House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was death.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-18, an act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving causing death and other matters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, with Bill C-18 of the present session and Bill C-82 of the previous session, the government has responded positively to every one of the 10 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for specific amendments to Criminal Code provisions related to impaired driving.

In October 1997, the House of Commons directed the standing committee to review the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code. On May 25, 1999 the committee tabled its report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving” with an appended draft bill.

Within two weeks of receiving that report, the government introduced Bill C-82, which was fast-tracked and given royal assent, as amended, on June 17, 1999.

As tabled, Bill C-82 followed very closely the draft bill which the standing committee had appended to its report.

In order to achieve speedy passage, the provision raising the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death to life imprisonment was removed from Bill C-82 and placed in Bill C-87.

Bill C-82 came into force on July 1, 1999. With prorogation, Bill C-87 died on the order paper. The government committed itself to reintroducing in this session the provision that was found within Bill C-87.

Bill C-82 amended seven penalty provisions and one investigation provision as follows. It increased the minimum fine for impaired driving offences to $600. It raised the minimum driving prohibitions for all impaired driving offenders and increased the maximum driving prohibitions for second and subsequent offenders. The bill specified that judges must consider a blood alcohol concentration reading above 160 milligrams per cent as an aggravating factor in sentencing. It specified that a judge may make a probation order for assessment and treatment in relation to addiction in a jurisdiction that has such a program. The bill also specified that a judge may make a probation order for ignition interlock use in a jurisdiction that has such a program. It introduced a new maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment for leaving the scene of an accident knowing that someone was injured. It also introduced a new maximum penalty of life imprisonment for leaving the scene of an accident knowing that there was a death or an injury and not caring whether death ensued and death did ensue. It raised the maximum penalty for driving while disqualified to five years of imprisonment where the crown elects to proceed by indictment. Finally, the bill extended the period from two hours to three hours during which an officer with reasonable grounds to believe an impaired driving offence had occurred can demand a breath sample.

Bill C-18 follows through on the government's commitment to reintroduce the provision found in Bill C-87. It would raise the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death from 14 years to life imprisonment, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its report. This maximum penalty would equal the maximum penalty for the offences of manslaughter and for criminal negligence causing death.

A maximum penalty is reserved for cases involving the worst offender in the worst factual circumstances. However, even when considering the appropriate sentences for offenders who are not sentenced to the maximum penalty, the courts can consider the fact that the maximum penalty for an offence has been raised and adjust the penalty accordingly. This amendment will contribute to the message that still needs to be sent: society will not tolerate impaired driving.

There is another amendment in Bill C-18 that implements the positive response by the government to a recommendation made by the standing committee in its report “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”. This is an amendment that would add drugs to section 256 of the criminal code as a basis upon which a peace officer may seek a warrant to obtain a blood sample. Currently, the warrant may only be sought where the officer reasonably believes that a driver committed an impaired driving offence involving alcohol, in circumstances involving an injury or a death, and where the driver is unable to consent to the taking of a blood sample. This will add to the tools that peace officers may use in investigating certain drug impaired driving offences committed in violation of paragraph 253(a) of the criminal code.

Besides meeting commitments for specific legislative changes made by the government on October 22, 1999, when it tabled its response to the report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Bill C-18 also contains two provisions that are technical in nature.

One of these would amend the French definition of a motor vehicle found in section 2 of the criminal code to accord with the English definition, which excludes vehicles propelled by means of muscular power.

The other technical amendment will delete the offence of driving while disqualified from the list of indictable offences found in section 553 of the code that come within the absolute jurisdiction of a provincial court judge. This is necessary because Bill C-82 raised the maximum penalty for driving while disqualified from two years to five years of imprisonment where the crown proceeds by indictment. The charter provides the right to a jury trial for an offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years or more. Therefore, the amendment in Bill C-18 will ensure that section 553 is in compliance with the charter.

The government did not naively believe when it put forward the amendments contained in Bill C-82 that criminal code changes by themselves would eliminate all incidents of impaired driving. Nor was the standing committee naive in makings its proposals. The criminal law must do its part in the struggle against impaired driving; however, other systems must also fulfill their important parts. Governments, many public and private organizations, families and individuals have contributed to a real shift in public attitudes toward impaired driving over a period of time.

However, despite significant reductions over the past decade in the percentage of fatally injured drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration exceeding the legal limit, the remaining extent of impaired driving is still an enormous problem. The government will continue to work with other governments and organizations to combat impaired driving.

In addition to continuing work in the field of criminal law, prevention and educational work related to impaired driving is carried out by Health Canada as part of Canada's national drug strategy. Improving road safety measures to fight impaired driving is an important aspect of work carried out by Transport Canada. If we have learned anything from the standing committee's review of the impaired driving provisions, it is that individuals and organizations are working with various levels of government and police agencies to develop a combination of countermeasures that will eliminate impaired driving. It has been a pleasure to observe parliamentarians of all political stripes laying aside partisan politics and working together in order to address the serious problem of impaired driving. I wish especially to thank all members of the standing committee for their hard work in writing a report and drafting legislation to meet a common goal.

It is also gratifying to see the extent of public interest and participation in the development of criminal law responses to impaired driving.

While we may not all agree on every measure that has been proposed to eliminate impaired driving, together we have taken some important steps which improve the criminal law and contribute to the combination of measures aimed against impaired driving.

I ask that members of the House give their support to Bill C-18 which responds to the standing committee's remaining two recommendations for specific criminal code amendments.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-18. I heard the member opposite applaud the standing committee and the work it has done. I too concur that the work that has been done on this particular bill is very positive and serves to protect the lives of Canadians from the tragedy of harm and death that can come from impaired driving.

This particular bill, as the member opposite has just stated, is intended to increase the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death to life imprisonment, providing for the taking of blood samples for the purposes of testing for the presence of a drug and making a number of other amendments as detailed here.

I want to draw attention to the excellent work of my colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley on this particular initiative and the long persistent road that he has been on to bring this forward to the House of Commons. The very reason that this issue was even before the standing committee was largely due to the result, effort and the determination of one particular member of the Reform Party, the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley.

Let me allow the House to reflect, and those watching today, on the long road it has travelled to actually get this bill to the House here today. It was more than three years ago, February 1996, that a private member's bill was put forward by the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley with the Reform Party, Bill C-201. It was an act to amend the criminal code to provide for a seven year minimum sentence for those convicted of impaired driving causing death. At that time there was no minimum jail term. The maximum sentence was unclear. The bill was defeated in the House by a margin of 31 votes.

Mr. Speaker, you might think that might be the end of the story, that the hon. member might have quit there after having finally got his bill to the floor and votable, which is not an easy thing to do in the House. There is a long series of lotteries, in effect, that one has to go through to get to that point. He got his bill to the floor with great public support and yet it was defeated in the House.

That was not going to deter the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley. On December 2, 1996, because of the great public support for what he was doing, he proposed a private member's motion, M-78. The motion read that pursuant to Standing Order 68(4)(a), the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill to amend those sections of the criminal code which deal with impaired driving in order to (a) enhance deterrents and (b) ensure that the penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence.

He did not give up on the bill and he went ahead with a motion. That motion then was unanimously adopted by the House of Commons on February 7, 1997, a year after he had started this initiative.

That started the ball rolling in a sense here in the House of Commons. On October 30, 1997, another motion, M-78, was introduced as an opposition day motion. Nothing really happened on the first motion but to keep the pressure on, this member again brought it forward in our caucus. He brought it forward as an opposition day motion. The member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley proposed Motion No. M-78, which again asked for the unanimous consent of the House and with further instruction that the justice committee carry out a review and report back to the House of Commons with legislation by May 15, 1998. Unfortunately, the government took no action at all even though that motion was given unanimous consent. Nothing happened even though it was approved by the House of Commons. There was no movement by the government opposite. There may be a variety of reasons for that.

The main thing here that was important to people who supported this initiative of the Reform Party member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley was that they wanted to see some action and there was none. It was not until the fall of 1998 that an extension to the deadline was agreed to just to keep it alive until November 30, 1998.

It was because of not wanting to let this die, because we wanted to keep it alive, the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley negotiated to extend the deadline to May 15, 1999. More than three years from when he started this initiative he would not let go of this much needed legislation to protect the innocent from the damaging and sometimes life terminating effects of drunk driving.

The committee conducted hearings throughout February and March, 1999 and tabled its report in the House in late May. The resulting legislation, Bill C-82, which was part of a package, was passed by the House and came into effect on July 1, 1999. It was a long road to see a good section of what was called for by the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley. It was strengthened, admittedly, by the committee and was adopted by the House.

On December 1 the bill we are debating today was introduced, Bill C-18. It deals with some sections that some members of the House were not comfortable having included in Bill C-82. We are moving ahead today on Bill C-18. We are hopeful that Bill C-18 will be passed by the House and this will complete the long road that the Reform Party, led by the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley, has championed.

This whole persistent determination to see good legislation brought forward to protect Canadians and the lives of Canadians by a member of the Reform Party reminds me of other pieces of legislation that this party has brought forward in the House and has caused changes to occur that have subsequently been adopted and championed as their own by the Liberal Party opposite. I do not begrudge that. I suppose that is part of the dynamics here. But today I want to reflect on some of the other impacts the opposition has had on positive legislation in the House.

For example, some of the changes to the Young Offenders Act that have occurred recently in the new youth criminal justice act were largely brought about by members of our party. I know there are many members opposite who would agree with that. The requirement to have parents in the courtroom when juveniles are being sentenced is an initiative of the Reform Party. The requirement to have some degree of accountability for parents when a charged youth is released into their custody was an initiative of the Reform Party that has been adopted in the youth criminal justice act. There are many other initiatives as well. I suspect we would not even have seen the changes to the youth criminal justice act that are being proposed had it not been for the pressure that was put forward by members of the Reform Party responding to the concerns of the public, of grassroots Canadians.

We are all celebrating a balanced budget but I can remember back in 1998 looking at the information put forward by the Reform Party that showed a huge debt hole that had been dug by previous Tory and Liberal administrations. Just as Bill C-18 and Bill C-82 were initiatives of members of the Reform Party, so it was that it was the Reform Party responding to the deep debt that had been incurred by these previous governments that pressured for balanced budgets which today we have.

I had a bill that was designed to better protect children from sex offenders, particularly when those sex offenders want to work for an institution that cares for children, allowing these institutions or volunteer organizations to better do a complete assessment if there was any record of this person who wants to work with that organization.

That bill was passed by the House twice, made it through committee and, in fact, went on to the Senate. Unfortunately, after prorogation I do not believe that bill has been resubmitted by the Liberal government into the Senate and it now floats in the ozone. However, that does not mean we are going to give up on it. Again, a particular initiative brought forward by the official opposition to better protect children.

Again, another member of our party brought forward the whole initiative on organ donation, organ transplants and saving of lives through appropriate legislation to allow for that activity. Once more the Liberal government has responded to another good idea from the Reform Party and the official opposition.

One I know we will all remember, it is recent, is the call right across the country from families calling for fair family taxation. Last year we had a public outcry from those tired of tax policies that discriminate against certain family choices of child care. There was a call by single income parents across the country for fair family taxation so that the dollars and the choices are left in the hands of parents. What happened with that was it forced the subcommittee of finance to actually look at this whole issue. A report came out of that committee that contained a number of good recommendations.

Again, that whole issue was brought forward and brought to light in the House through the Reform Party responding to public pressure from across the country.

Let me return to Bill C-18. I want to conclude my comments by applauding again the Reform Party member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley who met with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving from coast to coast and attended many of their meetings. He brought forward their issues in the House during question period and during statement time as well as their petitions from across the country.

There are a lot of things that demand our time here in the House of Commons. He could have chosen to do other things, but he responded to the outcry of parents who have had children killed or spouses maimed by drunk drivers. He said “No, I am not going to let this go”.

He persisted until today we have legislation in the form of Bill C-82 that has been passed by this House and is going on to be made law, and now Bill C-18 to complete the package. It makes me proud to stand among my peers in the Reform Party. We are responding to the concerns of the grassroots. We are bringing forward issues and getting them into committee where they can be heard by committee members and witnesses can be brought forward. In effect it demonstrates that, collectively, in the House when we can get a good idea into committee and the members opposite hear the witnesses, it can result in excellent legislation.

Again, I applaud the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley and the Reform Party for the leadership shown on this particular issue.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again in the area of justice we are going to play the spoiler role, because this bill is completely unacceptable.

Perhaps not the part dealing with taking samples, because I argued in favour of that, even in committee, but the provision calling for life sentences for impaired driving.

In the forty minutes available to me I shall attempt to show why. Forty minutes is a very short time, however, to try to convince the government over there on this subject, which is both truly important and extremely serious.

I consider it a privilege to speak on Bill C-18.

Today, what we are debating is not the seriousness of the offence of impaired driving causing death. We all agree that this is unacceptable, and ought never to happen, absolutely never.

Not one member of this House would contradict the Minister of Justice on that point. Every parliamentarian sympathizes with the victims of the horrible negligence suffered by some of our fellow citizens. This is why we must fight this unforgivable excess, which takes away too many innocent lives.

As long as there are victims of impaired drivers, something must be done. The problem must be addressed directly. There can be no hiding behind easy measures. As long as the statistics show there are victims, the Bloc Quebecois will take an interest in the issue, try to prove certain approaches and work on it.

However, today the objective of the legislation is not my problem. The objective is a good one. I support it. My problem is not with it.

We all want to reduce the number of deaths on our roads, and as quickly as possible, but the means to this end proposed by the Minister of Justice are inappropriate, unacceptable even. The minister's approach is too simplistic. I would say even that the minister's approach is quite senseless.

What the minister is claiming is not too complicated. I would say even that it is so uncomplicated as to be irresponsible. She simply says “Pass this bill. Let us impose life imprisonment and the number of highway deaths will drop”. That is magical thinking but it is pretty simplistic.

With Bill C-18, the Minister of Justice intimates that incarceration is effective in the fight against impaired driving . According to her, the threat of life imprisonment should have a direct influence on the behaviour of potentially dangerous citizens.

In her opinion—and Mr. Speaker I am sure you fully agree with me because you are a very wise man—the risk of getting life imprisonment instead of a 14 year sentence would have an impact on the behaviour of uncle Joe or cousin Pete who, for example, partied a little too hard at Christmas or New Year. The minister is saying “Let us send a clear message to the public”. One wonders whether the minister is not confusing the terms message with cheap publicity.

Either way, such a communication plan could end up costing us dearly in the long term, particularly since there is absolutely no guarantee that it will work.

Actually, Bill C-18 should trigger a substantive debate on the excessive use of incarceration by this government. We have here a government that chooses the easy way, the simple way out. The equation used by the government, particularly since the current Minister of Justice was appointed, is the following one: seriousness of offence plus pressure from the right automatically equals unjustified extension of jail terms. This is some formula coming from a Minister of Justice. Unfortunately, this is what the Liberal government has got us used to in recent years.

It goes without saying that those who oppose this simplistic approach are not always making friends, but I am not in politics primarily to make friends. I am in politics to get messages across, to make common sense prevail, to remind the government opposite that it is going in the wrong direction.

Those of us who oppose this simplistic approach are being accused of lacking compassion for the victims and of systematically siding with the accused, which is not the case, of course. Those who are aware of what goes on in the Standing Committee on Justice know very well that this is not the case. The opponents of the doctrine of law and order are also accused of being soft on law. If the responsible approach being taken by the Bloc Quebecois is synonymous with being soft on law, the Bloc Quebecois is only too glad to be so labelled, particularly as it is not alone in advocating a responsible approach to justice.

Recently, the supreme court had occasion to warn the public and the Liberal government in particular about overreliance on jail sentences as a means of reducing crime-related problems.

I would like to take a few minutes of my speech to quote the Supreme Court of Canada on some extremely important matters, because it is clear from Bill C-18 and all the bills the Minister of Justice is introducing lately, including the young offenders bill, that the minister and the government have not read this extremely important decision.

I am referring to the Gladue decision handed down last year by the judges of the supreme court, some of whom, including Justice Cory, put the federal government on trial for its sentencing policy.

Members might wish to make a note of the Gladue decision, and take a look at it, because it is very important and the Liberal government might perhaps change its approach to justice.

I will therefore read an important part of the Gladue decision dealing with what the court described as “the problem of overincarceration in Canada”. The excerpt I would like to read goes as follows:

Canada is a world leader in many fields, particularly in the areas of progressive social policy and human rights. Unfortunately, our country is also distinguished as being a world leader in putting people in prison. Although the United States has by far the highest rate of incarceration among industrialized democracies, at over 600 inmates per 100,000 population, Canada's rate of approximately 130 inmates per 100,000 population places it second or third highest. Moreover, the rate at which Canadian courts have been imprisoning offenders has risen sharply in recent years, although there has been a slight decline of late. This record of incarceration rates obviously cannot instil a sense of pride.

This is not the Bloc Quebecois member for Berthier—Montcalm, but a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada who is saying that “This record of incarceration rates obviously cannot instil a sense of pride”. The decision then reads as follows:

The systematic use of the sanction of imprisonment in Canada may be dated to the building of the Kingston Penitentiary in 1835.

I hope this has no link whatsoever with the Chair, but there was certainly something political in all of this, because if a prison was built in Kingston, it had to filled up. Therefore, people had to be sent to prison. This is not the supreme court justice talking, but the member for Berthier—Montcalm.

Now back to the decision:

The penitentiary sentence was itself originally conceived as an alternative to the harsher penalties of death, flogging, or imprisonment in a local jail.

Sentencing reformers advocated the use of penitentiary imprisonment as having effects which were not only deterrent, denunciatory, and preventive, but also rehabilitative.

with long hours spent in contemplation and hard work contributing to the betterment of the offender.

However, things have changed since that time.

The supreme court goes on to say:

Notwithstanding its idealistic origins, imprisonment quickly came to be condemned as harsh and ineffective, not only in relation to its purported rehabilitative goals, but also in relation to its broader public goals.

The history of Canadian commentary regarding the use and effectiveness of imprisonment as a sanction was recently well summarized by Vancise J.A., dissenting in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in McDonald ,


This justice said:

A number of inquiries and commissions have been held in this country to examine, among other things, the effectiveness of the use of incarceration in sentencing. There has been at least one commission or inquiry into the use of imprisonment in each decade of this century since 1914.

At this point, I would like the members opposite to listen very closely.

An examination of the recommendations of these reports reveals one constant theme: imprisonment should be avoided if possible and should be reserved for the most serious offences, particularly those involving violence.

They all recommend restraint in the use of incarceration and recognize that incarceration has failed to reduce the crime rate and should be used with caution and moderation.

Imprisonment has failed to satisfy a basic function of the Canadian judicial system which was described in the Report of the Canadian Committee on Corrections entitled: “Toward Unity: Criminal Justice and Corrections” (1969)

As “to protect society from crime in a manner commanding public support while avoiding needless injury to the offender”.

The supreme court continues its analysis and says:

Canada does not imprison as high a portion of its population as does the United States. However, we do imprison more people than most other western democracies.

The Criminal Code displays an apparent bias toward the use of incarceration since for most offences the penalty indicated is expressed in terms of a maximum term of imprisonment.

A number of difficulties arise if imprisonment is perceived to be the preferred sanction for most offences.

Perhaps most significant is that although we regularly impose this most onerous and expensive sanction, it accomplishes very little—

I repeat “accomplishes very little”. This is in reference to imprisonment.

The court continues:

—apart from separating offenders from society for a period of time.

In the past few decades many groups and federally appointed committees and commissions given the responsibility of studying various aspects of the criminal justice system have argued that imprisonment should be used only as a last resort.

This is important and it is the justices of the supreme court who are saying so. They go on:

With equal force, in Taking Responsibility the Standing Committee on Justice and Solicitor General stated—

This is in 1988, not many years ago. The committee said:

It is now generally recognized that imprisonment has not been effective in rehabilitating or reforming offenders, has not been shown to be a strong deterrent, and has achieved only temporary public protection and uneven retribution, as the lengths of prison sentences handed down vary for the same type of crime.

They go on:

Since imprisonment generally offers the public protection from criminal behaviour for only a limited time, rehabilitation of the offender is of great importance. However, prisons have not generally been effective in reforming their inmates, as the high incidence of recidivism among prison populations shows.

These are the conclusions of a House of Commons committee, which are quoted in the supreme court decision.

The use of imprisonment as a main response to a wide variety of offences against the law is not a tenable approach in practical terms.

Most offenders are neither violent nor dangerous. Their behaviour is not likely to be improved by the prison experience. In addition, their growing numbers in jails and penitentiaries entail serious problems of expense and administration, and possibly increased future risks to society.

Moreover, modern technology may now permit the monitoring in the community of some offenders who previously might have been incarcerated for incapacitation or denunciation purposes. Alternatives to imprisonment and intermediate sanctions, therefore, are increasingly viewed as necessary developments.

The committee proposed that alternative forms of sentencing should be considered for those offenders who did not endanger the safety of others. It was put in this way, at pages 50 and 54 of the report:

One of the primary foci of such alternatives must be on techniques which contribute to offenders accepting responsibility for their criminal conduct and, through their subsequent behaviour, demonstrating efforts to restore the victim to the position he or she was in prior to the offence and/or providing a meaningful apology.

Except where to do so would place the community at undue risk, the “correction” of the offender should take place in the community and imprisonment should be used with restraint.

I now go back to the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which concluded thus:

Thus, it may be seen that although imprisonment is intended to serve the traditional sentencing goals of separation, deterrence, denunciation, and rehabilitation, there is widespread consensus that imprisonment has not been successful in achieving some of these goals.

Overincarceration is a long-standing problem that has been many times publicly acknowledged but never addressed in a systematic manner by Parliament.

As we have seen, the Supreme Court of Canada, superior court justices in certain provinces and parliamentary committees have studied this issue over the last 30 years. Recently, in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which includes the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada, everyone agreed that putting people in jail is not the solution. We have to find other ways of dealing with the problem.

The minister had the opportunity to show us that she had learned something from these 30 years of study, that she had understood the direction suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada in its recent judgement. She had the opportunity to show that her interpretation of that supreme court judgment led toward something other than a life sentence for someone who has committed a crime.

However, we will have to wait for another bill, because it is not the case in this one. I know justices who must be extremely disappointed in what they are hearing in this debate today. How can the minister seriously claim that a life sentence will have a deterrent effect on Canadians?

If she does not want to listen to the point of view the Bloc Quebecois, she should at least heed what the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada had to say.

I will repeat what the supreme court said about the effectiveness of incarceration. It is very important for members opposite to understand this. The supreme court justices said that incarceration was harsh and ineffective. In 1998, the members of the justice committee repeated that incarceration had no deterrent effect on the behaviour of offenders.

What is obvious to the whole legal community does not seem obvious to the justice minister. Where does the minister get the idea that imposing harsher jail sentences will affect the crime rate?

The Minister of Justice may not appreciate what the Supreme Court had to say and I quote “This record of incarceration rates obviously cannot instil a sense of pride”.

Some may argue that the bill before the House is going to bolster Canada's image. Does the minister appreciate the fact that Canada will be known as one of the highest ranking developed countries in terms of the incarceration rate?

If the minister takes pride in such things, then I understand why she introduced Bill C-18, because it will only push Canada higher on that scale. Maybe our goal is to rank higher than the United States. Do we want to americanize our justice system? I do not think so; I really do not think that is our goal.

It comes as no surprise that the minister does not feel she has to follow through on the representations we regularly make to her in the House. The government always does as it pleases, without taking into account the views of the members of this House, and that is nothing new. However, it is unfortunate and even troubling to see that the minister and her government have chosen to ignore the advice of their own court of justice.

The government has no qualms about referring matters to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to put Quebec in its place and to prevent from achieving its goal democratically. It is all fine and good to listen to the supreme court in such instances, but perhaps the Department of Justice and the government should listen to and read the supreme court decisions on other cases than those referred to it in order to bring Quebec to heel and to put it in its place.

Again I invite the minister to read the latest decisions on imprisonment handed down by the supreme court. I would hope that this will convince her to backtrack on Bill C-18.

Not only has the minister not taken good note of the advice of her magistrates, but she is now overdoing it. She has introduced a bill that will certainly not result in a reduction of the incarceration rate in Canada. If the minister could demonstrate that increasing prison terms would help decrease the number of deaths caused by impaired driving, then we could view the increase of inmate population as a necessary evil.

Yet the minister is just not able to do that, because it simply cannot be done. Many studies have already found a total absence of causal link between longer prison terms and a lower crime rate.

Moreover, we must not forget to consider the adverse effects of an unwarranted increase in the inmate population. In this regard, let us recall the supreme court decision in the Gladue case, which said the increasing number of offenders in jails is causing severe cost and administration problems and may increase the threat these offenders might pose to society later on.

This is the problem that parliamentarians are too often confronted with: the excessive and systematic use of jail sentences. Not only is this excessive use of jail sentences unwarranted in the general framework of sentencing policies, but it is not suited to the nature of the specific offence we are dealing with today.

Indeed, data compiled by the Canadian centre for justice statistics show that the number of deaths caused by impaired driving has not increased in Canada. On the contrary, the numbers for 1998 are the lowest since 1989. The offence of impaired driving causing death is not rising sharply, as the minister opposite wants us to believe for political motives.

Although this statistical fact does not allow us to claim victory, it deserves some consideration during the examination of a bill that implies that the number of offences of impaired driving causing death is greatly increasing.

Indeed, we were entitled to expect that such an extension of the sentence was reflected in the statistics on this offence. As we cannot justify this hard line approach based on its effect on crime, we might have wanted to deal with a problem that was really on the rise. But this is not the case.

There is another factor that deserves our attention in the debate on Bill C-18, and it is how the courts operate. And this is very important.

A dearth of legislative resources available to the courts might perhaps have justified increased sentences. But, the statistics show that the courts have never handed down a jail sentence of more than 10 years for the offence of impaired driving causing death.

The courts, which are the best placed to evaluate the circumstances of each offence committed, have never seen fit to impose the maximum sentence now available in the Criminal Code, which is 14 years. The question then arises as to what real effect adopting the sentence of life imprisonment would have on the practice of our courts.

As well, imposing life imprisonment for impaired driving might result in some ridiculous situations. For instance, a drunk driver who was clearly negligent could receive a stiffer sentence than a hired assassin who deliberately set out to kill someone and who receives a reduced sentence for being an informer. Consideration should also be given to certain sentencing statistics having to do with other offences similar to the offence of impaired driving causing death.

In the Criminal Code, impaired driving causing death carries a life sentence of 14 years. Since 1985, the average sentence handed down by Canadian appeal courts for this type of offence is 19 months. How can the minister justify a shorter sentence for someone who cold-bloodedly kills someone while driving recklessly than for someone driving under the influence of alcohol?

Let us not forget that incarceration is a last resort.

Mr. Speaker, will I have time to complete my speech?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Yes, indeed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

I will therefore resume after question period. I still have much left to say.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member still has twelve and a half minutes remaining. He will have plenty of time to continue his speech.

As it is now almost 11 o'clock, we will proceed to Statements by Members.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, next Monday is the national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. This is not just an occasion for reflecting on the past; it is also one for looking ahead to the future.

Canada holds the enviable title of the best country in the world to live in, but we know that some people here are living better than others. As a rule, for example, we know that the women of this country are economically and socially disadvantaged and that some groups of women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination: older women, young women, disabled women, aboriginal women, immigrant women.

Violence against women is the most extreme form of discrimination, for this is a violation of their basic rights. Violence has enormous economic and social costs to the individual, their families and the community as a whole.

If we want to see Canada remain the best country in the world, we must renew our commitment to—

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.

The hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, December 6, we will mark the 10th anniversary of one of the most unfortunate events in Canadian history. Marc Lepine's malicious act gunning down 14 young women in Montreal will never be forgotten.

Although the Montreal massacre was the height of violence against women, it is important to remember that women live daily with the threat of violence and deliberate acts of violence.

That is why education and ongoing initiatives to curb these attitudes must continue. Vigils are being held across the country on Monday. In my home riding of Dauphin—Swan River the Parkland Status of Women has led the way on action to combat violence against women.

Several events will take place across Canada, including here in Ottawa. The third annual candlelight vigil across the Internet will also help to share thoughts and feelings surrounding the entire issue.

We must all think and act on ways to end violence against women as the dawn of the year 2000 and a new century approaches.

Parliament HillStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in past years the beautiful display of colourful lights that illuminates Parliament Hill were unfortunately turned off on January 3 before many Orthodox Christian communities have a chance to celebrate Christmas.

I am delighted that when the lights on Parliament Hill and across Canada were illuminated last night they will remain on until January 8, 2000 and every year thereafter.

Many thanks to the Speaker for his co-operation in response to my initiative last year to have the lights remain on. The recognition of Canada's multicultural heritage that this extension symbolizes will be greatly appreciated by millions of Canadians who celebrate Christmas after December 25.

Mr. Speaker, merry Christmas and a happy new year.

PhilippinesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, 50 years ago tomorrow, Canada opened its first consulate office in the Philippines, starting the bond of goodwill that has since grown to full diplomatic relations; a bond that has seen Canada's involvement in the Philippines and the immigration of Filipinos to Canada, contributing to the well-being and fabric of the two nations.

As an offspring of this relationship, I am at once filled with pride and humility. Pride with gratitude, because Canada has given me the opportunity to pursue my medical career and raise my family on her nurturing soil, and now to serve fellow Canadians as a member of parliament. Humility, because I know I could not have done it alone for I will continue to owe part of myself to my roots.

I share the joy I feel as I stand in the House today and note the 50th anniversary of enduring relations between the country of my birth and the country that adopted me as a son. Mabuhay . Vive le Canada et les Philippines.

International Day Of Disabled PersonsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ian Murray Liberal Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today marks the seventh anniversary of the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons. This day provides an opportunity to recognize the many accomplishments of Canadians with disabilities and to reflect on the contributions they make to society every day.

In 1998, the Prime Minister accepted the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award in recognition of the Government of Canada's efforts toward enabling people with disabilities to achieve equality.

To mark this day, various federal departments have formed partnerships with agencies and representatives of people with disabilities. Today's celebration at the headquarters of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton includes the presentation of several community awards and features displays to increase public awareness of programs and assistance available to people with disabilities.

I encourage all hon. members to support persons with disabilities as the various levels of government work with the private sector to encourage equality in the workplace and in society.

International Day Of Disabled PersonsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, today is the last International Day of Disabled Persons for the 20th century.

According to statistics, more than half a billion people in the world are disabled as a result of mental, physical or sensory impairments. Today is the day to recognize the contribution that those with disabilities have made to our society and the dignity and value of each and every person.

We have seen the incredible spirit and character of those in the Special Olympics, and they can be proud of their example to us.

People like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen have been an inspiration to millions, but we must also not forget all those with disabilities who strengthen the meaning of human life and make our country a better place to live.

Today, I and my colleagues salute our friends, families, neighbours and co-workers with disabilities and we thank them for the joy and inspiration they bring to the lives of us all.

International Day Of Disabled PersonsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day of Disabled Persons.

With the year 2000 mere weeks away, we are forced to admit that we are still very far from giving anything more than lip service to their right to a full-fledged role as citizens.

In Quebec, it is estimated that close to one million persons are living with a handicap, and there are close to half a million in the workforce. Of those, many would like very much to be employed.

A 1996 study pointed out that the incomes of the disabled could be raised by academic upgrading, skills training and access to certain categories of employment.

The society in which we live can no longer turn a blind eye to this situation. Given the indecently large budget surpluses of the federal government and the crying needs of the disabled, how could we not be willing to give concrete recognition to their right to work, their right to independence and respect?

LandminesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago, Ottawa hosted a conference whereby over 120 countries agreed to ban anti-personnel landmines. Those hidden killers that maimed or killed over 20,000 women, men and especially children each year are now being destroyed throughout the world.

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs led the world to this goal. Today he is honouring the creation of the Canadian Landmines Foundation whereby individual Canadians can contribute to the cause of ending hidden killers.

When I left Hungary as a child, I walked through those killing fields. Let other children today forever lose those fears that I felt that night.

Freedom Of SpeechStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, three journalists arrested and carried away in a paddy wagon for photographing a peaceful protest; a grandmother handcuffed and hauled off by the police for staging a silent, solitary vigil; a peaceful citizen arrested for displaying a sign quoting from the UN charter on children's rights.

Where did all these gross violations of freedom of speech occur? In China? In Cuba? No, right here in Canada. What do they have in common? They were all perpetrated on Canadians speaking out for their belief in the sanctity of human life.

A variety of injunctions and laws have sprung up across Canada prohibiting Canadians who oppose abortion on demand from expressing that view. Consequently, attacks on their right to peacefully speak have become widespread, from citizens arrested for displaying signs in Sturgeon Falls to students attacked for handing out pro-life literature at the campus of UBC last week.

John Stuart Mill told us that if the right to freedom of speech exists for one person, it exists for all and that unpopular opinions much be protected as much as popular ones. It is time for society to consistently defend freedom of speech.

The Great LakesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, much of my riding borders on the beautiful Great Lakes of Huron and Superior, world famous, as hon. members will know. Many of my constituents enjoy sport fishing, commercial fishing, swimming and recreational boating in these waters. We are lucky to have this resource in our midst.

However, some of my constituents have expressed concern about the possible damage bulk water removal would cause the environment should it be allowed.

Our government has acted to address these concerns. Very recently the foreign affairs minister introduced amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to prohibit bulk exports of water from Canadian boundary waters, including the Great Lakes.

I am pleased to see that our government is committed to ensuring that our freshwater resources, especially the Great Lakes, are there for future generations.

Republic Of PalauStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 9, 1993, in their eighth referendum, the people of the Palau Islands, a former U.S. protectorate, chose sovereignty by majority vote.

The question put to the Palau people was as follows: “Do you approve of free association as proposed by the free association pact?”

On the ballot, along with the question was the information that the majority required was 50% plus one.

On October 1, 1994, the pact of free association was signed with the United States, and, on December 15 of the same year, the Republic of Palau joined the United Nations.

The Prime Minister and his acolyte in intergovernmental affairs, rather than deny the commitments they made in 1995 and propose positions that are undemocratic, should realize that sovereignty partnership is the way to the future for Quebec and Canada, and the threat to twist the principle of voter equality will simply damage Canada's reputation abroad.

Job CreationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, spectacular economic news was revealed by Statistics Canada on the country's job situation.

The unemployment rate has dropped by .3% to 6.9% nationally, the lowest rate in 18 years.

What is more, over half of the new jobs created are in Quebec. The strong growth in employment has resulted in a drop in the unemployment rate to 8.4% there, the lowest level in Quebec since April 1976.

Finally, climate of business in the private sector seems even better, since the number of employees increased by 42,000 in business in November.

Such encouraging results lead me to ask a clear question: Should Quebec separate with such good results? Certainly not.

RacismStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, racism is an odious and infectious disease which continues to thrive in our world. Unfortunately, we see racism here in Canada, even in places where we would least expect it.

The United Nations has recognized the urgency of eliminating racial discrimination with its convention for the elimination of racial discrimination. This convention has received the support of many countries, including Canada. However, while other countries supply annual reports providing information on actions taken against racism, the Government of Canada has failed to make submissions to the United Nations for the past two years. Just what is this government hiding?

I call on the Liberal government to file a report for Canada before the end of 1999 outlining initiatives to combat racism, but more than that, to go beyond filing a report and take real action to fight racism in our communities. Let us enter the new millennium with something to show on fighting racism in Canada.

EmploymentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand here today and state that the unemployment rate is the lowest since August 1981. From a high in 1993 before we took office at 11.6%, to today at a rate of 6.9%, a decrease of approximately 4.7% in six years. In 1993, 13 million Canadians were working. Today close to 1.9 million more Canadians have joined the workforce, bringing the total to 14.9 million.

Our Liberal government has achieved this through a balanced approach. We put a strategic plan in place, working with many sectors of our economy to ensure that we put jobs and Canadians first. We will continue to help Canadians achieve a higher standard of living through the dignity of work, while always trying to ensure that no one is left behind.

Small Business In Port-CartierStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, every entrepreneur and business owner will tell you that being a businessperson is not always easy.

One must juggle many things, and this on a daily basis. However, when our work is publicly recognized, it is the best present and reward that one could think of. This is what happened to seven businesses in my riding, which all won awards at Port-Cartier's business of the year gala.

Congratulations to Boutique Marie-Fleur, Ébénisterie Concept-Plus, Auberge Étoile du Nord, FMS Usitech and Clinique Physio-massage. All these businesses won awards in various categories.

Congratulations also to Boucherie Margil for its 20 years of existence and to Clinique Physio Massage Santé et Forme, which won the public's award for the quality of its products, services and hospitality.

Firearms Acquisition CertificateStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, a South Shore constituent, who volunteers for senior's literacy, recently wrote to me concerning a police record check. He understands this process is meant to filter out unsuitable applicants but he resents the administrative bureaucracy.

After hand delivering his request to the local RCMP for a police record check, he realized he did not have his birth certificate but he did have a current Firearms Acquisition Certificate which has a scanned photo and a birth date on it. However, this card is not accepted by the RCMP to do a police check.

In order to obtain his FAC, he is required to submit his birth certificate so that a police and background check could be carried out as a prerequisite to its issuance. Logic would dictate in the circumstances described that the Firearms Acquisition Certificate is a verification of one's birth. Surely even this government could figure that out.

HanukkahStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is the first day of the Jewish festival of lights called Hanukkah.

It is a great celebration for the Jewish community, because today millions of Jewish people will remember the injustices done to them not so long ago.

It is especially important to point out the great sense of solidarity of a people that was able to turn the page in order to live and set down roots in a country as open and welcoming as Canada.

This festival has a rich tradition and history of its own. Observed by millions of Jews around the globe, it commemorates the victory of faith over tyranny.

I therefore invite the hon. members to join in the celebrations of this community, my community, whose courage and perseverance are an integral part of its values.