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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think I said what I needed to say, which is that this is third reading with no amendment and we have heard nine government speakers. I think we have heard enough.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

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.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a straightforward question and would ask for a very specific answer. I would prefer not to have talking points of justice officials on the issue.

A Canadian commits an offence in the United States and it is an offence that has minimum mandatory jail sentence, without parole, let us say five years. If that person were transferred under this legislation back to the Canadian correction system, would the legislation require that person to serve the full five years without any rights to parole and without time off for weekend time, which is part and parcel of our parole and early release system in Canada? Would that person be required to serve the full five years, yes or no?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is asking me a very specific question and I will first temper that by saying I do not know 100%. The wording of the legislation, as I understand it, is that it would have to apply to the normal sentencing provision of a similar offence as if it occurred in Canada. Somebody would have to consider whether a similar offence would have a similar sentencing provision in Canada as it would in the United States and adjust it accordingly.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make one comment on this. I have heard a lot of the speeches on the bill from government members today. The answer I have just heard now flies in the face of answers that have been given by other members earlier who have said that we have to honour those sentences from other jurisdictions. Now we are being told that Canadian sentencing principles would be in place.

My observation is that either government members do not know what they are talking about or somebody from the justice department or from the back rooms has been giving them some bad advice because I am not getting consistent answers to the questions I have been asking today.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the first comment was that the opposition members did not want canned speeches. The second comment is they do not want originality. I do not understand what the opposition's problem is. Every member has his or her own opinion as to what the legislation says.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would not rise on this, but I just want to bring clarification to the question about whose sentences apply.

First, there is a principle in the bill that the sentence cannot be any more severe. If an offender is sentenced in Canada or Peru or somewhere for seven years, the other country cannot extend that. However, if an offender is sentenced in Peru for seven years and Canadian law has only five years sentences maximum for that offence, the person would get out of jail earlier in Canada.

It is done on the agreement. They would sit down and determine what the effect would be in Canada. That is how we would have to deal with it. Then the other country, the prisoner and the country that is receiving the offender all have to agree to that. That way no country lets a prisoner get off earlier if they do not want to, but it is possible to negotiate.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would say the question was not addressed to the member for Durham. I do not know if he wants to answer the comment.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will simply just confirm. Basically, what I have said is where there is a sentencing provision, that cannot be greater than the sentence, but conceivably it can be less than those sentences. However, once again, it is a determination that is made through a negotiating process between prisoners and the judicial authorities in both countries.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is another avenue I want to pursue too, because I am not getting clear answers on it either. We know in Canada that when it comes to extradition of people, criminals who have committed serious criminal acts in other jurisdictions flee to Canada. Our Supreme Court of Canada has taken the position that if, in our value system in Canada whatever that is, the country's system of punishment would be cruel and unusual, we will not extradite those people to those jurisdictions. We have had numerous cases of that. The most recent was a murder committed in Washington State. Our Supreme Court said that we would not deport the person back to the United States, because he might face the death penalty.

If we bring people back under this negotiated package with other jurisdictions, what assurance do we have that the Supreme Court of Canada or our judicial system will not interfere with that agreement and say--

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. The hon. member for Durham.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear in the legislation that the sentencing provision would not be greater than that which was given in another jurisdiction. Therefore, I do not really understand the example. Clearly, if somebody were given a murder conviction in Washington state and the penalty was capital punishment, we would not carry out that sentence in Canada because we do not believe in capital punishment. The reality is it is the better of all of those things, which happens to be the Canadian model.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the member for Durham like to comment on perhaps the member for Prince Albert's suggestion, or implication by his questions, that somehow judges in Canada do not know how they are sentencing people, or that somehow these judges give out these sentences and then other things happen in the system, like parole and conditional releases, which they never even realized existed, or that somehow foreign jurisdictions have somebody under a sentence of 10 years when perhaps the maximum in Canada is eight and when they sign these agreements, they might not know or be aware of what they have signed?

We are talking about intelligent individuals, our judiciary and ministers of justice in the foreign jurisdictions. They will be signing off on these exchange orders. Also our own minister of justice would be competent to understand what they were signing.

Could the member for Durham clarify his perception of the misunderstanding of the member for Prince Albert's suggestion that they are somehow fools who are not aware of what they are signing.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In that question I never referred to anybody as being fools. I resent that accusation being made here.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Your message has been made. The hon. member for Durham.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the important aspect of what the intervention is all about is, by virtue of the fact these are agreements or treaties, that it takes two parties to make a treaty. Obviously, those people in the judiciary of those other countries fully understand the concept of entering into these agreements with Canada, where those sentences may be reduced in Canada. However, it is a recognition of the importance of a return of people to their home countries to be close to their families and to possibly help them go through a process where they can get help and be reintroduced to the society as useful and gainful people.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.