House of Commons Hansard #211 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.


Air SafetyOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that we have started discussions on proposed amendments to the Canadian aviation regulations that will ensure a better level of emergency response at smaller airports across the country.

These regulatory changes are part of a comprehensive review of all emergency response measures at Canada's airports, because the federal government is absolutely committed to flight safety for all Canadians.

Code Of EthicsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, since 1995 the Prime Minister has told the House and all Canadians that he has a ministerial code of ethics to which his cabinet has to adhere. Unfortunately, despite all the requests, he has never made it public. We have asked him a number of times.

I would like to ask a question of the government and the cabinet members, any one of them. Does it not embarrass them that their boss has a code of ethics for them that he is afraid to make public?

Will the cabinet members ask their boss as soon as possible to table it in the House and end all the—

Code Of EthicsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. government House leader.

Code Of EthicsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the hon. member and his party must have run out of questions at 2.55 p.m. today in the House of Commons in order to ask something like that.

The Prime Minister is obviously quite free to consult with his colleagues in cabinet whatever way he wishes. The conflict of interest code is a public document. The blue book, as it is sometimes referred to, is a document that is well known to all Canadians.

If the hon. member cannot get one, I will endeavour to ask someone to go to the Library of Parliament to get a copy for him.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his report tabled today, the auditor general says that the problems in the management of Atlantic groundfish are now appearing in the management of shellfish in the same region.

How does the government explain that the Atlantic groundfish management disaster, for which it was responsible, is now about to repeat itself with shellfish? Did the government not learn its lesson?

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.


Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the minister has been very proactive in terms of the shellfish industry to ensure the same thing does not happen there as has happened in the groundfish industry.

As I also mentioned earlier, he has put in measures to double egg production in all the lobster fishing areas. Those measures are being monitored and if improvements need to be made they will be made. As well he has increased the enforcement measures.

The minister is moving to ensure, learning the lessons of the past from what previous governments have done, there is a strong sound future for shellfish.

Public Service CommissionOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on Friday I asked a question about a government job posting which says that only persons residing within a 500 kilometre radius of Ottawa can apply. In other words, western Canadians need not apply or Atlantic Canadians or northern Canadians, for that matter.

If one of my kids were qualified and willing to relocate, he or she deserves the right to apply and be considered for that job. Somebody should tell that to the Liberal task force on western alienation.

Will the minister tell us today that he will open the competition for all federal government jobs to all Canadians who wish to apply?

Public Service CommissionOral Question Period

April 20th, 1999 / 2:55 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission does not discriminate in terms of jobs. However it has rules for its own competitions. Some of these rules, which have been judged to be quite constitutional by the supreme court, reduce the cost of these competitions.

These are the rules that are in question. The Public Service Commission intends to put these rules into effect, provided that they are not discriminatory, and we are told they are not.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, a foreign affairs committee called a plan to burn weapons grade plutonium in Canada totally infeasible. A recent U.S. environmental assessment on the project stated activities conducted in Canada would be the sole responsibility of the Canadian government.

Given Canada's poor record on enforcement as pointed out by the environment committee last year and that superficial screenings account for 99% of Canada's environmental assessment as pointed out by the auditor general, what assurances can the Minister of the Environment provide that the decision to burn U.S. and Russian weapons plutonium will be environmentally safe and secure for all Canadians?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we received no request to participate in the MOX program. We have not yet conducted any feasibility testing that would come within the licence of the Chalk River laboratory. If we were to proceed, there would be full, open and transparent proceedings under relevant federal and provincial law with respect to the protection of the environment, health and safety. We would also ensure that there is no subsidization involved on the part of Canada and that the process, if it is to go forward at all many years into the future is conducted with complete safety in Canada.

Canada PostOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

We have heard about a message circulating on the Internet suggesting that Canada Post and the government want to impose a 5¢ tax on every message sent electronically in this country.

We in this House know that bill 602P does not exist. However, I would like to know if the government is contemplating policy changes which could impose levies like that.

Canada PostOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the House that the story that has been running on the Internet concerning Canada Post and electronic mail is false. Yes, Canada Post is testing an electronic mail system with Cebra Inc. It is not ready yet. When it is ready I will announce it, and any post mail box will be free of charge for every citizen.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in regard to the leaked government response to the committee report on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade tabled in this House yesterday after question period.

As you are aware, reports destined to be tabled in this House are confidential until tabled. Yesterday before question period I was asked to respond to the government's response by three different journalists, one of whom had the report at noon, a full three hours before it was tabled in this House.

Since I had not seen the response, I waited until it was tabled in the House. After it was tabled I had to wait over an hour and a half to receive a copy. Journalists had copies of this report as early as noon yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, I have done a number of items of research which I can make available if you require them.

It is common knowledge that leaked committee reports are in contempt of parliament. I would argue that leaked responses to committee reports are also in contempt of the House. Since the government was responding to a request of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 109, it was not at liberty to leak the information before it was tabled in parliament.

This action by the government demonstrates its total lack of respect for parliamentary systems. This leak represents a new low for this government, I believe.

It was not that long ago that the Minister for International Trade announced the creation of a Canada-China parliamentary association before the House had created such an association. We have other examples as well which I could list. The Speaker ruled on some of these that it was a mockery of the parliamentary system. Once again the government is making a mockery of parliament by tabling a report in the media that had been requested by the parliamentary committee.

I believe the government by leaking the response to the foreign affairs committee deliberately diminished the respect due to parliament and parliamentarians. It is no wonder there is a growing dissension among the ranks of the Liberal caucus who also indicated disgust in this matter.

A government, if it is to survive, must respect parliament and parliamentarians. It must respect its authority and grant its members dignity. Mr. Speaker, the government has offended both the authority and dignity of the House and the authority and dignity of members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule this matter be a prima facie question of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of privilege. You indicated that you were going to hear a point of order and that point of order would have been from me. It was basically about the same matter.

I think there are really two questions here. There is the question of the leaking of the government's response prior to the tabling of it in the House of Commons, which I think is reprehensible, shows contempt for parliament, and flies in the face of what I hoped was a growing consensus that there would not be the leaking of documents either in the form of committee reports or in this case in the form of government responses to committee reports.

My initial intention was to rise on a point of order having to do with the fact that the government, the minister's staff and others, whoever, were distributing copies of the government's response to journalists. They had them available outside, I am told, and we in the House could not get a copy until an hour after it was tabled. What kind of system is this where members of parliament are deliberately in a premeditated way kept from having copies of a report that is being made available to the media by the government?

If the government had not made it available and we all had to wait an hour, that is fair ball. We all could have commented in the dark. But the fact is that the government itself was distributing copies of the government's response to the committee report and did not have the decency to put some in the opposition lobby so that opposition members could see it. We asked our people to try to get a copy of the report, but oh no, we would have to wait to get it from the House; we would not get it from the government.

This is at the same time as we have to listen to this sort of pious rhetoric day after day about how government members want to take parliament into their confidence, they want to have another take note debate, they want to show respect for parliament and on and on. We just have to give them a little opening and their real attitude toward parliament shows up like a blinding light. That is the fact that they hold this place in contempt and have actually brought shame on themselves, not on parliament, by the way they conducted themselves yesterday.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the very forceful representations from the House leader of the New Democratic Party as well as from the hon. member of the Reform Party.

If it did occur that way, I will endeavour to rectify any damage that was done. My understanding is that when the document was tabled in the House of Commons, yes, a few extra copies were left in the government lobby. Perhaps they could have been split evenly to ensure there were some in the opposition lobby as well. If that occurred, I will verify to ensure that it does not reoccur.

There is the additional proposition someone has raised to the effect that some were actually distributed to members of the media before the tabling of it, which is a different issue altogether.

I suppose the former is a matter of courtesy and that should be addressed as well. The latter accusation, if I can refer to it that way, made in the House of Commons is to the effect that what is a cabinet document was leaked before it was tabled in the House. That is far more serious. If that occurred, I will verify that as well.

It is not the intention, I am sure, of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as he indicated to me a little while ago, to do anything to cause a slight. I hope it did not happen and that this is not the case. In any event, I will report to the House personally on this matter because I consider it serious as well.

I have done my best around here and I think all hon. members and all my colleagues in cabinet will know as well have done things in a manner that encourages the co-operation of all hon. members in the House. Hopefully my efforts in that regard will continue to be noted as such.

I will report to the hon. member as well as to the House on this matter.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is now eight or nine times I have been up in the House on leaked documents and the government proceeding to notify the public and members of the House do not even know what they are talking about.

I hear comments from the government House leader like “endeavour to rectify” and “ensure that it does not reoccur”. That is what we hear time and time again. We have sent the matter of leaked reports to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the leak report has been leaked. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, it was not this person who leaked it.

When politicians are leaking these things and taking irresponsible action as far as notifying the press before we get them, what has to happen is that the Speaker himself has to make some rulings.

I would suggest that two things occur here. First, we should make it somehow in the House so that it takes two-thirds of the members of a committee to vote to go in camera. I think that would help the situation after looking at it seriously for some time now. I also think that some action should be taken in situations such as described here today. There has to be some concrete action, not a referral to a committee but something more tangible, if we can get down to whether or not in fact the press had copies of that document ahead of the members.

I might remind the Speaker that on June 13, 1991 when the current Minister of Foreign Affairs was in opposition he sponsored a supply motion in the House which read:

That this House affirm that ministers are individually and collectively responsible to the House of Commons for the activities of government including the management and conduct of the public service—

It goes on and on and on. The intent of the motion was to say that the ministers are responsible, even if their employees make a mistake.

I am at the point now where the topic of leaked reports quite frankly is not even of interest to bring it up in the House of Commons because nothing is getting done. I for one am not the least bit concerned about sharing documents from committees with the public. It seems like there is a rush for public knowledge and what happens is the first person to the media gets the hit. That is unfortunately what we have degraded to in the House. It is very unfortunate indeed.

I hope sincerely, Mr. Speaker, if we cannot deal with it as members of the House of Commons, that you will deal with it.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not mean to belabour this point. I think that the previous two opposition members, the House leader for the New Democratic Party, as well as the Reform Party, quite succinctly put forward the case. However, I want to add the concerns of my party's members that we seem to be spinning our wheels on the issue of disclosure of documents, even prior to other members of the House of Commons having an opportunity to review them in any depth.

The government House leader has given his assurance, as he has in the past, that he wants to deal with this in a straightforward way and that he will do his best, but that does not seem to be working. It does not seem to be enough.

I implore upon you, in your capacity as Speaker of the House, to put forward some substantive action that will deter this type of behaviour because it really does degrade this parliament and individual members of the House when we see this happening time and time again with very little reprisal.

I am afraid that is what it is going to take. There is going to have to be some serious intervention on the part of the Speaker, or on the part of a committee, where there is some sanction that is handed down and a message that is given and received before this type of behaviour is going to be stopped.

One would hope that members of parliament, members of the House of Commons, would respect that, but it does not seem to be enough to date, so I simply add those humble remarks.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I believe this is the ninth time I am responding to the hon. opposition House leader who has intervened on the topic of leaked documents.

There are two points to be considered. In fact, there are more than two points and I will deal with them as they occurred.

The hon. member for Red Deer in his intervention did not mention the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I was listening and he did not do so. However, the government House leader mentioned specifically the name of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The name of the Minister of Foreign Affairs was mentioned again by the House leader for the opposition.

There are at least two points that I want to deal with. The first perhaps is a matter of courtesy. The hon. member for Red Deer did not have a copy in the House when it was presented to the House. Perhaps these things happen. However, I would hope that matters of courtesy would be extended to all hon. members.

As the hon. government House leader said, there may have been copies here. If government members received copies, then there were copies here and the question is straightforward. It is courtesy, but it is a bit of professionalism also that they should have been in the opposition lobbies.

Time and time again we come back and say this should be done. This will be done. This will be done, and we have gone far enough.

The second thing is more important, which is that what was alleged here today is that there is a cabinet document which was released before it was supposed to have been released or tabled in the House. That is my understanding.

We have the hon. government House leader saying that he is going to come back with a report on this. Either he will or the Minister of External Affairs will, but I would like to have this report brought to the House tomorrow and I want to deal with it at that time. We cannot keep going around in circles.

I understand that the committee on procedure is going to table its report. We gave it this problem and the report is supposed to be tabled either late this week or perhaps next week.

In the meantime, we have to deal with what we have on our plate here. I look forward with great interest to what the government House leader or the Minister of Foreign Affairs has to say about the alleged giving out of papers to the media outside the House when our own members did not have them.

With your agreement, I am going to hold off on a decision, but I will take it up again tomorrow.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-79, an act to amend the Criminal Code (victims of crime) and another act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join my hon. colleague's in debate on Bill C-79, which deals with victims of crime.

I have an outstanding constituency assistant in my Duncan office by the name of Inge Clausen. In 1981 Inge and her husband Sven had something happen to them that no one in this country should ever have to go through. Their 18 year old daughter was murdered. Today, if she had lived, she would be 33 years of age.

Inge and Sven have gone through the emotional anguish of being victims; victims who have very little real way to express their frustration, their anger and their hurt. They are victims who have experienced the gamut of emotions, wondering what could have been if this terrible event had never occurred.

Yes, their daughter's murderer was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 15 years. Even though he has not applied for parole, because of section 745 of the Criminal Code Inge and Sven go through the everyday anguish of wondering if this madman will suddenly get out of prison and possibly reoffend.

Inge Clausen is an activist. She cares passionately about issues that affect this country. She did not sit in her grief and do nothing. In 1981 she started an organization called Citizens United for Safety and Justice. For many years she campaigned for the kind of legislation that has been introduced in the House today.

The Reform Party, of which she was a member, had forcefully placed the issue on the national agenda. However, by 1997 there was little government action. Inge grew tired of the fight that her government would really do something about victims rights and she resigned from her position in the organization that she had created.

She had sixteen long years of remembering, of anguish, of lack of support from the various governments of the day. That is what victims of crime have had to go through in this country for far too long.

When a crime is committed, all law-abiding, peace-loving citizens are victims. It is just that some of us are more victims than others.

I have heard from members of my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan for far too long on this very issue. Canadians have felt that their judicial system has looked solely at the criminal. Too little time and energy has been spent in speaking with and listening to the victims of crime.

Victims of crime are often double victims. They are the victims of the initial crime and, as the wheels of justice move ever so slowly, they often feel that they have become victims of the system. They become victims of the system when they feel that their rights are ignored while the accused has his or her rights upheld. The victims feel that they have no right to speak out, no protection under the law, no protection from the injustices which have been placed upon them. They become victims in the courtrooms and on witness stands all across the nation.

This legislation is long in coming. My hon. colleagues have worked long and hard to bring this issue before the government. It has taken far too long to bring the government's attention to this matter. I thank all hon. members for the work they have done on this most important piece of legislation. I congratulate the Minister of Justice for finally bringing this legislation to the House.

However, it is important for us to recognize that although this is a government bill, it has come about due to the relentless pressure which the Reform Party has placed upon the government on this matter. It is unfortunate, indeed, that it has taken this long to produce the legislation. However, the legislation has made some strides. I believe it could have and should have gone a lot further in a number of areas. It is a start, but there is much more that needs to be done.

I recall the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford coming to a rally in Nanaimo during the previous parliament. I do not recall the exact number of people who were in attendance, but that large auditorium was packed to standing room only. What was the topic? The victims bill of rights. My hon. colleague spoke passionately, just as he did earlier today. Time after time the overflow crowd clapped and cheered with their agreement. The constituents of Nanaimo—Cowichan are certainly very concerned about this issue and will welcome this legislation.

I would also like to thank the hon. member for Surrey North for the work he has done. His story is the story of a victim and he has spoken clearly and eloquently on this matter. My thanks go to him. He is a man of courage and he is a man of action.

For a long time victims have felt alienated by our justice system. They have every right to feel this way. Until now the system has aimed all of its resources toward the accused. In the meantime, we have to remember that the victim was innocent of any alleged crime. The victim did not ask to be raped, murdered, injured, robbed or violated, yet in many cases the penalty placed upon them is greater than the sentence passed on the accused by the justice system.

There is no feeling like the violation a victim feels. For those who have had their homes broken into, the feeling is one of personal violation. They feel they have been dirtied by a criminal act. How much more violated does the person feel who has been personally attacked?

Today's society in Canada is filled with victims. Right now in the city of Victoria, British Columbia, family members of Reena Virk are living through their own personal hell as they listen to witnesses in the prosecution of the murder of their daughter. No matter how efficient the justice system is nothing will ever bring back their daughter. My sympathies go out to them. I have not walked in their shoes but I think I know how they feel.

More recently in Nanaimo a young man was returning home from a hockey game. As he drove under an underpass a 40 pound rock crashed through the windshield of his car. Kevin Holmes, only 21 years of age, was left with a fractured skull, five missing teeth and a broken collar bone. He had to undergo facial reconstruction and doctors had to open up his skull to look for damage and bruising. That was a senseless act of violence.

Kevin Holmes did not even know the perpetrator and yet Kevin Holmes has become a victim of crime. Reena Virk's parents and her family are victims of a senseless crime. These people deserve justice also.

As has been previously stated, the bill was far too long in coming. The need is not a new one. This need was brought to the attention of members of the House of Commons during past parliaments. The previous justice minister for instance stated in 1996:

Although steps have been made toward progress in recent years, they have been imperfect. There remains a great deal to be done.

Indeed there still remains a great deal to be done. When the current justice minister was sworn in, in 1997, victims rights were listed as one of her top three priorities. It has taken two years for this response. I repeat that I am grateful for this, but in the words of her predecessor there remains a great deal to be done.

I am not a lawyer. I have never been a police officer, but I have been a pastor and counsellor for over 30 years. During my time as a pastor and counsellor I met with countless people. Some of those people had been victims of various different crimes. Listening and working with these people were never easy. Their faces and their lives were literally filled with pain. Every day of their lives they remembered what had gone on in the past.

What these people are looking for is peace, peace within their souls. It is not easy to find peace in this world of ours. We need to bring all our resources as Canadians, emotional, physical and spiritual, to help victims of crime finally come to terms with what has happened to them.

There are some things we need in the House that must come only by taking the partisanship out of it. Sometimes we need to go well beyond party politics. There is no doubt in my mind that society is not perfect. Far from it. Nor is the House perfect. However I would like to think there are some matters we can jointly come together on and resolve for the betterment of all Canadians, not just for scoring political points.

I believe that this is one of those important matters. I plead with the House that as the bill goes beyond this point and into committee it will not disappear from the political agenda.

Let us all resolve as members of parliament to make the bill stronger and better. Let us assure that victims of all crimes can look to their parliament, to their government and to this legislation to know that their concerns and their needs are heard loudly and clearly.

In conclusion, I appeal to all members of the House to work toward making the bill stronger and workable. I appeal to all members to ensure that it is dealt with as soon as possible. Let us not let another 16 years pass so that people like Inge and Sven Clausen continue in their concerns and anguish because victims rights have not been taken care of. It is too late for many victims of the past. However it is not too late for the victims of today and tomorrow.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of debate today in the House on this topic. There has been a lot of debate on a particular question, as well as many others, which has been made raised a number of times. I am referring to the definition of victim as set out in Bill C-79.

Would my colleague indicate whether or not he agrees with the definition spelled out in Bill C-79? Or, does he think it is too restrictive and does not include enough people in the category of victim?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, when a crime is committed every Canadian becomes somewhat a victim. When our standards of behaviour and morality and our laws are violated by anyone we all become victims in some sense.

Unfortunately there are people who become more of a victim than others: the people against whom these crimes have been committed directly. I am concerned about the definition of a victim in the legislation being somewhat restrictive. As it continues in committee stage and we bring together some witnesses and other Canadians have a chance to participate in this dialogue from a democratic standpoint, I hope we will see that definition broadened. I agree with the hon. member that it is too restrictive at this point.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to join in the debate on Bill C-79, the victims rights bill.

At the outset I would like to do something I am not very accustomed to doing, and that is to give some accolades to the government on this legislation. I see some shocked looks on the other side.

Periodically when I travel throughout the huge, wonderful and beautiful riding of Prince George—Peace River there is a perception that opposition parties always oppose. Some of my constituents are quite surprised to learn that the Reform Party is the official opposition.

If we look back at the legislation the government has introduced over the past five and a half year since Reform has been in the Chamber in any numbers, the Reform Party has supported the legislation about half the time. It is somewhat surprising for Canadians to learn of that because their attention is always drawn to those times when we are in direct opposition to the government and speak out quite clearly, loudly and volubly in our opposition, stating our case as to why we feel the government is on the wrong track or perhaps does not go far enough.

It is a bit of a unique situation for me to stand in my place today and say well done. It is an important first step. I am pleased that the government has responded. It was certainly not in a timely manner, but it has finally brought forward the legislation.

Most important, I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the victims and the victims rights groups which have sprung up from coast to coast to coast in Canada over the past number of years because citizens themselves have seen the need for this type of legislation. They have seen the need for legislation and laws that go well beyond what Bill C-79 does. They have seen the need to make some of the changes we see today.

I appreciate as well some of the comments made earlier in the debate when Liberals rose in their places and actually recognized Reform and the work we had done in promoting the issue of victims rights. A number of Liberal members that spoke during the debate referred to my colleagues from Langley—Abbotsford and from Surrey North and the work they have done over the last number of years in pushing forward the issue of victims rights and the need to make some very substantive changes to the way in which the courts handle the issue.

I will touch briefly on the bill and then I will use some of my remaining time looking at a couple of areas where I feel the government could go a lot further in recognizing victims and the importance of bringing forward legislation and programs to address their needs.

What does the bill do that we are debating today? As outlined by a number of speakers from both sides of the House earlier, victims are now to be informed of their right to prepare a victim impact statement at the time of sentencing. That is an important step.

Victims will have the choice to read a victim impact statement in court. They will have the right to present victim impact statements at section 745 hearings.

Victims and witnesses will have protection through the banning of publication of their identities where it is necessary or where the courts feel it is necessary for the proper administration of justice.

Judges will be required to inform the public of the possibility of section 745 application toward early parole for those who receive life sentences. This is another very important step that has been missing from the present day legislation. At the moment there is not a requirement on the part of judges to alert the public that certain convicted murderers may be getting out under section 745; in other words under the faint hope clause, early parole. Police officers and judges will consider victims safety in all bail decisions.

This change in Bill C-79 makes so much sense that one might remark on why it would not have been there previously. That would be an excellent question and certainly, I am sure, a question that many Canadians would ask. Why was the consideration of victim safety not written into the law previously in the case of individuals getting out on bail?

As I said at the outset, as far as it goes Bill C-79 is an important step forward and one that I am pleased to see is supported by all parties in the House. I hope that it will receive speedy passage.

I would like to touch on a couple of other issues of importance to me personally, and indeed important to a lot of Canadians from coast to coast. The first I would like to talk briefly about is conditional sentencing.

On many occasions in the past number of years Reform members have risen in their places and spoken to the issue of conditional sentencing. It was contained in the old Bill C-41 in the last parliament. Reform and other critics, and indeed a lot of people out in the real world, raised many concerns about Bill C-41. One concern was that conditional sentencing may be used in cases where it would be inappropriate, in cases of violence.

At the time Bill C-41 was being debated we raised those concerns, as did others, and basically government members pooh-poohed them. They said not to worry, that even though some of those crimes were not specifically exempted from conditional sentencing we would never see the day when that would happen. Conditional sentencing is meant for very minor crimes, such as a first time offender who puts some graffiti on an overpass, or a first time shoplifter. We all know that young people, in their exuberance, might sometimes be led astray and do something foolish or stupid. I am sure many people in the Chamber, if they reflect back far enough, will remember doing some silly things when they were young.

There is certainly a place for conditional sentencing where, instead of people going to jail for specific crimes and being incarcerated, they would be let out under certain conditions. However, it was never intended that it be used in cases of violence. Certainly that is something that Reform has brought to the attention of the government time and time again.

Conditional sentencing under Bill C-41 became law in September 1996 and was to be used as a tool by the judges. Unfortunately, the very concerns that we and others have expressed during debate came to fruition when judges started using conditional sentencing in cases of violence. The list runs into the hundreds and indeed thousands of cases where, I believe, the vast majority of Canadians feel very strongly, as Reform does, that it is being used inappropriately by judges.

I recently commissioned a national poll to see what people were thinking on the issue of conditional sentencing. As the deputy justice critic, one of the roles I have with the Reform Party, I have been handed the task of trying to continue to raise the issue of conditional sentencing with the government. As part of that role, I wanted to see what the thinking of Canadian people themselves were in a national poll.

I asked three questions. The first was: “As you may know, judges are currently allowed to grant a form of conditional sentence where those convicted are given the opportunity to serve part of their sentence at home instead of in jail. Do you favour or oppose this practice?” This is pretty straightforward. The poll found that 23% of Canadians favoured the practice of conditional sentencing, 59% opposed it and 18% were uncertain.

The second question in the poll was: “Do you think that those convicted of violent offences, such as manslaughter, kidnapping, drug trafficking, assault or rape, should be eligible for a conditional sentence?” The people who felt that would be appropriate in some cases were: yes, 13%; no, 84%; uncertain, 3%. Canadians very clearly had their minds made up on this second question. They can distinguish between right and wrong. They can distinguish between where the punishment should match the crime. They do believe that in those cases of violence and drug trafficking that the individual should do jail time.

The third question was: “Would you support or oppose changes to the conditional sentencing rules that would make those convicted of violent crimes ineligible for a conditional sentence?” Seventy-one per cent of Canadians supported ineligible, 21% were opposed and 8% were uncertain.

Again, the vast majority of Canadians, some 71%, feel it is right for the government to initiate changes, belatedly I would add, to this legislation and basically plug the loophole it created with Bill C-41.

As deputy justice critic, I am obviously going to continue to push this issue and mount a concerted campaign to get the government to see the error of its ways and initiate this change that is obviously supported by the majority of Canadians.

I know the Reform Party is always accused of dredging up the most horrific examples when we talk about justice issues, but in order for Canadians to understand the issue a bit better, I will cite a couple of the thousands of cases since September 1996, two and a half years ago, where conditional sentencing has, in my opinion, been used very inappropriately.

The first case I will talk about very briefly is the Paul Gervais case in Orleans, not far from here. He received a certain amount of local media attention.

I, along with one of my colleagues from Calgary, personally met with six of the young men who were involved with this. Mr. Gervais plead guilty to sexual assault charges involving nine young men. When I met with the victims, they told me they felt they had not only been victimized by Mr. Gervais, but that they had been revictimized by a system that let them down. I had a tough couple of hours meeting with those young victims. They really questioned the benefit in them coming forward and ultimately having their so-called day in court only to find that Mr. Gervais received a conditional sentence.

I know one of my hon. colleagues just prior to my speaking remarked about that. Victims feel that they are victimized twice: first, by the criminal and the crime; and second, by the so-called justice system, or as some have taken to calling it, the injustice system in the country.

I would suggest that the conditions of Mr. Gervais' sentence were ridiculous. He did not have to serve a day in jail. He is under the supervision of his wife and yet this is the very person who was aware that he had a previous conviction over 20 years ago for molestation of boys. She knowingly allowed him to have young boys working with him in his shop. Yet this is the person to whom the judge, in his infinite wisdom, turned Mr. Gervais over to, saying “Okay, instead of sending you to jail, we will send you home with certain conditions. One is that your family must be responsible for you”. They obviously failed in that responsibility before or these young boys would not have preyed upon.

An 11 o'clock curfew for Mr. Gervais was put in place. He must be home by 11 o'clock at night. When one looks at the case, all his offences against these young boys occurred during business hours at his shop. What possible good will an 11 o'clock curfew do? That particular case is being appealed.

However, when I was asked by these young victims and by reporters about the case, my position was that it should not be up to the victims to try to lobby and pressure the crown counsel to appeal something that should never be in place to begin with. Why should the victims have to lobby the prosecutor to appeal the judge's decision in the sentence and to try to get an appropriate sentence so the individual can be sent to jail where he belongs?

I raised a second case in the House as early as October 1996. It was one of the first cases brought to my attention of the inappropriate use of conditional sentencing. It involved a young mother in my riding. I cannot identify her because she still lives in fear for her safety and her life. She was sexually assaulted in her own home by a former spouse. The fellow drove in a drunken state to the town where she resides, broke into her home and raped her on the kitchen floor with the children home at the time.

To begin with, she thought that because the individual was a former spouse there was not even any point in her bringing this to the attention of the RCMP. That is how much faith she had in the justice system and, as I relate the details, the House will find out why.

Originally she charged her former spouse with common assault causing bodily damage. It was only later that she decided to actually charge him with sexual assault.

In the judge's ruling, he said: “In this case, I do not believe the evidence of the accused, nor am I left in any doubt by it”. He found the accused guilty. Obviously there was ample evidence to support the woman's story that she was indeed sexually assaulted and raped in her own home.

The judge went on to say, in making his judgment:

I think that while society might have an interest in sending (Mr. X) to jail, it seems to me that the victim and her children might be better served by (Mr. X) serving his sentence in the community and continuing to pay child support.

Imagine that. Imagine the sense the victim had. And we are here today to discuss victims rights. Imagine what was going through her mind when she learned of the judge's ruling.

The next case does not deal with conditional sentencing but with another issue I feel very strongly about and on which something has to be done. This was a very tough issue for me to deal with. It involved spousal abuse to the point where the young woman in question was beaten senseless and left in a vegetative state, which she is still in today. I have had some conversations with her mother. As a parent, I can only imagine the private hell this family endures every day as they try to care for Mary-Lynne Miller of Dawson Creek.

Her common-law husband, Brad Neuman, despite a previous history of fraud, forgery, assault, impaired driving and of previously assaulting Ms. Miller with a knife, for which he served six months in jail, he assaulted her again and left her in a vegetative state. However, because he threw himself on the mercy of the court and cried some crocodile tears, he was only sentenced to four years with parole eligibility after two. He received four years for effectively murdering this young woman. For all intents and purposes, although she is still technically alive, she is in a vegetative state.

I will briefly refer to a couple of things I believe the government can do to correct some of these problems. I put forward Motion No. 577 which stated:

That in the opinion of this House, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be instructed, in accordance with Standing Order 68(4)(b), to prepare and bring in a bill to prevent the use of conditional sentencing in cases where someone is convicted of a dangerous crime including: murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking, sexual assault, and all other classifications of assault including child and spousal abuse.

This is a vitally important first step. Within the next couple of weeks I should be introducing a private member's bill in the House which will follow up on that motion and show how exempting those crimes from the use of conditional sentencing can be accomplished in legislation.

The other thing I did as recently as yesterday was introduce private member's Bill C-494 in the House which would bring a current program that does not have official status under the witness protection program.

I could go on at great length about the need for more reform on victim rights, but I see I have run out of time.

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3:55 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in what the hon. member is telling us today because it is so germane to the subject at hand. I would like to hear what he wanted to say before his time ran out.

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3:55 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Elk Island for giving me the opportunity to perhaps try to finish my presentation.

I will give a few quick statistics about the issue of spousal assault and domestic violence.

According to Statistics Canada, tragically there were about 75 spousal homicides in 1997. Eight out of 10 victims of spousal homicide were women who were killed by a current or ex-husband. Over 60 women died in 1997 at the hands of their past or current spouse. That is what those hard statistics mean.

Spousal killings are often preceded by a history of violence. Between 1991 and 1996 police officers were aware of previous domestic violence between the victim and the suspect in over half of all spousal homicides, 56%. Homicides involving family members totalled 4,193.

There is an existing program to try and help those people where their lives are most in jeopardy, especially women. There is an ad hoc program by the Department of Human Resources Development and Revenue Canada which I support. But it does not have a legislative mandate and it does not have funding.

I would like to quote from an article that was in the Vancouver Province on Sunday, January 31, 1999.

In 1992, two federal government employees started New Identities for humanitarian reasons, said Liliane Binette, a spokeswoman for Human Resources Development Canada.

“It's a very special process within HRDC and Revenue Canada to assist victims in real life-threatening situations wishing to establish new identities,” she said.

While it's not an official program, a handful of staff in provincial government vital statistics branches, police departments, and women's shelters know who to contact when they come across an extreme case of family violence...It's kept secret to protect the women and the staff who handle the cases, and to prevent against the possible abuse of the process by people trying to escape creditors.

Because it isn't publicized or official, there is no formal application process, explained Binette. They take only those women who are referred to them by police and shelters; women whose situations have landed them in hospitals, shelters and police interview rooms many, many times.

Revenue Canada ensures their income tax history and child tax benefits follow them into their new lives without linking them to their past names; and HRDC provides them with a new social insurance number and transfers their pension benefits.

The people who work on New Identities hope it will soon get official program status and some money.

That is the purpose of my private member's Bill C-494. Its purpose is to try to give that very important program, which I certainly applaud and the initiative of the two employees, some official status and start to firmly address the issue of spousal abuse in the more horrendous cases at least.