This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judge.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 1st, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table pursuant to Standing Order 36.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to stand up for our freedoms by repealing the Canadian Human Rights Act and by permanently disbanding the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to table a petition today that draws the attention of the House to the fact that current recipients of old age security pension are Canadians who have contributed to Canadian society for at least 10 years and that decreasing the residency requirement for pension eligibility is a disincentive for new Canadians to work, contribute and integrate into Canadian society.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to maintain the 10 year requirement and not to adopt Bill C-428 which would reduce that requirement to 3 years.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by dozens of Canadians calling upon the Government of Canada to end Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with the agreement of the Liberal Party, broke his oft-repeated promise to honour the parliamentary motion and therefore refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to a training mission still presents a danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when our country is faced with a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost Canadians more than $18 billion so far, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions right here in Canada.

Polls show that a clear majority of Canadians do not want Canada's military presence to continue after the scheduled removal date of July 2011.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from January 31 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.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question? The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The vote will be deferred until tomorrow after government orders.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

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

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, first of all, on this first day back in the House of Commons, I would like to thank all the voters and people in my riding who have kept me in the House of Commons for the past five years, through two elections.

I am honoured to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act.

The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code will authorize a judge, when an offender is convicted of more than one first or second degree murder or a combination of first and second degree murders and is sentenced to life in prison, to impose separate 25-year periods of parole ineligibility for the second and any subsequent murder. These additional 25-year periods would be consecutive to the period of parole ineligibility imposed for the first murder.

In exercising this authority, sentencing judges will have regard to already-existing Criminal Code criteria that will ensure that the proposed measures are applied to the most incorrigible offenders—those whose crimes are such that they would be unlikely to ever obtain parole.

Judges will also be required to give, either orally or in writing, reasons for the decision to impose or not to impose consecutive parole inadmissibility periods. This will benefit the families and loved ones of murder victims who have long complained that they are left in the dark as to why certain decisions are taken during the trial and sentencing process.

The measures proposed in Bill C-48 will accomplish three things. First, they will better reflect the tragedy of multiple murders by enabling a judge to acknowledge each and every life lost.

Under current law, multiple murderers serve life sentences and corresponding parole ineligibility periods for each murder concurrently. The result is that they serve only 25 years in custody before being eligible for parole, no matter how many lives they may have taken.

Many Canadians are dismayed by this. They cannot understand why a sentence for murder is unable to take account in a concrete way of the fact that more than one life has been taken. Many argue that the law as it now stands seems to give a “volume discount” to multiple murderers.

This symbolic devaluation of the lives of victims has a strong negative impact on the families and loved ones of murder victims. All too often they experience a greater degree of pain and experience a greater sense of loss because the justice system has failed to mete out a specific punishment for each and every life lost. Bill C-48 would help correct this.

The second thing that Bill C-48 would do is reinforce the denunciatory and retributive functions of the parole ineligibility period attached to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Murder is the most serious crime and must be denounced in the strongest terms. This has already been recognized by the highest court of the land. In the 1987 Vaillancourt case, the Supreme Court highlighted the extreme stigma attached to murder that flows from the moral blameworthiness of deliberately taking the life of another person.

This moral blameworthiness justifies the appropriately severe penalty that murder attracts: life imprisonment accompanied by a period of parole ineligibility of up to 25 years.

Many would ask whether it is appropriate that the penalty for taking more than one life is the same as the penalty for taking one life. That is a good question. I would note, in response, that a life sentence is, indeed, for life. An offender cannot be sentenced to more than one life sentence.

Bill C-48 is based on the proposition that killing more than one person reflects a higher degree of moral blameworthiness and ought to allow the imposition of additional periods of parole ineligibility.

Bill C-48 would ensure that the judge who presides over the conviction of a multiple murderer and who is therefore in the best position to assess that person’s degree of moral blameworthiness remains the one authorized to decide whether that more severe penalty ought to be imposed.

As I mentioned earlier, that decision would be based on the existing criteria in section 754.4 of the Criminal Code. Judges already use these criteria to decide how long a second degree murderer ought to serve in custody before being able to apply for parole.

I will elaborate on that last point which, I must point out, has already been discussed in previous debates.

As hon. members may recall, the punishment for first and second degree murder is life imprisonment accompanied by a period of ineligibility for parole determined according to section 745 of the Criminal Code.

For first degree murderers as well as for any second degree murderer who has killed before, that period is 25 years from the time of being brought into custody.

For all other second degree murderers, that period is 10 years, unless the judge uses the authority bestowed by section 745.4 to set a period of ineligibility for parole up to 25 years.

Such a decision will be based on “the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission and the recommendation, if any, made [by a jury]”.

In summary, Canadian law already sets out a sliding scale of parole ineligibility to account for particularly incorrigible offenders or particularly egregious crimes.

As for the application of these criteria, the courts have stated over and over again that the most important factor to consider in deciding whether to extend the parole ineligibility period of a second degree murderer is the protection of society.

Bill C-48 proposes to use exactly the same criteria for the imposition of consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on multiple murderers—again, multiple murderers. I am convinced that the same principles will apply, and that judges will therefore look to the protection of society in making their decisions.

This leads me naturally to the third thing that Bill C-48 will do, namely, to enhance the protection of society by permitting judges to keep the most incorrigible multiple murderers in custody for longer periods of time that better correspond to their crimes, which is only normal.

Bill C-48 would ensure that our communities are safe and that offenders convicted of multiple murders, who should never be released, will never be released.

In this vein, the proposed amendments would also protect the families and loved ones of multiple murder victims, who are forced to listen all over again to the details of these horrible crimes at parole hearings held after the maximum parole ineligibility period possible under the current act expires.

If Bill C-48 is passed, it will not affect the rights of those multiple murderers currently on parole nor will it usurp the role of the National Parole Board.

Bill C-48 will not prevent convicted multiple murderers now serving life sentences from seeking parole when their parole ineligibility periods expire, nor will it call into question National Parole Board decisions to release those who meet the criteria for parole.

Bill C-48 will only apply to those who commit more than one murder after the legislation comes into force.

In short, Bill C-48 is neither retroactive nor retributive. It represents the reaffirmation of our government's commitment to respond to Canadians' concerns about strengthening the justice system by ensuring that the most serious offenders do the most serious time.

Bill C-48 was studied thoroughly by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which saw fit to make one amendment.

This amendment would require a judge to give oral or written reasons in the event he or she decides to impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on a convicted multiple murderer. The bill, as originally drafted, called for reasons only if the judge declined to do so.

Our government believes this amendment is unnecessary and could even have unintended consequences. In fact, our government's original objective for requiring a judge to give reasons for not imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for a multiple murderer was to ensure that victims would be informed of the reasons for not doing so.

As I have already explained, the amendment proposed by the Liberal critic would compel judges to explain their reasons for imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on an offender convicted of multiple murderers. In other words and to put it simply, this amendment would mean that murderers will be told the judge's reasons. The ultimate aim of our bill was to restore the balance between victims' rights and offenders' rights, a balance that had been lacking for some time. I believe that the consequences of this amendment work against our objective.

The Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tried unsuccessfully to reverse the amendment, which was supported by all opposition members. Although we oppose that change, I believe that the need for this bill is more important than the political games that the opposition members are playing. For that reason, and so as not to slow the progress of this bill, our government supports the current version of Bill C-48.

I would like to ask all members of the House to help me achieve these objectives by supporting this bill.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member who has just spoken what happens in cases involving multiple second degree murders. Does the judge impose consecutive periods? A judge can always adjust these periods within the 10 to 25 year range, which may shed some light on the consequences of this parole eligibility bill in cases involving second degree murder.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, which is quite relevant.

I would like to point out that, in cases involving multiple second degree murders rather than first degree murders, the judge will still be required to apply section 745.4 of the Criminal Code, which already exists. As I mentioned in my speech, the judge will be able to take into account the circumstances, the manner in which the second degree murders were committed, the identity of the victims and the social and moral reprobation or blameworthiness that could result. At that time, the judge will also be able to determine, as he or she does now, whether the ineligibility period should be 15 or 25 years rather than 10. Judges will have that authority. They will be given new discretion. No authority will be taken from them; on the contrary, they will be given additional discretion. In cases involving multiple second degree murders, judges will be able to determine whether the ineligibility period should be increased from 10 to 25 years. In addition, concurrent sentences will no longer be imposed; rather, sentences will now be consecutive.