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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

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a question of privilege for you to consider. I recently entered the building, after having returned to my office. While in my office I heard a number of members in this place stand to hurl abuses my way, which is fine in this place. However, at the front door, on my way back, I encountered two members of the Reform Party, the member for Blackstrap and the member for Okanagan—Shuswap, who were having a cigarette, at which time they proceeded to become very abusive toward me, hurling insults. This is not the first time the member for Okanagan—Shuswap has acted in this manner. He challenged me to a physical encounter of some description. “Come on, let's go”, he said and clenched his fists.

It is my job in this place to feel totally confident that I can walk anywhere within these precincts, anywhere in the city of Ottawa or anywhere in this country without having to endure the kind of schoolyard bully tactics which these members have shown. Because they do not have the ability to stand here and debate an issue they attempt to attack and intimidate members in this place.

I believe that my privileges have been violated by both of these violent Reform members and I would like them to apologize.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I want to make it absolutely clear that if any member is threatened anywhere within the precincts of parliament it is indeed a very serious matter. It is indeed a case of privilege. It will not be taken lightly and should not be taken lightly. A very serious accusation has been made by the member for Mississauga West. It will be dealt with in a very serious manner.

If there are any other members who wish to intervene, I would invite them to do so right now. We will start with the member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am one of the members he is talking about. What happened outside is that nobody made any threats to the member over there. As we were standing there he walked by us and called us bigots. He also said that he would like us to do something physically to his body that normally you would only have a female person do if you were heterosexual. I took great exception to that. When he walked in the door I asked him to come back out to finish the discussion.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Was it physical?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

No, it was not, and there were lots of witnesses out there. I want everybody in the House to know that what the hon. member did out there was a total disgrace to any member of parliament.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments you made from the chair, but the member who raised the question of privilege failed to indicate that he would move the appropriate motion. Therefore, having received the caution which you have given to all members of the House, I think the matter should now rest.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I thank the hon. member for St. Albert for his sage advice. I will recognize the hon. member for Blackstrap.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Reform Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly would agree with you that it is the privilege of a member of this House to feel quite comfortable and secure when walking on the grounds or in the House. I completely agree with you.

In response to the member's accusation, I would point out that indeed there were many witnesses in front when this heated discussion took place, and that goes without saying. I believe there would be people out there who would say that the member for Mississauga West was in fact the first to open the discussion, if you want to call it that.

I would ask the House, on my behalf, to remind the member for Mississauga West that he should be very careful with accusations that I believe are false.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Are there any other members who have anything to add to this?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

You're a liar, Stinson.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Did you hear that, Mr. Speaker?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order, please. We are going to try to resolve this right now. The first thing we are going to do is ask the hon. member for Mississauga West to withdraw the most recent comment which had to do with calling another member a liar. Would the hon. member for Mississauga West please do so immediately?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for you, sir, I do.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will now consider the other very serious matter. This will be taken under advisement. However, I would ask, given the fact that we are all adults, that Private Members' Business proceed for the next hour. I would ask all hon. members concerned to take a step back, to go behind the curtains and resolve this issue as the gentlemen, gentlewomen and distinguished leaders that we are.

I will be quite happy to take this up again. I will bring forward a position before the end of Private Members' Business today.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While the member who raised the point of privilege felt it was a serious issue, he did not specifically seek any redress. He did not say that he would move any particular motion.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I thank the hon. member for St. Albert. His comment is already on the table. I thanked him once for his advice, but I will thank him again.

We will now proceed directly to Private Members' Business.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved that Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to lead the debate on Bill C-484. The purpose of my private member's bill is 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, that being a consecutive sentence.

The bill is referred to as the 10-20-life law, so the consecutive sentences that I refer to would be 10 years if a firearm is used in the commission of one of the named offences that I will list shortly; 20 years if in the commission of that offence the firearm is discharged; and a life sentence to be added consecutively to the sentence that the individual receives for the crime they commit if the discharge of that firearm causes bodily harm to anyone other than the perpetrator of the crime or an accomplice.

The list of the specific criminal offences to which this 10-20- life law would apply are the following: murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion.

Currently section 85 of the Criminal Code provides for a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 14 years for the commission of an indictable offence. In the case of a second offence, a minimum of three years and a maximum of 14 years applies.

Those sentences referred to in section 85 currently are to be served consecutively. That is the current law, but these provisions apply to all indictable offences, including the ones I listed. The significance is that the most violent offences are treated the same as all other indictable offences. My bill lists the most serious violent crimes and subjects them to the provisions of the 10-20-life law.

In other jurisdictions similar laws are being passed. Most notably, in 1997 the governor of California signed into law an act amending California's state penal code to include a 10-20-life provision. Prior to that time there existed a similar section of the California penal code which meted out three, four or ten years for felony offences. It was actually four, five or ten years in the case of carjacking, and five, six or ten years if the firearm used was classified as an assault weapon.

The significance is that the changes which were made in 1997 in California were in response to the success the law had in deterring carjacking within that state. Carjackers knew they would be subject to very stiff consecutive sentences for the specific act of carjacking, which was a strong deterrent and the number of carjackings dropped substantially.

I would submit to the House that the same principle applies, as it clearly does, to the 10-20-life law. Criminals should know that the use of a firearm will automatically add 10 years to the sentence for the commission of one of these serious offences. The discharge of that firearm in the commission of an offence will automatically result in a consecutive sentence applied to their original sentence for the commission of that crime, of 20 years, and if the discharge of that firearm causes someone bodily harm they will be the recipient of an additional life sentence to the original sentence for the crime they committed.

I do not want to become mired down in a lot of statistics, but there are a couple of relevant statistics I would like to quote.

Between 1991 and 1995 half of all homicides in Canada involved the use of a handgun. That number is 75% when looking only at Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

In 1995, 33% of violent crimes committed with a firearm resulted in the victim being injured. In the case of assault or sexual assault, the percentage of incidents in which the victim was injured was over 50%.

Since 1934 in Canada we have had a handgun registry. It has been a requirement that legally owned handguns be registered. We can safely deduce from the statistics I have quoted that the handgun registry has been an abject failure. It has not acted as a deterrent to the criminal use of those handguns in any way, shape or form. That is a very important point because what we need to understand and what the Liberal government fails to understand is that it is not the registration of a firearm that deters criminal use, but rather the resulting consequence of using that firearm to commit a serious violent crime.

In keeping with Reform Party policies and principles, we seek to not target law-abiding firearms owners but the criminal use of firearms. I have drafted this bill with the intent for it to serve as a deterrent to the criminal use of a firearm. There are three main points I would like the Liberal government to understand.

The first point is that unlike firearm registration this 10-20 life law does target the criminal element within our society. It targets those who use firearms in the commission of an offence against another person. That will have the effect of a deterrent, contrary to what the registration of firearms would do. We need look only as far as the handgun registry to see that.

The second point is the harsher sentencing provisions, not firearms registration, but harsher sentences acting as a deterrent to the criminal use of firearms.

The third point is this law would serve the purpose of highlighting that using a firearm to commit a violent crime is abhorrent to society. It is the will of Canadians that stronger punitive sanctions be attached to those sections of the Criminal Code.

I was very disappointed that the subcommittee which dealt with my private member's bill did not deem it to be votable. For the reasons I have just explained to the House, the obvious benefit that a 10-20 life law would have in tightening the provisions of the Criminal Code and therefore making our communities safer, our society safer and establishing a clear understanding in society that the criminal use of a firearm will not be tolerated and that severe penalties will result, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to deem my private member's bill votable.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is very unfortunate for many reasons.

The Liberal government is refusing to enact legislation that will make our streets, our communities, our society a safer place and which will send a message to the criminal element that using firearms to commit serious crimes is not something we are prepared to tolerate in our society.

The Liberals should not care that it is a Reform member who introduced the bill. I do not think that is relevant. They should look at the issue and understand the facts and say this is a good idea.

Why are they refusing to allow this bill to be votable? Are they ashamed that their own justice minister did not think of it? Or are they ashamed that their own justice minister refuses to get tough on crime and instead engages in namby-pamby bills such as the young offenders amendments that we were speaking about today in the House? The changes to the Young Offenders Act are merely a paint job on the old act but will still do nothing to target the deficiencies in that act.

Or is their reason because they are obsessed with alienating Canadians? On Tuesday we debated in the House all day the alienation of the regions in the country. I spoke on behalf of the residents of Saskatchewan and I spoke about the Liberal alienation committee.

Here we have yet another example of alienation. A member from Saskatoon, myself, has introduced a get tough on crime bill in the House. It is a law that would improve our society by getting tougher on criminals who use firearms instead of targeting the law-abiding citizens like the Liberals are so intent on doing with former Bill C-68, the firearms registration act. They do not allow the committee to deem it a votable item and they do not even allow me the consent in the House.

For the benefit of Canadians watching, the significance of that is at the end of this hour, debate on this bill will collapse and that will be the end of it. They will not have to vote on it. That is probably another reason that they refuse to allow this to be deemed a votable bill. They do not want to stand up and let Canadians from coast to coast watch them vote against a bill which targets the criminal use of firearms. They seem to be intent on firearms registration, targeting law-abiding firearms owners.

Today we spent the day in the House of Commons debating some very flimsy changes to the Young Offenders Act. Why is the Liberal justice minister so preoccupied with bringing useless legislation before the House instead of meaningful legislation like the 10-20 life law? Why does she not introduce bills like that?

Instead of tinkering with the Young Offenders Act, why does she not introduce a victims bill of rights? Why does she not establish that the rights of victims supersede any rights that a criminal has? I will answer that question. It is because the Liberal soft approach to crime is something they are obsessed with and they refuse to let it go.

Canadians will not get proper legislation dealing with criminals and fair legislation dealing with private ownership of firearms until we have a Reform government.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we recognize the next speaker, I undertook earlier to return to the question of privilege by the member for Mississauga West.

As members may have seen, I had the privilege of speaking to all of the members involved.

I want to state unequivocally how important it is that we treat each other respectfully at all times and that no member at any time feel threatened physically or emotionally. This is the centre of our governance, of our civility as a nation. We have a fiduciary duty to comport ourselves in a manner that brings credit to each other, to this institution and to ourselves. As the chair occupant, I want it understood clearly that there will not be any actions by any member that bring discredit on this House, which is bigger than all of us. What this institution represents is bigger than all of us.

I have considered carefully the interventions given by everyone, including the hon. member for St. Albert. I thank all members for giving me their advice.

We are not going to take it any further because it has gone as far as it needs to go. We are considering, by consensus, the matter closed and we will speak no more of this particular instance.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 1999 / 5:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I compliment you on your ruling.

Usually on Private Members' Business I compliment the members for their initiative and hard work. I think it reflects well on all of us for members to bring forward legislation and ideas that need to be debated and considered by the House, ideas that do not necessarily originate with the government.

Usually I start out that way, but in this particular instance, I believe this bill is just a waste of House time. This is simply a bill which adds nothing to the debate and in fact is counterproductive to many of the initiatives already undertaken by the government.

To say that I oppose this bill is to be minimalist in the matter. The bill proposes that there be more severe minimum sentences to be served consecutively for 10 serious crimes all committed with firearms, but by the same token that we ignore a judicial and statutory foundation for our sentencing system.

I urge all hon. members to refer to section 718 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the principles of sentencing, before they get too far down the path which this bill is taking us.

In January 1996 the government implemented tough new penalties for firearm related offences. New sections have been added, provided that when a person is convicted of having committed certain serious offences with a firearm, a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison is now imposed. The 10 violent provisions are: criminal negligence causing death; manslaughter; attempted murder; causing bodily harm with intent; sexual assault with a weapon; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; hostage taking; robbery; and extortion.

In other words, people get four years minimum regardless. In some respects it is a fettering of judicial discretion. On this side of the House, we think that is an appropriate fettering of judicial discretion.

We are satisfied that these new gun control measures are having a positive effect in reducing the criminal use of firearms and frankly see no need to amend the sentencing provisions at this time.

There are several difficulties with Bill C-484 and I would like to address them now.

By imposing severe minimum sentences, Bill C-484 does not account for the fact that the criminal justice system judges have discretion. That is fundamental to our system of law in this country. They have discretion in sentencing convicted offenders in order that the sentence may be tailored, and I emphasize tailored, to the individual, taking into account the criminal record and any other aggravating or extenuating circumstances.

I would like to draw attention to section 718 which sets out the purpose and principles of sentencing:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:

(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;

(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;

(c) to separate offenders from society;

(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims; and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.

That is the purpose of our criminal justice system. It is a very articulate piece of legislation.

Under the section with respect to the other sentencing principles, a court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles and it goes on to talk about aggravating circumstances. But in the deemed aggravating circumstances section, subsection (c), it says “where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh”.

That is the essence of the flaw with this bill. If they are all added up, offenders will be serving 10 years past a life sentence. It is a bit of an absurdity. This absurdity would lead to further absurdities.

It interferes with what in sentencing principles is called the totality principle, when a sentencing judge orders an offender to serve consecutive sentences, and this is lost on some hon. members opposite. The Criminal Code already provides for consecutive sentences. There are not simply concurrent sentences. A judge has the discretion to order a concurrent sentence. I heard endless numbers of speeches from members opposite about this issue. If a judge chooses to put in a concurrent sentence, he or she can do so, but it must meet the principle of totality.

The totality principle requires that a sentencing judge who orders an offender to serve consecutive sentences for multiple offences to ensure that the cumulative sentence does not exceed the overall culpability of the offender. The effect of the totality principle is to require the sentencer, i.e. the judge, to pass a series of sentences, each properly calculated in relation to the offence for which it is imposed and to be properly made in accordance with the principles governing sentencing principles.

In other words, there are no volume discounts. I will repeat this. There are no volume discounts. In part, that is what the bill is all about; that somehow or other, if we fetter the discretion of judges, we will arrive at a more fair judicial system, a more fair sentencing system.

May I respectfully suggest that it would be counterproductive if the bill were allowed to go to a vote. I was glad to see that hon. members had the wisdom to not make this a votable item.

The Criminal Code provides for minimum sentences in limited circumstances. This is applicable to certain serious offences and reflects society's intolerance toward more serious crimes. With a four year minimum sentence for 10 serious crimes committed with a firearm, the Criminal Code makes is clear that those convicted of such offences should at a minimum spend at least four years in a penitentiary. Judges still have discretion to impose more severe sentences for particular crimes should they deem it to be appropriate in all the circumstances.

May I say that having been in court and having listened to judges, in all the circumstances they frequently listen to literally days worth of testimony, frequently contradictory testimony, and hear argument on both sides and, I would suggest, with the greatest respect to members in the House, are in the best position to decide what is or is not the appropriate sentence.

The House gets to provide guidelines. The House gets to reflect upon the moral imperatives of sentencing. The House gets to suggest things. However, in the ultimate and final resolution of matters, I would submit that we are prepared to defer to judicial discretion in most areas.

When the government provided for this minimum sentence for these 10 serious crimes, the clear intent was to discourage individuals from using firearms. Laws have been written with the objective that in all likelihood they have to withstand constitutional challenges. I have heard time and time again from members opposite how there are charter problems, is this charterproof or this horrible charter, although we all seem to think it is okay when it works our way. When we do pass a law it does in fact have to go through the lens of the charter. That is the law under which we all live, including the House of parliament.

The bill needs to have a short and quick death. I could go on to other significant problems. I have described how 718 works and how a judge actually goes through the various issues that are appropriate to sentencing an individual. We are all subject to the rule of law and we are all subject to the constitution. They put the discretion where it belongs: with the judge.

Bill C-484 panders to the worst in all of us. It panders to our most basic emotions of fear and it purports to offer a solution which in fact it does not. We have an illusion of protection if somehow or other we add on all these sentences. It ignores many of the principles upon which our judicial system is built. I would urge all members to simply ask for the bill to die a quick and painless death.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-484, introduced by my Reform Party colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Criminal Code with respect to consecutive sentencing for the use of a firearm in the commission of an offence.

More specifically, this bill is intended to amend section 85 of the Criminal Code, as well as several other sections of the Criminal Code that I will deal with a bit later.

Section 85 currently states that:

85.(1) Every person commits an offence who uses a firearm

(a) while committing an indictable offence, other than an offence under section 220 (criminal negligence causing death), 236 (manslaughter), 239 (attempted murder), 244 (causing bodily harm with intent—firearm), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon), 273 (aggravated sexual assault), 279 (kidnapping), 279.1 (hostage-taking), 344 (robbery) or 346 (extortion),

The bill as it stands is aimed at changing section 85, with the exception of all the crimes I have just listed.

Section 85 also addresses the use of a firearm while attempting to commit an indictable offence, or during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence, and committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence or during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence using an imitation firearm, all of which are indictable offences punishable, in the case of a first offence, by imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years, with a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year.

In the case of a repeat offence, the maximum penalty is fourteen years and the minimum three years. This is what is set out in the Criminal Code at the present time. It also calls for these sentences to be served consecutive to any other sentence. The Criminal Code is already clear enough on the use of firearms in violent crimes.

So, what amendments does our Reform colleague want to introduce? First—and I am sure everyone here is rather surprised—Bill C-484 amends section 85 by increasing the sentences provided as follows: a minimum of ten years, if the firearm is not discharged; 20 years if the firearm was discharged—he missed here—and 25 years if the firearm was discharged and an individual other than anyone participating in the offence is caused bodily harm. So the change is from a maximum sentence of 14 years to a minimum of 25 years. This is no small change.

In the same breath, the member proposes that the same supplemental sentences be included in sections 235, 236, 239, 244, 272, 279.1, 344 and 346, all of which, with the exception of section 235, are excluded from the application of the existing section 85.

This is the purpose of this bill. Let us look now at its effects.

I must say right off that the phenomenon of violent crime, particularly that involving firearms, is extremely serious and distressing. However, the more repressive approach, which imposes excessive sentences, in my opinion or in the opinion of many of those involved in the area in Quebec, will not necessarily reduce crime.

Our neighbours to the south, the United States of America, have a per capita rate of incarceration that is one of the highest in the west. It is also a country where, although a large number of states have reintroduced the death penalty, the crime rate has not dropped accordingly. This shows that repressive measures are not what reduce crime.

Another very troubling feature of Bill C-484 is that, by providing for very tough minimum sentences, it reduces the discretionary power of courts to hand down sentences that take into account the circumstances under which offences were committed. It is as though suddenly judges were not allowed to exercise their judgment.

Under our criminal justice system, sentences can be adjusted to fit the crime and the person that committed it. This is described as taking into account the subjective and objective gravity of an offence. The subjective gravity has to do with the circumstances surrounding the person charged with the offence and the objective gravity has to do with identifying the extenuating or aggravating circumstances under which the offence was committed.

By substantially increasing the minimum sentences for all imaginable circumstances, the member is attempting to turn the Criminal Code into a strict set of instructions with no room for judicial discretion. This runs counter to a long-recognized principle essential to the enforcement of justice.

Another important principle is flouted here. This is the principle prohibiting multiple convictions established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Kienapple v. The Queen. Under this principle, a person may not be convicted under different sections having the same elements. A person cannot be charged twice for the same offence.

In the bill before us, this principle is set aside. For instance, convicting someone of robbery, or armed robbery, and giving them an additional ten-year minimum sentence for committing the offence with a firearm is simply ridiculous. Yet this is what the bill does by introducing the concept of dual conviction, when in fact both offences include the same essential elements flowing from the same case and the same offence.

In any democratic system, the Kienapple principle is very important. No self-respecting justice system would consider supporting such a bill.

Last, but not least, if this bill were passed, it would almost certainly violate section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under which everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

In fact, the courts have already questioned the constitutionality of the one-year sentence now provided for in section 85 of the Criminal Code. It goes without saying that a minimum sentence of 10 years would violate section 12 and would certainly fail the reasonability test of section 1 of the Charter. This is not the first time the Reform Party has taken leave of its senses.

For all these reasons, I am unable to support the bill and, speaking for the Bloc Quebecois, I am certainly not alone.