Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you and my colleagues that we will support Bill C-620 in principle, so that it can be studied in committee. It is highly unlikely that the Standing Committee on Public Safety will study this bill, but we will pretend it is business as usual. We want to study this bill in committee, although we do have some reservations about some of the proposed clauses. However, we are open to studying these clauses and hearing from some expert witnesses to determine how relevant they are.
This bill contains four components, which I will discuss. The first has to do with violent crimes. This bill would allow a direct or indirect victim to make an oral, written or recorded statement at a parole hearing and would require the board to take this statement into account. We believe that that would strengthen the fundamental principle of ensuring that victims are represented. This step can not only help the victim heal, but can also help the board conduct a detailed and fair analysis of the situation.
Before discussing the second component of this bill, I would like to say that I had experience with this law when I was a parole officer. I was often faced with the famous provision that is presented in Bill C-620.
Now for the second component. Under the current law, parole is automatic after two-thirds of a sentence has been served. However, in certain cases, the National Parole Board may decide to deny parole after two-thirds of the sentence, based on a recommendation from a multidisciplinary team. This is known as the detention provision. At present, the board can issue an order denying the statutory release of an offender if it believes the offender cannot be integrated into the community and will, if released before sentence expiry, commit an offence causing death or serious harm to another person, commit a sexual offence involving a child, or commit a drug offence.
This order is reviewed every year, and the board is required to meet with the inmate almost every year. A detention order is an exceptional measure. In my entire career, the only place I had to implement a detention order was at the Regional Mental Health Centre, where inmates who are not serving a life sentence, but a determinate sentence, pose an obvious risk because of their multiple mental health or deviance problems. I saw all kinds of cases.
Some individuals unfortunately cannot be released because of the severity of their problems and because an analysis of the risk and of their conduct in detention and outside shows that they would likely commit a very serious offence, putting in danger the lives of children or causing serious harm to people.
Keeping someone in detention is a measure that is carefully considered and applied to the most dangerous offenders.
Quite often, they are inmates who will not have worked very much on their risk factors, for all sorts of reasons and not necessarily because they do not want to, but quite simply because they are too consumed by their criminality.
A good example of this is pedophiles who have traits of sadism. Yes, that exists. I have seen it. This type of pedophile is extremely dangerous and unfortunately cannot be rehabilitated. They nonetheless get fixed sentences whether we like it or not. It would not be an issue if the person were serving a life sentence. Nonetheless, when it comes to fixed sentences, this needs to be managed.
Holding a detention review hearing for these people after just one year is rather optimistic. When the assessment is made, the risk of danger to the public is so high that it is unlikely to decrease after a year. Therefore, going from one year to two seems reasonable to me. That allows the offender to work on or keep working on his risk factors and it also gives the board some time to see whether the offender has made any improvements.
I think that when people are kept in prison it is generally because they cannot be rehabilitated. The current legislation requires sometimes very dangerous offenders to be released after two-thirds of their sentence. When the risk of danger to the public is assessed, it is not possible to say whether that man or woman will reoffend within the first 24 hours, 48 hours or seven days. We know there is a risk of recidivism, but with the information available, we are unable to say whether the offender will reoffend as soon as he is released or a few days after his release. In that case, we cannot detain the offender.
If risk can be assessed in this way, then the offender can be detained. The ridiculous thing about the current legislation is that parole after two-thirds of the sentence is automatic when it should be conditional, as the Bloc Québécois has been calling for and as is the case for full parole after one-third of the sentence.
Detention is a procedure that helps keep automatic parole in check when the board establishes, through recommendations from a multidisciplinary team, that the offender would commit a very dangerous offence very soon after being released.
In fact, this provision of the bill would not even be needed if, under the current law, statutory release were conditional, not automatic, after two-thirds of the sentence. Given the current law, I think that it is reasonable to go from one to two years.
The third component of this law would allow the board to pass relevant information about the offender on to victims. The Bloc is not opposed to this measure, which, I believe, could be crucial to the victim's safety. For example, the victim should know when the offender is released from prison and if they could bump into one another at the convenience store. This needs to be examined closely because it would be inappropriate to share certain information. I think it is important that this be studied in committee to determine, in collaboration with experts, what information could and could not be passed on.
Our party feels that the fourth component is rather disturbing. We are neither for nor against it. We simply feel it needs to be studied. I am talking about the provision that would increase the wait time from two to four years between hearings when parole is denied. This is not a question of statutory release, but of other types of parole, be it complete freedom or day parole.
We agree with the provisions on violent crime, but this particular provision really needs to be studied further.