moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Don Valley East for seconding my bill.
My private member's bill, Bill C-587, is a continuation of Bill C-478 that was previously introduced by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake, which was introduced in the first session of the 41st Parliament.
Although the hon. member's bill was read twice in the House and referred to a committee, it was withdrawn after he was appointed to the role of parliamentary secretary, a position that precludes him from carrying a private member's bill forward.
The House voted to send my private member's bill, Bill C-587, to the justice committee, and I wish to thank the justice committee and the witnesses called for their insightful and informative discussion on my bill.
Two of the witnesses, Ms. Rosenfeldt and Ms. Ashley, represent more than themselves, their families and loved ones who were taken from them. They represent the community of Canadians who span our nation, a community of Canadians whose lives have been changed forever by violent offenders.
Despite the tragic losses experienced by Ms. Rosenfeldt and Ms. Ashley, they have found the strength and courage to advocate on behalf of those whose lives were stolen away, and also the thousands of Canadians who face the challenges of moving on with their lives after experiencing trauma that the majority of Canadians thankfully have never experienced.
As members of Parliament, I believe it is our duty to demonstrate solidarity with this community of Canadians and support their advocacy with our own work in legislating toward a society that values victims' rights.
As members of Parliament, it is our duty to identify and address points of our legal regime that require improvement. Specifically to this bill, I believe we must not only examine, but reform the state of existing laws governing the removal from society and long-term incarceration of violent offenders who have abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered victims.
This bill is modelled on Bill C-48, which was passed in 2011, and allows judges to set consecutive rather than concurrent periods of parole ineligibility in sentencing those convicted of multiple murders. This bill would empower judges and juries to give stronger sentences.
In the same way that Bill C-48 now allows judges to acknowledge additional degrees of blameworthiness and offence when a conviction of multiple murders has been established, this bill seeks to provide judges the ability to extend the period of parole ineligibility to likewise acknowledge accompanying offences of abduction and sexual assault. All parties worked together and passed Bill C-48, and it is my hope that this bill will likewise benefit from the input and support from all sides of the House.
As members are likely aware, section 745 of the Criminal Code provides for life imprisonment for convicted murderers subject to varying periods during which they are ineligible for parole: for first degree murder, the minimum ineligibility period is 25 years; for second degree murder, it varies from 10 to 25 years.
While all convicted murderers are morally blameworthy, first and second degree murders are distinguished from each other by the higher degree of moral blameworthiness associated with first degree murder that justifies the current mandatory period of parole ineligibility of 25 years.
While some may believe that the current thresholds for parole represent an appropriate period of incarceration for a violent offender who abducted, raped then murdered their victim, many Canadians consider this to be insufficient in instances of extreme violence and murder.
As we all know, perhaps none more so than those who have lost loved ones, the investigation and prosecution of cases involving multiple offences such as abduction, sexual assault and murder combined can take many years. The time that it takes to arrive at a conviction and then sentencing for a violent offender is excruciating for survivors, family and loved ones. Regardless, as painful as it is, it is essential to the sound carriage of justice.
This bill seeks to provide greater certainty, and therein relief, for the families and loved ones in that, once sentencing is completed, the sentencing judge could be given the judicial discretion to waive parole eligibility for a period of 25 to 40 years, again, at the discretion of the judge.
If parole is to be considered for violent offenders who abduct, sexually assault, then murder their victims, it should not occur before the offender has served at least 25 years. The toll that parole hearings take on family members and loved ones of victims is excruciating as they await the hearing date when the violent offender who took their loved ones will present his or her case. Why should the offender be awarded parole while family members and loved ones have to mobilize to keep the violent offender behind bars? This amounts to a system whereby Canadians who have already suffered tragic loss and endured years of judicial proceedings are subjected to a system that requires their continued mobilization to help keep violent offenders behind bars. This bill would add three new provisions to the Criminal Code, mandating a 25-year minimum parole ineligibility period for anyone convicted of an offence under each of the following offence categories in respect of one victim: a kidnapping or abduction offence, sections 279 to 283; a sexual offence, sections 151 to 153.1 and sections 271 to 273; and murder.
The bill would also provide a judge the discretionary prerogative to replace that 25-year minimum parole ineligibility period with a longer period of up to 40 years based on the character of the offender, the nature and circumstances of the murder, and any jury recommendation in this regard. This bill seeks to provide the sentencing judge the discretion to increase the period of parole ineligibility and, therefore, uphold the principle of judicial discretion, which provides a safeguard of charter rights. I believe that this is an important strength of the bill. Expanding the discretionary prerogatives of judges with a broader range of judicial discretion rather than imposing automatic periods beyond 25 years of ineligibility upholds charter provisions.
Second reading debate raised questions about how the amendments proposed by this bill would interact with the Rome Statute. It is important to note that article 5 of the Rome Statute establishes the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over the following offences: crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Therefore, the Rome Statute does not directly apply to Bill C-587 for the following two reasons: first, the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code, which is under the jurisdiction of Canadian courts, whereas the Rome Statute only applies to the proceedings of the International Criminal Court; and second, the four offences in article 5 of the Rome Statute are not included this bill.
In conclusion, I would ask that members of the House support Bill C-587, as requested by the victims who plead for justice for the loved ones they have lost as a result of brutal, violent, and heinous murder.