Mr. Speaker, we are going to talk about real concerns. I have been sitting in my office since about 4:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.—for as you know, I have a hard time getting around—and listening to the debates. It is unfortunate that there are not more lawyers who have practised criminal law in this House, because I think the questions, with all due respect to my Liberal and NDP colleagues, have been way out in left field. I would not go so far as to say way out in a potato field, but almost.
I was elected to the House in 2004 and as early as 2005, people have been saying that one of the major problems concerning crime, criminal law in Canada and sentencing—and it is unfortunate that not every Tom, Dick and Harry understands this—is not that people are serving sentences that are too short, but rather that the Conservatives are always pushing for more sentences and longer sentences than the sentences handed down.
And whether my colleague across the floor likes it or not, Bill C-54 is currently being examined and the Conservatives still want to impose minimum prison sentences all the time.
I hope they will listen to me. The problem is not the minimum prison sentences. When criminals are sentenced in court and the judge takes the time to explain to one of them, to Harry, for instance, that he is being sentenced to 36 months, Harry can go to prison knowing that, if he has no prior convictions, he may serve eight months. The problem is with the one-sixth rule. There is never enough time to begin treating these people.
I would like to explain something for the benefit of my colleagues across the way, the NDP and the Liberals, who have little experience in criminal law. When a criminal is sentenced—Tom or Dick or Harry, for instance—he is sentenced to exactly 36 months in prison. He is then sent to a federal reception centre, where all convicted criminals begin their sentences, and he will spend about three to six months there, for that is where inmates are classified. For example, will he be sent to Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, or to Kingston, Ontario? How does that work?
They look at Harry's case and tell him he will serve his 36-month sentence at La Macaza, a minimum security prison. What does Harry do? He goes. And whether my colleague likes it or not, it could be a medium-security prison or a minimum-security one. So he is in prison, but eight months have already gone by before anything is done with Harry. By the time they look at the case of someone sentenced to 36 months, he is practically released.
The best example is the alleged mafia leader, who is now somewhere between heaven and hell. He was arrested in a huge raid in 2009 and was put in detention. What did his lawyer do? Some lawyers will tell their client not to plead guilty right away, that it is better to wait. Being given a two- or three-year sentence means that when the sentence is handed down, the time already spent in custody will count for nearly double, unless the judge says that it will not count for double. If the judge agrees the time count for double, this is what happens.
The individual's sentence really begins at the moment it is handed down. However, time spent in pre-sentencing custody is taken into consideration.
In our friend Harry's case, he has received a three-year sentence, but he has already been in custody for two months. Two months are taken off, sometimes four. Thirty-six minus four equals 32 months. It takes four months for the case to be looked at because he was sent to the federal reception centre. That brings us to 32 minus four, which is 28 months. Things are going well. This is what happens: one-sixth of the sentence is calculated, regardless of what the Minister of Heritage thinks. He does not understand anything. I know he does not understand anything because no one in Vancouver understands how it works. He is already having a hard time with culture. We will look after culture or maybe agriculture, with all these tubers. Maybe he could look after heritage someday.
I think it is deplorable that they are trying to have us believe that if we eliminate the one-sixth sentence, it will cost more to keep someone in prison. That is a bit hard to accept since it is only normal to expect that a person sentenced to prison will serve that sentence or, at least, will prepare for his release through a parole readiness program. It simply is not possible to prepare a release plan for anyone currently being paroled after serving one-sixth of a sentence.
Mr. Lacroix, sentenced to 13 years in prison, was released after less than two years. It took four months before his case was processed at the federal reception centre. What happened? He is now in a community centre. He will do community service, because that is important for his rehabilitation. However, it would also be important for his rehabilitation for him to reflect a little more than he did when he committed his crimes. Generally speaking, these criminals are not dangerous. They are dangerous to others. They are thieves. We call them white collar criminals.
People generally are not released after serving one sixth of their sentence if they have been convicted of violent crimes, if it is not their first penitentiary sentence, etc. There are a number of examples. However, take the case of someone who was sentenced by a judge for impaired driving for the eighth time. The judge says this time, enough is enough. He sentences the individual to 40 months in prison. That individual is certainly not a danger when he is in prison. Obviously, he will not be drinking when he is in prison. Maybe he will, but I would be surprised. What does that person do when he is in prison? He sits down and watches television. If he is released after serving one-sixth of his sentence, which unfortunately happens far too often, he turns up impaired once again and he may commit another offence such as impaired driving causing bodily harm, or even impaired driving causing death.
If that individual had not been released after serving one sixth of his sentence, if he had worked with counsellors on preparing for his release, things could have been different. Parole should be earned and release should be prepared for. The purpose of Bill C-59 is to prevent people from being released too quickly.
What makes the public angry is not minimum prison sentences; rather, it is individuals who are sentenced to time in prison and who do not serve that time. That is what makes the public angry.
We try to make the Conservatives understand this in committee when they ask us to impose minimum prison sentences. They do not listen because they think that minimum prison sentences will solve the problem. That is the only thing they are interested in. But it is completely false.
All of the studies we have managed to collect, read and analyze show clearly that minimum prison sentences do not solve anything. What helps or makes individuals understand the importance of rehabilitation is to insist they serve their sentences and develop a release plan to prepare for to their return to society. It is unfortunate, but such is currently the case with Bill C-59. I believe the Liberals and the New Democrats want to gain some political advantage by voting against Bill C-59; however, at this stage, it is time—