Mr. Speaker, my remarks are going to be pretty short. The member from the New Democratic Party gave an excellent speech about this particular bill.
There really is not a lot of opposition to the substance of the bill itself. What has caused concern to me and others is the fact that on the surface there does not appear to be a need for this Criminal Code amendment. The reason is that if there is a homicide, a first degree murder, there is a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Life imprisonment means a life sentence. It does not necessarily mean that every day is going to be spent in prison. However, there is no sentence greater than a life sentence. If I could go back 25 or 30 years when the death penalty was here, if that was still the case now the penalty for a first degree murder would be death. There is not a more significant penalty than that. If there was a double murder or a triple murder, the person can only be executed once.
When the law was changed, we ended with a life sentence. Life means life. A sentence cannot be any longer than that. It was absurd to talk about consecutive life sentences. We only have one life to live at this point in our human history. The impacts were felt to be pretty minimal.
Second, as has been pointed out here, no one has raised any particular instance of releases of individuals who are serving life sentences for multiple murders. There has not been one. If there has not been a release of that nature, why was it found necessary to draft a bill to change the law to prevent something from happening that is not happening anyway? That is the second reason why this bill does not appear to be necessary.
Third, it is really quite egotistical of a House of Parliament to make an assumption that what it would do in this House would have a huge impact on the street in terms of preventing crime. I hope no one here is naive enough to think that by merely sitting in our comfortable seats and changing the law we are going to immediately impact life on the streets in terms of crime prevention. This is not the case.
Many of us think that way from time to time. We politically posture to pretend that by changing the law in some little way we will make Canadians safer. Only in some cases is that a fact. In most cases we are just changing the law that our police and our courts work with.
These are three reasons why will bill looks pretty unnecessary. However, there is a place for this bill. My colleague of 22 years from Mississauga spotted it many years ago. This is that one of the objectives of sentencing under the Criminal Code, one of the specifically written objectives that this House enacted 15 years ago, is societal denunciation for the crime.
In looking at the application of a life sentence, at first blush there does not appear to be much room for additional denunciation. A life sentence is a life sentence. However, it just so happens that in our laws governing parole there did appear to be a failure to take advantage of an opportunity to show denunciation, further denunciation.
Our law does permit parole eligibility, not automatically granted parole but the ability to ask for parole after 25 years have been served. As has been indicated here, the average release time for someone, and this is the average across all those convicted and given life sentences, is about 28 years. They serve 28 years before they apply for parole. Therefore, by the time we take in those who are less than 25 years and those who are over, there are a lot of long sentences being served here.
However, in dealing with the parole eligibility dates, there was an opportunity for society to show an additional element of denunciation. That would involve saying if people killed a second time, they would have to have another 25 years or another period of time of actual in-custody sentences served before they could have eligibility. That was the reason this concept of increasing the denunciation was born. I can support that. In this case, the bill would allow for judicial discretion in applying these penalties.
However, lest we think that this additional denunciation in relation to parole eligibility would have an impact on the street, I can say without any hesitation, and I hope members are realistic enough in the House to agree with this, that there is virtually no case involving a homicide or a double homicide, whether at the same time or sequenced later in time, where the individual involved in that tragic circumstance will pull out a calculator and try to figure out whether or not he or she should proceed because there is some enhanced denunciation involving parole eligibility dates.
It is our hope, naive as it might be, that if someone were to think about, he or she might take it into consideration before taking the drastic action of taking a life. In some case I hope that would happen, that the additional denunciation related to the increased parole eligibility application periods would actually provide some pause or thought on the part of the perpetrator. In most of these tragic cases, I doubt that will happen. In 99% of the cases, the individuals involved do not even think about it and do not think they will ever get caught, so the event happens. It is a tragedy time after time after time.
I will support the bill. As has been mentioned, one might as well consider my words as notice to members opposite that the short title of the bill probably will not survive the committee's consideration. It might, but it is a warning to the drafters of these bills and the short titles that the House is not likely to accept the insertion of political commercials into the short title of bills anymore. Let us get a good objective statement of the change in law proposed by the bill and we will live with that. Do not over-torque it.