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.