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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

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, in my role as parliamentary secretary and also as a mother of four, I always applaud initiatives that help youth to keep themselves busy, active and engaged in our communities. Politics is a good place to start.

Of course this is all about protecting communities and protecting youth. A lot of these provisions are targeted at helping youth and helping youth get away from this kind of activity. I would always applaud initiatives that help youth.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, yesterday the Conservatives introduced nine pieces of legislation in one big bundle. There are over 100 pages in the bill. These pieces of legislation fall under the purview of three separate ministries. The bills range from broad changes to our corrections system that are based on a failed U.S.-style approach, to giving the minister absolute power to approve or deny the international transfer of offenders. These changes are sweeping and will fundamentally change several aspects of Canada's criminal justice system.

The way this bill was introduced speaks a lot to the Conservatives' approach to crime. They have introduced a big bill to help them appear to be tough on crime, but again they have proven that they are not smart on crime.

The goal of any changes to our criminal justice system should be public safety first. It should be safer streets and communities. We should accomplish this by finding cost-effective programs and policies that really make a difference. However, that clearly is not the priority of the Conservatives. They are not interested in looking at the evidence or studying the real impacts of the measures in this bill. The way they introduced them in an omnibus bill shows they have no intention of studying impacts. They just want to ram the legislation through before the public learns how ineffective and expensive it will be.

I will say that some measures in the bill make some sense, but unfortunately the vast majority of the bill really does not matter. We need to be able to examine this on a case-by-case basis. This is also an incredibly fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation. Earlier in the House the minister was asked a number of times about the cost. We do not know the cost. How much is it going to cost?

The government is asking us to support a bill it has not costed. It has refused to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with information so he can cost these initiatives. I imagine the government is withholding that information because it does not want Canadians or Parliament to know how big the tab for its big crime bill is going to be, not just for the federal government but for much of what is going to be downloaded to the provinces. Unfortunately, taxpayers in this country are going to be the ones left to pay this big crime bill's tab.

The experts agree, as many studies have been done, that the Conservative approach on crime is the wrong approach. It is not based on evidence and the majority of these measures will not make our communities any safer.

Across the U.S., governments have tried this before and have seen it fail. We have seen this south of the border. Many of the states are now abandoning the ineffective approach to crime that the Conservative government is pursuing in this country. Governments in the U.S. are abandoning it because it does not work, because it is incredibly expensive and it has been shown to be very ineffective.

I do not know how the members across the aisle can justify ramming a bill through that is so reckless that it has the potential to be financially crippling to the government and will not make any of our communities safer. I come from a community where crime, gang violence and drug-related crimes are real problems. I want to see changes that stop gangs from recruiting young children. I want to see more police officers on the streets. I want prisoners to come out of prison rehabilitated and able to be contributing members of society, but clearly that is not a priority for the Conservative government.

I have a number of concerns with key parts of the bill. One major area is the changes that are being proposed for our pardon system.

Our pardon system needs to be fair to all Canadians and it needs to be strengthened. It must protect public safety by promoting the reintegration of reformed offenders and ensuring that the public is protected from those who still pose a threat to society.

This portion of the bill proposes a number of changes which must be carefully considered.

Changes to the pardon system must be rational, evidence based, and put public safety first. There needs to be a thorough study of the pardon system, and any changes should come from the results of that study. Unfortunately, the Conservatives across the aisle seem more interested in using this issue to score political points.

Of course we need to make changes to protect Canadians from pardons in outrageous cases where clearly our system has failed over the years, but making broad changes, such as disallowing pardons for those with four or more indictable offences, changes the nature of our system completely.

Pardons serve a very important function. They allow people who have made positive life changes and who have abstained from criminal behaviour to be freed from many of the negative impacts of having a criminal record, such as what occurs when securing employment and housing.

Approximately 3.5 million Canadians have a criminal record. I find it hard to believe that the government has thought of the impact these changes will have on these Canadians.

Four offences can occur in one incident. Someone could have one misguided event, but under this legislation the individual would not be able to have his or her record sealed. For people trying to turn their lives around, the inability to get a pardon can have very detrimental implications on their lives.

Employment is a stabilizing factor in reintegrating individuals and the inability to gain employment only increases the risk of reoffending. Stable meaningful employment, as well as the income, housing and social networks that employment can foster, are significant protective factors against reoffending. From a public safety perspective, this type of incentive offered to individuals trying to reintegrate successfully back into the community makes good sense.

By summarily making pardons more difficult to get, and by doing it without any study or rationale, the Conservative government will make it more difficult for people to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society. If the Conservatives make it more difficult for deserving people to get pardons, those people will not be able to get back into society and will be far more likely to commit crimes in the future. It is entirely possible, in fact very likely, that in some ways this legislation will actually increase crime.

Another area of concern for me are the corrections and conditional release changes in the bill.

Aspects of the bill would open the door to the violation of human rights in Canadian prisons. These changes would have Canada adopt a U.S.-style approach to prisons that is regressive, expensive and which has shown to be very ineffective.

One particularly disturbing part of this legislation about which many experts have expressed concern is the changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The act currently reads that the Correctional Service of Canada must use the “least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members, and offenders”. The least restrictive measures language is a time tested and court derived standard for the acceptable treatment of prisoners.

This legislation removes the “least restrictive” language and changes the standard to “measures...that are limited to only what is necessary and proportionate” to the objective for which they are imposed. This change will open the door to more severe treatment of offenders. In the absence of any evidence that the “least restrictive” language is hindering the ability of the CSC to fulfill its mandate, it should not be carelessly discarded.

I support changes to our federal corrections system that will result in more offenders being successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated into communities upon their eventual release. This is the most effective way to promote public safety, to make our communities safer places for our citizens to live. However, the reality is that our federal prison system is lacking in the programs needed to get offenders to turn their lives around.

This omnibus bill creates a paper obligation for prisoners to participate in non-existent rehabilitation programs and then sets out how to punish them for failing to get rehabilitated. To me it makes no sense. Experts in the corrections field have stated very clearly that this is the wrong approach to take. The government is setting itself up for failure because this legislation will not achieve its stated objective. In fact, it will make things worse.

The bill reflects an outdated U.S.-style approach to prisons which wastes money and incarcerates more people for longer. We have seen the results in the United States. Most importantly, it does nothing to reduce reoffences. Public safety means getting smart on crime. Those are not smart changes.

Another part of the legislation that concerns me is the changes regarding the international transfer of offenders. This bill claims to enhance public safety, which of course is something I agree with. However, the bill grants absolute discretion to the minister to pick and choose who is brought back to Canada. The act needs to be strengthened, not shredded. The bill does away with a clear legal process that has been in place since 1978 and it replaces it with decisions made at the minister's whim. This bill opens up the process to bias. It does away with any transparency and accountability.

There is no doubt there are offenders who should not be brought back to this country and public safety needs to be considered when we are making these decisions. There are cases when public safety is enhanced by allowing the transfer to take place, which gives Canada the control of the offender's rehabilitation program and supervision after the offender has finished his or her sentence, rather than have the offender return to Canada unsupervised after finishing a sentence abroad.

To allow the minister such wide-ranging discretion to ignore criteria completely and to use his or her own subjective opinion as to the test for the criteria he or she does consider is wrong. It replaces an established law-based process with a politicized subjective process.

This is not the way to make wholesale changes to our criminal justice system. Before any changes like this are made, Parliament must study their effects. We owe it to Canadians. It is part of our job.

All indications are that the changes Conservatives want to make are the same mistakes that many state governments have made in the United States. We have seen this approach fail in the U.S. Many states are now repealing these laws, but the Conservatives seem determined to repeat mistakes made in the United States. We should be learning from our neighbour's mistakes, not repeating them.

Where does this leave us? What is the goal of this legislation? It would seem that effectiveness is not the goal. The goal seems to be stoking fears among Canadians and playing up those fears for political gain. A responsible approach for any large policy change would be to thoroughly study proposed changes and seek advice from experts. The Conservatives seem intent on refusing to do that and on ramming this through recklessly.

Why are they doing that? It has been mentioned in this place many times before. Key stakeholder after key stakeholder, expert after expert has spoken out against the kinds of legislation that the Conservatives are bringing forward. However, they will not talk about whether or not this will actually make our streets and communities any safer. They will not talk about how this initiative has been tried and has failed elsewhere. They will not talk about how much of a huge financial burden this will be on our economy and on Canadians.

It seems that many goals of this legislation are to score political points and play on fears. New Democrats have been clear about the approach we should be taking. We should be taking an approach that is based on evidence, that works in our communities, that hires more police officers, that is built on more than simply the outdated megaprison system. Most of all, we need an approach that is based on putting public safety first.

I urge the government to listen to experts. Earlier in question period we had the finance minister talking about how the government needs to listen to experts; I encourage the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public safety to listen to experts, to look at the evidence, to look at the cost, and at the very least to give this massive piece of legislation a proper study in Parliament.

We owe it to Canadians to be clear about the costs and to be clear about the effectiveness of this legislation. It will cost untold billions of dollars and will not make our streets any safer. This is not tough on crime and it is not smart on crime; it is wrong on crime.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say that as opposed to some of the other speeches that were given in the House, my colleague's speech is worthy of compliment. I think this is one of his first speeches in the House, and it was on subject matter that is very important to British Columbia. I want to compliment him also for doing giving his speech in what I thought was a respectful tone, which I think is helpful.

The thesis of his speech was that the government should do three things. First he said that we should have thoughtful study before we bring forward legislation. Well, we are halfway through our sixth year as a government, although of course only a couple of months into our majority mandate, and we have tabled this legislation in the past. It is legislation that has been debated thoroughly in the House. In fact, it was a centrepiece of our election campaign platform, and Canadians had an opportunity to have input during the campaign. I can say that after five and a half years, this subject has been studied, and it is indeed time to act.

He said that the government should propose changes. In fact, we are proposing changes. We are proposing changes that we presented to the Canadian people, and the Canadian people have given us a mandate.

He also said we should seek advice. We have sought advice. I have to point out to those Canadians who are watching that what we are doing in this legislation is precisely what we told Canadians we would do if we were entrusted with a majority government. This is what we said we would do, and we are going to do it.

If we were to break up this legislation, as the leader of the Green Party says, she would ask why we were breaking up legislation and say that we were breaking our word with Canadians. If we were to consider a battery of amendments that would slow down the process, the NDP and the opposition would ask why we were not acting and why we were slowing down the process.

What we have done here is what we said we would do if we were elected. It is the right and appropriate thing to do. The opposition is more than free, obviously, to make its case and to propose amendments at committee, but we are going to move forward, because that is what we said we would do.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am a new member to the House. Frankly, over the last number of months and the last couple of years I have read about speaker after speaker and expert after expert talking about this bill and the crime agenda for the Harper government. It failed in the United States. It did not work. In fact, the United States is repealing most of the tough-on-crime laws that were implemented back in the 1980s and 1990s.

To spend billions and billions of dollars on prisons does not make sense to me. Maybe it does to my partners across the aisle, but it does not make sense to me, and I do not think it makes sense to Canadians. I think we need to invest in education. We need to invest in health care. That is where the priority should be. The priority should be jobs.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage mentioned that the member is free to oppose this legislation. I would like to put forward that if we follow democracy to its logical extent, he is in fact mandated to oppose it, as he received the majority of votes in his riding.

Regarding mandatory minimum issues, how does he feel that mandatory minimums in this case will not be able to make the community safe as a stand-alone tool in the toolbox of devices used to help curtail crime and to help victims?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard this from my Conservative colleagues not only today but many times. They have talked about how they are standing up for victims and how they get behind victims.

The mandatory minimum sentence for marijuana is more than that prescribed for child rape. How is that standing up for victims? That is troubling to me. Members across the aisle need to look at this. How is that standing up for victims?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, it struck me during one of the first speeches in the House by the member for Surrey North that his speech had a common sense to it, a balance of what we should be talking about in the House.

The point he just raised is so troubling. When we pause to think about it, we see that the mandatory minimums for marijuana are more than for child rape. Someone somewhere in the government did not take a good solid look at what the Conservatives were about to do. I would like to hear the member's views on their lack of common sense, which I would suggest is not necessarily common on the other side of the House.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am the father of two children. I have a 15-year-old and a 5-year-old and I am very concerned that the government proposes a longer sentence for a marijuana offence than it does for the rape of a child. That is troubling to me, as well as the whole concept of where the government is going in regard to how many billions it is going to cost. In the United States it has almost brought a number of states to bankruptcy, and they are reversing much of the tough-on-crime legislation introduced in the 1980s and 1990s. We need to learn from our neighbours and not repeat those mistakes.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the member for Surrey North to the House and congratulate him on his position as critic for the official opposition on public safety.

I was troubled by his speech. He talked several times about the so-called U.S. failed system and how sending more people to jail does nothing to deter crime or protect citizens. If he truly believes that, if he truly believes that sending more people to jail does nothing to protect society, he must believe that no one should be sent to jail.

Is that his position? If jail is so ineffective as a crime deterrent, does he subscribe to the notion that no one should be sent to jail?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly the premise of the question is absolutely wrong.

We believe people should be punished for crimes that are committed, but the punishment must fit the crime. We must look at it in a little bit bigger context. We cannot just narrowly focus on setting minimums. It is very troubling when a minimum sentence for marijuana use is longer than for the rape of a child. That is very troubling to me.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech. He talked about crime, the drug problems that exist in his community, and street gangs. He also spoke very clearly about the ineffectiveness of the harsh legislative measures that have been taken in other countries to try to reduce crime. Those measures have not worked.

I wonder if he could give us some examples of measures that he believes would be more effective in reducing crime and recidivism.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of ways corrective measures have been put into place.

We can have better programs in the prisons to help rehabilitate prisoners so that when they do come out, they are better able to integrate into society more productively.

We need to have better programs for our children and our youth, and more programs in schools. These programs would keep our youth from hanging out at the local 7-Eleven stores or from being recruited by local gang members. We need recreation programs for our kids so that they would not only have a healthy life but would also be able to stay away from criminal activities.

Certainly there are many things that can be done in order to have safer communities

However, this approach by the Conservative government, this tough-on-crime approach, has not worked anywhere in the world. In fact, anywhere it has been tried, they have been repealing those laws. They are getting rid of them and focusing more on youth and more on preventative programs.

In Texas alone there were 21 youth detention centres. Can we guess what happened? They have now reduced that number to about five or six. That is clearly the right approach, and they have saved billions of dollars in prison costs.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2011 / 5:40 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today to speak at second reading of Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

As many of my colleagues know, this government committed to introducing once again—yes, once again—any law and order bills that died on the order paper at the dissolution of the 40th Parliament.

The proposed changes aim, for example, to protect children from sexual crimes, to clarify ineligibility for conditional sentences and pardons, and to protect other vulnerable members of our society.

With all that in mind, the bill before us constitutes a comprehensive bill incorporating all the changes previously proposed in nine separate bills introduced during the previous parliament.

The first part of the bill—clauses 2 to 9—contains the changes suggested in the former Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Part 2 contains clauses 10 to 51 of the bill, which include the amendments found in former bills C-54, the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, which was designed to protect children from sexual predators and certain sexual offences; C-16 , the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act, intended to limit the use of conditional sentences; and S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, to increase sentences for serious drug-related offences.

Part 3—clauses 52 to 166—includes measures to increase the accountability of offenders, eliminate pardons for serious crimes and modify the factors considered in the international transfer of Canadian offenders. These amendments were contained in former bills C-39, the Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; C-23B, the Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; C-59, the Abolition of Early Parole Act; and C-5, the Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act.

Part 4 of the bill—clauses 167 to 204—amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better protect Canadians against violent young offenders. These amendments were included in former Bill C-4 , Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders).

The last part of the bill—clauses 205 to 207—proposes amendments contained in former Bill C-56, the Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act, that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to protect workers who want to work in Canada and are at risk of being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation.

In particular, I would like to elaborate on clause 34 of Part 2 of the bill, which seeks to curtail the use of conditional sentences for some property crimes and other serious crimes.

As I mentioned earlier, these amendments were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-16, which died on the order paper with the dissolution of the third session of the 40th Parliament. However, there are some technical differences, which I will discuss later.

Currently, under the Criminal Code, conditional sentencing, sometimes referred to as house arrest, can be imposed when an offence is not punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence and the court hands down a prison sentence of less than two years.

In fact, since December 2007, conditional sentences have no longer been available for indictable offences with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more in the case of serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences or organized crime offences.

What is more, the court imposing a conditional sentence has to be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community will not jeopardize the safety of the community and that the sentence is consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing.

It is important to note that the fundamental purpose of sentencing, as set out in section 718 of the Criminal Code, is to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives: to denounce unlawful conduct; to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences; to separate offenders from society, where necessary; to assist in rehabilitating offenders; to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community; and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.

The Criminal Code also informs us that a just sanction is a sanction that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. To achieve this, the courts take into consideration aggravating and mitigating factors in each case. Before describing the key aspects of the proposed changes, I want to provide some background on the provisions in the Criminal Code on conditional sentences.

Conditional sentencing came into effect in 1996, when the government wanted, among other things, to reduce excessive use of incarceration for less serious crimes. I repeat: less serious crimes. Moreover, the information document that accompanied these sentencing reforms states that the addition of conditional sentencing as a new form of sentencing means that offenders who have committed a less serious crime and who otherwise would be incarcerated can serve their sentence in the community under close supervision.

The limits that I mentioned earlier were established in order to guarantee that conditional sentences could be given only for less serious crimes, in keeping with the fundamental principles and purpose of sentencing. However, in the years following the creation of this type of sentencing, there has been a complete lack of consistency when it comes to determining when conditional sentencing is appropriate.

At the time, many court decisions gave a conditional sentence for serious and violent crimes. This contributed to the public's loss of faith in the justice system. Clearly, many people, and some provinces and territories, wondered whether the limits on conditional sentencing set out in the Criminal Code were sufficient.

In order to deal with this lack of consistency in conditional sentencing, this government introduced Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) on May 4, 2006. This bill proposed the elimination of conditional sentencing for any indictable offence with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more. However, Bill C-9 was amended by the opposition parties to limit the ban on conditional sentencing to indictable offences with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more that constitute serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences or criminal organization offences. These amendments took effect on December 1, 2007.

The definition of serious personal injury was developed in the context of dangerous offenders, which is why this definition is found in part 24 of the Criminal Code. According to this definition, serious personal injury offences include any indictable offence, other than high treason, treason, first degree murder or second degree murder—punishable by at least 10 years in prison—involving the use or attempted use of violence against another person, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person.

The second part of this definition is clearer, as it lists sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault as serious personal injury offences.

It is important to understand that the opposition parties borrowed a term straight from the dangerous offender regime in order to put limits on a sentence that should only be applied to less dangerous offenders. That created two philosophical approaches for interpreting the definition of serious personal injury in the context of conditional sentencing.

Another issue with the definition of serious personal injury is that it only targets violent offences. The definition of serious personal injury cannot ensure that a conditional sentence will not be used in the case of serious fraud or theft over $5,000.

The amendments in this bill will ensure that certain non-violent serious offences will still be treated as serious offences, thus avoiding the use of conditional sentencing. The amendments to the conditional sentencing regime proposed in this bill aim to establish clear benchmarks to allow for consistent use of conditional sentencing in order to respect Parliament's intention when it created this sentence.

That is why the bill proposes eliminating the reference to serious personal injury offences and restricting the availability of conditional sentences for all offences for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life.

The same will apply to indictable offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment when they result in bodily harm, involve the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs or involve the use of weapons.

When an offence is committed under these circumstances, it is even more important to deter the offender and denounce the crime. This justifies restricting the availability of conditional sentences in such cases. It is possible however that the limits I just described do not cover all offences prosecuted by way of indictment and punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Therefore, the bill also proposes limiting the availability of conditional sentences for prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, abduction of a person under 14, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling-house, being unlawfully in a dwelling-house, and arson for fraudulent purpose.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, there are technical differences between the changes proposed in this bill and those contained in the former Bill C-16.

For example, Bill C-16 proposed the abolition of conditional sentencing for the offence of luring a child, described in section 172.1. This is no longer on the list of offences that would not be eligible for conditional sentencing, since article 22 of this bill proposes a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year in the case of an indictable offence, or 90 days in the case of a summary conviction.

Another change from Bill C-16 is that the list of offences that are no longer eligible for conditional sentence includes the new offence of motor vehicle theft, described in section 333.1 of the Criminal Code.

The final change would correct an error that slipped into Bill C-16. That bill did not include the offence of abduction of a person under 14 by a parent or guardian. The intent was, however, to target the offence described in section 281 of the Criminal Code, which has to do with the abduction of a person under 14 by a stranger.

I want to reassure my colleagues that even though the reference in section 742.1 to serious personal injury offences is set to be eliminated, the changes in this bill will ensure that those who are convicted of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault will not be eligible if prosecuted by way of indictment.

Note also that conditional sentencing will no longer be available for persons convicted of sexual assault against a person 16 or under since clause 25 of the bill proposes a minimum sentence of one year when the offence is prosecuted by way of indictment, and 90 days on summary conviction.

This government is addressing the concerns of Canadians who no longer want to see conditional sentences used for serious crimes, whether they are violent crimes or property crimes.

For the reasons I have just mentioned, I urge my fellow members of this House to unanimously support the proposed changes to the conditional sentencing system.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments.

He said that the government is very attentive to Canadians' concerns, but we already know that this bill will cost us billions of dollars that could be invested in the education or health care systems. I think that the government is not very attentive to what is actually of concern to Canadians.

We know that this bill will criminalize and target the people who are already the most marginalized in society, such as youth and people with mental illness. We also know that the first nations represent 10.8% of the population of Canada but 18% of the population of federal prisons.

I would like to hear the hon. member's reaction to these figures, and I would like to know why he wants to pass a bill that will increase the overrepresentation of first nations people in federal prisons.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.

Certainly, many people who pass through in the penal system may not have the same mental capacity as an ordinary Canadian citizen. However, methods of defence are available for people who lack this capacity. In addition, it is important to remember that, as painful as it may be for the person who is incarcerated, the prison system has rehabilitation programs. In many cases, the problems that people in the system have were not identified at a young age. It is often once they enter the penal system that they are diagnosed with mental or other problems. In such cases, it is always possible to transfer them to another centre that can help them to become more productive members of society.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, for a number of years I was the justice critic in the province of Manitoba. When Ottawa makes changes and brings in legislation, quite often it has a profound impact in terms of the budgets at the local and provincial levels governments. That impact is fairly profound on this bill. We have had great difficulty in terms of trying to come to grips with just how much Bill C-10 will cost the taxpayers and how much money the provinces will have to come forward with in order to compensate the bill.

When I was the critic, I was always pretty gung-ho on wanting to prevent crimes from happening. That meant taking those scarce resources and trying to invest them so that little Johnny, as opposed to getting involved in a gang activity, would be involved in a school activity.

Does the parliamentary secretary have a sense of how much money this will cost the different types of jurisdictions, or can he take this as notice and provide us information on how much, for example, it would cost the province of Manitoba to implement Bill C-10?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I was elected on May 2 and I am not aware, of the hundreds and hundreds of pages that were tabled, of the cost of these systems. I know, in speaking to the hon. minister, that there has been much co-operation between the provinces and the federal government. In fact, many of these bills have been on the order paper and have been debated. The provinces have asked for them to be put in place because they also want their streets to be protected.

I am sure the provinces could perhaps provide a more detailed look at what the cost would be. It appears from their willingness to co-operate that they are more than willing to see these measures put in place so that they, like us, will stand up for Canadians and protect them.

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6 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues missing from this debate thus far is the issue of judges and their ability to make rulings and judgments. When mandatory sentencing is present, a lot of the discretionary power that judges have is taken out of their hands.

One of the reasons our justice system works as well as it does is because judges do have discretion. There will be many situations where we must remember that these are actual people appearing before judges and not pieces of paper or machines. Judges need to have that discretion.

Would the member like to make a comment about that issue?

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6 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly a very relevant question, which was canvassed at length by the Canadian Bar Association and on which it focused.

However, in our role as parliamentarians, we fix maximum sentences, we fix minimum sentences and we give guidance to the courts as to what is appropriate and which crimes are determined to be more heinous than perhaps others. We dictate the severity.

I do not remember the exact year, but not long ago Parliament abolished the death penalty. That was our call as well. Yes, there is a spectrum, but it is Parliament's call to give the courts guidance on where the crime fits with respect to the question of severity.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the honourable member point the House, in any way, shape or form, to a scintilla of evidence that shows that minimum mandatories actually contribute to the reduction of crime or repetition of crime?

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6 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is very simple. Once one is in jail, one certainly does not commit crimes. That is the way in which our streets and our citizens are protected.

There are two types of dissuasion. There is general dissuasion and there is specific dissuasion. Specific dissuasion is particularly important upon repeat offenders. The sentence is upped, it is made more severe each step of the way and there is no vacation when criminals are in jail. They are not committing crimes or stealing cars.

From the point of view of general deterrence as it relates the question of the issue of the drug bill, we have people flying from Seattle because they would rather be caught in Canada for a drug-related offence because there is no sentence. People who deal with drugs in Canada will go to jail. The people of Canada have spoken on that and that is what we are standing up for. We walk the walk and talk the talk.

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6 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague about the logic he has presented in the House, that basically because young people are overlooked, there are no resources to diagnose or address mental illness, offenders go to jail and their mental illness is addressed there.

It seems to me that this is an argument for prevention and investing in resources, which has not happened in our country. The Conservative government has been as guilty as any government in terms of undermining any ability to address the problem of mental illness among Canadians and Canadian youth.

Perhaps the hon. member can square the circle for me and explain how building more jail and investing more in incarceration will help, while at the same time rehabilitation and efforts to help people with mental illness have been reduced over and over again.

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6 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, as I noted, oftentimes issues are identified at a very late stage and many of the entry points where issues of mental problems or perhaps difficulties in coherence are identified are in provincial areas such as schools, in social services and various ports of entry in provincial jurisdictions. Certainly there is work to be done between the federal government and the provincial jurisdictions to identify these issues early. I am sure that in the future we will be willing to work hand in hand with them.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the parliamentary secretary's comments on deterrence.

Before I came to this chamber, I spent 20 years working in the area of criminal justice, where it is very well known that deterrence that actually works is based on the certainty and the swiftness of detection and prosecution.

Why does the government insist on trying to work at the other end of the system where deterrence does not work, rather than investing resources into prosecution and police officers on the street, which actually does have a deterrent effect?

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6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a perfect answer, but I do know that violent criminals who are in jail do not commit crimes against law-abiding citizens, and that is who we are standing up for.