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House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open debate on Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts.

The bill, which is known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, fulfills the commitment in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne to quickly reintroduce law and order legislation to combat crime and terrorism. This commitment, in turn, reflects the strong mandate that Canadians have given us to protect society and to hold criminals accountable.

We have bundled together crime bills that died on the Order Paper in the last Parliament into a comprehensive piece of legislation and it is our plan to pass it within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament.

As I met with victims of crime and their families yesterday in Brampton, I was once again struck by the importance of having this legislation passed in a timely manner. Both in Brampton and in Montreal yesterday, people such as Joe Wamback, Sharon Rosenfeldt, Sheldon Kennedy, Yvonne Harvey, Gary Lindfield, Maureen Basnicki and Line Lacasse spoke about the need for these changes to our laws.

We have a duty to stand up for these victims, which we are doing by bringing in this legislation.

The objective of our criminal law reform agenda over the past few years has been to build a stronger, safer and better Canada. This comprehensive legislation is another important step in the process to achieve this end.

As I travelled across the country holding round tables or meeting people on the street, the message was clear. People want to ensure their streets and communities are safer and they are relying on us to take the steps needed to achieve this.

There are five parts to Bill C-10.

Part 1 includes reforms to deter terrorism by supporting victims of terrorism and amending the State Immunity Act.

Part 2 includes sentencing reforms that will target sexual offences against children and serious drug offences, as well as prevent the use of conditional sentences for serious violent and property crimes.

Part 3 includes post-sentencing reforms to increase offender accountability, eliminate pardons for serious crimes and strengthen the international transfer of offenders regime.

Part 4 includes reforms to better protect Canadians from violent young offenders.

Lastly, part 5 includes immigration reforms to better protect vulnerable foreign workers against abuse and exploitation, including through human trafficking.

Some may say that this comprehensive bill makes it difficult to understand. In response I would note that these reforms should be very familiar to members of Parliament, indeed all Canadians, given that these reforms were before the previous Parliament when they died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of that Parliament.

Many of these reforms have been previously debated, studied and even passed by at least one of the two chambers of Parliament. For the most part, the comprehensive legislation reintroduces these reforms in the same form they were in previously, with technical changes that were needed to be able to reintroduce them in this Parliament in one bill.

A few additional changes have been made and I will describe them as I provide a summary of the individual areas of reform. However, I want to note that these additional changes remain consistent with the government's objectives when these reforms were originally introduced in the previous Parliament and, therefore, should also be supported today.

I will now take hon. members through some of the elements of Bill C-10.

Part 1 is comprised of clauses 2 through 9. These amendments seek to deter terrorism by enacting the justice for victims of terrorism act.

As reflected in the proposed preamble to the new act, these reforms recognize that, “terrorism is a matter of national concern that affects the security of the nation”, and that it is a “priority to deter and prevent acts of terrorism against Canada and Canadians”.

As Canadians recently marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, it was a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism remains and that we must continue to be vigilant.

Accordingly and with a view to deterring terrorism, part 1 proposes to create a cause of action for victims of terrorism to enable them to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act of terrorism or omission committed anywhere in the world on or after January 1, 1985.

It also would amend the State Immunity Act to lift immunity of those states that the government has listed for support of terrorism.

Part 1's amendments were previously proposed and passed by the Senate in former Bill S-7, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, in the previous session of Parliament. They include technical changes to correct grammatical and cross-reference errors.

Part 2 is comprised of clauses 10 through 51. It proposes sentencing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to ensure that the sentences imposed for child sexual exploitation, serious drug offences, as well as for other serious violent and property crimes, adequately reflect the severity of these crimes.

The exploitation of children is a most serious crime, one that is incomprehensible and must be met with appropriate punishment. Bill C-10 proposals addressing child sexual exploitation were addressed in the previous bill. These reforms seek to consistently and adequately condemn all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory sentences of imprisonment, as well as some higher maximum penalties.

They also seek to prevent the commission of sexual offences against children through the creation of two new offences and by requiring courts to consider imposing conditions to prevent suspected or convicted child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate or further their commission of sexual offences against children.

The bill's proposed reforms addressing child sexual exploitation are essentially the same as the bill we had in the previous Parliament, that was passed by the House of Commons and was before the Senate at third reading debate when it died on the Order Paper. Unfortunately, some members kept on talking so that the bill did not get passed.

The primary difference is that this bill also proposes to increase the maximum penalty for four offences, with a corresponding increase in their proposed mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment to better reflect the heinous nature of these offences.

The bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction for a number of offences. All of these are consistent with the objectives of the former Bill C-54 as originally introduced.

It also proposes Criminal Code reforms to further restrict the use of a conditional sentence, or house arrest as it is often called.

Originally proposed in Bill C-16, ending house arrest for property and other serious crimes by serious and violent offenders act in the previous Parliament, these proposals seek to make it explicitly clear that a conditional sentence is never available for: offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life; offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, involve the import-export, trafficking and production of drugs or involve the use of a weapon; or listed serious property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictment, such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons and theft over $5,000.

The bill's proposals are in the same form as previously proposed in Bill C-16 which had received second reading and had been referred to the justice committee but not yet studied when it died on the Order Paper.

It includes technical changes to the list of excluded offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years: to include the recently enacted new offence of motor vehicle theft; to coordinate the proposed imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment in section 172.1(1), luring a child; and to change the listed child abduction offence to section 281.

We are also addressing the serious issue of drug crimes in this country, particularly those involving organized crime and those that target youth because we all know the impact that such crimes have on our communities.

Part 2's proposals to address drug crime include amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to impose mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for the offences of production, trafficking or possession for the purposes of trafficking or importing, and exporting or possession for the purpose of exporting of schedule I drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.

These mandatory minimum sentences would apply where there was an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard, or the offence was committed in or near a school.

As well, it would double the maximum penalty for the production of schedule II drugs, such as marijuana, from 7 to 14 years and it would reschedule GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as the date rape drugs, from schedule III to schedule I.

As a result, these offences would now carry higher maximum penalties.

The bill would also allow a court to delay sentencing while the addicted offender completed a treatment program approved by the province under the supervision of the court or a drug treatment court approved program and to impose a penalty other than the minimum sentence if the offender successfully completes the treatment program.

These proposals are in the same form they were in when they were passed by the Senate as former Bill S-10

Part 3, which is comprised of clauses 52 through 166, proposes post-sentencing reforms to better support victims and to increase offender accountability.

Canadians have told us they expect their government to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their crimes because only then can they have complete confidence in our justice system.

Part 3 introduces reforms previously contained in bills in the previous Parliament. It includes proposals from the ending early release for criminals and increasing offender accountability act that would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to recognize the rights of victims, increase offender accountability and responsibility, and modernize the disciplinary system for inmates.

As now proposed in Bill C-10, it includes technical modifications that would delete provisions that were ultimately passed as part of the Abolition of Early Parole Act, as well as clarifications regarding, for example, sentence calculations, adding new offences recently enacted by other legislation, and proposes to change the name of the National Parole Board to the Parole Board of Canada.

It includes proposals previously contained in Bill C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (the International Transfer of Offenders) Act and which seek to enhance public safety by enshrining in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada. The bill proposes these reforms as originally introduced.

It includes proposals included in the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act in the previous Parliament and that propose to expand the period of ineligibility for a record suspension, currently referred to as a “pardon”, and to make record suspensions unavailable for certain offences and for persons who have been convicted of more than three offences, prosecuted by indictment, and for each of which the individual received a sentence of two years or more. This bill corrects inconsistencies that occurred in the former bills before Parliament.

One of the areas of criminal law I received an extensive number of letters, emails and calls about is that dealing with violent and repeat young offenders. I have been particularly interested in correspondence I have received from young students themselves and I am always pleased to hear everyone's views on this subject.

Part 4, which is found at clauses 167 through 204, proposes reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to strengthen its handling of violent and repeat young offenders.

These reforms include: highlighting the protection of the public as a principle, making it easier to detain youth charged with serious offences pending trial; ensuring that prosecutors consider seeking adult sentences for the most serious offences; prohibiting youth under the age of 18 from serving a sentence in an adult facility; and requiring police to keep records of extrajudicial measures. These reforms were previously proposed in Sébastien's law, which had been extensively studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when it died on the order paper in the previous Parliament.

The bill includes changes to address concerns that had been highlighted by the provinces regarding the pretrial adult sentencing and deferred custody provisions in the former bill. A number of the provinces requested a less restrictive regime for the pretrial detention provisions than that of Bill C-4, and therefore the changes found in this bill respond by providing more flexibility to detain youth who are spiralling out of control and who pose a risk to the public and to themselves.

The test for pretrial detention will be self-contained in the act without reference to other sections of the Criminal Code.

Other changes are more technical, if that is possible, and include removing Bill C-4's proposed amendments in two areas: deleting reference to the standard of proof for an adult sentence, and the expanded scope of deferred custody and supervision orders.

Last, part 5, which is found at clauses 205 through 207, proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to foreign nationals and workers where it would protect them against humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking. These proposals are in the same form they were in when they were previously proposed in former Bill C-56, the preventing trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants act.

I would point out as well that the proposed reforms would come into force in the same manner as originally proposed by the predecessor bills. Part 1 would come into force upon receiving royal assent, and the balance would come into force on a day to be fixed by the governor in council. This will enable us to consult with the provinces and territories on the time needed to enable them to prepare for the timely and effective implementation of these reforms.

I realize that I have taken some time to go through some of the details of this bill. We were very clear in the last election that this was a priority for this government. We have put these bills together and they better protect victims. As members know, in all the legislation that we have introduced, we always highlight how it better protects victims in this country and stand up for the interests of law-abiding Canadians.

I am pleased and proud to be associated, as are my colleagues, with this important piece of legislation.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, the public safety minister has pretty well lost all credibility when it comes to estimating what these crime bills are going to cost. I point out the estimate he made originally on a couple of bills. His estimate was that it was going to cost $90 million. That escalated up into the hundreds of millions and then into the billions. We are up to $2 billion now just on the bills that have already been through the House of extra costs to the Government of Canada, and more important, to the provinces, because more of the burden has gone there.

With regard to this omnibus bill, are you planning to present to justice committee and/or the House a full analysis of how much it is going to cost the federal treasury and the provincial and territorial treasuries?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would remind all members to direct their questions through the Speaker's chair.

The hon. Minister of Justice.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member will remember that when the public safety minister and I were before a committee of the House of Commons, we tabled hundreds of pages giving breakdowns and an analysis of what these pieces of legislation would cost the Canadian taxpayer.

In one sense I am pleased. If those members are truly worried about expenditures by the federal government, this is something new. I really have not heard this too much from the NDP over the years. Let us be fair. Most of the questions are always about spending more money. Those are the ones we get. If those members are now worried that somehow taking violent criminals off the street is going to cost money, I can assure them that the Minister of Public Safety has taken that all into consideration. Hundreds of pages have been tabled before them.

I would ask the hon. member to please look at the cost to victims in this country. Victims tell me every time I see them that they pay most of the costs. A study by the Department of Justice in 2008 confirms that. About 83% of all the costs of crime in this country are borne by victims. If those members are worried about costs, about taking a violent criminal off the street and locking up that individual, that is okay because that is their concern and their priority. That is fine, but they should also worry about the victim, the law-abiding Canadian who could be a constituent of theirs. I want them to worry about that individual as well.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, this morning the minister appeared on Canada AM on CTV. He was interviewed by Seamus O'Regan, who asked him five times what the cost would be to the Canadian public, to the taxpayers, of the implications of this bill. Each time the minister refused to answer.

The minister has been asked several times today in the House of Commons, and perhaps he was asked the same question elsewhere. He still has failed to tell the House.

In fact, one of the minister's answers to Seamus O'Regan was that it would be a sustainable cost. If he can come to the conclusion that it will be sustainable, then surely he must know the amount. Does he know the amount and is not willing to tell the Canadian people, or will he tell us today? Will he give us the answer to the question he has been asked all day long?

If the minister absolutely refuses to answer the question of what the bill will cost, perhaps he will answer the question of how many times he has been asked that today.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I think I have been very clear. I can refer the hon. member to the hundreds of pages that were tabled before the parliamentary committee just prior to the previous election. I invite him to go through all those hundreds of pages and to note the comments of my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, with respect to this.

I did indicate that in 2008 there was a Department of Justice study on the costs of crime. It estimated that approximately $99 billion is the cost of crime in this country. I will repeat that so the hon. member understands. The cost of crime is $99 billion.

I appreciate that this is not a priority for the hon. member or for his party, but it is a priority for the Conservative Party that 83% of that cost is borne by the victims of crime. They are the ones who pay the price. I would hope that at some point in time those members will stand up and say that they are worried about costs and have become fiscal conservatives and they are worried about spending every dime, but they realize that most of the cost continues to be borne by victims in this country, who are the ones we have to stand up for. Those are the ones we have to protect.

I want the support of the hon. member and his party.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, as a British Columbian, I welcome members to visit the Okanagan any time.

It is a pleasure to be here and to have an opportunity to thank my hon. colleague for keeping our campaign commitment to keep our streets and our communities safe.

There was a horrific shooting this summer in our community. In British Columbia organized crime and the gangs, guns, and drug trafficking are serious issues. I am very appreciative that our government is committed to bringing some balance to standing up for victims within our court system.

One of the concerns raised is that judges are losing some of their ability to decide and that the government is forcing their decision making. I stand to be corrected but it is my understanding that the flexibility will remain within the judicial system and we are providing more tools for our law enforcement and judicial systems to be more effective and efficient.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I certainly thank the member for Kelowna--Lake Country for his continuing interest in this. I very much appreciate his support on all these efforts to better protect Canadians.

Our job as legislators is to provide guidelines for the courts. We provide maximum sentences on all criminal law legislation.

I recall a colleague saying many years ago, “Why put a maximum on? Just let the courts decide. If they want to give a guy more than five years, do not put a maximum”. I said that it was our job as legislators to put a maximum. On many occasions we are putting minimum sentences as well, but within the guidelines that we provide to the courts, it is obviously up to the courts where a sentence should lie for an individual who has been found guilty.

Many of those mandatory sentences are for drug crimes. I appreciate that and certainly it is my hope that this bill will quickly go to committee and will soon become the law of this country.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, in terms of the history, since 2006 in the justice committee and the public safety committee, I have repeatedly asked the various ministers of the government for cost assessments of all the bills that have gone through in this period of time. The information we got from the minister a few minutes ago was grossly inaccurate in that regard. I am not new to this file. I am not new to asking about the costs.

I ask the minister again. Is he going to say to the House at some point that he has gone to the public accounts officer, that he has checked with other sources and provide his analysis, not what the government did last time, even after it was found in contempt of the House for not providing this information? At best, it gave about 60%, probably only about 40%, of the information that the Parliamentary Budget Officer wanted to make a proper assessment.

Is the government going to give it all to us this time and is it going to do a valid assessment both for the federal government and the provinces?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I invite the hon. member to have a look at the documentation that was tabled before the committee. There were hundreds of pages of breakdowns.

What is really going on here is that if one does not agree that some of these violent individuals should be taken off the street, if one does not agree that people who are sexually exploiting children should receive mandatory minimum sentences, one will never be satisfied with the cost. I and my colleagues emphasize that the costs are borne by the victims right across the board. I hope, for once, that New Democrats would make that their priority. However, we have not heard it up to this point in time.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, it is really a historic day with regard to this bill in terms of the debate that we will see in the House over the next number of days and weeks.

It is historic because we have had a government for the last five years that has attempted to reverse the approach to the criminal justice system that we have taken in our country for the better part of 40 years.

It was about 40 years ago when governments, and not just governments in the ideological centre or left of the political spectrum, but progressive Conservative governments as well, followed this pattern. Then we saw the advance of the Reform and the Alliance, the radical right wing ideology adopted mostly from the United States, which, incidentally, is now reversing itself and looking at Canada as an example of how to deal with crime, with anti-social behaviour and how to build a fair, just and effective criminal justice system.

The current government is driven entirely by ideology, never by fact, never by solid evidence.

It is interesting. I always think of the minister who was the minister of justice before the current one, now the Minister of Public Safety, being challenged by Dan Gardner, one of the reporters or commentators for one of the Ottawa papers, to send him studies that showed deterrence worked, so he did. He sent him five studies. Three of them, when Mr. Gardner looked at them, showed that in fact deterrence did not work. The other two were totally unequivocal and were very subjective in their analysis and were not valid studies based on normal methodology for sociological and criminology studies.

The Conservatives have never been able to do anything better than that.

We heard today again that expression. The Conservatives stand in the House and talk about victims with the assumption that the bill, and the kinds of bills they have passed in the last five years, will somehow deter crime, that they will reduce that $99 billion figure, which is highly suspect, as I keep repeating. They say they will do something to reduce crime by the use of punishment, by the use of deterrence, by the use of putting thousands and thousands more people into jail.

Not one study, not just in Canada, but any place in the developed world, any place in the democracy we can go to and find a study, says deterrence works. We are about to spend an additional, depending on whose estimates we want to use, anywhere from at least $2 billion to $11 billion, $12 billion and $13 billion over the next five years on a philosophy, on an ideology on criminal justice that does not work. The bill just repeats that.

This is me wearing my lawyer's hat to some degree. I have stood in the House over the last seven years as the critic for our party on both public safety and justice. I have advocated a number of times that we do need major reform to our Criminal Code and the methodology of doing that would be with omnibus bills. This is not the first omnibus bill we have had from the government; it actually is the second one. When I first heard the Conservatives would do that, I thought that they were finally listening to those of us who have advocated for the need for reform to the Criminal Code because of the duplication and contradictions in the Code, particularly around sentencing, but around offences as well.

However, the Conservatives are not doing that. All they are doing is lumping a whole bunch of bills together and sending them through, a number of bills that have no relevancy to each other. If they are to do an omnibus bill, if they are to do major reform to the Criminal Code, they have to do it systematically. For instance, even in the bill we are seeing conflict in terms of sentencing principles that they are going to use as an example. We saw it in one of the newspapers reports overnight.

The bill will have this kind of a consequence. We are going to have a mandatory minimum penalty for an offence of trafficking a drug that is double what the mandatory minimum is for the rape of a child. We have that kind of confusion and contradiction just in this bill, and we have huge numbers of those kinds of contradictions.

Therefore, if we were really intent on building an effective criminal justice system that did not have these kinds of contradictions, that make it difficult for our police, judges, defence lawyers and the prosecutors to enforce the law, we would have started reform a long time ago.

I am going to go to the bill itself. As opposed to what the minister said, the bill is actually a composition of nine bills from the past Parliament. Although it has five parts to it, it actually encompasses nine different bills, and I will not have enough time to address all of them. Therefore, I will concentrate my comments, because of the cost factor, on the drug part of the bill.

This will be the third time that the bill is before the House. It has had some changes since the first time, but it is essentially the same. When it came before the House at that time, both the Conservative government and the Liberal party supported the bill. They got it passed. I am quite sure it went to the Senate. We had an election and it failed and we started over again.

In the last Parliament, it was a bill that came out of the Senate. At that time because of a change in leadership for the Liberals, they flip-flopped and decided they would oppose it.

We have been opposed to the bill in its various incarnations for two reasons: the cost; and the reality that the cost is totally unjustifiable in terms of this bill doing anything to combat drug trafficking. It is easy for us to say that.

I live in the most southern part of our country. In fact, I live in an area of the country that is south of our neighbours to the north in the United States. I have watched the United States legislature try to deal with the problem of drug trafficking. Starting about two and a half years ago, the Americans began to repeal legislation that had mandatory minimums. It was simply that they were going bankrupt in terms of keeping that many people in jail.

There was a similar pattern in California that hit its epitome a year ago in the spring. In the jails, people were double and triple bunking and were in fact being housed in the cafeterias and the gyms, with no rehabilitation or treatment, or sense that these people were going to get out, with a large number of them with mental health problems as well, the usual pattern. California was going to be required by the courts to release 35,000 to 45,000 inmates in that year. A good number of these inmates had been convicted of serious violent crimes, had no treatment or rehabilitation while they were in and they were going back out onto the streets. That kind of crisis occurred in the United States when it passed these kinds of laws and proceeded to enforce them. Over a period of 10 to 15 years, the prison population doubled there.

We are following the same route. It is back to the government refusing to look at the facts and accept any hard evidence of what this kind of legislation does. It is going down the same route that the United States went down between 15 and 20 years ago, and is now reversing itself. Now the Conservative government is starting down the same path.

It is not just the United States. If we go around the globe very few other countries have attempted this, I am happy to say. No other government in our western democracies has attempted this successfully. It does not work, yet in the next five years we are about to spend between $10 billion to $13 billion just on this bill.

The drug part of the bill in particular is going to increase the prison population, mostly at the provincial level. We have provinces that are double-bunking now to the rate of 200%. They are over capacity by 200%. There is not a province or territory that is not in excess of its capacity.

Perhaps the House should also appreciate this fact: we have signed on to an international protocol that says we will not do double-bunking at either the provincial or the federal level. We are in complete contravention of that protocol and have been for a number of years, and it is going to get much worse.

I know I am emphasizing the drug part of the bill because it is where the costs primarily are. It is not the only area, but it is the overwhelmingly large one. The vast majority of the people who are going to be affected by the bill are not the Hells Angels, not the bikers, not the people we have seen historically as organized crime. Again, I say that because we have studied the situation in the United States when it passed bills identical to this one. It is the low-hanging fruit that gets caught. The vast majority of those people, the petty traffickers in marijuana in particular, are the ones who get caught, especially because they only have to have six plants, and they do not have to be six-foot-high plants. It just says more than five plants. Someone with six plants that are three inches high will be considered a trafficker, in spite of some of the comments we have heard from the minister.

I do not think the minister has ever done a drug trafficking trial. I have, and the way the act is worded, anyone who has six plants or more cannot justify that he or she is not a trafficker. We are going to have a huge number of young people who are now being convicted of simple possession going to jail, including some of the children of the people sitting across the aisle from me and some of the children of the people sitting on our side of the table. They will be going to jail for at least six months simply because they have six marijuana plants.

That is the consequence of the bill, and we are going to end up, as taxpayers, paying the toll.

I would like to deal in some detail as well with the bill that was Bill C-4 in the last Parliament, the bill that dealt with young offenders.

This one had a very interesting history. It was the attempt on the part of the government to return us to an old pattern of history, when we used to treat youth much more harshly than we have in the last 15 or 20 years. We heard from the minister again today that they are justifying it on the basis that they are going after the young offender who is already a serious violent offender. I say this from all of the parties that are sitting in the House and that were at the justice committee last time that we all accepted that as a reality. That is just a historical side note. We had major reform to the young offender law almost six years ago now. When the minister brought this bill forward, there was a lot of commentary from a number of sides that it was too soon to amend the bill. The committee as a whole, all political parties, said no. It was true generally, and some of the things they were trying to do--in particular, to reintroduce deterrence to young offenders--we rejected. We said no. We said we needed to look at whether there were mechanisms or enforcement tools or legislative tools that we could give our police and our prosecutors, and ultimately our judges, to be able to deal with that small percentage of young offenders who are already serious, violent risks to our society.

We all conceded that this group existed and we also felt that we could do something about it. Interestingly, three prosecutors came before the committee voluntarily. I and the other opposition parties do not take any credit for finding these senior prosecutors of young offenders in their respective provinces of Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta. They got together and asked collectively to come and make presentations.

The first thing they said to the committee was that the government's bill would do just the opposite: it was going to make it more difficult for them to prosecute serious, violent youth offenders.

In the last few weeks I received a letter from the attorney general confirming the prosecutors in Saskatchewan. We had representation from two Conservative governments and two NDP governments before the committee saying that we had messed up really badly, that our bill was going to do exactly the opposite of what we were telling the country it was going to do.

I take credit for asking them if they could give us the amendments they needed, and they did that. I want to recognize the work that they did. They gave us three amendments. Basically they let the youth criminal justice system focus in on the serious offenders and let the rest of the system work, because the rest of the system, from everything we heard at committee, is working reasonably well. It is effective, fair and just and it deals with youth crime quite effectively, but it is not doing so with serious offenders.

The prosecutors gave us three amendments and came back a second time to present and explain them to us in detail. I asked government members if they would adopt them. They said no. They were so certain they had a perfect bill that in spite of the experts, their own prosecutorial experts, the government refused to accept those amendments.

Interestingly, and I will give them credit for this, in this incarnation, this omnibus bill, Conservatives have taken two of the amendments. The third amendment deals with sentencing of youth as adults, and they need that amendment again for this one. I have no answer for why it is not in here. I was hoping I would have enough time to ask the minister today, but I will have to do that subsequently. However, it is not there.

Those amendments are necessary in the bill. Again, I repeat that the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc members were prepared to support those amendments, and the government refused to do so simply because, in dealing with the Conservatives, it is their way or the highway. They were absolutely adamant about refusing to take those amendments.

The third part I want to address is the international transfer of prisoners. We have had a long history in this country of signing treaties with other countries that say that if we have one of their citizens convicted of a crime in prison in our country, we will allow the prisoner to apply to his or her country to be returned to that country of origin. Of course, we have the vice versa arrangement for ourselves, so that one of our citizens in another country can apply to be returned to Canada. I do not how long we have had those arrangements, but it has been a number of decades.

When the Conservatives first came into power in 2006, they unilaterally decided they were going to change the pattern and reject a whole bunch of these applications. We went from accepting something in the range of 90% of those applications to less than 50%. There were court applications made against the government's conduct, and it was slapped really hard by the Federal Court.

The Conservatives have now tried to put into the bill what really amounts to absolute discretion for the minister to be able to continue that practice of reducing those numbers. This has created an international incident between ourselves and the United States, with which most of these prisoner exchanges occur. Americans actually sent a note of protest to the Canadian government in January 2010 because it had so radically changed the pattern.

The bill has major problems. There are parts of it that New Democrats could in fact support; I could not get to them because my time is just about up, but with the attitude we have of the government, it is going to be very difficult to work out those kinds of compromises.

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4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I have three quick points to make to my colleague, whose remarks i enjoyed, as I always do. These points all relate in one way or another to costs.

First, he is forecasting massive increases in the prison population. Until now the forecasts that were put out by Correctional Service Canada were based on what we did in the past, and these huge increases simply have not materialized, so I am not sure what he is basing that on.

Second, obviously a lot of prison structures are very old and crumbling and a lot of infrastructure has to be replaced right now, regardless of anything else. Would he acknowledge that replacement will cost some amount of money? I do not know what that is.

Third, I think we all believe in rehabilitation and deterrence, but it is difficult to quantify. The statistics I have seen say that a habitual criminal commits about 15 offences a year. Would he acknowledge that there is a significant cost, which we really could not determine, to society and victims of leaving that person on the street for a year, when as a habitual criminal the person could be incarcerated, which would prevent the 15 crimes that would prey on victims?

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4:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Edmonton Centre for those questions, although I still have not forgiven him for the damage he caused to the centre. I could not bring my grandson to visit it the day I was there. The centre is right across the street from his office, and I am sure he caused the flood in the centre the day I was there and my grandson could not visit.

With regard to past estimates that I know the government has been putting out, those estimates are based longitudinally. They have not all come to fruition up to this point. They will eventually. I do not think the estimates are that far off.

Let me say to the member that since the Conservative government has been in power, the budget for corrections has almost doubled. It is not quite 100%, but it is very close, just in five years. It almost six years now, but we have not seen the last year, so it probably has doubled by now. That is very real. Even though those estimates have not fully come to fruition, I believe they will, because I think they were properly done by Correctional Service Canada. We have very good Correctional Service Canada people. We need more of them, but they are very good.

With regard to prison repair, I agree with that. I know that in Ontario, in and around Kingston in particular, there are prisons that are over 100 years old and have had minimal repair in that period of time. There is no objection if that was the purpose, but that is not the purpose of the money that is being proposed to be spent. It is to house new prisoners, not to do the major repairs that are needed.

Finally, with regard to habitual criminals, there are studies in the United States that suggest or show exactly what the member has suggested, which is that if people are kept in prison longer, the crime rate is going to go down. For a short period of time, I would accept that. However, when criminals are in for an extra length of time, they are in prisons where there is no rehabilitation for them at all. That was the California experience. There was no rehabilitation at all. When they get out, the crimes they commit are more violent, and in fact the crime rate goes up.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, the reality is that we have seen this type of law and order policy in the United States, as he has articulated. If putting more people in prison for longer periods of time created safer communities, American cities would be the safest in the world, because nobody incarcerates more people than the Americans.

Earlier today, in response to the hon. member's questions, the minister stated that he had totally fulfilled the demands of the House in terms of the information requested regarding the costs of the government's justice bills.

I want to inform the hon. member that the answer given by the minister earlier today in the House was false. In fact, it was my motion that led to the minister's appearance before the operations and estimates committee due to the Speaker's ruling of contempt of Parliament by the Conservative government. When the minister appeared before the government operations committee, he did a data dump the morning of his appearance, dumping thousands of pages of paper, and he responded to only 26% of the information requested by Parliament for the cost of the legislation.

How does the hon. member feel about the continued stonewalling by the government and the minister of this Parliament, and about their refusal to respect Parliament and provide that kind of—

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4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

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4:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I acknowledge and I am quite aware of the circumstances of how that occurred. For the first time in the history of this Parliament, and perhaps of every Parliament in the Commonwealth, a government was found in contempt for adamantly refusing to provide material. The hon. member is right. The contempt did continue after the contempt order and the majority vote that took place which found the government in contempt.

Specifically with regard to crime bills, it is my understanding that the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that under that contempt order the information he received was no better than 60% and perhaps as little as 40%. Accordingly, he was not fully satisfied with the results of the analysis he had prepared. However, in retrospect, he did provide a much closer analysis than what was prepared by the Minister of Public Safety.

The Minister of Public Safety repeatedly told the House that the crime bills would only cost $90 million, a figure which has now increased to $2.2 billion. These are the kinds of discrepancies we are seeing.

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4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, it appears sometimes we seek justice through headlines. Whenever there is a violent crime somewhere in the country the media and talk shows go on about it for weeks feeding the fever of all Canadian citizens who then get rattled and feel that we have to do something.

I take offence when the Minister of Justice indicates or hints to the Canadian people that we on this side of the House do not care for victims. That is nonsense. There is not one member of Parliament from any party in the House who is not concerned about crime and what it does to victims in the country.

The serious concern I have is that I have heard the anecdotal and not factual evidence that one-third of our prison inmates have mental illness. There is a huge push in this country from academia, corporations and governments of all sides to deal with this serious issue. However, the provincial and federal governments ignore the plight of the mentally ill and incarcerate them. Instead of having institutions for the mentally ill to get the help they need, they are thrown in jail.

Would my hon. colleague comment on how many more people who commit crimes due to mental illness would find themselves incarcerated instead of getting the help they so richly deserve if the bill goes through?

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, with regard to the assessment, Mr. Head, who is the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, was before the public safety committee two or three years ago. His estimate then was that 50% of all inmates in federal prisons would be able to get mental health treatment under our provincial health plans.

On the 33% or 30% to 35% figures that my friend raised of those who have been diagnosed with serious mental health problems and given a prognosis, treatment in fact would be available in the community. However, very little of that treatment is available in our federal institutions.

I forget what the bill was we were dealing with a year or so ago, but evidence came forward from a psychologist who had received the Order of Canada and was recognized as an international expert in treating mentally ill people who had committed serious crimes that 10 psychologists had been cut out of the federal system in the Kingston area and that their contracts would not be renewed.

In terms of the second part of my colleague's question on the consequences of the drug bill, it is the small-time traffickers who are drug abusers and addicts who would end up in prison.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cardigan, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Canada Revenue Agency.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, today marks the second speech that I have given in the House. It has been a busy week.

As some of the members may know, I am a new member of Parliament for the riding of Charlottetown, the birthplace of Confederation. I trust I will be allowed this opportunity to thank the good people of Charlottetown for bestowing upon me the honour and privilege of representing them here in the chamber.

Madam Speaker, I very much look forward to working with you and with my colleagues on both sides of the House.

As members may know, my colleague, the justice critic and hon. member for Mount Royal, a former minister of justice and a world-renowned advocate of human rights, a law scholar and professor, is at the United Nations today participating in meetings. We wish him, along with our Prime Minister, well in their deliberations at the United Nations meetings as the world watches the events regarding the Middle East unfold.

I am here today to talk about Bill C-10. The bill is large and includes nine bills from the previous Parliament all lumped into one big buffet of division and fear. The title of the bill goes on for about seven lines. I can just imagine how much time, effort, deliberation in meetings and agonizing it must have taken to come up with a name for this bill.

I tried to imagine some of the other names that might have fallen on the cutting room floor. I will speculate on a few of the names that did not quite make it: an act to divide Canadians and keep the Conservative base happy; an act to provide inmates for empty prisons; an act to fill prisons in order to build new ones; an act to take more aboriginals off reserves and put them into prisons; an act to provide a Conservative comprehensive affordable housing strategy; an act to make prisons the largest mental health institutions in Canada; and, one I particularly like, an act to stimulate the penal sector.

After many lunches, dinners and late night meetings, the Conservatives finally settled on a short title for the bill. I understand this was the runner-up to the one that actually made it, that being, we won a majority, now get out of our way act.

Never has a piece of legislation been more deserving of the title “an act” because that is what this is. It is a performance. Facts be damned, crime statistics and effective crime prevention do not matter because the government is determined to put on a show. Simply put, it is a disgrace of the highest order.

With all the new prisons being built as a result of this "hang 'em high" mentality, one wonders who will staff these new prisons. Is this an opportunity for an alternate service delivery or a public-private partnership? Perhaps we could have the operations of these institutions farmed out for profit. Is that the plan? I am sure it is a question that the Conservative propaganda machine will surely avoid and deny.

This is a bill worthy of mockery. It is a bill that plays on fear, not hope.

It is a bill that ignores evidence and facts. It creates an illusion that crime is out of control and there is mass insurrection in the streets. It is without costing. It is a bill that does not reflect the values of Canadians as a smart, caring society.

We seem to be well on our way to a system of justice more reflective of our neighbours to the south and not reflective of a country like Canada.

Catherine Latimer from the John Howard Society stated:

We think it will endanger corrections workers and inmates and compromise rights and not promote good corrections and undermine principles of justices and have a disproportionately harsh impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our society...blindly following failed American policies is not in the interest of Canadians--

As it appears that the bill was influenced if not drafted by our Republican friends in the United States, l will quote from a recent U.S. editorial. With regard to crime and prisons it states:

California spends more money on prisons than on higher education. The governor is right--we’ve got it backwards and it's time to reverse course.

Only sixty-eight percent of our high school students are graduating. Yet we pay prison guards substantially more than teachers.

Fear of crime led us to vote for long prison terms and the three strikes law. We didn’t intend to spend $4 billion more on prisons than colleges--

The less educated our workforce…the more we feed the prisons.

It’s time to admit our mistakes and make tough decisions. By pumping so much money into prisons, we’re starving education. We cannot afford the consequences.

With regard to crime rates, in a report released earlier this year by Statistics Canada it stated:

Police-reported crime reaches its lowest level since the early 1970's.

It goes on to state that the “police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued to decline” right up until last year. In fact last year it was down 5%, “reaching its lowest level since 1973”.

There is more. It claims that violent crime is at its lowest since 1999.

Last year both the volume and severity of violent crime fell 3% from the previous year, while the decline in the violent crime severity index was more notably down 6%. This is the fourth straight year where there has been a decline in the violent crime severity index and the largest drop in more than a decade. Overall, violent crimes accounted for just over one in five offences. Among the violent crimes that saw a decline were: attempted murder, down 14%; homicide, down 10%; robbery, down 7%; and serious assault, down 5%. In contrast, increases were reported among firearms offences.

We on this side of the House are partial to public policy based on evidence. However, despite the evidence the Conservatives, or should I say the horsemen of the apocalypse, would like us to believe that there is mass chaos in the streets. Only in the Conservative world would we see a statistic showing firearms offences increasing by 11% only to be followed by the decision to get rid of the gun registry.

I mentioned our aboriginal community earlier in my speech. According to the 2006 census, 3.1% of our adult population identified themselves as aboriginal yet in the same year aboriginal adults accounted for 18% of our prison population in provincial and territorial institutions and 19% in federal institutions.

The bill would do a lot of bad things for Canada, not the least of which is an increase in aboriginal Canadians in our prisons.

How can a government, in any way, be taken seriously when one of the likely results is that the bill would lock up even more aboriginal Canadians? That is a national disgrace.

I understand that my words today might cause some difficulty and, in fact, I would suggest perhaps some disagreement from the members opposition. Although I am a new member of Parliament, I have views, which is part of the reason I am standing here today. My views are rooted in values of fairness and justice. I want to see crime legislation that is evidence-based, cost-effective and focused on crime prevention, not retribution. I will not stand for any suggestion that I, or the members of this caucus, are soft on crime. It is simply not the case. It will be rejected in the strongest possible terms.

I will close by saying that the government pretends to be tough on crime. It pretends to care. It is a game for the Conservatives. It is a diversion from the real issues that matter to Canadians. This week the government House leader told Canadians that the government will be focused on the economy during this session of Parliament and yet the first two days of this House have been occupied, not by proposals to help the economy and create jobs, but by a bill that is not evidence-based and that seeks to divide Canadians. It is a diversion.

The government likes to use slogans and gimmicks. It likes to look tough. Many of us on this side are wondering when the Conservatives will get tough on creating jobs, get tough on fighting poverty, get tough on fighting climate change, get tough on fighting for health care and get tough on helping the most vulnerable.

The only thing the government is tough on is the truth and it is Canadians who will suffer as a result.

I move, seconded by the member for Winnipeg North:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, because its provisions ignore the best evidence with respect to public safety, crime prevention and rehabilitation of offenders; because its cost to the federal treasury and the cost to be downloaded onto the provinces for corrections have not been clearly articulated to this House; and because the bundling of these many pieces of legislation into a single bill will compromise Parliament’s ability to review and scrutinize its contents and implications on behalf of Canadians”.