moved that Bill C-258, an act to amend the Criminal Code (judicial review), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I begin today by expressing my delight in being back in the House of Commons after the summer recess.
The summer provided me some chance to review what issues my constituents are most concerned about. One of the things they speak about is the economy. Today they are concerned about the falling dollar and the problem of future economic prospects. They see Canada for sale at fire sale prices and they are worried that draconian measures might have to be taken. They are concerned they will be paying out of their own pockets for this downturn in the economy.
They know that a large part of this crisis is due to a government that spent months sitting on its hands while the loonie was falling. It just did not quite know what to do.
We all know that the Liberals are really not good financial managers and that the international community has rendered its judgment on that point, a very negative judgment.
The economy is foremost in the minds of my constituents in New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby and I am certain that it is foremost in the minds of every Canadian. Almost in the same breath those who have spoken with me mentioned law and order and security as a very close second. They wonder if they are safe on the streets. Can they leave a window open all night long? Will their children be safe to and from school. My constituents are very passionate on these issues. They are passionate because they realize that no family, no one is immune from crime in Canada.
In my part of the country there is a divide between those who live from the streets and those who are trying to clean up the streets.
Some in this House may have read in the newspapers last week of the idea in Vancouver of having what you call in the vernacular shooting galleries, legal hangouts to do drugs. Certainly we can do so much better than this.
There is a proposal to open up a building where heroin addicts and others can congregate to get a fix. The proposal is to give them clean needles and in essence monitor that they do not overdose on drugs. It would not surprise me if the addict there will soon be provided with the drug itself from the government.
Proponents say this is going to clean up the streets and make the streets safer. I know that the member for Vancouver East is a proponent of this idea and has contemplated coming forward with a bill on this very subject. It will be a sad day if any level of government would ever give in to funding such a program.
These are the types of issues my constituents are talking about. They are worried. They want to be protected and they will be confident if criminals are off the street and they will have a better sense of safety. They will feel less worried knowing that violent criminals are actually behind bars where they belong.
Of course maintaining correctional centres is not inexpensive. The cost per criminal sometimes seems very enormous for continuous custody, especially very secure custody. But is it not also the best insurance that money can buy? Ask someone from St. Catharines, Ontario if having Paul Bernardo or Karla Homolka locked away makes them feel more at ease.
The reason I am speaking here today has to do with fixing a problem, a problem that has plagued our nation since 1976 when Warren Allmand, then solicitor general, introduced a law that gave a glimmer of hope to the worst criminals sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. Allmand wanted criminals to have a chance at serving a lesser sentence if they could convince people they were suitable, so called, to return to society. Mr. Allmand never really liked the term life in prison, and capital punishment was not an option. He felt that was barbaric. Certainly he was focused on the offender rather than the balance of justice and victim rights.
After 15 years this Liberal government believes that a criminal should be allowed to seek the option of applying to a court for permission to be heard before a parole board. It supports the criminal agenda to walk, and who can blame them? I would not want to be locked up. Nobody would.
These criminals committed crimes, very serious crimes, and therefore they should be prepared to do the time, the whole time, 25 years before being allowed to apply for parole. That was the minimum exchange and the bargain that was made with this country for cancelling capital punishment from the law books.
Today when I finish my speech this House is going to hear the Liberal perhaps getting up and saying the chance for a Clifford Olson or a Paul Bernardo getting paroled is so slim that the Canadian public has nothing to worry about. Do we really think that Canadians want to gamble with those types of stakes especially when we see the record of those who are in charge of the system? I think not.
Bill C-258 would simply repeal the faint hope clause; very simple and straightforward. It is not necessary for the proper administration of justice. It has no place in criminal law. It undermines the system. However, repeal would come with a twist.
In past debates on this very issue Liberal members in this House have cited that if the clause were repealed it would immediately create constitutional challenges. In other words, criminals who were sentenced after the Criminal Code was changed to include faint hope would not be affected by a repeal of the clause in this bill.
It was an issue of retroactivity. I want to unequivocally state that while I would prefer to see the act changed to include violent criminals like Clifford Olson and so on, I see that maybe there are problems regarding constitutionality. Perhaps if we were to expand the debate, we could get into the flaws of Canada's constitution. This is not the place or the time for that.
The debate surrounding the issue has surfaced a great deal, particularly since Reformers came to Ottawa in 1993. We raised the issue for one simple reason. It is an issue that Canadians care about deeply.
As a country we want to feel safe. We want the reassurance that violent criminals, those who have committed murder are kept behind bars, are sent to prison for life. We want to feel that the rights of victims supersede the rights of criminals. The last point is important because Liberals are ignoring it.
Warren Allmand said in the House: “If the person is really reformed and no longer a danger to the public, that person after 15 years can be put back on the street to earn his or her living, to support his or her family, to pay taxes rather than being paid for by the state while in prison while the family is being supported by welfare. I am talking about a person who is no longer a danger to the public, who is no longer a risk and who is deemed to be rehabilitated by the parole board”.
Warren Allmand, like many of his misguided colleagues in this House during that parliament, put the rights of criminals ahead of victims.
I want to read a quote from Sharon Rosenfeldt whose son was savagely murdered by Clifford Olson. Ms. Rosenfeldt spoke these words during the last parliament debate before the Standing Committee on Justice:
When I learned that Olson had indeed made the application, I was stunned. Suddenly many images flashed through my mind. I felt shock but I shouldn't feel shock. I felt angry but I shouldn't feel angry. I felt hurt but I shouldn't be hurting. I felt betrayed and I felt panic. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't stay still. I kept pacing from room to room. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream and I wanted to run.
Why do we have to go through this again? I felt weak and vulnerable. I could not lose my dignity again. I went into the family room and took my son's picture off the cabinet. I sat down and stared lovingly at him, outlining his face with my hands. He looked so perfect.
You see, I always have to reconstruct his face in my mind because a hammer was used on him. He was beaten beyond recognition. I cradled his picture next to my heart and once again made the same promises I had 15 years earlier. I got on my knees and I asked God to give me the strength to keep my dignity. This is very important to me because after Clifford Olson took my child's life, he also took my dignity for a while. I will not let Olson and the system do that again.
I would like my colleagues opposite just for a minute to put themselves into the situation of that victim or another. I would be interested to know how many Liberal members would preach the same message regarding the faint hope clause if someone close to them was murdered and then allowed the chance to be released early.
It is easy to talk the talk. Liberals preach that we should really give murderers another chance. Liberals say they served some time, therefore if they are reformed then let them have another crack at open society.
Would they really feel comfortable having the murderer walk the streets, the same murderer who took the life of a loved one? Would they maybe change their minds?
The reason I introduced this bill and the reason that I will continue to fight for the repeal of the faint hope clause has everything to do with standing up for victims like Sharon Rosenfeldt.
These victims deserve the right to have a voice. They deserve the right to be shown the utmost respect. However, the way the bleeding hearts have crafted our judicial system, it seems to give most of the rights to the criminal. That is the impression the Canadian public has.
The Liberals will say victims are given many rights such as victim impact statements and so on. The truth is that if they cared so much about victims, people such as Sharon Rosenfeldt and the thousands of others who find themselves in similar situations would not be so disgusted with the justice system.
Bill C-258 unfortunately would do little to stop Clifford Olson from his opportunity for a hearing. It would, however, stop such travesties of justice in the future. It would change the meaning of a life sentence. It would allow victims some peace of mind.
Clifford Olson will again be allowed the right to be heard before a court some day. Every time this happens, victims will be made to endure agony. There are many like him all because of a small clause in the Criminal Code, section 745, all because bleeding heart Liberals think the rights of the criminal supersede others.
As legislators we are bound by so many things. Reformers are doing whatever we can to change the system to make it fairer, to be more responsive to the Canadian agenda, more transparent.
We will fight for what is right, even if it is one small step at a time. That is the purpose of this small bill.
When a judge sentences a criminal to life in prison it should be understood that they will serve 25 years before eligibility for parole. I shudder when I think that someone like Olson, who brutally murdered innocent people, children, would be given a chance at all for parole, but that is the law.
The section I am trying to repeal provides a glimmer of hope to someone who does not deserve one. I understand it is not a guarantee that a criminal will be released, but that glimmer of hope is enough to send a shiver down my spine.
Members of this House should imagine only for a moment what it must be like for a victim knowing that the murderer of their son or daughter will have a chance to walk free.
I say to my Liberal friends, bandage up your bleeding hearts just for once and take a stand on behalf of victims of this country. I do not believe that any member wants the most violent criminals of this world to be walking the streets. That is not the issue. Therefore, there is no reason to want to keep the faint hope clause in the Criminal Code. I ask, for once do what is right and get rid of section 745.