Mr. Speaker, I was on the second point regarding what the New Democrats believe in.
We are prepared to look at extending the eligibility periods for certain kinds of offences, because it could be the case that we may need an offender to demonstrate a longer period of good behaviour before being eligible for a pardon. We are prepared to look at that.
The third point is that New Democrats believe that the National Parole Board needs to have more discretion when evaluating whether a pardon ought to be granted. It is our view that the current pardon legislation does not give the National Parole Board sufficient discretion. That results, we think, in there being certain injustices that may occur.
I will say right now that I think all Canadians will immediately think of people like Karla Homolka, who under the current pardon legislation, would likely be granted a pardon. We in the NDP do not think that this is a just or fair result. Certainly someone like Karla Homolka, in our view, should not receive a pardon in this country, and we are prepared to amend the pardon legislation to ensure that this does not happen.
As I will expand on a little later, New Democrats propose what is the toughest wording when it comes to preventing people who ought not to get pardons from getting them. I will say right now that the government has proposed legislation that contains words that would give the National Parole Board the discretion to refuse a pardon when to do so would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute”. That is the language proposed by the government. The NDP thinks that is good language.
However, New Democrats would go further. We would add the words, “or would shock the conscience of Canadians”. That would give two separate grounds under the Criminal Records Act for the National Parole Board to deny a pardon. We think that is important for ensuring that we have credibility and faith in our pardon system.
Fourth and last, New Democrats believe that we need to hear from correctional experts, victims, police, offenders, sociologists, and every single person who has expertise and knowledge about the current Canadian pardon system. They need to come to the committee and have a thorough and intelligent discussion about each one of these points to ensure that we strengthen our pardon system in this country and ensure that it is fair.
New Democrats last week drafted a motion, and presented it to all parties in the House, that would have allowed a particular amendment to the Criminal Records Act to pass through the House quickly, before summer. It is a surgical, targeted amendment that would simply change the Criminal Records Act to say that the National Parole Board would have the power to refuse or decline a pardon where to do so would bring the administration of justice into disrepute or would shock the conscience of Canadians.
The NDP has done this because the government has been asleep at the switch for the last four years. Karla Homolka is eligible for a pardon this summer. The government waited until June 7 to introduce legislation in the House that would prevent her from getting a pardon. Of course, the government will not be able to get that legislation through the House, so it has proposed Bill C-23, which proposes many changes to the pardon system, many of which are undesirable or misguided or require further study.
New Democrats came forward with surgical, targeted legislation that would allow us to make one change to the Criminal Records Act to ensure that pardons are not given to people in this country who ought not to get them. It could be done without moving precipitously and ending up harming the pardon system that plays a very important role, not only in the justice system in this country but in keeping communities safe.
This bill would do a number of things. Some things are good, some are questionable, and some are, without question, misguided and undesirable.
This bill would rename pardons and call them “record suspensions”. We will have to study that to see what the impact would be. At this point, it is hard to know exactly what that would do, good or bad. It could be a cosmetic change. It could be something that has ramifications. New Democrats want to study the impact of that change.
It increases the ineligibility period that must pass before a pardon application can be submitted to ten years from the current five years for indictable offences and to five years from the current three years for summary offences.
The New Democrats believe that there may be cause and good grounds to increase the probation period for some offences. I am thinking, for instance, of a repeat sex offender. It may be the case, once we hear from experts and people knowledgeable in the field, that we may want to have that person demonstrate a longer period of good behaviour before he or she is eligible for a pardon. We are prepared to look at that. However, to have a blanket rule that extends the time period for every single person in all circumstances represents the kind of blunt instrument the government uses for an issue that requires intelligence and nuance.
It prohibits those convicted of three or more indictable offences from ever receiving a pardon. This shows the government's continuing attachment to the American, U.S.-style approach to justice that does not work. This is a “three strikes and you are out” policy. That is what it is. I think everybody in this House who is paying attention and most Canadians know that most of the U.S.-style approaches to justice issues brought in by right-wing Republicans during the 1980s and 1990s are now being rejected by Americans across that country, because they are bankrupting the country, and more importantly, they are not having any impact whatsoever on making U.S. communities safer.
I will give an example. There could be a 19-year-old young offender who steals a car, who, in the course of being arrested, may resist arrest and may end up with an assault charge from resisting arrest. That kind of person, at 19 years old, under the government's legislation, would be prevented from ever receiving a pardon. That is obviously not an intelligent approach to a pardon policy in this country.
This legislation would prohibit anyone convicted of one or more offences, from a designated list of sex offences, from ever receiving a pardon.
Currently, under the eliminating pardons for serious crimes act, anybody who receives a life sentence is prohibited from ever receiving a pardon. The government proposes to expand that list. New Democrats are prepared to look at that.
With respect to pardon applications for indictable offences, the parole board would be required to deny a pardon if granting it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Once again, this is the kind of section that would be used that would otherwise prevent someone such as Karla Homolka from getting a pardon. However, it is too little, too late from the government. I wish it had brought in this legislation a year ago or two years ago, because it was no secret that Karla Homolka was approaching the fifth year after the conclusion of her sentence. Again, this government is a bad legislator and a bad policy-maker. It was asleep at the switch and is playing politics with crime.
I do not know whether the government understands that the pardon system plays a critical role in our justice system.