Mr. Speaker, it is ironic to hear the opposition complain that there are too many people speaking to bills when I have often heard them say that we unduly cut off debate. The fact that the opposition has no questions and no comments on this only tells me that they must be bankrupt of ideas on the legislative agenda that is before them.
It gives me great pleasure to discuss the bill entitled international transfer of offenders act. If members were to look back they would see that I also spoke to this legislation at second reading.
This is important legislation for a number of reasons. Canada has a long history of dealing with corrections in the sense of the need to reintroduce people who have offended into the milieu of their environment. I am not so sure that is true of other jurisdictions. What the legislation would basically do is guarantee Canadian citizens, who for some reason or another committed a crime in another country, the same due process that exists in Canadian law, and obviously we need a way to effect that. We need to be able to go to foreign powers, where they believe these people have offended within their jurisdictions, and find a way to bring those people back to Canada, with a similar set of rules obviously for those from foreign jurisdictions who have offended in Canada, we need to find a way to send those people back into their communities.
Why is that important? I know members of the opposition have probably raised the issue that they do not believe that is important and it seems like we are coddling convicted felons or whatever the case may be but I do not believe that is really the case.
Within two years of being elected I did a long study of Millhaven Penitentiary. I actually had the advantage of spending about five hours in there, going through and talking to offenders and so forth. I quickly gleaned the importance of the reintroduction process. If we were to wait until the last minute to reintroduce offenders into the non-offending population we would run the risk of those people reoffending.
The whole concept of parole allows us to introduce those people into the polity under observation. People say that we just release them. The fact is that they are still being scrutinized by the penal system. There is a process where they can be re-incarcerated if they offend their parole jurisdictions.
I do not have the statistics on this but, statistically speaking, after Canadians, who offend in foreign jurisdictions, are released they likely will come back to Canada. However those people who have served time in a foreign institution could pose a significant risk if they are brought back into the non-offending population without some kind of oversight mechanism.
It is important that we effect these kinds of treaties. Clearly it is important that we have as many treaties on our books as possible because we can expand the number of possible countries where Canadians might be offending.
The other thing that is important here is the cultural differences between some of what we do here in Canada, in the western world, and what is done in other countries, such as what we would not consider certain acts an offence or we may think that the sentencing is more severe than a sentence that would exist in Canada. I know there are those who will stand and say that if a person went to a foreign country and committed an offence then that is their problem, that he or she should not have been there in the first place, but that is oversimplistic of a very difficult argument.
The fact of the matter is we pride ourselves in a certain humanitarian aspect and the way we treat each other as Canadians. That, unfortunately, also includes also how we treat each other, even those Canadians who offend in our country and outside our borders.
It is important that we try to apply as much as possible Canadian jurisprudence to those cases even where an offence has been committed in a foreign jurisdiction. The popular press is replete with all kinds of cases of Canadians who are incarcerated in jurisdictions where they possibly come under Islamic law, communist law or other laws that for many of us would seem very harsh and inhumane. Personally, I would have to say that those types of laws, that kind of jurisdiction, criminal prosecution and incarceration is inhumane. Being Canadian citizens should give us some kinds of rights, even in our offence, that give us access to a fair proceeding.
That does not mean the cases will be tried over again in Canada. That is not the intent of this act whatsoever. What is the intent is that the crime or the conviction would be weighed against a similar conviction which occurred in Canada and how it is likely that the sentencing provisions would have occurred.
In other words, there is provision obviously within the act to be more lenient in those cases where there is a severe penalty for something that possibly we did not consider severe. I know some people will bring up the issue of marijuana. In some jurisdictions, clearly, marijuana is a very significant and serious offence, not least of which to our neighbour to the south. We have a different attitude toward the sentencing provisions, not that we condone the use of marijuana. It is unclear to us why some jurisdictions are harsher on some of these areas when we have clinical studies and others that tell us that that need not be the case.
I can assure the House it is very important that the legislation proceed. It is also commendable that the government would bring this legislation forward at this time. Clearly, this type of legislation is not technically popular with the masses in general because it deals with a portion of our population which, quite frankly, many Canadians would like to forget about.
The underlying aspect of this is that Canada promotes human rights, whether they are for a non-offending public or whether they are for an offending public. We promote human rights because they are Canadian, and they are Canadian values that we share as a country.
It is very important that the legislation go forward, that we give the government the opportunity to negotiate a wider, broader based and different ways of interpreting the international transfer of offenders and that we allow our offending public, whether they be domiciled here in Canada or otherwise, the rights and privileges that exist within our Canadian judicial system.
I support this legislation. I am surprised once again that the opposition cannot think of any good questions to ask. It is certainly very profound legislation.