Mr. Speaker, I did not do that because I wanted to be in contempt of the House. It is difficult for me to stand up, because my leg is giving me a little trouble. I did not want to miss my turn.
Have no fear; I did indeed intend to speak to this bill, which I too believe is very important and which fills a gap in the Criminal Code. We who argue and have argued murder cases know that this gap has existed for many years, ever since the Criminal Code was amended in 1976 to abolish the death penalty. At the time, the faint hope clause was brought in, and that is the topic of Bill S-6, which we debated yesterday.
There is a difference between Bill C-48, which we are examining today, and the bill we examined yesterday, Bill S-6. Bill S-6 closes the door on nearly every possibility that someone convicted of murder will ever return to society. Conversely, Bill C-48 is worthwhile because it will close a door that was left half-open when the faint hope clause was introduced under section 745 of the Criminal Code. Let me explain.
When the death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, the Criminal Code was amended and it stated—without quoting the Criminal Code—more or less the following: anyone convicted of murder shall be sentenced to life imprisonment. That is clear. It forgot to mention that an individual can be convicted of multiple murders. Section 745 refers only to an individual who is convicted of murder, in the singular, and no one thought any differently. I was not here in 1976 and I do not believe that anyone currently in this House was here then, but the priority at the time was to put an end to the death penalty. It is clear from the work done at the time that legislators wanted to put an end to the possibility that anyone convicted of murder would be hanged, since the death penalty still existed in Canada. However, they forgot to close that door, and now nearly 25 years later, we are going to close it with Bill C-48.
When a bill is intelligent and serves an important purpose—and we believe it does—the Bloc Québécois supports it. In terms of criminal law, we believe that this is an important bill, because we must make a distinction—while being careful not to trivialize—between an individual who commits one murder and an individual who commits two or three. My colleagues will understand that they are completely different. In examining the figures provided, I realize that, in Canada, we can count the number of multiple murderers on one hand. That is straightforward.
The government is shutting doors because of a few multiple murderers. I would like to share with you the most recent figures from 2008. We asked for the most recent figures, but we could not wait for them because the bill had to be passed.
In 2008, 553 people were convicted on 1 count of murder; 18 people were convicted on 2 counts of murder; 6 people were convicted on 3 counts of murder; and 1 person was convicted on at least 4 counts of murder. We know how to count: 18 plus 6 plus 1 equals 25 people convicted of multiple murders. We should take a closer look at this.
Let us look at the type of criminal we are dealing with. I will be careful so as not to be misquoted. The majority are murderers. Murder is still the most serious crime in the Criminal Code. All the murder cases we looked at—except five, and I will come back to that momentarily—were multiple murders: someone killed his wife and three children, someone else killed her husband and two children. This happens a lot in families. In Canada, there are currently five multiple murderers in prison. In order not to violate the seal of confession, I will not name those murderers except for maybe Olson and Pickton, and more recently Colonel Williams. The others were hitmen for the Hells Angels. These are very specific cases.
The example that springs to mind is incredibly sad, and that is the case of Cathie Gauthier. Following a suicide pact she had made, she killed her husband and two children—and in a few moments I will come back to section 745, which is why we are voting in favour. This woman and her husband had left Abitibi to work in Chicoutimi in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area, and they had made a suicide pact. Unfortunately, the husband and two children died, but she survived. She was supposed to die, but she survived. She was convicted of triple murder. These are very specific cases.
This is what section 745.51 of the Criminal Code would do. In Canada, in Quebec and in this part of the world, there are few criminals, few mass murderers—God willing it will stay that way. All the better for all of us. However, they had the same rights as someone who committed one murder. Members may think that I am trying to trivialize the situation, but I have no intention of trivializing murder. It is very clear that it is the most serious and most horrific of crimes. However, someone who killed his wife's lover was treated the same way as someone who killed five people to settle the score for the mafia. They were treated the same, meaning that after 25 years they could apply for parole. An individual was granted parole even though he was a criminal and a mafia hitman. He was released under this section of the Criminal Code. I checked and I can tell you that this person did not reoffend. I could speak at length about this. No individual who has been released since 1987 has reoffended by committing murder. The law was amended in 1976, but the first cases occurred in 1987. Two individuals reoffended and committed violent crimes, namely assault with a weapon and robbery.
These two individuals had their parole revoked and are back in custody.
I would like to emphasize the fundamental principle that the Conservatives do not understand. Someone who is convicted of murder is sentenced to life in prison. For the rest of his days, for the rest of his life, he will be under the control and supervision of the Correctional Service of Canada, period.
There is a major difference between Bill C-48 and Bill S-6, which we examined yesterday and which the Bloc will vehemently oppose. I hope that our Liberal friends will come around and also vote against it. Bill S-6 would abolish the faint hope clause, which would mean that any murderer, even if he was completely rehabilitated, would remain in prison. That makes absolutely no sense.
That is why yesterday I said that there was a difference between the faint hope clause, which enables an individual to reintegrate into society, and Bill C-48, which we are currently studying and which states that when an individual commits more than one murder, the judge will address the jury. That is what will be in the Criminal Code, which will be amended. I will quote what will be said to the jury, which can be found in the proposed section 745.21. It will not be the judge, the Conservatives or the police who will make the decision. It will be the jury that convicted the individual.
Before discharging the jury, the judge shall put to them the following question:
You have found the accused guilty of murder. The law requires that I now pronounce a sentence of imprisonment for life against the accused. Do you wish to make any recommendation with respect to the period without eligibility for parole to be served for this murder consecutively to the period without eligibility for parole imposed for the previous murder? You are not required to make any recommendation, but if you do, your recommendation will be considered by me when I make my determination.
Here is an explanation for the listening public. This means that, from now on, a jury will be consulted in cases involving offenders who have been found guilty of two murders. I will use the example of Cathie Gauthier, who was found guilty of triple murder. The judge will consult the jury to determine whether, given what it heard, it thinks that this woman should not be eligible for parole before serving three consecutive sentences of 25 years or a total of 75 years.
Of course, in the case of a person who killed someone in a moment of pure insanity the jury will likely tell the judge that such a sentence does not really make sense. However, in cases such as those of Olson, Pickton, Bernardo or a mafia hitman, I do not think that the jury would hesitate for long before saying that such individuals should not be released until they have served 25, 50 or 75 years.
That is the fundamental difference between Bill S-6, which will be voted on tomorrow—I hope that the Liberals will vote against it—and Bill C-48, which we will likely vote on within the next few days. I hope that the Liberals will vote, like us, in favour of Bill C-48 because it closes an open door.
But there is more. As a criminal lawyer, I admit that this idea is quite intelligent. It is rare that I compliment the Conservatives, but I am doing so now.
Surely it could not have been the Minister of Justice who came up with this. It must have been someone who works for the Department of Justice. Section 745.51 was added, under which it will be determined whether a person is guilty of a single, double or triple murder when they are sentenced under section 745.
The judge presiding over the trial of an individual found guilty of murder asks the jury for a verdict. This is where it gets interesting. Having regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission, and all the recommendations made by the jury that I was talking about 10 minutes ago, the judge can order that the period of ineligibility for parole for each murder conviction be served consecutively. In other words, once the jury has found the individual guilty, the judge asks the jury the question and takes the answer into account. For example, the jury says not to impose a consecutive sentence. As a criminal lawyer, I would appeal that the next morning. I cannot see a judge disregarding a recommendation by the jury. If the jury says to impose a consecutive sentence, then the judge has discretionary power and has to give a reason orally or in writing for not making the order. What does that mean? It is quite good because once again discretionary power will be given to the court judging the individual.
I want to go back to the example of Cathie Gauthier, who made a suicide pact, as everyone knows. She gave drugs to her husband and her two children and took some herself. Unfortunately for her, she survived. She was convicted of triple murder. In her case, it is likely that the judge, having regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission, would say that the sentence is already enough, that the woman is serving life in prison and will be there for at least 25 years, and to leave it at that.
However, without denigrating these individuals, in the case of Olson, Bernardo or Colonel Williams, I think the judge would not hesitate to say that they deserve a consecutive sentence and before being eligible for parole, they will have to serve 25, 50, even 75 years. In other words, there is no way they are returning to society. I think that would be a wise decision. I admit there are criminals who are so hopeless they could never return to society. Unfortunately that is true.
There are also individuals who are not criminals by nature, but who, because of the events surrounding the murder, became criminals. The case of Cathie Gauthier is an excellent example. How will the appeal court respond? I do not know; I only know that the case is being appealed. But with what we have before us today and the studies we have done, we believe this is a good bill. This bill will close a door that was unfortunately left half-open when the death penalty was abolished.
As a final point, I will say that when we see a good bill, especially in the area of criminal law, the Bloc will support it. That is true of Bill C-48. However, when a bill is bad, as is the case with what Bill S-6 is trying to do, we cannot support it.