House of Commons Hansard #279 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was english.


Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

moved that Bill C-320, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (disclosure of information to victims) be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleagues from all parties for speaking in support of this bill at first and second readings, voting unanimously in support of Bill C-320 at second reading and voting unanimously in support at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, without amendments.

I would also like to thank more than 5,000 of my Oshawa constituents for having made the time to support this important homegrown local effort. The response to this bill in my constituency and across Durham Region is impressive and has surprised me. Even more impressive is the support for the bill from across Canada. We have received positive comments and support from places far away from Oshawa, places including Abbotsford, Wainwright, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Churchill, Thunder Bay, Cornwall, Essex County, Chicoutimi, Montreal, Shediac, Summerside, Antigonish and Labrador.

It is clear that there is a huge appetite across the land for change and reform of our justice system. This bill is a small but significant step in achieving our shared goal.

I am also grateful to my Senate colleague, the hon. Pierre Boisvenu, a survivor himself, for his continued support and counsel and, most of all to my constituent and survivor, Lisa Freeman. Lisa's very personal and decades-long story is the inspiration for this bill. Lisa Freeman is the author of the 2016 book She Won't Be Silenced, “The story of my father's murder and my struggle to find justice within the Parole Board of Canada”.

After years of fighting to have her family's voice heard as decisions were made about parole and the passage of information concerning the killer's movements inside Canada's correctional system, Lisa petitioned the federal government to amend the charter of rights for victims of crime and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. For more than two decades, she has urged Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada to provide victims of violent crime with a more timely disclosure on the movement of incarcerated individuals within the federal prison system. She has also urged the Parole Board to provide victims' families with open access to the parole process, which has shut out Ms. Freeman and her family's participation on several occasions in recent years.

As I have stated before, this bill is intended to help families who are plunged into unfathomable situations, demoralized and retraumatized by the actions of the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service Canada. All too often we hear senior officials at this institutions say they are supportive of victims of crime, a view that often does not hold up in practice. As parliamentarians, this bill allows the opportunity to help them in that support.

As an example of how victims are retraumatized due to the lack of information, allow me to remind you a bit about Lisa Freeman's story. Ms. Freeman's late father, Roland Slingerland, an Oshawa resident and veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, was bludgeoned to death by an axe murderer in 1991 at the downtown Oshawa rooming house in which he worked as a custodian. He left behind his wife and three daughters. Upon conviction in 1992, Mr. Slingerland's killer was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years. However, to the shock of Lisa and her family, the killer was granted escorted absences from prison and became eligible for day parole in February 2012, many years ahead of the end of his court-ordered sentence. Worse still, it was only after the killer moved to another correctional facility outside Ontario, just 10 kilometres from her sister's home, that Freeman and her family were notified. “In the prison, security in no way matches the severity of the crimes committed by these wicked individuals”, Lisa told the media at the time. “When my father's axe murderer was sentenced in 1992, he received a life sentence.” Contrast that with the 1992's Toronto Sun headline that read, “Hatchet killer jailed for life”. We now know that that headline and the killer's sentence were a cruel joke on Lisa and her family.

Would members believe that her father's killer would enjoy the luxuries he has today at a halfway house? He is able to get a job; he is able to own a car; he has a roof over his head and has meals catered by an in-house chef. Most Canadians do not live as well as Roland Slingerland's axe murderer. While it is supposed to be the job of the correctional services parole board to ensure that dangerous offenders are kept locked up, it is clear that families are not receiving full disclosure from our federal agencies, but our systems are failing victims.

The aim of Bill C-320 is twofold. First, it would amend current federal laws to better meet the needs of victims of crime by providing timely and accurate information to victims upon the sentencing of an officer or an offender while also avoiding the false comfort of misleading parole eligibility dates. Second, it would ensure that victims of crime are provided with improved transparency and passage of information from Correctional Service Canada concerning the movements of an individual within the prison system and would also ensure that the Parole Board of Canada cannot arbitrarily deny victims' participation at parole hearings.

For too long, this country's justice system has put the rights of violent offenders ahead of their victims and survivors. That is altogether backward. Bill C-320 would aim to turn the tide. It would give victims and survivors greater transparency of information concerning an incarcerated individual's movement within our federal correction system and during the parole process. We must level the playing field for victims of violent crime.

Lisa believes, and I agree, that a lack of transparency regarding how parole dates and eligibility are determined cause the victims of crime to experience confusion, frustration, trauma and resentment, sadly, for the justice system. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that victims of crime are treated with the utmost respect and dignity. This legislation would make a simple amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would provide just a little more respect and dignity for these families and survivors.

Bill C-320 would require that information regarding the review and eligibility for all forms of parole be communicated in writing to the offender's victims, including an explanation of how the dates were determined for parole with an explanation of this process to be as transparent as possible.

None of us can argue against the logic of this bill, and I have been thankful all along the way that I have received unanimous support from members of each party of the House. We need to give less government support to criminals and much more to victims and survivors.

A murderer's rights should never trump a victim's rights, yet they seem to every single time. A sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years is meant to imply severity and punishment. This is simply not true and is misleading to families, and it is also misleading to the public. Offenders serving a life sentence without parole for 25 years can be released on other forms of parole well before for personal development, temporary absences and community service work.

What we are trying to correct with Bill C-320 is simply victims' access to this information, as well as an explanation in advance. A recent update from Lisa exemplifies this.

She said, “I was notified in July that: My father's killer's day parole was extended for 6 months and when it goes up again for renewal in January of 2024 and even if he doesn't request full parole, he can be automatically granted it at the same time.” There is “No hearing I can attend, and no opportunity for me to object...just an in-office, paper decision. Also, at the same time I was notified that the 'conditions on parole' that I have in place—no transfers to the province of Ontario, and parts of BC—can be lifted at any time his Case Management Team feels that he 'would benefit from attending courses in these areas'. What an outrage that the only comfort for me and my family from [an] axe murderer can be lifted at whim of his team.”

I can now inform the House that after Lisa was left to advocate for her own rights, which I may remind members heaps more trauma upon the victims, Lisa was finally granted the opportunity to attend and to provide a victim impact statement. On January 31, Lisa travelled thousands of miles from Oshawa to British Columbia at her own expense to make her statement at the killer's parole hearing.

Thankfully, her father's killer was once again denied full parole. However, what about everybody else?

Lisa is a shining example of a victim who has had the strength and fortitude to advocate for herself and her family, but at what cost? It is not her job to protect her rights as as victim; it is ours. Setting aside the mental trauma Lisa and her family have suffered, what about the personal costs she has had to bear, as well as the mental cost? This was just one example of the many times she has had to fight this fight for herself over the last 23 years.

Here we have it. A killer can be released into a community where his victims live at the whim of his case management team. There is no need to explain to the victims how the decision was made and when the release will take place until after the fact. I note all members agree that this is unconscionable, and it should not have to be a fight that victims have to fight year after year just to keep the most callous of murderers where they belong. Families members who have suffered because of an offender's actions do not deserve to be revictimized by the parole system.

Under the guise of rehabilitation, victims of crime often must stand back and watch while violent offenders exercise their rights, which, as most victims of crime find, are nothing more than a mockery of justice and basic common sense. The rights of victims should be made equal to or, rather, better than the rights of offenders.

We are not going to fix all these serious matters with just one bill, but I think we can all agree our systems need to be recalibrated. I also think we can all agree that we must pass this bill and take an important step in easing the burden on victims of crime and survivors.

I say victims deserve better. At the very least, they deserve accurate, timely explanations and information. Lisa and I are grateful to the committee and all members of this House. Let us get this bill to the Senate and get it passed into law. Let us do one good thing for victims of crime and survivors.

I would like to read a statement from Lisa into the record. She says, “My name is Lisa Freeman, and I am the inspiration for Bill C-320. I was 21 years old when my father, Roland Slingerland, was axed to death in Oshawa, Ontario. His murder brought the usual feelings that no one would expect: deep grief, trauma and an overwhelming feeling of loss.

“As the years move along, the weight of the crime is so heavy to carry, but you do your very best to recover from the very worst thing that ever happened to you. If you're strong enough, you will participate in the process, something that is truly only for the brave because everything you thought you knew or what you thought would happen doesn't. No one is locked away forever. No keys are thrown away, and there's truly no life sentence for anyone other than the victims. I often say that, if you are standing after the initial crime, navigating the parole system will bring you to your knees.

“Transparency is a word we often use, and Bill C-320 is based on that principle. Victims of crime should be given crucial information about the offender who harmed them or their loved ones in a timely manner. By backing this bill, the weight of what victims of crime carry will be lessened considerably. I urge everyone here today to take my words into consideration and ask for your support in moving this bill to the next stage.”

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. colleague and thank him for his perseverance in putting forth Bill C-320. This is, after all, if my math is correct, the third iteration of it. He has worked for over a decade on this type of legislation. Much the same as soon-retiring Senator Boisvenu, the member has been a tireless advocate for victims' rights, and I want to congratulate him and thank him for that.

I wonder if the member has any further comments he would like to add.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I just want to humbly thank my colleague and also all members of the House. Members of all parties have come to talk to me about the bill and about the compassion of the House for victims; it is something we all realize.

I feel such sincere respect for victims of crime, such as Lisa, who bravely, over a decade ago, walked into the office of a member of Parliament and wanted to do something not just for herself and her family but also for victims in the future.

Anybody who reads the bill will see that it is 10 words that would be added in the English version. It is a small change, but it would make a big difference. As we move these changes forward, we have to remember that this is for the victim.

My colleagues mentioned the hon. Senator Pierre Boisvenu. His life's work, as a survivor himself, was to make an attitude change here in government so we actually put victims first. I applaud the colleagues who have supported me, and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. I know Lisa does as well.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Pickering—Uxbridge Ontario


Jennifer O'Connell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for bringing this matter forward. At committee we also heard that some victims and family members are not always ready, or do not always want, to hear about those who have impacted their family. Therefore I appreciate that the member has worked across the aisle on this to ensure that those who want the information are given it, but there is also a recognition that it is up to the victim and the victim's family to decide what information they receive. Could the member comment on that?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Pickering—Uxbridge brings out a very important point. Every victim and every victim's family is different, and what they want to hear during the grieving process is different. One of the things that is really important about the bill is that it would allow choice; it would allow victims and their families to choose whether or not they want to receive that different information. Over a time period, because they would be getting transparent, clear information as they heal, if that is at all possible, and they want to get more information about the process and what is going on, they would be able to.

We have listened to victims, including Lisa as a victims' advocate. I applaud her courage for bringing this forward; it is not an easy thing to do. She is so darned determined. It has been over two decades that she has worked at this. We have the opportunity to give her success and to give victims of crimes and their families success. Hopefully colleagues today will understand that and take it into account as we move forward with the debate and move it to the Senate.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague, the member for Oshawa, for championing the bill. In his tenure as a member of Parliament, he has consistently been a champion for the rights of victims. The bill is common sense.

One of the recurring themes I have heard from the families of victims is that they feel that they do not have support and they do not have information, long after the trial and conviction of the perpetrator who took the life of their loved one. Could the member comment on that?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. We do need to do more. This is a small change, but it would make a big difference. I thank the member for his kind words and support.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2024 / 1:50 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the discussion on Bill C-320. As we reach report stage of this bill, I would like to express gratitude to the hon. member for Oshawa for bringing this important bill to the House.

Bill C-320 is an important piece of legislation aimed at increasing victims' understanding of corrections and conditional release. According to existing federal law, victims who share their contact details with the Correctional Service of Canada or the Parole Board of Canada and who meet the legal definition of victim are entitled to specific information about those responsible for harming them. This information includes key dates indicating when offenders may be eligible for review and release.

Should Bill C-320 be accepted, it would amend the law to ensure that victims not only know when offenders could be released but also, importantly, understand how officials determined those eligibility dates.

The government supports this legislation, and I encourage hon. members to lend it their full support. The purpose of this bill aligns with the government's commitment to upholding victims' rights to information while taking into consideration offenders' privacy rights.

Victims of crime and their families seek clarity, transparency and opportunities to have their voices heard within the justice system. Bill C-320 aims to provide the clarity and transparency they seek, offering victims of offenders more information about crucial eligibility and review dates in advance.

This legislation lets victims know that we hear them. It clearly aligns with our commitments to support victims' rights, including their need for information. This bill builds upon the progress made in recognizing and upholding the rights of crime victims in our country.

Over the years, governments of various affiliations and members from both sides of the chamber have taken actions to advance victims' rights. This evolution began back in 1988. At that point, the House endorsed a statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. Subsequently, federal laws provided victims with a voice at sentencing hearings, emphasizing their rights based on an increasing understanding of their needs.

The enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992 first entitled victims to receive information about the offender who harmed them. In 2003, the government updated and re-endorsed the statement of basic principles, and in 2015, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights became law, solidifying victims' rights in various ways.

Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, victims of crime are legally entitled to receive information on inmates' progress towards meeting the objectives set out in their correctional plan, to name a representative to receive information on their behalf, to access a photo of the person who harmed them prior to release and to receive reasons if the Parole Board of Canada does not impose any release conditions requested by victims. Moreover, victims can actively participate in Parole Board hearings, virtually or in person, presenting victim statements and requesting special conditions for an offender's release.

Recent legislative measures, such as Bill C-83, further strengthened victims' rights by making audio recordings of parole hearings available to all registered victims of crime. As well, the National Office for Victims, in collaboration with federal partners, continues to produce informative materials on sentence calculation rules that are available online.

The progress made is a testament to ongoing conversations among victims of crime, elected representatives and government officials. These conversations, embodied not only in Bill C-320 but also in recent legislative initiatives, such as Bill S-12, affirm our commitment to victims' rights. Bill S-12, which received royal assent on October 26 of this past year, seeks to connect victims of offenders with ongoing information and to enhance publication ban laws. In addition, the Correctional Service of Canada and Parole Board of Canada work tirelessly to raise awareness of victims' rights.

In the government's view, Bill C-320 aligns with these sensible, non-partisan and multi-generational advancements. Victims of crime and their families want clarity and transparency. They want a voice, and they want that voice to be heard. This is why I look forward to passing Bill C-320 in the House today, and I encourage other members here to join me.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is moving to hear and observe how far we have come. The Bloc Québécois is eager to proceed with third reading.

I would like to add some more information and take the discussion a step further based on the situation before us. Members will recall that there was a surge in femicides in Quebec and in a number of locations in the west during the critical period of COVID‑19. This already alarming situation evolved into a true scourge. Every week, and almost every day, we woke up to media reports of a new femicide. The situation was alarming. Between 2009 and 2019, violence perpetrated against women, simply for being women, increased by almost 7.5%.

I am a woman. I am the mother of two young women and, on top of that, I am a member of Parliament. I have a responsibility, but at the same time I am still a person, and this news deeply upsets me. A mixture of disbelief, at times rage, and powerlessness often comes over me. I do not understand how this can still be happening in 2024. Women have the right to live in safety. It is not a luxury. It is not a privilege. It is a fundamental right. It seems to me that violence against women is condemned at every turn and has never been more socially unacceptable.

That said, women are unfortunately still the victims of men who are suffering or violent, who think that the life of their spouse, ex-spouse or the mother of their child is worth less than their own. There is still far too much misogynistic violence. Too many women still live in fear. From now on, fear must change sides. That is what the bill will do: turn the tables on fear.

Women living with a physically or psychologically abusive man must no longer be submissive. They must be supported. We need to work together to successfully turn the tables on shame and fear.

As legislators, it is up to us to bring about change. Obviously, we have come a long way, as my colleagues mentioned a few moments ago.

We in the Bloc Québécois are all allies. We will always be there to ensure that women's fundamental rights are all respected. We will not just use our defence of women's rights as a calling card. We truly believe in them. We in the Bloc Québécois will not pick and choose the issues on which we will defend women's rights. We will always defend women, their rights, their freedom and their safety. This is not just posturing for the Bloc Québécois. It is part of our DNA. We are a feminist party.

Quebec is once again setting an example for many jurisdictions around the world. In 2021, following tireless work by citizens' groups, women and MNAs from the Quebec National Assembly, including Véronique Hivon, who is someone you know well, Mr. Speaker, and someone I hold in the highest regard, Quebec created specialized courts for victims of sexual violence and domestic violence. I will take 30 seconds to quote what the Government of Quebec said about it:

The creation of this court specialized in sexual violence and domestic violence within a new division of the criminal and penal division of the Court of Québec is intended to ensure that victims receive better support and guidance before, during and after the legal proceedings. While respecting the principles of criminal law, each step of the judicial process will be reviewed to improve the experience for victims by being more responsive to their needs.

To turn the tables on shame, it is essential that we establish legal structures that treat women who are victims with respect and, most importantly, that make them feel that they are being heard.

Quebec became the first jurisdiction in Canada and the seventh in the world to implement electronic devices to give a sense of autonomy and safety back to women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is a major step for the safety of women, but it is also a paradigm shift. Now, it is the abusers who will have to live in fear—fear of their tracking device and fear of getting too close to their victims and violating their release conditions. Women will be able to slowly but surely return to living a healthy life, knowing that they will not come face to face with their abuser.

Bill C-320 has the exact same objective, which is to put information mechanisms in place to make sure that the victim can get an explanation on how correctional decisions were made regarding their abuser. That is worth mentioning. This mechanism will allow victims to access additional information on their abuser's status. It will only make the justice system stronger, which will improve confidence in the system.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Simone de Beauvoir, who said, “What's scandalous about scandal is that we get used to it”. We must never get used to violence against women or femicide. Our actions must reflect our humanity.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Oshawa for bringing this bill forward.

He spoke very eloquently about the Freeman family. I certainly hope that the debate today, the fact that this bill is moving forward and that there seems to be consensus within the chamber provides some small measure of peace to that family.

New Democrats are supporting Bill C-320. We believe that providing information to victims to help them understand the parole process is a vital part of transparency and justice for victims and victims' families. That is why we are supportive of this legislation.

We also believe that we need to be doing a lot more for victims. Of course, we are aware of the fact that often victims are left aside following some of the most horrendous crimes. It is the victims that are not provided with the appropriate transparency from our justice system and with the appropriate supports. This is something that needs to be reinforced, that victims need to be provided all the supports that they should be getting from the system.

This bill is one example of how having that transparency around parole is vitally important. I will come back in just a moment to the vital function of parole, of that transition to avoid reoffending. Where societies have been most successful in lowering the reoffending rate is where there is a properly supervised and monitored transition in place, including parole systems. These are absolutely fundamental. I will come back to that in a moment.

With the Paul Bernardo case, we saw another example of victims not receiving information that was critical. We had a transfer within the system, but the reality is that that information flow, that transparency, that providing of information to victims, was not present. The public safety committee held a number of hearings with the victims and victims' families. In a trauma-informed way, I think all members of the committee really tried to ensure that this was removed from the standard type of political comments that sometimes occur at committee.

All members of the committee received that trauma-informed information so that, when the victims' families and representatives of the victims came forward, I think all parties were able to provide an appropriate level of questioning and really got the information that was so important about what happens when there are transfers within the correctional system.

With parole, which is targeted by this bill, it is absolutely essential that that transparency be there as well. I said earlier that I would talk a bit about the importance of parole. When we see, within correctional services around the world, where there is a properly monitored, properly supervised parole system, the level of reoffending goes remarkably down. Norway is often pointed to. The Norwegian correctional services, at one point, did not have that type of transition or parole. Offenders served their full sentences. The reality was the reoffending rate was very high. Norway tried a new approach, where there was parole put into place, a properly supervised, properly monitored system. As a result of that, the reoffending rate for offenders who were leaving the correctional services went down remarkably.

When we look at correctional services around the world, the reoffending rates are much lower. Where there are properly supervised, properly monitored parole systems, offenders do not reoffend. There is a consistent field of study that shows the difference.

Certainly, in a number of American states, where they have continued to ensure that offenders serve their full sentence without that transition, the reoffending rate is much higher. We can take lessons from that. Canada has a parole system that is often not properly supervised and monitored because of a lack of resources; this is unacceptable. We have the essential need of ensuring that offenders have every tool to not reoffend, and that victims' families are fully advised and apprised of situations.

Bills like Bill C-320 are an important component of that, but resources are absolutely essential. That is where we are coming from. In this corner of the House, we believe that there need to be more supports for victims. The transparency is essential, but we are also looking for transparency within transfers and correctional services, and ensuring that victims are provided with the supports that are so essential.

When victims' families are apprised of this information, often they are not provided with psychological and mental health supports. This is something that needs to change if we are really going to ensure that we have a correctional service that serves justice and provides for the lowest possible reoffending rate, but also does justice for victims and victims' families. We need to ensure that those supports are in place.

I would like to talk about other resources that we believe need to be brought in. Crime prevention programs were ended under the former government 10 years ago, like the B.C. crime prevention centre and others. They were closed across the country as crime prevention funding was cut back; it was simply wrong-headed. The reality is crime prevention funding is an essential tool to ensure that there are no further victims. We know that one dollar invested in crime prevention saves about six dollars in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. It is a no-brainer.

In this corner of the House, we believe in substantially funding crime prevention right across the country to ensure that there are fewer victims and that we are bringing the crime rate down. We believe this is an absolutely essential tool. Yes, providing supports to victims is a critical step, but actually ensuring that there are fewer victims is a much smarter approach. We believe in being smart on crime and smart on the causes of crime. This is how we can reduce the crime rate.

I note, sadly, when talking about resources, that last December, the official opposition proposed significant cuts with votes 23, 24 and 25. It was a sum of over $300 million in cuts to correctional services and the court administration services. It seems to me that it is wrong-headed to cut $300 million, when what we actually need to do is ensure that there is further funding to support victims, further funding to support the transparency that is a necessary aspect of correctional services, and further funding to actually ensure, for example, that the important recommendations of Bill C-320 are actually kept. The funding is a critical part of ensuring that we are responding, in a complete way, to ensure that the needs of victims are kept in place.

Once again, I would like to thank the member for Oshawa for introducing Bill C‑320. The NDP will support this bill. We feel it is an important step in ensuring that victims and victims' families have access to absolutely critical and important information. We look forward to its passage through the House and the other place in the days ahead.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and speak to my friend from Oshawa’s bill, Bill C-320. Nowhere could 10 words and an explanation of how the date has been determined make such a difference, such a profound impact on so many Canadians.

I have stood in the House so many times over the last eight years to talk about victims' rights. We talked about the Paul Bernardo case. We talked about the Tori Stafford case, in which Terri-Lynne McClintic, the murderer of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was moved to a healing lodge.

We talked about Catherine Campbell, the Halifax police officer who was heinously murdered by a murderer who then claimed he had developed PTSD from the actual murder. He was put to the front of the line, ahead of victims of violence, ahead of veterans and ahead of first responders, to receive treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder. It is absolutely shameful.

There is the case that I have stood in the House to talk about so many times: the case of Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff, who was found in 2010, just 20 years of age, in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. He had murdered Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. He had murdered a friend of mine's daughter, Loren Leslie, who was 15 years old at the time.

I have stood in the House time and time again and asked, “Who speaks for the victims?”.

Cody Legebokoff was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in December 2014. That should have been the end of it. We found out, not through Corrections Canada's releasing information to the families but through the press, that Cody had been moved from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security prison just five years later, transferred mere kilometres down the road from Loren's sister.

Who speaks for families? When I questioned Corrections Canada and the public safety minister at the time on how this could happen, the answer I got was that it is not an exact science.

In Canada, “life” does not mean “life” for those who commit heinous crimes. It means “life” for the families' victims. They have a life sentence, and oftentimes they cannot get the information they require and deserve on why these transfers are happening.

Bill C-320 would simply promote transparency and victims' rights, equally important principles for democracy and criminal justice. It would simply give victims of violent crime and their families rights.

Finally, we are seeing some movement. This bill came to fruition thanks to the advocacy of Lisa Freeman, a constituent of our colleague from Oshawa. Her father was murdered in 1991. We heard the story. She was caught off guard when her father's killer was eligible for early parole 20 years into a 25-year life sentence. Often, the victims of violent crime and their families, the survivors, find these things out through the media. They are not told in advance. We heard earlier that they are the ones who have to keep pressing for more information. They have to be on it all the time.

Common decency would say that, if a loved one is murdered, whether a child, father, uncle, brother or mother, we owe the victims of violence just a modicum of decency. Thus, we should inform them when these killers are being moved, transferred to a different level of security or released into the community.

Our Bloc friend said that the aggressors need to fear. We see this now and again in the statistics on repeat and prolific offenders, on how crime has gone up, on how there are more victims of violence and on how that is impacting not only female Canadians at an alarming rate but also our families.

I applaud my colleague from Oshawa for his tenacity and undying pursuit of justice for victims and their families. By all accounts, from what we have heard here in the House today, Bill C-320 should pass here. It should go to the Senate, where we hope it will be unamended and swiftly receive royal assent; then, once and for all, we can all stand in this House and say that we fought for the rights of victims.

In preparing for this speech today, I looked over messages to me from Mr. Doug Leslie, a friend of mine, whose daughter Loren was murdered by Legebokoff. His messages are always the same: “Who speaks for me? Who speaks for the victims? Who stands up for them?” Today, we can say that we do, by passing Bill C-320, an act with, really, 10 little words that mean so much.

I opened my speech today by saying that nowhere in any of the legislation that we have done to date are there 10 little words that can provide such profound help to so many Canadians as those in Bill C-320. I will mention them again: “and an explanation of how that date has been determined”.

I applaud my colleague from Oshawa and those in this House who have offered a reasonable debate. I am thankful for this time.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to discuss Bill C-320, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Victims who share their contact information with the Correctional Service of Canada and/or the Parole Board of Canada and who meet the definition of “victim” outlined in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, CCRA, are entitled to receive certain information about the person who harmed them.

This information includes review and release eligibility dates, which are provided to victims in an initial contact letter. Bill C-320 would require that victims be provided with an explanation of how those dates are determined. Across the country, victims of serious crimes may deserve to know how sentences are administered, including eligibility for temporary absences and parole.

Together, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada have over 8,000 registered victims. We have heard from them, and they and their families want clarity and transparency. I look forward to supporting Bill C-320 to provide that increased clarity and transparency that victims of crime are asking for.

Additionally, I want to thank the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, for its expeditious study. The committee has returned to this place an unamended bill, which received unanimous support. I look forward to that unanimity continuing in our debate today.

Ensuring that the rights of victims are upheld is important. Our government has passed new legislation to continue to support victims' rights in the form of Bill S-12. That legislation ensures that victims receive ongoing information about the offender after sentencing and would improve the law on publication bans by giving a greater voice and clarity to victims in regard to imposing and lifting a publication ban. Bill C-320 shares similar aims to Bill S-12.

As members know, the CCRA governs both the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. It is the foundation on which people serving federal sentences are supervised and conditional release decisions are made. It also recognizes that victims of crime have an important role to play in the criminal justice system. It provides victims with an opportunity to access certain information and participate in the federal corrections and conditional release process. With the CCRA and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights as a foundation, a variety of government departments, including the Parole Board of Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada, work together to provide information services to victims.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights expanded the information available to victims as it relates to hearings by allowing victims who were unable to attend a hearing to request to listen to an audio recording of the parole hearing. At any time, victims may also submit information that details the physical, emotional or financial impact the offence has had on them to the Parole Board for consideration in its decision-making. They may also raise any safety concerns they may have related to the offender's risk of reoffending.

As part of the victim statement, victims can also request that the board consider imposing special conditions on an offender's release. All this information assists board members in assessing risk and determining if additional conditions may be necessary to impose if release to the community is granted. They may also raise any safety concerns they may have in relation to the offender's risk of reoffending. As part of the victim statement, victims can also request that the board consider imposing special conditions on the offender's release.

All this information assists board members in assessing risk and in determining if imposing additional conditions may be necessary if release to the community is in fact granted. The protection of society is the paramount consideration in all parole board decisions. I will also note that Public Safety Canada plays a role in improving victims' experiences with the federal corrections and conditional release systems.

The National Office for Victims engages with victims, their advocates and service providers. It hosts annual round tables, develops information products about victims' rights and services and applies a victim's lens on corrections and conditional release policy development. Victims can also receive information in the format of their choosing, including through the Victims Portal. They can submit information electronically, including victim statements.

These services respect a victim's right to information, and this information serves to engage and to empower victims to make informed decisions in relation to their rights to participation and protection.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The time provided for 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.

It being 2:30, the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

Have a great weekend, everyone.

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)