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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was code.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe (New Brunswick)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Victims Bill of Rights June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when a person is a victim, the only luck we can talk about is the bad luck, quite frankly, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nine of the ten provinces have a victims compensation fund, and the sums are certainly modest. It is not the average perpetrator who has all kinds of resources to compensate the victim. Obviously, efforts are going to be made to analyze, in situations where they can, that it would be appropriate. There are the victims programs where there is the surcharge where it comes into funding.

It is far from a perfect system, but I think we would all agree that it is a step in the right direction. More negotiation with the provinces and territories is going to be required, and the good collaboration of all members of Parliament would be helpful as well.

Victims Bill of Rights June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it would be raising their expectations, but this legislation is premised on four main tenets. One is notification, notifying the victims of what is going on through the process. They are participating through it; they are made aware of the proceedings and counselled to go through it. Nothing can be worse than the fear of the unknown and not being guided through it.

There is also the aspect of protecting people who are scared when they are witnesses or when offenders are released. That is paramount. That is after the trial.

Then there is compensation, which is dealt with in the restitution aspects of the bill.

Expectations are high. The provisions are long overdue. The bill would certainly bring some balance to the justice system in favour of the victims, not at the detriment of the offenders, but they will have their just place and voice within the system.

Victims Bill of Rights June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are many other means of funding the provisions of this legislation other than the funding that has been allocated through the federal government. There is the victim surcharge, which has been doubled and now has become mandatory. There has been some debate as to the length of time to pay that, which would be clarified through the proposed bill. We recognize that there is a cost to giving victims a greater voice and greater participation in the justice system.

As my learned friend has said, it is long overdue that the bill is put in place, and the costs are warranted and will be dealt with efficiently by the government.

Victims Bill of Rights June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is obviously a very relevant question and I thank the hon. member for it. Obviously, this bill is not yet proclaimed. It is not in force, and jurisprudence will come forth to interpret the bill. Of course, the importance of the Gladue principles will have to be recognized. Certainly they will be made the intent of the bill, as the legislator has intended, while respecting the rights of aboriginals and their communities.

Victims Bill of Rights June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her question.

The committee will be hearing many witnesses, of course. The ombudsman will surely take part in these discussions. We will listen to each and every recommendation that could help improve the bill and make it more effective.

Victims Bill of Rights June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have an opportunity to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights.

This historic bill marks the culmination of the government's effort to finally give victims the voice and protection they deserve in Canada's criminal justice system.

I would like to pay particular attention in my speech to the rights and amendments relating to restitution that are designed to address the concerns expressed by many victims regarding the financial burden of crime. I will also discuss the amendment related to the victim surcharge.

We know that victims pay a disproportionate percentage of all costs related to crime. In 2008, a Justice Canada study found that victims pay 83% of the cost of all crime. A more recent Justice Canada study, published in 2013, found that victims also pay 83% of the cost of violent crime.

These findings are shocking. The rights proposed in this bill aim to correct this imbalance and to relieve the victims of some of the financial burden of crime.

On October 30, 2012, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime made the following statement about the impact of crime on victims:

These costs include lost productivity and wages, costs of medical and psychological care, and time away from work to attend criminal proceedings. We also hear from victims about their not being able to afford counselling sessions...

Therefore, members will understand that it is fair and logical for criminals to make a contribution and to pay restitution to the victim for the offences committed. Naturally, the provinces provide victim services, but why should honest taxpayers be the only ones to pay?

The Canadian victims bill of rights proposes to clearly indicate that every victim has the right to have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender and has the right to enforce the order as a civil judgment where not paid.

What is the purpose of a restitution order? The Criminal Code states that the purposes and principles of sentencing are to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders and an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and the community.

Restitution orders, which help cover the victims' monetary losses due to, for example, bodily and psychological harm or damage to property caused by crime, follow these principles.

Restitution has been recognized in modern countries for a long time. In the United Kingdom, the right of a victim's family to compensation in any case of wrongful death was reinstated in legislation in 1946. In the United States, restitution re-emerged in the early 1900s, when new sentencing laws allowed the courts to impose alternatives to incarceration.

In Canada, since its inception in 1892, the Criminal Code has permitted a sentencing court to order compensation for property lost as a result of the commission of an offence.The Canadian provisions governing compensation were mostly unchanged until amendments in 1996 repealed the compensation provisions, replacing them with restitution order provisions. The terminology was changed to reflect that “restitution” refers to payments the offender should make, while “compensation” generally refers to payments from the state.

The amendments proposed in the victims bill of rights would be important for promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders and for their acknowledging the harm done to victims. Right now, judges do not have to consider the possibility of a restitution order. The victims are forgotten, because this provision of the Criminal Code is very rarely used. This means that the court ignores the suffering victims often face.

To ensure that the existing legislative framework properly supports these rights, the bill would make a number of amendments to the restitution regime in the Criminal Code.

The current regime in the Criminal Code allows courts to order restitution orders for loss, destruction, or damage to property as well as financial damages resulting from the commission of an offence, such as the loss of income, expenses associated with moving out of a household shared with an offender, or costs associated with identity theft. The amount sought in a restitution order must be readily ascertainable, which means that the amount of the loss is easy to calculate and is not in great dispute.

If the offender fails to pay the restitution as ordered, the Criminal Code allows the victim to whom restitution is owed to file the order in civil court and to have it enforced as a civil judgment. The government believes that restitution orders can be very useful sanctions in achieving the sentencing objectives of acknowledgement and reparation for the harm done to victims.

For some, restitution orders represent a way for offenders to make amends and contribute to society. It can also be a way of reconciling with the victim.

However, there is evidence to suggest that the needs of victims of crime are not being met through the current restitution regime. For example, Statistics Canada reported in 2010-11 that restitution orders form part of 82% of the sentences for crimes against property but are rarely imposed in relation to crimes against a person, only 10%.

In order to ensure that restitution rights stated in the Canadian victims bill of rights are meaningfully realized, the bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to direct that the judge shall consider ordering restitution as part of an appropriate sentence in all cases. Where the court decided not to order restitution, the bill would require the court to state on the record the reasons for its decision.

For the victims, this is a great improvement because the court will have to ensure that it considers every situation and thus every case that comes before it.

However, before deciding to order the offender to pay the restitution or not, the court would have an obligation to inquire of the prosecutor if reasonable steps had been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they were seeking restitution for losses or damages.

This is a great improvement because victims will have the opportunity to determine whether they are going to seek damages. They will have the right to be heard and to tell the court about the harm done. In that way, we will give victims one more voice in the justice system. For a victim, being able to obtain a restitution order is another step in the healing process and towards a more normal life.

Let us remember the victims, who pay out of their own pockets for such atrocious expenses as the cleaning of the crime scene, or property destroyed by a thief.

The proposed amendments would also provide victims with an optional form in the Criminal Code to assist them in calculating and describing their readily ascertainable losses. The courts would be allowed to accept this information in other formats, as approved by the court.

A court of law could, on its own initiative or at the prosecutor's request, adjourn the proceedings to give victims a chance either to indicate whether they are seeking restitution or to determine the loss or damage, as long as the adjournment does not hinder the proper administration of justice.

I can summarize in one word what will be gained from updating the restitution scheme: dignity. With this change, the victims' human dignity will be fully recognized. The scheme will more effectively recognize the harm done to victims and will help provide solutions.

One of the fundamental objectives of this bill is to give victims the voice they deserve in the criminal justice system. In the context of restitution, this would be achieved by permitting victims to speak to their readily ascertainable losses in a victim impact statement that is to be taken into account in determining the sentence to be imposed on an offender.

This bill also recognizes that the offender's financial means or inability to pay the restitution order must not by itself prevent a court from ordering a restitution order. This represents a codification of decisions of appellate courts and of the Supreme Court of Canada to the effect that the means of the offender must be considered along with other factors in determining the totality of the sentence.

The necessity for victims to receive reparation for their losses and damages was the foundation of the proposed reforms regarding the payment of restitution orders.

The proposed amendments would permit the court to either order that the full amount of the restitution order be paid on the day of sentencing or in a specified number of days following sentencing or in accordance with a payment schedule the court determined to be reasonable in the circumstances.

In addition to this approach, the court would provide that in cases of multiple victims who seek restitution, the court would specify the amount payable to each individual, and where applicable, the order of priority in which victims were to be paid. The offender's failure to pay restitution by the day specified in the order or the failure to make a periodic payment required under the order would allow the victim or victims to enter any amount that remains to be paid as a civil judgment in any court of Canada.

I believe that a carefully tailored restitution regime in criminal law would effectively ensure that offenders acknowledge the harm done, provide victims with effective financial reparations, and avoid lengthy civil proceedings.

Another important element of the bill is the proposed amendment relating to the victim surcharge. A victim surcharge is an additional penalty imposed on convicted offenders at the time of sentencing. It is collected and retained by the provincial and territorial governments and is used to help fund the most important programs and services for victims in the province or territory where the crime occurred.

This money does not go directly to the victim. It is placed in a special fund in the province or territory. The fund, sometimes called a victim assistance fund, is used to provide services and assistance to victims of crime, such as information on the criminal justice system and court processes, referrals to counselling, court support for vulnerable persons, assistance in preparing victim impact statements, and compensation programs.

Bill C-37, the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act, came into force October 24, 2013. It amended the victim surcharge provisions of the Criminal Code to double the amount an offender must pay when sentenced and ensured that the surcharge is applied in all cases. Bill C-37 came into effect, and it has been reported that some courts are providing exceedingly long periods of time to pay the surcharge, some up to 60 years.

This bill proposes to clarify that courts must require offenders to pay the victim surcharge within the time established by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of the province in which the surcharge is imposed. If no time has been established, the surcharge would be payable within a reasonable time after its imposition.

Judges will therefore have some flexibility to impose victim surcharges, which will have to be paid within a reasonable timeframe.

“Reasonable time” has been interpreted by the courts as a question of fact depending on the circumstances of the case and cannot be decided in the abstract. Reasonable time must allow the debtor to meet the demand. The criteria of “reasonable” would still preserve a certain level of judicial discretion in describing the timing of the payment of the surcharge, but would not allow the debt to extend into an absurd or unreasonable period. This discretion would still allow the judge to take into account the offender's financial and other relevant circumstances in establishing a reasonable time limit for the payment. This approach recognizes the fact that the test of reasonable is used throughout the Criminal Code and, although not defined, is well understood, interpreted, and applied by the courts.

By virtue of subsection 734.7(1) of the Criminal Code, courts continue to have discretion not to commit for imprisonment a person who by reason of poverty cannot pay a fine, even after a reasonable time has been allotted.

I wish to reiterate that the proposed amendments relating to restitution and to surcharges in this particular bill are very important in addressing the concerns expressed by many victims and in meeting the objective to give victims the voice and protection they deserve in the Canadian criminal justice system. I urge all members to join me in supporting the Canadian victims bill of rights.

The Budget May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the merged tribunals will not report to the Minister of Justice. The government is simply making a process more efficient and improving how it works. Our government will continue its work in this area because we spend taxpayers' money responsibly.

Aboriginal Affairs May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, over time over 40 studies have been conducted yet the violence continues.

Kathy Meyer, whose daughter Angela went missing four years ago, was quoted as saying, “I think inquiries cost a lot of money and I don’t know if anything comes out of them.”

We will put the money toward real solutions in the communities with the aboriginals to try to curb the violence against the women.

Aboriginal Affairs May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work to reduce violence against women, including aboriginal women.

In the 2014 economic action plan, we allocated an additional $25 million to put a stop to violence in aboriginal communities. We will not find the solution by doing studies but by taking action. We have passed three bills that deal with protection and we will continue to work along those lines.

Justice May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we followed a well established procedure and we will respect the Supreme Court's decision. Procedures are in place and we respect the letter and the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision.