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House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

Foreign DocumentsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present to the House a petition from a number of constituents and others regarding the Hague Convention of 1961 which abolished the requirement of the legalization of foreign documents.

Canada is not a signatory to that convention even though China, the Czech Republic, France, Korea, Romania, Great Britain, U.S.A, Albania and many others are. The difficulty this has created is that without a certified document Canadians must endure a time consuming and expensive process to obtain authentications from foreign consulates.

With the large influx of newcomers to Canada, the petitioners believe it is time to simplify the flow of legal documents. They call upon the Government of Canada to conclude negotiations with the provinces and territories for the adoption of that convention within the next 12 months or, failing completed negotiations, to proceed unilaterally to ratify the convention.

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is now at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by 5 million people in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for an American family of four can be over $500. Fifty per cent of Canadians have passports but only 25% of Americans do.

At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and 500 other elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, a resolution was passed unanimously and reads:

...that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage[s] the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and finally, promote a time limited two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

Old Age Security PensionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I take pride in presenting a petition on behalf of constituents who oppose Bill C-428, which would lower the residency requirement for receiving Old Age Security from 10 years to 3 years. They believe that the 10 year requirement currently in place is the appropriate level.

Therefore, they are asking Parliament to oppose Bill C-428.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, once again I rise on the occasion of the EI pilot projects receiving only an eight month extension. These are programs that my constituents feel should be made permanent for areas of high unemployment.

One of the measures contained within that would be the best 14 weeks and, within that measure, it allows employees and employers to be at a more comfortable stage. Under the current system of the last 14 weeks, there is no incentive to go back to work. Therefore, if the company wants to hire workers back for two or three days, there is a built-in disincentive because the workers will receive less in benefits.

This petition pertains to the expiry date of October 23, which has been extended to June, but I will continue to present these petitions until these programs are made permanent.

I want to thank the people on this particular petition from Wesleyville, New-Wes-Valley, Lumsden, Newtown, Moretons Harbour, Cape Freels region, Tilting and Fogo on Fogo Island. Most of the names pertain to those areas.

Motor Vehicle SafetyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. The first one asks the Government of Canada to introduce a regulation under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act requiring side underrun guards for large trucks and trailers to prevent cyclists and pedestrians from being pulled under the wheels of these vehicles, and that we should harmonize Canadian vehicle safety standards with the ECE regulation 73 which requires sideguards on all trucks and trailers in Europe.

Several coroner reports have stated that without these sideguards cyclists and pedestrians are pulled under these large vehicles. They also noted that 37% of these collisions resulted in cyclist fatalities compared with only 8% of accidents resulting in cyclist injuries.

We have petitions from across Canada saying that sideguards are legal requirements in the U.K. and there is no reason for them not to be installed on trucks and trailers here in Canada.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition asking the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to grant a temporary resident permit on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so that Gary Freeman can be united with his four Canadian children and his wife in Canada.

Mr. Freeman arrived in Canada in 1974. He is a well loved and respected member of the community. He used to work in the library system in Toronto and he has four grown children. In the sixties, he committed a crime and served his time of 30 days in jail. He has made a major contribution to the Chicago Police charity. Since he has done his time, we should allow him to come back to Canada on humanitarian grounds so he can be with his entire family in Canada.

VisasPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, coming from Burnaby—New Westminster, the capital of the Taiwanese community in Canada, I am pleased to present a petition signed by more than 500 residents of Burnaby, New Westminster, Vancouver, Richmond and other areas of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

The petitioners call for visa-free travel between Canada and Taiwan. Over 150,000 visitors from Taiwan come to Canada every year and about 15,000 Taiwanese students attend Canadian schools. There is an undeniable economic advantage of strengthening the ties between Canada and Taiwan.

The United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand have all recently waived visa requirements for Taiwanese visitors. In each of those cases, the number of Taiwanese visitors and tourists has increased significantly. It is also important to note that Taiwan has waived visa requirements for Canadians visiting Taiwan.

These 500 individuals throughout the Lower Mainland are calling upon the House of Commons to pass my private member's Motion No. 530 which requests that the government implement the visa waiver program for Taiwanese citizens coming to Canada in response to Taiwan's decision to waive visa requirements for Canadian visitors to Taiwan.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had the floor and he has 13 minutes left in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue today on the debate on what is now Bill C-39.

The bill is designed to improve public safety and notably by stating explicitly that the active participation of offenders in attaining the objectives of the correction plan is an essential requirement for their condition of release or any other privilege. It is also designed to deal with expanding the categories of offenders who are ineligible for an accelerated parole review and the categories of offenders subject to continue detention after their statutory release date when they have served two-thirds of their sentence. For example, offenders convicted of child pornography, luring a child or breaking and entering to steal a firearm are examples.

In addition, the bill would extend the length of time that offenders convicted of a subsequent offence must serve before being eligible for parole. Also, it would increase from six months to a year the waiting period for a hearing after the National Parole Board has turned down a parole application.

The bill would also authorize a peace officer to arrest, without a warrant, an offender who is on conditional release for a breach of conditions. It would grant the Correctional Service of Canada permission to oblige an offender to wear a monitoring device as a condition of release when a release is subject to special conditions regarding restrictions on access to a victim of geographical areas. It would increase the number of reasons for the search of vehicles at a penitentiary to prevent the entry of contraband or the commission of an offence.

The bill also focuses specifically on the interests of victims by expanding the definition of “victim” to anyone who has custody of or is responsible for a dependant of the main victim if the main victim is dead, ill or otherwise incapacitated. It would disclose to a victim of the program in which an offender has participated for the purposes of reintegration into society, the location of an institution to which an offender is transferred and the reason for the transfer. It also would entrench in the act the right of victims to make a statement at parole hearings, which is a new element.

The whole development of victims' rights over the years did not start with the Conservative government. It was not an idea that somehow the Conservative government developed in its policy rooms. The fact is that this is a long-term process. In fact, I recall in Manitoba, as far back as, I believe, 1970, when Premier Ed Schreyer, the first NDP premier in Canada, was elected on June 25, 1969. Within his first four-year mandate, he brought in substantial changes to the province of Manitoba and to the country of Canada. One of the initiatives that he brought in was a criminal injuries compensation fund, which may have been the first of its kind in Canada at the time.

Nevertheless, the criminal injuries compensation fund has been around in Manitoba now since 1970. Therefore, the Conservatives have absolutely no monopoly on victims' rights and victims' services in this country. As a matter of fact, the Conservative government, the champion of victims' rights, hired Steve Sullivan as the victims' ombudsman. When he started doing the job of advocating on the part of victims, the government, which appointed him, got rid of him by not renewing his term. That has some reflection on the government's real commitment to victims' rights.

However, over the years, beginning with the criminal injuries compensation fund and initiatives such as that, we have seen a gradual progression toward more rights for the victims. There was a time not so long ago, maybe 20 years ago, when it was almost impossible for a person to find out the resolution and the developments of their break-and-enters, for example. Many people have come to me over the years and told me how their house had been broken into and that they were told by the police to go home and forget about it and that they would deal with it. However, no information came their way as to what stage the case was at and the disposition of it.

That was changed not only under NDP governments but I am sure under Liberal governments in other provinces and, of course, Conservative governments in Manitoba. The Filmon government made some moves, as well as the Gary Doer government. Now there is an array of victim services available. After a break-in of a property, the victim gets a call from the police and a kit is dropped off indicating phone numbers that people can call for counselling, if required.

At more and more stages, people are being kept updated and informed of the processes, and we in the NDP support that. The member for Burnaby—Douglas and others in the NDP are on record as being very strongly supportive of victims' rights and services. So it is somewhat surprising; well, maybe it is not so surprising but it is unfair for the Conservatives to keep riding this horse. The Liberal critic yesterday spoke on this bill and I listened carefully to his speech, which was very good. He kept referring to the Conservatives' calling him a hug-a-thug.

The fact of the matter is that it is peculiar to the current Conservative government. I do not recall the Conservative government of Joe Clark, which of course was not around that long, or of Brian Mulroney taking this kind of approach. This seems to be something that is peculiar to the group that is in power right now, and I really do not think it has had a lot of results to show for its efforts in this area.

The government may think that somehow it is making progress by coming up with boutique-type bills that are not 100% necessary. For example, a lot of the measures that it is introducing in these bills are already covered under the Criminal Code. What it should be doing, as has been mentioned by many people in the House, is taking the time to revamp the entire Criminal Code, something that is long overdue. It is a very old piece of legislation that is hundreds of pages long. If the government were showing vision in this area, it would make an announcement that it is going to revamp the entire Criminal Code and invite the parties onside.

I remind government members that it was one of their own colleagues, Gary Filmon who they appointed to a federal board, who developed the approach, in a minority parliament, that he would involve all opposition parties on controversial issues. It was not only Meech Lake. That was a very good example of how a very smart leader operating in a minority situation confronted a very important decision in this country.

He did not make an arbitrary decision like the Prime Minister does and drive ahead at all costs. He involved the party leaders. He got Senator Carstairs, who was a leader of the Liberal Party, involved in the committee. He got Gary Doer, who was opposition leader at the time, involved in the committee. That is how they dealt with the issue of Meech Lake.

Even when it came to something as simple as a smoking ban that was controversial in those days, Premier Filmon reached out to opposition leaders and got them on board. He found that system actually worked. The government actually did that on Afghanistan just last year and it worked reasonably well. Why it continues to refuse to learn from history and previous good practices that would help the government, Parliament and the country is really beyond me.

We can allow the Conservatives to continue their beating of the drums, their calling the member for Ajax—Pickering a hug-a-thug and their cheap shots, but the reality is that the public is not buying it. I think the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor agrees with me.

The Conservatives have been doing this now for almost five years, but where are the results to show? They have gone through a couple of elections. They showcase them, but they are all the same bills. They brought them in two, three and four years ago. Then they prorogued the House, then brought them all back; then they had an election, then prorogued the House again and then brought them all back.

Where are those great polling numbers that this policy is supposed to produce? It is just not there. The Conservatives are no more popular today than they were then. They should be looking at how they are running the government right now.

Let us look at the long form census, the debacle of this summer. The Conservatives cannot seem to get their agenda on track.

I had wanted to talk about the “Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, which is one of the reasons why the government is bringing in the legislation, but I know our public safety critic will be speaking on this bill later, and there are other members in the House who will deal adequately with that particular issue.

I understand the bill will be going to committee, because the Bloc has indicated its support for the bill. Hopefully at committee we will be able to make the adjustments and amendments needed to make this a better piece of legislation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, after listening to the gentleman across the way from the NDP espousing the virtues of his party and how it stands up for criminals, I am wondering if this is a change of focus for the NDP.

Could the member tell me if this means that, instead of sitting down every time one of our bills to protect victims comes forward, the NDP is now going to start standing up to protect Canadians? Is that what he is saying?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I think if the member checks Hansard, he is going to find that he misspoke.

He really meant to say “stands up for victims”. I am sure he would apologize for that error. He accidentally said “stands up for criminals”, which of course is probably what he actually meant to say at the end of the day, but of course he did not intend to do so this morning.

I know the member is a very good member of Parliament. He is hard working and he follows the party line over there. He is probably the first one up in the morning, getting the orders from the Prime Minister's office, reading them and being right up to snuff on all the latest nuances.

I would guess that the member would be the number one MP over there doing that. I know he has read up on the latest news. I get my MP hits in the morning, and he gets his at eight o'clock at night, before some of the papers have even hit their deadlines. He is well-informed. I am sure he is just following the Prime Minister's orders.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, one of the issues I noticed was that the Conservative member stood up.

There are so many debates and so many issues that are brought to this House, and so many times that we get up to speak, as my hon. colleague does, and it goes Liberal, Bloc, NDP and back to Liberal.

I can only wish for more engagement of debate in this House. I think it is paramount to what we are here for, and it is not acknowledged by some members of the Conservative Party, or all the members of the party, which is really a sad statement.

We are in a minority Parliament situation. They certainly have to put themselves through the process of debating within the House and being questioned by the members.

Perhaps the hon. member could comment on that. He has been up in the House more than I have. He has probably seen in these debates, each and every one of them, what I call the sloganeering nature of many of these bills, as he pointed out, which was stop-and-go politics, or not so much politics but stop-and-go legislating.

What the Conservatives are doing is getting it to a certain point, drawing it back by prorogation or whatever it may be, then bringing it back into the House once again. I think the member has a point about the idea of looking at the Criminal Code in whole. Unfortunately that may not allow the Conservatives to put up the nice slogan that they desire.

I would like the member to comment on that and also on the lack of debate, by both sides, on any issue that comes to this House.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is correct. We have seen the government put up one speaker on a bill and then simply let the debate take its course on this side of the House. It is not there to answer any questions on its bills.

However, there is an exception to that. We had, this spring, the Minister of Immigration actually give the House the respect it deserves. He was here for the entire debate. In fact, he asked the first question for every speaker on the immigration bill. I thought that was a class act on the part of the minister. Did another minister follow his lead?

Provincially, it is normal. If the finance minister has a bill before the House, the minister is there. In the Manitoba legislature, if any minister of any department has a bill before the House, the minister is there for the entire debate. He or she does not just simply do the introduction, walk away and not stay to ask questions.

The immigration minister sat here every hour. He listened to every speaker and he asked the first question, and that is what the government minister should be doing.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking my colleague for his speech. I would like him to tell me what he thinks about the fact that in this bill, this government has reintroduced the abolition of release after an offender has served one-sixth of his sentence.

This is something that the Bloc Québécois has been talking about since 2007. It introduced two bills and called on the House to pass them quickly. There was only one clause in the bills, and it would have abolished release after one-sixth of the sentence had been served. But this government refused to vote for this measure. If it had, then there would not even be a clause in Bill C-39 to abolish release after one-sixth of the sentence, and the Earl Joneses and Vincent Lacroix of this world would still be in jail.

Currently, these people are entitled to be released after serving one-sixth of their sentence. What does my colleague think about abolishing release after one-sixth of the sentence has been served? And what does he think about the fact that this government makes a big show of talking about public safety instead of thinking about the safety of the people?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I recognize that the Bloc has been a strong and long-time supporter of this measure. I recognize that is something it feels strongly about, and I think there would be a lot of support in the House for that particular measure.

I recognize the concerns regarding Earl Jones and other white collar criminals, where cases have been dealt with and will not be affected by changes to the legislation. That is sad because we, in this country, have a terrible record.

I mentioned last week that in the United States, its system has managed to put away 1,200 white collar criminals, including a couple of Canadians. The entire Canadian system has only effected 2 convictions and they are both against the same guy. We have put away 1 person who was guilty of white collar crimes in Canada, while the Americans have put away 1,200, and they think their system is not good enough. As a matter of fact, President Obama is re-regulating the entire financial services industry as a result of what happened two years ago.

We have a long way to go in this country to start operating on the basis of being smart on crime. On this side of the House, the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals are all in favour of changes to our system and putting white collar criminals away for longer periods of time, but what we want to do is look at the entire criminal justice system and be smart on crime. We want to do things that work, not necessarily just blindly follow the American system, the three strikes and you are out system, with private prisons and warehousing people, which does not work. We disagree with that, but there are other areas of common ground here.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, getting smart on crime means that there need to be a lot more programs in prisons so that, when the offenders come out, they will reintegrate well.

One of the programs that is desperately needed, in terms of its expansion, is a public health program to deal with drug treatment, whether it is behaviour modification or getting the drugs for treatment, and then upon their release, a community-based reintegration program. This is often not available in prison. With this approach, we end up having people in prison longer, and yet when they come out, they reoffend. It is wasting money and it is not going in the right direction.

Could my colleague comment on the drug treatment programs that are needed and the smart on crime approach he is talking about?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the proof is in the pudding here with the government announcing it is going to spend $9 billion on new prisons. In fact, a fraction of that amount could do what the hon. member has said.

A very high percentage of people who are in prison, particularly women, are dealing with addiction and mental health problems. Those people do not really belong in a prison; they should be in a mental health facility. They should have access to treatment programs whether they are in a mental health facility or in a prison. The government is not paying attention.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which comes at a very bad time. We will try to deal with this methodically. I want to respond to my colleague who just spoke. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is currently studying six bills, including Bill C-4 on young offenders. The review of this particular bill is not complete because the government has not yet tabled the necessary documents, as it should have done in June 2010. The bill we are discussing today could also die on the order paper because it may be some time before it is studied in committee.

I do not know whether my colleague, the member for Ahuntsic, is studying as many bills that affect the public in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. If she is, then we have a serious problem. This government is playing politics and taking a piecemeal approach to justice issues, doing a little bit here and a little bit there. It has introduced a bill that I would say is extremely worthwhile and has been a long time coming. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill, and we would like to send it to committee as soon as possible.

Let us look at the dates of this bill. On June 16, 2009, we were examining Bill C-43. Summer arrived, the House adjourned, and then MPs returned. In October 2009, we were examining Bill C-53. Then, the government—not the opposition parties—decided to prorogue. This bill died on the order paper on December 30, 2009. Now, the government has re-introduced the bill as Bill C-39, which is the same as the previous bills C-43 and C-53. I hope this one will not die on the order paper, because it is very important.

The government is accusing the opposition of not looking out for victims, of not caring about them or being interested in them. According to the government, the only thing that the opposition cares about is criminals, and getting them out of jail as soon as possible. I never hear so many blatant lies from the other side of the House as I do when they talk about victims. We absolutely care about victims. The best example is that the Bloc Québécois has been calling for the abolition of the one-sixth of the sentence rule for two years now.

I will give a little legal lesson, more specifically on criminal law, for my colleagues opposite. It is a problem with criminal law that comes up when an individual is sentenced. The best example is the case of Colonel Williams. We can talk about him now, because he will probably be sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. We can get back to that, because the government just introduced another bill. Let us take the example of someone sentenced to jail time. Bill C-39 applies only to someone sentenced to more than two years. That is extremely important. We are talking about sentences of more than two years in prison. The problem is that in provincial prisons, in Quebec in particular, this service already exists. However, even if the individuals are sentenced to two years less a day, they are still eligible for release after serving one-sixth of their sentence.

In terms of criminal law, let us look only at sentences of at least two years, for example, someone in Quebec who is sentenced to three years in prison. This person is sent to the regional reception centre in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, in the Montreal region. Regardless of where that person is from, that is where they are sent.

It takes between three and four months for the case to be dealt with. If the person was sentenced to 36 months in prison, after six months, or one-sixth of the sentence, that person is already eligible for release, and no one will have dealt with the case.

There is a gap there. We have long been saying that parole must be earned and that release after serving one-sixth of a sentence should not exist. I have 30 years of experience as a criminal lawyer. Some of my clients were released after serving one-sixth of their sentence. After having been sentenced to three years, they were released after six months and no program had been established for them, which made it far more likely that they would reoffend.

My colleague, the member for Ahuntsic, who is a criminologist and has worked with these types of people, probably knows what I am talking about. This is exactly what is happening in prisons. They cannot even begin to work with an individual who has one foot out the door if he was sentenced to two or three years in prison. He has practically left before he has arrived. Why? Take the example of one of my clients. We decided that it was better for him to be sentenced to 24 months in prison instead of two years less a day because it would take longer to serve a sentence of two years less a day in a Quebec prison than a 24-month sentence. One-sixth of 24 months is four months, and so he was released after four months. There was not even enough time before he was released for them to deal with his case and have a meeting to discuss a plan for his return to society.

That is the worst possible mistake. As I have been saying in this House for nearly six years now, the problem with the Conservatives is that they do not understand. So, I will try to explain it again. The Conservatives think that minimum prison sentences will solve everything. Nothing could be further from the truth, so far that even the Americans are beginning to realize it. Canada—and especially the Conservatives—seems to be a few years behind. In two or three years, they are going to realize they are on the wrong track.

The public is not shocked when someone receives a four-year sentence, but rather when that individual gets out after one year. The public is shocked by the fact that people are not serving their sentences. That is precisely what the Bloc Québécois has been criticizing for some time.

Whether my Conservative friends like it or not, minimum prison sentences do not preclude offenders from being eligible for parole. Even with a mandatory minimum of three years, the individual is still eligible for parole. That is what the Conservatives do not understand. Once again, we will try to explain to them that it is the parole system that needs to change. The parole system needs to be changed so that people who are sent to prison are not released unless they have a plan for their reintegration into society. That is the problem. In the example I gave of someone who has been sentenced to three years, if he is eligible for parole after six months, he will sit back and do nothing.

That is why we are calling for the elimination of parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served. That is also why we hope to vote quickly to pass this bill. I know my Conservative Party colleagues always overreact because of the worst criminals. In the case of Colonel Williams, who has committed a rash of unspeakable crimes in the Belleville and Trenton area, if he is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, society will take care of him. He will be sent to prison, as he clearly deserves. I will not try to defend him here, since I am not his lawyer.

That is not the problem. The worst criminals deserve the harshest sentences. That has always been true. The problem lies with individuals who are not criminals, but who are going down a path of crime. If we do not stop them, if we do not take measures to stop them, they will become hardened criminals. Generally they are individuals who are serving their first penitentiary sentence. Obviously it depends on the crime, but in most cases, a person's first penitentiary sentence is somewhere between 3 and 10 years. Those are the people this bill absolutely must catch and as soon as possible.

When I say “catch”, I mean we must encourage them to do what it takes to return to society with a plan in order not to reoffend. The problem is that the parole board does not help. It does not have a chance to work with the individuals. If an individual is eligible for parole after one-sixth of his sentence, what will he do? Take, for example, an individual who has a three-year sentence. When he arrives at the regional reception centre—every province has them—it takes three to four months before his case is reviewed. What do you think he does in the meantime? He plays cards, watches television, drinks Pepsi and waits. No one works with him, at least not very much. Someone needs to work with him as soon as he arrives at the penitentiary.

There is something my Conservative friends do not understand. I will explain it to them yet again. An individual who is sentenced will return to society and if he is not properly prepared to return to society, then, unfortunately, he will reoffend. It is a known fact that the risk of recidivism for this type of person—I am talking about those who receive sentences between 3 and 10 years—is quite high. The risk is there. We have to find ways to correct this.

Quite honestly, this is a good bill. This afternoon, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is going to study Bill C-22 on Internet child pornography. We all support this bill. It must be passed. Everyone agrees that this legislation needs to be put in place. It must be passed, but the government will have to submit it to us. The same holds true for Bill C-39. We must deal with it as soon as possible because it is a good bill. The parole board needs to be able to implement it. But no work is being done right now because no one knows whether the bill is going to come. The bill might not pass and could die on the order paper because of an election in the spring of 2011, for example, which is not such a far-fetched idea. It could happen. Suppose there is an election in the spring of 2011. If the government has not submitted this bill to us—we have six bills to study—then it is going to have to set priorities for the committee. We have already agreed to study Bill C-22 while we wait for the translation of the report on Bill C-4 on young offenders, as I said earlier. But it is important to pass Bill C-22 on child pornography.

There is the other bill on vehicle theft—I cannot remember the number—that we discussed before the House adjourned a week ago. Everyone supports this bill.

The government should do the sensible thing and say that since the opposition supports a number of bills, they will be sent as soon as possible to be studied, discussed and passed.

Since this bill will likely be studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I think things should go quickly. But we have to give the penitentiaries the means to prepare release plans. This is the process where an offender is told that he has five years left to serve, for example, and he has to begin, now, to take part in preparing a release plan or serve his last five years.

At least the individual still has the choice in prison. But it is clear that he may leave—and will leave—after five years. There needs to be some follow-up with this person. During the entire prison sentence, the individual offender's treatment needs to be personalized, just as the courts hand down personalized sentences.

The individual must be made aware that their release from prison is as much their responsibility as the crime they committed. The person was found guilty or pleaded guilty to the offence and was given a sentence. However, after they are sentenced, many individuals tend to sit in prison and just wait for the end of the sentence. This bill should put an end to that. We must change the attitudes of people as they enter the prison by asking them about their plans for release and what they want to do. Do they want to finish school? Do they want addiction treatment? Do they want some sort of training? What do they want? That would set the wheels in motion so that they can leave prison better equipped than when they arrived.

Obviously, that is not what is happening right now. The National Parole Board, the prisons and the Correctional Service of Canada are not able to provide these services. That would require many things. The government supports this bill, but it needs to invest the necessary funds. Why invest? Because criminals will eventually be released. Victims need protection. They are always talking about victims.

There is something that we do not understand about the Conservatives. The National Parole Board takes care of victims, especially in terms of the prison system. This organization's main priority is the rehabilitation of an individual who is rejoining society, but the victims must also be protected and every possible step must be taken to keep that individual from reoffending.

I am being told that I have only two minutes left, but I could go on about this for a long time. I would like the Conservatives to remember this: automatic sentences have never solved anything. A minimum prison sentence has never solved anything, and that will not change today. All the studies presented to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that minimum prison sentences have never led to a decrease in crime.

We must ensure that these individuals serve their sentences, keeping in mind that they will one day return to society. It is clear that we will probably never see people like Colonel Williams, who will receive a minimum sentence of 25 years for a double murder, outside the prison walls. But we will see people who were sentenced to five to ten years in prison, and some are already close to being released.

Did people like Mr. Jones or Mr. Lacroix, who owned Norbourg, learn their lesson? With all due respect, I think that the only thing they learned was not to get caught.

Unfortunately, with the current system, prisoners learn more about not getting caught than they do about preparing for their release.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague on his excellent speech. I am sure he would agree that this government's actions in terms of public safety and protecting victims have been nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

I listened carefully to the member's speech. I have not read Bill C-22 that he mentioned, so I wonder if this is the much talked-about bill that police forces have been waiting for for nearly 12 years now, that will give them the tools they need to go after pedophiles and the producers and consumers of child pornography. Furthermore, we know that between 1980 and 1990, there were about a thousand child pornography images and videos on the Internet. Now there are millions of such images and videos on the Internet. This means that thousands of children have been abused in making these photos and videos, and it means that thousands of pedophiles are profiting from these photos and videos.

Police forces want to have the ability to obtain the IP addresses of these cyber-pedophiles and producers of online child pornography. Will this bill give them that capacity? The former victims ombudsman, Steve Sullivan, said that if he were prime minister, that would be his top priority. I do not believe this bill will do anything in that regard and I wonder what my colleague's thoughts are on this.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and immediately reassure her. Indeed, police forces have been waiting for Bill C-22 for almost 10 years. I recently went over this bill again because we will be studying it this afternoon when the hon. Minister of Justice appears before the committee. We have asked the minister to hurry up and not waste time.

The problem with Bill C-22, which deals with fighting pornography, is whether the government will grant any funding. I should warn my colleagues across the way that if I get a chance to ask the Minister of Justice a question this afternoon, it will be this: Will the government provide funding? It takes specialized squads to deal with this crime and that is precisely the current problem. We will need to create squads, like the ones for fighting organized crime. We have to do exactly the same thing to deal with pornography, a crime that is much worse and even more insidious. Nevertheless, now we have the services and the systems.

Yesterday, we were looking at what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is implementing in terms of a system that will allow us to move forward. However, the RCMP needs money. Bill C-22 is indeed a bill that the government claimed it was introducing to protect victims, but the bill has not been implemented yet. Neither has Bill C-30. The Conservatives campaigned in two elections on a promise to implement this bill. The time has come for that party to put its money where its mouth is.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue gave a very interesting speech. He talked about the Conservative strategy of making a show of being tough on crime. Their show is costing Canadians dearly. The government is planning to spend billions of dollars on prisons for offenders who have committed unreported crimes, according to the Treasury Board President. It makes absolutely no sense. Even worse, the Conservatives are cutting all the programs that help reduce crime in our society.

The Conservatives are spending billions of dollars. They seem incapable of managing this money and putting it towards the right priorities, such as programs to reduce crime and to keep criminals from reoffending. And while they are cutting these programs, they are investing billions of dollars to build prisons across the country.

Does the member think that the Conservatives' approach, which is to make a show of being tough on crime, could lead to an increase in crime? The programs to reduce the crime rate in our society are no longer there.