicted of violent sexual crimes. They want many things.
What is most telling about this is that they are not struggling to get a few names on a petition. It is not them and the family trying to get together to gather 40 or 50 names on a petition. So far there are 15,000 names on the petition and more names continue to be mailed into my office on a daily basis.
I wonder if the government is listening to this. This is just one example in one riding of the depth of feeling on the issue of criminal justice reform. They are saying that serious crimes deserve to be treated very seriously in order to send a message both ways, to the criminal element and to the victims of crime. The message will tell the victims that yes, they are important and that yes, their situation takes priority and that the government will ensure they receive adequate redress.
One of the reasons my colleague from Fraser Valley West has brought forward his victim's bill of rights is that the victims need to have the protection which they do not have today.
That is the big picture. That is the picture of 15,000 names. That is just one example.
We have heard many examples and I would like to give a personal example. I had a father and daughter come to my office in my riding with concerns about the criminal justice system. The daughter had been abducted and stabbed repeatedly by her estranged husband. There was a restraining order against the husband, he was known to the police, he had threatened violence and had stalked this woman for some months.
I bring this up as an example because the father sat in my office and said: "What am I supposed to do when the criminal justice system does not treat this case seriously? This man attacked my daughter, stabbed her repeatedly and was charged with aggravated assault and did a couple of years in jail. What am I supposed to do?"
The man would come and tap on the lady's window with a butcher knife to wake her up. The father said: "Mr. Strahl, mark my words. I will tell you what I am going to do when this animal gets out of prison. When that guy gets out and taps on my daughter's window with a butcher knife I am going to blow his head off because the criminal justice system will not deal with it". The justice system peddles away these serious charges and says to get a restraining order. It is not good enough to say get a restraining order. This woman lives her life in terror and this guy is out on the streets again.
Here is the irony. I said: "If you do that to protect your daughter, you will do 25 years in jail because that is premeditated. The gun was out and you shot the guy". He said: "Chuck, I do not care. What am I supposed to do if the criminal justice system will not protect my family? I will have to do it myself. I do not want to do it myself. I wish you would do something different".
That shows the frustration in the country over these kinds of cases where serious crime is not treated seriously. There is no more serious crime than murder. The message is not can we rehabilitate criminals. The message is not is some guy sorry he did it. I am sure many murderers are sorry that they committed the crimes afterward. The message we need to send that is not being sent by this bill is that murder is a serious offence. It is 25 years in jail at least.
The Reform Party said there should be a national referendum on capital punishment. We will leave that for another day. Today, be assured that a crime like murder is going to get you in jail and you are not getting out for 25 years. This bill does not do that. This bill should have done that. We should have been dealing with the elimination of section 745, not tinkering.
I am disappointed. I wish the government and the minister could sit in my office and listen to the people that tell me the truth about what is going on. They want changes and they want them now.
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Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to the have the opportunity to speak in Parliament about such an important issue but in a sense it is a very sad day because we have to witness again the Liberal government not dealing with the issue. The Liberals have spent three years with a platform of doing nothing and that is not good enough in dealing with the problems of Canada.
Today we have the opportunity to show that we are going to be tough on those who take the life of someone else. We have people charged with first degree murder, given a 25 year sentence and the Liberal government wants to rehabilitate, to be soft, to be kind and to allow them to go free after 15 years. That is unacceptable and
disgusting in the least. It should not exist that way in our country. When someone takes a life and the courts have proved that has happened, that person should serve at least 25 years in prison. Never mind waiting until they take two lives to serve 25 years.
Many of my constituents say that is still too lenient and that we should have brought back capital punishment. They believe those who take a life should lose their life. It may happen one of these days but it will not be under a Liberal government. It will never call for a referendum on capital punishment because it knows that Canadians, with at least an 80 per cent majority, would come out in droves to vote on this issue. Eighty per cent of Canadians would support capital punishment for any murderer.
The government does not want to do anything. It is too lenient. It does not want to accept its responsibilities.
We should look at some of the statistics. Statistics from 1994-95 and 1995-96 have proven that one out of ten parolees, and now murderers who will be allowed out on parole after 15 years, reoffend in a very serious way. This means that 10 per cent of parolees go out and again commit very serious crimes.
I would like to look at this Liberal record of parole since they came back into power. I am sure this was the same under the old Tory Party which was equally as bad. However, because the Tories and the Liberals always had this friendly relationship in the House where one covered for the other, the general public did not know how bad our justice system was. They really did not know how bad the defence system was, which is unbelievable. Finally, as a Reform Party, we are getting that up on the table for the public to look at.
Let us look at the Liberal record from Statistics Canada. About one in ten federal prisoners released on parole last year was charged with a new crime. The numbers were about the same for 1994-95. In 1995, 984 parolees were charged, including 165 violent offences such as 15 murders, 22 sexual assaults and 71 armed robberies by those people who were in the justice system. The Liberal government lets them out to corrupt and offend in our communities.
It was just as bad in 1994-95. There were 1,097 parolees charged. That is 10 per cent of them, including 256 violent offenders who again committed murder, sexual assault and armed robbery.
Today we are going to be lenient again. The only way we can stop these murderers and send a message is to to really be tough. Twenty-five years is not tough enough in my opinion and in the opinion of many Canadians, but if that is the way it is today then we should stick to the 25 years. However, the legislation that is before us does not do that. It sort of states that maybe they will try to do that in a back-handed way but one has to kill two people first in order to receive an automatic 25 years. That is about as ridiculous as it comes.
I would like to talk about a personal experience in my constituency when I was a member of the legislature and a representative of an area south of Calgary. This deals with Darlene Boyd's daughter. It deals with another young lady from the community of High River, a lady who was at a social function in Calgary. While driving home to High River she ran out of gas. One of my constituents, who happens to be the murderer and is in jail at the present time with a 25 year sentence, now comes up for the opportunity of parole in February 1997. Luckily for the government, he murdered two people so he is not going to get the opportunity to have a parole just by having this legislation put in. However, if he had only murdered one person he would have had the right to parole. He would have had kindness, the opportunity for rehabilitation, education and put back into the community as an upstanding citizen through Liberal programs. That is the way it would have been.
However, this lady who was driving home ran out of gas. A car driven by this individual from my community and his buddy from Calgary stopped to help her. What did they do? They grabbed her and threw her into their van. They drove off into fields about five or six miles away where she was raped, brutally beaten and killed. After they beat her with a tire wrench they threw her out of the van and then burned her body so that there would not be any evidence.
Two or three months later at the Red Rooster in High River, Darlene Boyd's daughter, a lovely young lady with a future who had something to contribute to the community became the target of these two same individuals. They decided they needed another victim. They entered by the back door of the Red Rooster, took her at knife point into the van, drove about 12 miles east of High River into the Blackie area, stopped the van, raped and beat her with a tire iron. She tried to get out the van but she was killed in the field. They threw gasoline on her and burned this young lady. This Jim Peters could possibly have come up for parole, but he had killed two people, luckily for the government.
There are sad situations which continue to take place. I would like to add a little more to that story. Once or twice a year I visit all the communities in my constituency, spending half a day or a day. I happened to be the community of Blackie which is only a few miles out of High River.
When I arrived in town I stopped to speak to some friends who owned a store there. I was told: "I would like to come to your meeting today, Ray, but I am scared to leave my wife in the store because there is a killer out there somewhere". We visited for a while and then I went over to the hotel which was right next door to have dinner. It is a small hotel restaurant about 18 feet by 18 feet. I visited with everyone in the restaurant and we talked. And guess who was sitting at one of the tables having dinner? The killer, the
murderer, Jim Peters. But we did not know that. My friend had a right to be afraid.
We held a very short meeting in the town hall and everybody said: "I have to go home and protect my family". The tension and concern in that community was unbelievable.
As legislators the Liberal government has done nothing since 1993. Once again it is not dealing with the problem. It has a head in the sand approach. That is unacceptable to Canadians. I do not know when it is going to change. Maybe we have to have an election and get rid of the Liberals like we got rid of the Tory party. The only lesson the Tory party learned was that if you do not smarten up and do your job the people are going to turf you out.
Well, the worm can turn for the charade that is taking place across the floor, this facade of a Liberal government. I would think that in the late part of 1996 or early 1997 the worm will turn and Canadians will begin to judge the incompetence of the government. When it does and the government changes, maybe there will be common sense policies in the country.
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Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB
Mr. Speaker, the very first words I said in the House after the last election when most of us were rookies here in the House, were to the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, who has been in the House longer than virtually anybody here today. I spoke at that time about the culture of the government at that time which led to the laissez-faire attitude we have had for the last 30 years or so with criminals.
Some members will recall that October 7, 1972 was a pivotal day for jurisprudence because on that date the then solicitor general stood in the House and said that from that day forward the primary raison d'etre of the criminal justice system would be the rehabilitation of prisoners.
He said this and this became the raison d'être because the recidivism rate was so high. He thought that if the road we have been going down all these years has not worked, then perhaps we should try something different, so let us make our raison d'être, rather than the protection of society, rather than a punishment of wrongdoing, rehabilitation. There is nothing wrong with that ideal. It is a noble ideal.
In any event, I had some words to say about that. I attributed some words to the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce who was sitting opposite. I noticed the look in his eyes. I knew I had misjudged the situation.
At the first opportunity I apologized to the member opposite because I was wrong. I have over the last couple of years engendered a good deal of respect for the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, the member who introduced the so-called faint hope clause to the House. I know he did so because his heart is in the right place. The problem is that in my respectful opinion sometimes we need to use a soft heart and a hard head. Sometimes it is absolutely essential that people in our society know that there is a line beyond which it is not appropriate to cross.
I mention this because it is important to know to put the introduction of this law into the context of the time. Laws need to be adjusted to suit the temper of the time. In the context of the time we as a nation and most of the western world were experiencing a flower of magnanimity to one another, one to another. In the context of the time we got rid of capital punishment.
How can a civilized society be more civilized by perpetrating a barbaric act of murder, killing someone else, in order to justify its existence? I am now a proponent of capital punishment and I would not be if life meant life. The quid pro quo for our country to get rid of capital punishment was a 25 year sentence for first degree murder. It was a life sentence, minimum 25 years. That was the quid pro quo. That was what the government of the day used to sell the notion of getting rid of capital punishment.
That brings us to 25 years or so after the fact. As the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce said yesterday, it is merely a faint hope clause. Very few people take advantage of it. Fifty people have taken advantage of it, 50 of 175 or so people eligible to take advantage of it. That is one-third. Two-thirds of the people who have applied for it have been successful
The point is not how many are successful and how many apply. The point is that when someone takes the life of another person and it is deemed to be a first degree offence, premeditated murder, the sanction that our country has prescribed and the sanction that the social contract we as citizens of our country have prescribed is a life sentence, not 15 years. Whether a person in that first 15 years of incarceration has seen the error of their ways is not the question.
The point is that we made a bargain. We were not going to take a murderer's live, even a first degree murderer's life, as a society. What we were going to do is to put them away so they cannot harm anybody ever again in the future.
That was a social contract. We are abrogating that social contract when we slide in the so-called faint hope clause. That brings us to the duplicity of this argument today, which is this.
By taking the bill of the member for York South-Weston, which would abolish section 745 from the table and insert a lame duck replacement, it has put the Reform Party and others on the Liberal benches who would have voted in favour of that bill in the position
that they cannot find themselves in. It is wrong to vote for this half measure while at the same time it allows Liberals on the other side to vote in favour of the measure that they would not have been able to vote in favour of because they do not want to change it.
Altogether, the removal of the member from York South-Weston's private member's bill, which would abolish section 745, which should say life means life, and inserting this other bill which really does not accomplish anything is window dressing. It is fluff. It begs the question why is it okay to kill one person while it is not okay to kill two persons. It does not make any sense, none whatsoever.
My angst of this bill is two-fold. First, we have abrogated our responsibility, the deal we made when we said life means life in place of capital punishment. At the same time, we have taken a private member's bill which dealt squarely and honestly with the issue off the table and inserted in its place a half measure which is nothing less than duplicitous and not worthy of this House.
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Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC
Madam Speaker, this debate is a very interesting one because Canadians must be wondering why in the world this government, with the demand that there is on the part of rational, reasonable, thoughtful Canadians, would be coming forth with this half measure.
They must be wondering what is on the mind of the justice minister, indeed what is on the mind of the Liberal members of this House.
What we are talking about here are people who are incarcerated as a result of first degree murder. This is not something that happens. This is not just an event that took place. First degree murder is the premeditated, cold blooded taking of a life. When we give them a 25 year sentence, we give the victim's families and friends an opportunity perhaps to put small bits and pieces of their lives back together over that 25 year period.
The Liberals consistently refuse to acknowledge that in the equation when a life has been taken, indeed there are family, friends and communities that grieve over that life that is taken.
All of us in this House as individuals have been hit with some form of personal tragedy, whether it is the passing of our parents, the tragic accident involving our children or something of that nature. There is a tremendous amount of pressure that comes into our lives individually at that time.
It is beyond comprehension that this justice minister, this Prime Minister and indeed the Liberal members would not realize there has to be a time of healing for the people, for the victims' families, for the victims' friends, for the victims' community.
I ask myself why would the justice minister, why would the Liberals respond in this way? Why would they come forward with these half measures?
Clearly it must be as a response to the bleeding hearts. It must be as a response to those who say we should let these people get on with their lives. It would be nice if the victims could get on with their lives.
I reflect the remarks of my colleague who preceded me in asking why are there no Liberal speakers. Why are there no Liberal speakers defending this weak-kneed, half measure by the justice minister? I suggest the reason is that they want to be able to stand up and say: "We supported the hon. member for York South-Weston. We supported his measure to repeal section 745".
Let it be very clear that any such claim is nothing more than a lie. The Liberal members of the House, in supporting this half measure, are in no way reflecting the views, the wishes, the desires, the attitudes and the direction in which the people of Canada want to go on this particular issue.
If we ultimately take away a 25 year sentence for a premeditated, cold blooded murder, what is the ultimate standard in our society for people who take the lives of others?
Section 745 still exists. The justice minister is simply trying to sugar coat it. Nothing less than the full elimination of this section will be acceptable to the people of Canada. Ninety-eight per cent of the delegates to the Reform convention voted for the full elimination of section 745. Victims of Violence, the Canadian Police Association and the majority of Canadians support the elimination of section 745.
If we as members of Parliament are not reflecting the views, the wishes, the desires, the determinations and the direction in which the people of Canada want to go, what are we doing here? We are not just here to fill seats. We are not just here to follow the Liberal bleeding heart agenda. We are supposed to be here to respect and respond to the wishes and the desires of the people of Canada. This bill in no way does that.
Bill C-45 still provides a glimmer of hope for murderers to get early release before serving a full sentence without the eligibility of parole for 25 years. As I mentioned, what we are really talking about here is the issue of the families and the friends of the victims of people who determined they were going to take another person's life in a fully premeditated manner. That is the ultimate in what we can do to another human being.
I wonder how many of the victims were provided with a glimmer of hope, the glimmer of hope that the bleeding heart Liberals want to give to the murderers.
It has been mentioned many times but I must say it again. Why is it that we can take away the possibility of appeal if a person has murdered two or more people in a premeditated manner whereas we will not for only one murder? Is this a bargain sale on lives? Where is the thought process of the minister and the Liberals in the
House? I do not understand why the justice minister, for example, has not simply gone to a system of seeing to it that murderers are given consecutive life sentences. That would simplify the whole matter. By going to consecutive life sentences Clifford Olson would have received 11 times 25 years and he would not be in a position to go after the victims' families again after only 15 years of trying to put their lives back together.
It has already been stated that the 1976 Liberal government was responsible for the elimination of capital punishment and the creation of section 745. And so we have gone back to the future. We have gone back 20 years to a time when the Liberals really believed this was going to work. I believe we have to go to the victims' families. We have to ask the victims' families if this has worked.
Our party, under the capable direction of the member for Fraser Valley West on this issue, has had this House agree to a motion that there should be a victims bill of rights. In all reality I do not believe we are ever going to see that. As long as this government continues to hold down its members and say "yes you will vote this way", and as long as this government is driven by its particular agenda, I do not believe we are ever going to see a victims bill of rights.
What about the future? What hope is there? On this issue, I read the following into the record on May 9, 1994: "Last weekend on Saturday I, along with about 350 other people in my constituency, attended the funeral of eight-year old Stephanie Graves who was attacked and shot in the Kimberley area". I read the following poem about her. It was read at her funeral by her class:
I like your eyes I like your nose I like your mouth, your ears, your hands, your toes. I like your face It's really you I like the things you say and do. There's not a single soul who sees the skies The way you see them, through your eyes And aren't you glad? You should be glad There's no one, no one exactly like you.
It is for the victims like Stephanie Graves and their families that we stand on this issue and say the weak-kneed Liberal approach is inadequate and will not cut it.
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September 17th, 1996 / 12:15 p.m.
Morris Bodnar LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry
Madam Speaker, it has been very interesting listening to the comments of the Reform Party which talks about our being bleeding heart Liberals and being soft on crime. Yet when we introduced legislation on the Young Offenders Act to increase sentences for young offenders in the commission of offences such as murder, to allow young offenders who were 16 and 17 years old to be more readily tried in adult court, it was the Reform Party that voted against this legislation.
We are the ones who have been tightening up the criminal justice system. We have been getting tougher in areas in the criminal justice system. It is the Reform Party that speaks loudly on improving the criminal justice system and then weakens and votes against such legislation. That is the Reform Party. Reformers say one thing and they do another thing.
They did the same thing with the sentencing legislation. When we introduced sentencing legislation to make it tougher on criminals who voted against it? The Reformers, who else? They say one thing, they do something else. That is the Reform Party.
The Reform Party is now saying to get rid of section 745 so that a person cannot make an application for parole before 25 years. It must be remembered that it is an application to be made after 25 years. It does not mean the person is eligible for parole at that time. It is the same thing with 15 years. If a person were eligible after 15 years, it means eligible after 15. It does not mean the person will be paroled after 15.
I am surprised the Reform Party takes that approach. This is an approach which I think is reasonable. It is reasonable that there is discretion in the justice system to deal with people on a different basis when they have different backgrounds. I am extremely disappointed that the Reform Party does not see that in particular cases.
I will give an example of a case which is before the courts on a different matter, the Latimer case. It is surprising that the Reform Party would not suggest that maybe judges should have the discretion to impose a lower period of time before eligibility for parole. Then maybe the Reform Party should be suggesting that in cases like Bernardo there should be a provision that judges have the discretion that people like him should not be eligible for parole for 75 or 150 years, but the Reform Party is not suggesting this. This should be step two. This is what should be looked at.
I hear the issue of consecutive sentences being raised by the hon. member who just spoke. A life sentence is a life sentence. A life consecutive to life does not make sense. It is either life or it is not life. The question is on parole eligibility and that is where the judges should have the discretion at the time of sentencing to increase parole eligibility. However it is a matter that has to be looked at at some other time when discussing all the terms of eligibility on such offences.
It is a matter that can be looked at but unfortunately the Reform Party does not look that far ahead. Instead members of the Reform Party concentrate and say that first degree murder is premeditated murder. Yes it is in some circumstances but unfortunately they have
not read the Criminal Code because it can be first degree murder without premeditation.
Members of the Reform Party should read the Criminal Code because they are misrepresenting to the public when they say that first degree is only premeditated and they are wrong on that point. That is a misrepresentation Reform members have undertaken in this House day in and day out on this particular point. That is the problem with members of the Reform Party. All they have to do is open up the Criminal Code, read the definition of first degree murder, it is there, but they will not do that. The members of the Reform Party will not do that. It is beyond them. Perhaps we should supply them with a copy of the Criminal Code.
The Reform Party prefers to bluster along in this House on first degree murder without reading the code because some knowledge on this particular point may be dangerous to them. That is the problem we have.
In dealing with parole eligibility there have been different figures raised. One member from the Reform Party has said there is a 10 per cent rate of recidivism for parolees. Why not look at the opposite? I am not necessarily accepting these figures because I prefer to check them out. When Reformers give numbers, I do not take them as the gospel truth; I prefer to have them checked.
If we accept the Reform figures, that means there is a 90 per cent success rate of parolees. Why do we not look at that? A 90 per cent success rate is very good in many disciplines but no, that is not good enough. Reformers prefer not to look at that particular aspect. They do not want to look at that aspect at all.
Again I suggest the members of the Reform Party are misrepresenting the aspect of the 15 year eligibility. If a person is eligible for application after 15 years and gets it reduced to, let us say 17 or 19 years, it does not mean the person is going to be paroled at that time. The parole board still has to deal with the matter.
As the Reform member should very well know, since coming to power in 1993 the Liberals have tightened up on the appointees to parole boards. They are the most qualified people that can be appointed. The parole board is very good with these members. Reformers have to have some faith in the members on the parole board. They are good members who take their jobs seriously and who will deal with these matters seriously.
When an application is made after 15 years under section 745, the application is not to a judge. The application is not to a member of the legal profession. Thank God the application is not to a member of the Reform Party. The application is to the community where the offence was committed. It is members from that community who determine whether that person's parole eligibility period will be reduced. It is members of the community.
Here we have the Reform Party which claims it represents the community saying that they do not want members of the community to determine whether parole eligibility is reduced. They want to take this power away from members of the community. I am very surprised. A party that claims to be a grassroots party is saying: "Don't allow the grassroots of the community to make this decision". It is a very interesting position by the Reform Party. Again, they speak one thing and they do something else.
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Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate because I represent the constituents of Surrey North and we have been plagued with a number of violent crimes involving mass murderers. Clifford Olson was one that haunted our neighbourhood as well. It is very fortunate that I have this opportunity to express my point of view.
The previous speaker made reference to the fact of our inability to read the Criminal Code, but he on the other hand pointed out that in this particular bill the application is not made to a judge but to the community. If he would like to read section 745(1) he will find that it is indeed made to a chief justice.
Another point that the previous speaker made was in relation to the Bernardo case and allowing the judges to have some flexibility in the sentencing from the point of view of whether or not to grant parole. My understanding in reading this bill would be that regardless of what a judge would say at that particular time, he could say no parole, but 15 or 25 years later, whatever the magic number is, another procedure would occur in which that person could make application for eligibility which means the previous judge's decision could be overruled. I do not know if that is the answer or not.
There are two points I would like to make in relation to this bill. One is the content itself. That would relate to the fact that it is designed to set up some sort of a screening process in which it would not allow everyone the opportunity to make application for parole and that would be heard. It might reduce some of the time the courts have to spend on this as well. With the mechanism for the screening process that is set up, I tend to think there may be undue influence on the jury or the subsequent aspects of the process.
Basically what seems to be happening is a prisoner will make application to a chief justice who will look at that individual's situation. I believe that clause 1(2) contains the kinds of things the judge will look at. It would include the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole, his conduct while serving the sentence, the character of the applicant and the nature of the offence.
It would be logical to assume that as we have had a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation in the prison system for the last 20 years, a criteria that might be written into the act as well is his participation in rehabilitation programs and his progress in those same programs. I am deviating a little bit.
My point here is that the judge is looking at that criteria in relation to the application to decide whether or not the application can proceed to a designated judge in a province and a jury and the case be made for parole. I suggest that only those cases the judge in his wisdom thinks may get parole would actually go into the process of being assessed for parole. All others would not.
One of the arguments used for not having victim impact statements in court was that it could influence the jury. I argue that this is the same principle. A learned person in law has moved certain cases forward. I would tend to think that a layman type jury could be influenced that indeed these people would be eligible for parole. On the other hand they may not but there is a possibility that would happen. Therefore, I believe there may be undue influence by using this method of screening.
Another point which should be made concerns the discussion we had on section 745 a year ago. At that time there were some token changes. The debate at that time described the fact that we felt these were half-way measures or token changes. Here we are again looking at the same thing and taking it one step further.
I tend to question why we have to go back to a similar sort of issue. Two reasons occur in my mind. One is that the government was not prepared to deal with the situation in its entirety a year ago, to address the problem and put it to bed. The other may be that we are witnessing some sort of phase-in by the government of some kind of activity that is not necessarily popular to the masses.
I suggest that when we, as citizens, elect a government we expect it to lead and that leadership should be directed at preserving the society to which the majority of the citizens have agreed. I do not really think the government is aware that the majority of citizens do not agree with this step in the process. We cannot have this kind of step. It has to be an either-or. Either we have this application that we go directly to a jury or we do not have it at all.
Our position is that we do not have it at all. Let us stick with that first judge and jury that assessed those people and made the decision that they were going to go to jail for 15 years. It also provides a sense of leadership to the citizens that they cannot play around with the system and take chances. They must think about their actions before they do them because they will be responsible. If a person kills someone it will be 25 years in jail, no ifs, ands or buts. That might deter a few people. We have those who it will not but I am certain our percentages would drop down.
Right now it is almost like a game of roulette. One takes a chance, gets a good lawyer and might get off.
We are defeating a number of principles when we bring in this screening process. There is no half-way measure but that seems to be the trend that we have experienced in the last three years. We do not seem to get to the solution. We only get half-way there. In some cases we do not even get half way there. We then bring it up again.
I would like to suggest that it is possibly coming up again because after it came up a year ago the government realized that the move it made then was certainly not one that the Canadian public was happy about. I do not know whether we are trying to correct that now or whether we are witnessing an attempt to phase in something over a period of time that the Canadian people do not want. However, if we spread the time out far enough they will not even notice. It will come in very insidiously and suddenly it is there.
I have a lot of problems with this. The screening mechanism used from a control point of view or as some sort of an evaluation, time saving or whatever the rationale is for it, will not achieve what it is designed to achieve. Basically what will happen is that a judge somewhere, who is looking in depth into this application for a presence in front of a judge and jury, will be duplication. What the judge goes over, the jury will also go over. I strongly suggest that instead of screening it will intimidate or influence the jury based on the fact that the judge has some knowledge in the area we are dealing with.
Comment has been made about faint hope for prisoners sentenced to 25 years that something can happen in 15. By allowing parole it is faint hope for victims and their families that justice will be carried out.
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Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Madam Speaker, I wish I could say I was pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-45. However, I cannot say that. Rather we should be debating the private members' bill of the member for York South-Weston, which called for the repeal of section 745 of the Criminal Code.
Bill C-45 is yet another half-hearted Liberal justice reform. A moment ago the member for Saskatoon-Dundurn, one of the few members of the governing party to debate the issue, said that Reform was being unrealistic, was being too severe in dealing with crime. I would debate that matter with him. I wish more of his colleagues were here to justify their reasons for this bill. I would point out that when the private members' bill of the member for York South-Weston was at second reading in the House, 74 members from the Liberal Party voted for that bill, which would
indicate there are many people on the other side of the House who do not support Bill C-45.
Another example of the half-hearted measures that the government is taking is its so-called revamp of the Young Offenders Act. We attempted to put real teeth and real meaning into those amendments and the government refused.
I refer to an incident in Toronto not long ago where four youngsters took a 13-year old girl into an apartment and raped her. The leader was an 11-year old boy who simply laughed at the police, at the justice system and at the Young Offenders Act when he was called to account for the crime.
Two older boys were given sentences of two or three years. But all that was done to the young fellow who led this enterprise was for the judge to call him a blatant liar. I am sure the young fellow laughed all the way home at that one.
Another case occurred in my riding in the town of Sidney on Vancouver Island. A young teenager was pulled off his bicycle, knocked to the ground and kicked to death against the curb by two juvenile offenders. In its wisdom the court raised their crime to adult court. After they were found guilty the sentence was two years. Is this really indicative of justice? A youngster was dead at the age of 17 and his murderers get two years? I question the validity of this type of justice.
My colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley mentioned that at the time the death sentence was abolished and the 25-year parole eligibility was debated, undoubtedly there were strong feelings on both sides that 25 years was not enough to pay for deliberately taking a life, for first degree murder.
I will confess right now that I am not for the death penalty. I feel there is too much chance of a mistake being made and an innocent life being taken. However, I would advocate that a life sentence means life. The remainder of that individual's life should be served in prison. If he or she should subsequently be proved to be innocent, then he or she is still there to be released. If that proof does not come forward, then the individual should spend the remainder of his or her natural life in prison.
Right now of course we have the provision of statutory release, which sees criminals sentenced to 10 years who are eligible for parole in far less time. If we add good behaviour to that, the individual will quite often spend less than half of his or her sentence in jail.
I would agree that there are non-violent crimes for which a prison sentence is not only expensive for society but inappropriate because these are not dangerous people who will hurt other people. However, when we get into the dangerous offender category we have to be very certain that they and anyone who would contemplate carrying out a violent crime are aware that the consequences, if they are convicted, will be severe.
The problem is that the murdered person has a true life sentence. There is no recourse, no compensation, no nothing. That person is gone for life. That life has been given up. The person who took that life should also bear that punishment. The murderer should be incarcerated for the rest of his or her natural life in payment for the crime.
What about the families of the victims? This is particularly appropriate for this section which allows a first degree murderer to apply for parole after only 15 years. Those families have gone through hell at the loss of their loved ones. They have suffered the trauma of having to identify the body, of having to hear the gory details of how their loved one died. Then, as they gradually accept the inevitability of what has happened and make accommodations for their loss, a short 15 years downstream they have to go through the whole thing again.
What we need to do in punishing murderers, first degree murderers in particular, is to go to consecutive sentencing, not concurrent sentencing. Why on earth should an individual like Clifford Olson, who was convicted of killing 11 youngsters, get one life sentence when he should have received 11 life sentences for his crimes? How can we condone that?
I would say the same about Paul Bernardo. He was an individual who manipulated, tortured and cruelly murdered two young ladies and perhaps more. He got one life sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years because of this legislation, if it passes, which in all likelihood it will due to the government's massive majority.
The hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn took issue with my colleague's statement about the recidivism rate: 10 per cent and 90 per cent. Ten per cent reoffend and 90 per cent do not. My concern is not so much for the murderer, but rather the potential victims. Is a 10 per cent risk acceptable? These people have proven that they will go to the extreme of deliberately taking another person's life. Should their incarceration not take precedence over the danger they present to an unknown victim on their release?
In the summer of 1987 convicted murderer Daniel Gingras, while on a temporary day pass from an Edmonton institution, killed two people before being apprehended.
Again in 1988, Joseph Fredericks, a convicted sadistic paedophile, while on parole abducted, raped and fatally stabbed a young 11-year old boy in southern Ontario.
Bill C-45 should not be passed and section 745 should be abolished.
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Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC
Madam Speaker, when I was thinking about what I might say today in the House with my intervention, I thought I could talk about the specifics of the bill before us. There is lots to talk about there.
I thought I might even delve into some of the failures of this government over the last 15 or 20 years with respect to the criminal justice system. I thought I would start by asking this House some questions on behalf of constituents in Skeena.
During the last election when I was running for office, I encountered a lady living in Smithers whose daughter had been tracked across British Columbia by her former boyfriend and brutally stabbed to death.
This lady's other daughters have lost a sister, a very valuable member of their family. That cannot be undone. What happened to the fellow who did this? I will tell members what happened to him. He ended up spending a couple of years in jail prior to his going to court. He was found guilty and he was sentenced to 10 years.
We know that with the way the parole system works, he might be eligible for parole right now. This murder took place in 1991 or 1992 if my memory serves me right. What do I tell this lady?
She said when I was running for office: "I want you to go to Ottawa on my behalf. Get elected. I want you to do something about our criminal justice system. It has failed me and my family miserably. You have no idea of the agony that I have gone through. You have no idea of the agony that my family has gone through. It is an agony that continues. It does not go away. I want you to go to Ottawa and on my behalf and on behalf of my family and all the other Canadians who are ending up in this position do whatever you can to change it".
I will have to go back to this lady at some point. She will ask me: "What have you done?" I will have to tell her that in spite of the efforts made by me and my colleagues in the Reform Party, some of whom have worked very hard to make changes, the reality is that nothing has been done.
What do I say to the family of a commercial fisherman who was brutally beaten to death with sticks and stones? He was kicked to death by a group of young thugs in Prince Rupert last year. It made the national news. How could this happen in Canada? How is it that a group of 12, 14 and 15-year old boys could do this to somebody who represented no threat to them whatsoever and who was basically only minding his own business when this took place?
What do we say to the family of that man? What do we say to the good citizens of Prince Rupert who are looking internally in shock as to how this could happen? What are the circumstances that allow this kind of inhumane activity to take place within our society? What are we going to do about it?
Frankly, I have to go back to the people in my constituency and to the good people of Prince Rupert to tell them that the Government of Canada has not yet seen the light. It is not yet prepared to really make any serious changes.
What do I tell the young lady from Terrace who was assaulted, beaten and raped last year in Terrace in her own home in the middle of the night? Her assailant was brought before the courts. He was sentenced to two years in jail. Now barely more than a year later he is eligible and at this time is very likely out on parole and no doubt is fully free to go back into the community of Terrace and live within the community where he actually perpetrated the offence. This led to a huge demonstration in the community this summer which I attended where people spoke out and not only expressed their disgust at this turn of events but also demanded change.
Those people at that rally stood there and committed their time and the time of their families to show solidarity with the community to make those demands for change. Now I have to go back to them and tell them what the government has done. The government pretends to care. It pretends to be contemplating serious change to the criminal justice system. But the reality is it tinkered with the Young Offenders Act. It made some minor changes. It tinkered with the parole and criminal justice system. It made some minor changes such as the bill we are dealing with today. And in a most cynical manoeuvre it inflicted a gun control bill known as Bill C-68 on the Canadian populace, the likes of which we have never seen, in an effort to persuade Canadians that it was serious about actually doing something about our criminal justice system.
The reality is the government is a do nothing government when it comes to the criminal justice system. It has no real intention of changing the way the system operates. It has no real intention of demanding accountability. It has no real intention of putting the rights of victims ahead of criminals. In short, it has no real intention of doing anything constructive in this area.
Members can bet that I am going to go back to my constituents and tell them what took place here on the floor of the House of Commons. I am going to tell them that the legislation which was introduced by this Parliament during the time I have been their elected representative was nothing short of tinkering and that the bleeding heart Liberals still do not get it. They do not understand that they are off side with a majority of Canadians who want change now and who are serious about it.
I heard some of the interventions which were made here yesterday by members opposite that the government is still more concerned about rehabilitation. It is still more concerned about the rights of the criminals, the rights of the perpetrators, than about the rights of victims. I am going to tell my constituents that the record of this government on criminal justice and on the rights of victims and their families is nothing short of abysmal. It is a disgrace. It is a national disgrace and the people opposite should hang their heads in shame. They can bet that I will be carrying this message forth in the next election.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate for a few moments on Bill C-45, presented by the Minister of Justice. It is an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with judicial review of parole ineligibility at report stage.
I have listened carefully to the debate. Not being a lawyer, I want to understand a little bit more about the essence of the bill and about the issues. I certainly do understand the emotion which has been expressed over the last many months. We have had private members' initiatives with regard to section 745. We have had presentations and submissions from the Minister of Justice.
It shows this is an issue which responds to the needs of Canadians to have this matter addressed in a way which will best serve the judicial system.
As I listen to the debate it follows a very typical pattern that many of the bills which come before this place have followed where the extreme positions are taken and continue to be repeated in a sense to paint a picture which is not very reflective of the reality of the bill and of the issues.
It would be very interesting, if all members were to rise and speak on this bill, to see how many people would take a particular position and say: "I am going to spend my entire speech talking about Clifford Olson and what a terrible person he is and what he has done and why this bill is the wrong way to go. Section 745 should be eliminated totally because of Clifford Olson". It simply states the extremes where we have a situation of a mass murderer who is the subject matter of the discussion.
In that case I do not think there is anyone in this House and probably in Canada who would defend Clifford Olson's need to be released early from jail. I think all Canadians would say that Clifford Olson should never come out of jail. That is the bottom line.
We are talking about section 745 of the Criminal Code which deals with a very touchy subject in a sense that it actually stems from the capital punishment debate of many years ago. I will keep this simple and not in a judicial or justice fashion.
Section 745 came in as a compromise and as a by-product of that capital punishment debate. When the Parliament of the day decided it could not at that point support capital punishment in Canada, 745 came out of that where it basically states that after serving 15 years of a 25 year sentence an application can be made by the criminal who has been accused and who is in jail for early parole. It is not to apply to get out early. It is a two stage process. I have not heard very much about the actual mechanics of that in debate.
So that some members will understand, I will explain this in the way it was explained to me by the briefing we got from officials. Someone in jail would actually make an application for a judicial review and that review would be done by a jury of Canadian citizens. Actual people would form the jury and review the application of someone to proceed along this route. Only after a jury of peers would have decided whether this was eligible or this was a case that it could be argued that there was true remorse and there was no useful purpose being served by having that person fulfil the last period of their sentence would it then go to the parole board.
The interesting thing that has not been mentioned when someone talks about getting rid of 745 is that there is a process of judicial review done by a jury of peers, ordinary citizens.
The other aspect in this bill, which I think is an important change being proposed by Bill C-45, is that another step has been added which will eliminate any nuisance factor or improve the productivity of the system whereby in the first instance a judge of the courts will determine whether a particular proposed application has any merit. This means that if someone who is serving time decides after 15 years to make application it is first going to be determined whether the application is worthy of moving forward through the process. It has to be dealt with by a judge. It has to be an honourable person of the court who determines, on the history of the case and from the recommendations by the jury at the original trial, whether this application is worthy of going forward.
This is where people like Clifford Olson would be stopped, totally. He may ask for it, but there is no possibility in our society that people like Clifford Olson will ever get any breaks to get out of jail early or at all for that matter.
The second process is to go to a review by a jury of peers. Again, ordinary Canadians would be given all of the facts, all of the circumstances, and it would be up to Canadians, our neighbours, our friends from right across Canada. They would decide whether a case would merit consideration of shortening a sentence or having early parole.
If that were successful, it would then have to go through the ordinary process of a review by the parole board. There is a very comprehensive and extensive approach to it. The question comes down to is there a case of someone who has been convicted of first degree murder and who was sentenced to 25 years in prison that
should be considered for a reduction in sentence? It is a very tough question.
Many members will say first degree murder is first degree murder. The murderer has taken a life and they should serve the total of 25 years and that is all.
I asked justice officials to tell me about some of the cases where application was made and granted. I found that we were not talking about Clifford Olsons, we were not talking about Hell's Angels members who killed people and were getting out on early parole.
Many of the cases were domestic problems where an abused spouse in reaction or emotion killed their spouse. There were cases where disputes within families led to one family member killing another family member. It is tragic and awful in our society. But as we all know, there are circumstances that create pressures and stresses on people which make them make very bad mistakes. They have to live with those mistakes for the rest of their lives. They are very remorseful. It serves Canada and society as a whole no benefit to have them incarcerated for that additional period.
A better result may be achieved if those people are shown clearly, based on a review by judges, by juries of their peers and by the parole board, not to be a threat to society as a whole. The incident had complicated or mitigating circumstances associated with it but on the technicalities of the merit of the case it did in fact constitute first degree murder.
I raise the issues to make sure all hon. members know the argument is not a Clifford Olson argument. There is no question that all hon. members of this place want to ensure those situations do not tie up the courts and do not particularly raise the kinds of problems that have been raised here.
It is a constructive change that has been raised in Bill C-45. I support it and I know this House will look favourably on the bill because it is the right thing to do.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC
Madam Speaker, I had a few notes on what I wanted to say about this government amendment, and perhaps I will get to some of those things. Listening to the hon. member for Mississauga South gave me some new points that I thought were more worthy of discussion.
One point goes to the heart of the problem. The government does not listen to people. Something the member said really drew my attention to that. When he referred to capital punishment he said "the government of the day decided". The government of the day is not supposed to decide. I do not know about the government over there. I do not know about the Liberal Party. I was not elected to rule over anybody. I was not elected to think for other people. I was elected to listen, to react to what I hear and to carry that message here to Ottawa.
The government of the day decided. That was said in all innocence and I do not wish it to be a reflection specifically on the hon. member who said that, but I think the concept of that is absolutely disgusting. It has brought us to the mess we are in in many things and most particularly the criminal justice system, the concept of somebody having a faint hope clause after 15 years. The member said there may be no useful purpose in having that criminal fulfil the final portion of the sentence.
The criminals in this case were sentenced to life but they are not necessarily held for life. That concept is there but maybe there is no useful purpose in taking someone who is 20-years old and keeping them in there for 60 years until they are 80 or 85 or whatever. It specifically says 25 years and then after that a decision is made. That is where the so-called faint hope is. If you behave, if you show remorse, if you show you have understood the wrong you have done and you are going to try to live a better life, they have already said when you are going to be considered from the actual sentence which is not 25 years, it is life.
Now we are saying that maybe you will get out after 15 or 20 years. If we go along with that maybe we should look at 10 years. The jails are crowded, he did not kill anybody important, so we will let you out. Or, we are going to keep this guy for 15 or 20 years because he killed 10 people, but you only killed 2 or 3 so you are not so bad so we have to let you out early in order to keep things proportionate. Does that not sound ridiculous? I am trying to sound ridiculous because that is exactly the whole concept of this idea.
In some cases like the Clifford Olsons and the Bernardos of this world, 25 years is a very light sentence. The very thought that they should even be remotely considered for parole after 15 years is absolutely nauseating.
I agree with the hon. member for Mississauga South that the Clifford Olsons of this world are not going to get out after 15 years but they are going to get a podium to spout all kinds of garbage that only comes out of sick mind like his in the first place. That is going to retorture the families that have already had the ultimate torture visited upon them. Why give him a chance to revictimize the victims he has created? I do not see that it serves any useful purpose whatsoever.
The hon. member also spoke about the honourable judiciary who was going to prevent this from happening. I had a case in British Columbia where the parents of a girl who was murdered lived in my constituency. The murder did not take place there but her parents lived there. Although this was a provincial matter, they were getting absolutely no help or comfort from the provincial government whatsoever and so they came to me. Their daughter was stabbed 43 times by her husband. It was a vicious, violent death. He dumped her in the back of a pickup truck, drove to the
family home where their daughter was inside and waited until the lights went out because she was up watching TV.
He parked the car with her mother's dead body in the back in the family garage. He went in and packed his cloths, took off into town, closed out the bank accounts, collected some debts from other people, sold his car and took off to Mexico until, in his own words, he could get his story straight.
He was discovered and faced extradition. He returned and consulted with his lawyer and turned himself in. He said: "Yes, I stabbed her but it was not my fault". I do not recall the legal term for it but he had a momentary blankout. He went on the stand and said: "I am a wonderful guy and I just thought my wife was great until I snapped because she was nagging at me. I have always treated her right".
The prosecution tried to bring in his former wife, whom he had beaten on many occasions. It was not allowed. The judge in this case, this wonderful judiciary who was going to take care of undeserving people like Clifford Olson, decided that because it happened more than six months before it was irrelevant.
Then the prosecution said: "Okay, we will bring in something more relevant. We will bring in independent witnesses who saw the accused on at least two occasions beating the victim in public so severely that she had to be rescued by bystanders". The honourable member of the judiciary decided that was not appropriate either because it was only hearsay and the victim was not there to be cross-examined.
That is the judiciary which the hon. member says will prevent the Clifford Olsons of this country from getting an opportunity to ask for a chance to get away.
There is a term. It was not designed specifically to be used against the government. The term is bleeding heart Liberals. It is a generality. It does not refer specifically, or at least necessarily, to the Liberal Party, but it sure fits. It fits incredibly in this case. Bleeding heart Liberals.
That is not so bad. There is nothing wrong with having a bleeding heart, provided they bleed for the right people. When we have the victims of Clifford Olson, all those young children, the parents, the families, the relatives, and we come in with some clause which will give an opportunity to the murderer of all those children, the person who brought all that misery to the families of those victims, when we start bleeding for them, we have a major problem. Right now we have a major problem. It is called the Liberal Party.
For years I was a building contractor. If something goes wrong with a foundation, if it is a small area, sometimes it can be fixed. However, when the whole foundation is rotten the whole thing has to be taken out. It cannot be patched and repaired. We cannot patch and repair something which is so absolutely disgusting as section 745. It has to be removed in its entirety.
I recently bought a car. I paid $25,000 for it. However, I did not go in when the car was ready and say: "I am only going to give you $15,000 because I want to have some faint hope that I will save money".
If there is a sentence out there, if it is what the people of the country decide on, 25 years is the minimum. It is not the maximum. They may stay in much longer. We have already gone to the judiciary, which the hon. member for Mississauga South said is so honourable and will protect us. If he accepts that, why do we not listen to the judiciary which said that 25 years is the minimum? Why does the government want to interfere and say: "It might be the minimum, but we are going to consider making it considerably less". That makes absolutely no sense.
Section 745 needs to be eliminated. Something that is totally rotten cannot be fixed. We have to get rid of it. That applies to every other segment of our society and it applies here as well.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code in the judicial review of parole ineligibility and another act.
I will start with a question. Where is the government coming from? What in the world is it doing? Having been here for just about three years I ask the question are we better off in any capacity now than we were three years ago? I wonder, in terms of the criminal justice system, what in the world the government is doing with this amendment.
Bill C-45 purportedly toughens the justice system. I would say today that it is simply a half hearted public relations effort, as is most of what the government has done in its supposed reforms, in an effort to show the Canadian public that it is doing something.
I will look briefly at the history of the justice system's response to this particular issue, a first degree murderer.
We see a record that actually started in the era of another Liberal, Prime Minister Trudeau. At that time, the rights of the criminals and the process of the rehabilitation of criminals overtook, within the justice system, any idea of the importance or the pre-eminence of the idea of the protection of law-abiding citizens.
Since the time of Trudeau, both traditional parties, Liberals and Conservatives, have spent those 20 intervening years becoming softer and softer on crime and criminals. The sad fact is that one cannot get softer on criminals without making life more difficult
for society in general, as well as for the victims of the crimes that they commit.
First, capital punishment was replaced with life imprisonment. Later, parole was provided so that life, even life of a 25-year sentence, no longer meant that 25 years. A faint hope clause was introduced, as was described earlier by many of my colleagues, which gave an automatic right to apply for early parole at 15 years. Records show that the possibility of it is very good.
In the meantime, the system is tied up with criminals, such as we have heard about today like Clifford Olson, who have a right to a process which makes no sense to the essence of justice or to the majority of Canadians.
Today, with this amendment we come to another step in this process with a government that is full of bleeding heart Liberals who think that withholding parole from only multiple murderers constitutes being tough on crime. How ridiculous. The Liberal government today pretends that action is being taken in the criminal justice system. There is nothing here that is substantive, nothing helpful. What it is doing is at total cross purposes to the good of our society.
I would like to remind the House of the recent amendments to the Young Offenders Act and the amendments made by this government purportedly to make that system work better. That too was a smokescreen for a mindset that did not take crime seriously. It was these amendments that put society at a greater risk today.
In my constituency-I have spoken of this before-a little over two years ago, there was a murder. It has been mentioned by my colleague. It was a cold-blooded murder, a kicking to death of a young man on one of our streets five blocks from my home. They were two young offenders.
Our community reacted to that with an outpouring of heartfelt petition to government to make some change. Over 3,000 people came together at a rally. Never has an event like that happened in my constituency before. Over 3,000 people participated.
This summer, the then 15-year old and now 17-year old, with the changes made by this government to the Young Offenders Act was raised to adult court. His case was reviewed and he was sentenced according to the adult court provisions for young offenders, again specifically in response to the amendments made by this government.
The cold-blooded murderer of Graham Niven on the streets of our town would have received 10 years under the previous Young Offenders Act. Given that he was raised to adult court, he received five years for cold-blooded murder. Because he had already served two years in the intervening time, he will be on the streets of Port Moody-Coquitlam in three years. From what I understand that young man has shown no repentance, no sense of guilt or remorse. Yet in three years' time that young man who committed cold-blooded murder will be in our community, on our streets, thanks to grand amendments made by the government under the pretence of making the judicial system better. The system does not care or demand accountability. The system does not care about public safety on the streets of our cities.
I know that my constituents do not think that Bill C-45 is tough on crime. I know that my colleagues' constituents do not think that Bill C-45 is tough on crime. Canadians do not think that this bill is tough on crime. Once again the Liberals are out of touch with the Canadian people. They have no interest in the views of Canadians. They seem to want to represent the views of the justice department which is disconnected, the views of a justice minister who has repeatedly shown us that he is disconnected and the views of a Prime Minister who is disconnected from the beliefs and wishes of the Canadian people.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC
Only Reformers are connected.