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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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b), to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to Petition No. 373-0501 is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

April 26th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 66 and 67.

Question No. 66Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

With regard to the Atlantic Canada Opportunites Agency’s expenditures over the last three years, what grants and contributions have been awarded to each of the following Atlantic provinces: ( a ) New Brunswick; ( b ) Nova Scotia; ( c ) Prince Edward Island; and ( d ) Newfoundland and Labrador?

Question No. 66Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Egmont P.E.I.

Liberal

Joe McGuire LiberalMinister of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, insofar as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is concerned, $916,825,163.97 in grants and contributions were approved between April 1, 2001 and March 9, 2004 to assist clients throughout the Atlantic provinces. Over 99% of this amount represents contributions.

Below is a report of grants and contributions to indicate the distribution of funding on a provincial basis as well as assistance provided to pan-Atlantic initiatives. This report illustrates both the total amount of assistance approved and the actual disbursements incurred to date under these grants and contributions.

Also included is a report identifying all Infrastructure Canada funding approved by the agency on a provincial basis between April 1, 2001 and March 9, 2004. The total amount approved is $142,757,422.89.

All Approved Grants and Contributions from April 1, 2001 to March 09, 2004:

All Approved Infrastructure Funding from April 1, 2001 to March 09, 2004:

Question No. 67Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

With regard to the conference entitled the “Sommet de la Francophonie”, that was held in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1999: ( a ) what are the names of all companies, groups and individuals who were awarded contracts or money from the government in connection with the conference; ( b ) what was the reasoning behind the awarding of these funds; ( c ) what are the dates on which the funding was awarded; and ( d ) what is the detailed breakdown of the total value of each contract awarded?

Question No. 67Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, given that Canada is represented within the Francophonie by not only the federal government but also by the governments of Quebec and New Brunswick, it was decided that the organization of the Moncton summit of the Francophonie would be conducted by a joint committee comprised of representatives from all three governments. This committee was the decision making organ for the summit. It was equipped with a joint secretariat which dealt with the summit's financial decisions.

The joint committee and the secretariat were dissolved shortly after the summit and in accordance with a federal-provincial agreement, the secretariat archives have been conserved by the New Brunswick Ministry of Inter-governmental Affairs, in the Fredericton warehouses of the Provincial Archives Division.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 9 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 9Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

For each of the following categories of items purchased either by Public Works and Government Services Canada for departments, agencies or Crown corporations, or by the individual department, agency or Crown corporation in fiscal years 2002-2003, namely; (1) teapots, (2) televisions, (3) briefcases, (4) umbrellas, (5) sewing machines, (6) microwaves, (7) flatware, (8) clothes hangers, (9) wine glasses, (10) cameras, both regular and digital, (11) golf balls, (12) golf tees, (13) beverages, alcoholic, (14) jams, jellies and preserves, (15) land mines, (16) games, toys and wheeled goods, (17) phonograph records, (18) perfumes, toilet preparations and powders: a) by department, agency or Crown corporation, how many in each category were purchased; b) what was the total cost spent by either Public Works and Government Services Canada or another department, agency or Crown corporation on each category?

Return tabled.

Question No. 9Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 9Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 9Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

Question No. 9Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 39(5), to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to the following questions on the Order Paper is deemed referred to several standing committees of the House as follows: Question No. 60, standing in the name of the hon. member for South Shore, to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development; Question No. 63, standing in the name of the hon. member for South Shore, to the Standing Committee on Finance; and Question No. 72, standing in the name of the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, be read the third time and passed.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak in support of Bill C-15, which is the international transfer of offenders act.

The amendments introduced in Bill C-15 would modernize the Transfer of Offenders Act to reflect the many changes that have occurred since this legislation was proclaimed in 1978.

The provisions contained in Bill C-15 would allow Canada to negotiate the transfer of offenders in a manner consistent with current international standards and would provide a mechanism for cooperation in criminal justice matters.

To elaborate, the Transfer of Offenders Act allows Canada to implement treaties with other countries for the transfer of offenders. Under the terms of these treaties, Canadians convicted and sentenced in a foreign jurisdiction would be allowed to serve the remainder of their sentences in Canada. Similarly, foreign nationals convicted and sentenced for crimes committed in Canada would be permitted to return to their home country and to serve the remainder of their sentence there.

I should make it clear that the terms of the act would apply only to individuals actually convicted of a criminal offence and would not apply to individuals held in remand or detention, awaiting trial or appeal. In addition, I would like to note that transfers, pursuant to the Transfer of Offenders Act, require the full consent of the offender, as well as the receiving and the sending state. Without the full consent of all parties, an international transfer cannot proceed.

Some might wonder why we should occupy ourselves with the plight of Canadians who find themselves incarcerated in a foreign jurisdiction. Why not let them stay there and do their time? Why not let the experience be a lesson to them and a warning to others who might be considering criminal activities while abroad?

To those who would respond in this way, I would draw attention to two interrelated objectives of the transfer of offenders act, namely, public safety and the humane treatment of offenders. These objectives, which derive from Canadian criminal justice policy, recognize that the vast majority of offenders will eventually be released back into the community and that the best way of ensuring public safety, in the long term, is to prepare them for their eventual return to society as law-abiding citizens.

I am well aware that there are some who would challenge the notion that Canada's approach to criminal justice generally, and corrections specifically, is effective in protecting Canadians from crime.

To those who take this view, I would point to public records showing a steady decline in crime rates across most of Canada. At the same time, I would invite critics of Canada's criminal justice policy to examine the impressive success rates of offenders released from our penitentiaries while under supervision. These results are a product of sound, evidence based policies and programs for the treatment of offenders, and clearly they work. The Transfer of Offenders Act ensures that Canadians sentenced abroad and who elect to return to Canada while under sentence will be managed in accordance with the policies and programs proven to reduce the long term risk to the Canadian public.

During the debate on Bill C-15, we have become aware of the issues facing Canadians sentenced abroad, often under difficult conditions. I am referring specifically to factors relating to sanitation, health care and nutrition. I am also referring to the added burden associated with the differences in culture and language and to the hardship of being far removed from friends and family. The Transfer of Offenders Act responds to these humanitarian considerations while protecting public safety by addressing the offender's criminogenic factors before sentence expiry.

Let us be clear. The Transfer of Offenders Act is not based on some well-intentioned but misguided humanitarian notion. The realities are that Canadian offenders sentenced abroad would in all probability be deported back to Canada following the end of their sentence without any supervision and lacking the benefit of rehabilitation programs.

The treaties enabled by the Transfer of Offenders Act do not allow offenders to somehow evade justice. These treaties allowed by the act stipulate that the receiving state shall neither interfere with the finding of guilt nor lessen the sentence handed down by the sentencing state.

At the outset, I noted that the Transfer of Offenders Act dates from 1978, which is some time ago. Principles of good governance require that legislation be reviewed from time to time in order to evaluate its continuing relevancy and effectiveness. Consequently, the Transfer of Offenders Act was the subject of broad consultation, which included over 90 private and public sector agencies.

Pursuant to this review, there was strong support for the Transfer of Offenders Act. However, the consultations also revealed that the act could benefit from some amendments, which are included in Bill C-15.

The amendments introduced in Bill C-15 can be placed in one of three categories. First are amendments that reflect the traditional treaty principles that have developed over time. Second are those that address the gaps in the Transfer of Offenders Act. Finally, the last category of amendments contains the proposals that would contribute efficiencies to the current process.

Allow me to cover the main points covered by these reforms in Bill C-15. First, the purpose and the guiding principles of the act are identified. This is an important feature of modern legislation. It helps promote consistency within Canada's body of criminal law, namely, the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Specifically, the purpose of the proposed new international transfer of offenders act is:

to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

Next, the international treaty obligations and principles considered legally essential are included. These principles include those that ensure offenders have access to processes consistent with natural justice and due process. Enshrinement in the act of legally sound principles is necessary to ensure that the courts do not strike down the transfer process that could result in the unsupervised release of an offender into the community.

Eligibility criteria have been broadened to permit an increased range of Canadians to be transferred. Presently, young persons under probation, children, and mentally disordered persons are ineligible for transfer under the Transfer of Offenders Act. Amendments introduced in Bill C-15 would make these individuals eligible for transfer. This proposed amendment is in line with the humanitarian objectives of the new international transfer of offenders act.

Clarification on the decision making provisions has been included where provincial consent is required for the transfer of offenders on probation, provincial parole and provincial temporary absence and for offenders under a conditional or an intermittent sentence. Also, updated provisions are included, which will result in the consistent and equitable sentence calculation for transferred offenders and will ensure the equitable treatment of transferred offenders when a pardon is granted or when a conviction or sentence is set aside or modified.

As well, reforms have been introduced to allow the negotiation of transfers on a case by case, ad hoc basis between Canada and states with which Canada has no treaty or jurisdictions, or territories that are not yet recognized as states, or other entities such as Hong Kong or Macao. I would just note that in light of today's rapidly changing political landscape, this is a particularly relevant feature.

There are other primarily technical amendments introduced in Bill C-15, which will strengthen the provisions of the current Transfer of Offenders Act, but time does not permit me to elaborate on them.

However, there is one last point related to the reforms introduced by Bill C-15. Most states are convinced in today's global climate of the need to work multilaterally and bilaterally to address criminal conduct in a way that is in harmony with longstanding principles of territoriality.

In the absence of an instrument to enforce foreign laws, crime could be encouraged rather than prevented. By working together with others through the transfer agreements enabled by the new international transfer of offenders act, Canada will have the flexibility to work with a broad range of countries and other entities in matters of criminal justice in a way that would lead to public protection through the safe and gradual reintegration of offenders into society.

In conclusion, let me say that Bill C-15 builds on a proven and effective correctional policy, a policy that delivers public safety by treating offenders fairly and humanely during their period of incarceration and by preparing them for their eventual safe reintegration into society. As such, the reforms introduced through Bill C-15 demonstrate Canada's enduring commitment to maintaining public safety and a willingness to work cooperatively with our global partners on criminal justice issues.

Finally, I would like to thank the members of the standing committee for their perseverance and responsiveness in the examination of Bill C-15 throughout their deliberations and for presenting a bill that is worthy of support within the House.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the government to speak to Bill C-15. As we all know, the bill was reinstated after the House resumed, having been thoroughly reviewed by the justice committee when it was Bill C-33. The fact that we are debating final reading so soon after the deliberations of the committee speaks volumes about both the work of the committee--and I compliment members from all parties on the work they did on this bill--and the importance of the piece of legislation in front of the House.

The bill before the House repeals the current Transfer of Offenders Act, which was passed in 1978 and really has had fairly minor technical amendments since then. It replaces that act with an enhanced and modernized version that reflects international developments since the original piece of legislation was passed.

Legislative initiatives such as those contained in Bill C-15 form an important part of the work of Parliament. This bill is a good example of the effective modernizing of an existing scheme in order that it remain true to its objectives and current world developments.

As I said, Bill C-15 updates the original Transfer of Offenders Act in accordance with its basic principles and guarantees that the legislation in this area continues to meet its public safety and humanitarian objectives. These are achieved through cooperation with other nations. In fact, the concept of transfer of offender legislation and international treaties originated in discussions held at a United Nations meeting attended by many of our global neighbours.

At that time, it was agreed that it was necessary to create a system for the international transfer of offenders so that individuals convicted of a crime in a foreign state could, under specified circumstances, be allowed to serve their sentence in their home country. This has ramifications both for the convicted offender and for family and friends here in Canada, about which I will speak more later.

The Transfer of Offenders Act that created the framework implemented specific treaties which set out the circumstances in which offenders may be returned to their home country to serve their sentences. The legislation operates so that foreign offenders who are convicted in Canada also do not escape justice, as might be the case if they were simply deported from this country.

Since the present version of the act was enacted nearly 30 years ago, Canada has ratified treaties and conventions that allow transfers between us and over 40 countries, including, among others, the United States, Mexico, France and Egypt. In accordance with these arrangements, approximately 85 offenders are transferred to Canada each and every year. Ensuring that the legislation governing the transfer of offenders is modernized is vital if we wish other countries to sign treaties with us so that they can be used when the situation warrants.

Transfer of offenders legislation accomplishes several valuable purposes. The legislation makes contributions to public safety, a priority of the government, and this objective is met by a number of means. First of all, it is commonly recognized that the existence of a support system for offenders serving a sentence, a support system of family and friends, is a factor in the rehabilitation of offenders and their eventual reintegration into society. As for allowing Canadian offenders to serve their sentence in Canada with that kind of a support network, allowing them to maintain contact with family and friends, the research has shown us that the positive effect is less recidivism, less returning to a life of crime.

In addition, the legislation enhances public safety by virtue of the fact that an offender who is returned to Canada is then exposed to our correctional system's rehabilitative and other programs, including the processes for the gradual and controlled reintegration of returned offenders into society under supervision.This might not be the case if they served their sentence in another country and then returned to Canada.

Another aspect, however, is that it serves an essential humanitarian role. I would not for a moment question that those found guilty of crimes in other countries should be subject to punishment according to the laws of the country in which the illegal acts were committed. However, it must be recognized that situations exist where a foreign sentence and the associated foreign standards of justice and conditions of confinement might very well result in the imposition of severe hardship on Canadians when those conditions are compared to our North American standards.

For instance, hardships suffered by Canadians are generally seen to be the result of cultural and language differences. That can lead to Canadians being subjected to severe psychological stress brought about by language isolation, an unfamiliar legal system, and different lifestyle, health care, religion and diet.

Finally, on the compassionate front, it is important that we not ignore the distress and anguish suffered by family members and friends of Canadians held abroad, even though they, as family and friends, are totally innocent of any wrongdoing. For example, it is often the case that travelling to visit an imprisoned loved one and obtaining legal representation on their behalf can involve prohibitive financial costs. There are also cases where family and friends feel obligated to provide considerable sums of money to ensure that the prisoner receives basic nutrition, for instance, and medical services and other necessities of life. The hardship suffered by an offender's family and friends may also be aggravated by their lack of familiarity with the foreign legal system, culture and language.

Although the Canadian diplomatic corps strives to do its utmost to ease the difficulties associated with being under sentence in foreign countries, one must acknowledge that there are real and substantial limits to what they can do, to the role they can play abroad. Generally speaking, the role of the consulate does not go beyond efforts to ensure that the offender's rights under the domestic law of the country where the offender is being held are respected, to assist in retention of legal representation, and to endeavour to facilitate family contact.

It should go without saying that the government continues to encourage all citizens to observe the laws, regardless of what country they happen to find themselves in, and at the same time continues to be responsive to the circumstances of Canadians sentenced abroad and their families back home. Therefore, the international transfer of offenders accomplishes both the objective of reducing both recidivism, or the return to crime, and the objective of reducing the hardship suffered by Canadians in other countries and by those persons who wish to provide support to the person serving the sentence and assist in their ultimate rehabilitation.

This bill contains amendments that meet several vital objectives. I said that things have developed internationally and, in order to ensure that countries will continue to enter into treaties with us, we need to update our legislation substantially. The bill adds several legally essential treaty obligations and principles such as the non-aggravation of the sentence by the receiving state. In other words, a prisoner who returns to Canada should not be subject to a lesser sentence than he or she would have received or in fact was given in the country where they were tried and convicted.

The bill also extends the eligibility criteria to include Canadians who are not currently eligible for transfers, such as young persons on probation, children, and persons with mental disorders. It clarifies the provisions related to the decision making process by such measures as requiring provincial consent for the transfer of offenders within provincial jurisdiction, and I should say here that the provisions in the bill that affect the provinces and territories have been accepted by the provinces and territories of Canada.

The bill also aligns the sentence calculation provisions with other legislation to ensure the equitable treatment of transferred offenders and to ensure that Canada takes appropriate action where the foreign state grants relief in respect of the offender's foreign sentence.

Finally, it adds provisions enabling the negotiation of administrative arrangements on a case by case basis to extend the act's humanitarian objectives to offenders held in harsh conditions in foreign states with which Canada does not have a treaty, or is negotiating but has not yet concluded a treaty, or in foreign entities which are not yet recognized as states. For instance, Canadians incarcerated in jurisdictions such as Hong Kong or Taiwan cannot be repatriated to serve their sentence at this time because the current legislation does not authorize arrangements for the transfer of offenders to be negotiated with countries that are not legally recognized states.

I ask members of the House to support the passage of Bill C-15 so that Canada can have the ability to be responsive to international developments in this area and so that we can move forward in the spirit of international cooperation.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could elaborate a little on offenders who may be children, who fall into the category of young offenders. What would the application of the bill be where children would be found guilty perhaps in a very harsh extraterritorial environment when they are transferred to Canada? What aspects of Canadian codes and jurisdiction apply in those cases?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

The important factor, Mr. Speaker, is that right now the Transfer of Offenders Act does not apply to children at all. With the changes to the act, a child sentenced in another country could be brought back to Canada and whatever sentence had been applied could be served here in Canada rather than in a foreign country.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading of the government's initiative to update the Transfer of Offenders Act.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as it then was, after diligent and detailed consideration as has been pointed out by previous speakers, has returned Bill C-33 for the House's final consideration. These legislative proposals have since been reinstated as Bill C-15. I agree with previous speakers who have noted that there is nothing in the legislation that might delay the passage of the bill.

Bill C-15 is an important and necessary piece of legislation in which we take great pride in helping to fashion it into a final product that will become law. As the name implies, the force of the legislation will be felt far beyond Canada's borders. It provides the international community with yet another example of Canada's progressive criminal justice system which combines the best aspects of correctional practices and the implementation of the law. Bill C-15 would do so by balancing the need on one hand for fair and humane treatment of offenders with on the other hand the need to respect the systems and philosophies of other countries.

The proposed bill maintains most of the purposes and principles of the Transfer of Offenders Act as it was proclaimed back in 1978. However, it should not be surprising to any members that a 25 year old law might well be due for some important changes.

At the outset, I would like to answer a number of questions raised during committee proceedings and asked by hon. members opposite.

The government has been asked if the amendments to the Transfer of Offenders Act violate in any way Canada's sovereignty or bring into disrepute the administration of Canada's justice system. The answer is in the negative. They do not. As a matter of fact, most states wish to cooperate with one another within the parameters of criminal justice. All states prohibit certain conduct and attempt to deter it through the enforcement of criminal laws and penalties.

Modern technology and the ability to travel very quickly have increased the opportunities for the commission of crimes in countries other than one's own. Numerous examples of that have occurred in the last few weeks.

States have a common interest in working together to prevent and respond to criminal conduct that transgresses and transcends those boundaries. Such cooperation actually protects the sovereignty of states by preventing offenders from escaping the justice systems. This is exactly what the transfer of offenders scheme allows states to do by allowing for the transfer of offenders and the enforcement of the foreign sentence by the receiving state.

One of my colleagues has described how the bill deals with differences in the severity of sentences. In brief, if a foreign sentence by its nature or duration is incompatible with the law of Canada, the sentence must be adapted to the sentence prescribed by Canadian law for a similar offence. For example, a foreign court may hand down a custodial sentence of 10 years for common assault. In order to be enforced here in Canada, the foreign sentence would be adapted to the maximum custodial sentence of five years for assault provided by the Criminal Code of Canada. Bill C-15 would reflect the standard treaty of provision of adaptation of foreign sentences to meet the parameters of Canadian legal requirements.

Finally, how will Canada deal with a different system of offences where the offence is not recognized under Canadian law? The answer is somewhat technical.

Bill C-15 sets out what is known as the rule of dual criminality. This rule is satisfied when an act is criminal in one state and has the same general qualification in another. This is a rule of customary international law and a requirement of most treaties signed by Canada, because the enforcement of a foreign sanction for an offence that does not exist in Canada, such as adultery, could violate essential constitutional principles or even contravene protected fundamental human rights. Bill C-15 sets out the concept and principles of dual criminality as a condition of transfer.

Having said that, Bill C-15 provides that the rule of dual criminality does not apply to the transfer of children. That was the intent of the question that I asked the previous speaker. Although a child may have been convicted of an offence for which there is no equivalent in Canada, this will not preclude his or her transfer to Canada.

Let me add that Bill C-15 provides that children are not incarcerated when they are transferred to Canada. They are remitted to their legal guardian and the child welfare system will provide the framework within which their particular needs will be met.

Providing necessary continuity, the new international transfer of offenders act will continue to provide for the implementation of treaties with other countries for the international transfer of offenders.

The purpose of the act and the treaties signed between Canada and foreign states could be generally described as essentially humanitarian. Canadians convicted and detained abroad in difficult conditions may be allowed to serve their sentences at home and foreign nationals may be returned to their home country. In the case of returning Canadians, the treaties promote public protection, as offenders are allowed to serve their sentences in Canada and to be gradually released into the community according to the legal restrictions that are applied through the criminal justice system. Otherwise they would simply be deported from the country where they were convicted of an offence, however serious, at the end of their sentences and would arrive in Canada with no controls being put upon them whatsoever.

At the same time, as has been mentioned, the treaties in all cases respect foreign sentences. Countries that send offenders back to Canada are assured that the sentences determined by their courts will be enforced by the Canadian criminal justice system. Let us make it clear that offenders who are returned to Canadian institutions will not be coddled. Other nations recognize this and agree with the condition that will be imposed and implemented through this treaty, that the terms of transfer before the offender is moved will be agreed upon.

The Transfer of Offenders Act as it stands continues to serve useful purposes. We are here today to bring it up to date. The world has changed; to say that would be an understatement. The style and content of international treaties must change to keep up with these circumstances.

There are the obvious changes brought about by the birth of new nations and the rebirth of others. We need only look today at the expansion of the European Union by 10 nations to know that the map of the world is in a state of change itself. Many of these are also nations that have become independent of former allegiances, thereby growing more attuned to democracy and a concern for human rights.

These countries have a need to express these transformations internationally. What better way to extend our hands across cultural divides than by getting together to negotiate meaningful treaties, in particular within the criminal justice realities that we all face. This is the essence of international co-operation. I would suggest that within the context of international terror and the deportation of it, those are the kinds of treaties and relationships that we should be building upon.

In the process we learn from each other and forge new bonds of international understanding and co-operation. In this regard I might mention that the very first country with which Canada negotiated a treaty to transfer offenders was of course our friend and ally to the south. This treaty, dating back 25 years, with the United States is but another example of how the policies and programs with our American neighbours coincide with our own.

Since the act's proclamation in 1978, only technical amendments have been made to it, although more substantive issues have been identified. These issues have been brought forward with a broad range of interested parties since a consultation document was released in 1997. We have been developing in a very progressive way the stages and steps,and meeting different thresholds in the evolution of this legislation.

The wide ranging consultation identified what amendments would be advisable and necessary. This exercise has been followed by an exhaustive drafting exercise during which expert officials have identified what changes are possible given Canadian and international law.

As was outlined when Bill C-15 was introduced, central clauses of the amended act will set out the purposes and principles of the legislation. This may seem to be an obvious consideration in the formulation of a statute but a cursory survey of existing laws soon indicates otherwise.

An outstanding example of a statement of principles and purposes may be found in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as passed by Parliament in 1992. These important clauses have been invaluable as a guide for correctional practitioners. Having the force of law, they cannot be easily modified or tampered with and therefore they set a precedent of consistency in the administration of sentences.

In this age of mission statements and similar corporate commitments, one can easily recognize the importance of clear and steady guidance for those who must work within the confines and spirit of an act established to carry out the will of Parliament.

An equally modern aspect of these legislative proposals is that measure requiring a new level of information sharing between government authorities and offenders. Simply put, Canadian officials will be obligated to inform a foreign citizen under its jurisdiction of the existence and substance of an international transfer treaty between Canada and the country of citizenship, a function that our Department of Foreign Affairs carries out with regard to Canadians convicted abroad. While the duty is routinely discharged, the added force of law will formalize the practice to the satisfaction of those signing treaties with Canada.

Another new provision will make it possible for a foreign offender in Canada to reverse his or her application for transfer at any time before the physical transfer takes place. This important change would accommodate the rare occurrence where circumstances in the offender's home country change negatively in the period between application and the actual transfer.

The last specific point I would like to mention may prove to be the most important. This entails the new provisions to extend certain aspects of the transfer of offenders scheme to nations that have not yet joined the family of countries that currently have treaties with Canada for the transfer of offenders. One can see that circumstances might arise where such an accommodation would be essential to the well-being of a Canadian incarcerated abroad.

There are other aspects of Bill C-15 to explore but I will leave those to my hon. colleagues and, in due course, to the consideration of those in the other place. I urge them all to join in the passage of these necessary measures. I urge all members of the House to support the bill and send it on to be scrutinized and passed in the other place.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech. I think it was the ninth or tenth Liberal speech in a row on this particular item. I realize these are all canned speeches put together by the justice department and that the Liberals have to take their turns picking up a speech and giving it but we have been listening to the same information over and over again. Quite frankly, we cannot ask any more questions pertaining to the bill because we have done that.

Friday, after checking with the Speaker's chair, I was told that the procedure of filibustering one's own bill was a very unusual procedure but suddenly here they are doing it again. They did it last Friday with one issue and now they are doing it again.

What is it that is causing the government to filibuster this particular bill? Is it because it has nothing else on the agenda to discuss? Is it because it does not want to get on with governing the business of the country? Is it because it is afraid to discuss other issues? What is the reason?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Let us try to keep some relevance to Bill C-15, please.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, under other circumstances I am sure the concerns and points raised by the member would have some application, but if the member would look at the record of speeches on second reading, this was one that I particularly was very interested in and I spoke to the bill at that time. I am sure the member will appreciate that not everybody has the opportunity to sit and listen to all the speeches. We have certain aspects that we are interested in responding to.

I was extremely interested in how the bill would in fact fit the circumstances that are evolving with respect to terrorism. I thought I made it quite clear that this framework of legislation would respond and make it, through treaties, better for the international community to mobilize its resources to deal with cross border realities such as those that are related to weapons of, not mass destruction but of great destruction to civil society as we know it.

I do not question what the member has raised in terms of what he thinks is the motivation of the government. I can only respond with respect to my interest in the bill. I am sure there are other members who feel exactly the same way. I would hope that when they do rise to speak to a bill of this nature that they would not be subjected to any unfair commentary that would question their motives.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have had one opposition member and nine government members speak to a bill at third reading that has no amendments. I have been expecting, for over three hours now, to speak to Bill C-23, which I hope is coming up very soon. I can go back to last week where the government was filibustering bills also. This is going back to more than Friday. I can go back to last Thursday.

I would like to get on with the government agenda, which last week was that aboriginal bills would be upcoming, and that was what it wanted to serve up, and Bill C-23 is an aboriginal bill.

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4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but does he have a question or comment on Bill C-15?