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 #131 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this chance to speak to Bill C-59, the Abolition of Early Parole Act. The amendments our government is proposing are important for a number of reasons. They build on our government's already impressive record of cracking down on crime. That includes any kind of crime, from those involving handguns, to those involving stolen property, identity theft and fraud.

Our government is committed to building safer streets and communities for everyone. We have delivered on that commitment in countless numbers of ways. The changes our government is proposing in Bill C-59 will also help to ensure that the corrections system works the way it should so that all offenders are held accountable for their actions. That is something our government has been committed to achieving since we were first elected in 2006.

Perhaps most importantly, the changes our government is proposing with Bill C-59 will mean that offenders convicted of fraud will not be eligible for accelerated early parole after serving just a small fraction of their sentences. Therefore, I want to urge all hon. members to support the legislation before us today, which again demonstrates a commitment I believe all of us share, which is to stand up for victims and to crack down on crime and make our communities safer and better places for everyone.

Bill C-59 will essentially do away with what appears to be a two-tier system of parole in this country, which at times appears to treat offenders convicted of fraud as if swindling people of their life savings is somewhat less of a crime than other offences.

Our government believes, and indeed I feel most Canadians would agree, that offenders who commit such crimes should not just receive a slap on the wrist once they are convicted. They should not be out on parole earlier than other offenders simply because their crime was not violent. Their actions can wreak havoc and have wreaked havoc in the lives of countless numbers of Canadians. The devastation that their actions can and have caused can often be irreparable. In many cases, victims have been left wondering where the justice is in this world. Where is justice when such perpetrators can apparently be handed lengthy prison sentences but only serve one or two years in prison? They are left to wonder why the justice system does not seem to be standing up for them. Most of all, they have been left wondering when their interests will be put ahead of the offenders. That day is here. Again, our government is taking action to stand up for victims of crime.

Under the current system of accelerated parole review, so-called white-collar offenders convicted of a first-time non-violent offence are eligible for day parole after serving just one-sixth of their prison sentence. Indeed, not only can they qualify, they are almost certain to receive it. Unlike other offenders, white-collar offenders are in fact almost automatically put into the queue, so to speak, to receive early parole. That is because under the existing rules Correctional Service Canada must refer the cases of offenders entitled to APR to the parole board before their day parole eligibility date so that they may be released under supervision into the community as soon as possible.

Let us think about that. Offenders do not have to apply for parole. Under the current system, that is already taken care of. In fact, Correctional Service Canada in effect does it for them. However, for other offenders the parole board will only receive applications for parole if the offender has informed them that they wish to be granted day parole. That is generally six months before their full parole eligibility date.

Why the double standard? Why are non-violent offenders treated differently? Our government, and I believe the majority of Canadians, would agree that should not occur.

Today, a white-collar offender might receive a sentence of 12 years, perhaps more in some cases. The reality is that many are released on parole before other offenders who might receive a similar sentence. Unlike other offenders who are generally eligible for day parole six months before full parole, white-collar or non-violent criminals can be free after just a few months in some cases. The general rule of thumb is that they can access a process called accelerated parole review after serving one-sixth of their sentence and full day parole after serving one-third of their sentence.

If we look back on some of the cases where we have seen convictions for very serious multi-million dollar fraud, sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars, a 12-year sentence is significant. However, when we find that the person has only spent two years in jail, we wonder if the system is being fair. The human cost is much more severe. We have heard of people who have committed suicide. We have heard of people who have lost all of their life savings. They serve what I refer to as a life sentence.

What makes the current parole system even more expedited for white-collar criminals is the accelerated parole reviews are done through a paper review by the Parole Board of Canada, whereas a regular parolee receives one by way of a hearing rather than just a shuffling of papers, as it were, in a paper process. There is no need to meet with the parole board to explain their actions, no need to face their victims. Why should a person be released on day parole if he or she is a white-collar criminal when there are still many people suffering under the weight of poverty because of his or her actions?

The test for accelerated parole review is also lower for white-collar offenders than it is for other offenders. The parole board only has to have reasonable grounds to believe that the offender will not commit a violent crime, whereas with other offenders, the test is whether that person poses an undue risk to commit any type of crime if released.

The bottom line is that the parole board, when dealing with these cases, has limited discretion. The test is whether someone is going to commit a violent offence. Even if the parole board believes someone will commit another fraud, the board is still compelled to release him or her under supervision after serving just one-sixth of his or her sentence. That means, in many cases, that people who are convicted of crimes that have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Canadians may spend very little time in prison.

The end result is that offenders convicted of white-collar crimes can be released under supervision after just a few months. Offenders convicted of fraud are given lengthy sentences which do not result in much time spent in prison at all. This can be difficult to reconcile with Canadians' faith in their justice system and in the corrections system.

Bill C-59 would abolish accelerated parole review and repeal sections of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that govern the accelerated parole review regime. It would mean that offenders who commit non-violent or white-collar crimes would be put on the same footing as other offenders. They would be eligible for regular day parole review six months prior to full parole eligibility, and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentence. Rather than being subject to a paper review, they would be subject to an in-person hearing. The test as to whether they should be released would be whether they present an unmanageable risk of committing another crime.

All of us here have heard of the devastating consequences of white-collar crimes such as fraud. Victims, and I believe the majority of Canadians, are outraged that offenders who have destroyed so many lives should receive preferential treatment. They are outraged that the justice system does not appear to work for them. That needs to change, which is why Bill C-59 is so important.

Our government is committed to standing up for victims, regardless of whether they are victims of gun crime or white-collar crime. Our government is committed to cracking down on crime regardless of who commits it or how it is committed. That is why we have done it in the past and it is why we are going to continue to do it in the future.

I therefore urge all hon. members to work with us, with the government, with most, and I believe all, Canadians. We need to stand up for victims and ensure that Bill C-59 is passed quickly.

May I reiterate that we have seen on the news how white-collar crime not only devastates the lives of people who are the victims of it, but also does something insidious or more so in that it colours people's view of the very system in which we live. People are fearful to invest money in the economy. That means there is a reluctance to invest in job creators. What does that do? In my view, that creates a continuing lack of faith in the system that was designed to keep growing our economy, to invest in jobs and futures for Canadians.

We need to assure Canadians that people who misuse the system and commit the criminal offence of fraud will not receive just a slap on the wrist.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is very familiar with the criminal justice system and the judicial system.

Many people have talked about some of the big white-collar fraud cases. We also talked about Clifford Olson and Karla Homolka and all the hot-button cases. The member knows and he might agree that within the subset of non-violent crimes, there are some offences which are not of big concern to Canadians or victims. In fact, many of them are victimless crimes, but they would be subject to the same penalties and the same changes in the legislation with regard to early parole.

With regard to this subset of non-violent crimes that are being touched by the bill, would the member consider providing some sort of a benchmark for serious non-violent crimes, such as the defrauding of seniors, et cetera, which would not be eligible for this parole, and the small crimes, such as the person who had Tylenol 3 for a medical purpose and gave it to somebody else and could be convicted for trafficking in drugs. This is not a serious criminal matter relative to the rest of rest of discussion.

Would the member consider that there are certain crimes that should not be subject to the changes proposed in Bill C-59?

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know from whence the member comes, as the saying goes.

We are dealing with people who have been convicted of serious white-collar crimes. We are dealing with people who would be in the federal corrections system, which means people who receive a conviction that carries with it time in federal custody. That means in excess of two years or more.

I would suggest to the hon. member that judges have discretion in their sentencing regime in cases such as the member is suggesting. For something like mistakenly giving someone a Tylenol 3, which has codeine or whatever in it, that was thought to be a Tylenol 2, the judge has discretion, if the case even got to court. There is discretion on the part of the police on whether to lay a charge. Once that discretion is exercised and a charge is laid, it goes to a crown attorney, who decides whether or not to prosecute. If the decision is made to prosecute, the case goes before a judge, who listens to all the circumstances surrounding the case. If it is indeed a very minor offence, that person would never serve time in a federal institution, let alone receive any kind of jail time whatsoever.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of my colleague who spoke before me and who I greatly respect. We sat for quite some time on the Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and we saw which points we agreed on and those on which we had a difference of opinion.

The fact that we are allied with the Conservatives against the Liberals and the NDP is surprising for many of members. It is true that we started from two different viewpoints and arrived at the same result. We believe that almost automatically reducing the sentence of any offender who has served one-sixth of their sentence shows disrespect for judges.

The Conservatives, with their tough on crime stance, or who are trying to look tougher by imposing minimum sentences, have shown how little respect they have for judges. The opposite is true for us. It is because we respect the judgment of judges that we want a significant portion of the sentence to be served.

Now that the Conservatives have changed their minds, I would like to know why, on September 14, 2009, when we introduced a bill on this subject, they objected? Why, on March 4, 2010, when I tried again to introduce the same provisions, did the Conservatives again object?

Why are they now working with us to abolish the one-sixth provision?

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have great respect for my hon. colleague who just spoke.

I think every single member of this House has the same objective, and that is to make Canada a better place in which to live. I also believe that every member of this House believes in justice. I think every member of this House has honour and respect for our judges. However, even when we respect each other, it does not mean we cannot have a respectful disagreement on policies and principles, and with that in mind, with a great deal of respect, disagree with each other.

I do not think mandatory minimum sentences are a slight on judges whatsoever. It is simply that this august institution called Parliament is sending a signal that we believe in certain circumstances there needs to be a minimum time that one convicted of an offence should spend in jail. There is no disrespect.

I think most of my constituents believe that is appropriate. We all have respect for judges and respect for each other.

When it comes to who brought in which act and who wanted what to happen or not happen, it is a question of timing, a question of what else is going on at the time. It is a question of whether the bill exactly fits in with the agenda of the government. If this is the right time and the right place and if we agree on it, we will vote on it together. If we disagree on it, we will not vote on it together. We will see what happens.

I do not think it is disrespect at all.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member will know that in the case of Earl Jones, he was not a registered investment dealer. Members will know that people who have lost money through registered investment dealers are able to get compensated by the financial institutions, the banks and the organizations that represent these financial dealers.

The problem here is proper regulation, perhaps some trust fund and bonding regulations for people like Earl Jones, so that people do not get taken by these fraudsters in the first place.

That is really what the point is here. Just to show how lax our regulations are, the United States has had 1,200 white-collar criminals behind bars over a five-year period. In Canada, we have had five. Clearly the government has to start looking at how to prevent the problem in the first place so that people like Earl Jones do not get to defraud people.

I also want to point to some success stories on crime in the United States. As I indicated, the state of Texas, since 2007, has stopped building prisons and has enhanced community corrections approaches, such as drug courts, and has saved $2 billion over five years. Through that whole process, Texas ended up with a 10% reduction in crime from 2004 to 2009.

That is one example, and I could give many more, of being smart on crime. Republicans, right-wingers in the United States, worked with Democrats to achieve these results.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess the short answer is that the only people delaying this legislation in this chamber are the hon. member and his party and the official opposition. I think it is worthwhile to remind ourselves why we are having this discussion.

I will quote from a victim of the Earl Jones fraud who is from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Quebec.

He said, “Obviously you and your loved ones have not been the victims of white-collar crime. As a victim of Earl Jones, I can tell you that the way the law stands now, Jones will be free long before any of us regain any semblance of normalcy and closure. It makes no sense that a man sentenced to 11 years in jail for ruining the lives of 158-plus people will serve only 22 months in jail.

“I can tell you that my father died and the whole estate was stolen all within three months, leaving us completely devastated. Two years later we are still scrambling to pay dad's 2008 taxes.

“This is a very serious crime with serious long-term repercussions. The penalty should be proportionate to the crime.”

I say to the hon. member that these victims deserve our support. This bill gives it. You are not providing that support by holding up this legislation. I think if you really cared, you would not be obfuscating and not pushing it--

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would remind all hon. members to direct their comments to the chair and not to their colleagues.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Joliette.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak during debate on Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review).

As you know, this bill is the result of an initiative by the leader of the Bloc Québécois, who went to see the Prime Minister. My friend the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin had introduced Bill C-434, if memory serves me. As a result of the Conservatives’ repeated refusal to agree to unanimous consent for the passage of that bill, the leader of the Bloc Québécois took the initiative of going to see the Prime Minister. They looked at whether there was a way of finding a simple bill that would meet the objective of abolishing parole after one-sixth of the sentence and on which the House might reach consensus.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to examine the principles on which a bill of this type might be introduced in this House, with, we hoped at that time, the support of all four parties.

Very quickly, in just over two weeks, we agreed on two principles. In fact, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who is also our justice critic, was with me at the time. The first principle was the abolition of parole after one-sixth of the sentence. In our bill, we were abolishing section 119.1 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which is the only section that refers directly to one-sixth of the sentence. So by abolishing that article, we ultimately abolished the possibility of parole being granted after one-sixth of the sentence.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons told us that sections 125 and 126 had to be abolished at the same time, and we had no problem with that. Once section 119.1 was abolished, sections 125, 126 and 126.1 served no purpose. We quickly agreed that we had the same objectives.

The first principle we agreed on and which is found in Bill C-59, is, as I mentioned, the abolition of the possibility of parole after one-sixth of the sentence, and thus of the accelerated review procedure.

The second principle we felt strongly about was not included in any of the Conservative government's bills on this subject. In fact, we know that Bill C-39, which includes a section on the elimination of the possibility of parole after one-sixth of the sentence, is currently being studied in committee. However, it does not immediately apply to those who have not yet been able to benefit from the one-sixth of sentence rule. So, the second principle that we were calling for and reached agreement on is that everyone who has been sentenced but has not yet been able to benefit from the current provision for parole after one-sixth of the sentence will now be subject to Bill C-59.

After talks with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and officials from the departments of justice and public safety, we agreed that this was acceptable and represented the will of both parties. In addition, and I will come back to this later, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being respected in all of this. Those were the two principles.

Next, there were meetings to ensure that the text reflected all of this. At the beginning, we thought about using part of a split version of Bill C-39 as the starting point, as happened with the issue of granting pardons last spring, if I remember correctly. In that case, Bill C-23 was split in two. Bill C-23A was fast-tracked here in the House and was passed by the parties. The other part, Bill C-23B, was sent to committee and followed the usual process. This was the first possibility we looked at.

We also looked at the possibility of using Bill C-434, which had been introduced by my colleague for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. We quickly came to the conclusion that it would be better to have a new bill. That resulted in Bill C-59, which is before us now. Again, it contains the two principles that were agreed upon, namely the elimination of parole after one-sixth of the sentence and the fact that people like Earl Jones, who have been sentenced but have not been able to take advantage of parole after the one-sixth of sentence rule, would be subject to the new law set out in Bill C-59, once it receives royal assent, obviously.

The rest of the bill simply repeals sections that will no longer be necessary in the Criminal Code if sections 119.1, 125, 126 and 126.1 are repealed. The bill is about 10 pages long, but really, only three clauses are important: clauses 3, 5 and 10. No one should be using the bill's complexity as an excuse for any delay in studying it, as the Liberals and NDP have done.

As I was saying, it is a very simple bill that directly targets the objectives we intended. My initial contact with the Liberals and NDP led me to believe that we would have the support of those parties. Why did they change their minds in the middle of the process? I do not know, but it certainly cannot be because of the supposed complexity of the bill, especially since we have been debating this notion in the House for some time now.

I would remind the House that the Bloc Québécois has been proposing this since 2007. Thus, it was not the whole saga surrounding Vincent Lacroix's release after serving just one-sixth of his sentence that led us to promote the abolition of the one-sixth rule.

I will remind the House of certain things that have happened since 2006 that make a good argument for repealing the provisions that allow parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served for a very simple issue, and that argument is, simply, the credibility of the judicial system and the credibility of the sentences handed down by judges. I concur with my hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin: our primary concern is to ensure that the entire judicial system—the judiciary and the sentences handed down by the courts—is considered credible in the eyes of the public, has public support and has the public's trust. Certain criteria must be met in order to benefit from parole at one-sixth of the sentence. We must acknowledge that for the past few years, parole at one-sixth of a sentence has been almost automatic and the conditions have been extremely relaxed and lenient, which has undermined the public's trust a great deal. This is true in both Quebec and Canada, and has affected the entire judicial system and how easy it has been for some criminals, particularly white collar criminals, to take advantage of the parole at one-sixth rule.

I will only talk about a few cases. In July 2006, Paul Coffin, who was involved in the sponsorship scandal, was released after serving one-sixth of his 18-month sentence. Members who have been around for a few years, like me, will remember. In 2006, that shocked a lot of people. In fact, the sponsorship scandal represented a turning point regarding trust in the Liberal Party of Canada.

On November 3, 2006, Jean Brault, another person involved in the sponsorship scandal, was released on parole after having served six months of his 42-month sentence. I can say that that was also a shock for many of us and for many Quebeckers, in particular, but I am sure that English Canada was just as shocked. I remind members that Jean Brault played a very key role in the sponsorship scandal. He practically bragged about it throughout the Gomery inquiry.

In June 2007, as a reaction to these two paroles after one-sixth of the sentence was served, we proposed that this procedure that enabled to fraudsters to serve a tiny fraction of their sentence be abolished, and that was made public. Our critic at the time was Réal Ménard. This goes back some time, since he is no longer here and is no longer the member for Hochelaga. As we know, he was replaced by my colleague, who is the current finance critic. This idea was presented in our justice plan. It was even included in a bill that Mr. Ménard was prepared to introduce before he decided to leave federal politics for municipal politics.

That is when we started promoting this idea of eliminating parole after one-sixth of the sentence. In December 2007, Vincent Lacroix was released for his first federal offence after one-sixth of his sentence.

On August 26, 2008, Jean Lafleur, another figure in the sponsorship scandal, was released after serving seven months of a 42-month sentence. We are talking about three cases, apart from the issues around Vincent Lacroix or Earl Jones, that are related to fraud and attempts to break the rules.

September 2009 was the first time we asked to fast-track Bill C-434, introduced by our justice critic, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. The only people who opposed the idea at the time were the Conservatives. I remember it quite well: we did not hear a single no from the Liberals or the NDP.

On October 26, 2009, the government introduced Bill C-53 to eliminate the one-sixth sentence, which reached first reading stage only. It was clearly a reaction to the introduction of Bill C-434 by the Bloc Québécois. I must point out that during all that time, every time we sought consent or we asked questions as to why they were opposed to fast-tracking our Bill C-434 to eliminate the chance for parole after one-sixth of the sentence, those sitting on the Conservative benches told us it was very complicated, that they needed to take a thorough look at it and that we could not move forward in this manner.

I am glad the Conservatives have realized that it was not so complicated and that it was just a matter of two small, very simple principles and three key clauses. For the rest, it was just a matter of repealing clauses in order to be consistent with abolishing the clauses I mentioned earlier in my speech.

We introduced our own bill and prompted the government to follow suit. The Conservative government recognized the importance of eliminating the chance for parole after one-sixth of the sentence, but for partisan reasons, it would prefer to pass a government bill instead of a Bloc bill.

Two years ago, on February 15, 2009, Joseph Charles Guité was released on parole after serving six months of a 42-month sentence. This is yet another example. Had the government co-operated with us from the beginning and had the opposition parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats, been willing to be more objective and less partisan, we could have ensured that Guité was not released from prison in 2009 after serving only one-sixth of his sentence.

We brought this issue forward again on March 4, 2010, seeking unanimous consent to quickly pass the Bloc Québécois bill. Once again, only the Conservatives opposed the bill. For the second time, the Liberals and the NDP did not oppose passing this bill quickly. Once again, we were unable to prevent the release of Vincent Lacroix after he served only one-sixth of his sentence. As the hon. members surely know, this happened on January 27. This time it was for sentences for criminal wrongdoing.

During this time, the Prime Minister called an election and Parliament was prorogued for partisan reasons. All of this caused undue delays in the passing of a bill that would have abolished the practice of parole after one-sixth of the sentence. The government revisited this issue on June 15, 2010, and introduced Bill C-39 to abolish the practice of parole after one-sixth of the sentence, among other things. This bill was passed at second reading and will go to committee. Clearly, the government will have to propose amendments so that Bill C-39 does not duplicate the provisions of Bill C-59, but that is the government's problem. There are other provisions of Bill C-39 that warrant closer examination.

If Bill C-59 is passed, it must apply to Earl Jones, who could be released next fall after serving one-sixth of his sentence. It is therefore urgent in this case, and in others, to ensure that Earl Jones will not take advantage of current provisions.

Once again, we are reaching out to the members of the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party to ensure that the bill to abolish parole after serving one-sixth of a sentence is passed quickly this week. I know that the committee will study the matter this evening. It will be an opportunity for further consideration of the issue. Once again, this bill contains three main clauses, and the remaining provisions are just consequential amendments.

In the time remaining, I would like to discuss the importance of passing this bill. As I have said from the beginning, it is a question of the credibility of the judicial system and the credibility of sentences handed down by judges. And it is compatible with the desire to have a system of rehabilitation. After one-sixth of a sentence, there will still be one-third. There are other opportunities for parole before the end of the sentence. However, we believe one-sixth is definitely not enough.

As I mentioned, such parole is almost automatic. We know that to take advantage of current provisions, and to be released on day parole, the offender must be serving a sentence in a federal institution—thus, a sentence of two or more years. And the crime committed must not have been a violent crime, related to a criminal organization, terrorism or a crime of a sexual nature. Furthermore, the offender cannot have been an accomplice in such an offence and, if he applies for this parole, he must not be subject to an order requiring him to serve at least of half of the sentence for a drug-related offence; it must be a first federal offence committed prior to the first stay in prison. Vincent Lacroix—and this is what is absurd about the law—was able to benefit twice from the one-sixth clause because, with respect to the federal offence committed, he had already been paroled when he was found guilty of his criminal offence. As a last condition, the offender must not be likely to commit a violent crime.

As you can see, there are many criminals who meet these criteria, including the big embezzlers who, for the past few years, have plagued the financial sector.

We believe that, because of issues related to the system's credibility, the practice of granting parole after one-sixth of a sentence must be abolished. I also mentioned that we are calling on the government, which has agreed to our arguments, to make the new provisions of Bill C-59 immediately applicable to all criminals, even those who have already been sentenced, as soon as the bill receives royal assent. It is important to note this, since some people suggest that there may be problems from a constitutional perspective.

Section 11(i) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads:

Any person charged with an offence has the right

(i) if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

This clearly pertains to the sentence. That is what this section is referring to. It is not referring to the application of the sentence.

Earl Jones' sentence is known. Parole after one-sixth of a sentence is an application of the sentence. Bill C-59 does not alter Earl Jones' sentence and the provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms simply does not apply. Some are using this argument; however, it is a false argument designed to put off a decision that must be made.

Once again, I call on the New Democratic Party and the official opposition to show their generosity and intelligence by joining us in quickly passing Bill C-59 at all stages.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am a little curious as to why the Bloc Québécois is now in a coalition with the Conservative government on issues of crime.

Heretofore, as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice for the last five years, I have not seen the robust presence of the Bloc Québécois with respect to issues surrounding the Criminal Code of Canada. Perhaps it is the third word of that aspect that has bothered the Bloc because it has not supported or discussed in earnest, in any positive way, making changes toward criminology in Canada.

The Liberals have stood for mandatory minimum sentences before. We think the crime agenda of the Conservatives is not evidence-based and is out of whack most of the time, but we offer advice to them on making the laws of Canada harder on criminals and better for society, although they do not always take it.

Where is this new-found Bloc Québécois passion for criminology matters coming from and will we see more of it in the future?

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals certainly have nothing to teach us on this. For example, in many cases they have agreed with the Conservative philosophy of minimum sentences for no reason other than political opportunism. But we have had a public justice plan since 2007—I can send it to the member—and we have always been consistent with that plan, particularly in terms of minimum sentencing and a number of other principles.

The idea of repealing the sections that allow for parole after one-sixth of the sentence has been part of Bloc Québécois election platforms in the various elections since 2007. There was an election in 2008. This is not new and it is not related solely to the fact that there have been a number of white collar criminals who have been able to benefit from these provisions. It is a real part of the Bloc justice philosophy. There is no Bloc-Conservative coalition on justice. In our opinion, this is a specific issue that has to do with the credibility of the justice system.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague across the aisle for his support of our legislation. He mentioned fraudsters like Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones. I think he shares with me the shock that the Liberals and the NDP in the House appear to be opposing the bill. It just blew me away when I heard that.

Perhaps my colleague across the way could comment on why it is so critically important that the bill get passed in a timely and speedy manner, and perhaps he could also speculate on what the motives are of the NDP and the Liberals in opposing the legislation at this point.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. I believe that all of us in the House want the public to have trust in the legal system and the entire criminal justice system. For four years now, we have thought that parole after one-sixth of the sentence makes the public uneasy and discredits the entire system. That is one of the reasons we support this idea. I am quite pleased that we managed to agree with the Conservatives on certain principles and to draft Bill C-59. However, I do not understand why the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, who gave us their consent when we sought unanimous consent for Bill C-434 introduced by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, are withdrawing that consent now. There must be something in their analysis, but this seems to be inconsistent with an approach based on principle. Again, I reiterate my invitation to the Liberal Party and the NDP to support Bill C-59 so that we may pass it unanimously.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend our House leader, who has practically become a legal expert from debating all these cases.

I would like to share some thoughts with him. I am of the opinion that abolishing the practice of parole after one-sixth of a sentence will serve to dissuade potential white collar criminals from committing fraud because of the negative consequences involved. In fact, it seems to me that serving many years in prison would be a significant deterrent. That is why I am urging all members to reconsider their decision and vote in favour of this bill.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières. We do learn a lot here in the House of Commons. My father was a lawyer and a municipal judge, but the comparison ends there.

I think that Bill C-59 is necessary not only to renew the public's confidence in the legal system but also to send a message to criminals, particularly those who commit major fraud. I am thinking of Earl Jones and Vincent Lacroix and others who made the news. Even though they did not commit violent crimes, their crimes involved violence. A person who loses most of his or her savings at age 65 or 70 experiences a level of stress that equates to a form of violence. It is not physical violence but psychological violence or a lack of security causing stress. This must be taken into account.

Let us hope that abolishing this provision will make people think twice. But, once again, this is just one component. As we know, the Bloc Québécois submitted a proposal regarding economic crime that includes not only the abolition of the practice of parole after one-sixth of a sentence but also a co-operative effort between police and public accountants to track down these fraudsters.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made some comments about who supported what. The House has not yet had a vote on the bill. The Liberals certainly did oppose the closure motion because it stole from parliamentarians the right to do their job.

The member also referred to the case of Paul Coffin who, in 2005, pled guilty to some 15 charges of defrauding the federal government of $1.5 million. There was restitution of $1 million.

Why did the Crown at the time only press for three of the charges and settled on two years less a day? Maybe the problem will not be solved by Bill C-59. Maybe the problem would be solved if we asked why the Crown did not proceed with the serious charges that were originally raised. Does the member have an answer for that?

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understood the Liberal member. Although the Liberals opposed the quick passage of this bill, I hope that they will not oppose passing Bill C-59. I could not get a very clear answer on this from the Liberal Party House leader, but I hope that all members agree on this issue.

As I mentioned, abolishing parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served is just one change that needs to be made to our approach to economic crimes, because the traditional approach is not good enough. We have had some success, but too often, unfortunately, we discover the fraudsters only once the fraud has been carried out.

I believe that police forces need the assistance of accounting experts and that prosecutors need more solid evidence to be able to back up some charges. In the case of Mr. Coffin, the evidence that prosecutors had for some charges was perhaps not enough. As I was saying, I am not an expert in this area, but it is very clear that we need a different approach to economic crimes than the one we have now, which is based far too much on a world that did not have the information technologies we have today.

Roy McGregorStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, last week Red Deer said goodbye to our former mayor and councillor Roy McGregor, who passed away at the age of 87.

Mr. McGregor served as mayor of Red Deer from 1974 to 1977. He also served five terms as a city councillor until 1992. He played a significant role in Red Deer's development.

However, Roy will most likely be remembered more for what he did outside of council chambers as a volunteer.

In 1940, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served on a corvette between St. John's, Newfoundland and Londonderry, Ireland. After the war, he worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, where he lost his leg in a train accident.

In addition, to being a member and volunteer of the legion, Roy was president of the Rotary Club and president of the Kinsmen Club of Red Deer. He received the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005 for his service and dedication to the community.

On behalf of the people of Red Deer, we thank him for his service, honour his memory and extend our condolences to the McGregor family.

JusticeStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are growing increasingly concerned about the Conservatives law and order agenda, which is tough on taxpayers and irresponsible on crime. A case in point is Bill C-5, which deals with the transfer of Canadians incarcerated in foreign prisons back into Canadian prisons.

There are good reasons to favour such transfers. Canadians incarcerated abroad, who are not transferred to a Canadian prison prior to the completion of their foreign sentence, will have the right to freely walk back into Canada without a Canadian criminal record or any constraints placed upon them by the Canadian parole system. This is most certainly not the way to protect Canadians.

Yet the Conservatives are trying to give their minister absolute dictatorial powers to refuse such transfers. When asked in the House of Commons about such problems, the minister simply attacked the Liberal Party for allegedly not protecting Canadian victims. However, there are no Canadian victims involved, as we are talking about Canadians incarcerated abroad for crimes committed in foreign countries.

International Pediatric Cancer Awareness DayStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the diagnosis of childhood cancer is a significant source of stress for parents. As the organization Leucan has noted: “To deal with the requirements of the hospital environment and support their child, parents must take important decisions, including the decision to take an employment leave.” The length of treatment and an unclear prognosis can turn acute stress into chronic stress. It becomes nearly impossible to handle professional or financial difficulties.

As a modern, empathetic society, it is our responsibility to ensure that these parents have an environment in which they can concentrate solely on their child's recovery.

On International Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day, it is important to take action to help parents with a child suffering from a serious illness so that they benefit from better support, such as compassionate care leave, which the Bloc Québécois has been calling for.

Black History MonthStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we know, February is Black History Month, the month when we officially recognize the rich and diverse history of Canadians of black heritage.

Throughout Windsor and Essex county, it is quite well known that we were a major terminus of the underground railway for those fleeing slavery in the United States. However, in many other communities across the country there is still little knowledge of black Canadian history.

In the areas of science, medicine, politics and the law, black Canadians have often, in the face of opposition and injustice, made vital contributions to our national mosaic. I take a measure of community and professional pride in the fact that the first Canadian-born black lawyer, Delos Rogest Davis, established a law office in Windsor and his great grandson, Lloyd Dean, a University of Windsor alumnus, is now a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice.

I would encourage my colleagues to take the rest of the month to familiarize themselves with black history, not only in their individual communities but throughout Canada. I would also encourage all Canadians to become more knowledgeable of the significant contributions of the black community.

Maple SyrupStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, throughout my riding of Prince Edward—Hastings, we are proud of the many dedicated and talented producers of maple syrup. This liquid gold is produced in a narrow time frame, when winter is growing weak and spring has not yet blossomed.

While production methods have been improved, the time-honoured process of collecting the sap and distilling it without any chemical agents or preservatives is truly a labour of love. This art form is governed by time, weather, years of experience and, of course, a talented set of taste buds.

One such producer, my friend and neighbour, Harry Dennis, and his family of Three Maples Farm overcame the adversity of having their sugar shack destroyed by fire. With support from many, perseverance and dedication, they rebuilt the sugar shack.

Their hard work and passion was rewarded when they won first place in the light category of the North American Maple Syrup Council. I offer my sincere congratulations.

With the sap now running, I would tell Harry and Joel to empty the lines, stoke that fire and taste that sweet nectar of the gods.

Jean-Marc LégerStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the entire Francophonie is in mourning. Jean-Marc Léger, one of the architects of the strong bond that unites French-speaking countries, passed away on Sunday. Mr. Léger was a veteran journalist, first with La Presse and then as an editorial writer with Le Devoir, and he laid the cornerstone for what would become la Francophonie when he founded the Agence de coopération culturelle et technique des pays de langue française, for which he served as the first secretary following the conference in Niamey.

All of his hard work finally paid off at the first Francophonie summit in 1986. The French language was always at the heart of everything Mr. Léger did. He was also the first director of the Office de la langue française du Québec beginning in 1961 and received the Georges-Émile Lapalme award in 2005.

On behalf of all of my colleagues in this House, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

Jean-Marc LégerStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, journalist and author Jean-Marc Léger died yesterday at age 84 following a lengthy illness.

Jean-Marc Léger was born in Montreal and began his career as a journalist at the age of 24, working at the news desk of La Presse from 1951 to 1956 and then at Le Devoir from 1957 to 1962.

Mr. Léger was also involved in promoting the French language on the international stage, and he is considered one of the founding fathers of the International Organization of La Francophonie. In 1978, Mr. Léger became Quebec's delegate general in Brussels, and twice in the 1980s, he was an assistant deputy minister. He received a number of other distinctions, including the Ordre national du Québec and the Légion d'honneur de la France.

Today we honour the life of a journalist, a writer and the father of la Francophonie.

Jean-Marc LégerStatements by Members

February 15th, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that we learned of the death of Jean-Marc Léger.

With degrees in law, social science and history, he began his career as a journalist first at La Presse and then at Le Devoir. He went on to become the first director of Quebec's Office de la langue française and the founder and first secretary general of what is now known as the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie. He was also a pioneer in what is today known as the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. He worked for the Government of Quebec as the assistant deputy minister of education and of foreign relations, and as the commissioner general of La Francophonie.

Throughout his career, and particularly as a writer, Jean-Marc Léger was a strong advocate of the French language and culture. He did much to help Africa. He was also a staunch sovereignist.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of this great man who left his mark on Quebec.