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.
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.