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House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, as reported without amendment from the committee.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that the bill be concurred in.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred until the usual time of adjournment on Monday, February 23, 2004.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I think you would find consent to further defer the division from Monday until after government orders on Tuesday.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent of the House?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-19. On the Order: Government Orders

February 13, 2004--the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved:

That Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Mr. Speaker, the success of our system depends on collaboration, on dialogue and on research based knowledge. It is founded on Canadian values, on the rule of law and on respect for human dignity. It is a system that reflects these values.

Respect for human rights as reflected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the international covenants that Canadians have supported over the years, such as the universal declaration of human rights, and in our adherence to United Nations norms and standards for the treatment of prisoners, represent the fundamental building blocks of our corrections system.

In fact, these principles and values have been enshrined in Canada's Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The CCRA remains a significant milestone in correctional reform in Canada. It strikes a balance that respects the rights of all Canadians, both victims and offenders. It reflects the fundamental belief in the dignity of the individual. And it reflects the belief that, given the appropriate interventions and supports, the great majority of offenders can change their behaviour so that they may in time successfully re-enter society as law-abiding citizens.

At the same time, the CCRA provides the tools to control those who clearly pose a risk to the safety of our communities. Our system recognizes that the gradual and controlled release of offenders to the community, when safe to do so and with proper supervision and support, is the best approach to ensuring public safety.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act was proclaimed in 1992. Part I sets out the purposes of the correctional system. It details specific measures governing daily operations of the Correctional Service of Canada in the administration of court imposed sentences of more than two years.

Part II similarly states the purposes of the conditional release system and the principles that guide the National Parole Board.

Finally, Part III establishes and describes in law the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

As many will know, there is a statutory review of the legislation specified in the CCRA. Accordingly, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights began its review of the act in February 1999.

The subcommittee travelled throughout the country and visited numerous penitentiaries and correctional institutions. It heard from witnesses involved in every aspect of the corrections system and tabled its report entitled, “A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act”, in May 2000.

The subcommittee's report concluded that while the CCRA is fundamentally sound, opportunities for improvements exist. It made 53 recommendations for changes to the act and to the practices of the Correctional Service, the Parole Board and the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

The previous government agreed to take action on 46 of the 53 recommendations, and considerable progress has been made through policy and program adjustments. However, a number of legislative amendments are needed in order to fulfill the recommendations that were accepted. By moving forward with Bill C-19, the government is signalling its commitment to the protection of public safety.

The proposed legislative amendments are designed to: tighten up the provisions relating to the accelerated parole review process by adding several new crimes to the schedule of offences which excludes them from the APR; eliminating the presumptive nature of APR release; requiring offenders sentenced to six years or more to serve a longer period before becoming eligible for early release on day parole; and requiring the National Parole Board to apply a more stringent test for reoffending than is presently the case.

We also want to streamline temporary absences to better meet the purposes of the program and expand and formalize victims' rights with respect to National Parole Board hearings.

Other measures include: the review of all statutory release cases before their actual release; the creation of additional grounds for detention of high-risk offenders in custody; and the provision of humanitarian parole for terminally ill offenders. There are also a number of housekeeping measures to amend language and clarify rules.

Let me highlight a few details about the proposed amendments. The proposals would make provisions for the accelerated parole review process, or APR, more restrictive. In addition to offences that currently exclude offenders from consideration, the legislation would exclude those convicted of criminal organization offences, child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability causing bodily harm with intent in specific cases and torture.

Further, the amendments would require that the National Parole Board's review of APR cases takes into account an offender's risk to reoffend generally. Currently, the legislation requires that the board consider only the risk to commit an offence involving violence. This would toughen the conditions for release under the APR. Release under the APR would no longer be presumptive but rather, would result from a deliberate decision of the parole board.

Offenders serving sentences of more than six years would face an increased period of day parole ineligibility. This will prevent situations where offenders serving long sentences spend years on day parole as a result of their eligibility for APR. This measure would also emphasize that the purpose of day parole is to prepare the offender for a full parole release, as is the case with all other offenders.

The existing temporary absence program is highly successful in terms of the positive effects on rehabilitation and the very high level of offender compliance with the conditions of this restricted form of release.

Measures proposed under Bill C-19 would give the correctional service sole authority to grant escorted temporary absences. The correctional service would also assume authority over granting unescorted temporary absences to all offenders, except for those serving a life or indeterminate sentence over which the parole board would retain authority.

Moreover, the provisions relating to work release would be moved under the umbrella of the temporary absences program. Release purposes within this program would be expanded to include structured programs for work, educational, occupational and life skills.

I will now briefly address the matter of statutory release. As recommended by the subcommittee, the bill before us would tighten this form of conditional release for offenders who may present undue risk. It would ensure that the correctional service reviews all statutory release cases prior to release to determine whether to refer the case to the parole board for detention review and whether to recommend that the board impose special release conditions.

Referral to the parole board for detention review would be mandatory in the case of all offenders convicted of a sexual offence against a child and who are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious injury. The grounds for possible referral to the board for detention review would be expanded to include child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability causing bodily harm with intent and torture.

With respect to victims of crime, the National Parole Board has supported the active participation of victims in hearings for many years as a matter of policy. The present proposals would codify the rights of victims to present a victim impact statement at National Parole Board hearings. To date, approximately 347 such presentations have been made and victims have expressed their satisfaction with their new role in conditional release decisions.

We conclude our proposals with reference to other miscellaneous amendments. In response to the subcommittee's recommendation regarding a parole board structure, the maximum number of full time board members would increase from 45 to 60. The law would also ensure that the annual and special reports of the correctional investigator would include the full responses of Correctional Service Canada.

Finally, other amendments are proposed to correct some minor technical flaws and anomalies in the existing legislation.

This then is a summary of the proposed legislation. I do trust that with the support of the House we will move forward to ensure the changes necessary to keep our correctional legislation up to date and effective.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister has used an interesting choice of words.

This is a very typical example of Liberal legislation. Liberal legislation, for those who have not already caught on to this, is where the Liberals take a change that has been demanded by the public and they take just the tiniest little bit so they can say they listened to the public's concerns, have addressed them and now they will act.

Heaven help opposition members if they vote against it because they were the ones who said that the changes were necessary and here we are changing it. If the opposition votes against it, obviously it did not want these changes at all.

The fact is that they only take that tiniest little bit of change because they do not want to offend their strange friends who do not want to see any changes in the system that would actually cut down on the rights of criminals over the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Let us take, as an example, statutory release. They are talking about conditions that will be implemented to say that under these conditions prisoners may not now qualify for statutory release under certain types of violent crime and so on. However, conditional sentencing, which was brought in by her predecessor, who I think will become ambassador to the United Nations or something, has now been applied to violent offenders. When we brought it back to the House the public was outraged. What did the then justice minister have to say? He said that he had never intended that it should apply to violent offenders.

The Deputy Prime Minister is now saying that we are going to take these prisoners who do make it to jail, although not all of them do, and tell them they may not be able to get statutory release. Of course we have judges out there who are telling them that they may not even have to go to prison.

I would think, if the Deputy Prime Minister is serious about making some proper changes in the justice system, she would make changes first to the sentencing provisions by getting rid of class one and class two offences as being eligible for conditional sentencing in the first place so that those people are incarcerated.

Then we get to the question of statutory release. Statutory release, for anyone who does not understand what it is, is a very liberal provision that says that when prisoners have served two-thirds of their sentence, regardless of how they acted inside the prison, regardless of whether they have participated in any corrective programs, regardless of whether they have been incorrigible inside or fought with guards or other prisoners, they would be released. In fact, they could be in segregation at the time their statutory release comes up and they would go right from administrative segregation out into the public.

We did a study on this a few years back. I sat on that study, as did the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who was in the Progressive Conservative Party at the time. One of the things we really looked for in the review of the CCRA was the total and absolute abolishment of statutory release. We both listened to the arguments as to why there should be a parole system. We both understand the concept of not wanting to keep prisoners until the end of their date, warrant expiry as it is referred to, and then simply open up the door and have them walk out. It is far better to have them go out under some form of supervision to reintegrate them into society.

We both accept that, except they have to earn that release. They have to earn the right to get out before warrant expiry to go back into the public under conditions and supervision. We accept that and in fact totally support it. However we do not support prisoners, who have not done a single solitary thing to earn it, being released.

This is what happens inside a prison. If prisoners behave well, if they show some remorse and try to rehabilitate themselves, avail themselves of the programs that might be suitable for them to take, particularly given their offences, they can get out earlier than two-thirds of their sentence.

However what often happens with some of these prisoners inside is that they do not see the need to bother making any kind of effort to co-operate with the guards or take any programs because they know they will be released automatically after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Even if they get caught with dope, fight with other prisoners or throw buckets of urine on the security guards inside the prison they know they will still get out early because of the statutory release provisions.

When we studied this at the subcommittee, the subcommittee that was tasked with the review of the whole CCRA, statutory release became a big point for the opposition. I proposed that we recommend to the government that we abolish statutory release. Interestingly enough, after studying it and after listening to a lot of witnesses all very much in support of it, the Liberal members of the subcommittee agreed to recommend that statutory release should be abolished.

We wrote a preliminary report that went upstairs to the PMO. The report came back with probably a very nasty note that said “Don't you dare make such a recommendation to us. Get back in there, call some new witnesses who will back you on the need for statutory release and change your recommendation”.

The Liberals came back, very sheepishly and somewhat apologetically, and told us that they would have to disagree on that one area but that they could agree to everything else. I said, “Not a chance. We made compromises in our position to get statutory release in because it was something we had identified as being important to the public”. So they marched in a bunch of their specially selected people and tried to come up with the argument that the jails would be overcrowded and that if we did not have statutory release, some prisoners would not be able to earn release and would be in until warrant expiry, which would lead to overcrowding in the jail.

We have to first listen to what the Liberals themselves were saying on this issue. They wanted to allow some people, who could not behave well enough to earn parole, out of jail. These are prisoners who cannot earn parole because their behaviour is not sufficient to trust them out in the public. They cannot earn the parole so we will simply give it to them automatically.

That is the kind of absurdity that is going on in the system. That is what is wrong with the minister's bill today. She wants to tinker around the edge. She wants to maybe make a few little provisions dealing with how to work statutory release. The reality of how to work statutory release is to get rid of it. We need something where prisoners will try to earn parole and work their way back into society.

I am all in support of the concept of rehabilitation. First, we want to prevent crime wherever possible. We want to change the system enough that we do not have people committing these stupid crimes that lead them to jail. When they are in jail, we want to encourage them to recognize that they made a mistake, that they will rejoin society and be a valuable, law-abiding member of society. This is not the way the system works right now and tinkering around the edges of it will not make those kinds of changes.

I could probably go on for about an hour on this subject alone but I see that I do not have that kind of time. I have some encouragement from the Liberal side, which does want me to go on, but, unfortunately, the rules they have put in place prevent that.

I can assure the House that if the government keeps tinkering around the edge of legislation, we will continue to oppose it. There is something wrong when it cannot come out with one decent piece of legislation that goes all the way, instead of legislation that tries to pretend it has done something.

We still hear to this day that the Liberals offered us a triple E Senate but that we turned it down. They still bring that red herring out every so often, all because they came out with an absolutely unworkable set of constitutional amendments that 70-some-odd per cent of this country turned down, even though it contained a couple of decent things. To this day they still maintain that we voted against the good things, which, of course, technically speaking, we did because it was embedded with a whole lot of bad stuff.

It is the same thing with the bill. There may be tiny bits of merit in it but we are always faced with the conundrum of voting for the little bits of improvement that the government is willing to make or to say no, because if it cannot be done right then it should not be done at all. Should we just tell them to get out of the way and we will do it? Well the day when we can do it is coming very close. We expect that in spite of all the scandals, all the investigations and the fact that we will not hear back on any of these investigations for awhile, the Prime Minister will go ahead and call the election. The main reason, as bad as the news is now, is that he knows it will only get worse.

When the Liberals come out with legislation like this, they deserve to be booted out. They should move over and we will bring in legislation Canadians really want.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill in my new role as critic for questions of security, the correctional system, the RCMP, CSIS and all subjects related to public safety and emergency preparedness.

The Bloc Quebecois will support this bill because it is a good start. It is not that we are satisfied with all the proposals presented in this bill, since there are pieces missing with respect to the recommendations made by the Subcommittee on Corrections and Conditional Release Act of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in May 2000.

This bill particularly lacks any input from those who work in the field. It is all very well to say that a broad consultation took place, from east to west in Canada, but we have the impression that there was not enough attention paid to those who work in the field and that there was no real overall evaluation of the situation. There are programs on the conditional release side that work and others that do not work. There has been no comparison of what did and did not work.

Here we see some amendments that will improve the situation a little. Still, there is room for much more. That is the first part of our position with respect to this bill.

Second, there is the appointment of commissioners. I will come back to this because it is an extremely important issue. The Prime Minister has just tabled his democratic vision, a plan that addresses the issue of appointments. This bill, quite curiously, does things the old way through appointments, and that is most unfortunate.

We suggest that this bill be given very serious and in-depth consideration by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and that all the stakeholders be heard. I will not say once and for all because legislation can always be improved, but there must be a major overhaul of current parole-related programs.

With regard to the first issue we have with this bill, it is very surprising that quite recently, in January, a committee of experts looked at the parole process and identified some very shocking problems, particularly with regard to the assessment of individuals eligible for parole.

I am referring to the Conrad Brassard case from January. Conrad Brassard was granted parole and was released. Shortly after, he murdered his spouse. The committee of experts that looked at the Brossard case, which could also apply unfortunately to too many other past cases, said that the assessment of individuals eligible for parole was riddled with shocking problems.

Among other things, they use free lances to evaluate the psychological profile of individuals. Also, instead of focusing on the ability to rehabilitate of the individual who is in the parole program, instead of looking at his profile to determine his ability to re-enter the community, the only criterion really used is the seriousness of the offence that resulted in this individual being incarcerated.

The Bar was very clear on this. The examination of the cases must be strengthened to ensure first and foremost public safety. We must also make sure that the information on the individual is complete. In the case of Conrad Brassard, it was discovered that there was information missing on the seriousness of his condition and on the fact that he was probably a psychopath.

The evaluation was conducted on the basis of an incomplete analysis that was done quickly by free lances. I am not questioning the competence of psychologists, but when budgets are not adequate, when we use a nickel and dime approach and put people's safety in jeopardy by hiring free lances and by giving them incomplete information and a very short deadline to evaluate the individual, the situation can get rather serious.

What we would have liked to see, following the amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was the evaluation done by this committee of experts taken into consideration.

There is another issue on which I fully agree with the Conservative member who spoke before me, even though we support the bill. There is one element that is accurate. We are not conducting a sufficiently thorough study of the conditional release program as such. There is automatic parole, regardless of the behaviour of the individual or his connections with organized crime. We have examples of that. This is a rather pathetic situation.

For example, farmers are complaining and newspapers today are reporting the case of a farmer taken hostage by cannabis producers in his region. This has been going on for years. Cannabis producers are connected to criminal motorcycle gangs. In this case, in the region of Nicolet, it is the Hell's Angels.

We know full well that the so-called “strikers”, those who work for criminal motorcycle gangs, run and coordinate the production of cannabis in the fields, impose a reign of terror on farmers and their families, break their machinery and settle their accounts when farmers speak up.

They are arrested and jailed, but are judged only according to the crime committed, regardless of their degree of connection to organized crime.

When they have served one-sixth of their sentence, they are eligible for initial conditional parole. At that time, the only thing looked at is the crime that brought them to prison, not their capacity to be rehabilitated, to reintegrate society, to no longer represent a risk. This must be changed. On that I agree with my colleague who spoke before me.

There is another point. With all the talk of a plan for democratic reform, and the tabling of the Prime Minister's action plan for democratic reform, with its references to greater transparency and a review of appointments, they could have taken advantage of the opportunity to change this bill so as not to still have national parole board members selected by the governor in council. There should instead be an open process, with people's qualifications examined.

There have been objections to this situation; even Justice Boilard has spoken out against it. What is needed is an appointment process that is non-partisan, not closed and non-transparent as it is now.

There was a case involving a former member of the House of Commons. This was André Bachand, not the one who is an MP now, but another, born in the 1930s, who was a Liberal MP some years ago. His appointment to the board was criticized because it was supported by former minister André Ouellet and his neighbour, the present Prime Minister. It was quite simply a partisan appointment.

This too must be changed. Appointments must be based on qualifications so that appointees are well informed and arrive at appropriate decisions, not inappropriate ones as in the case of Mr. Brossard.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning and add a few comments on Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

I could basically sum up my approach to this bill by saying that it is about time. It is about time that the Liberal government has seen fit to finally act some four years after the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights put together a list of recommendations on how to improve the whole business of corrections, conditional release, and parole in our prison system in Canada.

Here we are, almost four years later, and the government is finally bringing forward this bill again.

Canadians have the right to ask why it has taken four years to act upon the recommendations of this subcommittee. One of the reasons, and I hope it is becoming increasingly evident to Canadians, is the fact that the government has been embroiled for the past number of years, certainly the last four years since this subcommittee reported, in a clandestine leadership race that was prompted by the now Prime Minister. Because he was wheeling and dealing and operating behind the scenes to overthrow Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, these types of things fell off the table.

It is not only this, of course. The nation at the moment is seized by the scandalous misspending of some quarter of a billion dollars through the sponsorship program in Quebec. This happened as well on the Prime Minister's watch when he was finance minister, and he cannot distance himself from that.

Increasingly, Canadians are coming to realize that a lot of this important business of the nation was not put forward, was not passed, was not debated, was not amended, and was not ultimately passed into law to improve the system. In this case, it is Bill C-19. It was Bill C-40 in the last session, before the Liberals prorogued Parliament unnecessarily and all the legislation died. Now we have to start all over again.

Now it is rumoured that there will be an unnecessary early election called as soon as early April, a little more than a month from now. What will happen to this legislation then? It will die again, so then we will be four and a half or five years down the road. Maybe next fall it will be brought back. It will have a different number, but it will be the same legislation as Bill C-40.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

No, it will be better. We will bring it in.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

My colleague says we will bring it in.

We will include all of the 53 recommendations, not the 46 that the government decided to act upon in Bill C-19. We will include all the recommendations that were made, and we will get it passed before we unnecessarily call another election or prorogue Parliament.

When we look at the past decade of inaction of the Liberal government, the decade that I have been here as a member of Parliament, from the fall of 1993 to the spring of 2004, bills of this nature that Canadians have been crying out for have died. We have seen, time and time again, that they are sadly disappointed because we get a couple of years into a Parliament and the government prorogues Parliament. Everything dies. The government has to start all over again and reconstitute committees and get everything up to speed again. The next thing that happens is the government calls an unnecessary early election.

If an election is called in April, it will be the fourth time in the last 11 years that the country has gone to the polls early. It was not even three and a half years, in 1997, that Jean Chrétien called an early election. In 2000 the same thing happened. Now it will be the same thing again.

I think Canadians have lost their patience with the government. Canadians want to see legislation, such as Bill C-19, come about. The reality is I am not convinced we will get Bill C-19 through Parliament, the Senate and receive royal assent before the next election.

I would like to believe that it would happen. I know people who work with the prison system would like to see Bill C-19 become law, and they would like to see some of these changes in the prison system. I am not convinced the bill will become law if our so-called new Prime Minister is intent upon calling an unnecessary early election.

The major thrust of Bill C-19 is to tighten up some of the conditions that surround the conditional release of those who are incarcerated for crimes in Canada. The bill certainly falls partly into step with the Conservative Party of Canada's thinking on the issue. My party has been advocating for many years that parole should be harder to earn and easier to lose. We believe there should be no such thing as automatic parole in Canada.

If people are sentenced to a certain terms of incarceration, unless there are clear indications that the they have taken steps to improve themselves, that they truly repent for the crimes committed and that strong evidence shows the criminal ways have been corrected, there should be no parole. People should have to serve their total time of incarceration. We have been saying that parole should be harder to earn. There should be definite measures for people to come to the bar.

The doors should not be opened because too many people are in prison and it is costing the country too much money. Convicts are let out to prey on innocent Canadians again. We have seen time and time again where repeat offenders are out there preying on the most defenceless in our society, women and children and sadly, in some cases, very young children who are subject to horrendous crimes by those who were supposedly sentenced before and locked up. Then they were released by the Liberal government's lax laws.

Are we going to face this for another year, or two or three before the bill finally is passed into law and we can slowly start to see the changes happen in our criminal system?

When I speak on these types of matters, I always hesitate to call it a justice system. When I am back in Prince George—Peace River in my riding in northeastern British Columbia, I hear every day from someone who says we do not have a justice system in the country any more. People say we have a legal system that leans more toward the guilty and the criminals than it does to protecting the innocent in our society.

We support increased input from the community, including victims of crime. I am pleased to see that there is at least some mention of that in the bill and that we will move somewhat in that direction.

It is sad that it took the combined action of the official opposition over a period of months, sadly years, to get the government to even move this far. However, this agenda of change, as slight as it is, has been allowed to be thrown off by the agenda and the ambition of only one man, and that is the person who occupies the Prime Minister's chair.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also want to say a few words to Bill C-19 which is before the House this morning.

We have to take a look at the corrections system and the whole judicial system in Canada to ensure we have tough enough legislation to protect the country, its citizens and victims, yet have a fair balance that would justly punish those who deserve punishment and try to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated.

Our party believes that we have to do whatever we can to have safe communities. We believe the safety of communities must be the focus of a criminal justice system. A New Democratic Party government would support safe communities through the following things.

We believe in proportionate sentences. We believe in safe and humane custody for both offenders and correctional workers. We believe in addressing the needs of the victims of crime and in the effective restoration of offenders to the community as productive citizens.

New Democrats reject the approach of the American justice system which has often created a costly gulag that promotes punishment over rehabilitation, often to the disadvantage of the poorest segments of society.

We believe that the sentences pronounced by our courts must reflect Canadians' intolerance for crime, especially violent or hate-based crime, while providing offenders with a fair opportunity to redeem themselves and to contribute to our society.

We value the important role of the correctional system in protecting our communities from dangerous criminals. Some people are simply so violent that they must be isolated from society until such a time as they can be safely reintegrated. We believe that when offenders are released on parole, the public should be assured that they will not reoffend in a violent fashion.

We support the right of correctional workers to safe and healthy working conditions in an often stressful and dangerous working environment. We believe that the correction system should target inmates who abuse the system by terrorizing other inmates and staff and by profiting from the introduction of drugs into our institutions.

We believe that the victims of crime will only achieve healing if they are fairly compensated for the harm they have suffered, if they can overcome the trauma and the fear that they experienced, and can effectively participate in a criminal justice process related to the offenders who have hurt them.

We believe that our correctional system can and should address the real needs of most offenders so when they will return to our community, as the vast majority do, they can live lawful and productive lives.

We believe that the level of infectious diseases in prison is a growing danger to offenders, to staff and to the community. This must be addressed in an urgent and common sense fashion.

We believe that federal prisons should not serve as warehouses for people with mental health problems. Rather, there should be a proactive effort, both in institutions and in the community, to treat pathologies that lead to crime.

We believe that the serious disadvantages suffered by aboriginal offenders, especially aboriginal women, who are under a federal sentence must, at long last, be addressed by more than just pious pronouncements.

We believe, as has been determined by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, that women offenders require specific measures to meet their specific needs, and that Correctional Service Canada should be made accountable for this.

We believe that measures to improve the vocational skills of inmates and to strengthen their family relationships have often proven effective and that these approaches should be encouraged.

We believe that more effective oversight mechanisms are necessary to ensure that our correctional system complies with the rule of law as has been recommended by a host of outside experts in recent years.

We also believe that the ultimate goal of a criminal justice system is to bring all the participants together in order to restore the relationship between offenders and communities.

New Democrats would support safe communities by adopting some of the following measures.

We would provide about $50 million in new funding for initiatives geared to the communities so that they may provide occupational and other community support to released offenders. Communities have the special knowledge and the skills necessary to plan and implement effective community reintegration.

We would commission a judicial inquiry to examine systemic racism in the correctional service and address the obstacles suffered by aboriginal offenders.

We would create a deputy commissioner position for aboriginal offenders within the correctional service. This official would be directly accountable to the commissioner of corrections for all matters related to the custody and reintegration of aboriginal offenders.

We would ensure that the deputy commissioner for women of Correctional Service Canada would possess the authority to ensure that the specific needs of women offenders would be met at an early date.

After a broad but timely consultation, we would legislate a federal victims charter of rights to address the needs and prerogatives of victims.

We would establish rules for the fair compensation of victims of crime that would figure prominently in our negotiations with the provinces on transfer payments and the criminal justice field.

We would provide adequate funding to ensure that victims would be able to attend, observe and make statements at all release hearings for offenders, even where the offenders had been transferred to other regions of the country.

We would create a parliamentary commissioner for victims who would fulfill an ombudsman function for victims and report annually to Parliament.

We would ensure that staffing levels and security systems in institutions were at a level that would ensure safety and security.

We would implement severe consequences for inmates who abused the system by endangering the safety of others and by bringing drugs into institutions.

We would provide special legislation to address the special safety and health needs of corrections staff and to provide timely redress for complaints regarding hazardous institutional situations.

We would legislate an independent inquiry with authority to recommend solutions to Parliament for every case where an offender on parole or other form of release commits a crime involving serious bodily harm or death.

We would provide $50 million for new mental health initiatives in institutions and in the community.

We would provide $20 million for community restorative justice programs in order to permit the reconciliation of offenders and the people with whom they would be living.

We would address infectious diseases and the substance abuse conditions that would lead to these both as a security and health problem, and we would take the harm reduction measures that have been shown to work, for example, increased access to education, peer counselling, relapse programs, safe tattooing and needle exchanges.

We would also make the prisoners' ombudsman, the correctional investigator, an officer of Parliament in the same way the chief electoral officer is an officer of Parliament today and has been for a number of years. As an officer of Parliament, that would enable the correctional investigator to take significant cases in dispute before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which would be provided specific legislation to deal with these disputes.

Finally, we would institute a remedy for circumstances where correctional authorities were determined to have “intentionally interfered with the integrity of a sentence”, as recommended by the inquiry into the events at the prison for women, which of course is the Arbour inquiry.

Those are some of the things we would do and we recommend them to the government of the day.

Bill C-19 amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code. It comes out of a subcommittee on justice. It was tabled in the House of Commons in May of 2000. It has taken the government almost four years to respond to the committee on justice.

We have a bill today which really has five objectives. The government wants to tighten up the accelerated parole review process. It wants to streamline the temporary absence process. It wants to review all statutory release cases. It wants to give victims the right to make a statement at a parole board hearing. Finally, it wants to permit the conditional release of all terminally ill offenders on humanitarian grounds before their scheduled parole dates.

As suggested by the justice committee report, the CCRA is in need of reform. Increasing victim participation in the parole process is good because victims are all too often shut out of the criminal justice process entirely. Adding a structured program to temporary absences is excellent as it furthers the goal of rehabilitation through our correctional aims.

In conclusion, my main concern is that this does not begin to address the real problems in our corrections system, the problems that I mentioned earlier, such as infectious diseases, drugs, the abuse, the lack of resources and the facilities that are aimed at not only women but at aboriginal people as well.

We must also be careful not to be overzealous. We must keep in mind that our goal is to build a safer society by rehabilitating offenders and not just locking them up forever and throwing away the key.

That is what I believe the bill falls short on. I recommend to the House the points that I made earlier in my comments.

Marilyn HurrellStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate one of my constituents, Ms. Marilyn Hurrell, for her outstanding efforts on behalf of the Canadian Executive Service Organization.

Marilyn Hurrell went to Riga, Latvia to train staff and volunteers of a public AIDS prevention centre. Marilyn interviewed staff members and representatives of various NGOs and government agencies either directly or indirectly involved in HIV-AIDS prevention to acquaint herself with prevention activities in Latvia.

She presented a report with her assessment and recommendations based on the WHO Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion to the director of the centre. Marilyn expects that the centre will now concentrate more on vulnerable groups such as prisoners and street children.

Ms. Hurrell, a dedicated, hard-working volunteer, is typical of the Canadian Executive Service Organization. Volunteers such as Ms. Hurrell are truly outstanding Canadians.

Marlin FarmsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, due to factors beyond their control and a predatory banker, Marlin Farms find themselves in jeopardy. This is a deliberate concerted effort to drive my constituents into bankruptcy.

The Toronto Dominion bank attack dogs know nothing about agriculture and the dire straits the industry is in. Their idea of working with Marlin Farms is to take half their line of credit and arbitrarily put it in an overdraft account at 21% interest. To add insult to injury, the remaining $125,000 line of the credit is being lowered by $10,000 a month and added to the 21% overdraft. On top of that, the Toronto Dominion Bank charges Marlin Farms $10,000 in bogus bank charges for lawyers, accountants and consultants.

This nightmare for Marlin Farms has been exacerbated by the finance minister, the Minister of State for Financial Institutions and the Canadian banking ombudsman who all refuse to act.

This legalized loan sharking has to be stopped.

Joseph HoweStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, 2004 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of a great Nova Scotian and Canadian, Joseph Howe.

Joe Howe was a newspaper editor, a publisher, a member of Parliament and a lieutenant governor, but it was his successful defence of himself in an 1835 libel trial for which he is best known, as it established freedom of the press in Canada.

Michael Bawtree, the former director of Acadia University's drama department, has established the Joseph Howe Initiative to mark the 200th anniversary of Howe's birth and has recreated Howe's speech from his trial which he will perform again later this year.

Howe's newspaper, The Nova Scotian , continues to live today as part of The Sunday Herald , a division of The Chronicle-Herald in Halifax. The Herald , the largest independently owned paper in Canada, recently turned a new page when publisher Graham Dennis launched a $26 million printing press, the first of its kind in Canada.

Today I want to congratulate Mr. Dennis for his investment in Nova Scotia and its future, and Mr. Bawtree for reminding us of Joe Howe's important contribution to the province's past and future.

Josie SiasStatements By Members

February 20th, 2004 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour today to congratulate one of my own constituents, Josie Sias, who is, as we speak, being awarded the Order of Canada by the Governor General.

Josie Sias is dedicated to communicating her unique knowledge of the people, history and geography of the Yukon. As a park interpreter, volunteer and businesswoman, this elder of the Kluane First Nation has employed story telling to keep alive the traditions of her ancestors.

Widely respected for her leadership of the Parks Canada Youth Corps, she helped young people from various economic and cultural backgrounds to foster teamwork and mutual understanding. She has also taught anglophone, francophone and aboriginal students about their respective languages and cultures.

In recognition of her outstanding leadership she was appointed to represent her people and her region at the Canadian Polar Commission.

Josie is a much loved and respected pioneer of the north. I provide my heartfelt congratulations for this well-deserved honour.