House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-20.


Competition ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order, please. It being 5.15 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-20.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 229Government Orders

September 23rd, 1998 / 5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Division No. 229Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-258 proposes to delete section 745.6 of the Criminal Code, which provides for judicial review of the parole ineligibility period in respect of persons convicted of murder or high treason.

The government believes that section 745.6 ought to continue to be applied in exceptional and deserving cases. For this reason, the bill being proposed by the hon. member of the opposition clearly runs counter to federal government policy, and we are not, therefore, in favour of it.

As the hon. members are aware, section 745.6 was passed in 1976, at the time the death penalty was abolished in Canada. At that time, this House believed that section 745.6 was necessary in order to provide hope of rehabilitation to those convicted of murder and to protect prison guards. Adoption of this clause was also a recognition of the fact that, in certain cases, incarceration in excess of 15 years was not in the public interest.

I believe that the reasons justifying addition of this section to the Criminal Code in 1976 remain valid today. Section 745.6 of the Criminal Code allows persons convicted of murder to apply for a judicial review of the number of years to be served before eligibility for parole, after they have served 15 years of their sentence.

In the case of first degree murder or treason, the time to be served before eligibility for parole is set by law at 25 years. In the case of second degree murder, the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole is 10 years, unless the judge at trial extends it to 25. The offender may not apply for judicial review of the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole until he has served 15 years of his sentence.

The offender has to convince a jury of 12 ordinary citizens that the number of years should be reduced. After the jury has examined the evidence presented by the applicant and the crown attorney, including any victim statements, it decides whether it is appropriate to reduce the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

If the jury does decide to reduce it, the offender has the right to submit an application to the National Parole Board on expiry of the period as reduced by the jury under section 745. The parole board then looks at his file and grants parole when it sees fit to do so. In order to reach its decision, the National Parole Board must determine whether paroling the offender would constitute an undue threat to public safety.

I must stress one point that is essential to an understanding of this matter, but may not be readily understood by the public. The life sentence imposed upon a person convicted of murder or high treason weighs upon this individual for the rest of his life.

Thus, when an offender is released, his sentence still applies, and he may be reincarcerated at any time if he violates the conditions set by the parole board.

This is not an easy way to get out of jail, as the opposition would have Canadians believe. Section 745.6 establishes an extremely rigorous procedure, and those who apply are very rarely successful. The fact is that the vast majority of those eligible to apply for a judicial review never do so. They simply decide to forgo the opportunity of their own accord, perhaps because they know that their efforts would be to no avail.

We all know that there is a great deal of public concern about section 745.6. Many have asked for the repeal of this section out of concern for public safety. Others have cited the revictimization of the victim's family by the review hearing held 15 years down the road at a time when the terrible wounds inflicted by the crime may have just started to heal. Others focus on the appropriate minimum period of incarceration for the worst offence in our Criminal Code.

This government shares the concerns of Canadians. That is why the government amended section 745.6 in the last Parliament.

As many members of the House will know, Bill C-45 brought three key changes to section 745.6. The first eliminated judicial review for all multiple murders committed in the future whether the murders are committed at the same time or not. This would include serial murders. The proposed amendment is consistent with the notion long found in the Criminal Code which states that a repetition of the offence should be treated more harshly by the law than the single offence.

The second created a screening mechanism whereby a judge of the superior court could conduct a paper review of the application to determine if there is a reasonable chance of success before the application is allowed to proceed to a full hearing before a jury.

The third provided that the parole ineligibility period may only be reduced by unanimous vote of the community jury, whereas previously only two-thirds of the jury were required. As a result of this provision an application for a reduction in the parole ineligibility period will be denied whenever the jury cannot reach a unanimous conclusion to reduce the period.

Section 745.6 was intended to be applied only in exceptional and deserving cases where the offender has really been able to turn his or her life around. Our government's amendment to this section has strengthened this and has gone a considerable distance in preventing non-meritorious cases from coming forward.

With the changes we have made, our government has attempted to reach out to the families of victims. In this mandate the government is also looking at what more can be done for victims and their families to acknowledge the pain they feel. Improving the criminal justice system to respond to victims' concerns is one of the top priorities for the Minister of Justice.

Following the receipt and review of the report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the fall of 1998, the Minister of Justice intends to move ahead with appropriate legislation and non-legislative initiatives to improve the situation of the crime victim.

In April 1998 the minister tabled in this House a letter which she sent to the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights expressing her interest in its review of the victim's role in the criminal justice system. In the letter she noted particular issues which she anticipated would be raised in the committee proceedings, including the adequacy of existing provisions to facilitate the participation of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system, the need to explore reforms to the victim impact statement provisions, enhancements to the Criminal Code's victim fine surcharge provision and the need to accommodate the interests of victims in the youth justice system.

The minister also noted that she was considering various models for the establishment of an offence for victims of crime within the Department of Justice which would, among other things, ensure that the victim's perspective is considered in the development of all criminal law policy and legislation.

There is a lot more we can do for victims and their families than just focus simplistically and single-mindedly on the repeal of section 745.6, as the official opposition has in the past few months in the House.

These amendments came into force on January 9, 1997. At present officials from the Department of Justice are monitoring their impact on this section to see if they are achieving their aim.

Yes, I do have blood in my veins, as the official opposition would like us to believe. Yes, we are bleeding heart Liberals. But if that means that we are compassionate and that we care about every Canadian in the country, yes, that is what it means. Compassion is part of what this government is all about.

I am proud to be a bleeding heart Liberal if that is the definition that the official opposition would like us to believe.

The government believes, as do many Canadians, that even those found guilty of very serious criminal acts should be able to acknowledge their crimes and rehabilitate themselves. We feel that it is important that our justice system have a mechanism allowing people, in exceptional cases, an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, echoing the government member somewhat, we in the Bloc Quebecois also believe that this bill is not votable. If it were, we would vote against it, because I believe that there are some very important principles involved, ones which the Reform Party appears to have ignored.

It must not be lost sight of that the objective of this bill is the deletion of sections of the Criminal Code which allow a judicial review of the parole ineligibility period with respect to certain life sentences.

Certainly, on first examination, the Reform Party approach seems to have some merit, but once again—and this is not the first time I have said this—we must look at the Canadian justice system in its entirety, and not just approach it piecemeal, trying to solve certain problems one at a time.

I believe the entire Canadian system is a bit like a giant jigsaw puzzle. If one piece is taken away, there is a whole section that cannot be put together, and this is a very dangerous thing. In the case before us now, what the Reform bill would have us remove is a vital piece of the justice system.

Much has been said on this. I had a written text, but I do not think I shall follow it, because the basic problem is readily understood. Where the justice system is concerned, we must not go overboard. The justice system must not be examined in the light of some cases that make front page headlines. This is not the way the problem can be solved.

At the present time, the Criminal Code contains a series of sections on parole mechanisms, starting with 745.6. It is not true, as I have heard said on this side of the House, that it is so easy for a criminal to obtain parole. We must start with the basic premise that the parole system has one very clear objective, and that is rehabilitation. If there is no agreement on that principle from the start, it is obvious that what will follow will be fruitless dialogue and that we will never be able to reach an agreement.

In Quebec, for the past 30 years at least, we have had a clear idea where both young and adult offenders are concerned that there must be a rehabilitation component to the parole process. This is extremely important.

Rehabilitation is not automatic, obviously. Before a case is examined in order to see whether a person who has committed a serious crime and been given a life sentence can obtain any type of parole, within the system we have at the present time, it is certain that an analysis has been carried out. We have to be sure that the offender's behaviour will not pose a threat to society. It is not true that just anyone is released. A case is examined and an extremely important review procedure takes place.

This procedure can be found in section 745.6, which was debated in the House in 1996 with Bill C-45, as I am sure members recall. At the time, the government proposed limiting accessibility to the review procedure through a series of legislative amendments. I remember this very clearly because I thought back then that the government was going too far.

Even today, I think that the government went too far, but it is now part of the system. We must live with it and make the best of it.

If we examine the issue from a public safety standpoint, the higher the bar is placed for a criminal seeking release, the greater the guarantee of public safety, of course. Even before the government's amendments, the safeguards for society were adequate, but the government added additional obstacles for these offenders and the result is that today we are fine with the amendments.

Even with the government's amendments to Bill C-45, the Reform Party is proposing the repeal pure and simple of the review process. When we look at the legislation that the government opposite is producing, inspired by Reform Party ideas, we can see similarities between the two parties.

From a justice and legislative point of view, there are similarities with respect to severity and repression. We will see this again in the very near future, when the government introduces a young offenders bill. I am sure that the government will crack down and that Reform Party members will say the government is not going far enough. But this is not how Quebec has looked at things for at least 30 years, as I have already mentioned.

To come back to the review procedure which is the focus of the bill, section 745.6 cannot be viewed as an escape clause for offenders trying to shorten their sentence. I think that the review procedure provided for in section 745.6 is complex and elaborate. We must avoid the conclusion that criminals purging life sentences have too easy access to early parole because of section 745.6 of the Criminal Code.

A clear understanding of the application for review procedure necessitates reference to section 745.6 and sections 745.61 to 745.64, which describe how the review procedure works. On reading these new sections, we see that the review is not a matter of chance. It is far from being a lottery for inmates. If they are lucky, they get paroled, if they are not, their applications get turned down. The review is rigorous and has two stages. First, there is the initial examination mechanism and then the admissibility of the application is considered.

I listened earlier to the parliamentary secretary as she clearly summarized the review application procedure. I will focus on one point only, which is that the application, once accepted, is put to a jury, and, here again, it is no cakewalk for the inmate. He must convince the jury of the validity of his application for release. This is no easy matter. The procedure is highly complex. I am not saying it is too complex for the criminal. I am saying there is no need to alert public opinion over such matters.

Our system has been improved over the years. There are of course cases like Olson's, which a Reform member mentioned earlier. Everyone agrees that such cases could no longer occur under the current legislation. There was indeed a loophole in the Criminal Code, but we tried to plug it.

Although I may once again appear to be defending the government, my purpose is in fact to see that justice prevails. This is a matter of fairness. Even in cases involving criminals, I think the legislation must be fair.

I will sum up very briefly why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill. First, we oppose it because it goes against the sentencing guidelines of public safety and rehabilitation. Second, the bill is based on the misconception that early release is impossible, even if rehabilitation has truly taken place. Third, the review procedure provided for in the bill is too complex and elaborate to think that offenders serving life sentences can abuse it. Finally, the opportunity to declare an offender dangerous under section 752 of the Criminal Code reduces the possibility of repeat offences.

The fact is that I have not had the time to elaborate on the subject but, once again, there are provisions for declaring someone a dangerous offender and this entire review procedure is impossible.

For the reasons I have mentioned, I think that Canada's parole system does not jeopardize public safety.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak in support of Bill C-258 as moved by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.

This bill is consistent with Progressive Conservative policy to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code, better known as the faint hope clause. It is also consistent with a motion that I tabled in the House last year similarly calling for the repeal of section 745.

It is sadly ironic today that the Liberals are defending the faint hope clause since yesterday we heard their defences of Bill C-68, which should be henceforth known as the false hope clause.

The Liberals have truly shown themselves as more than happy to give faint hope to convicted killers such as Clifford Olson, as previously mentioned, while giving false hope to Canadians worried about crime committed with firearms.

Although the amendments proposed in the bill by the hon. member would not apply retroactively, it would at least ensure that murderers are fully held accountable for the crimes that they commit. Accountability is a very important principle in our justice system and one which many feel has been neglected of late. From the Prime Minister's recent performance in the House, it would seem that accountability is also being neglected in the Chamber.

An injection of accountability into our justice system is something most Canadians would surely welcome. This would be taken into account with other principles of rehabilitation, as has been mentioned by friend from the Bloc; general and specific deterrents; other sentencing principles; and principles of justice and fairness.

In early 1997 the Liberal government of the day amended the Criminal Code to restrict the provisions for judicial review. Three fundamental changes were enacted at that time. First, offenders who committed multiple murders would no longer have the right to apply for section 745.6 under the Criminal Code.

Second, applicants, including those serving time for murder at the time of the amendments coming into force, would no longer have the automatic right to a section 745 hearing, going instead to a superior court judge to decide whether the applicant could then show a reasonable prospect for success before the application moved any further.

The third amendment to that section would require that a jury reach unanimous consent to order a release instead of the previous threshold of only a two-thirds majority.

While those amendments were certainly well intentioned, they contained a number of flaws. The new provisions implied that a single murder should be considerably less serious than multiple murders. Since multiple murderers convicted after January 1997 would be ineligible to apply for judicial review under section 745 at the time, it brings into question the overall fairness when one considers it from the victim's point of view.

As they would later do with the hepatitis C victims, the Liberals apparently drew an artificial line in the sand with respect to multiple murders as opposed to single premeditated murders. I would suggest that all premeditated murders should be treated equally under this provision. Does it not degrade the memory of the murder victims and the suffering that was inflicted upon them and their families to draw this sort of distinction?

My second criticism of those amendments was that the government's much touted amendments of section 745 amounted to no real changes with respect to the way judicial review hearing processes were conducted.

I am sure all members will agree the process is extremely important in that the hearings for early parole eligibility remain with the very limited information about the crime committed by the offender. To seriously restrict information with respect to the crime committed during these hearings is akin to restricting information with respect to the crime itself during the original trial and sentencing proceedings.

The Liberal amendments also created another level of bureaucracy, that is the government's decision to replace the criminal's absolute right to a hearing with an absolute right to apply for a hearing which might also lead to further appeals within the system.

One of the arguments the Minister of Justice, the solicitor general and their respective departments advanced at this time against the over reliance on incarceration is therefore lost. The Liberals make this contention while they create another level of bureaucracy to facilitate the release of convicted killers.

It is a sad and telling statement on the priorities of the government. It provides different ways for murderers to get out of jail while victims of crime still to this date have no voice, no advocate within the criminal justice system at this level. The Minister of Justice and the solicitor general can only scratch their heads and wonder why Canadians continue to have a cynical and distrustful view of our justice system.

Section 745, regardless of the Liberal government's amendment a year and a half ago, continues to force families of victims to relive the murders and to relive them at the cost of the taxpayer. Some would say that the lack of a death penalty is the hallmark of a civilized society, but there are certainly many Canadians who would suggest it is certainly uncivilized to force the families of murder victims to once again go through this type of judicial revisiting of the offence itself. We certainly witnessed that just over a year ago with Mr. Olson's hearing in British Columbia.

Perhaps the families of murder victims should launch a legal challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that a section 745 Criminal Code hearing violates their section 7 charter rights that everyone including these victims have a right to life, liberty and the security of persons and a right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Is a section 745 hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice? I doubt it. I challenge any hon. member in the House who supports section 745 to rationally assert that this is fundamentally just. I fear that it might come to that and that the victims of crime and their families will have to go to court to get a judicial opinion with respect to this piece of legislation.

The Reform Party has often made its views very clear in the House about judicial activism. I suggest there is a graver danger at work, that is legislative pacifism where society's most vulnerable individuals, victims and in many cases children, have no other public forum to have their views addressed by the courts. What are we doing in the House if we are not doing everything to protect those persons?

Therefore I would suggest that section 745 needs to be repealed, and the sooner the better. We in the House need to reflect upon the wishes of those individuals who are unable to speak for themselves. This is why I put forward the premise and the suggestion that the government should be establishing an independent ombudsman for victims which would also be in accordance with the government's repeated position that it wants to do more for victims. This would be consistent with that wish. Victims would be given a greater voice within the justice system. They would be given an independent person, a place of appeal, for information, a place where they could go to have their voices heard.

I urge all hon. members of the House, especially the government members who spoke so passionately in favour of victims rights, to justify their support for Bill C-68, to join with opposition members in supporting the bill. As such, at this time I move for unanimous consent to make this bill deemed a votable item.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough has asked for the unanimous consent of the House to make this bill votable. Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Four members would like to speak to the bill before the mover gets the last five minutes to wrap up. If hon. members would keep that in mind, we will see if we can get everybody worked in given that we have 15 minutes to go.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby for again bringing this matter forward.

In December 1993 I had a similar private member's bill before parliament. At second reading parliament voted in favour of the bill, including 80 members of the Liberal caucus. Parliament in effect pronounced itself on the matter but regrettably when the bill was referred to committee the Liberal dominated committee effectively killed the bill. Subsequent to that Bill C-45 was brought forward. As I have said on many occasions, Bill C-45 simply does not go far enough. Short of a complete repeal of section 745, I do not believe Canadians would be satisfied.

We are dealing here with the penalty for first degree murder, the most serious and offensive crime in the Criminal Code of Canada. We are not dealing with a crime of passion. We are not dealing with manslaughter. We are dealing in some cases with second degree murder. For the most part we are dealing with those individuals who have the wherewithal to plan the murder of another human being in a very deliberate way. These are people who have in some cases murdered a single individual and in other cases more, like Clifford Olson who murdered 11 innocent children.

This evening we are discussing what the appropriate penalty should be for that crime. Surely to give to certain people who commit that type of crime the right for their parole ineligibility be reduced to 15 years is nothing short of unconscionable.

It is clear where Canadians stand on what the punishment ought to be for first degree murder. Poll after poll over the years has indicated that Canadians support capital punishment. This House voted against the reinstatement of capital punishment a number of years ago.

Short of that the Canadian public would like to see a just criminal justice system that would entail a severe penalty for first degree murder. Most Canadians thought that the penalty for first degree murder was a minimum of 25 years in prison. Until recently when the media would report a conviction they would say that the individual would be serving a minimum of 25 years. That was not the case. As my hon. friend pointed out, in 1976 the so-called faint hope clause was inserted into the Criminal Code. It took 15 years before Canadians came to realize that the faint hope clause was in effect the sure bet clause because the success rate was around 80%. So 80% of those who applied to have their parole ineligibility reduced had their parole ineligibility reduced. That is simply not acceptable.

I estimate that 95% to 98% of Canadians would like to see the repeal of section 745 to render the criminal justice system a just system. Right now Canadians are cynical about the criminal justice system. There is considerable disrespect not only because of the inclusion of section 745 in the code but other problems with the Young Offenders Act, concurrent sentencing, parole and probation provisions.

Canadians want to see a criminal justice that is just, that puts public safety and the rights of victims in front of the rights of accused persons and criminals, including those serving time for murder.

Regrettably Bill C-258 will not be voted on because of the private members' process that we have in existence today. That is another debate. It is unfortunate because it seems to me that the whole process is somewhat meaningless unless matters such as this are brought to a vote in the House so all members of parliament can exercise their democratic duty and pronounce themselves on behalf of their constituents. This bill could, if voted on, be made retroactive if parliament were to decide to use the notwithstanding clause.

I again express my concern about section 745 and my complete support for its repeal. I believe it is consistent with the views of my constituents and the overwhelming majority of Canadians. I am pleased that we are once again debating this matter. I hope that at some point the government will allow this matter to be brought to a vote so that all members of parliament can express the views of their constituents.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too support the bill proposed by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Bill C-258. I will keep my comments rather brief and to the point through a personal story.

If there is every a place that you do not want to meet somebody it is at a hearing involving a section 745 case. Unfortunately that is where I met one of my constituents for the first time, Mr. Ray King. Mr. King is the father of one of Olson's victims.

Mr. King came to me prior to that case and shared with me the years of anguish he went through personally as a result of the incident that unfortunately happened to his son.

That is what this is about. We have heard in the House today philosophical difference. There certainly is a very big philosophical difference. This philosophical difference has a dramatic impact on individual lives, Mr. King's life being a clear example of that.

I will read into the record a few of the comments made by Mr. King and the anguish that he shared personally and publicly in this process he had to go through:

The nightmares that had been absent in my life for several years returned (after going through this process).

We get a life sentence too. And it doesn't end after 15 years or 20 years. Having those victim impact statements read aloud in the presence of this person was the ultimate obscenity. Throughout it all, the grin never left his face.

I found it impossible to make any sense of the fact that this person, who had taken away our right to see our children grow up to adulthood, should demand and be afforded concessions.

This is the heart rending situation in this section 745 case and this bill. It is not understandable why this bill is not votable today.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned the changes the government has made. I think she said it goes against government policy, therefore it is not in favour of it. It is simply bad policy. It is bad legislation.

We have to ask ourselves on this side and individuals across Canada have to ask themselves is this government willing to accept bad policy and bad law which negatively affects individuals across this country. We must conclude by the actions and the statements made here today by members on the government side that it is the case. That is a sad commentary on the state of this government and its response to the criminal justice system.

Mr. King's comments are comments I will never forget. I was an 18 year old in Coquitlam where Olson was when his reign of terror was going on. I have mentioned that in the House before and I mention it again because I know personally the fear that gripped the community. I also many years later was in the unfortunate circumstance of having to hear Mr. King's tragedy and the loss that changed his life forever. It is not fair to put individuals, not one individual Canadian, through that experience.

If this government had the initiative to remove section 745 not one Canadian would have to go through what Mr. King went through. That is the tragedy we are talking about.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the former chairman of the Waterloo regional police I have a very keen and strong interest in this area of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-258 proposes the repeal of section 745.6 of the Criminal Code, a provision which provides for judicial review of the parole ineligibility period for persons convicted of murder and high treason.

I want to re-emphasize the position of the government. We believe that section 745.6 should be retained for exceptional and deserving cases and as such Bill C-258 is in direct conflict with government policy and therefore certainly I do not and the government does not support it.

Section 745.6 was enacted in 1976 when the death penalty was abolished in Canada. That section was necessary as a source of hope for the rehabilitation of convicted murderers and as a protection for prison guards.

I believe the reasons that justified its addition to the Criminal Code then are still valid today. An offender must satisfy a jury of 12 citizens drawn from the community that the parole ineligibility period should be reduced. At that hearing after evidence called by the applicant and by the crown including any information the victims of the crime may wish to bring to the attention of the jury it is the jury which decides whether to reduce that parole ineligibility period.

I want to emphasize a point that is crucial to an accurate understanding of the issue. However, it is not always understood by others and perhaps some in the public that the life sentence imposed on a person convicted of murder or high treason continues literally for the offender's entire life. Accordingly in those cases where such an offender is released on parole the offender continues to be subject to the sentence and can be reincarcerated at any time should he or she breach a condition of release imposed by the parole board.

Section 745.6 sets out an extremely rigorous procedure. If we look at the facts the vast majority of those eligible to apply simply never do.

There is a great deal of public concern about section 745.6. I share that and the residents of Waterloo-Wellington and all Canadians share that. The government certainly shares that concern as well and that is why the government amended section 745.6 in the last parliament. We recognized the concerns that were raised and we moved to deal with them.

As many members of the House will know, Bill C-45 brought three key changes to section 745.6. The first eliminated judicial review for all multiple murders committed in the future whether the murders are committed at the same time or not. This would include serial murders. The proposed amendment is consistent with the notion long found in the Criminal Code that the repetition of the offence should be treated more harshly by the law in a single offence.

The second created a screening mechanism whereby a judge of a superior court would conduct a paper review of the application to determine if there is reasonable chance of success before the application is allowed to proceed to a full hearing before a jury.

The third provided that the parole ineligibility period may only be reduced by a unanimous vote of the community jury, whereas previously only two-thirds of the jury were required. As a result of this provision an application for reduction of the parole ineligibility period will be denied whenever the jury cannot reach a unanimous conclusion to reduce the period.

There is a lot more we as a government are doing for victims and their families. It is much more than simply focusing in on single minded or simplistic views such as the repeal of section 745.6. The government believes, as many Canadians and certainly residents in my area do, that people who are guilty of a terrible act should be given a chance to come to terms with their crime and rehabilitate themselves. In the government's view it is important that our justice system include a mechanism which gives some people a chance in exceptional circumstances to turn around their lives.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

This being Private Members' Business, the mover of the bill has the last five minutes. Since we are in the last five minutes we will go to the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, from the government side we have just heard an incredible rationalization for releasing dangerous offenders. Liberals have demonstrated today that they are soft on crime.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Excuse me, if the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey would be kind enough to sit down I will explain how Private Members' Business works.

If the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey would like to speak in Private Members' Business when the time has elapsed, he needs only to stand in his place and request unanimous consent for the time to be extended.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have to go back in time and remember that section 745 of the Criminal Code was slipped in but the effects of it, the consequences were not really appreciated at the time by the public. It took quite a while before these early untimely parole eligibility processes began to kick in. The press began to respond to the emerging public concern if not disgust, leading eventually to outrage when for example Clifford Olson laughed at parliament, Canadians and every misguided politician who supported the twisted logic of this section.

Section 745 has to go. It serves no positive benefit for the administration of justice. I have been on the line supervising parolees. I have heard all the games. It has no place in Canadian criminal law.

This section has been a focal point, a lightning rod, an example of something that brings the justice system and parliament into disrepute. Reformers will not rest until section 745 is gone. That is the people's agenda, the agenda from coast to coast. Thousands of names have been tendered in petitions here in this parliament on the subject.

We have had protest rallies on Parliament Hill and across the country on it. What does it take to get it done? Once it was mistakenly put in place it has been so long and so hard for Canadians to get government to correct the wrong done to the country.

Here again we have the topic before parliament and the Liberal members through their control of the system for private members' bills would not let a vote occur on my bill. However, it is still a national issue that will not go away. I brought my bill forward again to bring it up.

The House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights needs to deal with this topic as it considers victims of crime in its deliberations. Therefore, I propose a carefully worded motion to remind the government of its duty to Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you canvass for unanimous consent that Bill C-258, an act to amend the Criminal Code (judicial review) be not read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to be included in its review of victims of crime.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby has asked for unanimous consent to have the subject matter of the bill referred to committee.

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

An hon. member


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There is not unanimous consent.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was going to request the unanimous consent of this House to allow me an additional three or four minutes simply to convey some remarks on behalf of the constituents of Simcoe—Grey and myself.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member has asked for unanimous consent to extend Private Members' Business by three minutes.

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you can see I was not fully prepared for a 10 minute address.

I would like to thank my hon. colleagues for the opportunity to address this issue. As was noticed earlier on it is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I carry a certain passion for it.

I should first clarify my position on this. As the member of parliament for Simcoe—Grey and dealing with a private members' bill I am a very significant proponent for repealing section 745. I do so for a couple of reasons. Those two reasons are justice and victims rights. I encourage the members of this House to give consideration to the elimination of section 745 for those two reasons.

I will not repeat what some of my colleagues have commented on with respect to justice and the amount of time served for first degree murder. In a just society, I believe there should not be an opportunity to have a reduction in sentence when in fact a premeditated murder has taken place. Perhaps even more important are the victims that are left behind to deal with this over and over again. I would like to provide a short example. I think it might impact on some of the hon. members of this House.

I too have a constituent in my riding that has had to experience the loss of a loved one. In turn the murderer had the opportunity to go through the section 745 process. It was not the spouse that had to relive that tragedy, that travesty which took place, but the children. She had a very easy explanation to understand and certainly it is why I am a proponent to have this section eliminated.

The children dealt with it as children some 17 or 18 years ago. They were able to put it behind them and get on with their lives. She was able to address it accordingly and raise her children in a very good way. Some 15 years later, the children were forced to deal with it again but this time as adults. That had a very negative consequence on their lives. It has had a dramatic effect on that.

I believe if we are to give true consideration, if we are truly to be supportive of victims rights, then we have no option but to eliminate section 745.

On behalf of the constituents of Simcoe—Grey, I voice my comments here on this private members' bill and wholeheartedly endorse the removal and elimination of section 745.