Ever, as my colleague points out. They will never get out of prison, and they were dealt with under the current laws.
How this law would affect the Clifford Olson case would be to rack up a much longer prison sentence. However, the reality is under the current law he is not going anywhere anyway. Therefore, what would we gain by taking this measure, other than making the government look a little better in the eyes of members of the press who are writing articles on this issue.
Another exception to the 25-year parole ineligibility period for first degree murder or to a 15 to 25-year parole ineligibility period for second degree murder is the faint hope clause. We are dealing with that in a different bill.
During the years following its initial introduction in 1976, the faint hope provision underwent a number of various amendments. Now the criteria for the possible release on parole of someone serving a life sentence are as follows. The inmate must have served at least 15 years of the sentence. An inmate who has been convicted of more than one murder, where at least one murder was committed after January 9, 1997, when previous amendments came into force, may not apply for a review of his or her parole ineligibility period.
To seek a reduction in the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole, the offender must apply to the chief justice of the province or territory in which his or her conviction took place. The chief justice or a Superior Court judge designated by that chief justice must first determine whether the applicant has shown there is a reasonable prospect that the application for review will succeed. The assessment is based on the following criteria: the character of the applicant; the applicant's conduct while serving the sentence; the nature of the offence for which the applicant was convicted; any information provided by a victim at the time of the imposition of the sentence or at the time of the hearing under this section; and any other matter that the judge considers relevant in the circumstances.
If the application is dismissed for lack of reasonable prospect of success, the chief justice or judge may set a time for another application not earlier than two years after dismissal or he or she may declare that the inmate will not be entitled to make another application. If the chief justice or judge determines the application has a reasonable prospect of success, a judge will be assigned to hear the matter with a jury.
In determining whether the period of parole ineligibility should be reduced, the jury should consider the five criteria I mentioned before. The jury's determination to reduce the parole ineligibility period must be unanimous and the victims of the offender's crime may provide information either orally, or in writing or in any other manner that the judge considers appropriate.
If the application is dismissed, the jury may, by a two-thirds majority, either set a time not earlier than two years after the determination when the inmate may make another application or it may decide that the inmate will not be entitled to make any further applications at all.
If the jury determines that the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole ought to be reduced, a two-thirds majority of that jury must submit a lesser number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole than the number then applicable. The number of years without eligibility for parole that it may assign can range from 15 to 24 years.
Once permission to apply for early parole has been granted, the inmate must apply to the National Parole Board to obtain the parole. Whether and when the inmate is released is decided solely by the board, based on a risk assessment, with the protection of the public as the foremost consideration. Board members must also be satisfied that the offender will follow specific conditions, which may include a restriction on movement, participation in treatment programs, which is very important, and prohibitions on associating with certain people such as victims, children and convicted criminals. Therefore, we can see that it is not a simple process by any means.
In addition, the Criminal Code requires that a sentence for using a firearm in the commission of an offence shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or a series of events. Section 83.26 mandates consecutive sentences for terrorist activities other than in the case of a life sentence. Section 467.14 requires consecutive sentences for organized crime offences. Therefore, we have examples in the code where consecutive sentences already are the case.
Another example when a consecutive sentence may be imposed by a sentencing judge is where the offender is already under a sentence of imprisonment.
A sentence of a term of years imposed consecutively to a sentence of life imprisonment is not valid in law. Life imprisonment means imprisonment for life, notwithstanding any release on parole. We dealt with that issue before. The consecutive part of this is that a consecutive life sentence could not take effect until the offender had died. The courts have held that Parliament could not have contemplated this physical impossibility, which would tend to bring the law into disrepute.
The member for Windsor—Tecumseh has already asked this question on more than one occasion today. He was trying to get a response from the minister on this very point, but I do not believe he received a 100% satisfactory answer from the minister in this situation.
A single parole ineligibility period for multiple murders can be increased when someone who is serving a life sentence receives an additional sentence. In such a case, the offender is not eligible for full parole until beginning on the day on which the additional sentence was imposed. There is a general rule that the maximum period of additional parole ineligibility is 15 years from the day on which the last of the sentence was imposed.
In terms of the prevalence of multiple murders in Canada and the United States, and several other members did speak about this, we are not talking about a lot of individuals. This is more or less a fairly rare event where this application will in fact be used. We have a chart which deals with the number of victims. We are dealing with an average of 21 cases where we have 2 victims, an average of 3 cases where we have 3 victims and only 1 case where we have 4 victims. The press kind of exaggerates and makes the average homeowner believe that somehow this is a daily occurrence, when in fact it is not. The statistics show that not to be the case.
I realize I only have another minute left and I do have quite a number of other points to make.
In 1999 an international comparison of the average time served in custody by an offender with a life sentence for first degree murder showed that Canada exceeded the average time served in all countries surveyed, including the United States. With the exception of the United States, for offenders serving life sentences without parole, the estimated average time that a Canadian convicted of first degree murder spent in prison was 28.4 years, and that is a very important point.