This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-22.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to speak to Bill C-27, an act that amends part XXIV of the Criminal Code regarding the dangerous offender provisions in section 810.1 and 810.2 of the peace bonds.

I wish I could be as happy with respect to Bill C-22, in which the NDP voted against sending this to committee and not supporting the age of protection bill. I am very concerned about that, and I think Canadians will be too.

Bill C-27 is a significant step to strengthen the existing provisions of the Criminal Code that target the most dangerous and high risk offenders in the country. It follows through on our commitments to tackle the very real problem of dangerous repeat predators who are released into our communities without adequate sentencing and management. This is common sense legislation.

Canadians have told us that steps must be taken to deal with these individuals. I am standing in this House today to let Canadians know that Canada's new government agrees with them. Our government cares deeply about safe streets and security. The government is going to stand up for Canadians by making it easier for crown attorneys to get dangerous offender designations on those who deserve them.

This bill places the onus on predators who have committed two prior serious violent sexual crimes to convince the court why they should not be designated a dangerous offender and by lengthening and strengthening the terms of peace bonds made pursuant to section 810 of the Criminal Code.

Simply put, our government is going to the wall on an issue that matters most to Canadians. Getting things done for families and taxpayers means keeping our most dangerous criminals off the streets and behind bars. Canadians want, and deserve, nothing less.

These same concerns have been expressed to us by all provincial attorneys general, by police, by victims and, most important, by individual Canadians from all walks of life. However, I want to make it clear from the beginning that these reforms were very carefully tailored. This bill would achieve a proper balance between the rights of Canadians to be safe from violent and sexual crimes with the fundamental rights of individuals facing lengthy prison terms.

The bill focuses on reforms in two areas of the Criminal Code. First and foremost, we are proposing several significant amendments that would provide crown prosecutors with enhanced abilities to obtain dangerous offender designations where it is justifiable to do so.

Second, we are proposing a number of amendments to the specific peace bond provisions that target high risk sexual and violent predators, doubling their duration to two years and clarifying the extent of conditions that may be imposed by a court.

Currently, the dangerous offender designation in part XXIV of the Criminal Code is arguably the toughest sanction available in Canadian law. As the law now stands, each and every time an individual is designated as a dangerous offender under section 753, the sentence imposed is indeterminate, with no opportunity for parole for seven years.

In reality, very few of these individuals are released. Most live out the rest of their lives behind bars. Dangerous offenders, on average, are imprisoned for even longer periods than individuals serving a life sentence for murder. That is why the Supreme Court of Canada has referred to the dangerous offender application as the harshest sentence available in Canadian law, reserved for the worst of the worst.

That being said, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that the indeterminate sentence that goes with the dangerous offender designation is constitutional where it is the only reasonable way that we can protect the public.

The Lyons decision was the first challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada on the dangerous offender designation after the 1982 entrenchment into the Constitution Act of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court indicated that the provision was constitutional primarily because the sentencing judge retained discretion to refuse to impose the indeterminate sentence.

In 1997, a decade after the decision in Lyons, Parliament proclaimed significant amendments to the dangerous offender provisions. Prior to 1997, where an individual was declared to be a dangerous offender, the court had the choice of sentencing the individual to an indeterminate sentence, with no parole for three years, or to a determinate sentence of any length suitable in the circumstances.

The 1997 changes removed this discretion of the court and made the indeterminate sentence automatic for every dangerous offender designation while lengthening the duration before the first parole application to seven years.

The 1997 amendments also created the option of the long term offender designation where the individual did not meet the onerous standards for dangerous offender designation. This new instrument allowed the court to impose, in addition to a regular sentence of imprisonment, a court ordered period of post-release community supervision of up to 10 years.

In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its first ruling on the constitutionality of the 1997 changes to the dangerous offender designation. The case was the Johnson decision, an appeal from the British Columbia Court of Appeal. At stake was whether the 1997 changes requiring the indeterminate sentence with no discretion had gone too far.

While the Supreme Court of Canada in Johnson upheld the 1997 changes as constitutional, it also held that in fact the sentencing court did retain its ultimate discretion in the matter. Specifically, the court said that even where the Crown had fully discharged its burden to prove that the offender fully met all of the prerequisite criteria of a dangerous offender designation under subsection 753.(1), the sentencing judge still had a duty to exercise his discretion by determining whether the risk the offender posed to the general public could be successfully managed under a lesser sentence.

The court indicated that before a sentencing judge could impose the indeterminate sentence, it had to explicitly consider the specific issue of whether the individual's risk to society could be successfully managed under the long term offender designation or any other sentence.

While this decision was consistent with the court's previous decision in Lyons and reflected longstanding principles of sentencing, the impact of Johnson was felt across the country. There was a flurry of appeals filed by existing dangerous offenders who argued that the sentencing judge had failed to consider the long term offender sentence option as required by the Supreme Court.

In the 18 months subsequent to Johnson, over 30 such appeals were argued, resulting in 20 orders for a new dangerous offender hearing because of the error. The number of annual designations was halved from about 25 per year to about 12 designations due primarily to confusion in the sentencing courts of how to apply the principle in Johnson in practice.

Following Johnson, the Crown's success rate of applications fell well below 50% whereas the traditional rate was about 70%. Those individuals who previously would have faced dangerous offender applications simply were not subject to that any more as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

It was in this context that the new government committed to develop a policy to respond to this unacceptable situation. Throughout this process we were all encouraged by the support of provincial and territorial ministers of justice. This legislation is an effective and coherent response to the changes brought about by the court decision in Johnson.

I would like to outline the changes that are contained in this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry, but the minister will have to do that in the time that remains to him when we return to the bill at some future date.

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

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Indian Affairs responded to my original question on the Kelowna accord, he made the unfounded accusation that the previous Liberal government did not incorporate its Kelowna commitments into the fiscal framework.

I would like to reiterate, as the former finance minister, the hon. member for Wascana, has said, the Kelowna accord and the federal government's financial commitments resulting from that accord were fully accounted for in the federal government's fiscal framework.

As he made clear, on November 24, 2005, the date on which Kelowna was signed, the fiscal framework of the Government of Canada included $5.096 billion to address the federal government's obligations arising from the accord.

In the former Liberal government's 2005 economic and fiscal update on November 14, 2005, the Kelowna meeting was specifically mentioned, together with an undertaking to provide the financing needed to implement the impending Kelowna agreement.

As the former finance minister pointed out, the fiscal treatment of the Kelowna accord was quite similar to that of the $755 million farm sector package. Both Kelowna and the farm package were signalled in the fiscal update and the necessary flexibility was built into our fiscal framework to cover the anticipated expenses. By November 24, 2005, both initiatives had become ready to go. Announcements were made and the money for both was booked.

I do not know where the current minister is coming from when he says that Kelowna was not provided for, and I also do not know why the Conservative minority government could proceed with the farm package on this basis at the same time that it has scrapped Kelowna.

In June, my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre brought forward a motion calling on the government to move forward with the implementation of the Kelowna accord with its full funding commitments. This motion was passed despite the opposition of the Conservative members opposite on June 20. My colleague, the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, has brought forward Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord.

His speech introducing the bill at second reading was a powerful restatement of his commitment to aboriginal people, a commitment that he demonstrated when finance minister and especially as Prime Minister of Canada. Kelowna would have been a very proud part of our Canadian legacy and I can only hope that it is not petty partisan politics that has led to the Conservatives reneging on the deal.

Just last week, my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River also moved a motion on the Kelowna accord, but again, it was opposed by the Conservatives. The failure of the Conservative minority government to honour Kelowna is the greatest of its failed and bankrupt aboriginal policies, but unfortunately, it is not the only one.

The government also opposed an international treaty on recognizing the rights of aboriginal people throughout the world. The Prime Minister himself has made inflammatory statements concerning aboriginal fisheries, statements which have not served to improve relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishers, but it is the Kelowna failure which stands out, even against this sorry record.

During the summer the premiers and aboriginal leaders met in Corner Brook. At this meeting Premier Williams, as host premier, said:

We, as a group of leaders, sat around the table, we came to conclusions, we reached decisions, we made commitments to aboriginal people and we intend to live by those commitments.

Premier McGuinty of Ontario said that the Kelowna accord was “in a state of suspended animation at this point”. Aboriginal leaders agree. Provincial and territorial premiers agree. The three opposition parties in the House agree. Kelowna must be honoured.

The current Minister of Indian Affairs was in Kelowna. He has had a long involvement in aboriginal issues. He knows full well what was agreed to in the fall of 2005 and what is at stake if his own government fails to live up to what Canadians and their government leaders agreed to with the Kelowna accord.

Premier Campbell of British Columbia has been very critical of the Conservative position on Kelowna, stating that in his opinion “the honour of the Crown is at stake”. The honour of the Crown, of course, is a very important principle in aboriginal law under our common law--

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry to inform the member that his time has expired.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs.

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and respond to the question from my hon. colleague from Labrador regarding the financial commitments Canada's new government has made to aboriginal people in Canada.

After a long and weary Liberal reign filled with corruption, neglect and past ministers making promises with their fingers crossed behind their backs, our aboriginal people have been left in a dire situation. That is why this new government and the new minister are stepping up to the plate. We are committing new funds and working toward structural changes that will actually allow the dollars to get through to aboriginal people instead of getting chewed up by administration and red tape.

Our budget commits to financial investments in aboriginal and northern communities that will produce a material and measurable improvement in the quality of life. These are not long term promises. These are actual funds, committed to a tight, two year timeframe for concrete results.

Let me review the strong commitments we have made. We have identified priority areas of water, housing, education, and family support.

To make a powerful and targeted response to those needs, this year's budget has committed $450 million over two years to water and housing initiatives on reserve, to education, and to initiatives supporting women, children and families. Unlike the previous Liberal government, this new Conservative government is taking the rights and obstacles of aboriginal women seriously.

Furthermore, this government will devote $300 million to housing projects for aboriginal people living off reserve and another $300 million to affordable housing in the territories.

In the north, this government has established a $500 million Mackenzie gas project impact fund to support regional projects that help to alleviate the socio-economic impacts on communities affected by this project.

We also recognize that it is impossible to move forward in partnership with aboriginal people without addressing the past, so we have devoted $2.2 billion to provide financial recognition of the often negative impact of the residential schools experience. This goes along with the support programs to help former students, their families and their communities build a better future for themselves.

In all, a full $3.7 billion in the budget has been earmarked for investment in aboriginal and northern initiatives. This amounts to a massive increase over previous amounts allocated by the long-winded but short-sighted former government.

This Conservative government is only getting started. Just this past week at the First Nations Socioeconomic Forum in Quebec, our government announced more than $88 million in initiatives and investments to benefit first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Quebec and Labrador. These funds are in line with the new approach we have developed for addressing the challenges that face many aboriginal people and communities. This approach has four elements and will be done in partnership with aboriginal people.

The first initiative is to empower individuals to take greater control of and responsibility for their lives through direct investments toward housing and education.

Next, we are working to accelerate the backlogged land claims process that was left at our feet by the previous government.

We are also promoting economic development, job training, skills, and entrepreneurship.

Finally, we will be laying out the groundwork for responsible self-government by moving toward modern and accountable governance structures.

In conclusion, regardless of the terrible situation our government has inherited, we will not allow the past to be an excuse. We will move forward with structural change to improve service delivery. We will defend the rights of aboriginal people, women and children. We will clean up infected water. We will improve education. Nothing will stand in the way of this government, the minister or our commitment to improve the lives of aboriginal people.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my question was not multiple choice and I was not asking for a mishmash of commitments or supposed commitments that the government has made.

I was asking a very pointed question. I asked the question last spring. The question has been asked many times in the House. Three times the House has said to the Minister of Indian Affairs and the minority Conservative government, “Honour Kelowna”.

Nothing in what the parliamentary secretary has espoused as being good for aboriginal people was pointed at that particular question. He did not answer the question at all.

Why has the government not honoured Kelowna? I will repeat my statement. This House has voted on Kelowna three times and has approved it, saying, “Honour Kelowna”.

I live in an aboriginal community. I go to aboriginal communities. I do not see many houses going up. I do not see the water being much better on aboriginal communities than what it was like when the government took over. I do not see any tangible signs that the life of aboriginal people is any better than what it was when the government took over. I think we only have to put our feet on the ground and go and visit aboriginal communities to prove those particular facts.

The other matter is that when the Kelowna accord was signed, it was done with the honour of the Crown. It was a relationship that was being built and worked upon by aboriginal peoples and the Government of Canada. When the government tore away at Kelowna and did away with it, it tore away at the honour of the Crown. The government hurt the relationship that aboriginal people had with the Crown and the government. It is time for the government to answer the question and stand up and do what the House has ordered it to do, which is to implement Kelowna and to do it forthwith.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that in fact there was no accord, and there was no signed document which would indicate that there was an accord. I asked this of the member forLaSalle—Émard and of course he could prove that there was no signature page.

The Government of Canada is very interested in the events that came out of the first ministers meeting and has gone about implementing much of what was called for at that meeting, including, of course, in regard to the housing neglect we have seen in 13 years of Liberal inaction. Our government has moved forward, as I already have said, with $300 million in northern housing and $300 million in off reserve housing.

We will continue to work with real money and real dollars, not just empty promises and ambiguous bills. No more ambiguous bill could there be than the one brought forward by the member for LaSalle—Émard, as there is absolutely no subject to it. We are committed to integrity through real legislation, real dollars and structural change.

It should be noted that structural change is an important--

6:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry, but the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:40 p.m.)