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House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Surrey North for her tireless work on behalf of victims of crime.

After 13 years of Liberal inaction, Canadians have a government that is standing up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. We are tackling organized crime, cracking down on identity theft, auto theft and white collar crime. We are ending house arrest for serious crimes. We are ending sentencing discounts for multiple murderers.

When it comes to standing up for the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens, Canadians can count on this government.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader could inform the House of his work program for the balance of this week and next, until the House adjournment for veterans' week.

Could he also indicate to the House when he would expect the House to acknowledge the importance of veterans' week, on which day or which occasion that will happen prior to veterans' week itself.

There also will need to be the designation of one more opposition day before veteran's week, and I wonder if the minister could do that today as well.

As well, I am sure he would want to confirm that, with respect to Bill C-26, which was referred to during the course of question period, having to do with auto theft, that the bill sat on the order paper of the Senate since the June 22. It was called once, was given second reading and is now in committee in the Senate.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in relation to what day the House will be doing its annual tributes to the sacrifices of our veterans and those in the Canadian Forces currently serving, that will be under negotiation. I suspect that is something that will be discussed among all House leaders in the days ahead. We will decide, obviously, collectively and co-operatively on the appropriate time to make that important tribute.

In regard to our ongoing justice program, obviously we are going to continue along, as we have last week and this week, for the remainder of the week with our justice legislation. I would note that since my last statement, we introduced Bill C-53, Protecting Canadians by Ending Early Release for Criminals Act, and Bill C-54, Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act. Both of those additional bills are a key part of our ongoing efforts to reform the justice system in our country.

We sent to committee this week Bill C-42, Ending Conditional Sentences for Property and other Serious Crimes Act; Bill C-52, Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act; Bill C-46, Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act; and Bill C-47, Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act.

By the day's end, we hope to conclude debate on Bill C-43, Strengthening Canada's Corrections System Act. If we do that, I intend to call Bill C-31, the modernizing criminal procedure bill, and Bill C-19, the anti-terrorism bill.

Tomorrow we will continue with yet another justice bill, Bill C-35, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, followed by the remainder of the justice bills that I noted if they have not been completed.

Next week I intend to call Bill C-50, the employment insurance for long tenured workers' bill, which is at report stage, having had it returned from committee.

Following Bill C-50, we will call for debate the report and third reading stage of Bill C-27, Electronic Commerce Protection Act, and second reading of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act,

Finally, Wednesday, November 4, will be an allotted day.

Official Report--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Yesterday, the hon. member for Mount Royal called the attention of the House to what he considered to be inaccuracies in the Debates of Tuesday, October 27.

As all members know, the Debates are not a verbatim ad literatum transcription of what is said in this House. When producing the Debates, House of Commons editors routinely edit interventions for clarity and clean up our grammatical and syntactical lapses. They also of course consider corrections and minor alterations to the blues submitted by the member to which words are attributed.

Upon verification, I want to first indicate to the House that in the situation before me all editorial changes were initiated solely by the editors. I should add that both the question of the member for Mount Royal and the answer of the Minister of Foreign Affairs were edited in this case.

For greater certainty, I have also reviewed the audio of the proceedings in question and I agree with the member for Mount Royal that the omission of the word “finally” from the edited version of the answer of the Minister of Foreign Affairs is significant. Accordingly, I have instructed our editorial staff to restore that word to the final transcript so that it may be a more faithful rendering of what was said last Tuesday.

I thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

Climate Change Accountability Act--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader on October 8, 2009, regarding the admissibility of the motion of instruction moved on the same day by the hon. member for Vancouver East.

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Vancouver East, and the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for their interventions on this matter.

The parliamentary secretary argued that the motion of instruction listed on the order paper as Government Business No. 6 is out of order because, in his view, it attempts to time allocate a bill and, as such, is no longer permissive.

He added that the inclusion of a deadline in the motion of instruction had the effect of overriding existing reporting requirements for private members' bills already contained in the Standing Orders.

He also asserted that the motion contains two separate proposals and should, therefore, require two separate motions.

In speaking to the parliamentary secretary's point of order, the hon. member for Vancouver East pointed out that the committee may decide whether or not to exercise the powers given to it by the House, thus, rendering the motion permissive.

For his part, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley pointed out that there was a precedent for such a motion of instruction, referring to a motion that was debated on May 30, 2005.

As stated on page 641 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, and I quote:

Motions of instruction respecting bills are permissive rather than mandatory. It is left to the committee to decide whether or not to exercise the powers given to it by the House...

Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may give the committee an instruction by way of a motion which authorizes it to do what it otherwise could not do, such as, for example, examining a portion of a bill and reporting it separately, examining certain items in particular, dividing a bill into more than one bill, consolidating two or more bills into one bill, or expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill.

In the matter raised by the parliamentary secretary, the Chair must determine whether the wording of the motion of instruction is permissive or mandatory.

The first and main part of the motion is to give the committee the power to divide the bill. This is recognized as permissive by past practice and procedural authorities. I can see nothing in the motion of instruction that orders the committee to do anything specific with Bill C-311. The deadline and other procedural actions contained in the motion apply only if the committee takes the step to create Bill C-311A, in the full knowledge of the consequences that would ensue.

As I read the motion, the committee can still choose to report Bill C-311 in the same way as it would any other private member's bill.

Members are aware that the Standing Orders stipulate that a private member’s bill must be reported back to the House before the end of 60 sitting days, or, with the approval of the House, following an extension of 30 sitting days. Otherwise, the bill is deemed reported back without amendment.

It has been argued, in this case, that the inclusion of a deadline in the motion of instruction comes into conflict with the provisions of Standing Order 97.1(1), thus rendering the motion out of order.

However, in the view of the Chair, it is not unreasonable to envisage a scenario where the House, for whatever reason, would want a committee to report a bill back prior to the reporting deadline set out in Standing Order 97.1(1).

So, there is nothing, in my understanding of that Standing Order, or in the procedural authorities, that would preclude the House from adopting a motion of instruction that included a reporting deadline.

The example referred to by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley is particularly instructive on this point. That motion of instruction, debated in the House on May 30, 2005 (Journals, p. 800) stated in part: “that Bill C-43A be reported back to the House no later than two sitting days after the adoption of this motion”. It provided a deadline remarkably similar to that contained in the motion of instruction moved by the member for Vancouver East.

In the view of the Chair, just as in the 2005 example, the inclusion of a deadline in the motion of instruction for Bill C-311 does not infringe on the committee's discretion to exercise the power to divide the bill, nor with its discretion to amend the bill.

Finally, the Chair is not persuaded by the parliamentary secretary's argument that the motion contains more than one proposal and that it should be divided into two separate motions. A close reading of the motion shows that the portion regarding the reporting deadline is contingent on the main proposition; namely, the permissive instruction to divide the bill.

Accordingly, for all the reasons outlined, the Chair must conclude that the motion is in order.

I thank hon. members for their interventions on this matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had the floor. There are two minutes remaining in the time allotted for questions and comments consequent upon his remarks. I therefore call for questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to sponsor Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code.

As the father of five children, public safety is a matter of great importance to me, and that is why I am proud to rise today to show that the government is honouring its promises to improve safety on our streets and in our communities, for all Canadians, and to ensure that victims have a voice in the justice system.

When the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell elected me for the first time, I told my constituents that our Conservative Party would do things differently in government, and that the appalling complacency of the former Liberal government would be coming to an end.

We said we were going to be tough on crime; we have kept our promise. We said we were going to make sure that people convicted of using firearms to commit serious crimes would get a sentence that reflected the heinousness of their actions; we have kept our promise. Unlike the opposition parties, which would like to keep claiming to protect Canadians with a useless and expensive firearms registry, we have taken concrete action against criminals who use firearms. We said we were going to give police the tools they need to do their jobs; once again, we have kept our promise.

Over the last three years, the government has honoured the commitments it made to protecting the safety of Canadians in their homes and their communities. We have fulfilled our commitment to help victims.

That is why I am very happy to have the opportunity to support this bill today. In addition to demonstrating our commitment, this initiative is supported by law enforcement representatives, victims’ rights groups and honourable members.

Bill C-43 proposes several fundamental reforms to corrections and conditional release to help ensure they continue to work the way they should in light of the changing nature of the offender population and the needs of victims.

Today, we know that many offenders entering Canada's corrections system arrive with histories of committing violent offences. Many offenders have gang or organized crime affiliations. An increasing number of offenders have serious mental health illnesses and nearly four out of five now arrive at a federal institution with a serious substance abuse problem. Many as well need to learn how to live as law-abiding citizens and might face the need to address their behaviours for the first time ever.

All of this requires a new approach to corrections and conditional release, one that will ensure that offenders get the help they need to rejoin society as law-abiding citizens, so that both our streets and our federal corrections facilities are safer places for everyone.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-43 will achieve this by enhancing offender responsibility and accountability, and by strengthening the management of offenders during their incarceration and parole. It will also achieve this by giving victims access to more information and by modernizing disciplinary actions.

All in all they reinforce and build on the work already underway to strengthen corrections and conditional release while also laying the foundation for a move toward a system of earned parole. They are also long overdue.

Some members of this House may know that as far back as 1998, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights created a subcommittee to review the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and recommend ways of improving it.

In its report, the subcommittee made 53 recommendations; one of the things it suggested was that the protection of society be the fundamental principle in all decision-making processes relating to the corrections and conditional release system, and that all efforts be made to ensure that offenders participate actively in their rehabilitation and reintegration. These were wise recommendations, that called for immediate action to be taken, and that is what our government is doing.

In 2007, our Conservative government established an independent committee to review the operational priorities, strategies and business plans of the Correctional Service of Canada, as part of our commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities.

The committee made 109 recommendations. Many of them are now being implemented, thanks to the $478 million that the government allocated in its 2008 budget. But we can do more, and that is what we are doing. The government is determined to achieve its objective, and that is why we are moving forward today.

Bill C-43 will allow us to implement a key recommendation in the 1998 report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and in the 2007 report of the independent review panel. This recommendation proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to clarify that the protection of Canadians is the paramount consideration in the corrections and conditional release process.

Pursuant to the recommendations made in the two reports, Bill C-43 also proposes to ensure that the rehabilitation of offenders is a shared responsibility.

The amendments before us will require offenders to conduct themselves in a way that demonstrates respect for other people and property. As well, they will require all offenders to obey all penitentiary rules and conditions governing their release, while also actively participating in the setting and achieving of objectives in their correctional plans.

Since rehabilitation is a two-way commitment, Bill C-43 proposes amendments to ensure that a correctional plan is completed for each offender that sets out objectives for behaviour, program participation, and the meeting of their court-ordered obligations such as restitution to victims.

Amendments will also introduce new incentive measures to help promote offender participation in their correctional plan. As the 2007 independent panel report notes: “--if rehabilitation is to occur and truly be sustained, it must be shared between CSC and the offender”. That is what the amendments before us today will do.

As well, Bill C-43 will modernize the system of discipline in federal penitentiaries by, for example, addressing disrespectful, intimidating and assaultive behaviour by inmates, including the throwing of bodily substances. Anyone who has been a prison guard will say that the job is not easy. Prison guards will be pleased to learn that our Conservative government is standing up for them.

Bill C-43 also proposes to strengthen the management of offenders and their reintegration into society by allowing police officers to arrest offenders who appears to be in violation of their parole without a warrant and by excluding from accelerated parole offenders who are convicted of crimes such as street racing or luring a child over the Internet.

Police and other criminal justice partners have asked for these changes and our Conservative government is delivering on them. As a husband and father, I cannot emphasize enough how important this is to me and to families all across Canada.

Of course, the victims have been asking for a long time to have better access to information about offenders, and to play a more active role in the Canadian justice system.

Bill C-43 meets the victims' requests in a number of ways. For example, it allows them to obtain information on the reasons for a temporary absence or transfer, and on the offender's participation in programs and convictions for serious disciplinary offences. Families want to feel safe at home. It is unacceptable that they should live in constant fear that their victimizer could come back.

The right of victims to participate in National Parole Board hearings and to make statements will be put into law.

Moreover, in most cases, offenders will not be allowed to withdraw their parole application in the 14 days preceding the hearing date. The government is also setting up a national advisory committee to better inform victims of the policies and procedures that affect them, so that they can have better access to information and services that are of interest to them.

The amendments proposed by Bill C-43 are balanced and fair. They respond to the needs of victims as well as those of offenders who want to rejoin society as law-abiding citizens to lead useful and productive lives. They respond to the needs of staff in correctional facilities, all of whom have a right to expect a safe and secure work environment. They also respond to the needs of all Canadians who have a fundamental right to expect that the corrections system will work the way that it should work and that their safety and security is paramount.

I therefore urge all hon. members to give speedy passage to the bill before us today, so that all of us can continue to transform the corrections system into one that truly meets the needs of the 21st century.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and I found his remarks somewhat contradictory.

He said that he has five children and wants to protect them. He said that the Minister of Justice has introduced legislation in keeping with the commitments made by the Conservative Party. Something is also in the works to give police the tools they need to do their job and maintain law and order on our streets to keep people safe.

He used very often and repeatedly the word safety in his speech. Is it not somewhat contradictory for the Conservatives to be introducing this kind of bill, which not only does not abolish parole after one-sixth of sentence, but also takes away from police a trump card that allowed them to act? On top of that, they want to abolish the gun registry. Will it not just thrill criminals to bits to be able to carry and use as they please hunting guns or handguns without having to register them?

I would like the member to tell me this: Can we protect people while at the same time allowing criminals to carry unregistered firearms?

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member who just asked the question is confused about firearm registration. It is important to understand that the current registry is completely useless. There are far too many errors in the gun registry; the police does not trust the information it contains.

Also, it cost $2 billion. The fact of the matter is that firearm registration applies to law-abiding Canadian citizens, such as farmers, hunters and the likes. I hope that the member who asked the question does not represent a rural riding. Personally, speaking as the member of Parliament for a rural riding, I can say that most people in my riding are dead against firearm registration.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, mine is more of a comment than a question and deals with the heckler during my speech on Bill C-43. The member for Edmonton—St. Albert was asking me about some statistics I used in the speech on Bill C-43 that we are dealing with right now. By the way, I saw him last night on a show on CPAC, and he did a great job.

My information came from Statistics Canada, as I said to him and his heckling partners.

The Statistics Canada study found that adult offenders who spend their sentence under supervision in the community are far less likely to become reinvolved with correctional authorities within 12 months of their release than those who are in a correctional institution.

The study found that in four provinces, 11% of the people who were under community supervision became reinvolved with correctional authorities within 12 months of their release in 2003-04. Among the study where people were in the community only 30% were involved in crime.

The fact of the matter is that people who were in the correctional institutions and came out were twice as likely to reoffend as people who were under community supervision.

I can certainly provide the member with a copy of this study if he would like.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to table his documentation. It is hard to follow numbers and statistics when they are presented verbally.

One thing I do want to say is that the changes we are proposing in Bill C-43 are the types of changes that Canadians have asked for. Canadians feel unsafe. They feel victimized by criminals. The measures we are proposing in Bill C-43 address some of the very fundamental concerns they have expressed.

One of the measures is the presence of the victims at parole hearings. Victims have asked to be present at parole hearings and to have a say. They want to be able to tell their story and express their concerns about a decision that is about to be made regarding parole. Bill C-43 would put that into law so that victims would have the right to participate in the parole hearings. This is fundamental.

There are many other excellent changes that we are bringing about. I encourage members from the opposition parties to support Bill C-43.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, hunters on the north shore are well aware that in order to hunt, they have to register their ATV, their boat, their trailer, their truck and also their hunting camp. At the time, they decided to take part in the system, which was not necessarily comprehensive. But in order to use a hunting rifle, a hunter had to register it.

The Conservatives are living in the past. This has been resolved. This is the system in place now. Anyone who wants to use equipment has to register it. The police in Quebec and in Canada support the firearms registry, which has led to a decrease in the crime rate.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the member does not understand the firearms registry or what its implications are on Canadians. He is speaking from a position of ignorance.

When a Canadian buys a firearm, of course he registers it. The problem with the firearms registry is that the firearm must be registered year after year, and if it is not registered in time, then the law-abiding gun owner is treated as a criminal. He has just broken a criminal law and he is treated as such.

The member should also know that criminals do not register their weapons. They say that the whole intent of the firearms registry is to better enforce weapons and their use within society, particularly to fight crime. We know that criminals do not line up to register their weapons and they do not maintain the registry.

As I mentioned before, the registry is riddled with errors and there are all sorts of privacy issues. We learned of one where the RCMP released private information concerning gun owners to a consulting firm. That was wrong, and the gun registry facilitates that.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in favour of Bill C-43 and in honour of victims of violent crime across Canada. My riding has felt the full force of such crimes over the past year. Much of what I will share in my remarks today comes from the input I have received from the families of these victims.

I have spoken several times in this House about the terrible events that occurred on October 19, 2007 in the city of Surrey. That fateful evening was marked by the most brutal gangland slaying in British Columbia's history.

Sometime that day, between 3 and 4:30 p.m., members of a criminal gang executed six people with gunshots to their heads. Four were young men with established links to the drug trade, but two of them, 55-year-old Ed Schellenberg, and 22-year-old Chris Mohan, were uninvolved victims. They were innocent bystanders who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Although the perpetrators of this terrible crime have been apprehended and are now in the justice system, for the families of the victims, there is little consolation to be had. That is why I believe that any measure that would provide family members with some measure of peace of mind is entirely appropriate.

Bill C-43 makes improvements to the healing process and strengthens the rights of victims and of society in our parole process.

As recognized by a Correctional Services of Canada independent review panel, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act leaves a substantial amount of room to better include victims and their families in the process.

Under the revised act, a victim's right to attend and make statements at National Parole Board hearings will be enshrined in law. This is a sensible idea.

There must be no discretion residing with board members to prevent victims' statements. The only determining factor should be the will of the victims and their families to be heard either in person or by statement.

The movement of convicted criminals by transfers is something which, in the past, has happened in virtual isolation, with little or no notice of such decisions passed on to victims or their families in advance. This isolation is unacceptable as the residual effects of crime never fully disappear.

Therefore, correctional services has an obligation to mitigate the stress caused by such prisoner transfers by providing as much information as possible to prepare those impacted by the crime.

The name and location of the institution to which the offender is transferred, the reason for the transfer, information about the offender's participation in programs, and convictions for serious disciplinary offences should be freely shared.

While I keep referring to victims and their families, everyone in these types of situations are victims. The pain caused to individuals who have had a family member pass away as a result of violent crime is immeasurable. Thus I am very pleased to see that guardians, caregivers or victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated are being given an equal level of rights with regard to receiving information.

Perhaps the most significant part of Bill C-43, however, will be the creation of a national advisory committee on victims issues co-chaired by the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Safety. With the intention of giving victims the opportunity to provide input into policies and procedures that impact victims and victims' services, this is a revolution in the way victims' rights are considered.

For many years groups such as Canadian Crime Victims Foundation have advocated from outside the system. They have fought to educate service providers like police officers, justice system personnel, victim service providers and front-line staff on victims' needs, both immediate and long term.

They have tried to provide a clear understanding of protections needed and services required at public and private hearings by those victimized by violent crime. They have created broad public awareness in support of proactive, positive changes for victims of violent crime.

They have conducted research to provide reliable competent data on the status of crime victims, their needs, and the long-term viability of government programs.

While the contributions of such groups will continue to be vital with the creation of the national advisory committee, this newly established body must be considered a huge success and a grand endorsement of their efforts over many years.

Consideration for victims hopefully never again will take the form of tokenism. The changes that I have just described within Bill C-43 represent a new paradigm for our justice system.

Never again do I want to have to face victims or their families and hear about how they have been systematically and institutionally cut out of the process of justice, and as a result have had their healing replaced by anger, frustration, and complete and utter hopelessness.

Every member in this House has constituents and neighbours who have been impacted by violent crime. Regardless of party affiliation or personal viewpoints, this is a bill that we should support in unified confidence in honour of victims.

I encourage all members of the House to step forward, do the right thing and support this important and long-overdue piece of legislation.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I would like to publicly recognize the member for Newton—North Delta for his passionate plea for victims.

It is fair to say that his passionate personal plea is certainly genuine. We certainly welcome his support. We hope that he will work with some of the colleagues on the other side who are perhaps not as interested as he is in passing this legislation.

I know from what he had to say that he has given a great deal of thought to the legislation and research on it. One of the important parts, I think, for all of us is the automatic one-sixth reduction in sentences. I am wondering if he has ever found anyone, a victim or a citizen in his community, who thought that a six-year sentence for a first-time offender meant one year.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety for his kind remarks toward me. It is not about me. It is all about the victims, Canadians and society. We want to create a safe society for all.

When I look at members on this side, I know they carry the hurt. The situations they are going through are similar to those that theparliamentary secretary or I or any other member in the House is going through. This is why we, collectively, have a duty to society to make sure we are living in and our kids are growing up in a safe society.

I am certain members on this side, particularly the Liberal members, are committed to ensuring that we work along with the government to pass legislation that gives victims and Canadians peace of mind.

When it comes to the question that the parliamentary secretary asked, certainly every day we talk to people, and that is their feeling. The only way we can deal with it is by bringing in tougher and minimum mandatory sentences that will address the question that he posed.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have spent the better part of the last four years in the House listening to the Conservatives shout and holler about getting tough on crime. It seems to me most of it is dumbing down the issue of crime and trying to oversimplify it.

We talk about a balance in making our streets safe. One of the ways to deal with recidivism is to ensure that people do not go back to prison. To do that, they need to have supports within the community.

It is all fine and well for the government to legislate what it is going to do to people in prisons. There seems to be no plan for these people for when they come out of prison.

There are issues, such as a national housing strategy. I have dealt with men coming out of prison. If they have no secure lodging or safe environments to start to rehabilitate, they reoffend. There is the same issue with drug addictions. We know how many people are in jail for crimes because of their addictions. Unless we have measures in place, they will reoffend. We see it again and again.

People can talk to police who will say that. People can talk to social workers. Yet we see that the government has no plan or vision in terms of, as we would say, draining the swamps of criminal behaviour by ensuring that the people who are most likely to be a threat are dealt with when they are released so that they can actually begin to become constructive members of society.

I would ask the hon. member what his views are in terms of having a long-term, larger vision with regard to getting smart on crime.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with him. In fact, if the hon. member goes back to speeches I have made on crime, he will see that I have always supported every piece of tough on crime legislation that has come before the House, whether it has come from the NDP, the Conservatives, the Bloc or the Liberals.

I have always stood for being tough on crime, but at the same time we have to ensure the factors the member mentioned, which are education, prevention and rehabilitation, are part and parcel of society, to make sure that criminals who come out of prison do not come out as bigger criminals.

We can make them productive members of society only by making sure they are given the proper rehabilitation and tools when they are released from prison so that they come out as productive citizens of this great nation.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague as he was speaking and while I appreciate his support for Bill C-43, I hope of course that he is speaking also for his Liberal colleagues.

I am wondering what assurance my colleague can give me that when this passes through the House, it will not be delayed, obstructed or gutted by Liberal senators in the other place. This is a very real concern I have because of what we saw, for example, on Bill C-25, which passed through the House, but which, when it reached the Liberal senators in the other place, was gutted. Actually, they defied their leader in doing so, and they did so without any repercussions.

Fortunately, Bill C-25, due to public pressure, passed ungutted, let us say, in its original form and Canadians were well served, but when the President of the Treasury Board today brought up Bill C-26 on auto theft, we saw it too being obstructed and delayed by the Liberal senators in the other place.

I hear my colleague speaking, but I would like to know what assurance he can give, not just to me and my colleagues in the House, but to all Canadians that this will make it through the Liberal senator blockade in the other place.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I talk about the Senate, I would like to talk about this House. It is the Conservative members, the Conservative House leader and the Conservative Prime Minister who have delayed the tough on crime legislation.

I would ask the hon. member to go back in history. The Liberal House leader stood in the House and clearly said to the House leader of the Conservative Party that we were willing to support the tough on crime legislation, and who denied it? The Conservatives did.

When legislation dealing with crime was on the agenda, who prorogued this Parliament? It was the Conservative Prime Minister who delayed the legislation for those victims, and those people who were waiting for the crime agenda to pass three years ago and who are still waiting.

It is not about the Senate; it is about the Conservative Party.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always fascinated that Conservatives are always going on about Liberal senators. I could go on about Liberal senators all day, but I am wondering if this is an attempt by the Conservatives to divert the attention of the Canadian public from the fact that instead of providing accountability, they have basically started to fill up the Senate with bagmen and friends of the party, so that anybody who flips pancakes and raises money for the Tories will now be our source of sober second thought in the upper chamber.

I ask my hon. colleague, given the rat pack that they put in the Senate, does this not show that despite everything they told the Canadian public about being accountable and bringing in better people to the Senate, they have basically filled it with bagmen, friends and cronies?

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta for a short answer, please.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

I will give a very short answer, Mr. Speaker.

I would even like to table this document which states that it is not the Liberal senators but the Conservative Senate that has to table the legislation.

First reading was given on June 16, 2009. Second reading was June 22, 2009, and since then they have not even put it up for debate to push it through. I would like to pass this on.

Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, law-abiding Canadians expect their government to do something to keep their streets safe. For this reason I am proud to rise today and speak on behalf of Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code. The bill proposes much-needed reforms to existing legislation that will indeed keep our communities safer.

However, before I address specifics, let me put the bill into a larger context. Since coming into office in 2006, this government has pledged to make the safety and security of Canadians one of its top priorities.

That is why we created an independent panel to review all aspects of Correctional Service of Canada. When the panel released its report in December 2007, which contained 109 recommendations, the government was quick to respond.

Budget 2008 invested over $478 million over the next five years to implement a new vision of federal corrections, which included addressing some of the panel's key recommendations.

This laid the foundation for the amendments to strengthen the federal corrections system that we are proposing today through Bill C-43. The bill proposes reforms in four key areas. It will provide better support for victims of crime, enhance accountability and responsibility of offenders, strengthen the management of offender reintegration, and modernize disciplinary action.

Let me begin with victims of crime, because when it comes to our corrections system they are so often last on everyone's list. The current act clearly recognizes that victims of crime have an interest in the correctional and conditional release process. Yet victims and their advocates have expressed dissatisfaction with the current law. They have called for improvements that would assure them of a stronger voice in the process. This government has heard their concerns. We have listened and we are acting.

As it stands now, victims sometimes travel long distances to attend a parole hearing, but if offenders withdraw their participation, the hearing can be cancelled at the last minute. This creates both a financial and an emotional burden for victims.

The bill proposes that when offenders ask to withdraw 14 days or less before the date of the hearing, the board may still proceed as scheduled unless there are particular circumstances, and victims would have the right to ask why the offender has waived a parole hearing. These measures would go a long way to preserving the peace of mind of victims.

Bill C-43 would also enshrine in law a victim's right to attend and make statements at National Parole Board hearings. In addition, it would enable victims to access relevant information about an offender including reasons for transfer or temporary absence and participation in program activities.

Finally, to ensure that the voice of victims continues to be heard, the government proposes to create a national victims of crime advisory committee. This body would enable victims to share their views and perspectives on corrections issues. In this way the government would keep better informed about the needs of victims.

The second major area of reform relates to the responsibility and accountability of offenders. A successful transition into the community does not happen by accident or through wishful thinking. It takes good planning, targeted interventions and appropriate correctional programs followed by supervision in a supportive community. It demands that offenders play an active role in their rehabilitation.

That is why the bill before the House stresses that rehabilitation is a shared responsibility between offenders and Correctional Service of Canada. Offenders would be expected to respect others, obey the rules and actively participate in fulfilling the goals of their correctional plan. To that end, each correctional plan would set out expectations for behaviour, participation in any programs and the fulfilment of any court-ordered financial obligations.

The third area of reform relates to the management of offenders and their reintegration into the community. We need to do better, so that we better protect law-abiding Canadians in all conditional release decisions. For example, the legislation proposes to give police the power to arrest, without warrant, any offender who appears to be in breach of parole.

In the final area of reform, Bill C-43 would modernize the system of discipline in federal penitentiaries. Specifically, it would impart stronger penalties for breaking rules such as disrespectful, intimidating or assaultive behaviour, including throwing bodily substances.

The four reforms I have outlined are overdue. They are in keeping with recommendations made by an independent review panel and they would go a long way toward keeping Canadians safe.

The protection of society is our first priority. For too long, the rights of offenders have taken priority over law-abiding citizens and even over victims of crime. It is time to swing the pendulum back to where it belongs. Canadians deserve to feel safe in their homes. Victims deserve to be treated with more respect, as do staff and correctional officers in our institutions. Offenders must be prepared to take more responsibility for their conduct and pay the price if they break the rules.

These are the objectives of Bill C-43. It would provide the government with the authority to make changes to the act that would better promote greater safety and security for all Canadians.

I so urge all members of this House to give their unconditional support to this bill.