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House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, shall be disposed of as follows:

1. not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the second reading stage of the bill and, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day of the consideration of the said stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment;

2. not more than four hours following the adoption of the second reading motion, any proceedings before the Committee to which the bill stands referred shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the committee stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment; a representative of the Committee may report the bill to the House by depositing the said report with the Clerk of the House, whereupon it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House, provided that if the bill is not reported from the Committee by 11:00 p.m. on the day of the adoption of the second reading motion, the bill shall immediately be deemed to have been reported from the Committee without amendment; that for the sole purposes of this Order, the deadline for notice of report stage motions shall be 3:00 a.m. the day following the adoption of the second reading motion;

3. the bill may be taken up at report stage at the next sitting of the House following the notice deadline for the presentation of report stage motions, provided that a motion for third reading may be made immediately after the bill has been concurred in at report stage;

4. not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage and third reading stage of the bill and, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day of the consideration of the said stages of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment;

5. should a recorded division be requested on any motion in relation to any stage of the bill and such a division is eligible to be deferred pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division may be deferred to a time not later than the end of Government Orders on the day that stage is under consideration and the operation of Standing Order 45(6) shall be suspended in relation to this bill.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to rise in support of the motion before us today which would help to ensure that we pass Bill C-59 into law in the most timely and expeditious way possible.

The issue of accelerated parole review has been raised and debated in this place, as well as in other venues, and in the media, for quite some time. All of us have heard about the devastating consequences that while collar crimes such as fraud can have on the lives of Canadians. All of us have heard from Canadians about the need to take action to ensure that white collar criminals are held to account for their actions and the need to stand up for the victims of their crimes. Canadians have been quite clear. They want us to take action now and they want us to take action quickly, which is what the motion today intends to do.

Just a few years ago, many people might have regarded crimes such as fraud as victimless crimes since they seem to be committed against large organizations, corporations or governments.

Today, things have changed. We are now increasingly seeing the human face of fraud. I think it is safe to say that many Canadians have been shocked and angered by the harms caused by these acts. Savings have been wiped out and lives have been ruined. For many victims, they can never be returned to the position they were in before the crime.

As we know, under the current system, white collar offenders can be released after as little as one-sixth of their sentence in prison for their crimes. Bill C-59 would give us all a chance to change this and to support Canadians who have become the victims of crime.

Helping victims of crime has always been at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. Our government is committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts.

Crime places a heavy toll on individual victims, their families, communities and society at large. That is why we have taken action to ensure that the scales of justice are balanced to include victims. One way we did this was by committing $52 million over four years to enhance the federal victims strategy so that government could better meet the needs of victims.

As one of our first moves, we created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime as an independent resource for victims.

The National Office for Victims at Public Safety Canada is also working to give victims a greater voice in the corrections and conditional release process and assisting victims in getting access to the information and services that they might need.

The Policy Centre for Victim Issues at the Department of Justice is also helping the government better meet the needs of victims, for example, by giving them the resources to attend parole hearings and to seek help if they experience crime while abroad.

Our government is also going one step further in helping victims connect to the services they need with the online victim services directory, which is available on the website of the Department of Justice Canada. The directory lets victims search for appropriate agencies in their area according to the type of victimization they have experienced and the type of support they seek. Our hope is that it can help ease the burden on victims of crime who do not know where to turn or which services are available to them.

All of those measures help to bring victims front and centre in the justice system and to ensure that their voices are heard.

In addition, of course, our government has also introduced a wide range of legislation to crack down on crime, gun crimes, in particular.

As well, our government has passed legislation to help combat the complex, serious and growing problems of identity theft and identity fraud.

We have also ensured that victims have a greater say in this country's parole system by introducing legislation that, among other things, would enshrine in law a victim's right to attend and make statements at Parole Board of Canada hearings, while preventing offenders, in most cases, from withdrawing their parole applications 14 days or less before a hearing date.

Victims of crime have asked for these changes. And our government has delivered.

Bill C-59 builds on and strengthens this already impressive track record of standing up for victims.

Victims of white collar crimes, and of fraud in particular, have been dismayed, in many cases, to find out that the offenders who carry out these acts can be released so soon after they are sentenced. Unless the Parole Board of Canada has reasonable grounds to believe these offenders will commit a violent offence if released, it must automatically release them into the community under supervision. This means that in some cases a fraudster, for example, could be back on the streets early.

Such a criminal could be sentenced to 12 years, but actually released into the community on day parole in just 2 years and fully paroled in just 4 years. The status quo gives the Parole Board of Canada no discretion in dealing with these cases.

The test is whether an offender is likely to commit a violent offence. As a result, even if the Parole Board believes the offender is likely to commit another fraud, theft or drug offence, it is compelled to release him or her. This truly offends Canadians' sense of justice. It undermines their faith in our justice and corrections system. Victims and, indeed, all Canadians want to see justice carried out and sentences served. Bill C-59 would do that.

Bill C-59 would, first and foremost, do away with the current system's accelerated parole review, whereby offenders who commit non-violent crimes such as fraud can be released on day parole after serving as little as one-sixth of their sentence. Under the changes our government is proposing, offenders who commit fraud and other white collar crimes will be put on the same footing as other offenders. They will be eligible for regular day parole review six months prior to full parole eligibility and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentences. They will have to face the full consequences of their actions.

The message that we are sending with Bill C-59 is that if people commit the crime, they will do the time. We are saying with this legislation that the needs of victims are paramount. We are saying that their interests come first. We are saying that all of us remain committed to cracking down on crime and standing up for the rights of victims. That is what Canadians want. They want us to continue standing up for victims and to ensure that their voices are heard. They want us to continue to ensure that all offenders are held to account for their actions.

Most of all, Canadians want us to work together in the spirit of co-operation to take action now to ensure the changes our government is proposing are passed into law so victims of fraud and other white collar crimes can in fact see justice done.

I therefore urge all hon. members to support the motion before us today and to work with the government to ensure Bill C-59 receives speedy passage.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I just have one question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.

How does he feel now that he is part of a Conservative-separatist coalition?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I feel very bad that the Liberal Party has no concern for victims. I met with some of the victims of these frauds. They are elderly people who almost feel like they have sexually abused and that party refuses to support those victims.

I am happy to stand with my colleagues in the Bloc on this matter. They understand the importance of protecting the interests of victims.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I urge the parliamentary secretary to read the transcripts of the hearings that the justice committee held on Bill C-21, the white collar bill.

First, he will find that the Liberals supported the bill. He might want to also check the media coverage of a press conference held over two years ago in which Liberals called on the government to remove the one-sixth accelerated parole release for white collar criminals.

In the justice committee this past fall, when the white collar crime bill was being examined, it was a Liberal member who brought in an amendment that would in fact have eliminated the one-sixth accelerated release or early parole release, as it is commonly called, for white collar criminals and major fraudsters. Guess what? A Conservative chair ruled it out of order. I challenged the chair and the Conservative and Bloc members voted to uphold the chair's ruling. Therefore, they voted against eliminating the one-sixth early parole. The member may wish to check his facts before he says that Liberals do not support victims.

The second point—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

On a point of order, the hon. government House leader.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I wish to give notice that with respect to the consideration of government Business No. 10, which we are currently debating, at the next sitting a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I am not sure that is in order, Madam Speaker. Can we have a ruling as to whether that motion by the government House leader is in order?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

This will be considered at the time the motion is presented. It will be taken into consideration, and we will come back further to the hon. member's point, if necessary.

It is my understanding from what the minister has just said that he has simply given notice. He has not introduced a motion.

I will ask the hon. member to conclude her question. She was nearing the end.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I would also ask the member whether or not he has actually checked his government figures on the financing of victims support programs and the fact his government has cut its financing of those programs by almost half.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I do know that this bill is before this House today and that the Liberals and the NDP took time this morning so that this did not get debated. I do know there are victims across this country who are waiting for this legislation. I wish the members opposite would get on-board and support this party and the Bloc on this bill and get it done quickly.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, the Conservative member provided a good explanation. For once, we actually agree with the government; it is important to truly focus on the issue of serving one-sixth of a sentence. The Liberal member would like us to discuss many other topics when, in fact, we already have before us a fine bill.

White collar criminals are always eligible for parole because they have not committed violent crimes. However, they have been very psychologically abusive to the people against whom they committed fraud. I would ask the hon. member to explain to the Liberals and the Conservatives the benefit of supporting this bill.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, to be very frank, these victims are feeling very much violated, in the same manner as people who are victims of violent criminal acts. Frequently they are older people and it is their whole life savings. Many of them have contemplated very drastic measures to themselves as a result of the frauds committed by these people. They have been drained of their whole life's savings. They have lost their trust in society. They have lost their trust in individuals. They blame themselves for these things. I cannot understand why any party in the House would not support this bill and get it passed quickly so that these people are not victimized again.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, maybe this will be more of a statement than a question to the parliamentary secretary, because he does not know. It is not much use asking the question of anyone on that side of the House.

The reality is that at any given time, somewhere in the range of 1,500 people incarcerated at the federal level are eligible for the one-sixth exemption. We do not know who composes that, but I can tell the member what I have been able to discover up to this point, that white collar criminals form less than 1%. Those are the figures we have right now.

If the Conservatives really want to do something, why do they not just bring forward a bill that targets white collar criminals, as opposed to everybody else who may in fact be entitled, by any objective standards, to the use of this section? Why do they not do that? Then they would get the support of both ourselves and the Liberal Party.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, once again, the NDP always supports the criminals. There is nobody in prison that has not been convicted of a criminal act.

What we are talking about is criminals doing their time in jail. That is what Canadians expect. In particular, we are dealing here with a number of issues, but I do not know why the NDP and, in this case, the Liberals want to stand up for the rights of criminals but not the rights of victims.

That is what this is all about. It is about victims and justice truly being done. I do not understand the position of either of those two parties. I certainly appreciate the support we are seeing on this from the Bloc.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary and have him confirm that what we are dealing with here are individuals who commit white collar crimes, in particular those individuals who commit crimes akin to fraud and steal people's life savings. We are talking about individuals who steal from people who may be saving for their retirement or for their children's post secondary education, from people trying to save enough money to buy a house or from people who just want to be able to trust the system so they can enjoy retirement without having to worry about many of the things that many folks in this country worry about.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Human dignity.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Yes, human dignity.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary can put a human face on the victims who have been defrauded. Their sentence is basically a life sentence, a life, in some cases, of poverty.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague who is also a former police officer and has dealt with both sides of this issue, including victims.

My friend from the NDP mentioned some 1,500 who are incarcerated and might be eligible for this. I have news for him. There are thousands of victims out there, and, as my friend said, these victims who are serving a life sentence. For many of these people, it was their total savings that they had planned for retirement. I know many of them had to give up their homes and are living in a state of poverty that was not of their doing. It was by reason that they trusted these people who took advantage of them, people who they thought were friends and for some they were relatives.

I do not know why anybody would want these people to get the advantage that is currently offered, nor do I understand why they would not support this bill going forward.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, I would like to come back to a point of order that was raised about the appropriateness of the notice of motion by the minister. It clearly indicated that the debate on the item, which is the subject of the notice, must have begun before notice of closure may be given. Therefore, it is in order.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I would not say that words fail me just because I will not be debating the bill itself. I want to debate the motion that would prevent any discussion of the substance of the bill. I find it rather odd that the Bloc supports the government's attempt to stop any possibility of debating the substance of the bill.

No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the proposal to abolish one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and the member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with a number of Earl Jones' victims to urge the government to quickly introduce a bill to eliminate eligibility for one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals, especially those who commit major fraud and have many victims. No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting this idea. I find it shameful that the government is making these types of accusations when it is fully aware of the Liberal position. That is my first point.

Second, I want to talk about the debate and the possibility that there will be closure. Barely seven months ago, the Bloc members rose in the House to criticize this government for doing what it is about to do with Bill C-59. The government had moved a motion to prevent debate. The Bloc member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House last June to admonish the government because it moved a motion to prevent debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose the government's time allocation motion to prevent debate on the Jobs and Economics Growth Act, Bill C-9.

We oppose this time allocation motion because we believe that this is an important matter. In addition, the Liberals have been asking the government for two years to abolish one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals such as Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others. I find it regrettable that the Conservatives are trying to make people believe that the Liberals do not care about the victims. That is not true.

As I mentioned, when the government introduced Bill C-21 regarding white collar criminals and it was sent to committee, I proposed an amendment to eliminate the one-sixth accelerated parole rule for white collar criminals. The Conservative and Bloc members defeated the motion.

It is a matter of responsibility. Every member has the right to speak about the bills that the government introduces in the House. This is an extremely important issue.

We would like to hear from experts. It is possible that experts will tell us that we should eliminate the possibility of parole after one-sixth of a sentence for white collar criminals who committed a crime over a certain amount or if there were multiple victims. But for white collar crime that is not fraud, we believe evidence shows that parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served is very effective and that the recidivism rate is lower. I do not know. With this motion to limit debate, we will perhaps never know before we are asked to vote on this bill.

The Liberals are against this motion to limit debate. It is not justified, and we are sorry to see that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit debate on this bill. As for the substance of the bill, up until today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating the one-sixth accelerated parole rule for white collar criminals.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-59, and I do so with the hope of enlightening my Liberal and NDP colleagues.

In 2007, the Bloc Québécois, through its excellent justice critic, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and former Quebec attorney general, introduced a bill to abolish parole after one-sixth of a sentence. The Bloc Québécois always acts with a great deal of caution when it comes to amending the Criminal Code. We are very aware of that. However, crime is constantly evolving. There are crimes today that were practically unthinkable a decade ago. Now there are white collar criminals, whereas it used to be mostly people selling poor-quality products. Sometimes certain criminals were able to extort small amounts of money.

Over the past decade or so, globalization has resulted in an explosion of financial products on the market. Crooks, criminals, figured that there was money to be made by fooling honest people out of their hard-earned money. These criminals promise incredible interest rates and astronomical returns.

I had the opportunity to speak with a victim of white collar crime. It is not always easy to recognize this kind of criminal. Often, these criminals will do their work when it has been announced that a mutual fund or investment fund has had incredible returns.

People who have seen this kind of news on television are offered a product with similar returns by an acquaintance or a friend of a friend. The would-be victims do not say yes right away. People protect their savings; they are tight-fisted and take their time. White collar criminals take a step back and wait for more media reports about returns.

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec does not make a lot of noise when it suffers a loss, but when the returns are amazing, it does not hesitate to hold press conferences. And I am not even talking about corporate and bank profits.

People pay attention to the news. These days, information travels at light speed. Something that happens on the other side of the world will be reported on our little devices. I will not name them, because I do not want to advertise them. Our little hand-held computers allow us to access information very quickly. People of all ages, people who are not necessarily financial experts, but who have worked hard for their money, can have their life savings stolen from them by crooks.

The criminals are then caught and put on trial, and this gets lots of media attention because it affects a lot of people. They do not swindle just one individual.

When people are exploited and realize that they were not the only ones, this means that whoever swindled them knew what he was doing. In order to cheat dozens if not hundreds of victims, criminals need to have a good sales pitch, and they often use the media to make their pitch.

When these criminals are sentenced, the sentence can be considered important. The problem is that since the entire parole system is based on reintegration and how violent the crimes were, our judicial system is not set up for criminals who are not physically violent. These criminals are mentally violent, but not physically. In order to steal the life savings of honest people who worked their whole lives, one would have to be very psychologically violent. This is not physical violence; it is another kind of violence.

Obviously, the entire parole system has not been able to adjust to this because the principle of social reintegration still prevails. The criminal goes to prison, behaves very well, and in any case, the system has ruined him and that is just great. Often, the criminal has declared bankruptcy. He no longer has any assets. He has nothing left. We try to find out whether he hid anything in a tax haven. When we see the agreements the Conservative government is signing with Panama, a country on the OECD's blacklist or grey list of tax havens—it does not reveal the names of people who invest there, and there is no tax agreement with Panama—these questions remain. People always want to know whether the criminal has managed to hide money away. Most of the time, when the individual leaves prison, he is ruined. He no longer has any money and he leaves with his tail between his legs to try to reintegrate into society. And he gets parole after serving one-sixth of his sentence. It is very difficult to find out that someone like Vincent Lacroix can get out after serving one-sixth of his sentence, after he has ruined lives and admitted during his trial that he spent exorbitant amounts of money at strip clubs and the like. The judicial system will adapt.

I hear the Liberals and the New Democrats getting all worked up and saying that some criminals who would have been entitled to parole will not be, but a criminal is a criminal. He receives a sentence and he has to serve that sentence. There will still be parole, but not after one-sixth of the sentence has been served. Judges will adjust the sentences accordingly.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is very reticent about minimum sentences. We want to leave sentencing up to the judiciary, to judges. A judge is a neutral and competent person who often is called on to hear a number of similar cases and is able to hand down a sentence that fits the crime. Now the judge will know that the criminal can no longer be released after serving only one-sixth of his sentence. We will see how the courts adapt.

One thing is for certain: this must stop. Parole after serving one-sixth of a sentence is no longer acceptable given the new crimes that have been committed in our society over the past 10 years. Clearly, the biggest losers will be the criminals. Are we going to cry over what happens to criminals? I have heard the Liberals and the New Democrats crying, but I will not. These criminals were sentenced and they must serve their time. That is life and, as I was saying, the judges will adjust sentences accordingly.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is prepared to support any measures that are reasonable and acceptable to our society, and Bill C-59 falls into that category.

The types of crimes that have evolved over the past 10 years have led us to where we are today. We can no longer allow criminals who are said to be non-violent but who are extremely psychologically abusive to be released simply because they behaved well in prison. The problem is that their behaviour before they went to prison was intolerable. They must serve their sentences.

The Bloc Québécois has given the Liberals and the New Democrats the opportunity to adjust to the crimes of the 2000s since it is now 2010. Not surprisingly, they prefer to live in the past and they will have to live with that. We will support Bill C-59—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. He will have about nine minutes left to finish his remarks when debate resumes.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 30 consideration of the motion.

Older WorkersPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had six minutes left for his comments on this motion.