House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was force.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from September 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-370, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-370 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #460

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from September 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-309, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (concealment of identity), as reported (with amendment) from the committee be concurred in.

Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, noting the great co-operation we received earlier regarding unanimous consent of the House, I want to reach across the aisle in the hope that all parties would seek to protect the citizens of our cities from those who would riot and hide their faces while doing so. Therefore, I am asking for unanimous consent on this motion.

Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I do not get the sense that there is unanimous consent.

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in Bill C-309 at report stage under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #461

Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private member's business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-350. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2012 / 6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-350, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 0 on page 0 to line 6 on page 2 with the following:

“result of an order for maintenance, alimony or family financial support”

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-350, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 6 and 7 on page 2 with the following:

“result of an order made by a court of competent jurisdiction requiring the payment of support in respect of a child, spouse or person who cohabited with the offender in a conjugal relationship for a period of at least one year;”

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to propose an amendment to the wording of the bill as it relates to spousal and child support payments. As currently drafted, the wording found in clause 2 leaves the bill open to interpretation due to the narrow definition of spouse in the French language. While the word spouse applies to both married and common-law couples in English, the corresponding French word only applies to those who are married. As a result, the courts may determine that common-law spouses are not eligible to receive payments under the bill, which was certainly not its original intent.

In order to clarify this section of the bill, I propose a new text for clause 2 that would now read, “any amount owing by the offender as a result of an order for maintenance, alimony or family financial support”. With this change, we remove the focus on spouse and bring the bill in line with the language found in the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act. This ensures better consistency with both the federal and provincial laws.

I would ask all hon. members to accept this amendment to the bill.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The purpose of this bill is to make offenders accountable so that they fulfill their obligations to society by establishing an order of priority for the disbursement of any amounts received as a result of a court decision.

According to the bill introduced by my colleague opposite, the order of priority of disbursement of amounts will be received by an offender following a court decision. That order will be established as follows: any amount owing as a result of a spousal or child support order; any amount owing to a victim as a result of a restitution order; any victim surcharge; and any other amount owing as a result of a judgment awarded by a court. Any amount remaining after all payments have been made is paid to the offender.

The NDP supports this bill. We recognize the fact that it is important to enhance the accountability of offenders and that the idea of ensuring that offenders use the amounts received as a result of a court decision to fulfill their outstanding obligations is very good in principle.

However, we do not believe that this bill is the best approach for ensuring the accountability of offenders. In order to develop a sense of accountability, an offender must participate directly in decisions related to the payment of restitution to victims and other monetary decisions. The offender should therefore be involved in the process.

In meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we heard the testimony of experts who share our opinion. We therefore wonder whether this bill will really enhance the accountability of offenders and the rehabilitation process since it will affect very few offenders.

The accountability of offenders is an extremely important step in an offender's reintegration into the community. By imposing accountability on offenders, we could weaken their chances of reintegrating into society, which is why it is important to let the offender participate in monetary decisions.

The NDP advocates comprehensive rehabilitation programs that reduce recidivism. This will make our communities safer.

We have some concerns about this bill, which could have a negative effect on such rehabilitation and reintegration measures, given the limited resources available to offenders, particularly those who are serving short sentences.

Another concern we have about this bill relates to the lack of clarity regarding federal and provincial jurisdictions. In fact, the focus of the bill comes under provincial jurisdiction. In reality, the provinces have jurisdiction over contracts and related private law matters, including the order of priority of debts.

Unfortunately, we did not manage to get testimony in committee about the matters of constitutionality that could have helped us shed some light on the subject. I think that the help of constitutional experts would have been useful, in order to ensure that this bill is really something that falls under federal jurisdiction.

Despite these important questions that unfortunately went unanswered, the Conservatives refused to study this bill further, limiting the number of meetings to just four.

So we can understand that there are still a lot of questions and concerns about this bill.

We understand the good intentions behind Bill C-350, and we also understand the importance of offender accountability and rehabilitation.

Fortunately, we managed to get two major amendments by working with our colleagues from all the parties: one exempted from the bill funds received through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the other slightly reduced the responsibility of Correctional Service Canada for administering this bill by putting more emphasis on the measures taken by the creditors.

With this last measure, we can anticipate a decrease in red tape and move on to the implementation of Bill C-350.

So that the bill is consistent with the reality of a number of Quebec families, I would like to put forward an amendment, which reads as follows:

That Bill C-350, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 6 and 7 on page 2 with the following: “result of an order made by a court of competent jurisdiction requiring the payment of support in respect of a child, spouse or person who cohabited with the offender in a conjugal relationship for a period of at least one year;”

At present, Quebec's Civil Code does not allow common-law partners to request support payments for themselves, which is not the case in the rest of the country. This does not apply to the responsibility for child support, which is the same across the country, but only to spouses and common-law partners.

The issue was raised in the highly publicized case in Quebec of Lola versus Éric, which is pending. In November 2010, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Lola stating that the Quebec rules were discriminatory as they did not allow common-law partners to ask for support payments. The justices of the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that this section is unconstitutional and contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The issue of common-law partners affects 1.2 million Quebeckers.

According to the Quebec justice department, in the Quebec Civil Code, the legislator voluntarily decided to not give common-law partners the same rights and responsibilities as married couples or couples in a civil union, no matter how long they have lived together, in order to respect the decisions of those people who have chosen this form of cohabitation.

The Conservatives are clearly showing that they do not respect the differences that exist in Quebec concerning the rights of couples in a civil union or marriage and couples in a common-law relationship. In Quebec, 34.6% of couples are in a common-law relationship, which is a significant portion of the Quebec population. Yet, the Conservatives refuse to take this into account.

Fortunately, the NDP is here to ensure that Quebeckers are properly represented in the House of Commons. It is all too easy for the members opposite to forget that the Quebec Civil Code contains certain provisions that do not exist in other provinces.

Clause 2 of this bill, as it is currently written, prevents Quebeckers who have been living in a conjugal relationship for at least a year from receiving this money. Although the aim here is to make offenders accountable and ensure that they pay support payments for any children or spouse they have, this ignores a good portion of Quebec households and favours couples that are married or have civil unions, even though common-law partners in the rest of Canada would be entitled to this money.

In conclusion, I believe that this bill has good intentions regarding restitution for victims and holding offenders accountable. However, I still have a number of concerns regarding federal and provincial jurisdictions in relation to this bill, as well as its feasibility and effectiveness.

As the correctional investigator, Howard Sapers, pointed out to the committee, the issue raised by Bill C-350 is very important. Part of an offender's reintegration should include the repayment of debts to the best of his ability. However, Mr. Sapers expressed concern that the proposed approach would be both impractical and, unfortunately, ineffective.

It would have been good to examine this bill more carefully in committee, and to not have had just four meetings about this important bill, in order to eliminate concerns about jurisdiction and to address the issue even more directly, to ensure the offender directly participates in his reintegration process into society and to ensure that victims and families benefit.

It is very important to adopt my amendment so that this bill reflects the differences in Quebec that affect many Quebec families. I noticed that my colleague who introduced this bill also introduced a similar amendment. However, if we compare the two amendments, we can see that there are some differences. I would like each of my colleagues in this House to take the time to look carefully at the differences between the two amendments and to see that we must absolutely protect common-law spouses in Quebec.

As I mentioned, 1.2 million Quebeckers could unfortunately suffer. As I was saying, the amendment proposed by the Conservatives needs some clarification. Simply removing the reference to child or spouse causes a problem, since support orders can apply to people other than children and spouses. For example, in Ontario, they can apply to parents. Therefore, if the text is amended as such, the French version would not at all be the same as the English version.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to this bill. From the outset, I recognize the noble intention of the sponsor of this bill, the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. We can see a sincere desire to increase the accountability of those who have been found guilty of a crime against society. However, I feel that the bill applies to very rare and specific cases, but that does not mean that it is not commendable. It simply means that its impact on the prison population will be rather limited.

That being said, it will certainly bring some tangible assistance to an offender's family, for example. I look forward to studying the two proposed amendments. At first glance, those amendments seem very similar, but, according to the hon. member who just spoke, there are some rather significant differences. So I am going to examine the two amendments to try to draw the appropriate conclusions. We are all rowing in the same direction and we want the same thing. We just have to find the most effective way to reach our common goal.

Will the bill increase the accountability of offenders who have successfully taken legal action against the federal Crown for a crime they were a victim of and who have received an amount of money as compensation? Perhaps. There are always some small miracles in life, including in the prison system, I am sure. That is one of the two objectives of the bill. The bill seeks to help those who are victims of crime, both the victim of the act committed, and the person, for example, whose parent committed the crime, was sent to jail, and was thereby unable to provide for their spouse or children.

Generally speaking, making a human being accountable has to do with developing a sense of respect for other human beings. This starts with planting a seed that helps us recognize our responsibility for the well-being of another human being, often the well-being of a loved one. It is more of a journey than a one-time thing. It is a journey, a path that leads to having an open mind and a sense of duty; it can even lead to feeling satisfaction from helping another person.

As I said, that does not mean that an inmate required to give the amount received in compensation to one of his family members could not, all of a sudden, develop a sense of responsibility. This sense of responsibility is generally developed through programs given in Canadian penitentiaries. These programs are recognized worldwide. For decades, Canada has developed very effective inmate programs. These programs have been successful, according to experts not just in Canada but around the world, experts who have seen fit to adapt the programs in their own countries.

It is mainly through these programs that an inmate will develop a sense of responsibility. So we need to continue to focus on these programs, such as the CORCAN program, which everyone is familiar with. CORCAN is a business that reports to Correctional Services Canada and is run within the prisons themselves. This business builds cabinets and all kinds of very marketable things, which gives the inmates a sense of well-being and responsibility. So we need not to forget about these programs.

The purpose of the bill is obviously very noble, and it is a step in the right direction, but we need to continue to focus on rehabilitation through programs that are well-funded by the federal government.

A number of objections to the bill have been raised. For example, what happens if an offender wins his case against the Crown? He gets his money, the money goes to his family, and at some point in the future, it turns out the person was not guilty and was incarcerated for a crime he never committed. What happens then? Yes, the money would have been given to his family. That does not mean he wants the money back. Anyway, he would probably take the government to court and would probably get back the money that had been taken away after he was compensated the first time around. Practically speaking, I do not think that this is a problem even though the bill does not address this possibility.

However, it is possible that the bill could be struck down because it encroaches on provincial jurisdiction. We know that all matters relating to property, such as firearms management, fall under provincial jurisdiction. So there could be legal action at that level. Also, as we heard from one of the witnesses who appeared before the committee when we studied the bill, someone could try to have the legislation struck down because it involves expropriating the property of a Canadian citizen, even if that is done for a good cause. We will see whether the threat of that kind of lawsuit materializes.

That being said, the government must make absolutely sure that, when it creates a bill, that bill can stand up to attempts to strike it down based on the Constitution or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If not, we will see what we saw yesterday when, for the third time, a judge struck down a government crime bill because it was not drafted properly to begin with. In the long run, that could result in injustice.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, first let me commend the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for bringing this legislation forward in the House. He always works very hard for his constituents. He is one of the people who, after I was first elected, was very helpful in helping me better understand the role of a member of Parliament and how things work in this place.

This is a great bill that the people in my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham are very excited to have me support. It adds to the many great positive pieces of legislation that we have brought forward to protect Canadian families and individuals. It is another reason why Canadians know that they can put their faith in those of us on this side of the House to always look after the rights of hard-working, law-abiding Canadians.

The NDP has put forward an amendment and I want to say a couple of things on the record about that. I know that while the NDP amendment aims to reconcile the potential discrepancy in definition of a spouse between the French and English versions of the bill, I note that it is limited to only child, spouse and conjugal cohabitant support orders. The problem with this is that it may actually exclude other forms of family law orders established by provincial law, such as parental support.

The reason why the amendment by the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry is far superior is that it would achieve a better resolution. It relies on the language of existing federal legislation to make sure that this loophole is closed. I applaud the member for putting that amendment forward because that is what parliamentarians always try to do, to bring forward private member's legislation in the House. This government is very well known for consulting with and listening to Canadians and making sure we have the opportunity to truly respect the will of Canadians. We make the changes that are necessary to do that. I applaud the member for doing that.

The member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry's amendment would ensure better consistency with both federal and provincial laws. For those reasons, I cannot support the NDP's amendment and will be supporting the amendment by the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. I will take a quick moment to thank the hon. member for bringing this bill forward. It is very important and another example of how this government and members on this side of the House are working every single day to make sure our communities are protected. Hard-working, law-abiding Canadians can count on this government to make sure that we do everything possible to keep communities safe.

I will be supporting the amendment by the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry because of the things I have mentioned.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of our analysis of the bill currently before us, I would like to begin by discussing a certain angle that appears to form the basis of the Conservative media platform.

I must candidly admit that I tend to do a little cherry picking—that is, I pick and choose the files I wish to take on, depending on their legal flavour, because, I must admit, I sometimes miss practising law and arguing cases.

This file allows me to revisit my first love. It is important to understand that I am first and foremost a criminal lawyer, although I do not have a great deal of legal experience. I worked for a few years—two years—and a little more than two years for legal aid. During those years, I was called upon to handle several hundred cases, perhaps even a thousand in total. I would like to point out the elements that need to be brought to the attention of the general public, including the limited impact this kind of legislative initiative can have. I encountered this kind of situation only a couple of times in the context of my legal practice. Indeed, many Innu and Naskapi people—about 15,000—in my riding received compensation for the time they spent in residential schools. That is why these people had been detained and why they received that money. That is the only instance.

I mentioned the media platform. My experience in this House for a little over a year now has allowed me to form my own personal opinions, which tend to be reinforced every day. Often, the legislative and real-world initiatives proposed by the Conservatives are intended primarily to garner media attention. They want to win votes. These initiatives are usually designed to please a specific group of Canadians.

In this case, the Conservatives are trying to side with the victims—in a very obvious way, in my opinion—by trying to demonize the other side. They simply say that the New Democratic Party is siding with the criminals and the people who commit offences.

This is somewhat of a trend and we are seeing it again today. I would say that the legislation, as it stands right now, is rather ill-advised both factually and legally, since my argument—I will bring up some points during this speech—will show that this would contravene some well-established legal norms and principles that one learns in the early years of law school, for example, the non-seizability of money received in compensation for physical harm. That is some of what I will be discussing.

My argument will introduce the fact that this bill, which technically aims to increase the accountability of offenders—which is a valid point with a valid purpose—has little basis when it comes to Canadian reality.

I spoke about the uniqueness of my own riding. Chances are that not all ridings have a large aboriginal population. As a result, I do not think that this kind of case, the payment of money to a detainee as part of compensation for former students, is standard across the country.

A quick glance at the opinions held by a number of leading correctional experts highlights the uncertainty over the number of offenders who receive settlement funds as a result of a court ruling.

As I was saying, it is a special case. In my practice, I have handled hundreds of cases. I could perhaps recall three or four cases of clients who were detainees, including some who were serving federal sentences. They were incarcerated and only some clients received the money. That is rather marginal. I am not trying to say that the Conservatives are only focused on the recipients of this monetary amount, but I wanted to share this. I have not seen this type of situation a lot across the country, where an incarcerated individual is awarded money as a result of a ruling, regardless of where it is from—perhaps even compensation for victims of crime. This opinion is shared by a number of experts.

These are likely special cases that are few and far between. I read reports and opinions of experts in this regard. The Conservatives should have invested more time in seeking the opinions of experts in the field. Laudable goals have been mentioned by my colleagues; however, they were poorly advised in fact and in law.

Under the Civil Code or Quebec law, the type of restitution that is made to an individual is based on compensation for physical harm. I did not do comparative law, but I think that the same type of rules apply in the other provinces. Such amounts are also exempt from seizure in the other provinces. This is a principle that law students learn in the first years of their studies, and I remembered it when I was examining this bill.

To date, I have not heard any of my colleagues talk about this. Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as a lawyer, you no doubt know that it is very likely that there will be court challenges. The way I see it, there is a very strong chance that these provisions will be struck down in Quebec. In the end, this will clog up the justice system.

The lifestyle of offenders is another factor that must be taken into account. These people are often marginalized. The same is true of people who are incarcerated. They have a lot of free time. They will likely object to these types of measures and will file grievances. There are some self-styled lawyers in prison and they will give advice to their fellow inmates. It is therefore very likely that these provisions will be challenged.

Although this legislative measure may have noble goals, using this rationale, I must point out that such an initiative will very likely have its share of court challenges. The Conservatives are trying to please part of the population and improve their media image across the country. Over the past year, they have done the same thing with other bills. They had certain objectives that were not necessarily the best. Even though the objective of this bill is technically noble, this is a not a direct way of achieving it. Given the number of members who sit on the opposite side of the House, each of these opportunities can be used by the party's strategist to try to improve the party's media image.

I submit this respectfully, and I hope that my comments were relevant.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House and speak to this bill. Many hon. members have already talked about the summary of the bill, so I will not dwell on it. It has already been done. I will instead focus on some of the points in Bill C-350.

First, I would like to applaud the intent behind this bill, which is to provide support to the families of the accused and to victims by ensuring that offenders are required to fulfill their responsibilities toward them. That is a very noble intention. I am glad that we have the opportunity today to discuss this issue and that the bill will be referred to committee for study.

I would also like to point out that we have just witnessed something exceptional and remarkable: a Conservative member and an NDP member have introduced two very similar amendments, two amendments that go along the same lines. We often talk about disagreements between parties and about how impossible it is for them to work together. Today's event is a fine example that, despite disagreements, the various parties also have some common interests. All hon. members of the House are thinking people, knowledgeable and well informed about the issues they are working on.

The proposed amendments are very interesting and are heading in more or less the same direction. It will be interesting to see how they will be received in committee and how the members will work together.

The government wants to put the protection of families and victims first. However, this bill should not replace measures designed to better inform and advise victims and provide them with better financial support.

This bill currently states that offenders who are awarded monies will compensate victims. However, many cannot be accountable to the victims and families. We have to take these people into consideration. We must also ensure that this bill is not one we can use to say that we did everything we could. We can do more for the good of the victims and the offenders' families, for the children of offenders. That is my concern with this bill concerning victims.

Bill C-350 seeks to make offenders accountable, as indicated by the title of the bill. We must consider what will result in true accountability of offenders. Once again, a very specific approach is being taken to a problem, which is fair, because that is what we have to do in our work. But we must not lose sight of the broader issue of interest in Bill C-350.

The NDP believes that this bill is not the best way to make offenders accountable. Based on the testimony of many experts, among others, who appeared before the committee, an offender must be directly involved in decisions about paying compensation to victims and other financial decisions in order to develop his sense of responsibility. If such decisions are made for him and he is not asked for his input, he will not necessarily develop that sense of responsibility. He does not have a say, he does not even have to think about his situation. Will that really make him more accountable? The NDP believes that this question must be posed. Many experts are also wondering about this.

I spoke about the victims and accountability. I would now like to talk about rehabilitation and prevention. These issues are not addressed in this bill, and the Conservative Party has not talked about them much in connection with this bill. I continue to find this unfortunate and worrisome.

Accountability, yes. But what about rehabilitation? We support comprehensive rehabilitation programs that will reduce recidivism and make our cities safer. When we were debating mandatory minimum sentences, there was a lot of talk about safety in our streets and communities. However, the two concepts do not necessarily go hand in hand. If we want to make our cities and communities safer, we have to talk about rehabilitation and prevention.

In a 2007 report, Public Safety Canada recognized that former inmates face a number of challenges, such as limited access to jobs, that compromise their ability to become law-abiding citizens.

If we really want to help offenders fulfill their financial responsibilities toward their communities and their families, we have to think about what we can do to improve their access to jobs. The two go hand in hand, and that issue has to be part of a debate like this one. If the Conservative Party really cares about offender accountability, what is it prepared to do to ensure that offenders who are released from prison can find work and shoulder their responsibilities toward their communities?

Quebec's Centre de ressources pour délinquants comes to mind. The centre works to enhance the skills and employability of its clientele in order to facilitate integration or reintegration into the job market. These things exist and have already been implemented in several departments and provinces in different ways. The Centre de ressources pour délinquants is an example of that. Experts are available to offenders to ensure they have the legal, social and educational support they need to give them the best possible opportunity to reintegrate into the job market. The centre is part of the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec. Yes, Quebec. So we have to think about just how involved we can get in this issue, but it is worth mentioning.

Now let us talk about prevention. Once again, we do not hear this word enough when talking about safety and the role of inmates or offenders in our society. It is important to prevent crime, and not simply punish people. This point cannot be over-emphasized, especially when working with a Conservative government like this one. Why not invest in prevention? A report entitled “Cost and Effectiveness of Federal Correctional Policy” stated the following:

The skyrocketing costs associated with new bills [like Bill C-10 and Bill C-25] will put a great deal of pressure on rehabilitation programs, which could suffer if the new influx of prisoners is not accompanied by the additional resources needed to handle them.

We could learn from the mistakes of other countries that also favour punishment, but did not put enough additional resources into the system and whose rehabilitation programs are suffering a great deal as a result.

I think it is now time to discuss Bill C-36. I can make an interesting link here. This bill deals with elder abuse. This bill contains measures that give judges another tool for punishing crimes committed against seniors. If we really want to tackle the problem of elder abuse, then we also need to ask ourselves how we can prevent it and how we can support seniors to make it easier for them to report cases of abuse.

In fact, a number of bills claim to be fighting a problem, but they do not really get to the heart of that problem and do not take into account the factors of vulnerability and prevention that go along with all that.

Lastly, I would like to talk about the work that the committee did on Bill C-350. I am pleased to see that amendments were made to the bill after the work in committee with all the parties. However, from what I heard from my colleagues on that committee, a number of questions have yet to be answered. I do not understand why members who know their stuff cannot manage to get some answers. For example, does this bill encroach on provincial jurisdictions? Is there not a risk of limiting a judge's discretionary power?

How is it that we have not yet gotten answers to these questions, and how is that we are seeing limited debate and testimony in this type of committee?

In conclusion, the NDP will support this bill at second reading, but it is important that prevention and rehabilitation be included in these discussions and these debates. Restitution is possible for a theft or items broken by an offender, but the psychological or physical damage done during a crime cannot all be repaired, and someone who dies as a result of a crime cannot be brought back.

That is why punishment is not enough; we need to take action beforehand to prevent the crime.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment.

Since this is my first speech in the House this fall, I would like to share with you my intention to adopt a new approach to make my comments more accessible to all my colleagues and the general public. Even if the Conservative government continues to evoke in me—and I will say it—a certain sense of disgust when it comes to its understanding of democracy, I intend to take measures to keep my vocal chords intact for the remainder of my mandate. This will make many of my colleagues, both on this side of the House and the other, quite happy. I just want to make sure that I still have a voice when the time comes for the NDP to take power in 2015.

That being said, let us come back to the subject at hand, which is Bill C-350, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, particularly with regard to the accountability of offenders.

The principle of accountability was introduced into the Criminal Code in order to make offenders aware of the harm they caused another person, the victim. Thus, it seems that, in an effort to make restitution for harm done, in the case before us today, the legislator wanted to give itself a way to recover amounts that should normally have been given to recipients that I would say are much more deserving, for lack of a better word.

This bill does not conflict with the Criminal Code because, here, the idea of compensation is not to further punish offenders by taking away amounts that are due to them but, rather, to develop in them a sense of accountability, which is already found in section 718 of the Criminal Code. This section talks about reparations for harm done to victims in order to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders—that great virtue of acknowledging the harm that they have done to victims.

In committee, the NDP asked whether this bill would really enhance the accountability of offenders and improve the rehabilitation process. The NDP also asked whether this bill is really necessary, given the small number of offenders who would be affected by it. We said that we would support comprehensive rehabilitation programs that reduce recidivism and make our communities safer. In that sense, the meaning of the word “victim” must be expanded because there are often collateral victims, entire communities that are affected and that have their histories marked by crime

Although the role of the legislator is not to replace the court, we note that we must address the measures put in place to recover the amounts that the Crown owes to the imprisoned offender and to define the concept of victim that I just mentioned.

We are supporting Bill C-350 at this stage, and we will continue to support it, even though we find it limited in scope, despite the proposed amendment. We are wondering and have some reservations about the mechanics, about the actual application of the bill. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Conservatives have given us a recipe without knowing how to cook.

The ombudsman for victims of crime has made some recommendations. Among other things, he suggested authorizing Correctional Services Canada to deduct reasonable amounts from offenders' income so that they cover their unresolved responsibilities relating to fines or specific compensation. In fact, in addition to responsibilities to the victims, a number of offenders also have responsibilities to their own families, which are often negatively affected by the offences committed by their loved ones.

The NDP acknowledges that it is important for offenders to be more accountable and that the idea of ensuring that the money they receive following a court judgment to pay their unresolved responsibilities is very good, unquestionably.

We also support the order of precedence set out in Bill C-350 regarding any monetary amount awarded pursuant to a court ruling. More specifically, we are in favour of priority being given to the child or spouse support order. That is fundamental.

But have I understood correctly? Why is there no mention of common-law spouses or partners, as proposed in the amendment? Are they not part of today's family landscape, especially since statistics are increasingly taking them into account because there are so many blended families and families that live under the same roof? That is a fact, and the concept of a common-law spouse is really part of the demographic landscape of the 21st century. Or is some ideology being subtly incorporated into this bill?

I was talking about disgust earlier in my speech. Well, it is unfortunate that this Conservative government is not often inclusive in its actions and deliberately forgets people for whom some administrative measures would be useful.

We are also concerned about the fact that this bill will probably just fall under federal jurisdiction and that it might unintentionally work against the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. These people will be put off and some will even go before the various courts. Some offenders actually have ways to challenge a decision.

Mr. Fineberg from the Canadian Prison Law Association had this to say about the bill:

Bill C-350 pits itself not only against provincial legislative and administrative efforts, it seeks to undermine Correctional Service Canada's own operations.

It is important to mention it.

According to the NDP, this bill is not the best way to make offenders accountable. According to the testimony of experts, an offender must be directly involved in determining the payment of compensation to victims and other financial decisions in order to develop his sense of responsibility. That is rehabilitation. With this bill, some decisions will be made for and imposed on offenders. In many cases, this repressive approach will only make them more angry and rebellious.

With this bill, section three of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act will be replaced by:

(c) encouraging the accountability and responsibility of offenders, with a view to ensuring that their obligations to society are addressed.

It is a lovely thought, but by only having a very small number of victims benefit from this bill, the very intent of this statement is lost.

The same act is amended by adding, after section 78, the following:

78.1 (1) In furtherance of the purpose referred to in paragraph 3(c), any amount owed to an offender as a result of a monetary award made to the offender by a final decision of a court or tribunal pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada, or an agent or employee of Her Majesty for any act or omission in the performance of his or her duties...

Only amounts owed by the Crown would be subject to the “obligations to society” rule. Once again, the legislator is quite shy about including the indecent amounts of money offenders sometimes collect while they are still incarcerated.

I would have liked to see the government present figures on the offenders who receive settlements as a result of a court ruling. But we do not have any, and we have no idea of the real effect this would have.

Instead of getting caught up in less important issues, the NDP thinks that the federal government should focus its efforts on crime prevention, as we said earlier, and rehabilitation, two key factors in reducing the number of offenders and reoffenders.

In conclusion, I repeat that I support Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , albeit with reservations. However, like my colleagues, I urge the Conservatives to be fair and I invite them to work with my colleagues and me in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in order to find a satisfactory and constructive compromise.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Is the House ready for the question?

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.