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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

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the 20-minute speech by the member from Quebec. I think he may be missing the point, and perhaps his whole party is missing a very serious aspect to this bill.

We are not talking here about a reverse onus in terms of the conviction for the offence. Indeed, what we are doing is giving the perpetrator yet another chance. All the member has to do is read the bill. I noticed in several sections, but it is in proposed section 752.01 where it says:

If the prosecutor is of the opinion that an offence for which an offender is convicted is a serious personal injury offence that is a designated offence and that the offender was convicted previously at least twice of a designated offence--

We are talking about an individual who was charged and convicted. In other words, the crown prosecutor was able to prove that the individual was guilty, otherwise he would not have been convicted. The onus was on the crown to prove the conviction. The second time the individual appears, after he has served his two years or more, on a similar type of crime, again the crown proves that he is guilty and hence he is sentenced. He then comes before the judge a third time. The whole trial has to do with whether the person is guilty, and the onus is on the crown to prove it. The conclusion will be, if this bill is enacted, that that person just is not learning his lesson and he is a continued danger to society.

I would urge the member to read the offences that are being included here. We are talking of crimes as heinous as committing murder, discharging a firearm with intent; in other words, an individual fires a gun at someone and has the misfortune of missing, but still the individual is firing a gun at a person with the intent to murder. We are saying that for a person who has three of these offences, for the protection of society we are going to put that person in jail, but notwithstanding that, we will give that person yet another chance. If that person can prove to us that he or she is not a danger, we will listen.

I do not know how any member in this House can say that that is really tough, that we are getting too tough on crime. The NDP and the Liberals ran on a crime ticket last time just to try to gain a few more seats, and now that the election is over, they are arguing against a bill that is as soft as this one. I cannot believe it.

This legislation is reasonable. It is not a violation of the Constitution. The Constitution says clearly that the causes here can be given as pertaining to a just society. I would just urge the member and all members to think carefully before they vote against this bill. It is not nearly as onerous as they claim it is.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I will respond with two points.

First, I would remind the House that the Bloc Québécois worked very hard to have the Criminal Code amended with respect to the proceeds of crime. It is possible to seize the house—or mansion—of someone who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug trafficking. It is up to that individual to prove that their mansion was not purchased using the proceeds of crime. The Bloc Québécois achieved this.

I would have liked my hon. colleague to come to a court of law. Consider, for example, an 18 year old who discharges a firearm. That is one of the crimes. That young man is incarcerated for one year. At 22, that same youth is a member of a street gang and again discharges a firearm. He is imprisoned again and released at age 25. If he commits a third offence, any offence at all, his name will automatically be put on the list of dangerous offenders.

I have tremendous respect for my hon. colleagues across from me. However, their problem stems from the fact that, with this bill, they are sentencing the crime and not the individual who commits it. That is what the Bar reminds us and what judges will remember if this bill is enacted, which I hope does not happen. The crime must be dealt with based on the individual before the court, and nothing else.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by my hon. colleague and to the questions from my colleagues opposite. In my opinion, it is important to put certain people in prison to protect the Canadian public and to punish offenders who repeat various offences. That is why Canada has some of the toughest laws in the world on dangerous offenders.

In my opinion, we need to have intelligent laws and intelligent approaches to criminals and criminal law.

As my hon. colleague said, many members of the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian legal community have shared their concerns about this bill, especially when it comes to the issue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many of them have argued that this bill would be dismissed in court because of this concern.

In my opinion, it is not smart to create a risk whereby the part of the legislation on dangerous offenders may be completely dismissed. Does the hon. member agree?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question and I would refer my colleague—not to avoid the question—to two Supreme Court rulings.

I invite my colleagues opposite to go read them. In 2003, there were Supreme Court rulings in the Johnson and Mitchell cases. These rulings reminded us that the underlying principles of sentencing require that the sentence fit the offender's situation. In other words—this is at least the fifth time I have said this—we sincerely think that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, if by some misfortune Bill C-27 became law, constitutionally, it would not pass the test of the Constitution of Canada, with all due respect, given the recent Supreme Court rulings.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill is talking about convictions for very serious, horrible crimes, and not one conviction, not two convictions, but three convictions.

My colleague from the Bloc Québécois talked about how he has been in practice for 25 years. God bless him, I expect most of the time it has been in defending these terrible people and naturally his whole knowledge is with respect to the criminal.

I listened to his speech very carefully. It was a good speech. I did not agree very much with it, but I listened to it very carefully. He never mentioned the word “victim” once. It was all about the rights of the criminal; it was all about whether these people are receiving a fair deal. These are after the convictions. We are talking about sentencing.

My question for the member and all the Bloc Québécois members if they are all going to take this position is, do they not care about the victim? The people whom I speak to in my riding care a lot about the victim. They are fed up.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue has 30 seconds to reply.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to quickly answer in 30 seconds.

In Quebec, we have the crime victims compensation act. I would like to remind my hon. colleague opposite that the Criminal Code, as indicated by its name, is there to punish a crime committed by an individual. Nowhere in the Criminal Code is there any mention of the fact that we have to protect the victims. The Criminal Code does not state in any section that the priority is to defend the victims. However, in the Criminal Code—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Mississauga South on a point of order.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2006 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to the debate scheduled for later this day on the motion by the member for Malpeque to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, this being Halloween, it is with some sadness that I rise in the House. It is the first Halloween in the history of my fathering three children, Maeve who is 10 years old, Megan who is 8 years old, and Bronwyn who is 7 years old, that I will not be with them to go door to door. However, I do hope that their costumes, which I had a preview of, are effective. I hope they are nice little girls who go door to door and give a lot of joy on this joyous evening.

I also hope their costumes are more effective than what I would call the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice dressed up as sheriffs through their justice rubric, which is really disguised as effective and, to the point of Bill C-27, masquerading as good law. On all of those three counts, the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice and this bill fail. Their disguise is thin and their masquerade is not working.

I am pleased to address the House today on the matter of Bill C-27. This bill amends the Criminal Code with respect to dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace.

I will not comment on recognizance to keep the peace. We on this side of the House, myself included, agree with the provisions of this bill.

Although the main goal of Bill C-27 is to make it easier for crown prosecutors to obtain dangerous offender designations, it touches upon an important concept in our entire justice system. It is not just the justice system that prevails in Moncton, New Brunswick or, indeed, in Canada. The aspect that is being reviewed, which must be given the spotlight and the microscope, is a fundamental principle of justice in the common law world and that is the presumption of innocence.

This bill reverses the burden of proof from the crown to the defendant. If Bill C-27 were to be adopted in its entirety as it is, an offender found guilty of a third conviction of a designated violent or sexual offence would need to prove that he or she does not qualify as a dangerous offender. That in summary is the issue to be debated.

I might, by way of introduction, suggest that every criminal was a child at one time, and what night could be more fitting to speak about children than Halloween, and every child, as he or she goes down the road of life, makes steps, some wrong, some right and some in the middle.

Not every child has the privilege of coming from a home with two parents, from a home that is affluent enough to afford the necessities of life, from a home that advocates literacy or from a home full of love and caring. There are many homes where this is not the case. Many homes and families are broken either by economic ravages or social blight.

However, in the Conservatives' Leave it to Beaver world, everyone has this perfect home and everyone must grow up like Wally and Beaver to be productive citizens of society. Although we do not really know how Beaver and Wally ended up, I suspect some of them may have ended up on the other side. The social policies of the government are destroying the fabric of the community and they will lead to more crime.

When certain individuals have gone down the wrong side of the justice road toward the dangerous offender designation, things have gone terribly wrong for them. Let us leave aside the issue of mental health and the fact that the only option for some people is treatment for the long term. Let us talk about the people left behind on the social strata from leaving the field that the government has posited on social programs in the community. Those people could end up on the dangerous offender road.

The combination of these laws and this policy regarding social re-engineering, à la George Bush, will leave us with more criminal justice issues. It is an important context to remember.

We on all sides of the House agree that dangerous criminals should be kept locked up for our own safety and the safety of society but that is not the issue. We must do all we can to ensure dangerous criminals do not take advantage of legal loopholes to fall through the cracks of our judicial system. Most important, we, as members of Parliament, have the duty to ensure that the bills and changes we adopt meet constitutional standards and rigorous test and that they do not jeopardize the protections we have in place.

The theme of my speech and my point is that this bad law would actually put the victims of crime in greater jeopardy. If this law is, in any way, struck down, the people who perpetrate crimes, who might be designated dangerous or long term offenders, might go free. That does not help victims. We want laws that work.

Locking up dangerous criminals is not a new or Conservative idea. In 1997 the Liberal government created new legislation addressing long term offenders and ensuring sexual and violent offenders received the special supervision they deserved from our judicial system.

It is important to understand that in the long term offender and dangerous offender categories we are not talking about millions of people or thousands of people. We are hardly talking about hundreds of people. In the province of New Brunswick right now there is one application for a dangerous offender designation. In the briefing that members of the justice committee received from the justice department, the number of applications per year is about 24. This vacillates somewhere from a low of 12 to a high of 48. These people we are talking about are dangerous. They are bad apples and they need to be locked away.

That is why the long term offender legislation is also at play here. If someone does not meet the dangerous offender plateau, then a judge must consider the long term offender designation, which is less onerous and does not involve indefinite sentencing without parole for seven years at least.

The problem with this legislation, as justice officials indicated to us, is that it was well on the way to being introduced whether the Conservatives, the Liberals or, God forbid, the NDP or the Bloc formed government, and it was to close a loophole that had been created by the well-spoken upon decision of R. v. Johnson. The loophole had to be closed so that it was very clear that a judge must consider whether the accused met the long term definition before the dangerous offender designation took effect.

As of 2005, a total of 300 offenders across Canada have been designated long term offenders, not dangerous offenders.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act, and I would ask that an order of the day be designated for its consideration.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the minority government across the way would like Canadians to believe, the current system with respect to dangerous offenders and long term offenders does work well.

Unfortunately, Bill C-27 seems to me to be more motivated by the Conservatives' partisan political agenda than by a real desire to better protect Canadians. It is unfortunate that this minority government thinks its partisan agenda is more important than the greater good of its citizens.

Even more importantly, Bill C-27 is a direct attack on a key concept in the Canadian justice system: the presumption of innocence.

In Canada, the presumption of innocence is guaranteed by section 11(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that any person charged with an offence has the right “to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal”.

One wonders in that last term, with the spate of Conservative appointments to the judiciary, whether we could find an independent and impartial judge of recent appointment who has not been a major contributor to the Conservative Party or has fundamental Christian beliefs. All of the appointments have not been filled and I would not make that comment until they are. One hopes for impartiality and independence in the tribunals.

The real point in this legislation is whether the person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent. There are two parts to this: the part of the trial and the part of the mini-trial with respect to the designation of dangerous offender.

The reversal of the burden of proof set out in Bill C-27 is questionable.

Many legal experts have already said that the legislation could be challenged in court. Their arguments seem to me to be serious enough to warrant taking the time to examine this seriously.

In light of the provisions of the charter, Bill C-27 creates a problematic situation with regard to the reversal of onus. The burden shifts. In the past the Supreme Court of Canada has said that the presumption of innocence will be violated whenever a trier of fact may be led to convict an accused person, even though there is reasonable doubt as to some essential element of the offence. I think all parties are on the same page with respect to the conviction of the accused and the burden of proof.

Although the proposed legislation does reverse the onus, we must keep in mind that this reversal only comes into play once the offender has been found guilty of the designated, serious violent or sexual offence three times. Each time the offender is accused, he would have benefited already from the presumption of innocence. Thank God that has not been taken away. This essential principle will not be changed by Bill C-27 as it relates to the finding of guilt, but what about the effect of this guilt?

Under the proposed legislation, the offender who has been found guilty already three times of one of the listed offences in Bill C-27 will no longer be presumed innocent. As a matter of sentencing law and not constitutional law, the Supreme Court has previously held that on sentencing, any aggravating fact that is not admitted by the offender, must be proven by the Crown beyond a reasonable doubt. Let us keep that clear. On sentencing, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that we still have to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to the aggravating circumstances in that conviction. I would say it again if I thought the other side was listening or could understand.

This rule has since been codified under section 724(3)(e) of the Criminal Code, that big book the criminal law is in. In the context of dangerous offender applications, section 753 (1.1) would undo this long standing judicial principle and rule.

Furthermore, some could argue that not only does Bill C-27 deprive offenders of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, as stated in section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and this is more telling and more appropriate to the argument before us today, it also allows for deprivation of liberty as stated in section 7 of the same charter. This creates the right not to be deprived of life, liberty and security of the person, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, a key term.

It is not clear that transferring the burden of proof from the Crown to the accused, as set out in Bill C-27, respects the principles of fundamental justice. It is not at all clear. For a long time now, the concept of fundamental justice has been one of our justice system's guiding principles. This applies to the legal system in Moncton, in New Brunswick and in Canada, as well as to all countries whose legal system is based on British common law—the root of our own common law—including the United States.

I would even go so far as to say that the Crown's duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of aggravating factors when determining the sentence is now a widely accepted concept. It is so widely accepted in our justice system that it can now be called a principle of fundamental justice, as it is written in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights.

Under the current provision of the dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code, which is charter proof, 360 offenders have been designated as dangerous offenders and are currently behind bars. The system works.

Once again the minority government is all about sentences and law and order. My colleagues on the other side of the House might argue that these measures will protect innocent Canadians. As I have just said, section 7, the reasonable demands of having fundamental justice at any stage in the judicial determinations, puts in question whether this law, as presented and not yet amended at committee albeit, is in danger of falling like a house of cards on the dangerous offender designation system that already exists. It was put in place and monitored by Liberal governments. It was in the process of being improved because of the R. v. Johnson decision until the wrench was thrown in the problem.

The Conservatives have become the architects of disaster in suggesting we put in the reverse onus and the “three strikes you're out” because Arnold Schwarzenegger and those guys like it. What they are doing is possibly putting in jeopardy the whole system and that is not going to be good for victims.

Most of the justice legislation currently before the House will do little to protect Canadians and do very little for the victims. In fact, by cutting conditional sentences, sending more convicted individuals to the criminal schools of higher education, our jails, by building more jails and cramping the budget room for other needed programs, by putting longer sentences in place that will surely bring out a whole new round of graduated criminals determined to do more harm to victims and by cutting preventive and rehabilitation programs, we have no reason to think the crime rate is going to go down in Canada.

Furthermore, many studies, which is not germane to this discussion but very much germane to the discussions we have had at the justice committee, clearly indicate there is absolutely no link between harsher sentences and a lower crime rate.

It is quite telling at the committee level. When the proponents of the Conservative agenda on law and order are asked to bring witnesses who will prove empirically and objectively how these programs will work, they have very few names to present. On the other side, the people who suggest that harsher sentences do not lower crime rates have a plethora of witnesses available. That comes down to a determination by the Conservative minority government that most of those are criminal lawyers, professors and people who believe the criminal.

We have to ask ourselves this. If it is a truism that more sentences, harsher sentences and more people in jail will result in lower crime rates and a safer society, where is the proof? Canadians want the proof. Liberals want the proof. Liberals have been determined, with a justice program of over 13 years, to continually work with the outdated Criminal Code to modify the laws, as Canada grows, to protect society and victims.

In a non-partisan half second I say that is the same goal for the Bloc Québécois as well as the NDP. I know it is the same goal for the Conservatives because they keep saying it. However, they do not act in furtherance of that objective. They in fact act against that objective. They are not making the communities safer by locking everyone up. We ought to really take a non-partisan moment and say that if there is proof that these things work, show us. We are open to it.

In summary, Bill C-27 is no different than most justice bills recently tabled. It puts the political agenda of the Conservatives before the greater good of Canadians. The proof of that is they have overloaded the committee with so much work. Probably all the justice bills they keep tabling have no real intention of coming back to Parliament before what we perceive will be the next election.

Canadians have to ask, what was the objective in that? What was the objective in putting forward Bill C-9 and Bill C-10 separately? We now know that the list of witnesses is the very same and the hearings will take double the time. Why not propose them as one bill? The reason is simple. The Conservatives want to scare people into thinking we do not have a safe society. We do have a safe society. We support law and order. We support the victims in the community. We support the average Canadian who wants to be safe in his or her home.

Average Canadians are safe in their homes, even on Halloween when we have politicians masquerading as the proponents of law and order and when we have policy written on the back of a napkin dressed up as the law of the country.

We should take our duties more seriously. We should be earnest parliamentarians and pass good laws, not laws that are destined to be broken down by the loopholes contained in them by Conservative writers.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am amazed at what I have heard from members opposite. In the last election a lot of the parties ran on tougher on crime and the protection of citizens. As a result of what happens in the House, every member of Parliament will have to wear how they vote on this bill.

We are talking about a dangerous and high-risk offender. That is not the first-time offender. Nor is it the second-time offender. That is the third-time offender.

In status of women meeting this morning many witnesses said over and over again to get tougher on the laws. They are sick of lawyers getting criminals off without any ramifications. The officers are sick of judges letting people out on the streets before the paperwork is even done to incarcerate them.

On this side of the House we have tried to address the concerns of Canadians. Dangerous offenders are high-risk, most dangerous, violent, sexual predators on innocent populations. We are not talking about someone who has made a mistake the first time. We are talking about serious offences.

Is that member prepared in the next election to give the same kind of speech he just gave? Is he prepared to say that Canadians have not told him the message, that he knows better? Is the member ready to do that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, many of the members comments are very well-founded and from the heart. I appreciate that.

She asked a very personal question. My uncle was a former member of this chamber and he was a provincial court judge for 35 years. I am not worried about getting re-elected on a law and order platform in Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

However, if she had perhaps listened to the pith of the speech, this law may be struck down, particularly under section 7 of the charter. The existing dangerous offender legislation is working. Well over 400 people are behind bars with indefinite terms because of the that legislation. I hope the member knows this.

However, this bill is perhaps putting that in jeopardy. If section 7 is to be read clearly as to what fundamental justice, or the principles thereof mean, smart lawyers, who the other side seem to loathe so much, may well attack their legislation and dangerous offenders could be back on the street because of this weak legislation.

Who cares about citizens and who cares about the crime rate more? Is it the people who say that this legislation will not work and that there will be more dangerous offenders on the streets of Moncton, or wherever, or the people opposite who cannot accept that the law, as it exists, works?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his erudite and considered remarks, and I mean this quite sincerely.

My question has to do with the ideological conflict that surrounds this issue. I will get beyond the technicalities and ask the hon. member this. Why does he believe that those who do not accept the Conservative Party's view of law and order are somehow vilified and seen to be soft on crime? Over and over again today, members from the government have stood and said that Liberals and members of other parties who did not support them were soft on crime.

What is it that would make some parliamentarians soft on crime and put other parliamentarians on the side of virtue? Are we not all concerned about violence? Do we not all want to live in safe communities? Do we not all want our families to be safe? What is the ideological basis for this seemingly irreconcilable difference of opinion?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member's insight is very germane to the question. There is no ideological difference. There is a political difference. This whole Conservative justice policy is a policy by innuendo, a policy of fear, of creating fear where it did not exist, and third, because there are three prongs to it, it is a policy of having drive-by legislation that is poorly written and will not stand the test of law. In the long run, it will actually make the citizens of this country less safe in their communities.

What I said during my discourse, which I believe and I will give credit to the opposing party as well, is that every member in the chamber believes in law, order and safety in our communities. It should be a matter of rudimentary self-respect and mutual respect. No one is soft on crime. Some people want laws that make sense and will be effective and some people want to have 20 announcements on the six o'clock news across the country, putting fear where fear does not belong and promising security where security will never be.

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5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the key issues discussed in the debate today is the aspect of constitutionality.

Indeed, there is some concern that should this bill pass and become law there will inevitably be court challenges to its constitutionality, which could be tied up in the courts for a very long period of time and in fact leave us with no law whatsoever.

The other aspect in terms of the legalities or the constitutionality has to do with the principle of ultra vires and whether the federal government in fact can instruct the provincial government as to who it should charge and for what. I wonder if the member could provide some input to the House.

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5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for London West addressed the issue of mandatory orders to provincial prosecutors, which may well be constitutionally ultra vires. She laid it out in a most articulate fashion. I will not repeat that.

The key issue of our position is that subsection 11(d) and section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are very much at play. Any lawyer could actually make the application to strike this legislation as being unconstitutional. On this side, if this law were to pass, as the majority of Parliament may wish it to, we have obligations to stand by the law. One would hope that section 11 would be read as not being about denying the presumption of innocence because it is after a conviction. One would hope that we could read section 7 of the charter not to include the fundamental principles of justice with respect to liberty under seven years. That would be a stretch and I think it is the strongest argument.

One would hope as well that we would not have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada five years from now to see in the end that the Conservatives brought in legislation which was hasty and designed for the six o'clock news and really left citizens vulnerable to more dangerous offenders and long term offenders being on their doorsteps.

I think that on Halloween evening it is a pretty important point to make. Five years from now on Halloween, do you, Mr. Speaker, want more dangerous offenders on your doorstep because of a bad law struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada? I do not. Canadians do not either.

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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to get into that guy's head a little. He is saying that this bill is going to be subject to a charter challenge and the Supreme Court may shut it down. Is that not exactly where we are right now? If the bill is ultra vires, then we would have no act proclaimed. I do not understand how we should not, as members of Parliament, try to put a stop to these dangerous repeat offenders. I do not understand that. We need to try. If the court rules that it is not legal, then we will try again. Meanwhile, this is a good shot at it.

The member is expressing some opinions that some lawyers will take this to court. I think there are just as many lawyers who will say we will win it, that it is legal. I think he is just fearmongering.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, one really has to question who is fearmongering with the public. It is not this side. What we are trying to do is suggest that the responsible course, and perhaps it will get there in committee, is to tone it down, to put some water in the wine and suggest that the government does not have to mimic the United States in everything it does. The “three strikes and you're out” American concept imported here for the six o'clock news is not the way to go.

Sound law, agreed upon with the constitutional imprimatur of the Attorney General's department, which was not forthcoming at committee, would be the way to go: make it constitutional and we are with that side of the House. We are with every aspect of the bill that not against the law. One would think that the Minister of Justice and the government in power would want to have legal laws. It is what they are supposed to do.

I will send the hon. member all of the information I have from the justice committee. He can put it in his third office, because it is quite voluminous. It might take him a while to read it.