Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to speak to this motion put forward by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Before I go any further, I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the thousands of men and women who work in corrections every day and for the work that they do.
My heart broke when I learned of the murder of Marylène Levesque.
This young woman was 22 years old.
As a mother, I cannot even begin to imagine how her family and friends must be feeling in the wake of her passing.
I offer my sincere condolences to Ms. Levesque's family and friends.
Simply put, this never should have happened. The circumstances that led to this loss of life need to be examined in depth by external investigators to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again. This is exactly what this government proposes to do.
As we heard from the hon. Minister of Public Safety, our government intends to carry out a full and transparent administrative review of the incidents, aimed at the decision that led to the untimely murder of Marylène Levesque. Why was a convicted murderer on day parole apparently allowed to visit a massage parlour in the first place, despite the fact that the Parole Board of Canada explicitly opposed it during a hearing back in September of last year?
I look forward to reading the findings of the administrative review into Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada, as well as the outcome of the criminal murder investigation currently being undertaken by Sûreté du Québec.
I also agree with the suggestion put forward by the hon. member that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, but I believe that it would be a mistake to do so before both the internal review and the criminal investigation have concluded.
There is no question that a full parliamentary study will shed further light on how we got here and will help to recommend a path forward to ensure that no one else will have their life cut short like this again.
However, to begin that study now would not be nearly as effective as it could be when we consider that the relevant experts and officials would not be able to comment while an investigation is ongoing.
I strongly believe that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security could carry out this study once the officials have finished, so that the witnesses would be able to share their opinions openly and answer questions freely. It would also allow committee members to hear from experts directly on the findings of the review in order to make fully informed and effective recommendations.
On the whole, I agree with the sentiments expressed in the hon. member's motion and I will be supporting it. However, I disagree with the immediate call to review the open, transparent and merit-based appointment process that was implemented by our government in 2017, as part of a larger push to improve Governor in Council appointments across the board.
This move ensured that a candidate's qualifications mattered more than their political contributions. It also opened the application process to allow for a more diverse pool of Canadians than ever before. At the time that the Conservatives left office, six of nine full-time Parole Board members in Quebec were Conservative partisans, and eight of nine were men.
Today, the board is made up of highly qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds. Most have backgrounds in law and corrections, psychology and education, policing, criminology and social work. Nearly a quarter are indigenous or belong to a visible minority.
Rather than immediately reviewing the appointment process for the Parole Board, I believe the most prudent question would be to determine why, following a PBC recommendation, the accused was apparently allowed to visit a massage parlour while on day parole. That, among other things, is what the administrative review will be examining.
We need to find out if the established protocols were followed properly, and how we can work to put safeguards in place. From there, should the findings of the review determine that a further review of the changes made to the nomination process is warranted, then the standing committee would be an appropriate place for that. I believe that, without a full understanding of the facts, this would be premature.
In any given year there are between 7,000 and 8,000 Canadians on some form of parole or conditional release. In 2013-14, 17 people were convicted of a violent offence, while in 2018-19, the number was down to just five. That year, 99.9% of day parolees did not commit a violent crime.
In summary, even though acts like this are extremely rare, we are reminded that we can and must do more to ensure, the best we can, that offenders serving out their sentences do not pose a risk to the public.
Keeping Canadians safe remains our top priority. We need to work tirelessly to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.