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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-464 in the House at third reading. Hopefully, today we will have our last hour of debate and have it shipped off to the Senate to carry on.

I would like to take a few minutes to explain the origins of how I decided to bring this bill forward. As a newly-elected member of Parliament in the last year and a half, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes across a member's desk, the amount of paper and the number of causes and interests. It is hard to manage all of that, but I have sort of taken the view that I am going to look at anything that comes across my desk that relates to home.

I had an opportunity, shortly after I was elected in late 2008, early 2009, to watch a documentary. It was called Dear Zachary. It was produced by Kurt Kuenne. It was the story of a tragic incident that happened in Newfoundland and Labrador. I watched the documentary here in Ottawa. I knew the story, the individuals involved, and the details surrounding it. I was quite moved. It was an amazing documentary that told the story of David and Kate Bagby, their son Andrew, and their little grandchild Zachary.

After seeing the documentary, I knew where I was in the order of precedence on the order paper for a private member's bill. As I and my assistant, Mr. Ken Carter, who has helped me with this bill, left the theatre, I decided this was what I wanted to do my private member's bill on.

When we come to this place and look at private members' bills, I have said it before, we present private members' bills for one of two reasons. The first is to make a political statement, knowing that once it is introduced, it is for that reason and we are not going to go anywhere with it. The second is to actually make a difference. I truly believe that once members are elected, they come to this place to make a difference. That is when I decided I would introduce my private member's bill on detention in custody for bail reform.

The documentary Dear Zachary outlined the case of Zachary Turner and the tragic events around the baby's death. I will not go into it today because we have debated it previously and told the story in committee. I do not think we need to go there today. It was in memory of Zachary Turner that I introduced this private member's bill, to try to change our bail laws, to toughen them up a little, so that we could deny bail to protect minor children in the custody of the accused.

That was the story of Zachary and his tragic death. We heard testimony in committee from David and Kate Bagby and I will speak about those two amazing individuals momentarily.

We also heard other stories of tragic deaths from a group that came to testify before committee, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. Heidi Illingworth, the executive director, and Krista Gray-Donald, director of advocacy and awareness, appeared at committee. It was a group that I had not solicited and I did not know of, to be honest, until I realized they were coming before the committee in support of my bill.

They told a couple of other stories of crimes that could have been prevented if we had such information in our bail laws. I am going to read a couple more cases from their testimony. There were three cases they gave examples of that I had not heard of prior to them appearing before committee last week. The first story is the following:

Peter Lee of Victoria attempted to murder his wife in 2007. He was charged but granted judicial interim release despite a recommendation by police that he not be released by the courts. Conditions were imposed that required that he not have contact with his wife, yet in September 2007 he murdered his six-year-old son as well as his wife and her parents.

He did that while he was out on bail. The second is as follows:

In Cumberland, Ontario, in April 2006, Frank Mailly murdered his two sons, ages six and nine, his daughter, aged twelve, and their mother. He then burned down their home, with their bodies in it, killing himself in the process. He was not to have contact with Francine, but he had visitation rights to the children, and he committed these murders at the conclusion of one of their visits. Mailly had a long history of domestic violence and was on bail at the time he murdered his family.

In 2002, Lawrence Mends was released on bail in St. Catharines following an attempt to take the life of the mother of his child. When he returned to her home to attack her again, he wounded her and murdered their two-year-old son, Robert, stabbing him in excess of 20 times with a knife.

These were three examples that I had no idea about when I put my bill forward. They touched me as much as the story of Zachary Turner touched me. When we hear that the courts could have had the power to keep somebody in custody when they are charged with a serious crime so that they not be released on bail to protect minor children of the accused, that is what we decided to do.

With this bill, we put in bail reform under section 515 of the Criminal Code giving the courts the power to deny bail to protect minor children of the accused.

We did our research. We wanted to ensure this amendment was charter-proof. We could have made it much stronger, but then it would not have stood up to our Charter of Rights of Freedoms, which is important.

We did our research and then we came back with this amendment that all parties could live with, including all parties in this House. After consultation, I mentioned it to the minister and we made it a little bit stronger by defining minor children.

At committee there was an amendment proposed by the government that said “all children under the age of 18”. That gave it even more clarity and is concise within the Criminal Code. We had an amendment at committee with all party support. That is why we are back here today for third reading in this House.

I am very pleased that we have managed to move this along quite quickly. I have been told that private members' bills sometimes do not even see the light of day. Someone who had done some research for me said only 1% of private members' bills actually receive royal assent. So I am quite excited that in my first term here in Ottawa I have managed to get a private member's bill this far. We do that by building consensus, doing the research, and having something that is practical and can realistically be approved.

This is about two amazing people. There are two amazing people whom I have met during this process, David and Kate Bagby. I did not know Mr. and Mrs. Bagby. I knew of them and of the circumstances around the deaths of their son and grandson.

I cannot describe what these two amazing individuals have gone through to be at this stage here with me today. They have seen the death of their son, the death of their only grandson, and they have taken up this cause over the past five years. They have seen many things transpire in Newfoundland with child welfare. Dr. Markesteyn conducted an inquiry that recommended many changes in our provincial child welfare.

I think that is another cause that we need to look at. That was provincial in nature. We had that report and often reports gather a lot of dust in this place. The provincial government now needs to take that report out, look at the recommendations, and see what has been acted upon in toughening up and improving our child welfare laws in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Then the other part was the bail reform issue. That is when they came to me and asked if somebody could take this cause up to get this bail reform before the House of Commons, which we have done. Senator Tommy Banks will be my sponsor when this bill goes to the Senate. He saw the documentary when it was in Alberta.

These two amazing people, David and Kate, have gone through a lot. I really thank them for the work they have done with me in preparing this bill. They do not like the word “closure” because there is no closure for them, having lost a son and a grandchild. They have taken this on and have tried to make laws better in our country, so that no other child, parent or grandparent will have to go through what they have gone through.

I thank David and Kate for being my inspiration in bringing this forward. This is about them.

That is the story of my bill, Bill C-464. It is a pleasure to be here to introduce this important legislation. I look forward to listening to the debate and answering any questions and comments members may have on this particular bill. I look forward to sending it to the Senate at the end of business today.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, have any other parents or family members, not just in Canada but in the United States, which has been following this rather tragic story, been in contact with him offering him support for the legislation? What other stories has he been hearing regarding this important piece of legislation?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore who traded his spot with me so we could move the bill through the House today. We traded today, after it came back from committee last week, and I would like to thank the member for that.

I have received a number of e-mails, surprisingly, from all across Canada on this particular piece of legislation. People were not always in the same circumstance but were in similar circumstances, where children have been hurt through custody battles. I listed three earlier from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. Peter Lee of Victoria, Frank Mailly of Cumberland, Ontario, and Lawrence Mends of St. Catharines all murdered their children and in some cases killed themselves. If they had not been on bail, those tragic incidents would not have happened.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member from Avalon, who is still a relatively new member of the House. It is not very often, and I think he pointed this out, that one can come into this place as a member, find an issue that resonates for specific people and take it upon oneself to produce a private member's bill that I think and hope will have all-party support.

I think the way the member has gone about this process has been illuminating for many people. It shows that the House of Commons serves a very useful purpose, that there are times when we can work across party lines when an issue is so important to people across the country, across jurisdictions and across parties and that members can get something done.

My question for the member is this. As well as commending him on the fabulous work he has done on this bill, I ask him if there are lessons on how to work in Parliament on behalf of our constituents.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, we can all be political. I can be political with the best of them. I can argue an issue and take on the opposition and take on the government at any time. We can drive in wedges. We can put issues between us. We can set up a private member's bill to pit one member off against another member in the House.

Maybe I will do that. At some point in my political career, I am sure we will do that. It is in the nature of all of us to succeed and to move our parties and our agendas forward.

When I put this particular piece of legislation forward, I was new. I thought, being a bit naive when first elected, that one is here to make this place a little bit better.

That is the tack I took on this particular piece of legislation. There are so many things that come across our desks. I am sure if we look at some of the issues that concern many Canadians, we can make our laws a little better. People from any walk of life could have a small piece of law that needs to be changed. If a member takes it on and garners it up in the right way, making sure it is within the laws of Canada and within our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we can put any piece of legislation on the table in the House and have some success.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I just have a comment, since I only have a short period of time. I will take the time to congratulate my colleague for proposing the bill. As he mentioned, he is new here to the House.

What is particularly impressive about the bill is, obviously, the content of it and what it sets out to do in the sense that it gives discretion. The bill has gone so far as to get consensus of the House about how we use this particular measure to save lives. I compliment the member on that.

One measure in this bill talks about an amendment to the Criminal Code. Could the member talk about how the discretion will be beneficial to those particular minors under the age of 18, as I understand it?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is the whole purpose. The courts need another tool in their toolbox to do their job. The judges who release people on bail do so under the purview of our Criminal Code, and if we now strengthen bail in the Criminal Code by putting in words such as “keeping in mind children under the age of 18”, they will be given consideration when the courts give someone bail. So it gives a clear, distinct avenue for a judge to say, “Hold on a second; we need to protect the children of this accused, so we are going to deny this person bail”. This is like the way we protect witnesses and other aspects of our law when looking at bail.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. member for Avalon for bringing this bill before Parliament.

I am privileged to speak on this important bill today, Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody). The proposed amendment adds only a few words to the Criminal Code, but they are very important words. They are words that emphasize the importance of protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens, our children.

Bill C-464 would add the words “any person under the age of 18 years” to paragraph 515(10)(b) of the Criminal Code. Thus the provision would read that the detention of the accused in custody is justified:

where the detention is necessary for the protection or safety of the public, including any victim of or witness to the offence, or any person under the age of 18 years, having regard to all of the circumstances including any substantial likelihood that the accused will, if released from custody, commit a criminal offence or interfere with the administration of justice; and

This means that when a judge is determining if an accused person should be released on bail pending his or her trial, the judge is to specifically consider the safety of children. Currently courts assess the safety of children when considering the safety of the public under paragraph 515(10)(b). This amendment serves to highlight the importance of children's safety being expressly reviewed at the bail hearing, a very important juncture in criminal proceedings.

This bill was first introduced by the member for Avalon on October 22, 2009. It then received general support during the second reading on December 4, 2009, and a government amendment was unanimously supported by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The speed by which the bill has moved through the House and the consensus it has generated confirms that it will be a valuable contribution to the Criminal Code.

I would like to take a moment to speak of the two witnesses who appeared before the justice committee. Last week, David and Kathleen Bagby appeared to assist the committee in its consideration of Bill C-464. As we all know, the tragic and senseless loss of their son, Andrew, and their grandson, Zachary, is what propelled the Bagbys to seek legislative reform. At the committee hearing, they spoke of their heart-wrenching loss and also clearly articulated their desire to prevent a similar tragedy from befalling another family. The Bagbys found the courage to use their unimaginably painful loss as fuel for positive change. I thank them for appearing before the justice committee, and I thank them for their efforts to prevent other children from being harmed.

As mentioned, the justice committee unanimously supported the private member's bill as amended. The government moved an amendment to improve the bill by making it less restrictive. Instead of only referencing the “children of the accused” as initially proposed, the government moved an amendment to reference all persons under the age of 18. When determining if an accused person should be released from custody, courts will be expressly reminded to consider the safety and protection of all children affected by the accused person's release. Any danger presented by the accused in regard to any child, be it a partner's child, a neighbour's child or a biological child, must be considered before he or she is released into the community.

The Criminal Code sets out the bail, or judicial interim release, procedure and the grounds for detention of an accused. When police officers believe there are reasonable grounds not to release an accused, they are required under the law to bring them before a judge or justice of the peace within 24 hours or as soon as possible.

Subsection 515(10) of the Criminal Code sets out specific grounds to justify the pretrial detention of an accused. Under what is commonly referred to as the “primary ground”, bail can be denied when detention is necessary to ensure that the accused does not flee from justice and appears before the court when required to do so.

Under the “secondary ground”, the ground Bill C-464 seeks to amend, bail can be denied where it is necessary to protect the public. For example, if there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will re-offend or interfere with the administration of justice, he or she should not be released.

Third, bail can be denied under the “tertiary ground”, when the court considers it necessary to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.

The task of assessing an accused's risk at the bail hearing can be extremely challenging. The investigation may be ongoing and the information available to the courts may be incomplete. Our justices are asked to make very important decisions in a very short time frame and in a fair manner that respects the values entrenched in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This amendment, it is hoped, can assist them with their difficult task by specifically reminding them to consider the safety and protection of children.

Although this judicial interim release regime operates well, tragic incidents, while rare, do occur. Placing limits on an individual's liberty is clearly necessary when failure to do so jeopardizes the safety of the public and, most particularly, the safety of our children.

Child safety should be considered at all stages of a criminal prosecution, from the arrest to the sentencing of an accused. This amendment would ensure that bail decisions are made with the safety of the child at the forefront.

Bill C-464 is in line with this government's criminal law reform efforts. The Conservative government is committed to the safety and protection of Canadian children.

Just this month, the government proposed legislative amendments to strengthen the national sex offender registry and DNA data bank, measures that will provide greater protection for our children.

Furthermore, as highlighted in the recent Speech from the Throne, this government will also introduce legislation to increase penalties for sexual offences against children and will protect children from Internet luring and cyber abuse.

In the recent past, this government has introduced legislation that aims to protect children. For example, the Tackling Violent Crime Act places stricter conditions on dangerous and high-risk offenders and protects children from sexual predators by increasing the age of consent. We have also increased penalties for street racing and gun crimes and terminated house arrest for serious, violent offences.

Clearly, a strong criminal justice system alone is not sufficient. The criminal justice system and provincial child protection regimes intersect and overlap in many ways. Child protection is a complex, multi-dimensional issue that involves the ongoing commitment and collaboration of community members, practitioners and policy-makers from across Canada.

Bill C-464 is an important step, but it is clearly not the only step to be taken. We must continue to work with our provincial and territorial counterparts to develop ways to better protect Canadian children. It is an enormous but essential task.

All of us want Canada to be a safe, secure place for our children. They are our future and deserve our protection. Bill C-464 emphasizes the importance of courts considering the safety of children when making decisions about the pretrial release of an accused.

I urge this House to give this bill its full support.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I read this private member's bill, my first reaction was that it was useless. It always causes political problems when we say that something is already provided for in the legislation and that we do not need anything more to guarantee the safety of children. That is what initially holds us back, but that is not holding me back today.

I have thought more about this bill since it was presented to us in committee. I have realized that it is actually useful. When we examined it in committee, I said that it would not change much, since tragedies like the ones we heard about could be handled by a judge, pursuant to paragraph 515(10)(b) of the Criminal Code.

Since one can never have too many rights specific in legislation, I thought that we could vote in favour of this bill. I will now vote in favour of the bill, not because I think one can never have too many rights, but because paragraph 515(10)(b) provides for two burdens of proof. My colleague received a lot of information from the government officials who helped him write his bill. It belongs in one of the two categories.

According to paragraph 515(10)(b), a judge may detain an individual:

where the detention is necessary for the protection or safety of the public, including any victim of or witness to the offence, having regard to all the circumstances including any substantial likelihood that the accused will, if released from custody, commit a criminal offence or interfere with the administration of justice;

In the first part of the paragraph, the judge must believe that “the detention is necessary for the protection or safety of the public”, without adding any further burden of proof. In the second part, it says “having regard to all the circumstances including any substantial likelihood that the accused will, if released from custody, commit a criminal offence or interfere with the administration of justice”. It was right to have put it in the first category.

When I heard the story of Zachary Turner, my first reaction was that the judge probably had the authority to do what he did. But now, I think we would be better off to have it enshrined in the legislation.

It is a horrendous story and a terrible coincidence. There was recently a terrible case in Quebec that involved two young doctors. A young doctor was killed and it seems the police suspected his wife, who is also a young doctor. The story we heard in committee did not make it clear whether she was charged in Pennsylvania or whether it came about during the extradition process.

The young doctor, probably a suspect in her husband's murder, was released under certain conditions. When she was released, it was not yet known that she was pregnant with her husband's child; she learned that later on. The parents of this young doctor were already going through a terrible time after having lost their son, and then there was a baby on the way. They were very worried.

I think that they had every reason to fear another family tragedy. This is one of those types of crime that is deeply saddening because the people who commit them often are not truly criminals. Very often, these are family crimes.

There are, of course, family crimes that are committed by a disgraceful father or a drunk who beats his wife and children. But sometimes, these crimes of passion are committed by people who are otherwise of sound mind and highly functional. For example, there was the case of the young doctor in Saint-Jérôme who killed his two children when his wife left him. He was a surgeon, well liked by his clients and those around him. How could he have done something as horrible as killing his children when his wife left him?

In this case we are talking about a pregnant woman who was suspected of murdering her husband. The grandparents felt that something terrible would happen to the baby, and they were right. An investigation was conducted by a doctor and expert who determined that the crime was preventable. Evidence would have had to be submitted to a judge to show that the crime could have been prevented.

When I think about both of those incidents, it is clear that such crimes are sometimes committed by people who are not criminals. Perhaps there is a way to predict or suspect the danger facing the children of parents going through such situations. In the case of the young doctor who was suspected of killing her husband, she was allowed to maintain custody of her child, even though the grandparents had applied for custody. In the end, the suspect did what the grandparents were most afraid of: she killed the child and herself. She threw herself into the ocean and they both drowned. Of course this was a terrible tragedy. I think this is a unique case, for I have never heard of any other tragedies like this. I am convinced that this tragedy could be categorized as predictable human behaviour and that something should be done to prevent such tragedies, even though there is no way to know for sure that they will happen.

That is why I am saying this measure is well placed. In the paragraph in which the member placed it, there are two levels of evidence. I believe this concerns the lesser of the two levels. Substantial likelihood does not have to be established; it is enough to simply determine that detention is necessary for the protection of a child.

That is why I would again like to congratulate the member. I think he found an issue that is minor in terms of the broader picture of crime, although I do not like to talk about crime in such cases. Of course such acts are absolutely atrocious, but I think they have more to do with mental illness than criminal malice.

But the member found a way to address this issue. This measure has been carefully designed to minimally impair rights while meeting a pressing and substantial objective, as the Supreme Court has said. I would no longer say that one cannot have too many rights. I congratulate the member on finding an issue worthy of the proposed solution, and I congratulate him on properly assessing and identifying it.

I would not say the same thing of the government, which wants to take things further, but to the member I say, “Job well done.”

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Avalon for bringing this initiative forward.

It can never be easy for family members to lose loved ones in any circumstances. However, when they are taken by the hand of violence, it must even more excruciating to live with that day to day. It is always remarkable when people can turn that sorrow into some positive action. We hear examples of that over and over again, not just in Canada but also in the United States and other areas around the world where people have lost loved ones but have decided to make the best of it they could under terrible circumstances.

We are very pleased that David and Kate approached our colleague from Avalon to add a particular clause to the criminal justice system that would in the end, hopefully, protect the interests of young people throughout this country.

Bill C-464 amends the Criminal Code to provide that the detention of an accused in custody may be justified where it is necessary for the protection or safety of the public, including any persons under the age of 18 years.

I am very pleased that our very formidable and very knowledgeable justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh was sitting on the committee at the time and heard the witness testimony and worked with the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Québécois to reach some form of unanimity to add this slight one paragraph to the Criminal Code to give judges even more opportunity when dealing with someone under bail consideration to outweigh those concerns with those of someone under the age of 18, especially our children.

For all of us who have children or those of us who have friends with children, we understand that they are our most precious resource. My wife and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters. Only in the deepest recesses of my mind can I even vaguely consider what it would feel like if anything ever happened to them. However, every single member of Parliament has had constituents who have lost loved ones and have come to them in some way or another. In fact, some members of Parliament have lost loved ones in various circumstances. It is always a testament to their stoicism and courage that they have had the ability to move right forward to ensure that the things that happened to their children will be addressed going forward.

That is why it is important to move this legislation quickly. That is why I am glad the hon. member sought me out to do a little switch here in order to get this thing done, so that David and Kate would be able to have, if anything, a better night's sleep knowing their tragedy has been turned into something positive so that future generations down the road may be protected from this particular situation.

We all know the tragic story now. There is no sense in repeating it. It would just bring a lot of heartache and tears to many people. However, we are very pleased that this tragedy can, in the end, be turned into something positive. In the end, if we can protect the innocents and children of our country, this legislation should be deemed worthy and be passed fairly quickly.

Again, I thank David and Kate Bagby for their stoicism and courage in all of this. I thank the hon. member for Avalon as well. I thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh for his support of this initiative through the committee. I thank all committee members for their work on this. I hope to see speedy passage of this bill. I would also encourage the Senate, under the leadership of Mr. Tommy Banks, to work on this bill and eventually get it enshrined into law to give our justices the opportunity to move this issue forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, during today's debate, while listening to members' stories and about David and Kate Bagby, I remembered something that David said. He talked about granting someone bail and how keeping someone in custody might be an inconvenience of some sort. Look at the victims. How inconvenient was it for Zachary Turner? He is not going to live a life and fulfill himself as an individual.

We need to strike a balance. As some members said, we are balancing it with our charter. I think we have found the right balance in this legislation. We have given our justices another tool in the toolbox to do their jobs.

The other day someone asked me if this bill would have prevented the tragic death of Zachary Turner. We do not know if this would have prevented his death, but at the very least we have to try. This place is about trying to do something better. All members who have spoken here today are making an effort to change our laws and to make a difference.

We will be watching closely as the bill goes through the other place. We will watch our courts. The real test will be when a judge denies an individual bail because the individual has minor children in his or her custody. Then we will know if we have been successful in making a difference.

In closing, I would like to thank all parties for their support. I would like to thank the government, the Bloc, the NDP and members of the justice committee for trying to get this bill through very quickly. We missed an opportunity in December to get it through, but when the committee started up again, the committee took it on as one of its first initiatives. I am very thankful to the parliamentary secretary and the chair of the justice committee for moving on this legislation quickly.

I would also like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for giving up his opportunity to speak today on his bill, Bill C-201, which we will have an opportunity to debate in April. He gave us the opportunity to get this bill through the House of Commons and off to the other place.

I would also like to thank the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for coming forward and telling me and members of the committee about crimes that could have been prevented if this piece of legislation had been passed before.

I would like to thank my constituents for standing behind me and supporting me on this bill. I have heard a wide range of views from both sides on this bill, the majority of which have been totally supportive. We will never please everybody. There will always be someone who thinks that we should not do something for some reason. We respect that as well. I received emails from across the country asking me to keep up the good work and to keep this bill moving.

I thank David and Kate for letting me be a small part of this story. My prayers and thoughts will be with them. Kurt Kuenne, the documentary producer, began his story for Zachary to pass on to Zachary, but as he was creating it, Zachary's death occurred. It is amazing that although he got the footage for Zachary, the documentary became about Zachary.

I thank Senator Tommy Banks for taking on this issue. He saw the documentary in Alberta, as I mentioned earlier. I urge speedy passage of this bill in the other place so it can receive royal assent.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of SittingCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House stands suspended until 12:01 p.m., when we will proceed to orders of the day.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:46 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:01 p.m.)

The House resumed from March 18 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

March 22nd, 2010 / noon

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the Speech from the Throne. The speech was an excellent reflection on the accomplishments of the government in the past year and a visionary glimpse of the strong future set before us.

In the fall of 2008 the world was rocked by an economic crisis that began in the United States with a meltdown in the housing industry. The whole world looked on with nervous apprehension as banking systems throughout the world were shocked by one financial quake after another.

Canada was not immune to the crisis and suffered in its markets, especially in employment numbers. Our government was called on to act, and we did decisively with the economic action plan that followed on job retention and creation and measured financial stimulus to shore up our banking and lending institutions. Today Canada is recognized as having one of the most secure banking systems. In fact, the World Economic Forum has said that the Canadian banking system is the strongest in the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell the House the effects the economic stimulus plan has had on my riding of Chatham-Kent--Essex.

Last year we announced a combined amount from the federal and provincial governments of $50.5 million in Chatham-Kent and $17.2 million in Leamington. The projects included roads, bridges, municipal buildings, sewers and water treatment facilities which created economic activity in my riding, particularly jobs, directly and indirectly as a result. This was exactly the plan our government set out in last year's budget and continues on in this year's plan as explained in the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne addresses new training for laid-off workers. Layoffs are something I am afraid we have experienced in my riding. I would like to make a few comments about this.

A large number of people in my riding of Chatham-Kent--Essex work directly or indirectly in the auto industry. In 2009 we watched as the three major North American auto manufacturers fought bankruptcies, another casualty of the 2008 economic meltdown. It was our government, combined with the Ontario government, that came to their aid and lent General Motors $8.5 billion and Chrysler $3.75 billion. Although both companies are now recovering, many jobs were lost and many of these jobs will not come back.

The future in the auto industry has changed and we must change with it. That is why I was so glad to see our government introduce new training for laid-off workers, training for a new 21st century workforce. That is why we in Chatham-Kent--Essex were so excited about the announcement I was privileged to make at St. Clair College in Chatham for $7.7 million last year to provide the infrastructure for job training.

This leads one to ask about the government's responsibility to eventually balance the books.

I am glad that during the times of economic growth our government saw the necessity to pay down the national debt to the tune of $39 billion. In fact, before the 2008 crisis our debt to GDP ratio was approximately 27%, the lowest in decades. Today this stands at approximately 35%, still far lower than all other G8 members. As a result of our prudent fiscal management, we will continue to grow our economy and restore our fiscal balance by 2015.

We will begin immediately to lower expenditures in our own House. The Speech from the Throne stated that MPs' salaries would be frozen and members on both sides of the House were asked to freeze their budgets. I have met with my staff and we are implementing a strategy to do just that.

The Speech from the Throne talked about building jobs and industries for the future. That is why I support the vision of this government in job training to support skills development, apprenticeships and training for Canadian workers. That is why I support this government's plan to fuel the efforts of our best and brightest and bring innovative projects to the market. That is why I support the laws that protect intellectual property and copyright.

The speech also talked about continued reduction in taxes for businesses which will make Canada a place where companies want to set up shop and which will create jobs, not like the NDP plan and the Liberal plan to increase taxes. We often hear the NDP talk about taxing those in our economy who are the most profitable. I suppose the NDP thinks, as Ronald Reagan once said, and I paraphrase, that if it is profitable, tax it until it is no longer profitable and until it needs help, and then we can subsidize it.

I am thankful for the banking sector and an oil industry that are profitable. I am glad that we have a strong service sector that profits from our government commitment to free trade agreements. I am excited about a resource sector that is a world leader.

I am glad that the Speech from the Throne mentioned our government's continued commitment to free trade agreements. These result in jobs and opportunities for us, and those at the other end of the agreement as well.

The Speech from the Throne also mentioned our government's commitment to the forestry sector, fisheries management, supply management in our agricultural industry, as well as small and medium size businesses. It also mentioned our plans to grow our nation's shipbuilding industry. This has a significant interest in my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex.

The town of Wheatley in my riding has the largest freshwater fishing port in the world. In that harbour there is a shipbuilder, Hike Metal. For years the people at Hike Metal have been building boats, both large and small, from ferries to research vessels, firefighting ships and police vessels. I am glad to hear, as is Andy Stanton, the owner of Hike Metal, that our government will support the industry through a long-term approach to federal procurement.

The Speech from the Throne also mentioned our government's commitment to family. I suppose as a father of 8 and a grandfather of 20, this strikes home for my wife and me. We see firsthand the struggles that young families endure and the necessity to support them as they raise their children.

I am glad that we will strengthen the universal child care benefit of $100 per month to also assist sole-support and single-parent families. Every week when I go home to my riding, I get to experience firsthand the business of family life when the grandchildren come over to visit on Sunday mornings. It gives me a renewed incentive to get back to Ottawa every Sunday afternoon.

The past few months have witnessed two horrible earthquakes that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in Chile and more than 200,000 lives in Haiti. Canadians' hearts went out to the devastated victims and they offered generously in terms of money and aid.

Our military was there to help in reconstruction, which again demonstrated to all of us here at home what an excellent organization our armed forces is. We are so proud of the men and women in our military, their professionalism and bravery in relief efforts and in places like Afghanistan. Our government has been committed to providing them with the necessary tools.

I was so pleased to hear in the Speech from the Throne that we will continue to honour these brave men and women by correcting unfair rules that restricted benefits to military families in the past.

We will also initiate a program involving private citizens, businesses and groups to build community war memorials. The throne speech also made a commitment to establish a new veterans charter and an ombudsman to look after our valiant veterans who have served us in the past.

The Speech from the Throne touched on many more areas, but unfortunately I cannot comment on them all. I have tried to elaborate on a few that have a special significance in my riding, but it is impossible to address them all.

One last thing I would like to talk about is the Speech from the Throne's important reference to our shared history. The Speech from the Throne mentioned the upcoming celebration of the War of 1812. This has significant importance to my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, for it was on the banks of the Thames River where the battle was fought between the British and the Americans, and the brave Indian chief Tecumseh died. The people of Chatham-Kent—Essex are proud of our history and would like to invite everyone to celebrate this important event in our riding.

This is a great country with a great history, and as was so well expressed in the Speech from the Throne, it is a country with a great future. Let us build it together.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one area of the member's speech touched me. I used to chair the committee on national defence and veteran affairs. One study we completed was with respect to what we do with our veterans when they return and are experiencing difficulties in their lives, for example, post traumatic stress disorder. We had some good recommendations.

Could the member be specific about what the government has done for the men and women who return to Canada and are experiencing these problems? Are there specific moneys or programs?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as was laid out in the Speech from the Throne, which I touched on briefly in my exposé of that speech, the government will introduce an ombudsman. We have many issues with our veterans.

If we look at what our government has done over the past four years for our veterans, it is an ongoing process. Oftentimes we need to stop in life, look back and see where we have come from. I am particularly proud of the many things we have done for our veterans. We are not finished by any stretch of the imagination. These brave men and women have given us so much. The freedoms we experience here in the House we can attribute to them. It is an ongoing process.

I thank the member for his question. I also would encourage members to continue to give us good advice and good ideas so we can make veterans' lives in their later years after they have served even better.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague outlining some of the benefits in the Speech from the Throne. I especially noted his comments about the family. I know he is a strong family man and he is very supportive of the universal child care benefit. I have spoken to many people in my riding who are very appreciative of this initiative.

Another thing that was included in the Speech from the Throne relates to many of the community groups in many of our ridings. Every riding has dozens and dozens of volunteer groups but many of them in the past have been somewhat hobbled in their ability to dispense funds and invest the way they would like to in their communities.

I heard from my community a strong appreciation for these initiatives in the Speech from the Throne. I wonder if my colleague could comment on the initiatives that will make it easier for charitable groups in our communities to continue doing the fantastic work that they do.

All of us know that if government needed to assume the responsibilities of these charitable groups, it would never be able to do it. If the member could comment on that I would appreciate it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, our government has played a strong role in the establishment and the continued efforts to make families, the very root and foundation of our society, stronger and enable them. One of the ways that we can do that is by encouraging groups and charitable organizations to do some of the ground work, to go out and help those areas that specifically have been struck by natural disasters. I think for instance of Haiti. We all saw the generous outpouring of Canadians.

It escapes me right now as to how many millions of dollars were collected, but the government's initial reaction to that was to allow that be done and then to match those dollars. This is an excellent way to move forward and to help in areas. I know there are communities and organizations right across the country that are so eager and excited about helping and making a contribution. This is an excellent way that governments can partner with them. The end result is that we can be that much more effective in our world relief efforts.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I get into my personal remarks, I would point out that in questions and comments our time is very limited. Because our men and women in uniform play such an important role in making this country what it is today, not just within our borders but outside of them, I want to go a step further.

I am glad the hon. member spoke about our military. I asked him a specific question to obtain a specific answer but all he responded was that the government had appointed an ombudsman. That was part of the recommendation. What does an ombudsman do? He takes complaints.

I want to inform members that I chaired that committee and I saw parents and men and women come before committee in tears, reaching out, asking for help. They did not want an ombudsman. Yes, that helps but what they wanted was access to service, which takes funds. That is again where the government has failed our men and women in uniform. It has not provided funds.

As I open my participation today in this debate, I want to congratulate our Paralympic athletes who did us very proud. The Paralympic Games just closed. I believe Canada is sending a signal that we are here not just to stay but to grow.

In referring to our athletes as a whole, Paralympic and others, in the throne speech of April 4, 2006, the government, which had just been elected at that time, was kind enough to acknowledge the Liberal government's investment in the Own the Podium program. I thanked it for that. It is covered on page 3 of its first throne speech.

The other day the chief executive officer, Mr. Jackson, of the Own the Podium program was on television and acknowledged that without the funding for this program that was initially put in and continues to be put in, our athletes would not have been able to compete at the level they did which has allowed us to celebrate with them.

Dick Pound, who we all know has been associated with our Olympic initiatives most of his life, has also commented positively that this program has done well for us and it must continue. I read the other day in The StarPhoenix how Britain will now copy our Own the Podium program. I congratulate Britain. At least Canada is setting another example. We are very proud of our athletes.

Because the Prime Minister and the government, it seems, have been underestimating the intelligence and memory of Canadians, I will, in the 15 or 20 minutes I have, talk about how in the Speech from the Throne, which coincides with the budget speech, the government has misrepresented, or there are discrepancies, within the figures. The numbers just do not add up.

I will also point out how the government says one thing and does the opposite. For example, in the throne speech and in the budget it says how it will lower taxes. I will use the most recent example that occurred in this honourable chamber on Friday when my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour talked about how students who are doing their doctorates have been taxed. People can read it in Hansard. Students were not paying taxes a year ago and this year they will be. In the throne speech the government says that it will be lowering taxes, but on the other hand, students are now paying more taxes.

I will show how the government has financially damaged our seniors. This goes back to the promise that was made in the 2006 election when the then leader of the opposition, today's Prime Minister, put in writing how the Conservatives would not touch income trusts, how they scared Canadians and how they scared seniors by saying that the Liberals would damage the future and destroy pensions. However, what was one of the first things the Conservatives did? They put a 31.5% tax increase on income trusts. Shame, indeed.

Not only that, the Conservatives have weakened the ability of Canadian companies to compete on an equal footing internationally by not allowing them the interest deductibility that all other nations have. I will point out how they have done literally nothing in health care and how they have mismanaged the economy. I am surprised when they are described as good money managers because a good money manager is not one who inherits a surplus like they did in 2006 of $13.2 billion and then, a short three years later, we find ourselves in a deficit of almost $56 billion, although we do not know the exact the figure. However, if we add $56 billion and $13-something billion, we have had a turnaround of almost $70 billion in a short three and a half years. That is mind-boggling.

When the hon. member of the new Conservative Party spoke earlier, he said that we have a solid banking system and that financial institutions have carried us through this recession. He is absolutely correct, and that is thanks to Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

I remember when I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Industry waking up to the news that the banks had decided they would amalgamate. What did the Government of Canada do? The Liberal government did the right thing and the responsible thing and told the banks they could not do that because we realized that would have put our financial institutions in a very vulnerable position. Who criticized that policy at the time? It was the current Prime Minister who said that we should stay out of their noses and leave them alone. He said that we did not want regulations.

Today, however, when the Minister of Finance, after he did a number on Ontario in the Harris government, and the Prime Minister go out to international forums they say that we have the best banking system in Canada because of what they have done. If truth be told, we know factually who made those moves and it was the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

I will talk about how the government's policies are causing us to lose jobs, not just today but jobs of the future, and how our companies, as I said earlier, are vulnerable. I will point out that it was the then Liberal government that made sure we made the right investments, not just for the jobs of today that we needed then in terms of addressing the concerns of employers with EI for example, but also the concerns of the jobs of the future and the right investments that we made between those difficult years.

The Prime Minister today has caused, I believe, and I have heard from many other people, Canadians to be concerned. It boils down to a matter of credibility which brings about trust. Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament because he said that a coalition was organizing, et cetera, and it was not elected. We all are elected democratically and we make up Parliament. This is not a presidential system like it is in the United States. This is a totally different system, a much better system, if I may say.

However, what did the Prime Minister do? We know what happened the first time around. He went to the Governor General, put a bit of pressure on her and she made the decision to grant prorogation. Forget the word “prorogation”, he shut down government, period.

We know what happened after that. Instead of coming in to the House and presenting a stimulus package of how the Conservatives were going to help get Canadians back to work, all the Prime Minister really said to the opposition was that he would take away the tools for us to run a party. That got everybody else upset, and we know the history.

Not too long ago, the Prime Minister, with just one phone call, shut down government. That is pretty scary when the first minister of the land can pick up the phone and say that he wants to shut down government.

However, I am also concerned because I think the Governor General should never have said okay. She should have thought about it and looked into it. I do find some fault with respect to the Governor General. She should not just simply grant it, especially something that happened within less than 12 months.

I would like say why this is a concern. I will quote a gentleman who said:

Well, I don't know that there's much strategy behind it. I think his problem is that the government's talking points really don't have much credibility. Everybody knows that Parliament was prorogued in order to shut down the Afghan inquiry, and the trouble is that the government doesn't want to explain why that was necessary.

That is a direct quote from a gentleman by the name of Tom Flanagan. He was the Prime Minister's campaign manager, the Prime Minister's main strategist. He, too, is now questioning the Prime Minister's credibility.

I would like to read some other quotes, only because some people have asked why the Prime Minister should not do this. The reason why he should not do it is he has a tendency, as I said about the income trust, to say one thing and do the other.

On April 18, 2005, the Prime Minister said to the Canadian Press, “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent...is when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern”. In essence he today has lost the moral authority to govern, and that is what he should carry out right now.

The Prime Minister also said the following, in the Hansard of October 20, 2003:

Now is it true that the government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record?

Obviously the Prime Minister prorogued because he did not want to be held accountable for his shameful record.