House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.


Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for asking. No, it does not. As I mentioned earlier, it is the issue of the precedence around not asking us the question and then pretending that the government needs to bring in time allocation. That is something that is seriously a matter of parliamentary rights and privileges.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats stand firmly behind our democracy and our democratic rights and privileges that all Canadians enjoy.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-587, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech, and I would like to ask him a brief question. Now that Bill C-587 has been introduced, and now that the government has introduced Bill C-32, has the member discovered specifically how Bill C-32 could affect his bill, Bill C-587?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, could the member pay reference to the bill that she was talking to, Bill C-32, please?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to tell the member that it is about the government's so-called beloved charter of victims rights.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I should have known that.

It would support that bill in the sense that it is just another step to recognizing victims' rights and to protecting victims from this type of pain, which they would have to endure, listening to parole hearing after parole hearing. It would complement the initiative by Bill C-32.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.


Dan Albas ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have to thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for his contribution with respect to putting this bill forward. Obviously, I also have to pay tribute to the member of Parliament for Selkirk—Interlake for originally presenting this bill.

I have to say that there have been few private member's bills that have gotten as much feedback from my constituents. The member for Okanagan—Shuswap referenced David Shearing and the horrible murder of the Johnson-Bentley family. That touched my riding enormously. To this day, friends of the girls continue to put together petitions to see that the Parole Board denies David Shearing, who also goes by David Ennis, parole.

There is a personal cost not just for the families but for the friends. Many people do not know that once a parole hearing has been given and denied, almost the whole process starts right over again, so I certainly commend the member for seeking to end the cycle in these kinds of cases of horrific acts.

Can the member illustrate how Bill C-587 seeks to empower our judicial system to distinguish and differentiate these horrible acts and to grant more discretion to judges to call a spade a spade and speak out with our values so that for people who commit these kinds of crimes, the system recognizes that this eligibility for parole will protect not just society but also the victims?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his support.

When we look at the bill, we see we are talking about very violent, heinous crimes, things that are done to our fellow human beings that are just grotesque and offensive. I do not think it serves justice well to have to go through that as a victim, a relative, or part of a family over and over again.

Today, as we are living longer, 25 years is really not a long time. People are living into their eighties and nineties. A young mother and father whose children were murdered might only be in their fifties and have to live through this over and over. That is the sense of this bill that is being brought forward. It is to protect those folks from having to relive that, because in 25 years, they think they are healed, and then all of a sudden, they have to come to a parole hearing and hear it again and open up those wounds. It just prolongs the healing the families have to go through.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to rise as the NDP justice critic to address Bill C-587, introduced by the member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

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.

I have serious concerns about this bill, which unfortunately will not do what it claims for victims. It really would be preferable to bring this forward with Bill C-32 and to drop Bill C-587.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-587, which sadly, is another initiative from a Conservative backbench to weaken the coherence of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The hon. member in whose name the bill resides is introducing a bill that is to a certain extent, sadly, a solution in search of a problem. Or if we were to be just a wee bit cynical, this private member's bill is a solution in search of a fundraising letter.

The member will know that much of what his political party is really concerned with is raising money from its political base and there seems to be an obsession with the Criminal Code. This is not unlike the Conservative approach to veterans in Canada, an approach where symbolism is more important than substance. We saw an example of that just last night where the Minister of Veterans Affairs is spending another $4 million on self-promotion, all the while ignoring the real problems affecting our veterans.

It is galling that the Conservatives would cut district offices for veterans, cut support staff and those who work with them using the excuse of cutting costs, while they spend another $4 million on advertising that is not meant to do anything except promote the Conservative Party and using taxpayers' dollars to do that—

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to know what this has to do with the bill we are discussing right now. The member has made no mention of this member's bill in several minutes. I would like to see him show some relevance to this.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I suppose one has to try to judge the relevancy of it. We have a very broad range of what is allowed in the House. I do not think the member has crossed it whatsoever. I can see the point that he is moving toward—

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

I don't.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

But I am the Speaker and I get to make the ruling.

The hon. member for Charlottetown.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, for the Conservatives, symbolism seems to be more important than substance, and spending millions on advertising is more important than actually helping veterans.

It is the same with these crime bills, many of which are targeted to raising money from a base of supporters who neither like the charter nor embrace any sense of proportional justice.

With respect to the member's speech, and while he may very well have good intentions, I repeat that this legislation is a solution in search of a problem.

The Conservatives should know that time and time again, the courts at all levels have been striking down their legislation. Why are the courts doing this? Is this part of some pan-Canadian conspiracy to thwart the efforts of the Conservative Party? No doubt some across the aisle would embrace that view.

I believe that there are a number of reasons the courts are striking down Conservative legislation, and one relates to due diligence. Many of these so-called tough on crime bills are not properly vetted to ensure that they comply with the charter. The member, in his remarks, indicated that this piece of legislation was charter compliant. I would be most interested to see the evidence and opinion that support that assertion.

It would appear that when Conservative members construct these bills, the last thing they do is assess whether they comply in principle or in spirit with the law of the land: the charter. On that point, I should note that just two nights ago, in this very chamber, on debate on the Citizenship Act, we had the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration heckling an NDP member and saying that the charter was not a law.

It is not only a law, it is the supreme law of the land.

With respect to this bill, I would invite the hon. member to produce any piece of evidence or documentation that would suggest that the bill would survive a charter challenge. I do not believe he is in possession of any such evidence.

What really matters is showing people that the Conservatives are tough on crime, which is much less effective than being smart on crime. The lack of respect for the charter and for the constitution is very troubling.

I have read Bill C-587, and I have been on the hunt for any evidence to support this effort. The bill seeks to increase ineligibility for parole for a conviction that includes a sentence for kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder.

In the last 20 years, according to the Library of Parliament, there have been three cases in Canada that would meet the bill's three elements of kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder. I repeat, in the last 20 years, just three cases would have triggered the provisions of Bill C-587 had it been in place 20 years ago. In each of those cases, there is absolutely no indication that the judges acted with leniency or that the existing suite of laws are somehow ineffective.

Did the member know that one of these three cases relates to Paul Bernardo, who, because of his designated dangerous offender status, would still have been eligible for parole seven years after conviction? This is just one glaring inconsistency in this bill with respect to the dangerous offender designation.

The hon. member's proposal is flawed for other reasons. First, the act would eliminate one of the only incentives for a certain class of violent offender to behave while in prison, thereby making prisons more dangerous for other inmates, and more importantly, more dangerous for correctional officials.

Just last week the union representing Canada's prison guards went public, urging its 7,500 members to vote ABC, anyone but Conservative. This is what the vice-president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers had to say: “These guys have to get out”. He went on to say, “They've done more damage in three years than any government has done in our entire history”. I suppose it is only a matter of time before the Conservatives attack the correctional guards.

The second flaw in the bill is this: The five people convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering the same victim are already dealt with harshly under Canadian law. Such persons already received mandatory life sentences and are already ineligible for parole for a period of 25 years, since murder in such circumstances is first degree murder. Under the current law, they may also be designated dangerous offenders.

The third flaw is that this legislation would produce a somewhat absurd result when the code's other provisions relating to parole are considered. Specifically, by increasing a somewhat arbitrary class of murderers' parole ineligibility to a maximum of 40 years, the act would allow these convicts to remain incarcerated without the possibility of parole for up to 15 years longer than notorious serial killers. This anomaly would also extend to those who have committed genocide and crimes against humanity.

Canadian law already deals harshly with the few persons convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder. This legislation would defy common sense by punishing a specific class of murderers more harshly than serial killers and persons who have committed genocide and crimes against humanity.

The overwhelming lack of an evidentiary basis for the bill is troubling. Again, just three cases over the past 20 years would have been affected by the bill, and in all of those cases, the courts have provided an appropriate and tough sentence.

Should the member appear before a committee to discuss the bill, I would hope that he would consider providing some evidence of facts pointing to the need for this legislation to become law. The member is perhaps in possession of some evidence unavailable to others, and should that be the case, I would most certainly like to see it.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Selkirk—Interlake Manitoba


James Bezan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for bringing this bill forward. As he mentioned, this was a bill that I introduced in the first session of this Parliament and because of my appointment as parliamentary secretary, my bill had to be withdrawn, although it did make it to committee. Therefore, I would hope that members will expedite this process so we can get this to committee, where it was a year ago.

Sitting here listening especially to the Liberal member really was disappointing. At no point did he mention the victims, not once. It comes back to this whole ideology of the Liberals about hugging the thug, about trying to protect the criminals rather than protecting Canadians and those victims.

The title of the bill is “respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act”. It is work that I started some time ago, and I am very happy that my friend from Okanagan—Shuswap has taken on this task in the House to ensure that families do not have to go through unnecessary Parole Board hearings and be re-victimized time and time again. Let us ensure we have our hearts in the right place, that they are with the families that have already lost their loved ones and now have to relive the horror of the most heinous criminals who have not only murdered their child or family member, but may have abducted and sexually assaulted them.

The bill would amend section 745 of the Criminal Code. I have to stress that Bill C-587 is about empowering our courts with the ability to increase parole ineligibility when sentencing individuals who have abducted, sexually assaulted and killed our innocent and often most vulnerable Canadians from the current 25 years up to a maximum of 40 years. It is at the discretion of the courts. They make the decisions on whether to take it up any higher.

The bill is not about creating stiffer penalties for these sadistic murderers. These depraved convicts do not qualify for parole. We have already mentioned that. The worst case criminals who are in prison, these half dozen individuals who have been alluded to, never make parole. They never ever get out of jail. However, the reality is that families still have to go, every two years, starting at year 23, to hear the tragedy of their child or loved one being abducted, kidnapped, raped, sometimes tortured, and then murdered. We want to put an end to that. The bill is about saving the families of victims from having to go through this agony of attending these unnecessary and traumatic experiences at Parole Board hearings.

Again, we have said that this is not about mandatory minimums. This is about empowering judges and juries in coming to reasonable decisions on parole ineligibility.

Let us talk about this. Is this constitutional? Does it comply with the charter? The fundamental principle of sentencing is that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The seriousness of the offence as set out in the bill would ensure that parole ineligibility, period, would only be applied in cases where the murderer's moral blame worthiness would be very high for abduction, sexual assault and murder. This would allow for judicial discretion and would ensure charter compliance because it would not be mandatory minimums.

This goes back to Bill C-48, which used the same principle, protecting Canadians by ending sentence discounts by multiple murderers act. It is important to note that the NDP supported that bill back in 2011. That, in itself, is noteworthy. If it was okay to support it in Bill C-48 back in 2011, I would hope the NDP would support that same principle when it applies to these most heinous criminals.

Jim Maloway, who was the NDP member at that time for Elmwood—Transcona said:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to what is now is Bill C-48 [...]. I essentially support the bill, which our critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has already indicated that our party supports. In fact, all opposition parties support the bill. [...]

I guess one of the good things about the bill is that it does leave discretion to the judge, which opposition members have been consistent in supporting in the past. Perhaps the government recognized that by allowing the judge discretion it made it certain that the bill would actually go somewhere in the House.

The compliance section that we are concerned about is section 12 of the Charter, and by going the route that is presented in Bill C-587, providing that judicial discretion makes it charter compliant. That is key.

As we are saying, this is about the most heinous and horrendous individuals we have in Canada. We are talking about Robert Pickton, Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams, Michael Rafferty, Terri-Lynne McClintic, Clifford Olson, Donald Armstrong, James Dobson, David Shearing and, just recently, Luka Magnotta. These individuals are repulsive in our society. They have committed the most tragic criminal acts on an individual that people could ever imagine. Yet, there is argument coming forward that they should only have to sit there for 25 years. We know that they sit there longer because they never ever make parole eligibility. They are never put back into society.

In the sentencing of David Threinen, in 1975, Justice Hughes, who was the judge at the time, stated he should “never again should he be on the streets and roadways of our country”.

If judges already see how repulsive and dangerous these offenders are, then they need to make sure that they are never released back into society.

When we look at Robert Pickton, he was convicted of multiple murder charges, 25 counts, but unfortunately they were only second degree murder charges. That means 10 years. In 10 years, he can start attending his parole board hearings. He will probably never be released, but that means that 25 families are going to be reading victim impact statements at parole board hearings every two years, in a matter of a couple of years from now. That is sickening.

One of the reasons I was thinking about this case is that a few years ago I was in my riding listening to the Tori Stafford case. She was the little girl who was abducted, raped, and murdered. It broke my heart. It involved Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic. After they stole her from school and sexually assaulted her, they killed her with a hammer. Terri-Lynne McClintic got a life sentence, in 2010. Michael Rafferty got his life sentence. Tori Stafford's family, in 25 years, should not have to start reliving that murder, that abduction, that sexual assault, every two years from there on in.

We talked about Russell Williams, who abducted, raped, and murdered Jessica Lloyd and Marie-France Comeau. We talked about Clifford Olson.

I have to thank Sharon Rosenfeldt. I got involved with her and her organization, Victims of Violence. She supported the bill right from the beginning. Her son Daryn was murdered. My friend has already talked about how Daryn was killed and how they were retraumatized.

I also have to thank Susan Ashley, who also provided me with support and ideas for the bill, and Yvonne Harvey, from the Canadian Parents of Murdered Children, for their work on this bill as well, and ensuring that Canadians are aware that this was coming forward.

Finally, I want to thank Senator Boisvenu, who founded the organization Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association because of his own person loss, for his support in ensuring that the bill will go forward on the Senate side.

Again, I would ask that members of this House to support the bill and get it to committee so it can be given the proper study.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today to speak to Bill C-587, which was introduced by a Conservative member.

The bill would amend the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of the abduction, sexual assault and murder of the same victim is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until the person has served a sentence of between 25 and 40 years, as determined by the judge.

This bill is basically a reincarnation of Bill C-478, which was introduced last year and then struck from the order paper when the member sponsoring it became a parliamentary secretary. Bill C-587 is designed to extend the parole ineligibility period depending on the severity of the crime, not the number of crimes committed or the number of victims.

I am opposed to this bill. While it seems well-intentioned, it is unnecessary, ineffective and open to attack in court. That is what I will be demonstrating.

As I already mentioned, Bill C-587 is basically the same as Bill C-478, which was not passed by Parliament.

The first federal ombudsman for victims of crime, Steve Sullivan, did not have a very high opinion of the bill. He felt it was nothing but smoke and mirrors. If someone is accused of first-degree murder, the Crown does not generally concern itself with lesser offences. If someone is sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole after 25 years, this already takes into account that if the person represents a danger or a risk, they will not be granted parole.

I would also like to point out that criminals targeted in this bill, people like Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams, are rare cases. They have already been sentenced to life in prison without Bill C-587.

Take Clifford Olson, for example. He murdered 11 people. After serving 25 years in prison, he applied for parole for the first time in 2006. His application was denied, as was his second in 2008. In 2010, his third application was also denied because the court found that he still represented a danger to society. He ended up spending 30 years of his life behind bars, where he died in 2011.

The bill before us will have no real impact on the legal reality in this country. Offenders convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder are very rare. They are well known because their stories get so much media attention. Bill C-587 will not change anything. These offenders will still stay behind bars.

The legality of the bill is the other point I want to address. First, I would like to point out that the 25-year period was not determined arbitrarily. Paragraph 110 of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court states that life in prison is the maximum sentence, but that it must be reviewed after 25 years.

Therefore, international law does not allow for life sentences without eligibility for parole, even for the most serious crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. This is probably why Canada set the maximum parole ineligibility period at 25 years, even for the worst cases of first degree murder.

Other states often look to Canada to learn from its principles of justice et its criminal justice. We are off to a bad start if we begin to renege on our international treaties to pass cosmetic bills.

What international law imposes, and what Canada decided to apply, is a maximum prison term of 25 years, which applies to all crimes. Our role is not really to say which crimes are most serious. Rather, it is to define the rule of law. Moreover, this bill undermines the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court has yet to render a decision on the constitutionality of extending this maximum period in the case of consecutive parole ineligibility periods for multiple murders.

Extending the ineligibility period from 25 to 40 years for murders involving abductions and sexual assault would probably be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

In the case of Bill C-478, the carbon copy of Bill C-587, we asked the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to check compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Conservatives voted against that and we were not able to do that study.

If Bill C-587 is challenged in court, taxpayers will again have to pay for even higher legal costs. The whole issue will end up before the Supreme Court, as it often happens already.

Since the Conservatives came to power, we have seen an increase in court action. There are challenges not only by the provinces, but also from the Supreme Court with respect to the compatibility and constitutionality of certain Conservative bills.

It should be noted that Bill C-587 continues the Conservative government's tradition of presenting measures to amend the Criminal Code through private members' bills introduced by backbench MPs.

We remain concerned about the provisions in Bill C-587 and their compatibility with the charter. Private members' bills are not submitted to the Department of Justice for review as to their compatibility with the charter and the Constitution.

We are opposed to this bill. All though it seems well-meaning, it is unnecessary, ineffective and easy to attack in court. Once again, the Conservatives are just using smoke and mirrors and this could cause more challenges with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I invite all my colleagues to vote against this bill.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2014 / 1:50 p.m.


Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government is introducing yet another lousy bill. The government should have done a little more research and consulted experts in the matter to draft a better bill.

However, I do understand this government's intention. It must be said that the members across the way do have a genuine and deep desire to protect victims. All parties in the House can agree on that. There is certainly no disagreement between the government and the official opposition on that.

However, for all their zeal, they still have to do things properly. The government must take into consideration current legislation and even other bills that it has introduced.

It would have made more sense to put some of the provisions of this bill into their bill on the Canadian victims bill of rights. Why did the Conservatives not do that? I do not know.

My colleague from Gatineau, who does an excellent job as our party's justice critic, already mentioned that point. I want to commend her for the excellent job she does. I am honoured to have a colleague like her.

Bill C-48, which the member mentioned, was introduced during the previous Parliament. It amended the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act. Before the 2011 election, the bill had already been passed at third reading on division—not unanimously, as my colleague claimed. That is an important detail.

At the time, Steve Sullivan, who was the first ombudsman for victims of crime and who supports our position, said that the bill was nothing more than smoke and mirrors. If someone is charged with first degree murder, the crown is generally not concerned with less serious offences. When Mr. Olson was found guilty of murdering 11 children, the crown was not concerned with the charges of kidnapping or sexual assault, even though he clearly also committed those crimes. The crown would have had to prove each crime and could have used that to encourage a plea bargain, but it still depends on the judge's willingness to sentence someone to more than 25 years, which Mr. Sullivan thinks is unlikely.

He does not think that many judges would sentence a criminal to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years. He does not think that judges would do this. As a caveat, I want to point out that nearly all modern democratic countries offer the possibility of parole.

In the bill we are examining today, judges retain their discretion, so how is this a solution to the problem the member who introduced this bill is trying to solve?

Mr. Sullivan also went on to say that, when offenders are sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years, it is understood that they will not be granted parole if they represent a danger or a risk.

This affects a very small number of offenders, specifically those who abduct, sexually assault and murder someone. These sordid crimes are rather rare. Mr. Olsen and Mr. Bernardo are examples of offenders who fall into this category. This measure would be used, at the most, only a few times a year, but it would not change anything for the families of victims.

We should listen to the opinion of the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime. It is clear that Mr. Sullivan thinks that this bill does not do enough and would be useless. That is unfortunate.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

If the member would like to continue his speech when we come back to this bill, he will have three minutes and 50 seconds.

It being 1:58 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:58 p.m.)