Debates of Oct. 26th, 2007
House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bills.
- Question Period
- Tackling Violent Crime Act
- University of Lethbridge
- Foreign Affairs
- François Beaudoin
- International Trade
- Indian Residential Schools
- Confederation College
- David Adams
- Employment Insurance
- Riding of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
- Arctic Sovereignty
- Veterans Week
- ALS Society of Ontario
- Canadian Federation of Students
- Unemployed Workers
- Official Languages
- Liberal Party of Canada
- The Environment
- Elections Canada
- Nuclear Energy
- The Environment
- Elections Canada
- The Environment
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Veterans Affairs
- Automobile Industry
- Post-Secondary Education
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
- Foreign Credentials
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Ways and Means
- Pilotage Act
- Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
- Canada Elections Act
- Business of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Tackling Violent Crime Act
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- Canada Evidence Act
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON
moved that Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in the debate on Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act.
As the Minister of Justice noted when he spoke in reply to the Speech from the Throne, safe streets and secure communities are the Canadian way of life. This is what I would like to focus my remarks on today, how we are building a stronger, safer and better Canada, beginning with Bill C-2.
I have had many opportunities, as probably all members in the House have had, to talk with my constituents, parents, community leaders, police, lawyers, and many others about their concern with crime and what we should do about it.
What I have heard has likely been heard by all hon. members as they have travelled throughout their ridings and indeed across Canada. Canadians are clearly expecting their government to take concrete and effective action to tackle crime.
Unlike previous governments on this issue, the current government listens. We share these concerns and we have made tackling crime a key priority for our government. We have made it a key priority for our government because it is a key priority for Canadians, but there is so much more that needs to be done.
We know what crime looks like in Canada. Crime statistics have been recorded since 1962 so we have 45 years of information. Statistics Canada reported last July that the overall national crime rate has decreased for the second year in a row.
We all want to see a lower crime rate. So this is the good news. But the national crime rate is an average and does not tell us about some of the more serious problems or localized problems.
The long term trends over the last few generations show us what we all know in the House, that crime has increased drastically. Since the 1970s, for example, the violent crime rate has increased 98%, but the national crime rate does not tell us what may be going on in individual communities. Community leaders, victims groups and law enforcement know their particular challenges, and we are listening to them.
Many Canadians have lost confidence in the criminal justice system and question if it is doing enough to protect them. They know that violent crime is all too common. They dread hearing statistics like those released on October 17 by Statistics Canada.
Those statistics tell us that 4 out of 10, or 40% of victims of violent crimes sustained injuries. They tell us that half of violent crimes occurred at private residences. They tell us that firearms were involved in 30% of homicides, 31% of attempted murders and 13% of robberies committed. They tell us that one out of every six victims of violent crimes was a youth aged 12 to 17 years old and children under 12 years of age account for 23% of victims of sexual assaults and 5% of victims of violent crimes.
Canadians are looking to the federal government to work with them to restore community safety. The government understands the need for leadership in criminal justice and this is what our tackling crime priority, and our commitment in this regard is all about. It is about reducing all crime and providing an effective criminal justice system. Our plan is ambitious, but Canadians can count on us to get it done. As they have seen on other issues, we have been able to get things done for all Canadians.
In the last session of Parliament the government tabled 13 crime bills. This is proof of our commitment to address crime and safety issues in our communities. It is interesting to note that it was 13 crime bills as it was 13 years of Liberal governments that have left us with a revolving door justice system in which Canadians have lost faith, a justice system that Canadians feel puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of everyday, law-abiding Canadians. This is what our government is going to address.
Six of these crime bills, of the 13, received royal assent and are now the law or will soon become the law. For example, one of the government's first bills and first priorities was to curtail the use of conditional sentences or house arrest for serious violent crimes.
We all know the issue of house arrest. In all of our ridings we have heard cases where someone has committed a very serious, sometimes violent, crime and there is an expectation in the community that there will be a severe consequence for someone who commits a severe crime. All too often the community is outraged when it hears that criminals will be serving out their sentence from the comfort of their own home.
Bill C-9, which received royal assent on May 31, 2007, and will be coming into force on December 1, 2007, makes it clear that conditional sentences or house arrest will not be an option for serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences, and organized crime offences where the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.
This change was a long time coming. It is well past due and Canadians will be better served by a justice system that does not allow, for these serious offences, criminals to serve a sentence in their own home. Canadians wanted this change.
Bill C-18 strengthened the laws governing the national DNA data bank. This will facilitate police investigation of crimes. Bill C-18 received royal assent on June 22, 2007. Some provisions are already in force and others will soon be proclaimed in force.
Bill C-19 made Canada's streets safer by enacting new offences to specifically combat street racing. These new offences built upon existing offences, including dangerous driving and criminal negligence, and provide higher maximum penalties of incarceration for the most serious of street racing offences.
As well, mandatory driving prohibition will be imposed on those convicted of street racing. In the most serious cases involving repeat street racing offenders, a mandatory lifetime driving prohibition can now be imposed.
We also took concrete steps to protect users of payday loans. Bill C-26, which received royal assent on May 3, 2007, makes it an offence to enter into an agreement or an arrangement to receive interest at a criminal rate or to receive payment of an interest at a criminal rate. The criminal rate of interest is defined as exceeding 60% per year.
We also took further measures to combat corruption. Bill C-48 enacted Criminal Code amendments to enable Canada to ratify and implement the United Nations convention against corruption on October 2, 2007. By ratifying the convention, Canada has joined 92 other state parties committed to working with the international community to take preventative measures against corruption.
Our bill to stop film piracy or camcording, Bill C-59, received widespread support. It was quickly passed and received royal assent on June 22, 2007.
Unfortunately, none of our other important crime bills progressed to enactment before Parliament prorogued. That is why the tackling violent crime act reintroduces the provisions of the following bills that died on the order paper.
Bill C-22, which increased the age of protection against adult sexual exploitation, has been included, as passed by the House of Commons.
Bill C-32, addressing drug impaired driving and impaired driving in general, has been introduced as amended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and reported to the House of Commons.
Bill C-35, imposing a reverse onus for bail for firearms offences, has been included in this new bill, as passed by the House of Commons. This bill will make it tougher for those who have committed a firearms offence to received bail and be back out on the street.
Bill C-27, addressing dangerous and repeat violent offenders, as originally introduced, is included in this bill, but with some further amendments, which I will elaborate on shortly.
The tackling violent crime act respects the parliamentary process and includes the bills as amended by committee or as passed by the House of Commons, and in the same state that they were when Parliament was prorogued. As a result, these reforms are familiar, or should be familiar, to all members of this House, and so I would call on all hon. members to quickly pass the tackling violent crime act.
Indeed, many hon. members have already stated that they support these reforms. There is therefore no need to further debate these reforms or for a prolonged study of the provisions that Parliament has already debated and committees have already scrutinized. It is time for us all to demonstrate our commitment to safeguarding Canadians and for safer communities, and to quickly move this bill forward.
For those who need more convincing, I would like to reiterate that the tackling violent crime act addresses a range of serious issues that put Canadians at risk: gun crimes, impaired driving, sexual offences against children and dangerous offenders.
We know that Canadians expect their government to take action and to protect them from these crimes. To do so, we need the support of all hon. members, as well as Canadians, our partners in the provinces and the territories, and law enforcement and community groups.
Time does not permit me to address each of the equally important elements of Bill C-2. I know that other members will rise to speak to the reforms that are of most concern to them. I propose to highlight a few of the issues that have been raised repeatedly with me by my constituents, and I am sure by constituents in ridings held by all hon. members, in particular, about impaired driving, the age of consent and dangerous offenders.
Alcohol and drug impaired driving have devastating effects for victims, for families and for communities. Impaired drivers are responsible for thousands of fatalities and injuries each year, not to mention billions of dollars in property damage.
Once the tackling violent crime act is the law, impaired drivers will face tough punishment, no matter which intoxicant they choose, and police and prosecutors will have the tools that they need to deal with these offences.
Although drug impaired driving has always been a crime, until recently, police have not had the same tools available to stop those who drive while impaired by drugs that they have to address alcohol impaired driving. Under this bill, they will.
The tackling violent crime act strengthens the ability of police, prosecutors and the courts to investigate, prosecute and sentence those who endanger the safety of other Canadians through alcohol or drug impaired driving. I know that all hon. members recognize the pressing need to ensure the safety of our streets, highways, communities and our schools. By giving police the tools they need to combat impaired driving, we are doing that.
These reforms were applauded by the stakeholders and supported in the House of Commons. I am sure every member of Parliament in the House has received correspondence urging them to support the bill. There should be no impediments to making progress on this part of the tackling violent crime act.
The act also reintroduces the reforms to raise the age at which young people can consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years of age. The bill takes away the ability, and let us be clear on what the bill does, of adult sexual predators to rely on claims that their young victims consented.
Again, these reforms were welcomed by child advocates and supported in the House as part of former Bill C-22, so there is no need for further debate. We can move ahead.
It is worth spending a few moments to focus on the dangerous and high risk offender provisions of former Bill C-27. Some of these provisions have been modified and, therefore, hon. members may want to scrutinize these aspects more than the other reforms included in the tackling violent crime act.
The dangerous offender reforms in Bill C-2 respond to the concerns highlighted in the debates and before the justice committee, and by provincial attorneys general. I am sure that all hon. members will agree that these modifications are welcomed.
As members will recall, former Bill C-27 was tabled in the House last October. That bill included dramatic enhancements to the sentencing and management of the very worst of the worst, those offenders who repeatedly commit violent and sexual crimes and who require special attention, because it has become clear that the regular criminal sentencing regime simply cannot effectively manage the small but violent and dangerous group of offenders.
The tackling violent crime act includes all of the original amendments to the Criminal Code from the former Bill C-27, as well as two important changes which will go further in protecting Canadians from dangerous offenders.
First, let me provide an overview of the provisions brought forward into the House under Bill C-27. It includes the requirement in dangerous offender hearings that an offender be presumed to meet the dangerous offender criteria upon a third conviction for a primary designated offence. In other words, an offence that is on the list of the 12 most violent or sexual offences that typically trigger dangerous offender designations.
Second, the bill would also place a requirement on crown prosecutors to inform the court that they had fully considered whether to pursue a dangerous offender application. This is to prevent these applications from falling through the cracks. This would occur in cases where an offender had been convicted for a third time of a relatively serious sexual or violent offence.
The declaration is intended to ensure more consistent use of the dangerous offender sentence by the Crown in all jurisdictions. Although the Crown must indicate whether it has considered bringing a dangerous offender application, we are not dictating to it that it must do so. We are not attempting to arbitrarily fetter the discretion of the Crown or of the court. Rather, we are providing a way to make sure that the Crown turns its mind to the issue of a dangerous offender application.
Third, Bill C-2 would also bring forward the very significant reforms to the section 810.1 and 810.2 peace bond provisions that enable any person to apply to a court to ask for stringent conditions to be imposed against individuals who are felt to pose a threat of sexual or violent offending in the community.
We have all heard the horror stories from one end of the country to the other of someone who is known to be a threat to commit a sexual or violent offence against an innocent member of the community. There is often great frustration among Canadians at the perceived inability for government, for officials, for police, to act to protect the community from a subsequent violent or sexual offence.
Specifically, we are doubling the duration of peace bonds from one year to two years. We are also providing specific authority for the court to impose conditions regarding curfews, electronic monitoring, treatment requirements and other prohibitions as well as making it very clear that the court may impose any conditions it feels are necessary to ensure public safety.
Since the tabling of the former Bill C-27 last October, provincial attorneys general have raised concerns about violent offenders who are found to be dangerous offenders, but are not receiving indeterminate sentences. This is due to a finding that they could be managed under the long term offender designation.
The long term offender sentencing option currently in the Criminal Code allows a court to sentence an individual to a regular sentence of imprisonment, but add up to 10 years of intensive community supervision to the sentence.
Based on the interpretation of the lower courts of the 2003 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Johnson, many individuals who fully meet the designation of a dangerous offender have nonetheless been given long term offender designation instead. The Crown has been unable to convince the sentencing court that the offenders could not be managed under the less severe sentence option.
The big concern is that some of these individuals may not in fact be suitable for community supervision sentences. Yet, until they commit another violent sentence, their status as a dangerous offender cannot be reviewed by a court. I should mention, and it should be obvious, until they commit another violent offence, then it is too late for the community, for innocent victims and for families.
Given the concerns expressed since former Bill C-27 was tabled, the government has been examining the scope of this problem and developing potential solutions. It is clear that a large proportion of the individuals who meet the dangerous offender criteria, but have been given a less severe sentence, have demonstrated that they simply refuse to cooperate. The majority eventually breach one or more of the conditions of their long term supervision order. This is a clear indicator that the original sentence was based on a flawed presumption that the offender was manageable. As such, there is a real need to revisit the original sentence in order to stop the reoffending right then and there before another tragedy occurs.
The tackling violent crime act addresses this problem and includes new provisions that were not included in the former bill.
First, the tackling violent crime act makes it clear that from now on if offenders meet the dangerous offender criteria, they will always be designated as a dangerous offender first, and that designation is for life. The court must then determine the appropriate sentence, either an indeterminate sentence or a determinate sentence, with or without the long term offender supervision order. Critical to this scheme is that from now on the court must impose an indeterminate sentence unless it is satisfied that the offenders can be managed under a less severe sentence.
Second, in cases where dangerous offenders are able to satisfy the court that they can be managed under the lesser sentence and are subsequently charged and convicted with a breach of a long term supervision order, they can be brought back to the court for a new sentencing hearing. At the new hearing, dangerous offenders will have to satisfy the court once again that they can still be managed under the lesser sentence. If not, the indeterminate sentence must be imposed.
The government believes that the impact of these new reforms will be significant. Because of the clarification to the sentencing provisions, fewer offenders will escape the dangerous offender designation. In addition, for the few offenders who are declared to be dangerous offenders, but given a long term offender sentence, they will know that if they do not abide by the term of their supervision orders once released, they will be returned to court for a new sentencing hearing and an indeterminate sentence will be the likely outcome.
It will not take a second sexual assault or a second violent offence to bring the offender back for a new dangerous offender sentence. This new provision would be available, for example, even if the violation were simply that the offender failed to return to his residence before curfew or consumed alcohol or drugs in violation of a long term offender supervision order.
Our government remains committed to ensuring that all Canadians live in safe and secure communities. The tackling violent crime act will protect Canadians. It is fulfilling our commitments to Canadians. The government is committed to taking action, acting on behalf of the safety of all Canadians. I urge all members to support the tackling violent crime act.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, the member represents people who breathe in the fresh, misty and refreshing air on the banks of the Bay of Fundy, but who, like the people I represent, have to live with an unrestored Petitcodiac River.
On topic, I thank him for his continuing interest in criminal justice issues. I know what he wishes for is what all Canadians wish for, a safe society. I will have a speech rebutting a lot of his technical points, but the question is this. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, he heard much evidence, as we all did on the justice committee, about how to effect the legislation, the 13 bills with which we were presented.
I have a few very short questions.
Why has the Conservative government not fulfilled its promise of 2,500 police officers? How can it put into place a thousand RCMP officers when the RCMP itself is a thousand persons behind in its recruitment drive? Is the drug recognition expert program funded? If Bill C-32 is up and running tomorrow, will it work?
Finally, he heard evidence about the Centre for Forensic Sciences being quite behind in its deadlines with respect to DNA identification. Is that centre well funded enough? Will it work and be able to respond to the needs in the new DNA bill which we all supported?
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for his interest.
Over the 13 years of Liberal government, we saw consistent and systemic underfunding of our security and police institutions. We see this whether it is on the national defence side, or our intelligence organization CSIS, or the RCMP, which over the course of the previous government's mandate received drastic cuts in funding. We need only go to the annual reports and updates on government spending. It is all documented every year for all Canadians to read. Canadians can see that the funding for the RCMP was cut.
Our government was elected with a mandate to get tough on crime. Getting tough on crime is not only about passing legislation. It is about bringing in preventive measures. It is about supporting communities. It is about supporting families. It is about providing funding for our police and for our provinces.
Our government has made a commitment for additional RCMP officers and for additional municipal police forces. We will keep that commitment. That is what this government does. It keeps the commitments it made to Canadians. Canadians know that. It is a refreshing change.
I can assure the hon. member that whether it is the DNA data bank, which is a valuable tool, or the drug recognition experts who will play such a vital role when the tackling violent crime act is passed, or our police forces, RCMP or municipal, our government is committed to providing the support. We are also committed to passing legislation that will protect Canadians from violent criminals. That is what Canadians asked us to do, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, the announcement of this bill was highly publicized, with some commentators referring to it as a big show. Let us be honest and admit that that is just what it was. The numbers themselves are shocking.
The opposition was accused of obstructing justice bills. But of the 12 bills that were originally introduced by the Conservative government, six have already received royal assent, four had made it through all stages in the House and were ready to be adopted by the Senate, and only two were still being debated in the House.
It could even be said that if the Conservative government had not decided to prorogue Parliament, most of these bills would probably have been adopted and received royal assent. By proroguing the House to deliver a completely insipid Speech from the Throne, the government itself killed the bills it is reintroducing today, saying that it does not want the opposition to obstruct them. In fact, it was the one that delayed the Parliamentary process.
Would the parliamentary secretary not admit that this is all just playing to the media? If it really cared about getting these bills passed, the Conservative government would not have prorogued the House, lost a month of work and let all the bills die on the order paper. It would have forgotten about this sorry excuse of a throne speech and continued to forge ahead in the House.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member sounds like he is keen to pass the tackling violent crime act, so let us get on with it.
If the hon. member would have followed what has happened, he would know that, for example, our bill to raise the age of consent. We know that child welfare advocates and child sexual exploitation experts have told us that Canada has become, in some instances, a destination for those adult sexual predators, who have come from jurisdictions where their age of consent is higher. We do not want Canada to become a destination for adult sexual predators.
We do not want Canada to be a destination where someone can commit, for example, multiple firearms offences, yet receive a weak sentencing.
Canadians know, and the hon. member should know, that our justice system has become known as a revolving door. People commit a crime, then they are back on the street. Then they commit another crime and they are back on the street again. Enough is enough. Our bill, the tackling violent crime act, would address these issues.
The hon. member should know that the two bills I mentioned from the previous Parliament were being delayed in the Senate. The Senate has the power to delay this legislation. The fact is the unelected Liberal Senate was delaying our justice measures. We have said enough is enough.
The legislation is contained in the tackling violent crime act. I urge all hon. members to get behind it.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and the Conservative government for this very important initiative.
When we talk about the dangerous offenders act, one ongoing example in Edmonton is the criminal Leo Teskey. He has been convicted of some 37 acts of violence. He brutalized a baby, raping it. A final act, before he was released once more, was he shot a police officer. The police officer is still suffering to this day. Then he is back out on the street once again. This time he beat into a comatose state a Dougald Miller, who is still in that state to this date, eight years later.
Then there was a hearing to explore whether he was a dangerous offender. Millions of dollars were spent and 12 doctors were brought before the hearing. After months of this hearing, he was finally considered to be a dangerous offender.
Recently, the hearing was overturned, after all these millions of dollars being spent. Meanwhile, Mrs. Miller is going broke paying for her husband's medical care in connection with his medical condition.
The urgency of this legislation is obvious.
The Liberals have known about this for years on prompting from the opposition, our party, at the time. Why did they not do anything earlier?
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and also for his interest in justice issues.
I cannot explain the inaction of the previous government. We know the Liberals had 13 years in government to address these situations. We know this is not something that just came out of the blue. Opposition members, including the hon. member, raised these issues in the past. Victim advocacy groups have raised these issues. Police raised the issue that they needed the tools to combat crime. The issue of dangerous offenders, repeat violent offenders and people who breach conditions of their long term offender status is not new and yet we saw inaction.
The fundamental change that has taken place is that we now have a government that has been listening and government members who are committed to change, committed to protecting Canadians and committed to effective, legislative and policy changes that will tip the scale of balance in favour of protecting innocent, law-abiding Canadians.
The member raised this illustration and there are examples like that across the country. We need to do everything we can. No matter what our political stripe, we should all be interested in protecting Canadians, especially the young and vulnerable, from becoming victims of serious criminals.
I hope all members will join with me in moving this bill along as quickly as possible.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-2 and justice issues in general, I heard just recently in the House the term “a revolving door”. The only revolving door is the justice minister and officials in the Conservative Party going in and out of press conferences announcing and reannouncing the same bills on which they pulled the plug.
With respect to Bill C-2, I have reviewed all the material. I sat in on all the committee hearings. What I have recently discovered, through obtaining a bill briefing, is a note from the Prime Minister about Bill C-2, in that it regurgitates all the bills we dealt with in the last Parliament. The message from the Prime Minister is that he is sorry that he pulled the plug on Parliament and flushed all the good work of the justice committee down the drain.
That is what happened. All these bills were well on their way. They were going through the due process of Parliament, which followed the rules of parliaments before, and they were on the way to being in effect.
The reason we are here today is that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and those bills were killed in their tracks. It is not true that perhaps that is why the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament but I think it is. In fact, I think that is why we have a new session.
I may be new and I may be in the back row but I read the papers and I know what is going on. Parliament was prorogued and all legislation was stopped in its tracks.
What is important to remind ourselves, and the Canadian public will want to know, is that there were 13 bills in the justice dossier and 7 of them were passed and are now the law of Canada.
As a member of the justice committee, I would expect all parties to tell all members of the justice committee that it was a job well done, that seven out of thirteen justice bills that affect the citizens of Canada are now law. Five of those bills are currently the subject of Bill C-2, which I will turn to, and one, mysteriously, of the thirteen bills, the criminal procedure act, which all parties agreed to unanimously, was a creature of a previous Parliament and which all prosecutors are waiting intently for. These prosecutors are the people who are on the front lines, as well as the police officers, in the criminal justice system. I suppose they are wondering why, despite the offer to fast track the bill by this party and despite the unanimous support by the justice committee, Bill C-23 has not been moved up. Perhaps in the government's haste and the revolving door of the press circle and the press club, it forgot to bring along an important bill.
Overall, the 13 bills, the 7 passed and the 1 dropped by an incompetent justice minister and the parliamentary secretary for forgetting that, and the 5 we are about to discuss, all of these bills need to be enforced. Each police officer, prosecutor, probation officer and corrections official, all those people in the system need to know that if there are 13 new laws, 12 because 1 was dropped by the incompetent ministry, but if there are 12 new bills we need to know we have the resources to put them into effect.
It is urgent for the public to know that despite a promise by the government, the law and order government, the tough on crime government, it is toothless without following up on the promise of 2,500 new police officers and the false promise in the Speech from the Throne for 1,000 new RCMP officers when the RCMP cannot recruit 1,000 officers. It is behind in its recruitment. It is a meaningless, toothless promise to the people of Canada but, even worse, it takes away the hope of the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the prosecutors and the probation officers, all the people who must put into effect, on a daily basis, the laws of the justice system.
I want to emphasize that the party on this side of the House is not so fickle. We support our justice system. We support our judges, our prosecutors, and all of the police officers who are responsible for protecting Canadians.
Over the past 18 months, the Liberal Party has undertaken a thorough review of the legislation pertaining to crime while the Conservatives have been busy playing political games. The Prime Minister put an end to this Parliament's activities and committee work, thereby throwing out the amendments that this bill sought to make to five acts. It is his fault that these five acts have not yet been amended.
We on this side of the House have faith in our justice system and are convinced that it will keep the peace in our communities.
I say that because it should be a non-partisan issue that we all believe in a safe community. We are all here as parliamentarians, surely, to ensure that we have a safe community. We may differ on the avenue to get there, but how much did we, the Liberal Party of Canada and its members on the justice committee, really differ from the plan of the Conservative Party in general and, more importantly, in the organic process which is called the development of criminal law through amendments to the Criminal Code?
I say to the House and to the public: not much.
There were 13 bills proposed. Seven passed and there are five in Bill C-2 that we are substantially in agreement on because they would have been law by now had Parliament not been prorogued, and I must say for the record that there is one that has been dropped by the government and that we are also in favour of.
So how is it that we, in trying to keep the community safe, are against the elements in Bill C-2 and the elements in these bills? I will repeat them: Bill C-9, on conditional sentences; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-25, on proceeds of crime; Bill C-26, on criminal rate of interest; and just to add two others that were not part of Bill C-2, Bill C-48, on the implementation of a UN convention against corruption, and Bill C-59, on the unauthorized recording of a movie. These have all been supported.
But there is more. I hear members on the opposite side talk about 13 years of inaction with respect to criminal justice and I think the Canadian public would be interested to know that these laws, while continuing on the evolution of our criminal law and making our community safer, are but part of the Criminal Code of Canada.
On the Criminal Code of Canada, I might say this in a moment of non-partisanship and to congratulate a Conservative politician, albeit a dead one.When Prime Minister John Thompson, a Conservative prime minister, was minister of justice he essentially created and adapted the criminal law of Canada into a code that we would follow in this country. I want to get credit for giving plaudits to a Conservative in this place.
A principal part of the Criminal Code of Canada, which we have been talking about since I have been in Parliament, is sentencing. What is sentencing? The purpose and principles of sentencing are set out in section 718. I hear very often in this place and at the revolving door of the press conference centre for the Conservative Party of Canada that there is but one principle in sentencing, that is, to put the bad guys away.
I know this is a novel concept for those who are directing the Conservative justice agenda, but why do we not refer to what the law says about the purpose and principles of sentencing? They are set out in section 718. I am not going to read this word for word because it tends to be bogged down in particularness and assuredness and literal things that, again, the Conservative justice team really knows nothing about, having adopted and written such sloppy legislation that it had to be sent to committee to be fixed.
However, in general, there are six important factors or principles in sentencing. It is the reason we have sentences for people who have committed crimes. One principle is to denounce unlawful conduct. That is the one I hear about most often from the Conservative justice team. That is a valid principle, but it is one of six.
What are the others? One is to deter the offender from doing it again. That is another one I hear a lot about. The point over here is that those two of the six are very important. We are not shirking the importance of those. The law does not say that any one is more important than the other. It is a guidepost to judges who make our law pursuant to what they read here. It is a guidepost to say that we will denounce unlawful conduct. Yes, we will, by bringing in this sentence. We will deter the person or any person in the public from doing it again. They are two very important objectives.
However, that is where the Conservative justice team stops most of the time. The Conservatives forget that they must separate offenders from society when necessary and that they must assist in rehabilitating offenders. This is not to mean that the criminal gets more justice than the victim. What it means is that if there is a chance to rehabilitate an offender before that offender is reintegrated into society, or after, we ought to take that chance. Society is not safer, and let us remember that this safety is the principal goal of all parliamentarians here, by sending a more dangerous person back into the community after his or her sentence is served. It is a very important principle, as important as deterrence and as important as denouncing unlawful conduct.
The fifth aspect is to provide reparations for harm done to victims. That is very key. I will get into speaking about Bill C-9, which was a failed bill and flawed until it was amended at committee by all parties. One of the key aspects of Bill C-9 was to amend it to allow some white collar criminals, for lack of a better term, who had done a very denunciatory offence, which should be deterred, such as acts of stealing money through a breach of trust from someone, say, the option of a conditional sentence. It was to allow them to make reparations and restitution during the term of their sentence when it might mean the difference between an aged person with a stolen RRSP account getting that money back or not.
It gave back discretion to the judge, which he or she had in the first place, and it was a very necessary amendment to a flawed and hasty bill to make sure that this principle of sentencing, that is, to provide reparation for harm done to victims, was put in place. It was made better law by the intervention of the committee.
The final principle is to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community. What that is about is making sure that these offenders are not so divorced from the community in which they live, so that they know when they have done wrong that they have a responsibility to that community to be remorseful, to make amends and, I think very importantly, to reintegrate into that community if possible. We should never forget that.
The overall principle, and it is written as the fundamental principle in section 718.1 of the code, is that of the proportionality, of the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. This is a very important principle, which judges rely on all the time.
I hear members speak about 13 years of Liberal inactivity. Actually I was not here for any of those 13 years. I was on the outside looking at all of the criminal justice bills that had been brought in during that time. I remember that it was a Liberal minister of justice who brought in the whole concept of mandatory minimums, which at the revolving door of the Conservatives' press circle was as if it was invented by them. I wonder if they invented the laws of gravity and found the North American continent. I suspect not, Mr. Speaker, and I do not suppose you could answer objectively if they say they have somewhere else, but I am not sure that they would not stand here and say that they have.
They did not invent mandatory minimums. The other sentencing principles in section 718.2 were brought in, in successive Liberal governments, by amendments in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2005. All of those amendments in section 718.2 were brought in to recognize the changing nature of our society and to allow judges for the first time in the history of the Criminal Code to take into account these factors when sentencing, either in increasing or in decreasing the sentences, and I am very proud of that.
These factors include evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. It is the first time that it was codified that a judge should take into account hate crimes when sentencing. For any crimes committed based on someone's ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation and other factors, is it not correct, right and fair in this society that those sentences were brought in and that judges should be told to take into account those factors in section 718.2, or whether the violence was against a spouse or common law partner?
Is it not important, for instance, that a judge be given that discretion to increase a sentence if the crime was against a spouse or a common law partner, or if the crime was done to a person of tender years under the age of 18? Is it not important that this be taken into account?
Is it not important, as it says in subparagraph 718.2(a)(iii), whether or not the person who committed the crime “abused a position of trust or authority”, or also whether the person was a member of a criminal organization, or that the offence was a terrorism offence?
All of these factors were in judges' hands before 2005. These were not invented by the Newtons over there in the last 18 months. They were there, it was Liberal legislation, and I presume it had all party support because it makes such sense.
Finally, in the principles of sentencing categories, paragraph 718.2(e) has the all important factor of recognizing that if an offender is of aboriginal origin or from a first nations community special circumstances should be put in place. We found during much of the deliberation at committee that this sentencing principle was often ignored.
I look at the amendments in place with respect to Bill C-10 and Bill C-9. It is a particular affront to this established sentencing principle, and it seems to have been completely forgotten by the Conservative government, that these two important sections of the code had existed before the Conservative government took place and certainly will exist when it moves on into the sunset.
About the laws in Bill C-2 and why it is so easy on this side for us to say we support the bill, it is important to remember that we on this side, and the members of the justice committee from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois will vouch for this, and the members of the justice committee had made Bill C-10 and the mandatory minimum aspect a better bill when it left committee. Arrogantly, and without respect for the work of the all party committee, the Conservative justice team, coming yet again from the revolving door of the press club, suggested that it would put in at report stage the entire bill as it was before.
However, over the summer I think the Conservatives had blueberry festivals and strawberry festivals and must have eaten some humble pie at some festival, as they decided that they would accept the amendments as they came from the committee, reintroducing Bill C-2 with the Bill C-10 amendments to make our community a better place and enlarge upon the mandatory minimums that were already in place under the Liberal justice program before the Conservatives took office.
The other bill that needs clarification on why it is an acceptable bill now, and why it was never acceptable when the amateur Conservative justice team brought the topic up before, is Bill C-22, the age of consent bill.
I have heard well-meaning, honest and forthright members of the House, such as the member for Wild Rose, say that he and his colleagues could never get an age of consent or age of protection bill through the Commons. I was disturbed by that. I asked why we would not protect our young persons. Why would we not get in line with many of the communities around the world which recognize that consent may not be freely given by a 14 year old when the world has become smaller and the age of the predator is upon us?
I looked into it. There were two very fundamental flaws with all bills that were presented as part of a justice package by an opposition entitled the Conservative opposition. They are as follows.
There was absolutely no close in age exemption. This bill, Bill C-22, contains a close in age exemption, making it flexible enough to recognize that not every relationship that is separated by a number of years is a relationship between an innocent young child and a sexual predator.
Finally, as I wrap up, age of consent as presented previously would have criminalized normal adolescent sexual activity which, whether the Conservatives like it or not, is out there, and 14 year olds and 15 year olds having relations are protected by this. It does prevent sexual predators from preying on the young. It is good legislation.
In summary, the five bills in Bill C-2 are good law because the committee made them so. I encourage the Conservative justice team, the Prime Minister and all Conservatives out there to watch what they write, to watch what they present to Parliament, and to not keep going through that revolving door called the press circle to give press releases without having done their homework to ensure that they are passing good laws which will make Canada safer.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on a peripheral item which the member spoke about. A number of members have said, “Oh, this bad Conservative government has prorogued the House and we are into a second session”.
I happened to look up the years when the Liberals were in power, just the years when I was here, since 1993. In the 35th Parliament, the Liberals prorogued the first session after 661 days. In the 34th Parliament the first session was prorogued after only 78 days. There was a total of 11 sitting days and then there was a new throne speech. After 11 days the House was prorogued and everything died. In the 37th Parliament the Liberals prorogued the House twice; there was session one, session two and session three. It seems to me that the Liberals speak with a hollow voice when they complain about our proroguing Parliament in order to have a fresh start and make Parliament work.
That is a rebuttal to all of their comments about proroguing Parliament. It is totally normal. The Liberals always did it. It is just a process that we go through.
Tackling Violent Crime Act
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe is going to have an opportunity to respond to the comment in due course, but given that it is 11 o'clock, we will proceed now with statements by members. When debate resumes, there will be eight minutes and a few seconds left in the time for questions and comments.
University of Lethbridge
Statements By Members
Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB
Mr. Speaker, this year the University of Lethbridge is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
From a small corner on the Lethbridge college campus to a prominent landmark nestled in the coulees overlooking the Oldman River, the University of Lethbridge has grown into an institution which is recognized and respected around the world.
The University of Lethbridge was built on a commitment to the individual student with the goal of providing the most vital and engaging learning environment in the country. Although much has changed over the past 40 years, its goals remain focused on this principle.
In addition to maintaining teaching as its core objective, the University of Lethbridge has also evolved into a major global research institution. This has helped to create an exciting intellectual community for the 8,100 students on its campuses in the Alberta centres of Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton.
The University of Lethbridge stands today because a community dared to dream. It is an exemplary example of what can develop when a small group of people are determined to make things happen and how a learning institution and a country can work together to grow and prosper.
Statements By Members
John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, in his clandestine and behind closed door decision-making style, decided to recognize the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as the Republic of Macedonia. There are negotiations going on at the UN between Greece and FYROM to resolve this issue as we speak. As the Liberal leader has stated, we support the process at the UN and will respect the outcome.
I am not surprised at the Prime Minister for he has no respect for democracy or due process. For example, he has hand-picked a group of people to do a review on Afghanistan and make recommendations, causing Canadians to spend millions of dollars unnecessarily.
Where has the Prime Minister been? The defence committee has completed months of hearings and has presented him with recommendations. Has he read the report? Has he even looked at it? Obviously not.
The Prime Minister should respect due process, respect democracy, respect Parliament and Canadians, and more so, respect our troops and not use them as political pawns.
Statements By Members
Pauline Picard Drummond, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to bring to your attention the honour bestowed by the alumni association of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières on François Beaudoin, a bold, community-minded, sovereignist businessman.
Mr. Beaudoin holds degrees in business administration and accounting. In 1980, he founded Armotec in Drummondville. In 2001, the company won the National Bank of Canada's prestigious “Export SME” award.
In 2002, Wôlinak Plastics' first year, the Réseau industriel Drummond recognized Mr. Beaudoin's community-mindedness by naming him “Coach of the year”. In 2003, his exemplary dedication merited the Government of Quebec's Hommage bénévolat-Québec award for volunteer work.
At the 2007 Gala des Pythagore, his peers honoured his remarkable professional accomplishments and his involvement in the community.
The Bloc Québécois congratulates François Beaudoin on receiving these honours.
Statements By Members
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Mr. Speaker, we have heard from the Minister of International Trade that he wants Canada to become a strong exporter of manufactured goods, yet he continues free trade negotiations with Korea. In 2006, $1.6 billion in Korean-made automotive products were sold here, while a mere $11 million in Canadian automotive products were sold in Korea.
Wood pulp, coal and other commodities are our top exports. Manufactured goods hardly factor into the relationship. With an existing trade deficit of $2.6 billion with Korea, we have already lost 15,000 manufacturing jobs. Economic studies have determined that a Korea-Canada trade deal would result in an additional 30,000 lost jobs.
The ratio of trade in the auto sector is 150:1 in Korea's favour, and this new deal would not change that ratio at all.
It seems quite clear that the minister and the entire Conservative government are willing to trade away high skill, high wage jobs in our manufacturing sector so they can ship more of Canada's natural resources offshore.