House of Commons Hansard #158 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wheat.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a few comments to make on this bill.

We support the positive aspects of the bill and it does have positive aspects. We have concerns and we will be examining those concerns as the bill proceeds through committee of the whole.

I would like to point out the new tools that have been presented to the police. The wire tap laws have been extended. That is very positive in dealing with this type of criminal activity.

One of the most powerful aspects of this bill may very well be the breakthrough that has been made with regard to accessibility to income tax records that this bill provides in tracing the paper trail of criminal activities. Also something that may prove to be exceedingly important is the peace bond. Individual members of a criminal organization can be forced into a peace bond where they will be ordered not to communicate or associate with members of a criminal organization. If they do, no further evidence is required other than the fact that they have broken the bond in order to bring them into court. In the long term this could break up criminal organizations. Those are three of the very significant aspects of this bill.

I will turn quickly to two areas in the bill that concern me. One is the creation of the definition of a criminal organization. How will this be done? Is it going to be possible to do it?

We have seen bills come through the House before, and I think of Bill C-27, which dealt with child sex tourism where it looks good but it may be unenforceable. How is a criminal organization defined in this new bill? A criminal organization means any group, association or other body consisting of five or more persons, whether formally or informally organized, having as one of its primary activities the commission of an indictable offence under this act or any other act of Parliament for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more.

That is what the crown will have to prove in order to have an organization declared a criminal organization. How will that be done? There have to be at least five people in a group, association or other body and the crown will have to prove that one of the primary activities of members of that group is the commission of an indictable offence. What does that mean? Does it mean that the crown will have to have proof of a conviction of an indictable offence or just evidence that they are engaged in activities that could lead to the commission of an indictable offence that has a punishment of five years or more? There are an awful lot of questions I would like to have cleared up.

Once the organization is defined as a criminal organization, we have to look at this new penalty. Section 467.1 reads: "Everyone who participates in or substantially contributes to the activities of a criminal organization, knowing that any or all of the members of the organization engage in or have within the preceding five years engaged in the commission of a series of indictable offences under this act or any other act of Parliament, for each of which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more and is a party to the commission of an indictable offence for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with the criminal organization for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more".

What is the crown faced with if it is able to prove a person is a member of a criminal organization? What evidence has to be gathered in order to convict? It has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused participates in or substantially contributes to a criminal organization with the knowledge that members of that organization have in the last five years engaged in an indictable offence that carries with it a punishment of five years or more.

I hope that the government can explain to us and to the people of the country in a clear manner that the section of the bill that creates the new offence is not just simply creating false hope in the minds of the people, that this is enforceable, that this can be done by the crown.

I mentioned earlier other parts of the bill which will be of great benefit to the police and will lead to greater intervention into organized crime. I am not going to hold my breath at this stage in the hope that we are going to see reams and reams of convictions under this new offence.

The final point that concerns me is the subject of youth gangs. Does this bill apply to youth gangs? If it does, do the consecutive sentences apply to youth gangs? If they do, then how do we overcome the fact that an indictable offence committed by a youth under the YOA carries only a three year maximum penalty? What are we going to do there? Can it only apply if the youth is transferred to adult court?

I hope in the next few days and hours before we enter the election period that those questions will be answered, not only for members of the House but for the people of the country who are hoping that this bill will move in a very positive direction, with positive force, to give the police the tools they need to break up organized crime in the country.

We have reservations about this bill, but we support its direction because we think it is right. We know the police chiefs and police forces want it. They have been asking for it.

I close on this dour note. I wonder why it has taken so long to bring this bill forward. It has to be rushed through the House and we do not have enough time to really establish its constitutionality and enforceability by hearing witnesses who would give us their viewpoints from both the defence and prosecution sides. I wonder why the government waited for two years after that little boy was killed as a result of organized criminal activity before the bill was brought in. Now it has to be rushed through the House.

We have seen that happen too often over the last three and a half years. It is wrong and I do not think it is needed. Nevertheless, we will support the direction of bill. I am hoping the questions that I and other members will raise can be answered for the good of the people of this country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to and bill read the second time.)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I wonder if there might be unanimous consent to call it 5.30 p.m.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should direct the National Parole Board that any benefit of doubt in hearings and deliberations on parole shall go to the victim, the victim's family and public safety and not to the prisoner.

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to the motion and note that it specifically addresses the National Parole Board. It asks the parole board to have as its objective the rights of the victim, the victim's family and public safety over and above that of the prisoner.

I feel quite sad in a way that we have to bring a motion of this nature into the House to recognize the rights of law-abiding citizens, especially victims. Their rights as citizens should be

respected before the rights of prisoners, those people who have chosen not to abide by the rules of society.

A number of issues will be reflected by this motion, such as sentencing and other issues. However, I would like to address my comments to the parole board as an evaluation tool.

The parole board is a tool of the justice system. It comes into force once a person is convicted. Basically when we talk about parole hearings we are not talking about passing a judgment on the person with relation to the crime committed, instead we are talking about passing a judgment with respect to their rehabilitation over a certain period of confinement and whether that person is ready to return to society.

As a society we have agreed to establish certain rules and regulations by which the majority of us agree to function. We set up those rules and regulations to establish our society through legislation and through the various other government agencies throughout the country.

The fact that we establish these rules and regulations also sets precedents as to the kinds of rights and privileges the Canadian people will enjoy. If you choose to violate the rules and regulations established by the society, then it follows that you choose to relinquish those very rights and benefits that society establishes.

We seem to have moved away from that to the point of view that we argue that rights and privileges bestowed on the law-abiding Canadian citizen by Canadian society should be applied to those who violate those as well. I submit to the House that is not justifiable. If you choose not to participate within the parameters of society you should not be eligible for the benefits and privileges that society has created for you.

We can say that is not being compassionate and this type of thing, but when someone violates a law or breaks a law and actually causes damage to another Canadian individual, we see them as not being safe to go about in public. We decided that we would take these very people and put them away and incarcerate them in some facility which we have called prisons.

There was a time in our history when that is all we did. We would remove them from society and put them into a building somewhere and the level of activity that occurred there was little better than custodial care. We have debates in our past which show how inhumane this was. Since that time we have progressed into what we have established within the prison system as a rehabilitation program. It would seem to me that once we take people and remove them from society because we fear them and what damage they may do to us, i.e. our public safety is at stake, and put them away, we should be guiding and directing them toward coming back into that society and participating where they will not harm the public and harass previous victims.

I argue that we have put in legislation along the way that gives these people an option to participate in the rehabilitation program and this kind of thing. That is another debate for some other time. Right now I am saying that when a prisoner goes before a parole board that parole board should be looking at their rehabilitation during the time period that we have put them away. Have they participated in some sort of a program that will change their behaviour so that they will function in society and not be a liability to public safety and to the victims they have in the past harmed?

The way it is right now it seems that is not actually happening. That evaluation of the rehabilitation process is not happening. The focus seems more to be on the rights of the prisoner. I suggest we focus more on the rights of the victims and public safety or the Canadian citizen.

When a person chooses to break the law and goes into a prison they should realize that they relinquish those rights and that the victim and the public come first. I often wonder where we lost track or where we went astray. I tend to think that sometimes in our legislation, and this goes back to the sentencing probably, we have lost focus of directing our judgment on the actual action that was committed. We started focusing on the intent behind the action. I suggest to the House that it was with that deviation in focus for a judgment decision that we tended to leave the victims and move more toward the prisoner. I think we should go back and address that at some point as well.

It concerns me greatly that we have a movement for establishing groups. We now have a group for victims rights. We should have Canadian citizens rights and those rights should apply to all people, whether they are victims or not victims.

I see the need for a victims bill of rights in the present direction we are heading because of the indiscretion of what is happening in our system. It seems to be favouring the criminal versus the law-abiding citizen. We are coming up with all these mechanisms such as victims rights and various victims interest groups. This type of thing seems to be growing which suggests to me that there is a lack of respect and confidence in the existing system.

If the rights and privileges that law-abiding Canadian citizens enjoy were not applied to those who were incarcerated because they broke the law then we would probably not need victims rights.

I suggest to the House that since we have to start somewhere we should look at the parole board. We should look at it from the point of view of evaluating what has actually happened once a person has been confined to prison. There is absolutely no way that if a person does not participate in the rehabilitation program, is not capable of going back out into society and functioning as a productive citizen, that they should be released from prison at that point. They become

a liability to public safety and will probably inflict either more physical harm to their victims or certainly emotional harm through such things as harassment and this type of thing.

When we look at some of the things that victims are denied in relation to the National Parole Board when the situations are brought forward, we should be reviewing the whole process, the direction or the objectives of the National Parole Board as it stands.

These people are incarcerated because they inflicted harm on specific individuals. I see no problem with these victims being aware of the progress of that person through the rehabilitation program. Right now once the person is convicted that is the end. They do not receive any other information unless they initiate it by writing letters to the parole board for information, and then it can be very limited as well.

My motion is asking that the government direct the National Parole Board in its process of deliberating or evaluating the rehabilitation of a prisoner that if there is any doubt concerning the prisoner, i.e. that he may harm the victims or become a liability to public safety, that benefit of doubt should go to the victims and the public in general and not the prisoner. He can go back and go further through the rehabilitation process.

I think my time is about up and so I will close in hoping that the government will look at this and will review the direction of the parole board and offer it some guidance that reflects its interest in the victims.

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am looking for some guidance from the Chair. I believe you would find unanimous consent that notwithstanding the second reading vote that was taken on Bill C-95, that Bill C-95 be put back on the Order Paper for a resumption of second reading. I believe you called for the question, no one rose and the question was put and carried.

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is there unanimous consent?

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I will make a slight correction. The hon. member did not have consent to divide her time with her colleague. The rules do not provide that members can divide their time in private members hour.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Vaudreuil Québec


Nick Discepola LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to take part in the debate on Motion M-139 before us.

If I understand, the hon. member feels that the government should order the National Parole Board to accord the benefit of the doubt, not to the prisoner, but to the victim, to their family and to public security at parole hearings.

The motion expresses a legitimate concern that both the government and I share with respect to victims, their families and public security. However, we must recognize that a number of government measures already exist to respond to the concerns of crime victims and to ensure public security.

I would begin by pointing out that protection of society is the primary consideration in any decision on parole. The National Parole Board grants parole only if, in its opinion, the offender will not present an unacceptable risk for society at the end of his sentence and that his release will contribute to protecting society by promoting his return to the community as a law abiding citizen.

The Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board are already directing all their efforts at protecting society by controlling offenders and helping them change behaviours and attitudes that have led them to crime in the past.

The transition from imprisonment to freedom can be difficult, and offenders have a better chance of success if they are supervised, have suitable programs, have opportunities for training and are given support in the community to which they will eventually have to adjust.

In helping offenders return to society, the government ensures public security and the security of the victims. The Correctional Service of Canada already directs much of its energy to helping offenders adapt and return to society.

Similarly, the National Parole Board is helping to protect the public by taking judicious decisions in favour of the return of offenders to the community as law abiding citizens.

I would add that the information provided by victims plays a key role in the decisions made by the National Parole Board. A balance

must be struck between the victim's concerns and the need to help the offender return to society without compromising public safety.

The best way to achieve this balance is through risk assessment and management. Certain offenders represent a greater danger than others. In accordance with National Parole Board policies, board members systematically examine the risk an offender would represent for society if released.

They look at all the relevant information they have available in order to conduct an initial risk assessment. They take into account such factors as the offence, prior criminal behaviour, social problems such as addiction and family violence, the individual's mental health and especially his potential to reoffend, behaviour during earlier releases, psychological and psychiatric records, motivation to change, and information provided by the victim.

After this initial assessment, the National Parole Board looks at other, more specific factors such as the individual's behaviour in the institution, the information provided by case management personnel and other professionals that is indicative of changes, and the benefits derived from programs in which the offender has participated, such as detox or cognitive skills programs.

After going over all this information, board members make a decision. If parole is granted, the Board can add conditions, in addition to those required by law, in order to help manage rehabilitation and ensure public safety.

For example, it may require the offender to abstain from alcohol if this is deemed reasonable and necessary for risk management and the protection of society. It is common for an offender to be prohibited from having contact with a victim, if the victim so requests.

The great majority of offenders are serving definite sentences and eventually return to the community. As you know, imprisonment is only a temporary measure that cannot guarantee the safety of the public.

As a result, once an offender has been sentenced, correctional staff begin assessing risk and preparing for the day when the offender can be released. Personnel in the community gather information on the offender from a wide variety of sources: family, police, the court, victims, other members of the public. The information provided by the victim is an integral element of the risk assessment and the decision to release an offender.

What I mean is that, based on all of the information at our disposal in order to make wise decisions about parole, by allowing gradual release and preparing the offender to return to the community, we are protecting the public and the victims at the same time.

For the moment, I would like to talk about the rights our correctional system gives to victims. The year 1992 was a watershed year, when the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was passed. For the first time, victims' rights were officially acknowledged in federal legislation on correctional services.

I would like to discuss the rights of victims as they exist in our correctional system. A significant step was made in 1992 with the enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. From that time, for the first time, the rights of victims were formerly recognized in federal corrections legislation.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act clearly recognizes the role of the victim in relation to federal corrections. It provides for the sharing of information with victims and enables victims to have access to parole hearings.

Under section 101(b) of the act victims may provide information to the National Parole Board which the board must take into account when reviewing the inmates on any kind of conditional release. This may be done in writing or in an interview with a National Parole Board staff member who makes the recommendation and a record of the discussion for inclusion in the offender's file.

The legislation allows the correctional service and the National Parole Board to share upon request information about offenders with their victims. At the victim's request the correctional service and the National Parole Board have an obligation to disclose certain information about the offender such as the offender's name, the offence for which the offender was convicted, the eligibility dates and review dates of respective temporary absence or parole, the dates the sentence began and the length of the sentence. This information is also made available to the public.

Victims, however, are eligible to receive additional information that is not normally disclosed to the public. Such information may include the location of the penitentiary where the sentence is being served; the date, if any, on which the offender is to be released on escorted or unescorted temporary absence, work release, parole or statutory release; the date of any hearing for the purposes of review; conditions attached to any form of release; the destination of the offender on any form of release; whether the offender is in custody; and, if not, why not; whether or not the offender has appealed a decision of the board; and the outcome of the appeal.

This specific information can be given to victims, provided the Chairman of the National Parole Board or the Commissioner of Corrections deems that the victim's interests clearly outweigh the breech of privacy that will result from disclosure.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act also takes victims' concerns and needs into consideration by affording them the opportunity to attend parole hearings as observers.

In the past they could do so only with the offender's agreement; now it is the National Parole Board's decision. As I said, victims can also provide information to the Board, and it must take this into consideration during the case study.

The information provided by the victim which the Board must take into consideration during the case study includes the victim impact statement submitted to the Crown prosecutor, the police reports on the nature of the crime, and the information provided directly to the Board or correctional authorities by the victim or the victim's relatives.

The Board also considers any reports of abuse or violence against the offender's family or against people in a relationship of intimacy, dependency or trust with the offender. The information provided by the victim is also important when assessing the relevant conditions in managing a specific risk.

This is also a factor to be taken into consideration when preparing the offender's release plan, particularly if he is related to the victim, or will be living in the vicinity of the victim after release. The Board takes into consideration the victim's requests if he or she feels that certain conditions are necessary for protection.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

April 17th, 1997 / 5:50 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of the motion put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Surrey North. It might be worthwhile repeating its wording:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should direct the National Parole Board that any benefit of doubt in hearings and deliberations on parole shall go to the victim, the victim's family and public safety and not to the prisoner.

While the intent of Motion No. 139 is clear to me, I would like to expand on its objective for those who might criticize it for the use of the phrase "benefit of doubt". In that phrase we cam see both the strength and the reasonableness of the motion before us.

Criminal court proceedings are structured so that persons charged with an offence go free if it can be established that there is a reasonable doubt as to their guilt. It is pretty fundamental in our justice system. It is therefore only fitting in the case of an individual who has been found guilty and imprisoned that his or her parole application be refused if there is a doubt as to their ability to be reintroduced in society. In other words the benefit of doubt factor has already been addressed in good part.

Sadly there are those who would argue and try to convince us that is the way system works now. There are examples on examples that illustrate that people who so think have their heads in the sand.

In my colleague's own riding of Surrey North there are a few horror stories of criminals who have been released only to violently reoffend again. For example, a 10-year old girl was taken from her bed, brutally assaulted and murdered by a criminal who was out on conditional release. Another individual was killed in her own home by a person who was out on parole for a string offences including car theft. The list of tragic incidents goes on and on in communities across Canada.

The figures for 1994-95 show the following. Of those on conditional release 256 reoffended and were charged with criminal offences ranging from murder to armed robbery. Since 1987-88 and in almost any given year approximately 250 conditional release criminals have been charged with serious community offences. In 1989-90 alone 39 were charged with murder and 63 with sexual assault. Surely this gives us some pause to doubt that the system is working.

An article in today's Vancouver Sun read:

A man serving time for attempted murder was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a young female corrections volunteer while out on day parole. The woman, in her twenties, was alone in her home with Clinton Dale McNutt, 29, Monday when the alleged offence occurred, said the Abbotsford Police Constable-"We can't overstate how concerned we are about the whole parole system," he said. "Our concern is these people are out and our citizens can be put at risk".

That is what we are talking about here. Sometimes when we are pounding away on the justice system I hear members across the way saying that everything is fine and the justice minister is doing a great job. I think reality is the opposite to that. We on this side are heckled because we keep speaking out and pounding on the issue, particularly when we speak on behalf of victims.

In my riding and across the country it seems Canadians are tired of a justice system which puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims. It is as basic as that.

We get criticism from across the way. They will find out there in a couple of weeks knocking on doors. If they listen to what the people of Canada have to say they will get an earful. Ordinary people are saying it is not working. When Liberal members are on their doorsteps there will be no one to stop the constituents from saying what it is they think and feel about the government and the justice system.

I wonder if Liberal members will try to berate their constituents when they raise the topic of criminal justice during the campaign in the same way as the Prime Minister tried to tell a waitress from

Montreal that she did not read what she read and did not hear what she heard in relation to the government's promise to scrap the GST. So much for the criticism of members across the way.

What will we do? We would advocate a fundamental shift in who are seen as the real victims of crime. It begins with a change in the shortsighted National Parole Board definition of who is a victim, to one more much encompassing. Reform would expand the existing definition and define a victim as anyone who suffers as a result of an offence, physical or mental injury, economic loss, or any spouse, sibling, child or parent of the individual against whom the offence was perpetrated, or anyone who has an equivalent relationship not necessarily a blood relative. That is an important change in the definition of victim.

More important, Reform also recognizes the need to revamp the National Parole Board where the rights of victims in Canadian society are being well and truly ignored. Each of the following changes would need to be implemented by the government if Motion No. 139 is to have any meaning or significance.

First, the National Parole Board must be reformed to ensure that release conditions are enforced in favour of the victim whom I have just redefined, the victim's family and public safety, and not in favour of the offender. In fact it is not just on the parole board, our whole justice system needs this basic reform.

The parole board must be reformed and its responsibilities shifted to community merit release committees. The parole board must be reformed to ensure that sentences given to all violent offenders are served in full. The parole board must be reformed to ensure that dangerous offender status can be sought at any time during a criminal sentence and not just at the time of sentence. Finally, the parole board must be reformed to ensure that the parole is limited, earned and tightly monitored.

In conclusion, the motion before the House merits every consideration. I am saddened to know that the motion is not votable. If it were I would want members to know that I would certainly be voting in favour of it and thus allowing for a fresh start on criminal justice reform for all Canadians.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words about Motion No. 139 posed by the hon. member for Surrey North.

I would like to pay tribute to my colleague from Surrey North who will not be a candidate in the next general election. She first came to this place in 1993 with many of us and I served with her on the health committee. I know she is a nurse by profession. I know that she has many fond memories of the many friends she has made here. I want her to know, on behalf of many colleagues in the House, that we will miss her. We wish her well in her next career.

I have found this member to be a very calm and rational and reasonable member in her representations in the House and in committee. She has come up with a motion in which she has asked the House to consider an aspect of the justice system, the National Parole Board. The concept she is raising, which I think is important, says that when there is a benefit of the doubt she is interested in making sure that the victim's interests are balanced and taken care of in situations dealing with people who have been convicted of criminal offences.

I know from the member's speech that it is not just a wild grab to incarcerate everybody for life and throw away the key. Her statements and her rationale have been well thought out. She has articulated some of the ways in which she knows from her research that there are people, the families of victims and the victims of crime, who do not know what goes on in this process. This is not something in which we are trained. When families unfortunately are in a situation where a loved one, a friend, a family member or acquaintance has been the victim of crime and their families are thrust into that situation, it is terribly tragic. It happens so often and it is very regrettable but it is a reality in our society that there are people who have done some bad things.

The important thing is that the member has been reasoned and constructive in her suggestions. Even the parliamentary secretary who spoke earlier has acknowledged that. It is to the member's credit that she raises them and has not tried to somehow take that position in a way which would be off the wall in its presentation.

The member has acknowledged that people who are incarcerated for various crimes are not all the same. There are different circumstances and conditions. Imagine how many people there are in the criminal justice system who have committed crimes against family members, who have murdered family members, who have assaulted or otherwise committed some criminal offence against someone they know and love. Things happen, like spousal homicide, for instance.

I was astounded to find out what a high percentage of homicides in Canada are cases of people who have killed people they knew. It is shameful. Those crimes do not occur because the perpetrators are devious people like Clifford Olson. Something has happened. There is more to it. There is something underlying the reason for that crime. Something has happened that has influenced the actions of people. They are not the kind of people who are going to kill anybody else. It is not a criminal mind but a mind which has-in the vernacular-snapped or reacted in the extreme at a point in time when something bad has happened.

The member has basically said that maybe there are things we can do. Maybe we can identify that in the vast majority of these cases we are not dealing with the bizarre cases that are often raised in this House. It is important that Canadians are educated on the kinds of things that happen. There is a lot of misunderstanding or lack of information about what happens in the process.

I am not a sociologist or a psychologist and I do not know very much about the theory and the philosophy of our penal and justice systems. However, I know that after they have served their time, people who have done bad things will eventually have to come back into society. They will have to reintegrate into society. They will potentially be my neighbours or my co-workers. They will have every right.

That says a lot about the need to have an effective parole system which takes into account the need for rehabilitation and education of everyone about the things that should be done to make sure people have the incentive while they are incarcerated to understand what happened, why it happened and how to cope and deal with that so they can eventually reintegrate. For the vast majority of people that is the case.

There is now legislation for habitual dangerous offenders and we know they may never get out which is probably the right thing as well.

In the few minutes I have left I want to raise another issue. Young offenders make up quite a large number of the people who are incarcerated or who have committed crimes and may not have received a penalty.

I know a lot of Canadians have an opinion on young offenders. Many would say that we have to lower the age because young offenders are committing crimes at a lower age than they used to. Many would say that young offenders should be treated like adults, that if they commit adult crimes they should be treated like adults. To some extent in some cases that is true. From the research I have done on family and divorce issues I know that about 70 per cent of young offenders come from lone parent families. That is significant. It relates to the member's motion. There are other factors to be considered.

I am not sure whether all of the 70 per cent of young offenders should be herded into the same kind of mould which says here is what is going to happen because you are just a bad kid. I want to know where the parents were. I want to know what the conditions were, whether it was a situation of poverty or whether abuse was prevalent in early childhood or whether there were other situations about which we have no way of knowing.

I raise that as another example of why we should not paint all criminals in the justice system with the same brush and say that they are all Clifford Olsons and here is what we have to do with them. In fact they are not all Clifford Olsons. Some of them are neighbours, friends and young people who have had bad things happen to them during their lives. We have a responsibility not only to deal with the very bad criminals, we have a responsibility to deal in the preventive vein to make sure that some of these things do not happen in the first place.

I thank the hon. member for bringing this motion to the House and I thank her for being a friend and a colleague.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I too would like to mention that we are certainly going to miss my colleague. I would like to thank her for bringing in this motion today.

Back in 1968 when the public was in the grip of Trudeaumania the Liberal government set out to revamp the justice system. Some of the revamping which resulted from Mr. Trudeau's just society we are dealing with today and have been labouring under it for quite some time. For instance, that Liberal government abolished capital punishment against the will of the majority of Canadians. It sanctioned 25 year life sentences which can be served in 15 years.

As my colleague opposite has pointed out, there are different circumstances in every case and I will touch on that later.

That government also gave us the Young Offenders Act. Punishment was replaced with a new buzzword: rehabilitation. Liberals, then and now, have failed to establish the worth of a life.

Since arriving in Ottawa, the Reform Party has called for changes to the criminal justice system, changes which would support victims and punish convicted criminals. We have called for the complete elimination of the faint hope clause, which of course is section 745 of the Criminal Code. It allows convicted murderers to apply for parole after serving 15 years.

Reformers believe that the only fair and just penalty for premeditated murder is life imprisonment. As previous speakers have pointed out, there are circumstances which would allow for parole before the criminal has served 25 years.

Thanks to the weak-kneed Liberals, life means 25 years at best, which can be served in 15 years. By the time this minister was finally convinced that the law had to be changed, he left a loophole big enough for Canada's most notorious criminal, Clifford Olson, to slither through.

The minister did nothing to prevent Clifford Olson from jumping on his soapbox. He did nothing to prevent Clifford Olson from forcing his victims' families to relive the nightmare which has been part of their daily lives since their children were so sadistically murdered. This calculated killer violated every one of his victims' rights. He did not give any of them a faint hope for survival.

No one expects his bid for freedom to be successful, but he will have an opportunity to present his case to a jury of Canadians. Think of how repulsive that will be for those who draw the short straws and have to sit on his jury.

Now because of the minister's inaction, Clifford Olson will not only have a venue, he will be given a forum in which to try to set the terms of his August parole bid. It is hardly surprising that he does not want the jury to hear the statements of the families of his victims, or to hear about specific police or prison reports about him, or to submit to the psychiatric examination requested by the crown. With his record it is not surprising that he would not want this information in the hands of a responsible jury.

As well, flaws in the justice system make it impossible to revisit the plea bargaining agreement which Karla Homolka tricked crown prosecutors and police into granting her. She will be eligible to apply for parole this summer, having served a mere four years of her 12 year sentence.

If she declines the opportunity to apply for parole now while she is in the spotlight she can and probably will exercise this option at a later date.

This is the sort of case that the Reform Party is so opposed to. Certainly we believe that there are people who could be allowed early parole, but in these cases it makes absolutely no sense and the Canadian public is repulsed by the idea that they can get early parole.

With an election call just 10 days away the minister and his colleagues have discovered that Canadians from coast to coast are concerned about the lack of justice in the justice system. Where have they been for the last 3.5 years? At the doorsteps they will try to convince Canadians that they were tough on crime and passed legislation to modernize the criminal justice system.

Let us look at the changes this government made to the Criminal Code. Bill C-37 and Bill C-41 on sentencing did nothing to improve the plight of victims. Bill C-45, which dealt with section 745, betrayed victims of crime. The Minister of Justice promised the families of murder victims a voice at parole appeals. They will get it but not for a long time. The minister fixed it so that this new law only applies to people convicted in the future, not to anyone currently serving a life sentence. He betrayed bereaved relatives to have an opportunity to speak at any hearing held 15 years from now. That is how committed Liberals are to victims rights.

In December 1994 a private member's bill authored by the member for York South-Weston calling for the elimination of section 745 was passed by a majority of the members of the House of Commons, including 73 members from the government side. It was subsequently sent to the justice committee.

What did the member for York South-Weston receive for his efforts? History will show that he was turfed from the Liberal Party. The member for York South-Weston lost his opportunity to bring about meaningful change to the justice system, and families of murder victims lost the chance to see the killers of their loved ones pay in years of lost freedom for the lives they took.

The Minister of Justice uses the old adage that tough cases make for bad laws as his excuse for not taking a tougher stance. There might be some credence to this if we were talking about isolated cases. However, there are about 650 convicted murderers who are waiting for their chance to apply for this faint hope that has become a sure bet in lots of cases.

If we had enacted tough laws in the first place we would be able to deal effectively with all the facets of criminal activity.

The Prime Minister, his ministers and his backbenchers obviously do not believe that murder is a very serious offence. How can I say that? They sent a message to the victims of violence that their pain is just not that important. They sent a message to criminals that their crimes will be tolerated. They sent a message to all Canadians that their streets, homes and playgrounds are not safe.

I suggest to the government that it is not too late. Instead of making meaningless promises in red book II, as it is likely to do, why not use this last week of the 35th Parliament to do something truly worthwhile and give victims the rights they deserve. If the government does that it can be assured of a warmer reception at the doorsteps of the nation.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on the motion of my colleague from Surrey North. Her contribution to this House has been tremendous and certainly it will be noted in history in terms of compassion for those in need, not only aboriginal families of this nation but many other people who need special attention and consideration in a very humane and humanitarian purpose. I would like to thank the hon. member for making that contribution.

I hope into this next election that there is an opportunity somewhere in Canada that she may play a role, become a candidate. That would be an exciting possibility as well.

Motion No. 139 lays out for us a motion that gives direction to the parole board of Canada, saying that the priority for that parole board should certainly be victims rights rather than criminal rights

and that there has to be a better balance. Through this motion my hon. colleague has tried to give direction for that.

That sounds like common sense for us. The question is why does it not happen. Why have we not over the years been able to recognize that victims rights must be considered before someone is put out into the general public or back on the streets with parole?

I have spoken with ministers of justice, the attorneys general of a variety of provinces with regard to this question and lawyers as well, legal people. They often say "The case before us is to judge this person who committed a crime as to whether he or she should be given parole or consideration or should be kept in prison for a longer period of time". That is the consideration. It is that individual on which they focus. They say "Our venue does not allow for the victims to come in and make some kind of presentation because it is not the victim we are judging". They say that is the dilemma that they are facing in making these kinds of judgments and carrying out their role either as a parole member or a judge in a court and so on.

Somewhere in that process we have to open our minds and recognize that if someone is paroled that person, prior to that, has committed some kind of a crime on the street, in somebody's home, in terms of somebody's private property or has invaded the privacy of an individual or hurt some individual in some way, serious or otherwise. That has happened and there is a victim there all the time.

Now that we are going to put this person back out on the street, why do we not consider victims rights and some input for victims?

This motion aims in that direction and tries to alert the parole board that it should happen, that we as members of the House of Commons, as the member says so well in her motion, should direct the National Parole Board that any benefit of doubt in hearings and deliberations on parole should go to the victim, the victim's family and public safety, and not for that person who has committed the crime.

What have we had from the government since we came to Parliament in 1994? In the year 1994 not much. My colleagues laid before the government case after case that the Minister of Justice was too soft on the criminal and there was not a consideration for the victim. I heard my hon. colleagues from Alberta and British Columbia lay that out over and over again. Section 745 of the Criminal Code comes into question where someone who has committed first degree murder is allowed to have consideration of parole after 15 years when they were given a 25 year sentence. We cannot see the common sense of that.

The many victims of the crime, as we laid the issue before the hon. Minister of Justice, were not considered.

All of a sudden we are into 1997, three years later, and the government is excited. It will do something with the criminals of this country. It will come down hard on the criminals.

I see a press release issued by the Minister of Justice and the solicitor general April 17. Again they are making the claim to the public of Alberta that they will come down tough on the criminal. They say they have introduced a package of tough new measures to target criminal gang activity.

It is all part of a facade. It is all part of a process by which the government thinks it must do this today, not bring some common sense to the criminal justice system. If that were the purpose, it would be excellent. The purpose becomes "I want to do this". This is what the Liberal government says.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you will find there is unanimous consent to proceed immediately to consider the motion respecting the Senate amendment to Bill C-216 and to adopt it without further debate or amendments.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Do we have unanimous consent?

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member


National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, the government again and again tries to give the impression that it will now be tough on the criminal and have a criminal justice system that may be a little fair or which will consider the victims of crime as such.

We will look at the motives regarding what is behind it. The motive is very clear. On Sunday, April 27 the Prime Minister will call an election and the government requires a criminal justice package to convince the people of Canada that they should vote for the Liberal Party because it is tough on the criminal and is doing something for the victim.

The motives are wrong. They are absolutely wrong. If the motive were really to deal with the system and to take responsibility in a legitimate, reasoned way rather than doing something for only political reasons, we would have better government and better policy in terms of the criminal and certainly in terms respecting the victims of crime.

That is not the way it is. We see this knee-jerk reaction from government which is supposed to be good policy.

Now we look at the parole boards. How are they appointed? I know some of these individuals because I have been in active politics for about 34 years. I recall in Alberta Mike Maccagno was a good Liberal. He was leader of the Liberal Party of Alberta. He was elected to the legislature of Alberta and we became good friends even though I was a minister of the government.

I remember talking to Mr. Maccagno one day. He said: "Ray, I think I am going to quit as the leader of the Liberal Party because I am going to Ottawa heaven. I am going to be appointed to the Parole Board of Canada". Forever after he lived very happily because he got that appointment.

The problem is do we have people there with credentials? I do not think we have. We must appoint those people because they have experience and something to contribute. I know members will take that into consideration with regard to this motion.

National Parole BoardPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members Business has now expired and the item is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

National Parole BoardAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, in 1992 the Standing Committee on Health published a study called "Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Preventable Tragedy". It describes a little about FAS. There is no question that maternal alcohol consumption can have devastating impacts on the fetus.

The basic fact is that when a pregnant woman drinks her unborn child drinks also. The alcohol in the mother's bloodstream circulates through the placenta into the bloodstream of the fetus. It is possible the blood alcohol level of the fetus will remain at an elevated level for a longer period than that of the mother because the immature fetal liver metabolizes the alcohol more slowly.

Research shows that fetal alcohol syndrome is responsible for 5 per cent of all birth defects. It can reflect on the following: severe neurological disorders, social dysfunction, permanent behavioural problems, criminal problems, reduced life span, restricted brain development, learning disorders, hyperactivity, mental retardation, pre and post natal growth retardation, speech and vision impairment, and other physical deformities.

There is no question that fetal alcohol syndrome, often referred to as FAS, is a growing problem in Canada. In Ontario recent studies showed that although all other causes or problems to do with alcohol have gone down, the only only problem associated with alcohol that has gone up is fetal alcohol syndrome. In the last decade the number of incidents identified has risen by some 400 per cent.

In June 1995 my private member's Bill C-337 which asked for health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages. Part of that labelling was to caution expectant mothers about the risks associated with alcohol consumption. Subsequently the bill passed in the House and is before committee. I hope It will come to this place.

A couple of weeks ago the Canadian Pediatrics Society and the health ministry finally came out with a joint statement saying the best decision for pregnant women was to abstain from alcohol. This is the new wisdom of the ministry of health. The minister outlined a couple of things they have done. We only have to learn once that drinking or alcohol consumption during pregnancy even in moderation can impair an unborn child.

I hope the health minister will get the message. We need to take a dramatic step to alert women planning to have children or currently pregnant to abstain from alcohol consumption. We should do something to produce full page advertisements in every paper in the country to once and for all make it very clear that consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is a severe risk to the health of the child to be.