The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, in my previous comments, I was talking about Bill and specifically the portion affecting the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
On the old Bill from the last Parliament, the justice committee heard concerns from many of the provincial attorneys general concerning the issue of pretrial detention. I would remind the House that the primary concern of provinces with the approach of Bill was that pretrial detention would not be available to a youth charged with an offence that was not “a serious offence”.
The provisions in the current Bill address this concern. Under the proposed amendments, pretrial detention of a youth charged with a non-serious offence is possible if the youth has a history that indicates a pattern of either outstanding charges or findings of guilt and if the court finds that detention is necessary for the protection and safety of the public.
This change would allow for detention of so-called out-of-control youth who would pose a danger to society even if that youth were not presently before the court on a serious offence charge.
Moreover, the test for pretrial detention will be self-contained in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, without requiring reference to the Criminal Code provisions as is currently the case.
The second modification to the former Bill deals with the availability of the deferred custody and supervision order, which is a Youth Criminal Justice Act sentencing option that allows a young person who would otherwise be sentenced to custody to serve his or her sentence in the community under conditions. If those conditions are violated, the young person can be sent to custody.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, this order is not available as a sentencing option if the young person has been found guilty of a serious violent offence, currently defined in the act as an offence in the commission of which a young person causes or attempts to cause serious bodily harm.
The new narrower definition of a “serious violent offence” proposed in Bill would have expanded the scope of offences for which deferred custody and supervision orders would be available.
However, the provisions in the current bill include the new definition of “serious violent offence” and would also include a change to the amendments proposed in the former Bill in order to retain the current law on eligibility for these orders, meaning that a deferred custody and supervision order will not be available if the youth is found guilty of an offence involving either serious bodily harm or an attempt to cause serious bodily harm. I think members could agree with me that these modifications are an improvement over the former Bill .
The third modification since Bill concerns the adult sentencing provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The amendments to the former Bill and contained in this new bill would require a prosecutor to consider seeking an adult sentence for young offenders 14 and older who committed serious violent offences. Prosecutors would also have to inform the court if they decided not to apply for an adult sentence for individual 14 or older who were convicted of a serious violent offence. When the Crown would apply for an adult sentence, the onus would have been on the Crown to convince the judge that an adult sentence was justified.
In part these amendments respond to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case of R. v. D.B. that certain provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act violated section 7 of the charter. These presumptive offence provisions placed an onus on a young person found guilty of certain serious violent offences to justify receiving a youth rather than an adult sentence and to justify the continued protection of their privacy.
The proposed amendments remove the presumptive offence provisions from the Youth Criminal Justice Act as well as other inoperative provisions to clarify the test for the imposition of an adult sentence and ensure that the onus is on the Crown to satisfy the court as to the appropriateness of an adult sentence.
In the former Bill the proposed test for an adult sentence would have required that a judge be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that an adult sentence was necessary. When we were consulting, a number of the provinces expressed the view that “beyond a reasonable doubt” was too high a standard to meet, was not required by the current case law and would make it significantly more difficult to obtain adult sentences in appropriate circumstances.
The current proposals remove reference to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that had been in the former Bill , thus leaving it up to the courts to determine the appropriate standard of proof, as is the case under the current law.
I think all members of the House will agree that the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act included in Bill are the result of the widespread consultations and respond to the concerns of Canadians. Our government listened to our provincial and territorial counterparts, to provincial attorneys general, Canadians and victims and have made the necessary changes to this part of Bill C-10.
I think all members can agree that the changes I have described and outlined for the House are reasonable and responsive. I encourage all hon. members to support all parts of Bill C-10.
Mr. Speaker, the government has introduced the safe streets and communities act as if the very title alone validates the legislation. It is presented to us as it is called res ipsa loquitur
. The very title speaks for itself. If there is any doubt, the government repeats the mantra, as it is done over and over today, that it has “a mandate” for enacting the safe streets and communities act.
Every government not only has a mandate but an obligation to protect its citizens. As a government, we too spoke of safe streets and safe communities in our speech from the throne. Five years ago, in debate in this very House, I spoke as follows:
|| Safe streets and safe communities are the shared aspiration of all Canadians and the common objective of all parliamentarians and parties. No political party can claim that it alone speaks or cares for the safety of all Canadians or that it alone is legislating for that purpose.
The question then becomes this. What are the means that are chosen to bring about what we have defined as a shared objective of all governments and all parties, namely safe streets and safe communities? For example, we cannot enact unconstitutional legislation and say “These measures are necessary to protect safe streets and safe communities”. Nor can we justify bad policy through the repetition of the mantra about a mandate. Legislation has to be examined on the merits.
Accordingly this omnibus legislation, taken as a whole, because there are certain bills within that I would support if the good and the bad were not bundled together, reminds me of Gresham's law, that the bad drives out the good. This type of omnibus legislation will result in more crime and less justice at exorbitant and still undisclosed costs.
I will summarize some of the principal defects of the legislation.
First, even before this legislation was tabled, and this appears to be overlooked by the government sometimes, there was a serious problem of prison overcrowding, with some provinces already reporting 200% capacity. We know overcrowding leads to more crime within prisons and more crime outside prisons. The U.S. supreme court has found that overcrowding of 137% can even constitute cruel and unusual punishment. This legislation will only exacerbate the problem in Canada, both as a matter of policy and arguably even as a matter of the constitution.
Second, we need to talk about cost. Not only do we not know how much all these measures will cost, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that just one part of this bill will cost $5 billion. Canadians and Parliament have the right to all of the figures.
Third, we need to consult the provinces and territories, which will be assuming these costs, to the detriment of services, and ensure that the focus is also on crime prevention and not just on crime and punishment.
Fourth, bundling nine major pieces of legislation in one omnibus bill would not allow for sufficient and differentiated parliamentary discussion and debate let alone oversight of the legislation. This is a constitutional responsibility of parliamentarians particularly with the spending this bill has though the costs remain undisclosed. In effect, it would serve to undermine the parliamentary process.
If we ask the Canadian people if they are in favour of protecting victims and of safe streets, of course the answer will be yes. The question is how to achieve that. This bill would not achieve that. Rather, it would make things worse.
Fifth, the omnibus bill is about principles and priorities. At its core it is about values. If we spend billions of dollars on building unnecessary prisons while crime is receding and putting more people in prison for longer periods of time, that money cannot be used to invest in: a social justice agenda, child care, health care, crime prevention, seniors or social housing. At the end of the day, we would probably have more crime and less justice as a result of this bill.
The evidence demonstrates that the use of mandatory minimum sentences such as would be expanded by this legislation would not deter crime and would have a differential discriminatory impact on vulnerable groups. I particularly highlight the differential and discriminatory impact it would have on aboriginal people, where 34% of all women inmates are aboriginal, and unduly circumscribes judicial and prosecutorial discretion.
As has been mentioned in this debate, even U.S. conservatives now regard it as a failed policy that has caused the prison population to skyrocket while creating expensive megajails that have effectively become factories of crime.
Finally, the manner in which debate is being limited is an abuse of the parliamentary process if not an abuse of the democratic process. In effect, we are being asked to inhibit discussion with our constituents and almost silence or shut them out of the debate. This prejudices members of Parliament from all parties.
The said that this bill and the bills contained within it were before us in the previous Parliament. There are many current members of the House who were not members of the House in previous Parliaments. Why should they not have a right to discuss this legislation? Why should we not solicit their input? Why should they not be able to consult their constituents? In effect, that is an abuse of the democratic and parliamentary processes and prejudices the very objective this legislation seeks.
I would call upon the government to rethink and revisit its approach with respect to procedure, principle and policy. This sets a disturbing precedent regarding parliamentary procedure as well as a disturbing principle regarding a matter wherein it seeks to enact criminal justice policy.
Mr. Speaker, I have listened with much interest to the hon. members' contributions on Bill . I am grateful to have the opportunity to join the debate.
As members know, in the spring of this year our government made a commitment that should Canadians give us their trust and return us to office we would swiftly reintroduce our legislation to make our families, streets and communities safer.
This bill includes a broad range of measures. It includes measures that crack down on drug dealers who target our children. It also includes measures to ensure that those convicted of a sexual offence against children will never be eligible to have their record suspended. It includes measures to get tough on violent young offenders. As well, it includes measures to increase offender accountability and provide stronger justice for victims.
There are several portfolios under which this legislation, the , falls. In addition to justice and public safety there is legislation in the bill that is part of strengthening Canada's immigration system. It is to those proposed changes that I would like to speak today.
Canada's immigration system is an important part of our identity, economy and society. I see these impacts every day in my great riding of . For those people who are applying to enter our country, Canada represents hope, safety and a new beginning. Unfortunately, some arrive here only to have their hopes and dreams shattered. For example, some temporary foreign workers are more vulnerable than others. We cannot turn our backs on them. That is why the includes measures that would prevent the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants.
According to the provisions of Bill , the would have the authority to provide immigration officers with instructions for refusing a work permit. Instructions would be based on clear public policy considerations and would be supported by evidence that shows the risk of humiliating or degrading treatment. The instructions would not target specific work permit applicants directly. Rather they would apply to applicants of a particular occupation or a group of applicants who could be identified as vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.
The instructions would describe situations that could represent risks to an applicant and would set out the risk factors for officers to consider. They would also help define who would be considered vulnerable depending on the situation or context. For example, an individual applying to come to Canada as an exotic dancer might be refused a work permit because he or she may be vulnerable to abuse. However, the same individual might be granted a work permit if he or she applied to come to Canada to work in another occupation or a different situation that did not pose the same risk.
It is also important to note that this legislation only creates the legal authority to issue instructions. It does not establish any actual instructions. We anticipate that input from all members of the House will be forthcoming as these ministerial instructions are drafted. Their input is certainly welcome.
Without these amendments, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has no discretionary authority to deny a work permit to someone who meets all the requirements to enter Canada even if immigration officers believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation or abuse. The amendments we propose also include strong measures to ensure that the government is accountable for its use of the new authority. There will be accountability. Each time the minister issues instructions under the authority they must be published in the Canada Gazette. In addition, they must be published in Citizenship and Immigration Canada's annual report to Parliament.
Assessments by immigration officers would be made on a case-by-case basis and would take into account the public policy considerations set out in the ministerial instructions.
As I have already stated, these would need to be supported by evidence showing the risk of humiliating or degrading treatment. Furthermore, any decision by an immigration officer to refuse a work permit would need to be reviewed by a second immigration officer.
Canadians do not want an immigration system that can be used to victimize or exploit people. With this authority we can help protect vulnerable people from being brought into our country to face abuse and exploitation. Bill will protect the vulnerable from abuse.
Again, this action that would prevent the exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers is only one part of our comprehensive crime legislation that makes up the safe streets and communities act.
To recap, the legislation before the House would better protect children and youth from sexual predators; increase penalties for organized drug crime; end house arrest for serious crime, and thus prevent serious criminals from serving out their sentences from the comfort of their living rooms; protect the public from violent young offenders; eliminate pardons for serious crimes, such as sexual abuse against children; enshrine in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada; support victims of terrorism; increase offender accountability and support victims of crime; and, as I have discussed here today, protect vulnerable foreign nationals against abuse and exploitation.
Parliament has already seen and debated a great deal of this legislation. None of it is a surprise. All of it is part of our important action to make Canada's streets and communities safer for law-abiding Canadians and their families.
We made a commitment to Canadians. Canadians gave us a strong mandate to follow through on that commitment, and that is what the safe streets and communities act is about.
I close by asking that the hon. members across the floor join our government as we work to keep Canadians safe by helping us to pass this important legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the member for , but he spent his entire opportunity to speak to the bill, which he said he did not have enough time to speak to, in explaining why he needed more time to speak to the bill. I am looking forward to having my opportunity to speak to Bill , which I think does much for the people across this country.
Canada is a land of opportunity and freedoms, and we should not practise anything different. Many come to Canada to seek a better life but instead find themselves vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Found in vulnerable situations, they have no one to turn to. We should not let the vulnerable be exploited. We need to stand up for those who are being exploited by others.
I am speaking about one part of Bill , which deals with preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants. It is former Bill . Our government is making good on the commitment we made to Canadians. It is our duty to hold criminals accountable for their actions and to do everything we can to make our communities safe for law-abiding citizens who work hard and play by the rules. It is our duty not to let people take advantage of our generous immigration system.
People in St. Catharines have said that cracking down on criminals and making their community safer is one of their top priorities. People in Niagara and across the country want and deserve to be able to feel safe in their homes and communities, and that means criminals need to be kept off the street. I have heard my constituents loud and clear, and I will stand up and support the bill because they have asked me to do so.
The bill will not only keep our communities safe but will also ensure that vulnerable foreign workers who contribute to many of our communities are not exploited. As my hon. colleagues know, some temporary foreign workers may have weak language skills and very little money. They may have no family or friends in Canada and they may also fear the police and any level of government. This often puts them in a vulnerable position. With no one to turn to, their situation can place them at the mercy of those who wish to abuse them or exploit them.
As the , I have conducted consultations with employers who rely on the temporary foreign worker program. Almost all of them treat their employees with the respect and dignity they deserve, but some of them do not. When we talk to employers who use the temporary foreign worker program and entreat individuals to come from another country to work in this country to help provide for their families back home and earn a living, it is clear that there are those in this country who do take advantage of temporary foreign workers who come to Canada.
Whether it is New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec, employers who love and use and understand this program have developed it into something that is respected around the world. In my view and in many employers' views, the program is actually the best foreign support program we could offer workers because of what it allows them to do in terms of bringing home the revenue they are able to make here. It helps their families, it helps their children go to school, it improves their lives with respect to their homes, and it ensures that their children get a college or university education.
It is the same employers who support this program who want us to crack down on the employers who take advantage of those individuals.
That is exactly what the bill would do. It is what this portion of the bill would allow us to move forward on. The bill would help us protect vulnerable foreign workers by giving immigration officers the authority to deny work permits to those who are at risk of humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. The ability to deny work permits to vulnerable workers would enable the government to protect applicants by keeping them out of these types of situations.
Bill would actually alter the current objective in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 3. Instead of referring to protecting “the health and safety of Canadians”, it would refer to protecting “public health and safety”.
We are not just defining the bill anymore to Canadians. We are extending that obligation of employers and of our government to those who are here on a temporary basis to seek and find employment and work here on behalf of their families at home. We are doing this because the government believes that it is our responsibility to protect the health and safety of individuals who not only apply for Canadian citizenship and permanent residence, but apply to work here in our country legally.
We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration system continues to have a positive impact on our economy in society and that everyone who enters Canada has a fair chance to find what they are looking for, which is hope, safety and a new start. It does not make sense for the government to knowingly authorize vulnerable foreign nationals to enter into a potentially abusive situation. As the government, we will work to ensure that people who come to Canada can pursue their new lives without fear for their own safety.
Bill is an important step forward to that goal. If members share this goal, I ask them to support this legislation.
Preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants act would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking. This is but one of ten, but a step in the right direction to accomplishing that.
I would also submit that we have seen the success of the program. Many employers across the country call this the best foreign aid program this country has to offer. We have temporary foreign workers who come here and are able to fulfill an obligation that they have to themselves and to their family to provide for a stronger future for their families in the countries they come from. Many of those temporary foreign workers who come here have told me about how successful this program has been and what it means to them. All of them feel that their employers treat them in a way that makes them feel they are part of the organization, part of the company, part of the extended family.
By putting this bill forward, we are not only suggesting to Canadians and to employers across this country that fair, humane and equal treatment is an obligation that we have, both under our Constitution and obviously under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it is an obligation that we are now extending not just to Canadian citizens, not just to permanent residents, but to those who come here to work under the conditions of a permit that they have met the obligations of, and have a chance to work for their families and for themselves, to put their children through school and to build a better life.
With this bill, we would be putting in place a system that would actually improve a program upon which, since the 1960s, we have built on in this country, that has been successful and that has proven to be successful. In fact, with the enhancements in a small part of this bill, we would be preparing and providing for them in a much stronger and better way than we already are.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today to participate in the debate on Bill , the Conservative government's omnibus crime bill. Sadly, I only have 10 minutes to make my remarks, which is wholly inadequate for offering an in-depth analysis of each section of the 110 page bill.
However, since this is second reading, the stage in a bill's passage during which all members are charged with providing feedback to the government on the principles of the legislation before us, I am confident that I can at least do that within the allotted timeframe.
I will begin by stating what ought to be obvious. All members in the House, regardless of political party, agree that serious crime requires a serious response. There is absolutely no debate here. However, we also need to remember that the iconic statue of justice holds a scale in her hand for a reason: justice requires balance. It is that balance that is lost in the bill that is before us today.
My NDP colleagues from and have already articulated the fact that the bill puts wedge politics and ideology ahead of facts and evidence. It is a point that bears repeating.
It is absolutely true that we have three years of evidence now to prove that the violent crime rate in Canada is falling dramatically. We also know that there is not a single empirical study in Canada, or any other democracy for that matter, which proves that incarceration is an effective deterrent.
On the contrary, by imposing mandatory minimums on young offenders and therefore sending them to jail for longer periods of time, we will be creating more recidivists, not less. A government policy that turns young offenders into hardened criminals surely must be seen as completely undermining the goals of any criminal justice reform.
Equally absurd is the part of the bill that mandates less jail time for a child rapist than someone being charged with growing pot. The omnibus legislation would impose a one year mandatory minimum for sexually assaulting a child, luring a child via the Internet or involving a child in bestiality. All three of those offences carry lighter automatic sentences than those for people running medium sized grow-ops in rental property or on someone else's land. A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him or someone who exposes himself to kids at a playground would receive a minimum 90 day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing six pot plants in his own home.
I do not think there is a single constituent in my riding of Hamilton Mountain who would agree with either that approach or that outcome. However, that is what we get when, instead of looking at the Criminal Code as a whole, exploring reforms systematically and ensuring that the same sentencing principles are applied in all sections of the code, we have a government that simply lumps a whole bunch of pre-election promises together in an act of political expediency. Ideologically, the government may want to be seen as being tough on crime but effective criminal law reform requires us to be smart on crime. Bill fails that test completely.
The Canadian Bar Association would concur with my assessment. The association made a specific comment on the minimum sentencing provisions of the bill by pointing out that they fail the mentally ill, aboriginal people, visible minorities and the poor. Mandatory minimum legislation will simply clog the courts and fill Canadian prisons with vulnerable segments of the population. As a result, the Bar Association is calling on the government to reverse course and to allow judges leeway in applying mandatory minimums so that they are not imposed when it would be cruel or inappropriate.
The CBA is spot on. It leads me to ask my Conservative colleagues why they are so intent on imposing a straitjacket on Canadian judges by so aggressively pursing mandatory minimum sentencing. Justice requires the ability to differentiate between similar offences when they are committed under completely different circumstances. I am not saying that judges are perfect. They are human and might on occasion make mistakes. However, they enjoy the confidence of the vast majority of Canadians. They are highly educated and highly trained and, therefore, are much better equipped to determine appropriate sentences than any of us here in the House. I suggest that we allow them to do their jobs.
There is a particular irony in the timing of the proposals contained in the bill with respect to mandatory minimums. While I appreciate that their genesis lies in the tough on crime and drugs approach adopted decades ago by the United States, the Conservatives are choosing to emulate that agenda at precisely the time that it is being discredited south of the border, even by Republicans, as an exorbitantly expensive failure.
I will begin with the obvious. I want to reiterate the succinct statement made by my colleague the member for :
|| If putting more people in prison for longer periods of time created safer communities, American cities would be the safest in the world, because nobody incarcerates more people than the Americans.
U.S. conservatives are now recognizing their folly. Even Newt Gingrich, the right-wing Republican former speaker, is on the record now acknowledging that longer prison terms have not been effective deterrents. In an editorial to The Washington Post he wrote:
|| Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years. If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.
He then went on to praise Texas as a state that has reduced its prison population while keeping the public safe. He wrote:
|| Several states have shown that it is possible to cut costs while keeping the public safe. Consider events in Texas, which is known to be tough on crime. Conservative Republicans joined with Democrats in adopting incentive-based funding to strengthen the state's probation system in 2005. Then in 2007, they decided against building more prisons and instead opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches such as drug courts. The reforms are forecast to save $2 billion in prison costs over five years.
|| The Lone Star State has already redirected much of the money saved into community treatment for the mentally ill and low-level drug addicts. Not only have these reforms reduced Texas's prison population - helping to close the state budget gap - but for the first time there is no waiting list for drug treatment in the state. And crime has dropped 10 percent from 2004, the year before the reforms, through 2009, according to the latest figures available, reaching its lowest annual rate since 1973.
Canada should heed the experience south of the border and it should heed the advice of Gingrich, who himself entered into this debate primarily because of the exigencies of rising budget deficits.
Here in Canada, we appear to be on the brink of another recession and instead of investing in people and jobs, the Conservatives announced that they are seeking $4 billion in annual savings. Clearly, the government is not seeing the forest for the trees.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is estimating that this new crime bill could double the annual prison costs from $4.4 billion to $9.5 billion in five years. That is an increase of $5.1 billion, while they are looking for savings of $4 billion in program costs elsewhere.
I would urge the government to put this question to Canadians: Do they support the doubling of prison costs at the cost of reduced benefits in other programs? Or would they rather see that money continue to be spent on health care, job creation, employment insurance, adequate pensions, and education for their kids?
I think the knows the answer and that is why he is not going to the Canadian people to offer them that choice. Instead, he is paying a private consultant $90,000 a day to find savings in other programs just so he can pay for his ideological priority of building more jails. It is absolutely absurd.
Let me end where I started. I talked about the scales of justice and their symbolic call to all of us to strive for balance. I would therefore be remiss if I did not acknowledge that there are parts of this bill that I do support.
I do support the initiatives to protect children from exploitation including sexual assault. In fact, two of the new offences that this bill targets came from NDP private members' bills relating specifically to communicating for the purposes of luring a child. As I said before, we part ways when the government's solution focuses simplistically on creating additional mandatory minimums.
I also agree with putting victims rights into law. I would argue that this is long overdue.
I supported legislation in the last Parliament that blocked Karla Homolka from getting a pardon.
However, the additional changes proposed to the pardon system in this bill are neither rational nor evidence-based and they fail to put public safety first. That, to me, must be the basis for evaluating the entire omnibus bill. Failing that test, I cannot possibly vote in favour of the current bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
Hon. members will know that over five years ago our government made a promise to Canadians. We pledged to keep them safe and secure.
This bill builds on the work our government has already undertaken to more fully hold offenders to account for their actions and to stand up for victims.
Victims have always been central to our government's crime reduction agenda. With that in mind, I would like to devote my remarks today to discuss a very important component of Bill which deals with victims of terrorism.
The threat of terrorism is a reality for Canadians. It is not a distant concept or something that only happens in far corners of the globe.
The reality is that terrorism can happen. It has happened right here on our soil and Canadians can be, and are, also targeted by terrorist organizations when they are living, working, and travelling in other countries.
Since September 2001, 195 Canadians have fallen victim to terrorism. This year, on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we remember the 24 Canadians killed that brutal morning.
In 2002, two Canadians were killed in the Bali bombings. Another individual killed by terrorists in Indonesia that day was my friend, Peter Record, a 32-year old British citizen. Peter was like any typical Canadian. He liked the outdoors, he enjoyed a pint of ale, but instead of hockey was a big rugby fan. Peter and I worked together in Hong Kong, and on that tragic day in 2002, he was vacationing in Bali when he was killed by a bomb. For me, this is a striking reminder that a terrorist attack is not something that only happens to the friends and families of others. Indeed, this is a global threat and Canada must do its part to protect its citizens.
In 2003, a year later, two Canadians were killed in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. A Canadian diplomat was killed in Afghanistan in 2006 in an attack on a Canadian convey. Two years later, in 2008, four Canadians were killed and injured in the Bombay attacks, and another two Canadian aid workers were ambushed and killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In 2009, an explosion in Kandahar City claimed the life of a Canadian journalist. More recently, in 2011, two Canadian citizens were killed in a café attack in Morocco. One hundred and fifty seven members of the Canadian Forces have been killed combatting terrorism while serving in the Afghanistan mission.
To this day, terrorism continues to threaten the lives of innocent citizens in Canada and around the world. A number of international and domestic extremist groups are present in Canada. Some engage in terrorist activities here or support terrorism beyond Canada's borders. Some have worked to manipulate or coerce members of Canadian society into advancing extremist causes hostile to our nation and our nation's values. Terrorism is a serious and persistent threat to the security of Canada and its citizens.
This government is committed to protecting Canada from terrorism and keeping its citizens safe in their communities. Ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians is a commitment our government takes seriously.
The bill before us today is another important initiative to strengthen our country's national security network.
Bill would complement our exiting counterterrorism measures by deterring terrorism, responding to the needs of victims of terrorism and demonstrating Canada's leadership in acting against the perpetrators and supporters of terrorism around the world. Indeed, Bill C-10 would constitute another important instrument in our efforts to deter this global threat.
I would like to take this opportunity to provide members with an overview of the provisions contained in Bill , which pertain to victims of terrorism and explain how our government proposes to respond to their needs.
To achieve these goals, Bill would allow victims of terrorism to sue, in a Canadian court, perpetrators of terrorist acts and their supporters, provided the victims could demonstrate a real and substantial connection between their actions in Canada.
Specifically, Bill would allow victims of terrorism to file a court case against perpetrators of terror, such terrorist entity listed under the Criminal Code, or other persons or organizations that carried out a terrorist attack. In addition, a legal case could be brought against individuals, entities or listed states which provide and support to a terrorist entity.
If the loss or damage occurs outside Canada, there must be a real and substantial connection to this country. This legislation would be retroactive to January 1, 1985, in order to allow victims of terrorism to seek redress for loss and damage that occurred as a result of a terrorist act committed anywhere in the world on or after that date. Allowing victims to terrorism to sue for past events would send a message to perpetrators and supporters of terror that Canada would hold them liable for their actions.
To allow for legal action against listed states, Bill would amend the State Immunity Act to lift the immunity of states that were supporters of terrorism. Lifting a state's immunity is a decision that cannot be taken lightly, as it may have significant impacts on Canada's international relations, interests and foreign policy.
This bill would create a robust mechanism for determining whether a foreign state should be listed as a supporter of terrorism. The Governor-in-Council, on the recommendation of the , in consultation with the , would be able to add a state to the list if there were reasonable grounds to believe that the state supported, or had supported, a terrorist entity listed under the Criminal Code.
Using the list of terrorist entities under the Criminal Code is an adequate criterion to justify the listing of a foreign state since the Criminal Code list is determined through a rigorous analytical process. There are currently 44 listed entities.
Let me assure members that the government will take all the appropriate precautions to minimize any potential negative impact on Canadian trade, or foreign relations or threats to Canadian personnel, interests and citizens abroad when listing and delisting states.
Bill would also establish a review mechanism to ensure the timely removal of states from the list if they were determined to no longer support terrorism. Here, the , in consultation with the , would review the list every two years to determine whether a state should remain on the list and whether other countries should be added to the list.
Also, a listed state could apply to be removed by submitting a written application to this effect. Once this application was received, the and the would decide whether there were reasonable grounds to recommend to the Governor-in-Council that the state no longer be listed.
Bill would do more than just create a cause of legal action for victims of terrorism. It would also allow plaintiffs who had received a judgment in their favour to request assistance from the and the in identifying and locating in Canada the property of a foreign state against which a judgment had been rendered. Such assistance would have to fall within the mandates of those ministers and would be provided to the extent reasonably practical, unless doing so would be detrimental to Canada's interests.
These provisions would strike a balance to allow the Government of Canada to help victims in real and tangible ways, while safeguarding Canada's standing in the international community.
Finally, Bill also calls for the recognition of foreign judgments by Canadian courts in favour of victims of terrorism.
Bill is yet another indication of our determination to give victims not only a voice, but legal means to seek justice against those who caused them harm. This is the latest tool in our growing arsenal to deal with the threats of the safety of Canadians both here at home and abroad.
I urge all hon. members to support Bill in order to provide justice for victims and punishment for terrorists perpetrators and supporters of terrorism.
Mr. Speaker, I do not appreciate the caustic comments coming back at my request for consideration.
This policy shift to jail everyone contradicts testimony by experts and the sound recommendations from countless national reviews on how to reduce the number of aboriginals committing crimes or who are the victims of crime. While only 3% of Canadians are aboriginal, they constitute 22% of the prison populations, nine times the national average. In 2008, one in four people identifying as aboriginal was in provincial or territorial sentence custody. In Nunavut, prisons are so crowded prisoners are sent away from the community to serve their sentences. They are dislocated from any community support. The long-standing housing shortage in Nunavut may soon be perversely solved through expanded jails.
Yet only 2% of the federal prison budget is spent on aboriginal programs. While the Canadian Human Rights Commission decries the government's failure to offer rehabilitation for aboriginal inmates, the government continues to cut effective programs, including prison farms and healing circles.
National Chief Shawn Atleo has told us that aboriginal high school students are more likely to be incarcerated than to graduate. Aboriginal youth face a 14% unemployment rate. Aboriginal women suffer more than twice the rate of unemployment than non-aboriginal Canadians.
The Samson Cree first nation faces an unemployment rate of 53%, high levels of substance abuse, marked increase in gang activity, and among the highest rates of incarceration per population of any first nation in this country.
A task force of first nations, RCMP and government agencies examined the root causes and recommended a number of measures. At the top of the list was a youth centre to stream vulnerable youth away from the incubating of gangs, yet they were told the government does not fund recreation centres for aboriginals.
Aboriginal women make up a whopping one-third of women in custody. Federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers has reported systemic discrimination against aboriginal women prisoners. He has reported that they do not receive timely access to rehabilitation programs which hinders their community integration. Given the percentage of women imprisoned, that is likely having a significant impact on aboriginal communities.
Anyone who commits a crime must face justice, but is it not equally important to take action to prevent involvement in criminal activities?
As the majority of prisoners are released back into the community, and as the intended result of this legislation is to imprison more people, is it not important that greater attention be given to rehabilitation programming? Is that not important to reduce the risk of reoffending and thus reduce more victims of crime? Instead of building more jails, why not invest more in education and job creation for aboriginal Canadians?
Aboriginal people are also victims of crime and deserve informed, effective strategies to protect their communities and their streets.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2009, 37% of aboriginals age 15 or older in the provinces have suffered violent victimization compared to only 26% among non-aboriginals. Twelve per cent of aboriginal people have been victims of violent crime compared to 5% of other Canadians. In 2009, 67,000 or 13% of aboriginal women reported being a victim of one or more violent crimes. The number of aboriginal women reporting incidents of spousal violence was two times more than non-aboriginal women. The number of missing and murdered aboriginal women continues to rise.
In assuming the portfolio as aboriginal affairs and northern development critic for my party, I have taken the time to review reports by the Auditor General. Sixteen reports over two decades have raised significant issues regarding the federal response to rising aboriginal health, housing, education and employment disparities. Aboriginal affairs reports that aboriginal people are four times more likely to live in crowded dwellings and in poor conditions.
Sheila Fraser advised that she was profoundly disappointed to note that despite federal action in response to her recommendations, a disproportionate number of first nations people still lacked the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted. In her words, “In a country as rich as Canada, this disparity is unacceptable”. She called for action on structural impediments to services. Nowhere in her report does she call for the construction of yet more prisons to address this disparity.
The government has committed, under the Canada-First Nations Joint Action Plan, to address disparities in education, jobs and governance. It is unclear whether similar commitments will be extended to Inuit and Métis Canadians. The question to ask is, what new fiscal commitments are being made to deliver on these promises?
The government has yet to table in the House the projected costs of the prison expansions needed under Bill . It has also not yet revealed if there will be cuts to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. In the last budget the government cut support for the healing centres. As many provinces are facing significant deficits, the downloading of prison expansion costs will have implications for their programs, such as for addictions and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Alberta already has faced public displeasure over the decision to cut its restorative justice program. Municipalities are begging for support for housing. Sadly, a good percentage of the Edmonton murders recently are related to mental health and homelessness. One victim was murdered as he slept on a bench. He was slated to move into his first home the next day after 20 years of living on the street.
The situation in which far too many aboriginals find themselves growing up fosters criminal activity and abuse. Why not respond to the myriad commission reports calling for increased investments in housing, in youth programs, in schools, and addictions counselling, and reduce the probability of yet more victims of crime? Why not invest in programs that may provide a ray of hope instead of legislation and policies that merely entrench despair?
The Auditor General and many others have offered constructive measures. It is time for the government to respond.
Mr. Speaker, as I begin my statement today, I will say that, as a retired member of the RCMP, I am proud to be part of a government that is putting forth legislation to assist police officers across Canada in serious investigations. More so, I am extremely proud that we are putting the rights of victims of crime before that of the people who commit the crime.
I am very pleased today to have an opportunity to speak to the safe streets and communities act and also to talk a bit about the good work our government has been doing to keep our streets and communities safer for Canada's law-abiding families.
As we know, the legislation in this comprehensive bill, which encompasses nine bills that have been brought before Parliament at various times since 2007, is not new to Canadians. In fact, this legislation has already had 79 full hours of debate in this place and has been studied in committee for 123 hours. All together, that is more than eight straight days spent considering common sense legislation.
Furthermore, in the election this past spring, we were very clear that, if elected, a strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government would bring legislation before the House in this manner. I am pleased and proud that Canadians saw fit to give us a strong mandate to carry on with our work.
I am also hopeful that members of the opposition will do the right thing and help us pass this important legislation.
As several of my hon. colleagues have pointed out, since taking office our government has not wavered from our commitment to crack down on crime and continue working to put the safety and security of Canadians at the forefront of our law and order agenda.
Hon. members will know that our government told Canadians, when it was first elected, that we would do things differently than the previous Liberal government. In fact, we have taken action on a number of fronts.
We said we that would get tough on crime. We have delivered. We said that we would ensure that people convicted of serious gun crimes would be given serious sentences. We have delivered. We said that we would take action to give law enforcement the tools it needed to do its jobs. We have delivered. In fact, we have taken steps to augment police forces and to help in efforts to improve recruitment for law enforcement agencies. For example, in 2008, we committed $400 million for the police officer recruitment fund to assist provinces and territories in hiring additional police officers.
That is a significant federal contribution to provincial and municipal policing costs over a five year period, and it supports the efforts of these jurisdictions to recruit new police officers in order to target local crimes and make communities safer.
On the legislative side, we have passed legislation targeting gang violence and organized crime by addressing issues such as gang murders, drive-by shootings and additional protection for police officers.
We have passed legislation to end the shameful practice of giving two for one or even three for one credit for criminals in pre-sentencing custody. This change will help ensure that offenders serve sentences that truly reflect the severity of their crimes.
We have also passed legislation to help reform the pardon system, and Bill contains further measures to eliminate pardons for serious crimes including those who sexually abuse the most vulnerable citizens in society, our children.
As well, we have passed legislation to strengthen the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank in order to better protect our children and other vulnerable members of our society from sexual predators. This change means that police officers can now use the Sex Offender Registry as an effective tool to investigate and, hopefully, prevent crimes.
We also recently passed legislation that eliminates accelerated parole review, ensuring that drug dealers and white collar fraudsters are no longer eligible for release on day parole after one-sixth of their sentence.
We also have ended the faint hope clause so that persons convicted of first degree murder serve their entire parole eligibility period in prison.
Clearly, our government has done a lot to help ensure that criminals are fully held to account for their actions and to keep our streets and communities safe.
Over the last three years, our government has done what it said it would do to keep Canadians safe in their homes and communities. We have done that because we said that we would help the victims of those crimes. I will talk a bit about that now.
First, with a great deal of this legislation, we are recognizing the harm done to victims in this country by serious violent crime. We are delivering tangible action to help make them part of the corrections process, as well as help them to seek redress for what they have suffered.
As we know, the repercussions of crime extend far beyond the act that the victim of crime will suffer at the time. The repercussions extend for years into the future, causing financial, emotional and even psychological impacts. As well, for the victims of crime, regardless of how long one works to try to come to terms with what has happened, the act of crime and the long-lasting impact it has on the victims will, invariably, last a lifetime. With that act of crime, the victims' life, as they know it, is effectively taken from them and replaced with one of ongoing distress, the effect of which could be multiplied by the changes in conditions for their attacker. That is why the safe streets and communities act includes provisions to ensure that victims are actively included in the corrections process.
For example, the safe streets and communities act would enshrine in law a victim's participation in Parole Board of Canada hearings. That means it would be formally recognized that a victim must be included and heard in the process by which an offender is considered for conditional release into the community.
Also included in the safe streets and communities act are provisions that would ensure victims are kept better informed about what is happening with the offender in the corrections system. These provisions would specifically deal with how offenders are behaving while they are incarcerated, whether they are adhering to their correctional plan and if they are being transferred to a lower security institution. By keeping victims better informed about the behaviour, movements and potential release of offenders, we would ensure that victims are more fully engaged in the overall corrections process.
It is not as a mere formality or acknowledgement of what they have suffered. Ensuring that victims are actively involved in the corrections process is essential for both their healing and well-being. It also demonstrates to offenders the true nature of the harm they have done to society, which is a necessary part of the rehabilitation process.
Another way that safe streets and communities act is standing up for victims is the provision that would allow victims to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism and hold them accountable for their actions. The legislation would create an action where the victim could sue, in a Canadian court, an individual or a listed state that was responsible for actions of terrorism by which that individual had been directly affected. This is something in which Canada is leading the way and a new way in which criminals and terrorists could be held accountable and no longer act with impunity outside the law.
We hope that the opposition will support this legislation as we work to deliver better tools to help victims seek redress from the crimes committed against them. As well, by bringing victims more formally into the corrections process, it is our aim to protect the rights of victims and continue to take action to put the safety and security of Canadians, including victims, at the forefront of the way that corrections is handled in our great country.
I will end my speech by calling on the NDP to support this important legislation and stop its pattern of putting the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens.