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House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member has the support of the Liberals. The speech of the member for Malpeque was tremendous. We have always been big supporters of supply management.

First, does the member see any difference in the scenarios in eastern Canada, which includes Quebec, and western Canada? Are there different environments or is the system of supply management just as valuable?

Second, the Conservatives constantly suggest they support it, but does the member think, through their actions, they are 100% committed and demonstrated that in actions?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, in international negotiations, the Canadian government has maintained the balance required to ensure that we are successful in the end. This balance is achieved by protecting the supply management system. We must stand our ground. Today, we must not send the message that will otherwise be given by the Conservative members—that they would be ready to open the door slightly— if they do not support the Bloc Québécois

I am somewhat surprised by the second part of my colleague's speech. I did not hear any support in the words of the parliamentary secretary. I am thinking of the committee vote where the Conservatives indicated they were against the position adopted.

That is why we are debating the issue in the House today. This situation must be clarified and the correct facts put forward in order to know where everyone stands. Do we or do we not support agriculture in Quebec and supply management in Canada? Do we wish to adopt measures that will weaken the negotiating position of the Government of Canada or do we wish to take action that will demonstrate that we stand by our position and our willingness to act?

I invite the Conservative members to reflect on this and I will close with the following question: will they vote as members who represent Ottawa in their ridings or as true representatives of their ridings in Ottawa?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the division bells having rung:

A recorded division stands deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow, Tuesday, June 13.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2006 / 6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here signed by constituents in the city of Abbotsford in support of legislation similar to a bill that was tabled by the member for Vegreville--Wainwright.

The bill addresses the issue of violence against expectant mothers. It would create two offences where an expectant mother and her unborn child are injured or killed by another person. The petitioners support the legislation that is presently before the House, Bill C-291.

Child ExploitationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a petition signed by more than 12,000 people, calling on the Canadian government to promote International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

These petitioners are telling us that the countries that ratified the convention should enforce it, and those that did not should sign it.

This joint initiative of Children's Care International and Amnesty International is also designed to raise public awareness of the worst forms of child labour, which include slavery, prostitution, and work that is likely to harm the health or safety of children.

I therefore lay these signatures upon the table.

Alaska HighwayPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to introduce a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36(6). This petition is signed by many constituents from Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Wanawan, Pink Mountain, Charlie Lake, Cecil Lake and many other communities in northern Alberta. These petitioners wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that between kilometre 133 and the town of Fort Nelson in my riding, the Alaska Highway is the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada, and that while the economy of our region in northeastern British Columbia is doing very well, the heavy traffic, in particular the logging and oil field trucks, is creating a dangerous situation in the deterioration of the Alaska Highway.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately direct PWGSC to allocate funding and resources to build passing lanes on the Alaska Highway between kilometre 133 and Fort Nelson.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House today and present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Wetaskiwin, many of whom live in the Lacombe, Black Falls and Bentley area, which calls upon Canada to become more accepting of refugees and to play an international leadership role in addressing issues in other countries that lead to people having to leave their homes, and to strengthen our ability to accept refugees in a fair, just and expedient manner.

Rail TransportationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present another petition on the issue of a passenger freight train for the Gaspé.

I will point out that these 700 petitioners, whose names are being added to numerous others, ask that rail passenger and freight service be maintained and enhanced in the Gaspé, which involves the acquisition of the Matapédia-Chandler line as well as Via Rail's capital and operating budgets.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today to present a petition from my riding of Cambridge. These petitioners call upon the government to use every means necessary, including invoking section 33 of the charter, the notwithstanding clause, to ensure that the definition of marriage remains that of one between one man and one woman.

DeltaportPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from residents of Delta concerned about the expansion of Deltaport. They are concerned that air quality in the neighbourhood would suffer if the port were to expand and they are concerned about the noise and glare from the port, the loss of wildlife habitat and the impact of the increased transportation in the community.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on 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.

The bill is, I suppose, in furtherance of one of the government's priorities: to get tough on crime. I believe I am speaking for all parliamentarians when I say that we do want safe streets and communities. Certainly I agree with that statement. However, I cannot agree with the provisions of this bill.

At our disposal as parliamentarians we have a number of tools dealing with crime. This bill is analogous to taking a sledgehammer out of the toolbox when a hammer should be and leaving four other relevant and applicable tools in the toolbox when they should be used in this whole issue of crime prevention and elimination.

As parliamentarians, we make laws, which are the standards that we ask citizens to apply in their day to day lives. In a lot of instances, laws are not followed, which of course leads to the second issue of what happens when the law is not followed, and that of course depends on the severity of the particular law, regulation or rule.

When a serious offence occurs the person is charged, he goes to trial or pleads guilty, and he is sentenced. This sentencing process that we are talking about is an important issue.

Before I became a parliamentarian, I practised law for 25 years. I have been involved in many sentencing issues, both as a prosecutor and as a defence lawyer. I can say right now that sentencing is a extremely complex issue. It involves the accused, the accused's family, and the victim of the crime, as well as society in the larger issue. I can tell members right now that no two cases are alike. A lot of people would like to make a very simple statement that they can make one rule which would involve every sentence that a particular judge has to deal with, but that is simply wrong.

There are certain principles that have to be followed in a sentencing process. The first one, of course, is proportionality. The sentence has to be proportional to the gravity of the offence. The protection of the public, of course, is a very important principle. Everyone is concerned about retribution: that the accused serve a sentence based upon the gravity of the crime, of course, and the possible rehabilitation of the offender.

These principles are all codified in section 178 of the Criminal Code. We as a society leave the actual sentencing up to the judge. The sentence has to be done according to the principles, but again, as I said, no two cases are alike. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, we have to leave some discretion to the judge.

Can the system be improved? Of course it can and that was the reason why the previous government introduced Bill C-2, which did increase certain sentences but dealt with a lot of other issues and the whole issue of crime and crime prevention.

When Bill C-10 came before the House, I listened to the debates, read a lot of the background materials and, at the end of the day, I have concluded that it is the wrong approach.

First of all, I look at what the experts are saying. Our society is not inventing the wheel here. A lot of people study these issues. Here, in Europe and in the United States, they study what works and is effective and what does not work. Almost exclusively, the experts who have studied these issues have come to the conclusion that mandatory minimum sentences in offences like these are not the way to go. That is the position of the Canadian Bar Association, the American Bar Association and most criminologists. Again, I read what they have to say.

The second question I asked myself was if it was effective. What disturbed me the most in the debate was the comments from the justice minister when he introduced the bill. He referred to studies in Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, New York and other states. I did not, but others probed into these studies and determined the results of the studies indicated that they were the exact opposite to what he said in the House.

When we do something like this, we are talking about the law of unintended consequences. We are dealing not with a minimum; we are dealing with a ceiling. We are dealing with more trials, more prisons and more costs to society. Then we have to ask ourselves the basic question. Could the money be spent more efficiently and more economically?

One additional item that concerns me and disturbs me is the whole issue of minority groups. Perhaps one statistic could put the whole debate in perspective with respect to this issue.

At some point today, an aboriginal child will born in Canada, probably in your own city of Winnipeg, Mr. Speaker. According to the statistics, that aboriginal child has a more likely chance of going to prison than going to college. I do not even have to say any more about how the sentencing system and our justice system have treated minorities in our country.

Then it is easy to say if that does not work, what does work? I believe effective sentencing works. We all have to strive toward that. I will not stand in the House and say that the system is perfect. It needs improvement. Perhaps the most important thing we should be looking at is more effective and increased law enforcement.

We have to look, as parliamentarians and as a society, at the causes of crime. What causes people to breach the law? Is it education? Is it poverty? Is it health? These are all factors that have to be taken into consideration as society tries to deal with this problem. I should add too that there are some alarming statements made by certain people in the media, but I believe most people know that crime is in the decrease in Canada.

The issue of civil engagement and crime prevention have to be taken into consideration when we move forward on this issue.

I read the legislation. As I stated, the issue of trying to tie the hands of the judges, which in effect creates a ceiling, not a minimum sentence, is the wrong approach. I do not support it. Most people in the field of sentencing and in the field of criminology do not support it.

I believe we should go back to the drawing board. We should come forward, using all tools at our disposal, tools regarding a more effective and increased law enforcement, the causes of crime, issues we can deal with in society to prevent crime, issues that should be dealt with as a package.

I do not support the bill in its present form. I support the concept of lessening criminal behaviour and I support the principle of safer communities and safer streets, but this is not the way to go.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of my hon. colleague. I would like to have his opinion on the following. Minimum sentences tie the judges' hands. We in the Bloc Québécois believe that they do so unnecessarily because, in our opinion—and I am sure that my hon. colleague is thinking along the same lines—judges remain in the best position to determine what sentence is the most appropriate in light of all the facts of the case. They hear evidence and submissions. They, better than anyone else, should know what sentence would be the best. With this bill, the government would be taking this discretion away from judges.

The second point on which I would like to hear my hon. colleague is the opinion of all crime experts that the use of minimum sentences does not lower the crime rate or the recidivism rate. That is a major reason to oppose Bill C-10.

I would like to hear my hon. colleague on these two points.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the premise of each of the questions. We are tying the hands of the judge if we adopt this legislation.

The whole issue of sentencing has been developed over hundreds of years. Again, I am not going to say it is perfect, but it is based upon certain principles. There are about five or six principles that the judge has to consider, and they are codified in section 108 of the Criminal Code.

The judge is a lawyer and is trained. More important, the judge has heard all the evidence dealing with the particular offence, heard the record of the accused, probably received a psychological assessment on the accused and has received a victim impact statement. For us, as parliamentarians, to later tie the hands of judges and say what they can or cannot do is wrong.

I will conclude with two quick comments.

Again, no two cases are alike. No one in this House, or in any House, should say that they are wrong or that they do not know what they are talking about.

My learned friend spoke about the specialists. I have read a lot of the reports. I have heard the debates here. My learned friend is quite correct. All the people who study these issues state clearly and unequivocally that the mandatory minimum is not effective. That is the reason why we should not pass this legislation.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 1, I had the opportunity to ask the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development two questions regarding pilot project no. 6, which added five weeks of EI benefits in regions with 10% unemployment

This pilot project was launched by the previous government on June 4, 2004. It ended on June 4 of this year.

The current government therefore renewed this pilot project with two criteria. The first concerns regions where there is seasonal work and the second is that regions must have an unemployment rate over 8%.

There are 23 targeted regions. Some of them are in Quebec, but the Montreal area was completely overlooked. Yet, it has an unemployment rate of 9.4% and also meets the criterion of providing seasonal work. In the hospitality industry alone, the number of seasonal workers totalled 73,500 last year.

Thus, for my first question, I would like to know why Montreal was excluded.

Furthermore, the minister tells us that the purpose of pilot projects such as this one is to test the effectiveness of the pilot project itself.

I would like to inform this House that this sampling gave very positive results. The Employment Insurance Commission of Canada assessed the success rate with respect to the target objective: 98% of the people affected by seasonal employment were entitled to this benefit, proportionally to the number of weeks they had accumulated.

My second question is the following: why did the minister renew this pilot project for only 18 months and not as part of all the other EI benefits? We absolutely do not understand it. We must look at why it was renewed for only 18 months.

My third question is: given that there are surpluses in the EI fund and that sums were diverted from it to the tune of $50 billion, then the cost of the program cannot be an issue since it would cost a maximum of $100 million if it were implemented in all the regions. Furthermore, the EI fund generates surpluses itself and always operates on the basis of an annual budget of $16 billion. Therefore, $100 million out of $16 billion is very little.

In closing, I would like the minister to respond to these three questions: why was this pilot project not adopted permanently? Why was it not extended to Montreal? Why was the experience as assessed not taken into account?