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House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code so that any individual who uses a firearm in the commission of certain criminal offences will receive an additional sentence of incarceration.

What is behind this legislation? The member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who introduced the bill made reference to old Bill C-68 with which there is a lot of concern particularly in the regions of Canada that a lot of innocent people who use firearms are being asked to jump through a lot of hoops unnecessarily and the criminal element is in a sense overlooked.

As we speak today thousands and thousands of people who perhaps would seldom use firearms for anything other than the occasional hunting trip or the occasional trip out to the shooting gallery or the gun club are being asked to go through a process in an effort to make our country a safer place.

I suppose one could make the argument that another way to approach it would be to say to people who use firearms to participate in some kind of criminal activity that we will come down extremely heavy on them. The misuse of a firearm is something we simply do not want to tolerate. We are not particularly concerned about people who use firearms for recreational purposes, for international competitions and so on. We are concerned about the people who misuse firearms.

My friend has introduced a private member's bill as a way to say to individuals that if they use firearms to participate in a crime the penalties, if found guilty, will be much more severe. That is how we could summarize this legislation.

It also suggests the whole issue of consecutive sentencing of 10, 20 or in some cases 25 years. If individuals are found guilty of committing a crime while carrying a firearm, whether it is a pistol, rifle, shotgun or whatever, 10 years would be added to their sentence.

This sends a signal to people that as a society we will not tolerate this behaviour. If individuals participate in criminal activity while carrying a firearm and the firearm is discharged not necessarily causing any harm but to shoot at a person or shoot to frighten or whatever, their sentence will be increased to 20 years after the time for the original offence has been served. If they happen to actually cause bodily harm the sentence will be increased by 25 years.

We could argue about whether these terms of 10, 20 or 25 years are appropriate. We are trying to send a very clear message to people that we do not appreciate their participating in criminal activities, but if they use a firearm to assist in carrying out a dastardly deed we will be particularly hard on them.

What are these offences? For greater certainty the sponsor of the bill has included a number of offences. I will name them because I think it is important. Murder is included as are manslaughter, attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion. All these are dastardly crimes.

As a society we have clearly said we do not tolerate robbery or kidnapping. For various reasons people participate in these activities. A whole other element is added when a firearm is carried while the crime is being conducted. This tells individuals being kidnapped or robbed that if they do not behave as the criminal wants them to, their lives will be taken. They will be maimed. They will be shot. Very serious bodily harmed will be caused. It adds another dimension to the process. It is one thing to rob a person but it is another to hold up a person with a firearm.

I like the legislation. I do not know if these are the appropriate terms. I do not know if there should be other additions to the member's list. The purpose of this debate is to move the legislation forward. If it were to move forward we would go into committee where we would hear witnesses and perhaps fine-tune the legislation. This is sort of a first draft or a first run through. For that reason I am generally in favour of the legislation.

I have tried to come to grips with the whole issue of firearm control in Canada. I know we have all been lobbied hard by representatives on both sides of the issue. I am convinced that the legislation we used to refer to as Bill C-68, the firearms control act, will not have any appreciable effect on reducing the amount of violent crime in society. It will not have much of an impact on reducing the misuse of firearms.

When we look at the deaths caused each year by firearms, very few are the result of a person actually shooting somebody. It is the result of somebody's gun going off. It is the result of a domestic dispute. It is the result of a hunting accident. We have to ask ourselves if that firearm were registered would there not still be that homicide. If you are in a domestic dispute and your firearm is registered, are you going to say that you probably should not kill that person because it is registered? You have lost control and you are probably going to misuse that firearm.

We are not talking about whether firearms should exist or not. We are talking about the whole process of Bill C-68 and the registration of firearms. Having looked at that carefully, I do not think it will be very effective.

However, will this be effective? What if we were to tell people that if they misuse a firearm while participating in a crime the penalties will be significantly increased? We would all agree that 10, 20 or 25 years in jail is a very serious penalty. I might add that is a consecutive penalty. It is added on after the first penalty. I would question whether it would act as a deterrent. I suspect it probably would. I would like to hear evidence on whether it would or would not, but I guess we will have a chance to debate that in the future.

In 1995 Statistics Canada indicated that 33% of violent crimes committed with a firearm resulted in the victim being injured. In cases involving assault and sexual assault that number rises to over 50%. We are talking about this legislation having very serious implications.

When people participate in or are involved with extortion, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and so on, it often results in bodily harm and often leads to death. It is something we have to take a lot more seriously. I would like to seek unanimous consent to have a vote on this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gilles Bernier Progressive Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer the comments of the Progressive Conservative Party on Bill C-484. The PC Party believes in consecutive sentences to get tough on criminals. The PC Party also believes in legislation that gets tough on criminals who use firearms in the commission of an offence. The PC Party believes that by getting tough on criminals of all ages while offering and supporting meaningful programs for their rehabilitation, we can create a safe society for all Canadians.

However, we do not believe that Bill C-484 will be able to remedy all the degenerative legislation that has been enacted over the past six years by a Liberal government that is soft on crime. For example, this legislation could be rendered useless due to Liberal initiatives such as conditional sentencing.

This Liberal initiative has already been applied to rapists so why should we not believe that it would not be liberally applied to offenders falling under the auspices of Bill C-484? Conversely, we feel Bill C-484 is disproportionate to the rest of the Criminal Code in terms of the proposed sentences offered to criminals who fall under the bill.

If the government would commit to sensible gun control legislation that did not discriminate against law-abiding gun owners, and if it would follow the lead of its own MPs and commit to consecutive sentencing, the opposition parties would not feel the need to propose amendments to correct such bad legislation.

Since the Liberals came into power in 1993 they have tried to paint themselves as champions of justice and protectors of the public interest. In doing so they have promoted gun control legislation through basic, simplistic terms that played on the fears of a public fearful for its own public safety.

It is obvious now that the Reform Party too is falling victim to this Liberal image doctoring as its proposed amendments are playing right into the hands of Liberal ideals concerning gun control.

Instead of creating more negative firearms publicity through the bill, the Reform Party should be blasting the Liberals for their soft stand on crime. If the Liberals took a harder stance on issues such as youth and organized crime, if they listened to their colleagues and passed legislation on consecutive sentencing, and if they gave our police forces the proper funding needed to enforce the law, there would be no need for constant Criminal Code amendments to correct bad Liberal legislation.

Meaningful legislation would allow people to feel safe in the towns and cities of Canada. They would feel safe enough that the anti-gun lobby would not be forced to create its propaganda that also affects law-abiding gun owners in an adverse manner.

Our party supports the noble basis of Bill C-484, as it is steeped in the ideal of public safety. However, we are tempered by difficulties that this proposed legislation will encounter when confronted with existing, backward Liberal legislation. In noting this inevitable confrontation, we feel that the following problems will ensue.

First and foremost, our party has made it abundantly clear that the Liberal government has and continues to enact firearms legislation that discriminates against law-abiding gun owners. The Liberals are famous for being parochial fence-sitters that manoeuvre in the middle ground so as to avoid committing to anything that may damage their popularity. After all, the Liberals have continually proven that their objective is to support any popular cause as long as it ensures their re-election. The result is a government with no foresight and no platform other than that of doing whatever is necessary to be re-elected.

As I previously mentioned, the issue of gun control is one that was very easy for the Liberals to be seen as the champions of justice for the Canadian people. With violent images of crime being broadcast nightly into the living rooms of Canadians, the Liberals gained widespread support by saying that Canada had to get tougher gun registration laws to cut down on the availability of guns to the public. They quickly translated this tugging of Canadian heart strings into the now infamous Bill C-68, which is as disappointing as the current Bill C-68 debated today.

Neglecting the fact that this bill would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to implement and that it would take up to 233 years to register all Canadian firearms, the Liberals went ahead with the legislation championing themselves as the protectors of the Canadian public.

It is easy to see the effectiveness of the legislation now that the initial hype has been tempered by harsh reality. For example, the Liberal government that will do anything to avoid controversy has now come face to face with law-abiding gun owners who are protesting Bill C-68 as it discriminates against them with an ineffective, time consuming registration process.

In continuing with the theme of Liberal legislation that led to harsh realty, last week there was the occurrence of an absolute tragedy at the OC Transpo depot in Ottawa. The fact is that the Liberal's Bill C-68 would not have prevented a person like Pierre Lebrun from buying the gun used to facilitate his horrific killing spree.

This is what happens when dealing with a government that has no ideology or focus. It was popular and thus politically safe to implement legislation like Bill C-68. The Liberals must have felt that discriminating against law-abiding groups of gun owners would be a necessary evil but well worth it when compared to the support they would gain through an emotional subject like gun control.

However, in the Liberals' push for popularity they neglected to deal with the real issue at hand. If the Liberals—and in the case of Bill C-484, the Reform Party—would focus their efforts on the root causes of crime, we would not need Bill C-484, which will only bring more negative propaganda against gun owners.

We need to remember that the gun itself does not commit the crime. Therefore, we need to focus on stopping the real causes of crime, such as unemployment, poverty and the lack of protection from non-rehabilitated offenders who are released too soon due to concurrent sentencing and prison release quotas.

However, these problems are not as easily dealt with. Thus, we will not see the Liberals or the Reform Party delve into these issues and risk their popularity.

The second caution which our party would like to make has to do with the idea of amending the Criminal Code. Amending the Criminal Code can be a dangerous practice as it involves some of our society's most fundamental beliefs. Although these beliefs relate specifically to the manner in which our society disciplines itself, they also overlap into other areas, such as the charter of rights and freedoms.

Thus, if society was allowed to make amendments every time the Criminal Code fell afoul of popular opinion, we would make changes in haste that could adversely affect significant portions of society, and because such changes would be made in response to popular public opinion, it would leave minority groups unprotected from the tyranny of the majority.

We need to have faith in our judicial system which allows our judges to interpret the Criminal Code as it relates to an individual case. Although the system is not perfect, it allows for thoughtful, non-partisan decisions to be rendered and it allows for appeals of the process to be heard.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I commend my hon. colleague from Kamloops for his well thought out speech and I appreciate his attempt to have this private member's bill deemed votable, as I did myself. Clearly he has far more respect for the democratic process than any Liberal MP in this House, which brings to me to the comments of the member for Scarborough East who stated that the bill is a waste of time.

That comment is insulting and is typical of Liberal arrogance. More importantly, it underscores their soft on crime approach and their reluctance and unwillingness to deal with the criminal element in our society.

Why do they insist on protecting criminals instead of law-abiding citizens? Why will they not enact legislation which makes our communities and our society safer?

We have been pressuring them to remove section 745. It is the provision that allows first degree murderers to be released on to the street after serving only 15 years in prison. That is a Liberal policy. The conditional sentences say to criminals who have committed violent acts “Just don't do it again and we will let you go”.

Then there is the Young Offenders Act. The member for Mississauga West ranted on and on about how radical the Reform Party is for wanting to have young offenders named.

I live in a nice community in Saskatoon. I submit that I have a right to know if some youth who lives on my street is a criminal. If one of my neighbour's kids engages in some criminal activity, breaking into people's houses, stealing cars or is trafficking drugs, I have a right to know because I have a family. It is shameful that the Liberal member for Mississauga West would stand in this House and say it is okay to deny Canadians the right to know when people living beside them are criminals.

He also said that it was his preference to defer to judicial discretion, which is also the preference of all Liberal members of parliament. As we know, recently a court in British Columbia ruled that it is a violation of our constitutional rights to not be allowed to possess child pornography. As we know, Reform Party members found that absolutely disgraceful and we urged the government to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the judge in that case because possession of child pornography is a crime and it must be considered a crime. Did the Liberals stand to defend the children who are the victims of child pornography? No.

Sixty-eight Liberals signed a letter asking the Prime Minister to do exactly the same thing which we asked for two weeks later in the House, but the Prime Minister cracked his whip and the backbench flock of sheep stepped into line. Their approach to crime is absolutely disgraceful and all Canadians ought to know that this Liberal government is refusing to act to make our streets safer.

My private member's bill today is a simple, straightforward attempt to target the criminal use of firearms. What could be simpler? What could be more straightforward?

The member for Scarborough East said that it panders to our emotions of fear. We do have fear. I talk to elderly people all the time who say that at night they are scared to walk down the street. When they see a group of young people approaching, they get scared.

What kind of culture have we created in our society? Why do we not act now to implement laws which change that? Why do we not enact laws that target the criminal use of firearms instead of law-abiding citizens who use firearms for legitimate purposes?

Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, as you know and as all members of the House know, the purpose in passing the Firearms Act was not to crack down on crime; it was to confiscate legally owned firearms from all citizens in Canada.

I want to conclude by saying that it is very unfortunate that the undemocratic Liberal members of parliament refuse to allow my proposal for a 10-20-life law to come to a vote in the House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 4 I posed a question to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women relating to the issue of family taxation and whether the Income Tax Act was the only instrument that was relevant in that discussion.

The issue is much broader and the secretary of state I think made it very clear to the House that it was much broader. Not only do we have a child care expense deduction available to families, we also have a spousal amount, a non-refundable tax credit, that is available to families where there is only one earner. We also have the Canadian child tax benefit, which is not taxable, as well as the national child benefit program.

In addition, under the employment insurance program we have provisions for parental leave. We also have wage and training subsidies which are available for parents who have taken parental leave and would like to get back into the workforce. In that case we also provide benefits for families with children.

Finally, under the Canada pension plan there is what is referred to as the child rearing drop-out, which ensures that parents who withdraw from the workforce to raise children are not unduly penalized for having low income years of service in the calculation of their Canada pension benefits.

The minister is quite right. There are a broad range of issues that we must balance to ensure that we are fully aware of the whole menu of areas in which the Government of Canada, and in fact the taxpayers of Canada, support families with children.

This issue has now been referred to a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance to address the issues of fairness and equity and how we deal with families with children. However, it is a children's issue more than it is a tax issue. It is a children's issue and if we value our children we must also, as the minister knows, value our caregivers.

As the finance subcommittee does its work, there are some principles that have to be taken into account. We have to have some guideposts in the work we are doing so that we understand there are certain things that really should be reflected in the policy of the government on behalf of taxpayers. I had given some thought to some of the principles we might apply in developing policy. I would like to put them on the record for the minister's consideration. I am going to ask for her comment.

First of all our policy should be child centred and promote the best interest of the child to the greatest extent possible. Second, it should presume that parents are the primary caregivers and that they are in the best position to determine what constitutes the best possible care for their children. Third, our policy should provide flexibility, options and choices which will make it feasible for either parent to be a caregiver or to be in the paid workforce. The fourth item is that our policy should be inclusive and responsive to the social realities, circumstances and preferences of parents and their children. Finally, our policy should be fair and equitable and be seen to be fair and equitable and neither penalize nor compel specific caregiving choices.

I believe these are some principles that we can consider as a starting point in terms of how we should shape our policies so that they reflect principles and criteria which will be fair and equitable to all families regardless of their configuration, whether they be one income earner families, or two. No matter what the configuration, certain principles must guide us. I would ask the minister for her comments.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member's question. In asking his question he has shown that he grasps the issue and that he understands what is at stake.

Families have changed. There was a social infrastructure to meet the needs of families in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and those worked very well. We have found that families have changed since then.

Families come in many different configurations as the hon. member said. We have two parent families where one parent works and one parent stays at home. We have single parent families where the lone parent works. We have single parent families where the lone parent stays at home. We have blended families where both parents go out to work.

The question is how do we meet the needs of these families as a government in a way that gives them the choices they need and which recognizes the stresses these families face today. They are stresses in terms of making tough decisions about how they meet their income needs, their caregiving needs, how they spend their time. The message we have heard is loud and clear.

Families are under pressure, especially families with children. They are not only under pressure for the caregiving of their children. We now know that families are under pressure for the caregiving of the seniors. Their parents are coming home to live with them. These same families also have disabled persons that they are looking after. They are supporting the system because they are looking after the terminally ill and the chronically ill in the home. The pressure that puts on families means the choices they make must be flexible. The choices they make must meet their needs so that as the member says, they are not unduly penalized.

The issues are not only about the income tax system. There were some answers there. The hon. member is absolutely right. We need to talk about pensionable earnings. How do families plan for pension? The Canada pension plan is one way. Other forms of pension would be another way. How do we look at parental leave, at a caregiving subsidy of some kind? How do we look at the ways in which we help these families cope, across the policy initiatives, parental leave or otherwise, so that we can assist families with the problems they face?

It is a complex issue. This government has the number one place in the world today to figure out these issues and look at ways in which to deal with them.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.44 p.m.)