House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.


Gasoline PricesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Due to a lot of noise at the back of the chamber, I accidentally voted in favour of the motion. If the distinguished Chair would allow it, I would like to be recorded as proudly opposed to this motion.

Gasoline PricesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I require consent of the House to change the member's vote. Is there unanimous consent?

Gasoline PricesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Gasoline PricesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Gasoline PricesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:28 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 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-215, its essence being to add minimum sentencing for the use of a firearm in the commission of an offence.

First I want to explain why—I know, but few people seem to realize—legislated minimums are ineffective. In Canada, we have striking examples of this.

The most striking example is that of marijuana. When I passed the bar in 1966, I had never heard of marijuana. I heard about it when I started practising for the federal crown. The number of marijuana related charges had increased significantly. At the time, marijuana was not grown in Canada any that could be found here did not have any hallucinatory effect.

Marijuana arrived during what was called the flower power era, with the hippies and all that. It started becoming immensely popular at the end of the 1960s and during the 1970s. All this marijuana came from outside Canada. What was the sentence for importing marijuana into the country? It was seven years. Frankly, if the minimums had been effective I think they would have prevented much of this drug from entering Canada.

However, my experience as a criminal lawyer made me realize that almost no one who risked importing marijuana—most often, mules on behalf of others—knew that the penalty was a minimum of seven years' imprisonment. In fact, much of the time, people are not even aware that there is a minimum sentence.

Later, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the provision of a minimum sentence for importing marijuana. No marked increase in marijuana use, which had peaked, ensued. This level remains unchanged today.

The second very clear example demonstrating that minimum sentences are not effective is the death penalty. Since Canada abolished the death penalty, murder convictions have continued to drop. In fact, the murder rate has continued to decline. Once again, this clearly shows that the deterrent effect of very harsh sentences has almost no impact on the offence rate.

There is a third example. This is an increasingly rare offence. In fact, the legislation has not really been amended to make the penalties harsher, but rather there have been changes in terms of enforcement and, above all, public awareness campaigns. I am talking about impaired driving.

There were minimum sentences, and there still are. They are the same, that is 15 days in jail, I believe, for a second offence, and three months for a repeat offence. We have, however, seen a considerable decrease in the number of offences.

I remember when the police started using roadblocks and roadside testing. The success rate was about 10%, that is, 10% of the people stopped were driving impaired. Today the figure is barely 1%. Today there are fewer people driving impaired, as a result of this sampling and all kinds of other measures, such as more severe sentences, stricter enforcement of the law and the use of roadblocks, but above all changing attitudes.

This is not surprising, when we know that, in the end, dissuasion and dissuasive penalties generally have limited results.

Those who are calling for harsher penalties really believe that, if the risk is greater, people will likely think twice before committing a crime. Anyone who has a bit of insight into criminal nature will realize that this has relatively little impact. Evidence and experience from the past can teach us some things.

For example, I remember a case in which a British Columbia appeal judge referred to the fact that there was a time when England hanged pickpockets. At the hangings, the fascinated spectators would be robbed by other pickpockets.

In addition, if the imposition of stiffer sentences and greater use of incarceration did indeed reduce crime, one would expect the country with the highest number of incarcerations would have a lower crime rate. According to the latest available statistics, which are from 2001, Canada imprisons 101 persons for every 100,000 inhabitants, and the United States, 689 persons for every 100,000 inhabitants, or nearly 7 times as many.

Do we really think the crime rate is lower in the United States than it is in Canada? In fact, general criminality is comparable. The net increase in the United States is in homicides, where an individual's chances of being a victim are three and a half times greater than in Canada. And yet, some states still retain the death sentence.

In addition, there is the fact that people are poorly informed about what goes on in the courts and give it only passing thought. When people judge criminals in order to have them sentenced, they realize it is much more complex than they thought.

Another example is the rate of crime and incarceration in France of 70 persons per 100,000 and therefore lower than in Canada. In France, however, juries determine the sentence in addition to guilt, while in Canada they determine guilt only, and judges subsequently impose a sentence.

When we consider individual cases, we realize that the problem of sentencing is much more complex than it first appears, and so we think that harsher sentences will lower the crime rate.

There is, however, one measure that makes a difference and that is gun control. Long before the legislation was introduced by Allan Rock, the former justice minister, we controlled guns, especially pistols, in use in Canada.

Canada's crime rate is three and a half times lower than that of the United States. They say this will not prevent the real criminals from getting hold of weapons. Perhaps, but people who commit crimes using a gun, people who kill, are not necessarily hardened criminals. There are all sorts of reasons why they are driven to commit a crime, including anger or jealousy.

According to the statistics, there are eight times as many women shot by their spouses in the United States as in Canada.

It must also be acknowledged that a minimum sentence means, necessarily, accepting that there will be some injustices. There will be cases where the judge will be convinced that the minimum sentence is too severe, but will have to impose it. Setting minimums indicates a lack of confidence in our judges. I know that some of the public share that view.

Generally, we have limited information about what goes on in our courtrooms. I can remember reading some newspaper articles on sentencing that I found enlightening. The author compared the number of reasons given by judges to justify sentencing to the number reported in the press.

Judges would give 7 to 12 different reasons to justify a sentence. However, the papers would report only two or three and generally the most sensational.

Nonetheless, if some sentences handed down by judges seem unreasonable, which is possible in a country as vast as ours, these sentences can be appealed in a court of appeal. In my opinion, to convince us that a minimum is important, a case should not be heard in first instance. Cases should be limited to those before the court of appeal.

Furthermore, this legislation borders on the ridiculous because it adds 15 years to life imprisonment for certain crimes. The author did not seem to know that the minimum sentence for murder is life imprisonment. He wanted to add 15 years to the life sentence if murder is committed with a firearm. The difference in the various sentences handed down according to type of murder lies in the length of time before being eligible for parole.

It seems the author of this legislation never heard of that. It is as ridiculous as in the United States, where they hand down sentences of 200 years in prison, or three life sentences, and so forth. Here we would have that same anomaly, life in prison plus 15 years.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-215. I congratulate the member for Prince Edward—Hastings for initiating this legislative proposal. It is a significant contribution toward addressing a very serious problem in our society today.

I join with other members in my caucus who have already indicated support for the bill. I want to tell the member who initiated this piece of legislation, as well as all members in the House, that I am quite delighted to support the bill. I would be very happy to see it sent to committee as soon as possible so that the specific provisions of the bill can be addressed and any concerns focused on at that time.

In general terms it is a very important step in the right direction. The purpose of the bill is to get tough on crimes that are committed with guns. The crime could be in any circumstance or any situation. It recognizes the lethal nature of the crime and the particular danger that is faced by the victim in such a circumstance. It is a reflection of a serious problem in our society today. So many crimes of late have been committed with guns which puts individuals at much greater risk of being wounded or dying. It is a serious problem.

The bill says very clearly that if a crime has been committed with a gun, there should be an additional sentence imposed on the culprit. The bill indicates the need for a tougher provision in the law which says that we as a society will stand firm against the widespread use of guns and that we will remain absolutely vehement in our expression of concern for the victims who are faced with such a horrific experience. I cannot even begin to imagine how horrifying an event like that must be. That certainly has been driven home to all of us by the news reports of late, by individual police reports and by first-hand experiences recounted to each one of us.

The statistics have been repeated on numerous occasions in the House but it is worthwhile to repeat some of them and talk about some of the reports that the police have actually presented to the public and to parliamentarians. I appreciate the hard work done by the member for Prince Edward—Hastings who initiated the bill. I commend him for giving us such a clear picture of the problem at hand.

I note in particular that his findings show a robbery rate which increased for the first time since 1996. Robberies committed with a firearm increased by more than 10% in 2003 and they continue to account for about one in seven robberies. That was quite a new statistic for me. It opened my eyes to the depth of the concern expressed by the member and others.

The fact that two years ago there were 2,300 robberies committed with a firearm is just mind boggling and very alarming. I also note the statistics showing that 88% of robberies with firearms reported by police were committed with guns that were either already banned or handguns that should have been registered.

We can think of the harm these crimes do to our society. For someone who is wounded or frightened by a gun in a robbery or an assault, the scars must be very deep. And let us not forget those people who have actually lost their lives as a result of the use of handguns and firearms in robberies and other aggressive incidents.

In 2003 of the 161 firearm homicides in Canada, 109 were committed with handguns. It is a serious problem and one that we want to see addressed with every resource available.

One way this could be dealt with is in the kind of sentences that are handed down to those who use firearms while committing crimes. The provisions of the bill are very clear. Let us have tougher prison sentences for those who use guns when committing crimes.

This is an important initiative for many in our society. Victims' rights groups support it. The police forces across the country certainly support it, as does the Canadian Bar Association.

Many women's groups support this initiative as well. These are organizations who fight on behalf of victims of violence, many of whom happen to be women. These organizations really believe that the use of firearms must be reduced because women primarily are the victims of such a prevalence of guns in our society. Women are impacted by gun related violence at a much greater rate than men. We should not forget the impact that this has on all of the families and communities across Canada.

It is quite obvious from the police reports that women are affected disproportionately by the use of firearms in the case of criminal activities. I think about the Toronto police service report that we received for February, just a couple of months ago. One report indicated that two men entered a bar and were asked to leave. One of the suspects pulled a handgun on a woman, pulled the trigger twice but the gun malfunctioned fortunately. In another incident a man and a woman were found shot in an underground parking garage.

I could go on with all kinds of statistics showing the incredible impact that crimes involving guns have on our society. Our responsibility as MPs and representatives of the people is to actually deal with this issue.

We should support the bill. We should send it to committee. There may be some concerns regarding how such a law would be applied, how it could actually be made effective. The specifics of the bill have to be sorted out at committee. That is the appropriate place to deal with it clause by clause. Needless to say the principle is the point of our debate today. As an individual member and with the support of many of my colleagues in the NDP caucus, I want to give my support for the bill. It will have a significant impact on families and communities across Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak to the bill. Bill C-215 is important legislation.

When we talk about legislation and we get consensus on an issue on both sides of the political spectrum, we know we have an issue that transcends the political pressures that sometimes get in the way of good common sense.

The legislation is a private member's bill. I give full accolades to my hon. colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings for bringing it forward. It is important and it points to a serious problem in society, a problem where it has taken such a soft approach on criminal justice from so many aspects. The pendulum has swung so far.

It is important for the House to consider how it can stop the pendulum from swinging farther. We need to bring it back to where we can deal with the criminal justice elements in our society in a very aggressive way and in a way that will protect society from itself. A society that does not protect itself from criminals is one that is in serious danger.

I want to lend my support to the bill. It speaks significantly to more pressures on the criminal justice element. We cannot do everything in one legislation, but this legislation specifically adds additional sentencing to firearm use crimes. I want to concur with the intent of the bill. It addresses the serious problem out there and it tries to correct it. Any time we have legislation that will do that, it is a good thing.

The bill is not just about incarcerating people and throwing away the key. It is about deterrents. It would give criminals a sober second thought of the consequences of being caught in this kind of activity.

The four slain RCMP officers who were serving society in Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt is in my riding. I had the opportunity to attend the funerals and memorial services. I also had the opportunity to talk to many front line RCMP officers. I talked to them about the four slain RCMP officers, the worst incident since 1885 as far as the RCMP is concerned. It staggers the normal thought process to understand what went on there. It shook the nation from coast to coast because it was so dramatic.

The questions flowing from that are intense and are worthy of consideration. How could something like this happen? The RCMP say that this is not the only incident that has happened. It is seeing a different kind of criminal element on our streets today, criminals that have no regard whatsoever for front line RCMP officers. In fact, they will target them. When they become the target, then they are not just walking into dangerous situations, whether grow ops, drug use, family violence or other situations, they now are the target of the criminal.

When criminals have that much disrespect for our law enforcers, then we have a serious problem. They know nothing will happen to them if they are caught. Our criminal justice system has become so soft . Some of the penitentiaries and prisons are so soft and easy to be incarcerated within, something with which I have a difficult time.

In my riding I have a minimum security prison in Grande Cache. The warden took me around the prison a few years back when I first became a member of Parliament. He explained how proud he was of the prison because prisoners could get their first year apprenticeship, a first year NAIT program, which is post-secondary education. He was very proud of the shop and rightly so. He showed me the welding courses, the woodworking and culinary programs. It was state of the art facilities.

The natural question for me was this. They have 24 hours in a day, the same as me, how many hours do they work? They are being prepared to go into the workplace where they will work an eight or ten hour day. If they are here 24 hours, maybe 12 hours a day would apply to getting this program under their belt. I said this to the warden and I could not believe what the he told me. He said no, that they could work only four hours, maybe four and a half hours a day. I said to him that they would be going from prison out into the real world and the workplace. They had nothing to do for 24 hours, except eat and be looked after, but they could only be worked four hours a day. I told him that this did not work for me.

The warden phoned me back about a year later. He said that I would be very proud of him. He said that the prisoners were working seven and a half hours a day. This is seven and a half hours a day for minimum security, where they are preparing them to face the real world, still is not adequate to me. At least it is a step in the right direction. We can understand how little the fear is in that minimum security prison, when that is the penalty.

The front line RCMP officers were slain in a very violent incident. This individual who took those lives had no business being on the street. His rap sheet had 30 criminal charges over three decades. Eight times he was convicted. His charges ranged from firearms, break and entry, unlawful confinement, death threats, possession of stolen property and assault. Our criminal justice system failed those RCMP officers. It failed the communities of Whitecourt and Mayerthorpe and it failed society.

This will be repeated again and again. Individuals such as James Roszko, who took the lives of the officers, are in every riding in this country. Every detachment has a list of these kinds of individuals who could in the right circumstances be equally as dangerous.

If we do not put laws in such as Bill C-215, we will not have any hope of changing our the system. We will not have any hope of criminals becoming more responsive to understanding the penalties of their action.

Another example is the grow ops. These are not individuals who are in possession of marijuana. These are actual grow ops of marijuana. When we look at the statistics, most are anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. Last year In B.C. one in seven did prison time. In Calgary, one in ten did prison time. When we see that kind of lax approach in our criminal justice courts, then we understand we have a serious problem.

It is not only the judges who are at fault here. It is also our crown prosecutors and our whole justice system. They plea bargain away case after case. Many of our crown prosecutors are stretched to the maximum. They do not have the opportunity or the time to do their work on each case. They are told to run them through and get them back on the streets. If we talk with the front line RCMP officers, they will tell us that.

The Conservative Party has a significant amount of changes that we want to make to the criminal justice system. I will quickly read some of the changes.

First, we want to institute mandatory minimum sentences for violent repeat offenders. Second, we would require that sentences of multiple convictions be served consecutively. We want to make time mean time. Third, we would eliminate statutory automatic release. Fourth, we would reform the National Parole Board, including increasing input from the community and from the victim. Fifth, we would repeal the gun registry.

The Conservative Party also would do things such as minimum sentences for criminals who use a firearm, strict monitoring of high risk individuals, a crackdown on smuggling and put more law enforcers on our streets.

We see these things as important to changing the paradigm in our criminal justice system. Society has been jolted by these kinds of incidents, so much so that the House has to recognize just how serious it is out there. We have to bring into this House laws, debate them and change the laws so we give the direction to our judges and our court system so they will do what needs to be done to stop criminals in their tracks and protect society from these individuals. It is important that we do all of these. I cannot impress upon my colleagues enough how important it is.

We have to look at this legislation in a very serious way. I support it and I encourage everyone in the House to support it. It is the first step. Let us send it to committee. We can change it a bit if we need. Let us send a message to law enforcers and to our criminal justice system.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to comment on Bill C-215 and to follow my hon. colleague from Yellowhead and my friend from the Standing Committee on Health.

The bill was tabled on October 18 by the member for Prince Edward—Hastings. It is a bill proposing harsher sentences for serious offences under the Criminal Code in the commission of which a firearm or imitation is used.

The most important aspect of Bill C-215 is undoubtedly the extent of the proposed increase in minimum sentences. The bill proposes minimum sentences that go way beyond those currently prescribed in the Criminal Code. In fact, the use of minimum sentences in the code is quite exceptional. Although they are most commonly found in the part of the code that deals with firearms and other weapons, the increased use of them is fairly recent and not much is known about the effectiveness of the 1995 amendments.

I would therefore like to begin by focusing my comments on the principles of sentencing. Following that I would like to talk a bit about the problems Bill C-215 seeks, well-meaningly, to rectify: what is it that is not working well in the application of the existing provisions that would justify the amendments that are proposed?

We would all argue that crime is a major issue. In my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour it is a particularly problematic issue. We have had a rash of swarmings and robberies and people do not feel safe in their homes, as they should. How do we fix it is the question.

To begin with the principles of sentencing, let us examine what is provided for in sections 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code. In section 718, we find the following:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:

(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;

(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;

(c) to separate offenders from society, where necessary;

(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community; and

(f) to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community.

The principle of proportionality, that is to say, the principle that the sentence imposed should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the offender, is a fundamental principle.

Furthermore, the courts are required to take aggravating and mitigating circumstances relating to the commission of the offence or the situation of the offender into account. They must consider the harmonization of sentences, that is to say, the imposition of similar sentences for similar offences and in similar circumstances, the totality of sentences when consecutive sentences are imposed and they have a duty to consider less restrictive sanctions before depriving an offender of his or her liberty and pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

Mandatory minimum sentences, especially those that are higher, can be contrary to several of the principles of sentencing codified in the Criminal Code, especially the principle of proportionality. They may also infringe the charter when the mandatory sentence is excessive or unusual.

That is why, in light of the principles set out in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have in Canada a sentencing regime that promotes an individual approach. Our system allows the courts to impose sentences that are appropriate in light of the particular circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence and the offender.

The law that applies in sentencing does not authorize the courts to promote one of the stated principles to the exclusion of all others. Minimum sentences, especially those at the high end, are designed to give precedence to the principle of denunciation. Furthermore, the primary objective is to highlight the punitive aspect of a sentence, although retribution as such does not appear in the list of codified sentencing principles.

I am afraid that there is in our society an erroneous impression that minimum sentences are effective as a deterrent measure. I do not believe that is the case. The many studies that have been conducted in Canada and elsewhere show that minimum sentences have no effect on reducing crime. We merely have to look at the rate of gun crimes committed in the United States and the harsh penalties that apply there in order to understand that there is no direct link between the existence of harsh sentences and the commission of offences, though we would like to think otherwise.

In any event, even if we were to consider adopting minimum sentences that are significantly higher than those presently, it is our duty to examine the application of the existing provisions in order to identify whether there are shortcomings or gaps to be corrected. Criminal sanctions are the harshest measure of coercion in our society and we have a duty to resort to them when justified, and only when justified.

In the case of many of the offences targeted in Bill C-215, the current applicable sentences can range from a minimum of 4 years to a maximum of 14 years or life imprisonment.

By making use of much harsher minimum sentences, Bill C-215 seeks to make substantial changes in the approach to sentencing in Canada. I have commented on how minimum sentences generally risk being inconsistent with the principles of sentencing. I will not spend much more time on that.

I will simply conclude this part of my remarks by noting that with the large range of possible sentences in the existing relevant provisions there is ample room for the courts to impose as harsh a sentence as is desirable in the particular circumstances of any case and that there are no shortcomings to be rectified through this approach.

What is more, on the subject of current trends in the use of firearms to commit crimes, especially in the case of violent crimes, the rates are not increasing. On the contrary, recent justice statistics show a substantial decline in the rate of violent crimes committed with firearms, including homicide and robbery.

In 2002, 72% of violent crimes were committed without any weapon and 2.2% of violent crimes were committed with a firearm. That does not mean that action is not required and that is no comfort to those affected, but it must be effective and not just a show of force.

The existing sentences with respect to firearm use in crime are among the harshest in the whole of the Criminal Code and the current situation with respect to the use of firearms in crime in general does not show an increase. On the contrary, the current trend is clearly in the direction of a substantial decline.

So how would we be justified in passing the extremely high minimum penalties proposed in Bill C-215?

In conclusion I would like to reiterate my point with respect to the importance that we must give to the principles of sentencing when we examine any bill that proposes criminal sanctions. This task should engage us as parliamentarians here in the House even more when a bill proposes exceptionally harsh measures as Bill C-215 does.

Mandatory minimum penalties adopted in an ad hoc fashion result in great disparities in the law and undercut a principled, rational approach to sentencing reform. We need to do something about crime. Let us focus on the ways to reduce crime that work, that do make us safer and do make us more secure.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario


Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I too am pleased to speak to Bill C-215.

Like all those who spoke during the first hour of debate, I too share the view that the objectives of the bill are laudable. However, I, like most of the members who spoke, am concerned that the approach taken to address the issue raises significant problems.

Having reviewed the transcript of the first hour of debate, I could not help but notice the strong tone taken by the member for Calgary--Nose Hill with respect to the remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. She said that the parliamentary secretary could not have read the bill. This was in relation to the concerns that he raised with respect to the potential application of the minimum penalties proposed in the bill.

The member for Calgary--Nose Hill took great pains to read out the offences that are listed in Bill C-215. The point she wished to make was that the hypothetical case of an 18 year old shooting a bunch of car tires was not an offence captured in the bill and that it was irresponsible for the parliamentary secretary to say that it was.

I have read the bill and I am certain that the parliamentary secretary has read the bill. It seems to me that the member for Calgary--Nose Hill has not read it herself. Perhaps it was she who was acting irresponsibly in enumerating all the offences amended by the bill but neglecting to mention section 85, which is the offence of using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence.

Mischief causing damage to property over $5,000 is an indictable offence. It is indeed captured by this bill which seeks to amend section 85 by providing a minimum penalty of 10 years for discharging a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. This penalty must be consecutive to the one imposed for the underlying offence.

The possible application of such a severe penalty, given the nature of the hypothetical crime we mentioned, must undoubtedly be the reason why the parliamentary secretary felt compelled to highlight the problem.

Another issue the member for Calgary--Nose Hill took issue with was the concern most of the other members expressed with respect to the proposal to add supplementary penalties. Ironically, she did mention section 85 in this context immediately after having omitted it from the list of offences being amended. Therefore she appears to be aware of section 85's existence. Perhaps it is just that she did not know how it applied. The Liberal, Bloc and NDP members all understood and made the point that the supplementary sentences proposed were problematic.

I would like to take the time to explain, for the benefit of members of the other party, the problem with supplementary sentences. It is actually not that complicated.

It is not possible to have two penalties of imprisonment for one offence. As an example, let us look at how Bill C-215 proposes to amend the robbery offence. Clause 10 proposes that every person who commits a robbery is guilty of an indictable offence and liable:

(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence or in flight thereafter, to imprisonment for life, and to an additional minimum punishment of a term of imprisonment, to be served consecutively to the term imposed for the offence, of

(i) five years if the firearm is not discharged--

(ii) ten years if the firearm is discharged...or

(iii) fifteen years if the firearm is discharged...thereby caused bodily harm or death;

It is not possible to provide two terms of imprisonment upon conviction for one offence. The member asked why this was a concern when currently section 85 sets out an additional minimum penalty, to be served consecutively, for using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. My colleague mentioned that we do use minimum sentencing in our law for firearms offences.

Two things are important to note: first, section 85 is a separate offence and it has its own penalty; second, section 85 does not apply when the underlying offence is one of the 10 serious offences listed.

The 10 serious offences listed are: criminal negligence causing death, manslaughter, attempted murder, intentionally causing bodily harm with a firearm, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery and extortion.

A higher minimum penalty of four years has been incorporated in the penalty provisions for those ten serious offences already if they are committed with a firearm.

This was the principled approach taken in Bill C-68, which provided significantly higher minimum penalties for specific serious offences committed with a firearm, a bill that I supported.

The additional minimum penalty of one year or three years, depending on whether it is a first or subsequent offence, at section 85 can apply to other indictable offences: those that do not currently attract a minimum four year penalty.

Some indictable offences provided in the Criminal Code can be less serious in nature, even when they are committed with a firearm. This is why it is so important that we consider reasonable hypothetical scenarios.

The parliamentary secretary, in the first hour, mentioned one example, which some members found to be too far-fetched. However, given that it is almost identical to a hypothetical case considered in an actual judgment on the issue of section 85, I would suggest that it is not at all unreasonable to consider it.

The member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles gave another reasonable hypothetical case of someone who agrees to stand as a lookout while an accomplice carries out a robbery in a store. This lookout person would receive 19 years if Bill C-215 were passed.

The fundamental problem with Bill C-215 is that it would establish an inflexible penalty scheme, one which would force the courts to hand down grossly disproportionate sentences in cases that could quite reasonably arise.

As I stated at the outset, although the goal of the bill is commendable, that is to send a clear message to deter those who would use a firearm to commit a crime, it would not be of any use if the scheme proposed is not viable and, as such, stands a very high risk of being struck down by the courts.

I will not be supporting the legislation and I encourage my colleagues to oppose it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. colleagues who have supported this bill. For those who either take some offence or appear to be unduly concerned about it, I would like to maybe allay some of the concerns and address a few of them, but also make a number of points that I believe are very important.

Probably the most important point that I have to make on this bill right now is that the status quo is not acceptable. I am talking about people like Barbara Turnbull, who was paralyzed many years ago in a gun attack, and the drive-by shooting of Louise Russo. I am talking about the hundreds and hundreds of armed robberies that take place at our mom and pop grocery store operations or variety stores, and the hundreds of assault and weapons charges that are laid. That is suggesting that we just leave things as they are and hope it works.

We are talking about human lives here. We are talking about safety and we are talking about a responsibility of this House. It is not up to us to enforce the law, but to make the law and to give the tools to our police officers, so that they can readily protect society. If we stop anything short of that, we are not serving society.

If what we have now were working, I would suggest that by all means let us not touch it and leave it alone. Every day when I drive into work, I have the radio on at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning, and there is not a day that I do not hear of yet another assault or another murder.

We have just finished the deadliest weekend in metro Toronto's history since I introduced this bill for the first time. This is taking place across the country including the terrible tragedy of the RCMP situation. There is no end to this.

We must stem the tide, so this does not continue ad nauseam, for the safety of our citizens. We cannot have a society where people are walking around fearful of their right to travel the roads, fearful of their right to go to a party, fearful of their right to shop in a grocery store, or fearful that somehow some ill-advised individual is just going to come in and say, “Excuse me but your rights do not matter”. That is not acceptable. We must do something about the status quo.

Some of my Liberal and Bloc colleagues have expressed reservations and others are supportive of this bill. I am not suggesting Bill C-215 is the entire answer. As a former police officer many years ago, I am not a great fan of minimum mandatory sentencing across the board. I recognize that reality does not work, but there are occasional situations where it does work, and where a very clear message must be sent. I honestly believe this is one of those situations.

There has been a lot of collective data used by my hon. colleagues here today. One colleague mentioned that a person would get 19 years for an armed robbery with the culmination of what I am suggesting and the penalties that exist now. I do not know which province or country he is living in, but if he takes a look at the sentences that are coming out of our courts right now, I have not yet seen a situation where the criminal gets the mandatory sentence. Plea bargaining is rampant and somehow, someway this needs to be addressed. We need to toughen the Criminal Code. There is no doubt about that.

I am suggesting, quite honestly, that this is a start. This is a bill that should go to committee. We must send a message of deterrence. This is not a message of incarceration. We must wake up criminals to the fact that they cannot continue carrying a weapon as if it is a way of life. A weapon cannot be a status symbol. To say that this is out of proportion and an offence against the charter is an absolute joke.

I cannot believe that argument could even be properly put forward at this particular time. When it comes time for proportionality, Bill C-215 carries the punishment. There is not one criminal who does not know that when he picks up a weapon. It is not a case of leaving the scene of an accident or whether a mandatory minimum would be suggested. That is a wrong situation, I would argue. This is a clear decision by the criminal and that simply cannot and will not be tolerated in a society if we really care about the people who we are here to protect.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:20 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

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Some hon. members


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7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

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

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 4, 2005, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Do we have unanimous consent to see the clock at 7:28 p.m. for the purpose of the adjournment proceedings?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, this series of questions is a follow-up to a question I asked with respect to Technology Partnerships Canada, a program within Industry Canada. I have some very serious questions I would like the government to answer about this program.

For information purposes, the program has allocated over $2 billion since 1996. Its recovery rate is less than 5% of the money that it has allocated. I have three series of questions.

The first is in terms of the number of jobs created. The government has in the past talked about the number of jobs created under this program. I would like to know how many jobs have been created, how many jobs have been maintained through the program, which companies have created or maintained these jobs, and in which year were these jobs created or maintained?

My second series of questions relates to the repayments. It is a question that taxpayers across the country would be asking about a program allocating over $2 billion. Why has only 5% of this money been recovered since 1996, and why does the government keep changing the time period in which it says it will recover these payments?

I can recall years ago the former minister, Allan Rock, saying it would be recovered within a five-year period. It stretched to seven. I recall the current industry minister saying 20 years. Why does the government keep changing the time period in which it will recover from all of these programs?

The third question I would like to pose is in terms of a review. I have been promised a review for years by the previous industry minister, Allan Rock, and by the previous industry minister who is now the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I want to quote from a letter she wrote to me:

In 2004, I intend to launch the TPC Strategic Review. The Review will ensure TPC is meeting its current objectives, and will identify the outcomes of its efforts. It will also ensure TPC is able to provide sufficient support to emerging new strategic transformative technologies in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, andenvironmental and health sciences.

The TPC report was promised by Allan Rock, promised by the previous industry minister, and also promised by the current industry minister in the Ottawa Business Journal of September 2004. The industry minister talked about being keen to review this tech funding program, and yet to my knowledge all we have had are the annual reports, many of which have arrived late.

In the interests of transparency and openness, and in the interests of being accountable to taxpayers which is the first and foremost job of Parliament, will the government finally come clean, answer these series of questions, answer why it has not produced a review, answer the questions about the jobs created and maintained, and answer the questions about the repayments?

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member has asked some very specific questions. We could get the list of corporations and the number of jobs and so on from statistics in the department.

The point is that we have a program that has facilitated business opportunity very well. There are privacy rules. My colleague well knows that if a corporation does not want all information about that corporation released, there is a difficulty in releasing all the information about a corporation that is actually working within a program.

I have been here as long as my colleague has, and quite a bit longer as a matter of fact, and I can assure all members of the House that no minister to my knowledge has said the moneys will be repaid in five years. Certainly Mr. Rock did not say that. Mr. Rock may have said paybacks will start at a certain point and continue to build over a time period but not pay back the money in five years.

The government's priority is to ensure that scientific advances in research and innovation in Canada translate into jobs and into productivity in this country. We play a critically important role in risk sharing partnership with Industry Technology Canada and its key instrument is this program. It is a program designed to partner with companies to make technology investments possible in Canada.

Technology Partnerships Canada targets key strategic technologies: wireless, biotech, environmental and aerospace. Without a vital instrument like TPC, many of our R and D project advances would not occur. TPC investments are risky and there is no question about that, but the program is not intended to be a chartered bank. It is intended to give opportunities to those who would advance technologies in Canada.

Some 89% of the projects were invested in small and medium sized businesses, companies that often experience difficulties in securing traditional private lenders for money. TPC takes risks that result in innovative technologies being advanced in this area. The risks are assessed project by project and TPC performs rigorous due diligence tests in order to ensure that the risk is within reason. This procedure returns the optimum in investments and opportunities.

I can talk about the opportunities in my own riding of a corporation that announced it was going to Mexico and as a result of the TPC investment, it is now investing $300 million in the Chatham-Kent area. It is advancing and bringing diesel technology to Canada which we otherwise would not have had, and we are looking at some very positive results as the result of that corporation creating a thousand jobs which would have gone elsewhere.

These kinds of investments are not just in one area, but they go from area to area right across Canada. Without that type of investment and without that type of opportunity, we would lose a tremendous number of jobs. We would not remain competitive in many industries, and research and technology would not happen in Canada.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I note for the record that none of my questions were answered. I have asked these questions many times in the House and in committee. I have never received serious answers to these questions. According to the government, we are the party apparently that is not making Parliament work. We ask serious questions and it would be nice to once in a while get some answers.

Here are some facts. As of October 18, 2004, TPC authorized assistance of over $77 million to Cascade Data Services; Dupont, over $19 million; Honeywell, over $100 million; Pratt & Whitney, over $700 million; and Rolls-Royce Canada, over $75 million.

The fact is that taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being allocated, for what reason it is being allocated and when, if ever, their money will be paid back? It is their money. It is not Parliament's money. It is not the government's money. These companies do not have a right to it.

The parliamentary secretary raises the issue of secrecy. If these companies are not comfortable in releasing this information, then they should not have taxpayers funding their activities in the first place. When are Canadians finally going to get some answers about this program?