moved that Bill C-644, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, nine years ago, our Conservative government made a pledge to overhaul our criminal justice system. We told Canadians we would make sure that our laws, the police and the courts would be focused on the needs and rights of victims, and we have followed through on that pledge.
Notwithstanding the bleeding hearts who think that every violent criminal just needs a hug, most Canadians want a more just justice system, one that puts the rights of the victim above that of the criminal and one where punishments fit the crime.
As happy as people are with measures like the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, they shake their heads in disbelief when they find out why we needed such a law in the first place. They cannot believe that such a particular measure was actually needed to address a real problem that allowed foreign criminals, individuals who committed a crime in their home country, to enter our country on false pretenses, which is crime two, and then commit crimes in Canada, which is crime three.
These foreign criminals were able to exploit our generous nature and our generous systems by making appeal after appeal for up to 10 years before we had the legal right to get rid of them. Thankfully, that mind boggling problem is fixed. Even though, for the vast majority of Canadians, this change is simply common sense, I actually heard opposition members say that the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act discriminated against criminals. Canadians want to see us continue on with our commitment to common-sense reforms of some of our laws that clearly fly in the face of our sense of justice.
As part of our ongoing efforts toward a more just justice system, I have introduced my private member's Bill C-644, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (failure to comply with a condition) to create a new offence for violating parole and requiring these violations to be reported.
Canadians would probably be astounded to know that violating parole is not a criminal offence. It is not even necessary to report parole violations to judges when criminals are being considered for early release or release in general. Currently, the singular method for parole review does not work.
It is well documented that a disproportionately small number of offenders are responsible for a disproportionately large number of offences. Yet, when it comes to parole, all criminals are reviewed in the same manner which permits the most dangerous offenders to slip through the cracks and back into society to offend again and again.
My proposed legislation will correct that shortcoming through two simple reforms. First, the bill would make parole violation a criminal offence. Second, the legislation would also make it mandatory for the Correctional Service of Canada to report to the police all cases parole violation.
Reporting parole violations will help ensure the justice system has all the information on an offender in order to make the best public safety decisions before determining whether an offender should be given parole in the future.
By legislating parole violation as a criminal offence and making it mandatory to advise judges and parole boards of these violations prior to sentencing and early release considerations, we establish firmly that early release from jail or parole is a privilege to be earned and not a right to be demanded.
This legislation is consistent with other kinds of release from jail laws. For example, it is already a criminal offence in itself to skip bail and it is already a criminal offence in itself to violate probation. Then why is the violation of parole not a criminal offence in itself? There is no good answer.
Let us look at how the system works today. Under the current law, offenders who are granted conditional release or parole are subject to a certain number of conditions. That is why it is called conditional release. Some are standard conditions such as staying within Canada at all times and reporting regularly to a parole officer. Some offenders receive additional special conditions depending on their specific risk for reoffending. This could include a condition to live in a halfway house, or to abstain from drugs and alcohol or to refrain from associating with certain individuals.
If offenders violate parole by breaching any of these conditions, such as showing up late for a meeting with their parole officer or breaking curfew, the law provides a range of options for correctional authorities on how to deal with that violation. They can either do nothing, other than tell the offender he or she should not violate parole, which is usually what happens, or they can add stricter parole conditions, like an earlier curfew, or they can revoke parole and send the offender back to jail.
If he commits a crime while violating parole, he will be charged for that crime, but there will be no additional penalty for violating parole. It is as if the only punishment for escaping jail is a return to jail, with no additional sentence. The violation does not even have to be reported to future parole boards. In fact, until the changes we made in 2012, police could not even arrest parole violators caught in the very act of violating parole. Now, thanks to the Safe Streets and Communities Act, they can do that.
Let me re-emphasize that it is possible, and based on research it is even highly likely, that an offender can violate parole and receive no penalty. Of course, this does nothing to promote respect for the rule of law, and it greatly increases the likelihood that offenders will reoffend.
After the initial astonishment of learning that violating parole is not already against the law, people gave strong support to this amendment. For example, the mayors and reeves of my region of southern Alberta have written a joint letter urging the government to support this legislation. The good news is that it supports this legislation.
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said:
Our members appreciate the step taken...to introduce this legislation which will ensure accurate records are kept, and that a full history of an offender’s actions can be considered before any parole is earned.
This legislation is named after Constable Ezio Faraone, who was killed in action while he was attempting to arrest repeat criminal Albert Foulston. If one Googles Constable Faraone, Albert Foulston's name comes up over and over again, even though it was Foulston's accomplice, Jeremy Crews, who pulled the trigger.
Albert Foulston was out on parole. He had repeatedly violated parole, yet he was on the streets. He was under surveillance, but police were not able to do anything until he actually robbed a bank. Constable Faraone had him cornered in an alley when Foulston feigned surrender, allowing his accomplice to shoot Faraone with a sawed-off shotgun at point-blank range.
In 2009, Foulston was released on parole after just 20 years of a 30-year sentence. His parole was automatic, even though he was involved in about 100 incidents while in prison, including fights and assaults on staff, and even though the parole board assessed his risk of reoffending as moderate to high. According to the board, it had no choice but to release him, because the law said that parole was automatic after serving two-thirds of the sentence. All the parole board could do was impose various conditions on that parole.
The trouble is, no matter how many or how limiting the conditions of parole are, there are no criminal consequences for violating those conditions. If Foulston's parole conditions said he could not hang out with other drug dealers or bank robbers, it would not matter. It was not until he actually robbed a bank that he committed an actual crime. If my bill had been law, he could have been arrested just for hanging out with his accomplice, Mr. Crews.
Sure enough, the next page in our Google search shows that in 2012, Albert Foulston recommitted again and was facing jail time for trafficking illegal drugs. No wonder the Edmonton Police Association refers to Faulston as the poster boy for problems in the Canadian correctional system. Faulston has spent more than 30 years behind bars on more than 50 convictions. He has been released ten times.
Sadly, his name came up more recently. In fact, it was in an interview with retired police sergeant Tony Simione, the sergeant who replied to Constable Faraone's fatal shooting 25 years ago. Sergeant Simioni was responding to the tragic death of Constable Daniel Woodall recently, on June 8, in Edmonton. He said that the incident brought Faraone's shooting home like it was yesterday. He said that it was very vivid, very profound, and brought back very traumatic memories and emotions.
He said, “It's surprising how long it does last. And the [Edmonton police] who went through what they went through [June 8] will be experiencing the same, I'm sure”.
While this legislation would give police important tools for crime prevention, there are other important reasons to support these changes. According to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act:
The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions...
There is more to it than just crime prevention. Critics of our tough-on-crime measures focus only on the impact of the measure on the criminal himself. Clearly no amount of deterrent would be enough to dissuade someone like Albert Foulston, but our laws are not in place just to control the criminal. Laws and the rule of law have great power over the minds of law-abiding citizens. One of Canada's great values is the rule of law, or respect for the rule of law. We are a law-abiding people.
Why do most Canadians honour and obey the law? It is not because we fear punishment and it is not because we fear a minimum sentence. It is because we want to be a law-abiding people.
However, law has the power to command a willing respect and obedience of those who are subject to it only if the law is legitimate. There are a few key principles or elements that make law legitimate. One, for example, is how the law was made. Was the process leading to the development of the law legitimate?
As well, the law must also contribute to a just, peaceful, and safe society. For law to be legitimate, it must satisfy our sense of justice. This is one reason that we say the punishment must fit the crime. Anything more or less than that violates our sense of justice. A society can only find themselves saying “that is ridiculous” about so many laws before they start saying that the law itself is ridiculous.
When we reach that point, there will never be enough police to monitor and enforce obedience. Of course we do not want to lock up someone for life for making a youthful mistake. While mercy cannot rob justice, mercy is actually compatible with our sense of justice. We do not want to live in a Hugo-like miserable society that would force Jean Valjean to live for a lifetime carrying a yellow passport for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving children. Punishments that are too severe are unacceptable, but so are punishments that are far too lenient. They simply violate our sense of justice.
This bill addresses an important particular loophole in the justice system, but it is just part of our overall common sense reform of our justice system. Simply put, Canadians want a more just justice system. Our sense of justice cries out that the rights of the victim must take priority over those of the criminal and that the punishment must fit the crime.
This legislation complements our government's ongoing work to support victims of crime in this country and further holds offenders to account for their actions. I look forward to receiving support from all parties on this much-needed piece of legislation.