Mr. Speaker, to finish up on that last point before I begin my remarks, there are multiple precedents in the Criminal Code for reverse onus provisions. Moreover, the burden is on the accused, an accused who has already been found guilty of the crime. That is key. The person has already been found guilty.
The bill is not stupid. It is the legal analysis of the hon. member opposite that more readily meets this description.
It is humorous to watch the member anticipate, almost with glee, the efforts of defence lawyers. He talks about the amount of time he spent in court, but who we really need to be listening to are the citizens of Canada who send us to this place, who sit and watch this on television and who may have spent no time in the courtroom, but who know, because common sense tells them, that this is the right thing to do for people who commit multiple, heinous crimes. We are talking about the worst of the worst here. We are talking about the Peter Whitmores of this world.
This is part of what sparked this type of courageous bill from the Minister of Justice. We are talking about locking up indeterminately, for at least seven years, the worst of the worst. Canadians coast to coast to coast know it is the right thing to do. It is only the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP members who do not know that it is the right thing to do.
It is my privilege today to speak in favour of Bill C-27, which proposes to strengthen and clarify certain provisions relating to dangerous and long term offenders as well as two types of peace bonds. This bill seeks to accomplish the following reforms.
First, it proposes a number of changes to the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code. These changes are designed to address concerns that since 2003 there have been problems encountered in securing dangerous offender designations. These changes include a new reverse onus provision, a new provision that codifies the determination of fitness of sentence, a new declaration provision and some procedural changes regarding the psychiatric assessment.
Second, this bill will introduce a number of amendments to toughen the sections 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds that allow police and crown prosecutors to impose extensive conditions on individuals in our communities who have a high risk of committing serious sexual or violent offences.
Certainly these reforms are significant in the overall context of offender management, which is the federal responsibility of Correctional Service Canada, or CSC, within the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. My speech today will focus on the Correctional Service, Canada's management of high risk offenders, and how the proposed provisions will assist these officials to monitor and supervise criminals who are at risk to commit violent and/or sexual offences.
The role of CSC is very important to highlight in the context of the amendments to the sentencing legislation. CSC is generally responsible for the management of all offenders who receive federal sentences of detention, that is, sentences of two years or more in a penitentiary.
Once an offender is sentenced, the role of CSC commences, in balancing assisting offenders in their rehabilitation with measures of control. This role continues throughout the duration of the sentence. Public safety is the paramount consideration.
Upon intake, each offender is assessed to determine appropriate interventions or programs. The assessment is multi-faceted and incorporates risk-based historical factors as well as the need for correctional intervention.
Risk-based historical factors are derived from tools such as criminal records and any sex offence history, as well as guidelines established by the Correctional Service to assess serious harm. The need for correctional intervention is determined through an analysis of factors such as employment, marital and family status, substance abuse, community functioning and the attitude of the offender.
The factors used to determine intervention are dynamic. As such, they require continuous monitoring to establish risks for reoffending posed by the offender at any given time. When all the factors are considered, offenders can be identified as high risk, the level of intervention required to achieve safe and timely reintegration into society can be determined, and a correctional plan can be established for the offender.
The correctional plan provides information about the management of an offender's sentence from beginning to end. It may include correctional interventions such as the referral to one of a range of accredited correctional programs, including the violence prevention program or the national substance abuse program, in order to meet the varying needs of offenders.
Other interventions may include increased levels of contact between an offender and a parole officer, psychological counselling, and community based substance abuse programs. These interventions are crucial in assisting the successful reintegration of offenders.
I have briefly outlined the role of the Correctional Service at intake. I will now speak about parole offenders generally and how this relates to the legislation before the House today.
Generally, an offender may or may not be granted parole eligibility by a judge in accordance with the Criminal Code. Offenders who are granted parole eligibility must serve one-third of their sentence before they are eligible to be released on parole. For certain violent offenders a judge may impose parole eligibility at one-half of the sentence or 10 years, whichever is less. For dangerous offenders, there is no parole eligibility for the first seven years and then every two years thereafter.
The offences that carry a parole eligibility requirement of one-half of the offender's sentence must be pursued by way of indictment and may not be a minimum punishment, and the offender must receive a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more. These offences include some of the most egregious crimes, such as sexual interference and sexual exploitation involving victims under 14 years of age.
The paroled release of an offender has a graduated approach rather than a cold release into the community. For instance, conditions may be recommended to the National Parole Board, such as imposing a curfew on the offender, to reduce the risk that the parolee will reoffend.
Offenders who have not been granted parole eligibility under the Criminal Code are eligible for statutory release. This is an inmate's legal entitlement, with exceptions for inmates serving life or indeterminate sentences to be released into the community after serving two-thirds of their sentences.
All federal offenders are to be reviewed for parole by the National Parole Board, if eligible, unless they waive this right. The board, in determining parole, is guided by a list of principles, including that the protection of society is the paramount consideration in all cases. The board must also consider certain criteria to grant parole. It must be of the opinion that an offender will not reoffend.
The National Parole Board must consider whether there is an undue risk to society before the expiration of the offender's sentence. It must also be satisfied that the release of an offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender into society as a law-abiding citizen.
For dangerous offenders, the onus is on the offender to prove that he or she poses no risk to the public if parole is granted. Dangerous offenders are very rarely granted even limited parole. According to the National Parole Board, about 99% of all dangerous offender parole applications are rejected outright. This compares to, for example, parole applications for offenders convicted of first degree and second degree murder, whose parole applications are denied about 65% of the time.
As a result, the dangerous offender indeterminate sentence is often referred to as the toughest penalty in Canadian criminal law. Three main areas are considered during the board's review: an assessment of an offender's criminal and social history; the offender's institutional behaviour and results of interventions; and the release plan and community management strategy.
With respect to an offender's criminal and social history, many factors are assessed, such as the details of the offence, criminal history, substance abuse, and physical and mental health. Institutional behaviour and intervention assessment considers any evidence of a change in the offender as a result of the benefit of any treatment or program participation while incarcerated, as well as the offender's understanding of the current offence and previous criminal behaviour.
When assessing the release plan and community management strategy, National Parole Board members will consider the availability of programs or counselling, supervision controls, and whether special conditions are required to manage risk factors in the community.
Given all of these considerations and criteria, along with internal board policies, parole may not be granted to those offenders who are viewed as high risk and represent an undue risk to reoffend.
Canadians across the country have told us that they want to take action on crime. With this landmark legislation, we are delivering, but we cannot do the job alone. We need the support of the opposition MPs to help us pass this important legislation that we have introduced to tackle crime.
Despite grand overtures and rhetoric, the opposition has done little to actually get tough on crime in this Parliament. The opposition talked a lot about getting tough on crime during the election campaign, but this is really about what happens after the election. It is about how members stand in the House and represent their constituents and how they vote.
There is only one party that is sticking up for safe streets and safe communities and sticking up for the safety of our children and our seniors, and that is the Conservative Party of Canada and this government. I call upon the opposition to stop watering down crime legislation and do as it promised in the election campaign. Let us get on with the job of making our streets safe for all Canadians.
I would like to mention a few members in the House who are on board. They know the importance of getting tough on crime. First of all, they are led by the Minister of Justice, but we also have the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, the member for Wild Rose, the member for Cambridge, the member for Northumberland—Quinte West, the member for Oxford, the member for Okanagan—Shuswap, and the list goes on with every single member on this side of the House. I see the member for Macleod looking at me. I see the member for Vegreville—Wainwright. They all want credit and they are all working extremely hard on this file to get tough on crime. I wish the members opposite would join us in that venture.
I thought I was going to have 10 minutes, but it turns out that I have 20 minutes so I want to talk to the House a little about how crime affects people in my riding of Palliser and across the entire province of Saskatchewan.
In case members do not know, Saskatchewan continues to be the crime capital of Canada under an NDP government. For the information of the House and the members opposite, I would like to let Canadians know what life is like under an NDP government.
Per capita, Saskatchewan's overall crime rate is higher than Ontario's. Saskatchewan is the murder capital of Canada. That is shocking. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of violent offences of any province in Canada. Saskatchewan continues to have the highest property crime rate in Canada. Crime rates for robbery in my home city of Regina are the third highest of any city in the country. Regina has the highest number of car thefts in Canada, again per capita.
All of us in this chamber and everyone watching at home recognize that this is a disgrace. The people of Palliser and the people of Saskatchewan have a right to feel safe in their homes and on their streets. Instead, every year they find that they live in the most dangerous province in Canada, thanks to years of provincial NDP and federal Liberal governments.
One would think that members of the opposition, when presented with a bill like Bill C-27, would support our government's tough new measures to crack down on dangerous offenders. Again, we are talking about the worst of the worst. We are talking about two dozen individuals a year. That is what we are talking about.
The members opposite and the members in the NDP refuse to support this bill, a bill that puts the onus on offenders who have already been convicted of three violent or sexual offences to justify why they should be released into a community. This is perfectly reasonable.
People at home recognize that it is perfectly reasonable. In fact, many of my constituents have contacted me wondering why we give people three chances. This is the Canadian way. We have a heart and we try to rehabilitate people, but there is a certain point at which we have to say enough is enough. Canadians are with us. To me and to the citizens of Palliser, the approach of this government makes a lot of sense.
That is not what we are hearing from the opposition benches today. I cannot believe that those members are not going to support this bill. Canada's new government is ready to take immediate action to get tough on dangerous offenders. I ask the members opposite, particularly the members of the NDP, to stand up today and join our efforts.
I ask that they do the right thing and support our efforts to make our neighbourhoods safe, but perhaps that is wishful thinking. After all, let us look at the record of the NDP when it comes to crime and criminal justice bills. The NDP joined with the Liberals to gut an important piece of our government's legislation, Bill C-9, which would have eliminated house arrest for arsonists, car thieves and criminals who break into the homes of our citizens.
It sounds perfectly reasonable to me that if someone burns down a building, steals a car or breaks into someone's home, they should probably go to jail. The members in the opposition parties do not think so. They think these offenders should be eligible to serve their sentences perhaps in the comfort of their own living rooms. Canadians know that is wrong.
I know the NDP members like to advocate softer sentences for criminals and make excuses for why we should not get tough on crime but Canadians understand that gutting important crime bills and failing to stand behind legislation, like Bill C-27, is simply wrong.
When it comes to Bill C-27, the NDP justice critic did not do the right thing and voice his support for our bill. Instead, he criticized the Conservative government for bringing forward legislation to target dangerous offenders. He suggested that the bill, including its reverse onus provisions, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, during the last election campaign the NDP said that it supported a reverse onus on bail for all gun related crimes. The NDP members cannot have it all ways. They cannot say one thing during an election campaign and then do a flip-flop once they come to this chamber. While I am on this topic, I should mention that the former Liberal justice minister also dismissed this bill outright. It is shameful.
It is clear that the NDP are content to say anything to get elected but when it comes to standing behind their words and doing the right thing they simply cannot be trusted. I think the facts speak for themselves. There is only one party in Canada today that is standing up for safer communities, safer neighbourhoods and safer streets and that is the Conservative Party of Canada and this new government.
I am so proud to support Bill C-27 on behalf of the citizens of Palliser. It is the right thing to do. It is the tough action on crime that Palliser residents have called for. What I hear all the time is that enough is enough, and this is the right thing to do.
I would like to take this opportunity during Remembrance Week and with Remembrance Day on Saturday to urge all Canadians to share the story of remembrance and to take the time to remember our veterans and those who currently serve in the Canadian Forces around the world, including our brave men and women in Afghanistan. The veterans and the members of the Canadian Forces are people to whom we owe everything that we enjoy today. We owe everything to those individuals. I urge members to take the time to remember, as I am sure all Canadians will.