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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was reform.

Topics

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn.

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5:25 p.m.

Saskatoon—Dundurn Saskatchewan

Liberal

Morris Bodnar LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, this is a subject that is rather sensitive for members of the Reform Party who are so concerned about victims. I find it rather interesting that the last member to speak, the member for Comox-Alberni, said that section 745-

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5:25 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My understanding of the rules is that when I am asked a question I should have the opportunity to respond.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The time for questions and answers had expired. We now continue on to debate.

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5:30 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like a clarification from the Chair. Previously, Speakers have indicated how much time the questioner has to make his questions or comments and has indicated that the time must be shared evenly between the person who has questions or comments and the person who has made the speech so that they have equal time to answer the question. That did not occur in the case of my colleague from Comox-Alberni. I would like to understand why the rules were not followed in this instance.

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5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The rules of this House are always followed by the Chair. The rules have been followed and there is no written rule concerning what you have just raised. We are now resuming debate.

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5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Madam Speaker, as I was saying when I began speaking, the hon. member for Comox-Alberni had indicated that section 745 allows Clifford Olson to apply for early parole. He said that a few times in his speech but it is absolutely not true. That is the misrepresentation that we are getting from the Reform Party. It is absolutely not true. It allows him to apply so that he can become eligible to apply. There is a big difference. It is not a parole application.

However, that is too much for the members of the Reform Party to comprehend. They have never decided to deal with reason. Of course Reform Party members claim to act on behalf of victims. They claim they deal with the victims. Do they not realize that Clifford Olson after 25 years can still apply for parole? They do not seem to realize that.

There is room to manoeuvre in this whole area of dealing with section 745. Unfortunately it is quite difficult for the members of the Reform Party to deal with this area.

Let me suggest a solution to this whole matter. Unfortunately it appears that many of them will not be listening. That is fine, they can read it in Hansard some other day. Section 745 perhaps should be abolished in the future. It is something we should look at. I suggest that we take a serious look at abolishing section 745. The amendments that were made by the hon. Minister of Justice were good amendments and a good first step that we had to take.

However, getting rid of 745 does not end the whole matter. There has to be a step that takes place at the same time with the abolition of 745, returning discretion to the judges. We have to return discretion to the judges in the sentencing process. If we do not return discretion injustices occur. I will use a couple of examples to illustrate the problems that result.

Most recently there was a case in Saskatchewan, which I am sure hon. members are all aware of, in which a person was convicted of murder for having put his daughter to death because of his belief in her suffering as a result of illness. The judge in the case should have had the discretion to determine whether that individual would be eligible for parole on a second degree charge in 10 years time, for a first degree murder charge in 25 years, or whether he should reduce it. Maybe he should reduce it to two years, three years or four years, but he should have the discretion to vary from those numbers because we could have an injustice occur. All fact situations are not the same in murder cases.

Heaven forbid that they reoccur, but they seem to, in cases like Olson and Bernardo, the judge should have been able to say "I sentence you to life imprisonment with no parole for life". There

is no application for parole and no parole application can ever be made.

Reform members never suggest this. They simply tell us to get rid of section 745. They never mention this second step. That is what we need. We need this second step. They will probably leave the House and try to take credit for such an idea. Unfortunately some of the ideas that come from the other side of the House are only rehashed ideas they get from this side of the House.

Someone like Bernardo should have been dealt with at the trial process by the trial judge. He should have had the discretion to say no parole or no parole for 250 years. Outlive that, Bernardo. Or no parole for 500 years or whatever figure. He should have had that discretion. Unfortunately the Criminal Code does not allow him that discretion.

Another situation similar to this occurred well in excess of 20 years ago in the city of Saskatoon where an individual was convicted of killing four children, David Threinen. He had killed four children and plead guilty to second degree murder. The very well respected judge in the system in Saskatchewan, Justice Ian Hughes, who had to sentence him, subsequently left Saskatchewan and went to British Columbia.

At the sentencing he increased the parole eligibility to the maximum he could at that time which was 20 years for second degree murder. He made a recommendation that this individual never be paroled. That should not have been something he had to do. He should not have been obliged to do this. He should have had the discretion to be able to make that order at the time of sentencing, not left to the parole board, 20 years plus to be dealt with again. He should have been able to deal with it then.

These are the types of cases where there are injustices, when the judges should go lower in ordering parole eligibility or go substantially higher in ordering non-eligibility for parole. It deals with the whole matter. However, the amendments that have been proposed to Bill C-45 are good amendments. They have changed matters. It has been made such that an initial step has to be taken.

Why would the Reform Party ever vote against such a requirement when it makes it tougher for someone who is serving time for first degree murder in excess of 15 years to get parole eligibility? Why would Reform members, who claim to represent victims, vote against the bill? They claim to represent victims and yet they vote against anything that helps victims. That seems strange. Favour victims, vote against victims; favour victims, vote against victims. That is the Reform policy.

Recently I received a document from the Church council on justice and corrections, a coalition of 11 churches, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, Presbyterian, Batiste, Evangelical, Lutheran, Salvation Army, the Quaker, Mennonite, Christian Reform and Disciplines of Christ. In that document they indicated they favour judicial reviews. They indicate judicial reviews are working reasonably well in the country. More than half the offenders eligible for a judicial review are not even applying for one, they indicated, often because they either know they do not stand a chance or feel they are not ready.

Then they come out with this statement: "None who has been released into the community has murdered again". None. We are getting a lot of fearmongering from the Reform Party, saying that Canadians are terrified that murders will be released into their community. Of those who have been successful in their application under section 745, none released into the community has murdered again. So why this fearmongering by the Reform Party if not to make this a political issue when it is not a political issue?

With that we proceed to other matters. The Reform Party claims that this a joke of the judicial process.

The hon. member for Prince George-Peace River indicated it is a joke of the process. Where is the joke? We have people charged with murder. There is evidence. They are convicted of murder. They are sent to jail for life. The question is one of parole eligibility. Where is the joke in this system?

People are consistently convicted in courts for the offence of murder. Is this a joke? If this is a joke, I cannot understand what the Reform Party would want in its place. Would it prefer trial by ordeal? Would it prefer-

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5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

What about cross-examination of victims?

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5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

There are no victims who can be cross-examined on a murder trial, and that is what I am discussing now. It is unfortunate but that is the position. There are victims in cases but they had better realize what is being talked about in the speech. This is how the Reform Party deals with this matter. It treats it as a complete political matter. It is not concerned about victims of any sort in the process.

It is important to get rid of section 745 at some time in the future and replace it with what I have suggested. Prisoners want finality in sentencing as well. When they have been convicted, they want to know exactly where they stand. There is no reason for them to put on false pretences to prison guards in wanting to be treated better or have a favourable report in 15 years.

They should have finality planned for that period of time and deal with rehabilitation rather than trying to impress authorities.

The comment by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni that it is 1.1 years for every child he has killed in referring to Olson is absolutely ludicrous. His suggesting that Olson will only serve 1.1 years for every child he has killed is simply trying to inflame the public when what is being said is completely and absolutely inaccurate because he has not been granted parole.

Everybody knows he will not be granted parole, yet a comment like that is made. It is inflammatory to the ultimate degree. That is Reform policy. Its members not only deal with inconsistencies, what is inaccurate, but they show their extremist qualities throughout and continuously. Desperation is written all over the Reform Party.

On Bill C-45 the Reform Party, in its fresh start campaign platform, should realize that most of us did not need a fresh start part way through this Parliament because we had a good start when we started in 1993. We do not have to restart.

In their fresh start Reformers say that section 745 should be repealed and they do not deal with a situation like another Olson applying for parole after 25 years. Give the judges the discretion. Let them deal with situations like this. Unfortunately it is never dealt with.

Of course, they try to show how crime is increasing, it is really bad. It is not true. Crime is falling. The national crime rate has been falling for the fourth year in a row.

All we have to do is look at the Reform documentation. One can see what Reformers are saying, fearmongering with respect to the public. They are trying to show to the public that the justice system does not work. Everything is getting worse. It is absolutely not true.

The crime rate is dropping.

The crime rate has decreased for a fourth year in a row. Violent crime also fell last year. Does it not hurt their policy when the facts do not support them? How do they back out of it? They cannot. They cannot back out of it. They are stuck with fearmongering and alteration of the facts in matters such as this one. That is what we have seen in debates and written articles about crime control by Reform members.

I simply ask Reformers to take a look at my suggestion today. It is not a new one. It made it to the Police Association of Canada. Section 745 should be abolished, giving back discretion to judges to deviate from the mandatory sentences in exceptional cases upon giving reasons. I have indicated that to the association. It is very interested in looking at that suggestion to see whether or not to support it. I am waiting to hear what it has to say.

I am not about to say that we should not parole people forever or if a criminal is convicted put him away for 25 years with no discretion for judges. I have a lot more faith in the judicial system than I do in the wisdom of the party across from me, the third party. Its ability to deal with section 745 has been most lacking.

We must have constructive debate rather than the Reformers continuously trying to insinuate that we are not dealing with the rights of victims. We cannot have good debate with them. I am putting out a suggestion for them to consider. Perhaps there are problems in my suggestion but I would like to hear what those problems may be.

I do not want to be called names. I heard one from the member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia. I do not want to hear that. I prefer getting into constructive debate rather than being called names. It is irresponsible. They will pay the price in the next election. In the province of Saskatchewan there will be no Reformers re-elected, none. We will see to it.

This is not the time for name calling in such a discussion. This is a time to deal with alternatives. Unfortunately that is not on the agenda of the Reform Party. Alternatives are not on its agenda because it deals with alternatives on a different fact basis, facts that are not there.

We cannot deal with alternatives like those. I simply ask that all members to consider the alternatives I have put before the House today.

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5:45 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I just heard a disappointing speech from the member for Saskatoon-Dundurn. He epitomizes-and he was very pitiful in doing it-everything we find wrong with the justice system.

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5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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5:45 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

They are heckling and jeering after their member talked about name calling. To hear all the names they have been calling us all day puts him in a very tenuous position, to say the least.

The member for Saskatoon-Dundurn talked about crime rates going down. Actually, if we look at the long term trend over the last 20 years, crime rates in Canada have been on a steady increase. Like all charts they bump up and down but overall they are on an increase.

I was talking to some social workers in the member's riding, people the work at the Friendship Inn. He knows very well where it is. They are the experts in this field. It is one of the most difficult areas in the province of Saskatchewan. It happens to be Premier Romanow's riding as a matter of fact and the hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn is the Liberal representative for that riding.

I asked them about the crime situation there. I asked if it was as bad as a lot of people thought and if it was getting better or worse. I am sure they were honest. They work there every day. They care for

these people. They are concerned about their well-being. They said that without a doubt things were getting worse in Saskatoon.

Crime is increasing. There is solvent and substance abuse, break and enter, robbery and prostitution. Young offenders are a big problem in that part of the city in Saskatoon.

The hon. member does not even know there is a crime problem in his own riding. Yet he stands and has the nerve to say it is no big deal that Reformers are concerned about section 745 of the Criminal Code. All the members over here have been making apologies all day for Clifford Olson and hundreds of murderers like him who will get their day in court, who will be able to stand and plead for mercy after the despicable things they have done.

I have been in the House most of the day listening to the Liberals. A number of them over there have defended Clifford Robert Olson and section 745 of the Criminal Code. They are glad he will have his day tomorrow. They are trying to point the finger at us and say that we are in the wrong because we brought it to the attention of the House. All of Canada knows what is going on. All of Canada is upset. Yet these Liberals in their little cocoon are complaining because the Reform raised the issue for debate in the House.

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5:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been following the debate throughout the day. There has not been a member from either side of the House rise to defend this criminal. They talked about the process and the system and how they unfold.

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5:50 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I have listened to members on the other side defend the process. They have defended section 745 of the Criminal Code even though many of them voted for rescinding that section when their former colleague put forward a private member's bill to do so. Now they have flip flopped and are defending section 745 of the Criminal Code.

One of those members is the member for Oshawa. Can we imagine what his constituents would think if they heard him in the House? I hope some of them did, although most of his comments were heckling rather than intelligent ones.

The member for Rosedale was also doing the same thing. He was supporting section 745 of the Criminal Code. I wonder what those constituents think of their member.

Right beside the member for Rosedale was the member for Sarnia-Lambton. He rose to make a speech. All he did was rail against Reform because Reformers are concerned about victims.

The hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn had the gall to say that family members of the murder victims are not victims. I could not believe that he would be so insensitive and non-compassionate to suggest that family members of murder victims were not victims. I could not believe he would make such an atrocious statement in the House.

The member for Scarborough Centre yelled insults at Reformers and he was defending section 745 of the Criminal Code. I believe I even heard a way off in the corner the member for Victoria-Haliburton defend this awful section of the Criminal Code which Canadians from one end of the country to the other want to see rescinded.

The hon. member for Halton-Peel serves with me on the agriculture committee. I thought he would be concerned about Canadians and their concerns over section 745 of the Criminal Code, but no way. He was heckling as well.

In front of him was the hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He has been involved with the issue. He heckled Reform because we brought the issue before the House. He belittled the importance of repealing or rescinding section 745. He said that it could not be done retroactively. However they could retroactively do away with the Pearson airport deal. We know what a Reform government could do in a retroactive way.

They will push the most regressive legislation through the House. They will use closure. They will use time allocation. However when it came to a bill to deal with section 745 of the Criminal Code they could not do it because the Bloc did not like it.

Can we imagine those poor, helpless, majority government Liberals not being able to make changes to our legal system because the Bloc did not want them to do it? They had to bow to the separatists. They could not do the right thing. The member for Prince Albert-Churchill River justified that action. I find it incomprehensible.

The member for Dauphin-Swan River heckled Reformers. She said it was just awful that we were bringing the issue before Canadians. The member for Winnipeg St. James was his usual self. He is always yelling at us in the House. He is very unkind and very undiplomatic. He was doing his usual routine. The member for Halifax was babbling about Reformers and calling us names. I am sure you could not hear her, Madam Speaker, but that is the usual spiel we get from that member as well.

The member for Mississauga South also said some very unkind things about Reformers. He said we had no right to bring the issue to the floor of the House. Can we imagine that? We are the people's elected representatives in the Parliament of Canada. On a serious issue like section 745 of the Criminal Code he thinks it is wrong for us to bring it before the House of Commons. He would rather have it debated in the papers. He would rather have it debated on talk shows across Canada-

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With due respect, the member is attributing to me things which I did not say in the House. I would like to refute them and I would like the member either to withdraw the allegation-

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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5:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

That is debate.

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

He has attributed to me things I did not say in the House.

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5:55 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga South certainly made some comments. He thought it was very inappropriate for Reformers to bring this issue for debate in the House of Commons today, the day before Clifford Olson had his day in court.

We could always check Hansard to find out what the hon. member said. He thought it was opportunistic. I cannot remember exactly what he said as there have been so many members who have spoken along the same line. However that was the gist of what he said. I may not be quoting him word for word but that was the gist of the message that he was trying to get across.

The member for Burlington spoke in the same vein. She criticized Reformers. She did not think this was an issue that was important to Canadians. She obviously has not been listening to her constituents.

Then, my dear friend, the member for Vancouver Quadra, got into the act. Why he would do that I do not know. Perhaps he has been a constitutional expert for too long and is out of touch with how Canadians feel and what is in their hearts. They still believe in decency. They still believe in justice. They still believe that when somebody ruthlessly takes another human being's life there should be severe consequences that will last for more than just a few years.

I have taken almost all the time available to me in questions and comments. In closing, I wish Liberal members would set aside their partisanship and come to their senses. I wish they would start to listen to Canadians.

I cannot believe that the member for Prince Albert-Churchill River and the member for Saskatoon-Dundurn would show such insensitivity to the concerns of Canadians who see people brutally murdered. Then the justice system protects, cares and pampers the murderers while the victims continue to suffer. It is wrong and I bring that to the attention of the House.

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Madam Speaker, unfortunately the hon. member did not hear the speech I made. I never referred to other members of the family as not being victims of the crime.

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5:55 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Yes, you did. Check Hansard .

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Unfortunately they are not telling the truth at this time.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Check the tape.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Certainly.

As a further matter, with respect to crime in my riding, it is interesting that he is busy campaigning in my part of the riding and the election has not even been called.

Madam Speaker, I have had information passed on to me that during my speech the hon. member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia uttered the word "asshole". I am asking that this be withdrawn at this time.

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

On the point of order, the Chair did not hear that but we will certainly review the blues.

We are now resuming debate.