House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was foreign.

Topics

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am terribly disappointed in the Bloc member. When we want to have aboriginal people speak on our bills, they say we are filibustering. They had their chance to speak to those bills. If they have no interest and do not want to speak to them, that is their problem. Of the last three speakers on the Westbank First Nation, our two aboriginal members and I were refuting problems brought up not by the Bloc members but by the opposition. I am sure that if there are injustices put forward in a bill the Bloc would want the members of the House to hear about that.

I am very disappointed that they would deny our aboriginal people the chance to put their views on bills relating to aboriginal people. There are not that many aboriginal people in the House and they at least should have a chance to speak to those bills.

Also, if problems with bills are brought up, they should not be left without answers A number of solutions were put forward in a very constructive way because people brought forward objections and complaints, but we cannot leave these complaints unanswered for the permanent record on the bill.

They are talking about the legislation we do not have, but I ask them to look at today's order paper. I would be delighted to get through it, but I do not think we are going to get through all the bills, even those on today's order paper. There is a lot of legislation. This comment is not actually levelled at the Bloc members because they did not make the original comment that related to legislation and the lack of legislation. All my complaints were directed at the Conservatives, but if the Bloc wants to be brought into it now, the Bloc was part of that--

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Whether it gets into it or out of it, let me proceed. It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-471, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (sexual assault on child--dangerous offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 23rd, 2004 / 1:30 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-471 regarding dangerous offender designations for repeat sexual offenders against children. This bill proposes to impose mandatory dangerous offender designations against any offender who can be shown to have had a previous conviction for a predicate sexual offence against a child.

My colleagues who spoke on this matter a few months ago have indicated that this particular provision poses a serious problem from a constitutional point of view. I also note that some members opposite have argued that there is no constitutional problem, as the provision allows for the respondent to rebut the presumption that he or she should otherwise be designated a dangerous offender.

While this is an attempt to respond to the obvious charter issues this provision raises, I cannot agree that it in fact overcomes those specific issues cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the leading cases of R. v. Lyons and R. v. Johnson.

These cases discussed the ability of the Crown to impose an indeterminate prison sentence while remaining within our Constitution. Our Constitution has entrenched in it fundamental principles of justice. The court made it clear that if the Crown seeks to impose an indeterminate sentence in order to protect society in addition to the regular sentence available for the specific crime the accused is convicted of, then certain principles had to be followed.

In the first place, the burden must be on the Crown to prove that the individual before the courts is in fact a clear danger to commit a violent offence. Second, if that burden is met within the specific requirements of the dangerous offender provisions, the Crown must also meet the burden of demonstrating that the particular risk posed to society by that particular offender cannot be managed by any other method available, in particular the new long term offender designation in section 753.1.

In effect, the Supreme Court of Canada has established that if the Crown is unable to satisfy the sentencing court on the evidence that the risk of serious re-offence cannot be managed by the less onerous long term offender designation, then the dangerous offender application cannot succeed.

Finally, the Supreme Court stipulated that even if the Crown meets those burdens, the sentencing judge must retain discretion to refuse to permanently jail the offender. Without this discretion, indeterminate incarceration is simply not viable under our charter of rights.

If we look at the bill, we see that it is inconsistent with these clear principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Lyons and Johnson. The proposal in Bill C-471 requires a judge to impose the dangerous offender designation. There is no discretion. The bill says “shall,” not “may”. The provision that the judge can refuse the application if the offender satisfies a reverse onus is almost certainly not adequate in this regard. As I see it, this proposal does not meet the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Lyons and Johnson.

The objective of the bill is not only to automatically jail indefinitely anyone convicted for a second time of specific sexual offences against a child under the age of 18, but to also make it much more difficult for such offenders to be granted parole.

However, this is already so. Under the current provisions of Part XXIV of the Criminal Code, an offender who is designated a dangerous offender is not entitled to a parole hearing until the seventh year of incarceration. This position was significantly toughened by our government in 1997.

Before that, dangerous offenders could apply for parole after only three years. It is now seven years. The reason for the change was, among other things, to prevent the inconsistency in parole applications between someone sentenced to a 10 year imprisonment for the same offences but who was not designated as a dangerous offender.

Bill C-471 seeks to establish a very specific set of criteria for a very specific group of dangerous offenders. Under the proposal, the National Parole Board would have one set of statutory rules for current dangerous offenders and another set for this particular group of sex offenders.

The National Parole Board is an independent administrative tribunal with a legislative mandate under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. To make decisions about the timing and conditions of release of offenders into the community, board members are required to make decisions in regard to the specific factual circumstances of the individual case, guided by the law, policies and Canadian court precedents in coming to their decisions.

There are a number of principles in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that direct the work of the Parole Board.

The paramount principle, in considering a parole case, is the protection of society. In doing their case by case analysis, board members are required,by law to take into consideration all available information that is relevant to the case.

Therefore, the National Parole Board currently has in place a policy that dictates that at least one sessional assessment by psychologists and psychiatrists is required for all dangerous offender parole applications. Such assessments provide critical information about the mental state of an offender and other characteristics and factors that may raise the risk of reoffending. Therefore, the psychological assessment that Bill C-471 asks for already occurs.

The member for Crowfoot is asking for more than one assessment. I am not sure why. There is no doubt that an assessment is an important piece of the puzzle in parole applications for dangerous offenders, but it is certainly not the only piece. An assessment is only one element of the comprehensive analysis that board members must, by law, undertake in reviewing each case.

As I mentioned above, the current system ensures that public safety is paramount in all cases, including dangerous offender cases. However, by putting an overly important and restrictive emphasis on the psychological assessment alone, I believe a dangerous precedent could be set, and the National Parole Board may feel compelled to release an offender if the assessments indicate any chance of success in the community, even though there may be other factors that dictate against release.

I believe it is critical that the National Parole Board remains an independent administrative tribunal operating at arm's length from the Government of Canada. The legal authority within which the National Parole Board operates is clearly set out in statutes, including the Constitution Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code of Canada, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and its regulations and other legislation.

In making quality decisions regarding conditional releases and pardons as well as recommendations in clemency cases, the board's primary objective is the long term protection of society. The National Parole Board's mandate ultimately requires that public safety can best be achieved by timely and supervised conditional release and through the effective administration of sentences. However, while the board is autonomous and independent, it is also accountable for its actions to Parliament and ultimately to all Canadians.

The board is headed by a chairperson who reports to Parliament, through the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The minister does not and should not give direction to the board in the exercise of its decision making powers regarding the conditional release of individual offenders. It would be the same as the Minister of Justice dictating to judges who is guilty and who is innocent and how sentences should apply, and that is absolutely unacceptable.

The independence of the National Parole Board helps to ensure the impartiality, objectivity and integrity of the parole decision making process. There is no political interference in decision making in individual cases and there should not be. It seems to me that the restriction being proposed regarding conditional release for dangerous offenders in Bill C-471 would unnecessarily fetter the case by case discretion which the board now uses to make decisions.

The Parole Board, under current law, cannot release dangerous offenders unless they can determine that they do not pose an undue risk to society. In the rare cases when dangerous offenders are granted parole, they are subject to intensive supervision for the rest of their lives. The fact is that a very few dangerous offenders are paroled and in the vast majority of cases, only when they are quite elderly. In the rare cases where these offenders are paroled, they are subjected to rigorous reporting and supervision conditions for the remainder of their lives.

In summary, I do not believe these amendments to the Criminal Code would be constitutional. Nor do I believe that the amendments in Bill C-471 would be effective in enhancing the protection of children. As such, I respectfully decline to support the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Taking note that no other member is rising, I will give the floor to the member under whose name the bill stands. Under right of reply, I will give him the final minutes which are left.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to conclude the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-471.

If enacted, the bill will amend section 752 to section 761 of the Criminal Code, automatically making anyone convicted of two or more sexual offences against a child a dangerous offender. The onus will be on the individual designated a dangerous offender to provide the grounds or arguments against such a designation. Furthermore, the private member's bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act restricting release.

Under Bill C-471, the National Parole Board shall not grant parole, unescorted temporary release or statutory release to an offender who has been designated a dangerous offender under subsection 753(1.1) of the Criminal Code, unless the board has first received at least two medical expert opinions following thorough psychiatric assessment of the offender.

The assessors must be of the opinion that the offender, if released, is not likely to commit another offence and will not pose a threat to persons under the age of 18 years.

This private member's bill was prompted by the fact that our current law does not, in my opinion, deal appropriately with those who pose ongoing risks to society, especially to the most vulnerable of society, our children. My private member's bill was also prompted by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last September, which makes it harder for the courts to declare someone a dangerous offender.

In a nine to zero decision, the Supreme Court justifies that no matter how many crimes an individual commits against innocent people, lower court judges must pay attention to the possibility of rehabilitation, rather than hand out indefinite sentences for those who have already shown they plan to follow on and continue in a life of violent crime.

As a result of this precedent setting ruling, on March 31 a Toronto judge rejected a dangerous offender application for Ronald Roberts. This career criminal was convicted in August 2002 of severely beating a fellow patron in a pool hall. He had 30 previous convictions over 19 years, including two sexual assaults at knifepoint.

On April 2, Douglas Donald Moore hung himself while in jail on charges of 11 sexual offences against children. This sexual predator is believed to have also killed 15 year old René Charlebois, Robert Grewal and Giuseppe Manchisi.

Moore was a monster. He sexually assaulted four boys in 1986, a 12 year old boy in 1988, then fled parole and sexually assaulted a 14 year old boy in 1991.

After serving only four years of an eight year sentence, Moore was eligible for statutory release in 1995. The National Parole Board refused to release Moore because it believed he was a high risk to public safety and that he would reoffend. However, 18 months later he was released after the parole board claimed he had become a positive role model after taking sex offender treatment.

Since his release in 1997, it is believed that Moore assaulted numerous children and killed at least three people.

Moore was a habitual child molester, who virtually every expert would agree could not be cured. Studies show that neither punishment nor rehabilitation can help many child sex offenders. Experts tell us that the least likely offenders to be rehabilitated are sexual predators, especially pedophiles. In fact they state:

Repeat sex offenders are more than twice as likely to commit further sex offences, much more likely to violate conditional release conditions and more likely than other offenders to reoffend with a non-sexual offence.

This information is fully supported by a number of studies that repeatedly indicate that sex offenders have one of the highest recidivism rates of any criminal group. An estimated 40% of sex offenders reoffend within five years of release.

As well, research indicates that offender treatment programs have shown limited results. In fact practitioners in the field of sex offender treatment do not claim ever to cure sex offenders, but rather to manage the risk of reoffending.

With regard to Douglas Moore, an article in the Hamilton Spectator said:

Why would a man with his history not be subject to a dangerous-offender hearing, to let a court decide if he should be detained indefinitely?

The answer goes on:

Responsibility lies with the federal justice department and provincial Crown attorneys and judges.

After September 2003, the responsibility for child molesters freely roaming the streets rests with the Supreme Court of Canada. Earlier this month many other cases came forward.

I believe the only way we can achieve the measure of protection, protection for the most vulnerable members of society, is to automatically make all those convicted of two or more sexual assaults against a child dangerous offenders. The only way to stop these sadistic predators is to keep them behind bars. Repeat child sex offenders should be incarcerated until there is absolutely no doubt that they will not reoffend.

I implore all members on all sides of the House to support my private member's bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 28 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 1:47 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:47 p.m.)