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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 814Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

With regard to advertising by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency or its agencies: (a) what was the total amount of money spent by the Agency and each of its agencies since January 1, 2009, in multi-cultural targeted print, radio, television and web-based media; (b) what was the exact placement of each ad purchase; and (c) what was the target demographic of each advertisement?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 815Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

With regard to advertising by the Department of Justice or its agencies: (a) what was the total amount of money spent by the department and each of its agencies since January 1, 2009, in multi-cultural targeted print, radio, television and web-based media; (b) what was the exact placement of each ad purchase; and (c) what was the target demographic of each advertisement?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 816Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

With regard to advertising by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario or its agencies: (a) what was the total amount of money spent by the Agency and each of its agencies since January 1, 2009, in multi-cultural targeted print, radio, television and web-based media; (b) what was the exact placement of each ad purchase; and (c) what was the target demographic of each advertisement?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 817Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

With regard to advertising by Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada or its agencies: (a) what was the total amount of money spent by the department and each of its agencies since January 1, 2009, in multi-cultural targeted print, radio, television and web-based media; (b) what was the exact placement of each ad purchase; and (c) what was the target demographic of each advertisement?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had the floor. I believe he has four minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

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3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the closing of my comments just prior to 12 noon, I had indicated that the principle of Bill S-6 was something we could support. The concept behind the faint hope clause is a good one and I suspect we need to look at ways in which we can provide those types of incentives for individuals who are behind bars to reform and change their behaviour so that they can integrate into society in a better and more peaceful fashion and become a more productive citizens.

I also drew a comparison to something else that the government was doing over the last number of days which has a very profound impact. I did not make reference to the specific programs and I want to do that because I want to appeal to the government, to the Prime Minister, to deal with this issue in that the bill we are debating right now would not necessarily prevent crimes from taking place while, on the other hand, the government is cutting back on programs that would in fact prevent crimes from taking place.

I believe the member for Winnipeg Centre rose today with regard to a member's statement on the issue. My colleague from Winnipeg South Centre raised the issue in question period. It is the issue of the anti-gang programs that are being proposed to be closed because of the government's failure to recognize the value of these programs.

On the one hand, we are looking at a bill that would have very little impact on preventing crimes, whereas, on the other hand, we have a government that is looking at allowing for a circle of courage, an oasis, youth outreach projects, turning the tides. These are all youth gang prevention programs that could have an impact on preventing crimes from occurring. The government needs to put more time on dealing with programs of this nature and on how we can bring in and spend tax dollars in such a way that we would prevent crimes for occurring, as opposed to putting so much focus on trying to give the image that the government is being tough on crime. When I look at Bill S-6, I believe the government is just trying to send a message more than anything else.

I, too, sympathize with the victims of crimes and want to get a sense of fairness in certain situations. That is why I believe there was a need to review the whole issue of the faint hope clause. However, at the end of the day, I would be remiss if I did not emphasize that the government is cutting programs and allowing them to disappear by its lack of commitment and lack of action in dealing with what I would suggest is crime on the streets. The government needs to reassess whether it just wants to talk about getting tough on crime or whether it wants to actually act on it.

I can tell members that there will be a negative impact as a result of the government not funding the programs to which I have referred. There will be more crime in our streets. I would suggest that it will go well beyond just Winnipeg North and the province of Manitoba.

When we have an idea and when we have a program that is effective, we should be supporting it.

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3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a few minutes I will have an opportunity to speak to Bill S-6, but first I would like the hon. member to explain something I did not understand. What is the Liberal Party's position on Bill S-6? Do the Liberals plan to support the bill or will they vote against it?

Throughout our work in committee, the Liberals always seemed to be speaking against the bill, but at the last minute they decided to support it. I wonder if someone could tell me how the Liberal Party plans to vote on this bill. Will the Liberals revoke the faint hope clause they brought in in 1976, or will they maintain it?

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we need to acknowledge that when Jean Chrétien was prime minister of our country he recognized that in certain situations we should not allow access to the faint hope clause. It was the Liberal Party of Canada that ultimately made those initial amendments to the act to make it even better.

When we look at the bill today, we recognize the original rationale that was being utilized to bring in the faint hope clause, but a number of things have happened since 1976 that we need to take into consideration. We recognize that the Liberal Party of Canada, through Prime Minister Chrétien, saw the merits of making changes to make it better. The Liberal Party does support the need to improve legislation.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know the previous member who asked the question was looking for an answer and the answer he received was maybe. He did not receive a definite yes or no.

I want to make some comments on the member's speech and draw his attention to comments by Newt Gingrich and Patrick Nolan on January 7, 2011 in the United States. They have come around to the way of thinking of people here in the NDP and the Bloc whereby we look at dealing with issues of crime and best practices and look to jurisdictions that have successful programs.

For example, being from Manitoba, the member knows that the Manitoba government has been successful in reducing auto theft by 80%. The Manitoba government brought in legislation dealing with the proceeds of crime and has seized 21 houses, starting with the Hells Angels gang house. Those houses are worth about $9 million to the treasury.

Those are things that work. We need to strip away the ideology. The Conservative government is basically following the Ronald Reagan solution of “three strikes and you're out”, filling up American prisons and yet the crime rate has not gone down. Right wing thinkers like Newt Gingrich have come around to our way of thinking saying that the U.S. needs to be smart on crime and that it needs to develop programs that actually work.

It does not matter what jurisdiction is implementing the programs or whether a right wing or left wing government that is implementing the programs, we need to know where it works. If a program works in Quebec, and many programs do, then we should be looking to Quebec as an example of implementation. If a program is working well in Manitoba, we should be looking at Manitoba. We should not be taking the Conservative government's ideological approach of saying that it does not fit within its ideology, that it wants to go back to Ronald Reagan's days and say that “three strikes and you're out” is the way to do it. We have had 25 years of that and we have not had good results to show for it.

The American system is bankrupting itself. Some of the states are in difficult economic times now and have to admit that they were wrong in the first place and are now letting people out of prisons. The Americans should have developed a rehabilitative approach to dealing with drug issues and so on as opposed to putting people in jail for 20 or 30 years.

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona has caught the point that I was trying to emphasize with regard to the irony of having this particular legislation before us today and what the government is actually doing in terms of some of its budgetary action. It is, for example, cutting back on the youth gang prevention fund, which is an anti-gang program that will be closed.

The member is quite right. There are many good ideas around the world so that we do not need to re-invent the wheel in order to make significant progress but we need to share those ideas with the government where we can.

The member made reference to auto theft. Back in, I believe, 2004, Winnipeg had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 13,000 or 14,000 vehicles being stolen. After a lot of prodding from the opposition, the government tried to come to grips with how best to deal with that.

One of the things we found out was that a relatively small number of youth, I believe less than 200, were stealing thousands of cars. A number of them got caught stealing at least 30 cars. What happened is that a program was developed that gave special attention to the high offenders.

What we really need to do is encourage and support those types of programs. We should not only bring in legislation of this nature but act on programs that will actually have an impact on crime in the streets. As I say, this particular bill will not necessarily prevent crimes from taking place.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, something is not right here and I hope my hon. colleague is listening. Let us stop talking about street gangs and car thefts. That is not what we are talking about here; we are talking about murder.

From my hon. colleague's response, I understood that the Liberal Party plans to vote in favour of this bill. If that is true, the Liberals are going to abolish the faint hope clause that they themselves created in 1976. Is that clear enough?

I want to know why they are choosing to support a bill that goes against what they have always defended, specifically, that criminals must be given the opportunity to return to society. That is exactly what they are about to do with Bill S-6, if they support it.

They need to stop talking about street gangs. We are talking about murder, are we not? My question is clear: do they want to give people one last chance? If so, they must vote against the bill. That is what I want to know.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member would like a simple yes or no answer to the question but he will not necessarily get the yes or no answer from me at this point.

What I can tell the member is that many gang activities involve murder. Yes, I can assure the member that there are in fact gang members who commit murder. I would suggest that the principle of encouraging better behaviour within our prison system is to better educate prisoners and provide them with the opportunity to gain skills so that once they are released there is less likelihood of them repeating their crimes. We are very supportive of trying to beat the revolving door syndrome.

Through time, legislation needs to be changed but we need to be sensitive in terms of the realities of the different stakeholders and the expectations of the Canadian public. I suspect that in time we will find out exactly how the Liberal Party will be voting on the bill.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the past six years, I have heard some interesting things in the House, but the argument being made by my colleague from the Liberal Party is, with all due respect, extremely flawed. His argument does not hold water and it is inconsistent with Liberal Party philosophy.

I am liberal-minded because for 35 years, I was a criminal defence lawyer. I have defended many murder cases.

There are some things I do not understand. In 1976, the Liberal Party agreed to vote in favour of abolishing the death penalty and instituted what we call the faint hope clause. Decisions on this have gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Liberal Party is starting to realize it is being tricked. If the Liberals vote in favour of Bill S-6, they will be opening the door to reinstating the death penalty. Is that clear enough? That is where the Conservatives are going with this. I hope my colleague will consult with his colleagues who were on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I can give him some arguments to convince his colleagues.

These numbers do not come from the Bloc, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party or the NDP. These numbers were complied by the Correctional Service of Canada. As far as I know, the Correctional Service of Canada is neutral. It deals with inmates and ensures that those who are released on parole deserve to be.

The Conservatives do not understand the first thing about the faint hope clause. I hope my Liberal colleagues will understand. The Conservatives want to defend the victims. There is nothing better than the faint hope clause, which was implemented in 1976, to ensure that victims are respected.

Allow me to explain. The faint hope clause was adopted in 1976. The first hearings were held in 1987 because the inmates had to serve their sentences after all. Since 1987, there have been 181 hearings. As of October 10, 2010—

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

At 10:10 a.m.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Practically at 10:10 a.m., as my learned colleague from Hochelaga says. As of October 10, 2010, 4,774 people were serving life sentences in Canada. Since 1986, 181 offenders have gone before the board. The Conservatives claim that not enough is said about the victims, but 181 applications were heard. Many more people could have applied, but some did not because they knew that they, like the Clifford Olsons of this world, would not succeed. There are a number of them.

Of these 181 cases, 146 had their sentences reduced and 35 were rejected. That is close to 1%. But that is not all. Of the 146 inmates whose eligibility date for parole was moved forward, 144 have now reached the revised date for day parole eligibility.

Parole has been granted to 135 people. We will do our job and state the facts: 135 individuals out of 4,700 have been paroled. Just wait, that is not all. Of these 135 individuals, 68—just about half—have never had problems. We need to explain something that the Conservatives will never understand, and that I would like the Liberals to realize. When offenders are sentenced to life, when they are incarcerated for the rest of their days, they fall under the parole system, the Correctional Service of Canada system. Therefore, they are monitored and under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada not just while they are in prison, but to the end of their days, until they die.

Thus, 68 individuals have been released, 35 have had their parole suspended but not revoked—I will return to that—and 23 have had their parole revoked. Thus, 23 out of 135, out of 181, out of more than 4,000. Only 23. I will continue. Of the 135 paroled, seven committed non-violent offences, and two committed new violent offences. Naturally, the Conservatives are focusing on those two. Two out of 141, two out of 4,000, committed violent crimes. Naturally, we wanted to find out if the offences were murder. They were not.

Since 1987, no one released through the use of the faint hope clause has committed murder. And that is a good thing, of course. Two individuals committed violent crimes. We asked the Correctional Service of Canada what type of crimes these were. There had been assault causing bodily harm and armed robbery. Clearly, these two individuals returned to prison and will probably stay there for the rest of their lives.

Why did I quote these figures? I did it because the faint hope clause works. The Conservatives have not understood this, but I hope that the Liberals will wake up and ensure that this bill never goes to third reading, that it gets no support and is defeated in the House.

The faint hope clause is a system that works. Generally, the Criminal Code is amended to adapt it, for example, if there are computer-related crimes or an increase in car theft, armed robberies or street gangs. Also, there were Hells Angels and the mafia. So we take measures to amend the Criminal Code. We have a system that works and that works very well. Why amend it? I say that it works very well because the parole board would never release someone convicted of murder if there were a possibility that the person would reoffend. It would never happen if there were a chance the person would reoffend.

There are significant steps that an individual must take before being released. Under the faint hope clause, the individual must first submit an application to a judge in the district where he or she was sentenced 15 or 17 years previously. It is the judge who determines whether the person is eligible to apply. If the Superior Court judge is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is eligible, the judge empanels a jury. Despite what the Conservatives may say, it is not true that it is up to the jury to determine whether an individual is eligible for release. The only thing a jury can do is to determine whether the sentence should be reduced or whether the individual should be granted permission to ask the parole board for parole after one, two, three, four or five years. The jury would determine the timeframe.

The faint hope clause found in section 745 of the Criminal Code has been so clearly defined that I am wondering why we would now want to abolish it. This is not my opinion, but that of reporters, and I would like to cite a passage in support of this argument. Manon Cornellier, a reporter for the newspaper Le Devoir, stated the following in an article published on June 10, 2009: “What if a lack of hope were to destroy a convict's desire for rehabilitation, resulting in more violence and more problems in our prisons?”

It is obvious to us that if we deny the possibility of the faint hope clause to those who have been convicted of murder, they will have no hope of being reintegrated into society. The faint hope clause: the name says it all. The wording is clear. It means that such individuals can think about returning to society after 15, 17, 18 or 20 years have passed, but they cannot do it alone and they would have to be deemed ready to return to society.

I do not understand why the Conservatives want to do this. Actually, I did not understand why until I read that the Prime Minister stated that he was against capital punishment except in certain cases. Then I understood everything. I understood why this bill was being introduced: it is the beginning of the return of the death penalty in Canada. This is extremely dangerous. This door must be closed immediately. The only way to close this door is to vote against Bill S-6. We must vote against this bill because it removes the opportunity for individuals to be reintegrated into society. I have argued many cases and clearly murder is the worst crime in the Criminal Code. A life has been taken. The person responsible should not be allowed to return to society until they understand the seriousness of their actions, before they are ready to return and have served a minimum sentence.

Let us again look at the numbers. I did not make them up. Statistics have been compiled since the death penalty was abolished in 1976. Canada kept track because keeping statistics is one of our strong suits. The average incarceration time for first degree murder, before the slightest possibility of eligibility for parole, is set out in a study by the Correctional Service of Canada. This data does not come from the Bloc, the Liberals, the NDP or the Conservatives. It comes from the Correctional Service of Canada.

The average time served is now 22.4 years. This means that offenders, even if they have the right to apply for parole after 15 or 17 years, serve on average 22.6 years before even being eligible for parole. This means that the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board are doing a good job. And the government wants to change that? It makes no sense.

It works so well that we have very few cases of repeat offences. Since 1987, two violent crimes have been committed by individuals who have been released and 23 individuals have violated their parole conditions. They returned to prison. Here is what the Conservatives do not get: someone who is handed over to the Correctional Service of Canada for murder is imprisoned for life. I encourage my Conservative and Liberal colleagues to read section 745 of the Criminal Code. It clearly states that someone who is convicted of murder is sentenced to imprisonment for life. As far as I know, a life sentence is not 1, 2, 15 or 18 years in prison, it is life in prison. The individual is under the control of the Correctional Service of Canada for the rest of his life. As we say, he had better stay on the straight and narrow.

I have handled many cases and files that I could spend an hour talking about. The people from the Correctional Service of Canada who came to the committee asked why we were tinkering with a system that worked really well. The Conservatives responded that they wanted to be tough on crime. That makes no sense. Murder is the worst crime and a convicted murderer is sentenced to life in prison. He cannot get out unless he is ready to return to society.

The Conservatives claim to protect victims. But the victim's biggest advocate in this case is the Correctional Service of Canada and its parole board, which, since 1987, has been on the ball. They are good. Everyone released under the faint hope clause has behaved well, with the exception of two people. Two out of 181 is less than 1%.

If the House wants me to speak for another half-hour I would be happy to. In conclusion, I urge the Liberals, who brought in the faint hope clause, to think about this carefully. If Bill S-6 is passed, I guarantee that we will soon see the return of backbenchers' bills aiming to bring back the death penalty. That is unacceptable and we will never go along with that.

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3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the member hopes he will be able to appeal successfully to the Liberals. I would suggest he give up on that idea. I think the Liberals have already decided that they will follow the Conservatives in this venture for short-term political gain and will give up on the history of their party, going back to 1976 when it did show leadership on this issue.

It is interesting that this all comes about at a time when the United States is starting to reassess its system. When right-wing leaders such as Newt Gingrich, who was one of the top Republican leaders a number of years ago, and still is, come up with conclusions that basically agree with what the NDP and the Bloc have argued in the House on a number of crime issues, that is pretty amazing. He uses examples in the United States where the Republicans have come together with the Democrats to look at systems that actually work and have reduced the number of people in the prison populations in certain states. There is a lower rate of crime as a result of this and it is a much less cost to the taxpayers.

The government is looking at spending $9 billion on new prison construction. It is going against where the world is moving, especially when we look at the United States right now.

Would the member like to comment on those points?