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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judiciary.

Topics

Criminal CodeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, it seems that my audience has changed but I will still follow up on the introduction I made earlier to try to convince the government—and I do not know if that is possible—that it is going down the wrong path in continually copying American methods. The methods it is using in this bill are once again based on automatic responses whereas, in dealing with crime, we must do the exact opposite. The issue of delinquency as a whole must be dealt with through an individualized approach to sentencing. It is not a simple issue.

I also noticed something that we see constantly from the current government. Every time it wants to increase sentences or impose minimums, it tells us about the worst cases. Well, it must be understood that when certain sentences are imposed automatically, they apply not only to the worst cases but also to the less serious ones.

Then, when we are given examples of sentences that seem totally unjustified, I do not remember one instance where it was mentioned that even one of these sentences was overturned by the Court of Appeal or that it was even appealed. It must be clearly understood that there are thousands of judges in Canada and that thousands of sentences are handed down every day. In such a system, errors are inevitable and we do have a mechanism that enables us to correct those errors. Under this mechanism, a large number of factors are taken into consideration when imposing a sentence. It seems to me that, if the government wants to change the law, it should demonstrate that the sentences imposed by the appeal courts are not appropriate.

With this bill, the Conservative government is telling us that it entertains the illusion that this piece of legislation will help us achieve the objective—a very ambitious one—and I quote, “of protecting innocent Canadians from future harm”. I am willing to bet my shirt that the government will not succeed. Crime will always exist. What we need to do is look for models that will give us a better way of dealing with crime.

Also, and this is something we have been criticized for in the past—I notice that my audience has changed—we have been asked why opposition to stricter sentences proposed by the government always seems to come from Quebec? That is simply because, in Quebec, we have tried alternative approaches and found out that they work. Quebec's violent crime rate is lower than the Canadian average. The homicide rate in Quebec is also lower than the Canadian average.

As a matter of fact, Quebec did not draw inspiration only from the United States. Probably because of language differences, it tends to look at models offered by various countries, including European and Scandinavian models. These countries still believe in criminology, in the sense that they regard crime as a complex issue. Similarly, general psychology is a complex science with methods of measurement different from those used in exact sciences, physical sciences and even chemistry. Nevertheless, some truths become obvious over time, including the fact that the fear of going to jail is not much of a disincentive for criminals. In fact, I would say that the fear of going to jail is only useful in keeping law-abiding people from straying from the straight and narrow.

I realize that a society where those who break the rules face no punishment whatsoever is likely to experience some slackening. In fact, that happens in societies where the police has no control on crime. But essentially, offenders think differently from people like ouselves, who would figure it is not worth their while to commit a crime because of the risk of a harsher sentence, and tell themselves, “Why take that risk just to get that?”. No, their reasoning is different. These are generally people with a short term outlook on things; they do not think that far ahead.

The department itself, before drafting these bills, asked researchers to establish a list of studies on imprisonment.

They had noticed that it did not reduce crime, and they established a link between longer jail sentences and a slight increase in recidivism. This shows that such an approach is not only useless, it makes things worse. Is this not precisely what we are observing in the United States? Are we really prepared to spend seven times more on incarceration measures to tackle crime, when we know that crime will always exist, but that it is possible to reduce it? Incidentally, it has diminished in Canada.

Before this bill was introduced, my colleague and homonym from Hochelaga, asked the Library of Parliament to prepare a paper on studies dealing with crime. Here are some brief excerpts:

After decades of relatively steady increases, Canada's overall crime rate began to drop significantly in the early 1990s. From 1991 to 2004, crimes reported by police forces dropped by a little over 22%, or by an average of 1.6% per year...The drop in crime was particularly sharp in the 1990s. From 1991 to 2000 alone, the rate dropped by nearly 26%, or an average of a little over 2% per year...The downward trend in the overall crime rate was followed by a period of stability between 2000 and 2002, then a notable increase of 6% in 2003, largely due to the increase in crimes against property. The slight decrease of 1% posted in 2004 appears to indicate a return to the downward trend that started early in the decade.

I often do the test, and I am convinced that I am teaching something new to most people when I say this. Why? Because, when it comes to crime, most people trust daily newspapers. But the fact is that newspapers only report exceptional cases. They do not write about ordinary crime cases.

Certainly if something serious happens—like in the collection of crimes always presented by the member for Wild Rose—such a crime would make the headlines of the daily newspaper. For 30 years I have been watching the opinion polls on crime levels. Crime is going down and people still have the impression it is rising. Crime can be measured, because the police receive complaints from complainants, which they note. They compile them. That is how we get an overview.

I said earlier that Quebec had a completely different attitude from the rest of Canada. So it is not surprising that its representatives in this House present different solutions.

In Quebec, the number of violent crimes is lower than the Canadian average. Quebec has had remarkable success with young offenders, thanks to an individualized approach.

In spite of this success, Quebec was forced a few years ago to adopt the new Canadian policy, a policy that forces judges to follow a path with absurd outcomes.

I remember a judge who told me about a young man who was arrested on the side of the street for trafficking a small amount of drugs with a double agent. It was discovered that he had a cell phone, a car and an apartment, and that he was dressed, if not tastefully, fairly expensively. He had already committed a minor offence, but he had complied with all the conditions of his sentence.

If that had occurred before the reform, I would have said to myself that, since this young man is clearly evolving, it is time for me to intervene and send him to an institution for young offenders for a little while. But I cannot do that because the guidelines tell me that there was not any violence, he fulfilled the conditions of his sentence, the drug offence was minor, and so on. So things were going in the opposite direction.

Quebec, which incarcerated half as many young offenders as Canada, had a crime rate corresponding to half that in the rest of Canada. I would have thought that, in the same country, two different communities that apply different means might observe each other, take a page from each other's best practices and seek to adopt them. But this is not what happened. The preference was to look towards the south.

Could this be because consultation is done in English only and some people are so impressed by news from the south that they want to impose a hard and fast model and not rely on the good judgment of judges? And yet in Quebec, where these measures have been put into practice, there has been a decline not only in youth crime but also in adult crime.

That is why Quebec still objects to this. We are trying to persuade the rest of Canada that the American system, which incarcerates seven times as many people as we do, and where the risk of getting killed is three times higher than in Canada, is not the right way to do things. Better that we should look, as Quebec does, to foreign models such as those in Europe and, in particular, in Scandinavia.

There is another thing. People always think that prison is the solution to crime. Here again, what I see is that some people are so impressed by the economic success of the United States that they envy that country and try to imitate it. Let us do that in other areas, but this is not the area to do it in.

For example, Japan is another country whose economic success is impressive. Are we aware that Japan incarcerates three times fewer people than Canada? That comes to 21 times fewer than the United States. Japan also has the lowest crime rate in the world.

I am not saying that we can reproduce the unique social context that exists in Japan here, but this is one more demonstration that systematically and blindly locking people up is not the right solution. The real solution for fighting crime lies in individualizing sentences. When a crime has been committed, we must first assess the seriousness of the crime, and then look at the circumstances in which it was committed, the motivation behind it, whether the person was led into committing the crime and whether there is a possibility that he or she can be rehabilitated. Sometimes we will arrive at totally different solutions.

In my law practice, I once got someone a suspended sentence for three counts of trafficking in heroin, in a case in which the principal offender got 12 years in prison. I guarantee not only that the suspended sentence was justified, but also that it had a successful outcome for that individual, if I recall correctly. That person has been completely rehabilitated. She wrote to me at Christmas for years, to send me photographs of her little family. I was very moved to learn, when I met her by chance 15 years later in a restaurant where she was with her children, that she had given her eldest daughter the same name as my eldest daughter, Sophie.

Knee-jerk reactions are not a solution, particularly when there are serious offences that cover all sorts of situations.

I acknowledge that kidnapping is a serious crime. Abducting a child is indeed serious. Kidnapping a child for ransom is different, however, from a father taking his child from the mother who has custody when he believes that she is not fit to care for the child and the child wants to go with him. Of course it is a serious matter to break the law. The crime of kidnapping covers extremely different situations, however, as we can see.

The same is true for sexual touching. There are different kinds of sexual touching. Certainly, violent sexual touching is unacceptable, because it is much more serious. Once again, this is a crime that can be committed in more serious and less serious ways. The proposal is to treat them all the same way, and it is that knee-jerk reaction that we oppose, because we have achieved better results in Quebec by taking an individualized approach to sentencing.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 9th, 2006 / 3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there have been discussions and I believe that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study of Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another act, twelve (12) members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be authorized to travel to Toronto on November 23, 2006, and that the necessary staff do accompany the Committee.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, similarly, there have been discussions and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study of the challenges facing the Canadian Manufacturing Sector, twelve (12) members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology be authorized to travel to Halifax, Montreal, Granby, Oshawa, Toronto, Windsor and Edmonton, from November 20 to 24, 2006, and that the necessary staff do accompany the Committee.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(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

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite intently to the speech by the Bloc member. I want him to know from the outset that I respect the years that he put into the justice system as a crown prosecutor, as a defence attorney, and probably some other avenues.

I am assuming we are fairly close to the same age. I spent the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in the education field, in the schools working with children. I remember in the 1960s and 1970s we allowed kids to go to the parks and play by themselves. We allowed them to go to the corner store to pick up some school supplies. We did not worry about their safety, but as the years progressed, it got worse and worse and less safe and more and more problems developed. All through those years there was a steady increase. I know he is talking about how much crime is really down, but I do not really believe that. I know that a lot of crime does not even get reported any more. And if it does not get reported, it cannot be in the stats and that is too bad.

During our generation, does the member not agree that we sort of let things get out of control with drugs, with pornography, particularly child pornography, where it grew and grew over those years that he talked about when things were really bad?

I am suggesting to the hon. member that today it is extremely bad when our children, and I am talking about babies and little kids, are being attacked, assaulted, raped and murdered by those evil people out there who like doing it. They like doing it because they are fed through the pornography against children, through the avenues that are available.

Our generation let it get completely out of control. I am ashamed of that and I would think that the member would be too. I never could understand why when we work hard to get rid of child pornography which feeds and poisons those minds that we would always end up being blocked and we could not get it done for 13 years. There is always somebody who objects. How could anyone object to getting rid of those kinds of things?

For Pete's sake, let us get serious. Let us clean up this mess. People who attack children should go to jail and never come out again.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure the member for Wild Rose and tell him that in Quebec, people who attack children are put in prison, and that if they do it again, they will certainly spend long years in prison.

Unfortunately, that is perhaps the big difference between us. My personal experience is totally different from his. I raised children. They went to the park. I did not always go with them, and I would even say that most of the time I did not go with them. They were never attacked. There are attacks, but they are relatively rare.

I remember the newspapers of those days, and last weekend I was watching the movie Monica la Mitraille. By the way, I recommend the movie to everyone because it is a very good Quebec film. There was a real machine-gun Monica. I saw her in court when I was a young man. That was the era of armed bank robberies. The movie also shows how a young person turns into a criminal. In any event, I remember the beginning of my law practice. There were bank robberies every week. Today, bank robberies have almost totally stopped because preventive measures have become much more effective.

If we are afraid that children walking in a park will be attacked, it would be much cheaper and much more effective to pay for supervisors so that the children can play in safety. I am convinced that measures for preventing crime are effective.

My colleague does not believe that crime is on the decline because he does not read the statistics. He does not trust the people who compile data on crime. He says that people do not report crimes. In my experience, someone whose child has been attacked or a woman who was injured on the street generally complains to the police. Obviously, that is the basis for the statistics.

Increasingly, sex crimes are being reported. When I was young, the crime of incest was almost never reported. Today, it is. A great many sexual assaults, such as touching or sexual harassment were not reported. In contrast, today they are; but rape and violent crime are reported as often as they always were.

I would really like to know whether the member for Wild Rose is aware of someone who knows a girl who was violently attacked and who refused to report it to the police because she thought they would do nothing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleague for his speech, which I found extremely interesting.

I, too, was quite surprised to hear our Conservative colleague's statements. He claimed it is dangerous to live in Quebec and walk around there. I am from a riding in southwestern Montreal. The Saint-Henri neighbourhood used to have a terrible reputation. Now, people from all over Quebec are coming to live there because it is a peaceful haven where people feel safe. I think there is a disconnect between reality and what some people say to scare others.

I find that in Canada, there are two very different ways of viewing the fight against crime. For years, Quebec has been working to prevent crime, while the rest of Canada has focused on suppressing it. This has happened a lot, and we have seen it with young offenders. The work Quebec is trying to do is always hampered by the federal government.

I would like my Bloc Québécois colleague to tell me if there is some other way Quebec could go about making its own laws the way it wants to and its own choices about how to handle crime, instead of having the federal government impose its way of doing things.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the person who asked that question already knows the answer. There is obviously another solution.

I am a bit saddened to say so, because I have personally always been a proponent of a sovereignty-association, like most Quebeckers, I am sure: we do not hate Canada or Canadians. What we do not like is the Canadian Constitution, which is assimilating us slowly but surely. That is what we want to separate from.

Generally speaking, we would like to maintain relations with the rest of Canada. I have always believed that we could, among other things, share the same criminal law, but not if Canada wants to continually align itself with the United States, which is going down a terrible path. The United States now incarcerates people as much as Russia does, which was once unthinkable. We could explain why the things that seem to happen in Wild Rose do not happen where we are from, but I suspect the hon. member for Wild Rose may have been exaggerating.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member failed to address a lot of things. If he thinks for a minute that there are more drugs in Wild Rose than there are in Quebec ridings or that child pornography does not exist in Quebec like it does everywhere else, he is living on a different planet, not a different nation. He does not address that. Why is it that his party is so reluctant to come down hard on these elements that obviously are a real threat to our society because they poison the minds of individuals who would dare carry out a threat of violent crime?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there are fewer drugs or less pornography, but in my experience, I do not think I know anyone who prevents their children from going to the park for fear they will be attacked. And if that really happens in Quebec, the reaction is instant: more police are sent on patrol. I think that is a lot smarter.

The solution is not to hit hard, but to hit effectively. Being effective means trying to understand why people commit crimes and to address the root of the problem.

I do not have a lot of time to explain it, but that is the difference between Quebec and Canada. Thank God we have less crime in Quebec. It would be possible to have even less if they took our example.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

We have heard all the rhetoric from the other side time and time again. I have seen this in committee. I have the privilege to serve on the justice committee. We have seen on Bill C-10, which would bring in mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes, how all of the opposition, the NDP, the Liberals and Bloc, are united in opposing getting tough on crime, even though the NDP and the Liberals ran on a platform in the last election of getting tough on crime. Actually, they were promising to bring in measures that were even tougher than what our bill contains. For them to now say that our bill goes too far, is ridiculous.

We saw the same thing with Bill C-9, the bill that would have brought an end to conditional sentences for people who commit serious crimes, like arson, break and enter into a home and car theft. Again the opposition ganged together to gut that bill.

I think Canadians are saying enough is enough. Three of the four parties in the House were elected with a mandate to get tougher on crime. The NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives said that we would get tougher on crime.

A few months later, we brought forward Bill C-9 dealing with conditional sentences, Bill C-10 dealing with mandatory minimum sentences, and legislation dealing with raising the age of protection. When our party is putting forward the legislative initiatives to protect Canadians, we see the opposition parties dragging their feet, standing in the way and flip-flopping, when they should be cooperating with us so we can make Canada safer.

I reject the premise of some of the remarks today that crime is not getting worse. The crime statistics that were just released yesterday say that violent crime is up, gun crime is up and gang-related crime is up. I do not say that to be an alarmist. It is just that we on this side of the House have decided that we will face the facts that Canadians want us to take crime seriously, that crime is serious and that effective measures need to be put in place.

I want to speak today to Bill C-27, a bill involving dangerous offenders, a bill that addresses the worst of the worst, as it were, when it comes to criminal offenders, those who prey on innocent Canadians, those who have been shown to be perhaps repeat offenders and those who commit the most serious crimes. This is not about any low level crime. It is the most serious crimes and the most serious offenders.

The bill responds to our government's goal of tackling crime by strengthening measures to protect families from offenders who are of a high risk to offend sexually or violently in our communities. Most of these amendments are the result of changes that the provinces, the territories and other stakeholders, including victim's groups, have supported. That is important to note.

The bill amends the dangerous offender and long term offender provisions, as well as sections 810.1 and 810.2 of the Criminal Code dealing with peace bonds.

The dangerous and long term offender amendments in the bill seek to strengthen and enhance those provisions. One of the amendments deals with applications for a dangerous offender hearing under part XXIV the Criminal Code. It requires a prosecutor to advise a court, as soon as possible after a finding of guilt, which is important to note, and before the sentence is imposed, whether it intends on proceeding with an application.

However, for this provision to apply, the prosecutor must be of the opinion that the predicate, or current offence, is a serious personal injury offence as defined in the code, and the offender was convicted at least twice previously of a designated offence as newly defined in section 752, and was sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment for these prior convictions. This person has to have committed a serious crime for which he or she were tried and sentenced twice before for this particular provision to come into play. When that is the case, the crown prosecutor must indicate whether he or she will be pursuing the designation of dangerous offender.

Another amendment ensures that a court cannot refuse to order an assessment where it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offender might be found to be a dangerous or long term offender. This was a technical amendment recommended by provincial and territorial ministers of justice.

The bill also imposes a reverse onus on the offender in some situations where a crown prosecutor has sought a dangerous offender designation. If a prosecutor is able to satisfy a court that an individual was convicted of a third primary designated serious sexual or violent offence, one of the most serious offences under the Criminal Code, the crown is deemed to have met its case that the individual is a dangerous offender and the individual must then prove on a balance of probabilities that he or she does not meet those criteria. We are shifting the onus, after a third offence, on to the offenders to show why they should not be designated as dangerous offenders. This brings some balance and fairness into our system.

However, the bill also clarifies that even when the conditions to make a dangerous offender designation have been met, the court must consider whether a lesser sentence, including a long term offender designation, would be adequate and neither the prosecutor nor the offender has the onus of proof in that matter.

These amendments clearly strengthen the dangerous and long term offender provisions and will ensure that prosecutors can more readily seek a designation for violent and/or sexual criminals who will in turn receive some of the toughest sanctions in the Criminal Code.

I also want to touch on peace bonds. Bill C-27 seeks to amend the provisions related to section 810.1 peace bonds for the prevention of sexual offences against children. The member for Wild Rose spoke passionately about his desire to protect children from sexual offenders and this bill deals with just that. I commend him and all members who have taken this up and are concerned about protecting children. Also, section 810.2 peace bonds target more serious violent and/or sexual offences.

These types of peace bonds are preventive in nature. They are instruments that are available to law enforcement officials to protect the public. It is not necessary for an offender to have committed a criminal offence for a judge to make such an order. These orders require individuals to agree to specific conditions to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. They aim to protect individuals and the general public from persons who are a danger of committing sexual offences against children or are likely to commit a serious personal injury offence. These situations we know all too often do exist.

Once granted, failure or refusal to enter into peace bonds could result in an immediate term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. They can be renewed and breaches of any of the conditions in the peace bond would be considered a criminal offence and can be prosecuted in any provincial or territorial court with criminal jurisdiction, providing up to a two year prison sentence.

Specifically on a peace bond, where there is fear of a sexual offence, the current section of the code allows anyone who fears, on reasonable grounds, that another person will commit an offence under specific provisions of the code against a person under the age of 14 years, may lay an information before a provincial court judge for the purpose of having the defendant enter into a peace bond. The specific offences covered include sexual assaults, sexual assaults with a weapon, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touch and child pornography offences.

Obviously, those are very serious offences and this bill seeks to protect young children from them. The peace bond can set out certain areas, for example, where an offender is not allowed to go.

Bill C-27 also clarifies and outlines several additional conditions available to a judge if the judge considers it desirable to secure good conduct from the offender.

Our new government was just elected in January. We said that we would tackle crime to make our streets safer. What is a bit ironic is that the NDP and the Liberals also said that they would take steps to tackle crime but we have seen no evidence of that so far in this session.

Bill C-27 is one of the many initiatives the government has taken toward attaining the goal of making our streets safer. We consider offenders, who are at high risk of offending sexually or violently, to be a very serious threat to public safety.

I support this bill, as do all members on this side. I hope other members of the House will see how important these provisions are and how they are necessary measures that can be implemented as soon as possible to protect Canadians, protect children and protect society from the worst offenders.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure to hear a speech that makes sense on this particular issue. It sort of gives one a little more confidence after what has been happening over the past little while.

I wonder if the member could comment on what happened in my riding during the last election. I think most people in this place know that I have been working on a lot of justice issues for quite a few years. Yes, I am pretty passionate about some of them, particularly crimes against children. However, when I was campaigning in the last election we hardly ever entered into any debates on the subject because the Liberal candidate and the NDP candidate could only agree and cheer along with me on everything that I said with regard to getting tough on crime. I thought to myself that this would work out pretty good because, if I and my party went back to Parliament as the government, we would get things done knowing we had the support of the guys on the left. I thought this was looking good for Canada but, from what I am hearing today, it is looking sad for Canada. I wonder if the member would agree with me.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have consulted with many of my colleagues and we found, disturbingly, that was the case in many of our ridings. I know it was the case across the country. It was certainly the case when we looked at the platforms of the national parties because both the NDP platform and the Liberal platform called for getting tough on crime.

I want to use one quick example. Our bill on mandatory minimum sentences would bring in, for the most serious offences involving gun crimes, three, seven and then ten year escalating sentences. The proposal put forward by the NDP was to have a four year mandatory minimum sentence for any firearms offence, serious and non-serious, on the first offence. The Liberals were proposing a doubling of the current mandatory minimum sentence from four years to eight years. Our bill brings in what we feel are constitutional measures, proportional measures, escalating so that on the first offence the sentence would be less severe than on the second and so on. It ramps up in severity. The more someone repeats the offence, the more severe the penalty.

The NDP and the Liberal platform went way beyond what we are proposing right now and yet they are not supporting any of our legislation that is designed to protect Canadians. Why will they not get on board?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I just have to point out, from an NDP point of view, that sometimes the government does not go far enough in getting tough on crime.

My colleague has not been listening if he has not heard some of the speeches from colleagues on the benches at this end of the House on the bill seeking to seize the proceeds of crime, the assets of terrorists, because we cannot understand why the government has gone soft on that bill. We think we should be able to seize the proceeds of crime, whether it is a motorcycle from the Hell's Angels or some other item from an organized crime figure. We should not just be able to seize their bank accounts. We should be able to seize their luxury mansions, their speedboats and their tricked out Escalade cars. If they cannot prove they purchased those luxury items through legitimate earnings, we should be able to seize them and put the reverse onus on the crook to prove they did not buy them through the proceeds of crime.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Why don't we talk about this bill?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

I am only pointing this out, Mr. Speaker, because the member down there wandered way off the subject of the day to accuse us of not being tough enough on crime when in actual fact it is those members who are going soft on organized crime. I do not know who they are worried about making angry.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is a little rich. I can understand the hon. member's concern about his party having a record of being soft on crime. We only need to look at the evidence. The Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc are ganging up in committee to frustrate any attempt to get tough on crime. They gutted Bill C-9 on conditional sentencing. They opposed mandatory minimum sentences when they said during the election that they would be in favour of them. Now, on Bill C-27, which deals with the most violent and most serious offenders, people who have a third time serious offence, those members are not willing to get tough on these individuals. However, we are.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace).

Our government has already presented a number of important measures aimed at furthering our key election commitment to tackle crime. Among many other promises in our election platform, we said we would “create a presumption-of-dangerous-offender designation for anyone convicted and sentenced to federal custody for three violent or sexual offences”. Bill C-27 seeks to fulfill this specific election promise. We said we would do it, and we are doing it.

Our Conservative government believes in treating criminals justly, but justice demands that after repeatedly offending against society, violent criminals must be stopped. After three strikes, the onus is on the violent criminal to prove he is no longer a danger to society. We do not believe in the revolving door justice that the Liberals promoted over the past 13 years, a system whereby serious offenders were able to commit violent and sexual crimes repeatedly and then were set free repeatedly to victimize even more Canadians.

We believe the primary responsibility of government is to protect Canadians. That is exactly what Bill C-27 will help us do. Bill C-27 strengthens existing measures that are available to protect our loved ones, our neighbours and our communities from repeat offenders.

I am going to get into some technical aspects of the bill, but they are actually very important.

The first portion of the bill deals with applications for dangerous and long term offender hearings under part XXIV of the Criminal Code. The amendments impose a duty on prosecutors to advise a court whether they intend to proceed with a dangerous or long term offender application as soon as possible after a finding of guilt, and before sentencing, when the following criteria have been met: first, they are of the opinion that the predicate or current offence is a “serious personal injury offence” as defined in section 752; second, the offender was convicted at least twice previously of a “designated offence” as newly defined in section 752 and was sentenced to at least two years for each of those convictions.

Under the current legislative framework, a court will order a designation hearing based on whether the individual has been convicted of a serious personal injury offence and whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the individual will be found to be a dangerous or long term offender.

An amendment recommended by provincial and territorial ministers of justice ensures that a court cannot refuse to order an assessment when it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offender might be found to be a dangerous or long term offender.

As well, an amendment is made to mandate a court, following an application by a prosecutor if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be a dangerous or long term offender, to order a psychiatric assessment before the hearing can proceed. This was previously done at the discretion of the court, but no longer.

Another amendment allows the court to extend up to 30 days the period within which a report must be filed if there are reasonable grounds to do so.

Of particular interest to members of the House may be the amendments in the bill providing for a reverse onus in dangerous offender designation hearings.

The amendments provide that the Crown is deemed to have satisfied the court that the offender meets the prerequisites for a dangerous offender designation once the court is satisfied of the following four principles: that the offender has had two prior convictions from the new list of 12 serious sexual or violent primary designated offences in section 752; that the previous convictions carried a sentence of at least two years; that the current or predicate offence must also be one of those primary offences; and finally, that the predicate offence would otherwise merit at least a two year sentence.

There are some serious hurdles here that need to be overcome, but we are confident that they can be overcome.

However, the amendments give the offender an opportunity to rebut this presumption on a balance of probabilities. The bill also clarifies that even when the conditions to make a dangerous offender designation have been met, the court must consider whether a lesser sentence, including a long term offender designation, would be adequate, and neither the prosecutor nor the offender has the onus of proof in that matter.

These amendments will enable prosecutors to more readily seek a designation for violent and/or sexual criminals. They will also encourage consistency in prosecuting when considering a dangerous or long term offender designation.

I would now like to speak briefly about the amendments to the provisions dealing with peace bonds. Bill C-27 amends section 810.1, dealing with peace bonds for the prevention of sexual offences against children, and section 810.2, dealing with peace bonds for more serious violent and sexual offences.

Peace bonds are tools available to law enforcement for public protection against high risk individuals who are likely to commit a sexual offence against children or personal injury to others. Current sections 810.1 and 810.2 of the Criminal Code may allow anyone who has fears on reasonable grounds to lay an information before a provincial court judge for the purpose of having the defendant enter into a peace bond to keep the peace and to comply with any other conditions the court might impose that are designed to protect the public from future harm.

The section 810.1 peace bond is designed to protect against sexual offences against children under the age of 14, while section 810.2 targets individuals who may commit “a serious personal injury offence”. A serious personal injury offence is defined in the Criminal Code as including offences that are pursued by way of indictment, such as first degree or second degree murder involving violence, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger life or safety, or where the offender could be sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment or more.

Alternatively, a serious personal injury offence also includes a conviction for sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon or aggravated sexual assault. Under the current legislative framework, a judge may order that a person enter into either of these peace bonds for a period not exceeding 12 months if the judge is satisfied that the informant has reasonable grounds to fear that another person will commit a relevant offence. This means a sexual offence against a child for the section 810.1 peace bond or a serious personal injury against another person for the section 810.2 peace bond.

The amendments that we are bringing forward significantly extend the maximum duration of these peace bonds, from 12 to 24 months in certain situations.

For the section 810.1 peace bond, this longer peace bond will be available where a judge is also satisfied that the person was convicted previously of a sexual offence in respect of a victim who is under the age of 14.

For the section 810.2 peace bond, the longer duration can apply where the court is satisfied that the offender has previously been convicted of a serious personal injury offence. Currently, the judge can also order that the defendant comply with any conditions that are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure the offender does not commit harm. These often include conditions to not have contact with potential victims or to stay away from certain places and to report regularly to the police or probation workers.

The amendments that we are putting forward will clarify that broader conditions can be imposed on defendants than those that are currently described. The additional conditions outlined in the amendments relating to both types of peace bonds include requiring a defendant to, for example, participate in treatment programs or wear an electronic monitoring device if the Attorney General consents, or remain within a specific geographic area unless permission to leave is granted by a judge, or remain at a residence at specific times, or abstain from consuming illegal drugs, alcohol or intoxicating substances. Clearly we are placing more options before the courts to prevent people from reoffending.

In addition, the very subsections in the two provisions regarding the types of conditions that can be considered will be amended so that they are worded more consistently. There are a number of wording differences between sections 810.1 and 810.2.

While there are certainly differences in who these provisions target, many of the wording differences have caused some difficulties in interpretation in the courts. As such, all provinces and territories have requested amendments that would provide a more uniform approach.

It is proposed, for example, that the judge must now consider, for both types of peace bonds, where they previously did so only for 810.2, whether it is desirable in the interests of safety to prohibit the defendant from possessing certain items, including firearms, or whether it is desirable to require the defendant to report to the correctional authority of a province or police authority.

The amendments in Bill C-27 will aid prosecutors considering a dangerous or long term offender designation. The bill will also enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to supervise and control offenders longer and more stringently if they are at high risk of reoffending.

Our three strikes law, Bill C-27, puts the protection of the public first, ends revolving door justice for violent offenders, and meets our election promise to Canadians. I ask all members to support this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague to clarify something, not only for me but for any Canadian who may be observing these proceedings.

My understanding of the provisions contained under Bill C-27 is that if someone is convicted a third time for a dangerous or sexual offence, the onus will be on that individual to try to demonstrate or prove to the courts why he or she should not be considered a dangerous offender.

In other words, if someone has been convicted of a rape for the first time, goes to jail, gets out on parole, again rapes another child or young person, is convicted the second time, goes to jail, gets out and is convicted a third time for rape, that individual would have to prove to the courts why he or she should not be considered a dangerous offender. That seems to me to be eminently reasonable.

What I would like the hon. colleague to comment on is this. My understanding is that the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals will be voting against this bill.

Once again, if someone is a convicted three-time rapist, not accused but convicted, that person would then have to make application to the courts as to why he or she would not be considered a dangerous offender. The onus would be on that individual under this bill.

My understanding is that the opposition parties, all of them, for some strange reason that is totally unfathomable to me, will be voting against this legislation that is designed to protect citizens and victims. I ask my colleague if I am on the right track. Should I believe my ears? Is that exactly what is going to happen? Are they going to vote against this legislation?