Debates of April 15th, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.
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April 15th, 1997 / 10:10 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker
Copies of the ruling are available at the table for Bill C-55.
There are four motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for report stage of Bill C-55. Motions Nos. 1 to 4 will be grouped for debate but voted on separately. I will now submit Motions Nos. 1 to 4 to the House.
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-55, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 11 to 15 on page 3 with the following:
"752.1 (1) Where an offender has been convicted of a serious personal injury offence defined in section 752 and, on application by the prosecution, at any time during the time the offender is serving the sentence imposed for the offence, the court is of"
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-55, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 40 on page 4 the following:
"(1.1) Notwithstanding subsection (1), where an offender has been convicted of a serious personal injury offence defined in section 752 and has previously been convicted of such an offence, the court shall find the offender to be a long-term offender without an application being made in that regard."
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-55, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 17 to 28 on page 6 with the following:
"fend if the offender has been convicted of a ) an offence under section 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitation to sexual touching) or 153 (sexual exploitation), subsection 173(2) (exposure) or section 271
(sexual assault), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon) or 273 (aggravated sexual assault); a .1) an offence under subsection 160(3) (bestiality in presence of or by child), section 170 (parent or guardian procuring sexual activity), 171 (householder permitting sexual activity by child) or 172 (corrupting children), subsection 212(2) (living off the avails of prostitution by a child) or 212(4) (obtaining sexual services of a child); a .2) an offence involving a person under the age of eighteen years under section 155 (incest) or 159 (anal intercourse) or subsections 160(1) and (2) (bestiality and compelling bestiality); a .3) an offence involving a person under the age of eighteen years under section 144 (rape), 145 (attempt to commit rape), 149 (indecent assault on female) or 156 (indecent assault on male) of the Criminal Code, chapter C-34 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1970, as they read immediately before January 4, 1983; or a .4) has engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature in the commission of another offence of which the offender has been convicted; and''
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-55, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 27 on page 12 with the following:
"fifteen years from the day on which that person"
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss more criminal justice matters, specifically Bill C-55 and the need to toughen the law when it comes to release of offenders and the designation of certain offenders, especially violent offenders.
There is no question we need some substantive changes in the sentencing procedures as well as in the area of incarceration.
In a way prisoners have it too good on one side and on the other the line is not clear, if they step over it, on what should happen to them or what could happen to them. As a result there is a certain arrogance that has developed within the prison population of those who are bent on committing a lot of crime. There is no punishment within the correctional system. It is obvious this attitude would manifest itself in the lives of so many offenders and so few have their attitudes corrected in the system as it exists.
That has been evident to me as my colleagues and I have travelled across the country and have stopped in at various prisons in Canada. Some of us have been to the United States and looked at some of those prison procedures and methods of incarceration, but we are talking about Canada and the attitude of prisoners in Canada.
Are the politicians of the day doing what is best not only for the country, for the community, for the innocent, but also for the prisoners themselves? For the most part I would have to say a resounding no, the politicians of the day and the government of the day, the Liberal Party, certainly are not doing what they should be doing to curb the attitude of the criminal.
In response to their view of what should be done and to the outcry from the public, the justice minister brings forward Bill C-55. When we look closely at the bill it appears to be doing the right thing. It is incremental in its scope as far as change is concerned but ultimately it is not really coming close to what has to be done when we look at the rate of victimization in the country from the hands of those who are constantly reoffending.
My first motion seeks to deal with the dangerous offender application and to bring about the provision that would allow the crown to give notice at the time of conviction of an application review. What we are seeking to do is have that review take place at any time during the offender's release.
I have had an opportunity to look through some of the more recent convictions of offenders who have been released. After they have served their sentence or a portion of their sentence they have been released. All the reports clearly point to the fact that they are going to reoffend. Yet because of the present provision the law does not allow for a dangerous offender application to go forward after they have been incarcerated. It has to be done at the time of sentencing.
That is an injustice because so many times offenders are released back into society they immediately reoffend and are put back into the system again. That is at a great cost to the taxpayer, but then an unnecessary victimization is taking place because the crown or the government, corrections Canada, has chosen not to make that application at the very front end. There should be a provision to make an application of dangerous offender at any time during the incarceration of that offender.
I looked at some offences that took place in my own riding. I am going to make mention of one in particular, a fellow by the name of James Tocher, a pedophile. As far as I am concerned a pedophile is a dangerous offender, but there is no provision for that classification in Bill C-55 presented by the justice minister.
The justice minister for one reason or another has failed to expand this whole area of dangerous offender.
Mr. Tocher has been charged on numerous occasions with pedophilia. The last account was for three young boys he attacked in Calgary this year. He is subject to sentencing. He is a former hockey coach and he made these attacks, these manipulations, very carefully. Unfortunately pedophiles are very devious people in the sense that they manipulate their way so that they can get a hold of children almost at anytime.
Since 1984 Tocher has been in and out of prison. He would spend a few months in prison, be released for a few months more after reoffending and then be released and reoffend. He has been before the courts five or six times and all basically relating to the same thing.
After the second time I would suggest that this man should not walk the street, and yet this is the case. He has been in and out, in and out, and no application made. It is often the case that the crown will not proceed in that fashion because it costs too much. The cost of victimization and revictimization is much higher than what dollars and cents would be to hear the case and make an application for dangerous offender.
A man like Tocher should be classified as a dangerous offender right off the bat or at anytime during that first sentence served. Once he has served his sentence and it is clear that he is going to reoffend the application can be made again and his time extended and extended if necessary.
That is one of the other provisions that we had made in our review of this legislation, as an amendment, that after 15 years if it is clear that this person is a dangerous offender and is going to reoffend then at that time there would be an opportunity for review, not in the short order provisions that have been placed by the justice minister on Bill C-55 where he has extended it from three years to seven years. We would like to see the review take place after fifteen years of time served.
I have colleagues who are going to speak to this area to a much greater degree. My colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley will certainly do that.
A third point that we feel is very necessary and again dealing with dangerous offenders is the sentence served upon second conviction of a personal injury offence would be an indefinite one. The subject has not learned his lesson the first time. By being subjected to a second offence and through the court hearing it would be an automatic indefinite sentence and a minimum service of time of 15 years. We are designating that as two strikes and you are out. In California is a law where there is a three strike provision which has certainly targeted a small element of the criminal society. It has put them under a restraint that takes any violent offender out for life. This is one area that we would like to see extended into our provisions in the Criminal Code. Here is the opportunity for the Liberal government to do exactly that.
I want to quickly point out that when it comes to long term offenders we would like to see that list of offences include many of the sexual offences and especially sex crimes against children. Those are our four amendments. My colleagues are going to deal with each one of those in a broader context. I am trusting that the Liberal government and those in this House will take consideration of what has been provided for here and vote in favour of the amendments.
Prince Albert—Churchill River
Gordon Kirkby Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I wish to respond to the motions which have been put forward by the hon. member. I wish to address these amendments as a group. I believe that would be the appropriate way to deal with them. They are all amendments to the dangerous offender and long term offender components of Bill C-55.
A new long term offender procedure which targets sex offenders is central to Bill C-55. Equally important are the changes that Bill C-55 proposes to the existing dangerous offender procedure. I suggest that Bill C-55 significantly increases the ability of prosecutors to obtain very long sentences against sex offenders and of course gives the courts the authority they need to impose these long sentences.
Bill C-55, in its present form, has received widespread support from victims rights groups, from prosecutors and from the police community. Many of the witnesses before the standing committee said that Bill C-55 is a major improvement.
What the amendments which the hon. member proposed try to do is expand the dangerous offender and long term offender procedures, but they do so in a simplistic way and in a way which would distort these carefully crafted measures and potentially lessen their impact.
Let me give an example. One of the amendments would postpone the initial parole review of a dangerous offender until 15 years into the sentence. Bill C-55 sets the date at seven years. The current law is three years. In other words, the government has found a middle ground between the Reform Party amendment and the status quo. There is good reason for this.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a parole review is especially important when we lock someone up for an indeterminate period. What is a reasonable period to make the offender wait before the initial parole review? In fact, no one gets out after only three years. Not very many get parole after seven years either. This is comparable to the waiting period for parole eligibility of sentences for very serious violent offences. That is why the government chose to set parole ineligibility at seven years.
The courts would not allow a waiting period of 15 years. It would be struck down as conflicting with the charter of rights.
Let us examine another of the proposed amendments. It proposes that an offender convicted of a second serious personal injury offence or perhaps even a broader list of offences would automatically be found to be a long term offender, without any special application being made. In other words, it would be two strikes and you are automatically out.
The Reform Party has taken the well designed, long term offender procedure in Bill C-55 and undermined the entire structure of this measure in an effort to get its cherished two strikes and you are out law on the books.
Let us spend a moment on the long term offender concept so that we can all understand the importance of this amendment. First, the idea came from a report by a federal-provincial task force on high risk offenders which federal and provincial justice ministers endorsed. The long term offender concept is a way to get at serious repeat sex offenders. It allows the court to add up to ten years of intensive supervision to the sentences of sex offenders. Moreover, if the crown does not get them with a dangerous offender application, it would probably succeed in getting a long term offender designation. Indeed, Bill C-55 gives us a double barrelled weapon against sex offenders.
The long term offender concept has also been seen as involving a special process, a special application, a thorough assessment of risk and an intensive hearing that goes beyond the normal sentence hearing. We need this special process partly because there is the prospect of locking this offender up for a very long time.
We also need to have a detailed assessment of risk. The long term offender rules allow a 60 day assessment by a range of experts. We need to have this special hearing so that the pattern of offending can come out in court and so that the extent of the offender's criminality can become fully evident.
The amendment in question does violence to the very nature of long term offender procedure by making everything automatic. Every offender would be subject to a long term offender designation without distinction. The pattern of past offending would not come out and the court would lack the information it needs to judge risk and impose the appropriate long term supervision period.
An automatic long term offender finding is so unselective as to be arbitrary in its use. It would encounter serious charter problems. The long term offender procedure as set out in Bill C-55 is structured to work hand in glove with the dangerous offender option.
If the criminal is not found to be a dangerous offender, in many cases he can easily be designated a long term offender in the alternative. I prefer a double barrelled effective option to the Reform's scatter gun ineffective approach.
Let us call the proposed amendment the son of Bill C-254. It would allow a dangerous offender application to be brought at any time during the sentence of an offender. This is very close to a recent private member's bill by the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley. It was examined in parallel to Bill C-55 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.
It is safe to say that Bill C-254 received absolutely no support from the two dozen witnesses who appeared before the committee. Unlike Bill C-55 it was defeated in committee for very good reason, I might add. Allowing a dangerous offender application to be brought years after the offender has been sentenced is unconstitutional.
Bill C-55 creates a six-month window of opportunity beyond sentence whereby the crown, having given notice to the convicted person, can reserve the right to seek a dangerous offender ruling within a few months of conviction. It can only do this when new evidence comes to light.
By contrast, the Reform Party amendment would wreak all kinds of unconstitutional havoc. Offenders would be sitting around for years wondering if the dangerous offender application might be brought against them, even though according to the charter of rights everyone has the right to know what the penalty will be for the crime.
The courts will not allow the criminal justice system to resentence offenders for the same conduct. The four amendments are not helpful. Together they seek to widen the net of dangerous and long term offender measures and in so doing weaken both.
If implemented, the amendments would catch small fish in the net and lessen our ability and our resources to deal with the most serious offenders. The government has taken an extensive and profound amount of time to get Bill C-55 right. I wish the Reform Party had done the same.
It is very typical of Reformers to bring forward amendments to legislation, to promote legislation in public which has no hope of meeting the tests of constitutionality. If they brought forward the amendments they talk about, there would be serious violent offenders and serious sexual offenders taking advantage of unconstitutional laws and wasting court time. There would be no effective measures to use against them in the end.
In contrast, the government is bringing forward measures that are effective, enforceable and constitutional as another part of the package to ensure safe homes and safe streets.
As has been said on many occasions, the government has acted forthrightly and sternly to bring forward amendments to the Criminal Code. More amendments or more changes to toughen up the criminal law have brought than in the history of the nation in the last 3.5 years.
We have seen the results. A reduction in the crime rate is one. It is also a result of taking a broad based approach to social justice and jobs, in addition to measures in the criminal law to bring about a decreased crime rate.
I urge the Reform Party to look at the results and to promote laws that are constitutional.
François Langlois Bellechasse, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to speak at report stage of Bill C-55.
The members for Prince-Albert-Churchill River and Calgary Northeast have raised interesting arguments. We will be looking primarily at Motion No. 3, which warrants particular attention, because it aims at amending section 753.1 of the Criminal Code, and more specifically subsection 2.
The section concerns applications for declarations of long term offenders, that is, people presenting risks. I do not think that, in its bill as presently worded, the government goes far enough when it sets the criteria the court is to decide on to determine the risk of an individual's reoffending.
Thus the government says that the court shall be satisfied that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend, if:
-the offender has been convicted of an offence under section 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitation to sexual touching), or 153 (sexual exploitation), subsection 173(2) (exposure) or section 271 (sexual assault), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon) or 273 (aggravated sexual assault)-
-engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature in the commission of another offence of which the offender has been convicted.
I consider the bill falls particularly short where it says "engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature". I think the terms should be clarified. In this regard, Motion No. 3 before us goes a lot further, because it defines in large part and limits the entire notion of the conduct of a sexual nature the court may consider serious.
Thus Motion No. 3 would oblige the court to consider the behaviour of a sexual offender serious when the person has been convicted of an offence under
-section 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitation to sexual touching) or 153 (sexual exploitation), subsection 173(2) (exposure) or section 271 (sexual assault), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon) or 273 (aggravated sexual assault).
or has been found guilty of
(a.1)-an offence under subsection 160(3) (bestiality in presence of or by child), section 170 (parent or guardian procuring sexual activity), 171 (householder permitting sexual activity by child), or 172 (corrupting children), subsection 212(2) (living of the avails of prostitution by a child) or 212(4) (obtaining sexual services of a child).
(a.2) an offence involving a person under the age of eighteen years under section 155 (incest) or 159 (anal intercourse) or subsections 160(1) and (2) bestiality and compelling bestiality).
(a.3) an offence involving a person under the age of eighteen years under section 144 (rape), 145 (attempt to commit rape), 149 (indecent assault on female) or 156 (indecent assault on male)-
At the end is added, and that the person: "has engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature in the commission of another offence of which the offender has been convicted".
So, as we can see, the list proposed in Motion No. 3 is much more comprehensive than what constitutes a serious offence of a sexual nature, since the list is not limited to the three or four offences identified in Bill C-55 at the moment.
Committing bestiality or compelling children to do so seems to me to be extremely serious conduct of which the court must take account, and the present wording could allow an argument to the effect that it was not so serious, since it is not so described in the bill's proposed wording of section 753.1.
The official opposition and I feel that Motion No. 3 greatly improves the guidelines that will be used by the courts to determine whether a person is an offender requiring supervision. In this sense, we must strive for precision in our criminal law, in our Criminal Code, in order to ensure uniform application of the law throughout Canada.
We do not have the time to wait for the Supreme Court to rule, in five, six, seven, eight or ten years' time, that such delinquent sexual conduct is highly unacceptable conduct that should normally be taken into account by a lower court.
We can determine right here in the House of Commons, the ideal forum in which to do so, what we consider to be serious delinquent conduct of a sexual nature that must be taken into account by the court. We can do this here, without leaving it up to the courts to decide, as the present wording of section 753.1 would have us do. The definitions of delinquent sexual conduct, as proposed by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast, are therefore a step in the right direction for counsel and also for the courts called upon to enforce these provisions following royal assent and passage of this bill. The official opposition will therefore be voting in favour of MotionNo. 3.
Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, it gives me some pleasure to speak to Bill C-55, although I feel the government's response to dangerous offender legislation falls far short of what it should be.
In my 3.5 years in this place I have concentrated a great deal of my time and energy in looking at dangerous offender legislation, its shortcomings, and ways we could improve upon it. I introduced a private member's bill to the House in the first session in April
- It passed unanimously at second reading and then was buried in committee by the Liberal government for over two years before it was dealt with when Bill C-55 came into play.
The hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River made some inaccurate statements in the House earlier when he said that none of the witnesses at the committee studying both Bill C-55 and Bill C-254, my private member's bill, supported my bill. He is correct in that the Liberal members of the committee did not support any element of it. They completely gutted it and refused to bring it back into the House for consideration.
There were witnesses that did support it. I would like to give representation from the committee that studied the two bills. I quote Chief Julien Fantino of the London Police Force who said that Bill C-55 and Bill C-254 were a significant steps in the right direction and that high risk offenders must be differentiated from the rest of the inmate population and handled accordingly.
He went on to say:
If a person is deemed to be so high risk, so dangerous and so likely to reoffend, I quite agree there ought to be some state imposed controls and conditions, some governance of such an individual, to the point where communities are absolutely guaranteed that person will not constitute a risk to anyone.
I will share some evidence from Professor Hart and Professor Hare from Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia who are experts on violent offenders. These men have spent their careers studying dangerous offenders and psychopaths. I will share some of the comments of Professor Hare to the committee. He stated: "The evidence was very strong that the psychopathic offenders in fact did not follow the pre-release plans. They did not follow the rules and regulations of the program. They were violating them all the time".
Professor Hart went on to say: "-psychopaths commit significantly more violence overall, but they actually commit very different kinds of violent offences as well-psychopaths tend to make decisions quite quickly to commit violent crimes that are instrumental for economic gain or other reasons. It's not simply a result of strong emotional arousal or things like that-you find they are actually much more violent and violent in a different way".
Professor Hare goes on to say: "Their violence is predatory, planned, premeditated, dispassionate and cold-blooded when compared with the intense emotional arousal that often leads to a violent act for the rest of the offenders". They are speaking about the 15 to 20 per cent of the population that can easily be assessed as psychopaths.
I want to go on to what the victims of violence groups have to say. Mr. Sullivan stated: "It is unfortunate that the committee could not have dealt with the bill sooner," speaking of Bill C-254. "It would have been very valuable had the committee dealt with that two years ago rather than waiting for Bill C-55-Bill C-254 is not whether or not it is a good idea. I hope we can all agree that it is a good idea. Strictly on a public safety platform this bill would save lives. Make no doubt about it, this bill would save lives". He is not talking about Bill C-55. He is talking about my private member's bill C-254.
He goes on to talk about the charter. He talks about who the charter is protecting, the victims or the offenders and took very great exception to the argument that Bill C-254 would not survive a charter challenge.
It was very clear from the testimony of many of the witnesses that they fully supported an attempt by this government or any other government to identify-and they can be easily identified-those 15 to 20 per cent high risk offenders who do not respond to treatment, who are not likely to be able to go back into society and lead meaningful lives. One of the experts in these matters said that you can detect with the same accuracy a psychopath as you can that treatment for a heart condition is going to relieve angina pain. I would suggest that heart patients are not going to refuse treatment, the angioplasty or whatever, if the high percentage of them know that it is going to help them.
The witnesses supported this government or another government taking a much stronger stand in keeping dangerous offenders, the 15 to 20 per cent who are a high risk of reoffending, off the streets; not long term offenders, not giving them an extra six months after the time of sentencing, but when they are identified right up to the last year of being released from prison, of being designated or of allowing the system to keep those high risk offenders off the street to protect our society from people who have been tested and who have been selected as individuals who cannot be treated, who cannot be trusted to not reoffend.
When questioned by the committee on how reliable was the test and when can we start using it, we were told that it is very easy. The success rate for juveniles age 13 and 14 is just as great as it is with adults. The testimony of the expert witnesses suggested that you have a much greater chance for treatment of a juvenile who has been assessed than you do with an adult and that rather than wasting the resources on trying to change the behaviour of an adult, where you are not going to succeed, those resources should be placed where they can do the most good.
There is no question in my mind that the government, as with many other pieces of legislation, has taken the easy road. The legislation is not prepared to do what it should to protect society.
The government is fooling itself when it claims to be making all these substantive changes in the justice field, for example, in the Young Offenders Act and the areas of sentencing and high risk offenders. It is fooling itself if it thinks those changes will make a meaningful difference in society.
In the next few weeks and months people will have to make a decision. They will have to decide whether the government's weak approach to all these issues is what they want or whether they want a government that is solely committed to the protection of society. Unless I am naive, I thought that was what government was all about. I thought government was governing for the people, that it would make sure the majority of the people in society were being cared for and provided for and that their protection was being guaranteed to them.
I did not come to this place thinking we were here to make sure a few people were going to get preferential treatment, that the offenders were going to get better treatment than the victims, that high risk offenders were going to be put back out on the streets to reoffend, to cause more grief and heartache for innocent victims in society. I assure the House that is not why I came here. That is not why I have spent three and a half years trying to get the government to understand the concerns of Canadians.
Canadians want somebody to be concerned about them. They want a government that will look after them, their wives, their children, their families, not the 15 per cent to 20 per cent high risk offenders who have committed violent, vicious acts, sometimes murder, sometimes not. The emphasis of government should be on the protection of society.
This legislation needs to be amended. If the amendments we are presently dealing with at report stage will help in any way to add some weight and protection to society, then members should consider them. The government had an opportunity three years ago this month to deal with this issue but it chose to sit on it for over two years before it brought in other legislation. It did this in order to take credit for being concerned about the needs and the protection of society.
This is a joke, the government is a joke and the people will have a chance to change that in the next coming months.
Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate this morning on Bill C-55 which deals with high risk offenders. In preparing to do so I was struck with the fact that if we had tougher laws and if we had dealt more seriously with violent offenders earlier, many of them would not be in the position they are in today.
While Bill C-55 has some improvements, it is really a half-hearted response to the demands of the Canadian people for tougher action on criminals. When I hear the response of the government about its concern for legislation that will pass the charter, it is saying there is more concern in that area than there is for the safety of Canadians.
I know the government has to be aware of the consequences of any legislation but nevertheless the message that is going out is that it is giving the benefit of the doubt to criminals rather than to law-abiding citizens. That is the environment or the thinking that is evident on the other side when it is preparing legislation to deal with changes to the criminal justice system.
This is a major concern of Canadians. Next to unemployment, Canadians are concerned about safety in their homes, in their streets and in their communities.
I recall in my home city of Barrie during the 1993 election campaign that three residents in my community were murdered. The impact that it had back then was very significant. As a matter of fact, an accused is now just being brought to trial. That reinforced the fear that exists not only in my community but all across Ontario and Canada for the safety of law-abiding citizens.
The government is failing in what is a major responsibility to our people, that of protecting the life and property of law-abiding citizens. Should these citizens ever become victims they discover to their horror that they are failed again. They discover the difference between their rights and the victim's rights. I applaud my colleague from Fraser Valley West who has put forward his private member's bill dealing with the rights of victims, something that is long overdue.
Earlier I said that this bill was a half-hearted response by the government to deal severely with violent offenders. If we want to look at a half-hearted response I do not think there is any better example than Bill C-45. It dealt with violent people in our communities. The lack of commitment to deal with violence is shown in that bill, which is really the bill that introduced two-tier killers. If you are convicted of first degree murder of one person you are eligible for parole but if you kill more than one person you are not. That is not what Canadians are looking for. If you take a life, whether it is one life or more, you should do your full sentence of 25 years.
It raises the question: Who do we work for? Are we here in the House of Commons to represent our voters? Reformers are. We are here to represent our voters. We ask our voters questions and we listen to what our voters say.
I want to share the voice of my riding of Simcoe Centre. I want to share the responses to the householders I have sent out with questionnaires dealing specifically with the criminal justice system. The first was a survey dealing with section 745 of the Criminal Code, the faint hope clause. I did this survey in the spring of 1995. Section 745 of the Criminal Code allows convicted first degree murderers to apply for early release after serving only 15
years of their life sentence. I asked: Do you believe this section should be eliminated? Of the 1,645 who responded, 85 per cent said yes it should be removed, 9 per cent said no and 6 per cent were undecided.
On the question of capital punishment, in the fall of 1995 I asked: Do you support the holding of a binding national referendum on capital punishment? From almost 1,600 respondents, 78 per cent said yes, 15 per cent said no and 7 per cent were undecided.
In the spring of 1995 I asked my constituents about Bill C-68 and gun control. I asked: Where should the primary emphasis in new legislation be placed? The use of firearms in criminal acts and firearms smuggling or additional restrictions on legal gun owners? Of the responses to that survey 87 per cent said that the primary emphasis should be on firearms used in criminal acts and firearms smuggling and only 4 per cent said there should be additional restrictions on legal gun owners. There were 1,645 responses to that survey.
The last question dealing with criminal justice was on the Young Offenders Act. That was in the fall of 1994. The question I asked was: "Do you believe the Young Offenders Act should be changed to ensure more adequate punishment of young offenders?" There were 2,200 responses to that survey. Ninety-seven per cent said yes, 2 per cent said no, and 1 per cent was undecided.
The responses to the four questions I just outlined clearly demonstrate the constituents of the riding of Simcoe Centre want us to get tougher with criminals, particularly violent criminals in society.
Let us take a look at each of the issues and the overwhelming support that is evident in my riding. Section 745 is the faint hope clause dealing with first degree murderers. There was a murder in my riding. A young father by the name of Kaplinski was murdered by Kinsella and Sales. I talked to the family. When we talk to the families of victims we understand how tragic it is when they have to relive the horror of the murder at a section 745 hearing.
My riding is very much in tune with what Canadians from coast to coast want when it comes to capital punishment. I understand that 76 per cent of Canadians support capital punishment. In Simcoe Centre it is 78 per cent.
With Bill C-55 Bernardo will still be eligible for a hearing.
We had the gun control bill. The problem with the bill is that it gave us a false sense of security. Many in society think it is the answer to making their homes and streets safer, but it is not.
Where are the government's priorities when it would spend up to $400 million for gun control to supposedly make society safer for women and only spend $4 million on breast cancer?
Then we have the Young Offenders Act. The grandmother of Sylvain Leduc visited Ottawa last week. He was murdered by young offenders who showed no remorse. There was no apology. There will be no deterrent and these young people will go on to a life of crime.
Whenever groups of school children from my riding visit Ottawa I meet with them. Many of these school children are victims of young offenders. I asked them for a show of hands on what they think about the changes we are proposing such as lowering the age and identifying the young offenders. The majority of them said we should be lowering the age and we should be identifying the violent young offenders in our communities. Even our young people feel that we should be getting tougher with young offenders.
We would like to see Bill C-55 strengthened with two strikes and you are out. We do not believe violent offenders should have an unlimited ability to reoffend. We should be able to designate someone as a dangerous offender at any time during the sentence. We should not be restricted to a six-month period. We should broaden the definition of dangerous offenders to include pedophiles and sexual predators.
Canadians will have an opportunity in a few weeks to voice their concerns about the government's lack of desire to deal in a serious way with what is a major problem for Canadians not just in my riding but right across Canada. They want violent offenders to be held responsible for their actions, particularly young offenders. If we dealt with them in a more responsible way they would not go on to a life of crime.
Their day is coming. It is only weeks away. It will be a major issue in the election campaign. I am looking forward to Canadians voicing their support for the only party that has a platform to get tough with violent criminals.
Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-55.
We heard a lot about dangerous offenders and some offences that should be included in the dangerous offender category. I will try to explain to the government the need to categorize and identify why certain offences should be under the dangerous offender category.
Why is the public looking more and more to articulating why certain offences should be categorized and why there is a lack of trust the judiciary will actually call a spade a spade and give out a sentence in proportion to the crime committed? In doing so I will
try to explain why the judiciary is out of sync with society and why victims today have lost confidence.
For instance, during the sentencing of a man who broke into his estranged wife's home while on probation, Judge Louis Matheson said that: "I don't know whether it is your own fault or you happen to have a very sensitive mate who is easily rattled". Twelve days later the man's girlfriend was shot to death and he was charged with her murder. I raise this story to try to show why the system of justice is out of sync with victims and those who may become victims and their expectations.
During the sentencing of a man for sexual assault, Judge Louis Matheson said that if the victims had been women instead of girls he would have thrown it out of court. Can we imagine the logic behind that statement?
Frederick Metcalfe of Oshawa was given a two-year less a day prison term followed by three years of probation for grabbing a three-year old boy and kicking him in the stomach in the house Metcalfe shared with the boy's mother, his girlfriend. The blows ruptured the boy's liver and pancreas. He also suffered permanent brain damage that crippled him physically and mentally. He cannot walk or talk and has lost vision in one eye.
Although Metcalfe was charged with aggravated assault, Justice Sam Murphy was not convinced the brain damage the boy suffered that night resulted from the attack. After one doctor testified the boy could have suffered a brain aneurysm, Judge Murphy convicted Metcalfe of a lesser charge of assault causing bodily harm. He was given two years less a day for a savage attack on a child who is now crippled for life.
These decisions in our courts are happening all the time. People are sick and tired of them. People are apprehensive that there will be real justice applied in a courtroom today.
Some wonder why we are demanding in Bill C-55 that certain types of offences be included in the dangerous offender category. The reason is that we cannot any longer trust the decisions of those who should be making them.
Not too long ago in 1989, to show how consistent things are because I can give some very recent situations, Douglas Schwartz raped and maimed a 7-year old girl very close to my riding. He raped her so savagely that her vagina had to be surgically reconstructed. As a result of an appeal in 1991, not so very long ago, Judge Allan McEachern reduced Schwartz's prison sentence for that attack from nine to five years because he said there was no evidence that Schwartz was either sexually deviant or a risk to the community. These are facts I am talking about here.
He concluded that Schwartz's thinking was impaired by drink when he assaulted the child. The magnitude of the chief justice's error of judgment became apparent when Douglas Schwartz was found guilty in the Supreme Court of British Columbia of sexually assaulting a woman six months after his early release from jail. That is what we are talking about, yet the House wonders why we are asking for these kinds of offences to be included in dangerous offender status.
They are not made up stories. They are errors in judgment. They are loopholes in the laws of the country. They are problems that can be resolved in the House of Commons, but they are not being resolved.
The folks over there can say that Reformers are some kind of group of extremists.
Ron Fewchuk Selkirk—Red River, MB
You belong to the cult.
Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC
I hear the member. People who live in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and other places are getting ready to vote. I can assure Canadians that the members sitting here are very close to their communities. They see these kinds of situations day in and day out. These real horrors are happening without the government being accountable.
I heard the Minister of Justice say in the House: "This person just got a conditional sentence. I know he raped and tortured this young lady, but it is going to an appeal court". I say: "You spineless creature". It is in appeal court because he did not have the courage of his convictions in the first place to exclude serious offences from conditional sentencing. That is the problem.
We have debated this point until we are sick and tired of debating it. Now we are dealing with Bill C-55 and we are telling the government that included in the list of dangerous offences should be a whole bunch of other offences that have been left out.
What will the government do when we have a repeat of the Darren Ursel situation in British Columbia, when these same kinds of offenders offend women? What will the government do when we stand here and tell it to look at what it has done? The government will say that it should have gone to appeal court, that it should be appealed, that more money should be given to the lawyers to appeal it.
An hon. member
Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC
The member says: "Hear, hear". They agree with it.
The government will say that we should leave the decisions with the judges of the land who are well known to make abysmal decisions in some cases.
I hear decisions like sexual assaults "occur when the woman is drunk and has passed out, and the man comes along, sees a pair of hips and helps himself" from a judge.
This country cannot afford to have a government in place that does not have the courage of its convictions and will not legislate law. It cannot afford to have the judiciary-
The Deputy Speaker
I am sorry, the member's time has expired.
Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating yet another of the bills the justice minister is trying to rush through the House before an election call at the end of the month.
Suddenly the justice minister has decided that he should look like he is doing something to give justice to Canadians. That is good. One wonders why it has to happen just before an election, before the justice minister is going to the voters.
In any event, here we are debating the fourth or fifth justice bill that is supposed to go through the House in a very short period of time. Bill C-55 is an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to high risk offenders.
If there is a high risk that a criminal or an offender, if released back into society, will harm or violently reoffend, then this bill is supposed to protect society from that person by ensuring that he or she is not released back into society until no longer a high risk offender.
The original Bill C-55 was not very effective in this, therefore the justice minister is trotting up once more to strengthen it. It would be good if he succeeded. Unfortunately, as usual, a timid half measure is being trotted out, is being aggressively sold and marketed as a substantial move forward to give Canadians the protection that our society needs and is not getting.
It is up to Reform, as usual, to point out how misleading and how ineffective these measures are. It becomes a marketing battle where the Liberals and the justice minister say "we sure got tough on crime, you are a lot safer with us".
It is up to the opposition to point out how ineffective and how unsubstantial these changes are that are being sold as the real goods. As a well known commercial says, where's the beef? There is precious little in so many of these measures.
Yet if we do not support them, the minister then turns around and in a very politically crass way writes letters to the newspapers saying Reform has voted against his wonderful measures to protect people, failing to mention that these are not wonderful measures at all and do not deserve anybody's support at least not most Canadians'.
Here we are with Bill C-55. It is very interesting because Bill C-55, as members know from some of the speeches and interventions of my colleagues, does not apply to a whole list of violent criminals and certain people who are dangerous to society.
Specifically, it does not apply to those who prey on our children, who are sexual predators and who are pedophiles. This is a very interesting omission because it could so easily not have been an omission and because our debate on this bill follows very closely on the heels of our debate yesterday on Bill C-27.
Bill C-27, as is so typical with Liberal bills, puts a lot of hearts and flowers into the preamble, which of course has no legal effect but always plays the violin as to how the Liberals are so concerned about the safety of Canadians. Then the measures that follow do little or nothing to really follow up substantively on that concern.
In the preamble to Bill C-27 the first two paragraphs provide a general context and affirm Parliament's concern about violence against women and children in the areas addressed by the bill, acknowledging children's heightened vulnerability to and greater need for protection from exploitation and abuse.
Paragraph 6 of the preamble recalls Canada's undertaking in ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect children from and prevent their sexual exploitation and abuse.
Paragraph 8 of the preamble expresses Parliament's wish in the interest of promoting the life, liberty and security of women and other victims of criminal harassment to strongly denounce that offence by strengthening the law in relation to it.
Here we have some nice Liberal rhetoric about the need to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. What do we have the very next day? We have a bill concerning criminals who are known sexual predators, who are dangerous to the safety of our children, who could be kept indefinitely out of society to protect our children, and these people are totally missing from the list of offenders who can be designated dangerous offenders under Bill C-55.
We have to ask why that would be when there is a lot lip service paid to protecting our children. In the very next bill that could protect our children from sexual predators and from people who are very likely to reoffend, and since we know that individuals falling into this category are a danger to our children, why on earth does Bill C-55 fail to ensure that these individuals can be kept out of society and protect our children from them? I have been told, and I am sure Liberal members and the Liberal justice minister know, that there is no known cure for pedophilia.
Not only does the bill omit that category of offender, but we have introduced an amendment to correct this oversight. That is very kind of Reform, I would say. It is doing our job in a constructive way to make sure that the stated objectives of the Liberal justice minister and the Liberal government to protect society are actually carried out. We have done the responsible thing.
I would like Canadians to watch very carefully when it comes time to vote on this amendment to include sexual predators and those who exploit our children in the list of people who can be kept indefinitely incarcerated under the dangerous offender provisions of Bill C-55. I am willing to bet that the Liberals will not put that in the bill. They will vote against the Reform amendment. But during the election they are going to play the violin and say "boy, do we ever care about protecting children". When push comes to shove and they could protect children, that is not in the bill and they will not even support an amendment to put it in.
I get pretty tired of seeing letters like the one printed in the Richmond News on March 23 where the justice minister has the gall to say: ``We're really trying to protect this society but Reform won't support us''. I guess not with this kind of hypocrisy and nonsense.
The hearts and flowers, the preamble, the nice stuff that is written at the beginning of these bills everyone would agree with. What Canadians need to do is look at the substance of these bills and see if there is any beef in them. Nine times out of ten there is none.
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-55 and to speak specifically about the amendments we propose to bring this bill into line with reality.
This bill has generated a lot of interest for people in my riding. One of the reasons for this interest is a couple was murdered at Valleyview 10 years ago by a fellow who is serving some time in one of the penitentiaries. He is due to be released by May 1. I want to use that case to illustrate how badly this Liberal government has handled the whole criminal justice issue. It will also illustrate how our amendments to Bill C-55 will help to correct some of that imbalance.
In the last few weeks we have seen the justice minister scrambling to shore up support. He knows he will be in grave trouble during the next election campaign. The Liberal government is in grave trouble because it has mishandled the whole criminal justice issue during the past three and a half years of its mandate. This government should not be returned to office because it is not reflecting the concerns of Canadians.
Let me give this example of what has been happening. The case of Rod Martineau is a classic example of what is going on all across the country. it clearly illustrates the effects of this bill and the importance of change. Rod Martineau is the 27-year old man who assisted in the murders of two Valleyview, Alberta residents, Les and Ann McLean, on February 6, 1985.
On that day both he and Tremblay went to the McLean home with the intent to rob. Seventy-year old Les McLean was the only one home at the time. The men held him at gunpoint and waited for his wife Ann to return home. Patrick Tremblay, Martineau's partner, then shot both of them in the back of the head. The very day this happened, Rod Martineau had just been released from a young offender facility in Grand Prairie. One of the case workers had driven out to Valleyview to be released.
The two men murdered this couple because they were looking for some money from their business. Martineau was only 15 years old at the time. He had spent quite a bit of time in institutions. According to the son of Les and Ann, Rod Martineau could have fled the scene at any time of the impending crime while his partner perpetrated this crime. Instead he helped to hold the two people at gunpoint while he waited for the murder to take place, and he assisted.
Martineau first appeared in youth court but was then transferred to adult court. He was subsequently charged with second degree murder but this conviction was overturned by the supreme court, another example of our Liberal justice system. He was then sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter, robbery with violence and possession of a weapon. He was considered violent and an escape risk.
The son of the victims says that at no time has Martineau shown any remorse at all for his crimes. He has not accepted rehabilitation while serving his sentence, yet we are still letting him out on statutory release. I think he has had three releases to this point.
He was to be released the first time after serving only two-thirds of his sentence. How is this possible? We have our current justice minister to thank for this. Bill C-41, which the justice minister introduced a short time ago in this Parliament, allows for six types of conditional release. Martineau, a convicted killer, qualifies under the statutory release portion. This is an automatic release. The parole board has no say in it. All it can do it set conditions and return the individual to the penitentiary if, and in this case when, the conditions are violated.
As most people in the Peace River constituency expected, within a few short weeks of Martineau's being released under that statutory condition as given to him by the Minister of Justice, he was back in jail. That was no surprise. The correctional service says that half of all Canadian cons freed under the statutory release portion flunk out and are reincarcerated.
Although 30 per cent are rearrested on technical violations such as drug charges and abuse of alcohol, a full 20 per cent of those who are out on statutory release commit new crimes. Yet a spokesman for Correctional Service of Canada said that all it can do is its best to make the transition to the community as smooth as possible for those who are let out on statutory release. The law is the law, after all. Who do we have to thank for that law? The current justice minister and his Liberal justice system which is failing Canadians. Canadians are upset. They are angry. I hope
they will make a strong case in the next election to correct this problem.
Since the first statutory release Martineau has been released twice. After all, the poor guy has to have a chance to get back into society. Even though he has a drug problem, has never shown any remorse for his actions and has never accepted any rehabilitation, the poor man has to have a chance. On October 3, 1996 and on February 21, 1997 he was released. Both times he violated the conditions of his release almost immediately and was returned to the slammer within days.
This man will be back on the streets on May 1. His sentence is up. He is the type of individual who should be held in prison because he is a danger to society. Although it is clear to the people working in the penitentiary that Martineau is likely to reoffend, he will be released. They have no say in it because the justice minister has converted his sentence to a conditional one and his time will be up.
Given the lack of remorse and his drug problems, surely he would qualify if Bill C-55 was amended to reflect the concerns I have addressed. Specifically Bill C-55 should state that any individual who can be determined to be a danger to society should not only be assessed during the first six months of the sentence but at any time during the sentence. If there is any belief that convicted killers or persons who committed a serious crime can be rehabilitated, surely the assessment should take place near the end of their sentence, within the last six months.
The current legislation states that we can only determine if a person is a dangerous offender within six months of sentencing. That does not make any sense. Our justice critic, the member for Calgary North, suggested an amendment to the legislation. As my colleagues who have spoken before me have stated, the chance of the Liberal government accepting an amendment to Bill C-55 to allow an assessment to be made at any time during a sentence is about nil.
We have to wonder what is the motive. We have seen a lot of window dressing in the House on criminal justice issues. The gun control bill is a perfect example. Bill C-68 was modelled on the handgun registration system that has been in place since 1935. It is a poor model to use. We have more crimes being committed with handguns now than we had before in spite of the fact that there is a registration system. Now farmers, ranchers and other law-abiding people who use guns in a responsible manner will have to register their rifles and shotguns.
Most people see the bill for what it is. It is window dressing, looking like something is being done about criminal justice. It is a disservice to Canadians who want some real action on law and order and a stronger criminal justice system. It does not mean harassing farmers, ranchers and hunters. It means attacking the real problem with the criminals.
On the other side the justice minister brought forward conditional sentencing in Bill C-41. He suggested that if people are to be designated violent offenders they can only be assessed during the first six months of their sentence.
Does that make any sense? Does the government believe in rehabilitation? Obviously that is not the time to do the assessment. The assessment should be done at any time during the sentence. It would make more sense if it were done closer to the end of their sentence when we could see whether or not they were still a danger to society, have shown remorse for their action or have accepted rehabilitation. Things that make common sense do not seem to be the way the justice minister proceeds.
Members opposite will have a chance to vote on the amendment of my colleague from Calgary Northeast on Bill C-55 which states:
That Bill C-55, in clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 11 to 15 on page 3 of the following:
752.1 (1) Where an offender has been convicted of a serious personal injury offence defined in section 752 and, on application by the prosecution, at any time during the time the offender is serving the sentence imposed for the offence, the court is of
I challenge members opposite to vote for that amendment.
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-55. I congratulate my colleague from Calgary Northeast on the work he has done on this important issue.
For 3.5 years members of my party have continually fought for the rights of Canadians to live in peace, free from being abused by criminals and free of criminal acts. The government has repeatedly watered down any solutions put forward. In the view of many Canadians and many members of the House it has not done the job it should have done in trying to protect Canadians. It should have made the protection of innocent civilians the number one priority of the justice department. The government continually pursues the theory that the most important aspect is the protection of the rights of criminals instead of the rights of innocent civilians.
I will deal with a few issues in Bill C-55 and some of the things suggested by members of my party. One of the most egregious occurrences throughout the tenure of this Parliament is that criminals who have been proven to be dangerous to Canadians, pedophiles, sexual predators and people who simply cannot control their violent tendencies, go into the cycle of crime, punishment, incarceration and release. The real victims are Canadians who are subjected to their violence.
I remember working in a jail some years ago. I was called to the jail one Sunday night to visit an individual who was to be released. I was the doctor on duty at that time. When I started to examine the individual he attacked me and the guards who were with me.
When I looked at his rap sheet of violent behaviour that was longer than my arm. He had a psychiatric problem. It was not his fault. He was to be released into the public the following Monday. As sure as the sun rises in the east, he will commit another violent offence and hurt another innocent civilian.
I spoke to the head of the jail. In my naivety I asked how an individual who both he and I knew would hurt somebody else could be released. His response was that it was the law and he could nothing about it.
It is one of the reasons I am sure many of my colleagues and I got involved. We have seen examples of situations where patently violent people are being released into the public. A person who has committed a violent offence may have a psychiatric problem, may be paranoid or a paranoid schizophrenic and may need medication and an environment where he can be treated. It is not fair for him to be released. Certainly it is not fair to the public that will be subjected to his behaviour.
Once again the government had three years of ideal opportunity to do something about the matter but it has done nothing. Furthermore it has done nothing to address the precursors to crime.
Another tragedy occurring throughout the country is the movement of psychiatric patients into the community at any cost. Some of them ought to be moved into the community and will function very well there. Some however do not.
We need not look any further than at the streets in the downtown core of large urban centres to see many patients who are living in conditions of squalor and abuse because some bright light in some ivory tower decided they were better off in the community than in an environment where they can be taken care of, medicated and live safe and productive lives.
A silent epidemic is occurring in our communities across the country. Unfortunately the government has again chosen not to work with its provincial counterparts to try to deal with the issue.
All of us in this room know of individuals who have psychiatric problems. Some of them function very well in society but a small segment of them do not. It is high time we realized that some of them need to be in a care giver environment where they can be medicated appropriately and taken care of. This subgroup of individuals cannot take care of themselves. They do not deserve to be wandering around the streets, living in squalor and not being medicated.
I put forward a private member's bill 2.5 years ago, the three strikes and you are out bill. It said that any individual who commits three violent offences should be put in jail. People who have demonstrated that they are a danger to society should be put in jail for 25 years. The government refused to make it votable and hence it died on the Order Paper.
My colleague from Calgary North repeatedly fought for the same issue. Again it was stonewalled by the government. Why has it stonewalled the Reform Party? Why has it repeatedly stonewalled my colleagues from putting forth constructive, sensible solutions to keep individuals who are dangerous offenders, a harm to society and a harm to innocent civilians off the streets?
My colleagues have made reasonable suggestions. They asked that the dangerous offender designation be expanded. I ask the public to listen to members of my party who wish to expand the designation. We wish to extend the dangerous offender designation to individuals who commit sexual interference crimes, people who obtain sexual services from a child, people who corrupt children, people who commit sexual exploitation of children and sexual acts against children under the age of 18 such as incest, sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.
How could the government argue with a party that wants to protect children from being subjected to individuals who find it acceptable to rape children and commit sexual assaults on them?
Furthermore my colleagues raised solutions that would make it an offence for anybody to commit rape, attempted rape or indecent assault on a male or female under the age of 18 years. They are not misdemeanours. They are serious offences and acts of violence. These solutions have been put forward by them in an attempt to protect innocent civilians from violent offences and assaults.
Can we imagine a woman, a man, a child or a teenager being subjected to these offences? Can we imagine the people who committed the offences being free to go wherever they wish? Can we imagine the sheer, stark terror in their minds? They are innocent. They do not deserve to live like that. All members of the House have constituents who have written to them detailing very poignantly and passionately the fear in their lives after being subjected to these atrocities and what comes after. They are the victims who pay the penalty and will for decades to come. Most of them never, ever get over it.
With respect to the issue of prevention, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Human Resources Development and the Minister of Justice need to address the precursors to crime. There is a need to tap into some of the very good ideas in our country to address the precursors to crime. It does not involve counselling when a person
is 20 or 30 years of age. It involves dealing with children at the ages of four and five and their families.
Only by addressing family circumstances and some of the terrible violence, sexual abuse, neglect and assault that some children endure, will we be able to truly stop the growing tide of youth crime later on. Only by dealing with these children and their families will there ever be a possibility to stem the tide of crime, particularly violent crime in our society.
In closing, we have laid down our gloves and have challenged the government. My colleagues have put forward constructive solutions. We now challenge the government to amend the bill to make it more fair and to protect Canadians from coast to coast.