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.