Mr. Speaker, we were originally supposed to debate this bill the day after the emergency debate on violence against women. I had therefore planned to focus on that topic in my speech, since femicide is a scourge that must be eradicated at all costs, and this bill could be part of the solution. I still want to take a moment to outline the sad events of the last few months, and my colleagues will understand why.
On February 5, 2021, Elisapee Angma was killed in Kuujjuaq by her ex-husband. On February 21, 2021, 32-year-old Marly Edouard was shot in the head near her home in Laval. She had been a victim of domestic violence a few weeks earlier. On February 23, 2021, 44-year-old Nancy Roy was stabbed to death in her Saint-Hyacinthe home. Her ex-husband Jean-Yves Lajoie was charged with the murder. On March 1, 2021, 28-year-old Myriam Dallaire and her 60-year-old mother Sylvie Bisson were killed with an axe in Sainte-Sophie by Ms. Dallaire's ex-husband. On March 19, 2021, 40-year-old Nadège Jolicoeur was stabbed to death in her husband's taxi. On March 23, 2021, 29-year-old Rebekah Harry succumbed to her injuries after being hospitalized for several days in Montreal. Her husband was arrested at the scene of the crime.
These seven women were killed in the span of seven weeks in Quebec. Fourteen children lost their mothers and often their fathers, who took their own lives after the murders. Since then, the list has grown to 10. Ten women have been killed at the hands of people close to them.
The killers are violent partners or ex-partners. It is even worse knowing that several of these femicides were committed by men who had already gone through the court system and had a long history of domestic violence. It is quite clear that domestic abusers must be taken into custody, monitored and subjected to a rigorous risk assessment.
Therein lies the rub. According to the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee and criminologist Jane Monckton, the domestic homicide that is playing out before our eyes is due to public authorities' ongoing neglect when it comes to prevention, screening and tracking of high-risk cases. The risk factors are known, but they are ignored or downplayed.
In the case of the double femicide in Sainte-Sophie, an ex-girlfriend of the suspect said she was not taken seriously when she filed a complaint against him five years earlier. She had to stay confined at a shelter while he enjoyed total freedom. He already had a long criminal record by then.
It makes no sense that a woman who is a victim of violence must go to a shelter to be safe, while her violent partner or ex-partner is free.
The Alliance des maisons d'hébergement de 2e étape takes women who are most at risk of being killed. It says that, most of the time, the men are released within 24 to 48 hours of being arrested. Where do these men go once released, if left unsupervised? The answer is obvious.
Elisapee Angma's body showed signs of serious injuries when she was found on February 5 in Kuujjuaq. Two weeks earlier, her ex-husband had been released on bail, even though he had violated court orders prohibiting him from approaching Ms. Angma. Many victims of violence who trusted the court system now believe, unfortunately, that the freedom of an accused man is more important than the safety of a woman. When citizens lose trust in their justice system, they stop filing reports and stop going to the police.
The figures confirm this. There have been a lot of media reports on femicide in recent weeks. We have all had our eyes opened to a serious problem in our society that urgently needs to be addressed. However, the statistics on attempted murder, aggravated assault, threats and assault against women are even more worrisome than people think. In 2019-20, 300 women sought refuge in women's shelters in Quebec. These 300 women were victims of attempted murder by violent men, the majority of which do not factor into police statistics.
The Fédération des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes du Québec says that these women report being strangled, drowned or thrown down a staircase. In the face of such horrific acts, we have a duty as legislators to ask what we can do to put an end to this senseless violence. What can we do to ensure that women and children feel safe in their own homes? What can we do to ensure that men filled with rage have the tools they need to channel their anger and avoid causing further femicides?
One of the solutions is definitely that we must immediately improve the way we deal with violent men. We need to implement innovative measures to help them, because arresting them is a way to affirm that domestic violence is not acceptable, yes, but prison does not help violent men resolve their deep-rooted issues. In 50% of cases, they reoffend. Domestic violence is a social problem, and we need to take action on several fronts. We cannot eradicate violence against women without doing something about the violent men. That would be a mistake.
Bill C-228 is a way to better support inmates in federal prisons to minimize recidivism. This is a subject that is very important to me and that I am studying very carefully as part of my work on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The problems with the handling of federal inmates are well documented.
Bill C-228 seeks to do away with mandatory minimum sentences for certain Criminal Code offences. It corrects an error made by Stephen Harper's government. The mandatory nature of the sentences takes away judges' discretion to determine appropriate sentences based on their knowledge of the case and their expertise in order to maximize the chances of rehabilitation.
The rationale for mandatory minimum sentences is the belief that length of time in prison acts as a deterrent to future recidivism. However, a major study carried out over a 30-year period with more than 336,000 inmates proved otherwise.
Researchers found 325 correlations between recidivism and length of time in prison. The goal was to determine whether imprisonment was effective in suppressing criminal behaviour and recidivism. The researchers found that imposing prison sentences was not an effective way to reduce criminal behaviour. They concluded that the primary justification for imprisonment was to punish offenders for their crime and to neutralize certain offenders for reasonable periods of time.
The report of Canada's correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, which was released on October 27 of last year, was consistent with the study results. It was a damning report for the Canadian government, because it showed that the feds are doing a very poor job of reintegrating inmates.
I had a chance to talk to Mr. Zinger during a Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security meeting. We talked about the significant number of incidents of sexual violence in federal prisons that go unreported or that, worse yet, are reported but go unpunished. When we have proof that the Correctional Service of Canada is turning a blind eye to rape, we must take urgent action.
The key takeaway from the correctional investigator's report is that Canada is falling further and further behind the rest of the industrialized world with respect to digital learning and vocational skills training behind bars. The government has taken little action to implement the dozens of recommendations made by Mr. Zinger's office to improve training for inmates, which would have a direct impact on their reintegration into the community.
Based on these observations, is it any surprise that prisoners in federal penitentiaries are struggling to be rehabilitated? How can they re-enter the labour market without training that reflects the needs of today's workplace? How can we expect them to successfully reintegrate into the community if we neglect opportunities for them to obtain employment once their sentences are over? Without a legitimate way to earn a living, the door to delinquency and recidivism remains wide open.
Bill C-228 provides for the development and implementation of a federal framework to reduce recidivism. This is a good thing, and we had the opportunity to discuss it at committee with the sponsor of the bill. However, it provides for standardized programs, in other words, programs that are the same across Canada. Unfortunately, this approach directly interferes in Quebec and provincial jurisdictions.
Quebec already manages the reintegration of young offenders into the community, but this bill would override that with a federal framework. The problem is that Bill C-228 does not provide any details on the form that the federal framework would take. It gives the federal government free rein to create the framework itself and bypass Quebec and the provinces.
A Liberal amendment even changed the wording to ensure the framework is established in consultation with the provinces instead of in collaboration with them. To us, that suggests that the framework will be imposed on the provinces. We had hoped to amend the bill at report stage, but the law clerks deemed our changes to prevent federal interference to be out of order.
However, that was the whole reason we supported the bill at second reading. Offender reintegration is important to me and the Bloc Québécois. This bill undermines the efforts of Quebec, which is doing rather well when it comes to reintegration into the community.
In order for us to support the bill, it would have had to limit the federal role in offender reintegration. The recent case of Michel Cox, a dangerous sexual predator who tried to kidnap a teenager immediately after being released from prison, and the murder of Marylène Levesque by Eustachio Gallese show that recidivism among violent men is a problem.
We cannot stick our heads in the stand. The existing measures have often failed to protect the public.
Although the Bloc Québécois supported the bill at second reading, we are opposed to subjecting provincial jails to a federal model, especially since a number of studies have found that Quebec is doing a much better job with reintegration than other places in the world.
I do want to commend the member for Tobique—Mactaquac and thank him for his work.