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.