House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animals.

Topics

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to spend a bit more time pursuing the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. The member noted in her speech that there was a body of academic literature that said that these were completely ineffective.

In reviewing the literature at the time we were reviewing what was then the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, in the fall of 2011, I could not find a single peer reviewed, academic paper that suggested any benefit whatsoever to mandatory minimum sentences. It was not just some academic papers, as far as I could find, but all of them.

I wonder if my friend has seen any evidence whatsoever that mandatory minimum sentences are anything other than, as she suggested the right-wing centre in the U.S. has now concluded, good intentions going toward an ineffective policy.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course, the member is also a lawyer, so she has had some personal exposure to the criminal justice system.

Like many people, I did a Google search today in preparation for speaking. I was looking for both the pro and con arguments with regard to mandatory minimum sentences. Interestingly, the legal memorandum by the Heritage Foundation provides some arguments for and against. The problem is that in the United States, prosecutors are actually the ones making some determinations about mandatory minimums, because prosecutors are defining what the charge will be. Sometimes they are defining the charge so that it does not fall under a mandatory minimum. There are people somewhere else in the chain of decision- making in the United States who are making decisions about whether mandatory minimums will or will not apply. That has been raised as an issue in Congress. Although there are some opinions in favour, they have more to do with procedural things in the United States.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too listened with interest to the presentation by my friend, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I very much agree with her perspective with respect to mandatory minimum sentencing. However, I want to direct her specifically to proposed subsection 445.01(1), which sets the legal threshold that it has to be an act that is willful and without lawful excuse.

Would my friend like to comment on whether perhaps the reason the government is suggesting there should be a minimum sentence of six months is that it reflects the fact that it believes that a crime committed against a service animal is abhorrent and requires some kind of penalty that reflects society's abhorrence of the impact on service animals?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government, with its continued use of mandatory minimums, seems to be saying, in part, that it does not trust judges to review the evidence before them and use their knowledge, expertise, and long history in the courts to make the appropriate determination about what an appropriate sentence would be. By imposing mandatory minimums, in this particular case, it continues that line of reasoning and thought that seems to be evident in so many other pieces of legislation we have seen before the House.

Serious concerns have been raised, with regard to Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill that was referenced, and a number of other bills, that the Conservatives continue to undermine the ability of judges to make appropriate decisions.

If there are judges who are completely outside the norm in sentencing, there are other ways of dealing with it other than putting mandatory minimums in bill after bill.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I ask for your indulgence and that of my colleagues as well. I know that our remarks must be relevant to the matter at hand; however, this is the first time I have risen to speak since the tragic events of last Wednesday. First and foremost, I simply want to thank the Sergeant-at-Arms and his team who, when it comes right down to it, saved our lives. I do not want to exaggerate, but that really is the case. I also want to thank everyone in my riding, Chambly—Borduas. We have received many emails over the past few days in a show of solidarity. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say how proud I am, even more so than last week, to be able to represent my constituents in the House and speak on their behalf. I have found a positive side to this very difficult tragedy. I have come to realize how much of a privilege it is to be here for them and to continue this work.

Having said that, I will move on to today's debate on Bill C-35, which is known as Quanto's law because it is named after a police dog in Edmonton that was killed while a crime was in progress. As many of my colleagues have said, we support this bill because, really, who would not?

According to my latest information, Canada's Criminal Code is not quite up to date on animal cruelty compared to other countries like ours around the world. We have a lot of catching up to do. I know that over the past few years many of my NDP colleagues have introduced bills about this issue.

That is why, obviously, we support the bill. As I just said, who would not? However, we do have some major concerns, and unfortunately, they often come up whenever we are dealing with bills that would change the Criminal Code. The two issues we are concerned about are minimum sentences and consecutive sentences.

We just heard an excellent speech from my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan, and several other colleagues of mine, regarding minimum sentences. It is important to note once again that we are seeing this pattern more and more from this Conservative government. According to published articles on crime and the justice system, it is becoming increasingly clear that minimum sentencing is not producing the desired results. It is doing nothing to improve prevention, even though, at the end of the day, our main objective should be to ensure that future crimes are prevented.

If we take a closer look at minimum sentences, we find all kinds of other problems. One problem is quite common. In many of the government's proposals, the minimum sentences are sometimes lighter than what judges have imposed in some cases. We have a situation where the justice system has proven that imposing minimum sentences was unnecessary. This measure appears to be more politically motivated, to show that the government is trying to be “tough on crime”, as we often hear, but in fact, the justice system is already doing its job. Minimum sentences are being imposed in some situations where the justice system was already doing a good job and where the sentences imposed were sufficient.

Some discretion is being removed from the justice system. We could examine our system in Canada, or even comparable systems, such as those of the United States or England, and have a debate on the unique aspects of each system. Nonetheless, one aspect is comparable and that is the division of powers. Obviously, Parliament has a responsibility to enact laws, but the justice system has the responsibility to ensure their enforcement and their interpretation. Just because we are disappointed in how a law is interpreted, that does not always mean that it is Parliament's responsibility to change the law immediately.

The government wants to change legislation every time it disagrees with what the justice system is doing. We must ensure the independence and discretion of the justice system and not legislate on a case-by-base basis, because that is a very slippery slope. Unfortunately, this government does that far too often, especially when it comes to minimum sentences. It is a worrisome trend.

In some cases, we support these bills, because, contrary to what my colleague heckled earlier, we cannot be against what is right. For example, when it comes to victims' rights or animal cruelty, including cruelty against police service dogs in a criminal context, we cannot be opposed.

However, when this type of situation occurs, the Conservatives too often move time allocation or closure motions. A government minister asked us why we did not stop debating and immediately send the bill to committee if we were in favour of it.

The reason is quite simple. First, committee is not the place to debate with our colleagues opposite. There are sometimes debates with witnesses, since we do not necessarily agree with them. However, the primary purpose of committee is to learn from the expertise of witnesses so that we can better understand our own concerns. We are not all lawyers, and if we do not have the expertise to explain the subject matter in simple terms, we cannot make informed decisions and amend a bill if necessary.

Committee is therefore not the place to address our colleagues. Furthermore, as in the House, it is not allowed. However, in the House, we have the opportunity to hear Conservative members and members of other parties speak, to ask them questions and to hear their answers.

Unfortunately, the government is preventing us from voicing our opinions on a bill because it does not believe that we should speak about it if everyone supports it. Although we support the bill, we still have concerns about justice and crime issues, particularly with regard to minimum sentences, which are at the heart of this matter.

When we have the opportunity to ask our Conservative colleagues questions—and that is not the case—the time for debate is limited. Although we recognize how important and urgent the issue is in some cases, rather than just rushing the bill to committee, it is important that we all have the opportunity to speak, ask our questions and present our arguments. Committee is not the place for 308 members to discuss a bill.

That is why we have debates, and government members must stop downplaying their importance. It does not do justice to Parliament or the legislative process. It results in mistakes, for example bills that are thought to be unconstitutional or must be fixed in committee. If more fulsome debate were allowed, we could advance these arguments and avoid these problems.

In closing, I would like to say once again that my colleagues and I support this bill. I am saying so for the third time. Who would not?

However, as several of my colleagues also mentioned, these details matter to us. We have concerns about minimum sentences and consecutive sentences, which take away discretion or judicial authority. As legislators, we are beginning to take over the work of judges. That is not how the system is supposed to work. Although animal cruelty is terrible and we are pleased to see the government bring in legislation, we must nevertheless pay attention to the separation of powers.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech.

As he mentioned, the Conservative government has a habit of introducing bills in the House containing mandatory minimums, including omnibus bills it has introduced since 2012. The NDP is against animal cruelty. There are many people who have spoken in favour of this bill, including Edmonton police officers. We support sending this bill to committee.

That said, I would like to know whether my hon. colleague could talk about the bills containing mandatory minimums that the Conservative government has introduced in the past. I would like him to talk about the negative effects that these mandatory minimums can have on our legal process.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

She mentioned omnibus bills. We all remember Bill C-10, which illustrates the points I raised earlier regarding the importance of having a full debate in the House and the opportunity to speak to all the different aspects of the bill.

As for the member's question about mandatory minimums, indeed, this is something we are seeing more and more, and it is one of our two main concerns with this bill. Since I was elected in 2011, we have seen mandatory minimums for every issue associated with the Criminal Code.

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about the chain of decision making; she spoke about prosecutors and judges. That is what is important. Imposing minimum sentencing seems to ignore the existing judicial hierarchy. That is troubling and problematic. Judges and lawyers are there to look at cases one at a time. If we create broad legislation that imposes minimum sentences, we could be looking at some problematic situations. It will also impact the prison system. We need to allow judges to make that distinction instead of having to navigate the murky waters of government legislation. However, as my colleague also noted, despite our support, we also need to be aware of these problems and bring them up in committee.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very thoughtful comments on this bill. I would like to ask him about mandatory minimum sentences, which are once again provided for in this Conservative bill. In a way, they undermine the goal of the bill, which is to ensure that there are adequate and serious penalties for people who harm service animals.

A recent documentary called State of Incarceration, which aired on CBC's Doc Zone and was produced by a constituent of mine, very graphically showed how mandatory minimum sentences and other kinds of supposedly tough-on-crime legislation in fact undermine the criminal justice system. They lead to overcrowding in our prisons and less support and assistance for criminals and people who are incarcerated to be rehabilitated, get back into the community, and ultimately become contributing and productive members of society.

My colleague may not have seen it, but can he comment on the intent of this video, which was to shine a light of this undermining of effective criminal justice systems? Even the U.S., which pioneered this tough-on-crime agenda, is turning back and going for rehabilitation as a more cost-effective measure to treat serious crime.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.

Unfortunately, I have not seen that documentary; however, now that I know about it, I am very interested in seeing it.

Even though I have not seen the documentary, it is becoming increasingly clear that minimum sentences are not the solution. The issue with the way the government approaches the debate about prevention and rehabilitation is that when it hears those words, “prevention” and “rehabilitation”, it assumes they mean befriending criminals. What is interesting—and the government always forgets this—is that prevention and rehabilitation are good for the safety of our communities. Rehabilitating criminals and focusing on prevention will protect victims and prevent future victims. Those are the kinds of things that lawyers, prosecutors and judges can take into consideration.

Of course, as legislators, we have a responsibility to make the necessary adjustments. However, too often the government seems to want to take a generalized approach whenever something does not go its way. That is not a responsible way to work, and that is what concerns us.

Still, the fact that the government is supporting service animals and does not want to see animal cruelty in general gives us reason to support this bill.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank the member opposite for bringing forward a bill that takes into account a need to respond to the killing or injuring of a service animal.

As a compassionate community, we are well aware of the many times that animals have come to the assistance of people and have served as law enforcement animals, military service animals, or service animals that support persons with disabilities. The stories are many and legendary.

One example is that during Hurricane Katrina, a 19-year-old dog saved his 80-year-old owner from drowning. A 19-year-old dog is perhaps even older in years than some of us here in the House. This particular situation was very poignant inasmuch as the elderly gentleman, George Mitchell, said that he would have given up his struggle against the surging waters of Katrina had it not been for the actions of his long-time pet, his long-time friend. Clearly there is a sentient reality to animals, and we have to be very cognizant of that.

There is also the example of Yoshi, a police service dog in Waterloo region. Yoshi had served the community since his deployment in 2009 and was known as a top cop. He was highly skilled in capturing suspects, finding narcotics, and finding missing persons. This last skill of finding missing persons touches us closely. We think of elderly people who have gone missing and children who are lost. Service dogs are incredibly important and instrumental in addressing those kinds of situations.

Bill C-35 is called “Quanto's law” in remembrance of Quanto, the police service dog killed in Edmonton trying to stop a fleeing suspect. The assailant was charged with animal cruelty and sentenced to 26 months in prison. The decision in this case was made at the discretion of a judge and was based on years of jurisprudence, existing law, and the evidence presented in court. That is how it should be. A sentence should be determined in a court of law by an experienced judge in an effort to ensure the sentence fairly reflects the crime. That is at the centre of our concerns about Bill C-35.

Bill C-35 is laudable in its sentiment, and we should indeed be concerned about animal cruelty. Section 445 of the Criminal Code sets out penalties and fines for those guilty of injuring all animals other than cattle.

I want to be very clear: New Democrats condemn all forms of animal cruelty, a position that we have supported for a long time. We have expressed those concerns over the past number of years regarding this Parliament's inability to truly protect animals. Members may recall some of these situations, because at present, animal cruelty crimes are considered property offences. It is not an offence to train animals to fight other animals or to receive money from the fighting of animals. There is no specific offence for particularly violent or brutal crimes against animals, and no additional protection is afforded to law enforcement animals.

Bill C-35 seeks to change that by bringing forward specific and additional protection for law enforcement and service animals. However, we have to look carefully at what is proposed in this legislation.

Bill C-35 would create a new offence, as I said, for killing or injuring a service animal, a law enforcement animal, or a military animal while the animal is on duty. It proposes a minimum sentence of six months if a law enforcement animal is killed by an individual while that individual is perpetrating an offence. It proposes that sentences imposed on a person be served consecutive to any other punishment imposed on that person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

Like all Conservative legislation, the devil is in the details. This is a laudable bill but it has been tainted and undermined by introducing minimum sentencing, which clearly reflects what we can only call a repressive agenda. It does not take into account that we have courts and jurisprudence with respect to those courts and sentencing. We once again see a government showing its desire to deprive those courts of their discretion in sentencing, which is a very important part of a workable and intelligent justice system.

I am certain that every member of the House knows that there are circumstances. There is nothing that is absolute. There is no situation that can be absolutely deemed like any other. We have many examples of that in the courts. We simply cannot forget that and set it aside.

The Conservatives should also be aware of the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing on the criminal justice system. In this case, we have to hear from the experts about the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing. That is why we are recommending that the bill be studied carefully in committee. We need to hear from experts on what the consequences of this particular legislation could be and would be. We have to pay attention to those experts and to warnings from the courts.

I am sure members are well aware that in January of this year a B.C. judge challenged Ottawa's tough on crime legislation and found that mandatory minimum sentences violated the charter rights of those being condemned. I am concerned that Bill C-35 would also face such challenges. The Supreme Court is looking at a specific B.C. case regarding a criminal who was convicted of drug trafficking. In that case, Judge Galati said that in that situation a one-year minimum sentence would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited under section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the time, Judge Galati declared the law in question to be of no force and effect in B.C. That is why it is now being heard by the Supreme Court. It is important that we wait for the decision and rely on the wisdom of that court before we go ahead with any other legislation that could be challenged under the charter.

The lawyer in that case said that mandatory minimum sentences are problematic because they remove the discretion of judges. He said that the federal government's enactment of mandatory minimum sentences was more political than reasonable. This notion that being tough on crime would somehow make us safer is a misconception. We are no safer now than we were 10 years ago. That is a simple fact.

Other jurisdictions have eliminated or have begun to reduce mandatory minimums, most notably the United States. They are moving away from those practices because they are found to be ineffective. Most Commonwealth countries with mandatory minimums have an escape clause so that judges can bypass the minimums when they deem it necessary. Therefore, we are going in the opposite direction of much of the rest of the world at a time when our crime rate is historically low.

Finally, I would like to say that New Democrats, of course, condemn all forms of animal cruelty. We have held that position for a very long time and have supported legislation such as Bill C-232 and Bill C-592.

We do believe that this particular bill is undermining what is otherwise a laudable idea. We have to be very careful of that. We have to be very cognizant of that.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remember a few years ago, in Toronto, when Brigadier, a beautiful Belgian cross horse, was struck and killed by someone fleeing in a getaway car. It shocked and outraged the entire community.

My community of Toronto was shocked and horrified just a couple of weeks ago when animal services announced that a black Lab puppy was in their care. It was the most severely abused animal they had ever seen. It had acid burns, broken bones and internal injuries. Clearly all protections for animals, especially service and companion animals, need to be improved, as the member for London—Fanshawe said. I put forward Bill C-232 to improve our animal cruelty laws, and we have not found support on the other side of the House.

Why does the member think that the government side would not support general laws to improve the welfare of animals and to improve the struggle against animal cruelty, but that it would overreact and in fact undermine the situation with some of the provisions in Bill C-35?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very strange and bizarre contradiction that we see from the government.

I was in the House, as was the member, when a number of bills came forward in an effort to ensure our cruelty laws were updated. I take special note of Bill C-232, a bill the member had a great deal to do with. I do not understand why the Conservative government did not support any of those efforts. It would seem that it may have been influenced by outside interests that perhaps put pressure on them to overlook the reality of the kind of cruelty that my colleague described in regard to the Labrador puppy.

In this particular case, there does seem to be an overreaction. I think it has a great deal to do with public perception, the way the public and the media reacted to the very unfortunate case of this particular dog. It was unfortunate. All cruelty to all creatures is absolutely unacceptable. However, we have to come back to what we know and what we understand, and respect for our courts and respect for the kinds of things that work in terms of sentencing. This is not it.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, with crime in Canada at a 40-year low, why does the member think the federal government would spend hundreds of millions of our tax dollars building 2,700 new prison cells, which it clearly intends to fill with its so-called tough on crime agenda. This, at a time when its counterparts, the Republicans in the southern U.S., have come to see the light of day and have recognized that in fact this not only makes no sense when it comes to good criminal justice but in fact it is bad economics.

It undermines the ability of a society to rehabilitate people, to get them back and effectively working in society, rather than paying for their upkeep in the criminal justice system when probably the vast majority have no need to be there whatsoever.

Can the member explain why our government seems to be so wrong-headed in this regard?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I am at a loss to understand what motivates some of the thinking and legislation that comes out of the current Conservative government. As my colleague pointed out, crime is at a 40-year low. We should use this opportunity to start looking specifically at prevention and rehabilitation: rehabilitation for those who are on the wrong path, and prevention for youth and people who are vulnerable in the community.

I would like to mention that a significant number of people who are incarcerated are mentally ill. However, we do not have money for mental health or community support, but we have a lot of money for jails. In this particular case, it is the provinces that would be footing the bill. In my own city of London, Ontario, the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre is crammed full to the point where violence and desperate behaviour is rampant.

We have to do better. Surely we can.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)
Government Orders

October 27th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will follow in my colleagues' footsteps because we have just gone through some unusual events on Parliament Hill, events that affect not only politicians but all Canadians.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those whose priority is our safety and that of our assistants and the people who work in this magnificent parliamentary precinct, which includes the Centre Block and the Confederation Building, where my offices are located. These have been difficult times.

The labour relations lawyer in me feels compelled to ask everyone to take good care of themselves. People who experience a traumatic event can experience different after-effects, and of course my thoughts are with our Sergeant-at-Arms. I hope that he is taking care of himself and that others are taking care of him too. Everyone has gone through a very trying time.

That said, this is an interesting time to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-35 as the official opposition's justice critic.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île, who took care of this file so that I could carry out a thorough review of other bills. She has done an extraordinary job of helping our caucus colleagues understand the issues with this bill.

I listened to my colleagues earlier, particularly my colleague from Parkdale—High Park, who is an animal lover, and, I would think, not the only one in this House.

It is ironic that I have to rise in this House to speak to this bill, because those who know me will know, on the one hand, just how much I love animals, and on the other hand, how I would not want anyone at all to be hurt in any way.

These harmless, defenceless creatures deserve the same protection that we afford to children and people with mental or physical disabilities. We have to make sure we protect those most vulnerable in our society and those who cannot protect themselves.

It is ironic, because this bill has come about in much the same way as many Conservative bills seem to come about, namely, as a reaction to specific situations, which always raises many questions in my mind.

When I was a law student at the University of Ottawa a few decades ago, I had an affinity for criminal law. I found it extremely interesting, as most law students do when they enter the faculty of law. They often think they will become the greatest criminal lawyers the world has ever known.

I became a labour lawyer, which shows that what may seem extraordinarily exciting when we are at school is in fact different in reality. Criminal law is not an easy domain and I commend all crown prosecutors, police officers, defence lawyers, probation officers and judges who work in this area and who are called to determine the right thing to do in each case.

I realize that the crime rate is going down and that the nature of crimes is changing. We can always get statistics to say what we want them to say. On our side, we might say that we do not need to be too harsh or build prisons since the crime rate is going down. However, our Conservative friends, who do not seem to have anything to say today, will probably say that the crime rate is going down because they are extremely tough. Again, we can get statistics to say what we want.

However, when I was studying law, the basic principles of sentencing stuck with me. In that regard, I am deeply concerned about all these bills. It is not my socialist heart that is bleeding, but that of a person to whom it is important that the Criminal Code, the country's law governing acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, explain the decisions taken by our society on punishing these acts—criminal acts in this case.

We have always been told by our criminal law and sentencing experts that there are basic principles that we cannot circumvent.

I am not going to lecture you because that is not my style. However, we sometimes forget. When we forget, we have a tendency of repeating past mistakes or making other mistakes that could be avoided if we were to examine the simple facts. There are parts of the Criminal Code that we do not often hear about in the House. I am thinking of the entire part that starts with section 716, for example. It covers sentencing and explains the basic principles that apply to sentencing.

In the short time available to me, I would like to highlight a few of the very fundamental sections that a court must consider when it is preparing either to hand down a sentence or to make a decision about an accused. I would point out that one of the very few changes being made to section 718 is the addition of aggravating factors to the section on sentencing.

718. The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, 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:

(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;

(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;

(c) to separate offenders from society, where necessary;

(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;

This principle is often forgotten by our friends opposite.

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community; and

(f) to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community.

With respect to this last point, all types of restorative justice come into play.

Section 718.01 concerns crimes against youth under the age of eighteen years.

Section 718.1 is extremely important. This section is often the kicker. It is at the heart of our beliefs as the official opposition in this House. Section 718.1 of the Criminal Code states:

718.1 A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

Notice that it says “the offender” and not “the offenders”. That is where jurisprudence comes in, with respect to the principle that each case is unique.

Section 718.2 states:

718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing...

What follows is a list that has grown over the years under the Conservatives and in response to some realities in society. The section continues:

(b) a sentence should be similar to sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances;

Once again, there is the principle that every case is unique. Proportionality must be taken into account. Criminal justice must be applied in the same way for each person who commits the same crime, under the same circumstances. During sentencing arguments, the parties will point out aggravating factors or factors in favour of the accused. The section continues:

(c) where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh;

My colleagues have already said this so I will not repeat. Second reading should not be used to repeat the same principle, but to make specific points. This stage is extremely important. As I was telling one of my colleagues earlier, as justice critic, and since we support this bill, I will have the benefit of having heard my colleagues' thoughts when we examine the bill in committee with experts and witnesses. I would have liked to have heard more from the other side, since everyone is capable of presenting persuasive arguments now and then. However, you cannot win anyone over with silence.

The Criminal Code states:

(d) an offender should not be deprived of liberty, if less restrictive sanctions may be appropriate in the circumstances;

We know this. There is an enormous amount of literature and many analyses have been conducted on the usefulness of minimum sentences and the legality of consecutive sentences.

Furthermore, some decisions in similar cases have gone as far as the Supreme Court. I urge my colleagues to be cautious—and that is what we will do in committee—and to ensure that this bill complies with all of the relevant principles of law.

I would also suggest that all members of the House read section 716 and subsequent sections of the Criminal Code on sentencing. They will see that our Criminal Code already has a strong foundation of principles that apply.