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House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his comments. I know that, as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice, he is working very hard on these issues.

From his speeches as a member of the House, I also imagine that he was very confident and very pleased with the former Liberal government's record on the issue of dangerous offenders. I would also like to thank the member for his comments.

I nevertheless have a few small questions concerning the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In his speech he did not mention challenges of this bill before the court. This is obvious if it becomes law.

What does he think of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically sections 11(d) and 7 of the Charter? Section 7 of the Charter concerns me a lot. As the member knows, it deals with our system and our principle of fundamental justice. Does he have any comments to make on these matters? I am all ears.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his questions.

It may be safely assumed that the previous government was closer to our philosophy in terms of justice, with the exception of course of the blot of the Young Offenders Act. The Bloc Québécois was obviously far removed from the objectives put forward in the Young Offenders Act. We all recall the excellent work done by former MP Michel Bellehumeur, who today has risen to the rank of judge in the Court of Quebec, Criminal Division.

We of course have some questions concerning the compatibility of this bill with the two major sections of the Charter concerning judicial guarantees. Section 7 and the reversal of onus of proof are going to pose some problems concerning the presumption of innocence. I think that the member will recall the three or four decisions on the reversal of onus of proof. The court clearly said that the onus of proof is never transferred, it is always incumbent on the Crown.

So we will see what the various courts have to say to any challenges. Still, as far as the substance is concerned, I repeat, we do not want the most dangerous, the most criminalized people to be released. The Criminal Code already has provisions that can be used after a first offence. Nor do we wish to take the automatic route. Law and justice are never automatic.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Hochelaga for his clear and enthusiastic presentation.

The current government seems unwilling to correct deficiencies in the Criminal Code. Rather, it is trying to determine exactly what all judges should do and how everything should be organized so that no person who commits a major offence will ever be allowed out of prison.

My question for my colleague is this: Does he think that, in a case like this one, the government—the legislative branch—should replace the judicial branch? It wants to replace judges. It wants to codify everything and render judges obsolete.

If this is so, I would like my hon. colleague to explain whether this is because this government does not trust judges it did not appoint.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, certainly, the various bills that have been introduced reflect a climate of suspicion about the judiciary.

I do not know the exact cause of this. Is it a question of appointment? Is it a systemic problem? Is it a question of aversion? I do not know.

The Bloc Québécois has always held the opinion that in criminal law, individualized sentencing is the rule. There is no evidence that judges have not done their work properly in handing down conditional sentences or in cases where the dangerousness of prisoners and accused persons had to be assessed.

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1:15 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Bloc member shares the soft on crime policies of his Liberal colleagues. He joined with the Liberals in the justice committee last week in voting to allow those convicted of car theft, burglary and break and enter to serve their sentences in the comfort of their own homes. We disagree. We believe in mandatory jail time for serious thieves, along with serious violent and sexual offenders.

This law would guarantee that if people commit three violent or sexual offences and they cannot prove that they have been rehabilitated, then they will serve a life sentence and go away forever. Frankly, that is exactly what the Canadian people voted for in the last election.

The Liberals promised that they would be tough on crime and that they had changed their ways in the lead-up to the last election. They have now broken that promise by voting to allow car thieves and burglars to serve their sentences in their living rooms.

The question that remains is whether the Liberal opposition will continue to break its word. Will it block the passage of this tough on crime legislation which would take dozens of the most violent predators off of our streets, or will they revert back to the position that they had in the election and support the government in its tough on crime initiatives?

Maybe the member could shed some light on that because certainly his Liberal colleagues have not shed any so far.

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I must ask my colleague to refrain from the ridiculous rhetoric he is increasingly prone to.

A case in point would be his reference to breaking and entering. What is the sentence for residential break and enter under the Criminal Code? In theory, it is life in prison. This is not the example to give when we are talking about conditional sentencing.

Conditional sentences are handed down in 5% of cases that end in conviction. In 95% of cases, justice is not meted out with a conditional sentence. Three times out of four, conditional sentencing is not used when an offence against people has been committed. Perhaps my colleague has not read the statistics we had at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

There is a limit to right-wing rhetoric that is meant to scare people and that is far from accurate. If there had been evidence that the judiciary had improperly used conditional sentencing, everyone in this House would have wanted to correct the situation. This is not the case, however. Bill C-9 is nothing but an ideological construct of the Conservative Party, and God willing, this government will never have a majority.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the hon. member lives in the real world. He seems to think that criminals are single dimensional. Criminals can be arsonists or thieves. They can commit break and enter or they can assault. I assure the hon. member that criminals do not operate on a single plain.

I would give him an example. Many years ago I was working with a gentleman who was one of the most vicious drug dealers we had in our region. He knew no bounds. He had two daughters, aged 11 and 12 years old, and for many years he pimped for them. I think the hon. member gets an understanding of where we are going. This was a very serious criminal offence. This gentleman was finally put away after many years of multiple offences around the entire region. He was charged with arson, which was a crime against property. In the meantime, he was guilty, as we all knew, of countless crimes against humanity,

For the member to suggest that a poor criminal is straitjacketed into one little pigeonhole area and, therefore, we do not want to bring forth a more serious penalty because that would not pertain to them, I think you are out of touch with reality, my good sir.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I just remind the hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings to address his comments through the Chair.

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the hon. member came up with that, but I have never thought of criminals as one dimensional. Some criminals are very dangerous. There are people who commit a single crime and can be rehabilitated. There are other criminals who should be kept behind bars.

What I said is that conditional sentencing was not as widespread as the Minister of Justice suggested. In his example, the member himself mentioned a person in his community who had committed several crimes and who was not given a conditional sentence, from what we know, but was incarcerated.

If a person burned down a house, trafficked in drugs, and made his children prostitute themselves, that individual should receive a firm sentence of many years of imprisonment and should be incarcerated in an institution.

That is what happened in the example given by my hon. colleague, which is understandable. It is perhaps proof that, contrary to the Conservatives' remarks and the definitions put forward by the ministers, our justice system is much more discerning and our judges more even-handed than they would have us believe.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the federal New Democrat caucus on second reading of Bill C-27.

First, I would like to pay tribute to the very able justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who has given the NDP caucus incredible guidance, information and led the debate within the caucus on this bill as well as close to a dozen bills that have been thrown at the justice committee from the Conservative government. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh has earned respect from all sides of the House for his intelligence and wisdom and how he has approached these matters. I certainly speak today based on the wisdom and guidance that he has provided to the NDP caucus.

We are at a very interesting and critical juncture in this debate. Being the fourth party to speak, it has been clear to anyone watching the debate and if it was not clear to the government previously it would be clear to it now, that this bill is going down. Three parties are opposed to this bill at second reading, which as we know is a debate in principle. It looks like the bill will not go forward to committee. That is a very serious situation.

I listened, sometimes with a smile on my face, to the political rhetoric that has spewed forth time and time again from the government on this bill and many of the others. The government's mantra is that members who do not support these bills are soft on crime, that if they do not support Bill C-27, they are soft on crime; they are giving a free ride to criminals, they do not care about the public, they do not care about victims, they do not care about anything. We have heard it over and over again. Government members must dream about it and repeat in their sleep.

One of the members said we should look at reality. Let us look at reality. There are three opposition parties basically saying no to this bill because it is a very fundamentally flawed bill. The parties that have spoken thus far have given very strong both philosophical and intellectual reasons but also legal and practical reasons why this bill just does not cut it. That needs to be said.

We have heard from the Prime Minister that the opposition is delaying the crime bills. Bill C-22, the age of consent bill, was introduced in June but the government itself did not call it until yesterday. So much for the delay. The same goes for this bill. This is the first time we have had an opportunity to debate it.

Let us put aside all the political bunk and rhetoric and focus on the merits of this bill and whether or not it is a good, sound piece of legislation. Presumably that is what we come to this place to do, to represent our constituents, to represent sound public policy, public interest and to decide whether or not legislation that comes from the government is good. We make our judgment on that and decide whether the legislation should continue. That is what we are debating here today, not all the political rhetoric.

In terms of Bill C-27, as I said, the NDP caucus is opposed to it. I note that in the information put out by the justice minister's office we are told that this particular bill will make it easier for crown prosecutors to obtain dangerous offender designations. It goes on to point out that a cornerstone of the reforms in this bill is that an offender found guilty and convicted of a third designated violent or sexual offence must prove that he or she does not qualify as a dangerous offender. This is what is referred to as the reverse onus. This is one of the major reasons that certainly the NDP and other parties we have heard from today are opposed to this bill. Why is that so?

I would like to quote a very good article written by Paula Simons which appeared in the Edmonton Journal in October, as well as in the Regina Leader-Post, and maybe other publications. In that article the author pointed out:

It's a rule of law as old as the Magna Carta, a golden thread that runs through almost 800 years of British legal tradition. And it's enshrined in Section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees that any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I begin with this first argument and fundamental point because it is very much the underpinning of the concerns that we have about the bill. The bill brings forward a provision that will bring in reverse onus and will remove from the system the state's responsibility to bring forward evidence to show that someone is a dangerous offender. The onus will be put on the offender to show why he or she is not a dangerous offender.

I point out that in basically eliminating these hundreds of years of tradition, we did have sections in the Criminal Code that did have reverse onus clauses. This is something that was actually contained in our Criminal Code before the charter, but since 1982 when the charter came in, those provisions have been either struck down by the courts or voluntarily removed through successive Criminal Code reviews and amendments.

We really need to understand that within our judicial system we have had a long-standing practice of assuming someone's innocence until he or she is proven guilty and looking at each case on its merit. We are not talking about a cookie cutter system where one checks off a little box and it is either black or white, yes or no. We are dealing with individual offences. We are dealing with individual victims. The basis of our justice system is that we have the capacity and the ability to make judgments based on applying the law as it exists to determine each of those cases.

Bill C-27 will be a massive reversal of that very important democratic and just tradition within our judicial system. For that reason alone, we are opposed to the bill.

In the current environment in our judicial system, 85% of current dangerous offenders are still in custody. They do not get out. We are talking about longer than a life sentence if someone is convicted as a dangerous offender.

I would argue, and I know our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, would argue that there is no doubt the provisions and the system we have require improvements, but the basic provisions that are there actually are working. Basically completely eliminating that provision and bringing in the reverse onus we see as something that one, will be struck down and will be subject to a charter challenge, and two, will not necessarily improve the safety of Canadians. We have heard that today throughout the debate.

The second problem I can identify is that the bill crosses a boundary whereby it will allow a federal jurisdiction, the federal government, to move into a provincial jurisdiction and tell prosecutors, who are under provincial jurisdiction under the administration of the law, what they should be doing. This is very problematic and is likely to be challenged and struck down.

It makes one think why a bill would be brought forward when two of its basic tenets are things that are legally very open to challenge. As we have heard today, there have been many expert opinions that these particular provisions would be struck down.

There is of course an enormous amount of concern in Canadian society about crime, safety and making sure that people who are dangerous are not on our streets. These are very legitimate things. As New Democrats, we want to ensure that we have the best criminal justice system which ensures that when a dangerous offence has taken place, someone is convicted and the appropriate sentence is given.

It seems surprising to us that under this proposed bill, we would wait until someone had been convicted a second and third time before this kind of provision would apply. The most efficient, intelligent and practical thing to do would be to make sure that the system is working as early as possible, in terms of earlier intervention, by providing crown prosecutors with the resources they need to get the convictions they need, when they can see that there is information and evidence before them.

Right now if a prosecutor is of a mind that there may be information that leads him or her to believe that someone should be prosecuted as a dangerous offender, it is expensive and it takes time to do that. It takes a lot of resources to do the investigation. The reality is that in some instances, prosecutors may back away from that because they are simply overwhelmed by the system as it is and what they can deal with in terms of managing the cases that they have.

The point I am trying to make is that if we are truly interested in making sure that dangerous offenders are locked up and that the public and our communities are safe, then surely we would want to ensure that the system is responding in a way that the prosecutors can actually do their jobs.

Rather than waiting for the second or the third conviction and then placing the onus on the offender to show why he or she would not be a dangerous offender or a risk to society, why not give the prosecutors the tools and the resources to actually do the job they need to do, so that we do not even get into those other situations? We believe that would be a much better scenario, a much better set of rules under which to operate.

What kind of message are we sending out to the public with this bill? We have heard the rhetoric from the government that it is all about getting tough on crime, but actually what we are saying is that it is okay to wait for the second or third time. Do we want to give offenders that third time?

From our point of view, it is much better to have a system that provides the resources and the tools to make the system work as it should and to make sure that the prosecutors are actually able to deal with these cases, and where they can see that the dangerous offender designation is required through prosecution, that they are actually able to follow that up. That is a very important point.

A fourth argument I would like to raise is that if there were a seriousness about this bill and dealing with dangerous offenders, then we should be looking at what we can change that would actually improve the work that takes place. One example would be changes to the evidentiary burden on the prosecutors. Right now they have to line up three psychiatrists when they are trying to prove their case for a dangerous offender. Maybe we should be looking at that. Maybe we should be saying that only two psychiatrists are necessary in order for the prosecutor to bring forward the required expert information.

There are a number of things that could be done within the system to actually improve the resources of the prosecutors to do their jobs, but this is being completely overlooked by the government. Instead we have this very heavy-handed approach that has been brought in by the government where there is absolutely no confidence whatsoever from anybody in the justice system and the law profession that this law will actually be upheld.

In fact earlier I heard the member from the Bloc say that this is why they are afraid of the government. It was a very interesting remark. I think it echoes a sentiment in the public that we see the government loading in these crime bills and there seems to be very little thought to some of them.

The opposition parties have worked together very closely at the justice committee and have tried to convince the government why some of these bills are so seriously flawed. Yet the government does not seem willing to engage in that debate. Therefore, one is left with the conclusion that it is about political spin. It is about the politics of fear. It is about playing on people's fear about crime and safety, which people have, without really ever addressing it.

One of the fears Canadians have is that we are moving closer and closer to the U.S. style of justice system where it has the “three strikes and you're out” laws in effect. The evidence shows us that it has not worked. Again, from this very good article in the Edmonton Journal, it quotes from a 2004 report by the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. It cited FBI crime statistics that showed violent crime and homicide rates between 1993 and 2002 dropped faster in states without the three strikes law. This is very interesting and we should learn from the very real evidence available in the United States.

I know members of the Conservative government will argue that this is not exactly the same law, but it is based on the same kinds of principles and it is moving us closer and closer to the kind of system we see in the United States. We have heard its kind of mantra on getting tough on crime.

The report also compared California to New York. California has the toughest three strikes law. It sent people to jail for life even if their third crime was stealing a piece of pizza. New York has no such legislation, yet its overall crime index fell 50% from 1993 to 2002. California's overall crime index fell only 39%.

Despite the fall in crime rate between 1994 and 2004, in the 10 years experience of the California three strikes policy, its prison population rose by almost 23%. The Justice Policy Institute study estimated that building and staffing the extra prisons to house all those prisoners cost the state an extra $8 billion U.S. over 10 years.

I bring forward these points of information because they are very pertinent to this debate, not only in terms of this bill but also other bills that are before the House. As a Bloc member said, this is why we are so afraid of the government. It is embarking on a radical departure. It seems hell-bent on radical changes whether they are shown to work or not. This should be of very grave concern to all of us.

I totally reject the arguments, which will come forward now, that the NDP is soft on crime. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to be intelligent about our response to crime and justice in our country. We want to ensure that there is sound public policy development. We want to ensure that we do not adopt legislation that has been shown not to work, that may create incredible havoc within the judicial system and that will undermine very fundamental principles established over many hundreds of years.

The government needs to take note. This is a minority Parliament. We have a majority of members in the House who say, with a united voice, that this is not good legislation and that it will be defeated. Therefore, the government members can squawk all they want about that. They can try to put out their political line that nobody on this side cares about crime, which we know is absolute nonsense, or they can get serious and engage in a real debate about what changes need to be made to the justice system. I have offered a few today, so have the other parties.

The Conservatives can choose if they so wish. If they are serious about putting public policy first and protecting the Canadian public, they can look at changes that will work within our judicial system. It is their decision. I do not know what they will decide, but they should take note of the fact that three parties now oppose the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments and a question with respect to what the member said, speaking on behalf of the New Democratic caucus. I have the impression, when I hear her arguments, that she is asking the government to stop picking on the dangerous and high risk offenders. I do not understand that.

If we listen to what the member said, she gave four or five of what appeared to be reasonable arguments, and that seemed to be the thesis of what she was trying to present. I will not comment on all of them, but I will comment on the reverse onus clause, which she suggests is unconstitutional.

She is right. When people are charged, the long-time principle in our court systems, going back to the English system and in fact most systems around this world, they are innocent until proven guilty. This is not about that. This is about sentencing. We are talking about dangerous and high risk offenders, bad people, people who have done bad things three times. It is all about that. This legislation is saying if that happens then the onus is on them. There is a certain discretion to the prosecutor to bring this forward and there is also a discretion on the court system as to whether it will deem that person a dangerous offender.

The member seems to be giving the impression that when a person is charged, it is a reverse onus clause. That is not fair because the bill does not say that.

Could the member comment on that and perhaps rethink her position on this one position?

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, from our point of view in the NDP, we think that to wait until someone has had a third conviction and then as part of the sentencing use this reverse onus is kind of a false premise. As I said in my remarks earlier, we would much prefer to see the development of agreement from the government and other parties about how we can better support the prosecutors when they seek dangerous offender status in even the first go around. Why are we waiting for the third conviction?

I stand by my comments about the reverse onus. It is not only me saying that. We have heard from all kinds of experts who understand the Constitution and the charter and what challenges there may be. When we are told that this law will create all kinds of problems in terms of challenges, then we ought to heed those words. It seems a bit silly to bring in a bill when there is the likelihood that it will be struck down and challenged. I think it leads to scepticism as to the government's real agenda.

We have to look at this bill in the context of a number of the other bills where we see the same problem. They seem to be more about creating the image and the public perception about what they are going to do without actually delivering the legal goods that will make it happen. That is why it is being met with a great deal of opposition and scepticism from members of Parliament.

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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it incredible to hear the member suggest that her party does not believe it should cooperate in getting tougher on crime by suggesting that after the third conviction for a serious criminal indictable offence a person might have an obligation to provide the reticence. Instead, the member has suggested that her party would entertain the possibility of this happening after the first conviction. Talk about a crock. They say they will not do it after three convictions, but they might do it after one. There is no balance to that argument whatsoever.

Those members have to face the facts. They are soft on crime. They are against the age of consent. They are against minimum mandatories. They are certainly against holding criminals to a standard, criminals who have been charged with serious indictable offences where there have been serious injuries to people. It suggests to me that public safety is not first and foremost of importance to the Canadian public.

Our first priority as members of Parliament should be the protection and safety of the public. I really believe that. Should we not take each and every opportunity to provide the public with that safety? We have to strike a balance. We have to balance the rights of the victims with the rights of criminals. That is fair ball. However, after three convictions and countless other offences, for which there may not have been convictions registered, the public deserves safety. For the member to suggest that she and her party would be willing to try to find other options maybe after the first conviction is ludicrous. The member is dishonest in her statements.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I could almost see the piece of paper with all the little message boxes written on it telling the member what to say.

I am very proud to say that the NDP was founded on the principle of cooperation and that remains one of our founding values. The idea that we do not come here to cooperate is nonsense. We take our role in this Parliament very seriously and constructively. In my comments today I indicated that the government has a choice to seek cooperation with the other parties. That point has been made very clear.

We believe the earlier an intervention is made the better. We start with healthy communities. We start by providing people with decent housing and good jobs. We start by providing young people with good and accessible education. We would not cut out literacy programs and force kids on to the streets where they have a future with no hope. Let us look at the foundations of a good judicial system in terms of helping develop citizens with a sense of what needs to be done as part of the community. These are very important things, but they never get addressed by the government.

Early intervention in the judicial system and in crime prevention, community health and community support are very important. The system might work a whole lot better if Crown prosecutors were not so overburdened and could do their work and get a dangerous offender designation. The government does not seem to be interested in doing that. It seems to be interested in these very radical laws, which have never been shown to work, based on its public relations exercise of fooling the public that things will get a whole lot better with the Conservatives in government. I think there is growing suspicion from the Canadians. They know that is not true. They know these laws are dangerous and that they are likely to be struck down. This bill in particular I believe will probably be struck down in the House.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Vancouver East represents a riding not unlike mine. Her riding is in downtown Vancouver and mine is in downtown Winnipeg where crime and safety issues are top of mind in the areas that we represent. She should be complimented for bringing such a balanced approach to this debate, rather than some of the knee-jerk reactions that we have heard from some of our colleagues' interventions.

I think it is difficult to have any debate about crime and justice issues without recognizing and acknowledging the appalling overrepresentation of aboriginal people in our prison population. It strikes me, and I have heard others comment, that many of the bills introduced by the government side in terms of getting tougher on crime and longer prison sentences will only exacerbate that problem. What is already a national shame and a national tragedy will be compounded.

Could the hon. member comment on that please?

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised an important issue. Would it not be a much better scenario if we were actually debating in the House not this bill but legislation that would actually assist aboriginal people with their appalling conditions and actually look at the recent report that just came out that showed us that there is a massive overrepresentation of aboriginal people in our judicial system? We could then look at the systemic discrimination and oppression that takes place.

If we had that kind of debate, we would be doing more to help our judicial system than we will ever do with a bill like this.

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1:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the citizens of Calgary Centre-North to address criminal justice legislation that I view as extremely important to, in particular, the safety of women and children in my community.

I am astounded to be in the House and hear the NDP in particular talking about this as an issue of cooperation and healthy communities. This bill is directed at punitive measures toward the most dangerous sexual predators in our society. That is what we are talking about. I have no idea what they are talking about at that end of the House with respect to healthy communities. These are individuals who are sexual predators and who are incorrigible and this bill attempts to deal with them in a way that will make our streets safe for women and children.

What in heaven's name the NDP is talking about, I do not know.

I would like to say at the outset that we should all be proud of the work that the Minister of Justice has done with respect to this bill. These are sentencing reforms that are long overdue in our country. Our Minister of Justice has taken the initiative and has brought forward sound legislation that reflects the appropriate balance, and I commend it to the House.

I feel strongly about this legislation. It is necessary because there is a lack of balance in the existing law in Canada, which is not acceptable to the people of Canada as represented by their elected representatives in the House of Commons, as it relates to the sentencing of dangerous offenders.

I think it would be useful for members of that party to realize that the genesis of this legislation is in a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Johnson decision. Frankly, that decision is one of the more controversial decisions in recent times by the Supreme Court of Canada. It reflects a tension between the legislative branch and the judicial branch relative to sentencing provisions.

Now this is not the first time this tension has existed. Previous parliaments attempted to reform the dangerous offender provisions in 1995 and 1997. The Johnson case is a complex case and much has been said about what it may say and what it does not say. However, the way in which that decision has been interpreted by the lower courts is to impose upon the Crown a burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a dangerous sexual predator cannot be successfully managed in the community. That is a burden which is very difficult to overcome and, frankly, some would argue that it is a burden which is impossible to meet.

I think the opposition parties need to be aware, and the NDP in particular, that the consequence of that decision has been a precipitous drop in terms of both dangerous offender applications in our country and also dangerous offender convictions. That is unacceptable.

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The minister will have 17 minutes after question period to finish off his remarks.

JusticeStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, on this side we know what the opposition parties really mean when they say they will compromise. They mean that they will say one thing during an election and do the opposite in Parliament.

All parties ran campaigns promising to get tough on crime but it seems only this Conservative government is willing to get tough on criminals. The opposition parties want the guy who burned down a person's house to spend his so-called punishment in his house, watching the big screen TV that he stole from the neighbour.

This is the same bunch who will spend taxpayer money to institutionalize our preschool children but are afraid to see car thieves and arsonists behind bars lest we cause them some discomfort.

Every member is entitled to his or her opinion but in the opinion of most Canadians, the regime that gave prisoners the vote, cable TV, Internet access and a union for filing complaints against embattled corrections officers is the regime that has to go.

It is time to scrap the idea that it takes a village to raise a child but the village cannot know there are convicted pedophiles living next door.

Peel Environmental Youth AllianceStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the hard work of PEYA, the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance.

PEYA is a network of youth from across the region of Peel determined to make a difference by improving our environment. They have worked in our schools and in our communities to show us that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is possible.

I recently met with members of PEYA regarding their climate change declaration, a declaration I wholeheartedly support. In its declaration, PEYA makes it clear that the effects of climate change will not only be seen in our thermometers but will also be felt in our wallets.

PEYA is concerned with climate change and puts forth some concrete suggestions which should be considered. They include new renewable energy strategies, the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and educational reforms to make younger students more aware of the environment.

I hope all members will join me in congratulating PEYA and supporting its cause.

Older WorkersStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, a number of regions in Quebec are affected by the crisis in the forestry sector. In less than a month, five forestry companies in my riding have announced that they will be shutting down. Some 2,000 workers have been victims of mass layoffs, not to mention the many indirect jobs that will be lost.

For the past several months the Bloc Québécois has been calling for the implementation of a real income support program for older workers. These victims of mass layoffs aged 55 and older will have a hard time retraining in another field because often they have little education. A financial assistance program to allow them to bridge the gap between the end of their employment insurance benefits and the beginning of their pension, would prevent them from going into poverty.

It is high time that the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development lived up to her responsibilities and announced the implementation of such a program for all industries and for all of Quebec.

Government ProgramsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Statistics Canada issued a report saying that the rate of violent victimization in Canada's north is almost three times the rate for residents in the rest of the country.

The government needs to take action to help northerners, action by supporting a better society, but the government does not understand how to make the lives of Canadians better, which is why it cut funding to literacy programs, volunteer groups and the Status of Women.

These programs are not fat to be trimmed. They are part of a foundation for a better society. Rather, the government wants to see more unemployment due to high illiteracy, fractured communities without essential volunteers and women without leadership to protect them. All of this will increase the amount of violence in the north, not decrease it.

Cutting these programs will only increase violence and suffering among northerners. It seems that the Conservative government just does not care.

Juvenile DiabetesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just finished meeting with a group of brave children and their families who face the daily struggle against the disease of type 1 juvenile diabetes.

Forty-five children from across the country, including a constituent of mine, beautiful four-year-old Amy Buchanan, are on Parliament Hill today. These children all live with the challenges of this disease.

I would like to honour these children and all the children of Canada, who endure this illness that affects every aspect of their lives, for their courage and their perseverance to not let this disease rob them of their dreams.

What families living with diabetes need is hope; hope for a future without this disease.

I am proud to say that my wife and I recently chaired a fundraising effort in my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country that raised over $80,000 for diabetes research. It is through the generosity of caring Canadians that we will reach our goal to understand and one day beat type 1 juvenile diabetes.

By working together, the mission is possible for a made in Canada cure for diabetes.

TerrorismStatements By Members

October 31st, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge the government to continue the work of the previous Liberal administration and implement a cost sharing program to help at-risk targeted communities offset the costs of securing their places of worship and community centres.

The freedom to worship and to attend community, religious and cultural events without fear is a hallmark of being a Canadian.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where safety is not always guaranteed. The threat of terrorism has necessitated certain communities to take steps to ensure the safety of their congregants and participants, often at great financial expense.

Whether it be a synagogue, a church, a gurdwara, a mosque or a cultural centre, it is imperative that the government help with the protection of these institutions. By developing and implementing a security cost sharing program, it will be taking one more important step to doing so.

Robert Thomas James MitchellStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Robert Thomas James “Jim” Mitchell who was killed in the Panjawyi district of Afghanistan on October 3.

His life was taken when he and another soldier were working alongside their fellow comrades to clear mines and improvised explosive devices from a route for a future road construction project.

Corporal Mitchell was a father, a son and a husband who was born and raised in Owen Sound. His parents, Bob and Carol, and his brother Mark still reside there.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and to his wife Leanne and their children, five-year-old Cameron, three-year-old Brian and two-year-old Jaelyn.

Remembrance Day is just 11 days away and I encourage everyone across Canada to take the time to attend a Remembrance Day service in their community or to take a few minutes to think about the sacrifices made by our soldiers.

Along with other Canadian military heroes, we will remember and honour the life of Robert Thomas James Mitchell.