House of Commons Hansard #222 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was youth.


Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an obvious question. I decided, as I stated before, to look at the life means life legislation and determined it was more comprehensive and, I felt, a better bill than what I have, but I am also very aware of the time frame for things to move forward.

I am not sure if the bill will make it through Parliament and the Senate, but since I have an interest in this bill and represent people who feel very strongly about victims, who have told me that they would really like to see these actions go forward, I decided to move this bill forward. If Bill C-53 goes through to the Senate, I would have no problem with the Senate moving Bill C-53 forward and my bill failing. I have no problem with that. I just want to make sure that these actions take place in this Parliament.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to come back to the relationship between the government's piece of legislation, Bill C-53, and this private member's bill. It appears that the government has made a conscious decision not to go forward with Bill C-53. My question for the member is whether it is the government's intention to support this bill through to the end, or is this simply another exercise in politics that we see all too often? I say that somewhat guardedly because Liberals support the intention behind the bill.

Is there a genuine intention to see this across the finish line, or is this something that was introduced for the same purposes as Bill C-53, for which there is no genuine intention to get it across the finish line?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, this place is all about politics. I recognize the bill that has been brought forward by the government, and I am fully supportive of it. In discussions, I was encouraged to continue with my bill. Hopefully the government's bill will move forward in a timely fashion, which would preclude my bill, but if it does not, if for some reason things are held up, as we never know with the timelines in this place, my bill would go forward to the Senate and hopefully get approval there over the next number of weeks.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-587 best represents this government's approach to justice in the four years of Conservative majority reign. I can say that with authority, having been part of in-depth studies in committee since I became the official opposition justice critic. My heart aches for justice and for the victims because the government laid it on rather thick when it claimed that it would change things for the better for them when, in reality, this is a total failure.

I say that Bill C-587 is a good example of this because it constitutes a major change that will have major repercussions. It has been left to the courts to determine whether or not a person should have to wait up to 40 years before getting parole, but that is the least of my concerns in the context of Bill C-587.

The principle underlying this whole bill—which should have been introduced by the Government of Canada, not a backbencher—is highly representative of what this government stands for. It has always tried to get things in through the back door that it knew it would have a hard time getting in through the front door. When it brings things in through the front door, it gets chastised quite regularly by the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

I am not talking about just anything here; I am talking about justice in Canada. Any government that is responsible when it comes to justice would have taken a step back before going full steam ahead with its sledgehammer agenda and heading directly for a wall.

I think we need to respect justice. A democracy that lacks justice has some serious problems. That is what the government is trying to create with all of these haphazard pieces of legislation that are connected in strange ways.

The question I asked the member is extremely important. I asked the Department of Justice representative the same question. The similarities between Bill C-587 and Bill C-53 are pretty clear.

I appreciate the response given by the member, who said that he saw that his bill had a better chance of making it to the Senate so he decided to go forward with it. However, what is more important is that there is another bill coming behind his that deals with the same type of crime but that will apply in a different situation. That is not very good for the courts and for justice in general. That is not a good way to govern.

If we want to do things, we need to do them right. What will we do in the event that two bills that deal with the same type of crime but provide for two different courses of action are passed?

When a senior official from the Department of Justice indicates that he thinks the court will be able to sort things out and assess the evidence, he is complicating justice in Canada. The fact that the Conservatives have brought in so many mandatory minimum sentences—sentences that are often shorter than those that have been established in the case law—is going to have the opposite effect. It is going to give defence lawyers the opportunity to ask for the minimum sentence, since the legislator des not speak to say nothing. The fact that there is no mandatory minimum sentence in other instances sends the message that the Conservatives do not trust the courts.

That will likely be a key part of the Conservatives' legacy. I am truly saddened by that, and all those who are concerned about justice in Canada likely are as well. Justice should be administered fairly to all Canadians, regardless of whether they live in Quebec, Ontario, western Canada or the Atlantic provinces. Justice should reflect the crimes that have been committed. A desire for justice does not mean that we want improvised justice that does not do what it is supposed to do.

The Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, Mr. Head, said that this bill might apply to one or two people a year. At some point the Conservatives need to stop laying it on so thick and claiming that they are fixing a huge number of problems.

I was struck by the argument that my colleague made at second reading. It is indeed difficult for families to appear before the Parole Board of Canada, which the government repudiates with Bill C-53. The government thinks that the Minister of Public Safety will do a better job than the Parole Board of Canada. The parole board does an amazing job, in light of all the files it has to process and the limited resources it has as a result of cuts.

I sometimes feel as though there are people who jot something down on a napkin, saying that it would sound good at a press conference. Then they bring in a few people who support them and put on a nice press conference. However, they do not think things through. If they are serious about wanting to rehabilitate criminals over a larger number of years, they need to work on rehabilitating them.

Commissioner Head told us that the parole board adjusts its rehabilitation programs based on the length of the sentence. If the individual is not released for 30, 35 or 40 years, his rehabilitation program certainly will not start as soon as he goes to jail, in light of the reduced budgets at the Correctional Service of Canada. Did they think about that? No they did not.

My colleague who introduced Bill C-587 said that he wanted to reduce the number of times that victims are asked to appear before the Parole Board of Canada. I support that argument. However, I would have preferred that he try to find ways to remove some of the irritants for victims who have to appear before the Human Rights Commission. This could be done through the victims bill of rights, even though that is merely a nice statement of principles in many respects, and it will not really do anything for victims—and the future will prove me right.

Sometimes we know that the offender will not get out of prison. As Commissioner Head was saying, not just anyone can be released, and especially not dangerous offenders. There are so many things that have to be established before the board will even consider releasing someone.

We need to remove the irritants, so let us do that. If the objective is to bring in harsher sentences, the House has already agreed to making certain sentences consecutive rather than concurrent. The member said so himself. No one can convince me that we have a soft justice system in Canada when 75-year sentences are being handed down, as was the case for the Moncton shootings. We are capable of handing out harsh sentences.

The criminals he is referring to are people like Bernardo. Those criminals die in prison. If the government is looking for harsher sentences, I would like to remind it that the system already ensures that dangerous criminals will never see the light of day again. Instead, we should eliminate the irritants in the parole process for victims and their families. When it comes to the principles of justice, there are smarter and safer ways to avoid these irritants.

What has bothered me about justice issues for four years is that I always feel like we are working to no avail. We know that there is almost no reason for doing this work and that problems will arise, because these sentences will be considered to be unusual punishment and will be overturned by the courts.

Just because it gives discretion to judges does not necessarily make the bill acceptable. It is a bad bill that will not do what it is meant to do. It is at odds with another bill this government has introduced and will create confusion when it comes to justice, and that is certainly not helpful. For these reasons, I will be voting against the bill. I understand some of the intentions behind the bill, but there are smarter ways to get things done on matters of justice.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-587, the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act. The bill would increase parole ineligibility from 25 years to a maximum of 40 years for persons convicted of the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of the same victim.

Liberals support the intent of Bill C-587, namely to allow victims' families to avoid the stress and trauma of parole hearings that are highly unlikely to result in parole being granted. As this bill would preserve judicial discretion, Liberals can support it. Judicial discretion in criminal sentencing is crucial under the charter, because specific sentences must be proportional to specific crimes. This bill respects the judicial branch of the government by preserving judges' ability to determine just sentences.

I will be saying a few words today about the Conservatives' ideological contempt for our country's constitution, especially the charter, and the high cost to taxpayers of their failed battles in court, which is almost $7 million and counting.

First, however, let us deal with the contents of Bill C-587. It is worth reviewing the legal status quo that this bill would change.

First degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence in Canada with 25 years of parole ineligibility. I would note that murder committed in the context of sexual assault or kidnapping is first degree murder. Offenders serving a life sentence may receive day parole after 22 years and full parole after 25 years. On application, the Parole Board must review unsuccessful day parole applications every year and unsuccessful full parole applications every two years.

Under a 2011 law, offenders can now receive consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murders. Two offenders have been sentenced under this legislation. Travis Baumgartner received 40 years of parole ineligibility for murdering three of his colleagues during an armoured car robbery. Justin Bourque received 75 years of parole ineligibility for murdering three RCMP officers in the Moncton shootings last year.

Under the current law, offenders may also be designated dangerous offenders, meaning that they may receive indeterminate sentences, subject to periodic review.

Bill C-587 would make the following specific changes to the Criminal Code. First, the bill would allow persons convicted of the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of the same victim to be ineligible for parole for 40 years, 15 years more than is currently the case. The bill would also require judges sentencing such persons to ask for the jury's recommendation on parole ineligibility.

At committee, we heard powerful testimony from Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son, Daryn Johnsrude, was murdered by serial killer Clifford Olson. Today Ms. Rosenfeldt is the president of the Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children.

We also heard from Susan Ashley, whose sister, Linda Bright, was murdered by Donald Armstrong. I would like to again thank both Ms. Rosenfeldt and Ms. Ashley for their brave and helpful testimony. It is difficult to imagine more traumatic and devastating experiences than what they have been through, and I commend them for speaking out to improve public policy.

As I have said before, the attempt in criminal sentencing to quantify the impact of violence is a failure from the outset, especially when we are talking about a loss of life. No criminal sentence or civil remedy can correct the wrong that has occurred. No increased period of parole ineligibility can undo the actions that society would justly have offenders repay. A life taken away cannot be restored, and the law can only deliver an imperfect measure of justice.

At committee, Ms. Rosenfeldt and Ms. Ashley described the trauma of repeated parole hearings. As Ms. Rosenfeldt said:

this bill will help in our not having to attend parole hearings every two years, which once again opens old wounds and scars that never heal, even though we try to move forward and build a new life after the violent murder of our loved one.

Ms. Ashley's words were also powerful. She said:

I speak to hopefully save other families from having to endure the cruelty of reliving their horror and continued re-victimization.

As I said, Liberals support the goal of allowing victims' families to avoid the stress and trauma of parole hearings that are highly unlikely to result in parole being granted. That objective is certainly legitimate when we are talking about persons convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder. Such crimes are among the most heinous imaginable. If the system is needlessly and repeatedly traumatizing victims, that is something Parliament should fix.

Having said that, we should not make hasty changes to the Criminal Code that are unsupported by evidence. I am disappointed that tinkering with the code has become political bread and butter for the government. A lot of the changes we see are aimed at providing ideological fodder in fundraising letters.

That is why, as Liberal justice critic, I have criticized the government for constantly amending the code, while failing to invest the necessary resources to prevent crimes from occurring. The government's approach is doomed to be ineffective because the policies are not responsive to evidence.

I think in particular of the government's recent cuts to Circles of Support and Accountability, CoSA, a community-based reintegration group that holds sex offenders accountable for the harm they have caused while assisting with their re-entry into society at the end of their sentences. CoSA has been proven to reduce recidivism among sex offenders by 70% to 83%. That is an astonishing number. According to the government's own study, it saved $4.60 to society for every dollar invested. Over five years, it has prevented 240 sexual crimes, yet the government cut that program. It was incredibly irresponsible and that cut poses a real and ongoing threat to public safety.

With regards to Bill C-587, I was disappointed with the testimony at committee of this bill's sponsor, the member for Okanagan—Shuswap. One concern with extending parole ineligibility is that it could make some offenders more dangerous in prison. This is because they would not have an incentive for good behaviour, yet the member for Okanagan—Shuswap admitted he did not consult with corrections officers in bringing the bill forward. He also had no idea how many offenders the bill would likely affect in the future.

Fortunately, Don Head, the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, was able to answer the committee's questions on these matters. He told us that correctional staff would have to rethink how they deal with these longer-term sentences and that the bill would likely affect about one new offender per year. It is unfortunate to see a legislator proposing a bill and hoping the evidence will support it, rather than proposing a bill based on evidence.

This point about evidence speaks to the difference between Conservative and Liberal criminal justice policy. Conservatives start with ideology. Liberals start with evidence. We do so because judges look at evidence in determining the proportionality of laws that restrict charter rights. This is common sense. It is the proposition that facts matter. The Conservatives' failure to legislate based on evidence is reflected in their many stunning defeats in the courts.

Improving the country's approach to criminal justice will require a change in government. However, on Bill C-587, the goal of reducing trauma to victims' families is a good one. We heard at committee that the bill would make a difference to victims' families going forward. Additionally, I'm pleased that Bill C-587 passes the test of preserving judicial discretion. Liberals will support it for that reason.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario


Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak to the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code contained in the private member's bill before us today.

Let me begin by stating that the amendments contained in Bill C-587, the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act introduced by the member of Parliament for Okanagan—Shuswap, are based upon the same fundamental idea that underlies many recent legislative initiatives passed by Parliament: the interests of victims of crime and of their families and loved ones.

That fundamental proposition is a straightforward one. It is that the families and loved ones of murder victims should not become the secondary victims of a convicted murderer by being forced to relive the details of their terrible loss every time the killer applies for parole.

As hon. members may recall from past debates, both first and second degree murder are punishable by life imprisonment, subject to a period set out in section 745 of the Criminal Code during which the murderer may not apply parole.

While all murders are morally blameworthy, first and second degree murders are distinguished from each other by the higher degree of moral blameworthiness associated with first degree murder that justifies the longer mandatory period of parole ineligibility of 25 years, and while the mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility for second degree murder is 10 years, it may be increased in two situations.

First, if a second degree murderer has been convicted either of a prior murder or of an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, the parole ineligibility period will automatically be the same as for first degree murders, that being 25 years. In such cases, the fact that the murderer has killed before is considered to increase his or her moral blameworthiness up to the level of first degree murder.

Second, if the second degree murderer has not killed before, a judge has the discretion under section 745.4 of the Criminal Code to impose a period of parole ineligibility of up to 25 years based upon the murderer's character, the nature and circumstances of the murder, and any jury recommendation in that regard.

In short, the higher the degree of moral blameworthiness associated with a second degree murder, the longer the parole ineligibility period that may be imposed to reflect it.

It is important to keep the concept of moral blameworthiness in mind when considering the proposals put forward in Bill C-587. These proposals are directed at the most morally blameworthy of murders: those in which the murder victim has also been subjected to both an abduction and a sexual assault by the murderer. It is hard to imagine a more heinous series of acts committed against the same victim.

The issue before us today is that with the exception of the case of multiple murderers, the maximum parole ineligibility period for murder permitted under the Criminal Code is 25 years. This is true no matter how terrible the circumstances in which the murder may have been committed.

As for multiple murderers, I am aware that in 2011 the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers Act came into force. These Criminal Code amendments permit a judge to impose a parole ineligibility period on a multiple murderer for the first murder in accordance with the provisions that I have already described.

The judge would also be authorized to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods of 25 years, one for each victim after the first, to ensure that the lives of each and every victim would be reflected in the sentence ultimately imposed upon the murderer. In short, this important legislation would help to ensure that no victim's life would be discounted at the time of sentencing.

However, the result of the seemingly arbitrary limit on parole ineligibility of 25 years upon those who kill once in the circumstances reflected in Bill C-587 is a symbolic devaluation of the suffering of the murder victim as well as an apparent disregard of the extreme level of moral blameworthiness exhibited by the murderer.

One has only to recall the murder of Tori Stafford by Michael Rafferty to realize the truth of this statement.

When I read the facts of that case, I felt sick for days. I felt grief, and I was not related to this little girl, Tori Stafford. I can hardly imagine the hurt that her family would have to go through each and every time her murderer came up for parole and a parole hearing was held.

Allow me to be more specific about what Bill C-587 would do.

First, it would amend section 745 of the Criminal Code to require mandatory parole ineligibility period of 25 years for anyone convicted of murder who has also been convicted of committing one of the listed kidnapping and abduction offences as well as one of the listed sexual offences against the murder victim. In short, the 25-year period would only apply if the murderer had been convicted of three offences against the same victim. This would ensure that this measure is applied only against those whose crimes justify this level of sanction.

Second, the bill would authorize a sentencing judge to replace the 25-year minimum parole ineligibility period with a longer period of up to 40 years, based on the character of the offender, the nature and circumstances of the offences and any jury recommendation in this regard.

As I described them in the context of second degree murder, these are well-established Criminal Code criteria that permit the judge and jury who have heard the evidence at trial to make this important sentencing decision.

Under the existing law, murderers who kidnap and sexually assault their victims already receive long sentences. This would continue to be true under Bill C-587. However, the bill would also protect the families and loved ones of murder victims from the trauma of repeated parole application by the murderer.

As the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap himself said when he introduced the legislation:

Sadistic criminals convicted of such crimes are never granted parole, so the hearings are unnecessary and extremely painful for the families to endure.

The justice committee heard from a number of families of victims that had gone through just these sorts of hurtful parole hearings. Sharon Rosenfeldt, who was referred to earlier in the debate, is just one of those parents of a victim of Clifford Olsen. She had to go back every two years and hear the offences that were committed against her son over and over again. This bill is aimed to prevent that kind of thing.

In short, the bill is not just about creating stiffer penalties for sadistic murderers by allowing a judge to impose up to 40 years of parole ineligibility on the depraved murderers targeted by these measures. The bill is about saving the families and loved ones of victims from having to go through the agony of unnecessary and often traumatic parole hearings. This is the fundamental proposition at the heart of the important measures proposed in the bill.

It is far too often the case that families and loved ones of victims experience a greater degree of pain and experience a greater sense of loss because the justice system has failed to protect them from being re-victimized every two years when the murderer applies in vain for parole.

Moreover Bill C-587 is entirely consistent with past legislation passed by the House, such as the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act, which ensures that a life sentence of imprisonment for murder means just that, life in prison.

Bill C-587 is also entirely consistent with the Victims Bill of Rights Act, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received royal assent earlier this year. The Victims Bill of Rights Act will put victims at the heart of the justice system in order to rebalance the scales of justice away from the criminals and toward those who have suffered at their hands.

Bill C-587 is yet another example in this long overdue rebalancing, and I urge all hon. members to examine it from this point of view.

I thank all members for their attention and urge them to come together in the interests of the families and loved ones of the victims of the truly horrific crimes targeted by Bill C-587. I strongly urge all members therefore to give their full support to the bill to ensure swift passage. It is what we need to do for the families of victims like Tori Stafford.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, given that this is probably one of the last debates we are going to be having on criminal justice matters, I am going to take a somewhat broader approach to this bill. In this 41st Parliament, in this whole series of public safety bills that have been brought forward by the Conservatives, both government bills and private member's bills, we have had a tale of two different agendas: the Conservative tough-on-crime agenda up against the NDP approach of building safer communities

The Conservatives have been relentless in putting forward their tough-on-crime ideas, whether in the raft of government of bills or in private member's bills, which actually should be called “government bills masquerading as private member's bills”, as this one really is. Instead of a comprehensive review of the Criminal Code, what we have are dozens of one-off measures, quite often ripped from the sensational headlines around a single case and presented as a private member's bill, again, alongside government bills that deal with the same issues.

There is, I believe, a fundamental problem with this one-off approach. It is both the problem that it is easy to run into overlap and unintended consequences when we change the Criminal Code and the criminal justice system bit by bit and the problem that before they have any chance to see if the reform is working, they are off changing some other element of the system in ways that may or may not be complementary.

We have heard much in the debate tonight about families that are forced to appear at parole hearings every two years, except that we have already changed that in another private member's bill before the House to an interval of up to four years. Here we are attacking the same problem with two different bills in two different places.

There is also the problem that amendments to criminal justice legislation in private member's bills do not go through the justice ministry, where they would be screened for compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No matter how low the Conservative justice minister sets the bar for probable compliance, bills would still be examined from that angle. I believe that Bill C-587 is one that could have used that scrutiny with regard to its conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

There is a related problem with bills like this one that suggest changes to sentencing and parole provisions, which are actually quite complex in practice. I often doubt that the drafters have the expertise they need in real-world criminal justice. In Bill C-587, it says that it will apply to someone convicted of a series of offences connected to the same incident, such as kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder. What we find in the real world is that, in fact, prosecutors rarely prosecute included offences when they have murder on the table.

When in committee it was asked how many offenders this would actually apply to and what the big problem was we were attacking here, the answer given was that it would apply to one person or perhaps two people a year.

Let me come back to the contrast in approaches between the Conservatives and the New Democrats when it comes to public safety and start by looking at what the components of the Conservatives' tough-on-crime agenda are.

One of those is concern for the rights of victims, and that is a concern that we on this side of the House share and that almost all Canadians, I would say, share. There is a recognition that more needs to be done to support victims in their encounters with the justice system and to make sure that their voices are heard. We have supported measures like the Victims Bill of Rights in order to bring about positive changes. However, we have opposed other measures put forward that claim to be enhancements of victims' rights when they are sure to have negative impacts on public safety down the road and sometimes, in fact, risk creating more victims in the future.

Surely concern for victims also means listening to what most victims cite as their first concern: that there should not be more victims in the future. That means investing in crime prevention and looking at what really works when it comes to rehabilitation. That is one of the ways in which we respect the rights of victims. It is by making sure that there are fewer of them in the future.

The second element of the Conservatives' tough on crime agenda is tougher sentences. It is sometimes difficult to know if Conservatives intend tougher sentences to act as deterrents or if they simply feel that vengeance should be part of the sentencing process in Canada. What is clear is that all the evidence in criminal justice shows that if we are thinking about deterrence, then using tougher sentences clearly does not work. Those people who engage in crime do so out of addiction, mental illness, or rash actions. They do not sit down and thumb through the Criminal Code to see what the penalties are. Few people charged with offences actually have any idea what the possible penalties for their offences are.

There is a kind of deterrence that actually works and this is clearly shown in the research on criminal justice. Deterrence takes place when possible offenders fear the certainty of being caught and prosecuted. The question of whether they will be caught and prosecuted is clearly a question of resources. All those who consciously plot their crimes think that they are the smartest criminals in the world and they will never be caught and if they are caught, they will not be prosecuted. Putting resources into policing and prosecution actually does reduce the incidence of crime.

However, since 2012, the government has cut resources to the RCMP and Corrections and no one should be fooled by the small increases that are in this year's budget. Both the RCMP and Corrections will still have fewer resources now than they had in 2012.

The question of the deterrence that works, the certainty of being caught and prosecuted, is what makes it so important to know when the promised 100 additional RCMP officers for Surrey will actually be on the ground. It is one of the ways we can contribute to public safety in a community that is plagued by gang, drug and gun violence.

The third element in the Conservatives tough on crime agenda seems to be to make sure more people are incarcerated. We have seen that with the vast expansion of mandatory minimum penalties. New Democrats agree that mandatory minimums are appropriate for the most serious and most violent crimes like murder. We have expanded mandatory minimums to a whole range of crimes. The result is that we end up with more people whose crimes are the result of addiction problems or mental illness in our prison system and we certainly end up with more aboriginal people incarcerated despite the Gladue principle.

We have some very disturbing studies showing that the Gladue principle, which says that the whole circumstances of aboriginal people need to be taken into consideration in sentencing, is not being observed certainly in many provinces. Given today's announcements by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the experience that many aboriginal people had at residential schools, it is critically important that we take into account the Gladue principle in sentencing of aboriginal offenders and not just focus on getting more people incarcerated.

The Conservatives will say that the increase in prisons has not happened. It certainly has not happened at the rates that some predicted, but there has been a steady increase in Canadian institutions since the Conservatives came to power and many of them appear to believe that this is a good thing.

The fourth element of the tough on crime agenda tends to be to restrict parole and give less access to parole and to give access to parole only later on in sentencing. We have had this appear in many bills like the one before us today. What the Conservatives seem to be arguing here is that what will keep us safer is keeping people off the streets. Again, the evidence shows that is clearly not the case. Most of the people in the system are coming out of prison and the best way for them to do that is in gradual supervised release back into the community. That is what works.

Instead, what we have under the government is increasing numbers of people being released with shorter supervision periods or with no supervision period at all in parole and not getting any community support that they need. The government has failed to support things like halfway houses and circles of support and accountability, mentioned in an earlier speech, which helped work with sex offenders.

The bill fails to understand another factor and that is the role of possible parole as a factor in rehabilitation and good behaviour within prisons. Those with little or nothing left to lose become a great threat to corrections officers' safety. In contrast, the NDP's public safety agenda is focused on trying to address the real problems that we have, in particular, drug, gang and gun violence in urban areas, violence against women and especially the question of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The NDP is committed to building safer communities for everyone, not through the government's tough on crime strategy, but instead through a renewed commitment to victims services, crime prevention, effective law enforcement and effective rehabilitation of offenders. We need to help victims of crime get their lives back on track by making sure the necessary services are available to them, including a full range of services from mental health services to legal services. In this area, the Conservatives have clearly failed victims. We need to tackle the causes of crime like poverty, addiction and youth gangs. Again, Conservatives have failed to provide the resources we need to attack these causes of crime.

We need to make sure that law enforcement courts have the resources they need and put a priority on resources directed to fighting violent crime and its consequences. Again, the Conservatives have failed to provide the resources needed for this.

We also need to reduce our reliance on incarceration and increase our funding for community support and rehabilitation programs. This bill contributes nothing to building safer communities. I am surprised to see the Liberals supporting a bill like this, especially when it affects so few people.

I just want to say in my last statement that, if there is any danger of some of the people we are talking about getting released, we have provisions on the books to make sure they would not be released.

On this side, we will be opposing Bill C-587.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to resuming debate and the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, I will say that there are only six minutes remaining in the time provided for private members' business. We will give him the usual indication when his six minutes are up. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have this opportunity to take part in today's debate on Bill C-587, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility).

This private member's bill was introduced by the member for Okanagan—Shuswap on April 7, 2015. I support this bill because it will provide a higher level of protection to the families and loved ones of victims, in the sense that murderers will be prevented from applying for parole. That is why the short title of this bill is the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act.

I will come back to this aspect of BIll C-587, namely, that it puts the needs of families and loved ones of murder victims first. It will be especially important that I emphasize that point during my speech on this bill given that this House is also examining another bill that also aims to protect the families and loved ones of victims. I am referring of course to Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, better known as the Canadian victims bill of rights. The measures outlined in that major piece of legislation will transform our criminal justice system by rebalancing the scales of justice in favour of victims' needs.

Bill C-587 is consistent with Bill C-32, and I suggest that we consider the proposed measures in light of those contained in the Canadian victims bill of rights.

I am sure we all agree that these are very serious offences, morally and legally, and that they should be treated seriously.

The second important amendment is that Bill C-587 would authorize the sentencing judge to replace the minimum parole ineligibility period of 25 years with a longer period of up to 40 years, based on the character of the offender, the nature of the offences, the circumstances surrounding their commission and any other recommendation made by the jury.

In exercising this power, sentencing judges would use these criteria, which already exist in similar provisions in the Criminal Code, to ensure that this measure is applied to the most sadistic, hardened murderers who have already been convicted of offences in the kidnapping and sexual offence categories.

Murder is the most serious crime and it must be strongly condemned. This principle has been recognized by this country's highest courts. For example, in 1987, the Supreme Court, in Vaillancourt, pointed out the extreme stigma attached to murder, as a result of the moral blameworthiness of deliberately taking another person's life.

This moral blameworthiness justifies the harsh sentences imposed on murderers: life in prison without parole for up to 25 years in the case of first degree murder.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. New Democrats oppose the bill.

I was really looking forward to getting into the meat of this particular issue, because there is so much to say, but with only a couple of minutes, I guess what I will do is reiterate that New Democrats will be opposing the bill. It seems that the bill started with good intentions, but, according to an awful lot of people, for the most part it is useless, ineffective and another one of these bills that is going to be challenged in court.

Bill C-587 would amend the Criminal Code to state that a person convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder of the same victim in respect of the same event or series of events 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 presiding judge after considering the recommendation, if any, of the jury.

Again, this bill would affect very few offenders. If we listen to the government, if this bill is passed, everybody is going to be safe and nobody will ever need to worry again. There is a funny thing about these kinds of bills. I went through this at Queen's Park, and I see my friend over there from the former Harris government. He will recall that every one of the speeches seemed to indicate that if we just went with Mike Harris' crime bill, the attack on crime, everything would be fine and it would all be solved. That was 20 years ago.

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the official languages file has been stagnating for years. Every day we see the same thing: the French language is declining in this country. The Commissioner of Official Languages has been very clear about this.

Despite the federal government's promises, only 2% of immigrants in provinces other than Quebec have French as their first official language, a measly 2% of francophone immigrants outside Quebec. As the Francophonie critic, I cannot help but deplore this government's mediocre record. I am not alone. As a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I have heard much testimony describing the decline in French in Canada. A number of minority communities are very concerned since they risk losing more and more of the services that federal institutions provide in French. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, and the Commissioners of Official Languages of New Brunswick, Ontario and Canada, to name a few, are sounding the alarm.

The executive director of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse even said the following:

...although the CIC's programs have made it possible to accommodate a growing number of immigrants to seems the services provided favour anglophone over francophone immigration...

This flies in the face of a number of Canadian laws, such as the Official Languages Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no less.

Need I remind members that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a constitutional obligation to promote the equality of French and English as the official languages of this country? However, for nearly three years the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been pitching his new express entry program as the answer to all the problems with francophone immigration. In January 2015, the government launched the express entry program without consulting the communities. However, this program is very flawed. First, it does not identify francophone candidates. According to the minister responsible: ...we are not satisfied with our immigration system's capacity to determine the French-language skills of newcomers...

There is not even a question asking people whether French is their first or second language. The minister is off-loading the government's linguistic obligations in the area of immigration onto employers. Given that we are talking about the express entry program, employers are asking for people to fill positions without checking what language they speak. Results to date have not been good. No one is happy with this program, not even the minister responsible for it. He said that he was disappointed with francophone immigration in Canada. In fact, he said that “[t]he number of francophones arriving in Canada could be higher than we realize.”

We are hearing a lot of talk but not seeing a lot of action.

In closing, I would like to share with the House a quote from the former president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada that I found shocking. She said, “If the goal were to kill off Canada's francophone and Acadian communities bit by bit, to make them disappear through attrition, it would be difficult to come up with a better strategy.”

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, our goal is one we hope to achieve within a few years from now. Our aim is to increase the number of francophone economic immigrants to more than 4% of all immigrants by 2018. By 2023, our goal is to increase the proportion of francophone immigrants outside Quebec to more than 4.4% of all immigrants. That includes economic applicants and their dependents, members of the family class and those who arrive under our humanitarian streams.

Our government is convinced that our new economic immigration application management system, Express entry, will contribute toward achieving our goals. After all, Express entry is the route through which the majority of all immigrants to Canada will arrive.

In 2015, Canada plans to welcome 65% of all immigrants through our economic immigration stream. Express entry also increases the opportunities for employers and communities to attract and recruit French speaking and bilingual immigrants. This is where the role of employers, as well as provinces and territories, is important. Skilled workers with offers of employment in Canada, or a nomination from a province, receive more points under express entry. This means an offer of employment or a nomination from a province will increase their rank in the pool, along with their chances to be invited to apply to come to Canada.

This is how express entry operates very differently from our previous immigration system. Under express entry, we now only invite top ranking economic candidates to apply for permanent residence. Candidates who speak both of Canada's official languages receive additional points for their proficiency in their second official language, which can increase their rank in the pool and their chances to be invited to apply.

The government also continues to promote francophone immigration to Canada with our partners and stakeholders abroad. Under the roadmap for official languages, our government committed to increase our promotion and recruitment activities abroad. Our Canadian embassies actively promote express entry and our francophone minority communities to prospective immigrants in French speaking countries.

We have also had great success with Destination Canada, our annual series of job fairs that take place in November. Since January, we have held 65 promotional events in countries with a French speaking population, such as France, Belgium and Senegal, to name just a few.

That being said, express entry is still very new and that is why we continue to explore ways we can further improve and expand on our efforts to date. In fact, our government just completed a series of consultations with francophone minority communities across Canada and our various partners, such as employers, provinces and territories. We are now exploring various options on how we can best move forward.

Our government is incredibly proud to promote our immigration programs to the Francophonie and French-speaking populations around the world. We will continue to find ways to attract and retain the most talented francophone immigrants outside Quebec, with the ultimate goal of ensuring our francophone communities can continue to thrive across Canada.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to what the member just said and tell him that of the 22,000 immigrants who came in under express entry, only 200 speak French, which is 0.9%. We are nowhere close to the 4.4% goal for immigration. They need to work much harder on this.

As for job fairs, funding to attend them was cut, so it is no longer possible for francophone communities to go. That was the best way to recruit francophone immigrants: go to Belgium, Tunis or Senegal to promote immigration.

According to Mr. Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, attracting more francophone immigrants is critical to ensuring the vitality of francophone communities and even, I would say, their survival.

When will the government take francophone communities' distress signals seriously and implement the Commissioner of Official Languages' recommendations?

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is our government's goal to increase the number of francophone economic immigrants outside Quebec to more than 4% of immigrants by 2018. We aim to further increase the proportion of francophone newcomers to 4.4% of all immigrants to Canada by 2023.

Our government is convinced that our new economic immigration application management system, express entry, will contribute toward achieving that goal. That is because it is the route through which the majority of immigrants to Canada will arrive.

Next year, we plan to welcome 65% of all immigrants to Canada through our economic immigration stream. Not only does this have the potential to increase the number of skilled francophone and bilingual permanent residents, it will also bring them to Canada more quickly than ever before, as most applications will be processed within six months or less.

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

June 2nd, 2015 / 7:40 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to talk about a question I asked the Minister of Industry with regards to tourism, particularly at it relates to Canada's strategy.

The Conservative government decided to move to international visitation tourism. It sent the Canadian Tourism Commission from Ottawa to Vancouver, away from the nation's capital, and orphaned it from the structures that made it successful. The Conservatives also cut the budget of this organization by 27%.

The response I got from the minister on a simple question asking about the connecting America campaign and the funds that were going to supposedly be provided to it came with deafening silence. There were no specifics at all with regards to this program.

As it happens, tourism in communities with American visitation has depreciated for a number of years, because we have been focusing on other markets. However, despite focusing on those other markets, Canada has dropped to a significant tourism deficit of 17.3%. Therefore, we have a problem here with regards to the strategy to go to international visitation not working, and also American Destination coming into Canada, which is significant.

Bill C-290 allowed for single-sports betting. It passed three years ago in the House of Commons unanimously, but it has been stalled in the Senate now for three years. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary why the Conservative government will not move on that bill. The bill would increase tourism coming from the United States and allow the provinces to have the choice to introduce that.

The fact is, the United States is moving towards this issue, as seen by Governor Christie, and the United States already has four states that have it. The Americans are moving towards this.

Why will the Conservative government not pass legislation that has actually been moved through this House?

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to comments made earlier by the member for Windsor West regarding the tourism industry in Canada.

Our government remains committed to working with the tourism sector to promote Canada as a top destination for tourism. Canada's tourism sector is an important contributor to our economy, comprising approximately 178,000 businesses across Canada in industries such as transportation, accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, and travel services.

Contrary to what the member for Windsor West suggests, the Canadian tourism industry is thriving, and 2014 was a record year for many destinations across the country. The tourism sector in Canada grew by 4.7% last year, generating over $88 billion in revenue. The industry employs over 627,000 Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

This is no coincidence. With our solid economy and sustainable financial model, the Canada brand remains strong and continues to draw a record number of visitors each year. According to the Reputation Institute, Canada is the top country in the world to visit, to live or to study in, and also the best country for attending conferences or organizing events.

Achieving results in a complex marketplace requires coordinated outreach and state-of-the-art marketing campaigns. Destination marketing organizations are working to attract those visitors everywhere in our country.

These marketing efforts are critical because today, more than ever, Canada is facing stiff competition from destinations across the globe. Yet, at the same time, we are welcoming more visitors from around the world. As economic freedom progresses in other countries, the purchasing power of millions of individuals continues to increase. The 2014 travel statistics are compelling, and clearly investments from Destination Canada in emerging markets are paying off.

For example, in 2014, Canada attracted almost 30% more visitors from China, 19% more from India and the number of Mexican travellers increased by almost 14% last year, as compared to 2013.

On May 22, the Prime Minister announced that the government will be investing $30 million over three years, 2015 to 2018, in Destination Canada's connecting America marketing plan.

On this side of the House, we work to encourage economic growth in Canada, whether by promoting Canada as a destination for tourism or encouraging economic growth and job creation through the lowering of taxes and red tape for entrepreneurs and small-business owners across the country.

We hope that members from all parties will join us in this important work.

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is just phenomenal. It is a simple question about how much is in the connecting America plan, and we still do not have an answer.

All we want to know is what the Conservatives have set aside in terms of public money for the connecting America plan, and they still will not provide that information. That shows us that there is no plan and that there is no commitment to it. We know that the Canadian Tourism Commission has had its budget cut by 27% by the government.

Again, Bill C-290, the single sports betting bill, is something that I specifically asked the minister about. He can throw out all of the numbers that he wants, but why has that legislation not passed in the Senate for three years? It will affect tourism in Niagara Falls. It is going to affect tourism in Windsor. It is going to affect tourism in Essex County.

British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario have called for this measure. All it would do is allow an opportunity for those governments to engage in discussions for a single sports betting game venue, which is taking place in the United States and will usurp billions of dollars of infrastructure that we have had for our industry.

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the hon. member clearly has his notes prewritten and did not listen to my answer. I will just quote from my previous statement.

On May 22, the Prime Minister announced—

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Prewritten? You are reading it.

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps he could listen instead of yelling at me. We are the only ones in here. He could talk to me afterward.

This is what I said in my statement. On May 22, the Prime Minister announced that the government will be investing $30 million over three years in Destination Canada's connecting America marketing plan. Obviously the hon. member did not take the time to listen to what I was saying in response to his first question before he started speaking again.

Our government is proud of the concrete actions that we have taken to support Canada's tourism industry. Canada is known as a great place to live, work, and visit, and the government recognizes that tourism has strong social and cultural benefits for both rural and urban communities. Global demand for Canadian tourism products and experiences is on the rise.

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:48 p.m.)