moved that Bill C-251, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (cumulative sentences), be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, last week, for the second time, this House resoundingly supported changes to the Canadian justice system that would give judges the ability to set fair and proportionate sentences for multiple murderers, finally putting an end to Canada's automatic bulk rate for murder.
Since that vote, many of the more than 500 Canadian families who have been devastated by multiple murderers have seen fit to write to me, call in to talk shows, or otherwise let Canadians understand the truth about our current system. They have never been able to understand why anyone would insist that the murder of their child, spouse or parent should continue to be meaningless to the courts. Fortunately, they have found new faith in parliament by last week's decision by this House and many have written to express their thanks to members for recognizing the value of the precious lives they have lost and the need for justice.
Another all too common message was that of victims' families being told by a sentencing judge that he wished he could give a more meaningful sentence for the murder of their child, but that the law simply would not allow it. That is the message that we are hearing from the judiciary in open court, a clear message that judges need more latitude to set fair and proportionate sentences for these most horrific of crimes.
That is exactly what Bill C-251 is designated to deliver. It would allow a judge to look at the facts of a case where a murderer has been convicted of the murder of not just one, but at least two human beings. The judge could look at those facts and make an assessment of the intent of the offender, the brutality of the crimes and any mitigating circumstances that may be relevant.
Having considered all of the evidence, a judge would determine first whether it is warranted to impose a consecutive sentence or grant a concurrent sentence. If the judge determines that fairness and proportionality require a consecutive sentence, he has the further discretion to determine the length of that additional term of parole ineligibility, anywhere from one day to 25 years. I call that double discretion.
For years I have heard colleagues insist that judicial discretion was necessary and essential even in cases of multiple first degree murder. I have listened and I have learned from their advice. Now judicial discretion is the cornerstone of the multiple murder and multiple sexual assault provisions of this bill.
By passing Bill C-251, parliament will be declaring that every victim of murder or sexual assault should matter to the court. At the same time it will provide judges the latitude to account for the specific circumstances of an individual case. As always, we will be entrusting the judiciary with the responsibility to render fair and proportionate sentences within the parameters of the law.
During the past week I have heard that for some members judicial discretion is not enough. Some hold the view that a multiple murderer who kills his victims in quick succession should be immune from additional consequences arising from the second, third or fourteenth murder. The next Mark Lepine, Denis Lortie or George Lovie should all be guaranteed concurrent, meaningless sentences for all but their first murder, according to this argument.
I say that there should be no such guarantee. There should be no automatic benefit to planning to kill several victims in the same event. Instead, I propose that a judge is best placed to determine what is fair and proportionate based on the facts. Let the judges do their job.
Another argument back from the slag heap this week is the potential cost of keeping multiple murderers in jail longer. I had thought this argument had long since been put to rest, but back it comes when all else fails.
Let me be clear once again. There can be no cost implications of the multiple murder provisions of Bill C-251 for at least 10 years as the bill is not retroactive and all multiple murderers serve at least 10 years anyway. We know that it will not cost one cent for ten years. Moreover, multiple murderers currently account for about 2% of the prison population and it will take 30 years for a new generation of multiple murderers to replace them. By the year 2030 the total prison population may well be 1% to 2% larger than it would be otherwise. That is the price of justice insofar as multiple murderers are concerned.
One reservation put forward over the last days was particularly curious, that being that the bill has moved through parliament too quickly. One even described it as having whistled through parliament. Today is the sixth time the Chamber has debated this bill over the last three years. It was introduced three times before being made votable. Second reading occurred not yesterday, but seven months ago. It was held in committee for over four months and there was yet another debate at report stage. More debate is yet to come in the Senate. Parliament has had much time to debate this issue and render a well considered decision. The House has decisively, on two occasions, voted in support of Bill C-251. It is a decision that should be respected.
For months I have been asked to put a label on Bill C-251. Is it liberal to initiate this kind of change? I decided to find out whether it was liberal and to find out whether people of different political stripes had different views about consecutive versus concurrent sentences for murder and sexual assault. I commissioned a professional polling company, often regarded as the Liberal Party pollster, to find out how Canadians broadly viewed this issue. What they found did not surprise me.
Intuitively, I have always felt that the Canadian sense of justice was non-partisan. That is the message I got at the door in my riding. I got the same message in Quebec, the maritimes and the west. All people, of every political stripe, from every region of this country, have seen the injustice of concurrent sentencing in their communities. Their outrage is not political; it arises from the people's sense of justice.
Pollara found that 90% of Canadians support consecutive sentencing for rapists and murderers on a mandatory basis. With judicial discretion, that number would surely increase to an even higher level. What the numbers show is very interesting when we examine the political parties that respondents support. Ninety-two per cent of Liberals polled support consecutive sentencing. Support in the other five political parties was similarly overwhelming, with no party showing less than 83% support for consecutive sentencing. Just as striking was the fact that women were the strongest supporters of consecutive sentencing, with only 5% opposed to mandatory back-to-back sentences.
Consecutive sentencing for murderers and rapists defies the labels. It is as non-partisan as the justice that victims in this country require.
In amending the bill, I took into account more than just the criticisms that some had offered. I also wished to address legitimate concerns over the image given by certain potential sentences. In particular, there seems to be some discomfort with the notion of even a Clifford Olson being sentenced to a fully consecutive term which could reach 275 years. In response, I agreed to yet another amendment that would cap any additional sentence at 25 years. Hence, sentences will not be imposed which go far beyond the life expectancy of most multiple murderers.
We have before us today a bill I believe reflects the input of many members of the House, including some who sadly continue to oppose it. It achieves the core objective of eliminating the automatic bulk rate for murder that disregarded the second, third or eleventh victim. It makes this progress with all the safeguards of complete judicial discretion.
I urge all members to look upon Bill C-251 as a bill that responds to their advice and builds on the common ground that we have found over the past three years. It is a bill that will contribute to justice by providing greater proportionality and fairness, and by recognizing that every victim deserves a measure of justice.