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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was firearms.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Cape Breton—The Sydneys (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 76% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, in cases of a series of small offences, the sentences can be imposed consecutively so that there could be higher penalties for more than one offence, so that is still there.

The hon. member is right that the choice is not there but we have no intention of changing the penalties. We are going to as agreed keep the situation the way it is. There is still the possibility of higher sentences in a series of small offences if the judge chooses to sentence the person for each offence consecutively.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, that is correct.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, we always determine guilt upon the facts of the case. They have always determined sentence based on the facts of the case too. If the facts of the case are such that a stiff sentence is not merited, they are going to have a problem. If there is a choice, you can go summarily and the judge can see a fitting sentence in the summary conviction that meets the process of the justice system and the interests of society because one gets a conviction and a sentence that is going to be fair.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, when I am speaking of summary and indictable, I am talking generally. There are sections in the Criminal Code where the charge is proceeded with summarily or as an indictable offence. In some cases the spectrum of the case can range but not to what one would consider a serious crime. If there is just a way of proceeding as an indictable offence the judge is going to say: "If I proceed as an indictable offence, the penalty I have to give is going to be far too serious for the crime". Therefore in certain sections of the Criminal Code there is the choice of proceeding summarily or on an indictable offence.

It is not left to the judge. It is how the case is laid, either as a summary conviction or as an indictable charge. The judge does not have the discretion. That is decided before it goes to court. It is just a means of asking how best to get a conviction. It is left with the crown prosecutor's office to determine the best way to proceed. Do we try for the higher sentence and end up with nothing or should we go summarily and at least be sure we are going to get a conviction?

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, I was referring to another point that the hon. member for New Westminister-Burnaby made in his speech. He talked about the hybrid offences, the dual offences of summary or indictable, that the charges could be either summary or indictable which did not relate to this particular provision at all. This was a general comment as I understood it that in some cases in certain areas where there is not a conviction, the judge will not convict somebody on an indictable offence for an offence they feel is not serious enough to warrant a conviction as an indictable offence whereas if we give the choice of summary or indictable and proceed summarily, the judge will be more predisposed to giving a conviction on that.

The other point the hon. member for Crowfoot made related to the change from the superior courts to provincial courts in certain cases of theft. Granted the situation now is 10 years maximum, but they are not awarding 10 years for theft under $5,000. Now under the Criminal Code they would get a maximum of two years and two years is penitentiary time. I cannot imagine any judge giving two years for theft under $5,000 because it means that person goes to penitentiary. I just do not think any judge is going to do that.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, these changes have been dialogued with the provinces for their approval and their consideration.

The fact is that in the provincial court system, the preliminary documentation, the waiting periods are not as long as they are in the superior court system. This will free up some time in the superior court system. It will in some cases add to the provincial court system, but in the opinion of the Department of Justice and the provincial authorities of the attorneys general departments and ministers of justice provincially it is not going to be a problem and add that much that the provincial court systems will be overloaded.

It will allow more time for the superior courts to hear cases of theft involving larger amounts and violent crimes.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, the purpose is to move more of the cases of theft into the provincial court system and away from the superior court system. That is not to say that because we are going from $1,000 to $5,000 we are going to increase the theft cases in the provincial court system five times. Nor are we going to say that we are reducing the penalties because it is going to a provincial court. This discretion remains with the pertinent judge sitting at that particular time.

What we are saying is that these cases can be tried very competently under the provincial court system and that it is really more efficient to do so without any reduction in the quality of the justice dispensed.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, theft under $5,000 can be dealt with by indictment but under the jurisdiction of the provincial court judge.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Chairman, I understand what the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby is saying. There is a concern among the public about crime, all types of crime at the present time. The public wants justice. It wants the justice system to react and deal with crime.

I do not want to say that property crime is not significant because it is extremely significant. Right now, however, the main concern is violent crime with a great many people in our cities. They want to make sure that our system can deal swiftly with violent crime.

If we move theft under $5,000 to the provincial courts as opposed to theft under $1,000, as is the situation now, that is not going to diminish justice in any way. All it is going to do is take some cases which are now tried by the superior courts and have them heard in the provincial courts.

The provincial court judges right now are of an excellent calibre. The cases can be brought forward more quickly. Justice is dealt with more expediently. As a result, there is less cost to the system and the decisions and results are equally good.

I honestly feel that we are not diminishing the calibre or quality of justice by this provision.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1994 October 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to make a speech. I want to clarify a few of the points that were brought up in the speech by the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby.

First, with respect to the hybrid offences where it can be summary or indictable, in some cases the reason we want to have hybrid offences and proceed in a summary conviction is that the courts will not convict certain offenders on indictable offences. It is quite true that in many cases charges are not even brought where there are indictable offences, whereas if there were summary offences we would at least get the cases to court to get a conviction.

It remains with the judge as to the penalty. The fact of the matter is it may be a reduced penalty but in many cases a reduced penalty is better than no penalty at all. We want to have that flexibility.

With respect to the increase in the maximum on property offences from $1,000 to $5,000 that could be heard in provincial courts, it is the opinion of the Minister of Justice and myself that we want to have more of these cases heard in provincial court. They can be done more quickly. We have the expertise and the provincial court judges to hear them.

Because we are increasing from $1,000 to $5,000 does not mean there is going to be five times more work for the provincial court judges. There is going to be an increase, but there is going to be a corresponding decrease in the higher courts in the country. We feel it is going to be more efficient. We are going to have the same high level of justice. It is going to be less costly.

The other point concerns the national registry on the DNA. The hon. member makes a very good point. However, the reason it was not included is that there is a discussion paper now circulating on DNA. The Minister of Justice promised to give until November 20 for submissions on this discussion paper.

He is undertaking that new legislation will be brought forward, if not by the end of the year then early in the new year. This whole question of a registry is being reviewed along with other questions on DNA.

At this point I would like to move that we now move into committee of the whole. I think we will have unanimous agreement among all parties to proceed that way.