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.