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House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member had one thing correct. I do not sit on the justice committee. It is called the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Debate on the bill has struck a chord with the Bloc and with the coalition because we are actually dealing with facts. This fall we could have dealt with legislation that would have made a difference in people's lives and they went on a fishing trip instead.

Bill C-23, Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act is one that would eliminate the possibility for an adult who commits a sexual crime against a child to get a pardon. Opposition members could have had that dealt with this fall but they chose to drag their feet.

Canadians at home need to understand that the talk over there is fancy but there are no facts behind it. Opposition members have a chance every single day they come to committee to get this through, and if all of a sudden they have seen the light and drank the water, why do they not talk to the House leader of our party and get it all dealt with right now? They could call, PIN, text or email him. I ask hon. members, let us do it this week. Let us do something for the victims this week.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

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—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

False, false.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

It is all well and good for the hon. member to say that it is false. Let us carry on and I will clarify. I think it is deplorable that the Liberals and New Democrats are trying to gain political advantage from this bill by saying that they need time to examine it. We have been examining it for a year and a half. It is time to act. We know, whether the Liberals and the New Democrats like it or not, that there are no studies and there is no evidence to show that abolishing offenders' rights to parole after they have served one-sixth of their sentence would substantially increase crowding in prisons. It is not true. This would allow the Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board to work with individuals in prison. These individuals would therefore not be sitting there saying that they are not interested in the program because they will soon be released. Why do they say that? Because they can take advantage of their right to parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence since they did not commit a violent crime. They stole from people but that is not serious because they did not commit a violent crime so they have the right to parole after they have served one-sixth of their sentence.

I have heard that about 1,500 individuals could be affected by this bill, which would clog our prisons. I am sorry, but I have looked at the latest figures and that is not true. This would affect maybe 100 or so people a year. In fact, the right to parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served does not apply to just anyone, and that is the problem. It applies to someone who has not committed a violent crime, does not have ties to gangs or terrorist groups and has not committed or been an accomplice in a sex crime. It applies to someone who was not the subject of an order requiring him to serve at least half of his sentence for a drug-related offence. It applies to someone who is serving their first sentence in prison and who is not at risk of committing a violent crime. So that makes a lot of people ineligible. For crimes like robbery, armed robbery, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon or attempted murder, offenders usually receive a sentence ranging from five to eight years in prison, and they are not eligible for this measure. That is the problem. Those who are eligible are repeat drunk drivers, white collar criminals, fraudsters or people who write multiple fraudulent cheques. We have seen that before; there are a lot of them. Anyone who has studied criminal law knows that at a certain point, it is enough. What we are saying is that abolishing parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served will make people convicted of a crime, and especially judges, understand that their sentences have the possibility of allowing the person to be rehabilitated and released into society.

This has to do with someone who is sentenced to prison. We are not talking about sentences of two years less a day or a few months in jail. We are talking about prison sentences, so two years or more.

This person has to work on his behaviour in order to reintegrate into and become an asset to society. If he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, it will take three months to decide what to do with him and which prison he should be sent to. He knows that he has only about eight months left to serve. And he will want nothing to do with the programs; he will watch television and play pool. We need to go further, and as parliamentarians, we eventually need to study the parole legislation. Now is not the time, but we can come back to the issue of one-third and two-thirds of the sentence.

The Bloc believes that parole should be earned and prepared for. It is not right to think that someone who committed a prison-worthy crime can reintegrate into society at any time without being prepared, without any effort at rehabilitation and without having recognized that he committed a serious crime. If a judge sent him to jail, the crime he committed had to have been serious.

I do not want to go on forever, but I could talk for a few days. Those watching us tonight will realize that, on one side of the House, there are people who believe that some criminals must serve time in prison and must not be released under any condition or by any means. We do not always agree with the Conservatives. However, if not for the persuasiveness of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie—the Bloc Québécois leader who has the confidence of 95% of his party—his perseverance, and the fact that he met with the Prime Minister just a few days ago to tell him that enough is enough and it was time to take action, we would not be debating Bill C-59.

It is time that this bill was passed and that the debate was limited, because there is nothing more to be said. I am interested to see that the Minister of Justice is arriving. He knows that I do not agree with the Conservative Party's tough on crime stance and imposing minimum sentences everywhere.

This evening, we will take the first step. We will tell those who are sentenced that from now on they will not be released at any price, at any time and for any crime.

I will be pleased to answer questions about this bill, which we will be supporting.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke very well about the bill that is under consideration but we will not start second reading on it until tomorrow. What we have been talking about is the process. There is maybe a misunderstanding on behalf of the member that somehow, because of the Liberal and the NDP concerns about the fast-tracking, we are not supporting the bill. We will have to wait and see but I am pretty sure that is not the case.

Does the hon. member believe it is possible, just possible, that Bill C-59 could be improved upon further? Would it not be prudent to have more than four hours of second reading debate and certainly more than the restrictions being placed on the justice committee to have its report in by 3 a.m. that morning? It is restricting parliamentary privilege to do its job. I hope the member has a comment on that.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with my colleague if we had not already debated the issue. If this were the first time we were talking about abolishing parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served, I would agree with my colleague, because it is limiting the rights of Parliament. I am a huge proponent of democracy and I do not like the method we are adopting this evening.

I would remind my colleague that this debate has been dragging on since 2005. It is time to resolve it once and for all, and move on to something else.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, our wise, eminent, Olympian and much revered colleague is originally from a little village affectionately known as Saint-Tuber. I would like to congratulate him on his one-of-a-kind presentation. I would like to offer him the few minutes we have left so he may elaborate and explain his thoughts in greater detail.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my bearded colleague from Hochelaga.

With all due respect, I will have him know that I was not born in Saint-Tuber, but in a thoroughly Catholic town called Amos, in Abitibi.

It is nice to have a good laugh and to have fun here tonight—such debates are rare—but this is a serious matter we are debating this evening. I know this is a matter of procedure. I also know that my NDP and Liberal colleagues are not happy about this. Nonetheless, I have a rather personal question for the Liberal MPs. I have a lot of respect for the NDP and the hon. member for Windsor. But with regard to the Liberals, I cannot help but wonder whether they have an ulterior motive for delaying the debate a bit. Nonetheless, we will not accuse them of having bad intentions.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 8:02 p.m., is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the current motion.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #180

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from February 10 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #181

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

It being 8:39 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:39 p.m.)