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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

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening, we learned how immigrants from Sri Lanka, Mexico and Colombia are exploiting our immigration system by paying human smuggling rings.

By paying to commit illegal acts, these people are showing contempt for Quebec and its laws. Unlike the Conservatives from Quebec, the Bloc MPs are opposed to our measures against human smuggling and their complicit and willing clients.

Can the minister tell the House about the measures he has taken to protect the regions of Quebec from the threats posed by illegal immigration?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right to say that we have a problem with human smuggling at the border between the United States and Quebec. It is one of the reasons we have to pass Bill C-49, in order to deal with the human smugglers who are taking Canada for granted and violating the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Unfortunately, the leftist urban elite in Quebec are against a strong approach to this matter.

Champlain BridgeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, for thousands of people from the south shore, crossing the Champlain Bridge is a daily necessity. My constituents are worried. Everyone has known for some time now that the bridge is reaching the end of its lifespan, yet nothing is being done.

Transport officials are more concerned with how to restore the toll booths than how to replace the busiest bridge in Canada.

Does the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities understand that when the concrete blocks are falling down, his pious assurances that the bridge will last another 10 years ring hollow?

Champlain BridgeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Yellowhead Alberta

Conservative

Rob Merrifield ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House and all Canadians, particularly those living in the Montreal area, that the Champlain Bridge is absolutely safe. There is a study taking place at the present time. We are looking forward to the results of that study by Quebec and the federal government. We will have better information once that report is in our hands.

LabourOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, several unions in Quebec and Canada will be demonstrating today in support of Mexican unions. There are still too many illegal and violent attacks against independent Mexican unions.

Canada should be helping to improve the plight of Mexican workers, but the Canadian government is refusing or cutting funding for co-operative programs with labour organizations in the south.

Will the minister admit that she is making these cuts because standing up for the rights of workers and labour organizations does not jive with her Conservative ideology?

LabourOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to report that I work very closely with my counterparts both in the United States and in Mexico. Indeed, the opposition member may know that I recently returned from Mexico where I had a very meaningful dialogue with the secretary there. We discussed all these issues.

I also took the opportunity to meet with Mexican unions as well, to listen to the workers, because that is the best way to hear from the people what is going on in their own country.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians should not have to wait for seven years to be united with their parents. In Beijing and New Delhi, 20,000 parents are stuck waiting in the queue. Some parents have died waiting to live with their children here, and some never got a chance to hug their grandchildren.

The minister slashed the immigration quota for parents by 40%. How can the minister claim to respect the elderly, to believe in family values?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. When we plan the immigration levels, we put priority number one on job creation. We need young immigrants who are going to pay taxes and contribute to our health care system. We need to prioritize spouses and dependent children. We need to discharge our humanitarian obligations, and we are receiving more refugees,

We cannot satisfy 100% of the demands 100% of the time without massive increases in the overall level of immigration, which we simply are not capable of absorbing even though we have the highest relative level of immigration in the world.

We are committed to family reunification and we are delivering on that.

The EconomyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard for struggling Canadian businesses to get ahead in today's global economy. Canadian businesses are concerned that the self-proclaimed tax-and-spend Liberal leader is planning to hike taxes by a shocking 6%. The Liberal leader said that if the government does not raise taxes in the budget, he will vote against the budget to force an election.

Can the Minister of International Trade tell the House what he is doing to help Canadian business owners get ahead?

The EconomyOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeMinister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, while the Liberal leader is plotting an election that nobody wants and nobody needs, our government is focused on the economy.

We have undertaken ambitious programs to open doors for Canadian businesses and workers abroad. We have concluded new free trade agreements with eight countries and are negotiating close to 50 others. Last week we had positive news of rising exports and the first trade surplus monthly in almost a year.

In fact, while this is good news, the economic recovery remains fragile, so we are focused on doing the work that Canadians want us to do on the economy. What Canadians absolutely do not want is the reckless Liberal tax hike the Liberals want to impose.

Champlain BridgeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the wear and tear on the Champlain Bridge causes more and more concern with each passing day. Yesterday, a motorist thankfully and miraculously avoided disaster when a block of concrete from an overpass at the bridge smashed into his windshield. The Conservatives do not seem to understand the urgent need to act.

Rather than giving $6 billion in tax breaks to the most profitable companies, would not the minister be better advised to use this money to replace this infrastructure, which is vital to the Canadian economy?

Champlain BridgeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Yellowhead Alberta

Conservative

Rob Merrifield ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, there is a report coming which was commissioned by the Province of Quebec and ourselves on the future of the Champlain Bridge.

We have invested significantly, $212 million, in the bridge to make certain that repairs are looked after and the bridge is safe.

I can report to the House that the bridge is absolutely safe.

Shipping Nuclear WasteOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite assurances from the Minister of Natural Resources about shipping nuclear waste up the St. Lawrence, the public continues to be against the idea, and the Government of Quebec has expressed its own reservations about all this.

How can the minister support the decision by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission without the prior approval of the Government of Quebec for this shipment through its territory?

Shipping Nuclear WasteOral Questions

3 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, protecting the safety of Canadians is the number one priority. That is why we have an independent commission that studied this matter from a scientific perspective, and we have confidence in this regulator, which is made up of qualified experts.

I say again, the commission found this shipment to be safe after 77 groups and individuals intervened at public hearings that were open to everyone, including governments.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I have a number of persons in the gallery today to draw to the attention of hon. members.

I would start first by indicating to hon. members the presence in the gallery of the hon. Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick. He is accompanied by three of his ministers: the Hon. Paul Robichaud, Minister for Economic Development; the Hon. Bruce Fitch, Minister for Local Government; and the Hon. Marie-Claude Blais, Attorney General and Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of four of the five finalists for the 2011 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing: Tim Cook, Shelagh Grant, Lawrence Martin, and Anna Porter.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Twice during question period I referenced a document that I received as a result of an ATIP request in which the secret quotas for family reunification are listed, for example, for Poland, 5, and Ukraine, 25.

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for this document to be tabled in the House so that people can see the heartless numbers of those who have been targeted, the quotas not only for Warsaw and Kiev, but also for Nairobi, Ankara, and a list of other places.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table this document?

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Abolition of Early Parole ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I join in the debate on Bill C-59, the Abolition of Early Parole Act today.

Like many of my colleagues, the hon. members in this House, I have spent quite some time talking to Canadians about the need for this legislation. I am confident that all of us are hearing the same thing; that it is time to take action to crack down on white-collar offenders and we need to do it now.

I have heard from victims who have told me that they are tired of seeing and hearing about offenders who have perhaps wiped out their life savings and are not serving appropriate times for their actions. I have spoken to ordinary Canadians and to the families of innocent victims and they told me that it was time for all of us to work together to crack down on the activities of white-collar offenders who might not use a gun but who, nonetheless, wreak havoc on the lives of hard-working and law-abiding Canadians. They told me that we need to get tough on those offenders whose illegal activities leave scores of victims in their wake.

I am therefore pleased to support the bill before us today, which would do all of that and would build on our government's already impressive record of standing up for victims and cracking down on all types of crime.

Over the last five years, our government has done a lot to make our streets safer through investments in crime prevention, law enforcement and in the tools for police officers to do their jobs. In fact, several of our justice bills last year alone received royal assent, including: Bill C-14, which targets gang violence and organized crime by addressing issues such as gang murders, drive-by shootings and additional protection for police and the police officers; Bill C-25, which fulfills our government's commitment to Canadians to help keep offenders from being given two-for-one credit and sometimes three-for-one credit in pre-sentencing custody; and Bill S-4, which will help combat the complex, serious and growing problem of identity theft and identity fraud.

I am also proud to say that our government recently passed legislation to help reform the pardon system. In particular, we have made sure that the National Parole Board of Canada has the discretion it needs to determine whether granting a pardon would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

We have passed legislation targeting gang violence and organized crime by addressing issues such as gang murders, drive-by shootings and additional protection for police officers.

We recently passed legislation to strengthen the National Sex Offenders Registry and the national DNA data bank in order to better protect our children and other vulnerable members of society from sexual predators.

Of course our government has most recently introduced legislation to crack down on individuals involved in the despicable crime of human smuggling, which threatens our communities as well as Canada's immigration system.

In addition, our government has provided more money to the provinces and the territories so that they can hire additional police officers. I am very proud to note that Statistics Canada reported in December that the number of police officers across Canada is now at its highest point since 1981.

As well, the government has taken action to help young people make smart choices and avoid becoming involved in gang activity through programs funded through the National Crime Prevention Centre.

Our government has taken significant action that achieves results in tackling crime in our communities. We will continue to do more.

It is no secret that crimes and criminal activities can take on many forms. We often hear about violent gun crimes and communities which can and often do shatter lives. As I have mentioned, our government has done a lot to get tough with offenders who commit such terrible acts.

Of course, there are other types of crimes that can be just as devastating even though they do not involve the use of handguns. All of us have heard about the ruined lives left behind by white-collar offenders who prey on law-abiding citizens, often leaving them with nothing to show for a lifetime of hard work and savings for their retirement.

All of us have heard about the need to take action, to crack down on white-collar crime and stand up for the victims. That is what the legislation before us today would do.

As we have heard today, many offenders obtain parole early through a process called accelerated parole review. First-time offenders who have committed non-violent offences can access day parole at one-sixth of their sentence and full parole at one-third of their sentence. Unless the Parole Board of Canada has reasonable grounds to believe these offenders will commit a violent offence if released, it must release them into the community.

This means that, in some cases, a fraudster, a thief or even a drug dealer can be back on the streets early. Such an offender could be sentenced to 12 years but actually be released into the community on day parole in just 2 short years and fully paroled at just 4 years. The status quo gives the Parole Board little or 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, another theft or another drug offence, it is nonetheless compelled to release them.

What makes the review process even more expedited is that these accelerated parole reviews are accomplished through a paper review by the Parole Board of Canada, whereas regular parole reviews are normally done by way of a hearing.

The test for accelerated parole review is also lower. The Parole Board of Canada only has to have reasonable grounds to believe that the offender will not commit a violent offence, whereas, with other offenders, the test is whether the person is an undue risk to commit any type of crime if released. The test for accelerated parole review is whether someone is going to commit a violent offence. Even if the Parole Board believes that someone will commit another fraud, the board is still compelled to release the person under supervision at one-sixth of his or her sentence. In many cases that means that people who are convicted of crimes that have had devastating effects on the lives and livelihood of Canadians often spend very little time in prison. The end result is that offenders convicted of white-collar crimes are often released under supervision after only a very few short months. Offenders are given lengthy sentences which do not result in much time actually spent in prison.

This offends Canadians' sense of justice and it undermines their faith in our justice and in our corrections system. It should offend all of our senses of justice, and we need to change this. Canadians want change and that is what our government is delivering.

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 are 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. It is a very key point and something that all members should highlight.

The changes that our government is proposing would mean that Canadians can have faith that offenders convicted of white-collar crimes will not escape full accountability for their actions.

Our government has listened to the concerns of victims of fraud and other crimes and we are taking action on their concerns. By fixing the problem of early parole for offenders, we are following through on our tackling crime agenda. Our government believes that Canadians deserve a justice system that balances the rights of offenders with the rights of law-abiding citizens.

The commitment we are announcing today brings us another step closer to this important goal. Once again I urge all hon. members to work with the government to ensure that Bill C-59 is passed into law in the most timely way possible.