Madam Speaker, I began my presentation yesterday and was interrupted, so I am happy to resume my remarks with respect to the position taken by the NDP caucus on Bill C-40, the changes to the Extradition Act.
As I pointed out yesterday, the NDP caucus has some reservations and concerns about Bill C-40, but in general we support the substance of it. Today I would like to recap some of the concerns and reservations that the NDP has about the bill.
First, we are not fully comfortable that the changes to the rules of evidence will be thorough enough to satisfy our justice critic. Changes as to who may or may not be excluded from testifying is also of some concern. We are concerned, as well, about the lack of clarity with respect to extradition to countries where the death penalty still exists.
This is the primary reservation the NDP caucus has about Bill C-40. We wish the language was much more clear and thorough in dealing with this controversial subject. The Canadian people have stated time and again that they do not believe in the death penalty. They think it is barbaric. They would like to believe that we are farther out of the trees than that. It should be made very, very clear that in the case of extraditing criminals to a country where the death penalty exists, we do not want to be a party to that. The NDP caucus is not entirely comfortable with that wording.
I do not think we even need to review all of the current examples of people who were convicted of serious crimes and who were later found to be innocent. If we lived in a country which had the death penalty, it could be that certain people would have been executed when, given the fullness of time, they would have been found to have been innocent.
We are also very critical of places where this has happened. In the United States a fairly recent example was a man by the name of Caryl Chessman. He was executed in New York state. Later he was found to be fully innocent. He went to the electric chair and he had done absolutely nothing wrong.
Even further along these lines is the fact that duality must be demonstrated. That is, the crime for which we are extraditing a person to another country must also be considered a crime here. That is pretty plain and simple. The crime has to be considered with the same severity in this country as it is in the country we are extraditing someone to.
Should not the same apply to forms of punishment? It is not just the death penalty we are critical of, we are also very critical of countries that use cruel and inhumane punishment as part of their sentencing, whether it is torture, mutilation or anything else.
We do not think that Bill C-40 fully deals with the issue of extraditing someone to a country that deals with theft by cutting people's hands off. We would like that to be a lot more firmly stated.
If the rule is hard and fast about extradition to countries where the death penalty does exist, we are wondering about flexibility. If we have a written agreement with the country with whom we have an extradition treaty that they will not execute the prisoner, would we then feel comfortable in extraditing the prisoner to that country?
I have a specific example along those lines in my own riding where a Canadian citizen has been charged with murder in the United States. The grand jury in the United States took only eight minutes to indict this person, the evidence being so overwhelming that the person was involved.
The argument is that this person should not go to the United States to stand trial because the state of Florida, where this incident took place, has the death penalty.
We now have the opportunity with Bill C-40 to look into these issues so that we will be able to deal with these eventualities as they come up. I will talk more about that case later if time permits.
We know that the existing system is flawed. It is cumbersome. It is time consuming. It is antiquated. It is actually based on two pieces of legislation from the 1800s: the Fugitive Offenders Act of 1882 and the Extradition Act of 1877. It is very obvious that we needed to review how we deal with this kind of thing.
I have a recent letter from the Minister of Justice about the case I was speaking of. Even the Minister of Justice is clear, given the tone and content of this letter, that she believes the process of extradition is slow, tedious and cumbersome. She points out the two stages of extradition in the current system. She says that extradition from Canada involves two phases and this is one of the reasons it gets to be very cumbersome.
In the first phase, which is often referred to as the judicial phase, an extradition judge must determine on the basis of affidavit evidence submitted by the requesting state whether the conduct in the foreign state would constitute an offence in Canada. There is the duality I was talking about earlier.
We first must satisfy ourselves that the conduct this person exhibited in the applicant state would be considered a crime of equal magnitude in this state.
At the judicial phase that has to be satisfied. As well, at that stage the applicant state has to demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence. In the case that I was talking about, if the federal grand jury in the United States indicts, clearly there is ample evidence at least that the person should come to justice and stand trial.
The second phase, and this can even be a more lengthy phase of the extradition process, is the executive phase. That is where the Minister of Justice gets involved. The Minister of Justice must decide whether the fugitive should be surrendered to the requesting state in accordance with the relevant extradition treaty. This is where it can really bog down and take many years.
In the closing paragraph of her letter to me the Minister of Justice tried to give some solace or comfort. She pointed out that the process has in fact speeded up dramatically due to changes in 1992 when amendments were made to the extradition legislation. She claimed that this has shortened the extradition appeal process.
The changes that went through in 1992 obviously did not do the job. Six years have gone by since 1992 and the same cases are in fact being drawn out. It is the “justice delayed is justice denied” point of view.
I am the first one to admit that extradition law is a very complex body of law. It involves many players. We are dealing with international politics, we are dealing with criminal law, we are dealing with international law, we are dealing with conflicting laws, the courts, the federal minister of justice and the governor general. It is a soup of interests that are in competition with each other. Frankly, it is a field day for the lawyers who would seek to delay and would use a delay to their benefit.
The existing extradition laws have been exploited by certain individuals. We should never condone or put in place any kind of system where five and seven and even twelve years sometimes is the norm for bringing a criminal to justice, especially if there is evidence to indicate that at the very least the person should stand trial.
Another thing we have to remember, which makes it even more complex, is that the Immigration Act comes into it and often people get the two blurred: deportation and extradition. This again is a further complication at the early end of an application for extradition. Often it is possible for deportation to take place if a foreign person within our borders has done something against our Criminal Code. Obviously that is a matter where the immigration department deports and we do not have to extradite.
I will refer to the case that I was talking about earlier. I have a special interest in extradition which should be of great concern to all here. This is the case of a major in the Canadian air force who was posted to Florida. He was murdered. His name was Major David Threinen and he lived in my riding. David Threinen's mother was in my office recently asking if there was something we could do to get involved, which led me to write to the Minister of Justice.
The fact is that David Threinen's wife, Monique Threinen, and her boyfriend at the time are the people who it is felt murdered David Threinen. The boyfriend has now been convicted of first degree murder and is sitting in a Florida jail. From the very first moment he has said “It wasn't me who struck the final blows, it was Monique Threinen”.
The Canadian government intervened on behalf of Monique Threinen in the state of Florida. A very short time after the death of her husband the Canadian government, the air force, swept her out of the country and returned her to Canada with her two children. They paid her the death benefit, which was something like $100,000, two years' pay. They began immediately paying her the widow's pension. She fled the country and the justice system to hide out in Canada with this windfall of money that the Canadian government paid her and with the $2,000 or $3,000 a month that the government is still paying her. All those involved and all those close to her from her former husband's mother, her former husband's family, to the father of her first child from a different marriage have come forward with statements to the effect that they want Monique Threinen to go back to the United States to stand trial for this murder. No one is trying to prejudge the case. They only want the judicial process to be allowed to follow through its course and for her to go to court and prove her innocence or guilt.
With the windfall of money she received from the Canadian government she hired some of the best lawyers in the province of Manitoba. They are fighting this tooth and nail. They are fighting it with the comfort and confidence that if they use all the tricks at their disposal they can drag this out for three, five or seven years. In the meantime this woman who may be guilty of murder has the advantage of living in relative comfort in Winnipeg, raising her children without allowing her other family members to see them. The grandparents are horrified by this.
This is a clear example why Bill C-40 is attractive to us. Even if we do not think it is perfect, even if we think it is a little flawed, we are eager to see the process speeded up and simplified to where in a dramatic case like this one no one can hide behind the complicated and ponderous steps that must be taken in the current situation of extradition.
We have other examples where it has gone on far too long. I can point out an extradition hearing where the headline was “Activists are hot at Allan Rock over murder extradition”. When that member was the minister of justice an organization was very upset about the case of another person wanted in the State of Florida in a drug dealing murder, Edgar Garcia.
He spent five years in the Don Jail as a guest of the crown fighting his extradition even though there was ample evidence that he should have gone to stand trial in the other country. The real obstacle was that Florida had the death penalty. I am the first one to argue we do not want to send anyone to a country where he or she might wind up convicted guilty and executed, because as a Canadian people we have decided over and over again that is fundamentally wrong.
In this case the State of Florida was willing to say that if that person came back and stood trial it would not go for the death penalty. The state prosecutor in the State of Florida agreed that they would not go after the death penalty. I believe the minister was comforted by that to the point where they co-operated and eventually sent Mr. Garcia to Florida where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
In summary, I am glad to say that the NDP caucus can and will support Bill C-40 with the reservations I outlined earlier. The most glaring concern or reservation is the lack of clarity involved in the extradition of criminals to countries where the death penalty exists or where other types of cruel and inhuman punishment exists.