Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the amendments proposed by the government as a result of three changes the justice committee made at committee to Bill S-6.
I want to be clear that, like the Bloc, the NDP is totally opposed to the legislation and we will be speaking to that when this matter gets to third reading. With regard to the amendments, we supported the changes made at committee but now the government is trying to reverse those changes. One change is the deletion of the short title. The second change deals with the amount of time, which was very short and still is, an individual who was looking to apply for this would be given in order to make the application. The third change was a response to an issue of victims rights and sharing information with the families of murder victims and perhaps more extended members, loved ones and friends.
I will go through those three amendments one at a time, but before I do, it is important that at every opportunity we get we make it clear to those who are opposed to getting rid of this legislation and this regime that Canada has at the present time the longest sentences served, not given but served, in the world, with the exception of a very small category in the United States.
In the United States, where people are sentenced to life as a result of a murder, first degree murder in most cases, are granted the opportunity to get parole but they only serve 18.5 years. In Canada, people who are convicted of first degree murder serve 28.5 years.
In the United States there is a category where people can be sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. It does not happen very often but there are cases like that. Even in those cases, however, the average person in the United States who is convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life with no opportunity for parole ever, only spends 29 years in prison and then, on average, die in prison at year 29.
We heard this from practically everyone who works in this area and we heard the question being put to the Conservatives on the justice committee. They wanted to know where the problem was and where we were going with this legislation? The only answer was that it would make it less onerous on the families of victims of murder to be faced with the likelihood that they will need to go repeatedly before a judge to defend why the person should not be given the faint hope clause opportunity.
Then again, here are the facts. We have had 3 cases in the 4,715 either first or second degree murder cases where people applied more than once under the faint hope clause. Out of the 4,715 cases since this faint hope clause came into effect, the people who were eligible to apply for the faint hope clause, we had 3 applications. That is what this bill will do away with.
The other reality is that the average person who was released under the faint hope clause in 2009, the average sentence the person served was 25 years.
Even though we hear of reinstating this title of truth in sentencing, that they do serious time for the most serious crime, they are doing that time. If we were to look at the last five years, not just 2009, we would see that the average person was released under the faint hope clause after about 23 to 23.5 years.
The Conservatives have run around the country stirring up emotion and scaring the families and close ones of murdered victims by telling them that they will be faced with repeated applications every two years, which is what the law allows now. They have been told that every two years they will be before a judge or a judge and jury, or before the Parole Board and they will have to relive the crime. That is simply not true. As I said before, there have been three cases where there has been a second application. By the way, there was only a second application in those three cases. There has never been a case where a person has applied more than twice.
Therefore, this fear that every two years, from the 15th year when a person can first apply under the current law in a first degree murder case, until the 25th year when people could theoretically be faced with this, if my math is correct, five times, there has never been more than three cases, and that has only occurred on the second application three times. However, this fear is stoked and the Conservatives repeat it and repeat it.
My colleague from Winnipeg was telling me that Tom Flanagan, the mentor of the Prime Minister and the guy who suggested that Assange should be assassinated, was quoted in one of as saying that it does not have to be true what one is saying, it just has to be believable, which t is what this is about. This is believable because it is in the law that a person can apply every two years from the 15-year mark in first degree murder. Of course, if one is a multiple murderer, he or she cannot apply until the 25th year under the Parole Act. However, the Conservatives continue to say it.
We have witnesses who come before us out of fear. We had the ombudsman come before us and she recounted the stories of victims she has been in touch with. One of their fears was to wake up at around the 15-year mark and worry that for the next 10 years, every two years they will be faced with an application. Does anybody within the correction system, the justice department or the government tell them that is not what will o happen and never has happened? No. However, the Conservatives' minions run around the country saying that this is what people will be up against. They tell people who have suffered the tremendous loss of a family member that they will be faced with this every two years. That is absolutely false.
I want to speak to one of the amendments being proposed here. The reason the majority of the justice committee deleted the phony title was that it did not reflect the reality of what happens in Canada. When we are talking about a serious crime, and there is nothing more serious than murder, Canadian victims have every right to know that we keep murderers in custody longer than anybody else in the world, and that is 28.5 years on average.