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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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4:30 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Why?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. My sadness is-

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4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Will all hon. members please refer to each other by the names of their ridings rather than by their last names, first names or middle names.

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, duly chastised. To the member for Crowfoot I was going to explain why I have sadness. It is actually on three points. It is with great sadness for the victims, for the families of the victims who have experienced pain in the past. It is with great sadness that the Reform Party has given a media platform to Mr. Olson, which is something I am sure he is very happy to have.

I speak with great sadness because the opposition parties are exploiting the pain and suffering, knowing full well that legislation could not have stopped this hearing from happening this week, that no one can go back in time and change the rules under which somebody was convicted. I have great sympathy for the families of the murder victims. No one in our society should suffer such violent and tragic loss.

It is interesting that today we are debating a piece of legislation that only affects those who are victims of murder and yet when the Reform Party is called on to enact other legislation it votes against it, legislation which would be hate crimes prosecuted with a heavier length of sentence, measures like gun control, something that was asked for by victims.

Section 745, unfortunately one of the members opposite misunderstood, also affects those who are convicted of second degree murder and had a lengthier sentence imposed on them.

Section 745 will not address the loss that the victims are feeling. We have taken appropriate measures to address the issue. In all our considerations we have been made aware that victims must be included in the process, that we cannot exacerbate the pain and indeed our awareness of victims' concerns has prompted action on many concerns. As I have already mentioned, Bill C-45 affects not just the victims of that crime but all the people who are victims around that crime.

This government has done a great deal to address the concerns of victims of crime and to facilitate their participation in the criminal justice system. Government has responded and will continue to respond to a trend to be more responsive to victims. It did not start with the Reform Party's coming to this House. It has come up many times before. Almost a year ago the government and all its members responded with overwhelming support to a motion to ask the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to consider the issues of national legislation to provide for victims' rights.

In lending support to a national bill, which I assume suggests some federal legislation, we must be careful not to prescribe rights which the federal government has no jurisdiction over and no authority to enforce. Our actions speak louder than words. Setting out principles and calling them rights which could not be effectively enforced would be pointless and likely more frustrating than beneficial for victims. Rather, we should direct our energy at addressing specific issues we have the power to address.

Colleagues and viewers should know that recommendations for a victims bill of rights are not novel. This debate has been ongoing since the mid-1980s. Ever since the American Congress passed a federal victims bill of rights, many Canadians have advocated that we follow suit. It is difficult to disagree with a victims bill of rights, but we should ensure the victims of crime will benefit from such a bill before we enact it.

We have had this discussion at the federal level and at the provincial level. In a report to the ministers of justice of the federal-provincial task force on justice for victims of crime in 1983, the federal government, the provinces and the territories engaged in ongoing consultation. They have continued consult with regard to improvements to the criminal justice system that would benefit victims of crime within their respective areas of responsibility. These consultations have squarely addressed the enactment of a victims bill of rights. However, the time has come to revisit the issue.

Much has happened in the last 10 years to improve the victim's role in the criminal justice system. In 1985, as many will know, Canada co-sponsored the United Nations statement on basic principles of justice for victims of crime. Canadian listeners can be

proud that Canada's justice system already reflected those principles in 1985 and will continue to do so into the 21st century.

In any event, the UN declaration prompted the federal and provincial governments to re-examine the issue of a victims bill of rights. While all the provinces and the federal government were sincerely committed to making changes to the justice system, it was recognized that certain concerns could only be addressed by provincial legislation and that other concerns could be addressed by federal legislation. The majority of the concerns cannot be addressed in legislation at all but by changing attitudes about the role of the victim in the process and about the basic human values of dignity and respect.

When we consider the role of victims in the justice system we also have to think about a meaningful mechanism to enforce their rights. Rights without remedies cannot truly be said to be rights. For instance, if a bill of rights states that victims have the right to receive timely information about the status of an investigation or about the prosecution of an offender, what is the remedy if they feel they have not received timely information? Who is responsible? Likely the police and/or the crown, but is it reasonable to expect that a single piece of legislation can assign obligations to different participants in the justice system that play distinct roles and are employed by separate ministries? Moreover, what is the remedy? Should the prosecution be called off because the victim did not get their information?

What we can do is prescribe in our justice system a set of principles to guide the players. We can continue to encourage them to adhere to those principles of our criminal justice system that deserve the utmost consideration at all stages of the process.

The federal government is responsible for the enacting of criminal law while the provinces are generally responsible for the enforcement of the law, the prosecution of the offences and the administration of justice in the province. We opted among ourselves for a statement of principles to recognize the need for joint action and co-operation.

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

Since 1988, all provinces and both territories have enacted victim legislation which does refer to these principles. I will not go through all the principles as I am sharing my time with the member for Simcoe North. It is important today for us to reflect on the changes to section 745 and how victims will be brought into that process.

It is important to know that Bill C-45 has changed the judicial review process. It established a judicial review so that it will eliminate frivolous cases. It also went further. If you do go before a judge and jury there must be a unanimous jury decision and if more than one individual has been killed there will be no process for you.

The provincial attorneys general have been communicated with and have been instructed to ensure that upon application, a notice will go out to all the victims and they will be called on to attend so that they are not surprised, as some members opposite have suggested. These are exceptional cases and I think we need to be aware of the issues.

It was raised earlier that the faint hope clause was a sure thing and that everybody gets out in 15 years. I thought it might be helpful to have some information from one of the practitioners in our criminal law system, someone who has been on both sides, the crown and defence, my constituent, Mr. Geoffrey Manishen, with the firm of Ross, McBride and Hamilton.

When he came to committee he said: "Practically speaking, you cannot start the process until the criminal has done 15 years. In most jurisdictions by the time he goes through his application there is a judge appointed, they have the preliminary inquiry, they have the day scheduled for the hearing and they have a hearing with the parole eligibility report prepared along the way. It is not 15 years but now that whole process is 16 years. Even if the parole eligibility was reduced right to 16 years, and it is not, we would go through at least 2 to 3 years of graduated release from unescorted temporary absences to day parole before ultimately getting full parole".

It is also important that when the people came before our committee to testify on Bill C-45 they described another factor which the party opposite has refused to discuss. It is selective in its choice of victims. The victims who want this section repealed, it is willing to talk about; the victims who want gun control, for some reason it was not able to address their concerns. Maybe there needs to be some reminder about the other victims who are out there.

Mr. Partington, who has worked in correctional services for a number of years and has done section 745 applications, said: "When you sit in a courtroom trial, on one side you have the victim's family, the deceased's family, and on the other side you have the offender's family who has spent 15 or 16 years as victims of the same offence, I suppose the forgotten victims. Their perspective is somewhat different. They still have a son or a daughter to visit with, to celebrate birthdays and so on. Yes, they still have him alive but they are as victimized in some ways as the deceased. I think it is important to keep the balance".

To members opposite, we have to make some changes that go forward. We now have victim impact statements in our legislation for sentencing and those are considered. Members need to realize that if that is what victims want, to stop at that process and not come back to a hearing 15 or 20 years later, and in some cases like the Olson case that would not occur, those statements will serve in the consideration and that if the victims do not want to testify, they do not have to come forward. Their statements will stand.

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4:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the energy my hon. colleague across the way always devotes to her efforts. I find that she does not support our proposal or our position that we want to eliminate section 745 completely from the Criminal Code and yet she stood in this House and voted to do that very thing when the private member's bill submitted by the member for York South-Weston was voted on.

Over 70 members of the Liberal Party joined Reformers in support of that bill. She has made a turnabout and she is quite satisfied now with something that is much less, something that is watered down and something that has allowed and will continue to allow the families to suffer and have their agony relived over and over again. She might want to comment on that turnabout.

I was surprised and pleased when I saw her and her colleagues standing and voting for what I think they know the vast majority of Canadians support and would like to see brought forward. I am sure that the discipline within her party has simply caused her to vote along party lines and reject the private member's bill that she originally supported. She might want to comment on that and give the people of her riding and the people of Canada an explanation why she did that.

She criticized the Reform Party for bringing the Olson disgrace to a public forum. I suppose she would have the same criticism for Mike Duffy of CTV television who devoted almost his program yesterday airing this very issue, the absurdity of the Olson application. People like Michael Harris appeared on that program to express their dismay and outrage over this kind of an application being allowed to proceed under the law. She might like to consider that as well.

We are providing a platform for public debate, representing the views and concerns of the victims and their families. The Liberals have provided a platform for Clifford Olson. They have provided the platform based in law where he can bring those families back into court, cross-examine them and put them through the hell they suffered when their children were kidnapped, raped and murdered one more time. I would like her to comment on that.

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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to comment on that.

As the member for Crowfoot has quite rightly recognized, I did vote for a bill to go to committee and be heard at committee because there has been so much misinformation on this section of the Criminal Code that I thought it needed to be properly aired.

It was not to give Clifford Olson more publicity, not to give the multiple killer more publicity as the Reform Party has done by choosing today, of all days, to debate this. I did it to make sure that the facts get on the record so that people will recognize it is not a sure thing and that it is a faint hope and the facts about what time people get out of our jails do get out of our jails.

It is absolutely paramount that all of the legislation I have been involved with has been trying to ensure that more people are not victimized. We must work on high risk offender legislation. We must work to prevent more people from being victimized in our communities. That is my number one goal.

I was not here 15 years ago when this legislation was enacted. I am not responsible for it. I have worked to change it by voting for Bill C-45 and by making sure that when this issue came to committee it had a full and fair hearing and a reasonable approach was found.

I am trying to ensure, in those cases where somebody does not need to be in a maximum penitentiary, we can devote those resources to crime prevention rather than waste them needlessly.

I am concerned that there remains an opportunity for people like Leo Rocha. His family had a victim and the family members said: "No, we think he should get out at this point". It was their sister who was killed by their father. It is important that we recognize they are victims too.

If there is a potential for someone to be rehabilitated we should not waste resources when those resources could be working to ensure crime prevention. We must ensure there are not more victims in our communities. That is what I am trying to do.

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4:45 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party motion implies that the government has not paid attention to the needs of victims of crime and that it has been generally so negligent and insensitive that it should formally apologize to the families of victims, presumably for its inaction. This criticism is unjustified.

There are two kinds of actions a government can take to help unfortunate victims of crime and their families. First, it can implement laws, policies and programs which are directly focused on the needs of the families and the victims themselves, for example, by giving them information, by allowing them to partici-

pate in the prosecution of offenders through victim impact statements, et cetera.

The second way a government can show solidarity for crime victims is by enacting laws that prevent crimes in the first place, that deter criminality and, when crimes do occur, impose tough sentences of imprisonment that will keep chronic offenders away from potential future victims.

Some colleagues talked about murderers, their eligibility for parole and the legislation recently passed by this Parliament, but it seems to me that today's motion gives us an opportunity to address another government bill, which is before us, since it recently came back from the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. I am referring to Bill C-55, concerning high risk offenders, and the tools it provides to fight the most serious and violent crimes provided for in the Criminal Code after murder.

Bill C-55 is responsive to the demands of victims' rights organizations for tough measures. Let me briefly touch on the highlights of the bill because it is proof that there is no need for the government to apologize to anyone for its anti-crime strategies.

The legislation will create a new sentencing category to be called the long term offender. This measure targets sex offenders. It will allow courts to impose a regular penitentiary sentence on those sex offenders. Then if the judge decides to designate the offender as a long term offender, he can add up to 10 years of supervision to the sentence.

I ask colleagues to think about this. Someone who commits the offence of sexual assault causing bodily harm might normally receive a sentence of say 10 years, but under Bill C-55 the court could find him to a long term offender and add 10 more years of intensive supervision, thus effectively doubling the period of control over the offender by the correctional system.

This period of supervision will only begin when the offender has completed his full prison sentence. This long term supervision period has teeth. It will have conditions attached to it similar to parole conditions. These could include, for example, staying away from specific past victims and staying away from potential victims such as children. They can include a range of reporting and treatment requirements, all of which will allow authorities to keep very close tabs on the long term offender while hopefully encouraging his rehabilitation.

Moreover, Bill C-55 creates a new offence of breach of a long term supervision order. If the offender breaches one of the conditions, the supervisor can bring him into custody and bring charges for the new offence.

Some may argue that criminals should be locked up indefinitely. In some cases, this can be done. There has been a dangerous offender provision in Canadian law since 1976.

Since then, this provision was used approximately 186 times and it still is successfully used to deal with about 15 new cases every year, where offenders are found to be dangerous offenders. Dangerous offenders are covered by part XXIV of the Criminal Code, which contains a special procedure whereby individuals sentenced for a serious personal injury offence, who have previously committed similar offences and are likely to reoffend, may be locked up indefinitely.

This extremely severe sentence is justified not only by the past actions of the offender, but also by an observation made at a special hearing that the offender poses a constant threat to the community.

I would also point out that a recent study revealed that 90 per cent of the successful dangerous offender applications involve sex offenders, those who prey on women and children. The dangerous offender law certainly is severe but the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld it as a well crafted, legitimate form of sentencing. Bill C-55 does not tamper with the core concepts of the dangerous offender procedure but it does strengthen it with a few strategic amendments.

As the law presently stands, a judge who finds the offender to be a dangerous offender would normally hand down an indeterminate sentence, in effect indefinite confinement, but he can in exceptional circumstances impose a sentence for a definite term. A federal-provincial task force which reviewed the law concluded that it makes little sense for the crown and the court to go through the special lengthy dangerous offender process only to obtain the same kind of sentence that would have resulted from a normal prosecution.

Bill C-55 will require the court to impose an indeterminate sentence in every instance. This will ensure that these very serious, high risk offenders are detained indefinitely.

Although these offenders fall into a high risk category, it is still important that they receive periodic parole reviews. The current law provides for the initial parole review of a dangerous offender to occur at the three year point of the sentence with subsequent reviews every two years thereafter.

Bill C-55 will change that initial period review to the seventh year. An offender who is sentenced to indeterminate detention because of his ongoing dangerousness is unlikely to achieve parole after only three years. In fact, the average parole release date for dangerous offenders is closer to 14 years.

The new provision regarding long term offenders and the improvements to the dangerous offenders legislation will provide invaluable tools against violent offenders. We also introduced a provision dealing with sexual offenders, as victims rights groups had been demanding for a long time.

I should point out that the expression "dangerous or violent offender" includes those who commit crimes of a sexual nature. Indeed, sexual crimes are among the crimes for which someone may be designated as a violent or dangerous offender. Bill C-55 provides not only that a person convicted of a sexual crime may be designated as a dangerous or violent offender, but also that, if there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be found to be a dangerous offender, the court may still designate that person as a long term offender.

What do victims rights groups have to say about Bill C-55? During consideration of Bill C-55 by the Standing Committee on Justice, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime commended the government for its initiatives.

As for Victims of Violence, it was pleased by the proposed amendments to the legislation on dangerous offenders. This group also commended the minister and the government for their proposed changes.

Jim and Anna Stephenson, whose son was murdered, are well aware of the needs of victims' families. They stated that the amendments to the existing provisions on dangerous offenders and the creation of a long term offender category, as proposed in Bill C-55, are major government initiatives. According to them, these initiatives will fill significant gaps in the current legislation, thus reducing the potential threat posed by violent sexual offenders.

These are examples of what the government has been doing. I reiterate that there is certainly no reason for the government to apologize for its crime policies.

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4:55 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to our colleague across the way. When the families of victims appeared before the standing committee on Bill C-45 none of them agreed in testimony with the position of the government. I am sure my hon. colleague who just spoke knows that.

When the member makes statements such as those he has made today, that the government is doing a good job in this area, the question is for whom? Certainly none of the mothers, who lost their children and grandchildren to murderers and who appeared before the committee, thought the government was doing a good job. None of the hundreds of thousands of people who have written and signed petitions opposed to section 745, think the government is doing a good job.

Inasmuch as my hon. colleagues have attacked the Reform Party for exploiting emotional issues surrounding the issue they are mocking, scorning and insulting the victims, the family members, the mothers, grandmothers, fathers, aunts and uncles. They are not represented by the government side. I have not hear a speaker from the government side represent the victims, the families.

In view of the concerns and in the view of the opposition, those who were able to appear before the justice committee and the people of Canada who wrote to us and signed petitions that were tabled in the House, how could the member honestly state the government is doing a good job in this area?

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is very clear the government has made the proper amendments to section 745 by the screening process and by making it not apply to multiple murders such as Mr. Olson who has caused the debate today and by requiring unanimity of the jury.

Up until now under section 745 it only took two-thirds of the jury to allow a reduction in the ineligibility of parole. The amendments deal with those three items. They would cover each and every one of the situations the Reform Party is complaining about today.

Reform members complain about a lack of respect. I have a great deal of respect for our judicial system. Even more important, I have respect for the Canadians who sit on juries and hear the full evidence in those cases. As has been pointed out, approximately 78 per cent of the cases before the court on 745 application receive some reduction-they are not all released on to the streets-in their ineligibility for parole.

I have faith in the Canadian people, something I do not think my friends in the Reform Party share.

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5 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, why did the solicitor general, earlier in response to a question from me, say that he would have made the changes we were pushing for except the Bloc prevented it from happening? The solicitor general said he was in favour of the changes we are talking about.

Does the hon. member opposite support the position of the solicitor general on this issue?

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am at a disadvantage. I did not hear the comments of the solicitor general. I doubt very strongly that he said he agreed with the position of the Reform Party.

He was likely indicating the amendments to section 745 would have been through the House to preclude Mr. Olson from making

the application that will be dealt with shortly except that we did not receive the co-operation of the Bloc.

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5 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, at the outset I would like to say I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Comox-Alberni.

I thank the hon. member for Crowfoot for bringing forward the motion. Unlike the Liberals opposite, I do not believe this is a sad day or that the Reform Party is somehow a villain for bringing forward the motion. Rather, I believe tomorrow will be a sad day, a day of national disgrace for which the Liberal government will be held accountable in the next election.

We are debating the following motion put forward by my hon. colleague from Crowfoot:

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.

I wish the Liberal government had paid the attention to the rights of victims and to repealing this offensive section of the Criminal Code that it has paid to going after legitimate firearms owners. If it had put in that type of effort this clause would no longer be there for the use of people like Clifford Olson.

I quote from an article in yesterday's Vancouver Province . I do not think it can be said any better than an unnamed staff reporter wrote in yesterday's paper:

Gary and Sharon Rosenfeldt cannot celebrate their wedding anniversary. Christmas dinner with the family ends in tears. Their life is a quiet struggle with no nights out for movies or dinners. They go to bed thinking how it would be if their son, Daryn, was around. Daryn was only 16 when Canada's worst mass murderer claimed him as a victim 15 years ago.

On Tuesday, from the recesses of Canada's most secure prison in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Clifford Olson will begin a process to say he is a changed man and deserves the right of parole.

The Rosenfeldt's know that he will be lying. On their wedding anniversary several years ago the mailman delivered a letter to them from their son's killer. It detailed the killing and Daryn's last words snuffing out what little joy the Rosenfeldt's had left in their lives.

"We go to bed at night every night thinking about Tuesday's hearing", says Gary Rosenfeldt. "It takes us back 15 years. It is as simple as that".

The article went on further:

Olson, sentenced to life in jail with no hope of parole for 25 years for his killing spree, has exercised his right to move his parole hearing forward by 10 years. The murderer is owed his early hearing under section 745 of the Criminal Code, commonly known as the faint hope clause.

The Rosenfeldts, along with those families who have chosen to bear witness for their children at this week's hearing, will appear at a painful press conference tomorrow to remind the world there is not a faint hope in hell that their lives will ever be the same.

As I said at the outset, I do not think it could be said much better than that staff reporter in the Vancouver Province said it. As a parent of three children I cannot imagine the horror of having to go through something like that, of losing a child to someone like Clifford Olson. I cannot even begin to comprehend what those families have gone through.

To have those families relive that horror tomorrow is a national disgrace. This psychopath is a man that rehabilitation cannot even touch. He cannot be salvaged. He can never live in the community again.

The chance of Olson getting early parole is about as good as the proverbial snowball's chance in hell. In my opinion that is where this man belongs. The point is that there is something very wrong with the Canadian justice system when a man like Clifford Olson is allowed to waste Canadian taxpayers' money strutting his stuff in the courtroom.

Make no mistake, that is what will happen if he is successful tomorrow and is granted a hearing later this summer. The very thought of it is an offence to the memory of his victims. They did not even get the opportunity to really live. Clifford Olson took that away from them.

We are talking about a cold-blooded killer who is living in a federal institution with more perks than many Canadians have in their homes, including 24-hour access to cable TV in his cell.

Section 745 has a shady past. It was quietly slipped by Canadians in 1976 without any real discussion. The existence of the provision is linked to what I would describe as one of the greatest political scams of all time. In July 1976, in a fit of political correctness, the Liberal government of the day abolished capital punishment despite the fact that the majority of Canadians supported the death penalty.

It was abolished by a margin of only six votes. The trade-off offered to Canadians was so-called life in prison. Canadians were told that even though murderers would now be allowed to live they would at least be put away for 25 years. Then section 745 was quietly slipped in and the effect of section 745 gave a new meaning to the word life: 15 years. It is a mere drop in the bucket in terms of an average person's life. All this was done quietly in the hopes that Canadians would not notice that convicted killers were being let out of jail after only 15 years.

There is more than just a moral issue here. Tied to that is the financial issue. The procedure involved in applying for early parole

is a costly three-stage process. First a judge screens the application. Then a jury hears the application. If a jury decides that early parole is appropriate the offender can apply to the National Parole Board for early release.

The jury is not even given the whole story about the crime. All it hears is an agreed upon statement of facts. To top it all off, the jury makes its decisions based on a lower burden proof than is used in criminal trials. There is no need to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender is not a risk to the community.

It is truly disturbing to think of all the financial and human resources that go into this joke of a process. Section 745 is called the faint hope clause, but when we look at the figures it is not such a faint hope after all. As of March 1996 figures show that 78 per cent of murderers applying under section 745 had success in either getting early parole or having their sentences reduced. That is quite a success rate. Even if it is truly only a faint hope provision it is a lot more than Clifford Olson ever gave any of his victims.

It terrifies Canadians to realize that in the next five years between 500 and 600 murderers could get early release and be out and about in their communities even with the new changes. If the minister really wanted to send a message to multiple murderers maybe he should have proposed consecutive sentencing instead of the minor changes he made in Bill C-45. At least this would have put a value on each and every human life that has been taken.

To make matters even more offensive Bill C-45 only applies to applications made after September 1996. It is ironic that these amendments were only two days late in stopping Clifford Olson from applying for early parole. I see my time is up. I could go on and on.

Let me close by saying that most Canadians, myself included, believe that breathing is too good for the likes of Clifford Olson, let alone the chance to get out after 15 years.

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5:10 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the Reform motion which proposes:

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.

Section 745 implemented by the Liberal government in 1976 deals with parole for convicted killers. It provides the notorious faint hope clause which enables murderers to apply for a judicial review of their case and the option of early parole after completing only 15 years of their sentence. Section 745 allows murderers like Clifford Olson, who molested and murdered at least 11 innocent children, to apply for early parole in only 15 years. Madam Speaker, you will notice that a number of my colleagues are wearing this ribbon today. On this ribbon are the names of the 11 victims of Clifford Olson.

This week section 745 will be seen in action when the Vancouver courthouse initiates the process of Olson's application for early release from his life sentence in prison. This is the Liberals' idea of justice. It is an absolute travesty. Murderers like Clifford Olson and others who have committed horrendous crimes should not be allowed to make a mockery of justice.

Let me describe Clifford Olson. He is a predatory vulture, a slime bag, a scum bag of the lowest order. Look at what he is getting through the system. The system is allowing him to come forward and have his parole heard.

The Liberals have accused us of using this as a media platform. We are responding to the platform. That platform was given to Olson by the Liberals and the social workers in the system. They are defending Clifford Olson. Who is defending the victims, the parents of the sons and daughters?

Just imagine, Madam Speaker, that you are in a court house. You have got Olson standing in front of you and he is cross-examining you. What is wrong with that picture? It is absolutely wrong.

The majority of Canadians, supported by the Canadian Police Association and Victims of Violence all support the elimination of section 745. Do not massage it, as the Liberals have done. Get rid of it.

However, this has fallen on deaf ears. The only change that the government has made is to deny multiple murderers section 745. What does that say? That means it is okay to kill once. That is just sort of a trial. Is this what it is? Give us a break. What has happened to our justice system?

First degree murderers can still appeal their parole ineligibility and apply for parole after serving 15 years of a life sentence with no parole for 25 years. Under the absurd law of our land Olson, convicted in 1981, still has the government guaranteed right to apply for early parole. This is absolutely beyond reason.

Why should Olson be given this platform? It is absolutely ludicrous. Why should taxpayers have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get him from Saskatchewan to Vancouver, to pay for the process? Why should the families of the victims be forced to relive their pain?

The noon news today had some of those families. The anguish and the agony that they have to go through is absolutely wrong. What is wrong with our system? That is what we are talking about. Olson is the trigger, but the system is what is at fault here. That is what has to be addressed. It is not being addressed by the Liberals across the way. They tinker with it but they are not addressing the actual problem. It is an absolute public outrage. It it is a public disgrace.

When Clifford Olson was convicted of the murder of 11 children he received only one life sentence of 25 years. What happened to concurrent sentencing? Eleven victims at 25 years is 275 years. What it means, Madam Speaker, is whether you kill one or eleven it makes no difference in our system. This is absolute lunacy. Yet this is what is going on.

Clifford Olson will receive, if he gets out, 1.1 years for each life he took. I ask the members across the way, is 1.1 years for every child he killed justice? That is a disgrace.

The previous speaker said that section 745 was brought in 15 years ago and it was not her responsibility. Whose responsibility is it? She is a member of the government. It was brought in by a Liberal government. For God's sake, fix it.

The Liberal members, as part of the government, are here to change the law of the land. They are not changing it and yet the member stood up and said that it was not her responsibility. I ask again: Whose is it?

First and foremost the goal of sentencing should be the protection of the public. That is not happening. It goes back to the bill of rights. In this case it could be called the bill of wrongs. That is what the bill of rights has done to us. The rights of the criminals are addressed but not the rights of the victims, the parents, the grandparents, the brothers or the sisters who have to go through the anguish time and time again. What is wrong with the laws of this land?

At present there are about 2,100 killers serving life sentences in Canada, which is about 15 per cent of the nation's prison population. As of September 1996, 63 cases were heard to reduce the term of the sentence. Fifty of the 63 were successful. Fifty of the 63 killers had their sentences reduced. What is wrong with this picture? Of those 50, two reoffended within a mere nine months.

What are we looking at? Is Olson going to be out on the streets? Can you imagine that?

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Some hon. members

He won't.

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Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Members opposite are saying that he will not get out. That is what the solicitor general said. That is what the Minister of Justice said. He should not get out. There should not even be an opportunity for him to get out.

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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Nobody believes you any more. Be honest.

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Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

They are sitting there whining and moaning. They are trying to defend a law that is not defendable. Fix it. That is why we are here today. Tomorrow this whole platform will move forward. It will be an absolute disgrace to Liberals and to Canadians.

My final words to the Liberals are: Fix it or the Reform Party will fix it during the next election.

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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, as this debate winds down things are becoming very clear. I do not think anybody in this place does not share the grief and the sorrow of the families of victims.

I want to tell the truth about a couple of issues which people should understand.

Number one, under section 745 Clifford Olson could not apply today. Members opposite know that, but in the speeches we have heard they continue to talk about Clifford Olson. They are cloaking themselves in the grief of the victims.

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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Tomorrow he is applying. Tell that to the people of Canada.

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Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Order. There are a bunch of animals in the House.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Can we have a little bit of order?

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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, you can see that when we tell the truth it tends to upset the Reform Party.

I want to quote from the speech made by the hon. member. He wanted to know why we are "forcing the families of victims to relive their pain".

I do not think anybody here honestly believes the grief and the pain that one feels for the loss of the family member is something that can be turned on and off. It cannot be turned on and off. There is no way that grief can be legislated away. The Reform Party is saying to Canadians, here is simple solution to the grief of families of victims.

I ask the member to be honest with Canadians and to say whether he believes that Parliament can legislate away the grief of families or whether he would not agree that we have to work to make sure we have a strong and safe society, safe homes and safe streets, so this grief will not occur in the first instance.

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Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, we are talking about honesty and grief. The member says that grief cannot be turned on and off. That is exactly what this legislation has done. It has dragged the whole thing forward 15 years for these families. They are trying to put it behind them. They cannot do that because the legislation the Liberals now have in place allows for this animal to come forward 15 years later to make them relive the whole situation. Not only that, but Olson gets to cross-examine these people. He gets to question them. This is absolute lunacy and it is just inhuman.

The member said that under the new legislation Olson could not apply, which is fine. We asked the members during consideration of the legislation to make it retroactive. They knew Olson was coming up. The justice minister knew that Olson was coming up within a year yet he would not make it retroactive. The Liberals are saying that they cannot do it. These are the people who make the laws and now they are saying that they cannot do it. It is a very selective set of laws.

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Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the hon. member makes reference to honesty. I want to know when it is the correct and predominant view with respect to the law that you cannot change section 745 to give it retroactive, retrospective effect. After somebody is already in prison you cannot take away the right to apply for a section 745 review. Even if we were to repeal section 745 today, anybody who is now be in prison at the date of the repeal could apply for a hearing. Why does the Reform Party not tell this to the victims of crime instead of letting them think that if we were to repeal it, it would stop the hearing process today?