Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank hon. members for their indulgence in that regard.
I want to start first by talking about victims. Victims of crime in this country experience pain. Victims in this country need support. Victims of crime in this country require justice. Victims in our nation need healing. MPs from every corner of the House understand the need for understanding when it comes to victims of crime and respect for their involvement in the justice system to make sure that their interests are always at the forefront as we consider a proper justice system in this country.
Unfortunately, Bill C-59 before us, despite the rhetoric, would do absolutely nothing for victims. It would not compensate, not give one penny, to a victim of crime, including a victim of fraud, for financial devastation. It would not assist a single victim to get his or her life back on track, an individual who has been abused and affected by any of these crimes.
The government and the Bloc Québécois claim the bill was motivated by the Earl Jones and Lacroix cases. Of course, those are white-collar fraud artists who bilked hundreds, perhaps thousands of investors out of their funds. In the case of one of the fraudsters it was $50 million and in the case of the other it was $100 million. This bill would not return one penny of compensation to the victims.
At committee last night we heard from three victims of these two perpetrators of fraud. They told us that they have to work three jobs and are having difficulty with the tax system. Their lives have been thrown into near bankruptcy. They acknowledged that Bill C-59 would not help them one bit to deal with those very real problems.
Bill C-59 would eliminate accelerated parole for all first-time nonviolent offenders. One of the problems with this bill is that, as the Bloc has proposed it and the government has accepted it, it would not target white-collar criminals. It paints a broad brush on every single first-time nonviolent offender. That is the problem with this legislation.
Last night at committee New Democrats moved amendments that would have changed the law in this country to make sure that white-collar fraudsters, like Earl Jones and Mr. Lacroix, would not qualify for accelerated parole. We would fix and surgically target the problem that has been identified by my colleagues on both sides of the House. Those amendments were voted down. I do not know how serious I can take the government's claims that it is really interested in targeting perpetrators of white-collar crime.
My friend from the Bloc just gave a speech saying that this bill would wipe out not just people who commit fraud but all people who are first-time nonviolent offenders. Bloc members think that is a good thing.
I have two words to raise in the House: Ashley Smith. I heard the member for Miramichi talk about New Brunswick. She comes from that area of the country where Ashley Smith came from. Ashley Smith, a 15 year old girl, became involved in the justice system by committing the crime of throwing a crab apple at a postal worker. She ended up in the federal prison system. Why? Because once she was in the system she had mental health issues. She started having oppositional problems with guards. She would struggle. They would charge her with assault. Imagine, a 15 year old girl with mental health problems being charged with assault. These things just snowballed down the hill and before she knew it she was in a federal institution. She hanged herself in a federal prison cell at the age of 19.
Is that the kind of person my hon. colleague from Ahuntsic thinks should not be let out at one-sixth so she could get the mental health services that she needs? That is the crime? That is the criminal that the Bloc Québécois thinks should not qualify for one-sixth release with supervision in the community?
That is exactly the person who will be caught by this crime and that is why this is a bad bill. It is a bad bill because it paints every single one of the first-time offenders in this country with the same brush. I expect that from the Conservatives. I am shocked to see it from the Bloc Québécois.
Today is a sad day for Canada, because it is a sad day for democracy as the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives combine to shut down debate. There is no urgency to this bill. The Conservatives themselves admit that they did not introduce this bill for four years. There is no pressing urgency that means that the House cannot take the deliberate, careful considered time that my colleague from Outremont so intelligently called for.
If there is good solid evidence, if there is good argument and fact to back up the Conservatives' case, why are they afraid to bring those facts forward and have a fulsome debate to establish that? No, they had to invoke closure on this House.
I was at a meeting last night from 6:30 until 11 o'clock with four hours of debate, as this bill gets returned to the House for report stage and third reading and the vote today because the Conservatives are afraid of debate. They know that these facts will come out.
Here are the facts that we heard at committee last night that I noticed my friend from the Bloc did not tell anybody about. In the last five years, 7,200 first-time offenders were eligible for accelerated parole review and 4,800 were granted day parole. That is approximately 1,000 per year. Some 67% of people who qualified for accelerated parole were granted it. That means that one-third were not. In terms of any notion that Canadians may have that this is automatic and everybody is getting it, that is not true.
After five years the success rate is 84% of the people who were granted accelerated parole over the last five years completed their sentence without committing any offence, not a violent offence, not a non-violent offence. If they did commit any offence, they would immediately have their accelerated parole cancelled and they would be back in a federal penitentiary.
Zero point three per cent of people granted accelerated parole in the last five years resulted in the revocation for a violent offence. There is an 84% success and 0.3% failure. Those are the numbers.
Now, this bill would cancel that completely. Why is this a good program? It is because of the people who committed their first offence, a non-violent offence, who go into prison. We recognize that we can separate the violent offenders from the non-violent offenders and focus our resources on the people who really require the attention. We give them a short, sharp experience with the worst experience in Canada they can have, which is in a federal penitentiary. Then, when we are satisfied they will not commit a violent offence, and that is the test, we move them into another correctional facility.
This is not the case of offenders getting out of prison. We are changing the place where they serve their sentence. Mr. Lacroix and Mrs. Smith will serve their 12-year sentences. Ashley Smith, if she came out, would continue to serve her sentence. The question here is whether we put them in a more appropriate place to serve their sentence instead of being in a crime factory of a penitentiary.
My hon. colleague from Ahuntsic who went with me to prisons across this country knows the true state of services in our federal prisons where 80% of our inmates have an addiction and approximately one-third of them have mental illnesses. She knows and the Bloc knows, or they ought to know, that our federal system is not giving timely, effective treatment to those people.
What does keeping those people in from one-sixth of their sentence to two-sixths of their sentence do? Nothing. Actually, it will make things worse. Or, would we rather have that person at one-sixth being transferred to a halfway house in the community where they can get access to addictions treatment and mental health services, be connected with their family, maybe get a job and maybe get reintegrated slowly. Maybe women could get access to sex abuse therapy. We know that almost every single woman in prison has suffered from sex abuse. I do not hear any talk about that.
I want to finish with cost. It costs $140,000 a year to keep a male offender in a federal penitentiary and $185,000 a year for a female offender. In a halfway house, it is $25,000 to $40,000. One thousand people a year get accelerated parole. This bill would put 1,000 people in prison at a cost of at least $100,000 more a year and that is $100 million a year.
I would rather give the victims of Earl Jones and Mr. Lacroix that $100 million. I bet they would be happier if we compensated them for their losses instead of sticking the taxpayer with the recurring annual bill of $100 million that will do nothing to reduce crime and will do nothing for victims.
In conclusion, Marjean Fichtenberg of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crimes, another person who represents victims, said:
--this law-and-order agenda, where they're building more prisons, is still leaving the victim out because it's still focusing only on the offender.
This bill is bad law and I urge every member to vote against it. It will cost the taxpayers money and it will not do a darn thing for community safety.