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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was particular.

Last in Parliament January 2014, as Conservative MP for Fort McMurray—Athabasca (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 72% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code December 9th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate that, I do not agree with the member. I do believe there is a break.

We heard from experts. We did a study on organized crime some two years ago in the justice committee. We heard from experts who said it was very difficult to indeed prove the fundamentals of organized crime. It is very difficult to get convictions in court. It is very difficult to prove the facts. Indeed, it costs a lot of money for taxpayers to be able to prove this.

I do not believe that at all. In fact, I would like to answer the question that the member first put to me in relation to the group and why three or more. The statistics are startling in relation to when three or more people are involved in a crime. They are usually much more violent crimes.

I think it takes more planning. It takes more people getting together for a longer period of time. It is a complicated situation, usually. It leads to more violent behaviour. As a result, victims are frankly left out in the cold. I have seen situations where three or more people have been involved in a simple assault and a person has died. If that was a one-on-one person crime, the likelihood of that happening is very minimal. Indeed, the statistics bear my argument out.

Criminal Code December 9th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, I am open to possible amendments in that particular section of the bill.

I do understand some members have come forward, in particular on our side of the House when I briefed them, with some issues relating to that and muddying the waters or confusing the issues. I do not believe it does, just on the basis of my experience in court. I know the member has had some experience in court as well.

I do believe, however, that the three or more provision is a catch-all. I believe that fills a gap and would, in essence, make it much easier for crown prosecutors to prove their case, and if they cannot prove their case, much easier for crown prosecutors to make a reasonable plea bargain that would see that the accused and convicted would receive a more serious crime based on the facts of the particular case.

I look forward to the member's questions during committee. I certainly look forward to her experience being brought forward, to get a better bill, ultimately, which is why we are here.

Criminal Code December 9th, 2013

moved that Bill C-526, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues who appreciate this government's stance on taking care of business as far as criminals go. I have seen more criminal laws come into place over the last 10 years, I think, than the previous 20 years. It shows the importance to this government of ensuring that we crack down on crime and protect Canadians.

I am very pleased to stand today in support of the bill. It comes about as a result of my own practice in law. I spent most of the 1990s practising criminal law and other forms of litigation in northern Alberta. During that time, I saw some very horrendous crimes that I felt did not have proper punishment, as a result of the inability of judges to, in essence, throw the book at people who are involved in more serious crimes. When I say that, I talk about crimes that I find particularly repugnant; those crimes that include more than two people, for instance, three or more people. Those people usually start with low-level crimes, where they are organized and they talk about it. Then they move on to higher-level crimes, if indeed they get away with them or the judicial system has no ability to crack down on them.

In particular, Bill C-526 would strengthen the Criminal Code's response to organized crime and terrorism. I know that terrorism does not happen very often in this country, thank goodness. However, we do have a situation where criminal organizations are very active in this country. Make no mistake, criminal organizations account for a very large amount of crime, more particularly the very serious nature of the crimes themselves, such as murders, arsons or things like that. Most serious crimes that include violence are more likely gang related and related to organized crime. This government has been committed to taking steps to ensure these crimes are treated as among the most serious in the Criminal Code.

I intend, today, through this bill, to allow judges more discretion at the final disposition of sentence and also to enable crown prosecutors to do what they do a lot of, which is plea bargaining, to get a situation that they may not receive a conviction on but that allows the judge to, in essence, throw the book at them at the time of sentencing.

This proposal is to amend the Criminal Code sentencing provision that sets out factors which should be considered to be aggravating or mitigating, in essence, aggravating factors. If they are involved in the crime themselves and the facts have been proven, the person would be found to be more liable and could receive a larger sentence. This means, as well, that the judge would increase or decrease sentence as a result of those factors that arose during the commission of the offence.

It proposes to amend the list of aggravating factors in two ways.

First, it would create a new aggravating factor for sentencing where there is evidence that an offence was connected in any way to a group of three or more persons who had a common purpose of facilitating or committing an offence under the Criminal Code or any act of Parliament.

Second, the bill proposes to create a new category of serious aggravating factors, which would include evidence that the offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization, or there was evidence that the offence was a terrorism offence, which is very serious indeed.

This last amendment aims to send a very important message of public policy from our government and from all future governments; that is, that organized crime and terrorism offences are among the most serious offences in the Criminal Code and that the courts should not tolerate them. They should consider them to be even more serious aggravating factors, as specified in the Criminal Code.

These factors play an important role in the judicial process of determining an appropriate sentence for a convicted offender.

The Criminal Code actually enumerates some specific factors that Parliament considers to be aggravating or mitigating. This list is not exhaustive, but it would certainly give judges and the judiciary a specific direction as to how public policy should be placed on these people and how they should treat them when convicted. Factors in this provision must be taken into consideration by a judge. They are actually asked to consider them under this legislation.

However, a judge can also consider other aggravating or mitigating factors that arise in those particular cases. It would give judges the discretion, and it would clearly enumerate that this government, and, I, in particular, have faith in the judiciary. If given the proper tools, they will throw the book at these criminals who participate in such despicable behaviour.

There are strong public policy reasons to treat offences that are committed by three or more people with greater severity than offences committed by one individual. I do not think I need to go into detail on that. Most Canadians would agree that three or more people who are involved in an offence, who would commit some criminal behaviour, should be treated differently than those who are singularly involved. It shows more complexity and more of a desire to be involved in this type of element.

The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics released a report in November of this year, entitled “Co-offending in Canada, 2011”, which examined co-offending trends in Canada. It defined co-offending as being crimes involving two or more accused people, and group crimes as being crimes involving three or more accused people.

Group crimes are what I am interested in with the first amendment. Group crimes only account for 3% of criminal incidents in Canada. Most people would say that is not a lot, but the truth is that for a number of reasons we should give more attention to these crimes. They are more serious in nature. As I mentioned before, when three or more people are involved in an offence, the offence usually involves more serious repercussions to individuals and victims. For instance, first, the offences are more likely to involve a firearm or another weapon. Second, when a violent crime is committed by a group, the chance that the victim will be injured or killed is much higher. Third, hate crimes, which are so despicable in this country, tend to involve groups or other individuals more than non-hate crimes. These statistics, although small in number, show that the repercussions and the impact on victims are much more serious than if they are incidents committed by a single offender.

These recent statistics also reveal that co-offending and group crimes are a trend that is more likely to be among young people, or youthful offenders. That is also a difficulty because these crimes, for youth, set the trend for them for future years. Judges need to be able to stop them at that age. The crimes that youth are involved in include breaking and entering, arson, robbery, possession of stolen property and theft. Indeed, there is no victimless crime in these types of incidents. There is also a connection between group crimes and co-offending and the eventual formation of more structured criminal enterprises for youth and others.

I have been told startling statistics, such as that it is 8% of crimes that are ever solved. If youth commit crimes with three or more people, they get away with them and are enriched by that behaviour, those people are more likely to continue to commit crimes. We need to give the tools to the judiciary to be able to stop them in their tracks so they change their ways.

There is also a connection in other ways to more serious crimes, and that would be involvement with organized crime. That is why I believe there has been a gap in the Criminal Code legislation for crimes committed by groups of three or more people and being able to punish them adequately to reflect the crime the offenders have been involved in. Although judges can already recognize the seriousness of the commission of a crime by a group at sentencing, Bill C-526 would specify that in every situation where three or more offenders are involved in an offence, this factor shall be taken into consideration. It would give less leeway in a way, but it instructs, on a public policy basis, that judges should take this more seriously and actually throw the book at these people.

Some may question how the aggravating factor differs from the existing aggravating factor for criminal organization offences. In order for a criminal group to fall within the definition of a criminal organization, the commission of the offence must also be motivated by a material benefit for the group. I am not going to go into it in great detail, but let us just say that the changes to the criminal organization offences have not been very effective.

I have worked in the trenches and I have seen what has taken place in criminal courts. I know how plea bargaining and crown prosecutors work, and I know how defence counsels work. Bluntly speaking, it is very difficult to prove that a person is a member of a criminal organization, that the criminal organization was involved, and that indeed the criminal organization is a criminal organization. I have been told, and we have heard it from a particular report, that it takes up to a week or two weeks to prove these particular offence traits and facts. Then they have to do that with every co-accused person, and every new person who belongs to a particular gang or criminal organization, for instance. It is very difficult to prove.

Although the facts are there, and it shows the factors in the Criminal Code relating to criminal organizations and how crown prosecutors can prove it, et cetera, the truth is that very few people were convicted under this provision over the last period of years that it has been in force.

The proposed new aggravating factor in Bill C-526 does not require an element of material benefit. The new aggravating factor would simply include situations where there is evidence that the offence was connected in any way to a group of three or more persons with the common purpose of facilitating or committing an offence under the Criminal Code or any act of Parliament.

While the existing aggravating factor of organized crime may overlap somewhat, and it is agreed it may somewhat overlap, the proposed new aggravating factor, the new factor that I have proposed, is less stringent and captures a broader range of offences. They are more simple to prove, as I mentioned. For example, this new aggravating factor could also apply to a number of different scenarios, such as breaking into a home or business to commit a theft; a sexual assault; offences, as I mentioned, that are motivated by hate, and drug trafficking and auto theft, to name just a few. That is provided, of course, that the offence is committed by a group of three or more persons.

The new aggravating factor would strengthen the Criminal Code because it would capture group crimes that do not meet the definition of organized crime. As I said, it is very difficult to prove. Group crimes may still be very serious, even absent the motive of material benefit. In fact, most Canadians would not understand why they have to prove material benefit under an organized crime scenario, such as in a sexual assault or hate crime. However, from my perspective, it is quite shocking that it is not included in the Criminal Code as such, and I believe there has been a gap that we can fill with this legislation.

While I have spoken at length about the benefits of the new proposed aggravating factor to address group crimes, I must also take a moment to discuss the second proposal. The objective of this new category is to send a message to the courts that these crimes are extremely serious and to give judges further discretion in relation to these types of crimes. I think most Canadians would agree that people who are involved in organized crimes or terrorism offences should have the book thrown at them. We do not want them in Canada. We do not want to encourage those people to be involved in these offences in Canada. We do not want them to do this at all.

When we find these people, we should be able to easily prove that they are those people. For instance, I think members would be surprised to find out that because it is so difficult to prove these offences and the facts of these cases, crown prosecutors have to plea bargain because they do not want these people to get off completely. Plea bargaining in essence means that prosecutors do not get everything they want. They are not going to be able to go to trial and find people guilty of every offence.

Crown prosecutors are going to ask how easy or difficult it will be to prove these three offences. If it is difficult to prove these three offences in criminal organizations, with the group crimes that I have proposed there is a gap that will not allow them to suggest it is going to take two weeks to go to trial, that it will take time and it will be very difficult prove someone is part of a criminal organization. What would happen now is that the crown prosecutor can say he or she does not need to worry about that criminal organization and to prove that fact. The prosecutor would only need to prove to the judge or justice that there were three or more people involved in the crime. Then the judge can give a more serious penalty, and in fact the judge has to take that into consideration.

I am open to possible amendments from the government or the opposition. I encourage all members to participate in the study of this particular bill. It is a great bill, and I cannot imagine anybody standing against it. However, of course there is always the chance that somebody might feel he or she could do a better job with some particular part of the bill. I am open to that.

I would urge the members of the House, in all parties, to support this bill at second reading so it can be referred to committee for further study. As we know, the ultimate goal of stiffer sentences being imposed on offenders who form a common intent to commit crimes is worthy of support. In many situations, the amendment would apply to gangs that may not meet the criteria to be considered for a criminal organization.

In closing, I consider this to be a very responsible approach to current crime trends and an important message to group crime and organized crime offenders. We will stand up for Canadians on this side of the House, and I believe in this particular case that all members of the House will do the same.

Northwest Territories Devolution Act December 5th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member across the way for complimenting this government on some of the great initiatives we have done, such as setting aside a record amount of land for national parks and taking many steps toward environmental stewardship. I want to confirm with the member that we did consult extensively. In some areas, there was additional consultation because of some concerns stakeholders brought up relating to some of the specific concerns with locals.

Would the member talk a bit about some of the positive things the bill would do, such as increasing existing fines and establishing administrative monetary penalties under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Northwest Territories Waters Act and taking steps to protect the environment in both of these cases? Would she also like to comment in particular on these new enforcement measures and if they would improve compliance? That is what our stakeholders have told us clearly in consultation. Would she like to provide additional and complimentary comments in relation to this government's move on those two fronts?

Mother of Member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca November 27th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, today I recognize one of the most impressive Canadians I have ever met, someone who loves northern Alberta and Fort McMurray, a true pioneer and early entrepreneur, a great Canadian.

With her husband, she owned and operated many successful businesses over 50 years in Fort McMurray, including Fort McMurray's first newspaper, the McMurray Courier, where she acted as reporter, writer, editor, and publisher.

She has volunteered literally thousands of hours on countless non-profit boards. She has also volunteered thousands of hours for Canadian democracy and to uphold conservative economic principles. As a woman, she has had to fight many times for her voice to be heard and became, as a result, one of the first female members of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce. On her 80th birthday, she launched her own written book, More Than Oil: Trappers, Traders and Settlers of Northern Alberta.

She is a trailblazer, a historian, a world traveller, a master cook and baker, continues to work more than 50 hours a week, and is the most honest person I know. She also works tirelessly to serve her family, her community, and Canada.

I thank Mrs. Frances Kathaleen Jean: my hero, my friend, my mother.

Northern Gateway Pipeline November 7th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Premier Alison Redford and Premier Christy Clark for their hard work and dedication to Canada's economy, especially to our northern gateway pipeline.

Our energy industry provides Canada with continued job growth and a very reliable economy. Over the next 30 years, this pipeline is expected to create 261,000 jobs and a labour income of $23.8 billion.

The northern gateway pipeline will dramatically increase jobs and revenue all across our great country in all communities, as would Kitimat Clean, David Black's green refinery process.

Let us imagine the impact on Canada's economy if we focus our energy on upgrading and increasing our oil refining capacity.

Our Conservative government is concentrating on Canada's economy.

Natural Resources November 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the oil sands creates hundreds of thousands of job in communities right across Canada. We notice the Conservatives clap for that because our government knows that Canadians benefit from resource development. We have been clear that the Keystone XL project will create fantastic jobs for Canadians and tremendous growth in our economy.

Could the parliamentary secretary please update the House on the work the minister is doing to support Canadian jobs and add to the quality of life for Canadians?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I always find it interesting to hear the Liberals talk about the environment, especially given their track record of inconsistencies.

However, I notice the member is passionate about the environment and I respect that very much.

We heard earlier that the NDP members wanted to have parks so nobody could see them, enjoy them or step foot on them.

Does the member not see the opportunities for Canadians to share with the world the great ecological steps that we have taken to protect huge swaths of land in our country and does she not see there can be a true balance in the best interests of Canadians and wildlife and the general economic and ecological environment of the country?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, a pit bull on a bone: I have never thought of the member in those conditions before, but it is quite vivid indeed.

I appreciate the member's complimenting this government on Nahanni and Sable Island park. The Prime Minister has set aside more land for parks in this country than any prime minister in our history, I believe.

I appreciated all of the speeches I heard tonight. It became apparent that the NDP has a real lack of trust in relation to this issue. All I heard in their speeches was, “Congratulations, great job, but we do not trust you”. The Liberals said that they would have done it if they had just had another 13 or 14 years, and of course the Green Party member mentioned that we will not get it right no matter what we do.

I do appreciate all of the members' speeches and the fact that they have complimented this government on yet another great initiative.

After hearing the speech by the member opposite, I can tell for certain that there is nothing else to be said that has not already been said. I am wondering if the member would try to persuade other members of his caucus to allow this matter to go to committee as soon as possible, and possibly agree to do so in a timely fashion so that we could go to sleep sometime before midnight tonight, or at least have it passed before today's hour passes.

Criminal Code June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here tonight to talk about the first bill I have ever had a hand in drafting. The mover of the bill said that some year and a half to two years ago he talked to me about the bill because of my past experience with criminal law and we generally drafted it out. Today, we draw the conclusion that it is a great bill and does exactly what this government has been doing since the beginning, and that is standing up for victims.

We have a criminal justice system in our country that puts straight laws out there and people either obey them or disobey them. If they disobey them, the police will arrest them and then the court will deal with them. However, victims have fallen through the cracks since 1892, when the first Criminal Code was enacted in Canada. Victims of crime have been left aside for too long. I am glad to see the member has recognized that and is standing up for victims, as is our government.

I have seen some very deplorable situations. In Fort McMurray, where I practised criminal law, I saw a situation where a father abused three of his daughters. He did not just abuse them as they grew up into their teens. He continued to abuse them for some 20 years thereafter even though there was no true physical contact. The abuse continued by way of being reminded of that crime forever. When people live only several blocks away from where they have grown up in a community, they are continuously put in front of that crime time and time again. I know this is something victims complain of often.

We need to ensure that those victims are protected forever, especially in cases of sexual assault, which is why this bill is good. However, as a past criminal lawyer, people who commit sexual assaults against children need to be monitored forever under strict and specific conditions, such as wearing an anklet or an electronic monitoring device and never out of sight of the authorities. I say that for a number of reasons. Many people would say that I am wrong in my assumption that these people cannot be cured. As a result of my experience, I do not believe the people who commit these violent, often unnecessary and quite horrid crimes can be cured. From my experience in the courts, it usually passes on from generation to generation and the victims continue to mount.

Our Conservative government will take more positions to support victims because that is the third pillar that was not properly dealt with. However, seeing all of the members in the House come together on a bill like this is very important. It sends a clear message to Canadians that we, as their representatives, will stand up for the weak and the needy when necessary.

I have known the member of Parliament for nine years. He has a very strong passion for his community and constituents and a lot of loyalty for our government, our Prime Minister and our country. I compliment him on this bill. He has done tremendous work on it. I know he would appreciate me saying more wonderful things about him. However, I can say for sure that, based on my criminal law experience, the bill goes a long way in protecting the victims who have been forgotten for too long. It falls fully in line with our government's commitment to keep our streets and communities safe.

I did mention that there were three pillars. The first is the police, the second is the courts and the third is the victims. In the bill, members will clearly see that it is mandatory for judges to impose conditions on these offenders that would keep them away from the victims and, as a result, incur less expense on the criminal justice system.

We do have criminal compensation in most provinces and services that are provided are psychological and mental health services. These are tremendously expensive. If we do not take steps to deal with victims of crime and the ability to keep them away from those continuous reminders of what took place and making them victims time and time again, it will also cost our system a lot of money.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak today. I would like to go over it again very briefly that on this side of the House we are standing up for victims. I am glad to see the other members of the House are doing the same thing and joining the Conservative government and the member for Langley to push this forward to committee and to get it passed at all stages.