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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was accused.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to present, pursuant to Standing Order 36, a petition from the residents of Etobicoke, Whitby, Mississauga, Oakville, Georgetown, Scarborough, Toronto and Brampton as well as other communities.

The petitioners call on Parliament to urge the federal government to join with the provincial governments to make a national highway system upgrading possible in 1997.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I have a petition from people in communities such as Etobicoke, Mississauga and Toronto as well as others who call on Parliament to support unequivocally the enlargement of NATO to include all countries of central and eastern Europe that wish to join, excluding none.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have three petitions today. The first comes from Powell River, B.C. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that police officers and firefighters place their lives at risk on a daily basis as they serve the emergency needs of all Canadians. They also state than in many cases the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty are often left without sufficient financial means to meet their obligations.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to establish a public safety officers compensation fund to receive gifts and bequests for the benefit of families of police officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition comes from Kitchener, Ontario. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue initiatives to assist families that choose to provide care in the home for preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the final petition comes from Pembroke, Ontario. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause health problems or impair one's ability and, specifically, that fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol related birth defects are 100 per cent preventable by avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to enact legislation to require health warning labels to be placed on the containers of alcoholic beverages to caution expectant mothers and others of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from a number of people in the province of Quebec who call to the attention of Parliament that the nation is in danger of being torn apart by regional factions.

The petitioners ask Parliament to declare and to confirm immediately to-

-that Canada is indivisible and that the boundaries of Canada, its provinces, territories and territorial waters may only be modified by a free vote of all Canadian citizens as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or through the amending formula stipulated in the Canadian Constitution.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Board Of Internal EconomyRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I have the honour to inform the House that René Laurin, member for the electoral district of Joliette, was appointed as a member of the Board of Internal Economy replacing Mrs. Dalphond-Guiral, member for the electoral district of Laval Centre.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (production of records in sexual offence proceedings), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 7th, 1997 / 3:20 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code involving the production of records in sexual offence proceedings.

Victims who have been sexually assaulted are often hesitant to come forward, probably because of the fear of disclosure of personal records which they feel would be tremendously embarrassing to them. We can understand that, but some of these charges are very real and very tragic. Lives can be ruined before they have even had a chance to get started.

The question we have to ask today is: Are there those who hesitate to come forward because they are disturbed by the very public nature of the court process? It is a fact that the accused of any crime, especially a sexual offence, will put forward a defence of some nature. Of course the gloves will come off.

In the past, defence lawyers have sought records from the victim's past to try to help their clients, to smear the victim and try to cause the victim to lose credibility. These records have included psychiatric, social welfare, employment, personal counselling and other very private facts.

Few of us want our personal lives exposed to all and sundry. The fear of having such personal records revealed is believed to be a deterrent to victims to report sexual assault against them. Going further, the fear that such records may at some future date be called for is hampering the process of counselling and assistance provided by victims' support centres.

Most of us are in favour of and support victims' rights but how we do it is another thing. Often in counselling the victim is afraid of disclosing too much for fear of the exposure. In fact the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, when he spoke on Bill C-46, asked us to consider this scenario.

A person is sexually assaulted and following the assault receives counselling from a sexual assault centre. The counsellor may take notes of the sessions where the complainant is distraught and full of self-doubt about why this has happened. The notes are the perceptions or recollections of the counsellor. They may not necessarily truly reflect what the victim says.

They are not verbatim transcripts of the conversation. They are not statements, yet defence counsel may attempt to gain access to and explore those records, looking for perhaps what is in the view of the defence an inconsistent statement. Perhaps the complainant has undergone therapy for depression or child sexual abuse long ago and of the assault which is now subject to the criminal charges.

It is not enough to only be concerned about the victims' rights. We have to be concerned that the victim, in having those rights, is protected even more so in that everything personal about them has to be looked at very carefully and that it will actually impact on the proceedings that are going to be followed through on the investigation.

Victims' rights have long been a basic plank of the Reform Party. Of course we would support legislation that provides increased protection to law-abiding citizens and victims of crimes. Therefore we support the bill in principle. However, I still have reservations regarding the government's commitment to victims' rights.

However, we must also be mindful of the longstanding tradition in our country and in the British legal system to protect everyone's rights. That includes an accused person's right to have the opportunity to make a full and fair defence to any charges brought against him or her. How can we as legislators ensure that the right to a full and fair defence is not affected or weakened through provisions of the bill?

Sexual assault is a very serious offence and we must make it possible for victims to come forward without fear of public exposure of their most personal records. Yet we must also acknowledge that there have been instances where accusations of sexual assault have been found to be false. The bill must consider two competing or conflicting interests.

Genuine victims of sexual offences need to be protected from being further violated by having their personal lives and intimate thoughts put before the public as the defence goes on a fishing trip to dredge up some unsavoury but irrelevant personal detail.

Similarly, some persons have been wrongfully accused and must be entitled to all resources available to clear his or her name. As you can see, Madam Speaker, there are strong arguments on both

sides of this question. We are given a position in Bill C-46 to look at very closely and to balance very carefully the rights of all individuals.

I am very concerned about the possibility of someone being wrongly accused because of a constituent who came to me just after I had been elected in 1994. A man and his wife felt some authority, in this case myself, the MP, should hear his story. In spite of the fact that he was charged, found guilty and served his sentence, he maintains his innocence. This man lived in British Columbia's north country in the 1960s when the alleged sexual abuse was supposed to have taken place. The alleged victim decided to come forward when she was 31 years of age and accused this man of sexually abusing her when she was seven years old. At that time the offender was married to the victim's aunt.

His wife of the day said he could not have done the offence. He explained that at the time of the alleged assaults he was not yet home from his shifts at work. Yet this woman of today had a school friend of yesterday who testified that the assaults happened after school. As well, time had not been too kind to this victim. Apparently she had serious problems with drugs when the accusations were made.

There are serious questions rising from this case which have had lawyers and law professors very disturbed about the chain of events and the lack of accountability of the legal system. The result was my constituent was found guilty in 1989 and sentenced. He spent three years in jail. He told me he could have been paroled in six months if he had admitted his guilt to this offence. All along he has maintained his innocence. He was released from minimum security in April 1992. Did this man get a fair trial? Is he in fact a victim? There were some problems with a parole officer. There were problems with the offender's rights being dealt with according to the law. Was he a victim of the court system?

The man I met in my office was devastated by what had happened to him. In one thing he remained steadfast. Regardless of the day passes and the Christmas passes he could have received if, as he says, he had gone along with the system, he would not give in. He was innocent and he served his full sentence. Although he was a good prisoner and worked well in prison, he was not given any time off for good behaviour. He served his full sentence and all the time maintained his innocence.

With a case like that we have to stop, pause and think. Is it possible that there are errors that slip through the cracks? Is it possible that in fact this man is completely innocent and was a victim of the system?

I am perhaps overly concerned about the rights of the accused because it seems the legal system has many flaws and judges are not perfect. They are only human. Many of us wonder how a judge could accuse a three-year-old child of being sexually aggressive and be blamed for her own sexual abuse. What kind of a judge could decide that? It makes one wonder.

Lately a man who stabs his wife many times, resulting in her death, all this in front of her children, is not guilty because he was drunk. Alcoholism is an illness. It is not an excuse. What kind of judge would allow it to be used as a defence, then decide in favour of using the drunken plea as a defence and include that reasoning in sentencing?

When is everyone going to be held responsible for his or her actions? It seems so simple and yet we have such difficulty having everyone just being accountable for his or her own actions without excuses. The question to be asked here, in spite of the faults in our legal system, and maybe because of it, is this. Does this legislation strike the proper balance between these competing interests, the protection of the victim and the rights of the accused?

Under the terms of the bill, the accused will have to pass a two-stage process in order to obtain the production of personal records of the complainant or a witness in sexual offence cases. The accused will first have to satisfy the judge that the records will likely be relevant to an issue at trial or to the competence of a witness to testify. All parties have an opportunity to oppose the application by the accused. The judge holds the hearings in camera.

If the judge decides that the record in question may be relevant to the case, he or she orders the production of the records for review and subsequent decision on whether or not they may be used. Even if the judge rules in favour of the accused for some or all of the records, conditions may be attached. The records cannot be used in other proceedings.

Again, it is important to point out that not all complainants are true victims. We are all aware of instances where complaints have been frivolous or malicious. Some of us are also aware of accusations arising from a condition called false memory syndrome. I heard a Liberal member speaking on it this morning, bringing out some facts and actual figures on it. There are cases where parents in their later years are being subjected to accusations of sexual assault that allegedly occurred 30 or 40 years earlier, assaults that were not recalled until the victim was undergoing some form of therapy, in other words a helping process. There is also growing evidence that these vivid memories, repressed for 20, 30, 40 or more years, may be highly unreliable. Great care must be taken in accepting this type of evidence without solid corroboration.

There will be concern expressed about the kind of discretion that is placed in judges. It is noteworthy that the judge must provide reasons for orders made to produce records or refusals of such orders.

I would like to add here that the judge's reasons should be based on facts and not based on his or her opinion of what seems to be. I say this because again of personal experience. I have been a victim of the court system. In my case it was the civil court system, not the criminal system. Either way, we have many problems with the legal system, judges being not the least of them.

In our case we had sold a family home of many years in 1980 and bought a small business out of receivership. Originally we paid insurance of what was then perceived to be the business' value. As the business prospered we had to increase our premiums as the value of the business had increased. At this time we had the business appraised by an experienced hotelier and his appraisal agreed with the insurance company's appraisal. We sold our small business due to a family illness at a value which was less than the market value of the day.

The purchasers ran into trouble after a year and a half. The business was run down and they stopped making mortgage payments to us. They tried to sell it and even had a commercial appraisal of a value which was far in excess of what we sold it for. We went to court and obtained a judgment against them for the balance owing to us for our business.

The judge of the day dealt with the facts and protected our rights as one would expect. We received our judgment. To stop us from collecting on our judgment the purchasers charged us with misrepresenting the sale of our business. Of course the facts were there to prove otherwise but the couple was successful in stalling us for a couple of years from collecting on our judgment.

In the period of three years we went through three lawyers: one was disbarred, one was fired and the last we just ran out of money. So we represented ourselves in an eight day supreme court trial in British Columbia.

Three days before the trial, the claimant's lawyer offered us $50,000 and they would drop the charge if we would take the hotel back. However, the trial proceeded. This new judge did not like us lay people in his courtroom without a lawyer. This is not just fiction from my imagination. This is the result of having the judgment read to two retired judges and two senior lawyers in Vancouver who all gave us the same answer.

In fact, the judge would not let a lay person win against a senior lawyer. He decided we had sold the hotel for too much money even though all the evidence presented proved just the opposite. He said that we should have sold it for an amount much lower than the market value and he took $50,000 from us but ruled that we would keep our judgment.

The judge based his decision on his opinion and not on the facts, thereby making it impossible for us to win an appeal on his decision. It appears that a judge is god in his or her courtroom. That is a frightening experience to go through. He or she is unaccountable for his or her actions, therefore it is only through the reasons given in his or her judgment that we can appeal the case. If he had based his decision on his or her own opinion rather than the facts, there is no way to get a successful appeal. We had to live with the results.

We now have our property back. The other couple lost everything which is exactly what they deserved, but the public has had to pay the bill for an unnecessary court case that wasted years of the court's time and many tax dollars.

What kind of judge would violate our rights so badly? In the civil justice system, there are thousands of complaints a year against lawyers and judges registered with the Law Society in British Columbia. I am only familiar with the Law Society in British Columbia but I would imagine in every province in Canada there are thousands of cases against what has happened in the legal system to individuals.

Therefore, I repeat regarding Bill C-46, there will be concern expressed about the kind of discretion that has been placed with judges. It is worth mentioning that the judge must provide reasons for orders made to produce records or refusals of such orders. The reasons would have to be read into the record or given in writing.

Again, I ask that these reasons be based on facts produced. I ask the members sitting opposite to look very carefully at Bill C-46 to make sure that the judge has to give reasons based on facts and not on the judge's opinion.

The bill also allows for the right of appeal. That too is an opportunity that can be played with. It must be a proper right of appeal.

Generally this bill attempts to be a fair compromise between two very serious individual rights. Let us hope that this bill has the merit, that it treats victims fairly, that it may be a start on victims' rights that we can improve on until Reform's concerns are dealt with, until we have full legislation on victims' rights. Then victims can truly know that they matter, that they count, that when something terrible happens to their families, they too, not just the individual in the family but the person in the family who is affected by it, are victims. They too can be addressed.

Motion No. 267, my private member's motion which will have its last hour of debate tomorrow, deals also with this matter in a roundabout way. That is the fact that we have private member's bills presented to the House, agreed on by members of the House, pass second reading, go to committee and then the members of the committee vote them down, often without any reasons as in the case of my bill. No reasons are given in committee. There is no discussion in committee on the witnesses who appear before the committee and the bills are not being returned to the House.

It is very important that the House recognize the rights of the members who have been elected to push forward their constituents' wishes, that the bills that the House agrees on which should be presented to committee should also be returned from committee with reasons for judgment.

If the justice committee or whatever committee deals with the bill wants to vote it down, that is fine. The reasons for voting it down must be returned to the House. We must understand fully. We must have a complete circle of democracy.

I am also concerned about the fact that sexual abuse has happened in my riding as well as in many other ridings. In my instance, the girl was handicapped. She was in a wheelchair. She suffered from cerebral palsy and yet she had the courage to come forward. She had many people, myself included, to be beside her for the sentencing. She was a victim and the man she accused was found guilty. However, he is still in the country although he is not a Canadian. He has not yet been sent back to his country. We are following it through.

These are issues that all of us have to take very seriously. In Bill C-46, which I find to be working toward the betterment in both cases, I would still hope that the Liberals will look very seriously at amendments for it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I note with interest that the Reform Party on many occasions stands to ask when are we going to stand up for the rights of the victims or when are we going to put the rights of the victims ahead of the accused in every single case. I think those words were used today.

This is a good example of legislation that the government has brought forward to assist victims to go through the criminal process, to make sure that their lives are not subject to fishing expeditions. I am very curious to know why it is the Reform Party in this case, where we are doing something concrete for victims of crime, bends over backwards to say: "But we still need to make sure the accused has a right to full answer in defence". Why is there all this concern about the rights of the accused when we are dealing with sexual offences against women and children? Why the inconsistency?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his question.

First, what the member has said is not quite accurate. We are very concerned about victim's rights. We are very concerned with the Liberals following through on victim's rights.

I have honestly said in the House today that I recognize the fact that the government has put forward the bill with the purpose of helping. I hope that is what happens. However, I cannot let the question go by without pointing out to this member that the government had ample opportunity to remove section 745 from the Criminal Code.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Answer my question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

I am answering the member's question and I am sorry he was out when I answered it.

Clifford Olson has now been given permission to question the families of his victims. The government had ample opportuntiy to stop that. That is very poor. I do not know how the government can justify it. It had an opportunity. It even had one of its own members, whom it has now got rid of, came forward with a private member's bill which was buried in committee, just like mine. This member will know because this member was in that committee.

How can this member stand and ask such a question?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, earlier in the debate I raised the issue that Bill C-46 involves prohibitions on the opportunities of the accused to seek information that is relevant to his defence. It was elsewhere said that this was not really a prohibition, but it was a limitation that was being talked about in the bill and that the point I raised earlier was entirely a question of semantics.

I would like to draw the attention of the Speaker to some definitions in the Oxford Concise Dictionary. For "prohibition" we find in the dictionary the definition of "to prevent, make impossible". Then elsewhere in the dictionary under the word "limit" we find "a point or line, or level beyond which something does not and may not pass". Elsewhere under the definition of "restrict" or "restriction" we find the definition of "a limitation placed on action".

I would suggest the point that I made earlier is not a matter of mere semantics. It is at the very core of this debate. If we are talking about limitations on the rights of the accused to defend himself, to prove his innocence or to demonstrate his innocence, if we are talking about limitations or prohibitions, they are one and the same. We are limiting the right of the accused to defend himself and we run the risk of sending an innocent person to jail.

I believe that is something we should give the highest priority to prevent.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, unfortunately I was not listening when the member spoke earlier. I thought I made it clear in my speech that I was very concerned the accused receive a fair trial and have all the information they need at their disposal to get a fair hearing.

I spoke of the case of a man in my riding. I am positive in my experience with human nature and having spoken to him he was innocent. Yet he was charged, found guilty and spent three years in jail.

I agree with the member that exact wording is a very serious matter. I hope I have made a suitable comment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, in the opinion of the hon. member from the Reform Party is it coincidental that a bill like this one shows some recognition of victims rights? Is it coincidental that the bill is coming forward on the eve of an election?

Why in her opinion have the Liberals completely ignored victims rights for 3.5 half years? Why does it take an impending election for them to bring forward some politically expedient bills? Are they in fact taking advantage of victims for political reasons?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley for his question.

It would appear that this is the case. Unfortunately we have not seen any victims rights bill being addressed by the government over the last 3.5 years. Now an election is pending and suddenly we see Bill C-46. The government has ignored essential victims rights. I cannot stress how serious a violation the Clifford Olson case was.

We are heading to a general election. We know victims rights could have been dealt with beforehand. There have been serious cases in my time in Parliament when we have asked for assistance. Victims have rallied on the Hill asking for assistance.

It seems the Liberal government addresses the issue a bit but never enough. That is a major concern to me and I find it in every piece of legislation.

In viewing all the legislation that has come from the Minister of Justice I have found its purpose appears to be more litigation for lawyers. That can be found if we look carefully at every piece of legislation that has been passed since I came to the House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I am certainly pleased to address the bill before us.

As the Reform member for Mission-Coquitlam mentioned, it is interesting the issues of victims are becoming more prominent in the rhetoric of the Liberal Party. Bill C-46 has some benefit for victims, especially sexual assault victims.

Before I get into the specifics of the bill, a question was asked of the justice minister today dealing with victims. Of course the justice minister went on and on.

We on this side of the House and members of the public who were watching heard a somewhat revealing dissertation from the justice minister on how his party has supported victims over the 3.5 years it has been in Parliament. The justice minister related to several bills which were introduced allegedly dealing with support for victims of crime.

He mentioned Bill C-41 which deals with granting victims the right to make impact statements. That is a very key issue for victims. They must have their day in court. There is no question about it. However in our current system that is not happening.

The justice minister made the proclamation that the Liberals gave victims the right to introduce their victim impact statements in court. Almost in the same breath Bill C-45 was passed which took that right away. The court sits in the same position it did when this began. The victim no longer has the right and the discretion is granted to the judge. He decides whether or not the victim can introduce the statement.

I have listened to section 745 hearings concerning early release for those who have committed first degree murder. Victims have a real struggle trying to tell their story at those hearings. The judge can even edit the victims' statements.

The judge tells the victim what he or she can or cannot say. Yet the accused can get up on the stand and clearly state all his feelings and even reconstruct the events that put him in jail. That is what the jury hears. There is no real opportunity to cross-examine the accused because the trial has long passed and the witnesses are not there to support or deny the story.

The justice minister talked about Bill C-68 and what it has done for victims. What has it done for victims? The bill is quite intrusive into the lives of law-abiding citizens. It will create more victims as opposed to helping them. The bill is an intrusion into the lives of law-abiding gun owners, yet the justice minister claims that it will support victims. I would like to know how the gun control bill will limit the use of firearms in crime. I have not yet heard a plausible answer from that side of the House.

The justice minister talked about Bill C-55 which deals with the incarceration of dangerous and violent offenders. The fact is that violent offenders will still be released on parole. As has been already pointed out, they will be able to victimize the community again. The violent and the dangerous will still be released under Bill C-55, the bill that is supposed to get tough on crime.

I hesitate to speak on some of the other bills which allegedly support victims. With the five bills I have mentioned the chances of victimization occurring is greater now than it was before the Liberals formed the government.

Bill C-46 is intended to strengthen the protection of privacy and equality rights of complainants in prosecutions for a variety of sexual offences. There is no question there needs to be some

revision, but I caution members opposite including the justice minister that false accusations have been made by those claiming sexual abuse. Witnesses, even expert witnesses testifying in sexual abuse cases, have pointed the finger at the so-called accused when the expert witnesses have also been sexual abusers.

What have been the results? In those cases would an innocent person be tossed into jail upon the expert testimony of a witness? I do not think the justice minister or the entourage of lawyers under his purview have really thought about some of those situations. False accusations have been made time and time and time again.

One must admit that when it comes to some of the sexual abuse charges which have been laid not all complainants are true victims. I have had privy in some of my investigations as a police officer to realize that. Whether they be children, male or female, some people have come forward with false accusations of sexual abuse. Those are difficult investigations to involve oneself in. It is difficult to lay out all the information. On the other hand I have seen very legitimate complaints laid and unfortunately no conviction in court.

As a precautionary measure it is always good to have corroborative evidence when it comes to sexual abuse accusations. I remember one investigation that involved children and a high ranking member of the community, a high profile person. The accusation was made by a young lady some 10 years after the offence. It is not that she had forgotten about the incident. It had happened and had a psychological effect on her. Obviously it had been pushed to the back of her memory. Through counselling it actually came forward and the accusation was reported to the police department.

A decision has to be made on the part of an investigator to release the name of any high profile person because the impact on the individual's life could be very substantial. It could be devastating. It could lay his whole life to ruins. I have seen that happen too.

The accusation was made. The investigator made the decision to release the name of the abuser, the high profile person who had committed the act. The outcry from some in the community was substantial: "How dare you do this on the statement of one person?"

Investigators are trained. There are some good ones. Some may not be as experienced but there are some good investigators in criminal abuse or sexual assault cases. There were some very important consistencies in the woman's statement that caused the investigator to release the name of the accused. With that came dozens and dozens and dozens more. There were young victims and some older victims who had been abused by the individual over the years.

The end of this story clearly indicates the need to have a good investigation and qualified investigators. All the information that can be made available should be made available to the courts. It should all be laid out on the table for cross-examination. It could include some of the past of those who are making the complaint. It should not be shut out completely.

This particular incident resulted in the conviction of the accused person. There was a group of individuals who refused to accept the fact that he was guilty of such an offence, and they still believe that to this day.

The accused ended up pleading guilty to a number of charges and he did his time. Justice, I might point out, was nearly served had it not been for the fact that they released him early. An abuser is an abuser and I believe that information should come forward in its finest form.

Let us go to the fact that there could be a false statement made. Some have made accusations against teachers, pastors and others holding high profile positions in society some years after the alleged incidents have taken place. Some of the accusers have had questionable backgrounds. Some had fantasies they have expressed to others that I think would definitely be relevant to the case at hand. I think this is the cautionary side in restricting some of this information because it could mean the difference between guilty or not guilty.

This legislation as it is struck has two built in safeguards in examining the past record of a subject that some may feel is relevant. If the first goes to the judge, is he or she the one who should have the final say in deciding whether this information goes any further? Given some of the comments from the member for Mission-Coquitlam about the decisions and the viewpoints of some judges, I have a major question about that because he would be the one deciding whether the background of a particular witness is suitable to enter as evidence into court.

This individual judge, as mentioned by the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam, certainly has given rise to another concern. Is each judge in himself or herself suitable in making that decision of what is relevant and what is not? There is a standard drawn up by the prosecution that testified before the committee. It is called the likely relevance standard. There is a requirement here of whether it is sufficient. The concern expressed by the prosecution was that there is not enough definition in this whole area of relevancy when it comes to the background or the records relating to some of the witnesses. Her statement in the end was that for the courts the decision is going to be business as usual.

In other words, because it is not defined as it should be, the lower courts will go on as if nothing has changed with the odd exception that there is going to be an objection somewhere along the way maybe by the crown or the defence over one of the decisions that is

being made and it will be appealed through the appellate court and up to the supreme court.

Here is a qualified prosecutor who has been in the business of producing the arguments necessary to defend or to protect the innocent. This also recognizes that there is a protection and a duty of care required on the part of the accused because ultimately it is the prosecution and the defence who really have the same goals, at least in an ideal sense, that is what our courts should represent. They should have the same goals, to find the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Here is the prosecutor very concerned with the definition of likely relevance when it comes to the decision made on the part of witnesses and their backgrounds being tossed into the lap of one individual, the judge who will evaluate it. She has concerns that it is not really going to do the job.

I listened to a number of those witnesses and I have to say that I believe her statements in testimony were the most relevant to the case. They were the most significant when it comes to the shortfall of Bill C-46.

On that point I can say that Reform has certainly analysed the bill. We have some concerns and reservations about the bill, especially in relation to the records of those people who will testify. With some reservations, at this point we are going to support this legislation. However, as a cautionary note I think this whole area of witnesses or accused testifying in court and making accusations against individuals has not been fully addressed by Bill C-46.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by telling you what the Reform Party stands for in case members opposite do not understand.

The Reform Party supports a judicial system which places the punishment of crime and the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property ahead of all other objectives. Reform also promotes greater emphasis on assisting victims of crime.

When we look at this bill we find it is much like many that we see in this House. It has a good concept and a number of very good points which we could support very easily. However, then there is a whole bunch of mush and that mush is what the problem is, particularly when we are talking about our judicial system. There are so many things left out and so many fudge words that are left to the interpretation of the bureaucracy and the courts. That is what the problem is and what the people on the street are saying about the justice system.

When we look at this we find that same sort of problem. We want to ensure that we do not create new victims. We want to be sure there is protection for the victims and that we uphold the rights of the accused. Obviously that is what a justice system is supposed to do.

However, the confidence in the justice system is just not there. I really want to point this out as much as anything. As members know, I am not the justice critic and am not involved in the justice committee, but in my riding over this past couple of weeks I had an example which I think brings closer to home than anything else what people are saying about the justice system and their total frustration with it.

To do this I want to set the stage so that members will understand what I and the people of my community went through and the frustration they have in the justice system. This could happen in anybody's constituency in any part of Canada, but this is a factual example of what happened to me.

A pedophile was to be released into our community. Initially we were not to know who it was, where he was going to be staying, what part of the community he would be in. However, because of some circumstances that I will explain, the decision was made that his picture would be released and his name would be given.

This individual had offended nine times previously. This individual was a pedophile, as I mentioned, and had served his full time on his ninth conviction. He had entered a rehabilitation program but was removed from that rehabilitation program because he was considered by the other participants and by the instructors to be too violent to stay in that program.

He had served his time and now the ruling of a number of people was there for all to see. The prison officials said that he would likely reoffend. The psychiatrist who examined him said that he will reoffend, that there will be a tenth victim. The parole board said he would reoffend. His ex-wife said he would reoffend.

The RCMP stood in front of a packed gymnasium of parents and said that this man will reoffend, that each time his offences get more violent, that young parents out there, the two or three hundred of them, we will see a tenth victim.

I have never been so proud of a group of people in my life, thinking of the emotion they were going through. Their children were potentially the next victims.

They showed compassion for this individual. They did not talk about vigilante tactics. They did not talk about running him out of town. They said what is society, what is government doing for people like this?

The answer of course was he has served his time. Yes, we know he will reoffend and yes, we had to release him. I do not know that I could have been as calm and reasoning as the parents in that hall that afternoon at five o'clock. A lot of them came right from work to this school gymnasium, some of them with their little kids and

said "what can we do?" The RCMP said this person will reoffend and that they must streetproof their children.

A lot of us in this place have children. This person attacks three to six-year-olds. He likes three to six-year old female children. They say that they will streetproof a three-year old.

This child's whole future is in front of them. If they tell this young child the truth and tell them never to talk to strangers, emphasizing the danger, they could affect this young child's personality for the rest of their life.

Young children three years old do not remember everything they are told by their parents. What is the answer? Many people stood up and asked the RCMP whether they could do something? The answer was no, they were there to carry out the law.

Can Mr. Politician do something? He makes the laws. Can he protect our children from a nine time offender being released into our community? Can he talk to the justice minister?

By the end of today I expect about 175 letters written by parents in the community of Oriole Park in the city of Red Deer, just one little place. Those 175 parents are sending a message. They want something to happen. They cannot accept that we cannot do anything. They will not accept that from us any longer.

We finally had his picture circulated. That is not done very often but it was done. The police have offered to train parents in child proofing and go to all of the schools. However, I do not think I will ever forget the genuine fear in those parents' eyes. I trust that the justice minister and the justice committee will think about that fear. The victims are not necessarily just the person who has been attacked. I consider that the people of the community are now victims of our justice system.

The justice system needs to be reformed. It needs to be changed. It needs to be representative of what people want.

I have a letter which probably sums up almost everything that we are talking talk about today. The letter is written by a young teenager who lives in the community. The only thing I have changed in this letter is the exact address and so on because I believe I should protect her exact name and address. However, she has given me permission to use it because it tells us exactly what people think of the justice system and these sexual predators.

It states: "It is 5.30 in the morning. I haven't had much sleep. How about you? How do you expect me to sleep at night when a potentially dangerous creep lives in our area? That is right, Kevin Valley lives in our area.

"The creepiest part is he got out of jail two days earlier than he was supposed to. Where is he now? Nobody knows for sure except for him and his mother.

"What really blows my mind is the police and his therapist know he is a very dangerous man. He is an unstable man. They know he will reoffend and they say he will probably kill somebody. If he is that dangerous, why is he being let back into the community, especially into the neighbourhood where he lives, three blocks away from an elementary school?

"There are more children in this neighbourhood now than there were three or four years ago. This man needs to be institutionalized, not put back into the community in which I live.

"Twelve years ago when my parents bought our house who knew the neighbourhood would be one so dangerous? We can't go into our back yard for fear of a mean German Shepherd whom the owners are afraid might jump the fence. Now we've got a child molesting potential killer and all round creep living in our area.

"You have no idea how scary this is".

Remember this is a teenage girl writing this letter. "I no longer feel safe stepping outside of my home. The whole neighbourhood had to change our way of living Friday when we heard that Valley had been released from the Bowden penitentiary. We have to keep the doors locked, especially if we are home alone, keep the blinds closed at night and we can't answer the door at night if we are home alone, unless we are expecting someone.

"Even when we have to be careful, these are just some of the new house rules that have been put into effect. Others include not walking down the back alley, making sure we come home with friends if it is after dark. If we are driving home we make sure the person driving us home waits until we are safely inside.

"Does that sound like a fun way to live? Let me tell you, it is not. One man gets a second chance"-actually it is his ninth chance-"but everyone around him loses their freedom. A good deal for Valley but not such a good deal for the rest of the neighbourhood.

"Something else that is scary is being home at night by yourself. Every sound makes you that much more scared, especially if those sounds are coming from outside. The house never sounded or felt so strange as it did last night when I was home alone.

"At night when the doorbell rings, I jump. This is totally ridiculous. Boy, am I so glad Oriole Park is such a safe community to live in and to let children play knowing that there is a potentially dangerous threat lurking somewhere close by. Gee, that sure makes me feel better.

"How can our judicial system not carry this thing any further? Why do they have to wait until he reoffends or until he kills

somebody, at which time it will be too late because somebody's life may be taken to keep him locked up? This creep who could not be rehabilitated and who served his jail term is released back into the community because he paid his debt to the community.

"Well, try telling that to the parents and/or loved ones of the person who is either killed or molested by this person some time in the near future. All that because the law says he served his time and they cannot keep him locked up any longer.

"It is really soothing to the soul knowing that Valley will probably kill somebody. And we are supposed to be able to sleep at night? I do not think so. The law was thinking of only one man when they let that creep out of jail, not the population of Red Deer, especially not the people residing in Oriole Park. Maybe our well-being does not mean much to them. But why wait until he kills?

"My parents were always telling us kids-I have an older brother and a younger sister who grew up in this neighbourhood-to say no to drugs. Drugs were always the big thing in school. Now we have to worry about the creep in our area. I would much rather have someone walk up to me and offer me drugs than to see that person's face in our area.

"Hey, if this guy is potentially dangerous, does that mean he is packing a gun, or maybe a knife, maybe both? That is something to think about now, isn't it?

"This creep does not deserve to be back in our community. He does not deserve to be let back into any community. He needs to be institutionalized. Put him somewhere, lock him up and throw away the key".

I read that entire letter because I have talked to this person. As I have said, she is a young teenage girl. That letter represents a lot of what I heard. I talked to parents and they are asking: "Why is the criminal justice system not working?" Obviously it is happening in a lot of places. There are a lot of reasons why we do not trust the criminal justice system. I have just mentioned a few of them, but we could go on and on about this but I know I cannot do that.

If I had to list some things, Bill C-68 would be one. There are many people who are in favour of gun control. But the way the bill was designed, the search and seizure aspect, the orders in council, the lack of anybody saying it is going to stop crime, created a serious question about the judgment of the justice system and the minister.

I have been involved with and followed the Somalia inquiry. A judge said: "Yes, you have the right to examine all of the areas. Get this thing cleared up once and for all so that we can go on". Then we have the defence minister saying: "No. We will change the mandate. We will not get to the bottom of this torture, murder and possible cover-up. We will not do any of that. We will just change the mandate". Therefore, the government changed the law so that the inquiry does not go to its natural conclusion. The historical danger of that sort of thing happening, where governments disrespect the legal system to the point where they will actually change it when there is a ruling they do not like, is a pretty scary scenario.

The Olson and Bernardo situation, the section 745 situation, has touched people as well. Why did this legislation not get changed three years ago so that people like Olson would not have the opportunity to go before a judge?

The parole board patronage appointments that have gone on for years have brought about questions with respect to the judicial system, as well as the refusal to change in any substantial way the Young Offenders Act.

The point that I am making is that people have lost confidence in the system, and not just in the judicial system. I was at the Pearson building today and saw a report which indicated what Canadians think about Canada and what foreigners think about Canada. Of course we all know what we think about Canada. It is the greatest country in the world. We want to save it, although it needs a lot of fixing. Only 51 per cent said they were happy with government. This was a government survey. Forty-nine per cent of Canadians are not happy with government.

We have a problem which ultimately will lead to apathy. Ultimately people will give up on the system. When that happens democracy is in real trouble.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's comments. The one thing which stood out was his taking the time to read the letter. The reason I draw the attention of the House to the reading of the letter is because all Reform Party members believe there is more common sense in the average coffee shop than there will ever be in the House of Commons.

The letter poses some very interesting challenges. This kind of letter would never be read by the Liberals in the House. The letter represents a legitimate point of view from a young person in my colleague's constituency. If that constituency was represented by a Liberal-and there is a hot place that might get awfully cold before that would ever happen-we could count on the fact that the letter and the expressions of the people in that constituency would never be heard in this Chamber.

Why is it, when it comes to a criminal justice issue like this, that we do not get a balanced point of view? Why is it that we always get the totally homogenized version of the justice department that ends up rendering toothless the things that are required in order for us to bring back a proper balance to society?

The writer of the letter has posed a very serious concern which is reflected in every constituency, whether the Liberals want to admit it or not.

I would ask my colleague if he could give us some thoughts on what are some of the very practical, down to earth ways in which we could start to address this problem, not as a position of our party, but thoughts that are simply common sense by which we could enter into a dialogue with Canadians. That is what the Reform Party wants to do. It wants to include Canadians' thoughts in the process so that the Chamber for once will become meaningful.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, the point is very clear. This is not a political item. This is an item of concern to all Canadians. I used an example from my constituency but it could be from any of the 301 constituencies.

We need to find an answer. The long term picture is to look at what has happened to society to create people like the person I am talking about. We have to go right back to birth and all the things that can happen. Instruction on parenting would help not to create victims and criminals. The big picture is one of long term planning and getting back to what went wrong to create such people.

There must be an immediate answer for an individual who has committed nine offences and who everyone says will reoffend. I am sure he does not like the fact that everybody is talking about him and saying that he will reoffend. The pressure put on the individual not to reoffend is phenomenal. We could let it be quiet and not tell anyone, but that is not the answer because nine other times he has reoffended. We must be protected from the individual. For his own protection he cannot be put into the general population.

I do not mean we should build jails or throw away the keys. I mean we should look at it with some compassion. We must find an answer. We cannot let the things that have gone on continue to go on. People are saying we are not doing our job. They mean all of us. They mean that 295 of us are not doing our job when this sort of thing happens.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Red Deer for his comments today.

He referred to the fact that we have to deal with certain things right now and that we should look at what in a person's background makes the person a criminal; in other words what is the cause of crime. We have heard this so often from Liberals and Conservatives over the years that I get sick just hearing about the cause of crime and looking at the cause of crime. However I think we should.

In our campaign material we deal with the whole issue of the cause of crime. We recognize that families should be considered a top priority. We say that parenting has real value and should be recognized in legislation. We say there should be zero tolerance of family violence. We say that child pornography and child prostitution should be dealt with in a very firm way. Other proposals have been put forth.

Could the hon. member comment on how we can deal with the cause of crime?