This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I have seen nothing in the bill that would relieve the congestion for those involved in the legal process. This is an important aspect to consider and it would be respectful of everyone, including victims. As long as this is not resolved, and the legal system cannot handle the overload, the victims also suffer as they wait for the outcome of legal proceedings. My colleague brought up an excellent point. The bill tabled by our colleagues on the other side makes absolutely no mention of this.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the Conservative member of Parliament posed a question, asking “Have you read?”

I have a similar “have you read” question. This came from the Winnipeg Free Press. It was actually a columnist from Vancouver who had written it. The headline reads: “The Prime Minister gets tougher on pot growers than child rapists”.

I would ask if the member has read this in the article:

A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him, or a pervert exposing himself to kids at a playground, would receive a minimum 90-day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing six pot plants in his own home.

I am not sure if the member read it. I believe it to be true. Would the member agree that this is a true assessment that was written not by a member of Parliament but a columnist from Vancouver?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not completely follow. I was asked to comment on this journalist's column. We are talking about a bill that sets out more severe penalties for certain minor drug production cases than some other cases. I want to make something clear. I am the father of three young children, and I would immediately agree to crack down more severely on any crime related to pedophilia. The rest of the bill is not balanced. The fact that a small producer would have a sentence twice that of someone who sexually abused a minor is simply unacceptable. I hope that is what my colleague was asking.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion: That the provisions of 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 with respect to the youth criminal justice system, and consisting of clauses 169, 174 and 186, do compose Bill C-10B; that the remaining provisions of Bill C-10 do compose Bill C-10A; that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary. That Bill C-10A and Bill C-10B be reprinted; and that Bill C-10B be deemed to have been read the first time and be printed, deemed read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment and deemed read the third time and passed.

There are two parts to the bill. One is with regard to the young offenders part of the bill. It implements recommendations that we received from a number of the provinces as well as prohibiting the housing of young offenders with adults. That is one part.

The second part is with regard to the former Pardons Act, which would allow for the extension of the length of time that a person would have to wait to get a pardon. It is a principled stance on our part. It is a practical approach to resolving issues that are of unanimous consent, I believe, within the House.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

There is no unanimous consent.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Brampton West.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

September 28th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act.

The bill would fulfill the government's commitment in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne to bundle and quickly reintroduce crime bills that died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved for the general election.

Integral to this commitment, as articulated in the Speech from the Throne, are two key statements that I want to quote because I think they give voice to what all Canadians firmly believe.

First:

The Government of Canada has no more fundamental duty than to protect the personal safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security.

Second:

Our government has always believed the interests of law-abiding citizens should be placed ahead of those of criminals. Canadians who are victimized or threatened by crime deserve their government's support and protection--

In my view, this precisely characterizes Bill C-10. It packages nine former bills that, collectively, recognize and seek to protect our vulnerabilities; for example, children's vulnerability to being preyed upon by adult sexual predators, foreign workers' vulnerability to being exploited by unscrupulous Canadian employers, and our collective vulnerability to suffering the harms that go hand in hand with serious drug crimes, such as drug trafficking, production and acts of terrorism.

Knowing this, and knowing as well that many of these reforms have been previously debated, studied and passed by at least one chamber, there is no reason not to support Bill C-10 in this Parliament.

Bill C-10 is divided into five parts.

Part 1 proposes to deter terrorism by supporting victims. It would create a new cause of action for victims of terrorism to enable them to sue not only the perpetrators of terrorism but all those who support 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.

The State Immunity Act would be amended to remove immunity from those states that the government has listed as supporters of terrorism. These amendments were previously proposed and passed by the Senate in the form of Bill S-7, justice for victims of terrorism act, in the previous session of Parliament. They are reintroduced in Bill C-10, with technical changes to correct grammatical and cross-reference errors.

Part 2 proposes to strengthen our existing responses to child exploitation and serious drug crimes, as well as serious violent and property crimes. It would better protect children against sexual abuse in several ways, including by uniformly and strongly condemning all forms of child sex abuse through the imposition of newer and higher mandatory minimum penalties, as well as creating new core powers to impose conditions to prevent suspected or convicted child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate or further their sexual offences against children.

These reforms are the same as they were in former Bill C-54, protecting children from sexual predators act, with the addition of proposed increases to the maximum penalty for four offences and corresponding increases in their mandatory minimum penalities to better reflect the particularly heinous nature of these offences.

Part 2 also proposes to specify that conditional sentences of imprisonment, often referred to as house arrest, are never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life, for offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, trafficking and production of drugs or that involve the use of a weapon, or for listed serious property and violent offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that are prosecuted by indictment.

These reforms were previously proposed in former Bill C-16, ending house arrest for property and other serious crimes by serious violent offenders act which had received second reading in this House and was referred to the justice committee when it died on the order paper.

It is in the same form as before with, again, a few technical changes that are consistent with the objectives of the bill as was originally introduced.

Part 2 also proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to impose mandatory minimum sentences for serious offences involving production and/or possession for the purposes of trafficking and/or importing and exporting and/or possession for the purpose of exporting Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and Schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.

These mandatory minimum penalties would be imposed where there is 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.

This is the fourth time that these amendments have been introduced. They are in the same form as they were the last time when they were passed by the Senate as former Bill S-10, Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, in the previous Parliament.

Part 3 proposes numerous post-sentencing reforms to better support victims and to increase offender accountability and management. Specifically, it reintroduces reforms previously contained in three bills from the previous Parliament: Bill C-39, Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; Bill C-5, Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act; and Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Bill C-10 reintroduces these reforms with some technical changes.

Part 4 reintroduces much needed reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better deal with violent and repeat young offenders. Part 4 includes reforms that would ensure the protection of the public is always considered a principle in dealing with young offenders and that will make it easier to detain youth charged with serious offences pending trial.

These reforms were also previously proposed in former Bill C-4, Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders).

Part 5 proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to better protect foreign workers against abuse and exploitation. Their reintroduction in Bill C-10 reflects the fifth time that these reforms have been before Parliament, with the last version being former Bill C-56, Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act.

In short, Bill C-10 proposes many needed and welcome reforms to safeguard Canadians. Many have already been supported in the previous Parliament and Canadians are again expecting us to support them in this Parliament.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, Mr. Peter Blaikie, who is a very distinguished Canadian lawyer and founder of the law firm Heenan Blaikie in Montreal and a former president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, wrote an article earlier this year in August. He said:

More specifically, mandatory minimum sentences, by imposing a straitjacket on judges, limit their ability to differentiate as regards the same offence with respect to what might be completely different circumstances. Judges are human and might on occasion err; however, they are highly educated and highly trained, far better equipped to determine appropriate sentences than our members of Parliament.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he feels that he knows better than people who are trained in that way or better than Peter Blaikie.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I fundamentally disagree with the premise that our justice initiatives are not in the best interests of Canadians. My friend can quote whoever he wants to quote but I will quote from people who matter. These are victims of crime. It reads:

The Prime Minister is to be lauded for following through on his 2008 and 2011 election platform promises to bring this measure forward. Having just marked the tenth anniversary of that terrible day, I believe this decennial year is a truly appropriate time to enact this measure which will help frame this government’s legacy as an unyielding foe to terror and a stalwart advocate of its victims.

This was said by C-CAT co-founder Maureen Basnicki, whose husband was murdered on 9/11. These are the people for whom we are enacting this legislation. We will stand up for victims of crime. I do not understand why the members opposite want to stand and quote people who have no interest in talking about this crime agenda.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, that is an interesting comment. I wonder if the member could actually speak up for the disproportionate numbers of aboriginal peoples who are incarcerated.

An article in the Toronto Star on February 20, indicated that there was a bleak link between poverty and incarceration. While aboriginals, many mired in poverty, represent 4% of Canada's population, they make up almost 20% of those in federal prisons.

I could, of course, quote from any number of articles that talk about the importance of preventive programs and working to keep people out of the prison population, and that includes adequate housing, health care, education, drinking water and the list goes on and on.

I wonder if the member could comment about his government's plans to do something about prevention.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague's question was not particularly what I was talking about. We are talking about introducing legislation to protect Canadians from crime and to support victims of crime.

We do have an aboriginal justice strategy in place that we are working on and working very hard to implement.

However, I want to talk to the people who support this legislation. I will give the House another quote:

Whether it is by keeping dealers and producers off the streets and out of business, or by serving as a deterrent to potential dealers, this proposed legislation will help our members in doing their jobs and keeping our communities safe. In simple terms, keep these criminals in jail longer, and you take away their opportunity to traffic in drugs.

Who said that? It was President Tom Stamatakis of the Canadian Police Association. That is who we are standing up for and we are thrilled to have his support.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the hon. member's thoughts on the war on drugs. In the United States, cracking down on the traffickers is a total failure: there have never been more drugs around.

How can the hon. member claim that the way to deal with the traffickers is to impose harsher sentences, when that approach has failed everywhere else? I do not understand his logic.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend is talking about what has happened in the United States. It is interesting that whenever members opposite want to talk about our legislation, they just blindly suggest that we are following the American model.

I have another quote for the House:

Mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes will help in our fight against organized crime in the trafficking and production of drugs.

...keep these criminals in jail longer, and you take away their opportunity to traffic in drugs.

Who said that? That was said Charles Morny, president of the Canadian Police Association October, 2010.

Those are the kinds of people whose support we are happy to have. The members opposite can quote whoever they want but we are standing up for Canadians and police forces.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to today's debate on Bill C-10, which deals with crime.

I will first look at the context in which this bill is being introduced.

I will look at the crime rates. What is happening with the crime rates? They are dropping, and they have been dropping for a long time, as a matter of fact.

What is happening with the violent crime rates? They are also dropping and they have been dropping for a long time.

What about the intensity of crime? That has also been dropping.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Unemployment rates are going up.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Meanwhile unemployment rates, as my colleague, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, points out, have been going up.

On July 21 of this year, Statistics Canada released this information stating:

The national crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 20 years and is now at its lowest level since 1973.

In that circumstance, what might the government invest in? What would it decide to put its resources into? It could put its resources into health, but it is not doing that. It could put the money into education, but we are not seeing that. It could put an emphasis on putting funds into innovation to make our economy strong, but we do not see it. It could put funding into crime prevention.

However, what the government does instead is it puts a number in the window on a budget and says that it will spend this much on crime prevention and ends up spending far less in reality. That is where the government's priorities are.

We know the government is not interested in the crime rates in the same way that it is not interested in data or scientific information when it comes to the census, which we all saw what happened there, when it comes to climate change and in so many other areas. In fact. the government's attitude is that it wants Canadians to be very afraid and to believe they need this kind of an agenda.

Of course we should be striving to lower crime rates because that is a good thing, and it is good that it has been happening, but is building more prisons the answer? The government is already spending a lot more money on programs that do not work and a lot more money on prisons.

In fact, let us compare what has happened in the last few years. In 2005-06, the last year of the Liberal government, $1.6 billion were spent on the correctional service. By 2011-12, this year, that number has gone up from $1.6 billion to $2.98 billion, an increase of 86%. The forecast that we have already seen, and there is more coming because of this bill, is that by 2013-14, it will be $3.15 billion, an increase of over 100%. That is just based on the changes that have been made so far, not including what is in this bill.

This bill is an amalgamation of nine previous bills, many of which this party previously offered to fast-track and move forward. However, the government did not want to do that. It wanted to play games. In fact, some of the bills were brought in and then it prorogued Parliament and tried to blame the other parties for not moving the bills forward. What a ridiculous strategy.

Meanwhile, we have the work of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a person who was hand-picked by the Prime Minister, chosen by the government, selected to do the job, an important job, of assisting members of Parliament in assessing bills being brought forward, assessing what the government is telling us about finances, and telling us whether it is accurate or not.

The fact is that the Parliamentary Budget Officer told us that just one of the government bills would add $5 billion to the taxpayers' burden. That is the one bill that he could information from the government about. It would not give him information about the other bills.

We need to remember that we are talking about this bill amalgamating nine bills entirely, not just one. We are hearing that will cost, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, somewhere between $10 billion and $15 billion, although it is difficult to say since the government will not share information.

This is, after all, the biggest spending government in Canadian history. This is the government that has increased spending since it came into office by 35%. It increased spending by 18% in its first three years. That was before the recession began.

Members on this side will recall that the recession did not start until the fall of 2008. However, in April and May 2008, the government was already in deficit because of its high spending.

That is an important point. The money was spent for gazeboes, steamboats and $90,000 a day consultants to do the jobs of highly paid, highly skilled civil servants.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, this debate is on Bill C-10. We have now had about four minutes on the state of our economy and what a great job the Liberal government was doing years ago. Could we get this back on track?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sure the hon. member will be making his point.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, that is very timely. I have finished the part of my speech regarding the context of this legislation, the finances of the country, and where the Conservative government chooses to spend money.

Yesterday, an article in the Globe and Mail stated:

Correctional Services Canada’s overall budget for the current fiscal year of 2011-12 is projected to be $514.2-million, or 20.8 per cent, higher than the year before.

It is clearly higher than the minister's estimates.

What do we have after six years of this kind of agenda from the government? We have overcrowded prisons. What is the result? The result is more crime in prisons. Corrections Canada officials who appeared before the government operations committee on which I was sitting last spring told us about the problems caused by double-bunking in their facilities and how it is creating a more dangerous work environment for them. We see this in places like the Dartmouth jail in my province of Nova Scotia. As we have seen in other places, the result of this is more reoffending.

The bills the government has already passed are imposing costs on the provinces as well. That is an important point. They have to build more correctional centres. They are seeing fewer plea bargains because of mandatory minimum sentences. Defence lawyers are not willing to bargain because there is nothing to bargain for. They cannot bargain down a minimum sentence. We are seeing more trials as a result, more backlogs and longer pretrial remands. Most of these costs are falling on the provinces.

For example, there is a section in Bill C-10 that would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. In that part of the bill, 16 minimum mandatory sentences have been created, and the maximum of two years less a day or less is left alone. In other words, that person stays in provincial custody. The cost of these additional sentences and the additional number of people who will be imprisoned is on the province.

Those are the facts. That is important data. However, the government is not interested in that kind of information.

Under this legislation, if a young person at university has a prescription for Tylenol 3 and he or she passes one of those pills to a sick friend, that young person could go to jail for two years.

Where is the evidence to show that shovelling billions of dollars into the prison system would make us safer? Safer streets are mentioned in the bill's title. Therefore, that should be the number one question. Would this legislation make our streets safer? All the evidence indicates no.

The philosopher George Santayana once said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.

Let us look at what has happened elsewhere in the past.

The U.S. is the best example of a place with high incarceration rates. These methods have been tried and have proven to be disastrous there. Its prisons are collapsing under their own weight. The U.S. incarceration rate is now 700% higher per capita than Canada's. Its violent crime rates are far higher than Canada's. For every 100,000 Canadians, Canada has had two murders, whereas the U.S. has had five. For every 100,000 Canadians, Canada has had 89 robberies and the U.S. has had 145.

As my time is running out, I will wind up by urging members to vote against this legislation.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened to my friend with interest. The members on that side put a lot of stock on the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That is fine.

However, a study came out today showing that out of 15 particular cases where the PBO had rendered an opinion, he was right four times. When the Minister of Finance or someone on this side of the House rendered an opinion they were right nine times. They agreed on two of them. I throw that out as an observation.

There was a lot of rhetoric from those members stating that anyone who grows six pot plants would be thrown into jail when in fact that is not what the legislation says. Would the member not admit that who we are really after are the people who grow it to traffic and export it? Would the member at least admit that is actually the intent of the bill?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, first let me speak about the challenges the Parliamentary Budget Officer faces. He was appointed by the government and given the job of reporting to Parliament and advising us as parliamentarians so we can do our constitutional job of voting on spending. However, the government refuses to give that person the tools and information he needs to do his job.

Now government members are complaining that he is not doing a good enough job when they will not give him the information to do it. I think it was Yeltsin who said that he wished he had just one economist instead of 10,000 because they all have different views. Because economists have different views, they will have different outcomes. However, I think we can recognize that when it comes to the cost of the bills the government has been wrong. The numbers show that already. The numbers are out to lunch. They are way over what had been projected.

When it comes to the government's intention, the fact is that members on this side of the House have offered a number of times to fast track the parts of the bill that we agree with. However, there are other parts that are very problematic and the government fails to recognize that.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, at the beginning of my colleague's speech he spoke about the declining statistical trends in the crime rate. I take the point about the absurdity of this bill in the context of declining crime rates. However, it seems to me too that good policy is good policy and good legislation is good legislation.

I wonder if the member would feel any differently about the contents of this bill were crime rates actually rising.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, it is important to examine the context of what the government is doing in the situation and where it is putting its priorities. The member makes an excellent point as to whether we would feel differently if crime rates were rising. It makes sense to focus on and choose to invest particular attention in this area. We want to see a reduction in crime rates. However, that is happening already.

The question is not so much whether one would use these measures. One could invest in other ways. In fact, the measures in this bill are not well calculated toward reducing crime. In the U.S. it has resulted in an increase in crime and more victims. How do we improve the situation for victims if there are more of them due to more crime and a silly agenda that does not work?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, earlier the member for Halifax West put a question relating to Peter Blaikie in reference to Maureen Basnicki's gratitude for the bill. As a member of Parliament, I would also vote for the portion of this bill relating to terrorism if it were made separate. I wonder if the member for Halifax West feels the same way. Maureen Basnicki's quote had nothing to do with the question raised.