House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

I could get Mr. Young. Maybe he could come and give us a hand.

Talk about highway robbery. This has been going on for years. What is the government's response? “Oh but we give infrastructure grants”. Infrastructure grants come from other sources of taxation and the ministers have to admit that.

The straight 10 cents a litre the government takes out of the pockets of the people from Saskatchewan in a country that has to move grain 100 miles to get to a terminal, and this government returns 21 cents on $5 taken. And the Liberals brag about the fact that they do not have a deficit. They are taking it out of the industries all over Canada.

I would like to inform the members of the NDP caucus down there about this. Do they know what the provincial Liberals are doing in Saskatchewan? They are going around Saskatchewan with a petition to get the provincial government to spend more money on highways. Maybe that is a good petition. The provincial government in Saskatchewan has not been too kind but at least it has spent 40% of what it has taken in. This government is spending less than 4% at times. I hope the federal Liberals will welcome the provincial Liberals from Saskatchewan so they can get some help for Saskatchewan roads. I am sure nobody on this side of the House would kick if the Liberals raised it to 20%.

For five years the Canadian Automobile Association and the truck drivers association have pleaded with this government to give 20% of the money it takes, just 20%. But no, we are getting something like 4%. This government is riding on the shirttails of people who have to make a living in the transportation industry.

The railway located in my town is slated for closure. There are people south of where I live whom I know extremely well. In two years they will have to haul their grain 160 kilometres just to get it to a terminal. And those people over there are wringing their hands with delight because they will be able to tax that industry even more and put farmers completely out of business.

This is the one tax that affects all of Canada and this government steals every time we put the nozzle in the tank to fill it with gas. It is a terrible terrible shame. It is a disgrace. We are the only country of our size that does not have a national highway policy, the only country in the world. And they sit and say “Look what we are doing”. We know what they are doing.

I want to refer to just one other thing. In Saskatchewan we have rural governments. Rural governments are called rural municipalities. These rural municipalities were created at the time Saskatchewan became a province. We have a large number of Indian bands in Saskatchewan. When the previous Conservative government in settling treaties, which took a 10 square section out of a rural municipality, promised and acted that it would give that rural government 25.5 times the assessment in compensation for the tax base that was lost.

But at the same time that government promised that for any land that was purchased by the natives, they would also get the same amount. Now this rural government has gone to court with this government opposite because all it wants to pay for the amount of land purchased is a measly 5.5%.

Some of our rural governments in Saskatchewan have no tax base left and they are holding this up in the court and watching them completely disappear. I visited two RMs during the Christmas break and they are just about finished because they have no money left to provide the services because this government has held it up.

When I said I was happy to talk about this, I really am because I come from a province that is just teetering now in many areas because of the taxation of this government. Heaven forbid, the next tax it will raise will be a carbon tax on more fuel and take great glory in spending 21 cents back to the highways for every 5 dollar it takes. Then it can fire Doug Young at the same time.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, when I hear some of the members of the Reform caucus describe Canada and the mess we are in, they never really seem to acknowledge the achievements we have made in this great country of ours. I think it is very important not to simply be sensationalist opposition members. I think sometimes we have to take time to speak positively about our country. If the hon. members want to always be the nattering nabobs of negativism, that is their own choice, but I think that will forever relegate them to being the armchair quarterbacks for Canadian politics. That is indeed unfortunate because among them there really is some talent.

Periodically I hear some. The member for Peace River had some good comments that I appreciated, especially relative to trade policy and the types of activist interventionist government policy that are doing more to hurt Canadian trade and exports—

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must interrupt the member. I have just been advised that the member has already spoken on this subject. Resuming debate, the hon. member for West Kootenay—Okanagan.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, I have heard this bill referred to as a number of housekeeping items. Before I became a member of Parliament for quite some time I had a construction company. Most of my construction was new housing, rather than existing, fixing up, remodelling or, if you would, housekeeping.

But occasionally, either as a filler or as a favour to a friend, we would do a bit of remodelling. But you do not go into a house and redo the drywall in that house if the roof is leaking. You do not do an expensive renovation inside if the foundation is rotten and the house is going to fall down some time after you have completed it.

The government is tinkering with the Income Tax Act which is so rife with problems throughout. It seems absolutely foolish to be putting in a bill the size of a mid size town's telephone book to tinker with a problem that needs major reform.

In West Kootenay—Okanagan I hold town hall meetings throughout the riding. This year I will be holding 15. Five I held in January before we came back to Parliament. I do not know what kind of statistics the Liberals claim they are getting, but in my riding and in the ridings of a lot of my colleagues I have talked to, the priorities for those people are tax reduction and debt reduction.

The government says it is going to put a little money into that but a its priority is new spending. Right now it is patting itself on the back rather vigorously for saying that it is getting close at least to balancing the books, getting rid of the deficit. When the government came in our interest rate was a lot higher than it is right now. Under the previous Liberal government in the early 1980s it hit the 20% mark. A one per cent increase in interest rates would cost, based on our $600 billion worth of debt, $6 billion a year in extra interest payments.

They like to make magic with figures on the other side but that is a pretty simple figure. If you have $600 billion worth of debt and you have to pay 1% a year more on that, that is $6 billion.

At one time our interest was 12% to 14% higher than it is right now. In our economy right now we see incredible pressure to increase the interest rates to look after our falling dollar. Some people wonder why the Bank of Canada is holding back so much instead of putting the interest rate up. There is part of the reason. If the interest rate goes up, there goes the government's deficit balancing plan.

Even if the government manages to hold it down there, it most assuredly needs to start bringing that debt down. Sooner or later in the evolution of things we are likely to see, at least in the short term, an interest increase and that is going to knock the government's deficit plan right off the tracks.

There should be new spending but this has to be in very targeted areas. Those areas are health care, education and technology. Even there any increase in spending must be smarter spending than what we are doing right now.

At one time Canada considered itself central Canada, the area of primarily Ontario and Quebec. They were in the areas where development was taking place and we in the west were considered the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. That is what the west originally was and we accepted that. Now we are starting to come into our own. The west is the new development. It is the new frontier in terms of technology, in terms of the economy of this country.

Yet right at the time that we are starting to come into our own, we are seeing the entire nation go into decline. Things like capital gains taxes are high in this country. Yet the government has even taken away many of the exemptions for capital gains that existed, while in the United States the capital gains taxes are much lower and they are dropping. While they are investing in vehicles to improve their economy, we are returning to being the hewers of wood and the drawers of water on a national scale.

If the government has to roll back something, it should not be the advancements in our economy that we have made in the last hundred plus years. If it is going to roll something back, it should be the taxes and it should be the debt.

This country needs tax reform. The government knows that. Just like the skits on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and the Royal Canadian Air Farce where they keep lampooning the leader of the Reform Party saying “I just love the word reform”, maybe that is what stops the Liberals because they know reform is needed. It just galls them to think that they have to use that word. We do need reform and we need genuine reform, not just tinkering which is what this piece of legislation does.

We need to do things like end the discrimination between working and non-working spouses which basically forces people out of the house into a job in order to get a balanced income tax. Someone making $60,000 a year where their spouse chooses to stay home and raise the family pays a lot more income tax than two family members making $30,000 each. The basic exemption needs to be balanced and need to be increased so that we get rid of this bracket creep.

The Minister of Finance keeps rising and saying no new taxes. The reality is in the last term of the Liberals there were 37 tax increases and the government still pats itself on the back.

We have this incredible system of tax in, tax out, the goods and services tax. Aside from the fact that it is the most hated and aside from the fact that the Liberals promised they were going to get rid of it, if we have to have it, it should be done in a lot more efficient manner. Right now the government taxes people making $8,000 or $9,000 a year. Those people cannot afford taxes and yet they get taxed in any event.

The government says it knows they cannot afford it. That is why it has programs to supplement their income. With the bit of money they have left, they are charged GST on everything they purchase. The government says it knows they cannot afford GST, therefore it has a GST rebate program.

There is something inherently wrong with a system that taxes away someone's money with one bureaucracy and creates another bureaucracy to give some of it back, using up most of it in the process.

We have payroll taxes. CPP is going up 73%; a 73% increase in a pension plan that if they pay in for a generation it will give them less than $9,000 a year back. In the meantime, the MPs opposite gave themselves a 18% reduction in their pension plan which will see them getting a much more generous pension.

The Liberals are going to take away the seniors tax exemption and give them the seniors benefit, the old age pension and guaranteed income supplement tax free.

Heaven help those people who are collecting that if they see fit to go out and look after themselves by raising so much as an extra dollar because the government is going to take 50 cents of it away. It will take away the non-taxable part. They will have to pay tax on the part that is left.

In terms of spending, we do need to spend money on health care. When health care was first introduced, there was a 50:50 partnership. By 1993 in British Columbia it was down to a 28% federal share. Since that time on the national level, the Liberal government has taken another $7 billion away and at the same time it ties the hands of the province in how to deal with this.

We talk about health care. We do not have health care. We have sickness care. When I said we have to start spending our money more wisely, we have to start addressing keeping people healthy instead of paying their bills after they get sick.

Likewise with education, if we are going to stick the next generation with increased CPP, with ever escalating taxes and with a $600 billion debt, we better make sure we provide it some way to equip itself for dealing with the mess we have left.

There are a few good measures in this bill but basically it is like getting a pat on the back while at the same time getting a kick in the butt. If the Liberals want to do something, either start doing some serious fixing of this tax act or else stop kicking Canadians in the butt.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

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

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The recorded division on the motion is deferred until Wednesday, February 4, 1998, at the beginning of Government Orders.

The House resumed from November 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-211, an act to amend the Criminal Code (arrest of those in breach of condition of parole or statutory or temporary release), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 3rd, 1998 / 5:30 p.m.


Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-211, the private member's bill presented by my hon. colleague from Langley—Abbotsford. His amendment to the Criminal Code would permit peace officers to arrest parolees who are found to be in breach of their conditions of release.

One of the primary responsibilities of parliamentarians is to enact laws to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. For too long there has been a technicality or in essence a gaping hole in our laws which the legislation attempts to address. It is most distressful to be in this place and learn that it takes years to solve a simple problem.

As we all know, Canada is a large and diverse country. We have many large urban centres and we have many isolated communities. In most cases criminal offenders are able to move with relative freedom within the country once they have served their time and are released from prison.

Throughout the country one of the primary means of security and safety of our citizens comes with the presence and the skill of our valued police officers. They are the individuals who protect us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all parts of the land.

Because of concerns over public safety and because criminals are known to often reoffend, our laws permit a series of steps toward full freedom. Most offenders are released through a process of escorted temporary absences, unescorted temporary absences and/or statutory release.

These steps normally involve the offender being required to abide by a number of specific conditions. Some must refrain from attending alcoholic establishments because their past criminality was often influenced by their inability to consume alcohol in a responsible manner. Others must refrain from associating with specified criminal elements or specified individuals, usually because those elements or individuals are rationally seen to be a bad influence on the offender. In other cases those individuals may require the security of being isolated from the offender.

To the public at large it seems ridiculous that our police cannot independently arrest, remove and detain persons found to be in breach of release conditions. Supposedly the release conditions have been rationally and extensively considered. Supposedly the release conditions have been imposed to protect law-abiding citizens. It makes no sense for us to require our police to attempt to contact parole officials in order for a warrant to be issued authorizing the arrest of an offender who is clearly in breach of his or her conditions.

As many in this place are aware, I came here to advocate the protection and interests of victims of crime. I become greatly concerned when I can think of many examples whereby the present legislation is so limited in scope as to inhibit the ability of police to provide that protection. It complicates procedures to the extent where additional crime is a very real possibility and it provides an opportunity for further victimization.

We all are aware of the strain on our resources at this time. Police officers and departments have for years been increasingly required to do more with less.

I certainly can foresee the possible situation where a pedophile is released back into society and quite reasonably as a condition of release is prohibited from hanging around school yards and playgrounds. He will almost surely also be prohibited from being in the presence of children while unsupervised.

If the police become aware of a breach of one or more of these conditions, what can they do? Up to this point there has been no crime committed and there may not be sufficient evidence to believe that one is about to be committed.

Under present law police are limited to reporting the incident to the National Parole Board. We know National Parole Board personnel are not readily available in all parts of the country. These personnel will want to establish the bona fides of the infraction because in most cases they will not be familiar with the particular police officer. They may well require an extensive report of just what is occurring. They may not always be available at all hours of the day.

Is it reasonable to expect a police officer to remain on site until some unknown bureaucrat or parole official approves the arrest? It is not as if the police have nothing else to do. What if the officer has other priority calls to handle at the time? Are we to put our children at risk because of technicalities and procedure? Our police need the tools to protect us. They need the power to arrest the individual found in breach of release conditions. The parole officials can always decide later whether to revoke the release or impose additional restrictions.

I will provide another common example. It is most unfortunate but many of our citizens run afoul of the law because of their problems with alcohol. When they drink they drink to excess and they commit crimes. In an attempt at rehabilitation we release many criminals back into society with the condition to refrain from using alcohol.

Our police come into contact with alcohol in many ways. They are called to break up fights. They patrol bars and night clubs and they patrol our highways and our back alleys. They may well come across individuals who are violating their release conditions regarding alcohol.

Are they to await direction from parole authorities which may take hours or days, or are they to effect arrests in the interests of the safety of all and leave it to be ironed out in due course? Surely it is more desirable to err on the side of caution.

The mere act of drinking does not provide the peace officer with sufficient grounds to arrest without warrant. Workload demands make it impractical to maintain surveillance for long periods of time. Who will be to blame when the police officer moves on to other responsibilities and the offender continues to drink, gets behind the wheel and ends up killing innocent people in a car accident? Who will be to blame when he staggers through the front door and assaults his wife and children?

An additional example comes from Mr. Ian Russell, the chief of police for the town of LaSalle in the Windsor, Ontario, area. He has had an extensive career in law enforcement having retired from the metro Toronto police department. He was quoted as stating: “There is no power of arrest for a police officer who finds a person in violation of a condition of their parole”.

He cited the example of a convicted wife beater who was released from jail with the condition to stay at least 1,000 metres away from the home of his victim. Nevertheless he goes to her home and stands on the public sidewalk. The frantic victim calls the police. Officers arrive but the man is not trespassing. His behaviour cannot be called stalking. He is obviously violating his parole conditions but the police cannot arrest him or remove the apparent threat until the National Parole Board issues a warrant.

Mr. Russell is frustrated. He is also concerned because the criminal has now been put on notice that he may be reincarcerated because he was seen to be breaking his parole conditions. Mr. Russell is concerned the offender may decide to commit a serious crime to make a return to jail worthwhile.

My concern is for the very real possibility that the offender may retaliate against his victim for notifying the police in the first place. Mr. Russell in his vast experience at one time chaired parole board hearings. He is well aware of the limited resources and capability of the parole board to assist the police under the present legislation.

One previous argument opposing the legislation cited the lack of statistical proof that the present system imposes unreasonable time constraints on the police. Frankly this does not surprise me. This is the old let us wait until somebody dies before we decide if there is a problem attitude. It is so typically Liberal it is reprehensible.

Another argument suggests that parole and release conditions are intended to assist the reintegration of the offender into society. Therefore it is argued that parole supervisors are better situated to determine whether an offender's behaviour warrants apprehension.

There we go again. Let us consider the best interests of the offender and public safety be damned. What hogwash. The very fact that a parolee wilfully breaches his conditions is a pretty strong indicator that he is not responsible enough to be entrusted with his freedom in the community. Who is in a better position to assess the immediate situation? Is it the parole officer wiping the sleep from his eyes at three o'clock in the morning as he picks up his bedside phone or the cop confronting the offender in an alleyway?

In order to highlight the fallacy of the laws as they currently exist I ask the House to consider the following. A prostitute found to be in breach of a court ordered condition of probation by standing on a corner where she is not supposed to be is subject to immediate arrest, removal and detention. A pedophile violating his parole by lurking around children is not. Just who are we trying to protect?

The safety of Canadians is at risk because of weaknesses in our law. Canadians continue to be victimized, some again by the same individuals, once on the initial charge and again on their release from jail. Our police are available and ready to do the job of protecting us. They need to be provided with the tools to do so. I urge hon. members of the House to seriously consider fulfilling this need.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford has put forward a private member's bill, Bill C-211, to amend the arrest without warrant provisions of the Criminal Code.

I assure members of the House that public safety remains the government's number one priority in the operation of our corrections and conditional release system. To more fully demonstrate the importance we attach to the issue, I would like to mention a bit about our present system of conditional release.

Almost all offenders will return, by law, to the community one day so the best long term protection for society is through the gradual controlled release of offenders that helps them to reintegrate into society as law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately there are some, including some Reform Party members, who dwell on this procedure to exploit the fears of Canadians about the reintegration of offenders into society.

Protection of society is the primary consideration in the decision to release any offender. Only those offenders whose risk has been assessed as manageable in the community are released on parole. The transition from confinement to freedom can be difficult and offenders have a better chance of success if they receive supervision, program opportunities, training and support within the community to which they must readjust.

Offenders who are granted parole are not simply put back on the street with no forethought. Regrettably this is a common misconception that again is exploited by some, including Reform members, for political gain.

Offenders must have a release plan. They must leave prison with a place to live, a plan for gainful employment or education, and a community support system that gives them a chance to change their previous behaviour.

Before granting parole to an offender, board members review all the pertinent information available to make a preliminary risk assessment, namely the nature of the offence, the offender's criminal record, as well as any social or mental problem. After reviewing all this information and, in most cases, interviewing the offender, board members decide whether or not to grant parole.

In order to make this decision, the board relies on a number of partners. The first one is the Correctional Service of Canada, which provides the board with basic information, including the offender's criminal history, his behaviour in prison, his participation in programs, and his parole plan.

Community organizations, police forces, victims and other people also provide information on the offender's ability to re-enter the community.

When the board decides to release an offender into the community a number of standard conditions apply, including reporting regularly to a parole officer and to the police as instructed and carrying at all times the release certificate or identity card. The board can also impose additional conditions such as abstaining from alcohol, staying away from known criminals and no association with victims or their families.

Breaking one of these conditions is a serious matter because an offender risks returning to prison. Offenders are still serving their sentence and they are closely supervised by parole officers employed by Correctional Service Canada working out of local parole offices. These officers play a key role in helping and encouraging the offender to successfully complete the transition from prison to the community.

The parole officer whose powers are considerable can recommend directly to the board that a treatment condition be imposed, for instance for a drug or alcohol abuse problem, and if the offender does not comply he or she can be sent immediately back to prison.

I would like to stress that there are strict measures in place for handling violations and prevention of breaches of parole, statutory release and unescorted temporary absence conditions. In the case of an offender on parole or statutory release a suspension warrant can be issued at any time by Correctional Services Canada and the National Parole Board when there has been a breach of condition, to prevent a breach of condition or when it is believed to be necessary and reasonable in order to protect society.

Execution of this warrant provides sufficient authority to return the offender to custody until the case can be reviewed by the National Parole Board. A network of officers is on duty round the clock to provide for immediate police action by telephone and warrants can be transmitted by facsimile.

In the case of unescorted temporary absences a suspension warrant can be issued for an offender where the grounds for granting the absence have changed or no longer exist or when the new information becomes available that would have altered the original decision.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act provides ample and clear authority for an offender's conditional release to be suspended by correction officers. This enables police to arrest the offender and bring him or her into custody.

It is also important to realize that police already have full authority to arrest an offender without warrant whenever they find any conditional release offender committing a criminal offence or whenever they have reasonable grounds to believe that a conditionally released offender has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence.

We must also bear in mind that roughly 80% of offenders released on parole and statutory release do not commit any type of offence while under supervision. About 11% are returned to prison following a breach of conditions established at the time of their release. These figures do not include offenders released on unescorted temporary absences where the success rate is close to 99%.

New measures to improve communications between the correctional service and police were taken to ensure better community management of paroled offenders under federal jurisdiction. This includes notifying police in advance every time an offender is released, whether on temporary absence without escort, parole or statutory release, as well as providing police with relevant information when correctional authorities have reason to believe that an offender about to be released at the end of his sentence may pose a threat to others.

More recently, the government passed new legislation to better protect the public against high risk violent offenders, by creating a long term offender designation for repeat sex offenders for supervision and monitoring purposes and introducing indeterminate sentences.

There is also the judicial restraint order requiring anyone to keep the peace or face a term of imprisonment.

Open discussion and debate on issues affecting public safety deserve our foremost attention and utmost scrutiny. We also have a responsibility to ensure that our energies are directed toward implementing new measures that are well researched and well founded and most of all needed. However, we must guard ourselves against the political exploitation of those issues by members such as the Reform Party members who have been interrupting my speech here today.

I believe our current legislation and practices regarding conditional release offenders provide for the right balance and responsibility between police and correctional authorities and that the system we have in place is a sound one.

For those reasons I believe that our common goal of public safety would not be enhanced by the adoption of the measures outlined by Bill C-211.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in the debate on Bill C-211, presented by one of my Reform Party colleagues.

What does this bill contain? First, as presented, it amends the Criminal Code by making a breach of a condition of parole or statutory or temporary release a criminal offence.

Subsection 495(1)(a) of the Criminal Code already states that a peace officer may arrest without warrant a person who has committed a criminal offence or whom he finds committing a criminal offence. The bill proposes that a peace officer may arrest without warrant a person who is in breach of a condition of parole or release.

Second, the bill would amend the Criminal Code by giving a parole board the power to release the person or to apply to a judge to keep that person under supervision, once that person has been arrested.

Thus clause 1 of the bill amends section 497 of the Criminal Code. This section, which is already in the Code, stipulates that a person may be detained in order to allow the board which granted parole the possibility of requesting that he be detained until a warrant is issued.

This same clause 1 would amend section 497 of the Criminal Code by adding an exception to the release of a person who has been arrested without warrant.

According to the Code as it now stands, a peace officer may override the release provision if he has reasonable grounds to believe it is in the public interest to do so to prevent “the continuation or repetition of the offence or the commission of another offence”. The bill proposes to add an exception to the release provision at the end of paragraph ( g ) of section 497.

Third, clause 2 of the bill proposes to amend subsection 733.1(1) of the Criminal Code. It proposes to include failure to comply with a condition of parole, statutory release or temporary release. In addition, the sentences imposed for such failure remain the same.

Why then do we oppose this bill? For the following reasons. First of all, some would say that this bill would prevent the release of dangerous offenders and could resolve part of the problem of recidivism. This could be true, but only partially so. Why should we permit a peace officer to supervise an offender who has failed to comply with the conditions of his parole? Not all offenders fail to comply with their parole conditions and constitute a threat to society.

Next we must look at the interests involved in this bill. A balance must be maintained between the protection of individual rights and the protection of the community's interests. We have to raise the issue, which is what I am doing here, of everyone's right to protection against arbitrary detention or imprisonment as in section 9 of the charter of rights and freedoms and the government's need to protect society against repeat offenders. This balance is unfortunately disturbed in the Reform Party's bill.

The three kinds of parole, that is parole, and statutory and temporary release, are not the result of a court order and are not granted by the parole board or Correctional Services Canada. These three types of parole are much more concerned with helping offenders reintegrate society. Unfortunately, there is no indication in the bill before us of any interest in reintegration or eventual rehabilitation.

I will conclude very simply by saying that, in this bill introduced by a Reform Party member, there is no mention of an opportunity for the eventual rehabilitation or reintegration of offenders, and the Bloc Quebecois deplores this. It is essential that any amendment to the Criminal Code reflect this principle of rehabilitation. That is how we will build a more just society.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-211, an act to amend the Criminal Code as it relates to the arrest of those in breach of condition of parole, statutory or temporary release.

The hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford has brought this piece of legislation before the House in an attempt to improve public protection. No one can disagree with the importance of this objective. Indeed public protection in a criminal justice sense is of primary importance and concern to all of us in this House and to all Canadians.

Having sat on the Waterloo regional police services board for the past 10 years as chairman of the police service, I know firsthand the importance of public protection and the need for law and order.

My comments will be directed to amendments in this bill which propose changes to the way we deal with breaches of a federal release condition. The thrust of the hon. member's proposal is to make the failure to comply with the condition of parole, statutory release, temporary absence a Criminal Code offence. Thus police would have the authority under section 495 of the Criminal Code to arrest without warrant offenders in breach of a condition because such a violation would constitute a criminal offence.

Previous comments by the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford lead us to believe that police work in isolation when dealing with offenders who breach a condition of release.

Further, he has suggested that the process of bringing an offender back into custody is difficult and time consuming. I remind the House that there is a long established system in place for handling such occurrences. Correctional Services Canada and the National Parole Board already have the legislative authority and processes required to intervene promptly when there is a violation of a release condition.

Correctional Services Canada has a network of duty officers who can issue a warrant on a 24 hour basis. The warrant can be transmitted electronically anywhere in Canada where the need arises.

Members may not be aware that under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act police have the power to arrest an offender without warrant on the knowledge that a warrant has been issued against the offender.

In such cases the warrant is transmitted for execution within 48 hours from the time of the arrest. The hon. member has also cited examples where he says a police office cannot take timely action when he or she encounters an offender who is violating a condition of release.

His comments fail to realize a very important reality, that in these instances and circumstances police work in partnership with correctional authorities to assess and respond quickly to these situations.

Federal correctional authorities view the police role and the enforcement of parole, statutory release or temporary absence conditions as a joint process, as a collaborative process. There is good reason for this.

When police provide information to correctional supervisors on breaches of conditions the breaches vary in seriousness. It may be that an offender has returned to a halfway house an hour past curfew or failed to report to the police station on a designated date.

In some instances, the correctional supervisor might deem that a disciplinary interview is sufficient to deal with the matter. In others, he or she may determine the suspension of a conditional release and the arrest of the offender is necessary for the protection of society.

All this is worthy of note. I fully understand the hon. member's desire to have an effective law and procedures in place especially when it comes to apprehending those who pose a danger to others, including children and other vulnerable individuals.

The government shares this concern. That is why, in addition to the authority and measures provided in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, there have been amendments to the Criminal Code to enable the police and the courts to better intervene in situations where a person's conduct in the community may be potentially threatening.

For example, the Criminal Code was amended in 1993 to permit the court to make an order prohibiting an offender who has been convicted of a sex offence including a child from being in the vicinity of a school ground, a playground or a community centre.

This provision also allows a court to make an order prohibiting that offender from seeking or continuing employment that involves being in a position of trust with children.

Section 264 was also added to the Criminal Code in 1993 to deal with the offence of criminal harassment to cover conduct such as stalking which places another person in fear for his or her safety.

Another provision makes it easier for those who are victims of domestic abuse to seek conditions of recognizance to keep the offender away and to make it more likely that the abuser, not the victim, is removed from the home.

Most recently a new long term offender designation was created for high risk sex offenders to provide a period of long term supervision for up to 10 years past their warrant expiry date. A new judicial restraint provision was also created to permit controls to be applied to any individual who poses a high threat and risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.

As members of the House know, the government considers the police to be an important partner in realizing our safe homes, safe streets agenda. The last four years have probably seen the most intense focus on criminal law issues ever in Canada. Let me take a moment to discuss some of those initiatives.

Arguably one of the most important changes for police work has been the new legislation on DNA. The first phase of this initiative began in 1995 with the DNA warrant legislation which allows police to get warrants to obtain DNA samples from suspects. That legislation laid the groundwork for phase two, the establishment of a national DNA data bank.

The DNA data bank legislation was reintroduced last September. This legislation will greatly strengthen our efforts to solve crimes more quickly by identifying repeat and violent offenders and it will make it easier to link cases around police jurisdictions. With the continuing advances in DNA technology, the data bank will become ever more important to police work and prosecutions.

This government also established a formal national program under the Witness Protection Program Act giving police better tools to fight organized crime by being able to ensure protection for those who risk their lives to assist in investigations. In May of last year a regulation under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act gave police new powers to conduct reverse sting operations. Amendments to the Criminal Code brought about by Bill C-17 last May provided the legislative basis for the police to conduct storefront operations.

This government has put measures in place to deal with real issues of concern today, but having the foresight to prevent crimes is equally important. Again the police community, in particular the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, has been a pioneer in promoting police crime prevention programs and victim services. This government has and will continue to work in partnership with the police in a balanced but determined approach to reducing and preventing crime.

In 1994 the National Crime Prevention Council was established as part of the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention. Together with the council, the Department of Justice and the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada identify what works and what is needed in crime prevention in our communities. This includes programs focusing on young people.

The Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada hope to move quickly on the crime prevention front and to follow through with the Speech from the Throne commitment to increase levels of funding to $30 million each year in this area. Both ministers are looking forward to working on renewing and developing new partnerships within communities, the police and all levels of government.

Canadians rely on the police for protection and security. This government has put the appropriate tools in place for effective police work through legislation and policies.

We in this House have an interest in ensuring that the concerns of Canadians are addressed in a most effective and efficient manner. I would ask that all members ensure that we proceed on that basis.

I would like to reiterate my earlier comments that the Corrections and Conditional Release Act provides police with ample authority to intervene quickly where there is a breach of parole, statutory release or temporary absence. The Correctional Service Canada staff are available 24 hours a day to issue warrants of suspension and apprehension against an offender who has committed a breach.

Moreover police already have the power to arrest without warrant an offender against whom they believe a warrant of apprehension has been issued by the Correctional Service Canada or by the National Parole Board. They may detain him or her for a 48 hour period from the time of the arrest until the execution of a warrant. The warrant can be electronically transmitted anywhere in the country if need be.

After a process of careful consideration, I feel that this bill would create a power that is duplicative, unnecessary and probably inconsistent with the charter of rights and freedoms. I would therefore urge members of the House to vote against it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise in the House today to speak on a bill which would amend the Criminal Code with respect to the arrest of those in breach of condition of parole, statutory or temporary release.

This bill introduced by the Reform member for Langley—Abbotsford will do two things.

First it will amend the Criminal Code to make a breach of condition of parole, statutory release or temporary absence a criminal offence. As a consequence, this would under section 495 of the Criminal Code allow police officers to arrest without a warrant an offender who is found in breach of his or her parole or release conditions.

The second part of the proposed bill is to amend section 497 of the Criminal Code. The amendment would grant arresting peace officers the authority to detain an individual found in breach of his or her conditions in custody until the National Parole Board consents to or opposes the offender's release on bail.

Immediately I want to say that this would not constitute an arbitrary detention. In fact we are talking about the rights of an individual who had the benefit of due process and has been convicted of a criminal offence. His conditional release was a second chance and I do not see why we should give the individual a third chance when he breaches his conditions. The individual is still paying his debt to society and by breaching his conditions he is breaking society's trust in his ability to respect the law. Therefore it is my view that this would not be an arbitrary detention.

Before I go any further I want to say that, like my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough said in this House in November 1997, the Progressive Conservative Party supports this bill. The intent of this bill is positive. It will provide our law enforcement officers with an additional tool in their fight against crime.

The changes that are proposed in this bill are constructive for society and are very important. They give police officers who observe individuals who have these conditions placed on them the ability to act and to act quickly and decisively.

The problem with our Criminal Code and our laws is not that police officers do not have the power to arrest but that they have to get authorization to do so. Timing, as they say, is everything. Such events often unfold quickly and officers do not always have the time to get the necessary authorization. Police officers do not always have the time to get a justice of the peace or to contact the parole officer involved. That is even more true in rural parts of our country.

In rural parts of our country police detachments are often comprised of only two members and they are responsible for vast territories. With justices of the peace not always being available 24 hours a day, it becomes quite obvious that the amendments proposed in this bill would be very helpful for our police officers.

Bill C-211 is intended to enable police officers to act immediately to arrest an individual who is found in breach of release conditions without having either to seek a warrant from the National Parole Board or justice of the peace or wait until another crime is committed.

Let me give a practical example on how this bill could be helpful. An offender subject to release conditions that require him or her to stay away from a particular address, either in the case of domestic violence or in cases where pedophiles are involved, could be arrested immediately upon being found in a forbidden area.

Another reason why I support this bill is that it will give authority to police officers to keep in detention individuals who are in breach of their parole conditions. This means that the offender in breach of his or her conditions could not only be arrested immediately but also detained until the National Parole Board has been notified and given an opportunity to react.

Offenders who are breaking their terms of parole are, like I said earlier, once again breaking society's trust in their ability to respect the law. I do not favour any sort of special treatment for such people. Being released under certain conditions does not mean being free. It means that these individuals are still paying their debt to society, a society that has already given them the chance to rehabilitate. This is why I believe that their detention would not be an arbitrary detention.

In conclusion, I would ask all members of this House to ask themselves the following questions. Will this bill improve the present law? Will it allow police officers to more effectively carry out their duties and to better protect society? The answer to these two questions is yes. I ask this House to work together in a non-partisan way to see that Bill C-211 is carried through.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to address the bill introduced by the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford.

As other speakers have pointed out, Bill C-211 seeks to amend the Criminal Code so as to make any breach of a condition of parole or statutory or temporary release an indictable offence. Therefore, a police officer would have the power to arrest, without a warrant, an offender under the federal legislation, if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has breached or is about to breach a condition of his parole.

Moreover, Bill C-211 would give a parole board the power, following the arrest of an offender, to release him or to ask a judge to keep him in custody until a warrant for his arrest is issued.

When we debated this legislation, on November 6, the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford suggested that the proposed amendments were necessary, because police forces in Canada are currently unable to obtain a warrant, or to obtain it quickly enough to act effectively when offenders who come under federal jurisdiction fail to comply with the conditions of their parole.

I want to reassure the members of this House. These allegations are absolutely false. Again, I want to assure members opposite that these allegations are absolutely false. There are legislative provisions and mechanisms in place to allow our police forces to act quickly and effectively in this type of situation.

As far as the breach of conditions of parole, statutory or temporary release, as well as the prevention of such breaches, are concerned, let me say that the legislative provisions currently in effect already give correctional authorities all the powers, and I mean all the powers, necessary to suspend an offender's parole. This makes it possible for a police officer to arrest the offender and to place him in custody.

As for an offender who has received permission for an unescorted temporary release, a suspension warrant may be issued if the reasons for which the permission was issued have changed or no longer exist, or if there is fresh information which would have altered the initial decision if available at the time it was made.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

You don't know what you are talking about, not on this issue.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I always know what I am talking about. My family said so.

With respect to offenders on parole or statutory release they say I am always right.

With respect to offenders on parole or statutory release, the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board may issue a suspension warrant any time they deem it necessary and reasonable to protect society. Such a mandate would allow police to return the offender to custody until his case can be examined by the National Parole Board.

Through a network of officers on duty 24 hours a day and the faxing of warrants—yes, Canadians are now using modern technological equipment like fax machines—police can act promptly without having to wait for the actual warrant.

As I have just demonstrated, there is a quick and efficient procedure allowing police to intervene promptly. Nothing in the act as it now stands suggests that police should wait for hours for warrants to be faxed. The act gives police sufficient powers to act as soon as they know a warrant is on the way.

I would also like to stress that, for serious breaches, police have the power to arrest without warrant any offender on parole who commits or who police have reasonable grounds to believe has committed or is about to commit a criminal offence.

However, we have heard about many hypothetical cases where police had their hands tied. We have also heard that, in one case, police had to wait for a judge to sign a warrant before arresting a pedophile on parole spotted near a playground. If this were true, I would personally and unconditionally support the proposed changes, but these examples are completely misleading.

A judge's signature is not required to suspend the parole of a federal offender. I repeat, a judge's signature is not required to suspend the parole of a federal offender.

As I said earlier, the correctional service may, whenever and wherever it sees fit, issue a warrant to immediately suspend the parole of an offender who constitutes a threat to the community.