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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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6 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I guess we are going to be a little short of time, but I would like to advise the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It was my understanding that the hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn was sharing his time with me.

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

No, he was not.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate the motion that we are supposedly debating today proposed by my colleague from Crowfoot. It reads:

That this House recognize that the families of murder victims are subjected to reliving the pain and fear of their experience as a result of the potential release of the victims' murderers allowed under section 745 of the Criminal Code, and as a consequence, this House urge the Liberal government to formally apologize to those families for repeatedly refusing to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code.

That is what we are about today. I am disappointed that we had this misunderstanding of what the member for Mississauga South said or did not say. I would like to tell the House what I heard him say. He said: "There is no way that you can legislate away grief". I have to disagree with him. If we were to change the legislation, we could prevent the family from going through the grief that they have to go through.

I am going to cite a specific case of a constituent family of mine whose daughter was a murder victim. The family members are now victims themselves of the murderer and of the whole flawed judicial process. The family's name is Clausen. Svend and Inge Clausen live in Duncan. Their 15-year-old daughter was murdered in 1981. Because of section 745, since August 1996 the Clausens have had to be on the edge of theirs chair asking: "Will that murderer now appeal in order to get his reprieve after 15 years?" It has not happened yet but day by day this family is living through this misery of having the whole thing come to life again.

This came to my attention in part because the Clausen's sent me a copy of their letter to the current Minister of Justice. Because of that I asked if they minded if I used their name in the House, if I talked about their case. I asked if it would bring back the horror for them. They replied, "no Bob, it won't do that because we live with the horror every day, and because of section 745 we will be living it every day for the next 10 years. We don't know when this maniac who murdered our daughter will put his name forward and say that it is his right to appeal".

With that I will quote from the Clausen's letter to the Minister of Justice:

I am the mother of Lise Clausen who was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered on August 2, 1981 by Paul Kocurek, a convicted sex offender free on mandatory supervision. I am writing this letter on behalf of my family.

Kocurek had borrowed a car from a friend and was cruising the quiet roads of our neighbourhood looking for prey. He came well prepared [in other words premeditated] with a starter gun and handcuffs ready in the car. He spotted Lise who was out for a quick afternoon run before dinner, found a suitable place to park, opened the hood of his car pretending to have car trouble. When she came close and asked if he needed help, she found herself staring at the gun. He pushed her into the car, handcuffed her and then drove past our driveway and up the mountain behind our property. By the time she was located the next day it was all over. Her life, her future, her dreams were all taken from her. Our lives were changed forever.

This was the third offence committed by this unbalanced, perverted individual who consequently was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. According to our justice system the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime. However, we soon realized that "life" does not mean life and later we found that 25 years with no parole does not apply either-due to a little known section in the Criminal Code, namely section 745".

We learned that in 1976 the Solicitor General of the day, Warren Allmand, publicly stated that: "To keep them in [jail] for 25 years in my view is a waste of resources, a waste for a person's life". At the time Allmand was fighting to get the minimum life sentence for first degree murderers set at 15 years. When he failed, he introduced a loophole dubbed the faint hope clause, namely section 745.

This clause is an insult to all victims and their families. We are talking about the worst kind of killers here. First degree murder is a planned cold-blooded killing, but section 745 is being used as a sneaky back-door route to freedom for these murderers so that they can have the opportunity to kill again. For you and your government to condone this defies common sense, and we are at a loss to understand why this government is so eager to help such killers on to our streets long before the sentence imposed on them by the judge has been served. Victims, past, present and future should be so lucky to have such advocates for their concerns.

Most citizens were led to believe that the safety of society was important to you. Did we misunderstand? If we didn't, then please explain why you are doing everything possible to help convicted killers to get out. So that they can assault and/or kill more innocent people?

We are well aware of the arguments put forth by your ministry. Points like "there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel," and "if we repeal the section we would close the door for people who are in no danger of reoffending, such as those who killed an abusive partner".

The answer to point one is straight forward-there is a light at the end of the tunnel-at 25 years. The answer to point number two is that very, very seldom will the killing of a partner result in a first degree murder charge, most likely manslaughter, for which the sentence is much less.

In Canada today we continue to see a miscarriage of justice. As a matter of fact most feel that we do not have a justice system. We have a legal system.

My time is running out so I will finish. Section 745 demeans the value of life and the balance is again swinging in favour of convicted killers.

I do not have the time to finish Ms. Clausen's letter to the Minister of Justice, but I think it speaks reams. The victims of murderers are families such as this who have to relive it, not just their daughter. Section 745 by being there as a hope which murderers such as this one and Olson and Bernardo can invoke at any time keeps them in agony from here on in. That is not justice.

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6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, had I, instead of the Reform Party member or the Minister of Justice, received such a letter, I would have tried to reassure the family by telling them about the existing legislation. I would certainly not have added fuel to the fire as the Reform Party members have been doing since this morning. The question of parole is perhaps not without problems, but neither is it unremittingly bleak, as the members of the Reform Party have been saying since the beginning of this debate.

I would have told this family that I fully understood their sadness, what they are going through, and that I hope never to have to live through anything like it myself. But I would remind them that there are provisions for dangerous offenders. I would explain to them the definition of "dangerous offender" and how the system can designate murderers as "dangerous offenders" not eligible for parole under section 745. I would take the time to explain that to them.

I would also take the time to explain the parole system. I would give them statistics. When you are involved in such a case and you yourself become a statistic, it is, of course, a sad thing. But I would use statistics to show them that the system is not as bad as all that. Some things could be improved, I agree.

As I said this morning, one repeat offender is already too many, in the case of murderers like those we are considering. I would try to reassure this family by telling them that the ideal solution we are seeking is the one that ultimately eliminates repeat offences.

If I were to do anything, it would be to seek a way to eliminate this kind of criminal in our society. Perhaps we should pay more attention to education, invest more in our young people. But one thing I would not do is add fuel to the fire as the Reform Party member and his colleagues have been doing since this morning.

I would like to put a question to the Reform Party member who just spoke. We have seen with Bill C-45 that the government has changed the rules for obtaining parole under section 745. It has become section 745.6. There are extremely specific criteria, one in particular. We have been hearing about the Clifford Olson case since this morning. I do not always agree with the Liberal government, but when they do something good from time to time, they deserve credit.

Could the Reformers tell me whether, under section 745.6 an application for parole from someone like Clifford Olson would simply be blocked?

So, after hearing everything they said since this morning I think things could be discussed more calmly if they were aware of the provisions already in the Criminal Code and if they did not invent things to make political points, which in the West, it appears, is the way things are done.

I was listening to the Liberals and the Reformers earlier. This subject requires calm and very careful examination, because not only does it cost a lot to imprison murderers, but it costs a lot to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them-something we have to think about eventually.

I therefore ask the Reform member whether he thinks that, with the amendments to section 745.6, someone like Clifford Olson or Joe Blow would have a hard time getting paroled. Did he take the time to look at the amendments and apply them to a specific case, as he seems interested in doing?

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6:15 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is probable that Clifford Olson will not be granted parole. However, the answer to my hon. friend from the Bloc is that just the possibility of it makes the family live in trepidation.

I am sorry the member does not care to hear my answer. Let us forget about answering if it means that little.

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6:15 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, shortly after coming to Ottawa, there was a comment in the paper by a woman who said that she had been picked up along the highway by Clifford Olson and raped.

Following that, a media reporter asked for a comment from me. I simply said that if that is the case, it should be investigated and that if he is convicted, add it to his sentence.

I received a personal letter from Mr. Olson after that. I am not proud to have received it. It was a letter that showed no remorse. It showed contempt for the justice system and contempt for everyone involved with him.

This is the man we are dealing with. Where is this government's compassion when I think of the victims and their families?

Tomorrow on March 11 child killer Clifford Olson will begin his appeal for early parole under section 745 of the Criminal Code, the so-called faint hope clause. This government could have stopped Olson's appeal but it chose not to. Therefore tomorrow, March 11, will be recognized as one of the saddest and most disgraceful days in the history of our justice system because it does not carry justice.

It is tomorrow that the families of Olson's victims will relive the horror, the suffering and the pain of what this child killer did to their loved ones in the most brutal and gruesome way imaginable.

To bring some conciliation to these hurting people, I exhort the House today to recognize that the families of murder victims are subjected to reliving the pain and fear of their experience as a result of the potential release of the victims' murderers allowed under section 745 of the Criminal Code.

To give some justice to these hurting people, I exhort the House to urge the Liberal government to formally apologize to the murder victims' families for repeatedly refusing to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code.

I participate in this debate today and I want to argue two points. First, the families of murder victims needlessly are made to suffer more when murderers make appeals or applications for early release under the so-called faint hope clause.

Liberal members talk about respecting the justice system. If there is so much respect for the justice system, why is the decision of the court which tried, convicted and sentenced Clifford Olson now being questioned using different standards of evidence and a different standard of reasonable doubt? If we have such respect for the justice system why are we revisiting this and trying to redecide what was decided 15 years ago?

Second, the government had an opportunity to repeal section 745. It refused to do so and for this hurtful and neglectful action the Liberals must formally apologize to murder victims' families for their unnecessary pain and suffering. These are the people who are having their wounds reopened and their suffering and loss reimposed on them. This is unjust and this is cruelty.

I want to outline for the House what a Reform government would do to protect the rights of murder victims' families. Before I do let me give some historical background to provide a context for today's debate.

Section 745 dates back to 1976 when Parliament abolished capital punishment with the passing of Bill C-84. Included in Bill C-84 was the mandatory sentencing clause which gave anyone convicted of first degree murder a minimum 25 year sentence before parole eligibility. The mandatory sentencing clause also included section 745, the so-called faint hope clause. It gave every first and second degree murderer the right to apply for early parole after they served 15 years of a 25 year life sentence.

Fifteen years after the passage of Bill C-84 the families of murder victims started to discover for the first time that section 745 existed. This is when they realized that the murderers of their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were getting out of prison on early parole.

To the end of 1995, 50 of 63 first degree murderers who applied under section 745, a shocking 79, per cent were recommended for some form of early release. In Quebec, which accounted for 60 per cent of all recommendations for early release, not a single applicant was turned down. Quite clearly the faint hope clause has become the sure bet clause.

Section 745 appeals and hearings have traumatized the friends and families of murder victims for too long. These are the people who go home every night to an empty house or an empty bed and who live out every day with grief, sorrow and pain knowing that the one they love is not coming back. These families would find out that the one who murdered their loved one is applying for or already has a hearing for early parole. After this happens they would discover that the criminal who inflicted so much pain on them has been released early from prison. There was no honesty in the sentence that was provided.

I am always amazed when we talk about serious things like this at the levity that takes place on the government benches. This is no joke. These are suffering people. I have listened to some of the people who have gone through this experience and it is heart wrenching to say the least. No one can understand the shock, the horror and the pain that these victims endure when the person who murdered their loved one has been let out of prison early or is being considered for such a privilege. These victims relive the suffering and pain of their loved one's death. They too are victims. They hurt day after day for the rest of their lives.

Let me read to the House some personal testimonies of people who have been revictimized because of section 745 of the Criminal Code. Mrs. Rose Onofrey, whose son Dennis was murdered, said: "Is that all my son's life was worth, 15 years? Why do I have to be victimized again and again? Dorothy Malette, a convicted murderer who received early parole under section 745, wants to visit her children. I have to go to the cemetery to visit my son".

Willa Olson, whose brother was murdered in 1978, said of section 745 hearings: "It is so hard on the family. You think you have forgotten some of it and then you are reminded all over again".

Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son Daryn was killed by Olson, said this of section 745 last year: "I can only hope to God that it will be repealed before August so that our families and the 10 other families will not have to go through this whole nightmare again".

The Liberal government had an opportunity to stop the suffering. I have just described the opportunity. But it chose not to. Instead, it decided to tinker with the faint hope clause by amending it under last year's Bill C-45. The inadequacies of Bill C-45 I would like to bring to the House's attention but I lack the time to do that.

I conclude by simply reminding the House of what a Reform government would do to protect the families and friends of murder victims. First, there would be no parole application for early release for Olson or any other killer. A Reform government would repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code and bring back truth in sentencing. This means the sentences given would be the sentences served by all offenders.

Second, a Reform government would enact a victims bill of rights that would put the rights of law-abiding Canadians ahead of those of criminals.

A Reform government would make compassion and caring for victims the centrepiece of its justice policies. Where there is a choice to be made between the rights of victims and the rights of convicted criminals, victim rights would always come first.

Reform would make sure that child killers like Clifford Olson are never given a cruel weapon like section 745 again to impose on and further hurt and damage the lives of many innocent people.

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6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

It being 6.25 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those in favour will please say yea.

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6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Call in the members.

And the division bells having rung:

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6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The division on the question now before the House stands deferred until tomorrow at the end of government orders, at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than15 minutes.

It being 6.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.29 p.m.)