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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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12:40 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I only bring this up because the candidate is going to have to explain as the candidate for the Liberal Party the position on section 745. Does he or does he not agree with it? Does he or does he not agree with capital punishment provisions of the Liberal Party? Does he or does he not agree that there should be no free votes on this in the House of Commons? Does he or does he not agree that if he were to become a member of the Liberal caucus that he will be silenced and sent to the back row where he will never be heard from again? That is the tragedy of what is going on here.

The other day I debated on "Ottawa Inside Out" the necessity of having occasional referendums in Canada to consult with the people to allow them to make the decisions on important matters like this. The professor I was debating with said members of Parliament should be the ones who decide these things because they have all the education for it and they have the credentials for it. I said in essence balderdash, that is not true. The Canadian people on issues as important as this should be allowed to be consulted and their word taken as the last word on an important subject like this.

Canadians should be outraged over what is going to happen tomorrow with Clifford Robert Olson. That is a given. Canadians should also think in this coming election how much say do they want to have in the future of not only the justice system but of other important things in the Canadian political realm. Canadians should have the right to come to the politicians and say they are going to bypass them, they want a right to say in a referendum whether capital punishment should be reinstated.

The Reform Party will give them that right and it is the only party to suggest that is possible.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is a very interesting debate on a very important topic. I will be speaking on it shortly but I would like to ask the member a simple question. It is reasonable to assume that someone who commits a crime as heinous as Mr. Olson's is mentally ill and does not care much about the feelings, the beliefs or the attitudes of society.

Are we not just feeding his pathology and giving him the very thing he wants by having this kind of debate? Are we not reinforcing the sick, sadistic pleasure that this individual takes in these acts? Are we not, in fact, advancing him in a kind of disgraceful way by even putting this on the floor of the House today? I would like the member to answer that.

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12:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it does not give me a great deal of pleasure to talk about this prisoner in this way. In one sense, the member is right. Every time he sees his name in print, I bet he gets his own little set of jollies out of it.

However, we have tried for three years to pre-empt this very thing from happening. Last year we went to the minister and said that we would quickly pass a bill that was flawed just to make sure that the debate we are having today did not take place. That is exactly what we were trying to do.

If I could say: "Let's not talk about it and it won't happen," I would not talk about it. I would shut up. It would go away and it would not happen. Will it happen? You're darn tootin' it will happen. It will happen tomorrow whether we talk about it or not.

I am saying that enough is enough on this. It is time to put a stop to this so that the victims of Olson can heal. It is not just Olson. I could go down a list.

Let me take a list from Ontario. In May, it will be Jeffrey Breese and it will be the same thing. Again in May, David Dobson; in July, Daniel Wood; in August, Fernand Robinson; in September, Terence Cooke will be up. I have pages and pages of names of people who will be doing the same thing as Olson from now, right through the summer, right through the fall for the next 10 years.

Someone has pointed out that before long, it will be the next crop, the current ugly people in the press: the Bernardos, the Homolkas. You name them and they will be up for their next dibs.

We are trying to point out with this debate today that this thing should have been stopped three years ago. We had a chance. We could have done it. We could have prevented the tragedy of the gruelling court process that these victims will have to go through. It could have been done and we did not. It was not because the Reform Party did not do its share of begging. We begged and begged.

The Canadian people are saying enough of this. It should not have happened. We could have cut it off but we have to talk about it today. Tomorrow it will be a national story, whether the Reform Party brings it up or not. That is the disgrace. We should not have to talk about it. I agree with the member. We should not be talking about it. However, it is time now to raise it so that it will not happen again.

If the justice minister will not listen to the House surely he will listen to the cries of millions of people in Canada who say that section 745 needs to be repealed. Listen. Get that out of the Criminal Code. It should never have been there to begin with.

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12:45 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

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.

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1 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I listen to the Reform Party members with interest as they make the assertion over and over again that if section 745 were repealed today, individuals who have lost loved ones through brutal and tragic acts would somehow be spared the pain of section 745 applications.

It is the correct and predominant view of the law that even if section 745 were repealed today it would not prevent people from applying for a section 745 hearing. All the people currently in the system would have that right which cannot be taken away.

Why do Reform members keep insisting and telling people that somehow their pain will be spared when it will not be? Why do they keep using victims in this shameless manner?

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1 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a different solution for not having this thing brought up again and again so the victims, members of the surviving families of murder victims, do not have to feel the pain as deeply again and again. I am in favour of capital punishment. I believe that for premeditated first degree murder we should have capital punishment reinstated. That is the first thing. I believe that would help to some degree, but nothing is going to ease the pain.

This member who is a lawyer talks about the law as though the law cannot be changed. The government seems to forget and to hide behind the current law. It forgets that this House is exactly the Chamber that can change the law. It astounds me that we hear again and again that the common view of the law is this or that. We can change the law in this House, which is exactly what should have happened with regard to section 745. We should have changed the law. We had the chance. The government still has the chance to do that if it wants before the election is called. It should do that or Canadians will make it pay the price.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to say that I agree with the member for Vegreville on very many occasions but I certainly agree with his opening sentiment that he did not really wish to be participating in this debate. I think many of us in the House share that preoccupation. This is not a debate we wish to participate in. It is a debate, however, that has been brought by his party and it is incumbent on us to challenge and at least look at the real reasons behind this motion and what we should be doing as responsible parliamentarians about it. Let me take the last matter first.

Many members have expressed a deep desire to see a proper balance in criminal law, as the hon. member for Vegreville said. We all must achieve that balance.

I am not a criminal lawyer but I had the opportunity to study criminal law many years ago. I remember being taught that the purpose of criminal law was threefold. First was to punish, not with a view to punishing for the sake of punishment but with a view to deterring crimes for the protection of society. Second was to serve as an example. This too was for the protection of society so that others would not follow a bad example. Third, equally important in any civilized system, was that of rehabilitation, to rehabilitate those people who had committed crimes. This too is in the long term interest of society. Criminals should be rehabilitated and not incarcerated forever at a cost to society.

The hon. member for Vegreville brought up a new preoccupation in criminal law and one equally worthy of weight. What about the interests of those who are victims, those who must suffer as a result of terrible crimes such as those committed by Clifford Olson? We owe to those people the best concern we can develop in the context of creating a system that has integrity and guarantees a stable criminal justice system which will achieve all the objectives I set out at the beginning.

If we look at the history of this matter we can see that 745 was designed to do that. Until 1976 Canada had the death penalty for first degree murder. In 1976 Parliament abolished capital punishment and replaced it with mandatory life sentences for high treason, first degree murder and second degree murder. Parole ineligibility periods were established at the same time. They were 25 years for high treason and first degree murder and 10 years for second degree murder, with the judge having the power, after considering any recommendation from the jury, to increase the period up to 25 years.

Why did Parliament consider it was necessary to provide for a reduction in the ineligibility period in certain circumstances? The first reason given was that at the time the minimum sentence of 25 years was longer, and I stress the word longer, than the average prison sentence served by murderers whose death sentence had been commuted to life.

Until 1976, the average sentence served by these offenders before parole was about 13 years. For non-capital murder, it was seven years. Parliament was also aware that in other countries with values similar to ours, the average time served before parole was

15 years. Even in the United States, individuals convicted of murder who were not executed served an average of 18 years.

Subsequently, to make the law more balanced, last January we adopted Bill C-45. Until this bill came into force, an offender convicted of murder could apply to the chief justice of the Superior Court of the province in which he was convicted for a review of the parole ineligibility period. The odious nature of the crime, the anti-social behaviour of the murderer in prison, the fact that he was practically certain that the period would not be reviewed, all this did not exempt the chief justice from the obligation to empanel a jury to hear the application.

It was exactly for that reason that the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-45 in June of 1996. The solicitor general discussed with the House the background of Bill C-45 and its important provisions. I would like to just very quickly speak to those issues as well, to remind the House that Bill C-45, which we recently adopted, has tightened the process in three important ways. It has denied the application of section 745 to multiple murderers, it has added a screening process before a convicted murderer is allowed to apply to the chief justice for judicial review of the ineligibility period, and it has substituted the rule of unanimity for the rule of two-thirds decision by the jury.

In all three areas, multiple murderers will no longer have the benefit of this early release or even to apply for it. A screening process for all section 745.6 applications means that before proceeding to a hearing before a section 745.6 jury, applicants will be required to persuade a superior court judge to whom the application is made that the application has a reasonable prospect of success. The screening is conducted on the basis of written materials only in order to spare the victims' families the ordeal of testifying in cases that are manifestly undeserving. I will come back to that because I think that point is capital in the debate that we are having before the House today.

Both the crown and the applicant are allowed to submit evidence by affidavit. Where the applicant is screened out the judge may decide whether and when the applicant may apply again but it can never be before two years. Any subsequent application will be again subject to the screening process.

The third point is all members of the jury must be unanimous in their decision. Obviously a unanimous decision is much more difficult to obtain and where the application is denied the jury may decide if and when the applicant can apply again but under no circumstances would an applicant be allowed to apply within two years of the application.

Clearly it will be much more difficult to meet the requirements of the new section 745.6 than it was before Bill C-45. It will be more difficult to get a hearing. The hearing will be much less likely to be successful. As a result, only successful applicants will have a public hearing and at that point the unanimity rule will apply.

The member for Crowfoot specifically said that the reason the hearing for Mr. Olson tomorrow is being held is precisely that Bill C-45 did not get through this House in time to deny that hearing. He laid the fault of that at the foot of the Bloc. That is all very well for him to say but what he forgot was that he is basically undermining the whole purpose of what he is standing up here today to say. He admitted clearly before the Canadian public that in fact if we had been able to get Bill C-45 through in time Mr. Olson would not be having his hearing tomorrow and we would not be having this debate.

This brings me to my question of the leaders in the Reform Party. Why are we having this debate today? We are not having this debate today because I, as the member for Crowfoot suggested when he introduce his motion, when I asked him a question, was somehow duplicitous, not interested in the true justice system and I was some sort of evil person trying to benefit from victims. That would be totally ridiculous.

The real people who are calling this debate today are Reformers who clearly by the debate have demonstrated that they know that now under Bill C-45 a type of hearing such as Mr. Olson will have will never be held again because of the changes that have been made. Yet they persist on crying across the House suggesting that we are culpable and guilty of some conspiracy to do exactly what they are doing today, which is to stir up people's emotions and create grief for the victims.

The real crime of today's debate is that it is being held on the backs of the victims of people like Clifford Olson to give the Reform Party some political credo for the next election. That is the real reason for this debate today.

It has nothing to do with the reform of the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system has been reformed by Bill C-45. It has been reformed by this government. It would render any such application of Mr. Olson's tomorrow absolutely impossible. Reformers have admitted that in the House today. Yet they chose to bring this debate. Why did they choose to bring the debate? They chose to bring this debate because they wish to profit from the suffering of families of innocent victims of Clifford Olson. That upsets me a great deal. I am shocked that is the reason for it.

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1:15 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I heard what the hon. member opposite said. I really find it offensive that he is suggesting that Reform is trying to make political hay with this issue. If he would look at what Reform has done and what it has proposed on this issue since coming to Ottawa and since this

party was started in 1987, he would see its members have pushed criminal justice issues. We have pushed this issue specifically. We have made our position clear.

The government has refused to take the tough stand that would have prevented Clifford Olson from having his hearing tomorrow. We are going to use that date and that event to try to force the government to take the action it should have taken from the start. We are using that event to help focus on this change that should have been made. We are trying to have the change made.

I would like to ask the hon. member a question and I would like a direct answer if I could possibly get one on this issue. In all of the changes his government has made, has it made it so that the families whose children have been murdered will not have to once again deal with all of their feelings because of an event that is allowing Clifford Olson to apply for early release? Have any of the changes done that?

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought I made it clear in my remarks that is precisely the purpose of Bill C-45. I thought that the member for Crowfoot made it very clear in his remarks. I am sure the member for Vegreville would agree that if Bill C-45 were applied in this case, Mr. Olson would have applied to a judge. I cannot believe that a judge would have granted the success of such a hearing and of course this would not have had the terrible impact that it is having on the victims and the families of the victims of Clifford Olson.

I have no sympathy for Clifford Olson whatsoever. He is repugnant in every way. I have every sympathy with the families of his victims. I understand the terrible turmoil they are going through. We have tried to adjust the criminal justice system in a way to take into account that which represents the integrity of the whole criminal justice system.

In answer to the member's question: Will the members of the families of Clifford Olson's victims never again be troubled by this matter? That is something that is outside of the power of the state. It is a terrible thing for people to live through. Any of us who have had to deal with people who have had to live through these sorts of tragedies know there is no end to the pain and suffering one suffers as a result of this situation.

The criminal justice system has been mended in a way to ensure that the best possible protection for families of victims in these circumstances. I genuinely believe that Bill C-45 does precisely address that. We will work on it to make sure that it does address it and it addresses it in humane and proper ways.

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1:15 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member did not answer the question. The solicitor general earlier in response to my question acknowledged that he had wanted to make the change that would have prevented this hearing from ever happening. If he had wanted it badly enough we know that he could have made it happen. The government has forced changes through the House completely against the will of the Bloc and Reform opposition many times. The government could have made the changes.

Again I ask the hon. member, why did it not?

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, is the member from the Reform Party asking me why the government did not apply time allocation to this bill?

I do not know that, but I find it singularly reprehensible on behalf of the member for the Reform Party, who screams about the use of time allocation when it is used by the government, to be encouraging its use at this time. It reminds me of the member's statement when he was talking about the gun control bill.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not certain that I take any pleasure in joining in today's debate because the only person being served today is Clifford Olson and I am deeply saddened about that.

I am a father. I come to this point in life somewhat later than most. My children are four and two. I cannot find within myself the ability to imagine how I would feel if my children suffered what some of the families of the victims of Clifford Olson and some of the others have suffered. I cannot imagine the visceral pain and rage I would feel having been a victim to that. However, I want to ask the members of the Reform Party to stop and think a little bit about what they are doing.

Some years ago I was involved in a survey in the area that I now represent, just talking about issues that were important to people, how they felt about their community and things like that. One of the things we noticed early on was that elderly people, particularly elderly women, and young women, felt unsafe walking the streets. They identified a fear of going out after dark. This surprised us because the area that I represent and live in is a very comfortable, respectable and quite a decent community with a very low crime rate.

After I became the member for the area, we repeated some of this survey just to see what was happening. We found that it had gone up. Women were locked in their houses because they were afraid to walk down the street in what, by any standard, is one of the nicest residential communities in this country.

A little while ago I had dinner with the new police chief in Winnipeg. I was talking to him about this. He pointed out that in the last few years crime in Canada, certainly in my community, has gone down. Instead of there being an increased reason for people to feel unsafe in their communities there was a reduced reason.

When we got into this and looked at what was happening at home and on the streets in the southern part of Winnipeg, we found that there was no evidence at all to support the kind of outrageous allegations that the Reform Party brings to the House on a daily and weekly basis. However, the people in the riding feel fear because the chamber that they look to for some leadership or some sense of what is happening in the country is seized ever so often by the members of the third party talking about the most gruesome, horrible, nasty, violent events that they can possibly bring here, giving an illusion or a sense that we are awash in crime.

The situation with Clifford Olson is a serious and despicable one. I think the member for Vegreville put it very succinctly when he made his comments to the member for Rosedale. He said: "We are going to use that event. We are going to attempt to profit from the pain, the suffering and emotional feelings that circle around someone's killing of children". I personally feel that is wrong.

There has been a debate. A great deal of work has been done and a great many changes made. The members know that they cannot have the change that they want.

It is not that members do not want to have it happen but because it requires a constitutional change. Despite this, the day before a day when we will be one more time forced to be dragged through the most unfortunate point in our history, the members choose to do everything they can not to soften the impact on the victims but to heighten it. It is time that we reflected on what we are here for.

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1:25 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I feel I must respond to the accusations made by the hon. member who has just spoken. He accused me, first of all, of saying that we would use this event tomorrow, that of Clifford Olson applying for an early release hearing, to profit. Personally, I did not say that.

I said that we would use that event to try to get this law changed so that victims do not have to suffer through reliving crimes, these terrible events again and again. That is what I said.

I do not think Canadians will tolerate that kind of misleading representation. It is not something we must have. We should stick to open, honest debate on the issues. The member has chosen not to and that is a sad moment.

Second, the hon. member said that it would require a constitutional change to prevent Clifford Olson from receiving his hearing. That is a debatable point. It is not clear one way or the other. The government, to which the hon. member is a part, has passed legislation many times where there is real question whether it would fit within the Constitution or not. Those members have chosen in those cases to go ahead with the legislation anyway.

I wish the members in the House would stick to open and honest debate. The Reform Party, in all good faith, is honestly trying to get a change to the law that it feels should be made. Reformers feel very strongly. We have called for that again and again in every way we can. This is one more way.

We will keep calling for that change until the government either makes it or until we become government and we make it. It is a change that has to be made. I want to make those comments. I really do not think there was anything in the member's comments that warrants a question.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wrote down the quote as the member was speaking when he was asking the question of the member for Rosedale. He said: "We are going to use this event". He said it two, three times. The whip for his party talked about how they were going to take advantage of this event because of what was going to happen tomorrow and the fact that this was going to be front page, tomorrow.

There are lots of times when a party can bring forward issues to debate, but to choose to do it at this time serves only one purpose. It is a rather shabby, thinly disguised attempt to grab headlines and further create fear in the community in the hopes of furthering their own political objectives. This is not the kind of issue from which anyone should profit.

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1:25 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again we have the accusation that we are doing this for political reasons. How could the member say that when we made clear in our speeches the change we want to have made.

He knows well that ever since we have been here, and for years before, we have been pushing for changes along these lines and for this specific change which would have prevented Clifford Olson from ever having this hearing.

The reason we want this change is exactly so that the families of the children who Clifford Olson so viciously killed, and the families of other victims of other murderers, will not have to suffer through reliving the events again and again. The families will bear that pain as long as they live, but at least we could try to change things so that it will not be brought to the forefront again and again.

The hon. member should acknowledge that is the reason for the debate today.

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

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.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to react to the Reform Party's exaggerated stance. The motion before us is typical of the Reform Party, which wants to reinstate capital punishment in Canada. They take isolated pitiful cases in an effort to have section 745 of the Criminal Code on parole repealed. They want excessive repression to be used in our society against offenders. They do not consider that offenders can be rehabilitated.

I would like to ask the member if we could not go after the causes of crime, which, I would point out, is on the decrease in Canada, and fight poverty and unemployment instead of going after section 745 of the Criminal Code?

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1:50 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of preliminary things here. We are not out to establish or re-establish capital punishment in this country. We are out to create a binding referendum whereby the public would decide whether that is appropriate for Canada in today's world. We think the public should be the determining factor on that very divisive question.

In terms of the broader question dealing with causes of criminality, I agree there are some very substantive things we can do to go after root causes of criminality. However, we do have to look at something under 10 per cent of our criminal population who are violent offenders. That is what we are dealing with in this bill. We want to deal very harshly with that small percentage of the criminal population which wreaks so much havoc in our society.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have an opportunity to also add my concern that this motion has come before the House. It saddens me when a party will cloak itself in the grief of families of victims for political opportunism. It is shameful. It saddens all Canadians.

The Reform Party continues to say that what it is trying to do is eliminate the grief for the families of victims so they do not have to go through this over and over again. However, the fact remains that again today the Reform Party has invoked all the pain and suffering of those families by somehow suggesting that the Reform Party can make it all go away simply by a little motion in the House of Commons. The member will know that the changes to section 745 provide for an initial review by a judge. It does provide for a unanimous requirement from a jury and then parole.

The member has also not been totally factual with the Canadian public when he implied that section 745 is an automatic 15 years when in fact the members knows it is after 15 years. It may be 20 years or 25 years. Does he really believe that the pain and anguish of the families of victims will go away simply by eliminating section 745?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not a lawyer and I do not want to put a fine point on some technical items. This victims bill of rights is there. The Liberals can do themselves a great favour by doing something with it.

In terms of being proactive on making our streets safe again, we have done a lot in this area. We would like to enact a victims bill of rights that puts their rights ahead of those of criminals. It is very basic. We want to reform the parole system so that violent offenders serve their full sentence. We would like to eliminate the Young Offenders Act and replace it with laws making juvenile offenders accountable for their actions.

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1:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

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1:55 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have people in this House who find this all rather disgusting. I am not certain why I am getting that kind of reaction.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The member for Vancouver Quadra can put his question right after question period. This way we can get into Statements by Members.

The InternetStatements By Members

March 10th, 1997 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Internet is the system linking computers all over the world, allowing the free flow of information. Now the new chair of the CRTC, Madam Bertrand, has stated that her commission intends to regulate the Internet to ensure adequate levels of Canadian content. If information is flowing freely how and why is Madam Bertrand going to measure its Canadiana?

Rather than spend our money in such a fashion perhaps a suggestion of redirecting her cash to libraries, book publishing or literary programs would be infinitely more meaningful. Regulating the flow of information is in a historical sense an extraordinarily dangerous step. I would suggest that regulating the flow of information is in fact censorship.

As parliamentarians I suggest that we stop the CRTC's flight of fancy before it takes one further step.

Prime MinisterStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister came to Saskatchewan last week on a pre-election campaign tour. Talk about a public relations nightmare. That is what happens when you send your chief spin doctor to Miami.

He had hoped to talk about jobs during a photo op. Unfortunately the stats for February came out the very same day. Unemployment is stuck at 9.7 per cent. The story was "depression level of unemployment continues for yet another month".

Then he told farmers he could not or would not do anything about the grain transportation disaster on the prairies. It was so arrogant, reminiscent of Pierre Trudeau when he gave farmers the finger and told them to sell their own wheat.

Shunning protesters who challenged him on broken promises, he then finished off the day telling school kids it was okay to gamble so long as they did not overdo it.

A goodbye and thank you to the Prime Minister for campaigning in my province. Come back soon and help us elect more Reformers in Saskatchewan.