House of Commons Hansard #330 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prison.

Topics

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, to those who are watching today, who are preparing to call a Liberal MP, we just saw talking points number one and number three. I will repeat my rebuttal so that when they call the deputy House leader's office today, they can rebut him directly.

The number one talking point is that it is Stephen Harper's fault. This occurred under this Liberal government, and it has the tools and authority to do that today. They can also tell his office and his office staff that the transfer is from a maximum-medium security facility, where she was behind razor wire and bars, to a healing lodge without a fence.

The next talking point he used that people can rebut is that this is about the role of healing lodges. When they call his office today, they can tell him that a healing lodge is designed to ensure that people who are aboriginal who are close to release, and who have been evaluated properly, can get back into the community and reintegrate. This woman is nowhere close to the end of her sentence. Her crimes were some of the most heinous ever seen in Canadian history. She has already assaulted a prisoner. There are children there. We should also talk about the fact that she is taking the spot of an indigenous person who might need that facility more than she does.

Again, they are talking points number one and number three. I can do this all day, and I hope everyone watching will do the same thing on the phone with Liberal MPs.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, constituents have been contacting me over the last couple of weeks about the outrage they are feeling about this particular case. This morning we had someone from the NDP stand up and say that we used graphic details and he was offended by that. I wonder if my hon. colleague has any comments in regard to that.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, I had the misfortune of being on a television panel with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, who I would like to think is a decent human being. This is a tactic the Liberals use to spin away from their inaction on this issue, because they want to talk about something else. It is a classic diversionary tactic.

The reality is that the public safety minister was on TV, and he called what McClintic did “bad practices”. We are standing here today putting forward a motion, which we should not have to be voting on, because they should have done this a week ago, because the public safety minister needs to be reminded of the severity of the crime that happened.

Frankly, this is something the victim's family has to live with every day. This is something the media has reported on every day. For the public watching, there is no other reason the Liberals are talking about this outside of the fact that they are trying to divert the debate away from their fiduciary responsibility to protect the public and to use the authority they have to do that, and they are not doing anything.

Certainly, I agree with my colleague that this is wrong, and I hope my Liberal colleagues will do the right thing and support the motion.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, imagine a place surrounded by trees and greenery. Imagine a place where individuals live in units with kitchenettes, fine linen, nice tables, and beds and playrooms for their children. Imagine a place where there is actually a playground where children can unite and engage in fun activities together.

Now imagine a place where there are people who have committed heinous crimes who also occupy this space. Imagine further that this space has no fences and no visible security. This is the place where McClintic, a child killer, currently resides. This is a woman who killed an eight-year-old girl on her way home from school one day. This is a woman who committed an incredibly heinous crime, and she resides in this place. It is called a healing lodge, in Saskatchewan.

To better understand just how troubling this is, we have to take the opportunity to understand the gravity of what happened to Tori Stafford, the eight-year-old girl of whom I speak. We must familiarize ourselves with the uncomfortable facts. This is where the Liberals and the NDP members among us get uncomfortable. They do not like to look at the facts of this story. They do not like to consider what happened to Tori Stafford on that dreadful day on her way home from school. They do not like to enter the courtroom and the hearing that took place in 2012, when the convicted murderer recounted the grisly details.

However, if we were to enter that courtroom and listen to some of those details, here is what we would hear. We would hear the story of a little girl who was eight years old who headed home from school one day. She was asked by an adult to come and see a puppy, a shih tzu puppy, as McClintic recalled. This little girl, eager and excited to visit this puppy, made her way over to the car. At that time, Tori Stafford was shoved into the car and driven to an undisclosed location. On the way, garbage bags were picked up at the Home Hardware store. Tori was then taken to the middle of nowhere, where she was raped multiple times and then beaten to death with a hammer. Tori's body was put into garbage bags and then disposed of in the woods.

I have spared this room the most gruesome details, but in this room, the Liberals and NDP members are incredibly uncomfortable with even what I just shared, because they would like to pretend that these details did not actually happen to an eight-year-old girl by the name of Tori. They would like to attack us on this side of the House for bringing these details up, as if we are somehow engaging in poor decorum, but these are the details that were disclosed in the courtroom by the killer, McClintic. That day in that courtroom, McClintic was sentenced, for first degree murder, to life without parole.

Today is about standing with the Stafford family, Victoria's loved ones. Today we have the opportunity to take a stand for justice for Tori. Today we have the opportunity to insist that the right thing be done, so Conservative members on this side of the House have put forward a motion to show our solidarity in standing with the Stafford family.

We call upon the House to support this motion, and that is this:

That, given Terri-Lynne McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, and was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences and where the government has confirmed the presence of children, the House condemn this decision and call upon the government to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to ensure this decision is reversed and cannot happen again in other cases.

That is a very important line. Today we stand with the Stafford family. Today we call for justice for Tori. We do it for the present, but we also do it for the future. We look to those who are to come. We look to our justice system. We have to defend the victims that do exist and that will exist. We have to insist that this place, the House of Commons, the Parliament of Canada, where 338 elected representatives sit, does the right thing. In this case, that is reversing the decision to move McClintic to a healing lodge.

Why is this important? It is important that we have this discussion today for a few reasons. First is that the government would like to abdicate its authority, and second is that the Minister of Public Safety called the actions of child killer McClintic “bad practices”. Those were not “bad practices”. There is a reason this room does not like it when I stand up here and describe what happened to that little girl. It is because they were more than bad practices. This was a little eight-year-old girl whose life was taken. Canadians from coast to coast are rightfully outraged about this. They have every right to be, and I stand with them.

This summer, the Prime Minister said this about Canadians:“We are there for each other in times of difficulty..., we lean on each other and we stand strong”. I wonder where he is in that picture. Where is he? Where is he when Rodney Stafford needs to lean on someone for justice? Where is he when Rodney Stafford needs people to surround him and support him in his gravest need? Where is the Prime Minister? Where is the government when there is an opportunity to take a stand for justice? It is silent, absent and abdicating authority.

This injustice saw an eight-year-old lose her life and a mom and dad be forever robbed of their little girl. The Prime Minister and his government are trying to shirk responsibility and place blame elsewhere, but the fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister has the ability to reverse this decision. The government has the ability to put McClintic back in the facility where she belongs.

Tori's father recently wrote to the Prime Minister and said that not all issues are political. “Some are moral”, he said. The Liberals have accused us of being political, but I would ask them to heed the words of Rodney Stafford, this little girl's dad, because he has said to the Prime Minister that not all issues are political. Some are just moral, and this is one of them. This is a moral issue. It is an issue of right and wrong. This in an issue where the Prime Minister has an opportunity to reverse a decision that never should have been made but unfortunately was. He has the opportunity to do the right thing now, to do the moral thing.

It is always right to do the right thing. It is always wrong to do the wrong thing. In fact, some acts are always wrong, because they go against a fundamental or basic human good that should never be compromised. We would all agree that some of those things include killing, torturing and raping an innocent human being. These things are just wrong, full stop.

The Liberal government's moral compass appears to be broken. Unfortunately, it is not able to hear these things. Instead of standing with victims, it is more comfortable finding itself on the side of criminals. For example, Bill C-75 is a piece of legislation the government has just introduced that would actually decrease sentences for things like genocide, terrorism and forced marriage. In addition, it gave $10 million to Omar Khadr, a convicted terrorist. For Chris Garnier, who murdered an off-duty cop, it gave him veterans benefits for the PTSD he acquired because of the murder. Now with McClintic, it is happy to see her go to a healing lodge, where she is not held accountable for the crime she committed.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I am calling on this House today to do something. Do not allow evil to triumph. Do not allow this grave injustice to be committed against Tori and her family. This House has the opportunity to take a stand for righteousness, to do the right thing, to act morally, to stand with Rodney Stafford and to reverse the placement of McClintic in a healing lodge.

I am calling on all Canadians to participate with us, to call their MPs and to make their voices heard.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I personally am outraged with what happened to Tori Stafford. My heart goes out to her family. This is very tragic. One does not have to be a Conservative to feel or express that. It is a legitimate feeling that members on all sides of the House have.

We need to recognize that the Conservatives had an opportunity to make some changes. The minister is committed to doing a review, and it will get done. However, the Conservatives, with this charged rhetoric, are trying to make it out to be something that is just not the case.

People listening to the debate need to realize that Stephen Harper's Conservative government was the that authorized the transfer to a medium security prison. Now the Conservatives cry wolf. I care and I am disgusted by that crime too. I do not need to be lectured about how bad it was. I understand it.

Why are the Conservative behaving in this manner, given their responsibility in what has taken place?

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not even know that I have words. That response was so ignorant to the facts of this case. It was so ignorant to the grief that has been experienced by these parents. That response was incredibly selfish, incredibly politicized and incredibly irresponsible, the fact that the government will not take responsibility for this action.

My colleague for Calgary Nose Hill gave a remarkable speech, talking to Canadians about the fact that the Liberal government liked to shirk responsibility, and she went through a number of ways it did that. This is exactly one of them, to try and blame us.

We are standing here today and we are asking the government to do the right thing. We are wanting to do the right thing. We are wanting to call for justice for Tori. That is what we are doing here today. The government has a responsibility to do the same thing.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the point I have difficulty understanding from the Liberal perspective is the fact that the Liberals keep pointing to the public safety minister's commitment to do a review of the decision made and also a review of the policies of Correctional Service Canada. However, until that review is completed, the government intends to do nothing.

I would ask my colleague for Lethbridge to comment on this fact. Since section 6 of the Criminal Code gives the minister the power to revoke a decision that has been made to transfer McClintic to a healing lodge, would it not be a simple thing to do, if the government is truly sincere in its belief that policies need to be reviewed, for the minister to stand and say that he has given instructions to immediately take the prisoner from the healing lodge, put her back behind bars, pending a review of the Correctional Service commissioner? That would satisfy both the public's outrage of this child murderer being in a healing lodge and also the government's position of doing a thorough review of the policies and practices of CSC.

Would my colleague think that, at minimum, would be a viable option for the government?

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, those members who find themselves on the opposite side like to use phrases, such as “My heart goes out to her family.” We just heard this from that side of the House. The Liberals like to use these phrases “my heart goes out”, which is the start of a song I suppose. However, we are calling for action. We are calling for justice, and the government has the ability to do that. While their hearts might go out to this family, I wonder if they would dare to lift a pen and sign a piece of paper, which is their legal right to do, and get McClintic transferred back to a secure prison. I wonder if the Liberals would be willing to engage their hearts with their hands and get to work.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mount Royal.

First, nothing we say or do in the House will ever ease the pain of the family of Tori Stafford, the pain it goes through each and every day. As a mother, it is unimaginable to me what that family has been through. For Tori's dad, her family, friends and all who knew her, I want to acknowledge their suffering and extend my sympathies for their loss.

I am going to turn my remarks now to the motion before us today.

In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, uphold public safety and rehabilitate those in their care. We do not have a vigilante system in Canada. We do not allow public opinion or political rhetoric to determine the penalties dealt to individual offenders, yet the opposition has been playing political games with our entire justice system this past week.

Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison and there is no doubt she remains in prison. The facts of this case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility of parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Service Canada since her sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison. She continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.

Let us get the facts straight. Neither the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision that is the subject of the opposition motion. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible of the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections system rely on political rhetoric and public opinion for their decision-making processes.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear from the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times that the Minister of Public Safety had asked her to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the policies regarding transfers in general. She reiterated that she was moving forward with this review, and I look forward to its swift conclusion.

Over the course of the last week, I have been disappointed by the level of debate in this place. Last Wednesday, as the gruesome details of the crime were read into the record, I looked at the children in the gallery and wondered if they would ever look at this place as someplace they would like to return to someday. I somehow doubt it.

Even though the details were part of a court transcript, I do not believe it is necessary to read them out over and over again. We all agree that we are talking about a heinous crime, but I am doubtful that rehashing the gruesome details before the House will achieve any constructive end.

I want to applaud the member for Beloeil—Chambly, the NDP critic for public safety, who sits on the committee with me, for his thoughtful comments and for raising the level of debate in this place on this motion.

Both committees on which I sit, the status of women and public safety, tabled reports in June on the corrections system, and in particular on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety report was unanimous and called for additional funding for healing lodges. Members from all parties heard from witnesses and agreed that healing lodges were doing excellent work and should be expanded and supported. The Conservative members of the committee agreed with us that they played an integral role in our corrections system. The status of women committee also recommended additional funding for healing lodges and heard extensive testimony on their benefits.

How many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium security institute or a healing lodge? I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look like what they see on television, perhaps the latest episode of Orange is the New Black. They might be surprised to see what a medium security institute, like Grand Valley, actually looks like.

Let me be very clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it was called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be having this debate today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens, as some on the other side of the House have portrayed. Prisoners must follow the rules if they want to stay there.

A healing lodge is different from what Canadians might expect a prison to look like, but these institutions are also very different with respect to outcomes for prisoners and, in turn, better for Canadians and for public safety in the long run.

Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study. This weekend, with regard to this case, she stated:

It's not a get-out-of-jail-free [card]....We have the same kind of supervision and restrictions they have in a prison. Only we're doing it in a healing way....they have to accept responsibility for their offences, for their victims, and they have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.

Our government knows that a corrections system focused on accountability rather than simple retribution is better for corrections outcomes and therefore better for the public safety of all Canadians.

We know that taking a rehabilitative approach is the best way to protect the public safety of Canadians. I think Canadians would agree that when people leave prison, we do not want them to commit a violent crime. It is not in the interest of public safety.

As we know, regardless of the length of their sentence, the vast majority of those incarcerated in our system will be released from prison at some point. They may very well move into our neighbourhoods. My question is this. What kind of person do we want released from prison at the end of his or her sentence living next door to us? I feel strongly that, regardless of our feelings toward individual cases, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.

I have met and gotten to know many of the men and women who work in the corrections system, from the commissioner and correctional investigator, regional managers, to the wardens, corrections officers, parole officers, aboriginal liaison officers, program officers, nurses and more. These people work incredibly hard, with very little recognition. They develop programs and plans for offenders and work day in and day out, in often challenging circumstances, in an effort to rehabilitate those in our corrections system. They are passionate about their work and often make a real difference in the lives of offenders so they can become productive and healthy members of society upon their release, which in turn protects public safety.

In the case before us, under the watch of the Conservative public safety minister in 2014, the offender's security classification was reduced to medium and she was transferred to a medium security institute. She remains in a medium security institute today. What has changed is the political games being played out before us.

It comes down to what we want our justice system to do. Is it solely for punishment? I suspect the Conservatives will say yes. However, there is more to it. It is essential that our system also does everything within its power to rehabilitate the offender, not because we prioritize the well-being of the offender over the victim, because we do not, but because we know it is in the best interests of all Canadians and ultimately makes Canadians safer.

This case certainly tests our morality. It tests the core of our beliefs as Canadians. However, I have faith in our commissioner and the staff in corrections. I recognize that there will be decisions made that we do not like or ones in fact that we may find troubling. However, I also recognize that we must protect Canadians and ensure the highest standards of public safety are upheld.

The minister's mandate to the commissioner acknowledged that the Correctional Service Canada protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and the safe reintegration of people serving a federal sentence. Our focus must be on the public safety of Canadians. I know the Minister of Public Safety and this government are seized with this as well. At the end of the day, we all want to protect Canadians and ensure justice is served.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague just finished her speech by saying, “we all want to...ensure justice is served.” We are talking about McClintic, who murdered an eight-year-old girl on her way home from school one day. She got out of the car, went to this eight-year-old girl, offered to show her a puppy, then abducted her, forcing her into the vehicle, taking her out into the middle of nowhere where McClintic's boyfriend then raped this little girl and then she and her boyfriend together murdered this little girl, eight-year-old Tori. This is the situation that we are talking about today.

When I listened to my colleague discuss this matter, she talked about it as if it were the robbery of a convenience store, where an 18 year old went in, stole a pack of Sweethearts and then walked out. This is the picture that is depicted by the member opposite, as if this is not the heinous crime that it is.

If the member truly wants justice, which she said she does, then why will she not insist that her government, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety, sign the paper to send McClintic back to a prison where there is proper security? Why is the member in defence of a violent first degree murderer—

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite offended that the member would in some way suggest that I do not find this crime to be heinous. What happened to young Tori was terrible. Having said that, Terri-Lynne McClintic went to trial. She was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole for 25 years. Our system in Canada has courts that deliver sentences and a corrections system that upholds those sentences, which is what is happening now. The offender is in prison. She is in an indigenous corrections facility, which is secure. Justice is being served. It was served during the trial and it is served with the offender being held in a secure corrections facility today.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member clarifying the role of our corrections facilities and institutes and the role of government. I visited the women's institution at Grand Valley. I went inside and saw the treatment and rehabilitation, and also the security of that system.

The role that the corrections employees play in providing professional care for communities outside the facility as well as for the people inside the facility is a paramount part of our justice system. Our role as parliamentarians is to set the laws, the legislation and the standards for them to follow, and for them to execute those the laws that we institute here.

Could the member maybe expand on the role that the Supreme Court and other courts and the judicial system play, compared to the parliamentary system? That is something the previous government mixed up a lot of times.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's thoughtful question is an important one. We in the House legislate. We create the laws. We leave it to the courts to hear the cases and deliver the sentences.

In this case, this woman has been sent to prison for life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. It is important to recognize the separation between that and what we are able to do in the House.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is not able, nor should he be able, to intervene in individual cases that are in the corrections or justice system. That is why we have those systems in place, and I am very respectful of that and take our responsibility for what we do here very seriously. We need to respect that division between the various levels.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to discuss this issue.

Over the 20 years that I served on city council as a councillor and mayor, two murders occurred in our community. One of the most difficult things I had to do was talk to the family of the person who had been murdered, to try to comfort them at an unspeakable time of horror, and to try to assure them that our justice system would work effectively for them.

Like every member in the House, my heart goes out to the family of Tori Stafford and to her friends. My heart goes out to her entire community, because the community is affected when a horrible crime like this occurs.

No member has a monopoly on virtue. Everyone in this place supports victims. Everyone in this place thinks that Terri-Lynne McClintic committed a horrible crime and rightly deserves to spend her life behind bars with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. No party in the House would disagree.

I also understand how the family of Tori Stafford must feel about the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic to a healing lodge, that it was not an appropriate location for her. I can understand the sense of outrage that Canadians feel, and this government is taking it seriously. We are looking at what policies need to be changed to potentially prevent this from happening.

However, the House of Commons should not substitute itself for a court or the Correctional Service of Canada. We live in a country where we have decided that no matter how unpopular one individual is, no matter how unpopular one group is, that individual or group is still entitled to equal treatment under our laws. Members are arguing here today that there should not be equal treatment under our laws.

We are being told today that the House of Commons and a minister should pronounce on an individual case. That is not how our system works. If someone is sent to trial, should the House of Commons vote before the trial whether or not that individual should be convicted? Should the RCMP be dictated to by a minister to investigate someone? Do we want our political enemies investigated by the RCMP, because the law relating to the RCMP is identical to the law with respect to the Correctional Service of Canada? It is being argued that the minister should tell people what to do. That is not appropriate. That is not the Canada we live in.

It is really easy in a populist environment to score political points by talking about horrible criminals. I understand that scores points, but that is not the system in which we live.

I would be happy to talk directly to Mr. Stafford. I feel his pain.

I agree that many things could potentially be done. If this opposition motion did not tell us what to do in a specific case, but rather proposed actual policy changes, I might have been tempted to support it. For example, let us look at all of the things that could have been looked at.

First, are healing lodges appropriate? Healing lodges were introduced in 1992 by a Conservative government. Thus far, committees of the House have found them to be appropriate. Perhaps asking if they should be used is a legitimate question.

Second. Should non-indigenous offenders be sent to indigenous healing lodges? If the motion said that non-indigenous offenders should not be eligible for healing lodges, I might well have supported it. That is not what this motion says.

Third. Should medium-security prisoners be transferred to healing lodges? Maybe these facilities should only be for people who are not in medium security institutions. Maybe only people who are close to release should be in those lodges. Had that been a legitimate policy option applied equally to all offenders and proposed in this Conservative opposition day motion, I might have supported it.

Should there have been a question as to whether or not first degree murderers should be eligible to go to healing lodges, or the motion have said that people convicted of first degree murder or people who are child murders should not be eligible to enter healing lodges be a policy, I might well have been tempted to support it.

Should the motion have said that people who are first degree murderers and 20 years into their sentences not be eligible for healing lodges because they are not close to going back into society, perhaps I could have supported that as well.

I have already had a conversation with the minister and given him my point of view. I personally do support a policy that would deny first degree murderers ever being eligible to go to healing lodges, because we have heard the pain this has caused in this one individual case, and maybe it has happened in other cases we do not know about. Maybe it has been happening for years that first degree murderers have been sent to healing lodges.

Now that we are aware of this, the minister has rightly said we will look at all policies surrounding this. However, what cannot happen in our society is to change one unpopular person's sentence and not change policies at the same time, so that every single person is equally treated, because in Canada, people have a right to equal treatment under the law.

It is very important that, here in Canada, where we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a Constitution, we have laws that apply equally to everyone, all across the country.

That to me is the core issue here. Let us move away from looking at this as an individual case. The role of Parliament is not to legislate individual cases and to say that one prisoner should be here, there, or anywhere. The role of Parliament is to legislate and create rules of general application for everyone in this country.

I do support the idea that first degree murderers should not be eligible to go to healing lodges, and I will continue to advocate for that within my caucus and my party. I would think we would all be best served by looking at how these rules can be changed, not only to deal with this one individual but also to ensure that equal application under the law exists and that everyone is treated equally under the law.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, since my colleague mentioned the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and said that everyone is equal in Canada, I would like him to explain to me why criminals are considered more important than victims.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely false. Everyone has rights in Canada, including the accused and offenders. No individual has more rights than anyone else. We have agreed to live in a country where we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is why I am a Liberal. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects everyone, even if the majority does not like this minority. We, Canada's political parties, agreed to adopt the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is why I am a little surprised to hear my colleague ask why the Charter of Rights and Freedoms exists. As a Canadian, I think it is paramount.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, what troubled me about the speech the member just gave was his talk that Conservatives want laws to be based on one case. What we have clearly said from the beginning is that sometimes we recognize an injustice from one case, and that action needs to be taken. That was done frequently in the past when something happened to show that our system was clearly unjust, often through an example as horrific as the Tori Stafford case. It is the government's job to change the policies and take action to make sure it is fixed.

The member is beating all around the bush, but not recognizing that as legislators and as the government, they clearly have the ability and responsibility to recognize that this is not just a bad practice, but a horrific event with a horrific outcome and that they need to take action. Why are they so reluctant to acknowledge the need for action?

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, in some ways, I am in violent agreement with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, whom I greatly respect. I agree this was a horrible crime and this person a horrible criminal, and it seems completely wrong that she is in this facility. I do think that the minister has taken steps to say that we have to review this policy and that we just cannot apply a policy to only one woman.

As the member said, we have to look at this as an example of a policy that has gone wrong, and that is why, as she heard in my speech, my proposal was that people convicted of first degree murdered not be eligible to go to these lodges. I hope the minister will listen to me.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for talking about the role that parliamentarians play in this process.

I heard the member for Calgary Nose Hill inciting people to phone their MP as if it were almost a punishment for us to have to speak to our constituents. However, I am thinking that how we develop policy comes from our constituents calling us, giving us ideas, allowing us to take them into Parliament and into committees. From there we develop policy, not based on what one company or person is doing, but what is fair for all companies and all Canadians. Therefore, policy has to apply equally, which is a point the member made during his speech.

The interaction with our constituents is an important part of our policy development. Could the member tell us a little more about how we value the input from our constituents?

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think we all value the input from our constituents. It is absolutely essential. It is true that there is a horror across Canada about the fact that this murderer is in a healing lodge. I do not dispute that whatsoever. I do not even need to be called to be told that.

I would mention to my friend for Calgary Nose Hill that I am not using speaking notes, and I did not use any speaking notes in my speech. This is from my heart. I support a change in policy so that this will not happen again, but I do not support individual application and making one case the example that we use.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 2nd, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner.

I would just like to say that my father was a warden and my mother was a detention officer. How many times did they tell me that victims have no rights in Canada?

I have no words to describe the fact that I actually have to rise today to make the Liberal government listen to reason so it can finally correct the situation that we have been condemning for nearly two weeks. This is not the only case either. We are talking about the murder of an eight-year-old child. It is unbelievable that in Canada in 2018, we still have to fight to have the rights of victims of crime recognized before the rights of criminals, especially criminals like Ms. McClintic.

Since victims of crime are not being represented properly by the other side of the House, we on this side will be their voice. We have always been and will always be their voice. Here is the best example. Earlier, my Liberal colleague across the aisle was talking about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Well, the Charter has 23 sections protecting the rights of criminals, but none protecting the rights of victims. That is why we, the Conservatives, created the Victims Bill of Rights; we created it so that victims of crime would finally get their own voice and their own rights.

It seems to me that everything has been said. It is clear that Ms. McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder for brutally killing little Tori Stafford, who was just eight years old, the light of her parents' lives, with her whole life ahead of her. In 2009, Ms. McClintic was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. I think that is clear too. A 25-year prison sentence handed down at the end of a trial is not a suggestion, it is a fact. She was found guilty by her peers. It is a fitting sentence for the crime she committed. However, Tori's parents are the ones serving the real life sentence, one that will last far longer than 25 years.

How can a criminal who committed such an act and had such serious problems within the prison walls be eligible so soon for a transfer to a healing lodge to get help with rectifying her bad practices? It is shameful, a slap in the face to the victims and the victims' parents, and to the justice system itself. How are Canadians supposed to have confidence in our justice system now?

Ms. McClintic's transfer also shows a total lack of respect for young Tori and her parents. It is particularly unacceptable that her parents were not notified about the transfer when they should have been. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which was passed unanimously, clearly states that the victims or relatives of the victims must be called before a transfer occurs, but that was not done in this case.

Since the Liberal government does not yet seem to understand that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights has supra-constitutional status, I will remind it that this means the bill of rights has to be enforced and respected.

This important bill of rights has four fundamental pillars. The first is the right to information. This means that Tori's parents should be informed of the transfer of the criminal who ripped their lives apart. Once again, the rights of the victims were ignored, and no one on the other side of the House is outraged.

As parliamentarians, we do not want to put Ms. McClintic on trial again. We do not want to use our right to speak to play politics, as the Liberals are claiming. What we want is to stand up for victims, stand up for justice and stand up for a child taken too soon while her murderer is currently in a place where she should not be. According to her sentence, she should be behind bars, not in a place where there is no fence and where there are children present.

This very bad decision is making Tori's family relive a tragedy, and no one opposite seems to care. That is what really bothers us the most.

I have two adult daughters and a grandson. Anyone who would touch a hair on their heads would have to deal with me. You can be sure that there would be no need for speeches.

This very bad decision is making Tori's whole family relive a tragedy.

What past are we talking about? In this case, talking is obviously much easier than taking action. Canada's correctional system should apologize to the family, and the government should as well.

This criminal is obviously entitled to ask the ombudsman to advocate for her rights. Fortunately for her, the ombudsman also operates independently from the Department of Public Safety.

Tori's family has access to the new federal ombudsman for victims of crime, who was appointed after nearly a year of waiting. This position was vacant that whole time. This ombudsman does not operate independently from the Department of Justice and therefore the two ombudsmen do not have equal powers to advocate for their respective clients' rights.

The Liberals all voted against the bill I introduced, Bill C-343, which would have made the position of federal ombudsman for victims of crime equal to that of the criminals' ombudsman. It is therefore no surprise that we are here today fighting once again for victims' rights.

It is profoundly sad that we have to do what we are doing today, and it strikes directly at the credibility of the Canadian prison system. It is completely impossible to defend the indefensible, to allow a prisoner with an extensive criminal record, who committed acts of unimaginable cruelty upon a vulnerable victim, to be transferred to an institution like a healing lodge, and to have to accept this in silence. It is impossible to allow an already broken family to be revictimized. It is impossible to accept the fact that little Tori's father had to post a Facebook message addressed to the Prime Minister, pleading with him to take responsibility and reverse the transfer.

This appalling situation must never happen again, neither for Tori's family nor for any other victim of such a heinous crime. This is not a minor crime we are talking about. It is first degree murder.

In my opinion, this situation needs to change. We demand an explanation and a review of this terrible decision. We need to know exactly why it is being upheld right now.

We must conclude that there is still a lot of work to be done to defend the rights of victims of crime, to make sure a situation like this never happens again. I wish I could say otherwise, but since taking office, the Liberals have not done a single thing for victims of crime. Worse still, they are actually going backwards.

However, we on this side of the House will never back down in the face of injustices like Tori's case. We know that Canadians are equally disgusted by this new injustice being perpetrated against Tori's family. If we do not do everything in our power to remedy this situation, who will? It is our duty to defend the rights of victims, to speak out loud and clear against injustice in our country, and to acknowledge this unforgivable failure of our correctional system that has shocked Canadians as a whole and left this government without a shred of credibility.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, one thing that has come out in the debate today is the fact that the father of the victim knew about the transfer because of the Victims Bill of Rights that the previous Conservative government in the last Parliament introduced. It created important support for the victims, which has always been the focus of Conservatives.

I know that my colleague alluded to that particular piece of legislation. I wonder if she can reflect on how different it is when as a government we were introducing things like the Victims Bill of Rights and making sure that convicted murderers like Clifford Olson did not get old age security. We dealt with issues immediately, as opposed to what we see from the Liberals. I do not know how long it takes for them to do these reports and studies and to look at policies, but I can tell my colleagues that in the business world it would be reported and announced in about 24 to 48 hours. If my colleague can reflect on those sorts of issues it would be helpful.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the Victims Bill of Rights, victims are now protected, or at least they are supposed to be. Unfortunately, I do not think the government oppositive even bothered to read the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which received royal assent in 2015.

I do not understand how, in 2018, in Canada, people would rather blindly stand up for criminals. I admit that this makes me emotional. Criminals have rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but victims are also supposed to be protected. However, members on the other side of the House never talk about victims and never mention those who suffer in silence. We will always stand up for these people.

Opposition Motion—JusticeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, last week we saw a prime minister and cabinet that hid behind process like cowards and refused to address what I believe to be a miscarriage of justice. As I have said many times in this place, it is and should be the top priority of the House to put the protection of all Canadians ahead of any political gain. This mantra seems to have fallen on deaf Liberal ears.

Leaders are to be guided by vision and principles, taking ownership of their problems. We saw no such leadership, no principles and no ownership on this issue by the current government. Canadians are taking note and their confidence in their government to establish and maintain justice, among many other things, continues to diminish. Canadians need confidence in our justice system, and confidence that victims are protected, that criminals come to justice and that communities are safe.

For 35 years, I worked alongside brave men and women in policing and many others in the justice system who lived the leadership, the principles and the ownership of our system. We saw justice for victims and the community at large. Sadly, I saw many victims who deserved far better than what the justice system offered at the time. It was therefore exciting to participate as Canada's justice system slowly began to understand and embrace the once-forgotten victims of crime, to finally stand up for the full principles of justice.

I, and thousands of Canadians like me, served or are serving our communities because we believe Canada needs a justice system that is not just focused on the offender to ensure they receive justice, but also on victims. We believe in a system of justice that is fair and reasonable and impartially serves all Canadians. However, that is not what has happened in this case. Last week, not a single member of the Liberal government caucus stood up for justice and for victims or had the courage to show leadership.

It has shaken the faith of all Canadians in our justice system that a child murderer is being placed in what is really a minimum-security corrections facility, a healing lodge, that increases the potential of putting others at risk yet again, and for no reason. This type of facility is designed to help offenders reintegrate back into their communities near the end of their term of incarceration, not when they have nearly 17 years left to serve before even being eligible for parole. Not a single Liberal, from the Prime Minister, through cabinet, to the back bench, stood up to demand action.

I applaud my new Conservative colleague, the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, for having the courage to no longer tolerate the Liberals' lack of leadership on the tough issues or their inability to properly govern, and to stand with us in the opposition.

I am not here to exploit the tragedy that befell the Stafford family. That would be an insult to their suffering. However, let us be clear, they are suffering, needlessly revictimized by this decision. I will not dwell on the details of her death, but those details are seared into our collective memory like a scar that will not heal, and that is the way it should be. As a society, no matter what our party ideologies are, we can all agree that our children, innocent, vulnerable and trusting, are to be cherished and protected. Surely, no matter where your political loyalty lies, you cannot believe that a killer of a child should be placed in a minimum-security prison, to walk among non-violent offenders living with their children. There is no justice in such a decision. This is, by any measure, an outrage. This is, by any measure, gross negligence. This is, by any measure, a miscarriage of justice.

Mr. Speaker, I stand before you as someone who gave 35 years defending and upholding justice, and demand the government act today to restore my faith and that of all Canadians. Their announced response, unbelievably weak such as it is, amounts to ignoring communities, victims and the family impacted.

Let us be clear, the minister has the ability to act, just as past governments, Liberal and Conservative, have acted when the system has failed. A current Liberal cabinet minister acted when a cop killer was transferred to club fed, a minimum security prison in B.C.

Correctional Service of Canada reversed that decision, as the Liberal cabinet minister directed it to do. Conservative ministers also acted when Correctional Service of Canada made decisions that failed Canadians and negatively impacted public confidence. Those decisions were reversed.

This case should also receive an immediate similar response. However, the Liberal government is less concerned with upholding justice, and more concerned about the feelings of unrepentant and manipulative killers.

I am not interested in pre-written responses from the political aides behind the curtains. I do not want anyone hiding behind bureaucratic reasoning. There are higher order laws, laws upon which this country was founded, being violated by the government. Someone at the highest level must stand up and take responsibility for this egregious situation.

Admittedly, I am a former police officer and not a powerful orator. However, today, I wish my gift was standing up and speaking so that others would listen. We need to come together and reverse the added trauma revisited upon a family that has been through far too much already. We cannot bring young Tori back. We cannot erase her final hours. If we could, everyone in this House would do just that.

Let us stop the games. Let us restore what justice we can for Tori's family. Any moral person in this House would agree with that. As it is, it is cold comfort. Surely we can all agree that having the wound reopened is equivalent to unnecessary anguish and suffering. Surely we can get this fixed before Mr. Stafford has to come to Parliament Hill to demand it. No victim or their family should ever have to protest to see justice served.

However, that is what the Liberal government and its spineless leader are asking. Surely, we can all agree that a family that has lost everything need not lose their faith that there will be justice for their daughter's killer. Canadians must be protected from the most evil among us. As Canadians, we deserve nothing less.

Consider for a moment, the women and their children living in this healing lodge. Now the Liberal government is traumatizing these women all over again, putting a child killer in their midst. Will the hypocrisy never end?

Let us stop and think about the situation. Tell me who wins here. Who is benefiting from this very offensive situation? The only person I can think of who is winning is Terri-Lynne McClintic.

At whose expense is she benefiting? It is at the expense of Tori Stafford's family, at the expense of the entire community of Stratford, Ontario, at the expense, quite frankly, of every Canadian who believes and expects, as I do, that justice in this country will be served.

Surely that is far too high a price to pay.