Mr. Speaker, normally I say when I start a speech that I am pleased to rise to debate the issue that we are talking about but I cannot honestly say that today.
Had the government done what it should have done, what Canadians said it should do again and again, what we have said it should do again and again, it would not have been necessary to have this debate. I too feel bad that it is necessary to talk about this and to give Clifford Olson the delight that he seems to take from being talked about and being in the media but we have to talk about it.
We have to let the surviving victims of Clifford Olson, the families of those killed, know that we are trying our best to do something that will allow them, as well as they can, to put this aside so that their lives are not totally consumed with memories, with the thoughts, with reliving the horror that they have lived as a result of what Clifford Olson has done. Somebody has to tell them that they care and that they are trying to change things so they will not have this dragged through their lives again and again.
Unfortunately here we are. There are so many things I would like to say on this issue but there are two things on which I am going to focus. The first has become very obvious just from listening to this debate so far. It is the issue of balance in the justice system, the balance between the rights of the accused and the rights of citizens and victims to be protected. That balance is clearly out of whack.
The second issue is in response to the solicitor general's statement in response to my question where he dumped the blame for Clifford Olson having the opportunity to once again present his case on early release on the Bloc. I will deal with that issue first because I want to be sure I have time to do that.
It is true that the Bloc did prevent the bill from going through the normal course and it did prevent changes that would have prevented the fiasco that will be taking place tomorrow of Clifford Olson having a chance to apply for early release. Therefore, the Bloc deserves some of the blame.
However, when we look at what has happened in this place again and again, we know that we cannot allow the Liberals to dump the blame on the Bloc. If things are looked at realistically, the government has again and again used closure to force legislation through the House. The latest closure was on the tobacco bill which was supported by Reform members and most of the government members. Yet the government saw a need to use closure and override the democratic process to force that bill through the House. That was last week.
The Liberal government has done this again and again. It has often used closure to force legislation through. If closure is something that should have been used on Bill C-68, the so-called gun bill, then why was not this change important enough to use closure? I am not advocating the use of closure. It should not be used. It has been abused terribly. However, when we look at the way the government puts legislation through the House, it is clear
that it could have forced this through unamended. It has absolute power.
We do not have democratic process in this House. For example, about 60 Liberal MPs did their homework on the gun bill. They talked to their constituents. They was debate. In many cases they did surveys and found that their constituents did not want them to support Bill C-68. How many actually at third reading voted against the bill? I believe there were three. What happened to them? They were thrown off their committees and punished for doing what their constituents told them to do. That is not democracy.
Then the Prime Minister publicly said that any government MP who ever dared to vote against a government bill again, no matter what their constituents want, will be punished. He will not sign their nomination papers. Their political careers will be over. That is the kind of power the government has. With that kind of power it could have put the bill through in any form it wanted. Therefore, the government cannot dump the blame on the Bloc. It cannot do that in good conscience. The solicitor general knows that.
The second issue I want to raise is the lack of balance in the justice system. We have a justice system that gives too high a priority to the rights of the accused and the criminal. Their rights are put higher than the rights of citizens and victims to feel safe and be safe.
Since Reforms have been here we have been calling for is to rebalance the scales of justice so that the rights of the citizens and victims are to be protected and given a higher priority than the rights of the accused and the rights of the criminal. We want to rebalance the system. It is clearly needed and Canadians have been calling for it for some time.
If the House needs evidence that the system is out of whack, let me use as an example one I have used many times of a women in Montreal who was viciously raped by a criminal who was out on early release. He had viciously attacked women before. All she asked from the justice system was for the criminal to be forced to give a blood sample so she could determine whether he had the HIV virus and then should would know whether she was likely to contract AIDS from this violent criminal. What was she told? She was told the answer was no, because in our justice system the rights of the criminal are placed higher than the rights of the victim. I could cite example after example that would demonstrate this exact point.
Why have we come to this? I can very honestly say that it is as a result of Liberal governments over the last 30 years and Conservative governments did not fix the problem when they were given the time to do so.
I will paraphrase what Solicitor General Boyer said in 1972 in Hansard :
For too long we have put the rights of the citizens too high''. He did not even mention the rights of victims.It is time that we place as a top priority in our justice system the rights of the criminal and the rights of the accused''. A very deliberate change was made over the years of Liberal governments and the Conservative governments refused to fix the broken system.
We have been calling for changes that would fix the system. It is clearly out of balance and it must be rebalanced. At present in our justice system, victims have virtually no rights. We have been calling for the rights of victims to be given a higher priority than the rights of the criminal or the rights of the accused. Certainly the rights of the criminal and the accused are important. I want to make it clear I recognize that. We are just looking for a better balance.
A Reform member has put before the House a victims' bill of rights. It passed second reading but has not gone any further. It has not become law because it has not been given a high enough priority by the government. If it had been given a higher priority it could have been passed by the House. It specifies their rights in our justice system.
Some of those rights are worth noting. First, it is important to define victim. When we talk about Clifford Olson and early release and the hearing, the victims we are most concerned about are the families of those who are longer with us, the children who were murdered.
In this victims' bill of rights, a victim is defined as anyone so suffers as a result of an offence, physical or mental injury or economic loss or; any spouse, sibling, child or parent of the individual against whom the offence was perpetrated or; anyone who had an equivalent relationship, not necessarily a blood relative".
Then the 10 rights that the legislation will give to victims their proper place in the justice system are:
First, to be informed of their rights at every stage of the process, including being made aware of available victim services. In regard to section 745 we found that many victims, the surviving families of murdered people, had no idea that this vicious murderer would be allowed to apply for early release after 15 years. So that is an important one.
Second, the victim should be informed of the offender's status throughout the process, including but not restricted to plans to release the offender from custody.
Third, choose between giving oral and/or written victim impact statements at parole hearings before sentencing and at judicial reviews. Give the victims a say in sentencing throughout the process.
Fourth, to know why charges are not laid if that is the decision of the crown or the police. It seems absurd to most Canadians to know that in many cases the victims are not even given any notice. The other important points and rights that we would give to the victims to help balance this justice system are written in the member's
victims bill of rights which has received second reading support from all parties in the House.
The solicitor general cannot lay the blame entirely on the Bloc for the failure to amend section 745 in time to prevent Clifford Olson from receiving these hearings. It is so important to rebalance the justice system where the citizenry and the victims can have a place of higher priority.