Mr. Speaker, we have certainly generated some debate in the House. It occurs to me that some of the debate among members is quite different from what victims often look for when they look to the House. They are looking for a voice to represent their concerns. Today we are trying to offer our voices because victims feel that
very often the government does not represent their points of view, certainly not on a priority basis.
We had a good description this morning of Reform's concerns. The victims bill of rights went through the House and we have yet to see it come back as substantive legislation. It is unlikely to happen before an election despite a moral obligation on the part of government to do exactly that.
We are talking about section 745 today. A private member's bill was put before the House by a Liberal member who is now an Independent member of the House. That bill was to repeal section 745. It went through. Legal counsel of the day did not advise the member that the bill was somehow out of order because it would be unconstitutional. Nor did I hear much in the way of debate that the bill would be unconstitutional at the time. All this argument has come up because we put a motion before the House today. This is valuable debate.
If this is really the way members of the government feel, why did they not say so earlier? The reason is that the government does not believe the concerns of victims should overwhelm the concerns of an intellectual elite who believes it knows better what is good for the public.
I an not a lawyer but I understand legalese reasonably well. I am appalled by some of the comments I heard this morning from members of the House. An earlier comment was made about the rights of prisoners under section 745 and how they should not be taken away retroactively.
What are we talking about? It is the same type of thinking where prisoners were given the vote. The government does not have the jam to appeal the decision of the court on the rights of prisoners under the charter. If that is the case and the public does not buy it, there is an obligation on the part of the government to try to change it.
Then there is the argument that even if section 745 were repealed today somehow things would be different. What took the Liberals so long? Reform has been asking for this piece of legislation since 1994. Why did it take so long?
Other legislation has been brought forward in this Parliament. We had Bill C-55 concerning high risk offenders. The Reform Party warned that if conditional sentencing were allowed under dangerous offender legislation, which means they would not serve one day in jail, it could be a real door opener for violent offenders.
Our words had no effect in this place. They certainly had an effect in the courts of the land. The message sent to a rapist in Abbotsford, British Columbia, because of that bill was that the first one was free and there would be no jail time.
We also heard the solicitor general blame the Bloc this morning for the loss of retroactivity on the bill as it affects Clifford Olson. First there is an argument about retroactivity. To blame it on the Bloc is nothing less than intellectually cute. The minister waited too long and did not make it retroactive.
It is a moot point to talk about closure in the House of Commons. I do not believe this type of hearing in the Clifford Olson case will not happen again. There are other applicants in the pipeline and there will be for some time.
Some of the tinkering done by Bill C-45 that amended section 745 made things worse than they previously were. Under the rule changes, at the preliminary stage a supreme justice or his or her designate decides whether an application can proceed to a jury based on expectation of success. What message does that send to the families if it goes to a jury? The expectation is even greater that it will succeed. What a travesty.
We would not be dealing with this despicable section if in 1976 the Liberal government and an out-of-touch solicitor general had listened to reason when they were told of the havoc it would wreak on the families of victims. The Liberal government then did not care and the Liberal government now does not really care about all this. Their track record on high risk offenders, as I described, is testimony to their bizarre view of compassion and fairness.
On the eve of the processing of the application for early release of Canada's most horrendous dirt bag, Clifford Robert Olson, the families of the innocent victims he savaged are sick to their stomachs. Mr. Olson, from his condo at Prince Albert penitentiary, is having another laugh at the expense of the victims and their families. It is a constant reminder of the naivety of Canada when it comes to rights of prisoners.
The Reform Party, the Canadian Police Association, parents, victims and millions of Canadians have begged this complacent and insensitive Liberal government to repeal section 745. It is as simple as that. The minister's response has been insulting.
Over the next decade and a half we will have 600 similar killers who will presumably be eligible for judicial review which will once again expose their victims to the horrors they try to forget.
The Reform Party and sensitive, fair-minded Canadians are not mute. We will fight for the repeal of section 745 for as long as it takes. It not only applies to Olson. It also applies to all of Canada's worst killers, no matter whom they killed, how they killed or how many times they killed.
As of 1994 there were 60 hearings of the kind that will take place tomorrow at the Vancouver court house. With the rules of evidence set up as they are now, 43 of the 60 hearings have given killers a chance to get out early. That is a 72 per cent success rate from the killers' point of view. The rules of evidence at these hearings are
harebrained. Do we really think that Clifford Olson is not laughing?
As hard as this is to believe, at these 15-year review hearings victims are not allowed to give evidence. Correctional Service Canada is selective about information it gives the crown and the jury about the inmate. Unlike the trial, the verdict at the hearing only needs to be two-thirds in favour and the Clifford Olsons of the world win and walk.
We have heard a lot of talk about unanimity, that unanimity is talking about the future. Mr. Olson is still two-thirds as are others in the pipeline. Only in Canada they say. According to the Canadian Police Association, to date the experience of these hearings indicates that Correctional Service Canada is not exactly forthcoming about what evidence it hands over, especially if it is negative toward the killer. It is double jeopardy. This has the effect of ganging up on the families of victims one more time. Will it never end?
The Canadian Police Association confirms the unbalanced nature of the hearings to date, pointing out four major unfair elements. First, there is no oral testimony evidence of the offence. Instead it is done by agreed on facts. Yet the offender is allowed oral testimony regarding his or her rehabilitation. Which kind of testimony has a greater impact?
Second, no victim or surviving family evidence is allowed. It is deemed irrelevant. Are we getting the picture?
Third, Correctional Service of Canada supplies one person of its choosing to present what it chooses to release to the crown and to highlight for the jury. In the experience of the Canadian Police Association in one case this produced grossly unreliable, unjustified and on occasion wrong factual conclusions on the part of the Correctional Service of Canada.
Fourth, if the list were not already stacked enough, Correctional Service of Canada currently invokes the federal Privacy Act to disallow crown access to what it deems to be privacy matters. As the Canadian Police Association indicates in one case the originally concealed material turned out to contain information that this "model prisoner" inmate was a member of a lifer's group in prison known as the controllers that ran drugs, muscle and extortion in prison. This only came out when the judge ordered it released and admitted into evidence.
On more than one occasion privacy information has turned out to be ongoing criminal activity of the inmate while in prison. While CSC is no doubt embarrassed by this it does not justify concealing the truth, especially considering what is at stake.
The son of one of my constituents, Marjean Fichtenberg, was killed by Paul Butler. Paul Butler was on parole although he had committed 40 wrongdoings in prison which included a stabbing. That is the record of our parole board. The principle of section 745 may be out of touch but the process is an outright sham.
Let me add further insult to injury. In 1981 Clifford Olson pleaded guilty to the murder of 11 children. He received one life sentence for 11 murders. However a life sentence does not mean that a person will spend the rest of his or her life in jail as it would imply. A life sentence equals 25 years in prison, but 25 years in prison does not really mean that the offender will spend 25 years in prison. It means that he or she might only spend 15 years in prison. It is very confusing and misleading to say that a person receives a life sentence when it might only be a 15-year sentence. That is how the Canadian legal system works. Fifteen years for the taking of a human life, is that justice? In the end if Olson did get out in 15 years, which is unlikely but not impossible, he would have served 1.1 years for every child he was convicted of murdering. The only change in this travesty known as section 745 was the September 1996 amendment which excludes first and second degree murderers who are multiple murderers, but only for those who commit after the amendment was enacted in January. That still leaves the group of 600 on the path to parole.
In 1976 the then solicitor general for the Liberal government of day, Warren Allmand, felt that keeping an offender in prison for 25 years was the waste of a person's life and that it cost the taxpayers too much. Really, what about the 11 plus lives Olson took? Since when have Liberals become so conscious of taxpayer dollars?
The same solicitor general, Warren Allmand, argued in the same year that a person who commits a crime in the heat of the moment would not have to spend 25 years in jail because they probably would not commit another crime again. As of April 1994, 43 murderers had applied for early release under this section. Fifteen received immediate parole, 18 had their minimum terms reduced and 7 were denied early release. The rest are able to reapply in three or four years.
Over 70 per cent of these killers have been successful in obtaining early release at their hearings. Hearings in Quebec have had a high rate of release; in B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan, moderate release rates; in Alberta and Ontario, low release rates.
A report put out in 1991 by Correctional Services Canada surveyed 495 offenders entitled to judicial reviews. It said that those offenders with sentences of 15 years or more committed crimes that "involved extreme violence and were of a rather gruesome character". So much for Allmand's concern over crimes of passion. The report went further, saying that the treatment participation level as a whole for these kinds of offenders was low. More than 68 per cent never took part in any treatment programs.
Less than 5 per cent participated in a program that specifically dealt with violent personalities. Over 65 per cent did not take part in any professional training while in prison.
Yet despite the fact that very few violent offenders get any treatment, over 70 per cent have been successful so far at their judicial reviews.
In Ontario over the next five years over 211 murderers will apply for early release. In Canada between 500 and 600 murderers could get early release and be walking Canada's streets.
The Canadian Police Association has spearheaded debate on section 745 with the Reform Party and calls for its repeal. The association calls for this repeal based on five elements. The original sentence requires a discretionary parole system after a number of years set by a court, so why add a new discretionary step at all? Fifteen years is an insufficient specific or general deterrent for those most serious crimes. Fifteen years does not adequately express the principle of denunciation which these crimes merit. It is wrong to revictimize a victim's family by allowing these hearings where killers seek up to 40 per cent discounts off their court sentences. The preparation and hearing process is expensive and these dollars could be better put to use for public safety.
I remember well remarks I made in October 1996 during debate on the high risk offenders bill surrounding a constituent of mine. I referred earlier to Mrs. Marjean Fichtenberg who lost her son Dennis to a career criminal. I would like the justice minister to face her, see her grief and explain why he sees this high risk offender and section 745 foolishness as being fair, responsible and compassionate to the victims and their families. Tell her the deck is not stacked and have her believe he is out to prevent crime.
Since we struck down capital punishment, Canadians believed life imprisonment meant a minimum of 25 years at the state country club. They were deceived. A human life is worth more than 15 years. There is no parole or judicial review for murder victims and their families.