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House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentences.

Topics

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

(Motion agreed to)

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions today.

The first contains the signatures of many thousands of people. Their issue is seniors living in poverty, indicating that more than a quarter of a million Canadians live in poverty. These are seniors who have helped to build the country. OAS is indexed quarterly based on increases to the consumer price index, but they do not reflect the costs involved for seniors.

I want to thank Mr. John Maloney for his help in assembling this petition and forwarding it here.

Post-Doctoral FellowshipsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from a number of post-doctoral fellows who were caught off guard by the budget this year when it eliminated the exemption. They are very concerned. They are saying the bottom line for them is, if the government is going to make a change, they would ask it to at least consider having discussions with the post-doctoral fellows student association.

That is the nature of that petition, which I am pleased to present.

Foreign TakeoversPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to bring forward concerns that were raised by hundreds of my constituents in the great region of Témiskaming in northern Ontario, who are concerned about the failure of the government to conduct due diligence in terms of assessing the net benefit of foreign takeovers of key Canadian resource industries.

Of course, they point to the absolute debacle that has followed the government's rubber-stamping of the sell-off of the Canadian mining giants Falconbridge and Inco to the corporate bandits Vale and Xstrata. We are seeing the impacts now, with the start of Xstrata's shutdown of copper refining capacity in Ontario, the possible shipping of ore overseas in the future and the brutal nine-month strike at Vale.

The concern in particular is over the failure of the government to carry out due diligence over the sell-off of Grant Forest Products, one of the key OSB operations in North America and one of the largest holders of public forests in Ontario, which was rubber-stamped by the government.

Constituents who rely on resource industries believe that the government has to do better than it has done. They are calling on the government to ensure full reviews of these important takeovers.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present.

The first one is from hundreds of my constituents in Trinity—Spadina. They are extremely worried that the tar sands are, by far, the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas in Canada and produce as much as three times the amount of greenhouse gas as conventional oil production.

They also worry that oil production and refining operations produce huge emissions of toxins that hurt animals and plant life and can cause cancer. They want the House of Commons to ask the federal government to stop further expansion of the tar sands until a set of basic environmental and social conditions are satisfactorily achieved.

Climate Change Accountability BillPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from constituents who support NDP Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act. They want mandatory fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, a hard cap on big polluters like the coal-fired electricity plants and oil sands projects and developments, and an end to tax subsidies on big oil and gas companies. They want to use the funds to invest in renewable energy and green technologies.

Volunteer Service MedalPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is signed by residents of Canada calling on the Government of Canada to recognize service by means of issuance of a new Canadian volunteer service medal. Designated the Governor General's volunteer service medal, it would be for volunteer service by Canadians in the regular and reserve military force and cadet corps support staff, who are not eligible for other medals of this kind and who have completed 365 days of uninterrupted honourable duty in the service of their country since March 2, 1947.

Air Passengers' Bill of RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions for the House today.

The first petition is signed by thousands of people and calls for Canada to catch up with Europe and the United States and adopt Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights. The petitioners ask for support for Bill C-310, which would provide for compensation for overbooked flights, cancelled flights and unreasonable tarmac delays. This type of legislation has been in Europe now since 1991 and in its current form for the last five years. The bill would ensure that passengers were kept informed of flight changes whether they were delays or cancellations. It would require that rules be posted in the airports. The airlines would be required to inform the passengers of their rights and the process to file for compensation. It would deal with late and misplaced baggage. It would require all-inclusive pricing to be in the airline companies' advertisements.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to support Bill C-310, which would introduce Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights.

Prison FarmsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to stop the closing of the six Canadian prison farms. Dozens of Canadians have signed this petition demanding that the government reconsider its ill-thought-out decision. All six prison farms, including Rockwood Institution in Manitoba, have been functioning farms for many decades providing food to the prisons and the community. The prison farm operations provide rehabilitation and training for prisoners by having them work with and care for plants and animals. Mr. Speaker would know, having had two of these prison farms in his riding in Kingston, that the work ethic and rehabilitation benefit of waking up at 6 a.m. and working outdoors is a discipline that Canadians can appreciate. Closing these farms would mean the loss of the infrastructure and would make it too expensive to replace them at a future date.

Therefore, the petitioners call on the Government of Canada to stop the closure of the six prison farm operations across Canada and produce a report on the work and rehabilitative benefit to prisoners, on the farm operations and on how the program can be adapted to meet the agriculture needs of the 21st century.

KAIROSPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling today in the House a petition from Canadians across the country asking the government to restore the funding for KAIROS. This is a Canadian ecumenical justice initiatives group that has done outstanding work for the last 40 years around the world, and the petitioners are calling for the return of its funding.

Chemical PesticidesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls for the ban of the cosmetic use of chemical pesticides. A number of members in the House have called for such action. The petitioners call on the House of Commons to enact legislation for an immediate federal moratorium on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

Environmental Bill of RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, my third petition is a call to enact a Canadian environmental bill of rights. This of course warms my heart because this is my bill. It will come up for debate this week in the House. In essence, the bill would make clear that the government has a responsibility to Canadians to protect the environment for health, well-being and sustainability. Second, it has a responsibility to give citizens the right to call the government, and industry, to account if it does not take the appropriate action in law to protect the environment.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.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

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling industryRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, and I will be pleased to hear his submissions on that point now.

Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling industryRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this issue. This will be of interest to all members and in fact all Canadians. I wrote to you earlier today to seek leave for an emergency debate on the topic of safety and regulation of the offshore oil and gas drilling industry in Canada. The specifics and need for the emergency debate are clear. Canadians and the rest of the world have seen the horrors, as the Prime Minister referred to today, of the environmental disaster that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now. Almost one million litres of oil are spewing up from the seabed floor onto the coast of New Orleans and other places across the coast.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion is relevant to the Canadian context and is relevant for an emergency debate because the very same companies involved with that project are seeking an exemption. They are probing and lobbying the government right now to seek exemptions from the safety practices that are not being applied right now in the gulf, so in fact lessening the safety rules. The emergency debate is prevalent and important at this time because the government has not yet come forward in the issuing of leases for offshore, both for the west coast and particularly the Beaufort Sea in the north. The matter concerns the ability of Canadians to know their government has rules in place that are stronger than the ones that led to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

We need to hear from the government of the day. Opposition members need to be able to make the case that no licences should be issued right now. The National Energy Board is hearing these petitions as we speak and any day will rule on these exemptions for British Petroleum and other companies. It is incumbent upon us as the House of Commons to deal with this now, before the licences are issued, before the drilling begins, because once begun, once the permits are out, there is no way to pull back from disasters like the one we are seeing in the gulf.

Our Arctic region and the west coast of British Columbia simply could not survive the devastating effects of a major spill like the one we are seeing from the Deepwater Horizon. This is all about same-season relief wells. This is about an exemption being sought on that exact issue by British Petroleum and others. The House must engage with this issue forthwith, and I humbly seek and request an emergency debate for this evening.

Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling industryRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his submissions on this point. I have considered that and the letter he forwarded to me this morning on this subject.

I have no doubt that the situation in the Gulf of Mexico would constitute an emergency if it had happened in Hudsons Bay, for example, but it has not happened in Canada at the moment. Accordingly I am not inclined to grant the request the hon. member has made for an emergency debate at this time.

The argument about possible changes in regulations is, of course, one that can be debated in the House. I point out to hon. members that we do have a supply day almost weekly these days, so there is opportunity for debate on this kind of subject to take place on one of those days.

Accordingly, I am going to turn down the member's request at this time.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River had the floor for questions and comments consequent upon his speech. I therefore call for questions and comments. The hon. member for Yukon.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, if I interpreted the member's speech correctly, he said the government should have put this bill in with a bunch of other bills into an omnibus bill. I would definitely disagree with that. The government does that when it has a whole bunch of ineffective, poor bills it wants to pass all at once.

On the other hand, does this mean the member also thinks that Bill C-9 as an omnibus bill was a good idea? There were lots of things all in that one bill.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, most of us have difficulty with omnibus bills sometimes, because they do tend to have a lot of legislation buried in them. The thing about an omnibus bill is that there is a theme that brings all the pieces of proposed legislation together. In Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill, there is virtually no theme. With the potential sale of AECL and legislation about payment cards or credit cards, it is all over the map. There is no theme.

In terms of criminal law legislation, we have seen bills in the past here and in other jurisdictions that have a themed Criminal Code amendment, and I was referring to those.

My colleague makes a good point that, when we are dealing with youth criminal justice, it is a very visible separate component of our criminal justice system. We keep it separate. That is why I styled my remarks around the theme of intervention as opposed to retribution, accountability, deterrence, these types of issues.

I recall visiting a youth boot camp in the Ontario jurisdiction. It was a very successful operation that dealt with youth. It was well run and disciplined. The young men there earned points to get the chance to go home on weekends on a supervised home visit.

I did bump into one young man and I asked him where he was going after he was out of there. It was a very sad comment because he said he did not have any family so it did not matter whether he earned any points to go home on the weekend. He said he would probably go back to the pool hall.

What a sad situation that the intervention that was there, which seemed to be having some benefit, was going to come to an end. The intervention would end and that young man would go back to a pool hall in Toronto. He was not going to go back to school. He did not seem to have any appetite for that. He was about 17 years old. I was quite saddened that the intervention that was there was going to come to an end and he was going to end up back at the same place that probably got him into trouble in the first place.

I go back to my theme of quality intervention. The better the quality, the better the outcome and the better it is for our society.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues will notice that my voice is a bit hoarse; I have a terrible cold. I have water and throat lozenges in case I cough too much; I have everything I need. I hope I will not have to interrupt my speech.

The Bloc Québécois has serious misgivings about Bill C-4, an Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which would toughen prison sentences for youth. This bill is part of the Conservative government's tough on crime policy.

Protecting society is the bill's guiding principle, but I will show that this is definitely not what will be achieved in the long term. The tough on crime policy will not, in the long term, protect society. The experience of California, which has been operating under this policy for 30 years, is proof. Quebec, however, with its rehabilitation policy, has the lowest crime rates in North America.

The courts ordered the State of California to let 40,000 prisoners go, 6,000 of them this past January. Are we supposed to believe that we can promote public safety by freeing 6,000 prisoners who spent many idle years in overpopulated and underfunded prisons that produce aggressive and violent individuals? That is not what Californians think.

Tougher sentencing will not enhance public safety, and I will explain why. Repression does not work. Rehabilitation does not work either because costs are soaring and there is no money for these kinds of programs.

Quebec's juvenile justice system works because of its legal aid program, rehabilitation incentive program, offender education program, probation and, most importantly in this context, the complete overhaul of preliminary intervention approaches under the 1977 Youth Protection Act. Our system is the envy of Californians.

An in-depth statistical study entitled Did Getting Tough on Crime Pay? showed that American tough on crime policies introduced since the 1980s were driven by media manipulation and false perceptions about lenient sentencing for serious crimes. Political arguments for tougher sentencing are invariably based on exceptionally lenient sentences that create false impressions about typical or average sentences.

The opposite is true in this case. Bill C-4, which the Conservatives have dubbed Sébastien's law, does not constitute a response to Sébastien's murder at all because the murderer, who was a minor at the time, is currently in jail for life. People who commit serious crimes go to jail for a long time. This proves that the current law works and that we do not need to change it. We cannot do more than that. No law can do more than that.

Unlike California—which, for lack of funding, is keeping prisoners in spaces that are too small and overpopulated with nothing productive to do, which only feeds their violence—the governments of Quebec and Canada have thus far been spending money to keep prisoners in a healthy environment, to occupy their time productively and teach them to reintegrate into society. If we were to begin overcrowding our prisons, that situation would change, as it did in California.

Just when the Canadian Conservative government is about to make the system even tougher, former journalist Art Montague and a number of associations that work with inmates are showing how the American model, which the Conservatives are emulating, is going through a major crisis that is forcing it to move more towards the kind of system that we have here. The Quebec model, as I said earlier, with its focus on rehabilitation, has the lowest crime rate.

The crisis in California is happening on two levels, socially and economically, each echoing the other. One reinforces the other, which demonstrates not only how completely ineffective tougher sentences are when it comes to fighting crime, but also how devastating it is for the economy and the quality of correctional services. A punitive approach undermines the importance of social services such as education and rehabilitation programs for inmates, which are the key to effectively reducing crime.

Many articles in the Wall Street Journal and The Economist, serious publications that cannot be called leftist, demonstrate how 30 years of tough on crime policies have led to overcrowded prisons. The California prison system is currently at 200% of capacity, with 187,000 inmates.

This sort of overcrowding creates a serious threat to public safety. The 2007 Chino prison riot, where authorities stood by powerless while inmates took control of dormitory Z for more than 20 hours, is proof of this.

As the articles in the Wall Street Journal and The Economist show, prison overcrowding is having a disastrous effect on the state's budget, which already has an enormous deficit. More inmates require more resources, yet the state recently had to cut $1.2 billion from its prison system.

The State of California spends nearly 10% of its budget on its correctional system, but only 5.7% on universities. The reverse was true 25 years ago.

The United States has the dubious distinction of incarcerating more individuals per capita than any other documented country in the world. That was the finding of a 2008 study by the Pew Research Center.

California's high budget costs are forcing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to come up with totally crazy solutions, such as having prisons built in Mexico by Mexicans to house American inmates. The Supreme Court, though, ordered him to release 40,000 inmates.

When prisons are overcrowded, it is impossible to maintain proper health and safety services. This led the Prison Law Office to file a lawsuit against the state. A federal judge ruled in favour of the organization and ordered the state to reduce the prison population by 40,000 inmates, which would bring it down to 137% of capacity, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Just recently, on January 18, 2010, a special judicial panel decided to get around the Supreme Court deadline and order the release of 6,000 inmates.

The crisis is twofold. On the one hand, the high cost of 30 years of so-called “tough on crime” detention policy has killed more sensitive prevention and rehabilitation policies. The current punitive policy has put the prison system in an untenable situation, though, forcing authorities to empty the prisons of thousands of inmates who will reintegrate into society without proper supervision, which is raising serious concerns among local authorities and community leaders in California.

The inmates will leave prison without any training, without any job prospects and without having worked on their rehabilitation. Imagine 6,000 inmates looking for a job while also looking for a place to live. These same 6,000 inmates went to crime school for years in close quarters with nothing else to do than to become more violent and fuel their aggression and rage. Six thousand people are a threat to public safety. The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League even called this a perfect storm for public safety. Imagine what will happen when that number goes up to 40,000, as the Supreme Court is calling for.

Various media and organizations such as Prison Fellowship, feel that the soaring costs associated with overcrowded prisons in California have other adverse effects, namely budgetary cuts that affect the system's capacity for maintaining or implementing rehabilitation and education programs. In addition to being held in increasingly inhumane conditions, inmates do not receive any help in learning how to control their violence, live in society and become law-abiding citizens.

This lack of services and follow-up, both inside and outside the prison, leaves the inmates to fend for themselves and makes them more likely to end up back in prison. Tougher sentences have a negative impact on all aspects of programs that have for more than 40 years focused on preventing crime through social rehabilitation. It comes as no surprise that the rate of recidivism there is 70%, while in Quebec it is between 10% and 20%.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will conduct a thorough analysis of the study in committee in order to hear all the players involved and improve whatever aspects of this bill that we can.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this discussion all day and what really concerns me about the Conservatives' agenda on crime, or their so-called agenda on crime, is that they continually bring forward bills that address key elements that are already within the justice system. However, they are creating the image for the public that these huge gaps exist.

In looking at many of their bills, we see that they do not even bother bringing them into the law. They run them up the flag pole, beat the drums, try to get the public angry against the justice system and then they let the bills die or re-introduce them.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is a cornerstone. The Youth Criminal Justice Act already contains a wide degree of support for dealing with youth who are very dangerous offenders. However, the whole issue of rehabilitation and the need to treat youth separate from adults is a cornerstone principle of a modern justice system. The government seems to want to blur that. It wants to treat youth offenders as if they were the Hells Angels.

Why does my hon. colleague think the government is continually playing politics with issues that really require a cohesive and thoughtful response in order to make good public policy?

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's tough on crime approach is completely incomprehensible. The experience of the State of California shows that this approach is a total failure. After 30 years of tougher sentences, California has learned that this approach does not foster rehabilitation. The state has a recidivism rate of 70%.

This also shows that being tough on crime does not work. Budgets are soaring because of recidivism. The system is self-perpetuating. Requiring the state to release 40,000 inmates, including 6,0000 in January, shows that public safety has not been maintained in the long term.

The only plausible explanation for the government's insistence on adopting this unworkable approach is misguided populism. It has been proven that this approach does not work. Everything I said earlier has been documented in full. The Conservatives do not know or are unable to explain to their voters that this is a policy that just does not work. Rather than explaining that it does not work, they prefer to present this populist measure here and pretend that it does work.