Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to stand in the House to speak to Bill C-9. I note that over the number of years I have been in the House and serving on the justice committee, we brought forward bills like this as private members' bills. That happened a number of times. There were four or five private members' bills dealing with conditional sentences and dangerous offenders.
There were many different bills that came forward, bills that the people of Crowfoot, Alberta and Canada asked for, and then we watched as the government of the day slammed the door on legislation. That would basically tell Canadians that the responsibility for governments and for our law, for the justice system, was not to protect society.
That is what bills such as this are here to do.
My constituents have always brought forward their concerns over the release of violent offenders back into society. My efforts were to do something about the Liberal Party's neglect and its reckless treatment of conditional sentences, but yet again doors were slammed.
The frustration was felt not just by members of Parliament. The frustration was felt not just by the Conservative Party of Canada. The frustration was felt by victims. Time after time, calls and letters came in from people who had been victimized. They were not always from the primary victim, not always from the one who had been assaulted, not always from the one who had an offence committed against them. Sometimes the families of those victims felt that they personally had been victimized. They felt it especially when, a number of days after the trial, they would meet the individual who had committed the offence against them and see the individual released onto the streets of our communities.
I applaud the justice minister and the government for keeping their commitments and bringing forward the priorities they said they would and for making it clear that criminal justice system changes and changes to bills would take place. We are seeing that happen.
This morning I want to talk about a number of cases that we could perhaps learn from. Let us take a look at some of the past decisions, decisions that might have been an encouragement for this government to make the changes it is trying to implement here.
In one case from 2001, R. v. Bratzer, the offender committed three armed robberies in a period of a week. For those three armed robberies, he sat down, calculated what he was going to do, picked up the weapon of choice and decided to carry out these criminal offences. He went out and did it.
In reaching the sentence, the court considered as aggravating factors the fact that the accused had committed a series of planned robberies, that the offender had calculated, that he was masked at the time of the robbery, and that the offender admitted to the rush the robberies had given him, the sense of gratification, excitement and enthusiasm as he carried them out.
The court also mentioned the fact that the offender had no remorse. He placed the mask over his head. He picked up the weapon of choice. He knew that he was going to get a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm and he went out and committed the offences. The court looked at the circumstances and sentenced the accused to house arrest, to a conditional sentence of two years less a day.
Canadians are concerned when we watch our young men and women and those in society who say that they get a rush from perpetrating criminal offences and victimizing Canadians.
Another example of the inappropriate use of conditional sentencing can be found in the case of R. v. Bunn. In this case, the accused, a lawyer, was retained by a Russian lawyer to recover and remit inheritances of money, an estate, from six deceased Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents. In all cases, he converted part of the trust money received from each of the beneficiaries from his trust account to his general account. In other words, he was absconding with the money. Approximately $86,000 was converted through 145 separate transfers or transactions after he had already taken 10% as fees for his services.
At times I have dealt with lawyers and have thought their fees were astronomical on certain occasions, but in this case, after he received 10%, he then went back in and was able through fraud and other ways to abscond with $86,000 from the accounts. The accused was disbarred. He was convicted of six counts of breach of trust. He was sentenced to two years' incarceration.
After trial, but prior to the appeal, Bill C-41 and the conditional sentencing regime came into force. The Court of Appeal allowed the accused's appeal of the sentence and imposed a conditional sentence of two years less a day. The Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal. However, it is interesting to learn what Justice Bastarache said in the dissenting opinion:
It is well established that the focus of the sanction for criminal breach of trust is denunciation and general deterrence...In the past this has required that, absent exceptional circumstances, lawyers convicted of criminal breach of trust have been sentenced to jail...This emphasis on denunciation and general deterrence is, for a number of reasons, particularly important when courts punish lawyers who have committed criminal breach of trust. First, the criminal dishonesty of lawyers has profound effects on the public's ability to conduct business that affect people far beyond the victims of the particular crime...Second, as officers of the court, lawyers are entrusted with heightened duties, the breach of which brings the administration of justice into disrepute....
Judge Bastarache was right. Judge Bastarache realized in his dissenting opinion that what the courts were going to do was minimize one of the fundamental institutions that every democracy depends on, and that is the institution of rule of law and a criminal justice system. Confidence that those who would stand in such a place to represent an individual should not be, on the same hand, victimizing that same individual.
This last example shows that since their creation conditional sentences have been applied in cases where they were not intended by Parliament to be applied and where they certainly should not apply. That is why I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for bringing out in his speech the fact that when we stand in these halls and in this House and talk about the intent of law, the courts and the justices say, “Is this what Parliament meant?” We need to be very clear so that the justice system and the court system recognize that when this was put in place we did not intend much of what the courts are allowing to happen now.
Bill C-9 originally intended to restore confidence and permitted this use in appropriate cases only. However, as amended, Bill C-9 does not offer any guarantee that conditional sentences will not be given in serious cases of violent crime, property crime and drug crime. The bottom line is that the Liberal amendment to Bill C-9, supported by the Bloc and the NDP, does not answer the concern of Canadians. It does not make their homes safer. It do not make their streets safer. It will not restore confidence in the conditional sentence sanction or the administration of justice generally.
If Bill C-9 passes in its present form, this House will have missed an extremely important opportunity to do its duty to ensure greater respect for the law on the part of ordinary Canadians and to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.