Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-48. I commend the minister and the government for advancing a cause that I know has as much support among victims and Canadians as any bill we will address this session.
For decades, victims of crime have come to this House seeking the justice the Criminal Code has denied them. Sharon and Gary Rosenfeldt, Debbie Mahaffy, Theresa McCuaig, and Don Edwards have all been denied too long in their simple struggle for a measure of proportionality in sentencing. They came here bearing the memory of personal tragedy of the most brutal order and bearing witness to a justice system that was no less brutal regarding their right to justice.
The bill today could rightly be called a tribute to the courage and dedication of victims who rose above their personal suffering and sought to prevent others from suffering the same injustice. Regrettably, this bill does not come in time for Gary Rosenfeldt and other family members of victims who have died seeing neither justice for their children nor any change in the justice system that failed them.
Today, the Minister of Justice has renewed their hope.
Volume discounts for rapists and murderers is the law in Canada today. It is called concurrent sentencing. It cheapens life. The life of the second, the third, or the eleventh victim does not count in the sentencing equation. The lowest price is the law every day in our courts.
A family must still watch as courts hand down a conviction for the murder of their child, spouse, or parent, and then reel in the reality that not a single day will be served for that crime. Judges cannot be blamed as they have no latitude to impose consecutive sentences for serial killers. When a multiple murderer walks into court, it is justice that is handcuffed.
Fourteen years ago, I introduced a bill calling for an end to this bulk rate for murder. For the next four years, the issue was debated widely in the House, the Senate, and across the country. The effort drew the support of major victims groups, police associations, and eminent lawyers like Scott Newark and Gerry Chipeur. Members from all parties offered support, even attending Senate committee hearings. Among them were Chuck Cadman, John Reynolds and the current ministers of National Defence and Transport.
We learned in that journey that Parliament had what would be called “a democratic deficit”. We learned that average Canadians were a decade ahead of Parliament in their thinking. We learned that too many predators, released because of concurrent sentencing, had found new victims and spawned even more tragedy.
A decade ago in North Bay, Gregory Crick was found guilty of two murders. Mr. Crick had murdered Louis Gauthier back in April, 1996. A witness to that murder went to the police. Gregory Crick proceeded to murder that witness in retaliation. However, when he was finally sentenced, not one day could be added to Mr. Crick's parole ineligibility for the murder of that witness.
In the summer of 1999, there was one particular case where the Crown actually tried to delay sentencing in the hope that the changes I was pursuing in Parliament might be rapidly passed. It was the case of Adrian Kinkead, who was tried and convicted of the brutal murders of Marsha and Tammy Ottey in Scarborough, a process that took three and a half years. Mr. Kinkead was given a mandatory life sentence with no parole for 25 years. However, Mr. Kinkead was already under a life sentence with the same parole ineligibility after being convicted of a completely unrelated murder.
The crown prosecutor in the case, Robert Clark, asked the judged to delay sentencing until a bill similar to the one before you today could be passed.
His stated intent was to permit the judge to extend the period of parole ineligibility to reflect these additional murders. That bill did pass the House of Commons and had the committed support of most of the Senate, but it was stalled in committee. Sixteen months passed without a final vote and an election was called.
There has been a decade of outrage since then. A year ago, on the eve of the first scheduled debate on the government's current bill, the murders of Julie Crocker and Paula Menendez have led to a first degree murder conviction. Then as now, the families would soon realize that only one murder could count in the sentence, that the murder of one of these women would not yield a single day in jail.
This injustice will continue every day that the bill is stalled in this place. Just weeks ago, Russell Williams was able to thank the inertia of Parliament for a future parole hearing. Families of victims were put through a graphic and unnecessary court spectacle so that the Crown and the police could put evidence on the record that could be seen by a parole board 25 years in the future. Those families will have to hope their health permits them to appear decades from now, time and time again, to object and argue against the release of Russell Williams. His case is not unique.
There are no special circumstances that make him different from other multiple murderers. He was a colonel and there are pictures and videos of his crimes that made his situation infamous. But make no mistake: just about every victim of a multiple murderer went through the same horror. It is only that the obscurity of their victimizer is more likely to allow him to be freed.
The statistical fact, as early as 1999, was that multiple murderers are released into the community, on average, just six years after they are eligible for parole, some within a year of their eligibility. So much for the exhausted notion that life is life and that multiple murderers never get out of jail. Most do.
Another absurd crutch is the myth that somehow multiple murderers are rehabilitated in jail, as if they have an addiction that can be easily treated.
Wendy Carroll, a real estate woman, survived having her throat slashed and being left for dead by two paroled multiple murderers just 10 minutes away from my own home. They had both been convicted of two murders. Both were on life sentences. And both were freed in Mississauga and tried to kill again.
Life only means life for the victims of these offenders. Some in the House may still spout the bizarre and unfounded contention that Canadians somehow approve of concurrent sentencing, that they view it as a way to be different from the United States, as if letting multiple murderers back on the street were an act of patriotism or an endorsement of Canadian culture.
In fact, 90% of Canadians polled by Pollara supported mandatory consecutive sentencing for multiple murderers, with none of the judicial discretion currently contained in the bill. So we remain with a system supported by less than 10% of Canadians.
Then there are the skewed parole statistics. Through some digging years ago, I discovered that Francis Roy was in those statistics as a successful parolee. He had murdered Alison Parrott while on parole after receiving a discounted concurrent sentence for raping two girls. But since he was not returned to custody until after his parole expired, he was just another statistical success story and an example of low levels of repeat offenders.
While criminal lawyers and a few senators still support concurrent sentencing, even our most notorious serial killers mock it. I had occasion to witness the obscene spectacle of Clifford Olson's section 745 hearing. It was a 1997 summer day in B.C., not far from where Olson had victimized 11 children. There Olson read out a letter from his lawyer advising him to admit to all his murders at once. This way, the lawyer indicated, Olson could take full advantage of concurrent sentencing. Olson mocked the court, saying, “They can't do nothing. They can only give me a concurrent sentence”.
To this day, Olson is right. The obstruction of Bill C-25 in the Senate in 2000 has allowed a decade of multiple murderers to similarly mock their victims and mock justice.
I encourage members to look past the usual opposition from the predator protection industry and pass this legislation without delay or obstruction. Perhaps then we can finally put an end to volume discounts that deny justice to victims, deny peace to their families and deny safety and security to Canadians.