He seized that opportunity when the member for Selkirk—Interlake, who initially introduced the bill, got promoted and could no longer present it. We congratulate him on his promotion. However, we need to revisit Bill C-587.
I am tempted to reread my improvised speech from the last time, because my view on this bill has not changed. It has some good points. Some might say the NDP should be satisfied, because it always calls for the continued exercise of judicial discretion, and that is in the bill.
Indeed, it is always a good idea to leave it up to the court to decide whether someone should be eligible for parole after 25 years, or only after 40 years. This judicial discretion is definitely an improvement on many other bills introduced by the Conservative government.
That said, one can read a bill and wonder whether it will achieve the goal stated by the member. During oral question period, the parliamentary secretary said that this legislation would greatly reassure victims. When we work on these issues, we always try to put the interests of the victims first.
However, because of the legal context, the laws that we rely on and the charters that we must abide by, we must ensure that our legislation will successfully meet the tough challenges that lie ahead.
The government should have learned some lessons from the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, including the one on the Senate, which it lost by a count of 8-0; the Summers decision on April 11 on pre-sentencing credit, which the government lost by 7-0; and the Khela decision on prisoner transfer, which it lost by a count of 8-0. I do not include the Nadon ruling, because no legal principle is involved in this case. Still, the government suffered a 6-1 defeat. It also lost 8-0 in the Whaling decision on early parole. Again, we ask the government to pay attention to existing laws.
When I rise in the House in my capacity as justice critic for the official opposition, I do not do so to irritate Canadians or my Conservative colleagues who are introducing bills. In fact, I have actually supported an impressive number of their bills. I have recommended that my caucus colleagues support certain government bills and even some private members' bills introduced by Conservative members.
In this case, the government would have victims believe that this bill will solve their problems. However, victims do not really have a problem with the sanctions. Let me make that clear right away: the problem with Bill C-587 does not have anything to do with the sentences per se.
Since we are talking about extremely serious crimes, such as abduction, sexual assault and murder, we are certainly not talking about minor offenders, such as people who rob convenience stores. We are talking about hardened criminals like Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo. Everyone, including the victims, knows that these offenders are in jail for life. Is that clear enough? When they get a life sentence, that means they are in jail for life.
However, our legal system, our charter and our international conventions allow offenders to appear before the Parole Board of Canada.
The board will not free these people if they pose a risk. The public is not at risk just because an offender has been released. The problem—and the hon. member may be right about this— is that it is painful for families and victims to have to relive the unforgettable horror. Even if offenders cannot appear before the parole board for 40 years, victims will still be reliving the horror of their experience as though it happened yesterday. One does not just forget about these things overnight.
That being said, let us think about what would happen if the bill were to pass. The judge would ask the jury if it had any recommendations to make in the case of vicious murder.
I would just like to say, incidentally, that I am also concerned about the fact that these three crimes must all have been committed. A murder can be vicious even though the victim was not sexually assaulted or abducted. I think it is unfortunate that the focus is being placed on one type of offence when many other offences could easily fall into the same category.
Take the Bernardo case, for example, where the case was proven. I am talking about proving the case, but I would remind members that in the Bernardo case, they did not have to prove rape, kidnapping or anything else. The murders themselves were enough to result in a life sentence. Under this bill, all three will have to be proven. I already see the impact that this will have on trials under way and on what the Crown will have to prove. In my opinion, in an attempt to make life easier for families in terms of attending parole hearings, the member is unwittingly making things more difficult when they need not be.
None of this may happen because the judge could instead hand down a 25-year sentence. He may not feel comfortable with a longer sentence. We are already waiting for Supreme Court decisions to find out if sentences of more than 25 years—such as three consecutive sentences of 25 years, where the person is sentenced to 75 years in prison—are legal in our Canadian system under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are still some Supreme Court decisions to come. The government may be surprised once again, and that will affect all these cases.
Let us imagine that the jury recommends to the judge that there be no parole for 40 years. That means that there will be an appeal and the parties will go to court. Will that be considered unusual punishment under the charter? There are some concerns about this.
I asked the member the question earlier because, in my opinion, this provision was not included in Bill C-478, which was introduced by our colleague from Selkirk—Interlake. Bill C-32, introduced by the government, does contain provisions to make life easier for victims.
There are ways to make sure that victims do not suffer as they would if they had to go back before the parole board. There are some who do not want to go to the hearings, but there are some who need to go, for the sake of their sanity, to say their peace before the board. I fully respect that. However, I believe it would have been better to do that with Bill C-32. Amendments of this magnitude to the Criminal Code should not be made with a private member's bill, but with a government bill, to ensure there is at least the impression of coherence with this country's fundamental laws.
That is not the case with a private member's bill, whether or not the member is a backbencher. There is no requirement in that regard.